Tragedy in the Darien Jungle: a Warning to the Returnee / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 17 June 2019 — Several weeks ago we received the news of the tragedy of the Armila River, in shock. On the night of April 23rd, dozens of Cuban families were mourning when more than fifty young people, who traveled north into Panamanian jungle, died dragged by a sudden flood.

Despite its obvious dramatic and seriousness of the news, it found, however, relatively little exposure on international mainstream media and Internet sites, which clearly shows, why Cuban matter can be considered more profound and harder to solve, than other Regional conflicts now in the spotlight -meaning- Venezuela and Nicaragua unfortunate situation of  under their respective dictatorships.

Perhaps if these deaths had occurred among young people from these two countries (Venezuela and Nicaragua), the tragedy would have had a greater impact; but when the news is about Cubans fleeing from Castro regime, relevance is reduced because more than half a century of dictatorship always have its toll of attrition. It appears today that the loss of our emigrants retains all its tragical nuances only if it is suffered within a Cuban home from the perspective of the father in despair or an orphan child.

Cuban authorities, of course, looked the other way. In its cynical logic, this Panama doesn’t seems the same that a loud  psychologist -from the UJC (Cuban Youth Union)-traveled to, with her humble  salary,  to boycott the 2015 Summit: for the dictatorship she is regarded as a model citizen and these (deceased Cubans) are nothing but dead maggots. [The name given by Castro regime to anyone willing to leave the island seeking freedom.]

In contrast to this new Castro regime massacre a few days ago, a “new official position” emerged: the elite of the “Revolution Square” recently made it clear to Cuban diaspora, that in their “draconian” Law of Foreign Investment 118, in effect since March 2014, it actually does not exclude Cubans from being able to invest in their own country, however, holding eager ones back, reminds them, this offer is only  for those whose net worth and residence are stablished abroad.

Needless to say, such a statement, excludes a private sector that struggles to survive in the Island, in spite of all obstacles imposed by a dull system, obsessed in demonstrating that “the anticipated bright future” is incubated in its state own socialist enterprise.

These two -apparently unrelated- news show the complexity of a failed society whose dictatorship not only coax civil and political liberties of my people, but as collateral, grabs with an iron hand their economic rights aswell.

Even so, in recent years, the increased tendency of some Cubans whom after residing for several years abroad -oblivious of reality in the island and having neglected their citizenship- has now returning to reside  in Cuba for good, through an insulting process called “repatriation”, humiliating euphemism given by the same (officials) who have deprived them of their right to travel and return freely, as if Homeland belonged to a few (in power) and not all of us instead.

Personally, I cannot understand under which mysterious reasoning, those who one day emigrated, stung by dreams of prosperity and from a complete certainty that they would never achieve it under a totalitarian police regime, come to conclusion, that only because they return with a few saved dollars  – even thousands, or tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands, in this case the amount is not relevant – today they will have more guarantees of success.

The naive ones must be aware of a bunch of snitches, there are still around each block (in the neighborhood), either by twisted conviction or primitive envy, they will inform about their every move, the moment they (private entrepreneurs) start a small business. Today the “juggling” needed to get goods in the Cuban (domestic) market, whether formal or informal, would make “Cirque du Soleil Stars” look like rookies; besides “an army” of crooked state inspectors and corrupted police officers -awaits in their neighborhood- “sharpening their teeth” to extort them; that there is no humane way to run a business in Cuba legally, because the very law that rules businesses is exquisitely designed to prevent it, and everything will have to occur “as illegally and secretly” as when they left, a case among many, in the exodus of 1994.

It is true, that everyone knows their own “Maleconazo” (1994 riot) and everyone understands their own reasons, but nobody should be so naive, assuming a false distension of the authorities after “the mirage of the Obama era”, because -sooner than later- they will collide with a reality as suffocating as the one that made them flee before. To expect something different would be like “building castles in the air”.

And it’s not about Trump’s strengthening US positions,  no; but Cuba remaining static because the dictatorship of Fidel and Raúl Castro – now with the new administrator Díaz-Canel at the threshold of the door, with the same Masters – remaining entrenched at the same position and betting on poverty for my people as a strategic weapon of control in order to stay in power.

Probably, at this moment, many returnees  regret the possibility of reversing the film, and have come to the conclusion that under such circumstances, it is not enough to own the capital, but rather to live ruled by institutions that protect and stimulate with sincere enthusiasm, producers  and small enterprises – contradicted reason  to major investors desperately needed in  today’s Cuba.

Whoever studies this Foreign Investment Law will advise that, it does not even wink at emigration, that it does not even imply any priority or preferred treatment, as anyone would expect. Rather, owners of the slum “place excuses beforehand” and clarify that everything will be on equal terms: in our case, the State Employer Company will also  mediate to pocket 90% of our wages; Cuban authorities will designate, with no exception, each operator and engineer within these companies – among which the State Security will infiltrate their henchmen – and will keep 60% of all benefits.

Such carelessness raises such unfair rules of the game, that so far no one bites the hook, and Mariel’s Special Development Zone sits idle and dusty as a witness – a project that so far has attracted only 15% of investments and profits expected by   Castro regime.

Then the question that follows: Why if the Foreign Investment Law has failed to appeal the rest of the world, it would appeal to Cuban Diaspora that knows the bird by its color? What make clown Bruno Parrilla, chameleon Malmierca, pub  administrator Diaz-Canel, and their boss, Raúl Castro, think, that emigrants will fall for a scheme they know better than anyone else?

Why would exiled Cuban entrepreneurs take chances under current circumstances, knowing that all profits will go directly to finance repressive forces of regime? Why is it, our fellow emigrant choose to pay $10,000 to traffickers on the Straits of Florida or Central America, and does not even consider investing his own country? Why do their relatives in Miami  follow the same reasoning and support them?

Would third world emigrants -who take up the same coyote route- take chances on a  reckless venture should they had $10,000 to finance a family business? What powerful reason convinces Cubans that no capital is worth in this broke Cuba that flee from out of despair? How to understand that in recent years Cubans took more than 2.3 billion dollars annually out of the country to buy abroad to supply the black market –figures coincidentally similar to the 2.5 billion annually that experts set as a goal for the Foreign investment that Cuba needs to get out of this predicament? The similarity of these figures denounces the scale of the absurd.

All of this, must be taken into account by Cuban emigrants when planning on coming back. Should that effort is fueled by nostalgia of those little details and simply prefer to keep those many things that cuddle their romantic heart, oh well, “go for it”, !A natural desire of returning to the womb and your home, no matter how distorted our reality is, but you should never be so naive to set sail on a return trip assuming that something has changed in Cuba: you must be certain that in the meadows of your childhood today, you will find burnt land, and a country that in many respects it resemblance the darkest phase of the “special period” (worst crisis of the 90s).

Future returnees must be aware they return to a harsh battlefield. There are  more than fifty Cuban corpses that have been swallowed by the Darien jungle to prove it, as a clear warning. Meanwhile dictatorship ensures nothing happens, that tenseness will be a matter of a few months, that we should not fear hunger since chubby generals will guarantee everyone “Hutia meat and Ostrich milk”, that there is nothing to worry about or bringing ghosts from the past, because the “special period” was already buried thanks to the brilliant directives left by the enlightened Fidel Castro.

And to top it off now they tell us that emigrants can invest in Cuba, which should only be taken as proof of despair, coming from a regime that will never cease to despise us. The one thing despots do not tell is that once their money has been invested, their business has failed and their assets confiscated, returnees will face the only two choices left: either they end up in prison or try ,desperately,  the same route back again through Darién jungle. Luckily, we are certain, or hopeful, that “Liborio” might be poor, but his not a fool.

Translated by RAFAEL

Letter From a Cuban Citizen to Diaz-Canel / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Source AFP

Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 31 July 2019 — No, Mister Administrator, Cuba does not need to make peace with the United States in order to move forward, because this country’s future cannot be dependent on its relations with any foreign government, but on maintaining flexible and interactive relations with the largest possible number of commercial partners, with a dynamic economy truly open to the world, and with independent politics, as befits an archipelago, without any subordination or blackmail.

Perhaps when I say that, there are, in your subconscience, reverberations of long decades of absolute dependence on foreign economies — today called Venezuelan Chavomadurism, and yesterday Soviet Stalinism — and during that time the natural vassalage of the Havana regime was tied to an uninterrupted line of parasitism, without which the Cuban construct would have collapsed in just a few years, buried under the undeniable mediocrity of its architect in chief.

Nevertheless, Mister, in spite of everything, Cuba does not need the dictatorship you lead to normalise its relations with the United States. Cuba only requires, and very urgently, that those people, who so brutally misrule it, decide to normalise its relations with its own people. And to do that it isn’t necessary to look to the north for agreements with Washington, or down south to grab oil from Caracas, or to Mao in the far west, or to the new Czars of the post-Perestroika east. Just look to Cuba, to get out of the abyss, and enjoy a proper rule of law. continue reading

In a proper rule of law, Cubans could get together in different parties which, with their different points of view, would propose different ways out of the dreadful  problems created by of the ankylosis of the ancient octogenarians, and could set up a proper basis for a participative democracy. This would produce a thriving civil society which would oblige the government to properly account for its acts, not like now, where it is judge and jury. But, seeing as this is hardly likely to happen, I would like to offer you here, Mister Administrator, another way out which, as you will see, does not involve the resignation of the government, but only improvement in the standard of life of my people.

To achieve that, all that would have to be done would be to free up the domestic market, create a legal framework for a reliable contractual process for all types of producers, with guaranteed due reward for their work; provide legal personality for all private and family businesses, so that they can run and market their businesses with real autonomy within and outside Cuba, without the interference which torments them now, as well as creating a fiscal system which guarantees fair, universal and organised taxation, with no exemptions.

They should authorise and unconditionally stimulate, and prioritize over everything, large scale investment by our expats, entirely in line with their natural right as Cubans, although they should also open up the country without fear, redesigning the legal framework, and always looking after our national interest, for an essential inward flow of investment, but on a realistic basis, and without the unfair regulations imposed by the current Law 118.

In line with more civilised social norms, any person, exercising freedom of opinion, would be able to denounce any abuse of the freedom of the press, or commence due legal process against any authority infringing his rights. All of this would create ideal conditions in which, in a short space of time, our small and medium private businesses would prosper, and, without doubt, in just a few years, our rate of development would rocket, for everyone’s benefit, and not just for the foul entrenched bourgeoisie. But such a new Cuba couldn’t flourish unless the despots, who now pull all the political strings, perpetuating the autocracy created by the obsessive neurotic who betrayed his people 60 years ago, move over. And that, Mister, is something the masters of this dive are not about to do.

