Real Men Don’t Use Umbrellas

A woman walks along the Havana Rampa with an umbrella from the Artex chain of shops. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 16 August 2016 — “A man who is a man does not eat soup or sleep on his stomach,” says the popular quip, to which should be added that nor he does not use an umbrella. Despite the overwhelming heat that characterizes the Cuban summers, protecting oneself from the sun is still “a women’s thing,” a “female affectation,” think the macho.

On the streets of the island, there are hardly any men sheltering under an umbrella, wearing wide-brimmed hats – unless they have just left work in the fields – let alone using sunscreen. Taking shelter from El Indio (the burning sun) is somehow “weak” and masculinity is seldom associated with caution in the face of weather scourges.

However, the most common cancer on the island is skin cancer. In 2013, there were 10,432 cases of people affected by this disease and three years later 461 patients died as a result of this disease, of which 281 were men and 180 women.

Three Activists Arrested At Santiago Cathedral Receive Their First Prison Visit

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 15 August 2017 — The Aguadores prison authorities authorized on Monday the first family visit to the three activists arrested during the protest at the cathedral of Santiago de Cuba on July 26, 14ymedio was told by Reina Silvia González, wife of Alberto Antonio Ramírez Odio, one of the detainees.

During the meeting, which lasted half an hour, Gonzalez was also able to see her brother-in-law Leonardo Ramirez Odio, and the father of both young people, Alberto de la Caridad Ramírez Baró. The three men were transferred to the prison last week on a provisional basis while the investigation process is underway, in advance of filing charges against them.

Gonzalez, who went to the prison along with the brothers’ grandmother, told this newspaper that “they are in good health.” Since they arrived at the prison “everyone is eating” and “they are all together,” although the authorities “have threatened to separate them” and send each to a different prison.

“They did not tell me the date of the trial yet, but I was able to learn that, from now on, the visits will be every two weeks,” Gonzalez said. She also reported that the prison guards spoke to her in “very bad form.”

The woman said that the prison is far from the city of Santiago de Cuba, in a location that complicates the travel of relatives to the visits.

The activists belong to the Committee of Citizen Defenders of Human Rights (CCDH) and had demonstrated along with the opponent José Carlos Girón Reyes. They held up posters that read “58 years of deceit, hunger and misery,” and “The people demand freedom, Justice, democracy” and “Viva the right of expression, opinion and of the press.”

The protest occurred a few yards from the headquarters of the People’s Power of Santiago and was recorded in a video produced by the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU). Opponents also shouted “Down with the dictatorship, Down with Fidel, Down with Raul, Down with Congress.”

The action was a challenge precisely on the day that commemorated the 64th anniversary of the assault on the Moncada barracks. A few minutes after the protest began, the National Police and State Security intervened and detained the activists.

Trade Between Cuba And Venezuela Falls 70% In The Last Two Years

The deceased Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez signed a Cooperation Agreement between Cuba and Venezuela in 2000, but the economy of the latter has lost its strength since then. (Embassy of Cuba in Venezuela)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio (With agency information), Havana, 16 August 2017 – The effect of the Venezuelan crisis on the Cuban economy is greater than expected, judging by the latest data from the National Statistics Office (ONE) that reveals a 70% fall in trade between the two countries in only two years.

The trade in merchandise was $2.2 billion in 2016, compared to $4.2 billion a year earlier and $7.3 billion in 2014. Cuba has had to reduce imports from Venezuela and there has also been a cut in fuel shipments which has affected Cuba’s domestic economy, which fell into recession for the first time last year with 0.9% fall in the Gross Domestic Product.

Venezuela’s exports fell to $ 1.6 billion in 2016 from $ 2.8 billion in 2015 and $ 5.1 billion a year earlier. On the other hand, Cuba exported to Venezuela 642 million dollars in goods in 2016 compared to 1.4 billion dollars in 2015 and 2.0 billion in 2014.

Cuba’s trade in goods totaled $12.6 billion in 2016, down from $15 billion in 2015. The economy has grown by 1.1% in the first half of the year, according to official figures, but the tightening will continue and could be extended, according to the government.

Cuba’s dependence on Venezuela continues to be very strong and Cuban has no solid alternative plan, the prospects in this regard are not good. In 2017 so far, the Venezuelan government has sent Cuba 13% less crude oil and other fuels, compared to the same period last year.

The governments of Cuba and Venezuela maintain an alliance forged by the late Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez. As a part of this alliance the island exports professional services to Caracas, particularly in the health sector, in exchange for oil and fuel. At the high point of the accords, in 2008, Havana received some 115,000 barrels of crude oil a day at subsidized prices, but due to the economic crisis in Venezuela, that amount has been reduced to 72,350 barrels a day.

Cuba intends to supply these energy deficiencies through Russia after more than a decade without having to resort to that country.

Meaningless Nonsense About the Flag / Fernando Dámaso

The flag, better “well adjusted” some think. (14ymedio)

Fernando Damaso, 24 April 2017 — The “official experts” continue talking and writing about the “correct” use of the national flag. Some of the arguments they trot out are laughable. The problem is not so much the rejection of the use of the national flag on clothing, as criticising the use of the American flag by many, mostly young, Cubans. It is something ideologically unacceptable  for fossilised minds. Let´s take ít one bit at a time.

In the United States, from when it was born as a nation, the flag has had an important place in the life of its citizens. Honoured and respected, it can be seen in government institutions and in front of many houses, as well as on the facades of many buildings. It is also everywhere in sporting and leisure facilities, and framed ones adorn the rooms of young people and adults alike and even the walls of commercial organisations. As if that weren´t enough, it appears on clothing and different consumer goods, with original and bold designs. It has never been idolised, but forms part of the daily life of every American. Something similar, though to a lesser extent, happens with the British flag.

In Cuba, the flag accompanied the Mambisas (a mixture of Cuban, Dominican and Filipino fighters for independence) who fought for independence in the 19th century but, when the republic was established, it became an official symbol of state, on display only in state institutions from dawn to dusk. It never featured in peoples’ day-to-day lives, apart from certain patriotic dates, like 10th of October, 24th of February or the 20th May.  During the years of the Cuban republic it was an object of respect, and its use was well regulated.

After 1959, the flag began to be used in a thoughtless way by the authorities, often without worrying about the established norms for its use, for any kind of political event and, over time, for many people, losing its emotional impact. And more than that, they put other flags next to it which had nothing to do with it, and that compete with it for importance (which is what happened with the 26th of July flag).

This totally anomalous situation changed it, for many, into more of a symbol of a government which had appropriated it, rather than of the Cuban people. In other words, the flag had become “official”, like the guayabera (a kind of mens’ shirt similar to what barbers wear), “safaris” and checked shirts that government officials are in the habit of wearing.

Nowadays no Cubans wear such clothes, least of all young people. They appear to be repudiated. Also, very few Cubans are interested in putting up a flag in their home or displaying it as a part of their clothing. The problem does not have to do with regulating, or stimulating, its use, as some suggest, but in honestly pointing out why many young people, and some not so young, wear clothing with the American flag on it.

Listen, you brainy ideologues,  don’t you understand that it’s a subtle way of demonstrating a preferance for a different system to the one we have here?

It isn’t, as you think, a problem about “trashy merchandise”, nor about “imperialist aggression”. Test it out, design some clothing with the flag, or parts of it incorporated, and you will see how few people actually buy it.

Translated by GH

Solomon Islands Suspends Sending Medical Students To Cuba

In 2007 the Cuban Ministry of Public Health and the Ministry of Health and Medical Services of the Solomon Islands signed a cooperation agreement. (The Island Sun)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 14 August 2017 — The government of the Solomon Islands, an archipelago located in Oceania and part of the British Commonwealth of Nations, has suspended the sending of medical students to Cuba, according to comments from the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health and Medical Services, Tenneth Dalipandam speaking to the local newspaper, the Solomon Star.

The official said Friday that authorities are considering “training the Cuban graduates to a certain level” before they reconsider “sending students” to the island in the future.

The President of the Education Committee of Parliament and Human Resources of the Archipelago, Nestor Ghiro, also previously stated that graduates in Cuba “are not doctors until they complete certain stages of training in [their home] country to qualify as doctors.” continue reading

Ghiro pointed out that they cannot even be called “doctors” until their training is completed in the Solomon Islands.

In 2007 the Cuban Ministry of Public Health and the Ministry of Health and Medical Services of Solomon Islands signed a cooperation agreement. The legal instrument opened the way for fifty young people to study medicine in Cuba, a figure that reached 150 students seven years later.

Cuba covers the costs of the schooling and the Government of Solomon Islands is responsible for paying for air tickets and other student expenses. Most of these young people study at the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM), which since 2005 has graduated more than 28,000 doctors from 103 countries.

The two nations established diplomatic ties in December 2003 and a decade later the first Solomon Islands embassy in all of Latin America was opened in Havana.

The Solomon Island’s cancellation of sending students to Cuba is not an isolated event. The professional quality of Cuban graduates has been questioned in countries such as Uruguay, Brazil, Costa Rica and Pakistan, among other nations.

Chilean doctors graduated from ELAM have also faced serious difficulties in passing the theoretical-practical exams required to practice their profession in Chile.

In 2012, of the 477 students graduating from foreign universities who presented themselves in Chile to take the National Examination of Medical Knowledge, only 20% passed. The majority of those who did not pass the exam had obtained their degrees in Cuba.

Quinceaneras in Cuba: A Vanity Catwalk / Iván García

A quinceañera poses in a classic American Car. (NBC News)

Ivan Garcia, 14 August 2017 — A week in Punta Cana, Cancun, or some paradisiacal beach in the Bahamas. And if the family is well heeled, two weeks on a luxury cruise.

The excursion to an all-inclusive hotel in the Caribbean, in addition to the quinceañeara and her parents, can include the girl’s best friend and boyfriend. Orestes, a corpulent mestizo who makes a living “under the table,” explains to the Hispano Post the latest trends in girls’ 15th birthday parties in Cuba.

At a private cafe in the Vedado neighborhood, Orestes details about the expenses. “A week in Punta Cana, at an all-inclusive four-star hotel, three people, can spend $1,400 on the room reservation and maybe 200 or 300 more fulas (bucks) on purchases and gifts. I advise you to bring more money, because both the stores in those resorts and the markets in Dominican Republic have quality packages at good prices and you can buy merchandise and then resell it in Cuba and cushion the expenses a little.”

Orestes goes on to give more details. “Before the trip 300 CUC (339 dollars) are spent to get three passports. Then the visa, whether the Dominican, Mexican or Bahamian, has to be paid for, in addition to fulfilling a lot of requirements, because although the United States has repealed the policy of wet foot/dry foot, the perception in Latin America and in the world is that Cubans are likely immigrants. People who have a multiple-entry visa for the United States do not have problems, because with it they can travel throughout the continent without any other visa. And if you’re lucky you can get a tourist visa for the daughter and pay for a stay in Miami Beach, which would be ideal, but the accommodation and expenses are higher.”

