The Origin of Poverty / Ignacio Estrada

Julio César Solér Baró

Blogs at Misceláneas de Cuba

Claiming that the origins of poverty stem from politics is an insult.

Poverty has no roots in the wings of determined politicss and departing from the vast hunger created by the right-winged governments in the world, here, nonetheless, you have the example of the what the left has done for more than 70 years in Europe and the West; that which they continue to do in Cuba and North Korea, that what they did in Angola, Monzambique, Ethiopia, Combodia, Vietnam, Maoist China, Laos, Kampuchea and that which has been occurring in Venezuela.

The origin of poverty is segregation, in other words, the policies that create different kinds of development. This is fundamentally administrative rather than ideological.

The left had its opportunity to kick the “whores” to the street and take away their need for “sex” and there is the story: They did not accomplish this, Cuba, my country is a living example where the people have always died from hunger under the Castros and their damned Leftists, remember “Palo Cagao” and the “Island of Dust” in the “Marianao” where I discovered in my own flesh the acid and so many lies. We went to “free” school, voluntarily abandoning our souls and free will only to realize that in the exile of what we learned there that the rest of the world doesn’t give a damn, that we have to live this revalidating subjects and colliding with the 40-odd years with these basic subjects from which Marxism robbed all of its class hours in our 20s.

The origin of poverty, at the same time the origin of violence, is segregation. The latter is understood as the politics that create different kinds of development, the last being access to social well-being in a determined context, having today’s standard: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Translated by: Alexis Rhyner

14 June 2013

Mariela Castro’s Day and Conga Line Not Reported in Any Press / Ignacio Estrada

Mariela Castro in red shirt and hat speaking into mic

Havana, Cuba – Once again, the conga line led by Mariela Castro Espín swept through one of the city’s main thoroughfares, this past Saturday, May the eleventh, under heavy security and control measures.

The conga line against homophobia, pretends to reproduce the many marches held around the world in support of the rights of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual (LGBT) community. However, the difference between these and those held in democratic countries, according to some that participate in the one held in Cuba, is that here the stage becomes a political bastion.

The event led by the National Center for Sexual Education, tries to paint the Cuban LGBT within the context of an uncertain opening that exists only for those who pay lip service to it in order to obtain juicy rewards from projects like these, leaving it completely abandoned, and without showing a convincing agenda to a community still far from seeing all of its rights fulfilled.

The number of participants has decreased in recent years given the dissatisfaction and the delays of unfulfilled promises by the group in power.  We could add to this the manipulation of the event to support political campaigns like that for the release of the five Cubans jailed in the US for espionage.

An example of this is Mariela Castro’s speech this past Saturday, and the slogans shouted there that only reiterated their political commitment to a government led by her father, Raul Castro.  There were no words coming from the mouth of the self-proclaimed leader of the Cuban LGBT community, that could predict the status of the reforms to the family code introduced in the Cuban parliament by lawyers of the institution that she commands; reforms to the family code that recognize consensual unions, adoption and other benefits for the LGBT community.

The presence of foreign guests was notable, but one most criticized by Cuban attendees was that of Argentinian transsexual Lohana Berkins who used a megaphone brought from her country to shout slogans designed to exalt a government recognized around the world for its abuses against the LGBT community. Only isolated voices repeated her slogans while others, in protest, made fun of her or turned their backs on her.

The exposure of Ms. Castro Espin to the public was sparse and always surrounded by a showy security detail. She was followed from a distance by her current husband, Paolo Tito, who documented the event in photographs.  Some officers of their personal security detail also took pictures and video.

Members of the LGBT community who toe the official line were also present and picked up by the cameras of the national and international press. Some of the civil society projects that participated were The Observatory for LGBT Rights in Cuba, The Shui Tuix Integration Project, The Open Doors Foundation and The Cuban League Against AIDS. These organizations signed a document that was delivered to the vice director of CENESEX, Ms. Rosa Mayra Rodriguez, on the dais to be delivered to Mariela Castro inviting her to participate in a dialogue on equality of Rights for all. The letter was delivered by Lic. Liannes Imbert, coordinator of the OBCD-LGBT.

Ms. Mariela Castro who was expected at midday left the room where the activities were being held for the community she tries to manipulate to go home for lunch. She was seen leaving in silver Peugeot car licensed to a foreign company (HK) driven by her husband, forgetting that her followers were only having a snack.

Before concluding this note I want to emphasize something what many were waiting for and that was the presence of René González, one of the Cubans who was convicted in the United States and who was recently returned to Cuba after being stripped of U.S. citizenship, the person to whom Mariela dedicates last Saturday’s conga. The truth is, as many have already commented, the non-appearance of someone who promised to appear in one of these events, but did not.

By Ignacio Estrada, Independent Journalist

Translated by: Ernesto Ariel Suarez

13 May 2013

Cuban Populace with HIV/AIDS Lacks Food / Wendy Iriepa and Ignacio Estrada

By: Ignacio Estrada, Independent Journalist

Havana, Cuba -For more than three consecutive months, the Cuban populace that lives with HIV/AIDS has noticed an absence of the nutritive products graciously granted by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS of the United Nations.

The nutritive products have not been coming to any of the established distribution points in the country since the latter part of last year. Leaders of the commercial entities respond before the questions posed by the affected that they do not know the why behind the absence of supplies and even less why there is such a delay in the distribution of the products.

In Cuba, more than 18,000 Cubans live with this malady and the majority receive important help which alleviates the lack of fats and meat available to the population. This isn’t the first time that help has disappeared without an explanation or cause, but the important thing to remember is what the benefit of it means for each HIV+ Cuban.

Many in the world are unaware of the nutritive inequities that exist on the island with regard to this malady. The foodstuffs that are received dwindle in quantity and weight depending on the region where they live and in accordance with the pre-established diet designed by the health system that was previously fulfilled by the “canasta básica” or “basic basket” granted by the régime.

We are mentioning this because we have received differing declarations from information sources throughout the island. The HIV/AIDS population in Havana is the most benefitted in terms of nutrition while the other infected populace in the provinces only receive half of what is distributed in the capital.

The subject has been discussed in different instances but never has there been a response or a solution that benefits every Cuban that struggles with this disease.

One could ask how many people are invested in this cause? Who would be to blame in this occasion? Or is it that even International Organizations headquartered in Havana cannot ensure and protect the interests they represent? The questions are many and I fear that they will continue unanswered.

As I write this note, I think only of that population, that while government officials enjoy meals in abundance similar to those representatives of international organizations headquartered in Havana, many in that population don’t even have something to swallow their medicines with, while others replace milk with water only to cite an example.

The situation might vary in different regions, yet if we discussed nutrition in the six penitentiary establishments that confine more than 500 recluses of both sexes with this disease, the discussion would never end.

Let this article serve as a voice for each person who lives with HIV/AIDS and allow it to resonate and reach the ear of someone who is really interested in these conditions. The scarcity and lack of food access to the population affected by this disease cannot be shunned or set aside.

Translated by: Ylena Zamora-Vargas

25 February 2013

The Oldest Profession / Ignacio Estrada

by Ignacio Estrada

Havana, Cuba. The oldest profession has returned to Cuban streets and provides a stable source of income for a vast number of mostly young Cubans.

Regardless of time or weather, there are no shortages of sex workers in Havana to satisfy a sexual appetite. The revolution of 1959 promised equality for all but the largest share of its benefits went to those in positions of power, their cronies or closest relatives. In its wake and in spite of shutting down the old nightclubs and brothels, prostitution has returned as one of the best paid professions today.

The trade is practiced by those we least suspect — coworkers, neighbors or even classmates. Large numbers of people in recent years have changed their morals like chameleons change colors and lead double lives.

I have nothing against those who choose to become prostitutes. Quite the opposite. I believe that it’s time that the Cuban government legalize the practice, unionize the workers and allow them, as is done in other countries, to be licensed as legitimate Sex Workers.

Male and female prostitution is not only practiced in the Capital but it extends to every territory. There are known brothels, escort services and red zones, the last which are prone to violence and crime. Charges are different for citizens and  foreigners and are even higher when part of the profits go to a broker or a pimp.

Without sanitary practices and health screenings, prostitution has caused an increase in the spread of veneral diseases. The rate of HIV/STDs is now higher than it has ever been in the nation’s history.

There needs to be a call to action to demand that all who provide or use these services follow safe sexual practices.

While some parents are proud because their children bring home new clothes, perfumes, gifts or other items, others mourn the loss of a son or daughter to violence, to abuse or to illnesses such as HIV. There are also those who are happy that their children have managed to leave Cuba to live elsewhere and can return to visit them carrying gifts.

As a nation, we need to put an end to injustice and legitimize this line of work so it’s treated the same way as any other profession. Legalization would provide protection under the law as well as protection from officers of the law who abuse their power to extort and harass the sex workers.

It is important that parents, family and citizens safeguard children, supervise their activities, know where they are at all times and ensure that they are not exploited or misled, especially for sexual purposes.

While I have nothing against prostitution, I condemn those who take advantage of minors for sexual favors in exchange for gifts or money. The foreign press and other outlets report that child prostitution exists. I am unaware of any such case as a reporter but if I learned of one I would have no problem denouncing it in an article.

Legalization of sex workers does not condone civil disobedience. We need to find a way to keep our streets and neighborhoods clean and safe, to protect the workers and the customers from disease and to regulate and legitimize a commonly practiced trade.

Translated by: Vivian S. Bedoya

25 March 2013

My Words Are Not An Excuse for Yoani Sanchez / Ignacio Estrada

1361568968_yoani-sanchez_4By Ignacio Estrada Cepero, Independent Journalist

With my note I am not trying to excuse my blogger friend for any word pronounced by her. I am not obliged to excuse her because it has been she herself through her own Twitter account who begged pardon for whatever misunderstanding her words caused. Clarifying with regards to the five Cubans serving sentences in the United States, she recognized them as spies and did not demand, at any point, their release.

It seems if there were certain words that many have hailed as shameful, I don’t find anything wrong in them. I would never dare to call the person who said them a messenger of the Cuban government. On the contrary, I would be happy with the concept of pluralism within Cuban civil society. Continue reading

El Sexto’s Signature: New on 23rd / Ignacio Estrada Cepero #Cuba

Este es mi Camino Bajando (1)

Este es mi Camino Bajando (2)

Este es mi Camino Bajando (3)

Este es mi Camino Bajando (4)

Este es mi Camino Bajando (5)

Este es mi Camino Bajando (6)

Este es mi Camino Bajando (7)

Este es mi Camino Bajando (8)

By Ignacio Estrada Cepero, Independent Journalist

Havana, Cuba: The Cuban graffiti artist Daniel Maldonado known as “El Sexto” (The Sixth*) has recently plastered his signature in different places along the central 23rd Avenue.

23rd Street in the capital municipality of Plaza, is the site chosen by the Cuban artist recognized for graffiti, to leave his autograph in protest against those who have recently been erasing his work in different public places.

According to recent statements from the artist he is trying to retake the streets again this year and to show that despite government censorship he will continue giving Cuban the gift of a genuine work without government contamination. Recently in a conversation Danilo Maldonado said “…if these little guys keep crossing out my stuff, I will continue crossing out theirs…”

One of the recent signs of El Sexto’s authorship is just a few yards from the central corner of 23rd and L, a writing that reaffirms his will and I quote “…This is my path… Going down…”**

Translator’s notes:
*”El Sexto” takes his moniker — “The Sixth” — as a take off from the “Cuban Five” — five admitted Cuban spies imprisoned in the U.S. and lionized in Cuba (one of the 5 is now on parole).
*”Este calle es de Fidel!” — This street belongs to Fidel — is a slogan commonly used in Cuba in support of the government; it is often shouted at repudiation rallies against dissidents such as the Ladies in White and others.  El Sexto’s take off is “This street/path/way is mine…”

