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Posted March 21, 2008 by publisher in Castro's Cuba

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I have to admit I was extremely disappointed with the selection of Vice Presidents under Raul Castro. It gave the me and the world a very strong impression that Cuban politics would remain the same since Raul surrounded himself with comrades from La Revolucion.

I have remained skeptical about change in Cuba (as we all should) but I must admit that I am surprised by the rapid fire announcements of new or eased policies in Cuba since Raul became President. All the reforms listed below have been announced in the past 30 days. I have to admit I am surprised and impressed but still skeptical.

I started this post (and will update it going forward) to list the reforms that have been announced since Raul Castro was selected as President of Cuba.

1. February 24 Let’s start with Raul Castro’s acceptance speech

2. February 28 Cuba signs two UN human rights treaties

3. February 29 Raul meets with top Vatican Cardinal and talks about a release of political prisoners with conditions.

4. March 13 Cuba lifts ban on ownership of electronics

5. March 18 Cuba allows farmer’s to buy their own equipment and not just rely on the Cuban government for agricultural supplies, tools and equipment.

6. March 21 Cuba launches emigration web site after hosting a conference talking with Cubans living abroad.

7. March 21 Granma features letters to the Editor

8. March 21 Cuba releases rare economic report that talks frankly about economic life in Cuba.

9. March 24 Cuba moves to decentralize Cuban agriculture economy

10. March 25 Cuba lifts restrictions on Cuba pharmacy sales

11. March 28 Raul Castro allows Cuban people to own cellphones

12. March 31 Cuba allows citizens to stay in tourist hotels.

13. April 1 Cuban farmers receive Cuban land to improve agriculture production.

14. April 3 Cuba to broadcast new foreign information television channel. Not quite sure this qualifies as a reform but I’ll allow it since it fits in the with spirit of reforms.

15. April 8 Cuba restructures the family doctor program Sounds good if the government plans to offer better quality healthcare.

16. April 10 Cuban farmers can have unlimited salaries Wow, what a concept!

17. April 11 Renters will get title of ownership for housing I’d say this is a big move. Sure the military and other good government workers will most likely be the beneficiaries but now we’re up to 17 reforms in seven weeks. QUITE the pace Raul has set for himself. Will the Cuban people demand more or be thankful? What about then the reforms stop. My guess is that Fidel is quite ill and Raul wants to capture peoples’ attention in a positive way so there is no disruption. So, that’s what I’m saying. Of course we have all been wrong about Fidel’s health in the past but all the pieces of the puzzle are in place if you ask me.

18. April 28 In comment #26 below Marc Frank from Reuters reports that Cuba has raised the social security payments to retired workers and court employees. After reading the amount of the pay raises, I think you’ll agree with me and say “So what?”.

19. April 28 In comment #31 below Raul is calling to convene the first Communist Party congress since 1997. Although this may not be a “reform”, I’m going to list it here since it hasn’t been done since 1997 and could very well lead to more posts in this article. I don’t see the date mentioned anywhere.

20. April 29 Death sentences in Cuba commuted so does this mean prisoners can get out of jail for time served?

21. May 25 Cuba will eliminate its dual currency system “as soon as possible” according to an official quoted in a Spanish newspaper today. We searched for another source but it has not yet been verified or reported in another source. However, we’ll list it here unless it turns out to be false. Note: It’s been almost one month since Raul has announced any more reforms. Is he done? Did he give the people just enough for now so they are “happy”?

22. June 11 Cuba to pay worker’s based on performance - Wow, what a novel concept. Why did Fidel fight this for 50 years. Is anybody really saying “Nah, this will never work”?

23. July 11 Cuban government to allow for private taxis - Certainly a great gesture but actual implementation will need to be watched. How many licenses will be given out? What areas can they cover? What hours can they work? Of course little details like that can change the entire story.

24. July 11 Cuban government to decentralize construction projects - Doesn’t mean there are going to be independent contractors by any means but at least it is a loosening of the tightly controlled central economy from Havana.

25. July 20 President Raul Castro to allow Cuban farm land grants - This is a great thing for the Cuban people. I’m not sure how many strings are attached but on the surface this sounds like a great plan. Of course you’ll see that the grantees cannot sell or trade their interest though.

—————————————

So, what do you think? When I look at all these “changes” in a short period of time, I have to step back and think that maybe Raul is serious about making changes in Cuba. However, I am waiting to see it before I really believe it. As with most news from Cuba, it’s all propaganda since there is no free press in Cuba so none of this can really be questioned, independently verified or investigated.

  1. Follow up post #1 added on March 24, 2008 by J. Perez

    I believe gradual changes will continue, emphasis on “gradual”, nothing too radical but enough to keep people from reaching a boiling point. Or perhaps Raul is thinking about his legacy and wants history to record that he was the man who turned Cuba around particulary in the economy and people’s standard of living. Politically and socially I see socialism surviving for another generation.


  2. Follow up post #2 added on March 25, 2008 by abh

    I agree with J Perez, keep in mind that more than anything Raul will work to ensure the survival of the current system.  It seems to me that there are enough ways to “tweak” government policies but stay away from large scale change that might endanger the status quo.  I believe that Raul will work to make as many of these superficial changes (such as eliminating some of the “exessive prohibitions” that he’s spoken about) as he can to give the impression of gradual change.  Simply ending bans on certain goods and services (which we see with DVD players, computers, supposedly toasters and whatnot) will elevate the image of the government in the eyes of some people.  Don’t expect anything drastic until the end of the embargo, especially in areas such as human rights.  Raul’s ultimate upside would be if he could negotiate exactly this; if a democratic president and congress in the U.S. moves to begin breaking the embargo down and enters in some negotiations with Cuba this would be a huge boost to Raul’s power.  I’m not predicting this will happen, but it’s basically the best-case scenario as far as I can see.


  3. Follow up post #3 added on March 28, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    So the Cuban people can now have cellphones. Great. I understand that monthly plans and minute rates are among the most expensive in the world and the coverage outside of Havana is terrible.

    So, can the Cuban people afford cellphones? No.

    Will their conversations be monitored? Of course. 

    Is this another positive step for freedoms of the Cuban people? Yes.

    Is this more propaganda since the reality is that people cannot afford cellphones? Unfortunately I’m afraid the answer is yes.



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  4. Follow up post #4 added on March 28, 2008 by abh

    Publisher:
    I don’t disagree with you, but of course this is the irony of people demanding more products to be sold on the market.  In a poor country like Cuba it’s a moot issue for the vast majority of people who can’t afford these items.  It would be the same issue for traveling; if you remove the tarjeta blanca it would be a nice change but most people still wouldn’t be able to afford it.  Is it propaganda?  I guess it could qualify as that, but I would say it is an example of the Cuban government finally responding to some of the consumer desires of the population.  Consumerism was something that Fidel constantly battled against and I don’t think that it’s quite as important an issue as other things in society, but clearly the average person on the island is eager to have access to goods that the rest of the world has enjoyed for the last 50 years.


  5. Follow up post #5 added on March 31, 2008 by nacho with 111 total posts

    Cubans allowed to check into hotels for foreigners


    http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5giXikyTzxXfQ3xWe_mXlP6g5LNkA

    Tambien en español

    http://www.elmundo.es/elmundo/2008/03/31/internacional/1206939710.html


  6. Follow up post #6 added on March 31, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Thanks Nacho,

    Another positive step towards economic reforms allowing Cuban citizens to stay in Cuban hotels.

    There is also much speculation about Cuba raising the valuation of the national peso which is what Cubans receive for salary payments. The currency of low value could eventually be brought up to be on par with the Convertible peso that are used by tourists and “dollar stores” that sell goods most Cubans cannot afford.

    Next I would like to see citizens have the freedom and financial opportunity by way of loans to own and operate their own small businesses like Cuban paladar or casa particular owners, chauffeur, taxi and concierge services, website designers, tour guides and so much more. Let Cubans opt out of the government employment restrictions and food rations in exchange for their economic freedoms because right now, few can afford these new reforms.

    Next I would like to see Cubans to have the freedom to travel abroad and then the freedom to organize. Of course the release of political prisoners without forcing them to leave for Spain I would be very encouraged. This would be first on my wish list but it’s last here because I put them in order of how I think Raul might roll them out.

    Do I dare add democratic elections to my wish list?

    Lastly, I am surprised and impressed that all this has been done without many comments or even Reflections from Fidel Castro.

    Fidel must be spinning in his grave wink



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  7. Follow up post #7 added on April 02, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    The Wall Street Journal’s John Lyons just wrote Cuba’s Opening Marks Shift Away from Fidel and it’s a good summary of all the recent changes.



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  8. Follow up post #8 added on April 02, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    I guess the AP reads the Havana Journal grin

    By The Associated Press 1 hour, 47 minutes ago

    Since becoming president on Feb. 24, Raul Castro’s government has dropped some restrictions on daily life. Cubans can now:

    • Legally own cell phones.

    • Stay in luxury hotels or pay to use their gyms, hair salons and other facilities.

    • Visit resort beaches that had previously been reserved for tourists.

    • Rent cars.

    • Buy DVD players and other appliances; computers are to go on sale soon.

    • Cultivate unused state land with cash crops such as coffee and tobacco. Farmers will also be permitted to buy supplies at state-run stores without special permission.

    And the government could soon:

    • Let Cubans travel freely nationwide — and possibly internationally.

    • Increase buying power of the peso, the currency most Cubans are paid in.

    • Reduce restrictions on free enterprise that would allow more Cubans to start their own small businesses.



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  9. Follow up post #9 added on April 08, 2008 by nacho with 111 total posts

    Yes, I am sure they read the Journal. It is a great summary.
    This is the lastest from Cuba today
    http://www.reuters.com/article/latestCrisis/idUSN08356018
    Cuba reorganizes family doctor program


  10. Follow up post #10 added on April 08, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    We are on the same wavelength. I just posted added it as #15 above.

    I am reading about infrastructure construction projects across Cuba on a grand scale like water canals, power plants, roads and the like but not so much in the main stream news.

    So, with the help of contributors like nacho, this page is the place to stay informed about Raul’s reforms in Cuba.



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  11. Follow up post #11 added on April 10, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    So, now we are up to #16 reform in about six weeks. Quite the pace of reforms even though many are meaningless for one reason or another.

    In #16, this Cuban man says “There is no reason to fear someone earning lots of money if it really is due to their work”.

    Hmmm, who else does one usually make money?

    I guess making more money based on the quality of your work is a foreign concept in Cuba. Too bad really but I’m sure they’ll get the hang of capitalism.



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  12. Follow up post #12 added on April 11, 2008 by nacho with 111 total posts

    16 - really comes as a surprise but a welcome one


  13. Follow up post #13 added on April 11, 2008 by TC

    Ownership from renting is the largest step.  However, you don’t really own something unless you have the right to sell it to someone/anyone else.  I understand renters often swap apartments with other renters.  So, perhaps we should refer to #17 as “rentals with property taxes” until the day they are allowed to sell to ME - a guy in Florida.
      I am most appreciative of your informational article.  I haven’t heard a chirp about this from the pathetic MSM…it’s really pretty darn big news.


  14. Follow up post #14 added on April 12, 2008 by nacho with 111 total posts

    17- It was expected because most people renting from goverment, the deal was for 20 or 25 years. Again, what’s the point of owning if you cannot sell? Unless number 18 is the chance to sell your house wink
    17 changes since Feb 24, all I can say is WOW!!!


  15. Follow up post #15 added on April 12, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Nacho posted a link to the original decree in his blog post. Look for La resolucion aqui.



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  16. Follow up post #16 added on April 13, 2008 by Ralph

    All ,the so called reforms are ain’t enough, to bring Cubans standard, to an acceptable level;the reppresion is there,every day,every single hour,No political freedom to set new political parties to the future cuban political
    scenario.In the economical ground they are moving just avoiding and facing a
    political turmoil,but this one is coming sooner or later.To get a certain level
    of recognition for the next american stablishment is for sure a precious goal
    for the cuban dictatorship,however,it seems to be a moon dream,b/c any in power in America will have many hot points to face and Cuba is not a big priority and in any possible scenarios,the cuban tyranny will have to make political reforms,which they could never do.About Castro presence,the fact is that he is very ill,with confusion,forgetfulness,with a very difficult speech ability,without charisma and his inner circle in disarray.-


  17. Follow up post #17 added on April 13, 2008 by abh

    Ralph, I think people in both the U.S. and Cuba should be examining the relationship between the two countries.  It is pretty ridiculous that we are 90 miles apart, the U.S. has a military base on the island, and there are millions of Cubans living in the U.S. but there are almost no diplomatic relations between the two countries.  If I was Cuban I might focus my criticism on the Cuban government, however, as a U.S. citizen I truly believe it is my responsibility to advocate for my government to move to end the embargo and work towards a normalization of relations.  It is hard to find people outside of the Cuban American right wing crowd who truly supports the full embargo.  We must continue to pressure the American politicians to not bend to the will of a small minority of Republican fundraisers, but instead work to improve relations.  The Cuban government is making some symbolically important, if superficial changes.  We should take this as a positive and the next U.S. president should at the least set up a behind-the-scenes team to begin some type of diplomatic meetings, low-level and secretive if need be, between envoys of both nations.  I feel sure that the current administration is not doing this, and U.S. Cuban relations of the last 8 years have suffered as a result of Bush’s misguided and naive foreign policy.


  18. Follow up post #18 added on April 13, 2008 by Roberto Coven with 12 total posts

    As always it seems impossible to know at this point what Raul’s motivation really is and how much of the proposed changes will reach the Cuban people.  What will become transparent is how the Cuban people respond to the news and how these changes shift their view of their lives and aspirations for the future. Will defections and sea lauches to the United States go down?  Will the people really feel hopeful or will they live exactly how they have been.

    Tempting the Cuban people with reforms that dont really trickle down to their tangible benefit will feel like more of the same to them and may breed a new frustration. As example Cubans with access to foreign funds already can get electronics and cell phones. How will those without access to dollars get a cell phone?  They wont! 

    The hope I have is that the younger people and those looking to better their lives now will start to mobilize and “test” these reforms by trying to take advantage of any that may benefit them if only slightly.  Most of these reforms will not benefit the vast majority of the people and so I also sense that the temptation to demand more reforms that actually will benefit the Cuban people may be a “pandora’s box” Raul may have unintentionally opened.

    We have always sensed that Raul was more progressive than Fidel on economic issues.  Maybe these reforms will also begin to inspire younger assembly members to speak up and test how far he may go.

    If Obama is elected and more liberalized foreign investment is allowed in Cuba I believe this will be the best opportunity to support real changes in Cuba.  Lets note that changes though slow and modest ARE happening.  Its simply a matter of time until the momentum tips toward greater shifts at a faster rate.


  19. Follow up post #19 added on April 15, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    AP

    A former Cuban consul who once fled the island using a fake passport is asking authorities to let Cubans travel abroad without government approval.

    Pedro Anibal Riera Escalante made the request to parliament on Tuesday.

    Expectations are high that President Raul Castro’s government may drop the travel requirements.

    Riera in 2000 used a false Mexican passport to board a commercial flight from Havana to Mexico, but was denied asylum and sent him back to his homeland. He got a five-year prison sentence and is now free.

    Riera claims he was a top anti-CIA intelligence official for Cuba for 25 years. He was consul to Mexico from 1986-91.



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  20. Follow up post #20 added on April 18, 2008 by nacho with 111 total posts

    El Pais is reporting today the possible ease of restrictions to travel abroad for Cubans

    In Spanish

    The only links in English I could find Luis M Garcia and at Babalu Blog


  21. Follow up post #21 added on April 18, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    The main stream media is picking up this story now but simply quoting this El Pais newspaper who quotes sources in the Cuban government.

    So, still a rumor at this time. I’ll add to Raul’s reforms when it is more official.



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  22. Follow up post #22 added on April 25, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Here’s a great summary of Raul’s reforms from COHA.



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  23. Follow up post #23 added on April 25, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    From nacho

    Wilfredo Cancio’s story in Sunday’s El Nuevo Herald claims that more reforms are in store. His reporting is based on anonymous government sources in Havana who said the following changes are on the way:

      * ending the requirement for Cubans to obtain an exit permit to travel abroad;

      * “free rental” of homes to Cubans and foreigners (this can already be done by Cubans who obtain a license and pay tax accordingly; it’s not clear if the license requirement, the tax, or both will be done away with);

      * unrestricted sales of privately owned cars; and

      * ending restrictions on internal migration, which mainly affects Cubans moving to Havana.

    According to the article, other ideas are under study, such as increasing the Cuban peso’s value against the convertible peso, from 24:1 to 19:1, easing restrictions on Cuba’s small entrepreneurs, and initiating government sales of cars – Ladas for 9,000 convertible pesos.



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  24. Follow up post #24 added on April 27, 2008 by hans

    About 13; better medical care. I only have to reffer to the movie Sicko of Michael Moore…....


  25. Follow up post #25 added on April 27, 2008 by JuiceClark with 2 total posts

    Good for you Hans - you only had to write 15 words to fully illustrate you’re a complete buffoon.  People from all over the world come to the United States for medical care.  The only ones complaining are socialist and losers who want someone else to pay for their care.  Which are you?

    Keep drinkin’ that commie Kool-Aid but be careful what you wish for!


  26. Follow up post #26 added on April 28, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    By Marc Frank | Reuters

    Cuba said on Sunday it could not afford to increase wages for government workers, but it would raise social security payments.

    About 90 percent of the Cuban economy is controlled by the state, which employs the vast majority of people and provides all pensions through the social security system.

    May 1, International Workers Day, is a major holiday in Communist Cuba and expectations were high among health and education employees that state wages would be increased to mark the date.

    The expectations were fueled by an announcement in local media this month, which said Cuba was revamping the state wage system to create more incentive by allowing workers to earn as much as they can.

    But a government statement published on Sunday by all state media made it clear that some wage earners would have to wait for better economic times.

    “It is not possible right now to increase salaries of all sectors, because the country does not have the resources necessary,” the statement said.

    “Increases will be granted by sector and priority, always after a rigorous evaluation of the economic and financial conditions.”

    However, judges, court personnel and employees in the district attorney offices will receive raises, the statement said.



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  27. Follow up post #27 added on April 28, 2008 by nacho with 111 total posts

    I hope the sugar workers go next. Increasing salaries, pensions will be a way of empowering the peso against the CUC before any revaluation/change of currency.

    Let’s keep an eye on May Day speeches if Raul goes for it

    Also, is it just me or have you also noticed that most recent public images of Raul show him in civilian clothes?


  28. Follow up post #28 added on April 28, 2008 by abh

    Needless to say it’s an interesting time.
    Nacho I have to admit I am interested in seeing the photos of Raul that you mention…
    Any idea how much social security payments are supposed to go up?


  29. Follow up post #29 added on April 28, 2008 by nacho with 111 total posts

    BBC today says that pensions will go up by up to 20%, whatever that means in real terms in Cuba. That BBC also shows Raul in plain clothes (I think)

    When he was named president, he was also wearing a suit

    And here in in a recent meeting  with the former PM of Malaysia.


  30. Follow up post #30 added on April 28, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Nacho,

    GREAT digging and GREAT html code grin

    So, Raul is all business… interesting.



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  31. Follow up post #31 added on April 28, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Raul Castro to convene Cuba congress

    Associated Press

    President Raul Castro announced Monday that Cuba will convene its first Communist Party congress since 1997 — a major gathering that could chart the island’s political future long after he and his older brother Fidel are gone.

    The congress follows a series of minor social changes the younger Castro has decreed to make life easier and less restrictive for ordinary Cubans.

    “We have worked hard in these past few months,” the president said during a Central Committee gathering aired on state television. The Communist Party must establish guidelines, including for “when the historic generations are no longer around,” he said.

    Castro also announced that he had commuted death sentences for several inmates, but that capital punishment would remain on the books in Cuba.

    Fidel Castro, 81, has not been seen in public since July 2006, when he first fell ill and relinquished interim powers to the 76-year-old Raul. He stepped down as president in February, but officially remains head of the party as its first secretary.

    His post could be awarded to someone else during next year’s congress.

    The congress also likely will replace some officials of the 25-member party Politburo.



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  32. Follow up post #32 added on April 28, 2008 by abh

    I think this will be closely watched…I wonder when the congress will be.


  33. Follow up post #33 added on April 29, 2008 by nacho with 111 total posts

    AP  also writes that the Congress is scheduled for the second half of 2009, no dates yet.

    I was hoping more changes will take place before that.

    Also interesting, Raul will commute death sentences of several inmates, including the two Central Americans involved in the Havana hotel bombings of the 90s and the death of an Italian tourist. He also defended death sentence in Cuba’s penal code


    Official newspaper Granma has this note  about the Congress (only in Spanish)


  34. Follow up post #34 added on April 29, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    I just added reform #20 above about the death sentences being commuted. Does this mean prisoners can get out of jail for time served?

    Also, this line from the article:

    “This decision was not undertaken because of pressure, but as a sovereign act in line with the humanitarian and ethical conduct that has characterized the Cuban revolution from the start,” he said.”

    Really?

    Anyway, I guess this is a good step towards releasing political prisoners. C’mon Raul… you can do it. It’s okay, let your people be free.

    Do you want to be a hero or just another brick in the wall? The wall that is sure to fall down just like the buildings in Habana Vieja.



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  35. Follow up post #35 added on April 29, 2008 by nacho with 111 total posts

    From the same AP article

    “The congress also likely will replace some members of the party’s select 24-member Politburo and the larger policy-making Central Committee it heads.”

    Does this mean that Fidel will be replaced as 1st Secretary of the Communist Party? He might have stepped down as President, but he is still number one at the Partido Comunista.

    “Castro, who wore a white tropical dress shirt, said the commutation of the death sentences was a gesture of good will, but he did not say how many prisoners would be affected.”

    So no military dress code for Raul then?


  36. Follow up post #36 added on April 29, 2008 by nacho with 111 total posts

    Also, while there was no mention of political prisoners, there was a note this week about the release of Julián Antonio Monés Borrero in the blogosphere.
    More in Spanish in the site PayoLibre.com


  37. Follow up post #37 added on April 29, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Right, no mention of political prisoners. I guess they are more of a threat to the government than criminals.

    With regards to Fidel being replaced… I understand that this Congress won’t happen until late 2009. I doubt Fidel (and maybe even Raul) will not be around that long.



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  38. Follow up post #38 added on April 29, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    More details about Raul Castro’s latest changes by RUIT FERREIRA and WILFREDO CANCIO ISLA from El Nuevo Herald



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  39. Follow up post #39 added on April 30, 2008 by nacho with 111 total posts

    Blog The Cuban Triangle writes about a story  in Mexican paper El Universal adding to the rumor that Cuba will eliminate the tarjeta blanca exit permit requirement and make other changes in migration policy.
    The story from El Universal here in Spanish


  40. Follow up post #40 added on May 02, 2008 by nacho with 111 total posts

    Cuba announces farm overhaul on May Day according to AP

    Reform includes dismantling 104 state farms and/or related state enterprises as reported here in Spanish


  41. Follow up post #41 added on May 09, 2008 by TC

    Sounds like Raul may make it easier for Cubans to travel/leave.  Being in Florida, I wish our Feds would make it easier for me to take the boat down there and spend a little money.  That’s when things will really improve for Cubans. (and my travel schedule and cigar habit!)


  42. Follow up post #42 added on May 27, 2008 by manfredz with 464 total posts

    regarding teh pause in changes, teh changes announced for the most part were minor and easy to do….
    The important ones, and big ones, will be harder to do and require more time - I havent given up on Raol yet, but at same time, also havent disgarded concept that he gave the people some quick and dirty ones and figures it’ll be enough so business as usual continues.
    Re the abolishment of the dual currency, is of course totally necessary to alleviate a lot of the social injustices currently occurring, but, whenever I’ve discussed this with a Cuban friend of mine I get together with when I’m down there, he always points out that that rumour surfaces every few months but (so far) hasn’t gone beyond the rumour stage.  of course he doesn’t know if anything is happening behind the scenes ....


  43. Follow up post #43 added on May 28, 2008 by Mako with 172 total posts

    Right now the changes are mostly cosmetic. But they are also having the law of unintended consequences. Cubans 10 yrs ago were scared shitless to say anything anti revolyution. Now , they are fairly open about it The majority now have cell phones and can be escorted into Hotels with foreigners. Money and food is more readily avaiable and hunger appears to be a real but diminishing problem
    How far off can run away capitalism be ??


  44. Follow up post #44 added on May 29, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Regarding #12, allowing Cuban citizens to stay at Cuban hotels… this article from the Miami Herald End of hotel ban highlights Cubans’ woes says Cuba has lifted the ban that kept locals from tourist hotels, but a trip to Varadero showed the only Cubans at the resorts were outside, begging for handouts.

    Interesting look into the situation just about two months after it was announced.



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  45. Follow up post #45 added on May 29, 2008 by manfredz with 464 total posts

    the two star I usually stay at in Varadero is 54 CUC a night (with breakfast, for a couple).  The “better” hotels that the tourists usually use are 150-250 CUC/night.  Those Cubans that have money will for the most part, probably find better uses to spend their precious CUC.
    Hope I’m wrong, but i expect that the largest group to use this new found freedom will be hookers.  But also hoping that the checks and balances to keep them out of the CPs as much as possible will also be used to keep them out fo the resorts as much as possible.


  46. Follow up post #46 added on May 29, 2008 by J. Perez

    I have been to Varadero several times in the last few years and I never saw Cubans outside the Hotels begging for handouts.


  47. Follow up post #47 added on May 29, 2008 by nacho with 111 total posts

    J Perez: Don’t forget that Varadero is/used to be quite the tourist ghetto so Cubans could not go easily to the area.
    Varadero is separated from mainland by a small water canal and more often than not, the police stood by the bridge keeping Cubans at bay

    I am not sure how that has changed with the new regulations

    Since tourism went mainstream in the 90s, people hanging out in areas near hotels became a common sight, either as prostitutes, begging for handouts or selling stuff.

    I have yet to go to Cuba since this year’s changes but by all accounts, Cubans cannot access top hotels and all inc resorts. Also the names of those lucky or rich enough to spend a night at hotels are kept in lists closely watched by police et al


  48. Follow up post #48 added on May 29, 2008 by J. Perez

    Again, I have no recollection of seeing either prostitutes or people begging for handouts in front of Varadero hotels or any hotel in Cuba for that matter, I realize this may be my own experience and cannot speak out for others.


  49. Follow up post #49 added on May 29, 2008 by abh with 244 total posts

    It is kinda funny how all the class contradictions Fidel wanted to avoid will now come to the surface.


  50. Follow up post #50 added on May 29, 2008 by manfredz with 464 total posts

    Both in Varadero and Santa Maria (Playa del Este).  I, when I’m alone, am regularly approached by the ladies or their “handlers”  (psst, you want a chica”.  But its very low key.  In Varadero, never by my hitel, but as I walk along 3rd ave heading downtown after dark (my hotel is around calle 26, and usually walk to calle 62).
    In Santa Maria, when i was staying at the Tropicoco, you’d be approached as soon as you walked out fo the hotel heading towards teh beach. When staying at teh Club Atlantico this was not the case at all. (at the tropicoco the majority of guests are Cubans; not so at the Atlantico)

    I regularly read reports that prostitutes also frequesnt and are tolerated by management and security but have never seen anything of the sort myself at any hotel I stayed at.

    My favorite experienced line:
    she:  where are you going my friend?
    me:  just for a walk.
    she:  Would you like me to walk with you?

    I might point out that compared to most other cities in teh world I’ve been to, protitution in Cuba seems to eb much much less and much lower key but it is there, and there’s enough police presence on 3rd ave after dark for the police to know it too.

    As for begging, in Varadero it has been the rare rare experience, never near a hotel; in Havana more common, but still much less than i experience in any Canadian city.


  51. Follow up post #51 added on May 29, 2008 by nacho with 111 total posts

    There’s no point in comparing the level of prostitution and/or begging in Cuba with any other nation in the world.
    Cuba is a socialist/communist/egalitarian/marxist society and the goverment should be ashamed of these issues. For over 50 years. the Communist goverment has pointed out to issues like prostitution and begging as consequence of the “evil of capitalism” .. so why after 50 years of socialism, there are still beggars and prostitutes in Cuba?

    Probably because the Cuban goverment is a bunch of inept, greedy old bastards that all they care about is power and money and keeping the people oppressed. EXACTLY like certain capitalst countries they despise

    If Cuba was America’s whorehouse before 1959, now is the whorehouse of Spain, Italy, Canada etc. The difference is (and I quote Fidel Castro here) is that the Cuban prostitutes are “the best educated and the most healthy in the world ” .....

    Shame on you Fidel Castro!!


  52. Follow up post #52 added on May 29, 2008 by J. Perez

    nacho, for you to make a statement that Cuba used to be the whorehouse of the U.S. and now of Spain, Canada tells me that you can not be Cuban and if you are then a very non-selfrespecting one. Shame on YOU!!


  53. Follow up post #53 added on May 29, 2008 by nacho with 111 total posts

    Are YOU Cuban? If so I am sure you know what I was referring to.

    Fidel Castro once described pre-59 Cuba as the whorehouse and the casino of the USA. A couple of years ago he said that Cuba’s prostitutes are the most educated… etc

    I am sure you understand that I am only describing an extreme situation. I am extremely embarrased and I am ashamed that my fellow countrymen in Cuba have to resort to prostitution to make ends meet or live with some standards, all because of the way the goverment has taken to country to almost bankruptcy


  54. Follow up post #54 added on May 29, 2008 by J. Perez

    Yes I am Cuban and I really don’t care what Castro called Cuba, all I know is that every country on this earth has some level of prostitution but that does not make a country a whorehouse, that is sim[ply my point and as Cuban I take offense to such a characterization.


  55. Follow up post #55 added on May 29, 2008 by abh with 244 total posts

    Can we agree that the educational system may be good but it is kind of a joke because there really are hardly any jobs that give you a living wage?  I think this is the irony right now that Cuba is dealing with, and we should welcome creative solutions to this problem.  From the point of view of the Cuban government, they are investing tons of money into the population (via free services including food, healthcare, education, etc), but when the population fails to “pay back” society by taking on jobs in the socialist system the govenment appears to be losing the battle.  As we know, many of them leave the country and Cuba tries to cash in on remitances.
    I think this is one of the BIG questions right now: What do we do about the economy so that the poor majority is not forced to operate in the “Informal” sector?  If there’s anything that foreigners notice, it’s that seemingly all aspects of daily life involve the black market.  Sure, Americans may buy certain things “under the table”, but we are definitely not familiar with having to acquire goods such as chicken, eggs, and other everyday products from illegal street vendors.  Any socialist, capitalist, or nudist would see a problem with this, and it seems like even Raul is at least paying lip service to these criticisms.
    This is the beginning of the post Fidel era, clearly he tried to prevent these class divisions from surfacing and his conscience is clean, now it’s up to the rest of us to clean up the mierda.  That’s just how it is.  If you don’t recognize that as the reality then you need to catch up. 
    The truth that is readily visible on the streets on a daily basis in Cuba (at least habana) is that there are scores of young people with decent health and education (at least by 3rd world standards) who have nothing to do.  Prositues, jineteros, etc. constitue a portion, but don’t forget the immense majority of others who are sitting on the corner drinking rum and dreaming of physical or mental escape. 
    THIS IS THE CHALLENGE OF THE NEW ERA.  WHAT CAN BE DONE TO CREATE REAL AND LEGITIMATE OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE NEXT GENERATION OF CUBANS, WHO MAY NOT SUPPORT YANKEE IMPERIALISM BUT WEAR NY YANKEE HATS, WHO LOVE THEIR FAMILY AND THEIR COUNTRY BUT ARE CYNICAL, BORED AND COMPLETELY OUT OF TOUCH WITH THEIR GOVERNMENT? PEOPLE WHO CAN’T RELATE TO THESE TOPICS AND CONTINUE TO BE CONFINED BY COLD WAR ALLEGIANCES AND IDEOLOGIES WILL BE THE FIRST TO BE LEFT BEHIND.  I DON’T CARE IF YOU’RE CUBAN OR NOT, YOU GOTTA GET WITH IT GET OUT OF THE WAY.


  56. Follow up post #56 added on May 29, 2008 by manfredz with 464 total posts

    perez.  I hope i didnt say anything to lead to your statement.
    I have found Cuba to have relatively little prostitution compared to most countries i’ve been in, incl my Canada.  Further they don’t look like junkies like many of ours do.
    I’ve been left with the impression that the women who prostitute do not do so to make ends meet, but rather to be able to afford more luxury items.


  57. Follow up post #57 added on May 29, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    J Perez, 

    I didn’t think nacho’s comment was out of line and certainly didn’t require a personal comment from you.

    No need to go back and forth with personal comments here.

    Let’s stay on the topic of Raul’s reforms.

    Thank you.



    Cuba consulting services

  58. Follow up post #58 added on May 29, 2008 by nacho with 111 total posts

    So you justify the current situation in Cuba by saying that there’s prostitution elsewhere?

    Mal de muchos, consuelo de tontos comes to mind (“Misery loves company” or ““It’s a fool’s consolation to think everyone is in the same boat” )

    You should really take offense with what the tyrants have turned Cuba into, not with me

    I meant no offense so I apologise if my quotes/statements have offended anyone.

    I stand by what I said, however. If Cuba was the people’s paradise that the Castro government wants everyone to believe it is, then issues like begging and prostitution should not exist

    And this is my last comment on the matter


  59. Follow up post #59 added on May 29, 2008 by J. Perez

    Well I guess you just don’t get my point but that’s OK. I now believe you when you say you intented no offense.

    Publisher, would you not take offense if the U.S. was called a whorehouse?


  60. Follow up post #60 added on May 29, 2008 by manfredz with 464 total posts

    publisher ... to try to bring this thread back on line in a way ...
    this can be a small example of the challenges facing Roal and co.
    Liberalizing the country and bringing more personal freedom can lead to an increase in prostitution as mroe have-nots what to join the haves.
    Granting more personal freedoms is challenging enough, but dealing with the economic inequities in teh country is gonna be a hard nut to crack.
    Again a reason why I’m hoping the reforms are small and steeady - that way it’ll be easier to realign things if unexpected consequences occur.  And why its also important for America to take a back seat as much as possible, so that the model doesnt become increasingly complicated.
    In teh end, I think the country will have changed so much that it’ll actually be possible for the people to choose what political and social system they want - unless i’ve really pegged things wrong, I dont think teh government can set the clock back even if it wanted to, and I don’t think it really wants to anymore.


  61. Follow up post #61 added on May 29, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    J Perez,

    Let me end this by saying that people here at the Havana Journal are free to express their opinions using any words they like so long as they are on topic and not personal in nature.

    I see ALL comments posted anywhere on this site and work hard to keep this one of the few civil places on the Internet to discuss all things Cuba.

    You, nacho, manfredz, abh, mako and many others bring lots of fantastic insight, facts and opinions and we are all grateful for that. So, we’ll have our family spats from time to time but my two bigs things for the Havana Journal are staying on topic and not making our discussions personal.

    The topic of Cuba is very polarizing and stirs lots of passions in people and I respect that but I don’t want people to make personal comments towards one another.

    So, let’s wait for the next reform and meet back here to talk about it.

    Feel free to start a thread on a topic of your choice in our Cuba Forum at http://havanajournal.com/forums/ . I give much more leeway over there for off topic conversations.



    Cuba consulting services

  62. Follow up post #62 added on June 07, 2008 by nacho with 111 total posts

    BBC News: Cuba to provide free sex-change operations

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/7441448.stm

    Cuba has authorised sex-change operations and will offer them free to qualifying citizens, officials say.

    The move is the latest in a series of policy changes implemented by President Raul Castro since he succeeded his elder brother, Fidel, in February.


  63. Follow up post #63 added on June 08, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Yikes. That’s certainly a reform for those having the operation!

    I’m not sure this is something that would qualify as a government reform though but thanks for posting it.



    Cuba consulting services

  64. Follow up post #64 added on June 11, 2008 by nacho with 111 total posts

    This “salary reform” is interesting. I wonder if the currency reform will follow at the end of the year

    Cuban enterprises were given until August to sort their act together regarding the salaries


  65. Follow up post #65 added on June 11, 2008 by nacho with 111 total posts

    The link to the original article in Cuban newspaper Granma here
    In Spanish only (sorry)


  66. Follow up post #66 added on June 13, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    CubaNews is reporting in a special report that this resolution was adopted in February. That would mean that within just days of Raul becoming President on February 24 that this resolution was adopted.

    Apparently this is one of Raul’s very top priorities.

    Probably would have been too shocking if they released it sooner.



    Cuba consulting services

  67. Follow up post #67 added on June 26, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Fidel met with a Chinese official and commented on unity with Raul which means that Fidel is in charge again.

    I posted this here because I have not seen any reforms lately from Raul. I think that’s because Fidel is in charge again.

    If he makes a public appearance, it’s over for Raul. He will once again be Fidel’s puppet.



    Cuba consulting services

  68. Follow up post #68 added on July 11, 2008 by nacho with 111 total posts

    Do these two count as reforms? Maybe not relevant/sweeping enough?

    Cuba has begun decentralizing decision-making in construction

    Cuban government to allow private taxis in Cuba

    As the publisher mentioned when posting about the private taxis,  not many details were provided and the free gas thing…...  I doubt it


  69. Follow up post #69 added on July 11, 2008 by abh

    Definitely qualifies as a reform in my opinion…I would say these have got to be positive changes, no?  Even if positive results are not immediately realized, it’s got to be good long term, I think…


  70. Follow up post #70 added on July 11, 2008 by manfredz with 464 total posts

    Actually to be its not so much that these changes (some very minor, some significant) are happening, but the stagnation that prevailed all these years under Fidel seem to be at an end.
    Some time down the road we’ll be looking back and see if all of this really doesnt change the important issues, or if Cuba is entering a new era.


  71. Follow up post #71 added on July 13, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Nacho,

    The private taxi reform and the construction decentralization reform have just been added to the list of Raul’s reforms. Now up to 24.



    Cuba consulting services

  72. Follow up post #72 added on July 15, 2008 by arteest with 103 total posts

    This is part of an article from ACN today entitled “Cuban Union Leaders Discuss New Social Security Law”

    By discussing this draft, the social security process is improved with
    the adding of new elements, adapted to the current socio-economic
    situation the Caribbean country is going through at the moment.

    Among the new proposals is the possibility for retirees to go back to
    their former positions and earn full salaries on top of their retirement
    pension. Also the retirement age will progressively increase to 65 years
    for men and 60 for women, in a process that will take 7 years to be
    fully implemented.

    The Council of State has already approved this measure for education
    retirees.


  73. Follow up post #73 added on July 21, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Now up to 25 reforms with the new land grants to Cuban farmers. Sounds like a great plan… better than nothing.

    Of course they can’t sell or trade their interest. I wonder if there are stipulations that they have to produce more and sell more to the government for less money.

    I’m guessing, like with all the other reforms that they sound good on the surface but in actually they are meaningless.

    For example, I would imagine there is a long contract or at least strict regulations and strings attached like the farmers having to produce X crops at X quantity for X price or they will have the property taken away. Oh yeah, they of course have to be good communists too meaning no free speech, no interviews with foreign press, no ties to dissidents or anybody in their family who ever left or tried to leave Cuba.

    Other than that, sounds great.

    Right?



    Cuba consulting services

  74. Follow up post #74 added on July 21, 2008 by manfredz with 464 total posts

    publisher ...you could be right or
    all these small reforms lead to bigger and more meaningful and they and we will one day look back and say , yes, things have really changed.
    i still think change is happening and give it time to look at its significance..
    after all Lincoln freed the slaves and look how long it took to be meaningful, yet we still look at that historic moment for when the tide turned.


  75. Follow up post #75 added on July 21, 2008 by nacho with 111 total posts

    However small these reforms might looked individually, they amount to something…. Publisher is right on that one, it sounds like a good plan.

    Do we begin to ask WHY it took 20 or 50 years for some of these “changes” or do we just rejoice with the fact that the “changes” are finally here?

    Let’s wait and see the impact of the changes in the daily lives on the average Cuban.

    Yes, publisher, I am also sure that most of these “changes” have strings attached.

    In the case of the agriculture-related ones, I prefer to think that, as part of the whole process, farmers will have flexibility with what they produce and the state will be paying them fair prices. After all, there are other “reforms” related to removing the cap in salaries and asking for more flexibility etc elsewhere.

    However, the “strings” might come in the form of more political commitment to the system, less freedom and more vigilance/repression/state interference under the umbrella of “supervising production” etc

    Also, if the Cuban government were to prevent farmers with relatives that have left the country from working the land… there will be no one left to produce wink


  76. Follow up post #76 added on August 11, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    It seems as though some of the reforms are more fluff than substance according to this article Cubans see economic reforms as symbolic from Reuters.

    No computers in stores, cellphone sales drop off considerably etc. This story seems to have the real news from the street.



    Cuba consulting services

  77. Follow up post #77 added on August 12, 2008 by abh

    This article was relatively short so I thought I would copy it all here.  This is just the opinion of one professor but I found a few comments to be very interesting, especially his assertion that this shift diverts from the path of Democratic Socialism that some European countries have followed.  In fact he writes that Cuba is moving towards “a state-controlled economy in which the government shirks its social responsibilities.”  Yikes, as the publisher might say.  That sounds kind of frightening.  What kind of socialist government shirks its social responsibilities?  That sounds like a step backwards to me.  We all criticize the problems with the health care system for example, but does anyone want to do away with it?  I have never talked to a Cuban who feels the health care system should be disbanded.
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/csm/20080812/cm_csm/yfernandez_1

    Cuba’s bold shift to a postsocialist era By Luis Martinez-Fernandez
    Tue Aug 12, 4:00 AM ET


    Orlando, Fla. - In an address to the National Assembly a few weeks ago, Cuba’s new president, Raul Castro, announced the latest and most profound ideological shift in the five-decade-long history of the Cuban Revolution.
    In his speech, Mr. Castro redefined socialism and effectively declared the end of that system – as we know it – on the island. “Socialism means social justice and equality, but equality of rights, of opportunities, not of income,” he said.

    This remarkable declaration represents an embrace of a postmodern version of socialism. Rather than moving Cuba toward European democratic socialism – a capitalist economy with a socialist social-services system – his prescription advocates what amounts to the worst of both worlds: a state-controlled economy in which the government shirks its social responsibilities.

    The new path goes well beyond revolutionary Cuba’s historically alternating socialist formulas. Che Guevara’s preferred model of socialism is based on the application of radical egalitarian measures and the principle of “moral incentives.” In that model, individual workers are motivated by spiritual rewards derived from individual sacrifice for the common good.

    Then there is the orthodox Marxist-Leninist socialist model, which allows the retention of capitalist vestiges, such as market activities and material incentives including overtime pay, salary bonuses for high productivity workers, and private business activities.

    Following several years of applying the Guevarist model, Fidel Castro reintroduced material incentives in 1970, with the hope of improving the economy by increasing worker productivity.

    In 1986, Mr. Castro switched gears again and launched the so-called Rectification of Past Errors campaign in which moral incentives replaced material incentives.

    Among the targets of rectification were independent merchants, black marketeers, and others who had profited from past economic opportunities.

    In light of the profound economic crisis of the so-called Special Period (1990-2002), Castro reluctantly allowed many of the same market practices that he had condemned during the short-lived rectification process. The ownership of business by private individuals became legal, as did the circulation of the enemy’s currency: the US dollar.

    More recently, in 2002, the Cuban government codified the return to a radical form of socialism through a constitutional amendment that promised never to return to capitalism and declared Cuba’s political and social systems “irrevocable.”

    Ra??l Castro’s recent pronouncements, however, signal a dramatic ideological shift that actually heralds the end of socialism.

    His new definition of socialism bears no resemblance to the traditional usage of the term. Not only did he state that “equality is not the same as egalitarianism,” he went on to say that “egalitarianism is in itself a form of exploitation; exploitation of the good workers by those who are less productive and lazy.”

    This is the opposite of Karl Marx’s prescription for communism: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”

    Castro’s indication that his government will eliminate some free services and excessive subsidies to consumer goods is further evidence that Cuba is about to enter a postsocialist era.

    If these changes materialize, the Cuban state will retain control of the economy while pulling back from the historical social responsibilities of a socialist government.

    Luis Martinez-Fernandez teaches at the University of Central Florida. He is writing a history of the Cuban Revolution.


  78. Follow up post #78 added on August 13, 2008 by Mako with 172 total posts

    Probably, all good “baby steps” in the right direction.
    BUT, as a Cuban friend of mine said to me “until cell phones become edible… what’s the point ? ”


  79. Follow up post #79 added on January 14, 2009 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    I apologize that I let this article fade away. Many of you know that Raul has recently said that he would allow for the construction of private homes and the licensing of private taxis.

    Of course their will be all kinds of restrictions and we will follow those closely.

    However, the real news is that apparently Fidel is dying this time and how will Raul govern in the days and weeks after Fidel’s death? Also, how will this work into President Obama’s agenda?

    Here is the latest as of 4:40pm Eastern time Wednesday January 14, 2009:

    More chatter that Fidel Castro is dead - UPDATED Fidel Castro reported to be in a coma



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  80. Follow up post #80 added on November 05, 2009 by jose arcadio martines

    Don Raul le mando mis felisitaciones mas grandes primero por que siempre he estimado la union revolucionaria que usted hiso con su hermano, yo soy un estudiante de los años 70-80 y me he sentido tan felis de verlo a usted por su ideologia y no me caben las palabras para felisitarlo su los nortes que yo puedo ser presidente de la republica aclareme usted porque devo ser presidente de la republica de Guatemala quiero que me responda usted o mis alidado que somos lo que sufrimos el combate de la pobresa es logico.
    realmente creee que tengo la capasidad de ser presidente de la republica muchisimas gracias


  81. Follow up post #81 added on November 06, 2009 by Yeyo with 411 total posts

    Jose Arcadio,
    Man you have to go back to school.
    Ud. lo que debe hacer es ir para la escuela directo.


  82. Follow up post #82 added on January 16, 2010 by ed

    after living 38 years in “HELL”, i don’t believe in good intentions that come from the very same old “dinosaurs” that have been in power for more than 50 years. They are too old for changes; they don’t want normalization in us-cuba relations, they are going to stall the process, Why? ‘cause they need the “enemy”, the embargo to survive. Just follow the news.


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