Economy Bankrupt and Prices Rising

A new rise in prices, not announced in the media, has been taking place silently, both in products that are purchased only in CUC as well as in others, sold in Cuban pesos. “Silently” in a manner of speaking, because at times the price increases are a scandalous 20% or more over the previous value. That is, to the common tactics of theft applied directly by the merchant to the consumer, which are primarily associated with violations of weight and price, to mention the most common, is added, once again, the “legal fine,” through which the State-cum-owner gives itself the right to arbitrarily alter, at will, the prices of some products it considers “superfluous” or that aren’t considered to be “basic necessities.”

It was, therefore, a surprise to “consumers” — I hate this buzzword that tries to disguise its real meaning: “the consumed” — of various butcher shops in Havana when they discovered that these days a pound of processed cheese, frequently served in Cuban homes with spaghetti as a substitute for the inaccessible Parmesan, had gone up from 20 to 25 pesos, without any explanation beforehand, while some “specialized” butchers who sold visking ham at 30 pesos a pound have increased the price to 35 pesos. All this in a tropical county where only the price of a mango can fluctuate between 5 and 7 pesos in the farmers markets and a medium avocado in-season costs up to 15 pesos. Keep in mind that the average salary in Cuba is about 300 Cuban pesos, 12 CUC at the official exchange rate.

It’s in the hard currency stores, however, where there has been a major increase in prices, this time in unquestionably staple products such as oil, toilet paper and bath soap. Generally such “fines” happen just days apart and are often preceded by the sudden “disappearance” of the product in question for periods of time, just enough to create a modest shortage and increase demand. An example of this is the convenient ground turkey, one of the U.S. products added in recent years to the network of CUC shops, which enjoys great popularity due to its relatively modest price, the versatility with which it can be used in the meager Cuban kitchen, and its good quality. Of the three varieties of this product that have been marketed, the greatest demand is for the one that comes in a package of 400 grams costing, until recently, 1 CUC. After several days disappearance from the shops it has returned, this time for 1.35 CUC in stores such as Yumurí (formerly Casa de los Tres Kilos, at the central corner of Belascoaín and Reina), although in others the increase has been a more modest 1.20 CUC.

People wonder when the this dizzying monetary spiral will end, carried out by the State at the expense of people’s pockets in an economically ruined country, where wages are purely symbolic and where, in addition, an alarming wave of layoffs — which here has been re-baptized with the euphemism “rationalization of places” — has begun, one that will leave approximately one-in-five workers, a million people, “available.” No one can explain how products obtained through trade with a neighbor as close as the United States, can show up in the retail market with constantly rising prices, prices that are similar to those of products imported from China or Vietnam. It’s clear, however, that the desperation of a government lacking capital falls on the people’s nearly empty pockets and, in the medium term, helps to stimulate the black market, corruption and crime in Cuba. That is why, on this Island, our children understand contraband before they know the alphabet, because illegal trade is the only possible source of survival.

The Book of Eli: Something More Than a Message Between The Lines


I don’t think it’s risky to say, if we confine ourselves to the most recent events, that the Catholic Church, the principle institution within the Christian doctrine, is now living through one of the greatest crises it has experienced since its beginnings. Above all, a crisis that goes beyond the skepticism of some of its followers to the heart of the institution. The worst of it is, clearly, a crisis of faith that could spread, dangerously, across the whole of Christianity.

Events have happened, one after another. Some, in the form of literary scandals such as occasioned by the publication of the DaVinci Code, by Dan Brown. Others, featuring well-known names in the Church: from a prominent priest in Miami Beach photographed with his lover, and who later changed his religious order, to the amnesic German priest who doubts that the Nazis really martyred millions of Jews in the extermination camps.

Later, the harsh debates about whether or not priests of the Protestant religions were admissible, and finally the real scandal. With an impact of significant proportions, it involves several priests in the corruption of minors, and even reaches to the Holy Father as supposedly covering up events of this nature.

With this as a backdrop, after seeing the highly publicized film, The Book of Eli, I find it hard to discard the idea that it comes to fulfill a goal far from artistic and aesthetic precepts, and that its premier in this is tightly linked to the era that Christianity is living through today.

It did no favors to Denzel Washington’s acting career to star in this Hughes Brothers production. And not because the film is like an ashamed ostrich sticking its head in the sand. After all, cinematically speaking, it has virtues that, without going to extremes, are still tangible: competent photography, and a dramatic thread that easily captures the viewer’s attention. However, for an actor of his proven stature, he seemed comfortable in a project that in my judgment was more like an inconsequential tract, and what’s worse, came off in the crudest imaginable way.

