Members of the Cuban opposition march together during the Americas Summit in Panama
14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 12 November 2015 — Value judgement comments are very often made abroad about what – more or less – some have taken to calling “an internal dissidence crisis in Cuba,” implying an epitaph, and with premature and unjustified gloating, when we consider that frustration and dissatisfaction – the primeval basis on which all dissidence feeds – have maintained an upward trend on the Island.
However, the existence of a crisis is not necessarily a negative sign. The new landscape, encompassing daily life in Cuba and international relations, involves rearrangements and challenges for all stakeholders, especially those who move counter to truly hostile political conditions. In any case, crises create growth opportunities as well as challenges.
So we are facing what will be a growth crisis for some opposition groups, if they know how to assume the challenge to define their strategies and advance. If they persist in continuing with their old methods and concepts that lead nowhere, however, they will face a crisis of extinction. Continue reading
Policemen trying to control line to purchase potatoes (file picture)
Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, HAVANA, 6 November 2015 — Hopes and expectations that encouraged Cubans at the beginning of 2015, following the announcement of the restoration of relations between the governments of Cuba and the US, have vanished completely. Over the past eleven months there has not been a hint of any economic improvement for the population, and the end of the year is expected to be grim, judging by, among other factors, rising prices in the food sector, our most important market.
Visits around numerous commercial shops and roving street markets in the populous municipality of Centro Habana, in the neighborhoods of San Leopoldo, Pueblo Nuevo and Cayo Hueso, evidence the shortages in merchandise, the low quality of products and the unstoppable rise in prices. Pork meat – the Cuban indicator par excellence –– fluctuates between 45 and 50 pesos per pound; while black beans go for 10 to 12 pesos. Other grains are priced beyond the reach of most pockets. The price for one pound of red beans has reached 17 pesos, while white beans cost between 18 and 20, and the price of chick peas has risen to 22. Continue reading
March of the Ladies in White through Havana. (EFE)
14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 28 October 2015 — The latest cyber-skirmish unleashed around statements made by Eliécer Ávila, leader of the opposition movement Somos+, about the #Todosmarchamos initiative, once again focuses first, on the need for restraint in political discourse and the importance of not allowing ourselves to be swayed by the provocations of those who pursue only ratings and drama from the comfortable security of their distant geographical locations, and secondly, on the inability to weigh things at fair value, whether by the so-called opposition leaders — regardless of their strategies, their ideological orientation or their political proposals, if they happen to have them — or by public opinion.
In this case, there are numerous myths contained in a sort of Theogony of the opposition, a mirage created and sustained from abroad in an absurd desire to hold on to an opposition epic — which should eventually replace the current revolutionary epic — which, like the latter, creates pockets of prestige and heroism, and even castes and lineages, depending on whether the new heroes are willing to bleed or get slapped on the head. It is a well-known fact that we Cubans are experts at repeating our mistakes, especially those that guarantee future suffering and shredding of vestments.
We Cubans are experts at repeating our mistakes, especially those that guarantee future suffering and shredding of vestments Continue reading
Havana’s Capitol Building (photograph from the internet)
Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 5 October 2015 — In recent days the official Cuban press published a report on the National Capitol building restoration work currently underway, in order to get it ready for the operation of the National Assembly at an unspecified future date.
Unfortunately, the report suffers from inaccuracies and from the typical flourishes of the Cuban school of journalism, which focuses more on the emotions of the author during his quick tour of the works and his personal adventure aboard a winch at over 262 feet above ground than on the truly interesting questions that might interest a fairly astute reader, for instance, the total cost of the work five years after the start of the project, which has already exceeded the length of time that it took to construct the iconic building, or the reasons that led to the decision to return this structure to its original function of hosting Parliament after its deliberate and systematic destruction and its Republican values by the willpower of Castro I. Continue reading
A sole proprietor sells peanuts and sweets in Havana streets, but he is far from opening a store and growing his small business. (Luz Escobar)
14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 3 October 2015 — Halfway between analysis and opinion, and not having responded clearly to his own initial question, journalist Carlos M. Álvarez recently addressed a controversial issue: the transition in Cuba, or to put it more accurately, as posed by the title of his work: Can a transition in Cuba be discussed?
In principle, we must give credit to Álvarez for his courage: to declare that we are experiencing a transition in Cuba may be total heresy for many, beyond their political positions, or likes or dislikes of the government or of the opposition. In particular, it is taboo for those who have communed with the official power; but also, as he points out, it is something denied by many Cubans who are not at all into politics, by a sector of the domestic opposition and by the most intransigent groups in exile. Continue reading
Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 24 September 2015 — The recent visit to Cuba of the Bishop of Rome, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, brought a flood of masses and homilies in several different settings, where, among others, two words were often heard in the context of the Cuban landscape: forgiveness and reconciliation. They were all the more curious since they were not evoked at the same time as those other words to which they are unavoidably related: offense, confession and repentance.
