CUBA BRIEF: Tourists beware HIV uptick in Cuba, Governor Scott: U.S. Must take a stand on Cuba and Venezuela

CubaBrief: In this edition “Trump Will Reverse Damage Done by Obama’s Cuba Policy” by Heritage Foundation’s Mike Gonzalez, “U.S. Must Take a Stand Against Cuba and Venezuela” by Florida Governor Rick Scott, “UN Sounds Alarm on Rising HIV Infections” in Cuba by UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS, and The UN Human Rights Council whitewashes brutality by UN Ambassador Nikki Haley.

This brief also includes “Luxury Alongside Ruin” about Manzana Kempinski’s new Havana shopping center.  No ordinary Cubans whose average salary is $25 a month will be able to purchase anything there. Foreigners and wealthy Miami Cubans will be able to afford the Prada high heel sandals for more than a $1,000 as well as other “very high quality” products.  In Havana no Cubans are deceived they look through the windows the way Cuban families look at museum displays.

The rising HIV infections are a real threat to Americans and others visiting the island. Shouldn’t the State Department, the Cruise Ships and the Airline companies serving the island alert those traveling to Cuba of this serious health threat? Do not hold your breath waiting for Mariela Castro, Raul Castro’s daughter, whose main job is to encourage Gay travel to Cuba to address the issue.   

Finally two more articles:

  • Cubans who arrive at the Caribbean nation of Trinidad Tobago looking for a “taste of freedom” have been held for months in a detention center for migrants that looks and functions more like a prison.
  • Thoughtful essay published by Diario de Cuba about two poets who speak highly of repression, brutality and abuse in Venezuela and in Cuba.


The National Interest, June 7, 2017

Trump Will Reverse Damage Done by Obama’s Cuba Policy

By Mike Gonzalez

The Trump administration is reportedly considering measures that would block deals between American companies and the Cuban military.

If “America First” means anything, it must mean preventing a virulently anti-American criminal enterprise from perpetuating its existence next door and reproducing itself throughout the hemisphere. And since this is precisely what President Obama’s opening to the Castros accomplished, President Trump is duty-bound to reverse this mistake.

In fact, if The New York Times is to be believed—and on this we should, as coddling the Castros is one thing the Gray Lady has been consistent on for sixty years—the administration is about to announce it is reinstating the limits on travel and trade that Obama lifted.

This isn’t full reversion, but I’ll take it. I don’t say this very often, but let’s hope The New York Times is right.

President Obama always said he was helping Cubans with his opening, and in a technical way that is true. Alejandro Castro Espin, the ideologically unbending Leninist son of military ruler 

Raul Castro, is a Cuban. So is Gen. Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez Calleja, the economic czar in charge of the lucrative tourist trade. Oh, Lopez Calleja is also General Castro’s son-in-law and Alejandro’s brother-in-law.

U.S. recognition and sanction of the Castros helped these two Cubans enormously in their endeavor to inherit political and economic control when General Castro, a spry eighty-five-year-old man, effected a transition from one communist Castro to another in a short nine months.

Cuba’s eleven million other citizens were not helped so much. They would have had a much better hope of a real transition to a post-communist, post-Castro, free Cuba had President Obama not promised that, in exchange for nothing, the Castro dictatorship would benefit from selling their products in the United States and receiving credits to boot. [More]

Sunshine State News, June 7, 2017

U.S. Must Take a Stand Against Cuba and Venezuela

By Gov. Rick Scott

In recent months, we have seen Venezuela slip into complete chaos. Under the brutal and oppressive dictatorship of Nicolas Maduro, we have seen things go from bad to worse. Food and medicine shortages, violence on the streets and economic uncertainty.

We’ve also seen companies like General Motors, Bridgestone and General Mills scale back their operations in Venezuela. Recently, United Airlines also joined in this effort by announcing it will suspend flights to Venezuela next month.

It’s no wonder that these companies are pulling out of a country engulfed in violent political protests and economic chaos.

Venezuelans endure long lines to purchase basic necessities all while Maduro’s dictatorship blames companies for the country’s shortages. The Maduro regime continues to mismanage the country’s oil resources, has produced a swollen inflation rate and dismal exchange rate, leaving the Venezuelan people to deal with hardship and corruption.

This is not acceptable and we should not stand for these injustices to the Venezuelan people. The United States must stop doing business with Venezuela immediately.

The turmoil in Venezuela is eerily similar to events that have plagued the island nation of Cuba for decades. When President Obama moved to normalize relations with the Castro dictatorship many argued that the new relationship would be the beginning of a better life for the Cuban people. 

