Killing for a Dwelling / Cubanet, Ernesto Perez Chang

A usual scene in Reparto Electrico, whether Holy Week or not

A usual scene in Reparto Electrico, whether Holy Week or not

cubanet square logoCubanet.org, Ernesto Perez Chang, Havana, 1 July 2015 – A daughter killed her mother, dismembered her with the help of her boyfriend and then reported her missing in order to be able to inherit her humble apartment in a slum where they both lived. It may seem the plot of a horror movie but it is a real story that barely a year ago shook the community of Reparto Electrico.

It was not the first time I heard such chilling news as that; but more than the blood relationship between the victim and the murderer, the motive of the killer was what accentuated the absurdity, the insanity, especially when in the streets, while the crime was being talked about, equally disturbing stories emerged about family conflicts related to the difficulties in wrangling a place to live.

Before and after that bloody episode, I learned of other similar scenarios, and, according to Orlando Asdrubal, a lawyer who has followed several cases in the Arroyo Naranjo township, the bloody events within families are increasing, all related to housing property rights. Continue reading

Juan Abreu: “Executions in Cuba Are an Untold Story” / 14ymedio, Yaiza Santos

Juan Abreu: ‘1959. Fall from Grace,’ fragment (oil on canvas, 38 x 46 cm)

Juan Abreu: ‘1959. Fall from Grace,’ fragment (oil on canvas, 38 x 46 cm)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yaiza Santos, Mexico, 27 June 2015 – Painter and writer Juan Abreu (b. Havana, 1952) has taken on the inordinate task of painting, one by one, all those executed by the Castro regime. The work in progress is entitled 1959 but encompasses 2003, the year in which Lorenzo Capello, Barbaro Sevilla and Jorge Martinez were sentenced to death in a summary trial, accused of “acts of terrorism” after trying to reroute a passenger ferry to escape to the United States.They were the last executed by the Cuban government. “Let it be known,” says Abreu.

The project emerged, he says, recently, by chance: “I was doing some paintings that had to do with shootings in Cuba, because I was struck by the character, the loner that they are going to kill. I had seen some paintings by Marlene Dumas of Palestinians and then I approached the subject. When I started researching, suddenly the faces of all these people began to appear. I began to look at the faces and read, and suddenly I realized that I was going to have to paint this. Not only as a kind of pictorial adventure, which it is, because of the quantity of portraits and the complexity of the genre, but also because it seems to me that I have a certain moral responsibility.” Continue reading

Politicians by Decree and Illiterate by Submission / Cubanet, Victor Manuel Dominguez

20080405035345-raulcubanet square logoCubanet.org, Victor Manuel Dominguez, Havana, 24 June 2015 – Abel Prieto rides again. Not as the author of two little novels whose names I cannot remember. Nor as the ex-president of a union of writers and authors more sold to the powers-that-be than self-help books at the Havana book fair, or reproductions of “Still Life with the Leader” at an art exposition committed to who knows what.

Never ever as that ex-minister of culture, with long hair and little sense, who declared that poets like Raul Rivera could be jailed, but they would not show up shot in the head at the edge of some ditch. Now, such a sad political figure, he rides as the cultural adviser to the Cuban president.

Other “Kultural Pajes”

As the Spanish writer Arturo Perez Reverte said in his article “Kultural Pajes” from the book With Intent to Offend, “The more illiterate the politicians are – in Spain those two words almost always are synonymous – the more they like to appear in the cultural pages of the newspapers.” Continue reading

Human Development in a Country without Freedom? / Cubanet, Jose Hugo Fernandez

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The regime has dedicated itself to sugarcoating the pill for organizations like the UN, UNESCO and UNICEF

cubanet square logoCubanet.org, Jose Hugo Fernandez, Havana, 23 June 2015 – Recently, during a conference at the University of Puerto Rico, I was astonished to hear how a teacher cited Cuba as such an example of Human Development for the Caribbean region and the whole continent. No political deliberation was evident in her statements. She simply appealed to statistics and reports by international institutions, apparently trusting completely in the reputation of the issuer, and without reference to other more vital sources for comparison. The thing is that it made me feel ashamed somehow of representing my country under circumstances in which perhaps I should have felt proud.

The cynical compromise, well structured and promptly placed in orbit, can become a historical fact. Machiavelli had it right, more than five centuries ago, so how much better will our chiefs, his gifted students, have learned it, even if they act much more savagely. Continue reading

Domestic Tourism, the Faces of Deceit / Cubanet, Ernesto Perez Chang

Cuban guests can only observe foreigners enjoy yachting trips.  They are prohibited from this activity (photo by the author)

Cuban guests can only observe foreigners enjoy yachting trips. They are prohibited from this activity (photo by the author)

cubanet square logoCubanet.org, Ernesto Perez Chang, Havana, 16 June 2015 — To judge by the avalanche of television programs that in recent weeks have been dedicated to so-called “domestic tourism,” in Cuba all families have adequate income to become a major market for the island’s hotel groups and resorts.

Several Round Tables with the participation of ministers, vice-ministers, and company heads, all tied to the tourism sector, plus extensive reports on the Cuban Television National News detail the offers for this summer, present promotional campaigns in hotels and shopping centers and exhort the “Cuban family” to make reservations as soon as possible due to high demand.

The propagandistic marathon gives the sense that the economies within our homes are booming and that this country, replete with multitudes living below the poverty line, only exists in “enemy propaganda.” Continue reading

Professionals of ‘Snitching’ / Cubanet, Camilo Ernesto Olivera

"Combative vigilants." Sign about the CDR (photo from the internet)

“Combative vigilants.” Sign about the CDR (photo from the internet)

cubanet square logoCubanet.org, Camilo Ernesto Olivera Peidro, 18 June 2015 – An old man is going out of his house in the little village named Henequen Viejo, near the Port of Mariel. Everyone there knows him as Alfonso. In reality, his name is Idelfonso Estevez. At first glance he seems like an old man like so many others.

However, the village’s inhabitants and his closest family members fear and hate him. Alfonso is not surrounded by the protective affection of his fellow man. The local members of the Ministry of the Interior (MININT) take care of him. He is one of their most notorious “snitches.”

His story began years ago. He belonged to a group known as the “Guarapitos”: Alfonso, Jesus, El Viola, Camilo and Titico Borrego. They formed a group of auxiliaries in service to MININT at the beginning of the 1970’s. They dedicated themselves to watching everyone in Henequen Viejo. They gave away those who opposed the regime or anyone who annoyed them. They turned the area into a stronghold of terror. Continue reading

Che Guevara, the Commercial Fetish / 14ymedio, Hector Dario Reyes

The murals with the Argentinean’s face cannot escape the wear and tear of a reality that little resembles what he planned

The murals with the Argentinean’s face cannot escape the wear and tear of a reality that little resembles what he planned (Silvia Corbelle/14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Hector Dario Reyes, Santa Clara, 15 June 2015 – “He was a man surrounded by good photographers,” is how a clever self-employed tour guide describes Ernesto Guevara to his clients in the streets of Santa Clara. The man lives by showing the face of the Argentine and telling of his hyperbolic exploits. This Sunday he has had good profits, taking advantage of the 87th anniversary of the birth of one who long ago stopped being a hero and turned into a fetish.

With the passage of the years, the plundering of the guerrilla’s image and the commercialization of his likeness have been imposed on this island. “Santa Clara, the city of Marta and of Che,” says the motto of the provincial capital, although Guevara was not born here. The Villa Clara capital tries to extract a return from the cheesiest ornaments with his name, and the whole tourist network is fed with some bit of his story.

Canek Sanchez Guevara, recently deceased musician and writer and grandson of the Cuban revolutionary commander, hated the t-shirts and pictures of his grandfather. “There is one that unifies his face with that of Christ that is really degrading,” he told his friends. Continue reading

Beef, Only for the Privileged / Cubanet, Roberto Jesús Quiñones Haces

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Cuban butcher shop (photo from the internet)

cubanet square logoCubanet.org, Roberto Jesus Quinones Haces, Guantanamo, 12 June 2015 – Among the list of prohibitions imposed on Cubans from 1959 until today is freely fishing, having a boat and wandering around the island or giving our children an education in non-state schools, among others. Until recently it was forbidden to stay in a hotel, sell cars acquired after 1959, sell housing, leave the country without permission from the government, possess foreign currency and buy in stores for tourists and foreign technicians.

Another unusual prohibition that we Cubans have is that the slaughter of large livestock and the consumption of their meat is penalized with harsh jail sentences. For more than 25 years eating a beefsteak has become the dream of the great majority of Cubans. Here, the only ones who can are the leaders, tourists and those with the money to buy it in the currency stores, or those with enough bravery – and also the contacts – to buy it illegally. Not even in the most distinguished restaurant does there appear the longed-for filet. Continue reading

Cane Cutters Complain about Their Working Conditions / 14ymedio, Fernando Donate Ochoa

Cane cutting in Cuba (Conexion Cubana)

Cane cutting in Cuba (Conexion Cubana)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Fernando Donate Ochoa, Holguin, 31 May 2015 – The recently concluded sugar harvest failed to fulfill production forecasts. Analysts have struggled to explain the reasons for the repeated failure and have spoken of incomplete or ineffective repairs and poor organization, but none have mentioned the social factor.

Workers involved in cutting cane in Holguin complained of the abandonment to which they were subjected and multiple violations of their labor rights during the harvest that just ended.

Members of the Basic Economic Unit from the Loynaz Hechavarria center from the Cueto municipality say they worked more than 16 hours a day beginning at five in the morning during the four months of the harvest. Continue reading

Mariel, the Past and Present of an Exodus / Cubanet, Camilo Ernesto Olivera

Fishing school, El Mosquito camp in 1980, seen from the point of view of the River Homonimo (photo by the author)

Fishing school, El Mosquito camp in 1980, seen from the point of view of the River Homonimo (photo by the author)

“They left through here and will never return,” recited a sign on the wall of the power plant. Nevertheless, those who “left” became the support of those who stayed. Today many share the Miami exile with those who said goodbye to them by throwing eggs or rocks

cubanet square logoCubanet.org, Camilo Ernesto Olivera Peidro, Havana, 28 May 2015 – In the town of Boca del Mariel there is a small beach preferred by the locals. Next to it are the facilities of the former bulk sugar terminal. A little further beyond operates the Maximo Gomez power plant.

One Sunday in mid-April 1980 the beach-goers saw four boats flying the flag of the United States enter. They observed how they were directed toward the area of the neighboring pier. At that time the presence of armed Cuban officials became apparent. Later it was learned that there, in a sugar storage warehouse, was the temporary headquarters of the captaincy.

In the days following, the presence of boats and yachts from the north increased. The people from the town of La Boca as well as Mariel were taken militarily by army troops and police personnel. Continue reading

State Inefficiency, Convenient Business / Cubanet, Ernesto Perez Chang

Selling yields no benefits (photo by the author)

Selling yields no benefits (photo by the author)

cubanet square logoCubanet.org, Ernesto Perez Chang, Havana, 22 May 2015 — Attestations about poor or non-existent attention in Cuban state businesses are so abundant that few pay attention to them. In order to offer a response to the indignant, the island’s official press searches for causes of such abuse not in the inefficiency of the state enterprise but in other absurd factors like poor education or lack of professionalism, which do not reveal the corrupt essence of a system that, in spite of the proof of its uselessness, will be kept in place by government will, as is expressed in the Guidelines of the Sixth Congress of the Communist Party.

Why do we receive better treatment in a private restaurant or cafeteria? Why do customer demands bother the clerk and managers of a state eatery and why do they not improve the quality of their offerings? Why do they hide behind any justification in order to remain closed or to reduce their public service hours to the minimum?

According to Vladimir Rodriguez, owner of a busy little restaurant in downtown Vedado, the problem is in the objectives of each:

“As the owner of my business I seek to attract more customers, to offer more variety. I listen to the opinions of the people, the suggestions, I serve them like they were kings because it winds up as earnings. In a state restaurant the earnings do not come from the clients’ consumption and satisfaction but in that quite miserable thing that happens in the warehouse, in the sale to the black market of everything that arrives to be produced and sold to the customers, who turn into a nuisance. What little gets to the table is only to justify the work in case an inspector comes, but the clerks as well as the manager live on the black market. Continue reading

They Murdered My Son in the Streets of Camaguey / 14ymedio, Pedro Armando Junco

Mandy Junco killed last Saturday in Camaguey.  (Pedro Junco, Fury of the Winds blog)

Mandy Junco killed last Saturday in Camaguey. (Pedro Junco, Fury of the Winds blog)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Armando Junco, Camaguey, 22 May 2015 – Pedro Armando Junco Torres, alias “Mandy,” 28 years of age, was stabbed to death in Camaguey in the early morning of Saturday, May 16, a day before the beginning of the rock festival Sounds of the City. Mandy would have participated in it as guitarist and leader of the band Strike Back. His father, writer Pedro Junco, Thursday posted on his blog, The Fury of the Winds, this open letter in which he asks for “true justice.”

They Murdered my Son on the Streets of Camaguey

By Pedro Armando Junco

It is very difficult for me to write. All you mothers and fathers who read these lines, put yourselves in my place. Just for a minute think that it was your son who was stabbed to death in the street at the hands of four killers who did not even know him, who did not even do it to steal from him or to settle accounts. They think that the motivation was to kill, the pleasure of killing. Put yourself there for only one minute and then assimilate what you have felt in your hearts. That is what I am enduring and will endure until the end of my existence. Continue reading