Drug Consumption in Cuba…”Benefits” of Globalization? / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya

Among consumers of alcohol combined with psychoactive drugs are users as young as 12 years old. (CC)

Among consumers of alcohol combined with psychoactive drugs, the youngest users average around 12-years-old. (CC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 29 June 2015 — Juventud Rebelde’s extensive report (Alas Trágicas para Volar (I) [Tragic Flying Wings I], of Sunday, June 28th addresses the controversial issue of drug use among adolescents and young Cubans. Putting aside that the presence and alarming spread of this scourge in the Island’s population has been previously revealed on numerous occasions by the independent press and foreign media – which were accused at that time of distorting reality with the deliberate intention of tarnishing “revolutionary” Cuba’s image – it is no less commendable that the official press has finally recognized the existence of this evil in the supposedly exemplary Cuban society.

The article in question also notes other flaws, no less serious, such as increasing alcoholism from an early age and the growing illicit trade in psychotropic and other drugs controlled by the Ministry of Public Health. A string of corruption often starts with theft at the very factories producing the pills and its saga includes shorting at the warehouses, overpricing at drugstores and even at doctors’ offices where some unscrupulous physicians prescribe them, be it for lack of ethics or patient bribes.

A psychologist at the Community Mental Health Center in the Havana municipality Plaza de la Revolución declares that, among consumers of alcohol combined with psychoactive drugs the youngest users average around 12-years-old, a fact that reveals the extent and depth of the problem. Continue reading

“The Revolutionary Offensive” Has Returned / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

(Photo from Internet)

(Photo from Internet)

cubanet square logoCubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 11 June 2015 – There is no doubt that we are witnessing a new “Revolutionary Offensive*” in Cuba. This time, it is not that cumbersome operation that wiped out the small private property and, in 1968, gave the coup de grace to whatever mom and pop businesses, stands or cafes barely making ends meet at the beginning of the early socialist plateau and destroyed the services that the State was never able to meet. The methodology has changed, we can all agree on this, but the purpose is about the same.

Now, when the government takes a conciliatory stance and desperately seeks the arrival of capital that it has so demonized, it tries to retract to a minimum, but without fuss, the glimpses of private initiative. All this, given the danger posed to the olive green autocracy by the coexistence of relatively autonomous sectors within the island with the avalanche of businessmen and foreign tourists that are expected to flood the country as soon as the restrictions imposed by the embargo and the Helms Burton Act begin to disappear.

However, it cannot be said that, with Raul’s offensive against the small private sector, we are either facing a circumstantial situation or that it is about the regime’s improvisation. In fact, the circumstance was the initiation of the “self-employed” initiative that constituted an escape valve for the government, needing to move the domestic economy, and the creation of new jobs that would lighten the load for the State. Continue reading

Cuba: Capitalism has Won the War / Miriam Celaya

jovenes1cubanet square logoCubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 8 June 2015 — In the beginning, there were the cassettes, first the ones we viewed on ancient Betamax equipment, and a bit later on VHS. In those dark years in the 90’s, the illegal dealers, better known as “messengers” would arrive with their backpacks, pedaling their inseparable bikes, from customer to customer. They charged of 5 or 10 Cuban pesos rent per cassette, depending how many movies were on each tape and the quality of the recording.

Video equipment was not readily available among Cubans, so the happy owner of one of these was not only privileged, but he would become the host of friends and nearby neighbors who eluded the harsh reality of the so-called “Special Period,” taking refuge in some colorful Hollywood product or another, usually recorded by the even more restricted group –favored among the favored- who owned a DIRECTV antenna.

Sharing a show or a movie was also a matter of affinity and solidarity at a time when almost all Cubans suffered the brunt of an economic crisis which, in the same way as the system that generated it, seemed to have no end. So some fellow invitees would agree to rotate the expense for renting the cassettes or contribute some snack to improve the get together, such as tea or coffee or another beverage, duly accompanied by roasted chickpeas. Continue reading

“True Intentions”: Brief Sketch of a Long Relationship / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya

Raul Castro with Barack Obama at a press conference at the Summit of the Americas

Raul Castro with Barack Obama at a press conference at the Summit of the Americas

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 14 May 2015 — Few sentences of the Cuban official discourse have been as well-worn as one that refers to “the true intentions” hiding behind the actions of the US government.

This explains the discomfort that the “Paused General*” feels about the American Interests Section in Havana teaching courses to independent journalists or when they hold teleconferences about digital journalism, among other activities. These “illegal activities” that the US government promotes through its Havana Section even award certificates of studies to its graduates. Because “the true intentions” of the government of that country is for these journalists to undermine the strength and ideological unity of our people, piercing it with the intimidating US influence. Continue reading

The Reconversion of the Devils / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

cubanet square logoCubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 12 May 2015 — Yesterday, Tuesday May 11, 2015, the front page of Granma, the official organ of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), showed a photograph of the Cuban President General amicably shaking the hand of Pope Francis in Vatican City. Quirks of politics, to convince us of the survivability of the Castro regime, represented by another member of the same caste that in the decade of the 70’s and 80’s harassed members of religious orders, reviled priests and marginalized the faithful. Now, just like that, the Castro regime perfumes its stubborn Marxist conviction with myrrh and frankincense, and it is almost hard to believe that this seemingly respectable octogenarian who visits with the Pope is one of those guerrilla leaders of that Revolution that was anticlerical, antireligious and church-phobic even before declaring itself Marxist.

In retrospect, the war against religious faith in Cuba was not just a momentary attack, but a policy of systematic and ongoing state-sanctioned persecution or discrimination against individuals for reasons of their religious beliefs, while, at the same time, Marxism-Leninism, that other fake religion, kept spreading with the aid of the Kremlin’s petro-rubles. Continue reading

“Return to Ithaca” or the Magic of Censorship / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya

Scene from the film "Return to Ithaca"

Scene from the movie “Return to Ithaca”

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 4 May 2015 — The reunion of five friends on a roof terrace in Central Havana is the thread on which Return to Ithaca’s plot rests. Leonardo Padura wrote the screenplay and Laurent Cantet directed this French film about Cuban topics.

The film is currently circulating underground among Havana moviegoers, preceded by the best possible presentation: the official censorship that prevented its showing during the latest edition of the Latin American Film Festival, held in Havana in December, 2014. However, Return to Ithaca has been shown at the Charles Chaplin auditorium in Havana, in the framework of the French Film Festival, being held throughout the month of May.

The film has become the cultural phenomenon of the moment, largely “by the grace of” the official censorship in a country where direct or veiled criticism of the system remains an event, even when — as in this instance — it makes use of worn-out clichés and platitudes. Continue reading

Self-employed…That Damn Breed / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya

Traditional business of a self-employed. Slushy making with an ice-grating machine in Pinar del Río. (Juan Carlos Fernández/14ymedio)

Traditional business of a self-employed. Slushy making with an ice-grating machine in Pinar del Río. (Juan Carlos Fernández/14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 2 May 2015 — Few sectors have been so viciously beaten in Cuba as the one grouped under the generic name of “entrepreneurs”, or, according to the informal term, “cuentapropistas” (“self-employed”).

The backgrounds of the self-employed have their roots in small business, family business owners and street vendors that swarmed throughout the Island until their extermination by the revolutionary guillotine called The Revolutionary Offensive of 1968. However, this is a breed that will sprout from the ashes, at any opportunity, a quality that is, at one and the same time, the secret of its survival and its curse because if there is anything that totalitarian power distrusts it is individuals with aspirations of independent entrepreneurship, especially if they have demonstrated their ability to thrive outside the “protection” of the flock.

Thus, at the smallest fissure in the system’s monolithic structure there would follow a fast flourishing trade with glimpses of prosperity for the most daring children of that wicked caste, whose autonomy allowed them to distance themselves somewhat from the political-ideological commitments hanging over the rest of society, and the respective official raids would then follow. Continue reading

Who Are the “Rich Cubans”? / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya

Many immigrants come to Havana from the provinces, hoping to expand their narrow horizons (14ymedio)

Many immigrants come to Havana from the provinces, hoping to expand their narrow horizons (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 16 April 2015 — It is a fact that permanent poverty creates distortions in perception. The most obvious example is the value judgments we Cubans place on the supposed “riches” of some, based on a comparison with our own poverty, which is the general state of the nation.

It is common for people from the towns and cities of the provinces to see, in the country’s capital, the wealth that they themselves do not enjoy. Viewed superficially, any observer would say that Cuba is no exception in this, because it is well-known that the capitals of all countries absorb a great deal of the immigration from the diverse points of their own national geographies, attracted by better job prospects, cultural options and the many other possible opportunities that more developed and cosmopolitan cities have to offer. Continue reading

The seventh summit showed that we are not alone / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

President Obama speaking at the Civil Society Forum at the Summit of the Americas in Panama

President Obama speaking at the Civil Society Forum at the Summit of the Americas in Panama

The Summit of the Americas legitimized our right to exist as civil society and as an alternative to dictatorial power. It was a victory of democracy over the empire of totalitarianism.

cubanet square logoCubanet, Miriam Celaya, Panama, 13 April 2015 – With smiles, handshakes and the usual “family photo” of all the presidents, the Summit of the Americas ended in Panama. This time the hemispheric event had the distinction of hosting, after a half century of absence, the visit of the prodigal son: the representative of the longest dictatorship of the continent, as well as a varied delegation from the Island’s civil society.

Apart from the numerous irregularities, related to the organization of the event, and the almost obvious complicity of local authorities with the obstacles that tried to sabotage the participation of alternative civil society representatives in the various forums of the summit — including power cuts, credential problems, and the well-known repudiation rallies orchestrated by the delegates of the Castro regime’s “civil society” and its continental acolytes — one could conclude that the balance of the conclave was positive for Cuban democrats. Continue reading

The Latin-America I Acknowlege / Miriam Celaya

Latin American Youth for Democracy at the Summit of the Americas in Panama responding to Cuban government demonstrators trying to block the civil society forum

Latin American Youth for Democracy at the Summit of the Americas in Panama responding to Cuban government demonstrators trying to block the civil society forum

Miriam Celaya, 13 April, 2015 — The Americas Summit in Panama will remain in my memory in the form of many images. Six intense days, which, for better or worse, strengthened and delighted me, all things considered, for I had the privilege to witness to a historical event: the Cuban presence at the most important hemispheric gathering, to have the honor to participate in it as part of independent civil society on the Island.

I won’t repeat the unhappy episodes brought about by government groups disguised as civil society, led by Mr. Abel Prieto, former Minister of Culture and current adviser to the General-President, who undertook to prove, beyond all doubt, the reactionary and exclusionary nature of the regime they represented. Let this minutest amount of data infer what kind of “superior” culture includes the public (and offshore) show of rudeness and violence of the indoctrinated and blinded Castro pack against a differing opinion. Continue reading

Mission Accomplished, General / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya

A group of members of the official Cuban delegation will hold a protest at the entrance of the Civil Society Forum. (EFE / Alejandro Bolívar)

A group of members of the official Cuban delegation will hold a protest at the entrance of the Civil Society Forum. (EFE / Alejandro Bolívar)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Panama, 9 April 2015 – Just as expected, April 8th was D-day for Castro’s troops in Panama, with the Forum of Civil Society in the framework of the Summit of the Americas. The physical and verbal aggression and the “revolutionary violence” unleashed in all its public display of barbarism before the astonished eyes of those who were involuntary witnesses of the shameful act, demonstrate how long the arm of the dictatorship of the Island is, and how disrespectful they are willing to be at international democratic venues.

It would have been naive to expect any other conduct, after preludes that foretold the climax. The Castro clan was initially flattered in its infinite vanity, after half a century of being expelled from the OAS, to have been one of the first invitees to the Americas’ Summit, only to have to swallow the bitter pill, soon after, of tolerating the independent civil society’s presence at the regional event. These are appropriate games of democracy, but a humiliation that the Antillean olive green caste was not willing to accept.

Now we were able to prove that it was not by happenstance that several activists of the Cuban independent civil society were harassed on our arrival at the Tocumen airport, some detained a relatively long time and interrogated, as if we were terrorists or criminals, by authorities that report directly to the Panamanian government. “We do not want disturbances or provocations at the Summit,” was the warning we received before allowing us to continue, and following that, a polite phrase that was almost cynical: “Welcome to Panama.” No doubt this is a peculiar sense of the hospitality and the official image this country is offering these occasional visitors. Continue reading

Suspended or Censored? / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

The members of the Taliban of the Cuban official web Reflejos, offended by the presence of an independent site like 14Ymedio should be celebrating: after a week of putting up with such dangerous neighbors, it withdrew the Yoani Sanchez’s daily from its platform. Authorities have demonstrated their inability to stand the test of freedom of the press.

cubanet square logo Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, MIAMI, Florida, 27 March 2015 — The members of the Taliban of Reflejos, the Cuban government-sponsored website, offended by the presence of an independent site like 14Ymedio should be celebrating. After a week of putting up with such dangerous neighbors, the authorities gave censure the all clear, in virtue of which 14ymedio has been “suspended or mothballed” because, in this era of technology and communications, euphemisms are also updated — it will no longer be able to be viewed on a platform which describes itself as “inclusive”.

Thus, while 14ymedio, the digital newspaper, launched from Cuba and in which several independent journalists on the Island collaborate or are involved, has demonstrated its ability to make use of any possible opening that facilitates access to its pages by Cubans from within Cuba, the authorities have shown their inability to stand the test of freedom of the press and differing opinions, particularly when participants have the moral authority of having experienced, on a daily and firsthand basis, the realities they narrate, report, or comment on. Continue reading

Raul Castro Plays Both Sides / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya


Maduro states that the Yankees [Americans] will not set one foot on Venezuelan soil, while Raul Castro will roll out the red carpet welcome for them, thus dismissing XXI Century Socialism.  Goodness, Maduro, neither political agreements nor ideologies are worth a dime in matters of capital.

cubanet square logoCubanet, Miriam Celaya, HAVANA, 16 march 2015 — The recent U.S. declaration that Venezuela constitutes a threat to U.S.National Security, as well as the sanctioning of seven employees of that South American country –six of whom are in the military — have offered the tenant of the Palace of Miraflores an ideal opportunity to call a meeting of the National Assembly to request an Enabling Law that will “allow for the defense of the country against any imperialist aggression.” And, of course, he got that law passed, though there has not been any deployment of maneuvers to justify such a call to slaughter. So far, the dreaded imperialistic onslaught has been limited to freezing the assets of the so-called employees “of the people” in U.S. soil and financial institutions (??!!) and forbidding their entry into that country.

Obviously, all indications so far are that some “Venezuelan boots” have trodden on “Yankee” territory, and not Continue reading

Rationing in Venezuela: A ‘Déjà vu’ for Cubans / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya

The ration book (14ymedio)

The ration book (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, Miriam Celaya, 11 March 2015 — Commissar Nicolas Maduro, president of Venezuela to the misfortune of its people and – let’s admit it – also for the prolongation of our own misfortune, has just announced recently the installation of 20,000 digital fingerprint readers in state food markets and in several private sector retail chains that, according to him, adopted the initiative “voluntarily” after meetings held with the government.

Let’s draw a merciful veil over the aforementioned secret meetings and imagine the atmosphere that must have reigned there in the midst of the “permanent economic war” that Venezuela suffers, the successive “soft coups” that have been provoked almost bi-weekly in that South American nation – according to the president’s denunciations – and the growing repression of opposition factions and civil society that demonstrate publicly and openly against the government. Continue reading

Family Code: Socialism’s Straight Jacket / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

Mom with young "Pioneer"

Mom with young “Pioneer”

The newspaper Granma insists that “it’s a code for the rights of women”. But in 1919,  as many women proportionally graduated from the University of Havana as graduated from universities in the U.S. And with the Revolution, Cuban women are forced to raise their children under the mores of socialism, with the slogan “We will become like Che.”

cubanet square logoCubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 28 February 2015 — In an extensive full-page article published on February 14th, the newspaper Granma (“Un Código de Amor para la Familia“), is full of praise for the 40th anniversary of the Cuban Family Code, which – in the words of Dr. Olga Mesa Castillo, president of the Cuban Civil Rights Society and of the Family of the National Syndicate of Attorneys, and faculty professor of and consultant to the Faculty of Law of the University of Havana — “is a code about the love and the rights of women.”

Paradoxically, not even the most politically correct academic discourse of a second-hand law officer can hide certain flaws that reveal the passive role of Cuban women since, with the arrival of F. Castro to power, their autonomy was appropriated and, along with it, their ability to freely associate to defend their gender interests, issues relating to the family, the right to choose their children’s education, etc. In fact, it can be argued that the Revolution of 1959 put to rest even the last vestiges of the Cuban feminist movement Continue reading