Intense Rains Give Evidence of the "Wonder" of Havana / Iván García

Beneath the rain, Havana received the title of Wonder City of the Modern World. Photo by Elio Delgado Valdés, taken from Havana Times.
Beneath the rain, Havana received the title of Wonder City of the Modern World. Photo by Elio Delgado Valdés, taken from Havana Times.

Iván García, 9 June 2016 — Ask Luis Carlos Rodríguez, retired, his opinion about the designation of “Wonder City” based on an Internet survey conducted in the winter of 2014 by the Swiss foundation, “New 7 Wonders,” and you will hear a long list of complaints, sprinkled with insults, about the olive-green government that has governed the destiny of Cuba since January 1959.

The old man lives in a quarter where the wastewater runs through the cracked central corridor, a little more than half a kilometer from the area of colonial Havana, which wears makeup for the photos of dazzled tourists.

The rainy season has become a calvary for the residents of Havana who live in the low zones, where the housing is in poor shape, or in any of the 80 unhealthy neighborhoods that proliferate in the capital.

In a hot, windowless room with a half-dozen plastic buckets and junk, Luis Carlos tries to trap the drops of water that filter through the corrugated roof.

“On days of pouring rain, I pray to the Lord that the room doesn’t fall down on me. I’ve already sealed the roof twice, but it continues to leak,” he says, and with the help of a nephew, he tries to patch a hole.

When the rain pours down in Havana, the people who live in dilapidated housing or on streets that are close to the coast, become sailors, bailing out water inside their homes or escaping to safe places in precarious boats.

On Tuesday, June 7, at 7:30 in the evening, while Richard Weber, the President of the New7Wonders Foundation was unveiling the Wonder City plaque on the Esplanada de La Punta, a stone’s throw from the Malecón, Reinaldo Savón’s family was loading its furniture and electrical appliances into a horse-drawn cart, with water skirting the  middle of San Ramón, a neighborhood that suffers like no other from the rainy periods, for lack of an adequate infrastructure of drainage.

“I don’t know which wonder city those bastards awarded. I invite them to come live in San Ramón on days like these. After they see how peoples’ houses are flooded and how they lose their things, they will change their opinion. No one thinks about this part of Havana. It’s been more than 20 years since the Government promised us a solution, but everything stays the same, only promises,” Reinaldo says.

The Office of the City Historian, directed by Eusebio Leal, a regime official, who managed to save various valuable buildings in Old Havana from disaster, prepared a free cultural program. From June 7-11, you could enjoy, among other things, performances of the Teatro Lírico, the Ballet Folklórico, the Tropicana Cabaret, the Ballet Lizt Alfonso, a parade of singers, musicians and dancers on the Paseo del Prado, and a concert by the Orquesta Aragón on the corner of Prado and Neptuno.

But Habaneros like Lourdes Pérez, a resident of a marginal neighborhood adjacent to the José Antonio Echevarría Technological University, in the Marianao municipality, isn’t much for parties.

Four years ago, Lourdes came to the capital from Santiago de Cuba with her three children and her husband in search of better luck. He sells corn tamales and clothing from Ecuador, and she takes care of elderly sick people.

Legally, Lourdes and her family are clandestine in Havana. They don’t have a ration book, and their hut, with a dirt floor and an aluminum roof, doesn’t have a bathroom or drinking water. They live poorly, eat little and drink cheap alcohol.

“We don’t have anything more. When we get a few pesos, they go for food and rum. The money isn’t enough to build a decent house. We barely survive with what we earn,” says Lourdes’ husband, who spends time gathering raw materials in the dump on Calle 100, west of the city.

Since December 17, 2014, after the truce with the United States, the old Cold-War enemy, Cuba, and especially Havana, has received a stream of famous visitors, investment projects, a runway of Chanel fashions, Hollywood filmings and even a mega-concert by the Rolling Stones.

Press passes are everywhere, but the benefits are invisible to the average citizen. The shortages sting like a whip; the infrastructure of the city is Fourth World; garbage is piling up in the neighborhoods; thousands of buildings threaten to collapse; public transport is chaotic, and finding something to eat continues to be the main preoccupation, not only for people in Havana but for all Cubans.

Orestes Ruiz, an engineer, can’t believe that Havana is a wonder city. “Too many shortages. Anyone who has traveled abroad will see that even the cities of Third World nations, to which they should compare us, have more hygiene, better Internet connection and more efficient public services.”

