There Are No Foreigners / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Graffiti painted on a wall and later erased in Havana. (14ymedio)

Graffiti painted on a wall (left) and later erased (right) in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, 12 October 2015 — Pepes, Yumas and tourists are some of the names we give to those who visit our country. For many Cubans, these travelers are their main source of income, through accommodation, transportation, dance and language classes. Some also share classrooms at the university, or work in a joint venture. However, in most cases their stay is brief, they are passing through, for only a few days or months. What happens when they come to stay?

A painting on a Havana wall addresses the contradiction between the official discourse that prides itself on the solidarity of a nation, but one where the immigrant has no place. This drawing of Che Guevara with a contentious quote – “In the homeland of solidarity there are no foreigners” – lasted just a few hours in its makeshift place, before the censor arrived in the form of a blue brushstroke to cover it over. For the government, when the foreigners arrive on their cruises, stay a few nights and leave their cold hard cash in the state coffers, everything seems fine. It is a whole different thing when they decide to come and stay. Then, the nationalistic hostility that characterizes the Cuban system shows itself.

Cuban immigration law is perhaps one of the strictest on the planet for a foreigner who settles in the national territory. For decades, living here was a privilege allowed only to the “comrades” of Eastern Europe, apprentice guerrillas, and political refugees from Latin American dictatorships. Diplomatic personnel and some chosen academics completed the map of natives of other countries who would stay in Cuba more or less permanently.

The island ceased to be a country of immigrants, where the crucible of identity joined together cultures far and near. Chinese, French, Arabs, Haitians, Spaniards and Poles, among many others, brought their customs, culinary recipes, and entrepreneurial initiatives to achieve the wonder of diversity. Today it is rare to see gathered around family tables people who were not born here.

At the end of 2014, the National Bureau of Statistics announced that the number of foreign residents in Cuba in 2011 represented just 0.05% of the population. A figure that contrasts with the 128,392 foreigners – 1.3% of the population – that we shared the island with in 1981. Two factors explain the sharp drop in foreign residents: the implosion, in the 1990s, of the socialist camp, whence the “technicals” of yesteryear; and, above all, because our country long ago ceased to be a nation of opportunities.

While foreign residents were leaving, temporary visitors were becoming an economic “lifeline” in the face of an increasing material misery. These latter were, for a long time, the only ones with hard currency, and with it the ability to buy shampoo in the “diplotiendas” (diplomat stores), and to experience the enormous luxury of enjoying a cold beer in a hotel bar. The tourist became the Prince Charming of many young Cuban women’s dreams, the son-in-law that every father-in-law wanted, and the preferred tenant of rooms for rent.

Even today foreigners are seen by many Cubans as wallets with legs who walk the streets, which must be emptied of every coin. It is difficult for a foreigner in Cuba to determine to what extent the friendliness they come across in the streets is the natural kindness of our people, versus a histrionic performance the objective of which is to get one’s hand in their pocket.

Cubans have lost the habit of living – equal to equal – with “the other.” Sharing jobs with immigrants, accepting that people speak different languages on a public bus. Our kitchens have been impoverished by lack of contact with other gastronomic experiences, we have become less universal and markedly more “islanders” in the worst sense of the word. We have lost the capacity to tolerate and welcome other ways of doing, speaking and living.

How will we react when our country becomes a destination for immigrants? Will they be condemned to the worst jobs? Will xenophobic groups emerge that reject those who come from overseas? Will there be NGOs to protect them? Programs to help them integrate? Politicians who don’t fear them? All these questions need to be answered in a shorter time frame than we think. Cuba could again be, very soon, a nation of people who come from many places.

Another Sunday of Repression of Activists Throughout the Country / 14ymedio

The Ladies in White on their walk this Sunday in Havana (photo Juan Angel Moya)

The Ladies in White on their walk this Sunday in Havana (photo Juan Angel Moya)

14ymedio, Havana, 12 October 2015 – A new round of repression against activists was experienced in Cuba this Sunday. The arrests began in the early morning hours in order to prevent dissidents from participating in the march on Fifth Avenue in Havana, which on this occasion included a tribute to the late leader of the Ladies in White, Laura Pollan.

The march through this downtown street was joined by 57 Ladies in White and 21 human rights activists, in addition to the mother and grandmother of artist Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto. The walk began in Gandhi Park, next to the Santa Rita Parish in the Miramar neighborhood. Later several dissidents were arrested, among them the blogger Lia Villares and dissident Antonio G. Rodiles.

Activist Arcelio Molina Leyva reported to 14ymedio that “the headquarters of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) was raided, and they stole everything they could,” besides detaining “those who were there.” The dissident detailed that among those arrested were Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, Ovidio Martin Castellanos and Yriade Hernandez Aguilera.

UNPACU had called for a demonstration this Sunday for the liberation of three of its members who were arrested after approaching Pope Francis before his mass in Revolution Plaza. Activists Zaqueo Baez Guerrero and Ismael Bonet Reni continue in custody and presumably on hunger strike, according to members of their organization.

At least twenty activists from UNPACU were driven by police to the Third Police Unit in the city of Santiago de Cuba. The number of arrests throughout the country has been calculated by opposition sources at more than 200 people.

Hours after his arrest, opposition leader Jose Daniel Ferrer was freed.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

Chronicle of a Free Man’s Arrest / Cubanet, Roberto Jesus Quinones Haces


They do not show me the arrest warrant. My mother begs me to go; I hug her and leave with them for the police station., Roberto Jesus Quinones Haces, Guantanamo, 8 Cuba 2015 – Five thirty-five in the morning on Monday, October 5, 2015. I get up, go to the bathroom, brush, put the coffee pot on the electric burner. The day seems like any other until some harsh knocks on the door tell me that I may be wrong.

I open. A group from the Ministry of the Interior (MININT) is in the doorway of my home. Between uniformed and plainclothes officers there are 19 people, not counting those remaining in the surrounding area where there are also special troop members, as I will later learn.

A young military officer who introduces himself as Captain Gamboa informs me that they have come to carry out a search. I ask for the warrant, and he shows it to me at a distance. I try to read it but he quickly withdraws it. Nevertheless, I manage to see that the objective is to find objects related to my “subversive activity.” That’s what they call my work as an independent journalist.

In my room they find my personal calendar and some books, a broken cell phone and one that works, a Canon camera that I have not used for lack of a USB cable and a laptop that my brother who lives in the United States sent to me. In my work room they find a desktop personal computer, property of the Catholic Church of Guantanamo, which my wife, my nephew and I call “the tractor” due to its years of use.

They also confiscate some twenty CDs, four flash drives – among them one of my mother’s, which contains several episodes of “Case Closed” and dozens of chapters of a Mexican soap opera – a music record by Compay Segundo and another of jazz, an issue of the magazine Cuban Culture Encounter and another of Coexistence, a magazine managed in Pinar del Rio by Dagoberto Valdes. Added to the list of ‘subversive objects’ are 700 dollars that I have been saving to repair my house.

At eleven thirty in the morning, they finish. Then I discover that the search warrant is not signed by any prosecutor, but it is already too late; I made the mistake of letting them enter.

The arch-bishop of the dioceses arrives, Monsignor Wilfredo Pino Estevez, and witnesses the moment when I ask Captain Eyder to show me the arrest warrant. He answers that if I want an arrest warrant, he can make it right then. I protest. My mother, a 77 year-old woman, gets nervous. The officer says that if anything happens it will be my responsibility. She begs me to leave, I hug her, and I leave with them for the police station. The street is full of onlookers.

At MININT’s Provincial Operations Unit they bring me prisoner garb and assign me number 777. I tell Captain Gamboa that I am not a number but a human being and that if they call me by that number, I will not respond. “Then we’ll get you,” he says.

In 1999 I spent 49 days in one of these cells. I see that nothing has changed except that now a young nurse takes my blood pressure and asks several questions about my health. Then they take me to the cell that has no water and is equipped with cement beds and a hole for defecating in view of the four inmates who welcome me.

They call for lunch. I do not go. I manage to sleep some. At about five in the afternoon a guard opens the door, looks at me and says: “You, come.” I leave. They photograph me and take my fingerprints. Captain Eyder receives me in the interrogation room. He accuses me of publishing news containing truths but also lies, that I am not a journalist. Later Captain Gamboa and Colonel Javier will tell me the same thing. I answer that between 1986 and 1990 I published film criticism and cultural articles in the Venceremos newspaper, an official publication of the Communist Party in Guantanamo, and no one said then that I was not a journalist, that Cuban cultural history demonstrates that hundreds of writers practiced journalism.

They threaten me with another jail and show me Complaint 50 from 2015 in which I am accused of Dissemination of False News against International Peace because, according to them, my articles seek to disrupt relations between Cuba and the United States. I did not know I was so important.

At one point in the interrogation they assure me that they are not going to return some of my items of property, that it depends on my behavior and that thanks to the generosity of the Revolution, they are going to set me free.

At about eleven at night they give me a Warning that I do not sign because they do not give me a copy. For the same reason I did not sign the Registration Record or the other documents.

I return home. My mother is sleeping under the effect of a sedative but awakens. I feel great pain when she hugs me and cries. Some moments later she asks me: “Did you eat?” and goes to the kitchen.

My children and siblings who live in the United States, where my wife is travelling, call me. They tell me that they learned what happened on the news. They ask me not to continue. I want to tell them that the only thing that sustains me is this freedom, but I remain silent. Such confessions can sound pompous.

Then everything is silent. The day ends as if my routine had been completed.

About the Author

Journalist Roberto de Jesus Quinones

Roberto Jesus Quinones Haces was born in the city of Cienfuegos September 20, 1957. He is a law graduate. In 1999 he was unjustly and illegally sentenced to eight years’ incarceration and since then has been prohibited from practicing as a lawyer. He has published poetry collections “The Flight of the Deer” (1995, Editorial Oriente), “Written from Jail” (2001, Ediciones Vitral), “The Folds of Dawn,” (2008, Editorial Oriente), and “The Water of Life” (2008, Editorial El Mar y La Montana). He received the Vitral Grand Prize in Poetry in 2001 with his book “Written from Jail” as well as Mention and Special Recognition from the Nosside International Juried Competition in Poetry in 2006 and 2008, respectively. His poems appear in the 1994 UNEAC Anthology, in the 2006 Nosside Competition Anthology and in the selection of ten-line stanzas “This Jail of Pure Air” published by Waldo Gonzalez in 2009.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

Somos+ in Matanzas / Somos+

With Alexei Gamez as a provincial coordinator, leading the meeting and the presence of several members, we held the monthly reunion of the movement Somos+ in Matanzas province. The topics covered included: the introduction of new members, the analysis of current issues in the province, the need of personal self-improvement and the establishment of the provincial structure. The meeting was also attended by Osvaldo Sanabria Caso, a neighbor who as an observer could witness the sincerity and freedom that characterized the way the people present reflected their own realities and those of many others. “I imagined a bunch of people full of hatred and resentment towards the leaders of this country, but I was completely wrong. Very brave young people and committed to Cuba above all, that is what you can find in Somos+” he said after the meeting ended.

One of the highlights of the meeting was the election of Franky Rojas Torres as the person in charge of Media and Press for the province, also the appointment of Duniesky Santos Jomolca as the one in charge of the improvement of the members and Liset Sanabria Arias as responsible for the finances of the provincial headquarters.

According to the coordinator: “it was an excellent time to be repeated soon” since it was established that on a monthly basis these meetings will take place in order to organize and analyze the performance of tasks which always have one single purpose, to show everyone that Somos+ (We Are More), young people committed to work, are Cubans who have decided to stop running away and with courage face our unique and biggest goal, a Cuba for all Cubans.

Translated by: Y. Rodriguez

A Dubious Decision / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, 10 October 2015 — At a time when many Cuban youths, adults, and even elderly are choosing to  emigrate, it is noteworthy that a Cuban who has lived in Canada for a decade, with a wife and young child, posted on Facebook his decision to return to Cuba. Maybe he has been influenced by the ongoing process of improving relations between Cuba and the United States, or even the recent visit of Pope Francis. Hope springs eternal, but in this case, all that glitters is not gold. Cuba, a decade later, continues frozen in time.

The profound economic, political, social, and moral crisis persists, compounded by a climate of corruption and violence; wages continue at the poverty level, failing to  meet the minimum needs of citizens; prices of necessities are rising geometrically; the health system is fine for foreign tourists, and for exporting professionals to other countries, but is poor within the island, with deteriorated hospitals, lack of hygiene, a shortage of experienced doctors and nurses, and insufficient drugs; education is of low quality, carried out in inadequate teaching facilities, lacking maintenance and materials; and citizens lack the most basic rights, being subjected from cradle to grave with the most absurd ideological bombardment.

