Days to Turn Off the TV / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Woman watching TV (14ymedio)

Woman watching TV (14ymedio)Days

YOANI SÁNCHEZ , Havana, 29 July 2014 There are days when it’s better not to turn on the TV. Right now, just pushing a button can dump us in an avalanche of official propaganda for the birthdays of Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro. From July 28 to August 13, the boring national programming will be filled with the cult of personality, ideological kitsch and political sentimentality. Children’s choirs will sing to the “Eternal Commander,” people who barely saw them pass by on the street will share anecdotes, and endless biographical scenes will bombard us from all sides.

“Right now the news has no news,” complained a neighbor who wants to know what is happening in the world and can’t see anything but processions of red and olive green. I felt the same today with the first news of the day. An hour after it started I couldn’t extract the least national or international information, only praise for the “immortal warrior of the race of Bolivar,” and the “wise guerrilla who loved him like a son.” I tend to have little patience with this overdose of flattery, so I turned off the TV and began calling several friends so they could tell me what was going on here and there. At least we have “Lip Radio”!

The ruling party continues to confront the distribution of information, serials and movies in the so-called “combos” or “packets.” However, it makes no real changes in its television programming to attract young people. Instead, the small screen becomes a loudspeaker for slogans and boring material that viewers find annoying and reject. Thus, they can never regain the ground they have lost to illegal satellite dishes, content copied onto USB sticks, and hard disks full of documentaries. If they continue with the ideological excesses of recent days, official TV will, very soon, become a monologue that few listen to.

Angel Santiesteban is Being Held at the Acosta and Diez de Octubre Police Station / 14ymedio

100_heroes_de_la_libertad_de_prensa-RSF_CYMIMA20140511_0004_13

14YMEDIO, Havana, 28 July 2014 – Since July 23 Angel Santiesteban’s family has denounced his disappearance from the Lawton Prison Settlement. That day the prize-winning author was taken from the place where he was serving a five-year sentence for an alleged crime of violation of domicile and injury. Until this morning his whereabouts were unknown.

This newspaper investigated, calling 18806, the police service number, and learned that Santiesteban is currently detained at the Acosta Station on Avenues Acosta and Diez de October. The duty officer there told 14ymedio that the writer is accused of the crime of “escape.”

The family has denied this accusation and his sister, Maria de los Angeles Santiesteban, in a statement to Diario de Cuba said, “My brother has never had an idea like that. He never agreed to leave Cuba and he had the opportunity, he was in the United States three times and he traveled the world.”

This coming Wednesday morning Angel Santiesteban may receive visits from relatives, according to what14ymedio learned. Today, however, they did not allow a fellow journalist to deliver a package personal hygiene products.

Ángel Santiesteban has received major literary awards, including the Casa de las Americas Prize in 2006. Just two days ago his novel The Summer God Slept was presented in New York, and he won the Franz Kafka Prize for Fiction 2013.

 

The night has witnesses: a simpler poetry / Luis Felipe Rojas

On the evening of June 5th, I had the opportunity of presenting Janisset Rivero’s book “Testigos de la noche”  (“Witnesses of the Night”) (Ultramar 2014).  Casa Bacardi opened its doors so as to let us share this lady’s work along with the poet Angel Cuadra. Rivero read entries from her wonderful book of poems. These are the words I wrote for the occasion:

Poetry books always bring me new hope. After time spent reading poetry that leaves me cold, there are poets who emerge to refresh my thoughts and point the way to understanding the mysteries of universal poetry.

Janisset Rivero has written a book that continues the narrow hereditary line of verse in Spanish, that line which unhealthy experimentations and abuses of the language have tried to erase by force. Simple versification, without needless displays and literary artifice, is perhaps the best decision, an expression of talent and the force of poetry macerated by eyes that see above the crudest reality. Continue reading

Leopoldo Lopez and Angel Santiesteban: Two Lives and One Destiny

If we paused to observe Leopoldo Lopez and Angel Santiesteban-Prats for one moment, we see two very different physical types. One is very slim, the other sturdy. One is a lawyer, the other a writer. One is Venezuelan, the other Cuban; both are the father of a girl and a boy. Both share the same gift: a great charisma accompanied by enormous generosity, and a desire to change the difficult reality of their countries: Leopoldo, from his active political participation, and Angel, through his civic opinion passed through his books and writings, with the cutting edge of the truthful word.

Beyond the similarities and differences, they appear to be cut from the same cloth. It is hard to find such men with such composure to dare tell two dictators — Cuban and Venezuelan — calling things clearly by their name and speaking directly, without euphemisms. Angel and Leopoldo did this and they continue to do it. For this reason, they both also share the terrible situation of being political prisoners of these two regimes brought together by the greed and evil of their rulers.

This week, Leopoldo has been a victim of a “violent requisition,” the same way that Daniel Ceballos and Enzo Scarano, opposition mayors dismissed and imprisoned for designs of political power, using an “armed wing”: a justice that is corrupt and sold.

When we read the news about what is going on in Venezuela, we have to assure ourselves that we are reading news about Venezuela because, really, it appears copied from the news that independent journalists bring us in Cuba.

This week, Angel Santiesteban has been transferred in an illegal manner from the prison he had been in, a military facility in Lawton, Havana. Today is the sixth day of anguish and desperation without having received any news. This week we have also heard about how violence against those in the Venezuelan opposition is intensifying and how, not being satisfied with locking them up, the authorities enjoy punishing them with the same sadism of the Castro regime.

Angel already expressed his solidarity with Leopoldo Lopez in an open letter; today, Angel’s whereabouts remain unknown and isolated, probably tortured, and is oblivious to what is happening right now with Leopoldo. However, knowing full well Angel’s sentiments, from here we send all his solidarity in his name and in my own name, because I know that in the difficult moment he is going through, this is what he would have written in a new post.

And of course, our deepest affection to Lilian Tintori and her children. She, like the dignified Ladies in White of Cuba, exalts the word love.

I share here the brave letter that Leopoldo sent to his compatriots. In this letter one can see how – same as in the case of Angel – Maduro’s regime actually ends up strengthening Leopoldo. Without a doubt, as long as men like this exist, the liberty and peace of Venezuela and Cuba will arrive soon.

The Editor

Letter from Leopoldo Lopex Mendoza: I Accuse the Venezuelan Dictatorship

I have been politically persecuted under the “Chavista” regime for more than ten years. There have been more than 20 proceedings, political trials, homicide attempts dully reported and never resolved, moral assassination on behalf of the means of communication of the State and two political disqualifications, despite obtaining a favorable sentencing from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights for the violation of my rights and in defense of my political participation. Continue reading

Descriptive Penury / Rosa Maria Rodriguez

An acquaintance of mine swapped his apartment of a room and a half for a smaller one and “some chump change on top of that” to relieve his alcoholism and misery.  I never entered his home and that’s why I was unaware of his poverty. His furniture had the appearance of shabby knick-knacks, which probably — as in the majority of Cuban homes — were bought before the triumph of this guerrilla model which installed itself in power in 1959 and has been there ever since.

A matte oil painting, covers the surface of a dresser that perhaps once was covered in formica, the quite ramshackle wardrobe tells a story of age and overuse, the hollows of his three-quarter mattress, the remains of his sofa and of his Russian half-washing machine — they had to amputate the dryer — that accuse like the speeches of the rulers of Cuba, are words blurred by abandonment and demagoguery.

During the move, he got from a yellowish nylon bag a bunch of black and white photographs to show to his companions how beautiful the apartment was when his father first moved into it in 1958. Then the furniture seemed alive and the walls still wore an attractive and aesthetic coat of paint. Monochromatic feelings showed the nostalgia on his face buffeted by frustration and liquor. Continue reading

Routine and the Past Star in this 26th of July / 14ymedio, Ignacio Varona

Ramiro Valdes

Ramiro Valdes

14yMEDIO, Ignacio Varona, Camaguy, 26 July 2014 – Very early this Saturday many of us observed a new event for the 26th of July. The strict codes of ritual demanded that the commemoration of the 61st anniversary of the assault on the Moncana Barracks in Santiago de Cuba and of the Carlos Manuel de Cespedes Barracks in Bayamo, be celebrated this year with moderate pomp. If the “important” anniversaries are commemorated in style, in Santiago de Cuba or Havana, the intermediate ones happen in provinces with fewer resources.

The choice of the newly created province of Artemisa to host the main event, obeys the fulfillment of this liturgy. Also an experiment has been developing in it to streamline the administrative functions which it has taken on because the Port of Mariel megaproject is in its territory.

In the era in which Fidel Castro had the capacity to stand for four to six hours in front of a microphone, those events were anticipated as time to summarize accomplishments and to announce the news. In 1989, in one of his long speeches he warned of the possible disappearance of the Soviet Union. The last great surprise on the 26th of July was the day in 1993 that the Commander in Chief announced the dollarization of the Cuban economy. Since then, especially after 2007, his brother Raul has had very little to promise and has delegated the speech on several occasions to Mr. José Ramón Machado Ventura, second secretary of the Communist Party. Continue reading

Remembering the Tugboat Massacre of 1994 / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Castro sign

During the summer of 1994, death ruled with impunity in my country. During that period, Cuba, which had been a civilian graveyard for decades, more closely resembled the gallows.

In the early hours of July 13, the whirlwind of violence to which the Cuban state was subjecting its citizens came to its criminal climax. The Revolution needed to prevail over the people through blood and fire. Raúl Castro summed it up in a televised speech from the Colon Cemetery: “He who lives by the sword dies by the sword.”

We were in the middle of the so-called Special Period in the Time of Peace. The repression was ferocious, but so too was the people’s resistance. So too was the corruption of public servants. So too was the vandalism. There were robberies and grisly killings on every block. Family men went mad and wound up murdering their loved ones. Electricity was a luxury that we enjoyed for just a few hours a day. It was vox populi that the police had been ordered to shoot to kill. So too had the paramilitaries of the Rapid Response Brigades who wielded clubs rather than firearms.

On the early morning of July 13 a stolen tugboatfull of civilians attempted to escape the Bay of Havana. The boat was named the March 13. It was a state-owned boat, but no violence took place during the theft. In fact, it was the port workers themselves who took the boat and headed for the US. Continue reading

Was Moncada Necessary? / 14ymedio, Fernando Damaso

Moncada Barracks

Moncada Barracks

A great deal has been written about the assault on Moncado Barracks in Santiago de Cuba and the Carlos Manuel de Céspedes Barracks in Bayamo on 26 July 1953. At times, with great exaggeration. Some, forgetting the differences in times and objectives, as compared with the Cry of Yara in 1868 or that of Baire in 1895, which started our war of Independence.

About the assault on the Moncada barracks in Santiago de Cuba and Carlos Manuel de Céspedes in Bayamo on 26 July 1953 much has been written.Sometimes exaggerated. Some, forgetting the differences in epochs and objectives, as compared with the 1868 Cry of Yara, or the Cry of Baire in l895, which kicked off our war of independence.

In response to the events of 1953, traditional Cuban political sectors reacted with surprise. They were used to solving national problems through dialogue and peaceful means, and suddenly armed struggle makes its appearance as a method of fighting against tyranny. Even some of those who would later become traveling companions of the revolutionaries, described the act as a putsch, although later they retracted. Others, less dogmatic and more dialectical, saw in the action a path for its principle organizers to rapidly achieve political prominence and popular support. Continue reading

A Hilarious Conclusion / Fernando Damaso

Artwork by Rebeca

An article by a young Cuban journalist was just published in the so-called youth newspaper under the arresting title “The Happiest Children in the World.” In it she recalls her childhood of aged, half-bald dolls previously belonging to her older sisters, toys given to her by a neighbor after he was too old to play with them, Soviet nesting dolls, daily blackouts, nights spent in darkness and many other shortages. In the end she comes to the conclusion that she “was born in this country, a place where children have everything they need to be the happiest in the world.”

I do not know if the author is trying to be slyly ironic or if she has been a practicing masochist since early childhood. She presents no evidence that would lead to such a conclusion. It could be that for her this is what constitutes happiness, but such generalization is a bad habit on which Cubans too often rely. Statements about having the best baseball, the best boxing, the best education, the best health care, the most courageous people and so forth are far removed from reality.

If this were true, then we would also have to accept that we are the happiest people in the world. This would be in spite of the fact that more than 80% of our homes are in disrepair, that many families live in inadequate and unsanitary housing, that streets and sidewalks are inaccessible, that neighborhood sewer lines are broken, that potable water is scarce, that public sanitation is notable by its absence, that the health and education systems are poor, that social indiscipline and violence are endemic, that salaries and pensions are at poverty levels, that prices for consumer goods are exorbitant, that public transportation is chaotic, that the economy is not growing, that every day the country moves further backwards, and on top of all this that we live without internet access or civil liberties.

One should be careful about what one writes and publishes as well as a little more responsible. Accepting misery and shortages as a normal way of life without working to change them does nothing to help eliminate them. It is one thing to repeat slogans but quite another to discard objectively in order to fill up pages. You don’t want too much of a good thing.

24 July 2014

Wendy War

 

Grown in Exercises of Death, Wendy Guerra (Taken from her blog HABÁNAME) (Reposted by Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo in his blog)

I have death as white and truth far away… – Don’t give me your fresh roses; I am terrible for roses. Give me the ocean…Dulce María Loynaz

Death, solicitous and vigilant followed me until my fall. It was my companion – solicitous and loving - Rafaela Chacón Nardi

Dreadful voice in funeral I mourn, that flies from the seas of my homeland to the beaches of Iberia; sadly confused the wind delays it; the sweet song in my throat freezes and shadows of pain cover my mind. Ah, that suffering voice, that America denotes with its pity and on these beaches the ocean casts, “He died,” is uttered, “the ardent patriot…” “He died”, repeated “the Cuban troubador.” And a sad echo moans in the distance, “the sublime singer from Niagara died!” - Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda

I carry the subject of death very badly. I bow before death with too much grief. Just by peering at a roof I can fall overwhelmed by fear.

This week I wake with the memory of those who have passed on. My parents, my friends, my poets, my personal saints.

The soul, the body, the emptiness, the abandonment or slipstream that our most beloved dead leave, fight within me with severe injuries.

This week the world’s newspapers talk about death, confinement, the hunger strikes in my country. My head and my body are trapped in a bird cage that is the act of dying.

For many cultures it is a cycle that is closed to open other cycles that are clear and bright. This is the way I should see it, as death to me appears to be the end of everything. But death weighs me down and casts me toward a powerful darkness.

It always appeared normal to me that someone would decide to die rather that live indefinitely with an incurable illness. Always, even when the dilemma of euthanasia touched me closely. I looked at the still living body of my mother, looked at her face and closed myself off from any possibility other than finding a miracle or unearthing a hope. I convinced myself that in the care of the body that still flutters before us, hope lives.

The cage of life opens.

I mishandle death but one must confront it. Six Marches back, I had surrendered before my mother on the day of her death. Continue reading

From Cyberspace to Moringa / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

The signing of 29 documents between the government of Cuba and various official and business interests from the People’s Republic of China on the occasion of Xi Jinping’s visit to the island has awakened great expectations among Cubans. One of the most striking things was the television news broadcast of the signing ceremony for the documents, which could be seen along with all of the boring protocol details. A parade of ministers and businessmen passed in front of the table placed in the hall the Council of State, and in the background an enormous stained-glass titled The Sun of our America stood under the watchful eyes of the presidents of both countries.

While the television-announcer-turned-master-of-ceremonies was revealing the nature of the initialed documents and saying the names and titles of the signatories, it was difficult to take in what was really happening. What is the difference, many wondered, between a memorandum of understanding, an exchange of letters, a framework accord, a cooperation agreement, a commercial contract, and a funding agreement? How could one discern the hierarchy that distinguishes an exchange agreement from an executive program? What is the basic difference between a framework agreement and a memorandum of cooperation?

What everyone did understand was that the Asian giant granted credits and made donations and investments in very sensitive areas. Examples of these are cyberspace, communications, digital television, improvements in the port of Santiago de Cuba, the supply of raw materials for the production of nickel, oil drilling, and the construction of a building complex associated with a golf course.

The rest, not wanting to overstate their importance, is filled with Chinese water meters, young Chinese learning Spanish in Cuba, packaging lines, office supplies, and transportation.

With regard to what was missing, at least among the 29 documents, nothing was heard about an increase in tourism, nor was there a single word about the Port of Mariel megaproject, and there was nothing about free-trade agreements such as those between China and other Latin American countries.

By chance—or benevolence—the number 13, a number so significant to the former Cuban president, appeared at the top of the Framework Agreement on the Establishment of the Agricultural Demonstration Farm, signed by the ministers of agriculture of both countries, which had among its objectives “cooperation on the science and technology of moringa, mulberry and silk worms.” What it said, a mere detail, passed unnoticed.