Cuba’s Worst ‘New Man’: With a Luxury Car, a Powerful Surname and Little Education

Sandro Castro, Fidel’s grandson. (Instagram)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 2 March 2021 — He alternates his gaze between the road and the camera recording him. He smiles. He flaunts the luxurious vehicle that he drives at high speed and tosses phrases at a spectator he assumes must be salivating at such luxury. The protagonist of this scene could be any Parisian, New York or Berlin influencer, but he is a young Cuban who was born cocooned by the most powerful surname on the Island. He is Sandro Castro.

Few are surprised by the opulent Mercedes Benz driven by the grandson of the one who imposed on us, by force of slogans and economic offensives, austerity as a standard. Nor is the speedometer needle surprising, as it marks the excessive speed with which the tires cover the asphalt. None of the obscene attributes of power that the young man boasts about are shocking to a people who, for a long time, have known that the sacrifice their leaders proclaim from the platform are an entirely different thing than the wealth of their palaces.

The most unprecedented thing, then, is not the car nor the speeding, but the way the bully speaks behind the steering wheel. Each phrase he pronounces shows him to be a person consumed by consumption, fascinated by the material, with very little education, a minimal vocabulary, and a great need to flaunt his wealth. Is this the “New Man” incubated in the same clan that sent us to schools in the countryside, treated us like serious soldiers, and forced us to renounce our individuality? Is he the son of the son of the man who always loved us humble and obedient?

[Twitter text: This video of Sandro Castro comes while hunger is rampant in Cuba, after #PatriaYVida and the letter from the military officers.  Who leaked the video and why?]

Was everything they took from us dedicated to raising these arrogant beings, who have not even used their wealth to read books, to cultivate or expand their narrow referential horizons? Are the grandchildren of those who came down from the Sierra Maestra continuing to be like their great-grandfather, the peasant from Birán – despotic and conceited – but now with mansions in Havana, absolute impunity and privileges unattainable for other Cubans? Have they spent part of this country’s resources to support these capricious and rude brats? Was it all for this?

Children should never have to pay for the guilt of their parents, much less their grandparents, but each person exhibits in their behavior much of the ethical and moral values taught to them by their family. A person’s home  is noticeable in the first sentences, the education received – whether from the poorest of bricklayers or the most devoted of seamstresses – sprouts from every pore. What emanates from Sandro Castro allows us to see, as in a detailed X-ray, the skeleton of the Cuban regime, and it reeks.

The lineage that should have been the model to follow, proclaimed every day as the example, has only borne rotten fruits: empty-headed pimps.

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‘Cuba Compulsively Trains Mediocre Doctors’

The real Cuban health system, the one for ordinary Cubans, is far from being what is sold to the world, and it is nothing more than a sham that does not overcome the scarcities suffered by the population. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Rodolfo Santacruz Castillo, Camagüey, 20 February 2021 — A few days ago, I attended one of those useless union meetings that, as a dogma, we have converted into a common practice in the workplace, where supposedly we have to discuss non-conformities and talk about something as sacred and at the same time as outrageous as the collective agreement. Meetings that have lost their essence and are the ideal platform for the bureaucrats to direct, fight and order their workers to continue on and end up praising the Revolution as always.

I decided to listen and try to interpret that row of words that came out in order, almost perfect, almost copied, almost real, almost thought for themselves by someone who, from the comfort of a desk, and with air conditioning, directs the miracle of  production.

Making uncomfortable jokes, the official gave us her perception of the events of the San Isidro Movement and the youth of 27N [27 November]. “We will not let the conquests of the Revolution be taken away from us,” she said, surely alluding to the usual cliché: that we have free health and education. The truth, however, is that every day there are more of us who observe things differently.

The daily shortages in all areas invite us to reflect: seeing ourselves in the 21st century suffering from these ills, in a land as rich as Cuba, can only be a symptom of bad administration, of a total lack of progressive economic actions. continue reading

Madam director, executive, civil servant, boss, and however many names can be obtained, let’s talk about healthcare, free healthcare: do you know how many countries in the  world that are not socialist have a public, free and quality health system? There are many. If you go out onto the streets of Cuba today, try to find, in that conquest of the Revolution, various medications for conditions as normal as a headache or an infection. “There is nothing,” accompanied by a shrug, will be the answer from behind the pharmacy counter.

In how many dental clinics is the care provided to the population suspended due to lack of water? In how many hospitals in Cuba are elective or not so urgent surgeries suspended for this same reason? Or for lack of gloves, tape, sutures or because important equipment is broken and the part to fix it are delayed, or for thousands of reasons that all of us at some point have heard and even suffered firsthand.

The current physical state of hospitals, polyclinics and medical offices is dire, the feeding of admitted patients leaves much to be desired, getting an appointment for specific tests that use advanced technologies is so complicated and time consuming that it can be classified as lacking humanity.

Is that the revolutionary conquest that you show off to the world, offering a service this mediocre for free, full of deficiencies, badly set, badly directed? I am not talking about the healthcare that appears in the news, which ordinary Cubans cannot access (the Cimeq, the Clínica Internacional Cira García, the Censam Marine…)..

The communist double standard is a latent fact, since it promotes what is convenient for it. The hidden face of these achievements is a people who pay the astronomical salaries of those who neither produce nor are capable of making a better society. It may be that this is a conquest, forgive me, Madam Chief.

The real Cuban healthcare system, the one for ordinary Cubans, is far from being what is sold to the world, and it is nothing more than a sham that does not address the scarcities suffered by the population. A huge percentage of competent doctors need to go to another country to look for what they cannot acquire in their own country, and for a few years they have been compulsively training new doctors, discarding the standards and skills for a profession as dignified as this, giving space to mediocrity and the possibility of being a doctor to people who shouldn’t be one.

And that is the other famous achievement of the Revolution, education. With the desire to make everyone a professional, we find a society that has thousands of mediocre people who believe they have a degree, who shame those who did deserve it and made an effort by the correct means, and at the same time they cannot lower themselves to work the land.

Real teachers have disappeared from education, and a television set tries, during the pandemic, to replace the irreplaceable. The schools in every municipality are falling apart and the children learn half of what they need to know, because doubts cannot be resolved by unmotivated new teachers, who simply chose that career in many cases so as not to spend two years in military service.

And what about the current status of boarding schools in pre-university study centers (those that still have boarding schools), or the housing conditions in Cuban universities, or the food of the country’s future professionals? If seeing it is despicable, living it is more painful than can be explained in a simple publication.

The greatest achievements of the Revolution are, today, its great shame. Even so, we try to cover the sun with a finger. It is sad that because what you fought for and suffered so many nights of insomnia over does not provide you with a dignified life, it does not give you what you need to start a family and rejuvenate the aging Cuban society. It is painful to see that your efforts are slowed down by deficiencies and, on many occasions, by those achievements that the senior management wants to continue defending.

Cubans, there are no such achievements, they are only the facades of an incapable, immoral, corrupt and overwhelming system, a conglomerate of pirates and criminals that has been violating and subduing a suffering people for years and that is losing its essence. We continue with our heads down, standing in line for everything, trying to survive and fighting, while at the top they observe us like feudal lords, disguising with the word socialism or communism a useless ideological monstrosity that has never worked and never will work.

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Cuba Will be the Last Country on the Continent to Vaccinate its Population

Cuba’s Soberana 02 Covid vaccine will not start the third phase of trials until March 1st, when all other nations on the continent will have already started immunizing their populations. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 25 February 2021 — Fabrizio Chiodo, the only foreign researcher involved in the development of Cuba’s Soberana 02 vaccine for Covid, reported to the international press this Wednesday on the promising development of the vaccine candidate, which will pass to phase 3 of clinical trials this coming Monday. This announcement confirmed that Cuba will be the last country on the continent to begin immunizing its population.

The researcher could not say how long this final stage would take, as it is foreseen that it will also take place in Iran, thanks to the established collaboration between the Finlay Institute and the Pasteur Institute of Tehran. Mexico may also participate in the study, according to a statement from the Mexican Ambassador, Marcelo Ebrard, advancing conversations between the Cuban laboratory and the Ministry of Health.

Regardless, even the countries the furthest behind in inoculating will have already received doses from various laboratories by the end of the week. Cuba, on the other hand, has yet to complete the most important step toward an approval that, in any case, is assumed to be a given because of the vaccine’s success in previous stages. This caboose of vaccinating countries is formed by Uruguay, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Honduras. continue reading

Uruguay, the last to vaccinate in all of South America, will receive the first doses from Sinovac, the Chinese laboratory that has produced more than 1.7 million units, this Thursday night. Furthermore, the arrival of almost half a million acquired from the German-US lab Pfizer and the reserve of 1.5 million financed by the COVAX (COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access) initiative is expected.

Guatemala and Honduras are another two at the end of the line that are receiving a small donation from Israel today. The Mediterranean country, which is the global leader in vaccinations, is sending 5,000 doses from the US Moderna lab to each of the two Central American countries, which have noted a delay in receiving the doses from COVAX.

Guatemala should have received more than 800,000 doses from the British lab Astro-Zeneca in the middle of February (overwhelmingly the largest contributor of vaccines to COVAX) and awaits a shipment from Pfizer in April with a special fund of 1,500 million quetzals (around 195,000 dollars) authorized from the government for this purpose.

Honduras, for its part, has bought 70,000 units of the Russian Sputnik V that is close to arriving, and 1.4 million from AstraZeneca that are not expected to arrive before May. From COVAX, 24,000 units planned to arrive in February, have not yet arrived.

Nicaragua has also not yet received vaccine doses from the international fund. However, a shipment of Sputnik V arrived at its airport this Wednesday, although the opaque Daniel Ortega administration has yet to announce the quantity.

The rest of the countries of the continent have already been vaccinating for days, including small territories such as Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, and Jamaica, with Chile leading with over three million immunizations, 16 percent of its 19 million inhabitants.

This situation puts Cuba in a delicate position. The medical power that has spent months promoting its vaccines will be the last to start the process with almost total security, even though it is certain that, once it is approved, the country will be able to act swiftly. As the vaccine is nationally produced, distribution will not require transport, delays, or dependence on foreign laboratories, although it will depend on the provisioning of complementary materials.

Cuba has had a difficult time accessing direct purchasing of those vaccines most utilized in the west, such as Pfizer, Moderna, or AstraZeneca, and its lack of liquidity complicates the acquisition of those developed by friendly countries, like Russia (Sputnik, already in use in Venezuela) or China (Sinovac and Sinopharm). Regardless, it could have accessed the COVAX mechanism and submitted to it. Despite the delays, the majority of the doses acquired via this route are or will be available in a few days, while Soberana continues onto a pending phase.

The rollout process is of prime importance. Medical personnel, who have been the first to be vaccinated in the majority of countries, could have benefited from doses acquired from COVAX, allowing them to continue facing the uptick that they face on the island in optimal conditions. The irony is that Cuban doctors in Venezuela have already received the Sputnik vaccine, while those still on the island continue to wait.

Once Soberana is ready to be distributed to the population, it will be necessary to know the Government’s plans for the vaccination process. Global health recommendations, in general, advise starting with medical professionals and the eldest (in Europe, where many deaths from the first wave were in rest homes, vaccinations started with rest home residents).

In Venezuela, a vehement outcry was unleashed when the Government of Maduro decided to start vaccinations with the 277 members of the National Assembly rather than medical professionals.

In the case of Cuba, it remains to be seen who will be the first to benefit, although Chiodo revealed something unusual this Wednesday. Soberana 02 will be administered to people between 35 and 80 years of age. So, what vaccine will the old guard of the Communist Party use?

 Translated by: Geoffrey Ballinger

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The Marxist Philosophical Roots of Repression

In the most elementary courses of Marxism-Leninism one learns that in society there are antagonistic contradictions that can only be solved through the violence that generates a revolution. (Minrex)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 26 February 2021 — Many find it hard to believe, or understand, how it is possible that the ideas of such cool and sexy thinkers as Marx and Engels can be used to justify such decadent (cheas) attitudes as repressing young creators, holding rallies of repudiation or prohibiting the free exercise of professional activities and the independent dissemination of information and opinions in journalism.

Where does the deep justification come from; to what philosophical concept can be anchored the unbridled repression whose most “subtle and sophisticated” expression is articulated in national television programs where those who think differently are grossly denigrated, without the right to reply?

In the most elementary courses on Marxism-Leninism, after studying the three fundamental laws of dialectics, one learns that in society there are antagonistic contradictions that can only be solved through the violence that generates a revolution.

According to that dogma, an antagonistic contradiction is only resolved when one of the contenders achieves the extermination or annulment of the adversary. continue reading

It should be noted that in the original texts of Marx or Engels this apothegm is not found, not as it appears in the previous paragraph. Dialectics of Nature was an unfinished work of Engels that only saw the light in 1925 when it was edited by the academics of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, right in Stalin’s time. It was they who systematized, in order to simplify them into manuals, Engels’ philosophical sketches scattered in notes and complementary notes.

Three years later, forced cooperativization took place in the USSR, and it is no coincidence that that horror, which gave continuity to the “red terror” implemented by Lenin, appeared later in the hackneyed manuals as an example of a solution to an antagonistic contradiction, whose purpose was the definitive extermination of the kulaks. Many of these texts are available today on the Internet.

The decision of a small group of people to implement a socialist system in Cuba was in contradiction with the existence of private owners of the fundamental means of production. In less than a decade the owners were dispossessed by violence, and those who resisted ended up in exile, were imprisoned or died in combat.

The owners disappeared but socialism did not appear. At least its fundamental laws of “satisfying the ever-growing needs of the population” and “eradicating the exploitation of man by man” were not fulfilled.

Such plundering to exterminate the antagonistic owner was of no worth. The “blood spilled on the sands of Playa Girón [the Bay of Pigs] to repel the bourgeoisie who came to recover what had been confiscated” was worthless; the militiamen in the Escambray Mountains killing peasants who had risen up because their lands had been taken away from them were worthless.

All those supposed victories ended in an economic defeat because the socialism of the books failed to establish itself as a system in reality, and finally the rules of the market had to be recognized. It was also an ideological defeat because the desire of Cubans to be owners and to express themselves freely never disappeared.

In present times, this is the most acute contradiction that comes to the surface. It is no longer the one, artificially sustained under the concept of class struggle, which was solved in the material sphere by confiscating properties. What the Government is trying to do now is to put a brake on those who promote the proposal to expand the productive forces against the backdrop of maintaining a planned economy as the last redoubt of the frustrated “socialism.”

The “philosophical question” is whether this is an antagonistic contradiction and whether the idea of the extermination of the opponent as the only solution to antagonism is still valid.

Those who aspire to change things in Cuba, who are the most dynamic element of this contradiction, are divided between those who aspire to the violent overthrow of the dictatorship and those who believe in a gradual, bloodless change, the result of a dialogue.

The bad news is that the only thing that those in charge in Cuba understand is that they must annihilate their counterparts, radicals and moderates, put without distinction in the same bag, because they see in each and every one of them their future exterminators. In order to put into practice what they have learned in theory, they are willing to limit, with all available violence, the freedom of expression of their citizens, interpreting that any discrepancy should be considered as complicity with imperialism.

It is a task for the present and for the future to answer the question of whether Marxism was perverted by politicians or whether all this theoretical scaffolding constitutes a perversion of thought.

Beyond this subtlety of a definition of contradictions, the fruit of the subversion of Hegel’s dialectic, it is easy to find in Marx unfounded statements such as the belief that by implementing the dictatorship of the proletariat not only would the class struggle end, which would result in the disappearance of the State, but also that the aspiration to be owners would be erased from the minds of men, and all this he deduced from his study of the 72 days that the Paris Commune lasted.

The saddest thing is that, possibly behind the repression that subjugates Cubans in the 21st century, there are not even vestiges of elevated thought that can be considered the force of reason, but simple ambition for power backed by the reason of force.

Translated by: Hombre de Paz

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We the Prohibited

Several professionals signed a statement in which they ask the Cuban Government to remove both architecture and engineering from the list of 124 private activities that were recently prohibited in Cuba. (14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerCarlos Manuel’s grandfather was the owner of a funeral home in the middle of the last century; his upstairs neighbor founded a law firm in the 1950s; and his mother started out as a dentist in a private clinic. However, this 48-year-old from Havana will not be able to carry out any of these labors outside the control of the State. He had to live in a Cuba with greater restrictions for the self-employed worker than the one his ancestors knew.

For several days, a disturbing list has been circulating around the Island. The list contains the 124 occupations that the Government has vetoed from being exercised in the private sector. In most cases, these are professions linked to sectors that are a state monopoly and range from the private extraction of crude oil, to making sugar, to practicing as lawyers, architects, doctors and journalists on one’s own.

Carlos Manuel has kept his civil engineering degree in a drawer for a long time. He had the illusion that, with the deep economic crisis that Cuba is experiencing, the authorities would raise the flag and allow him to work privately in the profession that he is passionate about. Together with an architect friend and another designer, they fantasized about creating a company, medium or small, to offer their services in the construction and remodeling of hotels, private businesses and homes. continue reading

But instead of the expected opening, the three graduates were stunned when reading the list that excludes them from receiving a self-employment license to dedicate themselves to the trade they love. “In a country where it is urgently necessary to recover the architectural beauty of the cities, we have been excluded from being able to contribute with our own effort,” he wrote to a friend, as soon as he read the list. That same night, he called his brother who lives in Uruguay to tell him that “at the slightest opportunity” he would emigrate. Another professional who escapes, unable to fulfill his dreams here.

Several colleagues of Carlos Manuel have joined and signed a statement with the title “Independent architecture should not be ignored in Cuba”, in which they ask the Government to eliminate both architecture and engineering from the list of those 124 expressly prohibited activities. by the Ministry of Labor and Social Security. But they harbor little hope that the Plaza of the Revolution will back down from that decision.

In short, the list of prohibited occupations summarizes the fears of a regime that is known to be disadvantaged in offering its workers attractive wages, good working conditions and freedom for innovation or for the free expression of opinions within its institutions and companies. It senses that an independent lawyer will not tacitly accept the violation of his client’s rights; that a free publisher will not allow himself to be censored or that an independent reporter will not sweep uncomfortable news under the rug for power.

The Government also fears that allowing the private exercise of certain professions will not only unleash an exodus of employees from the state sector, but would mean a significant loss of political control over thousands of Cubans. They are not just people with degrees who will gain autonomy, but over whom the power will cease to have influence in such a decisive way as it does now.

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This text was originally published in Deutsche Welle for Latin America.

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“The Spring of a New Cuba Is Coming and It Is Unstoppable,” Says Cuban Priest

Alberto Reyes Pías (David Ramos / ACI Press)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 28 February 2021 — Camagüey priest Alberto Reyes has once again issued harsh criticisms of the situation Cubans are currently experiencing. In a text published this Sunday on his Facebook account, the priest warns that “this people has been giving signs for a long time that it does not want continuity.”

Reyes describes the Cuban population as tired “of this sterile ‘spirit of revolution’, of an absurd ‘resist and win’, of ‘doing more with less’, of ‘battles of ideas’, of ‘no one surrenders here’, of ‘socialism or death’, and even of ‘homeland or death’.” He also regrets that the Island has been mired for “years and years among slogans of war, while we long for times of peace.”

“I do not see a people eager to give their lives to build a revolution, but a people desperate for the so-called ‘revolution’ to give them breathing space to build their lives,” adds the priest who has gained notoriety in recent months due to his periodic reflections published on social networks. continue reading

In a part of his text, the priest addresses the Cuban authorities. “You, who hold the reins of political power on this Island, don’t you see this people crying out for a change? Aren’t you going to have the courage and intelligence to initiate those changes, so that a peaceful transition can be achieved, and in the end we can all come to an accord from peace? ”

For that longed for economic and political change, Reyes considers that “the best, the most sensible, as well as the most elegant, would be a proposal from the power structures. Because when the rivers overflow, they only leave destruction and death in their wake.”