January 21 2013

The Virgin of Begona Has a Little Place in Havana / Ignacio Estrada #Cuba

La Virgen de la Begoña tiene un lugarcito en la Habana (1)

La Virgen de la Begoña tiene un lugarcito en la Habana (2)

By: Ignacio Estrada Cepero, Independent Journalist

Havana, Cuba–The altar of the Virgin of Begoña is located in the ancient Church of San Francisco at the Corner of Amargura and Cuba streets in the old part of Havana.

The statue’s arrival in Havana along with the building of the altar was the initiative of the Vasco Navarra Association Charities Ladies Committee. Among the noble benefactors were Mesdames  Manolita Uriarte, Pilar Alonso, Carmen Landa, Pilar Azcueta, and Miss Chatin Isasi.  The construction  was overseen by the President of the Association, the illustrious Mr. D Venancio Zabaleta Aramburu.

The statue of the Virgin is a unique beauty with a jeweled dress and inlaid in relief.  The altar is made of marble and the wall surrounding the niche is decorated by paintings that recall the homeland which follows this devotion or worship.

The church that jealously guards the worship of the Virgin of Begoña is under the care of the Conventual Franciscan Fathers of Cuba, one of the few religious orders that have moved to the island with the approval of the Cuban government in recent years.

Translated by: Rich Braham

Spanish post
January 7 2013

What Mariela Castro Hides About the Night Clubs of Havana / Wendy Iriepa and Ignacio Estrada #Cuba

Havana, Cuba – These are some of the realities that Mrs. Mariela Castro hides, leaving the LGBT community in absolute deprivation of all rights.

A number of night clubs that hosted parties for the LGBT community have been closed in the past few days. To cite some examples:

– Due to a general restoration, ’El Café Cantante,’ took over the space of ’Divino’ leaving it without its usual site.

– The public club ’José A. Echeverría’ has a number of regulations, which, in the first place, forced the ’Ibiza Project’ to change its name, and eventually it was moved to ’El Colmado’ in the municipality of Centro Habana, a site in precarious conditions for the activities of the LGBT community.

Also, ’La Mamba,’ which operates at this same location (El Colmado) on Fridays is looking for a new space to continue organizing these kinds of parties.

– Las Vegas Cabaret is in the process of analyzing its role since it had always been a place for the elite in the capital, and it has been transformed like the palace of impersonations in the city, with real international impact.

In regards to ’meeting sites’:

– The very well known tendedera, located across from the Capitol, in Old Havana, has been under restoration along with the emblematic headquarters of former Government, with a great concentration of policemen and celebrities.

– Central Park, on the side of the movie theater ’Pairet,’ young people walking by are required to show their IDs, simply because they are in a tourist area and may be considered potential hookers or hustlers in to the eyes of the policemen.

– Fraternity Park, surrounded by bus stops, now has the highest level of outdoor lighting in the capital.

– Cafeteria, also known as the Bin Bon, is actually the only place from which the authorities have not been able to eliminate the presence of the LGBT community. However, they are vulnerable to abuses from the authorities on a daily basis.

In other words, we are going back to the era of prohibition. The problem lies in that many of the night clubs had stopped throwing “de Cheo” (boring) parties and had specialized in LGBT community parties only. The ’Karachy’ is closed, as well as ’Asia’ in La Víbora.

There are still a number of open locations.

We recommend you subscribe to text messages and get your information from handouts.

Parties are currently shifting locations and are not taking place in their usual spaces.

Like we said before, the main night clubs in this situation are:

Ibiza, La Mamba, Divino, and El Olimpo.

November 9 2012

HIV, Social Stigma, and Men Who Have Sex with Other Men / Wendy Iriepa and Ignacio Estrada

The prejudice and discrimination that affect men who have sex with other men (MSM) in many places around the world and how this contributes to the propagation of HIV among this population is another key topic of this year’s conference.

The legislative reform around MSM in Africa and the Caribbean was the central theme of the The Global Forum on MSM & HIV, which took place the day before the conference.

A recent study published in the journal The Lancet showed that 26% of MSM surveyed in the Caribbean had HIV, with 18% and 15% respectively in Africa and South East Asia.

In the event, it was noted that, in order to create a more secure legal environment for this population, it was essential, as a first step, to decriminalize sex between men.

Translated by: Eduardo Alemán

November 12 2012

Cases of Dengue in the Cuban Military School / Ignacio Estrada

By Ignacio Estrada Cepero, Independent Journalist

Havana, Cuba. In recent days, the “José Martí” Military Polytechnic Institute (IPM, ex-Belén College), located in the capital municipality of Marianao, has had to increase medical attention in the military infirmary due to the appearance of constant cases of fever.

According to information not published by any medical official, the military school is keeping a total of 54 cases isolated from the rest of the students. It is unknown how many of these patients have been diagnosed positive for Dengue through the known laboratory IgM test.

Students of this military school confirm the existence of the sickness, but are afraid to speak of its presence at the institute for fear of retaliation by their superiors.

The military school is located in a marshy area, and thick underbrush surrounds its sides. Besides the presence of tunnels and an old rail line trench, there are other places prone to the appearance of sources of the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, the transmitting agent of this sickness.

The “José Martí” Military Polytechnic Institute has a student body of around 5000 boarders, in addition to a small number of youth from the General Obligatory Military Service (SMGO), these last destined for work at the center.

Translated by: M. Ouellette

October 8 2012

There are No Reagents for Clinical Analysis in Cuban Hospitals / Ignacio Estrada

By: Ignacio Estrada Cepero, Independent Journalist

For several days the clinical laboratory at the Pedro Kouri Institute of Tropical Medicine has not collected samples for the laboratory test known as Viral Load.

The well-known laboratory test is conducted in most cases of people living with HIV/AIDS, in order to know the presence of the infective load of this virus in the human body.

An unknown number of people are waiting their turn to have this laboratory test performed. Many of these patients have scheduled their tests up to six months in advance and arrive a the hospital only to be told there is no of clinical reagent.

According to a practitioner at this Cuban hospital devoted to research of tropical diseases and HIV/AIDS who wants to remain anonymous, this laboratory test is important and he added that it is not the first time this year the hospital has been forced to suspend the tests for lack of chemical reagent.

The Pedro Kouri Institute of Tropical Medicine (IPK) is located on the outskirts of Havana and to date is one of the most prestigious health institutions in Cuba. At present its current director is Dr. Jorge Perez.

October 8 2012

Classes Continue to be Canceled at Havana Medical University / Ignacio Estrada Cepero

By Ignacio Estrada Cepero, Independent Journalist

Havana, Cuba – It has been more than three weeks since classes at Havana’s Medical universities and polytechnics have been affected. This is due to renewed efforts in conducting mass fever screenings in those areas around Havana most affected by dengue.

All students are assigned to a specific health focus area where they go door to door conducting screenings in order to detect new cases of dengue as well as educating people in adopting preventive measures.

Last Sunday, October 7, the Dean of Havana’s Higher Institute of Medical Sciences “Victoria de Girón” went around several health areas supervising the students’ work. In some of the areas, the Dean was asked over and over for the date classes will reopen.

The Dean, confronted by the same question, always gave the same answer, which is that a new program of study is being considered, insofar the country needed them, making reference to the possibility of having the students continue the screenings in the morning while attending classes in the afternoon. He assured the students that this program is under consideration.

On the other hand, some students have confirmed that not even their professors know when classes will reopen. In the meantime, hundreds of medical students remain in the streets of Havana conducting screenings, receiving no compensation, and without snacks or lunch. As a result, they usually return home at noon, after submitting their screening report.

Translated by: Eduardo Alemán

October 8 2012