Yet two and half years later, repression is growing and the brutal crackdown of the peaceful opposition movement is most alarming. This was the wrong move. A message must be sent to both the Maduro and Castro regimes and their gangs of thugs that the United States will not tolerate their continued aggressions. [ More ]

Diario de Cuba, June 6, 2017

Manzana Kempinski: Luxury Alongside Ruin

By Adriana Zamora | La Habana

A few days after its opening, the Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski hotel has already welcomed its first guests, though the official opening is scheduled for June 7 and 8, according to workers at the establishment.

“You can book right here, in person, or online,” explains one of the employees, dressed in red and black. “Payment may be in cash or by credit card.”

Unsurprisingly, most Cubans cannot even dream of staying at the hotel, where the cheapest room costs more than 400 CUC per night and, the most expensive, more than 1,300.
But, according to Elsa, a Tourism worker, the prices are not as high as she expected.

“If you take a close look, the difference is not that great, relative to other hotels,” he says. “At others, like the Telégrafo, across from it, or any of those in Old Havana, a double room costs almost 300 CUC. It’s almost the same, but the Manzana has a level of luxury that the others do not.”

Luisa, a State worker, sees things from another perspective: “When I can’t even afford oil for the month, you can imagine that, for me, that hotel is like a museum,” she says. [More]

Institute for War & Peace Reporting, June 8, 2017 

Cuban Migrants Live in Limbo

Hundreds living in Trinidad and Tobago face an uncertain future.

By Rafael Gordo

It’s hard to hear Baldomero Castro Despayne’s voice from behind the thick glass covered by metallic mesh in the Aripo detention centre. The Cuban citizen has been held in legal limbo behind its thick cement walls and barbed wire for the last eight months.

Trinidad and Tobago, along with Barbados, are the only two countries in the Caribbean that Cubans can enter without a visa.

Despayne arrived in Trinidad four years ago, looking for a “taste of freedom,” as he puts it. But in October 2016 he was seized by Trinidadian police in a street raid and taken, along with 14 other Cubans, to Aripo, a temporary detention centre for migrants that inmates say looks and functions more like a prison. [More]

The Washington Post, June 2, 2017

The U.N. Human Rights Council whitewashes brutality

By Nikki Haley 

Nikki Haley is the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

The president of Venezuela, whose government shoots protesters in the street, recently thanked the international community for its “universal vote of confidence” in that country’s commitment to human rights.

The Cuban deputy foreign minister, whose government imprisons thousands of political opponents, once said Cuba has historic prestige “in the promotion and protection of all human rights.”
How can these people get away with saying such things? Because they have been elected to the U.N. Human Rights Council, whose members are — on paper — charged with “upholding the highest standards” of human rights. [More]


Diario de Cuba, June 7, 2017

The poet says…

By Armando Chaguaceda | Ciudad de México 

Poets, they say, are usually noble people. They write of beauty and pain, rise above the banality of everyday life, and turn the simplest elements of the universe into magic. Poets, they say, have sensitive souls. But I’m not so sure that this necessarily translates into an eternal defence of the helpless or an incorruptible love of humanity. At the end of the day, for every bard with a thirst for justice, there is always a buffoon who reveres tyrants, whether out of fear, wealth, or vanity; in some cases, a mixture of all three.

I am writing about them – not about poetry – after reading two texts written by poets. In one, a former defender of human rights, now an official serving the dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro, seeks to fudge his spineless refusal to denounce repression unleashed in Venezuela. In the other, a Mexican friend invokes Neruda and Che Guevara to justify his silence regarding the situation in Cuba. “I condemn all violence,” says the former, as if the savage attacks by police and paramilitary forces were analogous to essentially peaceful marches by citizens. “Cuba is something personal to me, believe me,” says the latter, as if political imprisonments, the repression of thought, and the country’s fleeing youth, yearning for a future, could be resolved through his psychoanalysis sessions. [More]

Q24N (Costa Rica) June 7, 2017

UN Sounds Alarm on Rising HIV Infections in Cuba

By Q24N 

The island has seen a nine percent increase in HIV infections, just under Eastern Europe and Central Asia. (Taringa)

TODAY CUBA – Cuba has reported significant increases in HIV/AIDS (SIDA in Spanish) cases, according to the United Nations.

UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean Edward Greene said this week that Cuba is among the countries in the region that have seen an uptick in the infection following decades of decline. [More]