Missing People / Dora Leonor Mesa

Dora Leonor Mesa, 13 May 2016

Guide for Members of Parliament No. 17-2009

This manual is the result of a collaboration between the Interparliamentary Union, a world-wide parliamentary organisation, and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), with the support of the International Red Cross Movement and the Luna Roja Media.

On all five continents, parents, brothers, spouses, are children are desperately seeking  family members, about whom they have no news. Families and communities, who don’t know what has happened to their loved ones, cannot move on from the violence which has disrupted their lives. Continue reading “Missing People / Dora Leonor Mesa”

When the armed forces in Latin American countries started their practice of making people disappear, as a tool of repression, they thought they had discovered the perfect crime. No victims, therefore no murderers, no crime.

The States: Responsible for finding a solution 

In the first place, it’s the responsibility of State authorities to prevent people going missing and to find out where the people who have disappeared actually are.

A forced disappearance is a detention or kidnapping carried out by State officials, or people or groups acting with the authorisation, support, or acquiescence of the State, followed by the concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the missing person.

The Argentinian authors found precedents for people disappearing in Nazi practices during the Second World War, when seven thousand people were secretly shipped to Germany under the Nacht und Nebel decree (Night and Clouds), passed in 1941 by the Supreme Command of the German army.

Following Hitler’s orders, the Nazis resorted to making members of the opposition disappear so that they did not become martyrs in their home towns if they were tried in court and sentenced to death. The decree laid down that anyone could be detained on a simple suspicion, and “vanish.” In this way, it was not possible to obtain information about the status and whereabouts of the victims, and that’s how they tried to achieve an “effective intimidation” of the population, and of family members, as a result of the paralising terror which it would unleash.

The International Convention on Missing Persons (2007) is the first universal treaty to define and prohibit enforced disappearance. In order to fight against this brutal crime, the Convention sets out four main ideas:

  • Combating impunity
  • Prevention
  • Victims’ rights
  • Application

Fields of Action

To address missing persons’ problems, five fields of action were identified:

The prevention of disappearances includes, as a fundamental measure, respect for the right to exchange news

To find out what has happened to people who have gone missing. It is important to maintain vigilance, so that the issue of missing people is not forgotten at the national or international level.

Manage the information and records relating to people who have gone missing. The collection and interchange of information with all interested parties should be arranged and coordinated adequately and actively, to increase the efficiency of the measures adopted to clarify what has happened.

Deal with the bodies and information relating to those who have died.

Support missing persons’ families.

The Role of Members of Parliament

  • To check whether their country has laws relating to missing persons and their families (these regulations may be found in a variety of laws).
  • If there aren’t any, to propose that the necessary legislation be enacted.
  • To confirm that the law in their country conforms with international humanitarian law and international law on human rights; if it does not, to not hesitate:
  • To make contact with the appropriate authorities to obtain information;
  • To prepare questions for the government;
  • To open a parliamentary debate on the need for legislation to protect people against forced disappearances and to respect the rights of missing persons and their families;
  • To iniciate a debate on the contents of appropriate legislation;
  • To seek the advice of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and other competent international organisations.

(1) Ana Lucrecia Molina Theissen (1988).  Enforced disappearance of persons in Latin America.

See also: International Committee for the Red Cross: Missing Persons

(2) International Convention for the protection of all people against forced disappearance, 2006. Article 2.

(3)Amnesty International (1983) Disappearances. Editorial Fundamentos, Barcelona, p.8.

Translated by GH

Servile Talents / Fernando Dámaso

Fernando Damaso, 10 May 2016 — “There is really no spectacle more hateful than that of servile talents.” (José Martí, Complete Works, Volume 13, Page 158, Cuban National Press.) I wanted to start these lines with this thought of the Apóstol [Cubans refer to Martí in this way], as many of our intellectuals, some of them with famous names, have joined the flock of government sheep, without having any need to do so, taking an active part in its campaigns of disinformation and manipulation of the people, going so far as to commit acts of violence against those who think differently to them, and demonstrating an aggressiveness which is foreign to them and does not fit well with their personalities. Continue reading “Servile Talents / Fernando Dámaso”

Intellectuals and pseudo-intellectuals (and there are plenty of them too) of both sexes, united in a so-called “defence of national identity, independence and sovereignty”, repeat everything that the old “historical leaders” say, like well-trained parrots. Even including self-confessed Stalinists who, divorced from reality, still have nightmarish dreams of a communist world, firmly believing that their words reflect what most Cubans feel, and that they are historic, because only they have the illegal right to think, which other Cubans are not allowed to do.

Such servility, opportunism, and fanaticism is disgusting, most of all when it comes from supposedly educated people, who should serve as good examples of ethics and honour for the rest of us.

I am not going to name names, because I am afraid of being unjust and forgetting some of them, since most of them are well-known because they appear regularly in the official media, with their pig-headed articles, declarations and interviews, get books published without any trouble, and receive prizes, awards and government tributes in recognition of “carrying out their political duty”, as distinct from their intellectual or artistic merits, which I do not deny they possess.

Although they are now enjoying their “bit of Sunday”, as the adverts for a popular brand of beer used to say years ago, tomorrow they will be questioned and condemned for their cowardice and lack of civic-mindedness.

I am going to end with another one of the Apóstol’s thoughts: “All tyrants have one of these educated thinking people at their side, who can pen justifications, mitigations and pretences. Or many of them do, because hand-in hand with all this writing goes an appetite for luxury, and that brings an eagerness to sell themselves to anyone who can satisfy this desire. Many intelligent scumbags sell their tongues or their pens to get a house or a car or a bag of money for their loved-ones.” (José Martí, Complete Works, Volume 12, Page 276, Cuban National Press).

Translated by GH

Beggars and Madmen: The Latest Spectacle in Cuba / Iván García

Source: Quo Vadis Cuba blog

Source: Quo Vadis Cuba blog

Ivan Garcia, 1 May 2016 — Guillermo tries to run away, to avoid the stones the kids are throwing at him, as if he were a doll stuck on a target, but his legs, which are atrophied and beginning to go gangrenous because of his diabetes, can’t respond to the urgent messages from his brain.

So he tries to hide behind some small bushes, but the stones keep flying around his head. It’s four in the afternoon on a normal day in La Vibora, and, without anything better to do, the pair of youngsters do their target practice with an old man of over 80 who can hardly support himself on his crutches.

People eating pizzas in a cafe in Heredia Street, on the corner of Acosta, watch what’s happening, like spectators who have come to watch someone being stoned to death in Iran. Continue reading “Beggars and Madmen: The Latest Spectacle in Cuba / Iván García”

Some women try to persuade the kids to stop. But a hail of insults is hurled at them, like “Go and find husbands, you old lesbians,” which they shout as they clear off.

The old man, a beggar who hangs around the neighbourhood and who tries to deal with his hunger by looking through rubbish bins, bent over on the pavement, can’t understand why the kids hate him.

“I don’t interfere with anybody. They are abusive. And it isn’t the first time. Almost every week children and youngsters throw stones and insults at me. I only want to find some food in the rubbish. It’s Fidel and Raúl Castro’s fault,” he says, and starts off on a fiery tirade against the autocratic brothers.

Some onlookers take off. Others record what’s happening on their cellphones. It’s the fashion now to record on mobile phones whatever quarrel or degrading spectacle is going on.

Then they upload it onto YouTube. That’s what happened with a group of kids of primary school age in Camagüey, when parents with cellphones left evidence of their degrading erotic reggaeton dancing.

Or a body which fell off a Legal Medicine truck on 23rd and G in Vedado, and that’s where the crowd went to record what happened. Two years ago a youngster was killed by a train on a level crossing at Café Colón and Calzada de Diez de Octubre, and the rabble started filming before help arrived.

For Eulogio, a customer in a state-owned cafe in Galiano Street, it is worrying how many beggars and crazy people there are in the capital, and the audio visual activity that occurs each time something happens.

“Two months ago a drunk who slept in doorways died, and people, instead of calling the police or an ambulance, recorded it on their mobile phones, as if it was nothing serious. And every day there are more layabouts and mad people, who are always dirty and hungry, in the city. What’s the government doing? I ask myself,” says Eugenio.

There is an alarming number of beggars in Havana. The government calls them “itinerants,” and, if we believe an official study, the number is between 2,500 and 3,000 in the country.

But José Carlos, a geriatric nurse, says this information doesn’t accord with reality. “Just in 10 de Octubre district, I have dealt with more than 200 itinerants sleeping on the street.”

The number of destitute drunks and poor people is unknown. On the corner of Carmen Street, opposite Plaza Roja de la Víbora, a dozen needy people, alcoholics and madmen gather early in the day in the entrance to a warehouse finding a selection of things in the rubbish bins.

From books on Fidel Castro’s speeches, Sovet-era alarm clock parts, clothes and used shoes to old computer parts. The prices range from 5 to 20 pesos. After that, they use the money to drink the worst kind of home-made rum or eat something hot in a stinking state-run greasy spoon.

According to a People’s Power delegate in Central Havana, “there have been discussions with the authorities in the province to find a solution to the growing number of layabouts, people collecting raw materials without a licence, with serious problems of dementia, who are swarming around the city. But, except when a foreign leader visits the country, when they round them up, wash them and feed them in a state hostel, the rest of the year they don’t do anything. Or very little.”

The Catholic church, and other religious orders do what they can. “Every afternoon we give a snack or a meal to various needy people. Many of them sleep in the street. We would like to do more,” admits a nun from Mónaco parish.

Some of the beggars were common criminals and are violent. Others are leftovers from a revolution which left them in the ditch.

Papo, a homeless guy who sleeps in boxes in a park in Reparto Sevillano, claims that he fought in the clearance of bandits in Escambray and Angola. And look how I am repaid by the government for whom I risked my life.”

Nobody remembers Cubans like Papo. Not in the official press, nor in the Communist Party’s future plans. They are always forgotten.

And now, with cellphones, they have become a spectacle for kids who, without any sense of feeling, record them and upload them onto YouTube or Facebook. Human beings who could be their parents or grandparents.

Translated by GH

Broken Families in Cuba / Iván García

A Cuban family (X bit labs Community)
A Cuban family (X bit labs Community)

Ivan Garcia, 2 April 2016 — The dilapidated old house where the Varona family lives, in the Lawton district of Havana, could serve very well as a set for a television series about marginalisation and violence.

The front wall cries out for a coat of paint. Cracked roof tiles threaten to fall off. And inside, the house is subdivided into seven small apartments.

Agustín, one of tenants, has an informal business selling building materials. Therefore he has been able to improve his apartment with Italian ceramic floor tiles, build a tiny bathroom with a modern shower and hot and cold running water. Continue reading “Broken Families in Cuba / Iván García”

His room has a heavy Samsung Split air conditioner. Opposite the bed is a tiled table with a microwave, induction cooker and a two-door fridge.

The rest of the apartments are absolute ruins, with dirty old beds, but other bedrooms have been treated with grouting. On shelves on the wall, tacky plastic ornaments and empty rum bottles. And, of course, every room secured with bars on the windows and doors.

“It’s to avoid being robbed, which is common here. Hardly anyone speaks to us. Some of them are trying to legalise their place as a separate dwelling. There are various ration books. And when the people come to fumigate the mosquitos it’s a shambles, because not everyone is at home, or they don’t allow them to fumigate. The atmosphere is like a prison, but I’ve got nowhere else to live,” admits Agustín.

Of the sixteen people who live in the house, twelve of them have family ties through their mother or father. The quarrels range from obscene shouting, punch-ups, up to fighting with machetes.

“It’s like a jungle. People get beaten up for anything, because someone has eaten up the bread ration, or stolen a piece of chicken from the fridge,” says Raisa, who lives in this jungle with her husband and daughter.

There are three refrigerators in what was the living room of the house. They all have padlocks, as if they contained valuables. In the neighbourhood they call them Los Muchos. “When they start their fights, you don’t know when they’ll finish. They have set up a protocol in the block. When the insults start, a neighbour informs the police,” a neighbour tells us.

These degrading spectacles form part of the neighbourhood entertainment. “These fights make people want to grab a front-row seat. They are more entertaining than TV soaps, and some fights are more enjoyable than a boxing match programme,” a neighbour told us.

You might think this is an isolated case. It isn’t. Too many Cuban families have split up for silly little things, ideologies or marital conflicts.

When Fidel Castro seized power at gunpoint, a large number of families began to break up. “There were examples of brothers who fought at the Bay of Pigs or in Escambray on different sides. Families who stopped talking to each other, writing or accepting phone calls from family members in Florida just for thinking differently. The government owes a public apology to these broken families,” said Carlos, a sociologist.

For reasons of economic necessity, when they got married, Sergio and Margot agreed to accept money and food and clothing parcels from their daughter Yanira, a prostitute who married an Italian in 1994.

“Before my sister left, my parents broke off contact with her. Then, when she went off to Italy, they said that as far as they were concerned, their daughter was dead. My parents were, and still are, intransigent communists. But, when the ’Special Period’ started, with twelve hours of power cuts and an extreme shortage of food, the old people relented. And now they are living off the euros and things sent them by my sister. She comes every summer and arranges a party in the doorway of the house of the president of the CDR (Committee for the Defence of the Revolution),” explains Ramsés, Yanira’s brother.

The other problem suffered by many families is domestic violence and marital arguments in front of their kids. “Cases of mistreatment of women are frequent. Most of them, because they are ashamed, don’t report them. But I believe that right now, domestic violence is the number one category of crime in Cuba,” said a police inspector in Havana.

These dysfunctional family members are the germ of the perfect storm of the decline of values in Cuba. Until the autocrat Raúl Castro launches a crusade to end it. They run from, for example, vulgar speech, bad manners and lack of courtesy, up to drunks boozing on street corners and then urinating in the street.

For the sociologist Carlos, this degradation “is a terrible anthropological damage. Developing the economy and rebuilding the country should be simpler. But poor education, violence and lack of respect for your neighbour’s private space will be difficult to remedy.”

And it is not the fault of the US embargo.

Appeared in:  Hispanopost, 30 de marzo de 2016.

Translated by GH

The Repression Obama Did Not See in Havana / Iván García

Some 46 Ladies in White who on Sunday, March 20th, were removed by force from Gandhi Park and subsequently arrested by members of the Ministry of the Interior in uniform and plainclothes. (Source: Nuevo Herald)
Some 46 Ladies in White who on Sunday, March 20th, were removed by force from Gandhi Park and subsequently arrested by members of the Ministry of the Interior in uniform and plainclothes. (Source: Nuevo Herald)

Ivan Garcia, 22 March 2016 — Just when Air Force One landed at 2 pm at the Andrew military base on the way to Havana, forty-six Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White) walked in file along the central promenade of 5th Avenue, with photos, placards with slogan against the autocracy, and photos of political prisoners.

Starting eleven months ago, every Sunday, these women take part in a march which always ends in blows, detentions and insults between Castro supporters, and the opposition.

Nearly thirty foreign journalists, accredited to cover Obama’s visit, arrived at the Santa Rita church to see what would be the olive green regime’s strategy in relation to the resolute Ladies in White. Continue reading “The Repression Obama Did Not See in Havana / Iván García”

But, let’s take a look back. After midday on Saturday 19th, Yamilé Garro, a member of the group led by Berta Soler, was in the kitchen, in he group´s base in the Lawton district, a half hour from central Havana by car, two pans of white rice, hot dogs and peeling different things to eat for lunch.

In the living room, spread around among three easy chairs, various women were watching the television. In the hallway some others were playing dominos or simply chatting. You wouldn´t notice the tension in the group. They were hiding it.

When night fell, Victoria Macchi, an Argentinian journalist working for the VOA (Voice of America News). and I decided to stay and spend the night with the women in their redoubt in the south of Havana.

Ángel Moya, Berta Soler´s husband, has been an opponent of the Castro regime for twenty years. He has visited prisons, more often than he would have wanted to, In Oriundo de Jovellanos, an area in Matanzas province east of Havana.

When, along with another seventy-four dissidents and independent journalists, he was sentenced to many years in jail in the spring of 2003 by the autocrat Fidel Castro, his punishment laid the way for women, who were housewives, professionals or workers, to create the Ladies in White.

Apart from their differences of points of view, that group symbolises resistance in a society which does not respect political freedom and which confuses democracy with personal loyalties.

The original group now has splinter groups, and what is probably the only flag-waver for present-day Cuban dissidence has been the recipient of painful slights and insults.

Most of these women are not intellectuals and don´t feel comfortable in front of a microphone. But when they speak of their daily lives and the abuse they suffer from the political police, it is difficult to remain indifferent.

Many of them live in dreadful concrete houses with tiled roofs or in disgusting hostels. Perhaps it is difficult for them to find the exact words to describe what is happening in the country. But when it comes to courage, they are the equal of anybody.

Margarita Barberá, age 71, is the oldest of them. “And she has been leaving for the last eight years,” gossips a fat dark-skinned woman with a low voice and a ready laugh. The youngest is a 17-year-old called Roxana Moreno.

The march on Sunday, March 20th, will be their first. In the morning another four foreign journals showed up. Together we headed to Santa Rita Church.

Like it fell from the sky, a P-3 bus appeared, totally empty. “State Security has prepared for us. Although sometimes they take us straight to the dungeon,” said Moya.

In Miramar, another “phantom” bus signed for the P-1 route parked, without passengers. Berta Solar is somewhat surprised. “Are they not going to repress this Sunday because of Obama’s arrival?” she asks, but the response is immediate.

“I doubt it, they won’t go against their nature,” she says. Already, in Mahatma Gandhi Park on 5th Avenue and 22nd Street, there’s a brawl right in the street.

Three repressors from the special services are furiously beating the independent journalist Lazaro Yuri Valle Roca. Two of them pick him up and put him in a Russian-made Lada, while and with private plates.

The foreign reporters run with their cameras to film the scene. Later, after the end of the Mass, the group files along the central promenade of 5th Avenue, the only place in Cuba where the government allows dissent, and heads down 22nd Street headed toward Third, the place of the violence.

Around 250 people, between workers in the area and paramilitaries, advised by State Security officials, beat them with impunity and deployed a lamentable verbal lynching.

These are the famous “acts of repudiation.” A sad achievement of Fidel Castro’s Revolution. An apparently popular method of canceling the will of “the other.” Of annulling it. Of intimidation.

When the populace tires of the brawling and shouting that the Ladies in White are “mercenaries,” the police pretends to intervene to prevent the feast of violence from continuing.

A grey-haired man, stocky, who calls himself Romulo, tried to convince two foreign journalists that “these opponents are invented by the United States, they are criminals and mercenaries.”

“And because of this can can’t demand political rights?” I ask. “Since the Triumph of the Revolutions we Cubans have had all the political rights we need,” he responds.

“And why do they arrest and beat them?” I inquire. “Well,” he says hesitantly,” because they violate the laws with their public scandals,”

“And why don’t they also arrest the other side who are also screaming and beating?” I delve more deeply.

Lacking arguments he looks at me like I’m a freak, and says, “Which side are you?” and walks away. A former official of the Ministry of the Interior, who at least is present, says that because of “those lunatics (the opponents), the State spends some hundred thousand pesos every Sunday on fuel, blocking off streets, mobilizing the workers and diverting buses from public service.”

“Wouldn’t it be simpler if these people didn’t follow anyone, according to the government, leaving them to fight their own battles?” The man shut up without answering. The fourth bus, two ambulances and numerous patrol cars took 46 Ladies in White and 13 men to the dungeons.

