Love In the Times of the Rocket

MOVIE HISTORY

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

A friend, who is me, told me that he can’t stand to hear Cuban actors act. That there is a tone that precedes any school stage. Like the hollow echo of the test pattern on television. A debris of discourse: a cadence, a family resemblance, a certain inertial ineptitude. And I, who am my own friend, I can’t agree with him.

It’s not the fault of the actors, of course, although it is their fault. The genetic defect is the directors’, who left off thinking about Cuban art at least two decadent decades earlier. In particular, the film directors, like an accomplice social class.

Nor is it the directors’ fault, of course, even though it is their fault. The theatrical interconnection is the film institute’s, with its plastering aesthetic of the scripts for extra-cinematic reasons. Meanwhile more economic comfort, even worse. For Cuban film the crisis suits it, the scavenger’s freedom of the unofficial budget.

And now, once again, a fable in the key of the eighties. One of those imported comedies directed from early Titón, with a certain postmodern Patakín as added value.

They are all stereotypes there (they say the good comedies depend on this common ground). Dialogues that explain too much, or worse, the implausible or unbearable off-screen narration. Characters who say a lot and show little (prudish pornography), caricaturing the film’s plot as a kind of storyboard illustration. The kind of film that could be successfully shot by an apprentice director (his presence on the set is more a question of labor than authorship).

And, as a watermark, the pathetic patriotism dripping loudly despite the irreverent intention of a supposedly solemn historic moment: October 1962, an hysterical milestone and now soon, in August 2010, according to the atomic Reflections of Fidel Castro, what we will live again from the wall of Jerusalem to the synagogue of Havana (perhaps the reason being that the Yankee contractor is still in prison in Cuba, without charges, for repairing our rabbis’ antennas and laptops).

This delayed remake of “Alice in Wonderland” should not be criticized as a work of art, but as a systemic symptom of the paleoindustrial Cuban cinema. He could have spent millions in its making. It can work for a huge audience (although I noted no laughter in Acapulco). It could win rave reviews and a consolation prize from the European left or the Latin American ALBA. But all that paraphernalia, including this commentary, will be a better story when he’s finally given birth to the script, where to top it off there are literary narrators involved in its copyright.

The best thing, like in half of Cuban cinema, whether official or independent, is the special effect called Jorge Molima, who eats cabbages the same as worms as domino tiles who hunts Little Red Riding Hood in the cannibis gulag of San Antonio de los Banos. Even worse, that in the coming season we’ll have more and more of the same in the theater seats, as if Cuba continues frozen in an era capable of giving birth to a heart. As if thematically the 21st Century makes us panic as creators.

And I am not beating a dead rocket. I’m not even complaining. In any case, I’m licking everything with that friend of mine that I am myself.

Proof of Life

The gods do not descend from the ecstasy of the clouds, nor do psychopaths apologize for the consequences of their actions. Sometimes, however, they need to show signs of life, like people who, in an extreme situation, go to the notary to prove their existence in a public way.

Something like this happened with Fidel Castro Ruz, ex-president of Cuba and still the Secretary of the Communist Party, who a few days ago appeared at the National Center for Scientific Research and, as if this weren’t enough given the state of his health, on Monday the 12th he presented himself in the evening on the Roundtable News Program on Cubavision, where Randy Alonso and the camera crew gave a Proof-of-Life of the “retired” leader, who spoke with a certain coherence for more than an hour.

The public intervention of the ex-leader coincided with the beginning of the release of half a hundred prisoners of conscience from the Black Spring of 2003, and the cessation of the long hunger strike of the journalist Guillermo Fariñas Hernández, subjects evaded by Mr. Castro, who was busy predicting, in an apocalyptic form, the start, destiny and the end of the last battles in the war of the hemisphere, and coming down on the side of his allies.

The media vocation of our oracle coming as no surprise to anyone, many assume that the questions is not that expressed by the new oracle a la Walter Mercado of Cuban politics, who said similar things before his little intestinal fit took him to the operating room, if not as a demonstration of his physical existence and relative improvement health-wise, but so that the ill-intentioned can’t say that this island Narcissus has been turned into stone at the source of social inertia.

