Leave a comment in Diario de Cuba after being silent for so long / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

We are Castro, as long as we Cubans continue being interviewed by G-2 (State Security) without publicly denouncing this coercion.

Leave me a comment here and now with your name and when-where-how Castro’s State Security bothered you.

HERE IS THE TEXT in English, and HERE IS WHERE YOU CAN LEAVE A COMMENT.

Because you know better than I do.

In private, we confess everything, proud of being annoying to the regime.

In public, we make ourselves crazy so as not to politicize this topic for the worse.

To continue traveling outside Cuba without problems.

To continue visiting Cuba without major complications.

I dare you, damn it.

Talk to me.

HERE IS THE TEXT in English, and HERE IS WHERE YOU CAN LEAVE A COMMENT.

Talk to yourself.

Let’s also talk to ourselves and not only to the anonymous agents of the political police of your supposed country, Cuban coward on the verge of complicity.

Save me.

Save yourself.

Save us.

For the death that already was.

For the life that will come.

HERE IS THE TEXT in English, and HERE IS WHERE YOU CAN LEAVE A COMMENT.
4 September 2014

The Cubans of 9/11 / 14ymedio

Marco Motroni

Marco Motroni

Born in Havana in 1945, Marco Motroni emigrated with his family at age 11. In 1963 he graduated from George Washington High School in Manhattan. He started playing in la Típica Novel, one of the most successful Latin orchestras in New York. Years later he began working as a broker at Carr Futures, whose offices, in 2001, were on the 92nd floor of the North Tower.

Juan La Fuente

Juan La Fuente

Born in 1940 in Cuba, Juan LaFuente emigrated to the United States to attend university. In 1964 he married Colette Merical, who was the mayor of Poughkeepsie between 1996 and 2003. LaFuente worked at IBM for 31 years and at the time of the events was working for Citibank. On September 11 he was attending a meeting at a restaurant North Tower.

Niurka Dávila

Niurka Dávila


Niurka Davila was 47-years-old when she died in the attacks. Her real name was Rosa, but she changed it when she was naturalized as an American citizen. She worked for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Nancy Pérez

Nancy Pérez


Born in Cuba in 1965, Nancy Peréz emigrated with her family five years later and settled in New York, She was a supervisor at the Port Authority at One World Trade Center at the time of the attacks.

George Merino

George Merino


Born in Matanzas in 1961, George Merino emigrated with his family when he was only 7 and settled in New York He lived in Bayside, Queens, and was a securities analyst at Fiduciary Trust, located in the World Trade Center.

Carlos Domínguez

Carlos Domínguez


The son of Cuban emigrants, Carlos Domínguez was born in New York in 1967 and lived in Nassau County, New York. In 2001 he was in charge of computer system security for Marsh & McLennan, on the 95th floor of the North Tower.

Michael Díaz Piedra III

Michael Díaz Piedra III


Michael Díaz Piedra III was born in Cuba in 1952. His family, plantation owners, emigrated to the United States in 1960. They settled in Florida and later, in New Jersey. He was 49-years-old in 2001 and was a vice president for the Bank of New York in charge of disaster recovery planning. His family said his desire was to return to Cuba the day it became a democracy.

From 14ymedio, 11 September 2014

Exclusive Sale of Honey / Juan Juan Almeida

In the city of Santiago de Cuba, they just opened a trading house specializing in honey which, according to its publicity, is one of the foods permanently present in the east of the country. The Beehive, as it’s called locally, offers customers an exclusive range of nutritional product that can be purchased in different types of bottles, making it accessible to all Santiaguans. That’s fine, but there are more important things to resolve and they are fully visible.

I marvel when I hear and read all this craziness. Honey is not a remedy for the bile accumulated over so many years of heartache. Molasses will not sweeten the national decline.

9 September 2014

A New Women’s Opposition Group is Born in the East: Citizens for Democracy / 14ymedio

Citizens for Democracy on the feast of Our Lady of Charity (UNPACU)

Citizens for Democracy on the feast of Our Lady of Charity (UNPACU)

14YMEDIO, Havana, 10 September 2014 – A schism with the Ladies in White has given birth to a new women’s group called “Citizens for Democracy.” Last Monday, during the feast of the Virgin of Charity of Cobre, the recently created movement held it’s first public activity with a pilgrimage of seventy women to the Sanctuary of Cobre in Santiago de Cuba.

Citizens for Democracy is led by Belkis Cantillo and consists mostly of women from Palma Soriano, Palmarito del Cauto and the city of Santiago de Cuba itself. At least thirty of them come from the Ladies in White group, from which they separated some days ago because of disagreements between Berta Soler and Cantillo herself.

The reason for this separation was explained as “gross indiscipline” allegedly committed by several members of the Ladies in White in the eastern area of the country, which provoked the removal of Cantillo as local representative of the movement. Soler, for her part, declared that “every person can join or found a party or a group if they feel badly in another and if they are not able to abide by the rules of the Ladies in White.”

Belkis Cantillo was a member of the Ladies in White from its origins in 2003 after the imprisonment of 75 dissidents in the so-called “Black Spring.” Her ex-husband is the opponent Jose Daniel Ferrer, who heads the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU).

Berta Soler hopes that the Citizens for Democracy will “succeed as human rights activists.”

Castro Versus Castro / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

"Que Ché, Que Pinga!" "When I grow up I want to be Fidel Castro!" Alen Lauzán. (ALEN-LAUZAN.BLOGSPOT)

“Fuck Che! When I grow up I am going to be Fidel Castro!*” Alen Lauzán. (ALEN-LAUZAN.BLOGSPOT)

As long as the Ministry of the Interior (MININT) exists in Cuba, this secret and murderous organization, but in its turn legitimized by all the secret and murderous organizations in the world, regardless of ideologies or political rivalry in public (in private power always supports power); as long as the life of every Cuban depends on the vile will of another anonymous Cuban; as long as nobody questions this complicity by a returning and cheerful exile, businessmen avid to be ministers tomorrow, clergy blackmailed by their own flesh, and even by an opposition without pressure platforms and much less urge for power; as long as we just continue denouncing these clandestine citations from G-2, instead of recognizing that it is an incessant civil war of the State against its citizens, the Cuban nation has no chance of regenerating itself.

The Transition Program, agreed by the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL in Spanish) chaired by Oswaldo Payá, touched on the issue very early on. There would be no decent dialog as long as they didn’t open the archives of Evil and its agents confessed their crimes before the democratic justice that should come. As a consequence, State Security, by an order that could have only come from the Castro family, touched Oswaldo Payá, probably summarily processed in a Cuban place and executed in situ parajudicially.

All Cuban workers and unemployed Cubans, when they show themselves to be intelligent people, with desires for an active biography, have been, are, and will be interviewed by the political police of my country. It seems an exaggeration. Pardo’s paranoia. But you in your cowardly heart know well it’s not so. You know well that you were also called by them (whether you live on the Island or in its antipodes).

During my year and a half visiting the United States, I’ve been in contact with all the generations of exiles or emigrants or whatever they want to call themselves. A captive people that is no longer Cuban, since they can’t reside or participate in the social life of their previous country. Recognized stars of the stage and visual arts have confessed it to me. Geniuses of science have confessed it to me. Athletes or, to be exact, high-performance ex-athletes, have confessed it to me. The signature names of our music and literature also confessed it to me. G-2 frequents them all.

In principle, none of them has had any problem in Cuba. I knew many of them from Cuba and none told me anything about this facet of interlocutors of a Castroism of the catacombs, underground. My friends live there (perhaps they’ve ceased to be so from now on), happy to be almost protestors, while giving dozens of controversial interviews outside, provided they accept the annual interview with the official who looks after them, provided they follow the suggestions of their respective agents. Low profile perverse Fidel-ity, that ranges from threats thrown just as jokes, to the donation of a leg of mutton on the part of the authority when one of our loved ones fall into bed and is declared (gratis) as a terminal patient.

It’s much worse than this. In a single family I have found vedettes and executioners, poets and political experts, essayists and abusers. And beware of naming us, you asshole, because I could even kill when it comes to keep my family at peace. Castroism constitutes us today, is ubiquitous and for that very reason, it’s impossible to be located. Castroism concerns us all, except for the original Castros, who are about to die and their descendants will run away with their millions elsewhere.

In these blackmails we are all the complicit of all. It’s happening right now. They tell me new examples through the social networks from Havana. They ask me for advice and to remain silent. It’d be worse if I ever mention their names and situations. Moreover, those who reside abroad would sue me and put me to jail for moral damages and defamation if I dare to speak.

We are infamous up to this point. We have lived our whole lives in the times of Castro. We shall die, then, with the honors which correspond to the horror of being us (and not the Castros) the true Castro’s decrepit but yet demonic clan.

*Translator’s note: A reference to the chant children must repeat during school morning assembly: “Pioneers for Communism, we will be like Ché!”

From Diario de Cuba

4 September 2014

 

Accessories and Sandwiches / Regina Coyula

The school year has just begun, the first for many children. Filled with enthusiasm and wonder, these little ones are unaware of the disruption their new status as students creates for many Cuban families.

Along with the canasta basica,* the school uniform is the last holdout of the ration book as far as manufactured goods are concerned. It is provided to each student upon enrollment in the form of a ticket to buy subsidized uniforms, which he or she must treat with great care since there won’t be any more given out until the fourth grade.

As everyone knows, education in Cuba is free but other expenses related to a child’s schooling come directly out of the family budget. I am not referring only to shoes, a backpack or a lunchbox. The first parents’ meeting will confirm what families already know from their own experiences or those of others.

There are always parents who offer to buy paint and others who offer to paint. There are always collection drives for cleaning supplies and sign-up sheets for mothers to clean bathrooms. It is now standard practice to start the school term every year by collecting five CUC per child to purchase fans.

Teachers and administrators adopt a stance of giving in to these family initiatives in a game of role playing in which it is assumed that the Ministry of Education will provide everything that is needed to do the work and that the family wants what is best for its children.

All this and other things that follow are part of an unwritten but demonstrably effective methodology, which only gets better from one school term to the next The youngest children must not bring backpacks, only luncheras (lunch boxes). If they bring soft drinks, they must be in plastic containers, even if they are in cans. Everything must be able to be kept at room temperature.

Special emphasis is given to the lunchtime sandwich. No roast beef, ground meat or fish. Chicken must be shredded, ham sliced. Even better if it is the ever popular perrito (or hot dog).

Every pre-schooler must bring a sturdy shoebox to store all his or her projects for the entire school term. They must also bring scissors for cutting paper, crayons, an eraser — all items available only in hard currency.

The classroom is a place where the disparities that have become entrenched in society are there to be seen. Every student has a right to education but equality ends there.

From the moment they arrive at school, even before morning classes begin, their footwear and accessories tell a story of which the students themselves are ignorant protagonists and about which their parents will speak in private with cynicism or shame, depending on their personal ideas about what constitutes success.

Translator’s note: The “basic basket” is an allotment of foodstuffs intended to provide Cubans with a minimum of 3,100 of calories per day. The items include beans, rice, sugar, cooking oil and coffee. There is also a monthly allotment of meat, chicken, and eggs. Prices for these goods are heavily subsidized but the items themselves are often in short supply.

5 September 2014

New Organized Robbery / Rebeca Monzo

The great problem created by the government of my planet itself with the dual currency, now, with the new authorization of being able to buy things in some TRD (hard currency collection) stores with either currency, is that it has become more complicated for both the customers and the employees, who work at each cash register in these establishments.

The other day I was at La Mariposa in Nuevo Vedada to buy some soft drinks–those that cost 0.50 Cuban convertible pesos (CUC) whose equivalent in Cuban pesos (CUP) is 12.50. I offered 13.00 CUP in payment for which they owed me 0.50 CUP in change, but as the cash boxes don’t have this currency but only CUCs, they couldn’t give me 0.05 CUC because this would be the equivalent of 1.00 CUP, and so I would get 0.50 CUP over. Their not having change in smaller values means that the client loses the difference. I decided to return the soft drink.

Today my friend Mirta came over and brought me the receipt for a purchase she’d made of a liter of oil in the same store. She, indignant, told me exactly what I’ve told you. Well, I told her, if the famous character Cantinflas lived in Cuba today he would be totally nondescript.

These new headaches and “wallet-aches” that we customers and even the employees of these stores have to suffer are, in my modest opinion, nothing more than a new way of organized robbery.

6 September 2014

The Day the People of Havana Protested in the Streets / Ivan Garcia

1000472_474759539275644_1332749336_n1994 was an amazing year. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the disappearance of the USSR had been the trigger for the beginning in Cuba of the “Special Period in Times of Peace,” an economic crisis which lasted for 25 years.

We returned to  a subsistence economy. The factories shut down as they had no fuel or supplies. Tractors were replaced by oxen. And the power cuts lasted 12 hours a day.

The island entered completely into an era of inflation, shortages and hunger. To eat twice a day was a luxury. Meat, chicken and fish disappeared off the menu. People ate little, and poorly. Malnutrition caused exotic illnesses like beri-beri and optic neuritis. Continue reading

All Exiles Are Possible / Luis Felipe Rojas

1405566194_3When I say exile, I only think of the word life. That was what happened to me at the meeting “Fight for Liberation against Castro-communism,” which the writer Julio M. Shiling generously coordinated and which was held at the West Dade Regional Library of Coral Way, Miami, last July 10.

Attending the discussion were no more and no less than the well-known former political prisoners Angel de Fana, Agapito “El Guapo” Rivera, Jorge Gutierrez “El Sherif” and others who presented an overview of the insurrectional struggle from 1959 to the present.

De Fana’s words and his hopes for a future Cuba moved me. Twenty years in jail did not seem to have put a dent in the energy of this man who confronted the torture and prison horror of the Castro regime. “We must fight, not for the Cuba that we lost but for the one that awaits us ahead,” I heard him say. Continue reading

Alert Sounded in the Informal Market / 14ymedio, Rosa Lopez

Photo: Exterior of Terminal 2 of José Martí International Airport

Photo: Exterior of Terminal 2 of José Martí International Airport

Unauthorized vendors welcome new customs regulation with caution as they prepare to redefine strategies

14ymedio, Rosa Lopez, Havana, 3 September 2014 — “Call me from a land line” instructs the classified ad placed by Mauro Izquierdo, vendor of electrical household appliances. He has a wide range of items on offer, from air conditioning units to toasters, but his specialty is flat-screen TVs. This morning, his cautious response to all callers was: “Right now I’m in the midst of redefining my pricing structure until everything settles down with the new customs regulations.”

Mauro is but one strand in the complex tapestry of unauthorized vendors who are living through anxious moments with the new restrictions imposed by the General Customs of the Republic. Price increases are imminent in the black market, given that a good part of the merchandise offered through its networks enters the country via the flight baggage of so-called “mules.” “I have ceased all operations for the time being, because I don’t know if I will get the accounts with new prices that have been imposed on the airports,” the able merchant confirms.

His clients also have been preparing for the increase.”I’m finishing construction on my house and I had to run to buy lamps, bulbs and bathtub plumbing for the bathroom, because all of that might become unavailable very soon,” said Georgina M., looking to the future, as she concludes construction on a new residence in the western township of Candelaria.

14ymedio contacted approximately 20 vendors offering merchandise on classifieds sites such as Revolico and Cubisima. Although previously-listed products remained at their advertised prices, any orders going forward would come “with with new tariffs added to the price,” according to various distributors. Last week, Leticia was offering hair dryers, massage machines, and hair removers. However, now she is planning to raise prices by about 20 or 25 per cent on each product so as to be able to “finance the payments that those who bring the items into the country must make at Customs.”

The advance notice given of the new rules has allowed many people to be prepared. Rogelio, a Panataxi driver who makes trips from Terminal 2 of José Martí International Airport, refers to how even “two days before the new restrictions went into effect, what people brought was incredible — suitcases upon suitcases.” Even so, he noted that since yesterday, “travelers seem more cautious and, among those I have transported, I have seen a decrease in the amount of baggage they’re carrying.” Another taxi driver joined the conversation, saying that “people have now been made to jump through hoops.”

Even so, for other alternative vendors, the new measures barely affect their supply chain. “I buy space in the ‘containers’ of people who are on official missions, working in the embassies and consulates throughout the world, and that is how I bring in my merchandise — therefore the new rules don’t touch me,” boasted a seller of lawnmowers and commercial refrigerators, who enhances his ads with attractive photos of each unit and the guarantee that it’s “all done with proper documentation.”

It is still too early to measure the true impact on the informal market of the new customs rules, but sellers as well as merchants are preparing for the worst.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Have You Tried Cyanide… General? / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 1 September 2014 – Today is Zero Day, the fateful date, the day the General Customs of the Republic enacts its new restrictions for non-commercial imports. The measure called to mind an old joke that circulated in the nineties and is still heard today. In this humorous story, a foreign journalist interviewed Fidel Castro and he listed all the obstacles we had faced. “The Cuban people have survived the collapse of transportation, the food crisis and power cuts,” the delusional politician said proudly. The reporter interrupted him and asked: “And you haven’t tried cyanide, Comandante?”

Nearly two decades have passed and they are still imposing limits and prohibitions incompatible with development and with life. As if in this social laboratory they want to test what they can do to get the guinea pigs—which are us—to keep breathing, clapping, accepting. The new experiment doesn’t come in the form of a syringe, but through customs rules governing the luggage of every traveler. Measures that were taken without previously allowing commercial imports that favor the private sector. As if in the closed glass box in which we are trapped, they are cutting off the oxygen… and watching from the other side of the glass to see how much we can stand.

And you haven’t tried cyanide, Comandante? echoed in my head while I read “The Green Book” with the new prices and limits applied to imports from electric razors to disposable diapers. We lab rats, however, have not remained calm and quiet, like so often in the past. People are complaining, and with good reason, that these restrictions are suffocating self-employed labor and the domestic economy. Everyone is upset. Those who receive parcels from abroad as well as those who don’t, because some of those bouillon cubes or rheumatism creams end up reaching their hands through the black market or the solidarity of a friend.

The reason is not an altered chromosome, but a system that has failed to maintain a stable and high-quality supply of almost any product … except canned ideology and the insipid porridge of the cult of personality

It’s not that we Cubans have a specific gene to accumulate things and—out of pure neurosis—throw stuff into our suitcases from toilet paper and toothpaste to lightbulbs. The reason is not an altered chromosome, but a system that has failed to maintain a stable and high-quality supply of almost any product… except canned ideology and the insipid porridge of the cult of personality. While the shelves of the stores are empty, or filled with the worse quality merchandise at stratospheric prices, we have to bring from outside what we don’t have here. A law on commercial imports was not what we needed and the knife of customs restrictions falls very heavily upon us.

That the measures have come into force is still more evidence of the divorce between the Cuban ruling class and the people’s reality. In their mansions there is no lack of resources, food, nor imported products! They, of course, have no need to bring them home in their luggage. To stock up they reach out to the Ministry of Foreign Commerce, to the official containers that arrive at our ports, and a network of transport that brings chlorine for their swimming pools and French cheese right to their doors. The customs rules do not affect them, because they don’t pay excess luggage fees on their luxuries, which are not considered sundries, household items or food. They live outside the law and watch us locked behind the thick glass of the laboratory they’ve built for us.

Have you tried cyanide… General? Perhaps it would be faster and less painful.

From Digital Pages to Paper Books / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Regina Coyula

Regina Coyula, photo from her blog

Regina Coyula, photo from her blog

Note from Translating Cuba: Regina Coyula turns to the crowdfunding site INDIEGOGO to bring books by Cuban writers from a warehouse in Spain to the Miami Book Fair.  PLEASE HELP HER. No donation is too small! (And you get a book or books! Or artwork by Rebeca Monzo! Or a handmade case for your glasses!)

14ymedio, Havana, Reinaldo Escobar, 2 September 2014 — Regina Coyula combines her work on the blog La Mala Letra (Bad Handwriting) with collaboration on various digital media. She is not determined to bring a mountain of books by Cuban authors from a warehouse in Spain to the Book Fair in Miami. Among the maelstrom of tasks involved in coordinating such an initiative from Cuba, she found a few minutes to chat with the readers of 14ymedio.

Question: Your name is associated with blogs, daily vignettes, and social criticism. We’ve learned that you’re now involved in a publishing project. Do you find it a very different scenario from independent Cuban blogs?

Answer: I’ve found myself in this project, #Desevillamiami (From Seville to Miami). This is me, I like books and editorial work, especially after coming to know the Renacimiento publishing house. Most companies in the book business turn unsold books into pulp, but Abelardo Linares, who runs this publishing house, saves them and has two warehouses full of them. In some cases he has ten or a hundred copies left, but he doesn’t destroy them. And from there the idea of this project arose, basically to retrieve the books. Continue reading