Month: April 2019

Eagle ‘hot spot’ in Virginia could be replaced by a golf course and homes

But if the corporation that owns the land where they live has its way, moving day will come soon.

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Richmond County recently approved a request from Diatomite Corporation of America to rezone a large section of the cliffs for a sprawling resort with pricey housing and an 18-hole golf course atop a habitat used by tens of thousands of eagles each year.

The proposed development on the rezoned land has set off a heated skirmish in sleepy Richmond County, which federal troops occupied during the Civil War. It also is known as the place where native tribes fired arrows at explorer John Smith as he sailed through in 1608. In the fall, the county board will consider whether to allow construction.

Opponents such as the Chesapeake Conservancy and Friends of the Rappahannock say wiping away hundreds of trees will destroy the scenery that Smith viewed before English settlers arrived.

Even worse, they say, a resort that would take years to build could permanently damage one of the most important gathering places for eagles in the Chesapeake Bay region. Hundreds of eagles live there, and as many as 20,000 visit to feed on shad, herring and blue catfish as they migrate between Canada and South America. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which operates the Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge, also has expressed concern.

“This is a global hot spot,” said Bryan Watts, director of the Center for Conservation Biology, a research group that studies nature and birds at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg. “There’s no other place on the continent like the Chesapeake Bay for eagles, and this place is one of the most important places in the bay. It’s an eagle magnet.”

But a backer of the project said the conservationists are part of “a cabal of interests,” including property owners along the Rappahannock, who are using environmental issues as a wedge to keep the remote and quiet landscape to themselves. He described their opposition as a NIMBY movement — “not in my back yard.”

“You feel like you’re being shot at all the time,” said Robert Smith, an attorney for Diatomite, which is based in Miami, according to court records. The land that conservationists call historic and pristine was once denuded for resources to fight the Civil War, Smith said. Now, the eagle population, which has rebounded nationwide after being classified as endangered, is so plentiful that they appear to be everywhere in Virginia, he said.

“It’s a false assumption that man and nature can’t co-exist,” Smith said.

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The bald eagle is one of the biggest success stories of the Endangered Species Act. America’s national symbol was nearly eliminated by destruction of its habitat, food contamination, illegal shooting and pesticide use in the 1970s. But the population recovered with protection and was removed from the endangered list eight years ago.

On a recent Tuesday, about two dozen brown-feathered eagles,1-year-old and younger, playfully screeched and swooped at each other over the Rappahannock. Nearby, an adult bald eagle glided over still water and snatched a fish.

They inhabit Fones Cliffs, where bluffs a 1,000 feet high overlook a wide section of the river. The Fish and Wildlife Service attempted to purchase the land in recent years but failed. And a budget request by President Barack Obama this year that would have provided funds to conserve a major portion of the property was denied by Congress, said Joel Dunn, president and chief executive of the Chesapeake Conservancy, who helped lobby for that effort.

Diatomite bought the land in the 1950s for a chalky sedimentary rock of the same name. The rock was heralded for its many uses — from an additive in cement to a kitchen grease cleanser to a purifier of beer. But cheaper substitutes have lessened its value.

Three years ago the company envisioned another use for the property. The land would be developed for a 116-room lodge, guest cottages and a 150-seat restaurant, as well as 718 homes that would cost between $300,000 and $500,000, said Morgan Quicke, Richmond County’s administrator.

“This is certainly much bigger than anything than we’ve ever been a part of,” Quicke said.

Diatomite promised the county planning board that the development will bring new jobs and added tax revenue to a county still recovering from the 2008 recession.

In a nod to county history, Smith said in a February presentation that “monuments will be erected to recognize John Smith and the first English settlers.” An 18-hole championship golf course would tie everything together.

And Smith, the attorney, said that there would be millions of dollars in additional tax revenue. Conservation easements that protect virgin land from development now yield $5 per acre in taxes for the county. “Our property . . . will generate approximately $9,000 per acre,” Smith said.

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But will buyers flock to what Quicke described as “a very rural part of the county . . . big farms, big land owners, big tracts of land, narrow roads” 35 miles from the small city of Fredericksburg? The largest road, two-lane Route 624 is so sparsely traveled that workers didn’t bother to paint a yellow stripe.

Most homes in the area cost no more than $150,000, and they would be dwarfed by the 3,500-square-foot houses in the proposed project.

The county board of supervisors will start considering the proposal in the fall, a process that could take a year. Its attraction to buyers is “something that needs to be determined as we go through the process,” Quicke said.

