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

Demographic Enigma / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

The projected number of young Cubans in 2015 seems to have been mistaken. (14ymedio)

The projected number of young Cubans in 2015 seems to have been mistaken. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 23 April 2015 — The National Electoral Commission recently informed us that 63,441 young people had turned 16 since the previous elections in 2012, which gave them the right to vote on Sunday. However, demographic estimates made in 2006 by the government projected that by 2015, the country would have 275,389 young people aged 17 to 18 years. Where are the 211,948 missing young people?

According to the calculations of the Center for Population Studies, in 2015 Cuba has 138,866 18-year-olds, and 136,523 17-year-olds, totaling 275,389 young people in this age group. That Projected population for Cuba for the period between 2007 and 2015 was published nine years ago. Continue reading

Reappearing by Phone / Reinaldo Escobar

Fidel Castro in January 2014.

Fidel Castro in January 2014.

Reinaldo Escobar, 17 April 2015 — Fidel Castro made another public appearance, this time speaking by phone Randy Perdomo Garcia, president of the Federation of University Students (FEU) at the University of Havana. The meeting took place in the meeting hall of the University of Oriente in Santiago de Cuba and was witnessed by young Havanans that make up the so-called Detachment of the 70th anniversary of Fidel’s admission to the University of Havana.

The group of students used their vacation week in April to take a tour of different places, especially those related to Fidel Castro personally. They visited his birthplace in Biran, the Moncada Barracks, the balcony where he proclaimed the triumph of the Revolution, Pico Turquino and other historic sites, as defined in the official chronicle as, “Where the commander left a mark of gratitude to patriots who preceded him.”

With the slogan “Fidel In My Heart” on their sweatshirts, every time they finished visiting a museum, monument or plaza, they ended it by shouting “Viva Fidel!” over and over. The great surprise – perhaps as a prize for their loyalty – was receiving a phone call from the historic leader. From his end of the phone Randy Perdomo Garcia told him what they had been doing, while the former president asked if they had eaten well on the tour. National television used subtitles so that the audience could understand what the old man was saying.

A Tragedy in Several Acts / Reinaldo Escobar

Figure dedicated to Fe del Valle in the park of the same name in Havana. (14ymedio)

Figure dedicated to Fe del Valle in the park of the same name in Havana. (14ymedio)

Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 14 April 2015 — Like every April 13, last Monday a group of Trade Union workers met with the task of carrying a bouquet of flowers to a marble statue. It is a figure dedicated to Fe del Valle in the Havana park of the same name and located at the central corner of Galiano and San Rafael. The site usually supplies the absence of public toilets in the area and the sculpture has both hands mutilated.

In this space was one of the most exclusive Havana stores, El Encanto, with branches in Varadero, Havana and Santiago de Cuba. Founded in the early twentieth century by Solis, Entrialgo and Company, S.A. was one of the first properties nationalized after the revolutionary process. Continue reading

It’s not my fault either / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Raul Castro during his speech at the Summit of the Americas (EFE Señal Instucional)

Raul Castro during his speech at the Summit of the Americas (EFE Señal Instucional)

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14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Panama, 12 April 2015 — During the Summit of the Americas, when Raul Castro said Barack Obama was not at fault for the decisions taken by the ten presidents that preceded him, confusion overcame me and it’s no wonder.

Upon hearing that speech, delivered in front of more than thirty leaders meeting in Panama, it became even harder for me to understand why the gallant members of the pro Cuban government “civil society” who came to this city continued to label as assassins the activists, dissidents and independent representations who came to participate in forums parallel to the historic event.

If Obama is not guilty of what happened at the Bay of Pigs, nor the logistics support to the anti-Revolution rebels of the Escambray; if he is not responsible for the creation of Radio Martí, nor the Cuban Adjustment Act… nor even for the implementation of the embargo, then, what guilt is it that they want to foist on the activists defending human rights?

Now, that the general-president has already absolved the dignitary of the country that official propaganda sees as “the enemy,” it is worth asking why his supporters accuse of events that happened decades ago those, who organize opposition parties, or engage in library projects or independent journalism with the sole purpose of proposing a country different from that outlined in the guidelines of the Sixth Communist Party Summit.

When the horrendous sabotage occurred to the Cuban plane coming from the Barbados, Guillermo Fariñas was engaged in or preparing for an international mission in Africa. At the moment when they shot the prisoner Ernesto “Che” Guevara in Bolivia, neither Eliécer Ávila nor Henry Constantin had been born. It would be like blaming Abel Prieto for the firing squads, the forced relocation of the farmers from the center of the country to captive villages, the atrocities of the Revolutionary Offensive, the disaster of the 1970 sugar harvest, the “Five Gray Years” and so many other things.

When I mention Abel Prieto I could include the names of almost the entire delegation whose tickets and lodging were paid for by the Cuban government. Are they aware that when you accuse others of a past in which they didn’t exist nor make decisions, you will also be evaluated in the same light? Are they prepared to take on all the atrocities committed by their predecessors?

The Panamanians, however, gave us a clear example of this positive attitude during the summit, an attitude that is summed up by looking more to the future than the past. I would like to believe that Raul Castro is not responsible for anything… although the evidence points in the other direction.

Perhaps the time has come when we should concern ourselves more with solutions than with blame.

I know many compatriots, who totally within their rights, will not agree with me, especially since there are wounds impossible to heal and grievances difficult to forget. If I had to vote on it, I would raise my hand in favor of their retiring in peace. Their penance, their worst punishment, will be to watch us construct a nation without hatred nor rancor. Once again Cubans, everyone, at the same fiesta.

What one learns in Panama / Reinaldo Escobar

Rodrigo Malmierca, Cuba's Minister of Foreign Trade, speaks at a Business Forum at the Americas Summit. (Twitter)

Rodrigo Malmierca, Cuba’s Minister of Foreign Trade, speaks at a Business Forum at the Americas Summit. (Twitter)

Reinado Escobar, Panama, 10 April, 2015 — Intransigence against tolerance, ideological deafness against a willingness to talk, radicalism against moderation, slogans against arguments, and many other pairs of conflicting definition could serve to headline a commentary on what is happening in Panama during the Seventh Summit of the Americas.

The pro-government Civil Society delegations from Cuba and Venezuela have systematically dedicated themselves to boycotting the parallel forums, because for them it is more important to discredit their political adversaries who favor a consensus that could conclude in a message from the civil society of the American people to their respective government. They have opted to beat, insult and denigrate their own compatriots, rather than sit down to civilized debate with them. Continue reading

Another signal of a traffic signal / Reinaldo Escobar

Went former president Fidel Castro passed by, the escorts turned the light red at the corner of 11 and 12. (14ymedio)

Went former president Fidel Castro passed by, the escorts turned the light red at the corner of 11 and 12. (14ymedio)

Reinaldo Escobar, 6 April 2015 — Recently, there came to light a chance encounter between former Cuban president Fidel Castro and a group of Venezuelans visiting a Havana school. A story broadcast on national TV gave a brief overview of the little school that the then Maximum Leader (today Historic Leader) ordered to be built in the exclusive Siboney neighborhood so that the children wouldn’t have to walk such long distances. Going to school there are the children of the staff serving the place known as “ground zero”, where today Fidel is spending his old age. From his “Castro-mobile” he waved, shook hands, asked questions and offered predictions. “He’s alive,” the excited visitors commented joyously. Continue reading