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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Yumas’ In Cuba, “As If They Had Never Left” / 14ymedio, Zunilda Mata

'Yumas' in Havana. (14ymedio)
‘Yumas’ in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Zunilda Mata – He didn’t know that in Cuba he would be rebaptized yuma, but, within a few days of arriving he’s become accustomed to the word and his condition as a “hidden” tourist. Daniel, born in Oklahoma, is one of the thousands of travelers from the United States who have officially visited the island under one of the 12 categories authorized by Barack Obama’s administration.

They are everywhere and are distinguished by their accents, their generous tips and a fascination with everything they see.

“I came with a group of Protestant pastors, but in total we’ve only had one day of religious programming, the rest of the time we’ve visited bars, museums and come to know the country better,” he tells 14ymedio at an outdoor café at the Hotel Inglaterra in Havana. Continue reading “‘Yumas’ In Cuba, “As If They Had Never Left” / 14ymedio, Zunilda Mata”

The Emigrant Must Earn Brownie Points to Enter Cuba / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario J. Penton, Miami, 21 July 2016 — With blood-stained clothes and wounds and bruises on her arms, Ana Margarito Perdigon Brito returned to Miami from Havana’s Jose Marti Airport this past June. No one knew how to rationalize that the Cuban government prohibited her, a citizen of that country whose paperwork was in order, from entering the land of her birth.

“It is a form of revenge by the Cuban government towards emigrants. It is a type of blackmail by which, if you behave as they desire – which is to say, without being rebellious – you can enter your country; but if you dare to criticize the regime you may lose that right,” says the activist who left Cuba in 2012 in order to live in the US. Continue reading “The Emigrant Must Earn Brownie Points to Enter Cuba / 14ymedio, Mario Penton”

Oscar Arias Asks Fariñas To Suspend His Hunger Strike / 14ymedio

The former president of Costa Rica Oscar Arias (R) with former Polish president Lech Walesa (L). (EFE)
The former president of Costa Rica Oscar Arias (R) with former Polish president Lech Walesa (L). (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 23 July 2016 — In a letter published Saturday by the former president of Costa Rica and 1987 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Oscar Arias Sanchez asks his “friend” Guillermo Fariñas to “lift his hunger and thirst strike.”

Arias Sanchez explains that the hunger strike will not succeed as a recourse to persuade the government of the island “that you cannot pursue noble ends with ignoble means.” He also says that Cuba “is not a different democracy” but rather is “a dictatorship.” The former Costa Rican president (1986-1990 and 2006-2010) recalled the case of regime opponent Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who died after an 86-day hunger strike. He did not manage “to convince the Cuban regime that it was necessary to preserve the life of this person, regardless of any ideological differences” and nor did he move “the compassion of the Cuban dictatorship.” Continue reading “Oscar Arias Asks Fariñas To Suspend His Hunger Strike / 14ymedio”

“When we achieve justice we can build a new society” / 14ymedio, Ofelia Acevedo, Mario Penton, Luz Escobar

Note: The video is a brief excerpt from the interview and is not subtitled in English.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Luz Escobar, Miami, 22 July 2016 – His name is tattooed on the skin of a Cuban graffiti artist (Danilo Maldonado, known as El Sexto) or is suggested by the letter L, standing for Liberty, formed by the angle between the index finger and the thumb, increasingly displayed by those asking for democracy. The legacy of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas (1952-2012) and Harold Cepero (1980-2012) lives on in the nation for which they worked their hearts out and ultimately sacrificed their lives. Four years after the tragic crash that claimed their lives, and that their families and international organizations have classified as a settling of accounts by the repressive Cuban apparatus, 14ymedio speaks with Ofelia Acevedo, widow of Payá, former president of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL).

14ymedio: A few days ago the one year anniversary of the reopening of the embassies between the United States and Cuba was celebrated. Could we be closer to justice in the case of Harold Cepero and Oswaldo Payá? Continue reading ““When we achieve justice we can build a new society” / 14ymedio, Ofelia Acevedo, Mario Penton, Luz Escobar”

Erdogan Unmasked / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Recep Tayyip Erdogan became president of Turkey in 2014 after eleven years as prime minister. (DC)
Recep Tayyip Erdogan became president of Turkey in 2014 after eleven years as prime minister. (DC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 22 July 2016 — Recep Tayyip Erdogan has taken off the mask and let us witness the spectacle of his contorted and autocratic face. Last week’s failed coup d’etat has allowed him to unleash political persecution in Turkey. Now he rails against his opponents, decrees a state of emergency and suspends the European Convention on Human Rights. The sultan is out of control.

We are witnessing the moment when the serpent emerges from the egg, but we knew long ago it was incubating, its heart beating beneath the shell of an elected president. From playing at blackmailing the European Union with the refugee crisis and embracing other caudillos enthroned in power, in the style of Raul Castro, the red warning lights have been flashing all around Erdogan. Continue reading “Erdogan Unmasked / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez”

One Hundred Workers From India Rush To Complete Hotel In Havana / 14ymedio

The Manzana de Gomez Hotel building today. Source: Havana Times
The Manzana de Gomez Hotel building, orignally opened in 1910, prior to its renovation. Source: Havana Times

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 21 July 2106 – Over 100 workers from India are working on the construction of the Manzana de Gomez hotel in Havana, being reconstructed by the French construction group Bouygues, according to Reuters. This is the first time there has been a massive contracting of foreign labor on the island.

The company resorted to the exception introduced by the Cuban government in the Foreign Investment Law, that authorizes “special regulations” with regards to foreign workers in “special circumstances.” Continue reading “One Hundred Workers From India Rush To Complete Hotel In Havana / 14ymedio”

Travel, Whatever the Cost / 14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez

The "last minute" terminal in Havana for the purchase of interprovincial bus and train tickets. (14ymedio)
The “last minute” terminal in Havana for the purchase of interprovincial bus and train tickets. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 18 July 2016 – “Give me the suitcase, I’m off to the countryside,” says the chorus of a tune that gets more popular during the school holidays. Many families visit their relatives in rural areas, travel to tourist destinations in other provinces, or spend some days camping far from home. Interprovincial transport collapses with the high demand in July and August, while customers’ criticisms also intensify.

Under a roof of metal tiles that converts the place into a free sauna, hundreds of people are waiting this weekend to travel “last minute” or “on the waiting list” from the terminal on Puerto Avenue in Old Havana. Some of them no longer remember when they got there, because the hours have passed one after another, without hearing the good news that their number in line can board the next bus. Continue reading “Travel, Whatever the Cost / 14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez”

“It Has Sparked Harsh Repression” / 14ymedio

A few months ago police stormed a children’s party being hosted by UNPACU. (Twitter)
A few months ago police stormed a children’s party being hosted by UNPACU. (Twitter)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 21 July 2106 — The harassment against the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) intensifies. Several activists of the opposition organization have denounced the up to five raids that took place in the early morning hours this Thursday.

Ovidio Martin Castellanos, a member of UNPACU’s Coordination Council in Santiago de Cuba, confirmed to 14ymedio that antiriot troops entered the home of Jose Maria Heredia, on 8th Street in the Mariano de la Torre neighborhood. “They mixed antiriot troops with the political police. At the front was a Major from counterintelligence who calls himself Bruno. Once inside the house, they seized and stole his possessions. Continue reading ““It Has Sparked Harsh Repression” / 14ymedio”

Fariñas Begins Hunger And Thirst Strike To Demand Dialogue With The Government / 14ymedio

Cuban dissident Guillermo Farinas. (Wikicommons)
Cuban dissident Guillermo Farinas. (Wikicommons)

14ymedio, Havana, 20 July 2016 — Guillermo Fariñas, winner of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 2010, has declared a hunger and thirst strike and as of dawn Wednesday to demand an end to the beatings of non-violent opponents in Cuba and that a dialogue be opened with government.

“It would be cynical of the Cuban government, which was a mediator in the dialog between the Colombian [FARC] guerillas and the authorities of that country, to be unable to sit down and dialog with a non-violent opposition to avoid these beatings and other outrages,” he said in a conversation with 14ymedio. Continue reading “Fariñas Begins Hunger And Thirst Strike To Demand Dialogue With The Government / 14ymedio”

Guilty! / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

This summer, taxi drivers have become the government’s new public enemy. (14ymedio)
This summer, taxi drivers have become the government’s new public enemy. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 20 July 2106 – At the beginning of the year evil was incarnated in the intermediaries, who were blamed for the high food prices in the produce markets. At the end of 2013, the boogeymen were those who worked for themselves selling imported clothes and other merchandise. In February of this year the war against the pushcart vendors reached its height, and today the enemy drives a shared taxi, a person who in common parlance is called a “boatman.”

If there is anything that has characterized the Cuban system of the last 57 years it is its ability to find a scapegoat. When the agricultural plans are not met it is the fault of the drought, the indiscipline of the workers or the poor organization dictated by some low-ranking bureaucrat. If in times of heavy precipitation the water supply remains unstable in towns and cities it is because, “the rain is not falling where it should,” as was explained to us in recent statements by an official of the National Institute of Hydraulic Resources (INRH). Continue reading “Guilty! / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez”