Cuban Doctors in Bogota Demand US Visas After Defecting In Venezuela / 14ymedio

Dozens of Cuban doctors demonstrating this Saturday for a US visa in the Plaza de Banderas, south of Bogota. (EFE / Leonardo Muñoz)
Dozens of Cuban doctors demonstrating this Saturday for a US visa in the Plaza de Banderas, south of Bogota. (EFE / Leonardo Muñoz)

14ymedio biggerEFE / 14ymedio, Bogota, 22 August 2015 – Around fifty Cubans who deserted from Cuban “medical missions”* in Venezuela, gathered this Saturday in Bogota to denounce the “legal limbo” of nearly 500 of them who continue to wait for a visa to the United States and have exhausted the time of their stay in Colombia.

“We are gathered here today to demonstrate the world that we are professional and we are seeking freedom to practice our profession,” the dentist Mara Martinez, one of the Cubans in Bogota, explained to EFE.

Martinez, like many of her compatriots, finds herself in Bogota after deserting in Venezuela and crossing the border to Columbia “informally.” continue reading

On arriving in Bogota she asked to access Parole, a special US visa program, and while her request was pending she obtained safe conduct that allowed her to remain in the country legally for 90 days. After that time transpired she found herself in an irregular situation defined as “legal limbo.”

According to official data from Colombia Migration, in total 720 Cubans have entered the country informally so far this year after deserting in Venezuela.

Currently, according to the data, 117 of them are waiting for the US visa, while 603 have been deported so far in 2015.

However, this data contrasts with that managed by the Cubans themselves; the doctor Jose Angel Sanchez told EFE that from January to date they estimate that about 1,600 doctors have entered Colombia.

Of these, about 600 have gotten a visa to the United States, so there are still a thousand in Bogota.

“At the time we abandoned [the missions] we cease to be professionals in service to Cuba,” said Sanchez, explaining that their titles had already been cancelled in their native country.

The reasons why they decided to try to travel to the United States range from lack of freedom to the poor conditions in which they lived in Venezuela.

According to Colombia Migration, in total 720 Cubans have entered the country informally so far this year after deserting in Venezuela.

“We are modern slaves, I made the decision to abandon the mission to seek a better economic solution,” said the doctor Inalbis Lao Miniel.

Lao Miniel explained that the wage paid in Venezuela “barely covers the basic needs of anyone” and they had to live in substandard housing, which made them become infected with dengue fever.

With their salary they could not afford to purchase of essential hygiene items and had to resort to relatives in Cuba to meet some of their basic needs.

To enter Colombia they had to illegally cross the border at city of Cucuta, currently closed following an attack by suspected smugglers against Venezuelan military.

On their way they met policemen from both countries who “know why come, they think we have money and to not be betrayed by them they ask us for an amount of money that sometimes we don’t have to give them,” added Lao Miniel.

Among the reasons why they decided to leave their country as well, is the lack of democracy,” explained the nurse Adriana Lopez to EFE.

“I decided to leave it because I realized that (in Cuba) I would continue to be without freedom, without democracy,” she said.

In this regard says she observed in Venezuela how citizens “expressed what they felt and I wondered why they can express it and we cannot.”

“If you say what you think you can be prosecuted,” she said of the situation in Cuba.

Lopez explained that in Cuba she currently has her two daughters, both pregnant, along with her mother. She says they only ask for support and even ask that she “send a helicopter get them out of there.”

A situation that is repeated in numerous cases among Cubans who gathered today under a clear slogan: “When the people emigrate the rulers should step down.”

*Translator’s note: The Cuban government calls the work of Cuban doctors in other countries “missions,” but they are monetary arrangements and one of the major sources of government revenue. The doctors serving abroad are paid a small fraction of what foreign governments pay the Cuban government for their services.

The Artist Tania Bruguera Arrives in New York / 14ymedio

The group of Yale World Fellows for 2015, including the artist Tania Bruguera. (Yale University)
The group of Yale World Fellows for 2015, including the artist Tania Bruguera. (Yale University)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 22 August 2015 – In a statement released by #YoTambienExijo (I too demand), it was reported that the artist Tania Bruguera arrived in New York this Friday, after eight months in Cuba. “I just landed at JFK (…) to be a Fellow of the Yale World Fellowship 2015,” a program of the renowned Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, her note said. She was greeted by officials of the university.

As a program fellow, Bruguera will be at Yale University until December of this year. She will have the opportunity to participate in a seminar taught by Yale professors on global issues, exclusively for the fellows, as well as to take classes and give lectures at Yale. continue reading

The Cuban artist announced her departure on the platform #YoTambienExijo, “while in flight through the on-board WiFi network, and not before to avoid encounters with Cuban State Security,” she said in a statement. Bruguera said that before leaving Cuba, in the Havana airport, a State Security official who said his name was “Javier” told her that he “might possibly travel to New York in September.”

On July 10 the Cuban government returned the artist’s passport to her, after having confiscated it on 30 December 2014, when she was arrested before staging a political piece of performance art in Havana.

At that time Bruguera stated that she would not leave Cuba “until I have an official document in my hands that legally assures me that I can reenter [Cuba] without problems,” which they Cuban authorities had promised to give her within the next two weeks.

The artist has been arrested several times in recent months, especially during the marches in support of the Ladies in White outside Santa Rita Church in the Havana municipality of Playa. She was also arrested during the activities of the Havana Biennial, when she decided to hold a tribute to Hannah Arendt with more than 100 consecutive hours of reading, analysis and discussion of the book, The Origins of Totalitarianism.

The event was hijacked by successive police pressure, a noisy street repair outside the home of the artist, and the subsequent arrest of Bruguera and several companions.

Jose Daniel Ferrer Can Not Leave The Country For Reasons Of “Public Interest” / 14ymedio

Jose Daniel Ferrer, UNPACU leader. (14ymedio)
Jose Daniel Ferrer, UNPACU leader. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 19 August 2015 — The activist José Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) has been informed this week by the Office of Immigration and Nationality that he can not leave the country. The authorities said that the travel restrictions are being imposed because he is not “in compliance with the criminal sanction” and there are “reasons of public interest” to prevent him from crossing the national borders.

The official response was communicated Wednesday, when Ferrer attempted to being the paperwork for a new passport at the identity card office in the Playa municipality in Havana. continue reading

The regime opponent had received an invitation from the Forum 200 Foundation to participate in its traditional annual event, to be held in Prague from 13 to 16 September. The forum seeks to maintain the legacy of Václav Havel and supports “the values ​​of democracy and respect for human rights, supporting the development of civil society,” in the words of its organizers.

