14ymedio, 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”
14ymedio, 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”
14ymedio, 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.
14ymedio, 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”
14ymedio, 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.
14ymedio, 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”
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”
14ymedio, 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.
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, 31 March 2016 — The poet and literary critic Victor Fowler Calzada published in Sandra Abd’Allah-Alvarez Ramírez’s blog, “I had be to a Black Cuban Woman,” a protest and at the same time a call to solidarity in response to the publication of an opinion column titled, “Negro, are you Swedish,” that criticizes President Obama’s behavior during his visit to Cuba.
The article in question appeared in the printed version on Monday and was inaccessible in the online edition until this Wednesday, when the author himself published an apology. Victor Fowler’s indignation was justified not only because his ID card has the capital letter “N” to denote the color of his skin, but also because even if he were blond with blue eyes he would feel indignant at what he clearly classifies as a racist attack. Continue reading “The Offended Swede / 14ymedio Reinaldo Escobar”
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 28 March 2016 – Just 18 days before the start of the 7th Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC), the Party’s newspaper Granma tries to explain in an editorial dated this Monday the reasons why it is not envisioned, on this occasion, that there will be “a process of popular discussion similar to that undertaken five years ago on the Guidelines for the Economic and Social Policy of the Party and the Revolution.”
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 25 March 2016 – Expectations soared two weeks ago when Cuban Vice President Jose Ramon Machado Ventura affirmed on national television that the first distribution of potatoes was imminent. This Thursday afternoon the first lines formed at Havana’s markets, in hopes that Good Friday would bring, in addition to a holiday, the return to Cuban plates of the precious tuber.
As the evening progressed, the crowds of people anxious to return home with full bags grew. Their main fear was that the so-called “agros” – the farm markets – wouldn’t open, due to the religious celebration, but starting at midnight dozens of trucks were loaded up at the warehouses and parked outside the capital city’s main markets. “Operation potato” was underway. Continue reading “Good Friday Potatoes / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar”
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, 23 March 2016 – The last street closings in Havana ended just after Air Force One took off from José Martí Airport for Argentina. The Tuesday on which Barack Obama said goodbye to Cuba some produce markets couldn’t open because the trucks could get past the security barriers with their cargoes of fruits and vegetables. Thousands of people who were mobilized – the official “invitees” – to go to the Latin American Stadium, didn’t finish watching the Cuban national team lose 4 to 1 against a professional team from the United States, because their commitment was to remain in the stands as long as “el yuma-en-jefe” – the American-in-chief – was present.
A deep sigh of relief was shared by police officers, hotel doormen, leaders and Communist Party cadres. The world did not stop, life goes on and “the party continues.” However, Obama’s words in his memorable speech at the Gran Teatro de La Habana will continue to echo painfully in some ears and joyfully and with hope in others. Obama’s aplomb and Raul Castro’s nervousness during the press conference after their nearly two-hour closed-door conversation will be the subject of comments for a long time to come. To state it common terms, the visit of the United States president will go down in history.
We have yet to see the consequences. The metaphoric millimeters of the governing elite ensures that it will never retreat to find its corresponding unit of measurement in political terms. How long is, what is the weight of, a change in the Constitution of the Republic, a new Electoral Law, the configuration of a new Central Committee, a modification of the Law of Foreign Investment, the acceptance of small- and mid-sized enterprises? If any of these things is less than a millimeter, what would be the dimension of an opening in freedom of expression or allowing free association?
At each step, starting from now, the general president will be wondering if what he does annoys or pleases Barack Obama. The drunkenness is over, the hangover is going to last a long time.
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 22 March 2016 — A crowd of Havanans that nobody had summoned formed two rows on Prado Street to greet President Barack Obama. It was not possible to determine who gave rise to the rumor that the illustrious visitor would spend Monday afternoon in front of the newly renovated Alicia Alonso Theater, where he has an appointment Tuesday with guests from the “Government authorized” civil society.
Young and old, men and women, workers, tourists, in short, everyone who for one reason or another passed near Central Park or the Capitol building around four in the afternoon joined in the enthusiasm caused by the strong desire of the people to see the US president in person and to greet him. Continue reading “Obamamania / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar”
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 21 March 2016 – The whole issue of the reestablishment and possible normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States, and its climax, President Barack Obama’s visit to the island, has put into sharp relief deep ideological differences and has brought to the fore long vested interests.
Rifts have appeared in the different scenarios involved, that is, internally within the government circles of both countries and among those in opposition to their governments. To add greater more complexity to the problem, opposition to the Cuban government has two territories, the Island and the exile, and in each of them are found arguments that have been made public on numerous occasions.
In the darkest cave, where only the faintest glimmer flares, is that vague state and partisan entity that sometimes calls itself “the Cuban Revolution with the historic leadership in the front,” and that others call, “the Government not elected by the people.” Not a single member of this fraternity has made public his nonconformity Continue reading “Invisible Discrepancies / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar”
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 18 March 2016 – During his press conference on Thursday, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez tried to diminish the importance of the United States’ most recent package of relaxations toward the island. His remarks were an attempt to curb any enthusiasm for the latest measures: permission for Cuba to use the dollar in its transactions, and the ability to pay Cuban citizens for their work in the United States or for US entities even if they are not migrants to that neighboring country.
The most substantial part of his speech was the announcement of the elimination of the 10% tax on the dollar. In the newly inaugurated pressroom at the Havana Libre Hotel, the murmurs of joy could not be stifled when the minister declared, “As long as there is financial persecution, there will be taxation, only after verifying this security exists, will it be exempt.” Continue reading “The Role of the Spoilsport / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar”