Havana has chosen to title itself as one of the Wonder Cities of the Modern World, a contest organized by the by the Swiss New 7 Wonders Cities Foundation.
25 September 2014
These data are included in the census conducted in 2012, which also points to a growing trend of population shift to Cuba’s cities, especially toward Havana. Of those who migrate internally in Cuba, 46.1 percent are men.
A note in the newspaper Granma notes that people who move to Havana Come primarily from the provinces of Holguín, Granma, Santiago de Cuba and Guantanamo. Proportionally Havana is also the province with the largest number of native residents who do not emigrate—followed by Mayabeque, Matanzas and Artemis, while Guantánamo keeps the smallest number of its natives followed by Pinar del Rio and Cienfuegos.
The search for better pay as well as better opportunities to improve one’s condition and for recreations were the main reasons that sparked internal migration.
14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 30 September 2014 – Memory can rarely be put to rest. Memories don’t understand permissions or authorizations, they return, period. For a quarter of a century the Chinese government has tried to erase the events of Tiananmen Square, but now the thousands of young people who are protesting on the streets of Hong Kong evoke them. It’s hard not to think of that man with the shopping bag stationed in front of tank, while looking at these people who demand the resignation of an official as servile to Beijing as he is unpopular.
Twenty-five years of trying to clean up the official history of what happened in that other social explosion that ended in the most brutal repression hasn’t accomplished much. Those streets full of peaceful but exhausted people show it. However, there are also great differences between the 1989 revolt in the Asian giant and the current demonstrations in their “special administrative region.” The fundamental change is that we are participants—from our televisions, digital newspapers and social networks—in every moment the people of Hong Kong are experiencing. The lack of information that surrounded the Tiananmen Square protests now has its counterpart in a barrage of tweets, photos and videos coming from thousands of mobile phones
For how many years will the Chinese government try to erase what is happening today? How will they strengthen the Great Firewall within the country so that people don’t know what is happening so close by? The violent repression of last Sunday only serves to add to the determination and the number of protestors in the streets of the ex-British colony. However, despite the multitudes and the numerous digital screens shining in the Hong Kong night, memory persists in taking us back to one man. An individual who was returning from the market and decided that the treads of a tank were not going to crush his remaining civility. Twenty-five years later, reality is echoing his gesture.
14ymedio, Havana, N. Mell – 29 September 2014 – Since an official statement published in the newspaper Granma last Saturday, rejecting the planned marketing by the Cuban company Labiofam of perfumes named after Ernest Guevara and Hugo Chavez, the controversy about who is really responsible for this “grave error” continues to animate conversations.
The omissions in the statement from the Council of Ministers are very significant. For example, there is no mention that this business group, responsible for the production of biopharmaceuticals and chemicals, is under the Ministry of Agriculture. Instead, it is treated as an organism of the central state administration. More surprising is the hiding of the fact that this isn’t the first time they have announced the creation of perfumes named after personalities connected to the Revolutionary epic.
Fidel and Raul Castro’s nephew has ruled the company with the same voluntarism that his uncles have ruled the island
Fidel and Raul Castro’s nephew has ruled the company with the same voluntarism that his uncles have ruled the island. There is nothing in the company that hasn’t been thought up, or at least approved, by him, including the weekly menu in the workers’ cafeteria. And, even though the company has fallen short of its planned performance for the last five years, it has been presented as a model institution of modern times and its hierarchy as untouchable beings.
It hasn’t been disclosed if the disciplinary measures announced by the Council of Ministers Executive Committee will seek a scapegoat to save the reputation of the CEO, or if the flames will reach the top of the pyramid. There are many threads behind the intrigue, each one pulling in a different direction.
The ideological and emotional argument that “symbols are sacred” convinces almost no one, especially in a country where the face of Che Guevara himself appears tarnishing the national flag in ashtrays where cigarettes are crushed to extinction. Maybe Labiofam believed that an independent company is governed more by the rules of marketing than by the designs of the Party, or maybe the time has come to end a feud over whose “remains” new interests already have their eyes on.
*Translator’s note: Fidel’s middle name is Alejandro
14ymedio, 29 September 2014 – Fourteen Cubans have been sentenced to between 6 and 20 years in prison in the corruption case known as “Tokmakjian.” Nelson Labrada, the Sugar deputy minister and Ernesto Gomex, former director of the state mining company Ferro, are among the group and have been sentenced to 20 years and 12 years in prison, respectively.
The case, which raised great concern among investors in Cuban businesses, tried several Cuban and foreign businessmen for the crimes of bribery, forgery of bank documents, fraud, trafficking in hard currency and tax evasion associated tih the Tokmakjian Group. The Canadian company had businesses in Cuba for for more than twenty years, particularly in sales of transportation equipment, mining and construction.
Last Saturday the conviction of Cy Tokmakjian, age 74 and founder of group, was sentenced to 15 years, of which he has already served three since his arrest. Claudio Vetere, company spokesperson, and Chief Financial Officer Marco Puche, were sentenced to 12 and 8 years in prison respectively. Cuba also seized about $ 100 million in company assets.
In the two photos that I compare here I am not intending to insinuate that it’s the same in Buenos Aires as in Havana, because there will always be people sleeping on the street.
The Havanan (or maybe he is from another province) who sleeps shirtless in the full sun on the centrally-located Avenue of the Presidents at the corner of 23rd, in the heart of El Vedado, has left his shoes in reach of anyone who might steal them, figuring, perhaps, that there’s no one more poor than he. The pants he is wearing are tied with something that clearly isn’t a belt, and one could wager that he has ingested a goodly dose of alcohol. In the background, a reminder of the World Cup, the Argentine flag flies accompanied by one from Germany and another from Brazil.
The Argentine (probably an immigrant) protects himself from a slight chill with perhaps too many clothes and has something like a briefcase for a pillow. His image could illustrate the drama of many unemployed, people who have seen their lives shattered with the latest crisis. Behind him are more or less luxurious cars, contrasting with his misery. On the walls are the libertarian slogans of some graffiti artists that nobody has bothered to paint over. The street looks clean and everyone who passes by ignores him.
If they are sleeping they are dreaming of different, but equally unattainable, things.
28 September 2014
The trial in which the five Cuban spies were found guilty and sentenced to prison — a place where they enjoy internet access, regular phone calls, the means to entertain themselves (painting supplies, tools for writing poetry, etc.), sanitary living conditions, comfortable jail cells, medical care, nutritious food, gym facilities, a wardrobe and other comforts — has cost and continues to cost the American taxpayer a tidy sum of money.
However, it has undoubtedly cost the Cuban people even more. We are the ones paying the high salaries of their lawyers. Through our embassies overseas we pay to support the various solidarity groups seeking their release, the members of which are also invited as political tourists on all-expense-paid visits to Cuba.
As though that were not enough, there are also the round-trip airline tickets for all their extended family members, who routinely visit them in prison and proselytize on their behalf. There are also the costs associated with providing these family members with wardrobes, spending money, food and lodging. Add to this the expenses for the spies who have already been released and who now serve as international spokespersons.
There is the ongoing expense of demonstrations of support in Cuban schools, factories and businesses. There are the marches, rallies and concerts in their honor, the art exhibitions, the books dedicated to them, and many other such commemorations.
Considering all the people held in detention, it is fortunate that only these five — members of the so-called Wasp Network — have agreed to become heroes by decree. Otherwise, the costs for both the American and Cuban taxpayer would be exponentially greater.
25 September 2014
An official with the Housing Institute denounces corruption and privileges, as well as reprisals taken against his family.
14ymedio, September 24, 2014 – Before leaving Cuba in October, 2013, the author of this accusation occupied an important post at the Housing Institute and, as a jurist, saw firsthand the intrigues perpetrated by high-level officers of the agency to illegally grant properties to elites and friends. As is shown in the accompanying photos, Juan Carlos Gálvez Migueles was an active participant in the political life of the Island. On December 14, 2008, Gálvez was elected to the national secretariat of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, and ratified as a member of the executive committee of that organization.
A lawyer by profession, Gálvez worked as a counterintelligence officer following his studies at the Eliseo Reyes Rodríguez “Capitán San Luis” Advanced Institute of the Interior Ministry. His problems started when he refused to collaborate in the legalization of mansions belonging to the children of ex-President Fidel Castro.
“I was disappointed in many things about the system that were drummed into me and that I was taught to defend. The blindfold fell from my eyes when I saw the problems of daily life in the real world of the average Cuban,” Gálvez told 14ymedio in an email exchange. “That system is not made for honest, sincere, hardworking people like me, where the more corrupt one is, the better.”
My Duty is to Denounce – I Am Not Afraid
by: Juan Carlos Gálvez Migueles
By these presents I wish to make a public statement about the violation being committed by officials of the Cuban State who represent the Provincial Housing Administration of Havana, against three women and a girl of just one year of age, with the intent of evicting them from the property located on 3rd Street, Building 15022, Apt. 10, between 7th and N streets, Altahabana neighborhood, Boyeros municipality. These women are: Sara Elvira Migueles Velo, 47-years-old; Rosaima Rodríguez Migueles, 17-years-old; Marinelvis Martínez Migueles, 24-year-old, mother of a one-year-old girl, named Aynoa. They are, respectively, my mother, sisters and niece.
The property from which the authorities want to remove them was acquired by this writer in May, 2012, when I was appointed Principal Specialist of the Havana Provincial Housing legal division, while in process of being named assistant legal director of this agency.
In August of 2013, I was accepted to participate in an advanced public administration course at the University of Extremadura, Spain. However, the Spanish embassy did not grant me a visa because I missed the deadline to submit some required original documents. At that point I decided to leave Cuba for good, due to various reasons that at present I don’t believe it opportune to divulge.
To facilitate my departure I took advantage of the opportunity provided by this course and requested authorizaton by the Provincial Housing Director, Liudmila Mejias Ocaña, to approve my attending this course. In reality, I was leaving for another country but I could not say where I was going, because right away my family’s home would be taken away, as is happening right now. Besides, I also could not disclose what I was up to, because I had been a member of the Interior Ministry and had ties to high-level officials stemming from the duties I carried out.
In October, 2013, I left Cuba, keeping my new home base a secret, until January, 2014, when it becomes known. It was then, in a gesture of cruelty and bad faith, that the Provincial Director of Housing and Assistant Legal Director, Marbelis Velázquez Reyes, imposed a disciplinary measure on me of final separation from the agency for unjustified absences. This is a measure that violates Decree 302 of October 11, 2012, which in turn modifies Law No. 1312, “Migration,” of September 20, 1976, given that what should have been applied in my case was a leave of absence from my position.
But her objective was to take revenge because I had already been selected as assistant provincial legal director. Therefore, she had to attack my family, declaring them illegal occupants without right to relocation, knowing that they had no place of origin. Then, where will they be taken to live? On the street, to a temporary community shelter? I don’t believe this is just or honorable.
Therefore, I am bound to make this accusation:
I was asked to work on the legalization of the houses owned by the children of ex-President Fidel Castro Ruz, all homes that consisted of more than 500 square meters of living space, comprising more than 1000 meters of total lot space, surrounded by hundreds of meters of addition land. I refused to do this, based on it being in violation of the current General Housing Law No. 65, which only recognizes properties up to 800 meters in size.
I was asked to work on the legalization of the houses owned by the children of ex-President Fidel Castro Ruz, all homes that consisted of more than 500 square meters of living space.
These individuals, by virtue of being offspring of a leader, have more rights to a good home than my family. I ask: What do they contribute to society that I haven’t? In what war did they serve? What have they done that is special? Why do these citizens have to have an interior ministry official representing them in their legalization proceedings?
Are they different from other Cubans? Can they not go to the municipal housing administration like other citizens? Could it be that they cannot wait in line? Can they not observe the waiting period established by law? Are they subject to a different law that I was not taught at the Advanced Institute of the Interior Ministry, when I was pursuing my degree in law and operative investigation of counterintelligence? Where is the equality that we so proclaim to the world?
Another case is that of Marino Murillo Jorge, vice-president of the Council of Ministers, to whom was granted a grand residence – or rather, a mansion in the Playa district, in return for an apartment he owned in Cerro municipality. But the irony is that the property Murillo was granted was assigned to the Ministry of Education and, with supposedly just the authorization of Raúl Castro Ruz, it was transferred to the ownership of this citizen without any disentailment process and, hence, no discussion.
Perhaps this citizen, for occupying a high post in the Cuban government, has more right to a dignified home than my family? What merits does he have that hundreds of thousands of Cubans, as educated as he or more so, do not?
I can also speak to the favors granted to officials of the National Housing Institute such as the house that was exchanged for the president of this agency, Oris Silvia Fernández Hernández, a grand property, which originated in a confiscation. Could it be that she has more rights than my family? Does the legal director of the National Housing Institute also have more rights than my family, a corrupt individual who has been sanctioned and yet remains in his post? I could go on naming any number of high State officials.
The granting of housing is decided in the office of the Provincial Director in favor of individuals who pay up to 5000 CUCs.
I denounce how thousands of families live in unhealthy conditions in temporary community shelters. They are not granted public housing, this being a responsibility of the Provincial Housing Director, Liudmila Mejías Ocaña, who does not control the administration of the Provincial Housing Commission. The granting of housing is decided in the office of the Provincial Director in favor of individuals who pay up to 5000 CUCs, friends who give gifts, as well as high-level officials, and relatives and lovers of high-level officials. All of this is public knowledge and has been condemned on various occasions but, as there is so much intrigue that involves high-level officials, nothing happens.
I denounce how legal documents are worked up in the Provincial Housing Office to favor these same people, all under the Thirteenth Special Ruling on Law No. 65 (General Housing Law), being concluded in record time, while the documents in other cases go to eternal rest. Those responsible are the Provincial Director, and the Assistant Legal Director, Marbelis Velazquez Reyes. The latter owns a fine house that was disentailed to her after seven years, very well furnished and equipped, while she earns a monthly salary of only 500 Cuban pesos.
I denounce how my family, on September 17, asked to be seen at the Council of State of the Republic of Cuba to present their case and were refused attention, the officials alleging that only letters are accepted at that location and nobody is seen in-person – an unheard-of and ill-intentioned assertion. This is not the democracy promised by our rule of law.
In similar fashion, they went before the Provincial Party Committee of Havana and the officials who saw them during a public hearing told them to go before the Municipal Administrative Council of Boyeros and, if their problem was not resolved there, they should go before the Provincial Administrative Council of Havana. As we would say in Cuban, it was a ball game, back and forth.
I should ask, why not lease the property to my family? For whom is this property being reserved? It could be that this apartment is already sold, or is being set aside for a friend.
Surely when this accusation comes to light, they will begin to question me about where I obtained the money to leave Cuba. Well, it was from the sale of the deplorable house that my mother owned and a landline telephone that I had in my name, money that I supplemented with funds from a friend who was my older sister’s boyfriend.
I ask that the right of my family to live in a decent home be respected, that events will not be repeated like those we endured when for more than 10 years we lived in a wooden building that was falling apart, where we would bathe in the kitchen, and defecate in nylon bags because we had no toilet. At that time I was a delegate to the Municipal Assembly of Popular Power of San Nicolás de Bari, today Mayabeque province.
My neighbors there and those who voted me in can attest to this. That was also the time that I served as Municipal Housing Director and never did I take even one concrete block for my house – a fact that my employees can corroborate. What did I gain from being so humble, so honest, that now my family should be treated in this manner. For all of this I decided to leave my homeland.
I declare that today I fear for the lives of my family in Cuba, for possible reprisals against them, resulting from this accusation and others that I may be forced to make to defend our rights. By the same token I fear for my life in this country where I reside, for having information about officials, for having been myself a member of the Cuban counterintelligence and someone who knows the methods they employ.
Translated by Alicia Barraqué Ellison
14ymedio, Havana, Miriam Celaya, 5 September 2014 — On Wednesday September 3rd, the official press conveyed another grim announcement to the Cuban people. Granma wrote: “The coffee harvest, newly launched in the province of Guantánamo, in eastern-most Cuba, will be ‘small’, with a decrease of 33% compared to the previous year.” The news adds to what appears to be the new information strategy (Raul-style “transparency”?) consisting in offering on newscasts on radio and TV, and in newspapers, a trickling of notes, articles and reports that show some negative figures on the Cuban economy, conveniently interspersed with other usual triumphalist breath. As a common denominator, such reports also bring proposals for typical solutions: calls for efficiency and “systematic actions” to ensure increased productivity to compensate for the economic debacle that is about to hit.
Thus, this crop will produce 342 fewer tons of coffee despite the installation of “another seven ecological pulp-extracting facilities” that will increase industrial performance to “reach 4.02 pounds per each can that will benefit”, superior to the previous coffee harvest figure. And, though we have not experienced severe weather to justify the lower production, and though they do not offer details about possible causes for the decreased harvest, everything is a prelude to coffee –as the sugar crop in previous years – is another traditional economic line in Cuba headed for extinction.
The Birth of a Tradition
Coffee is an essential component of our national culture, strongly rooted in our consumption and traditional customs, both at the family and at the social level since its introduction in Cuba in the late 18th century by French planters fleeing from the rebellion of slaves in the neighboring island of Haiti. Continue reading
A great truth was revealed at the VIII Conference of the National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC, by its Spanish initials).
We have to admit when our detractors speak the truth. There’s no other option than –for the sake of honesty– to accept how right they’ve been. Therefore, I have to admit that, yes, “The UNEAC is the Moncada of culture”*. It’s impossible to state it any clearer, for we know well the political, human, logistic, and leadership failures that the assault on the Moncada Barracks in 1953 symbolized, when the immature and terribly suspicious Fidel Castro stationed a select group to practice their aim in Santiago de Cuba. With neither suitable arms nor adequate preparations to confront the army, he sent them to a certain death.
How can intellectuals pretend not to recognize Fidel Castro’s cowardice, who — in spite of having gone to school in that city and having planned the attack — couldn’t find the entrance to the barracks, when those who had never been there were able to get behind its walls?