Diatomite says there’s a market, but what the county “might consider is maybe getting a second opinion.”

Hill Wellford, whose 2,200-acre property sits along the river, said there’s no reason to think that people will flock to the area after eagles are chased from Fones Cliffs. Wellford joined one of several conservation groups opposed to the project and wrote a letter to the planning board to denounce the project.

“The vision is not to be against development, but to focus on how to protect essential natural features, spawning crabs and bird habitat,” said Wellford, a retired lawyer.

Wellford said that 10 active eagle nests are on his land. Through binoculars, he recently watched two nesting, one with a lifeless fish in its talons. “You realize you’re seeing something special.”

But Smith argues that Virginia’s eagle population has grown to a saturation point, so large that younger birds cannot find unoccupied territory. Citing Watts and other bird experts, Smith said eagles “will nest at airports, on a chimney, at nuclear power plants.”

Yet Watts, with the Center for Conservation Biology, said he is strongly opposed to development.

Watts said he has debunked past arguments by conservationists who sought to stop developments by using the destruction of the eagle habitat as an excuse. But “this is different than those. That area is a nexus for populations across the coast. There’s a much larger public good at Fones Cliffs that trumps local landowner rights.”

Iran nuclear deal seen cutting oil prices by $15 a barrel

Iran and world powers reached a preliminary agreement on April 2 that set the parameters for further negotiations needed to complete an agreement by a June 30 deadline.

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The re-entry of more Iranian barrels could cut the agency’s price projection by $5 to $15 a barrel, the EIA said Tuesday.

“If a comprehensive agreement that results in the lifting of Iranian oil-related sanctions is reached, then this could significantly change the STEO forecast for oil supply, demand, and prices,” the EIA said in the report. “However, the timing and order that sanctions could be suspended is uncertain.”

Iran’s full return to the oil market risks delaying a recovery in prices, which have slumped by almost half since last year amid a supply glut. Iran could boost output by at least 700,000 barrels a day by the end of 2016, the EIA said. The nation produced 2.85 million barrels a day in March, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The EIA said in the report that West Texas Intermediate crude, the U.S. benchmark, will average $70 next year and Brent will be at $75.03. The forecasts don’t take additional Iranian supply into consideration.

The additional output from Iran could lead to an annual average growth of about 500,000 barrels a day in global inventories in 2016, stressing storage capacity and pressuring prices, the EIA said. The agency projected that global stockpiles will grow by 100,000 barrels a day in 2016, without considering additional supplies from Iran.

Iran holds at least 30 million barrels in storage and could move oil out of storage more quickly during the second half of 2015 “in preparation to increase production if discussions on sanctions show progress,” the EIA said.

“As a result, the global market may see incremental increases in Iran’s crude oil exports before seeing a substantial increase to Iran’s production,” the agency said.

The pace and volume at which more Iranian oil can re-enter the market are uncertain, the EIA said.

The key to making a sheet pan meal work; recipe

Since the dawn of time, my working lunch has been yogurt, fruit, raisins and sunflower seeds.

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But for the past few weeks, a photo team has been working in my house, shooting the images for my next book, “Dorie’s Cookies.” Every day it’s lunch for the crew – and lunch isn’t apple and yogurt. One day we had my Farmers Market Frittata; on another, Claudia Ficca, the food stylist, made salmon burgers. We’ve had baked rigatoni, quinoa salad, stuffed peppers and lots of green salads with chunky vegetables and tomatoes from the garden.

And then one day, when time was short, we had this dish: chicken, apples, onions and kale, cooked on a sheet pan and ready in a smidge over half an hour. We declared it a triumph, and it has become one of my go-to dishes.

The expression “sheet pan dinner” is trendy now, but really the one-sheet meal is not all that different from a one-pot meal, except that it’s so much faster. The essence of a sheet pan meal is that it is, indeed, a meal, and the key to making the meal great is that everything you put on the pan has to cook in the same amount of time as its neighbors. It’s a bit of a juggling act to find foods that go together and have the same cooking times, but you can usually make the dish work by paying attention to how you cut things. Chunks cook faster than wholes; chicken and fish cook faster than beef, depending on how you slice, dice and chop; and seafood cooks super fast.

For this dish, I chose bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts – big ones; the two halves weighed in at about 1 1/2 pounds total – and then I hacked them in half crosswise. Because I’m a sucker for meat and fruit, and because it’s the season, I included cored and halved apples. There are red onion wedges alongside the apples, and kale hides under the chicken; make sure to tuck in as much of the kale as you can, so that only a few frilly edges peek out and singe under the high heat. But what really makes the dish is the seasoning, a mix of vaguely Moroccan and kind of Middle Eastern spices.

The main spice is ras el hanout, a North African blend that’s rarely the same from one spice mixer to another. It typically includes sweet spices, such as cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and allspice; musky ones, like cumin; bright notes of ginger, galangal, coriander and pepper; and some floral notes, often from rosebuds. It’s exotic, and it’s made a touch more exotic and more citrusy when you add ground sumac to it. You can substitute garam masala for the ras el hanout and lemon zest, and a tad of additional salt for the sumac, and the dish will still be terrific.

You can also change the spices completely, of course, and you can add a head of garlic, cut in half (or swap it for the onions), use pears instead of apples, or include wedges of sweet potato. Don’t skip the fresh lemon juice on the finished dish. The juice adds vividness to the spices and perks up the roasted onions and kale.

After having this quick, hearty, satisfying dish for lunch, it’ll be hard to go back to a steady diet of apple and yogurt – and maybe I won’t.

Dorie Greenspan’s Sheet Pan Chicken With Apples and Kale

4 servings

Ras el hanout is a complex spice blend with North African roots; you can make your own or buy it.

It will help to have an instant-read thermometer (for the chicken).

MAKE AHEAD: The spice mixture can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to several weeks.

Ras el hanout and ground sumac are available at Whole Foods Markets and at Mediterranean markets.

From cookbook author Dorie Greenspan.

Ingredients

About 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for the baking sheet

1 tablespoon homemade or store-bought ras el hanout (may substitute garam masala; see headnote and find the recipe online at washingtonpost杭州桑拿会所,/recipes)

1 teaspoon ground sumac (may substitute the finely grated zest of 1 lemon plus a pinch of salt)

3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more as needed

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed

Pinch ground harissa or ground cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon honey

2 large apples, preferably Honeycrisp

2 lemons, one of them cut in half

1 medium red onion, trimmed and cut into quarters

About 8 large leaves curly kale, stemmed and torn into large pieces

2 skin-on, bone-in chicken breast halves (about 1 1/2 pounds total), cut in half (may substitute 4 large bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs)

Steps

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil or a double layer of parchment paper; oil the surface.

To make the spice mixture, stir together the ras el hanout, sumac, the 3/4 teaspoon of salt, the 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper and the harissa or cayenne pepper, then stir in the honey and 1 teaspoon of the oil.

Peel the apples, core them and cut them in half horizontally. Squeeze the juice from a lemon half over the apples and rub it in (to keep the fruit from discoloring). Arrange the apple halves cut side up on the baking sheet, using one half of the pan for the apples and the onion, and spoon some of the spice mixture on top of each apple (about 1/3 of the mixture, total, spooned around the top of each). Put the onion quarters on the sheet, then drizzle a teaspoon or two of the oil over them and season each lightly with salt and a little black pepper.

Season the torn kale with a little salt, rubbing the salt into the leaves, and then toss with 1 teaspoon or so of the oil. (They will wilt a bit.) Arrange the kale on the other half of the baking sheet.

Cut each chicken breast crosswise in half (for a total of 4 pieces; if you’re using thighs, leave them whole). Rub the remaining spice mixture into the chicken pieces, on all sides. Place the chicken on top of the kale, tucking the leaves of kale in so that most of them are covered by the chicken. Squeeze the juice from the remaining half of the lemon over the chicken. Cut the squeezed lemon halves in half and nestle those quarters among the chicken pieces.

Roast (middle rack) for 25 to 35 minutes or until a thermometer stuck into the thickest part of the chicken registers 165 degrees.

Cut the remaining lemon into quarters for serving, for squeezing over the chicken, apples and kale.

Divide the chicken, apples, kale and onion quarters among individual plates; serve right away.

Nutrition | Per serving: 360 calories, 30 g protein, 21 g carbohydrates, 18 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 85 mg cholesterol, 500 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber, 14 g sugar

Greenspan is the award-winning author of 11 cookbooks, the most recent of which is “Baking Chez Moi.” Read more on her Web site, doriegreenspan杭州桑拿会所,, and follow her on Twitter: @doriegreenspan.

Inversions are often last stop for companies avoiding U.S. taxes

Many companies invert after years of avoiding billions of dollars in income taxes by routing profits offshore that should have been reported in the United States, according to Internal Revenue Service filings in tax court.

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Shifting their legal address abroad makes it easier for them to tap the cash without paying taxes on it.

Five companies involved in inversions — Medtronic, Covidien, Eaton, Abbott Laboratories and Ingersoll-Rand — are in court battles with the IRS over income credited to units in low-tax jurisdictions such as the Cayman Islands, Luxembourg and Bermuda. Those companies collectively hold about $67 billion in offshore earnings, barely taxed anywhere in the world.

The cases raise questions about one of the most common justifications companies offer for inverting — that they should be able to use their foreign profits without paying onerous U.S. taxes. A substantial share of that income isn’t really foreign but was earned in the United States, according to the IRS.

Companies that assert they must move overseas to use offshore cash are “hypocritical,” said Gabriel Zucman, an economics professor at the London School of Economics. “They’ve chosen to book those profits in these countries with extremely low tax rates or zero tax rates. The U.S. does not force them to book profits in Bermuda or the Caymans.”

The companies say that their taxable profits are allocated to subsidiaries around the world in accordance with the law. Most of their overseas profits are not being disputed by the IRS. Moreover, many companies that aren’t inverted also avoid U.S. income taxes by shifting profits offshore.

Unlike most countries, the U.S. has a global taxation system. American companies owe income taxes at a rate of 35 percent on their profits worldwide. Because they can defer the bill on profits attributed to overseas operations until the money is repatriated, companies push income out of the U.S. through “transfer pricing.” In other words, corporate subsidiaries pay each other for the use of valuable patents, brand names or other goods.

Such profit shifting costs the U.S. and Europe more than $100 billion annually, according to two recent academic estimates. It also means that U.S. companies are sitting on at least $2 trillion held by foreign subsidiaries.

“The real game is not shifting headquarters or profits to Ireland” through inversions, said Zucman. “The real game is seeking close to zero tax rates by moving profits to places like Bermuda or Caymans and so on. This has been done on a massive scale by U.S. firms.”

The share of U.S. multinationals’ profits attributed to a handful of tax-friendly locales — including Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Ireland and Grand Cayman — has more than doubled over 20 years, from 25 percent in 1993 to 56 percent in 2013, U.S. Commerce Department data compiled by Zucman show. In some cases, the share of profits that companies attribute to those countries is ten times greater than the portion of actual workers there, the Congressional Research Service found last year.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a group funded by governments around the world, is attempting to restrict profit shifting. Its initiatives could affect U.S. companies including Google, Apple and Starbucks.

“Transfer pricing is the elephant in the room,” said Stephen E. Shay, former deputy assistant secretary for international tax affairs at the Obama Treasury Department, now a professor at Harvard Law School. “Transfer pricing is what makes inversions even more valuable.”

If American companies want to use their offshore cash in the U.S., they must pay corporate income tax at a rate of 35 percent, with a credit for taxes paid abroad. While some companies over the years have figured out ways to bring home the cash and avoid that bill without taking a foreign headquarters, they are increasingly inverting abroad to save those taxes. The technique often requires merging with a smaller foreign company, and then choosing an address in a tax-friendly jurisdiction like Ireland or the Netherlands. Sometimes the merger partner is a company that itself inverted from the U.S. Top executives typically stay in the U.S. and the overseas offices often employ just a handful of people.

In the past three years, 14 U.S. companies have shifted their legal addresses to tax-friendlier jurisdictions abroad. Seven more are pursuing similar plans, including Burger King Worldwide and semiconductor maker Applied Materials. The Treasury Department introduced rules in September to restrict the benefit of inversions.

Medtronic, a Minneapolis-based medical device maker, cited its untapped overseas cash when it announced plans in June to change its legal address to Ireland through a merger with Covidien.

“This is not about lowering tax rates,” Medtronic Chief Executive Officer Omar Ishrak said at the time. “What we will have is access to the cash generated outside the U.S.”

Yet at least $1 billion of Medtronic’s foreign profits never should have been there, the IRS alleges in U.S. Tax Court filings. Instead, those profits were improperly attributed to a mailbox in a Grand Cayman office building to avoid taxes, according to the government. The IRS has called the company’s profit shifting “absurd,” characterizing it as “a transfer to a shell corporation domiciled in a tax haven which had little or no operations there.”

Medtronic attorneys have said in court filings that the IRS’s attempt to tax those profits is “arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable.” Fernando Vivanco, a company spokesman, said Medtronic “pays all applicable foreign taxes on its foreign earnings in the countries in which it conducts business.”

Medtronic’s prospective merger partner Covidien, already an inverted company, is in a separate IRS dispute. The government alleges that Covidien shifted too much profits to a subsidiary in Luxembourg through an intra-company loan. Covidien, run from the Boston suburb of Mansfield, was once part of Tyco International, which inverted into Bermuda in 1997. Covidien was spun off from Tyco in 2007 and later moved its legal address to Ireland.

Covidien’s attorneys have called the IRS position “erroneous,” court filings show.

Covidien is one of several inverted companies to route profits to Luxembourg, according to court filings and recent disclosures by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. The funnelling of profits to the tiny nation prompted an effort by the European Parliament to censure European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, formerly the Luxembourg prime minister for almost 19 years. The censure vote failed last month.

Industrial manufacturer Eaton shifted its legal address from Cleveland to Ireland in 2012. One result: the company reported a tax rate of just 0.6 percent last year, down from 12.9 percent in 2011.

For several years, an Eaton unit in the Cayman Islands reported returns on capital of more than 400 percent, according to an IRS filing. The agency called that “unjustified,” and is seeking about $127 million in back taxes.

Eaton said the analysis by IRS economists challenging its offshore arrangement is “without foundation in fact or law.”

While the company employs 103,000 people around the world, it expects to have “just less than 100 employees” in its corporate office in Dublin, said Scott Schroeder, a spokesman.

Ingersoll-Rand is also in a court dispute with the IRS. The interest paid on intra-company loans enabled Ingersoll-Rand to shift profits out of the U.S. and into subsidiaries in Luxembourg and Barbados, court filings show. (The company, which operates out of North Carolina, has shifted its legal address first to Bermuda and then to Ireland.) The IRS is seeking almost $1 billion in back taxes, interest and penalties from the company, according to securities disclosures.

Ingersoll-Rand has taken advantage of gaps in the law and received hundreds of millions of dollars from the U.S. government despite a federal ban on awarding contracts to inverted companies. Misty Zelent, an Ingersoll-Rand spokeswoman, declined to comment.

Then there is Abbott Laboratories. The company plans to shed a chunk of its overseas generic drug business and merge it with pharmaceutical company Mylan Inc. Abbott will retain a stake in the combined business, which would be incorporated in the Netherlands. Mylan will continue to be run from the Pittsburgh suburbs.

Abbott has used a tax shelter known as a “Double Irish” to move at least $3 billion in profits to Bermuda, records show. That technique is being phased out by the Irish government after international pressure.

In the U.S., Abbott is in a $312 million IRS dispute over moving valuable patent rights to Ireland. Abbott is in settlement discussions with the IRS, said Scott Stoffel, a company spokesman.

Abbott is sitting on $24 billion in offshore earnings on which it has paid no U.S. taxes, securities filings show. If the deal is completed, the portion of that cash that ends up with Mylan will likely never be taxed in the U.S. at all.

“Everyone seems apologetic about inversions — I’m not,” Abbott CEO Miles White said in a July conference call. “It’s about access to your capital that already had its taxes paid and not so much about ducking U.S. tax, as people seem to think.”

_ With assistance from Zachary R. Mider in New York.

Cuban artist pushes boundary between art and politics, and pays a price

From a young age, Bruguera, 46, won international acclaim as an irreverent, barrier-breaking performance artist.

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She smeared the floor with pig’s blood to make a point about sexual assault. She stripped naked and ate dirt in tribute to Cuba’s vanished indigenous tribes. During one performance in Colombia, she circulated trays of cocaine — real cocaine — among the audience, inviting viewers to try it. They did.

By comparison, what landed Bruguera in trouble with communist authorities seems rather mild. Soon after the Dec. 17 announcement that the United States and Cuba would restore diplomatic relations, Bruguera flew to the island from Europe and tried to organize a free-speech forum. The transgressive part was the location: Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution.

It was meant as a challenge, she said — a test to see how much Cuba was willing to change as part of its new relationship with the United States.

The event never happened. Before she could reach the plaza, Bruguera was arrested, along with more than two dozen supporters. Since then she has been detained four more times and has been barred from leaving the country while facing charges of disturbing the public order, resisting arrest and inciting criminal behavior.

Cuban authorities “are trying to depict me as a rebel without a cause,” Bruguera said in an interview, her arms still bruised after being hauled off by police with members of the Ladies in White opposition group after their weekly protest march.

“I am a rebel, but one with a cause, and it’s one that they have given me: the fight on behalf of freedom of expression and against political hatred,” she said.

Cuban authorities do not see Bruguera as a causeless rebel so much as a calculated provocateur, backed by anti-Castro forces abroad, who is swooping in for a political stunt. Soon after she arrived in late December, Bruguera said, security officials took her aside to issue a warning about her plans for the open-mike event.

“They told me: ‘You think you’re coming back here to create another Maidan (the square in Kiev where Ukraine’s 2013-2014 revolution began), but we’re not going to let you.’ “

Bruguera’s treatment also suggests that communist authorities intend to send a signal to other Cubans who are thinking of returning home to take advantage of new economic opportunities and easing tensions with the United States. Cuba is willing to welcome them back as entrepreneurs, sure, but not as dissident activists.

Bruguera, who has lived most of the past two decades in the United States and Europe, says she never emigrated from Cuba. In recent years, as she worked to organize an immigrant political party in Paris and joined the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York, her creative work increasingly smudged the line between art and activism.

The former — in particular the kind that takes place in museums and movie theaters — has considerable latitude in contemporary Cuba. The latter, when it occurs in the street, does not.

In 1961, two months after the Bay of Pigs invasion, Fidel Castro issued the famous dictum that would lay out his view of artistic freedom: “Within the Revolution, anything goes; against the Revolution, nothing.” Cuban artists have been trying to figure out what that means pretty much ever since.

The issue is not an academic one. Art is big business in Cuba, and one of the careers that allows young people to earn income independently, profiting from a global fascination with the island that is as strong as ever, particularly among collectors in the United States.

Over the years, as censorship eased, art also became an outlet for expression in a country that doesn’t allow traditional activism. Young Cubans who seethe at their government’s political controls or Internet restrictions can’t protest in the street, but they can produce dark, brooding works of art that dramatize or satirize Cuban reality. And international collectors love the stuff.

Bruguera, who earned a master’s degree at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and went on to teaching positions in the United States and France, doesn’t make objects that look nice on a coffee table or complement the drapes. Her art, by nature, is intangible and somewhat unpredictable.

And because Bruguera wants to blur the line between art and political activism, it can also make it difficult to discern where her “performance” starts and ends.

Bruguera’s legal ordeal over the past six months serves a broader artistic goal, she says, in which the Cuban government has been an all-too-willing participant in her attempt to probe the boundaries of expression at what she sees as a pivotal moment in her country’s history.

“All of this is a performance,” she said. “It is unfolding as events occur.”

The government prefers theater, she said. “It likes having a script that can be acted out by a cast of characters it creates.”

In contrast, she said, “performance is a space for spontaneity, where human beings can be themselves, instead of acting out roles.”

Like Cuban authorities, critics of the Obama administration do not view Bruguera’s case as an abstract exercise in aesthetics. Her arrest is proof, they say, that Cuban President Raúl Castro isn’t opening up at all and that Obama’s policies have emboldened him to be more repressive.

“We’re not naive,” read a statement by the president of Cuba’s Fine Arts Association on the day of her arrest. “The meaning of this performance isn’t going to be interpreted as a work of art. It is a political provocation.” Her goal, the statement said, was the same as that pursued by Castro’s opponents, who, it added, helped promote her appearance.

“The act has no other aim than to undermine the negotiations that have given hope to many human beings, above all Cuba’s 11 million people,” the statement read.

Bruguera, who identifies herself as a leftist and calls Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., her “favorite politician,” insists it is not her intention to embarrass the Obama administration or give fodder to its critics. She said her goals are wholly related to Cuba’s uncertain future. She wants a new law protecting freedom of speech and to open a center for art and activism named for the late political theorist Hannah Arendt.

Bruguera’s most recent arrests occurred in the middle of Cuba’s biggest art festival — the Havana Biennial — with many of the world’s leading gallery owners and collectors in town. Some supporters urged a boycott and gathered protest signatures on her behalf, but ripples from Bruguera’s case haven’t reached very far beyond Cuba’s arts scene.

Some artists and critics said they have been confused about her goals. They don’t want to see Bruguera treated as a criminal, but they said they are puzzled as to what the avant-garde artist was trying to accomplish.

“I never saw Tania as a political activist,” said Cristina Vives, an art curator and historian who worked with Bruguera earlier in her career and considers her “brilliant.”

“She didn’t need it to be effective as an artist,” Vives saod. “And she has always been one of the most effective artists I know of.”

Asked if she viewed her work as “against the Revolution” and beyond the boundaries vaguely established by Castro in 1961, Bruguera answered with a question.

“What is the Revolution today?” she asked. “I think the negotiations with the United States have created a crisis of identity and a need to redefine what ‘revolution’ means.”