Money Bristles, Yesterday and Today / Miriam Celaya

About the previous post, which -as expected- elicited many well and ill-intentioned comments, I noticed one in particular, a reader commenting about what used to be our digital magazine Consenso, which the commentator himself referred to as having opened a Cuban window on the world. I happen to agree with him and, as part of the management group and the editorial board of that magazine, I thank him for the memories and the praise.

But the truth is that his comment inspired me to search through those articles that were published at the time in Consenso, among which I found one from my friend and colleague Reinaldo Escobar relating to the subject of the debate: money. Because, though some were biased in reading my post and tried to twist the meaning of what I said, attributing it to my personally attacking those “who did not like14ymedio.com”, when read correctly, it shows that what I attack is the vice of envy, questioning other’s finances, exactly the same matter that Reinaldo Escobar discussed in Consenso in 2007.  Contrary to my habit of not posting here articles I have not authored, I reproduce it today, with the previous authorization of the writer. You be the judge about its worth, and I hope you enjoy it.

Money Bristles

Reinaldo Escobar

It seems almost superfluous to explain that any political activity generates costs, from the essential existence of a professional staff, dedicated to party work on a full time basis, to the development and dissemination of documents, including trips involving transportation, food and lodging outside the cities where they reside; organizing seminars, meetings or press conferences, or simply connecting to the Internet. Can you think how it would be possible to carry out politics without these things? Continue reading

If the Shoe Fits… / Miriam Celaya

As expected, the birth of the new site 14ymedio.com attracted immediate attacks from the servers of the Cuban regime. A few hours after the media’s first appearance, it was redirected by official cyber-hosts to a dedicated page (oh, the satrapy’s supreme homage!), not to the disqualification of counterrevolutionary journalistic medium as such, but to its “insignificant” manager, the multi-award-winning – and multi-abominated — Yoani Sánchez-Cordero, evil among the worst.

Interestingly, the essence of the invectives against Yoani the terrific is not the legitimacy of exercising the right to free opinion, of creating an information media to and from Cuba, or of the desire that the media become, in addition to a source of diffusion, an enterprise producing income to Yoani and her associates, paying for her collaborators, promoting independent journalism and creating sources of employment. “The chicken in a chicken and rice meal”, as the ever soporific Lázaro Barredo might say, who had been director of the libelous “Granma” for a brief period, but who has currently disappeared from the public scene. It is about questioning what capital this blogger has available to fund such an enterprise, whether or not she deserved the awards she has received, and about the nature of her fabulous emoluments, which, in the imaginary collective of her embittered detractors is close to half a million dollars.

However, what is truly amazing is that there are some petty characters in the internal dissent (and even more conspicuous, characters of “the external”), who have joined the same chant, thus indicating that the perverse nature of the olive green autocrats has soaked into the conscience of Cubans beyond suspected limits, also poisoning a sector of those who call themselves – and indeed are — enemies of the Cuban dictatorship. Continue reading

Note to my Readers / Miriam Celaya

In recent months entries in Sin_EVAsión have been sparse. I beg the readers to excuse my absences from this blog. Contrary to what may seem, such “gaps” are due to the increase in volume of my work. As you know, though this blog was not exactly the digital place where I started as a citizen journalist, it did contribute significantly to the dissemination of my work. It opened several possibilities for publication elsewhere, in which articles I wrote regularly appear.

Recently I also began to work with the new newspaper 14ymedio, an opportunity I could not pass up and a space where I will continue to work with opinion work, analysis, or reporting. In the blogger platform of that medium, my son, Victor Ariel and I have also started a collective blog. The title of this new blog is “A Pie y Descalzos” (On Foot and Barefoot), which aims to provide an overview of Cuba “from a viewpoint at ground level” i.e., from the common people. As a result, I’m often overwhelmed with work, which consumes my time and energy, affecting updates to this site.

I also have to ensure my regular income, because one cannot live by just romance and good intentions. If, however, in previous years I wrote for Sin_EVAsión almost exclusively, for some time I have had the opportunity to make some money writing for other media publications, so I am doing that. I am not the New Man, so my critics may vent their fury on this note and with a statement I make without a hint of pretense (as is my style): I love the money I get from the fruits of my labor and with my limited talents; I owe it to nobody, and I don’t intend to be embarrassed by it. To hell with the parasites and the envious ones. As an addendum, I will say I don’t get remittances, which fills me with satisfaction.

As for my friends I know they don’t need any explanations, but my respect and affection, so I address this note to them as well, to let them know that I’m still with them.

However, Sin_EVAsión will continue as my personal platform, the most intimate and beloved, the space of my own individual “me”. If my work has been of any value in this site, I owe it to my readers. Thanks for following, and don’t leave me. I won’t leave you either.

Eva-Miriam

Published in Sin EVAsión, 23 May 2014 by Miriam Celaya

Translated by Norma Whiting

Who is Writing History? / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya

 

Miriam Celaya, La Habana | Junio 02, 2014

Themes

No one could have anticipated a short time ago that the formulas to define the Cuban reality would be so radically transformed. In the last five years, we have been witnessing the gradual extinction of phrases and words that constituted an indispensable part of the official lingo, and the emergence of others which had been demonized, since they were considered remnants of a shameful bourgeois past which from which the revolution of 1959 had saved us.

Our language is foreseeing a scenario which is very different than that of the last 50 years. Lately, we rarely hear such terms as “comrade”, while in the official media, such phrases as “revolutionary intransigence”, “socialist emulation”, “voluntary labor” “collective vanguard” and “moral incentives” are infrequent, as are others, typical of the inescapable dialect of the old Soviet-Marxist period.

Thus, Cubans have once again become “señor” and “señora” and we have also stopped being “users” or “consumers” and have been transformed into “customers”. It is not the same or equal. It is a question of category based on a consumption level of access. For example, those who enter a store to buy the products of “local industries” in national currency remain “consumers”, but shoppers in stores dealing in hard currency are “clients”. Continue reading

The Embargo and Absolute Power / Miriam Celaya

Lifting or easing the embargo will strengthen the Castros’ power. No economic benefit justifies the absence of democracy. Lifting the embargo would allow the Cuban government to apply for credit at US banks, and would make it legal for US citizens to visit Cuba as tourists.

clip_image002-1HAVANA, Cuba- In the last week, various opinions have circulating about a letter sent to the president of the US, signed by US and Cuban-American intellectuals and political personalities asking for further easing of the embargo. Debating opinions sparked following the publication of the letter shows at once the relevance of relations between both governments in an eventual political transition in Cuba and the complexity derived from the many facets of a too long-drawn-out dispute.

So far, it is not known what strategy would take place in “drawing near” to the regime which would lead to an effective advance in human rights and democracy on the Island. The extreme positions have tinged a controversy which –judging by the signals stemming from it- will probably settle between the Cuban exile community’s economic power interested in investing in Cuba, some US political sectors and the political power of the Cuban regime. And what role do the common Cubans play in all this? That of passive recipients, the same as in the last 55 years.

It is undeniable that, under conditions of absolute power, the lifting or easing of the embargo will reflect its full benefit in favor of the consolidation of power of the Castros and their elite. However, does this mean that the embargo, or -as some sectors propose- its intensification, will be positive for the present and future of Cubans? At a time when the Cuban government is in desperate need of foreign investment capital, wouldn’t it be possible for those participating in the dialogue to establish a rational agenda to foster an evolution to a multilateral political and inclusive scenario for Cubans? Continue reading

Raul’s Reforms as Strategy for Survival / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya

 Cart vendor in Havana (14ymedio)

Cart vendor in Havana (14ymedio)

Six years since General-President Raúl Castro assumed power in Cuba; it could be argued that almost as many legal changes have been implemented as were introduced during the early days of the revolution and, without a doubt, a lot more than in the four decades preceding “Raulismo”

Viewed in perspective, Raúl’s reforms are significant and are -at least in appearance- a break from Fidel’s directive, marked by immobility, by such measures as:

  • Distribution of land in usufruct to private farmers and cooperatives
  • Approval of “non-state forms of production” or “self-employment” (private business), which eliminates State monopoly on employment
  • Approval of sales and purchases of real estate, cars, and other goods , as well as lodging for Cuban nationals in hard currency hotels and tourist facilities
  • Authorization for free contract of cellular telephony and internet connections; sales of computers, printers and other hardware in stores accepting only dollars
  • Comprehensive migration reform act, one of the most radical transformations, conditionally eliminating “authorizations” for exit and entry and extending stays abroad up to 24 months
  • And more recently, the new Foreign Investment Law, which relaxes some limitations of previous legislation established in the 90’s, though it retains others

Such measures should be a substantial turn-around in a society subjected to a centralism which previously invalidated all vestiges of autonomy. In fact, some foreign media exaggerate the process, multiplying, to the point of fable, the effects of government measures as if this were an effective socioeconomic change. Unfortunately, such changes have been more nominal than real for Cubans. There have been no benefits at the macroeconomic level that indicate a positive trend towards ending the crisis. Continue reading

The Deadly Poison of Political Discourses / Miriam Celaya

che-paredSocialism is like dancing a milonga* in the midst of a carnival parade of rumba dancers

HAVANA, Cuba – Indians and Cowboys, heroes and villains, the good and the bad… these are terms often used in movies, soap operas and literature to classify polarizations of characters, placing them, by virtue of that dual machination, in hostile camps where, invariably, good triumphs over evil.

This same framework does not escape politics in its most simplistic interpretation, especially manifesting itself through the yardstick of a young and radical left, whose obstinacy is almost as astonishing as it is scary, by appealing to the nostalgic past and “better” times of the so called real socialism, when the Soviet era of influence extended over the better part of the world and even invaded, though not quite congealing, a reality so culturally different, in culture and in spirit, as that of Cuba. Continue reading

May 20th: The Witch’s Curse / Miriam Celaya

habana-y-la-banderaCubanet, 20 May 2014 | Miriam Celaya

HAVANA, Cuba.12 years ago I read a beautiful article by poet and writer Rafael Alcides in honor of the Republic’s centennial. He titled it “The Sleeping Princess”, a metaphor enfolding the yearnings of many Cubans who prefer to believe that our Republic, with so much sacrifice of several generations of nineteenth century Cubans as its price, is not dead, but reposes, mired in a long and deep sleep from which on day it will awaken with a kiss of love.

Since then, every May 20th, I evoke the poet’s work, full of hope and wondering how much long longer the expected kiss, which will return the Princess Republic to us, will take. Her lethargy has gone on for too long, her absence is devastating. Continue reading

Saga of the Official “Journalist,” “Admitted Terrorists,” and a Cat / Miriam Celaya

Reading a newly released item this Thursday, May 8th, on page 4 of the newspaper Juventud Rebelde (Terrorism, the True Face of Zunzuneo, by Amaury del Valle), brought to mind a lively flamenco-rumba that a Spanish singer made popular on the radio in the decade between 1970 and 1980. Perhaps some 50-something readers might remember its funny lyrics, about an individual who was upset because someone had called him “a cat”, which he considered an insult because “cats eat mice, mice eat cheese, cheese comes from milk, milk comes from a cow, a cow has two horns, Oh, oh, oh, I’ll kill him!” Cuckold (horned) was for him the true meaning hiding behind the nickname “cat” He was obviously being labeled cuckold, hence he made the association between such opposing ideas as a cat and a cow’s horns.

