Cuba: Where is the Money? / Iván García

“50 years of communist rule have yielded an unlikely product – unspoiled beachfront property and world-class golf.” A quote from a promotional site about the new Carbonera Club project in Varadero which will be dsigned with advice from British golfer Tony Jacklin and British design guru Terence Conran.
“50 years of communist rule have yielded an unlikely product – unspoiled beachfront property and world-class golf.” Quote from a promotional site for the new Carbonera Club project in Varadero which will be designed with help from British golfer Tony Jacklin and British design guru Terence Conran.

Iván García, 18 July 2016 — Two retirees, a strolling detergent vendor and a vacationing doctor, kill time in a park in south Havana, debating the surprising Portuguese victory of Cristiano Ronaldo in the European Cup. They also comment on the Regime’s new austerity measures, which presage another season of “skinny cows” [shortages].

Neither the shade of a carob tree nor a soft breeze relieves the sleep-inducing heat of July. When it seems that the topics of conversation are exhausted, a grey-haired man, a now-retired civil engineer, asks: “Does anyone know where the money in Cuba is going? And what the Government does with the millions of dollars it receives from family remittances?” Continue reading “Cuba: Where is the Money? / Iván García”

A Conversation with Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo / Regina Anavy

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo with his most recent book, Del
Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo with his most recent book

Regina Anavy, Reykjavic, June 27, 2016 — Crossing paths with Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo in Reykjavic, Iceland, on June 27, 2016, I had the opportunity to have a conversation with him.

Iceland And Future Plans

Regina Anavy: I understand you are here on a special two-year grant from ICORN [International Cities of Refuge Network].

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo: Yes. ICORN is an NGO based in Norway. They make contact with city governments. They believe that working with cities is better than working with countries. Maybe there is a conflictive immigration policy, but the cities are happy to have you. So in Europe they have dozens of cities, and I think in America now Pittsburgh is becoming an ICORN city and maybe Las Vegas. But after a year [in Iceland], I will be going back to the U.S., to enter a Ph.D. program in comparative literature at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

RA: Are you going to be teaching or doing research?

OLPL: Mainly I will be a teaching assistant in the second year. Continue reading “A Conversation with Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo / Regina Anavy”

Commemoration or Celebration? / Rosa María Rodríguez Torrado

Rosa Maria Rodriguez, 27 June 2016 — For days now, due to the upcoming commemoration of the 63rd anniversary of the attack on the Moncada Barracks, Cuban television continues to repeat a spot with the fragment of a song from a musical group called Moncada, the chorus of which says over and over, “The 26th is the happiest day in history.”

The attack on the military fort in Santiago de Cuba, by the guerilla’s led by Fidel Castro, occurred on 26 July 1953 in coordination with the assault on the Carlos Manuel de Cespedes Barracks in Bayamo, during the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. Both actions failed. Lives were lost, young men were arrested and tortured — others were murdered later, according to the authorities — who should be remembered by this long-standing government with respect, not with anodyne songs that only send a signal of lack of respect for “their fallen,” hut which are an insult to their memory.

It is true I don’t remember — I never paid attention — all the words of this old song. Which such a chorus, anyone who isn’t Cuban can assume that it’s about a carnivalesque date.

The irony of the case, is that the director of the Moncada group is a deputy to the Cuban National Assembly and a nephew of one of the revolutionaries who were injured, imprisoned, tortured and later killed as a result of the assault on the Moncada Barracks.

It seems that anything goes in dictatorships and even forgive “the irreverence or the forgetting” of the dead when it is time to adulate the living. Also , it confirms that there is no exception to the rule that the authorities apply to their unconditional followers: the promotion of their works — regardless of the quality or the controversial conceptions — and convert them into a “hit parade” that plays on radio and television ad nauseam.

When this publicity material first appeared on television, I shared these opinions with Rafa, my husband, and now I share them also with my readers, because I do want someone to brand me as working to “correct errors” for friends, accomplices and/or protect those who hold us hostage and silence us.

There are no arguments to justify this TV spot and its advertising of the upcoming anniversary of those events seems farcical and sad to me. Will the approach to other cultures make them change western traditions of respect and homage to the dead? It seems that while the globe is homogenized with globalization, they insist on “deglobalizing” the world with the political-totalitarian counterculture on this continent.

Havana Impedes Progress of Obama’s Policy Toward Cuba / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

 US president, Barack Obama, and his Cuban counterpart, Raul Castro, in March of 2016 at the Palace of the Revolution in Havana. (White House)
US president, Barack Obama, and his Cuban counterpart, Raul Castro, in March of 2016 at the Palace of the Revolution in Havana. (White House)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 18 July 2106 — Paradoxes of history: The United States and Cuba began a process of normalization of relations on 17 December 2014 and with the visit of President Barack Obama to Havana in March of 2016, aimed at expanding and deepening what has been achieved, came the counteroffensive of Fidel Castro to put on the brakes with his sarcastic Reflection column titled “Brother Obama.”

Since then, not only have they pushed the stop button on the process of rapprochement with the “main enemy,” difficult by nature, but they have increased the government’s repression against the opposition and those who think differently, and begun advancing positions against the reforms initiated and slowly developed since Raul Castro assumed power. Continue reading “Havana Impedes Progress of Obama’s Policy Toward Cuba / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos”

More UNPACU Activists on Hunger Strike / 14ymedio

The UNPACU) youth leader, Amel Carlos Oliva. (Center for Coexistence Studies)
The UNPACU) youth leader, Carlos Amel Oliva. (Center for Coexistence Studies)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 18 July 2016 — The Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) reports at least twenty have been arrested in recent hours, after five activists, on Monday, joined the hunger strike started six days ago by the organization’s youth leader, Carlos Amel Oliva, to demand the return of two laptops, a cellphone and a removable hard disc confiscated by the police.

“The repression has been tough. Some 16 activists were arrested in Santiago de Cuba when they went to visit Oliva. The arrests were violent,” one of the opposition group’s coordinators, Ovidio Martin Castellanos, told 14ymedio. In addition to those arrested in the provincial capital, nine other people were intercepted in other areas of eastern Cuba, like Palmarito de Cauto, in the municipality of Mella. Continue reading “More UNPACU Activists on Hunger Strike / 14ymedio”

Making a Living Off Coffee / 14ymedio, Ricardo Fernandez

Café Soler’s customers in Pinar del Rio. (14ymedio)
Café Soler’s customers in Pinar del Rio. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ricardo Fernandez, Pinar del Rio, 16 July 2016 — In the early morning hours insomniacs, travelers and night watchmen are surprised to find an ode to excellence in a cup of coffee.

At 3:00 in the morning the rush to prepare the nectar begins at the clinic on 27th of November Street between Maceo and Marti in Pinar del Rio, where Luis Armando Cabrera Soler lives. His wife, the doctor Madalina, helps him to organize the thermoses, bags and harnesses he uses in providing the service. Meanwhile, the guard working on the corner is seduced by the spreading aroma. Continue reading “Making a Living Off Coffee / 14ymedio, Ricardo Fernandez”

Cuban Homosexuals: Excluded From The Army And Taboo In The Dissidence / Iván García

Cuban homosexuals parade with their flags on the Paseo del Prado in Havana. Taken from the Independent.
Cuban homosexuals parade with their flags on the Paseo del Prado in Havana.
Taken from the Independent.

Ivan Garcia, 30 June 2016 — “Beyoncé” — that’s what she likes to be called — prostitutes herself for less than two dollars on the outskirts of the old bus stop of Víbora, 30 minutes by car from the center of Havana.

By day she’s an “emerging teacher” in a secondary school, that is one of a class of teachers created due to the shortage of experienced teachers who begin training in the 11th grade at age 16 and take over a classroom while they’re still teenagers themselves. By night she goes out to hunt clients on the Diez de Octubre [Tenth of October] roadway, dressed as a woman. She wears a blond wig, a clinging dress, high-heeled shoes, too much makeup and a cheap, penetrating perfume that she combines with an imitation-Gucci handbag and some false eyelashes imported from Miami. Continue reading “Cuban Homosexuals: Excluded From The Army And Taboo In The Dissidence / Iván García”

Mariano Murillo, the Marked Card Up Raul Castro’s Sleeve/ 14ymedio Reinaldo Escobar

Mariano Murillo, former Minister of Economy and Planning
Mariano Murillo, former Minister of Economy and Planning

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 15 July 2016 — The ouster of Marino Murillo as head of the Ministry of Economy and Planning (MEP) raises the question of whether it was a fall into disgrace or an act of protection. An official statement said that Murillo would dedicate himself to the implementation of the Communist Party Guidelines and recognized his work as minister. The praise contrasts with the terrible results of the Cuban economy in the first half of this year and raises the question of whether Murillo’s removal, in reality, hides a promotion.

It is obvious that Cuba’s current situation is producing an important shuffling in the higher echelons of the government. The replacement of the first secretary of the Union of Young Communists, the untimely replacement of the Minister of Culture, and the departure of the head of Higher Education, have put the entire cabinet on notice at a time when even the official media speak of “the critical situation the country is experiencing.” Continue reading “Mariano Murillo, the Marked Card Up Raul Castro’s Sleeve/ 14ymedio Reinaldo Escobar”

A Phone Number for Cubans to Report Taxi Drivers Who Overcharge / 14ymedio

An almendrón at Fraternity Park in Havana. (14ymedio)
An almendrón at Fraternity Park in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 18 June 2016 — The Directorate General of Transportation has taken a further step to freeze the fares for private transportation in Havana. Price controls take effect this coming Monday, and a phone number – 18820 – has been established for customers to denounce boteros (“boatmen” as the drivers are popularly called) who raise prices on the passengers, according to the official press.

Drivers who violate the prices agreed by the state entity will be penalized by the confiscation of their licenses to work as self-employed. A measure that has begun to raise complaints among the private drivers of passengers transport. Continue reading “A Phone Number for Cubans to Report Taxi Drivers Who Overcharge / 14ymedio”

Fidel Castro, All Over the Place / Iván García

La Nacion
La Nacion

Ivan Garcia, 13 July 2016 — The bearded Castro — famous for his long speeches, sponsorship of guerrilla groups in Latin America and Africa, and utopian promises — retired for health reasons after forty-seven years in power. But like a disembodied ghost, he is apt to reappear at any moment in Cubans’ lives.

“A few days ago I was listening to a baseball game on the radio and, like a backdrop, they were playing excerpts from Fidel’s speeches between innings.” said Renato, who sells pirated DVDs in the central Havana’s Monte neighborhood. “It’s the same on TV. There’s no money in the budget for young writers but this year book publishers are going to release twenty-five works on Fidel and his life. Brother, I’m telling you, if I could, I’d fly off to the moon.” Continue reading “Fidel Castro, All Over the Place / Iván García”

Summer 2016, Reasons Not to Leave the House / Rebeca Monzo

If you come to this neighborhood and see the filth, don’t be surprised, sometimes it’s worse!

Rebeca Monzo, 15 July 2016 — This summer is one of the hottest since 1880, according to commentators on the radio.

In addition to the punishing sun and the invasion of dust from the Sahara, in a country with almost no air conditioning, even the few hard currency stores and government offices don’t have AC and they have orders not to install it in order to save electricity, due to the terrible problems happening in the country with the supply of oil from Venezuela. Continue reading “Summer 2016, Reasons Not to Leave the House / Rebeca Monzo”

Cuban Poets: Exile, Prison and Oblivion / Luis Felipe Rojas

At the front, a panel composed of Ángel Cuadra, Luis De La Paz y José Abreu Felippe (left to right).

Luis Felipe Rojas, 9 July 2016 — José Abreu Felippe has become a goldsmith. He’s a guy who’s creating a city that will be lost, and he wants to change it into a jewel that we all will carry with us. Poesía exiliada y pateada (Alexandria Library, 2016) collects poems of seven Cuban writers who already have left for other worlds. They are beings with lives twisted by existence itself, and even so, they wrote in verse and kept their fingers on the trigger for generations of readers and writers to come.

They are Eddy CampaEsteban L. CárdenasRoberto ValeroReinaldo ArenasDavid LagoJorge Oliva and René Ariza. Felippe read a poem from each one in the West Dade Regional Library of Miami. There are two routes these bards took: insanity and oblivion, but in both meanings, their transfiguration of reality preserved them for us. The power that they imprinted on their verses has left them a little more beyond the popular imagery. Continue reading “Cuban Poets: Exile, Prison and Oblivion / Luis Felipe Rojas”

Cuban Government to Set Price Controls on Private Transport on Monday / 14ymedio

A shared fixed-route taxi, known as an "almendrón," in Havana. (14ymedio)
A shared fixed-route taxi, known as an “almendrón,” in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 15 June 2016 — The Cuban government will apply price controls to private transport starting Monday, according to information broadcast on official television this Friday. The measure seeks to put the brakes on the rising prices of shared fixed-route taxis – the collectivos – serving various routes in Havana, due to the increase in the price of fuel which the drivers buy on the informal market.

The rates will return to the levels prior to the latest increase decreed by the drivers, who raised prices from 20 to 40 Cuban pesos (roughly from 75¢ to $1.50) on the longest trips and from 10 to 20 Cuban pesos (CUPs) on the shortest trips on the most popular routes, such as Lisa-Capitolio, Santiago de las Vegas-Fraternity Park or Virgen del Camino-Vedado. Continue reading “Cuban Government to Set Price Controls on Private Transport on Monday / 14ymedio”

Exile Group is Creating Database Of Cuban Repressors To Share With US / EFE, 14ymedio

Presentation Thursday of the page 'Register a repressor'. (Facebook)
Presentation Thursday of the page ‘Register a repressor’. (Facebook)

14ymedio biggerEFE, 14ymedio — The Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba (FHRC) announced Tuesday in Miami the creation of a database of Cuban repressors that will be shared with governments, especially the United States.

Juan Antonio Blanco, FHRC director, told EFE that the initiative is aimed at the “Cuban repressive body” and is an opportunity for its officials to “repent in time” and to counter the rise of this violence against opponents in Cuba. Continue reading “Exile Group is Creating Database Of Cuban Repressors To Share With US / EFE, 14ymedio”

Cuba in Crisis: the Pressure is Building / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

Raul Castro
Raul Castro

cubanet square logoCubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 15 July 2016 — Some claim that “nothing ever happens in Cuba.” However, the signals we have been receiving of late indicate otherwise.

The price increases at the produce markets since the last quarter of 2015, accompanied by periodic (and frequent) cycles of shortages of food and other basic items in the TRDs,* accompanied by fierce raids against the self-employed – and particularly against the well-known pushcart vendors – the closing down of the only wholesale produce market in Havana, and the accumulation of problems without solutions, have been increasing the pressure inside Cuba. The most expeditious solution has been the exodus stampede, which has already turned created a crisis in some areas of South and Central America. Continue reading “Cuba in Crisis: the Pressure is Building / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya”