Cuban Court Ratifies Three-Year Sentence Against Karina Gálvez

Cuban Court Ratifies Three-Year Sentence Against Karina Gálvez

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 10 November 2017 — The Provincial Court of Pinar del Río ratified the sentence of three years of deprivation of liberty against Karina Galvez issued last September. The economist was informed on Wednesday of the sentence on appeal and must spend the time of imprisonment under “limitation of freedom” at the home of her mother.

The Court also confirmed the confiscation of Gálvez’s home, which also functioned as a space for the activities of the Center for Coexistence Studies (CEC) in Pinar del Río. The activist described this decision as “unfair” but she assured 14ymedio that she expected it. continue reading

This Thursday Gálvez received a summons to appear before the judge on November 21, in order to “be instructed about the obligations and restrictions that have been established.”

On that occasion the judge will inform the activist about the conditions under which she will serve her sentence. For the time being, the Court ruled that the three years in prison are “replaced by limitation of freedom,” so she will not have to enter a penitentiary.

Official citation to Karina Gálvez. (CEC)

“In the citation it says that I must self-manage employment but I still do not know if it can work for myself,” explains the economist.

The case against Gálvez began on January 11 when she was detained for a week in the Criminal Investigation Technical Directorate of the province and her house was sealed by the police. The economist was prosecuted for the crime of “tax evasion” during the purchase of a home.

After the trial, the property was made available to the Municipal Housing Authority, subordinated to the Administration Council of the Municipality of Pinar del Río.

With the ratification of the sentence, Gálvez also is prevented from “the issuance of a passport and leaving the national territory until the sanctions imposed have been completed,” so she cannot travel abroad.

The economist denounced in recent months an escalation of pressures on the part of the authorities, which included numerous interrogations in the Department of Immigration and Immigration of the province, where they inquired about the motivations of her trips out of the island.

Other members of the CEC have been summoned by the police and have received warnings, among them the director of the publication, Dagoberto Valdés, who in October an official said that from that moment his life would be “very difficult.”

The CEC organizes training courses for citizenship and civil society and in a recent public statement its members assured that they will not leave Cuba or the Catholic Church and that they will continue to “work for the country.”

The Art Of Turning Artists Into “Enemies”

Artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara on a park bench in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, 10 November 2017 — He scribbled on a wall and they detained him for several months; he founded an opposition party and they accused him of buying some sacks of cement; he opened an independent media outlet and they denounced him for treason. Every step taken to be free ended with a disproportionate repression that can only be explained through the fear that the ruling party feels towards its own citizens.

The case against the artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara has once again exposed the fear that beats in the highest spheres and spills over onto everyone who leaves the assigned fold. The police officers who entered his house last Monday went in search of any evidence to incriminate him, because they are the executors of a punishment policy that is systematically applied against the system’s critics. continue reading

The sacks of construction materials are just a pretext to “show him the instruments” and to embroil Otero Alcántara in an infinite legal process. What is coming now is a movie we already know well: the trial at full speed, the sentence that allows him to be removed from circulation until after the date scheduled for the independent event and, meanwhile, a “good cop” who will whisper in his ear the advantages of emigrating and avoiding such imbroglios.

The artist will feel every kind of pressure. On the one hand, State Security will say that his call to participate in an independent event is a provocation that will not be allowed, and on the other hand the official artists’ guild will distance itself and its members from his proposals. Some of those who said “yes” to participating in the #Bienal00 will no long respond to the emails or will communicate that they will be unavailable due to an unforeseen trip.

Some will accuse him of wanting to attract attention, others will tell him he could have gone through official channels before throwing himself into organizing a parallel event. There will be those who will reproach him for having crossed the red line between art and activism, or for having dabbled in politics. The most caustic will whisper that now he can include his own face in the next Game of Thrones video he creates about the candidates for the Cuban presidency.

However, solidarity will also rain down upon him from those who, in recent days, have been expecting the imprisonment of the author of ¿Dónde está Mella?, a performance held in the former Manzana de Gómez, in Havana. His case will help show the world that Raúl Castro’s government has a similar modus operandi to attack opponents, artists and journalists.

The ruling party does not care if the “daring” report human rights violations, work with metaphors or investigate information. From up there, anyone who does not follow orders deserves only one word: enemy. Now, for them, Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara has fallen into that category.

A 16-Day Detention That Started With a Kidnapping

The activist Roberto Rodríguez Jiménez spent 16 days in detention. (Aulas Abiertas)

14ymedio bigger 14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 9 November 2017 — An arbitrary arrest is not the same if on the other side of the bars there is a family willing to ask questions or a friend who dares to investigate. Roberto Jiménez Gutiérrez believed that no one would notice his absence, which began on October 23 when the police crossed his path, but the reaction outside of Cuba surprised him.

“I was held incommunicado for sixteen days in the Technical Investigation Department at 100 and Aldabó,” the leader of the independent organization Juventud Activa Cuba Unida (JACU — Active Youth, United Cuba), which describes his arrest as a “kidnapping,” he tells this newspaper. “But the officers never told me where I was, I knew that from other prisoners,” he explains by telephone after being released last Tuesday.

In Jiménez’s mind, the days in the cell passed slowly without any logic. “Almost every day they interrogated me, but the most intense moments were the first 72 hours,” he recalls. continue reading

The opponent was on his way to José Martí International Airport, in Havana, to take a flight to Miami where he planned to participate in a dinner organized by the Legal Rescue Foundation (FRJ).

At dawn, police stopped the car in which he was traveling to the airport and told the driver to leave. “Everything that followed was very violent,” the JACU leader explains now. “I demanded that they show me a document that validated my arrest and then they hit me in the chest.”

After that the memories are confusing. Four policemen forced him into a patrol car and pushed him down in such a way that he could not even see the road the vehicle was traveling along.

“I am being accused of association, meetings and illicit demonstrations,” an offense for which one can receive from “three months to one year of deprivation of liberty.” The police also warned him, without showing him any papers, that he was going to be charged under Law 88, also known as the Gag Law.

The draconian legislation is the same as that which led to the imprisonment of 75 opponents and independent journalists in 2003, in a repressive wave known as the Black Spring. The dissidents tried in that case were sentenced to sentences as long as 30 years.

Under those rules Jiménez could be prosecuted for accumulating, reproducing and disseminating “information or documentation that goes against the Government.” The officers who interrogated him did not succeed in getting him to confess to the accusation. “They did not get anything, I held my position.”

That same day, the activist César Mendoza, director of the Center for Studies for Local Development (CEDEL), was also arrested. He was also going to participate in the meeting in Miami together with Jiménez, as well as be part of a panel at the recently concluded Cuba Internet Freedom meeting.

