Demographic Enigma / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

The projected number of young Cubans in 2015 seems to have been mistaken. (14ymedio)

The projected number of young Cubans in 2015 seems to have been mistaken. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 23 April 2015 — The National Electoral Commission recently informed us that 63,441 young people had turned 16 since the previous elections in 2012, which gave them the right to vote on Sunday. However, demographic estimates made in 2006 by the government projected that by 2015, the country would have 275,389 young people aged 17 to 18 years. Where are the 211,948 missing young people?

According to the calculations of the Center for Population Studies, in 2015 Cuba has 138,866 18-year-olds, and 136,523 17-year-olds, totaling 275,389 young people in this age group. That Projected population for Cuba for the period between 2007 and 2015 was published nine years ago. Continue reading

Reappearing by Phone / Reinaldo Escobar

Fidel Castro in January 2014.

Fidel Castro in January 2014.

Reinaldo Escobar, 17 April 2015 — Fidel Castro made another public appearance, this time speaking by phone Randy Perdomo Garcia, president of the Federation of University Students (FEU) at the University of Havana. The meeting took place in the meeting hall of the University of Oriente in Santiago de Cuba and was witnessed by young Havanans that make up the so-called Detachment of the 70th anniversary of Fidel’s admission to the University of Havana.

The group of students used their vacation week in April to take a tour of different places, especially those related to Fidel Castro personally. They visited his birthplace in Biran, the Moncada Barracks, the balcony where he proclaimed the triumph of the Revolution, Pico Turquino and other historic sites, as defined in the official chronicle as, “Where the commander left a mark of gratitude to patriots who preceded him.”

With the slogan “Fidel In My Heart” on their sweatshirts, every time they finished visiting a museum, monument or plaza, they ended it by shouting “Viva Fidel!” over and over. The great surprise – perhaps as a prize for their loyalty – was receiving a phone call from the historic leader. From his end of the phone Randy Perdomo Garcia told him what they had been doing, while the former president asked if they had eaten well on the tour. National television used subtitles so that the audience could understand what the old man was saying.

A Tragedy in Several Acts / Reinaldo Escobar

Figure dedicated to Fe del Valle in the park of the same name in Havana. (14ymedio)

Figure dedicated to Fe del Valle in the park of the same name in Havana. (14ymedio)

Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 14 April 2015 — Like every April 13, last Monday a group of Trade Union workers met with the task of carrying a bouquet of flowers to a marble statue. It is a figure dedicated to Fe del Valle in the Havana park of the same name and located at the central corner of Galiano and San Rafael. The site usually supplies the absence of public toilets in the area and the sculpture has both hands mutilated.

In this space was one of the most exclusive Havana stores, El Encanto, with branches in Varadero, Havana and Santiago de Cuba. Founded in the early twentieth century by Solis, Entrialgo and Company, S.A. was one of the first properties nationalized after the revolutionary process. Continue reading

It’s not my fault either / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Raul Castro during his speech at the Summit of the Americas (EFE Señal Instucional)

Raul Castro during his speech at the Summit of the Americas (EFE Señal Instucional)

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14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Panama, 12 April 2015 — During the Summit of the Americas, when Raul Castro said Barack Obama was not at fault for the decisions taken by the ten presidents that preceded him, confusion overcame me and it’s no wonder.

Upon hearing that speech, delivered in front of more than thirty leaders meeting in Panama, it became even harder for me to understand why the gallant members of the pro Cuban government “civil society” who came to this city continued to label as assassins the activists, dissidents and independent representations who came to participate in forums parallel to the historic event.

If Obama is not guilty of what happened at the Bay of Pigs, nor the logistics support to the anti-Revolution rebels of the Escambray; if he is not responsible for the creation of Radio Martí, nor the Cuban Adjustment Act… nor even for the implementation of the embargo, then, what guilt is it that they want to foist on the activists defending human rights?

Now, that the general-president has already absolved the dignitary of the country that official propaganda sees as “the enemy,” it is worth asking why his supporters accuse of events that happened decades ago those, who organize opposition parties, or engage in library projects or independent journalism with the sole purpose of proposing a country different from that outlined in the guidelines of the Sixth Communist Party Summit.

When the horrendous sabotage occurred to the Cuban plane coming from the Barbados, Guillermo Fariñas was engaged in or preparing for an international mission in Africa. At the moment when they shot the prisoner Ernesto “Che” Guevara in Bolivia, neither Eliécer Ávila nor Henry Constantin had been born. It would be like blaming Abel Prieto for the firing squads, the forced relocation of the farmers from the center of the country to captive villages, the atrocities of the Revolutionary Offensive, the disaster of the 1970 sugar harvest, the “Five Gray Years” and so many other things.

When I mention Abel Prieto I could include the names of almost the entire delegation whose tickets and lodging were paid for by the Cuban government. Are they aware that when you accuse others of a past in which they didn’t exist nor make decisions, you will also be evaluated in the same light? Are they prepared to take on all the atrocities committed by their predecessors?

The Panamanians, however, gave us a clear example of this positive attitude during the summit, an attitude that is summed up by looking more to the future than the past. I would like to believe that Raul Castro is not responsible for anything… although the evidence points in the other direction.

Perhaps the time has come when we should concern ourselves more with solutions than with blame.

I know many compatriots, who totally within their rights, will not agree with me, especially since there are wounds impossible to heal and grievances difficult to forget. If I had to vote on it, I would raise my hand in favor of their retiring in peace. Their penance, their worst punishment, will be to watch us construct a nation without hatred nor rancor. Once again Cubans, everyone, at the same fiesta.

What one learns in Panama / Reinaldo Escobar

Rodrigo Malmierca, Cuba's Minister of Foreign Trade, speaks at a Business Forum at the Americas Summit. (Twitter)

Rodrigo Malmierca, Cuba’s Minister of Foreign Trade, speaks at a Business Forum at the Americas Summit. (Twitter)

Reinado Escobar, Panama, 10 April, 2015 — Intransigence against tolerance, ideological deafness against a willingness to talk, radicalism against moderation, slogans against arguments, and many other pairs of conflicting definition could serve to headline a commentary on what is happening in Panama during the Seventh Summit of the Americas.

The pro-government Civil Society delegations from Cuba and Venezuela have systematically dedicated themselves to boycotting the parallel forums, because for them it is more important to discredit their political adversaries who favor a consensus that could conclude in a message from the civil society of the American people to their respective government. They have opted to beat, insult and denigrate their own compatriots, rather than sit down to civilized debate with them. Continue reading

Another signal of a traffic signal / Reinaldo Escobar

Went former president Fidel Castro passed by, the escorts turned the light red at the corner of 11 and 12. (14ymedio)

Went former president Fidel Castro passed by, the escorts turned the light red at the corner of 11 and 12. (14ymedio)

Reinaldo Escobar, 6 April 2015 — Recently, there came to light a chance encounter between former Cuban president Fidel Castro and a group of Venezuelans visiting a Havana school. A story broadcast on national TV gave a brief overview of the little school that the then Maximum Leader (today Historic Leader) ordered to be built in the exclusive Siboney neighborhood so that the children wouldn’t have to walk such long distances. Going to school there are the children of the staff serving the place known as “ground zero”, where today Fidel is spending his old age. From his “Castro-mobile” he waved, shook hands, asked questions and offered predictions. “He’s alive,” the excited visitors commented joyously. Continue reading

The Sewers of Surgidero / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

The sewage of Surgidero de Batabanó (14ymedio)

The sewage of Surgidero de Batabanó (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 2 April 2015 — “Here the earth sinks to enter the sea,” says a tanned Peasant, whose face is like a map of bays and marches. On the south coast of Mayabeque, there is a piece of land that wants to transcend its fate as a low area and where every year the waters gain a bit in the battle for firm land. Despite its slow disappearance under the tide, Surgidero de Batabanó is also a site appreciated for its abundance of shrimp, lobster and sponges.

“This town has the cheapest seafood in the whole western region,” boasts a man who claims to have a degree in the technical exploitation of maritime transport, in the far off Soviet Union. His degree is from those years when the USSR welcomed Cuban students to its universities to develop an army of builders of the future. Now, the man and his family build illegal cages to hunt crustaceans and sell them on the black market.

On both sides of Surgidero’s main street there is an open channel that flows with sewage toward the muddy Gulf of Batabanó. Continue reading

An Anachronistic May Day / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 30 March 2015 – A compendium of bows to the official discourse has served the Secretariat of the Cuban National Workers Center (CTC) to tailor its now traditional Call for the May Day celebration. Under the central motto “United in the Construction of Socialism” a call has gone out to fulfill production commitments, to implement the Party’s Sixth Congress Guidelines, to replace imports, achieve savings, make plans for exports, and all the interests of the State boss, along with a vast anthology of Revolutionary slogans and verses.

The tribute to martyrs and heroes is not lacking, nor is solidarity with Venezuela, nor greetings to the World Federation of Trade Unions on its 70th years of life, nor evocation of the memorable definition of the concept of Revolution, expressed by Fidel Castro fifteen years ago during a celebration on International Workers Day. Continue reading

A Leader Of Civil Society, A Real Story Without A Moral / Reinaldo Escobar

Desde Aqui, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 27 March 2015 — On a cold November morning in the late eighties, some two hundred of us were trying to come to an agreement to organize a line to buy interprovincial bus tickets at an agency in Havana’s Playa municipality. As usually happens in these cases, the line had two heads, both justifying themselves with loud protestations of their indisputable evidence of having arrived first.

The vast majority of those gathered there were trying to spend Christmas in some province. For inexplicable reasons, two parallel lists had been drawn up, both established at different times. At that time – and to some extent still – the police prohibited these lists, so it wasn’t possible to appeal to the police authority to establish some order in such a confusing situation. Continue reading

“Recognizing changes does not mean we go along” / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

José Daniel Ferrer, Felix Navarro, Hector Maseda, Jorge Olivera and Librado Linares

José Daniel Ferrer, Felix Navarro, Hector Maseda, Jorge Olivera and Librado Linares

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14ymedio, Havana, 19 March 2015 — Twelve years after the Black Spring, 14ymedio chats with some of the former political prisoners currently living on the Island. Two questions have been posed to those activists condemned in March 2003: one about their decision to stay in Cuba, and the other about how they see the country today.

José Daniel Ferrer

The whole time we were in prison, the Castro brothers’ regime did its best to pressure us, to force us to abandon the country. A few of us decided to say no, regardless of the circumstances. Today I am more convinced than ever that my having stayed is worth it. We are doing our modest bit to have a nation where there will never again be something like that spring of 2003, when so many compatriots paid with prison for attempting to exercise their most sacred rights.

“Today I am more convinced than ever that my having stayed is worth it”

Many things have changed, but they still maintain the repression, and sometimes increase it, against human rights activists and also against the people. Recognizing the changes doesn’t mean we go along, because what we don’t have is a prosperous and democratic Cuba. In the last days when I walked freely on the street, at the beginning of 2003, some people approached us and whispered in our ears, “I heard you,” referring to having heard us on some station like Radio Martí, one of the few media where they could learn about what the pro-democracy forces were doing.

Felix Navarro

Having stayed in Cuba after leaving prison is probably the best idea I’ve had in my entire life. Continue reading

“No matter where I live, I will keep working for the freedom of Cuba” / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Marta Beatriz Roque, Cabello Ángel Moya, Arnaldo Ramos Lauzurique, Diosdado González Marrero and Eduardo Díaz Fleitas

Marta Beatriz Roque Cabello, Ángel Moya, Arnaldo Ramos Lauzurique, Diosdado González Marrero and Eduardo Díaz Fleitas

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 18 March 2015 — Twelve years after the Black Spring, 14ymedio chats with some of the former political prisoners currently living on the Island. Two questions have been posed to those activists condemned in March 2003: one about their decision to stay in Cuba, and the other about how they see the country today.

Marta Beatriz Roque Cabello

I left prison in late 2004, paroled by the regime for reasons of health. They never offered me the chance to go abroad, but it wouldn’t have occurred to me. My closest family, and most distant as well, live abroad, but I never had plans to abandon the Island. I am a Spanish citizen because my family did the paperwork, I visited the embassy of that country the day they told me to fill out the forms and then got a passport, about four years ago.
Continue reading

For a Parliament Without a Nominating Committee / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Voting in the National Assembly

Voting in the National Assembly

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 16 March 2015 – The National Assembly of People’s Power, or what foreign journalists simplified as the Cuban Parliament, consists of some 612 members. None of them performed any action to achieve their seat; all were taken by surprise when Nominating Committee announced that their name would be on the list of proposed members. Voters who voted for them either were forced to choose between one or the other, but all were approved in a block of 612 candidates. One for each existing post.

About half of these candidates were selected by the Nominating Committee from a list of nearly 15,000 district delegates around the country. The rest were “taken” by this Committee from among other personalities who, without being grassroots delegates Continue reading