Gratitude / Miriam Celaya

Though I’m several days behind, I get to access my blog to publicly thank all friends and the media who remained attentive and concerned for us during the repressive raid of the final days of 2014.

My son, Victor Ariel González, freelance journalist and 14ymedio.com reporter, was arrested around noon on the 30th, as he left his building to come to our home for lunch, just when his father and I came by to pick him up. Thanks to that strange coincidence, he was the only one of dozens of detainees whose whereabouts was known, since we got in the police car with him, which took all three of us to the Guanabacoa police station, where he remained under arrest until December 31st, when he was freed in the afternoon hours while we stayed outside the station.

During the 25 and one-half hours that he was held there, we received dozens of calls from friends inside and outside Cuba: Yoani Sánchez, who was kept informed of the entire situation through social networks; my friends and colleagues at Cubanet, who also reported every detail and the names of the detainees; Elizardo Sánchez of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights; Laritza Diversent of Cubalex, who kept in touch with us, advising us of the law and whose directions were very significant to put pressure, according to the rights validated by law, for the release of Victor Ariel. Luzbely Escobar and countless colleagues and fellow travelers were in constant contact with us. continue reading

I don’t want to ignore the messages and calls of support I received from different parts of Cuba and abroad: friends from the Coexistence group; Henry Constantin from Camagüey; my friend Frank from Guanabo; of Marta and Eugenio, my essential and everlasting friends from Kendall; my dear cousin from Hialeah, and many others I will not mention because I prefer not to expose them, as they live in Cuba and are valuable anonymous activists.

I assure you that solidarity and strength all of you offered me were crucial to overcome the difficult hours of helplessness, powerlessness and worry about the fate of our son. However, I experienced the satisfaction of confronting at least three of the hired guns with my truths.

I never thought that another individual’s hatred towards me would be capable of making me so strong and of provoking such a comforting feeling. That’s what they are, mere instruments of hatred of a regime that is more brutal the more it is feared.

It makes an impression to see these young lackeys, blind and submissive at the service of a dictatorship which they will outlive. If I didn’t despise them so much, I think I would feel sorry for them.

Both the minions of the political police and the uniformed police, cohorts in the outrage, were nervous. It is absurd to see how fearful they become in the face of the simple possibility that we Cubans may express ourselves freely. An artist barely announces a performance and the terrors of the regime are unleashed, sending its dogs to lock up even people who did not have the least intention to participate in the event.

Also because of fear, they made efforts to get my husband and me to leave the police station.  Relatives of those detained for common crimes stared at us curiously, but also with respect, listening attentively at our every word.

“I recommend you go home. Victor Ariel will remain under investigation for a minimum of 24 hours”, said a young clown (from counterintelligence) dressed in plainclothes, who — among other cute remarks — threatened to arrest me “for contempt.”

“If it’s 24 months, I will not move from this spot until you free him. I don’t know if you were born of a woman, but the one you have locked up there, with no reason and violating his rights, is my son. Lock me up if you feel like you must.” That etcetera left, very upset.

Meanwhile, many friends were getting ready to join us to gather in front of the police station and demand the release of Victor Ariel, if he remained imprisoned for more than a day. I had told this to the police, and I’m sure they were anxious that their bosses would free my son soon.

Finally they took him to the back of the building, secretly, to avoid celebratory scenes in front of their little prison, and returned him in a patrol car to his home. His father and I were informed of this by a uniformed individual, and we anticipated his arrival to greet him on the first floor of his building, where they left him.

I also want to share with readers the pride I feel for my son’s straightforward attitude, who returned with an ever-wide smile and in very high spirits. Around the time he was imprisoned, he refused to take food or water, in protest against the arbitrary detention.

Not for a moment did I doubt his fortitude, despite the threat of the instructor at Villa Marista, who assured him “if you keep doing what you are doing we are going prosecute you legally. Let that be a warning to you.” Victor Ariel did not sign the official warning or the detention documents, but simply replied to that executioner, “I will keep on writing.”

I will too. And I will be with him in all circumstances for certain, however difficult it may be.  I know that there are difficult times ahead, but I also know that I will be able to count on you. We will not be lacking in the faith and confidence that you have shown us.

Again, all of you, thank you!

Translated by Norma Whiting

5 January 2015

Behind the Performances / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

cartel-cover

  • To think that the “common Cuban on the street” –not the dissidents or the usual disobedient individuals- would spontaneously make use of the open microphones at “that” Square, to demand rights from the government is naive, a utopia. The idea is beautiful and romantic, but far, far away from reality.

cubanet square logoHAVANA, Cuba. – During the final days of 2014 and the first three of 2015, the bells have been ringing for artist Tania Bruguera and the wave of arrests sparked by her announcement of the performance Tatlin’s Whisper # 6, after which she intended to provide a minute of freedom of expression for the common Cuban at the Plaza “de la Revolución” itself.

Authorities responded with their usual violence, detaining several dozen dissidents, opposition activists, journalists, and other members of the independent civil society and tossing them into dungeons. Some of the detainees had not even intended to participate in the event, and were arrested only for the crime of leaving their homes on the “wrong” day.

Comments on the subject have swarmed the digital media, as befits the case of such a recognized and award-winning artist as Bruguera, with a prolific career, though she was almost totally unknown to the potential recipients of her performance. continue reading

Tania Bruguera, in short, has suffered the same fate that the other members of the opposition and of the independent civil society have faced for decades: censorship and repression by the regime, while those same “common Cubans” suffer from the proverbial ignorance –be it as a result of misinformation or disinterest. So we reaffirm the urgent need to avail all Cubans of the bulk of information that allows them the civic empowerment and the willingness to come out as actors of the changes.

Ineptness or intention?

The reasons for Tania Bruguera’s intention to perform are too well-known and are more than justified. The repression orchestrated by the Cuban government, however, though predictable, is counterproductive at a time when it should strive to present a more tolerant face.

The General-President has lost a golden opportunity to score before the international public opinion somewhat, showing such an outrageous stupidity that could only be understood if he had the deliberate intention to launch a challenge to Barack Obama’s conciliatory position and the democratic world as a whole.

Anyone who knows the Cuban reality knows that it would have been very easy for the dictatorship to annihilate the “Tatlin effect” and, incidentally, make a fool of the artist using its usual methods. Namely, to let her reach her stage and her microphones, and then control or prevent entrance to the “counterrevolutionaries” – probably the only Cubans who would have dared to exercise their freedom of expression publicly and to voice their opinions and demands – mobilize its more loyal militants (and also their milidummies) to fill the space and to have them take the microphone to launch the usual praises of the revolution and its leaders.

They could even have used their agents, infiltrated in the opposition ranks, to offer the “mad-dog faces” of those who want to see the end of the socialist paradise, to have faked their support for Bruguera’s play by sharing the Plaza’s venue with works of La Colmenita, or by simultaneously celebrating any other “cultural act” with the participation of the many artists who usually lend themselves for such cases. It would have been, no doubt, a massive event, and the General-President would have shown the world, at the same time as the existence of “the most genuine and spontaneous freedom of expression of the Cuban people,” the firm commitment by the people to the revolution and its unquestionable conquests.

He chose, however, brutality, a disproportionate official reaction that sends misleading signals that are inconsistent with the relaxed atmosphere that we should be starting to breathe with the burial of the war hatchets after half a century of confrontation with the natural enemy of the people. But did anyone really expect a different outcome?

Behind the performances

There are those who wonder, following the events, if Tania Bruguera’s performance was worth it, since it turned into an occasion of unleashed repression at a time of year when family traditions are of peace and celebration. The answer to this depends on the artist’s objectives, not on the reaction by the Cuban government.

If her intention was to draw attention to international public opinion about the dictatorial nature of the government, the mere purpose was a success and was worth it. But its price, namely, the official repressive reaction, is the norm in Cuba – as is well known by independent civil society on the Island, with decades of first-hand resistance against the government – and the artist is not responsible for this.

On the other hand, exercising civic rights and free expression of all kinds are worth the effort, be it a performance or simply an everyday practice, but we must not enhance the facts or attribute to the artistic event the capability of “obstructing the normalization” of relations between Cuba and the US.  The propensity for drama is definitively one of the evils that we Cubans drag with us, which turns us into myopic politicians.

So, to pretend that “common Cubans” – not “mercenary” dissidents, or the usual disobedient individuals – could make spontaneous use of open microphones in a public place (particularly “that” public place) for citizens’ complaints and demanding of rights from the government is naive, a utopia, or a combination of both. The idea is beautiful and romantic, but far, far away from reality.

Let’s idealize it: the fact that ordinary Cubans, immersed in survival, need venues for freedom, does not mean that they are ready to openly challenge the government, especially if after the performances they will continue to be inevitably tied to this Island prison. A lot more is needed to overcome the fear of one minute on stage and before a microphone.

A quick poll is sufficient to verify that the recipients were unaware of the act. In fact, neither the artist’s proposal nor the wave of related arrests has emerged in national public opinion.

Havana residents who this last December 30th observed the unusual police presence in the areas adjacent to the Plaza never knew what it was about, and probably did not give it  much importance. We have to understand them: those were the days of the agricultural fair and, as the last straw, in many municipalities, chickens “for the people” were being distributed.

It’s not cynicism, but realism. In terms of rights, we Cubans we have a long way to go, including –by the way – overcoming the temptation to place on the desk of the US Presidential demands that the Cuban authorities will be responsible for complying with. At least, such is the opinion of this Cuban, for whom the exercise of freedom of expression has always been practice, not performance.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Fidel’s Shocking Silence / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

fidel-castro-barack-obamaCubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 18 December 2014 — After the brief speech by General-President, Raúl Castro, about the release of Alan Gross and of “a Cuban-born citizen” at the service of the CIA, and of other prisoners who received “prison benefits, including the release of individuals the US government was interested in,” a speech which also included the announcement of the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, everyday life in the capital continued its course, just as if we were not witnessing a moment of historical significance that puts an end to 50 years of uninterrupted disagreement between our two countries.

With agreements reached after months of negotiations, the regional political landscape changes dramatically, while such a controversial decision should, in principle have a greater effect inside Cuba, since Cuba’s excuses have run out about “the enemy” that besieges us, blockades us, and hampers our social and economic advancement. continue reading

Of course, it would be naïve to assume that the regime will make essential changes or allow an opening in political or human rights matters, particularly those relating to freedom of expression and association, just to name the some of the more “dangerous” elements for the survival of the regime. It’s the same quasi 56-year-old dictatorship of totalitarian power, and it is likely the regime will make use of any trickery to evade changes that endanger its authority in Cuba. However, that does not mean that the do-nothing strategy on the part of the US foreign policy towards Cuba was a good formula.

The strategy launched today by the White House, though risky, placed the Cuban leadership against the wall, especially in the face of the international community that, to date, has passively tolerated the ongoing violations of human rights in Cuba, and has even praised the Castro satrapy for its achievements in health and education through the continuation of a belligerent policy towards the most powerful country on earth and the supposed need for the regime to defend itself from it. With the ending of the stagnation and the re-establishing of relations, now we will have to see in what direction the actors move and the resulting changes that the new stage will produce.

We know the weakness of the nascent Cuban civil society, of its legal orphanhood and of the absence of supporting autonomous institutions, so that, on the road towards the achievement of democracy, the support and goodwill of civilized countries and of global agencies cannot be absent, under penalty of sentencing to their doom the efforts, sacrifices and aspirations of several generations of democratic Cubans. The US President seems to be aware of it, since he expressed his commitment to those hopes in his speech.

May Day march in Havana
May Day march in Havana

An Indifferent Cuba

The news came as a surprise to Cubans. However, contrary to what might be expected from so many years of the “struggle for the return of the Five,” and after the substantial resources invested in international campaigns to achieve their release, there or was no apotheosis of people taking to the streets, no calls for a gathering to welcome them home, no live TV broadcasting the arrival of the much awaited “heroes.”

Havana continued its normal routine, altered only by the unexpected delivery of a pound of fish (mackerel) per consumer, an event that overwhelmed people’s expectations, at least in Centro Habana, and the corresponding lines began to form in front of the state-owned butcher shops.

Meanwhile, a group of students were mobilized at the University to do some cheering and shouting; though it still unclear whether the real reason for their joy was the release of the spies or the sudden opportunity to leave the classroom earlier than usual.

Only the primetime evening news ran a brief story, carefully prepared and intended to stir the popular sentimentality, showing the reunion of the released spies and their families, and the words of ringleader, Gerardo, expressing to the General-President his availability to follow his orders. “For whatever purpose,” stated the unrepentant servant. It did not occur to the little soldier to think that, in an environment of good relations that should begin to flow between the two countries, a new espionage adventure would not look good.

The truth is that, in contrast to Alan Gross’s obvious physical deterioration, the Cuban spies looked fat and pompous, as if, instead of having stayed in harsh prison conditions that the official media had blasted, they had returned from a picnic or a long vacation.

May Day march in Havana
May Day march in Havana

The topography of absence

Perhaps the most significant finding on the day of a journey inside Cuba is Fidel Castro’s shocking silence

His absence from the media had already been sufficiently notorious during and after the celebration of the ALBA summit, ten years after the creation of that pipe dream for him and his pupil, Hugo Chávez. But his silence, in the presence of two events so linked to his existence as the end of a story of conflict on which the revolutionary legend was cemented and the arrival on the Island of the central characters of his last “battle,” is highly eloquent.

It is very significant that the return of the three spies has been so rash. This may be the happiest event year for the reflective chief, yet not a single apocryphal note with a copy of his well-known signature at the bottom of the page has appeared. Everything indicates that, either the highest druid has definitively plunged into a deep vegetative state, or he has already left this “valley of tears.” If that should be the case, don’t count on mine.

Translated by Norma Whiting

A “Clandestine” Meeting with Ernesto Londoño / Miriam Celaya

Ernesto Londoño
Ernesto Londoño of the New York Times editorial board

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, HAVANA, Cuba, 2 December 2014 — Young journalist Ernesto Londoño should feel very gratified professionally: he has not only managed to raise a bitter media controversy in recent weeks, stemming from his uncharacteristic editorial which appeared in the New York Times (NYT), in favor of bringing closer the governments of the US and Cuba and the lifting of the embargo, among other proposals, in line with the Cuban official discourse; but these days he has taken a “business trip” to the Island and has held several meetings with some media, including the most official media of all, the newspaper Granma, at whose headquarters he was cordially received on Monday, November 24th by the editorial team headed by its director. Londoño published several photographs of the occasion on his Twitter account.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday the 25th, the magazine OnCuba welcomed him at its headquarters in Havana, where “he talked, asked and responded to our concerns” according to an interview published by that journal, which states that Londoño is conducting research that will allow further development of the Cuba issue at the NYT. The page overflowed with photographs that testify to the meeting, depicting a smiling and relaxed Londoño.

