Jorge de Armas

Jorge de Armas

Escribidor y anlista político. Eliminar pretextos es la única manera de expandir los límites.

I never learned anything by talking

It’s hard to get hold of him. Between his work as a journalist for CNN, his talks and promotion for his books, and the countless dreams that engulf him, we’ve had to postpose our interview three times. Finally, we get him on the telephone; I’m in an office, and he’s at the airport, where he spends “almost a quarter of my time,” he tells me. Ismael Cala is a Cuban “from Santiago”—as he always emphasizes—who studied art history and who one fine day discovered that communication was his true vocation. He did some stringing for his provincial radio and television stations and eventually became the host of the local newscast. He was still so young that “the make-up artists had to paint a moustache on me.” In the Cuban capital, his career took off. On the radio he hosted the show “From 5 to 7” during the salsa music boom, and he made it into the most popular show of the hour. He also was a central figure in the return to TV contests, on programs such as “Who Knows?” and emceed dances at nightclubs like the Aché and the Hotel Capri’s Salón Rojo. He moved to Toronto and studied...

Concert by Buena Fe at Miami's Dade County Auditorium in September 2014 / Photo: Gabriel Davalos

The sound of Miami

It’s not a surprise anymore. Every weekend, Miami fills up with Cuba. Wherever you go, you find music, dancing and enjoyment. Little by little, the city is abandoning the sordid space of memory and looking at the island’s culture as a friendly part of daily life. While the Torricelli bill, in its Track Two form, outlined the people-to-people policy with the goal of the participation of Cuban academics, artists, and intellectuals in U.S. forums, what has come to be called “cultural exchange” is a different phenomenon.  Beyond ideology or a deliberately political use of the issue, what is happening far exceeds any predictions. In culture, the elements associated with the constitution of nationality travel with immigrants. Nobody finds it strange that in cities marked by certain immigrant populations, these populations cultivate and extol their cultures. In the case of Miami and Cuba, a sector of the Cuban community sees the growing participation by artists from the island as a deliberate maneuver by the Cuban government to influence, penetrate and weaken anti-government positions. The accusation of unequal exchange is made; that Cuban artists based in Miami cannot perform in Cuba and don’t enjoy the same freedom of expression there enjoyed by...

Opinions from Miami on the cancelation of Aero Marti flights

Aero Marti, an airborne broadcasting platform that sent radio and television signals to Cuba, has been finally canceled after countless reviews due to its high cost and limited effectiveness. The program had ceased operations since about year and a half, although its cessation happened last April. On this fact OnCuba spoke with political scientist Arturo Lopez-Levy of the University of Denver, who tells us that "the cessation of this program indicates that something of rationality is manifesting in the propaganda war that the U.S. has had against Cuba. For several years the administration had labeled these flights as a waste, because of its high cost, without any specific political effect. However, due to the obsession of the Cuban American congressmen and senators the government was forced to spend millions of dollars from its budget. "The termination of these flights shows how Radio and TV Martí have been paid for by the taxpayer but outside the standards and American values. Most of all, the effect of these programs, such as USAID, is to annoy, hinder bilateral relations between the two nations, "says the academic. According to EFE Carlos García Pérez, director of the Office of Transmissions to Cuba (OCB) told it...

Heberprot-P

Heberprot-P

Some POLICIES ARE MADE OF ABSURDITY. THAT MIGHT sound simple, but what’s certain is that some legal frameworks seem to have been designed out of stupidity. We laugh when we read that in the United States, strange laws still exist like the one in Michigan that says a woman can’t cut her hair without her husband’s consent; or in Kentucky, where a person must bathe at least once a year; or in New York, where the penalty for jumping off a building is death; or in Alaska, where it is legal to shoot a bear, but illegal to wake one up to take a photo. We don’t laugh, though, when the absurdity of certain laws prevents U.S. citizens from benefiting from a medicine that would improve the quality of life of 8.3 percent of the population. Some 18.8 million people in the United States suffer from diabetes; 79 million are pre-diabetic, with the imminent possibility of contract- ing that disease. All of them, a total of almost 90 million people, run the risk of suffering severe ulcerations and the condition known as diabetic foot ulcer. Statistics from the American Diabetes Association also show that 231,404 people in the United States...

