Fidel Died / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Cuban democracy has taken so long that now it seems we Cubans can wait for a little longer. President Obama, with his historical Cuban speech, is indeed recognizing the future rights of a leftist dictatorship that in turn never recognized the rights of Cuban citizens.

Yet, his Cuban counterpart, General Raul Castro, dressed in military uniform instead of his much more accustomed expensive suits, delivered a simultaneous speech so solemn that he sounded like in a funeral. It was obvious that this was his fraternal farewell to Fidel Castro, who cannot be part anymore of the Cuban equation in the new era opened today. I dare say that Fidel Castro has died and that the apocalyptic announcement may take place in the 56th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution, on January 1st.

Next, we’ll see in Cuba the masquerade of new investments and markets and local licenses for business and more access to internet and even an electoral reform, but private property will remain a myth and no fundamental freedoms are conceivable for Cubans while only one Communist Party keeps monopolizing all political life, with the State Security from the Ministry of the Interior as the real source of governance of a model based on secrecy and, of course, impunity to repression. Continue reading

Requiem for the 10th of December (International Day of Human Rights) / by Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Raul Castro with his son  Alejandro and his grandson-bodyguard Raúl Guillermo. (MARTINOTICIAS)

Raul Castro with his son Alejandro and his grandson-bodyguard Raúl Guillermo. (MARTINOTICIAS)

The 10th of December is one of the saddest days. That day the political police – the only source of governance in our island – brings out all of its henchmen to suppress dissent. Many are dressed with their olive-green monkey-like Ministry of the Interior uniforms – most are in plain clothes. And you never really know which is worse, because street clothing in Cuba is inherently cruel. This is how the violence of our State Security disguises itself as a “counterrevolutionary rapid response” by the loyal and “uniformed people.” Plebeian and power are two words that become one in our own tropical brand of nationalistic despotism.

This mafia-like behavior is the real engine that drives the Revolution of the Castros; firing squads and faith in a better future; jail for non-conformists and ration-books for the faithful; repression of private life and exile for those who escape. This is how the Communist Party has hijacked our nation, whose sovereignty has been a myth since 1959, when the island fell into the hands of a group of populist militants. In this respect, it is important to note that neither a domestic rebellion nor the so-long-awaited Yankee invasion would ever be a violation of sovereignty when the very essence of the Castros’ rule has been to ignore the will of the Cuban people.

Meanwhile, notwithstanding the continuing existence of the family’s octogenarian hegemonic brothers, the heirs of the family clan – the pentarchy of Alejandro, Mariela, Antonio, Raul Guillermo and Deborah – prepare themselves for a fake transition of power that ignores the more than 25,000 signatures of the Varela Project (an independent civic-democratic movement within Cuba) that clamors for democracy.

The success of this fake transition depends on the complicity of the democratic governments of the European Union and of certain opportunistic groups within American society, pressured by big-money interests, that wish to obtain their share of the spoils derived from a Cuban workforce with no rights, all while paying off and manipulating American media, where it is proclaimed that our country is a proletarian paradise where “fatherland” is pronounced as “gallows.” Never has the annexationist tradition in our island had such success as it does in the current context; Cuba’s present neither includes nor involves ordinary Cubans; our future is molded from Strasbourg, Brussels, Washington, Moscow, Beijing, and Caracas in a much worse manner than in 1898, because this time our government is being invited as the guest of honor.

Many leaders in Cuba’s civil society have been threatened, harassed, subjected to acts of repudiation, beaten, and even jailed without cause on the 10th of December. On this day, independent artists are impeded from working on their projects – in my case, for being a blogger independent from any official institutions, a police detachment at my doorstep prevented me from leaving without being arrested – or even receiving visits. All of this on the 10th of December… a day that happens to also be my birthday.

This 10th of December, the rapper Angel Yunier Remon aka “El Critico,” remains sentenced to five years for his independent and libertarian brand of music. The novelist Angel Santiesteban suffers a similar sentence since the beginning of last year. Various human rights activists are not allowed to travel freely within or without the island. Government-controlled mobs continue their aggressive harassment of dissidents, among many other abuses that include spying on the private lives of activists.

These are the exemplary results of “Raulpolitiks”, our very own brand of Putinism of a reactionary type that hurts no one buts its victims. We are alone, and Cubans abroad are unwilling to raise a single cent for the cause of liberty. In fact, our exile community donates billions of dollars each year simply so that we can be treated as worse than traitors by our own government.

When democracy one day reaches Cuba, either tomorrow or in another 56 years – it will arrive in spite of the international leftist movement– when the men and women of my country recover the life in liberty and truth that our dictatorship reduced to a mere ideological battleground for Socialism – when Castroism finally becomes a thing of the past and its perpetrators are finally condemned so that they never bring back Communism in our island (an occasion that will include not only the enshrinement of the separation of powers, but also the banning of anti-democratic parties) – still the 10th of December will be a sad day of remembrance for my countrymen.

This day, for generations and generations will continue to remind us of the impunity with which our State Security treated us; an army dressed in the color of silence that applauded and assassinated without consequences; that was willing to combat Ebola in Africa while it nurtured the virus of violence at home; that created false and imagined enemies for purposes of its creepy theatrics. This day shall be for us to never forget the hate that Castroism engendered for its fellow countrymen, and for us to never forget the historic humiliation we suffered under the watchful eye of our very own Big Brother; a day in which for us to open our hearts for the needed reconciliation will be even less easy.

These December 10ths hurt, more than the ever-faster approaching double funeral (of the Castro brothers) ever will. The 10th of December ignores all notions of oblivion. There is no victim who is not expecting to face his abuser if we are to live in truth one day. The fight of the Cuban people against Castroism is the fight of memory against memory.

– OLPL

Originally published in Spanish in Diario de Cuba

Translated by Roberto Alba-Bustamante

What I Said at FIU / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Translator’s Note: On Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014, Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo participated in a panel discussion at Florida International University, in Miami. The program announcement is here.

Since the time of the Iron Curtain and Soviet socialism, the word, “solidarity,” has been one of value in anti-totalitarian use. Within the dictatorial models that communists have historically imposed every time they have taken power, it is impossible to socialize if not through the power of the State/God. Every social bond is regulated as deemed convenient by a regime that, on principle, politicizes all, but in practice depoliticizes society.

There is no political life after the communist parties appropriate power, be it through bullets or ballots. This should be sufficient cause to ponder whether the communist parties — just like the fascists or racists or fundamentalists — deserve the right to play the democratic game. The parties that aspire to be not part, but all, have not demonstrated that they are capable of responding to or respecting the rule of law.

In the face of such false en masse socialization produced by stagnant socialist systems, for the individual to be in solidarity is, then, a way of living in the truth, of involving oneself in the complex social fabric, of reacting against systemic injustices, of not abandoning those displaced by the utopia.

In the face of a monolithic state that hijacks everything to the ideological spectrum, solidarity embodies the rediscovery of the individual, of his inner freedom and of his rights to manifest it, and also the revaluation of his dignity as a person, of his inviolable human condition. Solidarity thus became a secret word, subversive and redeeming.

In Cuba, the prestige of this word — as all language that has been strip-mined by the State — is synonymous with dangerousness. Solidarity, a word derived from “sun,” [“sol” in Spanish] was forced into the counterrevolutionary catacombs. As with the term, “human rights,” solidarity suffered the stigma of clandestinity. I suspect that the word barely arouses sympathies in the average Cuban, who associates it with conspiracies incubated abroad and thus justifies his own humiliation at having to survive with his head bowed.

Peoples learn from their tyrants. In that sense, the Cuban people are cynically wise. At this point in history it is almost unjust to ask them for more. We have sanctioned Castroism with our best spontaneous weapons, even while these same weapons make us a bit more complicit: silence, apathy, repression through inertia, pretending to walk the walk out of an instinct of self-preservation. Against a regime like that of the Castros, to peacefully preach solidarity is also to remember that all gospels end in a via crucis, in the deadly hands of State Security, an entity specifically dedicated to dissolving any trace of solidarity.

Thus the preciousness of the least gesture of our many foreign friends. They observe us, and they work and take risks for Cuba, without the straightjacket of the Revolution’s compensatory myths: the social programs, the high professional level of our countrymen, and the stability gained by sterility of life in our olive-green bubble, which now is mutating from the color of military uniforms to the color of dollars.

Thus the incalculable worth of the courageous acts of Cubans surrounded by Castroism everywhere. Blackmailing Castroism and academic Castroism, or both. Castroism of the bourse and of the beast, or both. Idiotic Castroism and ideological Castroism, or both. Castroism as anti-establishment therapy or sentimental, conciliatory Castroism.

Not to fall into paralyzing pessimism, but there is scarce room for hope in this tragedy, and therefore hope shines brilliantly to the point of virtue. It is this State-sponsored thuggery that makes it so that not one leader of the pro-democracy movements in Cuba has not foretold his or her death, carried out with exceptional viciousness, as in the cases of Laura Pollán and Oswaldo Payá.

The diasporization of our nation starts with our laziness toward fighting injustice somewhere else, as long as it doesn’t concern us personally. In fact, after it does concern us, many times we Cubans prefer to bury our pain and our injury, preventing some friendly hand from “politicizing” their trauma, presuming that doing so would make things worse for us.

This is how we end up being, as a people, Fidelism’s most reliable source of governability, its raw material that will not betray it. Although, as I’ve already said, day by day we also vote in a plebiscite with our feet, which is one of the most constant behaviors that should be weighed in favor of the Revolution: we leave the Island, be it only to turn back; we leave, be it only to construct a new, post-national servitude, in which we know that politics continues being not part of our life, but rather a terrible “all” whose long, barbaric arm could reach our family in whatever corner they might be.

Not one of my columns or photographs since my ostracism in Havana would have had the same impact if not for the solidarity, almost always, of the survivors of socialism. This never implied the most minimal interference with my content. I have not evolved as an accuser: it is possible that I am not even a democrat so much as an author interested in the ultimate. Thus before even knowing it, I was already free to the point of intolerability.

I am not interested in correction, be it mental or corporal, and I am bored by any creation that from its genesis already defines its destiny (and its meaning). I am obsessed by the limits of provocation. My fury at, and autos-da-fé about, Cuba do not remain in the little fossil farm of Fidelism. Rather, they go seeking in the black holes of our democracy that never knew its value apart from the currency of violence, starting with the land destroyed in the wars of independence. These wars consecrated the gallons of spilled blood as a universal value, placed martyrdom over reconciliation, suicide over surrender, hate for our very selves mutated into hate for our Cuban difference: a civic poverty that plays out as tribalism and that, well into the 21st century, still seduces and traps us.

There are many dramatic anecdotes of solidarity with the imaginary free Cuba, such that our desolation is inconsolable as a people living under an apartheid that the world does not recognize. As an emblem, I would like to mention an example exclusive to Cubans which we are careful to cite, for fear (at times average and other times downright miserable) of remaining in anyone’s territory, in or out of Cuba, as if we weren’t already pariahs in perpetuity, in or out of Cuba.

I’m referring to legislated solidarity, to the very rare documents that have sought to wrest liberty from legality. In Cuba, of course, no citizen initiative ever pointed in such a radical fashion to a refounding of the republic as did the Varela Project. This enterprise received from Oswaldo Payá its genius of inspiration and perseverance, but it was also our great public march against the usurpers of the law, a milestone for future generations to know that all measures short of bloodshed were attempted, that there was no humanly possible way of telling the Castros that they are not welcome in our homeland, and that it is they and not some foreign power who have hijacked our sovereignty as a nation.

Other documents of legislated solidarity — that also do not seem to be in fashion amongst a dissident movement that no longer pretends to be an opposition and even less to stop being an opposition and aspire to power through ballots instead of bullets — can be found in North American legislation. Stone me as the Castroites have always stoned me before and after Castro, but in the best of circumstances, it is an act of ignorance not to cite that the so-called Helms-Burton Act is actually named the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act.

Beyond the technicalities of geopolitics, this document establishes the keys to repealing the North American economic blockade. The few sections that discuss normalization of Cuba-US relations — without being complicit with Castroism — are much more respectful of Cubans than the avalanche of editorials from The New York Times, or the campaigns by NGOs that from Miami to Washington DC want to capitalize on the pretend-changes in Cuba, on the auto-transition of power to power and not of law to law, of a tired Castroism to a dynastic, post-Castroism with the literal blood-heirs of the Castros at the helm.

Section 205 of the Act lists in legal language the minimal characteristics needed to jump-start our delayed democracy: Legalize political activity. Liberate political prisoners. Commit to holding free elections. Establish independence among the branches of the State. Legalize workers’ unions. Allow free individual expression and a free press. Respect private property. Protect the rights of citizens on the Island and in Exile.

In that risky context wherein a State capitalism is constructed in Cuba which is no less totalitarian than communism (which is another form of centralized capitalism), perhaps it would be pertinent for Cubans — with a voice empowered by their labor for liberty — to demand of democracies not just one but many laws for liberty — so that the Hierarchs of Havana — who would never sit at a table of reconciliation because they do not recognize their enemies as anything more than potential exterminations to be carried out — will at least feel some effective, legal pressure against their opaque tactics. Thus an unequivocal sign would be given that they do not bear any kind of legitimacy — because 56 years of governing in their belligerent, ill-advised and manipulative manner, are more than enough.

Translated By: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

5 December 2014

El Sexto Again in Danger, December 2014 / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Friends of the world, I just talked with the graffiti artist El Sexto — Danilo Maldonado Machado — from Havana, Cuba.

State Security agents are like bloodhounds after him, all over the city, on motorbikes and in cars.

They are intimidating him, but in the end his arrest by the police appears imminent.

The Ladies in White Association is going to organize a huge, peaceful, pro-human rights march in El Vedado on 10 December. And the repressors are doing what they did during the visit of Pope Benedict XVI in March of 2012: “preventative” mass arrests for more than a week, without legal charges nor any right to make a phone call: Pure State kidnappings.

El Sexto’s art has no place in the Castroism that castrates our free Cuban hearts.

The agents are pressuring him to go into exile. I also told him to consider it, because between the Cubanamericantotalitarian Tycoons and the European Business Left, the play is already set to impose on us another half century of Castroism without Castro.

El Sexto just said to me, “Thank you for your friendly advice, Landy, but for me… they are going to have to kill me in this country.”

And El Sexto knows very well of what he speaks, because he wears on his skin the assassinated bodies of Laura Pollán y Oswaldo Payá.

1 December 2014

Eastern Family Protests in Havana, #Cuba

The family in this video is protesting having been evicted from their home. Of note is the openly expressed anger of the crowd at the police action against them.

24 November 2014

The family in this video is protesting having been evicted from their home. Of note is the openly expressed anger of the crowd at the police action against them.

24 November 2014

Kill, Already, If You Are Going to Kill / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Cuban State Security — that is, the Castroist assassins of the State — just as in Havana, have not ceased from monitoring and stigmatizing me for even one minute since I have been in the US.

It is the sole legacy of a dictatorship that from its inception disintegrated our nation in an irreversible manner.

But we Cubans are free. But we Cubans do not fear Evil. Castro has no more Cubans left. And now we are going to relaunch another country, another Cuba with no traces of Castroism, be it on the Island or in some other spot. There are plans. It is enough to merely awaken the political imagination, to break the bonds of our thinking that the dictatorship is the dictatorship.

And the page of Castroism will remain congealed as a sort of North Korea of the Caribbean, barbaric, abusive, unnecessary.

There will be another Havana, Brothers and Sisters.

Our children will be handsome, gorgeous and free. Never will they know the horror of so many generations destroyed by the person of Fidel and his blackmailed and salaried agents, as well as those already thirsting for lives that are whole, and the hopes of living them. Castroism is a criminal habit.

A Cuba will come that manifests permanent values: Good, Beauty, Truth, Kindness, Love — that which comes easily, which is common, which is natural.

If the assassins of visionaries do not permit me to arrive alive on that shore, there will be another Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo who will love all free Cuban men and women as much as I love them.

Castroism’s crimes are numbered.

Cubansummatum est!

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

14 November 2014

CUBA IN SPLINTERS in MIAMI BOOK FAIR

Imagine a country sequestered by a national narrative that leaves no space for dissent or even for disappointment.

Imagine the consequences for imagination in such a closed environment, aggravated by a mass media monopoly that occupies every channel of information, opinion, criticism and legitimation.

Imagine language itself as a prison, with grammar reduced to inertia, with syntax subjected to socialization and desire doomed to discipline, where beauty is suspected of being subversive, the whole vocabulary becoming a kind of vocubalary that makes superfluous any censorship because self-control is now constitutional.

Is fiction feasible under such pressure, between the Revolution and the deep red sea? But, isn’t fiction fostered best under the most despotic rhetoric? Creativity as resistance. Danger as the measure of all things. Literature understood as limiterature.

In the early 90’s, Fidel Castro and his Special Period in Peacetime threatened the Island with the so-called Option Zero: namely, concentration camps to survive local famine as the European Iron Curtain fell and Cuba found itself naked in a post-Cold War Era.

Paradoxically, this meant tons of fresh air for Cuban writing. Please, don’t laugh if you think it’s ridiculous but alas, yes, for the first time since 1959, our authors could publish their books abroad, skipping the need for official permission. Besides, the government’s Non-Governmental Organizations allowed writers to collect honorariums and copyright fees in hard currency, while prodigious privileges were being distributed according to the cultural politics of the “rule of loyalty”: to rent a house, to have access to the internet, to import a car, to own a passport with an exit permit.

Yet, despite the more ample margins for tolerance in terms of content, confrontational voices were still coerced, blackmailed, fired from their jobs, marginalized, stigmatized, beaten, jailed and forced to choose between silence or exile.

In fact, at the beginning of the 2000’s or Years Zero, maybe as guarantee of the original Option Zero, our literary field attained both tokens of totalitarianism: silence and exile. Thus, it was about time for a generation to start from zero.

Generations, of course, do not exist at all. In the case of Generation Year Zero, the 11 outlaws included in CUBA IN SPLINTERS (an anthology of new Cuban narrative translated by Hillary Gulley for O/R Books in New York 2014), behave like okupas or squatters or rather like textrrorists. Provocation as the distinctive trademark of a dysfunctional generation that, out of apathy and almost aphasia, are focusing their fiction on the black holes of memory and tradition, digging into the uncomfortable and the unpleasant, cannibalizing our cannon, escaping from correctness, reappropriating political scenarios to disrupt their logic, a bet on horror instead of heroes,épater le proletaire, vengeance as a fine art, yet from bad painting to worse writing, insisting on a scatological esthetics far from all Cuban stereotypes expected both by conventional readers and foreign editors.

The fragmentary as a splintered strategy to express the inexpressible, fractals versus fossils. A diary of dystopia as the cynical symptom to dynamize and dynamite our State establishment, dealing with a decubanized Cubanness not as scandalous as scoundrelous. I’m afraid that in this bible of the barbaric, quod scripsi, is crisis.

And the 11 trouble-makers of CUBA IN SPLINTERS by O/R Books have plenty of experience in this, since during the last decade they were the editors of the Cuban clandestine boom of independent digital magazines, like Cacharros(s)33 y un TercioDesLizLa Caja de la ChinaThe Revolution PostVoces, among other conflictive documents.

Let’s recognize that almost another dozen of writers could have been included in this literary warfront of new narrative: Lizabel Mónica, Osdany Morales, Jamila Medina, Ainsley Negrín, Abel Fernández-Larrea, Arnaldo Muñoz Viquillón, Legna Rodríguez, and Evelyn Pérez, for example. It is very likely that this anthology of newrrative is the portrait of a family that never was.

The communicating vessels between these short-stories are not bridges, but short-circuits: the tension among each fiction hopefully will produce a fertile friction that will render fractions of sense and nonsense, a bit of idiocy after so much ideology, from the Berlin Wall to the wall of the Florida Strait, from Fidel’s bodyguards to sex for sale at a regional train station; snob Buddhism and socialist zombies; cannabis cubensis so the mind can emigrate before our body crosses the claustrophobic line of the horizon; Habaniroshima, mon amour, the cenotaph city like tears in the ruins of a rheumatic Revolution; remake and collage, plagiarism taken to the paroxysm; who knows if poetry for the pariahs of the Cuban holocastro. It is also very likely that this anthology of newrrative is the portrait of a family meant never to be.

Del clarín, escuchad el silencio, as these 11 anti-national hymns turn out to be hyper-nationalistic histories, as no Cuban can truly escape from Cuba. Fidelity has given way to fatality. So, let it read. Or at least, let it rip these many Cubas in splinters. Unrest in peace.

Original in English

23 November 2014

Castroniria / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Castroneirics: Is there Cuban literature after the Revolution?

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

This story started long before the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, on January 1st1959. In the beginning it was not the Word, but the War. And in the war Fidelity is the utmost value, its betrayal usually paid with death, whether civil or political, from culture to corpses without much transition.

In March 1956, Alberto Bayo, who soon was to become a Cuban revolutionary commander, while training Castro’s little army in Mexico, wrote the first traceable record of Fideliterature, where Castro is compared with a “lighthouse than gleams airs of freedom”, and as one of our “great locos that pursue Glory to sow a beautiful fruit in History.”

Indeed, many charismatic leaders have been called “locos” by our national tradition, which despises common sense and praises maddened social actors, as much as it disregards conventionalism in order to foster improvisation.

Months later, Ernesto Ché Guevara himself depicted Fidel as a “blazing prophet of the dawn.” And then an avalanche of verses came pouring upon his epical guerrilla, from the Ecuadorian Elías Cedeño Jerves, who sees him as an eagle-in-chief flying over the mountains of Sierra Maestra (although those birds are inexistent on the Island), to Cuban Carilda Oliver Labra, who focuses her gratefulness to the “male groin” under Castro’s green-olive uniform (thus settling the basis for Latin American Machismo-Leninism). Continue reading

Memories of Media Death / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Memories of Overdevelopment is a Cuban film that comes from the future. And that is a lot to say in a country like ours, condemned to survive in a perpetual and precarious present time that revolves around the same dates and hallmarks of that high-contrast story still called the Revolution.

Indeed, in the beginning it was not the Word, but the Sword. And Fidel Castro swore that the sword was good. And he turned it into Swordcialism or Death, a slogan that means more to us than one thousand and one laws. Or rather, than one thousand and 959 laws. Because memories in Cuba are symbolically bound to that date. 1959: life B.C or A.C., before Castro or after Castro.Within the Revolution and against the Revolution, but no space outside the Revolution is conceivable. That’s what totalitarianism is all about: the State as an imitation of God. And in social sets so claustrophobic, Creation must be then Reaction.

Edmundo Desnoes is a lucky writer. In Cuban literature, where he is well-known but has never been well read, he put into practice the perspective of the pariah, the lucid loser in the middle of proletarian’s paradise, the vision of the victims beyond all boasting victories, the endearing delirium of the displaced. All this in a country with an official narrative that punishes those displaced with death, from the civil to the corpse. And Edmundo Desnoes was lucky enough twice, in the beginning and in the end of his own biopics in the time of the revolution. Continue reading