It Seems Cuba is Saying Goodbye to Beef / Ignacio Estrada

By Ignacio Estrada

Havana, Cuba: For decades Cubans have seem themselves constrained with it comes to putting beef on the table. A type of meet that causes stage fright in those who have never imagined themselves on a stage.

To date, no one knows why they are doing what the popular voice continues to pass from mouth to mouth: the final goodbye to red meat. The truth is that after the triumph of the ill-fated Revolution of 1959, this meat could only be enjoyed onthe tables of those in the highest economic echelons, or at the very least, who are members of the clan in power in the Cuban State.

It was our apostle José Martí who said in one of his poems … children are born to be happy … but maybe this can only be in Cuba until an age of somewhere between seven and nine years, after which they are stripped of dairy products and beef. Products only delivered back to them in old age or after acquiring any chronic disease and a medical prescription.

According to what the butchers themselves have commented, beef can now be purchased only on the black market or in the network that works on hard currency, the CUC; as of now those who had received this product get only poultry (chicken).

A situation that has led everyone to complaining and even quoting that the Bolivian President Evo Morales said in a television appearance where he claimed that  it is the chicken, carrier of female cells, that alter the system in men, causing them to become homosexual.

I don’t know what will happen if this comment becomes reality. I think and have talked to some colleagues about the unfair crime of Theft and Slaughter of Cattle, Receiving Their Meat and The Sale of It, which is considered an Attack on the Cuban Economy, a crime that has put thousands of innocent people behind bars. And that in a country that does not practice the Hindu religion where the cow becomes a sacred animal, something inexplicable.

What is laughable is that the animal whose meat is called Red Gold, is only forbidden for the lower class and for families who rely entirely on their basic wages. While a group that criticizes us may continue to acquire meat thanks to remittances received from family and friends from abroad. Now there are those who enjoy impunity, and knowing that an entire people is denied this product they will continue to put it on their tables along with other delicacies that only they can enjoy.

As comments have corroborated, over the past two months they have been giving us only chicken, instead of beef. A fact that is already making many think that if this is truly Cubans’ last farewell to beef, from fear many don’t even mention its name but rather call it, “Tilapia from the Pasture.”

10 June 2013

Gay Pride Day in Cuba / Ignacio Estrada

By Ignacio Estrada

Havana, Cuba – For the third consecutive year the community of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual in the island will join the initiative to hold a new Gay Pride Day 2013.

The celebration extends throughout June and close with renowned Gay Pride Walk taking place on Saturday June 29. During the entire celebration participating organizations will advocate for equal marriage in the nation. The name for this initiative is: Equal Marriage Cuba Now Is The Time.

The organizations launching their call are recognized for their rebellious stance to the National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX) led by Mariela Castro. An offician institution that wants to  manipulate the Cuban community (LGBT) to achieve political benefits for government campaigns. Forgetting an agenda that focuses on the fundamental rights of this community and its main demands.

The scheduled Days contemplate public debates, educational lectures, and video discussions among other initiatives. Some of the organizations that have joined the big celebration of Pride in Being Gay in the Cuban nations are: The Observatory for LGBT rights in Cuba, The Cuban Platform for LGBT Rights, The Shui Tuix Project, The Cuban League Against AIDS and The Open Doors Foundation among others.

This day is dedicated, as every year, to remembering what happened at Stonewall in 1969. Events where, for the first time in history, there was a demand for the rights of the LGBT community. A date on which only the independent  Cuban LGBT community adds to its commemoration unlike CENESEX.

The Closing Ceremones of the Gay Pride Day 2013 in Cuba, will be held Saturday June 29 with a concentration of the Cuban LGBT community on the steps of the Capitol building in Havana and then we will travel together along the Paseo del Prado to the Malecon. A celebration that has become the preferred one among a  constantly growing number.

Something that has not been lacking in this day of Gay Pride 2013 is the collaboration of countless friends of Cuba, who have sent their solidarity and unmatched cooperation, among them the Cuban graphic designer Rolando Pulido.

10 June 2013

Call to 7th Annual Gay Pride Walk in Havana, 2013 / Wendy Iriepa and Ignacio Estrada

The Cuban Community of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual (LGBT) invites interested parties to participate on Saturday, June 29 at 3:00 pm to gather on the steps of the Capitol of Havana. We will then walk together from the Capitol retaking the Paseo del Prado and finishing the walk at Prado and Malecon.

June 29 is the date when we will be remembering the Stonewall Events of 1969, a prelude to the claim for the rights of the LGBT community. The Cuban community’s efforts are not isolated from what we wanted to conquer in decades past.

When we are walking every inch of the Havana arterials on Saturday June 29th, we will be feeling the pride of being members of a community that today demands legalization of Equal Marriage on our Island. A demand that unites us and that we are identifying with this commemoration.

Cuba Marriage Equality Now is the Time is an initiative that joins the thinking and feeling of the entire Cuban LGBT community.

We are calling on you to join our big celebration where stigma and marginalization are put to one side, where your religious beliefs, your race and identity politics are not reasons to isolate yourself from our community.

We will all walk and we invite everyone in solidarity with our cause to make this day a day of celebration for all, where the only thing we want are the rights of our community to continue to be proudly different.

So let’s all walk on Saturday, June 29 at 3:00 PM with Pride in Our Differences.

Coordinating Team of the Event

10 June 2013

Prisons and HIV/AIDS in Cuba / Ignacio Estrada

By Ignacio Estrada

Havana, Cuba – There are a total of six penitentiaries in Cuban focused on confining the Cuban prison population affected by HIV/AIDS.

The existence of these prisons responds to the increase in the disease in Cuban prisons. A propagation that has as its principal routes of infection self-innoculation and unprotected sexual contact among prisoners.

These prisons are controlled by the National Prison Administration of the Ministry of the Interior and what the prison population that suffers from this disease has least is qualified medical care.

The prison population living with HIV/AIDS in Cuba is now more than 458 inmates of both sexes, fewer women, inmates the great majority of whom are young men. These inmates are serving sentences for common crimes and two have sentences of more than six months for political crimes. Inmates who are forgotten and abandoned by the authorities.

They are inmates described by their own jailers as cockroaches in the hen’s beak (bugs which can’t even be allowed to demand anything). The lack of food in these prisons results in malnourished inmates who in many cases have bone disease. Add to this the terrible medical care, the lack of medications and the lack of people qualified to determine or diagnose opportunistic illnesses.

The patients who serve these sentences are steadily stripped of a number of violations not only of the Human Rights recognized by the United Nations (UN) but also those recognized by the United Nations Organization for Fighting AIDS (UNAIDS). Violations that expose the evil act of a government that treads on such important rights, displaying them only as flags of the group in power.

Already there are hundreds of sick inmates constantly denouncing the existing hunger in these prisons, to which we can add the use of punishment, beatings, confinement in punishment cells, the short hours of sunshine and if that wasn’t enough the increase of self abuse which are one of the most common methods that threatens the lives of the prisoners themselves, but also one of the few weapons they have to denounce what they live through daily.

Lately the TV channels accredited on the Island have toured various Cuban prisons but the difference from the alternative media is that there is not telling of the reality lived by those serving sentences on the island.

The fact of remaining silent about things like this makes us unforgivably complicit, and fails one of the precepts given by the Greatest Man of all Time, Jesus Christ.

27 May 2013

Welcome Home Yoani Sanchez / Wendy Iriepa and Ignacio Estrada

Cuba should know: Yoani Sanchez, creator of the blog Generation Y, has returned to Cuba. A pure Cuban woman. As sweet as our delicious sugar cane and with some ideals as lofty as our Royal Palms.

Welcome home, not only to your family and hearth, but to a nation that saw your birth and that today sees in you one of its most illustrious daughters.

31 May 2013

The Food Aid Problem Continues for People with HIV/AIDS in Cuba / Ignacio Estrada

By Ignacio Estrada

Havana, Cuba – The population affected by HIV/AIDS in Cuba is still not receiving oil as part of the aid from the United Nations Global Fund.

The Cuban community living with this disease has been living without aid since late 2012 and this continues to date. The aid was restored only a month ago and is expected to be only a total of 22 cans of sausages for all the rest of the year. Meanwhile vegetable oil has not been deposited in the warehouses for distribution.

According to what we learned, the food aid being delivered has only been approved for two years, due to continued growth of the population that lives with HIV/AIDS in Cuba, figures which are kept a state secret by the authorities in power. The appearance of these figures in the media would put in the public arena the uncertain efforts of the faltering health system.

It is important to clarify that aid provided by the UN relieves the lack of products on the island and is a relief for every home where a person lives with the disease.

I asked one of the UN officials in Havana — who preferred that his name not be mentioned — “Why did the help end before the scheduled time?” and he unhesitatingly replied, “The health authorities on the island receive help for a specific number of affected, which are backed by our project. Each year in Cuba new cases are detected and they are given the help of the already approved initial figure. This fact makes the products run out sooner than expected and causes the bumps from one year to another…”

The truth is that this year the population that lives with HIV/AIDS has received as aid only hot dogs and there is already talk of a second round with the same amount but vegetable oil is conspicuously absent. What many do not know is that even apparently after the next installment Cuba will say a final farewell to an aid which for years has palliated the hunger and the needs of the sick on the island.

27 May 2013

We Are a Community With Our Own Voice / Ignacio Estrada

Havana, Cuba. For years Mariela Castro Espín Has tried to take credit for numerous  efforts on behalf of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans (LGBT) community in Cuba. Forgetting that this community has its Own Voice.

These uncertain efforts have won her international awards and recognition, before she has even achieved what is now her most ambitious project. Which is to declare to those who do not know the Cuban issue, that the project authored by Mariela had been initiated by her late mother Vilma Espin.

The constant appearance of Castro Espín before the national and international media are not showing, much less is giving voice to, the (LGBT) Cuban community. On the contrary, they are only providing an opportunity for the voice of the daughter of current Cuban President, Raul Castro Ruz, enthroned in an ill-fated Revolution that has only managed to put the community that she pretends to lead at a disadvantage. continue reading

Despite the uncertain official efforts, and the institutionalized homophobia on the island and preached for over fifty years by those who believe in the formation of the New Man, the reality that is felt today is different; the ability to feel the dissatisfaction of this community before the failed promises and to the constant violation of our rights.

Already more than five projects of Cuban civil society working in the LGBT area independently and those who do not join official institutions. Among those worth mentioning are the Cuban Observatory for LGBT Rights, the Cuban LGBT Platform, the Chui Tuix Community Integration Project, Rainbow Project, Open Doors Foundation, the Cuban League Against AIDS among others.

These new citizen initiatives organize other days in favor of the fight against homophobia; lead from different points of view projects focused on the education of their peers in their most basic rights and the defense of those rights; and in turn they are not supporters of the existing government speech so far.

Despite the constant negatives for the legalization of these initiatives by the Cuban Ministry of Justice, the work continues and its leaders haven’t accomplished any legalization in any Cuban institution. For which they are labeled as mercenaries or paid by the empire, which is easy to disprove with more than conclusive evidence.

Mariela Castro is not a recognized voice, much less the voice of our constantly growing community. They accept feeling manipulated by the official campaigns that do not intend to vindicate the LGBT rights.

New publications circulating in the Cuban streets, free of political contamination, which highlight the work for various projects in support of the urgent need to claim each of the usurped rights of the Cuban LGBT community. These initiatives of these publications flourish at the time when they are trying to show the world that in Cuba if there is a Community with its Own Voice and there is no need for intermediaries or spokespeople who are committed to the guilt of those who, in 1959, tied us to the lie and even now are trying to force us to force us to live with it.

By Ignacio Estrada

20 May 2013

New 2013 Meteor Exercise / Ignacio Estrada

Havana, Cuba: The May rains have already started throughout the country and the in June hurricane season begins, extending until November.

The Cuban authorities and Civil Defense have recently launched the 2013 Meteor Exercise, preparation intended to corroborate the availability of all the factors involved in times of natural disasters. It is clear that this organization is run by the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR) and which have a structure from the nation top to bottom.