When Air Force One landed in Havana, perhaps Obama’s advisors in Cuba mentioned the incident. It raises several questions. Will the president of the United States hold Raul Castro responsible for the repeated violations of human rights? He probably will, but without offering details.

Obama has already said that the road to democracy will be long. The Ladies in White know this better than anyone.

Translated by GH

Goodbye, Obama / Iván García

Goodbye Obama! (See source, below)

Ivan Garcia, Havana, 23 March 2016 — Three hours before Obama delivered his speech in the Alicia Alonso Gran Teatro in Havana, while he was having his breakfast of bread and butter and cold lemonade in a private cafe in La Vibora, Anselmo shared ideas with a friend as to what matters the President of the United States would deal with in his address.

“You will see that the man will talk about the lack of democracy and human rights. This chap is not an idiot like Pope Francis or the President of France. He’s going to announce new things”, he said. Continue reading “Goodbye, Obama / Iván García”

His companion was more pessimistic. “Doesn’t matter what he says, nothing’s going to change here. When he goes, the usual will happen. It’ll change when the old gits who run the government finally kick the bucket. Forget about what Obama could offer us. Remember that Fidel and Raúl are Spanish. If you wanted to find more obstinate people, you’d have to get them specially made”, says an old grey-haired chap, gesturing with his hands.

The disnformation and rumours swirl around. “I’m not going to miss the speech. They say Obama is going to announce the end of the blockade”, says an old lady selling cones of peanut in Avenida Acosta in the 10 de Octubre district in the south of the capital.

Since Sunday 20th March, the weather is quite fresh and the Lenten winds cause waves which top the walls of the Malecón.

To get a taxi to the old part of the city, Vedado or Miramar is almost mission impossible. “Many streets are closed, and the police are being very difficult. I am not going to work until Obama goes. And I am not going to miss his speech or the Tampa game,” says Victor, driver of a ’55 Ford.

When Obama started his moving address, using his oratorical gift, combining it with specific subliminal messages, he emphasised that democracy and political rights are not a whim or a luxury, in this 21st century they are a necessity.

Even in the auditorium, with an audience carefully-chosen by the authorities, you could hear applause when Obama mentioned the right to demonstrate and freedom of expression.

Drawing parallels from the fight for racial integration in the United States, Obama made it clear that democracy in all its glory is the jewel in the crown of human rights.

Susana, an engineer, says that her eyes filled with tears when Obama described his meeting with a Cuban lady who had not seen her sister for 61 years. “In 1979 I saw my father leave for the States and I never saw him again. He died last year and I couldn’t even go to his funeral. These things have to end. The cost of the political polarisation between the two governments is being paid for by ordinary Cubans. Hopefully, Obama’s words don’t just blow away in the wind.”

Minutes after his historic speech in the enemy’s house, Obama arrived in Cadillac One, which caused a sensation in Havana, at the US embassy. For just under an hour, he held a discussion with 13 representatives of the Cuban opposition.

At the same time, in another room, four journalists, who were “unmuzzled”, met Ben Rhodes, one of the architects of the thawing-out strategy with the Castro regime.

In the conversationn, Rhodes did not contribute anything new. Of course, Obama´s adviser has a bomb-proof belief that the new politics will permit the empowerment of the Cuban people.

Although there are no historical precedents to show that discussions, internet, and an open channel for dialogue with dictatorial regimes smooth the way to democracy,

Both Rhodes and Obama insist that détente is a better option than interference or economic sanctions. But a lot of Cubans have little expectation that there will be a move toward democracy in Cuba within the lifetime of the Castros.

Last year, 43 thousand Cubans abandoned their country in search of decent pay and a reasonable standard of living. They voted with their feet. I have no doubt that after Obama´s visit, the Cuban exodus will continue.

Photo: The President of the United States saluting from the door of Air Force One. It was after 4 pm on Tuesday 22nd March, it wasn´t raining, but the Lenten wind that you get in spring and Easter made itself felt on the runway of Rancho Boyeros Airport and throughout the city of Havana. To say goodbye to him there was Raúl Castro, with Raulito, his grandson, bodyguards, and some others. A few hours later, Obama, his wife, two daughters, and his mother-in-law, arrived in the early morning in Buenos Aires for a two-day visit to Argentina. (Source: Telemundo.)

Translated by GH

The Urban Marabou* / Fernando Dámaso

Fernando Damaso, 5 March 2106 — Poor taste and anti-aesthetics have spread across the whole country. Havana is an excellent example of this. None of its suburbs or districts have been able to avoid it. In Nuevo Vedado, in Tulipán Street, between Marino and Estancia Streets, an African-Cuban religious-cultural centre has been put up, made out of waste materials which, instead of embellishing the location, has made it ugly. Apart from making everybody who passes it miserable, with its profusion of flags, full-size unartistic figures, worthless paintings and aggressive and dangerous metal sheets, it also afflicts its  neighbours with music from early morning until late at night.

If it had belonged to any individual, the Planning Authority would have ordered its demolition by now, and would have ordered them to open up those sections of Marino and Estancia Streets, between Tulipán and Lombillo Streets to vehicular and pedestrian traffic, both of which have been closed and appropriated for its private use by the Ministries of Transport and Construction.

There is a repeat of the problem in the ramshackle facilities for the farmers’ market in Tulipán Street on the corner of Protestante, where poor taste and anti-aesthetics are also on display, made even worse by the dirty environment at that location.

It seems that urban regulations don’t apply equally to all situations, and that there are some strange “exceptions.”

*Translator’s note: Marabou is an invasive weed that has spread across much of Cuba’s agricultural land.

Translated by GH

The Business of Exporting Cuban Medical Services / Ivan Garcia

Cuban doctors protesting in Bogota
Cuban doctors protesting in Bogota

Ivan Garcia, 26 February 2016 — In a hospital in East Caracas, a bronze plaque records:”To the medical workers who died in Bolivarian lands while doing their duty”, as if they had fallen in battle.

But they didn’t die in combat. They were victims of the street violence which has converted Venezuela into a slaughterhouse with the highest crime rate in the world. In April 2010, which was the last time the Venezuelan government reported on the matter, 68 Cuban doctors had died for that reason.

For doctors like Jorge (the names of the people interviewed have been changed), Venezuela was a nightmare. “I spent two years in a slum in Cerros de Caracas. Early in the morning you could hear fights and gunfire. It seemed like the wild west. The embassy advised us not to go out in the street at night. I have never felt so afraid. Not even during the war in Angola”. Continue reading “The Business of Exporting Cuban Medical Services / Ivan Garcia”

Venezuela has ended up not just the most dangerous, but also the worst paid by the olive green autocracy, which has made the export of medical services the country’s principal industry.

