Hardware store where the Tosca Cinema once stood. (14ymedio)
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 9 November 2015 – In his recent speech in Merida, Mexico, the general-president Raul Castro remembered his first visit to Mexico, recalling that he had sought asylum in the embassy of that country in Havana because he was accused up putting a bomb in the Tosca cinema in the capital and, he clarified, “I still don’t know where that theater is. I believe it exists.”
It wasn’t exactly a bomb, but a firecracker that exploded on the night of 9 June in the little movie theater in the Santos Suarex neighborhood. The accusation against Raul Castro was part of a wider complaint, filed in Case No. 297 of 1955 for Crimes Against the Power of the State. There were 19 defendants, among them José Antonio Echevarría, and even some exiles like former President Carlos Prio. Continue reading
A group of Cuban immigrants block the Interamerican Highway at the border between Costa Rica and Panama in protest at being held. (Alvaro Sanchez / courtesy / El Nuevo Herald)
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 17 November 2015 — Like the ostrich who buries his head in the sand so as not to see what terrifies or disgusts him, the Cuban government and official media have refused to recognize the plight of thousands of compatriots stranded at the borders of Central America. Single men and women, families with children, workers, peasants, students, Cubans all, are attacked by immigration authorities, exploited by human traffickers, and punished by a nature they don’t know, in their desire to emigrate to the North.
Not a single statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, no comments in the Communist Party’s provincial meetings, not one clarification from a delegate in the Accountability Assemblies of People’s Power. Not even on radio, television or the nationally circulating digital media has there been any mention of the issue. Continue reading
Zacchaeus Baez during a meeting of Cuban Civil Society Open Forum, weeks before his arrest. (14ymedio)
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 10 November 2015 — This Monday afternoon the three activists who were arrested when they approached Pope Francis in the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana, last September 20, were released. Zaqueo Baez Guerrero and Ismael Bonet, members of the Patriot Union of Cuba (UNPACU), and the Lady in White Maria Josefa Acon Sardina, face trial for the alleged crimes of public disorder, disrespect and resistance.
In conversation with 14ymedio , Zacchaeus Baez said that after nearly 50 days in prison he felt “weak and tired, but ready to continue fighting for democracy in Cuba.” When asked about how he will await his trial, he stressed that they were warned by the police that they could only “go from home to work and work to home.” Continue reading
The dancing robots at the South Korean pavilion at the Havana International Fair (4ymedio)
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 7 November 2015 – So which Korea is it that has a pavilion here? A woman asked this of a uniformed guide at the International Fair of Havana. The man, friendly and solicitous, turns to the huge welcome sign at the entrance, looks at it as if he’s seeing it for the first time and answers, “Which Korea will it be madam? What you said I believe is written with a “K.”
The woman enters, followed by many others visiting the site, to look at the brand new Hyundi cars, or to admire the agricultural machinery, the Samsung technological products, the drinks, and to simply enjoy the display of small robots that dance and jump to the beat of the music. Continue reading
Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto (the tall one in the center), with members of Somos+ (We are more). (14ymedio)
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 6 November 2015 — On Thursday a roof in Havana’s Cerro district was a suitable space for a group of young people to have a meeting with the graffiti artist Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto (The Sixth). Perhaps because neither the artist nor the members of the Somos+ Movement (We Are More) are given to extreme formalities, it is inappropriate to call what took place a tribute. But in fact, it was. Continue reading
The journalist Roberto de Jesus Quiñones.
14ymedio, Havana, 3 November 2015 – He just won the top prize in the Havana Newsprint journalism contest, but Roberto de Jesus Quinones feels that reporting is only one part of his civic responsibility. A lawyer by profession, this man from Guantanamo had to enter the world of reporting, press releases and the difficult search for sources in a country where independent reporters are frowned upon and outlawed by the ruling party.
Reinaldo Escobar. How does it feel to get this award?
Roberto de Jesús Quiñones. I am very happy, especially because the award has come at a time when I felt really badly about everything that has happened to me since October 5. So am doubly pleased, because I also know that participating in the contest were very worthy colleagues whom I respect greatly, such as the columnist Miriam Celaya, the attorney Rene Gomez Manzano and the reporter Manuel de Jesús Guerra Pérez. All of them are journalists of the independent media with years of experience in the profession. Continue reading
General Abelardo Colome Ibarra, alias ‘Furry,’ minister of the interior from 1989 until his resignation on Monday, 26 October 2015 (EFE / Alejandro Ernesto)
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 27 October 2015 — Every Cuban has a minister in charge of his or her affairs, but the Ministry of the Interior is responsible for everyone. This is the reason why, when someone says “The Ministry” everyone understands that they are speaking about MININT, the Ministry of the Interior, that macro entity that controls, among other things, immigration, firefighters, border guard troops, identity card offices, the police, and that colossal apparatus generically known as “the organs of State Security.”
Abelardo Colome Ibarra was, since 1989 and until yesterday, the all-powerful minister of the interior. His long record of service began 30 November 1956, when he joined the revolutionaries who took the city of Santiago de Cuba to support the landing of the Granma expedition. He ended the war against Batista with the rank of commander, not yet having reached age 20, and has since been the confidant of the Ciuban Government (especially of Raul Castro, having been head of his bodyguard) which has entrusted him with missions such as head of the State Security, directing the police, or commanding the war in Angola.
Furry, as his close associates call him, until this Monday was one of the seven living and still active men appearing on the list – almost never disaggregated – of the so-called “Historic Generation” of the Cuban Revolution. His role as a founder of the first Central Committee of the Communist Party and of the National Assembly of People’s Power, plus his being named as a “Hero of the Republic of Cuba,” support the merits that have allowed him to do something unusual: resign his position and receive a tribute. Continue reading
A woman checks the list of candidates for the municipal elections. (14ymedio)
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, 23 October 2015 — Poet, teacher and literary critic Guillermo Rodriguez Rivera has published an interesting article about the Cuban electoral system in the blog Segunda Cita, managed by the singer Silvio Rodriguez.
Rodriguez Rivera insists that the need for reform of the Cuban electoral system is not unrelated to the rapprochement between the governments of Cuba and the United States, and he is right. The Electoral Act has been bad since its enactment in 1982 and should have been changed long ago. Not, as Rodriguez Rivera says, because transforming it is a necessity “that emanates from the process of updating our Socialist model.” Continue reading
Man in front of a newsstand reading a printed version of ’14ymedio’, distributed in “alternate” ways.
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, 21 October 2015 — In the last half century the Cuban media could be categorized as private monopoly in the hands of the only permitted Party. However, in the inevitable process of transition to democracy, it is essential to modify this situation. The first step should undoubtedly be to diversify the forms of ownership of these informative spaces to ensure quality and plurality.
The presumed arrival of several international media seeking to install themselves in the country could help to raise the quality of journalism and develop new approaches. However, it will have to be done appropriately so as not to strangle the incipient national independent press, which confronts serious material disabilities in the face of the current monopoly situation and the great consortiums arriving in the country. Continue reading
Professor Darien García. (14ymedio)
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 21 October 2015 — In the middle of Los Sitios neighborhood, in the heart of Central Havana, the Jesuits have a project focusing on the neediest sectors of the population. The elegant façade of the place contrasts with the humble homes surrounding it, where so many families face the drama of an alcoholic father, a daughter working as a prostitute or a teenager in prison. The Loyola Center programs are for them, and for those who face these problems daily.
This project of the Society of Jesus, which has other sites in Cienfuegos, Camagüey and Santiago de Cuba, was inaugurated in January 2012 and since then has not stopped growing. In the mural at the entrance of the imposing building, there are announcements for dance classes for girls, support for single mothers, and computer and language courses.
Of particular note is the “Basic Course for small business management” that began its 13th session this September. Of the 120 people who applied for admission, just over 80 came on the first day and now there are fewer than 50. Both students and teachers believe that this course is a success. Continue reading
Pedicab parking lot in Havana. (14ymedio)
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 16 October 2015 — Sometimes it is hard to find in the Cuban urban landscape a square yard free of disaster. Perhaps it is more accurate to say free of the traces of disaster. Above is an image from a Havana street.
Where do I start?
There was once a building here, until it collapsed. Two hundred yards from Chinatown in the Central Havana, a square yard of this space would cost a fortune under free market conditions; people would be fighting over it for a department store, offices of housing. But it remained like this, free like a drowning man, until the scarcity of public transport led to the appearance of pedicabs and, with them, the need for a site to park them. Continue reading
Second day of the Open Spaces Meeting of Ideas. (14ymedio)
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, 13 October 2015 – Some 40 Cubans met last weekend in Miami to talk about the future of the country. The economy, work, property, and social security were the topics on the agenda in this edition of the “Meeting of Ideas,” which arose under the Coexistence Project in Pinar del Rio and which found another space of influence, this time with the participation of Cubans from the diaspora in Miami.
But beyond the data of a press release, it’s worth taking the time to stop, or rather to make a pilgrimage, to submerge ourselves in the wells of thought where the most complex problems our national reality are addressed. Two streams converge there, one from the liberal side, arguing, almost insisting, on the reasons for the market and freedom, and the other more concerned about social aspects, putting the protection of the disadvantaged first. I said they converged, not fought, because far above political passion or philosophical viewpoints, was Cuba, like a mother crying in pain for help for her children. Continue reading
Does the Government of Cuba recognizes as obsolete the choice of armed struggle to achieve social change? (14ymedio)
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 8 October 2015 — Many unanswered questions, inaccuracies and poorly sustained theories have characterized the political process that began in Cuba in January 1959. Perhaps with the objective to remedy such lacks, the First International Symposium on the Cuba Revolution: Genesis and Historic Development, in which its organizers propose “to analyze and work together from academia, science, art, culture and politics” to better understand the process “in all its complexity.”
The event, which will be held in the Palace of Conventions in Havana from 13 to 15 October, will have some 200 participants from some 20 countries. In its sessions they will debate “the dynamic evolution of the revolutionary process, and the readjustments and updating of the economic model,” according to the announcement of the symposium.
Obviously, they have not invited thinkers or theorists from the critical sector, who sustain notions such as the contradiction between the concept of “revolution” and remaining in power for over five decades. Invitees include scholars such as Dr. Eduardo Torres Cuevas, president of the Academy of the History of Cuba, Brazilian theologian Frei Betto and Dr. Pablo Gonzalez Casanova, from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Continue reading
Fidel Castro during the formation of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, on October 3, 1965.
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 2 October 2015 – Fifty years ago the first Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) made its appearance. It was composed of one hundred people, among whom there were 57 commanders of the Revolution, nine captains, one lieutenant and 33 civilians. Of that constellation only eight remain alive and in office, not including Fidel Castro. The average age of these “survivors” who made it to today is approximately 83 years.
The last time there was a formal election to the Central Committee was in 1997 during the Fifth Congress of the PCC. On that occasion, 14 members from the initial list remained, but that was 18 years ago and, after the deaths of Vilma Espín, Juan Almeida, and more recently of Jorge Risquet, plus the retirements due to dismissal or illness of Roger Acevedo, Osmany Cienfuegos and Pedro Miret, the so-called “historic generation of the Revolution” has been considerably narrowed in its number. Continue reading
Queen electric cooking pot. (Luz Escobar)
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, 1 October 2015 — The “Energy Revolution”, one of the last initiatives promoted by Fidel Castro before his public retirement, made some peculiar appliances appear in Cuban homes. Perhaps the most popular was the electric cooking pot was popularly called Queen, manufactured in China and which serves equally to make a red bean stew or meat and potatoes.
Those appliances which were distributed in bulk throughout the island, as if it were a military operation, were sold on credit and at a price that did not exceed 400 Cuban pesos (about $16 US). One day, coinciding with the departure of the Commander-in-Chief from his post, those pots also disappeared.
Since the middle of this year the Queen began to be assembled in Cuba in the ProHogar plant in the city of Santa Clara, as a part of the Household Production Industry (INPUD), a project founded in 1964 by the then Minister of Industry, Ernesto Guevara.
The group made up of 32 skilled workers assembles some 700 appliances a day that then go for the commercial network of hard currency stores and are sold at prices exceeding 30 convertible pesos (over $30 US). The items for sale can no longer be paid for on the installment plan, that characterized their distribution during the “Energy Revolution.”
Also lost in time are the memories of those refrigerators in INPUD fabricated that were distributed based on “merits” in one’s workplace. Instead, the entity now seeks to impose its products on the market through the harsh law of quality and competition with other similar products. The Queens are no longer for commoners.