As and when we come to it, any true solution to the Cuban problem has to include the abdication of the historic nomenklatura which continues to obstruct our progress, so that they can devote their time to raising jutias (a kind of large Cuban hamster), getting out of the way of a new reformist government, which is able to think in terms of the country and not just a political sect.

To achieve that, it needs you, Mister Administrator, to start asking your masters to get out of the way of this people who detest them, and you will see how, in the course of a single generation we will have a country which is unrecognisable, with a booming, prosperous economy, because we are yearning for our liberty, which is not  so much held back by the embargo, fertilised by Fidel Castro’s litigant speechifying, but more by the internal blockage which you have just begun to notice, like someone who has just discovered cold water.

To cut a long story short, it would be something if your government, Mister Administrator, ratified the International Convenants on Civil and Political Rights, and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which, with chameleon-like cowardice, Raul Castro first signed, then shelved, more than ten years ago, which, obviously, tells you that you need to comply with legal obligations on human rights which affect millions of Cubans.

Mister Administrator, when we stop worrying about banana phantoms (Mexican banana and chocolate treats for kids, which look like ghosts), it will be a whole new day. Get rid of the dictators, and we will see a Cuban miracle in a few years! For this to come about doesn’t mean you have to normalise relations with the United States, but rather that the moribund Castrismo, which you are currently and passively managing, stops playing the neighbourhood bully, stops behaving like a totalitarian police state, and decides to coexist in peace with its own people.

Finally, and in short, start by putting together, from square one, all the country’s political and economic strategies, break away from this appalling stasis, and create conditions in which all our countrymen, in the island and outside it, without political discrimination, can start the urgent work of developing the Cuban nation.

Translated by GH

Social Media Censorship In Cuba: Another Turn Of The Screw / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 11 July 2019 — In the last few days we have seen the crystallisation of the Cuban government’s posture on the use of social media and websites in our country. The authorities in Havana have decided that from now on they will regulate even more closely the activity in these sites by way of legislation sanctioning anyone who, in accordance with official criteria, tries, by way of social media, or web sites, “… to spread, using public data transmission networks, information contrary to social or moral interest, good custom, or the integrity of any person …”, and, at the same time, prohibits the operation of any site whose primary server functions outside Cuba, with a penalty of up to 1000 CUP.

The controversial measures announced by the Ministry of Communications had already leaked out, to “authorise” — for which read “limit” or “control” — SNet, the extensive offline medium which has operated clandestinely for years in Cuba. The Ministry will limit the maximum power of its equipment to 100 milliwatts, which in practice would imply its eventual collapse. If on top of that we now add the new prohibition on freely putting anything out “contrary to social interest …” — which is a catch-all for just about anything — from public media, we begin to see la mano peluda [the dismembered hairy hand, which is a famous Mexican horror image] behind the cradle. continue reading

These measures reveal the evident terror, which has sprung up in the Cuban regime, of the power of the media to mobilise and speak out, and demonstrate perfectly clearly why they have done, and continue to do, everything they can to set back the penetration of the internet in our country, and imposing, one step at a time, the strictest censorship, maintaining a systematic domestic intelligence on what information is entering or leaving Cuba; and all of this on the basis of pricing which is prohibitive for ordinary Cubans.

Although the Havana oligarchs are fearful of a potential tropical version of the Arab Spring, without doubt they are aware that a North Korean style model of cyber control is a bit over the top in our context since it would be very disturbing  for a tourism industry in evident decline and would lead to perpetual awkward protests in many virtual and physical forums. Because of that, the guys from the Plaza [La Plaza de la Revolucion, Havana – where many political rallies take place] have opted for an alternative, less contentious, strategy of containment, but one which is nearly as efficient as that model.

With this alternative version, the Castro dictatorship has opted for a mixture, which varies with whatever tactical necessity, of a Beijing type totalitarianism and a Stalinist practice, which is by no means extinct, with the unmistakable signature of the KGB: systematic censorship using aggressive commentators, and the perpetual use of legions of trolls, cleverly combined with physical repression of activist dissidents and the independent press, such as by the use of laws which severely punish “crimes” which are just rights vetoed by a police state.

And, although the potential of social media in Cuba has not yet been more than hinted at, it’s quite enough for some shit to hit the panic button in the reactionary Politburo of the Central Committee and the cold offices of its despicable political police, which is where, without doubt, they are better able to assess the situation , because it is where they are better informed about the general frustration felt in the street, and the real extent of the hatred  felt by the Cuban people for those responsible for their misrule and subjugation.

Nevertheless, up to now, we hardly attend the habitual complaints of arbitrary raids and constant short-term arrests, the pitiless deluge of taunts against General “Jutía” Frías rambling on like an old idiot about ostriches [Comandante de la Revolucion who, in the face of Cuban food shortages, said “let them eat ostriches” or the repeated messages under the hashtag #BajenLosPreciosDeInternet denouncing the monopolistic abuses of ETECSA (the state telecoms company), among other nonsense and excesses.

Although the consequences haven’t always been virtual: we were also witnesses to how, on 12th of May last, the social media were the determining factor in the irreverent mobilisation of the LGBTI community in Havana, which resulted in a scandalous, and definitely physical, repressive operation organised by the State Security in the Paseo de Prado, and this still has a bad smell. It looks like we are all up to here with authorities who are  completely unwilling to tolerate any disagreement, whether physical or virtual.

There are various indications which show that the Cuban dictatorship continues to be stuck in the ’60’s: the recent imposition of Law 349 which, even when it has been watered down, seriously limits creative freedom, or the amendment imposed to the recently-approved Cinema Law, which will be the mano peluda (see the above translator’s note) which will, at the end of the day, authorise such licences. Although all that intransigence could be more clearly seen summed up in the embarrassing harangue that Diaz-Canel gave on the eve of the the UNEAC Congress — virtually a carbon copy of Fidel Castro’s notorious “Words to the intellectuals“, seen by many as a veiled threat.

Although, in reality, what is coming up now has been practised before by the regime and widely known and suffered by the dissidents. The only thing new here is the official advert, and as this site operates out of WordPress, a platform whose servers are of course not in Cuba, I could not turn a deaf ear, after which there is nothing much more to add.

My last words will, therefore, be brief — and I hope will be well understood by everyone who commits cyber identity theft, and every repressor: this humble blog is a space for free thought, in which I exercise my human right to express my sincerely-held opinions, and no tyrant has any authority over that. This site will stay open and active as long as there is a de facto power in my country which violates the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of my people.

Right now I am living temporarily outside of Cuba, but when I return, and I will definitely, if there is still this unfair regulation in place, I will not let it crush me, and every word I have said here I will keep to against all banners. The person who administers Ciudadano Cero (that is, this blog) is ready to defend his right to express his opinion, from wherever, regardless of the consequences.

Ah! … and on that subject: I, like Jose Daniel Ferrer, dont pay fines either

Translated by GH

Reflection on the Student Protest in Havana / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Cuban police repressing Congolese Medical Students protesting the failure to pay their stipends.

Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 17 April 2019 — He would allow me to call him ‘brother’ even though he doesn’t know me. It would be enough to know that I am a Cuban doctor who graduated in 1994 in Havana, three facts about myself that made me feel moved by the events that took place some day ago for him and the rest of the Congolese students in the Student Residence of the Salvador Allende School of Medicine.

During my years at G and 25th streets, studying on a scholarship at the Calixto García Faculty in the early 90s, I met more than a few African students, among them some Congolese, and I remember them as good students, generally focused and calm, educated and affable , good companions and friends.

That is why the protests now being carried out by this generation convinced me, from their very first moments, that there must be very good reasons for the mood to get so heated. Then I learned that for months to students had been appealing to whatever authority they could to try to solve something clearly unfair, receiving only evasive responses; the reasons began to emerge. continue reading

Then we saw how the official Cuban press, with its usual cynicism, spoke in terms of “delay,” when in fact it is about the blatant non-payment of 27 months of the stipends of hundreds of students! Students who know that this money should have arrived monthly in their hands by virtue of a clearagreement. They also infer — which is even more outrageous — that this money was perhaps diverted, with a very high degree of certainty, into the pockets of some other corrupt official.

No one is surprised to hear such an offensive euphemism from the official Cuban press, because it is already part of the usual shamelessness of this monster controlled by the same despots of the Plaza of the Revolution who, by that time, had sent their repressive elite troops against defenseless students, totally screwed in the already extinct autonomous university.

Nothing makes a dictatorship more nervous than a public protest, whatever its size. But when those squads of special troops deployed threateningly in front of the school, it was not really against these young Congolese that the message was directed; these students, despite their many reasons, were protesting peacefully. That message of intimidation was targeted directly against the subconscious of the Cuban people, and was launched by a dictatorship expert in exercising all kinds of physical and psychological violence.

It was a diaphanously clear message: do not be sympathetic, public protests are strictly forbidden in Castro’s Cuba, on pain of receiving the most devastating beating. A clear warning was thus issued to all the Cuban people, now that the Castro regime is going through one of its deepest economic and political crises, while Caracas is faltering and Havana’s credibility is at rock bottom, and they are fearfull the protests will become widespread due to the unjustifiable poverty accumulated after six decades of opportunism and neglect.

The Cuban dictatorship is too cunning to not realize that it is sitting on a powder keg, it knows very well that my people hate it to the core, and like the fear this people town exhibits, gratuitously and whenever the opportunity presents, it unleashed all its repressive brutality.

In that tense moment the merits of the demands didn’t matter to Havana’s repressors. None of the reasons given would move them at all: sixty years of turning a deaf ear to the needs of millions of Cubansmust have trained them to ignore any such complaint. Once again it was a matter of repressing simply to repress, because that is a cardinal question of principles for any good dictatorship.

And, for the cherry on top, ultimately we heard that someone, on behalf of several students, by message on social networks. immediately magnified by the government press, apologized to the Cuban people.

Although the demands were very clear and were directed exclusively and unequivocally to the government of the Congo, the puppet press in Havana did not wait and expanded on baseless accusations, launching gratuitous accusations about an alleged “political manipulation” of the facts by the “enemies of the Revolution,” something that in no way corresponded to the truth.

I already imagine the pressures to which they would be subjected, and in this respect all fear is justified. Let’s not forget that the university in Cuba does not belong to the people, but to the “revolutionaries.”  We recall the recent expulsions of several university students for political reasons, and that the infamous “Rapid Response Brigades” were once again activated in each of these central universities.

And all this does not happen in 1965, but in 2019, which establishes an uninterrupted line of terror that covers the entire Castro regime, and there are the facts to prove it before history.

But what is said, is said, and I would answer: brother, this good people that welcomes you today does not need your apologies. Rather thank you to remember them with your gallantry in times past, when the university staircase was a sacred site; that there was once a University Student Federation (FEU) founded by that brave Julio Antonio Mella murdered for his ideas, and then guided by an José Antonio Echavarría to star in the most reckless gesture of that Revolution, so authentic and necessary and then later betrayed by the great demagogue, Fidel Castro.

There is nothing left of that FEU, only its mute complicity, hidden in its mousetrap while the riot police repressed its own students — because most of those students must have active membership in the FEU — it’s worth remembering that more than half a century ago that FEU, like the rest of the organizations of its kind in Cuba, was castrated and reduced to rubble, to its sad role today under direct control of and in the exclusive service of the Communist Party.

The repression now suffered by these young Africans is the same long suffered for six decades by the Cuban people, who have exhausted the hope of justice and have only received, like them, unfulfilled promises, vain verbiage thrown to the wind by a caste of neo-bourgeois whose presence at the head of my country is their greatest shame. This clan of decrepit old people, despoilers of the public treasury of the Cuban nation, who eternally announce bad times, today invite us to be sated with jutía skin and ostrich tripe from the opulence of their table.

But I know that deep down they no longer deceive they, because with the beating came the disenchantment, confessed or unconfessed, it hardly matters anymore. I only hope that when, once graduated and wherever he is, when my friend remembers Cuba he knows how to distinguish clearly between the dictatorship and my people that I know would allow me to call him brother, even if he does not know me. And may he never forget that this time life put us in the same ring on the side of the offended.

Dilemma of Cuban Doctors Withdrawn from Brazil / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Jeovany Vega — Why are so few people surprised that the Castro regime withdrew its collaborators from the Mais Medicos (More Doctors) program in Brazil?

As soon as his investiture was announced, the elected president of the giant of the south, Jair Balsonaro, confirmed what he had announced several months ago and what already seems an accomplished fact: he will only allow the Cuban physicians to remain in Brazil if they pass a Brazilian licensing exam and if they are paid their salary in full regardless of the intermediation of the government of Havana. In exchange, he guarantees these professionals immediate residence in country and visas for all their family members, something the Plaza of the Revolution rejected outright, as expected.

The modifications announced impose unacceptable conditions and breach the guarantees agreed upon since the beginning of the Program…” argued the Cuban Ministry of Public Health, although in reality the dictatorship’s meaning is: such modifications would not allow me to cheat my slaves out of three quarters of their salary which, until now, I was unscrupulously stealing. continue reading

This clearly demonstrates that as far as the Cuban dictatorship is concerned, closing off the faucet of profit also automatically and instantly extinguishes its “philanthropic vocation.” Because according to the words through which the Castros have governed Cuba, “philanthropy” has presumably been the raison d’etre of the more than sixty official medical missions that the regime of the island sustains abroad: everything has been done, first and foremost, for purely humanitarian reasons.

That, in passing, these magnates have pocketed more than 10 billion dollars, guaranteed, each year for the last two decades, well… those are secondary details! But absolutely first and foremost, according to the cynical jargon of the dictators, has been the “internationalist vocation” of the Cuban “Rob-olution” and the altruism of those thousands of professionals who opted fervently for that alternative, not as an act of despair because in Cuba they live on the verge of misery with an absurd salary, but rather because everything they did was done disinterestedly for the poor of the Earth.

But now, suddenly, it seems the poverty of Brazil’s favelas — its urban slums — and Amazon has ended. Now, that the pimp will not receive more easy money, it turns out that he collects his shillings and orders his pure victims to report immediately in Havana. Now that the money for the dictatorship has stopped flowing, the same poor people who until yesterday adorned the rhetoric of the speeches no longer matter.

How many doctors will return to Cuba* and how many will have the courage to dare to try their luck and exercise freely in that country, from now on under decent conditions? Half and half? Will a third, or a quarter, defect? This remains to be seen. Betting on a figure is risky because you should not underestimate the power of coercion, intimidation and control which the most virulent dictatorship in the hemisphere is capable of exercising over its citizens, even when separated from them by thousands of miles across the sea.

We cannot forget that when they went to Brazil they left behind in Cuba  parents, husbands and wives and children held hostage, and that the regime is an expert in playing those cards without mercy whenever it pleases, and much more so if they give it the ability to hurt where it hurts most.

Nobody doubts the certain reprisals Havana will take against the irreverent ones. In fact, many cases visits from the “black hand of the regime” have already been reported by family members on the island, threatening them with greater or lesser subtlety, but always leaving clearly planted the aberrant idea: if their family members in Brazildare to desert they will not see them again for at least eight years

Undoubtedly, risking close to a decade without seeing one’s children will be something that will have a strong dissuasive power, and this is very clear to the Cuban collaborators themselves, so the decision will depend on the concept that each one has of himself, the degree of nobility she is capable of taking on this dilemma, and — why not? — even their philosophy of life; in short, something reserved only for the elect, for those more free, or perhaps the most reckless?

But if there is one thing there is no question about, it is that with this move Balsonaro screwed, in fact really fucked, Raul Castro and company, because those more than 11,400 Cuban doctors deployed in Brazil, represented so far nothing more and nothing less than a fifth of the total collaborators deployed all over the world, which implies that the pimps of the Plaza will suddenly find more than 2 billion dollars per year will disappear and no longer be deposited in their secret accounts.

And to this multibillion-dollar impact must be added to despicable political blow dealt to the very testicles of the dictatorship when the final number of deserters is announced, and the repressors know it, which is why they haven’t wasted any time to avoid it, making use of their usual miserable tricks.

But in the end, would Havana risk retaining thousands of relatives in Cuba who request reunification with the approval of the host country? What would it argue in that case to disguise what would clearly be an open retaliation, violating the most basic rights of those families separated by force? Would it be able to withstand the political pressure that thousands of Elians** would generate, but vice versa, requested by their parents to join them, from Brazil? Only to imagine the drama intimidates.

But let us not underestimate a well-demonstrated fact: the ability of the island’s authorities, always blinded by arrogance, to shuffle obtuse decisions in the face of similar situations in order to finally settle for the stupidest, for which the above-mentioned is a scenario that can not be discarded at all.

Let us not forget that greed obfuscates these satraps who continue to call the authentic democratic exercise of parliament that, making a natural use of its powers, pushed aside the corrupt Dilma Rousseff through tools clearly established in their laws and its Constitution, a “… legislative-judicial coup d’état … ”

A second wave of the Ladies in White could be the answer to such a decree, something that I, in the place of Raul Castro, would not risk at a time when his ill-fated day is approaching: the one that will see Nicolás Maduro leave through a popular and forceful kick in the ass in the already imminent elections of 2019, and a replacement announcing from Miraflores Palace, in the name of the Venezuelan people, that they are not willing to serve as pimps for Havana.

Translator’s notes:

*This article was written before the final accounting of doctors returning and not returning to Cuba from Brazil, but it appears that a considerable number stayed behind.

** A reference to Elian Gonzalez, the child rafter rescued from the sea, who in the year 2000 was the subject of a major international spectacle as his custody was disputed.

Alejandro Castro Espin: President of Cuba for 2023? / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Raul Castro’s son, Colonel Alejandro Castro Espín.

Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 27 January 2018 — The very notable absence of Colonel Alejandro Castro Espín on the nominating list of the National Assembly of People’s Power only confirms the suspicions of many analysts: the Castro clan opted to continue ruling from the sidelines. It was an open secret that the Prince of the Plaza was contemplated until relatively recently by the elite of Havana as a real possibility to be the next president, should it happen that, at the decisive moment, there was no other candidate both predictable enough and completely lacking in charisma so as not to be a threat to the establishment.

Someone minimally presentable and capable of taking on the masquerade of the Castro “succession” before the world.  But once the complete submission of the current dauphin, vice president Miguel Diaz-Canel, to the government’s hardline was secured, the soup was ready to be served. continue reading

Many foresaw it. Personally, I always doubted Castro Espín’s intentions to stand for President in 2018. To take for granted such a step was to underestimate the chameleonic capacity for mimicry of a dictatorship like the Cuban one, which has never needed to expose itself so crudely.

Baring oneself and putting one’s true dynastic vocation on display is something that does not go with the style of the Birán clan. Those would be pathetic vulgarities that would be expected from cartoons like Kim Jong-un from his Pyongyang headquarters, but not from the fine boys in Havana.

Here in the tropics the minions of my people have been incomparably more creative and subtle. For one thing, they have squandered a considerable part of our heritage — the part they did not manage to hide in Switzerland — in putting together one of the most extensive and paralyzing intelligence apparatuses in the world. This apparatus, “coincidently,” now happens to be in the hands of Castro Espín, which suggests a quiet hurricane season for 2018.

That Raúl Castro will continue to govern the island from his position as First Secretary of the Communist Party no one doubts, not even those dumber than a plank; that is something already written in the Bible. However, it might seem confusing to those who evaluate the Cuban reality from the outside and do not understand that in this country the People’s Power has never ruled, since who really calls the shots here is the Supreme Party.

From the seat of the Central Committee the only legal party in Cuba dictates by decree all the country’s policies, without exception, which are then presented before the most docile and indecent “Parliament” in the world, where they are all are ratified by unanimous agreement.

With this farce guaranteed no one should doubt that as of this April the real leader will continue to be Raul Castro from his position at the head of the Communist Party. After all, this is what he’s trained his henchmen for.

From his strategic position at the head of the “mega-firm” GAESA, his former son-in-law General Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Callejas today monopolizes two thirds of the Cuban economy through direct control of the largest and most lucrative corporations in the country, practically all managed by the military.

On the other hand his son, the aforementioned Colonel Castro Espín, for several years now has been the main depository of every secret of the fearsome Cuban intelligence and counterintelligence, with all of its enormous power of penetration, threat and blackmail.

Looking at the matter in persepctive, one arrives at the obvious conclusion that everything will be in-house, and Raul Castro will be “retired” from the government, with everyone’s back well-covered. That is why this mafia will not need to expose itself to the public light: to maintain an absolute control it will be enough to put any marionette on the stage and let him perform his clowning before the world.

It could be Diaz-Canel, Esteban Lazo, or even someone as gray as Bruno Parrilla, and they might just as easily have summoned from among the deceased Enrique Arredondo, Teófilo Stevenson or Agustín Marquetti, it would not matter. It would be the least important detail because none of them, neither those nor these, would be able to decide absolutely anything during the buffoonery that Cuba will witness during the next five years.

So after this next five-year term, looking ahead to the “elections” of 2023, the true intentions of the family clan will be clear, because by then all the police and propaganda apparatus of power will be turned over to progressively imposing Alejandro Castro Espín as successor to the throne.

Anyone who wants to see the picture most clearly can pour water on it. They will have time to prepare their shells according to the regulations of Castro Primero, having passed through Castro Segundo, with this “democratic” five-year bypass — called to convince the most naive that in Cuba there never existed a North Korean style dynastic socialism — until the final and strategic consummation of the plan: a third Castro president starting 2023, and with obvious intentions to perpetuate himself in power. Who knows? It could be for another 50 years.

Once this is understood, to calibrate the final formula it is enough to add the classic 0.5% of informants and repressors estimated as sufficient in the dictatorship manuals, and scatter them along each street of this little island; all that cream of unscrupulousness floating on the dung heap of opportunism which is never lacking in these situations; as well as the dozens of loyal retired generals actively guarding their little scraps of power, among other disgraces, all of this emanating from Castroism.

Let us remember José Martí: The bad only triumph where the good are indifferent. Many other variables influence this dynamic, of course, but among the most important, undoubtedly, are the immobility and indolence of all the current generations of Cubans, the institutionalized apathy and the absolute civic apathy in which this country has sunk, and the ignominy and greed that still threaten to perpetuate miseries on the exhausted remains of the Cuban nation.

Sonic Attack in Havana. A Script Worthy of Hollywood? / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 3 October 2017 — You could see the present diplomatic crisis between Cuba and the United States as just one more stage in the long running saga, but the present duel is nevertheless different from the others,  having arisen in the difficult context of the arrival of an administration in the White House which has never concealed its intention of radically changing its predecessor’s legacy in relation to the dictatorship.

In the course of the succession of North American presidents since 1959, there has never been such a marked divergence of intentions between two successive occupants in relation to the government of the island. If we dismiss the barely hinted at approaches by Kennedy just before he was assassinated, not even the contrast between Jimmy Carter’s suggested detente and Ronald Reagan’s reinstated hard line is comparable in its violence with the post-Obama about-turn. continue reading

For that reason the present diplomatic crisis provoked by the suspected acoustic attack against American diplomats in the Havana embassy has its own particular flavour. In fact it is the first one of such importance which has occurred since Trump’s arrival, and, worryingly, has greater long term implications than the foreign policy changes announced last June.

But what really hits you in the face is that the US has flat out suspended the issue of visas and is withdrawing three out of every five diplomats based in Havana under the pretext of such an inconsistent and unbelievable accusation. Biassed accusations from the North American side and minimal comment from the Cuban have characterised this story for months, and today most of us have no proper idea of what happened.

We are talking about supposed sonic attacks (??) which ended up causing psychological and auditory damage to 21 embassy officials, according to the Americans, who have not directly accused the Cuban government but have strongly hinted at it publicly. Havana has, of course, replied that it knows nothing, but is ready to collaborate in any way to clarify the situation.

But, at the end of the day, who could be behind these supposed attacks? Who could want a total diplomatic breakdown? This needs a cool logical analysis because behind the answer to these question is the face of a conspirator.

The American version has various strange aspects. According to this, the attacks occurred in different hotels in Havana, as well as in the embassy. But to claim that, with a sniper’s accuracy, they only affected the eardrums and brains of diplomatic officials, and to be able to commit this damage over such a long period of time without it being picked up by the counter-espionage resources attached to the embassy, is pretty inconsistent.

There haven’t even been any reports of collateral injury in any of these locations affecting Cuban employees, or those of any other countries — if there are any — working in the embassy, or other workers, neighbours, or non-American tourists potentially exposed by chance to the attack. This is something, at least, very strange; it sounds too bizarre.

But even so, and if we grant for the moment that the attacks happened, we still haven’t defined who ordered them. And I say that because the notion of carrying out the aggression off their own bat in the context of a false news operation will always be a possibility in a geopolitical U-turn, especially when we are dealing with the United States.

We cannot forget the sinking of the battleship Maine — the US pretext for barging into the Spanish-Cuban war — or the attack which was permitted in Pearl Harbour, which was used as the pretext for entering into the Second World War, when all the Japanese Admiralty communications intercepted in real time allowed them to fully anticipate the attack. Don’t even talk about the 9/11 disasters with the dozens of examples of outrageous evidence accusing the George W. Bush administration of, at least, open complicity — all with the objective of Middle Eastern influence. There are dozens of other examples.

Therefore it is worth analysing the posture struck by both parties in regard to the resumption and maintenance of diplomatic relations, as well as the convenience, or not, for either side, of the refreezing of the thaw.

Looking at the North American side, one can see a crude manoeuvre to justify the reduction to the minimum possible the work of the recently unveiled embassy in Havana, without going for a total rupture: a kind of being incommunicado, or Cold War Diplomacy, as you might say.

Above all, Trump has never disguised his dislike of immigration, and, with these measures, he can guarantee the interruption, for now, of the granting of thousands of visas for Cubans, at the same time as, undoubtedly advised by the hard-line Florida lobby, depriving the dictatorship of its main escape valve.

What would Trump gain? As well as cutting off the flow of thousands of potential immigrants assisted by the Cuban Adjustment Act, he will have worked out that in very little time the internal pressures will become unmanageable for a second Castro who needs some peaceful pastureland to feed the  millions in his flock, without shocking them.

Looking at the Cuban side, it could be a stupid hard line move by the Plaza of the Revolucion but a practical one, in order to revert to the icy tone of the Cold War instead of carrying on towards a thaw. In spite of everything, the motto remains “be unscrupulous” and nothing will get in the way of its desire to make sure the puppet stays in its place, because they know that only by keeping the domino immobilised can they control the reins of a people who are every day more impatient.

What would  Raúl Castro and his people gain from this? Keeping control. At the end of the day, they know that Trump is serious when he says that he gives nothing for nothing, the know that they are dealing with an inflexible negotiator, and there is no way they are going to go along with the proposed formula: doing business with the Cubans, but without much to do with Castro’s military conglomerate. In other words, nothing for the tyrant. It’s a question of take it or leave it – period. Nothing like Obama’s weak little gestures which gave no additional freedom to Liberio [ed. note: a kind of  traditional Cuban “good ol’ boy”, and, by extension, the Cuban people].

This waste-of-space is not interested in too many opening moves, which he has demonstrated often enough. But what is clear is that money sent back by emigrants — with the Cuban Americans without doubt sending a substantial percentage — is one of the main sources of foreign exchange right now — estimated at about $3.5 billion in total — for which, if we are talking about motives, every move which affects the flow of emigrants works against the inflow of money, or, what comes to the same thing, less money to put in his personal piggy banks. That wouldn’t seem to be the intention of Ali Baba and his 40 generals.

In this autumn thriller, the compass’s moving finger points accusingly toward the magnetic north. While that is happening Donald Trump will go on making his demands and Raúl Castro, as always, will bet on his hostages.

Translated by GH

Freedom in Cuba from a Bird’s Eye View / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 2 September 2017 — After the experience of a trip to Cuba, the Peruvian columnist Alfredo Bullard remains convinced that the solution to the Cuban problem involves everything from liberation from the government of Donald Trump to more business activity and travel by Americans to the island.

I believe that expressing an opinion without deep knowledge of an issue is not something that a responsible journalist should do, at least not one whose column appears in a newspaper aimed at millions of readers. This is a luxury reserved for modest digital news sites like Ciudano Cero (Citizen Zero) but incompatible with the expectations of respected publications. In such cases, success depends on research and prior, careful study, especially when dealing with a dictatorship that has long exhibited an extraordinary talent for deception and disingenuousness. continue reading

Bullard’s first mistake was in presuming that freedom, an elusive and abstract concept, can be achieved so easily — one might almost say physically — by doing someting as simple as dropping leaflets over Havana’s seaside promenade, the Malecón. But it does not make sense when dealing with closed societies such as Cuba and North Korea. In these instances, any analysis must first and foremost take into account decades of indiscriminate indoctrination that has caused untold moral harm and turned citizens into apathetic and uncritical masses, stript of their civic involvement. These are wounds that will take virtually a generation to overcome and whose ultimate conequence is the awful weight of social apathy caused by too many decades of unchecked abuse of power.

To claim that it is private businesses — hostals, restaurants and cafes for example — where the greatest battle of ideas is taking place in Cuba today suggests a total ignorance of our reality. To say something like that indicates an almost complete misreading of Cuban affairs. It ignores the reckless activism waged for many years and decades by Cuba’s political opposition, which has fought a continuous, uphill battle against one of the best organized and most repressive intelligence agencies the world has ever seen.

In fact, it is precisely these businesses where I would least expect to find open or even casual discussions critical of the Castro-communist regime. It is an axiom, written in stone at the entrance to each of these establishments, that their very survival is dependent on their owners’ complete acquiescence to authority, something even the lowliest employee knows all too well, the sine qua non. The threat of immediate closure has always proven to be a highly effective tool of social coercion.

I challenge anyone to look online and find even one anti-establishment webpage maintained by one of these entrepreneurs and I will calmly put my right hand under the guillotine with all the confidence in the world. I will then raise my hand intact as evidence that a flourishing private sector without political reforms would not necessarily lead to a greater array of dissenting opinions. At least not given the current rules of the game.

It seems Bullard is completely unaware that all the wealth generated by businesses and travelers from the U.S., which he claims would lead to greater freedom, would go directly into the hands of the Castro regime, not to the country’s people. It is a unmitigated error to look for the causes of our misfortune outside of Cuba. It is not about Donald Trump, nor the persistence of the American embargo, nor the shortage of American tourists. No, the essential causes of all our ills is always be found in the obsessions of four senile old men who from the Plaza of the Revolucion keep an entire country in a state of backwardness with their capricious whims and penurious personal interests.

Our columnist is mistaken if he believes that casual contact with tourists is enough to ignite and maintain this enthusiasm for private business. If that is what he thinks, he is totally ignorant of our experience. In fact, our entrepreneurial spirit was never completely snuffed out. There are hundreds if not thousands of clandestine workshops and businesses nurtured by the black market behind the back of the autocratic state. They can serve you with a beer on a back patio as they repair your Sputnik and put it into orbit. A notable example? Our celebrated almendrones — restored American cars from the 1950s — those sixty-year old testaments to Creole ingenuity, which does not give out even in the most trying circumstances. It is precisely that spirit that intimidates those in power and is the reason they tie our hands.

Does Mr. Bullard believe that enthusiasm is all it takes for an entrepreneur to keep a business in Cuba open without the existence of a basic wholesale market, in the midst of the worst shortages in our history and when faced with an army of inspectors on constant attack and armed with a body of absurd laws whose only purpose is to hinder success? Every enterprise of this type in Cuba gets by on pure courage, with no thanks to the Castro government but rather in spite of it.

According to analyses like that of Bullard, not taking advantage of “openings” that the Cuban government is “allowing” in order to bring freedom to the island is a stupid political strategy. However, so is not being aware that these so-called openings are nothing more than a pure scam, glitz intended to deceive the world. There is nothing authentic, certain or sincere to be found in them. Coming from a naive beginner, these comments could be taken as a baffling dispaly of myopia, but not from a professional journalist.

Or perhaps Bullard is ignoring the fact that, of every one-hundred private businesses that register in Cuba, no less than eighty close within a few months. Are Cubans bad managers? No. The regime itself has admitted that its strategy is to prevent the “accumulation of wealth” — in other words, to prevent people from being prosperous — at all costs. At the beginning of August, Raúl Castro issued a clear warning by launching an offensive against the private sector, canceling business licenses for dozens of previously allowed activities.

Where but in Havana are laws drafted that restrain Cuba’s private sector economy, ignore farmers’ management decisions and prohibit the free sale of their products, resulting in half the nation’s crops rotting in the field? What good is a livestock farmer’s “enthusiasm” if current laws severely restrict his economic growth? What openings are people talking about when there are dozens of legal tools designed specifically to thwart the success of non-state initiatives, tools used over and over to seize the properties of “backsliders”?

Who drafts the laws that handcuff our most cherished civil and political rights? Washington perhaps? No, all these aberrations have been crafted in Havana. What purpose is served when the eagerness and desire of Cuban exiles to invest in their own country is banned  for decades by the bad faith of the implacable dictatorship? No purpose is served.

It is neither Trump nor his predecessors who have deprived the Cuban nation of its accumulated wealth. It is the bad faith of the Castro brothers.

Blithely expressing an opinion about Cuba today — a society crushed by a totalitarian dictatorship in which things are never as they seem — will always carry a high risk of error. Bullard’s point of view overlooks one key detail: the dictatorship itself.

Talking With The Enemy / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 29 May 2017 —  Yes, General, on this point I entirely agree with you: “The enemy uses ever more sophisticated information weapons”. He clearly is the enemy; the one who stubbornly opposes all my people’s progress; the one who brazenly deprives them of their rights; who obliges them to live in misery; who lies to them with empty slogans, and without any sign of embarrassment, who embezzles their resources and squanders them on sectarian whims; who forcefully suppresses dissident voices, and who stoops to the vileness of dragging and hitting defenceless women without even respecting his own laws.

Thanks to terror enforced by brutality, firing squad and prison, these accomplished villains managed to take all the levers of power from the beginning of the 60’s, ending up ruining a country intended by nature to be prosperous, and today we can see how these awful people are sharing out what they have looted from my country. continue reading

Those terrible enemies of my people, General — used to their monopoly of lies — are the ones who  tremble with fear when light is thrown on the truth. But when things change — not thanks to them, but in spite of them — and there is something called progress and something inherent in human nature called free will, neologisms have appeared which don’t fit with absolutist jargon — words unintelligible to them, unpronounciable in the mouth of an enslaved people. Fully accessible, uncensored internet? OMG! Freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and association? Never! Among other licentiousness permitted by that cruel international capitalism which  surrounds us.

Because of the egotism, paranoia, cowardliness and stiffening of the mental joints on the part of those public enemies you mention, my country has just seen a string of excellent opportunities pass it by, offered by a North American president who broke with the approach of all his predecessors. Therefore, we can see how those same immoral people who yesterday barricaded themselves in, aluding to non-existent sirens of war, today climb back into the same trenches, hiding from the pipe of peace. When, in their arrogance, they decline to similarly hold out their hand, they show themselves once more to be against my people, like the incorrigible opportunists they have always been.

It’s precisely because of the pigheadedness of these enemy nonentities sitting in judgement over the Cuban people, General, that half of our harvests are still left to rot before they get to our tables, that a significant part of our fields continue to be covered by African marabú (a plant which is widespread in Cuba and seen as an intrusive pest) and another unjustifiable percentage left uncultivated while my country unnecessarily imports more than 1,700 million dollars worth of food a year – including, incredibly, part of its sugar requirement, while, as is well known, when these useless people arrived sixty years ago, Cuba was a net food exporter and the world’s biggest sugar exporter.

But it couldn’t be any other way in a country where two thirds of its businesses and corporations are run by military people who know nothing about the economy, but who, on the other hand, have been decorated, with honours, for their swindles and embezzlement. What I say, General, is that if an independent journalist can be imprisoned in Cuba because, according to the political police, “He does not have a degree in that profession, is not authorised by the government, nor registered in any agency recognised by the Cuban government”, then the same logic should be applied to those people, and all the Cuban military should be relieved of all civil positions and responsibilities, and should stick to their armed forces activities, the only area of influence they should exercise, given their exclusively military training.

All in all, General, it doesn’t happen very often, but this time you are quite right: right now, the best technology in the country is in the hands of the absolute enemy of the Cuban people. These people, wanting to firm up their unscrupulous strategies, have got broadband, every imaginable satellite connection, the latest cellphones, and unlimited resources for supplying legions of subnormal trolls / agents trying to create currents of opinion favourable to the dictatorship which supports them.

These enemies are the ones who control the ETECSA monopoly (Cuban telecoms company), which is seated like a merciless giant on the doorstep of all the poor people, and which imposes sky-high tariffs for poor telephone service, slow, expensive and censored internet, which is only accessible in the tropical sun on those sidewalks where you can get wi-fi. It’s the same people who bug and listen in to every conversation and message sent from and within Cuba, the same people who wipe your email intray, hack embarrassing websites and censor controversial pages.

But, can I tell you something, General? The fact remains that, for the enemies of my people, your time is up. And you know we can see your fear. The wave of uncontrolled violence against the peaceful opposition in my country during the last year shows your desperation. You know that my people have long since stopped loving you – if that’s what you can call something cooked up by lies. Now, definitely, they just hate you and fear you. That’s why this riff raff launches wave upon unmerciful wave of repression, because they know that fear is the only and last weapon they have left.

Fortunately, fear is a feeling which is phony, fleeting, and fades with time. Now, an ever-increasing part of my people has stopped being afraid of their tormentors and has decided no longer to bow down before the tyrants. But this personal liberation emits a dangerously contagious aura and the enemy knows it. And, although you try to look imperturbable, nevertheless your nervousness betrays you.

I deduce that you yourself have enemies like that. If you happen to bump into them, please tell them, in the name of the Cuban people, that this is the time for them to get out of our way. It’s necessary, and for your own good, General, that you know it too.

Translated by GH

Fidel Castro: The Tyrant Exits but the Damage Remains / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Illustration from El Universo.

Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 29 November 2016 — The dictator Fidel Castro died last Friday at the age of 90. The extensive news coverage was to be expected. After all, he was both the object of the most romantic, idealized love and the most scathing, caustic hatred. Gone was the man who, over the last six decades, had left his imprint on Cuban history, a man who was unquestionably one of the most controversial figures of the twentieth century.

There is little to say that has not already been said about this tyrant, so there is little point in now rehashing extensive accounts of his life. It seems more prudent to ask a basic question that might summarize what imprint this man had on Cuban society. continue reading

What did Fidel Castro leave behind? What did Cubans inherit from his more than half-century legacy? The answer is not always a simple one because almost nothing is simple in Cuba, where the reality itself is often tinged with varying shades of light and shadow.

From Fidel Castro’s point of view, he leaves behind a country with virtually no illiteracy and an educational system accessible to everyone everywhere within the country’s borders. It seems idyllic, especially in light of the repeated positive assessments by UNICEF. But let’s not forget an essential point: Not everything here is so rosy.

There is only one centralized, compulsory system of education, imposed on everyone, which provides no alternative. Parents cannot choose what kind of schooling their children will receive. Every day children must swear an oath: “Pioneers for Communism; we will be like Che!” They are taught by educators suffering from enormous personal frustration. In exchange for their enormous efforts, teachers receive paltry salaries, working under the most inadequate of conditions in schools that are in near ruin. Additionally, every child is subjected to political indoctrination, which is responsible in large part for the unfortunate loss of civic culture paralyzing Cuban society today.

And what is there to say about public health? The country which boasts of its achievements in biotechnology, universal childhood vaccination and state-of-the-art clinics catering to foreigners — comparable only to those reserved for exclusive use by elite government officials — is the same country whose neighborhood medical clinics stand empty and whose pharmacies suffer from a constant shortage of medications.

Its excellent doctors are paid poverty-level wages, must deal with unimaginable scarcities and work under deplorable conditions in hospitals which are structurally unsound and which, in many instances, should be demolished.

The government of Fidel Castro has always relied on its medical missions to more than sixty countries — “in search of the world’s poor” — as its trump card. Under the heel of Raul Castro, those same missions greedily skim 70% off the salaries of its overseas medical personnel.

This slave trade generates between 8 to 10 billion dollars a year. Meanwhile, the government shamelessly rails, with characteristic cynicism, against worldwide capitalist exploitation.

The very serious crisis in Cuban sport is so obvious that it is scarcely worth discussing. The defections of more than two-hundred top-flight baseball players to the “brutal north” in search of better opportunities in recent years are a slap in the face of the deceased, who used sport as a weapon of propaganda. But the humiliating and mediocre performances of a wide range of athletes in international arenas suggest that things could hardly get much worse.

And what has the “invincible” comandante left behind on the field of economics? Anything one might say on such a potent and cruel topic risks sounding redundant. The profound economic damage resulting from the endless trail of Fidel Castro’s erratic policies continues to have ongoing repercussions. So absurd and systemic was the damage that it has become insoluble, at least under the current rules of the game imposed by the military dictatorship, which subordinates everything to its perverse predilection for control.

In spite of having enjoyed the world’s most generous subsidies — courtesy of the former Soviet Union —for its first three decades, Cuba has never experienced a period of real economic independence or credible growth during the entire Castro era. It later suckled on the nipple provided by Hugo Chavez, who always had to cradle the drooling mouth of the silly child because it never learned to support itself.

It is an undeniable fact that the comandante’s government, like that of its successor, never managed to overcome its prodigious parasitic habits. Its survival always depended on an outside supplier. In short, the dictator leaves behind a desolated country, perpetually in the red and without a a credible development plan in sight.

Did the comandante opt for persuasion, for convincing argument, in order to govern? Did he exercise his power through normal, healthy and necessary confrontation — free of judgment — with a dissenting legislature in which opposition was a daily reality, as in all free societies? Certainly not. From the very beginning, he penalized difference of opinion and buried the press under a blanket of hermetic censorship.

He monopolized national editorial policy and all mass media, maintaining an iron-fisted stranglehold which he never eased. Under his totalitarian dictatorship there was never anything that might be called a parliament. Instead, a circus of marionettes met once a year to give consent — always by unanimous vote — to orders previously approved by the Central Committee of his Communist Party.

The shocking human rights situation has been a constant for the entirety of the Castro regime. It represents a very long saga of systematic abuse, a logical consequence of having no separation of powers. The noteworthy indices of political repression have been the immutable backdrop of Cuban society for more than five decades, though they have become something of a scandal since the thaw in relations with the United States was announced. The dearly departed leaves behind, as testament to his despotism, about a hundred political prisoners in jail cells, to say nothing of the thousands who preceded them.

The comandante also bequeathed to Cuban history four great waves of emigration, confirming his scandalous failure as a ruler. Young people fled in terror from their enslavement, an eloquent expression of an entire people’s discontent. Well organized exoduses were augmented by an endless string of drownings from sunken rafts in the Florida Straits, a deeply painful saga for the Cuban people caused, once again, by Fidel Castro’s absolutism.

But let’s try to shed light on at least one small aspect of the genius which frontmen and toadies attribute to him. Let’s look at the tactical “solutions” the tyrant imposed as well as their practical and permanent long-term consequences. For example, no sooner had revolutionaries won than they found themselves with a housing problem. Did the comandante promote a coherent national program of building new housing to meet the demand? No. It was easier to steal long-held properties from their rightful owners through to the Urban Reform Law. The consequences? Even today, half a century later, housing remains one of the country’s most serious problems and perhaps the hardest one to solve.

In 1959 the newly triumphant comandante also found himself facing the problem of land distribution. But once the Agrarian Reform Law was adopted, did it create the conditions necessary for small-scale farmers to flourish? Did it vigorously stimulate agricultural and livestock production throughout the country? No. Instead it imposed one absurd regulation after another in order to impede, by any means necessary, agricultural producers’ financial success. It created multiple mechanisms to limit their profits and unleashed the Attorney General’s watchdogs on any misguided soul who had acquired wealth by dint of his own legitimate efforts.

The consequences? Even today, meager harvests rot in the fields thanks to the well-documented irresponsibility of the Empresa Nacional de Acopio (National Harvest Company) — an ineffective monopoly and the sole entity in charge agricultural harvesting. Even today, as an indefensibly large proportion of the country’s arable land remains plagued by maribu weed, Cuba imports millions of dollars worth of food, including — of all things — sugar. Fields lie untended due to, as always, the whims and stubbornness of the country’s rulers. Meanwhile, shortages of basic staples set new records week after week.

An uninterrupted mass exodus began in early 1959, most notably of professionals, when a segment of the population felt disappointed by the first populist measures. What did the newly-inaugurated prime minister, Fidel Castro, do to halt or discourage it? Did he improve working conditions or offer better salaries to those professionals? No. He chose, as usual, to restrict the the right of all Cubans to travel freely for decades and prohibited any overseas travel that did not have official authorization. The consequences? The island literally became one vast prison, serving as Fidel Castro’s private gulag for more than fifty years. During that time the despot deprived us of the universal right to freely come and go from our own country.

It is also worth remembering one fateful moment: When faced with the challenge of a democratic election in 1960, did he fulfill the promise he made in the Sierra Maestra to hold elections after eighteen months in power? Never! Instead he coined that celebrated slogan “Elections for what?” The unfortunate consequences of that failure translate into an absence of political freedom today. The consequences? Since then, there has been a complete disregard by Cuba’s military/political elite for our natural right to free thought and for many of the most basic human rights, an offensive contempt resulting from, above all, the twisted personality of Fidel Castro.

Faced with the persistence of tens of thousands of private businesses and family micro-enterprises throughout the country, did the comandante develop a parallel national system of consumer services that would compete on an equal footing with those of the extensive private sector? Was their promise finally fulfilled, providing better services to the people? Absolutely not. Instead, he launched the notorious Revolutionary Offensive in March 1968, which in a few months swept away the legacy of millions of entrepreneurs who had amassed their fortunes as a result of generations of honest work.

This wave of brazen confiscation, followed by widespread institutional laziness, led to a dramatic and irreversible decline in the food service industry and every possible consumer service from Cabo San Antonio to Punta Maisí. The consequences? Even today, this sector remains one of the most eloquent testimonials to the inefficiency and corruption of a system as centralized as that of Cuba.

In other words, this bearded reprobate always opted for the easiest, most mediocre, most simplistic solution — coincidentally, usually the one he had come up with — that in the long run would lead to the worst consequences.

Where is the supposed genius in leading the country into absurdist economic ruin, trampling on people’s human rights, putting power in the hands of an arrogant oligarchy with bourgeois tastes, creating a disturbed, dysfunctional society and turning it into a quagmire of moral ruin? What fanciful argument could purport that a life so aberrant and demonstrably harmful to the Cuban people was virtuous?

Other than stores in several countries being closed, there was nothing memorable about last Friday, November 25, except for the day’s top story. Nothing of consequence will happen in Cuba after this date because it marked an outcome for which the dictatorship has had sufficient time to prepare. The military will, for now, keep everything under control and business will continue as its usual.

The tyrant died but he left behind an intact dictatorship, with an organized army of henchmen and repressors well-trained in all manner of coercion, intimidation and blackmail. It acts like an eager, arrogant hitman who has his finger on the trigger, always at the ready. In his profound alienation, he would not hesitate to calmly pull it as soon as the order was received.

The dictatorship’s capacity for repression remains intact; the people remain totally defenselessness against the divine designs of the dictator on duty. We carry with us the execrable consequences of massive social indoctrination, which will require the passing of more than a generation to overcome its imprint of immorality once freedom finally arrives. Society still lacks the vital independent mechanisms to seriously address the true aspirations of the Cuban people.

All this notwithstanding, there have been many messages of condolence from a wide range of political and religious figures including Vladimir Putin, Mikhail Gorbachev, Xi Jinping, Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, Frei Betto and Pope Francis. Other diverse figures include soccer star Diego Maradona, every leftist president from Latin America and King Felipe of Spain.

There will undoubtedly also be hundreds of condolences from all over the globe, from people of varied ancestries who nevertheless all have one thing in common: none have personally suffered the consequences of the Stalinist madness of the deceased.

None of these grieving mourners were the father of a young man who was shot. None were humiliated for a being believer or a homosexual and sentenced to hard labor in the Military Units to Aid Production (UMAP). In fact, not one of them will even know what the UMAP was. None of them were forced to support their families on twenty dollars a month or experience the hell of a ration book.

None of these very disturbed friends of the dictator had family on the ’13 de Marzo’ tugboat; none was sentenced to more than 20 years in prison during the Black Spring; none has seen their mother, their wife or their daughter dragged by the fascists hordes during a march of the Ladies in White; none is a dissident besieged or beaten with impunity by the Cuban political police; none has been imprisoned for weeks or months without even knowing what charges are imputed to them, and then released without trial or further explanation; none has been expelled from their job due to political differences nor had a child expelled from their university career for the same reason.

None suffered a raid on their home without having engaged in punishable offenses; none has witnessed the degrading repudiation rallies organized by the political police and the Communist Party of its Commander-in-Chief against peaceful opponents. In short, none of them is surnamed Zapata, Payá, Boitel, Soto García, or Pollán.

But the inevitable finally occurred and dust returned to dust. Fidel Castro exerted absolute power using brutal methods for half a century. His achievement, such as it is, was that he always appealed on the most mean-spirited, despicable and lowly aspects of human nature. Camouflaged by his extraordinary capacity for simulation and guided by a highly refined ability to discern a person’s basest instincts, he manipulated people for his personal advantage in order to satisfy the pathological impulses of his deeply narcissistic personality, his insatiable egotism and an uncontrollable need for recognition of his boundless megalomania.
The despot has left to face God’s judgement but leaves behind a painful legacy. The monster has died but the damage he caused remains. In spite of all this, Cuba will one day find the true pathway toward democracy. While we will try to never again hate, we are obliged not to forget. The dictator leaves this world, as many of his kind often do, without summary judgment, without having faced earthly justice. But the tyrant will never escape to the moral judgment of a people who have, at least so far, not definitively absolved him. History, however, has already firmly condemned him.


Jose Marti, Tell the Tyrant… / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Commentary by Carmen Zampallo in the forum of the article “Martí and his Myth,” by José Gabriel Barrenechea, published at 14:30m on the 17 May 2015. Thanks, Carmen, wherever you may be!

Where are you Martí? What have you become? In your name have been created tyranny, torture camps, and forced labor. Yes, Marti, we live with dictatorship, with cells and beatings that you never imagined. Martí, the tyrant in green clothes erected you as an idol and today he kills us, Martí, and nobody listens.

The cruelty by the cruelty of a disciple? There is nobody like him for hating the Cuban people and, Martí, it is said that the Tyrannosaurus will rest beside you. I do not believe it, Marti, since he has never let you rest in peace. What’s more, fortunately, he would be eternally within the reach of your fist and your foot. Although the temperature of his tomb is infernal, thirty human rights offices will be erected after its fifth consecutive cremation. continue reading

Martí, tell the Tyrannosaurus there that I am Hubert Matos, Eloy Gutiérrez, Reinaldo Arenas, Ricardo Bofill, Pedro Luis Boitel, Payá, and so many political prisoners, and those shot and killed.

I am a medical slave, a family divided; we are commanders, Communist guerrillas and other who are not Communists, betrayed by him. I am his rebellious sister, I am a business and an angry right. I am a dancer, I am a sportsman and a censored painter. I am a gay person, a religious person in the UMAP concentration camp, I am a rafter at the bottom of the sea.

I am exiled trapped in Ecuador or Mexico and I am a pilot shot down north of Havana. I am a mother who has seen all the dead depart.

We will adjust accounts and take care in the Beyond that no-one ever returns to this beautiful land. They finished their time, finished, and the living will undo that maximum creation, that hematic auctioned unproductive Caribbean satellite.

Martí, hopefully you will rewrite and publish the now-hidden texts that contained your opinion on the nascent socialism. They were removed from your work.

Hopefully you get it… I hope they do not hit you.

From the blog of Jeovany Jimenez Vega 

Translated by Hombre de Paz

Cuba, a Tax Haven for the Untouchables / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

The Panama Papers confirmed that Cuba controls the Venezuelan passport system (courtesy)
The Panama Papers confirmed that Cuba controls the Venezuelan passport system (courtesy)

Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 6 June 2016 — In recent weeks, the world has taken a great interest in the scandalous revelations of the Panama Papers. Millions of documents have revealed the  shady side of celebrities, politicians and leaders in every region and of all political colours.  And, of course, a government as chameleon-like as Cuba’s was not going to be an amazing exception, the missing condiment in this soup.

The very serious revelation that the Castros’ government and its Venezuelan counterpart contracted the services of a German business, by way of the Mossack Fonseca law firm — trying in that way to not appear tied in with such unsavoury accomplices — to arrange the production of the current version of the Venezuelan passport, and the subsequent control over the distribution of this document since then by Havana, has been the most embarrassing thing that has been revealed by these documents about the island’s government. continue reading

Although many people are waiting avidly for new revelations which incriminate high Cuban officials, this writer would not be surprised, nevertheless, if absolutely nothing of the sort happens. This certainty derives from a total conviction in a long-established truth, which is the most obvious and elemental of all: none of the Castros has ever needed to deposit his fortune or cover up his activities in tax havens, simply because they have never needed to avoid any kind of audit. They alone are their only auditors, judges and participants in their shady activities, in which nobody else can stick their fingers in — period. Or, in fewer words, both dictators have always considered Cuba to be their exclusive private tax haven.

In order to back up this accusation, let’s look at the most widely-held definition of what is a tax haven. Normally it is considered to be any territory or country which complies basically with the following conditions:

If the jurisdiction levies no taxes, if it permits non-residents to benefit from tax breaks, even when they in fact carry out no activities in the country.

If there is no transparency, if there are strictly private bank accounts, and the personal details of owners and company shareholders do not appear in public records, or indeed they permit formal representatives, called nominees, to be employed.

If the laws or administrative practices do not permit interchange of information with other countries or international organisations for fiscal purposes in relation to taxpayers benefitting from exceptionally low tax rates.

In order to understand the present analysis, we have to start off from the incontrovertible premise that the same geographical space is cohabited by two antagonistic Cubas. One of them is the Cuba of the dictators and the regime’s historic “sacred cows,” and a whole entourage of opportunists, high level executives, managers of important companies, all of whom are absolutely tied in with the government, and the highest level officials of the Ministry of the Interior and the armed forces, as well as Cuban ambassadors overseas. Their respective families and lovers also belong to this elite, along with good friends, and the cream of this Cuban neo-bourgeoisie, the emerging upper middle class, and also — and why not? — all those businessmen and foreign diplomats resident in the island.

A completely different totally opposed reality, is the life lived by the ordinary Cuban. 90% of us Cubans live in this lower class Cuba, and this is where I live, with my family and all my friends, just like the overwhelming majority of Cuban professionals and everyone who works for the state. It is the Cuba of miserable salaries and the everyday pursuit of your daily bread. It is this Cuba, which is poor and hopeless, that wave after wave of Cuban young people are fleeing.

So we have the upper class Cuba convinced that it has no obligation to account for anything to lower class Cuba. If we consider these realities, only apparently overlapping, as two separate countries, which in practice is what they are, we are then able to understand why it is not hyperbole or gratuitous to say that the Castros have for more than 50 years enjoyed the advantages of having their own tax haven.

But, finally, why should we consider Cuba to be a tax haven? Very simply, we are talking about a country without the most basic legal or civic mechanisms to indict the most corrupt, because it is precisely those people who call the shots. It is a country without division of powers, which guarantees the total impunity of those people.

There has never existed in post-revolutionary Cuba either an official press which denounces anything, or a police authority which investigates anything, or a public prosecutor which accuses any one of the most corrupt people in the government, because — get this — you cannot take at face value the the periodic purges of disgraced officials, because in these cases the order always comes from the current dictator’s executive, and never from the judicial system which should naturally deal with it. There are far more than enough examples of investigations which have faded away into nothing when they have been countermanded from above, which no-one dares to question.

When you check it out, there are all the elements here of the above-mentioned definition. We have a caste which doesn’t pay any taxes on their informal or illegal businesses, or if they do pay them, they are just a token in relation to the real level of their income.

We have a government which has always practised the most absolute and systemic secrecy in relation to the private lives and real incomes of its most important chiefs, and also a rigid censorship over whatever may be produced to evidence their over-the-top schemes, managed by unscrupulous front men, referred to above as nominees. And finally we have a body of law, for the most part in violation of the most important human rights, but made to measure for the aspirations of the elite to maintain their power and influence.

Cuba is still today a tax haven for the untouchables, with all institutions in submission to this privileged class which lives like kings on the Olympic heights, disconnected from the reality of the people who live beneath them in poverty and want.

In fact, if you asked a thief or corporate tight-wad who want to fill their bank accounts on the margins of any tax responsibility, what would be the country of their dreams, they would definitely say that that country would have a government which didn’t waste its time on listening to useless pleas from its people, which was hard-line and keeping a grip on its power — it would be ideal if, by the way, it was the only one legally recognised in the constitution — and which would guarantee that it would leave me in peace to get on with my business dealings, sorting out unionists and trouble makers. That is to say, a government keen on the most profitable exploitation of whatever you can come up with.

Our hypothetical crook would say that in that fantasy world, I would have a monopoly of all markets, which would practically make me a God who could order, to my heart’s content, the fate of millions of consumers who would have no choice apart from what I offer, which would allow me to speculate by selling dear whatever cheapo thing I imported.

I would love to carry out my activities, our respondent would continue, among serious, upright people and businessmen who understand that the best business is the one which generates the most profit in the shortest time possible, no matter who may be hurt.

I would like a country to have no division of powers, in which every judge, right up to the Supreme Court, was subordinated to a powerful man, an arch-calculator, through whom everything flows, as smooth as silk, and protected from indiscreet gazes.

Just think, dear reader, whether that elite country, the above-mentioned Cuba, with its life-long privileged class, where greed and opportunism reigns, the Cuba of despotic generals and criminals who go unpunished, should not be considered to be a genuine and very exclusive tax haven. If such a country could not be classified as such, then a guanábana is not a spiky green fruit. Needless to say,  whatever similarity to real life here would not be a coincidence. Draw your own conclusions

Translated by GH

The Dictatorship Between Obama’s Wink and Maduro’s Fall / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 22 February 2016 — Cuba started 2016 looking toward an uncertain horizon: a parasitic economy in the red, bankrupt for decades, as dependent today on Venezuela as it once was on Soviet gulag; a neo-bourgeoisie oligarchy clinging to the same absurdity that has plunged us into the manure; lazy leaders turning a blind eye to the people’s needs, despoiling millions in their secret accounts and willing to do anything to maintain their privileges; the main economic gears — like GAESA (the state entity that controls almost all retail in the country), the monstrosity that controls the principal corporations and the entity that does or does not authorize every foreign investment on the island — in the hands of impudent soldiers who know nothing of economics but know very well the language of despotism. continue reading

Image of "Liborio" -- the Cuban "everyman"
Image of “Liborio” — the Cuban “everyman”

In my country there is no division of powers and this guarantees the absolute impunity of the Communist Party and Political Police henchmen in exercising the most shameless repression against the dissent of ideas. Cuba is a country that stepped into the year 2016 as a country without laws, in the hands of an elite of tyrants who are as concerned about Liborio’s poverty as they are about the existence of water on Mars.

Faced with such a bleak picture, we see perpetuated the exodus of the most fertile of Cuban youth, in an irrepressible flight that ends up being the hallmark of my generation and which I have already taken. The current immigration crisis in Central America — unleashed by Havana with the docile complicity of Daniel Ortega — is the most recent evidence of the lack of credibility with which Cuba’s youth look on the stale promises of octogenarian Raul Castro, and the insubstantiality of his alleged economic “reforms,” and can be read as the clearest plebiscite of rejection the old dictator has received — something he will never allow to occur in actual practice — before the eyes of the world.

Amid this dramatic internal situation two critical elements from outside carry influence: the policy of concord/legitimation toward the dictatorship offered a year ago by Barack Obama, and the imminent collapse of the Venezuelan monstrosity, that will bring the inevitable consequence of cutting off its payment of “royalties” to Havana.

The combination of both at this time come with the inevitable culmination — finally! — of the vital life cycle of historical gerontocracy of the Revolution, and this places Cuban society at a complex crossroads, as yet unknown.

I was always a staunch advocate of lifting of the US embargo on Havana. As for millions of Cubans, for me it has always been very clear that 80% of the excesses and endless shortages suffered by us during the last half century have been due to the bad faith and the mediocrity of the government of both Castros, so always I considered that the termination of this policy would clearly unmask, before history, the real culprits of our ruin.

But I confess something: when the revocation of sanctions against the dictatorship threatens to become a reality, right now Caracas is skimming off the last crumbs and the repressive Castro advisors are packing their bags, looking to a resumption of relations between Cuba and the United States. This leaves me with a sense of pleasurable frustration, difficult to explain, but very similar to the disappointment of a power outage at the movie theater at the exact instant when the hero is about to liquidate the film’s villain.

Without taking as absolute what is outlined above, I can’t help but taste in my imagination the diarrhea that would have dotted the halls of the Council of State and the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party — not to mention the offices of the Cuban political police — if the collapse of Venezuela had occurred without the last minute escape hatch thanks to the providence of the almighty Obama.

The question is obligatory: under what rock would Havana’s parasitic regime — consummately incapable of generation resources for itself — looked for its next benefactor? They couldn’t count on Putin’s Russian because despite the astronomical forgiveness of old debt and the geostrategic plans of the Tsar seeing Havana with its tip oriented to South America, it has become clear to everyone that the Island-of-Eden phase was definitely in the past and the Kremlin tovarich (comrades) are not willing to support their loony-tune boy from the old days any longer.

Much less could they count on neo-capitalist China, because beyond the coincidence of its totalitarian party/state ideological/strategic similarity, business with the great Asian economic giant demands timely payment in hard cash, something the Cuban dictatorship has no ability to take on for obvious reasons.

In short, little doubt remains: if the collapse of Caracas had happened in the absence of this opportunistic escape route to save the dictatorship in water up to its neck looking toward the brutal north — the same one they sneered at — there is no questions but that more than one general in Havana would have literally shit his pants. People could not face, again, the rigors of those terrible years that started in the ’90s known as the “Special Period.” Things aren’t like then, and tempers are short and the entire top brass knows that were a new “zero option” [extremely severe economic austerity] be considered, a very different rooster* would be singing in Cuba.

*Translator’s notes:  An expression similar to “a horse of another color” that can have a good or bad meaning; in this case a very negative one.

Translated by RSP

Cuba and the Phantom of the Internet / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Free Internet, Mayor’s Office of Guayaquil (Ecuador). Image courtesy of photographer Julio R.B. for Jeovany Jimenez Vega.

Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 26 January 2016 — A ghost is haunting Cuba: the phantom of the Internet. All the forces of the old guard have joined in a holy crusade against that spectre: the Castros and Ramiro Valdes*, the censor, before ‘Furry’ Colomé Ibarra and now Fernández Gondín**, the radical communists and all the opportunistic cops … Thus begins the Manifesto of the Internet for the Cuban people, placed at a horizon so far away that it’s as elusive as everything else concerning connection to the outside world.

Walking through any park in Guayaquil, Ecuador, at every Metro stop, in many cafes and shops, in every mall, and at every corner, I find at each step an announcement of a free Wi-fi signal, and my thoughts fly to my closed little island.

Internet censorship in Cuba is a subject that has been brought up so many times it now stinks. The amply demonstrated reluctance of the Cuban Government to cede a bit of ground in its information monopoly has ended up putting our country at the bottom of the index of connectivity on the whole American continent, and in the select group of those who are behind globally. continue reading

I’m bringing up the trite question again on this page, before the news that the representatives of both governments of Cuba and the U.S. have sat down to talk about the subject in recent days, as part of the thaw fostered after 17 December 2014 by the Obama administration and accepted by Raúl Castro, but only because Venezuelan President Maduro’s boat is going under.

But I certainly heard nothing new. “The blockade prevents the financing of any United States project to enlarge the infrastructure; it would be precisely to democratize the administration of the global network; that if cyber-security, that if the solar storms or the rings of Saturn” —  whatever excuse the censors could use to delay our right to unconditional access to the world highway.

Surely nothing was mentioned by the Cubans at this meeting about the three-quarters of the Venezuelan submarine cable that remained, deliberately, without exploiting its potential for almost a decade, and they dissimulated or evaded when any allusion was made to concrete proposals, on more than one occasion, by U.S. businesses to make investments in the island, which, in the short term, would make Internet service accessible for the average Cuban and would ostensibly improve telephone service.

Before every proposal by the U.S. or any other country on the matter, the Cubans have followed their usual strategy: find a problem for every solution. On this rough point the dictatorship has its eyes fixed on its only intent: maintaining, at all cost, until its last breath, the most absolutely possible iron control of information. Thus every U.S. proposal came up against this primordial interest, since the dictatorship knows that censorship is a vital matter.

When I walk through the streets of Guayaquil and see at every step announcements of a free Wi-fi signal offered by the city, and the posters from cyber cafes inviting you to use the Internet at a comfortable speed and without restrictions, for U.S.$1.00 for three hours of connection (!), and I see on every roof a parabolic antenna or a coaxial cable, I can’t help but contrast this reality with the Cuban government’s cynical policy and ETECSA’s*** monopoly on “free” Wi-fi service at selected points in drips and drabs.

They all have something in common: you pay $2.00 CUC (more than U.S. $2.00) for an hour with a very slow connection, in a country with an average monthly salary between U.S. $15 and $20. You get connected from a navigation room, outdoors in a park, or “accommodated” under the sun on a sidewalk, but never from your home, since such a service is available only for the Regime’s acolytes, and you always have to show your identification and personal data when you enter.

Furthermore, you should know that every click of the keyboard or every site you visit will be spied on, and you will find that all the sites that are inconvenient to the Government have been zealously censored.

For my part, beyond the fact that my blog, Citizen Zero, is not approved in Cuba — I didn’t have the occasion to try the “superb” Wi-fi service or ETECSA’s navigation room — I will never forgive the satraps of Havana who, by their cojones (balls), vetoed something as simple as a video-conference with my children. This is something that hurts and offends, and converts my conflict with the dictatorship into something personal.

As for their policy, however, there is inescapable evidence to take into account, which is the essential and last cause of the problem: the uncontainable and absolute terror of the Cuban dictatorship before the unsubmissive truths poured out on the Web, which it hides them from the Cuban people because the despots who dis-govern depend on this censorship to perpetuate their power. The Cuban dictatorship’s dilemma is as simple as that. This “menace” makes them lose sleep.

Translator’s notes:

*He defended Internet restrictions, saying, “The wild colt of new technologies can and must be controlled.”

**The old and new Ministers of the Interior.

*** La Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba S.A., Cuba’s one telecommunications company.

Translated by: Marlena (PL) and Regina Anavy

Human Rights in Cuba: Nothing Has Changed / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 11 December 2015 — Seven years have passed since the signing of two United Nations’ covenants on civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, and exactly one week from the first anniversary of the announcement of the resumption of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States. Now at the threshold of 2016, it would be worth reminding ourselves how we got here.

In the past year some have advocated lifting the tools of political pressure to which the Cuban government is still subject. Basically these are understood to be the US embargo and the European Union’s common position. However, the alleged reforms undertaken by Raul Castro in recent years are still a frequent source of argument. continue reading

If we accept the premise that since 1959 Cuba has been a one-party state —  and evidence indicates that the presidency of Raul Castro is in essence a continuation of the presidency of Fidel Castro — we can also assume with a high degree of certainty that the psychology of the regime is exactly the same as it has always been. This logically leads to the following question: Is there reason to hope that, if the sanctions were lifted, the military oligarchs would finally grant the Cuban people the rights outlined in the above-mentioned UN conventions, whose ratification and implementation by Cuba have been pending since February 2008?

Optimists would point to the reforms initiated by Raul, but anyone who takes a closer look at the so-called “transformations” would see that very few of them led to a practical, beneficial or immediate turnaround in the lives of Cubans inside or outside the country.

But if we approach this in good faith, we would have to acknowledge that some measures represent a more drastic and positive turnaround than others. Among them are the restoration of the right to travel overseas and authorization for private individuals to buy and sell their homes.

We cannot forget, however, that the 2013 emigration law stipulates that some professionals may not travel freely “in light of regulations aimed at preserving a qualified work force.”

Nor can we dismiss the fact that the Cuban government may also prevent persons from entering the country who have been accused of “organizing, encouraging, carrying out or participating in actions hostile to the Cuban state… when reasons of defense and national security so suggest;” or that the government may “bar entry into the country to those who have been declared undesirable or who have been expelled.” This makes clear just how wide a margin this delicious tool of coercion gives the repressors to maneuver.

In terms of the authorization to buy and sell houses, let us remember that this law is saddled with a series of burdensome regulations pertaining to sale prices that allow the government to meddle in something in which it has no business, a reminder that here nothing good ever lasts for very long.

However, a glance at the rest of the package does reveal a curious mindset in these so-called reforms. It is extremely difficult to accept the sincerity of the “authorization” to buy used cars when they are set at stratospheric prices; or the corrupt approach by the managements of new cooperative businesses when they remain subordinate to inefficient state enterprises; or the imposition of exorbitant taxes on private businesses when they are deprived of a wholesale commodity market; or all the limitations that have led to an obviously failed agricultural policy, to name a few

But more serious than these economic trifles is the persistence of repressive policies that continue to promote the duet between the Communist Party and State Security. From the offices of what is still the only legally recognized political party, they are still drafting tactics and strategies that will later be put into practice in the street by the political police’s henchmen.

Arbitrary arrests and the weakest of legal protections are persistent problems in Cuba in 2015. They are the bastard offspring that result when there is no separation of powers. Physical assaults and acts of repudiation are still being perpetrated with impunity while no one in authority can be bothered to intervene.

Government henchmen are ordered to stab opposition leaders and harass in broad daylight women who are carrying no weapons other than white gladiolas. An iron-fisted and absolute censorship of dissident thought persists while the regime continues to exercise a tight monopoly on the media and the press.

It still vetoes easy access to the internet, something now well-advanced in the second decade of the 21st century. We can therefore conclude that the changes that have been introduced in Cuba up to this point are insubstantial and of a purely cosmetic nature.

These military oddballs are no longer capable of offering up anything new, so it is only logical to question their good intentions for the future and their ability to conceive a plan for real prosperity, especially if the formula requires any change of course.

It remains to be seen whether these reforms reflect a sincere desire to open the door to a globalized economy for the Cuban people. It is more reasonable to assume that they amount an endless series of delaying tactics by the same old oligarchs to hold onto power.

But in the event that the international community, the Cuban people and the Cuban opposition decide to give them a vote of confidence, would this guarantee that the above-mentioned UN conventions would be ratified and implemented, and that this would result in a turn towards democracy?

In the light of psychological mindset thus far exhibited by the regime, logical reasoning would lead to the undeniable and unmistakable conclusion that this would never happen, that it would only result in a sudden transfusion to all the repressive resources of the regime and its receiving unwarranted international recognition.

There is no chance the Cuban government will become any more economically efficient, only that it can rely on having more resources to squander and more millions in its overseas accounts to feed its delusions of grandeur. Once a beast has tasted blood, nothing else will do.

And once liberated from these instruments of political pressure — and with the tacit international approval that this implies — an autocratic government like that of the Castros will never ratify the UN conventions. On the contrary, it will become even more vicious, as has already been made clear by its repression of dissidents from a comfortable and relaxed position.

History has definitively shown us that some people never change. Three decades of marriage to the Soviet Union demonstrated that the Cuban people were never the intended recipients of all that wealth. If it was not the case then, why would we suppose it would be any different now, especially after so many years of corrupt and lethargic governance?

Clearly, freedom in Cuba is not dependent on the actions of any foreign government. Instead, it depends on the courage and wisdom demonstrated by its people. But unconditionally accepting every international condition without the island’s people having to suffer, struggle or expect anything would not seem to necessarily be helpful.

2015 ends without there being the slightest indication of accommodation regarding our civil rights or of even something as basic as ratification of the aforementioned human rights conventions. In this context, making unconditional concessions to the totalitarian regime in Havana, just as Caracas is teetering on the brink, would be a strategic disaster for my people and would delay by several decades the arrival of democracy, for which as the Cuban nation has waited so long.