Translating Cuba http://translatingcuba.com English Translations of Cubans Writing From the Island Thu, 28 Jul 2016 00:02:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 No Air Conditioning and Intrusive Music / Rebeca Monzo http://translatingcuba.com/no-air-conditioning-and-intrusive-music-rebeca-monzo/ Wed, 27 Jul 2016 21:07:11 +0000 http://translatingcuba.com/no-air-conditioning-and-intrusive-music-rebeca-monzo/ Continue reading "No Air Conditioning and Intrusive Music / Rebeca Monzo"]]> Rebeca Monzo, 26 July 2016 — As random comments from ordinary citizens on the streets suggest, we are going through a new Special Period, though the government repeatedly denies it in media statements, calling it “a difficult situation from which we will recover.”

For confirmation, one need only observe the bus stops crowded with people anxiously waiting for the next vehicle to take them to their jobs, the hospital or the beach. The lack of fuel and spare parts are the main causes of these “bottlenecks.” For this reason, many people feel forced to turn to boteros, or private taxis. Though expensive, they are a solution to the problems of urban mass transit, for which the government is responsible.

Another situation impacting us — apart from the unbearable heat and famous Sahara dust storms — is the shortage of consumer goods and lack of air conditioning in so-called hard currency stores.

In some of thee facilities, especially the smaller ones, the lack of air conditioning is leading to longer lines and greater dissatisfaction in the population.

The employees of these businesses, who work for eight hours a day in sweltering conditions, have to limit access to two people at a time in order to be able to wait on them. Once inside, customers run into another big hurdle: no shopping bags. This drags out the shopping process, causing discomfort and protests from those waiting their turns.

Given these circumstances, one would think that there ought to be some compensation in the form of reduced prices due to the lack of customary amenities such as air conditioning and bags in which to carry purchases home, factors which would logically affect the value of an item. Then there are the difficulties associated with the sometimes raucous reggaeton background music, a telephone customer being left on hold or, in the case of city buses, the drivers’ choice of music in vehicles overflowing with a disgruntled and sweaty public.

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Three Months Later, The Residents Of Havana Still Remember Obama / Iván García http://translatingcuba.com/three-months-later-the-residents-of-havana-still-remember-obama-ivn-garca/ Wed, 27 Jul 2016 19:00:41 +0000 http://translatingcuba.com/three-months-later-the-residents-of-havana-still-remember-obama-ivn-garca/ Continue reading "Three Months Later, The Residents Of Havana Still Remember Obama / Iván García"]]> Michelle Obama, her mother, Marian Robinson, and her daughters, Malia and Sasha, pose together with a group of Cuban children after having planted two magnolia bushes, similar to the ones that bloom in the White House gardens, and after donating a wooden bench for the relaxation of visitors to the Rubén Martínez Villena library garden in Old Havana. Taken from Impacto New York. 
Michelle Obama, her mother, Marian Robinson, and her daughters, Malia and Sasha, pose together with a group of Cuban children after having planted two magnolia bushes, similar to the ones that bloom in the White House gardens, and after donating a wooden bench for the relaxation of visitors to the Rubén Martínez Villena library garden in Old Havana. Taken from Impacto New York.

Iván García , 22 June 2016 — The park at Galiano and San Rafael is a beehive of activity. At one end, several teenagers play soccer, using a school desk as the goal, while 50 men and women are connecting to the Internet, sitting on wooden benches or the ground.

Conversations with relatives or friends mix together. Here the wifi is confined exclusively to talking with family through IMO or chatting on Facebook, the island’s new virtual drug.

Of course it’s also used to flirt with a foreigner, commit camouflaged prostitution or request money from a cousin in Hialeah. Darío, an old man of indefinite age, among the hubbub and heat, sells salted peanuts at one peso a cone.

The peanut seller remembers that three months before, on Tuesday, March 22, a disproportionate police deployment in the park scared off the hustlers, prostitutes and marginal people.

“It was already known that Obama was going to give a speech in the Gran Teatro of Habana, on Prado between San Rafael and San José, beside the Capitolio. The whole zone was taken; I never saw so many security guards together. In the neighborhood they said that Obama was going to walk along the San Rafael boulevard and talk with the people. The police let pass only those who lived around there. They told people to remain at home,” recalls Darío.

Erasmo, who resells Internet cards, comments that “on that day the businesses were basically quiet. Throughout Central Havana there wasn’t a prostitute, drunk or beggar scavenging food in a garbage bin. I went up to the roof with a friend, and with my mobile phone, I recorded the moment when The Beast — Cadillac One — arrived at the San Cristóbal paladar [home restaurant], on San Rafael between Campanario and Lealtad,” he comments, and he shows his video as evidence.

“I’m never going to erase this from my phone. This was the most important day of my life,” Erasmo adds.

After crossing Galiano, the multi-colored, narrow streets of San Rafael are less agitated. Ruined shells of buildings, women always selling something and a swarm of private shops.

Roger, nicknamed “El Pali”, is an extroverted, talkative guy who sells bananas and meat in a State agro-market on the corner of San Rafael and Campanario. He confesses that he’s an “excluded.”

“I was a prisoner in the U.S. Then I was released, but I went back in the tank for a robbery in New Jersey. In any event, I’m more American than Cuban. Before they sent me back to Cuba I was in the U.S. for 22 years. I even have a son over there. The day the President arrived,” — his work buddies laughed their heads off — ” I planted myself on the balcony of a friend’s house with an American flag and yelled in English. I don’t know if Obama heard me, but before he went into the paladar, it looked like he saw me on the balcony,” said El Pali.

On the same block where the private restaurant, San Cristóbal, is located, there are seven small family businesses. Barbara rents out rooms, and in a narrow apartment which looks out on the street, Sara, an old retired woman, sells freshly-ground coffee. Just in a house next to the paladar, a poster indicates that the president of the CDR resides there.

“But the woman never does anything. She also was with the neighborhood people at the party, getting drunk with those who came to see Obama,” says a blond in denim shorts and rubber flip-flops.

In the doorway of the San Cristóbal paladar, at 469 San Rafael between Lealtad and Campanario, the doorman, a corpulent negro dressed in a red shirt and dark pants, is on the hunt for clients with a menu in his hand.

But his excessive prices horrify the average Havanan. A plate costs around 30 dollars. And a good mojito, six. “Eating there can give you a heart attack. But you have to go with a suitcase full of money,” says a neighbor.

The doorman, friendly and relaxed, was there on the night of Sunday, March 20, when Obama’s wife, two daughters and mother-in-law went to dine at San Cristóbal.

“There was tremendous intrigue in the neighborhood. The zone was full of police. In the morning some gringos came and told Raisa and Cristóbal, the owners, to reserve all the tables, that some American officials were coming for dinner that night. No one imagined that it was Obama. I saw him from the same distance that I’m talking with you. The President and his wife shook my hand. I went for a week without washing it,” he says, smiling.

Ninety days after Obama’s visit, Carlos Cristóbal Márquez Valdés’ business has benefited. “A lot of foreigners want to sit at the same table and eat the same meal as Obama. Thanks to Saint Obama, the paladar is always full,” affirms the doorman.

Walking in a straight line down San Rafael, leaving the boulevard and going down the busy street of Obispo up to Oficios, in a small garden at the back of the Rubén Martínez Villena municipal library, Michelle Obama, her daughters, Sasha and Malia, and her mother, Marian, planted two magnolia bushes.

“The magnolia is a shrub that survived the epoch of the dinosaurs. An American told me that the variety planted belongs to the Magnolia virginiana. On the morning of March 22, I had the luck to see the First Lady and her daughters when they came to plant the flowers. I was very happy, since in the late afternoon on Sunday the 20th, it rained a lot, and I couldn’t see Obama at the Plaza de Armas and the Cathedral,” relates Alberto, a used-book seller in Old Havana.

Michelle Obama, a sponsor of the Let Girls Learn project, on Monday, March 21, joined a dozen students in the Fábrica de Arte Cubano, on Calle 26 at the corner of 11th, Vedado. The meeting barely was mentioned in the press, and it wasn’t possible to identify any of the young women participants.

Although the trivialities and the sensationalism caused by President Barack Obama’s travels throughout the world also affect the people of Havana, many think the most impressive part of his visit was the speech he gave in the Gran Teatro de La Habana. And they are sure that after March 20, 2016, Cuba will not be the same.

Martí Noticias, June 20, 2016.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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The Erratic Corrections of Machado Ventura / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar http://translatingcuba.com/the-erratic-corrections-of-machado-ventura-14ymedio-reinaldo-escobar/ Wed, 27 Jul 2016 13:00:52 +0000 http://translatingcuba.com/?p=48656 Continue reading "The Erratic Corrections of Machado Ventura / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar"]]> The only “next” is the looming return of the economic difficulties. (14ymedio)
The only “next” is the looming return of the economic difficulties. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 26 July 2016 – Sporting a hat to protect himself from the rays of the sun, Jose Ramon Machado Ventura explained in his speech for the 26th of July that the changes introduced in the Cuban model “are aimed at consolidating our socialism, to make more prospero (prosperous) and sustainable.” The keynote speaker at an event this morning in Sancti Spiritus realized immediately that he had omitted the enclitic pronoun “it” next to the verb “to make” and corrected it but introduced a new error: “To make it more proximo (next) and sustainable.”

To the cheerful confusion of those who didn’t notice the initial grammatical slip, the vice president conveyed the impression that he hadn’t meant to say prosperous, but proximo (next). The correction thus became a political problem, because if there is something Cubans know it is that the promised socialism “without haste, but without pause” could be anything or have innumerable oddities, but in no way is it “next.”

Perhaps, later on, Machado Ventura will argue that the gaffe obeyed the desires that “all revolutionaries have to reach the goal for which they have fought.” However, the subtle equivocation, which doesn’t appear in the official version of the speech published in the state newspaper Granma, may have set listeners to thinking about the controversial issue of deadlines to deliver on certain promises.

At least three generations of Cubans have witnessed, for years, the commemorations around that fateful 26th of July 1953, a tragic date that has been cataloged – brazenly – as “the happiest day in history” in a chorus of the worst tune ever.

For decades, the interminable speeches that Fidel Castro delivered on the ceremonies of those events that immolated young people were expected as the moment when he would announce “the good news.” On the podium, index finger pointing skyward, he would prophesy a luminous future for the country and convince his audience of the inevitable and imminent materialization of utopia.

However, those times have passed and today the model of socialism that is debated among “hundreds of thousands of militants of the Party and of the Union of Young Communists, and representatives from all sectors of society,” with reference to the documents of the Seventh Communist Party Congress, shows no practical signs that it will bring prosperity, nor that it will be sustainable over the long term.

Instead, what is coming “next” is only the return of the economic difficulties now classified as temporary that characterized the most difficult years of the Special Period. These material limitations, in fact, never disappeared completely from daily life, but could get worse given the collapse of Venezuela and the economic dysfunction of the national model.

Machado Ventura referred this Tuesday to these conquests which had to be “temporarily” given up in the most acute phase of the Special Period, but indicated with optimism that “today they are practically all being recovered,” while “some belonged to that historic moment and it would not be rational to reestablish them.” He also spoke about other conquests, which he did not enumerate, that “are in a quantitative and qualitative phase superior to those years.”

The most important element of the vice president’s speech lay in its omissions, more than in its affirmations. The man who is seen as a recalcitrant orthodox avoided deciphering the enigma that now torments millions of Cubans and that has been converted into history in his wishy-washy speech. Did the Special Period end, or are we just going through a less acute phase? Is the current crisis a new stage in the chronic fall of the system, or is it the evidence of the “next” – that is the imminent – end of Castroism?

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Ramon Machado Evokes a 26th of July Marked By “Complex Circumstances” / 14ymedio http://translatingcuba.com/ramon-machado-evokes-a-26th-of-july-marked-by-complex-circumstances-14ymedio/ Wed, 27 Jul 2016 11:00:52 +0000 http://translatingcuba.com/?p=48651 Continue reading "Ramon Machado Evokes a 26th of July Marked By “Complex Circumstances” / 14ymedio"]]> The vice president of the Councils of State and Ministers, Jose Ramon Machado Ventura. (Screenshot)
The vice president of the Councils of State and Ministers, Jose Ramon Machado Ventura. (Screenshot)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 26 July 2016 – In a total break with the optimism that Cuban leaders usually squander on every 26th of July, Jose Ramon Machado Ventura addressed this Tuesday the “difficult circumstances” the island is currently experiencing. The vice president evoked, in addition, the problems derived from the international situation whose resolution is “outside the scope” of the government.

With the first light of dawn, lasting for barely an hour and ten minutes, Sancti Spiritus hosted the main event for the 63rd anniversary of the assaults on the Moncada and Carlos Manuel de Cespedes barracks. The event was punctuated by calls for efficiency and sacrifices, and continuous references to the “economic situation,” characterized by a lack of liquidity that has obliged the government to reduce the expectations for economic growth.

The main speech of the day fell to Machado Ventura, as has happened several times over the last decade. Sitting in the first row of the audience was president Raul Castro, who did not speak publicly and who left as soon as the ceremony concluded.

The constant references to Fidel Castro and his 90th birthday (coming up in August) also marked the event, although the former president did not send a message for the occasion and had to be remembered for his words on 26 July 1953, which he spoke in Sancti Spiritus.

Machado Ventura’s speech emphasized the words with which Castro acknowledged that Cubans had been “capable of stressing and inculcating that the first duty of the revolutionary is work.” The number two man of the Communist Party emphasized that “fulfilling the [economic] plan is not synonymous with meeting the needs of the country nor having reached the existing potential,” and appealed to the “reserves of efficiency” remaining to be tapped.

In response to those who demand faster economic and political transformations, the vice president warned that “the few changes that are necessary will be introduced at the pace we decide,” and declared that “there will be not even the slightest response to external pressures.” The affirmation coincided with what has become the slogan of Raul Castro’s regime: “Without haste, but without pause.”

Some of these pressures to accelerate the transformations on the island have, according to the orthodox leader, “the underhanded or open purpose to dismantle the work of the Revolution.” He stressed this again later when he referenced “the enemies of the country,” without specifying names or details.

Red shirts and little paper flags highlighted the morning under an enormous bronze sculpture dedicated to the patriot of independence Serafin Sanchez, in the plaza of the same name, although missing were the faces of the foreign leaders and personalities who traditionally attend these 26th of July celebrations.

Machado Ventura confirmed that the discussion of the documents of the Seventh Congress of the Communist Party will conclude in September and their final approval by the Central Committee will take place in December. The debate, he explained, involved “hundreds of thousands of militants from the Party and the Union of Young Communists (UJC), and representatives of all sectors of society.”

Raul Castro, who did not play an active part in the event, remained in the first row of the audience and left as soon as the ceremony ended. (Capture)
Raul Castro, who did not play an active part in the event, remained in the first row of the audience and left as soon as the ceremony ended. (Capture)

Machado Ventura defined the Special Period as a stage in which the conquests of the process “had to be temporarily given up, in good part” to avoid a comparison with the current situation, despite the fact that many Cubans fear a repeat of the Special Period in all its gravity.

José Ramón Monteagudo Ruiz, a member of the Central Committee and first secretary of the Party in Sancti Spiritus, said that “there are conditions in the territory to achieve more productive agriculture.” The local official spoke of “the difficulties and damages arising from the current situation,” in reference to the economic cuts and lack of liquidity in the country.

Mentions of the United States embargo were not lacking, although unlike other years the United States and “Yankee imperialism” were not central to the discourse, which was led by the need to make the domestic economy more efficient.

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ICHR Accepts Denunciation of #CUBA for Violation of Ángel Santiesteban’s Human Rights / Ángel Santiesteban http://translatingcuba.com/ichr-accepts-denunciation-of-cuba-for-violation-of-%c2%81ngel-santiestebans-human-rights-angel-santiesteban/ Wed, 27 Jul 2016 10:00:50 +0000 http://translatingcuba.com/ichr-accepts-denunciation-of-cuba-for-violation-of-%c2%81ngel-santiestebans-human-rights-angel-santiesteban/ Continue reading "ICHR Accepts Denunciation of #CUBA for Violation of Ángel Santiesteban’s Human Rights / Ángel Santiesteban"]]> Angel Santiesteban, 30 March 2016 — The denunciation of the violation of Ángel Santiesteban’s human rights has been accepted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). The organization has given the Castro dictatorship a three-month deadline to respond.

– The Editor

[A translation of the letter from the IACHR, addressed to Ángel Santiesteban’s editor, Elisa Tabakman, follows below.]

14 March 2016

RE:  Ángel Lázaro Santiesteban Prats
P-1004-13
Cuba

Dear Madam:

I have the pleasure of contacting you on behalf of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) regarding the above-cited petition in reference to the situation of Ángel Lázaro Santiesteban Prats in Cuba, which was received by this Executive Secretariat on 13 June 2013.

I hereby inform you that by way of a note dated today, the parts of your petition pertinent to the Government of Cuba have been remitted and a due date of three months has been from the date of transmission of the present communication for a presentation of observations, in accordance with Article 30 of the Rules of the IACHR.

The present information request does not constitute a prejudgment regarding the decision that the IACHR will eventually make on the admissibility of this petition.

Likewise, you are informed that based on Article 40(1) of the Rules of the IACHR, at any phase of the investigation of a petition or case, by its own initiative o upon the request of the parties, the IACHR will make itself available to the petitioners and to the State, with the goal of reaching an amicable solution founded on the respect for human rights established in the American Convention, the American Declaration, and other applicable instruments.

I take this opportunity to give you my most cordial greetings,

Elizabeth Abi-Mershed
Adjunct Executive Secretary

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

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Intense Rains Give Evidence of the "Wonder" of Havana / Iván García http://translatingcuba.com/intense-rains-give-evidence-of-the-wonder-of-havana-ivn-garca/ Tue, 26 Jul 2016 20:07:30 +0000 http://translatingcuba.com/intense-rains-give-evidence-of-the-wonder-of-havana-ivn-garca/ Continue reading "Intense Rains Give Evidence of the "Wonder" of Havana / Iván García"]]> Beneath the rain, Havana received the title of Wonder City of the Modern World. Photo by Elio Delgado Valdés, taken from Havana Times.
Beneath the rain, Havana received the title of Wonder City of the Modern World. Photo by Elio Delgado Valdés, taken from Havana Times.

Iván García, 9 June 2016 — Ask Luis Carlos Rodríguez, retired, his opinion about the designation of “Wonder City” based on an Internet survey conducted in the winter of 2014 by the Swiss foundation, “New 7 Wonders,” and you will hear a long list of complaints, sprinkled with insults, about the olive-green government that has governed the destiny of Cuba since January 1959.

The old man lives in a quarter where the wastewater runs through the cracked central corridor, a little more than half a kilometer from the area of colonial Havana, which wears makeup for the photos of dazzled tourists.

The rainy season has become a calvary for the residents of Havana who live in the low zones, where the housing is in poor shape, or in any of the 80 unhealthy neighborhoods that proliferate in the capital.

In a hot, windowless room with a half-dozen plastic buckets and junk, Luis Carlos tries to trap the drops of water that filter through the corrugated roof.

“On days of pouring rain, I pray to the Lord that the room doesn’t fall down on me. I’ve already sealed the roof twice, but it continues to leak,” he says, and with the help of a nephew, he tries to patch a hole.

When the rain pours down in Havana, the people who live in dilapidated housing or on streets that are close to the coast, become sailors, bailing out water inside their homes or escaping to safe places in precarious boats.

On Tuesday, June 7, at 7:30 in the evening, while Richard Weber, the President of the New7Wonders Foundation was unveiling the Wonder City plaque on the Esplanada de La Punta, a stone’s throw from the Malecón, Reinaldo Savón’s family was loading its furniture and electrical appliances into a horse-drawn cart, with water skirting the  middle of San Ramón, a neighborhood that suffers like no other from the rainy periods, for lack of an adequate infrastructure of drainage.

“I don’t know which wonder city those bastards awarded. I invite them to come live in San Ramón on days like these. After they see how peoples’ houses are flooded and how they lose their things, they will change their opinion. No one thinks about this part of Havana. It’s been more than 20 years since the Government promised us a solution, but everything stays the same, only promises,” Reinaldo says.

The Office of the City Historian, directed by Eusebio Leal, a regime official, who managed to save various valuable buildings in Old Havana from disaster, prepared a free cultural program. From June 7-11, you could enjoy, among other things, performances of the Teatro Lírico, the Ballet Folklórico, the Tropicana Cabaret, the Ballet Lizt Alfonso, a parade of singers, musicians and dancers on the Paseo del Prado, and a concert by the Orquesta Aragón on the corner of Prado and Neptuno.

But Havanans like Lourdes Pérez, a resident of a marginal neighborhood adjacent to the José Antonio Echevarría Technological University, in the Marianao municipality, isn’t much for parties.

Four years ago, Lourdes came to the capital from Santiago de Cuba with her three children and her husband in search of better luck. He sells corn tamales and clothing from Ecuador, and she takes care of elderly sick people.

Legally, Lourdes and her family are clandestine in Havana. They don’t have a ration book, and their hut, with a dirt floor and an aluminum roof, doesn’t have a bathroom or drinking water. They live poorly, eat little and drink cheap alcohol.

“We don’t have anything more. When we get a few pesos, they go for food and rum. The money isn’t enough to build a decent house. We barely survive with what we earn,” says Lourdes’ husband, who spends time gathering raw materials in the dump on Calle 100, west of the city.

Since December 17, 2014, after the truce with the United States, the old Cold-War enemy, Cuba, and especially Havana, has received a stream of famous visitors, investment projects, a runway of Chanel fashions, Hollywood filmings and even a mega-concert by the Rolling Stones.

Press passes are everywhere, but the benefits are invisible to the average citizen. The shortages sting like a whip; the infrastructure of the city is Fourth World; garbage is piling up in the neighborhoods; thousands of buildings threaten to collapse; public transport is chaotic, and finding something to eat continues to be the main preoccupation, not only for people in Havana but for all Cubans.

Orestes Ruiz, an engineer, can’t believe that Havana is a wonder city. “Too many shortages. Anyone who has traveled abroad will see that even the cities of Third World nations, to which they should compare us, have more hygiene, better Internet connection and more efficient public services.”

Nadine López, a university student, considers that it has to do with the excess of news in the international media, or it’s an operation of marketing or simply a joke in poor taste.

“You have to have a lot of imagination to reward Havana as a wonder city. I don’t know why there’s so much celebration. For those of us who live here it’s more of an offense than a recompense,” she says, while the rain dies down in a doorway on the Calzada Diez de Octubre.

Although the leaders promise a “prosperous and sustainable socialism,” and the media focus continues extolling Havana, a large segment of those who live in José Martí’s small fatherland wait for more palpable changes that will improve the quality of their lives.

For now, all that remains is soft music in the background. And press credentials.

Hispanopost, June 9, 2016

Translated by Regina Anavy

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The 26th, Again / Fernando Dámaso http://translatingcuba.com/the-26th-again-fernando-dmaso/ Tue, 26 Jul 2016 18:07:08 +0000 http://translatingcuba.com/the-26th-again-fernando-dmaso/ Continue reading "The 26th, Again / Fernando Dámaso"]]> moncada
The Moncada Barracks attacked on 26 July 1953

Fernando Damaso, 25 July 2016 — Tomorrow, a new anniversary of the 26th of July–that failed insurrectional action of 1953–will be commemorated. This date, one of the principal ones of the Castro regime’s calendar, served as the title and standard for the political movement that emerged from the event. The province of Sancti Spíritus has been selected as the headquarters for the celebration–not for being the best choice, but rather for being the least bad one.

There will be “popular” gatherings, official festivities, cultural merrymaking, and even speeches with pretensions of historical authenticity. The script is repeated every year, varying only with regard to the secondary actors, being that the principals have remained in their roles for 58 years, despite the boredom they provoke among the spectators.

Throughout the course of a few days the inhabitants of Sancti Spíritus will enjoy abundant beer, one or another foodstuff, and much dance music, in addition to the traditional carnaval. Afterwards, all will return to the usual boring dailyness, with its meager wages, shortages, street violence, abuses, bureaucracy, and many other misfortunes–and the commemoration, as it does every year, will remain forgotten until the next one, if indeed it takes place, in a new chosen province.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

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Not In The Name Of Socialism. Another Sign Of Contempt For Cuban Workers / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos http://translatingcuba.com/not-in-the-name-of-socialism-another-sign-of-contempt-for-cuban-workers-14ymedio-pedro-campos/ Tue, 26 Jul 2016 15:00:19 +0000 http://translatingcuba.com/?p=48632 Continue reading "Not In The Name Of Socialism. Another Sign Of Contempt For Cuban Workers / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos"]]> 14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, 25 July 2016 – Several news reports confirm that there is a contingent of Indian workers in Cuba… Yes, you read that right: workers from India, from the other side of the world, working on tourist projects for foreign companies. A French company brought them over here and is paying them first world salaries.

Can anyone in the State-Party-Government explain what is happening? Are there no Cuban workers to employ in these construction projects?

Is the state-run Construction and Specialized Installations Company (ECME), which builds and remodels hotels, luxury buildings for foreigners and hospitals, among other projects, which has seen the most brilliant contemporary Cuban engineering and architecture, unable to undertake this work?

Does the remodeling company under the Office of the City Historian of Havana, which has rescued wonders of Cuban architecture, not have the capacity for these commitments?

I originally found it hard to believe the news, because no one could explain to me the reasons why foreign companies prefer to contract for Indian workers instead of Cubans, but it was even harder for me to understand why the “socialist” government, “representative of the Cuban working class,” accepts it when there are thousands of professionals, specialists, technicians and workers who are unemployed or under-employed in this kind of work, eager to exercise their professions and receive good remuneration for their work.

I don’t pretend to have found the reasons. Something that only the Government-Party-State can understand, one god in three persons like the holy trinity, although nobody explains it, nobody knows, they believe that nobody cares and ultimately nobody agrees.

Several media reports address the issue, and there is no shortage of information and speculations about the interests of the company run by the Cuban military that is charged with these works, in allowing this contracting on the part of a foreign firm because “Cubans can’t do the job,” “they are not good workers,” “the boys in the military service don’t know how,” and other things of this style.

Whatever the explanation might be, one thing is clear: workers from very far away are being employed in Cuba, they are being paid good salaries, while there are hundreds of thousands of Cuban workers who are trying to invent a life without adequately paid jobs, who have no other option in order to improve their and their families’ lives other than to leave Cuba, if they can, risking everything.

At the very least, this is another example of the contempt the bureaucracy has for Cuban workers, who decide nothing and receive little.

But it is no coincidence that such a barbarity is happening right now. The bureaucrats who have appropriated the country, who manage “their state enterprises” as if they were the owners, seem desperate to please the few foreign investors who have accepted their conditions to try to resolve the crisis, the disaster, of what they want to continue calling socialism in Cuba.

And because the Cuban government does not allow foreign companies to freely contract for Cuban labor, but requires them to go through the state-run intermediaries who authorize the selection of the personnel and who keep around 90% of what the foreigners pay for each worker, the foreign capitalists who want to select and control their own workers have adopted this method of importing labor to be able to do so.

The desperate rulers, in their eagerness to produce joint venture companies, have accepted this nonsense, as usual, without considering all the consequences.

Of course, they do not care about the reactions of the Cuban workers and the Cuban people. Anyone who doesn’t agree can leave, and if they protest they can go to jail. All very democratic.

It is no wonder that since the late nineteenth century this kind of state-socialism as been called a prison or a barracks. No wonder, as our José Martí wrote, “It goes badly for a people of bureaucrats! All the power which would be gradually acquired by the caste of public officials, bound by their need to remain in a privileged and lucrative position, would be gradually lost by the people, who lack the same reasons for complicity in hopes and profits to confront the public officials fettered together by their common interests.”

It is left to us once again, from the positions of democratic socialism, to condemn these anti-national, anti-labor and counterrevolutionary practices of the centralized statist-wage economic and political model, of the semi-feudal court, imposed in Cuba in the name of socialism.

No, no. No more in the name of socialism.

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Cuba’s Main Airport without Air Conditioning / Juan Juan Almeida http://translatingcuba.com/cubas-main-airport-without-air-conditioning-juan-juan-almeida/ Tue, 26 Jul 2016 13:00:40 +0000 http://translatingcuba.com/cubas-main-airport-without-air-conditioning-juan-juan-almeida/ Continue reading "Cuba’s Main Airport without Air Conditioning / Juan Juan Almeida"]]>

Juan Juan Almeida, 22 July 2016 — Jose Marti International Airport in Havana will continue offering its normal services but, as part of General Raul Castro’s orchestrated set of measures to deal with the economic restrictions facing the country, it has been ordered to reduce the number of hours the facility is air conditioned.

An employee of ECASA (Cuban Airport and Aeronautical Services Company), who declined to give his name, told Marti Noticias, “The management does not know what to do or if the lack of air conditioning will hurt the airport community, the passengers, the airlines, visitors or customs service equipment, which is vital to the protection of our borders.”

The fall in oil prices, the reduction in the supply of Venezuelan oil to Havana, the collapse in the price of nickel, the fall in Cuban sugar production, the mismanagement of state resources and bad decisions by the current ship’s captain appear to be affecting the most important source of the nation’s income: tourism.

Local merchants and duty free stores operating at the airport are equally affected by the lack of this commodity and are subjected to stifling and severe heat during the hours in which they operate.

“For about ten days we have been experiencing uncomfortable situations due to the cutoff in air conditioning. The high temperatures affect ham, pickles, cabbage and tomato sandwiches that sit exposed on the counters,” reports one of the airport’s medical service employees by telephone. “Some people are more susceptible than others, but you know what it means when food at an airport is in poor condition.”

Paradoxically, one of the first actions of a government program to modernize and expand the country’s major air terminals — this facility is slated for completion in 2018 and is geared towards tourists — was to instruct the Brazilian company Odebrecht to expand Terminal 3 at Jose Marti International Airport in Havana using lightweight materials, high ceilings and large interior spaces designed to be climate controlled.

The images in the accompanying video are explicit. They demonstrate the discomfort of passengers seated in the ticket lobby, waiting area and departure lounge of Cuba’s main air terminal. The measure, which is inherently unjust, affects everyone equally: men, women and children, who grab anything they can to fan themselves. And as you can see, it seems to have begun to affect a number of passengers.

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The Cuban Government Wants to Regulate Prices for Collective Taxis / Iván García http://translatingcuba.com/the-cuban-government-wants-to-regulate-prices-for-collective-taxis-ivn-garca/ Tue, 26 Jul 2016 11:00:14 +0000 http://translatingcuba.com/the-cuban-government-wants-to-regulate-prices-for-collective-taxis-ivn-garca/ Continue reading "The Cuban Government Wants to Regulate Prices for Collective Taxis / Iván García"]]> Photo from Cubanet
Photo from Cubanet

Iván García, 19 July 2016 — At the traffic signal on Infanta and Carlos III, in the heart of Havana, Guenady takes advantage of the red light to thirstily take a swig out of a half-liter of ice water that he keeps at one side of his driver’s seat.

Perhaps the cold water helps to appease his fury. He spends 20 minutes protesting what he considers an arbitariness of the Government that is trying to regulate the prices of the routes taken by the collective taxis [taxis that pick up people and travel set routes, often old American cars].

The man turns off the CD and replaces the Reggaeton with a rant sprinkled with curses and criticisms of the olive-greet autocrats.

“It’s a farce. Those insolent people (the Regime) don’t give us private taxi drivers even a nut and now they come to demand that we establish fixed prices. They have even put up a telephone number so people can snitch on us. Why don’t they put up a telephone number for people to complain about the high prices in the dollar stores and the low salaries?” says the driver of the ancient taxi.

“Where do they put the money that they collect in taxes? Look at how messed up the streets are (and he points to the road). The blame for the poor service of the transport is theirs. Now, the same as with the truck drivers and the middlemen for the agricultural products, they want to set us against the people. If the buses ran every three minutes and there were a flotilla of taxis at low prices, there wouldn’t be problems. They don’t resolve any damn thing, and all they know how to do is prohibit, raise taxes and fuck someone,” insists Guenady, and he takes a small drink of water from the bottle.

Let’s go step by step. The poor public transport service isn’t the fault of the private drivers. It’s been a pending subject since January 1959, when the bearded Fidel Castro arrived in Havana.

There are a few small oases, but in one way or another, urban transport is chaos in Cuba. In the country there is no metro, and the suburban train barely functions.

In the ’80s, a parking lot of more than 2,500 buses, 100 routes and 4,000 taxis didn’t satisfy the service. Later, in the ’90s, the great economic crisis arrived, and with it, the Special Period: blackouts, little food and inflation through the roof. Public transport collapsed. And the high cost of gas provoked owners into keeping their cars in garages.

With the arrival in Miraflores of the paratrooper from Barina, Hugo Rafael Chávez, luck changed for the dinosaurs of the Palace of the Revolution. They exchanged oil for doctors and sports trainers, and the Government began to receive around 105,000 barrels daily of petroleum.

They even began to export part of the fuel on the world market. When a barrel surpassed 100 dollars, the Regime never offered information about what they used that money for.

The owners of automobiles, excepting professionals, were allowed to obtain taxi licenses. Havana was flooded with old United States cars and those from the Soviet era.

Today, according to a transit agent, there are more than 12,000 licensed taxis in operation, circulating in the capital. “But there are about 2,000 that are illegal. With this campaign, it’s possible that there will be more,” he warns.

The taxes on taxi drivers have been increasing gradually. Also the obstacles. “In the ’90s, we paid 400 pesos. Between 2010 and 2013, from 600 to 700 pesos. Now we pay 1,000. And the ONAT [National Tax Administration of Cuba] is always looks for a way to get more money out of us,” points out Roger, a taxi driver on the Havana-Santiago de las Vegas route.

Seventy percent of private taxi drivers rent the cars from their owners. Orlando, the owner of several trucks and cars, gives more details: “There are 30 or 40 people, like me, who are proprietors of small flotillas of cars. And we have set up medium-sized companies with two work shifts. The business gives good benefits. In a month, clean, you can make 90,000 pesos. But we’re in a judicial limbo, because the Government doesn’t recognize us. When they want to fuck us, as you see now, they make us spread our legs.”

Carlos, a sociologist, believes that the Regime’s old trick of confrontation between private individuals and regular Cubans is now worn out. “The private owners are not to blame if a pound of beef, of pork, costs 40 pesos, or if to take a bus you have to wait an hour at the bus stop. The Government should negotiate with them so the people aren’t affected. Then, if tomorrow, for violating the ordinances for fixed prices, they take away the licenses of half the taxi drivers, the transportation crisis will get worse. They attack only one part of the phenomenon but don’t go to the root. And the worst is that they don’t have a short-term solution.”

After General Raúl Castro announced new austerity measures, the urban bus service cut back on their trips. “The P-10 used to have a frequency of 10 minutes; now it’s 25 minutes,” commented a driver at the Santa Amalia terminal, south of the capital.

Raquel, an office worker, considers that they shouldn’t “crush the ’boteros’ [taxi drivers of fixed routes] any more. The few State taxis that exist charge the same. And the dollar taxis have doubled their prices.”

Ricardo, who drives an air-conditioned taxi, says that “practically all the dollar taxis are leased. We’re modern slaves. We work 12 or more hours in order to be paid 55 CUCs daily that we must turn over to the Government. That’s brought with it the increase in prices. A trip from the airport can cost 40 CUCs. It’s as if we were living in the jungle, trying to survive, and the ones who pay for the broken dishes are the people who earn the shitty salaries.”

In the middle of the traditional crisis of urban transport, above all in Havana, the greed of hundreds of private taxi drivers irritates the population. Even the authorities have reactivated a telephone line, 18820, to receive complaints from people who have had to pay more than 10 or 20 pesos, the cost of a trip according to the distance.

Luis Carlos, a taxi driver, says that “we have always bought fuel under the table. Before, at 7 or 8 pesos a liter of gasoline. But, progressively, it’s been going up on the black market, and after the new savings measures, a liter costs 20 pesos. That impacts our pockets. If the State is so generous, I wonder, why is it selling a liter at one CUC when on the world market a barrel of oil costs 30 dollars?”

The summer promises a new struggle between private taxi drivers and the Government. A war, which beyond the victor, always has a loser: the Cuban on the street.

