For A Real Battle Of Ideas in Cuba / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula

Sign on a street of Havana. “The Revolution is Invincible” (EFE)

Sign on a street of Havana. “The Revolution is Invincible” (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Regina Coyula, Havana, 7 February 2016 – Whether it is a Cuban government presided over by a member of the Communist party, or by someone else elected by the direct and secret vote of the citizenry, the challenges that lie ahead for this future government are immeasurable. In an environment with a free flow of information, where stating an opinion is no longer perceived as a punishable activity by some, or potentially dangerous by others, Cuba, as unanimous as it seems to be, will become a tempestuous stage for disparate opinions.

The workers, who today serve the goals and wave the flags of the collective vanguard, will demand rights and organize strikes. This country that seems so quiescent today will become a Tower of Babel. That is why it is so important that the different visions of Cuba not ignore each other, and above all that the government does not ignore them all. Even common sense suggests that within the ranks of the apparently monolithic ruling party, there are opinions far removed from the party line and that it is thanks only to the mortar of so-called democratic centralism that they are not noticed.

Among citizens, anyone who wishes to engage in serious politics, if they want to attract interest and get votes, must be explicit and convincing with respect to preserving a system of healthcare, education and social security that covers everyone, although these activities do not have to be exclusively free. The inequalities that are currently shamelessly on display, are precisely in schools and health centers.

The lack of a sense of ownership and the feeling that “everything belongs to everyone, so nothing belongs to anyone,” has had disastrous results. Different forms of ownership have not been implemented except on an exceptional basis. Faced with limited private property (home, auto, cemetery vault, furniture, personal belongings, farmland), the rest has been overwhelmingly state-owned, not owned in common, however much they try to explain otherwise.

The economy needs to be renewed. It is urgent to modify the timid Investment Law so that the most motivated (Cubans, regardless of their geography) can participate. The state must become an efficient administrator and coordinator and must reform its bloated and unwieldy structure. Not making the necessary layoffs to pare the state structure is a political decision with an economic burden that also affects the lack of equality.

Fiscal policy (fair, based on production and productivity) should finance social policies and the strategic development of the country, but with full transparency about the uses of this money. It is disrespectful to taxpayers to force them to support an enormous and inefficient state apparatus. Planning must be realistic, and set aside volunteerism, historical anniversaries or “tasks handed down from above,” and should be a natural part of the autonomy of these businesses.

The market can no longer be subordinated to politics; in any event it must be subordinated to social interests. State intervention in the prices of agricultural products is viewed with suspicion and the critics didn’t take long to appear.

To articulate democratic participation and obedience to the law without exceptions are the greatest challenges, and we should not fear a real battle of ideas. If citizens feel their participation is truly voluntary and that they are honestly informed, their participation will be massive and spontaneous.

A good plan for the future should be based on José Martí’s idea of a republic for all and for the good of all. In a project like this there is room for all Cubans, on the island and abroad, ready to debate and to respect what is decided at the polls, and there is a great deal that will need to be voted on in the coming years.

As in any joint venture, no one will emerge the total winner. Negotiations will be open, as the development of a plan for the future must be open if it is to succeed after the secrecy of all these years. And citizens, through their votes, must have the last word.

We are not inventing anything. There is a wealth of experience in our history and in history in general about how to do things that come out better, versus worse. Personally, I have many doubts about how it should be, but I have none about how it should NOT be.

“Periodismo de Barrio” (Neighborhood Journalism) / Regina Coyula

Regina Coyula, 5 February 2016 — With a low media profile, sidestepping the incomprehension of establishment colleagues and the suspicions of the independent press, Periodismo de Barrio has begun its journey. Meanwhile, journalism-in-praise-of-the-government on one side and of-criticisms on the other, has appeared in this digital space that in its almost monographic issues has given us an accurate picture of Santiago de Cuba four years after Hurricane Sandy to present a straightforward and effective account of the half-life of those people who never make the headlines, those we are given to call “average Cubans.”

I would like to talk with Elaine Diaz, the lead on this project and former professor at the Faculty of Social Communication at the University of Havana, about this experience. We don’t even have to agree that the excellent articles from her news site not only confirms the government’s inability to provide a prosperous and sustainable life for citizens in the name of whom they say — and should — govern, but they leave them very badly off. I look forward to meeting Elaine; meanwhile I welcome this new site.

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

National Identity As A Pretext / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula

Flags of the United States and Cuba in the streets of Havana. (14ymedio)

Flags of the United States and Cuba in the streets of Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Regina Coyula, Havana, 30 January 2016 — The view that the change in United States policy toward Cuba carries the danger of a loss of independence and of the values of national identity makes me smile wryly. Contrary to those who are worried, I would say that we Cubans are immune to the loss of identity, an idea that has some losing sleep.

It did not happen during the Republic, when we had mediated governments, nor did it happen when the Soviet influence was such that it “created” traditions, things that almost no one remembers now, like laying a bride’s flowers at the bust of a martyr, or substituting “Hurrah!” for “Viva!” among others I won’t even try to list. Instead, traditional festivities around Christmas, New Years and Easter were cancelled, along with others I also won’t try to list. Continue reading

Speculations and Speculations / Regina Coyula

Regina Coyula, 18 January 2016 — Alejandro Armengol is the author of articles full of common sense that often clash with the opinions of opponents of the Castro regime inside and outside Cuba, but his article about the aggressions inflicted on the couple Antonio Rodiles and Ailer Gonzales on 10 January, one more day of #TodosMarchamos (We All March) protests, seemed unwise to me.

And not because he’s not right about much of what he says, but because everything is not as explicit as it should be, and it is certain to leave many readers, among them myself, full of speculations about the intricacies of the recent trip of the two well-known activists to Miami. Continue reading

A Doubt / Regina Coyula

Regina Coyula, 21 December 2015 — With his general’s uniform, the Cuban president delivered his summary of the past twelve months of relations with the United States. I imagine that much has been written on the subject, but I would like someone to me help to understand what share of sovereignty is surrendered when one is attempting to build a democracy. To a good year’s end and a better 2016.

Translated by: Araby

The Translators / Regina Coyula

Regina Coyula, 11 December 2015 — There are moments when not even knowing grammar saves you when the time comes  to decode information. News arrives of change in Latin America and on discussing it with people better educated and informed than average — people I know, who are convinced of the need for change in this country and want it as much as I — it turns out I see them repeating like a catechism the same views from a lady who commented on television, someone not characterized by the acuity of her arguments, or those of the announcers and guests on the Telesur channel, which though it is a paradigm of media manipulation from the left (?), at least has the decency to cover events “in real time,” and when I put this information together with what I got from other means, I can judge for myself.

These commentators on the news have the habit of translating for the Cuban public the intentions, personality and projects of government opponents (in the interests of the government, if it relates to the Cuban government), but never, for variety, do they let me hear it from the mouths of the protagonists themselves. Continue reading

Jokes from Argentina and Other Cold Cuts / Regina Coyula

Regina Coyula, 25 November 2015 — There is a joke that goes, in short, if Napoleon had owned a newspaper like Granma and lost the Battle of Waterloo, the newspaper would have acted like it never even happened. So true. Something similar occurred on Sunday evening with the presidential elections in Argentina and the victory by “the billionaire Macri,” as the Cuban media likes to describe him. Oddly, they never showed any curiosity about Mrs. Kirchner’s fortune.

It took the Venezuelan broadcast network Telesur half an hour to report the results. After the losing candidate acknowledged defeat and Marci addressed the Argentine people, the news anchor was “informed” that “preliminary polls indicate the possible winner to be…” when there were neither polls nor fortune tellers saying any such thing. Continue reading

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner / Regina Coyula

Regina Coyula, 28 September 2015 — Since the words respect and reconciliation are so popular these days — both were mentioned in the announcement of the restoration of diplomatic relations with the United States as well as in the recently concluded papal visit and in the agreements to end of the war in Colombia — I would like to share with readers the story of my neighbor, Oscar Casanellas, a researcher at the Institute of Oncology and Radiobiology (INOR), commonly known as the Oncology Hospital.

After graduating with a degree in biology in 2004, Oscar joined the staff of INOR as a researcher in molecular biology. After winning a scholarship, he studied at the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics from 2009 to 2011, becoming a specialist in the use of information technology in the field of immunological research related to cancer. Continue reading

Farewell Letter From El Sexto / Regina Coyula

Valle Grande Prison

From the “cell” (of punishment)

September 16, 2015…

Where I am there is little light and I am in my underwear because I do not want to wear the prison uniform. They give me a mattress for 5 or 6 hours at night. I only drink water and there will be no ability to respond (from you to this letter) because they don’t allow contacts.

Thanks to Lia, Gorki, Antonio and everyone for helping my mother manage things. Thanks to Aylín for the beautiful and encouraging letters. I read them as many times as I could, I would like to write you a thousand letters like you deserve but now I do not think I will have the light, the paper, nor the energy to do it. Continue reading

Clearly The Leaders Don’t Travel By Bus! / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula

Long lines to board a bus in Havana. (Aitor Herrero Larrumbide)

Long lines to board a bus in Havana. (Aitor Herrero Larrumbide)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Regina Coyula, Havana, 8 September 2015 – The September 7 news broadcast included a report about public transportation in the Cuban capital. Apart from the curiosity of observing the incipient or frank obesity of almost all the leaders who appear on television, they and other workers in the sector are concerned about the vandalization the buses are subjected to, the frequent breakdowns because they are so overloaded every day, the seven million dollars destined for the purchase of new equipment and spare parts, and the efforts of the company and the country’s leaders to improve service. Although it wasn’t mentioned, the city’s fleet was renovated in 2007 and has now experienced eight years of overuse.

