Diaz-Canel Appoints Colonel Manuel Marrero as Prime Minister

Manuel Marrero Cruz’s proposal for the post was voted on unanimously by Members of Parliament. (Cubadebate)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, December 21 2019 — The appointment of the Cuban Prime Minister this Saturday was a surprise. Neither female nor mestizo, the man appointed to the new post is a 56-year-old colonel with a beard that recalls the times of the guerrillas who came down from the Sierra Maestra. Manuel Marrero Cruz, the Minister of Tourism since 2004, will occupy the second most powerful position in the executive branch as of this Saturday.

Marrero’s name was barely used in betting circles prior to his appointment. Before entering politics, this architect was head of the technical investment group, deputy director and general manager of the Hotel Río de Luna and then sub-delegate of the military company Gaviota for the eastern provinces.

This Saturday, Marrero Cruz’s unique candidacy for the post “received the unanimous vote of the deputies of the Parliament, gathered in the plenary hall of the Convention Palace of Havana,” published the official press. continue reading

For decades, Marrero worked in the military framework that controls the key tourism sector. In 1999 he became vice president of the Gaviota Tourism Group and in 2001 he became president. In 2017 he received the Tourism Excellence Award for his personal and professional career.

Marrero Cruz received the award for having “carried out numerous projects in the (tourism) sector, which has become one of the fundamental engines of the Cuban economy.

With a reputation for having a despotic hand, Marrero is also remembered critically for the message he posted on social networks a few hours after a tornado hit several areas of Havana on January 27. “We have traversed the area after the meteorological event that occurred in our capital last night. All of the tourist facilities are in operation, as they have not been affected,” he tweeted at the time.

“He is inept and surrounds himself with ineptitude,” says a former tourism employee who spoke to 14ymedio and who preferred to remain anonymous. “He’s the kind of boss who likes to let his subordinates know that he’s always above them and that if they contradict him he can ruin their lives. The anonymous worker, who rose through the ranks in the ministry, which Marrero led until today, describes him as someone who “puts personal gain and that of his friends before anything that might benefit tourism in Cuba.”

Other sources consulted agree that “he is someone without a voice or a vote, he does whatever his superior tell him to do, and when they don’t tell him anything he dedicates himself to benefiting powerful partners.” One worker, who was very close to him, defines him briefly: “he never says no when he is called by the Council of State but rarely says yes when his employees ask him for something.”

This man of few words has made more public appearances in the last year due to U.S. sanctions that have hit tourism to the island hard. In early December he announced that the number of travelers who had arrived in Cuba in 2019 had barely exceeded 4 million, far from the 5 million planned for this year.

According to the new constituional charter, Marrero will be in charge of the activities of central state administration bodies, national entities and local administrations in his new role. In addition, he will be empowered to take over, temporarily under exceptional circumstances, the management of any state body.

Among the six deputy prime ministers who will accompany Marrero in his work, the historic Ramiro Valdés and four of the names used in popular circles stand out: Inés María Chapman, Roberto Morales Ojeda, Jorge Luis Tapia Fonseca and Alejandro Gil Fernández, in addition to Ricardo Cabrisas.

His Twitter account reveals much of Marrero’s public projection. He shares messages from Miguel Díaz-Canel, slogans that reaffirm “the continuity” of the new generation of officials in relation to their predecessors and gives ample coverage to phrases said by Raúl Castro.

Marrero’s name did not appear in the biographies of potential candidates for the position that this newspaper had shared this week. On the streets other names were mentioned more often, especially Inés María Chapman and Roberto Morales Ojeda.

In today’s parliamentary session, Miguel Díaz-Canel also proposed to appoint six new ministers: Marta Elena Feito Cabrera for Labor and Social Security; Juan Carlos García Grada for Tourism; Martha Sabina, minister-president of the Central Bank of Cuba; Jorge Santiago Sobrino Martínez, in charge of the Food Industry; Eloy Álvarez Martínez for Industries, and Nicolás Arrente Cruz for Energy and Mines.

In addition, Díaz-Canel appointed Brigadier General José Amado Ricardo Guerra as Secretary of the Council of Ministers.