So fine, we note a Goal of the old Comandante, who instead of writing another Reflection left the laptop and the wheelchair and sat down at the desk of the television cameras. He doesn’t have a lot of energy, but demonstrated his ability to speak, read and misplace the pages of his notes. The message is that the man is alive, he’s put on a few pounds, and he weaves together some ideas.

The Comandante gives a “proof of life” and, in passing, offers a strong signal about the release of the men he ordered confined in 2003. Are they wrong, those who think the bars opened because of his deteriorating state of health and the taking of real power by his little brother? Is F.C. showing that the decisions are based on his personal arbitration or, at least, bear his signature? Is it a display of heatl to overcome the brevity of previous appearances?

People have already speculated on the “I’m here and now” of the Old-Man-in-Chief, who apparently spoke without breaks or editing, even though the program wasn’t live. His followers would have liked to change the Nike logo track suit for the red and black diamonds of the suit of the Comandante. For them it was another sign of eternity.

We still don’t know if Castro I will speak at the Plaza on July 26, or continue his tour around the scientific institutions of the island. For those of use who aspire to seal the source of his inertia, his public appearances are one sign of hopelessness.

Legalisation of Repression

In the second half of April 2003, 75 dissidents were arrested and sentenced after summary trials. These cases were processed under Law No. 88, “For the Protection of the National Independence and of the Economy of Cuba.” The dissidents received sentences varying between 6 and 28 years of imprisonment. Internationally, these events were called “The Black Spring of Cuba.”

According to article 2 of this law (also known as “The Gag Law”), it has a special character and takes precedence over other criminal laws adopted prior to it. This gives rise to a suspicion: How do the authorities decide whether to apply this law or the Penal Code (PC) when both pieces of legislation deal with the same types of crimes, have equal rank and serve the same objectives?

The decision of which norm to apply is left to the discretion of the public prosecutors and the judges and depends on the political will to imprison a person who could not be found guilty if judged under the PC. Meaning that his or her conduct does not fall under any of the definitions of crimes established in the PC.

From both a technical and legal point of view, the elements of the crimes described in “The Gag Law” are formulated vaguely and are designed to sanction any behaviour that, according to the authorities, supports or facilitates the disturbance of the internal peace, seeks to destabilise the country or to destroy the “Socialist State” and the national independence.

In contrast to it, the PC describes types of behaviour that violate or pose a threat to the public life. From this point of view it is the damage to the society, whether potential or actually inflicted, that determines what type of conduct ought to be sanctioned criminally. This means that all citizens are involved in assessing the severity of a given circumstance, precisely because they are the ones affected by it. The judicial system should thus protect the citizens instead of repressing them.

It is inadmissible to make use of the criminal law in order to subjugate citizens and to impose a certain ideology. In other words, the rejection of a given philosophy (communist, liberal, etc.) is not an adequate argument justifying a sentence. There has to be damage to the society.

The punishment of the 75 opponents of the regime, sentenced in accordance to Law 88, showed how its existence serves to legally justify repression under the cover of an alleged public interest. It’s selective application intensified its effectiveness as a warning to others. Indirectly, the regime influenced the rest of the dissidents within the country. It demonstrated its power as well as the lengths it is willing to go to in order to preserve it.

Laritza Diversent

Translated by: undef@rocketmail.com

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Lartiza’s Blog: Laritza’s Laws and Legal Advisor

The Return

Image: El Guama

I don’t know why, nor for what, the obscure reasons and the theories surrounding his reappearance don’t interest me. I don’t think, even for a moment, of trying to figure out Fidel Castro’s return to the cameras. There are things in life that that are only for delight, and this is one of them.

The Twilight of the Dictators is hard not to enjoy in its entirety, since his retirement in 2006, I had a feeling I would miss a good part of the senile finale of the “Cuban Revolution.” I was wrong and I rejoice for my mistake.

I had to satisfy myself with the Reflections, becoming more like science fiction short stories in nickel magazines than anything else, good for a laugh, but infinitely inferior to their graphic versions — it wasn’t for nothing that television flooded the market place in the twentieth century.

It is not the same as reading this:

“The economy of the super power will collapse like a house of cars. American society is the least prepared to withstand a catastrophe like that the empire has created on its own territory from where it left.

We are ignorant of the environmental effects of the nuclear arms, which will inevitably burst upon various parts of our planet, and that in a less severe variant will be produced in abundance. To venture a hypothesis would be pure science fiction on my part.”

Or listening and seeing this.

Gentlemen, without sadness or despair, this miracle of the national comedy calls for a celebration, there is a distinct possibility that this will be the last time we will see it pass by.

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Claudia’s Blog: Octavo Cerco – English

Is There a Law that Allows a Person or Institution to Trample My Rights With Impunity?

I will not go on and on, I don’t intend to bore anyone. My name is Georgina Noa Montes and I live at number 24 First Street, between Calzada de Bejucal and A Street. There is my home and if you want to call me you can do so at (535) 236-1408.

On December 7, 2009, I was granted a visa to travel to the United States as a refugee. On December 14 of the same year I presented my documentation to the Immigration Office, they took the papers and told me to come back after a month. I waited the prescribed time and returned on March 1 and an official attended to me… Well, rather he neglected me because he said neither I nor my family could leave the country.

I won’t deny that it bothered me. I am powerless, knowing that in my country, and this is true for everyone, there is always someone who decides for me. So I counted to ten, took a deep breath, and turned back to ask, calmly, “For how long and why?”

The official said he couldn’t give me an answer because the information is not in the public domain.

Fine, it is not in the public domain, but it doesn’t affect the public.

On June 9, 2010, I wrote a brief letter to the Council of State demanding an explanation. No one has answered me, I am still waiting for a reply. I remind them that it is a violated to refuse to answer the complaints and letters of the citizens.

I understand, and even respect, those who remain silent. But I have no reason to accept this violation of my rights, or that anyone has the right to punish me for exercising my right. Do we or do we not have rights? Are we or are we not prisoners? Are we or are we not hostages? Is there a law authorizing a person to institution to trample on my rights with impunity? No, no there is not; and if there is, we will change it. That is why we are Cubans.

Inn of Death

When she kissed Daylaun, aka el Bola, on Sunday evening, May 30, his mother never imagined it would be the last time she would have him in her arms. Dayluan didn’t return from the disco located in the Inn of Santa Maria del Rosario, to the southeast of Havana, but one of his companions reported the misfortune before dawn. She waited for the body at the undertaker’s in Cotorro, together with other boys, mothers, and cops.

Still, no one knows why Daylaun, a young black man of 22, chubby, absent-minded and very noble, was stabbed. Some say he intervened to protect a neighbor in the La Magdalena neighborhood, where he lived with his mother. Others say he was confused with some thug the killers were looking for.

Maybe it’s pure coincidence, but the Santa Maria Inn, the old Manor House of the Counts of Bayonne, converted into a massive public place with free access, has been turned into a weekend hot spot. Young people who can’t afford the discos in Playa and El Vedado congregate there. Alcohol, music, the desire to socialize through dancing and matchmaking, now generated dozens of injured and some dead. The fights escalate just like at the Bello Palmar, another Cotorro restaurant with disco under the open sky, and the fights are spectacular.

It is known that Dayluan was tried last year for a brawl on bus to Guanabo, one of the resorts to the east of the capital; in the end he paid a fine. Now he pays with his life for intervening in a brawl among friends.

As such events shake the tranquil town of Santa Maria del Rosario, founded in 1732 by the owner of the Inn, some citizens are asking the local government to convert the beautiful colonial mansion into a museum to promote the architecture, history and landscape of the region. So far the proposal has fallen on deaf ears.

Daylaun’s mother mourns the absence of her son who went to a party and lost his life, but last year alone three children were stabbed on the weekend between the town of Santa Maria and the Cotorro cemetery. Others lost an arm, an ear and were victims of contusions and non-fatal wounds.

But all the signs indication that maternal tears are not enough against the desire to socialize and the virus of violence. For now, juvenile bravado and police indolence mark the rhythm of each weekend at the Santa Maria del Rosario Inn, a former manor house southeast of Havana.

The Gag Law

The Penal Code (CP) characterizes and punishes behavior that goes against the security of the state, the economy, public policy, etc. But in a different area of the law there is another criminal provision, which carries the same weight and promotes the same goals: Law No. 88, “Protection of National Independence and the Economy,” popularly known as “the Gag Law.”

But these laws differ in the way their rules are drafted. Law 88 is more confusing and imprecise, which makes it hard to interpret. For example, the Penal Code prohibits conduct that goes against the legal order: public disturbance, incitement to crime, etc. In each of these sections the legislature made clear the factual situation that describes the crime:

“Anyone who . . . yells out an alarm, or utters warnings of a common danger . . .” (Public Disorders, Section 200.1 CP); “A person who provokes squabbling and bickering . . .” (Public Disorders, Section 201.1 CP); “A person who . . . publicly incites another to commit a particular offense . . .” (Incitement to Commit a Crime, Section 202.1 CP).

The character of places where the criminal activity occurs is also explicit: . . . “in public places, shows, or large gatherings . . .” (Public Disorders, Article 200.1 CP); “. . . in establishments open to the public, public transport vehicles, social circles, shows, family or public celebrations, or other events or places where many people gather . . .” (Public Disorders, Section 201.1 CP).

Article 8 of Law No. 88 (Part 1) sanctions “everyone . . . who intentionally disturbs the public order . . .” and “everyone . . . who promotes, organizes, or encourages disturbances to the public order referred to in the previous section” (Part 2).

Article 8 says nothing about the nature of the places where the conduct alleged to be socially dangerous occurs. Nor does it describe the possible acts that must occur to be considered disturbing the public peace. The offense is not defined.

The authorities may consider any action to be a disturbance of public order. This creates a climate of insecurity for citizens subject to the rule.

From this analysis we can derive a lesson and discover one of the strategies of the Cuban political class: drafting laws based on undefined and highly abstract fact patterns makes the interpretation and application of the Gag Law severe and leads to arbitrariness, supposedly in the public interest.

Translated by: Tomás A.

The Same People as Always and With Identical Methods

Placetas, July 19th 2010.

When, in April 2007, I was released after 17 very long and difficult years of captivity, I did not know that I was to face a much more difficult battle than the one I was in before. Assimilating into civil protest would mean dealing with numerous different personalities, temperaments, points of views, and political views.

In that context, my experience was similar to that of the commander Huber Matos, who (through his book entitled “How Night Fell“) described that he reached the Sierra Maestra mountains with an incorrect notion about Fidel Castro, nearly placing him on the same level as the Father of the Nation and other past figures who fought for our independence. To me he seemed to be just like some of those who, here, they call historic leaders of the internal opposition; I had been enamored of more than a few, and I saw them, or more to the point I heard them, as integrity and pluralism personified.

From the beginning, I could not understand the suggestions of living from tales or from having a well-recognized name. Upon leaving prison I could have become a decorative figure behind a desk, spent all my time in meetings, or could have spent my time drawing up and signing documents.

I could have lost my own independence, giving up my points of view and political and ideological ideas, because, one way or another, that was what was going through my head.

I would have had to be a really big hypocrite to then turn my struggle against my brothers in exile, to support politics that consisted of dialogue and close approaches with the tyranny of Havana — this is something I have never supported. Or to be an accomplice of attacks and criticisms against true patriots, in and out of the island, who give the best of themselves for the freedom of the country. Or to contribute to minimizing the importance of that tool of the media which my country depends on, Radio Marti.

It would have been very disloyal of me to not continue promoting the strategy of community work through regional projects, for such programs put one in contact with the true potential for change: the ordinary Cuban. Projects and initiatives are for the people, not for public opinion, they are for the sake of results, not glory or names. True opposition leadership derives from convocation, from sympathies, respect, and admiration from the community one lives in, not from the media, nor from international organizations, despite how much prestige or credibility they may have. In speaking about all of this, I cannot forget to point out the important leadership roles of Marta Beatriz Roque Cabello, together with the Assembly to Promote Civil Society and, more recently, the Network of Social Communicators, Juan Carlos Gonzalez Leiva and the Council of Rapporteurs, and Osvaldo Paya Sardinas (although I disagree with him about the Varela Project on a subject as sensitive as that of the political prisoners), I do not let that stop me from acknowledging that the Varela initiative had an unprecedented impact on the population. It is as if the message of freedom and the invitation to defend rights was knocking on the door of every Cuban home for the first time.

But standing sharply against those, and other noble efforts, are the same people as always. Now they sharpen their attacks towards the Central Opposition Coalition, the same way they once did against the Eastern Democratic Alliance and against the Committee of Rapporteurs of Human Rights in Cuba. They are the ones who feed off individuals of few scruples, information, and especially, who desire to be among big names, in order to attack the indisputable leader of the opposition in the center of the country, Idania Yanez Contreras, one of the most pure people with the greatest integrity which the cause of freedom in Cuba relies on. They also try to create a public confrontation between yours truly and the independent journalist Guillermo Fariñas Hernández.

I believe that the Castro-ite sectors of intelligence and counter-intelligence should distance themselves from their current methods because they are already worn out and each day that passes they are less and less effective, and to top it off, they perform such methods always with the same people and with identical methods.

Children’s Day

Clipping from the newspaper Juventude Rebele (Rebel Youth), July 18, 2010.

I have always longed for, among the dates and traditions that were amputated by decree, Epiphany, the Day of the Three Kings. I used to feel equally happy to give as to receive. It was, in short, a very special day for children and adults.

Now, reading this article from the press of my planet, the following questions come to me:

Whose were the hands, then, that erased from the children’s calendar the day of January 6?

Whose hands signed the order to say that children over three couldn’t have jam?

Were they the same hands that also signed the regulation that only children under seven had the right to receive a daily liter of milk?

I refuse to believe that José Martí also have had something to do with it.

Mamerto

Photo: Orlando Luis

A teacher without much character, I won’t mention her name, who worked in one of the ten elementary schools I attended when my father’s career — he worked as an industrial mechanic — moved our family like circus tumblers all over Cuba, came up with a strategy to maintain calm and discipline among her most restless students. The method was not, indeed, very educational, but it was indisputably effective: with an old broom handle as the backbone, she (or someone) had constructed a rough doll something like a scarecrow. The head was skillfully made with an old paper-mâché ball onto which had been painted a mouth and eyes with watercolors, while an exaggeratedly long protuberance served as the nose in that frowning face. The whole was crowned with an abundance of rope hair, disheveled enough to give the doll a ferocious mien.

This scarecrow, named Mamerto, “lived” in the second grade’s classroom closet and, at least at the beginning of the school year, a single reference to him was enough to subdue the naughtiest of students. The veiled threat was that Mamerto, a really bad guy, was uncomfortable in the narrow closet, so if you misbehaved the punishment would be to take him home to live in your house and to sleep in your bed with you. In those innocent days, when children believed in magic and Santa Claus, no one wanted to be near the terrible presence of Mamerto, much less to share a pillow with him when it came time to sleep. Mamerto had one more curse: obstinate children who earned his antipathy didn’t pass the grade. Yes, in the early sixties we took our studies more seriously, perhaps because subjects, and even entire years were repeated, even in elementary school.

The truth is no one had ever gotten a really good look at Mamerto. All that was required in the lively classroom was for the teacher to invoke his name aloud while opening a chink in the closet door just wide enough to let his tangled hair spill out; the result was a deadly silence in the room with all eyes wide in alarmed expectation. This shared fear was contagious, but also a little incredulous. Deep down, almost all the children sensed that Mamerto was a fraud, particularly the most boisterous and reckless of us, so the teacher was careful never to fully display the bogeyman and always made sure the closet was locked when she left the classroom.

For some of us, however, myself included, the saga of Mamerto had a certain adrenaline-laced charm and inspired a good dose of curiosity. So it was no surprise that one day some of the boldest of my classmates — children have the innate wisdom to join forces in their difficult campaigns — managed to open the closet and discover the true essence of the inanimate and defenseless Mamerto; from that time on, the unfortunate doll became the focus of the antics of the children. He soon appeared propped against some desk in the classroom, leaning against the blackboard, or stripped of his pants, setting off a general hilarity where before there had been fear. Finally the doll became a bore to everyone and was forgotten in his corner of the closet, until one day he disappeared for good. The teacher tried to substitute a cardboard dog and even a stuffed rooster, but in vain. If the whole classroom had vanquished the fear of Mamerto, nothing minor by comparison could take his place.

