Cuba, The Rope Tightens as November 15 Approaches

Military vehicles on the streets of Havana this week. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 14 October 2021 — They are dressed in civilian clothes and pretend to wait for the bus or to converse on a street corner, but everyone knows that they are segurosos, the popular word applied to agents of the dreaded political police. Their presence has increased in Cuba’s streets since the popular protests of July 11 and is expected to grow even more, as November 15 approaches, the date chosen by the activists platform Archipiélago to carry out a peaceful march.

Using current legislation to their advantage, several young people submitted requests to local authorities — in at least six provinces — to demonstrate on November 20. Those who wrote the text appealed to the guarantees provided by the Constitution to respect the rights of assembly, demonstration and association. In addition, they asked the authorities to order that the country’s security forces provide the protesters with “due protection.” That letter was like stirring up the hornet’s nest.

Immediately, the official spokespeople began to call the organizers of the march “mercenaries of the empire,” some of them have been threatened by State Security, their mobile phone services cut off, and their homes put under surveillance. All the bullets of the assassination of reputation and the pressure on their closest relatives have fallen on these young people to advise them not to continue with such efforts.

A few days after the missive was delivered, the ruling party pulled out of its sleeve the announcement that a national military exercise continue reading

was going to be held on the proposed date of the demonstrations, in clear response to the activists’ request. But they were not intimidated and brought the call to march forward to November 15, and submitted the documents to the local leaders again. This Tuesday, the government’s response has been categorical: it considers the initiative to be “illegal” and calls it a “provocation for regime change.”

In this way, officialdom acts with no surprises, but it is also committed to a dangerous position. The Plaza of the Revolution has chosen not to allow even a millimeter of public dissent, it wants to extend for more time these 62 years without legal marches of citizen disagreement, without workers who can take to the streets demanding better wages, or political opponents who show in a plaza their criticism of the Executive. Castroism has decided to continue showing itself unbreakable.

However, a Japanese proverb says that “the bamboo that bends is stronger than the oak that resists.” Not giving in, not choosing to permit the march and locking oneself into intransigence can be one of the gravest mistakes leaders make in the system’s death throes. After the demonstration of popular exhaustion that Cubans staged in the summer, choosing the heavy hand and repression is like shooting oneself in the foot. They could be accelerating their downfall and, in the worst case, leading the country into civil war. In a nutshell, they don’t know what they’re doing.

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This text was originally published on the Deutsche Welle website for Latin America.
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Cuba: The Island Flees Inside a Suitcase

Every day many Cubans make the decision to leave; they get on a plane without looking back. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Havana, 3 October 2021 — In a drawer I keep a box with photos that I avoid looking at. They are images filled with the faces that have left, hundreds of friends, colleagues and relatives who no longer inhabit this Island. The escape of athletes, artists, rafters or officials accelerates as the country sinks. Right now, we live in times of a resounding crash and constant goodbyes.

The flight of 11 Cuban baseball players during the U23 World Baseball Championship in the Mexican state of Sonora, has been the most recent chapter of this bleeding, but every day many others make the decision to leave, they get on a plane without looking back, go through the jungle or cross the sea. They are expressing with their feet what they dare not say out loud: the system is a failure and the country is unlivable.

The final destination can be anywhere. Yesterday a friend announced that she is going to Iceland, another island that she only knows is “far from Cuba and they are not building socialism.” The neighbor on the corner tore up his Communist Party card and now works for a cleaning crew in Miami; meanwhile a childhood friend is organizing a marriage of convenience to emigrate to Italy.

Some regret having waited so long. “My sister warned me continue reading

and I thought this was going to improve, but it goes backwards like the crab,” the clerk at a nearby agricultural market tells me. “I’d rather start from scratch anywhere than spend the rest of my life here,” she says. Two customers who down a glass of juice nod their heads after listening to her.

All those who come to the conclusion that “you have to go out and get out now” have that look of absolute resolution that is seen in the turning points of life. I have noticed this harshness in widows, in families who have lost everything after a fire and even in prisoners sentenced to long sentences. It is as if after having been stripped of everything, they understand that they have one last power left: the power over their bodies.

And this faculty of deciding to distance yourself — physically or mentally — from what hurts and angers, is what the thousands of Cubans who emigrate every year are exercising. Neither the triumphant headlines in the official press, nor the slogan-lit school assemblies each morning, nor the promises of a “prosperous and sustainable” model just around the corner deter them. They are fed up.

At the beginning, Cuba officialdom justified their escapes by labeling those who went into exile as bourgeoisie after their properties, industries and businesses had been confiscated. Later, they were called “escorias” – slag, dregs, scum – because they were the disposable by-products of the “foundry of the New Man.” Even today, they are described as weak people before “the siren songs of capitalism.”

Skillfully, Castroism has also used emigration as a valve to release social pressure. It is no coincidence that the great Cuban migratory waves, such as the departure from the Port of Mariel in 1980 or the Rafter Crisis in the summer of 1994 have been preceded by serious economic hardships and an increase in citizen discontent. The popular protests of July 11 have also been played their part in the stampede and we are already living it.

The shame that practically half of a sports delegation escapes from a competition is something that is not cleaned up with the hefty dollars in remittances sent later by the emigrants. The phenomenon only occurs in countries-prisons in the style of the communist bloc of Eastern Europe, the dynastic dictatorship of the Kims in North Korea, in Belarus … and on this Island. We are on the list of nations that feel like bars; of systems that are experienced like cages.

We expect months of saying goodbye every day, because they will not be able to put a policeman next to every Cuban who travels in an official delegation. The leaks may also touch the highest levels of power, because rats leave the ship when it sinks, not because they are “rats,” but because they are smart. They feel that it is only a matter of time before this empty shell of the system is buried by the waters of change.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Diaz-Canel Went to Mexico for Wool and Returned Shorn

In the spacious hall full of presidents, the veneer of a democratic ruler with which the Mexican executive tried to paint Díaz-Canel did not last long. (Granma)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Havana, 20 September 2021 — Everything seemed to be going according to the script drawn up in Havana. Miguel Díaz-Canel had been received with all the honors by the Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, and the accolade was to be completed with the relaunch of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Celac). But shortly before the official visit ended, something went awry.

In the large room full of leaders, the veneer of a democratic ruler with which the Mexican executive hastily tried to paint Díaz-Canel did not last long. It was enough for the Uruguayan president, Luis Lacalle Pou, to express his concern that in Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua “there is no full democracy,” for the First Secretary of the Cuban Communist Party to shed the character he was trying to present.

Not used to another person, microphone in hand, questioning him, the engineer – for whom no one voted at the polls – deployed his rusty rhetoric. Instead of accepting the criticism, announcing that what happened on July 11 opened a path of inescapable and urgent democratic change, or taking advantage of the moment to announce an amnesty for political prisoners, he preferred to appeal to the pitiful discourse of blaming others for the lack of freedoms on the Island.

He missed another opportunity.

It is worth remembering that the person who challenged him is not someone continue reading

far from the Cuban drama. In recent years, thousands of Cubans have gone to Uruguay fleeing the poverty and repression on the island. Many have continued to other nations, but others have stayed and settled in that southern country. Lacalle Pou knows very well the drama that these “common rafters” carry on their shoulders. He has every right to question the reasons that led them to flee.

So the Uruguayan asked to speak again and, in a brief but historic intervention, put his finger in the authoritarian wound. He quoted some verses* from the song Patria y Vida to the man who has fined and imprisoned thousands of Cubans who have hummed what has now become the soundtrack of freedom. It was the punch that ended up deflating the false “good mood” of the entire visit to Mexico.

Furious, decomposed and stammering, Díaz-Canel took the floor and responded. It would have been better to keep silent but tyrants have some well-marked weaknesses, one being that they do not know how to remain silent and they feel it’s a defeat if the opponent has the last word. They sin by wanting to crush the other with their words, when they cannot lock him up in jail.

Arrogant and annoyed, it occurred to him to accuse Lacalle Pou of bad musical taste and insisted that the song was a “construction among some artists against the Cuban Revolution,” without realizing that he was just confirming what the Uruguayan had denounced: that a clan self-designated as the sole voice of Cuba arrogates to itself the right to say what the homeland is and what is not, who can claim it and who can only be condemned to be gagged.

And so ended what could be Díaz-Canel’s last trip to an international event. Wounded in his pride, stripped naked in public like the Castro’s clumsy apprentice tyrant, those last few feet on the way to the plane must have been hell. As much as López Obrador and his chancellor tried to clean up his image, it was clear that in Latin America the Plaza of the Revolution is becoming less convincing with its discourse and is increasingly rejected for its human rights violations.

The same week that they lost old Europe, after the forceful vote condemning the repression of the July protests that took place in the European Parliament, the Cuban ruler is eating the dust of ridicule in Mexico. On the island, despite attempts to censor part of the skirmish with Lacalle Pou, the video of the latter “singing the truth to him” has quickly gone viral.

The clever old olive-green foxes of Havana have taken notice. His straw puppet falls apart, he is unpresentable, it is a danger to leave him at the mercy of international microphones and within the reach of any political figure who may question him. He no longer serves them for that.

We will have to be attentive to whether Díaz-Canel goes to New York to attend the next session of the United Nations General Assembly. The probable absence of the Cuban president will prove that his trip to Mexico was a “trial balloon” that confirmed the rejection of him in world forums.

López Obrador will also have drawn some conclusions and, although he seems willing to open his wallet and delay the long end of Castroism with his support, he must have realized that whoever hangs out with dictators ends up getting dirty. This Saturday, part of Díaz-Canel’s filth also rubbed off on the Mexican ruler.

*Translator’s note: The verse quoted (in English translation) was:

No longer shall flow the blood
Of those who dare to think differently
Who told you Cuba is yours?
Indeed, Cuba is for all my people

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

The Smell of Metal on Metal, Life Has the Aroma of Pig Iron

The railroad in Cuba ended up collapsing, the locomotive of our lives remained still. (Archive / TV)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Generation Y, Havana, 18 September 2021 – I was stopping the train. This is not a metaphor. I would arrive at the platform with my mother and sister in the middle of the morning. The station and switchboard workers told us there were no longer scheduled departures. This was true for others, but we were not ordinary mortals: my father drove the locomotive, guided the iron serpent that would end up slavishly braking before our feet.

I was the daughter of a hero. He did not carry a shotgun, but rather drove the metal monster that populated every child’s fantasy. The difference is that I had him at home, I didn’t need to fantasize. They dreamed of an engineer, I lived with one every day: his long and agonizing days without getting home, the celebration of his return, and the fear that a bad crossing would end his life.

There is nobody on a platform at four in the morning. Just you and the belief that someone is going to pick you up. But we had no doubts. Whatever happens, no matter what they say… shortly, a snorting monster will pull up. Who made us believe that? My father: he assured us he would be there, despite the near misses, the unexpected and the derailments. He gave us confidence.

And there we were without hesitation. My mother, my sister and I, holding hands in that mixture of continue reading

humidity and the sound of cicadas that are the train stations in the middle of “Cuban nothing.” Knowing that fate had given us our own titan of iron and steel, with a whistle at hand.

First it was just the belief, then a light wind came that tousled the hair behind our ears as the scent flooded us. It smelled of pig iron. This is what “perfume” is called when it comes from the friction of metal against metal when a convoy full of wagons stops on the line… it smells like pig iron, a word widely used in the rail industry, although to most people it sounds rare and novel.

My maternal grandmother knew this well because she had to incessantly wash the uniforms of her husband, also a railway employee.

Ana knew very well the “stink” that is left when, from the cabin, someone “puts the brake” on a locomotive that is dragging dozens of wagons screeching along the rails. It also creates some very peculiar crusts; they are black and when you remove them from your face with your fingers they feel very hard. They are the waste, on the human body, of the railroad.

It was the time when clothes were starched, which Ana did so well. She was the best. I ironed the edges of my grandfather and father’s shirts. They had an emblem in their pocket, on the gray cloth, that captivated us; it was a white rectangle embroidered in black of a locomotive giving off smoke. I always wanted (and managed it several times) to drive a train.

