Harsh Reality / Fernando Dámaso

Fernando Damaso, 17 May 2016 — In the few available spaces for people to express their opinions in the official Cuban media (letters to the editor of “Granma,” “Rebellious Youth,” a page of “Workers”, “Ordinary People Talking” on Havana Channel, “Cuba Says” on Cubavision, and others), they complain about and attack useless, bureaucratic, irresponsible and lazy officials, who don’t do what they’re supposed to do and let problems mount up and increase. The editors of these spaces are no better. The criticisms are not forwarded, but remain stuck at square one. They are rarely sent on to the relevant government ministries or organisations. It seems that these deplorable events only occur because of officials’ mistakes, since, higher up, everything is perfect and there is no responsibility for any of it. Continue reading “Harsh Reality / Fernando Dámaso”

Nevertheless, it cannot be that so many officials of different organisations and departments (The Electric Company, Postal Service, ETECSA (the phone company)), Public Health, Education, Housing, Planning, Water and Drainage, Communes, Transport, Employment and Social Security, Justice, the National Bank, National Assembly of Peoples’ Power, etc.) could be so unprofessional and inept.

We have to ask whether these “qualities” are not also to be found in these organisations and institutions and, logically, in the “system.” In reality, it seems that it is the latter which doesn’t work, for the simple reason that it achieves nothing. More than fifty five years with the same worsening problems, many new ones too, and nothing solved, clearly demonstrates that.

They can continue appealing to patriotism, discipline, efficiency and whatever else they want,  but as long as they fail to satisfy the ever-increasing needs of the people and allow them to freely develop their initiatives and talents, it’s a waste of time.

Unfortunately, and not just in Cuba, socialism has shown itself to be a “political, economic and social system” which has totally failed.

Translated by GH

The Castros Will Miss Obama / Iván García

President Obama on Cuba's favorite comedy show (see details below)
President Obama on Cuba’s favorite comedy show (see details below)

Ivan Garcia, 23 May 2016 — It was a warm autumn night in 2015. The Mikasuki casino, in a swamp in the Everglades, thirty minutes from downtown Miami, was crammed full of anxious people, frantically pressing buttons on the slot-machine screen.

The cushioned floor absorbed the footsteps of good-natured assistants who manoeuvred about like the captain of a drifting gondola, carrying their trays of drinks. Continue reading “The Castros Will Miss Obama / Iván García”

Some friends had taken me there so that I could see what the inside of a casino was like. I had returned from a three day journey to Costa Rica, intending to write various stories about Cubans stuck in Central America.

In Miami I chatted with some fellow-countrymen to find out their opinion about the fourth migration wave which was in progress and had led to the exodus of nearly 50 thousand Cubans in a year and a half.

In Sun City (as Miami is referred to) opinions were divided. People like Tomás, born in Caibarién, Santa Clara province, and retired from an electric company in Florida, voted with both hands up for Obama to repeal the Cuban Adjustment Act.

“It is the worst Cubans who are coming here. People who are naturally lazy and always shouting. With three months of cardsharping, and with their Social Security money, they go to the island to speculate with rented gold chains. Only when there is no more Cuban Adjustment Act, will the Castros just have to get on with it”, he said while knocking back a whiskey on the rocks.

At his side, a friend, a fisherman in his spare time, and also retired, was counting the hours until Obama leaves office, “he can go to Kenya or Nigeria, I don’t know, so long as he goes”, he said.

The Anglo-Saxon Americans I spoke to had a very bad opinion of Obama. They called him weak, that he had destroyed the middle class, they accused him of letting the Chinese steal their jobs, and that economic growth was a smoke-screen, because the new jobs were low quality and badly-paid.

Like many redneck Americans they yearned for someone like Donald Trump. Nevertheless, when they came to the subject of Obama and his policy on Cuba, although opinions varied for and against, the majority came to the conclusion that the greatest beneficiary was the government in Havana.

Good luck is seizing opportunities. And, one year and five months after the historic 17th of December, when the cold-war enemies agreed to raise a white flag, the return for the Cuban people has been very poor.

