No Diploma Certifies Us As Parents / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

The statue of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes in Old Havana, on Father’s Day Sunday without a single flower. (14ymedio)
The statue of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes in Old Havana, on Father’s Day Sunday without a single flower. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 19 June 2016 – Those of us who have had the joy of being parents spend our lives asking ourselves whether we have done well, if in the strict judgment our children will make about our work will we earn a good score, a mediocre grade or, instead, a resounding disapproval.

The Venezuelan singer Franco de Vita says it is “not enough” to feed our offspring, surround them with comforts and conveniences, or guarantee that they receive an education, we must also respond to their questions. But our answers, which we have to improvise in a second, will be the most momentous memories our children have of us. Continue reading “No Diploma Certifies Us As Parents / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar”

Alejandro Barrios, A Son Of Candelaria Who Died In Pulse / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

María Magdalena Puente, Alejandro’s grandmother, shows a picture of her grandson. (14ymedio)
María Magdalena Puente, Alejandro’s grandmother, shows a picture of her grandson. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Candelaria, Cuba, 17 June 2016 — At two in the morning last Sunday the villagers of Candelaria in the province of Artemisa slept peacefully. At the same time, in the city of Orlando in Florida a fierce firefight broke out in the gay nightclub Pulse, amid an evening of Latin music.

Alejandro Barrios Martínez, born in Candelaria 21 years ago, had settled in the city of Orlando where his father Saul Barrios had called for him. There, in 2014, he found a job, a partner, and also came to believe that there he would spend the rest of his life. That night he was at Pulse to celebrate a new job, but stumbled onto death.

On Monday regulars of the wireless network in Cuba learned the news of the shooting on the Facebook pages of some friends. TV channels that are prohibited through satellite dishes began to give details of the terrible event. That same night the whole town of Candelaria learned they had lost a son in the tragedy. Continue reading “Alejandro Barrios, A Son Of Candelaria Who Died In Pulse / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar”

Ramadan Cuban Style / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Women have a space separate from men. (14ymedio)
Women have a space separate from men. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 14 June 2016 – Mohamed turned to Islam while serving on a military mission in the Congo; Abdul when he realized that in 15 years of Christianity he had never really read the Bible; and Lazaro, who also adopted the name Abdul, when he served a prison sentence as a dissident. All are converts and celebrate Ramadan by fasting and praying in Arabic.

Ahmed says he as been a Muslim since he was 17 and it started in his native city of Camagüey where he was the only one; now there is a place of prayer there with 140 faithful on San Isidro Street. He is responsible for seeing to the visitors at the mosque located at 11 Oficios Street in Old Havana. He did not allow his interview to be recorded, but responded cheerfully to all questions. Continue reading “Ramadan Cuban Style / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar”

Unknowns In An Illusory Debate / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 14 June 2016 — Under the signature of Dario Machado Rodriguez and with the title “An Environment of Discussion and Creativity is Essential,” the official Government-Party newspaper Granma published an article on its second page this Monday that, in some way, questions the narrow framework initially proposed for the discussion of the documents from the 7th Cuban Communist Party Congress.

What is curious is, on the flip side of the printed sheet, that is on the newspaper’s front page, there is a fragment of the Central Report, read by Raul Castro at that august partisan event, where it is established that both the Conceptualization, as well as the bases of the National Plan of Development, will be “democratically debated by the membership of the Party and the Young Communist Union (UJC), representatives of the mass organizations and broad sectors of society. Continue reading “Unknowns In An Illusory Debate / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar”

“You Have To Have Eyes To See The Wonder” / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Plaque commemorating of Havana’s declaration as one of the New 7wonder Cities of the modern world. (14ymedio)
Plaque commemorating of Havana’s declaration as one of the New7Wonder Cities of the modern world. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 8 June 2016 — As if it were a Michelin star, tour operators, hotel managers and those who rent private rooms will exhibit, starting Tuesday, Havana’s status as one of the “New7Wonder Cities” of the modern world. Although the rain intruded on the unveiling of the plaque a few yards from the Malecon that confirms the new title, popular humor has not ignored the designation.

This week, there has been an increase in jokes making the rounds about the “wonder” of traveling in deteriorating urban buses, the marvel of buying food in a city in the grip of a dual currency system, or the miracle of the many buildings that remain standing despite their advanced stage of deterioration. Regardless of their disbelief, however, Havanans try to make the best of the new categorization, as symbolic as it is promising. Continue reading ““You Have To Have Eyes To See The Wonder” / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar”

A Laboratory Man: The Official Party ‘Cadre’ in Cuba / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

The Code of Ethics for Cuba’s Communist Party cadres. (14ymedio)
The Code of Ethics for Cuba’s Communist Party cadres. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 9 May 2016 – Marxist thinkers from the last century appeared to be convinced that the communist ethic could only work after the elimination of the different social classes or, and it’s the same thing, when the communist society triumphed in the economic plane. “How can stealing be ethically condemned when there is no property?” they asked with the same guileless eagerness medieval theologians brought to their debates about the carnality of the glorious bodies resuscitated after the final judgment. Continue reading “A Laboratory Man: The Official Party ‘Cadre’ in Cuba / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar”

Patriotic Union Of Cuba Launches A Political Program / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

UNPACU leader, Jose Daniel Ferrer, believes that a new document integrates the entire opposition. (EFE)
UNPACU leader, Jose Daniel Ferrer, believes that a new document integrates the entire opposition. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 5 May 2016 — Since early this month, members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) have begun to disseminate the document Minimum Program and Projections, which outlines guidelines for the actions of the opposition organization, forms of struggle, and a proposal for the country ‘s future.

With the publication of this text, which summarizes the experience of the nation’s largest group of activists, UNPACU is demonstrates maturity and responds to criticisms about the Cuban opposition’s lack of a platform or agenda.

In nine pages, the program underlines the commitment of the opposition to use peaceful means to reach its goals. It also clarifies that the proposals contained are addressed to those living in the country and in the diaspora and proclaims the need for “a free, democratic, just, fraternal and prosperous Cuba.” Continue reading “Patriotic Union Of Cuba Launches A Political Program / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar”

To End Censorship / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

The cover of “Censorship of the Press in the Cuban Revolution,” by Minerva Salado (Verbum Publishing)
The cover of “Censorship of the Press in the Cuban Revolution,” by Minerva Salado (Verbum Publishing)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, If the mid-seventies I had thought to tell Minerva Salado, then my chief editor at Cuba International magazine, that in some forty years she would write a book titled “Censorship of the Press in the Cuban Revolution,” I would have caused enormous problems for myself, only surpassed by that if I had predicted to her my current status as an “unofficial” journalist.

Unveiling the framework of obscenities and subtleties that was woven into the early years of the process called the Cuban Revolution in order to implement strict censorship on the media is a very complex task; what scholars would call “a multidisciplinary task.” Minerva knows this, as a writer, journalist and poet, so in the introduction she warns that her efforts “will have to address the documentary research, personal experience and memory of several generations of journalists and media.” Continue reading “To End Censorship / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar”

New Prices, Political Will And Productivity / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Customers at the Carlos III shopping center in Central Havana this morning waiting expectantly for the reduction in prices on some products announced the night before.
Customers at the Carlos III shopping center in Central Havana this morning waiting expectantly for the reduction in prices on some products announced the night before.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, 22 April 2016 – As the journalist Regina Coyula warned, in order to understand what the press in Cuba is saying you have to know “Granmática” (the language of the newspaper Granma) and, even though the note on the first page of the official organ of the Communist Party appears signed by the Minister of Finance and Prices, one has to have read a lot of official editorials, listened to enough speeches by Señor Machado Ventura and dedicated several days to studying what they say on the Roundtable TV program, to assimilate a single paragraph of a dissertation on the economy in its purest form.

The note says, “The final solution to this complex reality will be achieved with increased productivity and efficiency in the national economy,” but a few lines affirm that it has been “the political will of the Leadership of the Party and the Government (…) as well as the reduction in food prices in the world market” that have led to the adoption of “a set of measures aimed at gradually increasing the purchasing power of the Cuban peso in the short term.” Continue reading “New Prices, Political Will And Productivity / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar”

News From the Invisible 7th Communist Party Congress / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

The first vice president of Cuba, Miguel Diaz-Canel, during the reading of the central report of the Seventh Congress of the PCC in Havana. (EFE)
The first vice president of Cuba, Miguel Diaz-Canel, during the reading of the central report of the Seventh Congress of the PCC in Havana. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 20 April 2016 — The most notable departures from the Central Committee of the Party elected at the Seventh Congress are: Rolando Alfonso Borges, who until now headed the ideological department dedicated to controlling the media; Yolanda Ferrer Gómez, who served as head of the International Relations Committee of the National Assembly of People’s Power and who spent long years as a second to Vilma Espin, Raul Castro’s late wife, in the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC); Agustin Lage Davila, brother of ousted Carlos Lage — former vice president of the Council of State and member of the Politburo– and director of an important scientific center; Abel Prieto Jimenez, cultural affairs advisor to the president; and Harry Villegas Tamayo, survivor of Ernesto Guevara’s guerrilla actions in Bolivia.

To those who stepped down is added more than a hundred who died, destitute and retired, who were on the list of the 142 members of the Central Committee elected at the 5th Congress, which was the last time before the just completed conclave that elections were held, as in the 6th Congress they were not. From that list from 1996 there are now only 33 remaining. Continue reading “News From the Invisible 7th Communist Party Congress / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar”

Cuba, A Broken Toy / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Like the spoiled child who wants his turn with a toy to last forever, Raul Castro intends to remain in office until 19 April 2021. (CC)
Like the spoiled child who wants his turn with a toy to last forever, Raul Castro intends to remain in office until 19 April 2021. (CC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, 17 April 2016 — Among the many expectations raised by the Seventh Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) was the possibility that the expected generational change would be announced there. The prospect that young cadres would introduce bold changes and accelerate the timid reforms initiated with the departure of Fidel Castro from power, fed by the expectations among Cubanologists of different viewpoints.

Perhaps that is why, when the general-president proposed that the maximum age for joining the PCC Central Committee would be 60 and to hold senior posts one would have to be under 70, many had the momentary impression that the rule would begin to be applied at this Party Congress. Only a more sedate reading, stripped of all irrational optimism, was able to untangle the ambiguity of his words. Continue reading “Cuba, A Broken Toy / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar”

Betting is Closed, Cuba’s 7th Party Congress Opens / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

The Palace of Conventions during the Sixth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba. (EFE)
The Palace of Conventions during the Sixth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 16 April 2016 — Five years after the Sixth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba, the only agreement from that congress that had a fixed date will meet this Saturday: the celebration of the Seventh Party Congress. The event will begin at 10:00 am at the Palace of Conventions in Havana with the presence of one thousand delegates and 280 guests. The secrecy and speculation regarding a possible change of course or a frustrating continuity continues.

At the opening session, which will be broadcast live on national television, the main report will be read. The main documents – which were not disclosed to the public and are not even known by the mass of Party militants, which exceeds 700,000 people – will be discussed, probably behind closed doors, in four commissions. Continue reading “Betting is Closed, Cuba’s 7th Party Congress Opens / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar”

Party Congress: Neither More Of The Same Nor Surprising News / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

The Palace of Conventions during the Sixth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba. (EFE)
The Palace of Conventions during the Sixth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 12 April 2016 — Ruperto, the comedic character in Vivir del Cuento (Living the Story), woke up after a 28-year coma and still doesn’t understand Cuba’s dual currency system nor the end of the Socialist Camp. In this case, there are many “Rupertos” who will analyze the upcoming Seventh Congress of the Cuban Communist Party, who believe that everything will continue as before and the hardliners will have their way. For them, nothing has happened in the last decade since Fidel Castro left power and passed it on to his younger brother.

If, in fact, nothing happened, the great event of the Cuban communists would be a remake of previous congresses. Those who have not been in a coma since 2006 have seen that that axes around which Cuban politics revolve are not the same. The rampant reversal of paternalism, the preponderance of economics over ideology in decision-making, the failure of the monopoly on the media and culture, and a long list of reforms – classified by some as timid and by others as devious – paint an entirely different picture. To this should be added the change in the correlation of influences in the international arena and a growing and increasingly evident popular discontent. Continue reading “Party Congress: Neither More Of The Same Nor Surprising News / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar”

One-Third of Cuba’s PCC Central Committee is Hand Picked With No Process / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Pages from the newspaper Granma with some members of the Cuban Communist Party Central Committee elected at the 5th Congress
Pages from the newspaper Granma with some members of the Cuban Communist Party Central Committee elected at the 5th Congress

14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 8 April 2016 — In a country where, under the fifth article of the Constitution, the Communist Party is “the highest leading force of society and the State” members of the Central Committee of that organization should be known by all citizens and, of course, access to the highest authority should not be covered by any veil of mystery.

However, only a few remember the last time there was a formal election of the membership to this group, on 10 October 1997, just before the closing of the 5th Party Congress. At that conclave 150 members were elected. In the slightly more than 18 years since then, there have been 29 deaths and 36 separations, some of these latter as a result of disciplinary sanctions and others because the militant ceased to hold, for different reasons, the administrative or political post that warranted their membership on the Central Committee. Currently, there are only 42 members of that group of 150 remaining. Continue reading “One-Third of Cuba’s PCC Central Committee is Hand Picked With No Process / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar”

Cuba’s Communist Youth Union And The Devaluation Of Its Militancy / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Young people have lost motivation for being activists in the UJC
Young people have lost motivation for being activists in the UJC

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 5 April 2017 — Social stereotypes have their moment. In the Cuba of the 50s, being baptized, making one’s first communion, or being married in the church, were the rites of passage that identified “decent” people. To have a diploma, a university degree, or belong to a Masonic lodge, opened many doors; behaving with urbanity at the table or knowing how to knot a tie denoted good taste and distinction.

A decade later, the important thing was to have participated in the people’s harvests, to have walked 66 kilometers, climbed the five peaks, attended the Schools of Revolutionary Instruction and, especially, to have shot the enemy, whether at the Bay of Pigs or in the Escambray. For a young man of 20 who wanted his reputation to be positively valued social, the top prize was to be a militant of the Young Communist Union (UJC). Continue reading “Cuba’s Communist Youth Union And The Devaluation Of Its Militancy / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar”