The Political Legacy of Oswaldo Paya / 14ymedio

Oswaldo Payá's Funeral (Luz Escobar)

Oswaldo Payá’s Funeral (Luz Escobar)

14YMEDIO, 22 July 2014 – On 22 July 2014, the opposition leader Oswaldo Payá and the activist Harld Cepero died. Payá led the Christian Liberation Movement and promoted the Varela Project, which managed to collect some 25,000 signatures to demand a national referendum. Freedom of expression, of association, freedom of the press and of business, as well as free elections, were some of the demands of that document signed by thousands of Cubans.

Nominated five times for the Nobel Peace Prize, Payá was one of the most visible and respected figures of the Cuban opposition. In 2002  the European Parliament awarded him the Sakharov Prize for Human Rights by and he was able to tour several countries to offer information about the situation on the island. He was also an official candidate for the Prince of Asturias Award and received honorary degrees from Columbia University and the University of Miami.

Paya’s death occurred in the vicinity of the city of Bayamo, while he was traveling accompanied by the Spaniard Angel Carromero, the Swede Aron Modig, and his colleague Harold Cepero. The Cuban government explained the death as the result of a car accident, but his family and many Cuban activists have maintained their doubts about that version. An independent investigation into the events of that tragic July 22 has been requested in various international forums, but Cuban authorities have not responded to those requests.

On the second anniversary of the death of Oswaldo Payá, we asked activists who shared his democratic ideals, “What is the greatest legacy of the leader of the Christian Liberation Movement?”

Guillermo Fariñas, a psychologist and the winner of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize

The main legacy left by Oswaldo Payá Sardinas for the Cuban nation, beyond its geographical boundaries, was that he showed his people and the world that the Cuban government breaks its own laws. When the Varela Project submitted almost 25,000 signatures to the People’s Assembly on a citizens’ petition for a plebiscite, the Cuban government refused to hold one and in a crude way changed the Constitution. That in my opinion was his main contribution: demonstrating that the Cuban government is beyond anything that could be construed as the Rule of Law and that it does not even respect its own draconian laws that support Castro’s totalitarian state. Continue reading

Dissidents: “It implies an ignorance about how things work here.” / Manual Cuesta Morua, Antonio Rodiles, Jose Daniel Ferrer

Letter to Obama: The internal opposition questions that it doesn’t address human rights on the Island.

Manuel Cuesta Morúa, president of the Progressive Arc Party

“It is not very viable to address the proposal directly to self-employment in Cuba since it implies an ignorance of how things work here . It is the government which grants and takes away the license, which doesn’t allow loans from international banks, and which monopolizes the importation of goods and commodities. So the impact of these potential resources will always be limited.

“I find it interesting that this initiative is based in the United States and not Cuba. It is dangerous for Cuba, like the hug of a bear, because Cuba is very weak as a nation. Nor do I see in this letter a clear defense of human rights and freedoms, and that makes me a little suspicious.” Continue reading

Tradition and Mirror Images / Regina Coyula

Alicia Alonso

Alicia Alonso

I stopped having any contact with the National Ballet of Cuba (BNC) almost thirty years ago. That experience was marked by some close friendships, affection and oversized hatreds. But reading “BNC’s Dancers Reveal a Long Tradition” brought me back to an Orwellian 1984 when a group of dancers — all young people at the time — staged an attempted protest. Basically the issues were the same as those being raised in writing today: poor lodging, transportation and food during international tours. In addition the dancers of that time, who “we are now longer the same people,” also complained of favoritism, which was a factor in choosing who would go on tour. Though everyone would have preferred to practice internationalism in Europe, it was the era of friendship with Nicaragua. And then there were the roles. The principal ones were also under fire, since many of them were cast based on personal rapport rather than on merit.

Among the non-conformists there were excellent professional leaders in both the company and the UJC (Union of Communist Youth), who were treated badly by the BNC. The atmosphere was tense in classrooms, dressing rooms and behind the scenes. Situations were neutralized with threats or favors, which explains the anonymous nature of the current complaint.

Certainly our dancers live better than most Cubans, but if we compare them to their counterparts in world-class companies — a league which includes the BNC — they are malnourished, exploited and involved in shady dealings. Everything is done to increase the stipend and better the quality of life. Because for many years dancers and maitres were able to work anywhere in the world without having to hand over a substantial portion of their earnings to the Ministry of Culture — a gift courtesy of its prima ballerina assoluta — the BNC opened a pathway to exile.

Nothing seems to have changed, nor do I think it will, but it is my heart’s desire that the young people who authored the letter of complaint in 2013 might be able to fight for their artistic and labor rights without the need for anonymity.

It was well-known within the BNC that Alicia Alonso and Fidel Castro were mirror images of each other. Each ruled at whim, as in a royal court. Each was surrounded by sycophants, eager to fawn and even to play the fool. Some did it out of conviction, others in hopes of gaining advantage. Subordinates maintained a love-hate relationship with the matriarchal-patriarchal figure. But woe to anyone who dared question a decision or challenge their leaderships! It was embarrassing to see how many of the people who mocked her backstage would file through the diva’s dressing room after a disastrous performance, or her office on the following day, to assure her that she had been magnificent, divine (though never a “bitch.” No, that would have been very coarse). At the time Jorge Esquivel was still her partenaire. With Orlando Salgado it would have been even worse.

My personal relationship with Alicia was decent enough until Fidel Castro gave a reception for the BNC after a successful international tour. Bruzón, one of Castro’s personal bodyguards, approached me to say that Fidel wanted to meet and chat with some young dancers. I rounded up a few, including some who inevitably felt uncomfortable, and drove them to a small establishment.

Castro was talking to Alicia, her husband, Sonia Calero and Alberto Alonso when I burst in, preceded by Bruzón and this insolent group. As directed by the bodyguard, I introduced them one-by-one to Fidel, who went about asking them questions. At one point Alicia’s thumb, painted “pink pearl,” found its way into my shoulder, a gesture which foretold of problems. “He already knows them,” she told me in a tone of voice that matched the finger in my shoulder.

The next day my boss was called into Carlos Aldana’s office. At the time he was the heir apparent and was “dealing” with ideological issues, in other words party-related matters. Alicia had called him to demand my ouster. Aldana realized it was just a tantrum; my boss was aware of everything there was to know and backed me up. But in light of complaints from “the old lady,” I was not allowed to have further dealings with the company. Almost all the rebels of that period now live outside of Cuba, so it does not behoove me to lie.

For some scatterbrain who plugs along cluelessly, in the same way that Aldana used to deal with ideological issues, I “dealt” with the country’s dance movement. It’s the stuff of G2.*

Regina Coyula
*Translator’s note: Also known as DI, an acronym for Intelligence Directorate, the main state intelligence agency of the Cuban government.

Diario de Cuba, December 1, 2013

Bastion 2013 and the Ghost of the Enemy /Orlando Delgado

A soldier during the Bastión-2013 maneuvers. (JUVENTUD REBELDE)

It happened in the early morning hours of Monday, 19 November: suddenly the usual transmissions were cut and all the official TV channels were linked. Many thought it might be news of great impact: the death of Fidel Castro or something like that. The image of Raul Castro raised the expectation. But it was all a big fiasco. Castro II announced the beginning of the military exercises all over the country. Perhaps war is coming, many wondered.

We all know how far the country is from participating with its men in any of the conflicts that plague the planet. The regime doesn’t have the will nor the resources for it. The words of the General were clear: “With the engagement in this exercise we propose top continue raising the level of preparation and cohesion of the organs of leadership and control of the troops (…) to confront the different actions of the enemy.”

It remains doubtful what actions they’re thinking of resisting, because any moderately informed person knows that “the enemy” is not planning any military actions. It’s a great blunder to believe that the United States (a country with which we have ties of all kinds) is thinking of a military attack on Cuba. This is the strange idea that the regime constantly tries to sell to justify huge and unnecessary military expenditure in a bankrupt economy, as well as for maintaining internal repression.

Bastion 2013 — as these maneuvers are called — are simply intended to remind Cubans about “our eternal struggle against the empire,” in line with the Castro ideal that “as long as imperialism exists, the Party, the State and the people will offer themselves to the greatest defense. The Revolutionary guard will never be neglected.”

It’s well known that, lacking enemies, totalitarian systems invent them, their livelihood depends on confrontation with an external rival that supposedly tries to “colonize” or “invade” the national territory. Such an archaic idea in the 21st century, with an economic interconnected at the planetary scale, and where borders tend to disappear, is obvious to the least of the analysts.

The Cuban leaders live in another epoch, disconnected from reality. They force citizens into a condition of western pariahs in the era of the Internet and smartphones.

One of the collateral objectives of these useless efforts in which university students and other sectors of society participate, is the constant glorification of violence as the only method to resolve the differences that exist in any modern community, to the detriment of the peaceful way.