Jose Daniel Ferrer is a part of the group of 75 dissidents imprisoned during the “Black Spring” of 2003, when he was sentenced to 25 years in prison. In 2011 he was released, but on parole.

Unusual “bomb alert” at the Carlos III Market / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya

Interior of Carlos III Market in downtown Havana. (14ymedio)
Interior of Carlos III Market in downtown Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana | August 18, 2015 — A crowd of shoppers and dozens of neighbors in the vicinity stood together at around 3 PM last Monday across from the popular Carlos III Market, in the capital municipality of Centro Habana. In a matter a minutes, and in a flurry of confusion, they had been forced to evacuate all shopping departments, eateries and entertainment areas due to a “bomb threat”.

The emblematic shopping center was shut down, and employees responsible for its security, who almost never have anything to do other than to check out the bags of customers suspected of theft, fluttered from one side to the other, trying to keep away the curious while exchanging details in their walkie-talkies, in a showy display worthy of a Hollywood action film like those that air on Cuban TV on Saturday nights. They had become the heroes of the day and were enjoying their role.

We are the only people who, instead of running away, stand around in a place where the possibility of a bomb exploding has just been announced. continue reading

There is so much national apathy here that Cubans are probably the only people who, instead of running away, stand around in a place where the possibility of a bomb exploding has just been announced. However, seeing that nothing was happening that was worthy of more attention, the crowd started to disperse gradually, and towards 6 PM there were barely a handful of neighbors hanging around, more entertained than concerned about an event that broke the neighborhood’s daily routine.

This was the moment this casual writer chose to innocently approach the security guard in charge of controlling the wrought iron fence at the market’s side entrance on Árbol Seco Street, to find out why they had closed before the regular time. “We have a special situation,” a very serious and circumspect guard responded. “And why is that, is there a fire, a new assault on Western Union, another gas leak like the one a few months back?”

Then I felt a hand on my shoulder. It belonged to a young man in his thirties who had quietly come over to us and had witnessed the brief dialogue. His Suzuki motorcycle, parked at the curb, by the sidewalk, betrayed his status as an agent of the State Security. He approached in a friendly and conciliatory – even condescending – manner: “No. We are going to tell this comrade the truth,” he directed his comment to the uniformed guard, who instantly turned into an unwelcome guest. Then, turning towards me, his hand still on my shoulder, informed me there was a “bomb threat” at the market, and, for security reasons, they had evacuated the place. The threat had been phoned in; they were not even sure whether the bomb had been placed at this store or at another one, so they had decided to close several shops since the previous day, as a precaution.

“Any Cuban might be a mercenary of the Islamic State. We have to be better informed, comrade! Don’t you know what the internet is?” the security dude told me.

I put on my best face of shock and disbelief. “A bomb… in Cuba? Are you sure about that? And if the threat has been known since yesterday, why is the market closed today? A lot of us could have blown up, right?” The agent began to lose his good demeanor and withdrew his affectionate hand from my shoulder: “But why are you surprised, comrade? Don’t you know there was an Italian tourist who died because of a bomb at a Cuban hotel?” I responded: OK, but that was a bomb, not a threat. As far as I know, nobody has placed a bomb in Cuba and later warned that he did. That is something you see in American movies. People who place bombs prefer to let them explode without warning.

By now the young man was showing real disgust with this exasperating inquisition. “Look, comrade, everyone knows that after the triumph of the Revolution there have been lots of bombs and counterrevolutionary terrorist attempts where lots of innocent people have died.” I nodded and added “You’re right, this thing about bombs is nothing new. Even before the Revolution there were revolutionary ‘Action and Sabotage’ groups of the July 26th Movement that would place bombs and petards [pipe-bombs} in movie theaters, parks, and other public places.”

It was a low blow on my part, I know. This time, my impromptu instructor was momentarily speechless, he looked at me suspiciously and began to lose his temper, but he still did not quit his lesson. “Listen, comrade, you should get better informed. Look, if you have any relatives abroad, ask them to tell you what is in the cable news. There is a terrorist group called ISIS that has branches throughout the world, and Cuba has become part of the world and we are globalized, so any Cuban might be a mercenary of the Islamic State, just like the one that was going to place a bomb but was arrested in Florida recently. Are you listening? Ask your relatives to inform you. You need to get better informed, comrade, you have to get in tune with the times! Don’t you know what the internet is?”

“We need to consider that there are many in Florida who don’t want relations between Cuba and the US. I bet they have something to do with the bomb.”

That was the foot in the door I had been waiting for. ”Let me tell you something, young man, as far as I know, we Cubans are so well informed by Granma, all of the national media and Telesur that we don’t need any foreign news show, internet or any cable to know what is happening in Cuba and in the world. What’s more, if they don’t mention this in the national TV news, the business about the bomb is another enemy hoax to sow fear in the population. What’s more, I fail to see any team of firemen, cops, or street closings. People continue to circulate throughout the area and employees continue inside the market. What kind of bomb is it that can only kill customers?”

Obviously, the agent had no answer to that, so he ended the conversation and improvised a crumb: “That’s another matter. We need to consider that there are many in Florida who don’t want relations between Cuba and the US. I bet they have something to do with the bomb.”

I could not help laughing, “Well, finally! It had been slow in coming. So we no longer have an imperialist enemy and now we invent another one. OK. We need to keep up the belligerence somehow. What would happen to the Revolution if it became orphaned of its enemies?”

Suddenly, the young security dude realized that he had been the victim of a scam and scowled, but it was in vain. People around us laughed heartily. An old neighbor from across the street sealed the brief episode with a solemn sentence, “A bomb was placed 56 years ago but it has failed to explode!” A general peal of laughter was the most convincing popular judgment on this unusual “bomb threat” in the Carlos III Market.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Food Shortages Are Getting Much Worse / 14ymedio, Rosa Lopez

The shortages and high food prices have led many retirees to stand in line for others.(14ymedio)
The shortages and high food prices have led many retirees to stand in line for others.(14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Rosa Lopez, Havana, 19 August 2015 – She boasts that she “walks all over Havana” and there isn’t a single store, market or point of sale she doesn’t know about. “I have a family to feed and for years I’ve also taken advantage of my walks to tell the neighbors where they can get something,” sais Maria Eugenia, 58, who these days never stops repeating, “everything is bare.” The food shortage has gotten worse in recent weeks and the situation has reached crisis levels in many places.

“There is no chicken, no chopped soy-meat, no sausages, and never mind meat,” details this stubborn housewife. The refrigerators in the stores of the Cuban capital have hardly any merchandise and in many cases the cooling system has even been turned off, to avoid wasting electricity. “People don’t know what is happening, because they don’t explain it on television,” the lady complains. continue reading

Few markets are spared the deficit in products. Ultra, a store in the heart of Central Havana, is one of the most affected. “It’s been days with no supply of chicken and when it comes it’s very little, people have even come to blows the get a package,” an employee who preferred to remain anonymous explained to 14ymedio. On Tuesday, a sign proudly announced, “We have butter,” but there was nothing else to see in the windows of the meat and freezer departments.

If they would at least carry hot dogs,” a woman with her baby pleaded, looking over the empty shelves. The frustrated customer was talking about the chicken sausages imported from the United States, Canada or Brazil, one of the food products in greatest demand among the Cuban population, given its low price and the number of hot dogs included in each package.

The last week dozens of telephone calls crossed the city to let family and friends know that “sliced mortadella is available” in the store at San Lazaro and Infanta. The message was brief and accompanied by a “hurry, before it runs out.” Two hours after the product processed by the Canadian firm Golden Maple was put on sale, this newspaper was able to confirm that it had run out.

“There’s no powdered milk anywhere,” bellowed a young man outside the Carlos III Plaza Monday morning. With a mother who had recently suffered a hip fracture, he shouted, “I must get milk,” perhaps hoping to reach the ears of any underground seller passing through the area.

There is a particular shortage of products from the United States. The import figures from that country have plummeted in the last year. If in the first quarter of 2014 the island imported $160 million in food from the US, in 2015 that figure has barely reached $83 million, according to MartiNoticias.

The effects of this decline are visible in the shops. “Every day it is more difficult to cook and give food to the children,” says Yanisbel, a 34-year-old mother of two, one of which is gluten intolerant. The woman was surprised that, “with all the contact we have now with the yumas (Americans) we’re no longer seeing the products that used to come from that country.” As an example he mentions frozen chicken, ground soy-meat, various kinds of tomato sauce.

The lack of liquidity to pay cash in advance for purchases from the U.S. has dented what seemed to be a growing trade. Moreover, the Cuban government’s poor credit history and unpaid debts does not favor the search for new suppliers.

The drop in imports cannot be made up for by a rebound in domestic products. “There is no significant increase in the production of food,” says the economist Karina Galvez. A reality that contradicts Point 184 of the Political and Social Economy Guidelines that urge, “the replacement of imports with foods that can be efficiently produced in the country.”

During the last session of Parliament, Marino Murillo Jorge, Minister of Economy and Planning, confirmed missed production targets, among them the delivery of fresh milk to the industry, which fell 13 million liters shorts.

With regards to the shortages of products in the hard currency stores, the official attributed it to the late arrival of imports and announced a set of provisions to better serve that market. More than a month later, the effects of these measures haven’t been felt on the plates of Cubans.

Who Has Barack Obama Betrayed? / 14ymedio, Juan Carlos Fernandez

Raul Castro and Barack Obama greet each other for the first time at the funeral of Nelson Mandela in South Africa
Raul Castro and Barack Obama greet each other for the first time at the funeral of Nelson Mandela in South Africa

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Carlos Fernandez, Pinar del Rio, 18 August 2015 — The restoration of diplomatic relations between the governments of Cuba and the United States is leaving a trail of reactions. Cuban civil society on both shores shows two positions with many nuances, on the one hand those in favor of the process and on the other those who are against it.

From those against it a sharp rebuke against President Barack Obama is heard, accusing him of being “a traitor to the cause of Cuban freedom.” However, to think that the occupant of the White House embarked on such an adventure alone and on his personal initiative is crazy. continue reading

It is likely that the American president is anxious to change the direction of American policy toward Cuba. But he never would have succeeded if he had not had the support of a considerable number of legislators, both Republicans and those of his own party. So this political move represents the culmination of a strategy gestated before his arrival at the White House, and one whose principal protagonists were the so-called “pressure groups.”

Among what are also called “lobbies,” the powerful group representing commercial interests in the agricultural sector has led several initiatives of rapprochement toward the island. It has also promoted lifting the embargo and normalizing relations with the Cuban government. The reasons for this push in the direction of normalization are economic, but also political.

On the commercial side, American businesses are at a fundamental disadvantage with the restrictions against Cuba. Meanwhile, on the political side they argue that US influence in the region has declined considerably, thanks in large part to the conflict with Cuba’s communist government, and China has stepped in.

A portion of US civil society has also exerted pressure to take the path of diplomatic normalization. Involved in this crusade has been the radical left, as well as unions, cultural organizations, NGOs, religious groups and academics.

Barack Obama, however, is the person responsible for the political insight to take advantage of the hemispheric situation, with Venezuela in a free fall, and serious internal problems in Bolivia, Ecuador and Brazil. Meanwhile, inside the island a profound economic crisis seems to have no end, there are grave social problems, and Fidel Castro is practically out of the political game.

Beyond that ability, Obama also responded to a demand from his people, represented by civil society pressure groups. To ignore them would represent political suicide for the next Democratic candidate. Surveys have proved him right, with more than 60% of Americans looking favorably on the initiative he has promoted with respect to Cuba.

Moreover, to accuse Obama of treason will not change what happened last 17 December and lays on him a responsibility that belongs to thousands of people. On the other hand, the fact that the Cuban leaders now shake hands with their neighbor to the north does not give them carte blanch to do whatever they want. This they know very well in the Plaza of the Revolution.

Health Alert Causes Big Losses For The Self-Employed / 14ymedio, Fernando Donate Ochoa

The Candonga market. (Donate Fernando Ochoa / 14ymedio)
The Candonga market. (Donate Fernando Ochoa / 14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio,  FernandoDonate  Ochoa, Holguin, 18 August 2015 — The cholera outbreak affecting Holguin has gone way beyond the health problem and become a drag on economic activity.

The health authorities in the province have issued a set of transitional measures that restrict the manufacture and sale of food and drinks in eating establishments. The measures, designed to protect public health, are affecting public and private entities by the absence of a plan to cushion the effects on the economy.

The new regulation only authorizes the sale of canned and industrially packaged liquids. Beer and soda in bulk, for its part, will be offered exclusively in the eating establishments specifically authorized to do so and will be dispensed in unused disposable cups or glass containers. continue reading

Among the food products restricted are cold salads, appetizers with homemade mayonnaise and foods with sauces or dressings. Also suspended is the sale of raw seafood and shellfish such as oysters.

“They closed everything, but we do not receive financial compensation from the government. Nor does the Insurance Company include a policy to protect us in these cases,” protests Maximo Tejedor Avila, a 65-year-old entrepreneur who has a stand in La Condonga, an area near the Calixto Garcia stadium. The self-employed man laments the great loses his business wlll suffer this year, with the suspension of the carnivals and the regulation of good sales.

La Candonga, with thirty outlets, is an open space for privately run food stands, open for over two decades and the most frequented by Holguin residents.

Now, uncertainty has taken over the place. Romario Céspedes Ferrer, one of the first of the self-employed who started their sales in that area, says it is the first time “they have indefinitely closed these food businesses.”

For now, the only instrument the self-employed have to remedy the situation, is the application of a temporary suspension of their permits, a mechanism that would allow them to at least avoid paying taxes as long as they cannot exercise their activity. Many food workers have initiated the request, which is in process, as they still do not know what will be the resolution of authorities. Others, meanwhile, have continued selling some products in secret, with the aim of reducing their losses.

A similar situation faces self-employed people involved in food services working outside the Dagoberto Sanfield Intercity Bus Terminal in the city of Holguin. The whole city is under strict observation by a body of inspectors, who supervise volunteers workers who inspect homes and soldiers who have joined the fight against dengue fever and cholera.

Farinas Says Latest Arrests Show The Cuban Regime’s Insecurity / 14ymedio

Guillermo Fariñas during the Cuban National Meeting in Puerto Rico. (Martí Noticias)
Guillermo Fariñas during the Cuban National Meeting in Puerto Rico. (Martí Noticias)

14ymedio biggerEFE/14ymedio, San Juan, Puerto Rico, 17 August 2015 — The dissident Guillermo Fariñas, winner of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Human Rights, told EFE Monday, speaking from the Puerto Rican capital, that the arrests recorded last weekend in Cuba are a sign of insecurity of the regime in Havana.

Fariñas, who participated in the closing ceremony in San Juan of the first Cuban National Conference, said the regime in Havana “was left without enemies” after the rapprochement with the US Government.

“The battle is now with the Cuban citizen, because the enemy is the people,” said Fariñas, shortly after the issuance of the Declaration of San Juan, which contains the outcome of the meeting begun last Thursday in the Puerto Rican capital in which a hundred dissidents coming from Cuba and elsewhere participated. The declaration marks the steps to follow in the coming months. continue reading

Fariñas emphasized that the approach to Washington has not decreased the intolerance of the Raul Castro regime. “They demand tolerance from everyone, but also ask to be left to do,” whatever they want, he said.

Fariñas is a part of the opponents of the regime in Havana gathered in San Juan to study a common strategy of opposition to the Government of Cuba, both inside and outside the island.

These Cuban dissidents called today for the unity of those who fight against the Castro regime during the closing ceremony of the conference.

The Declaration adopted at the conference said that the purpose of the meeting was “to seek ways to reconcile the work of the pro-democracy forces with the commitment to restore sovereignty and all their fundamental rights to the Cuban people.”

Fidel Castro’s Legacy for Cuba / 14ymedio, Jose Gabriel Barrenechea

Fidel Castro during an interview with journalist Barbara Walters for 'ABC' in 1977
Fidel Castro during an interview with journalist Barbara Walters for ‘ABC’ in 1977

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Jose Gabriel Barrenchea, Holguin, 15 August 2015 — For many, Fidel Castro has been “a light in the street and darkness at home.”* Although I don’t believe that either outside or inside Cuba’s borders this gentleman has illuminated a new path for humanity, I have to admit there is some truth in such a vision of his role in history. More than with doctors and teachers, Fidel Castro has performed an invaluable service for Latin Americans, behaving like those knuckleheads in the classroom who practice the sport of attracting to themselves the wrath of the teacher.

Many countries in Latin America, if not all, have benefited at some point from the role assumed by Fidel’s Cuba against Washington. They only had to sit at a desk and assume the face of an exploited lamb while the fractious Caribbean big guy assumed the defense of their rights with equal or more fervor than they themselves.

What’s more, in this role, the merit belongs not to Fidel Castro himself. It is unquestionable that he has been the first and only Latin American leader who has seriously challenged the hemispheric hegemony of the United States. But he achieved it for no reason other than the fortunate circumstance of having been born in Cuba. In short, the only merit of the Revolutionary Fidel Castro was to have been carried away by the explosion of expansive nationalism that this people of extremes experienced in the middle of the twentieth century. continue reading

However, as a revolutionary or as a tyrant, it is indisputable that Fidel Castro has truly brought about a dense darkness “in our house.” It is quite possible that only Captain General Valeriano Weyler was more disastrous for Cuba than what has resulted from this offspring of one of the little soldiers Spain sent here to fight against the desire of our ancestors to be free and independent.

Fidel Castro’s refusal to act For example, his refusal to act as a politician, that is with responsibility, put the country at the edge of the abyss during the missile crisis, in October of 1962.

For example, his refusal to act as a politician, that is with responsibility, put the country at the edge of the abyss during the missile crisis, in October of 1962. Indeed, one can admire and be proud of the fortitude with which the Cuban people faced the threat of nuclear holocaust, however frightened they were and opposed to the way in which their leader was stubbornly dragging it towards them. Nor did he channel in realistic ways the explosion of Cuban vital energy of the mid-twentieth century. Fidel Castro behaved not as a hero, but was a huge disgrace to his countrymen.

On assuming power in 1959, Fidel Castro took over a country that needed to find a new base of economic to assure the level of prosperity previously — but no longer — enjoyed, that had been shared out, with its vagaries, for more than a century. Since 1926, more or less, the Cuban economic model. based on the production and export of huge quantities of raw sugar, was in crisis. Such was the magnitude of this crisis, that from that year productive investments were not realized in the sugar industry. Despite the general will of the nation to improve the living standards of all its members, it was impossible to do so in the case of farm laborers. As would be shown in the sixties, it was absolutely unsustainable to increase the wages of the manual cane cutters, without destroying the profitability of the entire sugar industry.

After achieving full national sovereignty in the Revolution, it was a fundamental duty of the new rulers to put Cuba back on the path of prosperity.

However, Fidel Castro, in his nearly half century of governance, did nothing realistic with respect to it. Absolutely unable to deal with complex and non-linear economic problems, he always thought that, as on any feudal estate in his native Birán, the omnipotent will of the owner was enough to advance a modern economy of the then not insignificant size of Cuba’s.

Fidel always thought that, as on any feudal estate in his native Birán, the omnipotent will of the owner was enough to advance a modern economy of the then not insignificant size of Cuba’s 

Ultimately, his solution was not to convert the sugar industry into a modern sugar-chemical complex, as Ernesto Guevara had dreamed in the early sixties. Fidel Castro, pathologically incapable of doing anything good in economics, decided call on that other field that he seemed to give himself to so well: politics. If Fidel’s Cuba has experienced anything, at least from 23 December 1972 until today, it has been the economic exploitation of a dispute with the United States, more or less exacerbated any time it suited him. How? By presenting himself as the ideal ally of everyone who, in a world fill of such characters, had some ax to grind with the Americans.

By not solving the principal economic problem he just exacerbated the main danger to the nation: the lack of an non-precarious economic base that would assure credible levels of prosperity in a nation that had previously enjoyed a fairly high standard of living. Combined with very close proximity and easy communication with the United States, 1950s Cuba was in the same situation as a small planet that gets too close to an extremely massive one, ending up shattered into pieces with its remains devoured by the giant.

It was already clear in those years that, with no solution to its economic base, the nation would confront in the ‘60s and ‘70s a massive exodus of Cubans to the United States. Without any perspectives of work that would assure them the level of prosperity of their grandparents, or at least one that would compare to the neighbors to the south, there was no doubt that many Cubans would end up leaving with their families for the US. On the horizon, in addition, was the fear of the possibility of a resurgence of the previously overcome tendencies to desire Cuba’s annexation to the United States.

As would be expected in someone so impetuous, a Fidel Castro was caught flat-footed on the economic problem and tried to attack the danger directly… and to extract some advantage. As a leopard doesn’t change its spots, he tried to politicize it.

Those who left Cuba were businessmen, doctors, technicians, artists and generally a contingent of people with the values, skills and knowledge necessary to build a modern and prosperous society.

In a complex feedback process, Fidel Castro exacerbated the internal differences to the same extent that an ever greater human contingent continued what was already in the 1950s a natural tendency of Cubans to move. By 1965, a tenth of the population had emigrated to the United States, a human capital that few nations in the world of that era would have been able to display. Businessmen, doctors, technicians, artists and generally a contingent of people with the values, skills and knowledge necessary to build a modern and prosperous society.

After that, in the 1960s, we lost the sector of the population with the least affinity to his absolute authoritarianism, and he established immediate and complete control over the movements of the citizens who remained. Anyone, even the most humble seller of lollipops without any special knowledge or skills for national development, needed the express authorization of the Castro regime authorities in order to emigrate.

And at first it was almost impossible to get, at least until the eighties. Beginning in that decade Fidel Castro, by the confluence of many factors, increasingly relaxed his immigration policy. The main reason was the growing unrest.

Under his government, he had created a technical and professional sector much larger than the needs of the island. A large sector that found no possibilities for personal fulfillment in a country that first experienced the gradual withdrawal of the Soviet aid, and later its total disappearance. An extensive new opposition anticipated on the horizon, against which he might appeal to violence, although certainly not with the expected results, because already the international context wouldn’t support it. Alternately he could dip into the old standby of opening the path to emigration. Thus, this became the Cuban substitute for the Soviet gulag. Those who didn’t get on well in His Cuba could emigrate, or at least he was hoping they would, and this neutralized any desire they might have to fight.

The result of the total politicization of the life of the Cuban nation could be evaluated as of 31 July 2006. The day that, though he himself did not yet know it, Fidel Castro left power forever.

The result of the total politicization of the life of the Cuban nation could be evaluated as of 31 July 2006. The day that, though he himself did not yet know it, Fidel Castro left power forever.

By then, Cuba was (and is) without an economic base, no longer like that prior to 1926 with regard to a level of assured prosperity, but also one that brings some possibility of something more than survival to the absolute majority of the Cuban people. Even the sugar industry, with a respectable capital of accumulated knowledge of more than two centuries of evolution and with so many possibilities in new times, was eliminated by Fidel Castro in 2002. He tried in this way, it seemed, to avoid that on his departure from power, someone would dare to try to exploit the production capacity for biofuels.

But it is in the exacerbation of the danger to the survival of the nation, provoked by this lack of a non-precarious economic base, where we discover the darkest legacy of the half-century of the absolutist government of Fidel Castro. This, paradoxically, stands out still more, because Fidel Castro always presented his absolutism as indispensable to the survival of the “homeland.”

Fidel Castro’s regime has promoted the desire to escape from the island on such a scale that today, despite the enormous difficulties in doing so, almost a quarter of Cubans live outside of Cuba. What’s more, the principal danger in this is not in the proportion, but in the particular pattern of the Cuban migration with the flight of those people who are most educated.

Fidel Castro’s regime has promoted the desire to escape from the island on such a scale that today, despite the enormous difficulties in doing so, almost a quarter of Cubans live outside of Cuba.

From a Cuba in which initiative was a highly suspicious quality, and therefore under close surveillance by the secret police, the best prepared have necessarily emigrated, the most active, those least given to respecting the opinions of authority. In other words, the problem is not that emigrants are a quarter of the population, but that this quarter has been systematically selected to rob the nation of its members most likely to put themselves forward and lead a prosperous future, and an orderly one… democratic of course.

As this pattern of emigration continues, and even has even intensified since Fidel Castro left power, though his regime continues, it is not so fanciful to suppose that in the near future we might see Cuba converted into the most backward and poor nation in the western hemisphere. A position it is not far from today, despite the fact that in 1959 this same society only yielded to the United States and Canada and was equated with Argentina and Uruguay.

The damage Fidel Castro caused the nation has, in the end, been so great — a nation where in the 1950s there were only inklings on the horizon — that today there is a strong current of furtive opinion, although not openly expressed by hardly anyone, that suggests the only solution to the problem of having a country without an economic base is to annex the island to the United States.

This current, expressed only in private, remains dormant only because of the fact that the Castro regime’s propaganda still manages to be somewhat effective in promoting nationalism. However, it is to be expected that a nationalism without an economic base, or one in which the remittances of those who emigrated to the United States rapidly occupy this role, will end up eventually losing any prestige among ordinary Cubans.

The main legacy of Fidel Castro is precisely this: Never before have Cubans had less confidence in ourselves and, consequently, never has the idea of annexation had so many followers.

*Translator’s note: “Candil de la calle, oscuridad de la casa” (a light in the street, darkness at home) is a common Spanish expression meaning that a person is effective (“lit up”) away from home and with others, but useless (“dark”) at home.

UNPACU Reports More Than A Hundred Activists Arrested / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 16 August 2015 — From the early hours of Sunday the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) denounced the arrest of more than 130 of its activists. Several sources within the organization told this newspaper that the detainees were going to the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity, in Santiago de Cuba, when they were intercepted.

Repression in the east of the country coincided with a major operation in Havana, around Fifth Avenue, a place where traditionally the Ladies in White march. The human rights activist movement reported an intense act of repudiation at the end of its weekly pilgrimage, along with arrests and police violence.

The march of the Ladies in White ended with about 40 women and 25 other activists detained and taken to police stations or detention centers. Mobs staged action against activists, markedly larger this Sunday, which was denounced by the leader of this movement, Berta Soler. continue reading

For his part Jose Daniel Ferrer, leader of UNPACU, told the independent press that the number of members of his organization who were arrested “is around 138.” He also said that more than a hundred arrests took place in Santiago de Cuba, a dozen at Guantanamo and the rest in Havana and Las Tunas.

The raid on the home of Geordanis Muñoz, coordinator UNPACU in Palma Soriano, was among the repressive actions reported during the day. Despite the control, Ferrer reported that the activists managed to deliver “leaflets, paint graffiti and distribute audiovisual materials on freedom of expression and association.”

UNPACU activities are primarily directed to denounce the arrest of Zaqueo Báez and Jordys M. Dosil, who have spent weeks in Havana criminal center known as VIVAC. Ferrer explained that Baez’s wife has been informed by the prison authorities that on Monday he will stand trial for the alleged crime of “contempt.”

“Those Pools Aren’t for the People” / 14ymedio, Juan Carlos Fernández

The pool at the Frederick Engels Vocational School. (Juan Carlos Fernández)
The pool at the Frederick Engels Vocational School. (Juan Carlos Fernández)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Carlos Fernández, Pinar del Río, 13 August 2015 — “New movies, lots of ice cream, and a good pool,” is how a resident of Pinar del Río summarized his wishes for this school vacation. His second wish was granted at the local Coppélia ice cream shop, but his hometown has a sad record otherwise, counting only one open cinema, and no functioning pools.

Pinar del Río’s eleven pools are either dilapidated or are under some sort of renovation keeping them closed to the public. In spite of it being a particularly warm summer, with temperatures exceeding 97ºF, the people of Pinar del Río have to make do with fans in order to cool off a bit. Or they make do like Yoankys and Maykel, who use “a hose in the backyard” when the heat becomes unbearable. They used to able to take dives at the pool of the Pinar del Río Hotel after paying admission in CUC’s, but that option does not even exist anymore.

“This shows a lack of respect,” opined Yoaknys, who added that in the Galiano and Mijares Districts, adjacent to the Pedro Téllez Vocational School’s pool, the discontent is even greater. “People see the infrastructure is there, but we need the will to make it work.” That blue, waterless, and dilapidated rectangle is an eyesore for anyone who takes a peek at the school’s sports facilities. continue reading

Orestes, a longtime neighborhood resident who works on a government pig farm, said he could care less if there is a pool or not, but “the kids are sweltering, and we don’t even have a lagoon with water.” This man, who has always lived in the area, recalled that “the only recreation around here used to be the Vocational School’s pool, but since they didn’t change the water, they had to close it.”

Mariela, a housewife who moved to the neighborhood only two years ago, blamed the empty pool on the drought. “It would be a scandal if we had a pool full of water while we’re having such a hard time filling our water tanks.” Pinar del Río Province is facing the lowest precipitation in half a century. Its reservoirs are at a little more than 30% of total capacity, and seven are at critically low levels. Mariela added: “We can’t waste water for recreation when we barely have enough to wash dishes or bathe.”

Jorge, the custodian in charge of the Vocational School’s grounds said that (the Ministry of) Public Health ordered the pool closed because it was a mosquito breeding ground.” Together with the breakdown of pumping and water treatment systems, chlorine shortages are one of the causes that most often works against the safety of pool water throughout Cuba.

Bottom of the pool at the Ormani Arenado Sports School in Pinar del Río.
Bottom of the pool at the Ormani Arenado Sports School in Pinar del Río.

“This had turned into a health problem,” explained Mariela, who remembered that several “youngsters got sick from fungus, skin infections, and otitis in that place,” and said she was “relieved they drained the water, because it was a constant source of diseases.”

In her opinion, “people aren’t accustomed to pools. They don’t even shower before getting in, and they urinate or eat while in the water. And that’s not counting all those who in spite of having an infected wounds on their bodies, still dive in.”

However, Antonio Vázquez, a staffer of the city’s Ministry of Education, refused to accept that closing the pools is the way to solve health problems. “We want our children to learn how to swim, to play sports, and to spend their free time on wholesome recreation…but we have ten pools closed in this city!” he exclaimed in frustration.

Mr. Vázquez explained that “pools in the city of Pinar del Río fall under the jurisdiction of several government entities.” According to this government employee, the Vocational School’s pool is run by the Education Ministry, “but it was ordered closed by Public Health, because with the drought, they weren’t able to change the water, and after a month, it was polluted.”

A waiter at the Pinar del Río Hotel explained to 14ymedio that the closure of their pool was due to remodeling, “but it’s going to end up looking very nice. We’re opening it on August 13th *, with a ten CUC admission, of which eight covers food and drinks.” The hotel employee stressed “they had to close it, because it was in a very bad sate, but now it’s going to be perfect. We felt bad for the public, but it had to be closed.”

Like a vanquished giant, the Olympic-size pool at the Nancy Uranga Physical Education College, is deserted and waterless. “We had to empty it,” recalled the college’s custodian “because youngsters would show up with alcohol and knives, and then things would get bad. The grounds are under police surveillance, but the problem did not go away.” The custodian then explained, “The problem with the diving pool is another story. That one is contaminated.” Its green water covered with a layer of litter confirmed the custodian’s words.

Far from there, weeds cover the entrance path to the Frederick Engels Vocational School, inaugurated by Fidel Castro. It has been almost five years since any students have been able to submerge themselves in its two pools, which were once its source of pride. “No one gives a hoot about this. They were ruined because of the lack of upkeep,” complained an employee. The pool at the Medical Sciences Department is in a similar state.

The Ormani Arenado Sports School has become the last hope for the desperate swimmer. However, two of the three pools have not been filled for months, and the Olympic-size pool overflows with a liquid covered by a green film that reeks terribly.

In contrast with these bleak scenarios, the Central Home of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, located on the Central Highway, at the outskirts of the city, showcases a well-maintained pool, but it is reserved for the members of the military. The Ministry of the Interior’s Villa Guamá, located on the 4th kilometer (2.5 mile) mark of the highway to Viñales, is another one of the privileged locales enjoying the relief of a functioning and clean pool.

“But those pools aren’t for the people,” protested a frustrated Yoansky, the young man who tries beating the heat by dousing himself with a hose in his backyard. “It’s as if they didn’t even exist.”

*Translator’s note: August 13 is Fidel Castro’s birthday and the day is often marked by “special” events such as this.

Translated by José Badué

Cuban Opposition Gathered In Puerto Rico Support Plebiscite For Free Elections / 14ymedio

14ymedio, Havana, 16 August 2015 – The Cuban National Conference –  involving one hundred activists from 23 organizations from the Island and 32 from exile meeting for three days in Puerto Rico – concluded this Saturday with a document setting forth a common strategy. The Declaration of San Juan emphasizes the need to work “to achieve full freedom for the Cuban people and genuine Rule of Law.”

Among the points of agreement among the participants were the demand for the unconditional release of all political prisoners and the repeal of laws that violate fundamental freedoms. The declaration also established as a priority achieving “freedom of speech, press, association, assembly, peaceful demonstration, profession and religion.”

The signers of the Declaration of San Juan made a call to fight for “the participation of all the people in every decision of the nation, the legalization of all political parties, and free and multi-party elections.” During the meeting 30 papers, prepared over the last year, were presented addressing several of the topics that were later reflected in the final document.

The Cuban National Conference urged “work for a campaign for a binding plebiscite in favor of free, fair and plural elections, under democratic conditions, that guarantee the sovereignty of the citizens.” Support for the Agreement for Democracy in Cuba, a document put forward in 1998 by organizations in the diaspora and on the island, was another of the issues agreed to in the final document.

The promotion of the peaceful struggle and “training of pro-democracy activists in the methods of civil disobedience,” is included among the issues to strengthen.

The participants committed to working for the collapse of the “cyber-wall in Cuba and striving so that the internal opposition has the technological resources needed to continue mobilizing the citizenry.” Progress in both aspects will monitored over the coming six months.

The Cuban National Conference, enjoyed the participation of activists such as Guillermo Fariñas, Elizardo Sanchez, Mario Felix Lleonart, Eliecer Avila, Laritza Diversent and Rene Gomez Manzanos. Its realization coincided with the visit of US Secretary of State John Kerry to Cuba.

The Other Flag / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Secretary of State of the United States, John Kerry, in his Friday meeting with dissidents in Havana
Secretary of State of the United States, John Kerry, in his Friday meeting with dissidents in Havana

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, 15 August 2015 — Six hours after the hoisting of the Stars and Stripes at the US embassy along the Malecon, a similar ceremony occurred on 150th Street in the Cubanacan neighborhood where the official residence of Jeffrey DeLaurentis, charge d’affaires of that country, is located.

All of the heads of the United States Interest Section have lived in this mansion in recent years, and there is a flagpole in its garden. Across from it, congregated hundreds of guests who did not physically fit in the small space where hours earlier American and Cuban officials had witnessed the symbolic act that opened the US embassy in Havana. continue reading

The celebration at the residence was attended by diplomats, representatives of civil society, clergy, intellectuals and Cuban artists along with the large delegation that accompanied John Kerry in his trip to Cuba, including the three Marines who, 54 years ago, lowered the flag when the countries broke off relations, who given the honor of participating in the raising. The US Army Brass Quintet played an international repertoire, with no shortage Cuban pieces such as Guantanamera and Manisero.

In a half-hour meeting, representatives of civil society shared with Kerry their concerns and expectations

In the official residence John Kerry held a half-hour meeting behind closed doors with representatives of civil society activists and independent journalists, including Dagoberto Valdes, Elsa Morejon, Hector Maseda, Jose Daniel Ferrer, Manuel Cuesta Morua, Martha Beatriz Roque, Miriam Leiva, Oscar Elias Biscet, Yoani Sanchez and Reinaldo Escobar. Those present shared with Kerry the concerns and expectations generated by the restoration of relations between the two countries and presented an overview of the different projects they are engaged in.

Although the official media did not mention this activity on the busy schedule of the Secretary of State, it was one of the moments that marked the character of the Kerry’s visit to Cuba because it was the only thing that could provoke, and in fact did provoke, friction and controversy.

The Cuban leaders were annoyed because they would have preferred a distancing between the highest US official to step on Cuban soil in half a century, and this part of the non-conforming Cuban citizenry, persecuted, slandered and discriminated against by the government.

Others who shared this annoyance were some opponents, such as the leader of the Ladies in White Berta Soler and activist Antonio Gonzalez Rodiles, who declined the invitation they received because they believe that the US government has betrayed them “to establish relations with the dictatorship.”

If there is no progress on the issue of human rights in Cuba, there will be no lifting of the embargo, Kerry said plainly

At the meeting there was nothing that deserves to be classified as secret talks or as parallel agreements. The Cuban guests offered a general explanation of the four points of consensus from civil society, promoted by the Civil Society Open Forum, expressed the need for the United States to unblock all brakes it applies today on internet access for Cubans, and mentioned different initiatives such as developing proposals for a new Electoral Law, creating a “think tank” on Cuban affairs, and the civic actions of different political platforms.

Similarly, guests expressed the concern that main beneficiary of the restoration of relations is the Cuban government, and that the Cuban people will continue to suffer just as if nothing had occurred. Perhaps most important was the response of Kerry on this point. The Secretary of State committed to maintaining his government’s interest in advances on issues of human rights in Cuba. If no steps are taken in this direction there will be no lifting of the embargo, he said plainly.

Cuban Dissidents Meet In Puerto Rico To Seek A Common Position Against The Regime / 14ymedio, EFE

Poster for National Cuban Conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico (MartiNoticias)
Poster for National Cuban Conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico (MartiNoticias)

14ymedio biggerEFE/14ymedio, San Juan, 14 August 2015 — Leaders of the Cuban dissidence arrived on the island and everyone met this Friday in Puerto Rico to work towards a common position with regards to the new scenario that is opening with the rapprochement between the United States and Cuba.

The Cuban National Conference brought together in San Juan one hundred dissidents who are trying to achieve a single strategy among all the groups who are fighting against the regime in Havana, with regards to the steps they should follow to bring democracy to the island, according to what regime opponent Guillermo Fariñas told EFE.

“There is a new context with the change in relations – between the United States and Cuba – and therefore it is necessary to achieve unity,” said Fariñas, who emphasized that it can’t be ignored that the rapprochement between Washington and Havana has repercussions on the strategy of the dissidence. continue reading

“We are working to be heard as a single voice for the democratization of Cuba,” said Fariñas about the objective of the meeting, scheduled before learning of the change in relations between the US and Havana, which culminated this Friday with the raising of the American flag over its embassy in the Caribbean capital in the presence of US Secretary of State John Kerry.

The dissident outlined that although the change in relations is a relevant event, the ultimate goal of the National Cuban Conference being held in Puerto Rico is to mend fences between all the opposition groups inside and outside the island to agree on a common strategy that will bring democracy to Cuba.

Fariñas added that the work undertaken during the meeting will result in a Declaration of San Juan, this coming Monday, in which a joint strategy will be announced to ensure that democracy comes to Cuba.

Eliecer Avila, the young regime opponent and collaborator on the digital newspaper 14ymedio directed by the critical blogger Yoani Sanchez, told EFE that the change in direction in relations between the United States and Cuba opens a new stage, which civil society on the island must adapt itself to.

“Unity of action is paramount, and so far it has been a struggle against a regime marked by dispersion and by the actions of groups with isolated agendas,” said Eliecer Avila

“The objective is to capture all opinions to prepare a joint document,” said Avila, for whom this is the time to unite on a strategy that facilitates the return of democracy to Cuba, despite the fact that among the dissidents there are those who see the rapprochement as a positive thing, and others who are critical of it.

Thirty papers, prepared over the last year, have been presented during the meeting.

“Unity of action is paramount, and so far it has been a struggle against a regime marked by dispersion and by the actions of groups with isolated agendas,” said Avila.

Sylvia Iriondo, president of the human rights organization MAR for Cuba (Mothers and Women Against Repression), told EFE that the San Juan meeting arose in order to “unite democratic Cuban forces committed to change on the island.”

Iriondo, who lives in Miami, expressed her rejection of the rapprochement between Washington and Havana, given that Raul Castro’s regime does not represent the Cuban people.

The Cuban National Conference, in preparation for over a year, was promoted by United Cubans of Puerto Rico, an organization founded in 1967 with the aim of supporting opposition to the Havana regime from the Puerto Rican commonwealth.

The presence of nearly 20,000 Cubans in Puerto Rico and the cultural affinity were some of the reasons to bring the meeting to San Juan, according to the organization.

The work has been divided into two thematic areas, the first being the coordination of efforts between the interior of the island and the exile, and the second on strategies for democratic change.

‘A Conflict of Eras Is Unfolding in Cuba’ / 14ymedio, Atlantic Monthly, Yoani Sanchez

People gather outside the US embassy in Havana on August 14, Alexandre Meneghini / Reuters

Atlantic Monthly/14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, 15 August 2015 — My grandchildren will ask, “Were you there, grandma?” The answer will be barely a monosyllable accompanied by a smile. “Yes,” I will tell them, although at the moment the flag of the United States was raised over its embassy in Havana I was gathering opinions for a story, or connected to some Internet access point. “I was there,” I will repeat.

The fact of living in Cuba on August 14 makes the more than 11 million of us participants in a historic event that transcends the raising of an insignia to the top of a flagpole. We are all here, in the epicenter of what is happening.

For my generation, as for so many other Cubans, it is the end of one stage. It does not mean that starting tomorrow everything we have dreamed of will be realized, nor that freedom will break out by the grace of a piece of cloth waving on the Malecón. Now comes the most difficult part. However, it will be that kind of uphill climb in which we cannot blame our failures on our neighbor to the north. It is the beginning of the stage of absorbing who we are, and recognizing why we have only made it this far. continue reading

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

The official propaganda will run out of epithets. This has already been happening since the December 17 announcement of the reestablishment of relations between Washington and Havana took all of us by surprise. That equation, repeated so many times, of not permitting an internal dissidence or the existence of other parties because Uncle Sam was waiting for a sign of weakness to pounce on the island, is increasingly unsustainable.

Now, the ideologues of continuity warn that “the war against imperialism” will become more subtle, the methods more sophisticated … but slogans do not understand nuances. “Are they the enemy, or aren’t they?” ask all those who, with the simple logic of reality, experienced a childhood and youth marked by constant paranoia toward that country on the other side of the Straits of Florida.

Now that an official Cuban delegation has shared the U.S. embassy-opening ceremony with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, there is a family photo that they can no longer deny or minimize. There we saw those who until recently called us to the trenches, now shaking hands with their opponent and explaining the change as a new era.

And it is good that this is so, because these political pragmatists can no longer turn around and tell us otherwise. We have caught them respecting and allowing entrance to the Stars and Stripes.

The opposition must also understand that we are living in new times—moments of reaching out to the people, and helping them to see that there is a country after the dictatorship and that they can be the voice of millions who suffer every day economic hardship, lack of freedom, police harassment, and lack of expectations.

The authoritarianism expressed in warlordism, not wanting to speak with those who are different, or snubbing the other for not thinking like they do, are just other ways of reproducing the Castro regime.

“Are they the enemy, or aren’t they?” ask all those who experienced a youth marked by constant paranoia toward that country on the other side of the Straits of Florida.

A conflict of eras is unfolding in Cuba—a collision between two countries: one that has been stranded in the middle of the 20th century, and one that is pushing the other to move forward. They are two islands that clash, but it needs to happen. We know, by the laws of biology and of Kronos, which will prevail. But right now they are in full collision and dragging all of us between the opposing forces.

This Friday’s front-page of the newspaper Granma shows this conflict with a past that doesn’t want to stop playing a starring role in our present—a past tense of military uniforms, guerrillas, bravado, and political tantrums that refuses to give way to a modern and plural country.

When one scrutinizes Friday’s edition of the official publication of the Cuban Communist Party, it is easy to detect how a country that is unraveling clings to its past, trying not to make room for the country to come.

In this future Cuba, which is just around the corner, some restless grandchildren will ask me about one day lost in the intense summer of 2015. With a smile, I will be able to tell them, “I was there, I lived it … because I understood the point of inflection that it signified.”

This article was translated from the Spanish by Mary Jo Porter.


  • Yoani Sánchez is the Havana-based founder and executive director of 14ymedio, Cuba’s first independent digital newspaper.

Note: This article originally appeared in Spanish in 14ymedio; this English translation appeared first in The Atlantic Monthly.