CUBA BRIEF: Racism remains, another airline cancels, Venezuelan woes, Cuban government bonds as “a conversation piece.”

CubaBrief: Today we highlight an article from Nora Gamez Torres about an unprecedented Harvard meeting of “30 Cuban activists, writers, academics and entrepreneurs, mostly of African descent” based on the island on the Afro-Cuban experience. There remain difficulties in the struggle against racism. Activists operate “in fragile spaces” and without “sufficient legal protection.” Be that as it may, one of the participants also decried “the racist Cuban exiles”. The blogger Sandra Alvarez is well informed about the situation on the island but unfortunately has a poor grasp of the diversity of views of Cubans abroad, who share her concerns about the persistence of discrimination and the silence on the plight of Cuba’s black population.


The Miami Herald, April 15, 2017

In Cuba, a battle against racism persists, activists say


Cambridge, Massachusetts

More than 30 Cuban activists, writers, academics and entrepreneurs, mostly of African descent, gathered at Harvard University for an unprecedented meeting to celebrate the achievements of the Afro-Cuban movement on the island and set the course for future work.

“We have to be aware that this is a historical event,” said Tomás Fernández Robaina, a member of the Regional Afro-Descendant Network group known by the Spanish acronym ARAC and author of the pioneering book “El Negro en Cuba.”

The weekend gathering, organized by the university’s Institute for African and African-American Research at the Hutchins Center, had multiple objectives: to celebrate and recognize the work of activists and intellectuals on the island who have been battling racism since the 1990s; acknowledge the role of Afro-descendants in Cuban history; and lay the groundwork for the continuing challenges.

“The Afro-Cuban movement is much larger and more diverse today than it was 20 years ago,” said Harvard professor Alejandro de la Fuente, director of the institute and author of a book on race relations in Cuba, “A Nation for All.” “It emerged as a cultural movement but has been enriched by the incorporation of organizations that assume the model of social activism and the incorporation of gender studies and legal issues.”

The diversity of projects and approaches discussed during the sessions was the best illustration of this development.

Groups such as the Red Barrial Afrodescendiente (Afro-Descendant Neighborhood Network) and Identidad y Barrio La Marina (Identity and Neighborhood La Marina), in Matanzas, focus on the work of empowerment at a more local level and are heirs to the popular education model that was disseminated throughout Latin America by Brazilian Paulo Freire. Others like Grupo Afrocubanas, which has already produced two books, has set out to “break the silence on black women in the master texts of Cuban history and literature … and contribute to the dismantling of negative racist and sexist stereotypes,” said Daisy Rubiera, one of the founders.

One of the pioneers in the fight against racial discrimination on the island, which became more blatant during the economic collapse in the 1990s known as the “Special Period,” was the Cofradía de la Negritud (Brotherhood of Negritude), a project that began nearly 20 years ago with a mission to raise awareness within Cuban society on the issue of discrimination. [More]

Again, the facts versus the narrative: now a fifth US airline says flying to Cuba is unsustainable.


The Miami Herald, April 14, 2017 

Spirit, the fifth airline to cut back on Cuba, ends flights to Havana

By Chabeli Herrera

Spirit Airlines’ Cuba fever is cooling down — big time.

The ultra-low cost carrier is ending its Havana flights from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in June. That makes it the fifth U.S. airline to cut back flights to the island after an initial rush of service that began last August.

Miramar-based Spirit started flying to Havana’s José Martí International Airport early this year, after being approved for twice-daily service to the Cuban capital in 2016. But weak demand — and overblown expectations — has taken a toll at Spirit and other airlines that overshot demand for travel to Cuba.

Before cutting service completely on June 1, Spirit will operate an adjusted schedule that will reduce its daily flights to one in the morning from May 3 to 23. From May 24 to 31, the carrier will operate on its twice-daily schedule before ending flights altogether.

Spirit spokesman Paul Berry said the airline “really wanted FLL-HAV to work.”

“But the costs of serving Havana continue to outweigh the demand for service,” Berry said in a statement. “Due to overcapacity and the additional costs associated with flying to Cuba, we don’t find it sustainable to continue this service while maintaining our commitment to pass along ultra-low fares to our customers.”

Passengers already booked on an affected flight, such as the afternoon flights being cut in May, will be re-booked to the morning flight, Berry said. Those with flights beyond May 31 will get a full refund, he said. All affected passengers will receive a $50 voucher for future Spirit flights.

Spirit joins American Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Frontier Airlines and Silver Airways in reducing service. [More]


The Washington Post, April 16, 2017

Venezuela and the eclipse of American leadership

By Jackson Diehl Deputy Editorial Page Editor April 16 at 8:19 PM

Venezuela’s steady descent into chaos has repeatedly prompted pundits like me to predict that the authoritarian populist regime founded by Hugo Chávez was doomed to collapse, or be ousted. That it hasn’t happened yet says a lot about how this Latin American meltdown is different and worse than any other in the past century. And it may be even more telling about the change in global role of the United States. [More]

In a comprehensive analysis, the Israeli publication Seeking Alpha says that “Cuba remains a hold out on the ideals of communism,” that “Whether Cuba overcomes its economic and financial crisis or whether it deepens will depend, more than anything, on whatever happens with the Venezuela agreements. …  After 58 years of government, they have failed to develop an economic structure that is capable of producing enough to import and develop.” Focusing on, the investment fund it reports that “comically enough, the fund did also purchase a $165,000 principal, 4.5% bond from the Republic of Cuba from 1977 for $63,038. It would have yielded a nice profit had the bond not already defaulted in 1960.”


Seeking Alpha (Israel) , April 15, 2017

Cuba: Close, But Definitely No Cigar

Apr.15.17 | About: Herzfeld Caribbean (CUBA)

By Michael Bell

Cuba has been all but forgotten about with Trump in office – and for good reason.

Despite a loosening to the decades-long embargo under Obama, the political climate in Cuba remains unchanged while sentiment in the US seems to be shifting backwards.

The country’s resolute desire to remain closed off from foreign investments will not change anytime soon.

CUBA, or the Herzfeld Caribbean Basin Fund, tries almost comically to track the country through companies that do (or might do) business with the nation.

The only reason to own a share of this fund is as a conversation piece, nothing more. [More]


14yMedio, April 13, 2017

It Is Forbidden To Sell Cheese In The Cuban Countryside

By Bertha Guillen

14ymedio, Bertha Guillen, Candelaria, — The milk boils on the rustic stove while on the table the cream is churned to make butter. The whole family revolves around the modest production of artisan cheese, a product targeted by the police and appealing to customers.

Roberto leaves the house every day very early and stands for hours at the edge of the national highway, displaying one or two cheeses to all passing travelers. He hides the rest of the merchandise in the grass to avoid large quantities of that soft and fresh food that they make at home being confiscated. [More]