Mendoza saw him last Saturday when he was taken to another detention center, and cannot say where he is being held because he was moved in a fetal position. “They wanted to confront us with each other so we would implicate each other,” he explains. But neither of the activists confirmed the police hypothesis.

Now, Jiménez will have to go every Monday to 100 and Aldabó to sign a record and is awaiting a trial that does not yet have a date. “In the detention they confiscated a laptop, money and a tablet that were part of the things I was taking with me for the trip,” he adds.

The government repressors still do not understand why JACU works in the training of young people and “everything is done without profit and rests on the basis of human rights and democracy so that they can direct their actions and define their future.”

The activist recognizes that lately they have had to change the places where they meet “due to the pressures from State Security.” His arrest was one more drop in a cascade of arrests, threats and seizures.

“I do not have a family and they took advantage of that,” Jiménez laments, but in the days after his arrest a whole hosts of relatives materialized. The human rights organization Freedom House publicized his case and social networks filled with demands for his release.

When Roberto Jiménez Gutiérrez returned to walk through the streets of Havana his phone did not stop ringing. A new family had emerged during those 16 days of confinement.

More Than 300 People Sign a Petition for the Release of Artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 9 November 2017 — The arrest of Cuban artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara has unleashed a wave of solidarity on the internet. The artist Tania Bruguera launched a solidarity campaign that as of Thursday exceeded 300 signatures to demand the release of the young artist.

The declaration states that the government’s reaction towards the artist has been disproportionate and that the response is aimed at “blocking the organization of the independent Art Biennial of 2018 led by” Otero Alcántara.

The artist was arrested by police on Monday and will be tried tomorrow, Friday, accused of the crime of receiving stolen goods for having in his house several bags with construction materials that police say are of “dubious origin.” continue reading

The Cuban Penal Code sanctions this crime with “deprivation of liberty from three months to a year” or “a fine of one hundred to three hundred quotas* or both.” However, after Hurricane Irma cases against hoarders or people who diverted state resources have been judged more severely. The campaign describes Otero Alcántara as an artist who has developed “a work inspired by the reality of his country and that puts on display it contradictions.”

The text describes Otero Alcántara as an artist who has developed “a work inspired by the reality of his country and the pointing out of its contradictions”.

In the declaration that accompanies the petition for signatures, designated as “co-responsible” for what happened are Abel Prieto Jiménez, Minister of Culture, Miguel Barnet, president of the official Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC), and Lesvia Vent Dumois, president of UNEAC’s Association of Plastic Artists.

When Otero Alcántara announced the initiative to hold an independent Biennial in May 2018, UNEAC circulated a note warning its members that “some unscrupulous people” were trying to organize a parallel event.

The artists ask for “his immediate freedom and without accusations of any kind” against Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and “the return of their property”, in addition to ending “the obstruction of the realization of the independent Biennial.”

Yanelyz Nuñez, another of the organizers of the #00Bienal de La Habana, explained to 14ymedio that “many friends have called to see what they can do and how the whole process is going.”

On the reaction within the Island, he said that “among the artists who live here the disconnect is important” and that they often ignore that these things happen. On Tuesday, the exhibition Nada Personal at the D’Nasco Studio was inaugurated, which included the work of Luis Manuel along with other artists, and most of the people there did not know what had happened.”

Núñez considers that the greatest pressure for the artist to be released is coming “from the web” and says that they have received a lot of support.

Núñez explained that Otero had been transferred to the detention center known as the Vivac as of Tuesday night and his family has hired a lawyer for his defense.

In a text signed by this young graduate of the History of Art, it is emphatically stated that “in the conviction that the realization of this project is important” they will continue with the next stages and that they are not afraid.

*Translator’s note: Cuban criminal law specifies fines in “quotas” rather than specific amounts so that all the fines can be updated by changing the value of a quota.

Director of Cuba’s Communist Party Newspaper Fired for his “Errors”

Prior to ‘Granma’, Terry Cuervo directed the newspaper ‘Juventud Rebelde’, the second most important in the country. (@pelayoterry)

14ymedio biggerThe director of Granma newspaper, Pelayo Terry Cuervo, was “liberated” from his post by the leadership of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), due to “errors committed in the fulfillment of his responsibilities,” a brief note published on Thursday on Granma’s website announced.

“Until the new director is appointed, the current deputy director Oscar Sánchez Serra will assumes these functions,” explains the announcement, which does not add details about the faults committed by the previous holder of the position.

The note also does not provide information on the future functions that the dismissed official will have, a sign that his departure has been on bad terms. The use of the word “liberated” to announce the firing is also a sign that the journalist did not leave in good standing. continue reading

Terry Cuervo, with a Bachelor of Journalism earned in 1988, had been appointed head of the Granma newspaper in October 2013, when he was described as having “an upward trajectory as a journalist, war correspondent in Ethiopia” and having occupied “different managerial positions in organs of the written press.”

Prior to Granma, Terry Cuervo directed the newspaper Juventud Rebelde (Rebel Youth), the second most important in the country, which is also controlled by the Revolutionary Guidance Department of the Central Committee of the PCC.

The former director was seen among his colleagues as a discreet man, far removed from the harsh public positions of his predecessor, the journalist Lázaro Barredo, who combined his work as head of the main official media with his presentations in the program La Mesa Redonda (The Roundtable).

Terry Cuervo was interested from his first days at the head of Granma in updating its approach and promoting the use of the internet and social networks. He came to manage a blog under the name of CiberEditor.

In April of this year, the Revolutionary Armed Forces handed Terry Cuerdo, along with other cultural personalities, a replica of the Mambi Machete belonging to Generalísimo Máximo Gómez.

His most recent public appearance was during the visit to the Granma newsroom of a delegation of editors from the newspaper Nhan Dan, official organ of the Vietnamese communists.

In an interview with the BBC, the journalist confessed that “Granma still fails today, as a newspaper, to get even closer to the reality of the country,” and he believed that he had not yet succeeded… but didn’t believe that he wasn’t trying.” He also noted that there were critical voices within the newspaper, which included himself, and that “they were trying to improve it.”

The new director, Oscar Sánchez Serra, has excelled in sports journalism and coverage of several baseball events in which the Cuban team has participated. He has also published numerous journalistic works of historical importance, aligned with the official line of the PCC.

In an interview at the end of last year, Sánchez Serra said that the responsibility of the Granma newspaper was “the most sought after, the most criticized, and the national and international touchstone constitutes a high responsibility.”

The Traces of Russia in Cuba: ‘Bolos’, Kamaz, ‘Polovinos’

“At one point we were everywhere in Cuba, but now you have to look hard to find a Russian,” ironically Valentina, with a vocabulary full of Cuban twists. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 7 November 2017 — “Sometimes I dream that I’ve returned to Moscow but the contours of the buildings look blurry,” confesses Valentina Rodriguez, 72. She married a Cuban who studied at a university in Moscow in the ‘80s and who lived for many years in Havana until she emigrated to the United States.

Valentina has two sons from that marriage, one of whom still lives in Ciego de Avila, in the center of the island, and the other who also emigrated to the US. They are called polovinos, which in Russian means the half of something because they look like “warm water, with a little Russian chill and some Cuban heat,” she explains. continue reading

“I never thought I would end up living in the United States,” she confesses in a recording she sent to 14ymedio.

“At one point we were everywhere in Cuba, but now you have to look hard to find a Russian,” Valentina says, with a vocabulary filled with Cubanisms. The official data confirm this perception: according to the Russian consulate on the island there are just over 1,000 nationals, although this figure is tripled if descendants are included.

Lately, as the centenary of the Russian Revolution approached, the official press has remarked on the friendship with Russia since 1973, when Cuba joined the Council of Mutual Economic Assistance (CAME), which led to the presence of the “comrades” dispersed throughout the country. “In most of the ministries there was a Soviet adviser who reported directly to Moscow and could intervene in the decisions,” says Valentina.

Such intense contract highlights that there are no more traces left in gastronomy, popular speech or cultural tastes. Perhaps because the differences were so many, in the words of an academic and writer, “Cubans and Russians beat on different wavelengths,” and sometimes they simply do not agree on anything.

“They welcomed me with affection but also there was some conflict from time to time because I had a very different way of looking at life and confronting problems,” recalls Valentina. “For me, my first months were marvelous, but with time it was a daily struggle with my Cuban family, the neighbors and even on the street.”

Not only were the Russians everywhere, the emblems and symbols of the Soviet Union filled the Cuban reality for more than three decades. Thousands of Lada cars were passing through the streets alongside the noisy Kamaz trucks, devourers of huge amounts of fuel, but strong as war tanks.

In Cuban homes, there were Aurika washing machines and Orbit fans while Krim TVs, all arriving from the distant country, played an infinity of cartoons and films made in the USSR. After the fall of the Soviet Union these appliances were replaced by others from China, South Korea and even the United States, while Hollywood productions filled the television schedule.

“They were ugly but long-lasting,” a home repairman who specialized in repairing Soviet washing machines told 14ymedio. “I have many customers who continue to use them.” The technician thinks that Cubans never valued the things that came from the Soviet Union because they cost very little and in addition were seen as rough or ugly. “But they were very good,” he says.

The nickname received by the Russians during their presence on the island and which is still in use today refers precisely to that rough image that the nationals captured in them. They were called bolos – bowling pins – in reference to their lack of sophistication and their tendency to prioritize operations before the aesthetic details.

While the political discourse was filled with phrases that spoke of sovereignty and national independence, behind the scenes the Soviets supported the entire economy of the island. Fidel Castro received more than 4 billion dollars a year from the USSR for his revolutionary project. the facilities of payment and trade with other nations of the socialist camp.

The country received some 200 million dollars that Russia paid each year for the rent of the Lourdes Radar Center, in the province of Pinar del Río, a military enclave that some voices within the Committee of Defense and Security of the Council of the Russian Federation is asking to be reopened.

The economist Óscar Espinosa Chepe, who died in 2013, was very clear about the economic weight that the Island represented for the USSR: “Actually, it was not Gorbachev. Cuba put an end the Soviet Union!” he told the Spanish press six years ago. “In unpaid credits alone the Russians estimate that they lost about 20 billion dollars over the time.”

The aid sustained the systems of health and education of which the Cuban government boasted for years in international forums. “But it did not help to develop the country, neither the countryside nor industry survived the collapse of the Soviet Union,” added Espinosa Chepe.

The economic support of the Kremlin diminished towards the end of the 1980s and stopped soon after, triggering the so-called Special Period on the Island, an unprecedented economic crisis. Cuba was then left with a debt of 35 billion dollars to Russia, which the Government of Vladimir Putin later canceled 90% of.

In the last edition of the Havana International Fair, last week, the Russian presence was again remarkable, but this time under other rules. Both countries made progress in the negotiations for the reconstruction of the rail network, a project that covers more than 680 miles of railway track, and also for the supply of construction, road and transportation equipment.

Polina Martínez Shviétosova, a writer of Russian origin living in Havana, believes that in recent years “the Russians have returned, they have been coming as entrepreneurs and it would be good if more came.” Although the ideal, she thinks, is that Cuban entrepreneurs, as individuals, could present a portfolio of business without state interference.

However, she acknowledges that this moment seems distant and that for now the greatest commercial relationship between the people of both countries is marked by the trips of the ‘mules’ who “go to Russia to buy the many products that are missing here.”

Martínez Shviétosova dreams of returning to live in Russia. “I wish my passport were an airplane,” she says. The writer prefers not to be pigeonholed into a nationality. “I want to be free of the idea that I’m Cuban or that I’m Russian,” but she likes to call herself polovina.

The writer recommends some places in the Cuban capital that offer Russian dishes. TaBARich opened its doors in October 2013 and its manager, Pavel, assures that it is “for the Russian community that lives in Cuba and also the nostalgic Cubans of the Soviet era.”

Last week, a cycle of Russian films was screened in a Havana cinema. “They are not like before,” warned a newspaper seller at the entrance to the theater. “They do not make me cry so much,” he joked. “They are not Soviet, they are Russian,” he repeated several times while only about four people bought tickets for the evening showing.

Russia Considers Reopening Military Bases in Cuba and Vietnam

In 2008, the ‘Almirante Chabanenko’ submarine hunter destroyer opened a new era by landing in Havana for the first time since 1991. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger 14ymedio/EFE, Havana, 6 November 2017 — Viktor Bondarev, head of the Russian Defense and Security Committee of the Federation Council, said on Sunday that Russia should consider restoring its military presence in Cuba and Vietnam to protect “the interests of national security” due to an “intensification of American aggression,” according to Sputnik, the Russian state portal.

The statements of the politician came hours after the announcement that Russia will “put all its efforts” into reestablishing its base in Cuba in response to the hostile activities of the US and NATO. continue reading

Russia maintained its military presence on the island until 2002 through the Lourdes electronic radio station, located near Havana, which was used to spy on communications in the US since its establishment in 1967. Its closure by President Vladimir Putin disturbed Russian military circles.

According to Bondarev, the Russian military presence on the island allowed it to contain a possible US expansion into Cuban territory, considered strategic for Russia.

“We should also think about the return of our Navy to Vietnam,” Bondarev added, speaking to Sputnik. As in the case of Cuba, the stay of the Russian fleet in the Asian country ended in 2002 after 23 years of military presence that began after the war between China and Vietnam in 1979.

“Everything has to be agreed with Havana,” said Bondarev, adding that, in the case of Vietnam, the creation of a military base also requires the permission of the authorities of that country.

This is not the first time, recently, that Moscow has raised the idea of restoring its military presence on the island. Last October, Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Pankov announced that the Russian government was considering reopening military bases in the territories of its two former allies.

According to the EFE news agency, four years ago Moscow also announced that it intended to recover its naval bases in Cuba and Vietnam; and, according to Sputnik, in April 2016 Valeri Rashkin and Sergei Óbujov, deputies of the Duma, the Russian Parliament, asked Putin and the Minister of Defense, Sergei Shoigú, to restore the Russian center in Lourdes in Cuba, “in response to the plans of USA to deploy Himars missile launchers in Turkey.”

In December 2008, a Russian flotilla led by the ‘Almirante Chabanenko’ submarine hunter destroyer opened a new era by landing in Havana for the first time since 1991.

With the End of the Russian Revolution We Lost the Colorful Candies

Former President Fidel Castro meeting with a group of pioneers in Uzbekistan. (Archive)

In just a few months the great empire had crumbled without its archenemy the United States firing a single shot.

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 7 November 2017 — It was bath time after an afternoon of pulling weeds around tiny lettuce plants. The high school dorm was a coming and going of teenagers with towels on their shoulders and a piece of soap in their hands. The shout came from a bunk near my bed: “I have Russian candies and they are the last ones.”

The year was 1991 and the Soviet Union was in its final stretch. In just a few months the great empire had crumbled without its archenemy the United States firing a single shot. In Cuba, Russian technicians left in torrents and the buildings they had once occupied in Havana’s Alamar neighborhood were left empty. The worst was yet to come. continue reading

Olga, a 15-year-old teenager from Guantánamo, was reselling, at our “school in the countryside,” the goods that the wives of those Soviet workers had given her. For months, she supplied the dorm with candy, cookies and personal hygiene products, a variety of merchandise that contrasted with the empty shelves in the official stores.

Prices were high and Cuban money was worth less and less. We handed over those bills with the faces of the heroes of independence in exchange for a flavor that would transport us away from the monotonous trays in the boarding school cafeteria. The impromptu saleswoman did not know it, but she was bringing us pieces of a country that was about to collapse.

Days before that March afternoon when Olga offered the few candies she had left, in the USSR a popular referendum had been held on the proposed Union of Sovereign States to transform the giant federation into one of less centralized republics. The Cuban press was sparing in the details, but there was a whiff in the air, the smell of an end of an era.

Oblivious to politics and concentrated on filling our stomachs, the students of the Socialist Republic of Romania High School, deep in the Cuban countryside in the municipality of Alquízar, witnessed an unprecedented change in our lives. In the classrooms, until then, busts of José Martí had alternated with images of Vladímir Ilich Lenin, and at night some students rolled their cigarettes using pages torn from books on Marxism.

The USSR had always been there, throughout our brief existence. How could we imagine that this would change? We had grown up surrounded by all the symbolism of the October Revolution: its hammer and sickle, the dictatorship of the proletariat and the repeated phrase that humanity was in the stage of “transition from capitalism to socialism.” It was just a matter of time before the promised future arrived.

Instead, the Soviet presence was declining. My family kept some cans of condensed milk in a drawer, the last vestige that reached our tables of what had been “the fair exchange” between the island and the countries of the socialist bloc. On the screens of our poorly-made television sets, a frantic Fidel Castro was beginning to recognize that we might run out of bolos, bowling pins, as we were wont to call those powerful comrades, our fellow travelers.

That March afternoon I bought only a strawberry and a mint candy. They came in brightly colored papers with small diamonds. I unfolded one of those wrappers and stuck it on the underside of the bunk that I stared at when I went to bed. I looked at it every night trying to decipher a hidden form that escaped me.

In those tiny figures I could see the dome of the cathedrals of St. Basil in Moscow, snowflakes with bizarre structures, the tops of some trees and even the silhouette of a huge bear. I fell asleep imagining that I was waking up in a dacha or skiing on a frozen lake.

June arrived, I finished the exams and went home. For the first time the Russians chose a president: Boris Yeltsin. Shortly afterwards, George HW Bush visited Moscow and signed a historic treaty to reduce the nuclear arsenal of both superpowers. The official press barely touched on that surprising turn of events for which Fidel Castro coined a word: the desmerengamiento – literally the ‘cake-melting’ – the final collapse of the USSR.

During those school holidays I visited several classmates who lived in Alamar, east of Havana. Olga had moved with her family to one of the apartments emptied by the Russians in their stampede. They had forced the door and entered illegally, like the rest of the occupants of the building.

It was August and the beach near the concrete blocks was a blue plate without waves. We went for a swim and a while later the father of another teenager came running to report that a coup had broken out to overthrow Gorbachev and “avoid the decomposition of the country.”

“Now the bolos are going to return, for sure,” added the man. A cheerful uproar from hungry young people, eager to have the candy and the cans of milk back, went on for several minutes; but the Soviets never returned. Or at least not as before.

The US Embargo and Cuba’s Internal Blockade in Times of Halloween

Again, as expected, the UN has condemned the US embargo on Cuba. (EFE)

14ymedio biggerPedro Campos, Miami, 2 November 2017 – Once again, as expected, the United Nations condemns the United States embargo on Cuba. This annual exercise is part of the diversionary masquerade of the Castro regime to try to make the naïve believe that it is the United States that is the main culprit in Cuba’s economic and social disasters, not the internal blockade to which the regime itself has subjected the Cuban people.

The US embargo, aimed at trying to affect the regime’s economy, is based on the fact that the Cuban dictatorship violates the civil, political, economic and social rights of the Cuban people and grounded in the assumption that the pressure of the embargo would force the Cuban regime to assume a democratic transition process. continue reading

If anyone had doubts about these violations, it would be enough to observe what the regime has just done with the opponents and dissidents who tried to present themselves to be nominated as candidates for grassroots delegates to the Popular Power; or simply to follow the records of the opponents and dissidents detained, imprisoned, beaten or forcibly prevented from participating in national or international events.

But in reality, the embargo never achieved its purpose of forcing the regime to that democratic transition, while the Castro government counted on the help of the USSR and the “socialist camp” first, and later that of Venezuela in the golden age of oil.

Now, as the USSR and the socialist camp have disappeared and Venezuela is going through a political and economic crisis, with no prospects for a solution favorable to the Castro regime in the short term, those who believe in the effectiveness of the embargo have new hopes that it could have an effect.

It should also be noted that the Cuban rulers have never suffered the direct consequences of the embargo. They continue to live like kings. They live in luxurious mansions and entertain themselves in the best Cuban landscapes, they have the best cars and yachts, they have hunting grounds, airplanes, the best possible medical attention, they enjoy the most exquisite delicacies and spend all the money they need at the cost of fleecing Cuba’s wage slaves.