He pauses to drink a mamey milkshake and stare for a moment at the Confederations Cup soccer match between Portugal and New Zealand, from a flat screen at the coffee bar. Orestes goes on to explain:

“Already with the expenses of the hotel, air ticket and other preparations for three people, the sum fluctuates between 3 thousand and 4 thousand CUC. But the expenses of a quinceañeara party that pulls out all the stops do not end there. The package of photos, something usual among the quinceañeras, costs 120 CUC for the cheapest and 950 CUC for the most expensive. Add to that, from 400 to 500 CUC for the purchase of clothes, getting her hair done at a noted hairdresser and, to finish the job, about 2 thousand CUC for a not too flashy party, because a quality celebration is 5,000 CUC,” aays Orestes, who says that, on the party for his daughter, including the trip abroad, photos, clothes, hairdressing and party, he spent the equivalent of $10,000.

“Brother, and I have not finished yet, because I have two other daughters who will also have to celebrate their quinceañeras,” he concludes with a forced smile.

The quinceañera festival is a tradition that goes beyond Cuba: in several Latin America countries they are also celebrated. According to a historian consulted, “This custom dates back to the Middle Ages, when kings and princes, landowners and merchants awaited the time of puberty (coinciding with the onset of menstruation and, therefore, the reproductive age of fertility) to make the most of their daughters. It was time to expose them publicly before the greedy eyes of future husbands. And among these, select not the most handsome or someone of appropriate age for the young woman, but the one who could offer a higher dowry.”

At one time in Cuba, rich families broke the bank, the middle class saved and organized a more or less sumptuous party. The daughters of employees and workers were satisfied with modest celebrations. Other families could not even afford that. “I turned 15 on November 10, 1957 and my parents only gave me a sweater that cost ten pesos,” recalls the journalist Tania Quintero.

“In my fifteenth, in 1985, in parties, drinks and clothes bought in tourist shops, my parents spent about 800 pesos, which at that time amounted to 200 dollars, as the fula was exchanged on the black market at four pesos to one. My parents were professionals, they had good salaries and they started saving from the time I was four or five years old. At my daughter’s party, in 2012, we spent almost 4 thousand dollars,” says Betty, a language teacher.

And in five years, the expenses have multiplied by a factor of ten. As has the vanity, tackiness and frivolity. If at one time the savings of the parents were enough to organize the 15th birthday party, now the celebration involves the whole family and relatives living abroad.

“If you have relatives in the US they save you. They may not be able to send you a lot of money, but it’s a relief if they send you clothes, cosmetics and hair products,” says Luisa, a divorced mother who has spent a decade collecting money for her only daughter’s Quince.

A sociologist in Havana says that more than a tradition, “Quince parties have become a social event where many families want to show off their economic solvency. Show that they are different. There is a sort of rivalry. And those who can, they want to organize a party more lavish than those of their daughter’s friends at school. A total escalation to foolishness and waste. The worst thing is that many families who spend large amounts of money leave other priorities of everyday life unresolved, such as repairing their home.”

Mariana, the mother of 16-year-old twins, says that the day after their birthday she did not have the moneyf or a cup of coffee. “You are sending your daughters out into that world, where in the typical pack complex, every girl wants her party to be the same or better than her friend’s. It’s kind of like a drug. And parents and relatives begin to spend wildly. They want to rent the best costumes, the best photographer, the best hair stylist, a famous television presenter and the most recognized DJ. Absolute madness.”

Those who benefit most from this celebration fever is the private sector. Giuseppe, an Italian who landed in Cuba after his marriage, was dedicated to photographing seabeds.

“But that kind of photography does not earn cash in Cuba. Then I scrambled and with my savings I opened a business photographing weddings and quinceñearas. The main thing is to be creative and offer quality. The rest comes alone. I have cheaper packages, between 200 and 300 CUC. But people usually choose photo packages of 600 CUC or more. Each package includes transportation, rental of costumes and videos. The most sold packages are those where the girl, thanks to the techniques of photoshop, embraces her idols, and a magazine in made about her life or announcing famous brands. Yes, it’s pretty kitschy, like those parties, but they drop of nice wad of cash,” confesses Giuseppe.

Actors, musicians, comedians and TV presenters earn extra money as masters of ceremony. “Besides drinking and eating for free, the Quince parties allow me to support my family and buy quality food. For every presentation including a comic show for an hour and a half, I charge 150 CUC,” says a well-known comedian.

On a single party you can spend the salary of four years of a high level professional. And there is no class distinction. From the poor who count their centavos to those who have bank accounts, everyone in Cuba likes to celebrate their daughters’ fifteenth birthdays.

Now a novelty has been added. Young Cuban men are also celebrating their 15th birthdays. It does not matter that on the Island the average monthly salary is 25 dollars and many families only eat one meal a day. Ostentation can do more.

Translated by Sofia

Regime Strengthens Efforts to Avoid Surprises in Legislative Elections / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 3 August 2017 — The Cuban government is again relying on a proven strategy in an attempt to avoid surprises on October 22 when voters go to the polls to elect delegates to the various local and national legislative bodies, which will in turn be responsible for electing the president of the Council of State.

