Inventory of Differences / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Talk about the lack of unity within the Cuban opposition has already become commonplace. (Marc Gautier / Flickr / CC)

Talk about the lack of unity within the Cuban opposition has already become commonplace. (Marc Gautier / Flickr / CC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, 26 June 2015 – To talk about a lack of unity within the Cuban opposition has already become commonplace. Among the causes of these lamentable circumstances are enumerated some peculiarities rooted in the greatest depths of our history, whose paradigmatic example is warlordism.

However, there are also rational reasons because opponents gather in separate airtight rooms. First of all, in political vocations. Liberals, socialists, Christian democrats, anarchists, social democrats and other less profiled denominations assume positions about certain topics that can become irreconcilable.

The mere fact of recognizing these nuances sparks commentary from all sides that the most important thing is to dislodge the tyrants from power and that such minutiae can wait until democracy is achieved. But it is not enough to make the immense sacrifice of overlooking future programmatic differences. The spokes in the wheel, the weights, the headwinds, the points of honor that hinder or prevent reaching agreement usually arise from unexpected places.

Here are the most common obstacles to consensus: Continue reading

One Year and Already Walking with Solid Steps

Rebeca Monzo, 22 May 2015 — A little over a year ago our friends Reinaldo and Yoani came for a visit to tell us that, finally, the long-cherished dream of starting an independent newspaper was about to be realized and to ask us if we would be interested in contributing articles.

Why such an unusual name for a newspaper? I’ll tell you: The number fourteen refers to the floor on which they live, Y stands for Yoani, who came up with the idea, and medio is a reference to communication media.*

We, along with others, enthusiastically began making our modest contribution and the dream quickly came true. On May 21, 2014 the first issue of the digital daily 14ymedio was published.

Yesterday, we all gathered at the newspaper’s headquarters: the founders, the staff and the contributors. We had a delightful evening of conversations and discussions in which the main course consisted of new suggestions and ideas to further improve 14ymedio.com.

HAPPY FIRST ANNIVERSARY!

*Translator’s note: The title is a play on words. In Spanish, 14 y medio literally means fourteen and a half. The word medio can mean either half of something or medium, as in the medium of television.

Induced Compliance / Reinaldo Escobar

Butchers in Havana (14ymedio)

Butchers in Havana (14ymedio)

Desde Aqui, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 8 June 2015 – What has come out in the magazine Muy Interesante (Very Interesting) generates no surprise, but what is published in the newspaper Granma causes astonishment.

In the “Direct Line” section, on page 4 of the edition of June 6, under the title, “Are there foods that wake us up and foods that relax us?” we learn that research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has demonstrated that “the proteins of eggs, meat or fish bring tyrosine to the brain, an amino acid that increases the production of neurotransmitters that keep the mind alert, focused and productive (dopamine and norepinephrine).”

Continue reading

66% Of Municipal Delegates Belong To The PCC And UJC / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Ballot in Elections of the Municipal Assemblies of People's Power (Photo: Yoani Sanchez)

Ballot in Elections of the Municipal Assemblies of People’s Power (Photo: Yoani Sanchez)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, 4 June 2105 — 66% of the delegates to the Municipal Assemblies of People’s Power are members of the Communist Party (PCC) or the Union of Communist Youth (UJC), a fact that reveals the overrepresentation of the political membership of both organizations, which together do not total 18% Cuban electorate.

This Thursday the National Electoral Commission released the official data on the 12,589 delegates to the Municipal Assemblies of People’s Power elected in as many constituencies across the country. Of those, 8,249 belong to one of the two aforementioned organizations. A note published in the newspaper Granma included the names of the chairmen and deputy chairmen of the 167 Municipal Assemblies. Continue reading

Warm Washcloths / Reinaldo Escobar

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Arrest of dissidents in Cuba (Ernesto Mastrascusa EFE)

Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 1 June 2015 – Once again the general-president, giving the impression that he invites criticism, steps on the brakes. He recognizes that it is important that everyone bring their opinions, but qualifies that it must be done “in the appropriate place, the opportune moment, and in the correct ways.”

That he has repeated it this Friday at the most recent Council of Ministers does not matter. That idea has been crushed in Parliament, the Party Congress, and at every opportunity that presents itself, while he warns in passing that he speaks of constructive criticism.

Everything indicates that by constructive criticism Raul Castro understands that which points out errors but does not discuss the theoretical basis that underlies his program, or better yet, the criticism that paves the way chosen by the criticized. Continue reading

Rebellion in Platanal / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Santa Isabel de las Lajas.

Santa Isabel de las Lajas.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 28 May 2015 – Just a mention of the name Santa Isabel de las Lajas, a town in the province of Cienfuegos, recalls one of the greatest of all Cuban musicians, Benny Moré, the “Barbarian of Rhythm.” Dancing and fun, joy and youth.

But on the night of May 16 the El Platanal de Bartolo discoteque, in the little homeland of the greatest sonero, was the scene of a minor quarrel of which no one now wants to remember the origin. “Drunkenness,” said a waiter. The point is that someone with sufficient authority decided to end the day on the stroke of midnight, an hour earlier than usual. Hundreds of young people gathered there protested against the measure with all the energy of their age and, in addition, with every right. Continue reading

So Many Lists Having Nothing to Do With Obama / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Raúl Castro with Barack Obama at a press conference during the Summit of the Americas.

Raúl Castro with Barack Obama at a press conference during the Summit of the Americas.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 27 April 2015 — A few days back, a commentator on Cuban state television found it “interesting” that Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinan, speaking on behalf of her party, said there would be no opposition in the U.S. Congress to removing Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terror.

This time, the Cuban-American Congresswoman was not disparaged as a “wild wolf,” as the official media christened her back in the days of the campaign for the return of the little boy rafter Elián González to Cuba. If everything goes according to plan, on May 30th, after the 45 days required for the U.S. Congress to ratify the President’s recommendation, Cuba’s name will be erased from the list. Continue reading

May 20, That Hole in Our Memory / Reinaldo Escobar

On 20 May 1902, Cuba gained its independence from the United States of America

On 20 May 1902, Cuba gained its independence from the United States of America

Desde Aqui, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 20 May 2015 — Yesterday I invited my granddaughters to get ice cream. To boast of her knowledge, the oldest, who is in the third grade, said to me: “Today marks the 120th anniversary of the death in combat of José Martí, our National Hero.” She said it with the same pride in wisdom with which one day, many years ago, I alerted my parents to the fact that the earth was round.

“And tomorrow, May 20, what will we celebrate?” I asked her, imitating the emphasis of schoolteacher. Almost arrogantly she responded, “On May 20 nothing happened.”

As she was born in the 21st Century I invited her to look for the significance of the date on a phone app containing Wikipedia, which she could consult without an Internet connection. Surprise! The text there reads: “1902: Cuba achieves independence from the United States of America.” Continue reading

What will happen in Cuba? / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

The new generations will also have to define what will happen in Cuba. (Franck Vervial / Flickr)

The new generations will also have to define what will happen in Cuba. (Franck Vervial / Flickr)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana 16 May 2015 – On the back of a copy of the I Ching were examples of questions about which one might consult this Chinese. Should I marry X? Is this the time to take a trip to Y? What will happen in Cuba? The readers of this copy from 43 years ago have had time to find out for themselves who they ended up sharing their lives with, or where they went on vacation. The situation for those of us who asked the ominous book about the fate of the Island has been very different.

The question written on that cover has continued to haunt me, as it has so many other Cubans. From restless foreigners who tried to practice their Spanish and ended up wanting to know the nation’s destiny, to foreign journalists, Cubanologists of all stripes, academics from various disciplines, politicians and career diplomats, coming from whatever part of the world. At one point or another our conversation always slid into the question: What is going to happen in this country? Continue reading

“The Cuban people must get their voice back to begin the transition” / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Rosa Maria Paya

Rosa María Payá. (14ymedio)

Rosa María Payá. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 17 May 2012 — In the summer of 2012, Rosa María Payá had just started out in the political arena. She moved among the young people who animated the Varela Project, El Camino del Pueblo (The Path of the People) and the Heredia Project, initiated by the Christian Liberation Movement founded by her father, the dissident Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas. Now 26 years old, she has two missions that consume most of her time. The first, is demanding an independent investigation into the death of her father, for the government to explain an “accident” which she believes was an attack. The second is leading the project Cuba Decides, which promotes a referendum on a proposal to hold free elections in the country.

Escobar: Your departure from Cuba came less than two years ago. How do you see the situation in the country upon your return?

Payá: We left Cuba under political persecution. The persecution against my father and my family before the attack, that ended his and Harold Cepero’s lives, continued after they died and became increasingly intense. They chased my brother when he was driving my dad’s car and did so in cars that have the same make as those that were chasing my father and that finally rammed [the car he was traveling in] on 22 July 2012. In addition, they did it with uniformed people, so that everyone — not only my family but also the local people — was aware of it. Continue reading

Human rights in Nicaragua have deteriorated considerably since 2008″ / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

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14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Brussels, 9 May 2015 — Wendy Flores Acevedo, a young lawyer with the Nicaraguan Human Rights Center (CENIDH), spoke with 14ymedio in Brussels about the loss of legal guarantees in recent years in her country, under the government of Daniel Ortega.

Escobar. What is the situation today with human rights in Nicaragua?

Flores. Human rights in Nicaragua have deteriorated considerably since 2008, one year after Daniel Ortega was reelected, because they have lost the value they had. They are not given due respect by the officials and above all non-governmental organizations who devote themselves to this work have been excluded, accused of being mercenaries in the service of imperialism. On top of that, we lack access to information.

The CENIDH made at least two annual visits to the eight prisons in the country, and in addition when we receive complaints about serious violations, we were able to visit the complainant, and physically see the individual in an interview. Since 2008, this is no longer possible. We aren’t even allowed to enter the prisons.

Escobar. Has the government withdrawn your legitimacy? Continue reading

Anticipated News of Another May Day / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Celebration of May 1st in Cuba. (FLICKR/CC)

Celebration of May 1st in Cuba. (FLICKR/CC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 30 April 2015 — Like all ritual ceremony, the parade for International Workers Day involves previous preparation and specific purposes. Along with 26th of July events and the Triumph of the Revolution’s anniversaries, May 1st has always stood out as the celebration that mobilizes the most people in Cuba.

In some of these parades around a million participants have been recorded. Depending on the directions coming from the top of the hierarchy, they are sometimes organized under neutral mottos, such as “To defend the homeland”; in others the motto can be more specific, such as “Against the imperialist embargo” or, like last year’s motto, “For the return of the Five Heroes.” The 2015 parade’s main motto is “United for the construction of socialism” and official chroniclers claim that it will be massive, compact, strong, unforgettable and other similar adjectives. Continue reading