After so many stops and starts in the ruptured, tortuous U.S.-Cuban relationship, it can be difficult at times to muster any hope for change. And so, as The Havana Note reports, “even after watching the historic handshake between President Barack Obama and President Raul Castro at the memorial for former President Nelson Mandela today, it would be easy enough to conclude that the handshake was just a handshake.
“Maybe it was a momentary stunt by a beleaguered White House eager to shake the media – even for a moment – off of our national conversation about the botched Obamacare rollout. Given this administration’s halting, almost fearful approach to Cuba policy for most of the last five years, it’s hard to imagine that this is the beginning of a real and intentional rapprochement.
“But it’s also been a long time coming. President Obama has long believed our policy to be a failure – he said as much during his 2004 run for the Senate. During his first campaign for president he famously expressed (and walked back, somewhat) a willingness to meet with President Raul Castro, and just months into office, Obama called for a “new beginning” with Cuba. Though Obama left most of the policies in place that he inherited, he has notably presided over an historic rebuilding of the Cuban and Cuban American communities’ ties – and in the process, winning nearly 50% of Cuban Americans’ votes in the 2012 presidential election. Continue reading “Obama meets Castro”
Cuba has ordered the immediate closure of dozens of privately-run cinemas and video-game salons.
The government said they were never authorized, and that it needed to bring “order” to the management of independent businesses, reports the BBC.
“The Communist island recently relaxed restrictions on the private sector. But some Cuban entrepreneurs had used restaurant and other types of business licences to operate backroom movie and entertainment parlours.
“Cinematic exhibition (including 3D rooms) and computer games will cease immediately in whatever kind of private business activity,” read a government announcement in the state-run newspaper Granma. It warned of decisive action against any violations of the law, and defended its decision to instil “discipline” in the private sector, adding that this was not “a step backward”. “Quite the contrary, we will continue to decidedly advance in the updating of our economic model.”
“President Raul Castro, who replaced his brother Fidel in 2008, has relaxed some economic restrictions on the set-up of private businesses in the communist island, where the state still employs 79% of the five million-strong labour force. He opened up retail services to “self employment” in the form of nearly 200 licensed activities such as seamstresses, taxis and small restaurants. But some residents had used these categories to operate cinema and video-game parlours. The closure is a huge blow to those entrepreneurial Cubans who invested heavily, especially in 3D cinemas, importing equipment at considerable cost from abroad, says the BBC correspondent in Havana, Sarah Rainsford. There had been hints this crackdown was coming. Cuban Culture Ministry officials talked of the “banality” and “frivolity” of films on offer, mostly produced in America, and out of line, they complained, with the cultural policy of the revolution. Still, our correspondent adds, the hope was that the booming sector would be regulated, not closed down.”
More at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-24790569
Hundreds of people danced the conga through the streets of Havana to the beats of drums and trumpets in a government-sponsored march against homophobia.
The Havana Times reports that “members and supporters of Cuba’s LGBT community paraded on Saturday morning along the busy 23rd Street in Havana in the now traditional anti-homophobia campaign calling for respect for diversity and rejection of sexual prejudice. Many in the crowd waved Cuban and multicolored rainbow flags.
“This is the peak visibility in the Cuban Campaign Against Homophobia, held here since 2008, always around May 17. At the start of the activity, Mariela Castro, director of the National Center for Sex Education (Cenesex), called for dialogue between the Cuban population to eradicate prejudice in families.
“This year’s parade was especially focused on the family, one of “the most vulnerable areas in the rights of LGBT people, lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people,” Castro told reporters during the parade. Castro, who is also a member of the Cuban parliament, emphasized the need to approve changes to the Family Code, including the rights of sexual orientation, gender identity and recognition to same-sex couples.The debate has been suspended for years due to the strong disputes generated in Cuban society, but Mariela remains optimistic that the parliament will take up the issue again soon, noted DPA news.
“The hardest part is the time it takes to overcome prejudice, but I think conditions are improving,” said the daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro.The march is part of the activities of the VI Cuban Campaign Against Homophobia, taking place this year from May 7-31, featuring discussions, lectures, photo exhibitions, educational activities and a sports festival.”
More at: http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=92946
Over 50 years ago the United States launched a comprehensive embargo against Cuba, aimed at isolating the country and bringing it to political and economic ruin.
But Cuba keeps chugging along, despite the collapse of the Soviet Union and its other bigger friends.
And yesterday they just had another election, as reported by Al Jazeera:
“Ailing Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro has made a surprise appearance in Havana to vote in parliamentary polls, expressing confidence in the revolution despite a decades-long US trade embargo. Castro’s visit to the voting precinct in Havana’s El Vedado neighbourhood was the main event in Sunday’s elections, during which Cubans chose 612 members of the National Assembly as well as deputies of local legislatures.
“The 86-year-old is said to have spent up to an hour talking to other voters and the media after casting his vote. About 8.5 million Cubans took part in the polls that featured no opposition candidates. Continue reading “Fidel’s revolution continues”