Fidel Castro Visits El Guatao and Talks About Climate Change and Cheese Production / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio Havana, 4 July 2015 – A popular Cuban refrain says that when something ends in violence it was because “it ended like party in El Guatao.” This village immortalized in the national refrain received a visit from Fidel Castro Friday, according to the official press, which highlighted his visit to the Food Industry Research Institute, where he talked about climate change and cheese making in the country.

The appearance of Fidel Castro, three months after his last public outing, occurred a few days after it was announced that the embassies of the United States and Cuba would reopen in their respective territories. Participating in the meeting were María del Carmen Concepción González, Minister of the Food Industry, several members of the governing board of that body, and faculty from the Institute.

Cuba’s dairy industry is experiencing its worst moments, if we compare it to 1984 which set a record with an annual production of 1.1 billion liters of milk. Last year, however, according to the National Office of Statistics, dairy farms produced barely 497 million liters.

The Intellectual, a Ruminant in the Castro Zoo / 14ymedio, José Gabriel Barrenechea

Miguel Diaz-Canel, First Vice President of Cuba's Council of State (Facebook)

Miguel Diaz-Canel, First Vice President of Cuba’s Council of State (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, José Gabriel Barrenechea, Santa Clara, 22 June 2015 – Why don’t our intellectuals act like so many foreign observers expect? Why don’t they try to intervene in the debate about the future of the country now that there is ever more open access to the Internet, whether directly or through the exchange of USB memories, and ideas have started to move with greater ease? Why don’t they move, why don’t they stir, now that in Cuba the days of the reign of Castro II are coming to an end and everything becomes so soft, so malleable that it powerfully inspires one to get to work?

In part it is a problem of legitimacy. When in the last congress of the Cuban Writers and Artists Union (UNEAC), Miguel Diaz-Canel insisted that they prioritize the works and talents of the State, through its cultural institutions, he wasn’t talking of something minor and secondary but of an essential aspect of politics thanks to which the regime ensures its stability and its permanence ad aeternum. Continue reading

Independence Day / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya

Celebration of Independence Day (14ymedio)

Celebration of Independence Day (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 3 July 2015 — The traditional celebration offered by the US Interests Section in Havana, on the anniversary of the Independence of the United States, had on this occasion a special connotation for being the first one to take place following the announcement of restoration of relations between that country and Cuba, and the last one before the reopening of the US embassy in Havana, scheduled for July 20th.

A large turnout of members of the independent civil society participated in the festivities on Thursday July 2nd, sharing the space with known artists, other cultural figures, scholars, and representatives of the Catholic Church, led by Cardinal Jaime Ortega. As usual, there were numerous officials of the diplomatic corps present at the event.

After listening to the national anthems of Cuba and the US, Mr. Jeffrey De Laurentis, Chief of the US Interests Section, delivered a brief speech by referring to the importance of the date and the events that are taking place at this new stage of dialogue between the two governments, while expressing his hopes that soon the ties between our two countries will deepen and consolidate. Continue reading

Drug Consumption in Cuba…”Benefits” of Globalization? / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya

Among consumers of alcohol combined with psychoactive drugs are users as young as 12 years old. (CC)

Among consumers of alcohol combined with psychoactive drugs, the youngest users average around 12-years-old. (CC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 29 June 2015 — Juventud Rebelde’s extensive report (Alas Trágicas para Volar (I) [Tragic Flying Wings I], of Sunday, June 28th addresses the controversial issue of drug use among adolescents and young Cubans. Putting aside that the presence and alarming spread of this scourge in the Island’s population has been previously revealed on numerous occasions by the independent press and foreign media – which were accused at that time of distorting reality with the deliberate intention of tarnishing “revolutionary” Cuba’s image – it is no less commendable that the official press has finally recognized the existence of this evil in the supposedly exemplary Cuban society.

The article in question also notes other flaws, no less serious, such as increasing alcoholism from an early age and the growing illicit trade in psychotropic and other drugs controlled by the Ministry of Public Health. A string of corruption often starts with theft at the very factories producing the pills and its saga includes shorting at the warehouses, overpricing at drugstores and even at doctors’ offices where some unscrupulous physicians prescribe them, be it for lack of ethics or patient bribes.

A psychologist at the Community Mental Health Center in the Havana municipality Plaza de la Revolución declares that, among consumers of alcohol combined with psychoactive drugs the youngest users average around 12-years-old, a fact that reveals the extent and depth of the problem. Continue reading

Arrests This Sunday Of More Than A Hundred Activists Across The Island / 14ymedio

Activists supporting the Ladies in White on Sunday June 21 on 5th Avenue. (14ymedio)

Activists supporting the Ladies in White on Sunday June 21 on 5th Avenue. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 28 June 2015 — Jose Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), reported early Sunday the arrest of 48 members of that opposition organization to prevent them from reaching the Sanctuary of Cobre in the east of the country. In Havana, fifty Ladies in White were also arrested at the end of their pilgrimage near the Church of Santa Rita, with over a hundred arrested across the country.

The leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler, and her husband, Angel Moya, were intercepted leaving the headquarters of the movement in the Lawton neighborhood and prevented from going to Mass, according to the dissident Martha Beatriz Roque. Both were taken to a detention site located in Tarará, east of the capital, where presumably they found the other detained Ladies in White.

The leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler, and her husband, Angel Moya, were taken to a detention site located in Tarará

Other activists reported that their homes were surrounded, as was the case with the independent reporter Agustín López Canino. The home of this activist, in the village of El Globo on the outskirts of Havan, was surrounded by a wide operation that he managed to evade, although later the police intercepted him in the vicinity of 5th Avenue in Playa municipality.

So far, the complete list of those arrested is unknown. It was planned that around five in the afternoon, the Ladies in White of Aguada de Pasajeros in Cienfuegos would try to attend Mass at the Jesus of Nazareth Catholic Church, where they were prevented from attending on 21 June by the church’s priest, Padre Tarciso.

Two activists from the United Anti-totalitarian Front (FANTU) are still on a hunger strike to demand that the priest reverse his decision and allow the women to enter the temple.

Holguin’s First Pet Store Opens / 14ymedio, Fernando Donate Ochoa

Red Squirrel Pet Store is the result of the initiative of a private entrepreneur. (Fernando Donate / 14ymedio)

Red Squirrel Pet Store is the result of the initiative of a private entrepreneur. (Fernando Donate / 14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Fernando Donate Ochoa, Holguin, 1 July 2015 — The first pet store in the province of Holguin opened in the first week of June, under the name  hasThe Red Squirrel. The place, the fruit of the initiative of a private entrepreneur, is located on Cuba Street at the corner of Jose Antonio Cardet in the provincial capital and raised the curiosity of passersby outside its door.

For now, there are more who come to look than to buy. Nor is there any lack of critics surprised by the prices and some of the products for animals that can’t be found even in the stores for human beings. In line with State-run establishments that allow payment in both currencies, all the merchandise can be acquired in convertible pesos (CUC) or its equivalent in national currency (CUP). Continue reading

The Fall of the Embassy Wall / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

The "Anti-imperialist Tribune" has tried for decades to cover the facade of the country now called to be a friend. (AFP / File)

The “Anti-imperialist Tribune” has tried for decades to cover the facade of the country now called to be a friend. (AFP / File)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Madrid, 2 July 2015 – In a few days they will change the letterhead, replace the name plaque, and hoist the flag. This building with its green-tinted windows by the sea will cease to be called the Untied States Interests Section and become the United States Embassy in Havana. A transformation that transcends the question of a name, one with political, symbolic and even linguistic connotations.

The date chosen for the reopening, between the United States’ Independence Day and the anniversary of the assault on the Moncada Barracks, will enter the history books and mark a new anniversary to remember. However, only practice will have the last word on how the site will transform or expand its functions. For now, the questions are many. Continue reading

Great Expectations And Some Criticism For The Reopening Of Embassies / 14ymedio

Outside the US Interests Section in Havana (14ymedio)

Outside the US Interests Section in Havana (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana — This morning, like any other, outside the building of the United States Interests Section in Havana, the day dawned full of people waiting to apply for a visa to visit or settle in the neighboring country. Few of those gathered were aware that today the date will be announced for the opening of the embassies of the United States and Cuba in the respective countries. After six months of negotiations, the Cuban Foreign Ministry said Wednesday in a statement that the expected date will be 20 July. Previously, the official press had opened the door to the possibility that there would be an announcement, without providing an exact estimate of the date.

Under the harsh sun of the Havana morning, people gathered with umbrellas and sunglasses outside the office in hopes of finding their names on the list of those who would have to go into the building for the visa process. Nothing indicated that this day would end more than 54 years of diplomatic confrontation, they didn’t even learn of the public appearance of the US president Barack Obama, meanwhile it was happening. Continue reading

Chronicle of a Visit Postponed to Jagüey Grande / 14ymedio, Eliecer Avila

Eliecer-Avila_CYMIMA20150628_0004_16

Eliécer Ávila

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Eliecer Avila, Havana, 28 June 2015 — Last Friday afternoon, my wife Rachell and I were going to the city of Jagüey Grande in Mantanzas Province. Several friends were waiting for us there to spend a weekend together talking and discussing future projects. We were going to see Alexey, a motorcycle mechanic and computer genius, as well as Carlos Raúl, a young pastor whose temperament and values make him stand out. Nevertheless, our planned getaway ended far differently than we initially intended, and not because of our will.

