Corruption, the End of Impunity and the Latin American Political Street Gangs

Lula and ex-president Dilma Rousseff (AFP)

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 10 April 2018 — With the recent imprisonment of former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the regional left has just received another hard setback. In fact, it could almost be said that Lula’s fall from grace has been the most serious blow suffered by Latin American progressives in the midst of the relentless bashing that its leaders have been weathering in recent times.

Lula is, without a doubt, one of the few heads of state of the left under whose government (2003-2011) extraordinary economic and social improvement was seen, reflected in a high rate of GDP growth, increases in exports, anticipated liquidation of external debts, strengthening of the national markets, significant decreases in unemployment, increases in salaries and the creation and diversification of microcredits, among other important reforms. continue reading

If Brazil reached a relevant position in the world economy in just eight years, and if ever the developing countries looked with hope at what was known at the time as “the Brazilian miracle,” it is largely due to the political talent and the economic reforms promoted by Lula, which explains his enormous popularity in his country and the considerable political capital which he still has, even in the midst of the judicial process – a corruption plot not yet concluded – that has landed him in jail.

But, along with all of Lula’s merits listed above is that other essential component of the best exponents of political populism: a mixture of charisma and histrionics that the former President, now a defendant, has deployed astutely, in the purest style of the television soap operas produced by his country, to manipulate the exalted spirits of his followers in his favor. Staying in the political game, despite everything, is one of the most common tricks of populist leaders, regardless of their ideological alignment.

The hoax reached its climax precisely at the end of the 48 hours of the weekend in which he remained resistant – self imprisoned, it could be said – in the face of the order to surrender to the authorities to begin to serve a 12-year prison sentence, when, surrounded by militants of his own party (Partido de los Trabajadores, PT) and other allied parties – among which the everlasting scarlet shadow of the Communists could not be absent – Lula used popular sentimentality to invoke the memory of his late wife on the first anniversary of her death, with a Catholic mass that served to close a chapter in what promises to be an extensive and complicated saga.

Afterwards, before surrendering to the authorities, the beginning of messianism and megalomania surfaced in one who, now purified by his punishment, assumes himself as metamorphosed into the Illuminati of the poor, to harangue his enlightened discourse, with a mystical touch: “I will not stop because I am no longer a human being, I am an idea (…) mixed with your ideas.” And “in this town there are many Lulas.” Apotheosis of the peoples. The crowd cheered deliriously, tears flowed and hugs for the martyr abounded. Curtain down.

It is not personal. It is known that the defense of those who are condemned must be allowed, even from the guillotine, and that those who are hanged also kick about. However, as far as it has transpired, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was prosecuted with the corresponding guarantees under the Brazilian judicial system rules, and he is being convicted of corruption, not because of his political ideas.

Ergo, even though Lula’s downfall benefits his political adversaries, it was Lula himself who, in committing the crime, deeply harmed the PT and dirtied the “cause” of his followers. It is not, then, a “political trial,” as his regional leftist allies want others to believe, and some of them are beginning to fear they could also be splashed by this great mess of putrefaction.

Beyond all that Lula did well, no one is above the Law. After all, whoever is corrupt should be prosecuted and imprisoned, especially those who hold political office. It is true that, in good faith – and judging by the corruption scandals that are being uncovered in recent years among the political classes of any alignment – it would be said that, in order to imprison the dishonest public servants, prison capacities would have to be expanded rapidly, especially in Latin America.

In fact, the history of our region is so lavish in examples of political and administrative decay at all levels that this last uncorking, which continues to expose long chains of corruption and to implicate numerous high level politicians, should not surprise anyone. The novelty – and this, only to a certain extent – is that they are being judged, condemned and imprisoned.

We must not forget the case of the former Brazilian president Fernando Collor de Mello (who governed between March 1990 and October 1992) as the young politician who assumed the first presidency of a democratic Brazil. He won the elections in the second round – precisely against Lula da Silva – for the right-wing National Reconstruction Party, with the promise of ending the illicit enrichment of public officials.

Paradoxically, just over two years later, Collor de Mello was forced to resign because of investigations of corruption – acceptance of bribes in exchange for political favors – and influence peddling, followed by a Congress that officially requested his dismissal. A technicality in the court process prevented his being found guilty of political corruption, and that saved him from prison. However, Congress did consider him guilty and condemned him to eight years of suppression of his political rights. So far, Collor de Mello has not succeeded in his political career, although he has again attempted to venture into it.

Now, Collor de Mello’s asking his supporters back then to publicly demonstrate against what he called a “coup d’état”, seems to be part of a desperate recourse followed by presidents fallen into disgrace, beyond their political color. Years later, Dilma Rousseff took that same stance when facing her own destitution.

And these are only Brazilian references. We can also mention recent cases of fallen angels in other countries of the region, such as the left-wing Argentine president, Cristina Fernández – also said to be “persecuted politically,” the poor thing – or the right-wing Peruvian president, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. It has been said that corruption is not an ideological disease, but a moral one.

And while the spiral of corruption continues to expand, dragging more and more prominent figures of regional politics in its dizzying cone, Latin Americans who are followers of one leader or another – or one party or trend or another – continue to show civic immaturity and the proverbial political infantilism.

So, instead of taking on the challenge of the moment and embracing the end of impunity as an essential principle that, without distinction or privileges, will reign over all public servants, they prefer to project themselves as if this were all a brawl between street gangs, where what really matters is not to prove one’s innocence but to accentuate the guilt of the adversary. It isn’t so much that “mine” is corrupt, but that “yours” is more so. And so it seems that we will continue to the end of time.

To paraphrase a well-known Cuban poet: It’s Latin America, don’t be surprised at anything.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Cuban Children and Childish Journalism

Students from a primary school in Havana say goodbye to the 2016-2017 academic year. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 9 April 2018 — On Friday, April 6th, The National Newscast on Cuban Television (NTV) devoted a few minutes of its midday and evening editions to broadcast a critical report by journalist Maray Suárez about parents’ lack of attention to their children. In her own words, this situation, which is becoming worrisome in current Cuban society, negatively affects the education and the formation of children’s values.

It is refreshing to see that someone finally cares about this issue despite the slow reaction of the government press when it comes to addressing the multiple and pressing problems of society. continue reading

The report is based on Suarez’s two particular personal experiences. The first took place 4 o’clock in the morning, when the reporter was on her way to work and she encountered a group of teenagers, between 12 and 15 years old, gathered on a corner of Havana’s Vedado district. The second, when she attended a choreographed performance by a large group of children from the primary school Quince de Abril, in the Havana municipality of Diez de Octubre, on the occasion of the celebration of the 57th anniversary of the Organization of Pioneers of Cuba. The reporter showed the video recording of that performance in conjunction with the report.

It’s heartening that someone finally cares about this matter, despite slow reaction by the government press when it comes to addressing the problems of society

In the first case, Suárez stopped to talk with the night-owl boys, asked them their ages and reflected on the families’ lack of supervision that allows these children to stay up late at night in the street, with all its implied risks.

In the second case, the video presented on NTV shows a group of children at the Pioneer celebration, dressed in their school uniforms, dancing provocatively to the sound of reggae music, sensually swaying their hips, glutes and waists. Suárez believes that the celebration should have included the sort of music which is more appropriate to a children’s audience than that which led to a vulgar, erotic display that played out on the school’s stage.

“Are these the spectacles we want from our children?” the worried reporter of the official press asks rhetorically. The journalist insists on the importance of “the interaction of the child with the family,” underlining that the development of minors is an obligation “that the whole society should be concerned with.” All of which is (or should at least be) true.

However, perhaps driven by her passionate interest in the education and care of children, Maray Suárez forgot to inform us if – as one would expect – she consulted or asked the families of those children for their authorization before exposing them publicly performing their obscene dance in a video broadcast by the Cuban TV news media, which did not take the trouble to have anyone pixelate their innocent faces.

Could it be that this media professional not know that exposing images of children publicly constitutes a crime in any moderately civilized society in the world?

Could it be that this press professional did not know that exposing images of children publicly constitutes a crime in any moderately civilized society in the world? Where, then, are her own ethical values as a journalist? Does she find it very educational to act with such flagrant disrespect to minors and their families?

Unfortunately, since Cuba is not a State of Laws, the parents and children thus vexed are defenseless: they cannot sue the colossal official press apparatus or the reporter in question.

Although the reporter addresses the issue of family supervision, it would not hurt to introduce reflections on the role that the teachers and the primary school management played in this case. Ultimately, it was they who allowed – and perhaps even promoted – these children’s vulgar dance display at school.

For the problem to be really corrected, the official press should put aside all the hypocritical puritanism that mediates each article of information and take on the challenge of describing and exposing the dark and dirty cracks lacerating the current Cuban society.

The official press should put aside all the hypocritical puritanism that mediates each article of information and take on the challenge of describing and exposing the dark and dirty cracks lacerating current Cuban society 

The task is particularly impossible if we take into account that to find a solution to sensitive issues such as the one we are dealing with, it is necessary to stop beating about the bush. Instead of flirting with the effects, you must first identify the causes of the malady.

But faced with a deep problem in education, it will not be the communicators of the government press who air the dirty laundry.

Because, at the end of the day, the official journalists are also a bit like children: to publish each and every one of their lines or tidbits they need the consent of the principal responsible for the disaster: the Government. And the journalists of the Castro regime are, Yessir, respectful and obedient children.

Translated by Norma Whiting


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

The Victorious Failure of the Castro Regime / Miriam Celaya

Cuba’s ‘leaders’

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 28 March 2018 – On April 19th, when the enigma is finally cleared up about who the new Cuban president (not elected by the people) will be, for the next 10 years, the members of his brotherhood won’t be able to figure out whether to congratulate him or to offer him their condolences.

The new leader will not only be inheriting that old unburied corpse that they stubbornly insist on calling “The Cuban Revolution,” but he will have the colossal task before him of prolonging – theoretically ad infinitum – the funeral of such a long-lived mummy, and in addition, he would also be doing it under the rigid rules (supposedly “Guidelines”) dictated by the outgoing president. continue reading

At least this is what translates from the minimal information published by the official press monopoly on the 5th Plenum of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), in whose framework – which covered two days of “intense work” – “important issues of the updating of the Cuban economic and social model were analyzed,” such as the project of the “Housing Policy in Cuba” and “a report approved by the Political Bureau on the studies that are being conducted for a future reform to the Constitution.” The latter will ratify “the irrevocable nature of our socialism and the leading role of the Party in Cuban society.”

That said, and until the next Congress of the PCC to be held in 2021, General Raúl Castro will continue to lead the “superior leadership force” of Cuban society, unless nature decides otherwise. Then it will be him in this last instance, and not the brand-new President, who makes the political decisions of the country, and who controls the fulfillment of what is ruled under his administration.

And as if all this straitjacket from internal politics were not enough, the incoming president will be the first in the saga of “Cuban socialism” that will face endemic economic ruin without counting on the juicy external subsidies – first, from the extinct Soviet power, then, from the Venezuelan “chavismo,” today ruined and wavering – which their predecessors, the Castros, enjoyed. How the economic crisis and the social discontent will be mitigated without external support and without implementing real reforms will be a challenge that will have to be followed with interest.

Add to this the marked retreat of the leftist regimes in the region, partly as a result of the bad policies that have made them lose the trust of their voters, who have punished them at the polls, but also due to the wave of corruption scandals related to the Brazilian transnational organization Odebrecht, which has involved numerous governments and whose spillovers have already reached Venezuela’s Miraflores Palace, the closest ally of the Castro regime. In this regard, it could be only a matter of time before some of the compromising ‘details’ begin to appear in relation to the Lula-Castro-Special Mariel Development Zone and the aforementioned company.

Thus, the the “new” Cuban government’s margin to maneuver in favor of “apertures” or “reforms” that would differentiate the before-Castro and after-Castro eras should wait at least three more years in the domestic policy order, unless the difficult circumstances of the country, together with the changing external conjunctures create an appropriate scenario for it. And all of this, taking into account the doubtful event that the president “elected” this April has sufficient political capacity, intelligence, and the inclination for change to take advantage of the moment and promote the necessary transformations that will bring Cubans their long-postponed prosperity.

But, in any case, this 5th Plenary Session of the PCC has been perhaps the outgoing president’s last wasted opportunity to demonstrate some capacity in his late leadership after 12 years of erratic hesitations, of tiny advances followed by resounding setbacks, and of so many unfulfilled promises.

Had he lived up to his own commitments, Castro II would have had to leave at least some essential formulas, such as the new draft Electoral Law, announced before the celebration of the Seventh Congress of the PCC; the proposal of a monetary unification plan – with its corresponding execution schedule; and the much-vaunted new rules for self-employment, including the re-establishment of granting of licenses, arbitrarily suspended since August 2017.

So, according to the progress report presented during this Fifth Congress, the evaluation of the implementing of policies authorized in the Guidelines yielded “unfavorable” results – a term which softens the disastrous truth – which is reflected, among other adverse factors, in the mistakes made, in the deficiency of the controls, in a “limited vision of the risks,” in the absence of adequate legal norms, in the information gaps, in the lack of a tax culture and in another string of stumbling blocks that – for a change – are attributable only to “the base.”

“There is a wasteful mentality,” the general-president lectured. But, despite such a catastrophic performance and the failure of what we could generously call his “government program” (the Guidelines, approved during the VI Congress of the PCC, on April 18, 2011), he assures us that “the situation today is more favorable.” He did not clarify how “favorable” or favorable for what.

And since we, the “governed,” have been making mistakes on our own without understanding the clear guidance of this leader through regulatory improvisation for seven years (more), now it is up to us to wait another indefinite amount of time until the wrongs can be straightened out. How will they do it? Well, as always, by bureaucracy and re-centralizing the economy.

To begin with, the new “legal norms” are being created that will ensure self-employment integrity. There will be a greater participation of the central organs in the controls of the fulfillment of each guideline and of each measure, and finally, a “work training” will be undertaken, not only of the leading cadres, inspectors and officials of the structures in charge of the control, but also of the 580,000 self-employed who – according to official figures – exist in Cuba, so that they learn, once and for all, how things should work.

Mind you, what has not appeared in the press to date, and we don’t know if it was discussed in the Fifth Plenary Session of the PCC, is when a training course will be held so that, after 60 years of experiments and “victorious” failures, the lords of the leadership and the rest of the cohort can learn to govern.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Martí, the Dubious “Sacred Brand” / Miriam Celaya

‘I Want to Make a Film, by cinematographer Yimit Ramírez. (poster)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 26 March 2018 – It is quite possible that when Yimit Ramírez – until recently a young and unknown Cuban filmmaker – decided to make his first feature film, he did not aspire to become a sort of sacrilegious monster himself. Even less would he think he was turning his team into a bunch of apostates.

I Want to Make a Movie (Quiero Hacer Una Película) is the title of a motion picture whose projection was planned as a work in production with an included debate, at the theater on 23rd Street and 12th in the center of Havana’s Vedado neighborhood, within the Special Presentation section of the XVII Muestra Joven Show, held between April 3rd and 8th. At the last moment, the work did not pass the test of the low barrier of the official censorship of the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC) due to a detail found unacceptable by the Torquemada1 of such a virtuous institution. During a brief segment of the film, a young adolescent character refers to the most famous hero of the Cuban independence, José Martí, by the offensive terms of “mojón” (turd) and “maricón” (faggot). continue reading

As a result of such mockery, the film was relegated to a quasi-symbolic exhibition in the small Terence Piard screening room, with capacity for a small audience of only 24 spectators, the reason for the filmmakers’ decision to retire the movie from being shown.

The ICAIC not only suspended the press conference where the filmmakers would give their own views on the matter, but also divulged their own statement explaining their intolerance to what they consider “an insult to Martí.”

The reaction was immediate. The ICAIC not only suspended the press conference where the filmmakers would give their own views on the matter, but also divulged their own statement explaining their intolerance to what they consider “an insult to Martí.” The film producer and the coordinators of the event used the social networks – obviously, they knew that they would not be granted space in the official media – to express their disagreement with the ICAIC’s decision and to promote a public debate.

As a greater irreverence, the filmmakers exhibited a fragment of the movie where the above offensive epithets against Marti that led to censorship takes place, making public precisely aware of what the official “watchmen of virtue” sought to silence.

Everything indicated that, for the purposes of national public opinion, the matter would remain on social networks, that is, circumscribed to the small segment of Cubans who have access to the Internet, and within the usual gossip of those “in the know”. However, the censorship and scolding seemed insufficient punishment to the art curators, so that the powerful monopoly of the official press has also lashed out – with even a stronger force, the Apostle (as Cubans call José Martí) would have said – against the filmmakers.

The most recent (journalistic?) pearl about the subject has been an extensive article by Luis Toledo Sande, taken from Cubarte and reproduced over six columns in the Sunday edition of the Juventud Rebelde newspaper entitled Fatal Bullets against José Martí (With the Objective of a Movie in Production).

The article is a difficult read, and too bombastic to be credible, where the abundance of accusations against the young filmmakers contrasts with the lack of clarity in language and arguments.

Judging by the angry speech of Toledo Sande, it could be said that Cubans are a people given to the veneration or idolatry of the founding fathers of the nation

Judging by the angry speech of Toledo Sande, we would say that Cubans are a people given to the veneration or idolatry of the founding fathers of the nation, when in fact the excessive tendency to derision that characterizes the natives of this island results in nothing – or almost nothing – seeming sufficiently sacred to them.

In any case, the closest examples of veneration evidenced in Cuba are the procession of Our Lady of Charity – Cachita, as she is more popularly known – who corresponds to the deity Oshún (or Osún) in the popular tradition of the Yoruba religion heritage, and the numerous yearly pilgrimages to Rincón, to fulfill promises or to ask for healing miracles to San Lázaro, or Babalú Ayé, also in the Yoruba religion. In both rituals there is a strong base of superstition and practicality, rather than a feeling of true holiness.

But in the heat of his revolutionary delirium, Toledo Sarde considers that the movie makers have not only mocked the “massive veneration” of Martí, who has been granted “the brand of the sacred” in Cuba, but they have crossed the limits of freedom of creation to become practically traitors to the nation, just like the shadowy “enemies of the Revolution”, who invoke the name of Martí to destroy Cuba.

“The dialogue in particular (disclosed by the producer of the film on social networks) contains rudeness that had not reached any of the most bitter Martí detractors,” exclaims Toledo Sande, indignant. Which justifies censorship because “the nation would be in very bad straits if, blackmailed by the maneuvers of its enemies (…), would even tie its hands so as not to stop what must be stopped”.

And, since “at this point it’s senseless to speak of the ‘trusting ones’,” Toledo Sande says that the affront to the Apostle in the case of the aforementioned film constitutes no less than a “poison”.

Now, beyond so much hypocritical patriot scorn, this attack on an unfinished movie, unseen by the public and against a small team of unknown filmmakers, is extremely disproportionate. The point is not that reviling Martí or your neighbor is right or wrong, but seeing the facts in their proper dimension, without tears or tango passions.

Beyond so much hypocritical patriot scorn, this attack on an unfinished movie is extremely disproportionate.

Sticking to the mere object of the scandal – just a few “bad words” in the dialogue of a feature film – what could be the insult? Is it that the official homophobia in this misogynistic and patriarchal society cannot tolerate that the National Hero be branded as queer? The defenders of revolutionary virtue should clarify the point: if Marti’s transcendence is derived fundamentally from his actions for Cuba’s independence, why would attributing a certain sexual orientation to him be so offensive? Would Mariana Grajales2 lose her title as “mother of our country” if some archival document is found indicating she was a lesbian? Would someone who referred to her as “Mariana the Butch” be labeled a traitor?

There are written testimonies of participants in the emancipatory deed that assure that both Máximo Gómez -the flamboyant Generalissimo of our two Wars of Independence- and the ultra-brave Antonio Maceo – labeled with the nickname “Bronze Titan” – an epithet that today would accuse a certain suspicious whiff of racism – felt an undisguised disdain for José Martí, whom they called contemptuously “the Delegate”. Yet, both Gómez and Maceo have a high focal point in the pantheon of patriotic glories.

However, the really rude thing is that the Cuban government, specifically the late Fidel Castro, has insulted so many times and with impunity the memory of the Apostle Martí by pinning the José Martí National Order, conceived in 1972 to distinguish “Cuban and foreign citizens and Chiefs of State or Government for their great deeds in favor of peace, friendship and humanity’s progress”, on the chests of representatives of repressive regimes – such as Soviet Leonid I. Brezhnev, Ethiopian Mengistu Haile Mariam, Romanian Nicolae Ceausescu or Czechoslovakian Gustav Husak, for example – and even on the chest of worldwide repudiated genocidal individuals – like Zimbabwean Robert Mugabe and Cambodian Heng Samrin – without anyone in this Island, pregnant with virtuous admirers of Martí, having raised their voices in protest against such scandalous affront.

What really hides under all the commotion around a simple fiction movie is the unspeakable fear of the leadership and its servants before an uncertain national and regional horizon

What really hides under all the commotion around a simple fiction movie is the unspeakable fear of the ruling dome and its servants before an uncertain national and regional horizon.

And all this without forgetting what an insult it is to bestow Martí with the intellectual authorship of a violent, armed assault, in broad daybreak, against military barracks where soldiers of the constitutional army were sleeping – and not criminals – an attack that today would classify as a terrorist act and one that, at the time, only served to satisfy the dreams of glory and greatness of a megalomaniac, who ended up becoming the leader of the longest and most destructive dictatorship that this island has ever known.

But more than the ridiculous divinization of the Apostle or the alleged defense of our national values by the commissaries of the Castro regime, what really hides under all the commotion around a simple fiction movie is the unspeakable fear of the leadership and its servants before an uncertain national and regional horizon, in the midst of which the transfer of the government of the ex-guerrilla elders to a new generation of supposedly “faithful ones” must take place.

The point is not that a presumed veneration of the Apostle is crumbling, but that every little civic irreverence seems to remind the autocrats that, for them, there will not even be pedestals.

1 Tomás de Torquemada (1420-1498) Spanish Dominican monk, first Grand Inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition

2 Mariana Grajales and her family served in the Ten Year’s War, the Little War (1868-1878) and the War of 1895. She was the mother of José and Antonio Maceo Grajales, who served as generals in the Liberation Army from 1868 through 1878. During her time serving in the war, Mariana ran hospitals and provision grounds on the base camps of her son Antonio, frequently entering the battlefield to aid both Spanish and Cuban wounded soldiers.

Translated by Norma Whiting


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

When You Invite the “Obnoxious One” to the Party / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

Raul Castro

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 23 March 2018 — There is no doubt that with the Castro presence in international forums, the same thing happens as when they invite “an obnoxious one” to a party: he will always end up sabotaging everyone’s good time.

The examples of Castro’s “diplomatic” outbursts abound throughout the decades of the olive-green rule. Suffice it to recall the well-known diatribes and public tantrums of Castro I in dissimilar world conclaves against any government, official or just a journalist who was not to his liking, or who suggested the smallest slight toward his government. His anger was such that he seemed close to suffering a sudden stroke. continue reading

Such behavior, far from disappearing from the official practice, has become the style of the school of Cuban diplomacy. It consists essentially of exchanging the absence of arguments with verbal and at times even physical aggression, as was demonstrated during the VII Summit of the Americas, held in April 2015 in Panama, where the well-trained hosts of the “civil society “of the dictatorship violently attacked the representatives of Cuba’s independent civil society, who were invitees to the same forum.

The show was deplorable and will be engraved in the memory of those who had the questionable privilege of witnessing it. The worst thing, however, is that despite all this previous experience, the organizers of these forums continue to invite the “obnoxious one”.

Behold, the obvious inability of the Cuban Government to behave correctly in the democratic programs of the world was once again demonstrated by the rude behavior of the Cuban Ambassador to Peru, Juan Antonio Fernández, within the framework of the Hemispheric Dialogue held on March 21st in Lima, in preparation to the forthcoming Summit of the Americas.

This time the outburst of the Cuban amanuensis took place in the midst of a comment from José Luis Vallejo, the Peruvian representative of the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy (RLJD). Vallejo’s “sin” was to make reference in his speech to the ceremony to grant the Oswaldo Payá Awards in Havana, remarking that the prize winners have not been able to attend two of the ceremonies in a row by the express prohibition of the Cuban authorities. Vallejo also expressed his enthusiasm to attend the third award granting ceremony in Havana.

“Don’t even dare mention that name in my presence” the “diplomat” shouted to Castro Vallejo, in an intimidating manner. “I’ll ask you not to stick your nose in Cuban matters. Stop hassling us and stick to whatever you need to discuss.”

And representatives of the regional left claque, fulfilling its traditional mission, immediately applauded enthusiastically from their seats.

Because of his language and his attitude, it seems as if the faunal pawn of the insular dictatorship, instead of participating in respectful dialogue on foreign soil like the rest of the delegates, and in the presence of numerous representatives of various civil organizations in the region, was behaving as if he were on– any Centro Habana street corner, facing some troublemaker trying to sneak in the line to get his coveted quota of rationed potatoes.

The picture is more Kafkaesque because minutes before, during an intervention by the uncompromising official — as had previously been done by his compatriot and associate, Yamila González Ferrer, vice president of the ruling Union of Jurists of Cuba — he had launched a fierce attack against the RLJD, without having been interrupted by the representative of said organization.

However, this unfortunate event is just the prelude to what will be the presence of Castro’s groups at the VIII Summit of the Americas. Only, unlike the previous Summit, where after half a century of isolation, the “new” president of Cuba was given the opportunity to demonstrate that he was at the height of this important regional democratic forum — to which the General responded by blasting the alternative spaces of the Summit to encourage his pack of faithful servants to lash out against other Cubans — this time the Peruvian hosts do know, or at least they should know, what to expect.

In light of today, for many commonsensical people, the presence of the longest dictatorship in this Hemisphere is incomprehensible in a conclave that the Venezuelan government was excluded from, precisely because it did not respect the rights of its people. Without a doubt, the proselytizing work developed by the Castros through their doctor/slaves and other vassals has penetrated the political interests sufficiently strong – though not in democratic feelings – of more than one government in this region.

So, when this coming April we witness once again the shameful Panama experience and the loud troops of the Castro regime’s mob sabotage the VIII Summit of the Americas, let the hosts not complain, and let the rest of the representatives of the democratic governments and civil society organizations not be surprised, because an old Arab proverb will be fulfilled.  It goes like this: “The first time they deceive you, it will be their fault. The second time, the fault will be yours”.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Reasons and Lack of Reasons Surrounding Political Dialogue

Cuban President Raúl Castro tries to raise the arm of US President Barack Obama after a press conference in Havana. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 16 March 2018 — When, in December 2014, the US President at the time, Barack Obama, and Cuba’s General-President Raúl Castro unexpectedly announced the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries, the reactions on both sides of the Straits of Florida were immediate.

As is often the case with Cuban political affairs, there was a strong polarization among those who expressed themselves in favor of dialogue as a way to find a solution to the conflict, which in the end could imply benefits for Cubans on both sides and in particular for those living in Cuba, and the ever-intransigents, who considered the events as an undeserved concession to the Castro dictatorship and as a betrayal to the yearnings for democracy of thousands of our countrymen, who for decades had suffered harassment, prison, persecution and exile for their fight against totalitarianism. continue reading

The schism was even greater among the opposition groups. There were no nuances. Overnight, a war seemed to have been declared: the radical groups not only considered the process of dialogue between the two hitherto opposed governments unacceptable, but also disparagingly pinned the labels of “traitors” and “dialoguers” to those broad sectors of dissidents that considered the new policy of the White House as a more propitious strategy to gradually push the long-awaited changes inside Cuba.

It is worth mentioning that the radicals conveniently ignored one small detail. Many members of that large group of political prisoners and persecuted citizens were in favor of the dialogue proces.

The matter became a defining moment, where the most rabid enemies of diplomacy – faithful to their violent and intolerant nature – used verbal aggression and even attempted physical violence against supporters of dialogue in some cases, although the latter were just being consistent with the pro-relations and anti-embargo discourse that they had been defending for decades.

The very brief period that elapsed between the beginning of President Obama’s policy of flexibilization and his departure from power did not make, and obviously could not have mad a significant shift in Cuban politics, but it did have the benefit of undermining the unbending Castro anti-Yankee discourse and completely exposing the lack of political will of the dictatorship to take advantage of the US measures that, if permitted to be carried out as Obama conceived them, would have meant prosperity for Cubans, in particular for the incipient businesses that emerged under the timid attempt of the so-called “Raúl reforms.”

In any case, the “failure” of a rapprochement policy that did not have enough time to show results – and it is known that time is a category of capital importance – was not due to the supposed ingenuity of the American president but to the inveterate stubbornness and totalitarian vocation of the Castro regime. If the dictatorship responded to the flexibilizations of its northern neighbor with repression against dissent and the suffocation of the private sector, it is an account that we cannot attribute to Obama or the restoration of relations, as certified by decades of arrests, imprisonments, executions and despotism that took place in Cuba under the pretext of the existence of the powerful “external enemy” long before the Obama era.

If the dictatorship responded to the flexibilizations of its northern neighbor with repression against dissent and the suffocation of the private sector, it is an account that we cannot attribute to Obama

And since time is a consideration, it is worth remembering that, in fact, in about a year and a half after the restoration of relations between Washington and Havana, the US measures of flexibilization allowed thousands of tourists from the U.S. to enter Cuba, which brought discrete economic benefits, not only for the tourism industry of the Castro regime, their native entourages and their foreign associates, but also – to the alarm of the olive-tree hierarchs who felt threatened by the sudden rise of self-employed Cubans – for a considerable number of private businesses, especially those dedicated to lodging and food services, which in turn generated many jobs associated with their respective facilities.

The election of Republican Donald Trump in November 2016 and his inauguration on January 20th, 2017 not only put an end to the brief era of diplomacy, but it has constituted a clear setback in the rapprochement initiated by his predecessor, to the delight of the recalcitrant opponents to dialogue.

A delight that, nevertheless, is not justified in certainty, since until now Trump does not seem to have intentions to make the two great demands of the most radical sectors a reality, that is: the rupture of diplomatic relations with the Cuban Government and the reestablishment of the ‘wet foot/dry foot’ policy, repealed by Obama a few days before leaving power.

Interestingly, fundamentalists on both banks remain silent on this point. And in general, whether he’ll act or not, Trump remains the unquestionable hero of the fanatics in Cuba.

The silence of the anti-dialoguers is more outrageous these days, when the arrogant Donald Trump has declared his intention to establish a dialogue with none other than the current North Korean satrap

But the silence of the anti-dialoguers is more outrageous these days, when the arrogant Donald Trump has declared his intention to establish a dialogue with none other than the current North Korean satrap, the mass murderer heir to the long power of the Kim dynasty. And this is not necessarily a political error for Trump. In any situation it is more desirable to resolve differences with words and agreements rather than with missiles, especially nuclear missiles.

Only that, following the logic applied to the Obama-Castro dialogue, wouldn’t this President of the world’s greatest power also be “legitimizing” a miserable dictatorship that represses and murders its people? Where are the angry defenders of human rights who are so offended by the US-Cuba dialogue? Could it be that some dialogues are “good” and others “bad”? And in this last case, who is the referee that defines the appropriate adjective in each case?

For the time being, and until they prove otherwise, everything indicates that the exalted atheists of the Cuban opposition have either run out of arguments or they were never very clear. Perhaps in reality what they understand as “politics” is just the reductionist and sectarian vision of a bench of most passionate sports team fans. And there are still some who think of themselves as presidential leaders for the future Cuban democracy. God help us!

Translated by Norma Whiting


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Transportation In Cuba: Multiple Problems For One Solution / Miriam Celaya


cubanet square logoCubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 16 March 2018 — One of the most pressing and old problems never solved in the Cuban capital has been that of public transportation. There are countless causes, beginning with the extreme centralization that placed in the hands of the State the transportation administration and “control” for decades – with the disastrous consequences that this policy has brought in all spheres of the economy and services – to which could be added a long list of adversities inherent to the system, such as the aging of the vehicle fleet, the lack of spare parts to repair the buses’ constant breakdowns, the incongruence between the price of the (subsidized) fares and the cost of keeping the service running, and the chronic lack of cash that hinders the purchase of new and more modern effective buses, among other limitations.

As if such difficulties were not enough, in recent times, Havana residents have habitually used the most economical mode of transportation, the articulated “P” buses (40 cents CUP per passenger), which cover routes in high-demand and have the greatest passenger capacity. They have recently noticed longer waiting times between buses, which causes the corresponding crowding at the bus stops, the chaos at boarding time and all the inconveniences associated with it. continue reading

This time, however, it is not a problem of shortage of equipment, but of drivers. The truth about a growing popular rumor about this new fatality has just been confirmed by the director of the Provincial Transportation Company of Havana (EPTH), according to the official press. The aforementioned director said that, currently, the EPTH deficit is 86 drivers, which means – always in their own words – that, on a daily basis, 700,000 passengers cannot be transported in Havana, which represents about 60,000 pesos less in revenues and an average of 500 fewer trips.

The matter is not trivial. Among the four terminals most affected by the exodus of drivers are two with the highest demand: the ones at Alamar and San Agustín.

So, following “the vision of the directors of this company,” the (new) problem in the capital’s public transportation service, that is, the shortage of drivers, is due to “more tempting offers of salaries and hours at other work centers, as well as the increase in inspectors’ demands and actions so what is established in the sector is fulfilled.” (The underlined section contains the author’s views).

There wasn’t the slightest reference to fundamental issues that affect the transportation sector, and in particular, public transportation drivers, such as the salary incompatibile with the always ungrateful task of driving a heavy vehicle, loaded with irritated passengers, circulating through obsolete, insecure roads, full of potholes; the constant harassment of state inspectors, and the obligation to follow to the letter the sacrosanct commandments written by bureaucrats far removed from the actual work from the comfort of their air-conditioned offices.

However, the brainy directors of the EPTH have conceived a solution to “alleviate” the crisis: “in the coming weeks, a contingent of drivers from several provinces will arrive from the provinces, and the call for all those who wish to join the workforce will continue.”

All of which demonstrates the infinite capacity of the leading cadres of the socialist state enterprise to create several problems for each solution instead of one solution for each problem. Because one doesn’t need to be a genius to see that – except for the possible existence of inflated records – if drivers from the interior provinces are the solution to the transportation crisis in the capital, wouldn’t that be creating conditions for a transportation crisis in those provinces?

Another vital point of the matter: in Havana, aren’t there enough housing problems and insufficient shelters for thousands of victims who have lost their homes due to building collapses or evictions? How is the State going to guarantee accommodation and living conditions for those provincial drivers who will come to “save” the passengers of the capital for an undetermined period of time?

The experience of decades of massive “contingents” mobilized towards the capital – for example, policemen and builders from the eastern provinces, mainly during the 1970’s, though the practice has not completely disappeared – shows that this is a boomerang strategy: it not only increases the problem that is being solved but also generates new ones, mainly in the area of housing.

Although we must recognize that the topic of contingents in Cuba is all a State policy: in any crisis situation – which is the norm, not the exception – the creation of a contingent is always proposed. A contingent can serve the government (and only it) in all cases. Thus, there have also been contingents of teachers, doctors, sports coaches, cultural instructors, etc., whose common denominator is not having solved any problem, but the complete opposite.

And it could not be otherwise because, as is known, the word contingent defines something eventual, not definitive; which is why you cannot face a crisis – be it public order, housing, transport or any other – with a “contingent.” It is necessary to deeply reform the roots of the system that generates the evil, otherwise the contingent will end up being the one that takes root.

But, returning to the issue at hand, it would be interesting to know how the EPTH managers suppose that keeping an open call to increase the workforce of the company will resolve the deficit of drivers. Isn’t that the same type of negotiation that called for drivers to work at other locations that provided better wages and more manageable hours? So, what makes them suppose that the next influx of drivers will remain faithful before the helm, and facing the ferocious harassment (supposedly “demands”) of the inspectors, for the same salary and with the same schedule that determined the stampede of the previous drivers?

Paradoxically, in this case, as in many of the complex problems that overwhelm Cubans today, the solution is very simple and not at all new: allow the creation of autonomous cooperatives of transportation workers, give the fleet to these cooperatives, allow for those cooperative members to purchase fuel at reasonable prices and import cars and spare parts and apply a fair tax burden that encourages work for the sector. In summary, allow the freedoms and rights of workers in the sector. Only then will the eternal transportation crisis disappear, not in the capital, but in all of Cuba.

Because we Cubans have only one problem: an obtuse and failed sixty-year-old political system, which threatens to become eternal.

And in Cuba everything, even a humble bus driver’s employment post, is a reflection of the general crisis of the political system, and as such, constitutes a potential threat that must be “solved” deep down from the structures at the service of the regime. And while we’re waiting around, we can only exclaim what our grandparents used to say: “what a mess!”

Translated by Norma Whiting

Censorship, El Estornudo and Fung’s “Liberation T-Shirts” / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya


cubanet square logoCubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 2 March 2018 – Recently, several media have reported the consummation of another attack by Cuban authorities on the freedom of expression. This time the jealous guardians of political correctness blocked access to the digital magazine El Estornudo (The Sneeze) – an entertaining and well-written journalism project – in what constitutes another demonstration of the totalitarian vocation of the island’s government.

Thus, El Estornudo, is added to the censored list by the commissars of the Palace of the Revolution. A list, by the way, that is extensive, old and of varied tones, qualities and styles, but with one common denominator: narrating a reality that does not reflect the apologists – that is the “journalists” – of the Castro press. continue reading

For their part, the promoters of the magazine have responded with an editorial that does them honor: not only do they openly refuse to bow to the pressure of the Censor, but they declare that such arbitrariness “is not going to modify one iota the editorial line of our magazine nor is it going to make El Estornudo dialogue with the political power on the terms that the political power expects.”

This has been another chapter in the sad repressive repertoire that has been marking the general-president’s departure from the scene, a man who a decade ago was emerging as a possible reformer who would open a path towards relatively favorable changes for Cuba and Cubans.

However, far from making the promises of his initial speeches a reality, Raúl Castro’s last days at the head of the Government have been a clear step backwards that has been reflected particularly on two fronts: the unjustifiable crusade against the small and active private sector – where some minimal advances were being made in terms of the internal economy – and the new onslaught against the sectors of dissent or critics of the political system.

Faced with this reality and after almost 60 years of totalitarianism, it could be assumed that even the most optimistic Cuban would seriously question the health of human rights in Cuba. Especially of economic rights and the freedom of expression and information, so systematically and openly violated. But this is not the case, as evidenced by the interview recently granted by a young Cuban businessman, an emigrant named Juan Pablo Fung, to the news agency EFE.

Fung, great-grandson of a Cantonese Chinese who arrived in Cuba a century ago and settled permanently on the island, emigrated to China seven years ago thanks to a student scholarship. After finishing his studies he decided to stay in that country working for a better future which, obviously, he could not aspire to in Cuba.

Now Fung is about to realize a project dreamed up by him and for which he has been saving and working for the last three years: the production of “smart and free t-shirts” under the Dirstuff brand – carriers of “infinite and interchangeable messages” – soon to be on the market.

What is provocative about the case, however, are not the T-shirts themselves or the fact that they incorporate a personalized QR as a novelty – a technological resource that has already been used on the Island by independent activists – but the (very legitimate) aspiration of Fung to produce these “liberty T-shirts” in his native homeland in a future that, judging by his words, would seem close.

Fung also believes that this would be “the first private company in Cuba,” because “Cuba is changing” starting from an opening that began a few years ago and that will eventually lead to “the legalization of private companies” on the island.

What Fung evidently ignores, is that several years ago there were private capital companies on the island, not only those of foreign and “mixed” capital legalized by the State’s interests since the 1990s, but also those managed by Cubans “from inside.” It is just that the government does not define them as private companies but as “non-state forms” of economic management.

As for the promising “opening” that was announced precisely at the time that Fung left Cuba, currently it is in clear decline.

Nor is it clear whether Fung would invest as a Cuban “from within” or as a resident or Chinese citizen, that is, as a “Cuban émigré,” which for the purposes of the current socio-political and economic model “is neither the same nor is it equal.” In the second case – that is, as an exiled Cuban – the young man would find it impossible to invest on the Island, at least under current laws. Unfortunately, Cuba has not changed as much as Fung supposes.

But perhaps the most interesting thing about the theme of the shirts is the conflict they would spark in a political context as confrontational as that of Cuba. Fung declares that, although his product “advocates freedom of expression,” he does not want it to be politicized, because many people have been meditating on the Cuba issue “using the problems of politics as an argument and justification.” He does not want his T-shirts to become a political platform for these ends so that some profiteers can make money at his expense, which is also his legitimate right as creator and producer.

Being an expert in T-shirts is one thing, but in matters of politics, rights and freedoms the picture is different. Especially if we are talking about Cuba. It is enough to understand that if the Cuban authorities unleash such rage against independent and alternative digital spaces, to the point of censoring them and persecuting their animators – despite the insignificant Internet connectivity suffered by Cubans on the Island and the limited social reach of these media within the country – to know that the suspicions that the production and on-site commercialization of T-shirts carrying “free” messages which the explicitly apolitical Fung dreams of, are incalculable.

We can almost imagine the Central Committee’s Department of Political Guidance assuming the reins of production of “the first private company in Cuba” – Fung’s, of course – to flood the foreign tourism market with clothes, which would carry slogans such as “Commander in Chief, At Your Service!” or ” Fatherland or Death, We Will Conquer!” Or that other pearl that has been incorporated more recently into the official propaganda repertoire: “I am Fidel.” Dantesque. Even for such an optimist as Fung.

Because it turns out that Juan Pablo Fung does not believe that in Cuba “there is no freedom of expression.” For him it is only a problem of definitions around “a complicated issue.” A point on which the young man seems to agree with the censors in the service of Power, and another confusion for which we will have to forgive Fung.

In the end, settling in China can mean a discreet advance for a common Cuban in matters of financial prosperity, but it does not mean an advantageous change in terms of freedoms and rights. Perhaps that is why for Fung in Cuba “there is freedom of expression.” Yes, of course Fung, and “neither” in China.

Political Power is Responsible for the Widespread Corruption

Raúl Castro, Miguel Díaz-Canel, Machado Ventura y Ramiro Valdés. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 1 March 2018 — The Cuban official press recently published an extensive article, authored by journalist Lázaro Barredo, addressing the issue of corruption on the Island, its dissimilar forms, its spread, the depth it has reached – affecting even high public institutions, State Administrative Positions and officials of different levels of the legal system – and its effects on the economy and society.

The relationship of the alarming national corruption – which also contains examples of “confiscatory processes” and court cases against several individuals involved in crimes of this nature – seeks to update the official data and figures that are not usually within the reach of the public domain and to which only trustful and faithful subjects with a sufficiently proven record of services in the Castro regime are able to access, as in the case of Barredo. continue reading

However, the details offered and the terrible picture described are not surprising. Ordinary Cubans are perfectly familiar with the depth and magnitude that corruption has reached in Cuba, since it is part of the everyday reality and covers practically all aspects of life.

Ordinary Cubans are perfectly familiar with the depth and magnitude that corruption has reached in Cuba, since it is part of the everyday reality and covers practically all aspects of life

Omissions when disclosing the number of corrupt individuals in the article is not a big surprise either. There is no mention, for example, of the agents of the National Revolutionary Police and the officials of the Inspectorate, or of their habitual practices of extortion to offenders or the acceptance of bribes; crimes committed with the greatest spontaneity and absolute impunity.

If Barredo is Cuban and wants to appear honest, he cannot and should not dismiss the grave fact that corruption has penetrated so deeply that it also undermines the official institutions called in to combat it in the first line of fire.

Corruption in Cuba is like an unbeatable hydra that owes its success and persistence to its double function, apparently contradictory. On the one hand, it erodes the moral foundations of society, while on the other, its role as provider makes it an essential resource for survival in a country that is biased by shortages and instability.

Not wishing to justify crime or to minimize the perniciousness of the damage it causes, corruption in Cuba is an inevitable evil, at least under current conditions. Not because the population of this Island has a natural propensity to transgress the law, or a spontaneous will to commit a crime, but because corruption is an inherent, and also pernicious, sociopolitical and economic system imposed six decades ago, whose makers still hold the absolute political power.

Not wishing to justify crime or to minimize the perniciousness of the damage it causes, corruption in Cuba is an inevitable evil, at least under current conditions

One of the glaring omissions that stand out in Barredo’s article is that, unlike other nations of the world where corruption “is a cause of moral crisis and a discredit to governments and parties”, in the case of Cuba “this scourge is concentrated in the fundamental, in the managerial, and in the administrative management”.

The article takes for granted the immaculate integrity of our leaders, especially the political leadership, a fallacy that is also a manifestation of corruption by its author, since among the essential functions of the honest press are, among others, the questioning of political powers and the responsibility or the public opinion mobilization based on its link to the truth.

Thus, from the author’s discourse, the Palace of the Revolution not only stands out as the last stronghold of wholesomeness remaining on the Island, but in addition, the olive-green dome does not have any responsibility in the chaos and decay that undermine the country to its foundations today.

Perhaps this explains the plea for the masses – at once victims and beneficiaries of corruption – to wage another transcendental battle in the abstract in which the enemy isn’t (though not directly) “the US imperialism”. Now it’s about a much more dangerous subspecies that threatens the existence of the Cuban sociopolitical “model” in our own home.

This explains the plea for the masses to wage another transcendental battle in the abstract in which the enemy isn’t not the “U. S. imperialism”

This is a really surrealist battle which has already been lost, considering how difficult it is to imagine, for instance, a family’s humble mother betraying the illegal reseller who provides her with milk at lower prices than those at the retail stores that sell in hard currency, so that she can have it for her son’s breakfast because his right to milk on the ration card was terminated when he turned seven. Or when someone’s conscience might lead him to clash with the speculator who guarantees a sick family member the essential medicine missing from the shelves of the pharmacy networks.

According to the article, the hardened hosts of incorruptible “honest citizens” – that is, a non-existent category – should confront those who are corrupt: ambitious officials, enriched self-employed workers, notaries and judges who falsify documents or accept bribes, street resellers, merchants of agricultural products, employees of hard and national currency stores, people who evade taxes, food service employees, doctors who accept payments, and others.

One doesn’t have to be a genius to conclude that, although all of society is involved in corruption, the causes of its existence concern only those who decide the country’s policy

Barredo’s story of crooks (with significant exclusions, it must be noted) is almost as infinite as the causes of the proliferation of corruption, which discreetly remains silent. Let’s list some: the incompatibility of wages and the cost of living, the availability of food and any other kind of commercial items available for sale, which is much inferior to the demand for them, unemployment, generalized poverty, government hold back on private initiative and the productive capacities of the population, demonization of prosperity and wealth, society’s high dependence on the State, excessive centralism, absence of freedoms…

Consequently, it is not necessary to be a genius to conclude that, although corruption involves the entire society, the causes of its existence concern only those who decide the country’s policy, so that the solution to the problem depends essentially on them.

It’s a pity that the impunity of the political power in Cuba is the only thing that reaches, or perhaps surpasses such colossal magnitudes as corruption. This is why the beginning of the end of corruption will only take place when the system that empowered and sustains it disappears.

At the moment, everything indicates we will have corruption for a while.

Translated by Norma Whiting


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Gentlemen Politicians, Don’t Give Sustenance to the Deception / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

Raúl Castro receives Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy and other American legislators. 2013 (

cubanet square logoCubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 23 February 2018 — Without much fanfare, the visit to Havana of an American congressional delegation ended last Wednesday. The delegation included Democratic lawmakers led by Senator Patrick Leahy.  During the visit, almost nothing was accomplished: the “talks” between politicians and officials from both sides of the Strait continue to run in the style of conspiracies.

Judging by the soothing notes appearing in the official press and by the insubstantial statements made by the visitors at the press conference held at the US Embassy at the end of the visit, it is evident that the usual secrecy that has surrounded these meetings from the very beginning of the Obama-Castro confabulations persists, and the idea of the impossibility of a Cuba-US understanding in the current scenario is reinforced. continue reading

As has also become common practice, US politicians sympathetic to the policy of rapprochement with Cuba – as is the case of the aforementioned visitors – have strongly criticized the setback in diplomatic relations under the Donald Trump administration, after the toughening of the embargo and of the crisis unleashed by the enigmatic and yet to be clarified “sonic attacks”, which, according to US authorities, affected more than two dozen of their diplomats while they were carrying out their missions in Havana.

However, the common denominator of Cuba-US supporters and detractors for the existence of ties between the two countries is the defense of their respective positions at all costs, and in the case of the congressional delegation headed by Senator Leahy – a true activist in the defense of this line, whose efforts can only be assumed to be proportional to the interests he represents – is manifested in the repetition of a script based on a few basic elements, without going into much detail, and which is roughly summarized in the following points: retreat is detrimental to both Americans and Cubans, retorting to the “paranoia and suspicion” that has characterized US policy toward Cuba over 50 years, paralyzing cooperation projects between the two countries and preventing the US from “getting drawn into” the upcoming generational leadership relay process that will take place with the departure of the Cuban general-president this coming April.

The weakness of this position – which is not necessarily inferior to the opposite position, defended by those in favor of breaking off relations and maintaining the Embargo – consists in pretending to ignore the political immobility of their Cuban counterpart and their absolute lack of political resolve to effectively benefit the Cuban people by taking advantage of the breakthrough measures dictated by the former president, Barack Obama, in the heat of the brief period of thaw between the White House and the Plaza of the Revolution.

To this we would have to add the return to the barricade speeches and the deadlock in the ideological “anti-imperialist” trenches that have been imposed from Havana before the arrival of the Trump administration, just since then President Obama finalized his visit to the Cuban capital, in the course of which – and to his chagrin – the Cuban government noted both the overwhelming sympathy of Cubans for the “enemy Empire” and the real possibility that a true rapprochement among Cubans and a real application of the flexibilization, as conceived by Obama, constituted sources of citizen freedoms in Cuba that endangered the survival of the Castro dictatorship. No more, no less.

