The Censors Talk about Censorship / 14ymedio, Victor Ariel Gonzalez

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Victor Ariel Gonzalez, Havana, 30 March 2015 — The Surprised Pupil is a program whose first mistake is the name. With quite mediocre staging, presentation and content, really this television program has nothing surprising to see. But to hear, maybe some viewer or another was hoping that its most recent on-air output would tackle seriously a very thorny topic: censorship.

However, that viewer with high expectations was soon disappointed. Censorship is a problem that affects every Cuban producer today, but The Pupil did not worry about that. It was foreign censorship, that which nations supposedly suffer “under the dominion of big corporations,” that occupied the program.

There was even a segment dedicated to McCarthyism, that period of “repressive delirium” in the United States in which “great artists lived through times of accusations, interrogations, trials and torture,” said the program’s host. Not even hinted at were the anti-intellectual raids undertaken by the Cuban government, those whose spirit was defined by Fidel Castro in his phrase reminiscent of Mussolini: “Within the Revolution everything, outside the Revolution nothing.” Continue reading

“You have to hear every silly thing in this country!” / Cubanet, Orlando Freire Santana

Self-employed watch repairer. “We change every kind of battery” Cuba_archivo

Self-employed watch repairer. “We change every kind of battery” Cuba_archivo

A letter published in the official Granma by one its readers asks the State to limit the prices charged by the self-employed in order to protect “the working people from abusive prices”

cubanet square logoCubanet.org, Orlando Freire Santana, Havana, 27 March 2015 – Notwithstanding the image that the Castro regime strives to present about small, private enterprise, in the sense of having expanded this activity as part of the economic transformations that are taking place on the island, the truth is that the non-state sector of the economy faces more than a few obstacles.

High taxes, lack of a wholesale market where supplies and raw materials can be acquired, the lack of recognition by the authorities of the total costs that private businesses incur, as well as the excess of audits of Sworn Personal Income Statements, among others, are some of the daily hurdles that stand in the way of the self-employed.

Last Friday, March 20, the newspaper Granma published two works that contain “recommendations” that could obstruct or kill self-employment. The first of these, “Money Well Paid?” is a report about the payments by state entities to self-employed workers in the Holguin province. Continue reading

An Afternoon for Danilo (El Sexto) / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

Danilo’s (El Sexto’s) works displayed on the walls of La Paja Records studio (Luz Escobar)

Danilo’s (El Sexto’s) works displayed on the walls of La Paja Recold studio (Luz Escobar)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, 29 March 2015 – As part of the campaign to demand freedom for the artist Danilo Maldonado, known as “El Sexto,” several artistic activities took place this Saturday at la Paja Recold, the studio of the band Porno para Ricardo.

On the walls of the place were works by the graffiti artist who has been incarcerated since last December 25. El Sexto was arrested shortly before carrying out a performance that consisted of releasing in a public square two pigs with the names of “Fidel and Raul.” The crime that has been charged against him is contempt.

Several friends from all over the world and human rights organizations have demanded his immediate release. Yesterday’s activities joined those demands for his freedom. Among the most important moments of the afternoon was the performance by Tania Bruguera of The Whisper of Tatlin which opened the studio’s microphones to the fifty attendees of the encounter to ask for – in a minute each – Danilo Maldonado’s liberty. Continue reading

Will the mattress arrive before the baby turns a year old? / 14ymedio, Yosmany Mayeta

Woman with a mattress (Yosmany Mayeta)

Woman with a mattress (Yosmany Mayeta)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yosmany Mayeta Labrada, Santiago de Cuba, 28 March 2015 — The Gonzalez family baby slept her first weeks in a plastic tub lined with sheets and blankets. She could not use the crib because her parents did not manage to buy the mattress that is assigned by the Santiago de Cuba ration market to expectant mothers.

Shortages of the product and delays in its arrival to those in need create discomfort and situations like that of this baby in homes all over the country but with greater severity in the eastern region.

Outside of some stores intended for that purpose there are long lines of pregnant women and their families to buy the so-called “module basket” that is given at a subsidized price to each mother. The prices in the free market are unaffordable for a good many families. They need at least 50 convertible pesos (CUC) in order to get a mattress in the hard currency market, while the average monthly salary does not exceed 20 CUC. Continue reading

They Donate Blood for Bread with Ham / Cubanet, Pablo Gonzalez

cubanet square logoCubanet, Pablo Gonzalez, Havana, 20 March 2015 – Each state enterprise has to deliver a quantity of blood donations each month in order to comply with the rule established by the Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP). Each clinic has to make one hundred donations per month.

Donor in Cuba, where the sanitary conditions leave much to be desired (photo PG)

Donor in Cuba, where the sanitary conditions leave much to be desired (photo PG)

The pressure that MINSAP and the Committees in Defense of the Revolution (CDRs) put on the clinics makes their workers go out into the streets desperately searching for donors.

Without doing any prior testing they carry out the blood extractions with poor medical instrumentation.

Voluntary blood donation in Cuba, begun in 1962, has grown to reach and exceed the target set by the World Health Organization for one donation for each 20 inhabitants. According to the Granma newspaper, blood donations exceeded what was planned in the last two years.

Donor Yasmany Machado, 27 years of age from Sancti Spiritus in the Fomento Province, commented on this report in Granma on the web page of the daily itself:

“Since 2005 I have been a blood donor more than 20 times for the benefit of others. Now I ask myself the following question: Are donors encouraged by MINSAP and the CDRs? Is it perhaps resolved with a role for the district? Why does MINSAP not worry about the health of the donors?” Continue reading

Heavy Police Operation against Merchants and Carriers / 14ymedio, Yosmany Mayeta Labrada

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yosmany Mayeta Labrada, Santiago de Cuba, 21 March 2015 — Since early this Saturday, a heavy police operation had as its objective self-employed workers, street vendors and private carriers in Santiago de Cuba. The forces of the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) reported that the raid was aimed against high meat prices in the farmer’s markets and the sale of potatoes in illegal distribution networks.

Most of the arrests and fines occurred in the Venceremos and Altamira suburbs of Santiago de Cuba. The uniformed agents arrived in the first hours of the morning and demanded the vendors show their licenses for engaging in commercial activity. Until midday, the toll of the operation was the seizure of dozens of kilograms of pork meat and thousands of pesos in fines.

Romilio Jardines, vendor of meat and agricultural products, was fined 700 Cuban pesos, although he said that his merchandise was not removed. Nevertheless, he affirmed that “they came prepared in case one refused.” The operation included special forces known as “black berets” who surrounded the area’s markets and the main streets of both suburbs. Continue reading

Wheeling and Dealing with Plastic / 14ymedio, Lilianne Ruiz

Plastic footwear stall at the market of La Cuevita (14ymedio)

Plastic footwear stall at the market of La Cuevita (14ymedio)

Markets all over the Island are supplied with objects made on the illegal circuit of a material mostly derived from industrial waste or leftovers from the dump

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Lilianne Ruiz, Havana, 20 March 2015 – At the market of La Cuevita in San Miguel del Padron, some thousand people from all over the Island daily buy household goods, flip-flops and toys, all made of plastic. The purchasers come especially from rural areas where the economic situation is more precarious and the only thing that abounds is scarcity.

In order to sell in the market it is necessary to have a state license and a letter signed by the producers, also authorized, from whom the articles must be bought. The inspectors who pass through the sales stalls may require this letter, but in practice they pass with hand extended seeking money in exchange for not imposing a fine of 1,500 pesos on whomever Continue reading

Fidel Castro Warns That Venezuela Has Latin America’s Best Equipped Army / 14ymedio

Cartoon bubble:  "Forget about the Gringos; don’t worry, boy, I have the control!" Cartoon by Manuel Guillen (La Prensa, Nicaragua)

Cartoon bubble: “Forget about the Gringos; don’t worry, boy, I have the control!” Cartoon by Manuel Guillen (La Prensa, Nicaragua)

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14ymedio, 17 March 2015 – Coinciding with this Tuesday’s meeting in Caracas of the Summit for the Bolivarian Alliance for America (ALBA) to analyze the latest confrontation between the United States and Venezuela, Fidel Castro has written a letter published by the newspaper Granma in which he praises the attitude of the “heroic people of Bolivar and Chavez” and reminds us that “Venezuela has the best equipped soldiers and officers of Latin America.

The Cuban ex-president stresses the “exemplary discipline and the spirit of the National Bolivarian Armed Forces,” and concludes that “whatever the imperialism of the United States does, it can never count on doing what it did during so many years,” referring to the military coups that occurred in Latin America in the 20th Century. “When you met with those officers in recent days, you could tell they are ready to give their last drop of blood for Continue reading

Union of Young Communists (UJC): Who Is For That? / 14ymedio, Victor Ariel Gonzalez

9th Congress of the UJC (EFE)

9th Congress of the UJC (EFE)

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14ymedio, Victor Ariel Gonzalez, Havana, 24 February 2015 — The only thing Damian shares with Karl Marx may be the thick beard. In everything else, the Havana engineering student is quite different from the German philosopher who wrote Das Kapital. And the main contrast between them is found in their ways of thinking because for this young man who enjoys sporting the lumberjack style – the “lumberjack” fashion is spreading through the capital – the last thing he wants to talk about is class struggle, historical demands or communism. “Who is for that?” he asks.

To judge by his tone, it seems few. Instead, youngsters like Damian and his girlfriend, or the friends with whom they usually meet in places like the Bertold Brecht café theater or the Cuban Art Factory, prefer to talk about European football leagues while drinking beer paid for in hard currency. Things like the 10th Congress of the Union of Young Communists (UJC) appear nowhere in their conversations, despite the official propaganda that has been unleashed in an intense campaign about the event. According to the press permitted in Cuba, this “will be a congress that looks like Cuban youth.”

Adhering strictly to that maxim, for starters, a good part of the delegates to the Congress must come from abroad, given the number of people who are leaving Cuba. Of the almost half million who have emigrated in the last ten years, a high percentage are young Continue reading

Rationing in Venezuela: A ‘Déjà vu’ for Cubans / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya

The ration book (14ymedio)

The ration book (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, Miriam Celaya, 11 March 2015 — Commissar Nicolas Maduro, president of Venezuela to the misfortune of its people and – let’s admit it – also for the prolongation of our own misfortune, has just announced recently the installation of 20,000 digital fingerprint readers in state food markets and in several private sector retail chains that, according to him, adopted the initiative “voluntarily” after meetings held with the government.

Let’s draw a merciful veil over the aforementioned secret meetings and imagine the atmosphere that must have reigned there in the midst of the “permanent economic war” that Venezuela suffers, the successive “soft coups” that have been provoked almost bi-weekly in that South American nation – according to the president’s denunciations – and the growing repression of opposition factions and civil society that demonstrate publicly and openly against the government. Continue reading

Lettuces of Lead / 14ymedio, Rosa Lopez

Urban organic garden in Miramar, Havana (flickr)

Urban organic garden in Miramar, Havana (flickr)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Rosa Lopez, Havana, 1 March 2015 – The raised bed exhibits its curly lettuces a few meters from the rough concrete building. There is an hour to go before the urban organic garden near Hidalgo Street in the Plaza township begins its sale, but already customers are thronging to get fresh vegetables and lower prices. None of them knows that the products they will buy here are neither organic nor very safe for their health.

Urban agriculture is a phenomenon that dawned in the nineties with the rigors of the Special Period. In the words of a humorist, “We Havanans turned ourselves into peasants and planted leeks even on balconies.” The economic crisis and the inefficiency of state farms required taking advantage of empty lots in order to cultivate greens and vegetables.

The initiative helped all these years to alleviate shortages and has many defenders who emphasize their community character, so different from the mechanization of modern agriculture. Nevertheless, together with the undeniable merits are hidden serious problems that point to the contamination of the crops with wastes characteristic of urban areas. Continue reading

Birds of Ill Omen / 14ymedio, Eliecer Avila

A young man with a tablet

A young man with a tablet

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14ymedio, Eliecer Avila, 28 February 2015 — A topic that is raised for discussion these days is the obsolete argument that some official voices never stop repeating at every opportunity they have to strain relations between Cuba and the United States or rather between Cuba and the Outside World. I am referring to the supposed “need” of implementing “appropriate measures designed to avoid the penetration that the enemy hopes to make into Cuban society.”

Just a few days ago, in the context of the first National Workshop on Computing and Cyber-Security held in Havana, with the physical or virtual presence of thousands of computer engineers, really absurd speeches Continue reading