(Photo from Internet)
Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 11 June 2015 – There is no doubt that we are witnessing a new “Revolutionary Offensive*” in Cuba. This time, it is not that cumbersome operation that wiped out the small private property and, in 1968, gave the coup de grace to whatever mom and pop businesses, stands or cafes barely making ends meet at the beginning of the early socialist plateau and destroyed the services that the State was never able to meet. The methodology has changed, we can all agree on this, but the purpose is about the same.
Now, when the government takes a conciliatory stance and desperately seeks the arrival of capital that it has so demonized, it tries to retract to a minimum, but without fuss, the glimpses of private initiative. All this, given the danger posed to the olive green autocracy by the coexistence of relatively autonomous sectors within the island with the avalanche of businessmen and foreign tourists that are expected to flood the country as soon as the restrictions imposed by the embargo and the Helms Burton Act begin to disappear.
However, it cannot be said that, with Raul’s offensive against the small private sector, we are either facing a circumstantial situation or that it is about the regime’s improvisation. In fact, the circumstance was the initiation of the “self-employed” initiative that constituted an escape valve for the government, needing to move the domestic economy, and the creation of new jobs that would lighten the load for the State. Continue reading
Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 8 June 2015 — In the beginning, there were the cassettes, first the ones we viewed on ancient Betamax equipment, and a bit later on VHS. In those dark years in the 90’s, the illegal dealers, better known as “messengers” would arrive with their backpacks, pedaling their inseparable bikes, from customer to customer. They charged of 5 or 10 Cuban pesos rent per cassette, depending how many movies were on each tape and the quality of the recording.
Video equipment was not readily available among Cubans, so the happy owner of one of these was not only privileged, but he would become the host of friends and nearby neighbors who eluded the harsh reality of the so-called “Special Period,” taking refuge in some colorful Hollywood product or another, usually recorded by the even more restricted group –favored among the favored- who owned a DIRECTV antenna.
Sharing a show or a movie was also a matter of affinity and solidarity at a time when almost all Cubans suffered the brunt of an economic crisis which, in the same way as the system that generated it, seemed to have no end. So some fellow invitees would agree to rotate the expense for renting the cassettes or contribute some snack to improve the get together, such as tea or coffee or another beverage, duly accompanied by roasted chickpeas. Continue reading
Raul Castro with Barack Obama at a press conference at the Summit of the Americas
14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 14 May 2015 — Few sentences of the Cuban official discourse have been as well-worn as one that refers to “the true intentions” hiding behind the actions of the US government.
This explains the discomfort that the “Paused General*” feels about the American Interests Section in Havana teaching courses to independent journalists or when they hold teleconferences about digital journalism, among other activities. These “illegal activities” that the US government promotes through its Havana Section even award certificates of studies to its graduates. Because “the true intentions” of the government of that country is for these journalists to undermine the strength and ideological unity of our people, piercing it with the intimidating US influence. Continue reading
Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 12 May 2015 — Yesterday, Tuesday May 11, 2015, the front page of Granma, the official organ of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), showed a photograph of the Cuban President General amicably shaking the hand of Pope Francis in Vatican City. Quirks of politics, to convince us of the survivability of the Castro regime, represented by another member of the same caste that in the decade of the 70’s and 80’s harassed members of religious orders, reviled priests and marginalized the faithful. Now, just like that, the Castro regime perfumes its stubborn Marxist conviction with myrrh and frankincense, and it is almost hard to believe that this seemingly respectable octogenarian who visits with the Pope is one of those guerrilla leaders of that Revolution that was anticlerical, antireligious and church-phobic even before declaring itself Marxist.
In retrospect, the war against religious faith in Cuba was not just a momentary attack, but a policy of systematic and ongoing state-sanctioned persecution or discrimination against individuals for reasons of their religious beliefs, while, at the same time, Marxism-Leninism, that other fake religion, kept spreading with the aid of the Kremlin’s petro-rubles. Continue reading
Scene from the movie “Return to Ithaca”
14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 4 May 2015 — The reunion of five friends on a roof terrace in Central Havana is the thread on which Return to Ithaca’s plot rests. Leonardo Padura wrote the screenplay and Laurent Cantet directed this French film about Cuban topics.
The film is currently circulating underground among Havana moviegoers, preceded by the best possible presentation: the official censorship that prevented its showing during the latest edition of the Latin American Film Festival, held in Havana in December, 2014. However, Return to Ithaca has been shown at the Charles Chaplin auditorium in Havana, in the framework of the French Film Festival, being held throughout the month of May.
The film has become the cultural phenomenon of the moment, largely “by the grace of” the official censorship in a country where direct or veiled criticism of the system remains an event, even when — as in this instance — it makes use of worn-out clichés and platitudes. Continue reading
Traditional business of a self-employed. Slushy making with an ice-grating machine in Pinar del Río. (Juan Carlos Fernández/14ymedio)
14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 2 May 2015 — Few sectors have been so viciously beaten in Cuba as the one grouped under the generic name of “entrepreneurs”, or, according to the informal term, “cuentapropistas” (“self-employed”).
The backgrounds of the self-employed have their roots in small business, family business owners and street vendors that swarmed throughout the Island until their extermination by the revolutionary guillotine called The Revolutionary Offensive of 1968. However, this is a breed that will sprout from the ashes, at any opportunity, a quality that is, at one and the same time, the secret of its survival and its curse because if there is anything that totalitarian power distrusts it is individuals with aspirations of independent entrepreneurship, especially if they have demonstrated their ability to thrive outside the “protection” of the flock.
Thus, at the smallest fissure in the system’s monolithic structure there would follow a fast flourishing trade with glimpses of prosperity for the most daring children of that wicked caste, whose autonomy allowed them to distance themselves somewhat from the political-ideological commitments hanging over the rest of society, and the respective official raids would then follow. Continue reading
Latin American Youth for Democracy at the Summit of the Americas in Panama responding to Cuban government demonstrators trying to block the civil society forum
Miriam Celaya, 13 April, 2015 — The Americas Summit in Panama will remain in my memory in the form of many images. Six intense days, which, for better or worse, strengthened and delighted me, all things considered, for I had the privilege to witness to a historical event: the Cuban presence at the most important hemispheric gathering, to have the honor to participate in it as part of independent civil society on the Island.
I won’t repeat the unhappy episodes brought about by government groups disguised as civil society, led by Mr. Abel Prieto, former Minister of Culture and current adviser to the General-President, who undertook to prove, beyond all doubt, the reactionary and exclusionary nature of the regime they represented. Let this minutest amount of data infer what kind of “superior” culture includes the public (and offshore) show of rudeness and violence of the indoctrinated and blinded Castro pack against a differing opinion. Continue reading
A group of members of the official Cuban delegation will hold a protest at the entrance of the Civil Society Forum. (EFE / Alejandro Bolívar)
14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Panama, 9 April 2015 – Just as expected, April 8th was D-day for Castro’s troops in Panama, with the Forum of Civil Society in the framework of the Summit of the Americas. The physical and verbal aggression and the “revolutionary violence” unleashed in all its public display of barbarism before the astonished eyes of those who were involuntary witnesses of the shameful act, demonstrate how long the arm of the dictatorship of the Island is, and how disrespectful they are willing to be at international democratic venues.
It would have been naive to expect any other conduct, after preludes that foretold the climax. The Castro clan was initially flattered in its infinite vanity, after half a century of being expelled from the OAS, to have been one of the first invitees to the Americas’ Summit, only to have to swallow the bitter pill, soon after, of tolerating the independent civil society’s presence at the regional event. These are appropriate games of democracy, but a humiliation that the Antillean olive green caste was not willing to accept.
Now we were able to prove that it was not by happenstance that several activists of the Cuban independent civil society were harassed on our arrival at the Tocumen airport, some detained a relatively long time and interrogated, as if we were terrorists or criminals, by authorities that report directly to the Panamanian government. “We do not want disturbances or provocations at the Summit,” was the warning we received before allowing us to continue, and following that, a polite phrase that was almost cynical: “Welcome to Panama.” No doubt this is a peculiar sense of the hospitality and the official image this country is offering these occasional visitors. Continue reading
The members of the Taliban of the Cuban official web Reflejos, offended by the presence of an independent site like 14Ymedio should be celebrating: after a week of putting up with such dangerous neighbors, it withdrew the Yoani Sanchez’s daily from its platform. Authorities have demonstrated their inability to stand the test of freedom of the press.
Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, MIAMI, Florida, 27 March 2015 — The members of the Taliban of Reflejos, the Cuban government-sponsored website, offended by the presence of an independent site like 14Ymedio should be celebrating. After a week of putting up with such dangerous neighbors, the authorities gave censure the all clear, in virtue of which 14ymedio has been “suspended or mothballed” because, in this era of technology and communications, euphemisms are also updated — it will no longer be able to be viewed on a platform which describes itself as “inclusive”.
Thus, while 14ymedio, the digital newspaper, launched from Cuba and in which several independent journalists on the Island collaborate or are involved, has demonstrated its ability to make use of any possible opening that facilitates access to its pages by Cubans from within Cuba, the authorities have shown their inability to stand the test of freedom of the press and differing opinions, particularly when participants have the moral authority of having experienced, on a daily and firsthand basis, the realities they narrate, report, or comment on. Continue reading
Mom with young “Pioneer”
The newspaper Granma insists that “it’s a code for the rights of women”. But in 1919, as many women proportionally graduated from the University of Havana as graduated from universities in the U.S. And with the Revolution, Cuban women are forced to raise their children under the mores of socialism, with the slogan “We will become like Che.”
Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 28 February 2015 — In an extensive full-page article published on February 14th, the newspaper Granma (“Un Código de Amor para la Familia“), is full of praise for the 40th anniversary of the Cuban Family Code, which – in the words of Dr. Olga Mesa Castillo, president of the Cuban Civil Rights Society and of the Family of the National Syndicate of Attorneys, and faculty professor of and consultant to the Faculty of Law of the University of Havana — “is a code about the love and the rights of women.”
Paradoxically, not even the most politically correct academic discourse of a second-hand law officer can hide certain flaws that reveal the passive role of Cuban women since, with the arrival of F. Castro to power, their autonomy was appropriated and, along with it, their ability to freely associate to defend their gender interests, issues relating to the family, the right to choose their children’s education, etc. In fact, it can be argued that the Revolution of 1959 put to rest even the last vestiges of the Cuban feminist movement Continue reading
Meeting of Cuban Civil Society Open Forum (Photo: Luz Escobar)
Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 25 February 2015 — This Wednesday, February 25th, 2015, a new meeting of the members Espacio Abierto [Cuban Civil Society Open Forum] of the independent civil society took place with a broad representation of members of various pro-democracy projects throughout the Island, as well as independent journalists. A total of 25 participants took part in the symposium, where, in addition, views on issues of interest to the Cuban reality were exchanged.
On this occasion, among the most important points of the discussion adopted by full consensus was the document “An ethical roadway for Cuban civil society” which — as its name suggests — provides a guide for the basic principles governing the conclave, and a Motion of Solidarity with civil society and the Venezuelan opposition at a time when the repression tends to flare up with a statement that emphasizes leaders like Leopoldo López, who recently served a year in prison; Maria Corina Machado, a former deputy who was attacked Continue reading
While the government exports thousands of doctors, old diseases are coming back, such as dengue fever, tuberculosis, whooping cough, chikungunya, and cholera, and new exotic diseases are appearing that had never before been seen on the Island.
Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 18 February 2015 – For a few days, Maritza thought that her four-year-old son’s persistent cough was due to a combination of a cold and his chronic allergies. The crisis had started with a fever and a few episodes of hacking cough, and had escalated over the next couple of days, even though he was no longer running a fever. The pediatrician’s diagnosis confirmed Maritza’s suspicions: Alain was suffering from a viral infection, so they would follow the normal treatment in cases like his: they would watch him, give him plenty of liquids, expectorants and antihistamines
But after two weeks, his coughing got so much stronger and frequent that Maritza ended up having to go to Pediatric Hospital at Centro Habana so that her son – already cyanotic and having respiratory spasms Continue reading
Enrique Peña Nieto and Barack Obama spoke about the Summit of the Americas in their meeting last January 6 in Washington. (EFE / Michael Reynolds)
14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 8 February 2105 — One of the most controversial issues facing both the Cuban government and Cuban independent civil society is one stemming from President Barack Obama’s December 17th speech when he stated: “Next April, we will be ready for Cuba to join the other nations in the hemisphere at the Americas Summit, but we will insist that Cuban civil society joins us so that it will not only be the leaders, but the citizens who will shape our future.”
Immediately after, Obama added: “And I urge all my colleagues and leaders to give meaning to the commitment to democracy and human rights, which is the essence of the Inter-American Charter. Let’s leave behind the legacy of colonization and communism and the tyranny of drug cartels, dictators Continue reading
14ymedio, MIRIAM CELAYA, Havana, 5 February 2015 — On 4 February 2015, the digital magazine Diario de Cuba, published a piece by Antonio González Rodiles (“Hablar con la Misma Voz) [Speaking with one Voice] in which the activist refers to an editorial by opposition lawyer René Gómez Manzano about the similarities between two documents issued by the independent civil society on the Island: the Four Points agreed to by the Cuban Civil Society Open Space this past December 22nd and the roadmap proposed by the Forum for Rights and Freedoms several days later.
It would have been nice if the editors of Diario de Cuba had made available Gómez Manzano’s work (“There is no substantial difference between the Four Points and the Roadmap, published 28 January 28 2015) through the corresponding link to the digital magazine 14ymedio, where it was published, but this editorial slip is not the subject of my analysis. I’m just trying to make some comments and annotations about the proposals González Rodiles suggested, acknowledging in advance that I am subject to misinterpretation Continue reading
Several people stand on line at a currency exchange (CADECA). (EFE)
14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 29 January 2015 — It was barely 10:00 am Wednesday, January 28th, and the currency exchange (CADECA) at Belascoaín had no national currency (CUP)*. One of the tellers explained that he had only several 50 peso bills and that was it until the “cash truck” arrived. Some customers, leaving because they could not transact business, stated that this has become the norm, not only at this currency exchange Continue reading