Sunday, November 15, 2015

U.S. Embassy in Havana spends $5.7 million

U.S. Embassy expenses in Cuba
The U.S. Embassy in Havana earlier this month reported spending $15,085 for hotel rooms in Cuba. Records didn't list the names of the hotels.
The U.S. Embassy - and former U.S. Interests Section - has reported spending some $5,714,788 in Cuba since 2010. More than 17 percent went for "miscellaneous items." Named items included everything from screws and grinding machines to gardening tools and gymnastic or recreational equipment.

FUEL OILS$1,206,315

Cuban migration crisis worsens

ACABO DE RECIBIR ESTE VIDEO: Cubanos tumban la cerca de la fro...
!!ULTIMA HORA!!..... ACABO DE RECIBIR ESTE VIDEO: Cubanos tumban la cerca de la frontera de Nicaragua y cruzan!!!!!
Posted by Mario Vallejo on Sunday, November 15, 2015
Nicaragua on Sunday accused Costa Rica of provoking a humanitarian crisis when it let Cuban migrants cross into Nicaragua. See statement in Spanish below:
El Gobierno de Reconciliación y Unidad Nacional de la República de Nicaragua denuncia ante la Comunidad Internacional, los graves hechos que han significado violación de nuestro Territorio Nacional e ingreso forzoso de miles de inmigrantes irregulares de nacionalidad cubana.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Cruz family tales: "Inspirational fire" or hot air?

Rafael Cruz
According to the New York Times, Sen. Ted Cruz and his father, Rafael, have embellished stories about their family's experiences in Cuba. The paper reported:
MATANZAS, Cuba — Since he was a boy, Senator Ted Cruz has said, all he wanted to do was “fight for liberty” — a yearning that he says was first kindled when he heard his father’s tales of fighting as a rebel leader in Cuba in the 1950s, throwing firebombs, running guns and surviving torture.
Those stories, retold by Mr. Cruz and by his father, Rafael, have hooked Republican audiences and given emotional power to the message that the Texas senator is pushing as a contender for the party’s presidential nomination...
But the family narrative that has provided such inspirational fire to Mr. Cruz’s speeches, debate performances and a recently published memoir is, his father’s Cuban contemporaries say, an embroidered one.
I dug into the same story during the summer of 2013. I, too, wondered whether Rafael Cruz was exaggerating his exploits. Parts of his version of events seemed implausible. I reported the story for about a week, but couldn't nail it down.
Times reporter Jason Horowitz managed to track down some former friends of Rafael Cruz. They told Horowitz that Cruz had belonged to the youth brigade of the 26th of July Movement in Matanzas, but did little but march in protests.
Defenders of the Cruz family were quick to attack the Times for its expose (See "New York Times Partners with Castro Regime to 'Smear' Ted Cruz").
I wasn't out to smear anyone. I just thought it would be an interesting story. I found a man who had gone to school with Rafael Cruz in Texas. He remembered Cruz as a pro-Castro activist who talked about smuggling guns to Cuba for the revolution.
I went to Cuba to try to find others who knew Cruz, but didn't have much luck and dropped the story.

I did locate two Havana residents who remembered Rafael Cruz's father, Rafael Bienvenido Cruz y Díaz.
Gladis Susen, who was 75 when I interviewed her in 2013, said Bienvenido Cruz managed an appliances store near El Capitolio in Havana.
Bienvenido Cruz "was a beautiful person," Susen said. She said she bought a television and a sewing machine from him.
Customers paid him in cash and if they didn't have enough money, he offered them credit.
Susen said she last saw Bienvenido Cruz in 1960. He was visiting the sanctuary at El Cobre near Santiago de Cuba.
Cruz's former appliance store near El Capitolio is now a cafeteria, above.
Another Havana resident who knew Bienvenido Cruz told me the elder Cruz also ran a store along Calle Neptuno. That location was in ruins when I saw it in 2013.
While trying to learn more about the Cruz family history in Cuba, I hit a wall. I had more questions than answers. Did Rafael Cruz move from Matanzas to Havana at some point? How important was Havana to the family's story? Was the family wealthier than Rafael Cruz has let on? How often did family members return to Cuba after the revolution? When did the family turn against Castro?
Calle Neptuno appliance store in ruins
I wanted to hear Rafael Cruz tell the story, so I went to an event in Tampa where he was speaking. I introduced myself to him in a hotel lobby before the event. I told him I had been to Cuba and had talked to people who knew his father. I said I had photos and video that he might be interested in seeing. He said he had to rush to a meeting, but I thought he'd see me afterward. I mean, wouldn't you be curious about your homeland, your old neighborhood?
Apparently not.
When I approached Cruz again, I heard him tell an assistant something like, "No, I am not talking to that guy."
I got the impression that if I had been someone who knew nothing about Cuba, he would have gladly shared his exploits. But I had been to the island. I had talked to people who knew his father. And, I suspect, that was a red flag for Rafael Cruz.

Cubana: Antiques in the air?

A Cubana Tu-204 at the MAKS Airshow in 2007. Credit: Wikipedia
More American tourists are traveling to Cuba these days and some are climbing aboard Cubana de Aviation flights.
Using data from, the Motley Fool listed the fleet age of top 15 airlines in the U.S.  I added Cubana to the list, below, so you can see how it compares to U.S.-based airlines.
  1. Virgin America -- 5 years
  2. Spirit Airlines -- 5.2 years
  3. Republic Airways -- 5.5 years
  4. JetBlue -- 7.4 years
  5. Frontier Airlines -- 8.2 years
  6. Alaska Air -- 9.6 years
  7. Hawaiian Airlines -- 10 years
  8. AirTran -- 10.9 years
  9. SkyWest -- 11 years
  10. Southwest Airlines -- 11.7 years
  11. US Airways -- 12.1 years
  12. American Airlines -- 13.6 years
  13. United Airlines -- 13.6 years
  14. Cubana -- 15.8 years
  15. Delta Air Lines -- 16.9 years
  16. Allegiant Travel -- 22 years
These are estimates based on data reported to and other websites that track information on aircraft.
Some of the information that is reported to aircraft tracking sites isn't accurate.