2018: Elections and Transfer of Powers / Reinaldo Escobar

Sixty years after having initiated the actions to seize power, General-President Raul Castro finds it opportune to emphasize that “the process of transferring the main responsibilities of leadership of the nation to new generations is ongoing, gradual and orderly.”

At a time when those who, as children, founded the Pioneers Organization are beginning to retire, the news makes it clear that “the principals responsible for leading the nation” are not as concerned with the nominations made by Nominations Committee as they are with establishing Articles 73 and 143 of the Cuban Electoral Act; and it is also evident that — given that it is all about a gradual and orderly transfer and not about democratic elections — there is no point to the vote of the parliamentarians who have to approve (or disapprove) such nominations.

Everything is already decided! All that’s lacking is some 1,700 days to produce “the baton.” In some drawer, particularly obscure, lies the list.

29 July 2013

10 Questions for the Minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR) / Reinaldo Escobar

At the end of this morning’s TV news magazine, Buenos Dias, conspicuously absent in the official Cuban media was the issue of the North Korean ship loaded with missiles. I am absolutely certain that the coming days will produce nothing like a press conference with the Minister of the Armed Forces to respond to questions from foreign journalists accredited on the Island, not even with the accomplices of the national press. However, I would like to make public, in this small space, what my questions would be, should I be given the opportunity to present them to the minister in question face to face.

  1. Do you consider that contracting with North Korea for armaments repair services is consistent with the policy or replacing imports set out in the guidelines from the 6th Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC)?
  2. Does Cuba lack the technical facilities and personnel capable of maintaining combat readiness of the armaments available for the defense of the Homeland?
  3. To what point does the obsolescence of our munitions affect the often proclaimed military invulnerability of Cuba?
  4. What elements were taken into consideration in choosing North Korea as a destination to repair our armaments instead of contracting this service out to Russia, where they were built?
  5. Is it true that in the agreements signed by the Cuban government with the USSR there is a commitment established not to re-export the arms acquired?
  6. The note from the Foreign Ministry (MINREX) mentions that there were two complete rockets on board the North Korean ship. Were they so entirely broken that they had to be shipped in their entirety to be repaired?
  7. Is the fact that the weapons were covered with sugar an intent to mask the military cargo, or is it a new method of taking advantage of the space?
  8. To what extent does the Cuban government share the responsibility for not having informed Panama what was being transported in the holds of the ship?
  9. In the contract signed to repair these armaments in North Korea did the government of Cuba introduce any clause about the discretion, any warning, that would prevent the North Koreans from doing something else with these weapons?
  10. At what level was this high-risk operation organized? Was it your personal decision or was it known to president Raul Castro?

19 July 2013

We Are Now Going to Hold a UPEC Congress / Reinaldo Escobar

The themes of the Union of Cuban Journalists (UPEC) congresses over the years could be confused in both their wording as well as their ineffectiveness and the subsequent failure to fulfill them. I remember one, “For a critical, militant and creative journalism,” and others that decency prevents me from presenting here.

Once again the professionals of the press are engaged in another congress. Obviously they didn’t invite any independent journalists or any bloggers. In any event, I offer a slogan as the title of this post, maybe they will even use it.

28 June 2013

Father Conrado’s Last Mass at Santa Teresita / Reinaldo Escobar

Minutes before officiating his last Mass in St. Teresita Church in Santiago de Cuba Father Jose Conrado went to visit the Sanctuary of El Cobre. There, at the foot of the Virgin of Charity, on his knees, he prayed silently. Then he stood up, sang and prayed to the patron saint of Cuba. Noticeably moved, with tears in his voice, he begged for his sheep, for the priests that will substitute for him in his church, and for the people of Cuba. It was almost six in the evening and the temple was practically empty.

We are used to seeing a priest in his role as emissary of God to the faithful, teaching the Gospel, hearing confessions and forgiving our sins. This Friday on the verge of abandoning the congregation he was responsible for for almost fifteen years, Father Jose Conrado was our ambassador to the Virgin. Not even lacking absolute faith could anyone could be oblivious to the emotions that vibrated at the altar. Joseph Conrad pleaded for us all. I have no doubt, we were heard.

10 June 2013

They’re Already Arriving / Reinaldo Escobar

Eliecer Avila arrives back in Cuba after traveling in Europe and the United States and Europe

Eliecer Avila arriving back in Cuba after traveling in Europe and the United States.

Last night Eliecer Avila returned, they tell me that today Berta Soler is coming, and Thursday we will greet Yoani and then the others will return: Guillermo Fariñas, Wilfredo Vallín, Juan Antonio Madrazo, Manuel Cuesta… and while some arrive others will leave, among them Dagoberto Valdés, who leaves today after years of his exit permit being denied.

Now missing is permission to visit or return permanently to Cuba for all those they have prevented from returning to their Homeland. Some won’t be able to do it because they died in exile, among them our Celia Cruz, others will require special guarantees, like Carlos Alberto Montaner and others who have been demonized.

“Cubanness,” that indefinable abstraction, will be stronger than any ideology, any religion. When sitting at the table we look at each other and recognize ourselves as Cubans, Cubans, period! as the great blogger rightly said; only then will solutions begin to appear, far from definitive, and bringing new problems, new challenges, new questions.

Someone will have to explain to me what must happen for this miracle to appear.

27 May 2013

The Weight of History / Reinaldo Escobar

This Tuesday, in the morning, tens of thousands of Young Cubans will be taking their history exam as part of their entrance exams to higher education.  The main content of the test is Cuban history, and it covers from the wars for independence of the 19th century through the early 21st century. To enter university, one has to pass three exams: mathematics, Spanish and history.  The final score on these tests represents 50 percent of the final score that is added to the other 50 percent formed by the cumulative grade point average acquired through three years of high school. Thus, the final scores are accumulated with which students compete for a place to study the major of their choice.

Very often, the opportunity to study a specific major is lost because of a missing decimal point in the final score. That missing decimal point can be the result of giving the wrong answer on the subsection of a single question.

Tomorrow, tens of thousands of Cuban youths’ future will depend on the way they answer questions like these: “When was the Moncada Program* fulfilled?” “What has been the repercussion of the US Blockade against Cuba?” and others of a similar style in which ideology is most important.

Many will answer what is expected of them because to a great extent their chances to fulfill their vocation depends on it.  Then, they will have to face the “University is only for Revolutionaries” requisite, and they will have to make new choices, such as attending an act of repudiation**, or raising their hands to participate in a meeting, or applauding something they dislike.  But, one day they will laugh at all that, and they will tell their children what they had to do to obtain that college degree hanging on their wall.

Translator’s notes:
* The Moncada Program was a series of demands and measures stated by Fidel Castro in his History Will Absolve Me (La historia me absolverá) speech while conducting his own defense at the trial for his assault to the Moncada Army Barracks in 1953.
** The linked video shows images of an act of repudiation against the author of this blog.

Translated by: Ernesto Ariel Suarez

13 May 2013

The Conquests of the Proletariat / Reinaldo Escobar

…one of the most noble forms of serving the Nation is to devote yourself to WORK

This Wednesday we will once again see the traditional May Day parade. In a difference from other countries, where the working class takes advantage of these events to make its demands, our workers will march with photos of Hugo Chavez (to whom, at the last moment, this day is dedicated) and will carry a variety of previously approved slogans. The major placards of the day will hold the slogan: “For a prosperous and sustainable Socialism.”

Although it seems incredible, not a single person will carry a sign asking for higher wages (even though the whole world knows and proclaims it that no one has enough to live on), no one will demand the liquidation of the system of dual currency, or a reduction in prices, or the building of affordable housing, or improvements in transportation. Much less will we be able to read something relative to the freedom to unionize or any protest over the elimination of jobs.

