Habaneros Comment on "The Wonder" of Their City / Iván García

“The Wonder” Source: Deviant Art

City of Havana – One of the New7Wonder Cities of the World.

Ivan Garcia, 6 June 2016 — From Miraflores, south of Havana, Sergio comes twice a week with his wheelbarrow to the dump on Calle 100 in Marianao to pick up old junk that he later sells for a few pesos in a traveling fair in the slums of La Víbora.

Among the things he has for sale are a book with a red cover about the external debt signed by Fidel Castro, a crumpled police novel by Daniel Chavarría, three faded blouses, two cut-up pairs of jeans and some carpentry tools. Continue reading “Habaneros Comment on "The Wonder" of Their City / Iván García”

Why Military Service Should Be Abolished in Cuba / Iván García

Servicio-Militar-_ab-620x330Ivan Garcia, 23 April 2016 — They work as a pair. Raciel, a black man almost six feet tall, with long arms and legs and a pock-marked complexion, is in charge of the fumigation equipment, while Yilsander, a light-skinned, pudgy man, carries a black bag and a clipboard, where he writes down the houses that have already been disinfected in the search ordered by Raúl Castro to minimize the presence of the mosquito that transmits dengue, chikungunya and zika.

Below a torrid sun, the two go house by house in the Havana neighborhood of Víbora. They wear olive-green pants, caps and shirts, the uniform designed by some sadistic tailor who ignored the tropical temperature of the island. And they have on horrifyingly heavy boots with steel tips on the toes. Continue reading “Why Military Service Should Be Abolished in Cuba / Iván García”

Prague Happily Infects its Visitors / Dora Leonor Mesa

Dora Leonor Mesa, 2 May 2016 — Some years ago I referred to how well Vaclav Havel knew the Cubans. I never imagined that one day I would travel to the capital of the Czech Republic: Prague, the city of 100 towers. My husband always spoke to me with nostalgia for that city which he visited several times during his years as an athlete on the Cuban gymnastics team.

In 2015 I discovered Prague when I went as a delegate to the Forum 2000, an exceptional event dedicated to education and democracy. As scheduled, keeping my promise to the Infant of Prague was among my priorities, and I attended a Mass in his church. Some time ago I wrote a book of poems dedicated to the Infant of Prague that may someday be published. Continue reading “Prague Happily Infects its Visitors / Dora Leonor Mesa”

Cuban Alternative Journalism: Challenges and Commitments / Iván García

In the homage that the Club of Independent Cuban Writers paid the poet, Rafael Alcides, January 26, 2016, among other independent journalists were Luis Cino (shirt with blue and white stripes), Iván García (dark red shirt) and Jorge Olivera (black jacket), who was a political prisoner during the Black Spring of 2003.
In the homage that the Club of Independent Cuban Writers paid the poet, Rafael Alcides, January 26, 2016, among other independent journalists were Luis Cino (shirt with blue and white stripes), Iván García (dark red shirt) and Jorge Olivera (black jacket), who was a political prisoner during the Black Spring of 2003.

Ivan Garcia, 3 May 2016 — One morning in 1996, the poet and journalist, Raúl Rivero, Director of the press agency Independent Cuba Press, called me at home in Víbora, to ask me to cover the trial of a dissident in a municipal court in Cerro.

The reporter, Ariel de Castro Tapia, (presently living in Turkey) and I were to write up a statement after the judicial ruling and read it on the Radio Martí news broadcast at noon. Continue reading “Cuban Alternative Journalism: Challenges and Commitments / Iván García”

MININT Confronts What Could Be Its Worst Challenge: Information Theft / Juan Juan Almeida

Raúl Castro pins the title of Hero of the Cuban Republic on division general Carlos Fernández Gondín.

Juan Juan Almeida, 31 March 2016 — Not so long ago there was a rumor that high officials of MINIT had been arrested by the Ministry. In agreement with those implicated in the event and making a clear allusion comparable to Case No. 1 of 1989 [a highly respected Cuban general was executed for drug trafficking], there was speculation about a new report. But the rumor faded away under a suspicious silence and a potent, air-tight cloak of secrecy.

Theories have flaws, and even the Roman Empire lasted four centuries longer than predicted.

What’s certain is that the Division General, Carlos Fernández Gondín, left his office in the MININT building accompanied by a doctor, after an attack of rage that gave him a stroke and left him hospitalized. Continue reading “MININT Confronts What Could Be Its Worst Challenge: Information Theft / Juan Juan Almeida”

State Security fears a Cuban Snowden / Somos+, Javier Cabrera

Somos+, Javier Cabrera, 1 April 2016 — Yesterday the news came out in various media: Ultra-secret information has been stolen from the Cuban Ministry of the Interior. The poor proclamation “Raúl’s Sovereign Technology” showed itself more focused on censorship of content and limiting communication than on constructing a true plan of security in the service of the nation.

It’s not the first theft of confidential information, although the previous ones were by citizens and not directly by people in the military, like the surveillance videos in Havana or the telephone directory of the state phone company ETECSA. The absurd pledge of reinventing technology has ended up being, as expected, manipulation. Continue reading “State Security fears a Cuban Snowden / Somos+, Javier Cabrera”

Cuban Education through the Keyhole / Somos+

Somos+, Amelia Albernas, 26 February 2016 — In my time, professors were proud of being what they were: a living gospel. We students were instructed by them and, furthermore, educated. The values and principles I have are thanks to my parents — one a psychologist and the other a history teacher — and to those teachers who had a true love for their profession.

Sadly, the new generations of Cubans don’t count and won’t be able to count on this. Material deficiencies and — why not? — spiritual ones, also, have wrecked the education that many of us received in past decades. The social and economic deterioration of the country has destroyed educational teaching. The exodus of teachers to other professions with better salaries is a reality that is striking but perfectly understandable. Our teachers lack great commitment, but it’s hard to ask for that commitment if salaries are low. Continue reading “Cuban Education through the Keyhole / Somos+”

Crisis in Agriculture: Land for Those Who Work It / Dimas Castellanos

By Dimas Castellano, 9 February 2016

Property and crisis

Once the Cuban Government arrived in power, imbued by an exacerbated voluntarism, it ignored the laws that govern the economy and subordinated them to ideology. From this moment on, the loss of the autonomy that is required by economic processes was converted into a factor of poverty.

In 1959, with the first agrarian reform law, the Government handed over property titles to 100,000 farmers but concentrated in its own hands some 40.2 percent of cultivable land. In 1963, with the second agrarian reform law, the 1,000 farms that had more than five horses swelled the fund of State lands, which grew to almost 70 percent.

In 1976, with the objective of decreasing the numbers of small owners, the Government initiated a project of “cooperativization,” through which it created the Cooperatives of Agricultural Production (CPA), thereby raising the share of land that was State property to 75 percent. The result was inefficiency, scarcity of products and high prices, which obliged the Government in 1993 to convert Continue reading “Crisis in Agriculture: Land for Those Who Work It / Dimas Castellanos”

Cuba and the Phantom of the Internet / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Free Internet, Mayor’s Office of Guayaquil (Ecuador). Image courtesy of photographer Julio R.B. for Jeovany Jimenez Vega.

Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 26 January 2016 — A ghost is haunting Cuba: the phantom of the Internet. All the forces of the old guard have joined in a holy crusade against that spectre: the Castros and Ramiro Valdes*, the censor, before ‘Furry’ Colomé Ibarra and now Fernández Gondín**, the radical communists and all the opportunistic cops … Thus begins the Manifesto of the Internet for the Cuban people, placed at a horizon so far away that it’s as elusive as everything else concerning connection to the outside world.

Walking through any park in Guayaquil, Ecuador, at every Metro stop, in many cafes and shops, in every mall, and at every corner, I find at each step an announcement of a free Wi-fi signal, and my thoughts fly to my closed little island.

Internet censorship in Cuba is a subject that has been brought up so many times it now stinks. The amply demonstrated reluctance of the Cuban Government to cede a bit of ground in its information monopoly has ended up putting our country at the bottom of the index of connectivity on the whole American continent, and in the select group of those who are behind globally. Continue reading “Cuba and the Phantom of the Internet / Jeovany Jimenez Vega”

Discrimination Against the Poor, an Injustice in Present-day Cuba / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 11 January 2016 — Racial and gender designations were fundamental in the dynamics of international politics, basically dominated by white men; but, fortunately, and like the rough action of a Russian-made Aurika washing machine, there are cycles with an expiration date.

Several penal codes in the world sanction racism, homophobia and whatever other ways to exclude human beings; and, disgracefully, there are people and groups that, clinging to outworn concepts, tarnish themselves by raising flags, at least in Cuba, that are shameful and unrestrained. Continue reading “Discrimination Against the Poor, an Injustice in Present-day Cuba / Juan Juan Almeida”

It is Better to Run a Risk than to Shut Up / Angel Santiesteban

Correspondence between Toine Heijmans and Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

The renown Dutch writer and journalist, Toine Heijmans, a regular columnist for the national Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant, and who sponsored Ángel Santiesteban during his political imprisonment, published the correspondence they maintained during those two and a half years. He has dedicated four pages to it in the prestigious medium. Continue reading “It is Better to Run a Risk than to Shut Up / Angel Santiesteban”

Higher Education in Cuba: A Vision (Part 2) / Somos+

Somos+, Rolby Milian, 6 January 2016 — So I begin this second part of my comments remembering the announcement, this past September 6, 7 and 8, through the media of propaganda and creation of the Roundtable excitement, of new “innovative measures” in higher education.

The measures were announced and explained by the Minister himself, Rodolfo Alarcón Ortiz and a government team. It’s worth pointing out, that among other ideas presented by these gentlemen, is the legal reestablishment for the continuing training of professionals, the creation of a new educational level (“non-university higher education”), the requirement of English in order to graduate and the gradual reduction of the length of degree courses to four years.
Continue reading “Higher Education in Cuba: A Vision (Part 2) / Somos+”

Higher education in Cuba: A Vision (Part 1) / Somos+

Students at the University of Havana

Somos+, Rolby Milian, 5 January 2016 — Education has always been one of the propaganda bulwarks that the Havana regime has used to sell the image of Cuba as a perfect, paradise society. Like so many others, this has resulted in a lie of gigantic dimensions. But it’s no secret that lately the profound crisis in which the Cuban educational system is plunged has become more and more evident. Fraud, the selling of exams, poor academic results and the critical shortage of professors are some of the reasons that the system of Cuban education, so acclaimed, free and promoted, is in trouble.

Each one of the levels of teaching, by its intrinsic characteristics, suffers decadence in its own way. This time I propose to explain my vision of the problems that presently afflict higher education in our country. Articulating problems and blowing off steam is something that’s been done for more than 50 years; many of us Cubans know very well how to do it — some freely and where they like, and others in the context they consider convenient and comfortable. Continue reading “Higher education in Cuba: A Vision (Part 1) / Somos+”

Clandestine Fight Clubs are Booming in Cuba / Juan Juan Almeida

Two officers of the People’s Revolutionary Police (PNR) in Cuba in a patrol car.

Juan Juan Almeida, 7 January 2016 — Tired of family conflicts, without a future, restless by today and without a better model for living, clandestine fights become a place where hundreds of Cuban adolescents believe they can fulfill the dream of becoming famous and earning “a lot” of money. It’s a shame that they receive little interest from the State and no sensitivity.

The phenomenon is already part of the underworld, a jungle that seems to combine sports, barbarity and human decadence; something that for the time being can’t be confronted, because it’s impossible to put the brakes on those who have nothing to lose.

A trainer and former member of the Cuban team that participated in the Sydney Olympics explained to me that “with only 5 CUCs (or its equivalent in national money) and the appropriate contacts, anyone can come to those closed and shady places to witness an interesting spectacle. Continue reading “Clandestine Fight Clubs are Booming in Cuba / Juan Juan Almeida”

Exodus, Cubans and the Law of Adjustment: the Beginning of the End? / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 30 November 2015 — The present migratory crisis, unleashed by the Nicaraguan Government’s refusal to permit transit through its territory for Cubans walking to the United States, has brought to the foreground a drama that has been going on for decades.

Too many stories of suffering and death have spattered the dangerous route followed by tens of thousands of emigrants from the island going north through Central America. But what could have been a rapid solution of the problem at the meeting of chancellors of the Central American Integration System (SICA) which took place this week in San Salvador was frustrated by the intransigence of Daniel Ortega’s Government, obstinately opposed to permitting the caravan’s passing in spite of the good will shown by the majority of the governments in the region in handling the matter as a humanitarian problem rather than a question of national security. Continue reading “Exodus, Cubans and the Law of Adjustment: the Beginning of the End? / Jeovany Jimenez Vega”