CUBA BRIEF: Future of democracy in Cuba, Enslaved Doctors, Aging in Cuba and surviving by digging through the trash, and two other articles

KATC ABC 3 (Louisiana), March 8, 2017

Future of democracy in Cuba (Video interview)


Diario de Cuba, March 7, 2017


Enslaved Doctors

Antonio José Ponte | Madrid | 7 de Marzo de 2017

They say that they fulfill their mission when they serve in countries that have signed agreements with the Cuban regime. “Mission.” It is a term that supposes a zeal to spread the faith, and entails a set of diplomatic shenanigans. And, indeed, there is a lot of indoctrination and diplomacy involved in the work of Cuban medical personnel on “missions,” as they do not only care for their patients, but often seek to influence, in accordance with the Government’s interests, patients who are also voters.

In this way Castroism cultivates the reputation that has won it good press around the world (ah, the Revolution’s health system, the Revolution’s education…), without meddling in the internal affairs of other countries. But public health can be the continuation of guerrilla campaigns, by other means.

It is no coincidence that when doctors and medical experts abandon their missions and seek refuge where there are no agreements with the regime, they are officially branded as deserters. They flee from their roles as political pawns, the restrictions on their movements and contacts, the surveillance they are under at all times. They reject being soldiers. So they are deserters.



The Miami Herald, March 6, 2017

Newly found letters offer glimpse into life of US dancer married to Cuban spy chief

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By Nora Gámez Torres

She was a Connecticut-born American ballerina and the wife of the notorious chief of Cuba’s intelligence and subversive operations — Manuel Piñeiro Losada, better known as Barbarroja, or “Red Beard.”

And now a trove of Lorna Burdsall’s recently discovered letters are on sale, offering a rare glimpse into the life of Cuba’s ruling elites in the early days of the Castro revolution.

Piñeiro directed Cuba’s intelligence, security and subversion apparatus for nearly three decades, first from the Ministry of the Interior (MININT) and later from the Americas Department of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party. His death, in a car accident in 1998, aroused suspicions at the time because he had just revealed that he was writing his memoirs.

A trusted aide to the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro since their days in the Sierra Maestra mountains, Piñeiro was best known as the architect of Castro’s efforts to export his revolution by training and arming guerrilla groups from virtually every Latin American country.

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The New York Times, March 7, 2017


Bolivia’s Morales Will Return to Cuba for Small Operation: Media


HAVANA — Bolivian President Evo Morales will return to Cuba in early April for an operation to remove a nodule in his vocal cords, Cuban state media said.

The leftist former coca farmer went to Cuba for treatment on Wednesday after a sore throat robbed him of his voice, causing him to cancel public appearances.


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The Miami Herald, March 8, 2017

She’s aging in the hemisphere’s oldest nation and survives by digging through Cuba’s trash

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By Mario J. Pentón y Luz Escobar

[Government spending on public health per capita in 1999 was 21 percent lower than in 1989, according to economist Carmelo Mesa-Lago. Official Cuban figures show that category of spending dropped from 11.3 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2009 to eight percent in 2012.]

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At 67, struggling against the challenges that come with aging and a meager pension, Raquel, an engineer who in her own words was “formed by the Revolution,” survives by sifting through garbage every day in search of recyclable products.

Hands that at one time drew plans and measured distances now pick up cardboard, cans and other discarded containers.

“My life is a struggle from the moment I wake up,” Raquel said.

“My last name? For what? And I don’t want any photos. I have children, and I once had a life. I don’t want people talking about me,” she said after agreeing to tell her story.

Digging through garbage as a way to make a living was not part of Raquel’s plan but she is not alone. Many within the island’s growing aging population are struggling with survival in the twilight years.

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