And If Venezuela Succeeds?

Miguel Díaz-Canel, Nicolas Maduro and Raúl Castro in 2017, at the close of the XV Political Council of ALBA in Havana. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 20 February 2019 — Coincidence or destiny, this is a defining week for Cuba and Venezuela. February 23 will be the key date for the humanitarian aid accumulated on the border with Colombia to reach Venezuelans and, a few hours later, Cubans will face, for the first time in decades, a ballot with the option of No.

That both events are occurring almost in unison complicates the scenario for both the Miraflores Palace and the Plaza of the Revolution. The sealed block that has been formed in the last two decades could be about to crack on one of its sides, but the other – irredeemably – will be touched by whatever happens. Both countries are “sewn to the same star,” in the words of the Chilean poet, Vicente Huidobro.

Raúl Castro knows that Nicolás Maduro is condemned. With a long experience of breathing energy into and sustaining guerrilla movements, leftist parties and presidents with whom it shares an ideology, Havana is an expert in detecting when the end has come. Its intelligence network, woven into the South American country, has also helped, in recent months, to complete the portrait of the death throes. continue reading

Juan Guaidó’s majority in international support, the deep economic crisis that Venezuelans are experiencing, and the disrepute that overflows the ruling cupola are precipitating Maduro’s fall. His administration becomes more indefensible every day, in step with what is learned about repressive excesses and the volume of looting it has perpetrated against one of the richest countries of Latin America.

The big question is what will Havana do when that end is closer and the so-called Bolivarian Revolution is left with barely a pulse or a breath.

For the time being, Castro is betting on closing ranks with Maduro and warning in international forums of a possible “foreign invasion of Venezuela,” while, behind closed doors, he revives the political rallies in support of Caracas, the massive signing of a commitment of solidarity with the Chavistas, and an intense media campaign in all the keys of the Cold War. Will he go from saying to doing and turn these gestures into military support?

To answer this question, we have to take into account the internal situation on the Island. The Cuban regime is experiencing a moment of extreme fragility. The “historical generation” that controlled the country for more than half a century has, for years, been filling the empty niches in the mausoleums, and can barely captain a strategy from the conference tables. The economy is touching bottom and in the streets the scenes of huge lines to buy basic products have returned, while the young people are ideologically apathetic.

The Constitution conceived by Raul Castro as the obligatory road map that his heirs must follow has not managed to arouse massive sympathy and campaigns to vote no or to abstain, at the expense of the results, have permeated society. Since he was hand-picked for the presidency, Miguel Diáz-Canel has had to deal with growing popular discontent, which was seen in a video that went viral on social networks when his caravan raced away while dozens of victims of the tornado in Havana’s Regla neighborhood screamed reproaches.

The country seems to be coming apart on all sides and the arrival of the internet on cellphones last December, despite the high prices and the unstable service, contributes to the sensation that throats and eyes have sprung up on every corner, reporting and denouncing what officialdom hid from view. This, along with the growing belligerence from Washington, makes the short-term future of Castroism quite uncertain.

In these circumstances, embarking on military support for Maduro would be a death sentence for Castroism, and the regime knows it. The authorities are aware that a good part of public opinion will applaud a reprisal against Havana if it dares to send armed troops to Venezuela. As a cunning survivor of endless diplomatic and political strife, Raul Castro has realized that this time it’s serious. Very serious.

Thus, he is likely to support his disciple until the moment comes to abandon him or to rescue him and bring him to Havana to live a long exile on this island that will become his home, a refuge, a prison. We cannot rule out that he will “choose to die” in the contest to give a “heroic closure” to the Bolivarian Revolution and to place the photo of another martyr in the pantheon of the Latin American left. As soon as it is clear that the Venezuelan wet nurse is offering more losses than benefits, the Plaza of the Revolution will depart, but not before shouting to the four winds “the struggle continues.”

If Venezuela manages to recover the path towards democracy and Guaidó calls for elections that Chavismo will not have the remotest chance of winning, that wave of changes will also reach Cuba’s coasts. Castroism’s diplomatic solitude will become more acute in the region, the few resources that continue to arrive from Caracas will end up on the lapels of the generals, and the senior officials of the Communist Party will be left with the shameful insignia of a defeat.

Diaz-Canel will be pushed to undertake deeper economic and political reforms in the absence of a patron and the resurgence of daily problems; the opposition will have a scenario more conducive to winning new battles with each flexibilization that is made from above or with each frustration that springs from below, while Cuba’s young people will have a close referent to inspire them and a Venezuelan mirror to see themselves through.

If Venezuela succeeds, we Cubans will be closer to also achieving it.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Thieves of Memories

Kata Mojena (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 18 February 2019 – A practice frequently repeated in the raids carried out by Cuban State Security against the homes of activists, opponents and independent journalist is, precisely, the seizure of personal photos and videos. They take away that unique image of a grandmother that sat on a shelf, the snapshot of a grandson’s birthday, and the film of the baby’s first steps in the living room of the house. As if they wanted, by snatching the memories of the past, to leave the person without emotional support and sentimental roots.

I recall a few years ago talking to a Lady in White who most regretted, among the personal items she lost during a police search of her home in March 2003, the loss of the photos of her wedding. That dawn of the Black Spring, when her husband was arrested, she lost the only images she had of that very special moment when they exchanged rings, cut the cake and kissed in front of the camera. They never returned them to her, although those photos had nothing to do with the accusation leveled by the prosecutor against her husband, who spent more than seven years in prison. continue reading

Now, I read this text by Kata Mojena*, and confirm that last Monday’s raids against several homes of Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu) activists have repeated this same model of repression, the same absurd confiscations of private effects, of family memories and of images that have no value to the police, but are of incalculable importance to a human being. The strategy continues to be the same: take from the person what makes them a person; reduce them to the present; eliminate all those emotional elements that complete them; snatch the testimony of what they can no longer take as a lived experience. In short, take ownership of their history.

Luckily there are now social networks to denounce this immediately and we do not have to wait long years for the world to find out, so the reactions rejecting these activities are heard and the public scorn falls on these “memory thieves” who – from the so many outrages they have committed in the past – have ended up deeply panicked about their own future.

*From Kata Mojena on Facebook: Seeing the photos I have uploaded these last years, has made me feel melancholy because they are the only ones that remain after the assault I suffered. Of course I am not going to forget the disaster they left in my house nor all the information I lost which I had worked on for years, and I will remember with sadness this event every time I want to see videos of my children as babies or my wedding and can’t because they no longer exist. I still have no answer for my older son when he says to me, Mamá those aren’t police they are thieves in disguise, nor for my youngest son when he asks me to put on his favorite cartoons. It pains me greatly that my little sister, 16, remembers with shame how they stripped her naked and searched her like a criminal. But this is true: they did not manage to take my dignity, my decision to fight, my need to live in freedom. They cannot take these because they live in my mind and heart.

Therefore, I join the hunger strike in protest against so much barbarity and the impossibility of campaigning for a No [vote] on that shameful constitution. I had already started it on the first day but my husband explained that they needed me to be strong for other tasks. Now I have finished them. So we are 71 #enhuelgadehambreVsRepresion (on hunger strike vs Repression).

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Brazil in Cuba, When Pragmatism Overcomes Ideology

Former Brazilian president Dilma Rouseff and former Cuban president Raul Castro at the opening of the Mariel Special Development Zone in Cuba.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 16 February 2019 — A enormous crane lifting a container filled the TV screens of millions of Cubans in January 2014, during the inauguration of the first part of the Mariel Special Development Zone, west of Havana. In the official photo, Dilma Rousseff smiled with Raúl Castro; but five years later, that port has not managed to get the island out of its economic crisis and the former Brazilian president is a political corpse.

Mariel, the coastal area from where, in 1980, tens of thousands of Cubans, fed up with the Communist model, left for Florida, has become the “white elephant” of Castroism in the last decade. All the hopes of the nation were placed in that pharaonic work, financed thanks to the support of Brazil’s Workers’ Party (PT).

The construction of the “commercial emporium” was carried out by Odebrecht, the Brazilian conglomerate that shortly after the inauguration became the centerpiece of a corruption scandal that touches several Latin American governments, numerous political parties and hundreds of officials. continue reading

However, the main problem has been trying to make Mariel a kind of laboratory of capitalism in a nationalized country led by a group of octogenarians who distrust the market.

When Rousseff and Castro cut the tape to open that first part of the Mariel container terminal, they were also sending a message. Those were the times when starring in the family photo of Latin American presidents were the faces of the representatives of 21st Century Socialism. A brotherhood of comrades who supported each other in international forums and helped hide – reciprocally – their authoritarian excesses.

So the Cuban port, financed with a loan from Brazil’s National Bank of Economic and Social Development (BNDES), was not only part of a strategy of solidarity with the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana, to alleviate its chronic inability to produce riches, but also an ideological intention to make viable a model that, in half a century, had given more than sufficient evidence of its failure.

As the subsidy from the Soviet Union had once sustained the deliriums of Fidel Castro and, later, Hugo Chavez’s patronage allowed him to pass power to his younger brother Raúl, Brazil wanted to lend a shoulder to keep alive “the flame” of the Cuban Revolution. It was an almost archaeological rescue task, an effort to make it seem that a regime was still breathing through its own lungs, though it was incapable of surviving without outside resources.

In January of 2014 several months still remained before the announcement of the diplomatic thaw between Cuba and the United States, but without a doubt the entire port of Mariel was designed to accommodate ships that, having stopped on the island, would end in US ports and vice versa. After five years, the thaw cooled again due to Havana’s inability quickly respond to the opening promoted by Barack Obama in his relationship with the island, and Donald Trump’s arrival in the Oval Office.

Nor does the PT remain in power in Brazil and little remains of that family portrait of the region where you could see faces like Rafael Correa, Rousseff herself or Michelle Bachelet. From those “golden times” Cuba was left with a debt that it can barely pay its former South American partner and a port that is becoming a theme park of the past every day that it fails to attract ships loaded with merchandise or investors willing to settle in its commercial area.

But the Brazilian withdrawal from the island has not stopped there. At the end of 2018 an angry diplomatic dispute between the regime of Miguel Diaz-Canel and Brazil’s then president-elect Jair Bolsonaro, ended in the untimely departure of thousands of Cuban health professionals from the Mais Médicos program.

Bolsonaro accused Havana of practicing modern slavery with its doctors on mission and demanded that they be paid the full amount of their salary, because the Cuban government was keeping 75% of the $3,300 that Brazil paid for each doctor. He also demanded that the doctors pass tests to validate their titles and demonstrate their knowledge, but the Island’s Ministry of Public Health did not accept these terms and slammed the door.

Behind the headlines and the clash between the two administrations, the small stories of thousands of Cubans who are now trying to reconstruct their hopes to improve their lives and that of their families were omitted. Many of them had arrived in Brazil not only moved by the humanitarian instinct inherent in all health personnel, but also driven by their economic needs.

Doctors in Cuba are the best paid of all professionals, however, their monthly salary does not exceed the equivalent of 60 dollars. That is why it is not uncommon to see a doctor with broken shoes, who has not been able to eat breakfast because he does not have the resources to do so, or who has to wait two-hours for a public bus before arriving at an operating room to perform a complicated brain surgery.

Official missions abroad have always been an opportunity for these doctors to access greater financial resources, despite the high percentage of their salary retained by the authorities. But, above all, it is a propitious stage to establish human relationships that allow them to marry, create friendships or contacts to stay in another country or to return later in a private way.

With the vertiginous departure from Brazil, the dreams of many of those doctors were shattered. The same happened with the Port of Mariel that had filled with illusions the inhabitants of the small town in that coastal area west of Havana, as it had many Cubans who for decades have expected the island’s economy to rise so that they might live more decently and not have to watch their children leave for exile.

For all that, right now, to say “Brazil” in Cuba is to mention a dream, the illusion of what could have been and was not; but it is also evidence of the failure of a strategy and the fall from grace of a support that was more ideological than pragmatic.

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Note: A Portuguese version of this text has been published in the Brazilian magazine Crusoé  and is reproduced in this newspaper with the authorization of the author.

The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Citizen Solidarity After The Tornado Shows A Vibrant And Alive Civil Society

The citizen response to help the victims of the tornado is a source of hope about the nature and organizational capacity of Cuban civil society. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, 5 February 2019 – In recent days we have seen moving signs of solidarity with the victims of the tornado that hit Havana. Drivers who offer their taxis, free of charge, to carry donations, paladares – private restaurants – who deliver food to those who lost everything, artists who bring water to the most affected areas, and emigrants who call for campaigns to collect products to send to the Island. Often the protagonists in this aid are people who, themselves, have very little or almost nothing.

The emergence of this citizen response, spontaneous and disinterested, inspires hopes about the nature and organizational capacity of Cuban civil society. And surprise about its efficiency and the volume of products collected despite the fact that these initiatives have not been able to rely on mass media for coordination, and in many cases have had to fight against the misunderstandings of the local authorities and the attempt of the Plaza of the Revolution to monopolize the distribution of donations. continue reading

And excitement, too, that after three decades of not permitting free association and only authorizing the existence of government organizations, there still remains, in the Island, the attitude and commitment to organize a campaign for humanitarian donations, autonomously and effectively. Many of the self-employed deserve special mention as they have offered – after so many years of suffering under the suspicion of those who say they only want to enrich themselves to live “above the people” – a lesson in dedication and selflessness at this time.

The displays of solidarity have come from the hands of restaurants like D’ La Abuela, who put into practice an effective system so that anyone could pay for a meal on-line to be delivered to the most damaged neighborhoods in Luyanó, Regla, Santo Suarez and Guanabacoa. Similarly, from musicians who have arranged concerts privately to raise money. And even from the attitude of independent reporters who not only related the testimonies of the victims, but also helped to document their particulars so that aid could reach them directly.

All of them are the heroes of recent days, especially because they have not received a salary for doing what they have done, they were not called by those “up above” to clear debris or give a hug and the work they performed was not a part of their ordinary jobs. They did it because they wanted to help and because they felt that each individual matters when it comes to civil society. Like a gigantic anthill, the smallest gestures and the simplest resources help to raise and maintain the common edifice of a citizenry.

A big hand to all of them.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Proposals to Get Help to Havana’s Tornado Victims

The State is responsible for taking measures and decisions that help donations and contributions become effective as soon as possible. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, 29 January 2019 — How to help? This is one of the first questions that arises when, Monday at dawn, we see the images of the destruction left by Sunday night’s tornado that affected several areas of Havana. The campaigns for the collection of resources and food have begun, there are neighbors lending a roof so a family that lost everything can sleep in safety, and citizens who look for the most suitable ways to offer this solidarity from within and outside of Cuba.

Now, the State is responsible for taking measures and decisions that help these donations and contributions become effective as soon as possible and benefit the greatest number of victims. Here are some proposals for the Plaza of the Revolution to facilitate the arrival of aid and speed the recovery:

  • The State must start distributing, as soon as possible and free of charge, food, water, blankets and flashlights for families who have lost everything and those who live in the most affected areas; not selling them, as it did this Monday in the neighborhoods most affected, such as Luyanó and Regla.
  • The General Customs Office of the Republic has to decree a moratorium on its strict regulations limiting imports for personal use, extend it to private businesses so that not only the affected families can receive aid in the form of food, clothing, medicines and construction materials, but also so that small home repair businesses can stock up on supplies.
  • Allow ‘natural persons’ to import vehicles of all types and sizes to replace those destroyed in order to provide a vehicle fleet to support reconstruction and mobility in the affected areas.
  • Eliminate the 10% tax on the dollar so that remittances received from abroad, especially from the United States, grant the benefitting families the maximum purchasing power.
  • Substantially reduce the prices of basic products such as oil, flour, milk and eggs throughout the domestic trade network, at least in Havana.
  • The Telecommunications Company of Cuba must offer, as soon as possible, a significant reduction in the price of calls abroad and within the Island, especially for its customers in the Cuban capital, to facilitate communications and interaction between those affected and their families.
  • This reduction should also extend to the 3G data connection service from mobile phones and wireless connections in wifi zones.
  • Suspend taxes for the self-employed (the private sector) in the damaged neighborhoods and approve loans on favorable terms for the reconstruction of their businesses.
  • Allow non-governmental organizations and international organizations to enter the country to assess the damages and help those most affected. Guarantee that the Catholic Church and other religious institutions can carry out, without obstacles or restrictions, their humanitarian work.
  • Allow a recovery campaign on the part of civil society, ordinary people, Cuban emigrants and international organizations, ending the government’s monopoly on solidarity and aid.

In the next few days we will be able to verify if the State’s priority is the recovery of the people or the exclusive control of the aid to play politics with the catastrophe.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Nicolas Maduro Clings to Power With No Concern for the Cost to the Country

On the second night of protests this January, in San Felix in Bolivar State, the demonstrators set fire to the statue of Hugo Chávez. (Cocuyo Effect)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 26 January 2019 – If the populists share something, in addition to believing that they embody an entire nation, it is their inability to cede power when their project is exhausted. The decision to cling to the helm, no matter what the cost, has been shared by numerous caudillos in Latin America, but Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela is the most recent and dramatic case.

Repudiated by a good share of Venezuelans, designated as a dictator by a large number of governments, and proven incapable of getting his country out of an economic quagmire, the successor of Hugo Chávez ignores all signals. Maduro is wedded to power more to save a ruling elite than to seek the wellbeing of more than 30 million people. continue reading

He believes that if he remains in the presidential chair, Venezuelans will end up wearing themselves out and that exhaustion, together with the repressive blows, will pacify the popular protests that have shaken the South American country in recent days. He is playing the card of not accepting that his time has passed, and of baring his teeth to anyone who advises to him to get out of the way, call elections or seek asylum.

In part, he clings to the presidential chair to avoid the judicial process that awaits him for plundering one of the richest nations in the world, for having pushed hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans into exile, and for having ordered the armed forces to use their weapons against ordinary people. But while trying to delay the judgment of his compatriots, Maduro leaves Chavism with no chance to escape the judgment of history.

Every day that he remains in the position of president, a position he usurped after an election riddled with irregularities, he destroys what, in the collective imagination, could still be his predecessor’s legacy. Neither opponents nor right-wing governments in the region have been as effective as Maduro in dismantling the myth of Hugo Chávez.

It’s no wonder, on the second night of protests this convulsive January, that demonstrators in San Felix, in the state of Bolivar, set fire to the statue of Hugo Chavez, the one-time commander of a Parachute Battalion who managed to install himself in the Miraflores Palace. These flames were directed at the entire Chavista myth which, at the end of the last century, installed the first bars of the cage that Maduro tries to keep shut today.

By proclaiming himself interim president of Venezuela, the young politician Juan Guaidó, who as of this month is president of the National Assembly, has not only managed to bring the Venezuelan issue to the center of international attention, but has forced all those who supported the eccentricities of that soldier who sang in his speeches and believed himself a reincarnation of Simón Bolívar to look in the mirror. Not a few of those fervent followers have hastened to chant a belated mea culpa in recent days.

Today Nicolás Maduro is Chavism’s main gravedigger, the most effective resource to dismantle a whole system which, in the beginning, attracted applause from millions of followers all over the planet.

However, along with that ideological funeral, every day in which the Venezuelan ruler remains in charge, the tragedy of the country deepens. Until last Thursday, the non-governmental organization The Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict (OVCS) estimated the total number of deaths in protests against Maduro at 26. The economy is paralyzed and thousands of citizens are escaping across the borders every day.

The stubbornness of a handful of Boliburgueses – the new rich ‘bourgeoisie’ of Chavez’s “Bolivarian Revolution” – has spread the uncertainty about where the country is headed and fanned the specters of a bloodbath. The support they enjoy from the military leadership could bring this bloody scenario closer, because – like all populists – they prefer to drag down the country they once claimed to represent before acknowledging that they failed.

It is up to the international community to guarantee that, in the historical abyss into which Nicolás Maduro is plummeting, there is room only for the gang that governs Venezuela and for the authoritarian Chávism that elevated it.
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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Cuba, a Sanctuary for Fugitives From Justice

Negotiations with the guerrillas continue as of today. (Colpisa)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 21 January 2019 – The center of attention has shifted abruptly for the Cuban authorities. A few weeks before a complex constitutional referendum, with an economy taking on water everywhere, Havana is now embroiled in a bitter dispute with the government of Colombia. The bout between the Plaza of the Revolution and the Nariño Palace looks like it might go on for a while.

After the terrorist attack that left 20 dead and 68 wounded in Bogota, President Ivan Duque has insisted that Havana hand over the ten members of the National Liberation Army (ELN) peace delegation that remain on the island. Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez has responded with a technicality that raised more doubts than certainties. continue reading

According to the foreign minister in his Twitter account, “Cuba will act in strict respect with the Peace Dialogue Protocols signed between the Government and the ELN,” should negotiations break down. The Colombian side replied that “there is no protocol that protects terrorism,” and Havana added fuel to the fire by insisting that it has never permitted nor will it permit its territory to be used for the organization of terrorist acts.

But the precedents of these last six decades belie these assertions. If the history of recent years is reviewed, it is easy to conclude that the island’s authorities will avoid handing over the guerrillas at all costs. It is very unlikely that this case will put an end to the government’s long history of protection for fugitives and criminals. It is unthinkable that, asked to choose between two loyalties, it will end up choosing to please Duque.

Dozens of members of the Basque separatist group ETA, involved in assassinations and with a long criminal history in Spain, have been hiding on the island for decades. Joanne Chesimard is also living in Cuba’s capital city; known here as Assata Shakur, she is on the FBI’s list of most wanted terrorists after having killed a policeman. The famous thief Robert Vesco found refuge under the skirts of the Cuban Revolution after stealing more than 200 million dollars.

This “solidarity” with criminals and terrorists is based on two pillars. The first of these was established from the first years Fidel Castro came to power and expressed support for any movement or person who shares anti-capitalist, communist ideas and supports subverting the established order in their country of origin. The second obeys the maxim that “the enemy of my enemy” is always a friend to the Cuban regime.

Under these two premises, the authorities have welcomed any and all international criminals who have requested refuge after showing a record of harm against the institutions of the United States, the governments of Latin America and the law enforcement agencies of the countries most critical of the human rights situation in Cuba. Hosting these “unpresentables” has been an act of political revenge, a challenge to international justice and a mockery of the victims.

Criminals who have escaped from other countries have not only found here a place to avoid ending up in front of a court, but most have enjoyed a standard of living far superior to that of most Cubans. In mansions, with bodyguards and a good supply of food, many of these delinquents on-the-run have led a life well away from the narrow cell they deserved.

In the case of Colombia’s National Liberation Army (ELN), the “hospitality” has meant that as of 10:00 am this Monday, the official press has still not published a word about the statement made by the guerilla group taking responsibility for the terrorist attack against the Police Cadet School in Colombia. Not only has the government given them shelter, but it has also offered them the complicity of its silence.

Why would the Government of Cuba now act differently with these fugitives? Increasingly isolated in the region, with the so-called “historic generation” clearly in biological withdrawal, and a system that can not lift Cuba’s 11 million people out of a quagmire, Havana should respond affirmatively to Bogota’s request, to make it clear that the times of support for criminals have ended.

However, to believe that something like this is possible is equated to the frog’s dream that the scorpion who helps him cross the river will not sting him. Even though it is sinking in the waters of disrepute and diplomatic solitude, sheltering terrorists is in Castroism’s nature.

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Editor’s Note: A shorter version of this text was published by Deutsche Welle.

The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

The Revolution Does Not Want To Be Tweeted

María Hergueta

Yoani Sanchez, New York Times, Havana, 13 January 2019 — A young man posts images of a flood in Centro Habana on social networks. From the internet come complaints from neighbors who are clamoring for an official response and for repairs to the sewer network. Sixty years after the triumph of the Revolution, Cubans are prohibited from expressing their dissatisfaction in public plazas, but take advantage of virtual spaces to call out the government.

On 6 December, the more than eleven million people who inhabit this island began to travel a new path. Like the day we gave birth to a child, or a close relative died, or we learned of the death of Fidel Castro, all Cubans remember what we were doing at the moment that web browsing service burst onto our cellphones.

A package allowing 4 gigs of navigation costs 30 dollars a month, the equivalent of the entire monthly salary of a professional. The high prices leave a good part of the population unable to access the service. Many Cubans face a dilemma; connect or eat; chat with a friend or replace a light bulb; watch a video on YouTube or pay a shared taxi to get to work. This is the new “capitalism.com” of a Revolution that fears being tweeted for lack of news to talk about or results to show. continue reading

We all know how and when this new stage of connectivity began, but few venture to predict how far it will go. To imagine that scenario, right now, must be the worst nightmare for the Plaza of the Revolution.

It is an irony that a large part of the internet surfers’ phone bills are paid by the emigrants who want to maintain contact with their families. Those who were criticized by the official discourse for not staying to build the utopia are now the main economic support of those who remained here. Popular humor has not missed the contradiction and portrays the exiles with a play on words: “De traidores a traedólares” – from traitors to dollar-bringers.

With the passing years the pressure has been growing from these Cubans all over the world, together with the pressure from within, to be able to access the web and maintain greater communications between both shores. In 2015, when the first wireless connection zones opened in Cuba’s plazas and parks, thousands of customers filled those spaces to chat, connect with relatives who have emigrated, and enjoy the vertigo of connectivity.

This image of collective euphoria contrasted with the first internet rooms that opened at the beginning of this century and offered services exclusively to tourists or foreigners living on the island. From one of those sites, located in emblematic Havana Capitol, in April of 2007 I published the first text in my blog Generation Y.

Wearing sandals and the astonished look of someone who had just landed on the island, with enough sunscreen to make the security guards believe I’d arrived from far off Europe, I mumbled some words in a mix of clumsy Spanish and harsh German which allowed me to buy my first card to sit in front on a state computer and upload the post of my baptism as a blogger.

Those were the years in which an army of cyber-combatants was created, ready to fill the comment sections of critical sites with revolutionary slogans, attack opponents using pseudonyms, and spread doubts about the morality of the dissidents, with the high level rage of a real “reputation assassination,” but this time without going through the courts or needing bullets: a blistering attack purely by tweets.

A figure who stood out in those moments of fierce ideological battle against new the technologies was the revolutionary commander Ramiro Valdés, who defined with harsh words the relationship of the historical generation with the new phenomena that arrived with cellphones, USB memories and the computers Cubans assembled from spare parts they bought on the black market.

The internet is a “wild colt” that “should and can be tamed,” said the feared soldier, when he served as Minister of Information Technology and Communications. That premise of confronting information technologies as an enemy and seeing digital spaces as a place to conquer dominated the government’s attitude to the network for more than a decade.

The pioneers of independent blogs were plagued by accusations that we were “cybermercenaries” trained by the US Central Intelligence Agency, and in the University of Information Sciences, Operation Truth was created to bring the influence of the official version to forums and virtual debates. National television presented us, the first Cuban tweeters, as the new outpost of the United States to attack the Revolution.

From that fierce battle for digital expression I came away with some personal and social scars.

Now I do not have to speak with a fake accent to connect to the Internet, but the official intolerance towards free expression has changed little and the work of independent reporters remains a central focus of the attacks of the political police. The “digital plaza,” that section of cyberspace made up especially by social networks where Cubans who can not meet physically express their political ideas, has helped us to narrate the reality of deep Cuba from all its diversity.

Access to 3G telephony has allowed many Cubans to use the Internet to ask for a No vote in the referendum on the new Constitution, to denounce Decree 349 – which restricts artistic expression – and to question the method by which Miguel Díaz-Canel was installed as president. But in parliament, public spaces and centers of power one still hears a single discourse.

Without his own political agenda, Díaz-Canel wanted to mark a difference, at least aesthetically and technologically, from his predecessors. The first man who does not have the surname Castro in the presidency of the country for more than half a century, he opened a Twitter account and has ordered all cabinet ministers to do the same. But the 58-year-old engineer, handpicked by Raúl Castro and the few remaining octogenarians of the historical generation, only use the networks to reaffirm the continuity of the political model, to repeat the official phraseology and to attack their ideological adversaries.

The new president uses the old discourse and the worn out oratory of the Castros in new clothes: HTML code. But despite that, his presence on the Internet can hardly help the oxidized lungs of a twentieth century revolution come alive, through breathing the oxygen of new technologies.

Young people who complain about the quality of the bread on the rationed market, dissidents who record a violent arrest, passengers of a bus that can’t provide service to a huge crowd bothered by the poor state of public transport, and the objections on Facebook walls to every word pronounced by the deputies of the National Assembly, are some of the phenomena that are being seen since the internet reached Cuban cellphones.

In fact, the cost of connectivity is passing a very negative bill to a government that has been unable to get on the bandwagon of modernity.

Activism will grow with connectivity, although opponents and independent journalists must continue circumventing the censorship. Greater access to the Internet will allow for the reconciling of positions and a coming together – at least digitally – in a country where the right to free association is restricted. But, above all, it will weaken control over information by a system that began by trying to change everything and that, today, fears any novelty that offers the slightest change.

Revolution is Disappointment

The 60th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution was celebrated in Santa Ifigenia cemetery, a few yards from the tomb of Fidel Castro, the large rock seen in the background of the photo. (Granma)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana | 9 January 2019 — As a gesture of profound symbolism, on January 1 the official ceremony to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the triumph of the Cuban Revolution was held in the cemetery of Santa Ifigenia in Santiago de Cuba. More than the birthday of a living thing, its defenders gathered around the cadaver of a process, the tomb of a utopia.

The official slogans commemorated that six decades ago the “bearded ones” came down from the Sierra Maestra and burst onto the national life, but this doesn’t mean that the country has been in a process of renewal this entire time. It remains a task for academics to determine the date on which the original purposes were betrayed, but in day-to-day life it is easy to see that the Revolution has become a cadaver.

Like an earthquake or a hurricane, the process that began in 1959 rumbled for a short time, but the consequences of that initial impulse have extended over time and determined the lives of millions of people. The winds generated devastated generations and molded the mentality of an entire people. Its repressive death throes have affected everyone with more intensity and gravity than the benefits of its so-called social “conquests.”

Its repressive death throes have affected everyone with more intensity and gravity than the benefits of its so-called social “conquests.”

Now, although the government insists on continuing to call the political, economic and social situation we have experienced the “Cuban Revolution,” any study of history can find notably differentiated periods in which the paradigms, purposes, and above all the timelines to fulfill the initial promise of a luminous future, have changed. The chronology of disappointment has more dates than the one that marks moments of satisfaction.

Now it is almost obligatory to prepare an accounting that contrasts the achievements and failures, above all to respond to the question whether so many sacrifices, deaths, loss of rights, exoduses and imprisonments are equal to what has been achieved, or – at least – what has been proclaimed as accomplishments. Was it worth it to turn a nation upside down, tear apart its economy and redefine it, and push millions of the children of this land into exile?

Throughout the first three decades, the expressly stated purpose of the process was to “build socialism” and specifically the system described in the manuals of the Soviet academy, from which it was not possible to deviate a millimeter under pain of incurring the grave the sin of revisionism. Those were the times of drawing the future in bright colors and demanding the absolute sacrifice of Cubans for the sake of that ideal.

When the system collapsed in Eastern Europe, the Island’s authorities rushed to add the possessive pronoun “our” to socialism, and from that point any transgression of the dogma was allowed. They reworked the project to fit into the new historic context and, with this work of putting make-up on it, betrayed their most orthodox followers. That was when the Revolution died for those who hadn’t yet buried it during the exodus of the Mariel Boatlift in 1980, Fidel Castro’s support for the Soviet tanks in Prague in 1968, or the massive executions by firing squad of the first years.

A dozen octogenarians, self-proclaimed as the historic generation begin to prepare their withdrawal

In the early nineties of the last century, and without an explanation based in Marxist theory, the religious of any denomination were invited to join the Communist Party; private businesses – which had been exterminated and demonized in the Revolutionary Offensive of 1968 – were permitted; and to top off the heresies, since there was no longer the “pipeline” of subsides coming from the Soviet Union, it was considered necessary and profitable to accept and promote foreign investments, obviously from capitalist countries.

The precepts of the trashy “egalitarianism” that had molded the social reality during the first steps of the process ran up against the reality of the rise of the new rich and the fact that the State could not guarantee a rationed market that could cover people’s needs, nor a system of material privileges to win loyalty. Money resumed its value as a medium of exchange, and to the extent that foreign tourism arrived on the island the dollar delineated the new face of daily life on the Island.

With enthusiasm exhausted and the illusion that the revolutionary process could offer a dignified life to every Cuban extinguished, only repression remained to maintain control. The conquests in public services, such as education and healthcare, also suffered a frank deterioration and today languish under the problems of infrastructure, excessive ideologicalization and large ethical gaps.

Nor is the original leader alive. The years of the permanent call to action and the perennial mobilization imposed by Fidel Castro have been left behind. His brother, Raul Castro, tried to impose pragmatism during his mandate, but barely managed to unlock some legal absurdities, for example allowing Cubans to travel, or to buy and sell their homes and cars. His successor, Miguel Diaz-Canel, can’t get past the discourse of continuity, even though he dresses in shirt sleeves and appears, for the first time in more than half a century, accompanied by a first lady.

Hence, the 60th anniversary is celebrated at a crucial moment. A dozen octogenarians, survivors of purges, heart attacks and accidents, self-proclaimed as the historical generation of the Revolution, begin to prepare their withdrawal and accept the inescapable reality that they need a relief player. The new wolves in the litter show their hands free of the blood and confiscations, as they swear allegiance and promise to sustain continuity at any price.

The permanent call to action and the perennial mobilization imposed by Fidel Castro have been left behind

At the moment, the most notorious and transcendent fact that leaves its mark on the sixtieth birthday is the new Constitution of the Republic. A list of articles that seeks to leave the system “well secured” against potential heirs who might want to dare to change something. It is the road map of immobility, the rigid and unappealable political testament of a process that once boasted of renovation and irreverence.

The text of the new Constitution has been promoted as a way to adapt the initial purposes of social justice to the new times imposed by the 21st century. However, it is clearly a set of regulations to tie the hands of any reformer who attempts to change course. It is not wings for the future but an anchor firmly sunk in the past, a dead weight labeled “revolutionary.”

In its articles are enshrined the “irrevocability of socialism” and the role of the Communist Party as society’s maximum leading force, a clear example of the conservative will – a negation of the revolutionary spirit– that has dominated the regime for a long time. It is the last gesture to try to control from the tomb of the Cuban Revolution the life that continues to flow out here. A corpse that seeks to regulate each step, each breath, as if the coffin of history could condition the future.

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This article was originally published in the Spanish newspaper El País.

The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Six Decades of an Unattainable Utopia

This 2019, the process that delighted millions of Cubans reaches six decades of existence, without resembling the dreams generated in its early days. (Archive)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 2 January 2018 – Ramón, an old man now, was a smooth-cheeked teenager when Fidel Castro entered Havana on January 1959. Soon after, he decided to become a militiaman to defend what many Cubans then proudly called “the Revolution.” Today, with a pension that does not exceed the equivalent of 23 dollars a month, the retiree lives on the money sent to him by his grandchildren, emigrated to the other side of the Straits of Florida, to that country to which Ramón pointed his rifle while standing guard in a military unit in the midst of the Cold War.

This 2019, the process that delighted millions of Cubans reaches six decades of existence, without resembling the dreams imagined by young people like Ramón and without having managed to provide a dignified and free life to those who stayed on the island. Now there are few who call the political model established after the arrival of the “bearded ones” to power “Revolution”; instead they prefer to say “the system” or simply “this” or “this thing.” Of the leaders dressed in olive green who came down from the Sierra Maestra, there are only a few octogenarians left and they fail to arouse admiration or respect in the vast majority of people. continue reading

Of the initial promises, among which there was talk of opportunities for all and of civil liberties, almost nothing has survived. In place of these spaces of individual and collective realization, Castroism has maintained a strict framework of vigilance and control, the most complete of its “achievements” and the most permanent of its “results.” As for social justice, there is not much to celebrate. Evident in the streets is the economic abyss that separates government leaders from pensioners, the black population and residents in rural areas. The new rich mark a distance from those who are becoming poorer.

On the other hand, in recent years the Havana regime has had to give ground to the laws of the market so strongly criticized in its slogans. A private sector of half a million workers has made clear the inefficiency of the state apparatus and is pushing the limits of the restrictions that still remain on entrepreneurship and creativity. After having confiscated even the most humble food stalls in that distant year of 1968, the Plaza of the Revolution is now selling off the Island piece by piece to foreign investors.

Nor is there much to show of the “jewels in the crown” of the process: public education and healthcare. The extension of both systems continues to reach every corner of the country, but the deterioration of the infrastructure, the low salaries of teachers and doctors, together with the excesses of ideology and ethical gaps have meant that the classrooms and hospitals do not resemble the dream of an educated people, well-cared for with regards to health, that once drew the applause of thousands of Cubans who gathered to listen to the marathon speeches of the Commander in Chief.

Now, when the official celebrations speak of the 60th birthday of this political and social process that few dare to describe as “revolutionary,” people like Ramón and his grandchildren are appraising what they did not achieve, the dreams they had to park along the way, and the dysfunctional and authoritarian system that derived from all that utopia.

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This text was originally published in the Deutsche Welle for Latin America.

The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

We the ‘Bastards’


14ymedio biggerIn fewer than 280 characters, the Cuban president has put in writing his formula of governance. Translation of tweet: As a family, we watched the movie “Innocence” by Alejandro Gil, a very painful chapter in our history. Let us never forget that just as heroes abound, there is no lack of bastards in #Cuba, which can be worse than the enemy that attacks it. Viva forever #CubaLibre! [Yoani: The part of this tweet that refers to “the bastards in #Cuba” is intolerable, illegal and much closer to fascism than I have read in a long time. The text should be deleted immediately, he should apologize, and a commit to not using this language in the future. Will he do it?]
14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 31 December 2018 — Miguel Díaz-Canel is receiving a hazing on Twitter. He arrived so late to this social network, in use for more than a decade by Cuban activists, that he is tripping over the primeval stones we ourselves discovered along the way. The first lesson is that everything one says on the network of the little blue bird does not remain only there, but multiplies and grows throughout the virtual community.

This Sunday, the Cuban president commented that he watched the movie Inocencia, based on the history of medical students shot by the colonial regime, and he added to his message the phrase, “just as heroes abound, there is no shortage of bastards* in Cuba.” In addition to the grammatical nonsense of the phrase, the “hand-picked” president put his verbs in the present tense, suggesting that there are still people, here and how, who should not have been born on the island. continue reading

Revolutionary bravado prevents him from erasing his tweet. Bad for him because the blunders are accumulating, and there are already several messages which transmit an idea of hatred, polarization and intolerance. Instead of endeavoring to make it known that he governs for all Cubans, the new tenant of the Plaza of the Revolution seems determined to please his predecessors. This tweet is not directed so much as an insult to us, the critics of the system, as to ingratiate himself with the historic generation of Castroism.

In fewer than 280 characters, the Cuban president has put in writing his formula of governance. He is not going to represent all of us, he tends neither to conciliation nor harmony, rather he intends to confront us, polarize us and add more labels to the wide repertoire of insults this system has generated. Now, we are no longer only “worms,” “mercenaries” and “enemies,” but the attack has reached into the past, to the time of our birth, to that instant in which we drew breath for the first time.

Poor Díaz-Canel, he does not know that the tweets remain and he just delivered a phrase that defines him in his just measure as extremist, fascist and dogmatic. If he had the least capacity for self-criticism, he would erase that message right now… but I suspect he will not do so.

Translator’s note: The original wording is “los mal nacidos por error,” which in a literal English translation would read: “the badly born by mistake.” In Spanish, however, it is very strong expletive, and so has raised a correspondingly strong response across social networks.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

The Nicaraguan Press in the Eye of the Hurricane

The repression against the press is occurring in the midst of a sociopolitical crisis that has resulted in between 552 and 558 “political prisoners” after demonstrations against Ortega. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 20 December 2018 — It wasn’t enough for them to extinguish social protests with blood and fire, nor to imprison hundreds of young people for exercising their right to protest. Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo needed to go further.

In December of this year, the Nicaraguan police assaulted the offices of the Confidential newspaper and of the television programs Esta Semana (This Week) and Esta Noche (Tonight), in an attempt to silence the chroniclers in a country where freedom of expression has been in serious danger for years. continue reading

Why this blow against the media? What is the point of lashing out against journalists and earning the unanimous rejection of the profession on an international level? In part, because there is nothing more uncomfortable for an authoritarian regime than the conscientious reporting of its excesses and timely information about its outrages against the population.

For tyrants, the reporter is public enemy number one in that he or she has the ability to put in writing those details of reality that the Government wants to sweep under the carpet and hide from the public eye. The reporter is the uncomfortable witness, willing to disseminate what some want never to be known.

Now, with this turn of the screw, Ortega has entered a new phase of repression. In this stage, his apparatus of control focuses on dismantling any vestige of independence that may remain in civil society.

This is why non-governmental organizations, civic groups and newspapers are at the center of his onslaught. Everything that can be useful to citizens to unite their efforts and keep abreast of what is happening will be eliminated or, at the very least, this is what the former guerrilla turned tyrant will attempt.

That is why the solidarity of other media and information professionals everywhere in the world, and especially in Latin America, is so important. To level the newsroom and take away the working tools of a newspaper is like gagging thousands of people in a single second, like closing hundreds of throats so they can not express themselves. In the pages of all the newspapers and on the broadcasts of all the television stations of this region of the world, we should mourn our Nicaraguan colleagues this week and also make felt our indignation about the dangerous step Ortega has taken.

But, above all, in every digital medium, printed newspaper, magazine or television channel we must remember that in the imperfect Latin American democracies – and even in the countries in this part of the world still under authoritarianism – the press has been an important pillar to give a voice to the people and narrate the excesses of the authorities. The fragile republics born after the wars of independence and the freedoms that were restored after the military dictatorships would have been much more ephemeral without the work of the professionals of the press.

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Note: This column was originally published in the Latin American edition of the Deutsche Welle chain.

The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

From Battle to Battle

Diaz-Canel continues to talk about the economy using bellicose language (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 18 December 2018 – Miguel Diaz-Canel has assured the National Assembly that “the fundamental battle of Cuba is the economic one.” A phrase that draws on that hackneyed military metaphor that has been abused so much in the Cuban official discourse of the last 60 years. His words are part of a strategy to address every aspect of reality as a struggle, a confrontation and an eternal contest, whether against the political enemy, a hurricane or, in this case, the economy.

What would happen if, instead of “playing the bully” all the time, Cuban officials saw production, the market and entrepreneurship as allies they could help, encourage and promote? What would we notice in our lives if they put aside the “weapons” of restrictions, abandoned the “trenches” of so many bureaucratic absurdities, and raised the “white flag,” publicly acknowledging that this system does not work?

The only war that is worth fighting in this case is the one that ends with the unconditional surrender of so many failed management methods that have led this Island to permanent bankruptcy, financial beggary and the mass escape of our children in search of horizons of prosperity in other latitudes. It is time to decree an economic “armistice,” a daily peace that allows us to find bread, travel in a train car, or access a newspaper – one that does not repeat slogans – to set aside this permanent fight, a bitter and exhausting contest.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Ventana 14

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, 10 December 2018 – This Monday, December 10, Human Rights Day, I have begun the transmission of Ventana 14 (Window 14) from Havana. Ventana 14 is a reporting space through the services of Facebook Live. My purpose is to comment on the news and the most important topics of each day, especially those issues that will also be touched on in the pages of the newspaper 14ymedio. It will be like a brief sip of coffee: intense and at times bitter, but necessary.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

And The Day Arrived…

There is no shortage of those who see the arrival of the Internet as a way of diverting attention from the serious problems that Cuba is going through. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 7 December 2018 – There is always room for pessimism, because it worms its way in from all sides. After six decades of unmet promises, many Cubans were skeptical about the coming of web navigation on mobile phones and, in part, they are right after so many years of delay at the hands of the Telecommunications Company of Cuba (Etecsa). It is normal that the enthusiasm has “cooled.”

One more “bucket of cold water” on the joy is the high prices the State telecommunications monopoly has imposed on its data packages which, as of Thursday, have been marketed to the cellular network’s customers. Paying between 25% and 100% of the average monthly salary for plans that cover between 600 megabytes and 4 gigabytes is too much.

On the other hand, there is no shortage of those who see the arrival of the Internet as a way of diverting attention from the serious problems that the country is currently facing, with a bankrupt economy, a private sector that is troubled by the regulatory measures that are going into effect on 7 December, and authorities unable to lay out a plan for the future, as if it’s not constrained by the rigid articles of a Constitution that have been cooked up by those “up there.” continue reading

However, even though all the pessimists and skeptics have good reason to be cautious about this new form of connectivity, it would be much more powerful and effective to assess the potential that is opening up before us as citizens. This is not a crumb that has been thrown at us, but the victory of a demand long yearned-for, one earned by our “sweat.”

More than a decade ago, when I opened my blog Generation Y, those of us who used the few cybercafes on the island, opened the first digital blogs and dared to create accounts on Twitter, were immediately labeled as “cybermercenaries.” Those were the days when the web was presented in the official press as a tool created by the CIA and Cuba’s outdated military called for “taming the wild colt of the Internet.”

On the other hand, from the opposition, we bloggers were seen as “kids” who had it easy because we wrote from our keyboards and were going to change the Island tweet by tweet, duped by the idea that with a phone in our hands we could stop the blows of the repressors or put the Plaza of the Revolution in check. Nor was there any lack of those who labeled us “agents of State Security” simply because they “let” us write on the web.

Time has passed and we have won. Now, without any self-criticism, most of the ministers have a Twitter account, president Miguel Diaz-Canel fills his timeline on the network of the little blue bird with slogans, and Etecsa, the technological arm of the repression, has had to open up mobile navigation services after several resounding failures and a flood of complaints from its customers.

All the dissidents I know have a cell phone, YouTube accounts have become an effective way to report human rights violations, and numerous independent media have emerged in the country with a journalistic quality and rigor that force the official press to report things ranging from an armed assault in a school to the ravages of dengue fever. The skeptics of yesteryear ended up joining the new technologies.

Now, although no doubt a good part of the money the inefficient Etecsa will raise with the navigation service will be used to buy uniforms for the police and to feed the officials who plan the surveillance of the opposition and activists, we will also win. There is no doubt. Because the step they have taken this December will have a much greater cost to them than all the dollars they might pocket.

In every corner of Cuba they are exposed, in every town there is someone with a phone connected to internet, fingers ready to report an injustice, denounce a corrupt official, through the reality that differs so much from that reported in the official media. People who will have access to another type of information, far beyond the boring pages of the official newspaper Granma.

I can imagine that, in a short time, some part of communications between Cubans will be traveling encrypted by the internet, chat forums will offer those rooms of debate that we lack in the physical world, and State Security will be forced to develop new techniques of surveillance, new methods to keep track of millions of Cubans in cyberspace.

The private economy will also benefit. Businesses, online purchases, home deliveries will be enhanced with this new service and even if they do not manage to rescue the country from the deep crisis it is in, it will probably ease the lives of thousands of families. Knowledge, distance-learning, and participation in forums will also come to our lives on a daily basis, little by little.

The process will be long, but we have started down a path and it depends on us if we want to see it as a trap, or if we start to explore it with the aim of taking advantage of it so that it brings us closer to freedom.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.