Let’s Go Venezuela / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Beautiful Venezuela, so weighed down for such a long time with your own revolution. Is that what you wanted? No! That’s why we are going to save ourselves.

So much left wing higher education, so much nostalgia for Silvio Rodríguez and so many other dogs’ breakfasts of patriotic poetry, so much Castroism disguised as uncomfortable intellectualism, so many arms smuggled from Havana (the scroungers were previously the guerrillas), so much of our parents’ out of date Marxist social criticism. Is that what you wanted? No! That’s why we already saved ourselves.

Thanks, Venezuela.

Fidel Castro hates the Venezuelans as much as he hates Cubans a much as he hates human beings. Much more now, because he will die soon. And he hates the idea that millions and millions of people should live when he doesn’t.

The Venezuelans resisted Fidel too much, since January 1959 when the Commander in Chief proposed a diabolical pact to President Rómulo Betancourt: Venezuela will give Cuba all its oil and also its land as a trampoline for expanding the Revolution: in return, Fidel held out the promise of the destruction of the United States in a few years’ time and the damned imposition of the dream of Bolívar and Martí (he almost managed it in October 1962, at the cost of the Russian nuclear missiles, which showed that Bolívar and Martí, far from having dreams, had terrible nightmares). Continue reading

Angel Santiesteban Celebrates His First Year in Prison With a Cake

First anniversary in prison of the intellectual and writer Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

This 28th February marks the first anniversary of the unjust punishment imposed by the Havana provincial tribunal on the prize-winning writer Ángel Santiesteban-Prats. Judgement prepared by the Cuban government.

Santiesteban-Prats, has passed more than 5 months locked up in the Lawton centre, situated in the 10 de Octubre area, under constant restriction by the Heads of the Havana headquarters.

The celebrated literary figure, holder of various international and national prizes. In his critical blog of the¨Los hijos que nadie quiso¨(The Children Nobody Wanted) he has continued in his perennial role as stone-thrower into the middle of a pond. He redoubled his efforts. When the government attacked him, his ability to do this reduced.

In these 12 months he has suffered physical and psychological torture.

He found out that the appeal process which was presented to the Ministry of Justice (MINJUS) on July 4, 2013, had been filed away for more than six months on the basis of lack of a contractual agreement. Finally he presented another document, which is proceeding, has been accepted and is to be found in the Provincial Review Department, where they are keeping it while they wait for the sanctioning tribunal to forward them the lawsuit.

The injustice perpetrated against Santiesteban-Prats has served to strengthen him more. He has maintained his writing as a sacred space for this celebrated creator.

We hope that the Cuban government will accept responsibility for committing a grave error. Santiesteban, when he is free again, will continue to insist on the rights of all Cubans, because not even imprisonment has been able to stop him.

To all his readers, lovers of literature, do not give up the fight for his immediate release.

This day he was presented with a cake so he could celebrate his first anniversary in prison.

So that Amnesty International will declare the Cuban dissident Angel Santiesteban to be a prisoner of conscience you can sign the petition: please click on this link.

Published by: Dania Virgen García on 2nd March 2014 in Desde Cuba.

Translated by GH
3 March 2014

Open Letter to the European Community / Angel Santiesteban

I am addressing each one of the twenty-eight nations which make up the European Community, to demand more depth, through an exhaustive investigation with free people, unencumbered and unafraid, to find a just consensus to the national issues of the Island, more so when we know that the historic practice, in more than a half century of socialism, has not been the welfare of the people, but the maintenance of the cruel machinery for the sake of their “Iron Totalitarian Power,” the imprisonment and daily repression of dissenters, and the mysterious deaths of opposition leaders.

I appeal to you, in the light of the recent decision of your Foreign Ministers, to open up a bargaining agreement with Havana, which we consider to be a grave mistake, in view of the fact that while the European Union was arriving at this agreement, the regime was imprisoning its opponents.

We hope that you do not see Cuba as a palliative to help you solve the crisis you are dealing with, at the cost of permitting the violation of our rights.