Translated by: Rafael Osorio

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Without Mentioning Cuba, ECLAC Urges Improved Statistics

Alicia Bárcena avoided giving examples of countries that hide their true indicators. (@cepal_ONU)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, November 20, 2019 — Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), warned on Tuesday that “timely and quality statistical information is an essential condition” for the government to perform effectively. The official called for a break in statistical silence in a region where many countries make up or hide their figures.

Without mentioning particular cases, Bárcena urged countries to “more faithfully portray” their realities and also to “look for more and better data to respond to the enduring demand for sustainable equitable development,” during her speech at the Tenth Meeting of the Statistical Conference of the Americas, which is being held in Santiago, Chile until Thursday the 21st.

The senior official stressed that “it is essential for policy to be based on evidence from national statistical systems that add increasingly autonomous statistical institutes, central banks, health, economic and environmental agencies, among others.” continue reading

Although Bárcena avoided giving examples of countries that hide their true indicators, among the most striking cases in the region is Cuba, which for more than half a century has retouched or kept under secrecy the real figures of malnutrition, unemployment, criminality and gender violence, among others. Economic data are also frequently retouched or inflated by Havana.

On several occasions ECLAC has lamented that “Cuba’s main economic statistics have an annual timeliness and are published with a lag of several months and even years.” It’s a situation that continues to repeat itself despite the fact that the publication of reports by Cuba’s National Statistics Office was given more prominence since Raul Castro took power in 2008.

Last August ECLAC predicted that the Cuban economy would grow by just 0.5% in 2019, contrary to the optimistic forecasts previously announced by the government of the island. A month earlier, Miguel Diaz-Canel assured the National Assembly of People’s Power that the GDP would grow 2.2% this year.

For decades, economists have questioned the reliability of official statistics reported by Cuba and used for their analysis by international organizations such as ECLAC, the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund.

“The bias in Cuban GDP dollar estimates does not only derive from the Cuban government,” warned economist Pavel Vidal, “but from multiple institutions that have tried to approach the issue and have found it difficult to reach a number, due in part to the dual exchange rates and the absence of comparative statistics on prices.”

Another indicator that the Cuban government has hidden for decades has been the figures on poverty. Although “a survey in 2000 indicated that 20% of Havana’s population was poor, and that figure was probably higher in the rest of the country,” says economist Carmelo Mesa-Lago.

Translated by: Rafael Osorio

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Chile Deports Dozens Of Cubans And Venezuelans, Some Linked To The Recent Protests

Of the 50 foreigners deported from Chile, 30 were Cuban and nine Venezuelan. (Government of Chile)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, November 18 2019 — Chile deported 50 foreigners from the country, including 30 Cubans and nine Venezuelans for staying irregularly in the South American nation, or having committed crimes in the recent protests that have shaken the country, according to the O’Higgins Region government.

“Violence has undoubtedly been the worst part of the recent demonstrations in Chile. It’s a reality that is no different for the O’Higgins region, despite the call from different sectors, including the citizens themselves, to put an end to this action and promote a social agenda that meets the legitimate demands that triggered the crisis that the country is going through,” explains an official statement. continue reading

“In this context, five out of the total of 50 foreign citizens were detained and put at the disposal of the justice system for looting and, as well, for being involved in riots, attacking the authorities and erecting barricades,” the government’s report adds.

Protests broke out in Chile on October 18 after an increase in Santiago’s Metro fare. Since then, there have been repeated demonstrations against inequality, poverty and in favor of a new Constitution that would take the place of the one inherited from the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. Some 23 people have died since the crisis erupted, and more than 2,300 civilians have been injured.

In the first few days of the protests the government decreed a state of emergency and a curfew in an attempt to curb the most severe protests since the return of democracy in 1990. In recent weeks there have been multiple cases of immense violence, with looting, fires, destruction of public property and bloody clashes between demonstrators and police forces, creating a further questioning of the repression.

Translated by: Rafael Osorio

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Cuba Archive Regrets the "Shameful Amnesia" of the Spanish Royalty

The Spanish royals landing in Korea, their last official trip before Cuba at the end of October. (Casa Real)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, November 12 2019 — The non-governmental organization Cuba Archive has categorized the visit of the Spanish royals, King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia, to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Havana together with “the representatives of the regime” that for decades “has usurped the sovereignty of the Cuban people,”as “shameful real amnesia” in a statement released on Monday.

A few hours before the plane carrying the Spanish royals landed in the Cuban capital to begin their state visit, Cuba Archive warned that the government of the island “has committed crimes against its people and deployed violence against many other peoples.”

“The royals will visit the Loma de San Juan in Santiago de Cuba to honor the Spaniards who fell in the Spanish-American War of 1898,” the text details. “However, the program does not mention the 71 Cubans shot there on January 12, 1959 by direct order of Raul Castro.” continue reading

The Miami-based NGO explains that in January 1959, after Fulgencio Batista fled the country, members of his regime’s police and armed forces “were subjected to a summary ’trial’ (circus) without defense lawyers or evidence. “That same morning, they were taken in trucks to the Loma de San Juan and lined up in pairs, shot in front of a newly dug grave.”

The statement adds that this shooting left “loved ones devastated and many orphans. The massacre was ordered to sow terror in Cuba.”

Cuba Archive also says that “there is no act to remember the Spanish victims of the Cuban dictatorship,” in Felipe IV and Letizia’s program, which lists at least nine names but warns that “it is thought that there are many more.”

The document also includes five names of Spanish-Cubans who “fell in combat against the dictatorship in the province of Las Villas.”

On the other hand, on Monday the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu) published a letter in which its members expressed concern that the royal visit will be interpreted as a gesture of approval “to the communist regime of the only party that we have suffered for sixty years on the island, and is in frontal opposition to the values of freedom, plurality and reconciliation that made Spain overcome its last period of dictatorship.”

In the letter, the activists detail the case of  José Daniel Ferrer, the leader of Unpacu, who has been in custody since October 1st. They made a humanitarian request to the royals to intercede for his release and recall that, in 2003, he was part of the group of 75 opponents prosecuted during the Black Spring.

The signatories of the letter warn that a gesture of that sort made by the royals “would represent a very important contribution for the present and future of Cuba.” Among the signatories are the wife of the opposition leader, Nelva Ortega Tamayo, and his brother, Luis Enrique Ferrer.

Last week, Unpacu issued a statement recounting Ferrer’s encounter with his family in the Aguadores prison in the province of Santiago de Cuba. According to the document, although the meeting lasted only five minutes, the dissident mentioned everything that he has experienced in prison the last month “very hastily.”

The visit ended when Ferrer “tore apart the prison uniform that had been forcibly put on him, at which point the family was able to examine the signs of torture all over his body,” the text states. The dissident leader also said that he is forced to live in the same cell with another prisoner who beats him every time he protests.

Amnesty International sent a letter to King Philip VI, asking him, in his bilateral meetings with the Cuban authorities, to take an interest in the dissident.

Translated by: Rafael Osorio

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Animal Rights Advocates and Officials Take First Step to a Better Collaboration

On Tuesday, the activists agreed on a new meeting with the authorities for Friday with which they intend to continue moving towards a law against animal abuse. (B.B)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, November 13 2019 — Moderately satisfied, a dozen animal rights advocates met Tuesday with the health authorities to demand an Animal Protection Law in Cuba. The meeting, which took place at the Center for Hygiene and Epidemiology in Havana, was agreed after a protest was held on Monday in front of the headquarters of Zoonosis.

With regard to animal rights, the participants consider that the assessment is positive and “a consensus was reached on the need for collaboration for the sake of human health, animals and Cuban society,” according to Valia Rodríguez. However, the activists lamented that the privacy of their cell phones was violated and the presence of some people at the meeting who, they suspect, could belong to the State Security.

“The sad thing, even though predictable, was to realize that the phones we had given in good faith were checked and searched by other counterintelligence ’friends’. It was not strange, since they never tire of visiting the protectors to find who knows what — or I do know but it saddens me — as they did last night with many of us. They were respectful visits, but it’s hard not to feel like they were harassment,” Rodríguez denounced. continue reading

Beatriz Batista left her mobile phone recording and in the audio “you can clearly hear” the moment in which they take them all to another office and “they separate the cell phones of the officers, the doctors and the animal rights activists.” She added that images were eliminated in some cellphones and that they heard one official say to the other: “toss it,” among other phrases that show that there was a violation of privacy.

The meeting was attended by officials from the Ministry of Public Health and three people who, although they said they were doctors, showed a strange demeanor.

One of them introduced himself as Carlos Ortiz, in charge of the ministry’s communications, although he didn’t say a word. Another identified himself as Michel Torres, allegedly a health promoter, who also did not speak at the meeting. The last one said he was Enrique Gil, doctor in Medicine, but the animal rights activists remembered that the day before, in front of the Zoonosis headquarters, he presented himself as Ricardo Bofill, a ministry official and a graduate in Psychology. When the animal rights activists asked him for explanations, he decided to leave the meeting without saying anything.

The rest of the State interveners were Jusayma González, from the National Directorate of Zoonoses and Communicable Diseases, and two doctors from the Havana Provincial Directorate.

The animal rights group included Beatriz Batista, Gabriel Guerra Bianchini, Odalis Jaramillo Arabí, Sergio Boris Concepción Silva, Sahily Maria Naranjo, Claudia Díaz Romeu, Valia Rodríguez, Yoanne Lisbet Valdés Caballero, Gilda Arencibia, Aylín Sardiña Fernández and someone identified as Filosiraptor Politólogo.

Despite discontent with the ’security’ issue, the activists said they will not let this “low and distrustful act by the Cuban Security apparatus” tarnish the progress that was made with the ministry.

“We were skeptical, given the history of a lack of political will to solve problems pointed out on multiple occasions. We came out more confident that this could be a start and a big step towards doing things better, in a more humane and ethical way. There was talk of collecting dogs that do not represent danger, of the rabies program and how best to contribute to it — without killing healthy animals — of the attitude of the workers of the Sanitary Control car — badly called Zoonosis — of the inhumanity of slaughter with strychnine, of sterilizations as the correct method of reducing street populations and with it the risk of transmitting diseases, among others,” wrote the protector.

The photographer Gabriel Guerra Bianchini described the meeting between the activists and authorities as “historic.” For him it was positive that “with all the pressure that has gone on these days for the rights and care of the animals of the city” there has been “a meeting” in which “all the pains, debates, ideas and solutions were put on the table.” In his opinion, they left “with the feeling that finally, a starting point is marked to begin to build awareness and sensitivity, to those beings who have no voice, but much love.”

According to Batista, Jusayma González insisted that the Ministry of Agriculture is “working” on an Animal Welfare Law and, afterwards activists denounced the use of strychnine to kill stray animals — rather than Tiopental, a much less painful and cruel product. It was argued that strychnine will continue to be used while they attain the anesthetic, since they do not have veterinary technicians to provide Tiopental intravenously.

Health officials also denied that the rounding up of dogs denounced these days is due to the 500th anniversary of Havana or the King and Queen of Spain’s visit to the city, although they admitted having done so on previous occasions, such as during the official trip of former U.S. President Barack Obama.

The participants agreed to a meeting on Friday the 15th of November with the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Health because “they are important players in the search for solutions,” said Valia Rodriguez. The idea is to agree a work plan “in the short term” to address issues such as dog collection, slaughter, rabies program and a program of education and awareness in responsible ownership and against abuse.

“We requested the presence of the Ministry of Justice, Higher Education and State Security to mitigate the image of danger and the continuous visits,” Batista said. The 12 activists who were present made it clear that their idea is not to allow any more killings and demanded that we must work “by leaps and bounds” to achieve a legal mechanism to protect the animals.

Last Monday’s protest by some 20 activists in front of the Zoonosis headquarters ended with the adoption of 12 dogs and a commitment that no more will be sacrificed until an agreement is reached between the protectors and the health authorities.

Translated by: Rafael Osorio

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The Cuban Government Receives up to $9,000 Per Month for Each of its Doctors in Qatar

The pediatric ward of the ’Cuban hospital’ in Qatar celebrates International Hospital Infection Control Week. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, November 8 2019 — If the Más Médicos program in Brazil was a gold mine for the Cuban government, its equivalent in Qatar is the crown jewel. For each contracted physician, the small oil emirate pays between 5,000 and 10,000 dollars to Havana, according to information published this Friday by The Guardian.

The British newspaper dedicates an extensive article about the “Cuban hospital” inaugurated in 2012 in the periphery of the capital, Doha, and belonging to Qatar’s government, but whose staff is exclusively Cuban personnel, a total of 475 doctors, nurses and technicians.

According to the newspaper, each doctor is receiving about $1,000 a month, about 10% of what other foreign medical professionals can earn in Qatari state hospitals. The rest, between $4,000 and $9,000, remains in the hands of the Cuban state. continue reading

The agreements signed with Brazil during Dilma Rousseff’s term of office amounted to around $3,000 for the Cuban government coffers and $1,000 for the medical doctors. According to The Guardian, in the last decade Cuba has begun to look for partners in the Persian Gulf countries that have large economies in order to secure one of the most important sources of income other than with remittances; the so-called international missions from which the government obtains close to 8 billion dollars annually.

“I think we should help everyone,” says a Cuban doctor in Doha interviewed by the newspaper. “Based on that, yes, it’s fair, because I know that the remaining amount is used to support our Health and Education system … but if you think only of yourself, of course it’s not fair,” he said.

In response, one of the doctors who could freely express himself for having left the mission said he felt “like a slave” when he discovered that other doctors in that country were paid more than he was. “We were doing the same thing and earning a lot less than they did,” he says.

“Life in our country is very difficult and salaries are very bad,” said another of the doctors at the hospital. “Here we earn money for [Cuba] and also for us … One part for the country and another for each person,” he explained.

Another of his colleagues added, following the official discourse: “Education in Cuba is free. The government educates us for many years and, therefore, it must take some of this.”

The salary conditions that they would have in Cuba make the salary and labor exploitation in international missions even attractive for some of them. “I earn around 1,100 dollars. It’s not the best, but it’s not bad either,” explains one of the doctors.

The doctors confirmed that they are allowed visits from their families, but that family members are not allowed to stay, in the usual government line to deter possible escapes. The “deserters” are punished with a ban on returning to Cuba for at least eight years, unless they consent to join the National Health System.

Annarella O’Mahony, a Cuban resident in Ireland and editor of the website Nosomosdesertores, somoscubanoslibres, (We are not deserters, we are free Cubans) told The Guardian that this use of family ties to prevent doctors from leaving the mission “is cruel, inhumane, unconstitutional and contrary to international law.”

The doctor who left the Qatari mission told the British newspaper that she took advantage of the Cuban Medical Professional Parole, a U.S. program through which she was able to travel to the United States, but which was later ended by the Obama Administration. “I tell my mother when I’m on the phone that, despite all the difficulties and the pain, I would do it again. I will never go back to Cuba. There is no future there.”

In addition to the Cuban doctors, Qatar welcomes North Korean workers who participate in similar agreements.

The Arab country, which has been questioned by international bodies on labor rights, recently announced reforms to its legislation and will for the first time allow workers to change occupations without permission from their employer, although it is almost certain that the measure will not affect Cuban doctors.

Translated by: Rafael Osorio

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The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. You can help crowdfund a current project to develop an in depth multimedia report on dengue fever in Cuba; the goal is modest, only $2,000. Even small donations by a lot of people will add up fast. Thank you!

Cuban Government Denies Being Behind Protests in Latin America

Bruno Rodriguez Parrila, Cuba’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 2 November 2019 — On Friday, Cuba’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bruno Rodriguez, denied the allegations assured by the OAS and the Trump administration that his government is behind the social protests in Latin America as well as supporting the government of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela.

“Maliciously, Cuba is accused of being guilty of what is happening in Venezuela and of the recent popular demonstrations against the ruthless neoliberalism that is advancing in the region,” Rodriguez said during the so-called Anti-Imperialist Encounter in Havana.

Washington also assures that Cuba militarily supports the government of Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela, an important ally and fuel supplier of the Island. continue reading

“The United States needs to blame Cuba for its resounding failure in Venezuela, and it needs to justify the tightening of the blockade” against the island, the minister added before an audience of international left-wing groups.

Last week, the secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, denounced a “pattern” of destabilization coming from Venezuela and Cuba, oriented first to Colombia and Ecuador and then to Chile.

Almagro attributed a responsibility in the massive anti-government mobilizations in the region to these two countries.

For his part, U.S. President Donald Trump called his Chilean colleague Sebastián Piñera to express his support before the wave of social protests and denounced that there are “foreign efforts to undermine institutions” in that country.

A State Department official, who asked not to be identified, reported that Russia — an ally of Cuba’s — carried out activities “to give a negative impact to the debate in Chile.” Moscow also rejected the accusations.

Trump’s call to Piñera came at a time when Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel was concluding a visit to Russia.

“We have no participation or involvement in the protests in Latin America other than, as Che Guevara said, that of the example of the Cuban Revolution,” said Foreign Minister Rodríguez.

Translated by: Rafael Osorio

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The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. You can help crowdfund a current project to develop an in depth multimedia report on dengue fever in Cuba; the goal is modest, only $2,000. Even small donations by a lot of people will add up fast. Thank you!

Leonardo Padura: There Was More Fear In The Cuba Of The Nineties Than Now

The Princesa de Asturias de las Letras Prize in 2015, Leonardo Padura has just visited Tenerife. (EFE)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Eloy Vera, Puerto de la Cruz (Tenerife) November 1st, 2019 — Three decades after he created detective Mario Conde, his most famous character, the author Leonardo Padura thinks that today’s Cuba “is different” from that of the 1990s, among other things, because the Cuba of the past “was much more afraid than today’s”.

Premio Princesa de Asturias de las Letras in 2015, this portraitist of Cuban society has just visited Tenerife to participate in Periplo, the International Festival of Literature for Travels and Adventures, organized by Puerto de la Cruz.

The novelist landed in Tenerife still with the good impression left by his latest novel La transparencia del tiempo (2018), in which he returns to the adventures of Mario Conde, an anti-hero with a critical and disenchanted look, whom Leonardo Padura describes as the grandson of Raymond Chandler’s Marlowe and son of Manuel Vázquez Montalbán’s Carvalho. continue reading

Since 1988, when he premiered as a novelist with Fiebre de caballos, Cuba is an essential part and another protagonist of the narrative universe of Padura’s novels.

You’d have to wait two more years to meet detective Mario Conde through Pasado perfecto (translated as Havana Blue), the book that opened the Four Seasons series, which was later completed by the novels Vientos de cuaresma (Havana Gold), Máscaras (Havana Red) and Paisaje de otoño (Havana Black).

In an interview with Efe, Leonardo Padura recalls that the first novels in Conde’s series are set in 1989, a moment before the fall of the Berlin Wall and the disappearance of the Soviet Union, “and from there to here there has been a lot of water under the bridge in Cuba and the world.”

He says that, sometimes, “people get the impression that Cuban society is static because it has not had great changes and the political structure and the economic system remain the same”, but “Cuban society has undergone an intense 30 years in which a whole series of positive and negative processes have occurred.”

“It’s my belief that Cuban society is a society that has freed itself much more from fears, repressions, and silences, and at the same time has been further burdened with a lack of urban planning, solidarity and respect for the rights of others,” says the author, who has also been a journalist and screenwriter.

The writer does not believe that “today’s Cuba is better or worse than 1989’s,” but sees it as “different. “And that’s in terms of the personal economy, in their way of life and in the way they see the world”, he explains, although “if I had to choose between better and worse I would say that the Cuba in 1989 was much more afraid than the one today”.

Cuba has breathed new life because for the last seven or eight years Cubans have been able to travel freely without having to ask for permission from an authority – which meant “a very significant step towards liberation in that society” – together with the fact that people can have small private businesses or that Internet access today has improved, although not completely; “elements that are becoming liberating for certain people and the ways of seeing and understanding life”.

Leonardo Padura cannot comprehend his life without that of his literary companion Mario Conde: “It has been an essential piece in my work as a writer and, therefore, in my life as a person,” he confesses.

They’ve spent 30 years together chronicling contemporary Cuban life, and a literary journey has led Padura, in his own words, “from the apprentice writer of Pasado perfecto to a writer to whom things have happened in his literary life that he never would have imagined.”

His latest novel, La Transparencia del Tiempo, is from 2018, but has not yet been published in Cuba. It is supposed to come out next year and “there’s never a better time to say that, at the moment, there is, once again, a very difficult economic situation in Cuba, and one of the areas that is going to be most affected is cultural production and, specifically, publishing,” he explains.

Padura outlines a hopeless publishing scene in Cuba, where large publishing houses have only three or four books in their publishing plans next year because they lack money and paper for printing.

“There is a shortage of materials in Cuba and, sometimes, the political will for my books to be published is not there; they take a long time to come out or come out and do not circulate well; part of the print run is lost and then it appears on the other side… but, fundamentally, the problem would be attributed to economic issues,” he insists.

Padura concludes the interview by alluding to how new technologies in general, among which are cultural distribution platforms such as series, “affect reading a great deal, not so much literature, which is still being done, but consumer spaces, which have been reduced by the tremendous impact of the digital revolution”.

Translated by Rafael Osorio <-Welcome to our new translator!  Thanks so much for your fabulous work here.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. You can help crowdfund a current project to develop an in depth multimedia report on dengue fever in Cuba; the goal is modest, only $2,000. Even small donations by a lot of people will add up fast. Thank you!

In Chile, The Failure Is Not The Model But Its Defenders

Protestors in Chile (el Nuevo Herald)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mauricio Rojas, Santiago November 2, 2019 — What happened recently in Chile is not the result of the failure of its development model, but of its success. What has failed is a short-sighted center-right government incapable of managing the profound transformations that model’s success made essential. In short, it is not the model but its defenders who have failed.

Chile’s progress over the past thirty years has been extraordinary, turning Chile from a fairly mediocre country into the brightest star in the region. It has been, by far, the society with the greatest reduction of poverty, generalized increase in welfare, expansion of higher education, expansion of middle classes and social mobility. Even inequality, although still too high, has been reduced.

According to data provided by Michelle Bachelet’s former finance minister, Rodrigo Valdés, the Gini coefficient fell from 0.573 to 0.477 between 1990 and 2015. In that time the disposable income of the poorest increased much faster than that of the richest (the income of the richest ten percent increased by 208% between 1990 and 2015, while that of the bottom ten percent increased by 439%). continue reading

This extraordinary progress has generated a country totally different from the one that existed thirty years ago. Its social composition and standards of living have changed substantially, but also the ways of perceiving what is just and unjust, what is acceptable and unacceptable, what is dignified and unworthy. This has profoundly altered social demands and what until recently defined the aspirations and common sense of society has become obsolete.

President Sebastián Piñera recently used a well-known phrase spread by Mario Benedetti that synthesized what recently happened to the defenders of the model, and even to some of its detractors: “when we thought we had all the answers, suddenly, all the questions changed”.

However, in this case, these events did not occur right away. It became evident as early as 2011, when new qualitative questions about the justice of society were given old quantitative answers about growth rates or the level of GDP per capita. But this gap between new questions and old answers has become even more evident in recent days.

Basically there was, and still is, a deep misunderstanding about what I called already in 2007 the “malaise of success”, which has to do with what in the 1950s was called the “revolution of rising expectations”. Basically there was, and still is, a deep misunderstanding about what I called already in 2007 the “malaise of success”, which has to do with what in the 1950s was called the “revolution of rising expectations”.

This phenomenon is especially prominent in a country like Chile, which left extreme poverty behind in such a short amount of time, saw the emergence of broad middle classes and experienced an unprecedented educational expansion that multiplied the number of students by ten in the span of three decades.

Such a situation puts the country on its head in the face of the paradox of relative poverty, whereby the feeling of poverty can increase at the same time as poverty is drastically reduced. Absolute poverty is about fighting for the most basic things in life, while relative poverty is about everything one could want but not get, and the latter grows exponentially when we can lift our eyes above the most pressing and our horizons are broadened by greater access to education and the media. Frustration and discontent can grow despite our progress, not least when others enjoy what we lack.

At the same time, there is growing anguish at the possibility of losing the social gains recently won, thus giving rise to what the German sociologist Ulrich Beck called a “risk society” (Risikogesellschaft), dominated by the feeling of insecurity and precariousness in the face of an endless number of contingencies that may threaten the foundations of our lives.

Meanwhile, to the extent that the most basic needs are satisfied, there is, especially among young people, a shift in priorities. According to the concepts that Ronald Inglehart coined to understand the European youth revolt of 1968, as welfare increases societies move from “materialistic values”, characteristic of the hard struggle for subsistence, to “post-materialistic values”, where preferences tend to be directed towards “a good life” and personal self-realization. In this way the material conquests previously reached are devalued, or even despised, in order to orient themselves towards the search for a different society, defined as more human, collaborative, altruistic and egalitarian.

Therefore, it represents a confluence of situations and demands of a very varied nature, which in a given moment – the one we are living now, for example – combine to create what Ernesto Laclau has called, in his book on Populist Reason, an “equivalential chain” of discontents and negations, where the repudiation of a series of very dissimilar situations unites and makes a very broad and diverse spectrum of rejection and change wills equivalent. There is no common social project, but there is a common rejection, and it is precisely this that creates the conditions that, added to a “void of representation” on the part of the existing political elites, make a chaotic and open moment such as the one we are experiencing possible.

The emergence of this broad and multifaceted rejection of something diffuse that some call “the (neoliberal) model” or, to put it more concretely, a society of abuse, injustice and insecurity, is the paradoxical result of the progress gained when it coincides with the failure of its defenders to understand the new demands that arise from that progress and to propose, in a vigorous manner, the reforms necessary to structure a new social pact that is equal to the development achieved, especially in terms of inclusion, equity, the fight against abuses, equality of opportunities and solidarity.

As the current government testifies, it is not that some valuable efforts have not been made in that direction, but they have clearly been insufficient. The prolongation of a series of “social emergencies” – such as the generally miserable level of pensions, the high pharmaceutical costs or the brutal impact of “catastrophic diseases” — of blatant abuses — such as automatic TAG (automated toll) hikes or other motorway tolls — or violent price hikes for basic services — such as electricity or transport — have been fatal.

But then there are the more fundamental shortcomings, such as those affecting public health or education, and, more generally, the lack of a social safety net to ensure a minimum of dignity and a safeguard against unforeseen events, especially in view of the neglected demands of the new middle classes.

The dogmatic defense of the current tax rates, particularly for the wealthiest and most income earning sectors, has been a key impediment to progress in this direction. However, so has the anachronistic fixation on a social policy focused on the Chicago School, that is to say, that only points to the needs of the poorest.

Ignoring the need to build a modern welfare state, that is, without monopolies and that combines significant levels of redistribution and equality of opportunities with citizen empowerment and freedom of choice and enterprise in the areas of welfare guaranteed for all citizens (as in the case of countries such as Sweden), has been nefarious.

Today we are faced with such a crisis of legitimacy of the prevailing system that the doors are opened to raise, and even accept, all kinds of nonsense, such as chavista assemblyism, plebiscite democracy, public monopolies or fiscal indiscipline.

Today’s panic is spreading among many who did not know how to defend the model of development that has brought us so much progress, instead reforming it in due time and attending to social urgencies in a forceful way.

When the doors to evolution are closed, they can be opened to revolution and disorder. As Arturo Alessandri so often said, it is necessary to advance “without hesitation along the paths of evolution to avoid revolution and upheaval.” This should be the greatest lesson of these dark days.

Mauricio Rojas is a researcher at the Department of Economics and Business of the Universidad del Desarrollo, in Santiago de Chile, and a Senior Fellow of the Fundación para el Progreso.

Translated by: Rafael Osorio

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