About the Family / Cuban Law Association, Rodrigo Chavez Rodriguez

Lic. Rodrigo Chávez Rodríguez

The great majority of Cuban families are not illiterate but they don’t know  that there is a Family Code. They may also be oblivious to the fact that in the Constitution of the Republic of Cuba (which definitely needs to be changed) you will find in Chapter IV, Art. 35; The State protects the family, maternity, and marriage … Until someone explains it to me, and I manage to understand it and feel convinced, I will perhaps continue to be mistaken or each time clearer in my thoughts.

Is it that when people separate, including parents leaving their kids at an early age to emigrate to other countries, almost always for economic reasons, the State protects protects maternity and the family? From what I have just said we can deduce that sustainable marriage cannot exist when, for this or other reasons, the links of a marriage, or voluntary union or whatever, are dissolved, and nor can the State protect marriage and the family, nor indeed the very low level of pregnancies among Cuban women due to  lack of many indispensable things.

In other families, aware of what has been decreed and stipulated in the Articles of the above mentioned 1975 Family Code, which can apparently assert that knowledge; this maternity, this marriage and the family are also split up, with the difference that in the case of migrants, here it is about political reasons, their rejection of the government, because they lack one of man’s most precious assets: FREEDOM, and although it brings with it separation and distance from their family, it is necessary for them to search for it and they do find it.

The state recognises in the family the fundamental component of society and attributes to it responsibilities and essential functions in the education and upbringing of the new generations, referred to in Art. 38 of the Law of Laws: Parents have the duty of feeding their children and supporting them in the defence of their legitimate interests and in the achieving of their true aspirations; as well as in contributing actively in their education in their upbringing as useful citizens, ready for life in a socialist society. Why in a “socialist society”? Why if they have to support them in their legitimate interests and just aspirations, and that may not be the interest nor aspiration of the family?

Translated by GH

13 September 2013

Exporting Doctors / Orlando Freire Santana

According to the government, there are 47,000 medical students in Cuba, and a doctor for every 137 persons. What is the real picture  on the national health service?

The popular Cuban refrain, when referring to the contradiction which presents itself when the person producing something hasn’t got that thing in his own home, employs the very handy saying, “In the blacksmith’s house, you find a stick for a knife.” Well, we can say the same thing on the big picture with the health service nowadays, with a large number of doctors and medical students, and on the other hand poor attention for the ordinary citizen.

A little while ago the French news agency France Press, basing its information on what appeared in the newspaper Granma, official organ of thee Communist Party, let it be known that more than 47,000 students — 10,000 of them foreigners — had enrolled in medical courses in Cuban universities in the academic year  2013/14. It then went on to emphasize that, taking into account that Cuba has more than 85,000 doctors for a population of 11.1 million inhabitants (data as at the end of 2012), which would represent a doctor for every 137 people, the island finds itself, in this sense, in a privileged position on the international level.

Nevertheless, such statistics contrast with the calamitous state of many of the health services on offer in our country. It’s the same in hospitals, health centers, dental surgeries, opticians and in the famous family health centers. These centers started up nearly three decades ago, with the intention of providing 24-hour primary health care in peoples’ home areas. But they function so erratically now that the intention in question has pretty well disappeared.

For example, in one of the constituencies covered by the Héroes de Girón health center, in the Council area of Cerro, Havana, out of four centers started in the ’80s, today only one remains offering services, leading to frequent overcrowding in the place, and the inevitable irritation both of the patients and the doctors.

Note also the case of the doctors who move out of the houses annexed to the centers, for their relatives to live in. In those cases, although the doctor turns up for the day in the center, he doesn’t any longer live next door, leading to lack of attention for patients with emergencies in the night. You have to note also the dreadful state of the building in many of these centers, and the same is true in hospitals and clinics. There are propped up roofs, leaky walls, out of service toilets…

Not long ago the newspaper Granma reported on the complaint of a doctor about the breakdown of the ophthalmic service in the eastern province of Manzanillo. In its edition of Friday August 16, the official newspaper echoed the complaint of a surgeon in the Laser Surgery Service of the Celia Sánchez Manduley hospital. The doctor pointed out that for more than a year they hadn’t practiced optical surgery in that health center due to technical problems with the air circulation equipment in the operating theatres. That’s to say, while in the context of the so-called “Operation Miracle”, the Cuban doctors give back sight to people from various countries, more than a few Cubans lack such benefits.

They say that, on a particular day, on the balcony where an old lady lives, there appeared a sign with the following text, “I’m off to Venezuela.” It was, obviously, the cry of a desperate patient who could not see the solution to her health problem within the confines of our “medical power”.

Sometimes patients have to travel great distances to be attended to by particular specialists (dermatologists, ear nose and throat doctors, cardiologists, etc.) because the health centers in their health district don’t have such specialists. Many Cubans have to give a little gift to these doctors in order to receive a quality service. Moreover, there is a scarcity of medicines in the network of pharmacies accepting “national money,” also known as Cuban pesos. Clearly, you almost always find those missing drugs in the international pharmacies, who sell for convertible pesos, the currency in which most Cubans are not paid.

And while all this is going on in the country, the “Castrismo” is going on about having more than 40,000 doctors in 58 countries. It’s not a secret to anybody that those professionals work in difficult conditions in those countries where they offer their services, and that the Cuban government repays them just a tiny fraction of what the recipient countries pay for them. Nevertheless, every time we talk to a doctor who works in Cuba, his desire comes across to go abroad to serve on “a mission.” It’s logical, since, even bearing in mind the financial robbery referred to, there will always be more than is evident in the island. You mustn’t forget that a doctor in Cuba, on average, earns the equivalent of 25 or 30 dollars a month.

Obviously not everything is the color of roses for those doctors who are sent abroad. In many places they don’t recognise their professional qualification. Right now, the first 400 have arrived in Brazil; this is out of a total of 4,000 that will be in the South American giant by the end of the year. We know about the protests of that country’s Medical Union, an organisation that casts doubt on the skills of those doctors, at the same time as they accuse president Dilma Rousseff of getting up to political games, rather than acting to improve the country’s health. In the same way, more than a few countries require an ability test for the doctors who graduate from the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) based in the Cuban capital.

Nevertheless the Cuban authorities take into account the obvious judgement that this huge quantity has to be balanced with quality. Every year a larger number of students are summoned to study medicine, a course which they now run in all the provinces throughout the country. Here the utilitarian consideration far outweighs the functional. The foreign medical services have become the country’s principal source of income, more than tourism, nickel, tobacco and other things. Other considerations don’t appear to matter.

 Orlando Freire Santana

From DiariodeCuba.com

Translated by GH

10 September 2013

Compulsory Purchase. What for? / Noel Rodriguez Avila

Lic. Noel Rodríguez Ávila

Our present work is concentrating on the processes of compulsory purchase (forced expropriation) against the owners of motor vehicles transporting freight from the provinces of Holguín and Las Tunas.

Before they started this, in the extinct transport sectors, they created commissions for the buying and selling of trucks, which followed the express instructions of the Ministry of Transport in regard to inspecting the vehicles in question, to detect anything illegal done by their owners in terms of parts, components, accessories or engine units.

Once they had finished the inspection, they wrote out a report on the deficiencies they had detected; afterwards they gave the owner a document directing him to sell his vehicle, for which they paid by cheque in the payee’s name in national money for the value of $1800 or $2500, depending on the tonnage.

This transaction was covered by an ambiguous, corrupt and one-sided contract of sale authorized by Resolution 118-88 of the Ministry of Transport, the law 1090/63, complemented by the law 1148/64, and the law 1206/67, which entitled the Central Administration entities of the state to acquire the assets required for the taking forward of their activities; giving rise to a situation in which, on the presentation of demands before the Civil and Administrative Chamber of the Provincial Tribunals, the sale was Held to be Null and Void because of the exclusion of the spouse’s interest.

In those cases where the vehicle’s owner refuses to effect the sale, the process of compulsory purchase is commenced; a procedure which is instituted in our legal and constitutional system, ensured both by the Constitution of the Republic in Art. 25 and also in Arts. 425 et seq. of the Law of Civil, Administrative, Employment and Economic Procedure; being the prerequisite which mediates the declaration of public necessity and social interest.

On that basis the Ministry of Transport issued Resolutions number 40 and 85, which declared the public necessity and social interest in acquiring the said vehicles which were operating in the eastern area, in order that the Holguín Truck Company could achieve its transport plans. Looking back, it is clear that the objective of this process was to get rid of the private sector.

This view is backed up by an legal Opinion issued by the legal directorate of the Ministry of Transport, in relation to a complaint presented by truckers from the province of Holguín addressed to Raúl Castro Ruz, who was at that time Second Secretary of the PCC (Communist Party of Cuba) and Minister of the FAR Revolutionary Armed Forces); in which, among other things, there is the following reference: The compulsory purchase of trucks, initiated against their owners, has its antecedents in the year 1989, when, on the orders of the high command of the country they made available what was termed “The policy of making things harder for the private sector, with a view to its gradual disappearance”, reflected in agreement no. 1507 of the Secretariat of the Central Committee of the PCC …

We can therefore conclude that:

Firstly: The private carriers were grouped in the defunct Fleet Operator, from where they offered their transport services, both to private individuals and companies, as well as the Central Administration of the State.

Secondly: That the Ministry of Transport secured, employing anticipated alleged technical violations and by way of a corrupt contract of sale, the compulsory purchase, with no voluntary aspect at all, of private sector trucks, resulting in the later nullification of these legal transactions.

Thirdly: That the State disguised its true intentions, aided by a false declaration of public necessity and social interest, when its real interest was to get rid of the private sector.

Fourthly: Today it remains clear that this sector represents a great public utility and is in the social interest, as the state has had to turn to the private carriers in order to sort out the situation with the transport of passengers and goods on a national level.

Therefore it would be good to get a reply to the question in the title: Compulsory purchase: Why and what for?

Translated by GH

26 August 2013

What Should Not Happen / Cuban Law Association, Argelio M. Guerra

Lic. Argelio M. Guerra

The Law of Criminal Procedure is clear when it indicates in the penultimate paragraph of Art. 251 that: The Police, the Instructor, the Prosecutor or the Tribunal, as the case may be, will decide in relation to the application for modification of the provisional measure* in regard to a time period not to exceed five working days counting from the moment in which the application is made.

It is not clear why the preceding period is breached so often, sometimes doubled or trebled, without complying with the requirement by the legislature to respond to the application for variation of the provision status* of the accused in the brief space of a week. The most serious instance case of such violation occurs when the variation in question is in relation to an accused who is has been remanded in custody, given the very nature of this provisional measure.

An even more unfortunate circumstance is when, in the face of an application for change in a measure, time passes without receiving the due response, ending up with the prosecutor declaring the matter finalised whenever it suits him, in complete disregard of the law.

Unhappily, we see a lot of behavior by the authorities who seem to be acting in a sort of discretionary manner and not in accord with the requirements of the law. This sad reality is even more sensitive when such conduct is in relation to the system of justice, infringing the most basic rights of those subject to legal proceedings.

They are just one example of what should not happen in our battered social system.

*Translator’s note: The provisional status (see next paragraph) under discussion here refers to requests for changes in the custody status of the accused, that is, for example, requests to be released pending trial.

Translated by GH

4 August 2013

The Revolution Might Have Leaked Out the Sewer / Manuel Cuesta

HAVANA, Cuba, August ,  www.cubanet.org. Revolutionary tourism is a first world practice. It’s like it is the tourism-tourism. The second and third world revolutionaries don’t have the time or money to travel all over the globe to idealize the misery produced by the violence which triumphs in the name of the people.

I ought to make it clear right away that first, second and third world aren’t geographical notions, as I see it. All countries have their own particular combinations of them, and always in relative terms. In Cuba too there is an element of first world. So that those people who are involved in the tourism of the revolution come from all over the place, all of them sharing three things: a blindness in regard to social reality, an anthropological disapproval of the poor people who inevitably generate the revolutions, and a bulging wallet.

But recently a piece of information drew my attention: the loss of hygienic awareness on the part of the revolutionary tourists. Because Cuba is the dirty country of tomorrow. I wonder, therefore, how from the status of the first world can you defend a filthy revolution. You can be on the side of nationalism, populism or indigenousism, regardless of their aseptic quality. Of unhygienic revolutions, no.

Cuba, hygiene and revolutionary tourism

Anyone visiting any part of Cuba should be frightened, except in small towns or small cities like Cienfuegos, by their foul odors. It’s as if Cuba were uninterruptedly evacuating the gases of a slow digestion, hearty and heavy in virtue of the food it eats. Except that in this case the public waste system is broken and doesn’t have the capacity to resist an environment of putrefaction.

A country without bathrooms for pedestrians, without water or soap to wash your hands after going to cafes or restaurants, no napkins nor toilet paper in public places, without even slightly effective garbage collection, with doorways that accumulate three decades of dirt, with half-collapsed buildings serving as “motels” for young couples without private spaces for sexual pleasure, with steambath-buses in the morning, with hospitals and polyclinics ready to transmit infection, all in a hot climate that synthesizes natural outgrowths between the heat and humidity, such a country can not treasure its own future.

What distinguishes utopias is hygiene. If you think of the funding vocabulary  of revolutions: throughout history it has associated with the past destroyed by rot, with trying to start some kind of sanitization of society to build the beautiful country of tomorrow. Everything about them seems to come down to health and hygiene: mental hygiene, the difficult relationship of totalitarianism with the madness that equates aristocracy with the plague; of social hygiene, separation and isolation of the offender are also pathological reactions for the construction of utopias; and body hygiene,which we see in  the obsession with health in a type of society that thinks its subjects are always sick.

These hygiene are basically totalitarian techniques of control and discipline where no cracks are permitted. However, all these areas of health-related work are collapsed. The number of mentally ill continues to grow, the population is almost endemically criminal and the sick crowd the statistics. And let’s not even talk about the language.

Unthinkable development

That utopias are unproductive, well that’s not a big problem, the stresses of productivity and consumption are theoretically alien to the revolutions of the future. They are unimaginative, it does not matter;  imagination is an individual trait that, in essence, threatens the coherence and rigid core of the powers-that-be of the builders of peoples. What should be an alarming signal prosaic filth of the Cuban utopian city. As a sign of its health, its people should be wearing patched clothes, but clean, as recommended by my grandmother.

And worst of Cuba is not the stench of daily work, but a type of medieval dirt shows in four features: the accumulation of filth, the indifference as if everyone is immunized against the city’s garbage, the proximity of the centers for processing the population’s waste, and the lack of modern infrastructure for the recycling of waste. As in the Middle Ages, the septic tanks are very close to the bedrooms and it’s easy to confuse drinkable water with sewer water.

Why doesn’t revolutionary tourism realize that the Cuban Revolution might have leaked out the sewer? Getting to Havana, Holguin and Santiago de Cuba and having to drink bottled water, sold at prices inaccessible to those who supposedly made the revolution, should be the supreme test that without hygiene it is impossible to see the outlines of the streets of the future. Also broken and filthy.

Manuel Cuesta Morúa

From Cubanet

12 August 2013

Translated by GH

CUBA Journalism in the street / Ivan Garcia

Photo: Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Photo: Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Owing to the lack of statistics and figures, independent Cuban reporters have to reinvent certain rules when providing information. We don’t have access to government press conferences and no minister gives interviews or comments.

Nor can we rival the foreign agencies accredited in Havana. Not having technology, 24-hour internet access, being unable to cover official events, it is impossible to compete with the speed of the foreign press.

There are certain types of news which an independent journalist can put out faster than a correspondent from the BBC, EFE, or AP. Above all in relation to the world of opposition: a dissident’s hunger strike, an eviction, or one of the Ladies in White being beaten up.

But that’s not the best side of the field to be playing on. Cuba is an area full of stories that the regime tries to ignore. In the streets and shanty towns, chatting to ordinary folk, we always find good reports.

We have something to thank the poor work of the state journalists for. If Granma and Juventud Rebelde were in the habit of providing information about marginalization, ruinous infrastructure, or how Cubans manage to survive inside the socialist madhouse, there would not be much reason for independent journalism to exist. continue reading

We would limit ourselves to writing boring opinion pieces. Or cover opposition meetings. The official journalists have left the battle-field and left it open to the dissident journalists.

It was a major error not to provide information about day-to-day life, nor about the ills that afflict society, like drugs, prostitution and corruption at all levels.

The ideological Taliban like to sell their account of how the island is different from the rest of the poor capitalist nations of the American continent.

At one time it was. There wasn’t freedom of expression or of association, but the state, supported by the inflow of millions of Soviet rubles, guaranteed a grey kind of life with health and free education.

In return, we were supposed to be “Revolutionaries”. To applaud speeches about the “Maximum Leader” and condemn Yankee Imperialism. That was the deal. Political disagreements were restricted to our living rooms.

It was prohibited to ventilate them in public. Any criticism, we were told, had to be “constructive”. You were allowed to complain about poor food service or inefficient officials.

What you could never do was indicate that Fidel Castro was responsible for the economic disaster and the failure of a social project. The Comandante was like Zeus. God of gods. Untouchable.

The independent journalists crushed that myth. Not to be seen as heroes. Or martyrs. Just that one morning we crossed the borderline of what we were supposed to talk about or say laid down by the government.

And we know what enormous courage was required and that  there is a price to pay. From libel to jail. But here we are. Telling the stories of the man in the street. Everyday I talk to workmen, kids, the old and the marginalized, the tired and those disillusioned by 54 years of autocracy.

I am not writing about the human misery experienced by some of the people in order to damage the image exported by the government. Describing the lives of the losers, the ignored and forgotten is part of the commitment of a free journalist.

If the mandarins who control the media consider that “disseminating human misery helps the enemy”, that’s their problem.

It’s up to me to relate what happens in the place where I live and in the city where I was born. To give a voice  to citizens who don’t exist as far as the official press is concerned, And they are there. You only have to go out into the street.

Fat Antonio said “I’m fed up with it.”

(This anecdote was published 14 September 2009 in the blog Desde Havana.)

Antonio Mateo, felt he was about to go mad. Monday August 3, 2009 he woke up early, took his usual sip of bitter coffee and decided that on that Monday he would do something different. He wrote an open letter telling about his boring life and the bad state of his home.

Antonio, 46 years old, and 280 pounds, living next to Malecón 655, had had enough. The long-drawn-out bureaucratic processes for dealing with his problems were now just too much. For years he wanted to do an exchange — trade his home for someone else’s — but the rigid and absurd laws applied by the Housing Institute did not permit people to exchange in certain neighbourhoods.

Not even if they own their own houses, as in Antonio’s case. He knows very well that in Cuba the word proprietor is a bad joke. People who own their own homes, lose their rights if they decide to leave the country and have to go through long processes when they decide they want to exchange it. Selling the house to someone else is prohibited by the anachronistic Soviet-style statutes which still exist in Cuba.

Desperate, Antonio decided to cut things short. He moved his old bed into the middle of the public street and deposited his 280 pounds in it. It was his way of protesting. The fearless police were there for three hours, trying to find a way out of the conflict, unused to these signs of rebelliousness in a population that was generally very peaceful.

Of course, he was taken off to the police station. It is not known what sanction or fine was imposed. In one part of his letter, with a dose of anguish and anger Antonio says: “I address myself to you to set out my problem, in view of the fact that I have applied to other levels and had no reply. I live in a room, which I own, and when the Malecon Plan started, the zone was frozen, and I can’t move, or carry out maintenance, or have a wife and children living with me. I have realized that everything is an argument with lies and more lies. I don’t want a palace, I only ask that they come up with a solution. I am a sick man who needs peace and a place where I can live with my loved ones who could look after me and help me.”

Simple people, like Fat Antonio or Pánfilo, famous for exploding with anger a few months ago in front of the foreign press cameras, and as far as we knew, have been sentenced to two years in jail for the crime of “being dangerous”, show that something is changing in some people’s mentality in Cuba. For the moment, Fat Antonio says “I’m fed up with it”.

Translated by GH

14 July 2013

Counter-revolution / Cuban Law Association, Julio Alfredo Ferrer Tamayo

Lic. Julio Alfredo Ferrer Tamayo

REVOLUTION, for Fidel Castro Ruz, Historic Leader of the Cuban Revolution, is the sense of the historic moment; it’s changing everything that should be changed; it’s full liberty and equality; it’s to be treated and to treat others as human beings; it’s our own emancipation through our own efforts; it’s standing up to powerful dominant forces inside and outside our social and national space; it is to defend values we believe in no matter what sacrifice; it’s modesty, disinterest, altruism, solidarity and heroism; it is fighting bravely, intelligently and realistically; never lying or breaking ethical principles; it is the profound conviction that there is no power in the world able to crush the force of truth and ideas. revolution is unity, independence, fighting for our dreams of justice for Cuba and for the world, it is the foundation of our patriotism, our socialism and our internationalism. Gathered together like this in the Guidelines for Economic and Social Policies, discussed in the VI Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba, ratified by the President of the Republic of Cuba, Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, like a fundamental compass in the construction of a prosperous and sustainable socialism.

Starting off from this definition, it is possible to work out what is COUNTER-REVOLUTION; whatever opposes or contravenes that concept. When we are not treated or don’t treat others as human beings; when we lie and violate ethical principles; when we are immodest, selfish, mean and egotistical; when we do not defy powerful dominating forces in our social and national space. when we do not fight bravely, intelligently and realistically; when we don’t change everything that should be changed, when there is not full equality and liberty; when they don’t allow the Cuba Law Association to exercise its clear human right to have its constitution, and to realise our dreams of justice for Cuba.

Translated by GH

8 July 2013

Internet in Cuba: What Iroel Sanchez Didn’t Say to Telesur / Jeovany Vega

Last Wednesday June 5th, at the end of the Telesur programme “Today’s Themes”, our brilliant journalist Iroel Sánchez commented about the “novelty” of the rooms enabling “free” Internet surfing throughout Cuba.  That more than two decades after the Internet became a daily portal for the rest of the world it is even announced in Cuba, with fireworks, that from 118 timid locations in this country of more than 12 million inhabitants will be able to surf “freely”, says it all.

But there are various angles of the issue that Iroel didn’t comment about on Telesur: he didn’t mention the little detail that he himself has had free complete access to the Internet, because it is among the privileges of “official” reporters to access the network from their offices or comfortably from their homes *and* it will be like that as long as he doesn’t  transgress the line of the Rubicon, while Caesar, attentive and scowling, calculates every byte.

Iroel didn’t say that in our case, the connection time is dependent exclusively on the times ETECSA offices are open (from 8:30AM to 7:00PM) in rooms in which between 2 and 6 machines are available — for example in Artemisa, a provincial capital of 800,000 inhabitants, one can only find two — and these tiny pieces wouldn’t be enough if they had conceived of a reasonable price and not an absurd and crazily extorsive one.

He didn’t say that at 4.50 CUC — which is the same as 112.00 Cuba pesos or equal to a third of the average worker’s monthly wages — which would be the same as the charging the average Spaniard 250 Euros for an hour of surfing, but with the additional aggravation in the case of Cuba of living in the most expensive country in the world.

Iroel Sanchez forgot all of these details when he was being interviewed by Telesur.

Meanwhile, this is how I see it: if the Cuban government says it is telling the truth, then why is it so terrified of an exchange of ideas? Because only information, pure ideas, translated into the most simple binary code, can enter the country along an optical cable, and never bombs or rifles. I have the conviction that all the truth, in its natural clarity, is as firm as a rock and can defend itself by its simple presence beneath the sun, for which reason I will never understand why they are depriving my people of something as basic as free access to the knowledge contained in cyberspace.

At times when my country talks about the prospects of transformation, which they are begging for, and on which the government timidly feels its way forward, while the society pleads for faster progress in the changes which sometimes seem more cosmetic than real, at times like that, this is what we get.

I have always said that I prefer a despot to a cynic because the former mocks you to your face, doesn’t hide his natural tyranny, and shows his true colours: yes, I abused you — so what? But the latter, evil at heart, tries to insult your intelligence. Because to claim that such stratospheric charges are affordable by the people, is equivalent to saying that so are the hotels which charge $300 per person — a year’s wages — for one miserable weekend.

Now they are trying to export the illusion that now we Cubans are living happily connected with the world, but they must know that this is a masquerade, as is demonstrated by the empty seats in these embarrassing locations. The Cuban people are awaiting and insisting on real, free, effective and total access to the internet, by way of reasonable contractual terms appropriate to what they can afford and which allow them to explore the virtual world, when they want and full-time.

I want internet in my home in order to explore all truths and weigh them up them against my own … like  Iroel Sánchez but with the difference that I want to have it as a right which I am exercising, and never as an improper privilege. For me that would be the measure that would tell me that finally we are on the path to real changes; as long as we can’t depend upon absolutely free access to the internet everything will be imitation gold and pure fantasy … just a fairy tale.

By Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Translated by GH

10 June 2013

Venezuela: Maduro Digs In / Ivan Garcia

The PSUV (Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela) brothers have divided the country into two trenches. Their followers — in petrocasas (mass-produced small houses) and medical practices painted in red and white with images of Chavez hanging from the roof — if they show absolute loyalty, gain the right to a position as a minor official, where they can earn thousands of bolivars extra.

Those who are against — half the Venezuelan population — are treated as enemies. Nicolás Maduro is governing in virtually a state of siege. The army in the streets. And his comrades turn up in Parliament with gauntlets hidden in their pockets in case they need to hit their opponents.

Maduro has drawn the short straw. The man has a short fuse. He has little room to manoeuvre. As a statesman, he leaves a lot to be desired. His public speaking is a disaster.

He pulls three or four phrases out of the drawer and repeats them to the point of tedium about his love for Hugo Chávez . It doesn’t look as if the old Caracas bus driver is able to more Venezuela forward with his government drawn from the street, where only his own followers turn up.

A country is not a party. You should govern for everybody. Listen to the others. And respect their opinions in the parliament. Many people believe that the advice that Fidel Castro is whispering from Havana is seeking to polarise and radicalise a Bolivarian revolution which is deflating.

That’s how Castro governed in Cuba. The bearded guerilla humiliated the priests and any religion which was not Marxist. He nationalised all property. And provided an air bridge which allowed his enemies and the middle class to flee to Miami. But that was in the time of the cold war.

In the 21st century, to put together an almost scientific autocracy, with a parliament in the Cuban style in which they vote unanimously, is impossible. Following Castro’s strategies is the shortest route for the PSUV to dig its political grave. For many reasons. One of them: Castro’s government is a monument to inefficiency.

It survives on exile dollars and passing the collection box in Venezuela. Productivity is at rock bottom. Salaries are laughable. The infrastructure is dysfunctional. Even the much-trumpeted successes of the revolution in public health, education and sport are going backwards.

Politically, guaranteeing basic rights and employment while sacrificing liberties will never be worthwhile. Those rights and duties which a modern state must fulfil. Without asking for votes in exchange.

Maduro isn’t Chávez. The man from Barinas had charisma. Ability to manoeuvre, and, in spite of his major screw-ups, with his oratory he was able to convince his supporters.

Maduro creates distrust even in typical Chavistas. The position of President is too big for him. Rushing forward is not the right decision.

Whipping up the political differences between Venezuelans is putting out a fire with gasoline. Entrenching himself in institutions which respond to the interests of his party is not the correct solution.

He should offer political breathing room and participation to the opposition. It represents 50% of the electorate. It’s not a small thing. If you could grade Maduro’s performance in his first month of government on a scale of one to ten, he would get a zero.

As President he has not been up to scratch.

Iván García

Translated by GH

4 June 2013

Thoughts About the Agricultural Problem in Cuba / Dayana Cruz Vega, Cuban Law Association

Lic. Dayana Cruz Vega

Agricultural Problem: These have been two very controversial words down the years, they refer to the unequal distribution of land between the rural population, also the combination of socioeconomic and political conditions, relations and contradictions which characterise the structure and working of the agricultural sector. This problem has been a persistent presence in Cuban political legal thinking even though it was one of the first labour directives after the triumph of the revolution.

The Agriculture Reform Laws acquired a constitutional status which they maintained up until the 1976 Constitution took effect.

On the subject of agriculture there exist bodies of law such as Resolution 288/90 which establishes the regulations for the functioning of the register of land tenure, Law number 36 relating to farming co-operatives, repealed by Law 95/2002, among others which have seen the light of day in recent years, like Decree Law 259 which guarantees the awarding of the right to enjoy land for the purpose of production and number 300 which modifies the extension of lands which the previous one permitted to be handed over.

But in spite of all of this pointing in the direction of the improvement of the living and working conditions of the farming sector, and the increased productivity of the land as the only way to replace imports, they haven’t met their objective.

In this regard it is necessary to stress that the scattered legislation, the legal ignorance of the peasants in relation to their rights and the process of accounting in the various sectors and co-operatives have had their influence of production and productivity, in spite of there being sufficient projects put in place for this function; and, just as important as the above-mentioned, are the occurrence of instances of violation of the generally accepted Principles of Accounting, breach of the System of Internal Control, all of which have encouraged the commission of economic crimes with increasing frequency.

All of this brings us to the point at which we can conclude that the land problem is in need of objective solutions which have the necessary legal backing to turn agriculture into our principal source of income, and not what has in fact happened which is to be converted into an unproductive sector incapable of satisfying our immediate nutritional and economic needs.

Translated by GH

22 May 2013

Analysing What’s Happened / Cuban Law Association, Wilfredo Vallín Almeida

By Wilfredo Vallín Almeida

It’s good news. People like Yoani Sánchez, Eliecer Ávila and Berta Soler find themselves abroad enjoying a right which was denied for fifty years

In the Asociación Jurídica Cubana (Cuban Law Association) we are always happy to receive everything which implies more liberty for the Cuban people, without closing our eyes to the problems which continue to be presented by government decisions, especially when there continue to be unclear or arbitrary legal positions.

Let me explain

In the year 2003, 75 people were accused of crimes against the Cuban state. Tried immediately, they were condemned to different and severe prison sentences. During the following seven years they were all freed.

In relation to that something is happening which I would like to share with our readers, but which will require more than one post, and because of that, in this one I want to set out essential introductory elements to help with this analysis

For someone in jail, who hasn’t completed their sentence, there are two ways of waiving the remaining term and going free. They are:

A reprieve

An amnesty

In the case of a reprieve, they extinguish the criminal responsibility and it is construed as pardoning the penalty which was applied to the person. If it is a complete reprieve, they extinguish the prisoner’s entire sentence. If it is a parcial reprieve, part of the prisoner’s penalty disappears or they change it for more minor sanctions.

A reprieve applies to one individual person. In order for it to have effect, it is necessary to have an administrative act and a firm sentence and you don’t necessarily have to extinguish the preceding penalties of the individual in question. Normally the possibility of a reprieve (also known as “The Law of Pardon”) rests in the hands of important representatives of the State.

As far as an amnesty is concerned, it doesn’t refer to the penalty, but to the offence itself. It relates to all those who have committed it, not to particular individuals, it extinguishes total criminal responsibility and eliminates the preceding penalties in removing the criminal status.

In he case of an amnesty, it is necessary to pass a law in order to arrange it, and it extinguishes the antecedent penalties of the individuals involved given that it covers all who committed the crime and not particular individuals.

The amnesty is used above all for political offences and not normal crimes.

With these elements, we are ready for an analysis of what has happened.

Translated by GH

24 April 2013

Cuba 360 / Rafael Rodriguez

Civic political project “Cuba 360”

For years we have we have been getting on with the opposition movement and we have never left off giving our support, however modest, to the cause of the democratisation of Cuba. It is a constant focus maintained by all those who are involved in the destiny of our country, in spite of the multiple difficulties we have to deal with in developing our work.

It is evident to us how slow it is for our work to actually germinate as a result of the continuous boycotting by the political police, but even so we never stop fertilising and watering our seed for the good of the nation. this time we are drawing up a programme with a multidimensional architecture with the aim of achieving the intercommunication and respectful debate between Cubans and the sustained and total articulation with the civil society in general by way of the executive project “Seedbed”.

With this project we try to outline to people what is our constructive and legitimate message – like all democratic opposition tries to do – to demonstrate to them the different alternatives of hope and reconciliation which exist in and for Cuba.

One option for Cuban society is  simulation, indolence, emigration and irresponsible obedience and, as we indicate in the project, another is the ambitious objective of “transforming each subject into one who acts out his own personal and national destiny.”

Here I leave you with the link to read the promotional brochure of “Cuba 360.”

Translated by GH

1 May 2013

Operation Truth – Video / Eliecer Avila and Yoani Sanchez

Operation Truth Video & Transcript

Site manager: We decided not to subtitle the video itself, given its length and poor sound quality, so a transcript is provided below and can be downloaded here.  The video of Eliecer’s encounter with Ricardo Alarcon is available subtitled in English here.

Yoani Sánchez: It’s a pleasure to be with you and share an interview with Eliécer Ávila. Eliécer is an Information Scientist, but in recent years has been best known for his political and social action in Cuba. He is also the producer of the alternative television program “One More Cuban” and in the year 2008, for those who remember it, in the Universidad de Ciencias Informáticas (UCI) (Information Sciences University).  Eliécer had a question and answer session with Ricardo Alarcón, President of the National Assembly.

(Excerpt of video between Eliecer and Ricardo Alarcon)

Eliécer Ávila: OK, let me introduce myself, I am Eliécer Ávila, Faculty No. 2, leader of the “Technological and Political Surveillance” Project, which is one of the specialties of Operation Truth). What we are looking at here is the constant monitoring of the internet and our mission of reporting and fighting in this area.

Yoani Sánchez: What is and what has been Operation Truth?

Eliécer Ávila: Operation Truth is a project that stems from an “activity” of the UJC (Young Communist League). An “activity” (for non-Cubans here) is a meeting of the key militants and UJC teams of all the UCI brigades, which they hold periodically, about once or twice a year as I recall, in the Palace of Conventions.

The Minister of Culture, Abel Prieto, was invited to one of these activities and, among other things, he explained that currently they were pursuing another campaign of defamation and that kind of thing, and then a student … (after the announcement Prieto played the university card, to use the students to express the Revolution’s opinion on the theme they were discussing. … a student proposed creating a project organized in the UCI,  which was the university most technically able to do it, to send out to the world the truth about Cuba, the truth put forward by the government about Cuba. Also the context of the Five Heroes. The second important objective of the Operation Truth Project was to tell the world about the Cuban vision regarding the Five Heroes.

Roughly in what year was the Operation Truth started?

I think it was 2007-2008

It was exactly in that period, in early 2008, if I’m not mistaken, when the conversation occurred between Ricardo Alarcón and a group of students of the UCI, and you in particular, pretty much in the same time period.

I think the Project had been going some months because it was then fairly well developed and they had gained a lot of experience. There was already a signed document of the Project at that time. It had been in operation for some time. continue reading

And you were running the Project?

No, I was the principal in charge of the Project. I was responsible for a part of the Project, which was very well structured. The Project had about 7 or 9, you could probably call them divisions or sections each of which had to carry out certain functions; mine was technological surveillance, which consisted of, as I explained to you at that Alarcon meeting, knowing at every moment all the information to do with Cuba, with the government, with Fidel, or the main leaders, about what they were up to instantly anywhere. It was practically a 24-hour monitoring.

Only monitoring or also acting on that information?

The Project functioned as an integrated whole. We detected the information and there was another group who were the analysts, which in effect formed part of the whole, but everybody had their functions. There was a group of analysts. They were students who were orally articulate. They provided a bunch of ideas and they came up with the answer that should be given, each time, to everything written in blogs, in websites, in whatever discussions arose, in order that everything should hang together coherently.

That’s very interesting because we are also talking about a period of time when several critical blogs started to emerge in Cuba with known names or rather, without pseudonyms. People began to put in their name, their face, their ID number in virtual space offering criticism so that at the time when you were participating in Operation Truth I imagine that one of the people that you were supposed to monitor was the one who is interviewing you today – correct?

I have already admitted it was you, you were one of the principal people we always had to keep up-to-date on what you were up to, but there was an interesting detail; it was not about reading, interpreting and analyzing what you wrote. It was to do with you as a person, who had all the names given to you (a caricature image typing on a computer, with the sign “cybermercenary”, and with a dollar sign on your head) and so we had to fight you as an entity. It’s important to understand, as I told you, that our role centered on always squeezing the person and in doing this I then understood how it is you operate.

It’s a strategy?

Exactly. I came to read you in depth, to analyze what you said when I left the UCI. Nevertheless, your writings passed through my hands.

There was also a fear of contagion …

No one got into contradicting the facts you presented, because if you say “that structure is falling down”, I could say “that construction is being maintained”. It all turned on discrediting you as a person or intellectual expressing opinions.

There were people there who ran out of ideas and when you read (unintelligible) it was always the basic stuff.

How did they form these Operation Truth groups? On what basis were they selected to be a part of the operation? Was there some academic requirement to be a part of the Union of Young Communists?

The Operation Truth project was one more project of the UCI. It ended up as a productive project, and they measured performance against targets, monthly and weekly. It was a production line. What was the output? A political product: how many report they produced, how many blogs they put comments into, how many debates of forums they participated in and opposed opinions being expressed there. That was in essence a kind of production.

I should also explain that the function wasn’t just political. This is closely related to the technical question; because at the same time another part of the same project was focused on creating technologies which could position our own government web pages much better in the international search engines so that, when someone enters a particular combination of words in a search, the government web pages come up and not other sites.

There is a kind of tool which allows you to arrive at this kind of question on the computer.

OK, let’s see if I understand this properly. Operation Truth was a multifaceted group of people who took turns being so-called trolls in the sites, attacking, insulting, diverting the conversation. Others who wrote up more complex replies to the alternative blogs, independent journalists, people who criticized the Cuban government. And, on the other hand, a group which dedicated itself to promoting and positioning the official sites more effectively in the search engines. That’s roughly what I am understanding.

Exactly. It was a technological-ideological combination, serving the same objective. It also proceeded in steps. If somebody entered a blog or a forum and didn’t feel able to oppose, which is what they were trying to do, the opinions there, or the analysis, then they had to go and consult a group of specialists which was closely linked to the project in order that they could put together much more complex and finished responses.

Was there a confidentiality clause in relation to these people? That’s to say, did they have to promise not to reveal …?

This was built in. Those people who formed part of the project, we can assume, were the most prepared and committed ideologically of all the FEU brigades. The analysis was very political in that sense. And in terms of the project’s technology there were very talented students who were the best the University had (unintelligible).

Did you also have to accept at a given moment that confidentiality clause?

Yes, I was strictly forbidden to circulate messages containing the information we were dealing with. There were only accounts authorized by the professors who, in this case were the managers of the project and I could only send my group’s information to the Party professor who dealt with me in this connection, because the professors were also forbidden to share the information.

They functioned as cells, correct?

Exactly.

Levels of confidence?

It was compartmentalized in that sense.

In total, roughly how many people would there be in Operation Truth?

In total the project ended up with about 300 students involved.

Quite a lot! Out of a total enrollment in the UCI of …?

10,000 students. There were students from all over, plus the professors and the attached specialists.

24 hours a day, or on a rota?

Well, I would say that it wasn’t 24 hours every day, but close enough.

I have noticed as someone who has suffered from this avalanche of “soldiers in the web“ as I call it, that, for example, during vacation months, their aggressiveness is considerably lower, as is the intensity of the trolls, of those who attack the forums, of the individuals who write comments to denigrate the blogger or the writer of the website. I have also noticed that at certain hours during the day, after 4 pm, there is a marked decline in the virulence of these computer soldiers.

Indeed, there were different work shifts, which could take on an intense nature if demanded by the situation, from late at night through early morning. We called these shifts “special periods” (unintelligible). It was an important situation in which the entire operation had to be active; for example say: elections in an ALBA country, any political event, like that call by Raúl to all workers, exhorting them to speak their minds. At the moment those events were taking place, it was essential that we expressed ourselves in a detailed way in public comment threads or that we started a comment thread ourselves and created trends (unintelligible).  And so, we were there the entire time.

Did you have unlimited access to all sites or was your access also controlled?

For my group specifically, which was in charge of monitoring, we had a fairly broad and efficient accessibility and did not have the kind of restrictions that the rest of the students did have. Supposedly, we were ideologically armored.

But I imagine that the attacks were not only against sites that had a different ideological stand to that of the government, critics. There are other sites that have suffered a lot, such as “Revolico,” which simply is a classified ads website. Were these kinds of sites on the spectrum of reaction?

Well, on the spectrum of reactions we had sites that somehow were beyond the mental understanding of our shift supervisor who would be in charge of the project. The project was even followed by someone from the Council of State.

Directly?

Directly. We would get visits from the Council of State from time to time. It was also under the direct supervision of someone in the university dean; supervision came from the highest levels. Therefore, if anyone anywhere, including official sites, gave an opinion that was inconsistent with the discourse of the Revolution, well…  of course, always in very elaborated responses, according to who was saying it and what they were saying, each would get their dose and would be given an “answer.”

Did you have any cases where you remember seeing anyone contradicted or somehow “infected” with a critical opinion that they had read somewhere? Anyone who began to have doubts?

All the time. I think we all went through that at a certain point. It particularly happened to me a lot, but the thing is that I was always very rebellious, and I was seen as “a rebel within the system.” We even took the arguments to the classroom many times, but they were seen through the following language: “that could be fine, or more or less fine, or more or less bad, but this is not the context to talk about this issue. It has to be said in the Congress of the Communist Youth Union, in the Congress of the University Students’ Federation, in the Communist Party. There are people who already talk about that stuff therefore, there should not be any ridiculing Cuba on the Internet.”

And do you think that the Eliécer Ávila of January 2008 who stood up before Ricardo Alarcón and asked him that very difficult to answer question had already been influenced in some way by what he had read in the internet in those prohibited rebellious sites?

Yes definitely I was influenced in some way because at the end of the day the internet has a life of its own. The internet is something which when you get to know it it changes you. Without doubt, even though you try to maintain a defined profile, because I should tell you that this project was a most important guarantee for almost everything, could be a mission in Venezuela, or what you need to be successful as a student. I believe many people asked themselves questions but they kept on at their work.

And the resources, I imagine everything you needed.

OK, one of the first projects of UCI in which they modernized their techniques was ours. We had very good technology and if we needed it we could use everything that UCI had to print or whatever we had to do. And, if we had to ask for something from the State Council, we did,

Apart from expressing opinions, and opposing by screaming and with not much argument, did you also hack and mount cyber attacks on sites and portals?

Sometimes, because you know geeks are always addicted to the hacking drug and stuff like that; and therefore it occurs to some of them that we should, in total secret “I suggested it and it was agreed subject to these conditions” create a little group of 3 or 4 persons who knew each other very well and at least begin to study and get deeper into that type of question: how to put a particular site out of action, how to interrupt a service.

Because the logic was that we could do it therefore we should have the capacity to be able to do it. More than anything because we were studying a document put out by the US State Department which talked about cyber warfare, of a special group they had created, and many of us started to believe that we were its opposite number and therefore we took more seriously the idea of carrying out a serious attack.

And what sort of sites were listed for possible attack?

I think sites which could have advance critical  information which they could put out at a given moment which could decide specific matters such as the state of opinion regarding Chavez in Venezuela.

We are not talking here about a personal blog nor a straightforward site, but important services?

We made a decision to try and do something with the News 24 site as a test.

I know it … very critical.

It was one of our principal targets because it always carried up-to-date news particularly about those who opposed Chavez’s policies.

Was there ever anyone who said something like “I’m not carrying on, I’m getting off this train, I can’t continue in this matter which seems more like “Operation Lie” than “Operation Truth”?

It happened often, I believe. I was in charge of the highs and lows. (unintelligible) It happened because people believed they weren’t advancing their education. It was a constant complaint; we are supposed to be achieving a certain level of computer knowledge and we are wasting our time in a project which is obviously political and our classmates are getting ahead of us technically; and I think that the majority of them left because they went to a productive project, or at least that was the excuse they gave. “I prefer to be programming stuff which will definitely be my work rather than being here arguing over these sorts of answers”.

All this stuff you have been telling me about has been in the past tense because it was your experience while you were in UCI, but have you any news about Operation Truth continuing?

What I understand is that the project has mutated. They have done name changes, altered the structure and extended it. I have also understood that they have called Youth Club members Operation Truth, and have created replicas in many parts of the country. We should also set out certain details:  UCI is a university with students from all over the country and the proxies which they trained for this type of defense or warfare did not appear on the internet as university students but rather as if we were ordinary people from different parts of the country: rom Las Tunas, from Guantanamo, in order to give the impression that the whole country was responding and it was only a specialized group from UCI to represent Cuba. Also it was able to go out as if from Latin American countries.

That I know because somehow I’ve experienced it with my blog. Do you think that Operation Truth has mutated beyond the point of countering opinions, of trying to hack websites, if not the creation of sites, blogs, portals that pretend to be independent, but are totally controlled by the government? 

At first I said there were about 6, or 7 to 9 groups. There was a group specifically called “Websites,” and there was another group called “Blog Sites;” the same individuals who were in this group (unintelligible) would create a blog and would update it and would have to maintain it (unintelligible).

But, it would be a blog of an apparently normal guy; it would even have some sort of hook to get people to read it; it could be art, music, soccer or anything else that would attract people’s attention, to then get “the message” transmitted. But that was what your job.  How many times have you updated the blog this week? How many visits do you have? They were very strict; they would carry out an analysis when the blog had few visitors. Why are not you getting more visits or better ranking? And that’s how the efficiency of the individuals who were in this group was measured. It was a job.

In recent years, we have seen that the Cuban government has tended to create national versions as substitutes of very well known sites like Wikipedia, and so we have seen the birth of EcuRed, even a Cuban Facebook though I do not know what has become of it. Do you think that this is also was also one of the lines of work of  Operation Truth?

I think it’s all part of the same strategy because after graduating from UCI, I was sent to a Youth Computer Club in Puerto Padre, as everyone knows. It was then when I had the second rough experience as an employee at this Youth Computer Club where I had to write from 8 to 10 articles per month for EcuRed, otherwise it would have an impact on my wage.

On different subjects? 

Almost of anything you wanted. The point was to create an encyclopedia loading it with thousands and thousands of articles on local history… of whatever you could find.

On botany, for example?

Anything.

And did you know anything about that?

No idea. Besides, what the instructors at the Computer Club complained the most about was: “I am here to do my job, teach computer skills, teach Photoshop. What do I have to do with creating articles for EcuRed?”

But that scares me because EcuRed is being distributed throughout many schools in Cuba. It’s given to our children and teens as a reference, as a database to search for information.

What would they normally do? An instructor who obviously does not have the education and perhaps not even the capacity or, specialty, nor the desire nor the vocation to write any of that, they go to a book that contains the biographies of the October Socialist Revolution and say: “How many do I have? How many do I need to write? 100 biographies? Problem solved with this book.” And they start copying the book.

And in the end, we even ended up copying from Wikipedia….

That’s the worst, and we laughed a lot about that. “What are you going to do? Look what I found here.” That’s how it was: to copy from Wikipedia changing the references.

That was something that did catch my attention since I was a teenager: the issue of why nothing spontaneous could happen in Cuba. Do you need people that defend the country? Then, give Internet to the people, and if the people believe they should defend the country, defend Communism, defend a one-party system, defend an electoral system where they do not get to vote for their president or defend whatever they believe in, then let them do so. I totally agree and will be satisfied with whatever they do, but they must do it under their own will.

And, don’t you think that this fear of letting Cuban citizens connect freely to the Internet, without ideological boundaries, is the reason why the long-anticipated fiber optic cable between Cuba and Venezuela is not working yet? 

I do not think so. I am absolutely sure because I participated in meetings and events where that was the issue that was talked about: “the country had to be prepared technologically,” in case of enemy aggression. Since they can control a so many things, they think they can even control an entire country with this cable, as if that would be possible.

First, they would have it in specialized centers where they could filter it to Cuba, so that it [the information] comes out already filtered; then they have to filter what comes out of Cuba to the world. I think they are going to do that. They won’t build roads, won’t care for our buildings; Havana will collapse, but that [the filtering of information] is definitely going to have all of the support in the world to get it done, and it is unbelievable that they do not realize that it is totally unnecessary.

I remember that one thing that greatly caught my attention was that during the elections in Venezuela we were flooded with almost all kinds of opinions, and people were speaking against Chavéz: “I do not agree with Chávez for this and that reason.” “He is giving things to the lazy, he does not encourage investment, he does not encourage entrepreneurs. The benefits that he gives us are in exchange for an ideological commitment, and so this is why I am not supporting him,” and so on.

However, we had to issue an opinion and turn it into news, starting from having many of us all posting our opinions, and then we had to say the exact opposite sometimes (changing the tone of voice to imitate a debate): “All of us here massively love and support Chávez.”

Sometimes, opinion surveys would also be carried out; for example when Chávez lost, it had been said he was not going to win. It was a operational issue, quickly: Put the surveys in there and sometimes even a name in English was made up, which was the sure winner of the survey referendum.

Distorting reality…

Constantly. That was becoming generalized.

But that is very serious because it is practically an interventionist work, changing information trends… 

But since you, Cuba, change the name of everything you do, it is not  considered interference in internal affairs like guerrillas are not either…

That is called proletarian internationalism… solidarity among peoples…

Like people who are unemployed are called “availables” and policies are called reforms, not social cuts, etc…

Private sector, self-employed… 

It’s the same, but they are called something different.

Looking at it today, how do you view all that stuff you took part in, that you got involved in with Operation Truth?

Well, the first thing I would like to say is that I don’t regret much because at that time I did what I needed to do in the circumstances of my knowledge and education, and I was very aware of what I was doing, and now, in the light of the facts, the information, the arguments, what I have read, what I have known, I am doing what I it seems to me to be rational to do.

Now, in my case, something simply happened; at that moment I was almost certain that the system was not the problem. The problem was all those people who were doing things wrong. Then experience taught me what a coincidence that my best friends, people I admired a lot, after a little while in whatever position of responsibility, weren’t any good as people or managers, or anything! Therefore there must be something which was corrupting them.

It is a cycle of loss of values which is the fault of the self-same system. The way things are, how policies, procedures and laws are designed; and, yes, this certainly has a first name and a last name, but it is at the highest level. And I asked myself, apart from the highest level, from there right down to the bottom, being in the Operation Truth project. But later — because I ended my participation in the project in the fourth year, in order to prepare myself in the fifth for my thesis — they themselves suggested it to me forcefully …

After the Alarcón incident …

After that incident they did not allow me to publish anything at all. And they said to me go off and do your thesis. But being in the UCI I came to question the government in the Youth. Why does Raúl have to be the president of the country? or, Why did Fidel have to be heading up the country for fifty or more years? I would have liked it to have been a someone from Guantanamo, or Pinar del Rio. Why had there not been other talented, morally adequate people in Cuba to participate in elections and to be chosen?

I think that in the UCI I had some things which were a bit ahead of their time.

I felt and I feel great respect for those professors and also the students who formed part of this project because they really were talented people, and there were kids who were dedicated, who lived the way they did in a given context in the university in which they felt they were doing something very useful and important. What I would also like is that those who are right now carrying out this kind of work ask themselves also if it really is worth it (unintelligible)…

A little while ago the Blogazox Cuba meeting occurred. There is a blog group which believes that they are independent and I get the impression that they don’t realize that they aren’t, and that to the extent that these blogs start to evolve, because a human being, no matter how indoctrinated he may be , always has the ability to understand, to learn and it seems to me that even those kids who do those blogs have evolved to some extent and have had to accept a bunch of things which simple reality confronts them with. They would have to cover their eyes to not see them.

I agree with that Eliecer because of the extent to which the government has to create small spaces, little bubbles of connection or of liberty in order to permit expression expression of certain opinions, so as to give the impression that in the Revolution you are allowed to disagree. To that extent, people gain the taste for criticism, speaking, signaling, having their own space in which to speak, and that is an irreversible process. I have known many blogs which started up with very fundamentalist positions, very attached to the official line, and which have changed and evolved into blogs which are truly critical up to the point where one of them has been closed down.

I think that happened recently. I have heard many opinions expressed by those kids from Santa Clara, whose activity has been much reduced, and they have also been suspended.

I think that what’s happening is this: to the extent that the guys sitting behind their desks have become aware that their soldiers are looking at other things and are learning, are listening, are making new friendships, they don’t like it. (unintelligible). that’s departing from the desired objective. And what those soldiers should understand is that in reality they have nothing in their hands; they don’t have connections, nor a personality, nor policy, nor any kind of internet and that they are simply instruments of others who can cut off their water or electricity whenever they think it necessary.

In that same event (unintelligible). I would not take part in any blogger event or whatever I might be banned from participating in where no official representative was invited.

One of the things I take part in are the activities they sometimes organize in the State of SATS where no-one tells you not to come in, not to listen, not to participate. I think there is a difference between the person who says “Let’s include people. Let’s talk” and the other who says “I have nothing to say. I think of the future and of death.” The second position doesn’t help (unintelligible) Doesn’t help those who truly want the best for the country and want to change and reinvent things.

With all my heart what I hope for is that in a future, hopefully not too far distant, I want to argue with free men, discuss with independent people. I want to argue with people who have opinions. People want to open up, no-one wants to shut up and be quiet. People want to share

I believe that in the end they will insist on that because that is truly Revolution.

Without any doubt, and you viewers too who are listening to us, one day, and it doesn’t matter if right now you are working in the lines of Operation Truth or are one of those who are being attacked by those soldiers. It doesn’t matter, one day you will be also be able to be seated on this chair. Thank you very much.

Translated by GH and Chabeli

11 February 2013

90% of the private cars in Cuba don’t offer any protection to drivers and passengers / Anddy Sierra Alvarez

Most of the private cars in Cuba are old, built around 1939, 1941, 1955 etc. None of them have seat belts or airbags, which increases the number of fatalities in an accident.

Private cars don’t have seat belts or airbags at the steering wheel. Also government vehicles are like this too, and their passengers a vulnerable in any accident.

A government driver in the Instituto Nacional de Educación Física y Recreación (INDER), who preferred to remain anonymous says “I have been driving a (Russian made) Lada 2107 for two years and it hasn’t had seat belts since the day they gave it to me.”

A mounted policeman explained that most of the traffic is made up of old cars. “Many of the old cars have brakes which rely on water with detergent in place of proper brake fluid” explained the traffic cop.

Ricardo López, 35-years-old, says he has a friend who places his trust in water and detergent rather than spend money on brake fluid. “The reality is that drivers trying to save money don’t buy brake fluid,” added López

The modifications to the old cars: exchanged motors, transmissions, gearboxes, and even loss of the structure of the vehicle in order to get more people in. These things are everywhere in the streets offering private transport services, “But nobody bothers about safety,” says Carlos Ramírez, aged 42, a passenger.

Adrian González, 32, comments that the car he is driving is a ’52 Chevrolet, “the car has had its chassis modified to carry more people,” says González

An accident in Independence Avenue (Boyeros) is usually catastrophic.

Independence Avenue is one of the roads where you get many old adapted cars, which are made into racing cars and which are driven at excessive speed.

Private cars are mostly ancient machines with a very rigid chassis which in turn adds to the danger because they it do not absorb the force of the impact, while modern cars are designed to absorb the force of impact, as well as having the benefit of seat belts and air bags on the steering wheel.

But not everyone has the opportunity to buy a one- to three-year-old car. The economy doesn’t permit it, the old crates are more affordable in terms of paying back the loan.

Translated by GH

25 March 2013

Easy / Rosa Maria Rodriguez

Cubans line up in Havana to pay their respects on the death of Hugo Chavez

The dynamics of modern life offer lots of reasons to reject stagnation in human activity. Because of that historically Cubans emigrate en masse to wherever there are more lively sociopolitical and economic rhythms, although afterwards we complain about the fast pace of life and “how hard you have to work” in other countries. Those who go away email us about the compensations, or they tell us about it with their own voice when they come to visit a relative who has remained penniless in this country. Many of our countrymen say that when they come to Cuba they have the impression that they are flying back in time to an earlier age. “Nothing seems to move forward here”, they say and comment that “whatever they do is so slow that you can’t notice it.” They add that where they have come from everything goes forward quickly and efficiently. Some foreigners are more diplomatic and prefer not to comment about our way of getting along by way of cars pulled by mental horses in the age of nanotechnology.

An ancient lyric of the disappeared musician and composer Ignacio Piñeiro, went “slowly is more enjoyable”. Of course he was using a crafty double reference to Cuban dance music, because in many other respects  – before as well as now – this statement is counterproductive. For example: imagine you are waiting to go into an establishment which prices things in dollars and that the cashier keeps the queue waiting while he or she is counting money. Why are they always doing that in shops in Havana? At different times of day and in different towns they do the same thing: as an indication of contempt they delay all the customers who are keen to buy things and leave. Why do they have to do all this counting? Why can’t they do it at the end of the day? Some suspicious people in the line in a shop the other day commented that they do it to keep on top of things and take money out to make sure they have no surplus in the event of a surprise audit.

I would like to share with my readers and visitors my view that we live “conveniently” slowly at the pace which suits a government interested in its own permanence. It’s always been like that, and the previous president, to aid his personal war against the United States, favoured an irrational obstinacy which ruined Cuba and which today is moving closer to the future annexation which he was supposedly trying to prevent. The change in mentality which they talk about now, in the form of the latest and most manipulative slogan, is just like the education which is provided free at the price of eternal submission, in order to justify what is unjust and badly done. We shouldn’t show impatience  because we are made to wait, if this long oppressive line, after outrages and repeated screw-ups, now looks as if it is beginning to move forward. We’ve only had to wait 54 years.

 Translated by GH

26 March 2013