This curious initiative began with an orientation that had the feel of a series directives handed down by senior officials of the Communist Party, the Central Committee and the national coordinator for the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR). continue reading

On numerous occasions General Raul Castro has said he intends to step down as president in February 2018. After having been in power for twelve years (ten as president, two as acting president during the illness of his brother Fidel), the eighty-six-year-old is in declining health. Remaining as head of the Communist party until 2021 would seem more like a ploy to guarantee immunity from prosecution than a step towards maximizing his control over the country or influencing the direction of government.

“I just came back from a meeting where they outlined all the things that we must do to raise public morale for the upcoming elections. People have to be happy because on this occasion they will be choosing those who will choose the next president, which seems redundant,” says a provincial CDR coordinator who prefers to remain anonymous.

The CDRs were designed to hold neighborhood meeting during July and August, assuage any doubts about the elections and make sure there are no unexpected proposals from unforseen candidates by paying attention to their constituents’ “revolutionary condition.”

Communist party and government officials are touring the island, meeting with local officials and party members and assigning them tasks in an effort to encourage an effective voter response. According to one source, the battlefield of ideas continues to be the main frontline.

The following are some of the tasks that have been assigned to party cadres and members:

  • Review the personal history and attest to the aptitude and ability of every member of the provincial, municipal and district electoral commissions.
  • Visit schools and check the documents and election materials that are to be distributed in each neighborhood.
  • Review voter registration rolls and verify that the Address Registry has been updated in every CDR.
  • Explain to, reason with and convince reliable voters in each community of the need to forcefully deal with problems caused by disturbances of public order or actions by members of counterrevolutionary groups who, with foreign funding, are attempting to disrupt the normal functioning of the electoral process.
  • Recruit young people with proven leadership abilities in every neighborhood to create a corps of activists who will spread ideas, encourage action and spur participation by members of the community.
  • Coordinate with representatives from public health and transportation, giving special priority to hygiene and sanitation with the goal of preventing the accumulation of trash over prolonged periods of time in underserved locations.
  • Insist that delegates have direct contact with the public and that they craft compelling messages that preferably have little to do with political positions.
  • Talk to voters in order to objectively and critically evaluate local problems and determine with renewed vigor the political adjustments that need to be made in each area.
  • Work closely with more enthusiastic groups and demographic sectors so that they might have influence on those who are apathetic or indifferent.
  • Coordinate with representatives from the cultural, transport, housing and supply sectors to optimize conditions for stability and assure widespread citizen participation.
  • Guarantee blood donations, which are important and essential.
  • Allow citizens to maintain orderly conduct, work together to assure that the elections take place in a peaceful atmosphere and participate in the opening and closing of the polls.
  • Monitor compliance with the assigned tasks, the Election Law and directives from the National Electoral Commission.

The Spurious Goals of Cuba’s ‘Free’ Health And Education

In Cuba, “the material situation of the schools is deplorable,” says the author. (I. Zahorsky / Flickr)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Miami, 12 August 2017 — The Government of the Castro brothers has always maintained that their fundamental social achievements have been “free” health and education, available to all people, which became an international calling card, to try to counter criticism of their massive, flagrant and systematic violations of the political, civil and economic rights of the Cuban people and, in passing, to seek outside influence and obtain economic benefits.

That these achievements have not been “free” is more than proven by the fact that the regime has never been able to hide that it appropriates the results of the production of all the state enterprises, the majority of the country, and it deprives employees of most of their salaries. Everyone knows that Cuba, along with Venezuela, has the lowest minimum ($10) and average ($23) monthly salaries in Latin America. continue reading

Today, although Cuba has more doctors per inhabitant than any other country in the region, the truth is that more than 50,000 of them, particularly the specialists, are carrying out “missions” abroad. In addition, the conditions and technical resources of neighborhoods clinics, polyclinics and hospitals, which serve the population, do not support stable and quality services, while appointments for exams, admittance to a hospital or surgery can come when the patient is already beyond hope.

A very different situation is presented by the clinics and special hospitals for the top leaders and for the rest of the high military and political bureaucracy that is attended in exclusive facilities, such as the clinic for Security Personnel, the CIMEQ Hospital and some floors of the Hermanos Ameijeiras National Hospital. Another privileged segment is foreigners who pay with foreign currency and who are seen at the Cira Garcia Clinic, all in Havana.

With regard to education, the material situation of primary and secondary schools and higher education institutions is deplorable; they do not have the necessary materials for an average international quality education. Due to the low salaries in the teaching profession, many educational institutions at all levels never have a complete team of teachers. Worst of all, since there is no internet access, modern education, which in most Latin American countries is based on this medium, is practically absent, with only limited availability in universities.

But most importantly, the fundamental, undeclared goals of the “free” health and education services are not to maintain a healthy and educated population capable of meeting life needs. Rather, the first goal is to try to guarantee a working population with a high technical and professional level and in good health that can be exploited in state-owned enterprises and international services, particularly medical services, which bring in foreign currency for the Cuban government. Secondly, the goal is to guarantee, through this patronage blackmail, a people who are committed to continuing to thank the “revolutionary government” for those benefits.

State-ownership, which is now predominant, until recently controlled all sources of labor and income, except for the exploitation of the approximately 20% of land in private hands. That situation has changed, but still today most of the workforce is engaged in state, military and para-state enterprises.

Nevertheless, the systematic deterioration of the health and educations services, as a result of the system’s inability to produce and manage resources, worsened since the fall of the USSR and the “socialist camp,” which aid from Venezuela is not making up for, has generated corruption and widespread discontent in the population.

Another important result of this deterioration is that the most vulnerable sectors such as the elderly, single mothers and the disabled have faced large cuts in the social assistance system, precisely because they contribute the least to the state coffers.

Such that, today, it is no longer even possible for the system to guarantee the control of a prepared and healthy labor force, to hyper-exploit in the generalized slavery frameworks of state-socialism, nor to guarantee the support of the majority of the population for the “free” services. And the state’s international goals are also affected since the countries receiving Cuban doctors are diminishing with the fall of the populist-state wave in Latin America and because, as the Cuban reality becomes better known abroad, there is more rejection.

If this is how “fundamental achievements” perform, we can imagine how the remainder do.

Prosecutor Dismisses The Case Against Eliecer Avila But Seizes His Belongings

Eliecer Ávila, leader of the Somos+ (We Are More) dissident group. (Héctor Estepa / El Confidencial)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 14 August 2017 – The Office of the Attorney General of Cuba declared the “final dismissal” of the case against the activist Eliécer Ávila, accused of the crimes of receiving and illegal economic activities. The court also ordered the seizure “in favor of the Cuban State” of most of the property seized during a police search in April.

On 5 August, the leader of the Somos+ (We Are More) Movement received on a document signed by the prosecutor Bileardo Amaro Guerra dated July, to which he gave 14ymedio access. In it he is informed that the accusations have been “filed.” “We have considered the lack of criminal record of the accused and the attitude maintained during the process,” explains the text. continue reading

The measure adopted by the Public Prosecutor’s Office corresponds to what was stated in the Law of Criminal Procedure, whereby the prosecutor has the power to dismiss a case “if he considers that the act is not a crime or is manifestly false, or the accused as authors or accomplices are exempt from criminal responsibility.”

Avila has decided to appeal the seizure of his belongings, of which only three personal organizers, an almanac and an old travel insurance policy were returned to him. The remaining belongings, whose list in the judicial document covers ten pages of objects seized during search, will pass into the hands of the State, including a personal computer and mobile phone.

Avila’s defense lawyer, Osvaldo Rodríguez Díaz, has appealed the prosecutor’s order because the document is full of “gibberish.” “In its content it refers to activities of a non-governmental organization,” in reference to Somos+, but the accusation against the activist is based on an alleged economic crime.

Rodríguez also questions that, given the economic nature of the allegations, the case has been taken to Villa Marista, the headquarters of State Security in Havana.

The prosecutor’s document says Avila “sells clothing at home, when what was actually seized is something else,” says the defense lawyer, for whom the arguments are “far from being considered serious by that instance, of legality and truth.”

Wilfredo Vallín, President of the Law Association of Cuba, confirmed to 14ymedio that “the final destination of the items that are seized in a search should be decided by the court” and that “what is seized in a house is to be presented in court as evidence to indict the person.” He describes the prosecutor’s order as “a totally illegal procedure” in this case because “it is a group of objects of high value.”

The search in Avila’s house happened after several members of his movement held a protest at the International Airport Jose Martí of Havana to demonstrate against Customs, which confiscated the belongings of several activists who returned from a seminar organized in Colombia by the Center for the Opening and Development of Latin America.

Police records and searches of dissidents have become a growing practice in the past year, and the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation has denounced this in its reports.

The Teachings of ‘Don Castro’

Fidel Castro, born 91 years ago, has been reduced to slogans that Cubans pay no attention to as they pass by them. (EFE / Ernesto Mastrascusa)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, 14 August 2017 — With so much secrecy, so much myth and legend, it is not even known for sure if this August 13 was the actual date of the 91st anniversary of Fidel Castro’s birth. His life was so surrounded by exaggerations and lies that even the moment he was born and the name with which he was registered are open to question.

However, beyond any doubt, the day was propitious to reflect on the legacy of the former Cuban president, an imprint that has been reduced in officialdom’s Conceptualization of the Socialist Model to “his concept of Revolution” and the stubborn “conviction that yes we can achieve victory” with our own efforts. continue reading

That concept of “Revolution” – which is presented as his political will – is so ambiguous that it can be taken both as a result obtained and as a goal to be achieved. This theoretical hodgepodge is evidence of the lack of depth of the author’s thinking and his tendency to political opportunism, which allowed him to create slogans to encapsulate different moments.

Official media reproduce such a definition as a method for achieving dissimilar goals, the final fruit of a process or a tangle of moral values ​​close to the commandments of good behavior. However, in the absence of the violent component – which typifies any academic definition of Revolution – lies its main failure, to which is added the absence of the class approach that could be expected from a Marxist-Leninist.

The main teaching Fidel Castro has left us, which teachers warn their students they should pay attention to because “it will be on the test,” is voluntarism. The Commander-in-Chief instilled the idea that whomever is willing to defend a position at the risk of his own and others’ deaths, becomes invincible.

It does not matter if the cause to be defended is erroneous or valid. The cardinal rule, according to this theorem, is to accept a goal with unlimited enthusiasm and persevere in its realization at whatever price necessary.

Examples are the eradication of all vestiges of private property during the Revolutionary Offensive of 1968, the 1970 sugar harvest which attempted to yield 10 million tons of sugar, the idle effort to genetically transform livestock,or the purpose of combining study with work in the forgotten Schools in the Countryside. Along with these is a long list in which we should mention the energy revolution, the municipalization of universities and the extension of the cultivation of moringa.

Intensive grazing brought to Cuba by a French scientist, construction ‘microbrigades’, consecration in scientific research centers, special programs of rabbits, geese or buffalo, the doctor for 120 families, all called by the name ‘Plan Fidel’ and many other initiatives carried the personal imprint of one who considered himself an indisputable specialist on any subject he was superficially interested in.

