The Scam and the New Man / 14ymedio, Eliecer Avila

Products filled by scammers (14ymedio)

Products filled by scammers (14ymedio)

14YMEDIO, Havana, Eliecer Avila, 23 July 2014 – I grew up listening to my teachers saying that our society was building the man of the future, a different one, one that would have no defects, no malice, none of the vices “inherited from capitalism.”

Those of us who over the years strived to bring ourselves closer to something that is a good New Man, today find we are aliens maladapted to this society. It seems we had a monkey painted on our faces and anyone could mock us. Things had reached the point that my father, relentless defender of the best values, today tells me that if I continue trusting in everyone I might end up dead.

Just a few months ago I was at the bus station when a gentleman approached to tell me he’d spent three days sleeping there, on the floor and eating other people’s leftovers, because he didn’t have the money to return to the east. He had spent all he possessed “taking care of my mother who is very old and in the hospital here in Havana.” His eyes were sad, his clothes dirty, and his voice trembled. That boy wasn’t even 30 yet. Continue reading

Somos+ Launches a Project to Save History / Eliecer Avila

Among the first victims of January ’59 was the history of Cuba, especially the phase of the Republic. A radical rupture caused the immediate divorce of the new generations with a past that was reduced to four lines in scholarly books. (From Somos+)

La Havana, Cuba – “Puppet State, governing mafias, corruption, and poverty” are the only emblems, according to the official version, of the first half of the twentieth century in Cuba

A tour of eight libraries in Havana, while inquiring whether there existed some available texts on the Republic, resulted in only one book in two libraries dedicated to the theme: “The Republic of Cork” by Rolando Rodriguez.

The disconnectedness from the Internet worsens the situation. It is such that the access to documents, testimonials, videos, statistics and serious studies, are reduced to such a small number of people that they do not rely on a platform to discuss the contents.

To this situation we are already working on a series of testimonials, with people who lived, worked, fell in love and started families, and dreamed during the Republic. Men and women who are a living treasure because of their accumulated experiences and unprejudiced vision of the different realities that nuanced a whole era.

We want to investigate, from the household perspective, how that society felt. How was the health, the education, the exercise of democratic participation (when it existed), the press, the architecture, the cost of living, the markets, the music, the recreational activities, the institutions, the problems of the moment . . . finally, everything that can provide understanding about a tumultuous period, but one that was productive in the construction of the Cuban nation.

We also seek to shed light over many deeds and historical circumstances that have been strongly manipulated or distorted. The objective is not to establish truths or impose visions, but to enrich the debate and provoke a flourishing of knowledge and vital analysis for the current age.

The people who wish to participate in this historical series can contact us through email, by phone, or through mail.

Eliecer Avila, Engineer, (Somos+)

Cubanet, 13 June 2014

Translated by: Bianca Martinez

Spanish post
14 June 2014

“One of the Hallmarks of the Twenty-first Century Will Be Overcoming the Burden of Political Labels” / 14ymedio, Eliecer Avila, Reinaldo Escobar

Eliecer Avila. 14ymedio

Eliecer Avila. 14ymedio

We speak with the founder of the political movement Somos+ (We Are More)

Reinaldo Escobar, Havana | May 30, 2014 – Eliécer Ávila launched the website this week of the political movement Somos+ (We Are More), which he created in June 2013. This 29-year-old computer engineer published a letter to young Cubans asking them to participate in “the reconstruction of the country.”

Question: What are the objectives of this movement?

Answer: We call ourselves Somos+ because we believe that every day there are more of us in Cuba dreaming of a different future. Among our objectives is to start talking among ourselves to know how many of us there are who have different ideas about how the country should be managed, from an economic, political, social point of view with regards to rights and freedoms.

Today we are isolated, and thus we have the idea that we are 11 million people thinking the same thing but not talking to each other about it, because there is neither the necessary confidence nor the platform to serve as a loudspeaker for people to express themselves without fear.
We are aware that in this early stage there will not be many people who want to be part of the movement, but we hope that we can count on a vanguard. We don’t expect to be a mass movement, but we can bring together an important number of responsible and thinking young people around a project for Cuba. We believe that it’s not enough to describe and criticize problems, we have to go from complaints to active participation and this participation implies that we need to organize ourselves. Continue reading

We’re at the Summit! / Eliecer Avila

Outside the government press, how Cubans experience the CELAC Summit.

As often happens with more or less important events that take place in Cuba, all of the radio, TV and written press is focused for days on the preparations undertaken to guarantee the success of the 2nd CELAC Summit.

According to the images shown, it’s clear that there have been important investments in preparing locations, the purchase of equipment and all the paraphernalia demanded by the protocols for the occasion.

Meanwhile, on the streets, the corners of the neighborhoods, and inside their homes, just about every Cuban speaks of nothing but CELAC. Which is logical. No one sees in this merely political instrument any kind of practical benefit for daily life.

Similar news coverage filled the screens and the presses didn’t do much to convey to us the daily sessions of the of the World Festival of Youth and Students in Quito-2013. The event left the country with tens of thousands of dollars spent and zero real gain in any area of daily interest.

Now, the press, or the government, announces with special emphasis another meeting where integrationist and anti-imperialist — or more to the point, anti-American — speeches will be delivered, leaving another million dollar bill for Cuba and nothing concrete for Cubans.

If we calculate how many kilometers of highway could be built, or how many buildings could be repaired, or how many buses could be bought with what is spent on the interminable list of international events that the government sponsors every year, and we can imagine how much we might advance of the State’s priority wasn’t, exclusively, politics.

However, interventions, at least rhetorically, have their attractions. They will speak of “brother countries and peoples,” but in practice none of our “brothers” will stop asking us for visas, letters of invitation and exceptional guarantees that make it ever more difficult to complete the paperwork to be able to visit them.

We are very special brothers, however, Venezuelans and Cubans. The rulers just say we share 99% of our genetics, but at the level of the people — with the exception of those who join official missions and travel to the country for this work — we carry ourselves like the most distant strangers. Anyone would think that a decade earlier with the fervor around bilateral relations, today we would have something that seems like a treaty of free movement of citizens, by which a Cuban family could decide to spend a week traveling in any Venezuelan state or vice versa.

This could be extended to Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina or Brazil. In fact, among the South American countries there are mechanisms that favor mobility, employment, trade, regional tourism, communications, etc… But Cuba, or rather the people of Cuba, continue to be isolated and absent in these concrete and palpable realities; although from within our oyster, we are surrounded by a sea of “defensive” barriers, and we continue to pretend to be the most normal country in the world.

Outside of summits and rare brotherhoods, the issues that in reality concern us beat more strongly than ever; issues that the national press, concerned about official communications, not speaking or doing it in an imperceptible way: the grotesque mockery represented by the issue of car sales, the state crusade against the sel-employed, the ever more

The list is long, but the patience of a people who accept a government with a political agenda totally divorced from the their most pressing needs and aspirations seems even longer.

Diario de Cuba, 27 January 2014, Eliécer Ávila

The Revolution Hasn’t Been Well Done But It’s Been Excellently Edited / Eliecer Avila

HAVANA, Cuba, November www.cubanet.org- Today no one doubts that much of the knowledge (still rare) that people in Cuba have about the people and projects of civil society, opposed to the political system, has been possible thanks to the dissemination of alternative materials in all formats, but especially in video. Thousands of discs, flash memories and other digital media have circulated from hand to hand in recent years, spontaneously creating the largest truly citizen network covering every corner of the island.

That’s why today we proudly present to Claudio, someone who has long been in the shadows, working tirelessly in the editing of the majority of the programs such as Estado de SATS, Citizens’ Reasons and many other initiatives.

Until yesterday Claudio had to be divided into little pieces, often using the wee hours of the morning to dedicate to us some time for each one us who lined up looking for his help to conceive, film and edit some material. This noble and intelligent young man deserves a gold medal for patiently enduring the demands of ao many friends who tried to be “Directors” of videos.

But he does not want to be irreplaceable, on the contrary, he is promoting a project that will give voice to more people and raise the quality of what is generated within the heart of a society that takes on, from the independent side, the tasks that State media should be developing to sustain us and instead deceive us.

His project is to provide digital editing workshops in several provinces. So far 11 students have passed the course in Havana and Santa Clara; in a few days four more will be ready.

“I’m doing nothing more than making a small contribution to democratize access to audiovisual media, technologically empowering citizens to develop their civic activism or sometimes, simply, so they can make a living without depending on the State, which always asks for something in return …  says the Prof.

In my experience, I can say that in learning to edit I have learned to observe, to decipher and therefore to understand the intentionality of what we Cubans are shown daily and what I see now on Telesur, the Venezuelan TV station that is now broadcast in Cuba.

In the case of Cuba, I can now affirm that the Revolution has not been well done, but it has been excellently edited.

Eliecer Avila, Leocuba001@gmail.com

Cubanet, 13 November 2013

Eliezer Avila Commits to a Green Party / Lilianne Ruiz

3-300x212Cubanet interviewed Eliezer Avila, the computer scientist who once faced Ricardo Alarcon, former president of the National Assembly. He moved to the capital in order to participate more directly in the changes in civil society.

What have you been doing in your public life lately?

Since I arrived in Europe I have focused on my personal life. One of my biggest frustrations was that I’ve always lived nearly 500 miles from the capital (in Puerto Padre, Las Tunas). I had to take a bus or a train and travel sometimes for days in order to participate in public life, which is not only all that is written which overseas readers may read, but what happens in debates within of Cuba, within the intelligentsia who, with or without criticism, is what touches us.

We must mention the debates of the journals Temas [Themes], Espacio Laical [Lay Space], a series of good debates, in which I want to participate. Then, making an effort to be able to insert myself in a more coherent and consistent way in public life, I have had to spend the last two months to stabilize my life in the city of Havana.

From your previous social work we perceived you as a human rights activist and then a freelance journalist. But you have defined yourself as a politician.  So: What political leaning do you identify with? Socialism, Social Democracy, Liberalism?

Bayley interviews Eliecer

Bayley interviews Eliecer

I said in an interview with Bayly (in Miami) recently, that I define myself as a rational politician, perhaps a mix of “liberal center.” The truth is that I have infinite belief in individual freedom as the sole driving force of initiative, progress, the maximum effort to get ahead, and freedom. Now, I also believe in social responsibility, and I believe in a government that offers opportunities.

In European politics,  as far as I could see, especially in the Nordic countries, there is a strong tendency for political rationality. That is, the issue we are talking about is the specific issue of what we should do. We don’t have to look through black or white glasses. We are going to study the issue in its totality and make a decision that at times could be a little to the left and at times a little to the right. The truth is it’s looking for the better good. I lean that way.

There are a ton of projects there that don’t consider economics, but the tendency of the left says that we have to do them because they sustain a group of services, of subsidies, because this is a social policy of interest to the left. But, well, it’s an economic disaster, that ends up undoing the policy itself because of the lack of resources to sustain what remains on the large screening, that can’t even sustain itself, and then, which way do I lean? For a balance between what is efficient and what is necessary.

Although you have defined yourself as a politician, Somos + [We Are More] is not a party but a movement. Has it been founded yet?

We are at the stage of conceptualization. I’m trying to gather a nucleus of people, especially young people; university students, workers. I’m looking for young people who aspire to have a future in Cuba. We can design a proposal addressing different subjects, in accordance with our dreams for a future for everyone in the country, including those who today make up a part of any  political tendency.

The new acquisition of Somos + is a specialist in biology, who is designing the policy proposals in the environmental field, which in Cuban is disarmed. We want to have economists, sociologists, workers. That is, we want to have a directing nucleus of the Movement as diverse and comprehensive as possible. And we are engaged in this effort. We have not yet officially launched the Movement.

You also said that the Movement could accept some communists as members. What, then, is is precisely the purpose of Somos +?

P8230031-300x225The point of departure of our Movement should be, above all, the most common demands of the largest possible number of Cubans. I know Communists who are Democrats. So, we are associating with tendency to the left, a hegemonic opinion, dictatorial, that doesn’t have to be that way. In Spain there are communists, in France, in Canada, the United States is full of communists who are democrats. Because they respects the rights of everyone else who are not communists to compete politically, fair and square, and to create a social balance, based on what we all think. Then, you can have whatever political position you have and at the same time be a democrat. What I will always defend is that our Movement is democracy. There’s no room for doubt about that. We will not accept people who are not democrats, that’s it. But for me, I don’t think it’s necessary to label people and ask them what color they are for them to be, in one way or another, a part of the Movement…

Have you been inspired by any movement within or outside Cuba to conceive the idea of the Somos+ Movement?

I would say I’ve had very broad influences. I have had excellent conversations with leaders of movements in Cuba. For example, José Daniel Ferrer, a person I admire and respect very much. Other people who are not actually a political movement, but they do have some very interesting ideas for the future of Cuba , such as Antonio Rodiles, Yoani Sanchez, Dagoberto Valdés and well, a long list… They have nurtured me in all this, but also the trip to Europe, especially to northern Europe, where I think they are the most balanced politics in the world… The German Green Party really left me very inspired… I like doing politics that way. A relaxed politics, no angry grand passions that try to move the world, a conversational politics. I saw in the German Parliament the most heated political discussions, and then everyone has a glass of wine, hugs each other, shakes hands.

This to me seems to be the best example I’ve seen of what we have on a small island. We don’t have to have these great conflicts that some people want to encourage until they’re unsalvageable. We have the same language, the same idiosyncrasies, we have the same aspirations. What do we want? A state of decent comfort, of dignity, a freedom of information that allows us to be believe we have entered the world, and we are not in a small cave in the Caribbean and that we are not part of the development.

We want to be respected for our work, we want to be paid, and according to this we can have the life we deserve.

Why are you leading Somos + instead of joining one of the already established movements within the opposition?

It has always seemed necessary to me for a new seed to be born, a new flower, that is not conditioned, permeated by a group of things that can be positive or negative but that have been longstanding.

It is good to assume responsibility for success if we achieve it, but also bear the weight of failure if it comes to that. It is very interesting to travel this whole road, we have the right, as a new generation, to make mistakes, to forge our way, to be neither better nor worse than those who started earlier and whose work I respect.

Now I want to ask questions to get an idea of your profile: What books do you read, what music do you like, what movies do you remember?

eliecerprimerplano_651.jpg-300x152I like old music, from the ‘70s and ‘80s, in English and in Spanish. As I am a computer scientist I’m passionate about programming sometimes whole nights, whole weeks, without going to bed, listening to a lot of hard rock, “System of a Down,” “Nightwish.” Movies: I very much like historic films, and adventures. I like all the movies about World War II, including the reflections of those who make you questions yourself, to think about the essence of humanity itself, above all, this capacity to create hatred. I really like “Life is Beautiful.” At the same time I very much like movies that exalt human valor. In books, as in movies, and in music, I like true stories. I was reading “The Rage and the Pride” by Oriana Fallaci. I finished reading the novels of Padura. I like Cuban writers who defined an era, with a writing that was very brave for its time, because it was ahead of many things that happened then.

How do you intend to add more people to Somos +, taking into account the fear that people have of reprisals from the government with its repressive apparatus?

First, I don’t think I should feel badly that no one has beaten me, I haven’t been in jail. Then, I think it is normal that it happens, that many people tell me, “I don’t want to sign up, I don’t want anything to happen to me.” You have to show these people that they are standing on safe ground. A ground in which I have confidence and which anyone can also rely on because there is nothing hidden. Political transparency can, in every sense, be a weapon that will help us to add many people.

The underground Cuban opposition has its advantages and disadvantages. One of the greatest fears that I have is that once we engage in politics in a democracy, too many people were accustomed to hiding.

This recent event with the musician Roberto Carcasses asking for changes at the concert of September 12, do you think it’s a sign of new times ?

I think so, recently I was talking to my wife. There are many people who are willing to assume some measure of responsibility for what touches them, according to their place in society, and I mean artists, intellectuals, many people who have responsibilities within the media …

People who travel, and Robertico Carcassés is one of them, they realize that in the whole world today a new wave is happening, they sometimes say, “Well good, the Arab countries are being shaken up.” I think the whole world is being shaken up…. These people who travel, who leave, they are seeing everything that is happening, when they get to Cuba it’s like traveling back in time 54 years… Sometimes there are situations like that of Robertico Carcasses, which I think it was mostly an awakening of consciousness that marks a before and after. It marks a precedent, as did what happened at the University of Information Sciences (UCI) as well.

With that speech I had the opportunity to make … It raised the bar a little of what would be done and what could be criticized, and after there was a trend in the newspaper Granma, in the News, of creating spaces where people began to discuss a set of issues . Well, I think it is very healthy and very necessary for a country to have things happen like with Robertico Carcassés … Far from being the exception, it should be the rule.

It’s said that the reforms within Raul Castro’s government are a fraudulent change, and that one of their tactics is the replace the real opposition, organic within the society, with what the spokespeople themselves have called a “loyal opposition.” If you agree with this opinion, what do you think of this phenomenon?

Today what we have in this second stage, to give it a name, in the government of Raul Castro, is a setback, including a discourse that already seems to come from the past. We have seen once again the pioneers reciting with their neck veins bulging, almost in the style of the “open platform.” We have reading in the newspaper again these discourses that label things “Revolutionary” and “truly Revolutionary,”or that abuse the word Revolutionary.

Yes, but when I gave the example of what they call loyal opposition, I was thinking of places like the official blogosphere, where there is a certain amount of criticism, but it is fabricated by the government to create an impression of openness…

I also include that in what I was saying. In any of those spaces even La Joven Cuba could enter, but the result is that you can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can not fool All of the people forever. These spaces were opened and people began to feel a catharsis there. It turns out that criticism is only the first link in a chain of a process that should end with political decisions. Then, something very interesting has happened in Cuba, it is that we have already talked too much. We bring too many years of criticizing.

Lilianne Ruiz, From Cubanet

4 October 2013

Eliecer Avila Defends His Right To Be Politically Active / Lilianne Ruiz

Moderator Gustavo Pérez (left), Eliecer Ávila (center). Photo by Lilianne Ruiz.

HAVANA, Cuba, September 6, 2013, Lilianne Ruiz / www.cubanet.org. – Recently, the Patmos Forum held its third conference. This time the topic of discussion was The Quality of Life, in connection with politics.

The meeting was attended by about 30 people, gathered in the courtyard at the home of independent journalist Yoel Espinosa Medrano, located in the center of a Santa Clara favela (squatter settlement), a few meters from the most important political plaza of the province.

The moderator was Gustavo Pérez Silverio, the historian and researcher on racial matters, who maintains a working connection with the regime.

The special guest was Eliezer Ávila, who is slowly ceasing to be identified only as the young University of Information Science student who got into trouble with the former President of the National Assembly, and is becoming known as a political leader who could have some role in the future of the island.

Ávila began his talk by defining himself as “a Cuban citizen who wants to exercise his right to engage in politics in Cuba.”

The lack of civic culture was addressed as the key to the whole question, recognizing that in the lack of civic responsibility lies the problem of freedom for Cubans. “A citizen is a person who has power, not someone who has to sacrifice themselves for a project in which they are not involved in the decision-making process, “said Avila.

After his speech of over an hour, the floor was opened to audience questions. Librado Linares, the former political prisoner from the Cause of 75 (from the Black Spring of 2003), began by recognizing the invited guest as a man with political talent, motivation, and strength. But he said he was unable to discern in Avila’s “We Are More” movement a concrete strategy for enlisting citizens, overcome by terror and apathy, or for dealing with the pattern of repression by the political police against the Movement.

The We Are More Political Movement would bring together people of different political persuasions, united by the common interest of presenting concrete demands to the Castro government. It would not be limited to Cubans living on the island, but would also welcome Cubans from the diaspora.

“This is a project that I want to build with the views of as many people as possible, because I do not want the people to serve one point of view, but for the point of view to serve the people,” he said.

The bloggers from La Joven Cuba (Young Cuba), labeled by the regime as the “loyal opposition,” had been invited to the Patmos meeting.

Regarding the absence of La Joven Cuba bloggers, Ávila told Cubanet:

“I don’t believe that any political distance is healthy. I had hoped this dialogue would occur, but at the last minute I was told that they had no interest in participating and invited me to dialogue on their blog. It is ridiculous for one Cuban to invite another to a discussion on the Internet, knowing that we don’t have that possibility.”

The Patmos Forum, created in February 2013 by a group of activists led by Baptist pastor Mario Félix Lleonart, was conceived as a space for the discussion of various topics in which different schools of thought are represented.

Previous events were devoted to the Origin of Life and the Right to Life, consecutively.

On this occasion, Lleonart announced the adoption and adaptation by “Patmos” of the Manual of Political Advocacy of the organization Christian Solidarity Worldwide, with the intention of providing workshops that equip Cuban believers with the power to influence the country’s politics, and end the myth that Christians are alienated from partisan politics that affect their quality of life and respect for human rights.

By Lilianne Ruiz, From Cubanet

Translated by Tomás A.

6 September 2013

Response to Ricardo Alarcon / Eliecer Avila

Eliécer Ávila (third from left) with friends during his stay in Sweden.

This morning I was awakened by a call from a friend to tell me that finally señor Ricardo Alarcón had uttered words referring to our encounter*. I immediately started to make arrangements to see where I could download this post, but nothing worked. It was already around 11:00 and curiosity made me make a sad decision: to spend the equivalent of several yards of plaster for my house on an Internet card at the Hotel Nacional.

Señor Alarcón:

I want to thank you, first, for directing yourself to me respectfully. It is time for someone to reciprocate this conduct.

I am compelled, however, to clarify some questions.

First: At the end of that encounter, I left by another door, almost in the arms of many of my compañeros, who invited me to eat pizza to celebrate, and to thank me for having represented them. You did not converse with me, I never saw you again.

Later, they tried to destroy me in many ways and if it weren’t for the vote and opinions of my compañeros, I never would have graduated. Among the reprisals they also denied me the possibility of living and working in Havana. Angry and upset about that, I went to talk to you at the National Assembly of People’s Power. Your staff did not allow me to see you.

Prof: I am amazed and surprised to hear you say that you were censored and that I had the advantage in the argument. I spent more than two years without any chance to talk, the Cuban media has never allowed me to express myself, with the exception of the material on Cubadebate when I thought it would be alright, and they needed me to deny what later clearly would be true.

You were the president of the Parliament. Anyone in the world holding a job like that could call the national or international press and make whatever declarations they wanted. In a second, your words would have traveled the globe. Who would not allow it? I’m glad to know that it wasn’t me.

On the other hand, I must say that I owe my travels to myself and, in any case, to the decent working Cubans who invited me, one after another, to visit with their families in different latitudes.

One of them, who offered me the main invitation, and with whose wife and children I spent the majority of my time, was expelled like a dog from here, his own country, and even his little one-year-old girl, just for visiting me in my little native village and spending time with my family. Nobody told you about that?

On another note, everyone who wants to, inside and outside of Cuba, has already seen the complete video of the event. Not only your words and mine, but also those of the other kids who participated. By the way, one of them, another guajiro from Baracoa, has experienced almost the same as me, including jail cells, and now he has created an organization to also oppose the management of this Government.

Returning to the video, according to what thousands of people have told me from those days, seeing a fragment or seeing the whole thing leaves the same impression…

I take advantage of these lines to give you a message from several Cubans with black skin who live in New York. They took me for a walk along Fifth Avenue to show me**; not only were they not expelled, but many of the owners of those stores are black or immigrants of the most dissimilar ethnicities and colors… The message of these Cubans was, “Please tell this gentleman not to offend us and to stop confusing Cuban youth.” (I have it in writing.)

The issue of my traveling to Sweden and not to Bolivia*** is really annoying and demonstrates the low level of whomever raises it. It’s obvious that I can’t go to an airport and travel wherever I want. I wish! When someone in Bolivia invites me and pays my fare, I’ll go with pleasure.

Look, I am going to be honest, I don’t like it very much when every step I take someone on the street says: “Kid, are you the boy with Alarcón?”

Outside of Cuba, every time a journalist would let me I said, “Could you do me the favor and not ask me the same questions about Alarcón?” I always feel more comfortable talking about what I think we need to do to have the country we desire. I have been the Cuban who has least offered an opinion about you, because believe it or not, I don’t like to take advantage of the mistakes of others, but to advance on my own merits.

I also see that you like souvenirs. If I’d had your home address, or your phone number, or your email or something… I surely would have sent as a gift one of the excellent books they gave me during my journey. Oh wait, sorry, I remember now: they took them from me at the airport… I don’t know who ordered them to take them from me. Would it have been the same if he’d talked to you? If you like, we can go together to claim them, who knows if they’ll listen to us…

But hey, here’s my telephone number so you can call me whenever you like and without any press interest we could have coffee and converse at length in an atmosphere of decency, culture and respect…

Eliécer Ávila Cicilia

52362995

leocuba001@gmail.com

Translator’s notes:
*The video of Eliecer Avila’s encounter with Ricardo Alarcon, which came to light in 2008, is available with English subtitles here.
**In the videotaped exchange with Eliecer Avila, Ricardo Alarcon says [starts at minute 30] that when he and his family lived in NYC, where he was serving as Cuba’s representative to the United Nations: “How many times [on 5th Avenue] did they throw us out of a store? Because we had a Latin accent or by our hair color they knew we weren’t Anglos, they didn’t want us in that store. Watching, ’get out’, how many times?”
*** In the exchange with Alarcon, Eliecer asks why Cubans can’t travel freely and says he would like to go to Bolivia to see where Che Guevara died.  In his current post about the exchange, Alarcon points out that when Eliecer got the chance to travel he went to Sweden, not to Bolivia.

17 July 2013

Returning Home / Eliecer Avila

Eliecer greets his father and girlfriend on returning to Cuba

Eliecer greets his father and girlfriend on returning to Cuba

A big hug to all my friends who have remained concerned about my arrival. Today for the first time I put my hands on a keyboard. Since I boarded the plane in Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport, after five minutes of free WiFi, I have heard nothing more about what’s going on in the world.

During the journey I had time to think about many things. The memories of the vivid moments of a journey that took me to twelve countries passed through my mind with a particular drama. I felt I had known contemporary civilization, the Modern Era, the development to where humanity knows and understands, and I was on board a flight that took me out of this recently discovered reality and carried me back to years earlier. But I was absolutely sure that this was what I wanted; the sentimental ties I’d left in Cuba and a sense of responsibility to the future were overwhelmingly powerful reasons.

I wasn’t even sad, I was happy to return.

My landing was uneventful, but already from the air something was not right. The image I saw through the window as the plane descended caused me a rare chill. I had been warned about it by some friends experienced in comings and goings. I had heard about the shock I would feel when, involuntarily, my brain began to compare details, shapes, colors, light, life. And so it was, they were not wrong in even a single word.

Once at the airport, knowing that my father and my girlfriend were on the other side of the spider web, I just focused my mind on doing things the best way to get out fast. I was among the first waiting for the luggage and as I saw the coast was clear I wanted to think I could leave in an ordinary way, despite my immense physical and mental exhaustion, the thought of quickly being the arms of my old man and Raquel restored some of my strength.

The bags were delayed a while. I hadn’t taken the precaution of sealing them, or at least putting a padlock on them. I was afraid someone would slip their hands inside, take out something that I would feel deeply. Every gift, from a flash drive to some used clothing had a recipient and would solve or alleviate some problem.

Finally my things arrive and I directed my steps hopefully toward a sign reading “Exit,” where I saw all those who were on my flight leaving. I hadn’t gone far when a young customs official pulled me out of the line and told me I should go to an open space on the side of the aisle where there were large suitcases, the young woman told me it would be a “routine check.”

I only managed to answer: “Do what you want, but please make it quick, I’m really tired.”

Another young officer, but with a higher rank, said something and told me to follow her, we had to go to another place. Then I began to realize that things weren’t normal; in my case, unfortunately, they would be abnormal.

We came to another room where there were only Cubans. There I experienced the veracity of all the amazing stories I had heard about Cuban airports for Cubans. Everywhere I looked I saw people arguing, angry, fatigued, lazy, despairing and jealous. In this room, in full view of everyone, my luggage was dismantled one by one, piece by piece, detail by detail, with the thoroughness of surgeons.

Everything that they found interesting they took for a while to analyze it in another place, where they then brought and photographed it. Specifically phones, memories or any kind of technology or cables.

The most contentious issue was the literature. According to the officer who took the things, “the topics seem inappropriate, analysts are keeping these books and if you want, you can claim them later and if the claim is approved you can come and get.”

I said I would not go from Puerto Padre to Havana to claim them for fun.

And what were the subjects of these books? Was it in a case of a manual on how to make a bomb? No, only books on critical culture, democracy, human rights … Well, it seems that here that is the same as a bomb.

In all these efforts they spent four long hours, and even people coming on later flights had left. Then I still had to stand in the huge line to weigh the luggage and pay taxes. In the process, a lady approached me to tell me: “Your father’s out there, pretty pissed off already.” I knew that, indeed, things could get ugly if I didn’t get out soon because my father, who taught me not to bear the humiliation, would come and find me however he could.

I stood it for another minute, totally not up for it, I was relatively close to one of the “declassified agents” who work in customs and I was ready to unload everything I wanted to say. But it seems they know where the critical point is, and at that moment a boss appeared who, after I paid, let me leave.

God, what a thrill, I was half passed out but got that second wind to crush my loves ones to me. Also my great friends Reinaldo Escobar, Agustín and another boy who took some pictures.

On the way to the house where we stayed the night I was looking right and left, the houses, the streets, the people. My brain started another strong exercise that still has me dizzy, which I will tell you about later, when I’ve had a bit of a rest. Soon the immense Yoani will return, all my senses are focused on her.

From Diario de Cuba

30 May 2013

Eliecer Avila Returns to Cuba / Eliecer Avila

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I still haven’t seen my grandparents and other family members. The change is huge, I don’t see Cuba the same way. I see it much more destroyed…opaque… // Nothing compares with the love of family. The hugs and kisses of my father and girlfriend change the effect of 4 hours of “routine inspection.”

After traveling widely in Europe and the United States, Eliecer Avila returned to Cuba yesterday.

27 May 2013

Universal / Yoani Sanchez

sif2013Someone sitting at the table behind spoke in French, while in chairs at the side two Brazilians exchanged ideas. Two steps further on some activists from Belarus were talking with some Spaniards who had also come to the Stockholm Internet Forum. An event that began on May 21 in the Swedish capital bringing together people interested in digital tools, social networks and cyberspace. A real Tower of Babel where we communicate in the lengua franca of technology. The global and virtual village is now contained in an old factory on the edge of the sea. And in the midst of this back and forth of analysis and anecdotes, are six Cubans, also willing to contribute their labor as cyber activists.

This is without a doubt the most enjoyable stage of my long journey and not because other places haven’t been filled with beautiful impressions and lots of hugs, but because here I have met up with several colleagues from the Island. Some of the people who, in our country have grabbed hold of new technologies to narrate and to try to change our reality, today are gathered here. The young attorney Laritza Diversent, the director of Estado de SATS, Antonio Rodiles, the keen blogger Miriam Celaya, the information engineer Eliecer Avila, and joining us for one day as well, the independent reporter Roberto Guerra. Here in Stockholm it has felt rather like Cuba, though certainly not because of the weather.

The Internet Forum has allowed us to feel like citizens of the world, to share experiences with those who live in different situations but, in essence, surprisingly similar ones. It’s enough to chat with another attendee for a little while, or to listen to a talk, to realize that in every word spoken here is the eternal human quest for knowledge, information… freedom. Expressed on this occasion through circuits, screens and kilobytes. This meeting has left us with the sensation that we are universal and that technologies have made us into people capable of transcending our geography and our time.

like_webb23 May 2013