The Crossing Of The Desert / 14ymedio, Manuel Pereira

Cuban rafters
Cuban rafters

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Manuel Pereira, Mexico City, 8 November 2015 — Since the second half of the twentieth century we Cubans have been the Jews of the Caribbean, and the Malecon is our Wailing Wall. Among other topics, the immigration issue figures in the meeting between Raul Castro and Pena Nieto in Merida, Yucatan. The two countries are united by historical ties: the poet José María Heredia lived and died here in Mexico, José Martí married here, passing through here were the politicians Mella, Fidel Castro, and Che Guevara. In 1951 Perez Prado launched “Ruidoso Rico Mambo” here, then came Benny More, Celia Cruz, “La Sonora Matancera,” the “Mulatas de Fuego” and, in the sixties, “The Tremendous Corte” triumphed on radio and television with Trespatines, Rudesindo and the Galician Rudesindo. All these humorous, musical and voluptuous cyclones are forever linked with Cuba.

But the Cuban exodus is a tragedy of biblical proportions. If the desert crossing of the Israelites lasted for 40 years, that of the Cuban people has lasted half a century, counting from the first mass exodus from the port of Camarioca (1965), followed by the port of Mariel stampede (1980), which was repeated during the “rafters crisis” (1994). continue reading

In 1995, when the US Coast Guard began to return Cuban rafters intercepted in the Straits of Florida, the island’s escaping slaves sought other routes toward the south. They started out from Camagüey, for Santa Cruz del Sur, toward the Cayman Islands and Honduras. Even between 2002 and 2004 many Cubans traveled as tourists to Russia, some asked for political asylum at the layover at the Barajas airport and for those arriving in Moscow it was harder. Some managed to get documents to travel to Mexico at astronomical prices, others ended up so far away they left with a free visa for Sao Tome and Principe in West Africa.

Mexico as a bridge to the United States became the most coveted goal. The sign of the most persistent “blood, sweat and tears” runs to Guatemala drawing a geography of pain that is clear proof of the failure of the Cuban utopia. As Voltaire said: “It has been tried in several countries not to allow a citizen to leave the nation in which he had the accident of being born; visibly the meaning of this law is: this country is so bad and so badly governed that we prohibit every individual from leaving, for fear that everyone would go.”

Those fugitives fleeing from the chronic shortages, repression, lack of individual human rights and a bleak future, soon crowd into Ecuador thanks to the close ideological relations between that country and the island. The Cuban government, as on other occasions, needs a valve to release the steam from the cauldron and, also, a future source of income from family remittances. And Quito has become the ideal place from which to reach Mexico in the long Cuban pilgrimage. From there, groups leave for Colombia, then Panama, Costa Rice, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico. The flow of Cubans who come from Ecuador to Tapachula, a migration station in Chiapas, varies between 40 and 50 a day. They are looking for safe conduct to cross Mexico as a bridge to the Promised Land.

The Cuban diaspora is the most extensive in world history since the Jews in the time of the Babylonian captivity. This dispersion of wandering Cubans has grown and accelerated since the “thaw” between Cuba and the United States, growing still more with the rumor of the imminent repeal of the Cuban Adjustment Act. It goes without saying that these tropical pilgrims face hurricanes, sharks, sunstroke, impenetrable jungles, tumultuous rivers, human trafficking, extortionist police and guerrillas and thieves…

This Cuban exodus evokes the riskiest travel fictions: The Odyssey by Homer; the myth of Jason and the Argonauts; Virgil’s Aeneid; Jonah and the Whale; The Lusiadas by Luis Vas de Camoes; Sinbad the Sailor; Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe; Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift; The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym by Edgar Allan Poe; Moby-Dick by Melville; The Sphinx of the Ice by Jules Verne; Stevenson’s Treasure Island; Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and other works that do not fit here.

The Cuban reality exceeds any of these stories no matter how fanciful and exaggerated their authors have been. In the film Memories of Underdevelopment, by Tomas Gutierrez Alea, the protagonist paraphrases Che Guevara when he says: “This great humanity has said enough and has started to get moving… and will not stop until it gets to Miami…”

Zaqueo Baez: ‘We Must Fight From Here, Within” / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Zacchaeus Baez during a meeting of Cuban Civil Society Open Forum, weeks before his arrest. (14ymedio)
Zaqueo Báez during a meeting of Cuban Civil Society Open Forum, weeks before his arrest. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 10 November 2015 — This Monday afternoon the three activists who were arrested when they approached Pope Francis in the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana, last September 20, were released.Zaqueo Báez Guerrero and Ismael Bonet, members of the Patriot Union of Cuba (UNPACU), and the Lady in White Maria Josefa Acon Sardina, face trial for the alleged crimes of public disorder, disrespect and resistance.

In conversation with 14ymedio, Zaqueo Báez said that after nearly 50 days in prison he felt “weak and tired, but ready to continue fighting for democracy in Cuba.” When asked about how he will await his trial, he stressed that they were warned by the police that they could only “go from home to work and work to home.” continue reading

“What I most want to do, is to continue in opposition against the dictatorship,” said the activist. “So I will comply with these instructions, from my home to the street to engage opposition and so, if I am lucky and they don’t arrest me again I will return to my house,” he says.

Just two hours after being released from prison, Baez said their date to appear in court has not yet been announced. The regime opponent hopes that “they can not ask for the maximum sentence” because “none of the three of us have criminal records.”

To those who question his conduct before a head of state, the activist replies firmly that does not feel unhappy: “I think we could do a little more, like going out with a sign to ask freedom for political prisoners, for example.” However, he notes that “at an event of this nature we prefer to be moderate and peaceful activists for human rights so they don’t confuse us with aggressive people who want to harm the Pope.”

“We are not terrorists nor do we want to appear to be so,” Baez said a few hours after he was released and still feeling anxious from the days of imprisonment in the police station known as 100 y Aldabo in Havana. “I would have loved to get a microphone and demanded that the Castro brothers ask forgiveness from their people,” but he recognizes “that would be to think like a Hollywood movie.”

When asked about his future plans, he said he is preparing himself
“better and I want to make it clear that I have no intention of leaving Cuba as a political refugee.” A statement immediately qualified with, “Perhaps I will leave to take a course or something like that, but I believe we have to continue fighting here, within.”

Despite the rigors of prison, he believes that “we must exhaust all peaceful tools for change in Cuba.”

Three Activists Arrested During Visit of Pope Francis Are Released / 14ymedio

Activists arrested during Pope Francis’s Mass in the Plaza of the Revolution (frame of a video)
Activists arrested during Pope Francis’s Mass in the Plaza of the Revolution (frame of a video)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 9 November 2015 – This Monday afternoon the three activists arrested during Pope Francis’s visit were released. Zaqueo Baez Guerrero and Ismael Bonet, members of the Patriot Union of Cuba (UNPACU), and the Lady in White Maria Josefa Acon Sardina, were released pending trial as corroborated by 14ymedio in a telephone call from one of those released.

For nearly 50 days, the three dissidents had been held at the police station known as 100 y Aldabó in Havana, for approaching the bBishop of Rome on his arrival at the Plaza of the Revolution in the capital, on 20 September.

Within hours of the arrest, Baez managed to communicate with the leader of his organization, Jose Daniel Ferrer, who told the press: “Zaqueo told me that he managed to make it to where the Pope was and to tell him the truth and to shout ‘Freedom!’.”

During the first days of imprisonment, two of the regime opponents went on a hunger strike, but later they ceased to fast. UNPACU maintained a strong campaign for their release under the slogan “The three who reached the Pope,” which included marches in the east and other cities in the country.

The activists were charged with the offenses of assault, disrespect, public disorder and resisting arrest, according to what was detailed by family members who were able to visit them during their confinement.

Which Korea? / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

The dancing robots at the South Korean pavilion at the Havana International Fair
The dancing robots at the South Korean pavilion at the Havana International Fair (4ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 7 November 2015 – So which Korea is it that has a pavilion here? A woman asked this of a uniformed guide at the International Fair of Havana. The man, friendly and solicitous, turns to the huge welcome sign at the entrance, looks at it as if he’s seeing it for the first time and answers, “Which Korea will it be madam? What you said I believe is written with a “K.”

The woman enters, followed by many others visiting the site, to look at the brand new Hyundi cars, or to admire the agricultural machinery, the Samsung technological products, the drinks, and to simply enjoy the display of small robots that dance and jump to the beat of the music. continue reading

The 9,500 square-foot pavilion is managed by the South Korea Agency for Trade Promotion and Investment (KOTRA). The Asian country has brought this time a delegation of 17 exporting companies of large firms such as Samsung Electronics and Hyundai Motors, as well as others such as Global Green and Seasco.

Many who throng in front of the exhibition of products and technology that fill the stand are very excited about the appearance in their lives of all this Korean manufacturing. “My aunt has a Samsung flat screen,” you can hear a boy who has come with his parents and cousins boasting to another. Others detail the latest Galaxy line of phones have come on the market and a woman dreams of a microwave oven from the distant peninsula.

On leaving the place, no one doubts that this display does not come from the Democratic Republic of Korea. They know because they have not seen a single picture of the Kim family, or a photo of any sculpture where someone raises a threatening fist or points towards an imaginary dazzling future. But also because business representatives moving through the halls do it with ease and freedom and do not ask anyone if they work for a State enterprise.

In this 33rd edition 33 of the International Fair, the most uptight are the Cubans, especially the officials because the gorgeous models pose happily for the cameras. The opening days were invitation-only and it was just on Friday that the doors were opened to the public. It is hard to believe that with the capital’s transportation problems so many people decided to go to the ExpoCuba fairgrounds.

Nearly a thousand companies from 20 countries exhibited their products here. Canada, Germany, Spain and Mexico are the pavilions attracting the most people but Korea’s has something special that nobody wants to miss. After asking several people why so many people visit this site, a young man gave me a surprising answer: “I came to see them, because Cubans are going to have to learn to be Koreans.”

Padre Conrado: “The Church has the responsibility of accompanying the people in new pathways” / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

José Conrado Rodríguez receiving the Patmos Institute Award
José Conrado Rodríguez receiving the Patmos Institute Award

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 8 November 2015 –To a long list of awards and accolades received by the priest José Conrado Rodríguez Alegre, the Patmos Institute Prize has been added, awarded last week by the Baptist church. The pastor said that in his life he has made “a personal journey of great friendship with my Protestant brothers.” About this ecumenical attitude and the current situation of the Catholic Church in Cuba he offered this interview by telephone from the city of Trinidad.

Escobar. Some weeks after the visit of Pope Francis to Cuba, what do you think has been the most important legacy of his visit to the island?

Conrado. It was an extraordinary experience for all of us, Catholics and Cubans in general. Francis made a call for a more committed life, more faithful to justice and truth, but also invited us to live more committed to mercy. He has called us to see the faces of those who are suffering, who are waiting for a helping hand, one breath. He has demonstrated that attitude of closeness to the most needy, the poorest, the elderly, children. continue reading

Escobar. The Cuban church is bound to face some changes with the end of Jaime Ortega y Alamino’s tenure as Archbishop of Havana. How do you envision this new stage to come?

sacerdote-Jose-Conrado-Rodriguez-Alegre_CYMIMA20151108_0001_11Conrado. The current times demand from us a more intense presence at the side of the people, a greater commitment with the people and at the side of the people. I would say these are moments of a new sensitivity to respond to the call of our people, who have lived through very difficult times. Our people have had to face great difficulties over the years and the Church has the responsibility of accompanying the people along these new pathways. This requires a new inspiration, a renewed ability to seek paths of hope that will lead us to the responsibility of each person to achieve a better Cuba.

Escobar. You worked for a long time in the poor neighborhoods and towns of Santiago de Cuba, but now you are located in Trinidad, a more prosperous city thanks to tourism. What differences do you see between one community and the other?

Conrado. In Trinidad there is also great poverty, especially in the countryside. It is a region of contrasts. Some people are surviving with a little more resources, but there is also great need. As a consequence, people see things in a material way, and they turn a little more to resolving material problems and so often forget life’s spiritual dimension and a commitment to others.

Escobar. You just received the prize from the Patmos Institute which is a Baptist organization. Is it possible to reconcile religious differences for the good of Cuba?

Conrado. Yes, there is no doubt. When one adopts an attitude of true love. Love does not exclude, love includes. Love crosses borders and breaks down the walls that separate humans.

Escobar. How do you value this award?

Conrado. I am very pleased that people of another Christian denomination positively assess my behavior, but above all that they have done so thinking of Cuba.

Escobar. What do you think are the greatest challenges facing the Catholic Church in Cuba today?

Conrado. The challenge of fighting for justice, of solidarity with those who have violated your rights, or living overwhelmed and drowned by the weight of a very difficult life. Seeking ways in which people make their decisions but without forgetting others, without forgetting this dimension of openness to love that must always be present in the Christian.

Escobar. What kind of work are you doing from your parish?

Conrado. We help children by giving lunch at noon to those who live far from school. Many rural classrooms have had to close for economic reasons and then the children must attend school in the larger towns, but they live far away and returning home to eat could mean that they can not return for the afternoon session. It is a real problem.

We also visit the sick, we take care of them. Support for prisoners and families of prisoners is part of our work. We are there, in those situations where human beings are helpless, suffering injustice, without being heard. Pastoral work is accompanying, listening, paying attention, being there for people.

Nicolas Maduro’s Two Plans / 14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner

The Venezuelan president on his television program 'In Touch with Maduro'
The Venezuelan president on his television program ‘In Touch with Maduro’

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, 7 November 2015 — Nicolas Maduro knows he will lose the election on December 6. The disaster is too intense. So say all the polls. Ninety percent of Venezuelans want a change. Eighty percent blame Maduro. Seventy percent are determined to vote against this thoroughly incompetent government.

Venezuelans are tired of lining up to buy milk, toilet paper, whatever. The inflation horrifies them. Everything is more expensive every day that passes. The salary of a month is consumed in a week. The corruption disgusts them. They know and intuit that the Chavista leadership is an association of crooks with no lack of narco-traffickers, all colluding to plunder the country. Lacking flour, violence is the daily arepa (bread). Caracas is one of the most dangerous cities in the world. And one of the filthiest. (This is also what Cubanization is: Wreckage and sewage running in the streets on the worn out pavement full of potholes.)

But Maduro blindly obeys an axiom of the Castros: “The Revolution will never surrender.” The Revolutiuon is actually a verbal construction that, in reality, means The Power. The Power is what is never handed over. The Revolution is a plastic thing that transforms itself so as not to lose power. The verbal construction has other rhetorical components: “the people, social justice, anti-imperialism, the oppressed poor, the greedy rich, multinational exploiters, the Yankee enemy.” There are hundreds of expressions that arm the story. continue reading

Until 1998, according to the Castros, power came from the barrel of a gun and the Revolution was declared. This was the dogma. This is what they had done. At the end of that year, Hugo Chavez won some elections and came to power by other means, but with the same ends. Fidel, reluctantly, accepted the change in method, but clarified that power is never relinquished.

He accepted that Chavism dismantled in slow-motion the scaffolding of the liberal democracy and liquidated the trifles of the three powers and the freedom of press and association, but made it very clear that the Revolution, that is, Power, was never negotiable. Alternation was a ridiculous republican practice of the soft bourgeoisie. That option did not fit into a genuine testicular and revolutionary model.

What will Maduro do in the face of the electoral defeat predicted by the polls and his decision never to relinquish power, imposed by Cuba but enthusiastically taken up by him and the Chavista leadership?

Maduro has a Plan A and a Plan B.

Plan A is to try to win the elections or to accept losing by a minimum amount. How will he perpetrate it? Jailing or prohibiting the participation of opposition leaders who could drag their supporters to the polls. This is the case, among others, for Leopoldo Lopez and Maria Corina Machado. Manipulating the voting machines. Generating false ballots. Drawing the districts to favor his voters. Abusing the media 100 to 1. Putting obstacles in front of the opposition vote in a thousand ways .

The intention of the government is to discourage the democrats so they do not vote. They calculate that with the total of all these tricks they can win, or lose by a small margin. And if they lose, they buy at any price a handful of dishonest deputies and continue with the power fiercely clenched between their legs.

And if Plan A fails? Plan B would be launched if the avalanche of votes is such that there is no way to hide a stunning defeat. That’s what happened to Jaruzelski in Poland in the summer of 1989. He used all the advantages of power to crush Solidarity in partial elections limited to the Senate, but Walesa and his democratic tribe obtained 95% of the vote and nearly all the seats. The communist regime collapsed before the evidence of widespread rejection.

Maduro has had the courtesy to announce his Plan B. If he loses he will use the prerogatives of the enabling law to demolish the few institutions of the Republic left standing. In that case, he will govern “revolutionarily” with “the people and the army” through a civilian-military junta. They call this infamy “deepening the Revolution.” Hand over power? Don’t even dream of it. He would create a satrapy pure and simple, collectivist and brutal, without bourgeois disguises.

What should Venezuelans do? What the Poles did. Come out to vote in massive numbers. Bury this filth under a mountain of votes, and fight ballot by ballot and polling place by polling place, without fear and without faltering.

Plan A is worse than Plan B. Plan A continues a dying farce that will inevitably lead to a slow and painful death. Plan B has the advantage of shamelessly undressing the totalitarian character of this dictatorship and puts an end to the doctored narrative of the revolution of the oppressed. End of story.

Many Venezuelans, Chavez supporters or not, military or civilian, will perhaps not remain impassive while Maduro and his masters in Havana distort the popular will and impose a permanent yoke. It will all play itself out on December 6. Perhaps life itself.

Musician Gorki Aguila Arrested Along With Two Foreign Journalists / 14ymedio

Musician Gorki Aguila (Photo EFE)
Musician Gorki Aguila (Photo EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 7 November 2015 — The musician Gorki Águila was arrested this afternoon in Havana, as he was traveling in a car with two journalists from the television channel France24. The composer and singer managed to call this newspaper from the Fifth Police Station in the Playa municipality, where he was taken with the two reporters.

Águila, leader of the punk rock band Porno para Ricardo, does not know why he has been arrested and when talking with 14ymedio the police still had not informed him whether he would remain in a cell in the station, or be fined or prosecuted. Last August the musician was detained for several hours in the same station, where he was warned that if continue his activism “those who invite you to visit another country will have to come to looking for you in a boat.”

In May, a similar incident occurred when Águila was forcibly detained outside the Museum of Fine Arts in Havana for carrying a poster with the image of the graffiti artist El Sexto along with the word “Freedom.

El Sexto With Somos+ / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto, with members of Somos+ (We are more). (14ymedio)
Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto (the tall one in the center), with members of Somos+ (We are more). (14ymedio)

14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 6 November 2015 — On Thursday a roof in Havana’s Cerro district was a suitable space for a group of young people to have a meeting with the graffiti artist Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto (The Sixth). Perhaps because neither the artist nor the members of the Somos+ Movement (We Are More) are given to extreme formalities, it is inappropriate to call what took place a tribute. But in fact, it was. continue reading

Danilo was given an anthology of messages of support from many parts of the world, sent during the almost ten months he spent in prison for attempting to stage a performance that angered the Cuban authorities and in particular the political police. The displays of affection came into his hands, the shouts of joy for his release, and the words of encouragement that filled the social networks during his imprisonment.

The coordinators of the young political movement, which is currently holding its third and expanded National Council, invited the artist to relate his experiences in prison. Numerous questions about his artistic action and about his days of confinement allowed El Sexto to demonstrate that he is something more than a “smearer of walls,” as his detractors from the official side call him, but rather someone with artistic sensibility and political will.

Asked about his hunger strike undertaken to secure his release, Maldonado drew with words the most recent of his artistic strokes, which today I want to share with you:

“As people we all occupy a physical space and I believe the most important thing is to make a scratch on this time line in the space we have occupied. I have always had the conviction that I was doing something right. I cold die, but I consoled myself knowing that if this happened I would be remembered, My jailers told they were going to let me die and I responded to them that my death would be different from theirs, because my family and friends would remember me.”

For Cuban Scientists Paradise Is Abroad / 14ymedio, Lilianne Ruiz

The subsidies that accompany scholarships abroad is also a motivation to apply for them. (CC)
The subsidies that accompany scholarships abroad is also a motivation to apply for them. (CC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Lilianne Ruiz, Havana, 6 November 2015 – He arrived in Berlin without a single euro in his pocket and with a pound of beans in his suitcase. Ariel Urquiola remembers his arrival in Germany to do post-doctoral work at Humboldt University’s Leibniz Institute. His departure from Cuba, like that of so many young specialists, was motivated by the desire to do serious science.

After graduating and earning a doctorate in cellular and molecular biology, Urquiola felt he had reached his peak inside the island. He was looking for a laboratory where he could examine zoological specimens but the lack of available technology didn’t allow him to study in his own country.

“Here I could work with at most one species, and in year have limited results,” he related during a visit to Cuba. “In contrast, in Germany, in just a month and a half I was able to process 503 samples,” that had arrived in Berlin from Cuba through institutional channels, he related with satisfaction. continue reading

His work consists of analyzing samples of the zoology of the Sierra de los Organos mogotes in Cuba’s Pinar del Rio province, research that he continued at the Leibniz Institute. The eyes of the young scientist shone when he explained that the results of his study might conclude that the population of the area by wild species “is much more ancient that is thought.” Like many other Cuban university graduates who have emigrated, he feels that abroad his work has potential.

In comparison to doctorates earned within the country, options abroad have a much more professional profile, according to the majority of those surveyed. A young Cuban biochemist who earned her PhD at the Catholic University of Chile points out “the quality and importance of scientific journals where research results are published.”

Cuban university students can choose from among more than 300 scholarships offered to PhDs by foreign governments. Many decide not to return to the island after having benefitted from one of them

Dr. Ileana Sorolla, director of the Center for International Migration Studies at the University of Havana, said in the journal Alma Mater: “Cuban employment centers need to readjust (…) to try to recover talent, so that returning to the country is an alternative. And not just because of an ethical, moral, political and ideological commitment, but also for business advantages.”

According to the official, looking at migration patterns of Cubans today, “some 23.9% are people with a university education,” and “around 86% of professionals who emigrate do it before they are 40.”

The subsidy that accompanies these scholarships abroad is also a motivation to apply for them. In the case of the German Academic Exchange Service, the researcher receives a monthly allowance of 1,000 euros to cover living costs, plus assistance for travel expenses, health insurance and a lump sum for study and research, among other secondary benefits.

Although the cost of living is much higher in these countries, conditions are incomparably better for these high-achieving university graduates, used to living in Cuba under the same roof as their parents and grandparents, unable to even afford dinner at a restaurant.

Just outside the Canadian embassy in Havana, several young people were waiting on Monday to start the consular procedures. A couple was reviewing all the documents they would present at an interview for the expeditious entry program to qualified professionals who want to settle in that northern country. Each year, 25,000 places are awarded worldwide.

Candidates must pass tests of English or French, deposit an amount of $ 5,000 in Canadian funds in a bank account in Canada, and confirm that their profession is included in the National Classification of Occupations. The applicant’s and spouse’s ages and levels of education are also considered for granting residence visas. This path is widely used by graduates of scientific specialties in Cuban universities.

The one in greatest demand is the program to settle in Quebec, which does not require a bank account in Canada, but applicants must give proof of sufficient funds to cover travel and subsistence. On the consulate website all the details are explained, but given the poor internet connectivity on the island, the information spreads by word of mouth.

Planning to settle in Quebec is Maikel Ruiz, holder of a degree in mathematics from the University of Havana, who considers that the financial benefits are not as important as the passion for scientific discovery. “When a professional is accustomed to living with an income below 40 convertible pesos a month, getting above the poverty threshold allows you to dedicate yourself completely to what interests you most.” It is not about “the mere fact of making money, eating or dressing better” he says.

Ruiz is the only graduate of his year who remains in Cuba, and currently teaches private math classes to high school students to pay for the legalization of his university degree*, an airplane ticket and the emigration paperwork that will bring him to “the land of snow and opportunities,” as he calls it. The visa alone costs 445 convertible pesos (CUC).

If someone wants to do probability mathematics at the theoretical level, they will consider going as a scholarship recipient to Paris or Toulouse,” explains Ruiz. “If they are interested in Geometry, they will think about the United States or Germany,” he points out, although he also believes that “to get this training in a dynamic system it’s better to go to Brazil or France, and those interested in number theory, they will do well in Hungary.” As he speaks it’s like watching him stick colored pins into an imaginary map, but none of them are stuck in Cuba.

For Cuban mathematicians, as for other scientists, the world out there seems an infinite universe of opportunities. “Mathematics needs to be engaged in with  new technologies,” reflects Ruiz, sure that as a specialist in his field he will have many work opportunities.

Dr. Urquiola is one of those few professionals who undertook the path of emigration and who now returns frequently. He carried out several projects in Pinar del Rio, including the development of an agroforestry farm in Viñales where he created a nursery to preserve Cuban timber species. “I am working hard with local authorities so that they will allow me to find ways of doing this work,” he says, with that air of tenacity that is achieved when one is “coming and going.”

*Translator’s note: Emigrating Cubans must pay fees that can run into the hundreds of dollars to the Cuban government to get certified copies of their degrees or professional experience. 

Is 21st Century Socialism Marxist? / 14ymedio, Jose Gabriel Barrenechea

Carlos Marx theorizes a society that surpasses capitalism, but without putting aside its unquestionable achievements.
Carlos Marx theorizes a society that surpasses capitalism, but without putting aside its unquestionable achievements.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Jose Gabriel Barrenechea, Santa Clara, 30 October 2015 – What do the socialism of Karl Marx and that of Nocolas Maduro have in common? Just like between the two men: nothing, or very little, perhaps the mutual membership in the human race and not much more. The difference between them, on the other hand, is comparable to that which existed between the dissatisfied Socrates and the satisfied pig of Platonic dialog.

