Soldiers in Business: Bad Deal / Cubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez

Soldiers in the economy: A bad deal (photo EFE)
Soldiers in the economy: A bad deal (photo EFE)

cubanet square logoCubanet.org, Luis Cino Alvarez, Havana, 30 May 2016 – The survival of the Castro regime increasingly appears to be in the hands of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR). And not only because of the generals who run some of the most important ministries but also because of the general-businessmen of the Enterprise Administration Group (GAESA).

GAESA, whose managing director is Colonel Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas, father of one of Raul Castro’s grandsons, invoices more than a billion dollars a year. It has sugar plants, the TRDs (Hard Currency Collection Stores), Caribe and Gaviota, which impose abusive taxes on commodity prices, the Almacenes Universales SA, farms, mills, telecommunications and computer industry, trade zones, etc. And if that were not enough, having most of the hotel and marina capacity, it governs tourism, one of the country’s main sources of foreign income. Continue reading “Soldiers in Business: Bad Deal / Cubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez”

Some things borrowed from capitalism have functioned successfully in FAR’s enterprises.

At the beginning of 1985, after the shipwreck of the Economic Planning and Management System copied from the Soviet model, FAR implemented the Business Improvement System on a trial basis in the company “Ernesto Guevara,” in Manicaragua, Villa Clara, the largest facility of the Military Industries Union.

The experiment was supervised by General Casas Regueiro, who kept General Raul Castro, then FAR Minister, regularly informed about the matter.

Two years later, the experiment was extended to the military industries throughout the country.

The Business Improvement System (SPE), which Raul Castro called “the most profound and transcendent change to the economy,” copied capitalist forms of organization and administration: corporations, joint stock companies, management contracts and partnerships with foreign companies.

SPE permitted the Cuban army to ride out the worst years of the Special Period. If it was not introduced on a national level it was for fear of its consequences, which would have been worse than those of shock therapy.

In 1994, Fidel Castro, pressured by the deteriorating situation, agreed that a group of businesses from the Basic Industry Ministry would enter the SPE on an experimental basis. Later 100 more businesses were incorporated.

In 1997, the Fifth Congress of the Communist Party adopted the SPE as an economic strategy. After Raul’s succession, the extension of business improvement to the entire Cuban economy was conceived as a long-term strategy for preserving the status quo.

At the end of the last decade, when more than 400 businesses that implemented SPE were the most efficient in the country in terms of costs and results, it seemed that the Cuban economy was beginning to move to general application of that system. But it was a too-artificial model to extrapolate it to the rest of the national economy. To begin with, the unaffordable and disastrous enterprise system in Cuban pesos was not compatible with business improvement in dollars.

With SPE, the military men played the economy to advantage. Their businesses bore fruit in a greenhouse environment. They did not have to face labor or capital competition, they had unlimited access to state resources and benefitted from disciplined labor accustomed to obeying orders. Production factors, prices and marketing were at their disposal. Investments were provided by foreign businessmen prepared for unscrupulous deals in exchange for a minimum participation in the businesses.

Although they have had relatively modest success, there is not much to learn from the FAR businesses. And that is because a nation is not governed as if it were an armored division.* War is one thing, and managing a country’s economy efficiently is something else, although both things use bellicose language interchangeably.

FAR, dragging its old slogans and obsolete Soviet weapons, also reflects the system’s wear and tear and the distortions of current Cuban society.

Military men crammed into businesses can become problematic in the not-too-long term. Distanced from the interests of the people, they contribute to the system’s continuity. But they will always be stalked by temptation. Contact with foreign capitalists foments greed and corruption. This has been happening for some years.

When they feel their privileges and properties granted by the proprietary state threatened, their loyalty to the bosses or their successors will be put to the test. We will see what will happen then.

About the Author: Luis Cino Alvarez

*Translator’s note: An allusion to Cuba’s hero of independence José Martí’s words to General Maximo Gomez during the independence struggle: “A nation is not founded, General, as a military camp is commanded.”

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

Twenty Independent Communicators to Consult in Cuba / Luis Felipe Rojas

ndependent Journalism. Illustration from "Another Waves" website
Independent Journalism. From “Another Waves”

Luis Felipe Rojas, 1 February 2016 — This list is not intended to be a “Top Ten,” as is so common on internet publications. The list of names that follows carries the history of the men and women who believe in words and images as a tool of liberation.

The independent journalists that appear below do their work in Cuba under the microscope of the apparatus of repression that we know as State Security.

Most of them suffer arbitrary arrests, they have spent long years in prison, they are violently detained, vilified and — paradoxically — are non-persons in government media. In the case of Jorge Olivera Castillo, he was sentenced to 18 years in prison in the “2003 Black Spring,” but he continues, unrepentant, to do alternative journalism. Continue reading “Twenty Independent Communicators to Consult in Cuba / Luis Felipe Rojas”

Another of those on the list is the blogger Yoani Sanchez who, among numerous international awards, holds the 2008 Ortega y Gasset Prize, given annual by the Spanish newspaper El Pais. Confirming her commitment to the journalism in which she believes, she founded the digital newspaper 14ymedio and 2014.

These are “ordinary” rank-and-file reporters, who get up each morning looking for news and accompany the victims of state bureaucracy — a way of doing journalism that has already gone on for three decades in the country, under the derision that arises from within the regime’s prisons.

I wanted to include here those who have specialized in the genre of opinion, thus helping to clarify what goes on within the country, but also preserving the sharp wit that has been missing for years in the journalism published on the island. The blame for this drought in opinion pieces is due to the jaws that are greased every morning in the offices of the Ideological Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba.

Good health for free and uncensored journalism!

Here is the list:

Regina CoyulaBlog “La Mala Letra”. BBC Mundo. La Habana.

Iván García. Diario de Cuba. Martinoticias. Diario Las Américas. La Habana.

Augusto C. San MartínCubanet. La Habana.

Serafín Morán. Cubanet. La Habana.

Ricardo Sánchez T. Cubanet. Bayamo, Granma.

Miriam Celaya14yMedio. La Habana.

Alejandro Tur V. IWP. Cienfuegos.

Juan G. Febles. Dtor Semanario Primavera Digital. La Habana.

Yoani Sánchez. Directora Diario 14yMedio. La Habana.

Iván Hernández Carrillo. Twittero. @ivanlibre Matanzas.

Yuri Valle.  Reportero audiovisual. La Habana.

Jorge Olivera Castillo.   Columnista opinión. Cubanet. La Habana.

Luz Escobar. 14yMedio. La Habana.

Luis Cino A. PD. Cubanet. La Habana.

Roberto de J. Guerra P. Dtor Agenc. Hablemos Press. La Habana.

Ernesto Pérez ChangCubanet. La Habana.

María Matienzo. Diario de Cuba. La Habana.

Bernardo Arévalo P. ICLEP. Aguada de Pasajeros. Cienfuegos.

Roberto Quiñonez H. Cubanet. Guantánamo.

Alberto M. Castelló. Cubanet. Puerto Padre. Las Tunas.

A Hero To Justify The Cuban Failure / Cubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez

What in abundance are those who distort and manipulate the ideology of José Martí (Reuters)
What we have in abundance are those who distort and manipulate the ideology of José Martí (Reuters)

We continue on without wanting to admit that if our “wine is sour,” even if “the wine is our own,” it is no more than that: sour wine.*

Cubanet, Luis Cino Álvarez, Havana, 28 January 2016 — Today marks the 163rd anniversary of the birth of our national hero, José Martí. It is the time to repeat by rote the two or three of his sayings that all of us Cubans learned since grade school. It is but a short time before we again commemorate his death on May 19. Those two remembrances comprise most of the veneration of Martí that was instilled in us from childhood. What a shame! Continue reading “A Hero To Justify The Cuban Failure / Cubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez”

We have the myth, but the counsels and teachings of Martí have served us precious little. Rather, from the era of independence [from Spain] up to today, we have systematically devoted ourselves to incurring everything against which he warned us. We have done as the Israelites in the Old Testament, who continually disobeyed Jehovah and were punished for it. Although we are not even remotely like the Hebrews, our people, too, have received their due punishment. And what awaits us, still…

Whatever became of all that which was quoted so often but has never come to pass, of the republic and the nation “for all, and for the good of all”?

We Cubans have exploited, with no compunction, the legend of Martí. Few peoples enjoy the privilege of having a poet as their national hero. But poets and their worldviews are not easy to comprehend. We never understood Martí well, and we have idealized and inflated him into the politician that he was not and never wanted to be.

Upon preparing for the War of Independence, Martí fulfilled his principal historic role. There was little else by then that he could do. His death at Dos Ríos, on 19 May 1895, confronting a Spanish patrol, was almost a suicide mission. It provided him the out that that he could not find before such great obstinacy and lack of understanding among the principle leaders of the Mambíses.

But the official story, that which was taught before [the 1959 Revolution], and which is badly taught today, refuses to acknowledge the conflicts that existed among the leaders of the independence movement…

Would Martí, after independence had been won, been able to work with those who were intending to lead the Republic as if it were a military camp**, and instill in them his civic and democratic vision?

Very few Cubans have read Martí deeply. What we have an abundance of are those who distort and manipulate his ideology. Thus, they have created a multi-purpose Martí, useful and convenient for all.

The greatest plagiarist, Fidel Castro, made of Martí the intellectual author of the attack on the Moncada barracks, his guide for the construction of a socialist society, and mentor to his pathological confrontation with the United States. To justify his single-party dictatorship, Fidel cited the case of the Cuban Revolutionary Party, overlooking the fact that it was created solely to organize the War of Independence, and not to perpetuate the rule of any political caudillo.

The legend of Martí contributed to the construction of a meta-history, a teleology of the nation’s destiny, which has done us more harm than good. Rather than redeem us, it bequeathed to us, among other things, a bad conscience and the fate of national misfortune.

Writing from exile, Martí idealized a Cuba in which he lived barely 20 years of his life. But the Cuba he invented surely would have been much better than the real one, if we Cubans had been able to make it come true—if not exactly as Martí envisioned it, at least close to it. But we were not able. And we continue not being able.

They beat us over the head so much with the pure heroes and the bronze statues that they ended up boring us. As a result of this boredom, today many Cubans, especially the young, associate Martí with the Castro regime’s harangue, and they reject him outright.

We Cubans should be ashamed of all the ignorance of and distortion of Martí. But it is easier to feel sorry for ourselves. So we continue to quote his sayings—even if they are out of context, or we do not understand them well, or we interpret them according to our whim and convenience—to justify our failure as a nation.

Thus attached to Martí, we continue not wanting to admit that if the wine is sour, for all that it is our wine, is no more than that: sour wine. Or even worse: vinegar. Which stings so much in our wounds…

luicino2012@gmail.com

Translator’s Notes:

*A reference to a quotation of Jose Martí well-known to Cubans, “Nuestro vino es agrio, pero es nuestro vino” – Our wine may be sour, but it is our own wine.

** A reference to another oft-remembered phrase from José Martí (though not one commonly invoked by Fidel or Raul Castro): “Un pueblo no se funda, General, como se manda un campamento” — A people is not founded, General, the way one commands a military camp. Martí wrote this in a 20 October 1884 letter to General Maximo Gomez, in which he resigned from the revolutionary movement.

About the Author

Luis Cino Álvarez (Havana, 1956) has worked as a professor of English, in construction, and in agriculture. He entered independent journalism in 1998. Between 2002 and Spring 2003, Cino was a member of the reporting team at De Cuba magazine. He is assistant director of the online magazine, Primavera Digital [Digital Spring], and is a regular contributor to CubaNet since 2003. A resident of Arroyo Naranjo, Cino dreams of being able to make a living from writing fiction. He is passionate about good books, the sea, jazz and blues.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Forgive the Castro Regime? Never! / Cubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez

raulfidel322013-300x218Cubanet, Luis Cino Álvarez, Havana, 11 January 2016 — I am a resentful person. I have to admit that, at least in this regard, the officials from State Security are correct, they who have condemned me as such during multiple, more or less menacing, interrogations throughout the past almost-20 years.

I am full of resentment against that calamitous abomination that some people still call “the Revolution.” And how can I not be? I would have to be a masochist, or emulate Mother Teresa of Calcutta, to love the perpetrators of the system that has crushed my life for as long as I can remember.

I would have to be exceedingly hypocritical to say that I am willing to reconcile with and forgive those who have never, in the slightest way—arrogant as they are—asked for forgiveness.

