Committees for the Defense of the Revolution and Citizen Participation / Cubanet, Martha Beatriz Roque

cdr-3cubanet square logoCubanet, Martha Beatriz Roque, Havana, 2 April 2015 — Whenever the topic of democracy and the Cuban regime comes up, the top leaders say that this is the most democratic country in the world. The latest version is that “‘democracy’ is subject to interpretation, and every country understands it in its own way.”

This also occurs with citizen participation, which assumes a receptivity on the part of government officials to listen to what the citizens want to communicate to them, to help improve the politics and management of public concerns. It means that all who want to get involved in matters that affect the people will be heard, and they will be allowed to contribute their points of view, concerns and possible solutions.

Even so, although the regime talks a good game, the totalitarian power looms over the practically null power of the people, which makes citizen involvement quite difficult in Cuba, thus preventing the growth of participatory democracy. Continue reading

When I got to Varadero* / Cubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez

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cubanet square logoCubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez, Havana, 30 March 2015 — Despite the fact that on the three occasions I ever visited Varadero my experiences were not particularly pleasant, that beach – which today for the majority of Cubans is almost as inaccessible as Waikiki – occupies a special place in my nostalgia.

The first time I was at Varadero was in November, 1970, during the Festival of the Song. I was 14 years old. I went with two friends who were more or less my age, fleeing our homes and playing hooky from school, chasing after the Spanish pop groups Los Bravos (without Mike Kennedy), Los Angeles and Los Mustangs. They weren’t really our top favorites (at the time when we had still not resigned ourselves to the break-up of The Beatles, we were crazy for Led Zeppelin, Chicago, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Santana) but in the ideologically pure Cuba of the period, one could not aspire to something greater. Plus, we wanted the performances by those Spanish groups – despite how abysmally bad they sounded – to be our own version of Woodstock.

But the police rained on our parade. We ended up in a police station that stank of shit and where from a poster on the wall the Commander in Chief [Fidel] stared at us, scowling. I don’t know if his angry expression was due to our insolent ideological diversionism, or because the 10 Million Ton Harvest failed, and he had to devote himself to turning the setback into a victory at the expense of Nixon, whose name at that time was invariably spelled with a swastika in the newspaper, Granma. Continue reading

Leave Me a Comment at the Entrance and We Will Win This Contest / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, 10 March 2015 — Every morning we would lose ourselves amid the skyscrapers until we find ours. That one. The one with the artificial rain that would fall, even in the driest months of the city. She likes then to take a pause in our route. She would let go my hand and draw near to the false marble facades, until she would start getting wet almost without realizing it, from imaginary drops that would evaporate before reaching the asphalt. Imaginary but, even so, they would wet her in a dance that was greatly erotic and somewhat erratic.

Her liquid hair, her transparent garb, in the megalopolis of limousines and suits. I would lag a bit behind. I did not want to interfere with those little mornings in liberty. They lasted so little, it was only an instant. Far from Cuba, far from the Revolution. Oh not so far. Because once, upon the end of an October of overcast skies and recurrent cyclones, it was raining for real in Manhattan. She said to me, “You smell it, too, right? Today is not New York, but rather Havana.” And she went out from under our umbrella, a grave bumbershoot more appropriate to those scenes of cemeteries at the end of the North American films of our childhood.

Far from the “long island” [Cuba], so close to Long Island. She told me, “One day we are going to be like those imaginary drops that never fall. And another day it will be we who fall amid a tired rainstorm.” I just walked behind during the rest of that morning. I knew that she would never forgive me seeing her mix the rain with her foreign-city tears.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Cultural Crime / Rebeca Monzo

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Rebeca Monzo, 27 March 2015 — For the last few years I have been tuning-in to a program broadcast on Sundays, from 6 to 9am, on the Cuban Radio station Radio Rebelde, ironically titled, “Memories.”

Because I love good Cuban music of all eras, I am a faithful listener of this program, and I also take the opportunity to dance a little, as a means of morning exercise. I must, I confess, bite the bullet to ignore the tedious sermons (“….had to travel thousands of kilometers to buy the molds….when the island was blockaded….”) and which year after year they play on the air lest, as they say, we forget.

What this program keeps quiet about is that it has been the Revolutionary government itself which has subjected its people to a criminal cultural blockade, depriving more than three generations of our best musicians and singers, for the sole fact of their having emigrated after 1959 Continue reading

Monopolies? Neither state-run nor foreign-owned are wanted here / Diario de Cuba, Pedro Campos

Opinions of an entrepreneur in view of the new economic scenario.

diariodecubalogoPedro Campos, Havana, 17 March 2015 — Alex Castro, son of Fidel Castro, declared recently that McDonald’s and Coca Cola are welcome in Cuba. Of course, he must have been speaking in a personal or family capacity, being that he does not hold any representative office.

In this regard it is worth noting that, from the viewpoint of participative and democratic socialism, state-run monopolies harm the economy as much as foreign-owned ones. Both block the development of productive forces and, especially, the decline in costs and prices of raw materials and finished products.

In state-run, centralized economies such as the Cuban one, or in more liberal capitalism, such as that of the United States, monopolies that control economic and market niches are also great sources of corruption, and of the destruction of Continue reading

Intransigence at Any Cost / Fernando Damazo

Fernando Damaso, 16 March 2015 — When a phenomenon is analyzed, or a historical occurrence or any important matter, this analysis should be done objectively evaluating all its components, be they internal or external, without a priori positions, keeping in mind their positive or negative aspects.

Yesterday marked another anniversary of the events which occurred at Mangos de Baraguá on March 15, 1878.

The Baraguá Protest, mounted by General Antonio Maceo and other generals and officials of the Cuban Army of Independence [in the 19th Century against Spain], as a response to the Pact of Zanjón, has been included by history as a symbol of intransigence for Cubans. The virile gesture by Maceo and his comrades deserves the greatest respect — even though it did not correspond to the actual status of the struggle which, except for within the jurisdictions of Santiago de Cuba and Guantánamo, had waned, primarily because of the exhaustion of the Mambí forces, the internal divisions within Continue reading

A Vote for a Good Appearance / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, 25 February 2015 — A journalist has written in a government daily about good appearance — not to demand it, but to question it. She focuses her question on advertisements by certain private businesses, which read: “In search of a young trabajadora [female worker] of good appearance.” (I will add that there also are ads which ask for “young trabajadores [male or non-gender-specific workers] of good appearance.”) In any event, the request is not as limited as the writer describes it, but let us get to the point.

Upon this weak foundation begins her argument regarding discrimination by gender, age, skin color, whether a certain type of figure is required, whether women are objectified for commercial purposes, etc. These are well-known claims, being repeated as they are Continue reading

The Regime Advances in the “Chinese Internet Model” and Creates Its Own Internet Platform / Diario de Cuba

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diariodecubalogoDiario de Cuba, Havana, 19 March 2015 — It prohibits bloggers from publishing “content that is illegal, counterrevolutionary, harmful, threatening, harassing, salacious, defamatory, or vulgar,” among other characteristics.

The regime announced this Thursday that it is now equipped with a “solid blogging platform, open to the entire national .cu online domain,” which is accessible outside the country, according to official media. Continue reading

Regarding the Massive Dumbing-Down / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, 20 February 2015 — It has lately become fashionable to speak and write about the need for combatting negative cultural trends that, as is to be expected, arrive from abroad, mostly from the “empire.” This practice has increased since December 17, 2014, when it was announced that diplomatic relations would be re-established with the “empire”… sorry, with the United States government.

Nobody with any sense can bet on the vulgarity, the bad taste, the alienation, the extremisms of all types, the violence, and other ills, but much care must be taken when deciding what is negative, and who determines this. Let us remember that for years this country prohibited foreign music, and to listen to it constituted a crime. Continue reading

The Gardens of Indigence / Cubanet, Gladys Linares

For the environmental project, “A Rose-Colored Planet,” children would be responsible for beautifying the green spaces of the capital. Dilapidated Havana requires much more than a community gardening project: sanitizing the city is the urgent business.

cubanet square logoCubanet, Gladys Linares, Havana, February 27 2015 — Now it turns out that children have the responsibility for creating green spaces for the enjoyment of the public, and ending more than fifty years of governmental neglect.

This is unheard of!

In the article, “They celebrate the work day in order to promote the beauty of gardens,” the newspaper Juventud Rebelde describes the environmental project, “A Rose-Colored Planet,” and an interest group composed of 500 children that would be responsible for beautifying the green spaces of the capital.

Will children be able to solve the problem created by the public services that go around collecting the large garbage and debris heaps that proliferate in the city, with 14-ton front-end loaders that destroy the sidewalks, curbs and gardens, and leave craters that become breeding grounds for mosquitos, rats, and other carriers of disease?

Any idiot knows that the complexity of this task requires Continue reading

Grandfather’s Recipes / Cubanet, Luis Cino Álvarez

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“The cuisine of the Chinese in Cuba: a Family Recipe Book” goes well beyond what its title indicates, becoming an homage to all families of Chinese descent.

cubanet square logoCubanet, Luis Cino Álvarez, Havana, 13 March 2015 — During the recent Havana International Book Fair, although copies were available for sale, no public presentation was allowed of “The Cuisine of the Chinese in Cuba: A Family Recipe Book” (Editorial Arte y Literatura, Havana, 2014), by Ernesto Pérez Chang. Evidently, this was the punishment for his collaboration with Cubanet that the censors imposed on the writer, who has won various important national literary prizes, including, in 2002, the Julio Cortázar Iberoamerican Short Story Prize.

But it is not of the censors’ mischief that I wish to speak, but of the book.

“The Cuisine of the Chinese in Cuba: A Family Recipe Book” goes well beyond what its title indicates, becoming an homage – not only to Hoeng Chang and Doña Lola, the author’s grandparents – but to all families of Chinese descent who, despite material scarcities, difficulties and prejudice endured, have kept Continue reading

A People Without Representation / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damas, 7 February 2015 — The great tragedy of the Cuban people at the present time is that it lacks true representation. I speak of the average Cuban citizen, who constitutes the majority of the nearly 12-million inhabitants of this Island.

The government, which during the first years of the 1960s signified hope for a better life in a democracy for Cubans, very soon (with the imposition of socialism and its later institutionalization and bureaucratization) began to abandon its representation of the people’s interests and separated itself from them — being preoccupied instead with establishing and consolidating the institutions, organizations and mechanism to perpetuate itself in power indefinitely. Today the regime finds itself separated by light years from the average Cuban Continue reading