The Spirit Of The Executions Still Haunts La Cabaña / Cubanet, Tania Diaz Castro

Execution in La Cabaña (photo taken from The Nuevo Herald)

cubanet square logoCubanet, Tania Diaz castro, 14 February 2017 — Nelson Rodríguez Leiva, 26, was shot in La Fortaleza de la Cabaña in 1971, along with his dearest friend, Angelito de Jesús Rabí, 17.

Also in the same place, but a century earlier, the poet Juan Clemente Zenea was shot.

It did not help Nelson that, in 1960 he had been a teacher in the Literacy Campaign in the mountains of Oriente, or that in 1964 he already had an excellent book of stories published by Virgilio Piñera, in Ediciones R, or that his mother Ada Leiva wrote a letter to Fidel Castro asking for clemency for her son, or that another book of Nelson’s poems was pending publication. continue reading

Just a few days ago El Nuevo Herald in Miami published an extensive report about the exposition of the writer Juan Abreu, with one hundred portraits of those executed by the Castro regime, painted by him, and presented at the headquarters of the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium.

Perhaps Nelson’s face was there.

Abreu received the respect and admiration of former political prisoners such as Pedro Corso, director of the Cuban Institute of Historical Memory Against Totalitarianism, and the poet Angel Cuadra, who said that Abreu’s Exposition “… is like making history talk through the faces, to rescue them and give them new life.” He would have also received the support of the writer Reinaldo Arenas, a dear friend, who lamentably died in New York and who always remembered his friend Nelson.

It’s about, said Abreu, “… not conventional portraits, but an approach to the faces, so often blurred, conserved in old photos.”

Abreu’s project is a history of the Cuban regime, today in the hands of Raul Castro, who wants to erase, above all, those days when this place was used for executions after summary trials, to make examples or simply for revenge or fear of a fierce opposition that arose among all the political opponents condemned to death. Bringing it to the European Parliament must be considered a victory.

The number of five thousand individuals shot dead hangs like a Sword of Damocles over Cuba. The spirit of all these who faced the firing squad hangs over La Cabana Fortress, no matter how many parties are held there, no matter who much fun and excitement and hullabaloo there is, no matter how many books are sold at the book fair that the executioner government hold every year, for a people who are so busy just trying to survive that they don’t have time to read.

In this fortress, with a history as dark as the dictatorship itself, the Book Fair is celebrated, strategic project of Fidel Castro to clean the blood off their graves, cells, bars and walls, as if history could be made to disappear.

The two young writers, Nelson and Angelito, were tied up there, their eyes closed, so as not to see the rifles of the night, close together, as they asked to die.

Not long ago, someone who knew them, told me that Nelson was very romantic, that he wept with the melodies of The Beatles, and even resembled a bit James Dean, the American actor of the fifties and that Angelito, converted Into his noble page, had the face of a child.

Through the sad streets of La Cabaña Fortress, where Nelson and his friend walked towards death, today walk the “grateful” who ignore this story. They are looking for a book to read. Not precisely Nelson’s book of stories, The Gift, or those pages smeared with tears that someone picked up from an empty dungeon.

A portion of Juan Abreu’s faces (PanAm Post)

The Two Marielas / Cubanet, Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello

L, An ordinary Cuban woman looking out a bus window; R, Mariela Castro

cubanet square logoCubanet, Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello, Havana, 14 February 2017 – The story I want to relate has two parts, one is true and the other is fiction. The real one is an event I was involved in at the Carlos III market while in line to buy yogurt, one of the products in shortest supply in this country – despite the fact that it is sold in hard currency – and in this case with a price of 0.70 Cuban convertible pesos (CUC), although there are other yogurts sold in different containers for as much as 5 CUC (1 CUC is roughly equal to $1 US).

In front of me, while we were waiting, was a young woman of around 30 something, but I could see she’d had a pretty rough life. She had the money in her hand, some of it in 5 and 10 centavo coins in CUC and a note for 5 Cuban pesos (CUP) – because, as you know, now the stores have to accept both currencies. All of a sudden she dropped a 10 centavo coin and to her great misfortune it rolled under one of the display cases and although the woman made a great effort to retrieve it, she could not.

She turned to leave the line and I asked, “Are you leaving?” and she said, “Yes, I had the exact amount of money and I dropped 10 centavos under that case.” Without thinking twice I said, “No, don’t leave, take the ten centavos.” continue reading

She accepted with the happiest look on her face and told me, “You have no idea how grateful I am, because my older daughter is sick and she doesn’t want to eat anything.”

From that moment, with the facility a Cuban has to establish communication with another person, even if they don’t know them, we spent the next thirty minutes while we continued to wait in line talking to each other.

She explained that she worked as a teaching assistant at an elementary school, but often had to be the teacher because there aren’t enough educators. She is divorced and the monthly support she receives from the children’s father is 50 Cuban pesos (roughly $2 US). That plus her own salary is not enough to live on and she has to “invent” and go begging to her mother. She told me, literally, “You have no idea what I have to do to be able to feed my kids.”

Like any good Cuban, she lives in a building considered uninhabitable, but she won’t accept going to a shelter because she knows other people who live in those conditions and it is dangerous for the girls, now that they are becoming young ladies. Because her apartment is on the second floor and nothing works, she has no running water and every other day has to carry up 10 or 12 buckets of water to meet highest priority needs, although she says she is grateful to her mother who washes and irons the girls school uniforms.

“Imagine. My mother was a member of the Party (Communist) and worked in the Federation of Cuban Women and as for my my father, may he rest in peace, his surname was Castro, so it occurred to her to name me Mariela [after Raul Castro’s daughter]. Now she regrets it.”

Then she said that she did not listen to her mother and married a man who drank a lot, and when he came home he beat her. It took a lot of work to get out of that torture and now she regrets not having listened to her mother’s advice.

He left them that disastrous apartment where they live in Centro Habana, and now she is stuck because her sister is married and has two children and also lives in the divided living room, which doubles as a room for both her and her sister’s families in the home of their parents.

She confessed to me that she had been so distressed that she takes her daughters and walks along the Malecon. And she said the girls understand the whole situation and do not ask for anything. But they’re growing up and they have to have shoes and school uniforms and something to eat for a snack at school, which is almost always a piece of bread, because at breakfast they eat half of her daily quota (on the ration book).

I think she had a great need for someone to listen to all her problems and saw the opportunity to vent.

With a little imagination, while I was on my way to my house, I began to think about how the other Mariela might live, the one her mother named her after.

At the entrance, everyone can see that other Mariela’s super residence in the Miramar neighborhood even has a pool, always filled with water. There are several cars and they and the house are all beautifully maintained. This is something that you don’t have to imagine, and it is not fiction.

But surely that Mariela Castro does not line up to buy yogurt at 70 cents CUC and much less would she be sad if she dropped a coin, as all her food problems are taken care of without her even having to leave the house.

When she gets up for breakfast she does not “donate” her bread to the children. A maid prepares the food, certainly with ham, milk, bread, juices, etc. She is assured of coffee every day, very likely imported, she probably gets the most desirable brands brought in from Miami.

She doesn’t have to worry about what time the bus will come to take her to work; in the first place because she doesn’t have to mark a timecard and in the second because she has a modern car to take her to work without having to get all sweaty and push her way onto the bus with all the other people.

I could continue imagining things that we all know are part of the standard of living of the high government hierarchy, but I leave it to the reader so we can all share in this fictional (?) part of the story.

Too Young for the Party and Too Old for the Communist Youth / Cubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez

Harold Cárdenas (dw.com)

cubanet square logoCubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez, Havana, 9 February 2017 — Try as I might—to avoid being a bore and accused of holding a grudge against the boy—I cannot leave Harold Cárdenas, the ineffable blogger at La Joven Cuba, in peace, I just can’t. And the fault is his own, because the narrative he makes out of his adventures defending his beloved Castro regime, and his loyal candor, strikes one as a kind of masochism worse than that of Anastasia Steele, the yielding girl in Fifty Shades of Grey.

In a post on 19 January, Harold Cardenas complained of the terrible limbo, for a communist, in which he finds himself (not to mention that it would be the envy of many militants who accepted the red card because they had no other option): Harold, being past the requisite age, was removed from the Union of Young Communists (UJC), but he is not accepted into the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) because, they explain, he is still too young. continue reading

His situation reminds me of a 1976 song by the British rock band Jethro Tull (which Harold probably doesn’t know, because of his age, and because I can’t imagine him listening to any music other than that of Silvio, Buena Fe and Calle 13). The song tells the story of the disconsolate and hairy motorcyclist and failed suicide, Ray, who was “too old to rock and roll, too young to die.”

Harold Cárdenas rightly intuits, given the entrenchment recently being displayed by the regime, that he has been given the boot—or the bat, as his contemporaries say—from both organizations because of his publications “in other media.” And so he knocks himself out with explanations, challenges his punishers to find one counterrevolutionary line in his writings, “but without taking a line or a post out of its context—conducting a serious search through the totality of the content.”

As if these guys needed to go to so much trouble to suspect someone and consider him an enemy!

The blogger, with his foolish sincerity and wild innocence (Ay, Julio Iglesias!) has annoyed the stony big shots and their subordinate “hard-core” little shots—always so unsympathetic towards those who, even while remaining within the Revolution, dare to think with their own heads and give too many opinions. This is why they consider him undisciplined, hypercritical, and irresponsible, why they don’t want him in the UJC nor the PCC.

Overall, he came out all right, because in other times, not too long ago, who knows what the punishment might have been…

Harold Cárdenas, with his faith intact through it all, assures us that he does not have a single complaint about the Party, although, as he says, it hurts him “how some dogmatists detract from the collective intelligence of the organization.”

As far as Harold is concerned, his punishers do not answer to an official policy, but rather are dogmatic extremists who think themselves more leftist than Stalin. He warns: “We must take care not to confuse sectarian procedures with State or Party politics, even if they try to disguise themselves as such. The individuals who apply them, although they might try to justify their actions as being taken in the name of the Revolution or some institution, are doing it for themselves. They are trying to preserve the status quo of the known, motivated by fear, ignorance or other interests.”

Harold Cárdenas, who seems to believe himself the reincarnation of Julio Antonio Mella (who, by the way, seems to have been assassinated by order of his comrades and not the dictator Machado, due to his Trotskyite connections) believes that what is happening is a “tactical struggle among revolutionary sectors” of which he has been a victim. But he does not despair. With the patience of a red Job, having been warned that “it is very difficult to fight for a better society outside of the movement that must lead the construction,” Cárdenas says that he will join the Party when he will not have to “subordinate the political struggle to a vertical discipline… when they give me a way, there will be a will.”

And one, faced with such resigned masochism, does not know whether to pity Harold in his wait for the blessed little red card, or give him up as incorrigible, and let him continue to self-flagellate. May Lenin Be With Him!

Author’s email: luicino2012@gmail.com

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Books Banned at Cuba’s Book Fair / Cubanet, Roberto Quinones

How Night Fell, Huber Matos – banned in Cuba

cubanet square logoCubanet, Roberto Jesus Quinones Haces, Guantanamo, 10 February 2017 – The Havana International Book fair and its provincial offshoots would be more important events if there were debates where all Cuban intellectuals could participate without exclusions. But they are walled prosceniums where there is only room for writers who never raise their voices against any internal injustices. The discriminated and persecuted find solidarity in other parts of the world; here, no.

So it is not news – nor will be – that these uncomfortable writers are excluded from debates and even the Fair itself, if they do not fit the established molds for “docile wage earners of official thought,” a phrase from the Argentine guerrilla with a happy trigger finger and fierce hatreds. continue reading

Beyond the characteristics of the Fair, where there are more people eating and getting drunk than buying books and participating in cultural activities, I want to dwell on the intolerance of Cuban publishing policy.

“We do not tell the people to believe, we say read”

This phrase is from Fidel Castro and belongs to the earliest days of his totalitarian state. When the National Printing Company of Cuba issued a massive printing of “Don Quixote,” our country inaugurated a luminous time for culture by making available to readers, at very cheap prices, innumerable classics of universal literature. That effort, which is maintained, was and is praiseworthy, although it has also been marked by prohibitions and notorious absences.

Disciplines such as Philosophy, Sociology, Law, Politics and History did not receive the same attention as literature, and today, after 58 years of Castroism, authors and works of international prestige still have not yet been published because the censors are the ones who decide what we can read, and what is published must be consistent with the policy imposed by the regime. To this is added the justification that Cuba cannot pay copyright fees to the affected writers.

Among these, are the Chileans Roberto Bolaño and Isabel Allende, while Nobel laureates Octavio Paz and Mario Vargas Llosa, have been published very little, although perhaps the exclusion of the latter is due to his criticism of Castroism. Gabriele D’Annunzio, Aldous Huxley, Milan Kundera, Boris Pasternak and Alexander Solzhenitsin also appear in the waiting circle. William Faulkner’s “The Sound and the Fury,” Robert Musil’s “The Man Without Attributes” and Vasili Grossman’s “Life and Destiny” have also not been published and still unknown in Cuban are Karl May, Enid Blyton, Albert Camus and Heinrich von Kleist while other authors are being re-published to exhaustion. And don’t even talk about contemporary European and American literature. I am writing from my declining memory, for if I consulted a book on the history of universal literature, the list would be immense.

Authors and texts with a strong democratic vocation remain unpublished here, although historical developments have proved them right. Within that extensive group are Simone Weil, Nikola Tesla and Wendell Berry. After little tirades made in 1960, not published again in Cuba are “The Great Scam” by Eudocio Ravines, “Anatomy of a Myth” by Arthur Koestler and “The New Class” by Milovan Djilas.

The New Class, Milovan Djilas – Banned in Cuba

An extraordinary book, “The Man in Search of Sense” by Viktor Frankl, remains unpublished. The list is joined by Erich Fromm, Ortega y Gasset and even socialists such as Leon Trotsky, Antonio Gramsci and Ernst Fischer. To this we can add “Thirteen days” by Robert Kennedy, “Gabo And Fidel, The Landscape Of A Friendship,” by Ángel Esteban and Stéphanie Panichelli and “God Entered Havana” by Manuel Vázquez Montalbán. “The End of History and the Last Man,” published in Spanish by Planeta 25 years ago remains beyond the reach of Cubans and only last year, more than forty years after its initial publication, “The Great Transformation” by Karl Polanyi was published and that topped those of universal literature by Ferdydurke and Witold Gombrowicz, while Borges remains almost unheard of.

Cuban authors who have written objective analyzes of Castroism or unauthorized memoirs are also blacklisted. I can cite here Carlos Franqui, Dariel Alarcon the “Benigno” of Che’s guerilla), Juan F. Benemelis with “The Secret Wars of Fidel Castro,” Juan Clark with his extraordinary book “Cuba: Myth and Reality,” Norberto Fuentes with “Sweet Cuban Warriors” and Commander Huber Matos with “How Night Fell.” Antonio Benítez Rojo, Zoé Valdés, Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Reinaldo Arenas, Manuel Granados remain proscribed along with Eliseo Alberto Diego, with the great majority of Cubans not knowing his shocking testimony “Report Against Myself.”

That these books and authors are not published belies the much vaunted tolerance for diversity that the main representatives of the regime claim to the unsuspecting and others who are always ready to believe them. And saying that these books are not published because they can’t pay the authors for the copyright is a half-truth.

If they didn’t print so many insignificant books and allocated resources to truly relevant works, the panorama would be different. The bland books do not make you think and their destination is on the dusty shelves of bookstores, or their pages torn out to make cones to sell peanuts in, or to use for personal cleansing. The significant books are always dangerous and that is well known by the censors.

We are very afraid / Cubanet, Augusto Cesar San Martin and Rudy Cabrera

cubanet square logoCubanet, Augusto Cesar San Martin and Rudy Cabrera, Havana, 23 January 2017 – In 2014, Cuban doctor Nelson Cabrera Quinta, his wife and two teenage children were declared illegal occupants of his home located at No. 1705 – 200th Street in the Havana neighborhood of Siboney. The house has been part of the family patrimony for 40 years and they have been been permanently residing in it for 12 years.

Six months after Dr. Cabrera left on an official Cuban medical mission in Saudi Arabia, his wife Bisaida Azahares received a notification from the Ministry of Construction to evacuate the house immediately. continue reading

“In the resolution it says: Leave the house [and go to] to your place of origin. We do not have options and much less a place to go… We are afraid, we have been told so many things about the eviction, that they are very violent people who open the doors, they break them down, they come in and they just put you out and that’s it. Imagine yourself, alone with two children,” says Bisaida.

Dr. Cabrera was warned that when he traveled abroad as a health worker, that they were going to evict his family from the house. For a long time that was the reason he rejected the chance to serve on several collaboration missions, and continued to direct one of the polyclinics in the Playa municipality. The doctor lowered his guard when the municipal president of the People’s Power assured him that while he was on a government mission, there would be no “forced extraction” at his house.

The right to reside in a garage

The resolution of “forced extraction”, the Cuban “neo-eviction,” is the result of a claim filed five years ago by the University of Medical Sciences of Havana (UCMH) against Nelson Cabrera Quintana and his family. According to the institution, the family lives in one of the 17 houses owned by the school in the residential division of Siboney, considered a “frozen zone,” which means the family registered as living in the residence must be “officially verified.”

The Cabrera family resides in the garage of a mansion, divided into three units. One-third of the house was granted in 1979 to the grandfather Gilberto Falcón Darriba, because of his work; he was a founder of UCMH, then the Institute of Medical Sciences of Havana, where he worked for more than 40 years.

Falcón lacked the mental and physical health to claim his property rights when he arrived at the end of 15 years residing in the garage. According to the provisions of the Ministry of Public Health, the houses are granted after having been leased for 15 years, giving the property to the lessee. Librada Arancibia, Falcon’s wife was on the verge of gaining title after her husband died in the United States, afflicted with Parkinson’s Disease.

“My grandmother was not recognized as the owner even though she initiated the process. I have documents from various UCMH lawyers who explicitly say that they were being deprived of the house they lived in for more than 20 years, and that they had paid the bank for in full,” says Nelson.

However, UCMH recognized the right of the elderly woman to live until the last day of her life in the residence transformed into a fortress.

Siboney, residential enclave

Each third of the residence has a different history, tied to its being property of the UCMH. On the main floor of the house, lived Dr. Caridad Dovale, retired from the UCMH, who emigrated to the United States in 2012. According to a document from the university center, her husband stayed in Cuba, managing to obtain the right to the property. In 2016 Dovales returned to Cuba, was repatriated and regained ownership of the house, as a university doctor.

The so-called “part behind,” belonging to the third, was claimed by the educational institution in 2013. Nelson affirms that Armando Hart Dávalos (former Minister of Education and Culture) and his wife interceded for those residents, and managed to get the eviction process cancelled.

The Cabrera family asks: Why if Falcón emigrated to the US, his wife did not get the benefit of housing, like the neighbors above? What has more value in Cuba, citizen rights or a good godfather in the government?

The answer is clear in the ​​Siboney area, a neighborhood full of mansions built before 1959 by the so-called “bourgeoisie,” but which today is dominated by the government upper class.

The Learned Illiterates of the Revolution / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

Poster on Avenida de los Presidentes, Havana (albertoyoan.com)

cubanet square logoCubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 10 January 2017 — – I have often heard or read about the supposed Cuban “culture and education,” a fabulous academic record based on official Cuban statistics and, of course, the Cuban Revolution and its (literally) ashen leader.

A few weeks ago, during the prolonged funerals of the Deceased in Chief, while walking through some streets of Centro Habana in the company of a foreign colleague – one of those who, either because of her gullibility or her sympathy, has swallowed the story of “the most educated island in the world” — I had occasion to show her several categorical examples of the very renown solid and expansive Cuban culture.

Beyond the filthy and cracked streets, the mounds of rubble and the containers of overflowing debris, which by themselves speak of the peculiar conception of the hygiene and health culture in the Cuban capital, posters everywhere overflowed, plagued by spelling mistakes: “we have striped coconut” [rayado means striped, rallado, grated] read a sign at a market on Sites street; “Mixed coffee” [misspelled mesclado, should be mezclado] offered another ad on a menu board in a private coffee shop; “forbidden to throw papers on the floor” [proibido instead of prohibido] on a sign a bit further on. continue reading

The menus at restaurants, both privately and state-owned, also abound in terrorist attacks on the Spanish language that would have the illustrious Miguel de Cervantes shaking in his grave. “Fried Garbansos“, [garbanzos] “smoked tenderloin” [aumado for ahumado], “breaded fillet” [enpanisado for empanizado], “paella valensiana” [instead of valenciana] and other such similarities have become so common that no one seems to notice them.

The “Weekly Packet,” by far the most popular cultural entertainment product and the one most available among the people, is ailing from the same malady. There, among the video title archives, one can find misspelled jewels of colossal stature, such as “Parasitos acesinos,” [for Parásitos Asesinos], “Guerreros del Pasifico,” [instead of the correct Guerreros del Pacífico], “Humbrales al Mas Alla” [correct spelling: Umbrales al Más Allá] and many more.

There are those who consider the correct use of language as superfluous, especially in a country where daily survival consumes most of one’s time and energy, and where there are not many options for recreation within the reach of the population’s purses. Cubans read less and less every day, which contributes to a significant drop in vocabulary and the deterioration of spelling. In any case, say many, who cares if the word garbanzo is written with an “s” or a “z”, when the important thing is having the money to be able to eat them? What is more essential, that a video file has a correctly spelled title, or that the video itself is enjoyable?

It would be necessary to argue against this vulgar logic that language constitutes a capital element of the culture of a nation or of its population, not only as a vehicle of social communication for the transmission and exchange of feelings, experiences and ideas, but as an identifying trait of those people. Furthermore, language is even related to national independence and sovereignty, so, when language is neglected, culture is impoverished; hence, truly cultured people demand the correct use of their language.

The systematic destruction of language in Cuba is manifested both verbally and in writing, and among individuals at all educational levels, including not a few language professionals. Thus, it has become commonplace to find essays of journalistic analysis where unusual nonsense appears in common words and is frequently used in the media, such as “distención” for distensión or “suspención” instead of suspensión.

The relationship could be extensive, but these two cases are enough to illustrate how deeply the Spanish language culture has eroded among us, to the point that it also shows up among sectors that, at least in theory, are made up of people versed in the correct use of language.

Llebar for llevar, carné for carnet, espediente for expediente, limpiesa for limpieza (Author’s photo)

What is worse is that a pattern of the systematic destruction of language stems from the national education system itself, since spelling mastery has been eliminated from the curriculum of skills to be acquired by students from the elementary levels of education. In fact, the very posters and murals of numerous state institutions and official organizations exhibit, without the least modesty, the greatest errors imaginable, both in syntax and in spelling.

This is the case of an official notice on the door of a state-owned office in the neighborhood of Pueblo Nuevo – on calle Peñalver, between Subirana and Árbol Seco — whose image is reproduced in this article. On a poster written by hand on wrinkled paper, in atrocious penmanship, the neighbors were summoned to resort to that sort of mournful collective spell, the so-called “Ratification of the Revolution Concept,” which all Cubans were asked to sign an oath to, after the death of Fidel. The poster reads:

Call for the ratification of the concept of the Revolution (Author’s photo)

Of course, it is understood that the notice contained information about times and places where the revolutionary mourners should come to shield with their rubrics the “concept” of the spectral utopia (so-called “revolution”) that died decades before its maker finally met his. Which may be “politically correct”, but the poster is linguistically atrocious without a doubt.

Paradoxically, one of the locations mentioned in the notice, the Carlos III Library (incidentally, the first library founded in Cuba, dating as far back as the 1700’s), is — more or less — the official headquarters of The Cuban Academy of the Language, whose functions, far from ensuring its knowledge and protection, are reduced to the eminently bureaucratic-symbolic and, above all, the reception of monetary and other benefits sent from the central headquarters of that international institution, in Spain th Royal Academy of the Spanish Language.

The truth is that people in this country increasingly speak and write worse, given the absolute official indifference of institutions supposedly responsible for watching over the language. What really matters to the authorities is that they remain faithful to the ideology of the Power, the rest is nonsense.

Meanwhile, the lack of freedoms impoverishes thinking, and along with it, language, its material casing and an essential part of cultural identity, is also ruined. Although the official media, the international organizations and many bargain–basement pimps insist on parroting that Cubans are one of the most educated peoples on the Planet.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Dry or Wet? Thinking with our Feet / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

AFP

cubanet square logoCubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 17 January 2017 — The announcement of the end of the “wet foot, dry foot” policy, which gave Cuban immigrants the special privilege of remaining in the US without being deported, just by touching American soil, ended Thursday, 12 January 2017, like a cold drizzle on the citizens of this island who had hoped for a better life in that country, using any illegal way to attain it.

As is often the case among Cubans, this decision by President Barack Obama just eight days before his departure from the White House has uncovered emotions. The issue, without a doubt, has dramatic implications, not only for those who are stranded on the migratory route from the most dissimilar geographical points of the planet or the Florida Straits, but also for those who have gone, leaving behind a family that would join them “afterwards,” or for those who have sold all their properties in Cuba with the fixed goal of reaching their American dream, facing the risks of an unpredictable journey at the mercy of human trafficking networks that have become a lucrative business for not a few gangs of delinquents of the region. continue reading

The cold rain of the sudden news was followed by the acid rain of those who release their resentment and frustration against the outgoing American president and accuse him of being a great service to the Castro regime. Of course, the main critics of Obama’s new stance are the same ones who have been opposed from the outset to the policy of rapprochement and the reestablishment of relations between both governments. “Castro won,” “the regime got away with it,” “another gift for the dictatorship” are some of the diatribes directed at the president less than a year after he stole Cubans’ esteem during his visit to Havana.

Could it be that in the no less cruel dilemma of “wet” or “dry” that has prevailed for more than 20 years, Cubans have ended up thinking “with their feet”?

It is appalling that the children of this land feel gifted with some divine grace that makes them deserve exceptional gifts and prerogatives just because they were blessed by being born in this miserable fiefdom. It is obvious that we need a good dose of humility and common sense.

However, putting aside the undeniable human impact surrounding the fact, it is necessary to assess it rationally. As much as we pity the broken dreams of so many fellow citizens, the truth is that the existence of a privileged policy for Cuban immigrants above those of other countries in the world – including people fleeing from nations at war or wherever there are living situations of extreme violence – is not justified in any way.

The pretense that Cubans, unlike other Latin Americans, deserve differential treatment because they are living under the boot of a dictatorship, collapses before the unquestionable evidence that only a very small portion of those fleeing may be classified as being under true political persecution. That is an irrefutable truth.

The huge expenditures by the public treasury of that country for assistance in food and other benefits to Cuban immigrants has an effect on the pockets of the American taxpayer, including Cubans already residing in the United States. Add to that the Coast Guard’s expense for patrolling the Florida Straits, the rescue of rickety vessels at risk of shipwreck and other expenses associated with the constant Cuban migration with its extraordinary franchises.

It is illogical that those who criticize – with reason – the preposterous costs of the Cuban dictatorship in marches, mobilizations and war games, as well as in gifts to its followers, at the expense of the depressed national coffers, assume that a foreign government has to squander its wealth on us.

As if this were not enough, those thousands of Cubans who, upon their U.S. arrival declare that they are under political persecution or at risk of being repressed if they are sent back, return to visit Cuba [one year + one day] as soon as they obtain their residence (green card), in what constitutes a real mockery to the American authorities, the institutions of the country that offered them asylum and support, and the taxpayers who have covered those expenses.

That’s why the winners across this Obama ball toss are Americans, ultimately the most legitimate beneficiaries of their government’s policies.

Furthermore, what other gift has Obama made to Castro? It remains to be determined what the previous gifts have been and how much they have favored the regime. None of the measures approved by the US administration in the last two years has resulted in the exuberant and swift benefits expected to be obtained by the Castro regime.

In any case, we are the ones who have given almost sixty years of our lives to the longest dictatorship in the Western world.

In practice, far from gaining any profit from the elimination of the “wet foot, dry foot” policy, the Cuban regime initially lost an important outlet to relieve domestic pressure and increase family remittances. It also loses the mockery and ridiculous argument that this policy was the main stimulus for emigration from the island. Because, without a doubt, Cubans’ incessant fleeing will continue until the socioeconomic and political reality in Cuba has changed.

Another consequence of Castro’s alleged “victory” is that, when the “stimulus” of the US government’s special immigration policy toward Cuban illegal immigrants ceases, the regime will be forced to respond to the region’s governments for the crisis created by thousands of immigrants stuck in several countries in their journey to the U.S. Cuba has not yet rendered them any assistance, leaving that responsibility and its costs to the other countries’ governments. It’s time to finally reveal who the real villain of this story is.

Thus, once again, the emperor is standing on the roof wearing no clothes. There is no longer any excuse to place the blame on the United States. The regional political cost for the immigration stampede through our neighboring countries, or for the latter to guarantee the care and security of the Cuban émigrés while they blast the evil neighbor to the north with accusations.

But before the new reality that is beginning, the proverbial self-pity of Cubans continues betting on the political and material solution of our national evils outside our geographical limits. Thus, they believe that it is the obligation of other governments to resolve what is our problem. The embarrassment of others is felt by the eternal cadre of the “poor little Cubans,” who are so brave that they face the dangers of the sea and the jungles – sometimes irresponsibly dragging their young children through such an uncertain adventure – but so cowardly in reality, when the time comes to demand their rights from the regime that is the original cause of the problem.

If they were not so busy contemplating their navels, perhaps some political analysts would discover the possibilities that will open up a push for our rights inside Cuba.

In its official statement, that metaphysical entity that calls itself “the revolutionary government” has announced that it will “gradually adopt other measures to update the current emigration policy.” It would be good if, at least once, Cubans inside the Island and those abroad would join their forces and their willpower to make use of these “measures.”

That is to say, if it’s OK for Cubans to get equal treatment vis-a-vis other citizens of the world, if it’s believed that there are no special reasons to offer differential treatment to Cubans who emigrate illegally in the future, going forward there is no justification for the differentiation that the regime makes between Cubans who reside in Cuba and those who reside outside the country.

Because, since the dictatorship is patting itself on the back that “going forward, the same procedures will be applied to Cuban citizens who are detected in this situation” they will apply “the same procedures and immigration rules as the rest of émigrés from other countries,” then the moment has also come for the exceptionality in the treatment of the Cuban émigrés on the part of the regime to end, and their rights to be recognized.

More directly, this is an opportunity that requires the olive green gerontocracy to recognize, without further delay, equal rights for all Cubans, regardless of their country of residence, to enter and leave Cuba whenever, without a timeframe, with complete freedom – which implies eliminating the absurd and unjustified two-year “permit” – respecting the right to maintain their property in Cuba, setting the same cost for Cuban passports for Cuban residents as for those who live abroad, for emigrants to have the ability to invest in their country of origin preferentially over foreign investors, to be able to choose and take part in all matters that have to do with national life, and so on.

There is nothing to lose, on the contrary. It may still be a long stretch to recover our rights as Cubans; but if we decide to demand them instead of whining or begging third parties for them, at least we will have regained our dignity.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Castro II’s Island is Adrift / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

(AFP)

cubanet square logoCubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 5 January 2017 – It is well known that for almost six decades we Cubans have not had a real government program, unless the old “five-year plans” are defined as such. These were programs Castro I copied from the USSR in order to plan and control Cuba’s socialist economic development, and applied without the least success in Cuba.

It is worth remembering that, even in the USSR, these plans were not successful. In fact, almost one hundred years after the first Marxist social experiment, it has been sufficiently established that communism and success are irreconcilable, antagonistic categories.

In the end, Castro I departed this world leaving behind a crowded inventory of useless speeches and a history of failures as a ruler. In his decades at the helm of a country which he assumed as his personal property which, as such, he ruined with impunity, the would-be demiurge only managed to play victoriously one intangible card: his personal symbolic commitment as a “world-class revolutionary leader,” which allowed him to gather solidarity and subsidies which, undeniably, contributed to the support of his long dictatorship and helped to mask the national economic disaster provoked by his regime. continue reading

The year 2016 ended with two facts relevant to Cubans: the definitive death of the founding patriarch of this whole ill-fated circus and December’s anticipated announcement by the National Assembly that worse times will soon be upon us, not as a consequence of the failure and unfeasibility of the Cuban socio-economic “model” and the long demonstrated incapacity of the political guide of the country, but due to the “unfavorable” international scene, in the words of Castro II, the substitute head of the rink.

In his words, this scenario is derived from the capitalism crisis, and mainly from the “negative effects generated by the economic, commercial and financial blockade (…) which remains in force,” which means that “Cuba is still unable to carry out international transactions in US dollars” and this “prevents important business from materializing.”

In fairness, it is necessary to recognize that the panorama is really unfavorable for the Castro regime. The regional left has fallen into disfavor, several allied presidencies have collapsed, presidencies whose corruptions favored the entrance of foreign currency to the Palace of Revolution for a time, and, to put the icing on the cake of the misfortune of the olive green power, Venezuela is threatening to turn into a chaos that will drag in its wake that other second-rate dictator, Nicolas Maduro, which would slam the last source of subsidies for the Antillean autocracy.

Fifty-eight years later, the collapse cannot be hidden anymore, and Cuba seems to have entered a stampede phase. While the economy slows and the recession knocks on the door, the only Cuban production that continues to grow unabated is emigration, thus aggravating the outlook for the future of the nation.

Such a gloomy scenario, however, fails to move the government and the country’s economic policy and decision makers towards the search for real and effective solutions.

The Government, Ministers and Parliament gathered at the meeting of the first Assembly after the death of the Autocrat in Chief simply repeated the eternal formula (also eternally unfulfilled): more work, more controls and more savings, instead of proposing a viable program based on elementary and possible issues, such as liberating the economy, allowing greater participation of the private sector, removing investment barriers, reunifying the currency or stimulating the development of small and medium-sized enterprises.

There was talk of greater constraints when it was necessary to speak of more freedoms; of a slower pace when there should be more haste.

If we have had a bad leader and bad economic strategies to date, now we have neither leader nor strategies. This, however, is not necessarily worse. In the absence of a way out, sooner or later the second heir will have no choice but to move one of his tokens, against his better judgment. And history has shown that every move made within a closed and immovable regime will produce changes.

Meanwhile, 2017 has begun for Cubans with a general feeling not unlike disorientation, an aimless unguided journey, and skepticism. The same disorientation seems to seize the General-President, now orphaned by the mighty tree that gave him shade and protection throughout his life.

At least that was the image he projected during his brief address at the inaugural session of the National Assembly. Haggard and tired, the old deputy cast a speech full of cryptic phrases, complaints, reprimands, and even warnings at undisclosed recipients.

There were no promises, no itineraries, and no symbolic cut-throat shots fired. If anyone expected to hear a captain in command of the ship in the midst of the storm, he only found a hesitant and inexperienced helmsman.

But in a country where secrecy prevails, every gesture or word can be a signal to search for hidden meanings. That is why it was remarkable that instead of the triumphal “Motherland or Death” of the Fidel era, or “Always towards Victory” of the Guevara bravado, the General-President opted for a much more realist and meager closing: “That’s all,” he muttered almost in a sob.

And then he descended from the podium amidst the applause of his docile amanuenses, not the political leader of the rampant Revolution from which we could expect salvation in moments of crisis, but this tired and contrite old man. It is obvious that the government of the hacienda in ruins doesn’t fit. It is way too big for him.

Translated by Norma Whiting

One More Lie About Che Guevara / Cubanet, Tania Diaz Castro

Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara in Cuba

cubanet square logoCubanet, Tania Diaz Castro, Havana, 3 January 2017 — In the Cuban national press there are many stories of the Castro dictatorship that are very rarely told. Unfortunately the official journalists do not investigate before they write and repeat like parrots the official script.

One of these stories is about the armored train of Santa Clara and what happened between the last two days of 1958 and January 1, 1959. Despite being wrapped in a blanket of badly connected lies, the story is still used by the national press, and by the government’s own version of a Cuban wikipedia, Ecured, for the chronologies of the regime, and it supported above all by the Cuban History Institute.

Just a few days ago, Nelson Garcia Santos, correspondent for the newspaper Juventud Rebelde (Rebel Youth), wrote an article about the battle of Santa Clara and the armored train, highlighting the version of Luis Alfonso Zayas, today a general. Zayas said, “The guards, holed up on Capiro Hill, opened fire. The crew of the armored train, when they saw things going badly, retired to the box cars. There, they were personally liquidated by the forces of Ramon Pardo Guerra.” continue reading

The general’s false testimony is as false as were Fidel Castro’s statements, when he described it as a “… bold attack by Che on the city of Santa Clara, with 300 fighters, when they faced an armored train on the outskirts of the city, they intervened on the path between the train and the main headquarters, derailed it, took the train, made everyone surrender and seized all the arms.”

In reality, the armored train did not carry shock troops, but rather dozens of engineers who were intending to repair the bridges and roads destroyed by the rebels. Derailing it was certainly part of the plan for a skirmish, but by the time the train arrived on Capiro Hill it had been sold to Che Guevara by Batista’s military forces, in the person of Colonel Florentino Rosell, for 350 thousand dollars.

Initially, the buyer was to be Commander Eloy Gutierrez Menoyo, as it appears in his Memoirs and, being a great friend of mine, he told me this before he died, but Che, cunningly, got ahead of him.

Also in the memoirs of Fulgencio Batista, printed in Miami in 1960, under the title of Response, he says that: “… the armored train had not been ambushed by Che, but delivered and sold by Rosell, who with the money from the sale, about 350 thousand dollars, fled to Miami in the first days of January of 1959.”

And finally, there is a letter from Che Guevara, written on the same date to Enrique Oltuski Ozacki, the top leader of Las Villas, which has never been reprinted in Cuba, whose contents also explains this story because, in it, Che reproached combatant Oltuski, who refused to rob a bank to obtain the money he needed.

The purchase of the armored train was so hidden by the leadership of the new regime that even impartial historians of those years barely mentioned it, although without noting that since mid-1958, Batista’s troops were tired of the war, corrupted and in the process of negotiating with Fidel Castro.

What Will Become of Cuba? / Paulina Alfonso

Photo source: traveler.es

cubanet square logoCubanet, Paulina Alfonso, 26 December 2016 — What will become of Cuba in the new year now that Fidel Castro is gone? This is a question only foreigners ask. It is of no interest to most Cubans. They have other concerns: how to get out, how to survive and what number to bet on in the Florida lottery.

The ten years since the Comandante retired have been a period of transition during which his successor, Raul Castro propped up the regime and tested new economic methods.

Some political analysts believe that Raul Castro will now feel less pressured if he were to make attempts to alleviate the difficult economic situation threatening his government. continue reading

Although Raúl Castro has made a commendable effort in the last ten years to improve the Cuban economy, his reforms — he refuses to label them as such — have not gone much beyond changes in land distribution, emigration laws, and the freedom to buy and sell cars and homes. An expansion of the private sector has not had a significant impact or led to a vital economic turnaround.

The main goal, the lifting of the US embargo, was not achieved despite President Obama’s policy toward Cuba. There is still no realistic possibility of the embargo being lifted, at least for the next four years.

Thus, Raúl Castro’s only option is try to improve Cubans’ standard of living, which might allow him to at least regain some of their respect and discourage young people, for whom the current situation offers nothing, from emigrating.

Raúl Castro has publicly indicated he plans to retire from government in 2018. Most analysts agree that he will not be able to accomplish anything he set out to do in the time remaining.

All indications are that Raúl Castro has run out of ideas and has chosen to broaden the current economic reforms — he refers to them as “updates” — as much as he can to at least maintain the status quo.

Will Miguel Díaz-Canel be the means by Raúl Castro maintains this status quo? The fifty-six-year-old politician appointed to succeed the general appears to be a new and improved version of his predecessor, José Ramón Machado Ventura.

For example, Díaz-Canel is never without his smart phone, communicates through Facebook and has a Twitter account. His speeches, though far from eloquent, are more realistic and down-to-earth. He increasingly announces policies that appeal to young people, especially when they pertain to things such as internet access, though nothing that could be called transformative.

They do not include constitutional changes that would codify separation of powers or ten-year term limits. That is yet to be seen. And let’s not forget that none of this has anything to do with political power.

As has been the case since 1975, the first secretary of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) presides over the Coucil of State and the Council of Ministers and is the country’s highest office. The post will go to the the person who is elected by the next Communist Party congress.

Miguel Díaz-Canel is not the second party secretary; that is Machado Ventura. Getting to be second party secretary will be Díaz-Canel’s main task, even though he is widely known to have been chosen as the successor.

The PCC has a large inventory of veteran cadres with their own ideas and more experience than Diaz-Canel. If they accept him — and this is especially true of members of the military — it will be out of discipline and not because they see him as a leader to be followed.

In reality, the Council of State and Council of Ministers posts are strictly formalities. If Raúl Castro were to disappear tomorrow, the real power would revert to the PCC and whoever is its leader.

Nevertheless, all the regime can do now is wait until Donald Trump takes office and see if he maintains the process of normalization of relations with Cuba or deals it a fatal blow.

Author contact: palfonso44es@gmail.com

No Right to Breakfast / Cubanet, Tania Diaz Castro

Bread rolls in a Cuban ration market bakery

Cubanet, Tania Diaz Castro, Havana, December 12, 2016 – When in 2006 Raul Castro took power, one of the first things he said was that he would give a glass of milk a day to every Cuban. He knew very well the importance that the people gave to the strong tradition of having breakfast with coffee with milk and a piece of bread with butter. Even during the years of the Republic years it was within reach of the poorest in any cantina, inn, kiosk, or cafeteria.

Starting in 1991, with the collapse of Soviet communism, Cubans’ breakfast disappeared. In this way, Fidel’s permanent teaching failed, when he had said: “Yes we can.” continue reading

It was simply not possible for dairy industry to supply enough milk, although in a speech in December 1966 Fidel predicted that he would fill Havana Bay with milk because “in 1970 the island will have 5,000 experts in the livestock industry and around 8 million cows and calves, good milk producers.”

A little history

The Cuban dairy industry began its great development in 1927, under the government of Gerardo Machado. A few years later, when our population was 6 million, the island had one head of cattle per person and the price of meat was one of the lowest in Latin America. Cuba’s annual milk production was 1,014 million quarts, equivalent to 157 quarts per person per year.

Canned condensed milk and packaged skimmed milk.

According to economic data of those years, and as we Cubans of the third age remember it, in Cuba an excellent butter was produced, as well as good cheese, condensed, evaporated or powdered milk, and a quart of fresh milk could be acquired daily And at modest prices, thanks to private companies and modern factories, which disappeared practically at the beginning of the Castro dictatorship, when in 1960 Che Guevara was appointed Minister of Industry.

What the future says 

Just a few hours ago, on the occasion of the visit of a senior Russian leader, General Raúl Castro offered great news: The government of Russia would participate in the island’s economy! ¡Madre mía! I hope it’s not so that they will again send us Russian canned meats swimming in water instead the meat of good native cattle.

The future of the domestic industry, especially of food products, is uncertain. It is an industry that is unable to participate actively in resolving the country’s shortcomings. One of its problems, Commander Ramiro Valdés said recently, is the exodus and the lack of discipline of the workers and, above all, the bad technological and risky conditions in plants and factories.

Just to give one example, in 2014, a factory, the only one of its kind for dairy products, began operating in Ciego de Avila at a cost of 800 thousand pesos in hard currency. Its commercial director, Pérez de Corcho, informed the newspaper Granma in February 2015 that: “The factory does not work at full capacity because for months there has been low milk production in the territory, even though what is produced was destined for the tourist-focused cities of Jardines del Rey, Venezuela and Ciego de Avila.”

The current reality 

Today, even with all the juggling they do, Cubans cannot have breakfast. In order for a family consisting of couple and two children, for example, to be able to afford their daily breakfast, they would have to have about 50 Cuban Convertible pesos per month, equivalent to more than one thousand Cuban pesos, in a country where the average wage of a worker does not exceed four hundred pesos in national currency. (That is, two-and-a-half monthly salaries, just for breakfast.)

Ready to serve chicken with sauce.

This is because the imported products — milk, coffee and butter — come from very distant countries, although they can also be seen in Latin America, with the exception of Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua, from where we get no foods, neither expensive nor cheap.

The privilege of having breakfast is enjoyed only by Cubans who receive family remittances, principally from the United States, so they can buy things in Cuban Convertible pesos. The ordinary Cuban, which is almost everyone, has irretrievably lost this right.

Our food industry, we are faced with an irrefutable truth, thanks to Cuban communism has gone to hell in a handbasket.

 Translated by Jim

The One Who Left Ashes / Miriam Leiva

Poster of Fidel Castro in a Havana window (AP)

Cubanet, Miriam Leiva, Havana, November 29, 2016 – Fidel Castro died on November 25 at 10:29 p.m. and, according to his own will, his remains will be cremated, according to the brief statement read by Raúl Castro on Cuban television. at midnight.

As a deceased person, the former president deserves respect. Surely he expired on a soft bed, surrounded by his closest family members; perhaps he left directions for his funeral. Jose Marti, the man Cubans call the Apostle of Cuba, will welcome him in his monument in the Plaza of the Revolution and in the Santa Ifigenia Cemetery in Santiago de Cuba. continue reading

The government decreed nine days of official mourning and a journey of the funeral cortege from Havana to Santiago de Cuba, following in reverse the route of the “Freedom Caravan” of the guerrilla chief in January of 1959. The Comandante bequeathes his predilection for symbolism in dates: his death coincided with the 60th anniversary of the beginning of the Revolution with the departure of the yacht Granma from Mexico in 1956, and the burial on December 4th will coincide with the day of Saint Barbara, Shangó in the syncretic religion, a day venerated with great offerings. The drumming and all the rituals that begin in the early hours of the morning will be suspended on this solemn occasion, to the disgust of thousands of believers.

Most Cubans within the archipelago reacted with silence, no comment, without grief. The outcome had long been expected. The cheerful, humorous, jovial and bustling Cuban protects himself in the shell when he feels it dangerous to think differently from the official line, fears the consequences in his life, and disenchanted with the unfulfilled promises, is careful of his weak status or he looks the horizon to jump abroad.

Respectful relief floats in the environment, because the Comandante will allow everyone to rest, not fearing his interference in the essential changes. Every photo and every writing was overwhelming. The impressive olive green presence and thunderous voice became pitiful and the phrases delirious. He asserted, “history will absolve me,” at the conclusion of his trial for the attack on the Moncada Barracks in 1953. Much accumulated for 63 years, and there will be a delay in the objective writing of his until the secrets of all the parties involved are known. However, it is impossible to exempt him from the precarious present state of Cuba, because for 47 years he decided and prohibited everything.

In 1959, Fidel Castro liquidated a bloody dictatorship, he was Cuba’s most popular politician of all time and came to power with the false promises of democracy and a commitment to the religion. He will be remembered for dismembering families and sending their children to schools in the countryside, the exodus of more than two million Cubans, the hardships of a people overshadowed and disposed to immense sacrifices.

From the initial dispossession of the great owners, he continued with the small ones during the Revolutionary Offensive of 1968. Among his immense unproductive works: the failed Ten Ton Sugar Harvest of 1970, the destruction of the sugar industry that forged the Cuban nationality and of all agriculture with the uprooting of the peasants. For the waste of resources from the Soviet Union and the socialist camp. For not having invested Hugo Chavez’s petrodollars in the capitalization of the destroyed or antiquated industry.

Fidel Castro curtailed rights, credited the state with granting universal education and healthcare, when in fact this was paid for with the contributions of all workers. He left a weak economy, misery-level salaries and pensions, a dual monetary system, large debts accumulated since 1986, and a social fabric devoid of high ethical and moral values, a pride of the Cubans for centuries.

Fidel Castro will be remembered for the executions and long prison sentences. For punishing those who thought differently from the official opinions with agricultural work and expulsion from their jobs. For the surveillance and stalking by State Security, the informants and the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution. By the impossibility of attending a university because the universities were “only for the revolutionaries.”

Time will not forget that he was about to provoke a nuclear conflagration in October 1962, his support of guerrillas in Latin America and wars abroad, his persecution of homosexuals, his ban on miniskirts and the Beatles until the end of the 1980s, and on the practice of religion and tourism until 1992.

Raúl Castro inherited the ruins that he helped create. He mentioned the need for structural changes and concepts in 2007, which he reduced to the updating of the failing economic and social system. But he acknowledged that “the fundamental obstacle we have faced, as we predicted, is the burden of an outdated mentality, which forms an attitude of inertia, or lack of confidence in the future,” in his Report to the Seventh Congress of the Cuban Communist Party in April 16, 2016.

Ten years after the inevitable abandonment of absolute power, outside the Cuban archipelago, Fidel Castro is credited with the positive collaboration of doctors, teachers and technicians abroad. With the high rates of healthcare and education, achieved with the sacrifice and low quality of life of Cubans for 57 years.

The worn-out old man is kindly visualized, thanks to the process of cleaning up his nefarious image undertaken by Raúl Castro with the opportunities offered by the international community, the popes and eminences of various religions, the relationship with the United States, collaboration with the European Union, and the cancellation of debts. Economic interests have played an important role, but also the general president has the space to open up citizen participation in decision making.

Raul’s actions after Fidel’s death in compelling Cubans to sign an Oath to the Commander’s Words could strengthen the stagnation, or he could use them to reverse it: “Revolution is a sense of the historical moment. It is changing everything that must be changed. It is full equality and freedom. Is to be treated and to treat others as human beings,” Fidel said in his speech of May 1, 2000.

The high attendance of the population to the extensive and pompous funeral rites is a sign of the usual compulsion of students, workers, peasants and members of the so-called organizations of the masses and civil society, as well as the mobilization of the hundreds of thousands of party members and Youth communists, military agencies, ex-combatants and people who really did admire him.

However, the authorities should recognize the real feelings of the majority of Cubans and undertake radical changes.

The Ubiquitous Dictator / Cubanet, Miriam Leiva

Cubanet, Miriam Leiva, Havana, 6 December 2016 — Raul Castro wants Cubans to commit their support to major economic restrictions in 2017, during the complex period of the transfer of power from the so-called historic generation, through the signing of an oath to the definition of the Revolution and Socialism promulgated by the deceased leader, using the slogans “the permanent teaching of Fidel is that yes we can,” and “life continues.”

Fidel Castro prevented his physical permanence after death. The body was cremated. His tomb, apparently modest, in a rock from the Sierra Maestra, is a representation of strength and durability. There will be no monuments, statues, plazas nor allegorical streets, according to the Commander’s own decision. continue reading

Raul Castro announced that he will present proposed legislation for this for approval by the next session of the National Assembly. However, Fidel Castro will be omnipresent through the recurrence of his phrases and actions in discourse and in posters. During the days since his death on 25 November he has been mentioned in the media at the same level as José Martí, [the national hero whom Cubans of all stripes call] “the Apostle” of Cuba, and invoked as Father of the Fatherland, displacing Carlos Manuel de Cespedes.

Raul Castro deftly focused his farewell speech, given at Antonio Maceo Plaza in Santiago de Cuba on 3 December, on “yes we can,” based on the determination of Fidel to bring his proposals to fruition, to infect his followers, to find solutions and to overcome great obstacles.

Fidel spoke the words sworn by the participants in the funeral rites, placed next to his tomb, and that will be invoked permanently by the authorities, on 1 May 2000, when the Special Period had been ongoing for nearly a year, and a few months after Hugo Chavez assumed the presidency of Venezuela.

He had had time to work with his soulmate on help for the Cuban economy and expansion through Latin America and the Caribbean, but achieving this would possibly require changes in the concepts expressed to date and the methods utilized so far.

So the crisis provoked then, by the loss of the subsidies from the Soviet Union and the Socialist Camp, now comes from the loss of aid from Venezuela, both the result of the waste of resources on mega-plans rather then economic needs.

Fidel left Raul his words to confront the economic situation, the hidden intentions of the hardliners, and the disgust of a population exhausted by privations and unmet promises. His major legacy is that “socialism is irrevocable” according to the Constitution. As Fidel explained in May of 2002, Bush demanded that Cuba change its political and social system, and in response there were two months of large demonstrations, the National Assembly approved amending the constitutions, and eight million Cubans signed their names to it, through different mass organizations.

Fidel did not mention it as a cause of the expansion of the peaceful opposition movement throughout the country, in organizations of journalists, librarians, doctors, independent educators and the Varela Project, which was repressed in March of 2003, with 75 prisoners of conscience condemned to long prison terms, in a process that came to be known as The Black Spring.

Fidel acknowledged that everything is revocable, but being part of the Constitution, it can only be revoked by the National Assembly of People’s Power. They decided to declare the socialist character of the Revolution irrevocable, which means “that to revoke the socialist character there has to be a revolution, or rather a counterrevolution… including a legal takeover of the government by the enemies of the Revolution, leaving them a theoretical clause: go to the Assembly and being the majority… and then doing the same, collect the millions of signatures, which they can never do, and declare by decree, revoking by decree, socialism.” (from One Hundred Hours With Fidel, Conversations with Ignacio Ramonet).

Achieving a National Assembly majority would face the challenge that the electoral system in Cuba makes it impossible for people to be candidates without the recommendation of the Communist Party.*

Raúl Castro, who has stated his plan to retire in 2017, will have to resolve the obstacles posed by the hardline leaders at the same time he deals with his replacement in the Councils of State and of Ministers in 2018. As the first secretary of the Communist Party, surrounded by his military, he will maintain the maximum power to direct and support the handing off of power to those who will not have the aura of having fought in the Revolution. He could use Fidel’s words that “revolution is to change everything that needs to be changed” to promote his limited reforms, apparently obstructed by the conservatives.

The general will have to reformulate the “updating of the economic and social model” with relaxation of the tight controls through real changes to free up agriculture and self-employment, to streamline the management of state enterprises, and to simplify legislation and decision making at all levels, with an emphasis on rapid approval of foreign investments.

Before the end of the 2016 concluding session of the National Assembly, where the general-president reports on the failure to achieve the 2% GDP growth planned, and even the 1% later projected in July, perhaps there will be new measures to cope with the recession in 2017, and the demand for renewed “heroism” following the spirit of Fidel.

The policy followed by the new US president, Donald Trump, could stimulate the hard line leaders if he reverses the measures taken by Barack Obama and obstructs the advance of reformist elements. The just demand for respect for human rights and space for the opposition could have counterproductive effects, if hardliners remain in positions of strength as they have during the previous 55 years of failures.

*Translator’s note: In fact, candidates can propose themselves for election without Party support, but the Party prepares all the election materials. Campaigning is illegal and candidates are presented entirely by officially prepared single page biographies, posted in windows. For two 2015 candidates, this meant biographies that stated they were “counterrevolutionaries.” They both lost, but one received 19% of the votes in his polling place, to the winning candidate’s 28% (in first round elections).

Why didn’t they write to the General-President? / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya


cubanet square logoCubanet, Miriam Celaya, 12 December 2016 — In a curious coincidence with the fifth meeting, held last week in Havana, of the Bilateral Commission in charge of the dialogue process between the United States and Cuba, about one hundred Cuban “entrepreneurs” have just addressed a letter to Donald Trump, the newly elected President of that country to the north, whose term will begin on January 20, 2017, asking the controversial magnate for continuity of the policy of rapprochement and dialogue with Cuba, initiated two years ago by the outgoing president, Barack Obama, as well as the lifting of the Embargo.

The note, promoted by the company Cuba Educational Travel and the group Engage Cuba, is not relevant in itself. A group of Cuban small business owners – united under the officially vilified term of “entrepreneurs” – is appealing to the solidarity and understanding of a great “successful entrepreneur” so that, in his new role of maximum political leader of his country, he might favor the “economic commitment among nations” for the mutual benefit of both sides, a disguised political plea, nothing short of a sly complicit wink among “colleagues.” continue reading

Of course, it is praiseworthy that such an incipient and fragile sector has taken the (spontaneous and autonomous?) initiative to come out in favor of the advances of the slimmest of conquered spaces. In fact, in their letter, the Cuban entrepreneurs equally enthusiastically defend the rights of US businessmen to trade with and invest in Cuba as if the Americans, and not the Cubans, were the ones lacking in democratic institutions and laws. Clearly, this is a short letter, but one that makes us want to read it over numerous times.

The concerns of the Cuban embryonic private sector is understandable, taking into account Trump’s well-known statements about his intentions to reverse the process of “rapprochement” if the Cuban side does not show strides in political and religious freedoms, something that would directly affect the influx of American tourists that has been taking place since the re-establishment of relations between both governments, which has clearly favored private lodging, restaurant and transportation businesses.

However, the aforesaid letter is vague on essential matters, and it stands out for its baffling omissions, details that deserve particular attention. The first blunder is its origin, and lies in the improper selection of the recipient on the part of the Cuban proto-entrepreneurs: no less than a president of a foreign country that even today, despite the current policy of détente, is still demonized by the Castro regime’s monopoly of the press as the cause of all the past and future national evils.

This simple fact not only calls into question the much-vaunted national sovereignty – by placing the solution of matters that are the responsibility of the internal economic policy in the hands of a foreign and intrinsically hostile government – but suppresses the Cuban regime’s responsibility for the constraints (if not the smothering) imposed on the private sector, be it the high tax burden, the absence of a supply wholesale market, the punishment for the “accumulation of wealth” or the numerous absurd and unjustified bans that prevent greater prosperity and the development of private businesses.

Likewise, measures which favored the private sector significantly, dictated by President Barack Obama, were hindered by the Cuban government itself from being effective.

None of the official restrictions that the “businessmen” ask to quell in Cuba relate to the embargo, nor do they depend absolutely on the political will of the American government.

In addition to this, the signers of the letter belong to a social sector which tends to express an open rejection of political issues and, on the other hand, voluntarily joined the only union in the world that embodies the interests of the most powerful employer represented by the Government-State-Party, described by them in this letter as the promoter of the reform that allowed the existence of private businesses. To whom, then, could they legitimately make demands other than to this despicable monster, who is both benefactor and exploiting boss?

Therefore, the recipient of the entrepreneurs’ letter should have been the General-President, Raúl Castro, and not the President elected by Americans last November.

Another noteworthy detail is the select club of signers to the letter, mostly entrepreneurs who classify as “successful” within Cuban standards. The problem is not one of phobia against economic success, but quite the contrary. There is nothing we need more in this ruined hacienda than a flood of successful entrepreneurs and autonomous sectors willing to defend their own interests

But it doesn’t seem very honest to claim particular measures on behalf of the entire Cuban people and – even more unseemly – on behalf of the American people, especially when the shocking absence of the more modest signers is evident, who are, paradoxically the most numerous in that economic sector, whom the letter writers estimate at half a million individuals. Weren’t there humble cart vendors, bicycle-taxi operators, DVD vendors, scissors grinders or even retired master dishwashers ready to subscribe to such a remarkable epistle? Were they even informed?

Obviously, the acute social differences of today’s Cuba continue to set the tone, denying the old egalitarian speech that continues to be repeated from the power base. So it happens that, among the private businesses of the idyllic socialist society, there are some that are more equal than others. And, as is often the case, the least equal speak on behalf of the whole.

In the end, in a quasi-foolish brushstroke, the signers make an evident effort to be politically correct in the eyes of the Castro regime, thus remaining halfway between the legitimate defense of their own interests and the ideological commitment demanded by the olive green power authority in return for the corseted ease they enjoy.

Too many doubts in this epistolary chapter suggest the existence of certain powerful hidden hands that, of course, did not sign the letter, including promoters abroad. When it comes to Cuban issues it’s well known that conspiracies are never lacking. But let’s not be suspicious, after all, if our most successful entrepreneurs choose Trump to communicate with, it must be because they think that matters are better handled by entrepreneurs.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Cuban State Security Interrogates And Threatens Young LGBTI Leader / Cubanet, Alejandro Tur Valladares

Dr. Nelson Gandulla (Courtesy)

cubanet square logoCubanet,  Alejandro Tur Valladares, Havana, 12 December 2016 – Dr. Nelson Gandulla Diaz, a national delegate to the Cuban Foundation for LGBTI Rights, headquartered in Cienfuegos, was interrogated by Cuban State Security officials after being cited to appear at the offices of Emigration and Aliens on 10 December.

Gandulla said that the interrogation began at 9:00 in the morning and continued to 11:30 AM. He was questions by an official who called herself Patricia, and Captains Ihosvani and Angel.

According to the activist, the agents wanted to investigate his numerous work trips outside the country and whether some NGO financed his activities and who he met with. Particular emphasis was given to asking about his presumed ties to the Colombian organization Affirmative Caribbean and the Czech organization People in Need.

The doctor said that one of those present told him that the organizations that he works for, according to his interrogator, use their discourse to attack the official National Center of Sex Education and its director, Mariela Castro, daughter of Cuba’s current ruler.

After confirming that Gandulla was not a “collaborator” with the purposed of the political commissars who were questioning him, the conversation changed in tone. “They threatened me, they told me that continuing my activities on behalf of the Cuban LGBTI community was not consistent with what could happen to me and to my family.”

According to Gandulla, a leader of the Foundation, the threats included prohibitions on holding activities in his home, under penalty of going to prison.