Maduro Invites Himself To The Summit And Cuba Calls His Exclusion "Unbelievable"

14ymedio bigger14ymedio (with information from news agencies), Havana, February 15, 2018 — The President of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, said this Thursday that he will be attending the next Summit of the Americas, which will be celebrated in Lima on April 13 and 14, “come hell or high water,” in order to, he added, tell “the truth” about his country.

“They don’t want to see me in Lima, but they’re going to see me. Because rain or shine, by air, ground or sea, I will arrive at the Summit of the Americas with the truth about Simón Bolívar’s fatherland,” Maduro affirmed in a press conference with international media. continue reading

Perú, as the host country, announced this past Tuesday that the presence of Maduro at the Summit “will not be welcome,” a decision supported by those known as the “Lima Group,” which encompasses several countries of the region.

Faced with this measure, on Thursday Cuba “categorically” rejected the Peruvian Government’s decision to exclude the Venezuelan President from the Summit and reaffirmed Cuba’s “unwavering” support for its principal political ally in Latin America.

In a declaration by the Foreign Minister, published on the front pages of the official newspapers, Granma and Juventud Rebelde, the Island also “energetically” condemned the Lima Group’s statement, which demanded that Maduro set a new electoral time table in rejection of the official presidential elections organized by the ruling party.

For the Island, it is “unusual and unbelievable” that a supposed unconstitutional rupture in the democratic order in Venezuela be used as a “pretext” when this country “has just convoked presidential elections, like they were demanding.”

Cuba, which was invited for the first time to the Summit of the Americas in 2015 after its expulsion from the Organization of American States (OAS) in 1962, still has not confirmed its attendance at the conclave in Lima.

The decision to leave Venezuela out of the Summit is based on the Declaration of Québec of 2001, “that indicates that the breakdown of democracy constitutes an insuperable obstacle for the participation of a state in the Summit of the Americas,” as the Foreign Minister of Perú, Cayetana Aljovín, said then.

Faced with this, the Chief Executive of Venezuela has stated that he received from his Peruvian counterpart, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, “several letters,” the last one “yesterday at 4:00 in the afternoon…inviting me to the Summit of the Americas.”

The President showed the attending media the letter that he said arrived yesterday afternoon, in which it can be read that Kuczynski extended the invitation to Maduro to participate in the Summit of the Americas in a missive dated November 11, 2017.

“It’s a group that exists and doesn’t exist. That brings out comunications and pretends that they are orders that we fulfill. In Venezuela we command ourselves, not Kuczynski nor (the Colombian President, Juan Manuel) Santos,” he added.

“Venezuela doesn’t depend on the Lima Group for anything. Thank God, we have a country that is totally and absolutely independent,” he said.

The Lima Group is composed of Argentina, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Brazil and Costa Rica, plus the recent additions of the United States, Guyana and Santa Lucia.

This group was created in August 2017, faced with the impossibility of approving resolutions on Venezuela in the OAS, because of the blockade on the part of the Caribbean countries.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Luis Manuel Otero: From Athlete to Dissident Artist / Iván García

Iván García and Luis Manuel Otero, photo by Yanelys Núñez

Ivan Garcia, 15 February 2018 — He’s like a character out of a dark novel by Pedro Juan Gutiérrez. He turned 30 on December 2, 2017, and the life of Luis Manuel Otero has been marked by survival.

He still remembers the 12-hour blackouts when he was a kid, in the middle of the Special Period. The empty, grimy pots and the unmistakable color of El Pilar, his neighborhood in the Havana municipality of Cerro.

The section of Romay Street, from Monte to Zequeira, doesn’t even go 100 yards. It’s narrow and unpaved. The houses are one-story. The only building that had three floors collapsed from lack of maintenance. continue reading

The house of the Otero Alcántara family, at number 57, is typical of early 20th century construction, with tall pillars and large windows. Throughout the night, women are sitting in the doorway, gossiping, while the men take up a collection to buy a liter of bad rum, steal detergent from the Sabatés factory or kill the boredom with a game of baseball in the old Cerro Stadium.

Luis Manuel grew up there, on a poor block full of tenement housing, where drugs and psychotropics are a rite of passage, the young people are abakuás (devotees of the African religion) and problems are solved with guns or machetes.

His father, Luis Otero, used to be a dangerous guy. He always was mixed up in legal problems, and jail became his second home. In prison he became a welder, and the last time he left the Combinado del Este prison, he promised he wouldn’t return.

María del Carmen, the mother of the artist and a construction technician, is a “struggler,” like most Cuban women. When she was pregnant with Luis Manuel, his father was in jail.

“Let’s see what happens,” she said to herself. She acted as mother and father for a long time. Perhaps because of maternal overprotection, she opted to bring him up behind closed doors at home.

Luis Manuel Oteros, a mulatto with an adolescent expression, gestures with his mouth and mentions that to escape from that reclusive life, “I made my own wooden toys. I had this gift from the time I was little. I don’t know who I inherited it from, because there’s no other sculptor or visual artist in my family. I spent hours and hours talking alone. I created scenes and imaginary characters. And from childhood, I vowed to be someone in life,” he said, seated on a wooden stool and leaning against the wall of his studio on San Isidro in Old Havana.

Then he went to school. “I spent primary at Romualdo la Cuesta and secondary at Nguyen Van Troi. I always had a piece of wood in my hands. My grandmother was working in Viviendas, and this was during the years when Cubans decided to emigrate. The State confiscated their property, and many people gave her things, used clothing and household appliances. So we had a washing machine, but I hardly ever had shoes, only one pair that almost always was torn. I went to school wearing hideous boots or plastic shoes,” remembers Otero, and adds:

“I was nine or 10 years old, and like all the kids in the area, we were looking for a way to make money to help out at home, to buy things or go to parties on weekends. A friend and I from the neighborhood decided to remove bricks from buildings and abandoned houses. At that time, recycled bricks were selling for three pesos on the black market, but we sold them for two. One afternoon, my mother caught me doing this and beat me with a rope all the way home.”

Before getting involved with visual arts, Otero spent four or five years training as a mid-distance runner on a clay court at the Ciudad Deportiva.

“I wanted to get ahead. I appreciated the discipline and commitment of sports. I ran the 1,500 and 5,000 meter-dash. I had prospects. I was training hard to reach my goal: to escape from poverty. But in a competition in Santiago de Cuba, in spite of being the favorite, I came in fourth. I wasn’t programmed for losing. So I decided to study and try sculpture and the visual arts.”

In his free time, he and a friend sold DVDs for three convertible pesos in the streets of Nuevo Vedado, and he made wood carvings. “A cane that I made ended up at a workshop that Victor Fowler had in La Vibora. I was 17 and started to become serious about sculpture. I attended many workshops. I always had a tremendous desire to learn, study, better myself. I’m a self-taught artist and a lover of Cuban history. I also slipped into the courses offered by the Instituto Superior de Arte. It was an exciting world.

“When I went home, I went back to reality. Mediating the fights and blows between my father and mother or the problems that my younger brother had,” remembers Luis Manuel, leaning on an ancient VEF-207 radio of the Soviet era, dressed in mustard-colored pants and a white pullover with the faces of the Indian Hatuey, José Martí, Fidel Castro and the peaceful opponent, Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas.

Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara had an exposition for the first time in a gallery in Cerro, on the Avenida 20 de Mayo, in 2011. “I called it, ’Heroes are no burden.’ It was wooden statues of men from the trunk up, without legs. I dedicated it to the soldiers who were mutilated during the war in Angola. I personally invited a dozen combatants who had been in the struggle. I was tense, waiting to see what the reaction would be, but the show was very well received.”

The statue from which the “Heroes are no burden” exposition took its name (Havana Times)

He had already begun his political activism by then. “I had too many questions without answers. I saw that the expectations of society were not taken into account. I had no way out. Everything was a bunch of blah, blah,blah, speeches with no meaning. In private, the majority of artists recognized that things should change. Cuba is crazy. It’s also true that there’s a lot of opportunism in the artistic world. Hustling is normal in this environment. I saw that something should be done,” commented Otero, in a deliberate tone.

And he decided to work on his art with a new focus. December 17, 2014 was a date to remember. “That noon I was amazed to see Raúl Castro and Barack Obama on television. I felt that a new epoch was beginning. That the worst was behind us. That a stage of reconciliation and national reconstruction would begin. That was the feeling among most people: that there would be more negotiations, that finally we would have a better level of life. People had tremendous hope. It was a dream that was contagious.”

But the Regime put obstacles in the way. The greatest optimism passed to the worst pessimism. The resumption of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the U.S. was purely an illusion. More press headlines than concrete initiatives that will improve the quality of life of Cubans.

Luis Manuel Otero remembers that Rubén del Valle, the Vice Minister of Culture, “said, and no one told me, I was still here, that they were going to need several shiploads to be able to sell all the works of Cuban culture. The feeling that many artists had was that in the biennials and events, Americans would start buying valuable artistic pieces. I wanted to make something, to be in fashion. My sin was in being naive.”

Barely one month before, on November 25, 2014, Otero performed downtown on Calle 23, on the Rampa, which was noted in the international press. “At that time I had an American girlfriend. The intention of the performance was to ask her to marry me at a wifi site that had become popular, with no privacy and people screaming and asking for money and other things from their families. I did a stripper act on the corner of L and 23, accompanied by two mariachis. On that occasion, perhaps out of surprise, State Security didn’t interrupt me.”