A quick summary of the plot: In a distant and imprecise future, the planet suffers a devastating war that does away with the greater part of our material heritage. In this context, a chosen one will lead a legendary trek to save from oblivion, and reprint for posterity, a book without which humanity cannot recover. Let us say the obvious: it’s the Holy Bible.

Fine. So what, in my view, are the most questionable elements, the most inadmissible from a rational point of view? The subliminal traps (at times they aren’t even subliminal but obvious) that the Book of Eli tends to provide in a movie, to those who aren’t thinking much beyond art or entertainment.

For example: Eli as played by Denzel Washington faces ten, fifteen, twenty armed enemies with guns, machetes and chainsaws. They don’t even touch him. The bullets, fired from five years by expert marksmen, whistle over his shoulders and disappear in the distance. At some point, if the viewer hasn’t figured it out, one of the characters takes the trouble to say: It’s because he’s protected in some way. It’s as if no one can touch him.

What is the source of the strength, the superiority, the supernatural condition of this man whom his enemies can’t bring down? The book that he carries in his bag. The book that he manages to memorize and that he can recite with visionary ease.

However, the sense of manipulation reaches its limit when, once in San Francisco where they survive a catastrophe, Eli and Solara, his female partner in the adventure, access the site from which humans seek to rebuild the lost world. What do they find there, rescued from destruction, as the only indispensable things required to rebuild the foundations of our species? Shakespeare and Mozart. The Encyclopedia Britannica, Wagner, and, after Eli’s feat, the Holy Bible.

That is, only the West. If in some waiting bunker there are samples from other cultures that currently populate the planet; if it had sheltered a copy of the Ramayana or the Buddhist sutras, a page from Confucius, or a fragment of Egyptian hieroglyphics, the scriptwriters of this movie did not think it important to point it out. Or, effectively, they don’t exist. They were extinguished in a war in which evidently they did not emerge victorious, or it wasn’t possible (or necessary) to save them.

What the forewarned viewer has to wonder, inevitably, is: Why, in order to rebuild our plural, beautiful and vast realm, is one culture and one religion necessary, without taking into account any of the others that possess just as many faithful and representatives?

Damaging, very damaging this precept. I believe that no approach has been more harmful to humanity throughout its History than the imposition of one faith above all others, the alleged superiority of one religion, one culture, over all the rest.

Or who can reproach the Islamic fanatic who in the name of his beliefs assumes it is just to explode an airplane mid-flight, just because westerners are infidels and Allah demands that they pay for their blasphemy with their blood? How can one preach equality, respect for all beliefs, even if you don’t share them, if a kind of cultural and religious self-sufficiency leads us to express messages like those in The Book of Eli plants in its viewers’ minds?

Moreover, this film is also a disservice to the message of love, tolerance and nonviolence that Jesus immortalized through his disciples. I don’t believe that a true follower of biblical doctrines could commune with the idea of a chosen one to whom the holy voice dictates what to do, and who, on his way, destroys hands and throats with a knife of fear, and crushes with bloody fury every enemy on his path.

Come on, in once case we have Jesus energetically expelling the money lenders who profane the temple, and in the other a character who wreaks human carnage while marching for the salvation of one doctrine.

No, I cannot approve of a manipulative and disturbing film like The Book of Eli, pretending to spread a vital message. Nor do I believe that an honest Christian, who defends love as a practice essential to safeguarding the soul, and tolerance as the ticket to social equilibrium, could approve it either.

Behind the salvation of a book, the supposed reconstruction of our beloved planet, the Hughes Brothers propose with their film a view of exclusion, of irreverence for the Great Cultural Universe, as dangerous as the most fiery threat of a fanatic of the Holy Wars.

JORGE LAGEZAMA LIMA / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

JORGE LAGEZAMA LIMA, originally uploaded by orlandoluispardolazo.

la-fortaleza-de-la-soledad.blogspot.com/2010/06/ediciones…

Months back, Willy del Pozo and Harold Alva, editor and deputy editor respectively of Altazor Editions, told me about an important project they were thinking of going forward with. Weeks passed and the objective showed signs of being coming off, and then they put it on hold to start the first tour of Latin American novelists, that will take them through different cities in the interior of the country, finishing in Lima the gray.

Authors who make up the delegation are: Ernesto Carlin (Peru), Claudia Apablaza (Chile), Miguel Antonio Chávez (Ecuador), Oliverio Coelho (Argentina), Jorge Enrique Lage (Cuba), Pedro Peña (Uruguay), Juan Ramirez Biedermann ( Paraguay).

For those who do not know, the publisher headed by Willy del Pozo led off its revival last year with nice editions that have enjoyed the sign of criticism and genuine appreciation by readers. Among them are JOURNEY THAT NEVER ENDS by Carlos Calderón Fajardo; MIGRATION by Victor Coral; as well as on the long-winded novel VALLEJO AND CELL NON PLUS ULTRA of Jorge Najar.

This first tour of Latin America represents for Altazor his definitive consecration in the panorama of publishers in Peru. All authors included in this catalog have a wide impact internationally. I know.

Last year Altazor Editions did the first tour of Peruvian writers in the north of the country. The experience was rewarding, it could not be otherwise if in the Altazor-mobile were Carlos Calderón Fajardo and Socrates Zuzunaga. Then we promise to repeat the adventure but thought to involve all the writers in our America. What started as a topic of conversation gained in seriousness and now we are pleased to announce the launch of the FIRST TOUR OF LATIN AMERICAN NOVELISTS, which opens in Ayacucho on July 12 and will close in Lima on July 26. The itinerary includes the Ayacucho, Junín, Ancash, La Libertad, Lambayeque, Piura and Lima.

This event is made possible through our strategic alliance of our publisher with the Eduardo and Mirtha Añaños Foundation. Which confirms that you can still work on projects of this nature with other private companies who have understood the importance of culture. This tour begins in the manner of a liberating expedition and coincides with the bicentenary of Latin American political independence. It will leave from Ayacucho to other cities such as Huanta, Tarma, Huancayoin our central Andes and continue north to Chiclayo and then Piura, a city where Jorge Tume, with Infolectura, has organized the First International Book Fair.

We know that this is an event whose significance is due to the quality of the invited writers, authors under 40 who present powerful works which speaks of the excellent health of Latin American literature. A contribution that without a doubt will do its part to heal the fractures of an area overwhelmed by the constant political, social and economic crises. This first tour will include the following writers: Oliverio Coelho (Argentina) with his novel BORNEO; Jorge Enrique Lage (Cuba) with CARBON 14: A NOVEL OF WORSHIP; Claudia Apablaza (Chile) with EME / A; Miguel Antonio Chávez (Ecuador) with The Heimlich maneuver; Pedro Peña (Uruguay) THE NIGHT THAT IS NOT REPEATED; Ernesto Carlin (Peru) TAKASHI: STOLEN STORIES; and Juan Ramirez Biedermann (Paraguay) THE FUND OF NOONE. They are ones responsible for this new itinerary, they are our choices, with them and for them we leave, two hundred years later, on another expedition of liberation.

Liberation or Forced Exile?


A press release from the Archdiocese of Havana on July 8 announced the release, over the course of three to four months, of 52 of the 75 political prisoners convicted in summary trials in April, 2003. Twenty-three had already been released on medical parole.

The releases were the result of an unprecedented dialogue between President Raul Castro and authorities of the Catholic Church in Cuba. Weeks earlier the cardinal, Jaime Ortega, had taken steps for the release of a sick inmate and the transfer of several others to prisons near their homes and families.

The events were described as “great news”, despite the lack of official notice about them from the Government. The subsequent diplomatic agreement with Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos omitted to say under what legal basis the releases would occur, the most significant since the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1998.

It is inappropriate to talk of liberation while the criminal judgment imposed on the prisoners has not been extinguished. Otherwise, their departure from the country is forced.

Neither parole nor probation extinguishes criminal liability. In light of this, it would be advisable to anticipate the risks of serving the sentence outside of prison, but within the national territory. And under any pretext, they could be returned to jail.

Seen this way, it is not difficult to understand why the relatives of political prisoners prefer to leave the country. According to the note by the Archbishop of Havana, in the process of release, they took into account the proposals previously expressed to Cardinal Ortega by the families, eager to leave behind the ordeal experienced in the last seven years.

The criminal guilt of prisoners of conscience, according to the existing criminal law, could be extinguished by amnesty, pardon, or acquittal in review proceedings.

If they really intended to liberate, the Council of State would issue an official note, at the proposal of its President, who is in turn the Head of State and Government of the Republic of Cuba, pardoning all prisoners arrested and prosecuted in 2003.

The Council of State may order the Supreme Court to undertake a special review procedure and acquit those accused in the so-called “Black Spring”. Constitutionally, it has the power to issue instructions to that judicial body.

The National Assembly could also do its part. The supreme organ of the Cuban State could declare at its meeting to be convened on August 1st a general amnesty for all political prisoners. This power is recognized by the Constitution of the Republic.

Even more could be done. The parliament can declare the 1999 Law No. 88 (“On protection of national independence and the economy,” also known as the “Gag Law”) unconstitutional, for restricting the right of free expression, information and opinion, as it was used against most of the released prisoners.

According to the Spanish Foreign Minister, who traveled to Havana to join the dialogue between the Church and the Government, the released prisoners who travel abroad, once out, will require government authorization to return, while their family members may do so whenever they want. Fifteen of them are in Spain, awaiting political refugee status or assisted international protection, a special category provided in Spanish asylum law.

If the political prisoners who have agreed to travel to Spain or another country need authorization to return to the island, this means that entry and exit permits will continue in effect, and the confiscation of the property of Cuban emigrants, measures imposed by Law No. 989 of 1961.

This should not be confused with a humanitarian gesture, with a willingness to change. The unfolding of events shows that the Cuban Government has not the slightest intention of removing restrictions on the freedom of movement of its citizens. Is this a breakthrough in human rights?

Moratinos also told the international press that the Cuban government committed not to “expropriate” the homes of dissidents, among other unspecified rights. But during the negotiations there was no legally binding written agreement that ensures that the Cuban State will comply with its verbal commitments. In the national legal system there is no rule that allows making such concessions.

As a general rule, the Cuban authorities declare a permanent abandonment and proceed to confiscate the property of citizens who choose to reside permanently outside the country, unless granted the Permit of Residence Abroad (PRE). Permission is granted to Cubans who marry foreigners. But in the released prisoners are not in this category.

The fact that they talk of liberation, but not of the actions by which their release must be legally formalized, suggests that the Cuban government is trying to cover up the forced exile of political prisoners who agree to travel to Spain or other nations.

This is an illegitimate act and a violation of the rights of those people. No government action recognized by law may force a Cuban to leave his or her own land.

Laritza Diversent

Photo: AFP. Lester Gonzalez shows his passport shortly after his arrival in Madrid.

Translated by: Tomás A.

ALL ABOUT DAD / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

ALL ABOUT MY FATHER

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Reading miracles in Mirta Suquet’s blog.

My father didn’t beg for alms, but depended on a brother and another son in the USA. My father had to go out into the street to sell a little packet of anything, even though he gave English classes at home like a horse. My father lived at home until he was 81, when he was already practically just the father of my mother (17 years separated them). My father, the grandfather who never had a “grand.”

Every day I return from the street with my father in the Canon camera and my head burned by the sun and so much loneliness. I took almost no photos of my father when he was alive. And now I am paying the price of this adolescent neglect (I was the son of his old age).

So I find him on the Cuban sidewalks and porches. Gasping, badly shaved. With humble clothes that always smell of Populares cigarettes at 1.60 pesos (a strange aroma: all smokers stink, except him). A guy so affectionate, when I would dare to say half a word to him. So clumsy with practical things, so deluded by useless writings. Of an immortal look when my psycho-rigidity would allow me to say, from time to time (from voice in time): papá

He died in August, as everyone dies in this noxious Tropical month. Of cancer, as befits a country with no cutting edge diagnostics. Nor therapy. All of a sudden, fortunately. Without pain. My father died of a merciful metastasis, amateur, between a rare vomiting fit of so-called “coffee grounds” and the ballads on Radio Martí, on a Selena radio before the Special Period.

Since then, I’ve seen him many times and always photographed him. I never talk to him in the street. But at home, I do. Always. ¡Papá, coño, if it’s all the same…! Papá, ¿is it true that you are never going to die again…?

My mother ignores all this traffic in emotions. She waters his flowers every day. Cuts off their heads with the punctuality of an executioner. My mother is a terror with the shears in our garden. And she prays for my father, with the timidity of someone who is getting old and still doesn’t know if she has the right to pray (solicitous servant in capitalism, mute worker in communism: my mother did know how to resist).

There s no consolation for not seeing my father, I suppose. But I invented one when the socialized sadness of Cuba wouldn’t stop. Then I search through my photos of street knights fallen in the uncivil trenches of Havana, feeling on the liquid screen and the chrome paper the marvelous myopic eyes of my papá. Even that WOW!, here he is again, like new, photographed as if he hadn’t died exactly ten years ago. The days will return.

And I’m glad, like a stupid student, that my father never asked for anything from strangers, neither in the crisis nor in the splendor; I applaud that his little businesses were a calamity without earnings because he didn’t need them.  I delight and envy that in his 81 years he didn’t know a doctor except the naive and ignorant native who only discovered his cancer during the autopsy (just like since I was a kid I know that after the Zero Year or two thousand I would be left orphaned even of Cuba).

It was a Sunday. Thirteen. In August. With Little Pioneers on TV bringing the first flowers for comrade Fidel’s birthday that day ( ). That night, the Luyano funeral parlor (dim little premises with a republican plaque of the People’s Socialist Party) was more crowded than ever with old people left along to face the thin reality of the island’s 21st century (insipid night, improbable gardens). And right there I became to feel some deadly pride that my father wasn’t there.