In the texts that he disseminates through Facebook, the priest has previously questioned that in Cuba there can only be one ideology, a single party, a single way of educating, and has denounced the “great theater” that the Island is today, “where we lie to each other as part of a play that no longer needs to be rehearsed.”

“Don’t you see? Don’t you listen? Don’t you understand that we cannot continue like this, and that in a country that is adrift no one is safe, neither you nor your children?” Reyes continues to question in his most recent publication. “Don’t you see that nobody trusts that we are on the ‘right path’ anymore, or that we will be able to build a happy and prosperous society?

“And if we all become a little more humble, and recognize that we need a change of course, a new space in which everyone has a place?” proposes the Camagüeyan and, in just a few minutes, his reflection had already accumulated dozens of supportive comments. “Cubans are not a spiteful people, and they have shown it. The tone of the demands from this people is still that of dialogue and inclusion.”

“We do not want violence, we do not want shouting, we do not want disqualifications, we do not want acts of repudiation. But we do not want to submit more, we do not want to turn our life into a lie, we do not want to continue insulting our intelligence,” he says.

Reyes concludes his text by recalling some verses by Pablo Neruda: “They will be able to cut all the flowers, but they will not be able to stop the spring.” A quote to which he adds: “I deeply believe that the spring of a new Cuba is coming, and that it is unstoppable.” Furthermore, he describes that moment as one of “harmony, color, light, joy, peace.”

Last year one of the chronicles published by Reyes caused a great impact because it asked the people to stop being afraid, not to fall into divisions, and it addressed the Catholic bishops, whose “silence” they suffered. “This country needs a change, it needs a transition, it needs to live and stop dragging its existence, and at this moment, in my opinion, only the Catholic Church is in a position to lead a dialogue and propose a transition,” he declared then.

His criticisms earned him an attack in the official Cuban press that questioned that some priests of the Catholic Church used “the pulpits to launch strong questions at the Cuban Revolution, blaming it for the economic crisis that the country is going through, without touching who is truly responsible, the United States.”

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“They Assaulted the Block with Almost 200 Agents, Trucks and Water Trucks,” Denounces Jose Daniel Ferrer

José Daniel Ferrer, leader of Unpacu, at the door of his home, also the organization’s headquarters, in Santiago de Cuba. (Capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 28 February 2021 — José Daniel Ferrer, the leader of Unpacu, denounced this Saturday that his house in Santiago de Cuba, headquarters of the opposition organization, continues to be besieged by State Security, which prevents the residents from circulating in the area.

“The communists, the henchmen, the instruments of tyranny remain here, from acts of repudiation,” the leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba denounced in a video published on his social networks, after being detained for a few hours this Friday, after which his home was raided by several plainclothes officers.

Friday, according to Ferrer, was “historic.” “They invaded with more than 180, almost 200 agents,” in addition to trucks and water trucks with hoses, he said, with the excuse that they were going to “sanitize the block because there is Covid-19” and they were going to paint the facades of all the houses. “A lie!” the opponent cried: “It turns out that they just ended up painting, with a disgusting paint that we are going to erase as soon as possible, the facade of the Unpacu headquarters.” continue reading

On that wall, the activists had written in large letters the slogan “Homeland and Life”, which has gone viral from the song of the same name by Gente de Zona, Yotuel Romero, Descemer Bueno, Maykel Castillo Osorbo and El Funky. When it was being erased, says the leader of the Unpacu, the activists rewrote the phrase with charcoal.

“Here nobody is afraid, here nobody is intimidated, here nobody is scared,” emphasized Ferrer, who explained that the attack “was with the intention of seeing if they can put an end to what we do here for the elderly, for the sick, for alcoholics, for people living in extreme misery.”

“Not even by killing us can they stop our work,” said the opponent. “Not even by killing us  can they put an end to our fight for freedom, for democracy and for a better future.”

José Daniel Ferrer has been under house arrest since April 2020, after spending six months in preventive detention, for the crime of assault that several international organizations consider “prefabricated.”

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Armando Trujillo is Being Tortured by his Jailers, States Cuban Prisoners Defenders

Armando Trujillo González was sentenced to three years in prison for the false crimes of “robbery with force” and “disobedience”. (CPD)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 17 February 2021 — On Tuesday, Cuban Prisoners Defenders (CPD) denounced the situation of prisoner of conscience Armando Trujillo González, who is serving a three-year sentence in the Agüica maximum security prison in Matanzas.

Trujillo, an activist of the Movimiento Independiente Opción Alternativa (Independent Movement Alternative Option), has been held incommunicado since his admission to prison on July 4, 2019, states CPD, and his health “is very, very deteriorated with a coronary problem for which he does not receive medical attention or medicine.” He is also not allowed to receive food, clothing or medicine from his family.

In a legal report, which it submitted to the UN, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the European Union, the organization based in Madrid, demonstrates that Trujillo was arbitrarily convicted of a false crime of robbery with force, and disobedience. continue reading

In prison, CPD claims based on internal sources, “he is harassed, threatened and coerced through psychological and physical torture to leave human rights activism and betray his organization,” trying to force him to record a video that “will serve as social blackmail in case he is released from prison.”

In addition, Prisoners Defenders says that the political authorities of the prison instigate the most dangerous inmates to “rape him in exchange for perks for themselves,” with the aim of “undermining his morale” and “creating a state of constant physical and psychological torture,” in order to “ensure that Armando, to defend himself, may at some point be charged with some additional crime so they can increase his sentence.”

Recently, CPD denounced that prison authorities use “severe torture, beatings and isolation at unusual levels” which, coupled with tempting offers, seek to get prisoners to agree to film compromising videos in which they “confess to being mercenaries and accuse the leaders of their groups.”

The recordings would be used against them if they resumed their human rights activism, the organization said.

The detailed report is similar to the one CPD prepared in the case of protest rapper Denis Solis, sentenced last November 11 in a “summary proceeding” to eight months in prison for an alleged crime of “contempt”. Solis’ imprisonment was the origin of the protest by members of the San Isidro Movement who went on hunger strike at the collective’s headquarters in Old Havana for more than a week, and the subsequent peaceful protest by more than 300 artists in front of the Ministry of Culture to demand dialogue with the authorities.

Translated by: Hombre de Paz

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Architects Working ‘Under the Table’ are Called Party Decorators in Cuba

“Havana survives because it was very well built under capitalism, with excellent professionals who have been banned since 1959”, defends an architect, while the city increasingly displays its makeshift construction practices. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 24 February 2021 — Since the Cuban Government released the news that Architecture is among the 124 activities that individuals are prohibited from engaging in privately, the profession has not stopped looking for spaces to express its discontent, sometimes from pessimism and disenchantment, other times from searching for solutions.

After two weeks of public debates among professionals, 14ymedio sought the opinion of some of those Cubans who have built their homes “by their own effort” without ever having seen an architect.  14ymedio has also consulted experts about the consequences that this practice can bring for the urban environment of the city.

“But who said that an architect is needed to build a house?” Iván Calvo, 52, of El Cerro, counterattacks, when asked if he had hired the services of a professional to build his home.

In 2018, after nearly a decade laying one brick over another, Calvo finally finished building his house. Every afternoon he goes up with his friends to the terrace to play dominoes and feed the pigeons that he raises with his 17-year-old son. continue reading

In 2021, the prohibition of the private practice of architecture and engineering was expressly established. (14ymedio)

“My life is my home, along with my family and my birds. I raised it by myself, with only the help of some cousins of mine who came over some weekends. I never needed an architect, beyond the bureaucratic paperwork with the house, the bricklayer I hired and I did all the work”, he concludes.

Rafael Fornés, a Cuban architect residing in Miami, declares that building without the guidance of a professional leads to “structural dangers” in the property that can later “cause collapses”.

“Havana survives because it was very well built under capitalism, with excellent professionals, who have been banned since ‘59. The legacy, the heritage and the wonder city are the result of the experience of Cuban architects and builders.”

Silvia lives in the house right next to Calvo’s, a young woman barely 26-years-old who, together with her husband, built a house on the roof of the property of her in-laws, but she sees it differently.

“The community’s architect is supposed to be there to develop the project but I wanted to do something decent so I looked for another way. I went to a friend with an Architectural degree who drew up the plans for me under the table, and then he just bribed the Housing official to get his signature, which is the only one approach the authorities recognize”, he explains.

Silvia’s friend makes a living in a professional studio that she founded three years ago with two colleagues. “Everything is very absurd, he has an Architecture degree, but in order to legalize his business and pay taxes he had to get a party decorator license,” said the young woman.

“Everything is very absurd, he has an Architecture degree, but in order to legalize his business and pay taxes he had to get a party decorator license”

The event has given rise to anecdotes such as the inauguration of the Monument to the Cuban Decorator, created in 2019 by the independent Arquitectura Infraestudio project as a “tribute” to that legal figure that allows them to exist and earn a living from their studies.

For architect Rafael Muñoz, the country needs construction professionals to “take charge” of the cities again. “We are submerged in an urban chaos that is annihilating the nation’s immense construction heritage”, stated the professional from Berlin, the city where he now resides.

“There is no insurance and no insurance companies in the country for professionals (to practice without them is suicide), there are no laws that specialize in real estate issues, there are no bids for public works, but contracts get awarded in a murky way or, worse still, they are ordered from overseas. There is also no transparent and binding pricing policy, there are no bank loans that allow the purchase of equipment or software licenses. No professional should practice with pirated software. If we want to be respected, we must respect the work of the others”, he specified.

Architects believe that they can contribute little to their colleagues’ statement from the Group of Cuban Architecture Studies (GECA) in which they demand of the Government, from an architectural and city point of view, to conduct this activity independently.

However, he claims “to address the issue from another point of view no less important, the human side and the ethical side” because he considers that recent laws “reinforce the deformation of the inverted pyramid” of Cuban society.

“The more you know, the more you study, the more you learn, the less chance of a decent life the country offers you. This discourages study and efforts to improve. Any young Cuban who chooses to enter university studies knows in advance that he will be choosing to be placed at the lowest level of that pyramid voluntarily. They are less and less willing to do so”, he explained.

The architect provides specific information about his generation but that illustrates the phenomenon in a general way: “In July 1989, 101 young architects graduated from the Cujae School of Architecture (José Antonio Echeverría Technological University of Havana). Today, more than 80 have left the country. This phenomenon, which nobody talks about, is repeated in every graduation and in every university degree in Cuba. Cuban universities are a machine for creating emigrants”.

“We are submerged in an urban chaos that is annihilating the immense built legacy of the nation.” (14 and a half)

Muñoz calls on those who “are at the helm of national ship” to give young people the opportunity “to assume their own future” or they “will continue to leave the Island en masse.” For him, the long-awaited legalization of Architecture and Engineering studies in the country faces “challenges that colleagues should not underestimate either.”

Architect Ruslan Muñoz, professor at La Cujae, published on his Facebook profile on the 11th a list of government measures that, in his opinion, have damaged the profession since 1960.

Among them, he highlighted the intervention and nationalization of construction companies and all their related industries in 1960, the closing of the planning companies and the gradual emigration of professionals between 1960-1963, the closure of the National College of Architects in 1967 and the Revolutionary Offensive in 1968 that nationalized all the remaining private business in the country, right down to the shoe shiners. He culminates his list in 2021 with the prohibition of  the private practice of architecture and engineering, although he urges his colleagues to provide more data.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Former Cuban Officers Urges Military Not to Follow Repressive Orders against the Population

The document, which was released by Radio and Television Martí, alleges that military elites are in control of “all profitables activities of the [state-owned] Gaesa monopoly.” (Granma (State newspaper))
14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, February 24, 2021 — A group of former military officers from the Revolutionary Armed Forces and the Cuban Ministry of the Interior have published a manifesto in which they declare themselves to be conscientious objectors, denouncing the Cuban regime for having unleashed “a war against the people and their economic initiatives.”

The document, released by Radio and Television Martí, alleges that military elites control “all profitable activities of the Gaesa monopoly without any oversight of its operations or income” and that its profits are not “being invested for the benefit of the people.”

“In the face of widespread poverty throughout the country, a caste of corrupt senior officials and bureaucrats have established a mafia state and are enjoying a life of leisure,” write the signatories. These include former brigadier general Rafael del Pino, former lieutenant colonels Omar Ruiz Matoses (father of dissidents Ariel and Omara Ruiz Urquiola), Mario Riva Morales and Alfredo Lima Perez, and former first-lieutenant Angel Madrazo Giro. continue reading

The authors state, “We oppose any order or plan to use military force to repress legitimate protests and demands by the public,” adding that they are also against weapons “being used to attack the people.”

“No one should follow orders which repress our families, neighbors, friends and other citizens. We urge anyone who can do so to request discharge or retirement from these bodies. The time has come to end the repression of women, seniors, children and young people who demand a dignified life.”

They also expressed their opposition to the Armed Forces continued recruitment of young people for military sevice in the midst of the current Covid-19 health crisis.

“The only real and immediate threat to the nation is widespread hunger,” they insist. “Families need to be able to rely on their young members to support them in their multiple endeavors for daily survival.”

As far as Gaesa’s activities go, they ask that the conglomerate’s profits be treated as part of the public domain. They charge that an elite cadre of corrupt soldiers and civilians “continues to speak on behalf of a revolution that they themselves buried long ago while while the puplic — especially retirees — is left to suffer in the most abject poverty. There is no longer any revolution or socialism to defend. Enough is enough!”

“What we want is ’homeland and life,’”* repeating a phrase from the song by the group Gente de Zona. A video of it performed by group members Yotuel Romero, Descemer Bueno, El Osorbo and El Funky has gone viral.

The manifesto was published on February 24 to coincide with the 126th anniversary of the Cry of Baire, “the definitive starting point in the struggle for independence which would lead to the founding of the homeland [José] Martí wanted to achieve.”

*Translator’s note: a twist on the well-known Cuban communist slogan “Patria o Muerte” (Homeland or Death.)

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

‘To Have Beautiful Cities,’ You Need Architects, Say Cuban Professionals

The Bacardi building in Havana, a jewel of Cuban ‘art deco’, was the work of architects Rafael Fernández Ruenes, Esteban Rodríguez Castell and José Menéndez. (DC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 22 February 2021 — The Group of Cuban Studies of Architecture (GECA) has launched a campaign on social networks to demand from the Government that they can practice their profession as self-employed. “Independent architecture should not be ignored in Cuba,” headlined a statement posted on Facebook this Saturday with the aim of having the authorities eliminate both architecture and engineering from the list of 124 activities expressly prohibited as forms of self-employment by the Ministry of Labor and Security Social.

In their statement they raise several questions: “How do you aspire to beautiful and orderly cities, to their future potential, if you do not have the independent architect? How do you aspire to build 300,000 homes by your own means without the help of the independent architect? How do you aspire to save the house, the little one, the 100-year-old one, ignoring the independent architect, who watches over the execution of your project and accompanies the work so that everything is done as planned and following good construction practices?”

In addition, they describe as “a necessity” that there are different ways to practice architecture in the country and stressed that “releasing” this activity, from the restrictions on self-employment, will “add ideas and proposals that have a positive impact on social spheres where the State does not reach.” continue reading

GECA, a non-profit organization created about five years ago, aims to disseminate contemporary architecture through talks and workshops. It returned to the charge with its demand in another post this Sunday.

“It is true that the list of permitted activities has been expanded and has benefited many,” they grant, “but the prohibition of self-employment in professional, scientific and technical activities constitutes an obstacle for the current times, since we need every opportunity to contribute to the progress and welfare of our nation.”

The association notes that Cuba’s architectural heritage “is full of exceptional examples devised by architects and engineers who exercised their work on their own” and clarifies that proposing the legalization of their profession “does not constitute a barrier to the existing state companies.”

“We do not intend to supplant them,” they assert. “The objective is to seek a balance where state companies and all possible forms of management coexist, generating, beyond the competitive end, a palpable result in the city.”

This would allow, they say, “the creation of mixed entities” that could be competitive even for export and that, in addition, would mitigate “the flow of human capital to other latitudes.”

Their demand, GECA concludes, “comes from society itself rather than professionals, which, after all, is the one who needs us.”

The National Classifier of Economic Activities, in Section 7.110, restricts the private exercisse of “architectural consulting activities that include building design and drawing of construction plans, urban planning and landscape architecture” or “the design engineering that includes civil, hydraulic and traffic engineering projects, water management projects, electrical and electronic, mechanical, industrial and systems engineering projects, or the management of projects related to construction.” In addition, it prohibits, in section 9.412, professional associations.

However, work in construction, masonry, plumbing, and electrical are recognized jobs in the new standard.

Since the new provisions were published on February 10, many architects have expressed their annoyance on social networks. For example, Universo García Lorenzo, who in a Facebook posts asks: “Constructions without architectural design?”

“Our professions as architects and engineers must be involved in equal conditions in all the processes and activities of construction in Cuba, which have already been authorized to practice on their own, independent, and in collaboration with the state company,” he demands. “We architects should no longer be supplanted by any other creative entity.”

García Lorenzo also argues that “the city, architecture, public space and all habitable spaces in their wide diversity are the material support of most of human activity,” and that their development is an inherent factor in human progress. “For a society that faces great economic challenges,” he says, “all productive activity must join that effort, without exclusions.”

At present, García Lorenzo recalls, “in state investments the architecture content is legally commissioned and contracted to artists or artisan creators, builders, industrial designers, many others legally authorized to work in an independent capacity, but without the competence or professional relevance of an architect.”

In fact, independent studios such as Apropia Estudio, Albor Arquitectos or Ad Urbis have been doing their work for years without explicit permission. With the new rule, as with filmmakers, they go from being ‘unlegal’ to illegal.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

The Precautionary Measures in Support of the San Isidro Movement Are a Clear Message to the Cuban State

The rapper Denis Solís receives a bad diet in prison, was attacked and is threatened by other prisoners. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 24 February 2021 — Almost four months after his incarceration, no one has been able to see Denis Solís, who is in the Combinado del Este, a maximum security prison in Havana. Laritza Diversent, from Cubalex, and Harold Miñarro, from Defend Venezuela, reported on his situation this Wednesday, at an online press conference called to disseminate the details of the precautionary measure granted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to 20 members of the San Isidro Movement (MSI).

The decision, issued on February 11, affects both Denis Solís as well as Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, Maykel Castillo Osorbo , Iliana Hernández, Anamely Ramos, Oscar Casanella, Katherine Bisquet, Omara Ruiz Urquiola, Adrián Rubio, Jorge Luis Estien, Alfredo Martínez, Amaury Pacheco, Michel Matos, Esteban Rodríguez, Iris Ruiz, Yasser Castellanos, Anyell Valdés, Jorge Luis Capote Arias, Abu Duyanah Tamayo and Osmani Pardo. With the precautionary measure, the IACHR considers that all of them are in a serious and urgent situation of risk of irreparable damage to their rights in Cuba.

It is not known, Miñarro said at the meeting, what the medical situation is of the rebellious rapper, whose arrest gave rise to the hunger strike at the headquarters of the MSI last November and these, in turn, to the protests of hundreds of artists. According to close indications, Solís could be isolated by covid. It is also known that he receives poor nutrition, that he was attacked and threatened by other prisoners. continue reading

Only his uncle, explains Diversent, has been able to go to the prison to bring him essential items, but “they have not allowed him to see him physically.” The authorities now allow Solís to communicate by phone, but the Supreme Court has refused to allow the Havana court in which he was tried in summary proceedings to deliver a copy of the record of the oral trial.

Iris Ruiz, one of the beneficiaries of the precautionary measure, participated in the press conference from Cuba, and trusts that it will help “the Government to promote dialogue.” When they have been repressed and attacked, at some point people may have come to believe that the activists were going against the law, says Ruiz, but the truth is that article 56 of the 2019 Constitution includes the right to demonstrate. “It is the State that impedes the right,” she says, although she is not deceived: “We know that the Government does not respect the precautionary measures, because they have continued with the acts of harassment.”

Laritza Diversent recalls that these actions “did not occur in a single day, but over a long period, some since 2018,” when the San Isidro Movement was created, and are framed “in the context of persecution and attack” on activists and the independent press.

Specifically, they record short-term detentions, between two and 24 hours, “in such a way that criminal proceedings are not opened.” A person can suffer up to five or six arrests in a week, as exemplified by the case of Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara. This is harassment that Iliana Hernández, Anamely RamosOscar Casanella, Omara Ruiz Urquiola and Katherine Bisquet have also suffered.

They also detail the cutting of telephone lines and the internet for activists to prevent them from communicating with the outside.

The precautionary measure, explains Claudia Ordóñez, from Article 19, one of the organizations that together with Cubalex and Defend Venezuela joined the IACHR petition, obliges the Cuban State to “adopt all the necessary measures to protect the right to life and personal integrity.” This includes “refraining” from encouraging or favoring any “situation of risk or vulnerability” against these activists, such as acts of repudiation.

Although it is aware that it is difficult for the Cuban government to comply with this measure, the decision is very important, since “it gives the victims the recognition that their rights were violated.” The right “to disagree.” Thus, Ordóñez explains, the Commission sends a clear message: “Cuba is part of this continent, it is not a separate political-social-economic system, which is not well understood or is not touched because it is the result of a socialist revolution.”

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Barbers Rebel Against Price Controls

Barbers complain that government mandated prices will not cover their expenses. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, February 11, 2020 — A few months ago it was farmers, then independent taxi drivers, and now it’s the barbers’ turn. The government’s attempts to impose price caps on the “scissors sector” has met with fierce resistance from self-employed workers.

An article in the official press criticizing the rise in prices at barbershops that began at the end of last year has unleashed a torrent of criticism, both from hair professionals and from customers who say they cannot afford their services.

“I am a barber. I live in Ciego de Alvila and have to pay 1,500 pesos for a packet of one-hundred razaor blades,” says Alejandro, a self-employed worker on the outskirts of the city. “My clients inisist I use a new blade each time, so that means I have to spend fifteen pesos on each customer.” continue reading

From time to time Alejandro pays 250 pesos for a bottle of cologne to refresh the skin and send his customers off smelling like lavender. He pays 40 pesos for a box of talcum powder. The hairspray he uses on those who want to look impeccable hours after they leave his shop costs him between 375 and 500 pesos.

“It doesn’t stop there,” he says. “A single jar of wax costs me 250 pesos. Every month I have spend around 4,000 pesos just to stay in business. That’s after paying for my business license, social security and the supplies I need. And that’s not in Havana.”

In addition to the costs for “the here and now” Alejandro’s initial investment was almost 94,000 pesos, raised with help from his domestic partner, mother and emigré brother. “The government does not take this into account but everyone knows that the businesses that are respected here are financed with money from overseas.

Invisible investments of capital from abroad are very common. It is rare to find a successful business that has not received an infusion of dollars from the owner’s relative, friend or third party who lives abroad. Though there are no official statistics to confirm it, many believe that, without this foreign oxygen, most Cuban entrepreneurs would not survive.

For the barber from Ciego de Avila having a clientele means serving customers who come to his salon.”It’s a small city. You don’t have a lot of options. If they force me to cap my prices, I will have to give up my license,” he says.”But this is an art. We’re not factory workers. Every person who sits in that chair wants something different, something personal.”

Given the city’s wide internet coverage and a booming market for in-home services, some Havana entrepreneurs are trying to avoid heavy fines by making clandestine visits to their clients’ homes or practicing their craft on the black market, places beyond the reach of government guidelines and decrees.

“I still have options so let’s see how things turn out. For now, I pay my taxes, go to my customers’ houses for 100 pesos apiece and that’s that,” said a barber on Monday morning while working on one customer’s beard. When he was done, the man paid him the price he had been quoted, without complaint

“Fighting with the barber is like fighting with the cook. He can make your head look like a pile of cockroaches or spit in your food,” acknowledges Lárazo Miguel, a young man who agreed to pay 75 pesos for a quick haircut after much haggling with a barber on Marquez Gonzalez Street in Central Habana.

One of the barbers at the salon where Lazaro Miguel was getting his hair cut voiced a common complaint: “They want us to charge 25 pesos for a haircut but there are people who sit down in that chair and expect miracles. It’s not fair to expect us to charge the same for a once-in-a-liftime haircut as for a basic cut.”

“I know what my services are worth. The son of two doctors, who together earn more than 12,000 pesos a month, comes in, sits down in my chair and asks for a special cut. He wants me to use electric shears on one side of his head and scissors on the other. But I have to charge him 20 or 50 pesos for that. It doesn’t make sense for me, for him or for his parents,” as a self-employed hair stylist.

“A shave with cream, lotion and a facial massage is 100 pesos. A beard trim is another 50. I cannot do it for less than that,” adds Reynaldo, a self-employed barber. “What more do they want?” he wonders. “This is more than a barber shop. It’s a parliament,” says the owner of a salon on Neptuno Street.

“Everyone who comes here spends stays for at least an hour. They don’t just want to look good; they want to feel good. Customers come in, they sit down, they have some water, charge their phones, and even use the bathroom and toilet paper. Who is paying for all that?” one of them asks.

Fighting with the barber is not like complaining to a chef. At a restaurant, they just take the plate away but a few misplaced snips to your hair can stay with you for days.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

“The Fierce Political Indoctrination of Children in Cuba is Extreme Violence”

Erik Ravelo’s work ‘Doctrine’, in which he contrasts the image of a child in uniform on a cross formed by the arms of Fidel Castro. (Erik Ravelo / Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 24 February 2021 — Erik Ravelo cannot forget the day when, in the fifth or sixth grade, his teacher took the children out of class to take them to an act of savage repudiation in El Vedado. “An elderly lady, the mother of an opponent, was attacked, beaten and practically lynched in front of me. They slashed her face with a hardhat. They smashed her glasses. Bleeding, she was grabbed from the enraged mass and put in a police car. They took her away.”

This is how the artist himself told it on his social networks this Tuesday, when he presented his work Doctrine, in which he superimposes an image of a child in his school uniform on a cross formed by the arms of Fidel Castro.

Ravelo tells 14ymedio that the piece was finished just this Tuesday and it is his way of showing solidarity with what many of those who dare to express themselves freely “unfortunately are having to experience in Cuba.” continue reading

“As I explain in the text about my own experience, it is a serious offense against childhood to expose children to direct violence such as what they are exposed to when they are taken to a repudiation rally,” he says.

As he himself denounces in his post: “There are many people who have told me ‘but in Cuba there are no barefoot children smelling glue at traffic lights, cleaning cars and shoes on the street, sleeping on the sidewalks.’ And yes, this may be true, but this work wants to show that there are many forms of violence against children. It is not only the abandonment and extreme poverty, because the fierce political indoctrination to which a child is exposed in Cuba in my opinion is also violence. And extreme.”

I even remember, from that childhood, the song that everyone sang in chorus: “We don’t want them anymore, we don’t want them anymore, we don’t want them anymore, let them fuck off and go to hell.”

Why? he asks. “Was it to instill in us a love for our country? No. Was it to teach us to defend our country by beating an old woman? No, was it to make us better men? No. It was simply to instill fear in us.”

Ravelo says he was impressed by the comments his work has elicited. “One wrote: ‘I was that child too.’ I replied: ‘Yes, tiger, unfortunately we were all that child.’

As for using such “sacred” figures in his work, something that is not new in his career, Ravelo says that nowhere else in the world has he suffered “serious consequences” from any of his previous campaigns. In fact, his work Unhate for Benetton, showing a number of world leaders , including Barack Obama and Hugo Chavez, kissing on the mouth, won the Grand Prix at Cannes. “With this I want to show that art and graphic communication cannot be criminalized, and if it is, then it is only in Cuba.”

“It can’t be that I do Trump with a crucified immigrant child, and being in the United States absolutely nothing happens to me, or that I do Salvini in Italy and Merkel in Europe, or the Pope while living more than 18 years in Italy, but with Cuba it’s different,” he continues.

“I make art, and if art is criminalized or an artist is censored, it really touches us all,” he asserts, claiming the use of the image of Fidel Castro “to represent an idea is necessary,” in his opinion because the acts of repudiation “are one of the saddest, lowest and most inhumane pages” in the history of Cuba.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

“Independent Filmmakers Will Continue Filming Without Permits”

The filmmaker José Luis Aparicio believes with the new provisions, artists such as Jorge Molina or Miguel Coyula “are left in a punishable illegal situation”. (Facebook / Miguel Coyula)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 14 February 2021– The Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC) tried to reassure the film industry this week, stating that the new bans on self-employment do not affect them. The artists had expressed their complaints and doubts on the social networks, but the ICAIC insisted on a “clarifying note” that “independent audiovisual and cinematographic creators are not self-employed, but rather carry out their activity from their status as artists, recognized as a way of non-state management in the aforementioned Decree Law 373″.

However, three filmmakers who spoke with 14ymedio this Friday, consider that it is the combination of that decree with the new restrictions that puts their work in check.

One of them is José Luis Aparicio, who recalls that Decree Law 373 meant the creation of the Registry of the Audiovisual and Cinematographic Creator (Recac), the result of “a request that filmmakers have been making for years, especially those grouped in the G-20”, to gain access to possibilities that they did not have before.

Aparicio acknowledges that this came to grant “a legality to filmmakers so that they can carry out operations that were previously impossible or very complicated” and that they could, consequently, “produce in a more industrial, more conventional way” and “access funds, permits, export and import possibilities, all kinds of procedures”. continue reading

However, he sees as a problem that there are filmmakers who, for different reasons are not interested in being in that register, “because above all they believe in a more radical and underground type of independent cinema”, not because of the themes and the way in which that they count them, but in principle, because “they believe that belonging to a state norm that regulates independent creators already goes against the independent concept.”

He cites filmmakers Jorge Molina and Miguel Coyula as examples, who, by their own decision, do not belong to RECAC but “have an occupation that supports them”.

With the new provisions, says Aparicio, artists like Molina or Coyula “are now left in a punishable situation, of lawlessness”

With the new provisions, Aparicio thinks, artists like Molina or Coyula “are now in a punishable illegal situation”. Before, he explains, their situation was “in a certain way, allegorical and ambiguous” because, without having a link to the institution, “they continued to work as independent filmmakers, like they have done all their lives, in a non-specific way, filming without permits, the guerrilla way”.

“This is a very worrying situation for them and all the colleagues who have an interest for them to continue to make films and not receive any type of punishment for making their films”, says Aparicio, director of such films as Sueños al Pairo.

In addition, he continues, the new scenario also leaves “very badly off” those who are not traditionally filmmakers and do not have curriculum works to meet the requirements dictated by the institution or have not studied in film schools.

In any case, Aparicio reflects, “in all parts of the world” and at all times”, independent cinema has been created beyond legal provisions, decrees, license, political pressure, filming permits or specific conditions. “It has always been done at the snap of a finger, at the stroke of passion. To not identify that, in the case of cinema and art in general, is blindness on the part of the government when it comes to dealing with culture and art”.

Director Víctor Alfonso, an architect by profession, calls attention to another aspect of the problem, a question that has to do with logic: “How do you register if you don’t have work? At least three works are needed to be able to belong to the audiovisual creator’s registry. This is a paradox. How do you manage to have three quality works if you cannot film legally? That is the big question, but I honestly think that there will not be many changes, people will continue filming and nothing will happen “.

Director Víctor Alfonso, an architect by profession, points to another aspect of the problem, a question that has to do with logic: “How do you register if you don’t have any work lined up?

“They’re going to use that to hit the names they already have marked,” he asserts.” For example, Iliana Hernández, who goes out to film in the street tomorrow, falls under this pretext. The issue of independent journalists comes into play there too”.

Mijail Rodríguez, scriptwriter and organizer of the ICAIC Youth Show for several years, is of the opinion that Decree Law 373 “was a half-achievement” of the filmmakers after much battle with the institution. “The result does not include all the demands of that struggle that the G20 and the Assembly of Filmmakers led. Hence, many do not feel identified with [Decree] 373.”

“The problem is that now, by prohibiting audiovisual and cinematographic activity as self-employed workers, in some way it declares illegal any activity that is not endorsed by the institution, which is aggravated by Decree 349 (which regulates artistic diffusion in Cuba) that is still active, “says Rodríguez. The Ministry of Culture intends to “save” the artists through Decree Law 373 or the RECAC, but all this, Rodríguez concludes, “is used very conveniently… In the end, everything works as a control mechanism.”

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Translated by Norma Whiting