When you talk to the Cuban man in the street, many of them feel that a golden opportunity has been missed to reconstruct a stalled economy from the ground up and create a environment favourable to microenterprises and small family businesses.

After 17-D, things moved from exaggerated hope to blackest pessimism. In Havana, the recurring theme for many young people and adults are their plans to emigrate.

The olive green government’s wasted opportunity is what led Saúl, owner of a food business, to gather together as much money as possible in order to then leave with his family to go to the United States.

“I am up to here with their lies. The Communist Party Congress was the last straw. All that happened with the re-establishment of relations with the Americans, was the government gained time to prepare its plan of succession. Nothing is going to change in Cuba”, the businessman assured me.

Two months after Obama’s visit to Havana, people still remember the Secret Service paraphernalia, Air Force One, and The Beast, as his Cadillac is called. Quite a few people have kept or downloaded the whole of the speech made by the American president at the Alicia Alonso theatre.

They think of it as a swindle. Obama’s speech and the affection it generated in Cuba perhaps was the origin of an abrupt relapse in the Castro regime.

Although the government Talibans continue to think of digging trenches and planning imaginary combats with windmills, their myopia has cut them off from the wishes of the people.

People want to live in the best way they can. Receive reasonable salaries, have more than a black coffee for breakfast, and have a comfortable house to live in. Cuba is an albatross around their necks. Ignoring the opinions of its people, the government has bet on rigid fundamentalism and the insane defence of its positions.

Perhaps in 2017 the autocrats will miss Obama. In 114 years of the republic, no US president has offered his hand with such unexpected frankness to the Cuban people.

In my opinion, the government has calculated wrongly. For them, their ideology and the broken record of their propaganda has counted for more than the possibility of building a modern democratic nation.

When in November the US elections take place–and the Rolling Stones concert in Havana, and the catwalk glamour of Chanel along the Paseo del Prado have become anecdotes–then honest government officials will appreciate Obama’s gesture.

But I think by that time it will be too late. As always, the Castro brothers have decided for all of us the way forward for the nation.

Photo: Obama playing dominoes with the comedians Pánfilo, Facundo and Chequera. According to the columnist Mauricio Vicent in El País, “every Monday night at 8.30, when Cuban TV’s news, which takes a quick glance at the real national problems, has only just finished, Vivir del Cuento (Living to tell the tale), the most popular and most watched  comedy programme, comes on in everyones’ homes. Pánfilo, its protagonist, is a grumpy retired man, who suffers the same day to day problems as any of his countrymen and who has spent half his life standing in lines”. …Taken by Martí  News, which in turn took it from the White House website. The photo was taken in Havana, 21st March 2016, by Peter Souza, official White House photographer (Thank you).

Translated by GH

Cuba: The Return of the Power Cuts / Ivan Garcia

Black out in Cuba (Cubanet)
Black out in Cuba (Cubanet)

Ivan Garcia, 27 May 2016 — As of three weeks ago there have been power cuts of up to three hours in different parts of Havana. Sometimes longer.

“Friday, April 29 in Altahabana (a neighbourhood in the southeast of the city), the power was cut off from eleven at night until four-thirty in the morning. Because of the heat, I spent the whole night waving a fan over my eight-month-old baby. Two days earlier, there was a three-hour outage in the afternoon,” I was told by Magda,  who works at Comercio Interior.

In the central and eastern provinces, the power cuts started in the middle of March. According to Reinaldo, who lives in San Pedrito in Santiago de Cuba, 550 miles east of Havana, the blackouts aren’t the only problem. Continue reading “Cuba: The Return of the Power Cuts / Ivan Garcia”

“In some parts of Santiago we get water every eight or nine days. People store it in buckets, bowls and improvised tanks, which increases the chance of mosquitos transmitting dengue, zika and chikungunya. You can add to that the countless earthquakes you get in the months of December through March. Many families sleep in the parks because they are afraid their roofs will collapse. The power cuts in Santiago are frequent. Sometimes half an hour, and other times up to five hours,” Reinaldo told me.

In Remedios, a town in Villa Clara province, 180 miles from the capital, Odaisi, an intensive care assistant, tells me that the cuts have become worse since the end of April.

