Cuban Human Rights Group Adds President of Etecsa to List of ’Violent Repressors’

Mayra Arevich Marín, director of the telecommunications monopoly, Etecsa.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 22 June 2019 — On Friday, The Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba (FHRC) added Mayra Arevich, executive president of the state telecommunications monopoly Etecsa, to its database of violent repressors, according to a statement released by the organization.

The FHRC, based in Miami, has also added Ernesto Gómez Novoa, second chief of the General Customs of the Republic of Cuba, blogger Iroel Sánchez and director of the CubaSí site, Manuel H. Lagarde to the list.

Averich has been classified as a violent repressor by the Foundation “for publicly inciting hatred” against the journalist and director of 14ymedio , Yoani Sánchez. In its statement, the FHRC warns that these attacks may open the possibility of acts of violence” against and they are happening “at a time when the government is intensifying its war propaganda against citizens.”

On Twitter, Sánchez said she would hold Averich responsible, “for any damage” suffered by her or her family from the dissemination of a “message of hate and misogyny” that the official spread in her account of that social network. continue reading

“A violent repressor is not only the person who strikes a peaceful opponent, but also the one who incites, foments and encourages the exercise of violence, as established by international norms,” explains the FHRC. “It is important that government officials and the Party know that their actions have inescapable individual responsibilities that do not diminish over time.”

“Among the participants of this recent orgy of insults are the pens of two collaborators of the State Security: Iroel Sánchez and Manuel H. Lagarde,” the text points out.

“Both had been included in our permanent database of Cuban white-collar repressors for months, but from now on they have reached the category of violent repressors,” he adds.

The NGO, based in Miami, noted that this is not the first campaign to against the journalist meant to kill her reputation. It also called attention to the “ferocity” deployed against her and the “uncharacteristic incitement” to violence.

Juan Antonio Blanco, director of the FHRC, said that people who feed hate “should take note that they assume legal responsibility before international courts.”

“This is now the case if Yoani Sánchez is the victim of physical aggression by fanatics, or by police agents disguised as an ’enraged people’, for the simple fact of her request for a reduction in the abusive prices of that state monopoly,” he said.

During this month there have been several digital protests through the social network Twitter with the hashtag #BajenLosPreciosDeInternet (LowerThePricesOfInternet). The first day of the demands occurred on June 1, the second on the 15th and a third is scheduled for this Saturday the 22nd.

Unlike the first occasion, on Saturday, Etecsa officials prepared to counter the online protest and verbally attacked the participants with accusations of being financed from the United States.

In less than 24 hours, the hashtag #BajenLosPreciosDeInternet became Trending Topic in Cuba, with messages published by a great variety of users of the social network. Students, computer engineers, clients of the domestic service known as Nauta Hogar, independent journalists and activists were some of those who denounced the high rates charged by Etecsa.

In return, the state monopoly and several official spokespersons spread messages with labels such as #CubaInformatiza and #CubaMasInternetvsBlock. The official accounts of Etecsa also published infographics and figures on the evolution of mobile telephone services, internet connectivity from homes and Wi-Fi zones, together with data from web browsing from mobiles.

The data packages to surf the Internet from mobile phones sold by Etecsa range from 7 CUC for 600 megabytes to 30 CUC for 4 gigabytes, the latter the equivalent of a professional’s entire monthly salary.

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

‘Chernobyl’ and the Reconstruction of Memory

The HBO series Chernobyl is circulating in Cuba on “alternate distribution networks.” (HBO)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 13 June 2019 — I was 10 years old and my world was the size of the matryoshka dolls that adorned my living room. It was 1986 and in Cuba we were experiencing another turn of the screw of nationalization with the rectification of errors and negative tendencies process, while the official press reached its highest levels of secrecy. In April of that year the Chernobyl accident occurred in Ukraine (then a part of the Soviet Union), a nuclear disaster that we – along with the Soviets – were the last to find out about.

Under the strict monopoly of the Communist Party, the island’s media hid, for months, the explosion in the Vladimir Ilyich Lenin Power Station that exposed enough radioactive material to spread almost entirely across Europe. The details of that catastrophe, the horror caused by the accident and the forced evacuation of the inhabitants of Prípiat, a city located 3.5 kilometers from the reactors, were barely mentioned in the Cuban newspapers.

While millions of parents over there were putting their children to bed without knowing if they would see a tomorrow, over here we were oblivious to the tragedy that had been unleashed. The camaraderie between Havana’s Revolution Square and the Kremlin, in this case as in others, involved sweeping the problem under the information rug, even if it was a highly explosive story, if one might say so. The few details released, after months, spoke of a controlled situation, of the punishment of those at fault, and of the heroic response of the Soviet people. continue reading

We would have continued to believe this if other fragments of the story had not, over time, breached the Island. Some of them from the mouths of the so-called children of Chernobyl, who for more than two decades received treatment on Tarara beach, a development east of Havana where I spent several summers in student camps located in houses confiscated from the Cuban bourgeoisie. The situation of those infants, many of them orphans, and the serious health problems with which they arrived, did not fit with the official story we had been told.

How could there be so many people affected if that accident was just exaggerated by the Western media, as the apparatchiks told us, and was also quickly controlled by the warlike Soviet comrades? Something was wrong in that story and then we knew it.

The Chernobyl series, broadcast by the American channel HBO, is already circulating in Cuba, thanks to the alternative networks that distribute content. Its five episodes have probably been seen, so far, by a greater number of viewers than those who tune in to the official television news. Such voracity is due to the fact that several generations need to fill a hole in our history and reconstruct the memory of an event that they hid from us.

Filling in the memories we never had can be a painful process. Our first impression on watching the initial scenes is the familiarity, the objects that populated our childhood, the way of speaking of the opportunists, the constant camouflage of reality that is a fundamental pillar of these totalitarian regimes. They are Soviets, but they are so similar to us that at times there is a sense of the tragedy of our own history.

Then comes the conviction of how little value is placed on human life in these circumstances. Of people as numbers. Individuals as a gears in a superior engine that does not skimp on sacrificing its own, the ordinary citizens who are sent to a certain death without knowing the magnitude of the disaster and the risk. And the lie. Deceiving the world, covering the truth, hiding the problem, threatening those who could relate what was happening; in short, appealing to one of the cards that kept the USSR standing for more than 70 years: Fear.

With its dark tones, almost black and white, the atmosphere of Chernobyl  can become stifling at times. It makes you want to scream all the time, but 33 years after that event it would be a scream too much delayed… As the end approaches the indignation grows. How could something like this happen and we be so marginal? Why did we never know how close the world was to a nuclear catastrophe of irreversible proportions?

Beyond the license for fictionalization for which some have reproached the series, beyond those who criticize its approach to the health effects of radioactivity, and beyond the sparks that it has provoked in the Russian authorities, who have announced the filming of an alternative Chernobyl, the series has a special value for Cubans in particular because at the time of the accident they were building the Juraguá Nuclear Power Plant in Cienfuegos, a cousin of the Ukrainian plant. Knowing the inefficiency, secrecy and triumphalism of the Cuban state company, that would have been a time bomb.

Personally, and in addition to the horror that this HBO production has caused me, I believe that Chernobyl  leaves us with the hope that everything ends up being known and that it is of little use to disguise or silence a reality, because there are voices that will eventually tell it. I await, then, all the documentaries about Cuba and its taboo subjects that the future will bring us.

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

Latin America, Battlefield Between Huawei and the United States

Huawei’s presence in Cuba is obvious to travelers as soon as they arrive at the José Martí International Airport. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 1 June 2019 — What happens on social networks does not stay on social networks and any event that affects mobile phones also ends up radiating unsuspected consequences throughout our lives. That is why the current conflict between the Chinese company Huawei and the US administration keeps millions of mobile users around the world in suspense, many of whom live here in Latin America.

China has gained ground in the last two decades in the economies between the Rio Grande and Patagonia, but it has been in the telecommunications arena where it may have taken its most rapid steps. Founded in 1987 by Ren Zhengfei, the Asian firm is on the heels of Samsung and is already ahead of Apple on the list of the most important mobile phone manufacturers in the world.

In Latin American countries, the most affordable prices and extensive features of Huawei’s devices have won the favor of customers looking for mid-range or even high-end phones that are not too expensive, in contrast to those customarily offered by the giant from Cupertino. After reaching this side of the world at the beginning of this century, Huawei has led an almost viral expansion, supported by telecommunications projects in which it has been involved with several governments in the region. continue reading

In Cuba, working with the state telecommunications monopoly, the Asian company has been the main distributor of the antennas used for the Wi-Fi zones, which, starting in 2015, the government began to open in squares and parks. In a captive market, like that of the Island, Huawei’s traditional competitors – embodied in South Korean and American firms – cannot carve out major pieces of the succulent pie of the computerization of society. Here, the Chinese company has the playing field almost entirely to itself, supported by the Plaza of the Revolution.

In Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro recently announced that he planned to make a joint investment with Huawei, the Chinese company ZTE and Russian companies to deploy a 4G network throughout the territory of that South American nation. In Mexico, according to data from the consultancy Statcounter, Huawei ranks fourth in the telephone market. In 14 countries of the region, the market shares accumulated by the Chinese company exceed two digits and in at least four of them it has grown to over 20%.

Not even the accusations made months ago by the United States that Huawei devices could be used by Beijing to spy on their users could dissuade Latin American customers from buying one of these devices, and in the last year the number of Huawei brand phones on the continent continued to grow. Users appeared to be more influenced by their pocketbooks than by fears of violations of their privacy.

So it was, until this May, when the conflict escalated a little more and several technology companies in the United States announced that they will stop supplying technology to Huawei. Google marked the turning point by decreeing that its Android ecosystem would no longer be included on phones sold by Huawei, a measure that also affects updates of that operating system on mobile phones that are already active. Chinese managers have insisted that they can get their own software but, despite their words calling for calm, the alarm is widespread.

While Washington and Beijing test their forces in this technological dispute, Latin America is about to divide again between affinity towards or rejection of one of the parties. Everything indicates that mobile phones will be the cause of the new schism.

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

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

‘14ymedio’: Five Years Since That First Day

The 14ymedio newsroom, located in this building in Havana, has been home to a great deal of work, nerves and time pressures these last five years.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 21 May 2019 – Today is 14ymedio’s birthday. This “informational creature” celebrates its five years of existence between the challenges that remain to be achieved and the satisfaction of having come this far. For any publication to survive five years is a test of maturity, but in the case of Cuba, where the independent media are prohibited and censored, it is a true act of boldness and persistence.

There has been a lot of water under the bridge since that May 21, 2014. The dawns became intense, coffee cups accumulated on the tables of our newsroom in Havana, the stories to be told multiplied and, more than once, our journalistic work led to one of the reporters on our team behind the bars of a dungeon, arbitrarily detained.

In this time we, too, have changed. The reports, notes and interviews we did left a mark on the entire editorial board. We said goodbye to some colleagues who emigrated, we tried to console others who decided not to continue publishing for fear of reprisals, and we welcomed new faces. We broke several forecasts that predicted barely a few months of existence, and convinced some skeptics that what we have is information, good journalism and the press. continue reading

At the beginning all our editorial communications were made through the Nauta email system, there were no Wi-Fi zones in parks and squares, the diplomatic thaw between Washington and Havana had not begun, cruise ships had not yet docked in Cuban ports, and Fidel Castro continued to publish his delirious ‘Reflections’ in the official press.

In this time, we also extended to other platforms and now part of our content is disseminated through instant messaging such as WhatsApp and Telegram. We inaugurated an information podcast, and we maintain a weekly e-mail newsletter, routinely issue a PDF of the week’s news every Friday, engage in numerous collaborations with various media, and opened a membership program.

There was no shortage of tough days. Moments when it seemed like we were not going to make it. There are still many of those, but every comment left by a reader, a word of encouragement that we hear in the streets or from social networks, someone who manages to make their story visible through our pages and solve their problem, are the greatest stimuli to continue.

The pillars that sustain us remain solid: to perform better journalism every day and to maintain our economic independence, without receiving a penny from governments, parties or groups in power. Our objective is intact. Like the dinosaur in Augusto Monterroso’s story*, we want Cuba to embark on the path of democratic change and for 14ymedio to be there, accompanying citizens with information.

*Translator’s note: Monterroso’s story, in its entirety, reads: “When he awoke, the dinosaur was still there.”

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

The Cuban Crisis and the Cycle of Survival

The coolers of the neighborhood stores remain empty and in the only “meat” available to buy is canned sardines. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, 15 May 2019 — From a balcony, the woman sees the refrigerated truck that supplies the store on the corner. She doesn’t lose a second and shouts: “Maricusa, the chicken arrived!” In a few minutes the whole neighborhood is a hive of people running with bags in hand to the small state market where, for three weeks, they have not supplied any type of meat product. They will still have to wait three hours while the merchandise is unloaded and then there will be a limit of two packages per person.

This scene can occur in Havana, Santiago de Cuba, the city of Camagüey or any small town on this island. The food shortage that has worsened in recent months has made the harsh daily life of 11 million people more complicated. If before you could barely escape the cycle of survival of looking for money — often by illegal means — to be able to buy food, wait for hours at a bus stop and immerse yourself in the black market to buy certain products; now the time needed to put something on your plate has multiplied by three and the difficulties to find it, by ten.

At first, there was no flour, so at the end of 2018 the greatest difficulty was buying bread or cookies. As the Christmas holidays neared, the alarm bells began to go off that the shortages were increasing. Pork, a virtual Dow Jones of the domestic economy, soared in price and by April had reached 70 Cuban pesos a pound, the equivalent of two days’ salary for a Cuban professional. Chicken, ground meat, hamburgers and hot dogs followed. These latter were the food that for years had supported the daily life of hundreds of thousands of families, because it was the product with a greatest proportion in number of units (10 sausages per package) relative to its price.

Cuban officialdom has justified such absences with a mixture of triumphalist and evasive rhetoric. They attribute the deficit to problems with international suppliers, the poor state of the milling industry to the processing of imported wheat, and blame those who monopolize merchandise as the cause of food shortages for all. In parallel, the Plaza of the Revolution avoids using the word ‘crisis’ and has also censored in the national media any mention of the concept of the ‘Special Period’, the euphemism applied to the economic disaster suffered by the island in the ‘90s after the disintegration of the USSR and the socialist camp.

In parallel with the refrigerators in the stores continuing to be empty, the ideological discourse rises in tone. This more incendiary rhetoric seeks to blame the US embargo for the shortages, although economists and analysts agree that the real cause of this fall comes from Venezuela, which has significantly cut oil shipments to the island. Havana resold a part of the crude it received from Venezuela on the international market and thus obtained fresh currency, an injection of life for an economy with low productivity and an excessive state apparatus, inefficient and expensive to maintain.

While many expected that the harsh circumstances would lead the administration of Miguel Diaz-Canel to promote an opening in the private sector, relax controls, lower taxes to promote entrepreneurship and relax the draconian customs regulations, the authorities have, in fact, moved in the opposite direction and have proceeded to ration many foods that until recently could be bought in an uncontrolled way. These measures have awakened the worst ghosts of a population traumatized by what they experienced less than two decades ago.

Meanwhile, discontent has not been made to wait, and this time it is powered by the new technologies that are allowing Cubans to report on and present images of the worsening quality of life. Thus, a one hundred percent Cuban challenge has recently emerged in social networks. With the hashtag #LaColaChallenge [TheLineChallenge], Facebook and Twitter are flooded with photos of lines, crushes of people trying to buy food, and annoyed customers waiting for hours outside a store.

Unlike during those hard years after the fall of the USSR, Cubans now seem unwilling to endure the crisis in silence. Mobile phones and the recently opened mobile web connection service have significantly changed the way the island is narrated. While food is scarce and expensive, citizen dissatisfaction is everywhere in sufficient quantities to become a mechanism of pressure.

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

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

Citizenship and Connectivity in Cuba, an Explosive Mixture

A military officer (brown uniform, foreground) organizes the repression while dozens of activists film the unprecedented LGBTI march this Saturday in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana | 12 May 2019 – If, on the eve of opening up internet access from mobile phones, Cuban officialdom had written a paper listing its five biggest fears about giving Cubans greater connectivity, those panic points would have been far below what has actually happened. In less than six months, we have experienced on this island a series of unprecedented events powered by social networks, events that defy the strict controls that have marked our society for too long.

This Saturday, the call to an LGBTI march showed the strength of a call to action that is achieved in digital spaces. The regime, nervous and with the intention of demonstrating a show of force, did what it does best: suppress, which multiplied the reach of the event and left a trail of repudiation even among some of the pro-government supporters. The rejection of the police attack against this pilgrimage has been almost unanimous. The march was organized after the cancellation of the march traditionally carried out under the supervision of the National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX).

The march that was planned to go peacefully, was marred by a disproportionate police siege, with dozens of State Security agents dressed in civilian clothes and the arrest of at least seven participating activists. The repressors did not restrain themselves despite the extensive presence of foreign press and the many tourists who traditionally roam Havana’s Parque Central. For State Security, it was about sending a message: in social networks, yes, but in the streets, no. continue reading

Despite that “twentieth century mentality” of believing that what happens on the internet stays on the internet, those who follow Cuban politics and the performance of the police forces, saw that the police committed yesterday one of their worst mistakes in decades. There is no way to defend their actions from any angle, not even from evangelical groups that reject the LGBTI agenda, because in this case it is not only about sexual preferences or the demand for legalization of equal marriage. We are facing a violation of the right to gather and to demonstrate, something that concerns every citizen beyond the banner he or she defends.

In advance of the events in Central Park, social networks had already gained muscle. In less than two weeks they ruined the reputation of commander Guillermo García Frías, whom the Plaza of the Revolution has honored for more than half a century. Jokes quickly went viral about his unfortunate statements related to the “cultivation” (sic) of ostriches, jutias [giant rats] and crocodiles as food sources for the population, and the internet will not stop raining jokes and memes.

García does not have time to reverse the stigma now attached to him of “commander ostrich,” posted on Facebook and Twitter, nor will the most powerful official propaganda machine ever manage to clear his name. Nor can it erase the image of Miguel Díaz-Canel’s caravan accelerating in response to the demanding cries of the victims of the tornado in the Havana municipality of Regla, no matter how many times they publish in the national press a daily photo of the ruler surrounded by people. With one click, all the ideological scaffolding that elevated him to the presidency received a devastating blow.

Last week, the arrest of a reporter also served to show the ability of social networks to unite, in a campaign, different and very varied groups of civil society. From political opponents, to independent journalists, ordinary citizens and even to people who until then had not spoken a single criticism against the authorities in public, pressures for the release of 14ymedio reporter Luz Escobar, were assumed by a surprising diversity of individuals and organizations.

What will come next? Many more calls born in that virtual world that the political police have tried to distance from reality for more than a decade, since the first independent blogs were born and a handful of Cubans opened their accounts on Twitter and Facebook, then labeled in the official media as “tools created by the CIA.”

The time between the cases in which the internet users of this Island come together in a common initiative, launch a hashtag to demand something, and force the authorities to respond is getting shorter. Each day the time between the click that gives birth to a proposal and its materialization in our streets grows shorter. It also increasingly involves more people and more varied sectors of society. So, in the coming weeks, smartphones and police batons will face off again.

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

Repression in the Time of Shortages

Yoani Sanchez, via Twitter, Havana, 8 May 2019 — A nice “touch” in the fright of the arrest of @Luz_Cuba (Luz Escobar): After waiting five hours at the police station for the State Security agent to arrive to interrogate her, the “seguroso” never arrived because he didn’t have gas for his motorcycle. [#The Crisis Comes to the Political Police]

See also:
14ymedio Reporter Luz Escobar Arrested In Cuba / CiberCuba

Luz Escobar, Reporter for 14ymedio, Released After 5 Hour Detention in Cuba

Luz Escobar, Reporter for 14ymedio, Released After 5 Hour Detention in Cuba

Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 8 May 2019 — Thanks to all those who demanded the release of @LuzCuba (Luz Escobar). She just called us on the phone to say that she had been released after being under arrest for five hours. We will only have the details when she arrives at the 14ymedio newsroom and we speak with her. THANK YOU.

All Eyes On Venezuela

Juan Guaidó and Leopoldo López in La Carlota with military deserters from the Maduro regime.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 30 April 2019 — The Americas awoke today with all eyes on Venezuela, an attention that extends to the other side of the Atlantic Ocean and that keeps governments, citizens, exiles from that South American country, journalists and analysts in suspense. The world pulses today in Caracas, after months of tension and years in which the oil producing nation has been sliding down the slope of economic collapse, political authoritarianism and social deterioration.

The release of Leopoldo López and the call of Juan Guaidó to put an end to the “usurpation” have brought the Venezuelan situation to a turning point. In the next few hours the first steps could be taken towards a call for free elections or, to the contrary, a repressive blow – of unprecedented proportions – could be launched from the regime of Nicolás Maduro against those who demand his departure from power.

Beyond predictions or forecasts, the main actors of this political drama have reached a point of no return. The principal protagonist is a Venezuelan people weary of the inefficiency of the system, galloping corruption, inflation and the lack of basic products. A population that has seen its quality of life collapse and that has had to say goodbye, every week, to friends and family members as they emigrate to escape the crisis. continue reading

Also in the “cast” of this tragedy is starring young Guaidó, a man who has made a meteoric ascent in recent months, supported by the international community and by a good part of Venezuelans who have found, in the President of the National Assembly, hope for change. Now, accompanied by his mentor Leopoldo López, the passionate engineer is at the center of danger and of dreams. He could see out this day strengthened and borne on high, but his chances of arrest or assassination are also very high.

On the other side of the conflict, there is the Chavista leadership that tries to protect a regime that has allowed it to roam at ease throughout the country, lining its pockets. Ministers, officials and senior military officers who are supported by Havana, which has provided them with intelligence agents and advisors on the matters on which the Cuban political police are experts: the submission of a society and the surveillance of each individual. In the early hours of the morning, Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel was already on Twitter supporting Maduro and he is expected, throughout the day, to raise the tone of the official rhetoric against the Venezuelan opposition.

Both a tragedy and a peaceful exit are on the table. Each role in the conflict could bring influence to bear during the course of the day, but it is in the Miraflores Palace in Caracas and in the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana where the cruelty or peace of of this Tuesday will be decided. To that scenario we must add Washington, attentive to every detail and knowledgeable about everything that is at stake in Venezuela today.

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

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

Nostalgia For The Cage Of The ‘80s

The ‘80s were also years of experiments and official programs marked by the voluntarism of Fidel Castro. Headline: “Now We Are Going to Build Socialism!” (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, 22 April 2019 — That day I did not want to watch national television but rather some documentary on the ‘Weekly Packet’, but when I turned on the screen there was Ramiro Valdés, speaking before the National Assembly about the “diversion of resources,” the official euphemism used to talk about stealing from the State, and how “ethical values” had deteriorated in Cuban society with the arrival of the Special Period. In his tone and choice of words there was a nostalgia for the 80s, for that “golden” decade before the economic crisis.

I perceive a similar recollection in many Cubans over 40, who consider that time as the best we have experienced in the last 60 years of socialism on the island. The longing leads them to see everything that happened in that decade through rose-colored glasses. With a highly selective memory they remember markets full of products, bread and eggs for sale freely without having to go through the rationed market, an average salary being enough to feed a family, and public transport operating with numerous routes and sufficient vehicles.

