The Bridge / 14ymedio, Pedro Junco Lopez

Barack Obama greets the Cuban people after his speech at Havana’s Gran Teatro.
Barack Obama greets the Cuban people after his speech at Havana’s Gran Teatro.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Junco Lopez, Camaguey, 27 April 2016 – Some have suggested I write about US President Barack Obama’s recent visit to Cuba. A great challenge after so much criticism about it. However, despite the blockade I’ve suffered in international research, I lean to two very attractive topics—and as far as my information sources permit me to know—two that have been hardly discussed: first, the oratory style of the American president who, according to what they are saying here, “has the Cuban people in his pocket”; and second, “the bridge” between the two systems and societies, which both presidents brought up.

With regards to oratory, I will not dwell too long on that of the general-president, considering his having always been in the military, his extreme longevity, and his usual approach of reading his texts. Whether or not a man is an excellent orator has nothing to do with his other aptitudes. Oratory is an art, an art that isn’t learned, but that one is born with and perfects or doesn’t. But I propose to compliment Obama’s rhetoric, offering as a counterpart that of some contemporary Cubans speaking live.

I don’t think it was at Harvard where the American learned to launch these clear and precise parliamentary arrows in the form of short sentences; then he stops, tightens his lips and puts a brake on the overflowing words, giving the audience time to digest his ideas and then one phrase after another, repeats the pauses, often with a smile playing on his lips and without losing the thread of his exposition, without even looking at the script that guides him in his discursive ascent and ending with the clear solidity of a prophet.

How different is the style of some Cubans who speak haltingly, breaking their phrases as one who walks along a path strewn with large boulders that must be leaped over, taking a breath in the middle of well known phrases, seeking respite from the terror of making a mistake and expounding something that could upset whoever dictated the script.

We appreciate the serene movement of President Obama’s hands, always in a lilting rhythm in sync with the idea of the phrasing. How different from the immoderate flapping of other local speakers for whom the podium must be cleared of ornamental objects, lest one of their swipes knock the microphone to the floor or any other instrument on the set where they are talking.

The people of Cuba saw a president in the flesh who proposes and convinces, not the god who taught them to listen with meekness half a century ago: powerful, imposing, unanswerably humbling and always threatening.

But let’s address the detail of the bridge. Nothing in the theme surprises us, when many years ago the young Guatemalan singer Ricardo Arjona wrote and performed a song with this name; watching the video brings tears to the eyes of Cubans who have suffered a separation from their loved ones. This time the initiative came from the Cuban president: it is easy to destroy a bridge; it is difficult to build it back again; a straightforward simile, but concise.

So the naiveté of the general-president in “mentioning the rope in the house of the hanged man” surprises; and the condescension of the northern president in seeking a convergence between the two governments and not taking the bull by the horns and telling a story that surely he knows.

The first foundations of that bridge were built by the Americans and the mambises – Cuban independence fighters – at the end of the 19th century, when they fought together to free Cuba from Spanish colonialism. Today very subjective concepts are put forward about what led the United States to invade Cuba, drumming on “the ripe apple” concept. It would be good to detail when this apple ripened, with the two principals killed in combat and the stubborn position of the Spaniards not to abandon the island. In Spain to this day, when something goes badly for a citizen, they seek solace in the classic phrase: “More was lost in Cuba.” The Spaniards were so attached to our native land that no one was able to predict how many more years of fighting and how many human lives independence would cost.

The first foundations for the bridge were built on solid ground after the emancipation of the metropolis, and its horizontal beams were laid when industrialized sugar cane production, the great electricity and telephone companies and many others were brought to Cuba. Because on 20 May 1902, they lowered the American flag and raised that of Miguel Tourbe Tolon and Narciso Lopez—names that barely appear in our schools’ current history books—and the Cuban nation had 10 people for every square kilometer of the homeland.

Republican governments, despite the tyrannies of Machado and Batista, thanks to close negotiations with the neighbor to the north, paved the bridge with the building of the Capitol, the central highway and the walls of the Havana Malecon, despite the aberration of the Model Prison on the Isle of Pines.

They built hospitals, highways, local roads, and made our currency equal to the dollar, and Cuba was the most developed country in Latin America, thanks to a sugar quota with privileged pricing worked out with the United States.

Projects for a 96-mile highway between Havana and Key West had already begun: a physical bridge that would link the island to the continent. Had this project been completed, the tens of thousands of compatriots drowned in the Florida Straits would have completed their journeys with greater safety and comfort.

But who broke the bridge? Who led to Washington establishing a “blockade” against the revolutionary government for having confiscated without compensation the billions of dollars the Americans invested in the island during the Republican period?

Who destroyed the agricultural and urban infrastructure of this unhappy country that today will have no other pillar to lean on if Venezuela ceases to be socialist?

Who clings to refusing to see that without fundamental changes toward industrial capitalism and development today’s young people will continue the exodus and we will be left in this beloved land with only feeble old people, unable even to dig the graves of those who die first?

________

Editor ‘s note: This text has been published on the blog Fury of the Winds and is reproduced here with the author’s consent.

Cuba Will Lose One Million People In Next Decade / 14ymedio, Abel Fernandez, Mario Penton

Cuba will continue to have the oldest population in Latin America. (14ymedio / Luz Escobar)
Cuba will continue to have the oldest population in Latin America. (14ymedio / Luz Escobar)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Abel Fernandez and Mario Penton, Miami, 29 April 2016 — By 2025, the Cuban population will be reduced to 10 million. The dramatic demographic change on the island—from 11 million to 10 million inhabitants—is propelled by the low rates of fertility and birth, and an elevated emigration, a group of experts recently explained at Florida International University.

In addition, Cuba will continue to have the oldest population in Latin America. Currently, 19% of its inhabitants are over 60, and forecasts indicated that this figure will reach 30% in less than a decade. Continue reading “Cuba Will Lose One Million People In Next Decade / 14ymedio, Abel Fernandez, Mario Penton”

Panama Prepares The Final Transfer Of Cubans To Mexico / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

Cuban children remain with their parents in Panama to wait to continue the route to the US. (Silvio Enrique Campos, a Cuban immigrant in Panama)
Cuban children remain with their parents in Panama to wait to continue the route to the US. (Silvio Enrique Campos, a Cuban immigrant in Panama)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 29 April 2016 — The Panamanian Foreign Ministry has begun to take a census of more than 670 Cuban migrants in the hostel of Los Planes in the province of Chiriqui, in anticipation of their transfer to Mexico in the coming days. Another three thousand Cubans, most stranded on the border with Costa Rica, will also benefit from this operation, the last of its type, according to the Panamanian president, Juan Carlos Varela on Thursday.

“Starting from the completion of transfer operation of the Cubans counted in the census, those who enter later will have to make a decision about what country they want to return to; we can’t become a permanent logistical support for the trafficking of migrants,” warned the Panamanian president. Continue reading “Panama Prepares The Final Transfer Of Cubans To Mexico / 14ymedio, Mario Penton”

‘The World and my Cuba in El Diario’ by Uva de Aragon / 14ymedio, Jose Gabriel Barrenechea

Cover of "The World and My Cuba in 'El Diario' " by Uva de Aragon
Cover of “The World and My Cuba in ‘El Diario’ ” by Uva de Aragon

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, José Gabriel Barrenechea Jose, Santa Clara, Cuba, 28 April 2016 – The World and My Cuba in ‘El Diario’ is a very difficult book to read, not for its style, which could not be more direct and comprehensive, but for the heavy emotional weight concentrated in each of its brief articles. The reader can do nothing more than take long breaks after reading them, in hopes that at some point this fiber that resonates through us finally stops, so that we can finally assimilate the sledgehammer of feelings and ideas with which the author has confronted us. I confess, for example, that after reading My Father and the Moon and My Mother and the Candy I had to put down the book I had just started reading for another day. Continue reading “‘The World and my Cuba in El Diario’ by Uva de Aragon / 14ymedio, Jose Gabriel Barrenechea”

Former Political Prisoners Say US Failed on Promise To Bring Their Families From Cuba / 14ymedio, Abel Fernandez, Mario Penton

Former Cuban political prisoners Niorvis Rivera (left) Aracelio Riviaux and Jorge Ramirez (right) speak with staff for Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. (Courtesy)
Former Cuban political prisoners Niorvis Rivera (left) Aracelio Riviaux and Jorge Ramirez (right) speak with staff for Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Abel Fernandez and Mario Penton, Miami, 28 April 2016 – Former Cuban political prisoners Niorvis Rivera, Aracelio Riviaux and Jorge Ramirezmet Thursday in Miami with staff for Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen for help in bringing their relatives from Cuba.

The three were part of the group of 53 dissidents released as part of negotiations between Cuba and the United States that allowed the return to the island of the Cuban spies still in American prisons. But shortly after their release, the opposition members had been returned to prison. Continue reading “Former Political Prisoners Say US Failed on Promise To Bring Their Families From Cuba / 14ymedio, Abel Fernandez, Mario Penton”

Two Russian Deputies Propose Reestablishing Signal Intercept Station in Cuba / 14ymedio

Raul Castro and Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin
Raul Castro and Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin

14ymedio biggerTwo Russian Deputies put forward a proposal to President Vladimir Putin to study the reestablishment of the Lourdes signals interception center in Cuba, as well as the deployment of Russian missile launchers on the island “to protect the interests of Moscow and its allies,” as local media reported this Wednesday.

The initiative comes as a response to the agreement between the United States and Turkey which will allow the deployment in May of high mobility tactical missiles (Himars) in the Southeast part of the Ottoman country, near the border with Syria, to deal with attacks by the jihadist group the Islamic State. Continue reading “Two Russian Deputies Propose Reestablishing Signal Intercept Station in Cuba / 14ymedio”

Carriers, Tanks And Trucks, The Ways To Get Water / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

A tanker truck delivers water in the streets of Havana. (14ymedio)
A tanker truck delivers water in the streets of Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 27 April 2016 – Under the hot sun, while passersby seek shade under the balconies, one hears the sound of truck on Jovellar Street in Havana. It goes along loaded with tanks full of water, and as it passes the residents look out their windows and run inside their houses looking for a bucket to fill. The commotion in the neighborhood is reminiscent of holidays, but there is no music, no fun, just a water carrier selling his coveted merchandise door-to-door.

Idalmis, a young mother who lives on the route taken by El Primo, yells from the balcony that she wants to fill her tank. She asks him not to leave, that other neighbors need to store water in jars, pots and even a fish tank. It’s been months since the tanks in their homes have had a drop of water to dampen everything. Continue reading “Carriers, Tanks And Trucks, The Ways To Get Water / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar”

The Cuban Spice Route / 14ymedio, Lilianne Ruiz

An employee selects and packages spices at Purita Industries. (14ymedio)
An employee selects and packages spices at Purita Industries. (14ymedio)

14ymedio, Lilianne Ruiz, San Miguel del Padron, 24 April 2016 — The spice route of Purita Industries begins with the pruning camp a short distance from the production workshop. It continues in the room where the machine is, a heated dehydrator designed by a mechanical engineer that processes 200 pounds of plants in 24 hours.

Located in San Miguel del Padron, to reach Purita’s farm you have to cross the Güines highway and continue down Dolores Street “until you can sense the odor of the seasonings,” as a nearby neighbor directs.

The aroma of the spices hits your nose before you enter the little factory. They produce basil, celery, rosemary, chives, tarragon and garlic, all “one hundred percent natural,” according to the producers. They also produce dried peppers, peanuts and shredded coconut. Continue reading “The Cuban Spice Route / 14ymedio, Lilianne Ruiz”

A ‘Bishop Of The People’ For A Cuba In Transition / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

Juan de la Caridad García, the new archbishop of San Cristobal de Havana.
Juan de la Caridad García, the new archbishop of San Cristobal de Havana.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 26 April 2016 — After nearly 35 years as head of the Archdiocese of Havana, Jaime Ortega y Alamino, the only Cuban cardinal and a crucial figure in the thaw with the United States, has been replaced. Pope Francis decided to accept his resignation, presented since 2011, and appoint in his place Juan de la Caridad Garcia Rodriguez, Archbishop of Camagüey, a man who is considered a “bishop of the people” and who is connected to the world of missions.

In an interview by telephone from Camagüey, a few hours after his appointment was confirmed, Garcia said he hopes his episcopate will serve to increase the dialogue with the Cuban government, so that “the Church can be present in spaces that belong to it, such as education, the media and prison ministry.” Continue reading “A ‘Bishop Of The People’ For A Cuba In Transition / 14ymedio, Mario Penton”

To End Censorship / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

The cover of “Censorship of the Press in the Cuban Revolution,” by Minerva Salado (Verbum Publishing)
The cover of “Censorship of the Press in the Cuban Revolution,” by Minerva Salado (Verbum Publishing)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, If the mid-seventies I had thought to tell Minerva Salado, then my chief editor at Cuba International magazine, that in some forty years she would write a book titled “Censorship of the Press in the Cuban Revolution,” I would have caused enormous problems for myself, only surpassed by that if I had predicted to her my current status as an “unofficial” journalist.

