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

Raul Castro’s Plans for Venezuela and Russia / Juan Juan Almeida

The grass, the cows, and the man; in the food chain every species expects a greater predator. International politics works in the same way. The government of Venezuela, for example, manipulates world, regional and even local opinion, publicizing the work it does in the Barrio Adentro, Milagro, Sonrisa, Negra Hipólita, José Gregorio Hernández, Moncada missions, etc, etc, etc.

Seeming to clean the castle but in reality they market popular health as if it were a pedestal, in order to save the King and to entertain the country. Using their own sick people to bring the country to its knees, to divide it into tribes that confront each other, to denigrate the spirit and to darken the pride of millions of Venezuelans.

It is a tragedy for many is fortunate for a few. There is nothing of altruism, much less of kindness; it is simply a crime that, given the necessity, becomes socially acceptable but continues to be exactly like any criminal.

Continue reading

Hammer Blow to Freedom of Expression / Juan Juan Almeida

Magazine cover

The editors of the Catholic magazine Laity Space, a sociological debate organ of the Archdiocese of Havana, were removed from their posts. Roberto Veiga and Lenier Gonzalez announced it in a brief note that is circulating via email: “We want to inform you that after a decade of intense work — in which we tried to help construct pathways of prosperity and stability for our country — we have been relieved of our duties as Editor and Deputy Editor of the magazine.” It continues, “It has been a true pleasure to have been able to share this time with all of you clinging to the desire for the possibility of building a better Cuba. Without you this beautiful adventure would not have taken place.”

To put it bluntly, the Cuban authorities are afraid, very afraid of the word.

Translated by mlk.

13 June 2014

Summer Entertainment / Juan Juan Almeida

Because of stubbornness, I always trip on the same rock and end up insulted.

The following are summer vacation possibilities in Cuba; I am not exagerrating and take no position one way or the other: Due to our intense heat, most people opt for the beach and camping, but this is also a good time to talk about the magic of libraries. The fine arts entice us with their forms and colors, so visiting museums is a good choice.

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to break away from the crowd, meet up with some friends, stroll through the galleries and you will see how gratified both body and soul can be. Cinema, television and radio accompaniment offer diversions that should not be overlooked during the summer season, when a willingness to make the most of it will make all the difference. Certainly, these are options for Cubans without access to hard currency.

Please, more respect by and for our people, these are not alternatives for summer vacation.  These are typical weekend activities for any family in the world.  Enough.

Translated by mlk.

9 July 2014

New Teachers Graduation / Juan Juan Almeida

The provincial director of education in Holguin estimates that the graduation of hundreds of new Education professionals from the province’s two teacher training centers will favorably impact the availability of teachers in the coming school year. The recent graduates will offer classes in the different provinces of the country’s east.

Margarita McPherson Sayu, Vice Minister of Education, said that the entrance of the new teachers into the educational system will mean not only that the faculties will again nurture youth, but also that well-trained professionals will together with the rest help make the leap to the path of quality.

Works for me, as my grandmother used to say. I do not question the quality of the new professionals, I refer to this leap; because the deterioration of instruction in Cuba is so, but so great, that really they need a magician.

Translated by mlk.

10 July 2014

Secrets and Illnesses Among Cuban Doctors in Venezuela / Juan Juan Almeida

The Cuban government, as a tactic, is entrenched in silence, compartmentalization and secrets. This is the reason why, even today, in the age of the internet and despite several defections, it is not common to find real news that described the medical mission in Venezuela from inside.

The subject is “top secret.” The island’s government prefers to hide problems, instead of preventing them with information. Any data that concerns the medical collaboration is considered “classified” and, consequently, remains guarded by the Cuban and Venezuelan special services.

So, weeks ago on the publication of an article titled, “Cuban mission in Venezuela in danger,” the bloodhounds got all upset and lost their cool, and with the momentum of hunters set off in chaotic pursuit. But, on not finding those guilty of “leaking information,” they decided to grab the most likely bidder as a scapegoat so as not to face the resounding echo of their own incompetence. Continue reading

Cuba is Going, But into Exile* / Juan Juan Almeida

According to the authorities, Cubans are now allowed to travel, they can own businesses, and now Cuba is the world champion of freedom. However, even so, desertions from the country continue apace. Within the span of a few hours, ten dancers from the National Ballet of Cuba via Puerto Rico, two tennis players who competed in the Davis Cup, and the members of the women’s Cuban field hockey team, all decide to cross the border to the United States.

Raúl can say what he wants, but judging from events, things — meaning Cuba — are going from bad to worse.

* Translator’s Note:  The first part of the title of this post, “Cuba Va”,  is a play on the title of – and lyrics in – a song by Cuban folk singer Silvio Rodriguez. In the sense that Rodriguez uses the phrase, it can be interpreted as “Cuba will survive” or “Cuba will prevail”.  But the phrase can also be read literally, as in “Cuba is Going” — which is the sense in which the blogger is using it.

Translated by:  Alicia Barraqué Ellison

13 June 2014