National Voter Registration Day

Today is National Voter Registration Day. If you are not registered to vote please do so immediately. The ongoing systemic assault against the Voting Rights Act and the continued voting discrimination Latinos confront underscores the importance of National Voter Registration Day. Por favor please register to vote!

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Tue, September 23 2014 » Latinos in the United States » Comments Off

New Book: “The Cuban Economy under a Magnifying Glass”

Happy to announce a new book in honor of Oscar Espinosa Chepe, a well respected Cuban economist.

The Cuban Economy under a Magnifying Glass

Essays in Honor of Oscar Espinosa Chepe


Edited by Ernesto Hernández-Catá

 With essays by Oscar Espinosa Chepe, Ed Canler, Ernesto Hernández-Catá, G.B. Hagelberg, Luis Locay, Luis R. Luis, Lorenzo Pérez, Joaquín Pujol, Rafael Romeu, and Jorge Sanguinetty.


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Fri, August 22 2014 » Cuba, latino culture, Law and Society, Legal Development » Comments Off

Views From Cuba on Current Economic Reform and the State of Cuban Governance

(Pix (c) Larry Catá Backer 2014)

Two essays worth reading on popular responses to current economic reforms in Cuba. The first, “Cuba y la teor’ia de la conspiración was written by Harold Cárdenas Lema, Profesor de Historia de la Filosofía de la Universidad de Matanzas, Cuba, and a blogger of Joven Cuba.

The second, “La Reforma del cambio es Intrínsica” by Nelson Páez del Amo as a response to Professor Cádenas Lema’s blog.


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Sat, August 9 2014 » Cuba, Latin America, latino culture, Law and Society » Comments Off

Juan Nicolás Padrón on ¿Mraxismo Conservador?

(Pix (c) Larry Catá Backer 2014)

Juan Nicolás Padrón recently published an essay on CUBARTE, ¿Marxismo Conservador? that is worth considering for its discussion of divisions between liberal and conservative approaches to Cuban Marxism.  The essay follows:


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Thu, August 7 2014 » Cuba, Latin America, Law and Society » Comments Off

On Reform of the Cuban Legislature–Teodoro Yan Gusman Hernández, “El Capitolio, el soberano, la representación y la ley en Cuba


Teodoro Yan Guzman Hernández, a doctor of juridical sciences and a member of the law faculty at the University of Havana has published an interesting essay on the sovereign, law and representation in Cuba, El Capitolio, el soberano, la representación y la ley en Cuba,  in Progreso Semanal. The essay, in Spanish, follows.


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Thu, July 17 2014 » Latinos in the United States » Comments Off

World Cup Fever!

These last few weeks social media has been inundated by the World Cup drama. Many days have gone by and we Mexicans still insist “no era penal” as if that truly mattered in the great scheme of things. Then yesterday after the host’s humiliating defeat before Germany mayhem erupted in the streets of Brazil. Meanwhile, OUR children remain locked up in cages, prisoners of politics. They are political pawns used by both sides to advance their own agendas. Our priorities were enough to make me retreat away from social media. Disheartened by the current state of affairs and sad to see our inability to see them for what they are, innocent children caught in a world of violence, hunger and hate, I cried over my own impotence to help in they way I wish I could. Finally, after much reflection I decided I would do what I can to help them and that is by inviting you the reader to reconsider what is truly important. I want to invite you to consider how would you feel if these children locked up were your own? 

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Wed, July 9 2014 » Latinos in the United States » Comments Off

Assistant Professor Steven Richardson: Justice Americorps

In order to ensure that the large number of migrant children who have been placed in immigration detention receive the opportunity to remain in the United States if they are entitled to legal relief, the President recently announced that AmeriCorps will now supply attorneys and paralegals to organizations who provide legal services to the undocumented. While this information was picked up in the national news media, it has not received the attention that it fully deserves. Many of us assume that anyone in legal proceedings in the United States will be represented by counsel, as is the case with these children, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

The fact of the matter is that immigration proceedings are civil matters, and not criminal ones. Thus there is no right to have counsel provided for you. This usually means that you must pay for an attorney of your own instead of relying on one from the U.S. government. That these children will be assisted by legal professionals through a government program, despite their cases being held in immigration court is essentially unheard of.

Only time will tell how many, if any, of these children will obtain legal relief. In order to avoid removal from the United States, many will probably claim asylum. The conditions of the countries they are leaving are, admittedly, terrible. But whether or not U.S.C.I.S. or the court system will find them eligible to remain will depend largely on the types of persecution they allege and how well constructed their claims for relief are. What is clear is that having legal advice on how to present their claims, and whether or not a cognizable claim is even available to them is a boon that many adults in the immigration detention system will never see.

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Mon, June 16 2014 » A Chance for Every Child, Latinos in the United States » Comments Off

Three Cheers University of Minnesota Students Demanding Diversity, Transformation and Accountability!

This author remains extremely pleased to see the Minneapolis City Council voted unanimously on a measure impacting diversity. The newly implemented measure officially recognizes October 2nd as Indigenous Peoples Day. In other words, they replaced Columbus Day on the civic calendar. In essence not-celebrating what has become recognition of oppressive marginalization of the Indigenous community in the region since time immemorial and long before Senor Columbus. This author however also wishes the University of Minnesota, in the same city of its City Council, would similarly act and promote transformative knowledge rather than remain tethered to colonized educational models of learning. Accordingly, this author is beyond pleased of the recent student demands asserting diversity and transformation in the University’s present educational systems.

The students are promoting greater recognition in their curriculum with yet greater awareness of the broad range communities that exist throughout the State. Their list of five demands are tethered with additional specificity that include for example, “engagement with substantive, instead of cosmetic diversity,” a demand of the University to “redefine its comittment to the “recruitment, retention and graduation of students from historically marginalized communities as a priority,” with a further list of demands including Reporting Discrimination, Harassment & Retaliation. Some demands place “an emphasis on a comprehensive educational experience for all students,” and an additional demand seeks  “faculty members of color that engage in “critical race and ethnic studies scholarship with a social justice emphasis.” The demands are detail specific with an emphasis on University transparency and accountability to reach out to marginalized communities long on the outside of present educational models.

It is beyond heartening to see student insurgency against painful colonized models of learning particularly in today’s political and economic climate in which communities of color are employed as tools to create hostile and harmful legislation such as anti-immigration reform, or promote federal laws that block the labor rights of workers, or fail to promote beneficial economic models for those at the bottom.  This is in stark contrast to the immeasurable benefits those at the top of the economic ladder obtain from tax write-offs, subsidies for agri-industry that seeks to crush alternative models of producing food across the nation, or any measure that fails to take care of the nation’s children that are confronting hunger and other harms from social and economic injustice.   Consider the issue of food stamps for example and how the budget that goes to supporting families in need yielded to the chopping block!  Its unconscionable that in comparing the economic benefits of those at the top with those at the bottom many of the nation’s residents are immeasurably harmed.

So against these social-economic-political disparities, it is beyond heartening to see the resurgence of students once again making demands for not only recognition of the broad span of diversity that comprises residents in the State but also seeking transformation in educational models.  What other venue could promote newer diverse models of learning and transformation but in Universities?  What other models could transform marginalized communities with social justice models?  There is something large at stake this student insurgency brings with attendant payoff to communities in distress.  Against such harms time is of the essence!

Congratulations to those students who dare to question the status quo!

To access the student demands go to  The students are asking for our support and have an Endorse the Demands page to sign onto.

For one version of Indigenous Peoples Day reporting go to:

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Mon, May 5 2014 » Latinos in the United States » Comments Off

Cuba Enacts New Foreign Investment Law

(From Cuba approves foreign investment law, BBC March 29, 2014)

The Cuban state authorities have enacted a new Foreign Investment Law.  This was a long time coming and continues the very slow process of internal economic reform that was commenced with the Guidelines (Lineamientos) adopted several years ago.

The new foreign investment law passed unanimously last Saturday by Cuba’s National Assembly is a key component of President Raul Castro’s program to “update” the economy. Castro deemed the law so important that he called the assembly into special session to pass it rather than wait for the regularly scheduled session in July. The new law offers significantly better terms to foreign investors than the 1995 law it replaces, with the aim of boosting direct foreign investment (FDI) in Cuba’s chronically capital-poor economy.

Though Cuba’s internal sector reforms have garnered more attention, it was a crisis in the external sector that forced Cuba’s leaders to finally confront the need for sweeping change: The economy’s vulnerability to a future rupture in relations with Venezuela stirred memories of the so-called Special Period following the collapse of the Soviet Union and roused Castro’s leadership team to action. (William Leogrande,  Cuba’s New Foreign Investment Law Is a Bet on the FutureThe World Post, April 9, 2014).

The new law opens investment but the parameters still are grounded in government oversight and control.  And the measures are designed to generate as much income for the state as possible.

Meeting in an extraordinary session, Parliament replaced a 1995 foreign investment law that has lured less overseas capital than the island’s Communist leaders had hoped.

The foreign media were not given access to the closed-door meeting, but some details of the new law emerged in official news media in recent days.

The law would cut taxes on profits by about half, to 15 percent, and make companies exempt from paying taxes for the first eight years of operation.

Companies that exploit natural resources, however, could pay taxes as high as 50 percent.

Investment projects wholly financed by foreign capital would be allowed in all sectors except health care and education, which is essentially unheard-of today. (Cuba Moves to Attract More Foreign Investment, AP via New York Times, March 29, 2014).

The text of the bill has not been released but the BBC reports:

The text of the bill has not yet been released but is expected to introduce several incentives to investment when it comes into force in three months’ time.

  • Investors will be lured into joint ventures with the state and Cuban companies
  • The process of approving foreign investment will be speeded up
  • Legal protection will aim to re-inforce investors’ confidence in the Communist government
  • Taxes will be cut to 15% on profits in most areas, although special conditions will be set for investment in natural resources
  • Tax on nickel and fossil fuel investment could be as high as 50%

The reform is not expected to attract investment from the large Cuban community in the US, under the 50 year-old US economic embargo. (Cuba approves foreign investment law, BBC March 29, 2014)

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Mon, April 14 2014 » Cuba, Latin America, Law and Society » Comments Off

Modern day politics of politics

Long gone are the days when WE the people could elect a candidate based not on his opponent’s flaws, but on the candidate’s virtues. Politics and honor appear to no longer go hand and hand. These days we hear more about everything that is wrong with the other person than what is right with our candidate. To make matters worse money has now become the most important player on the board.
Yesterday’s SCOTUS decision further erodes on the possibilities of better, cleaner elections. Now the winner will not be the best man or woman for the job, but the person with the largest bank account. I am troubled and saddened by the direction in which this country continues traveling. Our leadership appears to have abandoned common sense and forgotten that WE the people placed them where they are so they could serve the nation, not their own interest.
For once I hope that I am being a pessimist and that I am wrong, but I fear that those steering the wheel have long forgotten about the rest of the nation.

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Fri, April 4 2014 » Latinos in the United States » 2 Comments