Over and Out / Juan Juan Almeida

According to a note in the newspaper Granma, the Council of State, on a proposal from its President–Raul Castro, or “El Chino” as we call him–agreed to promote to Minister of Culture the compañero Julian Gonzalez Toledo. A suspicious agreement, knowing that Toledo doesn’t understand much about culture because he spent his whole life at the Senior Party Cadre School.

Now the curious comment that the ex-minister Bernal will be assigned other tasks: a nice shower accompanied by a white guayabara and a straw sombrero, so when he’s bored on the “pajama plan” (as we call forced retirement), he can go out in his backyard and entertain himself watering his plants. That is, if he leaves the house.
6 March 2014

Escape to the Rhythm of Samba / Juan Juan Almeida

The medics Dorayda Igarza Ayala and Walter Jesús Cotarelo Carbonell join the list of the deserters of the Cuban mission in Brazil.

Their names were published by the Daily Official of the Union by reporting that they have been officially excluded from the program of collaboration, and their permission to practice medicine in South America has been suspended. The press release asserts the whereabouts of these Cubans are unknown; having won the esteem of the community in which they served they escaped their mission during carnival. Though this story of fleeing during carnival brings back memories of the spectacular poem Moncada “It was the morning of Santa Ana”, luckily for the doctors it wasn’t the same city nor the same people.

Translated by E.C and A.I

18 March 2014

It’s Always the Weakest Link in the Chain that Breaks / Juan Juan Almeida

According to the newspaper Granma, five directors of state-owned chains of shops have been suspended from their posts, and five others have been disciplined because of illegalities in the sale of cooking tools to customers and distorting the credit policy implemented by the Cuban government.

The disciplinary measures implemented by the Minister of Internal Commerce, Mary Blanca Ortega Barredo, were applied to executives of the CIMEX corporation, the TRD Caribe chain and the Union of Business and Cookery of Havana. Up to that point, everything’s fine. But I would like to know who punished the person behind the ridiculous national energising campaign, which obliged many Cubans to buy Chinese refrigerators which don’t refrigerate, electric saucepans which don’t cook, and hotplates which never worked. These people are now up to their eyes in debt. That is what, in Cuba, and in China, is called getting swindled.

Translated by GH

15 March 2014

Homage to the Cuban Press / Juan Juan Almeida

This March 12th, commemorating Cuban Press Day, the ex-head of culture, Dr Armando Hart Dávalos (who a while ago went off his rocker) offered an award to the Cuban journalists. During the solemn proceedings, Señora Magda Resik, director of Havana Radio, came out with an over-the-top, “The most important obligation for Cuban journalists is the immense task of appraising the work of Jose Martí, and it is…”

I am sorry to interrupt the sentence, which is certainly very journalistic; but I think that the obligation of the press is nothing to do with Martí, but rather it is toward the Cuban people who, thanks to the disastrous work of the press, continue to be misinformed and have cataracts in their eyes.

Translated by GH

15 March 2014

SOS Venezuela: The Cruelty of Some, and the Indifference of Many / Juan Juan Almeida

A year after his death, it would be unjust to deny that the ex-president Hugo Chávez had the ability to be a leader, and a most convincing negotiating weapon: oil.

Supported by this, and with the Cuban government as co-conspirators, he was able to put together a kind of Latin American integration, which turned into a monolithic, geopolitical and economic bloc, whose principal role was, and continues to be, to assist him in the regional context.

The cost of all this expansion, was national division. Partition which he master-minded using his well-known ability to confront internal problems with arrogant creativity and the power to manage people.

After he died, Maduro’s big objective, as successor, was to reunify the nation; but it’s a difficult job, Venezuela has turned into an apparent democracy within one of the most unequal societies in America, with the added twist of having lost all sense of tolerance.

The time bomb exploded. The official forces repressed, and the young people were not afraid. Venezuela is splitting again, and expresses it in demonstrations, many against and a good many others in favour of Nicolás Maduro’s government.

The country’s situation is critical, and it is shameful to see how some social network pyromaniacs and followers and “likers”, making out to be heroic “patriots”, try to avoid dialogue and with total irresponsibility (from the comfort of their homes), with a coca-cola in hand, encourage confrontation, as if the followers of Twitter and Facebook were more important than the victims of the conflict.

I believe the prospects for the Venezuelans are predictable, and I can’t imagine that there will be–in the very short term–a national move back toward democracy. All the more so following the delayed and timid OEA (Organisation of American States) resolution adopted by a 29-3 vote, and not a consensus, because, as expected, the ALBA bloc countries and CARICOM had a majority and opposed the adoption of a stronger and more effective resolution.

Thanks to the sophistries of the then president Hugo Chávez, with the benefit of advice direct from Havana, the senior secretary general of the OEA, José Miguel Insulsa, without detracting from his demonstrated experience in affairs of state,  lost part of his leadership within the organisation he presides over.

It has become evident that the OEA has structural problems, that it needs an overall review, has ceased to be an entity for valid dialogue for this hemisphere, and  today is simply the governments of Caracas and Havana, which, without belonging to it (Cuba was suspended until 2009) and, like María Ramos’ kitty [a Cuban prostitute’s cat, which she blamed for the death of her pimp], have a majority of votes among the member states of this organisation.

Insulsa, as an additional post-diplomacy move, should ask, even if his request is rejected, to visit Venezuela to see personally on the spot what the situation is and in that way be able to avoid the different very biased versions of what happened put forward by one side or the other.

In this crucial moment, the important thing is not the cruelty of some, but the indifference of many. Politics is very serious, and we are all responsible, and cannot just leave it up to the politicians.

Translated by GH

11 March 2014

Leopoldo Lopez’s Strategy / Juan Juan Almeida

Leopold Lopez giving himself up for arrest in Caracas

The name of Albert Einstein was considered for a time to be synonymous with academic failure; Thomas Edison too, who studied for only two years in the formal education system; also Beny Moré, known to all Cubans as El Bárbaro del Ritmo (The Rhythm Barbarian) and who, with a lot of effort, learned to read the notes on the musical stave.

These, and other examples, tell me that I form part of that group of persons who, without scientific evidence, consider that you are born with your talent; and then later, as it should do, the education system refines your innate abilities.

In politics, in my opinion, the same thing happens, since I don’t accept the notion that a leader is developed from nothing. Leadership is the ability to communicate with a group of people, influence their feelings so that they let you lead, share the group’s ideas, stick with them, and carry out those actions or activities necessary to achieve one or more objectives.

For example, and with respect, in my country (I am referring to both the ranks of the government and the opposition) I can see heads; but not leaders. In Venezuela, it’s a different story; Leopoldo López, great great grandson of Concepción Amestoy Palacios (niece of Simón Bolívar), and of Cristóbal Mendoza (first president of Venezuela), was born with a political predisposition and with leadership in his genes.

I am not trying to put myself up as a historian, I am not, or to relate the details of why we are now fixing our attention on Caracas; but I do want to say that in a similar situation, any hysterical fool, irresponsible bigmouth, or prominent sick person could have dragged that country towards a civil war and an irreparable bloodbath. But only a political tactician is able to take a government which is powerful, arrogant and ruthless to the position of checkmate.

Calling a historic march and delivering it, Leopoldo López showed his individual vulnerability; making it evident that his defence does not depend on the much overvalued cyberspace, but on the real world, on a popular mass, above all students, who live outside of the computer screen and of the “liking” of the social networks. So much so that, after he was put in prison, we have seen a considerable increase in real people protesting on the streets of Caracas.

The president Nicolás Maduro, is on the point of getting burnt by the hot potato in his hands. He knows that if he sets López free, he runs the risk of demoralisation, and the feared result of loss of control; but if he leaves him in jail, and the protests continue, the danger could be even greater.

Calling for dialogue was an important and very helpful decision by the Bolivarian bus driver, who, for the moment, counts on the support of the armed forces and institutional power; but now the opposition possesses the switch which can ignite the extremely powerful and explosive popular bomb.

The official forces stomp on the thousands of young people in the streets, who are not afraid and appear to shower themselves with Red Bull. I think that we have come to the moment for sitting down and discussing everything. The freeing of Leopoldo López, the unification of a divided country, the urgent recovery of a people … and including a negotiated exit for Maduro.

This time Venezuela will win, thanks to the opportune action of a wise and intelligent leader.

Translated by GH

4 March 2014

Alcohol for Everybody / Juan Juan Almeida

The workers of the Nauyú distillery of Ciego de Ávila, every day produce some 50 thousand litres of alcohol by making the best use of the final syrup of the sugar industry.

In spite of the fact that the factory has been running for seven decades, without proper maintenance, its collective has committed itself to producing 90 thousand hectolitres this year, a great achievement. They envisage installing a turbogenerator and a boiler this year in order to guarantee continual production after the end of the in-crop season. The Nauyú distillery is one of the best in Cuba in terms of preparing the highest quality alcoholic drinks, up there with Varadero and el Mulata Silver Dry rum; which are famous in the national and also the international market.

Super production and super publicity, understanding that alcohol is important so as to have a confused population, but where is the promised milk for the children? And who cares about it?

26 February 2014

A Cheeky Robbery / Juan Juan Almeida

Hundreds of paintings were stolen from the National Fine Arts Museum in Havana. According to the police, this would make it the most important embezzlement of Cuban pictorial heritage in the last decades.

The works were in the warehouse of the former building of the Department of Technical Investigations, which now belongs to the entity after being remodeled. Police custodians were in charge of the security of the premises, and the robbery was detected when some of these paintings began to appear in Miami, offered to art dealers.

It’s said that there’s an investigation by specialists in works of heritage and police specialists looking into the “How,” “When” and “What”; but if they were stolen from a MININT building, under police custody, and taken out of the country, the “Who” is solved: some acolyte of Alibaba with the support of the 40 thieves of the Central Committee; and the “when” and “how” stops being important.

Translated by Regina Anavy

28 February 2014

Only ETECSA, There’s Nothing Else / Juan Juan Almeida

Since the decontrol of the contracting of mobile phone services in 2008, the number of lines rented has reached almost two millions, which has given ETECSA [Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba S.A.Telecommunications Company of Cuba, which is a government owned telecoms company] an income of about $2bn. Now, with the announcement that they will include the astronomically expensive internet service with mobile phones, the Cuban state monopoly ETECSA will end up valued at about $3bn.

Good heavens, and not for one moment are they going to soften the blow by dropping their prices a little.

Translated by GH

6 March 2014

It Falls / Juan Juan Almeida

A part of the roof of the newly repaired National Bus Terminal Havana collapsed, causing severe injuries to two young people who were awaiting the arrival of relatives from the Camagüey Province.

The young people (Dayana Tejeda and Yisel Gonzalez, 23 and 25, respectively) commented that in the place where the collapse occurred there was no warning or sign of possible danger, on the contrary, was seen as a place recently remodeled. When I say, although they repair it, and repair it again… again … it falls it falls.

28 February 2014