Everyone is free to decide what to do with his or her life, but when a wife and child are involved, you also have to think about them. To exchange Canadian security, development, and democracy for Cuban insecurity, poverty, and totalitarianism, is a very dubious decision.

Translated by Tomás A.

Annual Convention of the Political Movement Somos+ / Somos+

SOMOS+, 8 October 2015 — With Cuba and for change, Somos+ invites you to its Annual Convention and congratulates all people from Cuba and the world who participated in the contest for choosing the poster of the event. The quality of the works is impressive and reminds us that we come from a land full of talent, strength and creativity.

The selected work was created by Sandor Valdes, and it will preside over the meeting this coming November 14th. We congratulate the author and thank the effort made by all the participants.

See you all on November 14th at FIU!

Translated by: Y. Rodriguez

Questions to a Symposium / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Does the Government of Cuba recognizes as obsolete the choice of armed struggle to achieve social change? (14ymedio)

Does the Government of Cuba recognizes as obsolete the choice of armed struggle to achieve social change? (14ymedio)

14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 8 October 2015 — Many unanswered questions, inaccuracies and poorly sustained theories have characterized the political process that began in Cuba in January 1959. Perhaps with the objective to remedy such lacks, the First International Symposium on the Cuba Revolution: Genesis and Historic Development, in which its organizers propose “to analyze and work together from academia, science, art, culture and politics” to better understand the process “in all its complexity.”

The event, which will be held in the Palace of Conventions in Havana from 13 to 15 October, will have some 200 participants from some 20 countries. In its sessions they will debate “the dynamic evolution of the revolutionary process, and the readjustments and updating of the economic model,” according to the announcement of the symposium.

Obviously, they have not invited thinkers or theorists from the critical sector, who sustain notions such as the contradiction between the concept of “revolution” and remaining in power for over five decades. Invitees include scholars such as Dr. Eduardo Torres Cuevas, president of the Academy of the History of Cuba, Brazilian theologian Frei Betto and Dr. Pablo Gonzalez Casanova, from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Continue reading

“They Want To Frighten Me and Other Independent Journalists” / 14ymedio

Journalist Roberto de Jesus Quinones

Journalist Roberto de Jesus Quinones

14ymedio, Havana, 7 October 2015 – The Cuban political police intend to prosecute lawyer and journalist Roberto de Jesus Quinones for a crime called “spreading false news about international peace,” according to what the independent journalist told this daily a few hours following his release after having been arrested October 5.

Monday a group of almost 20 people entered Quinones’ home in Guantanamo, presenting a search warrant that authorized the seizure of “means for subversive activities.”

The independent journalist was arrested, and they informed him that a file is being prepared where there appears a complaint against him based on the crime listed in the fifth section of Chapter III of the Penal Code, “Crimes against International Peace and Law.”

The rule stipulates that “whoever spreads false news for the purpose of damaging international peace or endangering the prestige or credit of the Cuban state or its good relations with another State, incurs a sentence of imprisonment of one to four years.”

“They told me that they are going to analyze any evidence they find in the confiscated objects: a laptop, a tablet, my cell phone, several books, my schedule, my phone book, the calendar where I write what I have to do, several documents and some 60 discs with films or installation programs, so that after they analyze their contents they will decide what course the process will take,” said Quinones.

As a lawyer, the reporter is also a member of the organization Corriente Agramontista. “They were always telling me to stop writing for Cubanet if I did not want to get into trouble,” he explains. “That makes me think that the basic point is to scare me and by extension other independent journalists,” he adds, although he says he has the impression that “the current political context is not favorable for them to imprison anyone for political reasons.”

According to Quinones, there is now in his neighborhood “a very unfavorable opinion towards the political police,” because he maintains that he has “a lot of prestige in the neighborhood, and the arrest operation was outrageously disproportionate.”

“What I have written and published is that I think that in any kind of negotiation, both sides must make concessions and that the United States has not demanded compliance on the part of Cuba with respect to rights and democracy,” he says regarding his opinions about the re-establishment of relations between the two countries.

Nevertheless, he explains: “Of course I cannot oppose the improvement of the condition of the Cuban people, but I believe that the United States, as a democratic power, cannot economically favor a Government that subjects its people the way the Cuban government does.” Because of opinions like that, “they tell me that I am systematically discrediting the Cuban government, and currently that works against foreign relations.”

