“The Left will become More Pluralistic in Cuba” / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya

Historian and activist Armando Chaguaceda en Miami. (14ymedio)
Historian and activist Armando Chaguaceda en Miami. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Miami, 3 August 2015 — Historian and activist Armando Chaguaceda defines himself as a defender of “democratic socialism that does not sacrifice freedoms for goods or services.” In Cuba, he associates with the independent left and currently resides in Mexico. Last week, he traveled to Miami for a meeting of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy (ASCE, its acronym in English).

“Chagua” as his friends call him, spoke to 14ymedio about reforms in Cuba, the process of the negotiations with the US and the future of the ideology he has defended throughout his life.

Miriam Celaya (MC). Where is the left headed in Cuba?

Armando Chaguaceda. The left is often defined by privileging equality over freedom. However, this is a very schematic definition. For me, it is necessary to hold political equality and rights against all powers, including the market.

In Cuba, the left will become more pluralistic. There are several lefts currently on the Island: one that is more communist and totalitarian; another one is anarchist and does not recognize the State, which is good in a sense because it demystifies and questions it. Mine is the social democracy or democratic socialism, which does not sacrifice freedoms for goods or services. It is a more humane and inclusive socialism. continue reading

In Cuba the Revolution’s social pact broke down; social spending diminished in important areas — like health or education — which ultimately were never rights, since they were not recoverable.

The Cuban opposition has focused heavily on the issue of human rights, which are deficient, but unimportant to the people. The left’s agenda, however, defends social rights. At least one sector of the left is headed down that path, as is the case, for instance, of the Observatorio Crítico which defends the social conquests and rights of workers; or Pedro Campos, who proposes participatory and democratic socialism.

Personally, I was helped a great deal by anarchism in criticizing the State and in understanding another kind of militancy, because I come from communism. During my anarchism years I lived and felt the rescue of solidarity and affection “from the bottom up.” My fondest memories are from those years I spent as a Professor at the University of Havana.

MC. Do you consider the changes Raul Castro has made in Cuba more a “betrayal” rather than an improvement of the “socialist model”?

Chaguaceda. It is not a betrayal. It is an update, a reform. A new model is being built which has continuities and changes in respect to the previous one. Political control over society and the lack of social pluralism continue. At the same time, society is being changed to be less dependent on the State and more diverse, but also poorer and more unequal. Meanwhile, the market allocates goods and services in the economy to those who can pay.

“The Cuban opposition has focused heavily on the issue of human rights, which are deficient but unimportant to the people.”

MC. Can someone be liberal, right-wing, bourgeois or annexationist and still have good relations with Chaguaceda?

Chaguaceda. Yes. I have relatives and friends across the political spectrum, but we share values and feelings as human beings. It is important to understand and to defend that concept in a country that has been polarized and politicized for decades.

MC. To reform or to overthrow?

Chaguaceda. Do I advocate violence? In principle, I don’t. Violence is always imposed from the authorities when people are denied other avenues and freedoms, and that violence often claims the lives of the poorest and most powerless. Other times, when violence prevails as a revolutionary movement, it ends up exalting the previously subversive and establishing new dominance.

But, additionally, for ethical reasons, I cannot ask of others to do something I never did. In my years of political life in Cuba, in the official organizations, in the emerging activism and in my writings as a public intellectual, always I ventured to use “the correct place, time and means*” [chuckles], peacefully and appealing to the laws and the rights to promote the causes I believed in.

MC. How do you evaluate the process of negotiations between Cuba and the United States?

Chaguaceda. As something inevitable and understandable, given the failure of the isolationist agenda and from the legitimate interests of the US government towards its entrepreneurs and citizens. That does not mean that international support for democratization and respect for human rights in Cuba must be subordinated to geopolitical interests. I think it must be, above all, a citizen cause of activists, organizations, movements and, in the case of Cuba, it should have the participation of Latin American governments.

MC. How much has the Mexican experience enriched and changed you?

Chaguaceda.The Mexican experience has impacted me in various ways. First, I met a country, a culture and a people of immeasurable wealth, where I was able to develop an eight year career and academic training. But it has also helped me to understand rampant inequality and everyday violence. All legal structure and constitutional democracy is empty of meaning for the common people at the bottom.

In Mexico I have also gotten to know theoretical and practical movements in the fight for human rights which I did not catch in their proper level in my years in Cuba. And when I see cases of gross violations of human rights from the testimony of the victims, I realize that no violation is preferable to another, but – in the extreme — different conditions and guarantees to exercise your rights.

“When violence succeeds as a revolutionary movement, it ends up exalting the previously subversive and establishing new dominance.”

Physical murder may exist in some places, and, in others, civic murders. But from the experience of the repressed, any violation of rights, whatever the legitimating principle invoked to carry it out (the fight against terrorism or against “the mercenaries of the Empire**,” for example), is to be condemned.

MC. In your speech you did a report on the state of political science in Cuba. Could you summarize what you pose in it?

Chaguaceda. First, compared with other social sciences, development of political science lags significantly, both organizationally and in the theoretical-methodological, as well as in the dissemination in the results of research. Stalinist dogmas and abuses of guidelines persist, lacking empirical support. As a result, it becomes more like political philosophy than political sociology, and that brands the styles of all of us whose formative years were spent in Cuba.

However, previously excluded topics are surfacing in academic places and in alternative forums, the use of investigative techniques and the gathering and processing of data is becoming more rigorous, and legible work, without cryptic codes is being acknowledged by Latin America academia. We have challenges, such as reading and quoting “those inside” and “those outside”; overcoming the self-centered suspicion that lives in some of the former and the pedantic realism of those who, from abroad, believe there is no worthy work to be recognized and valued in those internal conditions.

Translator’s notes:
*A phrase used by the regime with regards to where when and how the Communist Party and the regime may be criticized.
**Also a phrase of the regime claiming that internal opposition members are being paid by the United States — “the empire” — to overthrow the Cuban government.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Police Warn Gorki Aguila He Will Not Leave Cuba If He Continues His Activism / 14ymedio

The musician Gorki Águila, leader of Porno para Ricardo. (EFE)
The musician Gorki Águila, leader of Porno para Ricardo. (EFE)

14ymedio, Havana, 5 August 2015 – After several hours of being detained by the police, the musician Gorki Águila was released at around four in the afternoon on Wednesday. During his arrest he was taken to the Fifth Station in the Havana municipality of Playa where an official warned him that he would not leave Cuba again if he continued attending the Sunday marches of the Ladies in White, according to what Gorki told 14ymedio in a telephone conversation.

The rocker and leader of the band Porno para Ricardo detailed that they warned him that his arrest would be brief, but if he continued to pursue his activism, “Those who invite you to visit other countries will have to come looking for you in boat.”

Hours earlier, his daughter Gabriele had denounced that, “Yesterday at noon they brought a police citation, which he received but he refused to sign it because he didn’t know the reason behind it.” The police agents were looking for the rocker for a couple of hours today at noon; a call to the phone number 18806 — through which one can ask for information about any citizen detained — which did not reveal his whereabouts nor the reason for his arrest.

The last time the musician Gorki Águila slept in a cell was at the end of May, when he was arrested outside Havana’s Museum of Fine Arts for carrying a sign with the image of the graffiti artist El Sexto, with the word “freedom.” This Wednesday history was about to repeat itself.

 

Eusebio Leal: “In Cuba There Is No Anti-US Sentiment, Only Anti-Imperialist” / 14ymedio, Sara Gomez

Eusebio Leal in the streets of Havana
Eusebio Leal in the streets of Havana

14ymedio biggerEFE/14ymedio, Sara Gomez Armas, Havana, 6 August 2015 — A few days before the American flag will fly above the embassy in Havana, the city’s historian and Cuban intellectual Eusebio Leal said in an interview with EFE that Cuba had never had “an anti-United States sentiment, only an anti-imperialist sentiment.”

“Cubans have always understood this subtlety. Many things unite us in history and culture,” said Leal, who is a kind of mayor of the Cuban capital and the principal force behind the restoration of Old Havana, the historic center of the city and one of the main tourist attractions on the island.

Leal, who was a part of the Cuban delegation that traveled to Washington for the opening ceremony of the Cuban embassy on 20 July, ​​insists that normalization between Cuba and the United States is “necessary,” but still ahead is “a long process in which a number of issues, still unclear, will have to be clarified.” continue reading

“We, who are the victims because the blockade still remains intact, were the first to go there to raise our flag,” said Leal, who is committed to a relationship between both countries based on “respect and always equal standing.”

With the embassies already open, and after US Secretary of State John Kerry presides over the August 14 ceremony in Havana to hoist the “stars and stripes” flag, the road will open for the second phase of normalization between the two countries, in which “infinite steps” still remain.

“We, who are the victims because the blockade still remains intact, were the first to go there to raise our flag”

“What happens is that everything doesn’t have to be public. There are things that, to show them, would cause difficulties too formidable (…). So these have to be resolved delicately and without sensationalism,” explains Leal, who is also a deputy in the National Assembly.

The Cuba-US relationship still irritates some groups, especially among the Cuban exile community in Miami, and hence Leal approves the discretion and considers the secret negotiations to have been “one of the best kept secrets in the history of both countries,” maintained over 18 months with the mediation of the Vatican and the pope.

He also opines that the actions orchestrated by president Barack Obama in his approach to Cuba have been “brave,” aimed at trying to leave a “positive legacy” and “to earn at the end of his presidency what they awarded him at its beginning,” referring to the controversy and, for some, the premature concession to him of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009.

With regards to the presidential elections in the coming year in the United States, without naming names he notes that, although he will not vote, “it is a campaign to avoid the most reactionary and conservative parties, who carry hatred even in their blood, prevailing at this particular time.”

“The current trend in this part of the world favors maintaining the change, maintaining the sensible, the positive,” says Leal, which seems an endorsement of the continuity guaranteed by the democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, who spoke last week in Miami in favor of lifting the embargo and deepening the rapprochement with Cuba.

Without Its Market Cuatro Caminos Seems Lost / 14ymedio, Orlando Palma

Despite the “La Plaza”’s structural decline, its bustle and commotion where constants until it was closed in February 2014.
Despite the “La Plaza”’s structural decline, its bustle and commotion where constants until it was closed in February 2014.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Orlando Palma, Havana, 30 July 2015 — Every city has its nerve centers, and one of Havana’s is where Monte, Cristina, Arroyo, and Matadero Streets intersect, and where the “Mercado Único” (“The Only Market”), also known as “Cuatro Caminos” (“Four Roads”), is located. This nearly one hundred year-old colossus has been closed since February 2014, in the hope that a renovation project could help it regain some of its former splendor. Nevertheless, the slow pace threatens to weaken the economy of the surrounding community even more than it already is.

If the question was where to find sapodilla, eggfruit, or delicious soursop, the answer was – until a little more then a year and a half ago – “go to ‘La Plaza,’” or “The Square.” Every inhabitant of Havana knew that “going to ‘La Plaza’” meant going to the former “Mercado General de Abasto y Consumo” (“The General Dry Goods and Provisions Market”), opened to the pubic in 1920 by its original owner, businessman and politician Alfredo Hornedo Suárez. continue reading

Havana’s City Hall played favorites with Mr. Hornedo Suárez’s market by forbidding any similar establishment within a 1.5-mile radius, hence “Mercado Único,” or “The Only Market”. This advantage allowed Cuatro Caminos to reign supreme for almost half a century until 1959 when it was turned into a warehouse. During the Revolutionary Offensive of 1968, the top floor was closed, allegedly because it was too run-down.

In the middle of the 1980’s, during the “rectification of errors and negative tendencies” campaign, Cuatro Caminos ­– with a horn of plenty affixed to its façade – became a battlefield between peasants who did not work for the state and the government. Now the market displays the scars of the economic ups and downs the country has endured in the last fifty years, as well as the authorities’ hostility toward independent distributors and merchants.

Nonetheless, the importance of this yellow and red behemoth not only rested on the assortment of fruits and vegetables available there, which were far better than at any other Havana market. Cuatro Caminos was the epicenter for the sale of herbs, live animals, and other essential items for Santería rituals. From several living rooms in homes in the immediate area some people still try selling husks, necklaces, clothing for statues of the saints, flowers, candles, basil, hens, and pigeons. But it is just not the same.

On July 28th, 72-year-old Israel was looking for the clay pots he still needed for his niece’s Santería initiation ceremony the following weekend. “The list of what I want is very long. You used go to Cuatro Caminos and find everything you needed,” he explained. For the moment, customers have to visit several of Havana’s shopping areas to find all the articles required for Santería rituals. One of these locales is the market on Egido Street, but which is too small to accommodate all of Cuatro Caminos’ merchants.

Water from recent rainstorms seeps in through ceiling cracks at Cuatro Caminos.
Water from recent rainstorms seeps in through ceiling cracks at Cuatro Caminos.

Just by crossing Cuatro Camino’s entrance it is quite evident that the restoration work is not going anywhere. On July 27th, a couple of men were straightening a few steel rods, while pedestrians who passed by tried sidestepping the dirty water, dust, and urine that collects behind the columns. No one has an expected date or timetable for the renovation’s completion.

The upper floor has been closed for decades now. Sunlight pierces the holes in the roof, and is then filtered through skylights, some of which are missing glass. The only thing left of the basement is a crater-like hole where a few stray dogs have found refuge. All of the Cuatro Caminos’ 108,000 square feet seem to be screaming out for the restoration to be completed as quickly as possible, but the authorities are taking their time.

Now water from the rainstorms of the past few weeks has collected inside the market, having flowed downward to this low-lying area where Central Havana, Old Havana and Cerro Districts converge. Add to this cracked columns, a roof that is barely holding up, and a stench coming from stalls­ – where vendors once hawked tamarinds and oranges ­– that is akin to being punched in the face. The decline of this emblematic marketplace has also dragged down many adjacent businesses with it.

“The community depends on this market working right,” explained an elderly man selling disposables razors and small pictures of saints at one of the markets’ exterior walls. Fortunetellers, plumbers, pedicab drivers, sellers of peanuts in paper cones, people who offer to watch one’s car for a fee – who now are so bored they just fall asleep – and even prostitutes who offer their services to Cubans, are all counting the days until the reopening of “La Plaza,” their “Plaza.”

“I guess what we need is a decision from the top,” said Gretel, a thirty-something who used to rent out rooms in her house to truckers from other provinces who supplied merchandise to the Cuatro Caminos. “My business has collapsed,” she added. Area residents now rarely walk down those same streets that used to teem with handcarts, people carrying bags, and lots of yelling. Under the shade of the La Plaza de Cuatro Caminos a man hawked copies of the Cuban Communist Party newspaper Granma, but there are no takers. Sitting against the wall, bored and weary, he fanned himself with a copy. The headline read: “The People’s Victory!”

Translated by José Badu´

Number of Detained Activists in Cuba Was 674 in July, According to CCDHRN

The writer Angel Santiesteban with the Ladies in White at the Gandhi Park at the exit of the church of Santa Rita. (Luis Lazaro Guanche)
The writer Angel Santiesteban with the Ladies in White at Gandhi Park outside the church of Santa Rita. (Luis Lazaro Guanche)

14ymedio, Havana, 4 August 2015 — During the month of July there were 674 arbitrary arrests reported on the island, according to the report released Tuesday by the National Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN). The independent entity reported “at least 21 cases of physical assault and 71 victims of acts of repudiation orchestrated by the secret political police and paramilitary elements.”

The number of documented arrests during the seventh month of the year is the highest since June 2014, said the CCDHRN. The organization also stressed that “short duration” detentions on the island occurred in that period, leading the Western Hemisphere in terms of violations of human, civil and political rights. continue reading

The CCDHRN is pessimistic and says that “nothing indicates that this situation will change, at least in the short term.” As an example, the report describes that “the Government of Cuba asserted its influence in certain sectors of the Government of El Salvador to seek the expulsion, between 20 and 21 July, of eleven peaceful Cuban dissidents officially invited by the Salvadoran government.”

However, it goes on to note that the effort failed, “Thanks to the solidarity of the democratic forces in that country and elsewhere who defended our right to participate in this conference.”

Notable in the list of detainees are the dozens of Ladies in White arrested mainly during their Sunday marches. In recent weeks the Cuban opposition and independent journalists have denounced the increase in repression.

Switzerland, Discreet Mediator Between The US And Cuba / 14ymedio

Plaque at the Cuba Interests Section in Washington, protectorate Swiss Embassy
Plaque at the Cuba Interests Section in Washington, protectorate Swiss Embassy

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 4 August 2015 – For 54 years Switzerland has acted as a mediator between Washington and Havana, representing the interests of each of the two countries before the other. The restoration of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States, officially the reopening of respective embassies on 20 July, has put an end to the commission that the European country formally accepted in 1961, when US President Dwight Eisenhower broke ties with the island.

Switzerland did not simply assume the bureaucratic tasks, according to historians who have begun to analyze the file, and who highlight the crucial role played in times of extreme stress, such as the missile crisis. continue reading

Documents kept in Swiss archives reveal that the Cuban government tried to nationalize the headquarters building of the US representation in Havana in 1964 to turn it into the Ministry of Fisheries. The Swiss ambassador in Cuba, Emil Stadelhofer, persuaded the government of Fidel Castro to abandon the plan.

The diplomat had to intervene personally on several occasions, as on February 2 of that year, when the US Coast Guard stopped four Cuban fishing boats and Havana responded by cutting the water supply to the American naval base at Guantanamo.

Switzerland played a crucial role in times of extreme stress such as the missile crisis

“Stadelhofer drew a red line,” says the current Swiss ambassador to the US, Martin Dahinden, in remarks Monday on the website of the magazine Foreign Policy. “If he had not been in the right place at the right time, things would have been different,” he says.

When President Eisenhower first asked Switzerland to represent the United States to Cuba, in 1960, it was a complete surprise to the European country, as revealed by historical documents, “mainly due to the size of its diplomatic mission, very small compared to delegations such as the United Kingdom.” However, its experience prevailed, such as that as a powerful protectorate of foreign governments, dating back to 1870, during the Franco-Prussian War.

After accepting the job, Switzerland sent a team of nine people to the island to replace the 60 members of the US diplomatic corps. Ambassador Stadelhofer, according to the files, maintained a close personal relationship with President Fidel Castro and could access him at any time.

It was the Swiss ambassador who managed to get Cuba to authorize US planes to fly over the island after the missile crisis of 1962. Stadelhofer was also responsible for facilitating the movement of refugees from the island to the US in September 1965, when thousands of Cubans jumped into the sea on rickety boats after Havana allowed “all those who wished” to leave the country.

In 1977, Washington and Havana agreed to the opening of a United States Interests Section in Cuba. Even after the return of part of the US diplomatic staff to the island, the Swiss flag continued to wave outside the building, until July 20.

The Secretary of State of the United States, John Kerry, has invited the head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland, Didier Burkhalter, to the official opening of the US Embassy in Havana that will take place on August 14.

Switzerland is currently in charge of representing the United States in Iran, Georgia in Russia, Russia in Georgia, and Iran in Egypt.

Antonio Rodiles Arrives in Miami After Being Unable to Leave Cuba for 8 Months / 14ymedio

Antonio Rodiles, interviewed by Marti Noticias on his arrival in Miami. (MartiTV)
Antonio Rodiles, interviewed by Marti Noticias on his arrival in Miami. (MartiTV)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 4 August 2015 – The director of the alternative project Estado de Sats, Antonio Rodiles, arrived in Miami this Monday after 8 months during which the Government prevented his leaving the island. Hours earlier he had learned that the authorities would finally allow him to renew his passport, along with the leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Solar, and Jorge Luis Garcia Perez known as Antunez. The three traveled to the United States to attend a meeting with Cuban exiles.

“We came to talk with friends, with the exile, to try to create the greatest possible solidarity at this time. I believe there is a lot of concern for the reality we are living in and we have to speak with everyone and coordinate with each other inside and outside the country,” Rodiles told MartiNoticias on his arrival in Miami.

The opponent, who has been unable to leave Cuba for months, has experienced acts of repudiation and episodes of violence that required him to have emergency surgery after suffering a fracture of the nasal septum and a perforated ear drum in an act of violence.

“There has been a great increase in repression and especially in the violence,” he stated in front of the cameras. A statement that was affirmed by Antunez. “It’s noteworthy that around the corner from the new US embassy in Cuba they are savagely repressing the Ladies in White movement and the opposition. They are emboldened, bringing in mobs on buses, trucks full of military repressors, which shows they have a radical and open opposition to us.”

Berta Soler said that the group does not oppose negotiations between the United States and Cuba but they want them to be “conditioned” on decreasing the repression against those who peacefully defend human rights.

Antunez added that their trip to the Miami comes at a time when Cuba’s destiny is in play “with Kerry’s visit to Havana, the preparations for the Pope’s visit, and the regime trying to manage its fraud change.” According to Rodiles, there is no such change, given nothing has changed with regards to human rights, nor are there any changes economically.

The activists will return to Cuba before John Kerry visits the island on Friday, August 14.

The Prejudices We Provoke / Reinaldo Escobar

Demonstrators protest in Burundi. (VOA)
Demonstrators protest in Burundi. (VOA)

14ymedio biggerReinaldo Escobar, Havana, 1 August 2015 — Under the slogan of “Tanganyika breaks heads with big force” a Cuban radio serial from the 50s, my generation was inculcated with the idea that Africans are rude and violent. I vaguely remember that the character of this resonant name was a kind of stupid but unbeatable giant.

I didn’t know then that Tanganyika was a lake and that its northwestern shore touched Bujumbura, the largest population center in Burundi, which became the capital after independence in 1962. The prejudices of my childhood were reinforced years later when tribal struggles arose between Hutus and Tutsis and the dead filled the streets of the city in an absurd fratricidal war.

But for weeks the news confused me. continue reading

I had been led to believe that those Burundians were a “savage people” and suddenly I see them walking the streets in an enviable gesture of civility to protest the intentions of President Pierre Nkuruziza to get himself re-elected for the third time (which succeeded in controversial elections last July 21). The opposition managed to unite although they continued to disagree about whether to participate in the elections and about the decision of whether to occupy seats in the parliament.

It was the Prensa Latina agency that released a report saying that the main opposition leader Agathon Rwasa would take his place in the Assembly with 20 members of his coalition. Meanwhile the leader of another opposition group, Charles Nditije, declined to occupy the 10 seats he won in the elections.

The newspaper Granma surprised many last Wednesday with the following comment on the elections in Burundi:

“Seven days after the presidential elections, the commission of UN observers concluded that the election was not “free, credible and inclusive.” In its preliminary report, the commission said that the vote was marked by violence and there were obstacles to freedom of expression, assembly and association. In addition, it stated that “freedom of the press suffered severe restrictions” and that “the public media did not guarantee a balanced coverage of the candidates.”

What might be the “preliminary report” of a commission of observers from the United Nations if it were allowed to witness an electoral process in Cuba? Would they say it was free, credible and inclusive? Would they dare to assert that there were no obstacles to the freedoms of expression, assembly and association? Would they notice the severe restrictions on press freedom and note that the public media did not provide balanced coverage of the candidates?

I apologize to the people of Burundi. We have fallen to a level that is below that racist category of “savage people.” We have provoked a greater prejudice, that of being a tamed people.

‘Holguin Nights’ Suspended Due To Increased Cases Of Dengue Fever / 14ymedio, Fernando Donate Ochoa

Indoor spraying will start on Tuesday. (Fernando Donate / 14ymedio)
Indoor spraying will start on Tuesday. (Fernando Donate / 14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Fernando Donate Ochoa, 3 August 2015 — This weekend the serious epidemiological situation in the city of Holguin forced it to suspend the first celebration of Holguin Nights for the month of August. The increase of dengue fever cases has sparked alarm among local authorities who are asking people to take extreme measures to avoid contagion.

The popular festivities were cancelled after the kiosks selling food and drinks on the Avenida de los Libertadores had already been constructed. The central street is the main stage for this festival, which mixes music, food and the sale of household products.

The Provincial Health Department has issued a report that explains that between 100 and 150 foci of Aedes aegypti are identified daily in the area. The figure has caused an increased rate of infestation of the municipality of Holguin, which stands at 3.3, versus the 0.05 that, under normal conditions, is common the area. continue reading

The worrying situation could affect the celebration of the Holguin Carnivals, scheduled for August 20-23, and international tourism. The province occupies third place in the national arrival of foreign visitors.

Several hospitals, such as the Lucia Iniguez Landin Clinical Surgical Teaching Hospital, the Octavio de la Concepcion y de la Pedraja Pediatric Hospital and the nursing subsidiary of the provincial capital, have been turned into places of isolation for infected patients. In the past two weeks 611 fever patients with nonspecific symptoms were tested of which 258 were confirmed cases of dengue fever.

The event 'Holguin nights' had to be suspended after the kiosks were already assembled. (Fernando Donate / 14ymedio)
The event ‘Holguin nights’ had to be suspended after the kiosks were already assembled. (Fernando Donate / 14ymedio)

The health areas where the most cases were reported, between confirmed and probable, are Mario Gutierrez with 1,052; Maximo Gomez, with 1,018, and Reparto Alex Urquiola, joined by Pedro del Toro, which now has more than 600 patients, according to what Dr. Elizabeth Segura Sierra, director of public health in the territory, reported to the media.

Sunday 450 workers were mobilized in the rest of the province to support the work of control and fumigation for the entire month of August.

Along with indoor spraying, intensive aerial spraying will take place starting Tuesday morning.

Let The Government Of Cuba Open Itself To Its People / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

The meeting between Raul Castro and Pope Francisco in Rome. (EFE)
The meeting between Raul Castro and Pope Francisco in Rome. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 31 July 2015 – Pope Francis is coming to Cuba this September and the Cuban people will give him an affectionate welcome, as already happened with the last two visits of his predecessors. Although this time religion here is diverse, there are more than a few atheists, and Catholics and non-Catholics will be present at his activities.

This will be an occasion to greet a Latin American pope who has tried several reforms in the Catholic Church for the poor and the dispossessed, who has called exploitation by its name, and who, in Latin American lands, said that “the rules and the laws, as well as the projects of civil community, have to seek inclusion, open spaces for dialog, for encounter, and thus leave behind the painful memories of any kind of repression, excessive control and loss of freedom.”

Today, as Pope John Pal II wanted, the world is opening itself to Cuba and Cuba is opening itself to the world, and the Latin American pope has played a very important role in this, brokering agreements between the governments of Cuba and the United States, beginning a process of dialog that has already permitted the reopening of embassies and the reestablishment of diplomatic relations. continue reading

The internal situation could be complicated by the resistance of the Government to recognize different thinking and its insistence on repressing its manifestations

And this process has been possible because of the need of the Cuban government to access international sources of financing, and the need of the United States to rebuild its relations with Latin America, affected precisely by the policy of isolating Cuba.

However, what we Cubans need most, we citizens, those below, those of us who could receive no benefit from these governmental rapprochements, is that the government of this country open itself to its people. Pope Francis might also contribute to this, although the force that he commands is more moral and human than economic.

In this regard, the Cuban Civil Society Open Forum wrote a letter to His Holiness, delivered personally to the Nunciature in Havana, in which they solicited his good offices to mediate between the Government and Cuban civil society and facilitate a dialog, as it did between the Cuban authorities and those of the United States.

Cuban society urgently needs this national dialog which different political and social forces have called for in recent years, as there is a difficult internal situation that, unfortunately, could be complicated by the resistance of the Government to recognize different thinking and its insistence on repressing its manifestations.

Today, officialdom continues making speeches and acting like a citadel under siege – “all dissent is treason” – while it is evident that the government politicians themselves are those who are preventing the democratization of society, the advance of the productive forces, and the development of the relations of free production, of a  character of self-management, that characterizes the new post-capitalist society, concomitant with the social doctrine of the Church.

Cuba could emerge strengthened as a nation, or it could lead to the consolidation of authoritarianism.

Cuba is living in a transcendental moment from the coincidence of important factors: the natural decline in the figures who have ruled the country for more than half a century; the failure of the statist wage model; the centralized form of political management; and the policy change toward Cuba of the Obama administration. From the combination of these factors, Cuba could emerge strengthened as a nation, or it could lead to the consolidation of authoritarianism.

Much depends on the people’s ability to achieve self-government and self-reliance, so it is of prime importance that the current Government, now open only to the proposals of the Communist Party, open itself to all ways of political thinking and of economic and social action.

If, as a consequence of the combination of these factors the monopolistic State capitalism emerges stronger, in alliance with foreign capital, the big winner will be the current militaristic authoritarianism, but at the eventual cost of a virtual economic and geopolitical annexation by the great neighbor to the north, which will be guarantor and financial motor of authoritarianism.

If the result is the advance of a process of democratization of politics and the socialization of the economy, the prosperity and well-being of all Cubans – and consequently the future of the nation – it would be guaranteed, aided by the new international situation.

The Pope could now contribute another grain of sand, or perhaps throw in a dose of sediment, to the good road of the Cuban nation and help all of us to understand the need for dialog and the politics of communal well-being supported by the social doctrine of the Church.

Welcome to Havana, Pope Francis.

Cuba Is Emerging As A Tourist Paradise For The Gay Community / EFE, 14ymedio

An excursion offered on the web My Cayito.
An excursion offered on the web Mi Cayito.

(EFE) – Amid the tourist boom that Cuba is experiencing, the island is emerging as a destination for the gay community, where the first online travel agency specializing in tours designed especially for the LGBTI collective is operating.

The pioneers in this business have been responsible for Mi Cayito Cuba,

a web intermediary between the “gay friendly Cuban private initiative and customers in the world,” said the director Alain Castillo, a Cuban living in Madrid.

“The Island has great potential as a space for coexistence. We are open to all, we believe in a liberal and tolerant place where respect is valued,” says this young entrepreneur of 35 who wants to work “on visibility and improving the collective “(LGBTI) in his country. continue reading

Mi Cayito (on the east coast of Havana) is the name of what is probably the only gay beach of the island, so Castillo thought it would be a good idea to call his business that, and has been operating since August of 2014 with a virtual office in the Spanish capital and representatives in Havana.

“It’s vacation time. It’s time for Cuba. The new gay paradise,” we read in the brochures that the initiative is promoting thrugh social networks this summer. 

The most popular destination among users of the web Mi Cayito so far are Havana, Viñales and Varadero beach

The most popular destinations among users of Mi Cayito Cuba so far are Havana, Viñales, a green paradise located in the western province of Pinar del Río; and Varadero beach, said Castillo.

The website is only available in Spanish, though Castle says customers have from Germany, USA, Russia, Spain and Latin America have used it, and they can choose between tours such as Gay Havana or personal guided tours that cost up to 120 euros.

More than two million foreign tourists arrived in Cuba so far this year, a figure reached 39 days earlier than in 2014 which demonstrates the appeal of the Caribbean destination, especially for visitors from Canada, Germany, United Kingdom, United States and Argentina.

“Changes in Cuba have been an incentive and increased demand,” said Alain Castillo, who announced they prepare for a possible mass influx of Americans, encouraged by the thaw in relations between Cuba and the US, which on 20 July resumed diplomatic ties after more than 50 years of enmity.

More Than 50 Activists Arrested Sunday In The March Of The Ladies In White / 14ymedio

The writer Angel Santiesteban with the Ladies in White at the Gandhi Park at the exit of the church of Santa Rita (Photo Luis Lazaro Guanche)
The writer Angel Santiesteban with the Ladies in White at the Gandhi Park at the exit of the church of Santa Rita (Photo Luis Lazaro Guanche)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 2 August 2015 – This afternoon, after Sunday’s march of the Ladies in White on Fifth Avenue in Miramar, Havana, 40 members of this organization and about 15 activists were arrested.

The arrests came after a massive act of repudiation against the Ladies in White, as reported to 14ymedio by several witnesses present at the scene. Among those detained are the blogger Lia Villares, the government opponent Raul Borges and independent journalist Juan González Febles.

The Ladies in White have denounced the increased repression around the walk organized every Sunday at the conclusion of Mass in the church of Santa Rita, in Miramar. This time most of the arrests occurred on the 28th Street at the corner of 3rd, when the activists had left the immediate vicinity of the parish.

Meanwhile in Colón, Matanzas province, nine Ladies in White carried out their march for the freedom of political prisoners under a strong police operation. So far there have been no arrests reported in the province.

“I want more movies and fewer laws” / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

The filmmaker Miguel Coyula shooting. (Personal file MC)
The filmmaker Miguel Coyula shooting. (Personal file MC)

14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 31 July 2015 — Shy, but with a quick wit and a direct expression, the filmmaker Miguel Coyula (b. Havana 1977) opens the door the room where he works and lets 14ymedio into this creative space in a Vedado apartment. The director of Memories of Underdevelopment is craftsman of the cinema: he films, directs, edits, does the special effects and music, all the while organizing the entire production of the film.

Over coffee, he talks about the obstacles to making films in Cuba and his new project Corazón Azul (Blue Heart), a story set in an alternative reality after an explosion in genetic engineering. In this fictional future, the Cuban government launches the literal creation of its old dream: the New Man.

Luz Escobar: You are immersed in the shooting of your new film, Blue Heart, how far along is the project?

Miguel Coyula: I started shooting the film little by little and, if I can, in chronological order. Every month I am adding one more minute and I can see how it grows. You want to teach the actors, who in the end are working almost for free, and this is a great incentive to see the development of the characters, to see how everything is turning out. continue reading

This is out of necessity. It takes a long time because the structure of the production is to treat each scene as if it were a short film in itself. That is, film a scene, edit it and then start the next scene. It is the only way that has worked for me because it is very difficult to synchronize all the actors. They have to do other things to live, accept other projects, and it makes if hard for me to get them all together to film a scene.

Escobar. So it takes a long time?

“Cinema is like vomiting the subconscious in images, trying to eliminate all possible rationality.”

Coyula. It can take me a month to do two scenes. It takes longer because I do the camera work, the editing, the sound design, the special effects… since I don’t have any money, I end up putting in the time. It is the price I pay. I’m thinking something similar to what happened with “Memories of Overdevelopment,” I had 40 minutes of it done when I got a Guggenheim Fellowship and with that I was able to film the missing scenes. This knowing how to find the money is a talent some people have and others don’t. Unfortunately I don’t have it and I do what I do, which is to move forward and make the film grow bit by bit.

Escobar. Where did the idea for this film come from?

Coyula. Blue Heart, and my first feature film, Red Cockroaches, are based on a novel I wrote in 1999 called Red Sea, Blue Evil, which was published two years ago by La Pereza Ediciones in Miami. There will be a third, which is the main story of the book, but I don’t know when.

Escobar. With the kind of film that you do, how difficult it is to find budget or to get into the film festivals?

Coyula. In the European institutions, which often finance moviemaking in that area, they have created a concept they call, “cinema of the Latin American author.” These are profiles which strengthen a kind of filmmaking in which there is a specific social context, a minimalist staging without manipulating the image, the story. There is no room for science fiction in this. In addition, Blue Heart is not pure science fiction, so it doesn’t fit into the film industry models. It is a hybrid of many genres and formats.

Escobar.  Auteur cinema?

Coyula. This concept is a bit absurd, like that of the Hubert Bals Foundation in the Netherlands. Seeing the projects they finance, you see that the movies begin to resemble each other. It is putting art into a profile, creating a style, something that has nothing to do with auteur cinema where supposedly one looks for the distinct.

Escobar. Why do you introduce animation into your films?

Coyula. In many of my films special effects and animation have been ways to resolve them. I also grew up watching cartoons, and I really liked the Japanese ones in which each frame of a sequence is in a different plane. Every time there is a cut, each new image is a frame that has not been used before in the scene. I use this in the way I build the visual grammar of my films to escalate the tension in a scene.

”This position of distance and of criticizing everything is very important when it comes time to create.”

I also noticed that the Japanese didn’t have a big budget to do animation at 24 frames a second like Disney, so they concentrated on the most striking visual design, because the animation was very limited and they didn’t have the money to make it very fluid. Clearly, this then became a style.

Escobar. What is your opinion about the aspirations of the G-20 Group which, within the margins of the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC), is pushing for the implementation of a Film Law for Cuba?

Coyula. I feel good about what they’re doing. Making movies consumes so much of my time that I feel going to meetings in this country is a waste of time. On the other hand, the laws scare me a little. I want more cinema and fewer laws. The fact that this comes coupled with a tax worries me, it could be very harmful to people who are making non-profit films.

They could end up imposing the same tax on a filmmaker who is making a reggaeton video clip as on another who spends years filming a movie that isn’t going to make any money, that isn’t commercial. I attended one of those meetings at the beginning but I haven’t gone back.

Escobar. You are considered an “odd duck” among Cuban filmmakers. How do you see yourself?

Coyula. I try to make films that I would go to see. I don’t see cinema as it was often seen in the ‘60s, as an instrument of transforming the thinking of a country. If it generates dialog, of course that is very good, but I, at least, can’t create with that in mind. Cinema is like vomiting the subconscious in images, trying to eliminate all possible rationality. For example, I write a scene and try not to think too much about what it means. Afterwards, when I am editing, is when I start to intellectualize. But, more than anything, I am looking for the sensuousness of the ideas that come to mind.

Escobar. Do you belong to the generation that was going to be the New Man?

Coyula. Most of us, when we were teenagers and we realized that Cuba would not be a utopia, we became critical of any political system, be it socialism or capitalism. On the other hand, for creativity I think it was good because this position of distance and of criticizing everything is very important when it comes time to create.

“The question is: it’s Fidel Castro, so what? In all societies of the world the rulers serve as an inspiration for artists.”

Escobar. What do you think about the censorship of the work The King is Dying by Juan Carlos Cremata?

Coyula. Many have criticized the interpretation of the meaning of the work by the National Council of Performing Arts, saying that Fidel Castro was the central character. It does not take a genius to see a play called The King is Dying, in today’s Cuba, refers to Fidel Castro. The question is: it’s Fidel Castro, so what? In all societies of the world the rulers serve as an inspiration for artists.

Utopia would be to achieve a society where the work is on the playbill and everyone could decide whether or not to enter the theater. Including getting up and leaving if they don’t like it and demanding their money back, as happens in other parts of the world.

Escobar. You lived for years in the United States. How is it to return to Cuba?

Coyula. I won two scholarships in the United States, but came and went constantly. The way I live and make films has been the same in any part of the world where I’ve been. For me, the camera becomes an extension of my arm and the computer the place where I do everything. I isolate myself to make my films, and this could be the same in New York as in Havana, I live for that.

Cuban Dissidents Outline A Common Agenda / 14ymedio

Participants in the meeting held on Thursday in Havana by a score of civil society and the political community. (14ymedio)
Participants in the meeting held on Thursday in Havana by a score of civil society and the political community. (14ymedio)

14ymedio, Havana, 31 July 2015 – The meeting held Thursday in Havana by some twenty civil society organizations and the political community has been defined as a new step in a common agenda. The initiative aims to work for democracy, fundamental freedoms, and a Rule of Law in Cuba, according to the activist Manuel Cuesta Morúa.

The gathering is the continuation of a meeting with similar aims held in Mexico between June 18 and 23 of this year, with the cooperation of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, which brought together various organizations from the island and the diaspora.

At the meeting it was agreed to endorse Civil Society Open Forum four points of consensus, which involved the majority of the organizations that now decided to take this additional step in the direction of creating a strictly political space for democratic action. continue reading

It was also agreed to create of secretariat to distribute information and coordinate the coming meetings to which other organizations and actors will be invited to continue outlining the structure, rules and strategies of this new effort of plural political agreement.

The participants included, among others, representatives from the Patriotic of Union of Cuba (UNPACU), the Anti-totalitarian United Front, the Cuban Liberal Solidarity Party, the Progressive Arc, the Socialdemocratic Party, the Opposition Movement for a New Republic, the Center for the Support of the Transition, the Young Roundtable, the Successors Foundation, and Cuba Decides.

Also present were attorneys from Cubalex and the the Agromontista Current, independent journalists, artists and intellectuals, including Tania Bruguera and the recently released Angel Santiesteban, Rafael Vilches and Jorge Olivera.

When the Eggs Go Missing / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

An eggseller. (14ymedio)
An eggseller. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 30 July 2015 — One day it’s cooking oil, another it’s floor cleaning clothes or washing detergent, but there is always a product that all of a sudden doesn’t appear on the shelves either in the ration market or in the hard currency stores, “nor even in the spiritual centers” as some say.

When the eggs go missing, it is almost never the fault of the hens, but of the bad organization in production or distribution. The egg is a key player in the dramatic food situation of Cubans. As my neighbor Magdalena says, “It’s a can’t-miss,” because of which we call it a “lifesaver.” However, it vanishes, disappears, goes poof! like in those magic acts, and then alternative ways of selling it have to be put to work. continue reading

On the ration card, every citizen gets five eggs a month at a price of 15 centavos. In the free market, a 30-egg carton costs 33 Cuban pesos, and in the “shopping” – as we call the hard currency stores – they cost 3.60 convertible pesos (CUC), almost triple what they cost in the free market. In the black market, which functions according to the strict rules of supply and demand, eggs will always be more expensive than in the ration stores and cheaper than in convertible pesos, with their price rising and falling according to their presence or absence.

In March of this year, a high-profile corruption case came to light in which 19 officials from a State company were sentenced to prison terms of between 5 and 15 years for their involvement in the diversion of more than 8 million eggs to the illegal market, with an economic impact of over 8,907,562 pesos. But no one can believe that once those lawbreakers were discovered the racket ended. It was enough for the scarcity to come up with a new fiddle in which each played his or her role of greater or lesser risk, greater or lesser effort and hence, with greater or lesser profit.

The official media try to blame all the scarcities on private entrepreneurs

At that time private restaurants and snack bars were not authorized, the underground market in eggs was limited to door-to-door sales, offering the merchandise to people in their homes. I’ll never forget one day when a woman came to my house accompanied by a child with a beach ball. “Do you want eggs?” she asked me. “Give me ten,” I said and then, as if by magic, she took the eggs out of the ball. Now the owners of paladares – private restaurants – and especially those who make sweets, monopolize the purchase. The official media try to blame all the scarcities on private entrepreneurs, and even hold them responsible for the frequent detours, almost like kidnappings, of what leaves the warehouses headed to the markets.

The cyclist in the photo walked several miles along Rancho Boyeros Avenue in Havana with his precious cargo. At first he tried to pedal, but the height of his construction made him lose his balance. Throughout his journey he suffered every kind of joke from taxi drivers and truck drivers, but he was lucky not to stumble into a police patrol.