But it is no less true that economic difficulties have led the regime to have to make some concessions to the private economy and foreign investment, which they always manage at will, without clear laws, with abusive taxes and absurd prohibitions.

If the Cuban leaders were really interested in eliminating the embargo, they could achieve it very easily if they declared an amnesty for political prisoners, decreed the freedoms of expression, association, election and economic activity and allowed a multi-party system and a free market.

But they consider that this would be “to surrender” to imperialism, when in truth what they would be doing is lifting the internal, economic, political and social blockade that they have imposed on the development of Cubans and their economy in the name of a socialism that has never existed.

In the end, the fear of losing power is the real cause of all this handling of the embargo and the internal blockade. A few measures already taken with regards to private work and other measures successfully confront the state, offering better services and salaries.

The Castro regime is, thus, more and more statist than the Chinese and the Vietnamese, who have yielded in economic power but closed any alternative option to political power. Here, they are unwilling to cede even that.

The entire international community, except Israel, lends itself to the Castro regime for two fundamental reasons: first, because the embargo provisions, which are not always applied, apply to investments in Cuba of foreign capital and trade with other countries, due to their extraterritorial clauses; and secondly because for many it is the only way they have to “stand up to the tiger.”

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs presents the event as a great triumph of the regime’s diplomacy, knowing that many of those who support it in this “battle” are very clear that this is a dictatorial government, a violator of the human rights of the Cuban people.

It also does it to throw a crumb of solidarity, for Cuba’s “contributions” to health and education and as compensation for other negotiations in the UN, where Cuba can support others with its votes for some help from Unesco, the World Food Program, or on issues that demand support in negotiations.

The Castro dictatorship, flagrant, massive and a systematic violator of the civil, political, economic and social rights of the Cuban people, with its internal blockade, is the main obstacle to the economic development of Cuba. Its entire “fight” against the US embargo is a mask very well rehearsed for the vote in the UN in times of Halloween.

Obama Made The Mistake Of “Giving In Without Demanding,” Regrets Father Conrado

“The Church does not have many possibilities to help because the spaces that the Government gives are very small and because the Cuban Church is poor,” says the priest José Conrado. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 4 November 2017 — The Catholic priest José Conrado Rodríguez, parish priest of the church of San Francisco de Paula in Trinidad, visited Miami last week to present his book Dreams and Nightmares of a Priest in Cuba.

On the way to Miami’s Ermita de la Caridad, where he planned to offer his book to the Virgin of Charity of Cobre, he spoke with 14ymedio about the Cuban reality and the role of the Catholic Church, the largest religious group on the island with a presence in each one of the municipalities of the country.

14ymedio/Mario Penton. What is your assessment of the Cuban reality?

José Conrado. Cuba is facing a huge material, economic, political and leadership crisis. It is the crisis of a model that has become insufficient and incapable of solving the problems of the nation, but at the bottom of this reality there is a deep spiritual and moral crisis. That is the root of the other crises. continue reading

What we are experiencing today has not come suddenly, but is the result of policies and deep attitudes that have led the nation to this deadend. The repression of freedom in Cuba and the religious conscience for many years has caused the crisis in which the country is sunk. It is the result of fear that has been planted, which is deep in the bones of people, in the most intimate, in the most personal.

14ym. If you keep raising your voice inside Cuba, why do you think the island government lets you leave and return, officiate Masses and even move freely around the country?

José Conrado. When one reaches a certain level of public and international recognition, the measures taken by the repressive organs are different. Because of being a priest, faithful to my convictions and pastoral work, they take care not to convert me into a problem with the Church. Nothing I do is bad. In no country in the world is it a crime to visit people, establish bridges and promote dialogues. The reality is that anyone can leave Cuba as long as they have the money for the passport and the visa of the country that receives them.

14ym. Do you feel guarded or persecuted by State Security?

José Conrado. Ah, yes. In Trinidad the largest urinal in the town is the door of my house, for example. I have denounced it many times, even from homilies, and nobody does anything. The men open their flies and in front of everyone they urinate on the door of the Church. There are even women who also do it. That is degrading. It is not by chance that we have denounced this so many times and it continues to happen.

14ym. Trinidad is a tourist village but you also know its poorest side. How is it that the city that does not appear in the guides for foreigners and what has the Church done to alleviate the hardships?

José Conrado. The Church does not have many possibilities to help because the spaces given by the government are very small and because the Cuban Church is poor. People get confused about the Church because it gives, but the reality is that it gives from its poverty. When the Church helps, it is because someone from outside the country gave something or because the faithful in Cuba, from their poverty, are capable of sharing. It is a true epic of the Cuban Church to help so many people with so few resources.

The programs of the parish are maintained thanks to my salary and the donations of the faithful. There is a lot of poverty in the cities but even more poverty in the rural towns. In the parish we are helping with food a group of about 20 children who do not have lunch at the rural school, but Hurricane Irma took the roof of the Church. Part of the money that is collected with the sale of the book Dreams And Nightmares Of A Priest In Cuba will be used to rebuild that site and another part will go to the victims of the hurricane in Ciego de Ávila.

We do everything we can to help people, but the service of faith in a people that has no hope is the greatest service we can provide. That is the mission of the Church.

Father José Conrado Rodríguez (center) during the presentation of his book at the American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora, accompanied by Manuel Salvat and Myriam Márquez. (14ymedio)

José Conrado.The Church did what it had to do – I’m speaking of Pope Francis. However, I see an important fissure: it was an agreement between the greats: the hierarchy of the Cuban Government, the Church and the United States, but the solutions Cuba requires are deeper. If we must have a healing as a nation, we need to do it for all Cubans, not just the rulers. That is why any arrangement that only touches the upper echelons is an insufficient arrangement.

In Cuba, everyone wanted and had hope with the path that President Obama initiated, but the United States Government yielded and yielded without demanding. That is an insufficient way to negotiate. Human rights are the entitlement of every human being and it is not a subject that is dispensable in negotiations with Cuba. This agreement between Cuba and the United States did not reach where it had to go.

14ym. Many people criticize the silence of the Cuban ecclesiastical hierarchy regarding issues such as the violation of human rights on the Island.

José Conrado.I myself have said on several occasions that this silence can be considered a complicit silence, but it would be very unfair not to remember that the Church has raised its voice many times to warn of danger. When one thinks of the Pastoral Letter Love Hopes All Things, or the letters of the bishops at the beginning of the Revolution and the documents of the Cuban National Ecclesiastical Meeting, a more objective assessment of the role of the Church in the history of the country can be made.

Normally nobody collects the homilies of priests and bishops, where they also denounce, but that is not written. We have more commitment to doing than to saying. I think there is a lot of injustice, but above all, ignorance among those who say that the Church is silent.

14ym. How much remains for the Cuban Church to do to accompany the people?

José Conrado.We have made our way in the silence, in the dedication of each day, in the fidelity of the Christian people who have lived alongside the Cuban people and have suffered their pains, sharing their needs and witnessing the presence of God in the midst of the people. The Church has to look ahead and that has to be the legacy of the Cuban Church.

The Church runs the danger of the self-referentiality that Pope Francis speaks so much of, to become an end in itself. As if all that would be needed is that there were ever more powerful and numerous Churches, but we know well that this is not what would allow us to achieve the realization of the vocation of the Church.

In this sense, the Cuban Church has an advantage: it is already in the peripheries, but it must have more audacity. God calls us in a certain circumstance and the Church is called to serve, that is his vocation: to serve the needy, those who are being persecuted and crushed.

14ym. What leadership does Cuba need to get out of the crisis?

José Conrado.Leaderships can be of many types, for example Fidel Castro, who gathers power in one hand and takes it away from individuals. There are other leaders, such as Mandela, who did not need to divide because he discovered that in the forgiveness of the other, in the recognition of the other person and in confronting violent attitudes and the denial of the other is true freedom and the best way to be a leader.

I believe that the leadership that Cuba needs is the one in which the leader denies his power so that people learn to be free and build a nation with all and for the good of all that is born of participation and responsibility in the face of to the common good.

14ym. How do you assess retirement of Jaime Ortega at the head of the Archdiocese of Havana?

José Conrado.It is too early to answer that question, but knowing as I know the new archbishop of Havana – a man of deep faith and a very radical commitment to the gospel – I am sure that his presence in the Archdiocese will be of great benefit for the people of the capital.

14ym. How do you value the evangelical churches gaining more and more ground in Cuba?

José Conrado.If Christ gains ground in Cuba, we all win. If a person truly becomes a Christian, we are happy whether he is Catholic or Protestant. Those who are not being Christians are those who, by considerations of doctrine, leave the path of charity. Among Catholics and Protestants in Cuba I see above all a lot of understanding and a lot of love. There are rare cases of those who react violently to another religious belief.

The Cuban ‘Big Brother’ Seen by 57 Writers

About 90 people showed up at the bookstore Altamira Books for the presentation of the book ‘El compañero que me atiende.’ (14ymedio)

The book ‘The Compañero Who Watches Me’ was presented last Thursday in Coral Gables (Florida) and reflects its authors’ preoccupation with the omnipresence of surveillance in Cuba

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario J. Penton, Miami, 3 November 2017 — Writing a book can be like an exorcism, especially when trying to leave behind ghosts of the past. This is the case with publisher Hypermedia’s new book, El compañero que me atiende (The Compañero Who Watches Me), a compilation of fictional stories by 57 authors, collected by Enrique del Risco, about the omnipresence of surveillance in Cuban life. Something that marked the national literary output.

“This book is not a memorial of grievances, nor is it a book about repression. In the Cuban case, on the list of those aggrieved by a regime that is close to finishing its sixth decade, writers score rather low compared to other parts of society,” clarified compiler Del Risco. continue reading

The book, almost 500 pages long, was presented Thursday in the bookstore Altamira Books, a very welcoming place in the city of Coral Gables (Florida); the store’s purpose is to “foster knowledge and use of the Spanish language,” according to its owners.

Del Risco, the renowned Cuban poet and narrator Legna Rodriguez Iglesias, Abel Fernandez Larrea, Jose M. Fernandez and Luis Felipe Roja, journalist for Radio Marti, presented the book to almost a hundred people among whom were some of the best Cuban writers in exile.

“This book began as an idea and was written thanks to the enthusiastic response of the authors who are in Cuba and in the diaspora. We have stories by 57 writers who are not only in the United States but in different parts of Latin America, Canada and Europe,” explained Del Risco.

El compañero que me atiende collects for the first time passages by authors who speak of the surveillance work of the Cuban state and how this influences the Island’s literature. Del Risco told 14ymedio that the response exceeded his expectations. “We have writers of all ages. Censorship and surveillance is a national phenomenon that has happened at all social levels and is a common denominator in the whole revolutionary process,” he said.

“The book also helps those writers and artists who have been censored and surveilled feel part of a society that suffers that as a whole. It is not just something that belongs to intellectuals but workers, women, students, everyone has been a part of and victim of this phenomenon,” explains Del Risco.

Among the authors who live on the Island is the writer – recently released from jail – Angel Santiesteban, who presents his story The Men of Richelieu, part of an unpublished book entitled Zone of Silence.

Also from Cuba came stories by the actress and writer Mariela Brito, Raul Aguiar, Atilio Caballero, Ernesto Santana, Jorge Angel Perez, and Jorge Espinosa, among others.

‘El compañero que me atiende’ will be for sale on Amazon and in some Florida bookstores. (14ymedio)

The central idea of the anthology is to give voice to writers so that they can describe the surveillance atmosphere created by the totalitarian state as a consequence of the political system installed in Cuba after the 1959 Revolution.

Writer Jose M. Fernandez, who emigrated to the Dominican Republic in 1998, recalled that in his writings he had proposed the thesis that the Cuban political system, in spite of having declared itself atheistic, “was organized as a profoundly religious structure around a dogma.”

“It had its Christ and its martyrs, and the compañero who watched us was the ghost,” explains Fernandez.

Writing his story, removed from the politics but addressing the lurking danger of being heard in a country in which each person seems to be an ear of the state, “freed” him.

“I realized that it was like a salvation because the trauma accompanied me throughout my life. It was not caused by the censorship itself but because those who were my friends, my companions and those with whom I had to finish five long years of university lent themselves and caused it to happen,” says Fernandez who has had a prolific career in the Dominican Republic.

According to the author, although a good part of his story is fiction, there are some events that did occur in the city of his birth, Santiago de Cuba. On sharing his story with a friend, the response she gave surprised him: “As always happens in Cuba, the reality surpasses the fiction,” she told him.

Fernandez has planned to send a sample of the book “to the companion who attends him” with this dedication: “You fucked me over, but I immortalized you.”

Legna Rodriguez, for her part, said that a good number of Cubans do not realize how powerful the surveillance they are subjected to. “It is not felt or seen, but it becomes a sickness, an amorality, a cancer,” said the writer.

Luis Felipe Rojas remembered the long interrogations to which he was subjected by the authorities because of the passages that he published on his blog Crossing the Barbed Wire.

“I always thought that I should write about this, that I could fictionalize it, but it wasn’t until I left Cuba that all that flowed. Inside it would have been impossible,” said the communicator.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

Diapers and Tractors Connect With Real Needs at the Havana Fair

The Havana International Fair brings 63 countries to Cuba with plans for new products. (Fihav)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 3 November 2017 – Italian diapers and Caterpillar tractors have been the stars of the 2017 Havana International Fair (Fihav), which brings together more than 3,000 entrepreneurs from 63 countries, including the United States, this Friday. Both products will have a presence on the island if conditions agreed with the manufacturers are met so that they can set up operations in the Mariel Special Development Zone (ZEDM).

In its struggle to raise more than 2.5 billion dollars in direct foreign investment, the Cuban Government is presenting a portfolio of 395 projects in 15 economic sectors at the fair.

Beyond the numbers, often fanciful, managed by the authorities, what catches the attention of Cubans interviewed by 14ymedio is the creation of Industria Arthis, a Cuban-Italian joint venture that will build the first factory for disposable diapers in Cuba. The factory is scheduled to begin production in the ZEDM in 2019. continue reading

It will be a relief for Cubans, tired of reusing disposable diapers and exposing their children to the possible infections that entails. Currently, the product routinely disappears from stores or is sold only in hard currency, so many families turn to the black market or import them to maintain a supply. The official media blame the deficit on hoarders and the poor organization of distribution, but the president himself, Raúl Castro, admitted in 2012 the inexcusable need for our own industry. “We have to do it, I do not remember how much it costs, it’s expensive, but we have to do it,” he exclaimed during a meeting of the Council of Ministers.

Daniela, the mother of a baby who by 2019 will no longer need diapers, is an expert in their reuse. “I buy the filling separately and I put it in the diaper, so I save money and avoid having to wash cloth diapers, which takes time and the expenses of detergent,” explains the young woman, who for now would settle for achieving the dream of “having at least one new disposable diaper for each day.”

The future Arthis facility will produce four sizes of children’s diapers, in addition to three sizes for adults, with the filling to reuse them. Due to the aging of the population, in a country with almost 20% of people over 60 years of age, demand grows at both ends of the demographic pyramid.

The slowness that distinguishes the entire investment process in the Island, however, foreshadows delays. The official newspaper Granma acknowledged last week that the project is still hampered by “excessive delays in the negotiating process.”

The economist Elias Amor analyzes the problem without equivocation: “For many years, decades, Castro’s economy works outside the inexorable laws of the market,” the specialist explains. “When they try to apply those laws and incorporate some rationality into business processes, they do it badly.”

The International Fair, nevertheless, celebrates another advance this year with the return of the American giant Caterpillar, hand in hand with Rimco, the Puerto Rican company and an official distributor in the Caribbean of the famous heavy machinery.

From Expocuba, the news has flown to the plains of San Juan y Martinez, in Pinar del Río, where the Perez clan received the news with enthusiasm. “We have an old tractor that has been with us for more than half a century and is full of patches,” says the family patriarch.

Cultivators of tobacco, flowers and papayas, the Perez have jealously guarded their small tractor, painted a fiery red and considered the family’s most precious possession. His obsession for years has been to get replacement parts to keep “the monster” running, as some affectionately call it.

Although the date when the industry will start up and if its equipment will be marketed directly to private producers is still unknown, the return of the brand, absent since 1959, is perceived as a great step.

Less than a kilometer from the Perez house another family looks forward to the day. “Most of the work is done by hand, with oxen or with tools such as knives and hoes,” says Serafin, who leases a plot dedicated to the cultivation of beans and vegetables.

“I’ve always wanted to have a small tractor that serves me mainly to prepare the land,” the farmer told this newspaper. “I do not care what brand it is, but of course if it is a Caterpillar so much the better, because my grandfather had one of those and it lasted a long time,” says the peasant, who, although he admits that the process may well be delayed, he supposes that with the new machinery he would be able to produce more and with more quality. “And even sell my products in other countries, who knows?” he asks hopefully.

A year ago, both farmers buried their dreams of improving technologically, when they learned that the US manufacturer of Cleber tractors had been excluded from the projects approved to settle in the ZEDM, with its small format models which are called Oggúns.

“We are not going to give up, this is a long-term,” said Saul Berenthal, co-founder of the company with Horace Clemmons, after hearing the decision of the Cuban authorities. Twelve months later, Cleber still has not been able to enter the Cuban market and now a bigger opponent, Caterpillar, is ahead of them.

During the five days that the 2017 edition of Fihav lasted, the agreements that have been made public have been numerous and in many sectors, but another of the most valued at street level is that of telecommunications.

United Telecommunication Services (UTS), a company of the ally Curaçao, signed an agreement with the national monopoly, Etecsa, to increase the bandwidth for internet service

Paul de Geus, president of UTS, explained that the company operates a network of submarine fiber optic cables that allow direct access from multiple global operators, especially in the Caribbean, Central America and the Andean countries.

“For us it is a great pride to formalize this agreement, the result of a process of several successful commercial missions coordinated between the ministry of economic affairs of our country and Cuba,” explains the UTS president.

The Government of Havana seems, with this agreement, to consolidate the search for new allies with which to improve its access to the network in the new context of the Venezuelan crisis (Caracas was the provider of the submarine cable to bring internet to the Island), and of the tension with the United States since the arrival of Donald Trump to power, which cools the possibilities of cooperation with the northern neighbor in this area.

Beyond these developments, the traditional allies in the commercial field have also wanted to make their mark in this edition of the fair. The first partner of the island, Russia, advanced in the negotiations for the reform of the railway network, a project that covers works in more than 1,100 kilometers of railroad and the supply of construction equipment, roads and transport. In addition, ACINOX Stainless Steel and Russian YUMZ signed a contract for more than 30.2 million dollars to modernize a factory producing wire rod for construction.

Spain, Cuba’s second commercial partner, took advantage of its remarkable presence at the fair to review the state of economic relations and deal with the renegotiation of debt, but also to contribute to the expansion of solar energy in Cuba, a sector that, well-managed, could become a key to national economic development.

The Spanish company Assyce Yield Energía SA will install, together with the German company EFF Solar, panels to generate 100 megawatts/hour of electricity in the western provinces of Pinar del Río, Artemisa, Mayabeque and Matanzas. Both companies signed a contract with Unión Eléctrica de Cuba for a period of 25 years, for which Assyce will supply 55 megawatts/hour to Pinar del Río and Artemisa, while EFF will deliver 45 megawatts/hour to Mayabeque and Matanzas.

This agreement is part of Havana’s strategy to reduce its dependence on the oil that Venezuela supplies at subsidized prices but in decreasing amounts. However, renewable energies will not be able to compensate in the short-term for the oil deficit created by the fall from 100,000 to 55,000 barrels that the island receives each day from Venezuela, its Bolivarian ally.

Prices Will Be Capped To Fight The Shortages In Cienfuegos

Street vendors will also have to comply with the new maximum prices for food products. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 3 November 2017 – As of this coming Monday, the prices for agricultural products will be capped in Cienfuegos province “temporarily,” by decision of the Council of Provincial Administration (CAP) in response to the need for a “sensible reduction” of prices after the passage of Hurricane Irma, reports the local press.

The regulations “are supported, legally and institutionally, by two resolutions of the Ministry of Finance and Prices” that allow the CAP to regulate the amounts of these products in case of disasters or emergencies, Raúl González Quintana, secretary of the agency, explained at a press conference. continue reading

The price caps apply to the State Agricultural Markets (MAE), the points of sale of the Cooperatives of Agricultural Production (CPA) and the Cooperatives of Credits and Services (CSS), and also to the stalls of the so-called “organopónicos” belonging to Urban and Suburban Agriculture.

Street vendors (carters), together with supply and demand markets, managed by private producers and their intermediaries, will also have to comply with the new maximum prices for products, which range from fruits and vegetables to processed meats.

González Quintana said that meetings are being held in the municipalities of Cienfuegos with more than 800 vendors from the non-state sector who offer their merchandise in the province to inform them of CAP’s decision and “the social impact” of this measure.

The price list will have to be visible in each market. The violations of these rates will be penalized with fines of up to 1,500 pesos and, in cases of greater severity, the license to sell will be withdrawn.

Last week the government imposed price controls in the agricultural sector in Villa Clara, another of the provinces affected by Hurricane Irma, to curb what it called “the unjustified increase” in the cost of food.

Since the end of last year, the imposition of price caps has spread from the province of Artemisa to reach all the municipalities of Havana. Most consumers celebrate the lower prices but regret the fall in quality and supply after the imposition of maximum prices in the markets.

The capped prices have also encouraged an increase in the sale of agricultural products on the black market, an increasingly common practice on the island’s roads, where unlicensed merchants offer products that are hard to find in markets, such as onions, garlic, beans or pork.

The measure, which put producers and intermediaries on alert, was taken after a session of the National Assembly held in December 2016, in which the issue of the price of food led many discussions. In response to the demands of several deputies, Raul Castro said that measures would be taken to bring prices closer to wages.

‘Russian Meat’ Returns To Cuba But It Is Brazilian

The Cuban government is selling cans of meat from Brazil to households in the areas affected by Hurricane Irma. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 2 November 2017 — In the years of greater political closeness between the Soviet Union and Cuba several products arrived from the distant Eurasian country to fill the shelves of the stores on the island. Matryoshka dolls adorned thousands of living rooms throughout the country and the national tables were full of dishes made with canned beef labelled Made in USSR. Housewives became experts in buying and cooking it.

In the markets, people tapped those cans without paper labels and with a porpoise’s face painted on metal. If it made a loud sound it had more water or fat than fiber, but if it didn’t make much of a sound it was “good” and worth buying. Russian meat was a part of the Cuban diet for so many years that all canned meat came to be called by the name of that country.

Last October a special supply arrived at the bodegas of the rationed market in several Havana neighborhoods. After Hurricane Irma, the Government sold through the ration book cans of meat from Brazil, from the Oderich brand, at a price of 1.50 Cuban pesos (CUP), for every three consumers registered in the “nuclear” family. In memory of those years of the Soviet embrace people baptized it “Brazilian Russian meat.” What occupied the plate for such a long time is rarely forgotten.

Cuban TV Censors Come Down on Director and Screenwriter Eduardo del Llano

The film director, screenwriter and writer Eduardo del Llano. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 1 November 2017 — The film director, screenwriter and writer Eduardo del Llano has denounced that the Cuban television censors are hounding him and accuses the authorities of wanting to force him to emigrate.

According to a statement written by the artist and shared through the social networks of Carlos Lechuga, the director of the also censored film Santa and Andrés, “it is not a matter of disavowing [Del Llano’s] specific content,” but of deciding to bar the artist from the small screen.

“Over the past three years, several members of the Vivir del cuento team, including the director and the best-known actors, had asked me to write for the program,” says Del Llano, born in Moscow in 1962. continue reading

The artist had warned the cast of the popular comedy program that delivers social satires in prime time on Mondays, that in 2015 another television director had contacted him for a summer program “and the program was taken off the air,” telling him the screenwriter was forbidden on television.

Del Llano has been a co-writer of important Cuban films such as Alice in Wonderland (1991) and Ana’s Movie (2012). Producer of more than 20 short films, in 2004 he stoked the cultural censors’ hatred against him by deciding to launch the Sex Machine Productions label with a series of short films about the national reality starring a character named Nicanor O’Donnell, who reflects the contradictions of daily life in Cuba.

The first of these films was called Monte Rouge and was a stark satire of the omnipresence of State Security in the life of Cubans. It was followed by others on information policy and various topics seen through satire. They were not released on television, but those shorts were widely disseminated through The Weekly Packet and USB flash drives.

Despite the warning, the director of Vivir del Cuento encouraged him to write a chapter of the saga of Pánfilo, the witty retiree who stars in the series and whose life revolves around the increasingly small assortment of products available through the ration book.

“A little more than a month later [the director of the series and another actor] called me, excited to let me know how much they had liked an episode that I presented to them, and to say that they were going to film it in October, along with three others by different authors,” says Del Llano, who clarifies that in the script he wrote for the program “he maintained the usual tone of social satire of Vivir del cuento but did not try to be particularly hard.”

However, in mid-October, according to the artist, “things went bad.”

The director of the television series called him “very distressed” and “saddened” to tell him that “from above” they had accepted the three other programs for the television series, but not the one written by Del Llano.

According to the artist, several members of the Vivir del Cuento team “are convinced” that “what is censored is not the specific work” but rather the writer. “I mean,” he says in a jocular tone, “that the Upper Television Spheres will continue to censor me even if I write Aunt Tata’s Storytime.”

“Excommunicating artists is a noble tradition of Cuban culture, especially on the tiny screen,” reflects the author and brings up the case of a film critic who had a regular space on Cuban television but who confronted “someone from above” and as a result will not be able to return to television, while a dozen already recorded programs were thrown away.

Del Llano clarifies that “until now” the actions against him are limited to Cuban Television and that with the Book Institute, the Humor Promotion Center, and even the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry his relationships “are reasonable and mutually respectful.”

“As you can see, the censorship is not even coherent,” he adds in an ironic tone.

The writer, however, regrets that “from above” they take away his opportunity to write for a television program that he considers a challenge in his career.

“How was it left? Without explanations to the team or to me, without anyone showing their faces and telling me why they condemned me in the first place,” he says and answers with a rhetorical question:” Do they want to leave me without options, force me to emigrate? Let them be the ones to go.”