“You have to hear every silly thing in this country!” / Cubanet, Orlando Freire Santana

Self-employed watch repairer. “We change every kind of battery” Cuba_archivo

Self-employed watch repairer. “We change every kind of battery” Cuba_archivo

A letter published in the official Granma by one its readers asks the State to limit the prices charged by the self-employed in order to protect “the working people from abusive prices”

cubanet square logoCubanet.org, Orlando Freire Santana, Havana, 27 March 2015 – Notwithstanding the image that the Castro regime strives to present about small, private enterprise, in the sense of having expanded this activity as part of the economic transformations that are taking place on the island, the truth is that the non-state sector of the economy faces more than a few obstacles.

High taxes, lack of a wholesale market where supplies and raw materials can be acquired, the lack of recognition by the authorities of the total costs that private businesses incur, as well as the excess of audits of Sworn Personal Income Statements, among others, are some of the daily hurdles that stand in the way of the self-employed.

Last Friday, March 20, the newspaper Granma published two works that contain “recommendations” that could obstruct or kill self-employment. The first of these, “Money Well Paid?” is a report about the payments by state entities to self-employed workers in the Holguin province.

The very title of the report – with that question mark included – already allows a glimpse of the distrust of those kinds of transactions, that in the past year reached 36 million pesos. The Holguin authorities insist that state entities must exhaust all options that the providers from the government sector offer when acquiring goods or services. And only lastly to approach the self-employed workers.

The state payments to the self-employed in the referenced territory, with a view to exhaustive control, must pass through a bureaucratic structure that includes the Government Central Auditor Unit, the Commission of Charges and Payments, and the Provincial Administration Council. And by the way, what becomes of the highly vaunted “entrepreneurial autonomy” if the entrepreneurs can barely decide from whom to buy what they need?

The other material featured in Granma is the letter from a reader, “For the excessive desire to obtain greater riches,” in which he complains of the prices charged by the self-employed who entertain children in the Palmira township in Cienfuegos. In addition to that specific situation, the writer of the missive extends his criticism to all the self-employed and says in one paragraph: “I think that the Administration Councils, municipal as well as provincial, must control the prices of the offerings by the self-employed, protecting the working people from abusive prices and giving those people a legal foundation on which to demand their rights.”

It should be emphasized that an opinion of this kind, appearing in an official organ of the Communist Party, cannot be underestimated in any way. So began the attacks against the self-employed who sold home products, to those who were called “retailers.” In the end, that activity was prohibited, and many self-employed who used to hold those licenses lost them and were left unemployed.

When I commented to a café owner in my neighborhood about the Granma reader’s letter, the man reacted indignantly: “Don’t tell me…self-employed prices are abusive…Listen to me, abusive is the tax that I pay, which they have raised on me three times; abusive is that I spend more than 50% of my revenues on buying everything that I need to work, and the people from ONAT [the State tax collector] only recognize 25% as expense; and abusive was the fine that they imposed on me last year, of several thousand pesos, when they deemed that I had under-reported personal income. You have to hear every silly thing in this country!”

About the Author

orlando-freire-santana.thumbnailOrlando Freire. Matanzas, 1959. Graduate in Economics. He has published the book of essays, The Evidence of Our Time, Vitral Prize 2005, and the novel The Blood of Liberty, Franz Kafka Novels From the Drawer Prize, 2008. He also earned Essay and Story prizes from the magazine The Universal Dissident, and the Essay Prize from the magazine New Word.

Translated by MLK

No blogger, no Obama / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

No blogger, no cry.

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

In the beginning was the Blog. 2 But blogs were formless and empty. 3 Repression was all over the blogosphere. 4 And the citizens saw the blogs were good. 5 So that lacking other channels of expression, the Cuban civil society occupied blogosphere as a tool for dissent. 6 Won’t you help to share these blogs of freedom? 7 Redemption blogs, redemption blogs to emancipate ourselves from the State.

As early as in the summer of 2005, I opened a blog for publishing a literary and opinion magazine that three Cuban writers decide to edit in Havana: Cacharro(s) —in English, Junk(s).

Lizabel Monica, Jorge Alberto Aguiar and I were posting our texts in cyberspace, hoping for a reader abroad to save us from the silence within. We couldn’t imagine that in a couple of years our initial experiment was to be ignored in the history of Cuban blogosphere, when our efforts to escape not only censorship, but also the mass media mediocrity of the Revolution, were displaced by new voices with high public impact both from the cultural and political fields.

This happened when the Consenso —Consensus— digital magazine became ContodosWith All— and opened the website Desdecuba.com, directed by Reinaldo Escobar, Manuel Cuesta Morúa, Miriam Celaya, Dimas Castellanos, among others, including a webmaster who, in April 2007, started a very simple WordPress blog called Generation Y. The trademark Yoani Sánchez was born, as well as the first virtual revolution in the time of Castro.

This was the genesis of an independent movement of citizen journalism which challenged the lack of transparency of the public sphere in Cuba, a country still without private Internet today.

Cuban top-level intelligence commanders like Ramiro Valdes have stated that the Internet is a “wild horse” that “must be tamed” before offering it to the people. After many promises and postpositions, including a submarine fiber-optic cable that connects us with Venezuela since 2011, Cubans are still waiting for a miracle.cu, although Continue reading

Oscar Arias meets with young Cubans and Venezuelans / 14ymedio, Eliecer Avila

Meeting of young Cubans and Venezuelans with Oscar Arias

Meeting of young Cubans and Venezuelans with Oscar Arias

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Eliecer Avila, San Juan, Costa Rica, 29 March 2015 — To Costa Rica, that Latin American country recognized for its outstanding economic push, its democratic stability, and its role in the defense of human rights, a group of young Cubans and Venezuelans has come as guests of the National Liberation Party.

Undoubtedly among the Costa Rican politicians most prominent in recent years, Dr. Oscar Arias Sanchez stands out. He held the presidency for two terms, the first from 1986 to 1990, and the second started in 2006 and ended in 2010. Thus, a meeting with him was something not to be missed on the visit’s agenda.

The Arias administrations brought Costa Rica notable advances in different sectors. So much so, that for the most part his compatriots usually refer to him as the “best president” they ever had.

The successful mediation of several international conflicts, among them that of Nicaragua in the 1980s, also turned him into a global paradigm in defense of peace, for which he was honored with the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize in 1987.

On Saturday, the long awaited meeting with Arias took place at his home where he received a group of young Cubans and Venezuelans. The dialogue lasted more than an hour, during which the former president listened attentively to Continue reading

An Afternoon for Danilo (El Sexto) / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

Danilo’s (El Sexto’s) works displayed on the walls of La Paja Records studio (Luz Escobar)

Danilo’s (El Sexto’s) works displayed on the walls of La Paja Recold studio (Luz Escobar)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, 29 March 2015 – As part of the campaign to demand freedom for the artist Danilo Maldonado, known as “El Sexto,” several artistic activities took place this Saturday at la Paja Recold, the studio of the band Porno para Ricardo.

On the walls of the place were works by the graffiti artist who has been incarcerated since last December 25. El Sexto was arrested shortly before carrying out a performance that consisted of releasing in a public square two pigs with the names of “Fidel and Raul.” The crime that has been charged against him is contempt.

Several friends from all over the world and human rights organizations have demanded his immediate release. Yesterday’s activities joined those demands for his freedom. Among the most important moments of the afternoon was the performance by Tania Bruguera of The Whisper of Tatlin which opened the studio’s microphones to the fifty attendees of the encounter to ask for – in a minute each – Danilo Maldonado’s liberty. Continue reading

Our Dead Are Raising Their Eyelids / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, 22 January 2015

It’s true. Although I still don’t believe it.

But they’ve told me it in all the families I’ve visited since I’ve been out of my country. That’s what families are, a mausoleum. They don’t lie. There is no Cuban family which is not our death memory.

That’s how it is. We Cubans die in the family. That’s the saddest part of dying. Not dying as such, which doesn’t bother the person dying, but the horror of imposing on exactly those people who loved us while we were alive. People should go and die among strangers. Get lost, and that’s it. That’s why I went to the United States. That’s why I didn’t die in Havana, in spite of the fact death whispered “Orlando” in my ear every morning where I lived. Continue reading

Rise and Fall of a Diocese / 14ymedio, Juan Carlos Fernandez

Extension of the Diocese of Pinar del Río. (Juan Carlos Fernández / 14ymedio)

Extension of the Diocese of Pinar del Río. (Juan Carlos Fernández / 14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Carlos Fernandez, Pinar del Rio, 26 March 2015 – “How much everything has changed! How gorgeous the Cathedral is with those add-ons!” exclaimed a Catholic layman on returning to visit his native Pinar del Rio after three decades of exile.

The improvement of the infrastructure of the diocese, which started with the arrival of Archbishop Monsignor Jorge Enrique Serpa, is impressive. The construction work was fast-tracked and the traditional problems with permits disappeared. The cost of the strategy to sustain it, however, will be difficult to sustain.

Cardinal Jaime Ortega and Archbishop Serpa together undertook the task, which happened to please the Cuban authorities, removing part of the secular activity of the diocese to achieve, in exchange, benefits. Continue reading

Leave Me a Comment at the Entrance and We Will Win This Contest / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, 10 March 2015 — Every morning we would lose ourselves amid the skyscrapers until we find ours. That one. The one with the artificial rain that would fall, even in the driest months of the city. She likes then to take a pause in our route. She would let go my hand and draw near to the false marble facades, until she would start getting wet almost without realizing it, from imaginary drops that would evaporate before reaching the asphalt. Imaginary but, even so, they would wet her in a dance that was greatly erotic and somewhat erratic.

Her liquid hair, her transparent garb, in the megalopolis of limousines and suits. I would lag a bit behind. I did not want to interfere with those little mornings in liberty. They lasted so little, it was only an instant. Far from Cuba, far from the Revolution. Oh not so far. Because once, upon the end of an October of overcast skies and recurrent cyclones, it was raining for real in Manhattan. She said to me, “You smell it, too, right? Today is not New York, but rather Havana.” And she went out from under our umbrella, a grave bumbershoot more appropriate to those scenes of cemeteries at the end of the North American films of our childhood.

Far from the “long island” [Cuba], so close to Long Island. She told me, “One day we are going to be like those imaginary drops that never fall. And another day it will be we who fall amid a tired rainstorm.” I just walked behind during the rest of that morning. I knew that she would never forgive me seeing her mix the rain with her foreign-city tears.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Cultural Crime / Rebeca Monzo

Celia Cruz

Rebeca Monzo, 27 March 2015 — For the last few years I have been tuning-in to a program broadcast on Sundays, from 6 to 9am, on the Cuban Radio station Radio Rebelde, ironically titled, “Memories.”

Because I love good Cuban music of all eras, I am a faithful listener of this program, and I also take the opportunity to dance a little, as a means of morning exercise. I must, I confess, bite the bullet to ignore the tedious sermons (“….had to travel thousands of kilometers to buy the molds….when the island was blockaded….”) and which year after year they play on the air lest, as they say, we forget.

What this program keeps quiet about is that it has been the Revolutionary government itself which has subjected its people to a criminal cultural blockade, depriving more than three generations of our best musicians and singers, for the sole fact of their having emigrated after 1959 Continue reading

Will the mattress arrive before the baby turns a year old? / 14ymedio, Yosmany Mayeta

Woman with a mattress (Yosmany Mayeta)

Woman with a mattress (Yosmany Mayeta)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yosmany Mayeta Labrada, Santiago de Cuba, 28 March 2015 — The Gonzalez family baby slept her first weeks in a plastic tub lined with sheets and blankets. She could not use the crib because her parents did not manage to buy the mattress that is assigned by the Santiago de Cuba ration market to expectant mothers.

Shortages of the product and delays in its arrival to those in need create discomfort and situations like that of this baby in homes all over the country but with greater severity in the eastern region.

Outside of some stores intended for that purpose there are long lines of pregnant women and their families to buy the so-called “module basket” that is given at a subsidized price to each mother. The prices in the free market are unaffordable for a good many families. They need at least 50 convertible pesos (CUC) in order to get a mattress in the hard currency market, while the average monthly salary does not exceed 20 CUC. Continue reading

A Leader Of Civil Society, A Real Story Without A Moral / Reinaldo Escobar

Desde Aqui, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 27 March 2015 — On a cold November morning in the late eighties, some two hundred of us were trying to come to an agreement to organize a line to buy interprovincial bus tickets at an agency in Havana’s Playa municipality. As usually happens in these cases, the line had two heads, both justifying themselves with loud protestations of their indisputable evidence of having arrived first.

The vast majority of those gathered there were trying to spend Christmas in some province. For inexplicable reasons, two parallel lists had been drawn up, both established at different times. At that time – and to some extent still – the police prohibited these lists, so it wasn’t possible to appeal to the police authority to establish some order in such a confusing situation. Continue reading

Suspended or Censored? / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

14Ymedio
The members of the Taliban of the Cuban official web Reflejos, offended by the presence of an independent site like 14Ymedio should be celebrating: after a week of putting up with such dangerous neighbors, it withdrew the Yoani Sanchez’s daily from its platform. Authorities have demonstrated their inability to stand the test of freedom of the press.

cubanet square logo Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, MIAMI, Florida, 27 March 2015 — The members of the Taliban of Reflejos, the Cuban government-sponsored website, offended by the presence of an independent site like 14Ymedio should be celebrating. After a week of putting up with such dangerous neighbors, the authorities gave censure the all clear, in virtue of which 14ymedio has been “suspended or mothballed” because, in this era of technology and communications, euphemisms are also updated — it will no longer be able to be viewed on a platform which describes itself as “inclusive”.

Thus, while 14ymedio, the digital newspaper, launched from Cuba and in which several independent journalists on the Island collaborate or are involved, has demonstrated its ability to make use of any possible opening that facilitates access to its pages by Cubans from within Cuba, the authorities have shown their inability to stand the test of freedom of the press and differing opinions, particularly when participants have the moral authority of having experienced, on a daily and firsthand basis, the realities they narrate, report, or comment on. Continue reading

Web Platform Reflejos Closes the ‘14ymedio’ Blog / 14ymedio

"Esteemed user of the Platform "Blogs Reflejos": You have repeatedly published content that is not in keeping with the objectives of the platform Reflejos, not complying with the conditions you previously accepted. For that reason the blog is suspended...

“Esteemed user of the Platform “Blogs Reflejos”: You have repeatedly published content that is not in keeping with the objectives of the platform Reflejos, not complying with the conditions you previously accepted. For that reason the blog is suspended…”

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 27 March 2015 – The new Cuban blog platform, Reflejos, has decided to close the 14ymedio blog for “repeatedly publishing content that does not conform to the objectives with which the platform was created,” according to an email sent this Friday by the administrators.

The daily is accused of “failing to meet [the site’s] the conditions of use” with no other details. Nevertheless, when it was launched March 18, Kirenia Fagundo Garcia, a consultant on Reflejos, explained that there were no “restrictions as far as topics addressed on the blogs and users interested in the service.”

The blog opened by this daily on the digital platform was designed to bring its contents to Cuban readers since our site has been blocked on the Island’s servers since its creation in May of 2014.

During the few days in which it was active, the blog published a varied group of texts that ranged from culture to recipes to opinion columns. Neither verbal violence nor personal attacks were used, and the majority of commenters were internet users very interested in the topics that the posts covered.

The 14ymedio blog has been the object of many criticisms by bloggers associated with the Cuban government. At the beginning of this week, the official site for CubaSí news lamented the presence of “mercenaries in service of the US” on Reflejos. The writer of the article, M. H. Lagarde, accused 14ymedio in wrathful terms of having “contaminated” the platform with “counter-revolutionary propaganda.”

The digital platform is part of the Cuba Va project of the Computer and Electronic Youth Club. Set up on the free content manager WordPress, it has several technological deficiencies such as slow operation, low storage capacity (barely 250 megabytes per blog) and problems with the image upload tool. Nevertheless, in spite of these technical difficulties, we had managed to create a functional “mirror” of 14ymedio, on a service that calls itself Reflejos (Reflections) and that was announced from the beginning as a space for the blogs of the Cuban family.

Translated by MLK