In the Marxist vision, socialism will be the product of a very specific, contained social class – industrial workers – which Marx, in a not very happy semantic selection, called the proletariat. In turn, the distinction is made of a lumpen-proletariat, reactionary by nature, explicit in the clear vision of the people. He is in no way a believer in the supposed ethical or any other type of superiority of the most disadvantaged. In much of the analysis he left us about the events of his era, he clearly shows us a fear of this amorphous classless mass, not at all given to the values on which progress is based, which the demagogues and populists have interestingly joined together under the exotic word, “people.” continue reading

Marx believes in the superiority of industrial workers derived from their special position in the productive process of modern western society. Their concentration into great productive units, where complex forms of cooperation and socialization are created, from the level of the company to the planet, and where science and technology completely replace the natural landscape, allows them, unlike the lumpen and the farmer, to have the ability to construct a sophisticated society capable of overcoming the deficiencies of capitalism without, at the same time, renouncing its achievements. Having, in short, the progressive values necessary to arm a post-capitalist society, still based on the science and technology that overcame capitalism.

It is this supremacy based on constructive circumstances – not on a race or on a position in the income pyramid – that supports the industrial worker in building the society that Marx prefers to call socialist. And he is absolutely certain that this is something that those natural reactionary elements, opposed to progress – the lumpen and the peasant – could never achieve.

If we look at current Venezuelan society, we immediately notice the main difference between this socialism and the Marxist model: the support base of 21st century socialism is more than ever the lumpen, not the proletariat. In fact, it in “Madurism” (support of president Nicolas Maduro) it has gone so far that, to a large extent, its supporters are found today in the most openly criminal, in the underworld in the hills.

We ask ourselves: Why Maduro, or this gavel-wielding caveman, who, reluctantly from the presidency of the National Assembly, cannot manage to reduce the incredible Venezuelan crime rates? Quite simply because this criminal element is one of the most important bases of support for 21st century socialism.

More than a few thugs from the collectives dedicate their free time to smuggling, robbery and even assault, which should not surprise anyone: at the end of the day, if one inhabits the hills, one is subjected daily to the continuous and interminable nonsense that Nicolas Maduro launches on national television, which only ideological obsessives like Atilio Boron or Luis Britto could classify as political speeches, and so one couldn’t help but find it fair and morally justifiable to “redistribute” the wealth at the barrel of a gun, á la Robin Hood. Isn’t the Caracazo – the 1989 Caracas riots – one of the most memorable events of Chavez-Maduroism? During those disturbances it wasn’t just food that was looted, but home appliances and even luxury items.

I invite anyone who can bear it to listen to hours of Manichean phrases, barrio bluster, puerile lack of respect for the other, obvious contradictions, the worst chants, ridiculous gestures of fidelity and greetings to former comrades in the struggle discovered in the crowd, and you will soon discover this terrifying truth: Maduro’s rants are nothing more than incitements to hatred. Hatred of the rich by the poor, but also of the brilliant and creative by the mediocre, of the intelligent individual by the deficient intellect.

Madurism is by no means an experiment leading to a post-capitalist society. In essence, it is nothing but populism That is, today’s Venezuela is nothing more than a capitalist society in which all the progressive classes and sectors in the country have been stripped of power by a horde of lumpen-proletariat who are dedicated to consuming, or rather destroying, all the wealth previously created, without bringing anything new or making any kind of effort. Venezuela today is, therefore, something like a new Rome occupied by barbarians.

Hopefully the resulting Middle Ages will not be very long and soon Venezuela can rejoin the legitimate world seekers of a society that will truly surpass capitalism, and so prevent the return to pre-capitalist ways, a barbarism greatly feared by Marx in his later years.

Writer Angel Santiesteban is Released / 14ymedio

Angel Santiesteban (center, plaid shit) and several activists after his release. (14ymedio)
Angel Santiesteban (center, plaid shit) and several activists after his release. (14ymedio)

14ymedio, Havana, 5 November 2015 — The writer Angel Santiesteban was released Thursday after appearing before the Provincial Court of Havana. The journalist had been arrested yesterday afternoon, accused by his ex-wife of the supposed crime of “violation of domicile,” the same charge he was convicted of 2012.

“We were going to revoke your probation, but you are behaving well and so we are not going to revoke it,” the judges said, as confirmed by the writer to this newspaper. He said the trial never happened because the cause was withdrawn. Santiesteban said that they learned that “a paper signed by his ex-wife” withdrew the complaint for the supposed crime. After what happened this morning, the activist remains on parole, as he has been since last July.

A few yards from the Havana Capitol, a dozen Ladies in White, activists and members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) gathered from the early hours and were able to witness the moment Santiesteban, handcuffed, escorted by two policemen arrived and was led into the Fifth Chamber where he would be tried. Among the opponents was Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White.

Ladies in White outside the provincial court. (Angel Moya)
Ladies in White outside the provincial court. (Angel Moya)

In the morning, the artist Danilo Maldonado, known as “El Sexto” (The Sixth), took toiletries for the writer to the police station in Zapata and C where he was being held, but he had been transferred to the court, although several sources said he was able to make a phone call before leaving.

Writer Angel Santiesteban Arrested Again / 14ymedio

The writer Angel Santiesteban with the Ladies in White at Gandhi Park, just outside the church of Santa Rita. (Luis Lazaro Guanche)
The writer Angel Santiesteban with the Ladies in White at Gandhi Park, just outside the church of Santa Rita. (Luis Lazaro Guanche)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 4 November 2015 — The writer Angel Santiesteban was arrested on Wednesday afternoon in Havana. A police car drove the activist from Antonio Gonzalez Rodiles’s house, where he was, to a police station, according to Santiesteban himself who spoke to this newspaper at the time of his arrest.

After the arrest, the blogger Lia Villares informed this newspaper that the police told the writer that it was “circulated for a month,” under the alleged “violation of domicile.” This Thursday he could be “tried in the Fifth Chamber of the court,” the same source stated.

Another source told 14ymedio the writer had missed the last time he was supposed to have signed in at the police station, a control measure that he must complete every week, under the terms of his probation. Should certain information arise, the authorities could use this to revoke his parole and return him to prison.

Last July Santiesteban was released after entering prison in December 2012, after a process that was considered by many to be arbitrary and precipitate. At that time he was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison also for alleged “violation of domicile and injuries.”

The writer has won significant literary awards, including the Casa de las Américas Prize in 2006. His book The Summer God Slept received the Franz Kafka Novel in Drawer Prize in 2013; the prize is given to censored writers whose work is, literally, “in a drawer” because they are unable to publish in their home countries.

“It is a good time for Cuban independent journalism” / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

The journalist Roberto de Jesus Quiñones.
The journalist Roberto de Jesus Quiñones.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 3 November 2015 – He just won the top prize in the Havana Newsprint journalism contest, but Roberto de Jesus Quinones feels that reporting is only one part of his civic responsibility. A lawyer by profession, this man from Guantanamo had to enter the world of reporting, press releases and the difficult search for sources in a country where independent reporters are frowned upon and outlawed by the ruling party.

Reinaldo Escobar. How does it feel to get this award?

Roberto de Jesús Quiñones. I am very happy, especially because the award has come at a time when I felt really badly about everything that has happened to me since October 5. So am doubly pleased, because I also know that participating in the contest were very worthy colleagues whom I respect greatly, such as the columnist Miriam Celaya, the attorney Rene Gomez Manzano and the reporter Manuel de Jesús Guerra Pérez. All of them are journalists of the independent media with years of experience in the profession. continue reading

RE. How did you come to do independent journalism?

RdJQ. I am a graduate in law and when I left the prison (Editor’s note: he was convicted of falsifying documents in the process of buying and selling a home, although it is suspected that it was actually for his role as a lawyer in the defense of regime opponents) I asked repeatedly to be able to return to the practice of that profession, but I could not do it. A few years ago I wrote and have five books of poetry in Cuba, primarily with the Oriente publisher. I also came out with a volume of stories in Miami. It was the jurist Gomez Manzana who got me to contact Cubanet, and I’ve also collaborated sporadically with Primavera Digital.

RE. Are you still a member of the Cuban National Union of Writers and Artists (UNEAC)?

RdJQ. No, no. I’m in a process of leaving that group and although I asked to step down, they have not even responded.

RE. In what genre or on what topics do you mostly work?

RdJQ. I’ve done cultural journalism since the early eighties. For about five years I worked with the local media of Guantanamo writing film criticism and I even had a program on that topic on TV in the province. Although I must say I also really like the opinion column.

RE. How do you see the health of independent journalism in Cuba?

RdJQ. Unfortunately, from Guantanamo it is very difficult to read Web sites, as is the case with 14ymedio. Sometimes I can get the content of some of those independent media through bulletins or compilations that I receive via email. There is a great deal of unknown talent in Cuba, people of great intelligence and value who are removed from the official media. It is a pity that the Cuban people cannot more freely access the work of those colleagues, because they are very competent people and extremely good articles published.

RE. When people ask you about not having a journalism degree, how do you respond?

RdJQ. It is true that I did not study journalism, so I found all this work very difficult, but I train myself and try to do my best. My goal is to be objective in each text and seek the truth. On the other hand, doing this reporting has forced me to see the reality of this country and I have learned a lot.

RE. Independent journalism versus official journalism?

RdJQ. Independent journalism has put the bar very high – to use a sports metaphor – for official journalism. The social networks and alternative ways of distributing news has also meant the ability to empower people through information. People spread the news and that has benefited Cuban independent journalism, which is experiencing a good time.

Epidemiological Nightmare In Santiago De Cuba / 14ymedio

The number of cholera cases is information that hospitals and polyclinics guard as a great secret.
The number of cholera cases is information that hospitals and polyclinics guard as a great secret.

14ymedio, Santiago de Cuba, 3 November 2015 — The city of Santiago de Cuba is experiencing an epidemiological nightmare right now with spread across the area of dengue fever and cholera. The problem has been exacerbated by deficiencies in water supply due to the severe drought affecting the country. The application of chlorine at building entrances and lime outside food establishments has changed the face of the eastern city.

The number of cholera cases is information that hospitals and polyclinics guard like a great secret. On the street there is talk of dozens of deaths from sudden overwhelming diarrhea.

In Palma Soriano, cars circulate every day with loudspeakers calling for strengthened hygienic measures. Washing of hands and not drinking soft drinks and prepared drinks (made with the local water), along with greater care in the handling of food, are some of the widespread suggestions. continue reading

Establishments such as the Youth Computer Club on Ferreiro Street have closed their doors to the public to avoid infection. On Monday afternoon the place was undergoing intense cleaning with chlorine. The closures of public places set of growing alarm in a population that is no detailed information about what is happening.

The leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) in the province, Jose Daniel Ferrer, explains that in the neighborhood of Altamira “in the areas where food is sold they are not selling anything that isn’t canned or bottled.” According to the activist, several “stalls selling food products were closed for ten days and they applied lime in the doorways” to avoid infection with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae .

Dengue fever is another problem. Hospitals are overflowing with suspected cases. The activist and contributor to this newspaper, Yosmany Mayeta, is one of those admitted to Juan Bruno Sayas General Hospital. At present, he is being given treatement while awaiting an analysis to confirm the diagnosis.

This morning, at the September 28 Policlinic, reports show on a few admissions for suspected cholera in the last months. However, the name of the disease is not used in medical records and the patients are recorded as suffering from acute diarrhea.

So far the local authorities have not confirmed the information and the newspaper Sierra Maestra does not mention the presence of cholera in the area, although health warnings continue to be issued to the population by the Provincial Center of Hygiene, Epidemiology and Microbiology.

The Cancellation of A Cyber-Gathering In Camagüey Sparks Outrage / 14ymedio, Orlando Palma

Juan Antonio García Borrero during a conference. (Youtube)
Juan Antonio García Borrero during a conference. (Youtube)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Orlando Palma, Camaguey, 2 November 2015 — The peaceful city of Camagüey experienced a shock among its intellectuals this weekend. The well-known film critic Juan Antonio Garcia Borrero denounced the “intellectual conservatism” that led to the suspension of a cyber-gathering programmed for this Thursday in Café Ciudad. In his blog, Cine cubano, la pupila insomne (Cuban cinema, the insomniac pupil), the specialist reflects on the “tribal thinking and institutional self-censorship that follows from it.”

“I seem to be living a nightmare,” García Borrero said in a post, in response to being informed by the leadership of the Office of the City Historian that the gathering could not be held, “despite having been promoted in all the media.” His first reaction was to “take a breath, breathe deeply… I won’t give them the pleasure, neither those here nor there, of making me into a disaffected person,” he wrote in a brief post. continue reading

Known for his work in rescuing and spreading Cuban cinema, Garcia Borrero has had a blog for more than eight years, where he reflects on the seventh art. His work as a blogger has also led him to approach the digital publication scene and he participated in the First Forum of Audiovisual Consumption, held in Havana in 2014, an experience that he had tried unsuccessfully to move to this native city.

The idea of the forum, according to the author of the book BLOGuerías – published by the Cuban publisher Acana in 2009 – “was born of personal exchanges that at some point” he had engaged in with the former Cuban Minister of Culture, Abel Prieto. Initially, the event was scheduled in Camaguey city, but the lack of time to organize it moved the first event to the capital.

Following the Havana meeting, Pedro de la Hoz Gonzalez, vice president of the National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC), informed the provincial section of the organization of the “confirmation of the announcement of the Second Forum on Audiovisual Culture” for 30 and 31 October. However, the event did not happen. It was the local “UNEAC which has put the most obstacles in the way,” complains García Borrero.

Emotionally affected by the forum’s not being held and the cancellation of the cyber-gathering that would have taken its place, the film critic shared with his readers on the Internet his concern that the authorities would insist on decreeing his “civil death” in Camagüey. “It doesn’t matter. I will always have the cave, the solitary refuge to which Nietzsche alluded*,” he explained.

Garcia Borrero’s complaint arrives within a few of a meeting of the G-20 Group in Havana, which is promoting the implementation of a Film Law, a detail referred to by the critic Gustavo Arcos, in an article he published this Friday in defense of the Camagueyan, and denouncing the “tacit conspiracy of some people in power in the country to put an end to everything that has to do with initiative in the audiovisual field.”

Arcos says that this intention is seen “in the arbitrary bans on [private] 3D movie rooms,” decreed at the end of 2013, and in “the current resistance to implementing a Film Law.” The specialist adds that these attitudes, “the systematic attacks on the weekly packet,” and also seen in the “continued mantle of suspicion and threats that are launched against journalists, bloggers, graphic designers or artists linked to alternative publications, web pages or spaces generated by individual initiatives.”

The controversy over the cancelled cyber-gathering has barely begun and it could be joined by many other intellectuals, given the prestige enjoyed by Garcia Borrero, as an outstanding professional and honest man. The scene of the creation, production and film criticism in recent weeks in Cuba resembles dry grass about to catch fire. What happened in the city of Camagüey could be the spark.

*Translator’s note: “Wherever there have been powerful societies, governments, religions, or public opinions — in short, wherever there was any kind of tyranny, it has hated the lonely philosopher; for philosophy opens up a refuge for man where no tyranny can reach: the cave of inwardness, the labyrinth of the breast; and that annoys all tyrants.” Friedrich Nietzsche, Schopenhauer As Educator, 1874. Source of this English translation here.