“La Vida Loca,”; a Three-Story Thicket / Jose Hugo Fernandez

The lush forest of the Gran Hotel Jose Hugo Fernandez – Stock photo

HAVANA – Cuba. Perhaps the tenor Placido Domingo nostalgically remembers his stay in Havana. If he does, the Grand Hotel undoubtedly would occupy a special corner in his memory. Unfortunately for us, although perhaps luckily for her, Maria Cervantes, jewel of Cuban pianists and songs, she did not live long enough to witness the ghostly ruins of that place in whose lobby she shone brilliantly.

The Grand Hotel is one of the monuments of an earlier Havana whose restoration seems impossible. What remains of that solid building taking up an entire block (between Teniente Rey, Zulueta, Monserrate and Dragones), is nothing more than a picturesque specter, representative of the current mood of the city as a showcase of underdevelopment and poverty.

“La vida loca,” announces a phrase written on one side of the old hotel. Its anonymous author, possibly unintentionally, managed to synthesize an amalgam of thoughts that go through our minds when we stop and observe it.

Apparently, someone, many years ago, intended to rescue the Grand Hotel. So a strong scaffolding was mounted around the sides. However, time passed, and it was all forgotten, to the point where within those metals structures a forest has grown with no less exuberance than in the Island’s abandoned fields.

Anyone seeing it might thing that the lack of attention was specifically intended to convert the place into another green lung for Havana.

Opened in 1925, in a very solid and modern construction for its time, the Grand Hotel was famous for being the cleanest and cheapest in our capital. Old Havanans especially remember its slogan, “One hundred rooms with bath,” where free 24-hour accommodation was granted to everyone from the interior of Cuba who came in the Diario de la Marina express for the express purpose of staying there two days.

The reputation of good service, along with its affordable prices and its privileged  location (one block from the Capitol or the Prado, and the doors of the historical center) assured it a commercial preeminence for a long time, and also ensured its special recognition by of the capital’s citizens.

It could have stayed in business for much longer, as a hotel or large housing complex for Havanans. But government laziness and irresponsibility transformed it into a three-story thicket.

Note: This author’s books can be acquired on Amazon at this link, and also here. His blog is here.

Cubanet, 8 April 2014, José Hugo Fernández

Raul’s Reforms Turn us Into Lice / Jose Hugo Fernandez

Cuban-Americans arrive at Havana; photo taken from the internet

HAVANA, Cuba — The announcement of new email and internet navigation services that directives of ETECSA — the state (and only) telephone company in Cuba — have just made public confirms the regime’s tendency to design each measure of its “progressive reforms” having always as their objective the Cubans of the diaspora.  In recent times not even a single economic liberalization has been produced that is not based on the money of Cuban emigres, and the success of which does not depend entirely on them.

The circumstance is paradoxical: those whom our bosses obliged to flee from the country have become not only one of the main sources of economic sustenance for its power, but also the cornerstone of a new political strategy with which they today try to clean up their image before the world.

Any barely awake observer could take the fact as a key in order to understand the failure of the Revolution. And not only that. Also to corroborate the outrageous nature of the so-called Raulist reforms, delineated in order to manipulate international opinion, while they exhibit scorn and disrespect towards Cubans, whether they live on or outside of the Island. Continue reading

Calle Obispo: Look But Don’t Touch / Jose Hugo Fernandez

Two old men play the guitar, and she passes the hat.

HAVANA, Cuba, January, www.cubanet.org — If the caviar leftists from abroad saw what their eyes can see in Cuba, and not only what they want to see, a walk through Old Havana would suffice for them to discover the impassable class wall that the regime has raised between them and our common people.  They do not even need to cover all the historic town.  It will be sufficient for them to walk two or three blocks along Obispo.

As well as the most prominent tourist corridor, this street is the most populous on the Island.  In no other place do foreign visitors and humble Cubans converge in such a large scale and physically close way.  It seems obvious that the regime, through its viceroyalty in Old Havana, is taking advantage of the history of Obispo as a very busy commercial artery, in order to use it as a propaganda showcase, set aside to disguise the shameful ghetto that common citizens suffer from their status as zoo animals who are barely observed at a distance by visitors.

But it happens that here too the habitual clumsiness of our bosses surfaces. Being the point of closest proximity between Habaneros and visitors, Obispo offers an unequaled occasion to test the abyss the separates them.

Along its twelve blocks, from the banks of the bay to Monserrate, besides being the Cuban street with the greatest number of police spies, it is a unique commercial boulevard. Nevertheless, almost all of its stores sell in foreign currencies. So that the role of the Habaneros is to serve as decorations, placing themselves picturesquely at the site, going to look or looking at those who look, but without being able to touch, because nothing is within reach of their pockets. Also, in some cases, they go with the hope of getting something from the tourists. Continue reading

The Law of Those Who Vote With Their Feet / Jose Hugo Fernandez

HAVANA, Cuba, 14 January 2014.www.cubanet.org  – It’s often said that the elimination of the White Card — as the government-issued travel permit was known — has been one of the most significant among the reforms undertaken in Cuba during the dynasty of Castro II. I don’t believe there are a lot of reasons to discuss it. Things are more or less significant according to one’s values, and it’s natural that everyone values them according to their own criteria and interests that influence their circumstances.

In any case, far from being something to be proud of, I find it shameful that the most significant achievement by a government is to abolish a medieval edict, imposed and maintained for decades by its own system of power, when it would have been a museum piece in any other country in the world.

The opposition

Since this patch was applied, we recognize the benefits it has brought us so far. For the opponents of the regime, controversies aside, it paved the way for them to be able to clarify their thinking before the world. Whether they’ve done it well or poorly, or simply squandered the opportunity, is entirely their own concern. For intellectuals and artists it has undeniably gone well, especially for those who have the means or the sponsors to cover the costs. And it has also gone well for people who, with help from abroad, decided to explore the labor markets and the possibilities of settling in the United States, Latin America or Europe. Continue reading

Reinaldo Arenas’ Nest of Suffering and Partying / Jose Hugo Fernandez

An interior room on the second floor was

An interior room on the second floor was R. Arenas’ nest of pain and parties

Havana, Cuba, December, http://www.cubanet.org. In Havana, at the corner of Prado and Dragones streets, the regime affixed a plaque to honor the memory of a foreign fascist: Manuel Fraga Iribarne. But not even the tiniest plaque or sign exists in this city that invites us to remember the most notable among those Cuban authors educated during the revolutionary period: Reinaldo Arenas.

Although he was born in the eastern part of the island, Arenas came into his own as a writer in Havana and it was this city that witnessed his most joyful and painful experiences, insofar as he was ingenious, rebellious, Dionysian, irreverent, a rabble-rouser and dead set against obeying any rule that wasn’t that of his free spirit and his insatiable flesh.

Many are the sites through which we could trace the footprints that he left in this city. Someday, in a democratic future, when the cultural authorities decide to honor themselves by revitalizing the memory of this man by means of a tour-homage to the places where he created, reveled, and suffered in Havana, it will be enough for them to use as their guide the descriptions from his book, Before Night Falls, a work as dramatic and simultaneously funny as its author.

Precisely in that book, Arenas dedicates an entire chapter to the Hotel Monserrate (corner of Monserrate and Obrapía Streets), a former whore’s den in whose second story he managed to carve out the tiniest private space in Havana, a room that he was to buy secretly. In that Hotel, according to the author himself, there lived a veritable cornucopia of misfits who lived outside the law. “If the police would come,” he comments jovially, “the only thing they had to do was put up some prison bars across the main entrance to the building, the only door in the place, and everyone inside would be held prisoner.”

A few days ago, curious to know if anything had changed, I visited the Monserrate, more than thirty years after the details described by Arenas.

There are no substantial changes. The building remains as dilapidated as always. The same atrocious front door. The dark hallways, the walls and ceiling with chipped paint, that hasn’t been retouched in more than half a century. The ancient elevator, which inspired in Arenas such great jokes and so many furtive sexual adventures, continues its astonishing balancing act, while contemplating a fall without ever actually falling. The clothes hanging on the lines on the balconies…

My name is Bebita, Reinaldo Arenas’ friend. Photo by José Hugo Fernández.

With respect to the “wildlife” that is the neighbors, the old whores have all died by now, after their conversion to the Communist Party, but it’s still possible to find there several of the recurring characters from Before Night Falls. A few have left (for Hell or God knows where) and others remain the same, stranded in time, only now so much older. But almost all of those that remain couldn’t be photographed because, as if they were Hollywood A-listers, they demanded that I pay them in CUC (convertible pesos) for appearing in any photos or for affording me a brief interview. One exception was Bebita, who not for nothing had also been an exception when she gave her friendship and her generous help to the writer. “I am Reinaldo’s friend,” she told me, while she opened the door to her room to offer me a seat, very willing, and even enthusiastic about the possibility of bringing me up-to-date, for free, on life and miracles in the Monserrate.

Through her I learned that the character who sold the room to the novelist (he calls him Rubén) continues to be as warped as ever and that he charged him for using the bathroom, 50 centavos a pop, according to Arenas, but Bebita clarifies that it was 50 centavos for using the toilet and a peso for taking a bath. With some help from Bebita, who allowed him to put a waste pipe through the middle of her room, Reinaldo was finally able to have his own bathroom. Later, the room would revert back to the aforementioned Rubén.

“On the first floor lived Bebita with her friend; they were two women who played the drums and who would get all caught up in problems caused by jealousy on a daily basis,” wrote Arenas. Well, she still lives there, also with a friend, perhaps not the same one as before, since she is much younger than Bebita. But now peace reigns in Bebita’s room, although her personal saint is still the same: Shangó, the orisha of storms (thunder and lightening).

“Some day if they decide to put up a monument in honor of Reinaldo,” she said to me, “no other place would be more ideal than the Monserrate Building, nest of his suffering and his partying. And I assume that the monument ought to be in the shape of a phallus.”

The ancient elevator of Arenas’ sexual adventures and tricks.

 

Dark hallway on the first floor of the Monserrate.

Dark hallway on the first floor of the Monserrate.

They pay homage to a fascist, while they relegate Arenas to oblivion.

If the police would come, the only thing they would have to do would be to place prison bars across the main entrance to the building.

If the police would come, the only thing they would have to do would be to place prison bars across the main entrance to the building.

Photos and article by José Hugo Fernández.

Note: The author’s books can be bought here.

Translated by: K. Rauch

Cubanet, 11 December 2013

Mummies Against Prostitutes: The Last Revolutionary Combat / Jose Hugo Fernandez

Havana, Cuba.  November, www.cubanet/org — The prostitutes of Havana never inspire as much pity as when we see them accompanied by those mummies of European and US Stalinism who today constitute their VIP clientele.  Really you have to have a heart of stone not only to go to bed with such a stinky and gassy old fogy but even to barely endure his proximity.

As soon as they disembark on the Island, without shaking off the dust of the road, these old gentlemen feed their spirit going to the Plaza de la Revolution and the Che sanctuary in Santa Clara.  Then, invariably, it is time for dessert.  So they get naked in Obispo Street in Havana, around Central Park or on La Rampa, in pursuit of our little hookers, the last flashes of the beacon of America.

“What a waste, buddy,” exclaim the gentlemen from around here on seeing them bargaining, while the women whisper, teasingly, and the oldest ones are scandalized at “the turns life has taken here.”  But they continue on their way, business as usual, confident, it seems, that they have left respectability in safekeeping, beyond the sea, along with their ancient wives.

If it were possible to take into account decency or common sense when dealing with this wildlife, you would have to ask why, at least, they do not attempt to take the prostitutes to some place apart, where they would be waiting for them without the need to expose themselves so boldly to absurdity and ridicule.  But that’s not how they are.  It is obvious that they have resolved to enjoy as God commands their last revolutionary orgy, now that only the devil knows the sacrifice that it cost to organize it, gathering for years the remnants of their salaries as retirees.

What a pity that there are no statistics that reflect how many casualties the worldwide revolution has suffered as a consequence of the heart attacks provoked by these encounters between the mummy veterans and our mud blossoms of the Fidelist legacy. In any case, they would say they’d died for socialism, if they managed to say anything, before shutting their trap, in the end, forever.

“Old age is an incurable disease,” Terentius warned us.  But it may be that he was not right, at least in this situation.  I believe that my grandmother was more accurate, and did not agree that people lose shame as they age because now nothing matters to them.  He who has no shame in old age — she used to say — never had any.

José Hugo Fernández

Cubanet, 21 November 2013

Translated by mlk.

Public Services: Horror and Nightmare / Jose Hugo Fernandez

cap

The Rapid of Ayesteran and Boyeros in Cerro. Photo: Jose Hugo Fernandez

Havana, Cuba, November,  www.cubanet.org — In a state cafeteria called The Rapid, in the Havana neighborhood of Cerro, the clients do not have access to the television installed there for public purposes.  The equipment shows them only its backside while the screen remains facing the employees, who hoard it for their exclusive use.  It may be a trivial detail, but it really is an expression of a very serious conduct, on which rests the chronic crisis of public services in Cuba.

Because of a malformation that has become endemic and whose origins are rooted in the bad example and bad seed that the totalitarian dictatorship disseminated among us, the employees of this kind of public service seem to be convinced that it is their customers who owe service to them, not the other way around.

If bureaucrats abuse on a whim the time and patience of those who pay them to be attended to, or if the employees of the business and food receive customers as if they were intruders who slip onto their private property, that is not due only — as is customarily said — to the “employment unsuitability” nor to the big gaps in their school preparation.

The destruction of the culture of good service among us is above all a consequence and expression of the system of government that we have suffered in the past five decades. In fact, the regime itself represents the first major evidence of the problem, since instead of being a servant of the people, as all governments are required to be — in concept and in practice — it inverted the terms from the first day, making us its servants.

No analysis, no project to address the debacle of our public services, could be purely objective if there is no recognition of the basic causes and if it does not conceive of their eradication as a first step.

As in the oldest and and most rancid monarchies, Cuba is marked by many small fiefdoms. With the disadvantage that our offspring of feudalism reached a high in that it ceased to be functional even for the king’s own interests, and turned into  just a surreal counterproductive nightmare.

At the summit are the chiefs of the regime as absolute sovereigns. Then come the subordinated of power, who have their parcels distributed according to the influence of each group or individual, and how close they are to the king. In this direction the pyramid descends to the most ridiculous extreme. So anyone who is holding anything in their hands needs those who are lower on the scale, making a fiefdom of their limited domain. And in the end there are only the serfs, whom, moreover, also create tiny fiefdoms, such as public service employees.

Life right now is showing us that it was naive to think that with the opening of small businesses by the self-employed, that at least in this area headway would be made in improving customer service.

The truth is that in its fundamental aspects, the culture of good service is not enjoyed in the establishments and other means of self-employment. Both when they stop doing what they should, and when they do they should not, the way that most of the self-employed serve their clientele does not distinguish them as people who have had a change of mentality.

Negligence and sloppiness is so deeply rooted for so long among us, that it is not possible remedy it unless we start by removing the evil at its root.

José Hugo Fernándaz

Cubanet, 18 November 2013

The Cuban Adjustment Act: Does it Contribute to Demoralizing and Draining the Opposition? / Miriam Celaya, Jose Hugo Fernandez, Luis Cino,

LEY-bandera-usa-fila-dibujoHAVANA, Cuba, October, www.cubanet.org – Should the controversial law be annulled or changed? No Cuban who emigrates does so for purely ‘economic’ reasons. Hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens, persecuted or not, live freely in the U.S. thanks to this law.

“It’s hard to argue that Cubans who can come and go as they please need special considerations, normally reserved for victims of political repression,” stated the influential Chicago Tribune, referring to the Cuban Adjustment Act .

The controversial law was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1966, and provides a special procedure for Cuban-born or Cuban citizens and their accompanying spouses and children to obtain permanent residence in the United States. The Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA, its acronym in English) gives the Attorney General discretion to grant permanent residence to Cuban natives or citizens seeking their green card if they:

- have been living in the United States for at least 1 year
- have been admitted or have been granted permission in advance
- are acceptable as immigrants

The Cuban regime’s official newspaper describes the Cuban Adjustment Act as “murderous”. It has stated that the law was passed in order to encourage Cubans to leave the country illegally, thus endangering their lives under the illusion of the American dream.

The Cuban Adjustment Act was not won over by the Cuban-American right; it was created by the Democratic administration of Lyndon Johnson for thousands of Cubans whose admission process was changed to “fleeing from a communist regime” from “refugees under threat of persecution”.

But, with the passing of the migration reform that became effective in Cuba and that – it’s said — allows for more liberal granting of passports, for most Cubans to come and go at will, and for the actions of President Barack Obama in 2009 to facilitate travel to the Island by Cuban-Americans, Cubans arriving in the U.S. benefit from the Cuban Adjustment Act, and, after a year in the U.S. return to the Island, carrying goods and merchandise.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio [R., Florida] is of the opinion that the 47-year old law giving Cubans special status to obtain permanent residence in the United States should be “re-examined”.

Two other Cuban Republicans in Florida, Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Díaz-Balart of Miami, also have called for changes to the law.

“The Cuban community in the United States is divided”, says Jaime Suchlike, director of the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami (UM). Some have family they wish to be in contact with, while others say the law removes any motivation for people to remain in Cuba and confront the government.

Cubanet wanted to know the opinion of three of its writers:

Miriam Celaya’s Opinion

The Adjustment Act is, along with the Embargo, one of the most controversial issues on the subject of US- Cuba relations. Personally, I find it difficult to criticize a measure that has helped and continues to protect hundreds of thousands of my countrymen. However, it makes sense that there are those who believe that the law should benefit individuals who leave Cuba for political reasons and not people who view themselves as economic migrants and continue to regularly visit the Island.

That is, the fundamentals of political protection implicit in this law disappear when the individual is allowed entry and exit to and from a country with a prevailing political system which he allegedly fled. However, this should not mean the repeal of the law but its modification, with the implied compliance on the part of the emigrant with the applicable, fixed parameters of his political refugee status. Failing that, the same standards that apply to groups migrating from any other country should be taken into consideration.

LEY-cargado-de-paquetes-260x300Actually, no Cuban who emigrates does so for purely ‘economic’ issues, since the Cuban regime, dictatorial by its nature, imposes special conditions both at the economic and the socio-political levels, which are essentially the causes of the population’s constant and growing exodus. At the same time that the living conditions in Cuba impose widespread poverty, they impose political incompetence on the population, and this is the point where Cubans differ from other Latin American migrants, so conditions for Cubans and for other Latin Americans are not the same. But protection for political considerations contained in the Adjustment Act must go through the tacit recognition as beneficiary of political émigré conditions.

As for the supposed changes that have taken place with the January 2013 migration reforms and for the current relaxation of travel restrictions between Cuba and the U.S., the Cuban government remains intact in its ability to approve or not the Cuban passport from inside or outside of Cuba, to prevent the Island’s residents from traveling (depending on considerations of “public interest”), and to turn back the relative liberalization of travel, therefore, politics continue marching at the step of Cuban Emigration, and the Adjustment Act remains valid.

José Hugo Fernández’s Opinion

What action has most influenced the loss of reputation of the Cuban dictatorship and the gratitude and admiration of the ordinary Cuban towards the U.S.? The economic Embargo or the Cuban Adjustment Act, with all their many demons at both ends of the Florida Straits?

Now that some circumstances that gave rise to them have taken place, and since, in effect, they need to be amended (not canceled), let’s not forget that making comparisons at a political level is not only political ineptness, it is also an inhumane act.

Hundreds of thousands of our countrymen live in the U.S. today as civilized citizens, humble but free, thanks to the Cuban Adjustment Act, whether they belong or not within the group persecuted by the regime, another assessment that seems to greatly matter to politicians, but seems not to have much value when it comes to evaluating the population of a country that, as a whole, is victim and hostage of politics.

Doesn’t stripping that law of its eminently humanitarian character, thus reducing it to a mere political instrument turn it into something as wrong as those who allege that it should not benefit Cubans exclusively, forgetting that in Latin-America, and perhaps even worldwide there isn’t another country with a dictatorship as iron-clad, impoverishing, cruel and long as that of Cuba?

Luis Cino’s Opinion

The Cuban Adjustment Act, passed in 1966 to regulate admission to the United States for those fleeing the Castro regime in a sense has been overtaken by the modification of the Cuban emigration laws. Since many Cubans living in the U.S. abuse the law, it would have to be re-evaluated and modified, but not eliminated.

LEY-cola-embajada-usa-habana-300x228The elimination of the law, which the Castro regime has branded as “murderous” would be to treat the regime to a victory. It would serve as its version of “those who leave Cuba do so for economic, not political reasons, just like emigrants from any other third world country.”

As long as the dictatorship exists, there will be Cubans who will try to flee. The elimination of the Cuban Adjustment Act would leave no hope for those who don’t have the means to leave legally, or to qualify for the program of 20,000 annual visas for Cubans that the US has had in existence since 1994.

We should also review the “wet-foot dry-foot” policy and reformulate the policies of the Refugee Department of SINA [U.S. Interest Section] which is used by many as a springboard to leave the country, contributing to demoralizing and draining the opposition.

Translated by Norma Whiting

From Cubanet, 22 October 2013

San Rafael Boulevard: Showcase of Failure / José Hugo Fernández

blvd 1 sAN-RAFAEL-E-iNDUSTRIA-300x225HAVANA, Cuba, October, www.cubanet.org – What was Raul Castro thinking when, some days ago, in a meeting with the Council of Ministers, he said they are “doing experiments in order to” address the effects of the aging of the Cuban population? It’s not that one wants to take a shot at everything our chiefs say, but it would be easy to understand the reasons we start to tremble as soon as we hear the word “experiment” on their lips.

blvd 2 San-Rafael-Y-aGUILA-300x225For example, could they be thinking about experimenting with the abandoned elders who have now turned Havana’s San Rafael Boulevard into a showcase of the futility, lack of attention and neglect of the regime?

It’s enough to walk a few blocks on this populous street to form a rough opinion of the drama of the old people whose fate rests on the streets of Havana, without any family support and without any government help, which now and again brings the police down on them, piling them into their cages like mangy dogs.

Blvd 3 San-Rafael-y-Consulado-300x225“To the old people who have to be cared for as if they were children, especially those who have been working,” Raul Castro also said at that meeting, which also scares us, not only for fear of what could happen to the children if the authorities stuck literally to their words, but for the exception they make with respect to “those who have been working.” Did he mean to say that those who didn’t work for the State have no right to be cared for in their old age? And how will these bureaucrats classify these old people, who have no record nor identification nor more property other than the rags they are wearing, to make it clear who deserves or doesn’t deserve to be cared for according to their former occupations?

Blvd 4 San-Rafael-y-Prado-225x300Although the chiefs pretend not to take notice, as disheartening as is the increasing aging of the Cuban population, so is the aging of the Fidelist system, not only with regards to the ages of its principal representatives. Also, and especially, the ton of years they have remained imperturbably with the upper hand, anchored in the same speech and in the same aberrant and retrograde experiments of yesteryear.

Thus, I see they have nothing left but to experiment with themselves, retiring together, now that there is still time, as the only way to stop the tragedy of our elderly homeless, as well as so many others who were motive and today are an impediment to the solution.

José Hugo Fernández

7 October 2013

From Cubanet

Called to be Mosquito Hunters / Jose Hugo Fernandez

mujeres-cadetes-cubanas_internet-300x242HAVANA, Cuba, September, www.cubanet.org – The generalship of the regime is showing particular interested in incorporating women into the army. In several sites in Havana where people gather signs have been posted lately calling on young unemployed women to sign up for active military service. The proposal includes two supposedly tempting benefits: a starting salary of 450 Cuban pesos a month (the basic salary of professionals in Cuba), and the chance to take advantage of the so-called Order 18, of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, which allows them to opt for university majors of their choice, with study facilities, according to their new circumstances.

Suddenly, one might think that this project is another nod from the regime to international progressives, whose members might easily have noticed the rancid sexism that prevails in the uniformed forces on the Island, where, if they are not abundant, there is also a lack of women, though they fill ornamental roles.

It seems then, that among the “reforms” to update their particular socialism, the generals resolved to finally grant women their rightful place among the ranks. However, if that were the purpose, it’s thinly reflected in some of the details of the call. For example, the professional salaries (which aren’t) that these young women will be paid from the start, don’t seem targeted to stimulate their attraction to the military life, because during their first two years they will work as civilians in the mosquito vector campaign, work already performed by hundreds of thousands of women and men (for a much lower salary) without the academic requisites they are demanding from potential candidates.

So these girls are not going to serve directly as the olive-green uniformed, nor are they going to study in the military academies to become technicians and officers in the army. Apparently, their recruitment will not entail any direct benefit to the FAR. They are being called to take on a civilian task, for which they will receive a “privileged” salary, along with other facilities, on behalf of an employer who does not need them.

Anuncio-de-Reclutamiento-de-mujeres-para-las-FAR-colocado-en-un-mercado-de-El-Cerro-en-La-Habana-Foto-de-Jose-Hugo-Fernandez-300x200

Ad to recruit women for FAR posted in a market in El Cerro in Havana – Photo by Jose Hugo Fernandez

This leaves some doubts in the air, in addition to two or three half-baked conjectures.

Is the call nothing more than a new strategy to confront the practice of prostitution, continually growing and more scandalous among young Cuban women? Do the generals really believe that with a salary equivalent to less than 20 CUC a month, and offers of university entrance, they are going to manage to recruit girls en masse for their later control under the military regime? If so, why summon only those with twelve years of schooling? And why does it have to military who take on an eminently civil responsibility? Is it that the civil institutions are not sufficiently reliable, or they can only attract these young women with the economic incentive needed to inflate the payrolls, only to encourage these young women?

Any effort is welcome to try to contain the marked tendency of young Cuban women today towards prostitution. But paying a professional salary to high school graduates to devote themselves to hunting mosquitoes for two years, doesn’t seem a very lucid approach, neither in terms of civic rescue, nor as a response to the demands of the gender advocates.

To make matters worse, the decision contains at least two staggering inconsistencies. On the one hand, those who work in the mosquito control campaign have had their wages lowered recently, to the point that these girls would earn 100 Cuban pesos more to do the same job, but with less experience. On the other hand, it represents a useless swelling of payrolls, at exactly that time when they’re talking about laying off the hundreds of thousands of State employees as the regime insists on the need to eliminate unproductive jobs.

The anxiety of the generals before the imperative to win the support of these girls is understandable. Especially if we give credence to the assumption that the heir to the throne, Mariela Castro, convinced them that any good work they undertake against prostitution, shall be promptly rewarded by the praise of liberal forums and the international press. But it wouldn’t cost them anything to chart their strategies better, so as not to so obviously shoot themselves in the foot.

José Hugo Fernández. Note : The books of this author can be purchased here.

From Cubanet

27 September 2013

The Party Hasn’t Died, It’s Rotted Alive / Jose Hugo Fernandez

party hasn't died 19342-fotografia-g-300x152HAVANA, Cuba , September, www.cubanet.org – Out of every ten members of the Communist Youth League, when they get to the age when they should become members of the Cuban Communist Party (CCP), or, on the contrary, become politically deactivated, only two are willing to maintain their membership; and of those two, only one ends up joining the ranks of the CCP. It’s an open secret racing through Havana these days. Meanwhile, other classified information, that also passes through the gossip chain, makes it clear that the Party is down to a conga step, whether by old age or the death of its members, or the numerous requests to step down for family reunification abroad, or simply because of disappointment.

At this rate, soon the regime’s chieftains will have to order their followers to take to the streets to collect aspiring communists, just as they now stockpile little cans of beer from the trash to recycle them for industry. They should also remodel that bubbly slogan according to which men die but the Party is immortal, because although it’s not dead yet (and it just may not die on time, the Party is rotting alive.

This is a double oxymoron, I know, because in some sense if can’t die because it was born dead, nor can it rot because it was born rotten. But the fact is that its old self-image as the revolutionary vanguard of the people has been hopelessly hurled over the precipice. And despite how much they try to hide their surprise, it is a well-known secret that the chieftains are losing the very few hairs remaining on their heads realizing the way in which the number of 800,000 Cuban communists (as per Raul Castro’s own declaration in April, 2011) keeps getting smaller day by day.

Sean Penn, who has proven to be as good an actor as he is a stupid idiot in politics, said recently that in free elections in Cuba the Communist Party would win eighty percent of the vote. As soon as we stop laughing, perhaps it’s worth clarifying that, judging by the good news we hear, not even eighty percent of the remaining members would now vote for their own party, even if they do represent an insignificant number.

What’s more, if before 1959 the Communist Party earned five percent of Cubans’ votes, that percentage seems an exaggeration this days. And at the rate it’s going, it will be one as well, even in the Party nuclei.

Not that the chieftains need a party to dominate Cuba. And much less so now, when the strength of having existed so much time virtually, it is passing from a solid to a gas. However, although it no longer has any influence among the population, it continues to serve as a mask to disguise their system of monarchical power, especially to their friends and accomplices abroad, like Sean Penn, socialists from the belly button down, who insist on seeing our dictatorship as a beacon, and the people as animals in the zoo, who are attractive only when viewed from afar and behind the bars.

Certainly it is a source of embarrassment when those who, from Hollywood, or from American universities, or from their sanctums in Europe or Latin American, or even from some prestigious international organizations like the United Nations, persist in giving credit to a tyrannical edict like that which orders us, through the fifth article of the Constitution of the Republic, to see: “The Communist Party of Cuba, following José Martí and Marxist-Leninist, the organized vanguard of the Cuban nation, is the highest governing force of or our society and of the State…”

Are they really ignorant, these gentlemen, of the historic and deeply rooted lack of influence of the Party among our ordinary people? Not now, not even in what we could call its better times. Meanwhile, the more its membership expanded, the less effective and influential it was. The more it is promoted by propaganda as the vanguard of the masses, the less able it has been to attract by its virtues and examples. What the Communists here should be to the leaders of the Revolution, with regards to popular recognition and assimilation (not acclamation), has had to be paid with a fictitious existence as a political party while serving as a repressive instrument of power, more antagonistic as it becomes more omnipresent. Don’t Sean Penn and his gang know this?

Are they also unaware that always, but particularly so today, the ideas, the plans, the dogmas of the Communist Party represent the most orthodox and backward, schematic, rigid, intolerant, incontestable, sectarian, the most obsolete of our contemporary history? Do they not also know that, for most Cubans it does not and never has represented real power, but rather nothing more than the uselessness and long and tedious harangues with no substance?

I speak, of course, of the Party as an institution, as well as its representatives in government, which have little to do with much of the rank and file, usually unaware of the works of Marx, Engels, Lenin… simple ideologized game pieces, who acted and act from inertia, following orders from above, and apparently only just now, in a rush, perhaps, to reclaim their guts, having begun to think with their own heads.

From Cubanet

About the author

jhfernandez.thumbnailJosé Hugo Fernández is the author, among other works, of the novels El clan de los suicidas, Los crímenes de Aurika, Las mariposas no aletean los sábados and Parábola de Belén con los Pastores, as well as the story collections La isla de los mirlos negros and Yo que fui tranvía del deseo, and the book of chronicles Siluetas contra el muro. He lives in Havana where he has worked as an independent journalist since 1993.

4 September 2013

Cooperatives: Like the Cries of the Dying / Jose Hugo Fernandez

HAVANA, Cuba, August, www.cubanet.org — A very brief stop at a Havana park, El Curita (at the corner of Reina and Galiano streets), provides enough time to gauge the opinions of riders of the new public transport cooperative that serves the Havana-Boyeros-Santiago de las Vegas corridor, among the most populous in the capital. In general the consensus is that the fleet of small buses that serve this route were operating better before the switch to cooperative management even though, to much dismay, there has been no subsequent reduction in fare.

Since these buses were managed directly by the state before being taken over by the cooperative, we can already compare how good service was just a short time ago versus how bad it is today.

In Artemesia, one of the other provinces chosen as a test site for cooperative management of public transport, the flood of complaints from riders attracted the attention of the independent press. Meanwhile, the cooperative members themselves, who have been on the job barely a month, cite basic shortages (they rent rather than own their vehicles and do not have access to wholesale markets) as justification for the poor service and changes in ticket prices.

Cuba’s bigwigs believe these “new” cooperatives will provide the magic formula for completing the latest phase of their totalitarian dictatorship without embarrassment.

Looking at it from the standpoint of the world’s fatuous leftists — which is to say as a means for creating new social and economic relationships based on equality, mutual aid and solidarity — the cooperative movement must seem like manna from heaven. The hope is that it will revitalize the regime’s goal of being able to remain masters of all they surmise while simultaneously making it look as though they are seeking innovative ways of raising efficiency and productivity through a clever process of economic decentralization.

Anyone feeling bewildered by the avalanche of prohibitions and assaults with which the regime harasses the self-employed —  taking place just at the moment when many had hoped it would support and even promote their activities — might well find their confusion summed up in one word: cooperatives. The bigwigs have realized that they need not run of risk of privatization (even on a small scale), or even of small business development, which one way or another always leads to free thinking and independence.

By creating cooperatives, the bigwigs hope to make everyone believe (to use another well-worn phrase from Lampedusa) that things are changing even as everything remains the same. And so naively convinced are they that their plan is working that they feel they have the luxury of dismissing and marginalizing the self-employed — the only group that, for better or worse, was proving capable of pulling their chestnuts out of the fire.

Like the cries of a dying man, they are now publicizing, as they typically do, the existence of 124 cooperatives which have been operating since July 1 in sectors such as transport, construction, trash collection and farmers’ markets.

Of course, the project is part of the charming “updating of the economic model,” which has been summed up in black and white and embalmed in what is known as the Guidelines of the Sixth Congress of the Cuban Communist Party. One of its chief promoters is Grisel Tristá, whose position carries the mile-long title Chief of the Group for Corporate Perfection of the Permanent Commission for Implementation and Development. She has charmingly and quite literally stated that cooperatives “allow the state to divest itself of responsibilities that are not of transcendental importance to economic development.”

However, another expert — the president of the Society of Cooperatives of the National Association Cuban Accountants and Economists, Alberto Rivera — was talking no less charmingly about the need to train the public to understand that the promotion of these cooperatives represents a deceptive hoax. Rivera believes they were intended to serve somewhat like spare tires and were given only a passive, short-term role. True cooperatives (even as perceived by the world’s leftists) would be fundamentally incompatible with the bureaucratic, anti-democratic and suffocating nature of the Cuban regime.

What is most laughable about this is all the clucking by the official press over the publicity surrounding this issue. They insist that cooperatives are being set up with the desire and support of their members.

Of the first one hundred twenty-four that have been set up, one hundred twelve started out as state-owned businesses. This is another way of saying they were failed, insolvent enterprises headed by corrupt, inept administrators who later automatically became presidents of their cooperatives. Only twelve started out in the private sector, established, it is said, by self-employed individuals.

Rogelio Regalado, member of another organization called the Commission for the Implementation of the Reforms, has clearly described how certain bankrupt state enterprises underhandedly manipulate their workers by suggesting that they “voluntarily” become partners in a cooperative, telling them, “If there are no workers willing to become partners, the property and assets are liable to be auctioned off.”

Two hundred twenty-two small and medium sized state businesses — all problematic, unproductive and in crisis — were converted to cooperatives which are in theory fully autonomous. A wide range of services — including fresh fruit markets, restaurants and even shrimp farms — will come under this new form of management for which they have already coined the charming slogan “economic solidarity.” In other words, there will be more of the same.

It is a ruse intended to delay access to private property while they still can so as to hamper the country’s real agents of economic progress. This makes a mockery of consumers — in other words the public — which cannot find alternatives to satisfy their own demands and instead must continue subsidizing those of their exploiter, which is to say the regime.

About the author

José Hugo Fernández is an author whose works include the novels The Suicide Clan, The Crimes of Aurika, Butterflies Don’t Flutter on Saturday and The Parable of Bethlehem and the Shepherds. He is also the author of two short story collections, The Island of Blackbirds and I Who Was the Streetcar Desire, as well as a collection of essays, Shadows Against the Wall. He lives in Havana, where he has worked as an independent journalist since 1993.

From Cubanet

28 August 2013