Fidel Castro’s Proclamation, A List Of Unmet Instructions / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Carlos Valenciaga, chief of staff to Fidel Castro, as he read the proclamation on the night of 31 July 2006. (TV screenshot)
Carlos Valenciaga, chief of staff to Fidel Castro, as he read the proclamation on the night of 31 July 2006. (TV screenshot)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, Reinaldo Escobar, 30 July 2016 — Ten years after the Proclamation in which Fidel Castro announced his departure from power, that document continues to reveal distinctive features of a personality marked by the desire to control everything. More than an ideological legacy, the text is a simple list of instructions and it is unlikely that the official media—so addicted to the upcoming major anniversary of Fidel Castro’s 90th birthday—will offer an assessment of whether these instructions have been followed.

On 31 July 2006, the primetime news broadcast brought an enormous surprise. Around nine at night Carlos Valenciaga, a member of the Council of State, appeared in front of the cameras to read the Proclamation of the Commander in Chief to the People of Cuba, where he announced that due to health problems he felt obliged “to rest for several weeks, away from my responsibilities and tasks.”

After giving his version of the complications that plagued him and the causes that had caused them, Fidel Castro offered six basic points in this document and additionally left instructions about holding the Non-aligned Summit and about the postponement of the celebrations for his 90th birthday.

The first three points of the proclamation are dedicated to the transfer of powers to his brother Raul Castro as head of the Party, the government and the armed forces. The order for these transfers were completely unnecessary because it was already in his position to undertake these functions given that he was then in second position in both the hierarchical order of the Party and the government. It is striking that in each case he reiterated the “temporary delegation” of the transfer of responsibilities.

In the three remaining points he delegated (also on a temporary basis) his functions “as principal promoter of the National and International Public Health Program” to then Minister of Public health Jose Ramon Balaguer; the “principal promoters of the National and International Education Program” to Politburo members José Ramón Machado Ventura and Esteban Lazo Hernández; and as “main promoter of the National Energy Revolution in Cuba and collaborator with other countries in this area” Carlos Lage Davila, who was then secretary to the Executive Committee of the Council of Ministers.

In a separate paragraph he clarified that the funds for these three programs should continue to be managed and prioritized “as I have personally been doing” by Carlos Lage, Francisco Soberon, then minister-president of the Central Bank of Cuba, and Felipe Perez Roque, at that time minister of Foreign Relations.

Almost immediately after having read that proclamation there was an enormous military mobilization in the entire country, called Operation Caguairán. Shortly afterwards the former omnipresence of the Maximum Leader was reduced to some sporadic Reflections of the Commander in Chief published in all the newspapers and read on all the news shows. Twenty months later the National Assembly formally elected Raul Castro as the president of the Councils of State and of Ministers and later the 2011 Sixth Congress of the Communist Party elected him as First Secretary.

From his sickbed Fidel Castro affirmed on that 31st July that he did not harbor “the slightest doubt that our people and our Revolution will struggle until the last drop of blood to defend these and other ideas and measures that are necessary to safeguard our historic process.” In the text itself he asked the Party Central Committee and the National Assembly of Peoples Power “to strongly support this proclamation” although in previous lines he had had already dictated that the party “supported by the mass organizations and all the people, has the mission of assuming the task set forward in this Proclamation.”

A decade passed, the temporary absence of the “main driver” became permanent and four of the seven men named no longer occupied their positions. The reader of the proclamation was ousted. The programs mentioned have become part of the normal functions of the ministries in charge of these tasks and the “corresponding funds” (although no one has proclaimed it officially) are no accounted for in the nation’s budget.

While the 80th birthday wasn’t able to be held with his presence, nor the 2 December 2006 50th anniversary of the landing of the Granma, the yacht that brought the Castros and other revolutionaries from Mexico, as foreseen in his proclamation, now in 2016 all cultural events, sporting events, productive activities, have been dedicated to his 90th birthday.

The ultimate significance of that proclamation lies not in the message it contains, among other things because its author seemed to be persuaded that this was not his political testament but a “bear with me, I’ll be back in a while.”

