14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 17 November 2015 — Like the ostrich who buries his head in the sand so as not to see what terrifies or disgusts him, the Cuban government and official media have refused to recognize the plight of thousands of compatriots stranded at the borders of Central America. Single men and women, families with children, workers, peasants, students, Cubans all, are attacked by immigration authorities, exploited by human traffickers, and punished by a nature they don’t know, in their desire to emigrate to the North.
Not a single statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, no comments in the Communist Party’s provincial meetings, not one clarification from a delegate in the Accountability Assemblies of People’s Power. Not even on radio, television or the nationally circulating digital media has there been any mention of the issue. Continue reading “The Ostrich Syndrome / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar”
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, 13 October 2015 – Some 40 Cubans met last weekend in Miami to talk about the future of the country. The economy, work, property, and social security were the topics on the agenda in this edition of the “Meeting of Ideas,” which arose under the Coexistence Project in Pinar del Rio and which found another space of influence, this time with the participation of Cubans from the diaspora in Miami.
But beyond the data of a press release, it’s worth taking the time to stop, or rather to make a pilgrimage, to submerge ourselves in the wells of thought where the most complex problems our national reality are addressed. Two streams converge there, one from the liberal side, arguing, almost insisting, on the reasons for the market and freedom, and the other more concerned about social aspects, putting the protection of the disadvantaged first. I said they converged, not fought, because far above political passion or philosophical viewpoints, was Cuba, like a mother crying in pain for help for her children. Continue reading “Future Dilemmas / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar”
Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 1 August 2015 — Under the slogan of “Tanganyika breaks heads with big force” a Cuban radio serial from the 50s, my generation was inculcated with the idea that Africans are rude and violent. I vaguely remember that the character of this resonant name was a kind of stupid but unbeatable giant.
I didn’t know then that Tanganyika was a lake and that its northwestern shore touched Bujumbura, the largest population center in Burundi, which became the capital after independence in 1962. The prejudices of my childhood were reinforced years later when tribal struggles arose between Hutus and Tutsis and the dead filled the streets of the city in an absurd fratricidal war.
Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 24 July 2015 — I do not know if I’ll be the first to do it, but at a time like this I want to congratulate the cowards.
Those who 62 years ago were summoned to a Revolutionary action in Santiago de Cuba, and who, when they heard the details describing the madness that involved storming the Moncada barracks, declined to participate.
I do not know the exact number of those who backed out at the last moment, much less their names. I have heard that their identities have never been disclosed, because among them there were some who later joined the fight and even fell in combat. The official story goes that of 135 implicated only four did not “step up.” Other versions raise to 165 the number of the conspirators and about 30 who thought better of it. Continue reading “Writing about the Cowards / Reinaldo Escobar”
Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 15 July 2015 — Homer would have narrated it differently, opting to die dismembered before giving in, but in these times the heroes are faced with the inexorable fatality of their tragedy, putting at risk their prestige, not their lives. Alexis Tsipras chose to stop right at the edge of the abyss because he believed more in the future of his nation than in his political career. Historians will tell us if he did well or badly, maintaining a pulse facing the Troika, even to extremes. Economists will draw pragmatic lessons watching whether Greece grows or sinks, while the militants of his party will reassemble their agendas with different promises.
Those from other latitudes who applauded the inflexible will now have to swallow their praise and, in passing, learn their lesson. The populists of Spain’s Podemos party will know they will not have a second chance at the polls, and those obsessed with an eternal Baraguá in these parts of the Caribbean will have to recognize that it is time to move on, saying “we do not understand.”
As someone whose name I can’t remember said, “Greece is very familiar to Cubans. She taught us the philosophy, arts and sciences of antiquity when we studied in school, and, along with them, the most complex of human activities: the art and the science of politics.
The story is not over, it never really ends. In the coming hours Tsipras will have to confront his personal Thermopylae in front of Parliament and face his constituents, who will not want to accept the reforms that will come over them. It will be Ulysses facing the pretenders, or Achilles with his wounded heel, but this time the gods will not intervene and it will be the chorus who decides.
Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 11 July 2015 — It is very likely that the youngest among us don’t know the reference to the 1951 novel “The Story of a Real Man” by the Soviet writer Boris Polevoy, which tells the story of Alexey Petrovich Maresyev, a fighter pilot who lost both his legs and through a heroic effort continued to pilot a plane and engage in new battles.
Juan Carlos Cremata (born 1961) is the least likely hero of Real Socialism. He is an artist from head to foot, irreverent and lucid, who has left his mark both in the theater and the cinema. He has received numerous national and foreign prizes and a great part of his oeuvre has been dedicated to works for children and teens. Among his most well-known films are Nada (Nothing) and Chamaco (The Kid: Chamaco) as well as works that have circulated via alternative means, as is the case with Crematorio (Crematorium). Continue reading “Juan Carlos Cremata: A Real Man / Reinaldo Escobar”
Reinaldo Escobar, 28 June 2015 – Despite nationalist excesses that have reached the official Cuban discourse, to some it seems that the Government should be even more intransigent in defense of the sovereignty of the country. Stigmatizers of everything foreign, these individuals end up boasting of a chauvinism that is more ridiculous than patriotic.
They are the ones who don’t understand that the Island’s boxers no longer use head protectors, to obey the dictates of this sport that the authorities have labeled profitable and where, “The spectacle is more important than the health of the athletes.” In their isolationist delusions, perhaps one day they will propose not accepting that the volleyball net or the basketball hoop be at the height determined by nations where the average stature is a few inches higher than in Cuba. Continue reading “Delusions of Sovereignty / Reinaldo Escobar”
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, 26 June 2015 – To talk about a lack of unity within the Cuban opposition has already become commonplace. Among the causes of these lamentable circumstances are enumerated some peculiarities rooted in the greatest depths of our history, whose paradigmatic example is warlordism.
However, there are also rational reasons because opponents gather in separate airtight rooms. First of all, in political vocations. Liberals, socialists, Christian democrats, anarchists, social democrats and other less profiled denominations assume positions about certain topics that can become irreconcilable.
The mere fact of recognizing these nuances sparks commentary from all sides that the most important thing is to dislodge the tyrants from power and that such minutiae can wait until democracy is achieved. But it is not enough to make the immense sacrifice of overlooking future programmatic differences. The spokes in the wheel, the weights, the headwinds, the points of honor that hinder or prevent reaching agreement usually arise from unexpected places.
Desde Aqui, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 8 June 2015 – What has come out in the magazine Muy Interesante (Very Interesting) generates no surprise, but what is published in the newspaper Granma causes astonishment.
In the “Direct Line” section, on page 4 of the edition of June 6, under the title, “Are there foods that wake us up and foods that relax us?” we learn that research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has demonstrated that “the proteins of eggs, meat or fish bring tyrosine to the brain, an amino acid that increases the production of neurotransmitters that keep the mind alert, focused and productive (dopamine and norepinephrine).”
Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 1 June 2015 – Once again the general-president, giving the impression that he invites criticism, steps on the brakes. He recognizes that it is important that everyone bring their opinions, but qualifies that it must be done “in the appropriate place, the opportune moment, and in the correct ways.”
That he has repeated it this Friday at the most recent Council of Ministers does not matter. That idea has been crushed in Parliament, the Party Congress, and at every opportunity that presents itself, while he warns in passing that he speaks of constructive criticism.
Everything indicates that by constructive criticism Raul Castro understands that which points out errors but does not discuss the theoretical basis that underlies his program, or better yet, the criticism that paves the way chosen by the criticized. Continue reading “Warm Washcloths / Reinaldo Escobar”
Desde Aqui, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 20 May 2015 — Yesterday I invited my granddaughters to get ice cream. To boast of her knowledge, the oldest, who is in the third grade, said to me: “Today marks the 120th anniversary of the death in combat of José Martí, our National Hero.” She said it with the same pride in wisdom with which one day, many years ago, I alerted my parents to the fact that the earth was round.
“And tomorrow, May 20, what will we celebrate?” I asked her, imitating the emphasis of schoolteacher. Almost arrogantly she responded, “On May 20 nothing happened.”
As she was born in the 21st Century I invited her to look for the significance of the date on a phone app containing Wikipedia, which she could consult without an Internet connection. Surprise! The text there reads: “1902: Cuba achieves independence from the United States of America.” Continue reading “May 20, That Hole in Our Memory / Reinaldo Escobar”
Reinaldo Escobar, 17 April 2015 — Fidel Castro made another public appearance, this time speaking by phone Randy Perdomo Garcia, president of the Federation of University Students (FEU) at the University of Havana. The meeting took place in the meeting hall of the University of Oriente in Santiago de Cuba and was witnessed by young Havanans that make up the so-called Detachment of the 70th anniversary of Fidel’s admission to the University of Havana.
The group of students used their vacation week in April to take a tour of different places, especially those related to Fidel Castro personally. They visited his birthplace in Biran, the Moncada Barracks, the balcony where he proclaimed the triumph of the Revolution, Pico Turquino and other historic sites, as defined in the official chronicle as, “Where the commander left a mark of gratitude to patriots who preceded him.”
With the slogan “Fidel In My Heart” on their sweatshirts, every time they finished visiting a museum, monument or plaza, they ended it by shouting “Viva Fidel!” over and over. The great surprise – perhaps as a prize for their loyalty – was receiving a phone call from the historic leader. From his end of the phone Randy Perdomo Garcia told him what they had been doing, while the former president asked if they had eaten well on the tour. National television used subtitles so that the audience could understand what the old man was saying.
Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 14 April 2015 — Like every April 13, last Monday a group of Trade Union workers met with the task of carrying a bouquet of flowers to a marble statue. It is a figure dedicated to Fe del Valle in the Havana park of the same name and located at the central corner of Galiano and San Rafael. The site usually supplies the absence of public toilets in the area and the sculpture has both hands mutilated.
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Panama, 12 April 2015 — During the Summit of the Americas, when Raul Castro said Barack Obama was not at fault for the decisions taken by the ten presidents that preceded him, confusion overcame me and it’s no wonder.
Upon hearing that speech, delivered in front of more than thirty leaders meeting in Panama, it became even harder for me to understand why the gallant members of the pro Cuban government “civil society” who came to this city continued to label as assassins the activists, dissidents and independent representations who came to participate in forums parallel to the historic event.
If Obama is not guilty of what happened at the Bay of Pigs, nor the logistics support to the anti-Revolution rebels of the Escambray; if he is not responsible for the creation of Radio Martí, nor the Cuban Adjustment Act… nor even for the implementation of the embargo, then, what guilt is it that they want to foist on the activists defending human rights?
Now, that the general-president has already absolved the dignitary of the country that official propaganda sees as “the enemy,” it is worth asking why his supporters accuse of events that happened decades ago those, who organize opposition parties, or engage in library projects or independent journalism with the sole purpose of proposing a country different from that outlined in the guidelines of the Sixth Communist Party Summit.
When I mention Abel Prieto I could include the names of almost the entire delegation whose tickets and lodging were paid for by the Cuban government. Are they aware that when you accuse others of a past in which they didn’t exist nor make decisions, you will also be evaluated in the same light? Are they prepared to take on all the atrocities committed by their predecessors?
The Panamanians, however, gave us a clear example of this positive attitude during the summit, an attitude that is summed up by looking more to the future than the past. I would like to believe that Raul Castro is not responsible for anything… although the evidence points in the other direction.
Perhaps the time has come when we should concern ourselves more with solutions than with blame.
I know many compatriots, who totally within their rights, will not agree with me, especially since there are wounds impossible to heal and grievances difficult to forget. If I had to vote on it, I would raise my hand in favor of their retiring in peace. Their penance, their worst punishment, will be to watch us construct a nation without hatred nor rancor. Once again Cubans, everyone, at the same fiesta.
Reinado Escobar, Panama, 10 April, 2015 — Intransigence against tolerance, ideological deafness against a willingness to talk, radicalism against moderation, slogans against arguments, and many other pairs of conflicting definition could serve to headline a commentary on what is happening in Panama during the Seventh Summit of the Americas.
The pro-government Civil Society delegations from Cuba and Venezuela have systematically dedicated themselves to boycotting the parallel forums, because for them it is more important to discredit their political adversaries who favor a consensus that could conclude in a message from the civil society of the American people to their respective government. They have opted to beat, insult and denigrate their own compatriots, rather than sit down to civilized debate with them. Continue reading “What one learns in Panama / Reinaldo Escobar”