Exposing ourselves to risk, we have learned that the Castro brothers will never permit any imposition which gives any space for opposition, so that they have not even signed the United Nations Covenants, which in this 21st century should be the minimum indispensable requirement for the self-respect of any state, in the face of the international community; achieving this, and thus liberty and respect for the opposition, would be the contribution that the European Community could present to the Cuban people, and in turn this would be a credible step forward on the part of the Raúl Castro government, showing that it really is its intention to provide openings and improvements in terms of the Human Rights of the Cuban people.

In actual fact, they have filled up the jails with young people who, without any other option, have preferred to be criminals rather than submit to hunger and the absence of basic necessities. In those prisons, you will find many professionals, “embezzlers”, who have had the same misfortune as those who haven’t studied, since they haven’t had the opportunity to emigrate, as is the case with the overwhelming majority.

With respect, we urgently request that the European Community does not change its Common Position, without previously assuring itself in respect of the necessary change for the political democratisation of the Cuban archipelago.

Sincerely,

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton prison settlement. February 2014.
Please sign the petition for Amnesty International declare the dissident Cuban Angel Santiesteban to be a prisoner of conscience

Translated by GH
26 February 2014

No-one Knows What Fish They are Buying / Ernesto Garcia Diaz

Fishermen at Playa de El Chivo - Photo Ernesto Garcia

Fishermen at Playa de El Chivo – Photo Ernesto Garcia

Havana, Cuba – At la Playa de El Chivo (El Chivo beach ), on the northeast coast of Havana, at the foot of the Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro (Three Kings Castle), people carry on fishing for sport and business, between the marine waters and sewage, without the health authorities, environmental authorities or the coastguards taking a responsible attitude. The zone receives thousands of cubic metres of polluted water and its sand dunes are deteriorating as a result of the man’s actions.

The grunt, snapper and barber fish, among others, turn the rocky beach into both a centre for boats which arrive every day to seek their economic support; and at best, some people who are enjoying their leisure and are fishing for sport.

This is going on in the mouth of the submerged sewage outlet pipe which runs from the Havana sewage treatment plant, which filters the solid waste coming from the northern and southern collectors of the capital. A concrete pipe of about 375 metres in length crosses Havana Bay, as far as Casablanca, where they pump the dirty water up to La Cabaña, so that it then falls by gravity down to the El Chivo beach, about 150 metres along the coast.

The most astonishing thing is that many fishermen enter into the area of the lower reefs, without any protection, on the edge of where they are fishing in a contaminated area, breathing in the fetid smell from the drain, which keeps the coastal water cloudy with its permanent discharge from the Havana sewers, whose pipes and canals are not lacking in cracks and leaks. Continue reading

An Old Method / Fernando Damaso

Photo Peter Deel

In relation to the ongoing tense situation in Venezuela, the Cuban government and its Government Organisations unceasingly make declarations of support and solidarity with the government and the people of that country, bundling them up together, as if those who are protesting and joining in demonstrations are not a part of that people. It is worth remembering that in the last elections, 5,300,000 voters endorsed the official candidate and 5,000,000 the opposition candidate.

What’s more, our official communication media only show one side of the coin; the Chavista*. The opposition demonstrations, as numerous as the government ones, are hidden. This distorts the reality of a country in crisis, and creates confusion.

It’s an old method which the Cuban authorities don’t stop repeating: in the old Czechoslovakia, they supported the Soviet invaders and the Treaty of Warsaw, in Poland, the Communist coup d’etat, in the old USSR those who opposed Gorbachev, in Iraq against Saddam, in Libya against Gaddafi and now in Syria against Assad and the pro-Soviet government in the Ukraine.

The opposition, without any kind of distinction, are referred to as mercenaries, employees of the Western powers, antisocials, delinquents, etc. It’s a cracked record, which we always hear in Cuba. For many years the Cuban government has only known how to ally itself with similar governments and to support the worst causes: the reactionary and anti-democratic.

Now, with Venezuela, you have to be able to read between the lines and find the censored pictures, in order that what might happen does not catch us by surprise, as happened when the notorious Berlin Wall fell and pulled European socialism down with it.

An old song goes: God creates them and the devil brings them together. Sometimes it isn’t necessary for the devil to unite them: they do it all by themselves.

*Translator’s note: Chavista refers to supporters of the late Hugo Chavez and his party, which remains in power.

Translated by GH

18 February 2014

A Good Solution / Juan Juan Almeida

In his first decision of this year, published in the Gaceta Oficial Extraordinaria (Special Official Gazette) dated February 7th, the head of MININT (Ministerio del Interior de la República de Cuba – Cuban Ministry of the Interior) Army General Abelardo Colomé Ibarra, ordered the General Management of the General Revolutionary Police to exchange information, such as the co-ordination of criminal actions and investigations, with the General Management of the department of Bank Financial Operations Investigations, in order to combat money laundering, financing of terrorism and moving illicit capital out of the island.

The challenge is large and high-cost; but the solution is very easy. For starters, build a wall around the boundary of the present location of the Central Committee, leave the guards outside, and convert it into a high-security prison. And whatever else is needed.

Translated by GH

13 February 2014

Long-running Problems / Fernando Damaso

Photo Rebeca

In Cuba, it’s not a secret to anybody, problems enjoy a long life. As there is no organised civil society able to insist on its rights, you always have to wait for the decisions of the authorities, and, like the problems, they also take their time.

And the official press isn’t bothered about them either, unless it is no longer possible to hide them or the government decides to address them. Then you see articles and reports considering what they are doing to resolve them, without mentioning what it was that caused them, what they failed to do to prevent to prevent their development, who was responsible and, most importantly, how the people have been affected by them.

In spite of the update and the briefing about which the press may feel critical, it seems that they go forward fearfully, afraid to go beyond what is authorised. There have been too many years of censorship. Here are some examples taken at random.

Banes has its new water pipeline, reports the newspaper Granma. The town of Banes, in Holguín province, had its aqueduct, which delivered water to its inhabitants. With the passing of the years and lack of maintenance, the steel pipes and the original concrete deteriorated to the point that out of the 150 litres a second of water to be delivered, only 32 came through, with delivery cycles of 32 days.

Now, after dozens of years, the pipework has been repaired with polyethylene tubes, reducing the delivery cycles to 9 days. A complete success. With not a word about the suffering and annoyance caused to the people by this situation, or saying why the restoration was delayed so long, much less who was responsible for doing nothing for so many years.

In Havana – the TV tells us — some apartment blocks are under construction, to be offered to families in temporary housing, and to others who were living under the La Lisa bridge. The buildings are low cost quick-build, poor quality and unfinished, ending up as a call on the resources (?) and the labour of the new tenants.

Some of the beneficiaries passed some 15, 20, 30, or nearly 40 years living in hostels, or under the La Lisa bridge, in precarious conditions. The journalist did not say one word about the effect this long-drawn-out situation had on the lives of the members of these families, and devoted his time to relating the gratitude of the beneficiaries to the Revolution. End of story.

The Casablanca cinema reopened its doors – Juventud Rebelde tells us. The cinema, located in the city of Camagüey, remained shut for over a decade. Not a word about how the situation came about nor about who was responsible. Nor did it indicate how much the locals were disadvantaged culturally by this prolonged closure.

This all sounds like the report of the story of the patient who, having died of hunger due to lack of provisions, enjoyed the expert and magnificent medical attention in his final hours.

Translated by GH

11 February 2014

From the Cosmos to the Absolute Limit / Juan Juan Almeida

One 29th of January, but in 1942, Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez was born in the city of Guantanamo, Cuba, the first Cuban, and the first Latin American, cosmonaut.

What Cuban doesn’t remember the joint Cuba-USSR flight undertaken in the Soyuz 38 space craft commanded by the Russian Yuri Romanenko on 18 September 1980?

Obviously the man with the fridge isn’t Tamayo, but another Cuban who with sweat and toil is attempting to conquer his cosmos.

Translated by GH

30 January 2014

Granma Eggs / Juan Juan Almeida

The objective of the Poultry Company of the Cuban province of Granma, for the year 2014, is to increase egg production. It exceeded last year’s in the company’s balance sheet, last January 29th.

Juan Carlos Reyes, sub-director of Combined National Poultry (CAN), highlighted the support and dedication of the local Granma workers and reported that although there are material limitations, the level of resources on some lines will be higher this year which has just begun. Nevertheless this month, January, they didn’t produce more than 700,000 eggs owing to defaults in contracts and deliveries of feed.

The poultry breeders, notwithstanding their difficulties, are seeking increased efficiency, and doing the impossible in order that everyone can have eggs.

Translated by GH

30 January 2014

CELAC: Declaration of Havana and the Tibetan Book of the Dead / Juan Juan Almeida

Without doubt, the pro tem presidency of the largest of the Antilles at CELAC, has been significant in achieving influential goals, to the benefit of Cuba, going well beyond the scope of commercial and diplomatic considerations.

Not even the Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parilla himself could accept anything other than that this alliance of Latin American and Caribbean countries represents the common regional aspirations.

What’s strange is that there are gathered there serious regional political managers, famous practitioners in the art and folklore of politicking, psychedelic gurus, dictators disguised as democrats and angry favourites, a rare mixture. Continue reading

An Undignified Old Lady / Regina Coyula

This weekend I devoted to music. I had told my friend Karen, a likeable Brazilian twentysomething, that I like watching films knocking around the house, but it was Karen’s last night in Cuba, and under the influence of a forecast cold front which never arrived, we went with Rafa as chaperone to the Yellow Submarine. We saw the performance of Tierra Santa, (Holy Land) a cover group with a singer who is a cross between Ozzy Osborne and Geoff Tate, and a voice which, while not approaching that of either of those performers, has a good shot at it.

On Friday, now without Karen, Rafa took me to Maxim Rock to see Ánima Mundi (Soul of the world). It is a privilege to see this group, never mind that the sound system is not very good. In the first part they did interpretations of some of their original material. While waiting for the second part, I heard Miel con limón (Honey and lemon) and the band La vieja escuela (The old school). I sang along to famous songs, the stranger in that place where everyone seems to know everyone, and with everyone else singing from memory. I enjoyed both bands, especially the second, a forward preparation for what came next.

Shine on you, crazy diamond was the start of a short trip through Pink Floyd. Only musicians like Ánima Mundi would also take on Money, Another Brick in the Wall, and Wish you were here; a little of EL&P with Lucky man, to finish off in an amazing way with Rick Wakeman’s Arthur.

After this lavish dose of rock; Saturday blend in El Sauce. I persuaded my son to take me, as my husband is impossible in matters musical. Rafa argued with me because for me present day Habana Abierta (Open Havana) is like a cover group for the original Habana Abierta, but what are these young kids going to know about that concert in the Salón Rosado nightclub of el Tropical? I enjoyed the enchantment of the live music and, despite my son’s scolding, I was able to make myself look silly without any bother.

… And don’t ask me any more about the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States Summit (CELAC) which doesn’t affect me one way or the other.

Translated by GH

3 February 2014

Generational Collision in the Alejo Carpentier Charity / Orlando Freire Santana

Havana, Cuba, December – http://www.cubanetorg – It’s not a secret for anybody that, in general, youngsters favour transformations which advance social development. As far as Cuba is concerned, the majority of young people who are academics and researchers urge that the economic changes being implemented by Raul Castro’s government be taken forward more rapidly. And journalism should not lag behind.

This understanding was corroborated in the winding up of the course entitled “Journalism is not a job for cynics”, which took place at the Alejo Carpentier charity. On this occasion, the journalists Jesus Arencibia and Ricardo Ronquillo, both from the newspaper Juventud Rebelde took part in a panel, along with Doctor Graciela Pogolotti, president of the above mentioned cultural institution.

The first one to mention it was the youngest of the panelists, Jesus Arencibia, who, to the astonishment of some of the people present, strongly criticised the present situation of the Cuban press. Responding to the question, “What journalism do we need today in Cuba?”, Arencibia stated that we lack media able to function without approval from above; and, pursuing this line, argued that editorial policy should not be the preserve of a political party. Arencibia also questioned the activities of the official Union of Cuban Journalists (UPEC), who insist on not mixing up journalism with commercial publicity, without saying anything about political propaganda which dominates the work of the news-pages, the radio and the television in our country. Continue reading