Nadine López, a university student, considers that it has to do with the excess of news in the international media, or it’s an operation of marketing or simply a joke in poor taste.

“You have to have a lot of imagination to reward Havana as a wonder city. I don’t know why there’s so much celebration. For those of us who live here it’s more of an offense than a recompense,” she says, while the rain dies down in a doorway on the Calzada Diez de Octubre.

Although the leaders promise a “prosperous and sustainable socialism,” and the media focus continues extolling Havana, a large segment of those who live in José Martí’s small fatherland wait for more palpable changes that will improve the quality of their lives.

For now, all that remains is soft music in the background. And press credentials.

Hispanopost, June 9, 2016

Translated by Regina Anavy

The 26th, Again / Fernando Dámaso

moncada
The Moncada Barracks attacked on 26 July 1953

Fernando Damaso, 25 July 2016 — Tomorrow, a new anniversary of the 26th of July–that failed insurrectional action of 1953–will be commemorated. This date, one of the principal ones of the Castro regime’s calendar, served as the title and standard for the political movement that emerged from the event. The province of Sancti Spíritus has been selected as the headquarters for the celebration–not for being the best choice, but rather for being the least bad one.

There will be “popular” gatherings, official festivities, cultural merrymaking, and even speeches with pretensions of historical authenticity. The script is repeated every year, varying only with regard to the secondary actors, being that the principals have remained in their roles for 58 years, despite the boredom they provoke among the spectators.

Throughout the course of a few days the inhabitants of Sancti Spíritus will enjoy abundant beer, one or another foodstuff, and much dance music, in addition to the traditional carnaval. Afterwards, all will return to the usual boring dailyness, with its meager wages, shortages, street violence, abuses, bureaucracy, and many other misfortunes–and the commemoration, as it does every year, will remain forgotten until the next one, if indeed it takes place, in a new chosen province.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Not In The Name Of Socialism. Another Sign Of Contempt For Cuban Workers / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, 25 July 2016 – Several news reports confirm that there is a contingent of Indian workers in Cuba… Yes, you read that right: workers from India, from the other side of the world, working on tourist projects for foreign companies. A French company brought them over here and is paying them first world salaries.

Can anyone in the State-Party-Government explain what is happening? Are there no Cuban workers to employ in these construction projects?

Is the state-run Construction and Specialized Installations Company (ECME), which builds and remodels hotels, luxury buildings for foreigners and hospitals, among other projects, which has seen the most brilliant contemporary Cuban engineering and architecture, unable to undertake this work? Continue reading “Not In The Name Of Socialism. Another Sign Of Contempt For Cuban Workers / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos”

Cuba’s Main Airport without Air Conditioning / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 22 July 2016 — Jose Marti International Airport in Havana will continue offering its normal services but, as part of General Raul Castro’s orchestrated set of measures to deal with the economic restrictions facing the country, it has been ordered to reduce the number of hours the facility is air conditioned.

An employee of ECASA (Cuban Airport and Aeronautical Services Company), who declined to give his name, told Marti Noticias, “The management does not know what to do or if the lack of air conditioning will hurt the airport community, the passengers, the airlines, visitors or customs service equipment, which is vital to the protection of our borders.” Continue reading “Cuba’s Main Airport without Air Conditioning / Juan Juan Almeida”

The Cuban Government Wants to Regulate Prices for Collective Taxis / Iván García

Photo from Cubanet
Photo from Cubanet

Iván García, 19 July 2016 — At the traffic signal on Infanta and Carlos III, in the heart of Havana, Guenady takes advantage of the red light to thirstily take a swig out of a half-liter of ice water that he keeps at one side of his driver’s seat.

Perhaps the cold water helps to appease his fury. He spends 20 minutes protesting what he considers an arbitariness of the Government that is trying to regulate the prices of the routes taken by the collective taxis [taxis that pick up people and travel set routes, often old American cars].

The man turns off the CD and replaces the Reggaeton with a rant sprinkled with curses and criticisms of the olive-greet autocrats. Continue reading “The Cuban Government Wants to Regulate Prices for Collective Taxis / Iván García”

Traffic Accidents: The Fifth Highest Cause of Death in Cuba / Iván García

The state of a Transtur bus, carrying 30 European tourists, after a crash. The crash happened on April 2, 2016, at the Jatibonico exit going towards Ciego de Ávila, leaving 2 dead and 28 injured. The two who died were the driver, Alkier Barrera Medina, a 36-year-old Cuban national, and an Austrian tourist, Johnn Eberl, aged 63. Photo by Vicente Brito, Escambray newspaper from Sancti Spiritus.
The state of a Transtur bus, carrying 30 European tourists, after a crash. The crash happened on April 2, 2016, at the Jatibonico exit going towards Ciego de Ávila, leaving 2 dead and 28 injured. The two who died were the driver, Alkier Barrera Medina, a 36-year-old Cuban national, and an Austrian tourist, Johnn Eberl, aged 63. Photo by Vicente Brito, Escambray newspaper from Sancti Spiritus.

Iván García, 11 July 2016 — Fernando, owner of a private business to the east of Havana, bought his ancient black Moskvitch during the difficult years of the Special Period, when the proprietor, a national labour hero, found himself obliged to sell his cane cutting business to feed his family.

The Soviet era car should have gone to the scrapyard years ago. Moreover, the Russian factory which made the vehicle went bust in 2002. But in Cuba, the obsolete Moskvitch refuses to die. Continue reading “Traffic Accidents: The Fifth Highest Cause of Death in Cuba / Iván García”

‘Yumas’ In Cuba, “As If They Had Never Left” / 14ymedio, Zunilda Mata

'Yumas' in Havana. (14ymedio)
‘Yumas’ in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Zunilda Mata – He didn’t know that in Cuba he would be rebaptized yuma, but, within a few days of arriving he’s become accustomed to the word and his condition as a “hidden” tourist. Daniel, born in Oklahoma, is one of the thousands of travelers from the United States who have officially visited the island under one of the 12 categories authorized by Barack Obama’s administration.

They are everywhere and are distinguished by their accents, their generous tips and a fascination with everything they see.

“I came with a group of Protestant pastors, but in total we’ve only had one day of religious programming, the rest of the time we’ve visited bars, museums and come to know the country better,” he tells 14ymedio at an outdoor café at the Hotel Inglaterra in Havana. Continue reading “‘Yumas’ In Cuba, “As If They Had Never Left” / 14ymedio, Zunilda Mata”

The Emigrant Must Earn Brownie Points to Enter Cuba / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario J. Penton, Miami, 21 July 2016 — With blood-stained clothes and wounds and bruises on her arms, Ana Margarito Perdigon Brito returned to Miami from Havana’s Jose Marti Airport this past June. No one knew how to rationalize that the Cuban government prohibited her, a citizen of that country whose paperwork was in order, from entering the land of her birth.

“It is a form of revenge by the Cuban government towards emigrants. It is a type of blackmail by which, if you behave as they desire – which is to say, without being rebellious – you can enter your country; but if you dare to criticize the regime you may lose that right,” says the activist who left Cuba in 2012 in order to live in the US. Continue reading “The Emigrant Must Earn Brownie Points to Enter Cuba / 14ymedio, Mario Penton”

A Lighter Version of Cuba’s Special Period / Iván García

Photo: Ernesto Perez Chang, Cubanet.
Photo: Ernesto Perez Chang, Cubanet.

Iván García, 23 July 2016 — It was announced on Friday, July 8 that Cuba had experienced an economic recession in the first half of this year and that there would be cutbacks in fuel consumption. If the country had a stock exchange or a convertible national currency, their fall would have been dramatic.

It was a black Friday in Cuba, where there is not even a semblance of Wall Street and the local currency is nothing more than paper. Businesses and direct investments that increase GDP are scarce. Prominent businesspeople and well-known multinationals survey the scene like birds of prey yet do not dare to swoop down on their targets. Continue reading “A Lighter Version of Cuba’s Special Period / Iván García”

Oscar Arias Asks Fariñas To Suspend His Hunger Strike / 14ymedio

The former president of Costa Rica Oscar Arias (R) with former Polish president Lech Walesa (L). (EFE)
The former president of Costa Rica Oscar Arias (R) with former Polish president Lech Walesa (L). (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 23 July 2016 — In a letter published Saturday by the former president of Costa Rica and 1987 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Oscar Arias Sanchez asks his “friend” Guillermo Fariñas to “lift his hunger and thirst strike.”

Arias Sanchez explains that the hunger strike will not succeed as a recourse to persuade the government of the island “that you cannot pursue noble ends with ignoble means.” He also says that Cuba “is not a different democracy” but rather is “a dictatorship.” The former Costa Rican president (1986-1990 and 2006-2010) recalled the case of regime opponent Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who died after an 86-day hunger strike. He did not manage “to convince the Cuban regime that it was necessary to preserve the life of this person, regardless of any ideological differences” and nor did he move “the compassion of the Cuban dictatorship.” Continue reading “Oscar Arias Asks Fariñas To Suspend His Hunger Strike / 14ymedio”

“When we achieve justice we can build a new society” / 14ymedio, Ofelia Acevedo, Mario Penton, Luz Escobar

Note: The video is a brief excerpt from the interview and is not subtitled in English.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Luz Escobar, Miami, 22 July 2016 – His name is tattooed on the skin of a Cuban graffiti artist (Danilo Maldonado, known as El Sexto) or is suggested by the letter L, standing for Liberty, formed by the angle between the index finger and the thumb, increasingly displayed by those asking for democracy. The legacy of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas (1952-2012) and Harold Cepero (1980-2012) lives on in the nation for which they worked their hearts out and ultimately sacrificed their lives. Four years after the tragic crash that claimed their lives, and that their families and international organizations have classified as a settling of accounts by the repressive Cuban apparatus, 14ymedio speaks with Ofelia Acevedo, widow of Payá, former president of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL).

14ymedio: A few days ago the one year anniversary of the reopening of the embassies between the United States and Cuba was celebrated. Could we be closer to justice in the case of Harold Cepero and Oswaldo Payá? Continue reading ““When we achieve justice we can build a new society” / 14ymedio, Ofelia Acevedo, Mario Penton, Luz Escobar”

The Future of Cuba, According to the Regime / Iván García

The future of Cuba according to the regime: "Here we have to throw stones without looking ahead."
The future of Cuba according to the regime: “Here we have to pave the way without worrying about what is ahead of us.” Taken from the blog of Carl Montgomery.

Iván García, 24 June 2016 — “Twenty minutes. Neither more nor less,” says Emilio, a civil engineer. This was the time he took at work to “analyze” a document replete with jargon, approved by the Seventh Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba, celebrated this past April in Havana.

“Imagine: The boss had authorized us to carry out a ’motivation’ for Father’s Day. We took up a collection and bought three bottles of rum and two cartons of beer. But at noon, a guy from the union showed up for a meeting with ’the agents of the municipality,’ to discuss the economic model and the future of Cuba,” comments the engineer. Continue reading “The Future of Cuba, According to the Regime / Iván García”

Erdogan Unmasked / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Recep Tayyip Erdogan became president of Turkey in 2014 after eleven years as prime minister. (DC)
Recep Tayyip Erdogan became president of Turkey in 2014 after eleven years as prime minister. (DC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 22 July 2016 — Recep Tayyip Erdogan has taken off the mask and let us witness the spectacle of his contorted and autocratic face. Last week’s failed coup d’etat has allowed him to unleash political persecution in Turkey. Now he rails against his opponents, decrees a state of emergency and suspends the European Convention on Human Rights. The sultan is out of control.

We are witnessing the moment when the serpent emerges from the egg, but we knew long ago it was incubating, its heart beating beneath the shell of an elected president. From playing at blackmailing the European Union with the refugee crisis and embracing other caudillos enthroned in power, in the style of Raul Castro, the red warning lights have been flashing all around Erdogan. Continue reading “Erdogan Unmasked / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez”

One Hundred Workers From India Rush To Complete Hotel In Havana / 14ymedio

The Manzana de Gomez Hotel building today. Source: Havana Times
The Manzana de Gomez Hotel building, orignally opened in 1910, prior to its renovation. Source: Havana Times

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 21 July 2106 – Over 100 workers from India are working on the construction of the Manzana de Gomez hotel in Havana, being reconstructed by the French construction group Bouygues, according to Reuters. This is the first time there has been a massive contracting of foreign labor on the island.

The company resorted to the exception introduced by the Cuban government in the Foreign Investment Law, that authorizes “special regulations” with regards to foreign workers in “special circumstances.” Continue reading “One Hundred Workers From India Rush To Complete Hotel In Havana / 14ymedio”