The final results of this proclamation has been like a blinding spotlight that goes out, a permanent noise that we have become accustomed to and suddenly stops ringing, a will that ceases to give orders, the termination of an omnipresence. The absence occasioned has more connotations of relief than of a capsizing. There is nostalgia. The anxiety about the final outcome has been diluted in a fastidious tedium, like that of sitting in front of those films that stretch unnecessarily.

Pope Francis Asks Young Cubans “Don’t Be Afraid” / 14ymedio, Zunilda Mata

"Open up to big things. Do not be afraid," Pope Francis told young Cubans in a message released Thursday. (14ymedio)
“Open up to big things. Do not be afraid,” Pope Francis told young Cubans in a message released Thursday. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 29 July 2016 – A message from Pope Francis aimed at young Cubans raised spirits Thursday in celebrations that took place in Havana simultaneously with World Youth Day held in Krakow, Poland. “Young Cubans: open yourselves to great things! Do not be afraid!” the Bishop of Rome told them in a few words that were projected on a large screen in front of more than a thousand Catholics throughout the island.

Havana’s Cathedral Square, from early Thursday morning, displayed a panorama completely different from usual. Although there was no lack of tourists, performers and, of course, the police, there were around 1,300 young Catholics from all provinces who met “in sync with Krakow,” according to the organizers. Continue reading “Pope Francis Asks Young Cubans “Don’t Be Afraid” / 14ymedio, Zunilda Mata”

Message from Pope Francis to Young Cubans / 14ymedio

Celebrations this Thursday in Havana simultaneously with the World Youth Day held in Krakow, Poland. (14ymedio)
Celebrations this Thursday in Havana simultaneously with the World Youth Day held in Krakow, Poland. (14ymedio)

Note: The version below is the summary of the message released in English by the Vatican. 

With great hope I join with you in this moment, in which you are in harmony with the universal Church whose young heart is in Krakow. I trust that these days will be, for all, a special occasion to foster the culture of encounter, the culture of respect, the culture of understanding and of mutual forgiveness. This is about ‘making a ruckus’, about dreaming. And young people are supposed to ‘make a ruckus’!

I suggest that you live the experience of listening carefully to the Gospel and then bringing it alive in your own lives, in the lives of your family and friends. … When you pray the Via Crucis, remember that we cannot love God if we do not love our brothers. When you pass through the Holy Door, let yourself be infused with this love … and this way you will learn always to look upon others with mercy, closeness and tenderness, especially those who suffer and those who are in need of help.” Continue reading “Message from Pope Francis to Young Cubans / 14ymedio”

Neither Brave Nor Intelligent, Much Less Fair / 14ymedio, Eliecer Avila

Arrest of a member of the Ladies in White in Havana. (EFE)
Arrest of a member of the Ladies in White in Havana. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Eliecer Avila, Havana, 28 July 2016 — On numerous occasions I have had to listen to the stories of friends and colleagues who have been detained or have been interrogated by the State Security. “These people are unreal, they know everything. The day I went to see so-and-so, what I said to what’s-his-face, what time, and even that we had coffee and ate roast pork. They don’t miss a thing!”

I imagine that these people feel very impressed, because it is as if they were sitting with a fortuneteller who “divines” their past, present and can even predict their future. The difference is that the fortunetellers, or so they tell us, “have a gift,” while State Security has human and technical methods and a society completely organized to facilitate their work, such that their gifts are simply their ears and a crystal ball made of optical fiber. Continue reading “Neither Brave Nor Intelligent, Much Less Fair / 14ymedio, Eliecer Avila”

Eduardo Mora, Another Mask Falls / 14ymedio, Claudia Collazo

Mara Gongora, Eduardo Mora and Yisel Filiu on the set of the program “Good Morning” in 2014. (Source: Facebook)
Mara Gongora, Eduardo Mora and Yisel Filiu on the set of the program “Good Morning” in 2014. (Source: Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Claudia Collazo, Havana, 28 July 2016 — Compelling, cheerful, with an exuberant vocabulary and a good presence, Eduardo Mora was until recently one of the main presenters on “Good Morning,” Cuba’s morning news show. Even the most boring slogans gained grace from his personal style.

Just over a month ago, in the hallways of the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television (ICRT) everyone said, each in his own way, that he had defected, that he won’t return, that he stayed abroad. In May, Mora attended the Latin American Study Association (LASA) meeting in New York as a speaker, and at the end of the sessions asked his bosses in Information Systems to extend his absence for a few more weeks, but they refused. The presenter intended to take advantage of the trip to visit his brother in Miami and to give some talks so that he would be able to buy a house in Havana with the money raised. When he did not appear in Cuba by the required date, he was fired. Continue reading “Eduardo Mora, Another Mask Falls / 14ymedio, Claudia Collazo”

Cuban Civil Society, For The First Time Present In The Regional Internet Governance Forum / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula

The Regional Latin American and Caribbean Preparatory Meeting for the Internet Governance Forum, is a regional meeting prior to the upcoming global forum in Mexico. (Twitter)
The Regional Latin American and Caribbean Preparatory Meeting for the Internet Governance Forum, is a regional meeting prior to the upcoming global forum in Mexico. (Twitter)

14ymedio biggerRegina Coyula, Havana, 26 July 2016 — ¿Gover… what? That reaction has become increasingly familiar in a conversation discussing internet governance. Although many users who take advantage of it aren’t aware, governance is a fundamental issue for everyone when we venture out onto the World Wide Web. That our family email travels equally with the statistics of scientific research, with an online purchase, or with a bank account statement, is thanks to governance.

Behind any familiar and easily remembered address is a long string of numbers without which the internet couldn’t function. Early developers realized that the ordinary user would be unable to recall those long strings of numbers and so created a protocol to tie them to a name. Name and number indissoluble leading us unmistakably to the desired destination. These technical protocols that make our lives easier, also have to do with governance. Continue reading “Cuban Civil Society, For The First Time Present In The Regional Internet Governance Forum / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula”

The Erratic Corrections of Machado Ventura / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

The only “next” is the looming return of the economic difficulties. (14ymedio)
The only “next” is the looming return of the economic difficulties. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 26 July 2016 – Sporting a hat to protect himself from the rays of the sun, Jose Ramon Machado Ventura explained in his speech for the 26th of July that the changes introduced in the Cuban model “are aimed at consolidating our socialism, to make more prospero (prosperous) and sustainable.” The keynote speaker at an event this morning in Sancti Spiritus realized immediately that he had omitted the enclitic pronoun “it” next to the verb “to make” and corrected it but introduced a new error: “To make it more proximo (next) and sustainable.”

To the cheerful confusion of those who didn’t notice the initial grammatical slip, the vice president conveyed the impression that he hadn’t meant to say prosperous, but proximo (next). The correction thus became a political problem, because if there is something Cubans know it is that the promised socialism “without haste, but without pause” could be anything or have innumerable oddities, but in no way is it “next.” Continue reading “The Erratic Corrections of Machado Ventura / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar”

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”

‘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”

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”

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”

Travel, Whatever the Cost / 14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez

The "last minute" terminal in Havana for the purchase of interprovincial bus and train tickets. (14ymedio)
The “last minute” terminal in Havana for the purchase of interprovincial bus and train tickets. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 18 July 2016 – “Give me the suitcase, I’m off to the countryside,” says the chorus of a tune that gets more popular during the school holidays. Many families visit their relatives in rural areas, travel to tourist destinations in other provinces, or spend some days camping far from home. Interprovincial transport collapses with the high demand in July and August, while customers’ criticisms also intensify.

Under a roof of metal tiles that converts the place into a free sauna, hundreds of people are waiting this weekend to travel “last minute” or “on the waiting list” from the terminal on Puerto Avenue in Old Havana. Some of them no longer remember when they got there, because the hours have passed one after another, without hearing the good news that their number in line can board the next bus. Continue reading “Travel, Whatever the Cost / 14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez”