Dawn in Havana
Cubanet, Rafael Alcides, Havana, 10 April 2015 – Havana sixty years ago was a pretty city—clean, young and with no thieves of any consequence in the neighborhood. Around 9:00 at night the garbage truck would make its rounds. It was a regular truck, not one of those modern-day versions that look like interplanetary spaceships. It carried four workmen—two standing and holding on to the rear of the truck, flanking it—the other two at the top. Upon hearing the bell signaling the truck’s approach, the neighbors would hastily place the garbage can at the door, the two men from the rear would toss it with great flair to the ones at the top of the truck, those men would fling it back with equal style, and the can would be placed once again by the door. It was painful to watch them do this work that would cause the street to be enveloped in the stench of rotten melons. However, these men, with the elegance and precision with which they went about their task, made it seem like they were playing an individual basketball game. How many of these vehicles the city possessed, I don’t know, but your neighborhood truck would show up every night, through rain, a cold snap, or the coming of a hurricane.
This was not all.
In the afternoons, a crop duster would fly overhead, fumigating against flies and mosquitoes, and at dawn, Havana smelled clean. Overnight, its streets had been washed down and whisked with the metal brush that was applied between the road and the sidewalk by a powerful machine. The sewer manholes had their covers, the sanitation system was inspected every week, power outages were unknown, and Havana gave the impression of a city inhabited by people who had never done harm to anyone and therefore could live without fear, despite this being a time when the din of sudden gunfire was commonly heard along with the eruption of firecrackers. In the residential neighborhoods open planting beds were common, and in the traditional El Vedado neighborhood, the little foot-and-a-half high wall was established by municipal ordinance. Continue reading
Raúl Castro with Barack Obama at a press conference during the Summit of the Americas.
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 27 April 2015 — A few days back, a commentator on Cuban state television found it “interesting” that Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinan, speaking on behalf of her party, said there would be no opposition in the U.S. Congress to removing Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terror.
This time, the Cuban-American Congresswoman was not disparaged as a “wild wolf,” as the official media christened her back in the days of the campaign for the return of the little boy rafter Elián González to Cuba. If everything goes according to plan, on May 30th, after the 45 days required for the U.S. Congress to ratify the President’s recommendation, Cuba’s name will be erased from the list. Continue reading
In Cuba, if you do not have permission to reside in Havana, they deport you to your province of origin (internet photo)
Cuban Apartheid, suffered by families who abandoned their homes and went to Havana in search of a new life
Cubanet.org, Reinaldo Emilio Cosano Alen, Havana, 15 May 2015 – Rodolfo Castro, from Santiago de Cuba, met with three other young men detained at the Guanabo police station east of Havana. Driven to the Central Train Terminal in a patrol car – so that they could not escape – they were put on the train and deported to their provinces, following imposition of a fine of a thousand Cuban pesos – some 50 dollars – each. So says Osmany Matos, of Guanabo, arrested for a traffic offense who witnessed the incident.
The “Palestinians” (as they ironically call those who come from the eastern provinces) Yordanis Reina, Maikel Cabellero and Edilberto Ledesma, from the rural area El Parnaso; and Amaury Sera, from the Manati township, all in the Las Tunas province, explained to Graciela Orues Mena, independent trade unionist: Continue reading
The Cuban flag serves as a symbol of the nation (14ymedio)
14ymedio, Fernando Dámaso, Havana, May 17 2015 – The Cuban government, since it seized power on January 1959, has maintained an authoritarian and exclusive approach to politics. Patriots, Cubans and citizens are considerations that have only been extended to those who unconditionally support the establishment. Those who do not or who simply criticize it are deemed unpatriotic, traitors, and anti-socials.
This system is primitive in its simplicity, but it has been useful. This absurd and unnatural positioning has been applied to everything: democracy, liberty, human rights, unity, opposition and many other terms have been redefined according to the ideological and political interests of those who govern, giving the impression that the Island exists in an unreal political and geographical space, outside of planet Earth. Continue reading
An old man selling newspapers on the streets of Havana (Elio Delgado)
Hablamos Press, Eduardo Herrera, Havana, 16 May 2015 — In recent weeks, meetings between Raúl Castro and various heads of state have attracted the attention of national and international public opinion.
During his visit to Algeria, Castro met with Abdelaziz Buteflika, who at 78 years of age has been president of his country for 16 years. Later, Castro travelled to Russia to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Second World War. Continue reading
Fidel Castro’s mug shot (photo from the internet)
“We sleep with the lights off, we have no roll calls or formations all day, we get up whenever (…) Plenty of water, electric lights, food, clean clothes and all for free”
Cubanet.org, Roberto Jesus Quinones Haces, Guantanamo, 15 May 2015 – This May 15 marks the 60th anniversary of the release of the Moncadistas. The attack on the Moncada barracks is characterized by many as a terrorist act. Beyond the adjectives, always debatable, those who have been charged with praising the rebellious generation and denigrating the army officers of the time say nothing about the soldiers killed that Carnival dawn. Nineteen officers fell, but their names do not count for the official historians.
What would happen today if a group of Cubans, tired of political discrimination and abuses, were to attack a military unit? Would they receive sanctions as benign as those applied to the Moncadistas? Would they be allowed to meet in jail and be separated from the regular prisoners? Would they be granted amnesty? Continue reading
Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 12 May 2015 — Yesterday, Tuesday May 11, 2015, the front page of Granma, the official organ of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), showed a photograph of the Cuban President General amicably shaking the hand of Pope Francis in Vatican City. Quirks of politics, to convince us of the survivability of the Castro regime, represented by another member of the same caste that in the decade of the 70’s and 80’s harassed members of religious orders, reviled priests and marginalized the faithful. Now, just like that, the Castro regime perfumes its stubborn Marxist conviction with myrrh and frankincense, and it is almost hard to believe that this seemingly respectable octogenarian who visits with the Pope is one of those guerrilla leaders of that Revolution that was anticlerical, antireligious and church-phobic even before declaring itself Marxist.
In retrospect, the war against religious faith in Cuba was not just a momentary attack, but a policy of systematic and ongoing state-sanctioned persecution or discrimination against individuals for reasons of their religious beliefs, while, at the same time, Marxism-Leninism, that other fake religion, kept spreading with the aid of the Kremlin’s petro-rubles. Continue reading
Raúl Castro and Vladimir Putin in Havana’s Palace of the Revolution in July 2014. (EFE/Alejandro Ernesto)
14ymedio, Jose Gabriel Barrenechea, Santa Clara, 5 May 2014 — Russia is not the West’s Enemy, with a capital “E.” And even if it were, it would not be taken seriously. Russia is no longer the industrial superpower of the ’70’s and ’80’s, nor is it a leader in innovation. Its population is dwindling to catastrophic levels, as its share of GDP in comparison to those of other countries. It is indeed true its army is still the only one that can face the American army in all-out symmetrical war, but for how much longer?
In fact, Russia is not the enemy because it shares real enemies with the West, the enemies we really should fear. And we share them because Russia is part of the West. Continue reading
Fernando Damaso, 12 May 2015 — When it comes to talking about human rights, our authorities ignore the 30 items in the Universal Declaration about them, and they go on to extol the medical, educational and other types of assistance they lend to dozens of countries–as well as to foreigners in our country–without clarifying the fact that in the majority of these cases, this help is paid-for by those countries, and by the individuals who receive it in Cuba. In reality, more than help, it consists of services that are commercialized for very good political and economic returns for the government. Everything should be called by its proper name.
Such assistance, albeit respectable, does not form part of human rights and, therefore, should not be used to evade responsibility for their disrespect where Cuban citizens are concerned, nor accepted in international forums. Continue reading
Angel Santiesteban, 12 May 2015 — At the Summit of the Americas, the Bolivian president told journalists about the arrests, humiliations and violations of human rights he suffered when he opposed the officialdom of his country, from the beginning of his union movement activism back in 1988.
So it’s outrageous that this same human being, statesman and politician, who tells of the suffering inflicted upon him by the extremist regimes of his time, is today the one who defends the dictatorship of the Castro brothers, which commits the same human rights violations against the Cuban opposition. It might be assumed that he would show solidarity with the abused of today. But, like they say, “with fame comes memory loss.”
Although perhaps it’s not forgetfulness so much as the price he pays, because in reality he was chosen by Fidel Castro for his country’s presidency, and provided with economic and strategic support, personal protection and intelligence. Continue reading
Scene from the movie “Return to Ithaca”
14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 4 May 2015 — The reunion of five friends on a roof terrace in Central Havana is the thread on which Return to Ithaca’s plot rests. Leonardo Padura wrote the screenplay and Laurent Cantet directed this French film about Cuban topics.
The film is currently circulating underground among Havana moviegoers, preceded by the best possible presentation: the official censorship that prevented its showing during the latest edition of the Latin American Film Festival, held in Havana in December, 2014. However, Return to Ithaca has been shown at the Charles Chaplin auditorium in Havana, in the framework of the French Film Festival, being held throughout the month of May.
The film has become the cultural phenomenon of the moment, largely “by the grace of” the official censorship in a country where direct or veiled criticism of the system remains an event, even when — as in this instance — it makes use of worn-out clichés and platitudes. Continue reading