In this fashion, Francis urged all Cubans, believers or not, to reconciliation in the abstract and forgiveness of no particular offense, an exhortation so cryptic and watered-down that it well could have been uttered anywhere in the world. Who are the offenders and the offended, what do offenses consist of, whose turn is it to forgive and who will be the forgiven were matters that were left to each individual to ponder. The Pope also spoke of “suffering of the poor,” of “respect to differences” and many other similar phrases that can assume conflicting interpretations according to one’s point of view. Continue reading
Carlos III and Árbol Seco (author’s photograph)
Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana 18 September 2015 – There is just one day left before the arrival of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Bishop of Rome, and work at the Cuban capital has intensified on the faded facades of buildings flanking the route that the head of the Vatican and his accompanying delegation will travel. A motley profusion of stridently contrasting colors has invaded the city, in an apotheosis of bad taste.
These days, the deployment of supports and scaffolding has been intense around the streets that the sense of humor of people has dubbed “Via Sacra.” As often happens in murky waters, the occasion is also conducive to the illicit sale of paint. Thus, a gallon of water is added to every gallon of paint that is sidetracked for sale, in the watercolor canvas destined to cover the usual filth on the facades. It is an economic law that no opportunity for smuggling should be wasted in a country where the black market is not only the best stocked, but also the most organized and efficient. In addition, the visit will be brief, so Bergoglio will not witness how the layers of bright colors poured out in his honor will fade away under the scorching Cuban sun. Continue reading
A bricklayer works on a wall in Havana, Cuba.Reuters
What Happens the Day After Pope Francis Leaves Cuba?
The paradise many Cubans dream of is not in the infinity of the heavens, but a mere 90 miles across the sea.
The pope is arriving in Cuba, and with him runaway speculation in the media about the impact his visit will have on Cuban society and politics—and particularly the push for greater democracy in the country.
Read the rest of the article in The Atlantic, here.
19 September 2015
Pope Francis I at the European Parliament last November. (Flickr / CC)
14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 4 September 2015 – Pope Francis has just taken an extraordinary step: he has arranged for the Catholic Church to grant forgiveness to women who had abortions during the Holy Year (December 8, 2015 to December 20, 2016) provided they are sincerely repentant of it. This is a temporary authorization for the clergy to exercise love and the infinite mercy of God.
Only time will tell if such a decision, included in the changes launched by Bergoglio since his ascension to the Papal throne, will turn out to be temporary or more permanent in character. However, we must recognize that the step taken by the pontiff is, at minimum, bold. It could not be otherwise, if he really intends to carry out a process that places the Catholic Church — essentially backward — on track to assimilate the dynamics of the twenty-first century, when religious scholastic pruderies are being relegated in the presence of new realities that pose real challenges to old moral orders, such as this and other controversial issues, including the recognition of gay rights and gay marriage. Continue reading
The lifeless body of Diomar Tarcisio Arenas Sanguino is transferred through the fence that separates the countries of Venezuela and Colombia. Arenas died of appendicitis in Guasdualito, Táchira, after failing to receive adequate treatment just for being Colombian, said his sister Sulbey Arenas. (EFE / Mauricio Duenas Castaneda)
14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 2 September 2015 — The paranoid frenzy of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has reached delirium levels, and now, in the midst of the crisis taking place on the border between his country and Colombia, and in the course of his untimely visit to Vietnam, geographically removed from the diplomatic cloud of dust he provoked, he appeared on Hanoi national television and took the opportunity to accuse Colombian president, Juan Manuel Santos, of “turning a blind eye” to the campaign which – he claims to have proof — is being orchestrated in Bogota to kill him.
What began a few years ago as innocent conversations with a bird Maduro claimed to be the ghost of his tutor, the late Hugo Chávez, has ended up becoming a sequence of hallucinations about a true international conspiracy to assassinate him – since he is so famous and important — and destroy the Bolivarian Revolution, as if he himself hadn’t wholeheartedly taken on responsibility for that task. Continue reading
Interior of Carlos III Market in downtown Havana. (14ymedio)
14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana | August 18, 2015 — A crowd of shoppers and dozens of neighbors in the vicinity stood together at around 3 PM last Monday across from the popular Carlos III Market, in the capital municipality of Centro Habana. In a matter a minutes, and in a flurry of confusion, they had been forced to evacuate all shopping departments, eateries and entertainment areas due to a “bomb threat”.
The emblematic shopping center was shut down, and employees responsible for its security, who almost never have anything to do other than to check out the bags of customers suspected of theft, fluttered from one side to the other, trying to keep away the curious while exchanging details in their walkie-talkies, in a showy display worthy of a Hollywood action film like those that air on Cuban TV on Saturday nights. They had become the heroes of the day and were enjoying their role.
We are the only people who, instead of running away, stand around in a place where the possibility of a bomb exploding has just been announced. Continue reading
Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 10 August 2015 — The digital version of Cuba’s most official newspaper, Granma, has once again published an article harping on the issue of nationalization of businesses and other US properties in Cuba which took place in 1960.
A few weeks before, the same lampoon had made reference to the matter, which, curiously, is one of the items on the agenda currently being negotiated by the governments of both countries.
The insistence on the subject should not be random, though it is inconsistent if we take into consideration that the public event that transpired 55 years ago, in front of a delirious crowd that filled the Estadio del Cerro, when Castro I – along with his younger brother, current negotiator General-President – proclaimed, microphone in hand, possessed by his own soul and by force of populism, the Law that in one swift stroke expropriated some thirty properties belonging to “the Yankee imperialism.” The very same “imperialism” (or could it be another?) that the very same old Cuban government (and no other) is crying out for, without mediating explanation for such a radical reversal. Continue reading
Historian and activist Armando Chaguaceda en Miami. (14ymedio)
14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Miami, 3 August 2015 — Historian and activist Armando Chaguaceda defines himself as a defender of “democratic socialism that does not sacrifice freedoms for goods or services.” In Cuba, he associates with the independent left and currently resides in Mexico. Last week, he traveled to Miami for a meeting of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy (ASCE, its acronym in English).
“Chagua” as his friends call him, spoke to 14ymedio about reforms in Cuba, the process of the negotiations with the US and the future of the ideology he has defended throughout his life.
Miriam Celaya (MC). Where is the left headed in Cuba?
Armando Chaguaceda. The left is often defined by privileging equality over freedom. However, this is a very schematic definition. For me, it is necessary to hold political equality and rights against all powers, including the market.
In Cuba, the left will become more pluralistic. There are several lefts currently on the Island: one that is more communist and totalitarian; another one is anarchist and does not recognize the State, which is good in a sense because it demystifies and questions it. Mine is the social democracy or democratic socialism, which does not sacrifice freedoms for goods or services. It is a more humane and inclusive socialism. Continue reading
Who will compensate the thousands of Cuban boat people who lost their lives in the Florida Straits? (Mexico, Department of the Navy)
14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 22 July 2015 — After the media foreplay stirred by the opening of the Cuban and US embassies in their respective countries, some outstanding issues on the agenda of negotiations between the two governments begin to surface as matters that should, in short order, get the attention of the media and of public opinion.
Statements by senior officials on both sides have made reference to cardinal issues that marred the Cuba-US relations for half a century, whose solution – requiring very complex negotiations and agreement — will depend on the success of the standardization process that has been occupying headlines and raising expectations since this past December 17th.
One such point refers to compensation claims from both sides. On the US side, for the expropriations suffered by large American companies in Cuba, whose assets have remained in the hands of the Cuban government, and the demands of Cuban citizens who emigrated to the US, who were also stripped of their properties under laws introduced by the Revolution in its early years which remained in place for decades. The total amount of compensation demanded by those affected is estimated at about 7 or 8 billion dollars. Continue reading
Inauguration of the Washington embassy with officials from Cuba and the US (picture from the Internet)
Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 22 July 2015 — The reopening of the Cuban embassy in Washington finally took place amid extravagant fanfare, and, judging by the profuse media coverage, with catchy headlines and photos on the front pages of almost all the newspapers, it seemed that there was nothing more relevant taking place in the world.
The (re)opening of the Cuban embassy was the recipient of movie star treatment in some of the news media: photo galleries with pictures of before and after, instant ones — not as offensive — of the first opening of the building during the Cuban Republican era, a construction worker, proudly posing outside the newly renovated headquarters, showing off his Che Guevara arm tattoo, an indoor plaque to be unveiled at the time of the opening, and the flag hoisted on the mast; just like all flags at embassies around the world … Undoubtedly, the Island’s proverbial vanity was on a high.
A large official delegation traveled from Cuba, at public expense, to attend the merriment that joyfully celebrated the Castros’ capitulation and which – with that skill for euphemisms — the government discourse coined as a “victory of the Revolution.” These included several representatives of the government “civil society” who offered the embarrassing spectacle of rallies of repudiation orchestrated during the last Summit of the Americas in Panama, who now were awarded a trip of encouragement to the Empire of Evil which provides so many goods. Continue reading