And indeed, it appears that Londoño’s intention and that of his editorial bosses is to gather as much information as possible from diverse opinion sectors in this controversial trip. Or at least, that is what his phone call on Friday the 28th to the director of 14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, evidenced. During that call, he requested to meet with her, and she agreed to conduct a meeting which should also involve other team members, including 14ymedio‘s editor-in-chief Reinaldo Escobar, reporters Luzbely Escobar and Victor Ariel González, Rachel Vazquez, in charge of the cultural section, columnists Eliecer Avila and this writer, Miriam Celaya. The urgency of the meeting precluded the presence of provincial correspondents.

The Hotel Saratoga, a “Neutral” Venue?

On Saturday, November 29th, at 11 am according to our previous agreement, we met with Ernesto Londoño at a “neutral” venue as the mezzanine of the hotel where he was a guest, the Saratoga, located on Prado and Dragones Sts., right across from La Fuente de la India and adjacent to the Parque de la Fraternidad and the Capitol, where some of us connect to the Internet at the astronomical price of 12 CUC per hour, and to put up with the anguish of slow service and full of “blockades”. In fact, coincidentally, during our close to three-hour conversation, there was no connection.

Ernestro Londoño meeting with On Cuba
Londoño at the publishing offices of OnCuba

All around us, the ill-concealed movement of the agents of the political police in their ridiculous disguises as ‘guests’, employees or clients of the cafeteria, reminded us that, under totalitarian regimes, neutrality is always a chimera. In all that time, not even one of the waitresses came near us to see if we wanted to order at least a coffee, something remarkable in a country where Cuban born citizens cannot remain sitting, occupying a table if we are not “consuming”.

Anyway, all that police deployment was a useless waste: we, the disobedient ones, did not go there to share secrets or to make compromises, but to express ourselves as freely as we usually do in our writings, so we didn’t even take the trouble to lower our voices.

The first impression, after the introductions with the journalist-revelation of the moment, was disappointing: Londoño could not answer the questions that each of us had prepared for him because “he must ask for the approval” of his NYT bosses. The essential requirement was for us to submit the questions in writing and wait for his answers. We also could not photograph him during the meeting. Any opinion he expressed personally at that meeting could not be published by us.

Suddenly, what we thought would be a meeting between colleagues in two different media, at which we would exchange views and discuss topics of crucial interest for Cubans, was turning into a “clandestine” date, with a certain tinge of adultery, a sort of media conspiracy designed to feed and diversify knowledge (his) about the Cuban reality, but without our ability to disclose his view points, his motives about our country or where his interests were headed.

In stark contrast to his stay at Granma newspaper, the meeting would have a restraint (embargo?) imposed precisely from the anti-embargo defender, the NYT. Live and learn!

Londoño at the offices of the Communist Party newspaper Granma
Londoño visits Granma Newspaper. Here, in the photography department, in the presence of Antique cameras.

Nevertheless, the representatives of 14ymedio present at that meeting agreed to offer Londoño our opinions about anything he was interested to know about our country, but we would be free to publish whatever we stated on our own… because such are the advantages of those who don’t need permission to express themselves.

A Gift for the NYT

Thus, based on rigorous ethical issues and honoring the commitment we agreed to, I will only present here a summary of my impressions and commentaries about the meeting and, at no time, the questions and opinions of the foreign visitor.

It is impossible to summarize in only a few words the variety of topics of conversation on that Saturday evening; although I would dare say that Londoño must have been surprised to discover such a diverse group of ages, professions and opinions grouped in the same project. Undoubtedly, he must have noticed the absence of the monotonous “choirs” of unanimous agreements or hesitation among cronies, and he certainly must not have noticed in other meetings the flow of ideas as critical, free and spontaneous: there was no agenda or orders to speak one’s opinion, or taboo subjects. Nobody lead the meeting, nobody moderated, and nobody censured. A real present for a visitor who tries to get close to a reality where entrenched, social auto-censorship reigns.

Politics, economics, society, history, law, Cuba-US relations; new laws; myths and realities of Raúl’s “reforms” and their results so far; necessary steps for real changes in Cuba, which we would like see reflected in the editorials of the NYT; what kind of journalism we Cubans want and what we recommend to foreign researchers if they really want to know Cuba were several of the countless of topics not yet exhausted, but that surely marked the difference between what we are and what they had told Ernesto Londoño we were.

At any rate, despite the limitations and how dreadful what he has written so far in his quasi-perverse editorials, about which I offered my sincere opinion, expressed in several articles published in Cubanet, I’m glad this young journalist has had, so far, the opportunity to listen to opinions from positions and commitments so different as those of the barricades of the official press or the free spontaneity of at least a portion of the voices of the independent press. We hope he will learn to feel the pulse of the Cubans at the bottom rungs, those who subsist in neighborhoods near his expensive lodgings. I hope that, going forward, he is more responsible, or at least that he assumes the consequences of his writings.

I am glad that he has also been in the company of the makers of “critical” publications so light that they enjoy the privilege to work in legal offices in Havana, another reform miracle that betrays the type of changes that the Cuban government has implemented and that constitutes a clear signal of the long road that we Cubans must travel in order to defend our interests, so different from the long Cuban dictatorship and from those that Ernesto Londoño himself has defended with as much ignorance as vehemence from the biased NYT editorials.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Cuban Tourists: Filling-in the Gaps / Miriam Celaya

The truth is that I don’t know all the numbers, but I have been browsing the ad pages of Cubatur, Havanatur and all the Cuban “tours” and I found that this year the “all-inclusive” offers have increased which, since the restrictions for Cubans to stay at hotels were lifted, better-off Cubans have been taking advantage of them.

I’m not criticizing anyone for wanting to enjoy a vacation –usually short– at a beach hotel due to lower prices. After all, shortages and discriminations for decades have created a thirst for consumption and pleasure in the Cuban population that manifests itself as soon as the luckier few have an opportunity to escape the everyday filth and misery for a few days.

So, the number of regular Cubans who regularly take advantage of all-inclusive packages has been creating a clientele that feeds on the assorted neo-affluent sectors, corresponding to the most diverse groups and backgrounds: owners and employees of private restaurants, professionals who often have foreign contracts, employees of “enterprises” and shops that operate in hard currencies, the managerial caste, and even black marketers. Everyone wants their piece of Varadero to live the illusion of “I can”, despite the sorrows. And, of course, “everyone stretches out his feet as far down the sheets as they will reach” like my granny used to say, so there are those who save all year to spend a couple of nights at a three-star hotel, up to those who visit a five-star hotel in the outlying resort islands several times a year. It is, definitely, the realization of a long-cherished dream.

Well, it turns out that this year the “offers” to Cubans have skyrocketed. According to an accredited source (with the obligatory reserve), although some press reports state that foreign tourist participation has increased, the truth is that, in order to increase their income and fulfill quotas, tourist operators have had to extend and enhance the offers that so many well-off Cubans purchase. Cubans also serve to fill the gaps, so they will continue to collect fees, making use of what was, until recently, taboo: enjoyment.

This is not disclosed in the press, but it is so. That’s why the media publishes an occasional report in the news and on the regular press where there is a reference to “Cuban workers who enjoy camping facilities and beaches and recreation centers”; but I am absolutely sure that they never have dedicated one to show wealthy Cubans basking in the sun at hotels in Varadero or the outlying islands: we all know that they have already decriminalized the differences among us, but they should not be displayed so brazenly. These are the conditions to enjoy the benefits of Raúl-type socialism, aren’t they?

Translated by Norma Whiting

22 August 2014

Absence Breakdown and an Unforgettable Brief Trip / Miriam Celaya

Miami. Image taken from the internet

Another absence breakdown in my old blog, once again abandoned for more demanding reasons: obligations I could not postpone, having to do with work, as happens to individuals whose income is dependent on their jobs, and a brief (very brief!) one-week trip to Miami, because I needed to finish several articles and a presentation at an event.

