Google Chrome now available for download in Cuba…

Message from GOOGLE:

Google Chrome is now available for download in Cuba

U.S. export controls and sanctions can sometimes limit the products available in certain countries. As these trade restrictions evolve we’ve been working to figure out how to make more tools available in sanctioned countries. In the past couple years we’ve made Chrome downloadable in Syria and Iran. We’re happy to say that Internet users in Cuba can now use Chrome too, and browse the web faster and more safely than they could before.

Get Chrome here: http://goo.gl/W0i15l

Dengue Fever and Tall Stories for Children / Yoani Sanchez

Leaks like this foster the breeding of the Aedes aegypti mosquito that carries dengue fever. (14ymedio)

Leaks like this foster the breeding of the Aedes aegypti mosquito that carries dengue fever. (14ymedio)

Explaining death to a child is always a difficult task. Some parents reach for a metaphor and others lie. The adults justify someone’s death to children with phrases that range from “he’s gone to heave to live on a cloud,” to the tall story that “he’s gone on a trip.” The worst is when these inventions transcend the family and become the political information policy of a State. To falsify to people the actual incidence of death, is to rob them of their maturity and deny their right to transparency.

In 1981 an epidemic of dengue hemorrhagic fever broke out in Cuba. I was barely six, but that situation left me deeply traumatized. The first thing they told us in school was that the disease had been introduced by “Yankee imperialism.” The Uncle Sam of my childish nightmares no longer threatened us with a gun, but rather with a huge Aedes aegypti mosquito, ready to infect us with bonebreak fever. My family panicked when they began to learn about the dead children. The emergency room at the Central Havana Pediatric Hospital was a hive of screaming and crying. My mother asked me once an hour if anything hurt, her hand on my forehead checking for fever.

There was no information, only whispers and fear, a lot of fear. By not speaking publicly about the true source of the evil, the population could barely protect itself. In my primary school we kept running to the shelter—underneath the Ministry of Basic Industries—in the face of the “imminent military attack” that was coming from the North. Meanwhile, a small stealthy enemy ran rampant among people my age. That lie didn’t take long to become obvious. Decades later dengue fever has returned, although I dare say it never left, and all these years the health authorities have tried to hide it.

Now there is no one else to blame, as if hygiene hasn’t deteriorated in our country. It is not the Pentagon, but the thousands of miles of damaged plumbing leaking all over the Island. It is not the CIA, but the inefficiency of a system that has not even managed to build new drainage and sewer networks. The responsibility doesn’t point overseas, but directly at us. No laboratory has created this virus to kill Cubans, it is our own material and sanitary collapse that keeps us from being able to control it.

At least that story for children, where the evil always came from abroad, no longer works. The tall story, which presented us as victims infected by American perfidy, is accepted only by the most naïve. Like children grow up, we have found that the Government has lied to us about dengue fever and that those were not paternalistic falsehoods, but sophisticated lies of the State.

Message for Yadira / Regina Coyula

I’d like to be able to have a conversation with the Cuban-American Yadira Escobar. The photo in her blog tells me that she is young, and the information she provides about herself indicates that she emigrated when she was very little. I have read much about how Yadira would like to return to Cuba, and I have also read about what her dream Cuba is.

Yadira is a self-proclaimed lover of freedom. Neither the Marxist collectivism nor capitalist individualism agree with her idea of what Cubans want; however, she missteps in inciting our academics, university students, and specialists of all kinds to be at the ready to plan the national course.

I can assure young Yadira that there is an intellectual contemplation coming from many places and many walks of life on Cuba, but their mark cannot always be found in official channels; it needs to be sought out in alternative sites, and in many cases, it is plagued, silenced and demonized. Continue reading

Portugal Has Spent $ 12 Million Euros Since 2009 to Recruit Cuban Doctors / 14ymedio

14YMEDIO, Havana, 19 August 2014 – The Portuguese National Health Service spent about 12 million euros (about $16 million dollars) in the last six years to recruit Cuban doctors, the local newspaper Jornal I reported Tuesday.

In June 2009, the Government of the Socialist José Sócrates signed its first agreement with Cuba to address the shortage of family doctors. The first protocols provided for payment of a monthly payment of 5,900 euros for every Cuban professional, a base salary above the pay of the Portuguese healthcare provides, although the figure was reduced to 4,230 euros at the end of 2011.

Between August 2009 and 2011, Portugal disbursed 259,600 euros a month for a team of 44 Cuban doctors. Spending in 2012 and 2013 was 164,970 per month for 39 professionals. Following the changes in the latest revision of the agreement last April, the monthly cost is currently 219,960 euros, according to information published by Jornal I.

Payments are made every three months to the Cuban Medical Services Company, which is responsible for paying for healthcare workers, although each of them receives less than a quarter of the total disbursed by Portugal for their services. Cuban authorities justify these deductions to finance training and for the National Public Health Service.

In addition, Portugal has assumed the cost of travel between the two countries, including during the holidays, so that doctors can travel once a year to their country of origin.

The workers on this mission are subject to Cuba’s code of ethics and disciplinary rules. They cannot participate in political activities or make statements to the press, and must inform the authorities if they want to marry. The agreement also provides that in case of abandonment of the mission or violation of the contract, the doctors cannot return to Cuba for a period of eight years.

 

Memories of My Duty / Victor Ariel Gonzalez Celaya

Part I: The Zambrana Mustache

The most notable feature of Colonel Zambrana was a mustache, thick and very black, under his nose. I, who had thought there could not be a mustache more … mustachioed, than that of a regular presenter on the television news, I found that the Zambrana far surpassed this record: it seemed a caricature, as if the colonel had not been able to finish aspirating a brush. If we add the belly this fifty-something man had grown, plus he was bald, wearing the olive green uniform, with the ends of his pants tucked into boots, then we have the most colorful character with whom I would I spent my five weeks “duty” or basic military training.

The first time I saw that mustache haranguing us, I had to make such a big effort not to laugh it gave me a headache. The second time I was not so eager to laugh because the colonel was carrying a pistol in his belt. So they were very tense days: Fidel Castro had been given the TKO that prevented him from continuing to exercise a power of nearly fifty years, and everything was upside down. What kind of fate is mine, gentlemen! Daddy-bearded-one gets fucked just when I’m starting military service!

Military unit 3635 was stationed in 3635 Santiago de Las Vegas. It is an anti-aircraft detachment from which you can see very nearby José Martí airport. Its troops are on “the front line” against the “imperialist enemy invader.” And to fulfill this important mission, have a few rockets from the Soviet era with which we can bring down—why not?!—those very same American B-2 Spirit bombers the day they dare to come flapping around the area

Because it was there that I began my year as a soldier. A lapse that many would like to forget, yet marks us as if we were cattle with consciousness. This stratum of common memory occasionally emerges, more so because my military service was truly unforgettable.

Víctor Ariel González Celaya

20 August 2014

Do You Recognize the Face of This Rafter? / 14ymedio

Some photos from the collection of Willy Castellanos (Exodus Project website)

Some photos from the collection of Willy Castellanos (Exodus Project website)

The photographer Willy Castellanos fought so that the faces of the more than 30,000 rafters who fled Cuba in the summer of 1994 would not be forgotten. The Exodus Project, by the Aluna Art Foundation, in which the Polish documentary film maker Marian Marskinsky is also involved, attempts to once again give names to the protagonists of the exodus of that era.

Castellanos documented the departure from the island of dozens of people in precarious vessels from the beaches of 30th and 24th in Miramar, and from the Cojimar esplanade, east of Havana, during the so-called Rafter Crisis.

The photographer launches a call for all those who recognize the faces immortalized in the photos to provide information to help reconstruct their individual stories.

“Today, 20 years later, I want to once again find these people. I want to document the progress of their lives from the precise moment that my old Nikon captured them on the Cuban coast exchanging spells with fate and the sea, to aspire to a different life. If you recognize yourself, or recognize someone you know in these images and, like me, value the importance of remembering and are moved to tell about it, call or email me,” Castellanos said on the website of the project.

The curator Adriana Herrera of Aluna Art Foundation and Castellanos himself are preparing an exhibition at the Spanish Cultural Center of Miami, which will open in September. The exhibition will also feature videos and installations by Cuban artists such as Coco Fusco and Juan-Si Gonzalez.

Juanita Castro: Memory is Never Harmless / 14ymedio, Francis Sanchez

Juanita Castro Ruz in front of the cover of her book (14ymedio)

Juanita Castro Ruz in front of the cover of her book

14YMEDIO, Francis Sanchez, Ciego de Avila, 18 August 2014 – The anecdotes, the identities and the composition of the family of the Cuban Revolution’s Maximum Leaders, after become a taboo subject due to steps taken by themselves, has become the subject of public interest and a source of constant speculation. A delicate area, the private and mythical environment of the Castro Ruz brothers acquires historical content from rumors, with unnamed girlfriends, faceless wives, children and many family members rarely seen together even in photos.

And in this “complete photo of the first family,” that was never taken and probably never will be, is the disturbing “presence” of an odd woman who carries the same last names with pride, defending the family lineage, but at the same time rejecting the stamps these names have placed on Cuban history. A strong, secluded, argumentative woman who appears, because of this, doubly cursed.

Her request for political asylum in Mexico City on 29 June 1964 was a bombshell. She started the day with a press conference that had a huge impact: “The person addressing you is Juanita Castro Ruz, sister of the Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro.” Continue reading

The Business of Standing in Line / 14ymedio

The line can form the night before (14ymedio)

The line can form the night before (14ymedio)

14YMEDIO, 18 August 2014 – From Thursday night at 10:00 PM Anabel stood in the line at International Legal Counsel on 22nd Street in Playa. She’d already tried at dawn that morning, when she thought if she got there at 5:00 AM she would have a good chance. But she was wrong, they only took 40 cases and she was about 80th in line.

Anabel came to get a legal criminal record document because she’s trying to get a visa for Argentina and this is a part of the required paperwork every Cuban citizen who is not traveling on official business must have.

This time, on arriving at the corner in the dark, she found only professional line-standers. A group of 4 or 5 individuals who work selling, for 10 convertible pesos (about two weeks wages in Cuba), the first 15 places in the line. Each one “stands in” for three people and has enormous psychological experience in determining to whom to offer their services.

The normal clients didn’t begin arrive until two in the morning. Some, like Anabel, had been frustrated on previous occasions. Continue reading

Amidst Rumors and Disinformation, Angel Santiesteban Continues Missing

{*Translator’s Note: Angel disappeared from prison on July 21, 2014. As of today he has not been heard from for 29 days.}

Five days* have passed now since the disappearance of the writer Angel Santiesteban in Havana, barely hours after he wrote a post from Lawton prison,  in which he announced to the world that there were strong rumors that the Regime’s prison authorities would transfer him to a higher security prison.

After his disappearance from said prison last July 21, without the Cuban authorities informing family members of anything, another rumor started circulating: supposedly, Angel Santiesteban had escaped. In a telephone call that the writer’s son, Eduardo Angel Santiesteban, made to the prison, worried at not knowing anything about his father, a minor official confirmed the rumor. “I don’t know if they did it to scare me, to make me more nervous than I am,” said the 16-year-old, on the Columbian television program, Night, Channel NTN24. In conversations with family and friends he has said that he feels this lie by the regime’s prison officials is a bad sign. Continue reading

Investment in Cuba? What for? / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Investment in Cuba? What for?
ASCE XXIV / 2014 Annual Conference, Miami Hilton Downtown Hotel, Florida, USA
Panel 12. Concerto Ballrom B – Friday, August 1st, 2:45-4:15pm

1.

In Cuba during the 1970s, historian Manuel Moreno Fraginals challenged poet Jose Lezama Lima with his trendy scientific notions about the laws of objectivity and the transition to a colonial/pseudo republic/revolution from the slave mills to the Slavic sugarcane cutters; the now forgotten Soviet KTP. Exhaling an asthmatic counterpoint through his cigar, Lezama Lima responded to Moreno Fraginals without foregoing the Marxist irony of a convenient Catholic: “Ah… But when will we have a history that is qualitative?”

Are we Cubans lacking the type of analysis that at the margins of academic exactitude and author-centered erudition would also require ethicality? Is a qualitative economy that can escape the comparisons of percents and profits and the tendency to always side with the expounder at all conceivable? Is a qualitative political system that rises above the lowbrow politics practiced in our country unthinkable? How about a qualitative sociology without ideological determinism and infallible founders? When all is said and done, is the anthropology of a quality Cuban one that is multidimensional, subjective, and liberated from the consensus imposed upon on us with the rhythm of a conga drumbeat?

No wonder the Professor did not answer the Master’s question. Today, when it comes to Raul Castro’s reforms that in an ever-changing and capricious landscape that hides a clan’s control while a new image of legitimacy is created, would Moreno Fraginals rely on the laws of objectivity in a transition from communism to capitalism? And would Lezama Lima respond to him with an “Ah… And when we will Cuba have a history of qualitative capitalism?” Poetry asks impossible questions that history can answer, though it finds it inconvenient to do so. Continue reading

The Day the People of Havana Protested in the Streets / Ivan Garcia

1000472_474759539275644_1332749336_n1994 was an amazing year. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the disappearance of the USSR had been the trigger for the beginning in Cuba of the “Special Period in Times of Peace,” an economic crisis which lasted for 25 years.

We returned to  a subsistence economy. The factories shut down as they had no fuel or supplies. Tractors were replaced by oxen. And the power cuts lasted 12 hours a day.

The island entered completely into an era of inflation, shortages and hunger. To eat twice a day was a luxury. Meat, chicken and fish disappeared off the menu. People ate little, and poorly. Malnutrition caused exotic illnesses like beri-beri and optic neuritis. Continue reading