Nothing and no one could stop Fidel Castro, except his own indiscipline and the sudden reluctance that came over him when he discovered some new object of obsession.

A monument recently erected in Crimea to his memory says that “victory is perseverance,” a bitter reminder that Fidel Castro was the worst disciple of his own teachings. He was only consistent in the act of never admitting that he was defeated, as defined in his favorite motto: “turning the setback into victory.”

Athletes may be able to inherit their legacy to win a competition seemingly against them, but in politics and economics it is nefarious to obsess over an apparently miraculous solution.

One should not persevere in the error, is also what we learned from Fidel Castro.

Cuba Spends Less on Healthcare Despite the Aging of the Population

The 20,000 places for care of the aged are not enough in a country with two million people over age 60. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 10 August 2017 – The Cuban population is aging at an inverse ratio to the investment required to support this share of the citizenry. Almost 20% of Cubans are over 60, and a recent government study sees aging as “the nation’s biggest demographic challenge.”

Health spending fell from 11% of GDP in 2009 to 8% in 2012, according to data from the Statistical Yearbook of Cuba. The investment in social programs affecting the elderly has been reduced since Raúl Castro initiated timid reforms in the country’s economy.

The economist Carmelo Mesa-Lago has calculated that the number of hospitals in the country has decreased by 32% since 2007, while personnel engaged in public health has fallen by 22%. Despite the steady increase in the number of elderly people in the country, there are only 20,000 places in some 300 grandparents’ homes (for day care) and 144 nursing homes. continue reading

According to sociologist Elaine Acosta, there is evidence that a significant share of Cuba’s 2,219,784 people who are over 60 “lack effective opportunities to enjoy a dignified old age.”

In addition, the expert believes that “the difficulty of social policy to anticipate and plan the resolution of problems related to old age only aggravate the crisis of care that faces Cuban society.”

In the face of what could be the end of trade with Venezuela, the aging population of the island, which has seen the purchasing power of its pensions reduced by almost 50% since 1989, is facing an unsustainable pension system in the medium term, Mesa-Lago explains.

The situation is complicated, because Raul Castro’s government eliminated many of the goods and services formerly provided ‘free,’ drastically reducing the items covered by Social Assistance, as well as the number of beneficiaries.

In 2016, 54,968 older adults received social security pensions, some 8,415 fewer than in 2011. This population segment has also been hit in recent years by the elimination of subsidies for several products in the ration book, and the resulting quadrupling of prices.

Proportion and growth rates of the population aged 60 and over in some Latin American countries. Source: ECLAC

A study published by Cuba’s National Bureau of Statistics and Information (ONEI), reports that 79% of Cuba’s elderly live in urban areas, while the remaining 21% live in rural areas. Women make up just over half of the island’s aging population, at 53%, with men accounting for 47%.

The phenomenon of aging generally occurs in societies that have achieved a high rate of human development. Among the elements that influence a country’s aging statistics are migration, fertility rate and mortality.

In the case of Cuba, life expectancy was 79.5 years in 2015, one of the highest in the Americas. However, the low level of fertility – 1.6 children per woman, closer to European figures – and a steady migration have contributed to raise the average age of the country, which in 2016 reached 40 years.

Percentage share of elderly population by province. Source: ONEI

The impact of the aging of the population reaches all spheres of society and has repercussions on the economy, because an important segment of society ceases to produce and has to be sustained by an ever smaller population or workers, notable in the Cuban case. Social services face an increase in the demand for services to the elderly and there is also a direct impact on the pension system.

Relative to population, Cuba’s oldest provinces are Villa Clara, Havana and Sancti Spíritus, in which the population over 60 is 23%, 21% and 21% of the population, respectively. The youngest province on the island is Guantanamo, followed closely by Artemis and the Isle of Youth.

Population in thousands over age 60, by province.

In the case of municipalities, the youngest are Yateras and Caimanera, both in Guantanamo province, with only 13% of the population over age 60. Those with the highest proportion of elderly are Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution municipality – the location of the headquarters of Cuba’s octogenarian rulers – where 27% of residents are over 60, followed by Placetas and Unión de Reyes, both with 25% elderly populations.

“According to estimates by the United Nations Population Division, Barbados and Cuba will be the most aged countries in Latin America and the Caribbean in the immediate perspective,” the ONEI reports.

The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, which funded part of the study, notes in its research that in 2025, 25% of the Cuban population will be over 60, a figure that will reach 33% of the population by 2050.

Total Cuban population projected to 2050.

San Francisco and Havana, Opposite Ends of the Earth

The ‘Summer of Love’ began in January of 1967 with a major event in response to the recent ban on the use of LSD. (San Francisco Chronicle)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ernesto Santana, Havana, 12 August 1917 — The year 1967 was crucial and socially and culturally very spirited, as demonstrated by the Summer of Love in San Francisco, California, which marked the beginning of the hippie movement in the United States. The epicenter was the Haight Ashbury, an urban area of ​​two square miles which attracted thousands of young people from all over the country.

San Francisco was already a notable focus of the Beat Generation, whose greatest poet, Allen Ginsberg, was a sort of Golden Gate – a great bridge – between that generation and the new movement that made this great open city its mecca. The countercultural tsunami that began at that time, was felt throughout the world and its effects are still very difficult to measure objectively.

In fact, that Summer of Love began in January with the Human Be-in, a big event in response to the recent banning of the use of LSD, to which many artists and intellectuals who were leading the indefinable revolt were invited. The motto was “Leave your fears at the door and join the future.” continue reading

In June, the temperature rose still further with the Monterey Pop Festival. Meanwhile, hundred thousand young people from all over the United States and other countries descended on San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury neighborhood, giving shape to a ‘flower power’ garnished with psychedelic rock, free love, a lot of drugs and growing opposition to the Vietnam War. What was called the Age of Aquarius had begun.

In Monterey, several of the great contemporary musical leaders performed, including the The Who, The Animals, Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company, among others. The song written to promote the festival was San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair), sung by Scott McKenzie and written by John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas, which became the hippie anthem. The San Francisco Chronicle baptized the event the ‘Summer of Love.’

The ‘hippie’ tide left a legacy that still lingers. (San Francisco Chronicle)

But that warm, colorful, lysergic and loving season ended with many shadows as well. The media abuse, caricaturization and manipulation – turning it into a tourist attraction – was such that in October, as a controversial metaphor, the “Burial of the Hippie” was performed. Protagonists of the Summer of Love would end up dispersed in hippie communes and farms in areas around San Francisco.

The famous murderer Charles Manson would also be one of the undertakers of that flowery adventure. His stay in Haight Ashbury and his hippie aspect led to the macabre homicides of his tribe casting a shadow over the countercultural movement which, above all, celebrated life, love and peace.

However, the hippie tide left a legacy that still lingers in ecological consciousness, in a wide range of music, in opposition to war, in overcoming sexual prejudices, in defense of freedom of expression and civil rights, and even at the root of the rules of the World Wide Web. And the memory remains that, at least for a brief time, a utopia, an alternative society could be experienced.

Cuba and its eternal summer (not of love)

In our country, rock, since its arrival in 1956, promised to have a long, fertile and enriching life. When rock ‘n’ roll came to Havana – mainly through films such as Blackboard Jungle and Rock Around the Clock – there were frenetic dance moves in the movie theaters.

In 1967, the Beatles were the gods of a mass secret cult despite the fierce prohibitions of ideological commissars who watched with alarm the proliferation of combos and the growing sympathy of young people for the music of the Anglo-Saxon cultural empire. The hippies were sick, decadent, petty bourgeois: the antithesis of the New Man.

If those hairy people loved rock, peace and freedom, young Cubans had to settle for the Nueva Trova, national dance music and military hymns and marches. They must prepare to hate and kill the enemy designated by the Maximum Leader and his club of solitary hearts; they must obey blindly. Any doubt, any different individual opinion was ideological diversionism. The Military Units to Aid Production (UMAP) were already trying to straighten out the deviants before the Summer of Love.

A documentary of those years, Youth, Rebellion, Revolution, directed by Enrique Pineda Barnet, shows a meeting between Cuban students and those of other countries and illustrates the violent, intolerant and alienated spirit that many young people assumed at the time. The opinions expressed in the movie seem pathetic now, although the old commissars wish they were still in vogue.

John Lennon statue in a Havana park. (Turismoencuba.com)

“A hippie is a loser… hippies represent a stage of youth rebellion, a step towards politicization. Not in general, but of a part of those people,” say some voices in the film. “It’s an apolitical youth, already integrated into a system that is much more pernicious than hippies. Hippies are an ornament,” says another. “The revolutionary is the best artist of the 20th century,” says one of the boys.

A Latin American youth pontificates: “Protest art is sold like they previously sold romantic art. Within the protest there are lines: the yellow line of protest without cause, then there is the green line of those who preach peace and then there is the red line of those who really protest. Among the many signs, one prays: “The light of the dawn is before us. We must rise and act. Mao Zedong.”

In Cuba, just in case, John Lennon, apostle of that counterculture, is sculpted seated, his mouth closed, a friendly pose: a bronze statue that allows hundreds of tourists to sit next to him every day.

Cuban Artist Poses with Sledge Hammer Before Exclusive Store Window

The artist Luis Manuel Otero performs the third piece of the series ‘With all and for the sake of a few’ in front of the window of the Giorgio G. VIP store. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 12 August 2017 — The artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara has places the Manzana Kempinski Hotel in the center of its actions. This time he was photographed with an enormous sledge hammer poised a few inches from the window of the Giorgio G. VIP store in the gallery located on the ground floor of the exclusive accommodation.

The controversial creator explained to 14ymedio that the shop he chose “is super expensive” and inside “a garment or accessory costs 300 times the salary of a Cuban,” a reason that led him to select the place that, in addition, has “ties to the hotel.”

The artistic action is the third of the series With All and for the Sake of a Few that Otero has been engaged in since the inauguration of the Kempinski Manzana, managed by a Swiss company and the Gaviota Group which is controlled by the Cuban military. continue reading

The provocative image of the creator, sledge hammer in hand, was published on the social network Facebook and is entitled What Michelangelo Pistoletto did not think of, referring to the exhibition of the outstanding Italian artist in Havana. Among the most well-known pieces of this painter and art theorist, there is a performance art piece in which he smashes a mirror with a sledge hammer.

“Pistoletto’s work speaks of the deconstruction of the image, but my call is more to action than to representation. To destroy the real and not the representation of the image,” details the Cuban creator. Although he recognizes that it is only the “space of the threat” and that “the threat becomes a real event.”

“In the end it’s about that, how to do it without doing it, how to break it without breaking it,” he says.

Pistoletto alludes in his piece to “breaking the glass, breaking the institution” but the Cuban wants to pulverize that space “outside the institution, an allusion to the dichotomy of the world of art that does not go abroad and stays in its bubble, elitist, and it does not go out.”

The main idea of ​​the series carried out by Otero is precisely to “break the border” that separates Cubans on the island from the exclusive accommodation, especially because of the low wages workers receive on the island.

Recently, the young artist held a raffle in which he sold 250 numbers at a price of 2 CUC each (about 17 months average salary in Cuba), to cover one night’s accommodation in the luxurious facility, the only five-star plus hotel in the country.

With 500 convertible pesos collected, the raffle winner checked into the Manzana Kempinski Hotel and shared with the organizers the images of his stay in the luxurious property.

In the first part of the series, the artist settled in the gallery of luxury shops on the ground floor and placed a sign at his feet asking, “Where is Mella?” with an image on his head of the communist leader Julio Antonio Mella, whose sculpture was removed after the restoration of the property.

For Otero, the building has become “the symbol of that visual rupture within Old Havana” where “the supposed capitalism that is entering the country” touches down.

The Bolivian Circus / Fernando Dámaso

Map of Pacific War area. Source: Wikipedia

Fernando Damaso, 31 March 2017 — Although hardly anyone is surprised at the clowning about by the person who calls himself ” the first indigenous president” (in fact, there was another one before him), now, with his going on about “a sea for Bolivia” he is becoming news again.

Bolivia lost Antofagasta, the Atacama desert and the sea coast in the Pacific War or the “Saltmine War”, [trans. note: The full alternative name was the Birdshit and Saltmine War] which went from 1879 to 1883. It was ended in 1883 with the signing of the Treaty of Ancón. In the Treaty, Bolivia lost land to Chile, and also Peru and Argentina. Peru, which annexed the Bolivian territory of Tacna and Arica, returned the saltmine provinces of Tarapacá and Arica to Chile. Argentina kept hold of the territories it had annexed.

To try to change present-day frontiers between countries, which have been settled by treaty and agreements favouring the winners, following wars and occupations, is not really doable. It would mean changes pretty much all over the world, which is absurd.

Also, Paraguay doesn’t have an ocean outlet either, just as, for example, countries such as Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, which hasn’t held back their development.

The ambition of the “Bolivian indigenous man who became president”, rejected by Chile, seems to be more a response to his “indigenous jingoism” policy, intended to gain support for his intention of putting himself forward again as a presidential candidate, something which was turned down in a referendum. Everything seems to indicate that the “indigenous” has enjoyed power so much that he wants to perpetuate it, intending to arrange a new referendum on something which the Bolivians have already decided.

Translated by GH

Communist Militants Force Withdrawal of a Poster For Being “Disrespectful” of Fidel Castro

The poster was part of a cleaning initiative organized by the José Martí Cultural Society. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 11 August 2017 — Military boots and olive green trousers drawn on a poster have provoked great anger among communist militants who seem to have managed, through their complaints, to get the organizers of a sanitation campaign to remove the poster from the streets and sewers near Havana’s Malecon.

The initiative, with the motto “Clean the Coast,” was organized for this coming Sunday, 13 August, coinciding with the 91st anniversary of Fidel Castro’s birth. The date, coupled with the image, has been considered “disrespectful” to the deceased ex-president by some citizens, forcing, according to sources from one of the organizing entities, a cancellation of the day.

The cleaning activity was organized by the José Martí Cultural Society (SCJM) and the José Martí Youth Movement (MJM), but ultimately it has been replaced by other activities in the capital, said Reinaldo Perera, a member of the first of these associations. continue reading

“No, we are not going to undertake the activity that was initially planned in the area of ​​the sidewalks on the Malecón to clean the sewers from the 23rd street to a little further down. It was only going to be a sanitary cleaning,” Perera points out.

However, another employee of the SCJM, who preferred to remain anonymous, told 14ymedio that “the poster was withdrawn and the cleaning canceled because several members of the Communist Party called to complain about the misuse of Fidel Castro’s image.”

“Showing that part of the body and particularly the military boots was not pleasing to many people,” according to the worker. “We were warned that we had to remove all the signs we had placed in the areas surrounding the Malecon.” Some, he adds, were also afraid that the poster would be interpreted as the announcement of a police operation.

Yussy, a 28-year-old transvestite, is among the frightened. “When we saw the poster everyone was scared because it said that on that day they would not let us go to the Malecón and the police would crack down on the jineteras (female hookers) and the pingueros (male hookers),” he says outside the Yara cinema, a few yards from the Habana Libre Hotel.

“It would not be the first or the last time they did something like this, but people did notice it because of the boots, an area of the body that is not shown that much; on posters they usually put the face and maybe also the shoulders,” reflects Yussy.

An employee of the cinema says that the poster caught people’s attention and tourists “were endlessly taking pictures… An elderly gentleman, very upset, asked if the management of the movie theater had put up the poster,” she said, and added that he was going to call whomever he had to to protest what he considered a lack of respect.

The Government has prepared numerous activities of remembrance on what would have been the former president’s birthday. Starting Wednesday, at the Expocuba fairgrounds, south of the capital, there are children’s games, displays of the operation of locally manufactured induction cookers, and a sale of hygiene products from the Suchel company.

Since the beginning of the month the Casa del Alba Cultural, located in Havana’s Vedado district, has had an photographic exposition titled Fidel: Intimate Portrait, with snapshots taken by his son Alejandro Castro.

Thousands of miles away, in Crimea, a eight-foot high monument was inaugurated with the image of Castro and the words: “Victory is perseverance.”