I could not relate how rushed my trip to the “endearing monster” was, though my Cuban friends in Miami assured me that I was not in the US, but “in Miami,” which feels the same but is not. And indeed, one feels so encircled by Cuban surroundings in Miami that –if not for such a difference in the setting–it would seem you haven’t left Havana.

I visited Radio and TV Marti, I was on various shows of their causes, I met some of the journalists, commentators and friends who were just voices on the phone up to then, and I reunited with colleagues, journalists and bloggers and other émigrés, like Luis Felipe and his wife, whom I was able to hug.

I was at Cubanet for a very short while, where I also felt welcomed by colleagues in the writing profession; I met again with my friend Hugo Landa, whom I had met in Stockholm in 2013. I spent a very enjoyable time with all of them.

I laughed and cried, when I was in Miami, overwhelmed by the emotions of long gatherings with cousins I grew up with, who left Cuba recently, and with very dear friends, one of whom I hadn’t seen in 20 years. I also had the privilege to visit my father’s favorite brother, his playmate as a child and a friend in their youth, who left Cuba for good 52 years ago and they never saw each other again.

It was at once moving and wonderful to see that over half a century of barbarism and separation imposed by the Cuban political power have not been able to erase the love between us. They wished to divide us and have only managed to multiply us beyond the Florida Straight. While it is true that it’s come at a high cost, the hatred has failed.

I haven’t been able to answer the question “how is Miami?” frequently asked by relatives and friends on my return to Cuba. Miami is indescribable, at least for me. It’s not my cradle and will never be my home, it is true, but in that city the energy and strength of the people of this Island vibrate, the people who have made Miami grow and contributed to its prosperity, with their tremendous capacity for work, so it will no longer be alien to me.

Miami surrounded me with sincere affection, I was not an intruder nor an outsider, and maybe that’s why I don’t know–nor can, nor want–to define it.

Just two words come to my lips when someone asks my impression of her: love and hope. That is what Miami means to me.

Translated by Norma Whiting

7 July 2014

Note to my Readers / Miriam Celaya

In recent months entries in Sin_EVAsión have been sparse. I beg the readers to excuse my absences from this blog. Contrary to what may seem, such “gaps” are due to the increase in volume of my work. As you know, though this blog was not exactly the digital place where I started as a citizen journalist, it did contribute significantly to the dissemination of my work. It opened several possibilities for publication elsewhere, in which articles I wrote regularly appear.

Recently I also began to work with the new newspaper 14ymedio, an opportunity I could not pass up and a space where I will continue to work with opinion work, analysis, or reporting. In the blogger platform of that medium, my son, Victor Ariel and I have also started a collective blog. The title of this new blog is “A Pie y Descalzos” (On Foot and Barefoot), which aims to provide an overview of Cuba “from a viewpoint at ground level” i.e., from the common people. As a result, I’m often overwhelmed with work, which consumes my time and energy, affecting updates to this site.

I also have to ensure my regular income, because one cannot live by just romance and good intentions. If, however, in previous years I wrote for Sin_EVAsión almost exclusively, for some time I have had the opportunity to make some money writing for other media publications, so I am doing that. I am not the New Man, so my critics may vent their fury on this note and with a statement I make without a hint of pretense (as is my style): I love the money I get from the fruits of my labor and with my limited talents; I owe it to nobody, and I don’t intend to be embarrassed by it. To hell with the parasites and the envious ones. As an addendum, I will say I don’t get remittances, which fills me with satisfaction.

As for my friends I know they don’t need any explanations, but my respect and affection, so I address this note to them as well, to let them know that I’m still with them.

However, Sin_EVAsión will continue as my personal platform, the most intimate and beloved, the space of my own individual “me”. If my work has been of any value in this site, I owe it to my readers. Thanks for following, and don’t leave me. I won’t leave you either.

Eva-Miriam

Published in Sin EVAsión, 23 May 2014 by Miriam Celaya

Translated by Norma Whiting

Saga of the Official “Journalist,” “Admitted Terrorists,” and a Cat / Miriam Celaya

Reading a newly released item this Thursday, May 8th, on page 4 of the newspaper Juventud Rebelde (Terrorism, the True Face of Zunzuneo, by Amaury del Valle), brought to mind a lively flamenco-rumba that a Spanish singer made popular on the radio in the decade between 1970 and 1980. Perhaps some 50-something readers might remember its funny lyrics, about an individual who was upset because someone had called him “a cat”, which he considered an insult because “cats eat mice, mice eat cheese, cheese comes from milk, milk comes from a cow, a cow has two horns, Oh, oh, oh, I’ll kill him!” Cuckold (horned) was for him the true meaning hiding behind the nickname “cat” He was obviously being labeled cuckold, hence he made the association between such opposing ideas as a cat and a cow’s horns.

However, the newspaper article I referred to faithfully mimics the attitude of the song’s cuckold: it associates. Without doubt, the presence and intentions of the four suspected terrorists from Miami recently arrested in Cuba, with the networks Zunzuneo and Piramideo, which have engendered so much talk these few weeks. So, Zunzuneo and Piramideo are as “terrorists” as the four delinquents who were captured. In fact, the idea is not so far-fetched; the Cuban regime feels real terror in the face of information and the new communication technologies. continue reading

In order to understand how the author of the article arrived at such a brilliant conclusion — going forward I will refer to him by his initials, AV — it is necessary to undertake a scholarly effort not as entertaining as the song I remember, that is, we have to read and analyze the article so we can understand how AV’s stretched his imagination so he can have an ending like that of the cat and the horns.

AV recounts the events, following with the logic that Cubans must take as the only and unquestionable truth. He doesn’t need to offer any proof, the official lies are enough. No trial is necessary, the “confession” of guilt and the official testimony are more than enough. It doesn’t matter if they do it in a more crudely and in an increasingly worse way.

As stated, the four captured terrorists came “with a dangerous plan that had been brewing for over a year” and “slipped into the country” with the intention to attack military installations”. They intended to “provoke violent actions and sow chaos” to create “social unrest”.

It would seem that the offenders’ entry must have been illegal, given that no one can “slip in” by way of an airport gate, with all the controls at customs, borders and all the other security measures that exist. It is also unclear what danger could result from a terrorist plot against military installations, since in Cuba, according to the General-President himself, we enjoy military invulnerability. In any case, it would be a suicide attack, right? Finally, it is not clear how four wretched terrorists could possibly be able to provoke violent actions, chaos or subversion against millions of “revolutionary” Cubans. Undoubtedly, this time the creators of the myth have gone a bit far.

Following AV’s saga, the four bad guys were caught under the coaching of three other terrorists, also Miami residents with a long pedigree of actions against Cuba, who are — in turn — friends of the worst one of them, Posada Carriles (one of the subjects who has offered the most in practice towards the ideology and strategies of the power of the Castros for decades).

From that point, AV starts a long narration of Posada Carriles’ long terrorist sheet and all his avatars between 1973 and the present, and he also takes a tour of Magriñá’s actions. They — we are told– were the ones who “encouraged and financed” these four dunces who were just captured here.

And how does all this relate to Zunzuneo and Piramideo? Because, as AV states, “It’s too coincidental that the idea of perpetrating terrorist attacks that result in violent actions are precisely the plans that have been orchestrated in other regions of the world”. As if Cuba had the same geo-political, economic or strategic importance as that of Syria, the Ukraine and Venezuela.

AV also notes that, “It is very curious that these terrorist plans have been organized when there already existed, along the same lines, other secret plans which have already been uncovered, such as USAID and various U.S. agencies, to use modern technologies like the internet, e-mail, and cellular phone text messages, which would be used to organize supposed support networks to be mobilized in case of social upheaval.” The “empire” is an essential ingredient in the Castro’s sour soup.

AV concludes that the actions that the detainees planned against Cuban military facilities “are very similar” to the objectives pursued by the Zunzuneo and Piramideo networks, thus creating “a false statement of opinion about the Cuban reality”. With this, AV considered as “proven” the “progression of the plans orchestrated against Cuba”. In both cases, ultimately aimed at justifying “foreign military action” in our country (??!!). Pure terrorism.

And for this complicated concoction to be complete, AV’s exorcism could not lack the mention of the “violent opposition” in Venezuela, like Leopoldo López and María Corina Machado, as well as “the irrelevant mercenaries advocating panic and death in Cuba”. Mission accomplished, AV. You took pains, and you sure earned a week’s bonus at the People’s Camping.

In conclusion, the matter does not have, not even close, the joke of the cat I mentioned at the beginning of this posting. It really isn’t funny at all. It is clear that the government, through its mouthpieces, has started a phase to “soften” public opinion, which usually precedes raids against dissident sectors and general worsening of the repression within the Island.

Because, as conspiracy theories go, we have to remember that the Castro regime and its sympathizers work the same as old marriages, and after such a prolonged coexistence many things are predictable. So it is a suspicious coincidence that, with such a difficult stretch that the Cuban economy is undergoing, with the growing social discontent and disillusionment, with the increasing exodus, deteriorating social services, lack of liquidity, the regime’s desperate need for foreign exchange and other clouds that darken the environment, a new “saving enemy aggression” has appeared on the Castro’s political horizon, useful to justify nationalist entrenchments and repression.

Neither does the worsening of mobile services seem to be a coincidence, despite the excuses offered by the (military) state enterprise in charge of those markets, or the fact that this pidgin article gets published in the official press just after the recent announcement made by blogger Yoani Sánchez of the impending debut of her digital newspaper. It must be uncomfortable for the olive green hosts that a new means of digital independent media is surfacing on the Island, just as more Cubans are getting access to mobile phone service with text messages and e-mail. It is a good idea to keep alert; the Castro-dogs must already be plotting what would be the most expeditious way to silence the criticizing voices within Cuba.

In any case, there are too many theories and guesses about the advocates of this old, outdated system, but nothing is going to save a system that has proved its inefficiency. Imaginary or real terrorists might not be the ones that will spoil the Castros’ rule, and their loyal servants will be surprised in the new Cuba, which we will have one day, who will truly be their masters.

But, as with cheating in a marriage, it is better that the cuckold himself learns of the deception, so I take the opportunity to send a personal message to the writer at Juventud (young?) Rebelde (rebel?) Amaury, you are a real cat!

Translated by Norma Whiting

9 May 2014

Just Another Miscalculation / Miriam Celaya

1398445396_etecsaAccording to a recent official statement by Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba (ETECSA) [Cuban Telephone Company], the technical difficulties in messaging service and other cell phone problems are due to errors in miscalculating demand.

It is the system’s universal principle to come up with an inverse explanation to every difficulty, which could be interpreted as follows: it is not really the inability of the only telephone company in Cuba, but that there are too many users. That is, we are more addicted to communication than officials imagined.

Since this past March 3rd, when the new cell phone e-mail access system (nauta.cu) went into effect, considerable delays were experienced in SMS access, as well as additional service outages. Now the Central Director of Mobile Services, Hilda María Arias, stated that for over a year they carried out research and completed investment processes required for this service, however, they “did not calculate the fast pace for its demand in this short period of time”, and, due to transmitting of data, “more network resources are being used”, which has slowed e-mail, SMS reception, and cell phone service

Of course, while this official explains that steps are being taken to counteract the difficulties, the solution must come from an increase in forecast investments.

ETECSA, as we know, is the name of the communications monopoly in Cuba, controlled by military business leaders, who have now committed to expand services through new base stations that expand possibilities for Internet access, transfer the balance between cell phones and extend the expiration date of cellular lines.

Indeed, if this promise is fulfilled, this would be good news for those of us who are addicted to information and communication. In any case, to justify the current service difficulties after one year of researching the project, and knowing the huge demand for cellular service among Cubans, despite its high cost, seems more than mere miscalculation.

Translated by Norma Whiting

25 April 2014

Magic Formula to Revive Socialism / Miriam Celaya

Raúl praying
Raúl praying

Will investors be able to save the conquests of the olive green caste by soaking their hard currency in the Castros’ holy water?

HAVANA, Cuba: In recent weeks, the new Investment law–the latest magic formula to overcome the endemic crisis of “the model”–has been preeminently occupying space in the official Cuban press.

Commentaries, interviews with officials and experts on the subject, and reviews that look at the advantages and benefits of assimilating foreign capital as the most expeditious way to finally give birth to the socialism that spent over 50 years in the gestation phase, emerge from the pages from government pamphlets and television news announcing that the good “new” capital is the philosopher’s stone for development. So let’s forget all the ideological catechism defended until now, because our rulers have discovered that soaking hard currencies in the Castros’ holy water will safeguard the “conquests” …of the olive green caste.

And it is precisely about the conquests of the elderly druids and their acolytes that the foreign investment law was born with congenital deformities that require deep reconstructive surgery if they really intend for it to work.

The most important flaw that is obvious from the outset is the legal aberration of expressly excluding the rights of Cubans on the island to participate as investors in their own country, an issue that is unparalleled in any civilized nation, and that alone disqualifies the best intentions beforehand. Another issue, no less twisted, is the exclusion of free contract (that is, allowing foreign investors to hire Cuban workers directly). Both elements are unsustainable since they are not justified or serve any function other than to maintain absolute control over the population to prevent the weakening of political power.

Dilma Ruseau and Raúl Castro inaugurate the Mega Port at Mariel
Dilma Ruseau and Raúl Castro inaugurate the Mega Port at Mariel

Therefore, the Castros’ hired applauders are saddled with the thankless task of challenging independent journalists’ criticism of the law, since new technologies allow other opinions to circumvent the official information blockade and reach the population. Fundamentalists will now take to the trenches to fight another battle against freedom of opinion.

So an obviously poorly trained journalist did take to the trenches when he approached the subject from an article in the Juventud Rebelde (Rebel Youth) newspaper (“Good investments and ‘skeptical’ versions”, Yoerky Sánchez Cuéllar, Sunday, April 20th, 2014, pg.3), which misses the mark from its own opening paragraph, when referring to the authors of the inquiring articles as “preachers of a policy aimed at promoting foreign interests over national affairs”. This cluelessness indicts the rookie’s inexperience, when he refers in such terms to the critics of a law that precisely favors “foreign interests” at the expense of the Cuban people.

Havana’s International Commerce Fair
Havana’s International Commerce Fair

Yoerky’s errors did not end here.  He obviously has access to the independent press but does not dare to reproduce the arguments of the criticisms of said law. It is untenable to be a representative of the people while advocating, at the same time, in favor of legislation that strips the people of their essential rights, contained in international pacts and declarations ofwhich Cuba is a signatory.

“One of the causes for the media’s ‘skepticism’ is related to the fact that the law prohibits foreign investors to directly contract with workers, a role that will be up to national employer organizations,” Yoerky indicates, and he explains to us that such a measure “protects our human resources, considered as the country’s most important asset.” Unfortunately, he forgot to explain how stripping Cuban workers of their capacity for free and individual contract constitutes “protection” for them and what “guaranties” this offers the investors.

“Who better than us to select employees, taking into account taxing requirements which will contribute to higher solvency and satisfaction to all parties…” wonders this Beefeater, immersed in a “collective us” that always emerges when the lords try to convince the herd about the need for sacrifice. Maybe he is ignoring that, when they sold us out as a “pseudo-republic,” foreign companies freely hired Cuban workers, who did not need a government agency to determine their suitability, their wage levels or the taxes they would pay to the State, so the current investment law implies a serious labor rights setback.

In short, far from being enlightening, the referenced writing stirs the murkiness of a law that holds more questions than answers. We continue to not know how the “investment portfolio” is defined, or what devices will manage it or prevent favoritism, influence peddling, corruption, patronage, and other ills.

There is no mechanism or information system that will allow Cubans–its supposed beneficiaries–to find out what items, who, and how to go about investing, much less verifying amounts, earnings, and how the wealth to be gained will be distributed. The “exceptional reasons of social interest or public utility” that will determine expropriations haven’t been clearly established either, and they will be left at the government’s discretion, while rampant widespread corruption–in spite of many battles and comptrollers–continues unabated and constitutes a threat to any investor in a country in which the actions of individuals are patterned for survival.

It takes a lot of magic to revive Cuban socialism
It takes a lot of magic to revive Cuban socialism

Yoerky does not say, perhaps because a servant is not able to understand it, that in the absence of civil liberties and democratic changes no palliative measure will be able to overcome the crisis. Undoubtedly, investors will always turn up who are ready for an adventure with the regime, and thousands of Cubans will probably flock to apply for jobs of “our own procurement” because nothing motivates a crowd as much as a poverty auction. Maybe by then this young man, an undertaking of the official media, will see this as another “victory of the Revolution.” I will not attempt to argue the point: I have spent 54 years attending them without any benefit whatsoever.

Translated by Norma Whiting
Cubanet, 22 April 2014 | Miriam Celaya

Driving in Reverse / Miriam Celaya

Image from the Internet

(Originally published in Cubanet the April 11, 2014 , titled ” Raul Castro Goes in Reverse”)

Clearly, the new Foreign Investment Law “approved” by the usual parliamentary unanimity last March 29, 2014, has been the talk of the town on the topic of “Cuba”, for the Island’s official as well as for the independent and foreign press.

With the relaxation of the existing law–enacted in 1995–the new regulation is aiming to throw the ball to the opposite field: if Cuban residents of the US cannot invest in Cuba currently, it would no longer be because the regime bans it, but because of the shackles imposed by the embargo, a trick of the elderly olive green crocodile that continues with its wiles and snares despite the collapse of the system.

Amid the expectations of the government’s and of aspiring investors, there stretches a wide tuning fork of the ever-excluded: the common Cubans, or the “walking Cubans” as we say, whose opinions are not reflected in the media, magnifying their exclusion.

This time, however, the cancellation of the innate rights of Cubans is causing social unrest to multiply, in a scenario in which there are accelerated shortages in the commercial networks and persistent and increasing higher prices and a higher cost of living.

Rejection of the Investment Law

Shortages, as well as inflation, indexation and bans for certain items of the private trade, have caused many family businesses to close since January 2014 due to the uncertainty surrounding the heralded–and never properly explained–monetary unification.

In addition to the lack of positive expectations, these are the factors that thin out the social environment and lead to generally unfavorable reviews of the new law and its impact within Cuba.

An informal survey I conducted in recent days in Central Havana after the March 29th extraordinary session of parliament shows rejection of the new Law on Foreign Investment, almost as unanimous as the “approval” that occurred in the plenary: of a total of 50 individuals polled, 49 were critical of the law and only one was indifferent.

In fact, the issue has been present with relative frequency in many cliques not directly surveyed–uncommon in a population usually apathetic about laws–in which the dominant tendency was to criticize various aspects of the law.

The main reasons for the people’s discontent are summarized in several main points: the new law excludes, arbitrarily and despotically, Cuban nationals, which implies that the lack of opportunities for the Island’s Cubans is being maintained.

Foreign investors will not only have great advantages and tax considerations which have never been granted to the self-employed, tariff concessions with respect to imports (which is just what traders in imported items asked for and was not granted); the State will remain the employer of those who will labor in foreign-funded enterprises, implying consequent hiring based on Party loyalty–be it real or fake, and taxed wages; widening social gaps between sectors with higher levels of access to consumption and the more disadvantaged sectors (the latter constantly growing).

At the same time, many Cubans question the vagaries of government policy which, without any embarrassment, favors the capital of the expats-–the former “siquitrillados*, the bourgeoisie, gypsies, worms, traitors, scum, etc.”–over those who stayed behind in Cuba.

The logical conclusion, even for those who stayed relatively associated with the revolutionary process, or at least those who have not openly opposed the regime, is that leaving the country would have been a more sensible and timely option to have any chance of investing in the current situation. There are those who perceive this law as the regime’s betrayal to the “loyalty” of those who chose to stay, usually Cubans of lesser means.

Another topic that challenges the already diminished credibility of the government is the very fact of appealing to foreign capital as the saving grace of the system, when, the process of nationalization of 1959, it was deemed as one of the “fairer measures” and of greater significance undertaken, to “place in the hands of the people” what the filthy bourgeois capital had swiped from them.

Cubans wonder what sense it made to expel foreign capital and 55 years later to plead for its return. It’s like going backwards, but over a more unstable and damaged road. Wouldn’t we have saved ourselves over a half a century of material shortages and spiritual deprivation if we had kept companies that were already established in our country? How many benefits did we give up since the State, that unproductive, inefficient and lousy administrator, appropriated them?

What revolution are you taking about?

At any rate, the majority has a clear conscience that the revolution and its displays of social justice and equality are behind us, in some corner of the twisted road. “Do you think this new law will save the revolution?”

I provocatively ask an old man who sells newspapers in my neighborhood. “Girl! Which revolution are you referring to, the one that made Batista flee or the one that is making all Cubans escape? The 1959 revolution was over the moment ’this one’ handed over the country to the Russians, now the only thing the brother wants is to give it back to the Americans and to keep himself a nice slice.”

I probably never before heard such an accurate synthesis of what the history of the Revolution means today to many a Cuban.

*Translator’s note: Those who lost investment and personal property when companies were nationalized in 1959 and early 1960’s. From one of Fidel’s speeches, “we broke their wish bone and we will continue to break their wish bone”.

Translated by Norma Whiting

11 April 2014

The Voices of Cubans? / Miriam Celaya

Arrogance is a personality trait impossible to hide for those who suffer from it. In fact, it becomes more obvious when an arrogant individual tries to cover his proverbial petulance under a cloak of feigned humility. The worst of such a subject, however, is his histrionic ability that allows him to deceive considerable groups of people, particularly those who desperately need someone to speak “for them” or those who, quite the opposite, enjoy the blessing of authority.

In the case of Cuba, where freedom of speech, of the press, of information and of association are among the major shortages of this society, it is not difficult that, from time to time, some savior may appear self-proclaiming to be “the spokesperson for Cubans” which–it’s obvious–betrays immeasurable insolence, not only because it lacks the allocation of powers, but because it previously assumes an often repeated lie that, for some chumps, has become the truth: Cubans have no voice. Allow me, Mr. Arrogant and his troupe, to correct your mistake: Cuba’s Cubans do have a voice, what they lack is the means to be heard, not to mention the great number of deaf people in the world.

But, of course, a shining hero will always appear–usually with credentials and even with a pedigree–who, from his infinite wisdom, will quickly delve into the deeper intricacies of the Cuban reality and will be the only one capable to interpret it objectively because he, balanced and fair, “is not at the end of the spectrum”. Interestingly, these specimens proliferate virulently among accredited foreign journalists on the Island.

Since I don’t wish to be absolute, I suppose that there are those who are humble and even respectful of Cubans and of our reality, only I have never had the privilege of meeting them. It may be my bad luck, but, that said, to practice journalism in Cuba armed with credentials of a major media outlet and with the relative safety that your work will be published and–very important–duly financially rewarded, seems to have a hallucinogenic effect on some of them.

Such is the case of quasi-Cubanologist Fernando Ravsberg, to whom I will refer as “R” as an abbreviation, a journalist recently fallen from grace with his (ex) employer, the BBC, who has written a plaintive post following his clash with the powerful medium and, oh, surprise! after many years of working as a correspondent in Cuba and having collected his earnings has found that “he does not share their editorial judgment” as stated in his personal blog, Cartas Desde Cuba. R, inexplicably, took longer to find out the editorial standards of the BBC than to get acquainted with the intimacies of such a controversial society as that of Cuba. continue reading

R soaked us with “having tried to be the voice of ordinary Cubans,” of “the man on the street” through his blog. He says this with such conviction that there are even those who, besides himself, have believed it. And, since this man is not afraid and has taken his messianic mission very seriously, he is proposing that, “from now on, whoever has an interest in continuing to debate on the reality of the Island, will be able to do so through my personal page”. Very humble, R, seriously, and we should be thankful… where else could we do it otherwise?

I must confess that my stomach is not that strong, so I read R’s work only every now and then, and afterwards, I spend some time detoxing. For example, phrases like this sicken me: “We tried to decipher the keys to the psychiatric hospital crime, where some thirty patients died from hunger and cold”. In Cuban lingo R was really “discovering” warm water because that monstrous crime was in no way encrypted.

For most Cubans, and to every independent journalist who covered the story extensively and published serious review articles about the case, the essence of the events lies in the corrupt nature of the system, its officials and, in particular, the impunity of its practitioners and those who are foremost responsible: the dictatorial gerontocracy of over half a century, that is, the same one R awards great credit for the universal health care for Cubans.

In any moderately democratic country, more than one high official would have been blown out of the water over a similar scandal. OK, then, the events of the psychiatric hospital are just the sample button of the quality of health service offered to ordinary Cubans, common Cubans who have no access to hard currency clinics, or to the CIMEQ*, where the anointed and the leaders are cared for. Needless to say, mental patients are the most fragile and defenseless.

If R knew a tad more about the history of Cuba, he would know that, though as inadequate as it is today, Cuba had public health care since colonial times; therefore, it is not a Castro-innovation. And there were health care institutions that were eliminated by the revolution: I, as the daughter of a qualified laborer and a housewife, was born at Acción Médica (Coco and Rabí Streets, Santos Suárez, Havana) a clinic all the members of my family belonged to. Their service and their attentive care were both very good.

As for “low infant mortality” so highly advertised, many specialists question the accuracy of Cuban statistics. In fact, they are so fickle that they do not reflect the number of neonates who die before being entered in the records, because there is an official policy that guides registration of births when newborns are healthy and have at least some basic guarantees for survival.

I know testimonials from parents whose children were born with certain defects or conditions incompatible with life and remained hospitalized until their death, several days later, without ever being registered. Officially, these children are never born, so they go from the womb to their eternal sleep without the required red tape. Thus, officials prevent them from being a negative number in the fabulous statistics displayed to the world, but what does it matter, if even the World Health Organization recognizes the overwhelming success of revolutionary medicine and applauds it excitedly.

As for “universal education” comments are not needed. Every Cuban born in this process who has attended school in previous decades, and whose children and grandchildren have also been students in Cuba know only too well about the deteriorating quality of education, teachers and teaching facilities, more manifest in the last two decades, to say nothing of the indoctrination and the segregation of those who think differently than the official line.

If R considers this an achievement, he should also know that public and private education existed since colonial times on the Island, and that, since the eighteenth century, academic tradition was established in our country and lasted until the totalitarianism of this government turned it into a hostage to ideology and monopolized, generalized, and uniformed, to its detriment, all education.

As an example, my grandson Cesar, who is in first grade, learned about “the five heroes”, Che Guevara and F. Castro at school, however, they have never mentioned Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Ignacio Agramonte or any of the founding fathers of the Cuban nation to him… and even less the great civic figures in the history of this country.

Another issue would be what R calls “the world’s most efficient civil defense”. This already seems a hallucination as a result of an overdose …of something. What exactly is the “civil defense” for this brilliant journalist? The answer is a mystery, so we can only speculate. Could it be that he is referring to the spectral MTT**, whose only “proof” of existence is the work-day that all of this country’s state employees donate annually, but nobody knows where the money goes or how these funds are used?

Or is this what R calls the amorphous mass, grouped under the generic “CDR” whose only purpose is to pay the State a few cents monthly and to light up a bonfire once a year to display the collective hunger by consuming a repulsive (revolutionary) stew? Does R ignore that the CDR’s are today a pipe dream, just shreds of the most formidable organization that Castro I created in order to spy on us and get us to betray each other, which filled people with distrust, envy and hatred?

In criticizing the dissidence and some others of Cuba’s ills, R states he’s seeking a necessary “journalistic balance” (some euphemism!). R is just spewing the first thing that comes to mind or whatever is at hand, be it a stone or something less principled, which–far from achieving some balance–only results in murky half-truths or misrepresentations. It’s what happens whenever a “critic” attacks the effects, carefully avoiding pointing out the causes. Thus, R is playing with the chain, including some high links, but he keeps a very prudent distance from the monkey. That way, anyone can be an acrobat and keep the balance.

He does lash out at “the dissidence”, and how! This is what happens when, from his comfortable seat, R questions the finances that the same dissidence gets, since such an expert analyst of the Cuban reality must know, members of the dissidence are expelled from jobs and school and many lack any other income or livelihood.

At the same time, for R–and for the Cuban regime–it is obvious that any “dissent” is funded by the U.S. government: apparently, they have their proof. However, I don’t know of any dissident jailed for being “in the service of a foreign power”. Who could believe that the olive green satrapy would allow the existence of so many “mercenaries” when the mere act of protesting or making an anti-government poster has resulted in brutal reprisals or landed many Cubans in prison?

But we human beings always have something in common. Here’s where R and I are alike: I’m not “politically correct”. Indeed, some people think I’m not correct at all. Though I suspect we do not have the same concept of what is “political” or what is “correct”. For instance, R says on his blog “we analyzed the dissidence’s weaknesses” (because in his infinite virtue, R humbly overuses the plural and replaces the “I” with an unpretentious “we”, a common vice among speakers of the nomenclature).

At times, I have also criticized the proposal or program of my opponents, stipulating the reasons why I don’t share their views, which doesn’t mean I don’t respect or support them in their struggle against the regime and in favor of democracy, or do not recognize their values. Because, if we are talking about equilibrium, attacking the dissidence–the weakest link of the political chain in Cuba–is the easiest thing in the world; not allowing them a chance to reply is simply indecent.

As in every community or human group, it is true that not all the members of the dissidence are an example of virtue or honesty, but that does not imply that the opposition is a cesspool of detritus. R doesn’t even acknowledge the value of certain groups or individuals that have been performing staid and growing civic work within society and enjoy great prestige in their communities, as well as outside of Cuba.

Manipulating information, distorting and fragmenting reality to suit your fancy and raving against sectors and individuals who do not have the possibility or the means to defend themselves and who are at a total disadvantage against the longest dictatorship in this hemisphere is opportunism and mediocrity, but, above all, it is immoral and unethical.

Finally, if, as R says, “the chief diplomat of the U.S. in Cuba recommended that the State Department” should read his blog “to understand the real situation” in our country, revealed through a “secret cable” filtered through Wikileaks, our sincerest congratulations (to R, of course, because the State Department would just end up with yet another oblique interpretation from a foreigner who is thriving on the Cuban situation).

There is no doubt that R can still extract other advantages from his undeniable ability to sell himself as a specialist of the topics he writes about. Pity those souls who give him credit or pay for his work; it is well known that all spectacles need their public.

It is striking, however, that R considers as beneficial the acknowledgment he gets from the government he often condemns because it maintains the “criminal embargo” against the Island and, in addition, finances us, the sinister mercenary dissidence. Will he make up his mind, already and pick a side? Maybe neither; rather, the incident deeply flatters his ego and serves as a present for his arrogance, hence the gloating.

I think I’ve already overextended myself. Some might be of the opinion that so much effort was not worth it, as a very wise saying goes: to foolish words, deaf ears. I have decided this time to go with another: silence means consent. These twisted characters can end up doing a lot of harm.

For the rest, my regular readers know that this writer is characterized by the absence of hair follicles on her tongue [she will say whatever she thinks], a trait which will annoy some. What are we gonna do! It’s very hard for me to keep silent in the face of so much effrontery. Chauvinism aside, it especially irks me to see such cheap verbiage from a foreigner who, when it’s all said and done, does not hurt for Cuba, Cubans, or their distresses. As far as I’m concerned, if this man is the voice of Cubans, it would be better for us if he remained discretely silent.

*El Centro de Investigaciones Médico Quirúrgicas (Medical-Surgery Research Center, in Havana)
**The Territorial Troops Militia (Milicias de Tropas Territoriales)

Translated by Norma Whiting
4 April 2014

Potatoes, Food and Condoms: The Shortages Diversify

Image taken from the Internet

Chronic shortages in Cuba are extending their tentacles with renewed vigor. The cycles of absence of numerous products are ever more frequent, even in the markets that trade “in hard currency.” Lately toilet paper has disappeared (for the umpteenth time in recent months), and similarly there have been short “gap” periods in which there have been no toothbrushes, toothpaste, wheat flour, powdered milk, soaps and detergents, sanitary napkins, etc. Nothing seems to be safe from the black hole that is Castro’s socialism, in which life is reduced to “not-dying,” while running a perennial pilgrimage after those articles which, anywhere in the civilized world, are a part of the most common reality.

With regards to food, it’s better not to talk about it. It’s enough to see the Dantesque scenes offered to us by the lines that form at dawn whenever someone announces that this or that farmers market “is going to have potatoes.” The police in Central Havana are practically on a war footing attending to the brawls that occur in the crowds who aspire to buy the longed-for tuber.

Now it turns out that the shortages have reached condoms, those attachments needed for the safe practice of what some call “the national sport.” Things have reached such an extreme that it has come to the point where drugstores and pharmacies have mobilized staff to change the expiration dates that appear on this product–already expired–to “update” it and be able to sell it. There is testimony that in some of Cuba’s interior provinces this task has been assigned to recruits doing their military service: a strategy of total combat in the face of the alarms set off by this small and humble latex object. According to the authorities, this is being done “because the dates on the containers were wrong.”

Consumers, however, are wary. In a country where corruption and deceit are part of the reality, no one feels safe. Some paranoiacs go to the extreme of suspecting it’s part of an official conspiracy to promote births in Cuba… What it really does is lead to an increase in abortions.

At the moment, a friend tells me, half-amused half-worried, that if in the 90s she had buy condoms to use as balloons at her son’s birthday party–today a young man of twenty-something– now she will have to buy balloons to practice safe sex.

31 March 2014

I Don’t Feel Alluded To / Miriam Celaya

Photos taken from the Internet

The Cuban media, experts at manipulating jingoistic sentiments and fabricating nationalist trash, is using the anti-Cuba signs wielded by demonstrators against Nicolas Maduras’ government to manage at will national public opinion in the interior of the island. The task is simple, given the great disinformation of the natives here and the impossibility of accessing sources other than those offered by the Castro press monopoly. As a consequence, the most ignorant or naive, not to mention the ever-present useful idiots, walk around talking about how “ungrateful” the Venezuelans are, with the number of doctors and aid that “Cuba” has given them… As if it weren’t about a simple transaction of renting out slaves between masters, already generously paid for with petrodollars which are, in short, a treasure that belongs to the Venezuelans and not to the governing regime.

However, the most surprising thing is that these signs, along with the public burnings of Cuban flags, have been another touch that triggers outrage, not among the poor disinformed within Cuba, but among the Cubans of the diaspora, some of whom are speaking on behalf of “all” those born on this island, to attack the protesters who are every day risking their lives and liberty publicly and bravely protesting in the streets of several cities in their country.

I certainly understand the reasoning of susceptible Cubans: they feel alluded to when “Cuba” is insulted, and it’s no less true that directing the outrage against “Cubans” and not against the government would be, at least, erratic. Personally, however, I understand that it is not the intention of the opponents to Maduro and his cronies to insult Cuba, but to direct their rejection to the Castro’s regime, the outrageous interference of Cuban agents in Venezuelan intelligence and the army, the parasitism on the Venezuelan economy, the Castro control over national policy.

That’s why I do not feel alluded to in these acts. In fact, Cuba is for me something beyond the textile symbol of a flag. Venezuelan protesters are doing much more for their country than many Cubans, who today are offended by them, are willing to do for theirs. Believe me, my compatriots, with all due respect for their ideas, which as far as I’m concerned they can burn all Cuban flags they want, if this is the price to lift their own spirits and gain freedom. The day on which they fully regain their rights, and Cubans and Venezuelans sit down to talk together, I am sure that we will understand each other on the best terms. Until then, I offer them my deep admiration and respect.

24 March 2014

Jurassic Cuba / Miriam Celaya

Mass demonstrations in Venezuela. Image taken from Internet

The news agencies don’t have a moment’s rest these days: a satrap in Ukraine has been overthrown through demonstrations and street protests amid the harsh winter, people stand on long lines to see with their own eyes the pomp and pageantry in which the ex-ruler, an ally of Russia, lived.

In Venezuela, student demonstrations continue, supported by opposition leaders finally came together to confront the Maduro government. In Ecuador, the opposition has just delivered a commendable blow to the government authorities by winning an unquestionable majority vote during local elections this Sunday February 23rd in important places like Quito and Guayaquil, putting the brakes on the rampant President of the “citizens’ revolution.”

The world is moving at breakneck speed, changing scenarios and uncovering new players, while we in Cuba remain in the political Jurassic era, with a government of dinosaurs perpetuated in power. continue reading

Judging by the official Cuban press, external reality does not seem to exist, so the “events” may be a gray “syndicate” congress in a country where no syndicates exist, a few “reforms” that do not reform anything, or whatever is dictated by a government that misgoverns a colony of ants that spends its days striving for sustenance, untouched by the joy of the liberated, ignorant of the will and courage of the opponents of Nicolas Maduro, the civility of Ecuadorians who opted for the polls to control the excessive power ambitions of a thug vested as president, and of everything that happens in the world beyond the reefs of a damned Island.

Venezuela hits us especially close, because of its shameless sponsorship by the Cuban dictatorship, obsolete and ruined, extending its evil shadow over a nation rich in natural and human resources. Fortunately for them and for us, Venezuela is not a country of zombies. Nevertheless, it causes sadness and apprehension all at once to see evidence that other peoples are capable of what we are not.

Pity our country, Cuba, whose children choose silence and flight instead of exercising their rights against the olive green satrapy that condemns them to slavery and poverty.

Translated by Norma Whiting
24 February 2014