It is infuriating to watch that documentary where Fidel Castro, leaning on a car of that era, explains how he was unable to find the entrance, yet the cars traveling ahead and behind him managed to penetrate the garrison, whose entrance is of such a size that a blind man could find it! But we already know that there’s nothing worse than one who doesn’t want to see what’s in front of him.
That wasn’t his only mistake. We know that, throughout the entire struggle of the Rebel Army, he never participated in a single battle; and he advised Raul Castro to do likewise: while leading his comrades in the midst of combat, the latter would abandon the fight only to appear days later when the town square had been taken. Fidel Castro not only couldn’t find the entrance, he was unable to follow the sounds of gunfire on that fateful morning, nor could he redirect himself towards other posts during the shootout. On the contrary, he remained huddled, waiting for the end, and when he learned his soldiers were dead or captured, he sought shelter in a hole in order to finally turn himself in to the Catholic Church (which he never thanked for saving him), and reemerge as the hero.
Certainly, seen as a failure (the only way to comprehend this event), without a doubt, as the president of the UNEAC, Miguel Barnet, put it: “The UNEAC is the Moncada of culture”. He’s never been more right.
Lawton Prison Compound. April, 2014
* Santiesteban is referring to the speech by Miguel Barnet at the opening of the VIII UNEAC Conference.
Translated by: Yoyi el Monaguillo
Sign the petition so that Amnesty International will declare the Cuban dissident Ángel Santiesteban a prisoner of conscience.
For my soul brother Angel Santiesteban, prisoner of Cuba for thinking differently.
For my second father, Raul Guerra, who died intoxicated with disappointment.
The Death of the Cat
Writer: Lilo Vilaplana Genre: Fiction Category: Fiction
The Death of the Cat is much more than an exceptionally accomplished work of art by Lilo Vilaplana. It is an unambiguous argument against the Castro dictatorship that has plagued Cuba for fifty-six years.
It deeply impacts Cubans who have lived that period, those who even if they have not lived it suffer even today the same painful reality, and the non-Cubans who are moved seeing how the Castro propaganda has fooled them also while all Cubans are prisoners of the big island jail.
Dedicated to Angel Santiesteban and Raul Guerra, it deals with a work of fiction inspired by real events, contextualized in the day after the shooting of General Ochoa but that takes great care with even the smallest details managing to recreate on a Bogota lot the miseries of one Havanan.
Details as “trifling” as to have covered the floor with a paper that mimics the tiles that populate Cuba. And even the wretched roll that Cubans eat, many preliminary experiments were needed until obtaining what appears in the short film, seeking not to exceed the weight and to be true to what the impoverished people eat.
It is not easy to create intentionally so much destruction, poverty and neglect as the Castros have caused in over five decades. Painstaking craftsmanship by Lilo’s team has managed to “destroy” the setting, making it so true to life that more than one person will believe that it really was filmed in Havana. Continue reading
The mechanism of annulment is cleanly bureaucratic: You can’t hire an attorney without having completed the dossier. The prosecution prepares its case in the dungeons.
Havana, Cuba. In the doorways of Avenue Acosta, in the neighborhood of La Vibora, some faded beings sell aluminum scouring pads, Band-Aids and little boxes of matches. A few meters away, crossing Calzada de Diez de Octubre – formerly Jesus del Monte – is the former police station of Acosta and Diez de Octubre, which now advertises itself, by a lighted sign, as a Territorial Unit of Criminal Investigation and Operations of the Ministry of the Interior. The latest news about the writer, Angel Santiesteban, places him in the cells of that sinister place.
Another writer, the Czech Milan Kundera, victim in his time of the same procedures, pointed out that our only immortality exists in the archives of the political police. In this city of changed names, where poetry is a military choir, where the violation of human rights is called anti-imperialism and there is thoughtless defense of socialism, and where some nameless beings without a voice sell scouring pads in order to eat, I think about my friend who is experiencing the same awful misfortune.
Except for Daniela Santiesteban, his 18-year-old daughter, sufficiently bewildered and frightened to not want to speak with the independent press or the dissident friends of her father, no one else has seen him nor can corroborate that he hasn’t been maltreated, or that he really tried to escape from prison, as the authorities say.
The Territorial Unit building has checkpoint surveillance. It seems to be the entrance where the detainees are taken to the dungeons, which are in the basement. Those who have left that prison say that below there are around 70 cells. And that’s where they look for confessions in all the cases. It doesn’t matter if they don’t know the first thing about the crimes that the official presents to them. The dossier can be false. It takes time to complete, so that in order to obtain the auto-inculpation, the false confession, no attorney can be present. Continue reading