Cuban Government: Two Strategies / Juan Juan Almeida

The man looks like himself.  That’s why, I don’t hit it off with hate.  It’s true, I was born and raised surrounded by men who love to speechify and believe themselves owners of the absolute truth, so much that they imposed it by force with total impunity.

Maybe that’s why some days ago was I surprised myself thinking that separating myself from that government group to which I am genetically tied, more than anything, was due to a strange defect or capacity that I have for accepting criticism and enjoying those insults that for some are attacks and for me, charming primitivism.

I learned.  As also I learned to look at Cuba without passion and to see that the Cuban government makes itself stronger every day relying on division and that’s why it uses two principal strategies:  one — which is a matter solely for Cuba and Cubans — and another for outdoors, directed to planetary opinion and solidarity transforming our small country in sustained headlines of magazines and news headlines.

Internally it divides society, twists co-existence and feeds the ineffective culture of confrontation between generational groups, between revolutionaries and counter-revolutionaries, desirous of prominence, but fundamentally between rich and poor because — as we already know — socialism loves the poor so much that it multiplies them to make them overrate charity.

Before the world it is something else, evident these days.  The government took advantage of the insufficient response of the international community in the face of the crisis unleashed by the spread of the Ebola virus, and executing a maneuver that besides humanitarian is attractive and magisterial, turned itself into one of the main assistance providers to western Africa sending 165 Cuban health workers and preparing, always publicly because without applause there is no victory, the departure of another group with 296 doctors and nurses.

Ebola went out of control in such a dizzying way that it made the health systems of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone collapse; then Cuba, the greater of the Antilles, the “blockaded” country, delivers with false altruism economic and human resources to the noble work of saving lives.

Impossible not to praise; before such colossal facts what does it matter to Ban Ki-Moon or any other important member of international organizations, that in Palmarito de Cauto they kick another “delinquent.”  Understand the irony, the correct thing is to say dissident.

I am not a red, I am a realist, which although it begins with R is not the same nor is it written the same.  I clarify because I also see that the Cuban opposition continues gaining popularity, above all in virtual spaces, but still it does not capitalize on the discontent of millions of people, of a real population that is disappointed by the system, that does not want to be represented by anyone who victimizes it.  They forget that Cuban society has been saturated with stories of sacrifice and raising pedestals.

Reality seems to walk in the opposite direction desired by many. Cubans want to smile and get to the end of the month without predicaments. That’s why they look with respect and even with a tad of healthy envy at the new entrepreneurs (I don’t like calling them self-employed) and at the artists that prevail at opening doors.  For them, these are the real symbols of individuality, the true vanguard and the most effective creators of popular inspiration because today even sovereignty is a personal concept.

Translated by mlk.

14 October 2014

Radio Florida Disinforms / Juan Juan Almeida

Photo taken from Payolibre.com

Radio Florida Camaguey informs of the recovery, after a ton of years, of some land covered with weeds and the invasive marabou, used until recently as trash dumps, which today according to journalistic reports in the official media, is a super achievement.

The initiative is excellent, the effort to turn a trash dump into a garden; and hopefully they will do so frequently; what is calamitous is how surprisingly quickly and in full view of everyone, gardens, parks, streets and even hospitals in Cuba become the dumps overnight. I merely challenge the mathematics, the order of the factors in this matter, if it alters the product.

18 September 2014

Cuban Children Will Celebrate World Peace Day / Juan Juan Almeida

Photo taken from Periodico Escambray

The periodical “Escambray” published a somewhat contradictory note.  It said that next Saturday Cuban children and adolescents would send a message of hope, unity, happiness and love to their contemporaries in the world and to all humankind to celebrate in advance, “de San Antonio a Maisi”, the 21st of September, the day of International Peace.  According to the spirited newspaper, Cuban youth will occupy the main plazas, parks and streets of every corner of the country in order to celebrate with different motivations between those who emphasize allegorical songs of the Revolution, stilt races, sack races, and we repeat, stilt races, sack races; stilt races, sack races; stilt races, sack races. And after so much repetition, I am not sure I know what they will celebrate.

18 September 2014

The Unknowns Behind the Cultural Exchange / Juan Juan Almeida

Before the Portuguese awning maker and salt merchant Matias Perez* disappeared in the world, already Cuba and the United States were maintaining solid ties, including cultural exchanges, which continues being today an important part of our history and identity.

Just by glancing we can find Cuban elements in American culture and vice versa, so much so that “Cuban-American” is the highest expression of that cultural ethnic fusion between both nations.

The cultural reciprocity was frequent, artists came and went constantly. The thing got complicated during the first half of the 20th century when both governments–and I’m going to tell the truth, like it or not–began to have a relationship based on political principles so conflicting that paradoxically they made the arts sector, that of the expression of the spirit and creativity, a prisoner of circumstances. Continue reading

Exclusive Sale of Honey / Juan Juan Almeida

In the city of Santiago de Cuba, they just opened a trading house specializing in honey which, according to its publicity, is one of the foods permanently present in the east of the country. The Beehive, as it’s called locally, offers customers an exclusive range of nutritional product that can be purchased in different types of bottles, making it accessible to all Santiaguans. That’s fine, but there are more important things to resolve and they are fully visible.

I marvel when I hear and read all this craziness. Honey is not a remedy for the bile accumulated over so many years of heartache. Molasses will not sweeten the national decline.

9 September 2014

August 1994: Safeguarding the Physical Well-Being of the ”Leaders of the Revolution” / Juan Juan Almeida

1994 began with uncertainty and ended in despair. A number of astrologers were in agreement: there was reason to believe something unusual would happen later that year. This was partly due, they said, to increased solar activity. In early August large solar flares occurred.

Aside from the considered opinion of those who can see everything in the stars, it was the year in which Cuba reached the low-point in the economic decline that had begun with the fall of the Soviet bloc in 1989. The crisis was exacerbated by several factors including a sugar harvest that barely amounted to four million tons and an unfortunate but predictable outbreak of polyneuritis, which forced authorities to make vast financial expenditures.

The underground economy saw record numbers of transactions, comparable to state retail sales but with prices that were twenty times lower. As a result of financial imbalance, budget deficits and excessive monetary liquidity in the hands of consumers, life in Cuba became a continuing drama, making novel attempts to flee the island illegally — the “13 de Marzo” tugboat incident and the launches from Regla and Casablanca being two examples — quite common. Continue reading

The First Cuban Forklifts / Juan Juan Almeida

Photo taken from Granma

Nelson Espinosa, director general of MONCAR, a business located in the Havana municipality of Marianao, told the newspaper Granma that the production of the first 15 Cuban forklifts, a result of collaboration with the Chinese entity Auto Caiec LTD, distinguished his business’s performance during 2013.

With 40% national integration in terms of physical components, the equipment is in a testing phase and capable of supporting up to 2.5 tons.  We are now in 2014 and they have not manufactured one more.  I suspect that the future of MONCAR is related to the manufacture of the T-34M war tanks that Raul Castro inaugurated in 1960 and these are the holy hours when he did not build even one tractor.

Translated by mlk.

18 August 2014

Don’t Talk About Tomorrow Any More, It’s Today / Juan Juan Almeida

La Demajagua, the official newspaper of provincial committee of the Cuban Communist Party of the Granma Province, reports as important news that a junior high school with an initial capacity of 520 students, is being constructed in Bayamo at a cost of 800,000 pesos. The execution, those responsible for the work assure us, is under the control of several companies, led by the Education Construction Agency. All this without any date, nor any idea when it will be available.

When these people aren’t talking about the history of yesterday, they talk about the plans for tomorrow; but they never say today. There is no doubt, that time and its ravages are the perfect pretext of the Revolution. You’ll see.

13 August 2014

Fiesta and Funeral / Juan Juan Almeida

Photo taken by Juventud Rebelde

Starting on the morning of Tuesday August 12th, we have the International Youth Day celebrations all over Cuba; but, in view of the fact that, in the words of José Ángel Maury, who is responsible for the UJC (Young Communist League) International Relations, “We have the happy coincidence that it takes place on the eve of the Commander-in-Chief Fidel’s birthday,” the climax will be a huge chorus of Cuban young people and artists singing Happy Birthday Fidel at dawn on August 13th.

And if that doesn’t seem enough, in order to make it up to three, the communist organisers have contrived to combine the festivities of the 12th with the “Yes I have a Brother” day, to commemorate the 60th birthday of the dead President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, and Fidel’s 88th. It seemed to me I was hearing my talkative grandmother when she said “If anyone doesn’t like soup, they give him three cups of it.”

Translated by GH

12 August 2014

A Troubling Harbinger of Cuba’s Future / Juan Juan Almeida

It was all much easier when we did not have names for things and you simply had to point with your finger. Back then, the difference between “this” and “that” was merely a gesture. But with the advent of letters, words, paragraphs and know-it-alls it is now more difficult to describe with any precision what the future Cuban landscape will look like.

Throughout our history we have all wanted the same thing: a lasting change that will bring about what is best for Cuba; a pluralistic, diverse, democratic country brimming with happiness. It is worth remembering that it was for this that young men fought one August 4 — on a day like today but in 1955 — in a failed assault on the Presidential Palace. But back to the topic at hand, if things continue as they are now, this “yes but no” and “more of the same” will remain constant features of national life. It is not simply a matter of trying to express what we want but of achieving a better understanding of the way to go about it.

When I set aside emotion and rely on reason, I am saddened to see that the Cuban opposition — and I say this with all due respect — is inclined to reject social reality in favor of literary fiction. Yes, they are courageous people who risk their lives in the streets, but by pursuing parallel agendas and defending personal initiatives, they make it hard to believe they can coalesce into an alternative political force or become a significant or successful social movement which, at this point in time, could encourage unanimity. Continue reading

Che’s Daughter: Doctor and Tour Operator / Juan Juan Almeida

Aleida Guevara. Photo taken from Cubadebate

Perhaps motivated by the news confirming that the documentary series “The Life and Work of Ernesto Che Guevara (1928-1967)” will become part of UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register, the eccentric and daring Dr. Aleida Guevara, daughter of the Argentine guerrilla, published a verbal debauchery in the Bayamo newspaper La Demajagua, where she invites all Cubans to visit the Library of Alexandria.

Forgive my ignorance, but I can’t understand what Che Guevara has to do with Ptolemy; and, ignoring this trifle, her writing seems more like a travelogue written under the influence of mate de coca.

And if the doctor’s invitation is paid for by the government, as she is, then we’ll meet in Alexandria. I would like that.

31 July 2014

The Wasted Bolivian Summit and the Words of Raul Castro / Juan Juan Almeida

Bolivian President Evo Morales and Raul Castro

With much of the world caught up in the unharmonious rivalry of football’s World Cup, which ended last Sunday in Brazil, few people were paying attention to the conclusion of the funereal G77+China summit.

It was attended by a couple of serious figures, a group of spermatzoon zombies and a broad spectrum of political antiques who, given their actions, did not seem to be living in an era in which theoretical debates, respect for inequality and discord dominate.

This event — a theatrical fantasy based on an esoteric work of fiction — ended on June 15 in the city of Santa Cruz, Bolivia. It was yet another portrayal of lunacy, one in which uncreative delegates gave insipid speeches full of florid mumbo-jumbo. Continue reading