Somehow, in recent days, certain images appearing in the official press and on TV have called to mind that almost forgotten lesson of Mamerto.

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Miriam’s Blog: Sin Evasion / Without Evasion

The Gag Law

The Penal Code (CP) characterizes and punishes behavior that goes against the security of the state, the economy, public policy, etc. But in a different area of the law there is another criminal provision, which carries the same weight and promotes the same goals: Law No. 88, “Protection of National Independence and the Economy,” popularly known as “the Gag Law.”

But these laws differ in the way their rules are drafted. Law 88 is more confusing and imprecise, which makes it hard to interpret. For example, the Penal Code prohibits conduct that goes against the legal order: public disturbance, incitement to crime, etc. In each of these sections the legislature made clear the factual situation that describes the crime:

“Anyone who . . . yells out an alarm, or utters warnings of a common danger . . .” (Public Disorders, Section 200.1 CP); “A person who provokes squabbling and bickering . . .” (Public Disorders, Section 201.1 CP); “A person who . . . publicly incites another to commit a particular offense . . .” (Incitement to Commit a Crime, Section 202.1 CP).

The character of places where the criminal activity occurs is also explicit: . . . “in public places, shows, or large gatherings . . .” (Public Disorders, Article 200.1 CP); “. . . in establishments open to the public, public transport vehicles, social circles, shows, family or public celebrations, or other events or places where many people gather . . .” (Public Disorders, Section 201.1 CP).

Article 8 of Law No. 88 (Part 1) sanctions “everyone . . . who intentionally disturbs the public order . . .” and “everyone . . . who promotes, organizes, or encourages disturbances to the public order referred to in the previous section” (Part 2).

Article 8 says nothing about the nature of the places where the conduct alleged to be socially dangerous occurs. Nor does it describe the possible acts that must occur to be considered disturbing the public peace. The offense is not defined.

The authorities may consider any action to be a disturbance of public order. This creates a climate of insecurity for citizens subject to the rule.

From this analysis we can derive a lesson and discover one of the strategies of the Cuban political class: drafting laws based on undefined and highly abstract fact patterns makes the interpretation and application of the Gag Law severe and leads to arbitrariness, supposedly in the public interest.

Translated by: Tomás A.


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Laritza’s Blog: Laritza’s Laws and Cuban Legal Advisor

Everything Changes!

3-tablero-ifaMovement is a universal property: nature changes and society  changes. The difference is that changes in nature respond to  objective laws which operate with or without human involvement, while  history is made by men, allowing them to hasten or delay change, but not to stop it. The  need for social change manifests itself as a permanent dissatisfaction with  what has been achieved, which makes society a perfectible entity.

In Cuba,  the convergence of various factors – internal, external, historical, sociological  and cultural – at a specific time and geopolitical space, led to the prevailing immobility of the recent decades. But these same factors, together with new ones, have placed the limits of immobility on the agenda. A  reality that the authorities of the country, long entrenched in the  idea that Cuba has already changed, have acknowledged in their discourse – the  need to change whatever needs to be changed, or update the model, or both.

Attempts  to homogenize the pluralistic society, changing the citizenry en masse, ignoring  the vital role of rights and freedoms to determine what, when, and  how to do things, first led to stagnation, then to decline, and finally resulted in a  resounding failure with significant material and spiritual  damage.

Although  the infeasibility of the model has brought the economy to the point of collapse, the  system continues to cling to an ideology with no future, to the point that, to  paraphrase Lenin’s definition of a revolutionary situation, the coincidence in Cuba of: the exhaustion of the model; the stagnation of the nation;  public discontent; external pressures; and consensus for change, forms an objective picture showing that those underneath do not want, and those above are not able, to continue as before. In this context, while clinging to immobility and the politics of  confrontation, a series of events happened very early in 2010: the government denied entry to Cuba to a Member  of the European Parliament, the Socialist Luís Yáñez; the  political prisoner Orlando Zapata  Tamayo died following a  prolonged hunger strike; a similar strike was started by the dissident Guillermo  Fariñas; and there were various manifestations of repression against the  Ladies in White, which formed a new scenario at the very time when the  government announced the “update of the model.”