A little after this, he broke up with her and started courting Yanelys Núñez, who had a degree in art history, and a main piece in her present project at the Museum of Dissidence. Otero is like a box with push-buttons: hyperactive, suggestive and creative. In the middle of a conversation, an idea of his next performance came to him.

“Sometimes I take two or three days tossing around an idea for a work. And it’s in the middle of the night that a concrete idea comes to me. Then I wake up Yanelys and we go to work. With the last one, the Testament of Fidel Castro, it was more or less like that. The George Pompidou Center in Paris asked me for a sample that I was going to make. What occurred to me was the testament of Fidel inside a bottle of Havana Club rum. I implied that at the end of his life, he repented of all the harm he did,” emphasizes Alcántrara.

Right now it’s not at all clear to him. But perhaps before, during or after the succession directed by Raúl Castro, he will start a new project. April, Luis Manuel speculates, could be the month he gets lucky.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Cuba Commissions China to Fabricate a Prototype Marabou Harvester

Sacks stacked with marabou coal after the disassembly of the oven. (14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerEFE, via 14ymedio, Havana, 9 February 2018 — Cuba has commissioned China, one of its principal economic allies, to fabricate a prototype harvester for marabou, an invasive plant also known as sicklebush which is seen as a plague on the Island’s fields, so it can be used as raw material for vegetal coal and be exported to the U.S., Europe and other countries.

The model was designed by Cuban engineers and will be constructed in a Chinese industrial park, based on an evaluation of three different machine technologies, tested in the central provinces of Camagüey and Ciego de Ávila. continue reading

After a period of testing, the definitive version of the harvester will be assembled in a factory in the east of the Island, according to the state news agency Prensa Latina.

The Director of Agricultural Engineering for the Cuban Ministry of Agriculture, José Suárez, explained that local engineers also are working on the installation of a group of processing plants for the drying of rice, beans and corn.

The Island’s aspiration is that its industry can produce all the equipment and construct the different facilities that the agricultural sector demands.

It’s estimated that 20 percent of the cultivable land of Cuba is covered by marabou (Dichrostachys cinerea), an African species that was introduced in the middle of the nineteenth century. It propagated rapidly since there was no disease to curb its spread, and it is very resistant to drought and high temperatures.

Now considered “the thorny gold of Cuba,” marabou has stopped being a threat and is seen as an opportunity for export, a source of clean energy and raw material for bioelectric plants.

The fabrication of vegetal coal is not a factor in deforestation, and its processing begins in private agricultural cooperatives that cut down the marabou and process it in handcrafted ovens in a natural way.

Cuba exports annually some 80,000 tons of marabou vegetal coal, principally to European countries like Greece, Spain, Portugal, and also to Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey and Israel.

This product was the first one to be exported to the U.S. in more than 50 years, after the official resumption of diplomatic ties between both countries, with a first shipment in January, 2017, of two containers with 40 tons of vegetal coal.

Last November, the State business CubaExport signed a new contract with the U.S. company, Coabana Trading LLC, for the export of another 40 tons of the product.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Thousands of Venezuelans Flee to Colombia to Escape From Hunger

Hundreds of Venezuelans earn their living in the streets of Cúcuta carrying suitcases for their compatriots who leave Venezuela. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario J. Pentón/Antonio Delgado — Tens of thousands of Venezuelans cross the border with Colombia every day in search of food and work. They sell candy, bread, chewing gum and contraband gasoline. They prostitute themselves or simply ask for handouts on corners. They are the new faces of the Venezuelan migration in the Colombian city of Cúcuta, the epicenter of a humanitarian crisis triggered by hunger in the neighboring country.

“The children come alone. They don’t want to speak or say anything. They are very tight-lipped about their family history,” says Whitney Duarte, a 24-year old social worker who was helping two orphans, Henry and Steven, in a social center where they come every day to have lunch. continue reading

Duarte has been volunteering for two months in the Casa de Paso Divina Providencia, a Catholic Church home in Cúcuta that shares more than 1,000 meals daily with children, women and old Venezuelans who wander through the streets of the city.

The oldest of the orphans is 15 but has the physical build of a child of eight. To help his two little brothers, who are about five years old, he works as a cart-pusher fetching and carrying suitcases for people who cross the border.

“We know they are orphans. They come from San Cristóbal, in Venezuela. They spend the day playing in the streets of Cúcuta and, of course, they don’t go to school,” relates Duarte. The children are fed thanks to the charity of the Colombians. Steven says they escaped from Venezuela hidden in a mini-bus.

“They don’t want to speak about their family history because they fear they will be separated or returned to their country,” explains Duarte, who believes that, like the rest of the immigrants, they are “very emotionally damaged.”

Henry is thin and brown-skinned. He never smiles. He says it pays about 2,000 pesos (70 cents) to carry suitcases from Venezuela and that he feels responsible for his little brothers. Steven has six brothers, but only three crossed the border. He likes to play soccer but won’t say what he wants to do when he grows up.

“The tragedy of the parents who see that their kids have to sleep on the ground and barely have enough money to bring them a mouthful of food is terrible. There is a lot of frustration and anger among the Venezuelans,” says the social worker. The Colombian government offers protection to 23,314 Venezuelan children and adolescents.

Casa de Paso Divina Providencia distributes more than 1,000 meals a day to Venezuelans, especially migrants who are passing through, elderly people, women and children. (14ymedio)

The Casa de Paso is nothing more than a back patio rented by the local Catholic church where some barracks were constructed to provide food to more than 500 migrants every day. A group of volunteers cooks the food (pasta and soup) with firewood on one side while others distribute the food and clean utensils.

“Padre, padre, come here, he collapsed,” yells a woman. On the dirt floor lies a man of 30 who can’t even stand up. Dozens of people around him are saying that “his blood sugar dropped” from lack of food.

Jesús Alonso Rodríguez, a deacon of the local church who shares lunch with the Venezuelans, explains to 14ymedio that situations like this are common in Cúcuta: “Finding Venezuelan brothers sleeping in the streets, below bridges, at the foot of trees, sometimes with a cardboard box or something to cover themselves with — this is something you see every day.”

Alonso considers that the overflow of Venezuelans in the border areas is “out of the hands” of the local authorities, who await the arrival this Thursday of the President, Juan Manuel Santos, to help them manage a situation that becomes more difficult every day.

“Last year, the cucuteña church distributed more than 300,000 plates of food in eight locations in the city to take care of the hunger of the Venezuelans,” she says. The Casa de Paso Divina Providencia is sustained thanks to the aid the church receives from the local worshippers.

Relations with the local population have occasionally been very tense. Paola Villamizar, a young Colombian of 24 who works as a volunteer in the Casa de Paso, says that the neighbors have tried to close the center. “They accuse us of filling the place with scum and say it’s our fault that hundreds of people are hanging around, looking for food. We’re only trying to help,” she laments.

In a report presented last month in Bogotá, the General Director of Colombia Migration, Christian Krüger, estimated that there were more than 550,000 Venezuelans in the country, 62 percent more than last year.

More than 50 percent of the Venezuelans who emigrate to Colombia or use this country as a transit point to third countries come across the Simón Bolívar International Bridge, in the department of Norte de Santander, and, also, more than half are undocumented. Some 58,000 Venezuelans live in the streets of Cúcuta. Deacon Alonso believes that the official figures are too low.

An elderly Venezuelan at Casa de Paso Divina Providencia, in Cúcuta, Colombia. (14y medio)

“In Cúcuta there are between 80,000 and 100,000 Venezuelans. It’s a situation without precedent in the country,” he explains.

Many local businessman take advantage of the difficult conditions in which the migrants find themselves to hire them for half the minimum wage. This situation has shaken loose the phantoms and fears of immigration among some of the town’s workers.

“In Cúcuta, there’s not even work for the locals, much less for the Venezuelans. In the last months, crime has increased, and there are many Venezuelans who take over zones of the city to live,” says Francisco, a local taxi driver.

According to official statistics, Cúcuta ended 2017 with an unemployment rate of 14.3 percent, the highest in the country, and an indication of illegal workers at around 70% of the labor force.

Along the highway that connects the regional capital with the village of La Parada, adjacent to the Simón Bolívar International Bridge that is shared by both countries, dozens of people brandish a plastic tube in the form of a gas pump to indicate that you can buy contraband Venezuelan fuel there.

“Gasoline costs between 4,000 and 5,000 pesos a gallon ($1.50). In Venezuela it’s cheaper to buy gasoline than water. They pass it to Colombia on trails (hidden steps in the more than 2,000 km of terrestrial border that both countries share),” explains Francisco.

Carolina Sánchez is a traveling vendor. She is 33, and her skin is burned by the tropical sun. In her hands she holds six bags of bread baked in Venezuela, which she waves every time she sees a car pass by.

“I have to go out and struggle for my kids,” she says between tears. With what she sells in Colombia, she buys food for three boys who depend on her in Rubio, on the other side of the border. “It’s hard, but God has to have pity on us,” she says while regaining composure. The Colombian police already have expelled her more than once from the highway, but she keeps coming back. “They don’t let us sell because we don’t have permits.”

The exodus of Venezuelans has been taken advantage of by some bus companies, who relocated their branch offices directly to the immediate vicinity of the Simón Bolívar International Bridge. The destinations vary: Bogotá, Quito, Lima, Santiago de Chile or Buenos Aires. Everything depends on the amount of money the Venezuelan is ready to pay, always in dollars or in Colombian pesos.

Gabriela and Alexander, a young married couple, share the rent of their room with 20 other people. Hoping to find a way to get ahead, they left Venezuela less than a month ago. (14ymedio)

“A trip to Buenos Aires costs 490 dollars. If you want to go to Bogotá, it’s 125 dollars, and if you go to Peru, 230 dollars,” says one of the ticket sellers who waits for Venezuelan clients on the Colombian side of the bridge.

After waiting 24 hours near the bridge, several Venezuelans start to protest because the bus line requires patience, and they will have to sleep on the ground under a tarp. “I had to buy every dollar at 270,000 bolivars before leaving Venezuela,” says Neyla Graterol.

“Venezuela’s economic model has collapsed. We’re worse off than we were 30 years ago. The politicians are the only ones who live well while the people are dying of hunger. The only thing left for us is to get out,” laments an engineer while she waits for the transport that will take her and her family to Chile, far from the hell that her country has become.

The low price of Venezuelan oil, which has contributed to worsening the crisis of Nicolás Maduro’s government, has affected those who depend on it directly. This is the case of Renzo Morales, 33, who is “fleeing the country” to go to Peru.

Morales hopes to be able to travel with another five Venezuelan businessmen who, like him, supplied jackhammers to PDVSA (the Venezuelan state-owned oil and natural gas company), but the defaults on the part of the State petroleum business hit his business hard.

“We were broke because we were contractors for PDVSA, and the Government takes almost three years to pay us, and it’s in a currency that is being devalued day by day,” explains Morales.

The migrant hopes to make money to send to his family so they can leave the country. “I left my heart in Venezuela.” The old guys and Maduro are the only ones who can stay there,” he says, speaking fast and with the conviction that the end of chavismo is near. “This Government is going to fall. We’re coming to the end. What’s sad is that we’ll need many years to reconstruct what they have destroyed,” he says.

The most varied businesses are accommodated in Cúcuta. “I buy hair, I buy hair!” yells Javier Yoandy, 16, toward the flux of people who are coming from Táchira and crossing the bridge.

“My job is to bring Venezuelans who want to sell their hair to wigmakers,” explains this intermediary who earns a commission for his services. “The price for a good head of hair runs between 25,000 and 60,000 pesos (from nine to 25 dollars).”

The adolescent carries a border mobility card authorized by the Colombian State to regulate the situation of Venezuelans who cross the border every day for work.

A Venezuelan migrant gets rehydrated after spending hours in line to legally enter Colombia in Cúcuta. (14ymedio)

Veronica Arrocera, 23, has dark skin, mistreated by the sun, and bags under her eyes that make her look older. She says that the situation in her country dragged her into prostitution six months ago, so she could get some pesos and help her family in Venezuela, like so many other compatriots.

“I studied business administration. There are many whores here who are educated: nurses, businesswomen, teachers, everything,” she says. She doesn’t want her face recorded because she’s ashamed of her situation. Veronica earns 10,000 Colombian pesos, less than three dollars, and between 10 and 100 times less than a Colombian woman, for the same thing.

To Arrocera, the Colombian authorities act xenophobic toward them. “They hit us with pistols, they jump in aggressively. They even have hit us with hoses, and they only do that with Venezuelans,” she reports.

A few yards from the corner where Arrocera works, a closed police truck is taking away a half-dozen Venezuelans. “Here they come again. Every day it’s the same shit. We play cat and mouse until they catch me; they deport me, and I come back,” she complains.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Trump, UN and OAS Asked To Not Recognize Transfer of Power In Cuba Without Free Elections

Activist Rosa María Payá in front of the new Cuban Embassy in Washington. (Twitter)

14ymedio biggerEFE via 14ymedio, Miami, 7 February 2018 — On Tuesday, February 6, the Miami-Dade County Commission requested that the United States Government, the Organization of American States and the United Nations not recognize a possible transfer of power in Cuba if it is not the result of free elections.

The petition was contained in a resolution supported by Commissioner José Díaz on the occasion of tribute paid by the Miami-Dade Commission to the Cuban dissident, Rosa Maria Payá, for her work as the founder and coordinator of the Cuba Decide campaign. continue reading

The campaign is aimed at mobilizing the Cuban people to organize a binding plebiscite in which citizens can decide on the political system they want, according to an official of the Miami-Dade Commission.

In the resolution, which was unanimously approved, the Commission adopted Rosa Maria Payá’s call for the United States Government, the United Nations and the Organization of American States to “not recognize any succession of power in Cuba without free and multiparty elections that restore the self-determination of the Cuban people.”

Since Raúl Castro announced his intention to step down from the presidency, it is expected that his successor will be elected in a vote without opposition candidates on the electoral ballot.

“The Cuban people deserve the right to decide their own future in free, open and multiparty elections, not by a simulated vote orchestrated by the Communist regime,” said Commissioner Díaz.

Payá, the daughter of the dissident, Oswaldo Payá, who died in an automobile crash that his family believes was provoked by Castro agents in 2012, said that Cubans “need” the international community to support them in order to prevent a “dynastic succession” in Cuba.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Authorities in Cabaiguan Suspend More than 50 Cart Vendor Licenses

The Municipal Administration Council (CAM) also encourages buyers to denounce operators who break the rules. (DC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havna, 23 January 2018 — The local authorities in Cabaiguán, Sancti Spíritus Province, have become serious about sales from ambulatory cart vendors. Since the end of last year, more than 50 contracts with the carretilleros have been rescinded for violating the regulated prices imposed by the State, according to the official press. In addition, the carts that have remained have been moved away from the State’s “Red Tent” farm market, and an undetermined number of pounds of merchandise for sale (“not just a few,” according to the press) has been confiscated.

The newspaper Escambray put on the table, in its notice this Monday, the complaints of the carretilleros, who argue that it is impossible to sell at the regulated price if they want to earn something, contrary to the municipal authorities, who claim nonpayment to the State business, Acopio, for stolen produce or abuse of the consumer. continue reading

According to the local publication, in spite of efforts to control the imports of basic foods, the laws have been continually violated in the face of the laxness of the authorities and the citizens. For this reason, the Council of Municipal Administration (CAM) also encourages the buyers to denounce the carretilleros who break the rules.

“In December we made the decision, coordinated with Urban Agriculture, to not have any more contracts with the mobile points of this organism and to leave only the fixed points that have been a local investment. This was owing to price violations, fundamentally, and because they weren’t complying with the regulations of Urban Agriculture, which establish that they are mobile cart vendors, who can’t be within at least 200 meters of a State entity — and they were in front of the Red Tent — and that they should be linked to an organopónico*, because their purpose was to sell the production from those places,” Carlos Puentes Molina, Vice President of the CAM that manages the distribution of goods and consumption, told Escambray.

The text also said that they took measures against the ambulatory vendors who violated “the scope of the activity,” meaning that they cannot eastablish themselves in a fixed area. “Just in this area there were six who were reprimanded and preventive measures were taken,” says Elianni Silot López, municipal director of Work and Social Security.

The official press maintains that when the food was at the market in Cabaiguán, “at payable prices” (i.e. regulated), it sold in barely one hour. In addition, the police intervened in three stores and confiscated enough merchandise to fill two trucks.

The local police continue to monitor “every Sunday at the fair (…) to verify that it is selling in accord with the list of prices.”

In the whole province, the Integral Supervision Direction had imposed, at the end of 2017, 84 fines for price violations (a total of 9,000 pesos) and collected another 25,000 pesos in sanctions against cuentapropistas, self-employed persons, who were engaged in business without a license.

Since the end of 2016, the enforcement of controls on prices was extended from the province of Artemisa to the rest of the Island. Most consumers celebrated the much lower prices, but now they lament the decrease in quality and supply after the arrival of regulated prices in the markets.

The measure, which put producers and intermediaries on alert, was taken after a session of the National Assembly that took place in December 2016, in which the subject of the price of food provoked numerous discussions. In answer to the claim by several deputies, Raúl Castro said that measures would be taken to close the gap between prices and salaries.

Translator’s note:

*Cuban system of urban agriculure using organic gardens. It first arose as a community response to lack of food security during the Special Period after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Cuba Recognizes Immigration Advance with U.S. But Requests End to Cuban Adjustment Act

Cuban rafters being repatriated by the United States Coast Guard. (EFE)

14ymedio biggerEFE, via 14ymedio, 12 January 2018 — Cuba has recognized the advance that was made for immigration connections with the U.S. with the repeal, a year ago, of the “wet foot/dry foot” policy, which offered preferential treatment to Cuban citizens, but insisted that “normalization” would not take place while the Cuban Adjustment Act continues in effect.

The end of “wet foot/dry foot” was “one of the most transcendental steps” in the new stage that both countries are going through after the official reestablishment of relations after more than a half-century of staunch hostility, according to an article published this Friday in the state newspaper Granma in a supplement dedicated to the anniversary of the development.

The official organ of the governing Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) recognized that the end of “wet foot/dry foot” policy has reduced “almost to zero” the “illegal exits by makeshift means.” continue reading

Introduced in 1995, this policy was the result of an agreement between the administration of U.S. ex-President Bill Clinton with Havana, and the revision of the Cuban Adjustment Act, in effect since 1966, which authorizes Cubans to receive permanent residence after one year of their stay in the U.S.

“Wet foot/dry foot” guaranteed refuge to all Cubans who managed to step foot on the territory of the U.S., either in a regular or irregular way (“dry foot”), but committed the U.S. to send back those detained at sea (“wet foot”).

This was, for years, an incentive for thousands of Cubans to launch themselves into the sea on fragile boats with the hope of crossing the Straits of Florida and touching land.

An article in Granma about the “convulsive history” of migration between the two nations, separated by 90 miles of sea, recalls that the Cuban State considers this policy as “a stimulus for irregular emigration, the trafficking of migrants and irregular entrances to the U.S. from Third World countries.”

“Upon admitting them (Cubans) automatically on their territory, [the U.S.] gave them preferential and unique treatment that citizens from other countries don’t receive, so that it was also inciting illegal exits,” said an official communication of the Cuban Government released on January 12, 2017 and cited this Friday by the newspaper.

Its implementation “caused an immigration crisis, the hijacking of boats and planes and the commission of crimes, like human trafficking, slavery, immigration fraud and violence, with a growing destabilizing extraterritorial impact on other countries of the region used as transit points.”

It also mentioned, as an advance in bilateral immigration relations, the end to the program of Parole for Cuban Doctors, which incentivized the abandonment of medical missions in third countries, principally in Latin America.

In spite of this, for the Island, “it is impossible to think about the normalization of immigration relations between the two countries without the North American Congress putting an end” to the Cuban Law of Adjustment.

Together with the end of the U.S. embargo, or “blockade,” the repeal of this law is one of the principal demands of the Cuban Government for normalizing all its relations with its neighbor to the north.

The article also mentions the present tension in bilateral relations owing to the shift in policies of President Donald Trump’s administration, that try to reverse the advances of the “thaw” accomplished by his predecessor, Barack Obama, and the Cuban leader Raúl Castro.

Faced with this position, Cuba has expressed its desire to continue communication and has affirmed that “the solution is up to the U.S.”

More than 896,000 Cubans have come legally to the U.S., of a total of 2.6 million who have left the Island since the immigration reforms  were put into effect in Cuba five years ago, abolishing the requirement for an exit permit.

Since January 1, Cuba has eliminated the residence requirement for children of Cubans born in the Exterior to receive citizenship, eliminated the requirement for a passport stamp from a Cuban consulate abroad for Cuban citizens to re-enter their country and authorized the entrance via yachts for Cubans who have emigrated, although this restriction is still in effect for those who live on the Island.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

A Curious Fact about Bachelet’s Visit to Cuba / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 19 January 2018 — As part of President Michelle Bachelet’s recently concluded visit to Havana, a Chile-Cuba Business Seminar was held.

During the activity, celebrated Monday, January 8, in a room at the Hotel Nacional, the Chilean president met with several businesspeople of her country who reside on the island. Among those present were Ángel Domper, Manuel Tomás Gahona, Guillermo Leiva and others.

Note that Ángel Domper was married to the Cuban veterinarian, Celia Guevara, one of deceased guerrillero Che Guevara’s daughters.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Cuban Government Plans Blow Against Management of Non-Agricultural Cooperatives / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 12 January 2018 — The Cuban Government is preparing a new blow to restrict the rights conceded to non-agricultural cooperatives of production (CNAs), specifically those devoted to the construction sector.

According to information obtained by Martí News, the Executive Committee of the Council of Ministers is developing a set of new judicial regulations with a view to controling the boom in this type of non-agricultural production association. One of the steps would be intended to complicate the process for the forming of these consortiums.

“The CNAs didn’t appear on the Cuban scene as a natural phenomenon regulated by the laws of the market, but rather as a result of an emergency strategy to attenuate the effects of the constant national crisis,” said a source from Havana who is linked to criminal proceedings against the owner of one of these private associations. “But some members of these associations drive around in rented autos, and the Government is trying to put the brakes on them by means of legal instruments that asphyxiate this enterprise.” continue reading

The source noted that the Council of State implemented, as an experiment, Decree Laws No. 305 and 306, No. 309 of the Council of Ministers, and another series of regulations for the forming, registration, functioning and termination of the non-agricultural production cooperatives and the services of 222 private activities.

The poor profitability and lack of autonomy of State businesses, among other factors, allowed the private entitites to achieve a real importance in the business system in a short time. They work efficiently, but they constitute an impediment to State businesses, because they show they do well, and they fearlessly exhibit the wealth they acquire.

On December 12, 2017, there appeared in the Gaceta Oficial Extraordinaria No. 58, a group of laws that intended to improve the business system by conceding a larger autonomy to State businesses. Even so, State production has not responded in the manner expected, because even with their increase in strength, they are incapable of guaranteeing service, quality and delivery times, according to the State authorities themselves.

However, the non-State sector continues to visibly increase productivity and labor discipline, which is why they have publicly received important contracts for the design and remodeling of tourism hotels, winning out over the now-stagnant State businesses.

“These corporations have better builders, do better work and, in certain cases, get permission to import machinery from China and other countries. However, the form in which they were originally designed and the experimental character of the whole legal basis mean they are badly limited,” argues an attorney who requested anonymity.

The lawyer explained that no legal way exists for two private cooperatives to join together to organize complementary activities to add value to their products or services. They have to acquire everything through the State businesses, and this doesn’t work.

“They have to violate the rules if the Government doesn’t expand the legal framework. How can you buy the necessary raw material like cement, sand, gravel, marble for the floors or wood for the formwork?” asked the lawyer.

“In this fradulent way,” he added, “they control the people in the cooperatives by submitting them to constant fiscal audits, which are practically impossible to pass. They now have closed some, and their members are in court.”

“We hope this will change, or we shall soon see the end of the private initiative,” the witness concluded.

This past August, the Ministry of Finance and Prices revoked the formation conceded to the Scenius Cooperative, an accounting service, and approved its termination for “repeated violations committed by the cooperative in its fulfillment of the approved social reach.”

The CAN experiment began in 2013, and presently there are only 429 of them in existence in the whole country, according to official figures.

Translated by Regina Anavy

The Dollar Strengthens In Cuba In Anticipation Of Currency Unification / Iván García

Source: América Tevé.

Ed. Note: This article talks about Cuba’s two currencies, the Cuban peso and the Cuban convertible peso, and the potential ‘unification’ of the two currencies. The Cuban peso is also called “national money” and by the acronym “CUP.” The Cuban convertible peso (“CUC”) only came into use in 1994. It is not convertible outside the country and so has no ‘market-based’ exchange rate in world currency markets. The CUP is officially pegged at 24 per CUC. The dollar/CUC exchange rate is officially one-to-one but the actual official exchange rate varies according to exchange fees and taxes applied to the transaction, as discussed in the article; the unofficial exchange rate varies according to the vagaries of the underground market. The Cuban government has promised, for years, to unify the currencies, but has not yet done so.

Iván García, 18 January 2018  — In the illegal world of the foreign exchange market on the Island, any rumor or leaking of information rings alarms. In addition to taking advantage of the gaps that cause the artificial state exchange rate for the U.S. dollar, an astute loan shark is always attentive to fluctuations in the exchange rates.

Ignacio, a guy who wears retro sunglasses, tight jeans and low-cut sports shoes, is one of those who takes advantage of the most minimal information.

“I’m romancing the manager of a bank. And some days ago she told me that there are movements in the bullpen. Probably before April 19 — the supposed date of Raúl Castro’s retirement — the government will execute the unification of the currency. continue reading

The girl told me that already there have been several meetings, and in them it was said that people with bank accounts wouldn’t lose money after the financial adjustments. Nor would those who prefer to keep their money at home. For them they would pay 24 Cuban pesos for every convertible peso, but only up to a certain amount (it’s said 7 million CUC). Those who have their deposits in dollars can exchange them at two pesos per dollar.”

With this unconfirmed information, Ignacio, along with several friends involved in clandestine exchange operations, started to buy the dollar at 0.97 CUC. The Central Bank of Cuba pays 0.87 CUC, justifying the Castro brothers’ tax under the pretext of the U.S. embargo.

But it’s a longer story. After the arrival of the bearded Fidel Castro, the exchange of the dollar and other hard currency was converted into an absurdity that distorted the national economy.

Before 1959, the dollar had an exchange rate of one for one with the Cuban peso.

“It was supported by a growing productivity, a vigorous economy and a powerful private empresarial elite. Fidel took this exchange rate as a reference and kept it for a time. Meanwhile, the Cuban economy was stumbling, because of the “blockade,” bad strategies of the managers or systemic failures caused by an economic plan that was copied from the Soviet Union. If they would have let the dollar float against the peso, in 1970, for example, a dollar would have been worth 50 Cuban pesos, at least. The illegal exchange market, in an empricial way, moves in accord with the law of supply and demand of the dollar. With greenbacks being prohibited until 1993, these financial operations were very dangerous: If the police caught you, you could go to jail for three to five years,” says Hiram, an ex-officer of the Central Bank.

Julio Antonio, an older gentleman who has spent four decades in the business of buying and selling hard currency, above all the dollar, adds more details:

“In the ’80s, they called the money changers jineteros (hustlers). On the streets of Vedado, and on beaches like Varadero and Santa María del Mar, east of Havana, we were buying dollars directly from the few tourists who came to Cuba. At that time, a peso was worth four dollars. The State was buying them one for one. And many foreigners, so that their money would go further, weren’t selling them to us. When the Special Period arrived in the ’90s the dollar shot up and was selling at one dollar for 150 pesos. Later, the government fixed it at 24 pesos. But we were paying under the table one or two on top of that, because the people going on internationalist missions in Venezuela, Ecuador and South Africa, among other countries, needed dollars to buy stuff cheap and then resell it in Cuba. We have always been two steps ahead of the State’s exhange rate.”

In the autumn of 2005, Fidel Castro, punched a table in anger, because the U.S. Treasury Department had detected a Cuban account with 5 billion dollars in the Swiss bank UBS, supposedly for exchanging old bills for new ones, and he resolved to decree a “revolutionary” tax on the money of Enemy Número Uno.

The tax rate was 20 percent, lowered to 10 percent when Raúl Castro began governing.

“If a dollar cost 80 cents, on the street it was being bought at 90. Now that the government buys it at 87 cents, under the table it’s bought at 90, at least [on the street]. It depends how many dollars are in circulation. But the stable non-official rate is 95 cents, although at certain times, it goes up to 97 and 98, since there is a strong demand from the “mules” who travel to Central America, Mexico or Russia. With the rumor that is being spread, I assure you that when the two monies are unified, the dollar will be worth 10 or 15 pesos. And I might be short,” Ignacio analyzes.

Dagoberto, licensed in tourism, considers that “this exchange rate, in addition to being false, is counterproductive. This is reflected in expenditures by tourists. The ones who come to Cuba spend on average $655 [USD]. Those who go to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic spend more than $1,200, almost double. One reason is that they drive up the prices for tourists. To this, add the fact that in Cuba’s hard currency shops everything is too expensive, with taxes between 240 and 400 percent. The ideal, to attract more dollars, euros, pounds or Swiss francs, is to adjust the money to a real reference.”

According to a source at a branch of the Banco Metropolitano, “Since July they have been postponing the contracts with State enterprises, whether they are in hard currency or the national money. It’s a sign that monetary unification is on the way. At the latest, before 2018 is over. It’s noticeable in the current private accounts. Many clients are keeping their money in pesos, since even though they’ve been told that they won’t be affected by the unification, there are always fears and prejudices in the population.”

For experienced loan sharks, “the best way to keep savings or monetary earnings of a private business is in dollars or euros, jewels, preferably of gold, and works of art. What’s coming looks ugly. An increasing inflation and more money than products to buy. The Cuban economy is in a bad way,” predicts Julio Antonio.

Financial experts say that if you want to apply a reasonable economic strategy, the distortions caused by the dual currency ought to come to an end. What’s not clear is what will happen afterwards.

Translated by Regina Anavy

A Lawyer Sees Salvation in Brazil’s New Immigration Law for "Deserter" Doctors

Some Cuban doctors complain that with all the money they’ve given to the Government, they could afford to pay for their medical education several times over.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, November 24, 2017 – The new immigration law which takes effect this Wednesday in Brazil could benefit hundreds of doctors who have escaped from the Mais Medicos (More Doctors) mission in this country.

According to André De Santana Correa, a lawyer who represents 80 doctors from the Island who abandoned their mission, “the new law allows several types of protection for a Cuban doctor who is considered a deserter, on humanitarian grounds.”

De Santana told 14ymedio that he counsels all Cuban doctors who have an expired temporary visa for Brazil that they request “permission for residence with a temporary visa on humanitarian grounds.” The authorities can take into account that these professionals are prohibited from returning to Cuba for eight years, because they are considered deserters there. continue reading

“The Cuban Government’s decision to consider doctors who abandon their missions as deserters is much more than political persecution. It’s the most merciless cruelty because of what can happen to a human being who is taken away from  loved ones and his native land and, in addition, is left completely powerless, as if his life isn’t worth anything,” adds De Santana.

The new Migration Law guarantees the same rights to foreign residents as to native-born Brazilians and also facilitates the arrival of qualified workers in the country. The legislation replaces the Foreigners Statute, which dates from the time of the military dictatorship (1964-1985). It allows foreigners with higher education or the equivalent to work in Brazil without needing to have a formal employment request from a company in the country.

Official statistics state that between 2010 and 2015, the number of foreign employees increased some 131%, going from 54,333 workers to 125,535, less than some 0.5 percent of the formal work market.

“We hope that with this new law our process will continue. There are many Cuban doctors in Brazil who need this country to recognize that we are health professionals who have equal status with the doctors of other countries who are in the More Doctors program,” says Ernesto Ramírez, a health specialist who left Havana’s supervision.

Noel Fonseca, who has spent more than 20 years as a doctor and decided to stay and live in Brazil, said that he is hopeful about the new law. He, as well as his wife, were expelled from the More Doctors program for not supporting the Cuban Government. The authorities in Havana, in addition, told them that they couldn’t return to the country for eight years, and that Brazil wouldn’t allow them to work as doctors because of pressure from Cuba.

“The Cuban Ministry of Public Health threatened the Brazilian Government so that they wouldn’t permit us to stay in the More Doctors program if we deserted the mission. In turn, the Ministry of Health pressured the municipalities to not give any type of aid to the doctors,” explained Fonseca, by telephone.

While the Cuban Medical Professional Parole was in effect, the United States allowed doctors who abandoned Cuba’s official missions to emigrate legally to the U.S. During that period (2006-2016), more than 8,000 doctors benefited from the program, which was eliminated in January, 2017.

Cuban Healthcare Personnel Taking Advantage of US “Cuban Medical Professional Parole” program that allows them to settle in the United States (14ymedio)

Diana Quintas, a lawyer from the Fragomen firm in Brazil, told Agencia EFE recently that the new law “has gaps,” and that in matters such as work, the joint action of several ministries would be required.

In addition, in order to seek employment without a work offer in the South American giant, professionals from Third World countries would have to have a university degree in “professions strategic for Brazil,” without specifying what these professions are.

Many other analysts criticize putting this legislation into effect at a time when unemployment is increasing in the country and when, in practice, many of the essential services that they want to offer to immigrants Brazilians themselves don’t have.

Translated by Regina Anavy
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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

The Everglades: An Endangered Garden on the Doorstep of Miami

Scientists warn that, by the year 2100, the sea level will rise more than six feet, progressively flooding the wetlands of South Florida. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, January 3, 2018 — An immense grasslands with tones of yellow and green extends up to the horizon, and Miami’s skyscrapers can be glimpsed in the distance, like blue boulders. Far from the metropolis, where more than six million people live, one of the largest and most famous wetlands of the planet crosses to the west and south: the Everglades, an immense subtropical garden that is endangered by climate change and contamination.

On board a hovercraft, thousands of toursists every day cross only a small part of the subtropical national park, which is the largest in the U.S. With its nearly 1,500 square miles, the National Park of the Everglades is approximately the same size as the province of Guantánamo, or double the size of the state of New Jersey, on the northeast coast of the U.S.

It’s calculated that more than a million people visit these wetlands every year, and they are counted by the tens of thousands as they pass through the entrances. continue reading

“The main dangers we face are the increase in sea level and environmental contamination,” explains a tourist guide, who drives the airboat, which is a peculiar flat-bottom craft that uses an airplane propeller to avoid harming animals and the ecosystem.

Scientists warn that, by the year 2100, the sea level will rise more than six feet, progressively flooding the wetlands of South Florida. A report on Univision that quotes several experts from Florida International University indicates that the Everglades is being reduced to half its former size and receiving only one-third of the fresh water it used to receive.

Declared an International Biosphere in 1976, a World Heritage Site in 1979 and a Wetland of International Importance in 1987, the Everglades is the only place in the world where crocodiles, which can reach some five meters in length and weigh 1,100 pounds, live alongside alligators and caimans. In addition, hundreds of endemic animals like manatees, deer and pumas can be found, including invasive species such as pythons, which can reach almost 20 feet in length.

The heart of the South Florida wetlands is Lake Okeechobee. Rains from the wet season make it overflow, and the waters flow south, progressively flooding large areas of terrain.

“In the first half of the twentieth century, over 1,400 miles of canals were constructed with the aim of containing the flooding from Lake Okeechobee, and, thanks to this, cities like Miami were able to grow,” explains the guide. Beginning then, there was the desiccation of large quantities of land for urbanization and cattle ranches, as well as the construction of highways, affected the wetlands.

“The construction in 1928 of the Tamiami Trail highway caused a cut-off in the flow of water coming from the lake. There are plans to spend more than 10.5 billion dollars to raise part of the highway in order to restore that flow and to intervene for preserving the wetlands, but they are advancing slowly,” he explains.

Along the Tamiami Trail, a long road that links Miami with the west coast of the peninsula, work is underway on the constrction of bridges to permit the passage of water toward the south. It’s a project that, among other things, seeks to ensure the water sources for the city.

“If you drink a cup of tea in Miami, you’re consuming the same water that we have in the Everglades,” jokes the guide. Although his statement is an exaggeration, the flow of water in the South Florida wetlands is vital for sustaining the Bicayne aquifer, which supplies the water used in the largest city of Florida.

Owing to the porous nature of the rocks under the marsh, penetration of the sea or the contamination of particular areas has repercussions for the whole ecosystem.

The tourists protect their ears from the deafening noise of the airboat propeller by using earplugs. When the motor is turned off, there is a sepulchral silence. In the middle of the wetlands, you hear only the sound of the crickets or the buzzing of the innumerable insects that inhabit the area.

“Also living here are the American Indian Miccosukees, a tribe originally from Georgia that, with the passage of time, was displaced toward the wetlands and resisted any attempt to assimilate them for more than 100 years,” explains the guide.

The Micosukees or Mikazuki, as they also are known, were recognized throughout Cuba as a sovereign country inside the U.S., from the time a delegation of the tribe visited the island in 1959. Fidel Castro personally received the delegation and acknowledged their indigenous passport, which was later validated by other nations.

In 1962, the U.S. Government approved the tribe’s constitution, and recognized them officially as an automonous indigenous tribe to which important fiscal benefits were conceded. Today, the Miccosukees are considered one of the most prosperous indigenous groups in the U.S., with their empire of casinos, restaurants and hotels.

“The wetlands of the Everglades are a treasure for everyone, which we must protect,” said the guide upon ending the excursion near the Tamiami Trail, and he said that he dreams of making visitors aware of the importance of protecting this environment, on which his family and a good part of South Florida depend.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

The Euphemism that Looks After Me / Alejandro González Acosta

‘El compañero que me atiende’ is for sale on Amazon and in some Florida bookstores. (14ymedio)

Alejandro González Acosta, 1 December 2017, Mexico City — Lichi[1] told me that the last time he was in Cuba[2], he went to visit a G-2 colonel at home, the brother of a famous Cuban historian who was Lichi’s good friend in Mexico. Between drinks and confidences, Lichi asked him:

“Come on, man, just between us: You’re surely watching me and having me cableao[3] [listened to] everywhere, right?”

“No, Lichi,” the other responded. “There’s no need because we already know how you think, even what you publish. In addition,” added the security officer, “we don’t have the technology[4] we used to have when the bolos[5] were here. There’s not much left that’s in good working order. And the little we have is directed toward the Central Committee of the Communist Party, because we’re interested in knowing what they’re thinking and planning.”

Perhaps this was just another one of Lichi’s many fictions, but I suspect that this one was true. continue reading

It makes me think of the anecdote that was recently published in El compañero que me atiende [The Compañero Who Looks After Me] (Hypermedia, 2017), the timely anthology that Enrique del Risco (“Enrisco” to his friends), an exiled Cuban historian in New York, compiled and edited.

Like so many other common expressions on the island, this title probably isn’t fully understood by someone who isn’t Cuban and hasn’t passed at least a part of his life in Cuba during the last 60 years. “The compañero who looks after me” can be, for foreigners, a waiter, a mechanic, some employee, who with kind and fraternal camaraderie procures some service or product for them. But we Cubans know that’s not the case: far from it.

Just like the “accomplishments” of the Cuban Revolution that were showcased with pride—every child would have education and every sick person his doctor—so every citizen can count on having his own policeman, solicitous and attentive to what he says, hears and thinks. This ubiquitous and omnipresent character, almost omniscient and supposedly omnipotent is, ultimately, “the compañero who looks after me.” In a totalitarian system like the present Cuban one, where “everything not prohibited is obligatory,” it’s normal that half the population monitors the other half, and even among that half, nothing escapes them.

Something really monstrous that escapes the comprehension of the rest of the “normal” world (Cuban hasn’t been a “normal” country for a long time) is that this “compañero who looks after me” has in turn his own “compañero who looks after him,” and this one possesses another “compañero who looks after him,” in an uninterrupted and infinite succession until you come to the top of the pyramid where that Big Brother who monitors everyone and perhaps even himself is busy looking suspiciously into a mirror of informers. Everything is possible in that surrealistic Caribbean world.

Enrique del Risco understands this perfectly, and thus gives his pertinent commentary about The Trial and The Castle, written by the famous and prophetic Czech author, which he includes in his preface. It’s been said—and it’s no joke—that “if Kafka had been born in Cuba, he would have been a genre writer.” For modern Cubans, The Trial and The Castle have a solid and macabre arquitectonic symbol: Villa Marista, the “home sweet home” of all the compañeros who look after us.

If anybody knows this theme of a “compañero who looks after me” it was Lichi. His famous Informe contra mí mismo (Informing Against Myself) is nothing more than the response, after years of boredom, that he gave to the seguroso [State Security officer] who was trying to get him to inform on his own family.

This matter of citizen spying is almost a genre of opposition Cuban literature: Antes que anochezca (Before Night Falls), by Reinaldo Arenas, would be another response to that “compañero who looks after me.” And Contra toda esperanza (Against All Hope), by Armando Valladares, also. And En Cuba Todo el mundo canta (In Cuba Everybody Sings), by Rafael E. Saumell. And Fuera del juego (Out of the Game), although you would have to say here “the compañero who takes of ‘us’,” since it should include his then-wife, the poetess Belkis Cusa Malé; En mi jardín pastan los héroes (Heroes Graze in My Garden); La mala memoria (Bad Memory), by Heberto Padilla; Mapa dibujado por un espía (Map Drawn by a Spy), by Guillermo Cabrera Infante; La nada cotidiana (The Daily Nothingness); La hija del embajador (The Ambassador’s Daughter); La noche al revés (Night in Reverse), by Zoé Valdés; and 20 años y 40 días (Twenty Years and Forty Days), by Jorge Valls. Even El hombre que amaba los perros (The Man Who Loved Dogs), by Leonardo Padura, is, in its own way, also a novel about permanent vigilance.

For Cubans of this epoch, the Forest of Eyes in Alice in Wondertown is a reality with nothing imaginative about it: Everything is seen and known in this total fortress that is the Cuba of the Castros. Thus, this work of Lewis Carroll served Jesús Díaz for his brilliant interpretation of Alice in Wondertown (1991), with a characterization of the unforgettable Reynaldo Miravalles in the powerless role of the Director of the Sanatorio Satán (Satanic Sanitorium) in the town of Maravillas de Noveras, with his bony accusing finger, descending from the heavens in the rattling elevator.

A little before, Díaz had managed—finally!—to publish his unforgettable novel, Las iniciales de la tierra (The Beginnings of the Earth), where the protagonist Carlos Pérez Cifredo confronts another variant of the “compañero who looks after me”: the interminable autobiographical document that so many Cubans have written, the famous cuéntame tu vida (Tell me about your life), the implacable and intrusive spreadsheet of entry to a political organization. This can also be considered a parallel genre to what Del Risco puts forth later. In some place on the island—perhaps in the Villa Marista—there must be an enormous archive with all the “tellmeaboutyourlife” stories that have been written in these almost 60 years. A Library of Babel of denouncements and, worse even, self-denouncements, saved for memory, disgust and posterity. We should then have a new V. Chentalinski to do with this what he did with The Literary Archives of the KGB.

We can’t deny it: The German film The Life of Others and Kundera’s The Joke are, for Cubans, part of a vital daily bibliography, a kind of Caribbean self-help literature, and this book confirms it. But wise friends are warning me that these references should also include classics like The Rebel, by Camus, and The Captive Mind, by Milosz.

Fifty-seven living authors participate in this “work of multiple creation,” all of them Cuban, the majority outside the island, but also some who live there, for whom the very fact of publishing in this book could have serious consequences—at the very least, a friendly visit from “the compañero who still takes care of them.” There are 57 testimonials, but there could also be 11,616,004 (the total population of Cuba according to the last official 2017 census), since all have, had or will have a similar story (without counting the 2,000,000 in exile). And all the Cubans dispersed throughout this broad and alien world since 1959 have at least one anecdote about that solicitous companion of our terrors and fears.

But let’s not be naive: The perversity of this system is not limited to Cubans alone. Everyone on the island is suspect, even if the opposite is proven. Correspondents and foreign diplomats also have their “compañero who looks after them,” although organized under other façades: the International Press Center, first, and the General Protocol Directorate, second, both camouflaged under the cover of the Ministry of Foreign Relations.

And vigilant attention is not limited to Cubans on the island, either. In the Exterior, they also continue being the object of the watchful supervision that is organized from the Regime’s embassies, always scandalously overpopulated and with an intense espionage activity, under the façade of the Chancellery, supported by that large Ministry of Exterior Police that is the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the People.

Thus, this book is fully registered in the testimonial genre that the Cuban Revolution gave birth to itself, in works like Operación Masacre [Operation Massacre], Trelew [Trelew], and many more, but from the other camp, the other side of the door… or the wall. Although the official “critics” say that if testimony is not “progressive, revolutionary and committed” it is not testimony, Reality contradicts them. In fact, today the testimony of the victims of communist repression is much more alive and convincing than that of the repressors who are determined to deny it or misrepresent it.

The intellectual who is monitored and persecuted in Cuba has been around for a long time. Convinced that they were harassing him, Manuel Zequeira pretended to make himself invisible by putting on a sombrero. José María Heredia left the country disguised as a sailor, an authentic proto-balsero, fleeing from the police. José Jacinto Milanés ended his days in a mental hospital, in a fog of paranoia. José Martí traveled to Cuba as “Julián Pérez” in order to outwit the pre-Castro customs and immigration. Virgilio Piñera was permanently obsessed with “an old panic,” expecting them to come for him. Raúl Hernández Novas, in spite of going about hunched over, couldn’t really hide himself because he was very tall. He committed suicide after experiencing “the enigma of waters,” and he rushed headlong—da capo—to a liberating death.

A typical Cuban feels himself permanently under surveillance. Even when he finally manages to escape the island-prison, for a long time he searches for microphones in lamps and underneath tables if some unwary person asks him something he considers compromising. He never says what he thinks, because he knows very well the price he will pay. He’s been trained. Later he loosens up and even talks too much: Some joke that they pay him to talk and then pay him more to shut up.

The image of a guard holding a sharp, threatening machete and a wide-open eye, watchful and omnipresent like something out of Santería, are the symbols of the CDRs (Committees for the Defense of the Revolution), the most pernicious, corrupting and demeaning of all the gruesome inventions on the Island of Doctor Castro.

I’m listening to you, whispers the emblem. Without knowing it, those frustrated old ladies, bitter and needing to feel they’re useful for something, the classic cederistas, are the descendants of the Parisian Bluestockings of the Place de Grève and the fisherwomen of the Marais. They are not named Charolotte or Lisette, but rather “Cusa of the Committee.” What the hell!

A joke about the government can be fatal. In my time, among friends, as an exculpatory and prophylactic exorcism, expecting the presence of microphones—or people with the same mission—after hearing a “joke against the government” we would finish roaring with laughter with a sentence: “On the record: If I’m laughing it’s because of indignation.” And in Cuba, even when we hung up the phone, it listened to whatever was said nearby, an old tactic from the NKVD and the KGB.

A person who is very dear to me lost his promising career as an economist because he told a joke about Nicolás Guillén with a mocking version of his poem, Tengo, in a group of supposed friends, and one of them ran to inform the Cuban Securitate, who expelled him from the University of Havana. Everything culminated in a grotesque scene: the then Rector (Reptile) obliterated him with a critical sentence: “Between doubt and the Revolution, I stand with the Revolution.” Later, this same rector was gloriously dethroned: Such is life in these tropics, dearest. Because the best thing about this story is that the earth is round (although some nuts still doubt it) and continues to turn….

The deeply religious mentality of communism, and especially that of the two former students of schools that were directed by severe priests, as were Stalin (in a seminary) and Castro (in the Ignatius College of Belén), creates a system of constant “examination of conscience,” of which “the compañero who looks after us” is a fortunate confessor in civil clothing. These “castles of the soul” and the Marxist-Ignacius “spiritual exercises” that culminate in the famous auto-criticism (much better and more effective if it is public and humiliating), are part of a process of continual and interminable catechism and purification. Everyone needs to be reviewed periodically, and in this way, one is offered the generous possibility of “repentance.” What is not pardonable is to decline the confession and the auto-inculpation, and even less to persevere in the error with the disastrous bourgeois “auto-sufficiency” that opposes accepting the charges and sins….

One thing that is especially perverse about this “head police” is that, against every presumption, it doesn’t hide; on the contrary, it is shameless. It exposes itself; it demonstrates that it’s always present and that it’s everywhere, because its principal mission, in addition to causing fear, is to dissuade and advise—lovingly and persuasively—almost like a friend: “Don’t burn yourself, dude.” “Don’t create problems.” “I understand you, compadre, but….” It is, let’s say, a kindly, sensitive executioner, almost deliquescent and ethereal. A “guardian angel” in shirt sleeves, who not only can expel you from Paradise but also put you in prison, which is Purgatory or Hell, depending on the sentence.

Enrique del Risco aptly baptizes it Género totalitario policíaco, the totalitarian police genus. It could also be a species of communist bildungsroman, a kind of Cuban formative novel, the “sentimental education” of the “new man.” Or also police eschatology, because of the persistent phantom who always is persecuting you. Or the neo-Gothic novel of castrismo, with its horrendous monsters. Or comic surrealism. A chance Orwellian 1984 but in the continuous indicative present, up to date, 2017.

The kindness of “the compañero who looks after you” goes in two directions: to control and support you, but also to look for your cooperation, to convert you from being someone suspicious to being an informer. Because creating a snitch is the jewel in the crown for the compañero, and there are many who have been persuaded and are now limping along this path.

Informing has been presented historically as a “revolutionary virtue” from a very old date. In the Soviet Union of Stalin the example of the little pioneer, Pavlik Morózov (1918-1932) was very popular. In a supreme surge of generous militant communism, he denounced his parents and grandparents, who were executed. Then he died, according to the propaganda, assassinated by other vengeful family members, but the latest research in the KGB archives allowed Catriona Kelly to make sure in her book, Comrade Pavlik: The Rise and Fall of a Soviet Boy Hero (2005), that apparently it was the “compañero who looked after him” who liquidated the talkative Pavlik, following higher orders, in order to later dedicate to him statues, books, songs, a symphonic poem, opera and even a movie by the laureate, Sergei Eisenstein (Bezhin Meadow, 1937). This should serve as a wise warning to incautious collaborators that their task is extremely dangerous, not only for their victims, but also for the compañeros themselves. “If there were no heroes, you would have to invent them, whatever the price.” So said the good Koba behind his smoking pipe.

One of the most diabolical perversions of the system is that, in addition to having a mandatory Identity Card, every citizen has a File, but unlike the first, which he must always carry, he never sees the second, although it decides his life the whole time: whether he progresses or not, if he makes progress or fails, if he goes forward or falls back, if he lives or not. And this file has a permanent, dedicated scribe, who is, precisely, the compañero, that “annihilating angel” who doesn’t miss a step or a footfall, a bloodhound always sniffing your tracks, that devoted scribe who writes your Book of Life.

In the twisted, repressive logic of Communism, everyone is guilty and thus punishable. If we are alive, of course we’re committing some sin and various crimes. It’s only a matter of finding out. Therefore, if the Power decides to investigate your life, it will always find something for which to blame and punish you. And if nothing appears, it’s invented: Ángel Santiesteban knows something about this.

It’s a shame that Fidel Castro wasn’t able to read this book, which has him in it as a permanent presence. I imagine he would have enjoyed it a lot, because he would have recognized his most transcendent work. He was fortunate to have a long, although sterile, life, always surrounded by the veneration and obsequiousness of his terrified close friends, and he surely would have enjoyed knowing about the creativity of his subordinates to whom he delegated the honorable task of being vigilantes, in that government that’s a carbon copy of Minority Report, constructed “with the delight of an artist.” The ideal for him was that everyone carry his own vigilante inside, a kind of tortuous doppelgänger or devious old uncle, embedded in the subconscious. This compañero is, therefore, a kind of vampire, insatiable and contaminating. After sucking your blood, he prolongs your life, but also makes it impure, in his image, like his spawn.

But I have a terrible suspicion: In reality, the system and its agents are not really worried about what people think, but rather what they say and do. It’s a kind of tacit complicity that although they imagine, suppose and even know what you think, what really matters is what you do and say, obliging people to act falsely without a break, in a permanent performance, a schizoid, never-ending performance, with an irreparable psychic dissociation which forms the character of the present “new man”: “I know that you don’t like me, but what’s important is that you obey and venerate me.”

Without doubt, one of the most cruelly delicious and masochistic experiences will be when this nightmare regime finally collapses, and people can read the bulging files (that I hope they don’t destroy in their precipitous fall), guarded by State Security, the grand fabric of the “compañeros that take care of us.” I trust that they won’t eliminate them because I know that, perversely, they would want to leave the seed of discord to be sown for 100 more years. But, finally, with the sad truth would come mental, social and individual health. “In 100 years,” said the French aristocrat while he climbed the stairs to the guillotine that awaited him, sharp and thirsty, “all this will be only an anecdote.”

This “compañero who takes care of us” is also a character out of cinema, a comedian in a guayabera or safari outfit, with pockets full of pens and pants, with one pant-leg carelessly but elegantly tucked into a boot. Don’t forget that the dark glasses are an essential part of the image. He deserves a movie that would be shown in festivals of horror films and involuntary humor, like the series Mobil 8 and Sector 40, with that sinister and mocking “Manquito” chasing us everywhere.

You would have to expect now the passionate testimony of the other side, written by them; it could be entitled The Compañeros Who Served, where the magnificent influence that the ones watched had on the vigilantes would be appreciated, obligating them to read philosophy, history and art, and even listen to curta music, in order to understand and be able to monitor their prey better. Such a grand cultural level they would attain thanks to that! Because, let’s not forget—supreme irony—they also have been permanently monitored by their own “compañeros who look after” them.

But the “compañeros who look after you” have also been good teachers and have educated outstanding disciples, and now their presence is not required, since their pupils have become very capable themselves. The cultural officials—Barnet, Prieto, Arrufat and several others—are already so good at that Dark Trade as were in their time the “compañeros who looked after them.” You can’t deny that they had excellent teachers and became magnificent students.

Those “attentive compañeros” have been the same “literary advisers,” “curators of exhibitions,” “vigilant publishers,” “omnipotent and decisive jurors of literary competitions,”… truly protean and know-it-all. And, in addition, very proud of their mission. I remember a famous painter and graphic designer, who proclaimed cheerfully and loudly that he was a “trumpet,” meaning a snitch on his colleagues, for which he was compensated and decorated with the Medal for the Twentieth Anniversary of the Ministry of the Interior. It’s the small vanity of the miserable, the joy he couldn’t hide for this variant of ideological bullying, a surprising cross between a cat and a rat.

If anyone inside this genre merits that a novel be written about him, it would be José Abrantes, perhaps the most dramatic figure in recent times in terms of the artistic tension of conflicts. Possibly someday one of his descendants will decide to write it, since the former Minister was the first instructor and creator of the “compañeros who looked after,” before being looked after himself by his trained trainees.

Although they often are solitary, the “compañeros who look after” can operate in harmonious duos, not at the same time but rather successively: First Good Cop appears, and if you don’t understand the lesson, Bad Cop shows up. Or the opposite, according to the individual. But they’re well distributed, coordinated and organized. They’re a didactic couple, in the purest Makarenko style: all a pedagogic poem. They’re the Stakhanovites of culture and thought, the Lunacharskys of ideas, the Dzerzhinskys of metaphors. In sum: the Dear Enemy.

Enrique del Risco qualifies this large anthology as an anomaly, because the genre obviously will not enjoy commercial success in countries where it’s a living reality, since it belongs to the “literature that is rigorously monitored,” and also because—for understandable mental health reasons—it doesn’t want to be remembered or revived in a society where it has already been eradicated. Thus, it is a thankless and upsetting genre, but one that is necessary so that the experience will not be repeated. This anthology-book (in both meanings) is, then, a text that is not only literary and historic, but also informative and educative. It constitutes a whole Practical Manual of Totalitarian Teaching that is operational. If only for this reason, it deserves to be widely read. Perhaps it would serve others to know—although no one learns through others’ experience—what Cubans have gone through and already suffered (and continue to suffer): those beings that are happy, unworried, playful and always under suspicion, Cortázar’s anxious cronopios and esperanzas, permanently monitored by severe famas.

This book is, on the other hand, a work of catharsis and exorcism, and it could be the genuine Book of Text of the Grand Ministry of Social and Political Domestication. It also can have another use: showing the interior mechanisms of spying and snitching, and it can be an antidote and a preventive prophylactic, with recipes that the great artistic maestros elaborated from their unhappy personal experience of evading, confounding and deceiving that vigilante, that monstrous euphemism that is needed to “look after us,” in order to survive as an efficient and productive element of a dreadful mechanism. This book, possibly, is a collection of recipes to neutralize it.

 Translated by Regina Anavy

[1] Eliseo Alberto de Diego García-Marruz (Arroyo Naranjo, September 10, 1951, Mexico City, July 31, 2011).

[2] The last time he was alive. Later he returned, now cremated into “beloved ashes,” to fulfill his wish to be scattered on the murky waters of the river near the home of his birth, by his Herculean twin sister, Fefé (Josefina de Diego), his striking daughter, María José, and a group of close friends.

[3] With hidden microphones.

[4] The technology, equipment, microphones.

[5] Russians.

 

The Crisis in Zimbabwe is Barely Mentioned in the Cuban Media / Iván García

Fidel Castro receives Robert Mugabe in the Havana airport, June 8, 1992. Taken from CNN.

Iván García, 20 November 2017 — While Robert Gabriel Mugabe, the oldest dictator in the world at age 93, was giving a televised statement from Harare, surrounded by soldiers and elegantly-dressed officials, many miles away from Zimbabwe, Edna, a history professor at a pre-university, was washing clothes in Havana, in an anachronistic Aurika from the Soviet epoch.

When I ask Edna her opinion on the political crisis in Zimbabwe, she shakes her head and tries to find words that don’t sound trite. “If you ask my kids, I’m sure they don’t know who Robert Mugabe is and they wouldn’t be able to find Zimbabwe on the map. People here are disconnected, although I don’t include myself in this group, since I try to keep up with what’s happening in Cuba and the world,” says Edna, and she adds: continue reading

“I went on internationalist missions twice in Africa, once in Angola and another in South Africa. And I can tell you that those freedom fighters, like José Eduardo dos Santos in Angola, Teodoro Obiang in Equatorial Guinea, Mengistu Haile Mariam in Ethiopia and Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, ended up being dictators. The honorable exception was Nelson Mandela. Mugabe was in power for 37 years, olympically violating human rights and committing fraud in fake elections. Our press treats him like a king, because in addition to being an ally who always votes in favor of Cuba in international forums, our rulers are a reflection of him. Joaquín Sabina, my favorite singer, says in an interview that the Cuban revolution and the Venezuelan revolutions aren’t aging well. The same is true of the African independence movement, in which Fidel Castro played a big part; the same thing happened.”

To find someone on the streets of Havana who will seriously comment about a foreign event is hard. Most reject a question with a shake of their heads or muddle through with a mechanical response.

But an independent journalist like Juan González Febles always has a response: “It’s logical that the Regime doesn’t offer information. There’s a kind of club of dictators who indulge each other. With the Argentina dictatorship, Fidel Castro did business with the soldiers and offered them aid during the war in the Malvinas. Beginning with Honecker, passing through Ceausescu and ending with Mugabe, the Cuban Regime decorated the whole lot of them with the Order of José Martí. Right now a high-level delegation from North Korea is in Cuba. Almost no other country would permit an official from that rogue state to visit. The media silence comes from a debt of gratitude that the Cuban dictatorship has with the rest of the totalitarian governments in the world.

The State media have barely mentioned the grave political crisis in Zimbabwe that will mark the end of the Mugabe era.

In spite of the slow connection, browsing on the Internet I found that Prensa Latina published an article, reproduced Sunday, November 19 by Cubadebate, with the headline, “President Mugabe deposed as the political leader in Zimbabwe.” The same story was also released in the online editions of Bohemia and Tiempo 21 from Las Tunas. Previously, two “decaffeinated” commentaries were published: one on Thursday, November 16 in Granma (“Zimbabwe, the headline of the week”) and the other on Friday the 17th in Juventud Rebelde (“Discussion of the situation in Zimbabwe”).

However, Telesur, a channel funded with the petrodollars of Hugo Chávez, on Sunday the 19th transmitted the televised conference of Mugabe surrounded by soldiers and officials.

In Cuba, all news media, national or provincial, are directed by the ideological department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. And they are always cautious and careful about condemning or criticizing communist governments, governments with leftist tendencies or any that are economic allies.

Nothing has been published on the Island about the corruption in China of the children of high officials and their spectacular lifestyles, and the press is silent about the relatives of Xi Jinping who are implicated in the Panama Papers.

The monarchist tyranny of North Korea is treated with the utmost respect. And you’ll never see the official analysts, experts on the U.S. or the European Union political systems, write an article condemning the testing of nuclear missiles by the Hermit Kingdom Kim family.

However, there’s a surplus of space and ink for counting killings in the U.S. or pointing out statistics on capitalist poverty. But about Zimbabwe, hardly anything is known. Cubans don’t know about the terrible economic situation, with 90 percent of its citizens unemployed, or that the average life span isn’t more than 40 years.

With Africa, the information blackout is redoubled. The role of the Castro autocracy in the struggles for emancipation on that continent is known. Fidel Castro maintained a special friendship with Robert Mugabe. In August 1986, Castro was in Zimbabwe to participate in the Eighth Summit of Nonaligned Countries, which was celebrated in Harare, the capital. For his part, Robert Mugabe made several visits to Cuba, on the following dates: September 1983; 1986 when he was decorated with the Order of José Martí; June of 1992; July of 2002; September of 2003, and September of 2005, according to photos found on Google. His last trip was in November 2016, in order to attend the funeral of his “brother, Fidel.”

Hence the scarce news on what is happening in Zimbabwe with the old friend of Castro the First. Nor do the Cuban media mention the enormous fortune accumulated by Isabel dos Santos in Angola, or the scandals of Teodorín Obiang, son of the intolerable dictator of Equatorial Guinea.

As for Latin America, we’ll never see a reproach against the regimes of Nicolás Maduro, Evo Morales or an analysis of the litigation against Lenin Moreno and Rafael Correa in Ecuador. The National press never qualified the FARC of Colombia as a terrorist organization. Nor did it publish one line on the detention for narcotrafficking of the nephews of Cilia Flores, Maduro’s wife.

The media in Cuba are an arm of the Regime. It uses them for the benefit of publicity. The ideology department of the Party isn’t stupid. They’re not going to shoot themselves in the foot with the monster that they themselves created.

For Cuban readers, Zimbabwe is a socialist democracy and Robert Mugabe is a hero of African independence. And his wife, Grace, repudiated in her country for her love of luxury and her delusions of grandeur, if we give credit to the commentary published in Juventud Rebelde, is an innocent woman who was a child when the war of liberation took place.

If someone wants to be informed objectively and know other points of view, then he must pay one convertible peso, two day’s minimum salary, to navigate on the Internet for one hour. That’s the only way.

Translated by Regina Anavy

A Debt to Bogota / Regina Coyula

Regina Coyula, 25 April 2017 — I had thought of writing about the first impressions that Bogota has left me, impressions deepened by the contrast of a people so warm that they do not seem to carry the burden of six decades of violence. I had thought of writing about a city dominated by churches and bricks, of green mango with lemon and pepper, of the beautiful cadence they give to the Spanish language, even from the loathsome loudspeakers of industrious street vendors. Of that and more I thought to write as yesterday I walked along Seventh Street, full of families on bicycles or Sunday strollers.

But that was yesterday and today, Monday, I can see the details of the standoff in Venezuela, with its macabre stasis. I see Lilián Tintori denouncing the the Public Defender’s office. I see Maria Corina, enormous, confronting an arrest warrant. I see Venezuela without the filter of its state-run network, TeleSur. continue reading

I also saw confirmation that Karla Maria Perez, a young, talented student at the Central University of Las Villas, had been expelled from the school of journalism by her classmates. The reason? She was a member of Somos+, a political movement considered “illegal,” like every group not allied with the government.

On one hand, the Venezuelan people want to rescue democracy. On the other, they deviously send ahead a group of young people, fearful themselves of losing their future if they aren’t convinced. These young people of the Student University Federation who have been deprived of innocence with a cruel lesson, incapable of articulating a question about the disappearance of the bust of Mella in that postcommunist space that now is the Manzana Kempinski (formerly the Manzana Gómez).

No, Bogotá. I can’t write the chronicle that you would have deserved.