I am not a man given to hatreds and vengeances, but I cannot abide duplicity and hypocrisy. So leave me to my resentment which, in the reasonable doses in which I dole it out, will do no more harm than it already has; on the contrary, it helps me to keep going and not give up. Continue reading “Forgive the Castro Regime? Never! / Cubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez”

I cannot forgive those who thought themselves infallible, with a monopoly on the country, keepers of the keys to Paradise, with the right to decree the collective, obligatory happiness of the masses—all at the price of turning us into cogs in a machine, with no freedoms nor hope, yoked to the wagon of a mistaken history.

I cannot help but begrudge those who caused our individual dreams and aspirations—grand or simple, but valid and legitimate as any others—to be indefinitely deferred, annulled in the name of the Revolution, the Homeland and Socialism: all of which, according to what they said, were of a piece, despite the fact that the words did not rhyme, and we knew they could not rhyme.

I cannot be at peace with those who, in keeping with catchphrases that invariably posited death as the alternative, divided our families and pulverized our values, turning us into impoverished, vulgar riffraff, cynical and suspicious, perennially wandering in the desert…

My love for my neighbor (why deny it) is insufficient to be lavished upon those who fucked up my life: those teachers who, applying punishments prescribed by Comrade Makarenko, pretended to be forging The New Man; the sergeants in the compulsory military service; the psychiatrist-prison guards; the jailers at police precincts; the snitches who compiled exhaustive reports on me; all those who were wont to expel me from anyplace because of ideological divergences; the agents of the political police who “tend” to me, that is, who watch me even while I sleep…

Of no use have been the many times that they have tried to convince me that all the bad things that happened were not the Revolution’s fault—no, Man, of course not, they happened because of those extremists of which Lenin spoke—opportunists, as he called them—and all kinds of other shit. As if such as these were not the ideal subjects of a system like this!

Do not tell me anymore that those terrible events were errors—because in those “errors” have our lives been lost, and there is no getting them back…

I do not resign myself to having been one more rat in the Castros’ laboratory. The damages have been irreversible, and I do not believe that at this point they can be compensated.

Therefore, all we have left is the memory of what was and what could not be, because they prevented it, by force.

The poet José Mario—one of those who suffered the severities of the UMAP*—was right when he said that that those explanations of how “things were not as bad as they really were, it was a matter of errors committed by some extremists,” are worse than forgetting.Do not expect me to slobber. I am one of those who do not forget. I cannot, nor do I want to. For this reason, I am a resentful person. And proud of it.

luicino2012@gmail.com

Translated by Alicia Barraqué Ellison

cino.thumbnailAbout the Author: Luis Cino Álvarez (Havana, 1956) has worked as a professor of English, in construction, and in agriculture. He entered the field of independent journalism in 1998. Between 2002 and the spring of 2003, Cino was a member of the reporting team at De Cuba magazine. He is assistant director of the online magazine, Primavera Digital [Digital Spring], and is a regular contributor to CubaNet since 2003. A resident of Arroyo Naranjo, Cino dreams of being able to make a living from writing fiction. He is passionate about good books, the sea, jazz and blues.

Polarized Cuban Miami / Cubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez

117-cuba121814-versailles-ADD-300x208Cubant, Luis Cina Alvarez, Havana, 25 December 2015 — A year since 17D*, Cuban Miami grows ever more polarized. And it’s not only between those who favor dialogue with the Cuban regime and those who are staunchly opposed to the Castro regime –although at the end of the road, everything has to do, in one way or another, with that dichotomy.

There are those who love Obama (the few) and those who detest him, who deny his part in lifting the US out of the recession, who categorically assert that Obamacare is crap, who accuse the president of being pro-Muslim and a leftist, of being too soft in foreign policy (especially regarding the Castro regime), of endangering the country’s security in the face of jihadism, of exacerbating racial tensions, etc. Continue reading “Polarized Cuban Miami / Cubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez”

There are those who declare that they will vote for the Democrats — that is, for Hillary Clinton, but never for Bernie Sanders — and who say they are Republicans for life, who fervently prefer Marco Rubio (a sign posted in Coral Gables proclaims that Florida is his) –or Ted Cruz — but if neither of these wins the Republican nomination, they are willing to vote for Donald Trump, all his outrageousness and clownish behavior notwithstanding.

There are the early arrivals, not only the ones who got there in the ’60s, but also via the Mariel Boatlift in 1980, and those who arrived after the Rafter Crisis of 1994; those in Hialeah and the Southwest, and those in Coral Gables, Kendall or Coconut Grove; those who buy groceries at Publix or Sedano’s; those who speak English and those who don’t make even a minimal effort to garble it; those who favor lifting of the embargo and those who advocate for its continuance; those who defend or oppose the Cuban Adjustment Act; those who support and sympathize with the dissidents and those who don’t trust them and want nothing to do with them; those who oppose sending of remittances to Cuba and those who are not willing to let their families live in misery; those who protest the appearances by Cuban artists in Miami, even Los Van Van, and those who groove to reggaeton and guachineo as though they were still back home in Mantilla or San Miguel del Padrón.

During my stay in Miami, I listened to many discussions for and against the US government rescuing the thousands of Cubans stuck at the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Many are sensitized to the hardships that their compatriots are facing, while others say that among those who seek to reach American soil, besides there surely being G-2 infiltrators, the majority are lumpen, lowlifes, people who never lifted a finger against the regime and, meek as they were, turned into lions when it came time to claim their rights — both those that were due and not due to them — the moment they set foot on foreign ground.

In Miami some Cubans take pride in being exiles, while others say — as the Castro regime likes for them to say — that they are economic and not political migrants, as from any other country in the region. Very few of them will be honest enough to admit that they “don’t want to get mixed-up in politics” so that the activation of their passport won’t be denied and they’ll be able to travel to Cuba to visit their relatives. For there are those who can go for a year without seeing their loved ones, and those who say that “as long as that system remains unchanged, they will not even be roped-in to returning.”

What all of these Cubans have in common, whether they acknowledge it or not, is that they are pining away for their country and all that is familiar to them–the good, the not so great, and even the bad. And it is precisely this nostalgia that unites them while at the same time divides them. And what can be done about this, so passionate are we Cubans.

luicino2012@gmail.com

*Translator’s note: Just as Americans say “9-11” instead of September 11, 2001, Cubans say “17D” instead of 17 December 2014, the day Barack Obama and Raul Castro jointly announced the restoration of relations between the United States and Cuba.

Translated by Alicia Barraqué Ellison

The Blessing and Not the Miracle / Cubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez

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Cubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez, Havana, 19 September 2015 – Out of respect for His Holiness, so as not to bring up an unpleasant topic, or whatever — I would prefer not to have to say that — contrary to reports by certain foreign media, I have not sensed hope nor much enthusiasm among my compatriots regarding the visit by Pope Francis. Rather, what I’ve heard are jokes, some quite irreverent, about the potatoes that are not in the markets [jokes based on the fact that in Spanish “papa” means both “pope” and “potato”], and many comments ranging from skeptical to cynical.

And do not speak to me of multitudinous masses; we had them, too, when John Paul II and Benedict XVI came. There is no talk of how we Cubans are mainly Catholics (after our own fashion, but we are). Even, and above all, practitioners of Santería, almost all of whom were baptized and who pray the Our Father and the Hail Mary, and at least three or four times per year—on the feast days of the Virgin of Charity of Cobre, St. Barbara, St. Lazarus, and the Virgin of Las Mercedes—go to church, despite the displeasure of some priests at what they consider to be “pagan superstitions.” Continue reading “The Blessing and Not the Miracle / Cubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez”

We do not take lightly the papal blessing, but neither do we expect miracles. Nor is there any reason to demand from the Pope who lives in Rome* what we Cubans have not been able to do ourselves: change the circumstances of our country for the better.

We have been unable to do so, among other reasons, because the dictatorship—which called itself Marxist-Leninist, materialist and atheist—for decades kept us distant from God, the one who could cure our fear and give us courage.

Beyond praying for us and blessing us, which is no small thing, what more can the Pope do (Oh, Violeta Parra!*), whose doves are being slaughtered* everywhere in this world that is ever more selfish and pragmatic

It was known that the regime would manipulate the papal visit to reflect the glory on itself. Also, that the nation’s Catholic hierarchy, in return for spaces in the very earthly neo-Castro kingdom, will continue slobbering over and pandering to the regime, without defining what, exactly, its intentions are. Although there now remain few doubts that it will be satisfied with obtaining a construction permit to build some church, organize workshops for the self-employed, continue publishing its magazine, have some of its confiscated properties returned, and be given air time on television now and then.

Neither the three papal visits, nor the wind blowing at full blast in favor of relations between the Cuban state and the Catholic Church, will make up for all the times we could not pray in our churches, the children we were unable to baptize, and the Christmases that went uncelebrated. But there is no need for drama. We will pretend as best we can to forgive past wrongs, and we will remain as Catholic (after our own fashion) as ever. Amen.

Luis Cino Alvarez: luicino2012@gmail.com

Translator’s Notes:

*Reference to Chilean folk singer Violeta Parra and her song, ¿Que dirá el Santo Padre?, which includes a refrain that can be translated as, “What will the Holy Father say / who lives in Rome / and whose dove is being slaughtered.”

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Women Before Their Time / Cubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez

jovenes

On May 17, on the Sunday television program Passage to the Unknown, the journalist and host Reinaldo Taladrid, and guest psychologist Patricia Ares, addressed the issue of gender training received unconsciously by many girls. Training them, from very early days, to be future frivolous objects of erotic pleasure.

The phenomenon of the eroticism of childhood, although it happens worldwide for various reasons, has reached alarming proportions in Cuba.

For some years, it has become common for many parents to dress their daughters as if they were harlots in miniature. To demonstrate how precocious they are, in whatever party there may be, they are encouraged to wiggle, and to shake their rear ends – which still haven’t developed – more than all the rest. The more lasciviously the better, shaking to the most obscene reggaton. Continue reading “Women Before Their Time / Cubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez”

Not to mention the expensive photos and videos of girls’ quinceañeras – their fifteenth birthdays – in which they change into several outfits rented for the occasion, little girls portrayed nearly naked, wrapped in towels or the briefest thongs, with eyes rolled back and tongues hanging out, in poses that are more suitable for porn stars than quinceañeras.

Taladrid and Dr. Ares, worried about the way in which many parents are violating the developmental stages of their daughters, commented on the increased “adultization” of childhood and the “infantilization” of adulthood. Both blame the problem of macho sexism that afflicts us on the harmful influences of our capitalist consumer society, globalization, Barbie dolls, reggaeton, indiscriminate cultural consumption, the “weekly packet,” and video-clips of Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Beyonce and Shakira.

The journalist and psychologist also may have spoken not only of sexy clothes – practically those of harlots – the suggestive dances in the parties at home and also at school celebrations, almost always encouraged by the teachers themselves; but also how many mothers and fathers encourage their daughters and sons to ask family and friends living abroad for gifts of every kind, and money, a lot of money, when they come to visit Cuba.

What matters less to these parents is the development of values in their children. Spirituality, values, not behaving so as to be able to buy things in the hard currency stores. Who doesn’t regret it when they see their offspring turned into female and male prostitutes.

There are too many Cuban parents, who in the midst of the national disaster, are turning their girls and boys into adults before their time. What is even more serious, are those who turn into the worst class of adults: materialists, hedonists, self-serving,cynical, amoral. They shall inherit our kingdom of lies and wreckage. Amen.

 

When I got to Varadero* / Cubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez

varadero-cuba21
cubanet square logoCubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez, Havana, 30 March 2015 — Despite the fact that on the three occasions I ever visited Varadero my experiences were not particularly pleasant, that beach – which today for the majority of Cubans is almost as inaccessible as Waikiki – occupies a special place in my nostalgia.

The first time I was at Varadero was in November, 1970, during the Festival of the Song. I was 14 years old. I went with two friends who were more or less my age, fleeing our homes and playing hooky from school, chasing after the Spanish pop groups Los Bravos (without Mike Kennedy), Los Angeles and Los Mustangs. They weren’t really our top favorites (at the time when we had still not resigned ourselves to the break-up of The Beatles, we were crazy for Led Zeppelin, Chicago, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Santana) but in the ideologically pure Cuba of the period, one could not aspire to something greater. Plus, we wanted the performances by those Spanish groups – despite how abysmally bad they sounded – to be our own version of Woodstock.

But the police rained on our parade. We ended up in a police station that stank of shit and where from a poster on the wall the Commander in Chief [Fidel] stared at us, scowling. I don’t know if his angry expression was due to our insolent ideological diversionism, or because the 10 Million Ton Harvest failed, and he had to devote himself to turning the setback into a victory at the expense of Nixon, whose name at that time was invariably spelled with a swastika in the newspaper, Granma. Continue reading “When I got to Varadero* / Cubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez”

By throwing us in the pokey, they almost did us a favor, because outside it was as cold as Kamchatka. The bad part was when the officers started to talk about cutting our hair, and we heard one say, “These guys are gonna get scalped.” Luckily these were no more than idle threats. They let us go at the Cárdenas terminal with the warning, “Get the fuck out here right now, Punks.”

My second visit to Varadero was in the summer of 1979. I went with my wife. We arrived unexpectedly, with a few clothes in a backpack. At that time, Varadero was not only for foreign tourists. Even so, we had to spend the night between the “Park of the Thousand Box Offices” and the sands of the beach. When the police threw us out of the park, we went to the shore. We drank Coronilla brandy, made love among the casuarina trees, and later, despite the mosquitoes, fell asleep in the sand. We were awakened by the border patrol, with dogs and bayonets, who told us that we could not spend the night on the coast. We then returned to the park, sans police. At dawn we returned to the beach and, when the sun was out, got into the water to wake ourselves up.

We were only able to obtain lodging (very reasonably priced) in a little wooden “hotel,” the Miramar. As old and decrepit as it was, I suppose it no longer exists.

We had a great time: all day on the beach, and at night we would go dancing to the beat of The Bee Gees at the La Patana club. The only downside was the couple in the room next door. When they made love, they would screech as if being murdered. Their screams penetrated the wooden walls, as if inviting one to emulate them – or to switch partners, because with all that racket, it was as if we were all entangled together in the same bed. When we finally caught sight of them one morning at the hotel entrance, these sexual athletes turned out to be a little chubby peroxide blonde, and a skinny guy with a mustache, nearsighted glasses and the look of an official from the Central Planning Council.

The third and last time that I was in Varadero was in 1986, during an excursion on a “day for outstanding employees” that my wife won at the State company where she worked. We went with the oldest of our sons, who had not yet turned three years old. All went well, until we ran out of drinking water and, while searching for a faucet where we could fill several bottles, we lost the boy’s left shoe. This was a real tragedy because that pair of Chinese Gold Cup shoes had cost us a fortune at the Yumurí store.

Since that time, I have not returned to Varadero – a place at first reserved for foreign tourists and the privileged elite, and now on the way to becoming a global resort, without an identity, depersonalized, only for the rich. Or rather, what we Cubans in our indigence understand to be “rich.” I don’t want to feel discriminated against, humiliated, or to be expelled in a worse way than I was back in 1970 – keeping in mind that, in the logic of the security personnel who watch me, a dissident would be much more troublesome than a kid disguised as a hippie.

Varadero, in my mind, continues to be associated, in a certain way and in spite of everything, with happiness. I don’t want to ruin that image.

The first time I was at Varadero was in November, 1970, during the Festival of the Song. I was 14 years old. I went with two friends who were more or less my age, fleeing our homes and playing hooky from school, chasing after the Spanish pop groups Los Bravos (without Mike Kennedy), Los Angeles and Los Mustangs. They weren’t really our top favorites (at the time when we had still not resigned ourselves to the break-up of The Beatles, we were crazy for Led Zeppelin, Chicago, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Santana) but in the ideologically pure Cuba of the period, one could not aspire to something greater. Plus, we wanted the performances by those Spanish groups – despite how abysmally bad they sounded – to be our own version of Woodstock. .

But the police rained on our parade. We ended up in a police station that stank of shit and where from a poster on the wall the Commander in Chief [Fidel] stared at us, scowling. I don’t know if his angry expression was due to our insolent ideological diversionism, or because the 10 Million Ton Harvest failed, and he had to devote himself to turning the setback into a victory at the expense of Nixon, whose name at that time was invariably spelled with a swastika in the newspaper, Granma.

By throwing us in the pokey, they almost did us a favor, because outside it was as cold as Kamchatka. The bad part was when the officers started to talk about cutting our hair, and we heard one say, “These guys are going all the way.” Luckily these were no more than idle threats. They let us go at the Cárdenas terminal with the warning, “Get the fuck out here right now, Punks.”

My second visit to Varadero was in the summer of 1979. I went with my wife. We arrived unexpectedly, with a few clothes in a backpack. At that time, Varadero was not only for foreign tourists. Even so, we had to spend the night between the “Park of the Thousand Box Offices” and the sands of the beach. When the police threw us out of the park, we went to the shore. We drank Coronilla brandy, made love among the casuarina trees, and later, despite the mosquitoes, fell asleep in the sand. We were awakened by the border patrol, with dogs and bayonets, who told us that we could not spend the night on the coast. We then returned to the park, sans police. At dawn we returned to the beach and, when the sun was out, got into the water to wake ourselves up.

We were only able to obtain lodging (very reasonably priced) in a little wooden “hotel,” the Miramar. As old and decrepit as it was, I suppose it no longer exists.

We had a great time: all day on the beach, and at night we would go dancing to the beat of The Bee Gees at the La Patana club. The only downside was the couple in the room next door. When they made love, they would screech as if being murdered. Their screams penetrated the wooden walls, as if inviting one to emulate them – or to switch partners, because with all that racket, it was as if we were all entangled together in the same bed. When we finally caught sight of them one morning at the hotel entrance, these sexual athletes turned out to be a little chubby peroxide blonde, and a skinny guy with a mustache, nearsighted glasses and the look of an official from the Central Planning Council.

The third and last time that I was in Varadero was in 1986, during an excursion on a “day for outstanding employees” that my wife won at the State company where she worked. We went with the oldest of our sons, who had not yet turned three years old. All went well, until we ran out of drinking water and, while searching for a faucet where we could fill several bottles, we lost the boy’s left shoe. This was a real tragedy because that pair of Chinese Gold Cup shoes had cost us a fortune at the Yumurí store.

Since that time, I have not returned to Varadero – a place at first reserved for foreign tourists and the privileged elite, and now on the way to becoming a global resort, without an identity, depersonalized, only for the rich. Or rather, what we Cubans in our indigence understand to be “rich.” I don’t want to feel discriminated against, humiliated, or to be expelled in a worse way than I was back in 1970 – keeping in mind that, in the logic of the security personnel who watch me, a dissident would be much more troublesome than a kid disguised as a hippie.

Varadero, in my mind, continues to be associated, in a certain way and in spite of everything, with happiness. I don’t want to ruin that image.

Author’s Email Address: luicino2012@gmail.com

Translator’s Notes:
*The title of this piece is taken from a line in the song,
Conocí la paz, sung by legendary Cuban singer, Beny Moré. Varadero is a beach resort town in the province of Matanzas, Cuba.