Joe García / Foto: Cortesía del entrevistado

Joe Garcia: Cubans want to live in Cuba

Joe Garcia was born in Miami Beach, in October 1963. He is the son of Cuban immigrants. He was educated in a bilingual environment and in the love to Cuba. Today he is Congressman for District 26 of South Florida, one that has the highest concentration of Cuban Americans and Cuban residents statewide. He was Executive Director of the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF) and claims to be a connoisseur of the Cuban reality, be very informed on the everyday life in the Island, out of talking with newcomers before they forget what living in Cuba is really about. OnCuba talks to a Congressman in the middle of his campaign, with the risk that this entails. We know he won’t waste the opportunity to announce his agenda, to divert the interview into the comfort zone of his speech. He comes with the jacket in hand and straps that draw attention. Congressman Joe Garcia hails as he has known you a lifetime, speaking Spanish without the Anglophone accent of people born here who learned to speak Castilian after English. Throughout the interview he varies, sometimes he goes in campaign mode and sometimes he seems away when he speaks of a Cuba...

Updating, reforms and suspicion

Slowly, ushering in a world to which it belongs and which has been excluded by choice and by external pressures, Cuba advances in the process of economic reforms initiated in 2007 by Raúl Castro. In the past 12 years the island has begun a process of activating the circulation values in its domestic economy with two measures in this point-already irreversible: the stimulation of self-employment and the ability to create non-agricultural cooperatives. Both have favored the creation of jobs and wealth, and the development and consolidation of a private economy, obedient to capital market regulations and that contributes through taxes to the reorganization of state coffers. The private sector in Cuba has grown exponentially in recent years. The self-employed now total 436,342 carry out their work in 201 approved kinds of licenses. In turn, the sector of non-agricultural cooperatives sum 452 of such entities, grouped in trade, catering, construction, transport, industry, food, and now the energy and accounting services. At the macro level, two important measures have been approved: The Foreign Investment Law 118 and Deregulation of the Socialist State Enterprise. While both have positive impact on the updating of the Cuban enterprise system and have been accepted willingly, both...

The Cuban state enterprise leaves, finally, the twentieth century

The new measures taken to streamline the operations of the State Socialist Company in Cuba, recently announced, match the process of adjustments needed to include the island in a coherent dynamic model with proven performance and the proper decentralization of the state as microeconomic administrator. We cannot see this as a step forward in itself or as an achievement: it is simply correcting an error that has led to inefficiency, lack of control, mismanagement and corruption. The models established from the institutionalization process, and the role of ministries and institutions administrators, conditioned the loss of entrepreneurship and an extensive web of regulations that made it almost impossible for companies to fully function and be productive. A key aspect is that the policy of stimulus from the seventies and mid-nineties was made on erroneous bases, based in ideological and non-productive postulates. Moral incentives, diplomas and medals, attached to the granting of proletarian televisions, refrigerators and fans and, in the case of the most selfless, beach houses and hotel stays, were just not conducive to the needed productivity gains. Importantly, the flexibility of the corporate purpose of the company enables entities, which by their nature can do so, to instrument secondary ways...

Juan Formell has died.

This year is not yet satisfied; it is determined to take my memories, who can bear that much? Memories cry, and now I just have left to be afraid. This year is going hard, trying to kill everything I dream of. And now, the first day of the fifth month, it takes from me the sounds, the way my country sounds, the way my city moves. There are not even words left; it's too much death, too much absence. Juan Formell had the honor to not let our music be lost. In 1978, the first program of Para Bailar, when all Cuba listened to Boney M, Michael Jackson and the Bee Gees, those hard seventies, gray and so American in terms of music, if someone rescued Cuba for its music, its son music, popular speech , that was him. Juan Formell put Cuban music on the map when major record labels of America tried to hide where “salsa” had come from. A few insisted on saying that "son left Cuba” and he, by dint of talent, showed it was alive, that it was made from the Island and from his teachings everything else came. Not only Cuban music mourns, all...