We were faced with several organizational challenges before we left the house. We had adopted our second puppy the night before and she was in very bad shape. Moreover, Rachell had to work until five o’clock and run like a marathoner in order to meet all her obligations and get home just in time to leave. Nonetheless, luck was on our side and we quickly caught a bus leaving Havana.

Along the way we were also planning on visiting Playa Larga Beach for the first time to enjoy some relaxation. However, a highway patrol car and two State Security agents cut our dreams short when they stopped the bus on which we were traveling as it entered Jagüey Grande. Continue reading

The Siege of Tania Bruguera Is Lifted / 14ymedio

artista-Tania-Bruguera-Yania-Suarez_CYMIMA20150522_0011_13

The artist Tania Bruguera at the front door of her home. (Yania Suárez)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 29 June 2015 — Last Friday, June 26th, a police official paid a visit to Tania Bruguera to inform her that the charges against her were being temporarily lifted. The artist refused to sign the offer, and demanded that the charges be permanently lifted, without any restrictions on her returning to her own country.

This information was made public by a message sent through the #yotambienexijo (“I also demand”) platform nearly six months after Bruguera was detained while preparing to give a performance in Havana’s Plaza de la Revolución. At the time of her arrest on December 30th, the authorities also confiscated her passport, without which she cannot leave the country.

Bruguera decided to launch the Hannah Arendt Artivist Institute during the Havana Biennial. For more than one hundred consecutive hours, she led the reading, analysis, and discussion of Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism. The event was ignored due to relentless police pressure, a very noisy street repair right in front of the artist’s home, and the subsequent arrest of Bruguera and several companions.

In the text published last Monday on the #yotambienexijo platform, the artist explained that the deal offered her “is unacceptable blackmail, whose intention is to control my art and silence me as a citizen.” Meanwhile, she is suing the Cuban Ministries of Culture and of the Interior for damages incurred during last December’s events.

Links to #yotambienexijo sites:
Restaging of Bruguera’s Tatlin’s Whisper 6 in Times Square in NYC
Twitter
Facebook

Translated by José Badué

Diary of an Alcoholic / 14ymedio, Hector Reyes

Patients’ beds in the rehab ward of Santa Clara Psychiatric Hospital (Photo: Héctor Reyes)

Patients’ beds in the rehab ward of Santa Clara Psychiatric Hospital (Photo: Héctor Reyes)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Hector Reyes, Santa Clara, 13 June 2015 — His story starts with a bottle and ends in a psychiatric ward. More precisely, it ends in the rehab ward of Santa Clara Psychiatric Hospital. With the help of pills and shots, Néstor will try staying for 21 days in order to escape alcoholism’s downward spiral.

The room where the young man is hospitalized does not have a refrigerator, or a television, or lockers to store his belongings. It has only one bathroom without water. Once in a while, one of the six men confined in that small space with only a one working fan, asks out loud “Why?” but nobody in that “cage” answers him. Continue reading

Inventory of Differences / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Talk about the lack of unity within the Cuban opposition has already become commonplace. (Marc Gautier / Flickr / CC)

Talk about the lack of unity within the Cuban opposition has already become commonplace. (Marc Gautier / Flickr / CC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, 26 June 2015 – To talk about a lack of unity within the Cuban opposition has already become commonplace. Among the causes of these lamentable circumstances are enumerated some peculiarities rooted in the greatest depths of our history, whose paradigmatic example is warlordism.

However, there are also rational reasons because opponents gather in separate airtight rooms. First of all, in political vocations. Liberals, socialists, Christian democrats, anarchists, social democrats and other less profiled denominations assume positions about certain topics that can become irreconcilable.

The mere fact of recognizing these nuances sparks commentary from all sides that the most important thing is to dislodge the tyrants from power and that such minutiae can wait until democracy is achieved. But it is not enough to make the immense sacrifice of overlooking future programmatic differences. The spokes in the wheel, the weights, the headwinds, the points of honor that hinder or prevent reaching agreement usually arise from unexpected places.

Here are the most common obstacles to consensus: Continue reading