One Year Without Fidel

The rock containing Fidel’s ashes.

14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, 19 February 2017 — It has been one year since Fidel’s death was announced. It seems like a century ago. For more than a decade, from July 26, 2006 to Nov. 25, 2016, he lived with one foot in the grave. That slow-motion agony was very useful to his brother Raúl. It served to fasten him to the presidential chair and allowed Cubans to adapt to his control while he gained power and surrounded himself with people he trusted.

Raúl is president because that’s what Fidel decided. He may have seemed a mediocre person to Fidel, without savvy and without charisma, but he was absolutely loyal, a virtue that paranoid people value far above all the others, so Fidel fabricated a biography for him to turn him into his shield bearer. He dragged him into the revolution. Made him commander. Made him defense minister. Made him vice president, and finally bequeathed to him the power, initiating the Castro dynasty.

Since then, Raúl has governed with his familial retinue. With his daughter Mariela, a restless and plain-speaking sexologist. With his son, Col. Alejandro Castro Espín, educated in the KGB’s intelligence schools. With his grandson and bodyguard Raúl Guillermo Rodríguez Castro, son of Deborah. With his son-in-law or former son-in-law (nobody knows if he’s still married to Deborah or if they divorced), Gen. Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Calleja, head of GAESA, the main holding of the Cuban chiefs of staff.

Those are the people who govern with Raúl, but they have three very serious problems. The most important is that very few believers in the system remain in Cuba. Sixty years of disaster are too many to stay faithful to that folly. Raúl himself lost his confidence in the system in the 1980s, when he sent many army officers to European centers to learn management and marketing techniques.

Why should the Cuban brass learn those disciplines well? To implement the “Military Capitalism of State,” Cuba’s only and devastating intellectual contribution to post-communism. The State reserves to itself the 2,500 midsize and major enterprises of the productive apparatus (hotels, banks, rum distilleries, breweries, cement factories, steel plants, ports and airports, etc.) directed by high-ranking military or former military officers. When these people cannot directly exploit an industry for lack of capital or expertise, they bring in a foreign partner to whom they promise ample profits, all the while watching him as if he were the worst of enemies.

Simultaneously, ordinary Cubans are barred from creating major businesses. They must limit themselves to running small places of service (restaurants), baking pizzas, frying croquettes or frying themselves driving taxis. They are forbidden to accumulate wealth or invest in new businesses, because the objective is not for entrepreneurial individuals to display their talent and keep the profits but to come up with the manual labor that the State cannot provide. In contrast with China, making money is a crime in Cuba. In other words, the worst of both worlds: statism controlled by the army brass and microcapitalism bound hands and feet.

The second problem is that the Communist Party means nothing to almost anyone in Cuba. In theory, communist parties are segregated by a doctrine (Marxism) that, after losing all meaning, turns the CP into a purely ritual affair. That’s what happened in the Soviet Union. Because nobody believed in the system, the CP was terminated by decree and 20 million people went home without shedding a tear.

The third is that Raúl is a very old man (86) who has promised to retire from the presidency on Feb. 24 next year, although he will probably remain ensconced in the party. In any case, how long can he live? Fidel lasted 90 years, but all you need to do is read his final screeds to understand that he had lost many of his faculties. The oldest Castro sibling, Ramón, died at age 91 but had spent many years crippled by senile dementia.

The sum of those three factors foretell a violent ending for Castroism, maybe at the hands of some army officer, unless Raúl Castro’s heir (officially Miguel Díaz Canel, the first vice president, but it could be someone else) opts for a true political opening and dismantles the system in an organized manner, to prevent a collapse that will destroy that fragile power structure.

That’s what the electoral process is supposed to do, but the Raulists have already barred the way to a hundred or so oppositionists who are willing to participate in the next election, while rejecting the referendum proposed by Rosa María Payá, daughter of Oswaldo Payá, a leader assassinated for asking for the same thing his daughter, bravely, is pleading for today.

In other words, Raúl will bequeath to his successor a terrible jolt. The dynasty will die with him.

Translation taken from Interamerican Institute for Democracy

Alquízar’s Truckers Challenge the Police, Showing Them the Wording of the Law

Eduardo Ramos Suárez, owner of a Mack truck manufactured in 1956, claims that the police chief of Artemisa told him that the law pertaining to truck drivers “doesn’t work.” (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 20 November 2017 — Several impounded trucks and numerous drivers demanding respect for the law have been the results of the stiffening of police controls, in recent weeks, on the transport of agricultural products in the municipality of Alquízar, located in Artemisa province.

Around a dozen truck owners complained to 14ymedio this weekend that they had suffered harassment from the authorities, including confiscation of their merchandise and the impounding of their vehicles for several days, as punishment for transporting agricultural products to the markets that, unlike the state markets, operate on supply and demand. continue reading

For several weeks, and especially after the passage of Hurricane Irma and the subsequent problems of food shortages in several provinces, private carriers have seen an increase in police actions against them.

On the roads on the outskirts of the Artemisa towns and on the roads that lead to the city of Havana, the police presence has multiplied. “Every time they see a truck with a private license plate, they stop it to find out if it is carrying agricultural products,” says an Artemiseño driver who preferred anonymity for fear of reprisals.

When a vehicle transporting that type of merchandise is impounded, the products are diverted to the state distribution networks and the driver is fined. “They do not allow us to make a living and we have lost thousands of pesos between confiscations and the impounding of our trucks,” the source says.

In response to the police controls they label as “excessive,” private truckers in the area now travel with a copy of the Official Gazette in the glove compartment of their vehicles, so they can show it to the police in support of demands that they be allowed to transport food, vegetables, fruits and grains.

The document these drivers turn to is Decree Law No. 318, which came into force in 2013 and regulates the transport of agricultural products. This law establishes the right of owners of private trucks to enter into contracts to carry agricultural products.

In 2013 the official media said that the measure sought to “unleash the obstacles of the productive forces” and that it would allow producers and marketers to take advantage of the laws of supply and demand, once they had fulfilled their social commitments to the state.

The legislation, which was then presented by the authorities as “the definitive solution” for the problems of distribution, is not being respected in Alquizar, according to the testimony of several truckers consulted by this newspaper.

Eduardo Ramos Suárez, owner of a Mack truck manufactured in 1956, states that the police chief of Artemisa insists that “this law does not work” and the mere act of evoking it is considered by the official as demonstrating “a lack of respect.” The driver, however, claims that they have not been informed of a new regulation that repeals the provisions of Decree 318.

On the night of Tuesday, November 14, Ramos left in his truck from Alquízar heading to Pinar del Río with a shipment of yucca, taro, banana, fruit, cabbage and sweet potatoes. He was accompanied on the job by a small farmer with a self-employed worker’s license as a “selling wholesale buyer.”

A National Revolutionary Police (PNR) patrol intercepted the vehicle in the neighborhood of El Portugal, both were arrested and slept that night in the cells of Artemisa station. The merchandise was sent to the state-owned Acopio company for distribution in state markets.

Acopio has acted for decades as an intermediary between private farmers and the state. The entity buys a good part of the merchandise at prices that the producers denounce as being very low, and it is in charge of selling it in the markets managed by the state.

In addition, since the end of 2016 price caps have been applied to agricultural products, a practice that has spread throughout Artemisa and finally also been extended to Havana, Villa Clara, Cienfuegos and other provinces.

“I was treated like a criminal and to be able to leave they forced me to agree to sign in without fail every Tuesday, as if I were a dangerous criminal,” complained Ramos, who makes a monthly payment to the National Tax Office (ONAT) of 585 pesos as a tax on his activity as an independent worker.

The stop went badly for Ramos in another way as well. When the police stop a vehicle, they can hold it for two or three months during the investigation. In his case, the truck he drives is being “stored,” as of that moment, at the Alquízar Police Station.

When the police stop a vehicle, they can hold it for two or three months during the investigation. The truck that Eduardo Ramos drives is being “stored” at the Alquizar Police Station (14ymedio)

During the time the vehicles are being held, the drivers must continue to pay the fees on their carrier licenses to ONAT. “The PNR refuses to give us a paper that attests that the truck is in the station, which would mean we would not have to pay the license fee during that time,” explains Ramos.

Faced with this situation, the driver has more questions than answers. “Why, if I pay for a license to be within the law, do they prevent me from doing my job?” he protests. “It seems to me that the state is cheating me out of my money. What can I do in my country to work decently?”

Onelio González, another private transporter who has owned a 1948 Ford truck since 1978, has also denounced the situation to the inspectors of the Ministry of Transport, popularly known as “los verdes” (the greens). The officials say that the police should not keep the trucks and so avoid the owners suffering losses.

Despite the injustice they claim to be experiencing, most carriers prefer to remain anonymous to avoid further punishment. In contrast, Eduardo Ramos shows his face and does not hesitate to show this newspaper his truck, locked behind the bars of the station.

The courage of this driver may come from what he has experienced in recent years. In 2006 he left Cuba illegally from a point near the port of Mariel and after living a year and three months in the United States decided to return, also by sea.

On the other side of the Straits of Florida, he drove another Mack truck but this time in the ‘90s. “I used to go where I wanted, I paid my taxes and nobody ever messed with me,” he recalls now.

This “round-trip rafter,” who spent 35 days in the dungeons of Villa Marista – where political prisoners are kept – and almost a year in prison for returning to his own country, does not understand why it is so difficult to start a business and make his way honestly. “I’m Cuban and I want to stay here with my truck, why don’t they let me work?”

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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.

Cubans in Trinidad And Tobago, Caught Between Illegality and Hope

Kenya Montes de Oca traveled from the Cuban community of Placetas, in Villa Clara, to Trinidad and Tobago where she has lived since September 2016. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 19 November 2017 – She came to Trinidad and Tobago more than a year ago with “one pair of pants and two blouses.” Kenya Montes de Oca traveled from Placetas, in Villa Clara, with the idea of ​​becoming a mule and living off the import business, but life pushed her towards seeking political refugee status.

The villaclareña explains to 14ymedio that she still trembles when she sees a policeman in the streets of Port of Spain. During her first month in that small nation she lived illegally until she managed to get the so-called “supervisory order,” a step prior to the request for refugee status. continue reading

Trinidad and Tobago does not require a visa for Cubans, but at the airport immigration officials can deport anyone they suspect of wanting to stay illegally.  Montes de Oca passed that first test without great difficulties in September 2016.

The initial idea was to buy merchandise to resell in Cuba. However, a casual conversation at the Havana airport with a dissident and State Security’s subsequent visit to her family in Placetas led her to her current situation.

“I was forced to leave absolutely everything, my house, my family, my habits,” she emphasizes, although she feels that the questions she had been accumulating about the Cuban system would have led her, sooner or later, to get into trouble on the Island.

A union leader for a decade, Montes de Oca worked at the People’s Power polling stations and served as a lay judge. “I was responsible for the security of a poultry farm until I discovered a network of embezzlement.” Reporting these irregularities brought her countless pressures.

“It was never my goal to leave everything behind,” but “circumstances decided for me,” says this woman, speaking to the press for the first time.

There are no official figures on the number of migrants from the island who remain irregularly in the neighboring country, but Montes de Oca says that “they range from deserters from the FAR (Revolutionary Armed Forces) and MININT (Ministry of the Interior), to political cadres, medical personnel, marginalized Jehovah’s Witnesses and opponents: we are a mosaic.”

Some have been luckier than others. The worst case she ever encountered is that of a young woman from Ciego de Ávila who was working to send aid to her family in Cuba. “She suffered a horrible rape by the owner of the rental where she lived, but could not report the fact because she had no papers.”

The arrival of Cubans has been on the rise since the Government of Raúl Castro implemented its Travel and Immigration Reform in January 2013 that made it easier to travel abroad from Cuba. Last August the situation escalated to a point that the two governments began to negotiate a Memorandum of Understanding on Immigration Matters to regulate the flow of migrants.

Samuel, 32, has been living for 11 months in the Trinidadian community of San Fernando. Originally from the slum area of ​​Guanabacoa in Havana, the young man graduated a decade ago in mechanical engineering but now works as a bricklayer.

“I do not have papers but I have developed a clientele and I have friends who are helping me,” he tells this newspaper. With the nearly $600 he earns monthly, he has rented a room with a friend and sends money to his family in Cuba.

“I’m illegal, I do the worst jobs you can have here and yet I earn 50 times more than the salary I received in my country as a professional,” he argues. With the money that he sends every two weeks to his parents they have been able to “fix the roof of the house and repair the kitchen.”

His initial idea was to “earn a small capital stake” in Trinidad and Tobago to continue on to the United States, but last January he was surprised by the end of the wet foot/dry foot policy. “I thought I was going to die, but now I think this country can be a good place to stay,” he says.

Samuel is still far from being able to claim political refugee status. “I have not done the paperwork but I plan to start it in the coming months.” His greatest fear is ending up, like a friend of his from childhood, locked up for months in the Aripo detention center for foreigners.

Both Kenya Montes de Oca and Samuel have received help from the Living Water Community Center. “I did not go hungry thanks to that NGO and my first clothes I also received from them,” confirms the villaclareña.

Last June, the United Nations (UN) granted refugee status to a group of Cubans who protested for a week in front of the offices of that international organization in Trinidad and Tobago.

The majority of those who demonstrated had been waiting months for an answer to their request for political refugee status. The favorable ruling assured them of the protection of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and opened a door of hope for other Cubans in a similar situation.

On November 24, Montes de Oca has her appointment with the UNHCR from which she could leave as a political refugee. If she succeeds, a new stage will begin for her and she plans to remain in the Caribbean country for the time being.

She dreams of reuniting the family but her only son has been called to compulsory military service so the final reunion will be delayed. The young man wants to study to be a journalist, but she is sure that “because he has a refugee mother he will not be able to access that career” in Cuba.

From her new homeland, the villaclareña admires “the cultural mix” and the fact that people of “different religions or political positions live in harmony.” She does not hesitate to say that she will only return to Cuba “when people are not discriminated against or mistreated because of their way of thinking”.

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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.

Cubans Are Traveling Abroad More and On The Island Less

The growth of domestic tourism was unstoppable until last year. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 17 November 2017 – Cuba’s northern keys are a tropical paradise that were forbidden to Cubans for decades. In 2008, in the midst of a severe liquidity crisis, the reforms of Raul Castro’s regime allowed, for the first time since the opening to international tourism in the ’90s, Cubans to stay in domestic hotels on equal terms with foreigners. Since then, the growth of national tourism has been unstoppable. Until last year.

“National tourism decreased by more than 90,000 vacationers in 2016, according to data from the National Statistics Office this autumn,” explains Emilio Morales, group director of The Havana Consulting Group (THCG), based in Miami. continue reading

The factors Morales blames for the fall are basically the rise in hotel prices that occurred the previous year as a result of the increase in international tourism and the increase in the number of trips abroad by Cubans.

“Cuba recently experienced a boom in American tourism, a market with much more purchasing power than the rest of the markets that send tourists to Cuba. According to official figures, 281,706 Americans traveled to the island in 2016,” Morales explains.

Sources of tourists to Cuba: ranges by country.

The response of the Cuban tourist market, 40% of which is controlled by the Business Administration Group which is controlled by Cuba’s armed forces, was to raise the price of rooms.

“My husband and I went to Varadero, Viñales or Trinidad at least once a month but since last August we have not been able to because all the prices have skyrocketed,” says Maria Eugenia, 61, who lives in Havana. “What we used to pay for the whole trip now is not enough for one night, not to mention transportation,” she laments.

“The hotels where prices have increased the most are those in the keys, those in Varadero and anything else along the coastline of beaches,” says María Eugenia. “Also, it’s not worth going as a Cuban because there is a lot of mistreatment towards the national client.”

One of the main attractions of the all-inclusive vacation is the formerly all-you-can-eat buffets, but now there are restrictions imposed, according to the retiree. “There is not as much variety of products and nor are they so free, because now they control the amount of main dishes (meat or fish) that each guest can eat and they give you a ticket for a certain number of drinks.”

THCG carried out a study on the lodging network in the Cuban tourist sector in 230 hotels and verified the price escalation since the US thaw. “The study showed a rise in prices in all categories, with the highest growth in five-star hotels, which went from an average of $186 a night in 2014 to $362 in 2016,” the report detailed. As these establishments are filled, foreign tourists who occupied them begin to demand rooms in lower category hotels, which also increases the prices of those tourist facilities.

The most surprising figures are seen in the four-star hotels, which went from an average of $111 per night in 2014 to $247. “The Saratoga hotel, one of the favorites of celebrities and politicians, came to be priced in 2016 at between $700 and $1,000 dollars a night, compared to $375 as a minimum a year before,” adds Morales.

This escalation of prices also affected domestic tourism, a sector that had grown exponentially after the thaw initiated by former President Barack Obama, which unlocked the sending of remittances to the island and helped develop the country’s incipient private sector.

“In a study conducted by THCG in 2014, it was found that 37% of Cuban-Americans who traveled to Cuba stayed at least one weekend with their relatives living on the island at a hotel, mainly in the tourist centers of Varadero, the Keys to the north of Villa Clara and in Guardalavaca, Holguín. This trend has increased in recent years, and it is currently estimated that around 45% of Cuban-Americans traveling to the island stay in a hotel with their relatives in Cuba for two or three days,” explains Morales.

An employee of one of the most prestigious agencies based in the United States that arranges travel to Cuba told 14ymedio, on the condition of anonymity, that the situation of national and international tourism “is critical.”

Number of Cubans traveling as tourists within Cuba.

“I was in Cuba this November for the International Fair of Havana and the Cubans are asking for the return of tourism. But, the Meliá Cohiba was at less than 30% of its capacity, when last year it was full,” she says.

“With the increase in the prices of hotels in Cuba an excellent market opportunity is lost because once the tourists go to another place they do not return,” she says.

From 14 January 2013 to 24 October 2016, more than 779,000 Cubans residing on the Island traveled abroad, 79% of them for the first time. The official figures are misleading, however, because they count as still resident in the country any Cubans who have been abroad for less than two years. Even so, an increase in the number of Cubans traveling abroad is clear to see.

“So far this year, a 28% growth has been achieved relative to the same time period for the previous year,” Ernesto Soberón, director of Affairs of Cuban Residents Abroad, recently told Cuban television.

Morales believes that there are a variety of reasons for these trips abroad. “It is estimated that in the 2013-2016 period around 130,000 Cubans traveled for emigration reasons, while the remaining 541,000 did so for work, tourism and business reasons,” he explains. The researcher gives as an example the more than 100,000 Cubans who traveled to Mexico in 2016, “becoming the fastest-growing tourist segment in Latin America that visits Mexico by air, with a growth of 58% over the previous year.”

“The most popular destinations for Cubans are the United States, Mexico and the Dominican Republic,” explains Morales, who believes that the situation requires a serious analysis by those who develop strategies for the tourism sector on the island.

“It is evident that not having a balanced offer both with regards to price and recreational options means that the growing national tourism will satisfy its leisure needs in other markets. Without a doubt, Cuban tourists are discovering better options outside of Cuba’s borders,” he adds.

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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.

Threat of Giant African Snail Reappears in Cuba’s Official Press

On the Santa Ana farm, in the municipality of Arroyo Naranjo, residents are desperate to find a solution to the plague of African snails. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 14 November 2017 — “Have you come about the Giant African snails?” the residents of the Santa Amalia neighborhood ask any stranger who walks through their streets and seems to be looking for something.

People have become increasingly alarmed after the publication, this Sunday, of a reader’s letter sent to the Juventud Rebelde (Rebel Youth) newspaper, warning about the proliferation of the mollusk on the Santa Ana farm in the Arroyo Naranjo municipality. It is the same area where, three years ago, this newspaper uncovered, for the first time, the presence of this dangerous animal in Cuba. Shortly afterwards the official media reported that a citizen of Nigeria had introduced several of these animals to the island, presumably for religious reasons. continue reading

Over the months, the plague has been spreading across the area south of the Cuban capital, and has now reached as far as San Antonio de los Baños, Artemisa, according to several contributors to this newspaper.

This Monday, José Antonio Cruz, the author of the Letter to the Editor published in Juventud Rebelde and owner of the Santa Ana farm, spoke with 14ymedio about the alarming situation on his land, located near Grant Street, due to the invasion of the huge snails.

Dozens of these animals, with their narrow  conical reddish brown shells with vertical yellow stripes, can be seen on the trees in the courtyard, climbing up the pipes, and moving across the dry leaves of the patio.

The Achatina fulica, the scientific name of the species, is mainly herbivorous, but can also feed on the remains of dead animals, excrement and even some construction materials such as plaster. It can grow to be 8 inches long and it is one of the most harmful invasive exotic species in the world.

Cruz, an engineer with the Public Health services and a member of the Communist Party, tells this newspaper about his odyssey. His “despair, indignation and impotence as a citizen” led him to write the letter and send it “to every place where they may have in their hands the technical and material resources to stop this epidemic.”

Cruz has been living on the farm that belonged to his parents for more than 27 years. “In this place we grow flowers, fruits, root crops and vegetables, and we have to suffer seeing how the snails eat everything, avocados, guavas, mangoes and even the leaves of the malangas,” he tells this newspaper.

José Antonio Cruz’s house is in the same area where, three years ago, ’14ymedio’ uncovered the presence of the dangerous animal for the first time in Cuba. (14ymedio)

However, what worries him most is the imminent danger of an irreversible spread of the plague throughout the country.

“You have to find a solution to this problem, someone has to answer for this,” he protests. The snail, it is known, “has not yet caused any deaths, but it could happen at any time,” he warns.

This species harbors roundworms that transmit diseases such as meningoencephalitis. Children are especially in jeopardy because of their greater tendency to approach the striking animal and to ignore the risks of touching it.

In addition to transmitting parasites and bacteria, the enormous snail causes irreparable damage to the ecosystems it colonizes. It also has a great ability to adapt to varied climates and terrains. In Cuba it does not have natural predators that can curb its devouring cravings.

In the absence of official information speculation springs up, and fear spreads through ignorance. “They say it’s already in the metropolitan park of Havana, in Sancti Spíritus and in San Antonio de los Baños,” says the owner of the farm.

With the exception of Cruz’s letter, the official press has not published any update on the situation of the snail in recent months. As a rule, national newspapers only confirm the presence of a plague or an epidemic after independent media have disseminated the information.

While state guidelines and aid arrive, the inhabitants of Santa Ana farm have not remained idle. All around the house there is an true cemetery of African snails that members of the family have been killing with their own resources.

Rainold Facundo Plascencia, a resident of the area, complains that it is common for farmers to have a wounds on their hands, so they run the risk of getting poisoned if they run their fingers over a place where the snail has left its slime.

Cruz repeats that he has complained to the municipal section of the Party, Public Health, Plant Health, Epidemiology and the Ministry of Agriculture. “When I saw that there was so much apathy, I decided to write to the newspaper,” he explains.

The alternative solution that they have found to liquidate these hermaphroditic mollusks, capable of putting out up to 1,200 eggs in a year, is to sprinkle them with common salt, but it cannot be applied intensively because there is a risk of salinizing the soil.

In addition, salt is a rationed product and there are frequently shortages of it. “Finding a pound of salt is sometimes more difficult than spending a day smacking those snails,” adds a resident of Grant Street.

José Antonio Cruz believes that state institutions should be involved in the problem. “It is not possible for a person, or for a small group of farmers, to eradicate this plague, it would be necessary to fumigate the land or to apply a radical variant that is not in our hands.”

Several of those affected insist that they do not want to “turn this issue into a political problem,” because when these irregularities are pointed out there is always the risk of being misinterpreted.

Cruz shares this concern, but adds that you can’t be afraid to tell the truth. While speaking, he keeps his brow furrowed and his eyes fixed on a snail that is climbing up the trunk of a nearby tree. “A man who does not say what he thinks is not an honest man,” he says, paraphrasing José Martí.

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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.

Another Ally Falls: The Siege Against Robert Mugabe

Every time Mugabe was condemned by international organizations for tainting elections and eliminating critical voices, Havana was always on his side. (EFE / File)

A year ago, Mugabe attended the funeral of Fidel Castro, his comrade in authoritarianism, perhaps like one who participates in his own funeral.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 16 November 2017 – No one who has been in power for four decades is innocent and Robert Mugabe will not be the exception. This week the 93-year-old African caudillo is being called to account for his outrages as the longest serving dictator in the world. The man who has held Zimbabwe in his fist since 1980, when he became head of the government, has been confined to his home by the army and his departure from his post as head of state, which he has occupied since 1987, seems imminent.

Sick, weakened and having become a nuisance even to his own party, the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), Mugabe has been at the head of the country for 37 years and his record of human rights violations is as extensive as his days spent sitting in the presidential chair. continue reading

Like most revolutionaries who come to power, Mugabe was responsible for destroying his own prestige. The first president of Zimbabwe, after the country shook off the colonial yoke, has, by his actions, negated that aura of freedom and emancipation that once clung to him.

Like a horse alone on the race track, he won one after another presidential elections, elections that he orchestrated to validate himself before international public opinion and that he won by using fraud and repression against dissent. He insisted he be venerated as a God and recently announced his obstinate candidacy for the 2018 elections.

In recent years, Mugabe has led the country into one of the greatest economic crises in its history, with an increasingly severe shortage of food, skyrocketing inflation and 80% unemployment, some of which he attributed to an international conspiracy, as is common practice in these kinds of regimes.

Mugabe has controlled every detail of the life of a nation, a nation that was once known as “Africa’s granary” ​​for its fertile lands and high agricultural production, now burdened by plunder and the social abyss. Where each citizen resides, what they eat, who they meet with, their sexual orientation, are not options to choose from in the Zimbabwe of the old patriarch.

His regime fits the word “totalitarianism” with the exactitude of a dictionary. A political system that he tried to cloak in the garb of social justice and opportunities for all, but that in practice only provided opportunities to the circle closest to the president, to his ideological allies.

His policy of privileging locals by offering them the action of foreign companies, did not result in a better life for the common man but ended up fattening the pockets of his fellow politicians, family members and loyal officials. The Mugabe clan put down deep and devastating roots in the national economy, just like colonialism once did.

An outstanding disciple of the school of dictators, as a ruler he has also been vengeful and intolerant of discordant voices. The political leader, born in the British colony of Southern Rhodesia, initially presented himself as a “savior” of peoples but became a source of hatred and polarization for the society he promised to represent.

Last year the thousands of people who protested peacefully for human rights violations and the deterioration of the economic situation faced his repression and were met with blows, arrests and threats. The one-time revolutionary covered his ears at the complaints of international organizations, after all Zimbabwe was his kingdom.

However, from that moment his days were numbered though he did not yet know it, or chose the arrogance of not wanting to see it. The straw that broke the camel’s back was last week’s dismissal of his vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa, and the evidence – ever stronger – that the satrap was planning to transfer power to his wife, Grace Mugabe, age 53.

As the president’s health has plummeted, power struggles have broken out and each party, those who support Grace and those who bet on Mnangagwa, seek only an end: to take control of Zimbabwe, an appetizing piece of the African cake.

Fear of the other makes these caudillos take refuge in their nuclear families, placing their confidence in their narrowest circle to pass the baton. Successors that guarantee continuity, protection and impunity forever.

Like the end of all authoritarian regimes, Mugabe’s is full of contradictions. While some media reports that the president was preparing his resignation and negotiating the departure of his wife, others say that the situation is controlled in order to save national sovereignty and the nation itself.

“We want to make it very clear that this is not a military takeover of the government, what Zimbabwe’s defense forces are doing is intended to pacify a degenerative political, social and economic situation in our country, which if not addressed could result in a violent conflict,” said a statement from the military.

A document made public this Thursday and signed by 115 civil society organizations in Zimbabwe asks Mugabe to resign and the military to restore the constitutional order to finally achieve the long-awaited democratic transition. It is part of the desperate cry of a nation exhausted by the excessive prominence of one man.

A year ago, Mugabe attended the funeral of Fidel Castro, his comrade in authoritarianism, perhaps like one who participates in his own funeral. A dinosaur saying goodbye to another fossil of the twentieth century.

Every time Mugabe was condemned by international organizations for tainting elections and eliminating critical voices, Havana was always on his side. For decades, the African satrap has maintained an exchange of favors with the Island that now begins to falter.

The Plaza of the Revolution is cautious today in statements about what is happening in Zimbabwe. The island’s news programs have not yet condemned the perpetrators of Robert Mugabe’s house arrest. They are on the lookout for a new caudillo to emerge, someone to whom they can extend a willing and complicit hand.

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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.

Twitter is No Longer the CIA’s, it is “Our Bay of Pigs of the 21st Century”

The book was presented on Tuesday at the Capitolio in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 15 November 2017 — Twitter is “our Bay of Pigs of the 21st Century” according to the journalist Enrique Moreno Gimeranez, who presented his book Manual for the Exercise of Digital Journalism on Twitter on Tuesday at Havana’s Capitolio.

In the volume, the author criticizes “the malpractice of Cuban journalism on Twitter” which “has inefficiently used this resource on several occasions through slogans difficult to understand, retain and reproduce by foreign recipients.” continue reading

The text, the thesis of the author’s degree, was presented in the Sala Baraguá of the National Assembly of Popular Power by Franco-Spanish journalist Ignacio Ramonet, Tubal Páez, honorary president of the Union of Journalists of Cuba (UPEC) and Rosa Miriam Elizalde, director of the official website Cubadebate.

Moreno studied journalism Marta Abreu Central University in Villa Clara and after graduating he started at the CMHW station La Reina Radial in Villa Clara, where he is currently working.

In Moreno Gimeranez’s thesis, available on the internet and now published by the Pablo de la Torriente Brau press, the use of Twitter by Cuban journalists is addressed, but without mentioning the independent press which has a strong presence on that social network.

All users, labels and moments mentioned in Manual For The Exercise Of Digital Journalism On Twitter, which has a print run of 2,000 copies, are exclusively linked to official media.

The idea of ​​investigating the use of this social network on the Island came to Moreno Gimeranez when he was a third year journalism student and participated in the coverage of the Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) held in Havana in January of 2014.

The author collected interviews with nine experts from Spain, Argentina, the United States, Colombia, Peru and Cuba, among other countries.

During the presentation, journalist Rosa Miriam Elizalde pointed out that the book “is an example of the alliances that can be created to make communication practical.” While Ramonet urged “spreading to the new generations” the use of Twitter “not only technically, but in the more general area of ​​social, political and cultural life.”

The call contrasts with the first years when Twitter began to be used by activists within the Island. The first accounts appeared between the end of 2007 and mid-2008, when the authorities lashed out harshly against the social network and the official newspaper Granma called Twitter “a tool created by the CIA.”

Over the years, state institutions and entities opened their own accounts on the social network of the little blue bird, which are frequently used to call for an end to the US embargo, repeat political slogans and distribute news from the official press.

In 2016, Cuba registered more than 4.5 million internet users, according to official data published by the country’s National Office of Statistics and Information (ONEI).

However, in a report by Freedom House that analyzed the situation in 65 countries, the Island remained among the five worst nations in the world in terms of Internet freedom, with 79 negative points, only better than China (87), Ethiopia (86), Syria (86) and Iran (85).

In Latin America Cuba occupied the last position, w

The Fear of ’14ymedio’

The author of the review of ‘Departure’ regrets “that the exclusionary bias maintained in cultural affairs has impacted the career and life of the three officials.”

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Regina Coyula, Havana, 15 November 2017 — A more inclusive air can be breathed in the corridors of Performing Arts of the Ministry of Culture. Or at least I thought that was the case when they told me that an article written by me about Departures, a work by the company El Ciervo Encantado (The Enchanted Deer), was in the catalog of the Theater Festival of Havana this year. But after the initial optimism, the logic of how events occur in authoritarian regimes caused me to doubt.

Was it an accident or a consequence of ignorance, mistake or intention on the part of three officials involved in the catalog? In any case, there was an institutional response: all of them have been removed from their positions. continue reading

My text, as has been described in the article about the punishment, is not conflictive. So that is not what the problem is. Nor should my signature be a problem because, to put it in the manner of my dear Manuel Díaz Martínez, I am an unimportant person. What is important is Departures, which twists the broken fibers of a country that for many years converted those physical partings into emotional ruptures that were intended to be final.

The work was exhibited before and during the Theater Festival, so nor is it because of the work itself. The lack, crime, transgression or whatever it is called by those imposing the punishment, has been to use a text from 14ymedio, a digital newspaper that for the authorities does not exist, inaccessible from the servers of the state telecommunications monopoly. The fact may seem ridiculous and even false to anyone who does not know the mechanisms of censorship in Cuba.

With regards to this, just a week ago I was at a presentation in Miami of the anthology The Compañero Who Watches Me, a compilation prepared by Enrique del Risco, literary and always political, of almost sixty writers about their experience with censorship, Big Brother, State Security. Sixty writers is not a small number for this little island, but at the same time their contributions fall short by the number of testimonies that do not appear because the protagonists opted for the healthy silence of voluntary oblivion, or because they were unaware of the existence of this project.

The current events surrounding Performing Arts do nothing more than provide an update to the stories in the book, not at all in the key of the past. I could not avoid the analogy.

Sincerely, I regret that the exclusionary bias maintained in cultural affairs has impacted the professional careers and lives of the three officials involved. It is an unequivocal signal for many of those who declare that politics does not interest them, whom I invite to look at the facts that have led to this “administrative” measure.

After the initial stupor, the three officials can look with new eyes at information and events all around them that previously they did not see (or did not want to see, it must be said). It is said that it is a capacity that many deploy only after being dethroned.

Without becoming Socratic, knowledge is a good path to individual freedom.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to making a 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 becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Three Cuban Cultural Promoters Fired For Publishing a Review From ’14ymedio’ in an Official Catalog

The excerpt from Regina Coyula’s theater review that appeared in an official catalog with a reference to 14ymedio. (Luz Escobar)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 14 November 2017 — A scandal is shaking up the National Council of Performing Arts (CNAE) a few days after the end of the 17th edition of the Havana Theater Festival. The publication in the festival catalog of an excerpt from a review of the event that appeared in 14ymedio has caused three employees of the state entity to be reprimanded and dismissed from their positions.

The head of the CNAE’s Directorate of Artistic Development, Noel Bonilla, his assistant Marielvis Calzada and CNAE vice president Marlén Gutiérrez are the three workers punished by the publication, who now find themselves in the midst of a process of administrative sanctions. continue reading

The inclusion of a paragraph from a theater review published in this newspaper last February and signed by Regina Coyula unleashed the wrath of the authorities of the Ministry of Culture (Mincult) because the text came from the independent press, a part of Cuban journalism censored and hidden by officialdom.

The excerpt chosen for the catalog addresses the performance of Mariela Brito in the piece Departures, by the company El Ciervo Encantado (The Enchanted Deer), which deals with Cuban emigration. “But beyond the stories told, others float like empty rafts, those who didn’t live to tell,” says the author of the article.

Although the excerpt from the review, included on page 69 of the catalog, does not contain direct political allusions or ideological messages, Mincult officials blamed the three employees for having allowed the name of this newspaper to appear in an official publication.

“The first thing that happened was that they brought us together and asked: ‘What is14ymedio doing in a Council publication? Why is it in the catalog, instead of promoting other authors who are within our institutional system and the recognized press in Cuba?’ ” explained Noel Bonilla on Monday by telephone to this newspaper.

Bonilla adds, “it is true that it was published in the wrong way, without consultation, not verified” and especially “in the haste with which the catalog was put together” and because of “the delays that occurred in the printing process.”

The Festival, which took place between October 20 and 29, had the support of the French Embassy in Cuba, the Goethe Institute, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway among other foreign entities.

Bonilla said in his Facebook account days ago that “after almost fifteen years” he ended his responsibility as head of CNAE, after committing an alleged error. He informed readers that “he will remain attentive” to the world of theater because he considers himself “a cultural agent committed to the poetic obsessions” of artists.

In this message on social networks, the promoter told “those artists or aspirants” who were waiting for their evaluations, not to worry because “I’m sure someone will ensure continuity very soon.”

“Who sows walls collects nothing and that dreadful nothing will lead them to failure, to oblivion, to the abyss,” he says.

In a telephone conversation with 14ymedio the promoter was more cautious and avoided confirming that he had been removed from his position. Bonilla said that “until this minute” he has not been told “any official information about being fired from my job,” but confirmed that it was required because of several errors of content in the festival catalog.

With a degree as a Professor and Instructor of Dance, Bonilla has worked as a dancer, choreographer and professor at the Higher Institute of Art (ISA) of Havana. Before the incident, he was in charge of overseeing the artists in their qualifying evaluations and overseeing the progress of their projects.

“He is very capable and has managed for several years to survive in a position that carries a lot of responsibility but where one can very quickly make a misstep,” says a young actress who has worked with Bonilla and who prefers anonymity. “Right now everyone is talking about the injustice they have done to him,” she adds.

In February of this year, Bonilla was awarded the French Republic’s Chevalier Medal of Arts and Letters for his “exceptional trajectory” in the universe of Cuban and French dance.

Coyula, a regular collaborator to 14ymedio, cannot get over her astonishment at what happened. When she learned that her article appeared in the catalog she believed that “the cultural authorities had become more inclusive or that maybe it was due to someone’s ignorance of someone.”

“What I never thought was that by including that excerpt they might fire these people from their positions,” laments Coyula, who for eight years has run the blog La Mala Letra (Bad Handwriting) with topics ranging from social stories to computer news.

This independent newspaper has been blocked from servers in Cuba since its foundation. To access the site, Cuban internet users frequently use anonymous proxies or read the articles through an emailed news service or in the PDF with a selection of the best of the week, which is distributed hand-to-hand.

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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.

“My Attackers Act As If Nothing Happened”

José Enrique Morales Besada feels deceived and refuses to let the perpetrators go unpunished. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, 13 November 2017 – It was a warm night in June and José Enrique Morales Besada was connected to the internet at a Wi-Fi hotspot in Morón, Ciego de Ávila. On returning home, his life took a dramatic turn when he was a victim of a homophobic attack that left him with serious physical consequences and a desire for justice that current Cuban legislation has failed to satisfy.

Last Friday, the Prosecutor’s Office decided to close the criminal process for his case and settle it with the imposition of a fine on his attackers. The interest in the attack on the part of the National Center for Sex Education (Cenesex), led by Raul Castro’s daughter Mariela Castro, has not been enough to bring his assailants to trial, although it did speed up the police investigation. continue reading

At just 21, this young man has spent the last months shuttling between medical consultations and police appointments after two men insulted him and hit him on the side of his face with a bottle. José Enrique only remembers lying on the floor, with a friend by his side who was screaming for help, he tells 14ymedio by phone.

Morales Besada dreamed of becoming a professional singer. He performed at parties and tourist facilities, offering pop themes, ballads, classics in English and popular dance music, but now he can barely finish a sentence without speech problems that stop him in the middle of his words.

“Every time I speak I have a very strange feeling, so I can’t sing because I can’t modulate my voice well,” he laments. The blow caused him to lose several teeth, destroyed part of his gums and caused a serious fracture of the jaw for which he had to undergo surgery.

Four years before the attack, the streets of Morón were filled with colorful displays when the province became the site for the Day Against Homophobia. The annual vindication has not succeeded in banishing the prejudices that remain deeply rooted in that region and in the rest of the country.

For Morales Besada, the Ciego de Ávila LGBTI community faces a “dark panorama” and its members suffer constant aggravations in the streets as well as “degrading treatment.”

“It is very difficult to sit in a park without someone passing by and throwing an insult or a can of beer,” he complains.

Homophobia in Cuba also enjoys police complicity. “When somebody goes to file a complaint about something like that they treat them like they’re crazy,” declares the young man, who, in spite of appearing with witnesses before the authorities, barely managed that his attackers spent 24 hours in custody. “They left after paying a bond of 1,000 Cuban pesos (roughly $40 US) each.”

The Cuban Penal Code does not include the concept of “hate crimes” regarding attacks against people based on ethnic origin, religion, race, gender, sexual orientation and identity. The latter, specifically, are not included in the current legislation and attacks against them are treated by the police and the courts like any other crime.

A few days after the attack, the singer wrote in his Facebook account an initial message saying what happened, demanding justice and asking Mariela Castro directly for help.

The report that was prepared in the hospital, and that recorded the facial and mouth injuries, was “conveniently” lost. (Courtesy)

In 2015, Mariela Castro had assured in a public event that the institution she directs was working in collaboration with the Ministry of the Interior to closely monitor these aggressions. “A thorough and specialized analysis is needed to determine the type of crime because all situations where LGBTI people are victims do not have hatred as a motive,” said the sexologist.

Cenesex began to investigate what happened in Morón and sent a letter to the municipality’s National Revolutionary Police (PNR). Morales Besada admits that when the officers heard the name of the daughter of the Cuban leader “they started running around and wanted to do in a day what they should have done from the beginning.”

The 10th was when Morales Besada knew that there would never be a trial for his attackers. The Prosecutor’s Office dismissed the opening of the trial and has settled the case with a fine against both perpetrators. After hearing the conclusion from the investigator, the young man came out crying. He did not even want to sign the official communication.

Morales Besada denounces multiple irregularities in the process. “Nobody from the investigation visited my maxillofacial doctor to ask what my current state of health is,” he complains. In addition, the report that was prepared in the hospital recording the facial and mouth injuries he suffered was “conveniently” lost and only appeared, after much searching, detailing cervical injuries.

“No trial was held and they deceived me because until that moment they had told me that they would be taken to court.”

Members of the Cuban LGBTI community have collected more and more records of assaults and hate crimes. Although official institutions do not publish statistics on murders or violent acts against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people, the news now is made known thanks to social networks.

In May 2015, this newspaper published an article about the stoning death of a 24-year-old transsexual in the city of Pinar del Río. The official media never published the news.

Morales Besada, who feels deceived and refuses to let the perpetrators go unpunished “as if nothing happened,” published a Facebook message last Friday that has made his case known to thousands of internet users.

The young man claims that both attackers have a history of homophobic violence. “They beat another boy who works in the Cayo but he did not accuse them because he is afraid.”

“This attack has left me without a life,” says José Enrique. The physical damage can leave permanent affects, but what adds to the pain now is the impotence he feels in the absence of justice.

‘14ymedio’ Invites Readers to Join

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 14 November 2017 — Two fundamental premises have guided the work of 14ymedio since its birth more than three years ago: making journalism of higher quality every day and maintaining editorial independence. To achieve this we have opted for a strict financial autonomy that allows us to pronounce freely on any subject.

So far, our financing comes from the contributions of a small group of friends in a personal capacity, from alliances with private foundations and academic institutions, and from sponsorships, events, content sales and advertising.

Today we take an important step by launching a collaborative membership model that will allow readers to contribute to the financing of 14ymedio. Thus, we can devote more resources to journalistic investigations and maintain universal and free access to the content of our media, in addition to solidifying our editorial freedom.

Our readers can become members of 14ymedio by visiting our membership portal, where you can support us with a small financial contribution. In return, you will receive invitations to events and the opportunity to collaborate with ideas regarding the editorial content.

On this site there is all the information about the different levels of membership, about our work and the editorial team, as well as a detailed breakdown of our finances.

We are the first medium in Cuba to take a step of this nature and we intend to make this privileged relationship with readers the main source of income for 14ymedio, in a participatory and transparent manner.

This Tuesday begins a new stage for 14ymedio. We hope you will join us, just as you have done since the beginning.

Become a member of 14ymedio.

In Cuba, the Cold War Returns

While the political class bares its teeth and boasts of the holster on its belt, around the United States Embassy in there is nothing but long faces. (EFE)

Raúl Castro has not taken advantage of the steps taken by Barack Obama and has chosen to opt for caution rather than reform

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 13 November 2017 — It was too quiet to last. The diplomatic thaw between Cuba and the United States has failed and both nations are resetting their watches to the times of the Cold War. In recent weeks new causes of tension have arisen and political discourse returns to that customary belligerence so yearned for.

The link between the Plaza of the Revolution and the White House has taken several steps back from where it was on 17 December 2014, a date coined in Cuba as 17-D, when Barack Obama and Raúl Castro announced the normalization of relations. This leap into the past is motivated by the alleged acoustic attacks – sounds that resemble the singing of dozens of crickets – that caused nausea, dizziness and headaches in United States diplomats stationed in Cuba.

The official propaganda machine had slowed down during the reconciliation period and now tries to resume the rhythm that characterized it in the days of Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush. However, we can see the fatigue and in particular the apathy of a national audience more attuned to daily survival than to diplomatic squabbles. continue reading

Cartoons lambasting the US president have also returned to the pages of government newspapers, while the concept of anti-imperialism takes center stage in the agendas of government institutions, unable to articulate a less ideological discourse. These are good times for recalcitrants, opportunists and radicals.

Lacking their favorite target, the regime’s spokespeople had found themselves lost among so many hugs, conciliatory photos and delegations of American businessmen who came to the Island. Unable to deal with the calm, now they can fill their lungs with the air of storm. Only confrontation makes them important, only combat seems alive to them.

While the political class bares its teeth and boasts of the holster on its belt, outside the United States Embassy in Havana long faces abound. Every morning dozens of Cubans arrive in the neighborhood, distressed by being stranded in the middle of an immigration process due to the suspension of consular work at the embassy. Small businesses in the area that thrived on selling coffee, renting rooms to visa applicants traveling from elsewhere in Cuba, or helping people to fill out immigration forms, have descended into sudden bankruptcy. Uncle Sam stimulated the economy of thousands of families near the perimeter of the imposing building and now everything is on hold, impregnated with uncertainty.

The neighbors can only remind themselves of the image of August 2015 when US Secretary of State John Kerry participated in raising the American flag in the recently inaugurated US Embassy in Havana. It was “the best time in this area and the country,” says Paquito, a neighbor who made a living offering a consignment service for bags and cell phones to visa applicants. Today his room is empty and his greatest wish is that “the yumas,” the Americans, “will return as soon as possible”.

Throughout the country many fear that Donald Trump’s measures will go further and end up affecting the flow of regular flights between the Island and its northern neighbor, flights restored during the past administration. A cutback in the sending of remittances also populates the nightmares of countless families who survive thanks to the help that comes every month from el Norte.

Those who predict a worsening of relationships are right. The withdrawal of non-essential personnel after the acoustic attacks is just one more episode in a soap opera punctuated with hatreds and passions, bickering and wrangling that have dominated both countries for more than half a century.

The new episode has only added a new measure of mystery, spy stories and sophisticated aggressions to what was already the typical script of this “avoidance/approach” conflict, where the object of desire is both rejected and hazily desired.

The terrain for belligerency is fertile, and on such a fecund base sprout the most varied speculations about the perpetrators of the attacks allegedly suffered by the diplomats.

Supporters of the thaw point to an orthodox group within the Cuban government who saw the pact with the United States as a betrayal. A “Taliban” brotherhood well enough placed in the spheres of power to be able to undertake an action of such complexity.

Others speculate that a third country, such as Russia, Iran or North Korea, used Cuban territory to perpetrate an attack on its old rival. In that case, the island would have been merely the scene of a struggle of external powers with national intelligence not even aware of it. The latter is very unlikely in a country where surveillance has escalated to degrees of oppressive sophistication and intensity.

There are also those who point to Fidel Castro as the evil genius behind the acoustic attack plot. The only man with more power than Raúl Castro who would have been capable of organizing something of that nature emerges amid the speculations of those who remember his incalculable capacity to annoy Washington.

Those who hold the hypothesis of the “poisoned will” of the Comandante say that the mysterious noises began before his death last November and also remember how he distanced himself from the diplomatic thaw. The eternal anti-imperialist must have liked nothing about his brother’s flirtations with the tenant of the White House, say those who support this conjecture.

The official press points out that the acoustic attacks have been just the pretext for Trump to implement a policy towards Cuba more aligned with those segments of the diaspora discontented with the thaw, as it downplays what happened and sows doubt that such aggressions even existed. However, it reiterates that the Government is willing to cooperate with the investigation.

The big loser in all these events is Raúl Castro. The main legacy of his mandate rested precisely on having achieved a rapprochement between both nations. Through the thaw, the youngest of the brothers made his own mark and stepped away from the shadow of the Comandante en Jefe, a contumacious agitator of the conflict between the Island’s David and the American Goliath.

The general, who until now has been unable to fulfill many of the promises of his mandate – such as monetary reunification, in a country fractured by the duality between the convertible peso and the Cuban peso – or returning to wages their lost dignity, sees how his government’s legacy is vanishing.

Diplomatic normalization is, without a doubt, a story of the failure of the second Castro, who did not take advantage of the steps taken by Barack Obama, preferring to opt for caution instead of reform. If he is not directly responsible for the acoustic attacks, then he is responsible for the negligence that allowed others to carry them out and for not having been able to prevent this incident from resulting in the current diplomatic confrontation.

In the end, the era of extended hands is over and the island is in the midst of an economic recession, suffering the effects of a powerful hurricane, facing diminished support from Venezuela, while the so-called”historic generation” is on the verge of biological obsolescence. The Cold War has returned, but the Cuba of those years no longer exists.

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Editor’s Note: This text has been previously published by the Spanish newspaper El País in its edition of Sunday, November 12.

Canned Guarapo

The drink known in Cuba as guarapo, made with the juice of crushed sugar cane and a lot of ice, should be drunk immediately, because otherwise it “gets dark and smells bad.” (Gpparker)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 10 November 2017 — “Whomever figures out how to sell guarapo in a can will get rich,” says Overti, a Villa Clara resident in Havana who is trying to open his own café in the capital. “I started by setting up the trapiche – the sugarcane crusher – but I never managed to maintain a supply of cane, so I wasn’t able to sell even the first glass,” he tells 14ymedio.

The refreshing beverage, made with sugarcane juice and a lot of ice, has to be drunk immediately because otherwise “it gets dark and smells bad,” says the merchant, referring to the tendency of the juice to almost immediately begin to ferment. In other Latin American countries, as well as in south Florida, guarapo is sold in glass bottles and even in cans, as Overti yearns to do, but these options haven’t yet arrived on the island.

Right now and until some local entrepreneur manages to squeeze the sugarcane juice into a container and preserve it to keep it fresh for the palate, the consumers of this beverage are going to have to satisfy themselves with the so called guaraperas – the stands where the juice is sold fresh – which are increasingly scarce in the Cuban capital.

The inability to solve the transportation problems to ensure the cane arrives on time every morning has forced many guaraperas to close, leading to a scarcity of the drink that is so popular and refreshing for pedestrians. “If it were up to me, I’d set up a guarapo factory and the people here would never drink water again,” Overti dreams, although right now he can’t offer for sale even a single glass.

The Headline That Ended the Career of the Director of ‘Granma’

“Raúl Gala presided over the historic event,” reads the unfortunate subtitle on the front page of this Wednesday’s Granma. Main headline: “October Revolution, One of the Most Important Events of the 20th Century” (Screen capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 10 November 2017 — In recent hours, in the absence of information about the reasons that led to the dismissal of the director of the newspaper Granma, many observers have set themselves to seek out some error that crept into the official organ of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC). They pour over the pages of the newspaper to uncover some proof of a blunder that annoyed those at the highest level and provoked the sudden exit of Pelayo Terry Cuervo.

After looking closely at each issue of the last week, some have detected a blunder on the front page of the edition from Wednesday, 8 November, which involves the name of the Cuban ruler. “Raúl Gala presided over the historical event,” it says, just under a huge headline in red ink that refers to the October Revolution. This time, the poor grammatical and journalistic practice of eliminating prepositions and articles to shorten sentences, played a dirty trick on Granma’s editors. continue reading

The newspaper, which since its founding in 1965, has been characterized by a sober tone and a marked cult of personality towards the country’s highest leaders, would have conveyed, with this error, “a major lack of respect,” according to some angry militants of the only party allowed in the country that were consulted by 14ymedio.

“It was not only because of this, but that there had been an accumulation of several errors that represented a lack of care,” says an editor close to the publication, who preferred anonymity. The professional recalls that the newspaper has had a history of lapses that have exposed it to “popular mockery,” such as “when, in 2009, they published on the cover a photo of the Cuban flag that lacked the star,” he recalls. At that time, Terry Cuervo “was not the director, but in the corridors of the newspaper we are still talking about that mistake.”

Putting only the first name of the Cuban president, to give feeling of ​​familiarity with readers, has contributed to aggravating this week’s error since the word Gala, in addition to a capital letter, seems to replace the family name of the first secretary of the PCC, a very serious thing when it is the name ‘Castro’ that is omitted.

Although in journalistic circles no one believes that it was only for this reason that Terry Cuervo was dismissed, according to a foreign correspondent with many years of experience: “For less than this Stalin would have sent him to the Gulag.”

In Guanajay, the Editors of a Magazine Dream of Publishing in Digital Format

Readers of ‘The Thinker’ recognize the difficulties that the publication has had to go through for two decades. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Bertha Guillen, Candelaria, 10 November 2017 — It has not remained seated like the famous figure of Auguste Rodin, but nor has it been able to walk as much as its editors would like. The magazine El Pensador (The Thinker) edited in Guanajay, Artemisa, is two decades old and its founders dream of being able to publish it on the internet one day.

This Thursday, the notes of the Guanajay Hymn marked the beginning of the celebration of 20 years of a magazine born in the lay community centered around the San Hilarión Abad Catholic Church. A time that has passed rapidly for some, but that others, like its director José Quintero Pérez, remember every moment of. continue reading

“Our first issue was released on 9 November 1997 and it was edited by hand, typed on a typewriter, then we cut out the articles and pasted them on a sheet, which we photocopied and that’s how it all began,” he tells 14ymedio.

On the island, publications linked to the Catholic Church filled a gap for decades that could hardly be filled by other independent magazines, due to the strict controls maintained by the Government on the distribution of printed material.

Vitral (Stained Glass) and Espacio Laical (Space Lay) were some of the most well-known magazines born from the interaction between the concerns of the church and contact with communities. However, despite institutional protection, they were also victims of censorship.

In 2010, a report by the ISP agency counted 46 bulletins and magazines plus 12 websites and seven electronic bulletins that reached four million Catholic readers on the Island and many other Cubans in exile. A phenomenon that has been enhanced with the emergence of new technologies in the country.

The popular Weekly Packet has, for more than two years, had a Christian section that is made up of Catholic and also evangelical materials. An independent television channel has also been born from the interaction between faith and the digital world.

El Pensador, still far from having even a website, “has been concerned to understand and be part of the construction of a better future for all Cubans,” says a faithful reader who participated on the anniversary this Thursday.

Thought bubble: “I dream of having water.” ‘El Pensador’ not only addresses religious and parochial issues but also addresses social issues of interest to the community. (14ymedio)

With a bimonthly frequency, the magazine issued its 119th edition this week to approximately 125 subscribers. Although it has not managed to position itself on the World Wide Web, the publication is well known in Pinar del Río and Artemisa.

“To say that it’s been easy would be to lie. They have called us a little newspaper, a little newsletter and a bulletin. We have had to adopt different formats, sometimes with more pages, sometimes with fewer,” recalls Ángel Mesa, one of its founders. “We have spent many sleepless nights to bring an issue out, but we have the support of our readers,” he declares.

With a majority of Christian topics, El Pensador also includes among its pages social issues ranging from criticism of the deterioration of popular festivities, to the serious ethical problems that surface on the island, a situation that the Government itself has had to recognize.

“We are happy because we have been faithful to the objective of communicating,” and in the pages of El Pensador there is no “exclusion of people,” points out Quintero Pérez.

Mesa reports that the name of the publication arose from the readings of Father Félix Varela’s texts where he invited people “to think first.” The initial team has had to train on the fly.

In these years, the editors have not been exempt from criticism, unpleasant situations with the authorities, and, from time to time, some have has felt an urgent desire to desist, but the group has remained fairly complete despite the difficulties, says Mesa.

“I want to congratulate El Pensador for daring, it is not easy to dare and it can become a problem, but this world has been changed by people who dare, who dared because they dreamed that things could be different,” says a Baptist pastor who participated in the celebration for the 20 years of the magazine.

The magazine “has dared to dream that Guanajay can be different, if we think about this we can make a good contribution to our country,” he added.

Flavia, one of the young readers, believes that the main challenge for the editors is to increase the number of contributors and to remain as an alternative space for the “forgotten exercise of thinking” to continue “questioning all things until the truth in them is found.”