While he was in Caracas, Jorge was paid $200 a month and the Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP) deposited 150 convertible pesos into a bank account for his wife in Havana. “Cuban doctors go to places nobody wants to go to. And with terrible salaries. The government wins both ways. It gains propaganda and earns money from us”.

“Why do Cuban medical professionals go to difficult locations, risking their lives?”, I ask him. Jorge looks up at the ceiling of the dilapidated clinic in a poor neighbourhood in Havana and thinks for a few seconds, before replying:

“Some go in order to emigrate, others see these journeys as a way of earning some money in order to sort out personal problems. I don’t know, there are lots of reasons, but I can assure you that the last thing on their mind is the altruism that Cuba talks so much about”.

An investigation carried out by various independent journalists for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), published in Cubanet in September 2015, revealed how Cuban personnel in the so-called “international missions” are robbed of their salaries.

According to this investigation, the Asistencia Médica Compensada programme has become a way of getting in foreign currency and a useful diplomatic and public relations tool for the Cuban authorities.

Those who join the medical brigades abroad enjoy higher salaries and have access to major perks. But they have to hand over at least 50% of their income to the government, depending on their assignment. As an example, the report indicates that the doctors located in Trinidad and Tobago deposit half their salaries in an acount in the name of Rody Cervantes Silva, coordinator of the brigade, who then transfers it to the government.

“Supposedly, this is a voluntary ’donation’ says Odalys, who is a dermatologist, and who offered her services in South Africa and Portugal, and explains that the payment system is different in each country.

“The contract you sign with MINSAP doesnt give you much detail. You sign it more because you need the money than for any other reason, and you hardly read the small print. In Pretoria they paid me $400 a month and the bank deposited $1200 for me. Looking into it, I knew that my real salary was $5,000. They kept hold of 70% of it. Even so, with the money you get, you can sort out your house and even buy a second hand car, said Odalys.

The international missions also are a basis for running parallel businesses in the countries in which they operate. Oscar, a gynaecologist, carried out under-the-counter abortions in a private clinic in an African country. “I made $500 for each abortion. I was able to buy a house and a modern car with the money I saved”.

Irene, head of a group of nurses, went frequently to Venezuela, Brazil and Ecuador, for work reasons. “Before I left, I bought three or four thousand dollars.  With this money I could buy flat-screen televisions and cellphones, among other things, and I sold them when I got back. With this investment I make two thousand convertible pesos profit”.

But it is the government which makes the most out of these medical services exports. Ten billion dollars annually. According to Yiliam Jiménez, president of Cuban Medical Sales SA, Cuba has 51 thousand health professionals serving in 67 countries.

This Services Retailer is a network of companies, research institutes and high standard clinics which offer services at competitive prices in the international market.

While many Cuban hospitals and medical centres are crying out for repairs and and patients bring buckets and fans, towels and sheets when they are admitted, clinics like Cira García, the La Pradera Medical Centre and CIMEQ (Surgeons’ Medical Research Centre) offer a la carte menus, have air-conditioned rooms and 24 hour ambulance services.

The overseas medical squads have also converted themselves into a migration option. It’s an unusual week in which Solidaridad sin Frontera, a Miami-based organisation, does not receive six or seven calls from Cubans who want to join the Programme for Cuban Medical Professionals, better known as Visas CMPP, offered by the US government.

Since 2000, about 6,000 medical workers have deserted their international missions. And, up to 2010, 68 Cuban doctors have died in Venezuela, victims of street violece. Six years later, the up to date figure is not known. A plaque in a hospital remembers them.

Iván García

Martí Noticias, February 24, 2016.

Photo: Cuban health workers, who deserted medical missions in Venezuela protest in Bogotá.

Translated by GH

What Women Want / Luis Felipe Rojas

Patricia Jaramillo, author of the book “What the hell do they want?” Photo – Luis Felipe Rojas.

Luis Felipe Rojas, 28 January 2016 — Patricia Jaramilla is a Colombian lady, whose composure helped her write What the hell do they want? — an independent production, which isn’t a manual, but a “code for women,” which is the subtitle of the text which she gave me as a present a few months ago.

We are talking about an energetic and relaxed writer, who produced a book in order that men could once and for all understand what it is they want. These are the times of the best sellers and not all works go the same way, or at the same speed, but this one promises to be a super best-seller, coming from an “indie” writer. Continue reading “What Women Want / Luis Felipe Rojas”

In this work, she deals with women who are beautiful and mocking, heroic, and half-mad. They are manipulative and intelligent women, who penetrate mens’ thoughts: queens who end up with all the territory we once laid claim to, and that we men foolishly flaunted.

In the pages of her book there are tips to face painful separations, final divorces and the scabs that emerge from the boredom between couples who cross the threshold of habit. “Understanding feminine codes can be an almost impossible task, and this is because men have not learned to decipher them,” says the author.

At the last Miami Book Fair I ran into Patricia Jaramillo, who was hiding from the sun under a tent where her writer friends were also selling newly released books. Patricia went out in the middle of the street, asking people questions, and inviting them under the awning displaying the cover of her book: some bought it and most tried to decipher the puzzle: What the hell do they want?

Following is one of the many gems in the book:

“Why doesn’t your wife want to have sex (with you)? What are the excuses women use to say no? What the hell do they want?

— I’m watching a program on television.

— I’m dirty and / or sweaty.

— I’m exhausted

— I’m trying to watch the movie.

— I had too much to drink and/or eat.

— I have to get up early tomorrow.

— I’m sick.

— I’m on my period, etc.

The truth behind all these excuses:

“She’s angry! Surely that is the most frequent reason why a woman will refuse sex. If there is an area of relationships in which women think they are in control, surely it is intimacy. Refusal shows who’s the boss in bed and punishes you for her anger. She could also be avoiding sex with you, because she isn’t enjoying it.”

The truth is, they are always an enigma, women are a dark tunnel and you have to go slowly, win her over with patience, and only in this way will we save ourselves and solve the riddle: “What the hell do they want?”

Patricia Jaramillo wants to help us to understand and, also promises a new release: “What the hell do men want?”

Translated by GH

If We Are Talking About Terrorists / Mario Lleonart

Photo: with friends Roberto Pisano and Leonardo Delgado

Mario Lleonart, 29 January 2016 — A few days ago (January 15th and 16th) I took part in a gathering in Miami of the Coordinating Liaison Committee of the Cuban National Meeting, of which I am a member, along with eight others. On the 18th, on Martin Luther King Day in Saint Petersburg, Florida, I paid tribute to King, joining in the parade in his honour distributing copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. On the 19th I visited locations in Sarasota and Manatti, Florida, which had been pounded by tornados early in the morning of the 17th. Continue reading “If We Are Talking About Terrorists / Mario Lleonart”

While I was doing this, the political police made appointments with or visited people who know me in Cuba, who take part in forums of the Instituto Patmos, parishioners, collaborators, friends, neighbours and family members, to warn them that it was dangerous to have anything to do with me, inviting them to cooperate with their secret services, and to turn them against me. After I returned to Cuba some of them dared to tell me about these contacts, pressures, harassment and threats. One of the reasons put forward by the Cuban Gestapo, without any support, was that I had met terrorists in the USA.

In the afternoon of the 20th, I visited Leonardo Delgado, a one-time political prisoner, in his house in Tampa. He has been battling lung cancer for five years. With him was Roberto Pisano, one of his prison companions. His stories about the ancient Cuban prison are shocking.

That morning I had received some mail from Cuba, testifying to the arguments put forward against me by the State Security. Listening to Pisano and Delgado’s stories made me think how ridiculous it was that someone in Cuba would say that I had met terrorists in the US, since it was in fact the opposite.

I replied to the mail saying that if, by any chance I had had a meeting, without knowing it, with terrorists in the USA, it would have been if I had unknowingly met an undercover agent, one of the hundreds illegally infiltrated into the US by the Cuban political police. Like those involved in the shooting down of the four Brothers to the Rescue pilots, or those who specialise in assassinating without leaving any traces.

Translated by GH

Necessary Investigation Into Dead Cubans In The Nicaraguan Jungle / Juan Juan Almeida


Juan Juan Almeida, 18 January 2016 — Why don’t the countries which are implicated carefully investigate, in a reasonable period of time, the disappearance of these Cuban migrants? Why doesn’t the Nicaraguan government carry out an effective judicial investigation into these cases?

The accusers whisper, but, out of fear, do not accuse. They speak cautiously about dozens of Cubans abandoned in the jungle.

We will only have a rough idea of the number of those who have disappeared when those who are arriving and those who are still in Costa Rica, decide to break their silence. Continue reading “Necessary Investigation Into Dead Cubans In The Nicaraguan Jungle / Juan Juan Almeida”

Although for now there is no exact number of Cubans who have disappeared, whether assassinated, or lost, we are beginning to hear worrying tales, referring to the Nicaraguan jungle as a mass grave, where the bodies of some of our countrymen are hidden.

Sadly, while they ignore all this, the useless media is pleased with itself, and entertains itself scrutinising with disproportionate voracity and exaggerated delight, the motives, whether political or economic, which oblige these people to abandon their country.

This Friday, the first group, out of the thousands of Cubans who are stuck in Costa Rica, arrived in Laredo, in South Texas. According to the authorities in the Central American country, the selection criterion for this group of 180 was how long they had been there, that is to say, the date they entered the country.

But no one says that the list was modified because, in spite of the order of arrival, or the date of entry, some of them didn’t have the money – over $550 – to pay to continue their journey, or because, simply, they had disappeared.

And little or no attention is paid to the predictable slipping away of Cubans who, fed up with waiting, unwise or impatient, under their own steam, or with the help of traffickers – and most of them know who they are, where they live and how to contact them – decided to enter the jungle in order to get to their destination and today are dead, or locked up in Nicaraguan prisons.

The accusers whisper, but, out of fear, do not accuse. They speak cautiously about dozens of Cubans abandoned in the jungle, and of some mutilated with machetes, but they don’t say how many. They also, between themselves, say that some countries in the area know about this, but are not saying anything. It is serious and brutal, like a small-scale extermination.

For one of those people, who didn’t want to give his name, because he is still there with his family, the fact of not hiding the bodies of Cubans who tried unsuccessfully to escape from Costa Rica, by way of the Nicaraguan jungle, has two explanations:  lack of interest in or respect for the fate of a Cuban, and a clear warning, with an element of threat, directed at the rest of those stuck in Costa Rica: “Don’t even try to get through the jungle.”

Fortunately, everything seems to indicate that our countrymen will arrive at a safe port, but, unfortunately, we will only have a rough idea of the number of those who have disappeared, when those who are arriving and those who are still in Costa Rica decide to break their silence, which casts a shadow over their complicity, and when all of them arrive in the United States and the families of the lost ones start to ask about their relatives’ whereabouts.

With so many unanswered questions, I wonder why don’t the countries which are implicated carry out diligent investigations within a reasonable period of time into the disappearance of these Cuban migrants? Why doesn’t the Nicaraguan government carry out an effective judicial investigation into these cases? Why doesn’t the press, both here and there, make any comment about what seems to be a badly-kept secret? There is no choice, we will have to wait, investigate and ask questions of our arriving fellow-countrymen.

Translated by GH

Cuban Education in Free-fall / Ivan Garcia

Very few in Cuba want to be teachers

Ivan Garcia, 21 January 2016 — Seven in the morning on a weekday. After a frugal breakfast of bread and mayonnaise and an instant powdered drink, Yamilka Santana, fourteen years old, puts on her backpack, weighing a little over 12 kilos.

She isn’t going on a trip, nor is she going camping. She is going off to her junior high school, Eugenio María de Hostos, in la Víbora district, a thirty minute drive south of Havana.

“I am taking all my books and exercise books in my backpack, as we don’t yet have a timetable for our classes. There are about twenty notebooks. Also, a snack, a lunchbox, and a sunshade. It looks as if I am going on a journey abroad”, Yamilka says, smiling. Continue reading “Cuban Education in Free-fall / Ivan Garcia”

About 350 pupils study in her school. They need to stay in school from eight in the morning until twenty past four in the afternoon. The state does not provide them with a school breakfast. Nor lunch.

It only gives them a snack, which most of the kids don’t eat. “It’s rubbish. Bread and a hamburger, which has a strange taste, or horrible potato croquettes. The bread is almost always hard and old. You have to be really hungry to be able to eat it”, says Melissa, a seventh grade student.

The school patio where they line up in the morning is uneven. In a wide area, previously used for sport, there are no basketball backboards and the smooth-finish concrete surface is lifting.

When it rains, the water penetrates the walls and the roof. “You get more rain inside than outside. When you get heavy downpours, they suspend classes”. says Josuán, from the ninth grade.

More than a few parents have complained to the school. “It’s dangerous for the kids. They haven’t carried out any maintenance to the school for years, and one day the roof or the walls could collapse and that would be a tragedy. The government should be concerned about the bad state of most schools in Cuba”, says Magda, mother of one of the pupils.

