Writing about the Cowards / Reinaldo Escobar

Moncada Barracks

Moncada Barracks

Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 24 July 2015 — I do not know if I’ll be the first to do it, but at a time like this I want to congratulate the cowards.

Those who 62 years ago were summoned to a Revolutionary action in Santiago de Cuba, and who, when they heard the details describing the madness that involved storming the Moncada barracks, declined to participate.

I do not know the exact number of those who backed out at the last moment, much less their names. I have heard that their identities have never been disclosed, because among them there were some who later joined the fight and even fell in combat. The official story goes that of 135 implicated only four did not “step up.” Other versions raise to 165 the number of the conspirators and about 30 who thought better of it. Continue reading

The Vertiginous Days of Anger / 14ymedio

Protesters outside the headquarters of the Embassy of Cuba in the USA. (14ymedio)

Protesters outside the headquarters of the Embassy of Cuba in the USA. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 20 July 2015 – Recently, many calculations have been made about the time that has transpired since Cuba and the United States broke diplomatic relations. The journalists’ texts have emulated each other in the search for an exact number of years, weeks and days since 3 January 1961. However, so far none have alluded to the 734 days that transpired before the two countries parted ways.

Now that the emphasis is too frequently on how slow, complex and difficult the normalization process between the two nations will be, one has the right to wonder what would have happened if, between the first day of January 1959 and the third day of 1961, the principals implicated in this history had been animated by the same spirit that now measures each step with serenity, without haste but without pause, and takes it all gradually.

It is too difficult to resist the temptation to calculate at what speed normalization could occur if, in the next 734 days, the initiatives on one side or the other had the vertigo that existed then.

If harmony could be supplied with the same fuel on which the anger of those days gorged, one might venture the date of 23 July 2017 (just when the elections are being organized that will conclude with a new government in 2018) to take stock of what has been advanced.

Timelines are boring, almost no one reads them fully. The one I’ve suggested here includes some facts that more intensely marked the course of events. Only official Cuban sources have been used, and are certainly missing documents, speeches, declarations, and above all, actions, many of them to be declassified.

Marino Murillo, the “Antifidelista” / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Mariano Murillo, Minister of Economy and Planning in Cuba. (EFE)

Mariano Murillo, Minister of Economy and Planning in Cuba. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 18 July 2015 – Like those erratic comets whose pulse astronomers have not yet measured, Marino Murillo disappears and reappears on the Cuban political scene, generating gossip about his “thunder” when he disappears and expectations about its relentless ascent when he returns.

Those who knew him when he was the Director of the Economy in the Ministry of the Food Industry say that Murillo was the official who struggled hardest to get national production to substitute for imports. However, when he served as Minister of Internal Trade (2006-2009) he was the one who increased the trade in imported drinks, with obvious consequences for the domestic industry.

Now, in addition to being Minister of Economy and Planning, he is the member of the Communist Party Politburo responsible for implementing the guidelines of the 6th Congress, or, and it’s the same thing, the man who keeps track of the reforms.

“We must concern ourselves with creating wealth, because the economies with the best results are those that have been able to sustain production.” said Murillo Continue reading

Another Way to be a Greek Hero / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Prime Minister of Greece, Alexis Tsipras. (tsipras_eu)

Prime Minister of Greece, Alexis Tsipras. (tsipras_eu)

14ymedio biggerReinaldo Escobar, Havana, 15 July 2015 — Homer would have narrated it differently, opting to die dismembered before giving in, but in these times the heroes are faced with the inexorable fatality of their tragedy, putting at risk their prestige, not their lives. Alexis Tsipras chose to stop right at the edge of the abyss because he believed more in the future of his nation than in his political career. Historians will tell us if he did well or badly, maintaining a pulse facing the Troika, even to extremes. Economists will draw pragmatic lessons watching whether Greece grows or sinks, while the militants of his party will reassemble their agendas with different promises.

Those from other latitudes who applauded the inflexible will now have to swallow their praise and, in passing, learn their lesson. The populists of Spain’s Podemos party will know they will not have a second chance at the polls, and those obsessed with an eternal Baraguá in these parts of the Caribbean will have to recognize that it is time to move on, saying “we do not understand.”

As someone whose name I can’t remember said, “Greece is very familiar to Cubans. She taught us the philosophy, arts and sciences of antiquity when we studied in school, and, along with them, the most complex of human activities: the art and the science of politics.

The story is not over, it never really ends. In the coming hours Tsipras will have to confront his personal Thermopylae in front of Parliament and face his constituents, who will not want to accept the reforms that will come over them. It will be Ulysses facing the pretenders, or Achilles with his wounded heel, but this time the gods will not intervene and it will be the chorus who decides.

Juan Carlos Cremata: A Real Man / Reinaldo Escobar

Juan Carlos Cremata. (Cubadebate)

Juan Carlos Cremata. (Cubadebate)

Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 11 July 2015 — It is very likely that the youngest among us don’t know the reference to the 1951 novel “The Story of a Real Man” by the Soviet writer Boris Polevoy, which tells the story of Alexey Petrovich Maresyev, a fighter pilot who lost both his legs and through a heroic effort continued to pilot a plane and engage in new battles.

Juan Carlos Cremata (born 1961) is the least likely hero of Real Socialism. He is an artist from head to foot, irreverent and lucid, who has left his mark both in the theater and the cinema. He has received numerous national and foreign prizes and a great part of his oeuvre has been dedicated to works for children and teens. Among his most well-known films are Nada (Nothing) and Chamaco (The Kid: Chamaco) as well as works that have circulated via alternative means, as is the case with Crematorio (Crematorium). Continue reading

The Athens of the Caribbean / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

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14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 6 July 2015 — The “No” side won in the Greek referendum on Sunday. This controversial decision has given Raul Castro a chance to position himself on the multipolar world stage through a letter that the official press has published ad nauseam. The general president sent a message of solidarity and convergence to Alexis Tsipras, in which Athens and Havana display their points of contact.

The possible exit of Greece from the euro zone could occasion its approach to the Russian and Chinese gravitational camp, which also constitutes the strategic Cuban rearguard in the face of any negotiation with the United States and the European Union. Half a hundred words have been enough for the first secretary of the Communist Party to warn any negotiator that the “courageous policy” of the current Greek government would be an example to follow. Continue reading

In Madrid, Cuban Opponents Analyze the Example of the Chilean Transition / Diario de Cuba

Group photo of the participants in the meeting. (AIL)

Group photo of the participants in the meeting. (AIL)

diariodecubalogoDiario de Cuba, Madrid, 3 July 2015 — Several opposition figures from the Island attended in training for Cuban leaders in Madrid, from 2-3 July, looking at the Chilean transition, which was organized by the Association of Ibero-Americans for Freedom (AIL), under the coordination of the former Minister General Secretariat of the Presidency of Chile, the economist Cristian Larroulet and Carlos Alberto Montaner, among other intellectuals.

Casa de America hosted the meeting behind closed doors, focused exclusively on strengthening Cuban civil society. The workshop is part of a continuation of those held in July of last year on the Spanish transition and in March of 2015 on the formation of the Democratic Unity Roundtable of Venezuela (MUD).

These events have as an objective, in addition to the formation of Cuban leaders and learning about transitions, to promote and facilitate meeting spaces, coordination and reflection among the participants. The writers Roberto Ampuero and Mauricio Rojas were others invited to join this initiative, with closing remarks on the dialog addressing the convening topic.

Among the Cuban opposition figures were Yoani Sanchez, Reinaldo Escobar, Eliecer Avila, Manuel Cuesta Morua and Laritza Diversent.

Delusions of Sovereignty / Reinaldo Escobar

My planet Cuba (Childlike drawing)

My planet Cuba (Childlike drawing)

Reinaldo Escobar, 28 June 2015 – Despite nationalist excesses that have reached the official Cuban discourse, to some it seems that the Government should be even more intransigent in defense of the sovereignty of the country. Stigmatizers of everything foreign, these individuals end up boasting of a chauvinism that is more ridiculous than patriotic.

They are the ones who don’t understand that the Island’s boxers no longer use head protectors, to obey the dictates of this sport that the authorities have labeled profitable and where, “The spectacle is more important than the health of the athletes.” In their isolationist delusions, perhaps one day they will propose not accepting that the volleyball net or the basketball hoop be at the height determined by nations where the average stature is a few inches higher than in Cuba. Continue reading

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