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Posted February 15, 2010 by publisher in Cuban Healthcare

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Tom Fawthrop | Al Jazeera

Among the many donor nations helping Haiti, Cuba and its medical teams have played a major role in treating earthquake victims.

Public health experts say the Cubans were the first to set up medical facilities among the debris and to revamp hospitals immediately after the earthquake struck.

However, their pivotal work in the health sector has received scant media coverage.

“It is striking that there has been virtually no mention in the media of the fact that Cuba had several hundred health personnel on the ground before any other country,” said David Sanders, a professor of public health from Western Cape University in South Africa.

The Cuban team coordinator in Haiti, Dr Carlos Alberto Garcia, says the Cuban doctors, nurses and other health personnel have been working non-stop, day and night, with operating rooms open 18 hours a day.

During a visit to La Paz hospital in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince, Dr Mirta Roses, the director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) which is in charge of medical coordination between the Cuban doctors, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and a host of health sector NGOs, described the aid provided by Cuban doctors as “excellent and marvelous”.

La Paz is one of five hospitals in Haiti that is largely staffed by health professionals from Havana.

History of cooperation

Haiti and Cuba signed a medical cooperation agreement in 1998.

Before the earthquake struck, 344 Cuban health professionals were already present in Haiti, providing primary care and obstetrical services as well as operating to restore the sight of Haitians blinded by eye diseases.

More doctors were flown in shortly after the earthquake, as part of the rapid response Henry Reeve Medical Brigade of disaster specialists. The brigade has extensive experience in dealing with the aftermath of earthquakes, having responded to such disasters in China, Indonesia and Pakistan.

“In the case of Cuban doctors, they are rapid responders to disasters, because disaster management is an integral part of their training,” explains Maria a Hamlin Zúniga, a public health specialist from Nicaragua.

“They are fully aware of the need to reduce risks by having people prepared to act in any disaster situation.”

Cuban doctors have been organizing medical facilities in three revamped and five field hospitals, five diagnostic centers, with a total of 22 different care posts aided by financial support from Venezuela. They are also operating nine rehabilitation centers staffed by nearly 70 Cuban physical therapists and rehab specialists, in addition to the Haitian medical personnel.

The Cuban team has been assisted by 100 specialists from Venezuela, Chile, Spain, Mexico, Colombia and Canada and 17 nuns.

Havana has also sent 400,000 tetanus vaccines for the wounded.

Eduardo Nuñez Valdes, a Cuban epidemiologist who is currently in Port-au-Prince, has stressed that the current unsanitary conditions could lead to an epidemic of parasitic and infectious diseases if not acted upon quickly.

Media silence

However, in reporting on the international aid effort, Western media have generally not ranked Cuba high on the list of donor nations.

One major international news agency’s list of donor nations credited Cuba with sending over 30 doctors to Haiti, whereas the real figure stands at more than 350, including 280 young Haitian doctors who graduated from Cuba. The final figure accounts for a combined total of 930 health professionals in all Cuban medical teams making it the largest medical contingent on the ground.

Another batch if 200 Cuban-trained doctors from 24 countries in Africa and Latin American, and a dozen American doctors who graduated from Havana are currently en route to Haiti and will provide reinforcement to existing Cuban medical teams.

By comparison the internationally-renowned Doctors without Borders has approximately 269 health professionals working in Haiti. DWB is much better funded and has far more extensive medical supplies than the Cuban team.
Left out

But while representatives from DWB and the ICRC are frequently in front of television cameras discussing health priorities and medical needs, the Cuban medical teams are missing in the media coverage.

Richard Gott, the Guardian newspaper’s former foreign editor and a Latin America specialist, explains: “Western media are programmed to be indifferent to aid that comes from unexpected places. In the Haitian case, the media have ignored not just the Cuban contribution, but also the efforts made by other Latin American countries.”

Brazil is providing $70mn in funding for 10 urgent care units, 50 mobile units for emergency care, a laboratory and a hospital, among other health services.

Venezuela has canceled all Haiti debt and has promised to supply oil free of charge until the country has recovered from the disaster.

Western NGOs employ media officers to ensure that the world knows what they are doing.

According to Gott, the Western media has grown accustomed to dealing with such NGOs, enabling a relationship of mutual assistance to develop.

Cuban medical teams, however, are outside this predominantly Western humanitarian-media loop and are therefore only likely to receive attention from Latin American media and Spanish language broadcasters and print media.

There have, however, been notable exceptions to this reporting syndrome. On January 19, a CNN reporter broke the silence on the Cuban role in Haiti with a report on Cuban doctors at La Paz hospital.

Cuba/US cooperation

When the US requested that their military plans be allowed to fly through Cuban airspace for the purpose of evacuating Haitians to hospitals in Florida, Cuba immediately agreed despite almost 50 years of animosity between the two countries.

Josefina Vidal, the director of the Cuban foreign ministry’s North America department, issued a statement declaring that: “Cuba is ready to cooperate with all the nations on the ground, including the US, to help the Haitian people and save more lives.”

This deal cut the flight time of medical evacuation flights from the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay on Cuba’s southern tip to Miami by 90 minutes.

According to Darby Holladay, the US state department’s spokesperson, the US has also communicated its readiness to make medical relief supplies available to Cuban doctors in Haiti.

“Potential US-Cuban cooperation could go a long way toward meeting Haiti’s needs,” says Dr Julie Feinsilver, the author of Healing the Masses - a book about Cuban health diplomacy, who argues that maximum cooperation is urgently needed.

  1. Follow up post #1 added on February 15, 2010 by Alberto N Jones

    WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!! At last, we have reached what can be considered fair and balanced reporting.  Thanks Rob for Journalism 101

    The tragedy in Haiti is too dreadful, too devastating for so many rich and powerful nations playing dirty politics with it.  Why is it that France, the United States, England and other European countries, who have an UNPAYABLE debt of gratitude wtih Haiti and the rest of the Third World, AND a FEW of wealthy Black nations,  do not come clean, ask Cuba (200 miles away) to asume full responsibility for all healthcare needs of Haiti, relocate thousands of wounded and orphans to Cuba where shelter, education, healthcare and all other ancilliary services are readily available and simply PAY for this life-saving, humanitarian effort??

    Is the life and wellbeing of thousands of victims not worth talking and working together on their behalf?

    Would this not make us a better bunch of people, than the killing and maiming we are undegoing at this precise moment in Afghanistan, thousands of miles away from our hometowns and villages?

    In order for us to learn, must the next earthquake be bigger and more devastating, must the next Tsunami drown much more people or the next hurricane, must blow away a million people in order for us to react!

    We can do so much better…..Only if we cared.

  2. Follow up post #2 added on February 15, 2010 by 2ndchance with 2 total posts

    you care…that’s a start!

  3. Follow up post #3 added on February 15, 2010 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Right. And the US doesn’t care about Haiti?

    I don’t have any figures but I am willing to bet that the US has raised more funds and committed more resources than all the countries in the world combined.

    Somehow I suppose some people here would find that to be evil in some way like the only reason we’re doing that is so we can control Haiti… oh yeah, then invade Cuba from Haiti.

    Cuba consulting services

  4. Follow up post #4 added on February 15, 2010 by robolucion with 33 total posts

    The cynical will always find a way to tag whatever we do as “evil”. This is their mission in life, to forever live in the shadow of the giant, and cry about it.

  5. Follow up post #5 added on February 17, 2010 by cacf2@aol.com with 21 total posts

    Glad to be back with Havana Journal, after a minor mishap with user’s name, password etc.  Thanks.  Alberto

  6. Follow up post #6 added on February 18, 2010 by HavanAndrew with 87 total posts

    This is accurate and unbiased reporting from Cuba. Having been in Cuba after the Haitian earthquake and been exposed to the broad international coverage of the earthquake prior to traveling to Cuba I would like to share some accurate observations.

    When watching Cuban television news reports and reading ramblings in Granma, Cubans were given a twisted version of the overall relief efforts. Cuban authorities through its state run news agencies reported a different story than the rest of the world. They were delivering the message that it was only the Cubans offering medical aid matched with the claim that the American military was there only to take over the country.

    Castro Inc., financially and morally bankrupt. The sad thing is that the kind hearted and well intentioned doctors of Cuba are once again being used as propaganda tools.

  7. Follow up post #7 added on February 18, 2010 by pipefitter with 275 total posts

    It seems that, by the article above and others, the North American media is playing the same game in not giving Cuba it’s due recognition.

  8. Follow up post #8 added on February 18, 2010 by HavanAndrew with 87 total posts

    North Americans have responded with open hearts, without borders and without hidden agendas. Being a news junkie, I would say that coverage has been excellent showing little to no bias towards any one country. This coverage has shown the ability of countries and NGOs working for one cause, Haiti. No country should use their efforts to help others as a tool for state propaganda. When helping people in need, do so because you care. You don’t help a cause in order to be recognized.

  9. Follow up post #9 added on February 19, 2010 by cacf2@aol.com with 21 total posts

    As FOX TV, CNN, Miami Herald and our new reporter in Havana, HavanAndrew are attempting to deny the outstanding service that the 2100 man strong Cuban Medical contingent are doing in Haiti, I would suggest they google:  Cuban Health Professionals are Absolutely Important for Haiti, by Dr. Henriette Chamouillet, head of the World Health Organization in Haiti on 2/18/10

    They could also google the Caribbean Medical School in Santiago de Cuba, where close to 1000 Haitian medical students are trained with another 1500 students from 10 Caribbean Islands and 12 African nations, free of charge.

    Could they say a word or two about approximately 100 physicians from Chile, Bolivia, Nicaragua and the Caribbean, giving back to Haiti, what they received for free in Cuba?

    Why have we been incapable of creating a South Florida Medical Brigade with 500 plus Cuban physicians and hundreds of other healthcare professionals lured away from thier posts around the world into menial, denigrating jobs in Miami, to offer their knowledge to those in need in Haiti and around the world?

    How can we explain that Cuban migrants arriving in South Florida are warmly received and those from Haiti are returned to ravished Port au Prince before sundown?

    Dirty Politics?

  10. Follow up post #10 added on February 19, 2010 by Yeyo with 411 total posts

    People should read carefully before responding posts. What HavanaAndrew said was that ....”Cubans were given a twisted version of the overall relief efforts. Cuban authorities through its state run news agencies reported a different story than the rest of the world. They were delivering the message that it was only the Cubans offering medical aid matched with the claim that the American military was there only to take over the country….”

    I watch CNN regularly and they have reported numerous times about the Cuban Medical Brigade being among the biggest supporters of the relief effort in Haiti. Nobody is denying that.

    I want to point that the famous Caribbean School where future doctors of the Caribbean study for free is being paid for by the Cuban people, the same people that does not know what they would be eating tonight.  I just returned from Cuba and the economic situation is worse than ever. But Castro still wants to show that Cuba a third world poor country can “help the rest of the world”.

    Nothing wrong with schools not charging poor students that cannot afford to pay for education, but the cost of those schools are actually paid by the Cuban people misery. The cost should be covered by the countries that those students are from.  The worst is that those foreign students are treated in Cuba better than the Cuban students, better food, better living accommodations, etc.

    Why would students from Chile have to go to study to Cuba for free when Chile have more than twice the resources of Cuba to pay for the education of their own people. Every country has to be responsable for the education and health of their own people. But to see that on that way is simplistic, all those schools and the whole program is designed to brainwash those future doctors to “plant the seed of the revolution” so they would pledge forever allegiance to the revolution and to Castro.

    Dirty politics? Yes, definitely dirty politics!!

  11. Follow up post #11 added on February 19, 2010 by HavanAndrew with 87 total posts


    The act of giving.

    Giving without expectations.

    Expect nothing in return.

    No glory medals.

    A simple smile of appreciation.

    That appreciation is enough.

    Enough said.

  12. Follow up post #12 added on February 20, 2010 by cacf2@aol.com with 21 total posts

    I respectfully disagree with Yeyo.  Cuba have never said they were the only ones providing healthcare in Haiti, they have said, they are the largest, which is a fact.  The news in Cuba has to be different than what we receive here.  Try regular CNN and CNN en Espanol and you will see the difference.  Watch the ABC, NBC evening news and Univision or Televisa They are directed to different audiences/interest,  not blatant lies as FOX, denying even Global Warming!

    True, that if Cuba was more selfish, less caring, they could have kept a larger piece of their meager diet.  Yet, life have thought us, that the gift that is most appreciated/cherished is not the one which someone have in excess, but the one someone is willing to share.  We’ve seen the value of that only cigarrette a soldier in the trenches is willing to share a puff with his fellow.  A thousand dollars gift from Soros, Trump or Gates, will always mean less in the eyes of God, than that quarter an elderly, sick or unemployed is willing to give to the homeless or handicap.

    Why help Chile? Because not everyone in Chile is wealthy and finally your fear of brainwash is a bogus, cold war era stupidity. Hundreds of Cubans,Russians and professionals coming out of many countries with a different political phyllosophy,  are working and contributing far more to this country, than millions of Americans we have been unable to educate. 

    What I have done and suggest others may think about is, if you think the Caribbeam Medical School is good for our poor Caribbean Islands and Africa, rather than suffer about they gobling up some of the Cuban people’s food, find a way of sending them a pen,  stetoscope, medical literature, laboratory reagent or a simple Hallmark Card, encouraging them to do better, to study harder and remind them, they are not alone. 

    Sadly, most of us choose the path of destruction which is soo easy instead of the tough route of creating, leaving something for future generation, making this a better world.  Still like your analyses albeit, slightly off board for me.  Gracias.

  13. Follow up post #13 added on February 20, 2010 by HavanAndrew with 87 total posts

    In the free world, a country, corporation or individual can release information to the free press. The free press can investigate the validity of the information, add new and relevant information. News outlets differ in their outlooks and how the information is selected and presented.

    in Cuba there are government news release and the government news agency, one in the same. If Cuba is the socialist utopia it claims, if it is as wonderful as Castro Inc. claims, then there is no need to fear a free press.

  14. Follow up post #14 added on February 20, 2010 by cacf2@aol.com with 21 total posts

    We continue to miss the point.  No one is obligated to believe everything that CNN puts out, nor do they have the authority to change it.  They can simply tune out.

    Cuba sees the media as a way of putting out their views.  We may or may not like it, we can tune out, but why try or hope it to be like CNN?  And by the way, lets not believe everything coming out of Granma, CNN or the Times.  Frequently we are told sort of innocently avbout something that happened months before.  Did they really not know when it was happening?

    Horrendous crimes were committed in Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and who knows where else.  Where are our investigative reporters?  Why are these great journalists bitter that they are not allowed as they should, into Cuba’s prisons, but never complain for not being allowed into Guantanamo Bay to speak with people who have been horrendously brutalized?

    We must make up our minds.  We have rewards on the heads of some people who fled this country judicial system to Cuba, but we harbor Posada Carriles and Bosch, who blew up an airliner in mid-air, took the lives of 73 people including my neighbor and are free, living as celebrities in south Florida.

    How about Gen. Vides Casanova and 30,000 lives he took in el Salvador, enjoying the beauties and ammenities of Florida.  Need a plane ticket to Panama to retrieve Cedras, as we did with Noriega?

    Again, there are laws and there are laws, depending on important variables!

    Next time, we will take a look at the World Court we created in Geneva and who it is for

  15. Follow up post #15 added on February 20, 2010 by HavanAndrew with 87 total posts

    Firstly, CNN and any other international news organization that does a full on investigative report while on Cuban soil will be sent packing. CNN’s coverage in Cuba has been compromised for years.

    It was the relentless pursuit of truth by the free press that exposed grievous errors in the cases of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Justifying inappropriate actions by other inappropriate actions will get us nowhere.

    Cubans deserve the right to a free press and the right to choose a new and exciting direction. They deserve the right to openly speak on the street the way they openly talk and debate within the confines of their homes. Castro Inc. fears one thing, THE TRUTH.

  16. Follow up post #16 added on February 20, 2010 by cacf2@aol.com with 21 total posts

    It seems we are both saying the same with different words.  Basically I feel the way you do.  Difference is that I may be much older than you are.  After arriving from Cuba in 1980, I was fascinated and glued to the TV screen, watching endless Congressional hearings on the Iran Contra scandal.

    What a life changing experience seeing Congress questioning everyone involved in that illegal activity, including the President…...until we learned at the end, that it was all Hollywood, movie-making.

    No one was really punished for their horrific deeds, some even beneffited from this exposure and became TV celebs, nothwithstanding shipping tons of cocaine into this country, poisoning our youths, causing thousands of deaths and overrunning our judicial system.

    Big difference is that when something similar happened in Cuba, the culprit, which some insist was innocent of all charges, paid for it with his life.  Maybe, only maybe, if those ripping this country apart knew, there are serious consequences for their actions, they would probably think twice before.

    We’ve seen it with ENRON, the Banking, Housing crisis, billions in cash missing in Iraq, police brutality, murdering people in their homes….and nothing happens.

    The world is so imperfect, we are not sure where to begin or at least, we should hit the biggest problem first, which is not precisely, yelling on the street what is unfair or what bothers you.

    We see that happenning 24/7 in that square in England and also in Trinidad and Tobago, where Blacks rage against the Indians controlling everything, their lives, but the Indians could care less about it, Blacks are powerless….and nothing changes.  Talk for the sake of Talking?

  17. Follow up post #17 added on February 20, 2010 by Yeyo with 411 total posts

    Training Chilean doctors in Cuba because not everybody in Chile is wealthy, while nobody in Cuba is wealthy? That’s king of dumb idea.

    Cuba has no money to feed their own people, so why would cover the education of thousands of foreign students?? Two good reasons: To show the world that Castro is so “good” and to brainwash those students to go to their respective countries talking niceties about the “robolution”.  Many of those graduated doctors go back to their countries, forget everything about popular medicine and then set their own clinics only to treat their country wealthy.

    I favour free education for all but each country should take care of their own citizens and as you said the world is imperfect, we are also imperfect, so be it, if some countries can not cover their own citizens education, they should look for alternative solutions, but what is completely ridiculous is to think that because the students are not wealthy their education should be covered by Cuba.

    Before paying for the education of so many foreign students the Cuban Government should try to make easier the live of their own citizens, something that they had never done, and I guess the reason why you and I left on the first place.  It is kind of cynical to approve the Cuban policies at this point when thousands of our own co-nationals are enduring human rights violations and hunger daily.

    The only reason Cuba have the largest medical contingent in Haiti is to do that, to say it, the largest contingent in Haiti comes from Cuba, an small island in the Caribbean embargoed by the most powerful nation in the world!! The same reason why they have send medical missions to pretty much every continent including far countries like Pakistan and Timor. Nice but that’s it. Who’s paying for them, Castro? NO, the misery that the Cuban people are enduring daily is what is paying for all that.

    Just now we have been advised that as so many Cuban doctors are deserting on missions around the world (Around 2000 on the last few years), the Cuban Minister of Health (Mr. Balaguer) issued a resolution forbidding the revalidation of their certifications on the respective countries where they have emigrated. Another Cuban nicety uh?

  18. Follow up post #18 added on February 20, 2010 by cacf2@aol.com with 21 total posts

    I am trying hard to agree with most of your views.  We seems closer and closer, but you continue to blame the messenger.  For the individual under the rubble in Haiti, freezing after the quake in Pakistan or blind in Bolivia, it dosen;t matter where the help is coming from or its ulterior motive.  Relieving his suffering is what counts.

    Like you and most in Cuba, we are concerned with our country overextending itself, at the expense of its own, granted.  But, if some of these physicians break their oath to serve the needy for 5 years, the onus is not on Cuba, but on these individuals.

    As parents, we try to instill the best in our children, but if they stray, commit a crime, should we be guilty of their deeds?

    If our world would be less politicized, foreign government would have taken advantage of the Cuban policy, contribute to their students tuition and educate more rather than less for your country, but that would supposedly bring shame upon them.

    In concluding, if we really cared, if the pain and suffering of the forgotten meant something to us, those 2000 doctors that you talk about, should be part of the largest healthcare contingent in the world, spreading help, hope and health under the leadership of all rich countries in the world.

    Can you imagine any of those physicians we lured out of Venezuela, Bolivia or timor, working now in a Pizza Parlor in Miami,  unwilling to rejoin his profession, serve the needy anywhere around the world, for a 50% of the lowest paid physician in Miami, irrespective of what the Cuban Health Department determined with his/her diploma? 

    The world can be a better place for all, if only, we are willing to get rid of excuses and do something for others.

  19. Follow up post #19 added on February 20, 2010 by Yeyo with 411 total posts

    This forum is about Cuba, and while we divert sometimes our opinions to issues associated with Cubans elsewhere we should never lost the focus, which is clear Cuba and the Cubans.

    This is not about whom the messenger is but what is the message. The fact and the matter is that the freedom of expression and all kinds of human rights are violated daily in Cuba. Because Castro is violating them and because he is the only one taking the decisions is that something like what we have been discussing is taking place. I almost sure that if Cuba were a democratic society with representatives and a government on their right mind they would help other countries in accordance to the country means but would never over-exceeded the real possibilities of the country many times as to reach disproportionate levels of aid to basically any country around the world, paying that aid with the suffering and miseries of the Cubans.

    Don’t get me wrong, I favour universal health care, free education for all and removal of the embargo, but providing aid to somebody at the expense of somebody else miseries is not only wrong but is also criminal. Is like we say in Cuba take the “colcha” (duvet) from this person to cover somebody else. It does not make sense and it is not right.

    At the end of the day the ones that had the opportunity to learn how the regime works, and what are the real motivations behind that huge “internationalism” know that there is no compassion in Castro, he does not have compassion for his own people, every single act of helpfulness or “internacionalism” as he call it is toward foreigners and it is very well studied, considered the pros and cons and measured the results from the political point of view.
    The Cuban government have departments and institutions not only to provide the aid but also to measure the results of that aid in relevance of the Cuban “cause” and how the world is seeing Cuba now days. He does not care about the opinion Cubans have because he controls all the media in Cuba but he is very concern about the foreign media. For example sending doctors to Haiti change the perception of “wrong doing dictator” that many people have of Castro and help the cause of freeing the 5 Cuban spies jailed in the US.
    Finally I feel that it is very easy and simplistic from the comfort of our homes in developed countries discuss the decisions of Cuban Doctors that were sent many of them against their will to work for meagre salaries in extremely difficult conditions. Many Cuban Doctors actually oppose providing assistance in other countries, not because they are bad or evil, but firstly because they are leaving several Cuban clinics without physicians, secondly they are being sent to the worst places with terrible living conditions and high levels of delinquency and no salary or a miserable salary, places where the local doctors would never go. Venezuela is a good example, Cubans are removed their passport on arrival and sent to the worst neighbourhoods where the rich Venezuelan doctors would never (leave aside work), would never even enter.

  20. Follow up post #20 added on February 20, 2010 by HavanAndrew with 87 total posts

    The current state of Cuban hospitals is scary to say the least. Slightly better than pre earthquake Haiti, certainly inferior to the hospitals that I have seen in Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. The severe lack of medicines and medical supplies in Cuban hospitals is criminal. These supplies are available from the world market so the embargo can’t be blamed here. To add to the woes of doctors in Havana, the little supplies that they had were raided for Haiti. Talk to the doctors of Cuba and you will get a feeling how much discontent there is with Castro Inc.

  21. Follow up post #21 added on February 20, 2010 by cacf2@aol.com with 21 total posts

    No argument from this end.  This must emphasized, highlighted, repeated, screamed, begged, denounced on behalf of our people.  These are constructive, positive discussions.

    We may not be able to change it, but we are on record as truly upset with this un-called for deprivation.

  22. Follow up post #22 added on February 21, 2010 by miguel with 41 total posts

    Yeyo: You keep saying that ”Cuba’s economic situation is worse than ever” (comment # 10). Am I right supposing that you never went there in the nineties? I did, and I find the country’s recovery after the disintegration of the Soviet bloc impressing, although lately they suffered a setback due to the hurricanes and the general international crisis.
    Are you quite sure that the Cuban government is paying all costs of missions abroad or foreign medical students in Cuba out of its own pocket? I don’t know, but I have seen newspaper reports saying that at least the missions to Angola was paid by the MPLA government out of oil export revenues from Cabinda.
    Speculations about the Cuban governments motives for its international engagement will easily be influenced from observers’ attitudes. I think that a main motive might as well be to prevent diplomatic isolation as just propagenda.
    Supposing a connection with the international campaign for “the Cuban five” (your comment # 19) seems to me a bit paranoid. I suppose you know that the trial of “the Cuban five” has met with severe criticism from prominent jurists in the USA, including a former secretary of justice, and that the “spies” (as you call them) apparently did no provide the Cuban security with one peace of classified information. You may like Castro or not, to me it seems that he got a good case here for launching a campaign. And please don’t allege cases of arbitrary administration of justice in Cuba – I know them, but they can never be relevant to administration of justice in the USA.
    Let the motive be what it will – to me it is quite indifferent. The important thing is that the Cuban health personnel in Haiti is doing a fine job.
    No doubt you know cases of Cuban doctors sent out on missions against their will. I know other cases of public health personnel eager to be sent on missions, because they are well paid and can return with containerloads of attractive consumer goods (the cases I know are from Venezuela and México).
    And I am still surprised (and a little bit sceptic) at your descriptions of the misery and hardships in Cuba, where I have spent months among ordinary citizens, most of them not Castro-supporters at all, but surprisingly well-informed and balanced in their views.

  23. Follow up post #23 added on February 21, 2010 by HavanAndrew with 87 total posts


    We can all agree that the hurricanes and international economic woes would affect the Cuban economy. These affects pail compared to the poorly run and inefficient system at the center of it all.

    Of great concern is how profits from tourism is dispersed especially from the mega tourism company named Gaviotta (co-manage properties branded such as Sol, Melia, Barcelo and Occidental). This is the corporate arm of the Cuban military and its profits are dispersed to various military needs. This is clearly not for the benefit of all Cubans, on the contrary it is the fuel that restricts change. They say that an army can’t march on an empty stomach. In this case tourism dollars at Gaviotta hotels fuel suppression.

    When people refer to Cubans as well informed, there is a partial truth to that. Information from relatives, tourists and electronic storage devices are getting around the island. Within the walls of their homes, Cubans are expressing an extreme dismay with a system far from what the people expected after the revolution. They didn’t sign up for a military dictatorship disguised as socialism. Cubans are absolutely tired of all the lies they are exposed to and at the same time they are immensely afraid of the secret police and the C.D.R.s.

    The million dollar question is when does the frustration with the current scenario override the fear. The level of frustration is highest off the gringo trail where tourism dollars have minimal impact. Day to day survival on a minimal salary and the ever shrinking rations is dismal at best.

    To have a full appreciation of where I am coming from, the level of dismay, I will share an experience.

