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

National Strategy For The Development Of The Infrastructure For Broadband Connectivity In Cuba / Republic of Cuba, Ministry of Communications

internet-en-cubaThe document below was obtained and circulated by Juan Juan Almeida.

Following are the first few paragraphs of the document, followed by a downloadable PDF of the entire document.

NATIONAL STRATEGY FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE INFRASTRUCTURE FOR BROADBAND CONNECTIVITY IN CUBA

(Source: Republic of Cuba, Ministry of Communications)

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

JUNE 2015

INTRODUCTION

The project of National Strategy for the Development of the Infrastructure for Broadband Connectivity in Cuba “constitutes the policy line to follow for the development of the infrastructure that will serve as support for the implementation of an integral policy for perfecting computer access in Cuban society.”

The fundamental objective of the National Strategy is to organize, regulate and trace the lines for the integral development of Broadband in Cuba. Consequently, it will serve as a guide for national entities and the population, in the development, exploration and utilization of communication services. The range of the objectives, features and goals of this strategy will be put into place in the period of 2015 to 2020, in the framework of a projection up to the year 2030.

The vision of this work is to augment the impact of telecommunications/information and communications technology (ICT) on the transformation and modernization of the Cuban economy and society, through the efficacious and intensive use of new technologies for the population, the business sector and the institutions of the State and the Government, within the scope of reasonable security.

The entire document can be downloaded here.

Many thanks to Regina Anavy for her translation of it.

Site manager’s note: Through some confusion (normal in dealing with communications from a country with a terrible communications infrastructure), it is not clear whether the document distributed by Carlos Alberto Perez (which was mentioned in an earlier version of this post) is the same as that provided by Juan Juan Almeida. The one Regina translated is the one provided by Juan Juan. Hence this post has been corrected to reflect that.

 

The Congress on Soil, where soil is not cultivated / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 3 June 2015 — The 2015 Congress on Soil begins today, June 3, in the Convention Palace in the capital. Experts from more than 20 countries will discuss the sustainable management of this vital resource for food security. But if more than 40 percent of the arable surface in Cuba remains idle, what can Cuba contribute to this meeting?

Translated by Regina Anavy

Skepticism / Regina Coyula

Regina Coyula, 22 June 2015 — Today on the morning TV news I saw the live broadcast of the flag-waving ceremony by the delegation attending the Pan American Games in Canada. I am suspicious of those athletes who compete for the Fatherland, Socialism, the Five Heroes, Honor, etc., but not for something as normal and natural as winning a medal. The event was like carbon copy of the speeches and events of thirty years ago.

Cuba, with a smaller-than-normal delegation, aspires to finish second among the countries. While the camera panned the athletes in a formation more military ceremony than sports, I wondered skeptically which faces would not return, victims of the siren song of professional sports or the Cuban Adjustment Act.

Who do you do business with in Cuba, the military or civilians? / Juan Juan Almeida

Raul Castro at the National Asssembly in Havana

Juan Juan Almeida,8 June 2015 — In an admirable surge of ratification in the most pure tradition of sovereignty, out of an infinite commitment of respect for human rights and in support of the Cuban people, this past June 3, on the birthday of Raúl Castro, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the prohibition of exports to the Cuban military.

I assume, without the least reluctance, that the General took it as an excellent gift. That measure won’t affect the ruling class at all; it will only shatter, even more, the agonizing economy of Cubans who don’t have sufficient resources to reach the end of the month. As my grandmother said, “What’s just is not only what suits the ones who dictate the sentence.”

Relying on memories etched by force and in the authority granted to me by the experience of having lived in the monster and knowing it, I can guarantee that in terms of effectiveness, this recently approved statute will not even begin to make a dent in the pentagram of Cuban authority.

To stop exporting American products to institutions directed by the Cuban military implies not selling anything to Cuba. And if the idea is to stop exporting in order to augment the discontent and provoke a hoped-for social conflict, we are more out of place than a piraña on the high seas.

The CIA, congressmen, think-tanks, analysts, scholars and advisors should come back to earth and understand for once that the civil-military parallelism with its commercial and banking tentacles in several places in the world, which for years sided with Fidel and Raúl, has ceased to exist.

Since 2009, when the GAE (Business Administration Group, S.A.) appropriated CIMEX (Cuba Import-Export, S.A.), they made Colonel Héctor Oroza Busutil president and arranged that the Center of Purchasing and National Imports would remain under the orders of Tecnoimport (which is not a fake business – its central offices are in the Marina Building, Ave. del Puerto, No. 102, between Justiz and Obrapía, Old Havana).

It seized, among other things, the last civilian redoubt divesting itself of the Panamerican Shops, the Servi-Cupet (service centers), the El Rápido cafeterias, the Video centers and the photo shops, Photoservice, the Commercal Centers, the shipping company, Zelcom (which includes the free zone, the industrial parks and the storage services in bond), the International Group of Tour Operators and the tour company Havanatur, the services of Rent a Car and taxis, Black Coral (jewelry), Contex (design and production of uniforms and fashion collections), Coinage of Money, the Customs agency, Images (publicity and production of videos), Ecuse (repair and maintenance of automotive equipment and construction of property), the Estate Agent, the Center of Credit Cards and financial services, the BFI (International Finance Bank), Cubapacks (messaging, parcels and catalog sales), Abdala (recording studios, record labels and music editing) and the division that manages all the trademarks and patents.

The same thing happened in Habaguanex, in the system of self-employment and in all the ministries and institutions, be they governmental or not. In all of them there are colonels and generals dressed like CEOs with clothing from Anderson & Sheppard.

You only have to look to see that the social, economic, financial, business and institutional structure today is under the control of the military and/or the families of the legendary leaders of the Cuban Revolution, who paradoxically fake their ideological positions but in reality are more committed to their generation and their own desires than to their loyalty to Raúl.

Without a doubt, with this measure they will entrench themselves, and it will help them reorganize the rank and file that is already divided and with serious internal conflicts. I am sure that other ways exist, including better ways of making this ruling class implode, from the inside, without having to affect the Cuban people.

Translated by Regina Anavy 

The Indomitable Opposition / Angel Santiesteban

Raul Castro and the Five Spies

I am startled at the idea that the Cuban spies captured in the United States were at one time kept isolated, and that odes are written about this, as if it were an unheard of injustice.

Ariel Sigler, political prisoner released from Cuba, on arrival in Miami

I don’t want to make comparisons, but the five spies were sentenced with proof for crimes of espionage, while Cubans opposing the totalitarian regime are innocent, because exercising the right to a political opinion, a meeting, free association and demonstrating are rights recognized under the Magna Carta of the UN as being fundamental.

Cuban opposition prisoners are incarcerated in dark and dirty dungeons, witnesses to their suffering. They are exposed to constant torture, in some cases while sick – with tuberculosis or dengue fever – from the humidity, the lack of hygiene and the precarious nourishment.

I even remember the five spies complaining because they were served chicken more than once a week in the U.S. prison, while in a Cuban prison that repetition would be a motive for a party. Here in the prisons of the dictatorship, some Fridays, like a holiday, they deliver a quarter of a quarter of a chicken, if you can call it that.

All you had to do was look at the photos of the five spies when they returned to Cuba to understand how they had been treated compared to the penal population on the Island.

In my case, and if I mention it it’s only with the goal of denouncing the dictatorship, they have confined me for nine months in a few square meters, after one and a half years of violating my right — according to the penalty that they unjustly imposed on me — to the same regulation pass they award to assassins, rapists, international drug traffickers and pederasts, among other dangerous criminals. As the opposition independent journalist, Lilianne Ruiz, told me recently, my captors couldn’t tolerate the fact that I had resisted without bowing down to them.

I don’t believe that the nations making up the UN today refuse to support a referendum demanding that Cuba “respect the freedom of the opposition.” Presented like that, very few presidents of the leftist Latin American mafia and others in the rest of the world who second their dictatorships would dare to deny us that right

I repeat — history will show I am right — that President Obama is committing a grave error in strengthening the totalitarian regime, and this will be a stain on his record in the matter of international politics that he will carry with him.

But we are victims of the powers that be, and there is nothing we can do but continue to hope for that democracy, which we will never renounce.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

May 3, 2015

Border Prison Unit, Havana

Translated by Regina Anavy