Twenty Independent Communicators to Consult in Cuba / Luis Felipe Rojas

ndependent Journalism. Illustration from "Another Waves" website

Independent Journalism. From “Another Waves”

Luis Felipe Rojas, 1 February 2016 — This list is not intended to be a “Top Ten,” as is so common on internet publications. The list of names that follows carries the history of the men and women who believe in words and images as a tool of liberation.

The independent journalists that appear below do their work in Cuba under the microscope of the apparatus of repression that we know as State Security.

Most of them suffer arbitrary arrests, they have spent long years in prison, they are violently detained, vilified and — paradoxically — are non-persons in government media. In the case of Jorge Olivera Castillo, he was sentenced to 18 years in prison in the “2003 Black Spring,” but he continues, unrepentant, to do alternative journalism. Continue reading

Hollande And Castro: Plenty of Wine But No Democracy / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

François Hollande and Raul Castro at the Palace of the Revolution in Havana, during the visit of French President to Cuba in May 2015. (EFE)

François Hollande and Raul Castro at the Palace of the Revolution in Havana, during the visit of French President to Cuba in May 2015. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Washington, 1 February 2015 — Iranian President Hassan Rouhani cancelled his lunch with François Hollande because the latter didn’t want to take the wine off the table. Tonight, however, the French leader will not ask Raul Castro about the issue of human rights violations in Cuba, to avoid annoying his visitor. A gesture that will affect the image of France much more than having dispensed with a glass of red.

Facing the leader of a powerful nation with a controversial nuclear program, the authorities did not want to deprive themselves of one of the symbols of their identity. But facing the General who permits no opposition nor independent press in his country, the hosts lower the tone of democratic requirements, similar to Rome’s covering the nakedness of his its statues to please Rouhani. Continue reading

The Cuban Railroad Died / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Railroad in Cuba. (EFE)

Railroad in Cuba. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, 29 January 2016 – My father is a train engineer. It has been decades since he drove a train, long years in which he hasn’t sounded the whistle of a locomotive while passing through a village with children running alongside the line. However, this still agile retiree originally from Matanzas still marks the 29th of January on the calendar and says “it is my day.” The day still smells of iron braking on iron, and has the rush of the platform, where some leave and others say goodbye. Continue reading

Sean Penn: Spokesman For Drug Lords And Generals / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Sean Penn and Raul Castro during the interview held in 2008, brokered by Hugo Chavez

Sean Penn and Raul Castro during the interview held in 2008, brokered by Hugo Chavez

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, 25 January 2016 — They say they talked for seven hours, sharing cups of tea and glasses of wine. On one side was the American actor Sean Penn, staunch critic of the system he lives under, and on the other side, Raul Castro, newly appointed president of a country where just a few people have shaped the political course for almost six decades.

The prominent artist came from a Hollywood that disgusted him and a nation where anyone can yell at the government until they’re blue in the face. The general, almost an octogenarian at the time, had seen and approved the downfall of many intellectuals simply for looking askance at power.

Raul Castro must have looked with suspicion and cunning on this wealthy tantrum-throwing progressive. Unable to read aloud without committing innumerable errors, typical of people with few books and many orders, the former Minister of the Armed Forces in Cuba knows that behind every artist hides a critic of totalitarianism who must be neutralized and silenced, or at least an attempt must be made to buy them off. Continue reading

Hay Festival Suspends Its Event In Havana / 14ymedio, Yaiza Santos

Wendy Guerra was among Cubans excluded from the Havana Hay Festival as reported by artists in exile. (Casa de America)

Wendy Guerra was among Cubans excluded from the Havana Hay Festival as reported by artists in exile. (Casa de America)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yaiza Santos, Mexico, 21 January 2016 – For now, Cuba will not celebrate the Hay Festival planned for this coming week in Havana, as confirmed by the event organizers. The Hay Festival originated in the Welsh town of Hay-on-Wye in 1988, and since 1996 has been celebrated in several foreign cities, among them Kells (Ireland), happening now, Segovia (Spain), Mexico City, Arequipa (Peru) and Cartagena de Indias (Colombia).

The news that the Cuban capital would host a Hay Festival event as a part of the Hay Festival in Cartagena was announce in the first week of December, along with the controversy that accompanied that announcement. According to complaints from artists in exile, the festival organizers had proposed names of Cuban authors, among them Wendy Guera, Ena Lucia Portela and Yoani Sanchez, but “the pressure on the organizers from the Ministry of Culture finally forced them to not be included in the program.” Another source said that the organization simply accepted “an official list” that was presented to them. Continue reading

The Internet Balloon Deflates in Cuba / Yoani Sanchez

Photo: El Nuevo Herald

Photo: El Nuevo Herald

Yoani Sanchez, El Nuevo Herald, 10 January 2016 – She raises the phone and holds it in front of her eyes. A tear rolls down her cheek while her son tells her, in a video call, that early mornings on the border “aren’t that cold” and he has “a mattress to sleep on.” Thousands of immigrant Cubans, stranded in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, are in contact with their families thanks to technology. Screens and keyboards bring close what geography separates.

The beginning of the thaw between Cuba and the United States aroused expectations of economic improvements and political changes on the island. Along with these illusions, there was growing hope of better access to the internet. While some marked the date of 17 December 2014 as the end of a diplomatic confrontation, the youngest identified it with a flood of kilobytes just off the horizon. Continue reading

Venezuela Wins, Intolerance Loses / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Opposition lawmaker Henry Ramos Allup is the new president of the Venezuelan National Assembly. (MUD)

Opposition lawmaker Henry Ramos Allup is the new president of the Venezuelan National Assembly. (MUD)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 6 January 2016 – If Hugo Chavez were alive and Fidel Castro active, the Venezuelan opposition would not have taken over the National Assembly. The comandantes knew that if they accepted an opposition majority in this body of power it would spell their political end. The Cuban leader eradicated the multi-party system in order to prevent something like this, while Chavez, leader of a military coup, shielded the electoral system and bought loyalty with oil.

However, the worst nightmare of both just took shape in Caracas. This Tuesday the deputies from the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) became aware of their overwhelming minority given their small number of legislative seats. In a place where they can no longer even see the image of the “eternal president,” Chavez’s followers received a democratic slap in the face. Continue reading

The One-sided Paralysis of the Cuban Press / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Television remains under a strict monopoly of the Communist Party to sustain a biased editorial line does not represent the national complexity.

Television remains under a strict monopoly of the Communist Party to sustain a biased editorial line does not represent the national complexity.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, 6 January 2015 – Sometimes I wish I lived in the country they show on television. This hopeful nation of rose-colored dreams presented by the official press. A place of props and slogans, where factory production exceeds goals and employees are declared “workplace heroes.” In this Cuba, bouncing off the antennas to reach our small screens, there is no room for sickness, pain, frustration or impatience.

The official Cuban press has tried to approach the country’s reality in recent years. Several young faces appear on TV programs to report on administrative negligence, poor services, or consumer complaints about bureaucratic paperwork. But even still, state journalism continues to be a long way from objectivity and respect for the truth. Continue reading

The Deadly Kiss of Price Controls / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

The official press blames private producers for the high prices of many foods. (14ymedio)

The official press blames private producers for the high prices of many foods. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 4 January 2016 — I was ten years old when Fidel Castro launched the economic battle he called the “Rectification of errors and negative tendencies.” The Maximum Leader’s rage fell, at that time, on private farmers and on the intermediaries who marketed their products. Cuatro Caminos Plaza in Havana, then known as the Single Market, was assaulted by officials and after that raid several foods disappeared from our lives: onions, garbanzo beans, chili peppers and even taro.

Almost a decade later, when the country had reached bottom with food shortages and scarcities, the government again authorized non-state food markets. The first time I approached a stand and bought a string of garlic, without having to practice stealth, I recovered a part of my life that had been snatched from me. For years we had to appeal to the illegal market, to a precarious clandestinity, to get things ranging from a pound of beans to the cumin seeds needed to season them. Continue reading

Beans, ah, the beans! / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Beans are an effective indicator to calculate the cost of living in Cuba. (DC)

Beans are an effective indicator to calculate the cost of living in Cuba. (DC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, 31 December 2015 – Tiny and tasty, they seem to look at us from the plate and mock the work it takes to get them. Beans are not only a part of our traditional cuisine, they constitute an effective indicator to calculate the cost of living in Cuba. The price increases these delicious little bits have experienced in the past year is proof of the disastrous economic policy promoted by Raul Castro.

When, in February of 2008, the former Minister of the Armed Forces assumed the presidency of the country, many were betting on the pragmatic character of his mandate. His sympathizers never stopped reminding us of the phrase in which he asserted, “Beans are more important than canons.” They predicted that our national agriculture would work like certain farms managed by the Ministry of the Armed Forces and the Youth Labor Army. Continue reading

Neither McDonald’s, nor Freedom / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

In response to the measures taken by Barack Obama’s administration, the Plaza of the Revolution has not taken the necessary steps so that they might effect the daily lives of the island’s people. (EFE)

In response to the measures taken by Barack Obama’s administration, the Plaza of the Revolution has not taken the necessary steps so that they might effect the daily lives of the island’s people. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 15 December 2015 — A year ago, at noon on 17 December, the national clock was restarted and we became a country filling the headlines and people’s expectations. With the reestablishment of relations between the governments of Cuba and the United States, our island became fashionable among political scientists, Hollywood actors and soothsayers. The year 2015 promised to a be a year of economic boom times and of openings, but twelve months later actual events fall far short of the dreams.

It is true, we have been saturated with photo ops, flags hoisted, press conferences to explain that the road will be long and complicated. For months, Cubans have been charged with hopes, but now it the time to look at the results. It is not enough for the officials of both countries – enemies until yesterday – to now shake hands in front of the cameras, smile and call themselves allies on issues such as the fight against drug trafficking, piracy, or the protection of sharks. So many diplomatic gestures should have improved the lives of Cubans. Continue reading

The Marriage Between Venezuela and Chavismo Failed / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (EFE)

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (EFE)

14ymedio biggerGeneration Y, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 7 December 2015 — This time neither deception nor fear worked. Like a woman long threatened by an abusive husband, Venezuela has slammed the door on Chavismo and done so with determination. From now on, governing will be an ordeal for Nicolas Maduro. With a party at an absolute disadvantage in parliament, Hugo Chavez’s successor can only impose his presidential will by violating his own laws.

The people, the same people that the president of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) invoked from the platform to justify his misdeeds, has said no to 21st Century Socialism and the national project promoted by the ruling party. A flat refusal against a political force under whose management the South American nation has been plunged into insecurity, shortages, corruption and unsustainable polarization.

People are fed up. Tired of so much tense discourse, of fear in the streets, of the constant emigration of the young and of the instability that gnaws at everything and that in the last year has gotten worse. The voters also used their votes to penalize a party that hasn’t known how to govern for everyone, but only for a part of society, which has systematically railed against those who think differently.

With the tool of the polls in their hands, Venezuelans have pushed change in a peaceful way, without stepping into the trap of violence or engaging in an armed revolution. Maduro has reaped, thus, the fruits of his mismanagement. His declarations prior to the elections, among which was the threat of fight from the streets if his party was defeated, only to the determination of a social decision that was already made. With his words, he finished digging the grave of his own executive office.

Because there is a moment when the abused realizes that the abuser is just another frail human being, someone who can be defeated. That moment arrived for the Venezuelan people this December 6, as they demonstrated with their votes that Chavismo is neither eternal nor popular. What happened confirms the loss of the fear with which a 17-year authoritarianism had permeated the country, the sick relationship of dependency and dread with which it wanted to keep its citizens paralyzed.

The election results also go against the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana. In the dark intricacies of that power that has spent more than five decades without calling elections, the figure of Hugo Chavez was molded, and it tried to do the same with Nicolas Maduro. But the move backfired because it came up against a population that reacted, an opposition that knew how to unite despite its differences, and an international community that closed ranks in criticism of the methods of the PSUV.

The axis financed from Miraflores and symbolized by the political bravado of Chavez and the mediocre arrogance of the current president, is beginning to disarm. Venezuela already sees the way out and is dragging behind itself an island that still does not dare to stop the blows of an abusive government, to close the door and leave it outside the national future.

Armando Capó: “I Can Not Understand The Amnesia Induced In A Whole Nation” / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Armando Capó, Cuban film director. (File photo creator)

Armando Capó, Cuban film director. (File photo creator)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 1 December 2015 — The most recent project of the young filmmaker Armando Capó is to bring to the screen the Rafter Crisis of 1994. This director, born in Gibara (Holguin) in 1979, has long felt that this dramatic movement in our national life has not been publically addressed. Now, he wants to join these images he carries with him from that time and film “August,” a movie to experience the memories.

In the midst of a crowdfunding campaign to bring his project to the big screen, Capó spoke with 14ymedio via email from the San Antonio de Banos International Film School.

This guajirito remembers when he met Marisol Rodriguez, Jorge Luis Sanchez and Dean Luis Reyes at the Gibara Poor Cinema Festival, and they invited him to the third Festival of New Filmmakers in Havana. “They showed us Suite Habana and to me, it gave me an attack and I asked myself why I wasn’t doing what I really wanted or wasn’t trying,” he said. Shortly after, he moved to the capital to continue studying. Continue reading