Leaving the Footprints of Some First Steps / Somos+, Niurvys Roca

Somos+, Niurvys Roca, 22 June 2015 — I inserted a flash drive in my old and slow computer, and a young man’s image appeared, nothing special about it except for his courage in questioning the limitations that we Cubans must endure. I admit that I had to contain an exclamation. Until that moment, I did not think anyone capable of revealing our problems in such a bold way, direct and honest. The next morning, people were talking about it, in whispers, in the schools, on street corners, and even at my workplace.  Later, a silence took over and everything seemed to return to normality — not because it is normal, but because it is the same, that which involves despair, denial and sadness.

Many years after connecting that flash drive, a young man I barely knew asked me, “Do you remember Eliécer Ávila, that guy from the University of Information Science (UCI)? He has a proposal that you should read.”

I thought that Eliécer had been “disappeared,” and I confess that I was very happy to find out that he was active, because this was about a hope for changes for my country. The young man continued, “He’s started a movement called Somos+, but…you know…without Internet access it’s almost impossible to hear much from them. I’ve heard that there’s a girl in Spain who helps out. I’ll try to get in touch with her.”

Meanwhile, a group of friends and I would gather to discuss how we could help Cuba in any way possible and, suddenly, that young man who was now well-known to me, said to me, “We have contact with those who are supporting the movement from abroad!” I knew than that we should take part in our country’s history, and that it was the perfect opportunity to get involved.

Today we really are more, and so many more are joining that, when I try to recall those early days when there were hardly ten of us in exile, it is almost impossible not to share the excitement. I remember a comment about how we should be called “Somos-” [“We Are Less”], which hurt me at that time, but now I laugh about it because time puts everything in its place. You have to be inside of this thing to know how delicious it is to unite with other Cubans who are full of energy, abilities, proposals, curiosity, and genuine desire to do for our country. Today I can only feel pride in what is accomplished if only the individual desires it — all that is obtained when love and dedication are given to something.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Machado’s Young People / Somos+, Javier Cabrera

Machado Ventura

Somos+, 13 July 2105 — One of the most important qualities of a politician is credibility. I am one of those who believe that credibility must be earned — and must not be lost, because sometimes it cannot be recovered. The obligatory homage to “the caste” has been the tool used to obviate the need for credibility in Cuba, and processes have been created to redress its loss: “rectification of errors,” “update of the economic model,” and even “voting for everything.”

This is why it is not strange that the octogenarian Machado Ventura addressed us, the young people of Cuba, telling us what we should do, think or feel. Those who in the old days were dazzled by promises of faraway lands and indeed enjoyed (and still enjoy) privileges, today demand that we not be dazzled by pretty things — basically because many of these things might turn out to be good, and might sentence them to a forced retirement. And it is there that they leave us their legacy: Remember the confrontation! A war cry against the rapprochement, against the aim of those models that have encouraged it on both sides. Continue reading

A Chavez Supporter Denounces “The Castros’ Deception” / 14ymedio

terminal-aeropuerto-Jose-Marti_CYMIMA20150728_0034_13

Advertisement greeting arriving passengers at Havana’s José Martí International Airport Terminal 3. Poster reads “Cuba: A Healthcare Destination for All.” (14ymedio)

14ymedio, Havana, 29 July 2015 — On June 30, 2015, the pro-Chávez website Aporrea posted a disturbing testimonial about the Cuban healthcare system, with a title that says it all: “Ninety Days in Havana: You Have to be There to Know The Truth.” The Venezuelan Nelson Jesús Lanz Fuentes, a regular contributor to Aporrea, and a great admire of Hugo Chávez, narrates the ordeal he went through first in his country, and later in Havana, where he accompanied his son with the hope that Cuban doctors could save his leg.

A traffic accident left the son of Lanz Fuentes, a resident of the Venezuelan city of Guarenas, with severe injuries to one of his legs. His tibia factured in three places and the doctors from Venezuela’s public health system inserted a plate in his leg to help regenerate the bone. However, the operation caused an infection resulting in a terrible diagnosis: infected pseudoartrosis and osteomyelitis of the right tibia, and a dermoepidermal ulcer with bone exposure. Venezuelan doctors in private practice recommended a very expensive treatment that did not guarantee good results. Continue reading

Eighty Percent of Las Tunas Province Is Facing Soil Erosion / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 28 July 2015 — Experts have just confirmed what peasants in Las Tunas Province already knew due to the declining yields of their harvests and the degradation of their land. Eighty percent of the province’s arable land has already eroded, and another 28% is facing desertification. According to reports appearing in the official Cuban press on July 28th, this problem is a result of “changes in rain patterns, and inadequate management of the province’s farmable lands.” Continue reading

Cancer from High Levels of Metals in Reservoirs? (II) / Cubanet, Ernesto Perez Chang