    Ten years ago I met a young doctor at my casa particular in Santiago. He proudly shared with me where he was going to do his practical time. He was assigned to go to Haiti to help the poor. This was a moving moment because he wanted to help people that had nothing, even though his family had next to nothing. Now ten years later, experienced and wise, this doctor and others have been trying to ring alarm bells over the chronic shortage of supplies in Cuban hospitals. This concern was raised prior to the hospitals being raided of supplies for Haitian relief. They know for a fact, the supplies are available in the free world and that the embargo is not the reason they can’t get supplies.

  24. Follow up post #24 added on February 21, 2010 by pipefitter with 275 total posts

    The reason they can’t get supplies is that they have to pay dollars for them, not because they like to see people suffer. These are the same dollars they have to use to buy food etc. Cuba does not get money from the IMF like other third world countries. Cuba has very little to use as export goods to raise these dollars (Euros or whatever). Ships are also restricted from stopping in Cuba if they go to the U.S. Cuba has to use any form of trade to produce credits with countries to get the goods it needs. It can use doctores to get credits in goods or cash in a lot of friendly developing countries that are in great need of medical help. We have two family members that have been on these missions and they have enjoyed the experience along with the partial dollar salary , goods that they could bring back,internet and housing supplied in Cuba etc. These Cuban medical personell don’t expect any praise from the foriegn media, they do this because they feel a moral obligation to help people and the personal benefits.
    I can tell you a story also, about a Cuban dentist that left Cuba lured by the land of milk and honey, ended up in Miami and finaly got work in her profession as a dentist but working for a Cuban American dentist doing his work for him and getting paid peanuts. She is still there today, 15 years later, getting almost the same wages as before, renting an apartment, not able to save up enough to get her own place.

  25. Follow up post #25 added on February 21, 2010 by miguel with 41 total posts

    HavanAndrew (comment # 23):
    I did not know that the Cuban armed forces are involved in the tourism business, but it is very probable now, when there are no deliverances of military equipment from the USSR. But at least the tourism business is not inefficiently run.
    I think that you exaggerate saying that Cubans are “immensely afraid of the secret police and the CDRs”. That was maybe still the case 15 years ago, today ordinary people seem quite relaxed with those institutions that only bother human rights activists and the like.
    I have not been in Cuba after the earthquake in Haiti, but last autumn I accompanied on various occasions ordinary, poor Cubans to hospitals. They were very well attended with modern equipment and medicine. I have even heard Cubans living here in Europe complaining that medical attention is better in Cuba than here.
    You seem to believe that dissatisfaction with the state of things will bring about a popular uprising. I tend to disagree. Even very Castro-hostile Cubans, who say (not quite unjustified) that “you abroad at least have freedom”, answer in the negative and with resignation when asked, if they expect something better, when Castro is no longer there.

  26. Follow up post #26 added on February 22, 2010 by Yeyo with 411 total posts

    In Cuba every single person is afraid of the state security and the CDR,s, no exceptions, even ministers are afraid, couple of words can make the difference between a “good” job and no job at all. If you cannot see it you are blind.
    Regarding the Cuban missions overseas, in some cases the receiving countries paid something but not even half of the whole cost of the mission. I many cases, like hospitals to Peru, vessels and sugar mills to Nicaragua including the personnel to operate them, etc, were paid in full by the Cuban government. Where this money came from?? Very simple from the Cuban people that is continuously exploited and paid a meager salary.

    I don’t care if there has been some criticism about the Trial of the 5 spies. I do not call them spies, that is what they are, they were acting on behalf of the foreign country without a license to do so, they confessed to their crimes and were convicted, even Castro has acknowledged that they were MININT officers working undercover in the US, so what are they? That they had not send information to Cuba is actually secondary but I’m not so sure of that.

    Obviously I do not like Castro as most of Cubans do not like Castro, if you are Cuban, what do not appear to be the case, you are among the minority that like Castro. I wonder why would you like Castro and left Cuba? The stuff that we have been talking here is so evident to Cubans that even high position Cuban government officials gossip about it. Remember Lage and Perez Roque, their only mistake was gossiping about the problems in Cuba and both were booted.

    Certainly Doctors in Cuba make the equivalent to USD 25 – 35.00 per month. Not even Haitian Doctors have such ridiculously low wages. That is the reason why some of them want to go to Venezuela to make a little bit more (around USD 150 per month) so they can bring a DVD and that kind stuff. I have been in Venezuela recently and saw the Cubans boarding their plane, no container loads, because the “well paid” you said is not enough to buy lot of stuff in Venezuela and is today one of the most expensive places in the western hemisphere. But what is worst is to consider normal that a Doctor accepts or is “eaguer” to go to foreign missions to bring a DVD back, come on we are in 21 century, even the porest people in the countries they are aiding have TVs and DVDs, leave aside that they are Doctors that sacrifice long time studying, highly regarded professionals in all societies since Christ except in Cuba.
    Any doorman or waiter in the worst Hotel in Havana makes more and lives better than the best surgeon in Hospital Fajardo.

    I can understand that be surprised and skeptic of the Cuban people calamities, miseries and hardships that we describe here. When you go to Cuba with hard currency, even if not everything is perfect you can buy pretty much anything, meaning your life is easy. Now think about a person that works a whole month for 200 Pesos (USD 8.00 a month), I not need to say anything else. You can hardly survive with USD 8.00 in the whole month. UN had set the level of extreme poverty in USD 1 per day.

    I know that you are indifferent to the suffering of all the Cuban people. That is clear in your writings.

  27. Follow up post #27 added on February 22, 2010 by Yeyo with 411 total posts

    Pipefitter, obviously they have to pay dollars for them, nothing new. Every country is responsible first of their own people and only them they can go around providing aid elsewhere.

    Most countries do that, US, Canada, Latin America, Europe, etc. Not Cuba, they do not have money to buy hospital supplies, no problem, wherever little amount they have they buy supplies to be sent to Haiti, Venezuela, Panama, Uruguay or anywhere, except to help the Cuban people. Wrong, wrong, wrong !!!! The Cuban government should solve the Cuban problems and only then see if they can help somebody else. Anything else is bulsh….

    Cuba has very little money (nothing new, the same way for the last 30 years) because the chaotic manner in which the economy had been and is still today managed.

    Your story of the Cuban Dentist in the states, which you portrayed as a failure, is only a partial failure, his salary is not as high as he initially thought but at least he has an apartment, rented but is an apparent, he likely have a car and likely a nice, not rich but still nice live. What would had been his live in Cuba, no apartment to rent, no car, a meager salary, thinking what to cook tonight (because the fridge is empty) while taking care of his patients, etc etc.

    I can actually mention hundreds or maybe thousands of success stories of Cubans living in the US, Canada and around the world. Cubans had been successful in almost every place they have emigrated.

  28. Follow up post #28 added on February 22, 2010 by pipefitter with 275 total posts

    Again Yeyo you are trying to compare third world Cuba to our developed countries, compare it to other third world countries, apples to apples, oranges to oranges. You again tell your lye that Cuban doctores make $20.00 U.S. per month. I know for a fact two that make $700.00 pesos plus a dollar amount if they are on missions in other countries. The question is not how many dollars they make but how many pesos they make and what can they get for those pesos.
    I can give you another example of a family of 4 in Cuba. Grandmother makes 600.00 pesos/ mo as a U prof. Male makes 450.00 pesos plus 10.00CUC as a repair man in a hotel or 690.00 pesos/mo, wife makes 350.00 pesos/ mo as an accountant, so the family makes a total of 1640.00 pesos/ mo total. They tell me that their daily childcare costs 40.00 pesos/mo food included. They say their in house food costs are about 400.00 pesos/mo. The electricity is about 100.00 pesos/ mo. They go out to eat a few times a mounth. They pay no rent, free medical, free dental etc. The items that are expensive and scarce are shoes and clothing. So they are left with 1100.00 pesos for any of their other items to buy/ mo.
    As for the Dentist in Miami, no he can’t afford a car Yeyo he barely has enough to get by. His life in Cuba could have been with a house and a decent living working in his own practice not doing some ungratefull duenyo’s work and getting paid peanuts.

  29. Follow up post #29 added on February 22, 2010 by Yeyo with 411 total posts

    No, I’m not comparing Cuba to developed countries, which by the way you have done it in many of your post previously. In any of the countries where Cuba is providing aid today, Doctors make more money than in Cuba, plain and simple. For example in Haiti, Peru, Bolivia a Doctor makes more money than in Cuba. Leave a side Venezuela, Mexico, Chile, Brasil or other countries where doctors are rich.

    For instance you say know a Cuban Doctor that makes 700.00 Pesos a month, well that’s actually USD 28.00, pretty large amount of month uh?

    Your example of the family of 4, putting aside that they live together not because they want but because they have to, makes a combined 1640.00 pesos a month, well that is actually USD 65.60 a month for a family of 4 !!, come on, and I can tell you that there are not so many families like the one you are describing that most of their members are professionals or have good jobs. If they make 65 bucks a month what would you leave for the guys that make 200 pesos a month? In Cuba with 400 pesos a month for food you can barely survive. Keep in mind that 1 Lbs of pork is between one and two US Dollars.

    I wonder how your friends can go out and eat few times a month? I know people that makes quite a bit more and cannot make it. They either get help from family outside the country or they simply can’t. Also you did not count transportation, home repairs, incidentals etc.

    In Cuba my friend everything is expensive, food included, to give you an example a jar of mayonnaise, made in Cuba, of aprox 200 ML cost over USD 4.00. Certainly shoes and clothing is not only expensive but of the worst quality, the government buys them cheaply in Panama and sell them in Cuba as if they were made of gold. 

    Cuba is a paradise for everybody but the Cubans.

  30. Follow up post #30 added on February 22, 2010 by pipefitter with 275 total posts

    You are out of touch Yeyo, you have been talking too much to your brother and other dissidents in Havana. Go out in the country and see how the real people live. You keep talking about dollars and you schould know that people can’t use dollars in Cuba, it’s Pesos Cubanos Yeyo.
    This family happen to like having grandma there in the house to babysit and such. Not everyone has to be wealthy to enjoy life as you suggest. We are going to Cuba soon, and we asked everyone by “E” mail what they would like us to bring them. The majority want ropa or zapatos, one- small tools, one- parts for an American stove. All we send them by mail is clothes shoes or toys for their kids, no food as they say they don’t need it. Granma has a car she bought with her own money and the man takes the free transport supplied by the Hotel, the wife walks to work.
    You say you can compare Cuba to other third world countries. O.K. lets compare Cuba to Mexico, according to the UN stats-
    Primary education- 97%
    Women in Government-36%
    Child mortality-7/1000
    Maternal mortality-45/100,000
    People with aids-0.1%
    Access to drinkable water-91%
    Internet usage-2.1/100
    Human development index-50 (1 to 177)
    Life expectancy-77.2 Years
    Carbon Monoxide Emissions/capita-2,2456 MT

    Primary education-99.4%
    Women in government-22,6%
    Child mortality-35/1000
    Maternal mortality-60/100,000
    People with aids-0.3%
    Access to drinkable water-95%
    Internet users-19/100
    Human development index- 53 (1 to 177)
    Life expectancy-74.9 years
    Carbon dioxide emissions/capita-4.2387MT
    So Cuba doesn’t shape up so badly against another third world country with many more dollars coming into Mexico than Cuba.
    Note;- You know you can make mayonese easily from lemon juice, oil and salt and a batidorra if you realy want it.

  31. Follow up post #31 added on February 22, 2010 by Yeyo with 411 total posts

    I may be out touch because there is over a month since I returned from Cuba in January and because I can refute all your niceties about Cuba. For your information most Cubans are dissidents, maybe not openly because they are afraid but are not in favor of Castro. Probably your friends or family are the exception or may be they are made of rubber and have no feelings, I know that there are few of those still around.

    The figures were given in US dollars as a reference for some people that had not been in Cuba lately.

    This family may like living with grandma but most families don’t but it does not matter because they have nowhere to move.

    “Grandma have a car she bought with her own money”, unless it was sold by the government (to some high positioned government officials) I cannot see how she would be able to afford a card with 65 bucks a month. Now we know that she has a car, what about the other expenses like gas, parts repairs etc, are all of them also covered with the 65 bucks. I mean, nobody in Cuba can have that level of life like “going out several times a month” with 65 bucks.

    Most Cubans would ask you for stuff rather than food because it is more difficult to find and because obviously it is difficult to bring a chicken on your luggage. I bet that once you arrive you go to the 70st supermarket to fill the fridge, no? well you actually should do it because again with 65 bucks a month there is no way that 4 people can live in Cuba and now if you add your wife, children and yourself even less.

    You mentioned the means of transport of your family or friends, what about the rest of Cuban that do not have a car (most of them actually) or does not have a work bus?

    I do not understand why you are trying to show with the Cuba-Mexico comparison. Cuba unenployment: 1.9% I’m laughing. The unemployment in Cuba is well above 10% and if you include the subemployment probably above 30%. Now if you ask Castro he would tell you different. Firstly those are numbers given by the Cuban government that even the kindergarten kids now are doctored. Secondly it do not include the average salary, look for it, you would find a huge difference.

    Try to go beyond the family you are seeing, look in Cerro, Luyano, Centro Habana, Habana Vieja or any other city outside Havana, try to see the majority of Cubans barely scratching the surface with their meager salaries. Then you can come and tell us who was out of touch.

  32. Follow up post #32 added on February 23, 2010 by pipefitter with 275 total posts

    Yeyo, come clean mi hermano, you give figures in dollars to make Cuba look bad not just for people who have’nt been to Cuba. They use the 1100.00 pesos left over to buy gas, restaurant food etc. I am not going to La Habana, I haven’t been in Habana for a few years now. I am going to Oriente province por el campo were I can buy food from the farmers to help them out with our stay as we would do anywhere else. We also have one family relation who has a small farm and believe me he lives pretty well, others grow vegetables, fruta, platanos, animales etc. They already have a couple of pig roasts set up for us. None of our family relations are in the government or members of the communist party. The figures I gave you are from the UN website, they say they can’t give figures on Cuban standard of living beacause you would have to figure in all the free stuff Cubans get to make a meaningful comparison. Cuba does have buses, trucks, trains and airplanes etc for transport or have you forgotten that?

  33. Follow up post #33 added on February 23, 2010 by Yeyo with 411 total posts

    Pipefitter I gave the figures in Pesos and in USD, both, because this site is hosted in the US and several people here enter to learn a little bit about the Cuban reality. If they see that somebody is making 600 or 700 pesos they may compare them to some other Latin American countries where also the peso is the currency.

    I do not want to hide my disaffection for Castro, which is evident all over my posts. At the end of the day it really does not matter what is the currency the point is that the Government is screwing the people very badly.

    I remind you that this forum is not about a particular family in Cuba but about the whole Cuba but for the sake of clarifying this matter let’s go back to that family in particular. In Cuba today:
    •  One litter of gasoline in Cuba cost CUC 0.95 ( USD 1.14). 
    •  The cheapest restaurants cost around CUC 5.00 (USD 6.00) per person and your family have 4 members, so minimum CUC 20.00 (USD 24.00) each time they go out.

    If your family have 1100 pesos ( CUC 44 or USD 52.80) for everything else than food and electricity etc, how many times can they go out to a restaurant or how many litters of gas can they buy per month or how many tires can they buy to replace the old ones, etc etc etc.

    It is very obvious that if they go to a restaurant only once (and considering that 4 persons did not expend one single cent on the whole month) then they can buy 25 liters of gas a month, not a lot for any kind of country standards.

    I can talk to you about hundreds of Cubans I know that live fairly well, foreign company managers, people in high positions in government, Captains on foreign shipping companies, etc. But this is not about them; this is about the millions of Cubans, the majority, that makes less than 300 pesos (CUC 12.00 or USD 14.40) per month. They are barely surviving, some would stole from their companies, something here, something there, some would get a little gift from a foreign friend or family living outside of the country but still there are millions that you can see their faces languishing, extremely skinny. People that do not know what is to desire eating something in particular,  they eat what the government gives them and anything they can solve, they cannot even dream of eating what they want and when they want it. That is not right!!! And if you are ok with that something is wrong with you!!

  34. Follow up post #34 added on February 23, 2010 by pipefitter with 275 total posts

    Yeyo, the average wage now is 440 pesos/mo. most families have more than one person working in a houshold. In Santiago you can get 1 kg of bacalao for 15 pesos (63 cents US),a meal of pork rice and beans 35 pesos(1.46US), a pizza and beer 25 pesos (1.04US), grilled fish dinner 30 pesos,(1.25). Maybee your brother should move to Oriente, no? I am looking at all those healthy looking Cuban kids and adults in the photos I get “E” mailed to me quite often and wonder who you are looking at, maybee it’s Yoani who likes to suck in her cheeks to look like she is starving in her photos. How many times a year do you buy tires for your car? Gas is expensive in Cuba, but the relatives still manage to do a fair amount of driving in Cuba. Even gas on the black market costs money.The photos I see of family in restaurants, they always have latas de Bucanero, no cerveza de la pipa en la mesa. Cubans do not have an easy life but they have it a lot better than many people around the world.
    According to the UN 15.55% of Canadians under 18 live in poverty.
    The Cuban medics relize they are doing a great job helping out people in countries worse off than them around the world.
    Yeyo, look at Granma, “cartas a la direccion” and see how people debate and critisize government and beaurocrats and with time and the internal pressure (not interference from outside)  things will change.

  35. Follow up post #35 added on February 23, 2010 by HavanAndrew with 87 total posts

    Give your head a shake. One Cuban man makes the equivalent of $15 a month. In life he has a household with bills. After his bills each month, how much money does he have left to buy Bucanero beer at $1 each?

  36. Follow up post #36 added on February 23, 2010 by pipefitter with 275 total posts

    Exactly my point muchachos, they must have enough money available to buy a few Bucaneros and some meals in restarauntes some times! In this case the family makes $1640.00 pesos /mo.

  37. Follow up post #37 added on February 23, 2010 by Yeyo with 411 total posts

    Pipefitter, as I told you, I get the info first hand not from my brother, I just returned from Cuba late January.

    If the average salary is 440 pesos a month, that means that some people like your friends would make 700 pesos a month but there would be people making 200 pesos a month and believe me there are millions making under 300 pesos a month (12 CUC or USD 14.40 per month). Considering that they all have free housing, which is not the case, after paying electricity, food, clothing, transportation and other incidentals, how many times that person that makes 300 pesos a month can go to a restaurant where according to you each meal cost minimum 35 pesos and a beer cost 22 pesos??

    So according to the UN 15.5% of Canadians are under the line of poverty? Wow!! I wonder how many Cubans would be under the line of poverty. The UN considers extreme poverty anybody that lives under USD 1.00 per day, well in Cuba more than 80% of the population lives under USD 1.00 per day. Your comparison of Canada with Cuba is just silly.

    You see the pictures of your friends with the beer cans on the table and that’s all you can see or all you want to see. That’s not Cuba, how many times can they go to have beer, or maybe your friends can, I have friends and family in Cuba that can afford to go out often, but I know of a majority of Cubans that cannot afford that even on their wildest dreams. Next time you go to Santiago walk around, stand up from your table with beers and walk around the poorest neighborhoods, you would see a completely different picture than the one you have in mind.

    That is the real Cuba, good for you but terrible for the Cubans.

  38. Follow up post #38 added on February 23, 2010 by pipefitter with 275 total posts

    Yeyo, you like to only read parts of a post as it suites you. The UN says that 15.5% of Canadians UNDER 18 live in poverty. My point is you can’t compare Canada and Cuba, apples and oranges. As you know they don’t have to buy a Bucanero beer, they can buy beer on tap for a fraction of the price of a Bucanero, but they buy the Bucanero. Would someone who is struggling to make ends meet waste money on a can of beer?

  39. Follow up post #39 added on February 23, 2010 by Yeyo with 411 total posts

    Pipefitter, do not be childish, if you check my earlier posts you would see that there are no mention to Canada, you were the one that brought Canada into the comparison, you wanted to say that there is poverty in Canada in a forum about Cuba and do not expect the people would compare it to the poverty in Cuba??

    The poor in Canada have much better live that the majority of the people in Cuba. You leave in Canada as so do I, so obviously comparing Canada and Cuba is out of the game. 

    Regarding the beer, what I have seen is that very few Cubans can afford to buy beer of any type and as to the tap beer, maybe there is some in Santiago I stayed in Havana and could not see any.

    You asked: “Would someone who is struggling to make ends meet waste money on a can of beer?”
    Well actually if you look at our interchange of opinions that seem to be my question.
    The answer: Obviously no, most Cubans are badly struggling and they cannot afford to buy a beer.

  40. Follow up post #40 added on February 23, 2010 by pipefitter with 275 total posts

    Well yeyo, you just made both of my points, a lot of ordinary people in Cuba are making enough money to be able to waste money to buy a can of beer for $24.00 pesos. As for the UN assesment of Canadian poverty 18 and below, they say we rank 17th in the group of INDUSTRIALIZED COUNTRIES, not ranked with Cuba at all. If you haven’t seen any beer on tap in Cuba yeyo, you must not get out very much there. I will drink some in your name when I am in Cuba.

  41. Follow up post #41 added on February 24, 2010 by miguel with 41 total posts

    Yeyo (comment # 26):
    Of course nobody in Cuba wants to get mixed up with the state security. But to say as HavanAndrew that people in general go about being “immensely afraid” of that institution is today grossly overstated – state security is not interested in people’s ordinary day-to-day business, even in cases not quite within the strict norms of legality. The CDRs are still “hovered to”, far from playing the part they once did. In local communities everybody knows something about everybody and they leave one another in peace.
    With ministers and other persons close to the centre of power it may be different. That is a risky place to be in, just as the late 18th century courts in Europe of enlightened despotism.
    I have heard people in Cuba express dissatisfaction with the extent of the country’s humanitarian engagements in other countries, reasoning on the same lines as you, maybe in somewhat less cathegorical terms.
    If “the Cuban Five” did not furnish their government with any piece of classified information – and this has never been proved – then you cannot call them “spies” according to the United States Code. They were agents of the Cuban state security, but operating against an activist exile opposition organisation, not against the USA. It is interesting that the very “Brothers to the Rescue” has presented material alleging that the Clinton administration had secretly given green light for the Cuban military action on February 24 1996. Is it true, then you might convict former president Clinton for “conspiracy to murder” with as much (or as little) right as the three of the Cuban five. Is it false, then it says something interesting about the extremism of that exile organisation.
    You saw no containers, when Cubans boarded the plane in Venezuela. Maybe they were sent by ship. I have visited houses of returned Cuban doctors and sports trainers, with rooms stuffed with modern consumer goods that are said to be cheaper abroad than in Cuba – a little like in Costa Rica with people who have made a trip to Panamá.
    You are unjust, when you call me “indifferent to the sufferings of the Cuban people.” I am worried about the radical and unbalanced views that I meet in the exile community (I have friends in Miami who talk very much like you), and I consider such currents a major hindrance for a gradual and peaceful normalisation of conditions. I pray the orishas that Cuba may see another Gorbachov, not another Iraq.

  42. Follow up post #42 added on February 24, 2010 by Yeyo with 411 total posts

    Pipefitter I don’t understand your point but no, not a lot of ordinary people is making money in Cuba. I said that I know some people that can afford to buy beers but they are by far a very small minority. Be careful with the tap beer in Cuba, it is famous for the head and stomach ache.

    Miguel, while I can see that you are somehow concerned by the Cuban reality in my opinion you had been misguided. Keep in mind that what may seem evident to you, a foreigner that visits Cuba, in reality could be quite the opposite. Cubans have learned to lie about their feelings, is the result of a Country that have laws and regulations to make your life miserable if you run slightly out of the line traced by Castro. Have you heard of “desacato a la autoridad” or ‘‘desobediencia’‘. If the police tell you not to talk anything about the government and do so, you are in “desacato” if they tell you not to go to this place for manifestation against the government you may be in “desobediencia”. Cubans know that the line between the street and jail is quite thin and one single word make brake it. Yes, during my last visit this Dec-Jan I saw people speaking more openly against the government than before but still they would mute when they see a policeman or a the president of the local CDR.

    Regarding the 5 spies, I call them spies because they are spies, firstly openly Fidel Castro has acknowledge that they were Cuban officers infiltrated in the US, secondly they were convicted in due process, they had representation and the whole nine yards but were convicted. That they did not sent information to Cuba, what would you like the government of Cuba to say? Think about it. You are from Costa Rica right? Ok think that Costa Rica now catches two military officers from Honduras spying in Costa Rica without authorization, what are they?? Spies, righth? What would they say? Oh we were here investigating the maras or something like that. If you go back to the time of the trial, quite lot of information surfaced at that point and they openly accepted that they were MININT officers spying for Cuba. 

    Castro calls the human rights activists US mercenaries and it is quite obvious they are not, he sent over 45 people to jail for up to 35 years. (The black spring)  Their only crime: speaking openly against the government.
    In cases where Cubans had been found spying or with guns they had been put to death.

    Your comparison of the people that goes from Costa Rica to Panama to buy stuff to the Cuban Doctors that go to Venezuela seem a little exaggeration, I do not doubt that they may bring some electronics but containers loads, come on! Firstly they do not have sufficient money, secondly Venezuela is today probably the most expensive country in America and thirdly you obviously do not know the Cuban Custom law which is extremely restrictive.

    I almost forgot to mention that Gaviota is the largest Tourism Holding Company in Cuba today, controlling Hotels, Marinas, Shopping Centers, Restaurants, rent a cars, charter planes, ships etc etc etc. Gaviota is run by the armed forces (FAR), actually it belongs to GAESA (Grupo Empresarial de las FAR). Who is president of GAESA? Oh, what a coincidence, Raul Castro’s son in law. Who is president of Gaviota? A General. Who is the Minister of Tourism in Cuba today? A general that used to run Gaviota.

  43. Follow up post #43 added on February 24, 2010 by HavanAndrew with 87 total posts

    The Achilles Heel of Castro Inc.,
    Gaviota + MasterCard + VISA

  44. Follow up post #44 added on February 24, 2010 by pipefitter with 275 total posts

    Yeyo, mi hermano, most families in Cuba have more than one person working in them so there is not one wage coming into the house. In Cuba there are 3,950,300 people working in state owned employment. There are 1,077,500 working in none state employment, so that makes a 5,027,800 people workforce. That makes almost half the population working. The rest are mothers, students, babies and layabouts etc. This is quite high, in Mexico for example there is a 24.3 million workforce or only 38% of the population. With all those pesos going into the households they have enough to buy the essentials and as you know wages are increasing slowly. I could give you a list of food items that are comparitively cheep, rice 0.25 pesos (1 cent US/lb) a pound, frijoles 0.40 pesos/lb (1.6 cents/lb US) etc.
    When I go to Cuba, I stay with family Yeyo, so I hear all the gossip, complaints, eat their food, who is doing who’s wife, go places with them and they are not afraid to talk to me and tell me what they think. They want to improve the Cuban system, not destroy it by letting the old Cuban farts in Miami take it over again. They are starting to put more pressure on the government to make these changes. They need more control from the bottom up by Cubans not foreign financed trouble makers trying to foment violence to garner foreign media attention. People like Yoani schould be trying to influence Cubans to be more open to change not putting on staged demonstrations for the foreiners.

  45. Follow up post #45 added on February 24, 2010 by pipefitter with 275 total posts

    As for Gaviota, Raul was the one that turned tourism into a money maker. He got it turned over to the military and made it work. Disapline and organization were needed and the military had it. The US also drove some foreign private hotels out with threats of American action against them in the US as with Canadian Delta Hotels who had to leave Cuba. There are also a lot of foreign owned hotels still in Cuba, French, Spanish, and Italian etc that are in partnership with the government.

  46. Follow up post #46 added on February 24, 2010 by Yeyo with 411 total posts

    Pipefitter you said: “I could give you a list of food items that are comparitively cheep, rice 0.25 pesos (1 cent US/lb) a pound, frijoles 0.40 pesos/lb (1.6 cents/lb US) etc.”
    Those are the prices from the rationing card (libreta) the food you get with it would be enough for the first week of the month and what about the rest of the month. Additionally Raul Castro said that they would get rid of the rationing card altogether.

    There are NO foreign hotels in Cuba. They are ALL owned by the government. There are joint ventures and joint companies that operate the hotels. 

    Do you realize that you are ok with every sign of cronyism, dictatorship, militarism and pretty much every single abuse that is committed in Cuba today? In fact you always find a good explanation for it. At the end of the day Cubans have a “wonderful life” right? If you are not working for Castro you definitely should contact them, an extra income may help. I said that the Gaviota Holding is run by Raul Castro’s son in Law and you see that ok? In fact according to you “He (Raul Castro) got it (tourism) turned over to the military and made it work. Discipline and organization were needed and the military had it.” Astonishing. 

    I wonder, what do you know about the military and their organization in Cuba? Obviously not much.

  47. Follow up post #47 added on February 25, 2010 by pipefitter with 275 total posts

    Well, as you know Yeyo, I am probably a member of the G2 or Cuban communist party or a government agent of some sort, so I have been brainwashed and taught the internal workings of the Cuban military.
    All kidding aside, the rice Cubans get on the subsidized libretta is 5 lbs/ person /mo. So for my family of 4 they can get 20 lbs of rice/mo. total at a cost of 5 cuban pesos (or 20 cents US). If they are pigs and need more rice the price goes up to 0.90 pesos/lb to a total of 8 more pounds for atotal of $7.29 pesos (or 29 cents US)or 28 lbs of rice for $12.29 Cuban pesos ( or 0.49 US).I have a whole list of libreta products but this is not the place to discuss it as it will piss off Pub. Yes, meat, pork, in the market is expensive $35.00 pesos/lb. When I was in Cuba last, we bought a 90lb pig for a roast last time for $50.00 Can. and my relatives said I paid too much. Cubans spend between 60 to 70% of their wages on food I am told.
    Yes there are no stricktly foreign hotels in Cuba they are all joint ventures and the foreign companies like Melilla or watever run them and hire Cubans and share the profits with the Gov. I think they are there to make money no.
    On an “E” mail note relevant to this forum, one of the doctors I know is just retuning to Cuba so I will have a good talk to her in Cuba.

  48. Follow up post #48 added on February 25, 2010 by pipefitter with 275 total posts

    Yeyo, go look at Pubs despised Havana Times an article on “Poor Cubans”

  49. Follow up post #49 added on February 25, 2010 by HavanAndrew with 87 total posts

    Hotels sharing profits with the government? This is not totally accurate. One out of four hotel rooms (the expensive ones) is a Gaviota, Gaviota is the army, the profit is for the army. In fact the grasp of finances by the Cuban military is a lot more extensive. Now imagine if the Ministry of Health owned Gaviota, that would be good for all Cubans. In fact, more tourists would feel good if they knew the profits were going to help Cubans, not Castro Inc. Wouldn’t that be true socialism?

  50. Follow up post #50 added on February 25, 2010 by pipefitter with 275 total posts

    Havandrew, do you know what foreign means, I said foreign hotel companies share profits with the Cuban gov. The profit goes into the big pot to buy food and oil and such for Cuba. What in your opinion supports the Cuban Ministry of health? Gaviota are the Cuban gov. owned hotels.

  51. Follow up post #51 added on February 25, 2010 by HavanAndrew with 87 total posts

    Pipefitter; The foreign companies share it with Gaviota (the army) not the government and the people. Huge difference. If you don’t get it by now, you’ll never get it.

  52. Follow up post #52 added on February 25, 2010 by Yeyo with 411 total posts

    Today in Havana the price of pork is 1 CUC to 1.25 CUC per Lbs (USD 1.20 – 1.50). In December it reached CUC 2.50 a Lb (USD 3.00). Next time I pass by Havana I would call you so you can show me where to buy freely the rice at 0.90 Pesos per Lb.

    The Havana Times article “Poor Cubans” says a couple of half truths and a bunch of lies.
    In Cuba nobody have a million dollar account except Silvio and maybe Pablito.
    The guy said “...a good mechanic is nearly US $1,000; a successful tobacco grower makes even more; a waiter in a tourist hotel earns more than $600; and a fisherman with his own boat can take in around $700 a month…”
    I wish I have the chance to have a direct chat with him and Pipefitter so he can show me that people around. Maybe there is one fisherman that made USD 700.00 in one month but I know bunch fishermen with boats in the Almendares River that are barely surviving. By the way commercial fishing is absolutely prohibited and fiercely enforced. Fishermen can catch couple of fish and sell them but if they catch to much they can even loose the boat and get a ticket.
    A mechanic making USD 1000.00, I do not doubt that maybe one specialized mechanic may be doing that but I can guarantee you that 99.99% make substantially less otherwise why there are no mechanics in Cuba? Furthermore all that stuff that he is praising is actually illegal.

    Certainly some musicians had made good money for Cuban standards and as I said in previous post people that works for foreign firms also can make good money.

    But the point is that they are the absolute and very small minority. The majority of Cubans are struggling in Cuba.

  53. Follow up post #53 added on February 25, 2010 by pipefitter with 275 total posts

    Havandrew, you it seams are the one that is misinformed. Gaviota is not the biggest player in the hotel buisiness in Cuba, Cubanacan is with 60 hotels.  And Foreign companies do run some of Gaviotas hotels like Sol Melilla etc. Part of the money from Gaviota goes to government coffers.
    Yeyo thats what I said, we paid $35.00 pesos/lb for pork in the market, yet I bought a pig 90lbs for $50.00 CAN and the Cubans said I paid too much. Yeyo, If you can’t survive in la Habana you have to go to Oriente ael campo. There are lots of things that are illegal but they still happen as you well know.
    Back to the theme, The Cubans have been helping out in Haiti for ten years now and have seen to date 14,000,000 patients, performed 200,000 surgeries, assisted in 100,000 births and done 45,000 eye operations. Oustanding Olympic performance by a third world country I would say.

  54. Follow up post #54 added on February 25, 2010 by HavanAndrew with 87 total posts

    No Pipefitter I am not misinformed. I was only talking about Gaviota and I will repeat this. The money that Gaviota generates goes to the military, not the general government coffers. I am suggesting that this money would be better used to help Cubanos rather go to an entity that supports the repression of Cubanos.

  55. Follow up post #55 added on February 25, 2010 by Yeyo with 411 total posts

    Nobody denies that Cuban doctors are playing a major role in Haiti. However what I have said and is the fact that to stay there for such a long time (10 years taking care of 14,000,000 patients, performing 200,000 surgeries, 45,000 eye operations and assist in 100,000 births) cost lots of money and who pays for all that? The Cuban people.

    It is exactly what you say, Cuba is an small third world country, therefore the Cuban people cannot afford to pay for all that aid to any country that ask for it and even to some that had never asked. The only reason that Cuba is providing all that aid is to feed the Castros egos and as part of their international propaganda campaign.

    Pipefitter I do not need to move to Oriente because fortunately I can afford pretty much anything in Cuba, but that is not the issue, this is not about you, or myself, or the people that is making some money in Cuba either because they work with a foreign company or because are doing something illegal. This is about the millions of Cubans that are struggling daily, that waked up this morning and do not know what they would eat tonight.

  56. Follow up post #56 added on February 25, 2010 by miguel with 41 total posts

    Yeyo (comment # 42):
    Self-censorship: I know the phenomenon in Cuba as well as anybody – another phenomenon that was pronounced in the eighties, not today. To avoid trouble with the authorities has become a routine, and only decided opposition activists may go around being “immensely afraid”. Your example with people going to prohibited anti-government manifestations is not good – such things will bring you trouble in any country.
    “The Cuban five”: I am thankful for your imagined example of foreign agents in Costa Rica. Maybe you know that in the early eighties a Nicaraguan armed opposition group operated against the government of Nicaragua from the north of Costa Rica. Had the Nicaraguan government sent security agents to Costa Rica to infiltrate this group, would that have been espionage against Costa Rica? Had members of this opposition group been killed in action as a result of information from the agents, would the agents then be guilty of “conspiracy to murder”? You evidently use the term spy in its popular, not in its legal sense as defined in 18 U. S. Code § 793.
    Containerloads brought in by Cubans on missions: I have not actually seen the containers, but I have seen an entire room in a house belonging to a couple of doctors serving in Venezuela, completely occupied with things brought in from that country. Another of my acquaintances on mission has entirely equipped his newbuilt house with things from abroad, according to himself sent in containers. Cubans on missions pay costums duties in national (non-convertible) currency, i. e. only a minor fraction of what you or I would have to pay.