Unveiling the framework of obscenities and subtleties that was woven into the early years of the process called the Cuban Revolution in order to implement strict censorship on the media is a very complex task; what scholars would call “a multidisciplinary task.” Minerva knows this, as a writer, journalist and poet, so in the introduction she warns that her efforts “will have to address the documentary research, personal experience and memory of several generations of journalists and media.” Continue reading “To End Censorship / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar”

New Prices, Political Will And Productivity / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Customers at the Carlos III shopping center in Central Havana this morning waiting expectantly for the reduction in prices on some products announced the night before.
Customers at the Carlos III shopping center in Central Havana this morning waiting expectantly for the reduction in prices on some products announced the night before.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, 22 April 2016 – As the journalist Regina Coyula warned, in order to understand what the press in Cuba is saying you have to know “Granmática” (the language of the newspaper Granma) and, even though the note on the first page of the official organ of the Communist Party appears signed by the Minister of Finance and Prices, one has to have read a lot of official editorials, listened to enough speeches by Señor Machado Ventura and dedicated several days to studying what they say on the Roundtable TV program, to assimilate a single paragraph of a dissertation on the economy in its purest form.

The note says, “The final solution to this complex reality will be achieved with increased productivity and efficiency in the national economy,” but a few lines affirm that it has been “the political will of the Leadership of the Party and the Government (…) as well as the reduction in food prices in the world market” that have led to the adoption of “a set of measures aimed at gradually increasing the purchasing power of the Cuban peso in the short term.” Continue reading “New Prices, Political Will And Productivity / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar”

Clothes Do Not Make the Man / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

Voting unanimously at the Seventh Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba.
Voting unanimously at the Seventh Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 23 April 2016 — Army General Raul Castro, newly re-elected first secretary of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC), in his closing speech at the Party’s 7th Congress spoke of moving forward with our democratic, prosperous and sustainable socialism. It turns out that the adjective democratic has just been added to the socialism officially promoted in Cuba.

The leadership of the first Communist Party was allowed to take the name, later used to turn the country into a disaster, even recognizing one day that “no one knew how to build socialism.” The leadership of the PCC has the right to name the society they are proposing whatever they want. But those of us who have been defending a democratic socialism in Cuba also have the right to make it clear that this name has nothing to do with the socialism as practiced by the PCC. Continue reading “Clothes Do Not Make the Man / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos”

Epitaph for a Party / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya

Cuban president Raúl Castro speaking last Tuesday at the 7th Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (EFE)
Cuban president Raúl Castro speaking last Tuesday at the 7th Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Miami, 20 April 2016 – I ask for a minute’s standing ovation, gentlemen: the Communist Party of Cuba has died. The internment, which will be known to future generations of Cubans as the 7th Congress of the PCC, held its memorial service Tuesday, 19 April 2016, exactly 55 years after the dazzling “first great defeat of Yankee imperialism in America.”

Due to those whimsical paradoxes of history, the “Socialist Revolution,” proclaimed in those days of pure popular enthusiasm, has finally succumbed, but not by any action of the imperialist enemy warrior, but by the arrogance of its own makers. Continue reading “Epitaph for a Party / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya”

‘The Window’ Opens In Cuba / 14ymedio, Eliecer Avila

14ymedio, Eliecer Avila, 22 April 2016 – A new TV program, La Ventana (The Window), debuted in Cuba on Thursday, the work of the young artist Ignacio Gonzalez, director of the project En Caliente Prensa Libre (Free Press in the Heat of the Moment).

The program highlights the professionalism of the set as well as the technical team. In a small and modest space they managed to create the conditions for the production of news, analysis programs and interviews. With value added by editing and set design, they are ready to compete not only with national programs but also with those produced outside the country. Continue reading “‘The Window’ Opens In Cuba / 14ymedio, Eliecer Avila”

Havana Yields To Pressure and Allows Cuban Passengers On Cruise Ships / 14ymedio

Demonstration at the headquarters of Carnival Cruise Lines in Miami.
Demonstration at the headquarters of Carnival Cruise Lines.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 22 April 2016 – The Cuban government changed its immigration policy with regards to maritime travel. The scandal provoked by the refusal of Carnival cruise lines to sell tickets on its cruises to the island to citizens of Cuban origin – a policy subsequently rectified by the cruise line – has forced Havana to authorize the entry and departure of Cuban citizens “regardless of their immigration status” both as passengers or crew members on merchant and cruise ships. Similarly, the same measure will be gradually implemented with regards to pleasure yachts.

The Government issued a news release early Friday that details the new provisions and reminds crew members wishing to enter Cuba by sea that they have to apply for the permits “through the established employment institutions.” Continue reading “Havana Yields To Pressure and Allows Cuban Passengers On Cruise Ships / 14ymedio”