Reconciliation and open dialog among all Cubans (living where they live and thinking how they think) should be the fundamental premise for the rebirth of the country, leaving being once and for all the ballast of Castro’s totalitarianism that today oppresses is. Cube is not a bastion and the vast majority of its people just want to live in peace. The speeches of the barricade have died and the only Stalinist dictator of the West — without a doubt — also has an expiration date.

Orlando Delgado

From Diario de Cuba, 25 November 2013

“The Prices In The All Stores Are Fined” /Jorge Olivera Castillo

Havana, Cuba, November, www.cubanet.org — The details of the corrupt practices detected in the Carlos III Complex of stores and in a municipal entity in the business of community services reinforce opinions about the incapacity of the government to stop a phenomenon that has metastasized in Cuban society.

As on previous occasions, people have counted on documentary proof of the facts, recorded on flash drives that are distributed furtively from hand to hand.  One never knows who is the initial provider, but presumably it is a premeditated act in the Ministry of the Interior. The lack of official information is compensated for by the traffic in copies, rented or sold, to a clientele eager to find out the identity of the guilty parties and their schemes to enrich themselves.

Both cases, occurrences in Havana, again reliably demonstrate the infeasibility of economic centralization. In most state enterprises. a lack of administrative control still prevails, which facilitates the growth of corruption in all its forms.

The efforts by the General Controller of the Republic to put a stop to it are worth nothing. Few wind up in prison. The rest contrive to continue their dirty shenanigans which include embezzlement, extortion and bribery.

“Prices in all the stores are ’fined.’  Besides being already inflated by order of the enterprise that provides the merchandise, extra is added that is later shared between the management, the financially responsible, and the employees,” a store clerk explained to me on condition of anonymity.

“Our salary is a pittance. If we don’t do this, it would be like working for free. It’s true that we steal from the customer, but those are the rules of the game. This is every man for himself,” he added.

In the conversation I found out that the managers make off with the greater part of the illegal revenues. In some cases their earnings exceed 300 convertible pesos a day. Such dividends represent a fortune in a country where the average salary is less then one convertible peso daily.

Among the beneficiaries of these illegalities must also be mentioned the hundreds of former counter-intelligence officials. Not a few are listed on the security payrolls of each shopping center, others work as inspectors of those who have to deliver part of the booty. Refusing to do it is the shortest path to jail.

In the end, everything functions without setbacks. They only have to comply with the established codes. From time to time, the general controller, Gladys Bejerano, in order not to completely lose her credibility, decides to put an end to some of the corruption. It is like putting your hand in a drum with your eyes closed. You will always extract a corrupt person, but at a low level, since the big ones are untouchable.

Jorge Olivera Castillo

Cubanet, November 20, 2013

Translated by mlk

ETECSA, A Bankrupt Monopoly / Pablo Pascual Mendez Pina

DSC07931That we are in a state of ruin is something that no Cuban in his or her right mind really questions, though we have become all too accustomed to the cynicism of the architects of this disaster, who continue to blame the “Yankee blockade” for all the misery afflicting people.

As though this were not enough, it is appalling to see Havana overrun with billboards and posters touting utopian slogans such as “Let us fight for a prosperous and sustainable socialism.” And “Revolution means never lying or violating ethical principles.” Or “Banish the fear of looking for problems in fulfilling our duties.” One cannot walk even a few kilometers to refill a mobile phone account, to wait in line in hopes of resolving some bureaucratic issue or to file a complaint without coming across a marquee announcing, “ETECSA, on line with the world.”

What is obvious is that the state telecommunications monopoly, commonly known as ETECSA, is no longer a public-private partnership with financial backing from the multi-national telecommunications firm Telecom, whose employees wore uniforms, drove a fleet of vehicles and had access to spare parts in order to respond to the needs of its customers.

Some 85% of workers questioned believe that, ever since ETECSA fell into the hands of GAE – a business arm of the Ministry of the Interior (MININT) – it has become a kind of Cinderella. Innumerable questionnaires indicate that it has also become known for its inefficiency.

Rolando Chapotín, a 70-year-old retiree from Vedado, describes how an ETESCA employee fit together various bits of cable to fix a problem with his landline. “It was obvious he did not have the parts he needed,” says Chapotín, “but he worked hard to resolve the problem until fortunately it was fixed. That young man made me forget about all the waiting in line and arguments with bureaucrats. Now I would like to know where the hell all the money that GAE takes in is going.”

To the question “Why does it take so long for ETECSA to resolve problems that have been reported?,” a technician replies, “We don’t have the vehicles, we don’t have the materials, we are short-staffed, wiring is no longer well-sealed and whenever there is a downpour, the problems multiply. There’s also a significant number of customers who have spent three months waiting for their landlines to be repaired.” The technician summed it up by saying, “ETESCA might be on line with the world, but not so much with Cuba.”

From Moron to “Cuba Says”

The government sponsored website Cubadebate reported that this past October a meeting of company directors from the eight eastern provinces was held in the town of Morón. It was chaired by Mayra Arevich, an engineer and the current chief executive of ETECSA. The goal was to prioritize the handling of complaints from the public and to analyze problems associated with mobile phones and landlines, services to which only three million customers currently have access.

Hilda Arias, ETECSA’s head of mobile phone services, told those present that there would be an increase in capacity of 270,000 just this year, resulting in a growth of two million mobile phone lines, or the equivalent of 18% of Cuba’s population.

According to anonymous sources a significant part of this increased capacity is destined for use by the Revolutionary Armed Forces Ministry (MINFAR), the Council of State, the Council of Ministers, the offices of the Communist Party and other governmental organizations. These are services to be paid for indirectly by private customers.

A recent installment Cuba Dice (Cuba Says) — an ongoing series broadcast by Star Television News (NTV) in which official journalists solicit opinions on pertinent topics from people on the street — raised the issue of problems with telecommunication services.

As might be expected, 90% of respondents complained of punitive fees on mobile phone and internet services, and the ludicrous 5 CUC mandatory monthly charge for maintaining cell phone service.*

Other complaints involved overcharging to refill pre-paid cell phone accounts, long lines at branch offices and retail outlets, and the inability of local customers to take advantage of double-airtime offers available to overseas customers.

However, the most pointed criticisms involved the refusal by officials to increase the number of landlines and pay phones, restrictions which impact the poor, who cannot afford the cost of mobile phone service.

In interviews company directors distanced themselves from the serious financial problems facing ETECSA and its inability to made new investments in infrastructure. They say that most of its income, which is in the form of convertible pesos (CUCs), is spent just on subsidizing local phone service.

“Mobile phone service in Cuba costs 2.50 dollars a month,” says Hilda Arias, the aforementioned director of ETECSA’s cell phone services. According to Arias the company is obliged to offer double-airtime minutes to attract overseas customers due to the need for “fresh sources of hard currency.”

Sniffing around

A former ETECSA director, who requested anonymity, stated that in the 1990s a Telecom vice-president informed his Cuban partners that his company was willing to make the investments necessary to provide a landline to any Cuban who asked for one.

“At the time international calls were the principal source of ETECSA’s revenue and it was clear that increasing the number of domestic customers would increase profits,” he says.

“The company’s Cuban partners, however, were strongly opposed and agreed to only a modest expansion, with priority given to workers in healthcare and education. Assigning the remaining increase in capacity was left to the mercy of Revolutionary communities and organizations.

“Up till now,” says the former director, “Cuba has not even been able to double the capacity it had in 1959, when there were eight landlines for every hundred residents and it ranked 14th in the world in terms of telephone coverage.”

In contrast the former director points to the case of neighboring Haiti, which had a rate of phone coverage lower than that of Cuba. But because landlines and pay phones were considered obsolete, it successfully extended mobile phone service to nearly 85% of the population in a very short period of time.

Asking not to be identified, a former MININT official stated, “One of the justifications for slowing the growth of phone service in Cuba is that there is a requirement that any increase in private telephone coverage be augmented by an equivalent increase in the monitoring capabilities of the CIN, MININT’s counter-intelligence branch. The systems for telephone surveillance, known as K1 and K2, must have a capability of 100%, as was the case in the former East Germany.”

According to this source, internet use is also under surveillance. Monitoring, however, is not clandestine. State Security actually likes citizens to feel they are being watched.

“ETECSA has become a military organization,” says an anonymous worker. He is referring to the change in administrative structure under the aegis of GAE. “Now the old branches are called divisions and other department have been reclassified with names like Strategic Projects and Logistics.”

In spite of these changes, some ETECSA directors and workers are still dipping their hands in the till. As is the case in any given part of Cuba, corruption thrives in the absence of other financial incentives. Sources indicate that one distinctive feature of ETECSA is that it is the employees who previously worked at MINFAR and MININT who have proven to be the most corrupt.

Some ETECSA workers admit to having been shocked when Miamir Mesa, an engineer and former head of the company, was given a promotion and put in charge of the Ministry of Communications after a notorious corruption scandal which came to light in July 2010 involving Cubacell as well as Logistica, a firm with ties to foreign companies.

During his tenure at ETECSA he used and abused “means of collateral responsibility” for which company directors were called to account for irregularities and misdeeds by their subordinates.

The client is never right 

At the end of the October 25th broadcast of Cuba Says on NTV, a constituent from the Carmelo people’s council in Havana’s Vedado district — a man nicknamed “el Master” in reference to his level of college education — made a statement.

“No one has yet explained to me why Cubans complain so much,” he said. “A mobile phone contract costs 120 CUC but they have reduced it to 30. A nation’s mobile phone system is not some trinket meant to be sold on a street corner. ETECSA serves society and a society must work with the resources at its disposal. Let’s be clear. Mobile phone and internet fees are high but no one is taking money out of anyone’s pocket. We might pay 4.50 CUC for one hour of internet time but we might also get a surgical procedure for free that would cost $20,000 in the US.”

He added, “We Revolutionaries have not seen the need for an election in fifty-four years. To those non-conformists who have left for other parts, well, let them stay there.”

Pablo Pascual Méndez Piña

Diario de Cuba, November 18, 2013

*Translator’s note: The fee, roughly equal to five US dollars, is equivalent to 25% of the average monthly salary in Cuba.

“Schools in the Countryside” Suspended Because of Dengue Fever / CID

Santa Clara, Cuba November 13, 2013. Officers of the Ministry of Education (MINED),   Central Region, at a government meeting on Monday the 11th, suspended the Schools in the Countryside program for November and December, because of the complicated epidemiological situation in the province.

Guilfredo Martin Betancourt, a MINED official, said the province is experiencing cases of cholera and dengue fever, without giving specifics with regards to numbers, given the environmental and social indiscipline problems.

Captain Robert Rodriguez said, during a meeting with families of the students at the school, that since the beginning of the summer rains and despite the efforts of workers in the provincial health system, foci of the vector (mosquitoes) have accumulated in the capital city and other municipalities.

Yudmila de la Caridad Vázquez, a teacher of the institution, told this publication that the curriculum of the Cuban school is planned such that students from eighth grade upward, spend 30 days of work in the fields, thereby strengthening the Marti principle of Work Study, but that this time the suspension is the right thing to do, because they can not endanger the health of students.

15 November 2013

Papayas and Bananas Banned / Leon Padron Azcuy

HAVANA, Cuba, November 2013, www.cubanet.org – The ban was issued by the Director of Farmers Markets just a month ago, because the vendors were making excessive use of chemicals (fordimed and carbide) to advance the ripening process in fruits, which in turn brought several complaints by customers who claimed that the uncontrolled use of these chemical altered the taste and texture of the fruits and was bad for one’s health.

Although the intention is to “protect the population,” it’s contradictory that this measure has only been applied to farmers markets, when the practice is a common one among most vendors operating in almost all points of sale, whether its one belonging to the Ministry of Agriculture, or a roving vendor.

The prohibition on the sale of bananas and papayas in the farmers markets in the capital, has only been strictly maintained in the market at 160th and 51st in La Lisa.

Julio Castillo Martínez, a vendor at one of the stands at the La Lisa market, and the source of this information, offered ripe bananas and papaya there, and said, “I was selling around 2,200 pounds of papaya a week and the same amount of bananas, and never had any customer complaints,” and he added, “the use of flordimed in small quantities diluted in water has been used for years by all the papaya producers at the time the fruit is picked and sold. In the case of bananas, I don’t use the chemical because they ripen quickly. This ban has affected my income.”

A truck driver who refused to identify himself, transports these fruits from the rural village of San Antonio in Mayabeque Province, to 114th Street in Marianao, where almost all the vendors of agricultural products get their supplies, said, “The fruits can’t be transported ripe because they get crushed and the measured or exact use of flordimed is not harmful, it facilitates the sale and has always been used.”

At the markets at 19th and B in Vedado and at Elgido in Old Havana, they’ve stopped selling papayas and bananas for more than 15 days, but they’ve started to offer them again in the last few days. One of the vendors at the market at 19th and D said, “Now we have to have papers that support the phytosanitary control of bananas and papayas in order to have them at our stands, although my products have always been high quality and no one has ever complained.”

The truth is that the absence of these products in the markets can’t be justified by the inefficiency of phytosanitary controls which the State itself should guarantee, or at least create conditions for others to guarantee it. And that must necessarily start from the same field the fruits come from.

Beyond this, the problem lies in the lack of reviews of some irresponsible sellers who, eager to sell, sprayed the precious products with chemicals. This nebulous situation is annoying both the serious sellers, as is the case of Castillo, who have nothing to do with this, and who are now unable to sell their most popular products — papayas and bananas — as well as consumers who like these precious fruits and have to look for them in far off places.

For some, the measure taken by the director of the farmers markets, and so far maintained at the establishment at 160th and 51stin La Lisa, is not appropriate. A solution other than prohibition — so abundant on the island — should be demanded. Especially when we know that papayas and bananas are the only fruits Cubans can count on year-round. Don’t even talk about canistel, cherimoya, soursop, cashews, mandarins, star apples, and much less about good quality oranges.

Leon Padron Azcuy
Cubanet, 11 November 2013

Castro’s Strategy, in Short: A Perfect Manual for Disaster / Manuel Cuesta Morua

HAVANA, Cuba, August, www.cubanet.org — Does Raul Castro have a vision for the state? After seven years in office the question bears asking. Perhaps few people thought about it during the previous forty-six years because most observers just assumed that Fidel Castro had a grand plan for the state. But in perspective I do not think so. One can be a political animal yet lack a strategic vision for the country. What is clear, however, is that Fidel Castro did have the political fiber required to constantly to remain in power.

He demonstrated the abilities necessary to fuse a founding myth with a sense of opportunity and social control. And everything seemed perfect politically as long as he was able to hide the brutality of his regime, his absolute lack of principles and his incompetence at financial management behind this fusion. But where his lack of vision for the state can be seen is in not having left behind anything serious, such as a legacy, in the three areas where he uprooted the myth: in the social, in values and in the reconquest of the nation. In the end he did not know how to do what politicians with a head for strategy do. He did not know how to reinvent himself.

The followers of Castro, the tall one, can say what they want in his defense. However, this only demonstrates that the confusion between expectations and results continues to be fascinating material for two types of study: mythology and clinical psychology. It has nothing to do with reality.

Milk and marabou

It was hoped that whoever came to power in 2006 would take a healthy dip in reality. Cuba had strayed so far from its revolutionary dreams that this cleansing would be a preliminary step in confronting the task refreshed and with mental clarity. Asians know a thing or two about the relationship between the sauna and the mind. And this appears to be what happened when Raul Castro, in a speech on July 26 of that year in Camaguey, said two trivial words: milk and marabou. They indicated a fresh return to the abandoned land, and an idealized return to the land as metaphor; this after a lofty, fattened regime anchored to the rest of the world only through rhetoric and foreign subsidies.

But strategically the shorter Castro could write a how-to book on disaster. I will not dwell on the long list of his economic adjustments and their social consequences. Much has been well and wisely said about the failure of his so-called economic reforms, notwithstanding the analytical obstinacy of an unwavering group of academics, prominent in the news media, who did (and do) not realize that in terms of economic reform Cuba had (and has) to learn to run, not just move. So I am not interested in judging Raul Castro by his own words. We must measure the man by his results, not by his efforts.

There are two areas I would like to visit in order to analyze what I consider to be a worrying lack of national vision or strategic proposals. One is the port of Mariel and the other is the set of factors facilitating the exodus to what Cubans refer to as la Yuma, meaning everything outside the island, whether it be Brazil, Haiti or the  United States itself.

The island as banana republic 

Many see in the construction of the port of Mariel a brilliant strategic move. I see the new port as a step towards turning the island into a banana republic, as we used to be portrayed in the schools of most Central American countries. A social poet, who visited several places in our archipelago to feel its vibration before reflecting them in his poetry, described us at the time as a synthesis that was simultaneously powerful and depressing: Cuba, the ruin and the port.

I find no strategic value in a project that ratifies Cuba as a landlord state, living off of a couple of assembly plants and on being the connecting port-of-call between a super-power (the United States), an emerging power (China) and a jolly secondary power (Brazil). Foregoing the economic possibilities offered by the knowledge economy in favor of one for which we are better prepared — one which depends on the crude economics of the exploited and poorly paid port worker — does not get us much closer to a strategic vision for the state. Nor does a property owner prepared to collect tolls and warehouse fees from all who pass through his ports. But that is indeed what is happening.

Mariel: a circle of illusion

This is because — and here the circle of illusion becomes complete — such a step presupposes two additional elements. One is a deep knowledge of the internal reality of the countries in question. The other is effective control over the temptation of the governmental elite to decide things lest they forget that there is a new port in Cuba called Mariel.

Keep in mind what happened in the Soviet Union in 1989 and in Venezuela in 2013. Having information about what really takes place in countries that affect us economically, and being able to process it, is not the strong point of revolutionary leaders. The former socialist superpower collapsed and Maduro won in spite of losing. China is only interested in money and we have none. And Planalto Palace — the headquarters Dilma Rouseff took over from Lula da Silva — has been trembling lately.

Let us remember that investments in Mariel were being managed by a risk-taking partner, President Lula, who held out the promise to a Brazilian business conglomerate, Odebrecht, of a hypothetical opening by the United States to Cuba. It is as though a fiancée were to put on a wedding dress without knowing for sure that her intended would show up to satisfy her nuptial ambitions. A fiancée who, on top of everything else, behaved as though she did not have to do anything to attract the very specific type of suitor she was after by showing him anything he might possibly find attractive in her.

From subsidies to an economic enclave

There is nothing strategic about turning a subsidized economy into an economic enclave within the confines of old-fashioned capitalism, especially for a country that loudly demands — or rather politely requests — a comprehensive modernization built on the foundations of a knowledge-based economy.

If you are wondering why the government of Raul Castro is involved in this issue, which we know as state strategy, then imagine all that can be done by using Cuba’s potential to assure the structural integrity of the country, guaranteeing a relaxed transition and re-legitimized mandate for successors who lack the pedigree of the mountains we know as the Sierra Maestra.

A new port development provides no insurance in either of these areas. It puts Diaz-Canal in quite a precarious position relative to two interest groups. One is made up of real estate interests tied to unproductive corporations, and the other is made up of citizens excluded from sharing in the pie, which can only grow arithmetically rather than exponentially.

And the exodus to la Yuma? Well, this is where the disconnect between the sense of the treasury and the sense of State is perhaps best revealed. Now that the treasury no longer puts food on the table, we have weakened the possibilities of redefining the State by making an overseas sojourn possible for what the utilitarian language of economics calls human capital. It really surprises me that the emigration reform law has been so widely applauded. After granting fifteen minutes of fame to the restitution of a right that did not have to be taken away, there should have come a serious and sober analysis of its medium and long-term impact on the nation and the country, which are really the same thing.

Living off remittances 

Two facts continue to be confused: as an economic reform measure, the migratory reform converts Cuba into the El Salvador of the Caribbean: living off remittances. And as the restitution of a right, it destroys the options to rethink an economic model to export the best young minds of the country, as a country like India has avoided.

The media analysis has blurred the problem, focusing the discussion on superficial political terms. They say that the Cuban government has thrown the ball in the court of the rest of the world, as if it were a tournament which, in reality, doesn’t exist between states — all countries let their own citizens leave and abrogate the right to allow the citizens of other countries to enter — and obscure the principal debate: the fate of a country, aging, losing in a trickle or a torrent its potentially most productive and creative people and, on the other hand, not rebuilding its image as a possible nation.

This the principal problem of our national security. And it only has one origin: The concentration of the political in a single lineage. The philosophers of this matter are right: politics begins beyond the family sofa.

The problem takes on a new light, more dangerous in terms of national security, with an immigration reform targeted to Cubans by the United States, much deeper than that of Raul Castro. The granting of a five-year multiple-entry visas to those who live on the island grants a right foreigners greater than that granted by the Cuban State to its own nationals living inside and outside the country. This is somewhat embarrassing. Cubans from here can freely enter and leave the United States for much longer than Cubans can enter and leave their country of birth without renewing their permit.

Citizens of both countries

One of the results we have, one which I want to focus on, is this: we Cubans have become, in theory, resident citizens of two countries. Cuba is one, you choose the other. This is an issue that goes beyond the transnational nature of our condition — very well analyzed by Haroldo Dilla, a Cuban historian based in the Dominican Republic — because over the long term it weakens the center that serves as the axis to the global nature of citizenship. We Cubans will stay in the same place in an ambivalence that weaken loyalties to a nationality that one now feels and lives anemically. A strange and dangerous situation for a country lacking a sense of solidity.

If the story says that the new U.S. policy serves to promote relations between Cubans and Americans and between Cubans and Cuban Americans, in reality we are moving to a scenario in which relations between Cuban-Americans, in fact, resident on the island, and Cuban-Americans by law, resident in the United States arise and are strengthened; and on the other hand between Americans and Cubans residing on both shores.

All that will be left is an irreducible minority, regardless of their ideological leanings, who will resist nationality in both, taking American or Spanish nationality as strong reference points.

So, we return to the economic and cultural circuit of the United States — in some way we have already entered that of Spain — which we supposedly left more than half a century ago. Not to mention other smaller circuits such as those of Jamaica and Italy.

Surrendering to this reality, hiding behind the anti-imperialist rhetoric of “no one surrenders here,” that keeps obsolete arms oiled and “repaired,” is evidence that the strategy of the State has never accompanied the Castros. Will our paradigm as a nation ever be viable? The question is not rhetorical.

From Cubanet

18 August 2013

Cholera Spreads Through Cienfuegos Province / Alejandro Tur Valladares

Patients

Cholera Patient in Cienfuegos Hospital

CIENFUEGOS, Cuba, www.cubanet.org – The first case of infection was discovered last August 8 in the peripheral district of San Lazaro and although at the beginning epidemiologists thought that the virus could have been transferred from the city by Havana by Juan Arbolay Águila, who works as a driver in the port of Mariel, studies could not prove it, arousing suspicion among the specialists that it could be endemic form of cholera.

This August 16, a week later, we have verified that evil has spread to the districts of Reina and La Juanita, the latter the most populous neighborhood in the city. Reina presents a complex situation with the network of sewers and the water supply, many nearly a century old, causing contamination of water consumed and wastewater leaks into the road, both of which often facilitate viral infection.

Pacientes-con-còlera-en-el-hospital-de-Cienfuegos-300x225In La Juanita the “Sunshine Cuba” State snack bar on Gloria Street was closed. Cubanet learned through one of the workers there that one of the cases in the area was reported in a kitchen worker there.

Reports broadcast on Radio Martí by independent journalist Arévalo Padrón reported that in the city of Aguadas de Pasajero at least five infections have been reported. Cubanet has not been able to verify this.

The perception of risk is still very low in the population as the government media have reported nothing, limiting its actions to disseminating prophylactic messages about maintaining sanitary measures to avoid what they call acute diarrheal diseases.

19 August 2013

Cholera in Havana with Fatalities / Dania Virgen Garcia

HAVANA, Cuba, 9 July 2013, Dania Virgen García/ www.cubanet.org.- For several days there has been an increase in the cases of cholera in the provinces of Havana and Guantánamo.

In Havana, where there are reports of more than 40 children admitted to the hospital, the municipalities most affected are Diez de Octubre and Cerro.

In Cerro pediatric hospital there are more than 37 children; in Accion Medica hospital, at Coco and Rabi, Santos Surez in the municipality of Diez de Octubre, on July 5 four cases were transferred to Cerro pediatric hospital.

At Pasteur Polyclinic, on Santa Catalina Street, also in Diez de Octubre, on the 5th, a three-year-old boy, Abel Lizuela Martinez, was transferred in a delicate state to Cerro Pediatric

From Guantánamo, at the opposite end of the country, Niober García Fournier of the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy, reported another death from cholera: that of José de la Cruz Castillo, 42 years old, resident in 12 Sur, between Santa Rita and San Gregorio, on July 1. He was in Room 12 Bed 3 in Agostino Neto Provincial Hospital. His wake was held for six hours. The health authorities barred the family from access to the interior of the funeral home, so they had to hold the wake for him in the street. The deceased worked in the provincial Meat Company.

Also, in Guantanamo prison there is a quarantine for cholera. Visits and the bringing in of articles to meet the basic needs of the inmates are restricted.

10 July 2013

Arrest Reports from Cuba from UNPACU General Coordinator Jose D. Ferrer / Jose Daniel Ferrer

Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia 1Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, general coordinator of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), reporting

Santiago de Cuba: Ongoing detentions of UNPACU activists picked up on Turquino (the highest peak in Cuba, in the Sierra Maestra mountains), including Ovidio Martin Castellanos, coordinator of the largest arm of UNPACU, the Wilmar Villar group.

Sanctuary of El Cobre: 48 Ladies in White have just taken part in Mass, where they prayed for the freedom of political prisoners and respect for human rights. Two Ladies in White accompanied the UNPACU activists who tried to climb Turquino.

Guantanamo: 11 Ladies in White attended Mass, several in  Holguin, arrests in Bayamo.

On the 118th anniversary of the “Battle Cry of Baire” campaign, there is a New Cry For Freedom in the Citizen Demand for Another Cuba. Today UNPACU honors the heroes of the struggle for independence and the Brothers to the Rescue pilots [shot down by the Cuban Air Force on 24 February 1996].

Palma Soriano: Three UNPACU activists arrested while undertaking activities in tribute to the Brothers to the Rescue pilots, as well as others in La Ceiba.

There will be later updates if there is new information about activities and repression against peaceful opponents.

24 February 2013