“There are two or three a week, and sometimes up to five hours, or all night. People go out in the street because of the dreadful heat. Lots of people phone the electric company but they get no reply,” Odaisis said.

Esther, who works in a substation on the outskirts of Havana, is sure it isn’t because of a fuel shortage, which is what many people think. “Fifty percent of the electricity generated in the country uses Cuban diesel. And there are new plants which run on gas. The problem is unexpected breaks in the cables, which, together with maintenance to the power stations in Matanzas and Holguín, have created power shortages in peak hours.”

A power company official, who preferred to remain anonymous, didn’t think that the present cuts will get as bad as the ones in the years of the Special Period [a time of severe crisis after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the elimination of its aid to Cuba].

“No way. The country is much better prepared to deal with electricity supply. Thousands of kilometres of cable have been replaced, transformers and connections have been renewed, and power distribution losses, which got to thirty percent, have fallen to five percent. There is also more modern equipment in the power plants, and we have a contract with Russia to build two new power stations and modernise four others. Our present problem is due to breakages, but we will sort them out in the month of May,” the official assured me.

But Noel, who works at CUPET, the initials of the Cuba Petrol Company, is doubtful. “Out of the 105 thousand barrels a day we were receiving from Venezuela two years ago, now we only get sixty thousand, and my bosses tell me that they expect it to reduce further down to forty thousand or fewer barrels. In Venezuela, because of the drought, and the bad technical state of their power stations, there are constant power cuts outside of Caracas. To that you can add the economic crisis and the fact that oil exports represent ninety-five percent of their income.”

Although a barrel of oil has fallen from over a hundred dollars a barrel a few years ago to a little under thirty dollars on the international market, Orelvis, an economist, believes that the Cuban government doesn’t have enough money to buy fuel.

“Bartering with Venezuela is the perfect business deal. Medical services in exchange for oil, and part of the oil gets re-exported. Now electricity generation in the country has increased. More hotels and private businesses consuming more, and some of the people with money to buy things have air conditioning and electrical appliances in their houses. I think there has been a setback in electricity production, but I don’t think that the situation can be as serious as in the 90’s, and the Special Period, but people need to be ready for programmed blackouts in the coming months,” he thought.

Raisa, a technician in the electric company sees the problem differently. “Every province and town in the country has an assigned level of fuel consumption, and, for various reasons, most of them are consuming more. That, plus the recent breakdowns, are the cause of the latest outages.”

But it’s difficult to convince the Cuban in the street with technical arguments. There is nothing they like less than a power cut.

“It’s one damn thing after another. A screw-up getting any food. Salaries which are too low, not enough public transport, and now they are telling us that if the drought continues, the water supply will be cut in Havana. And, the cherry on the cake, more power cuts. It’s too much. We have had these problems for nearly sixty years, and they have never come up with a definitive solution,” complains Adelberto, a pensioner.

The electricity cuts in Cuba are cyclical. For one reason or another, they always recur. It’s one of the pernicious legacies of Fidel Castro’s revolution.

Translated by GH

Why Cuban Agriculture Is Inefficient / Iván García

Plowing in Cuba with oxen. (From On Cuba)
Plowing in Cuba with oxen. (From On Cuba Magazine)

Ivan Garcia, 19 May 2016 — The raindrops tinkle on the zinc roof of a greasy hut used to store sacks of fertilizer, agricultural tools, and the various ancient contraptions that are always be a nuisance to keep in the house.

Osvaldo, the sixty-five-year-old owner of a farm southeast of Havana, calmly takes a drag on a cigarette butt, scratches his head with his thick fingers, which look like twisted meat hooks, and asks his son, “Where the hell have you left the wrench to open the water pump?” Then, once the engine has been started, he runs through the rain back to the entrance of his house. Continue reading “Why Cuban Agriculture Is Inefficient / Iván García”

Before answering a question as to why Cuban agriculture is incapable of supplying people with enough food, he takes a swig of coffee and rocks back and forth in his iron chair. He then tells me:

“No point in beating about the bush. It’s the government’s fault that agriculture doesn’t work. I have lost count of the number of measures and strategies the agricultural directors have drawn up. The problem is that you can’t grow a crop sitting behind an office desk. Every piece of farmland is different. The amount of sweet potatoes or beef cannot be planned from an office in Havana.”

He continues unwrapping his opinions about the black hole in the nation’s agriculture. “The land is for the peasants. If the government wants to buy everfything that’s harvested, they need to pay a fair price for it. Now they have promised to pay properly, but two or three months down the line Acopio (Cuba’s state procurement and distribution agency) and other government departments start to fall behind on their payments. In my case, they owe me 20 to 30 thousand pesos. The Havana middlemen buy your entire harvest, in cash.”

Osvaldo is aware that shortages breed speculation. “But the government needs to get real. They sell everything at very high prices to individual farmers — fuel, seed, working clothes — and the agricultural equipment is of poor quality. Also, times have changed. Now, nobody wants to work on the land. Everyone is going to Havana or Miami. And when it comes to hiring workers to gather the harvest, you have to pay at least a hundred pesos a day. That drives up the cost of what you’ve harvested. If the government gave the land to the people who are working it, in Cuba, the food that they produced would be for export”.

When you speak to private farmers, people working in co-operatives or tenants, their opinions vary, but most of them believe that, to increase the harvests, you have to first create appropriate living and working conditions.

“I lost about a hundred pounds of bananas and sweet potatoes because Acopio couldn’t provide enough transport,” observes a farmer with a credit and service cooperative, who prefers to remain anonymous. “It’s a joke. They have some honest people but most of the officials there are corrupt.”

When Fidel Castro came to power in January 1959, he began applying countless forms of production management to Cuban agriculture, from huge state farms and cooperatives to land leases.

But harvests did not increase. Bureaucrats always come up with excuses to explain the shortfalls. They blame the unchecked greed of middlemen, hurricanes, rain or drought.

Though intended to alleviate the deficit, targeted price controls quickly generate even greater shortages instead. But there could be other reasons as well. Economist Juan Triana Cordoví cannot be accused of being of a dissident. But in his article “Price Caps”, published in On Cuba Magazine, Triana tries to find answers to the riddle. For this economist, prices controls are just the tip of the iceberg.

There are other explanations. According to Triana, if you compare produce production in 2005 to that of 2009, you will find that harvests were, on average, was 15% smaller. With respect to potatoes, the drop was 50%. In the case of vegetables, the average rate of growth in this same period did not exceed 1% while tomato production fell 30%.

In 2009, 34,558 hectares of produce were planted (4,245 of which were potatoes), while only 16,494 hectares were planted in 2014 (596 of which were potatoes). In short, in 2009 — the latest year for which data is available — there was 50% less produce and 14% less potatoes planted. In 2009, 32,174 hectares were planted while in 2014 only 21,397 hectares were planted. This amounts to 66% of what had been planted just five years earlier.

Less acreage under cultivation, lower yields, increased demand, higher costs… “What else can we expect but for prices to go up?” asks Triana.

But the government is only thinking in the short term. Faced with complaints from millions of its citizens, the solution is a home remedy to relieve the pain while it continues to postpone the radical solution that Cuban agriculture needs.

Average Cubans approve of the new measures the state has taken to cap prices and close El Trigal wholesale market south of Havana. On May 13 Martí Noticias toured fifteen produce markets — some state-run; some private, leased or cooperative operations.

In the markets with price controls, the chalkboards indicated nine to fifteen items for sale. Tomatoes, on average, cost 2 pesos per pound. Guava was priced at 1.5 to 3 pesos, a banana went for 2 pesos, and cassava and sweet potato sold for 1 peso per pound.

The privately-run markets had more variety, were cleaner and provided better quality, though the prices were twice as high. For example, two Caney mangoes cost 30 pesos while a six-pound melon went for 25 pesos.

Osvaldo, the peasant quoted above, believes that price controls will not increase farm production. And he is sticking to his theory: “When the land belongs to the peasants, and they are allowed to import and export without having to rely on the state, there will be more than enough food,” he says.

In no country with an autocratic government — whether it be Vietnam, China or the former Soviet Union — did state-control of the land work. Cuba is hardly an exception.

 

Translated by GH 

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

Good
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

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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