Translating Cuba English Translations of Cubans Writing From the Island Thu, 26 Nov 2015 03:12:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Bucanero-Cristal Exploits Ties to Self-Employed and Palco and Habaguanex Executives / Juan Juan Almeida Wed, 25 Nov 2015 23:30:18 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

Juan Juan Almeida, 24 November 2015 — Just as the proceedings surpassed the scandalous total of 42 people indicted, the General Vice-Prosecutor of the Republic of Cuba, Carlos Raúl Concepción Rangel, imposed a gag order on the case and hid it underneath the trite mantle of “secret character,” because — according to sources in the Prosecutor’s office — he’s expecting the number of those involved to increase.

The investigation filtered down, and some of the people implicated hardened themselves and beat it out of the country. Others are hiding out; there is a border alert for them, and an order of search and capture.

Before such an emergency, and even without finishing the trial, they’re taking the accused out of the investigation center at 100 and Aldabó — the women to the western prison, El Guatao (known as Manto Negro), the men to Valle Grande or the Combinado del Este. The VIP accomplices, owing to their natural status as first-class citizens, were sent home and asked to be “low profile” until their names could be pulled from the file or, at least, their complicity silenced in a case that could paint them as crooks.

Certainly the population’s complaints will increase due to the absence of the country’s beer in Cuban markets. There hasn’t been any of the national beer available in any restaurant or State establishment, nor in the TRD shops, the so-called Rápidos, or Ditú*.

The Minister of Foreign Trade faces lawsuits from international distributors for frequent non-compliance with contractual commitments.

The litigants claim that there was no delivery of Cristal and Bucanero; but the headquarters, Cervecería Bucanero S.A., says it fulfilled its production plans and satisfied requests without reporting anything stolen or lost.

Everyone’s asking the same question: “Where did that beer mysteriously go, once it left the factory, was paid for and didn’t show up in the State system?”

Indications point in only one direction: the private restaurants, private bars and other establishments of the self-employment initiative.

The investigation started at the end of last August, when a couple of inspectors, as lethal and accurate as good snipers, targeted a truck from Cervecería Bucanero S.A., which each week unloaded merchandise in a private restaurant located on the Pinar del Río-Havana highway.

Inconsistent but true because — although the Government says it’s boosting private initiative and the press repeats the lie and many who are misled believe it — there is a regulation that prohibits the self-employed from buying what they sell privately directly from the companies (whether national or foreign), that is, wholesale; they can only buy goods in ordinary consumer stores or shops.

Ministry of the Interior (MININT forces), as part of the process of compiling data and evidence to document the investigation’s case, and make citizens uncomfortable, are examining the house of one of the managers of the Bucanero warehouse, and — according to the investigative file: “In one room (Fambá’s**), inside a safe, the police confiscated 82,000 CUC and three lists: one with the names of sellers to whom they must pay a commission, another of Palco and Habaguanex officials, and the other with directions for distributing merchandise.”

They’re adding prisoners to the list; the investigation is expanding; and the anger of those organizing the case is growing, even when those implicated find themselves facing an “accomplished fact” with no defense. It’s difficult to imagine, because they managed to use methods of buying and selling that are not even conventional enough to qualify as criminal acts.

The private business owners delivered money to the officers of State companies, Palco and Habaguanex; and the officers issued, to Cervecería Bucanero S.A., a bill of payment (not falsified) with the amount of the merchandise, together with an official order.

Bucanero had to deliver, and it did deliver. So sellers and buyers were violating the regulations, yes, but not the law. And in place of being judged for an act of corruption, they should be awarded for their ingenious solution.

Translator’s notes:
*TRD is the Spanish initials for “Hard Currency Collection Store” — which the regime uses to ’collect’ people’s remittances from abroad by selling them overpriced products not available in Cuban pesos; El Rápido is a fast-food chain; Ditú is a chain of coffee shops.
**In the African-Caribbean religion, Abakua, the Fambá is a room where rituals are performed.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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Is There a Cuban Style? / Rebeca Monzo Wed, 25 Nov 2015 22:30:29 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

Rebeca Monzo, 13 November 2015 — As I see it, it would be incorrect to claim there is a Cuban style. During the last fifty years Cuban men and women on the island have been dressing any way they can with whatever was sent to them by overseas relatives, by repurposing old clothes or, in recent years, with contributions by those who had the opportunity to travel and brought back clothing of low-quality for resale. Until now, the only major points of reference on which Cubans could rely for their so-called fashion sense have been popular video clips and TV soap operas, most of them Brazilian.

It is very difficult to be a fashion leader if you do not have a strong economy and great designers, or a textile industry and light manufacturing to provide everything necessary for its creation. That is why fashion has always been dictated from the great capitals of the world, Paris being the prime example. It is the public itself that ultimately determines what fashion is by adapting it, using it and broadening its appeal. Everything else is determined by fashion trends, adaptations to climate, social status and the infrastructure of individual countries. It should be noted that there are iconic pieces, such as the Cuban guayabera, the Panama hat and the Mexican shawl, to name a few, but by themselves they do not constitute fashion.

A very interesting and commendable recent development in this country has been the first Artisan Fashion Week, which serves a prelude and kick-off to the famous annual FIART fair. It has become essential to set a benchmark on what constitutes proper dress. With the disappearance of fashion magazines as well as related institutions decades ago, there has been a lack of information, and the mass media has not provided good examples to follow.

The only hint that there might be such as thing as Cuban fashion came when La Maison created some fabulous and very tasteful pieces inspired by the guayabera and Creole buttons. Another key moment was the appearance of those famous Telarte fabrics, created by some of our country’s best designers. Their life was, however, as fleeting as that of a butterfly. At the time there were some hard currency stores that carried these creations but the population of Cuba was denied access to them, along with the use of that particular type of currency.

Historically speaking, we should note that the most important changes in women’s fashion internationally coincided with big, earth-shattering events. During World War I, women found themselves taking on jobs formerly held by men, who were at the front. One of the big changes in women’s lives was a new wardrobe more appropriate to their new social role. This meant abandoning uncomfortable undergarments such as corsets, which limited their movements, and adopting shorter skirts and looser hip-length blouses. Later came boyish haircuts and the use of cigarettes holders for smoking, which women felt they had gained the right to do in public. With these changes came economic independence and self-determination.

As a result, certain iconic items altered the landscape of fashion: extended waists, long strings of pearls, reed-like cigarette holders and short shirts that exposed legs covered by sheer flesh-colored silk stockings. These were the hallmarks of an elegant woman of the 1920s.

Two styles of dress conquered the fashion world, took root and remain popular today: the tailored suit and casual wear. The first — made from a myriad of materials, including thin, soft wools for daytime and beautiful lamé fabrics for night — was one of the major contributions by Coco Chanel. Casual wear resulted mainly from the great boom in sports and thrilling sporting events, which women attended both as spectators and to show off.

The difficult years of World War II saw widespread rationing. Fabric, an essential commodity, was one of the hardest hit. Skirts ended just below the knees to save on fabric.

The widespread use of the uniform for women in critical jobs, both in the army and in factories, affected the way they dress. Nevertheless, the great couturiers never stopped responding to new requirements by offering new solutions. In 1947 there was a radical and dramatic change in appearance of a woman’s waistline. It became more refined as skirts became a little longer, giving them a beautiful fullness, which had been missing for many years. One of the most prominent designers of this period was undoubtedly Christian Dior, until then virtually ignored.

Until the 1950s, Cuba served as a model of female beauty and elegance. So renowned were Cuban women for these qualities that, when they travelled overseas or moved to foreign countries, women such as the Countess of Merlin dazzled the royal courts of Europe with their refinement. This was due in large measure to the number of designers and fashion houses in the Cuban capital. One of the most internationally renowned and recognized of these designers was Cuba’s Ismael Bernabeau, to whom this article pays homage.

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Havana Graffiti Criticizes State Phone Company / 14ymedio Wed, 25 Nov 2015 21:36:16 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Graffiti in Havana: “Super offer? If I buy one banana they give me two. But I have to eat them in 1 hour. Loosen up Cubacel!” (14ymedio)

Graffiti in Havana: “Super offer? If I buy one banana they give me two. But I have to eat them in 1 hour. Loosen up Cubacel!” (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 25 November 2015 – Criticisms of the management of the Telecommunications Company of Cuba (ETECSA) have reached the walls of Havana. A nice graffiti criticizes the conditions attached to the latest international recharge promotions for cellphone customers. The drawing mocks the requirement that consumers use their balance in a short period of time.

“If I buy one banana they give me two. But I have to eat it in 1 hour,” muses a pensive chimpanzee painted on several walls in the capital. The complaint ends with a “Loosen up, Cubacel!” demanding that the cellphone network give better terms for its recharge offerings.

Between the 16th and 20th of November, the company launched an international promotion under the slogan: “A bonus on your recharge with 30 or 60.” Each prepaid customer whose phone was recharged from abroad (presumably on-line by family or friends) for 20 or 30 CUC during that period, received an additional bonus of 30 or 60 CUC respectively. However, the user had to use the balance before December 20th of this year.

Some customers of the prepaid service have considered the requirement an exorbitant condition and are demanding that the credits earned during a promotion should not expire over time.

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Teenage Gangs Assault And Rob Residents Of Havana Neighborhoods / Diario de Cuba, Jorge Enrique Rodriguez Tue, 24 Nov 2015 19:45:32 +0000 Continue reading ]]> diariodecubalogoDiario de Cuba, Jorge Enrique Rodriguez, Havana, 24 November 2015 — Two teenage gangs disturb the public peace on the streets of the Havana municipality of Cerro, while the police remain passive. Known as Los Apululus and Los Atormentados, both gangs engage in physical aggression against the elderly, assault and robbery on public streets.

The slums of El Canal, Las Cañas, Carragüao, Pilar and Atarés are among the hardest hit. The victims are stripped of their belongings, especially cell phones, accessories, money and clothing.

For the psychologist Leticia Collado, a resident of Las Canas, “these behaviors are the result of the fracture of the family and the crisis of the ideological education structure, which shows little interest in cultivating civility and socio-cultural principles in children and adolescents.

“The family is immersed in daily survival exacerbated by the economic circumstances of the country, while the school environment is no longer an attraction or an incentive,” because of the lack of prospects for a successful professional future, said Collado. “These deficiencies are a breeding ground for criminal behavior,” she concludes.

Sayú, a retired teacher and resident of El Canal neighborhood, questioned the role of the People’s Power, the police and so-called “mass organizations” controlled by the government, mainly the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) .

“The People’s Power delegates and the CDR are only interested in ‘Revolutionary tasks’ such as CDR guard duty, volunteer work, or a call to a ‘combatant’ march; they report on how you dress, what you eat and who you associate with,” criticized Sayú.

“But they don’t care about the fact that these teenagers don’t go to school, or what happens there. To make matters worse, the police just wander the streets and when you do see a police car, you can be sure they are after some girl, intercepting old ladies selling peanuts or engaged in corruption. They bring more worry than security,” he said.

However, Cecilia Canteros, president of a CDR and a People’s Power delegate from Las Canas, said “the problem starts inside homes where families barely concern themselves with the upbringing and education of these teens.

“Many here know who the boys are in Las Apululus and Los Atormentados, but no one lodges a complaint for fear of reprisals from their relatives who are also violent people. The state is not responsible for these problems because people do not report them to the appropriate authorities,” said Canteros.

A police source, which cannot be revealed, said that these acts are considered “social indiscipline and not as criminal acts, so the responsibility and solution is left up to the Party and Youth structures.

“The Department for Attention to Minors only acts when there is a criminal process; it barely does any preventive work,” the source added. “There are several reports of these gangs, but the indication from the Party is that they are already dealing with the matter”.

While the Communist Party “deals,” the residents of these neighborhoods live in fear and many citizens have suffered injury as a result of the assaults committed by the two gangs.

“When they kill two or three old people or the godson of some boss for four pesos or a cellphone, that is when someone will pay attention. That’s how things work in this country: there has to be a death for the government to lift a finger,” complained Sonni Diaz, a mother of two.

In the face of the growing phenomenon of violence on the island, the official press is silent. With few exceptions, they always treat it as “isolated incidents,” and alert the population to violent criminal acts, but never when the perpetrators are teenagers.

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“Being in Prison is like walking through the guts of the country”/ Cubanet, Jorge Angel Perez, Angel Santiesteban Tue, 24 Nov 2015 06:19:48 +0000 Continue reading ]]> The writer Angel Santiesteban Prats (photo: Jorge Angel Perez)

The writer Angel Santiesteban Prats (photo: Jorge Angel Perez)

cubanet square logoCubanet, Jorge Angel Perez, Havana, 23 November 2015 – Angel Santiesteban is the author of one of the most singular works in our literature. He has received multiple recognitions for this in Cuba and abroad. When he was very young he won the UNEAC Prize (from the Writers and Artists Union of Cuba) for his book, “Dream of a Summer Night,” and later the Alejo Carpentier Prize for “The Children Nobody Wanted.” This title also served as the name of his blog, where he has expressed himself in recent years. “Blessed are Those Who Mourn” was distinguished with the Casa de las Americas Prize.

After this brief summary, anyone unfamiliar with his work would say that he is “lucky,” but the larger truth is that he always earns what is most important: laurels from his readers. Life in prison is one of his recurring themes. Whomever starts reading his texts will discover this from the first line of many of his narrative pieces. It turns out that he was in prison twice, and in a ton of police stations. We talked for a long time about prison and his work, a few days ago at my house. And now, while transcribing our conversation, I learned why he was nominated by Reporters Without Borders to receive the Citizen Reporter prize that was just awarded to a group of Ethiopian bloggers.

Jorge Angel Perez (JAP): Angel, there are not many Cuban writers who lived through the hell of prison for two seasons. Did these two stays serve something in your writing?

Angel Santiesteban: Prison has been a rare source of nutrition; relating the events I lived, that I witnessed, has been my armor. Thanks to writing I didn’t lose my head. I think what I experienced intensely in those times gave my writing a great spontaneity. A writer with great imagination could write a great book without being imprisoned, but you can’t deny that someone who was there could tell it with more candor…

JAP: Is this reflected in your book, “Men without Woman,” of Montenegro…

Angel Santiesteban: I think so. Being in prison helped me to have the spontaneity and sincerity literature requires. That candor always remains. So while I passed those two times through that hell, I was thinking about the stories I could find, and how it might serve my work. Thinking about finding material for writing saved me, made those difficult stretches less so.

JAP: Finding those stories …

Angel Santiesteban: I found them there and they were what saved me. Going to prison is like going to war. The prisoner and the soldier have a lot in common. Both are far from home. Both are incommunicado. Both have unmet sexual desires. Both are under a military command that can be abusive and can impose, many times, in a humiliating way. Every day you are in danger of losing your life; in prison at the hands of a criminal and in war you can be killed by the enemy.

JAP: It is there that you will find stories that will serve you later, but the truth is you didn’t go voluntarily to rummage through the prison and the behavior of the prisoners.

Angel Santiesteban: I went because they took me, forced me. The last time I went to prison because I believed, and I still believe, that I could do something to make my country better, to make it democratic. Fidel once said that a better world is possible, and I went to find this better world, to find this better Cuba. That cost me prison. Because I wanted to get this world, I started in my house, for this country I love. My literary teachers told me what was important was to write, that it was my work I should pay attention to, the first thing was to write, to publish, to get readers. Write, write and write. Many friends, and those teachers, thought that a writer doesn’t need to do anything else.

JAP: And do you believe it?

Angel Santiesteban: No, I do not believe it. That is a lie, but I believed it for many years. For a long time I devoted myself only to writing. I built a body of work, I published books and I remained silent… out of fear.

JAP: And where did you leave that fear?

Angel Santiesteban: It is still with me. It never left, but I learned to accommodate it. I never lost the fear of going to prison. There you could die in an instant, and this is terrible. Fear comes to me when I think I won’t be able to be with my children, with my family at the moment when they most need me. Imagining this moment makes a strong impression on me. It scares me to think about the possibility of their getting sick and not being able to help them. My daughter was at university when they arrested me the last time and that made me feel responsible

JAP: And who was responsible?

Angel Santiesteban: Viewed simply it should be me, but the real blame lies with those who arrested me. It was an unjust arrest and that was distressing. It was the possibility that her father was in prison again that made her sad, and so she decided not to go to school, so she missed class, so she had to justify her absence. I imagine how many times she thought she would have to go to the prison again to be with her father in his incarceration. Who really is to blame for her anguish. Me?

It makes me very happy that she is studying. I want her to graduate, and nourish her desires to study, but a young student will not feel very comfortable in the classroom knowing that her father is unjustly imprisoned. I’m also distressed when I see them come to the prison. To see boys of 17 or 18 visiting a prisoner is not comforting. My first incarceration had to do with accompanying my family to the coast when they wanted to leave the country forever. I ended up in prison but I didn’t have children. The last time they were grown and studying. The father of both of them was in prison for seeking democracy. And they knew what this could cost me.

JAP: What is democracy for you?

Angel Santiesteban: Saying what I think out loud and nobody is bothered. Saying what I like and everyone understands that this right exists and everyone joins us, and everyone understand that there are ideas different from the ideas of those in charge. Is it so difficult to understand this? I think it is good to converse, and the differences you have with those in power should not send you to prison. For me, that is democracy.

JAP: And are you prepared to converse to get this democracy?

Angel Santiesteban: Of course, that is what it’s about. I can converse with a Communist if he is able to listen to me with respect, if he allows me to act according to my assumptions. I have that right, although they have taken it from me I know I have it. I can also converse with a liberal. I can converse with those in power and those who oppose it even though we may not agree on everything. I just refuse to converse with those who foster terrorism. At this table I want to defend my right to express myself. If now I engage in political activity it is because I intend to find that democracy where everyone can coexist, even with their differences. I would love it if in the future it is said about me, if I am mentioned in a line, that is what it says.

JAP: And your writing?

Angel Santiesteban: I prefer to talk before the effort of engaging in the dialogue, about my dreams of democracy, that it be said that I confronted those who did not let me express myself. I want this, and it can be said very briefly, in just one line.

JAP: Just recently you were detained in a police station. Why?

Angel Santiesteban: Anything I could tell you would be conjecture, everything would be a supposition. I don’t have the truth. I think it was more than a threat, that they were trying to revoke my parole, to send me back to prison.

JAP: Why do you think so?

Angel Santiesteban: They told me there was an accusation from my ex-wife, the mother of my son. They showed it to me and I recognized her signature, but she told our son that she hadn’t accused me. They could have forged her signature to intimidate me. I haven’t seen her for a long time, so there was no threat, but later the (independent journalist) Maria Marienzo was at the station investigating, interested in me, and they said I was a prisoner because I broke in and burgled someone, however they told (Antonio) Rodiles the same thing they had said to me, that I had violated the domicile of the mother of my son.

They never agreed among themselves the reason for my detention. I believe, and this is a supposition, that it all had to do with a text I wrote the previous day, before being arrested, where I denounced the imprisonment of Lamberto Hernandez Planas, where I commented on his hunger strikes, the risks to his health, and also demanded his immediate release. Everything has to do with my political activities, with my opposition. I do not threaten anyone, much less did I break in and burgle someone.

JAP: What happened then?

Angel Santiesteban: After my son announced to me that his mother had not accused me, what I knew for sure was that they had arrested me, they stopped showing the alleged accusation of my ex. The next day I was taken to the provincial court. When we arrived, the police officers accompanying me wanted to know in which room the trial be held, and someone said to take me to an office. There I waited for the president of the court and she told me my freedom had been revoked. There was a brief silence and then she continued. She said that despite the revocation I would be set free, and suggested that I behave myself, that I must behave very well.

JAP: And do you think you could go back to prison?

Angel Santiesteban: Maybe, but I hope the pretext would be less crude than the one they used to imprison me last time. If they were less heavy-handed they might send me, if there were a next time, on a fellowship to Paris or Berlin. Never to prison. That is the worst thing you can do with a writer. Can you imagine what you could write there?

JAP: I don’t want to imagine it, it frightens me.

Angel Santiesteban: A writer will write everything he sees, everything serves him. A criminal will listen to other people’s stories and maybe it serves him to plan his next wrongdoing, but a writer analyzes every detail, every gesture, every story, and then he isn’t going to resist it, he is going to write it, and people are going to read it, to find out what happens there.