In December 2006, Quinones finished a sentence of three years for falsifying documents in the process of buying and selling a home, although, in his opinion, the true cause was that he was practically the only lawyer in the province who dared to defend dissidents. After that time, he was no longer admitted to any collective firm, and they also discriminate against him in the Cuban Writers and Artists Union (UNEAC), an organization to which he belongs in his capacity as a writer and art critic.

He adds that on five occasions he has sought membership in a law firm, and they have not even answered him. Moreover, he says he recently told the president of the Writers Association that if he does not convene a meeting to explain the discrimination to which he is subjected, he will submit his resignation from UNEAC.

The journalist expresses strong determination: “I told my interrogators that I would continue writing for Cubanet. I cannot let them frighten me.”

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

A Message From my Faith to the State Security Authority / Somos+

Somos+, Pedro Lago Segura, 8 October 2015 — If you believe you can change me from your position of power, you don’t know where the real power lies. And if you think that with that sabre-rattling you prevent my voice from being heard by others or me from hearing others’ voices, you are not free in spirit and confuse the weak, fully twisting a democratic exercise.

Anonymous messages do not intimidate me. And so you will never prevent me to say and express what I feel. And intending to manipulate around wherever I try to earn a living, won’t work out either. It may cause some distrust and fear of me, but the one who truly gets to know me and understand in depth my ideas, really knows who I am and what I want, which is nothing but good for my country and everyone, including them and all of you too.

They are mistaken and do not know how much. They’re not doing anything other than chopping down their main goals, giving less credibility and losing more people every day.

Instilling fear is not a way to build a model or a nation. Those who do so, end up building in themselves and internally an atmosphere of fear and despair. Because he who is afraid now -understandably- because of the one who believes he is right and doesn’t seem to fear at all, tomorrow may not forgive those who have always feared when they use force subjugate and impose themselves on the people. And let us hope this won’t be the case, if what we really want is to see our motherland feel proud to have us.

My enemies are fabricated by themselves, because I have no prejudices nor intolerance. I am among those who believe that the struggle has much more sense if done from the core rather than from the distance. I am not concerned about my fate, because I know it will be for the good what I do and I shall not cease in my doing.

That I am a bit stressed? It’s true. That I am somewhat tired? It is also true. That I have problems? Well, in one way or another everyone has them. This country is actually full of them! But my being, my ideas and principles are and will remain intact, even if a whole world and all its problems are against me. I do not have the support of my father on policy issues, but at least I have learned to demand his respect and tolerance. No matter what happens to me in the street (despite having more support than rejection), with my family I have everything and everyone, and that only God can take away.

Asking me to change my mind? Never. They have not given nor will ever give me reasons. I know Cuba and know what it is going through, without even having to leave it or know other systems and other societies. Cuba is Van Van, Silvio Rodriguez, Pablo Milanes, Los Aldeanos, Compay Segundo, Buena Fe and many others. But it is also Celia Cruz, Andy Garcia, Willy Chirino, Arturo Sandoval, Bebo Valdes, the Estefans and many more. It’s music, singing, dancing and it is passion. It is culture, cigars, art and son. It is struggle, grief, peace and religion.

Cast out your selfishness, your bigotry and your foolish pride. The country does not just need us -you and me- it needs all of us. I have enough reasons to believe that the Cuban people are more revolutionary than socialist, although have not known how to be sufficiently so to demean some of their stolen rights.

Desist from everything that ties you and makes you a slave. Stop shielding yourself under a “patriotism,” in order to defend the despots with their ideologies, which do not need to be imposed on everyone just because it is their whim, or for nationalized doctrine or hypocritical commitment. You can be patriotic and perhaps even revolutionary, without being Marxist or Leninist, without being a communist or socialist.

Marti taught us that patriotism is a sacred duty, when one strives for bringing the homeland up to the condition in which men and women may live in happier, and it is reprehensible when invoked to prevent friendship among all people of good faith in the universe.

That’s why I say it is necessary to see and demand the state as a protector, the country as home, and the nation as a large family with room for the many and the few, the good and the bad, the poor and the rich, the unhappy and honest. With room for: state, citizenship, government, opposition, political parties, people, socialists, dissidents. That is democracy. That is independence. That’s what I want Cuba to be. That’s what I demand from you and will demand, and what many others in thousands of different ways demand from you and will demand as well. I do not try to make you think like me, but do not then try to make me think like you do. I do not believe in opportunists or dictators, I do not believe in “national socialists” as Juan Carlos Cremata expressed, nor in corrupt planners. I do believe in individual freedom, in the opportunities democracy provides and what is done with the soul and the heart.