Good evening again, false papá with emphysema in these pixels of today. You who are resuscitated in the next photo and soon breath your next flower (it seems like a terrible title from Manuel Cofiño, but the life of my father, somehow antipodean, was this stylistically). Until tomorrow then, forgetting of my papá (it’s a privilege to write, finally, without complexes these loose little phrases from primary school). I suspect that my grammar will not return. Rev in Peace!

“We Are the Root of The Change,” by Raudel of the Patriotic Squadron

This video was made yesterday at a concert organized by the group OMNI-Zona Franca in Gaia house. There was very little light and the audio is bad, but the song of Raudel shines out above any technological problem.

I transcribed what I’ve managed to understand, any contribution from a reader with a better ear than me is welcome:


“We Are the Root of Change”

Ten months later I have to remember my position, given that we want the best for all and ensure a life with tolerance, balance and harmony for all the people of the nation and the diaspora, but also with a lot of progress, balance and spiritual evolution because there are many dreams and much faith.

The Squadron shows:
I am Afro-descendant and Cuba is my country,
We are not a threat to anyone, pay attention:
We do not want violence and confrontation,
They insist that our message is counterrevolutionary,
This is called reality and commitment to the nation,
Love conquers fear, the word to (inaudible)
We remember the mind the voice, not the resignation:
Revolution is change, it is progress and it is transformation,
Do not hide the hopes of millions for no reason.
Conspiracy against the Squadron, why? In my view
Who knows knows the worst side of this nation
Neither bourgeoisie, nor family in Yuma, nor a good position
I live in the heart where people suffer and swallow the pain
I do not sing to them of politics, mistakes,
I have a critical awareness and this is my projection
And of course I worry, I live in the center of the cyclone,
The demands of the country are so many without enough investigation:
Inequality, deprivation, poor nutrition,
overcrowding, isolation, repression,
disoriented generation, misfortune, separation,
racism, destruction and a list with no definition.
But we they still see us as a provocation
Who justifies that the shelters weaken the nation?
We are the blood flowing from the open wound of the revolution
The flag of the soldiers (inaudible)

May you stay in the light that this is revealing,
Let’s go, We are the root of the change!
Much time thinking and no action,
What are we waiting for? We are the root of the change!
They can’t with us: the truth is in the people.
They know, We are the root of the change!
For the children and the elderly, for the blacks and the whites:
We are the root of the change!

I’m not lying when I say that this control was
Surely (inaudible)
For the safety in action
The orientation of which is not to call for the arrest
And in each presentation there is respect and reconciliation
I know it takes a ton of work to wake up
(Inaudible) as I was a fatal victim
Certain partial information, state ignorance
Isolation is deadly I can show it
I am unable to promote hatred, to manipulate anyone
Nor to launch the most (inaudible) testimony
I have family, friends (inaudible)
I am rooting for a change for prosperity, it is obvious
Because what most people think
What most people want
What most people think of this people I know
I have no fear that it happens
(Inaudible)
Take up space in every corner of my house
Tell everyone the Squadron is a threat
Stop them from being the image .. (Inaudible)
And silence on the lips (inaudible) undermines the soul
The truth may have relativity
But we do not believe it: We are the reality
The dawn of a new day will come from (inaudible) and music
It is a nation tired (inaudible)
After a declaration against heaven
I remain silent and ask the supreme
That for every tear shed
(Inaudible)

May you stay in the light that it is being revealed,
We are the root of the change!
Much time thinking and no action,
What are we waiting for? We are the root of the change!
They can’t with us: the truth is in the people,
They know it, We are the root of the change!
For the children and the elderly, for the blacks and the whites:
We are the root of the change!
Every child in every neighborhood in every town
With a fist held high, We are the root of the change!
Much time thinking without acting
What are we waiting for? We are the root of the change!
They can’t with us: the truth is in the people,
They know it, We are the root of the change!
For the children and the elderly, for the blacks and the whites:
We are the root of the change!

(Inaudible) … Even my nation Cuba: Love, peace and faith. Love, peace and faith in the name of the highest of creation, we are all the root of the change. We all love this country. We all love it and freedom we want to have harmony, spiritual progress, economic and social development for our island. We all have responsibility and we are the root of the change.
Thank you.

Too Much Uncertainty to Claim Victory

Recently the Archbishop of Havana announced the release of 52 political prisoners over the course of three to four months. A rather strange act, this being a secular state. In turn, Miguel Angel Moratinos, Spain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, told reporters that those released will travel to his country, and once they are out of Cuba, they will require government authorization to return, while their family members may do so whenever they wish.

We should not be misled. Do not confuse a humanitarian gesture with a willingness to change. If those who are released need permission to return to the island, then the government does not have the slightest intention of removing restrictions on the freedom of movement of its citizens. Is this a breakthrough in human rights?

If they do not eliminate the entry permit, it means that they will continue to confiscate the properties of Cuban emigrants – measures imposed by the same legal provision, Law No. 989 of 1961, that also governs permanent abandonment.

Moratinos also said that the island government agreed not to “expropriate” the homes of dissidents in Cuba, among other unspecified compromises. Some doubts remain. Under what legal assumptions will the Cuban state fulfill the concessions?

The government declares a permanent abandonment and proceeds to confiscate the property of nationals who choose to reside permanently outside the country. Permission to reside abroad is given to Cubans who are married to foreigners, which does not apply in this case.

Will there be a legal formulation about this? What guarantees do these people have that, once they are abroad, the government will fulfill a commitment made by the representative of a foreign state? Who will compel it to comply? What will happen when it asserts the principles of state sovereignty and non interference in internal affairs? There is too much uncertainty to claim victory.

Laritza Diversent

Translated by: Tomás A.

Without Fanfare, But Without Results

Image taken from adn.es
The July 26 event started early, in fear of the evening rains and to avoid the sun that makes the neck itch and annoys the audience. It had the solemnity that is already inherent in the Cuban system: heavy, outdated, and at times dusty. Nothing seemed to jump out of the script; Raúl Castro didn’t take the podium, nor was the speech addressed to a nation waiting for a program of changes. His absence at the microphone should not be read as a intention to decentralize responsibility and allow someone else to speak at such a commemoration. The general did not speak because he had nothing to say, no launching of a reform package, because he knows that would be playing with the power, the control, that his family has exercised for five decades.

In previous speeches, on this same date, the phrases of the Cuban Communist Party’s second secretary have created more confusion than certainty, so this time he avoided analysts reinterpreting them. Enough doubts have already been created with his 2007 predictions of mass access to milk, his unfulfilled forecast of having Santiago de Cuba’s aqueduct completed, and the unfortunate phrase “I’m just a shadow,” with which he began his speech last year. Perhaps because of this he preferred to remain silent and leave the address to the most unyielding man of his government: José Ramón Machado Ventura. Some portentous cannon shots shook the city of Havana just as the first vice president approached the podium and began his harangue filled with platitudes and declarations of intransigence.

Referring to the postponed measures to address the economy and society, Machedo Ventura declared that they will be made, “step by step at a pace determined by us.” The old confusion with the first person plural, the well-known ambiguity of the apparently consensual. The pace, the velocity and the depth of these long-awaited apertures are decided by a small group which has much to lose if they apply them, and time to benefit if they delay them. Some will say Raúl Castro’s silence is part of his strategy to avoid bluster and bravado. But, more than political discretion, what we saw today is pure State secretiveness. To make no public commitments to change, no visible implications of transformation, can be a way of warning us that these do not respond to his political will, but rather to a momentary despair which — he thinks — will eventually pass. By saying nothing, he has sent us his fullest message: “I owe you no explanations, no promises, no results.”

Cold Air or the Fridge Up in the Air / Regina Coyula

On Mother’s Day last year, my niece gave my mother a refrigerator as a gift. My mother was delighted, since in spite of being larger, the new refrigerator consumes less electricity than the former one.

And everybody was happy in my mother’s house until this New Mother’s day. First the refrigerator and then the freezer stopped working. As the refrigerator had a guarantee of three years, the following day my sister decided to find out how to repair this important piece of equipment. Now things began to get worse; the fridge stopped being cold. My sister spent all morning on the telephone trying to find the Copextel shop that was supposed to maintain the sick refrigerator. When she finally got through, the young person on the phone who receives complaints told her to expect the visit of the technicians between three days and a week. Ten days later, they appeared, and in one glance diagnosed a fault in the source of the manufacturing lot and said the sick refrigerator couldn’t be cured. It should be exchanged.

“Now?” Hopeful, my sister began to ask about the conditions for the replacement.

“No, señora. Two technicians will come from the other shop to certify that there wasn’t a fraud and that the refrigerator should be replaced.”

“A fraud?”

“Yes, so that we don’t exchange a repaired refrigerator under the table for a new one.”

“And how many days will this take?”

“Between three days and a week.”

Improving on the record of the former visit, the new repairmen appeared within two weeks. They lingered, more in hopes of getting coffee than because my mother ordered them to certify the broken refrigerator. More cautious than before, my sister asked:

“And now what?”

“They are coming from the Division with the new refrigerator.”

“Yes, but how long will it take?”

“Between three days and a week.”

Ten days later, my sister again found herself on the phone calling all the workshops of Copextel. In her latest telephonic escalation, my sister talked with the workshop chiefs, the head of public relations, and the head of the division. A kind of smokescreen existed there. And always the same words:

“Don’t worry, we’re going to solve the problem.”

She called so many times that now they knew her case. But – big surprise! – one Friday she got a call saying they were going to bring the new refrigerator on Monday morning. Finally she could stop leaving packages of food and water at the neighbors. But it wasn’t until the following Thursday, after 65 days, that the new refrigerator arrived. Finally! it took the place of the defunct fridge.

Translated by Regina Anavy

With Shame, But No Glory

Another celebration, more evidence of lack of spontaneity which we have all become so accustomed to.

As always, many expectations were created, especially for those who continue to refuse to accept the cruel reality. My grandma would always say, “The worst blind man is he who does not want to see”.

The event took place very early in the morning, almost at sunrise. The person who most used, or abused, speech was an alien from our sister republic, later the maximum chief of the party in the province, and the closing act was done by someone whose name reminds us of two disastrous personalities of my small planet.

It was expected. What was the point of the second one talking if the first one has already said everything. Nothing people, I have said it in other occasions, this is just like a bad marriage under the church: Until death do us part.

Translated by Raul G.

Waiting for Orders

An acquaintance of my mother, who lives very near to a Lady in White, told her that they are under orders not to assault these women in light clothing with gladioli in their hands. The same lady, who until recently wore a sneer of disgust when talking about the masses at Santa Rita and the pilgrimages on 5th Avenue, today was on the point of shaking hands with Laura Pollán and asking for her autograph. Perhaps another neighbor, who screamed “The worms are rioting!” last March on national television, is now confused and waiting for new orders to return to her rants. The mechanisms of false spontaneity have been exposed by this truce: the manufacture of that supposed popular response is confirmed by this interruption in the attacks.

From the point of view of the official discourse, the people who have been released from prison in recent weeks deserved to be prey. Using this argument, and certain known pressures, they mobilized Party militants and members of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution to participate in so-called “repudiation rallies” where they spat on, insulted and knocked about the Ladies in White. Now the energetic troublemakers who came to “defend the Revolution against the mercenaries in the pay of the imperialists” should be expecting some explanation to justify the prisoner releases. It would be interesting to go to a meeting of the Party nucleus to see what secret revelations they come up with, because if none are offered they will end up seeing themselves as pawns in the control of those who incite them one day and then the next day command them to keep quiet.

My mother’s acquaintance doesn’t hide her confusion. “There’s no one who understand them. Yesterday they called us to insult them, and today we’re not allowed to touch a hair on their heads,” she says. The truth is that here, where it seemed like nothing would ever happen, we are suddenly in a situation where anything can happen. At what point did history begin to change? Perhaps in the damp, dark, vermin-filled punishment cell where Orlando Zapata Tamayo decided to sacrifice himself; or in the sterile, chilly intensive care ward where Guillermo Fariñas stuck by his decision to die if they were not freed; or in the streets of Havana, where some defenseless women defied an omnipotent power by screaming the word freedom, where there was none.

  • The truce — brief and fragile — appears to be limited to Havana as in Banes Reina Tamayo continues to be a victim of the same methods.

A Personal Theme

I am against war. All weapons, but especially nuclear ones, seem to me to be an aberration. The armies should be disbanded and spend their budgets to solve the problems of hunger in the world (an issue in which the Vatican would be decisive with its influence, but above all with its wealth). I believe in an economic independence that guarantees political independence. I see the United States as a neighbor. And here I apply the same principle as in my neighborhood: I say Good Morning, I help if I am needed, I ask for help when I need it, and if I don’t like the neighbors sticking their noses in my business, I don’t stick my nose in anyone else’s.

Trying to go along with the new century, I like to think of the global village, and whether you live in Africa or in Europe, it makes no difference. I know we have a long way to go, at worst the natural state of man, as history shows, is one of confrontation. But it is now with the visionary and arrogant heads of state that we find a balance between our ambitions and the common good. And how good it will be when we define the common good as that of humanity.

The fact that I have absolutely no influence in these events makes this a rant, a catharsis, that I write one weekend for people I don’t know and who don’t know me, but if my readers take the smallest thing away from this, it could be a butterfly effect, and if not the youngest, their grandchildren, or beyond, will see the result. That is, if some lunatic hasn’t already pressed the button.

My Husband is Worth it, Telephone Interview with Suyoani Tapia Mayola (II)

Part Two: Kilo 5 ½ Prison in Pinar del Río

– When did you decide to follow the fate of Horacio and move out of Ciego de Avila to Pinar del Rio?

It was difficult to get them to give me authorization, me being a doctor, to go visit Horacio after they transferred him. We intended to make the relationship work and so I had to move there. Also, I couldn’t keep up the pace of the visits from Ciego de Avila.

I have been living here in Pinar del Rio for four years with no one, only his family and the friends I’ve made since I came. The families of the other prisoners supported me, for example I would stay in the house of the family of Victor Rolando Arroyo when I came on the visits.

It was hard to separate from my family, I never dreamed of living in Pinar del Rio and look, here I am. Then my mother-in-law died, which was a very hard blow for Horacio and for me. She helped me with everything, she died March 2, 2008, of cancer.

I was very lonely but months later God gave me the gift of becoming pregnant and now I have a daughter of 15 months; we named her after Horacio’s mother: Ada Maria, she’s the youngest little Lady in White.

Despite everything I think we are happy, despite being separated we have a lot: a family on a sound footing. We, Horacio and I, have always had a great deal of faith, and at times — my mother also tells me this — I feel as if it were a mission, that only God knows why he does things.

I can’t say it is completely happy, having him in prison is very hard; we are all prisoners, we have no life. I take my daughter to all the visits, she plays for two hours and on leaving him she cries. For us as parents, also, it’s very difficult, he has missed so much: her first steps, her first words. We miss having Horacio very much, as do his children and their spouses. We hope that everything will be solved and we can live as a family, as the real family that we are.

– Are you still practicing as a doctor in Pinar del Rio?

I finished my social service and I continue working here, the move was difficult, at first no one wanted to give me a position. My career is very practical and I always want to work. State Security made sure that my position here in Pinar del Rio was very far away, there wasn’t even a road, I had to get there in a horse cart, and I was there for six or eight months. When I was pregnant I had to travel by wagon with my big belly, coming and going every workday.

Eventually I approached the town and then the municipality, but with all that I’m still very far out. In my work I’m assigned to the municipality of Sandino, about twenty miles from where Horacio’s family lives.

They gave me a job, but they have never made things easy for me. A doctor friend told me when I arrived, “Are you prepared for how you will live? I’m convinced you can’t even imagine how things are going to be for you.” And it’s true, very difficult things have happened, when I got pregnant it was even worse, with a huge belly for six, seven months, going alone to the prison, arriving with three or four suitcases of things for Horacio and the officers weighing them so they can start removing things. All of the prisoners’ families live through this, but looking at my story in particular and what they have done, there is cruelty.

– Do you have any special moment you would like to tell me about, something that has been marked you as a couple?

We have had very hard times but also very beautiful times in our relationship. I can’t deny that at times we’ve fallen, like everyone else, but we are always able to pick ourselves up and the proof is this: today we are together, after nearly seven years in a relationship, we are more united than ever, and that’s the truth.

There is a story that marks us — it’s even amusing — at times a person from outside hears it and it seems normal, but for us it has a great deal of significance: Once I was looking after a prisoner and Horacio called me to attend to him. I thought he felt bad, I was worried because I thought it was serious. It happened that I was examining other prisoners — the doctor in the prison usually goes in and examines the prisoners in the same cell — and the guard forgot about me and left me alone with the inmates. Horacio was calling and calling me, and suddenly he was at my side and without thinking he gave me a hug as if he wanted to say that no one could touch me. When I realized what was happening it frightened me. Afterwards we laughed and I asked him, “What were you thinking?!”  What he hit on was to hug me before the whole world!

– When did you get married?

We were married on March 21, 2007, the wedding was in the prison, a very simple thing: we brought a notary, signed. Perhaps one day we will celebrate our union in a better way with our family. Horacio has three daughters, the oldest is 22 and is very attached to us, she was 16 when her father was convicted.

Perhaps we’ve managed to achieve things other couples living together don’t manage, I daresay there are married couples in the street, you see it every day, who do not have what we have. This is not an heroic act of mine: Horacio is worth all this sacrifice, he inspires me to do all of this.

– What do you think of the negotiations taking place now between the government and the Catholic Church?

It is very difficult to have a daughter alone, to see how this baby walks, talks and grows without being able to see her papa, to see how she cries every time we leave him. It’s very hard to see him turn his back and know that he is enclosed behind a fence, to not know if he’s eating, if he’s going to be fine. Then, as long as it doesn’t go against our principles, I’m infinitely thankful for everything that is being done to free him and all the prisoners.

There was a time in my life when there was no light, I lived to live and today I have the hope of being able to form a family, to give my daughter a stable home. Her father is irreplaceable, his place can’t be filled by anyone else, not by grandparents, by no one, then the possibility to live together, to have a normal live, as God wishes, it’s something I am very grateful for.

(End of interview)

OPEN LETTER TO PÍTER ORTEGA Y DESIDERIO NAVARRO

Based on what aesthetic criteria, according to the debaters, do the political experts perpetrate under our noses the native performance of the most cultured State in the world that is left to die by the concept of a hunger striker ignorant in art?

Thanking you in advance for your eloquent silence.

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo,

Havanothing, Saturday, July 24, 2010 (less than one month from the nuclear Cubapocalypse).