Being in prison is like walking through the guts of the country. Imagine the reader when he reads these putrid descriptions. Everything I saw fed this desire to write, to publish on my blog, to write stories, to do what I think is better for my country. I wrote a lot there. I wrote stories, from this stay in prison a novel emerged. From the stories they told me during those hours I spent in the police station, many narrative pieces could come. And there is also my blog. From there, I will continue recounting, without stopping, without them making me stop.

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Declaration on the Cuban Migrant Crisis / Forum for Rights and Freedoms Tue, 24 Nov 2015 04:10:08 +0000 Continue reading ]]> 12244325_1025959867466327_5045177739525547285_o

Forum for Rights and Freedoms, 23 November 2015 — In recent weeks we have observed, with deep concern, the development of a new migration crisis. The human drama that thousands of Cubans are experiencing already affects the entire Central American region, the Caribbean, and especially Costa Rica, a nation that has received migrants with great solidarity, in contrast to the complicity of Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua.

The Castro regime has decided, once again – we recall the Camarioca exodus in 1965, the Mariel Boatlift in the 1980s, the Rafter Crisis in 1994 – to use Cubans as pieces in their political game, putting at risk their lives and safety. Denunciations of abuse, assaults and every kind of crime against Cuban emigrants has elicited the solidarity of all people of goodwill.

Since coming the Castro dictatorship’s coming to power, the regime has used migratory crises to win concessions from the United States.

In this case, the regime is pressuring the United States, and involving third parties, in the midst of a process of normalization between the Obama administration and the dictatorship, to win additional concessions from president Obama, without having to take steps to improve the appalling situation of human rights in Cuba.

We condemn the profound contempt, and the indolent and inhumane attitude of the dictatorship towards Cubans. Only a transition to democracy and respect for fundamental rights and freedoms can reverse the misery that exists on the island.

We appeal to international organizations and those involved to be in solidarity with the Cuban people and their right to be free, in the face of his scenario that becomes more complex every day.

Foro por los Derechos y Libertades / Forum for Rights and Freedoms
Ailer González, Estado de Sats
Ángel Moya, Movimiento Libertad Democrática por Cuba
Ángel Santiesteban, Estado de Sats
Antonio G. Rodiles, Estado de Sats
Berta Soler, Dama de Blanco
Claudio Fuentes, Estado de Sats
Egberto Escobedo, Asociación de presos y expresos políticos en Cuba
María Cristina Labrada, Dama de Blanco
Raul Borges, Partido por la Unidad Democrática Cristiana

Other signers
Frank Calzon, Center for a Free Cuba
Lincoln Díaz-Balart, El Instituto La Rosa Blanca
Orlando Gutiérrez Boronat, Directorio Democrático Cubano

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About 300 Activists Arrested This Sunday / 14ymedio Tue, 24 Nov 2015 03:04:38 +0000 Continue reading ]]> CUiS1yQW4AAWcoj14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 23 November 2015 — During the day this Sunday nearly 300 activists were arrested across the country, according to what Cuban opposition sources told this newspaper. Most of those arrested belong to the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) and the Ladies in White. UNPACU activist Zaqueo Báez and his wife, Lady in White Maria Acón, were released on Monday after spending more than 24 hours in custody at the Seventh Police Unit in Havana.

In Havana, over one hundred people were detained, while in the province of Santiago de Cuba the figure reached 98 activists, 51 in Camagüey, 12 in Holguin, Guantanamo 9 and 13 in Las Tunas, to which are added the arrests in other provinces, according to José Daniel Ferrer, leader of UNPACU.

In Camagüey, the police raided the home of Fernando Vázquez Guerra, coordinator of the organization in the province, and seized documents, discs and several Cuban flags belonging to UNPACU.

The opponents were detained for several hours and by Sunday night most of them had been released.

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Press Workshop with Raul Rivero / Ivan Garcia Tue, 24 Nov 2015 01:11:25 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Photo: Raúl Rivero in his house in Havana.

Ivan Garcia, 23 November 2015 — On these hot nights in Havana, when nostalgia, that silent thief that robs you of strength, strikes without warning, Raúl Rivero, the poet, sneaks through my window and offers me a workshop specifically on the latest news from modern journalism.

The art of teaching still doesn’t accept journalistic lectures by telepathy. But I confess that I have grown as a reporter by brushing up on the lessons of the poet from Morón, Ciego de Ávila.

I met him one day before Christmas in 1995. There was an unusual cold spell in Havana. The sun didn’t poke out, and the greyness made the streets simmer with grime.

Raúl lived with his wife, Blanca Reyes, in an apartment building surrounded by tenements and braced-up houses in the La Victoria district, just in the heart of the capital.

A complicated district. Formerly a zone of pleasure and whorehouses and, after the olive-green Revolution, the cradle of prostitution, drugs and cheating by the deformed “New Man” that Fidel Castro intended to mold.

Spanish is reinvented in La Victoria, sprinkled with jargon that sounds like the Buenos Aires lunfardo. At the foot of the staircase, in the building where Rivero lived, they offer you bath soap and detergent, stolen the night before from the shops in Sabatéss, or a leg of homemade ham.

In that itinerant market, among mothers who gossiped about soap operas and husbands, resided the best living poet in Cuba. I had just turned 30, and journalism wasn’t alien to me.

When I was a kid, my mother — who since 2003 has been living in Switzerland as a political refugee — took me around the whole country while she prepared reports for Bohemia magazine or the Points of View program on national television.

A journalist friend of my mother told us: “That fat guy, Rivero, is organizing an independent press agency. Go there.” On September 23, 1955, the poet founded Cuba Press.

On the day I went to see him, Rivero received me in shorts and without a shirt, smoking one cigarette after another. Absorbed, he heard my proposal and spit out, laconically: “Write something, then we’ll see.”

Cuba Press was pure journalistic abstraction, but it had a marked intent of telling stories in another way. It would be very pretentious to call it a press agency, when the writing took place in a kind of office in the living room of Blanca and Raúl’s house.

There were no computers or teletypes. Only a fixed telephone and an Olivetti Lettera typewriter. There were times when the journalistic texts were read over the phone, and the Internet sounded like a fable.

Cuba Press was a factory for journalists, in particular for those who dreamed of doing it the best — riskier in the case of autocratic countries — in service to the world.

Together with reporters who were disenchanted with State journalism, like Rivero himself, Ana Luisa López Baeza, Iria González Rodiles, Tania Quintero Antúnez, José Rivero García and Ricardo González Alfonso, I learned how to be an independent journalist.

The Black Spring came later, in March 2003. And by Fidel Castro’s express order, 75 peaceful dissidents went to prison. Raúl Rivero was one of them. In 1999, when the Cuban Regime approved a gag law that harshly restricted freedom of expression and condemned whoever violated it to up to 20 years of prison, he wrote an anthology piece, Monologue of the Guilty:

“No one, no law could make me assume the mentality of a gangster or a delinquent because I report the arrest of a dissident or give the prices of basic food products in Cuba, or write an article where I say that it seems a disaster to me that more than 20,000 Cubans go into exile every year to the U.S., and hundreds more are trying to leave to go anywhere. No one can make me feel like a criminal, an enemy agent or unpatriotic by any of those idiocies that the Government uses to degrade and humiliate. I’m only a man who writes. And I write in the country where I was born, and where my great-grandparents were born.”

His imprisonment provoked a resounding international disgust. On April 1, 2005, he went to Madrid with his mother and wife as a political exile from the Castro Regime. One more.

Now Raúl publishes his weekly articles in the daily newspaper El Mundo, and friends say he sleeps with Cuba underneath his pillow.

Over here, on this side of the Malecón, when I get together with Luis Cino, Jorge Olivera and Victor Manuel Domínguez, we remember anecdotes about Rivera (they could fill a book). Or those press workshops that he taught, shooting words at us from an old armchair. And every time, we review his poetry and dissect our newspaper articles.

Some are authentic and masterful for professionals of the word. Read the introduction of this chronicle after the death of Gabo [Gabriel García Márquez]:

“For me the death that hurts is that of Gabriel García, that old reporter from Aracataca who let his mustache grow to resemble the singer, Bienvenido Granda. A man who liked to dream and write novels, clever and generous, who discovered beauty whenever he saw a woman for the first time, treated you to words and to whom life gave all the literary glory of the world — even a Nobel Prize — but let him die without permitting him to write the lyrics of a bolero.”

Or more recently, when in “None appeared to go to Cuba” he says: “None of those famous media people have been to Cuba. That zone in the Caribbean where they were and where others went to stay and photograph isn’t a country. It’s a reality imposed by a group in power who reclaim the money from foreign investment to leave their heirs in the Palace in command of that entelechy.

On November 23, Raúl Rivero will be 70 years old. We, his friends, are going to toast him with a drink of rum. Meanwhile, on an old turntable, we will listen to “Gray Rain,” the Spanish version of “Stormy Weather,” which launched Olga Guillot to fame in 1945.

Iván García

Translated by Regina Anavy

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Eight Years of the Cuban Independent Writers Club / Ivan Garcia Mon, 23 Nov 2015 22:11:01 +0000 Continue reading ]]>  Photo: Members of the Cuban Independent Writers Club at a meeting in Havana in 2011. From the Cuba blog.

Iván García, 16 November 2015 — In the depths of the peeling, unpainted building where the journalist and independent writer Víctor Manuel Domínguez lives, a lady, who is waiting for customers behind a display counter of cheap Chinese jewelry, is reading a well-used copy of a book by Corín Tellado.

On a rusty, narrow vertigo-inducing staircase, a dirty abandoned dog urinates hastily and without pause. Dominguez has lived in that ruinous building, in the very heart of Havana, for thirty years.

In the living room there are more books than furniture. With some music of Gal Costa in the background, Victor Manuel looks over dozens of manuscripts which will compete in the Vista-Puente de Letras competition [ed. note: for Cuban writers resident in Cuba] which it is anticipated will in the future be divided between Havana and Miami.

The writer looks through a mountain of papers which overflow his black briefcase, and explains: “Exactly on December 17th, when the world received the news about the change of direction between Cuba and the United States, in Miami the Writers’ Club awarded the Gastón Baquero prize for independent literature to the poet and free journalist Jorge Olivera,” talking without leaving off from smoking one cigarette after another.

“There have been changes. This invitation is also extended to writers in exile. But the Club’s work is not treading water. Last Saturday, November 7th, we presented the Vista Puente de Letras project, a tribute to the Puente publication, censored by the government in 1965, and to writing as a vehicle of communication,” says Victor Manuel, and he adds: “Fidel Castro’s government has always treated as anathema any outbreak of autonomy. There are plenty of examples of intolerance of free thought. Like the banning of Puente, the Stalinist decision of the court against Herberto Padilla, or the suppression of María Elena Cruz Varela’s Criterio Alternativo, who was made to retract her poems in an openly-Fascist move.”

Domínguez explains that in 1996 a diminished group of independent journalists, those who had had books published, “decided to finance a literary project which was discredited by the government’s scribes. Typical of any totalitarian regime: they attack the person, not the work. What with the repression and exile, the group dissolved. On May 7th 2007, Jorge Olivera and I started the Independent Writers Club. We didn’t have anywhere to arrange literary gatherings. We were like gypsies. Some embassies and consulates, including Germany, Sweden, Czech Republic, Norway, Poland and the US, opened their doors so we could read poems and fragments of our writings”.

But the best was still to come. “2013 was a watershed. The new migration regulations permitted club members to travel abroad and carry out some exploratory lobbying in different places, in order to find a publisher who would put out our work. Before 2007 specific works by imprisoned dissidents or writers were published. But the contact with foreign publishers, especially Neo Club Press in Miami has been fundamental,” emphasised Victor Emanuel.

He goes to his tiny kitchen and makes some coffee. “It was a giant leap forward. Last year we published six books. and in 2015 we are going for  ten, and in the Vista Puente de Letras edition, coming out in Miami next December we have planned another five works. Right now we have about 50 writers who have joined our club. Among them more than 15 have come from official institutions or are still in them. Qualitatively the project is in very good health and is addressing bluntly and without prejudice all Cuba’s social and political issues”.

I ask him why have so many writers who belonged or belong to the UNEAC (Writers and Artists Union of Cuba) have decided to join the project. Victor Manuel thinks before answering.

“For various reasons. 17 D [ed. note: 17 December 2014, the date of decision to re-establish US-Cuban relations] marked a before and after in the national life. It was the starting pistol for many intellectuals to have new hopes and see new possibilities. Also the state publishers are in clear decline, since every year they publish works very punctually. They accord more importance to committed writers and to political tomes. Any writer’s desire is to be published and they see the Club as an open window to achieve that. Also, Cuban society is slowly losing its fear,” added Domínguez.

The dissident journalists and intellectuals consider that an important dam has been breached. “Dividing walls have been blown up, which, as a result of fear and control of intellectuals had prevented us crossing to the other side of the street. The government understands the power of the written word. Doctor Zhivago, the Gulag Archipelago or Three Trapped Tigers have more ability to make you think than an ideological tract. That’s why they censor poets like Raúl Rivero, political scientists like Carlos Alberto Montaner or novelists like Zoé Valdés.”

From January 2016, Writers Club is thinking of publishing a magazine every four months. The first number will be dedicated to the poet and journalist Raúl Rivero, who lives in Madrid and who will be 70 on 23rd November. Intellectuals and journalists who aren’t gagged want to pay homage to Rivero’s life-long work. His work cannot be hidden by distance, official censorship or exile.

For Victor Manuel, Raúl Rivero is like an incorporeal spirit. “He is always with us in Havana”. Our job is to multiply talent and give free  rein to the literary creativity of Cubans in and outside of the island”. That is what the Writers Club is trying to do.

Iván García

Translated by GH

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Macri And The End Of Populism In Argentina / 14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner Mon, 23 Nov 2015 20:34:44 +0000 Continue reading ]]> The change in Argentina is expected to lead to a change in hemispheric relations. In the picture, Rafael Correa, Evo Morales, Nestor Kirchner, Cristina Fernández, Lula Da Silva, Nicanor Duarte and Hugo Chavez signed the agreement for the foundation of Banco del Sur (The Bank of the South). (CC)

The change in Argentina is expected to lead to a change in hemispheric relations. In the picture, Rafael Correa, Evo Morales, Nestor Kirchner, Cristina Fernández, Lula Da Silva, Nicanor Duarte and Hugo Chavez signed the agreement for the foundation of Banco del Sur (The Bank of the South). (CC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, 23 November 2015 — The victory of Mauricio Macri in Argentina is the triumph of common sense over strained discourse and failed emotions. It is also the arrival of modernity and the burial of a populist stage that should have disappeared long ago.

There is a successful way of governing. It is the one used in the 25 leading nations of the planet, among which should be Argentina, as it had been in the first quarter of the twentieth century. Everyone hopes that Macri will lead the country in that direction.

Which are those nations? Those recorded in all rigorous manuals, from the Human Development Index published by the United Nations, to Doing Business from the World Bank, to Transparency International. Some twenty compilations agree, however they stack up: the same ones always appear at the top of the list.

There is a successful way of governing. It is the one used in the 25 leading nations of the planet, among which should be Argentina

Which ones? The usual suspects: Norway, England, Switzerland, Canada, Germany, United States, Netherlands, Denmark, Japan, and the usual etc. How do they do it? With a mixture of respect for law, clear rules, strong institutions, markets, open trade, reasonable administrative honesty, good education, innovation, competition, productivity and, above all, confidence.

Sometimes the governments are liberal, Christian democrat or social democrat. Sometimes they combine in coalitions. Despite disputes, they all form a part of the extended family of liberal democracies. What is usually discussed in elections is not the form in which society relates to the state, but the amount of the tax burden and the formula for distributing social spending. The economic model, on which productivity rests, is not in play in the voting booth, nor is the political model which organizes coexistence and guarantees freedoms. On this they agree.

They are nations, in short, that are calm, without upheavals, without saber rattling and rumors of chaos, wonderfully boring, where the voices against the system are too weak to be considered, and where you can make long term plans because it is very difficult for the currency to suddenly lose its value or for the government to hijack your savings in an infamous and illegal seizure.

That does not mean that there are no crises and speculative bubbles, or that some, like Greece, engage in underhanded practices and need to have their chestnuts pulled out of the fire. Of course this happens, but they overcome it, and the economy recovers without breaking the democratic game. There are inevitable cycles, which are produced in free markets, where every now and then greed distances buyers and sellers. The leading nations have learned how to overcome it and move forward.

Everyone hopes that Mauricio Macri will move in the same direction for the good of Argentinians, but given that it is the largest and best educated country in Latin America, one can venture that his victory will have notable consequences across the whole continent. For now, it is very important that Argentina has abandoned the drift towards Chavism introduced by Kirchnerism.

Macri’s victory will have repercussions in the Venezuelan elections, to which the democratic opposition will come with the certainty that it has a new and valuable friend who will refuse to validate the fraud being prepared by Maduro

Macri’s victory will have repercussions in the Venezuelan elections on 6 December, to which the democratic opposition will come with the certainty that it has a new and valuable friend who will refuse to validate the fraud being prepared by Maduro, much less the oppressive Civil-Military Junta he has threatened if the polls don’t go his way.

It will have effects on the Brazilian electoral landscape, strengthening the center right forces that oppose Lula; and on Chile, when Mrs. Bachelet, whose popularity is in the basement, calls new elections in which she cannot be a candidate.

Not only is Mauricio Macri, as rightly pointed out by Joaquín Martínez Solá in La Nación, the expression of the generational change this country needs—with men and women who didn’t suffer the trauma of the military dictatorship nor the guerrilla barbarity of the armed opposition—but he can be the one who will lead the fight in Latin American for democracy and freedoms. Someone who leads the country into the 21st century, which began almost 16 years ago, and gets it out of the old populist morass in which Peronism mired it for many decades.

Few rulers have begun their mandate with so many national and international dreams resting on their management. It is a great country that deserves a great president.

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Vladimiro Roca: “Many just saw me as the son of Blas Roca” / Cubanet, Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello Mon, 23 Nov 2015 19:20:40 +0000 Continue reading ]]> vladimir roca

Vladimiro Roca, in an interview with CubaNet (photo by the author)

cubanet square logoCubanet, Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello, Havana, 16 November 2015 – Vladimiro Roca Antunez is one of “the old guard” group of dissidents who is still in Cuba. He holds a degree in International Economic Relations, and was a MIG fighter pilot in the Revolutionary Armed Forces. He served 5 years, from 1997 to 2002, in Ariza prison in Cienfuegos, as one of a group of four dissidents who wrote “The Homeland Belongs to Everyone.”

Vladimir will be 72 on December 21. His family, friends and neighbors call him Pepe.

Martha Beatriz Roque: What were your years as a MIG fighter pilot like? Where did you learn to fly these planes?

Vladimir Roca: I have always considered the years I spent as a pilot, both as a fighter and in transport, as the best of my life, because the profession of pilot is entirely vocational. Anyone who doesn’t feel a passion for flying can never be a good pilot, and not just a good one, not even an ordinary one.

Speaking of my years as a pilot is something that fills me with emotion. The day that I flew solo for the first time, it was the greatest feeling of freedom I have felt in all the days of my life. It’s very hard to describe.

I studied in the former Soviet Union. I was in the first group of young rebels who studied aviation in that country. We went for a quick course that was supposed to last a year, but then there was a change of plans and they divided up the group of pilots into those who would end up flying the MIG-15, those who passed to flying the MIG-19, and a group that was going to fly the Il-28 tactical bombers. I was in the last group, as a bomber navigator in those planes.

During the Missile Crisis, the bombers were retired. When I returned to Cuba, I went to a base in the Holguin area, which was under the command of then First Lieutenant Rafael del Pino. He put me to flying the MIG-15s.

Martha Beatriz Roque: People associated with politics locate you on the left. From the ideological point of view, what is your position?

Vladimir Roca: It is a definition that comes from our founding of the Democratic Socialist Current, with many people who defined themselves as leftists. As for me, from the practical point of view I define myself more as center left, with a tendency to the center, because according to physics the equilibrium is in the center, and this is precisely what I seek. The extremes are, in my opinion, pernicious.

Martha Beatriz Roque: How and when did you make the transition to the opposition? What projects have you participated in?

Vladimir Roca: My transition to the opposition was quite long, because it started at the end of the sixties. By that time I was serving in UM 3688 in the Cuban Revolutionary Air and Air Defense Force (DAAFAR) Aerial Transport Brigade. I began to see events, things that were happening in the military, that didn’t correspond to what I knew of Marxism, but I thought that I was the one who was mistaken, or that I didn’t have a good understanding of what I had been taught in the textbooks. So I started to re-study the classics, Marx, Engels, Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Robert Owen, Saint-Simon, Hegel, Feuerbach and others to understand where I had gone wrong and to be able to rectify it.

Reading these authors led me to decide that I was not wrong, that things in the country were not going well, especially the economy and that if we continued along this path, the vicissitudes in the society would go from bad to worse.

At first I worked to change the situation from within and to the extent that I saw I couldn’t accomplish anything, the more I was looking for trouble; and many saw me as a freak, or someone who did what he did because he was the son of Blas Roca. I then started to disassociate myself from the system to make ever more open criticisms, until in 1990, following the call for the 4th Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC), in the discussion of the document in the Department where I worked, I openly expressed my opposition, stating that if this system had an “ism,” in my opinion it was fascism.

I had participated in the founding of the Democratic Socialist Current, the Democratic Agreement, the founding of the Cuban Social Democrat party, in the Internal Dissidents Task Group for the Analysis of the Cuban Socio-Economic Situation, better known as The Group of Four, which was made up of Félix Antonio Bonne Carcassés, René Gómez Manzano, you and me. This project led me to prison for five years, because we wrote the document “La Patria es de Todos,” (The Homeland Belongs to Everyone), which I consider historic.

I was also in Todos Unidos (All United) with, among others, Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, in the Agenda for the Transition, the Cuban Network of Community Communicators, and currently I participate in Espacio Abierto (Open Space) and the Unity of Democratic Action Roundtable.

Martha Beatriz Roque: What role do you play right now in the opposition?

Vladimir Roca: First, I’m trying to rebuild the base of the Social Democratic Party of Cuba, as most of the members we had emigrated as political refugees.

Second, I help by offering counseling and advice to opponents who ask. And third, by supporting, within my capabilities, citizens who want to start their own businesses, either by giving them ideas or collaborating on projects.

Martha Beatriz Roque: Have you had an opportunity to participate in any international event for democracy in Cuba?

Vladimir Roca: Yes, I have participated in three such events. In Mexico, the two meetings of Roads for a Democratic Cuba in December 2014, and in Cuernavaca in June 2015, both prepared by the Christian Democratic Organization of America (CADO) and the regional office in Mexico of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. I also participated in the Cuban National Meeting held in Puerto Rico in August 2015, organized by United Cubans of Puerto Rico.

They have been two more efforts to try to unite the democratic Cuban opposition from both shores, which I believe are having positive results. Although little is done to put the focus of attention on the Cuban people, who are the ones who have, in my opinion, in the final instance, the ability to bring the changes we all crave in that seem to be so far off.

Martha Beatriz Roque: Is there any difference between this opposition of the twentieth century and that which has a greater role now?

Vladimir Roca: I think the only difference is in age. That in the twentieth century began with people over 40, on average, and currently it is people much younger. Those of the twentieth century mostly had had the experience of living in a democratic republic, those currently only know it by reference. Otherwise we all agree that the system doesn’t work and we have to change it.

Martha Beatriz Roque: What is your vision of what is happening between Cuba and the United States of America?

Vladimir Roca: I think that is the result of lengthy negotiations that began under President Jimmy Carter, and that respond to the interests of the American people and the need to put an end to a conflict that has gone on too long without concrete results for the benefit of the Cuban people .

This confrontation has served only to make it so that Castros’ tyranny was able to keep the people on a war footing in order to deny them the most basic rights.

Martha Beatriz Roque: Do you think that the resignation of Abelardo Colome Ibarra (Furry) is the beginning of the end of the gerontocracy, to make way for a younger generation?

Vladimir Roca: It could be, but I wouldn’t venture to give a judgment, knowing the misrule of our country, it could be signaling something and doing the opposite. This is what they have done since the year 1959. 

Martha Beatriz Roque: How do you see Cuba within 5 years?

Vladimir Roca: I do not know. The interesting thing about life is that you do not know what will happen in the next 10 minutes and you have to live it if you want to know what will happen. I don’t even know if I will be alive in 5 years.

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Overcoming Obstacles, More Cubans Arrive From Central America To Mexico Heading To The US / EFE (via 14ymedio) Mon, 23 Nov 2015 14:00:39 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Dozens of Cuban migrants cross the Suchiate River on Mexico's border with Guatemala on Friday. (EFE / Benjamin Alfaro)

Dozens of Cuban migrants cross the Suchiate River on Mexico’s border with Guatemala on Friday. (EFE / Benjamin Alfaro)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Tapachula, Mexico, 22 November 2015 — Despite increasing obstacles in their path, the number of Cubans crossing the Mexican border from Central America, in order to get a safe conduct pass that allows them to reach the United States, has increased in recent weeks.

Nor has the closure of the border between Nicaragua and Costa Rica, on November 15, stopped Cubans, who travel in large groups of up to 500 people and who, for a payment of five dollars, cross the international Suchiate River separating Mexico and Guatemala on rafts every day.

Nicaragua closed its border to the migrants after accusing Costa Rica of throwing them at its door.

“It’s a difficult process where they don’t know if they’ll be allowed to continue; they are waiting to see if the situation is resolved and they can get to Guatemala. We are the first group, they have given us the safe conduct passes and we made it this far,” EFE was told by Oricesar, a migrant who managed to cross Nicaragua and reach Mexican soil.

Traveling in his group of 50 Cubans were also Luis Enrique and his wife, who, helped by a “guide,” made it in six days to the Mexican state of Chiapas. They denounced that “more than two thousand Cubans are stranded in Costa Rica, and if they don’t open the border with Nicaragua the number will be more than 3,000 within a week.”

They avoided talking about internal Cuban politics, but agree that they left the Caribbean nation because of “the poverty and the mistreatment by the authorities,” without regard to their “suffering humiliation in the migration through the countries of Latin America” in order to get to the United States.

In Mexico, the National Migration Institute registered, as of 18 November, the entrance of 9,100 Cuban migrants, of whom 7,317 were housed in the 21st Century Station in Tapachula, Chiapas. These are figures well above the 1,817 who were received during all of 2014.

In the last week some one thousand Cubans entered Chiapas to voluntarily surrender themselves to the immigration authorities

In the last week some one thousand Cubans entered through Chiapas to voluntarily surrender themselves to the immigration authorities and request that the departure office allow them to travel, without restrictions, the last 3,000 miles of the route to US soil.

Efrain Hernandez, 22, a native of Havana, is one of them; he tells EFE that he traveled 3,000 miles to get to Mexico from Ecuador, through Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.

From that list of countries, men and women complain that they suffered the greatest corruption at the hands of the police in Colombia, because they were charged $100 each to pass through that South American nation.

To get to the southern border of Mexico, the Cubans invest between $5,000 and $6,000 to pay for transportation, lodging and food “in search of a better life for my family,” says Joan Peña, who after obtaining the safe conduct pass, in three days, is on the final leg of his journey, in a hotel in the center of Tapachula where he pays five dollars a night.

Those who are traveling have sold their houses and left their families and jobs, like Maybelli Fernandez, a native of Matanzas. After having surrendered to the authorities they are transferred to the migration offices to complete the paperwork in the departure office, which gives them 30 days to reach the northern border and their final destination.

The undersecretary of Migrant Assistance in the Ministry for the Development of the Southern Border of the Government of Chiapas, Victor Moguel, rejects the idea that the arrival of thousands of emigrants is creating a humanitarian crisis.

On the contrary, Cubans keep hotel occupancy figuresup and fill the daily flights and buses that travel to Mexico City and Tijuana.

For now, Mexico and Cuba do not have a treaty for the deportation of migrants from the island country; however, moved by the rumor that this could happen, Cubans arriving at the border are ever more fearful that, in 2016, the borders between Mexico and Central America might be closed.

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Costa Rica Will Propose The Creation Of A Humanitarian Corridor For Cubans / 14ymedio Mon, 23 Nov 2015 11:00:21 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Nicaraguan police guarding the border with Costa Rica to prevent the passage of Cuban immigrants bound for the United States (Photo Alvaro Sanchez / EFE)

Nicaraguan police guarding the border with Costa Rica to prevent the passage of Cuban immigrants bound for the United States (Photo Alvaro Sanchez / EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 21 November 2015 – The United States and Cuba should work together to alleviate the Cuban migration crisis now facing Costa Rica and Nicaragua. So says Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis, who believes that the authorities of the country of origin like those of the country of destination must help find a final solution, as reported by the Costa Rican newspaper La Nación.

During the inauguration of the Torito hydroelectric plant in Jabillos de Turrialba, the president expressed his hope that the meeting of foreign ministers to be held next week could help to alleviate the problem, with the commitment of the foreign ministers of all the nations included in the “Cuban route.”

The arrival of more than 2,500 Cubans in Central America en route to US territory has become a regional dilemma because the flow of the Caribbeans continues. On Friday Solis insisted that in the next round the US and Cuban authorities should sit down with Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico.

The Costa Rican government will bring a proposal to the meeting to create a humanitarian corridor free of rapes, robberies and other indignities that characterize the current route

The Costa Rican government will bring a proposal to the meeting to create a humanitarian corridor free of rapes, robberies and other indignities that characterize the current route, full of natural hazards and human traffickers.

“We must build a transit space for the flow of Cuban immigrants to travel safely, documented, under appropriate conditions, without resorting to organized crime,” said Solis. He stressed that “If there is the political we will have chance of success.”

In response to statements by the government of Daniel Ortega, according to which Costa Rica is trying to play the victim and proclaim itself a defender of human rights, the Costa Rican president asserts that the country is not a victim “nor will it change its policy about the granting of visas.” He added that there will be no change in the fight against the human trafficking networks.

Costa Rican authorities granted Cubans seven day transit visas to continue on their way to the United States, but on Sunday Nicaragua prevented them from crossing the border and accused Costa Rica of wanting to provoke a humanitarian crisis.

“This is a conflict of humanitarian order, not geopolitical. Our bilateral issues (in Nicaragua) are working out where it should, in international courts. The migrant population should not suffer from the problems between the two countries,” added Solis.

The statesman stressed that his country does not need excuses to draw the attention of the international community, “nor do we use the subterfuges of an immigration crisis that has no origin or Costa Rica or Nicaragua”.

At the meeting of foreign ministers, to be held next week in El Salvador, Rosario Murillo, Nicaragua’s first lady, may participate. The Government of Costa Rica hopes that Murillo will adopt a “position of solidarity” with migrants and that her country will allow them to pass through on the way to the United States.

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An Absurd Unionization / Fernando Damaso Mon, 23 Nov 2015 02:30:34 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Fernando Damaso, 21 November 2015 — The official media is continually promoting the need for self-employed workers to affiliate themselves with the unions of the Cuban Workers Center (CTC). No matter how much they repeat the calls for it, achieving it seems to be a difficult task.

The principal reason could be that the CTC forms a part of the government organizations, which make up the fabric of unconditional support for the Party, which directs and controls them, even naming their leaders in various instances.

In reality, the CTC doesn’t really represent Cuban workers, most of them working for the state, and much less can it claim to represent the self-employed as well. The CTC, for more than half a century, has defended first and foremost the interests of the Party and of the Government, and the problems of the workers only when they do not contradict those of the former.

To exercise its true role, the CTC must first democratize and make sure that its leaders, in every instance, ride from the ranks of the workers they are supposed to represent, and be nominated and directly elected by them, without the intervention of the Party and the Government.

To date, the majority come from the ranks of Party bureaucrats, without any direct ties to unionism, nor even with the current government in the country. As long as this doesn’t change, the CTC, lost its activism from the era of the Republic, and will only be one more government organization of control, in this case of the workers.

Self-employed workers should not allow themselves to be confused by the siren’s song, as it has confused workers for the stat. As long as there are no truly independent unions, their rights will not be defended.

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The Stampede Continues / Rebeca Monzo Mon, 23 Nov 2015 01:30:40 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

Rebeca Monzo, 20 November 2015  — One year after initiating conversations to reestablish relations with the U.S., the Cuban Government continues its immobile posture, without taking a step forward.

The raised expectations, with which the immense majority of the Cuban population gave itself illusions, have stagnated, and the stampede of Cubans, most of them young, continues making news in all the foreign newspapers.

A new Mariel Boatlift, but this time by land, is happening. So far this year, the alarming number of national emigrants by different routes and countries, with Miami the final destination, has risen to 43,169, surpassing the massive emigration of 1994.

The loss of faith in the Cuban Government and the lack of those so-awaited changes have caused a large part of the Cuban people to opt for escape, in search of a better future for them and their families, in other latitudes. Even people who have the privilege of working in successful private establishments, like some private restaurants, realized that the options of expanding and becoming independent, and offering a better education to their children, were each time more unreachable.

Others, still clinging to what they call “change,” for lack of knowledge — for example, being able to travel, buy a car or an apartment, or sell their house —  ignore that these so-called changes are nothing more than the return of some rights usurped by their own government, for which they don’t need to be so grateful.

While a real opening isn’t happening and the Government continues clinging and demanding nothing intelligent, and continues paying wages of poverty to professionals and preventing them from having their own business, everything will continue the same.

This makes me think that really they don’t want change that would make their ancient governmental structure totter, or the irremediable loss of power, which would cause the failure of their politics to be discovered.

As long as the higher-ups don’t have the courage to renounce and admit their own errors, and continue to entrench themselves behind demands and absurd accusations directed at our neighbor to the north, the migratory stampede will be unstoppable.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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