In spite of the contamination of Cuban bays, health authorities do not prevent fishing and bathing (photo by the author)

In spite of the contamination of Cuban bays, health authorities do not prevent fishing and bathing (photo by the author)

Cubanet.org, Ernesto Perez Chang, Havana, 28 July 2015 – Between the years 2004 and 2007, 65 children from the Los Sitios neighborhood in Central Havana, 7 to 10 years of age, underwent testing in order to determine their degree of lead poisoning. The research, conducted by a team of researchers from the Cuban National Institute of Health, Epidemiology and Microbiology (INHEM), found that 46.2% of the children exceeded the acceptable levels for adults according to the World Health Organization (10.0 mg/dl) and that 67.7% already were demonstrating learning difficulties associated with poisoning from this heavy metal.

According to the scientists, who recommended extending the investigation to other areas of the capital, the group of those affected presented with “diminished reading abilities, more limited vocabulary, poor reasoning, very slow reactions and poor psychomotor coordination.” Also, concern about the long term consequences was raised due to lead exposure being associated not only with reduction in academic performance but with changes in hearing, behavior, low self esteem, suicide attempts, depressive syndromes, aggression, and even mental retardation or death. Continue reading

Time for Compensations / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya

Who will compensate the thousands of Cuban boat people who lost their lives in the Florida Straits? (Mexico, Department of the Navy)

Who will compensate the thousands of Cuban boat people who lost their lives in the Florida Straits? (Mexico, Department of the Navy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 22 July 2015 — After the media foreplay stirred by the opening of the Cuban and US embassies in their respective countries, some outstanding issues on the agenda of negotiations between the two governments begin to surface as matters that should, in short order, get the attention of the media and of public opinion.

Statements by senior officials on both sides have made reference to cardinal issues that marred the Cuba-US relations for half a century, whose solution – requiring very complex negotiations and agreement — will depend on the success of the standardization process that has been occupying headlines and raising expectations since this past December 17th.

One such point refers to compensation claims from both sides. On the US side, for the expropriations suffered by large American companies in Cuba, whose assets have remained in the hands of the Cuban government, and the demands of Cuban citizens who emigrated to the US, who were also stripped of their properties under laws introduced by the Revolution in its early years which remained in place for decades. The total amount of compensation demanded by those affected is estimated at about 7 or 8 billion dollars. Continue reading

Havana’s Pools: That Blue Water Yonder / 14ymedio, Rosa Lopez

The José Martí Stadium Pool, on Havana’s Avenue of the Presidents. (14ymedio/Javier H.)

The José Martí Stadium Pool, on Havana’s Avenue of the Presidents. (14ymedio/Javier H.)

14ymedio bigger 14ymedio, Rosa Lopez, Havana, 21 July 2015 — Now 67 years of age, Juan Carlos recalls how when he was a kid he climbed up on a roof and from there spied on the pool of an adjacent exclusive Havana hotel. He was fascinated by what he saw, but Juan Carlos’ family’s financial limitations kept him from enjoying all that magnificence. The slogan “The People Have a Right to Sports” had firmly taken root by his teens and early adult years. Consequently, Juan Carlos got to splash around in several pools, and for free. However, his memories of those blue waters now come back to haunt him. Today, all the pools near Juan Carlos are either in a state of total ruin or way beyond his budget.

Currently retired, Juan Carlos insists that “access to pools in July and August should be a human right.” When summer heat waves make Cubans sweat so profusely, “there’s nothing better then taking a dip to cool off,” he says, with a confident half-smile. Continue reading

New Embassy for an Old Dictatorship / Miriam Celaya

Inauguration of the Washington embassy with officials from Cuba and the US (picture from the Internet)

Inauguration of the Washington embassy with officials from Cuba and the US (picture from the Internet)

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 22 July 2015 — The reopening of the Cuban embassy in Washington finally took place amid extravagant fanfare, and, judging by the profuse media coverage, with catchy headlines and photos on the front pages of almost all the newspapers, it seemed that there was nothing more relevant taking place in the world.

The (re)opening of the Cuban embassy was the recipient of movie star treatment in some of the news media: photo galleries with pictures of before and after, instant ones — not as offensive — of the first opening of the building during the Cuban Republican era, a construction worker, proudly posing outside the newly renovated headquarters, showing off his Che Guevara arm tattoo, an indoor plaque to be unveiled at the time of the opening, and the flag hoisted on the mast; just like all flags at embassies around the world … Undoubtedly, the Island’s proverbial vanity was on a high.

A large official delegation traveled from Cuba, at public expense, to attend the merriment that joyfully celebrated the Castros’ capitulation and which – with that skill for euphemisms — the government discourse coined as a “victory of the Revolution.” These included several representatives of the government “civil society” who offered the embarrassing spectacle of rallies of repudiation orchestrated during the last Summit of the Americas in Panama, who now were awarded a trip of encouragement to the Empire of Evil which provides so many goods. Continue reading

Contaminated Aquifers, Cause for Alarm / Cubanet, Ernesto Perez Chang

High levels of lead and other metals harmful to health have been detected in reservoirs intended for human use

High levels of lead and other metals harmful to health have been detected in reservoirs intended for human use

cubanet square logoCubanet.org, Ernesto Perez Chang, Havana, 23 July 2015 – Although they have not been properly disclosed, in spite of their great importance, numerous studies carried out repeatedly by teams of Cuban scientists have raised the alarm about the critical state of Cuba’s main aquifers.

The detection of high levels of lead and other heavy metals harmful to human health in lakes and reservoirs intended for human use and for work related to agriculture and fisheries suggest that this could be one of the main causes for the increase among the Cuban population of cancer and other illnesses related to prolonged exposure to toxic substances.

The Ejercito Rebelde dam receives wastes from the nearby Antillana de Acero (photo from the internet)

The Ejercito Rebelde dam receives wastes from the nearby Antillana de Acero (photo from the internet)

While the phenomenon afflicts all the country’s provinces, Havana is the region most affected because, first, it is surrounded by several landfills capable of leaking highly toxic elements into underground waters that feed sources destined to supply the capital; and, second, most industries do not comply with international norms for the treatment of wastes and the filtering of harmful gas emissions, and they even discharge wastes directly into river basins like the Almendares, which crosses the capital and whose waters are used on farmlands. Continue reading

Twenty Families in Güines Endangered by Imminent Collapse / Hablemos Press, Raul Ramirez Puig

The structure is propped up and bears a sign that warns of danger from collapse.  Photos taken by the author.

The structure is propped up and bears a sign that warns of danger from collapse.
Photos taken by the author.

Hablemos Press, Raul Ramirez Puig, Mayabeque, 25 June 2015 – Residents of the building located on Habana Street and Esquina de Teja, in the municipality of Güines, Mayabeque province, are making known the imminent danger they are facing.

The structure was built in 1735, according to data from the Municipal Library. Other buildings dating from that era, such as the Güines Villa, have not had any maintenance since 1959.

More than three months ago, barricades and signs were put up warning passersby of the danger, but there has been no move to repair the damages.

Güines is one of the most productive municipalities of Mayabeque province. It is also one of the most forgotten.

About Hablemos Press

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Restore Sovereignty to the People If You Want To Avoid another Revolution / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

The Moncada Barracks. An attack on the barracks  in 1953was the opening move of the Revolution

The Moncada Barracks. An attack on the barracks on 26 July, 62 years ago, was the opening move of the Revolution

A pandemic of freedom floods our senses.
Juan Carlos Cremata

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos and other authors, Havana, 25 July 2015 – It will soon be 62 years since a group of young men headed by Fidel Castro attacked the Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba, an event that catapulted that figure to the foreground of national politics and definitively buried the possibility of a peaceful and political outcome to the situation created by Fulgencio Batista’s coup a year before.

The armed struggle prevailed and managed to oust the tyrant from power. But the violent way in which it was achieved marked until today the political fate of Cuba. The Encampment triumphed again over the Republic.

That same character who organized and led that assault and who then headed a rebel military movement capitalized on the popular triumph of the 1959 Revolution, made and supported by the great majority of the Cuban people in order to restore the democratic system. Continue reading

Authority as Exemplified by Elpidio Valdés / 14ymedio, Jose Gabriel Barrenechea

Elpidio Valdez

Elpidio Valdés

14ymedio, José Gabriel Barrenechea, Havana, 18 July 2015 —  I remember it as if it were yesterday when my old man took me to see the first Elpidio Valdés feature film in 1974. Having just debuted in the city of Santa Clara, we had to jump through hoops to find a taxi willing to take us all the way there from the town of Encrucijada. Thanks to the help of one of my father’s many friends, we were able to sneak into the Cubanacán Cinema, now long gone. Around the corner and in front of an improvised ticket booth set up for these types of events, a large police unit tried controlling half of Villa Clara Province that had descended on the Provincial capital for the movie’s premiere.

I have seen that film around fifty times. I doubt there are many who can beat my record. Whenever it played in Encrucijada’s movie house, I would go see it the four nights in a row of its run.

I was and still am a fan of this fictional military leader of the Cuban Wars of Independence. It is no wonder I stored all the Elpidio Valdés animations from before 1990 on my computer. On top of that, I also own a copy of the quickly-forgotten series Más se perdió en la guerra, or Más se perdió en Cuba,* the title changing depending on whether it was distributed on the island or in Spain. Continue reading