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 →
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.
Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR). “Down with the blockade.” (small sign in the window) Boulevard de San Rafael, Central Havana. (14ymedio)
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 28 September 2015 — On the night of a red moon eclipse, the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) celebrated the 55th anniversary of the founding of their organization. Updated reports state that more than 8,500,000 people (91% of the population over age 14) are enrolled in the CDRs, of which there are 136,000 registered throughout the country.
In a common pot the broth is cooking, with root vegetables, a pig’s head or some rib bones. There is music, rum and a statement is read at midnight. The youngest dance, while the oldest repeat the same jokes from the year before and there is always someone who asks about someone else to which the response is “they passed to a better life,” which means they left the country. Continue reading →
Cuban President Raul Castro. (Flickr / Summit of the Americas)
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 26 September 2015 — On Monday September 26, 1960 Fidel Castro gave a memorable speech at the United Nations General Assembly of nearly 5 hours. The anti-imperialist rhetoric of the bearded leader shocked representatives of Third World countries with lapidary phrases such as, “Let the philosophy of plunder disappear, and be gone the philosophy of war!” or that other one, “to his lordship the delegate of the United States, I take advantage of this opportunity to say that there are many mothers in the Cuban countryside and many mothers in Cuba, still waiting for their telegrams of condolence for their children murdered by American bombs.” In his defiant speech the commander mentioned the name of his neighbor to the north 148 times.
Fifty years and three days later, on another Monday, Raul Castro will rise to the green marble podium where his brother railed against president Eisenhower and the presidential candidates Nixon and Kennedy. But this 28 September the Cuban president’s tone will be less bellicose and, without a doubt, much briefer. The blockade, the Guantanamo naval base, compensation for the damages and injuries and an end to the broadcasts of Radio and TV Martí will be the high points of his agenda as conditions for the normalization of relations with the United States.
Most likely among all those present none are left of those who witnessed Fidel Castro’s marathon dissertation, nor have his promises survivedContinue reading →
The Salvadoran journalist Roque Dalton with the Cuban poet Heberto Padilla (left) in Havana in 1966. (Wikimedia)
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 24 September 2015 — Some biographies record it as September 24, others as the 25th. I haven’t been able to confirm it, what is known is that it is now 15 years since the death of the poet. To a person as irreverent as Heberto Padilla, surely he would have been amused by the confusion that reigned among the lovers of anniversaries when it came to deciding between today and tomorrow to publish something about the anniversary.
I have no right to say I was his friend, but I’m honored to have known him personally during the years when he was exiled within the island in his apartment on Humboldt Street. Continue reading →
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 22 September 2015 – In these days of the Pope when a great deal has been said about reconciliation between Cubans, meetings have been held to prepare the 28 September celebration of the 55th anniversary of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR). Great effort has been put into the creation of the 55th Anniversary Youth Detachments and the Neighborhood Prize presentations.
The unity around Revolutionary ideas that gave rise to the organization is offered as the irrevocable currency for maintaining the conquests achieved and constructing the prosperous and sustainable socialism promoted by the Communist Party. Continue reading →
Barack Obama during a press conference at the Seventh Summit of the Americas (Photo EFE / Carlos Ibarra)
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Mexico City, 19 September 2015 – The first reactions from the Cuban government to the recent relaxations of the embargo decreed by Obama concentrate mainly on protesting the underlying condition that, in order to receive the benefits, the Government will have to modify “the internal order,” a euphemism that can be translated as: tear down what remains of the socialist system in Cuba.
The expressed desire of the Cuban authorities, in this case of the spokespeople who have made pronouncements, is that the US government allow companies with “social property in Cuba” (i.e., State-owned) to participate in the spaces opened by the new policy.
The government’s argument is that “these companies are the foundation of the national economy and the highest percentage of citizens work in them.” Privileging these benefits to the non-state sector makes clear the political objective of empowering an emerging middle class, which in this way would have better conditions under which to compete with the planned state sector. Continue reading →
Cardinal Jaime Ortega met with President Raul Castro. (EFE)
Reinaldo Escobar, Mexico, 15 September 2015 – Two convocations have been made to the Cuban people asking them to receive Pope Francis, one from the Communist Party, and one from Cardinal Jaime Ortega, the Archbishop of Havana. Both give details of the apostolic visit of the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church and the Head of State of Vatican City to Cuba between September 19 and 22.
The newspaper Granma previously classified the welcome of Cuban government and the people of the capital as cordial, and emphasized that “His Holiness will enjoy the respect, affection and hospitality which we will all offer him, during his stay in our country.” Continue reading →
Dr. Jeovany Jimenez in 2012, presenting a protest outside the ministry and Public Health in Havana.(Reinaldo Escobar)
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Mexico, 7 September 2015 — Late last year, Dr. Jeovany Jimenez Vega decided to go to work in Ecuador on a private contract. From Guayaquil, where he works with his wife, he has read in the official Cuban press the new relaxations that allow healthcare workers who have emigrated to return to the Public Health System in Cuba.*
The doctor, author of the blog Citizen Zero, was separated from his profession in 2006 in retaliation for a protest over low wages in the health care sector. He subsequently staged a hunger strike as a result of which he managed to be restored to his previous job at the hospital in Guanajay. This time, he responded by email to several questions for readers of 14ymedio on the new measures, and the expectations and doubts they generate.
Reinaldo Escobar. To what do you attribute the new, more relaxed policy towards Cuban doctors working overseas?
Dr. Jeovany Jimenez. It’s obvious that this is a reaction to the massive exodus of professionals from the health care sector. The Cuban authorities have had plenty of time, decades in fact, to do everything that they are promising today. But it is only now, when faced with a stampede, that they are implementing a much fairer policy. Our work abroad generates 8 to 10 billion dollars annually, so we deserve a better deal. Continue reading →
Laura German (maid) and Pedro Diaz Ramos (King) in the ‘The King is Dying’ by Juan Carlos Cremata. (El Ingenio)
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Mexico City, 9 September 2015 – If I were Juan Carlos Cremata’s attorney, in a an eventual appeal to be held in the Chamber of Labor, I would argue the following:
According to one of the whereases in the National Council for Performing Arts’ Resolution No. 10, the reason for canceling the theater production El Ingenio (The Genius) and terminating Juan Carlos Cremata’s contract as a theater director, is that the artist made “intemperate attacks” in the foreign press and social networks against the management of the Theater Center and the National Council of Performing Arts, “who legally represent and sponsor him,” and that those attacks are “incompatible with the social purpose for which the project was created.”
As a lawyer, one could have to argue that the artist’s statements were made in a personal capacity, exercising his legitimate rights and not as a gratuitous attack, but to defend himself against what constituted an attack on his freedom of expression, namely, the suspension of the work, “The King is Dying*.” Continue reading →
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 7 September 2015 — The old controversy between material incentives and moral incentives seems to return to the fore amid “the updating of the Cuban economic model.” According to an article published in the newspaper Trabajadores (Workers) under the signature of Gabino Manguela, the Heroes of Labor today lack the attention they received at the time when the State was the one that financed this simulation of a union.
The writer notes that “the decision was nothing short of traumatic, but certainly, it was impossible for the economy to sustain this multi-million peso level of financing, which some years exceeded 20 million Cuban pesos.”
In the first half of the ‘80s the stimuli to the “Heroes of Labor” and the “National Vanguards” still consisted of trips to socialist countries. I remember a discussion that I had with an important official of the Cuban Workers Center (CTC) when I was looking for information for a story for the magazine Cuba Internacional. The union leader insisted that these trips were a gift from the commander-in-chief [Fidel Castro] and that this should be reflected. Continue reading →
A Cuban doctor in Pernambuco, Brazil (photo flickr)
Reinaldo Escobar, Mexico City, 5 September 2015 – A long time ago, I can’t remember where, I read a phrase that said, “When you have to choose between two betrayals you will recognize that you are lost.”
The label of “traitor” has been used indiscriminately in Cuba during the last half century, by the government propaganda machine, to “disqualify” anyone who express their discontent with the policies of the Communist Party, as well as against those officials, artists, athletes and doctors who have made the decision to abandon some “mission” abroad, with the intention to restart their lives outside of Cuba. Continue reading →
A Sunday march of the Ladies in White in Havana. (14ymedio)
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, 24 August 2015 — Two notable Cuban analysts, Carlos Alberto Montaner and Rafael Rojas, have plunged the scalpel almost simultaneously, but without having come to an agreement (as far as we know) about a particular issue: the popular anti-government protests in Latin America. Montaner in, “The Terrible Time of the Strongmen” and Rojas under the title, “Soft Coups?” in the Mexican newspaper La Razón
The first, the politician, makes a list of twelve demands shared by the citizens of Latin American countries against governments of the left, the center and the right; the second, the academic, questions the term “golpista” (coup supporter) from the leftist governments faced with their respective “peaceful and institutional oppositions, without the support of the armies, who are loyal to their governments.”
Looking at this simultaneously from different positions – which do not diverge – overlooking the Latin American political landscape, one appreciates the agreement on the inefficiencies of the continent’s democracies. The protests, organized or spontaneous, with greater or lesser violence, allowed or suppressed, are a reflection of the discontent of certain sectors who do not feel duly represented in the halls of parliaments, where what is demanded with shouts in the street should be settled in a calm way. Continue reading →
Secretary of State of the United States, John Kerry, in his Friday meeting with dissidents in Havana
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, 15 August 2015 — Six hours after the hoisting of the Stars and Stripes at the US embassy along the Malecon, a similar ceremony occurred on 150th Street in the Cubanacan neighborhood where the official residence of Jeffrey DeLaurentis, charge d’affaires of that country, is located.
All of the heads of the United States Interest Section have lived in this mansion in recent years, and there is a flagpole in its garden. Across from it, congregated hundreds of guests who did not physically fit in the small space where hours earlier American and Cuban officials had witnessed the symbolic act that opened the US embassy in Havana. Continue reading →
“Those who believe that the Cuban government is democratic are the same ones who claim that our principal problem lies in the dispute between the governments of the United States and Cuba.”
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 12 August 2015 – In 1950 Emilio Roig de Leuchsenring presented to the Ninth Congress of History his controversial essay Cuba Owes its Independence to the United States. In it he laid out a little more than a century of facts and his nationalist and anti-imperialist view attributing the victory over Spain to Cuban troops.
Still discussed today is the weight of the American involvement in the conflict and especially the motives for its intervention. It has been another half century since that book came out and Cubans are no longer fighting to obtain their independence as a nation, but to install a system of democracy, and again our neighbor to the north makes laws, approves budgets and undertakes actions, this time with the declared intention to favor the future democracy on the island. Continue reading →