My paternal grandfather had a “doll’s hand.” One day, faced with the imminent crash, he threw himself from the locomotive but his ring got caught on a metal ledge. Then, like a magician, he would show us his four-fingered hand and we naive girls would laugh. They were the war wounds of our people. The killings of a railway clan.

But not everything was jokes or anecdotes. One day they started calling home to give condolences. Supposedly I had died in a train accident. It was my first and last name, but it was not me, but a younger, homonymous cousin who had been trapped by the crash in his early teens, accompanying his father, also an engineer. The scars accumulated on us.

In the mid-nineties, my father came home with a grimace on his face and a jacket that smelled of blood. His locomotive, failing to stop, had run over a herd of goats. We daughters jump on the feast; we were very hungry and he knew it. He was a provider; in those pieces of flesh and bone he gave us his “last hunt.” Then the railroad in Cuba ended up collapsing, the locomotive of our lives remained still.

However, the aroma lingers. My family smells like pig iron. My father died a little over a week ago and I returned to the symbolic platform of waiting. First the wind came and shook my short hair. The railwayman’s daughter knows only one perfume. It is the balm of existence, the same one I felt when I stood on the line in the middle of the morning and unknown voices assured me that the train was not going to stop, but I knew it would: I smelled what was coming.

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Diaz-Canel in Mexico, the Invitation That Never Should Have Been Extended

Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, during an official visit of the former in 2019. (Presidency of Cuba)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 15 September 2021 – salsa dancing or smiling with several Hollywood actors, this was Miguel Díaz-Canel’s look three years ago during a visit to New York. Now, cornered by the complaints after violently repressing the July 11th protests, the Cuban president finds himself isolated on the international scene, a repudiation from which Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s invitation to Mexico attempts to extract him.

When the citizens of that neighboring country celebrate the date of the Grito de Dolores on Thursday, a graying and grim figure will be among the guests at the commemoration. In just two months — since he insisted on national television that he was ready “for anything” and that “the combat order is given,” in a call to crush the protesters – the official-propaganda-imposed image of the pragmatic engineer has been shattered.

Although, since his occupation of the presidential chair, Díaz-Canel has been surrounded by criticism of not having been elected at the polls, the president came to enjoy the sympathy of those who were relieved that, at least, “his name is not Castro.” The political cabals mention him as a man from a generation with less guilt and “without bloodstained hands,” unlike his predecessors.

However, the same headlines of the newspapers that until recently called it a respite in the long family dynasty that has controlled this Island for more than half a century, now broadcast images of the police beating unarmed citizens, their fists raised in the cry continue reading

of “libertad” – freedom – that has spread throughout the entire country, and mothers with tear stained faces whose children are locked up in cells without any respect for their legal procedural guarantees.

The entire publicity arsenal aimed at showing Díaz-Canel as an efficient, popular and modern administrator was inoperative after that day that divided contemporary Cuban history into two parts. Since then, the leaders who used to shake his hand, smile with him for the family photo or pat him on the back in meetings of international organizations, now flee from him and rebuke him.

Only López Obrador has extended an invitation to this president whose people told him loud and clear that they do not want him and who responded with the arrogance of one who feels that he should not apologize, amend his course or give up his position to another. What is this gesture of the leader of Mexico’s Morena Party about? Is it in payment of an old ideological debt? Is he looking to inconvenience his political adversaries or a neighboring government? Was the request born in the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana and the Mexican could only say “yes”?

Aware that his trip raises criticism and suspicion, the man who is also the First Secretary of the Cuban Communist Party has preferred keep the details of his agenda under a cloak of secrecy. Information on the place or time when he will participate as a speaker in the Mexican national holidays has not even been offered. A mystery that seeks to avoid public rejection not only by hundreds of Cuban emigrants who are already organizing to reject his visit, but also by many other Mexicans who are in solidarity with the cause of democratic change on this island.

From the main focuses and starring lights of his tour of Russia, Ireland and Belarus a few years ago, Díaz-Canel will avoid journalists, and escape from public presentations and rope lines to prevent the uncomfortable image of another invited guest who shuns his greeting or leaves him with his hand in the air. It is a dangerous choreography, because rudeness and protest can await one anywhere.

The warmth and sympathy that his host professes will also clarify much of this trip: whether it is a simple formality or a resounding political endorsement of a dictator rejected by his people, a man who called for a fratricidal confrontation for which, hopefully, one day he may be tried in national or international courts. The number of yards that separate the two rulers in the main act, whether or not López Obrador mentions the Cuban, even the number of hours that he spends in Mexican territory, will all be very revealing. We will have to be attentive to each of these rituals.

But also, we will have to look towards the interior of the island in the absence of Díaz-Canel. His unpopularity is not unrelated to the “wolves of the pack” who are vying for power in Cuban. As soon as they feel that keeping him in the presidential chair endangers their control over the country, they will dispense with this Villa Clara engineer, a man unable to string three sentences together without making it sound like a boring litany dictated by others.

This trip may be designed to clean up his image outside of national borders, but it also risks things getting out of control at home. Be that as it may, López Obrador has chosen the sad role of supporting a man who will go down in Cuban history as a puppet who, on the day he could have cut the strings and acted with the greatness of a statesman, preferred repression. The old practice of the Castros, of the blow and the gag.
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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

The Sounds of the Crisis in Cuba

There is a soundtrack of the disaster that is barely mentioned, but that surrounds us on all sides. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 24 August 2021 — Dawn breaks and the sound of some chickens from a nearby patio can be heard throughout the neighborhood, when midday comes we can hear the shouts of a neighbor letting us know there are bananas in the market on Tulipán Street and, in the afternoon, the squeaking of a wheelbarrow with two little kids nostalgic for the amusement park.

Although the images of long lines, unsmiling faces and empty shopping bags are the most recurrent when it comes to describing the current situation on this Island, there is a soundtrack of the disaster that is barely mentioned but that surrounds us on all sides. Some of the sounds echo what we heard in the 90s during the Special Period, as if the needle on the record player of our lives had skipped and went back to playing the same music.

These times remind me of that period when some neighbors in our building raised a pig in their bathtub and, so it wouldn’t bother everyone too much, they operated on its vocal cords, leaving the animal to emit a hoarse breathy sound much more disturbing than its original grunts. Now, on a nearby balcony, someone has a cage with several turkeys that cluck all the time, a practice intended to guarantee protein for families fearful there are worse times ahead.

But there is also another permanent ringing and it is that of irritability. The swearwords of domestic fights, fueled by the lack of resources and the forced confinement the pandemic has brought to families with positive cases of covid-19; the crying of children who do not understand why they can’t go out to play; and the sobs of the son whose mother died for lack of oxygen or medicines.

A suffocating resonance, the chorus of a city and of a desperate country.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

“Give That Kid a Real Name!”

“On 11 August 1995 I finally held you in my arms and smelled you for a long time.” (Courtesy of the family)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Generation Y, Havana, 10 August 2021 — I always knew your name was Teo. It is a long story of childhood, literature, an imaginary friend and confidence in believing that you were just around the corner, we just needed to meet. On 11 August 1995 I finally held you in my arms and smelled you for a long time (I am one of those people who widens my nose when someone approaches for the first time).

Yes, that little being in my arms smelled like Teo. As I always dreamed (a mix between Bruce Lee and Diogenes … don’t ask me why I define you that way, everyone who knows you knows the answer). When we introduced you to the closest family, there was no shortage of responses in the style of “Give that kid a real name!” But what else were we going to call you…

Quirky and sharp, you speak little but can destroy or elevate with one sentence.  When you had to repeat for the first time, in school, the slogan “Pioneers for communism, we will be like Che,” you refused. You asserted then that Guevara was dead, and you didn’t want to be. The first insult you learned was “filthy” and we had to listen to this from you for several years until you used more vulgar ones.

At the age of five you recited Heberto Padilla’s “tell the truth, at least tell your truth”

On a trip to the native city of your father, Camagüey (the cradle of good pronunciation of the language on this island, according to its own residents), they asked you if you came from the Peninsula beyond the seas because you pronounced “all the letters of all the words”… At the age of five you recited Heberto Padilla’s “tell the truth, at least tell your truth.” At seven you learned German, knew snow and became universal, a condition you have to this day.

Teo, you have connected profoundly with many people. In four words you have defined what it would have taken your father and me (insolent tongues) half an hour of explanation. You throw a phrase like an X-ray that pierces the body, a sentence of darts that pierce the mind. There are people who fear so much sincerity and withdraw, people who cannot stand you. It is, my son, that you are a free man. Free from the inside out, which is the best way to be.

In November 2009, you had to face the reality of having your two parents arrested, you were only 14 years old then but you behaved like a millennial adult: you made phone calls, you reported, you spoke on the radio and you waited. The reunion was like that of the grandfather who receives his two lost grandchildren with love and caresses… everyone who knows you knows that I am not lying. You are like that.

You throw a phrase like an X-ray that pierces the body, a sentence of darts that pierce the mind

Since then, you have had to experience everything and you have done it in that stoic way that does not seek applause or commiseration. You have done it because you have done it, serving as a father to your parents, something that should not be… never should be, but you have assumed it without complaining. I have not met anyone as mature, equanimous and confident as you in these more than four decades that I have lived.

Teo, you had to grow up so fast. Wary of the informants, the false friends who only wanted to use you as a bridge towards us, the lifelong whistleblowers, the classmates who wanted to earn points by making “life impossible” for the son of the dissidents and, however, like Antonio Machado’s verse, you ended up sprouting “serene spring” … which is “in the good sense of the word, good.”

Fashion, material displays, famous brands, the shocks of the moment … only achieve in you an answer very similar to that which is read at the end of the novel “The Glass Bead Game” by Herman Hesse, when one of the protagonists says to the other, who tries to challenge him and provoke him: “You are tiring yourself Joseph.”

I reiterate: you were already here, you always were and we have been only the modest vehicle for you to continue living

Whoever wants to get you out of your boxes and annoy you exhausts himself, you are made of hard, imperishable and beautiful clay. You are from a generation that is going to live and make the Cuba of the future arrive as soon as possible. You have no debts with the past, nor guilt.

Have we deserved such a child? Were these the circumstances to be able to have this luminous being among us? Probably not, but how happy we are to have been part of your shelter, your stairs to climb, your pole to jump and the logs ready to burn in the fire of your existence.

Teo, it’s been 26 years since I held you in my arms for the first time and I smelled you with the force of this nose (quite big by the way… jejeje). I reiterate: you were already here, you were always here and we have been only the modest vehicle for you to continue living, so that your strength continues flowing and your wise imprint prevails over so much tension and so much folly.

By the way, Teo, you smell like eternity. Did you know?

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

In Havana’s Trillo Park an Official Act Cannot Compete With the Line to Buy Potatoes

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14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Havana, 5 August 2021 — The photo above is from this Thursday morning and shows the line to buy potatoes in the rationed market near Parque Trillo, in Centro Habana. The image below was taken at a Fair organized by the University Student Federation (FEU) in that same park.

The FEU Fair came to complement the unfortunate official caravan that traveled along the Malecón this morning as well. Either by necessity or by obligation, it seems that we Cubans are condemned to not be able to avoid the crowds and tumult in the midst of the most terrible of the Covid-19 outbreaks that this Island has experienced.

To paraphrase the poet and playwright Virgilio Piñera … “I don’t know about you, but I am afraid, very afraid” that the virus, together with the scarcities that we are suffering and the arrogance of those who control this country, will end up taking more lives … many more lives.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

A New Generation of Cubans Will Not Be Silenced

“No More MLC [stores that require payment in hard currency], the people are hungry. (Facebook)
14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 22 July 2021 — The month of July has borne witness to a number of events that have been turning points in Cuba’s history: Fidel Castro’s assault on the Moncada Barracks in July 1953, which ignited the revolution; the execution of the revolutionary general Arnaldo Ochoa that shocked many Cubans in 1989; and the sinking of a tugboat with dozens of people on board heading for Miami in 1994, in what became the climax of the rafters’ exodus. To these historic July dates, we now add the day when we Cubans took back the streets, our streets.

Sunday, July 11, began like any other summer day on this island: hot, long lines to buy food and uncertainty dominating daily life. Then the first live Facebook videos of protests from the small town of San Antonio de los Baños, southwest of Havana, started appearing on social media. On our phone screens, we watched crowds chanting “freedom,” “we want help” and “we are not afraid,” as well as insults against President Miguel Díaz-Canel. These were new scenes for us, and the excitement was contagious.

Mr. Díaz-Canel and his entourage went to San Antonio de los Baños to re-enact the scene of Fidel Castro arriving to calm the masses at the 1994 protest in Havana known as the “Maleconazo” — until now the only widespread social upheaval that several generations of Cubans had ever seen. But Mr. Díaz-Canel’s game plan did not work. continue reading

By the time the presidential caravan reached San Antonio de los Baños, the protests had already spread, including to Palma Soriano, in the province of Santiago de Cuba on the other side of the island. Large crowds of neighbors took to the plazas of Cárdenas and Matanzas, and groups of young people approached the capitol in Havana.

“We gathered on a corner of El Vedado” — a neighborhood in Havana — “and we began to speak the same language,” said a 32-year-old man, Alejandro, who was among the dozens of Habaneros who went to the headquarters of the Cuban Parliament chanting that three-syllable word as loudly as they could: libertad.

Many of those who called for Mr. Díaz-Canel’s resignation and the end of the dictatorship were born after the 1994 Maleconazo or were children at the time, with no memory of that revolt. But that doesn’t matter because, unlike that outbreak, the goal of these protests is not to escape the island’s economic crisis on a raft, but to bring about change on the island.

To be sure, the restrictions brought on by the pandemic have exhausted an already worn-down population. But young Cubans are not protesting solely against the pandemic curfews, the cut in commercial flights that allowed them to escape to another country, or the shops that accept only foreign currencies even though the people are paid in Cuban pesos. These protests are fueled by the desire for freedom, the hope of living in a country with opportunities, the fear of becoming the weak and silent shadows that their grandparents have become.

These young Cubans don’t want to be the grandchildren of a revolution that has aged so badly that Cubans are forced to risk their lives crossing the Florida Straits for a chance at a decent life.

They protest because the official myth that the Cuban people had been saved by some bearded men who came down from the Sierra Maestra is no longer relevant to them. They have grown up watching the bellies of Communist officials grow while they have difficulty putting food on the table. They no longer fear risking their lives in the streets, because they are slowly losing their lives anyway, waiting in long lines to buy food, traveling on crowded buses and enduring prolonged power outages.

One image encapsulated how the official narrative of Fidel Castro’s revolution was completely shattered: Several young people hoisted a bloody Cuban flag atop an overturned police vehicle in the middle of the street. Unlike the patriarchs of the revolution, they didn’t sport beards and olive-green uniforms, but they have become the new symbol of this island. They took to the streets because they believed that the streets belonged to them.

In past protests, the regime depended on its loyal army of state workers, members of the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution and the Raúl Castro worshipers to foil the demonstrations — indeed, loyalists were encouraged to hit back at the demonstrators with sticks and stones. But in the first hours of this wave of protests, few loyalists showed up. Instead, Mr. Díaz-Canel unleashed his uniformed security forces to quell the demonstrations.

Unsurprisingly, the security forces detained hundreds of people. The government has militarized streets across the country and restricted the internet to make people on and off the island believe that there is nothing to be seen. In other words, they did what dictatorships do.

Many Cubans had come to believe that the dictatorship would be eternal, that the island was cursed forever, that our only options were to flee or to remain silent. Others were convinced that Cubans were incapable of rebellion, that the brave had left and an apathetic and silent mass was all that remained behind. But the silence has been broken. And the voices that broke it belong, above all, to young Cubans clamoring for profound changes in their country.

The near future is full of uncertainty. Little by little, the number of deaths, arrests and forced disappearances will become known. To help in this task, it is urgent that social organizations create hotlines in which the families of the missing can offer their information in an effort to locate their loved ones. The United Nations and the European Union have called on the Cuban government to respect the right to protest and to release all of those who have been detained for demonstrating. It’s unlikely that the regime will heed their calls. But one thing is clear: Cubans have tasted freedom, and there’s no turning back. We will not be silenced again.

Yoani Sánchez (@yoanisanchez) hosts the podcast Ventana 14 and is the director of the digital newspaper 14ymedio. This article was translated by Erin Goodman from the Spanish, for the New York Times.

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Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in The New York Times .

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

When Repression Knocks at Your Door

For me, it doesn’t matter that you have defamed me without knowing me, attacked me without arguments, or raised a fist in an act of repudiation against me or my loved ones. (Screen capture from a video taken at a violent act of repudiation against Yoani’s husband, Reinaldo Escobar*, the person on the left who is looking forward.)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, 21 July 2021 — A little more than ten days ago, violent repression was for many Cubans an alien experience, a story told by others that they doubted when narrated by government opponents or independent journalists. So it seemed until July 11th when some confirmed, firsthand, that the arbitrary arrests, the beatings, the strip searches and humiliations in police stations, and the silence on the part of the authorities regarding the whereabouts of a detainee, were not the fantasies or hoaxes of a few.

Many of those who previously doubted and questioned the victims, saying that they made everything up and that something like this could not happen on this island, now have a son or a niece locked up awaiting a summary judgment just for going out on the streets asking for “libertad!” or trying to record the popular revolts with their cell phone camera. The testimonies are coming to light, including excesses, outrages, lengthy interrogations, overcrowding in the cells and threats, many threats.

None of this is news for the part of the Cuban population that has spent decades denouncing such events. But, sometimes, you have to feel it to believe, experience it in your own flesh to continue reading

empathize with another victim, or stick your finger in the wound to convince yourself it exists.

Personally, it is not worth me now to return skepticism with skepticism, deafness with deafness, sarcasm with sarcasm

Personally, it is not worth it to me now to return skepticism with skepticism, deafness with deafness, sarcasm with sarcasm. It is time to lend a hand and support the new victims of direct repression, regardless of whether they once doubted the horrors experienced by others.

Count on me to shout for the liberation of your children. I don’t care if you mocked me or didn’t believe it when I was kidnapped and beaten in November 2009;* I don’t care if you lent yourself to watching my little boy on his way to school and yelling at him that his mother was a “mercenary”; I don’t care if you reported on people visiting me and laughed when I spent long hours in a jail cell. It doesn’t matter if you joined in the execution of my reputation and the attempt to kill me socially.

For me, it doesn’t matter that you have defamed me without knowing me, attacked me without arguments, or raised a fist in an act of repudiation against me or my loved ones. I am on your side for the release of that family member you love. I do believe you.

*Translator’s notes:

See also Blame the Victim

For a video of the event shown in the photo, see here.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

July 11: The Day Cuban Youth Overturned a Police Car

Iconic photo taken on the corner of Toyo, in Havana, on July 11.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Havana, 20 July 2021 — In flip-flops and shirtless, Yander ran down Galiano Street to join the crowd shouting “Freedom!” that had just passed his door. In the rush, he forgot the mandatory mask. The mother of this 35-year-old from Havana reached him short-of-breath. “Mi’jo, you left your mask!” she said, and handed him a piece of black cloth. She hasn’t seen him since.

That Sunday, July 11, Cuba ignited with spontaneous protests in several cities. The fuse, lit in San Antonio de los Baños, quickly spread throughout the capital. Thousands of people converged in floods, heading aimlessly towards the nearest squares.

A few meters from the Capitol, seat of the docile Cuban Parliament, Agustín, 28, was in his wheelchair, offering glasses and headphones for sale to the few passers-by who dared to walk in the afternoon sun, and when he saw ” the boys who came like a whirlwind.” He asked one of them to accompany him, and his disability saved him from arrest, but it did not save him from the blow of a policeman which has left continue reading

his arm purple.

The compact chorus, which repeated “¡Patria y vida!” and “Down with communism!” drowned out the words anchored in a past when the Cuban ruling party imposed its slogans

When the shock troops arrived to stop the revolt, an old woman leaned out of the window shouting Gusanos!* [worms] at the protesters. It was barely heard. The compact chorus, which repeated “¡Patria y vida!” and “Down with communism!” drowned out those words anchored in a past when the Cuban ruling party imposed its slogans. Most were young. On the corner of Toyo, in the center of the city, standing on a patrol car waving a bloodstained flag, trying to save a friend who was taken by the Police, standing with a fist raised in front of the riot police, they demonstrated that they are not afraid.

Leaning over her balcony, Mireya saw the tumult coming down her street, the boulevard de San Rafael. She had just shouted at her neighbor that she would wait for her at five in the morning at La Época. It is a nearby store, accepting payment only foreign currency, which offers many of the products that have been missing for months in stores that accept Cuban pesos. Both women are in the business of buying and reselling merchandise on the black market. But that meeting to collect packets of beans, canned food, some cheese, and some beer never happened. On Monday, the neighbor woke up in a cell, and Mireya was looking for her 16-year-old daughter Karla, outside a police station.

“My girl is a minor and she only came down to make a video with her mobile, I saw how the police took her by force,” she sobs. She is one of the thousands of the day’s disappeared.

In Santiago de Cuba, in the distant town of Palma Soriano, Severino has become hoarse from shouting. “Four of us in my family went out but only two came back, the others we don’t know where they are and they don’t tell us anything,” he explains. “We didn’t even think it, that day the only thing I had in my stomach was a cup of coffee … but the effect of that coffee, I felt like I had eaten a leg of pork.” Retired with the minimum pension (about 20 euros a month), Severino laughs when he hears that official voices saying that “imperialism” paid him to take to the streets.

“I lost my wallet and one shoe, but it was worth it,” says a young economics graduate from San Antonio de los Baños who was one of the first to go out to protest in a city where “when something to cook finally appears, then there is no electricity.” It was in that municipality of the province of Artemisa that the spark jumped that later set the souls on fire in almost the entire island. San Antonio is known for hosting the International School of Film and Television and the Biennial Humor Festival. “We were the town of humor, now we are the town of honor.”

“My mother did not want to come with me because she was afraid and now she regrets not having lived that historic day right here, together with the others”

“My mother did not want to come with me because she was afraid and now she regrets not having lived that historic day right here, together with the others,” the young woman boasts. His story is constantly interrupted by a worrying dry cough. The country is experiencing the worst rebound of the pandemic, but the alarming numbers of the Covid-19 did not prevent people from coming together, perhaps because “this dying every day, with the anguish and misery, is worse than the coronavirus.”

In Sancti Spíritus, Mercedes (38 years old) spent Sunday glued to the screen of her mobile phone, devouring the videos that were coming out of the protests in other provinces. Among several neighbors they collected enough money to buy a recharge that would allow them to stay connected for longer and not miss any details. “At night, the only light was on the screen, because we were in a blackout.”

The next morning, her boss summoned her early to the state office where she spends her hours between apathy and wanting to go home. “We have to defend the streets from the counterrevolutionaries and each worker must make a public commitment that he will be at the side of our Communist Party and against those mercenaries who want to take our country from us,” he said. Mercedes was stunned. That same afternoon she decided to quit her job. “Even if we are left without a peso in this family, nobody is going to put a stick in my hand to break the head of a neighbor’s son. They can’t count on me,” says Mercedes.

These episodes are being repeated in all companies and state offices in the country. The employee of an official publishing house tells that they were transferred to a farm of the Union of Young Communists to cut branches and make sticks “so that the workers defend themselves from the provocations of the mercenaries.” Many say privately that they do not intend to hit anyone. In addition to losing their jobs, some of those who have refused to take part in actions against the protesters have suffered “acts of repudiation,” a kind of violent and humiliating escrache – a public shaming – on the part of their colleagues.

The phone ringing catches Leidy Laura breastfeeding her baby. On the other end of the line, her sister, who lives in Miami, tells her that they have been following the television news by the minute since Sunday, celebrating the possible fall of Castroism.

“Here it is militarized, the streets full of police and men armed with rocks and baseball bats,” she replied with concern. She has not left her home in Camagüey for “three days” for fear of being trapped “in one of the talanqueras – makeshift traps – they have set up in the city.”

Leidy Laura is 24 years old and the daughter of two Havanans who have told her what they experienced on August 5, 1994, when the previous social explosion shook the coast of the Cuban capital in an event that has come to be known as the Maleconazo. “But no way, this has been much bigger and across almost the entire island. That was the rehearsal and this was the implementation,” she says.

“This could become unlivable, if people cannot go out to buy food because of the confrontations and barricades everywhere, we are going to starve because no one has reserves of anything”

“My father always tells me that that time he was very excited that the dictatorship was falling, but that has been almost 30 years and it still stands,” she adds with a certain pessimism. “I had already made up my mind that my son was going to have to grow up with a ration book and shouting at school assemblies ‘Pioneers for Communism, we will be like Che’, but with what happened on Sunday, I don’t know, hope has returned.”

“This could become unlivable, if people cannot go out to buy food because of the confrontations and barricades everywhere, we are going to die of hunger because nobody has reserves of anything,” says Viviana, who until the arrival of the pandemic ran a thriving business renting rooms to tourists near the Prado in the beautiful city of Cienfuegos.

Not everyone is filled with hopes. Fear is also rampant on the island. Some fear that the regime’s repressive excesses will add fuel to the bonfire of discontent and the protests will spark a civil war. President Miguel Díaz-Canel fanned those flames when he said that “the combat order is given” and that they are “ready for anything.

“This country was already on the brink of a humanitarian crisis and now with this we are going faster towards the abyss. If international organizations do not help us, we will end up falling like flies,” Viviana continues. “But we could see this coming, we were already suffering too much and young people are different. They no longer believe the same stories, nor can you convince them with stories from the past.”

“The young people” that Viviana speaks of have been the protagonist of protests that point squarely to the political model that has prevailed on the island for 62 years. Although they have grown up under the most rigid indoctrination, the youth feel like citizens of the world thanks to new technologies, they have fewer ideological ties and they perceive that they owe nothing to the bearded men who came down from the Sierra Maestra.

“Young people” are like Lucas, 22, who not only uses Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, but has spent months taking refuge in Telegram threads and WhatsApp groups ruminating on his frustrations. Sunday’s protest was the first time he saw the faces of friends until then hidden under avatars. “We met and began to speak the same language,” he now recalls about the meeting in a corner of the Havana neighborhood of El Vedado. From there they set off the entire length of Calle San Lázaro holding hands. They did not have a leader, they were not part of an opposition party, but they became the thorn in the heart of a dying system.

The hierarchs with their well-ironed guayabera and bulging bellies do not understand that these youths with their spindly bodies from long walks and short food rations are not afraid of them. They have been making fun of the official rhetoric for years, and they have not watched national television for a long time so that the information mush prepared by the Party does not cause them to retch. They are impervious to the reproaches that officialdom throws at them. They are the future; while the police who beat them, the military who shoot them and the rapid response brigades who attack them are only the vestiges of a past that refuses to die but that, will also, go away.

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Editor’s Note: This report was published for the first time in the newspaper El Mundo.

Translator’s note: “Worms” (gusanos), is a term Fidel Castro chose to describe the first wave of people who left Cuba after the Revolution, and it has been repeatedly applied to anyone who doesn’t support the government ever since.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Now They Are the Ones Who Are Afraid of Us

“Freedom does not fit in a suitcase,” warn many on social media. (Screen capture)

14ymedio bigger

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 16 July 2021 — In the line, nobody speaks. A woman stares at the toe of her show and a young man taps his fingers on the wall. A few days have passed cine Cubans took to the streets in a protest without precedents in the last 62 years and outrage pervades every space. As images of police brutality emerge in the media, with more testimonies of mothers with their children who have disappeared since that Sunday, and videos of militarized cities, popular irritation grows.

Anyone who, before that already historic date, did not know this island might say that the authorities have managed to control the situation and that calm reigns again in the Cuban streets. But, in reality this apparent tranquility is just fear, anger and pain. In Havana, the tension in the air can be cut with a knife and everywhere there are police, military and civilians associated with to the Government with improvised clubs in their hands. Inside the houses the discomfort increases and the tears flow. Few have slept through the entire night.

Thousands of families are looking for someone in the police stations, while many others wait for the uniformed men to knock on their door to take away a relative suspected of participating in the protests. Some new sources of disagreement explode in different parts of the national geography and are drowned with blows and shots by special troops, the dreaded “black wasps.” Many independent journalists are detained, others are under house arrest, and internet access has been censored on several occasions since the first popular demonstration broke out.

The people whom the authorities showed as completely faithful to the system, docile and peaceful, no longer exists. In its place, there is a country full of screams, some loud and some silent, so it is not possible continue reading

to calculate exactly when it will explode. The real Cuba has distanced itself even more from the nation that inhabits the official press. The former feel that they have recovered their civic voice, massively tested their strength in the streets, and tasted shouting the word “freedom” aloud; while the headlines controlled by the official press speak of conspiracies coming from outside, of small groups that demonstrated, and of criminals who vandalized markets. Both stories are mutually exclusive and cannot coexist for long.

Miguel Díaz-Canel tried to shade things with the first words he spoke before the microphones that Sunday when, practically every hour, a new focus of protest came to light. “The combat order is given” and “we are ready for anything,” he threatened then, and the ghost of civil war flew over the archipelago. Now, without retracting those words, he intersperses concepts such as “harmony,” “peace” and “joy” but fails to convince, because along with those syrupy phrases hundreds of buses throughout the country continue to discharge their shock troops in squares and neighborhoods.

So far, the only announced easing, in an attempt to quell the protests, has been to cancel the limits on travelers bringing medicine, food, and toiletries to the Island. But the measure comes late, after years of demands it is seen as a crumb before the strong social demand that the system be dismantled, its main figures resign and a transition to democracy begin as soon as possible. “Freedom does not fit in a suitcase,” many warn on social networks, just as rebellion is not stopped by a police shield. “We were so hungry that we ate our fear”, can also be read everywhere. But now we have so much anger that they are the ones who fear us, and it shows.

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

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And the Streets of Cuba Spoke Loud and Clear

Protesters in Santiago de Cuba, this July 11. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Havana, 12 July 2021 – It was only a question of time. The frustration and desperation had been accumulating and this Sunday the streets exploded. Thousands of Cubans left their homes to exercise the right to civic protest, the one that had been seized from them for more than half a century. With their cries of “Down with the dictatorship” they made it clear that neither the indoctrination nor the fear have managed to curtail the desire for freedom on this island.

Young people came out, those who had grown up with the dual currency, the lact of dreams, the blackouts and the brainwashing in the schools. Housewives came out, pots and pans in hand to at least bang on some cookware in which there is hardly anything to serve. Parents of families and their grandchildren came out; the first part of a generation that helped to construct the current authoritarian model, and the second, potential rafters in the Straits of Florida. The people came out.

Unprecedented and beautiful scenes all over the country, as if the spark of San Antonio de los Baños had ignited in the dry grass of social anger. Havana’s Capitol rocked with the cries of “freedom,” the streets of Cárdenas with a human cordon that challenged the shock troops, Palma Soriano shaken by the demonstrations, Alquízar exploding into its unpaved alleys and Camagüey with a human river in its squares. continue reading

This July 11 we demonstrate to the world and ourselves that we are many more than those who crush us, that when we unite and act they can only threaten us, imprison us or kill us but they cannot convince us to continue accepting the yoke. Now, officialdom will offer its version of events and blame the neighbor to the North, but we all know that spontaneity and massiveness were the distinctive sign of these protests.

You could see it coming, you just had to have your ear attentive to reality to notice the internal noise that was growing, and that yesterday shook off the gag.
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If It Weren’t For The Mango

Empty pallets in the EJT (Youth Labor Army) market on 17 and K streets in El Vedado (Havana, Cuba). (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sánchez, Havana, 6 July 2021 —  Of all the horrors experienced in Cuba during the crisis of the 90s, there was one that was announced as a possibility but that did not materialize: the dreaded Option Zero, in which the country would be totally shut down due to lack of fuel, families would be relocated to camps, and the collective pot would become the sole supplier of the little food that we would put into our mouths.

In my adolescence, I imagined a future of skeletal people around a campfire where water with some scraps was boiling, while the loudspeakers continued transmitting the speeches of the leader, a picture of health, with his calls for the sacrifices of others. Fortunately, before reaching that scenario, in the worst style of Cambodia under Pol Pot, a timid economic opening took place that saved us from the community soup pot. The fears did not stop with the flexibility measures, but were just temporarily put on hold.

This Tuesday morning, I toured various markets in Havana. The practically empty stands and the long faces of the customers brought those fears back to me. Are we on the brink of Option Zero? “At least we have the mangoes,” a neighbor replied when I shared my concerns. With the summer and the arrival of the rains, the trees are loaded with that fruit that “Castroism has not managed to destroy,” added the man. continue reading

However, the mango season lasts only a few weeks. After the last fruits fall from their branches, with what are we going to fill the hole left by those slices, yellow and sweet, that we now put on the plate? I fear that the humanitarian crisis that has been circling us for months is here. Every day that passes without the authorities recognizing the severity of the collapse is lives that are lost, and not only because of a resurgence of Covid-19, which the regime has let get out of hand, but because of the lack of nutrients and medicines.

These are moments to put aside arrogance and political pride and to ask for urgent international aid, to stop making up headlines and to put an end to the tactic of inflating the statistics of national production. The countdown has begun and we barely have the time for the last mangoes hanging from the bushes to ripen.

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What Denigrates the Cuban Peso the Most?

The government has created a system in which Cubans live segregated lives based on the currency they possess. (Capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchéz, Havana, 2 July 2021 — Before he was arrested and taken to the State Security barracks in Havana, the artist Hamlet Lavastida had been accused by government voices of promoting the writing of phrases on the Cuban peso (CUP) bills circulating on the island. Now, locked in Villa Marista, investigators seek to turn these incriminations into a crime that puts him behind bars. But, the indictment limps at several points, some legal, others ethical and many monetary.

The national currency, those banknotes that bear the faces of various heroes of independence, have long been systematically tainted by the very authorities that issue them. The peso was dishonored when it was condemned more than a quarter of a century ago to be second-rate money, which was not used to buy in the well-stocked stores, popularly known as shopping malls, which were opened in the midst of the crisis. A coin that is stained by its little value and that condemned to misery whoever carried it in their pockets.

I remember seeing workers in shabby clothes approach a market cash register and not be able to pay for the merchandise they were carrying. “This is in dollars,” the clerk would say almost reluctantly. Our money was not used at that time to contract for a mobile phone line, pay for a night in a hotel or buy a ticket for a trip abroad. They humiliated the Cuban peso so much that taking those bills out of one’s pocket is still more a source of shame than pride. continue reading

It is enough to read the three letters CUP to know that what we will receive in return will be impaired service, a lot of abuse of the customer, and  low quality merchandise. Our every-day peso has been disdained by the Central Bank of Cuba, which created a more colorful and powerful emulator, which for more than 25 years overshadowed what should have been the country’s main currency. The so-called chavitos – Cuban convertible pesos (CUC) – were a greater offense to the national currency than any phrase, even an expletive, that an indignant citizen might stamp on their watermark.

Lavastida’s idea of ​​writing 27N, next to the face of José Martí, is not what tarnishes or insults paper money. It has been the terrible management of the economy, the official historical disregard for the Cuban peso, the segregation between those who can access the stores that take payment only in freely convertible currency – where prices are expressed in US dollars – and those who only have CUP, along with the little signs that say “payment exclusively with Visa or Mastercard” – at the gates of certain state offices – those who have smeared blood and shit on every bill that circulates on this Island. This, indeed, is an outrage, a tremendous crime.

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