State Security Cites Inalkis Rodriguez for "Damage to Public Property"

Inalkis Rodríguez, environmental activist and contributor to ‘La Hora de Cuba’. (CC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 21 June 2018 — Inalkis Rodriguez, member of the independent magazine Cuba’s Hour, was summoned Thursday by State Security in Camaguey to inform her that she has been accused by the Office of the Historian for, supposedly, having painted “posters on the facade” of the house of Iris Marino, as reported by the publication’s editor, Henry Constantin, to 14ymedio.

In the interrogation, almost an hour in length, they prohibited Rodriguez from leaving the province or country without prior authorization.  “She must present herself next Tuesday to the same police unit,” complains the independent journalist.

Iris Marino, actress and team member for Cuba’s Hour, decided at the end of May with her husband and well-known theater actor, Mario Junquera, to convert the facade of their home into a public platform for graphic expression.

The front of Iris Mariño’s house has been painted with all kinds of offensive phrases, slogans and quotes.

“Some posters degrading my husband and my family showed up on the facade of the house.  The expressions mocked his politics, so he decided to denounce the fact to the prosecutor and the police,” says Marino.

After inaction by the justice agencies, the actress and her husband called for “everyone” who might want to leave a thought on the facade to do it.

“They can come to this space of freedom here at 77 Padre Valencia and leave opinions in favor or against,” explained Marino to this daily.  So far there is graffiti that recalls expressions by Jose Marti and others that support or criticize the government.  The couple’s home is just across from Camaguey’s principal theatre, in an area that is managed by the city’s Office of the Historian because that site was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2008.

A quote from José Martí written on the wall is the reason why Inalkis Rodríguez was cited by the authorities. The quote says: “A man who does not dare to say what he thinks is not an HONORABLE man.” (CC)

The journalists of Cuba’s Hour have been frequently accosted by police authorities who impede their work.  Henry Constantin, Iris Marino Garcia and Sol Garcia Basulto were threatened with being charged with the crime of “usurpation of legal capacity” — i.e. working in a profession without a legal license to do so — for their journalistic work, which could result in them spending a year in jail.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Haydee Milanes Dedicated ‘A Night of Boleros’ to the City of Havana on the Verge of its 500th Birthday

Haydée Milanés dedicated her two concerts to the city of Havana last Wednesday.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, La Habana | Junio 22, 2018 — The singer Haydée Milanés shone on Wednesday night in one of the first days of the 30th edition of the Boleros de Oro International Festival, in which she paid homage to great composers of this genre.

The National Museum of Fine Arts of Cuba was the scene of two concerts by the artist, one at seven in the evening and another at nine.

The singer performed with great skill classic songs from Cuba and Mexico that challenge the oblivion in which the bolero has fallen in spite of its numerous interpreters in Cuban music. Haydée Milanés does not stand on a pedestal to interpret these beautiful songs, she does it from the simplicity of her scenic projection and her excellent fluency in a genre she has cultivated intensely throughout her career. continue reading

La gloria eres tú  by the Cuban composer José Antonio Méndez, and  Contigo en la distancia by César Portillo de la Luz were some of the songs performed. The singer also did justice to some Mexican boleros including Se te olvida by Álvaro Carrillo or Esta tarde vi llover from Armando Manzanero.

Special tribute was offered to Marta Valdés, a woman whom she already considers of her family and who “life and the universe” put in her way to change her destiny. “I will not say anything about her songs because they speak for themselves,” said Milanés, who asked for applause that the audience offered with gusto and intensity.

From her father, Pablo Milanés, she played two compositions that were not widely disseminated in the media, Todos los ojos te miran and Requiem por un amor, with the piano accompaniement of Cucurucho Valdés, a friend from her time as a student at the conservatory.

Milanés is usually accompanied by three musicians in her concerts, but that night the orchestra grew as some of the best musicians of the national scene paraded on stage. Enrique Plá on the drums, Raúl Verdecia and Dayron Ortiz on the guitars, Roberto García on the trumpet and Edgar Martínez on the percussion, while the young Samuel Burgos alternated on the bass with the renowned Fabián García Caturla.

The artist dedicated the concert to La Habana, “a woman I love with all the strength of my soul, a very special woman who will be celebrating 500 years next year.” At the beginning of the concert, the public received a postcard with an ecological message on the back: “I invite you to take care of your Havana.”

The vocalist, invited to the event by maestro Guido López Gavilán, said she felt honored and confessed that for her it was always an dream to participate.

Before she closed, she performed a song by Cuban singer-songwriter Frank Domínguez, Tú me acostumbraste, and after a long ovation she closed with Palabras, by Marta Valdés.

The Boleros de Oro International Festival began with a concert by Beatriz Márquez accompanied by Alejandro Falcón and his Grupo Cubadentro, among other guests, and ends on June 24.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Ariel Ruiz Urquiola Marks Six Days on a Hunger and Thirst Strike

The scientist Ariel Ruiz Urquiola, on his farm in Viñales. (Martinoticias)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 22 June 2018 – Cuban scientist and doctor of science Ariel Ruiz Urquiola, considered a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, is on the sixth day of a hunger and thirst strike to demand his freedom.

At first Ruiz Urquiola demanded his right to work in prison but now “it is for his release,” his sister Omara Ruiz Urquiola told the program ‘Cuba Today’ on Radio Martí Day.

