Eduardo Mora, Another Mask Falls / 14ymedio, Claudia Collazo

Mara Gongora, Eduardo Mora and Yisel Filiu on the set of the program “Good Morning” in 2014. (Source: Facebook)
Mara Gongora, Eduardo Mora and Yisel Filiu on the set of the program “Good Morning” in 2014. (Source: Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Claudia Collazo, Havana, 28 July 2016 — Compelling, cheerful, with an exuberant vocabulary and a good presence, Eduardo Mora was until recently one of the main presenters on “Good Morning,” Cuba’s morning news show. Even the most boring slogans gained grace from his personal style.

Just over a month ago, in the hallways of the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television (ICRT) everyone said, each in his own way, that he had defected, that he won’t return, that he stayed abroad. In May, Mora attended the Latin American Study Association (LASA) meeting in New York as a speaker, and at the end of the sessions asked his bosses in Information Systems to extend his absence for a few more weeks, but they refused. The presenter intended to take advantage of the trip to visit his brother in Miami and to give some talks so that he would be able to buy a house in Havana with the money raised. When he did not appear in Cuba by the required date, he was fired.

Now, his colleagues comment quietly that Mora “has passed to a better life.” This expression, recognized as a synonym for death, has now become, ironically, a form of comparing the life of a Cuban who stays with that of a Cuban who leaves.

Those who knew him at Cubavision International when he was chief of information there, recall his scathing comments away from the cameras and microphones. Nothing extraordinary. The same things that are said in any bread line or on a bus crammed with people. For example: “Marino Murillo and the other leaders know how to adjust the economy, but without affecting themselves, nor the kings’ children.”

The real question is not why did Eduardo Mora stay in Miami, but why do our talented young professionals decide to leave. It is not about something as trite as a brain drain, because almost no one will offer him millions. On the contrary, they assume they can have a better life there, working as waiters, than they can exercising their profession in Cuba. The explanation is found in the mere fact that their working abroad, at anything, gives them at least the opportunity to pay for a plate of food on the table and, in some cases, for the same for their families on the island.

What concerns us is not that he stayed because with what he earned here he could never buy a house in Havana, not even from the results of his hard work, which, at times involves working more than two contracts simultaneously. The alarming thing is the chaos unleashed when someone like Eduardo Mora emigrates or decides to explore new work opportunities, as if wanting a better life is a grave failing, an unpardonable betrayal.

Cubavision International has not yet named a new chief of information; right now it takes a great deal of effort for people – and for young people it’s even worse – to assume leadership positions. Meanwhile, the hallway comments multiply. There is a joke that says if there were a ramparts or a common border with any other country, there would be no one left on this side. “Let he who does not cross cast the first stone!” says a lady, passing on the joke.

The system is collapsing not because it is “a plaza under siege by a genocidal blockade,” but because a good part of its people have decided to launch themselves on the path to emigration. Perhaps because, as José Martí is claimed to have said, “when the people emigrate… leaders are superfluous.” Something everyone knows and mumbles behind the scenes.

Cuban Civil Society, For The First Time Present In The Regional Internet Governance Forum / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula

The Regional Latin American and Caribbean Preparatory Meeting for the Internet Governance Forum, is a regional meeting prior to the upcoming global forum in Mexico. (Twitter)
The Regional Latin American and Caribbean Preparatory Meeting for the Internet Governance Forum, is a regional meeting prior to the upcoming global forum in Mexico. (Twitter)

14ymedio biggerRegina Coyula, Havana, 26 July 2016 — ¿Gover… what? That reaction has become increasingly familiar in a conversation discussing internet governance. Although many users who take advantage of it aren’t aware, governance is a fundamental issue for everyone when we venture out onto the World Wide Web. That our family email travels equally with the statistics of scientific research, with an online purchase, or with a bank account statement, is thanks to governance.

Behind any familiar and easily remembered address is a long string of numbers without which the internet couldn’t function. Early developers realized that the ordinary user would be unable to recall those long strings of numbers and so created a protocol to tie them to a name. Name and number indissoluble leading us unmistakably to the desired destination. These technical protocols that make our lives easier, also have to do with governance. Continue reading “Cuban Civil Society, For The First Time Present In The Regional Internet Governance Forum / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula”

Affordable Vacations in Cuba / Iván García

Piscina-de-un-hotel-cuba-_ab-620x330
Photo: Lorenzo Crespo Silveira, Havana Times.

Ivan Garcia, 4 July 2016 — Mayara finished ninth grade with excellent grades and the next school term she will start high school. She is thinking about going to university and getting a degree in civil engineering or architecture.

Until then, she is spending her holidays scrubbing dishes, cleaning house and helping her mother wash fifteen pounds of dirty clothes twice a week.

“I feel very bad for my daughter but I don’t have money for her to go a discotheque or a party with her friends. I cannot even afford to send her on a trip to the beach with some neighbors who have rented a bus. She’ll have to settle once again for watching television and reading books. I make 380 pesos a month (about 17 dollars) as a receptionist and that isn’t even enough to feed ourselves adequately. And I can’t rely on her father. He’s always drunk and months will pass before he gives his daughter so much as a peso,” says Mayara’s mother. Continue reading “Affordable Vacations in Cuba / Iván García”

No Air Conditioning and Intrusive Music / Rebeca Monzo

Rebeca Monzo, 26 July 2016 — As random comments from ordinary citizens on the streets suggest, we are going through a new Special Period, though the government repeatedly denies it in media statements, calling it “a difficult situation from which we will recover.”

For confirmation, one need only observe the bus stops crowded with people anxiously waiting for the next vehicle to take them to their jobs, the hospital or the beach. The lack of fuel and spare parts are the main causes of these “bottlenecks.” For this reason, many people feel forced to turn to boteros, or private taxis. Though expensive, they are a solution to the problems of urban mass transit, for which the government is responsible. Continue reading “No Air Conditioning and Intrusive Music / Rebeca Monzo”

Three Months Later, The Residents Of Havana Still Remember Obama / Iván García

Michelle Obama, her mother, Marian Robinson, and her daughters, Malia and Sasha, pose together with a group of Cuban children after having planted two magnolia bushes, similar to the ones that bloom in the White House gardens, and after donating a wooden bench for the relaxation of visitors to the Rubén Martínez Villena library garden in Old Havana. Taken from Impacto New York. 
Michelle Obama, her mother, Marian Robinson, and her daughters, Malia and Sasha, pose together with a group of Cuban children after having planted two magnolia bushes, similar to the ones that bloom in the White House gardens, and after donating a wooden bench for the relaxation of visitors to the Rubén Martínez Villena library garden in Old Havana. Taken from Impacto New York.

Iván García , 22 June 2016 — The park at Galiano and San Rafael is a beehive of activity. At one end, several teenagers play soccer, using a school desk as the goal, while 50 men and women are connecting to the Internet, sitting on wooden benches or the ground.

Conversations with relatives or friends mix together. Here the wifi is confined exclusively to talking with family through IMO or chatting on Facebook, the island’s new virtual drug. Continue reading “Three Months Later, The Residents Of Havana Still Remember Obama / Iván García”

The Erratic Corrections of Machado Ventura / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

The only “next” is the looming return of the economic difficulties. (14ymedio)
The only “next” is the looming return of the economic difficulties. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 26 July 2016 – Sporting a hat to protect himself from the rays of the sun, Jose Ramon Machado Ventura explained in his speech for the 26th of July that the changes introduced in the Cuban model “are aimed at consolidating our socialism, to make more prospero (prosperous) and sustainable.” The keynote speaker at an event this morning in Sancti Spiritus realized immediately that he had omitted the enclitic pronoun “it” next to the verb “to make” and corrected it but introduced a new error: “To make it more proximo (next) and sustainable.”

To the cheerful confusion of those who didn’t notice the initial grammatical slip, the vice president conveyed the impression that he hadn’t meant to say prosperous, but proximo (next). The correction thus became a political problem, because if there is something Cubans know it is that the promised socialism “without haste, but without pause” could be anything or have innumerable oddities, but in no way is it “next.” Continue reading “The Erratic Corrections of Machado Ventura / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar”

Ramon Machado Evokes a 26th of July Marked By “Complex Circumstances” / 14ymedio

The vice president of the Councils of State and Ministers, Jose Ramon Machado Ventura. (Screenshot)
The vice president of the Councils of State and Ministers, Jose Ramon Machado Ventura. (Screenshot)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 26 July 2016 – In a total break with the optimism that Cuban leaders usually squander on every 26th of July, Jose Ramon Machado Ventura addressed this Tuesday the “difficult circumstances” the island is currently experiencing. The vice president evoked, in addition, the problems derived from the international situation whose resolution is “outside the scope” of the government.

With the first light of dawn, lasting for barely an hour and ten minutes, Sancti Spiritus hosted the main event for the 63rd anniversary of the assaults on the Moncada and Carlos Manuel de Cespedes barracks. The event was punctuated by calls for efficiency and sacrifices, and continuous references to the “economic situation,” characterized by a lack of liquidity that has obliged the government to reduce the expectations for economic growth. Continue reading “Ramon Machado Evokes a 26th of July Marked By “Complex Circumstances” / 14ymedio”

ICHR Accepts Denunciation of #CUBA for Violation of Ángel Santiesteban’s Human Rights / Ángel Santiesteban

Angel Santiesteban, 30 March 2016 — The denunciation of the violation of Ángel Santiesteban’s human rights has been accepted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). The organization has given the Castro dictatorship a three-month deadline to respond.

– The Editor

[A translation of the letter from the IACHR, addressed to Ángel Santiesteban’s editor, Elisa Tabakman, follows below.] Continue reading “ICHR Accepts Denunciation of #CUBA for Violation of Ángel Santiesteban’s Human Rights / Ángel Santiesteban”

Intense Rains Give Evidence of the "Wonder" of Havana / Iván García

Beneath the rain, Havana received the title of Wonder City of the Modern World. Photo by Elio Delgado Valdés, taken from Havana Times.
Beneath the rain, Havana received the title of Wonder City of the Modern World. Photo by Elio Delgado Valdés, taken from Havana Times.

Iván García, 9 June 2016 — Ask Luis Carlos Rodríguez, retired, his opinion about the designation of “Wonder City” based on an Internet survey conducted in the winter of 2014 by the Swiss foundation, “New 7 Wonders,” and you will hear a long list of complaints, sprinkled with insults, about the olive-green government that has governed the destiny of Cuba since January 1959.

The old man lives in a quarter where the wastewater runs through the cracked central corridor, a little more than half a kilometer from the area of colonial Havana, which wears makeup for the photos of dazzled tourists. Continue reading “Intense Rains Give Evidence of the "Wonder" of Havana / Iván García”

The 26th, Again / Fernando Dámaso

moncada
The Moncada Barracks attacked on 26 July 1953

Fernando Damaso, 25 July 2016 — Tomorrow, a new anniversary of the 26th of July–that failed insurrectional action of 1953–will be commemorated. This date, one of the principal ones of the Castro regime’s calendar, served as the title and standard for the political movement that emerged from the event. The province of Sancti Spíritus has been selected as the headquarters for the celebration–not for being the best choice, but rather for being the least bad one.

There will be “popular” gatherings, official festivities, cultural merrymaking, and even speeches with pretensions of historical authenticity. The script is repeated every year, varying only with regard to the secondary actors, being that the principals have remained in their roles for 58 years, despite the boredom they provoke among the spectators.

Throughout the course of a few days the inhabitants of Sancti Spíritus will enjoy abundant beer, one or another foodstuff, and much dance music, in addition to the traditional carnaval. Afterwards, all will return to the usual boring dailyness, with its meager wages, shortages, street violence, abuses, bureaucracy, and many other misfortunes–and the commemoration, as it does every year, will remain forgotten until the next one, if indeed it takes place, in a new chosen province.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Not In The Name Of Socialism. Another Sign Of Contempt For Cuban Workers / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, 25 July 2016 – Several news reports confirm that there is a contingent of Indian workers in Cuba… Yes, you read that right: workers from India, from the other side of the world, working on tourist projects for foreign companies. A French company brought them over here and is paying them first world salaries.

Can anyone in the State-Party-Government explain what is happening? Are there no Cuban workers to employ in these construction projects?

Is the state-run Construction and Specialized Installations Company (ECME), which builds and remodels hotels, luxury buildings for foreigners and hospitals, among other projects, which has seen the most brilliant contemporary Cuban engineering and architecture, unable to undertake this work? Continue reading “Not In The Name Of Socialism. Another Sign Of Contempt For Cuban Workers / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos”

Cuba’s Main Airport without Air Conditioning / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 22 July 2016 — Jose Marti International Airport in Havana will continue offering its normal services but, as part of General Raul Castro’s orchestrated set of measures to deal with the economic restrictions facing the country, it has been ordered to reduce the number of hours the facility is air conditioned.

An employee of ECASA (Cuban Airport and Aeronautical Services Company), who declined to give his name, told Marti Noticias, “The management does not know what to do or if the lack of air conditioning will hurt the airport community, the passengers, the airlines, visitors or customs service equipment, which is vital to the protection of our borders.” Continue reading “Cuba’s Main Airport without Air Conditioning / Juan Juan Almeida”

The Cuban Government Wants to Regulate Prices for Collective Taxis / Iván García

Photo from Cubanet
Photo from Cubanet

Iván García, 19 July 2016 — At the traffic signal on Infanta and Carlos III, in the heart of Havana, Guenady takes advantage of the red light to thirstily take a swig out of a half-liter of ice water that he keeps at one side of his driver’s seat.

Perhaps the cold water helps to appease his fury. He spends 20 minutes protesting what he considers an arbitariness of the Government that is trying to regulate the prices of the routes taken by the collective taxis [taxis that pick up people and travel set routes, often old American cars].

The man turns off the CD and replaces the Reggaeton with a rant sprinkled with curses and criticisms of the olive-greet autocrats. Continue reading “The Cuban Government Wants to Regulate Prices for Collective Taxis / Iván García”

Traffic Accidents: The Fifth Highest Cause of Death in Cuba / Iván García

The state of a Transtur bus, carrying 30 European tourists, after a crash. The crash happened on April 2, 2016, at the Jatibonico exit going towards Ciego de Ávila, leaving 2 dead and 28 injured. The two who died were the driver, Alkier Barrera Medina, a 36-year-old Cuban national, and an Austrian tourist, Johnn Eberl, aged 63. Photo by Vicente Brito, Escambray newspaper from Sancti Spiritus.
The state of a Transtur bus, carrying 30 European tourists, after a crash. The crash happened on April 2, 2016, at the Jatibonico exit going towards Ciego de Ávila, leaving 2 dead and 28 injured. The two who died were the driver, Alkier Barrera Medina, a 36-year-old Cuban national, and an Austrian tourist, Johnn Eberl, aged 63. Photo by Vicente Brito, Escambray newspaper from Sancti Spiritus.

Iván García, 11 July 2016 — Fernando, owner of a private business to the east of Havana, bought his ancient black Moskvitch during the difficult years of the Special Period, when the proprietor, a national labour hero, found himself obliged to sell his cane cutting business to feed his family.

The Soviet era car should have gone to the scrapyard years ago. Moreover, the Russian factory which made the vehicle went bust in 2002. But in Cuba, the obsolete Moskvitch refuses to die. Continue reading “Traffic Accidents: The Fifth Highest Cause of Death in Cuba / Iván García”