Million-dollar Robbery at the Cienfuegos Refinery / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 24 August 2015 — More than 500 barrels of fuel disappear daily from the terminals or storage tanks of the Camilo Cienfuegos refinery, located in the province of Cienfuegos on the south-central part of the island.

The theft, in addition to being really ingenious, has an organization that shows even seasonal patterns, revealing that there are fewer robberies in summer than in winter.

The Cienfuegos industrial enclave, after being shut down in 1995 and later materializing in the ALBA accords, with a remodeling and modernization project that cost over $83 million, reopened its doors in October 2007, as part of a large, mixed binational business between Cuba and Venezuela. However, with a processing capacity of over 8,000 barrels a day, the thefts are crippling and, let’s say it, frightening. Continue reading

The Campaign to Have a Plebiscite for Freedom in Cuba Begins

Maurice Ferré: The solution for Cuba and Puerto Rico: plebiscites.

From El Nuevo Herald, August 15, 2015 / Reprinted from Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo’s blog

Although both were the booty of war, the results for Cuba and Puerto Rico were different in the Treaty of Paris (1898) at the end of the Spanish-American War.

The Republic of Cuba was established in 1903. As a republic, Cuba prospered for 37 years. With the Constitution of 1940, eliminating the despicable Platt Amendment, Cuba advanced. But by 1959 Cuba was already a corrupt country. After 55 years of Castro-communism, Cuba went from being one of the most prosperous countries in Latin America to place itself, currently, among the poorest. Continue reading

Alarming And Strange Increase In Illness Among Cuban Colleagues In Venezuela / Juan Juan Almeida

“Outbreaks of illness increase and official silence persists.” (YA!@Ya_Venezuela)

Juan Juan Almeida, 11 August 2015 — The suspicious increase in certain inopportune illnesses is now the most sensitive factor for the normal development of the Cuban medical mission in Venezuela.

During the present year, and especially in these last weeks, an alarming and strange increase has been reported in the number of Cubans who get sick while fulfilling their “internationalist” service.

Undisclosed official data reveal that up to week 28 of 2015, there have been 514 cases of Cubans affected by respiratory infections, mainly caused by outbreaks of H3N2 influenza, Rinovirus, Parainfluenza and Metapneumovirus. The states with the highest rate of those affected are the Distrito Capital, Barinas, Monagas, Falcón, Sucre, Nueva Esparta, Mérida, Trujillo, Vargas, Carabobo, Bolívar, Yaracuy, Amazonas, Cojedes and Lara. Continue reading

Cuba’s Illegal Manipulation / Regina Anavy

Cuban Institute of Radio and Television

Juan Juan Almeida, 13 August 2015 — The Cuban media today will even use illegal techniques (indoctrination through subliminal means) in order to manipulate the population and oblige it to associate Fidel’s birthday with the opening of the U.S. Embassy.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Twenty-One Years After the Maleconazo* / Somos+, Elizabeth Cruz

The Maleconazo. Photo: Karl Poort, 5 August 1994

Somos+, Elizabeth Cruz, 5 August 2015 — We Cubans are chatty, talkative and protagonists of everything whether it’s for good or for bad. Recently arrived in Miami, I heard someone say that we’re like crabs in a pail: when one tries to escape, another one pulls it back to the bottom without needing a lid. The analogy seemed so ingenious to me that, for a long time, it was enough to confuse me about our essence.

In reality, the vast majority of Cubans are noble, brave and full of solidarity, and there are innumerable examples of this. Why delve into despair? Who benefits from our division and mistrust?

Today it’s been more than two decades since the Maleconazo took place. I don’t know if you remember, but in my memory I’m in my apartment facing the Malecón and there is a party feeling. Down the streets comes a lot of excited activity, which at first we confuse with some official act, one of the many that go by unnoticed, even for those who participate. Continue reading

Angel Santiesteban: Most of our people pretend

Disoriented in time like all ex-prisoners, Ángel Santiesteban brings with him a thousand prison demons.

Interview with Ángel Santiesteban after his conditional release – Cuba 2015.

Havana, Cuba, Augusto César San Martín —  The writer Ángel Santiesteban Prats suffers with every word he writes. “I classify my work as social,” he declares in an interview given to Cubanet. “It’s always about the environment that surrounds the Cuban,” he adds.

And “suffering” is the best word to describe a people numb with fear, according to the writer who won the Short Story Prize from the National Union of Artists and Writers in Cuba (UNEAC).

“Most of our people pretend; they hope that this will pass and that they don’t encounter that wall. They don’t brave any consequences they might receive for confronting the dictatorship,” he expressed. Continue reading

Virtual Changes / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, 20 July 2015 — The subject of cooperatives in Cuba offers much to talk about. In the first place, it would be interesting to know who had the absurd idea of dividing them into two types: agricultural and non-agricultural.

Owing to this linguistic aberration, a cooperative that is engaged in the repair, scrubbing and lubrication of vehicles is designated non-agricultural, the same as one that makes plastic articles using recycled raw material. The qualifier of “non-agricultural” should precede these peoples’ names as a divine punishment.

But furthermore, the self-employed grouped in these cooperatives, the same as the farmers who make up the agricultural ones, are not independent, but rather find themselves under the control of bureaucratic governmental organizations and institutions, the same that during countless years have been incapable of resolving the problems of production and services, such as the ministries of Agriculture, Transport, Construction, Interior Commerce and others, which now are responsible for the creation, regulation, functioning and auditing of the cooperatives. These inefficient ministries refuse to downsize or to disappear, inventing new mechanisms in order to subsist, now at the cost of the farmers and the self-employed.

Or is it that, in reality, the proclaimed changes are nothing more than simple governmental adjustments, in order to continue exercising power over every facet of society, maintaining an iron control, now without having to answer directly for production and services, tasks that they have transferred to the shoulders of the farmers and the self-employed.

So, the lands that are turned over to the peasants “in usufruct” and the premises that are leased to the self-employed continue to belong to these ministries, which, unsuccessful at performing their principal jobs, now also have the jobs of real estate agents.

From all these economic spawns, as logic dictates, you can’t expect much.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Cuban Doctors are Sent to Brazil Without a Stopover in Cuba / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 25 May 2015 — To ease the growing popular discontent, soften Petrobras’ recent and resounding scandal and regain credibility, President Dilma Rousseff, taking into account that “improving health” was the principal demand during the June 2013 demonstrations, wants to repeat history. She has asked the Cuban authorities to increase the number of physicians in order to help strengthen the “More Doctors” program and calm the majority who, as always, are the most needy.

According to official figures, up to April 2015, the health project “More Doctors” counted 18,247 professionals in more than 4,000 municipalities. And I celebrate this: healthcare should be the right of everyone without exclusion; it’s a pity that commercialization puts at risk the lives of those who can’t pay for lack of resources. It’s difficult not to consider the Brazilian request, which, although clearly without half-measures, conveys a clear Party intent, requiring the Cuban Government to send only experienced doctors. But the Cuban rulers, using and abusing an effective disloyalty, without consulting the Bolivians, respond without delay to the chords of this samba, even affecting the long-term commitments they have with the Venezuelan health programs. Continue reading

Cuba’s Automotive Heritage Has Been Virtually Plundered / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 11 May 2015 — With the relaxation of relations between the United States and Cuba, speculation has been unleashed and is causing mischief. Some experts guarantee that several U.S. companies are ready to buy the famous “almendrones”* on the island. It could be the arrangement is real; there is always some nostalgic person whose passion, need or disinformation makes him confuse reality with desire or imagination.

Absolutely out of focus, Cuba’s automotive heritage has been virtually plundered. Most of what remains – Cadillacs, Chevys, Studebakers, Pontiacs, Thunderbirds and Buicks – which still circulate on the island, had their engines replaced to be used as collective taxis (“boteros”), and upon losing originality, they also lost their exceptionalism. Continue reading

“There is no homeland other than poetry” / Luis Felipe Rojas

Luis Felipe Rojas. Photo: E. Aguado.

I want to thank my friend and excellent writer, Amir Valle, for this interview for his magazine Another Monday, and for publicizing the book that has just been published and will be presented shortly in Miami.

Amir Valle (AV): Machine for Erasing Humanities is, after Feeding the Dog-Fight, your second book since you went into exile. Although some think that poetry books are simply a collection of poems written over the passage of time, those of us who write know that between one book and another there are always secret threads, pathways that unite or split in two in order to differentiate them. What is the difference then between the two books?

Luis Felipe Rojas (LFR): I believe, without any doubt, in time. What there is between one passage and another is time, and the way in which the two poets have been changed by it: one who arrived as a frightened animal, fleeing from horror, exclusion and suffocation; and the other, who put down his head to rest for an instant and saw his children sleeping in the morning, who no longer expects a kick in the rear, and who experienced many upheavals to live in a developed country. Continue reading

Art Is A Bridge That Unites Miami And Havana / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 1 June 2015 —  In 1984, at the suggestion of Armando Hart and Marcia Leiseca, Lilian Llanes, then the director of the Wilfredo Lam Center, the Biennial of Havana was created, and since then, the dialogue of the Revolution with Cuban culture has seen itself obligated to change, passing from an intense tone to a prudent one, and it’s truly regretful that our opposition hasn’t ever managed to capture the attention of this brotherhood.

The Government knows that no respectable social movement exists without artists in the vanguard, and it also knows that the Biennial is the place where artists get together to promote art.

What’s interesting is that this cultural rendezvous, the Twelfth Biennial, in addition to converting Havana into a world center for contemporary visual arts, and invading Havana with an artillery of paintings, regiments of video art, battalions of sculptures, squadrons of installations and platoons of performance art, is creating a new manner of communication and collaboration among artists residing on the Island and in Miami. Continue reading

Cuban Professionals do Business Under the Table / Ivan Garcia

La-visita-de-Rihanna-_ab-620x330Ivan Garcia, 28 June 2015 — Already by noon, Óscar has downloaded two terabytes of audiovisual material from the Internet. Taking advantage of his lunch hour some place nearby, he hands over the flash drive to the person who is in charge of loading the “weekly packet,” a compendium of documentaries, serials, soap operas and sports, which later will circulate clandestinely throughout the Island at the speed of light.

Óscar has worked for a decade in a State organization where he can capture the television satellite signal. “They don’t only hack private businesses. The State is a big pirate; without paying for authors’ rights, under the pretext of the blockade (the embargo), it transmits U.S. programs on public television. I also take advantage of this and sell audiovisuals under the table, and a guy pays me 40 CUCs for two terabytes.” Continue reading