Now I ask you. What do you believe in?

Translated by: Y. Rodriguez

Quo Vadis* Francis? / Mario Lleonart

Those of us who lived through the repressive crackdown that took place in Cuba in 2012 during the visit of Benedict XVI have never received a response from the Vatican, although it was informed of the facts. Jose Conrado—the priest who is a maverick within the Catholic Church in Cuba, like a modern-day Father Bartolome de las Casas**—met with many of us on March 29, 2012, in the home of Ismael de Diego, to share experiences of what happened during the papal visit to Cuba, the police crackdown called “Operation Vow of Silence.” The priest expressed regret and personally delivered letters and videos to the Apostolic Nunciature. But they didn’t even give him the courtesy of a response. As a result of this crackdown some activists were detained for more than two years without even the formality of a trial.

When those repressed in Cuba met months later, on February 11, 2013, the date of Joseph Ratzinger’s resignation, something which hadn’t happened for almost six hundred years, we speculated that among all the reasons why the Pope took this momentous decision, even if the smallest of all, was his silence about what had happened to us.

Before the announcement of the new Pope’s visit this time, many of us thought the story would be different. As an indication of this, on July 16, 2015, Cuban Civil Society Open Space sent a letter by way of the Apostolic Nunciature to Pope Francis suggesting that he “receive a representation of Cuban civil society, as had happened during your recent apostolic trip to Latin America, in a private audience during the busy schedule of your anticipated next visit to Cuba. This symbolic gesture could mean the inclusion of all Cubans, especially those of us pushed to the margins of society and treated as second-class citizens because of our way of thinking or for proposing peaceful, non-violent alternatives.” This letter was delivered in person that same afternoon by Father Jose Conrado, accompanied by the prominent Catholic layman Dagoberto Valdes, and me, and was received by the Secretary of the Nuncio.

Regrettably, our letter did not receive a positive response and the Pope did not hold private meetings, except with Fidel Castro, the victimizer, to whom he extended a harmful and very undeserved legitimacy. To make matters worse, and contrary to that spirit, what actually happened was that across the length and breadth of the island at least 250 peaceful activists were arrested. The four activists who managed to break through police cordons to try to reach the Pope to respectfully express their feelings and deliver a letter were seen live by the entire world, and to date they remain in a maximum security prison. In addition to this there were hundreds of illegal house arrests and communication blockages similar to those enforced during the 2012 “Vow of Silence” operation when Benedict XVI visited.

Weeks in advance the regime began preparing this crackdown, using international media to defame and circulate false information in order to create confusion. An interview with agent Raul Capote by Russian media was disseminated worldwide. Agents employed by the regime did the same on social networks with apocryphal stories on Twitter trying to instigate religious hatred and bias the Catholic clergy against Cuban civil society, warning of phony “sabotages” against the papal visit.

In his homily the Pope expressed messages of mercy and peace worthy of being taken seriously by Cuban society and by those who misrule. But the latter did not give any sign of receiving the message, and even exploited his visit, as they had that of Benedict XVI, to carry out, as usual, something quite the opposite. While representatives of the regime sported  guayaberas and hypocritical smiles, their henchmen returned to execute behind the scenes, as in 2012, a genuine witch hunt.

Still the Vatican and Pope Francis could help greatly by issuing some statement acknowledging the above facts, which we never got from the pontificate of Benedict XVI. But maybe Francis agrees with the former president of the National Assembly of Cuba, Ricardo Alarcon de Quesada, who when interviewed by Jackie Nespral of NBC said dismissively that “the Pope is a busy man and cannot waste time with people and issues that are not important.”

*Latin for “Where are you going?” The reference is to an apochryphal encounter by the Apostle Peter, fleeing persecution in Rome, with the risen Jesus. When Peter asks Jesus this question, Jesus answers “To Rome to be crucified again.” In response, Peter returns to Rome, and his own subsequent martyrdom.

**16th-century Spanisn cleric who championed Native-American rights.

Translated by Tomás A.

Spanish post
25 September 2015

Cuban Homecomings: Raul Castro’s New Business / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida,14 September 2015 — Homecomings are a big business.