But the complaints have had no effect. The government’s response is to paint the fronts of the schools with a coat of cheap paint. The teaching materials are insufficient and are deteriorating.

“Ten-year-old books are passed between pupils. There aren’t enough for everyone. I share a book with two or three kids. The notebooks, pencils and school supplies hardly last a term. Parents have to pay for the rest of the things out of their own pockets”, a teacher from Eugenio María de Hostos tells us.

The first problem the parents and families of the children and young people who are studying have to deal with is the uniform. In Cuba, uniforms are compulsory up to pre-university and degree courses.

Every other year, the state sells two uniforms per student. “But they screw you. They almost never have the right sizes. And you have to go to the market, where they charge you 5 convertible pesos for a uniform, which is equivalent to 125 Cuban pesos, five days’ pay. Some families get them, much better made, in Miami, explains Berta, mother of two.

In primary school, skirts, shorts and trousers are a wine colour, and blouses and shirts are white. In secondary, mustard yellow with white blouse or shirt. In preuniversity, blue. Technical education has ochre coloured uniforms. Nursing and medicine students wear white blouses and shirts and violet skirts and trousers.

Twenty six years ago, when Fidel Castro’s Cuba was subsidised by the Kremlin, public education in the island guaranteed snacks and lunches for students.

Also, two uniforms a year, a pair of school shoes and sport shoes for physical education. That was when a proud Castro repeated in his lengthy speeches that Cuban education was among the best in the world.

Now, parents have to buy the sneakers and snacks, which accentuates social differences.

“In spite of the fact that the school management asks families to avoid any ostentation, there are clear inequalities. There are students who come with sports shoes costing 100 CUC or more. Tablets, smartphones and even first generation laptops. They also bring good snacks and lunches. Others feel bad. With patched up tennis shoes and only eating bread and oil”, the director of a school tells us.

Up to the date of writing, no primary, secondary or pre-university in Cuba has an internet connection, producing backwardness in the use of information technology, which has a negative impact on the younger generation.

“We have adolescents who arrive at school, never having used a computer and never having surfed the internet. That is fatal in the 21st century”, comments Richard, a computing teacher.

But if the shortage of decent equipment and adequate food is notable in Cuban schools, the free-fall in the quality of education worries parents a lot. From their already battered domestic finances, they have to pay for private tutoring by experienced teachers.

“I pay 4 CUC a week to the retired teacher who gives my daughter tutoring, 16 convertible pesos a month, nearly half my salary. It’s a big sacrifice, but I do it not just so that my daughter gets good marks, but also that she builds up her knowledge and will be able to take a university course”, says Magda, referring to a seventh-grade student.

The deterioration in the quality of public education in the island is reflected in rude behaviour and in an alarming reduction in adolescents’ and young peoples’  level of culture. They hardly read or learn at all.

“We have not yet caught up with the 21st century. If we keep going like this, most of our current students will not be able to adapt to the requirements of the modern world. We are twenty years behind in terms of modern teaching methods”, explains a retired female teacher.

Very few people in Cuba want to be teachers. Low salaries and poor social standing are among the reasons. Many qualified teachers prefer to work as porters in five star hotels, as taxi drivers, or making pizzas in private restaurants. Or to emigrate.

Photo: from El País de Colombia.

Translated by GH

Alaska, Another Route for Cubans / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 1 December 2015 — As a part of the basket of measures relating to the migration crisis concerning Cubans in Costa Rica, and with the obvious intention of protecting human interests, starting from 1st December, Cubans wanting to travel to Ecuador will have to get a visa to enter that country.

The regulation is an attempt to control the stampede; but already the human traffickers, taking a bird’s eye view and with financial resources, are trying to find new routes to connect Havana with the United States. Now it seems crossing the last frontier is the latest thing.

I would like to make it clear that not one single letter of what I am writing here is any attempt to encourage illegal emigration Continue reading “Alaska, Another Route for Cubans / Juan Juan Almeida”

; but, to write about the matter with my eyes closed or making political points, is to make myself a central part of the problem.

Crossing Central America, Cubans in the hands of traffickers have to confront  the dangers of the jungle, get around conflict zones ruled by guerrillas and drug traffickers, and put up with the aggravation of being constantly ripped off by corrupt locals. Things more improbable, but just as dangerous as the Siberian steppes.

The latest madness also costs 10,000 – 12,000 CUC per person.

Cubans, conscious victims of people traffickers, fly Havana – Moscow by Cubana de Aviación (CU0470) 1.156,00 €, or by Aeroflot Russian Airlines (SU0151) 627,39 €.

Arriving, still a few at a time, at Sheremetyevo International Airport, the Cubans are received by guides who put them up in previously-reserved houses and hostels. I have been told that it is all quite a challenge, they give them warm clothes, something to eat, and then, like polar bear cubs, God knows in what conditions, they get onto a whaling ship and cross the Bering Strait to arrive in Alaska, which is American territory.

Cubans heading to the United States

We know the rest, the Cuban Adjustment Law.

The situation in Costa Rica, will eventually be sorted out. How?  I don’t know. That is for governments and diplomats to work on. But let’s not kid ourselves. The problem exists and the exodus continues.

Already, Havana is whispering that Oceania is another way, heading toward the Cook Islands, Niue, Tuvalu and Samoa, states which have visa-free agreements with Cuba, nothing complicated, and from there travel to American Samoa, which, as its name indicates, is also American territory.

The person I was talking to told me something which shook me: “Water should be free, drinking it is a vital part of a human being’s existence; but water gets bottled and sold. Don’t you think that is profiting from life? Getting people out of Cuba, people who are going to flee anyway from that country, is less shameful than selling bottled water.”

We did not dramatise the tragedy saying that in order to control the migration the rules of a million dollar organisation are going to change. It isn’t like that, we know that the Cuban and United States governments, and the whole region is working to trap the traffickers; but this is tackling the effect without doing something about the cause. The solution is to create a Cuba with rights, liberties and opportunities. Then, no-one would want to escape.

As you know, when hope dies, so does love. That, for a disillusioned people, the traffickers are seen as strange roses growing in the ashes of a disaster; but, I think that the most dangerous thing is not the traffic in Cubans, but that the island  will be converted into the most perfect location for the transit of people from many other countries, who are seeking the same destiny; but with a different objective: Terrorism.

Translated by GH

Everything Changes, So That Nothing Changes in the Cuban Armed Forces / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 14 December 2015 — For the Cuban government, December is a month of notable events and anniversaries. And, although  it tramples on the right of people to support Human Rights Day, it is worth repeating; it allows people to celebrate the anniversary of the landing of the yacht Granma, the Revolutionary Armed Forces’ birthday, the jubilee of the Battle of Ideas, the anniversary of the Battle of Alegria de Pio, and praising the fact that, since 1977, following a historic manoeuvre  of calculated ambiguity, it also permits the celebration of Christmas Eve and Christmas.

Strange, cruel, and unusual, because partying is what is important and because, as my grandmother, who didn’t need to study to gain wisdom, said, “All believers think that their religion is better than their neighbour’s one.” Continue reading “Everything Changes, So That Nothing Changes in the Cuban Armed Forces / Juan Juan Almeida”

Nevertheless, right now, when the phantasmagorical menace of an imperialist invasion has ceased to exist, when the fable which describes the subversive presence of the enemy in the north has lost all its efficacy, when it looks like Raúl’s reforms are going to last, and when we shouldn’t say that Cuba is a dictatorship, but an “authority” which, without doubt, continues to commit ignominious excesses in pursuit of the interests of the state, the Cuban idealogues should abandon the “poetry of ’59”, and work hard at developing an institutional make-up which crystallises, I am not saying makes transparent, Cuba’s vision to the world.

What I am talking about is, obviously, a psycho-political veneer. For example, the Union of Military Troops could change its name in order to change the facade, and in this way the new recruits to Military Service will emerge a little more agreeable than when they went in.

“To change everything so that nothing changes”; well-known paradox of the novel The Ocelot, by the Italian writer Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, is the sophistry of the Cuban government. What was once called the Rebel Army, and then the Ministry of Defence, and later MINFAR; can now be called PATRIGAL, which is a bit closer to the present-day business reality, which is a mix of “patrimony” and “national”, and which is led by a General.

The uniform and soldiers’ ranks, which still belong to the dead structure of the non-existent Warsaw Pact, could also be redesigned. Get rid of the uncomfortable, ghastly and rather undignified and hot olive-green uniform, and turn to a more symbolic, indigenous and airy one, like the ones used by the Mambisas in the struggle for liberty. The difficult bit will be in equalising the distinguished, cultured and recognised Camagueyan strategist, Major General Ignacio Agramonte y Loynaz with Brigadier General Lázaro Pichs Sobrino, Director of the Ministry of FAR, without adjectives to set them apart, and to know that the only war he has seen is Fast and Furious (Part II), on the small screen.

I am not suggesting the Adidas sweat-suit should be the national uniform, because that has become the preferred get-up of the ex-leader, and that would be a complication. Quite apart from the recent corruption scandal, of volcanic proportions, which involved a representative of the famous German company and unscrupulous directors of the Cuban sports industry.

Lastly, and only from eagerness to attract sympathy, as an additional measure, they could transform the military barracks into motels, just as they did one day with lodgings number 222, in order to convert it into the garrison which now includes Mr. President’s house.

To end now, as the Chinese proverb says about China, “BIG SOULS HAVE FREE WILL”

Translated by GH

Macri Victory Encourages Cuban Democrats / 14ymedio, Mario Lleonart

Mauricio Macri, new president of Argentina
Mauricio Macri, new president of Argentina

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Lleonart, 26 November 2015 — Mauricio Macri won. For those who hope for democracy in Cuba, the best option won. Although the recently-elected President hardly mentioned the island during his campaign, it is clear that the cause of liberty in Cuba will have a friend in him. His references to the situation in Venezuela have also been a wake-up call for the Plaza de la Revolución in Havana.

If he manages the transition well in his country, his will definitely be a major mandate. Nevertheless, Macri needs to get himself prepared for governing Argentina, starting off from the disaster left by Cristinismo [ed. note: Cristina Kirchner’s administration], which will signify quite an achievement in view of the obvious boycott by officialdom, which is showing a certain reluctance in handing over power. A gesture far-removed from what politicians who are really interested in the future of the country, and respectful of the popular will should do. Continue reading “Macri Victory Encourages Cuban Democrats / 14ymedio, Mario Lleonart”

An indication of Macri’s intelligence and ability is his new cabinet. In the election of each post one can see a genuine intention to get Argentina to rise again like a phoenix from the ashes. The appointment of Susana Malcorra to the chancellorship was accompanied by the news of a top-class team to lead the country from December 10th.

The up-to-now Head of the Cabinet of the General Secretariat of the UN, a position in which he has performed exceptionally well since 2012, has earned public praise from Ban Ki-moon himself. “I have valued his advice, admired his dedication and benefitted from his leadership,” he once affirmed. Praise which is confirmed in Malcorra’s experience, in relation to international relations, an area in which Argentina has been very lacking.

Without doubt, the head of the cabinet could not be anyone else than Marcos Peña, one of the best thinkers in Macri’s electoral alliance, Propuesta Republicana (PRO). He was also one of the principle interlocutors at the time of laying out discussion points when he was head of the campaign. His youth — 38 years of age — is in keeping with the tone of this new party, which has been capable of destroying such a damaging Peronist tradition.

A demonstration that each Minister has been considered with the necessary care is the appointment of the social activist, ex-Buenos Aires legislator and present National Deputy, Sergio Bergman to the Environmental portfolio. This rabbi, chosen in 2011 as legislator for the City of Buenos Aires for the PRO, is an important and eloquent expert in relation to the present global context.

Bergman has been an unwavering opponent of the Argentina-Iran Memorandum of Understanding, signed by President Cristina Kirchner in relation to the matter of the attack perpetrated in 1994 on the headquarters of the Argentina Mutual Association of Israel (AMIA, its initials in Spanish), which resulted in the death of 85 people. His appointment is further evidence of the change of direction represented by Macri’s victory from the terrible course Argentina has been following.

The delay in naming the Minister of Employment also indicates the respect shown in this instance and says much for the care taken by Macri not to make a quick superficial decision on this position which is of such importance to the Argentinians, especially in times of change such as these.

Working with that team, Macri will be able to put behind them the dark times of scandals like the Chavista [ed. note: a reference to Venezuela’s late president Hugo Chavez and his and the current administration in that country] briefcase transported to Argentina by a businessman to finance Cristina’s campaign or the unpunished assassination of the Public Prosecutor Alberto Nisman, as well as the squandering of public money.

The new government will put an end to the period of justice denied, as in the case of the attack against the AMIA The renaming of the Centro Cultural Kirchner will symbolise the passing from one era to another.

The first target for Macri in the international field will be his participation in the next Mercosur summit, to take place in Asunción in December. He has already announced that he will insist then on the application of the democracy clause to Venezuela “for the perscution of the opposition.”

What has happened in Argentina will probably be reflected in the next few days in the Venezuela elections. The popularist policies urged by the Havana regime remain stuck in the past.

Translated by GH