Hollywood Conquers Havana with a Fistful of Dollars / Ivan Garcia

Filming during Fast & Furious 8 in Havana. From Mundo Motorizado.
Filming during Fast & Furious 8 in Havana. From Mundo Motorizado.

Ivan Garcia, 7 May 2016 — A black helicopter hovers at low altitude over Havana Bay. Meanwhile, dozens of pedestrians on the streets below wave and try to capture the image on their mobile phones.

The aircraft makes an acrobatic turn and flies back towards the port. “Mijail, hurry up and try to get a photo now,” yells a girl almost hysterically to her boyfriend, who wastes no time activating the camera from his old Motorola phone. Continue reading “Hollywood Conquers Havana with a Fistful of Dollars / Ivan Garcia”

Cuba: The Return of the Power Cuts / Ivan Garcia

Black out in Cuba (Cubanet)
Black out in Cuba (Cubanet)

Ivan Garcia, 27 May 2016 — As of three weeks ago there have been power cuts of up to three hours in different parts of Havana. Sometimes longer.

“Friday, April 29 in Altahabana (a neighbourhood in the southeast of the city), the power was cut off from eleven at night until four-thirty in the morning. Because of the heat, I spent the whole night waving a fan over my eight-month-old baby. Two days earlier, there was a three-hour outage in the afternoon,” I was told by Magda,  who works at Comercio Interior.

In the central and eastern provinces, the power cuts started in the middle of March. According to Reinaldo, who lives in San Pedrito in Santiago de Cuba, 550 miles east of Havana, the blackouts aren’t the only problem. Continue reading “Cuba: The Return of the Power Cuts / Ivan Garcia”

Why Cuban Agriculture Is Inefficient / Iván García

Plowing in Cuba with oxen. (From On Cuba)
Plowing in Cuba with oxen. (From On Cuba Magazine)

Ivan Garcia, 19 May 2016 — The raindrops tinkle on the zinc roof of a greasy hut used to store sacks of fertilizer, agricultural tools, and the various ancient contraptions that are always be a nuisance to keep in the house.

Osvaldo, the sixty-five-year-old owner of a farm southeast of Havana, calmly takes a drag on a cigarette butt, scratches his head with his thick fingers, which look like twisted meat hooks, and asks his son, “Where the hell have you left the wrench to open the water pump?” Then, once the engine has been started, he runs through the rain back to the entrance of his house. Continue reading “Why Cuban Agriculture Is Inefficient / Iván García”

Cuba: Capitalism From Afar / Iván García

Golf Course in Cuba
Golf Course in Cuba

Ivan Garcia, 14 May 2016 — Eight months haven’t been enough for the state-owned employer in the tourism sector to hire Yasmani, 23, a black guy nearly six feet talk who is perfecting his English in a private academy in Havana and who has wasted time and money learning the secrets of golf at a club south of the city.

Almost a year ago, on a night of drinking and reggaeton, Yasmani, with a degree in tourism, met a British businessman who wants to do business in Cuba in high class tourism.

“Do you know golf?” the man asked me. “I told him a remembered reading somewhere about Tiger Woods, little more. He said to try to learn the sport, with my command of English and the education I have, maybe I could get a job as a caddy,” said Yasmani, speaking from the doorway of his house. Continue reading “Cuba: Capitalism From Afar / Iván García”

The Enemies of Modern Democracy / Iván García

North Korea (Source: BBC Mundo)
North Korea (Source: BBC Mundo)

Ivan Garcia, 28 April 2016 — What do the autocratic Castro brothers, the solemn Vatican, Islamic fundamentalists and the madhouse that is North Korea have in common? The answer is simple: devotion to dogma, lack of transparency and unchecked caste-based power.

In theory communism should be music to the ears of a laborer who works eight hours a day and is not paid until the end of the month. Imagine it: a world without class distinctions or the need for money or budgets to maintain standing armies. Continue reading “The Enemies of Modern Democracy / Iván García”

State Security Tactics in Cuba / Iván García

Daniel Llorente talking to the foreign press on Monday, May 2, 2016, the Port of Havana. Taken from CubaNet.
Daniel Llorente talking to the foreign press on Monday, May 2, 2016, the Port of Havana. Taken from CubaNet.

Ivan Garcia, 11 May 2016 — Daniel Llorente Miranda, 52, is a spontaneous dissident. He doesn’t belong to any opposition party, nor is he an un-gagged journalist. He is on his own.

Last 22 March, with the stars and stripes on his shoulders, Llorente found himself in the area of the United State Embassy, waiting to greet President Barack Obama, after he met with a group of opponents, activists and alternative journalists.

Mixed race, a little overweight and short, Daniel defends authentic democracy, believes in freedom of expression and is openly anti-Castro. He shares his narrative peacefully. Continue reading “State Security Tactics in Cuba / Iván García”

Beggars and Madmen: The Latest Spectacle in Cuba / Iván García

Source: Quo Vadis Cuba blog

Source: Quo Vadis Cuba blog

Ivan Garcia, 1 May 2016 — Guillermo tries to run away, to avoid the stones the kids are throwing at him, as if he were a doll stuck on a target, but his legs, which are atrophied and beginning to go gangrenous because of his diabetes, can’t respond to the urgent messages from his brain.

So he tries to hide behind some small bushes, but the stones keep flying around his head. It’s four in the afternoon on a normal day in La Vibora, and, without anything better to do, the pair of youngsters do their target practice with an old man of over 80 who can hardly support himself on his crutches.

People eating pizzas in a cafe in Heredia Street, on the corner of Acosta, watch what’s happening, like spectators who have come to watch someone being stoned to death in Iran. Continue reading “Beggars and Madmen: The Latest Spectacle in Cuba / Iván García”

Broken Families in Cuba / Iván García

A Cuban family (X bit labs Community)
A Cuban family (X bit labs Community)

Ivan Garcia, 2 April 2016 — The dilapidated old house where the Varona family lives, in the Lawton district of Havana, could serve very well as a set for a television series about marginalisation and violence.

The front wall cries out for a coat of paint. Cracked roof tiles threaten to fall off. And inside, the house is subdivided into seven small apartments.

Agustín, one of tenants, has an informal business selling building materials. Therefore he has been able to improve his apartment with Italian ceramic floor tiles, build a tiny bathroom with a modern shower and hot and cold running water. Continue reading “Broken Families in Cuba / Iván García”

Price Reductions on Food Items in Cuba Are Not Enough / Ivan Garcia

Price reductions in Cuba are insufficient
Price reductions in Cuba are insufficient (El Nuevo Herald)

Ivan Garcia, 25 April 2016 — It is a Black Friday of a different sort. In the United States the morning after Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the Christmas discount season, where people wait in long lines to buy electronics, computers and clothing. But in Cuba on Friday, April 22 — a date when the military government has reduced prices by 20% on a variety of grocery items — there are no lines

As usually happens at Brimart, a grocery store in the heavily populated Tenth of October district where products are sold for hard currency, employees open the doors fifteen minutes late. Continue reading “Price Reductions on Food Items in Cuba Are Not Enough / Ivan Garcia”

The Repression Obama Did Not See in Havana / Iván García

Some 46 Ladies in White who on Sunday, March 20th, were removed by force from Gandhi Park and subsequently arrested by members of the Ministry of the Interior in uniform and plainclothes. (Source: Nuevo Herald)
Some 46 Ladies in White who on Sunday, March 20th, were removed by force from Gandhi Park and subsequently arrested by members of the Ministry of the Interior in uniform and plainclothes. (Source: Nuevo Herald)

Ivan Garcia, 22 March 2016 — Just when Air Force One landed at 2 pm at the Andrew military base on the way to Havana, forty-six Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White) walked in file along the central promenade of 5th Avenue, with photos, placards with slogan against the autocracy, and photos of political prisoners.

Starting eleven months ago, every Sunday, these women take part in a march which always ends in blows, detentions and insults between Castro supporters, and the opposition.

Nearly thirty foreign journalists, accredited to cover Obama’s visit, arrived at the Santa Rita church to see what would be the olive green regime’s strategy in relation to the resolute Ladies in White. Continue reading “The Repression Obama Did Not See in Havana / Iván García”

The Obama Revolution and the Average Cuban / Iván García

Cubans waiting for Obama to pass.
Cubans waiting for Obama to pass.

Ivan Garcia, 9 April 2016 — Quiet has returned to the streets of Carraguao, a neighborhood in the suburb of Cerro. There are no more patrol cars, no local police or beefy foreigners who look like U.S Secret Service agents walking around and checking everything out. But two days after it took place, Berta — a fifty-six-year-old housewife — remembers every detail of Barack Obama’s visit to the Latin American Stadium here.

“When The Beast (the presidential limousine) drove by, the the excitement was tremendous,” she says. “People were shooting videos on their cell phones and chanting ’Obama, Obama.’ A pothole on my street corner that had been there for twenty-five years was patched for the president’s visit as if by magic. They painted all the houses and fixed all the streets. People now call him ’Representative Obama.’ In one week he solved more problems than our local representative, a dim-wit who can’t solve anything.” Continue reading “The Obama Revolution and the Average Cuban / Iván García”

Fidel Castro Brings a Transitional Communist Party Congress to a Close / Iván García

Fidel Castro speaking at the close of the 7th Congress of the Cuban Communist Party in Havana in April
Fidel Castro speaking at the close of the 7th Congress of the Cuban Communist Party in Havana in April (AP from Info 7)

Ivan Garcia, 21 April 2016 — He is no longer the beefy guy in the olive green uniform with a Russian pistol in his holster who would give improvised, hours-long speeches in a public square or television studio until he became hoarse.

It was a stale, slouching version of Fidel Castro — his hair combed back like an elderly man after a bath in a nursing home and dressed in a blue Adidas track suit — who gave a brief diatribe in a shaky voice, a man decidedly brought down by kryptonite. Continue reading “Fidel Castro Brings a Transitional Communist Party Congress to a Close / Iván García”

Raul Castro: More Boring and Conservative Than Ever / Iván García

Raul Castro at the 7th Congress
Raul Castro at the 7th Congress

Ivan Garcia, 17 April 2016 — A little bent and dressed in civilian clothes, with a dark blue suit, light blue shirt, no tie, gold metallic glasses, and a star on his bag, Raul Castro Ruz, 84, president hand-picked by his brother Fidel in 2006, among applause advanced to the dais in the corner of the room in the Palace of Conventions west of Havana.

After briefly adjusting the microphone and with a voice more hoarse than usual, the first secretary of the Communist Party began the longest and most boring speech of his political repertoire. Continue reading “Raul Castro: More Boring and Conservative Than Ever / Iván García”

Goodbye, Obama / Iván García

Good
Goodbye Obama! (See source, below)

Ivan Garcia, Havana, 23 March 2016 — Three hours before Obama delivered his speech in the Alicia Alonso Gran Teatro in Havana, while he was having his breakfast of bread and butter and cold lemonade in a private cafe in La Vibora, Anselmo shared ideas with a friend as to what matters the President of the United States would deal with in his address.

“You will see that the man will talk about the lack of democracy and human rights. This chap is not an idiot like Pope Francis or the President of France. He’s going to announce new things”, he said. Continue reading “Goodbye, Obama / Iván García”

Ben Rhodes: "I Am Optimistic About Obama’s Policy Towards Cuba" / Iván García

Ben Rhodes, with red tie, among the independent journalists Augusto César San Martín, from Cubanet, Iván García, from Martí Noticias, and Ignacio González (grey tie), video producer. (Source: Mutuum website, from Colombia)
Ben Rhodes, with red tie, among the independent journalists Augusto César San Martín, from Cubanet, Iván García, from Martí Noticias, and Ignacio González (grey tie), video producer. (Source: Mutuum website, from Colombia)

Ivan Garcia, Havana, 24 March 2016 — On any given day, getting to the residence of the press attaché for the United States public affairs office in Cuba, located at 7th Avenue and 24th Street in the Havana suburb of Miramar, never takes more than twenty minutes by taxi from the center of Havana.

But Obama’s visit had left the capital in chaos. Dozens of streets had been closed and police roadblocks set up in areas where the presidential limousine, known as “The Beast,” and its entourage were to pass. Continue reading “Ben Rhodes: "I Am Optimistic About Obama’s Policy Towards Cuba" / Iván García”