Authorities of the Institute of Meteorology say the hurricane season for Cuba and the Caribbean this year be a big one. So they predict that the island will be hit by any of these phenomena. The solidarity of the national response is immediate with things like this, far different from the government indolence that abandons countless families of disaster victims like this.

They are only there to lend a gaze to the eastern provinces and especially to Santiago de Cuba so that we can see a false reality of a city totally recovered.

The Civil Defense and the authorities in power more than ensure the preservation of human life. They have the obligation to provide to Cuban population with secure decent housing. We recall that the situation of the state of the buildings on the island is one of the problems that constantly checkmates the Cuban family.

The drought is palpable on the island and the lack of rain is well-known, but it is necessary to take urgent measures to preserve not only human lives as I said earlier but to put all of our goods in safekeeping. And to take as one of the main measures not walking around in places that are underpinned by danger of collapse.

It is our duty in this season for the sake of the Cuban family to preserve our lives. Not to highlight the role of the authorities but to comply with the first right of every man. Always remembering that our nation needs people committed to build the immediate future for our children and our future families if they can enjoy safe homes that can be a garrison in these catastrophes.

By Ignacio Estrada

20 May 2013

Cubans One and All: Today is May 20, Independence Day / Ignacio Estrada

Tomas Estrada Palma

With my little note I just want to remember those who wrote history bequeathing the Cuban nation a date that today unites Cubans inside and outside the island.

Independence Day is one of the many festivals they have tried to rip from the memory of our nation. Like they have also ripped from one of our capital’s main arteries the name of the person who was the first president of that fledgling republic, leaving only his shoes and an empty pedestal never occupied by any Cuban.

Palma's empty pedastel, only his shoes remain. Photo: Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo
Palma’s empty pedestal, only his shoes remain. Photo: Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Don Tomas Estrada Palma is a man worth remembering like those who drew their machetes for a May 20 that was entered into history as a day of glory. I know this date has been erased by those who have tried to show a history not told by our ancestors. The nascent Republic of 1902 is still worthy of being celebrated and is one of the indelible marks of our identity.

Blessed be they day of May 20, the birth date of our Republic of Cuba, island nation that jealously guards the key to the Gulf.

Today we have a Republic, today we have a Nation, today we have independence but our nation weeps to see the Cuban family disintegrate and see it abandoned to the whims of a few in olive-green who have been able to put themselves above all the interests of a group, that only cares for the throne and the perpetuation of its name.

20 May 2013

Some Gays Boast About Spies / Yaremis Flores

Mariela Castro, CENESEX director and Rene Gonzales, one of the "Cuban Five"
Mariela Castro, CENESEX director and Rene Gonzales, one of the “Cuban Five”

During this month the island is celebrating the sixth edition of the Cuban Day Against Homophobia. The LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community on the island, in their eternal struggle against rejection and exclusion, joins in an apparent cultural celebration organized by the government.

The smiling faces of several LGBT people, marking the day, suggests a satisfied community.

However, the government has not taken any firm steps with regard to respect for sexual rights. The island does not recognize same-sex couples let alone allow their adoption of children. No accusations of gender discrimination may be brought in the Cuban courts.

Under slogans like “Socialism yes, homophobia, no,” Mariela Castro, daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro and director of the National Sexual Education Center (and also a Deputy to the National Assembly), leads the activities of the day. Unofficial sources reported that some detractors of the Deputy were prevented from attending some events.

On the night of Saturday May 11, the Cuban Gala Against Homophobia was being held with the presence of Cuban agent Rene Gonzalez, who was officially recognized, as was reported in Granma, the Communist Party mouthpiece newspaper. Also, the Gala was chaired by the First Vice President of the Councils of State and Ministers, Miguel Diaz-Canel, and the President of the Cuban Union of Writers and Artists, Miguel Barnet.

“More than a cultural gala it appeared to be a political act,” said one gay college student attending the event. “There was a great presence of uniformed and plainclothes police. The performances of the transvestites (men who dress as women’s clothing as an art form) took place in front of photos of “The Five,” the student said in reference to the five spies sentenced in the United States.

According to this observer, the speakers of the evening repeated, “Long live diversity and freedom for the Cuban Five!” He questioned, “I do not understand what one thing has to do with the other, why do they flood our few spaces flooded political slogans?”

Lissy, an LGBT member, confessed her discomfort in one part of the gala in which a transvestite speaker, paraphrasing the famous gay expression (“Out of the way, Mirtha Medina*, Annia Linares* has arrived”), replaced it with “Out of the way, Obama, Mariela has arrived.”

“The worst thing is that many at the joke, I don’t know, but the most culture they had was the closing song by Los Van Van,” he said.

A gay intellectual who requested anonymity criticized that spaces for debate are only granted to discuss the issue of homosexuality in the context of the day. “There hasn’t been a lot of outreach about the activities and in many of the events there is little gay presence.”

According to this year’s report to the UN Universal Periodic Review, by the Cuban government, on the island they are “promoting respect for freedom of sexual orientation and gender identity.” Brazil recommended to the Cuban delegation that they expand the opportunities for dialogue and interaction on these issues. However, beyond dialogue, the Cuban LGBT community needs laws to protect their sexual rights.

May 17 is World Day Against Homophobia. In over 50 countries homosexuals are persecuted and in at least 8 they are sentenced to death. In other countries there is cause for celebration because of the advances with respect to their rights. We hope that this event will be held in Cuba without ideological manipulation and a common message: non-discrimination.

*Translator’s note: Both are Cuban singers.

Text taken from Cubanet and posted in Wendy and Ignacio’s blog

17 May 2013

Let’s Say No To Homophobia / Wendy Iriepa and Ignacio Estrada

The “International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia” (International Day Against Homophobia) is celebrated every year on May 17. A date that serves as a reminder that different sexual orientations and gender identities are still cause for discrimination in some countries.

During this day different activities are undertaken to promote respect for sexual diversity worldwide. Its objective is to articulate actions and reflection to combat physical, moral or symbolic violence linked to sexual orientation or gender identity. Homophobia takes different forms depending on the geographical and social space, so that responses to it must also be different.

On May 17, 1990 the General Assembly of the World Health Organization (WHO) removed homosexuality from the list of mental illnesses.

17 May 2013

Mariela Castro’s Day and Conga Line Not Reported in Any Press / Ignacio Estrada

Mariela Castro in red shirt and hat speaking into mic

Havana, Cuba – Once again, the conga line led by Mariela Castro Espín swept through one of the city’s main thoroughfares, this past Saturday, May the eleventh, under heavy security and control measures.

The conga line against homophobia, pretends to reproduce the many marches held around the world in support of the rights of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual (LGBT) community. However, the difference between these and those held in democratic countries, according to some that participate in the one held in Cuba, is that here the stage becomes a political bastion.

The event led by the National Center for Sexual Education, tries to paint the Cuban LGBT within the context of an uncertain opening that exists only for those who pay lip service to it in order to obtain juicy rewards from projects like these, leaving it completely abandoned, and without showing a convincing agenda to a community still far from seeing all of its rights fulfilled.

The number of participants has decreased in recent years given the dissatisfaction and the delays of unfulfilled promises by the group in power.  We could add to this the manipulation of the event to support political campaigns like that for the release of the five Cubans jailed in the US for espionage.

An example of this is Mariela Castro’s speech this past Saturday, and the slogans shouted there that only reiterated their political commitment to a government led by her father, Raul Castro.  There were no words coming from the mouth of the self-proclaimed leader of the Cuban LGBT community, that could predict the status of the reforms to the family code introduced in the Cuban parliament by lawyers of the institution that she commands; reforms to the family code that recognize consensual unions, adoption and other benefits for the LGBT community.

The presence of foreign guests was notable, but one most criticized by Cuban attendees was that of Argentinian transsexual Lohana Berkins who used a megaphone brought from her country to shout slogans designed to exalt a government recognized around the world for its abuses against the LGBT community. Only isolated voices repeated her slogans while others, in protest, made fun of her or turned their backs on her.

The exposure of Ms. Castro Espin to the public was sparse and always surrounded by a showy security detail. She was followed from a distance by her current husband, Paolo Tito, who documented the event in photographs.  Some officers of their personal security detail also took pictures and video.

Members of the LGBT community who toe the official line were also present and picked up by the cameras of the national and international press. Some of the civil society projects that participated were The Observatory for LGBT Rights in Cuba, The Shui Tuix Integration Project, The Open Doors Foundation and The Cuban League Against AIDS. These organizations signed a document that was delivered to the vice director of CENESEX, Ms. Rosa Mayra Rodriguez, on the dais to be delivered to Mariela Castro inviting her to participate in a dialogue on equality of Rights for all. The letter was delivered by Lic. Liannes Imbert, coordinator of the OBCD-LGBT.

Ms. Mariela Castro who was expected at midday left the room where the activities were being held for the community she tries to manipulate to go home for lunch. She was seen leaving in silver Peugeot car licensed to a foreign company (HK) driven by her husband, forgetting that her followers were only having a snack.

Before concluding this note I want to emphasize something what many were waiting for and that was the presence of René González, one of the Cubans who was convicted in the United States and who was recently returned to Cuba after being stripped of U.S. citizenship, the person to whom Mariela dedicates last Saturday’s conga. The truth is, as many have already commented, the non-appearance of someone who promised to appear in one of these events, but did not.

By Ignacio Estrada, Independent Journalist

Translated by: Ernesto Ariel Suarez

13 May 2013

Entrepreneurs Plan Their Own Gay March / Wendy Iriepa and Ignacio Estrada

To avoid its being used for electoral ends in the face of the July 7 elections, the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Transvestite Transexual and Intersexual (LGBTTTI) Pride March has been postponed by its organizers.

The Gay Pride Committee, which has put on this event for at least ten years, informed via social networks that the march usually held in May, would be rescheduled.

In addition, the Pride Committee reported that there was an intention among a group of entrepreneurs active in businesses whose clients belong to the gay environment in Puebla, to hold their own march, which is planned for May.

In regards to this the member activists of the Pride Committee said that the mobilization has marked commercial intentions and is not an event calling on civility, acceptance, visibility and respect.

The document mentions that ten years since its creation, the Pride Committee continues working with events such as the Anti-Homophobia Week and the LGBTTTI Cultural Week, to inform and generate the agenda of the vulnerable groups it represents.

10 May 2013

La Massiel Performs in Havana / Ignacio Estrada

Massiel, Heart of Iron

By Ignacio Estrada

Havana, Cuba — As announced by the official website of the National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX) the next gala against Homophobia will feature a special performance by the renowned singer La Massiel.

The artistic gala will take place at the government Karl Mark Theater, a place that in the last three years as been the site of this important event. The performance of La Massiel on the island is followed by the community of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans (LGBT) who feel themselves acknowledged by her songs.

For years La Massiel has been held into a community setting where recognized artists of the Cuban transvestite world perform. On this occasion the stage will be shared with others, with the National Orchestra of Juan Formell and Los Van Van in addition to the Tropicana Dance Company and Latin Dance under the usual direction of artistic director and choreographer Carlos Rey.

Massiel’s performance brings to the island one of the most recognizable voices in support of LGBT rights. And she has been known to not respond to any invitation from the Cuban government but is appearing at the request of one of the Cuban speakers who participated in the conduct of previous events.

The content of La Massiel’s performance in Havana won’t be known until she arrives, nor whether she will be traveling to the city of Ciego de Avila, the province that is the site of the Official Day of Struggle Against Homophobia.

La Massiel’s presence in Cuba despite not being invited by CENESEX serves to clean up the recent work of this center a little. It is an entity that has lost adherents and sympathizers because of its failure to deliver on false promises.

The show is already marked in advance as the best of the shows, but also brings with it rumors of a theft of some items, the money earmarked for the show and the suspension of some of the usual artists. Comments that can not be ruled out but that continue among the officialistas from fear.

22 April 2013