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CELAC Summit in Havana: The Regime is Cashing In / Ivan Garcia

January 30, 2014 1 comment

E4CABC98-3159-402E-9759-7B8430EF074F_mw1024_n_s-620x330Under a warm sun and unusually cool breeze, a worker puts the final touches on the exterior of PABEXPO, an exposition and meeting center of 60,000 square yards, located in the Siboney neighborhood, to the west of Havana.

There, from Saturday the 25th to Tuesday the 29th of January, experts, foreign ministers and presidents will meet at the 2nd Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).

The tourist group Cubatur S.A., obviously, is the most favored. Two weeks ago, in a document from the Minister of Foreign Relations loaded to the internet as a PDF, offers detailed information.

It consists of 116 pages and is titled Operations Manual for the 2nd CELAC Summit. The Cuban Organizing Committee offered free housing to every Head of State, one of the Foreign Ministers and another to the Head of the Delegation to the Meeting of National Coordinators.

Six other rooms, guaranteed at the same hotel and floor established for each attending country, will be paid by the delegations requesting them. The prices range between 170 and 340 CUC per night, in the case of doubles, and include transportation from and to the airport, breakfast, internet, and personalized assistance. If they want rooms superior to the standard, the price will be higher. [Ed. note: The CUC, Cuban Convertible Peso, is pegged one-to-one to the U.S. dollar but exchange fees increase its cost to about $1.10.]

Six hotels have been selected for the invited VIPs. Three five-star hotels (Hotel Nacional, Meliá Cohiba and Meliá Habana) and three four-star superior (Hotel Quinta Avenida, Occidental Miramar and Panorama).

Some 2,500 to 3,000 foreign reporters are expected to return. At their disposal there will be twelve hotels with room prices ranging from 90 to 400 CUC a night.

Cubatur also will make bank renting cars or other types of tourist transport. For three to six days an economy car will cost 51 CUC a day, a premium model 181 CUC and a van 185 CUC.

The organizers are offering six vehicles to each delegation. The foreign press and other participants will have to pay “an adequate collective transport.”

ETECSA, the only Cuban telecommunications company, will also have its harvest. Calls within the island cost 0.35 CUC. To the United States or another Latin American country, 1.60 CUC (to Venezuela is 1.40), and 1.80 CUC a minute to the rest of the world.

To install a fixed telephone line, ETECSA will charge 100 CUC, plus the price of the calls. The cost of renting links to navigate the internet depends on the speed. If it is 64 Kbps, the participants will have to pay 150 CUC for the installation plus 7 CUC a day.

For the fastest connection, at 2,048 Kbps, the installation price rises to 200 CUC and the daily cost of service is 186 CUC.

In addition, ETECSA will charge one convertible peso for every sheet received by fax, while an hour of access from PABEXPO will cost 4.50 CUC, the same price we Cubans pay when we go to a state internet room.

The media who intend to use a satellite phone will have to pay a 1,000 CUC license fee, and if they want satellite Internet the figure doubles. The current regulations in Cuba establish that it is mandatory to obtain a credential to work temporarily as a journalist in the country at a cost of 100 CUC, with the exception of the Presidential Press, which will receive credentials from the Organizing Committee.

The Cuban Institute of Radio and Television (ICRT) will charge 200 CUC for an hour of editing, including the editor, and the same fee for an hour of using a transmission position. According to a source from ICRT, the multinational Telesur, financed with Venezuelan and Ecuadorian capital and Cuban advice, is exempt from these payments. And, in addition, it will also have privileged locations in the conference rooms.

A consulting economist estimated that the CELAC SUMMIT, in barely a week, fattened the coffers of the regime with between 180 and 220 million dollars. Not bad for some finances in the red.

25 January 2014

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Free Journalism from Havana / Ivan Garcia

January 25, 2014 1 comment

la_esq-620x330For a Cuban reporter, in addition to mastering the narrative techniques of modern journalism, it’s good to have in hand Oriana Fallaci’s book. To read the chronicles of Gay Tallese or Rosa Montero. These days, seems essential to own a laptop, tablet, and a digital recorder and camera.

But, please, keep in mind you are engaging in journalism in an autocratic country, where according to its laws the professions of spy and unauthorized reporter are almost synonymous.

Yes, we must learn to use 21st century tools, Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, but in Cuba it’s ore useful to have a network of friendships located in different strata who can give you first hand information.

Not being able to confront the information, or verify it through other sources, we have to have confidence in our intuition. We’re always going to lack a specific date, or a concrete figure that could round out the note.

Not having access to official statistics, it’s impossible to contrast the news and look for other points of view to balance the story. In my experience, after working as an independent journalist for 18 years, on the island we have to throw in the trash certain rules established like canons of the profession.

Let me give an example. If we try to have a hooker tell you about her life, it’s advisable not to show her a microphone or camera. Or she’s not going to tell you a story. Then the most sordid stories flow.

Not being able to record, take notes, or take photos, a good memory is fundamental. When an interviewee quotes outside the law, what is important is to get across the essence of their opinions.

To do journalism inside Havana’s marginal world comes with its risks. One journalist note can bring down a police operation on a guy who sells drugs or a girl who sells herself. So you have to be very careful to camouflage the identity, place of residence or where there person usually operates.

I’ll tell you an anecdote. In the past year, Diario de las Americas published a story of mine about transvestite prostitutes. Every night they sit in a doorway on 10 de Octubre avenue. After I published the work, the police discretely evacuated the place.

These unadorned stories carry a risk in Cuba: any person mentioned could be arrested and end up behind bars.

An old butcher told me about a common method among the DTI (Technical Investigations Department) officials when they detain someone, to avoid a conflict, is to say they got the information from an article by an independent journalist.

Although at times the publication of a story helps the affected. In December, as a result of strong downpours assaulting Havana, a neighbor, living in a destroyed room in a tenement, told me he’d been asking for decent housing for his family for 20 years.

“After you mentioned my case, the authorities talked to me. They told me that if I stopped offering statement, they could resolve my problem,” the neighbor said.

On Friday, 10 January, the independent journalist León Padrón Azcuy published on Cubanet a report about the private restaurant Starbien, owned by José Raúl Colomé, son of Abelardo Colomé Ibarra, Army General and Minister of the Interior.

On Monday the 13th, Colomé Jr. visited the journalist at his home. He told him he was very annoyed with what was reflected in the article and promised to take charge of the matter personally. On 15 January Cubanet revealed that the minister’s son’s restaurant had been entered on Spain’s Merchant Register as Starbien Investment SL.

When you do journalism outside the State, you have to be well-informed and can’t try to wield the “journalistic stick” or compete against the international news agencies stationed in the country.

A journalist, according to Kapuscinski (Poland 1931-2007), above all must be a good person. To do good reporting work and, in the case of Cuba, to describe this reality hidden by the regime with objectivity.

Iván García

Photo: All the independent journalists who live in Havana, at least once a week go to the Esquina de Tejas, by foot, bus or taxi; this is where four of the most important streets of the capital meet: Monte, Infanta and the Calzadas del Cerro and Diez de Octubre. Taken from Primavera Digital.

22 January 2014

The New Cuban Rich / Ivan Garcia

January 15, 2014 1 comment

Plaza de la Catedral, festooned for the Year End Grand Dinner and which some new Cuban rich must have attended. *See below for dinner menu.

They are not as ostentatious as the new Russian rich who buy compulsively and empty the shelves of Marbella. Nor do their lifestyle and expenses have to do with a Qatar millionaire who for pure pleasure buys a bankrupt European soccer club.

The new Cuban rich have a different stripe and behavior. “There are several castes. There are the life-long privileged: ministers, managers of healthy businesses or generals who have exchanged the olive-green uniform for a crisp white guayabera. They may eat shrimp and drink Spanish red wine,” says an ex-official.

In his opinion, it is a very special class. “It is accessed by family genes, loyalty or sycophancy. But it is an exclusive preserve. Depending on their rank, these revolutionary burghers may have a yacht or even a Hummer.”

A person who knows about power says they usually go to Ibiza or Cancun on vacation. “They are above the law and the Constitution. By divine decree, they can have cable antennas, internet at home and several cars. They don’t need to turn off the air conditioning to save energy, and when the dollar was prohibited, the supposed enemy’s banknotes were in their wallets.”

There were and still are other kinds of “rich.” People call them “flowerpots.” It is a colorful fauna of petty thieves with white collars who swipe a few million pesos and abound in various levels of government ministries.

“They carry the party card for convenience or pull you into a lecture replete with revolutionary slogans. This caste has learned how to spin the system,” says a lady who was a servant in the home of a manager.

Common and ordinary Cubans know that they ride in State cars, with gasoline from the State and that they steal from the State. That they invest in family businesses. And under the mattress they keep dollars and euros, among other currencies. “The most intelligent defect on an official trip and with stolen money set up a discreet business in Florida,” asserts the ex-official.

The man on the street also knows that the number of private entrepreneurs who are earning quite a bit in their businesses is rising. Also, that in Cuba there exist the “body smugglers.” People who have always lived on the margin of the law. Selling drugs, brand name clothes, pirated perfumes, houses or cars.

And with the money saved, the ’body smugglers’ open a cafeteria or rent rooms to foreign tourists for 30 dollars a night. Other privileged people are the rich “de flay,” that is, “the Cubans who thanks to remittances sent by relatives in Miami, who in order to sustain the way of life of these bloodsuckers, often have two jobs,” says a retired teacher.

They all, from the olive-green caste to the rich “de flay,” demonstrate the difference from that vast majority of the population that eats a hot meal once a day and relieves the heat with a Chinese fan.

The new rich can afford the luxury of dining three times a week in a private restaurant and paying 150 CUC for a set menu at the Plaza de la Catedral in order to eat delicacies and await the new year listening to Isaac Delgado.

Some envy them. But, in general, Cubans accept the new rules of the game. They see well that their neighbor may have a business, make money and stay at a Varadero hotel.

And that the State may sell cars and permit you to travel abroad. They applaud the elimination of the absurd double currency and ask for better salaries, with the hope that someday they too might eat in expensive restaurants or visit Cayo Coco.

What people reproach is the hypocrisy of the regime’s leaders. That they speak in the name of the poor while they live and dine like the new rich from Russia. That’s why, when many Cubans see Raul Castro, it seems to them that they are observing Vladimir Putin. Maybe it is an optical illusion.

*Dinner Menu — In 2012 the set menu cost 100 CUC per person (about $110 US), but in 2013 the business Habaguanex raised it to 150 CUC, a worker’s salary for seven and a half months. What was offered on the menu would have filled the stomachs of the residents of any block from Central Havana, Marianao, Arroyo Naranjo or San Miguel del Padron.

Welcome cocktail: Creole mojito or San Francisco (without alcohol). Large chef’s assortment plate: mixed salad of fillet of beef, fired pork bun a la Camagueyana, marinade of three cheeses and cured ham crepes. First plate: main: Tower of turkey and glazed fruits, green and black olives over marinated vegetables. Main plate: Center cut beef tenderloin with extra virgin olive oil, plum and rosemary sauce and Crianza Cabernet wine. Side dish: Creamed potatoes.

Variety of rolls and breadsticks accompanied by pate with cheese flavored with basil and pimento. Desserts: Cheesecake and guava with candied apple and coffee caramel sauce. Assortment of Spanish nougats and good luck grapes. Brews: Cuban coffee and varieties of tea.

Beverages of your choice all night: Mineral water, fruit juices, soft drinks and national beers, white, rose, red and sparkling wines, anejo rum, whiskey and from Cuban mixology, Mojito, Cuba Libre, Cubata and Habana Especial. Also: Mixed grill of pork, turkey and roasted vegetables, creole stew with red mangrove, three kinds of paella (shrimp, rabbit or vegetable) and grand cake flambe with cognac. As amusement, a Magnum of champagne opened with a saber.

Ivan Garcia

Translated by mlk.

11 January 2014

Who Can Buy a New Car in Cuba? / Ivan Garcia

January 5, 2014 3 comments

coches_cubaWalter had his doubts. He was vacillating between a US-made Willys Jeep from the ’50s, with a Toyoto diesel engine, German air brakes, recently painted and restores, for 32,000 convertible pesos (about $35,000), or wait until January 3, to see if the State would sell the jeep more cheaply.

“I don’t think they’re going to sell a Cherokee or a Hummer, because of the blockade (embargo), but perhaps the government will offer something French- or British-made. I’m thinking perhaps I would like to use it as a taxi. And with the bad state of the roads on the island, I don’t think the modern jeeps can stand up to it like the suspensions of the American cars from the ’40s and ’50s, which are true war tanks,” says Walter.

The official announcement of the marketing of cars by the government still has not led to a substantial lowering of prices in the private market where 95% of the cars sold are used. Aurelio, after showing his 1957 Chevrolet which he maintains like a jewel, says “I won’t sell it for less than 35,000 chavitos (convertible pesos or CUCs).”

If you check on the capital’s car market, you’ll see that any antique out of Detroit from six decades ago, right now costs between $12,000 and $30,000, depending on how well it’s preserved.

If it’s one like Aurelio, which still has its factory engine and the original upholstery, you’ll have to pay at least $40,000. On on-line sites like Revolico.com, new or second-hand, fluctuate between 25,000 and 50,000 CUC.

In Havana, it’s common for an old car to cost more than a new two-bedroom apartment. The prohibition against selling cars, except those made before 1959, raised the prices in an absurd way.

Between 1970-80, the authorities sold Russian cars at 4,500 pesos, less than 200 CUC in current values. These same Ladas or uncomfortable Moskovich today cost between 10,000 and 15,000, depending on their technical state. Then they couldn’t change hands. Their owners couldn’t sell them. In the case of death, the child or other family member inherited the car, and they could not sell it either.

Of course, in the underground Cuban economy Ladas and Moskoviches were sold and even tractors were sold by the piece. In 2011 the regime understood that so many misguided prohibitions contributed to feeding the exaggerated prices.

And they authorized the sale of cars. But established a bureaucratic hurdle: you could only buy and sell old cars, US- or Russian-made. New and second-hand cars could only be acquired through a letter granted by an official.

Which is what happened. On no few occasions, the letters cost more than the vehicle you were going to buy at a state agency. A colossal web of corruption emerged. To put the brakes on the dance of notes under the table, as of 3 January 2014 the regime will involve itself in the business.

According to the official notice, the government will open agencies at current market prices in Cuba. Daniel, a self-employed worker who wants to buy “an economical little South Korean car, nothing spectacular,” put his hands to his head when a friend tells him that a model that costs no more than $3,000 in the U.S. or Brazil, sells in Havana for 9,000 CUC, almost $10,000.

The pretext of the regime for maintaining inflated prices is that the earnings will be dedicated to buying buses. In 55 years of “revolution,” the country has never had decent but service. It could seem like a good idea to subsidize public transport through the sale of cars.

Suppose the regime will undertake some market research. Perhaps 200,000 Cubans can buy new cars costing between 9,000 and 30,000 CUC. Let us assume that 200,000 citizens can  purchase at an average of 10,000 CUC. That would be a net sale of 2 billion CUC.

Excluding the purchase and freight, the profit would be a billion dollars. With this money we could acquire 10,000 articulated buses at 100,000 dollars each. It would seem to be a magic solution; a handful of people, let’s call them the middle class, would provide the public transport that for 55 years of the Castro regime has always been a disaster.

Will they also allocate money to repair and expand the worn out roads. But we live in an autocracy that answers to no one. And to demand transparency from its institutions is synonymous with “counterrevolution.” So we will never know how they are going to invest the earnings that come from the sale of cars.

Walter was one of the first to tour the places where they are displaying the different car models. When he saw the prices, it was clear: he will by the restored Willys jeep for 32,000 convertible pesos (CUC).

Iván García

Photo: Cubans look in one of the parking lots in Havana turned in to retail auto lots. the cheapest sold the first day was a 1997 BMW at 14,457.60 CUC, and the most expensive, a 2010 Hyundai minibus at 110,000 CUC .

 Official price list

2013 PEUGEOT for sale in convertible pesos (CUC)

  • PEUGEOT EXPERT TEPEE 2013 ………………… 212,940.00
  • PEUGEOT 4008 2013 …………………………………  239,250.00
  • PANEL PEUGEOT PARTNER TEPEE 2013…..  145,612.50
  • PEUGEOT 206+ 2013 ………………………………..     91,113.00
  • PEUGEOT 301 2013 …………………………………..   108,084.00
  • PEUGEOT 301 2013 …………………………………..   109,684.00
  • PEUGEOT 301 2013 …………………………………..   109,699.00
  • PEUGEOT 5008 2013 ……………………………….    232,193.50
  • PEUGEOT 508 2013 …………………………………    263,185.50

Other NEW VEHICLES for sale in convertible pesos (CUC)

  • GEELY CK T/A 2010 …………………….  26,550.00
  • GEELY CK T/M 2009 ……………..…….. 25,950.00
  • GEELY FC 2009 ……………………………. 37,500.00
  • GEELY MK 2009 …………………………… 30,000.00
  • HYUNDAI ACCENT T/A 2011 ………… 45,000.00
  • HYUNDAI ACCENT T/A 2009-2010.. 37,500.00
  • HYUNDAI ATOS 2009 …………………… 21,450.00
  • HYUNDAI 110 T/A 2009 ……….………  29,250.00
  • HYUNDAI 110 T/A 2009 ………….……  31,500.00
  • HYUNDAI 110 T/M 2009 ………….…..  25,000.00
  • HYUNDAI 110 T/M 2009 ………….…..  28,500.00
  • KIA RIO 2011 ……………………………….  42,000.00
  • SEAT ALTEA 2008 ……………………..   45,000.00
  • VW JETTA 2010 …………………..……..   51,000.00

USED VEHICLES for sale in convertible pesos (CUC)

  • MICROBUS HYUNDAI TQ12 2009-2010 ……. 110,000.00
  • JEEP HYUNDAI SANTA FE 2009-2010 …….    90,000.00
  • JEEP SUZUKI JIMNY 2008 ……………………..    69,195.00
  • JEEP SUZUKI JIMNY 2008 ……………………..    30,000.00
  • AUDI A4 2000 ………………………………………..    45,000.00
  • BMW SMOD 1997 …………………………………….   14,457.60
  • CITROEN C3 2008 ………………………………….    46,025.10
  • CITROEN SAXO 2003 ……………………………..    26,431.65
  • CHANA-ALSV ALSVANA 2010 ………………….   31,950.00
  • DAIHATSU GRAND MOVE 2000 ……..………    22,000.00
  • FIAT PUNTO 2008 ………………………………….    28,950.00
  • FIAT UNO 2002 ………………………………………    18,000.00
  • GEELY CK 2010 ………………………………………    26,149.95
  • GEELY CK 2010 ………………………………………    26,150.10
  • HYUNDAI ACCENT T/M 2007 …………………    35,000.00
  • HYUNDAI ACCENT T/A 2011 ………………….     45,000.00
  • HYUNDAI ACCENT T/A 2009-2010 ………..     37,500.00
  • HYUNDAI ACCENT T/M 2011 ………………..     45,000.00
  • HYUNDAI ATOS 2007-2009 ………………….      21,450.00
  • HYUNDAI AZERA 2009 ………………………..      75,000.00
  • HYUNDAI GETZ 2009 …………………………..      32,250.00
  • HYUNDAI SONATA 2009-2010 ……………..      60,000.00
  • KIA PICANTO 2011 ………………………………..      38,285.40
  • KIA PICANTO 2011 ……………………………….      40,854.60
  • KIA PICANTO 2011 ……………………………….      41,486.40
  • KIA PICANTO 2011 ……………………………….      37,189.80
  • KIA PICANTO 2011 ……………………………….      37,782.45
  • KIA PICANTO 2011 ……………………………….      35,000.00
  • KIA PICANTO 2008 ………………………………      28,000.00
  • KIA PICANTO 2011 ……………………………….      42,000.00
  • KIA PICANTO 2009 ………………………………      35,000.00
  • MERCEDES BENZ 2006 ……………………….       60,000.00
  • MITSUBISHI LANCER 1997 ………………….       20,000.00
  • PEUGEOT 406 1999 ……………………………..       28,000.00
  • PEUGEOT 106 2003 ……………………………..       16,222.95
  • PEUGEOT 206 2008 ……………………………        85,227.60
  • PEUGEOT 206 2004 ……………………………        30,000.00
  • PEUGEOT 407 2004 ……………………………        30,000.00
  • PEUGEOT PARTNER 2008 …………………        25,600.00
  • RENAULT CLIO 2005 ………………………..         25,000.00
  • RENAULT SM3 2008 ………………………..         46,116.30
  • RENAULT SM3 2008 ………………………..         30,000.00
  • RENAULT SM3 2008 ………………………..         31,500.00
  • RENAULT SM7 2008 ………………………..         90,000.00
  • SEAT ALTEA 2008 …………………………..         45,000.00
  • SEAT CORDOVA 2008 ……………………..         31,500.00
  • TOYOTA COROLA 2006 ……………………         39,224.80
  • TOYOTA YARIS 2003 ……………………….         25,000.00
  • TOYOTA YARIS 2002 ……………………….         25,000.00
  • VW JETTA 2010 ……………………………….         51,000.00
  • VW PASSAT 2008 …………………………….         54,000.00
  • VW PASSAT 2010 …………………………….         67,500.00
  • VW POLO 2007 ……………………………….         25,000.00
  • VW POLO 2007 ……………………………….         25,000.00

4 January 2014

New Years in Havana / Ivan Garcia

January 5, 2014 Leave a comment

Fin-de-año-en-La-HabanaThe State brigade arrived in Vibora’s Red Plaza and in no time at all erected a slapdash wood and metal platform. On the nights of December 31 and January 1, a crowd fueled by cheap rum and bad beer will see in 2014 dancing to a Cuban timba orchestra.

The guys who set up the stage, ex-prisoners and amateur carpenters, under the blazing sun, had a good time drinking rum and tossing out rude compliments to the neighborhood women who do their shopping in nearby stores.

“It’s not easy working when almost everyone is celebrating, raising their elbows,” says Yaison, who have serving five years in prison for butchering cows, and not having too many job offers, enrolled in a People’s Power Brigade charged with looking after the equipment for the various political and musical activities.

In each of the 15 municipalities of the capital will be celebrations to commemorate the 55th anniversary of the Revolution on January 1. Joshua, 16, a student, reviews the cultural scene. He thinks about going to a concert where Buena Fe or Descemer Bueno will perform, his favorite artists.

“The last thing we are celebrating is the anniversary of the Revolution. For young people, talking about Revolution is talking about the past. Something that no longer exists. Today, the reality is a badly managed country, with an economy in the tank, and a ton of young people who want to leave Cuba. I go to these concerts because I have no other options. Going to a good nightclub costs 10 CUC and my parents can’t give it to me,” says Josué.

Raudel, 19, dressed like a reggaetoner, with retro wave glasses and a body-fitting shirt, plays dominoes and drinks Havana Club out of plastic cups with three friends in a doorway in 10 de Octubre Street. Meanwhile, they listen to reggaeton at full volume on a small battery powered radio.

“We’ll greet the New Year with Alexander, El Micha or Los Desiguales, playing in Alamar or Marianao. It’s the only chance we fans with little money have to dance to our reggaeton idols without paying a dime,” says Raudel.

Apart from the economic crisis, the question mark of a future and the high cost of living, the refrain of ordinary Cubans is: bad weather, a good face.

On Carmen Street, a stone’s throw from Red Square in Vibora, thanks to private businesses or remittances from Miami, three families are repairing their homes. Due to the disbursement of hard currency , they will see in the new year modestly with chicharrones, fried plantains, beer, rum or red wine.” I’ve spent 3000 chavitos (CUC ) and I still have covered only half of the arrangements. I have to prioritize the repair of the house,” says Diana.

These days, thousands people search through the city’s farmers markets looking for pork, cassava, tomatoes, lettuce or cabbage, to prepare the traditional dinner: roast pork, white rice, black beans, yucca and salad. And, if all goes well, a couple Spanish nougats.

In 21st century Havana few talk about the Castros’ Revolution. Some, when they do so, it is to criticize the state of things. Daniel, 35, feels that he has no power to change the system so he lives in the present and enjoys whatever he can.

“The Revolution and its leaders are no longer the brilliant heroes they were three decades ago. They’ve faded. We see them as nostalgic old men clinging to power. In the era of the Internet and globalization, we deserve modern leaders. Many of those who celebrate the coming of 2014 in activities organized by the Party, if given the opportunity to emigrate, would do it without a second’s thought, they wouldn’t think twice,” Daniel affirms.

With two and a half million inhabitants, Havana is the heart of the island. In its streets, parks and corners, this New Year, people prefer to talk about telenovelas; the good showing by the Industriales in the  National Baseball Championships; whether Messi will soon rejoin Barca; or if Cristiano Ronaldo or win the Ballon d’Or.

Even the cash-strapped see in the new year with a dinner. This is the case for Renato, an old man beset by ailments who sells plastic bags at the entrance to a bakery.

“We are four friends and we each bring something. Then, on an old Russian radio, we listen to traditional boleros and sons. What we have in common is that our relatives have forgotten about us,” confesses Renato in a weak voice, muffled by the noise of the cars on a filthy Havana street.

Iván García

Photo: Buying pork in a specially authorized booth in Havana. From independent journalist Víctor Manuel Domínguez, for Cubanet.

3 January 2014