Apretaste! A Craigslist for the Island of the Disconnected / Yoani Sanchez

Home page of the site Apretaste!

Tatania wants to sell a stroller, Humberto is interested in some sneakers, and the retired woman on the corner is offering a mahogany desk. Individual barter and buying-selling alleviates the shortages in state markets. So it’s become common to see walls plastered with ads offering houses for sale or the services of someone who repairs furniture. The classified sites on the Internet also trade in anything you can imagine, from an illegal satellite dish to birdseed.

Despite the poor connectivity, Craigslist-style sites are very popular on the Island. Some of them have developed strategies to reach Cuban readers, such as the distribution of classifieds via email. This is the case with Apretaste! which offers the service of sending and receiving information via email for users on our “Island of the Disconnected.” Winner of a hackathon held in Miami this February, the site has great potential and boasts a simple design that loads quickly.

Visiting Apretaste!, I remember a phrase I always repeat when I encounter something hard. “Creativity is the capacity to open a window when the door is closed,” I tell myself, like a mantra in complex situations. And this classified portal is a diminutive and promising window that has opened in the iron wall of disconnection. A breath of air flows through it.

I hope that one day Tatiana, Humberto, and the retired lady on the corner can not only use the powers of Apretaste! through email, but also enter it on the web, click, enter a phrase into its simple search engine and find, in this way, whatever they need.

7 April 2014

The Recently Elected General Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas Hides Behind the Press and His Oldest Son / Juan Juan Almeida

Oh Jesus, our only consolation in times of sorrow, our only consolation sustain us in the immense vacuum that…!

Today I woke up praying, asking for the rest of the fast-paced, almost dead, but still alive Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Callejas. Parasite with a beautiful face and expensive clothes, recently promoted to general. He knows full well that this olive branch is the final blow.

With more fear than money, Luis Alberto walks prudently, as I said a few days ago, gripping the armrests of his battered old couch. Having beaten Deborah Castro to the point of putting her in the hospital, he is more vulnerable than a manatee at the North Pole. No father accepts this; and much less so if he is the “Godfather” of a formidable clan, because as they say in Sicily, the Camorra doesn’t forgive.

This significant promotion has at least a couple of purposes and one reading; to distract our attention, and bring Lopez-Callejas to paroxysm of despair making real the torment of being between pride and terror.

We can think, speak, and insinuate and put our heads together; but faced with such cases we must never forget that the January 1, 1984, Maj. Gen. Arnaldo Ochoa Sanchez publicly received the distinction of Hero of the Republic of Cuba, the highest honor awarded by the Council of State. And only 5 years later, on July 13, 1989, he was shot by a makeshift firing squad by the sea, by the decision of Raul and a military tribunal.

Chance or coincidence, a few years after the execution of Ochoa, Alejandro, his only son, died in suspicious accident; but I don’t even want to talk about this out of respect for people I love. But I have to admit that a few weeks ago just when I finished writing an article under the title “The powerful former son of Raul Castro, into exile” a great friend (family of the General) whom I prefer to keep more hidden than groin of a nun, had the wisdom to warn “As you publish this, you’re only protecting Luis Alberto and dragging out what for him is inevitable.”

Indeed, only the press can shield Luis Alberto today, and he clings to his best and only wild card, Raul Guillermo Rodriguez Castro (his eldest son), who although he is the favorite grandson of the Cuban leader generates frequent discord within of the royal family, because this arrogant boy, with the well sculpted athletic body, fed certain addictions that build gradually.

The road to Cuban power is paved with hypocrisy and victims. The recently sanctioned General Rodríguez López-Callejas is at the center of a hurricane at the mercy of Raul Castro’s clock, and his son Alejandro, who without any hurry, calculating, calm and meticulous waits for the exact moment to activate the guillotine which, during the unexpected storm of some morning, will fall on his neck and like the curtain in a theater and put a final end to the terrible work of his short eternity.

19 March 2014

#MejorDesnudosQue: Better Naked Than / Yoani Sanchez

Better naked than…

A woman with her breasts bare is an oracle in an ephemeral work of art. It is Havana in the eighties and the scandal caused by the exhibition “Nine Alchemists and a Blind Man” ends with its closing and the demonization of more than a few artists. The uncovered skin is a challenge, a protest, in a country where power, still today, sheathes itself in olive-green uniforms, long sleeves, hot outfits that hide, instead of display.

Authoritarians handle nudity badly. They feel impure, dirty, humiliated, when in reality it is the natural and primitive state of human beings. Totalitarians are prudish, prudish and timid. Any libertarian gesture frightens them, and they perceive too much exposed skin as a gesture of defiance. They think this because–deep down–they see the human body as something impure and obscene. Hence, undressing their opponents constitutes one of the repressive practices they most enjoy. They believe that by stripping them of their clothes they reduce them to simple animals. The same mental mechanism that leads them to call their critics “worms,” “vermin” or “cockroaches.”

In a windowless cell a guard forces a political prisoner to undress; in a room where no one can hear the screams, three women grope around under the clothes of a recently arrested citizen; in a dorm at a school in the countryside the showers don’t have curtains so no student can possess the territory of her own body; in a cold gray room the Jews were stripped of their clothes before entering the gas chambers. Undressing to humiliate, undressing to dehumanize, undressing to kill.

The images coming from Venezuela confirm that the practice of stripping people of their clothes as a moral punishment continues. A young man is stripped by a group seeking to degrade him by exposing every inch of his skin. However, they end up making him into a beautiful icon, pure, innocent. There is nothing dirty about the human body, there is nothing to be embarrassed about appearing before others as we came into this world.

What is shameful is these others, hiding behind their uniforms, trappings, the military ranks they awarded to themselves. They should be embarrassed to be hiding under the dishonorable garb of their fear.

6 April 2014

The Pulse of the Street / Fernando Damaso

Photo: Rebeca

Lately, I have been taking the pulse of the street by wandering around various produce markets which have been set up since new guidelines governing commercial activity went into effect. Though they are generally well-stocked and offer a wide selection of goods, they all share a common denominator: high prices. This puts them out of reach of most workers and results in very poor sales. Perhaps prices remain high at the same time there is a wide variety of goods for sale and a possible increase in production. In the current climate customers buy only what they need to survive, so demand is not outstripping the supply, resulting in a decline in quality with the passage of time but without a subsequent decrease in prices.

We see the same situation being repeated in the case of pushcart vendors. A widespread  phenomenon that has sprung up spontaneously involves unlicensed street vendors, who operate near the entrances of some markets. Typically each vendor sells a different product  (onions, garlic, razor blades, fluorescent bulbs, powdered milk, etc.) and stands ready to disappear at the first sign of inspectors or other government agents.

Another notable development has been the closure by authorities of some private businesses such as family-run restaurants, cafes and  sweet shops, which had been operating for some time but which were accused of illegal activities such as buying supplies on the black market or having more employees than is allowable. Others have been shut down for poor sanitary conditions. These developments, along with the previous closure of private in-home 3D movie theaters, have darkened the mood in the neighborhoods, which seem to be waking up from their long, paralytic lethargy and questioning the so-called economic “updating.”

Given the way things work, however, we have already seen the beginning of the propaganda campaign leading to the upcoming May 1 commemoration, in which “all Cuba will shake from workers marching,” none of them with grievances and happy as always with their prosperous and sustainable socialist present and future.

3 April 2014

The Difficult Task of Eating Lunch and Dinner / Leon Padron Azcuy

HAVANA Cuba – Imagining a Cuban nutritionist in a health centre is like flying a kite without air. Given the general scarcities, these specialists in healthy eating, in their efforts to propose adequate diets to patients with obesity, high cholesterol or diabetes, have to act as circus magicians.

How can anybody guide you on what to eat to improve your health when you can’t obtain essential foods such as milk, beef, fish, seafood, when malangas (a kind of sweet potato) are available occasionally and potatoes are unobtainable?

Carmen, a nutrition specialist in various hospitals, finds her work makes her sad. “We all know what deficiencies we have to put up with. It pains me to see the looks on the faces of the old people who ask what they should eat, and complain about the impossible prices of fish, a pineaple, or oranges, from the healthy eating suggestions I give them so that they can recover their good heath”, she told me.

Most people – Carmen included – can’t afford fruit, on their miserable incomes. Imagine an old lady whose social security payment doesn’t even allow her to buy medicines, or a single mother without economic support from her child’s father.

Worthless junk food

A balanced diet is necessary to control certain conditions, but it’s also necessary to maintain your health. The worthless junk food eaten by Cubans is really an insult to the palate, is responsible for the small stature of today’s kids, the early loss of teeth, and the use of canes on the part of many under-70’s, due to deterioration in their bones.

It’s impossible to avoid catching diseases, when we are eating our monthly ration of “enriched mince*” (whose ingredients no-one knows), the little bit of chicken you get when there isn’t any fish; and other “leftovers”, dating back to the 90’s, of the notorious Special Period**, which never ends.

Who would tell the Cubans of the island that their food would be much worse than the diet the 18th and 19th century colonist farmers gave their slaves? In the plantation barracks they did not go without dried beef, bacalao (a type of fish), beef, milk and other valuable nutrients.

The 1842 rules regarding slaves specified that the masters must give their slaves two or three meals a day, with eight ounces (230 gm) of meat, dried beef or bacalao, and 4 ounces (115 gm) of rice or other kind of grain, accompanied by 6 or 8 plantains every day, or their equivalent in sweet potatoes, yams, yuccas or other types of tubers.***

Before 1959, the chef Nitza Villapol, became popular with her television recipes Cooking by the Minute. Later, in order to survive in the revolution, Villapol (by then a party militant) adapted her recipes to fit what you received in your meagre ration card. And ended up offering a recipe for “grapefruit steak”.

Even our very own Fidel Castro didn’t escape the temptation of offering cooking recipes. He recommended Cubans to drink some milk with a little bar of chocolate. It seemed like a joke: “what chocolate, and what milk?” asked the desperate mothers at home, who did not know what to dream up to feed their kids.

It’s absurd that the government can’t guarantee every citizen a glass of milk, and doesn’t allow Cubans to set up private businesses to supply milk and meat. It’s hypocrisy to blame the low livestock output on theft of cattle, when it is nothing else but another product of our misery.

What can we look forward to? Today’s slave-owners refuse to relax the state monopoly, the reason why Cubans can’t enjoy a balanced diet. What can Carmen, the nutritionist, say to the elderly person lacking in vitamins who asks her what should I have for lunch and dinner?


Translator’s notes:
*”Mince” refers to “minced meat” which, in Cuba is likely to be a “mystery substance” rather meat.
** Fidel Castro coined the term a “special period in times of peace” to refer to the time after the collapse of the Soviet Union when the sudden loss of the USSR’s financial subsidy plunged Cuba into a severe economic crisis
El Ingenio, Manuel Moreno Fraginals

Cubanet, 4 April 2014

Translated by GH

Major League Stars in Havana / Ivan Garcia


Ken Griffey Jr, with young ballplayers in Havana

Monday night, February the 10th, two Cuban journalists were invited to the welcoming reception Mr. John Caulfield–head of the USA Interest Section in Cuba–offered in his residence to three major league baseball players, Ken Griffey Jr., Barry Larkin y Joe Logan.

The journalists who had opportunity to talk with these three legends of  American baseball  were Daniel Palacios Almarales, former sports writer for Juventud Rebelde (Rebellious Youth) and collaborator on the website Café Fuerte, and me, who started in independent journalism in 1995 writing about sports. In addition to journalists we are bloggers. Palacios has a blog, Visor Cubano, and I have two, From Havana and The blog of Iván García and his friends.

Among the guests there were also grand old names from Cuban sports, such as Tony Gonzalez, a shortstop of great scope who in the 60s played with the Industriales team.

For two and a half hours, in a free-flowing environment, those present not only could greet Griffey, Larkin and Logan, but also take advantage of the fact that they were signing balls and books. And, certainly, to leave with graphic witness of an unrepeatable occasion. By request of my colleague Palacios, I shot a couple of photos of him next to Larkin and Griffey.

Thanks to an official from the Interest Section, I was able chat brief with Ken Griffey Jr., the most enjoyed of the night for his amiability and simplicity. And for his elegance, in spite of being dressed in a simple long sleeved white shirt and black trousers.

Griffey was satisfied with his trip to Havana. He enjoyed everything: the spontaneous meeting with dozens of fans at Central Park; talking baseball with people and participating in the training of a group of baseball playing kids in Liberty City, and in the Havana municipality of Marianao.

With regards to the Cuban players in the Big Leagues, he said when he played a season with the Chicago White Sox, he met the shortstop Alexia Ramirez, “and excellent person and a great professional, very meticulous in his training.”

The former stars of the Big Leagues, return to the United States on Thursday,  13 February. Before leaving, they will probably be received by Antonio Castro.

Apart from being a son of his father, Tony Castro, as he is called, is the vice-president of the Cuban Federation of Baseball and principal strategist of the new government policy of authorizing Cuban athletes to play in professional clubs of different countries and continents.

Though the topic was not mentioned in the conversation, both Griffey Jr. and I are aware that in these moments, due to  the United States embargo on Cuba, players living on the island cannot be signed by Major League teams in the U.S.

Maybe the diplomacy of the baseball will contribute to a political thaw, an inheritance of the Cold War, which for over more than five decades has maintained tense and at times aggressive relations between Cuba and the United States.

Iván García

Video: Ken Griffey Jr during with a group of children, in Liberty City, Marianao, Havana. Taken by Cubadebate.

Translated by: Rafael

15 February 2014

Artists on the General’s Farm / Camilo Ernesto Olivera

HAVANA, CUBA.  Each day we awaken, and the dinosaur is still here.  The delegates of the National Union of Cuban Writers and Artists (UNEAC) will meet with the master generals of the island-farm on the 11th, 12th and 13th of this month.

In the tedious lines that the UNEAC members stand in for the Internet, in the navigation room “LaJungla.com,” the commentary is acid.  The lack of respect for them and the dismissal of their opinions on the part of the institution’s leadership is evident.  The creators are losing their fear of saying what they feel and think:

“I am shocked to hear (Miguel) Barnet speaking of UNEAC as the spiritual vanguard of the country,” a young playwright said to this reporter, “in reality this is no more than a playpen where an aging, conformist and reactionary intellectual majority is huddled.  They are more afraid of losing perks than contributing to the Battle of Ideas in the last decade.”

“After seeing the way that the pre-Congress meetings were held, what I hope for is another act of revolutionary reaffirmation,” added the playwright, “the only agreement that is going to be reached here is summed up in this sentence:  ’Tell Raul Castro what he wants to hear, and maybe he will listen.’  On the general’s farm, intellectuals are like toilet paper, always disposable although politically correct.”

The younger members are refusing to accept the closed atmosphere that is breathed.  The taking of certain positions of power within the institution on the part of people with a prefabricated curriculum is also a striking fact.  Their labor is focusing on dividing and disrupting thought that is critical of the system.  They are the cultural police watching the members and reporting to their superiors:

“They are infiltrating their acolytes into disaffected groups in order to learn what is said and rewarding them under the table for the confidential information,” said a poet who requested anonymity.  “It is a watered down version, subtle, of the atmosphere that was breathed here in the ’70’s, which does not stop being worrying.”  They are playing old and gray cards, applying the Zhadanoviano method of the so-called black lists.  Manipulating the membership with floodgate mechanisms for access to or refusal of the rewards, incentives or other perks.”

The calamitous state in which the majority of cultural institutions find themselves, a situation that is worse in towns in the interior of the island, is a fact:  Theaters and culture centers falling down.  Influence peddling, money embezzled by programmers hiring Reagetton artists who, in their turn, pay a percentage “under the table.”  Radio and television censorship.  Salaries that do not go far…

UNEAC-PEÑA-DE-POESIA-Copy1“You cannot promote culture on an empty stomach,” said a promoter from Bayamo.  “In my city they closed the visual arts school, and the art instructors’ buildings are full of leaks.”  I mentioned to her the promotional poster for the congress and the sentence by Fidel Castro that appears on it:  Culture is the first thing we must save, and she responded:  “The country’s culture is not saved with a putrid ideology, it is saved with a strong and well run economy.  And for there to be an economy, there must be free enterprise, opportunities to invest and prosper for those within and outside of the country.”

The future of UNEAC as a historic dam or fence to control the artistic herd is in doubt.  Another intellectuality is being born from the wreckage of fear, and it is approaching the vilified borders of political dissidence.  Although in this 8th Congress of UNEAC, the intellectuals are like toilet paper, always disposable.

Cubanet, April 3, 2014, Camilo Ernesto Olivera Peidro

Translated by mlk.

Spider’s Web to Trap Investors / Miriam Celaya

Dilma Rousseff and Fidel Castro

HAVANA, Cuba – Some 53 years, 5 months and 17 days after the publication of Law 890, which provided for the expropriation of many locally owned and foreign firms, principally American, the regime just introduced the new Foreign Investment Law that goes into effect in 90 days.

The new ordinance replaces the norms in effect since 1995, when the sharpest and longest economic crisis suffered by the country forced the country to turn to foreign capital investments in Cuba, despite the purest principles of the Communist doctrine in which several generations have been (de)formed at the hands of this government. By then, some foreign businessmen were tempted to ensure themselves a space in the virgin market, while others discovered the a true tax haven in the Caribbean socialist inferno.

These capitalist outposts gave the regime the oxygen needed to overcome the imminent asphyxiation, and also made possible Castro I’s backing off from the “opening” that had allowed the return of small private property in the form of some family businesses–such as snack bars, restaurants and rooms for rent, among others–that had rapidly expanded throughout the island from the beginning of the 90s.

Cuba ‘s National Assembly votes in unison like a chorus of stringed puppets

Now that foreign capital has ceased to be an evil that must be overcome by socialism and has been converted into a “necessary good” called on to boost the always promised and never reached “economic development of the country” (Juventud Rebelde (Rebel Youth), Sunday 30 March 2014).

It’s here that, among the surprises that the updating of the Raulist model holds for us, Powerful Mr. Money is destined to facilitate “the consolidation of Cuban socialism,” which this time–yes, now!–will be “prosperous and sustainable, thanks to that formerly demonized capital. That other ancient bearded one, Karl Marx, must be turning in his grave.

Retrospective: the negation of capital

In 1960, Article 1 of Law 890 declared: Nationalization is carried out through the forced expropriation of all industrial and commercial businesses, as well as factories, warehouses, deposits and other properties and members’ rights of the same.

The mega port of Mariel

Under this law, the state appropriated 105 sugar mills, 18 distilleries, 6 alcoholic beverage factories, 6 soap and perfume factories, 5 dairies, 2 chocolate factories, one flour mill, 7 packaging factories, 4 paint factories, 3 chemical producers, 6 metallurgists, 7 stationary makers, a lamp factory, 60 textile and apparel industries, 16 rice mills, 7 food factories, 2 vegetable oil makers, 47 food stores, 11 coffee roasters, 3 drug stores, 13 department store, 8 railroads, a printer, 11 cinemas and film circuits, 19 construction-related companies, a power company and 13 shipping companies.

