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”

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”

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”

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”

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”

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”

Women Before Their Time / Cubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez

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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”

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”

Grandfather’s Recipes / Cubanet, Luis Cino Álvarez

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“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”

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”

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”

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 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