For longer than I thought they would, the buses maintained their good appearance, unmarked and clean. I expected to see these buses prove the “broken window theory” and, indeed, when signs of deterioration began to appear it was unstoppable. In addition to filth, the accordions on the articulated buses are cracked, many of the windows are jammed, the sealing strips are missing and if not dealt with in time those strips that are loose will follow the path of the missing. Continue reading

Sketch For A Debate On Inequality / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula

Social differences (Photo Reinaldo Escobar / 14ymedio)

Social differences (Photo Reinaldo Escobar / 14ymedio)

Regina Coyula, Havana, 5 September 2015 — The distinguished researcher Pedro Monreal in his interesting work Social Inequality In Cuba, Triumphal March? which I recommend reading, notes that there is no scientific evidence to support that economic decentralization brings inequality. The inequalities are not the result of economic adjustments implemented in recent years. They are older; only now they are more, greater and more visible. While I do not have a scientific formula, observation of the environment allows one to also diagnose with sufficient empirical logic that Cuban society is experiencing rising inequality.

Economic policy has served to widen the gap between different income levels, more evident since the expansion of self-employment. Previous policies, in their intent to reduce this gap, had the dubious achievement of making a clean sweep downwards, that is, impoverishment. Improvisation and voluntarism still have their day and have been a constant which economists and planners have had to deal with. Continue reading

Giving Life to a Park / Regina Coyula

La Rampa in Havana

We are receiving with curiosity and joy teaspoons of internet fro wi-fi points in different cities of the country; here in Havana, the most widespread of these points is located on La Rampa, the heart of the city.

Beyond the adrenaline that many feel on connecting with the world for the first time, and those who come to these zones as if they were true digital natives, all that happens on La Rampa, with a wireless signal from the Malecon to the corner of the Coppelia ice cream stand at 23rd and L, does not have the conditions for comfortable navigation.

It has become part of the landscape to see every kind of person (most of them young), sitting on some stairs, leaning against a doorway, avoiding the sun under a scrawny tree, or defiantely challenging the sun and defying the cars, positioned on the curb with their feet in the street and absorbed in their mobile device. It is a rare sight to see that technological overcrowding in the shadows, which in now way embellishes the landscape.

1441386198_100_4684-1The idea occurs to me of giving them the use of the park built on the corner occupied by the Alaska Building at 23rd and M, demolished for security reasons, but not so much the security of its residents as that of Fidel, from when he went almost daily to the ICRT studios for those interminable Roundtable shows that nobody misses.

This park, unlike the one located at Galiano and San Rafael where another important connection point operates, knows neither the scampering of children nor furtive kisses, now that no one will plot an attack from its heights, it should be offered to the internauts as a comfortable and secure zone, this vindicating its condition, giving it life and meaning.

Taxes and "Glamor" / Regina Coyula

Paris Hilton and Fidel Castro Jr, in Havana

Regina Coyula, 7 August 2015 — The mindless display of opulence bothers me ethically and aesthetically. But I have nothing against enrichment from legal sources and from the effort, talent, or ability of the individual.

The Cuban government takes a hypocritical position. On the one hand it is trying to prevent at all costs the personal enrichment of the emerging private entrepreneur class, subjecting them to restrictions and imposing inordinate taxes. On the other hand—not having ever experienced any of the restrictions suffered by the average citizen—it now aims to attract fresh foreign capital (accumulated in their home countries thanks to the absence of restrictive regulations like those imposed in ours) and also the tourism of the rich and famous, some of whom we have already seen parading through Cuba.

Translated by Tomás A.

The Government We Need / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Regina Coyula, Havana. 2 August 2015 — In light of the government’s refusal to dialog with the nonviolent opposition, the latter should start a discussion within itself, an exercise unfamiliar to Cubans. Instead, we are accustomed to extremes ranging from the consistent unanimity of our parliamentary sessions, to the commotion of a “disqualifying”* act of repudiation.

Change – gradual or drastic – is the possibility of change in the roles of power and the government is not interested. But society needs all its actors, whether they are dissidents or government supporters. One must be blind not to realize that Cuba is on the road to change. So for starters, our government should uphold its own laws that it disobeys time and time again when they are not in keeping with its interests. This would be just a beginning. However, as we already know, the authorities are not interested in what would follow. The experiences of Eastern Europe are still fresh in their minds. Continue reading