However, the newspaper article I referred to faithfully mimics the attitude of the song’s cuckold: it associates. Without doubt, the presence and intentions of the four suspected terrorists from Miami recently arrested in Cuba, with the networks Zunzuneo and Piramideo, which have engendered so much talk these few weeks. So, Zunzuneo and Piramideo are as “terrorists” as the four delinquents who were captured. In fact, the idea is not so far-fetched; the Cuban regime feels real terror in the face of information and the new communication technologies. Continue reading

There’s Nothing to Celebrate / Miriam Celaya

miriam-adentro-1MAY DAY - Even Karl Marx would be surprised at the only parade of slave workers

HAVANA, Cuba – All the official media is in a raging fanfare summoning to “the united people’s great mobilization which will take place in squares and avenues” this May 1st. Cymbals and trumpets are pleased with the wild benefits achieved by the Cuban working class.

Among the expected events collateral to “the party” was a lackluster celebration that took place on the 144th anniversary of Lenin’s birth on the hill bearing his name in the Havana municipality of Regla, while during the week, acts have taken place throughout, awarding certificates to union leaders. This year, there will be a “superior parade”, because during the closing ceremony of the XX Congress of the Cuban Workers Syndicate (CTC), the General-President called for an “earth-shaking” event. Continue reading

Just Another Miscalculation / Miriam Celaya

1398445396_etecsaAccording to a recent official statement by Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba (ETECSA) [Cuban Telephone Company], the technical difficulties in messaging service and other cell phone problems are due to errors in miscalculating demand.

It is the system’s universal principle to come up with an inverse explanation to every difficulty, which could be interpreted as follows: it is not really the inability of the only telephone company in Cuba, but that there are too many users. That is, we are more addicted to communication than officials imagined.

Since this past March 3rd, when the new cell phone e-mail access system (nauta.cu) went into effect, considerable delays were experienced in SMS access, as well as additional service outages. Now the Central Director of Mobile Services, Hilda María Arias, stated that for over a year they carried out research and completed investment processes required for this service, however, they “did not calculate the fast pace for its demand in this short period of time”, and, due to transmitting of data, “more network resources are being used”, which has slowed e-mail, SMS reception, and cell phone service

Of course, while this official explains that steps are being taken to counteract the difficulties, the solution must come from an increase in forecast investments.

ETECSA, as we know, is the name of the communications monopoly in Cuba, controlled by military business leaders, who have now committed to expand services through new base stations that expand possibilities for Internet access, transfer the balance between cell phones and extend the expiration date of cellular lines.

Indeed, if this promise is fulfilled, this would be good news for those of us who are addicted to information and communication. In any case, to justify the current service difficulties after one year of researching the project, and knowing the huge demand for cellular service among Cubans, despite its high cost, seems more than mere miscalculation.

Translated by Norma Whiting

25 April 2014

Magic Formula to Revive Socialism / Miriam Celaya

Raúl praying

Raúl praying

Will investors be able to save the conquests of the olive green caste by soaking their hard currency in the Castros’ holy water?

HAVANA, Cuba: In recent weeks, the new Investment law–the latest magic formula to overcome the endemic crisis of “the model”–has been preeminently occupying space in the official Cuban press.

Commentaries, interviews with officials and experts on the subject, and reviews that look at the advantages and benefits of assimilating foreign capital as the most expeditious way to finally give birth to the socialism that spent over 50 years in the gestation phase, emerge from the pages from government pamphlets and television news announcing that the good “new” capital is the philosopher’s stone for development. So let’s forget all the ideological catechism defended until now, because our rulers have discovered that soaking hard currencies in the Castros’ holy water will safeguard the “conquests” …of the olive green caste.

And it is precisely about the conquests of the elderly druids and their acolytes that the foreign investment law was born with congenital deformities that require deep reconstructive surgery if they really intend for it to work.

The most important flaw that is obvious from the outset is the legal aberration of expressly excluding the rights of Cubans on the island to participate as investors in their own country, an issue that is unparalleled in any civilized nation, and that alone disqualifies the best intentions beforehand. Another issue, no less twisted, is the exclusion of free contract (that is, allowing foreign investors to hire Cuban workers directly). Both elements are unsustainable since they are not justified or serve any function other than to maintain absolute control over the population to prevent the weakening of political power.

Dilma Ruseau and Raúl Castro inaugurate the Mega Port at Mariel

Dilma Ruseau and Raúl Castro inaugurate the Mega Port at Mariel

Therefore, the Castros’ hired applauders are saddled with the thankless task of challenging independent journalists’ criticism of the law, since new technologies allow other opinions to circumvent the official information blockade and reach the population. Fundamentalists will now take to the trenches to fight another battle against freedom of opinion.

So an obviously poorly trained journalist did take to the trenches when he approached the subject from an article in the Juventud Rebelde (Rebel Youth) newspaper (“Good investments and ‘skeptical’ versions”, Yoerky Sánchez Cuéllar, Sunday, April 20th, 2014, pg.3), which misses the mark from its own opening paragraph, when referring to the authors of the inquiring articles as “preachers of a policy aimed at promoting foreign interests over national affairs”. This cluelessness indicts the rookie’s inexperience, when he refers in such terms to the critics of a law that precisely favors “foreign interests” at the expense of the Cuban people.

Havana’s International Commerce Fair

Havana’s International Commerce Fair

Yoerky’s errors did not end here.  He obviously has access to the independent press but does not dare to reproduce the arguments of the criticisms of said law. It is untenable to be a representative of the people while advocating, at the same time, in favor of legislation that strips the people of their essential rights, contained in international pacts and declarations ofwhich Cuba is a signatory.

“One of the causes for the media’s ‘skepticism’ is related to the fact that the law prohibits foreign investors to directly contract with workers, a role that will be up to national employer organizations,” Yoerky indicates, and he explains to us that such a measure “protects our human resources, considered as the country’s most important asset.” Unfortunately, he forgot to explain how stripping Cuban workers of their capacity for free and individual contract constitutes “protection” for them and what “guaranties” this offers the investors.

“Who better than us to select employees, taking into account taxing requirements which will contribute to higher solvency and satisfaction to all parties…” wonders this Beefeater, immersed in a “collective us” that always emerges when the lords try to convince the herd about the need for sacrifice. Maybe he is ignoring that, when they sold us out as a “pseudo-republic,” foreign companies freely hired Cuban workers, who did not need a government agency to determine their suitability, their wage levels or the taxes they would pay to the State, so the current investment law implies a serious labor rights setback.

In short, far from being enlightening, the referenced writing stirs the murkiness of a law that holds more questions than answers. We continue to not know how the “investment portfolio” is defined, or what devices will manage it or prevent favoritism, influence peddling, corruption, patronage, and other ills.

There is no mechanism or information system that will allow Cubans–its supposed beneficiaries–to find out what items, who, and how to go about investing, much less verifying amounts, earnings, and how the wealth to be gained will be distributed. The “exceptional reasons of social interest or public utility” that will determine expropriations haven’t been clearly established either, and they will be left at the government’s discretion, while rampant widespread corruption–in spite of many battles and comptrollers–continues unabated and constitutes a threat to any investor in a country in which the actions of individuals are patterned for survival.

It takes a lot of magic to revive Cuban socialism

It takes a lot of magic to revive Cuban socialism

Yoerky does not say, perhaps because a servant is not able to understand it, that in the absence of civil liberties and democratic changes no palliative measure will be able to overcome the crisis. Undoubtedly, investors will always turn up who are ready for an adventure with the regime, and thousands of Cubans will probably flock to apply for jobs of “our own procurement” because nothing motivates a crowd as much as a poverty auction. Maybe by then this young man, an undertaking of the official media, will see this as another “victory of the Revolution.” I will not attempt to argue the point: I have spent 54 years attending them without any benefit whatsoever.

Translated by Norma Whiting
Cubanet, 22 April 2014 | Miriam Celaya