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

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Eliécer Ávila

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

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

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

The Job of a Father / 14ymedio, Eliecer Avila

Eliecer Avila speaks of his father (14ymedio)

Eliecer Avila speaks of his father (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Eliecer Avila, Havana, 21 June 2015 – When we are children we have an idyllic idea of who our father is. We see him as an invincible guardian, strong, fair, who feels no fear and protects us from all the dangers ahead of us in the world.

With the passing of time, two things can happen. One, you discover with disappointment a weak man, full of shortcomings, irresponsible and fearful who can’t even think, speak or act for himself. And to make it worse, he induces you to do the same, to fake it, to lie for the supposed “benefit of family tranquility.”

The other possibility is that on growing up you can verify that your father is actually what you always believed him to be.

I my case, I feel a profound happiness, because the second is what happened to me. Despite discovering, sometimes with a certain pain, that my father was not perfect, he wasn’t infallible and free of all failures, nor was he a stranger to fear and doubt. Today I can say he is a brave man, powerful in his word and his gaze. Firm in his support for me in the most difficult moments without failing to alert me about every aspect that he thinks I should consider.

Neither one of us can replace the other’s role in our lives. He cannot assume responsibility for and the cost of my actions, nor can I do so for his. But it is always an invaluable guarantee to know that he is there, watching with an experienced eye, supporting the trunk of the family tree so that it will grow straight. Ready to fight any plague or ruthless woodsman eager to cut me down from envy or malice.

It is my job to keep going and hopefully act so that my children will feel the same security I felt. I know that it will be difficult if I want to be his equal. But I intend to try, because I want to form with my own hands brave and free people, who not only belong to the future, but who will help to conquer and build it.

Today I congratulate all the fathers in the world. Especially those who, like mine, deserve to be congratulated.

Cuba Nostalgia / 14ymedio, Eliecer Avila

Cuba Nostalgia 2015 was held between 15 and 17 May. (danydiegonews)

Cuba Nostalgia 2015 was held between 15 and 17 May. (danydiegonews)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Eliecer Avila, 19 May 2015 – On Saturday the 16th, being in Miami, a friend invited me to visit the show Cuba Nostalgia. No one knew for sure what it was about, but the name made ​​me curious. The event took place in the outskirts of the city at the Fair Expo Center near the main campus of Florida International University (FIU).

Upon arrival, we saw a huge parking lot full of cars, from which it was common to see a young person emerge – a son or grandson – pushing a wheelchair or leading by the hand their grandparents toward a roofed space in which they reconnected with a vital part of their past.

Cuban music could be heard from afar. Once inside, the displays of old bank notes, photographs, stamps, medals, books, music albums, brand name products, hats and other attractions completely captured the attention of the visitors who, in some cases, spend a long time looking at a single piece, as if transported back in time to their childhood memories, youth, mischief in the Cuban countryside, or pranks and dancing in the cities, always hectic in those Republican years. Continue reading

They Didn’t Let the Rain “Rain on the Parade” / 14ymedio, Eliecer Avila

American students marching in Havana's May Day parade (Luz Escobar/14ymedio)

American students marching in Havana’s May Day parade (Luz Escobar/14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Eliecer Avila, Havana, 1 May 2015 – Right now in the City of Havana, especially in the neighborhoods, families and individuals with fewer economic possibilities are living through hard times. Downpours, normal enough in many capitals in the world, take on a different character here.

A few days ago many were clamoring for a few drops of water to ameliorate the unbearable heat. But when you live with the danger of the roof falling in on you, desires are confused and you end up preferring to sweat.

I know exactly what it means to sleep with fear. I spent my childhood, teenage years, and early adulthood sleeping in a bed-hammock with my grandmother and my first cousin. At the least downpour, the power went out and with the boards creaking, the house moved as if dancing with the wind. Continue reading

The vote of inertia / 14ymedio, Eliecer Avila

A woman looks at the biographies of the candidates before voting. (14ymedio)

A woman looks at the biographies of the candidates before voting. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Eliecer Avila, Havana, 19 April 2015 — “He abused me, but I love him… many years together, I don’t want to leave him.” How many times have we heard this phrase in the mouths of women who suffer domestic violence from their husbands. And how difficult is it for family, friends, specialists in psychology, to convince an abused person to denounce their situation, to take action for their own good, to free themselves.

The victim has developed a deep inferiority complex, feels dependent and doesn’t conceive of life outside the “protection” of her owner. Although she has all the capabilities to be much better off without him. Continue reading

Young Latin Americans call to fight against political apathy / 14ymedio

Young Cubans at the 2nd Forum of Youth and Democracy in Panama. (14ymedio)

Young Cubans at the 2nd Forum of Youth and Democracy in Panama. Eliecer Avila with the microphone. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Panama, 8 April 2015 — Young Latin American leaders gathered Tuesday on the second day of the 2nd Youth and Democracy Regional Forum in Panama and addressed issues such as the rise of populist regimes in the region, and agreed on the need to organize civil society at the hemispheric level to fight against political apathy.

The protagonists of the morning session were Micaela Hierro Dori, president of the Argentine civil association CICES, who acted as moderator; Ricardo Antonio Álvarez Arias, vice president of Honduras; Eduardo Stein, former vice president of Guatemala; Guillermo Cochez, former Ambassador of Panama to the Organization of American States (OAS); Martha Lucía Ramírez, former Minister of Defense of Colombia; Gustavo Amaya, executive director of the Center for Training and Promotion of Democracy (CECADE) in San Salvador; and Carolina Quinonez, a journalist from Guatamala’s Antigua Channel.

Political apathy, according to attendees at the meeting, threatens equally countries ruled by totalitarian regimes and those in which the society assumes that “all is well” or at least “better than in other countries,” because in the latter it can leave the door open to the possibility that populism and other deformations will silence thoughtful proposals to take advantage of what the traditional parties have not resolved. Continue reading

Oscar Arias meets with young Cubans and Venezuelans / 14ymedio, Eliecer Avila

Meeting of young Cubans and Venezuelans with Oscar Arias

Meeting of young Cubans and Venezuelans with Oscar Arias

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Eliecer Avila, San Juan, Costa Rica, 29 March 2015 — To Costa Rica, that Latin American country recognized for its outstanding economic push, its democratic stability, and its role in the defense of human rights, a group of young Cubans and Venezuelans has come as guests of the National Liberation Party.

Undoubtedly among the Costa Rican politicians most prominent in recent years, Dr. Oscar Arias Sanchez stands out. He held the presidency for two terms, the first from 1986 to 1990, and the second started in 2006 and ended in 2010. Thus, a meeting with him was something not to be missed on the visit’s agenda.

The Arias administrations brought Costa Rica notable advances in different sectors. So much so, that for the most part his compatriots usually refer to him as the “best president” they ever had.

The successful mediation of several international conflicts, among them that of Nicaragua in the 1980s, also turned him into a global paradigm in defense of peace, for which he was honored with the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize in 1987.

On Saturday, the long awaited meeting with Arias took place at his home where he received a group of young Cubans and Venezuelans. The dialogue lasted more than an hour, during which the former president listened attentively to Continue reading

Summit of the Americas: Fear of Others’ Ideas and Little Faith in Their Own / 14ymedio, Eliecer Avila

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Eliécer Ávila, Havana, 19 March 2015 – In less than a month the Summit of the Americas will be held in Panama, on April 10-11. A good part of the world will focus its attention this time on Cuba and the United States, the two countries that have announced their intention to reestablish bilateral relations, ruptured more than 50 years ago.

Many hope that this summit will not be like so many others, but rather a milestone in history, embracing the essential discussion about the only non-democratic state in the hemisphere, a discussion that has been unreasonably postponed for more than half a century.

Before the imminent possibility of no control over all the variables of the meeting, the Cuban government is ever more nervous. One of the plays already seen backstage, is accusing the dissidents of wanting to “undermine” Continue reading

Reentry to Cuba Includes a Conversation with State Security / Eliecer Avila

Eliecer Avila, 26 February 2015 — After having “conversations” like these, I always ask myself is it is worth the trouble to publish an account of them or not. I do not like even giving these people the impression that I have blabbed about everything. But I also believe not publishing such accounts only hurts me. They have cameras everywhere and have demonstrated they have no scruples. They can release a doctored video recordings and use the information to destroy someone’s life

Upon entering the airport yesterday, I was approached by an immigration official. After taking my passport, he led me to a small office for “routine questioning.” Since I am already familiar with these ploys, it did not surprise me to find Lieutenant Colonel “Yanes” and “Marquitos” there in the room. The latter goes by a different name when he is with other people. He was the young man who “looked after” us some time back. It was he who put me and Reinaldo into the patrol car on the day of Tania Bruguera’s performance.

After my phone was taken away, the “chat” began. Though it was extensive, I am Continue reading

Birds of Ill Omen / 14ymedio, Eliecer Avila

A young man with a tablet

A young man with a tablet

14ymedio bigger

14ymedio, Eliecer Avila, 28 February 2015 — A topic that is raised for discussion these days is the obsolete argument that some official voices never stop repeating at every opportunity they have to strain relations between Cuba and the United States or rather between Cuba and the Outside World. I am referring to the supposed “need” of implementing “appropriate measures designed to avoid the penetration that the enemy hopes to make into Cuban society.”

Just a few days ago, in the context of the first National Workshop on Computing and Cyber-Security held in Havana, with the physical or virtual presence of thousands of computer engineers, really absurd speeches Continue reading

“It is up to Cubans decide their future” / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Roberta Jacobson at 14ymedio’s offices

Roberta Jacobson at 14ymedio’s offices

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, 24 January 2015 — In October of 2013 I had a conversation with Roberta Jacobson, via a Google hangout (videodebate), on democracy, technology and the role of women in activism. On that occasion, we interacted through a screen in the company of internauts interested in our chat. Now, we talked with a few inches between us, in a visit of the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs made to our independent daily, 14ymedio, in Havana.

Proximity has allowed me to confirm what I had already felt in our previous conversation, that this loquacious woman with an attentive gaze has a profound knowledge of the Cuban reality. It is no wonder that she has led the first round of conversations between Cuba and the United States after the December 17th announcement about the reestablishment of relations between both countries.

Several members of our editorial board along with some collaborators met with Jacobson on the 14th floor of the Yugoslav-style building where our headquarters are located. Following is a transcript of a conversation, where we tried to address a wide spectrum of topics.

Yoani Sánchez: Do we have reason to worry that pragmatism and the politics of rapprochement prevail above all else, and that the issue of human rights and civil liberties will be relegated to the background? Continue reading

US Congressional delegation meets with Cuban activists and independent journalists /14ymedio

Patrick Leahy, Debbie Stabenow, Chris Van Hollen and Sheldon Whitehouse entering their hotel in Havana. (EFE / Ernesto Mastrascusa)

Patrick Leahy, Debbie Stabenow, Chris Van Hollen and Sheldon Whitehouse entering their hotel in Havana. (EFE / Ernesto Mastrascusa)

14ymedio, Havana, 19 January 2015 — On Sunday afternoon a dozen activists and representatives of Cuban civil society met with the American congressional delegation visiting Cuba. Chaired by Senator Patrick Leahy, the group was able hear diverse opinions in response to the announcement of the reestablishment of relations between the two countries.

A member of the delegation confirmed that the Cuban authorities were aware of the meeting with the activists and had made known to the American side their displeasure with the meeting.

In a relaxed atmosphere, several of those present expressed the conviction that “this opens a new era” and demanded greater transparency in negotiations, according to what they themselves reported after the meeting. Elizardo Sanchez, president of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, gave lawmakers a list with the names of 24 prisoners who, on humanitarian grounds, should be included in an upcoming release process. Continue reading