Campaign for Another Cuba: Video #Cuba

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Reasoning with Antonio Rodiles / Reinaldo Escobar

Translator’s note: Our apologies for not having a subtitled version…

As of this afternoon the latest chapter of Citizens’ Reasons will be available, dedicated to discussing a topic that is abstract but essential: Legitimacy. Participating on this occasion are Dagoberto Valdés, Miriam Celaya, Antonio Rodiles and, as moderator, this humble servant who is pleased to announce the program.

Of particular interest is the presence of the animator of the space Estado de Sats — Antonio Rodiles — who was arrested just as we were finishing editing the chapter.

As its title indicates, this edition of Citizens’ Reasons tries to respond to the question of to what extent we citizens should recognize the legitimacy of the “current” Cuban government and what we must do from civil society to achieve our own legitimacy.

The arbitrary arrest of Antonio Rodiles occurred confronting a department of State Security while participating in a civic and peaceful action to inquire about the situation of the attorney Yaremis Flores. There he was brutally beaten, but it was not his attackers who had to answer to the law, but rather the victim, accused of “resisting arrest.” At the time of this writing the courts have not ruled on the matter.

This has been the reality that gives the context to what is discussed in the most recent chapter of Citizens’ Reasons. I recommend that you watch it.

16 November 2012

To My Cuban Brothers and Sisters in Exile / Padre Jose Conrado Rodriguez Alegre

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

In Santiago de Cuba it is just dawning. Today, Friday October 26, 2012, just 48 hours after the horrible devastation left behind Hurricane Sandy, I got up early to pray and write. Amid the sadness for so many families left destitute, as Eliseo Diego said of the man with the bundle on his back, in his “Book of the Wonders of Bologna”: “Pilgrim you go with the dusk and your poor belongings: fears, sorrows.”

So I see my people, wandering among the ruins of what little we have of which nothing is left to us. And yet, I say this with the utmost pride in my poor people, who think kindly of each other and offer their hand, and with the strength of the poor they say in the vortex of misfortune, “It doesn’t matter what we lost, we are still alive.”

Yes, I have seen many signs of solidarity, like my parishioner Tito, a young medical student, who has come to clear the debris from the houses of his neighbors and relatives, and yesterday he spent the afternoon with Pavel, his brother-in-law, saving the zinc roofing sheets lying in the patio, which we returned to the rectory roof.

My sister and her 15-year-old stepdaughter who have cleaned the first floor of the rectory, while the second is being roofed. Manolo and Mario, who despite the dangerous winds, placed the tiles to protect my books, computers and printers from the weather.

Gladis and her grandson Pedro, who were the first to arrive to lend a hand, although they still had a great deal of debris to sweep up in their own house. And Eliecer Avila, who came from Puerto Padre to help, because he could not sit there, knowing how badly things were for us here.

Yoani Sánchez and Reinaldo Escobar, who from Havana let me know they were collecting food and medicine for the victims. My brother Roberto Betancourt, who from his parish of Caridad sent me the warmth of his flock, as did Ophelia Lamadrid, with her ninety years, and Teresita de la Paz, the widow of Gustavo Arcos Bergnes, who pray for me and for my people. They have told me about the mobilization you have already started to send aid “so much more urgent now that our need is so great.”

My beloved brothers and sisters: from this distance and immersed in supreme suffering after the inevitable and disarming misfortune, I say from my heart, that I have felt, in all this time of uncertainty and bitterness, when the roof blow off my parish and my home, running to save the books and what I could from the rain and afterwards, when I could go out and see the desolation of my people, I felt your presence, your prayers and the solidarity of all of you.

I knew that we were not alone and that we could count on the the love and support of all of you, of all our friends, Cubans and otherwise, who from far away accompanied us with your prayers and your love.

In particular, when I went to pray for an elderly woman who died of a heart attack in the midst of the storm, sheltered in a small bathroom, with her daughter, granddaughter and her two little great-grandchildren in a house flying to pieces through the air, her heart could not resist so much anguish and exploded. Mine bleeds for all the misfortune of my people.

The city lies in ruins. My old parish of San Antonio María Claret, in the neighborhood of Sueño, collapsed. Only the Christ that I one day put on the wall of the chancel, stood as a silent witness along with the granite altar that stood there for 30 years.

So did my old church of San Pedrito, whose repair almost cost me prison. Just as my beloved town of San Luis, where I was born to the faith and then began my pastoral work as a priest, and whose new marble altar was consecrated in solemn ceremony less than a month ago. And this has happened with almost all churches, rectories and convents throughout the diocese … They lie in ruins, they are homeless or have been seriously damaged.

But what is it, I wonder, before the suffering of so many people who have lost everything: the effort of entire lives and even generations, transformed into offal dripping mud and dust. So too the books, televisions, and other household appliances, furniture… and the house!

It is calculated that 150,000 houses are destroyed or seriously damaged. And this in the midst of such a difficult economic situation, virtually of survival! We felt that we were so badly off… and now we are much worse!

But back to my memory, the first sentence I said, and that I have heard from so many mouths: But we are alive!  Thanks be to God for the life that He gives us and for keeping us, because it is amazing that in the midst of so much devastation the dead have been so few. What does God want to say to us with all this?

Father José Conrado Rodríguez Alegre
Santiago de Cuba

Translated from Cubanet on 5 November 2012


Father Conrado’s earlier letter to Raul Castro.

Update on Arrest of Yoani Sanchez, Reinaldo Escobar, Agustin Lopez (and others?) in Bayamo

Police blockades outside the court. Source: EFE

Site manager’s note: The following excerpts are translated from an article in Cubaencuentro.  In addition, an official government blogger reported that Yoani traveled to Bayamo intending to disrupt and put on a “media show” at the trial of Angel Carromero, who was driving the car in which Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero were killed.

For those who are unaware, Yoani is a correspondent for the Spanish newspaper El Pais, and was intending to cover the trial. Oswaldo Paya’s children also traveled to Bayamo, and according to tweets from Rosa Paya, his daughter, they have been prevented from attending the trial. Also note, Agustin Lopez has been reported in some tweets to be Agustin “Diaz.” Finally, the Paya and the Cepero families have specifically stated that they do not hold Angel Carromero responsible for the car crash.

From Cubaencuentro:

The well-known Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez and her husband, thejournalist Reinaldo Escobar, among other activitists, have been arrested this Thursday in Bayama, reported the official journalist Garcia Ginarte and it has been confirmed in Twitter by several sources on the Island.

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo on his account on the social network, who says he received the information from Teo, Sanchez and Escobar’s son. According to what Teo Escobar told the blogger, the activists were detained at 6:00 in the afternoon and were not permitted to make telephone calls until 3:00 in the morning, the time when his parents called him to report their arrest.

5 October 2012


The Terror of the Controls / Reinaldo Escobar

Since Raul Castro created the position of Comptroller of the Republic a current of panic runs through all the governmental administrative authorities. The cases of corruption, irregularities, diversion of resources and lack of control of state assets emerge like mushrooms after a rain.

However, despite having raised a war against secrecy in the press, the official media does not bring to light either the amount of the damages nor the names of those responsible. Periodically, the rumors, with their quota of inaccuracy or exaggeration, serve to make known the “exploitations,” always accompanied by the little details where we hear of lovers, swimming pools, wine cellars, luxury cars, and all the irresistible temptations — which lead them to perdition — of the old militant Communists, veterans of revolutionary battles, former senior officers, all highly trusted people.

It’s not worth going into the details, especially if they are not confirmed by reliable sources, but it does make sense to ask how is it possible that after half a century of Communist education and countless selective filters, the cadres of different levels continue to have the same appetites enshrined in the old bourgeois morality?

What is wrong? Is it the nature of man himself, or a system based on a profound mistake?

I have the impression that the cases uncovered are not divulged precisely so that citizens do not ask this question; so that they will continue to believe that all is well and that we are on the right path toward higher goals and not will not perceive the swamp nor the fatal attraction that arises from its depths.

22 May 2012

Tracey Eaton’s Interview with Reinaldo Escobar

Tracey Eaton, a Florida-based journalist, has been traveling to Cuba for a long time, and more recently has been undertaking a series of interviews with Cubans ranging all across the ideological spectrum. He has now begun the work of subtitling these videos in English.

Here are links to Tracey’s blogs/sites: Along the Malecon; Cuba Money Project; Videos on Cuba Money Project; Video Transcripts; Along the Malecon News Updates.

Sand on Mondays, Gravel on Thursdays / Reinaldo Escobar

The other day, watching a triumphalist report on the news about the unrestricted sale of construction materials and under pressure from his wife who has been asking him to build a closet in the bedroom for years, my neighbor Chicho made the trek to the corner of Paseo and 33rd to buy washed sand, gravel, cement, and four-inch thick blocks. The rest, the tools and the knowledge, he already had, having been a bricklayer for more than six years in those long-ago days of the microbrigades*.

He walked from his house to the place hoping to find someone there with the entrepreneurial spirit to offer to transport the materials, and indeed, outside was an old Toyota with a little trailer and two men with wheelbarrows waiting for customers. They gave him a little signal meaning “we can load up and get out of here right now” and he entered a kind of office where a woman was filling in the orders and taking money. “Who’s last in line?” he asked, purely as a formality, as there was only one person at the counter. When it was his turn to be helped he said, “My dear, put me down for 40 four-inch blocks, a sack of cement, two sacks of sand and another of gravel.”

The woman looked at him as if he were a Martian, and with her best smirk asked him, “Didn’t you see what it said on the chalkboard?”

Only then did he realize that at the entrance there had been a piece of black cardboard written on in white chalk, but he’d overlooked it in the excitement of trying to behave like a customer. “My eyesight is poor,” he fibbed, to justify himself. Then the woman told him, “For sand, you have to come on Monday and check in early. That same day you can get the cement and the blocks but the four-inch aren’t available now. But look, the gravel is only available on Thursdays.”

“So I have to come twice and pay for two separate deliveries?”

“Look here, son, not only are you near-sighted, you’re deaf, or are you making fun of me?”

* Translator’s note:
Microbrigades = “In 1971 a novel form of sweat equity, the microbrigades, accompanied government investments. Under this system groups of employees from given workplaces would form brigades to build housing while other employees agreed to maintain production at current levels. Housing units were then allocated among the employees from that workplace…. Microbrigades experienced a revival in 1986 due to several social forces.”
Source: Kapur and Smith, Housing Policy in Castro’s Cuba, 2002

12 October 2011

The Pastor of the Black Sheep / Reinaldo Escobar

The independent blogger Elaine Diaz, who agrees with so many official opinions, had a point when she defined the events surrounding the Church of Santa Marta as a kind of Rashoman. There have been so many versions that the authorities were left with no choice but to broadcast an official note on Cuban television’s prime time National News.

The truth is that Braulio Herrera Tito, the pastor of this Assembly of God congregation, is not an ordinary person. He is one of those preachers who, in any other place in the world, finds a place to found a church, a sect, a group of followers, but he lives in a country where not even a pigeon fancier’s club can be founded without State authorization. I will neither support nor renounce his doctrines, which are said to privilege personal revelations over the word of the Bible, but it seems to me he had the right to break away from his congregation and open his own place without asking for approval from the Communist Party’s Religious Affairs Department, and with the possibility of renting or building his own temple.

I wonder what would have happened if it had occurred to the party secretary of a municipality to disobey the guidelines of the Sixth Communist Party Congress and riot with a group of militants at the headquarters of that organization. Or do black sheep only appear in God’s flock?

12 September 2011

State of SATisfaction / Reinaldo Escobar

Last Saturday I had the opportunity to participate as a spectator at the most recent edition of the Estado de SATS event where a group of young art promoters met to discuss alternative projects and censorship. The presence of an attentive and respectful audience, despite the threats that loomed from the authorities and their intentions to discredit a narrow sector of the opposition, was significant.

It was made clear that anyone who intends to undertake any independent project in the area of the arts will have to be willing to live with the anguish of a permanent state of war. The institutions whose ultimate goal is supposed to be promoting culture function as braking mechanisms, not only in terms of their pretensions to audit content, but also through the petty jealousies of their prominence.

In the year when the home-grown intellectuals have celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of “the words to the intellectuals” many of them have tried to clarify that maxim: “Within the Revolution, everything; against the Revolution, nothing,” does not mean a state of “being outside” the Revolution, but only one of “being against it.” However, the testimonies expressed in this discussion clearly showed that the process of institutionalization resulted in substitutions for the elements of the equation, leaving an unspoken rule: “Within the institutions some things; outside the institutions, nothing.”

Nevertheless, the oppressive force of this rule has not achieved its purpose of extinguishing the yearnings for freedom that dwell in the natures of creative people. Sometimes through playing with ambiguous language, other times appealing to clandestine tricks, or in some cases openly defying the censors and repressors, numerous Cuban artists have made their own a phrase attributed to José Martí: “He who is not able to create, is not obliged to obey.”

An End to Eternity / Reinaldo Escobar

I already know that eternity has no end, or a beginning, but let’s be dialectic and apply the theory of relativity to the concept. If, from the time you begin to develop a notion that the country where you were born has a leader who remains in power until he retires and all our projects finish, then that, in terms of the finite of human life, counts as an eternity.

That’s why I felt a passing crisis of optimism when I heard Raul Castro announce that from now on, the government and party positions could only last for a maximum of ten years, which is the same as two periods of 5 years with only one reelection allowed.

All those I tried to fill with my enthusiasm stared at me with either pity or indignation. I even was upset with myself when I remembered that assembly which took place before the 4th Communist Party Congress in 1991 when they gave us permission to give our opinions on whatever we wanted, and I came up with the idea of proposing the same idea which has now been approved. Is it possible that I was ahead of my time, as befits a great visionary? Or perhaps it has to do with a measure which has been passed too late, for it should have done 20 years ago.

Had it happened that way, the then First Secretary would have had to start counting his term from that very moment, and in 2001 the second would have passed on to be the first, and, interestingly enough, in that same year Raul Castro would have finished his second mandate, supposing that he’d be undoubtedly been reelected in 2006.

Will we have to wait until 2021 to know the name which will be chanted and acclaimed by the delegates of the 8th Communist Party Congress, or will a hole open up in time and we will jump ahead, without any previous warnings, into another dimension?

Translated by Raul G.

20 April 2011

Orlando Zapata’s Inconvenient Corpse / Reinaldo Escobar

Not content with deporting the recently released political prisoners, the Cuban government is now expelling from his land the exhumed remains of Orlando Zapata Tamayo. The procedure has been the same: make life impossible for the family and offer them the tantalizing solution of exile. They repeat, in this way, the well-known recipe of launching the pack against defenseless people in order to appear themselves, at the perfect moment, to save them from the irate claws of their front line troops disguised as “angry people.”

The foreign press accredited in Cuba, eager for their reports to lead the news, will enjoy the privilege of interviewing the martyr’s mother at the airport to confirm the falsehood that, ultimately, all the fuss was just for this. With the intention of organizing this scene, unauthorized people have assured Reina Tamayo that everything is already arranged for her to travel to the United States, when in fact the Interest Section of this country hasn’t even received a formal request for the visa.

Representatives of the Cuban Catholic Church collaborated in the task of persuading Orlando’s mother that everything was ready to end the ordeal that the political police had condemned her to: facing the organized pickets — Sunday after Sunday — who prevent her from going to the cemetery and the temple of Banes. They absolved her of continuing her sacrifice, pardoned her sins, and showed her that the path to her cross led in the opposite direction. The day of the exhumation will be the one year anniversary of the beatification of Padre Olallo, and also one year since, in a punishment cell in Kilo 7 Prison in Camaguey, Zapata Tamayo chose immolation over submission.

Time will pass, and one day we will receive, as if we earned it, what remains by then of the inconvenient corpse of this man, who left not a single memorable phrase in writing, nor was he the leader of anyone, but he made us ashamed of our daily cowardice.

November 29, 2010

Fidel Castro Refuses to Discuss Upcoming Communist Party Congress / Reinaldo Escobar

Fidel meeting with the students. Reuters.

If I were a Communist Party militant, I would be shocked and disappointed to see that Fidel Castro, meeting with a group of students for four hours, gave himself the luxury of suggesting that the solutions to Cuba’s problems had been dictated by him five years ago, on November 17, 2005, without any mention that the Party has just presented a platform for a new model of socialism that will be discussed at its Sixth Congress.

True, the event announced for April 2011 will be something less than a Party Congress, lacking a central report where what has happened in the last three years is critically analyzed, lacking a commission to air appeals, lacking a renewal of terms, and lacking any ideological approach or analysis of the world in which we live. True, a formal call hasn’t even been publicly issued, only a simple announcement — as if it were an incidental matter — in the midst of a ceremony marking the anniversary of the treaties with Venezuela; and obviously nothing will be said about civil rights or political openings. All that is true, but to snub the event by not even mentioning it, when it is assumed to be the priority of all Cuban communists, that tops everything.

The comandante admitted that his work in recent weeks has been focused on other issues, such as his interview with Michel Chossudovski, the elections in the United States, the world crisis, the G-20 Summit in Seoul, the APEC Summit in Yokohama, and the upcoming NATO Summit in Portugal… the Guidelines for the Congress? “I pass,” as they say in the game of dominoes.

A student at the Tourism Faculty had the immense ingenuity (hopefully it was wisdom) to say that the students were engaged in a study of the Guidelines and to remind him that he was the first secretary of this organization. His brother was probably following the live meeting on screen and must have been rubbing his hands in suspense. I imagine him with his eyes closed, praying to his gods, or to the spirit of their common mother, while anticipating the desired phrase, something as simple as: “Yes, of course, the Guidelines are the key,” or perhaps: “You should know that we worked very hard on this and that I am in agreement with everything.” But no. With a smile known well to those who have been humiliated by his pride, he said only, “I am not here as the First Secretary of the Party,” and clarified that he had already finished with that long ago.

Those who should be delighted are those who have asserted for some time that relations between the brothers are in crisis. Perhaps that is why it couldn’t be done before the Conference charged with choosing a new Central Committee, and perhaps it is one of the reasons they have managed to limit the debate at the Congress to the subject matter of a thematic committee. So there is no commitment to share or challenge the alarmist approach of the Maximum Leader, who will have to postpone the date of his prediction about an imminent nuclear war as many times as he has been obliged, in 50 years, to postpone the advent of the construction of socialism.

This article originally appeared in Diario de Cuba on November 22, 2010.

The Most Uncertain Hypothesis / Reinaldo Escobar from Voces 3

IN ONE OF THOSE endless debates where we try to outline how we might exit from the current situation, some colleagues were discussing the possible scenarios, the innumerable variants of each one, and the final outcomes of the hypothesis considered.

But first there was some light-hearted speculation about the presumed decency of our leaders who, in a demonstration of their goodwill, will recognize their failure and call for a dialog among all Cubans to re-found the Nation. This forecast was restated, with the decency converted into pragmatism and the goodwill reduced to their desire to remain in power, leading to the usual introduction of cosmetic changes devoid of self-criticism and political commitment.

Shuffle all the cards. Then arose the variant of a social explosion, with its undesirable share of bloody revenge. And, bordering on insolence, we considered the possibility of a coup d’etat, including the surprised televised announcement: “We, the National Salvation Junta…” And not to leave anything out, we contemplated the worst outcome of all: foreign intervention and its traumatic aftermath.

Someone who had been silent throughout the whole discussion, said that we had forgotten a hypothesis — the most uncertain, surely — and almost apologetically enunciated it in the form of a long rhetorical question:

…And what if our current leaders, taking advantage of the Marxist laws of economics, manage to stabilize the production of food to the point where the needs of the population are satisfied. And, applying the formulas of centralized planning, resolve the problems of housing, transport, energy generation and distribution, and the fair and equitable distribution of appliances. And if, rigorously applying exigencies and controls, they remove the cancer of corruption and follow up with actions to eliminate its causes. And if, with strict adherence to the ideological canons, they manage to banish the false values prevalent among today’s young people, and inculcate the love of work, stoicism and spirit of solidarity that are typical of the New Man. And if, taking into consideration the uniqueness of Cubans, they are able to actually build socialism, so far unknown by any other society, where work is a pleasure, where culture flourishes in the fertile ground of freedom, where sport is practiced more for the health of the body than from the ambition to win medals, and recreation ceases to seem like a vice and vulgarity. And if we finally realize Utopia, in order to bring prosperity and human fulfillment to all Cubans…

We didn’t know whether it was a joke or a provocation, until the author of the stirring conjecture, in a tone half ironic half scientific, finished his contribution with this sentence: We cannot forget this hypothesis, because just by mentioning it we come to realize its unviability, which forces us to find other alternatives.

November 14, 2010

Posted in Voces Revista 3, now available on a new website.