Friday, November 11, 2011



Yesterday, I had the opportunity to spend an hour and a half with Doris Matsui (D-California) my local member of Congress. I sat next to her at a meeting of twelve business owners that was organized by the Sacramento Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. During the meeting we tried to answer the question that the Congresswoman presented: what can government do to make it easier for small businesses to create jobs and help the nation’s economy recover.

When it was my turn to speak, I told her that there were three things on my mind. As a lawyer, I have seen countless people lose their homes to foreclosure because they owed more on their house than it was worth. They had mortgages with interest rates more than twice the current rates of interest on mortgages and the banks refused to renegotiate. The current voluntarily HAMP program is cumbersome, bureaucratic and non-responsive to borrowers’ needs. I told her that the bankruptcy code needs to be revised to give judges the power to modify the terms of the first mortgages on peoples’ homes. The courts already have the power to modify or strip off second mortgages, but as of now, nothing can be forced down the lenders’ throats in terms of first mortgage modifications.
I also told her that with the government anxious to stimulate exports, I did not understand why the economic embargo of Cuba continued. Particularly since the United States appears to be the only country that is observing the embargo. Spain and other European countries actively trade with Cuba. Mexico and Canada are also active in developing commercial ties with Cuba. All other countries’ citizens can travel freely to Cuba.

Finally, I told her that the Congress should enact the bill sponsored by Barney Frank of Massachusetts that would legalize and tax Internet gambling. Somehow the UK seems to get along just fine with such legalization. The government is starved for income, but ignores a significant source of revenue by pretending that outlawing Internet gambling will somehow prevent people from gambling. Anyone visiting Indian, Nevada, New Jersey, or Pennsylvania casinos will find that the places are not exactly empty.

The Congresswoman agreed with my first two points and ignored the last one and did not comment on it. Two out of three was not bad.

Today, it was interesting to note the Twitter storm that is going on involving Dictator Raul Castro’s daughter, Mariela, and the cyberspace world of Twitter. Mariela is known as the sexologist in chief of Havana. She has made recent visits to Amsterdam’s red light district and has determined that Havana has to class-up its brothels. Here are three pictures of a new one, the Malecon de Amsterdam:

Mariela is new to Twitter. In addition to promoting prostitution, she has stood up for the rights of homosexuals and transgenders. Yoani Sanchez, writer of my previous blog, tweeted, asking Mariela when it would be legal for others to come out of their closets and speak freely. Mariela shot back a tweet asking if Sanchez and other tweeters who were critical of the Cuban government were being paid by their employers in the US to mount a cyber campaign to topple the Castro government. Mariela wrote, "Despicable parasites. Did you get orders from your employers to reply to me as one, and with the same pre-set script? Be creative."

 I suppose, she is not used to criticism.

I note that the readership of this blog is increasing with over 5300 page views since it started. What is particularly interesting to me is that many of the readers are from Germany. I have not received any e-mails or posted comments from there, so I wonder who are you? Are you German readers originally from Cuba, or are you just interested in Cuban matters in general? If you have a moment, I’d love to hear from you. Similarly, there are quite a number of page views taking place from computers in the UK. I’d love to hear from you, too.


Monday, November 7, 2011

Yoani Sánchez, Cuban Blogger, Describes the Lack of Freedom in Cuba

Yesterday, Yoani Sanchez, a blogger living in Cuba posted about a recent experience she and her husband Reinaldo had when they tried to board a sightseeing boat to see Cienfuegos Bay. They purchased tickets, but were denied access. Why? Because they were Cuban nationals and the revolution does not allow the workers the same freedom as visitors. I hope the words of this brave woman are illuminating.
To me it is remarkable that in a country where censorship rules, there is a small army of bloggers who are able to get their words out to the world. Here is her post, taken from, with permission, in its entirety:

Reinaldo took the side of yes and he insisted and insisted. I, however, am of the generation that thinks ahead of time that nearly everything is prohibited, that they are going to scold me at every step and prevent me from doing anything that occurs to me. So this time the matrimonial discussion was intense. He claimed that we could board that boat to see Cienfuegos Bay from the swells of its waves; while the little voice inside me shouted that so much enjoyment could not be available to nationals. For a couple of hours I believed in my husband’s optimism and like a tropical Candide he got away with it. We went to the marina office near the Jagua Hotel and an official there sold us two tickets for the coveted boat trip. We never hid our breakneck Havana accents, nor tried to pass ourselves off as foreigners, but no one asked for identification. We felt there were already a pair of seats on board the yacht “Flipper” with our names on them and the murmur of skepticism faded in my head.

We arrived at the dock half an hour early. The sun-burnt tourists began to board the boat. Rei and I reached the spectacular corner from where we took photos of that bay as big as an ocean. The dream lasted barely five minutes. When the captain heard us talking he asked if we were Cubans. He shortly informed us that we had to go ashore, “boat rides are prohibited for nationals at every marina in the country.” Rage, anger, the shame of carrying a blue passport makes us guilty — in advance — in the eyes of the law of our own nation. A feeling of deception on comparing the official discourse of a supposed opening with the reality of exclusion and stigma. We wanted to cause a scene and cling to the railing, to compel them to remove us by force, but what would it have served? My husband dusted off his French and told the group of Europeans what was happening. They looked surprised, whispered among themselves. None of them disembarked — in solidarity with the excluded — from that coastal tour of our island; none of them found it intolerable to enjoy something that is forbidden to us, its natives.

The Flipper sailed, the wake of apartheid was visible for a few seconds and then was lost among the dark waters of the bay. The face of the musician Benny Moré on a nearby poster seemed to have exchanged its smile for a sneer. On one side of his chin was the famous refrain from one of his songs: “Cienfuegos is the city I like best…” We left that place. Reinaldo defeated in his illusion and I sad that my suspicions had triumphed. We waked along the road to Punta Gorda while an idea took shape in our minds: “If Benny had lived in these times, he too would have been thrown off — like a mangy dog — from that yacht.”

Friday, November 4, 2011


The Jewish Community Relations Council of Washington, D.C. is calling for a weekly vigil outside the Cuban Interest Section in the nation’s capital. At first blush, it would seem that the White House would be a better venue for such a vigil. What do you think? Here is the press release from JCRC that was released yesterday:


Washington, DC – December 3, 2011 marks the two-year anniversary of the incarceration of American Alan Gross in Cuba. Beginning next Monday, November 7th, the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington (IFC) and The Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Greater Washington will hold a series of Monday scheduled vigils outside the Cuban Interests Section (2630 16th Street NW, DC) to call for the immediate and unconditional release of Alan Gross on humanitarian grounds. Local organizations and houses of worship will “adopt” a Monday to organize a vigil. The local Jewish Federation of Greater Washington (JFGW) is proud to “adopt” the first vigil for Alan Gross’ freedom on Monday, November 7th, at 12:00 pm. Stuart Kurlander, President of JFGW said, “We are proud to be the first local organization to sponsor the vigil and remain steadfast in our determination to see Alan come home.”

Alan Gross, a resident of the DC area, was arrested in Cuba in December 2009 while working with the small Jewish community there to improve their internet access and create an intranet for them. He languished in prison for over a year until he was finally charged by the Cuban government, subsequently convicted by a Cuban court of crimes against the state, and sentenced to 15 years in prison. Alan’s appeal to the Cuban Supreme Court was denied, exhausting all of his legal options. His only remaining avenue is commutation of his sentence by President Raúl Castro.

Revered Clark Lobenstine, Executive Director of the IFC, said “This cause is important to the interfaith community and all people of conscience. Alan has been a humanitarian and development worker for over 25 years, and devoting his life to fulfilling the Jewish value of repairing the world, a value that all people of faith admire. It is time for the Cuban leadership to let him come home.” President Harvey Reiter said, “Alan has devoted many years of his life not only to bettering the lives of those in the Jewish community and but to improving lives in the broader global community of which we are all a part. We, his friends and neighbors, must stand up for Alan and advocate for him to come home now.”

Reacting to today’s announcement, Alan’s wife, Judy Gross said, “On behalf of Alan and our family, I want to thank the IFC, JCRC, and JFGW for their continued efforts. We are touched by the ongoing support we have received from friends and strangers alike, and we have come to rely upon it to keep our hope alive that our family will soon be reunited.”

For more information, contact Adina Remz at or 301-348-7361.

The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington (JCRC) is the public affairs and community relations arm of the Jewish community representing over 100 Jewish organizations and synagogues throughout DC, Maryland, and Virginia. The JCRC focuses on government relations, Israel advocacy, inter-group relations, and social justice.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The US Embargo Creates Still Another Opportunity for Iran in Cuba

One unintended consequence of the US Embargo of Cuba appears to be creating an opportunity for Iran to make its influence felt less than 100 miles from Florida. According to newspaper accounts printed in Teheran today, Iran has just issued a 500 million Euro credit line to Cuba for the reconstruction of Cuba’s energy network. I wonder how many jobs that this is creating in Iran, which inevitably will be supplying equipment to Cuba for this infrastructure improvement.

There is something very disconcerting seeing pictures like this. We appear to be continually shooting ourselves in our collective feet and then wondering why our feet hurt so badly. It is time to re-examine the US embargo of Cuba that only the US is observing. Even Canada, our closest ally, does business in Cuba on a daily basis. What has to happen before Congress takes the time to hold hearings on this subject?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


For the twentieth year in a row the United Nations General Assembly voted last week to condemn the US embargo of Cuba. Only the US and Israel voted against the resolution. Palau, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands abstained in the 186-2 vote. I know that the embargo was established with hopes that it might bring change to the political repression of the Cuban communist regime. After 48 years, if it hasn’t worked and the rest of the world all feels different, save Israel whose citizens are free to visit and invest there, I wonder what purpose is being served by maintaining the US embargo.

I know that this is a hot item for the Cuban immigrant community in the US and I am anxious to hear from any member of that community who believes that the embargo should remain in effect and why. Please write and share your thoughts about the embargo.

Today, I finished the third draft of The Death of The White Rose. Writing a book is like making cheese. After you’re done, you have to let it sit to ripen. Hopefully, when I read it from beginning to end after letting it rest it will be a story that is entertaining. Of course, sometimes one can make a cheese that stinks to high heaven when it’s ripe. I suppose that the readers will ultimately make that decision. I hope they’re kind.