Behavioral  change was manifested in accepting and allowing previously unacceptable acts, such as: allowing Rosa Diez, leader of the Spanish Progressive and Democratic Union, what had earlier been forbidden to Luis Yáñez – to enter Cuba with a  tourist visa and meet with several dissidents; the Cuban foreign minister  meeting with the Troika of the European Union, where they raised the proposal of Cuba’s  willingness to continue dialogue despite the alleged “media campaign  against Cuba”; and the meeting of the Cuban head of state with authorities of the Catholic Church, where they addressed the issue of the  Ladies in White, Fariñas’s strike, and the release of prisoners.

But while this change in behavior does not mean that the political  will exists to democratize Cuba, there is an important practical result: the failure  of inaction, as the issue of the prisoners could be a prelude to other  urgent claims of society. I refer to rights  relating to freely leaving and returning to the country, free Internet  access, or freedom of expression, to name just three of the many needs of Cubans.

If the  government’s tactic consists only in releasing prisoners to change the external  appearance and to gain access to plans of cooperation and funding sources, it is on  the way to a new and resounding failure. To avoid  this it is important that, in the absence of an independent civil  society with the legal recognition to act within Cuba, the international community,  while encouraging the release of prisoners, should place on its agenda with Cuba  the need to ratify human rights pacts signed more than two years ago and put  the domestic legislation in line with those documents. It would be a  grave mistake to implement aid to the government without it demonstrating its readiness to go beyond the liberation of political prisoners, which  did not help either the government or Cuban society.

The desire to change must be demonstrated  with the implementation of human rights, based on the dignity of the person, and the acceptance  that, along with the government’s attempt to update the model, citizens  enjoy the right to propose alternative models, which implies renouncing the strategic interest of remaining in power forever. Citizen participation parallel to that of the State is a requirement of modernity. Cuba has changed  throughout its history and yet we are in a deep structural crisis, one  of the causes of which has been the weakness or absence of civil  society, that place of interaction and coexistence of diverse interests,  where their autonomy and independence from the state constitutes an  irreplaceable instrument for citizen participation.

The demonstration  of the ability to retain power cannot be extrapolated to progress in  the economy, which also indicates that it is insufficient to stop history. Everything  changes, and Cuba is changing.

Translated by: Tomás A.

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Dimas’s Blog

The Novel of So Many Lives

He received me on Monday in a quiet apartment in Mantilla from where he has written almost all his work. On a polished table he put cold water and strong coffee for both of us. He lit a cigarette whose smoke, luckily, chose as its victim the bust of Cervantes resting on a nearby sideboard. And began to answer my questions.

Maybe, I would never have decided to interview Leonardo Padura had I not read La Novela de mi Vida (The Novel of my Life). Up until that moment, the two pieces I already knew were enough to admire his clean prose and skillful police frameworks, but not much more.

So, I discovered this novel and found myself obligated to track down (just like investigator Mario Conde) where its author lived. For a character like Salinger there are some writers who, after reading their work, you just wish you could call them. Since I don’t have his telephone number, I decided to travel 498 miles from my native Bayamo to the Cuban capital, knock on his door and say: I need to interview you.

It so happens that The Novel of my Life should already be on the must-read list of every reader who thinks himself Cuban. Or one who lives or studies the historical truth inside this, our country, made up of water and sand. Because coming to find out the written novel of this immense and suffered man who was the poet Jose Maria Heredia is the best way to understand a country that, two centuries later, has not yet ceased to repeat similar tragedies in the lives of millions of other children.

With great precision, Leonardo Padura, a well experienced writer, wove two different stories that is one at the end. First: the one of the great poet of the Niagara, a man without real nationality that against all logic profoundly identified himself as Cuban (when he died, at 35 years of age, Jose Maria Heredia had lived in five different countries and only 6 of those years in Cuba), and he might have been the one to inaugurate the so-called Cuban tradition of suffering exile and dying defeated by nostalgia. Second: the one of a fictitious character known as Fernando Terry, who in the ’90’s returns from the exile (to visit for a few weeks) in search of a past from which he was never able to detach.

If you think the story of this contemporary Cuban — forced to migrate in the Mariel Boatlift due to the intolerance, the fear and the lies — as melancholic, you will be frightened by the first person tale that Heredia, revived by Padura, tells us about the time in his life when, mad by pain and frustration, as he himself called it, the novel of his life.

A life made up of love of poetry and the freedom of his oppressed country, of defense towards a Cubanness in the making that could not yet be defined, but it could be felt. A life thrown to the fiercest of exiles by the despot who governed at the time: Miguel Tacón, the tyrant of the day, who just like so many of them, gave himself the right to decide who lived inside the island, who died, and who should leave it. Cursed be the stubbornness of the dictators who manage their nations as if they were their own homes.

The same poet whose ode to Niagara today rests in a tombstone right in front of the waterfall, also inaugurated a habit that we have not been able to erase from this beautiful homeland in all these years: to suffer from the accusations and the betrayal of a false friend that would use the misfortunes of Heredia to climb towards success in a Cuba sick from corruption. The story takes his name: Domingo del Monte. But about this, we couldn’t care less.

The alarming thing to recognize is that, behind the ability of Leonardo Padura, the reader is warned of too much freshness, too much proximity to his own reality with this novel that, according to what the narrator tells us, is one of so many of our lives.

My interview lasted a little over an hour. The agile, well-argued responses from this Havana native writer, filled up a text of many pages which I proudly plan to include in a book that I am just now concluding.

Today, two weeks past that encounter with Leonardo Padura, after looking around in disbelief and remembering the ordeal of the exiled Heredia, I have not yet figured out how to detach myself from the question that the The Novel of Many Lives left me with as a harsh gift: Could it be that our beautiful island will forever condemn its children to escape from her in search of protection and a piece of happiness?

Translated by: Angelica B.

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Ernesto’s Blog: The Little Brother

Freedom of Expression in Cuban Legislation

Freedom of expression is internationally recognized in the Declaration of Human Rights (Article 19). These prerogatives include being safe from oppression due to expressing an opinion, conducting research and receiving and spreading information, regardless of borders, by any means.

Article 53 of the Cuban Constitution <em>gives citizens the right to freedom of speech and the press in accordance with the aims of the socialist society. </em>Under this provision, <em>material conditions for their exercise are given by the fact that the press, radio, television, movie theaters and other means of mass information belong to the state or society and could not, in any case, become private property, which assures their use exclusively for the use of the working people and for the benefit of society. </em>Lastly, it assures that <em>the law regulates the exercise of these freedoms.</em>

However, the constitutional protections of freedom of expression, despite the fact of being a judicial guarantee, is not sufficient to affirm that in Cuba it is exercised and enjoyed.

First:  the article being analyzed is technically and judicially deficient.  The legislator confused the right with the material guarantee necessary for its application.  A useless condition, given the nature and characteristics of this kind of freedom.  The same one devotes spaces that the state does not have to create, because they are innate to humans, in virtue of what only has to be respected and protected.

Second:  The fact that the means of social communication are in the control of the State does not constitute a guarantee of the application of this right.  In Cuba, the human prerogatives, acknowledged by the Constitution of the Republic, cannot be exercised against the existence and means of “The Socialist State.”  It means that its legal application is severely limited when rights cannot be curtailed. They solely admit these minimal limitations, only when regarding the function of public order.

Third: According to the Constitution of the Republic, freedom of speech and press should be developed through a law, which is the only way of applying and defending this right.  The National Assembly, the main organ of the State with legislative authority, consciously ignores the mandates expressed by this Magna Carta.  It still does not adopt a law that regulates this most important right in ordinary legislation.

Fourth: The National Assembly passed Law 88, “Of Protection of National and Economic Independence”, a normative penal device that impedes citizens from expressing and spreading their opinions in regards to political, social, and economic practices of the government.

This law, also known as “The Gag Law”, sanctions every person who seeks and provides information, accumulate, reproduces, and spreads materials that criticize the political system, and any person who collaborates with such ideas, via radio stations, TV stations, newspapers, magazines, or other means of foreign communication.

Translated by Raul G.

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Laritza’s Blog: Laritza’s Laws and Cuban Legal Advisor