Posthumous Novel by Rafael Alcides, Against Death, Against Oblivion / Ramon Fernandez-Larrea

Rafael Alcides in a scene from the documentary “Nadie” (Nobody), by the filmmaker Miguel Coyula. (Courtesy)

Translated from* from El Nuevo Herald, Ramón Fernández-Larrea, 8 November 2018

When one receives a novel – written by a friend who is a poet, or by a friend who has been and is forever a great poet – with the title Contracastro, one could never imagine that it is a love story, and not a pamphlet of accusations against power, nor the political testament of a worthy man, with a vertical and honest position.

And if that novel is also the posthumous work of that poet friend, which is also like a last will, and also, a very old story that Rafael Alcides began to ruminate on in the convulsive first years of the 1960s, and which he spent his life writing and rewriting, the result is a kind of testament, because this novel could be, or is also, the novel of our lives.

On the cover of the print edition it is noted that Contracastro is “A novel written in reverse.” Why? I suspect that it has to do with what Alcides himself says in the public history of the book: “In this second version the old love story is supported with very slight additions. Not so the context, this time evoked from today by Tom, already an old man, in a mega-Miami where he has been among the city’s forgers… For that first version, consistent with my political views of the time, the novel was nothing more than the many other pamphleteering-style texts of the time, against capitalism and the bourgeoisie.” continue reading

And Rafael Alcides continues telling us that “because of its title it frightened the Casa de las Américas officials when they saw it appear in the Literary Contest of 1965,” where “The juror Mario Vargas Llosa, who nominated it for a Prize, managed to obtain an Honorary Mention.”

What changed then? The world changed, Alcides changed. The years passed and the luminous future never arrived on the coasts of the island. Fatigue and disappointment arrived. And the masks fell from those heroes who wanted us happy all the time. And then came the time to tell, openly, the rending of the protagonists’ journeys to nowhere, the many protagonists of the other major novel, the epic of a people who emigrate, of families that are torn apart and walk through these worlds, without being able to tell their loved ones in a letter, all the love they still have.

Contracastro, published today by Eriginal Ediciones, is an inquest into Cuban history after 1959, told in first person, but in two alternating times, but, always in the background, it is a passionate story of love, sex, disgust and illusions, especially of lost illusions that the protagonist is capable of shouting to the four winds: “Burn down the world if they want, I have you.”

Contracastro is that then and this now. They are Tom and Carla in a provincial Miami that has been filled with Cubans who expect life to change in the next sixty minutes so that they can return to their country. A country that has already been filled with Russians, Chinese, Americans, abandoned houses, streets that will be, from then on, only in a bloody memory.

“Even though here in Miami they hate the word revolution,” writes the author, “it is here, nevertheless, where the Revolution really is. The Revolution with capital letters. In Cuba, the Revolution has already passed and what there is is the complete opposite of the ideals of democracy, present since the Guáimaro Charter of 1869.” … And at the end of that statement made by Tom, the protagonist, thinking like Rafael Alcides, or Alcides himself stuck in the skin and blood of Tom, one can read: “So while we can not return to Cuba, I will continue to consider myself a man from Guáimaro, a follower of Agramonte, a soldier of Céspedes, that is, a revolutionary.”

Contracastro is, in short, the legacy of Rafael Alcides, a man who lived and died telling his truths in Cuba today, and that was uncomfortable for the authorities, because honesty, in times of disappointment, is, at the very least, suspicious. Here the poet leaves us this intense story of a love that was and was not. A testimony against death, against oblivion. And we must read with gratitude to its author, to discover who we have been or who we are now. To know which side of History we are on. Or, better, to check, with pain and bitterness, which side of this story is ours.

Rafael Alcides

Keys To Understanding An Emergency Tour By Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel

Díaz-Canel did not choose to visit closer or more lucrative markets, in part because he is not looking for contracts but rather alms. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Lima, 13 November 2018 — If it were not for the two stopovers, one in Paris and the other in London, which Miguel Díaz-Canel made during his first official foreign tour at the head of the Cuban government, the map of his trip would be reduced to a group of countries that share ideological similarities and that are, for the Plaza of the Revolution, old allies from lost political battles.

In “the world according to Diaz-Canel” there are only as few nations as fingers on a hand, Moscow is located a few kilometers from Havana, and both the Americas and Europe have disappeared from the map. It is a planet scuplted in the geology of authoritarianism and created at the will of all-powerful parties, a land where the fragile grass of democracy hardly grows.

During his journey through that reduced world, the 58-year-old engineer was officially received by leaders from five countries: Russia, China, North Korea, Vietnam and Laos. The trip generated abundant declarations of “total support and solidarity” between the rulers, several visits to mausoleums housing the remains of controversial leaders, and the signing of some trade and cooperation agreements.

This latter seems to be the core of so much hectic activity, because beyond the official rituals, the journey was marked by urgency and driven by the despair of a leader at the head of a bankrupt nation. It was a trip in search of patrons, a “pass of the hat,” to achieve an economic relief from the tense situation on the island.

The scope of the agreements reached in this tour and their impact on the economy will only be verified in the coming months, but according to the headlines in the official newspaper Granma, we can already read that the compañeros visited on the trip have not been very benevolent. There has been no lack of agreements or signatures for exchanges, but there have been few loans or donations after so many handshakes, beyond having obtained 60 investment projects and a loan of 50 million dollars to buy weapons.

With productivity in the toilet, foreign tourism that will fail to reach the 5 million promised visitors, and the default of investors lacking enthusiasm to buy a piece of the Cuban pie, Havana is experiencing an acute lack of liquidity that is deepening the daily problems. Nevertheless, despite this tense situation, Díaz-Canel did not opt to visit closer or more lucrative markets, in part because he is not looking for contracts, but rather alms.

In addition to help and donations, the trip aimed to reaffirm the concept of “continuity” that has become the cornerstone of Cuba’s rulers. To reassure those who, like Kim Jong-un, could fear that, with the help of a younger leader, Havana might undertake economic and political reforms that would allow it to strengthen ties with Washington, Brussels and other democratic governments.

To all of them the message was clear. Nothing moves in the politics of the Island without the consent of the Communist Party and the generational change is totally under control. With this mantra, late Castroism tries to renew the support provided by these five nations in international forums, following the crisis facing regional entities such as the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).

A third reason to undertake this “path of complicity” has been to annoy the United States and to make it clear to the European Union that it is not a priority on the Cuban agenda. And, in passing, slam the door on Latin American administrations that believed that without a Castro in power dialogue with the island would be easier. By preferring not to travel through the countries of the area, Cuba’s government has shown its low regional spirit and its disdain for its

Now, once this tour of necessity and ideological myopia is over, it remains only to wait for the real benefits it will have in everyday life. The millions of dollars agreed upon in exchanges are just a drop in an ocean of needs and are unlikely to deter those who plan to escape the island. Those thousands of Cubans who each year set a course for countries not included in the small world preferred by Miguel Diaz-Canel.

_________________

The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Cuba’s Official Silence in the Khashoggi Case

The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohamed bin Salman (right), receives Salah bin Jamal Khashoggi (left), one of the sons of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, to personally convey his “condolences”. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 24 October 2018 — A journalist enters a consulate and never comes out again. All indications point to the fact that within those walls he was reduced to a pile of body parts that were destroyed to erase all the evidence. The assassination of Saudi Jamal Khashoggi, presumably ordered by the absolutist monarch of his country, has provoked a wave of indignation that has not yet arrived in Cuba.

Khashoggi, a deep connoisseur of power networks in Saudi Arabia and a contributor to The Washington Post, is one of the latest victims of the excesses by authoritarian governments to silence the press. The profession has taken on a new life and the journalist’s death has revealed how economic conveniences cause the few who dare to criticize Riyadh to do so quite tepidly.

In recent days there have been protests in front of Saudi consulates in various parts of the world, declarations of support from countless media, and diplomatic demands expressed to King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. However, from Havana not a single complaint has come through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, nor has there been a statement from the official Union of Cuban Journalists (UPEC). continue reading

In Europe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been emphatic in suspending arms sales to Saudi Arabia in response to the murder of the journalist, although analysts rationalize this firmness by the smaller volume of trade between Berlin and Riyadh. This Thursday, the European Parliament is also expected to hold a vote on a joint resolution of condemnation, the result of which is still unknown due to the fact that opinions on the issue remain divided within the bloc.

Washington, slower to respond, has announced that it will revoke the visas of those Saudi officials supposedly implicated in the reporter’s death and that it will also subsequently impose other punishments as the investigations progress.

In the midst of this clamor, the silence of the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana, and of UPEC, becomes more apparent. The reasons for such caution are as mundane and pragmatic as are those of others.

In 2016, Cuba signed an agreement with the Saudi Development Fund for 80 million dollars to export products from the Arab country and to finance infrastructure in the Island’s deteriorated hydraulic sector. Later Cuba received another credit of more of 26 million dollars for the Rehabilitation and Construction of Social Works Program of the Office of the Historian of Havana.

Everything seems to indicate that the Cuban authorities do not want to offend, with their demands, one of the few pockets willing to continue putting money in the island.

Castroism has always been motivated more by economic interests than by ideological affinities, hence its closeness to the caudillo Francisco Franco, its exchanges with Videla’s military dictatorship in Argentina and its willingness to receive Israeli businessmen with open arms, although its propaganda attacks that country with a constant stream of expletives.

At the moment there is no group of official journalists protesting in front of the Saudi Arabian embassy in Havana, because money has prevailed over ideals and because the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi is a minor issue for a regime that, in exchange for investments, credits and donations, knows how to turn a blind eye.

For that reason, no guest will speak up for the silenced reporter on Cuban TV’s Roundtable program, no commentator on primetime news will point to the Saudi regime as responsible for his death, and in the Cuban foreign ministry no diplomat will be given the task of transmitting to the Arab monarchy a message of displeasure. For all of them, conveniences take priority over the death of a journalist who only wanted to do his job.

_____________________

The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Spanish President Pedro Sánchez Doesn’t Raise Expectations Among Cubans

Presumably, during his visit, Sánchez will meet with businessmen or representatives of the many Spanish companies present in Cuba. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, West Palm Beach, 18 October 2018 — The Spanish language version of the online American newspaper HuffPost has just published its own vision about why the upcoming November 22nd and 23rd visit to Havana by the Spanish President, Pedro Sánchez, is important.

Judging from the note, there are several reasons that give importance to the bilateral meeting on the Island between the leaders of Cuba and Spain. All of them refer to expectations on the Spanish side – in this case, the entrepreneurs of the European country present in Cuba and of their own Government – and in no case to the benefits that Cubans should expect as a result of this exchange between the two governments. continue reading

To some extent, this could be reasonable, given that, when it comes to meetings between politicians, each defends his own interests. Hypocritical speeches only work in protocol rooms.

Thus, in the effort to enhance this visit, the HuffPost uses the unoriginal resource used by so many other foreign newspapers: to falsify the Cuban reality by recreating it from the stereotyped vision of someone who absolutely ignores the scenario in which the action is moving. Or about whom, deliberately, chooses to ignore it. This explains the reference to “the new Cuba, which does not have a Castro in its government since April, which is committed to openness even with the United States, its classic adversary.”

Judging by the note, there are several reasons that lend importance to the bilateral meeting between the leaders of Cuba and Spain on the Island. All of them refer to the Spanish-side expectations

A “new” Cuba, and in the midst of a transition, described as a place where there are all kinds of openings, which now Spain regrets having distanced itself from, compared to other countries which have “taken the lead,” despite – and this is the way that the Spanish foreign minister, Josep Borrell refers to it – Spain having “strong historical, cultural, and human relations with this Island,” which makes it a contradiction that Spaniards “have nothing to say or nothing to contribute.”

About the latter, it must be admitted, Mr. Borrell is somewhat right: it does not seem that until now the Spaniards have contributed much to the Cubans.

Thus, suddenly, Sánchez’s trip acquires a sense which is “not only political but also historical and cultural”. And, incidentally, “it can serve as an outpost and pave the way to possible royal status in November 2019”, the date when “the fifth anniversary of the founding of Havana will be celebrated”.

Obviating the small error of the American media – let’s call it “errata” – of so drastically reducing the Cuban capital’s age (which, far from reaching the age of five, is approaching half a millennium since its foundation), nothing would seem more counterproductive than having the condescending presence of their Spanish Majesties at the celebration of such a relevant date.

Not only because of the strangeness of the monarchical origins of the informal plebeian Cubans, natural enemies of the label, but even without it, the sufficiently humiliating impotence of having contributed, for the last 30 years, to the recolonization of the Island through Spanish investments, while those born on this land are deprived of that right that is naturally theirs. It is not very delicate that our status as neo-subjects should be emphasized so incisively more than a century after having reached our independence.

Meanwhile, La Moncloa* has declared that the objective of the trip of the Spanish head of government is “to intensify the relations between both countries and their economic and commercial exchanges”

The HuffPost assures that this visit will be “like Spring rains” for Spanish businessmen in Cuba. Presumably, during his visit, Sánchez will meet with businessmen or representatives of the numerous Spanish companies present in Cuba, including nine hotel chains, due to the “high economic component that is to be imprinted on the visit”.

On the other hand, the note says that, “according to ICEX (the Network of Economic and Commercial Offices of Spain Abroad), Cuba was the #2 country in the Caribbean (with a total of €899 million) receiving Spanish exports in 2017.

The note adds that “Spain maintains commercial and investment relations with Cuba of a great tradition, evidenced by being the country with the most joint venture companies and most branches established in Cuba, and with an outstanding presence in the tourism and services sector”. A fact that, nevertheless, shows an asymmetry in the benefits of these relationships, since it does not reflect in any way an increase in the consumption capacity of Cubans.

Finally, the fifth and last important reason for Sanchez’s announced visit to Havana are the approximately 140,000 Spanish citizens living in Cuba, to whom The HuffPost refers in terms of “Spanish colony.”

‘Granma’, the official newspaper, barely just published, simultaneously, a brief note in the section Hilo Directo (Direct Thread) announcing, without much fuss, Sanchez’s imminent visit

It is about none other than Cubans who have acquired Spanish citizenship under the Law of Historical Memory – better known as the grandchildren law – who perhaps should be called “Spaniards of convenience”, not only because Spanish citizenship is useful for certain practical purposes, especially easing travel by making use of a passport that opens doors to numerous destinations without the need for a visa, but because the “Cubanish”, usually treated as lesser carnival dance processions and undesirables at the Spanish Consulate in Cuba, are recognized as fellow citizen by the Spanish authorities when it’s convenient. Now it seems to be the case, so that, as if by magic, they have been transmuted into “a great Spanish community”.

This way, The HuffPost affirms that “Sánchez will have an opening to meet with Spanish colony in Cuba”, which means that he will meet with those Spanish groups that have been acknowledged and promoted by the Cuban authorities in terms of their own political and economic interests.

And while the most enthusiastic are rubbing their hands and making plans to share in the benefits of the new resumption of relations between Spain and Cuba, Havana has not given the same relief to the fact. The official newspaper Granma just simultaneously published a short note in the section Hilo Directo (Direct Thread), announcing the next visit of Sánchez, without much ado.

Perhaps the hierarchs of the caste of the insular Power, who do know exactly how tense the social vibration in Cuba is, favor keeping a low profile? Or, more traditionally stated, the oven is not ready for cookies here.

 Translated by Norma Whiting

*Translator’s note: Moncloa Palace is the official residence and workplace of the Prime Minister of Spain

___________________________________

The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Pacts / Regina Coyula

Regina Coyula

Regina Coyula, Havana, 5 October 2018 — State Security has not only forbidden me to travel to Spain (where I should have been on the 25th of September), but “el compañero who attends me” (i.e. my own personal State Security minder) has been promising me since Tuesday the 25th that this prohibition would be lifted, a falsehood that discredits his institution still more, and at the very least calls into question his professionalism.

Contrary to my desire, I have postponed this trip I’d dreamed of. If this were a country of laws and rights, someone would have to compensate me, because I don’t have so much as a citation for stepping on the grass, much less is there a reason to limit my movements, but being a dissenter – and writing about it – makes me an enemy of the State.

All that’s left for me – because I didn’t do the thing they told me not to do – is to lodge a complaint with the Citizenship Service of the Ministry of the Interior and make it known among my friends.

Alcides already expressed it in an epigram: The pacts between bandits and knights do not work and the knight ends up in jail. The bandit will never become a knight but the knight ends up becoming a bandit.

Apples of Discord, Corruption and Selective Punishment / Miriam Celaya

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 28 September 2018 — For some unknown reason, apples have had an extraordinary role in the cultural imagination of the West. For better or for worse, this fruit has marked milestones that have transcended the passage of time and geographical borders.

For example, in Greek mythology, a golden apple sowed discord between the goddesses Pallas Athena and Aphrodite, a discrepancy that would dramatically influence the Trojan War. For its part, in biblical mythology, an apple was the temptation that drove Adam and Eve to the original sin, for which we have all been punished (blessed sin!).

An old Swiss legend tells that the national hero William Tell had to skewer with an arrow, accurately shot from his crossbow, an apple placed on the head of his son by the tyrant oppressor of his people; while another fable explains how the wise Isaac Newton discovered the law of universal gravity, one of the most important physical-natural phenomena, thanks to an apple that fell directly on his head. continue reading

The apple is a kind of cult object sown in our consciousness since earliest childhood. What child did not know Snow White’s apple? And, as adults, who has not dreamed of visiting that other “Big Apple”, New York, at least once in his life?

The surprising thing is that in XXI Century Cuba these fruits again have become not only central characters, but in the body of the sin of one of the many sagas of corruption that cross Cuba’s harsh daily reality. In recent days, the sweet apple, or to be more exact, 15 thousand apples, have evolved into a temptation much more dangerous than that in the Holy Scriptures.

The case has been sufficiently disseminated by the official press, but it is appropriate to briefly summarize the facts. It is about the allegedly illegal sale, in a retail market in Havana (La Puntilla market in Miramar), of a large number of apples (15 thousand) to “a group of tough youngsters” – according to an aggressive commissioner (allegedly “an exemplary revolutionary journalist”, in the words of the hand-picked President) which aroused the suspicion of the referred to writer, who, unfortunately for the offenders, personally witnessed the transaction.

For a greater sin, “a good part” of these young people were “uniformed” with the American flag. It would have been better if they wore fig leaves, like the primal sinners of the earthly paradise. The President’s favorite journalist was not going to stand for an insolent provocation, such as that of displaying a symbol of the Evil Empire.

That might explain, far from facing the youths to give them an educational talk and prevent the “hoarding” and “the misuse of state resources”— since the buyers bribed the driver of a state minivan to transport their merchandise – this intransigent revolutionary spied on their movements, followed them, carefully pointed the license plate number of the vehicle that transported the 150 boxes of apples “at 100 CUC (roughly $100 US) each box” (what grief this detail caused the combative reporter!), and demanded a copy of the receipt as proof of purchase from the store clerk. Both photographs, the minivan and the copy of the receipt, were published on his personal blog. (“The …something…pupil”), where “someone is watching” becomes evident).

As a result, sanctions proliferated. Two employees of the store were fired as an administrative measure. Their names were published in the press though they were not subject to criminal sanctions. Some were lectured, and all other members of the collective were warned and reprimanded. As far as some of the aforementioned young apple addicts, they have been accused of “illicit enrichment”, among other causes, have been arrested and must face court trials.

The case is not exactly a novel incident, and it’s not less true that corruption is a scourge which must be fought, has metastasized throughout Cuban society, and now covers all areas of daily life. Corruption has reached such colossal dimensions in Cuban society that it not only touches all of us in some way, but it’s an indispensable part of survival. Given that the system itself generates and replicates it, it’s not possible to eradicate it by attacking its effects, but by eliminating the cause: the system, which is essentially corrupt. Ergo, it’s a problem with no solution.

However, what is more alarming is that the scapegoats are always anonymous people, opportunistic peddlers, marginals of all sorts, mules, the self-employed, or any propitious victim of the social subsoil that the authorities deem handy to use to intimidate the population through a collective lesson.

What the official press does not publish is the most dangerous of the chains of corruption thriving under the protection of official institutions, in particular those responsible for ensuring compliance with the laws: the bodies of inspectors, the national police (including the “revolutionary” also, let it be known) and a bunch of officials available at various prices.

So it goes that, curiously, also around the days of the apples of discord there has been a case of police corruption that, despite the silence of the government press monopoly, is circulating informally through some neighborhoods of the Cuban capital. According to rumors, a policeman arrested one of the many Venezuelan bachaqueros*, who swarm with relative impunity, especially in Old Havana. The policeman seized his merchandise, a backpack loaded with flip-flops. It is worth remembering that in Cuba almost everything is marketable and profitable.

The “cheating” agent, like so many of his colleagues, decided not to report confiscation of the merchandise, appropriating it instead to profit from it himself. However, also like most, he did not have enough smarts to secure his booty. The Venezuelan, meanwhile, feeling injured – or perhaps appealing to the protection he enjoys in Cuba – decided to complain at the Calle Zanja police station, so that when the superiors ordered a review of the agent’s belongings, not only did they find all the seized merchandise in the backpack, but an additional unexpected find: a bundle of marijuana. That sealed the fate of the clueless agent.

According to an informal source and unconfirmed rumors, the Office of the Prosecutor is asking for 25 years in prison for the agent – it has not been made clear if for being an idiot or for being corrupt – and it has not transpired if the Venezuelan involved has received any punishment or if he has been deported to his country.

Very likely, these rumors may contain part truth and a lot of fantasy. But, in any case, the national experience of decades of fraud and corruption, and knowing the administrative mechanisms and government press monopoly’s lack of transparency, everything points to much more reality than fable in this matter.

I have been visiting the blog of the President’s zealous journalist, so combative, so revolutionary, to see what he thinks of such an audacity, but for some mysterious reason he has not published anything about the matter. It must be because the police are also supposed to be a body of “revolutionaries” and one does not air our dirty laundry among members of the brotherhood…

*bachaquero Venezuelan slang meaning hawker of goods bought at government-set prices

Translated by Norma Whiting

Interview With Díaz-Canel: Neither So Presidential Nor So Much “Media Appeal”

Interview with Miguel Díaz-Canel in Telesur. Photo Telesur / Rolando Segura

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 20 September 2018 — If something stands out in the interview recently granted to the transnational Telesur by the (not elected) president of Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel, it is the way in which the poverty of his vocabulary is revealed, the inconsistency of his arguments , the triteness of a discourse as preposterous as the interviewee himself and especially the theoretical fragility of the supposed heir of the Marxist-Leninist-Martiano-Fidelista torch endorsed as the jewel in the crown in the “constitutionalist” project that is currently – ignominiously — circulating throughout the Island.

In fact, the president’s babble overflows with so much mediocrity that trying to dismantle it would be an exercise almost as vain and simplistic as his own arguments. It’s quite enough, as a matter of example, to highlight the worn-out defense of the single party in Cuba under the ridiculous assumption that José Martí – for greater absurdity, an obstinate liberal and antisocialist – founded a single party. Obviously, only if Martí had been bipolar or schizophrenic would he have founded more than one party. But of course, the President did not stop to consider such an insignificant detail. At the end of the day, the masters will say to themselves: the Cuban people have never questioned the political decisions of the Castro regime and its emissaries, why should they do it now? continue reading

Perhaps even more embarrassing was the gibberish he introduced to justify the elimination of the term “communism” as the goal of society in the new constitution. “If one goes to classical Marxism, the mode of production to which we aspire is communism. (…) Communism and socialism are closely related. If you want to build socialism, it is because you want to reach communism, “the President said, undaunted. Perhaps he was convinced that such an inference should settle the matter. So much dialectical genius can only be the result of a very personal and outdated interpretation of the classics of Marxism (God save us from all of them, especially their interpreters!).

In addition, the entire interview overflows with common places such as the “U.S. government Blockade” (“a brutal practice which seeks to condemn our people to die of necessities” and “constitutes the main obstacle to our development”), Imperialist “violence” against Venezuela and its “laborer president”, the defense of the entelechy called “Latin American integration”, and other similar invocations.

Those who expected that in this, his first official interview – given not to a national media but to a foreign one, a disdain to the guild of native scribes – would offer the public some glimpse of a government program, a strategy to promote the battered economy or some kind of master plan to (at least) stop and reduce, in a reasonable timeframe, the pressing and multiple problems of the daily existence suffered by the Cuban population; In short, those who aspired to listen to a president’s proposals were left wanting.

There were no surprises. It is clear that Diaz-Canel was not going to depart from the old script dictated by his tutor and patron from the concealing shadows of the General’s supposed “retirement,” even less so in such uncertain times for both rulers and “governed” and for the region’s allies.  In it are included the responsibility, the ever-conditioned benefits and perhaps something else.

Let’s not forget the sinister Article 3 of the new constitutional script that states that “Treason against the nation is a most serious crime, and he who commits it is subject to the most severe sanctions” (instead of nation, read “the Power”). And it is known that the closer you are to the cupola of an autocratic power, the more serious the “betrayal” considerations become, and punishment results in a greater warning lesson.

Miguel Díaz-Canel interview on Telesur. Photo Telesur/Rolando Segura

By the way, causes number 1 and 2 of 1989 are worth citing. They took place amid the “dismantling” of the USSR and the “socialist camp,” which ended with the execution of several conspicuous servants of the regime and with long prison terms – not exempt of fatal health “accidents” – for others. They are the most convincing demonstration of this statement.

However, and following the basic principle of reading between the lines, he points out that, this time, the president’s words did not show the overflowing triumphalism that usually saturates official discourses. In general, there was emphasis on tone but the message lacked conviction. Diaz-Canel hesitates even when he claims to affirm.

A clear example of this is when it refers to Cuban youth as “active and anti-annexationist” – an attention-grabber use of this second term, which is not part of the common lexicon of Cubans and rather seems to reflect an unspeakable concern for them. The Power Caste that a reality – and later expresses: “This generation is cultured and educated (…), I do not believe that its main desire is to be against the Party and the Revolution”.

The subtlety of this message may be invisible to those who are unaware of the Cuban reality; however, the official discourse has traditionally referred to the country’s youth, not from the point of view of what “it does not want” or what “is not,” but in unequivocal terms of what it is supposed to be: “revolutionary,” “politically committed,” “intransigent” and “combative.”

A detail that apparently does not say much, but constitutes a flagrant slip that would not have been committed with impunity in the days of Castro I … Or perhaps it was an involuntary (and untimely) betrayal of the subconscious.

Because if the President, in his privileged position, is allowed to have the widest and most accurate information about the social temperature of this Island, does not seem very convinced of the revolutionary militancy of the young people and (what seems more serious) considers that the wishes of the current young generations “are concentrated on development, more progress, wishing to be included, aspiring to have more participation and striving for technological development and also social communication” instead of the holy defense of the Socialist Motherland, which was the mission commissioned to the generations that preceded them.

What sense would the authentication in the Law of laws make of an ideology and a sociopolitical system with aspirations of eternity not considered a priority by the current youth, who are heirs by fate and not by choice of a failed legacy?

Without a doubt, the President is confused, and that should not have gone unnoticed by the zealous political commissaries. Pretending to have “media appeal” can be tempting, especially when one does not have enough prestige or an adequate political pedigree, but it also entails many risks. Especially when you are an interpreter of someone else’s libretto, which reduces the probability of interpretation and authenticity to the character.

It may be that at this point the designated successor has received the corresponding phone call from his tutor, whom he considers “a father,” who will have warned him that in successive public presentations he should concentrate only on what the manual dictates and be more revolutionarily convinced of what he says, in order not to hand the enemy excuses to distort things or imagine weaknesses.

In spite of everything, in the coming days the official media will disclose, ad nauseam, the original or edited version of the aforementioned interview. For this, they can count on, to start, the political apathy of a population that, as we know, does not usually consume this type of product.

Not coincidentally, in the television programming this Tuesday, September 18th, the telenovela schedule was shown earlier so then aforementioned interview would be aired… With all certainty, that will be the moment in which, in spontaneous unanimity, the great majority of Cubans, according to their possibilities, will tune in to other channels, they will go into “package mode*” or will dive into “subversive” antenna shows.

*El Paquete Semanal (“The Weekly Packet”) is a one terabyte collection of digital material distributed since around 2008 on the underground market in Cuba as a substitute for broadband Internet. In 2015 it was the primary source of entertainment for millions of Cubans.

Moreno Versus Correa: Three To Zero

Lenin Moreno after being invested president and receiving the baton from Rafael Correa. (@AsambleaEcuador)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 20 September 2018 — He seemed the perfect successor: docile, well trained and sticking to the script. However, Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno has become the worst nightmare of his predecessor, Rafael Correa.

At first it was just a slight fracture that arose between them, marked more by differing points of view or by dissimilar impressions when the time came to take the reins of the county. But as the months pass the current Ecuadorian president has become the main executioner and undertaker of Correaism.

This September, Moreno has thrown another shovelful of earth over the former leader of the Alianza País party. Ecuador lost the legal battle against the American multinational Chevron, after a long confrontation in a historic case of environmental pollution in the Amazon. Before hearing the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration based in The Hague, the president of Ecuador hastened to lay the responsibility on Correa. continue reading

The Secretariat of Communication accused the former president, who governed the country between 2007 and 2017, of using the clash with Chevron “to gain political and media prominence,” in addition to using “public funds for propaganda, manipulating national and international public opinion.” The level of the accusations Moreno’s administration has made against his predecessor marks the final break between the former party comrades and is the most critical point in a series of confrontations.

Recently, Moreno defined Correa as a “thug” who was “obsessed” with re-election and the latter responded by accusing Moreno of being a “traitor.” Ecuador’s departure from the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) also constituted a serious setback for one of the most visible faces of that failed model that was called 21st Century Socialism. To these blunt blows is added an infinity of public skirmishes in which the current office-holder has always come out the winner from the political and diplomatic point of view.

While Moreno has projected an image of an equable man capable of dialogue, Correa’s arrogance has prevented him from controlling himself and in the face of every criticism he has received since leaving office, he has responded with very little statesmanship and obvious irritation on not feeling himself adored by Moreno.

That reaction is due, especially, to the fact that the plans of the former president saw the naming of a substitute as simply a legal move. The new president was supposed to hold on to the presidential sash for a time, just enough years to allow Correa to return to Carondelet Palace.

Instead, the one who had been trained to be a puppet cut the strings and decided to govern on his own. Beyond the lights and shadows of his administration, Moreno is sending a powerful message to other regimes, such as Cuba’s, who see in the handpicked and loyal successions a way to perpetuate themselves. The Ecuadorian president is destroying the illusions of those authoritarians of all political colors who hope to be able to manage, from behind the scenes, a puppet sitting in the presidential chair.

_____________________________

This text was originally published by Deustche Welle’s Latin America page.

The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Advice To The Independent Press To Protect Itself From Cuban Security

Among other items, the manual gives advice on what to do in case of suffering physical aggression. (Capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 23 August 2018 — How to evaluate the risks? What to do in the face of physical aggression? How to better protect information? These are some of the questions answered by the Holistic Security Manual for Cuban Journalists, recently published by the Institute for War & Peace Reporting (IWPR). With a simple language, the document is an essential “toolbox” for reporters on the island.

For decades, the Cuban independent press has experienced innumerable abuses and has had to adapt to frequent difficult and dangerous situations. This long experience has served as the main source for the IWPR in writing the current manual, presented in PDF format, inspired by the day-to-day of all those reporters who have chosen to narrate their country outside the official media. continue reading

Along with the experiences collected among these protagonists of free information, the manual has also relied on the advice of experts and various international organizations committed to freedom of expression and the protection of journalists. Hence, the final result is a compendium of recommendations sharply focused on the Cuban reality, with its peculiarities and its particular legal context.

The pages of the manual integrate advice for physical, psychological, digital and legal security, and also suggestions on how to act in times of danger. “The objective of the manual is to strengthen the capabilities of prevention, self-protection and security while exercising any information activity on the island,” say its editors, to which must also be added that it is a manual marked by awareness of civic matters and journalistic ethics.

The pages of the manual integrate advice for physical, psychological, digital and legal security, and also suggestions on how to act in times of danger

Responding to repression with a greater promotion of transparency and more professional work are some of the practices promoted by the 112-page document. This is a real challenge to a government that prefers to have “a mute, deaf and blind country,” as the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA) denounced at its meeting in Colombia in July.

In a society living under hyper-vigilance, with State Security increasingly dedicated to computer espionage, it is worth reminding reporters that they should never “leave notes or information from sources” nor fail to use encryption applications, which encrypt the messages from the moment of sending, as explained in great detail in the manual.

The flexibility when it comes time to adjust the advice, according to the subject on which the journalist is working or the characteristics of each medium, is also inscribed among the virtues of this volume. Its capacity for amendment can be infinite given the new challenges faced by reporters every day, which is why the IWPR insists on keeping the content “alive, subject to changes as the context changes.”

Beyond the recommendations for the safeguarding of the journalist, the media and the information collected, the text also becomes a glossary of the most common vulnerabilities suffered by the press in Cuba. A list to be taken into account at times when pressure is being applied from various sectors to have a Press Law in the country.

The fact that the manual was published soon after the end of the Congress of the Cuban Journalists Union, also helps to check it against the statements made in that conclave by professionals linked to official media, in which they demanded more access to institutional sources and better salaries. These demands stand in contrast to those of the independent sector, which is not even legally recognized that suffers from frequent arbitrary detentions and confiscations of tools of the trade.

It would be worth the effort for the editors to review some technological tips, such as the recommended use of WhatsApp in the Cuban context

It would be worth the effort for the editors to review some technological tips, such as the recommended use of WhatsApp in the Cuban context. The tool, very popular in other nations, faces several obstacles on the Island that don’t recommend it for journalism. With forced and data-heavy updates, it performs far below what Telegram can offer national users.

On the one hand, using the desktop version of WhatsApp requires a connection to the internet via mobile phone, something very difficult to achieve for those in Cuba who use a single browsing account in the public Wi-Fi zones. Telegram Desktop, meanwhile, can be used independently of cellular, which, together with the possibility of editing the messages after sending them, makes it more recommended for the press.

It is no wonder that Telegram has come to be called the messaging service of “the dissidents and the persecuted.” An added bonus is that it does not belong to Facebook, like WhatsApp, which was purchased by the social network giant. Mark Zuckerberg’s company has been shown to have serious vulnerabilities in terms of management of its clients’ data, while Telegram shows a greater commitment to security, and for this reason it has been blocked in Russia, where it was created.

Although the manual is intended for the Cuban press beyond the control of the Communist Party, many of the advice included in its pages can also serve those who work in media authorized and financed by the authorities. Even this media must be required reading for foreign correspondents living in Cuba, who are not exempt from surveillance and punishment for their work.

The manual closes with the text of Law 88, also known as the Gag Law, under which 75 activists were tried in 2003, in what came to be called the Black Spring. At least a third of the accused activists exercised independent journalism. A shocking epilogue that recalls that, despite the advice and recommendations regarding security, an independent Cuban reporter is at the mercy of the repressive caprice of the regime.

_________________________

The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Athletes and Air Conditioners

Air conditioners pile up at Havana’s Jose Marti airport. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, Bogota/Havana — Flight 254 climbs over Bogota on a cold, gray morning. Inside the plane members of the Cuban delegation is traveling back to Havana, after participating in the Central American and Caribbean Games held in Barranquilla, Colombia. For more than three hours, the restless athletes fill their area of the craft with conversations — which cross from one side of the aisle to the other — and that revolve, basically, around one issue: the purchases they have made to take home to the Island.

Other travelers flying on Avianca Airlines, on Tuesday, encountered more than twenty athletes dressed in blue uniforms marked with the flag with the single star. The composition of the group was heterogeneous. They were young people in perfect physical shape who evidently participated in the competitions; others with gray hair and the appearance of coaches, and third parties who were neither one nor the other, but who acted as guards.

As the plane broke through the dense layer of clouds over the Colombian capital a question broke the hypnotic silence of the ascent. “Hey, were you able to buy the split (air conditioner)?” an athlete sitting in row 11 loudly asks another, three rows back. The answer was also loud enough for everyone to hear. “Yes, I bought it with no problems, and also the bicycle and the parts that I need for the bike.” The brief dialogue triggered an avalanche of comments in the same style. continue reading

During the entire time the plane spent in the air, the group did not exchange a single word about the sports competition, the medals won, or the hard struggle for Cuba to come in second, after having lost the event’s scepter for the first time in almost fifty years. The contest they discussed was another. The protagonist was the game against the clock to be able to “leave the village and reach the markets” nearby, according to one of the athletes, or “to find where they sell things more cheaply to make the money stretch,” said another.

The jackpot, what really excited them and elicited grins, was not, for many of these young talents, to win the gold, silver or bronze, but to be able to return home with products and devices that will improve their quality of life. One boasted of having been able to “lift the suitcase a little bit with my hand” so that it did not register its whole weight during the airline check-in.

“I told the employee that they were bicycle parts although they are for a motorbike because it is easier to get them through,” boasted another. “They let me bring three suitcases and the extra they charged me I will get back quickly, because everything I brought is worth a lot more in Havana,” added an older man who seemed to be the manager of some sport. Beside him, a man with a military haircut and the same sports suit as the rest of the delegation listened without opening his mouth, but the backpack he had placed in the overhead compartment could barely be closed.

The plane began to circle over Havana. “We have to wait because we have been informed that the airport is closed for operations,” the captain informed the plane. While the passengers peered out through the windows at the same landscape repeated over and over, the athletes exchanged the latest recommendations for dealing with their luggage. “I’m going to pass the screening because I still do not have an import for this year, but I need you to take through the two phones I brought,” he asked one of his row mates.

Finally, the flight touched down and after the long line for immigration came the most anticipated moment for the anxious athletes: picking up their luggage on the belt. On one side of the conveyor, an employee of Customs shouted loudly that the AC units and televisions must exit through a small door that leads to the room where they scan each package to check its interior. The sports delegation was completely crammed in there.

Then an air conditioner came out, followed by another and then several more. The boxes were piling up, smiles lit faces, some took selfies in front of the growing mountain of appliances. Still, nobody was talking about medals.

It was time to exit to José Martí International Airport’s crowded waiting room. There were whole families waiting with babies or the elderly in wheelchairs. Screams, commotion and a woman in tears telling an athlete that seemed to be her son: “I knew you were going to bring it,” as she touches the box with the air conditioner with the relief of who imagines nights without sweating in a room kept in the comfortable 70s.

The scene repeats itself. The members of the sports delegation are hugging their relatives and distributing the first gifts. The tourists who have arrived on the same flight understand less and less. “Why do they have to bring those things?” asks a surprised Chilean who has come for a cousin’s bachelorette party. Nobody answers him.

__________________________

The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

There Will Be No Transition in Cuba… Not Even of Communism

The primary school children who every day recite the slogan “Pioneers for communism, we will be like Che,” should start looking for a new motto. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 22 July 2018 — The classic definition that socialism is a transition stage towards communism has historically generated theoretical debates and has been the watershed between the political movements located on the left of the ideological spectrum. It has also prompted flashes of humor, such as the statement: “The worst thing about communism is the first 500 years of socialism.”

That long-yearned-for moment, when “material goods will rain down like water” and humanity could inscribe on its flags the golden rule “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs,” no longer appears as an explicit goal in the next Constitution of the Republic of Cuba. The word communism has been deleted from the project.

This omission, or more accurately, this erasure, comes as no surprise to those who had carefully read the Conceptualization of the Model approved at the Seventh Congress of the Cuban Communism Party (PCC). In that text, simmering now for nearly ten years, it is not mentioned that the final result of the model is the arrival of the communist society, nor even the purpose of “eliminating the exploitation of man by man.” continue reading

Only among those who have reached, or exceeded, the third age is there any memory of the times when Fidel Castro chose a different heresy by proclaiming that it was possible to build socialism and communism at the same time. It was the decade of the 60s and in the town of San Andrés, in the municipality of La Palma in Pinar del Río, the experiment was intended to do away with money and make everything free for the benefit of its 500 inhabitants.

It was also the time when Nikita Khrushchev promised in Moscow that “the present Soviet generation will live in communism,” and in Cuban universities and other centers of thought there were predictions of the fortunate moment when the red flag of the proletariat would fly over Washington DC.

In Saturday’s session of the Cuban parliament, where the elimination of that word was discussed, the president of the National Assembly assured that its absence “does not mean that we renounce our ideas, but in our vision we think of a socialist, sovereign country, independent, prosperous and sustainable.” Later he argued that the current situation of the island and the international context are very different from those in 1976 when the first Constitution of the revolutionary period was written.

If anyone had had the audacity to suggest the annulment of the term communism in any of the party congresses presided over by Fidel Castro, he would have been accused, at least, of being a revisionist and probably of being a traitor. Even today it must be assumed that many old militants find it difficult to accept this suppression and at this point are wondering how it is possible that the socialist road is “irrevocable” but the end point of the trip, the obligatory destination of that route, is not mentioned.

Primary school children, who every day recite the slogan “Pioneers for communism, we will be like Che” should start looking for a new theme in September, under penalty of being in opposition to the constitution.

The communist society is unfeasible for two fundamental reasons. First because the resources of the planet do not support it; and second, because personal ambition is an indissoluble part of human nature.

Raúl Castro should be congratulated for having the political courage or at least the pragmatism to avoid commitment to an unattainable goal. But to be consistent with such a decision, he would also have to eliminate, in the preamble, that we Cubans are “guided by the political-social ideas of Marx, Engels and Lenin” and, ultimately, change the name of the party that he leads. For that he would have recourse to appeal to the adjective “fidelista,” a doctrine based on voluntarism and the necessary absence of scientific rigor that allows the validation of any solution, any change.

Frequently slow in his decisions, Raúl Castro never decided to inscribe the Cuban system under the imprecise definitions of “socialism of the 21st century,” and left everything hanging from the plural possessive “ours.” He has dismantled most of the chimeras imposed by his brother while swearing allegiance to his legacy. Now, when his final retirement seems to be no further than five years off, he has made it clear that the final destination of this experiment will have to be defined by others.

For many communists this change can be as traumatic as it would be for a Catholic to hear the pope confess that there will be no life after death, that the messiah will never return, or that the heavenly paradise will be erased from the scriptures. That was the thought of two thousand years ago, now things have changed.

_________________________

The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Cuban Woman Will Be Tried For Contempt For Calling State Official Corrupt / Cubalex

Indira Martínez Borges with her 2-year-old son. (Photo (c) Sol Grcia Basulto / Facebook)

Cubalex, 19 July 2018 — Indira Martínez Borges, 33 and the mother of a two-year-old, will be tried on July 20 in a summary proceeding, charged with the crime of “contempt” for calling an official ‘corrupt’. The official, Anais Rodríguez Cárdena,  is with the Provincial Directorate of Housing of the Camagüey municipality, which confiscated Martinez’s home and assigned her another in poor condition, for which she had to pay.

Cubalex is concerned over the incompatibility of these summary trials with the right to a defense. Martínez will be tried without the advice of a lawyer. Only if the court concurs to a trial with a Defender, will it allow the participation of one. Nor does Martinez have the resources to hire a lawyer from the National Organization of Collective Law Firms (ONBC).

Even if the accused can hire a defender, their right to defense would be violated. The legal services contracts of the ONBC are the only ones accepted by the court, a situation that affects the right to freely choose a lawyer.

ONBC lawyers are not independent. They receive influence, pressure and undue interference by the authorities that intervene in the criminal process, which prevents them from acting diligently and without fear, and so they act against the interests of their clients. continue reading

In these summary proceedings, the ONBC lawyers do not even attempt to request postponement of the oral hearing, knowing that they have not had time to prepare their defense or access to the investigation file.

On July 17, the Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), in a press release, expressed its concern over defining criticism of public officials in Cuba as a punishable crime.

The Rapporteurship referred expressly to the cases of Ariel Ruiz, a doctor of Biological Sciences, that of Eduardo Cardet Concepción, coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL), and also the case of Martha Sánchez González, member of the Ladies in White. All three were tried and imprisoned for this same crime, which undermines the freedom of thought and expression, and constitutes a mechanism to silence the pluralistic and democratic debate around the management of the government .

The Rapporteurship of the IACHR claims that the crime of contempt lends itself “to abuse, as a measure to silence unpopular ideas and opinions, which restricts a debate that is fundamental for the efficient functioning of democratic institutions.” It notes that in the majority of nations in the Americas the crime of contempt has been eliminated from the criminal legislation.

It calls on the Cuban State to adapt its legal framework to the Inter-American standards on freedom of expression, and reminds the Cuban government that “public officials are subject to greater scrutiny by society.”

The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression is an office created by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), in order to stimulate the hemispheric defense of the right to freedom of thought and expression, considering its fundamental role in consolidation and development of the democratic system.

The Battle For Life / Veronica Vega

Billie Jean King (Wikipedia)

Veronica Vega, Alas Tensas, 5 July 2018 — Billie Jean King is a former American tennis player. She is among the greatest in the world sports and is a recognized activist for the defense of LGBT rights in the United States.

In 1973, she threatened to boycott the Tennis US Open if the women did not receive the same amount of prize money as the men.

She faced Bobby Riggs, a famous tennis player, in an unprecedented game-cum-show that was shown worldwide, where what was really being disputed was respect for women.

This last fact is magnificently reflected in the 2017 film Battle of the Sexes. continue reading

I would have preferred to learn about the event in 1973, when I was 8 years old. A match seen by 50 million people around the world and one of the great milestones of women’s sport! My mother would have been interested in the cause of the young woman, infecting me with the emotion of the moment and the significance of her victory.

There was am additional circumstance: my father had emigrated to the United States. Who knows if he was among the thousands of anxious spectators who watched the show live?

But my father’s letters took months. There was no internet, much less wifi. Without a mobile phone, or even a fixed one, how could we share that sports fervor with nuances of social vindication?

Wikipedia

And how would the Cuban government define sexual equality through a game of tennis? A mere circus performance, a capitalist ruse to get publicity and money. The battle between the genres had already been won in Cuba. The woman was equal to the man: guerrilla, militant, revolutionary.

A decade later, in the 80s I still didn’t know anything about Billie Jean King. I worked as a long distance operator in the communications ministry. As I had a night shift, during our breaks I did exercises with a colleague on the mattresses where were supposed to sleep. We challenged ourselves with the splits, we did stretches and push-ups.

A few days later we were summoned to the ministry’s director. We were accused of being homosexual.

I wasn’t sure what “homosexual” meant. Nor did I know that even the famous Billie Jean had her fame overshadowed by a scandal mixing a legal demand and a lesbian relationship. I only knew that there were women that people pointed to muttering: “tortillera.” The word sounded dirty, eschatological, obscene.

My friend and I, inspired by the movie Flash Dance , were excited about dance and physical exercise. Our bewilderment was so authentic that the director concluded: “You are innocent little girls and do not know that there are gossiping and malicious people here…”

Two co-workers approached us, whispering: “As long as they don’t see you having sex, you can accuse them of defamation.” Then I did not realize the precariousness of the term “as long as.” These two young women were inseparable. Today I think they were lesbians, and that advice underlies their alibi and the basis of their rebellion.

Could they do more? Maybe they did not even know about the UMAP, but the social category of homosexuals had already been loudly established during the Mariel Boatlift. What does it matter that Cubans didn’t have a real tendency? They chose to include themselves among the “scum” just to escape from the socialist Eden.

Today the Cuban public can meet Billie Jean through a movie that was not shown in theaters.

Those who want to follow the trail will find out that she is as well known for her sports career as for her unstoppable social activism.

Now, 45 years after the War of the Sexes, the historical game of tennis won by her has not spread in Cuba, and homosexual unions are not legally recognized on the island.

The LGTBI community lacks political autonomy. So does the heterosexual. We can not associate freely or create independent projects. Much less companies. We can not organize ourselves and state our demands publicly and peacefully.

It has been announced that gays can now do their Military Service, while heterosexuals can not refuse even as conscientious objectors.

A film like Strawberry and Chocolate is praised to the point of exhaustion, but Santa and Andrés, a film that denounces not only repression of homosexuals but also of political dissidents, is marginalized.

Santa y Andrés (2016), a movie by Carlos Lechuga

We do not have the right to organize ourselves to develop independently whether in sports, art or thought, or for philosophical, ecological, or altruistic purposes …

The fight for a fair wage should include everyone: men, women, LGTBI… and any unclassified gender. Because the only equality granted, which is not discussed, is civic immobility and vulnerability.

 

Plebiscites and Elections in Cuba: Between the Illusory and the Possible

(Photo taken from the internet)

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, West Palm Beach, 27 June 2018 — After more than a year since the death of Castro I, and just a few weeks after the symbolic withdrawal of Castro II from his post at the head of the Cuban government, the only verifiable changes within today’s Cuba are the accelerated and unstoppable deterioration of the living conditions of the population, the increase in material shortages, the growing scarcity of markets and the increase in repression.

All this, framed in an extremely confusing political and economic reality, where the highest authorities of the country announce at the same time, in a constitutional reform — under the assumption of adapting the legal framework to the “reforms” introduced by the government of General Raúl Castro — a “very, very tense” economic and financial situation for the second semester of the year 2018. More poverty on the Cuban horizon, while discontent and despair also grow in a society sunk in an eternal state of survival, suffocated by the accumulation of old and new problems, never overcome. continue reading

In the midst of such a scenario, it is perfectly understandable that political apathy should spread among a population that increasingly distances itself from the power elite. An epidemic apathy that continues to sow disbelief in the population, and that should be the appropriate breeding ground for the advance of proposals of the opposition, but that – unfortunately — is being projected, also to a large extent, towards the so-called opposition leaders and their projects.

Thus, paradoxically, the widening of the gap between government and the governed is not being interpreted at a sociopolitical level into a proportional approach of those governed to the different opposition projects.

It is true that all responsibility for this cannot be attributed to the opposition, at least not in an absolute way. The failure of numerous proposals over decades and the backlog of current opposition projects is associated, even more so than with the nature of the legitimate acceptance the opposition claims, with the repression and harassment suffered by activists, with the lack of spaces available to express themselves freely, with the helplessness and harassment suffered by those who disagree with the government in a country where there is no freedom of association (or any other civil liberty), and with the colossal campaign that is applied to them from the official press monopoly that defames and demonizes them, simultaneously sowing fear and social distrust towards everything that might mean confronting the totalitarian power of the Castro regime.

However, the opposition is not immune to the ills that afflict Cuban society, since it is the fruit of the same reality. This explains why dozens of proposals have been spoiled by the combination of the aforementioned adversities, but also by other evils not attributable to dictatorial power, such as the frequent internal fractures between parties and opposition movements that almost always involve confrontations and mutual disqualifications; the excessive self-interests of many leaders, the sectarian and often exclusive character of some projects, the lack of consensus and common strategies, as well as the inability to articulate truly realistic programs, among other limitations.

The sum of all these calamities and the unquestionable social base insufficiency make the Cuban opposition a marginal sector within Cuba, which moves in parallel direction without being able to penetrate the critical masses with viable and effective proposals which might eventually generate enough force to stand up to the government and begin — finally! — a democratic transition. This is, essentially, the biggest weakness of the opposition proposals.

Let’s view it from today’s perspective. It is enough to look at social networks to see a constant anti-Castro media boom, a flood of activists — almost exclusively from outside Cuba — and a permanent brawl between one project and another, one leadership and another, without absolutely any benefit for anyone.

This is how we see unrealizable plebiscites roaming only the virtual universe, fable “elections” and hallucinatory calls to demonstrations or street uprisings to “overthrow the dictatorship” which all who feel the daily rhythm within Cuba know very well will not happen, other than in the imaginations of some of today’s extremists.

Projects that, in principle, would be perfectly valid if they came together with an instruction manual that would indicate to “the masses” how to make them possible.

Because, in good faith, a plebiscite in Cuba would not solve anything except to “demonstrate” the dictatorship’s known bad nature, which will abort any attempt to carry it out. An “election” would not be possible without the existence of political parties, without freedom of expression, communication and the press, without the existence of institutions that certify the transparency and legitimacy of the process and without due legal guarantees. This, without taking into consideration the catastrophic results of a popular uprising in the streets.

Neither would any proposal be of help, whether in the form of a peaceful plebiscite or a violent assault on power from the streets without a master plan for “the day after.” How to establish changes from an event (and not a process), especially in a society so tense and so devoid of civic culture? How will the violent settling of accounts be avoided, how will justice be guaranteed, how will the excesses of a social polarization that has been fed from power for decades be controlled?

But let’s abstract from the reality we know so well and give these projects the benefit of the doubt. Imagine that a plebiscite can be held and that it will demonstrate (at a minimum) that there is an important segment of society that aspires to greater political participation and that demands a multiparty system and other freedoms such as freedom of expression, information, press, rights, economic, etc. How could we ensure that the dictatorship will respect the results of the polls and open the spaces claimed by that segment, when the reality of their actions proves otherwise?

If this is a challenge, we can imagine what it would be like to call for elections in a nation that has not had a government democratically elected at the ballot box since 1948 and where, for 60 years, the existence of a political party or a true public debate on any matter of common interest has not been permitted. Is the Cuban population (those living in Cuba and a good part of those living abroad) prepared to confront the responsibility of the most decisive exercise in civil law? I don’t think so.

As for taking power by force, it is scary to think of the human crisis that would bring unleashed violence in the streets, the social unrest, the consequences of unleashing the beast. Who would assume the consequences and how would we recover from such a long and definitive fracture? Who would be saved from this new Haitian Revolution?

Many readers will assume this analysis too pessimistic or defeatist. There will not be a lack of those who accuse me of promoting divisionism or even label me with worse epithets. However, the Cuban situation is so desperate and urgent that we should not continue to use time and bullets to confront one another, but to conceive answers for a possible solution. Such is the task of the opposition parties, in case they had not realized it: to propose alternatives and a route to attain them.

I must clarify, finally, that I do not consider the plebiscite proposals and (eventually) elections in Cuba totally misguided, but only incomplete. All efforts have the courage to break the inertia, promote action. But it is necessary to abandon, once and for all, the cravings for personal wishes to be in the limelight and find one or several feasible solutions in the shortest time to overcome the Castro nightmare. Right now, the “who” is not so important, rather the “what” and especially the “how” are. Cuba languishes while some walk around, thriving in its name and contemplating their belly-buttons.

Or, who knows? Maybe there is already a solution properly thought out and strategically realizable, as an old friend always tells me, “momentarily locked in a desk drawer of some good Cuban, who is waiting for the right moment to bring it to light.” Or maybe the miracle will finally take place and the wills of many Cubans from all over will come together to allow light to shine and open the way. Only this thought exposes me for what I am: an incurable optimist.

Translated by Norma Whiting