The same problems can often be seen in different cities, states and regions, but comparable solutions to those problems often yield very different results.

Convincing certain people to travel or return to Cuba — whether it be for family, vacation, work or out of sexual desire — is yet another obvious strategy by the government of Raul Castro. It amounts to a kind of de-marketing campaign intended, among other things, to capture people’s attention and enhance its image by using us to its advantage while downplaying the significance of exile. Continue reading

The Pioneers Are Retiring / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Nearly half a century later, children who begin studies in Cuban schools are forced to repeat the anachronistic slogan: "Pioneers for Communism, we will be like Che!"

Nearly half a century later, children who begin studies in Cuban schools are forced to repeat the anachronistic slogan: “Pioneers for Communism, we will be like Che!”

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 8 October 2015 — The ceremony is solemn. The national anthem echoes from the loudspeakers and an adult with a serious face ties the blue scarf around the student’s neck. Little has changed since my childhood, when that initiation turned us into members of the youngest mass organization in Cuba. A piece of cloth and a slogan sealed the commitment: “Pioneers for Communism, we will be like Che!”

These days the initiators of the Cuban Pioneers Union, renamed as the José Martí Pioneers Organization (OPJM) in 1977, are applying for retirement at their workplaces. They no longer have that glimmer of hope one saw in their eyes long ago, nor do they even speak about “communism,” a concept that the Party in power itself has forgotten to mention in the Guidelines issued by its last Congress. Continue reading

Any Life in Havana / Angel Santiesteban

Angel Santiesteban, Havana, 26 September 2015 — Rolando never wanted wealth, depending on the point of view you look at it from, because wishing for blue jeans, a good pair of sneakers and some brand name t-shirts, carries an extra sacrifice above and beyond the daily one. It is going beyond, through “ambition,” the possibilities, that usually set or rule an average Cuban’s behavior.

Graduating from nursing school, despite the terrible food that he endured at school, the little enjoyment of those youth years, and the humiliation of being financially supported by his grandmother with her precarious pension, made him walk the desired path of the “easy,” and once his Diploma was endorsed after completion of the mandatory community service required from graduates, he experienced the bad night shift hours at the Hospital emergency rooms, lousy professional rewards and underpayment, and so, among many reasons, accepted the invitation to meet an old but interesting foreigner who offered him, for one night, the equivalent of several months wages. Continue reading

Dominic Miller: “I Want Us To Be The First To Do Something Great Here” / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

Guitarist Dominic Miller and Cuban musician Manolito Simonet. (14ymedio)

Guitarist Dominic Miller and Cuban musician Manolito Simonet. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 7 October 2015 — The British composer and guitarist Dominic Miller said Wednesday that he hopes to perform in Cuba with Sting. “I want to do it before Mick Jagger does it,” he said at a press conference held at the Cuban Art Factory (FAC) in Havana, “because it’s a race and I want us to be the first to do something great here.”

Miller will give a concert this Thursday at the Cuban Art Factory with Manolito Simonet y su Trabuco, They will perform songs from the CD Made in Cuba, what both musicians recorded in Cuba and Tenerife. The CD, almost entirely instrumental, will be launched for the first time this week on the island. Miller said that next March he will also promote the album in Europe. Continue reading

El Sexto Will Resume His Hunger Strike Next Week If He Is Not Released / 14ymedio

Danilo Maldonado, “El Sexto.” (Artist’s File)

Danilo Maldonado, “El Sexto.” (Artist’s File)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 7 October 2015 – The mother of Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto, has talked by phone with the artist, who reaffirmed his decision to resume his hunger strike if he is not released before 15 October. Captive in Valle Grande prison, the graffiti artist says he is willing to return to fasting, even in the midst of his recovery from 24 days without food that ended earlier this month.

Maria Victoria Machado told 14ymedio that she was able to speak for three minutes on Wednesday with graffiti artist and this he told her his decision to stop eating again starting next Thursday if they do not proceed with his release.

Machado said she received a call from Amnesty International asking for authorization to demand the release of her son at the United Nations

Maldonado also said he had been “well treated” by doctors in the prison and that he was “much better.” His mother, meanwhile, told him that the file of his case “is still with the prosecution,” without any new response from the legal authorities.

Machado also said that on Tuesday night she received a call from Amnesty International asking for authorization to demand the release of her son at the United Nations. The human rights organization considers El Sexto a “prisoner of conscience.”