Translated by Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Grandfather’s Recipes / Cubanet, Luis Cino Álvarez

361_cocina-china

“The cuisine of the Chinese in Cuba: a Family Recipe Book” goes well beyond what its title indicates, becoming an homage to all families of Chinese descent.

cubanet square logoCubanet, Luis Cino Álvarez, Havana, 13 March 2015 — During the recent Havana International Book Fair, although copies were available for sale, no public presentation was allowed of “The Cuisine of the Chinese in Cuba: A Family Recipe Book” (Editorial Arte y Literatura, Havana, 2014), by Ernesto Pérez Chang. Evidently, this was the punishment for his collaboration with Cubanet that the censors imposed on the writer, who has won various important national literary prizes, including, in 2002, the Julio Cortázar Iberoamerican Short Story Prize.

But it is not of the censors’ mischief that I wish to speak, but of the book.

“The Cuisine of the Chinese in Cuba: A Family Recipe Book” goes well beyond what its title indicates, becoming an homage – not only to Hoeng Chang and Doña Lola, the author’s grandparents – but to all families of Chinese descent who, despite material scarcities, difficulties and prejudice endured, have kept Continue reading “Grandfather’s Recipes / Cubanet, Luis Cino Álvarez”

alive the traditions of their ancestors.

They are recipes for almost 200 Chinese dishes, patiently compiled by the author, which provide Pérez Chang the unifying theme for this project. In his commentaries on each recipe, he gradually develops a composite history of his grandfather and of some of the more important exponents of Chinese cuisine of that Havana of the first five decades of the 20th century (which seems unimaginable without smelts, Chinese soup, and fried rice).

Many recipes are taken from old books and magazines, transcribed by elders who had been cooks in the old Chinese eateries in Havana, or which the author discovered when he travelled to China in 2010, a trip he does not consider his own, but rather, “the symbolic return of the subject of that photograph that I carried in my pocket.”

However, most of the recipes, and suggestions about proportions of ingredients and variations in preparation methods, come from the notations of his grandmother Lola, jealously preserved and practiced by her family throughout many decades.

As her grandson Pérez Chang tells us in the book, Doña Lola was not Chinese, but rather of French and Spanish ancestry. She was from a well-off family, and caused a major scandal at the time she escaped from her family home to go live with a handsome Chinese man who sold fresh fish door to door and whose name was Hoeng Chang (but who, upon arriving in Cuba from Canton in the 1920s, changed his name to José Chang).

Chang and Doña Lola passed on their love for all things Chinese to their descendants, including the cuisine – although in this regard, it was no small feat for the family to obtain, in Havana, ingredients such as mussels, ginger, celery, tofu, sesame and soy or oyster sauce.

But the effort is worth it, and not only for the palate – but also for the soul and for one’s dreams, which is the most important.

Pérez Chang explains in the preface, “It seemed to us all, to my mother, to my grandmother, and my sisters, that of my grandfather there would be no trace left behind, because he was a simple man, a poor man. But we did not delay in realizing that despite his poverty, he had bequeathed to us a country not only of dreams, nor a kingdom of words, but a place, a dimension of infinite flavors and aromas which we could reach just by turning on the stove and combining the ingredients in the proportions that he had taught us – every dish achieved with his mastery was a kind of return of the grandfather and a consummation of his immortality.”

At times, among the steaming pots, María Elena Chang and her children and grandchildren have thought they have seen Lola and José, the guardian spirits of the home. It is comforting to know that they are always there, that they do not leave the family, under any circumstance.

Author’s email address: luicino2012@gmail.com

Translated by Alicia Barraqué Ellison

The official press: “Made to conceal, not to publicize” / Cubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez

A joke making the rounds: Napoleon said, “With Granma, nobody would have found out about my defeat at Waterloo:” (Photos: Internet)
A joke making the rounds: Napoleon said, “With Granma, nobody would have found out about my defeat at Waterloo:” (Photos: Internet)

cubanet square logoCubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez, Havana, 26 January 2015 – “Cubans are seeking a new conception of the press within socialism. All that can be predicted, without a doubt, is that it will be a democratic press, lively and original,” wrote Gabriel García Márquez in 1975.

That Gabo — always so unreal, so optimistic when it came to opining about his friend Fidel Castro’s Revolution. Such a quest does not show signs of obtaining results in any near future. It is easier to imagine the ascension into the heaven above Macondo of Remedios the Beautiful with a band of yellow butterflies*, than to reap, within olive-green socialism, a journalism free of shackles Continue reading “The official press: “Made to conceal, not to publicize” / Cubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez”

, sparkling, with bubbles that the Genius of Aracataca** would foresee 36 years ago.

Even Gabo himself had to admit that the Cuban press “seemed to be made more to conceal than to publicize.”

Another brilliant writer, who could never be said to be complicit with the enemies of the Revolution – the Uruguayan Eduardo Galeano – was more precise in describing the Cuban press when he said that “it seems to be from another planet.”

The official Cuban press, which manipulates, distorts, enshrouds and when it speaks truths, does so only halfway, only as far as is convenient, has nothing to do with the real Cuba. It seems to speak of another country, a virtual one, where everything functions in a manner quite distinct from how it is in reality.

Fidel: Omnipresent in the official Cuban press
Fidel: Omnipresent in the official Cuban press

In recent years there has been much talk about the need to create a credible journalism, one more analytical and critical. The task turns out to be a chimerical one. The press is forced into being the concubine of Power. They endowed it with the chastity belt of “informative politics.” Journalists are “ideological workers,” forced to constantly reiterate their loyalty to a stubborn and myopic regime which, as it racks up failures, divorces itself evermore from the interests of the people.

On repeated occasions, the “fearless leaders” have referred to “the need to reconcile the informative politics of the press with the interests of the country’s direction” and they have warned that “disagreements can be of form but never of principles,” because above all, “the defense of the Revolution” must take precedence.

Thus, official journalists find themselves confined to the sad role of mere propagandists and mouthpieces of worn slogans. Even those more honest among them, who can’t seem to hide their doubts and dissatisfaction, only go so far as the “danger” signal if they allow themselves to express any complaints during debates about informative politics. They all know how to have it both ways.

When, at the beginning of his mandate, General Raul Castro attended the VIII Congress of Cuban Journalists (UPEC), he said that some of the problems discussed were “older than Gutenberg.” But they are going to be resolved… and I say no more,” he said, smiling enigmatically. And he left everyone “in that.” Like halfway to an orgasm.

"To taste a better cup": What a farce! Cubans drink coffee mixed with ground-up dried peas.***
“To taste a better cup”: What a farce! Cubans drink coffee mixed with ground-up dried peas.

The years have passed and our problems have not been resolved. To the General-President’s exhortations and chidings to official journalists have now been added those of Vice-President Díaz Canel. The result: Nothing. The official media — except for issuing some occasional critique that goes no further than the medium levels of government — continue to be as irrationally exuberant and attached to the inertia of the sermon as ever.

The idyllic and bubbling journalism inside olive-green socialism of which Gabo dreamed, now almost four decades ago, has not materialized.

The bad news, as General Raúl Castro has warned on various occasions, is that we should expect neither miracles, nor magic.

Translator’s notes:

*Refers to Remedios La Bella (“Remedios the Beautiful”), a female character in García Márquez’ novel, “100 Years of Solitude,” who resides in the town of Macondo, and who one day ascends into heaven, body and soul. Remedios is in love with a man who is constantly surrounded by a band of yellow butterflies.

**Aracataca is the birthplace of García Márquez.

Related articles: Al Qaeda Coffee; Coffee with Roasted Peas; Out of Coffee.

Translated by Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Havana: Castro-McDisney Theme Park / Luis Cino Alvarez

HAVANA, Cuba- Some years ago the American sociologist George Ritzer adopted the perspective of the “McDonaldization of society.” Within this, and thinking of the Disney parks, he coined the term, “McDonaldization of tourism.”

It would be interesting to know Ritzer’s opinion about the great theme park that Cuban has been turned into. Or the several sub-parks that it’s divided into, according to the interests of the visitor.

For ideological tourism, Cuba continues to be the mecca of the world left, now before than yesterday, in the face of the proto-capitalist reforms, they call them “Guidelines,” updating the economic model or as they call it, taking it apart and auctioning off the pieces.

Then, they rush to make the pilgrimage before the Revolutionary story is exhausted, the almendrones (the old American cars) stop rolling, before they tear down the old buildings and the prostitutes and pimps adjust their rates to those of Bangkok or Amsterdam. Continue reading “Havana: Castro-McDisney Theme Park / Luis Cino Alvarez”

Of the Revolutionary utopia, all that’s left is what the tourists see, planned in advance, and that’s exactly what the guides show them. The tourists don’t like unpleasant surprises or upsets. Before, with unpredictable people, they could ruin their day talking about their troubles; the tourists prefer to talk with happy, helpful people, salsa dancers like they expect them to be, although they can get rude about the tip.

The do indeed assume that here the Revolution doesn’t abandon anyone to their fate, instead of certain crazies and beggars who roam the street, the tourists prefer to take pictures of those who resemble the Comandante, those old guys with the long beard, olive-green shirt, military cap, and licensed by the City Historian as “extras.”

The Havana on sale from Eusebio Leal is like that recorded by Landaluze. A shed to raise hard currency. Tourist postcard folklore. Orthodox mosque and cathedral without worshipers. A garden-cemetery for the rich, with colorful earth and the shadow of a convent. Black-robed fortune tellers with Bayajá scarves.

A virtual Havana, sepia, Technicolor or olive-green: of the wallet and the private taste of each person depending on how they color it.

Cohiba cigars, mojitos and Cuba Libres without Coke. Artisans, guerrilla berets and posters and T-shirts with the fiercely dreamy face of Che Guevara. Pseudo postmodern and almost post-Castro art, just enough to sell well. Salsa and son. Girls and boys for rent: sexy, tanned, healthy and educated at bargain prices.

A picturesque scam just meters from the deep, real Havana. The one that talks loud and swears so as not to explode from rage. The city that smells of the rum and roast pig of hard currency restaurants, with stinking sewers, sweat, grease, coffee mixed with God knows what, dirty reefs and uncollected garbage.

In the midst of the Havana tournament for the crumbs of tourism, foreigners wander around sunburned and laughing, as if they were in the best of all worlds. That other that says it’s possible and that they seem to see embodied in Cuba, where the only annoying thing is the heat.

They roam between the columns, gratings, establishments with first world prices, and buildings in ruins. Dour police in black or grey berets everywhere they look, with their rubber nightsticks and unmuzzled dogs, keeping order. If they exaggerate the task, no matter. They are the guardians of the park, don’t forget, and the place is also under siege by the Yankees, which explains any inconvenience.

Cubanet, 25 February 2014 | 

luicino2012@gmail.com

Puzzling Raul Castro in Santiago / Luis Cino Alvarez

HAVANA, Cuba, January, http://www.cubanet.org – General Raul Castro’s speeches are becoming increasingly puzzling. One does not know if he is playing at being Chinese, or playing Russian Roulette.  Before, at least, he used to save us the fright, by letting us know when he was going to make a joke. Now not even that.

It’s not that he was being a ventriloquist, but his speech this past January first in Cespedes Park in Santiago de Cuba, more than his harangues of seven years ago, when he assumed power, seemed like those of Fidel Castro.

The general president assured us that the Revolution continues the same as when it triumphed 55 years ago, with no other commitment than to the people.

And one does not know how to understand this, because if that which some still call “the Revolution” broke its commitment some time ago to anyone, it was precisely to the people, abandoned to their luck in this save yourself if you can… if you are of the elite. Continue reading “Puzzling Raul Castro in Santiago / Luis Cino Alvarez”

The commitment will be to Fidel Castro, and the historical leadership, that supra-institutional meritocracy, to the generals, to the orthodoxy, but to the people?

What is the commitment to the people by a government whose methods for updating the economic model, however much they may deny it, increasingly resemble the shock therapy of savage capitalism that came disguised as whatever, without capital or markets, and what is worse, without political freedoms nor the right to say boo?

What commitment is it by a government that, thinking only of its revenues, takes black market prices as the standard and declares illegal the survival mechanisms of an increasingly destitute people?

Of what value are the promises of a petty blackmail system that beats a retreat, that slowly and painfully dissolves in the hot air of the Guidelines of the Sixth Congress?

What does it have to do with the people, the sloppy capitalism of a State as mercantile as that of the absolute monarchies that we faced?

This speech by the general-president, in which he advances backwards, reminded me of the “call” to the Fourth Congress of the Communist Party that the army general made when he was Number Two, in March 1990. Then we understood little and badly. When finally the bloody congress was held, in October 1991, it was all exactly contrary to what was expected. And now we know the consequences.

Many years have passed, and he who was Number Two now is Number One. And it is not good for a ruler to miss so many opportunities.

luicino2012@gmail.com, Cubanet, January 6, 2014

Translated by mlk.

The Ideology of Prohibition / Luis Cino Alvarez

Havana, Cuba, November, www.cubanet.org — With regards to the absurd and prudish limitations imposed on some students by the Communications Faculty, Elaine Diaz recently wrote on her blog:  “. . . the policymakers are scandalized by things from the students as if the Revolution were going to fall apart next week. They should ask themselves what kind of Revolution falls apart for so little.”

The answer is simple: a revolution like that of Fidel Castro, which long ago stopped being one in order to become a racketeering and mean dictatorship, which, if it has managed to continue in power for 54 years, it is precisely because it fears everything different, it is closed tight and does not waver in repressing a fractious student who thinks with his head like the Ladies in White, who, for the henchmen of State Security are all the same: dangerous enemies of a revolution so fragile that it cannot tolerate anything that differs one iota from official decrees.

Besides, in their aberrant paranoia, they fear books, songs, visual arts, blogs, Facebook and the Internet in general.  And also 3D films.  The private mini-theaters whose projections have been prohibited without it mattering that the people lose money that they have invested or that they will be left without work. They alleged that these theaters had never been officially authorized, so they did not even give them time to close.

There the fools who thought that prohibitions had been left behind for ideological reasons!

Some think that behind the prohibition on 3D cinemas, as in the case of clothing imported from Ecuador or Miami and sold by individuals, is the desire of the State to eliminate competition by those individuals.  But let’s not fool ourselves:  the reasons are more ideological than merely commercial.  As ideological as when in the ’60’s they prohibited North American music and by extension British also, The Beatles included, no less.

The prohibition on mini-theaters was seen coming.  Several days ago, a long article (3,260 words) in Rebel Youth, the newspaper of the Communist Youth, showed the official preoccupation with it.  It cited Fernando Rojas, vice minister of Culture, who accused these cinemas of showing video to promote “frivolity, mediocrity, pseudo-culture and banality.” In spite of the vice minister declaring himself in favor of regulation before prohibition, finally the regime decided on the latter.

So, once more, a handful of meek and submissive eggheads, on behalf of their obsolete, uneducated bosses without a drop of class, who have Haitianized and what is worse, barbarized, the country, claim the right to be the arbiters of cultural quality and good taste.

It is not that the cultural commissars are wrong when they say that banal and low quality products prevailed in these cinemas.  But those products are not very different from the films and pirated series that pass for Cuban TV or that are shown in the few and deteriorated State theaters that remain.  Because the high brow cinema (ay, Huxley) that some foreign correspondents say is seen in Havana is quite scarce.  Only arthouse and films of a certain quality are seen on some television programs, in a few film festivals to which very few go and in the Festivals of the New Latin-American Theater, which keeps getting worse and which now, without Alfredo Guevara, it remains to be seen what will happen.

The commissars’ interest in cultivating our taste (always within the moral and ideological coordinates of the system) in order to make us “the most cultured people on the planet,” for lack of organicity and coherence, but above all sincerity, has failed down the whole line. From the punks who slide down the shell of the University for All, the ballet, the symphony and chamber music, jazz and arthouse theater. They prefer reggueton, Manga comics and films about vampires and Jackie Chang.  And if they have the money, “to put on the spectacles” they prefer to see Avatar and Ice Age in 3D.

The prohibitions are not going to manage to tidy up Cubans or cultivate their taste. They will only make their lives more boring and miserable. Particularly those of the young. Maybe the bosses think that they will be easier to control so. To hell with their ideas!

Luis Cino Alvarez, luicino2012@gmail.com

Cubanet, November 10, 2013

Translated by mlk

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

The Literature Ernesto Guevara Saved Us From / Luis Cino Alvarez

50797_trnsFeaturedHAVANA, Cuba, October, www.cubanet.org – Che Guevara used to say that the history of the Cuban Revolution shouldn’t be written by others who were not its protagonists. The writers, whom he didn’t consider revolutionary enough, did not inspire confidence in this task.

In fact, he himself, who did not lack a literary vocation and talent, was the first who ventured a narrative. Reminiscences of the Revolutionary War was good effort to start writing the story of the Castro insurrection, from the Sierra Maestra to the taking of Santa Clara.

In any case, although fragmented and incomplete, the result was much better when Guevara wanted to give expression to his military thinking in Guerrilla Warfare, which was  a diffuse manual of insurgency tactic and strategy.

A few years later the Frenchman Regis Debray attempted what Guevara hadn’t achieved: to establish guerrilla theory. But Debray himself, after the publication of Revolution in the Revolution?, acknowledged that failure of his theories. It wasn’t easy to theorize about the fortuitous and almost providential events of the Cuban Revolution. The Castro insurrection, with disasters such as the attack on the Moncada Barracks and the shipwreck at the landing of the yacht Granma, could be dramatic examples of what a guerrilla movement should never do unless it aspires to suicide. Not all guerrillas have the luck of facing barely professional troops,corrupts and demoralized as was the army of the dictator Batista. Che Guevara’s disasters in the Congo and Bolivia tragically demonstrated this.

Nor did Che Guevara manage to clearly define his social and economic thinking in a book. Man and Socialism in Cuba is frightening in its immoderate and super-human statist idealism. With regards to the economy, for years the economists who are trying to ensure the survival of the Castro regime have unsuccessfully tried to work Che Guevara’s ambiguous and contradictory concepts into a body of practical and coherent ideas applicable to the Cuban situation.

Guevara considered socialist economic planning banal. “Without Communist morality, it doesn’t interest me at all,” he confessed to the French journalist Jean Daniel in 1963.

Today, Guevara’s thesis of creating two, three, many Vietnams… would be counterproductive to the reinvention of socialism, but with a market economy.

Che Guevara saved us the horror by not writing about his time as an executor of the Revolutionary terror in the La Cabaña Fort in the first months of 1959. It’s terrifying to imagine what his narrative may have been. The murdered puppy gives us an idea. The only account he wrote is impeccable, but very cruel. Bringing to mind the call to Revolutionary fighters to become, according to his own words, “cold killing machines.”

By Luis Cino Alvarez

From Cubanet, 7 October 2013