Drivel and Anniversaries: Cuban Television is a Wreck / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Cuban TV prime time news

Cuban TV prime time news

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 29 July 2015 — Twenty minutes after the start of the news, the only things they had announced were the anniversaries of historic events and obituaries. As if nothing has happened in the country now. For the evening prime time news, the world stopped fifty years ago and remains only something to remember and honor. Even the weather has mothballs. A “good night” concludes the broadcast and we viewers hold out unfounded hope for what could be the best part of the line-up. But nothing.

Cuban television is experiencing one of its worst moments. Programming oscillates between the stiffness of ideology and American programming taken without any regard for copyright. So, we go from a tearful documentary about the birth of Hugo Chavez, to the intrigue of the series Castle, where a murderer manages to escape at the last second. One channel re-broadcasts Machado Ventura’s soporific 26th of July speech, and on another some kids learn to cook recipes that could never be made in Cuba because of the lack of ingredients. Continue reading

The Revolutionary Mass is Held at Dawn / 14ymedio, 26 July 2015

The official ceremony to commemorate the assault on the Moncada Garrison was celebrated at dawn. (EFE)

The official ceremony to commemorate the assault on the Moncada Garrison was celebrated at dawn. (EFE)

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 26 July 2015 — The liturgy does not change. The anniversary event for the Day of National Rebellion took place this Sunday in front of the Moncada Barracks. A script where each detail is repeated year after year, like a rite empty of emotion and surprises. The only novelty on this occasion has been the hour chosen for the start. At 5:12 in the morning National TV began the broadcast of the event from a plaza in darkness with an orator yawning in the dawn.

The second secretary of the Communist Party, Jose Ramon Ventura, was charged with the annual speech for the 26th of July. Any study of the television audience would reveal that the only viewers of the small screen at this hour were the insomniacs looking for something to entertain them and the journalists chasing headlines. Both nocturnal creatures ended up disappointed. There was no entertainment nor news. Continue reading

Cult of Personality in Cuban Parliament / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

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The cover of the book “Raul Castro: A Man in Revolution ‘Nikolai Leonov.

14ymedio biggerGeneration Y, Yoani Sanchez, 15 July 2015 — The cult of personality has a thousand ways of showing itself. From the face that stares out from every schoolroom wall, to the flattery with which the government journalists refer to certain officials. It would seem, however, that the times of greatest excess in the veneration of a figure had been left behind, to the extent that the memory of Fidel Castro has languished since his forced retirement. However, the pernicious practice continues here, with its exaggeration and ridiculousness.

On Tuesday, the entire National Assembly of People’s Power dedicated itself to the presentation of the book Raul Castro: A Man in Revolution, written by the Russian Nikolai Leonov. A special session of the Parliament had as its sole purpose to attend the launch of this volume, published by Capital San Luis, and with more than 80 biographical photos, some of them previously unpublished.

Out of modesty, or because he had to lead the 11th Plenum of the Cuban Communist Party Central Committee, Raul Castro did not attend the presentation, but this does not detract from the gesture’s devotional character. This was compounded by the use of parliamentarians for purposes not included in their functions. How much did it cost for those deputies who had travel to the Palace of Conventions? With so many problems facing the country, which affect millions of people, how could a day of “the official organ of State power” be squandered to sing the praises of a single man?

Situations like yesterday are proof that the pernicious cult of personality remains intact among us, fostered by those who idolize a few and those who swell with vanity at the flattery.

Tsipras’ “Betrayal” / Yoani Sanchez

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, during an interview with state television. (Alexandros Vlachos / EFE)

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, during an interview with state television. (Alexandros Vlachos / EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, 14 July 2015 — A week ago he was a hero lauded by the official Cuban media, today he is a political corpse many fear to mention. Alexis Tsipras negotiated and lost. Sanity has been imposed over his his initial bravado, and the pact he is about to accept has turned him into a traitor to his own politics. The critical voices within his party are already being heard about the agreement he has closed with the Eurozone, and Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution is keeping an embarrassed silence.

A third rescue, which will be around 86 billion euros, has been approved to pull Greece out of the quagmire. The money will come accompanied by conditions that force the Greek government to raise taxes, cut pensions and engage in privatizations. Far from that intransigent posture of the man who was congratulated by Fidel Castro, “for his brilliant political victory,” in the recent referendum. Continue reading

Carnival Cruise Lines, A Paradigm of Our Times / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

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A cruise ship from the American company Carnival Cruise Lines (Carnival)

14ymedio biggerGeneration Y, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 9 July 2015 – There are several ways to react when faced with another person’s affluence. One of them is the one taught to us by the Castro regime from the time we were little, and that is based on anger and stigmatizing the prosperous. A Robin Hood-like intransigence, the point of which is to snatch from the other person the “excess” or whatever he “has too much of.” This animosity toward anyone who makes progress, accumulates property, or enjoys certain material comforts, has ended up becoming an inseparable component of our idiosyncrasy, although the times seem to be changing.

“I am never going to go on a cruise, but the more they come… the more we gain,” a retired man said yesterday, chewing tobacco and wearing a shirt so worn out his skin showed through. The official news just announced that the US company Carnival Cruise Lines received authorization from Washington to travel to Cuba, and the gentleman was expressing his own opinion about the luxuries enjoyed by others. This symbol of a capitalism of pleasures, fun and wastefulness is about to dock in Havana and it is noteworthy that officialdom will receive it not with shouts or slogans, but rather will welcome it. Continue reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Fall of the Embassy Wall / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

The "Anti-imperialist Tribune" has tried for decades to cover the facade of the country now called to be a friend. (AFP / File)

The “Anti-imperialist Tribune” has tried for decades to cover the facade of the country now called to be a friend. (AFP / File)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Madrid, 2 July 2015 – In a few days they will change the letterhead, replace the name plaque, and hoist the flag. This building with its green-tinted windows by the sea will cease to be called the Untied States Interests Section and become the United States Embassy in Havana. A transformation that transcends the question of a name, one with political, symbolic and even linguistic connotations.

The date chosen for the reopening, between the United States’ Independence Day and the anniversary of the assault on the Moncada Barracks, will enter the history books and mark a new anniversary to remember. However, only practice will have the last word on how the site will transform or expand its functions. For now, the questions are many. Continue reading

Emigrating in the Third Age / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

An old man. (Silvia Corbelle)

An old man. (Silvia Corbelle)

14ymedio biggerGeneration Y, Yoani Sanchez, 23 June 2015 – The building where I live is like a diminutive Cuba, where the larger country appears represented with its vicissitudes and hopes. Fourteen stories that at times offer a biopsy of reality or a representative fragment of life outside. For years, the emigration of young people has marked the life of this ugly concrete block, constructed 30 years ago by some optimistic microbrigadistas* in order to put a roof over their children’s heads. The majority of these children, now men and women, do not live on the island today. However, the exodus has also spread to a worrying extent among those of the third age.

A few weeks ago in the hallway I stumbled upon a neighbor whose children left some time ago for the country to the north. Between postcards at Christmas, visits every now and then and nostalgia, the family has tried to overcome separation and the pain of absence. The man of the family, now retired and almost 70, commented to me that he was selling his apartment. “I’m leaving,” he said, smiling from ear to ear. Another retiree who overheard, spat out derisively, “You’re nuts! Why are you leaving if all that’s left to you are ‘two shaves,’?” alluding to the possible brevity of the existence ahead of him. Continue reading

The Landscape Before the Storm / Yoani Sanchez

The headquarters of the State phone company ETECSA in Havana. (14ymedio)

The headquarters of the State phone company ETECSA in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, 15 June 2015 – Before the downpour there is a scent that crosses the city. It is the premonition of water, the anticipation of the cloudburst. The birds fly to their nests and the most cautious seek a doorway where they can shelter until the rain passes. This impression of something approaching is being felt lately about a possible opening of Internet connectivity for all Cubans. There is nothing concrete to point to confirm our massive entry into cyberspace, but the gusts of impatience can be felt in the air.

The topic of the web of networks has reached significant prominence in the official discourse of the last half year. Barack Obama’s administration had to “make a move” to wake up the bureaucrats in the Ministry of Information and Communications, who are trained to go on the defensive. With the January 16th implementation of a package of flexibility measures, outstanding among them links to the sector of new technologies and connectivity, the White House has set more than one person scuttling on this island. Continue reading

One Year and Already Walking with Solid Steps

Rebeca Monzo, 22 May 2015 — A little over a year ago our friends Reinaldo and Yoani came for a visit to tell us that, finally, the long-cherished dream of starting an independent newspaper was about to be realized and to ask us if we would be interested in contributing articles.

Why such an unusual name for a newspaper? I’ll tell you: The number fourteen refers to the floor on which they live, Y stands for Yoani, who came up with the idea, and medio is a reference to communication media.*

We, along with others, enthusiastically began making our modest contribution and the dream quickly came true. On May 21, 2014 the first issue of the digital daily 14ymedio was published.

Yesterday, we all gathered at the newspaper’s headquarters: the founders, the staff and the contributors. We had a delightful evening of conversations and discussions in which the main course consisted of new suggestions and ideas to further improve 14ymedio.com.

HAPPY FIRST ANNIVERSARY!

*Translator’s note: The title is a play on words. In Spanish, 14 y medio literally means fourteen and a half. The word medio can mean either half of something or medium, as in the medium of television.

The Sovereignty of the Internaut / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

A man surfing on the Internet. (CC)

A man surfing on the Internet. (CC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 8 June 2015 – I searched the screen fruitlessly for those faces I know so well. In every report on TV about the International Conference on New Scenarios of Political Communication in the Digital Realm, I scanned the guests to identify geeks, computer scientists, bloggers, tweeters and other “creatures” linked to the use of new technologies in Cuba. Instead of them, my gaze fell on notorious bureaucrats, official journalists, cyber-censors and ministry officials.

On the street, popular humor did not ignore the event that took place in the Palace of Conventions with guests from more than 34 countries. People attributed the constant crashes on the state phone company’s Nauta mobile email service, that began on Friday, to the “WiFi network of ‘that conference’… stealing the bandwidth.” Those who know the many tricks perpetrated in other sectors to display a lovely showcase for foreign participants, didn’t find it funny. Continue reading

Art and Necessity / Yoani Sanchez

Installation on the Havana Malecon for the XII Havana Biennial

Installation on the Havana Malecon for the XII Havana Biennial(14ymedio)

The man approaches and pulls a fork from the work Delicatessen that is being exhibited on the Havana Malecon during the XII Havana Biennial. Nearby, two neighbors speculate that, at the end of the event, the sand used in Resaca (Hangover) will be given to the surrounding residents to repair their homes. To art appreciation are added hardships and daring, incorporating the spectators into a show they want to make their own, by taking it home and reusing it. Continue reading