In subsequent months the expropriations continued, given that the Revolutionary government had decided to “adopt formulas that finally liquidated the economic power of the privileged interests that conspire against the people, proceeding to the nationalization of the large industrial and commercial companies that have not adapted nor can ever adapt to the Revolutionary reality of our nation.”

Another image of the mega port of Mariel


Spider Web to trap the unwary

At present no one seems to remember the aforementioned Law 890. Nor do they allude to the fiasco of the entrepreneurs who dared to negotiate with the Castros in the 90s and suffered great material and financial losses in the adventure. Few earned the expected profits, much less kept their businesses on the island. It’s not known if there were indemnifications, although there were definitely damages to public opinion from the irresponsible actions of so many foreign investors and of the Cuban authorities. The government has not publicly acknowledged responsibility for its mistakes, and on the other hand, we Cubans have not seen the benefits from theses inflows of capital. Nothing guarantees we will realize them with the new legislation, the greatly over-used “judicial guarantees” are not for us.

Self-employed Cubans struggling to survive between legality and the black market

The rights and benefits of Cuban workers were also enunciated: “There will not be free contracting of a labor force, so the figure of the employing entity will be maintained, the wages will be conditional upon the labor supplied, efficiency, and the value added that the company generates.” Furthermore, “The payment of the workforce will be negotiated between the employing entity and the foreign capital company.”

Thus, the State-Government, as the “employing entity,” will continue to be the owner and the Cuban employees the rented slaves, a detail that should serve to alert potential employers, given that the chronic low wages is the best incentive for theft and other forms of corruption, common among us as illegal, but legitimate, methods of survival.

The new Foreign Investment Law has not yet been published or circulated as a draft in tabloid form in recent days, so that the exact terms of its text, considerations for parties, etc. are unknown. However, it is expected to suffer some modifications to suit the needs of investors interested in trading in Cuba. The cupola will have to cede or pass away, but it will certainly seek huge profits.

It simply remains to be seem how many unsuspecting entrepreneurs fall this time in the murky legal webs of Castrolandia. Forgive me if I don’t wish them success.

* Official Gazette of the Republic of Cuba (Special Edition Havana, Thursday Oct. 13, 1960, Year LVIII, Vol Fortnightly, No. XIX).

Cubanet, 4 April 2014, Miriam Celaya

Vice President Joe Biden Meets with Yoani Sanchez

Biden-recibe-a-Yoani-SánchezThe challenge for defenders of free expression on the island was the subject of a meeting between the well-known blogger Yoani Sanchez and the vice president of the United States Joe Biden.

Both communicated news of the meeting from the Twitter accounts (@VP for the vice president and @yoanisanchez for the blogger), with an attached photo.

On October 25, 2013 Joe Biden received Berta Soler, representative of the Ladies in White, in a meeting in which they talked about human rights in Cuba and civil society in general.

Days later, on 8 November, president of the United States Barack Obama, on a visit to Miami to raise funds for the Democratic Party, met for the first time with Cuban dissidents living on the island.

Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White, and Guillermo Fariñas, both winners of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize, met the president at the home of Jorge Mas Santos, director of the Cuban American National Foundation.

The Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez, in Miami on Tuesday, said that she hopes to launch her own media in the coming weeks, announced several months ago, and which she described as “independent” and distanced from “barricade journalism,” according to EFE.

The blogger attended the Hispanicize Conference, where she received the Latinovator award for having contributed to and encouraged the use of new technologies on the Island.

The Hispanicize Conference started on Tuesday, with nearly two thousand Hispanic professionals for three days of discussions of trends in journalism, social media, advertising and new technologies

Asked about her journalistic project, Sanchez told Reuters she does not want “to be used as a weapon to defeat another. We want to be a medium that survives the current moment of Cuba, a medium for now and for later.”

According to Sanchez, the bloggers movement in Cuba has become “a civic voice in recent years” to express “discomfort and the desires for change.”

“The fundamental objective is that ordinary Cuban who now cannot go to the corner newsstand and buy any newspaper other than Granma ” said Sanchez, who admitted to having alternate plans in the event that the Cuban authorities want to prevent the opening of the new medium.

“Do we fear reprisals? Yes, it’s possible. That’s the fear that everyone has who expresses an opinion and opens his mouth in Cuba. But I hope that international public opinion will protect us because what we want to do is journalism, we are not founding a guerrilla movement,” Sanchez said.

She added that he would like to make a newspaper “to accompany the democratic transition” in Cuba and consolidate it as a space for interaction and participation in society.

Cubanet, 3 April 2014

Cuba: Genetics, Elites, and Emigrant Children / Juan Juan Almeida

Some months ago, someone who does not wish to be named because she is closely related to a high level Cuban leader, called me and told me that she had finished living her first and very unhappy American experience.  Her voice sounded ragged, with the irregular breaths that usually accompany crying.

Bilingual, university graduate, pretty, well prepared and much better raised, she applied for a job and found as an answer: Your last name is vetoed here, we don’t want any trouble. I told her, “Don’t worry, when someone destroys our dream, life always fixes it to help us build another one much better.”

I believe that so I managed to calm her; but today I need catharsis after seeing the hubbub generated in the local press by the arrival in Miami of the young Havanan named Josué Colomé Vazquez, the son of the Cuban vice-president and minister of the interior, General Abelardo Colomé Ibarra.

It is true that since there is no gossip press on the island, the lives of certain people who make up that clouded high society generates a curiosity that approaches morbidity and gives life to hunters who with mandibular exercise seek to call our attention shooting relentlessly at the so-called elite who because of non-programmed genetics were born with certain privileges.

Needless to say, with exceptions, this so attractive demographic group that includes many relatives of leaders of the Cuban revolution, does not decide to emigrate because of feeling persecuted or for political reasons; they do it because of fashion, eccentricity, or to study and one day return home with the honorific baggage of an American residence and some ultra-flamboyant title.  Also to improve their personal economy and/or look for more stable places than Havana in which to reverse the syndrome of generalized apathy that is produced by not knowing where we are going… In short, the reasons vary by those who come, ninety miles further north, this galaxy that many call “Daddy’s kids.”

Are they simply opportunists?  God save me from judging, although I agree that they are taking advantage of Public Law 89-732, “The Cuban Adjustment Act” which offers refuge and opportunity to Cubans in this country, the United States. The same law and opportunity of which so many Cuban emigrants (the term exile sounds a bit more cruel to me) make use of.

It is not good to outlaw so much. He who is free of sin come and ask me for a few. Is it necessary to clarify that, although to many it seems an act of high patriotism, stealing an airplane, a boat or raiding a warehouse in order to steal loaves of bread, without being hungry or needy, are not political issues but common crimes?

Look, on March 31, 1589, the fortification works of Havana began to come into being, directed by the engineer, military architect and Italian builder Bautista Antonelli, and by field marshal Juan de Tejeda who was governor of Cuba from 1589 to 1593.  An excellent anniversary to think of building a better country, where judging is an act of law, the guilty pay for their crimes and not for being sons or nephews. Reconsidering it bodes well.

1 April 2014

Thank You, Eusebio / Ivan Garcia

Eusebio-born-in-Mozambiqu-006With the unexpected death of Eusebio da Silva Ferreira on the morning of January 5, the soccer world lost one of its greatest players and an extraordinary ambassador for the sport, an honest and simple man, who never forgot his humble origins despite his fame.

Sports columns of the five continents have dedicated reviews and reports to him. Photos and videos have flooded the internet. Hundreds of condolences have made their way to his widow, Flora, and to his children and grandchildren. And millions of messages have circulated on social media sites remembering The Black Panther, as he was known, for his speed and skill.

Eusebio was born in the suburb of Mafalala, in the city of Lourenço Marques, now Maputo, Mozambique. He was the fourth son of seven born to Mozambican Elisa Anissabeni with her husband, the Angolan Laurindo Antonio da Silva Ferreira, a railroad worker. His father died of tetanus when Eusebio was eight years old. He and his siblings were left in the charge of their mother, in a situation of extreme poverty. As a boy, Eusebio often escaped his classes to play barefoot soccer with his friends in improvised playing fields. continue reading

Carlos Toro dedicated an article to him in El Mundo: “On the 25th of January, he would have turned 72-years-old and Portugal would have rendered him, like it is doing today, high sports and patriotic honors. ’Wherever I go, Eusebio is the name that people mention to me,” Mario Soares, president of Portugal from 1986-1996, once said.

“Forget about Cristiano Ronaldo, the young mythical figure of Portuguese sport, and about Luis Figo, who has the greatest number of international attendance for his country. The king of Portuguese football was, is Eusebio da Silva Ferreira. Eusebio. The International Federation of History and Statistics considers him to be ninth among the 50 best players in the twentieth century.

“A mulato, the son of a white father and a black mother, born in Mozambique, won the right to be saluted as one of the best soccer players of all time, including those we have in the 21st century, thanks to his performances in the imposing Benfica and with the magnificent Portuguese national team of the 1960s”.

Pelé in his Twitter profile said: “I regret the death of my brother Eusebio. We became friends during the World Cup of 1966 in England and last met in the game between Brazil and Portugal in Boston (in September 2013). My condolences to his family and may God receive him with open arms”.

Jaime Rincón wrote in Marca: “Eusebio’s career was unique from the start. His arrival in Europe was full of the mystery and emotion that usually accompanies great figures. At 17 years old, Eusebio was smuggled through the airport of Maputo on course to Lisbon. There, Benfica hid him in a small hotel room in the Algarve under a false name. No precaution was too small to secure the soccer player and prevent his ending up in the Sporting Club of Portugal.*

“With a small salary given his sporting achievements until then, Eusebio soon demonstrated that soccer was seeing a different type of player. Capable of doing 100 meters in eleven seconds, the Panther had power and ability, speed and definition. He possessed a veritable cannon in his right leg, a lethal weapon that made all the difference.

“At only 18-years-old, Eusebio dazzled on the day of his debut in Paris. Before another great such as Pelé, the Panther left the field with 3-0 on the scoreboard. With an insulting audacity, the pearl of Mozambique achieved a hat-trick that not even the subsequent goals of The King could erase”.

Sir Bobby Charlton, a living legend of British football and ex-player for Manchester United and England, remembered him like this: “Eusebio was one of the best soccer players I have had the privilege to play. I met him on numerous occasions after our sports careers were finished. I’m proud to have had him as both an opponent and a friend”.

Eusebio never came to Cuba, but we Cubans who love football and sports knew him. And we thank him for having shot down prejudices and taboos. And for proving, in any country and in any sphere of life, whether you be man or woman, white, mulatto or black, young or old, what matters is dignity and the spirit of excellence.

Iván García and Tania Quintero

Photo: Eusebio da Silva Ferreira. Taken by The Guardian, from an interview on June 6th, 2010.

*Translator’s note: There was fear that he would be kidnapped by a rival team.

 Translated by LW

6 January 2014

Photophobia / Regina Coyula

According to the still very useful UTEHA dictionary, photophobia is a medical term which means discomfort or pain to the eyes due to light. But the photophobia of my story has nothing to do with medical apprehension, but rather with social apprehension.

More and more I am hearing about people who want to take photos in public places and are told that it’s prohibited. It’s not a matter of taking photos of military units or the movement of troops, no. On a public street, in a pharmacy, in the agro-market, in a maternity hospital, in a night club, a stern employ arrives who threatens the photographer, who, generally, abides by the absurd order.

This paranoia can’t be spontaneous, it has to obey “training passed down”, where behind every camera lens could be hiding, horror!, an independent journalist, which is to say, a CIA agent.

The citizens, of course, say that in order to have legal force, the said prohibition has to be clear and very visible, and be endorsed by a resolution and not by the caprice of an administrator, director or the police.

If there is nothing to hide, why the fear?

 Translated by Regina Anavy

2 April 2014

The Castro Regime Kills and Doesn’t Lie / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Screen Shot 2014-04-02 at 2.48.37 PMThe Castro regime is, above all, biopolitical. Power over the life and death of each one of the individuals, within and beyond the national frontiers of the wicked little island in the Caribbean Sea. The Castro regime is nothing if not necropolitical: death or the pardoning of life, at times with a legal view at times in a succulent secrecy.

The death penalty was restored in Cuba as soon as Fidel Castro’s guerrilla’s were installed in the Sierra Maestra. Ernesto Ché Guevara and Raúl Castro, two “leaders” who did not cause a single member of Fulgencio Batista’s constitutional army to fall in combat, loved to kill handcuffed men, especially when the accused came from the ranks of their own Rebel Army. So they won their ranks, their epaulettes gleaming with the cadavers condemned by “conviction.”

In the so-called “flatlands,” in the violent urban underground of 1957 and 1958, the Revolutionary death penalty was happily applied right in the Cuban streets by the shooters—not to be confused with the terrorists—of the 26th of July Movement (M-26-7). continue reading

After the tremendous apotheosis of 1 January 1959, the government made death its first law, and shot en masse several generations of ex-Bastitaites and neo-Castroites. Thousands of “maximum penalties” are documented, but the real figure will continue to be a mystery until the end of time. There are no records. Not because an Orwellian intelligence apparatus destroyed them, no. There are no records because in the majority of cases no one kept them. They shot because people were pointed at. Even before trial. By decree. As an exemplary punishment. As prevention. Out of hatred for the Cuban people and their natural anti-communism. Over and over again, from “conviction”: that is, by the balls of the comandante.

In this list there are many crimes, with real bombs and improbable strokes, committed in exile. Some at the hands of Cuban diplomats themselves, who carry arms and shoot in peace, even in the most conservative capital of civilized Europe, as did Carlos Medina Pérez in London 1988.

this Castro List of the Fallen, in October 2011, in the Calixto Garcia Hospital in Havana, is the leader of the peaceful pro-democracy movement The Ladies in White, the beloved Laura Pollán, betrayed perhaps by those closest to her. Also on the Castro List of the Fallen, in July 2012, on a highway closed to traffic in the provinces of Camagüey or Las Tunas or Granma—we will never know, because no one has the right to believe in a State forensic report—are the founding leader of the peaceful Christian Liberation Movement, the intellectual Oswaldo Payá, along with his young collaborator Harold Cepero. Both Oswaldo and Laura had won for Cuba the Andrei Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought from the European Parliament, in 2005 and 2008 respectively.

This is just what Fidel does not forgive. As he does not forgive the hope for a liberation. As he does not forgive that there is a future after him.

We now have a living testimony of that double attack in eastern Cuba on Sunday 22 July 2012. This testimony was just released by the Madrid publisher Anaya.

The book is called Death Under Suspicion (2014), and it is the chronicle of the crime in the voice of the young Spanish politician Ángel Carromero (of the New Generations of the People’s Party), direct witness to the tragedy, who was driving the rental Hyundai when the extrajudicial execution struck, causing the fatalities of Harold Cepero and Oswaldo Payá. Also with them was the Swedish politician Jens Aron Modig, another survivor, but he has still refused to tell everything, after declaring “amnesia” caused by the “accident” provoked, according to the Cuban State, by the “imprudence” of a driver “without a license.”

The facts. Shortly after noon on 22 July 2012, the Hyundai was driven off the road by another car, perhaps in a classic PIT maneuver (bumping the car from behind). No one was injured. Then a group of men in civilian clothes swarmed the car. The foreigners were taken down with technical hits and then taken in separate vans to the hospital in Bayamo, by then already taken over by officials from the army and the national police. Little is known about the Cubans. But a few hours later, without medical attention, Harold Cepero and Oswaldo Payá were the latest corpses of the Castro regime.

Nothing was heard, nor will it ever be known, about the identities of those “anonymous heroes” who transported the two surviving foreigners. Nor were they inquired about at the trial held in Bayamo—perhaps because of an agreement between Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution and Madrid’s Moncloa Palace—where, months later, Ángel Carromero was condemned to four years in prison for “negligent homicide.” The Swede had already returned to Sweden by then, renouncing his political career, while his testimony was dismissed as “irrelevant” by a Cuban court in this “common case.” So he was never called to testify.

All this was known from the beginning, because Carromero and Modig sent several text messages just after the crime, and even managed to call their respective bosses in Sweden and Spain—now suspiciously silent—before their foreign phones were taken from them in the hospital and they were kept incommunicado, despite the demands of Payá’s and Cepero’s families to meet with both of them.

The most sinister part of Death Under Suspicion is that it is the testimony of a man condemned to death, because Ángel Carromero reports that, before finally being deported to his homeland to serve the rest of his sentence in Spain (in December 2012), a Cuban State Security official warned him that if he ever told the truth, he would also be extrajudicially executed, like Harold Cepero and Oswaldo Payá.

You can believe Ángel Carromero now or not. It doesn’t matter. But there are thousands of dead for us to believe this horror of the Cuban official.

The Castro regime only lies in public. In private, never.

From El Nacional, Venezuela

2 April 2014

Yearning for a Dream / Eliocer Cutino Rodriguez, Cuban Law Association

Eliocer Cutiño Rodríguez

Some time ago, as I began to write a text about my country, I surprised myself with this thought: “… it seems as though a change toward participatory democracy is becoming reality.” That was my inspiration which turned into my written words, but before finishing the text, a friend whom I asked to critique my writing suggested I should eliminate that idea. It was a notorious moment. Although the concept was never devoid of free will, at some point I wanted to convey a very distant but not outlandish hope.  Revisiting after seeing the activities for the 55th anniversary of the Triumph of the Revolution and hearing the speech of the President of the Council of State and Ministers, it is nonsense.

Perhaps the signs that provide guidance to the analysts or the media are not the same that take into account the Cuban people. continue reading

In the brief horizon of my country fit the many stories and accountable actors, sins of deed and omission, events as much as processes. But no factor is more impactful as the deterioration of the political system, increasingly less able to represent the national interests, build consensus and make decisions within a reasonable time to be implemented.

A country that each day becomes more ungovernable, even though all the year end data and statistics continue to be the “best” of Latin America, though the trend is worse and ominous.

The growing dissatisfaction of the Cuban people is real. If the government was never good at completing things now it is not even able to start them. The constant creation of experiments is an example of its mediocrity.

Creative politics that stopped being rational with the collapse of socialism in Europe.  The government allows small tactical victories for certain groups at the expense of a colossal strategic defeat for society.

The status quo of our political system is no longer tenable and hurts us all, though many may not realize it yet. It is time to reexamine from its foundation, so we do not leave as inheritance to the next generation this longing for the dream of a developed country, with all and for the good of all.

Translated by: Yoly from Oly

21 March 2014