Gabo in my first person

They said that your brother read to you, you spent the afternoon in your backyard, listening to your own stories without leaving Macondo , smiling from your own tenderness . They said you remembered the Colonel, the Buendía, Florentino declaring love to Fermina . They said your face lit up when Mercedes passed and you flirted with her. Not only of memories is memory made. Back in the eighties, Havana enjoyed watching as you appeared in the Plaza Vieja, or the silhouette of a car, heading west on the Malecon. You knew how to be one of us and life was not the same; you taught us that cinema and literature could breathe. Your world became ours. Latin America was never so close, we never better understood than in your artwork, all made of memories, impossible realities, to emphatic and incredible truths. Time could never be described in better shape, the time of a home, a landscape, a river on which a boat goes up and down with two lovers delivered to their kiss. Until now we knew where you were, far, in your world of memories and rested in the space of the enlightened. You were with us, your...

Political change does not mean change of government

Interview with Arturo Lopez-Levy OnCuba insists on going over the Foreign Investment Law. This time, ProfessorArturo Lopez-Levy, from the University of Denver, and renowned political analyst and economist and Co-director of the Cuban Americans for Engagement (CAFE) answered our questions and gave us a critical reflection on the Law recently passed. The certified guarantees in the Law theoretically suffice to attract investments to Cuba, so OnCuba asked him if he considered this was attractive and trustworthyenough for possible investors and he answered: “It is too early tosay. The guarantees of the new ForeignInvestment Law are a significant step forward in contrast with the previous one that dates back from 1995 but the challenge is not only to offer guarantees for capital but also to compete with other markets to attract important long term projects. In that sense, the most significant advantages when compared with the previous law are not the fiscal grace period or the new exemptions per incomes and use of work force, or the reduction from 30 to 15% of taxes over revenues. The most significant advantage is the attitude proclaimed as policy towards private property, the market and foreign investment. The debates on the new law revealed...

Alan Gross, absurdity and oblivion

The world wakes up with the news of a hunger strike in Havana, but no just another, Alan Gross, an American contractor sentenced to 15 years in prison for trying to smuggle forbidden technology in Cuba, declared a hunger strike "to protest the treatment to which I am subjected by the governments of Cuba and the United States.” Gross laments the inaction of his government and calls upon President Obama to take steps for his release. This hunger strike begins just two days after it was known, from the revelations of The Associated Press, that the USAID sought to develop a project called zunzuneo for inciting social disorder and topple the Cuban government. This program was implemented a few months after the arrest of Gross, by the same agency that has long denied that their plans were intended to result in regime change. But perhaps the most significant issue is that the public announcement of Gross takes place the same day that the USAID presented to the Senate Appropriations Committee its report on the budget for 2015. In this presentation, the agency administrator, Dr. Rajiv Shah after hesitation and under pressure from the questions of Senator Patrick Leahy said he...

A round, a book and no buzz

The easy thing to do comes afterwards, when you create a result to ratify a fact. The easiest thing to do is to blame connectivity, the government, indolence and prices. The regular thing is to turn to common positions and hide behind thatsame old phrase: “it is always the same”. The difficult thing to do is to overcome pretexts and set an idea in motion. The hard thing is not to be part of those arguments, join the club, and wait for a spring Sunday for 50 Cubans to engage in a Book release summoned from Facebook and to take any book, this time, in return for nothing. The first experience emerged with the passing away of Teresita Fernandez. In the first event, which was not summoned institutionally, more than a hundred people played a leading role that still remains in the collective memory. Now, on the occasion of no particular event, an idea moves from the institutional sphere and is put into practice, with more or less participation. Sometimes it seems Cuba is condemned to not exercising the citizens’ initiative, not being a static mass of people that only moves at the pace of military bands, hymns or mottos,...

Antonio Zamora: Some reflections on Cuba’s new foreign investment law

On the occasion of the passing of the Foreign Investment Law (LIE) on March 29 by the Cuban National Assembly of People’s Power in extraordinary session OnCuba contacted various experts, personalities and academics in order to get their views on the said Law The new law arouses interest and suspicion. all at once. Its wording provides an ideal tax framework for investment and excludes only health services, education and military. Although it still lacks a discretion that is not entirely transparent and provides too many steps for recruitment of labor by institutions, is an attractive and plural tool that gives Cuba a comprehensive law, non restrictive and in tune with the process of transformations the island is living and formulas used in the international economy. Antonio Zamora is a Cuban immigrant, a lawyer with over forty years of experience in some of the most prestigious law firms in Florida. He specializes in foreign investment from the United States to Latin America. As an adjunct professor at Florida International University, he has given numerous courses and lectures on Cuban affairs. In 1961, he moved to the United States and that same year he participated in the defeated Bay of Pigs Invasion....

Cuban Drug presented in Washington

Cuban scientists have recently introduced the revolutionary Heberprot -P drug that has proven effective in the treatment of complex diabetic foot ulcers and in reducing amputations in patients suffering from this disease. This drug, developed by the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology ( IGBC ) in Havana, was presented at the headquarters of the Pan American Health Organization in Washington , in a technical seminar in which Drs Jorge Berlanga and Boris Acevedo exhibited the results obtained with the novel medicine . In October 2013 the Cuban drug caused controversy in Miami when Congressman Joe Garcia defended the possibility that, under the humanitarian premise, they were allowed to test the drug in the United States. The statements of the Congressman unleashed a wave of protests opposite to the Cuban government that accused him of pandering to the Cuban government. The congressman said that “it is only medicine." He acknowledged that there are 70,000 amputations annually in the United States for diabetes and problems and that his mission as a representative is to ensure that citizens have access to the best possible thing that can help. He said: " If the treatment works , why should not we use it?...

Cubans living abroad can invest in Cuba

The draft of the Law on Foreign Investment which currently is being studied by deputies to the National People's Assembly prior to its discussion on Saturday, March 29, stands out for providing a necessary tool to the Cuban legal framework to face the challenges a changing economy is bringing about. The text sheds vices contained in the current Law 77, which dates from 1995, and focuses its articles in several important aspects: the guarantees to investors, the plurality of possible sectors and taxation of different forms of participation of foreign capital. In neither case it specifies that foreign investment has to come from natural or legal persons with a nationality other than the Cuban, in this, in Chapter II (section m, Article 2), the Act says that the foreign investor is a "natural or legal person with residency and capital abroad." This definition explicitly includes Cubans living abroad who may participate in the economic partnerships with the same regulations that the Act provides for citizens of other nationalities. However, when talking about the “national investor " is defined only as " legal person " which excludes participation in company with foreign capital of Cubans living on the island and legally...

Conference in Miami: dialogue, bridges and hopes

The way that the Cuban "issue" is perceived in Miami is changing. In addition to the growing interest of the Cuban community in normalizing relations with its country, organizations and groups are seeking for alternative approaches, based on respect and unity of the nation. In this framework, we can see the conference "The Cuba- U.S. relations in the second Obama Administration: the Cuban American community and the changes in Cuba - Building bridges for better relations ", organized by Cuban Americans for Engagement (CAFE) and with the collaboration of FORNORM, Generación Cambio Cubano and Cuba Educational Travel, which will take place in Miami on March 15. The conference therefore seeks to find new prospects for greater exchange between Cuba and the United States, respecting individual ideologies and sovereignty of the island. Also it will emphasize the need for a less hostile policy by the U.S. and progressive and moderate sectors of the Cuban-American community to participate and promote this approach. This meeting aims to discuss a minimum and concrete agenda from which it can contribute with constructive ideas to the Obama administration if it decides to advance further exchange or dialogue with Cuba and, at the same time, to inform...

Foto: http://www.absolut-cuba.com

About rumors, prohibitions and travels to Cuba

(Rumor has it…) An article stating that the US Congress would approve a general license that would allow US citizens to travel to Cuba, which, in the opinion of experts, would be imminent, brought about a strong rumor implying the lifting of travelling restrictions imposed by the US Treasury. The said travelling restrictions is one of the scarce vestiges of the still existing cold war and one of the most criticized given the violation of the ¨alleged¨ freedom of movement stated in the US Constitution. The article didn’t comment on the implementation of this decision or its time schedule orits procedures. It didn’t take into consideration that even if the Congress, the State Department or the President approved it, there would still be some loose ends that would hinder its immediate coming into force. The first restrictions were implemented in 1963 when President Kennedy included Cuba in the known Trading with the Enemy Act, from 1914. Successively, as part of a deliberate strategy, the US government added other restrictions in an attempt to favor the economic debilitation of the Cuban people. This prohibition is part of the so-called six statutes that make up the US blockade against Cuba. Nowadays, any...

Theft at the Museum of Fine Arts Confirmed

They say that in a humble Russian museum when visitors arrived they got surprised by the empty spaces on the walls, but they kept the captions. When asked, museum guides used to answer them “they were paintings looted during the French invasion last century." Shortly after, in Czechoslovakia, a small town museum used the same argument, but the answer was different, “this work is now in a Soviet museum." The National Council of Cultural Heritage of Cuba has confirmed the theft of artworks from the “Antonio Rodríguez Morey"socio- administrative building belonging to the National Museum of Fine Arts. Although the amount is unknown, the works, according to the note, belong to the pre-vanguard movement, to the turn of the century, marked by the struggle between the academic and trends of modernity. The list of stolen works has not made public, although it is known that the method consisted of cutting canvases and stacking the frames so the shortfall would not be noticed. The international art market is highly protected against theft and illegal trafficking of artwork. If any of these fall into the established circuit it should return to Cuba without any problems, but if it falls into the hands of...

Alina Roberts: “I’m going for it”

I confess I arrived full of prejudices, nothing prepared, but with a little bite in the stomach that somehow turned into a feeling that I was expected by something different. I come from a time when fashion, television, pretty girls and all this combined was dismissed as superfluous, banal, commercial or frivolous. I knew that beauty was not at odds with either the way of being and with the intelligence of the people, but still educational doctrinaire sense forced me to think that from intelligence you choose other ways of being or livelihood. Waiting so long for Alina Roberts, a Cuban beautiful model and actress, who embarks on the reality show Nuestra Belleza Latina on Univision, for her to shatter a mindset of nearly forty years, has been worth it. Conversing, if at first she dazzles you with her beauty, her voice, firm, calm and deep, you're forgetting her face and her curves and then Alina appears, a woman who when speaks, when says what she thinks is even more beautiful, in a way that reconciles you with your stupidity and prejudice. I, who was there without any preconceived questions, because I did not believe the story, had to let...

Cuban Consular services in the United States Suspended Again

The atmosphere for a normalization of the relations between the United States and Cuba is increasingly favorable. A recent survey made public by Rick Gladstone in the New York Times shows that more than half of Americans think the US should change its policies towards Cuba, and that the island state must be removed from the list of states that sponsor terrorism. They also think both countries should coordinate strategies in issues of common interest and lift the ban on travelling to Cuba for American citizens. At the same time, powerful Cuban-American entrepreneurs have shown their willingness to invest in the island, moving away from the traditional hardline set by the historical exile of zero approaches towards the island unless it entitles a change of regime. After the statements made by Alfy Ranjul to the Washignton Post. Jorge Perez, a powerful contractor, the man behind the renovation of Miami, also expressed his willingness to help boost a greater exchange with his country of origin. To all that you should add the decision of the European Union to talk to the Cuban government to reach a political agreement. Curiously enough, when the most influential mass media outlets in the US and...

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