  57. Follow up post #57 added on February 25, 2010 by Yeyo with 411 total posts

    So Miguel, Cuba is a paradise uh? Looking at it from your eyes probably? but from the eyes of a Cuban living in Cuba hardly.
    Spies are spies, they were convicted and acknowledged by Fidel Castro that they were working illegally undercover for the Cuban Government in the US. I know how the MININT works and you do not. I know that they were spies and you seem to feel that if they were working without license spying in a foreign country they are ......what they are?
    I used the term spy in the popular form as well as dictatorship, tyranny, cronyism, human right violations and abuses etc etc. maybe there is another legal form to call them all that but the point is that you know what I mean.  But maybe you want to enlighten us about it how those terms are called from the legal standpoint.

  58. Follow up post #58 added on February 26, 2010 by miguel with 41 total posts

    Yeyo, I did not intend to annoy you. There is nothing wrong with the word spy. Only that I am one of those, who do not consider it appropriate in the case of the Cuban five, as no evidence has been presented that they were transmitting classified information on the national defence of the USA. That is what defines spy as a legal term – see 18 U. S. Code § 793 (you can easily find it on Google). The five were acting – as far as I know – as informants on the most radical and activist Castro-hostile groups. That is not illegal – I suppose that the FBI has informants there too. They did commit infractions on some minor legislative provisions, but the sanctions were not less monstrous than in the cases you mention from Cuba.
    If you disagree, then please tell me, which of the infractions listed in 18 U. S. Code § 793 they demonstrably committed. And you should know that tautological reasoning (“they were spies because they were spying”) is good for nothing.
    We have come a far way from Haïti (but it was you who introduced the case of the five). If I have been too meticulous in my comments, I hope that you and the publisher will excuse me.

  59. Follow up post #59 added on February 26, 2010 by Yeyo with 411 total posts

    Miguel, I can tell you that to infiltrate any kind of organization in any country on behalf of another country without a written license or authorization is illegal in almost every country on earth and certainly in US, Canada and Cuba. If you are a lawyer you may want to check that point again. You may believe that what they did was not illegal, obviously looking at it from the Castro point of view that may be what you see but if you try to be just a little bit rational you would see that what you are saying is absurd.

    You have not refuted the fact that they were convicted, but additionally Castro personally acknowledged that they were Cuban Security of State agents infiltrated in the US, whether they were infiltrated to obtain information from the Anti-Castro groups or the CIA really does not matter a lot, in fact in my opinion any kind of explanation of that sort seem childish and only comprehensible to the people that do not understand how the Cuban security agencies work. They were actually lucky that they were in the US if they had done something like that in Cuba that is considered high treason and they would be death by now.

    Your comparison of the 5 spies to the human right activist jailed during the black spring is completely silly and shows how much you appreciate the human rights. Again the 5 spies were working and paid by the Cuban security of the state. The human rights activists in Cuba were jailed for speaking openly what they believe in. They did not infiltrate any government organization or anything like that; they simple had the courage of speaking openly against Castro in Cuba. One of them very sadly just passed away yesterday. Amnesty International recognized him as a conscience prisoner but the government of Cuba continue beating and abusing him until his death.

  60. Follow up post #60 added on February 26, 2010 by miguel with 41 total posts

    Yeyo, I agree completely on your first point (I should have written for the sake of clarity: “That IN ITSELF is not illegal”.) The five did commit infractions, which they have confessed, but in my opinion there has not been presented convincing proof of infractions as serious as espionage against a foreign nation or conspiracy to murder.
    I disagree strongly with your second point – that it is of minor importance if they were acting against the national defence of the USA or only against a private extremist organisation operating from that country. The first is one of the most serious of infractions, the second IN ITSELF not an infraction at all.
    Of course they were convicted, and they were allowed during the trial to present the evidence they wanted to present. But that does not imply that the premises of the verdict were solid, which I consider that they were not. A house can be badly constructed although built by a fully authorized construction company, dentists do good or bad work, do you think courts are different in that?
    My analogy between the five and the “black spring” cases concerned only the disproportion between documented law infractions and sanctions. For the rest I agree with you that the cases are of fundamentally different nature. I disapprove strongly of both.

  61. Follow up post #61 added on February 27, 2010 by robolucion with 33 total posts

    “Polite” communists playing the civil debate card, and of course rationalizing the irrational nature of authoritarianism.

  62. Follow up post #62 added on February 28, 2010 by HavanAndrew with 87 total posts

    From Investors.com

    Cuba’s Doctor Abuse
    Posted 02/25/2010 06:47 PM ET
    Health Care: Remember Cuba’s vaunted medical missionaries — those who treated the poor abroad for nothing, supposedly out of selfless motives? A lawsuit shows they were nothing but a communist slave racket.

    It ought to bear a few lessons for our own country as the role of doctors in the health care debate drags on.

    Back in 1963, Cuban dictator Fidel Castro launched a much-praised initiative to share Cuba’s medical doctors with the poor around the world. The idea, of course, was to appear to be acting on higher motives than the profit-driven doctors in free societies. It was small scale and propaganda-oriented.

    But in 2003, Castro went big, and shipped 20,000 doctors and nurses to Venezuela’s jungles and slums to treat the poor, doing the work “selfish” private-sector doctors wouldn’t. Hugo Chavez touted this line and the mainstream media followed.

    Now the ugly facts are getting out about what that really meant: indentured servitude to pay off the debts of a bankrupt regime.

    This week, seven escaped doctors and a nurse filed a 139-page complaint in Miami under the RICO and Alien Tort acts describing just how Cuba’s oil-for-doctors deal came to mean slavery.

    The Cuban medics were forced to work seven days a week, under 60-patient daily quotas, in crime-riddled places with no freedom of movement. Cuban military guards known as “Committees of Health” acted as slave catchers to ensure they didn’t flee.

    Doctors earned about $180 a month, a salary so low many had to beg for food and water from Venezuelans until they could escape.

    What they endured wasn’t just bad conditions common inside Cuba. The doctors were instruments of a money-making racket to benefit the very Castro regime that has ruined Cuba’s economy.

    “They were told ‘your work is more important to Cuba than even its sugar industry,’” their attorney, Leonardo Canton, told IBD.

    That’s because their labor was tied to an exchange: Castro took 100,000 barrels of oil each day from Venezuela’s state oil company in exchange for uncompensated Cuban labor.

    Most of the oil was then sold for hard currency, bringing in cash. Cuba also charged Venezuela $30 per patient visit, meaning a $1,000 daily haul per doctor. But the doctors never saw any of it.

    In a situation like this, it’s pretty obvious that when the state gets involved in medical care — telling doctors whom they can serve, what they can charge and what they can treat — it doesn’t take long for slavery to result. The Cuban government has told other doctors, such as surgeon Hilda Molina, that her brain “is the property of the state” as reason to control her travel.

    That ought to be lesson to those who seek to reform medical care in the U.S. on the backs of doctors. Free medical care is never free.

  63. Follow up post #63 added on March 01, 2010 by miguel with 41 total posts

    So the story has turned 180 degrees. Till now we have been told that the Cuban missions of health personnel abroad contribute to the country’s economic problems. Now we hear that on the contrary it is a lucrative business, or even a racket.
    I will take this last version with the utmost reserve for three reasons:
    1: It is contradicted by what I have been told by various Cuban doctors, who have served in Venezuela. In at least two cases they are persons whom I have known, since they were children – they have no reason to hide things to me, and they are very outspoken on controversial issues.
    2: The article is clearly exaggerated and even inconsistent. Did the defected doctors really have to beg FOR WATER? MOST OF THE OIL that Cuba receives from Venezuela, is SOLD FOR HARD CURRENCY – then they must receive quite a quantity, because the black-outs (apagones), which were a plague in Cuba before, have ceased to occur.
    3: The story about the defected Cubans is used for a violent attack on president Obama’s public health reform project (“when the state gets involved in medical care ... it doesn’t take long for slavery to result”). A so simple-minded reasoning is mortal for the credibility of the source.

  64. Follow up post #64 added on March 01, 2010 by manfredz with 464 total posts

    Definitely this article is very very slanted, especially the parts about the evils of Obama’s health care plans….
    I would be surprised if the doctors sent to Venezuela were part of an oil deal- this practice was very common in the communist Europe (at one resort I frequesnt found a waiter who spoke very good German, which he learned whne Cuba sent him to work in car production plant in Leipzig in exchange for Easst German technology and products).  East Germany also had a lot of workers from Angola, Mozambique and Vietnam.
    I also wouldnt be surprised if they weren’t watched closely to prevent them from defecting (probably no coincidence that the complaint was filed in Miami), but the rest I take with a grain of salt.

  65. Follow up post #65 added on March 02, 2010 by manfredz with 464 total posts

    correction to my above post…  second sentence should read - “I would NOT be surprised ...”

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