The Fable of Miguelito and His "Haier" Chinese Refrigerator / Miriam Celaya

Old fridges being taken away (Claudia Cadelo)
Old fridges being taken away (Claudia Cadelo)

Miriam Celaya, Sin Evasion (Without Evasion), 15 February 2016 – This Sunday in February, Saint Valentine’s Day, my neighbor Miguelita was overjoyed, although it was not exactly because of it being day of love. He had just finished paying for his Haier refrigerator, made in China, that he had acquired almost a decade earlier by the work and grace of the last sub-revolution orchestrated by the Revolutionary-in-Chief, Castro I shortly before he abandoned the podiums and microphones for good; this particular sub-revolution was known as the “Energy Revolution.”

Admittedly Miguelito, an exceedingly honest type, has not skipped even one of the payments for this “drizzle” refrigerator, as these appliances were popularly baptized due to the continuous streams of water that flood their interiors. It is said that no one, of those who “benefited” from one of these cold artifacts, finished paying the modest bill for the equipment, barely 6,000 Cuban pesos (equivalent to 250 Cuban convertible pesos – CUCs), paid through direct withholding from the monthly salary of those who work for the State. It is also said that there were exceptional cases of those who paid cash for the new equipment, in order to further reduce the cost of the appliance. Continue reading “The Fable of Miguelito and His "Haier" Chinese Refrigerator / Miriam Celaya”

The Wrong Interlocutor / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya

US President Barack Obama, this February. (WhiteHouse)
US President Barack Obama, this February. (WhiteHouse)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 11 February 2016 — More often than reason dictates – since the announcement of the restoration of relations between the governments of Cuba and the United States – statements, newspaper articles and even open letters have appeared taking to task president Barack Obama for a decision that some consider a political mistake, an excessive concession to the longest dictatorship in this hemisphere or, at best, naïve. There have even been those who have gone so far as to accuse the American president of orchestrating “a betrayal of democratic Cubans,” even if unaccompanied by arguments to support such an affirmation.

Without wishing to discuss the sovereign rights of each person to say what their own intellect dictates, it is noteworthy that the angriest complaints rest on questions that are not attributes exclusive to the president of the United States. Let’s take, for example, the issue of the relations themselves. Has this political rapprochement been more beneficial to the Cuban government, perhaps, than the acceptance and recognition it has had from other democratic governments? That is, countries such as Germany, Great Britain, France and Spain, among others, that have maintained relations with the Cuban dictator for years, and yet to date their governments have not received so many complaints on the part of those who indict president Obama for the same “crime.” Continue reading “The Wrong Interlocutor / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya”

The Dangerous World of Cuba’s Pushcart Vendors / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya

Pushcart vendor on a Havana street (CC)
Pushcart vendor on a Havana street (CC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 13 February 2016 — There is a great poster of general-president Raúl Castro on the façade of a private building in the heart of Central Havana. In the image, he is saluting, dressed in a military uniform, accompanied by the memorable phrase, extracted from one of his promissory speeches he made during his era as an imitation reformist: “Those who are committed to demonize, criminalize and prosecute the self-employed chose a path that, in addition to being mean, is ludicrous because of its untenable nature. Cuba is counting on them as one of the engines of future development, and their presence in the urban landscape is clearly here to stay.” As it is customary to those among his caste, the general was lying, and of those intended engines of future development only a few remain, trying to survive with much difficulty and almost furtively.

However, under the mantra placed in the shadow of their modest Havana trade, those mistaken sellers believe they will be protected from the whims of a regime well versed in denying its own creations, either because they don’t properly subordinate themselves to the interests they were created for, or for considering them to be a potential threat to its supremacy. Is the same simulation game that propelled thousands of self-employed to join the apocryphal official union, which has turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to the abuse of their members by the most powerful boss on this island, the State-Party-Government, from which no one is safe.

To hold such a conclave amid a starving population would be too cynical, even for the Cuban Government Continue reading “The Dangerous World of Cuba’s Pushcart Vendors / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya”

Twenty Independent Communicators to Consult in Cuba / Luis Felipe Rojas

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

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

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

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

The Cuban Adjustment Act is not the Problem / Miriam Celaya

A foreign law is being held responsible for the solution of problems that are clearly national in their nature.
A foreign law is being held responsible for the solution of problems that are clearly national in their nature.

Miriam Celaya, Cubanet, Havana, 22 January 2016 – The imminent arrival in the US of thousands of Cubans stranded in Costa Rica has, once again, unleashed the debate whether the Cuban Adjustment Act its right or not, its original foundations, and opinions on whether Cubans who are exiting today should be considered political immigrants and, because of it, deserve to benefit from that law.

The subject stimulates strong feelings, as is always the case among Cubans, clouding objectivity and making it difficult to demarcate between legal matters, political interests, personal resentments and the purely human issue, which is ultimately what motivates all exodus, beyond particular circumstances marked by politics and economics. Continue reading “The Cuban Adjustment Act is not the Problem / Miriam Celaya”

Leap Year, Creepy Year / Miriam Celaya

The Cuban outlook does not look hopeful for the beginning year (photo taken from the Internet)
The Cuban outlook does not look hopeful for the beginning year (photo taken from the Internet)

Miriam Celeya, Cubanet, Havana 15 January 2016 – The year 2016 has begun under a bad omen. If it weren’t enough with the general gloominess after one year of uneasy peace between the governments of Cuba and the US without any perceived improvement in living conditions, the food crisis has become more acute, and shortages are increasing. Agricultural products are increasingly scarce, of poor quality and high prices, while merchandise at foreign currency stores is very scarce. Many self-employed (cart pushers) have disappeared from the cityscape, while the cooperative stores are showing shortages signaling worse times ahead.

The high expectations arising out of the 17 December 2014 announcement of a reestablishment of relations between Cuba and the United States are shipwrecked and long gone. The stubborn reality has once again proved to everyone that Cuba’s ills are endemic: they rest only in the evil combination of an obsolete and failed sociopolitical and economic system and the persistence of a politically inept dynastic clique that seized the country 57 years ago, whose beginning and essential end are centered in clinging to power at any cost. Continue reading “Leap Year, Creepy Year / Miriam Celaya”

Venezuela, a Lesson for Cubans / Miriam Celaya

A “Venezuelan Che Guevara” after finding out the election results (Internet photo)
A “Venezuelan Che Guevara” after finding out the election results (Internet photo)

Miriam Celaya, Cubanet, Havana, 8 December 2015 — Despite all adversities and cheating to attempt to sabotage the opposition’s victory in Venezuela’s parliamentary elections, the forecasts were on target: the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) didn’t just come ahead in surveys, which Maduro was hoping for, but it swept the polls.

The puppets at Telesur, “Latin America’s television channel”, could barely hide their apprehension. The long wait that followed the closure of the polling stations was a clear indicator that the ballots cast were so in favor of MUD that no Castro-Chavista trickery could reverse the outcome. However, announcing the results would turn out to be a bitter and difficult pill for Maduro and Cabello’s patsies to swallow. Continue reading “Venezuela, a Lesson for Cubans / Miriam Celaya”

17 December: First Anniversary of a Sterile Marriage / Miriam Celaya

On 17 December 2014, Raul Castro and Barack Obama announced the start of restoration of relations (file photo)
On 17 December 2014, Raul Castro and Barack Obama announced the start of restoration of relations (file photo)

Miriam Celaya, Havana, 17 December 2015 – At the end of the first year of the restoration of relations between the governments of the United States and Cuba, the expectations that the historical event awakened in Cuba remain unfulfilled. With much pain and no glory, Cubans have continued their struggle with a precarious and hopeless existence, that, far from improving, has witnessed the permanent economic crisis deteriorate further, with increases in the cost of living and consolidation of chronic shortages.

At the same time, the general deterioration of the healthcare and education systems continues – the last stronghold of the official rhetoric – and a new and unstoppable process of emigration has been spawned and become a stampede, amid fears that negotiations between the two governments will eventually lead to the demise of the Cuban Adjustment Act. Continue reading “17 December: First Anniversary of a Sterile Marriage / Miriam Celaya”

Choosing between Chaos and a New Order / Miriam Celaya

Why are Sunday’s Venezuelan elections so important? (picture from La Nación)
Why are Sunday’s Venezuelan elections so important? (picture from La Nación)

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 4 December 2015 — Next Sunday, December 6, 2015, when the legislative elections in Venezuela finally take place, not only will they be deciding the short-term political fate of that South American nation but also, to some extent, they will be deciding future policies of various nations of this region, whose regimes — especially the Cuban government — have depended for decades on the dilapidation of the huge Venezuelan natural wealth in the hands of the “Bolivarian” claque.

These past few days, there have been several comments about the Venezuelan suffrage in the media, and various predictions have been made about the possible scenarios that might emerge from the results. The picture is complex. For the first time, since the late Hugo Chávez took office in February, 1999 and began to destroy the country’s civic structures, the Unified Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) will go to the polls with a significant disadvantage compared to the opposition’s Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) and even below the level of independent candidates, according to data released by surveys conducted by Verobarómetro. This is a reality that the country’s president refuses to accept, threatening not to consent to any result that is adverse, and to lead the country into chaos if the “Bolivarian Revolution” loses at the polls. Continue reading “Choosing between Chaos and a New Order / Miriam Celaya”

A Matter of Law / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya

Nicaraguan police guarding the border with Costa Rica to prevent passage to Cubans bound for the United States (Photo Álvaro Sánchez / EFE)
Nicaraguan police guarding the border with Costa Rica to prevent passage to Cubans bound for the United States (Photo Álvaro Sánchez / EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 24 November 2015 — The crisis that has led to a bottleneck of more than 2,000 Cubans on the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua these last few days brings to the forefront the issue of the incessant flow of émigrés from Cuba to the US, creating a delicate collateral diplomatic situation between the two Central American nations.

Belatedly, as it is usual for the Cuban government to react to important situations that they would rather avoid, Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has published a statement attributing all the causes for the exodus to the Cuban Adjustment Act and the “wet foot/dry foot” policy that the U.S. applies to those who flee the Island.

In short, according to the official Cuban version, responsibility for the growing tide of migration from Cuba to that country belongs entirely to the US administration, which is jeopardizing the process of reconciliation and dialogue between the two governments which began in December, 2014. 

With rampant disregard towards its people, the power is, once again, ignoring the human drama of emigration

Here is a situation where a foreign power applies a law that incites in Cubans the irrepressible urge to embark on an uncertain and dangerous adventure. Continue reading “A Matter of Law / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya”

Double-bladed Scissors / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya

Members of the Cuban opposition march together during the Americas Summit in Panama
Members of the Cuban opposition march together during the Americas Summit in Panama

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 12 November 2015 — Value judgement comments are very often made abroad about what – more or less – some have taken to calling “an internal dissidence crisis in Cuba,” implying an epitaph, and with premature and unjustified gloating, when we consider that frustration and dissatisfaction – the primeval basis on which all dissidence feeds – have maintained an upward trend on the Island.

However, the existence of a crisis is not necessarily a negative sign. The new landscape, encompassing daily life in Cuba and international relations, involves rearrangements and challenges for all stakeholders, especially those who move counter to truly hostile political conditions. In any case, crises create growth opportunities as well as challenges.

So we are facing what will be a growth crisis for some opposition groups, if they know how to assume the challenge to define their strategies and advance. If they persist in continuing with their old methods and concepts that lead nowhere, however, they will face a crisis of extinction. Continue reading “Double-bladed Scissors / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya”

Serving a Meal, a True Luxury / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

Policemen trying to control line to purchase potatoes (file picture)
Policemen trying to control line to purchase potatoes (file picture)

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, HAVANA, 6 November 2015 — Hopes and expectations that encouraged Cubans at the beginning of 2015, following the announcement of the restoration of relations between the governments of Cuba and the US, have vanished completely. Over the past eleven months there has not been a hint of any economic improvement for the population, and  the end of the year is expected to be grim, judging by, among other factors, rising prices in the food sector, our most important market.

Visits around numerous commercial shops and roving street markets in the populous municipality of Centro Habana, in the neighborhoods of San Leopoldo, Pueblo Nuevo and Cayo Hueso, evidence the shortages in merchandise, the low quality of products and the unstoppable rise in prices. Pork meat – the Cuban indicator par excellence –– fluctuates between 45 and 50 pesos per pound; while black beans go for 10 to 12 pesos. Other grains are priced beyond the reach of most pockets. The price for one pound of red beans has reached 17 pesos, while white beans cost between 18 and 20, and the price of chick peas has risen to 22. Continue reading “Serving a Meal, a True Luxury / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya”

To March or Not to March… that is the Question / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya

March of the Ladies in White through Havana. (EFE)
March of the Ladies in White through Havana. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 28 October 2015 — The latest cyber-skirmish unleashed around statements made by Eliécer Ávila, leader of the opposition movement Somos+, about the #Todosmarchamos initiative, once again focuses first, on the need for restraint in political discourse and the importance of not allowing ourselves to be swayed by the provocations of those who pursue only ratings and drama from the comfortable security of their distant geographical locations, and secondly, on the inability to weigh things at fair value, whether by the so-called opposition leaders — regardless of their strategies, their ideological orientation or their political proposals, if they happen to have them — or by public opinion.

In this case, there are numerous myths contained in a sort of Theogony of the opposition, a mirage created and sustained from abroad in an absurd desire to hold on to an opposition epic — which should eventually replace the current revolutionary epic — which, like the latter, creates pockets of prestige and heroism, and even castes and lineages, depending on whether the new heroes are willing to bleed or get slapped on the head. It is a well-known fact that we Cubans are experts at repeating our mistakes, especially those that guarantee future suffering and shredding of vestments.

We Cubans are experts at repeating our mistakes, especially those that guarantee future suffering and shredding of vestments Continue reading “To March or Not to March… that is the Question / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya”

National Capitol: Restoring Symbols / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

Havana’s Capitol Building (photograph from the internet)
Havana’s Capitol Building (photograph from the internet)

cubanet square logoCubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 5 October 2015 — In recent days the official Cuban press published a report on the National Capitol building restoration work currently underway, in order to get it ready for the operation of the National Assembly at an unspecified future date.

Unfortunately, the report suffers from inaccuracies and from the typical flourishes of the Cuban school of journalism, which focuses more on the emotions of the author during his quick tour of the works and his personal adventure aboard a winch at over 262 feet above ground than on the truly interesting questions that might interest a fairly astute reader, for instance, the total cost of the work five years after the start of the project, which has already exceeded the length of time that it took to construct the iconic building, or the reasons that led to the decision to return this structure to its original function of hosting Parliament after its deliberate and systematic destruction and its Republican values by the willpower of Castro I. Continue reading “National Capitol: Restoring Symbols / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya”

Transition in Cuba: Real or Imagined? / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya

A sole proprietor sells peanuts and sweets in Havana streets, but he is far from opening a store and growing his small business. (Luz Escobar)
A sole proprietor sells peanuts and sweets in Havana streets, but he is far from opening a store and growing his small business. (Luz Escobar)

14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 3 October 2015 — Halfway between analysis and opinion, and not having responded clearly to his own initial question, journalist Carlos M. Álvarez recently addressed a controversial issue: the transition in Cuba, or to put it more accurately, as posed by the title of his work: Can a transition in Cuba be discussed?

In principle, we must give credit to Álvarez for his courage: to declare that we are experiencing a transition in Cuba may be total heresy for many, beyond their political positions, or likes or dislikes of the government or of the opposition. In particular, it is taboo for those who have communed with the official power; but also, as he points out, it is something denied by many Cubans who are not at all into politics, by a sector of the domestic opposition and by the most intransigent groups in exile. Continue reading “Transition in Cuba: Real or Imagined? / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya”