‘14ymedio’ seen by its readers / 14ymedio, Rosa Lopez

Printed version of 14ymedio distributed on the island through alternative networks

Printed version of 14ymedio distributed on the island through alternative networks

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Rosa Lopez, Havana, 21 May 2015 – “The connection doesn’t work,” the young man tells the employee who frowns at him for making her get out of her comfortable chair. The heat is terrible and the air conditioning hasn’t worked for weeks in a State-run “Nauta” Internet room centrally located in Havana’s Plaza municipality. The woman approaches listlessly, looks at the screen, types in a some web address and the page opens with no problems. The client returns to the fray, “And why when I type in 14ymedio.com nothing happens?” A snort is heard throughout the navigation room. “Look son, it is because you can’t enter that site, you understand me?” In a few seconds the internaut has received his first lesson in censorship.

Who in Cuba reads the digital daily 14ymedio? This is the question for which the management of this medium has gone out into street to look for answers and suggestions to improve our work. We have surveyed different age groups, political viewpoints, and geographic situations, to try to trace a map of those Cubans who have in front of their eyes some of the content that we publish on the site.

An initial incursion along busy G Street, last Saturday night, shed light on some of those followers or detractors. “Ah, yes, I’ve had a copy for some months, but they publish almost nothing on videogames,” although, “my dad likes it because it talks about politics and that stuff,” says Juan Carlos Zamora, 19, a student at the Pedagogical Institute. “A friend told me about the newspaper, but I would recommend more topics for young people, like fashion and technology,” added this young man.

Since the day it was founded, 14ymedio has been blocked on the national servers that provide public Internet. Internet rooms, connections from hotels and other state locales show an error message on the screen when someone tries to access the portal. A PDF version published every Friday, with the best of the week’s news and an active network of friends and colleagues, is distributed within the country. The appearance in February of last year of Nauta email service has also contributed to the spread of the content, although there is much more to do in that direction.

For Marcia Sosa, a retired civil engineer living in Santiago de Cuba, “The best part is the list of prices for products in the farmers market, because you can see how expensive life is.” The lady receives the content of our site by email, because, “My son sends it to me every day from Miami, but without the images because that takes too long to load.” The retiree believes that “they should open a section saying where to find what product, because sometimes I’m like a crazy person looking all over and not knowing where to find it.” What she likes least, however, are “the opinion columns, because here everyone has an opinion, there are 11 million Cubans and 20 million opinions.”

In the city of Ciego de Avila, Ruben Rios has taken on the task of sharing with his friends copies of the 14ymedio articles that come his way. “I do it because I believe people should hear all versions, although I don’t agree with part of what you publish.” Recently released from prison, Rios has dedicated himself to getting his life back, “and informing myself is a way of feeling free, so I read everything that comes to hand and I am lucky that the newspaper comes my way.”

In the guts of 14ymedio, Juan Carlos Fernandez finds that his work on the team “Has been a liberating experience.” For this activist and reporter, writing for the digital site is not only “a democratic exercise, but also it is a very serious project.” He remarks with pride, “This is the prelude of the new press that is coming, the prelude of freedom of the press, of democracy.” However, he concedes that there is a long way to go to improve the quality and elevate the training of the press’s reporters and correspondents. “This is a school for me, now I have to publish every article with more objectivity.”

Yunier receives the articles appearing in our independent daily through the so-called “Marta’s list.” A Cuban immigrant living in Miami who participated in December 2004 in the founding of the digital magazine Consenso (Consensus), one of the first embryos of the independent press that took advantage of the new technologies. Marta Cortizas performs the true “labor of a little ant” compiling every day the best of the Cuban and international press and sending it by email to a growing number of subscribers. “If it weren’t for her, it would cost me a lot of work to read what you publish from Holguin.”

And why is it called 14ymedio, asks a resident of the Fanguito neighborhood when we inquire about our portal. With long experience standing in lines and counting every gram she receives from the ration market, the elderly lady is sure that behind a name like this, “there has to be something hidden, a warning… come on.” She doesn’t accept the explanation about the 14th floor where our headquarters are located, the “Y” from a well-known digital blog, nor the polysemy of “medio” in Spanish, which means both “half” and “press media.” “There is some trick here, some mathematical formula or who knows,” she concludes maliciously.

Not everyone likes it, which is evidence of the plurality of tastes and information preferences of the Cuban population. “I haven’t read it, I’m not going to read it, because I don’t have to visit this site to know that you want to destroy the country and do away with the Revolution,” says Nelson Bonne. A self-employed worker in Las Tunas, the man considers that “The [the State run newspaper] Granma is enough for me, and I don’t need any little newspaper created by the enemy.”

The director of the magazine Convivencia (Coexistence), Dagoberto Valdes, has a more constructive opinion. “To have a newspaper made in Cuba, by Cubans and for Cubans, is for me the best, and we are going to all push together to get access to the Internet so that we Cubans can look into this window.”

State Sponsors of Forgetfulness / Angel Santiesteban

The pernicious, failed, and pathetic ideologues of the Cuban totalitarian regime want you to believe that they should never have been on the “list of state sponsors of terrorism.” Never mind that it’s true, or that there is evidence that proves their constant support, military provisioning and training to all the guerrillas created in the Americas.

In particular, Cuba was added to the list for the help it offered the guerrillas of El Salvador, which, moreover, it did not hide, and which it then called “internationalism.”

The Castros have that characteristic of never being wrong, nor of ever declaring any political or economic action a failure. In more than a half century of dictatorship—and a depressing and chaotic political administration—they have never on any occasion recognized that they were wrong, and as the Silvio Rodriguez song says (which party officials treat as an anthem) “I die as I lived,” so the Castros also do not now recognize that at the time, according to the American criteria for including these countries, Cuba met all the requirements.

But what is important for the Castros is maintaining the image of victims, like the “kitten of Maria Ramos*,” and officially declare that they should never have been on that list, and therefore should not be grateful for this gesture from Obama, and will constantly “bite the hand.”

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

April 14, 2015, Border Prison Unit, Havana.

*Translator’s note: Based on the story of a prostitute, Maria Ramos, who on being charged with the murder of her pimp, claimed it was her kitten, not her, who had thrown the stone that killed him. (She didn’t get away with it.)

When the victim’s time comes / Angel Santiesteban

Harold Cepero and Oswaldo Paya

Laura Pollan

God forbid that another death is necessary in order to understand the abusive attitude of the Cuban government against dissidents. I learned by telephone that last Sunday the government authorized the political police to use teams of athletes—judokas and boxers, among others—in combat mode, in another desperate attempt to stop these ladies (the Ladies in White), who only peacefully ask for the release to their families of prisoners and other political opponents who are serving time for thinking differently.

Since I became aware of the physical assaults and the corresponding arrests, an idea has remained fixed in my mind: “We have to expect this to happen in order for the international political community to understand that you cannot negotiate with totalitarian governments, that it is a dead end. That they only appear to adapt to the new times out of their economic desperation, as ‘parasite countries’ that suck what they can out of whatever economy they get near.” Continue reading

The Risks of Journalism / Yoani Sanchez

Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 21 May 2015 – If you has asked me a year ago what would be the three greatest challenges of the digital newspaper 14ymedio, I would have said repression, lack of connection to the Internet, and media professionals being afraid to work on our team. I did not imagine that the another obstacle would become the principal headache of this informative little paper: the lack of transparency in Cuban institutions, which has found us many times before a closed door and no matter how hard we knock, no one opens or provides answers.

In a country where State institutions refuse to provide the citizen with certain information that should be public, the situation becomes much more complicated for the reporter. Dealing with the secrecy turns out to be as difficult as evading the political police, tweeting “blind,” or becoming used to the opportunism and silence of so many colleagues. Information is militarized and guarded in Cuba as if there is a war of technology, which is why those who try to find out are taken, at the very least, as spies. Continue reading

Cuba has 11,000 sources of pollution that affect water / 14ymedio, Rosa Lopez

Ditch with sewage from the town of Guanabo, east of Havana. (Luz Escobar)

Ditch with sewage from the town of Guanabo, east of Havana. (Luz Escobar)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Rosa Lopez, Havana, 20 May 2015 – On World Environment Day, this coming 5 June, Cuba will have 11,000 sources of pollution that affect ground water and coastal areas. This information was updated by Odalis Goicochea, Director of the Environment at that Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment (CITMA), in a press conference Monday.

The figure is very alarming, especially when we take into account our dwindling water reserves. 2014 was the driest year reported since the beginning of this century, and 2015 looks like it wants to compete for this negative record. With a long and narrow island and with no major surface or underground water resources, the country needs to do a better job of managing its waste stream to protect the water. Continue reading

May 20, That Hole in Our Memory / Reinaldo Escobar

On 20 May 1902, Cuba gained its independence from the United States of America

On 20 May 1902, Cuba gained its independence from the United States of America

Desde Aqui, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 20 May 2015 — Yesterday I invited my granddaughters to get ice cream. To boast of her knowledge, the oldest, who is in the third grade, said to me: “Today marks the 120th anniversary of the death in combat of José Martí, our National Hero.” She said it with the same pride in wisdom with which one day, many years ago, I alerted my parents to the fact that the earth was round.

“And tomorrow, May 20, what will we celebrate?” I asked her, imitating the emphasis of schoolteacher. Almost arrogantly she responded, “On May 20 nothing happened.”

As she was born in the 21st Century I invited her to look for the significance of the date on a phone app containing Wikipedia, which she could consult without an Internet connection. Surprise! The text there reads: “1902: Cuba achieves independence from the United States of America.” Continue reading

Tania Bruguera’s Tribute to Hannah Arendt Worries Cuban State Security / 14ymedio

Tania Bruguera during her performance (14ymedio)

Tania Bruguera during her performance (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 20 May 2015 — Wednesday morning the artist Tania Bruguera began more than 100 hours of consecutive reading, analysis and discussion of Hannah Arendt’s book The Origins of Totalitarianism. The event, which started in the presence of a dozen people, began in the “International Artivism Institute,” which is named after the renowned German philosopher.

The artistic action comes just at a time when galleries and cultural centers throughout the entire city are engaged in getting ready for the start, this coming Friday, for the Havana Biennial. Bruguera is not invited to the official event, but has joined the alternative artists’ circuit staging performances, expositions and shows of their current works.

Hours before the reading, Bruguera was visited by two members of State Security, who expressed their concern because the artist had bought audio equipment. They also let her know that they were aware that she intended to “go out into the street” at the conclusion of the event and warned her not to do so.

According to what was made known in the announcement, the newly opened Hannah Arendt International Artivism Institute, “proposed to provide a platform for research into the theoretical-practical approach for a socially committed art, and for a specific political moment.” Its headquarters is located in Bruguera’s home, at 214 Tejadillo Street, in Old Havana.

Yoani Sanchez Wins 2015 Knight International Journalism Award / 14ymedio

Logo of the International Center for Journalists

Logo of the International Center for Journalists

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 19 May 2015 – The director of 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, has won the 2015 Knight International Journalism Award, the International Center for Journalists reported today. Priyanka Dubey, an independent Indian journalist has won the same award for exposing the atrocities of rapes, child trafficking and forced labor through her in-depth reporting, despite threats from human traffickers and gangs in her country.

The award, which will be delivered in Washington DC on November 10, has as its objective to honor journalists who, through pioneering work or technological innovation, have produced high-quality information and news that has had a significant impact on the lives of people in the developing world. Continue reading

Cuba: May Downpours Arrive Ahead of Schedule in Havana / Ivan Garcia

lluvias-en-la-habana-29-abril-2015-_mn-620x330

Until Wednesday, April 29, when intense rains fell on Havana, Agustin — a private-sector farmer who grows chard, lettuce and peppers on a patch of parched land on the outskirts of the capital — was looking skyward to see if he could discern storm clouds on the horizon.

“My yields are low because of the water shortage. I have had to throw out hundreds of kilograms of vegetables because they were too small and their color was bad. It hasn’t rained for months,” says Augustin, who is now worried because too much water is falling on his crops.

National meteorologist Jose Rubiera had declared that the island was experiencing record heat levels in the month of April. It seemed that the rains would have to wait. Continue reading

How Do You Tame Computer Users? / Yoani Sanchez

User on Revolico, the Cuban "Craigslist" (Silvia Corbelle, 14ymedio)

User on Revolico, the Cuban “Craigslist” (Silvia Corbelle, 14ymedio)

Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 18 May 2015 – Nimble fingers over the keyboard, a life divided between reality and the digital world, plus the gratification of amusing yourself, learning, teaching and being free through technology. These are some of the points shared by those of us in Cuba who have linked ourselves to information and communication technologies, whether for professional reasons or simply from personal passion. Now, a new association is trying to support these enthusiasts of circuits and screens, although the management of the organization proposes many limits on autonomy and ideological ties. Continue reading

What will happen in Cuba? / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

The new generations will also have to define what will happen in Cuba. (Franck Vervial / Flickr)

The new generations will also have to define what will happen in Cuba. (Franck Vervial / Flickr)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana 16 May 2015 – On the back of a copy of the I Ching were examples of questions about which one might consult this Chinese. Should I marry X? Is this the time to take a trip to Y? What will happen in Cuba? The readers of this copy from 43 years ago have had time to find out for themselves who they ended up sharing their lives with, or where they went on vacation. The situation for those of us who asked the ominous book about the fate of the Island has been very different.

The question written on that cover has continued to haunt me, as it has so many other Cubans. From restless foreigners who tried to practice their Spanish and ended up wanting to know the nation’s destiny, to foreign journalists, Cubanologists of all stripes, academics from various disciplines, politicians and career diplomats, coming from whatever part of the world. At one point or another our conversation always slid into the question: What is going to happen in this country? Continue reading

Deportees in Their Own Country / Cubanet, Reinaldo Cosano

In Cuba, if you do not have permission to reside in Havana, they deport you to your province of origin (internet photo)

In Cuba, if you do not have permission to reside in Havana, they deport you to your province of origin (internet photo)

Cuban Apartheid, suffered by families who abandoned their homes and went to Havana in search of a new life

cubanet square logoCubanet.org, Reinaldo Emilio Cosano Alen, Havana, 15 May 2015 – Rodolfo Castro, from Santiago de Cuba, met with three other young men detained at the Guanabo police station east of Havana. Driven to the Central Train Terminal in a patrol car – so that they could not escape – they were put on the train and deported to their provinces, following imposition of a fine of a thousand Cuban pesos – some 50 dollars – each. So says Osmany Matos, of Guanabo, arrested for a traffic offense who witnessed the incident.

The “Palestinians” (as they ironically call those who come from the eastern provinces) Yordanis Reina, Maikel Cabellero and Edilberto Ledesma, from the rural area El Parnaso; and Amaury Sera, from the Manati township, all in the Las Tunas province, explained to Graciela Orues Mena, independent trade unionist: Continue reading