Fiftieth Anniversary of the Missile Crisis / Rafael Leon Rodriguez

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The final days of that October were grim. At the beach, the rough seas spilled over the sand blowing in the wind. The militia dug trenches, so close to the coast, that their walls caved in. Guanabo was desolate, more so than normal for that time of year, and the locals who stayed after the evacuation of the last few hours did not understand the magnitude of the drama that was evolving in our archipelago. The Cuban rRevolution, the one that claimed to the world that it was so pure, independent and mighty like the palm trees, had just been undressed by the spy planes from North America. The photos of soviet specialists secretly installing the nuclear missiles around the island were seen by the entire world.Fifty years have passed since that monumetal blunder that placed humanity in the fringes of a nuclear hell. Now that there is only a handful of the principle actors of that crisis left, we ask ourselves who really gained anything, and who lost. The answer, coincidentally, is in the published text from Fidel Castro on October 21, 2012 at 10:12a.m. “When Kruschev proposed to install mid range projectile missiles similar to those installed in Turkey by the United States — in the need for solidarity, Cuba did not hesitate to take the risk. Our conduct was pure and ethical. We will never ask for forgiveness from anyone for what we did. It is true that half a century has passed, and we are still here holding our heads up high.”

It was not important then that Cuba was not at all consulted in the dialogue between the United States and the USSR which resolved the conflict. Nor that the Cuban authorities, which are the same as today, found out via the shortwave transmission in Radio Moscow the decisions that had been made. It did seem to bother some when the newspaper Revolución, the official  paper predecessor of the Granma, published the headers: “The USSR orders the removal of missiles from Cuba”. Today the world around us is different, it has changed: the Soviet Union no longer exists. The cold war ended. The missile crisis is history. But, for Cuba there are still remnants of those days; because, lamentable but true, after half a century of economic, political and social disaster, they are still here.

 Translated by: Marina Villa

October 24 2012

Two Fall Events / Rafael Leon Rodriguez

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Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías won the Venezuelan elections as was expected, but only by 10 percentage points; translated to voters figure is assumed he will have to govern with an opposition that showed support from the 45% of the electorate: six million one hundred and fifty thousand electors against approximately seven million four hundred thousand Chavistas. And the 20% of the citizens able to vote didn’t do so.

In the previous election in 2006 the opposition got the 37% of the votes. This means either these are the last elections won by Chávez or these were the last Venezuelan elections at all. Anyway the totalitarian formula is always win-win and the so called XXI Century Socialism won’t be the exception.

Two days before these elections, in Granma Province, the trial was held against the Spanish citizen Ángel Francisco Carromero Barrios, charged with murder while he was driving his vehicle on the public way. Carromero who was driving the car that crashed last July 22 when Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero lost their lives, remains under arrest until the sentence. Scarce or none information of the trial was known by the Cuban people, only reports from some who tried to get near and weren’t allowed, including Payá Sardiñas’ children. Others were detained to keep them away.

Both events, close in time, have something in common, a thread, which is the lack of information or disinformation with which the officials despise their citizens. Nobody knows the details of the trial against Carromero as no one knew the characteristic of the Venezuelan opposition’s proposal. In Cuba we only heard Chavez’s speeches in his political campaign. Not the ones of the opposition leader, Capriles. The conspirators of silence didn’t give details of the resolution adopted by the Council of the American Christian Democratic Organization (ODCA), on August 31st and September 1st in Chile, where an investigation of the deaths of Payá and Harold Cepero was asked of the competent organization the United Nations, with the support of the four Cuban organizations of the ODCA. Not by chance do totalitarian regimes understand freedom of the press as a contradiction of the democratic system, as for them the information is nothing more than a tool for control and repression.

Translated by: @Hachhe

October 16 2012

Forward Flight / Rafael Leon Rodriguez

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In recent days Havana has stood out as venue of countless events, most of them of an international nature and assorted disciplines. International Labiofam Congress 2012; International Law Congress 2012; VII Course on Tools of Control and Prevention Against Administrative Corruption; Orthopedics Congress 2012; Nanosciencie and Nanotechnolgy IV International Seminar, among others. The titles themselves give a feeling of development and resolution in the diversity of subjects and plans for the future. How far from the daily Cuban society! It seems like another Cuba, a virtual one, that only exist for a privileged group, the palace court and company guests.

Nothing to do with the real Cuba, which despite being an small country with 11.2 million inhabitants has the fifth largest prison population in the world in relation to the number of individuals. The one where each citizen’s share of the national debt is valued at six thousand dollars, owed to a group that includes Paris, Russia, China, and who knows how many more countries, whom the Cuban government owes, on balance, the ballpark figure of sixty billion dollars.

The country that is aging at such a pace that it is predicted that by 2035 a third of its population will be over 60 years old. The one where the workers earn miserable salaries not exceeding twenty dollars a month on average, in a dollarized economy. The one where retired men and women are forced to survive through all kinds of tricks to eat and dress badly. The one with a two million person diaspora that grows exorbitantly. The impoverished Cuba that has been exhausted of wealth along with its dreams and hope.

The heirs of the new class seem to behave as if in forward flight, to ignore the sad reality of this island anchored in the past. Convinced of the powers and privileges inherent to their lineage, they flaunt plans, capacities and projects. Meanwhile, the gap continues to widen between them and the majority of citizens, who trapped in the trick of a single party system and the negation of their fundamental human rights, as set out in the United Nations Covenants on civil and political rights and on economic, social and cultural rights, confirm that there can’t be any communion with the oppression.

Translated by: @hachhe

October 2 2012

The Non-Aligned Summit / Rafael Leon Rodriguez

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In August the sixteenth summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) came to an end in Teheran, the capital city of Iran — the country which now assumes the presidency of the organization. The Syrian crisis and the Iranian nuclear program dominated the meeting’s agenda. The movement has lost some of its purpose since the end of the Cold War. During the last decade of the 20th century, however, it seems that the flexibility of its members political views has actually allowed it to retain some relevance in the international arena. It has never been clear that leaders of some of the founding member countries understood what non-alignment meant.

Cuba participated in the first summit conference in Belgrade from September 1 to September 6, 1961, along with 27 other states, as a full member. On May 30 of the following year Comandante Fidel Castro approved Operation Anadir, which allowed the former Soviet Union to install nuclear bases in Cuba with missiles directed towards the United States — an action that brought the world to the brink of annihilation. It is reported that, on the night of October 26, 1962, in the midst of the Caribbean Missile Crisis, the Cuban leader sent a letter to then-Premier Nikita Krushchev suggesting that he launch a first-strike nuclear attack on the United States. The letter, which has never been fully released, has been the subject of various interpretations. Underlying it, however, is an awful intent — to launch a third and final world war.

After the crisis Cuba continued its membership in the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries. It later allowed the installation of a Soviet signals intelligence station at Lourdes as well as a contingent of military personnel. It seems that among the most important concerns of NAM’s founding members is support for so-called national independence movements.  The Cuban dictatorship excelled in this regard at the sacrifice of their people, to get thanks for the real and material solidarity offered, and to turn a blind eye to their past history of military commitments with the ex-Soviets. It’s the politics of ambiguity and the half-truths of regimes of this nature to always justify the means for the ultimate end: to remain in power at all costs.

Translated by: @Hachhe

September 11 2012

About the Moringa / Rafael León Rodríguez

One hot summer afternoon, back in the ’90s, several friends were getting together in the shade of an old sea grape at the beach in Guanabo. One of them said that in his house had lost a small turtle and that after three months, without food or drink, it appeared alive and well.

Shhh…! gestured one present, and rubbing his chin he said, “Speak softly, lest that the Commander decides to put us all a shell.”

July 17 2012

Play Offs / Rafael León Rodríguez


The teams from the western part of the country, the Industriales and Matanzas, began the fifty-first series semifinal playoffs of Cuban baseball, a national sport considered “truly free” by the authoritarian authorities of the archipelago. During the last games, the television images were surprising in the number of players who handled the tension of the games by chewing gum, until, suddenly, all of them stopped doing it. Have they all decided to do so in unison or did the real “liberty in sports” work… under vigilance?

Translated by: Maria Montoto

May 16 2012

What I Hope For From Benedict XVI / Rafael Leon Rodriguez

By: Yoaxis Marcheco Suárez

Statements made to the international press by Pope Benedict XVI, the expected visitor who treads our Cuban soil for a few hours, raised my levels of hope a little with respect to what the political and religious leader can do with his impact on our country. Not that I expect his presence here will change the course of history, but at least it may contribute to the truth of our reality.

I expect a little more of the highest representative of the Roman Catholic Church, not a political speech, but a direct demand to the Cuban government to respect the human and civil rights so abused in Cuba. Yesterday afternoon in Santiago de Cuba, both the Archbishop Dionisio Garcia Ibanez and the Pope made reference to intolerance and a call for understanding and reconciliation among Cubans, but it is necessary to warn, reconciliation is respect, it is silent and hatred before a different voice, it is to live in peace without having to account to the powers-that-be for our ideology or political thought.

I hope from the Pope that he mentions the sad and shameful fact that many Cubans, including practicing and recognized Catholics such as the layman Dagoberto Valdes may not participate in any of his masses because they remain repressed and detained at their homes or in dungeons, with their cell phones silenced and without any media.

That bringing to light the lie of this nefarious totalitarian regime be before the Cuban people and before the world should be an important part of the papal calendar. That he does justice to the marginalized politicians, the voices raised against the dictatorship and that he promotes the rights of our human race to Cubans inside and outside the country is essential.

As an evangelical Christian and Protestant, I know God’s voice is my voice because I have appropriated it and the voice of God is that of the humble, the poor, the disadvantaged, it is them that I defend, I am part of them. I hope Benedict XVI also takes this opportunity to ask, without subtlety, or ambiguity, that they cease the acts of repudiation, the abuse of dissidents, the arbitrary detentions, the lack of respect for ideas and make it clear that a Cuba with all and for the good of all, would be an inclusive Cuba and not otherwise.

God is not the private property of the Revolutionaries, He belongs to everyone and for the benefit of all. I hope, then, that Benedict XVI will be sure to bring that truth and that his voice can impact the nation with a strong call for harmony, love, reconciliation and unity among all those born on the island. And in fact I fully agree with him on the need to “build an open and renewed society” that cares about “the legitimate aspirations of all Cubans wherever they are.”

March 27 2012