The “Decentralization” of Responsibility / Miriam Celaya

We Believe in You, Revolution

Photo: Orlando Luis
“The first time you deceive me, it will be your fault, the second time, the fault will be mine”
(Arab proverb)

One of the skills we Cubans in the Island have developed in the face of the persistent ability of leaders to “speak without saying,” is figuring out official positions and intentions, not from what is expressed, but, just the opposite, from what is not said. The most recent example of this is reflected in the booklet on the guidelines to be adopted — not “discussed” — during the VI Party Congress of April, 2011, a document that, Cantinflas* antics and euphemisms aside, is still interesting, since it summarizes in just 32 pages the obvious failure of the socialist model imposed for 50 years. Finally, though this may not be what is proposed, it puts things in perspective, at least at the level of the root issue: the country is economically devastated.

Of course, this summary does not include official recognition of the national disappointment, nor does it at all imply the acceptance of any responsibility by the government for the critical economic situation in Cuba today. To recognize such a setback would unequivocally mean the resignation of the President, the Politburo, and of the Central Committee in its entirety, including all its carnival-style puppets (of which there are many); something unthinkable, since this operetta is precisely about trying to retain power even at a cost of (ouch!) introducing some minor changes.

It is easier, then, to pass the hot potato of blame to others who, according to what the Draft Guidelines of the Sixth Congress of the PCC suggests, could mean anyone, such as the Ministries of Economy and Planning, Finance and Prices, Labor and Social Security, or who knows what other scapegoat. Replacing the puppets, in short, that will always be expendable and missed by no one; at the end of the day, all the officials of different ranks here are die-cast, simple ventriloquists, and emerge with the label of “disposable”. If anyone doubts this, you just have to remember Lage, Pérez Roque and Soberón, to name some of the most recently removed from the carnival. And, though the regime has centralized all power for decades and has boasted of control over life and property, it has always shown real expertise in applying the “decentralization” responsibility for failures.

Nobody can understand by what discrete method so many economic and financial blunders could be committed over such a long time, mocking the supposedly efficient government controls. I, for one, do not believe it. There are also no guarantees in place to ensure that countless errors committed over half a century will not be repeated. At the end of the day, though they may change the officials du jour, the rules and the referees of this game will continue to be the same. And, since the crisis is systemic, encompasses all spheres of national life and has –- indeed — irreversible properties, there are no guarantees in place that “now” things will be different for the better. We cannot overcome social crises with assemblies, but this is something that, I am sure, the hacienda owners are aware of, so I suspect some hidden conspiracy behind the apparent good intentions and ill-specified good intentions of the government with a sudden celebration of a meeting that is eight years overdue, of a “political party?” that has pertinently demonstrated its ineptitude to govern. By the way, as I see it, the PCC –- just as it happens with the revolution — does not really exist, unless we are calling a “political party” that immense herd incapable of making decisions, designated to pay a monthly fee and, in addition, applauding the antics and commands of the Gerontocrats-in-Chief.

The Supreme Orate recently told the international press that, if there was an official responsible for the persecution of homosexuals in the decades of the 60’s and 70’s in Cuba, he was the one. But the unusual, almost posthumous revelation, cannot even qualify as repentance, because it was not accompanied by the appropriate apologies for the huge share of the suffering that the openly homophobic policy of “the revolution” caused. More than a mea culpa, his was an open, cynical, and boastful expression that almost amounted to saying: “Yes, it was me; I did it… so what?” That is the essential spirit of the dictatorship that is also revealed now, when it intends to “renew the model” not admitting, prior to that, the failure of an experiment that has cost several generations of Cubans so many tears and misery. Does it make sense to renew that which doesn’t work?

Today, despite the failure of the proposed “reforms,” the geriatric caste knows that a precarious card is being played in their runaway bet for more time in power, and they are asking Cubans for a new vote of blind faith. How many will be willing to bet on them?

Translated by Norma Whiting

November 16, 2010

Mirage / Regina Coyula

Photo: Ana Torricella

In our population of eleven million, in round numbers, five million make up the workforce. And next year one in five workers will have to find another way to make a living because, in many cases, they are sustained not by the salaries, but with the subsidiary advantages of their job. (Share of petrol, construction materials, food, office supplies, use your imagination).

There is no mention of the laid off Cuban workers receiving unemployment benefits, though you can see the job security of some European countries; if our future “available workers” came to hear of it they would wonder what happened to the workers’ and farmers’ state, convinced as they were that this gorgeous paradise was in Cuba.

November 19, 2010

“The Little Rafter” and His Fourteen Attempts / Laritza Diversent

People in his neighborhood call Pedro Luis García El Balserito, the Little Rafter, because of the number of times he has attempted to flee the country – always by sea. He has yet to reach his goal, but he says he’ll never cease his efforts, and that the only way to stop him is to lock him up.

El Balserito can recite from memory Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, rapping: “Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and to choose to reside within the borders of a state. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.”

In Cuba, exiting or entering the national territory is subject to legal requirements. Failure to comply with the law is a crime punishable by fines of 300 pesos to 500 thousand pesos, or a sentence of up to 3 years imprisonment, or up to 8 years if the offender used violence or intimidation against other people or used forged papers.

No one would believe that “rafter”, who is just over five feet tall and under 100 pounds, has made fourteen attempts at illegal departure from the island. Nine of his adventures, which occurred between 1998 and 2004, were frustrated by U.S. authorities.

He was returned in compliance with the existing imigration agreement between Cuba and the United States, in place since 1994, signed after the mass exodus that took place at various coastal sites in August ’94. Pedro Luis was then a 12-year-old adolescent.

Despite its being a crime, he was never punished. The State, in compliance with the bilateral treaty, agreed to suspend the application of legal sanctions against the boat people who were repatriated to the island.

In four of his last attempts, the “rafter” had to return voluntarily, given the poor technical condition of the raft, as these rustic boats are referred to in Cuba. In the latest attempt, less than eight months ago, he was caught red-handed by Cuban border guards, nine miles from the coast.

It unfolded in the same manner as the previous attempts. But this time, when he returned home, there was something different. A month later, the Captain of the Port of Havana reported a decision in which the rafter and every one of his traveling companions had to pay a fine of eight thousand pesos for violating the regulations on possession and handling of boats.

Pedro Luis and the others were guilty of four of the 14 violations that are covered by the Decree-Law 194, “From the infringements on the possession and operation of ships in the national territory,” described as ‘very serious’ by the decree itself.

The fine was for boat-building without authorization, for using illegally obtained means, for operating without being registered in the Port Authority, and for navigating waters without permission.

The decree, issued by the State Council, authorizes the Port Authority to apply the forfeiture and civil penalties, the amount ranging from 500 pesos to 10 thousand pesos, depending on the classification of the violations: minor, serious and very serious. It also punishes recidivism or the commission of several offenses.

Pedro Luis did not expect this. In fact, he didn’t even know there was such a rule. He does not understand why the Port Captain citation made no reference to leaving the country illegally. “Well, if not for one thing, it’s for another, they always keep an ace up their sleeve,” he says.

Anyway, the “rafter” has no income or assets to pay the fines. On the other hand, he is convinced that he should attempt to flee the country. “Better to die trying and much better than ending up in prison for not paying a fine.”

Translated by Karen Chun

November 19, 2010

Property, A Fundamental Problem / Dimas Castellanos

copia-shu6(Published Friday, 12 November 2010 in number 3 of the digital magazine Voices, on the site

The Cuban crisis continues to become more profound. The ideological ties, created interests and the totalitarian vocation rise as an obstacle to the transformations that society requires; to it are added the incomprehension of the role of time in social processes, the errant road to encourage an efficient economy and an obvious lack of political will. For all that, the changes that once were feasible to produce in a private sphere are today impossible, since the depth of the crisis and its structural character demand integral reform. The Cuban economy, whose Gordian knot has its roots in the relation of property, constitutes a proof of this necessity.

Different from animal life, human beings, gifted with cognitive capacity and structured communication with his own species, are not starting from zero, rather each generation supports itself on accumulated culture. During thousands of years, the economy — which moved forward together with the human race — was hoarding experiences and conforming with norms that regulated its function. Thanks to culture, today’s man has very little in common with his forebears, while the chimpanzee — the animal with greatest similarity with the humans — lives and does the same things he did hundreds of thousands of years ago.

Long before psychology became a science and would describe the role of interest in human activities, economic relations had demonstrated that this constitutes a powerful source of motivation, without which it is impossible to obtain advances in production in a sustained form. When a political system arbitrarily alters this reality, the stubbornness of economic law leads to results such as that of the structural crisis in which we find ourselves. Ideology is a more recent phenomenon. It arose precisely thanks to advanced development in economic relations, especially those of property. The same interacts with the economy and can serve as much as an accelerator as a brake, depending upon the understanding its subjects have of its laws and functions. It is unjustifiable that well into the 21st Century — in the midst of globalization and the information society — those who govern Cuba cling to an ideology, behave like animal species, repeating what humanity has demonstrated down the length of its existence and has accumulated and organized in databases placed at their disposition.

Private property emerged from the first forms of community life, extended itself with slavery, changed form with feudalism, returned to mutate itself with the capitalist system, and into the few spaces that totalitarian socialism has permitted its subsistence, it has demonstrated to be a highly efficient form of economic development. That which has changed with time and will keep changing is the proportion in which what is produced is distributed — that is to say, referring to social justice, what comes from redistribution but that does not depend only on the globally created product, but also on other factors such as the natural differences in people, their dispositions and aptitudes, of invested capital and technology. The product of work, therefore, cannot correspond integrally to the producer, who doubtlessly is an essential factor but not the only one who intervenes and makes redistribution possible. If private property has been employed for the exploitation of some men by others, the solution is not in abolishing it, rather in perfecting the form of redistribution of the product of work.

The violation of this principle makes the economy unnatural and converts it into a prisoner of ideology, which is the same as condemning it to death, as the dissimilar projects of socialism based on the artificial imposition of State property have evidenced. In the Soviet Union it ended in a round defeat. In China, it led to generalized hunger until they undertook the reforms that have converted it into one of the motors of the world economy. In Vietnam, the planned economy system sunk the country into misery until they started the little Vietnamese Renovation, with which a sustained growth was achieved in production and productivity until they occupied second place in the world in the exportation of rice, by which the United States stopped opposing the concession of credits, suspended the embargo and established diplomatic relations. North Korea doesn’t qualify, since it deals with a feudal-slavery socialism in its final phase. And Cuba has managed to survive thanks to a solidarity-based subsidy coming from ideological alliances.

With regards to real property or the means of production we have to add knowledge. The technological revolution and communication are transforming the industrial society into the informational society. These changes interfere with the totalitarian intent to subordinate the universal right to education and information to ideology. The University cannot be only for the revolutionaries and information cannot be edited to suit the ideological interests of the State.

The Cuban president has recognized that in nine years the cultivable area of the country has been reduced by a third; that without people who feel the need to work to survive … we will never stimulate love of work; that without the conformance of a firm and systematic social rejection of the illegal and diverse manifestations of corruption, they will continue — in no small measure — enriched at the cost of the sweat of the majority; that if we maintain inflated payrolls in almost all national undertakings, and we pay salaries unlinked with results, we can’t hope that prices will stop their constant climb, deteriorating the purchasing power of the people.

Nevertheless, the response has been limited to the promulgation of Decree Law 259 about the delivery in usufruct of land — land which the State was incapable of making productive — to the farmers capable of doing it; the labor reform that will leave more than a million unemployed; and a list — of a rather feudal nature — of approved self-employment activities that are practically limited to generating taxes “on personal income, on sales, public services, and for the utilization of the workforce, besides contributing to Social Security”, with a load of regulations and limits that impede self-employment from playing an important role in production and delivery of services.

On the other hand, nothing is said about the rights of association of those workers who face a scenario without organizations independent of the State to represent them, much less to encourage the founding of small and medium enterprises. To stimulate the growth of this sector, instead of trying to avoid the formation of a national business community, they would have to add a policy characterized by low taxes and bank credits, creation of a wholesale market, implementation of rights of association and free access to information, which implies the implementation of human rights, the basis of the dignity of the person. Only thus can the Cuban be converted into a subject interested in change.

The integral concept of property is the road to sustained and sustainable economic development and for the formation of a national business community. In Cuba, thinkers and politicians of all eras were worried about the widespread promotion of small and medium property. It is enough to cite Bishop Juan Jose Dias de Espada, Jose Antonio Saco, Francisco de Frias, Enrique Jose Varona, Julio Sanguily, and Manuel Horta Duque[1], and of course, among them Jose Marti, who considered rich a nation that has many small proprietors[2]. They and others argued the importance of encouraging a diverse economy of small agricultural producers and the formation of a national middle class.

If the end of whichever social model is the human being, then economic relations — and, inside of those, those of property — constitute a means subordinated to that end. Therefore, in any of its forms, property has a social function that consists in incentivizing economic development for human life. The dilemma is not in the choice of one or another form, rather in the capacity to consider, at a determined time, place, and conditions, which of the forms is most advantageous for development, that which makes the institution of property a fundamental of social order.

We all agree that Cuba needs an efficient economy, but that proposition becomes unviable if the producers are prohibited from being proprietors, from receiving a salary to satisfy the most elemental necessities, from having free access to the Internet and from enjoying such elemental rights as the freedom of association in the defense of their interests. We would convert property and salaries into levers of economic development, and the only guarantee of achieving it is in the implementation of human rights.

The ratification of human rights treaties signed in the year 2008 and the conformance of domestic legislation in harmony with those documents constitute unavoidable premises to get out of this present crisis. In this sense, we have to return to the vision of the 1901 Constitution, which recognized the freedoms of expression — written, spoken, or in any other form — the rights of assembly and association, and the freedom of movement to enter or leave the country. We also need to look at the Constitution of 1940 which, with the consent of the Communists taking part in the congress, added to the freedoms of 1901 the declaration that all acts of prohibition or limitation of the citizens’ participation in the political life of the nation is a crime, and the existence and legitimacy of private property in its highest concept of social function.

But it is enough that the Government, owner of nearly all the means of production, assume the political will necessary to put the citizen in first place, and proceed to untie the Gordian knot of relations with property, together with integral changes, so that the deepening of the present reforms are the rebirth of small and medium enterprises, the diversity of the forms of property, and the formation of a national middle class.

[1] Manuel Horta Duque (1896-1964), professor and jurist who laid out a plan of agrarian reform that he defended in the 1940 Congress.

[2] Marti, Jose. “Complete Works”, Vol 7, Havana, Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, 1991, p 134.

Translated by: JT

November 15 2010

We’re Doing Fine, Zapata / Antunez

October 23 2010

The recent dismissal of Spain’s Pro-Castro foreign minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos, the declarations of President Barack Obama, and the well-deserved award to the independent journalist Guillermo Fariñas have been the most important of recent events.

The exit of the La Moncloa official — Moratinos — was an event that had an impact if you bear in mind that it was only hours before the European Union met in full session to analyze whether or not it would maintain its Common Position on Cuba. The exit of Moratinos closes a black chapter of complicity and flirtation with the Castro regime leaders. We will see now if the Spanish executive, with its new foreign minister, assumes the role and listens to the demands for freedom of more than 11 million Cubans.

Let’s hope that going forward Obama continues to be faithful to the principles of the American nation. Just as with terrorists, one neither negotiates nor reaches agreements with tyrannical governments, save those agreements that would be to the benefit of freedom and transparency.

The awarding of the Andrei Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to Coco Fariñas represents a strong blow to the Ortega-Castro duo, since the releases from prison, understood to mean the exile of our imprisoned brothers, and the measures announced in the economic order have monopolized the attention of the press, the press which is in charge of protecting the image that if everything in Cuba is not exactly perfect, it is functioning about normal.

All Cubans are proud of this prize and we think that Fariñas’ contribution to the crisis that confronts the Castro regime represents a landmark in the struggle for democracy and respect for Cuban rights.

Many thanks to the European parliament for their just decision and a thousand thanks to Guillermo “Coco” Fariñas for his courage, altruism and perseverance maintained during his long years of struggle.

Translated by: D. Brazzell

The Population Pyramid / Rebeca Monzo

Next to my apartment building, in the corner of 41st Street in Nuevo Vedado, there is a kindergarten that has been there for many, many years, My two children, with 12 years between them, attended there.

From my apartment I could hear the children’s voices and laughter, and sometimes, the screams of the seños — the caregivers, who are not teachers. I became accustomed to hearing them and thought they were funny although, on occasion, their nonsense towards those who cared for them bothered me. Suddenly, it was 3 months or more, when the silence and the neglect of the place disturbed me. The area is on a corner which has beautiful trees and because of that, it makes it a highly desirable place to build those nasty low-cost houses that have been spoiling the architecture of the neighbourhood for years.

Yesterday, when I was walking from the market, I was struck by the state of a daycare in this neighbourhood that had been completely abandoned for 2 years. It was said they would remodel it but, far from it, they have left it to drift. Windows are missing glass and in some cases there are only marks where windows used to be. Wild grasses cover the ground all around. There is not a single sign indicating that they are repairing it nor is anyone watching the premises.

On my way home, I encountered a woman who is the director of kindergartens in this neighbourhood. I asked her what will happen with the one next to my house. She told me it couldn’t reopen because there were not enough children. Only two had been registered. She also commented to me that this situation is repeated in all municipal areas as the child population pyramid is very low. As you know, it is the same in Europe. But for different reasons, I replied. She paused and said goodbye. I realised she had memorized the official party line.

November 11, 2010

MONEY AS A CRIME / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo


Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

I don’t believe it, I’m always a little slow on the uptake. I’ve been told by those who take trips. They say you can’t take hard currency out of Cuba. Not a single centavo. The numismatic curtain is closed.

The little Cuban who from his means (or fears) has decided to leave Cuba for a while, suddenly is seized like a common criminal. At the airport they scan him looking for euros, dollars and other stateless slips of paper. They interrogate and randomly frisk him. “Not a single peso is going with you, pal; we’ll keep it in a sealed envelope for you for when you get back,” is the statement on behalf of the Central Bank, now being applied by the customs experts.

A guy in my neighborhood was Spanish. Cuba, of course, goes along but doesn’t recognize it. The guy has a whole shitload of rental businesses here, and having saved like Marx tells us to — under the mattress — at the end of the year he wanted to travel in style to Madrid to see if he couldn’t quickly hook up with some chick to legitimize it or if not Zapatero, or at least  Rajoy or the King (or  Dinio, if it came to that).

A few days ago the guy with the money comes down Beales Street, yelling at the top of his lungs. I’d never seen him just totally lose it like that. He was screaming that now he’d have to totally hide it if he wanted to finally get out with the money. He was going to have to pay some yuma to sneak the dough out. But it was really risky. It fucking sucks, that some shithead foreign idiot’s got this last minute scam just because he’s got a get-out-of-jail-free-card from MININT because the damn foreigners can get hard money through customs. Motherfucker with the fucking money, he told me, but there’s no way I’m going to Europe without money even if I have to lose my fucking mind.

I haven’t taken the trouble to find out where things stand at this point. Bloggers and bucks don’t go well together (we’ve got M.H. Lagarde here to prove it with his mercenary mania over Yoani Sanchez). It seems the Cuban citizen recovers his status as the international indigent. We have to throw ourselves on the world without so much as a counterrevolutionary nickel cut in half (money is always counterrevolutionary which is why, in the incredible decade, a little town in Pinar del Rio tried to abolish it).

It seems we are leaking capital, symbol of a shipwreck. You can get Cuban money out (like a museum curiosity I suppose), but you can’t change it at any bank beyond the Malecon. In critical cases, you can ask for special permission from the Central Bank legal department, justifying what you’re thinking of using the money for abroad, and how you got that quantity in the country in the first place (proving our innocence is a Cuban specialty).

Good. Bravo. So be it. I like the clarity we get with the Total State. Money is time for the socialist system in its .cu version. It remains as evidence — in writing and in copies to-whomever-might-be-interested (if there is finally this mythical resolution, in force since before the dollarization of the nineties), that Cuban apartheid continues. The victory is uncertain.

Foreigners of the world, ESCAPE!

Until the forever CADECA.

Fatherland or Money: We will exchange!

September 22, 2010



Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Sunday after Sunday the Kent dinosaurs occupy the stage of the National Theater, on one side of the deserted Plaza of the Revolution, in the already classic Cafe Cantante.

Thirty Cuban pesos a person. The place is cheap. It’s dark and air-conditioned: two more reasons than required to relapse, since it’s not easy to find a place to hide in Cuba, not even for a couple of hours.

So here we are, compelled by the sparse reality of another tedious afternoon in the country. We went and bought beer in hard currency. Glugglugglug yeast and hi’s and hugs and kisses on the lips at the first opportunity. We all dig you very much babe… and we paste our brains to the speakers until our memories go plfff and so we are no longer surviving in this lapsed Cuba of the zero years, we’re no longer emptying out the post-two-thousand-nada riffraff, but we are also dinosaurs of this twentieth century nailed like a psychedelic chord in our hearts.

Oh, yeah…!

It’s a miracle that these fifties still have so much energy. They move the atmosphere in an imitation of the aces of the sixties and seventies and a little but more. But even there we hear the drunken chatter of that sacred language, English. From the nineties to today we’re not interested in heavy metal or even alternative. Sundays are spent with the music of rock. Ladies and gentlemen, freakies of every stripe and pattern and social class: the time machine is a musical discovery of our resurrected Revolution. And, for the first time in the world socialist system: it works…! Fuck!

The fauna dance like crazy. Everyone alternating between the areíto — the sweet dances of our native non-forbears — and arockarito. Everyone flirts with everyone within the limits of the sub-hippangos of our materialist machismo. We are not but we pretend to be a commune. Sometimes and ephemeral bureaucrat usurps the Kents’ microphone and shrieks – ridiculous, laughable: the civil official gives life to the Young Communist Union and other organizations la Peña supports or allows: pushing on us the idea that without the institution a space such as this would be impossible; finally quoting a cultural slogan in the name of the Premier or his Rockvolution.

We don’t know or care about your Marxistoid rant. We don’t hear, we don’t spit. We leave him under the state because at the end of the day he earns his salary, and it’s obvious that the poor thing doesn’t even know the taste of what he utters. He must be a businessman who traffics in rum or something metabolically more beautiful and exciting. A hypocrite who takes advantage of each historical context. A nothing of the masses. In any case, this man is nuts. (Good) luck that we’re nodding and looking for a pair of sad eyes to fall in love with for the umpteenth time. Behind blue eyes.

There are the perennial little characters halfway between pathetic and pathological. The one who imitates Michael Jackson. The one who imitates one (or all three ) of the Bee Gees. And the fingernails that are neither Oz nor Ozzy, but rather the wizard Mogly who is an imitation of Tina Turner, drinking a little rough and unfortunately crowing that she is the owner of la Peña de los Kents, who no one can touch on the dance floor or in the delirium, who calls for security with a Cuban oath. And to top that, the call of truth, and the chubby goonies appear, each with their security school diploma and everything is fucked. Peace, Love and Freedom and will go out with the recycled paper in the toilet where many go to kill the desire for anything.

October 24, 2010. It’s not the first time these guys behave like what they are. Gory gorillas. I’ve seen them push people around on the stage. They have to justify their muscles and don’t understand. The Kents keep on playing as if nothing happened. The Kents don’t understand either. It seems they want to preserve their little piece of Cuba at any cost, a lot of work that costs them the contract, when none among them would defend the State, among other etceteras justifying the island lack of solidarity.


They pull them outside. And Tina Turner denounces them without proof. Or persuades them they have to talk (so typical of our organs of state security, the converse with you to convert you). And outside there they inform the young people they’re expelled from the jangling Cafe.

It all crashes down like a speeded-up tragedy. The bulky-non-identified are Counterintelligence (a word that always hits me as the opposite of intelligence, as the brute barbarism in this case beardless). You can tell them by their ridiculous haircuts and their rayon shirts. Following the confrontation with the guys and the girls taking the most uncivil initiative (they’re the Senoritas in White): assaulting the microphones to denounce the arbitrary expulsion, for the rest, lying.

Of course they turn off the audio and push them. Then get entangled in the cable and later say they were the ones who broke it. The Kents almost applaud. The guitarist, Dagoberto Pedraja, remembers the mother of a girl three decades younger than him, who didn’t know he know her but is very touched, because yeah, they know each other well before. Other Kents argue that the shit pulled by their fans has nothing to do with them, that’s what always happens with capitalism and go ahead, get them out of there, they asked for it. What began as the despotic disparagement of the Cuban false Tina turner, is now a marathon of bullying in the time of the Kents. The victims are guilty of inconveniencing their attackers. In reality, Cuba digs though never its own grave.

Some unknown takes out the American flag filled with enthusiasm for a great American band and we all tremble then to keep time with an American Band. It’s chaos. It’s too much. They call a patrol call. Point the finger of accusations. Those expelled in the first round are joined by those with the flag. The basement has me trapped. A cry remembers that Lucius Walker was also an American, and the yuma flag itself should not constitute a sin. The thing smells of politics. The police start their ritual: handcuffing and heading off to the Station at Zapata and C.

Left behind is the peanut gallery. They put on recorded music. The Kents are massively pissed off but they don’t have the balls to carry on, heads bowed to the Administration in the form of MININT. None of the public protest too much. Another shout that hopefully Human Rights will be heard (I heard but I am not Human Rights).

I know the guy handcuffed and walk behind the patrol car, but when I get there the cheeky lightbulb-saving receptionist comes on like the usual bitch (now, in the light of day, I could revise the text but she was, in effect, a bitch, and I could pull out my ID card or get the hell out of there). After-the-fact question: Why are the cops so ugly? Is it the bad lighting that makes them look cadaverous?

The truth is, ignoring the condition of the agent of public order, the officer lies to me almost with love. They haven’t arrived. They aren’t here. I go out to the Geely at top speed. I have to wait. (Wait for what if they aren’t here?) They will come soon! Pinocchio-Cape-Boy glares at me and I cross Zapata street and call the bloggers on the phone and think about twittering, as if I can disburden myself of the fact that my friend seems to have disappeared.

But that’s it. In a bit my friend appears in the lobby at the station at Zapata and C, around the time they shoot off the canon. Yes! he was there! Wanting to sue the receptionist for Non-Acceptability or perjury. They passed his ID info over the radio and he came back clean, no record (and if he’d been dirty, then what? How many times in Cuba can they make you pay for the same crime? Or is blackmail perpetual?).

We get out of there fast. I can feel the paranoia and don’t want any more of it. It was nothing. Not even a fine. A mistake: the horror always is. At least they didn’t shoot us dead in a ditch, which the Minister could justify now as a Music example.

I don’t accuse the Kents, I excise them. They are left with their poor Peña and the threats of his henchmen who aren’t going to let us come any more (you’ve got to see this, compay! Look at the oven that’s not for more prisoners). We leave them there with their complicit Made in Kentucky covers. Eating their Cafe Cantante excuse Sunday after Sunday, at one side of the deserted Plaza of the Revolution.

Of course this is not a call for a boycott. To the contrary, they are more than welcome. To charge your face when you come in but not to kick your ass on the way out. To be or not to be: that is the Kentsion!

October 25, 2010

This Should Have Come Out on the 11th / Regina Coyula

A post here, a post there, always the nostalgia of a connection, but many wants have betrayed me up to here. Our Mala Letra is a year old today. And in this year the apathetic Regina disappeared on one day like any other, and I am the Regina I am now; interested, studious, alert, patient, and optimistic. I’m a worse housekeeper than I described, but before I had a certain method and now I do it all when I can and in a hurry, but always with the house neat and clean because when I least expect it, someone shows up to share that coffee that I offered as an olive branch. A lot of adrenaline, a lot of self-esteem, content with myself as even I can’t remember I could be, content with the more than 100,000 entries, content with the possibility that I’ve been given this space to strike up old friendships I’d lost track of, and content with the friends I’ve made. Amazed with the spread of the blog such that I had the idea of trying to list the sites that linked to me with the idea of reciprocity, and when the list got into the three hundreds, the connection dropped; so it has been impossible for me to add those links. They aren’t on my blogroll, but they are certainly in my thanks. I’ve had a few diversions in the theme of the blog, which is Cuba; but also I’ve tried to bring to those who read me an idea of the person behind the words. Celebrate for me and you will be celebrating with me. For that, congratulations, readers!

Translated by: JT

November 17, 2010

The Children / Yoani Sánchez

Glancing at the TV I was caught by a phrase from Zenaida Romeu, director of the chamber group that bears her name. It’s Tuesday and the energy of this woman, a guest on the program With True Affection, Two… had me sitting in front of the screen while the potatoes burned on the stove. She answered the questions skillfully, with a language far from the boring chatter that fills so many other spaces. In a few minutes she told of the difficulties in creating an all-woman orchestra, how bothered she is by the lack of seriousness in some artists, and of the day when she cropped her hair to appear with the maestro Michael Legrand. All this and more she told with an energy that calls forth an image of her, baton always in hand, score in front of her.

It is not her own story, however, that has me thinking when I return to the pot on the stove, but that of her children. She is the third or fourth guest on Amaury Perez’s program who has admitted that her children live in another country. If I’m not mistaken, Eusebio Leal* also spoke of his emigrant kids, and a few days earlier Miguel Barnet* described a similar experience. All of them speak about it naturally. They discuss it without thinking that it is precisely this massive exodus of young people that is the principal evidence of our nation’s failure. That the children of a generation of writers, musicians and politicians — including those of the Minister of Communications and of the director of the newspaper Granma — have chosen to leave, should make them doubt themselves, make them wonder if they have contributed to building a system in which their own descendants don’t want to live.

This migration is a phenomenon that has left an empty chair in almost every Cuban home, but the high incidence of among families who are integral to the process, is very symptomatic. The number of children of ministers, party leaders and cultural representatives who have relocated abroad seems to exceed that of the offspring of the more critical or discontented. Could it be that in the end the dissidents and nonconformists have transmitted a greater sense of belonging to their children? Have these famous faces noticed that the babies born to them are refusing to stay here?

I look at Teo for a while and ask myself if someday I will have to talk to him from a distance, if at some moment I will have to confess — in front of a camera — that I failed to help create a country where he wanted to stay.

*Translator’s notes:
Eusebio Leal is the Havana City Historian, director of the program to restore Old Havana and its historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Miguel Barnet is a Cuban writer.

November 18, 2010

Underground Chronicle / Regina Coyula

In my country there is no police blotter — what we would call “the red report” — nor is there a tabloid, or “yellow,” press. Gray, a lot of gray for this harmless information that wastes ink and radio and TV time. Given the endemic drought in information on the part of those who supposedly exist to report the news, this space has been filled for many years by “Radio Bemba” — literally, “Lip Radio.” And on Radio Bemba the latest news is like the Saturday night movie. That masked men boarded a bus and, threatening people with weapons, invited the passengers to give up all their belongings, money and technology; that a bank branch was stormed in Vedado; even the robbery of a snack from a currency exchange in Diezmero, or a store, or, depending on the source both places, ended up as news because, it’s said, that the thief – crazy or desperate — attacked the guard post at 11th and 12th streets in Vedado, a post that is maintained because that’s the address on Fidel Castro’s identity card. The latest is they say that four children disappeared on the way home from school.

The police — I’ve been told — denied that there was any assault on a bus, an extraordinary event that suggests the dimensions this rumor — or ball — achieved. The simile in this case cannot be better, because that news has been a like a snowball, growing in size and gaining speed. It is interesting that many people still believed the rumor even after the People’s Revolutionary Police spokesman denied it.

Collective hysteria or not, a desire to spread fantasies or not, in any case it is an omen of the escalation of violence that we could see in the coming year with the layoffs of a million people.

November 17, 2010

Unconditionality / Rebeca Monzo

Many have manipulated the meaning of this word. I have always found its implications exceedingly annoying, as I have refused to be unconditional about anyone or anything. I ran into more than a few problems in my old workplace defending this position.

I remember one occasion, when I was questioned in my work by the secretary of the Party nucleus because, speaking precisely about unconditionality, I commented that I didn’t feel unconditional about anyone or anything, much less a man, because, being human, we are prone to make mistakes. I was talking about ideas, not leaders. I almost got fired.

Today, listening the shortwave, the controversy was raging on our neighboring Bolivarian country — Venezuela — because of the unfortunate pronouncements of high-ranking General Rangel, who said that the armed forces are unconditionally wedded to the politics of the president. He was forgetting that the only possible and honorable marriage is with the constitution of the country — adopted by the vast majority of the population — which he is obligated to defend, as demanded by democracy. This unconditional matrimony, in my view, is nothing more than a miserable concubinage.

November 13, 2010

Murmurs Only from the Nonconformists / Luis Felipe Rojas

Photo: Luis Felipe Rojas

Alberto Vega Mackensi, who just a few months ago was a bread distributor in Holguin, told me that the sector chief of the National Revolutionary Police, Alfredo Ortiz, has summoned him on various occasions, demanding him to look for work in the construction or agricultural field.  If he fails to do so, the officer has notified him that he could then be accused of social dangerousness.*

Vega commented to me that this time they simply warned him, but that he now only had a few weeks to start searching for employment.  If he fails, then he will have to go before a court.  They have already spoken to him about accusations, and in my country that translates into imprisonment for more than a — and that’s if he is lucky.  Vega then told me that he knows a few young men who have been threatened during the last couple of days by these same police whose sector belongs to the third unit of the city.

Meanwhile, other people, who have asked to remain anonymous, assured me that he Chiefs of the Police Sectors and “Chiefs from the Commission of Social Prevention” have called a meeting with the unemployed people of the labor sector to force them to work, a contradiction which affects many, especially when the government authorities have announced massive lay-offs in sectors like public health, interior trade, the sugar industry, and some administrative dependencies.  They confess that they do not understand such contradictions.

A few days ago, I traveled out of San German.  I left behind the murmurs of the nonconformists, complaining about the news of so many lay-offs, about the monitored meetings to be held in each neighborhood, and the very limited options for future employment.  But in the places I traveled to, I heard no other subject.  Artists from the different theatre, music, and painting groups, along with workers from the House of Culture will all have to go through the difficult process as well, according to what a friend of mine told me.  People who work in offices, cafeterias, education, and a number of health workers also complained.

What I did notice, however, was that no police officer mentioned that they had been laid off, nor a single member of the Communist Party, or the government, which is called here the “Popular Power”.  None of these people mentioned that the situation was “not right”, and that they would have to go work in agriculture, unless they wanted to be considered socially dangerous.

Photo: Luis Felipe Rojas

*Translator’s Note: “Social dangerousness” is a crime defined as the potential to commit a crime, and carries a 1 to 4 year prison term.

Translated by Raul G.

November 17, 2010

Status Update: Good News About A Lawyer / Yamil Domínguez

37 minutes ago: The Directorate of National and International law firms approved a defense contract for Yamil in national currency.

32 minutes ago: Yamil now has legal representation, who will defend him during this period. Yesterday on our visit we told him the details of this good news.

29 minutes ago: We are content and a little calmer. Yamil’s attorney will ask immediately for a change in his detention status [request house arrest during the appeal]. All we can do is wait…