Ariel Ruiz Urquiola was sentenced last month to one year in jail for “contempt” in the Municipal Court of Viñales (Pinar del Río) after a trial that the family considered manipulated by State Security. Urquiola was arrested on the farm he leases in usufruct from the government in that locality after calling officials of the area the “rural guard,” a term that earned him an arrest and accusation of expressing contempt. continue reading

Ruiz Urquiola  started the strike at the Cayo Largo work camp in Consolación del Sur, and was transferred earlier this week to the jail located at Km 5 and 1/2 of Luis Lazo, in Pinar de Río.

“My mother went to see him in prison, he is greatly weakened, and my brother said that he will not abandon the hunger and thirst strike” until his freedom is achieved, said Omara Ruiz.

Sources close to the family told this newspaper that the prison doctor “wants to give him an IV” but Ruiz Urquiola refuses. The scientist has been transferred from the jail to a health center inside the prison itself.

Letter sent by the family of Ruiz Urquiola to the authorities. (CC)

His sister and a group of friends delivered a letter last Tuesday to the Attorney General’s Office in which they express their “disagreement” with “the denial of the right to work” and appeal to that institution to “investigate and reverse” the current situation of the biologist.

Ruiz Urquiola has participated in several research projects on Cuban biodiversity. He also directed international research conducted between the University of Havana, the Natural History Museum of Berlin and the Humboldt University on the origin and settlement of the Sierra de los Órganos, in Pinar del Río.

In 2016, the scientist was expelled from the University of Havana Marine Research Center under the official argument of unjustified absences, but, in his opinion, it was a plot against him because he is no longer considered “reliable” by the authorities, because of his political opinions.

At the end of that same year, the biologist was arrested three times, for demanding the medicines his seriously ill sister needed. After a hunger strike and a vigil outside the Hospital Oncológico de La Habana, Ruiz Urquiola managed to obtain the drug for his sister.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

The Iconography of ‘Che’ Guevara Continues to Arouse Passions

Spenser Rapone at his graduation in 2017. (@punkproletarian)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 22 June 2018 — Ninety years after his birth, Ernesto Che Guevara remains one of the most controversial historical figures. This week, a few days after the celebration of the anniversary of his birth, his image has once again aroused anger among his biggest detractors.

This Thursday night, a bust of Guevara was destroyed by a strong explosion in Caracas. The sculpture, located on Avenida Bolívar next to the Nuevo Circo passenger terminal, was completely destroyed, presumably because of an improvised explosive device.

The local press has published images that show the empty space previously occupied by the sculpture, which served as a meeting place for pro-government rallies and tributes to the memory of the heroes of the revolution and communism. continue reading

The agents of the intelligence service, Sebin, and the Corps of Scientific, Penal and Criminal Investigations (Cicpc) are investigating what happened.

The bust of Guevara in Caracas appeared last night in a thousand pieces. (@DanielBlancoPz)

The event coincides with the expulsion of a cadet from the US Army after he displayed a communist symbol on his Twitter account.

Spenser Rapone published on social networks photographs of his graduation in West Point where he is wearing a red T-shirt with the face of Guevara, and another in which he raised his fist and rotated his hat, adding: “Communism will win.”

The events occurred last year, but it is now that he has been expelled.

Rapone resigned on Monday after receiving a previous reprimand for “improper conduct of an officer.” The Army carried out an investigation in which allegedly, the cadet said, it was discovered that he had posted online to defend a socialist revolution and belittle high ranking officers.

The young man said goodbye with the tweet of an image in which he said goodbye offensively, raising his middle finger, at the entrance of Fort Drum, with the text: “One last greeting.”

Rapone, 26, who claims to have embraced communism in Afghanistan, has encouraged soldiers to lay down their arms if they “are willing to stop serving the agents of imperialism in a revolutionary movement.”

West Point said, through a statement, that the actions of the former officer “in no way reflect the values of the United States Military Academy or the United States Army.” Marco Rubio personally called the secretary of the Army to eliminate Rapone from the officer ranks.

Greg Rinckey, a lawyer specializing in military law, told the Associated Press that the military academy may request reimbursement of Rapone’s education cost because he failed to meet the five-year total service obligation required upon graduation.

Rapone, who plans to speak at a conference on socialism in Chicago next month, has said he is aware of the consequences of his actions. “Of course my military career is dead, on the other hand, many people came and showed their support.”

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Migrations From the Viewpoint of the Receiving Country / Miriam Celaya

Migrants protest on the Mexico-US border (AFP)

Miriam Celaya, Cubanet, West Palm Beach, 1 June 2018 – The moving images of dozens of Central American children held in federal facilities in the United States, after being forcibly separated from their parents when they were detained as illegal immigrants by the National Guard after crossing the Mexican-American border, have been overwhelming media and social networks these days, stirring emotions and promoting bitter debates.

According to what the US government has acknowledged, from mid-April until the end of May, around 2,000 minors have suffered family division in this way, a trauma that adds to the hardships experienced in their countries of origin and the dangers and shocks typical of the journey through Central America and Mexico in pursuit of the tempting American dream.

The zero-tolerance policy for illegal immigration, applied to the letter by the current resident of the White House, is causing a flood of opinions that tend to be located in two diametrically opposed poles: at one extreme, those who support the high-profile leader in this and all positions, in an absolute and uncritical way; and in the opposite extreme, those that are ready to launch an attack against any initiative of the current administration.  There are no gradations in any of these two sides, neither in the Trump supporters nor in the Trump critics. Their common denominator is the field of emotions. continue reading

And in the midst of government politics, debates and emotions, are the plight of migrant families and the tensions that irregular migration creates within the receiving countries; a phenomenon that has become a crisis and is affecting internal policies in the main developed hubs of the western world: Europe and the United States.

There is no doubt about the solidarity aroused by the helplessness of migrants. But, what if we momentarily situate ourselves on the other side of the spectrum, that is, the receiving part of all that migratory avalanche? Who will assume the social costs of uncontrollable and massive entry into their territory? And, looking at the details, who is directly responsible for the fate of those minors held at the US border?

Demonization of migrants in the Trump era?

It is known that the problem of illegal immigrants – (“irregulars”), to avoid hurting susceptibilities – that penetrate the porous US borders is a long-standing issue of such complexity that it exceeds the simple political confrontation between presidents of one party or another, or the political interests of either Democrats or Republicans.

In fact, the fundamental cause of migration from Latin America to the US lies in the economic, political and social crises of the countries of departures, and not – or at least not directly – in the “pro-immigrant” or “anti-immigrant” actions of successive US administrations. And this is precisely why the solution of the evil begins with the respective countries of origin of the migrants, regardless of the migratory policies of the White House.

In any case, no nation, however developed and rich it may be, and no matter how much or how little territory it encompasses, can allow the unstoppable entry of irregular immigrants that has been going on at the US borders, subjected to a virtual hounding.

On the other hand, while a powerful and rich nation such as the United States is capable of absorbing a huge number of immigrants from all over the world, it is no less true that the much-needed “right to emigrate” ends where the sovereign right of each country becomes vulnerable to accept or reject the entry of a flood of immigrants whose cultures and customs are dissimilar to theirs. And this is the reverse logic that reluctant governments employ to refuse the entry of an infinite flow of immigrants.

To the rhythm of wars, gang wars, economic and political crises, epidemics, famines and all the infinite litany of calamities that loom over poor nations – previously called “third world” and now, euphemistically, “underdeveloped or developing countries” – hundreds of thousands of human beings face the dangers of exodus each year and illegally cross or pile up at the borders of countries that are almost always called “interfering enemies” when they intervene in the internal policies of “motherlands” of the migrants, though many of the migrants consider themselves political refugees and place the responsibility for their national misfortunes on Europe and the US, without taking into consideration the burden they create on the economies of those countries they wish to enter.

Another point is the irresponsibility that’s involved in enlisting minor children in an adventure as dangerous as it is uncertain, practically using them as currency or emotional blackmail in order to achieve the regularization of their immigration status. This is what is happening on the US border. Curiously, no media scandal or waves of protests over the situation of these children took place in any of the intermediate borders or nations. Neither did the army of quasi-indigent families of migrants seem to have queued to request asylum before the embassies of proletarian paradises such as Cuba, Venezuela or Bolivia, countries that presume to be societies where equality and social justice prevail. No. They march straight towards the abominable empire of xenophobia, discrimination, racism and social exclusion… The dispossessed of our Latin American nations are such masochists!

For the record, I am absolutely in no way a supporter or a sympathizer of Trump or of his policies, but rather the opposite. Only that the extreme polarization of the migratory crisis in the US borders that is simplified as an image of the (always) good migrant and the (always) bad government is too schematic, plots against the complexities that characterize the reality of the current world and does not allow for a reasonable solution to the problem of the millions of migrants who are forced to seek, far from their home nations, the opportunities for the life and prosperity they aspire to as an elementary right.

True, Trump does not verbalize or carry it out in the best way, but it is indisputable that the United States as a nation – and not just Obama, Trump, or the next president – has the right to regulate the entry of migrants into his territory, beyond the national tragedies of our respective countries, be they an emporium of dictatorships or cardboard democracies.

Translated by Norma Whiting

"Here, The Same People Put The Squeeze on You, and Back Off"

The absence of a wholesale market for the self-employed, as well as high prices and shortages, have encouraged the importation of household appliances and raw materials. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 15 June 2018 — “You have to be calm until the wave passes,” says Rubén, 28, an informal vendor of vitamins and ointments from Miami. “Right now there are fewer products coming into the country and it is better not to risk it because in the airports they are more strict.”

Last week the General Customs of the Republic (AGR) threatened to confiscate packages sent from the United States through people who travel specifically to the island to bring goods and who are hired by shipping agencies based in the US.

To all his customers interested in products such as Omega 3, creams to relieve back pain or popular nutritional supplements, the merchant promises that he will have supplies “in two weeks.” And he says, “Here, the same people put the squeeze on you, and back off.” continue reading

After the declarations from Customs “we must take extreme precautions and avoid bringing a lot of the same product,” explains Rubén. “The ‘mulas’ (mules) are warned that they should not transport sealed packages, because that sets off the alarms that these are things are going to be delivered to different customers,” he says.

Parcel shipments through southern Florida agencies that the Island’s Government considers illegal have skyrocketed in recent years. The recipients on the Island are the relatives of Cubans who have emigrated, and also small businesses that have been opened due to the economic flexibilizations pushed by Raul Castro.

The economist Emilio Morales, director of the Miami-based consulting firm The Havana Consulting Group, estimates that 90% of shipments arriving in the country come from the United States. The value of the goods that were sent last year amounted to 3 billion dollars, Morales told 14ymedio.

The practice of carrying the packages has grown among some emigrants who see working as mule a chance to visit their relatives on the Island with the costs of the plane ticket covered. After the diplomatic thaw between Washington and Havana, direct commercial flights were restored, one of the things that triggered these shipments.

The most common products sent through the mules are medicines, appliances, clothes, footwear and also dehydrated or canned foods. “A good part of the country ends up with something from these shipments because those who don’t get a package directly end up benefiting from the contents of packages received by others,” says Raima Gutiérrez, a hairdresser in a private business.

“Here the products we use, such as dyes and peroxide, come in with the mules because in the national stores they are very expensive, of poor quality and often are not the most wanted colors,” Gutiérrez says. “In this last week we’ve had to tell several clients that they’ll have to wait for the packages to arrive because they are paralyzed on the other side”.

Raima’s mother is anxiously awaiting a blood pressure monitor that a niece sent her from West Palm Beach. A neighbor of the family says that her “package” is stranded in Miami without daring to send it, while one of the hairdresser’s customer tells the story of his brother who had a dozen suitcase locks he brought from Madrid in his luggage confiscated.

The mules have reason to worry because the director of Technical Customs himself, José Luis Muñoz Toca, said in a press conference that more than three tons of products people tried to bring into the country through the shipping networks were confiscated. So far in 2018 the authorities have detected 113 cases of trafficking in merchandise.

In the eyes of the authorities, there are 29 agencies based in the United States operating in an unauthorized manner to send goods to the island “through travelers who bring them in exchange for payment or compensation.” In South Florida, companies like XAEL Habana, Va Cuba, Cubamax Travel, Viajes Coppelia, Habana Air, Blue Cuba Travels and Central America Cargo have been banned.

The authorities blame the intensification of the controls on the fact that these agencies “do not have official contracts with Cuban companies authorized to carry out these operations,” while promoting the use of the officially approved companies to send parcels to the Island.

The importing of these goods is “a commercial transaction,” the authorities complain, and the contents of personal baggage, when it is used to transport commercial packages, are “subject to the administrative sanction of confiscation, if there is no more serious crime.”

“If they would let us bring in merchandise to maintain these businesses, in a legal and transparent manner, we would not have to engage in all these illegalities,” says Hilario, 47, an interior designer. This has been one of the great demands of the self-employed sector that aspires to obtain the right to import and export freely, along with the possibility of having a wholesale market.

“All the stores are state-owned and staples are very expensive,” the man says. “Without the monthly package, with toothpaste, soap and bouillon cubes that my sister sends me, everything would be more difficult.” The designer also receives materials that he needs for his work. “I was expecting good caladors and a laser to measure rooms, but now everything is stopped,” says Hilario.

The sharing of a video filmed at the José Martí International Airport in Havana, in which two Venezuelan women are seen being beaten and arrested for allegedly transporting merchandise to the island, has added fuel to the fire of fears.

The images have circulated widely via wifi or Bluetooth on mobile phones. “If this is what happens to foreigners what is in store for Cubans,” says Hilario.

Venezuelan journalist Elyangelica González recorded the images of the arrest of Yussely and Amanda López, who say they were beaten by immigration personnel after they were not admitted after an attempt to confiscate their luggage.

The Venezuelans claimed the contents of their luggage were gifts for the doctors who operated on their father and other friends on the island. Both deny that the products were going to be marketed.

Cuban Customs has also intensified in recent months the controls against the so-called Venezuelan “bachaqueros” (black-marketeers), who use the island to sell some products and buy food and dollars to take back to their country.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Rafael Alcides: The Great Poet Of The Cuban ‘Insilio’

The ashes of Alcides will be scattered in the river of his native Barrancas, in Bayamo, where everything started. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ernesto Santana, Havana, 21 June 2018 — His voice amazed me the first time I heard it, when he had just turned 80. A voice grave and smooth at the same time, a voice I no longer remembered from his years on the radio. A mariner’s voice perhaps, someone who has traveled other worlds and has a lot to tell, but does not want to amaze anyone, much less overwhelm them with his stories. A voice from someone much younger and, at the same time, an old voice, coming from a mythical and remote era of certainties.

Although I had read his poetry and shared it with several friends, I never spoke with him. I admired him from afar and knew him to be a good man, what is called a man of integrity. What’s more, we lived relatively close for many decades. But it never happened, although I always had the vague certainty that one day I would meet him. That’s why, when I read the fatal words of the news, I could not help but feel that with his death, in some way, I had lost a friend. continue reading

I suppose that it is easy for those who have read him to feel that they have talked with him. Not because of his “colloquial” poetry, but because ultimately all poetry is conversation, although almost always with oneself or with the intimate demon. In Alcides’ poems one feels, in reality, a colloquium with the reader, as if each verse were written to be replicated in a long exchange of intuitions, fears and memories.

For nothing is further from him than the pose of an old teacher who knows some clues, who has learned to deal with short life and endless art. “Life has taught me that suddenly the wave of the days changes your program,” he said ten years ago in an interview for Consenso magazine. “I limit myself to being ready for what may come,” he said, demonstrating that, in spite of himself, he was that: an old teacher who could give us, more than a poetic art, an art of living.

An art of living as poetry. The voice of his poems flows directly from the common man who hurts and dreams, from the untamed citizen who does not use words as a spell or as a subjective construction, but as a lever to move a truth, as a magnetic guide, as a bridge to reach what is farthest from here and now. And all with a breath more transparent than the air of his native Barrancas or a quiet Havana morning.

“From good seeds he made bad harvests, in the name of freedom he surrounded us with wire, and he added guards and bloodhounds. In everything, he was the same. With real words he composed a great lie,” Alcides tells us, alarmed by Fidel Castro’s support for the Soviet tanks in Prague, and who suffered – without being indirectly implicated – the effects of the Padilla case and could not publish anything between 1967 and 1984.

Finally, regardless of whether the commissars wanted to publish him or not, he decided to step away from the literary world, specifying that he would only be published in Cuba when his books could appear before the public along with the authors that the Castro regime has banned for more than half a century. But he kept writing, as if nothing was happening.

In 2013, at Estado de Sats, when he had just turned 80, I heard him read. Alcides had not offered a solo poetry recital for 20 years: “All of us here are exiled, all of us, those who left and those who stayed, and there are no words in the language or movies in the world, to make the accusation: millions of mutilated beings exchanging kisses, memories and sighs over the sea.”

“The future in Cuba is already passed. It is sad, a country where the future has already passed, the future of this Government, which we live under now, because life is now,” he said. But he was not pessimistic or cynical, because he saw that everything, before being real, has been a dream, because always “we let a dream fly and we chase it, that’s why we have to dream and then the realization of the dream comes,” but we can not lose the opportunity, because “there are trains that, if they go by, they are gone.”

Alcides did not have a mysterious creed. For him, the poet’s mission was obvious: “witness today and announce tomorrow.” So he did, assuming insilio* not as a title of nobility, but as a humble daily task, as his own choice and simple destination, but accompanied and loved by those who cared for him, and respected and admired even by those who did not know him.

It is better that the official press did not mention his death. That grave and slow voice did not cry out in the desert: “Where are we, Lord. Where in the world have we lost ourselves? Where do these boiling waters come from? What was made of that pair of incurable children who believed in the prophecies, who still believe, and who went out very proudly on the morning of their day to found the whitest city without knowing that they founded a prison?”

His ashes will be scattered in the river of his native Barrancas, there in Bayamo, where everything started. His voice will continue to sound, smooth and firm, long after the end of the long and dark chapter that tried to silence him, of this seemingly endless exile for all those from over there and those from over here. The empty and turbulent voices of today will be silent one day and we will continue to hear the fluvial and austere voice of Rafael Alcides, like an old sailor who does not want to overwhelm us with his certainties.

*Translator’s note: From ‘exilio’ (exile), Alcides chose to call himself an ‘insilio’, (‘insile’) – exiled from his country without having left it.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Poet Rafael Alcides, the Protagonist in Miguel Coyula’s Latest Documentary

Rafael Alcides at the screening of Miguel Coyula’s film ‘Nadie’ (Nobody) in Havana.

Yanelys Nunez Leyva, Havana Times, 26 December 2016 — One of the most recent films directed by filmmaker Miguel Coyula is being screened during some independent spaces in Havana: Samuel Riera’s studio, Oscar Casanella’s home and the El Circulo gallery.

On Sunday the 18th, I went to see it at this last venue, located in Lia Villares and Luis Trapaga’s home, and I was happy to see so many familiar spaces. Several friends, journalists, activists, art critics, writers…

Most of us sat on the floor in the small living room, and the documentary Nadie (Nobody) from 2016 was shown promptly at 8:10 PM. continue reading

The protagonist, the poet Rafael Alcides was among us. It’s a luxury, almost everyone who knows him was saying.

I’m slightly out of the know, I haven’t read anything that he’s written, even though I have had some excellent recommendations.

The first thing that I liked was the narrator’s voice, it was nostalgic, bucolic, beautiful.

Then, Alcides’ story came; he didn’t want to speak about his personal life. Only about the novels which he is trying to recover right now, papers which have fallen to pieces due to the typewriter’s corrosive ink and time.

He only wanted to speak about his love/hate relationship with the revolutionary process. About his deception in the face of Fidel supporting the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia, and of Ochoa’s assassination.

He only wants to talk about Beauty.

At the screening of ‘Nadie’ in Havana: Rafael Alcides, far left. Miguel Coyula, far right. Lynn Cruz, fourth from right.

Coyula appeals to a visual collage, just like he did in his renowned Memories del Desarrollo (Memories of Overdevelopment). In the film, Antonia Eiriz’s pedestal becomes that of Alcides, who talks in a die-hard fashion with a caricature of Fidel, that of historic and rhetorical speeches. And he answers him, in a debate about the life of the New Man.

Alcides isn’t a defeated poet. According to him, artists are a testimony and chronicler of their time, and he still believes he can do both of these things in the most dignified way he can.

He has distanced himself from the institutions which once published a book of his, he has sought refuge in his home, he has cut himself off from his neighbors, from friends who were too involved but whom he still loves, but who no longer visit him.

Alcides leads us in this documentary to what he calls «everybody’s burial», which is nothing more than the death of an idea, of a utopian dream, with Fidel Castro’s death.

The director of the documentary didn’t put it forward to be screened in the selection of movies at the Havana Film Festival. He wants to send it to other platforms, perhaps more understanding international events where there is greater dialogue.

The story of this cursed poet will reach Cuban viewers in another way, perhaps at screenings like this one, informal, maybe even via the paquetito, the alternative to the «government’s» Weekly Package of audiovisuals. The important thing is that it has already come to life, that it has already begun its journey, existing on the fringe, with the same seal of the good «misfits» who made it.

Note: Translation from The Havana Times

‘The Mechanism’: A Series That Will Not Be Seen On Cuban State Television

The fictional series, based on real events, revolves around the investigation that uncovered the fraudulent network woven around the semi-state oil company Petrobras in Brazil. (The Mechanism)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 20 June 2018 — When people talk about Brazilian TV shows, some think of the dramatic soap operas that Cuban media broadcasts every year. Those soap operas, full of intrigues, loves and hatreds, have been part of the island’s television network for decades, but The Mechanism, a production that addresses the corruption revealed by Operation Car Wash, will not suffer the same fate.

For a couple of weeks now, the series, directed by the filmmaker José Padilha and produced by Netflix, has landed in Cuba through the informal content distribution networks such as the weekly packet. With a dynamic plot and excellent performances, The Mechanism premiered on Netflix last March and since then has not stopped stirring passions. continue reading

The fictional series, based on real events, revolves around the investigation that uncovered the fraudulent network woven around the semi-state oil company Petrobras in Brazil. These investigations led to the discovery of the tentacles of bribes, money laundering and payments to politicians extended by the construction company Odebrecht for decades throughout the region.

Padilha, who had already made a name for himself with Narcos, structured his series based on a book by journalist Vladimir Netto and managed to build a gradual sense of disgust in his audience. The repulsion grows as the names of those involved appear, and the bribery strategies and the depth of these practices in the political and economic life of Brazil come to light.

Due to the little that has been reported in the national media, Cuban viewers are probably tempted to read the story as a documentary, although it is essential to take into account the warning message that appears at the beginning of each episode: “This program is a work of fiction freely inspired by real events, characters, situations and other elements, adapted for dramatic effect.”

However, along with the creative freedom that has led Padilha to change or recreate real events, The Mechanism maintains the authentic edges of Operation Car Wash, which have not been reported in Cuba, hence its dual character as entertainment and revelation. Unlike other countries where the scandal filled extensive headlines, on the island this will be the first details many people see about the many dimensions of that rot.

The case, which shook the whole continent and reached as far as Angola and Mozambique, is of particular interest in Cuba, where Fidel and Raúl Castro maintained close relations with two of the characters in this truculent story: Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff, who appear in the series with changed names but easily identifiable.

In the same years that Odebrecht bought contracts, supported election campaigns in Latin America and distributed millions to fend off any investigation against it, the Cuban authorities embraced, smiling and complicit, the two politicians who were up to their eyeballs in such corruption.

No wonder, the construction company Odebrecht was hand-picked for the modernization of Cuba’s Port of Mariel. The megaproject, a kind of white elephant Raul Castro’s regime used to try to attract investors, was inaugurated in January 2014 by Dilma Rousseff and the Cuban president. They posed smiling in front of the cameras of the foreign press just a a few weeks before the scandal would shake the Brazilian president.

Since then, Cuba’s official press has mostly reported the upheavals caused by the revelations of Operation Car Wash to the region’s centrist and rightist governments. That information strategy prioritized the details of Pedro Pablo Kuczynski’s resignation as president of Peru, and the international arrest order against former Peruvian president Alejandro Toledo, also accused of receiving bribes from Odebrecht.

In contrast, Cuba’s national media hardly mentions the sentencing of Ecuadorian Vice President Jorge Glas to six years in prison for the same reasons, and has totally ignored all the evidence that points to Nicolás Maduro as part of the machinations of that powerful construction company. The links to current Brazilian president Michel Temer, who assumed office after Rousseff’s impeachment, were reported in the pages of Granma, like those of Lula and Rousseff, except that in the case of these last two, it was reported as a “conspiracy of the right.”

As expected, both Brazilian former presidents are among the staunchest critics of the series since it was launched on Netflix. Lula has insisted that the “piece is one more lie” and Rousseff accused it of “distorting reality” and spreading all kinds of lies.

Beyond the welts that it raises, the arrival in Cuba of The Mechanism helps to break the mantle of silence that the Plaza of the Revolution has thrown over parts of this history, and it will set people talking about the subject and raise desires for a greater investigation of the true details.

The series is also a great opportunity to enjoy solid performances, such as those of Selton Melo who plays investigator Marco Ruffo, a researcher obsessed with the case and whose childhood friend, called Roberto Ibrahim in the series but taken from the real life Alberto Youseff, is one of the money launderers whose arrest uncovers the scandal.

The manager of the construction company, Marcelo Odebrecht (in the series presented as Ricardo Brecht), manages to transmit that calculated coldness of someone who knows that he has presidents and senators from all over the continent in his pocket, while the character of Verena Cardoni, played by Caroline Abras, stands apart from the female stereotypes that abound in Brazilian soap operas.

This, unlike those soap operas of unrequited love and exalted hatred, is not a production to get you to mourn for a couple separated in the past or for an unrecognized son, but for the rottenness of a country. What happens on the screen is not history, but absolute fiction, but one based on the uncovering of a crooked network of corruption that extends its threads to this Island.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Rafael Alcides: May He Rest In Peace / Luis Cino Alvarez

Rafael Alcides (EFE)

Cubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez, Havana, 20 June 2018 — The writer Rafael Alcides, who died in Havana on June 19 at the age of 85, had a warehouse of novels and unpublished poems in his home. It had been more than three decades since a book of his was published in his homeland. First it was because the commissars, unable to make him submit, did not want to publish him. Then, it was Alcides who did not want to be published. He made it clear: he said he would not accept it until the day his books could be in Cuban bookstores along with those of all the Cuban authors prohibited by the regime.

He resisted fearlessly, without losing heart. And, industrious and stubborn as he was, without failing to write for a single day.

The author of Agradecido como un perro (Grateful as a Dog) had the stubborn patience of poets, who do not rush because they know themselves to be the absolute owners of time and words. continue reading

Born in 1933 in Barrancas, a remote hamlet in eastern Cuba, Rafael Alcides was one of the main colloquialist poets of the so-called ’50s generation.

Once he believed in the Revolution. But poets, if that is what they really are, can not sing in the chorus. The praise bores them. They are reluctant to follow orders and commands, they do not accommodate themselves nor fit within the battalion of the submissive. And that is why he broke with the confining official culture and stepped aside, to witness the sad parade of the mediocre, servile and coryphaeus. He continued to listen to “the rumor of what life was before the future came,” warning that “nothing is as we supposed.”

His time of vain illusions passed, converted into ashes, without smoke or grudges. The poet did not answer to illusions. He lived between the past and the future, warning — he said in verses — that: “Everything we had we lost and it was more than we could have.”

He spent his last years surrounded by the affection of his loved ones, at peace with his demons, without fear, decent, unwavering.

I had the privilege of enjoying the friendship of Rafael Alcides. I used to visit him in the small apartment in Nuevo Vedado he shared with his wife, blogger Regina Coyula and her son. His conversation, always lucid and interesting, never ceased to inspire courage. Not even when cancer was about to win the game.

Rest in peace Rafael Alcides, if the souls of poets can ever resign themselves to rest and stop dreaming.

luicino2012@gmail.com

In Tribute to Rafael Alcides, Cuban Poet and Writer and Wonderful Man

Rafael Alcides (9 June 1933 – 19 June 2018)

Today Translating Cuba is dedicated to Rafael Alcides, who died yesterday. We are republishing articles by and about him, and you can also do your own search of past articles on this site by going to this link.

The following “Author’s Biography” was written several years ago and is not up-to-date.

Rafael Alcides was born in Barrancas, municipal district of Bayamo (Cuba) in 1933. A poet and storyteller, he was a master baker in his teen years. He has worked as a farmhand, cane cutter, logger, wrecking crew cook, and manager of a sundries store in a cane-cutters’ outpost.

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In Havana in the 1950s he worked variously as a mason, broad-brush painter, exterminator, insurance agent, and door-to-door salesman. In 1959 he was the chief information officer for the Department of Latin American Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Relations, and spokesman of this agency in a daily television program in which he hosted and interviewed foreign political personalities. He was chief press officer and director of Cultural Affairs in the Revolutionary Delegation of the National Capitol.

Among his most recently-published titles are the poetry collections, GMT(2009), For an Easter Bush (2011), Travel Log (2011), Anthologies, in Collaboration with Jaime Londoño (2013), Conversations with God(2014), the journalistic Memories of the Future (2011), the multi-part novel, Ciro’s Ring (2011), and the story collection, A Fairy Tale That Ends Badly (2014).

As of 1993, he had been employed by the Cuban Institute of Radio & Television for more than 30 years as a scriptwriter, announcer, director and literary commentator when, at that time, he ceased all publishing and literary work in collaboration with the regime in Cuba. As a participant in numerous international literary events, Rafael Alcides has given conferences and lectures in countries in Central and South America, Europe, and the Middle East. His texts have been translated into many languages. He was honored with two Premios de la Crítica, and a third for a novel co-written with another author. In 2011 he received the Café Bretón & Bodegas Olarra de Prosa Española prize.

Writer Rafael Alcides Dies in Havana at the Age of 85

Rafael Alcides was born in Barrancas on June 9, 1933 (La mala letra)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 20 June 2018 — Ten days after his 85th birthday and after a long battle with cancer, the poet Rafael Alcides died at his home in Nuevo Vedado on Tuesday afternoon, his son Rafael confirmed to 14ymedio. Sources close to the family explained that there will be no funeral and that his ashes will be scattered in Barrancas, in the east of the island, where he was born on 9 June 1933.

“He did not like tributes,” says filmmaker Miguel Coyula and author of the documentary Nadie, based on an interview with Alcides that lasted more than two hours. With this work, presented in the independent gallery El Círculo in Havana, Coyula addressed the biography of the poet and novelist, especially his long years as a censored writer. continue reading

Rafael Alcides began his literary career with the magazine Ciclón (Cyclone) and successfully published some 60 books, including Himnos de montaña  (Mountain Hymns) (1961) and La pata de palo (The Wooden Leg) (1967).

He began his fall from grace with the regime when, in the 80s, the poet set aside ideology and expanded to less political issues, publishing Agradecido como un perro (Grateful as a Dog) (1983), Y se mueren y vuelven y se mueren (They Die and Come Back and Die Again ) (1988), Noche en el recuerdo (A Night to Remember) (1989), Nadie (Nobody) (1993).

By 1983, when his poetry collection Agradecido como un perro appeared, the author had already suffered, for decades, the institutional silence that greeted his work, because of his openly critical positions on the Cuban Government.

From 1993 on, he abandoned all publishing collaborations on the Island and in 2011 he won the Breton Café & Bodegas Olarra de Prosa Española Award.

In 2014 his books published in Spain were seized from his wife, the blogger Regina Coyula, every time she tried to bring them into Cuba. For this reason he submitted his resignation from the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC), which he had been a member of for years, saying that banning from the island his books published abroad was the same thing as banning him as author.

The poet published a letter, which he addressed to Miguel Barnet (president of UNEAC), in which he explained his reasons and returned the Commemorative Medal of the 50th anniversary of the UNEAC, which he had been granted as a founder of that government institution.

The letter to Barnet makes clear the ideological disenchantment of one of the most important poets of the 50s Generation: “Among these memories are those of the good friends I made among the members of the Association back then, treasures of my youth that are all that remain of that great, failed dream, people I love though they do not think the way I do, and who love me also, even if they dare not visit me.”

In speaking of the writer and poet, Cuban writer Virgilio López Lemus says that when Alcides published Agradecido como un perro he became a reference poet for the generations born between 1946 and 1970. López Lemus describes this work as a “long and intense poem in which the lyrical subject appears in a confessional attitude and at the same time as a witness, where he includes social life, family life, love and friendship (or is it one of the two?), and above all the warmth of a man who expresses himself with his skin open to the world, whether he receives wounds or caresses.”

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Rafael Alcides, Who is a Very Important Person / Regina Coyula

Rafael Alcides, poet, writer and my husband

Note: This article is being republished from 2013. Rafael Alcides passed away yesterday, 19 June 2018.

My husband is not just any writer.  He belongs to the generation known as “The Generation of the ’50s,” a rather arbitrary poetic grouping that started with Carilda Oliver (1922) and ran through David Chericián (1940). His generation’s peers — if they haven’t died or emigrated — have received the National Literature Prize and enjoyed social and official recognition. This is one of the reasons he is an extraordinary writer. Not only that he wasn’t seduced by the siren song of the National Prize ten years ago. Not only that he willingly “inxiled” himself from Cuba’s cultural life for twenty years and is not published in Cuba. continue reading

For him, the prize has been that his book Agradecido como un perro (Grateful As a Dog) was traded for cigarettes in the Combinado del Este prison in the late eighties, and asked around for; kids coming from the provinces discovered him by chance in a second-hand bookshop. His books today would be collectors’ items, of a writer unknown to the young and unpublished after 1990, if it weren’t for the Seville publisher Abelardo Linares who knocked on our door one day.

He is not a run-of-the-mill writer. Foreign publishers are highly sought after, their visits to Cuba put them in a position to receive a ton of unpublished and published texts from hopeful authors who either fete the foreign visitor or put a Santeria spell on them.

Alcides is incapable of boarding a bus, a shared taxi (almendrón), or a called taxi (panataxi); he is incapable of walking even 200 yards to meet a celebrity. Instead, he is an extraordinary host, so warm and attentive, who immediately makes even new acquaintances feel comfortable.

In this era of ideological polarization, he maintains an intact and intense affection for those he loves, whether a high government official or a senior opposition leader in exile. He forgives (but does not forget, he has excellent memory) some highbrow (?!) silliness from a fledgling poet to a functionary who from his new position has been allowed to treat him coldly. He will regrets the error of omission in the dedication to Roberto Fernández Retamar in a poem in a book just published in Colombia.

Another of the things that makes him extraordinary has to do with his appearance. When we started our relationship 24 years (!!) ago, my niece, with all the candor of ten years, wondered if he was Eliseo Diego. He was then a venerable white beard unsuspectedly balding. His contemporaries seemed like younger brothers. It turned out the joke was on them as he didn’t get any older while others lost their freshness, hair, pounds, physical and/or mental agility and for a long time the tables have been turned. That, despite a copious medical record very well concealed.

With the bias of affection, there are those who say he’s the best poet in the world. There’s no need to exaggerate, although some verses are saved for posterity.

These fires feed this man who writes and writes on a battered computer with no more to give. Leaving poetry behind he is dedicated to finishing enormous drafts, novels that became priorities in the rush of life.

No one would expect that behind this thunderous voice asking who’s last in line at the farmer’s market, this competent cook who saves me from the daily doldrums, is this Amazing Poet in “atrocious invisibility” who tomorrow, June 9th, will be 80 years old.

8 June 2013