The official response to the absence of these demands is that this is a government of the workers and peasants and there is no reason for them to march in protest against themselves. They know that they will have to wait until there are the objective conditions to improve the situation. They have been persuaded that if progress is not faster it is because the country can’t manage to produce more and better and this, it’s obvious, is their own responsibility, so how can they come out in protest?

Those watching the parade from the grandstand have been very busy lately satisfying the conquests of the middle class. The purchase of cars and houses, expanding the cellphone network, freedom to travel the world, marketing of modern home appliances, permission to open a little business and to hire workers, acceptance of the law of supply and demand in the marketplace. Someone from that other sector of the self-employed will happily wave their prosperous flags and, at best, they might even be allowed, in the midst of the parade, to sell something to the workers who are those who ensure their sustainability.

I think it was Lenin who said once that reality is stubborn and obstinate.

29 April 2013

For a Sustainable Prosperity / Reinaldo Escobar

Two new words have been incorporated into the Newspeak of Cuban political officials and leaders: prosperous and sustainable. These “recent” adjectives are greatly used to describe the society they are trying to achieve or the socialism that is supposedly under construction.

Both terms were rolled out in General President Raul Castro’s inauguration speech for his second term, and soon were already appearing on the banners hung behind the presidential table at official events, on TV ads, and very quickly on billboards. In fact part they make up a part of the key slogan of the coming May Day.

In recent decades prosperity has always been seen as a petty bourgeois aspiration, and sustainability as a concept rejected for being opposed to the voluntarism* prevailing in the long years of the mandate of the comandante en jefe, years when the Maximum Leader tried to implement his crazy ideas “at any price.”

It is difficult not to associate prosperity with visible (if not obvious) improvements in the material life of individuals: A comfortable home, appliances, a private vehicle, a balanced diet, clothing that satisfies individual taste, resort vacations and other details that healthy human ambition can add to an endless list.

The best way to understand what the new bosses interpreted as sustainable is to list what has been dismantled as unsustainable: the schools in the countryside, unearned handouts, free workplace cafeterias, inflated payrolls to mask unemployment, decentralization of university education, “social workers”**, the Battle of Ideas as an omnipresent super-ministry investment, and other more abstract things such as the waste of resources and galloping corruption.

As I enjoy playing with words I think that, as a comprehensible goal, a “sustainable prosperity” — the Chinese say “a moderate prosperity” — is better than “prosperous sustainability.” The first step would be to decriminalize prosperity, eliminate forever the persecution against anyone who manages to legitimately improve their life, and for this it would be worth the redundancy to legalize many things, among them the ownership of the means of production and the exploitation of the labor of others, understanding “exploitation” as an economic term, not as cruelty. Where does all this lead. . .?

There are none so blind as those who will not see.

Translator’s notes:
*”Voluntarism” in this context relates to the concept as it was defined by Mao:any social or economic barrier can be overcome by sheer willpower and “voluntary” action.
** “Social work” in this context means an army of young people put to work on government projects.

22 April 2013

I’m Back / Reinaldo Escobar

After a long time without entering my blog (particularly because of technical difficulties with the DesdeCuba portal) I am here only to tell you that I am alive.

My absence has awakened suspicions that it was Yoani who was writing my texts and not the reverse, as was believed on the birth of Generation Y. Others have said that I’m so busy with domestic matters that I don’t have time for anything. Sneering and more sneering. Don’t worry, I can take it.

In these days of technological silence, many things are happening, perhaps the most important being the elections in Venezuela. I would have loved to have had my say here, especially to be mistaken in my hopes, but I say it now: I wish Capriles had won.

April 13th also passed by, a date for which there was a kind of prophecy. As is obvious, nothing happened.

My friend the Cuban photographer Ivan Cañas Boix turned 67 and I couldn’t properly congratulate him, with more hope than nostalgia.

And Yoani’s journey is underway, a topic I resist talking about, out of basic modesty.

Well, friends, the thing is, I’m back.  I’ll return on Monday.

19 April 2013