Therefore, although the current White House policy constitutes a return to strategies that have been proven unsuccessful for half a century, it is no less true that the reversal was not initiated by Trump, but by the Cuban government. Only that the Cuban setback consisted in an attack against those sectors of private entrepreneurs in Cuba, whose small businesses had begun to prosper in the shadow of the reestablishment of the links with the USA that favored a greater influx of American visitors and, with it, the increase of the benefits for a growing number of industrious Cubans who depended less and less on tutelage and government “protection”.

It is fair to remember that the systematic asphyxia of the tiny private sector in Cuba is a State policy to prevent true changes from taking place within the Island.

Thus, set in context, it is appropriate to mention another assertion that is becoming dangerously recurrent: “Cuba is changing”. This monotonous ritornello has become a kind of mantra among some foreign visitors – supposedly well-intentioned – who seem to confuse reality with wishes.

The damaging portion of this erroneous misperception is that, at the international level, it tends to create favorable opinion positions to the fraudulent change that has been brewing on the Island since the departure of Castro I from the public scene, and at the same time discourages millions of Cubans to their aspirations for democracy, in particular those inside and outside of Cuba who have been fighting in singular disparity against the longest dictatorship in the history of this hemisphere.

In truth, the “generational change” in the political power that looms over Cuba does not imply a political change or respond to the existence of a young emerging political class, full of new ideas and proposals. Quite the opposite. It is simply a consequence of the natural course of biology that imposes the retreat of the olive-green gerontocracy from visible government – not from real power – and the imposition of a faithful puppet, just a fresher face that guarantees permanence of the caste system established in 1959 and the privileges of their anointed ones. This is why it is very unlikely that the generational transfer implies a significant change or an evolution towards authentic transformations of the Cuban reality.

Moreover, to suppose that the diplomatic relations with the US government would allow its “involvement” in the Cuban political scenario is not only illusory but also arrogant by implicitly ignoring the ability of Cubans to, in a propitious scenario, decide the political future of the Island without “essential” intrusions of the White House.

That, in terms of politics. With regard to the social scenario, what “changes” have been taking place in Cuba from governmental actions or from the existence of US relations or the lack thereof? Neither necessary nor sufficient ones.

It must be recognized that in recent years certain modifications have been introduced into Cuban legislation (often referred to as breakthroughs by some stubborn optimists), but in good faith, these do no more than recognize rights that for decades have been denied us, such as the purchase and sale of housing and automobiles, the pseudo immigration reform, the (limited and expensive) access to the Internet and mobile telephone networks, the appearance of computers in state stores, the expansion of private sector activities and the granting of licenses for the same (although these are currently “frozen”), among others. Such “reforms” have not had an effective social reach nor have they meant an improvement in the life of ordinary Cubans.

In fact, material shortages have increased in recent years, the cost of living has risen, health services and the quality of education have worsened, corruption has deepened and crime has increased, and the general crisis in values is notorious, all of which intensify the uncertainty, despair and apathy of the population.

So, gentlemen politicians, do not be deceived… Or, rather, do not give sustenance to the deception. Cuba really needs a miracle but it will not come from the hands of a servile amanuensis of the dictatorship or from those who rule the US; be it a charismatic and wise mestizo of friendly disposition or a blond-haired rabid and belligerent radical.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Social Assistance or Fabiola’s Mistakes

Fabiola decided to make use of the elderly care systems that exist in Havana. (Orden de Malta)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 20 February 2018 — In an impulse of good faith or perhaps with some excess optimism, Fabiola arrived at the social services department of the Van Troi polyclinic in Centro Habana one October morning with a medical certificate to register her mother – a bed-ridden octogenarian with senile dementia – in order to receive the support that, as proclaimed by the Cuban authorities, these terminal patients are entitled to. Making that decision was her first mistake.

Weeks before, a doctor from that same health institution had made the recommendation, considering that it was “a right due the old woman, a widow and pensioner,” and something that might help Fabiola mitigate, to some extent, the high retail costs of disposable diapers which her mother’s severe incontinence demands. continue reading

The request might help Fabiola mitigate, to some extent, the high retail costs of disposable diapers which her mother’s severe incontinence demanded

It was for this reason that Fabiola decided to go through the process, knowing that, aside from the high cost of adult diapers, there are often cyclical crises due to shortages of such an essential product.

She also knew that in the neighboring municipality of Old Havana there is a regular system of elderly care, a service introduced by the City Historian, by virtue of which the coveted diapers for elderly bed-ridden residents of that municipality are distributed, with duly accredited prior medical certification.

All this is possible, of course, “subject to availability,” a pretext coined by some astute official, which is almost as useful as “the imperialist blockade” since it can be conveniently applied by official institutions in the face of any shortage situation.

However, Fabiola thought that the public health system, and in particular social services, because of their unique and national character, would function the same way in each municipality, and decided to try her luck in hers. Her second mistake was, then, to attribute some margin of efficiency and functionality to an official institution.

Almost four months later, after a telephone call and after thoroughly confirming personal details of the patients and Fabiola – labeled “caretaker” – a kindly clinic employee notified her that “it was her turn to pick up the module” in the establishment assigned to her, where she had to go and present the “receiver of the benefits” to get the expected help.

The new ‘module’ consisted of 12 bars of soap, one and a half meter of antiseptic fabric to fashion a strap for the patient’s bed, a rubber bed pad and a thin, small towel.  No diapers.

The employee explained that “that is all there is.”  After all, she punctuated, “it’s free and it’s something.” And she also said that the modules could be accessed every six months, as long as the patient’s medical certificate was presented that would certify the patient’s status.

The new ‘module’ consisted of 12 bars of soap, one and a half meter of antiseptic fabric to fashion a strap for the patient’s bed, a rubber bed pad and a thin, small towel

With her ephemeral exercise of faith deflated, and after recognizing her unjustifiable slip, Fabiola decided to close and forget that chapter. She would continue as before, resolving everything necessary on her own, attending to her mother with the same specialist doctors, who were her friends, and made house calls to her mother, and – if necessary – appeal to her relatives abroad to get whatever medicine or help they might need.

But believing that she would be unscathed when using the system’s controls was the third and most naïve of her mistakes. Because when Fabiola – who for decades stayed out of the government’s health system – gave in to the temptation to officially register her mother’s “case,” she was not only attributing credibility to a proven ineffective institution, but was making an attempt against one of her most precious personal assets: her privacy.

It turns out that the Cuban socio-political regime is precisely designed to invade one’s privacy, to blur the individual into “the mass” and to create in the population that humiliating feeling of commune or flock in need of the Government’s protection, which favors in the first place the acquiescent assimilation of official controls disguised as “protection of the population” – invasions of private spaces by fumigators and inspectors under the pretext of eliminating vectors (which are never eradicated), or untimely and unsolicited visits from the family doctor or nurse, among other intrusions – and collaterally establishes as a social norm of mutual vigilance, promiscuity, vulgar egalitarianism, envy and mistrust among neighbors, for all of which there are mass organizations, the different meetings of the so-called People’s Power and all the institutional entelechies conceived by Castro over decades of totalitarian power.

The “third age” (14ymedio)

Now, since she applied for Social Assistance “help,” automatically turning her mother into a statistic of the system, Fabiola – who is a rare Cuban journalist who does not belong to any political or mass organization, does not vote, does not participate in neighborhood meetings or popular festivals, does not like gossiping or personal confidences, does not meddle in the lives of others or give advice and does not cause discomfort or allow the invasion of neighbors or strangers into her home – has started to feel that her house is a kind of besieged square, under the merciless harassment of state officials.

With her candor, Fabiola and her family had fallen into the system’s networks, which now tried to breach her impenetrable privacy, something that in Cuba is considered a remnant of a decadent bourgeois, incongruent with the project of eternal socialism to which we Cubans aspire, according to the Constitution.

As a result, in recent weeks the doctor and the family nurse have insisted (in vain) on intruding in her house at any time of the day to “see the patient”

As a result, in recent weeks the doctor and the family nurse have insisted (in vain) on intruding into her home at any time of the day to “see the patient,” while the municipal Social Assistance office has recently sent her an employee with an extensive questionnaire that sought to collect, in addition to the personal data of those who inhabit the house, the income of each one and its origin, the occupations, the number and brand of electrical appliances they own, how many rooms they have, monthly expenses for gas, electricity, food, and a host of intimate details that Fabiola, true to her custom, refused to answer.

“Tell your bosses that none of that is any of their business, and that it’s already very clear that I never should have and will never again request your ridiculous ‘module,’ so don’t send me anyone else because I will not see them. Do you ask all these indiscreet questions to the bunch of decrepit old men who rule this country? Or do they not need those alms? Because many of them are old enough for adult diapers. Also tell them that my mother is perfectly well taken care of, and it’s not thanks to the Revolution”.

The young official, stunned, feverishly took notes on a blank piece of paper writing, perhaps for the first time, an official report without information. She felt uncomfortable and frustrated, and probably thought that Fabiola was as crazy as her mother. Which could be true, because Fabiola has the extravagant madness of behaving like a free individual in a slave society. In fact, this has always been the greatest of her abilities.

Translated by Norma Whiting


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Snubbed / Miriam Celaya

Cuban spy René González in an archive picture (AFP)

cubanet square logoCubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 31 January 2018 — These days, one of the famous “five heroes” of Cuba, René González (61 years old), has once again achieved prominence in the social networks. This time, however, his renewed notoriety is not related to the honors of his past glories when – like his four companions – he became the epitome of revolutionary patriotism as a “prisoner of the Empire” by the work and grace of the last (and longest) of the onerous ideological battles contrived by Castro I.

On the contrary, René’s return to the public arena is the result of the unbearable humiliation of not having been included in the list of 605 selected as candidates for deputies, a privilege enjoyed by only two of the five spies: Gerardo Hernández and Fernando González, although all of them had previously received the corresponding “document” as chosen from their respective syndicates for said objective. continue reading

Protests were immediate. The objections were initiated through the Facebook page of an official journalist who received a long reply from the wife of the victim, Mrs. Olga Salanueva, expanding the matter in detail. Numerous fans of the former spies posted their comments on the same social network and on some websites that have joined the debate on the case, collaterally revealing other demons that lie beneath the national opinion and are far more significant than the exclusion – another supposed “injustice” – suffered by a simple, utilitarian and disposable element of the Castro regime, or as they are often called, “useful idiots” like René González or the other two who were omitted.

The OnCuba website published an extensive article that starts in an apologetic journey about the five infiltrated agents of the State Security who were imprisoned in the US, and ends with their return to Cuba, meandering through the cyclopean campaign and the mobilizations deployed in Cuba and abroad in favor of their release. The legal defense costs, the artificial insemination of the wife of Gerardo Hernández at a private clinic, the frequent trips of the family members of the prisoners and the large support group put together by Cuban government officials around the world, remains an absolute secret to this day.

The truth is that, after Mrs. Salanueva resentment, it is perfectly established that her husband was in a position to assume the candidacy and eventually the position as deputy, something that the five “deserve” since all “are more tried than chocolate” and “it is in very bad taste to try to establish differences” among them. In fact, the style in which Salanueva expresses her displeasure seems to suggest a peculiar way of interpreting the deputy position: more as a recognition award for her husband’s merits (and those of his heroic “brothers”) than as a mandate to the service of the people and the nation.

Obviously, Salanueva longs for the times when, as prisoners in US jails, all of them had the same rank and their families received similar attentions and benefits, and she now objects that some are now considered bigger heroes than others and that the perks are not shared uniformly.

An unequal treatment that – although she does not express it directly – is also evident in the position that each of them was assigned upon their return to Cuba. In René’s case, he was assigned a post as irrelevant and obscure as the vice-presidency of the José Martí Cultural Society, but one which he has fully complied with “despite his task having nothing to do with his vocation, and his not being able to even exercise the profession he loves,” affirms his angry wife.

However, all the gossip and disagreements are unprecedented inasmuch as they break with the usual acquiescence of the “revolutionary” ranks and indicate that an indeterminate number of subjects of the pro-government sector is willing to question the status quo strongly and to demand explanations.

Furthermore, those who support what we might call the new cause of the Five – or perhaps we should say of the Three – are demanding rights of political participation, at least in relation to the representation they aspire to have in Parliament, beyond the “political measures” of a National Candidacy Commission – which, as the Electoral Law stipulates, has the prerogative to nominate 50% of the deputy candidates – whose legitimacy is left unquestioned, since it only pursues “the satisfaction and safeguard of the current real power”.

And who is the subject of that “current real power”? It is not mentioned, but inferred. In any case, it is the “formal leaders who absorb political activity in Cuba today,” specified in the OnCuba text as those who lack the “tremendous accumulation of popular sympathy” – OnCuba states – that the five former spies, in their role as “potential leaders” do have.

It would seem that by repeating the lie “the people are sovereign” some of the faithful in the Castro regime have come to believe it and really want to wear the crown, something like an unthinkable advance in the era of Castro I, but an unequivocal indicator of the state of dissatisfaction of broad social sectors, even though there are still those who naively believe that Cuban deputies – that strange amalgam made up of bureaucrats, artists, intellectuals, “sports glories” and machete yielding millionaires in a country where there isn’t even sugarcane left, and now even recycled spies – really have the capacity to make political decisions.

Those who consider all this cyber-bullying a trivial matter should take into account that in conditions in Cuba, after almost 60 years of totalitarianism in which the governing dome and its institutions have kept everything under control concerning the electoral system and “elected” parliamentarians, it seems like a real surprise to have such an avalanche of criticism and demands from a social base that defines itself as revolutionary, that manifests itself impatient for the hope of a “never materializing” electoral reform and that should grant them greater participation in the political decisions of the country.

Anyway, and taking into consideration that there are a mere 80 days remaining until the general-president Raul Castro leaves his position at the head of the Cuban government, such an uproar among his hardened revolutionary troops must be worrisome. Just in case, on the night of Thursday, January 25th, a few hours after the beginning of the cyber protest, the nobody’s hero was unveiled: René González appeared on a TV special news broadcast about the upcoming celebration of Martí’s birthday celebration, as if to demonstrate implicitly that his fidelity to the regime is above all proven. Including degradation and oblivion. Certainly not!

Translated by Norma Whiting

Raúl Castro is Leaving Without Solving Anything

Raul Castro looks towards the camera at one of his last official acts as president of Cuba. (EFE/Alejandro Ernesto)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 30 January 2018 — Last December 21st, when general-president Raúl Castro announced the extension of his term for 55 days longer than expected, few believed in the silly pretext for such a decision: the damages caused by the passage of Hurricane Irma and the calendar for nominating municipal delegates.

One of the theories that started to circulate immediately as a culprit for the delay was the disagreement between two alleged trends among the top leadership: one, reformist (the so-called “Raulistas”), which aims to give a boost to both the private sector and to state companies and cooperatives, and a second one, with conservative tendencies (the “Fidelistas”), represented by the most reactionary sectors of the leadership, which would oppose such apertures because they consider them a threat for the survival of the Revolution. The latter are determined to maintain central jurisdiction, increase controls and continue to be rooted in the ideological orthodoxy of the Cold War era. continue reading

Some analysts argue that the confrontation between both tendencies is what has caused the advances and setbacks of the limited lead-ins to the euphemistically called self-employment (private sector), whose restraint restrictions and current setbacks seem to indicate an eventual predominance in power of the most conservative tendency.

One of the theories that immediately circulated to account for the delay was the disagreement between two supposed tendencies in the top leadership: one reformist, and the other conservative

However, a more objective analysis of the Cuban reality, based on the experience of the last decade, from the time Raúl Castro assumed power, in any case, shows that the struggle has been taking place between two equally conservative tendencies, only with different degrees of stubbornness, but whose common final goal is the preservation of the status quo that guarantees the retention of power in the elite group of the anointed that includes both factions.

Consequently, the Cuban political class – that socially differentiated and privileged caste – does not include a sector headed by Raúl Castro with a true reformist vocation and a desire for profound changes. Those who interpret it thus, seem to forget the strategic position that the current president occupied during the 47 years of government under his brother and mentor.

What clearly seems to exist is a segment that is more reactionary than any other within the same caste of anointed ones, whose common interest – the preservation of their political and economic power – seems to be much stronger than their differences, regardless of whether there are gut struggles aiming to divide shares of power, previously a one-man show, but currently showing clear signs of fractioning.

Differences exist in methods, rather than in ends, used to prolong, as long as possible, the greater share of the power of the elite. The most lucid understand that the changes that urgently need to be implemented in Cuba have the double edge of being, at the same time, the only possible way to ease and eventually beat the economic crisis, the catalyst that would accelerate the collapse of the so-called “Cuban socialism.” At this point, it is fitting to remember the general-president’s not so casual phrase that he was not put in his position “to destroy the Revolution.”

It is likely that, regardless of their stances, both positions favor a search for pacts rather than a disruption that might sweep the board

It is likely that, regardless of their position as “reformists” or “Stalinists” in Cuba’s ever unknown political front, both positions favor the search for pacts rather than a disruption that could end up sweeping the board, especially with “the historic” octogenarian gerontocracy, who have been directly responsible for all the disasters of the last 60 years. In such a case, the arranged equilibrium between these two sectors of the same caste would have prevented the progress of the self-proclaimed liberal measures introduced by Raúl Castro in the first half of his term, between 2008 and 2013.

Those who, years ago, bet on Raul Castro’s supposed pragmatic spirit and his fictional organizational capabilities to at least aspire to economic advances in Cuba, have been let down. The general crisis has deepened, while the gap between the Government and the governed widens day by day.

What is most paradoxical in this case is that, if the general-president – despite his bleak past – had had just minimal audacity and independence, he could have established himself as the facilitator of a peaceful and orderly transition towards democracy in Cuba. To this end, he was holding such aces as the vast majority of Cubans’ desire for change, the willingness of the US to establish dialogue, the relaxation of Barrack Obama’s government views towards relations with Cuba and the rapprochement of the European Union. However, he chose to maintain a position of subordination before the dark shadow of his brother and of all the elements that sabotaged his proposals.

Consequently, if there is something the olive-green baby brother has shown all these years of lost opportunities, it has been his mediocrity and insecurities at the time of assuming the helm, as well as his cowardice to take on the challenge. That is the true legacy he will leave for History.

If there’s something the olive-green baby brother has shown all these years, it has been his mediocrity and insecurities at the time of assuming the helm, as well as his cowardice to take on the challenge

However, though not meaning to establish absolute judgment, it is quite unlikely that the outgoing president will surprise us with some solution that he has not proposed in the previous ten years, so clumsily dilapidated. There are 80 days left of Raúl Castro’s government – at least in his visible period at the head of government – and the inefficiency of his mandate is an established fact.

The volume of pending issues that he will leave his successor –monetary unification, electoral law and economic reforms, elimination of the ration card, increase in foreign investment, or the simple promise of a daily glass of milk for every Cuban, among many more – far surpasses the funds that he will leave in the nation’s coffers when he finally makes the symbolic handover of the presidential chair.

It is possible that the 55 days of the “Raulista” moratorium, from February 24th to April 19th, will have more to do with the shuffling of cards of an undoubtedly difficult succession than with any strategic proposal for the future Government, which – supposedly – is already outlined in the Party Guidelines and will guarantee the continuity of the Castro legacy until 2030, at least at the legal level.

It is very possible that the new president of 11 million Cubans will “ask permission” of the Assembly to keep the old general as permanent adviser to the “new” Government

If the purest dictatorial tradition remains – and to date there are reasons to suppose that’s what will happen – on April 19th, when the 605 parliamentarians elect the person who will figure as president of 11 million Cubans, he “will ask the permission” of the Assembly to keep the old general as permanent adviser to the “new” Government; a pernicious and permanent contract, not written or recognized in the Constitution or the Electoral Law, but one that would legitimize de facto the perpetuation of the dictatorship from the shadows of a simulated retirement.

For those of us who have lived through almost six decades of the Castro regime, April will not bring many surprises, but there is no doubt that the departure of the general-president projects a certain and inexplicable sense of relief within the opposition in Cuba. Not because the new president means a promise of prosperity and bliss, but because the lineage of the Castros has marked a disastrous sign in the hearts of Cubans. Many of us want to think that the era of the darkest and longest dictatorship is becoming blurred and that it will continue to fall in the future. Until its end.

Translated by Norma Whiting


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Another Pandora’s Box Opens in Cuba / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

Distribution of medicines in Cuba (file photo)

cubanet square logoCubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 1 January 2018 — On 28 December 2017, the newspaper Granma published an extensive article that uncovers a serious criminal act: the adulteration of drugs detected in the Reinaldo Gutiérrez pharmaceutical laboratory, located in the municipality of Boyeros, in the Cuban capital, with the substitution of methylphenidate bya placebo, the latter an innocuous product “used for the cleaning of the machines once each production of medicines is conculded.”

The information is based on a report delivered to Granma by the Information and Analysis Department of the Attorney General’s Office, and includes a brief reference to a list of criminal acts detected during 2017, related to the theft and illicit trade in drugs in different entities subordinated to the Superior Organization of Business Management (OSDE) BioCubaFarma, with their corresponding criminal proceedings, without going into much detail.

However, in the case of the aforementioned laboratory, the scapegoats that usually accompany this type of news in the government media are mentioned, namely, a team leader in charge of the blister-packing machine, an operator, a shift manager and “stevedores of the provincial pharmaceutical retail company in the East” – that is, only the basic personnel directly related to the production process or to the handling and transportation of drugs – whom, it is affirmed, “received sums of cash totaling over 1,500 CUC.” continue reading

An insignificant figure, especially if you take into account a simple fact not mentioned by Fariñas Rodríguez in his article, but which is of major importance because of its implications: methylphenidate is a synthetic psychostimulant substance – that is, a drug – that raises the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the central nervous system. Because of its molecular structure, methylphenidate is similar to amphetamines, but its effects – which start approximately 30 minutes after the pill is ingested and last for several hours – are analogous to those of cocaine, although less powerful.

Thus, these criminals would extract, not the raw material of, say, the dypirones, the hypotensives or the diuretics – medicines that are scarce and in great demand among the population – but “coincidentally” a psychotropic substance… But the journalists, (piously?) overlook that detail. Could it be that on this Day of the Holy Innocents the official Cuban press tries to pull the wool over our eyes? Is it a question of deceiving the national public opinion by concealing what is clearly an illegal drug trade, that is, a drug trafficking network within the Island?

Undoubtedly, the official Cuban press is like fine lingerie: what it insinuates is much more interesting and attractive than what it really shows. The rest of the article leads into other administrative considerations, the kind absolutely not commented on in Granma, which should imply criminal consequences for others, much higher than those thugs trapped in the case and pointed out in the same old article.

So that the reader is immersed in an ocean of questions and many concerns.

Let us put forward some questions that emanate from this published article – not by the enemy press or by the spokesmen of the Empire to distort reality and damage the Revolution – but precisely by the official organ of the Communist Party of Cuba:

  • It is obvious that (at least) at the aforementioned laboratory there is no adequate control over raw materials, including those that constitute a strong potential for the development of an underground drug market in Cuba, with all that this implies;
  • Adequate quality control is not carried out with systematic and thorough randomized examinations of the batches of medicines produced in the laboratory, since indeterminate quantities of placebo went to the retail network, instead of the tablets with the appropriate components;
  • The technological records of pharmaceutical laboratories can easily be violated by unscrupulous people working in this industry;
  • The machinery of the laboratory is capable of being used at will by operators and other workers;
  • There is no effective surveillance system on the production process despite the fact that psychostimulants substances are handled which – as it is informally known – are beginning to flood many neighborhoods and very crowded areas of the Cuban capital.

At this point, it begs the question: what guarantees are there that these and other violations are not being committed in other laboratories, including the production of drugs that are exported to other countries?  Who can the parents of the children make claims to, since – according to the article –children were consuming adulterated tablets, ineffective for their illnesses? How serious and reliable can the certifications be that guarantee the production of medicines in Cuba?

How long will there be an inexcusable irresponsibility for all managers of the pharmaceutical industry and other officials related to it, from those closest to the production process up to the new president of BioCubaFarma, Mr. Eduardo Martínez Díaz and the Minister of Public Health, Dr. Roberto Morales Ojeda?

Is anyone really thinking that “the training of personnel, the sense of belonging, the ethical and moral values and political-ideological development” will be effective strategies to eradicate the crimes that in the article are euphemistically called “extraordinary events”?

Surely without meaning to, these correspondents of Granma have put their finger on a sore that, if they think about it, they might have preferred to leave hidden, because the truth is that the decay of today’s Cuban reality is so widespread and uncontrollable that it is impossible to be able to uncover a fraction of it without exposing a barrage of corruption that will splash even the most egregious feet when the crap hits the fan.

They have opened another Pandora’s box that, with all certainty, will have some sequels… perhaps some of which were not foreseen. They are the risks of the profession, even for those who exclude the commitment to the truth in order to prostrate themselves at the feet of ideologies.

Translated by Norma Whiting

The Cabalistic Exercises of the Managers of the Cuban Economy

The only visible balance of the Cuban economy is the eternal continuation of the wait for better times. (14ymedio / Silvia Corbelle)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 27 December 2017 — An essential feature of the Cuban socio-political and economic system is the reluctance of the ruling class to offer exact and reliable figures and data about the performance of the economy and finances at the end of each year.

December is, for Cubans living in Cuba – as for any society founded on the tradition of Judeo-Christian heritage – a month of festivities and good wishes, but also a time full of uncertainty after almost 60 years of a social experiment, fertile in promises of economic development and financial recovery, whose only visible balance is the eternal continuation of waiting for better times.

As usual, the ambiguity of the reports presented by the corresponding officials in the framework of the recently concluded ordinary session of the National Assembly does not allow ordinary mortals to have an accurate idea of what the economy’s behavior has actually been. continue reading

What specific strategies does the State-Party-Government intend to use to overcome the countless obstacles that continue to arise in the unbearably long path of “socialism” or, very specifically, what kind of calculation was used by experts in the field to announce the 2017 final results as a miraculous growth of the Gross Domestic Product, despite the negative results of the first semester, the contraction of oil subsidies from Venezuela, the increase in pressure from the US embargo and the devastating effects of natural events such as the severe drought in the first half of the year and the intensity of the September hurricane, which caused considerable economic damage.

However, like it or not, official reports are required to reflect at least some figures. And it is precisely at this point that the seams of the system come to light

However, like it or not, official reports are required to reflect at least some figures. And it is precisely at this point that the seams of the system come to light, the slips jump out here and there and the nakedness of the king is exposed. The making of a show of imagination deployed from the official quackery is one question, and it is quite another, very different, to synchronize those speeches with the stubbornness of numbers, which have no commitments to ideologies or policies.

In this sense, the project of the State Budget presented to the Assembly by deputy Lina Pedraza Rodríguez, also Minister of Finance and Prices, is perhaps the most difficult of the cabalistic exercises of the administrators of misery.

Pedraza has the unpleasant task of not only declaring the very questionable results of the fiscal yearend in relation to the budget assigned – revenues exceeded forecasts by 2.3% – but also announcing other equally contestable figures, such as the quantities that will be assigned to the so-called Economic Plan. All this must be done without ever declaring the amount of the aforementioned Budget, and to do this, the ruling party often uses a simple trick: some figures are offered in percentages, while others correspond to exact numerical quantities.

Thus, for example, Cubans are up to date on 2018’s budget, which will be 6% higher than that of the year now ending – whose amount we never knew – and that the sectors of the Health and Education, as a “paradigm of social justice and protection of human rights” will have priority over 55% of the resources.

Cubans are up to date on 2018’s budget, which will be 6% higher than the year ending -whose amount we never knew- and that the Health and Education sectors will have priority over 55% of resources

We also know that 8.18 billion pesos will be allocated to “education in general” – which includes 1,960,000 students at all levels of education – and that Public Health will receive a total of 10.56 billion pesos for all its services, from medical consultations and expenses for patients admitted to the “development of specialized rooms” and dental services, among others.

Social Security will have 6 billion pesos for its expenses (5% growth in relation to the previous year) to guarantee the pensions of more than 1,700,000 people and “short-term benefits,” such as maternity leave and other benefits.

As a sample key of “the measures that the country is adopting to face the aging of the population,” the budget has allocated an amount (not declared) “for the care of more than 13,000 elderly people who attend grandparents’ and nursing homes, which confirms the humanistic character of our system.”

Now, if the simple mathematics “rule of three” is applied, it can easily be calculated that those 13,000 elderly people attended to in specialized state institutions – since there is no approval for this type of service in the private sector – constitute only 0.76% of the country’s retirees, a ridiculously insufficient figure that contradicts the spectacular humanistic character of the political system, in a country where the only indicators that are undoubtedly increasing every year are poverty and the number of elderly.

“More of the same”, some may have muttered to themselves, but they are wrong.  It is the same, yes, but with much less

Also note that the reference numbers correspond to what in Cuba is usually called “Cuban pesos,” that is, currency that cannot be converted into foreign currency, and, since there are two different rates of exchange – 1×1 for legal persons; 1×25 for natural persons** – a vagueness is created that prevents knowing exactly what amounts are involved.

However, it can be assumed with almost absolute certainty that the figures provided by the State Budget are not reported in the Cuban convertible peso or any equivalent to foreign currency, so it is a ridiculously small amount, just to alleviate some of the numerous and pressing economic and social problems that they must face.

“More of the same,” some of us few Cubans who had enough mental health and stoicism to immerse ourselves in the dark labyrinth of official reports must have said to ourselves. But we are wrong: it is the same, yes, but with much less, although they are trying to convince us otherwise.

 Translator’s notes:

*Roughly $308 million USD.

**In jurisprudence, a natural person is a person (in legal meaning, i.e., one who has its own legal personality) that is an individual human being, as opposed to a legal person, which may be a private (i.e., business entity or non-governmental organization) or public (i.e., government) organization.

Translated by Norma Whiting


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.