Iván García

Martí Noticias, July 18, 2016.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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Traffic Accidents: The Fifth Highest Cause of Death in Cuba / Iván García http://translatingcuba.com/traffic-accidents-the-fifth-highest-cause-of-death-in-cuba-ivn-garca/ Mon, 25 Jul 2016 22:00:28 +0000 http://translatingcuba.com/traffic-accidents-the-fifth-highest-cause-of-death-in-cuba-ivn-garca/ Continue reading "Traffic Accidents: The Fifth Highest Cause of Death in Cuba / Iván García"]]> The state of a Transtur bus, carrying 30 European tourists, after a crash. The crash happened on April 2, 2016, at the Jatibonico exit going towards Ciego de Ávila, leaving 2 dead and 28 injured. The two who died were the driver, Alkier Barrera Medina, a 36-year-old Cuban national, and an Austrian tourist, Johnn Eberl, aged 63. Photo by Vicente Brito, Escambray newspaper from Sancti Spiritus.
The state of a Transtur bus, carrying 30 European tourists, after a crash. The crash happened on April 2, 2016, at the Jatibonico exit going towards Ciego de Ávila, leaving 2 dead and 28 injured. The two who died were the driver, Alkier Barrera Medina, a 36-year-old Cuban national, and an Austrian tourist, Johnn Eberl, aged 63. Photo by Vicente Brito, Escambray newspaper from Sancti Spiritus.

Iván García, 11 July 2016 — Fernando, owner of a private business to the east of Havana, bought his ancient black Moskvitch during the difficult years of the Special Period, when the proprietor, a national labour hero, found himself obliged to sell his cane cutting business to feed his family.

The Soviet era car should have gone to the scrapyard years ago. Moreover, the Russian factory which made the vehicle went bust in 2002. But in Cuba, the obsolete Moskvitch refuses to die.

“At that time, I was in charge of a store in a tourist centre and earned a lot of money with the ’contraption’. I bought it for $7,000”, says Fernando.

It was a miracle the car went anywhere. The handbrake didn’t work, the steering was faulty, and it didn’t have any windscreen wipers. But, the magic power of discreetly slipping a 50 cuc bill to a transport official, who had to inspect the vehicle, saw to it that the clapped-out Mokvitch passed its technical inspection.

Fernando used the car to purchase food and raw materials for his business, after driving through different parts of the capital. Its disastrous condition was an accident waiting to happen.

“Sometimes I took my family in it, and occasionally I drove it when I was drunk, but only short distances, along back streets”, Fernando added, justifying himself.

In spite of the fact that the island declares a low rate of traffic fatalities (7.8 per thousand inhabitants*), half the world average (17.4), and also lower than in Europe (9.3), according to the 2013 data of the World Health Organisation, few countries like Cuba include lack of maintenance as one of the principal vehicle risk factors.

In 2015, on average, there was a pedestrian-related accident every 47 minutes, and a death every 11 hours, according to a meeting of the National Road Safety Commission. Fatal traffic accidents are the fifth highest cause of death in Cuba.

Ricardo Alonso, Director of Automobile Security and Inspection at the Transport Ministry, announced that, according to the last year’s accident statistics, an adult over 70 years old was killed every three days, and an injury was reported every hour, most of all in the provincies of Havana (152), Camagüey (83), and Santiago de Cuba (80).

Havana, a city of more than two and a half million inhabitants, presents a highway picture ranging from fair to disastrous. Although the main arteries are tarmacked, the poor way this is done produces potholes and unevenness in the streets.

“There are no streets in the city which don’t have lumps and bumps. With the exception of Fifth Avenue and 23rd, the rest are land mines. We are not talking about back streets. In some areas the streets have lost their asphalt surface. Driving in such conditions damages your car. Every two months I have to take it to the garage because of problems caused by the poor state of the streets,” says Saúl,  who spends 12 hours a day driving a shared taxi between El Cotorro and Parque de la Fraternidad.

When you ask private drivers what are the principal causes of accidents in Cuba, most of them point to the bad state of the roads, animals wandering in the streets, poor road signs and little or no lighting on the highways.

“Driving at night along Ocho Vias or the Central Highway is pretty well suicidal. When you least expect it, you come across cattle crossing the road, or a pothole as deep as a swimming pool wrecks your car”, according to Reinaldo, who drives a “semi-bus” (a truck converted to carry passengers) from Havana to Santa Clara.

Many drivers ask what is the government doing with the money it collects from taxes applied to small private businesses. “The government rakes in thousands of millions of pesos from taxes. Why don’t they repair the streets and highways and put in street lighting?” asks Norberto, a private taxi driver.

According to the official press, 76% of the roads in Cuba are in fair or poor condition. Most drivers interviewed blame the government for the high prices of auto spare parts.

Ninety percent of the ancient American cars running around the country conceal powerful Hyundai or Mercedes motors underneath the hood.

Modernising them, only in terms of the labour, can cost up to $1,000, a luxury few can afford in country where people live on an average salary of $25 a month.

In a state-owned chain of shops, which are generally out of whatever you want, private drivers have to pay a fortune for parts. In the Fiat dealer, a stone’s throw from the Malecon, an engine costs between $4,000 and $8,000, three times the average cost in any other Latin American country.

People who have the money and patience to get through the slow processes involved, import spares from Panama or Miami, but the black market continues to be the main supplier.

But other causes of hundreds of fatal accidents are down to the drivers. Driving while drunk, talking on their mobiles while they are driving, speeding, and using vehicles unsuited to carrying passengers, are some of the factors leading to traffic accidents.

Eighty percent of Cuban vehicles have been in use for 30 years, or more. Ancient Soviet era cars, and Frankenstein American models built six or seven decades ago, run on the imagination of their mechanics, and also bribes to corrupt Ministry of Transport officials to get their operating licences.

“There have been examples of cars running on cooking gas and even kerosene. More than a few are rolling bombs. If the government sold cars at affordable prices, the problem would not be so serious”, says Carlos, a bus driver.

In Cuba, the price of a used car varies between $14,000 and $30,000 in government dealerships. And a new Peugeot 508 is approaching $300,000. Nearly as much as a Ferrari.

According to Fernando, talking about his beat-up old Moskvitch, “a little while ago, I was offered 9,000 convertible pesos [roughly the same in US dollars] and I thought of selling it.” It would be a circular business. Only in a country like Cuba would a Soviet era piece of rubbish still have a market value.

From Hispanost, June 27,  2016.

*Translator’s note: Vehicle crash rates on a per capita basis are meaningless because they do not take into account different rates of vehicle travel. The commonly accepted measure in the industry is “per capita vehicle kilometers/miles traveled.” For obvious reasons, including exceedingly low vehicle ownership rates, Cubans presumably log much fewer kilometers/miles in vehicles than do people in other Western Hemisphere countries. While the Cuban government cannot be relied on to provide accurate data, world comparisons of death rates per number of vehicles owned place Cuba (133.7) well above the United States (12.9), Europe (19.0) and the Americas as a whole (33).

Translated by GH 

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On NOT Waiting for the King to Die / Rosa María Payá http://translatingcuba.com/on-not-waiting-for-the-king-to-die-rosa-maria-paya/ Mon, 25 Jul 2016 21:32:14 +0000 http://translatingcuba.com/?p=48615 Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 2.30.19 PM

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‘Yumas’ In Cuba, “As If They Had Never Left” / 14ymedio, Zunilda Mata http://translatingcuba.com/yumas-in-cuba-as-if-they-had-never-left-14ymedio-zunilda-mata/ Mon, 25 Jul 2016 11:00:10 +0000 http://translatingcuba.com/?p=48605 Continue reading "‘Yumas’ In Cuba, “As If They Had Never Left” / 14ymedio, Zunilda Mata"]]> 'Yumas' in Havana. (14ymedio)
‘Yumas’ in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Zunilda Mata – He didn’t know that in Cuba he would be rebaptized yuma, but, within a few days of arriving he’s become accustomed to the word and his condition as a “hidden” tourist. Daniel, born in Oklahoma, is one of the thousands of travelers from the United States who have officially visited the island under one of the 12 categories authorized by Barack Obama’s administration.

They are everywhere and are distinguished by their accents, their generous tips and a fascination with everything they see.

“I came with a group of Protestant pastors, but in total we’ve only had one day of religious programming, the rest of the time we’ve visited bars, museums and come to know the country better,” he tells 14ymedio at an outdoor café at the Hotel Inglaterra in Havana.

Daniel arrived two weeks ago with a group organized by the Martin Luther King Cultural Center, founded by Raul Suarez, a religious man who enjoys official favor.

Under the terms of the relaxations, Americans are obliged to justify their trips to the island in great detail, and are at risk of the United States Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposing a heavy fine if they don’t comply with the requirements of their visit.

However, since the opening of the island to tourism in the nineties, many of them have come to Cuba through third countries. The basic change in the last year and a half bas been the ability to set aside circumspection, and jet-set American have turned Havana’s streets into their latest fashion show.

In the first quarter of this year about 100,000 Americans arrived in Cuba, a figure that is double last year’s number.

“I went to Viñales, Maria La Gorda beach, and tomorrow I’m going to Holguin and Santiago de Cuba,” Daniel details. “Part of the agenda was prepared from there,” he added. His program was put together thanks to the increasing number of alternative agencies and private accommodations that offer ever expanded services.

“I’m staying in a private home near Neptune Street and the family has connected me with another to accommodate me in the East,” says Daniel. He prefers spending time “with the people, to get to know the country better,” but doesn’t rule out “enjoying the Hotel Nacional or the Riviera for the last two nights,” two of the great architectural obsessions of yumas who tour Havana.

“They come looking for anything that reminds them of the US presence in Cuba: Hemingway’s house, old cars, hotels that were erected with money from the mafia and, of course, they want to try a famous Cuba Libre,” explains Yamilé, a Havanan who runs a dance academy near the Prado and also offers city tours and “escapes to all sorts of places.”

“The yumas are now the preferred tourists, because they have money, they’re willing to pay for high quality, and they try to be nice,” explains one of the guides working with Yamilé. “We have people who rent rooms who will only accept Americans.”

Ivón rents two rooms on Compostela Street, in the historic center of the capital. “A few years ago having an American or an Israeli was a real pain,” he said. “We had to inform [the police] every time the tourist left the room, talked to someone, or if they had a really big suitcase,” but now “there are so many yumas” that the controls have eased up somewhat.

At Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, the immigration officials’ practice of stamping the visa on a separate piece of paper, rather than on one of the pages of the US passport, remains in place. This way the passport doesn’t record the trip to Cuba.

In legal respects, for the United States they are not tourists, but citizens who come to expand the “people to people” diplomacy pushed by Obama. But Cuban ingenuity has also adapted to this furtive way of entertainment and has created offerings that meet the requirements.

“We have a visit to the town of Regla to see the museum, which has very good explanations of Santeria in Cuba, and then the program includes a fiesta we they can dance and eat,” explains Yamilé. “When the activities are done, they are free to do whatever they want and go wherever they want.”

Yoga classes, visits to ecologically interesting places, visits to small industries, and even programs focused on helping Havana’s abandoned dogs, make up a part of the kaleidoscope of activities that have been developed since the easing of travel for yumas.

“They just need a justification and we give it to them, we adapt to what they need because we have people who know everything,” boasts Yamilé.

In a bar in Old Havana, dozens of Cuba Libres are waiting for thirsty yumas. “I see them and it’s like they never left, as if they had always been here,” says the waiter, while mixing Cuban and American flavors.

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The Emigrant Must Earn Brownie Points to Enter Cuba / 14ymedio, Mario Penton http://translatingcuba.com/the-emigrant-must-earn-brownie-points-to-enter-cuba-14ymedio-mario-penton/ Sun, 24 Jul 2016 19:23:05 +0000 http://translatingcuba.com/?p=48608 Continue reading "The Emigrant Must Earn Brownie Points to Enter Cuba / 14ymedio, Mario Penton"]]>

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario J. Penton, Miami, 21 July 2016 — With blood-stained clothes and wounds and bruises on her arms, Ana Margarito Perdigon Brito returned to Miami from Havana’s Jose Marti Airport this past June. No one knew how to rationalize that the Cuban government prohibited her, a citizen of that country whose paperwork was in order, from entering the land of her birth.

“It is a form of revenge by the Cuban government towards emigrants. It is a type of blackmail by which, if you behave as they desire – which is to say, without being rebellious – you can enter your country; but if you dare to criticize the regime you may lose that right,” says the activist who left Cuba in 2012 in order to live in the US.

The Cuban exile, who lives in Homestead in south Florida, tried to enter Cuba for a second time in order to visit her sick mother in the Sancti Spiritus province. “The first time they turned me away at the Miami airport when I tried to fly to Santa Clara.   On this second occasion, they let me arrive in Havana, but once I was there, they told me I could not enter the country because, according to the system, I was prohibited entry into Cuba,” she says.

Her passport is up-to-date and valid with the corresponding renewals plus the authorization, an entrance permit for which Cubans living abroad pay and that supposedly has “lifelong” validity, although it can be nullified by Cuban officials.

She tried in vain to convince the immigration agents to let her speak with a supervisor or to explain to her by what rationale they impeded her access to a universal right. The answer was always the same: “The system indicates that you are prohibited entry. You must go back,” while they insisted that if she wanted to enter the country, she would have to seek a humanitarian visa.

The practice is not new; from Arturo Sandoval to Celia Cruz, a considerable number of Cubans have had to deal with the all-powerful Bureau of Immigration and Nationality in the last six decades in order to enter the Island. In many cases unsuccessfully as has happened to several people who could not even attend funerals for their parents. Many experts thought that with the new immigration law enacted in 2012, the situation would change, but it has not.

Perdigon believes that this is another sign of the Cuban government’s unscrupulousness as regards the diaspora. “They do not forgive me for the activism that I carried out within Cuba,” she explains.

Receiving no answer about her case, she tried to escape from the room where the immigration officials had taken her, and she was hit and wounded in a struggle. “I tried not to beg for my right but to win it [because] no one is obliged to obey unjust laws,” as Marti said.

Originally from the Sancti Spiritus province, she and her family belonged to several independent movements, joining political parties and initiatives favoring the promotion of human rights.

The passport of exiled Cuban activist Ana Perdigon Brito (14ymedio)

The passport of exiled Cuban activist Ana Perdigon Brito (14ymedio)
The passport of exiled Cuban activist Ana Perdigon Brito (14ymedio)

“On many occasions we were repressed, and we suffered acts of repudiation. One afternoon, my little daughter came running in a fright to warn me that many screaming people were coming. It was an act of repudiation that they had prepared for me in the neighborhood. On another occasion, they gave us a tremendous beating in a town called Tuinucu and jailed us,” she remembers.

Her case is not unique. According to independent statistics compiled by media, dozens of similar stories have happened in recent years. Nevertheless, there are no official data about the number of Cubans who have been denied entry into the country.

“People do not demand their rights publicly, and they don’t denounce these arbitrary situations,” comments Laritza Diversent Cambara, manager of the Cubalex Legal Information Center, via telephone from Cuba. “When we go to review statistics, countries like Canada have more complaints about human rights violations than Cuba, and we all know that is because of ignorance or lack of information about demanding their rights, because if there is anything abundant in this country, it is human rights violations,” she contends.

According to the lawyer, denial of entry by nationals is not contemplated in Cuban legislation. “It is a discretionary decision by State Security or the Bureau of Immigration and Nationality, but there exist no laws that regulate it, so people are exposed to the whims and abuses of officials,” opines the jurist.

“They cannot give the reasons for which they deny entry into the country. They do not argue that he is a terrorist threat or that the person lacks some document or formality. It is simply an arbitrary decision,” she adds.

The practice is not limited only to dissidents, activists and opponents. Diversent says that her office handled the case of a rafter who left the Island in 2011 and who continued traveling regularly, until in 2015 the Cuban authorities told him that he could not enter the country again.

14ymedio has known of similar cases of journalists, members of religious orders and doctors who took refuge in the Cuban Medical Professional Parole (CMPP) offered by the United States.

Exiled Cuban activist Ana Perdigon Brito marching through the streets of Santa Clara (14ymedio)
Exiled Cuban activist Ana Perdigon Brito marching through the streets of Santa Clara (14ymedio)

“One time I made some statements to a local newspaper in Spain about the hardship suffered by the Cuban people, and on return to the Island several officers confronted me in the airport, telling that if I did something like that again, they would revoke my temporary religious residency,” said a Spanish missionary who prefers for safety reasons not to be named.

The methods for preventing entry are as varied as the steps to take for immigration procedures in Cuba. There are people who have been denied passport authorization, as was the case of the well-known visual artist Aldo Menendez. On other occasions, Cubans are turned back at the last minute from the airport from which they tried to fly to the Island, as occurred to activist Ana Lupe Busto Machado, or they wait until they land in Havana after having spent 450 dollars on passport preparation, 20 dollars on the entrance permit or 180 dollars on the renewals, plus the price of passage from Miami which approaches 500 dollars, to tell them that they cannot ever enter their country again.

14ymedio tried to communicate with the Cuban Office of Immigration and Nationality, but authorities refused to respond to our questions.

“This kind of procedure should not surprise anyone,” says attorney Wilfredo Vallin, founder of the Cuban Law Association. “The government has a long history of actions that do not abide by its own law. Until recently wasn’t there in effect an express and unconstitutional prohibition against nationals entering hotels? What about human mobility within the Island? Isn’t that regulated, too?”

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

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A Lighter Version of Cuba’s Special Period / Iván García http://translatingcuba.com/a-lighter-version-of-cubas-special-period-ivn-garca/ Sun, 24 Jul 2016 10:07:46 +0000 http://translatingcuba.com/a-lighter-version-of-cubas-special-period-ivn-garca/ Continue reading "A Lighter Version of Cuba’s Special Period / Iván García"]]> Photo: Ernesto Perez Chang, Cubanet.
Photo: Ernesto Perez Chang, Cubanet.

Iván García, 23 July 2016 — It was announced on Friday, July 8 that Cuba had experienced an economic recession in the first half of this year and that there would be cutbacks in fuel consumption. If the country had a stock exchange or a convertible national currency, their fall would have been dramatic.

It was a black Friday in Cuba, where there is not even a semblance of Wall Street and the local currency is nothing more than paper. Businesses and direct investments that increase GDP are scarce. Prominent businesspeople and well-known multinationals survey the scene like birds of prey yet do not dare to swoop down on their targets.

Cuba is a veritable marketing operation. While there is an abundance of optimistic headlines, the public perceives no real impact from an improved economy. More than a few Cubans feel cheated.

Just ask Dario, a man who takes care of cars and motorcycles in a parking lot in eastern Havana, his opinion about the looming austerity and you will notice the anger in his terse reply.

“Man, don’t these guys (in the regime) realize they are playing with fire? How long will people tolerate this ’prosperous and sustainable’ socialism? I don’t believe any citizen of any country in the world would put up with what we Cubans put up with. I don’t know what we have done to deserve such a shameless and dishonest government,” he stresses as he shelters from the blazing sun under the covered entryway of a grocery store.

The first round of cutbacks, which have occurred amid hot weather and shortages, have already caused widespread discontent.

“I spent three hours waiting for the P5. A bus inspector told me it used to come every fifteen or twenty minutes at peak hours. Now the wait is forty minutes or longer. With this new Special Period, you can’t venture outside anymore,” says a woman who has just attended a theater performance with her granddaughter.

Air conditioners at stores, markets and business offices are turned off from eight in the morning until one in the afternoon. “But my company doesn’t turn it on until after three in the afternoon,” says an employee of the telecommunications monopoly ETECSA.

“You can’t go into the stores. The heat is unbearable; it feel like a microwave. Then there are the scowls of the employees. The best thing we can do is to escape by boat and for anyone who can to leave this shit country,” says Gustavo, a retiree who spends two hours scouring the shops in the old part of the city looking for a six-pack of malt sodas and two containers of fruit-flavored yogurt.

People are feeling the impact of cutbacks in fuel consumption and services. However, the government has said that, for the moment, there are no plans to cut electricity.

“The ones forced to spend huge amounts of time at bus stops or having to do their banking and shopping without air conditioning are the people. There aren’t any electricity cuts in hotels and resorts, the air conditioning there isn’t turned off and food isn’t scarce. If by chance blackouts do return, I think people will explode. We can’t take it anymore,” muses Manuel, a construction worker.

The new belt tightening is affecting salaries in some segments of the workforce and could cause the prices of certain goods and services to skyrocket.

“Because of changes in bus schedules, I now fumigate houses for a living,” says a laid-off bus driver. “I was making eleven to twelve hundred pesos a month, which they were ripping me off in taxes. Now I only make six hundred pesos as a fumigator. I would be better off staying home and seeing what else I could do.”

Several taxi cooperatives have already raised fares and cut back on the number of rides. “It’s impossible to get a taxi from Vedado to La Palma. Now the taxi drivers divide the trip into thirds and you have to spend thirty pesos to get to La Palma. If you’re going to one of the beaches in the east, the trip will cost at least three or four convertible pesos (75 to 100 non-convertible pesos),” notes Diana, a hairdresser.

Rigoberto, an independent taxi driver, says, “On Sunday and Monday I went around to some gas stations but they didn’t have fuel. Some people were selling petroleum for twelve pesos and gasoline for twenty. If prices go up a lot, I’ll raise the fare to twenty pesos a ride.”

Orlando, a produce warehouse manager, hopes fuel cuts do not affect agriculture. “If Acopio* was not transporting the crops on time before and harvests were being lost, things could get complicated if there are fuel shortages. And if food supplies becomes scarce, ’the cane (the situation) will get sliced in three’ and you can expect outbreaks of mass violence. There have already been two cases in Havana,” he says.

In a country mired in a continuing economic crisis that has lasted for twenty-seven years, it seems too much to ask for new sacrifices from citizens and for more austerity in their daily lives.

In an ultra-sensitive but politically apathetic society, the disastrous combination of poverty and the inability to emigrate is like adding phosphorous to gasoline. Remember August 1994.

 *Translator’s note: The state-run procurement and distribution agency.

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