They forget the shadows of those years and only emphasize the lights. Their melancholy over the lass of those times ignores the control the Plaza of the Revolution exercised over every aspect of our individual lives. Those were the years when we could shop only in state stores, watch only the television controlled by the Communist Party, and travel outside the country only on official missions. Every pair of pants, shoes or shirt that we wore had been acquired through the ration card controlling industrial products, as had been any furniture in our homes not inherited from parents or grandparents.

The repressive structure functioned like clockwork and the ‘80s had started with acts of repudiation around the Peruvian Embassy, crowded with 10,000 Cubans wishing to leave the country who had been granted diplomatic protection there. With every worker in the country tied to the state sector, the coercion mechanisms to achieve social docility were highly effective. The so-called ‘verifications’ – consisting of a neighborhood inquiry and investigation of the behavior of anyone who wanted to ascend the career ladder, get a voucher to buy a refrigerator, or win a scholarship to study abroad in socialist countries – were fully greased and seemed omnipresent.

Making contact with a foreigner was considered a crime and having correspondence with relatives who had emigrated a probable stain in one’s file. The prevailing atheism placed a mask on those who professed some religious belief and in the ritual “tell me about your life” – indispensable to enter a job or achieve a promotion – you had to confess if you had a religious belief and if you practiced it.

People were much more afraid to issue a critical opinion than they are now, the dissident groups were reduced to their minimum expression and, between ‘schools in the countryside where teenagers were sent for their high school years, and the pioneer camps for younger children, the children of that time received a complete brainwashing and ideological indoctrination.

All writers who wanted to see their works published had to jump through the hoop of official censorship or see their writings languish in a drawer, musicians could only record their music in official studies, painters exhibited their works only in government managed galleries, and taxi drivers drove only vehicles with the blue state license plate.

Although totalitarianism was in its moment of splendor as far as control of society, the economic situation was not the result of the efficiency or productivity of the country, but rather of the “pipeline” of subsidies that arrived from the Soviet Union. The Kremlin was sustaining a bubble of false prosperity, a bubble that burst as soon as the USSR itself fell apart and the old comrades exchanged the hammer and sickle for a market economy.

The ‘80s should not be remembered for the cans of condensed milk that abounded on the shelves, nor for the markets where it was possible to buy juices from Bulgaria at very cheap prices or canned fruits from some member country of the Council of Mutual Economic Assistance (CAME/ or Comecon in English), much less for the stacks of intensely colored magazines with bombastic titles promoting a failed model.

Looking at the ‘80s, we must evoke them in their proper measure: the decade in which the cage was more effective, in which Fidel Castro had enough birdseed at his disposal to make us silently accept the bars.

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

Luis Enrique Valdes: “Most the Emigrants Took ‘La Edad De Oro’ in Their Suitcases”

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 21 April 2019 — Luis Enrique Valdés has inhabited an obsessive spiral for four months. The reason is his efforts is to achieve a facsimile edition of La Edad de Oro (The Golden Age), written by José Martí; a version so perfectly identical to the original that readers will feel transported 130 years back in time when the four notebooks of this monthly magazine aimed at children were published.

This week he responded, via email, to some questions from14ymedio where he details the obstacles, joys and expectations that the project has generated.

14ymedio: Almost every Cuban believes he knows ‘The Golden Age’ by heart. What novelty will this new edition offer over previous ones?

Luis Enrique Valdés: The Golden Age – just to say that it is a title given by A Dacosta Gómez, its first editor – appeared as a magazine. It was a “monthly publication of recreation and instruction dedicated to the children of America,” written entirely by José Martí, which only had four numbers: those corresponding to the months of July to October 1889. This 2019, so they are 130 years old. However, we have known it in the form of a book all this time. continue reading

In these 130 years it has seen the light in the original format only once. This is the Cuban edition in four issues, published in the year of its centenary. That edition, which to be fair I must say is very good, is almost impossible to find, it is very similar to the first and in its spirit we have been inspired, although starting now, for ours, the original numbers of 1889.

At that time it was stapled to a half-page white cardboard stamped with words from Luis Toledo Sande thanking the Office of Historical Affairs of the Council of State, as well as with the credits of that impression, that made the object itself not identical to the Martiana edition. There is something in it that was not in the 1889 edition.

We want this edition to be, for the first time in history, identical in everyway to what came from the hands of José Martí. This means that each issue will be an independent booklet with the exact appearance that José Martí gave to the magazine in 1889, without any additions or deletions in each one of them. We want them to be millimetrically equal to those in New York. That is why a fifth notebook will accompany the collection, as a presentation and study, so as not to touch the facsimiles with so much as a comma and it will include Marti’s correspondence about La Edad de Oro, as well as articles and announcements in publications of the period, unknown until now, and several subsequent essays among which is a very long one by Herminio Almendros.

14ymedio: What changes or vicissitudes did the book go through every time it was published until now?

Luis Enrique Valdés: In the letter known as Marti’s literary testament, written to Gonzalo de Quesada in Montecristi, on April 1, 1895, on the eve of his definitive return to Cuba to begin the struggle, he entrusted him with: “La Edad de Oro, or whatever part of it would suffer reprinting.” Martí’s request was fulfilled ten years after his death. Thus La Edad de Oro was published as a book in Rome in 1905. In Cuba it did not happen until 1932, when Emilio Roig de Leuchsenring published it, forty-three years after its appearance.

The first edition already had misprints, most likely associated with the work of copyists or printers. Most of them were inherited in successive editions. However, most of the current editions are perfectly corrected.

14ymedio: How was the process to get the original version available to the editors of this project?

Luis Enrique Valdés: It began with a worldwide search against the clock. I knew that the magazine had been distributed in five countries: the United States, Cuba, Mexico, Venezuela and Spain. We should not think that this distribution was massive. Absolutely. Martí spent a lot of work to find friends to help him distribute it. In Mexico, no. There was his “brother” Manuel Mercado, to whom he sent no less than 500 copies of the first issue.

In Cuba it came in through Guantanamo. There is still a sign on the site where the magazines were received. So the first thing I did was to consider that in the Public Library of New York there could be copies of 1889. But it was not like that.

I thought then that Dr. Eduardo Lolo, who has a critical edition of La Edad de Oro, could give me a tip about the whereabouts of some collection outside of Cuba. His response could not have been more discouraging: the only surviving collection was the one that Martí had placed in the hands of Quesada, which is currently on the island. That a man who had studied it so deeply told me this filled me with discouragement. However, his research is from the ‘90s. At that time the Internet wasn’t as extensive s it is now. I grabbed onto that to think that maybe there was an accessible collection somewhere in the world that Lolo did not know about.

‘The Golden Age’ is an immense source of values. More than one person would be surprised to see it again and realize that it is a text of enormous appeal. (Courtesy)

It was not in the national libraries of any of the aforementioned countries, so I started looking into the libraries of others. Then National Library of France said they had them. Zoé Valdés helped me a lot in communication with them and yes, they supposedly had them. I received a notice with the clarification that, unfortunately, there was a cataloging error.

They had “a facsimile edition of 1989” that is not in the public domain and I had to ask the editors for permission. It was the edition I spoke of before; With all logic they had confused it with the original ones since to catalog the magazine they did not need to open it, as all the information – editor, author, year, month, number, city – everything appears on the cover. After thirty years and the high degree of conservation that documents can have in dry and cold countries, it was normal that they would confuse the 1989 one, which had aged very badly, with the one from 130 years ago.

It occurred to me to call my good friend María José Rucio who is the Head of the Manuscripts and Incunabula Department of the National Library of Spain. The first thing she told me was something I already knew: they did not have it. But she was immediately willing to lend a hand, giving me hope because librarians understand each other very well.

A few days later, in which I continued to delve into whatever library was going through my mind, she called me to tell me that a certain library in Madrid – that of the Agency for International Development Cooperation – which I had not yet looked at because I was focused on older libraries – claimed to have them. I called the AECID immediately.

A very kind gentleman who was already aware of my inquiries helped me. He looked at his catalog and assured me, firmly, that he had the originals. I was invited to spend the weekend in the Madrid house of my friend Thais Pujols, and I raced from Valladolid to arrive just before the library closed. It was a Friday.

I emerged from the mouth of the Moncloa Metro Station with an overwhelming emotion. I was running, crying, with Alberto Maceo on the phone. In just three minutes I was going to be before them at last. I arrived. I was helped by a being full of light: Rodrigo Sorando. He had bad news for me: his colleagues believed that it was a facsimile. I only had to see the backs to realize that, probably, they were not the ones I was looking for. And on opening them came the confirmation of the disaster: the same mistake as the French.

Rodrigo probably noticed that I was about to cry. My lips and hands trembled. I did not have the slightest hope of finding them, but he told me about a tool that could do in half a second what I had been doing for half a month on my own: search in all the libraries of the world at the same time. “You have it in Paris.” And I, no, no, which is the same as here, and then the light came, but a still dim light: “They’re in a Miami library!”

That weekend I could not contact them, but the next week the great news came: they were there!

Several Spanish institutions that by absolute discretion I do not mention, were willing to establish a library exchange to obtain high quality copies that I needed. That type of reproductions can reach a very high price, so an exchange like the one we were proposing, and the free gift later, smoothed the road a lot.

However, from Florida they did not hesitate in their generosity: they would freely give the copies with the characteristics that we needed, even if they were immense, without the need of the intervention of the Spanish institutions, with the only condition that this be confirmed in the special number of the edition. That’s how it will be and there you will be able to know, with details, who these people are who are so charitable and such excellent professionals.

In the middle of all this process, I managed to join my purposes with a person who is one of its fundamental pillars: Carlos Martín Aires. Besides being one of my greatest friends, he is also one of the best editors I know. His experience in editorial work is immense and his absolute dedication to work will ensure, with all certainty, La Edad de Oro remains exactly as we dream it.

14ymedio: Any anecdotes about what happened in recent months and what is there anything you can say now that the project has started?

Luis Enrique Valdés: I think the most beautiful anecdote is in the genesis of this idea. My friend Alberto Maceo, a brother to me, insisted on inviting me to spend the end of the year with him and his family in Flensburg, the city where he lives in northern Germany. What we couldn’t get out of our heads is that, to the joy of being together on holidays, we were going to add the emergence of such a beautiful idea and the best legacy of that trip. Alberto and Petra, his love, prepared the room usually occupied by their children for me. They have a bookshelf full of books there and, of course, I went to browse.

Among them are several editions of La Edad de Oro. All of them very unattractive. And as a throwaway comment I said: “What bad editorial luck has had La Edad de Oro!” Making a beautiful book is the result of a series of successful decisions. That magazine was conceived by Martí with immense good taste. Both the form and its contents were meditated and measured by him with exquisite manners that those later editions have sacrificed.

CAPTION: With these pieces is built, as it can, a possible Cuba on this side. In this Cuba, as it is logical, this temple of our childhood that the Martian magazine is. (Courtesy)

So Alberto, knowing that the edition of books is a weakness for me, snapped at me: “Well, make one that looks beautiful to you.” In the year that began the day after that conversation in Flensburg, this year, La Edad de Oro turns 130. So when Alberto told me that I was completely clear. And as soon as I set foot in Spain, I set out to find the originals, the only way to make a responsible facsimile edition. As I have called, all this time, the copies of that first edition of New York: “The originals.”

14ymedio: They have launched a fundraising campaign to get the five notebooks published. How is the initiative going so far?

Luis Enrique Valdés: As of now we’ve collected 30% of the total. We are still a long way from achieving it, but there’s still time. We can’t say we’ve got the wind in our sails, or that it is soporifically slow. There are days when it slows down more and I feel immense discouragement, others advance a little and hope returns.

If four hundred Cubans, or non-Cubans who are kind enough to contribute, join in this noble purpose, providing the minimum that the rewards indicate, we will achieve it. It doesn’t seem to be too much. It would be really sad that La Edad de Oro does not have this special edition with its 130 years because 400 Cubans have not agreed on it, after everything that this magazine and “the man of the Golden Age ” have given us as a legacy.

14ymedio: What a José Martí who lived so many years in exile returns in an edition also promoted by emigrants. More than coincidence?

Luis Enrique Valdés: I think that more than coincidence it is something natural. Those of us who carry on our shoulders the weight of not living in our Homeland, as he brought it, we are always aware of the memory of the Island. One leaves there with fragments on their backs.

This experience has led me to speak with hundreds of Cubans from exile I’ve directly asked to collaborate. Most tell me that, in their crammed suitcase, they left with their copy of La Edad de Oro. And those who did not, tell me that if there is something they remember with pain it is to have left it there. With those pieces one is built, as far as one can, a possible Cuba on this side. In that Cuba, as it is logical, this magazine created by José Martí is a temple of our childhood.

14ymedio: In times of ebooks, video games and mobile applications, what is the attraction for Cuban children to look at this magazine again?

Luis Enrique Valdés: As we have said, La Edad de Oro is an immense source of values. More than one person would be surprised to return to it to realize that it is a text of enormous appeal. It is true that today’s children are very enthralled by new technologies and this, properly channeled, is not bad. However, the charms that the printed book has always had, its touch, its smell, and this time the knowledge that what you have in your hands has the exact appearance of what Martí created for them, cannot be substituted with anything.

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

‘Memes’, A Political Weapon Against Power In Cuba

With a little help from Photoshop: “In every neighborhood, an ostrich” (14ymedio) (CDR is the initials (in Spanish and English) for Committee for the Defense of the Revolution)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 11 April 2019 — Social networks were recently flooded with parodies about the flight of the presidential caravan from an area affected by the tornado, but this week the protagonists are ostriches, jutías (giant rats) and crocodiles which, according to comandante Guillermo García Frías, could resolve Cuba’s food problem. Just this week the 91-year-old García Frías proposed raising these animals to fill Cuban stomachs.

Memes have become a democratic alternative to the cartoon as a way of criticizing a power not greatly given to jokes. It is within the reach of almost anyone to make one and spread it until it becomes viral.

Political humor has been absent for decades in the official Cuban press, where only burlesque cartoons about capitalism or the president of the United States are found. No one has ever dared to offer irony about the ministers, officials or figures of the national leadership. All the jokes about them have been oral, told in low voices or in gestures.

Overhead: Welcome to Mexico. Ostrich 1: Run! Run! Here comes Guillermo García Frías. Ostrich 2: Hey! Hey! We are political refugees!

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And then the internet came to mobile phones. What in other nations has been happening for more than a decade has just began to become a reality for the residents of this Island. Now, the virtual world is not only a way to contact friends who have emigrated, seek out scholarships as a way to escape to some other place, or to ask a relative in exile to recharge your phone, but it has been erected as a place to mock the Castro regime. All the carefully contained creativity is exploding.

Some ‘memes’ rework the famous photo of Fidel Castro throwing himself from a tank, but in today’s version he is jumping off an ostrich. (Alen Lauzán)

The memes reach everyone, spark a smile and go viral many times over. The political power does not know how to deal with them: if they ignore them, they still generate laughter and reflections; if they mention and contest them, they consecrate them. The slogans can be infinitely parodied in these sparkling images and funny collages, while the sober ideological language of the billboards in the streets cannot adopt less formal codes to try to compete with such mockery.

The result is that the dissatisfaction and popular disapproval of the Executive’s management is coming to the fore in these collages. For example, the regime’s phrase, “In each block a committee” – referring to the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, a national system of informants where all citizens are expected to monitor and report on each other’s revolutionary fidelity – is bowdlerized to “In each block an ostrich,” accompanied by a rework of the famous photo of Fidel Castro throwing himself from a tank, but in this version he is descending from one of those enormous African birds, a metaphor perhaps of a Revolution sustained more by improvisation than by military courage.

The Plaza of the Revolution has a problem. The irreverence of the meme has a greater impact on people than the solemnity of slogans because they are corrosive, familiar, catchy and make one think. The tendency of Cubans to look for the humor in things and to grab onto “anything to relax” turns out to be a very fertile breeding ground for these vignettes to deeply embed themselves in the collective imagination.

To mock the power is to begin to tear it down.

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

Where Is The FEU While Cuban Police Beat Congolese Medical Students?

Police invaded the university campus of the Salvador Allende School of Medicine in Havana on Monday. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 9 April 2019 — For decades, the official Cuban press has reported in detail on police violence against student demonstrations around the world. Thus, we have seen riot police respond with tear gas, tonfas and rubber bullets to university students in many countries. But the day that scene happened in Cuba, the national media did not broadcast it.

On Monday, an impressive repressive operation attacked dozens of Congolese students at the Salvador Allende School of Medical Sciences in Havana. The young people had been protesting for days due to the non-payment of their stipends and the bad conditions of the dorms. The situation reached its maximum tension when they moved the protest from outside their country’s embassy to the university campus.

The images are overwhelming. A large number of military and police vehicles arrived at the school. The uniformed officers were accompanied by dogs and fell on the unarmed youth. A policeman draws his weapon and points it at a student, while special troops immobilize and throw others to the ground. All this, amid the cries of repudiation and calls for nonviolence made by several students who film the events. continue reading

The residents of the area also narrate the harshness of the official response and some, who used their phones to capture the events, were arrested and taken to police stations where the images they had stored in the memory of their cell phones were erased. Despite the intention to eliminate evidence, in a few hours the videos of repression were on social networks and the news reached the covers of many international newspapers.

New images of the violent repression of students from The Congo by the Cuban police come to light. The medical fellows were protesting the delay in receipt of two years of their stipend and the poor conditions in which they live on the island. See images here and here. (Mario J. Pentón (@mariojose_cuba))

The disproportionate operation has generated outrage among many, but has not caused a single statement of condemnation by the docile University Student Federation (FEU), the official Union of Young Communists (UJC) or that grotesque without voice or vote that is the Continental Latin American and Caribbean Student Organization (OCLAE). In no faculty of the country this Tuesday the students made protests in solidarity with the Congolese youth.

It seems as if everything happened in another country, in a distant and alien galaxy, but the national history confronts us with the reality that it happened here and has happened before.

During the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, the chief of police, Rafael Salas Cañizares, entered the University of Havana with his troops, dealing out blows and fear. That day of April 1956 was considered an affront to the autonomy of the university and remained in the historical memory of this Island as an event that should not be repeated, ever again. That event is mentioned in the textbooks that were written after 1959 as clear evidence of the repressive nature of the Batista regime and the democratic weakness of the Republican era.

On Monday, uniformed men again entered a university campus with weapons. They handcuffed, beat and arrested numerous students but the images will not be seen in the national media nor will student organizations condemn the fact.

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

López Obrador and Historical Guilt

López Obrador has sent letters to the Pope and to the Spanish Government. (Screen capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, 28 March 2019 — Until now, Andrés Manuel López Obrador seemed to be a focus of concern or hope for millions of Mexicans. Saving his lukewarm performance in the face of the regime of Nicolás Maduro, the Mexican president had received criticism and applause only within the borders of his own country, where he wages innumerable political and economic battles every day. That was how it was, until it occurred to him to stir up the ghost of historical guilt on two continents.

In a letter, AMLO — as he is popularly known in Mexico — has asked Pope Francis and the King of Spain to form a joint commission to study the conquest of America and to ask for forgiveness for the excesses committed. The letter has provoked some reactions of support, others of anger, many of indifference and resounding taunts that feed the memes in social networks. The Mexican politician has come to stand, in a few hours, at the center of a barrage of comments that cross the Atlantic from one side to another.

AMLO’s two Hispanic surnames do not help much in this process of demanding an apology, because they confirm that he himself is the fruit of a long cultural process that transcends the Manichaeism of the conquered and conquerors. His own existence springs from centuries of confrontation, integration, symbiosis, miscegenation and accommodation, where the limits are not precise and seeking the guilty is a work that delves deeper into the terrain of neurosis than of objectivity. But demagogues have to live for something and the most comfortable source lies in burdening others with responsibility. continue reading

López Obrador knows not what he has done. While he believed that he was extending that path of official apology that began with his mandate, which includes several bloody events of recent Mexican history, he did not realize that he was entering a terrain that does not belong to him: the distant past. In trying to extract returns from a supposed political humility that would have the powerful kneel before the defenseless victims, he has stepped on the tail of the Spanish bull and with it the millions of citizens of this part of the world whose veins run with both Hispanic and American blood.

It remains to be asked what led AMLO to compose the letters he sent to the Vatican and the Zarzuela Palace asking for an almost impossible historical redress. Was it the search for truth, or ignorance,or  the desire to shift attention beyond the problems of Mexico, or was it his own ego needing to scale higher peaks and take on more universal challenges? Whatever it is, so far he is losing the battle because he chose the losing path of “we are like this because they damaged us,” while rejecting the path of “we are nourished by diversity and in our culture many channels converge: this makes us powerful.”

If AMLO follows the path of blame then he must begin by preparing the plea to hold the Aztecs accountable for dominating and controlling large areas of Mesoamerica, the Romans for molding European faces with the advance of their implacable legions and the Mongols for having planted terror so many times under the hoofs of their horses. But this he will not do, of course, because his true objective is not to assign responsibility but to nurture his populist foundations. López Obrador is not looking for a culprit, instead he just wants to garner the distinctions of a savior.

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

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

Why Was There No Student Strike For Climate Change In Cuba?

A young woman shouts slogans through a megaphone during a march for the environment in Santiago de Chile. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 16 March 2019 — Greta Thunberg, age 16, is quiet and shy. The Swedish teenager resembles any Cuban woman of that age who has understood that the world is not the neat and clean place described in children’s stories.

Her concern for climate change led her to skip school every Friday to demand politicians take effective actions that protect the environment, an attitude that has spread to schoolchildren in several European cities and has crossed the Atlantic to infect thousands of children in Latin America. So far in Cuba however, no student in primary, secondary high school or university has joined the initiative.

But the fact that, last Friday, the streets of Havana and other cities on the island were not filled with youthful faces demanding cuts in carbon dioxide emission, or the urgent implementation of policies to save the planet, does not mean – at all – that Cuban children and adolescents are not thinking about these issues. continue reading

What it shows is the lack of autonomy and of rights that leaves them unable to express their dissatisfaction. Nor is the majority apathetic and insensitive to environmental issues, as adults often want to believe, with that nefarious phrase, “young people are a lost cause.” Nor is Sweden so far away that Cuban young people are not aware of the earthquake of activism being launched by Thunberg.

Through social networks, internet access on mobile phones and conversations between friends, it is easy to hear about the story of the young woman who stood for weeks alone in a square in Stockholm to inspire thousands of people throughout the world. Thus, at least in this case, the justification of misinformation or ignorance is not valid. Nor, in Cuba, is it a valid argument to say – as the official press likes to repeat – that we do not have the serious environmental problems “of the developed world.” It is enough to see the long column of smoke that rises every morning from the Ñico López Refinery in Havana, to realize the seriousness of the situation.

Beyond the excessive local emissions or the specific contamination of an area, the protests initiated by Thunberg try to draw attention to the fact that this is a global problem that concerns us all. Why, then, have young Cubans not followed the path of Ecuadorians, Brazilians, Mexicans, Chileans and Argentines who have joined the demand she initiated? The answer is not indifference, but fear.

Not one of the structures that include students and young people on this Island is designed to let them act with their own voice. The José Martí Organization of Pioneers, for younger children, the Federation of Secondary Students, and the Federation of University Students are organizations used by power to transmit down to the new generations, not platforms for representation, demands and pressure from those generations up to the authorities.

If the Plaza of the Revolution does not order them to take to the streets they do not do so, and, sadly, this “orientation” comes only for ideological purposes, such as protesting against the White House, demanding the release of a Cuban spy or participating in a act of repudiation against dissidents on the island.

They are entities designed to muzzle the voices of young people rather than amplify them. This explains why the example of Greta Thunberg has been met in Cuba with silence.

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