Teenagers’ Access to Cuban Universities

Source – Access to Cuban Universities of Qualified Workers and Trade School Graduates, Mesa Crespo, D.L.

Although Cuba’s reputation as an advanced third world country with regards to education, annually thousand of students and workers under the age of 18 don’t have access to college level education due to social and governmental obstacles.

The Youth Code, a law implemented in 1978 and approved by the National Assembly of Popular Power, the supreme organization of the State power, explains in one of its articles that newly graduated students from basic education (up to 9th grade) can continue their education depending on their academic performance and political and social attitude.

In reality, new directives and resolutions added to the code present obstacles to the academic development of a portion of the students, who due to their age are considered adolescents.

Since the 90’s, social investigative centers run by the government have conducted studies, where diverse realities among the Cuban youth were identified: disintegration and poor social mobility in the most vulnerable population sectors and the incipient lack of motivation to continue college education.

This post belongs to a series that attempts to analyze the access to higher education of the students attending polytechnics; especially those classified as “qualified workers” who are a part of the Technical and Professional Education (ETP).  After this analysis we can concentrate on the deep fundamental aspects related to the socioeconomic and educational environment at this level of education.

The term “polytechnic student” applies to qualified workers, which refers both to the studies for qualified workers — in some specialties that relates learning a trade or skill — and to the category known as mid-level, known generically in Cuba as mid-technicians.  The differentiations between the two level of students will be made when the need arises in the coming articles in order to better understand the topic.

Translated by – LYD

2 September 2013

Decent Work / Dora Leonor Mesa

Poverty is the cause and reason that makes the worker particularly vulnerable to psychological stress.

Source: IX Meeting of the Mixed Committee

OIT- OMS sobre Medicina del Trabajo (1984)

Juan Somavia defined it as “productive labor in which freedom, equality, security and dignity are conditions,  rights are respected and fair wage payment exists as well as social protection”.

The notion of decent work amounts then “to what people expect in their working lives”, a productive work with: Fair pay; Safety in the workplace; Social protection of families; Better perspectives for personal development and social integration; Freedom for individuals to express their concerns, organize and take part in the decisions that affect their life; Equality of opportunity and treatment for women and men.

What is the Decent Work?

Is an important condition to overcome poverty, reduce social inequalities and ensure sustainable development and a democratic government.

The impact of improper working conditions

Impact in numbers; Early aging; Workforce exhaustion; Mental health deterioration; Work stress; Absenteeism

Work related illnesses will double by year 2020 if no changes occur.  Per the Work Ministry in Japan, some cases including suicides are on the rise: 13 cases in 1995; 18 cases in 1996; 23 cases in 1997; 355 cases in 2005

Karoshi (death due to excess work): First case in 1969.

Causes of death: Heart attacks and strokes including subarachnoid hemorrhage (18.4%); cerebral hemorrhage (17.2%); heart attack or brain stroke (6.8%); myocardial infarction (9.8%); heart failure (18.7%); other causes (29.1%), including among them illnesses of rationalization.

The National Defense Council of the Victims of Death from Overwork (karoshi), is an institution that helps the victim’s families to obtain compensation and in many cases, fight endless judicial battles; it’s considered that karoshi affects annually around 10,000 Japanese employees.

Who commits suicide?: Any social status; Work hours with a medium of 10-12 hours without rest days.

What happens in China?: The life expectancy of the “brains” that lead the technology park in Zhongguancun, north of Beijing, considered the Chinese “Silicon Valley” is 54 years and 70% risk of death from “karoshi” (death due to excess work).

It also happens in Europe: The Appellate Court in Riom (Puy-de Dome) confirmed it in February 2000; In January 20, 1997 a man was found hanged, having been threatened with dismissal.

What is burn-out?  Some define it as a psychological retirement from work as an answer to dissatisfaction and excessive stress.

Dynamic Definition of burn-out: Labor Stress / Tiredness / Defensive Attitudes:  Rigidity, Cynicism and Indifference; Demand – Available Resources / Tension; Fatigue, Irritability.

Absenteeism: An employee who is absent from work “without reason” is showing his desire to leave that job forever.

How can we intervene to prevent this?: With the improvement of working conditions.  Improving the quality of the job is the central requirement to ensure health and security at work; so decent works exists.  It’s essential to prevention.

Translated by – LYD

23 September 2013

The Privatization of Education in Cuba: Kissing the Right Frog / Haroldo Dilla Alfonso (Posted on Dora Leonor Mesa’s blog)

By Haroldo Dilla Alfonso, Dominican Republic, July 26, 2013, Originally posted on Cubaencuentro. Translation originally on Havana Times.

HAVANA TIMES — An ad for a private day care center in Havana has been posted on the Internet (including Cuba’s classifieds page, Revolico) for some days now. The owner, Zulema Rosales, is reportedly the daughter of General Rosales del Toro.

Since I don’t know this person, or the general’s family, or the general, for that matter, I can’t really confirm this claim. I don’t know whether they are good or bad people, if they are hard-working or lazy, honest or not. As such, none of this stems from a personal judgment of these individuals.

Read the rest of this post in English here, at the Havana Times

16 September 2013

No Respect for the Teacher / Victor Manuel Dominguez (Posted on Dora Leonor Mesa’s Blog)

By Víctor Manuel Domínguez

Havana, Cuba, 2.7.2013  http://www.cubanet.org

Another academic year with more pain than glory comes to its end (2012/2013). Another mess-up. Never mind that the information media go on about the advances in the pedagogical methodology, the implementation of the plan, the improvement in the basics of study, the improvement in the learning of the student body, and exemplary discipline.

The parents, teachers, education sector managers and the students know it isn’t so.

The promises of better courses for the students are erased like words written in chalk. The fraud, corruption and the lack of interest in teaching or learning are common in the schools.

The reasons why, course after course, things go from bad to worse, are there. The frustration of many professional parents who hardly have enough to live on, the low salary of the educators who can’t survive to the end of the month, the corruption of many directors, and the lack of prospects on the part of the pupils, are more than enough to ensure things don’t get any better.

Obdulia Camacho (not her real name), librarian, ethnologist and professor of literature and Spanish for more than six decades, says that the education sector is one of the worst and most complex in the country, because of its influence on the formation of the people from infancy.

“Before, without learning, you couldn’t advance,” she said.

At the age of 80, she still works in the sector on a contract basis. Although, as she points out, because of her low pay (about 350 pesos in national money, $16 USD) she has had to work as an attendant in a hospital and receptionist in a primary school, as well as washing and ironing for anybody who wants it, looking after people who are ill, among other work she does to make up her salary, because she has a daughter and a grandchild to support.

In accordance with her authoritative opinion, indiscipline in the sector is general. The study plans leave much to be desired. Most education centers are in bad condition in regard to basic needs, sanitary fittings, but above all education is miserable because of lack of values and corruption.

“Last week,” she said, “the mother of a student in a school located at 20 de Mayo and Ayestarán in El Cerro, turned up very upset in the center’s management office and shouted that her daughter had to pass the physics exam, since she had paid $20 in order that she wouldn’t have any problem with the grade.”

In another school in Central Havana, a student taking an exam stood up in the middle of the class and, in a disrespectful and threatening manner, went up to a female teacher, who had been in the sector for more than 40 years, and shouted at her:” Hey you, cross-eyes, if I don’t come out well in this test, you will see what happens to you.”

The teacher started crying.

According to Obdulia, although such things can happen in any country, the causes are distinctly different in Cuba, whose educational system is permeated by a disproportionate control, coercion and indoctrination of the student body to the detriment of a free and universal education.

“It’s embarrassing”, she said, “that with so many basic problems, like indiscipline, the frustration on choosing a course which offers hardly any benefit, the sale of exams – recently recognised by the official press [1] – the favoritism and a thousand things more that demand radical change in the national educational system, they still talk as if nothing was wrong and they hold up the Cuban educational system as an example which the world should follow.

Another academic year with more pain than glory, comes to its end. The teachers dream that in the following year their pay will go up and their working conditions will improve. The parents pray because the vacations are coming up soon. And the students enjoy themselves away from a classroom which gives them more nightmares than dreams.

[1] Recognised recently in the official press.


Translated by GH

16 September 2013

Physical Punishment of Cuban Children is Common / Dora Leonor Mesa

Our Father who is in heaven!
Why have you forgotten me?
You remembered the fruit in February,
when your flesh became ruby
My side is open as well,
and you do not want to look at me!

Nocturno, G. Mistral

Peter Newell, coordinator of the GLOBAL INITIATIVE TO END ALL Corporal PUNISHMENT OF CHILDREN is categorical in his 2010 report referring to corporal punishment inflicted upon Cuban children:

CUBA (second report – CRC/C/CUB/2)

Corporal punishment in the home

Corporal punishment in Cuban homes is legal.

The Family Code of 1975 allows “moderate” punishment by parents (article 86) and by those who are responsible for the care and/or education of children (article 152).

The legal regulations against violence and abuse in the Family Code (1975), Penal Code (1987) and the Constitution of the Republic, do not explicitly express prohibitions against corporal punishment in the upbringing of infants.

Corporal punishment outside the home

Corporal punishment in schools is legal.

The resolution, along with the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Higher Education (1987) approved disciplinary regulations at work during educational activities. However, it is said that “every worker in educational activities can’t maltreat students by words or actions (article 4)” doesn’t specifically prohibit physical punishment. continue reading

In the penal system, physical punishment is criminal (article 30). This article also applies to prisons, but Mr. Newell explains that if evidence is lacking in other institutions pertaining to children it may conflict with the law. The Code of Children and Youth (1968) also does not prohibit the use of physical punishment in minor detainees.

Physical punishment is also legal in alternative child care centers …

On June 17th 2011, the Committee for Childrens’ Rights, later referred to as the Committee, in paragraph 36 section D. Civil Rights and Liberties (articles 7, 8, 13-17, 19 and 37 (a)) of the Convention (CRC), in the final report (CRC/C/CUB/2) explains its worries to the Cuban government given that:

Articles 86 and 152 of the Family Code are still enforced by the Cuban legislature. The committee highlights its dismay that corporal punishment is often used (in Cuba) as a disciplinary measure in schools as well as in social institutions.

In paragraph 37 the Committee recommended to the Cuban government that they pass legislation explicitly prohibited corporal punishment of children, both in State institutions and in the home.

The Committee defines “corporal” or “physical” punishment as any punishment that uses physical force with the objective of causing any pain or discomfort, however mild.

The Committee says that corporal punishment is always degrading. There are other forms of punishment that are not physical, but equally cruel and degrading, also incompatible with the Convention. There are punishments that humiliate, denigrate, scapegoat, threaten, terrify and ridicule the child.

Since September 2001, in the recommendations adopted following the general discussion on “Violence against children in the family and in schools,” the Committee on the Rights of the Child urged States to “urgently enact or repeal, as necessary, legislation so as to prohibit all forms of violence, however slight, in the family and in schools, including as a form of discipline, as provided in the Convention on Children’s Rights.”

Another result of the discussions held by the Committee in 2000 and 2001 was to request the Secretary-General of the United Nations, through the General Assembly, to conduct an in-depth international study on violence against children.

In 2001 the UN General Assembly enacted that recommendation. The United Nations study, conducted between 2003 and 2006, highlights “the need to ban all legalized violence against children, as well as a deep concern for the children themselves almost universal prevalence of corporal punishment in the family and for its persistent legality in many states, schools and other institutions, and correctional systems for children in conflict with the law.”

Fifteen years ago (1997), when Cuba presented an initial report before the Committee of Children’s Rights expressing its worries against the abuse committed against minors under the age of 18 and in this context recommended the development of a campaign to prevent corporal punishment. In 2011, the Committee calls on Cuba as a State to prioritize the elimination of all forms of violence against children, with particular attention in the case of girls. Among other recommendations proposed on the contentious issue, one stands out for its importance in Cuban society to help to discover how deep the scourge of violence against Cuban children is:

To consolidate a national data system, analysis and public dissemination that includes an agenda of investigation against child abuse.

 MEMBER STATES. Countries that are members of the United Nations.

PARTY STATE(S). Countries that have ratified an agreement or a convention and therefore are obliged to abide by its provisions.

Translated by: Alexis Rhyner and others

In the Path of Junko Tabei / Dora Leonor Mesa

Junko Tabei

Womanhood and motherhood is a blessing.  As women we are faced with many challenges in any part of the world despite the indisputable social advancements in the past decades, but one forgets when one fights to support* a family, including if you live in a country like Cuba, wretched thanks to the decision of a group of people; where on top of that everything is organized in such a manner that the difficulties and challenges are constant however planned the life you lead is.  The matter is complicated much more if you are poor.  Now maternity is not so fun, even though you bear it with that “the children didn’t ask you to bring them to Cuba.”

You can still be happy with three requisites: woman, mother and poor.  The hair really starts to get knotted with the fourth requirement: to be black.

Everything gets complicated.

Cuba, the beautiful and racist island of the Caribbean, where it is natural to be black and poor.

If a black woman dresses well and has money, many Cubans probably believe she is a well-known artist or athlete.  She’s not one of those?  Weird!  Does she have a foreign husband?  Of course!  In these cases it is recommended that one gets used to the title “girl from the streets with luck,” even though she is more demure than an angel and with more merits than a Nobel Prize.  Through these reflections the Japanese Junko Tabei arrived, born May 23, 1939, in the prefecture of Fukushima. She became the first woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest, on May 16, 1975.

I am convinced that we need the courage and tenacity of this incredible mountain climber.  So we, the Cubans of African descent, can occupy the place we deserve in Cuban society with full rights.  And these places must be conquered with much sacrifice.  This respect to which we aspire is as steep as the will of Junko Tabei.  If the goal is not as high as Everest, we will lose our way.  In reality there are very notable Cubans of African descent, even though nothing changes.  Inevitable we have to follow the route of Junko Tabei.  Without sparing strength, without receiving applause. Struggle with faith against the eternal blizzards, the intolerable exhaustion…and the habit of always seeing ourselves as so humble, so conflicted.

8 August 2013

The Teaching of Zero in the Pre-school Years / Dora Leonor Mesa

By Karen Garcia

Zero symbolizes nothing.  It presents itself as the cornerstone of mathematics, mute protagonist of our arithmetical system.

The idea of zero developed in India starting in the 5th century B.C.  There various religions accepted the creation of the world starting from nothing.  The Hindus demonstrated that when you add it to any number it’s unchanged, while if you combine it using multiplication, the result is null.  Later they tried to use it as a divisor and the admired the appearance of infinity.  The Arabs transmitted this mathematical wisdom to Europe with the expansion of Islam.  The Jews also incorporated it into the Cabala, their mystical tradition, to create numerology.[1]

In the Cuban school, a child acquires the notion of the concept of zero in first grade. From a young age he knows how to recite the numbers up to great quantities but the concept of quantity and cardinal notion is usually acquired during the early years of primary school.  So the concept of zero appears in the resolution of concrete operations of addition and subtraction where the same represents the absence “of what one is going to share;” eg: I have a box of 5 candies and Pedro ate 5.  How many are left?[2]

In the mathematics textbook of first grade (Edited by Pueblo and Educacion.  8th edition, Cuba 2010) the natural numbers from 1-10 appear on page 11.  Starting from page 54, the number 0 appears on the number line.

During the teaching of preschool, an activity that could be used to introduce the concept of zero is to give each little one a small box of objects.  Mention to them that they are going to start with zero and ask them to signal the quantity, that is to say, that they take all the objects out of the box. It is recommended to write on the board the number 0, at the same time reminding that them that we start from this number and in this way constructing learning.  Instead of saying 1, 2, 3, 4,…once the toddler knows the abstract concept of number, it’s time to teach him to count: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4…. This way of teaching facilitates the concept of the number line that will be used later in the first grade of elementary school.

[1] Loria, Gino, Historia Sucinta de la Matematica, 1932

[2] Monaco Nancy I., El número cero ¿la nada matematica?, Buenos Aires, 2009

8 August 2013

Christmas Threats / Dora Leonor Mesa

An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.
Mahatma Gandhi

After having taken a personal inventory of 2012, I’ve seen that the GECAL workers were more offensive than usual, and although we tried by all means, it was impossible to avoid confrontations. In mid-December, the situation worsened to the point where the threats escalated after the arrest and release of the independent lawyer Yaremis Flores.

At first I came to think there were prejudices and paranoia were it not that one of the most aggressive neighbors we had, said threateningly:

“The U.S. blockade doesn’t put ’this’ (the country) bad, but the internal counterrevolution!,” he shouted at the top of his voice while he stared at me, and I tried to calm my husband down.

We don’t allow ourselves to be provoked and so everything was left the same. That same day, around 11:00 in the morning, some GECAL workers, friends of the neighbor who shouted at us, began to walk around and put boards in the old backyard of the house, which adjoins the bathroom window and the kitchen. I talked to them beside the toilet and asked them to please not put anything there because that area is under litigation, the bathroom window is really low, they have plenty of room elsewhere, etc.

The request was what they needed for the crowd to grow and to begin uttering threats of hitting me. They even said that if I dared to call the police, the punishment would be worse. Good thing I decided to be quiet and move back just in time. That way, I couldn’t even see their faces, but we heard the shouting and the insults.

Although we carried on with the childcare activities, at dusk I made a complaint at the Aguilera police station. What goes around comes around… a few weeks later I refused when they tried to convince me to drop the charges.

So, a sad 2012 Christmas came to my family. As a complement, I had an interview with the municipal director of the Ministry of Labor and Social Security in Diez de Octubre, where I had the opportunity to explain the reason for the prestige achieved by the daycare centers served by ACDEI. This academic year 2012-2013, the first group of preschoolers started school successfully.

The official asked me repeatedly how the idea came up to establish private nursery education. She said that officials of theDiez de Octubre Municipality of Education claim that I must go through the pre-school learning methodology. No surprise if it’s true what they say. Lying is a very popular business tool in this island. Our project is based on an NGO, the Cuban Association for the Development of Primary Education (ACDEI), which is about to be approved. At the headquarters of the Ministry of Justice (MINJUS) they angrily asked me the same thing:

“How did you get that idea?”

More surprises cause us to worry:

1. The children learn in appropriate conditions.

2. The owners and their employees gradually become educators.

3. We don’t charge for our services to the daycare centers.

4. That there be advocacy and outreach to the citizens of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

In Cuba, being a Cuban citizen and defending our rights irritates the State. Any state entity thinks they are better than the ordinary citizen.

Gecal’s attitude is no exception, it is the rule. Months ago the police had explained to that constructive government group, in particular its director, that until the sentence is carried out in that area they can not perform any activities, or use it as their own. A bad memory? Yes, particularly when the applicant is a civil society activist who speaks to the public about the reports of the Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Regarding the continuing threats, it’s not long until we get used to it. The verb “to threaten” is used a lot in Cuban society.

He or she threatens,

They threaten,

We are all threatened…daily.

00004 firma post

Translated by: Michelle Eddy

January 27 2013

I don’t know why you think … / Dora Leonor Mesa #Cuba

What a sad life if you don’t see!
don’t see the guitar
don’t see the woman
don’t see the sparrow flying away
when it’s about to rain
nor the little lizard
on the wall.

Song, poetry byN. Guilln

I went from the internet straight to the police station known as the “eagle’s nest”. Earlier, some activists told me that about 5 pm at the Acosta police station nobody was there anymore. The brave activists of the civil society, who were there, were beaten and thrown in jail. Around about 7 pm, and in effect there was nobody around.

I was also at risk of being detained for the simple fact of going to the police station to ask about and show support for those arrested.

As they explained to me later, the State Security order was:

“Straight to the slammer with anybody who comes to ask questions!”

That Tuesday 6th of November, I saw at the eagle’s nest police station a relative of the activist Mario Moraga, who was also imprisoned. One way or another, God helped me, and a polite police official was prepared to see me. On learning about Laritza Diversent, the only independent lawyer being held there, they asked me if I was a relative, and with sincerity I said:

“We are like family. We work together for the rights of Cuban youth,” I replied.

He looked at me strangely, asked for my identity card and then went off inside the premises, I don’t know where. I had to wait quite a while, but I wasn’t being held.

When the card was returned to me, I went off with my tail between my legs. I hadn’t been able to find out hardly anything. The police weren’t authorized to give me information, they explained:

“The official in charge of the case will be here tomorrow. Ask him your questions.”

From Tuesday 6th November up to Friday 9th at midnight we passed an anxious time while they let us know little by little that Yaremis Flores, Laritza Diversent and other independent lawyers had been freed. Nevertheless Antonio Rodiles was still being held.

The way I see it, the important thing is that although I knew my investigations could mean I ended up in jail, I never felt aversion for any police agent. They have hit me on other occasions. Now there was someone who was looking at me with disdain. Others pretended not to notice anything. An official shouted at me for asking something, and I replied to him like I do to my students: with lots of patience, and in a gentle voice.

Teachers are facilitators and teach by example. Anger and contempt have to be banished by anyone who really loves the teaching profession, especially if those we are teaching are little boys and girls. I know it’s difficult. Nevertheless, quite clearly, this blog is essentially from the Cuban Association for the Development of Infant Education (ACDEICuba) and we dream that Cuban boys and girls will one day read these lines. We want them to know the feeling that always was and will be present in us and in those texts in very difficult moments. One of Nicolas Guillen’s poems best describes our feelings – he is the author of the unforgettable verses “A Paper Boat is floating over the Sea of Antilles.”

I don’t know why you think …
I don’t know why you think,
soldier, that I hate you,
if we are the same thing,

You are poor, me too;
I am from the lower class, so are you;
where have you got the idea,
soldier, that I hate you?

It pains me that sometimes you
forget who I belong to
for goodness sake, if I am you,
I am the same as you
So, what you have done is nota reason for me
to dislike you
if we are the same thing
I don’t know why you think,
soldier, that I hate you.

We will see each other, me and you,
together in the same street
shoulder to shoulder, you and me
without hatred, neither me nor you,
but both of us knowing
where we come from, me and you,
I don’t know why you think,
soldier, that I hate you!

Translated by GH

December 18 2012

2012-2013 School Year: Student Dead, Assasinated and Judgment Escaped / Dora Leonor Mesa #Cuba

Someday the sun will shine
In my backyard…
The Shining by Stephen King

In the clear air it seems that imagination comes alive, leaving the reins of reason. Every day, Raisa Medina sees her son return from school to go out play again, while sky and vegetation lazily spin with a slow roll, an idle globe.

The words, the sounds are dispersed in a buzz. Since any court, with shouts of annoyance will respond:

– The sentence isn’t!

With a shudder, Raisa regains sanity and looks away from the precipice.

Son Alain Izquierdo Medina: 14 years old. Dead on the afternoon of July 15, 2011

Place: Mamocillo arbor, Havana.

Cause of death: anemia

Other aggravating factors: Climbing a fruit tree on a farm accompanied by two minors who were unharmed.

Guilty: Amado Interian, retired police officer.

Facts: Shot at the teenagers. Amado Interian had time to hide and tried to evade justice for the second time.

The act of valor shown from the mother of Alain Izquierdo, Mrs. Raisa Medina, the intervention ofDr. Laritza Diversent (www.elNuevoHerald.com) and other efforts carried out by civil society, including the complaint to the Committee of Experts UNICEF, managed to transfer him to jail.

However, with the boy Alain Izquierdo dead, the mother gets bad news.

– Your boy didn’t die from the bullets, but from anemia.

– Problems in holding the trial.

– Information unconfirmed: the guilty escape. Unknown prison.

Other than these facts, the woman is hindered. She wants the copy of the judicial sentence to be the victim of her son.

It is unnecessary to explain what the death of a child means to any progenitor. But day after day, this mother feels like they’re opening her in pieces. She suffers deadly hits, burying her son in an uncertain justice, for being a black woman she receives stabbings disguised as generous offers. Additional hits because of poverty. Like a colophon: NO JUDICIAL SENTENCE

The comments abound.

God allow the rumor of the murderer’s flight to be false. Hopefully God will intercede for that mother and at least give her the consolation of having a copy of the sentence of the crime. Otherwise, it’s a question of time. Other Raisas will suffer.

Sons and phantom daughters, wandering without hope since the beginning until the end of every school year. Death and the Ungovernability, parties through the streets of Havana, saying hello to other boys and girls.

– Will we get time to pray?

– Blessed Virgin, pray for the death of this boy. Make us feel better. Do not allow more terrible news.

“Retaliate against mothers”

“Cuban infants, better victims”

“They assassinate another black boy”

“Cuba: dead justice”

Translator’s note: This post refers to a child who was shot dead by a former police officer when he climbed the officer’s fruit tree. His death was ruled to have been caused by anemia — that is the loss of blood from his bullet wound — rather than from the bullet itself. Posts from the attorney Laritza Diversent with more information about the case are here and here.

Translated by: BC CASA

September 15 2012

Spaceman Solo / Dora Leonor Mesa

The dancer dances surrounded by cords. He is lonely. Amid ropes, some chairs also take up the insufficient space. In front of the man, the spectators watch. Mozart’s music sounds different inside the show. The dancer wears white; he moves, suffers each gesture he makes. Desperate he raises a woman’s hand in the auditorium and take her into stage. They dance.

The woman follows the steps a few moments but it’s not enough. The artist sits her in a chair. And in that way he acts with other audience members. They dance. Each companion becomes part of his pain and performance; though he goes on dancing alone. The music ends.

“I’m cold, cold, cold,” the interpreter exclaims. Now on the stage are many people but no one helps. The guests on stage doubt. What’s going on? Should they help the artist? Except for the ropes, nothing moves. They are the stage and the obstacles of the dance.

“They arrest an artist as in a fugitive criminal hunt.”

This perfomance has other aims: To emotionally disturb other creators, friends and their families? To tear to pieces the beauty of the world of art and communication?

Orlando Luis Pardo was recently detained in a cell for several hours. It’s not enough being a photographer to capture the talent of the Cuban blogger’s images. I look for the picture “A newspaper seller.” It takes the breath away of the most unwary. The seller could be from Haiti, Ethiopia or Somalia, but no; he is Cuban. Yes, from Cuba; that exemplar island in education, health, beaches. It’s a shame the photograph makes him doubt.

“Is he really Cuban, that man of the picture, black, clown or poor; or all at once?”

The image of that person wearing rags and newspaper disturbs each onlooker.

The ropes that surround the best Cuban bloggers, male or female — very soon any blogger — resemble those of the work “Spaceman Solo” by choreographer Narciso Medina. Ropes with their own names: Harassment, Suspicion, Humiliation. Caustic spiderwebs, omnipresent to cause an immense loneliness; to paralyze the artist regardless the occupation: photographer, writer, sportsman. It’s the same.

Those ropes want to silence — especially — the humans with inspiration, a stunning gift that Nature deals at random.

The signs show that there is so much nervousness in the government’s highest spheres. There is no money, no youth, no magic wand effective to show how Generation Y broke the dike. On the contrary, the Blogger Academy discovers the recipe to forge talents. It does not even have to get close to the potential “abductees”. A cloud of infectious blogger air. Infection that in the end expands as a virus or a bacteria: invading a living creature and multiplying in him. Immediately, the change.

The bloggers Orlando Pardo, Yoani Sánchez, Luis Felipe Rojas, Wilfredo Vallín and many other lucid people are a problem. Their work is in the net of nets. To top it off, with a boomerang effect behind the detractors. Talent, communication and technology. The end of loneliness.

Translated by: @Hachhe

September 14 2012

Executions in Alphabetical Order / Dora Leonor Mesa

It does not matter if you are superstitious or not. In Cuba anything can happen; even the most unimaginable of things.The three Parcas, the Fates, are out on recess in Cuba.

Why deny that they are interested in the Spanish alphabet to cut the threads of their canvases? What will be the next choice? Silliness??


The sudden death of the renown opponent leader in Cuba, Osvaldo Paya Sardiñas is full of enigmas. Leaving all accusations and suspicions aside, ten months before another Sakharov prize winner passed away: Laura Pollan.

Pollan, Laura, with her first surname with P. Paya, another P. A mere coincidence, if the also well-known mason opponent Gustavo Pardo weren’t finally obliged to go into exile after being pointed as a CIA agent in the last rerun of the TV show “Razones de Cuba”(Cuba’s Reasons). First aired on monday march 22 of 2011.

Such accusation, for any Cuban, is a clear death sentence by shooting.

In the Greek mythology, the Parcas are three goddesses who determined human life and destiny. Known in Latin as Parcaeand as Moiras in Greek, the Parcasassigned a part of good and evilto each person at birth, although by the own clumsiness the evil could be increased.

Melancholic maidens or severe elderly women,portrayed in art and poetry, alwayswere represented as weavers.

Clotho, the Spinner, who spins the thread of life.

Lachesis, the distributor of fortunes, decides their duration and assigns their destination to each person.

Atropos, the Inexorable, carries the feared scissors that cut the thread of life at the right moment.

Did Lachesis intervene to save the life of the mason Gustavo Pardo?

Does the Inexorable Parca Atropos have a list of Cuban dissidents whose surnames have the initial P?

Around 15:45 of 23 July 2012 a gray hearse brought the body of Oswaldo Paya Sardiñas to the entrance of a church of Cerro, in Havana. The car plate was HXX190 or HXX901 or HXX091? It’s hard to remember in the middle of the emotional hit and three hours waiting.

The Funeral was supposed to start at 8:00, then changed to 11:00. The address of the church was another dilemma solved by SMS messages sent between friends and acquaintances. It was recommended to forget the doubts and wait in the park outside the church, next to the news agencies cameras and the political police.

The hearse plate adds 1 and is an interesting number (9 + 1 = 10). The plate of the crashed car in which Para Sardiñas and other 3 companions were traveling (T 31402) also makes 1 according the numerologist criterion, those who practice the divination through graphs and numbers.

More than 400 people attended the prayer for the dead, a brief Catholic Mass in honor of the deceased. The applause of the attendees after the immense courage and activism of Paya lasted about 10 uninterrupted minutes. The priest’s voice was barely able to control the cheers and shouts of Freedom. Only when the troubled widow spoke, her voice turned the pain and anger int a respectful silence.

The National Anthem or Bayamo Anthem sang by the attendees, seemed like a scream more than a march. Paya died near Bayamo, at the east of the island.

Thereport of the UN Committee against the Torture (http://media.elnuevoherald.com/smedia/2012/06/01/11/28/ thvNr.So.84.doc )states that Cuban civil society and its families are under risk conditions. Therefore the international community must be on the alert. Also Cubans, wherever they are.

It’s time to protect the Cuban alphabet letters of the Opposition, among them, to those more common or those they bother, as the S, the V, the F.

At anytime, the three spinners change the threads and letters. Their last patch started from the end. The Parcas played with the hunger of Z from Zapata. After the feared maidens they beat to death the S of Soto Villar. Amid this net, without a doubt, are other cut threads.

Perhaps a rough day, the severe elderly women will jump to the beginning of the alphabet to sweep away whatever they find. The decisions of the Parcas can not be altered, even by the gods.

A, B, C,…F,G,..

The blind scissors are the worst part of the thread. It’s never known when and which thread will be cut.

– Cut again.

– No, it’s fine.

– I wouldn’t be so sure.

– These threads are strong

– Go on! Cut them all!

Translated by @Hachhe

August 7 2012

EFE with the Cuban News of the Year / Dora Leonor Mesa

For decades the extinct Microbrigades Company of the City of Havana, today Group GECAL, has caused our family deep sorrow and anguish as a consequence of its creation of a warehouse in our backyard. My daughters avoid using the bath and looking out the windows. The usual threats of damage to our property and dispossession of our backyard are real. The mental torture and intimidation continue, we are a mere incident.

Cuba promises in the UN that it will authorize the visit by the inspector on torture.

Geneva, June 1 (EFE). — Cuba has committed today to the members of the UN Committee on Torture to authorize the visit of a special investigator from the United Nations for this matter, Juan Mendez, whose predecessor tried for years without success to get authorization to visit the Caribbean island.

The lawyer and member of the committee, Fernando Mariño, told EFE that the Cuban delegates, participating in the session in which the case of their country was examined, “have committed to arrange a visit” of the current investigator, although they did not specify a date.

If this happens, “there would be an independent and competent international organ that could travel anywhere there are detainees and would report independently about what is taking place there,” he noted.

For Cuba it would mean showing “that there is no political fear to submitting to oversight by outside agencies.”

Additionally, the Committee on Torture expressed concern in its report today about the continuing complaints of arbitrary, brief detentions in Cuba of political opponents, human rights activists and independent journalists.

Cuba has denied that there has been an increase of arrests of this kind without legal authorization.

“It has to do with detaining a person for 24 or 48 hours, then letting him go, but without having taken any legal action, not even by the prosecutor. This is a form of quick political harassment,” explained Mariño.

Contrary to claims by the government in Havana,Mariño said that “it seems that (the practice of brief detentions) has lately become widespread.”

In another section of its report, the group of experts from the UN also complains of the use of “ambiguous criminal laws,” among which it cited “pre-criminal societal danger.”

In this way it justifies “restrictions on freedom of association, invasive surveillance operations, physical aggression, and other acts of intimidation and harassment presumably committed by agents of the National Revolutionary Police and members of the State Security Agency.”

Likewise, it mentions with concern the reports of “acts of repudiation” which continue to take place in front of the dwellings of the members of the so-called “Ladies in White” and the Patriotic Union of Cuba.

The committee expressed regret over “the reticence” of the State to present complete information about the incidents and “about the means taken to avoid these kinds of coordinated actions in which the presumed connivance between the harassers and the police authorities is noted,” says the report.

It also mentions the “lack of detailed data about complaints, investigations, prosecutions and convictions in cases of torture and mistreatment, as well as cases of murder in custody.”

On this topic Cuba noted during the session that the committee had indicated that no case of death in detention during the period studied was determined to be the responsibility of the officials in charge of custody and that no autopsy revealed signs of physical violence.

In response to this position, the committee pointed out that Cuba has not provided statistical information about the causes of those deaths.

It mentions that, according to the “limited information” that it has received between 2010 and 2011, they found 202 deaths in the penitentiary system, a figure it considers “elevated.” EFE

Translated by mlk

June 19 2012

The Cuban Government Before the Committee Against Torture / Dora Leonor Mesa

By Miriam Leiva, Havana 06/07/2012

Extracted from www.cubaencuentro.com

Cuban authorities for more than nine years avoided the analysis of their violations of human rights in the United Nations Committee on Torture; a period that coincides with the uprising of March 2003, when it subjected 75 peaceful protesters to summary trials and shot three young boat hijackers — who caused no bloodshed themselves –as well as the deaths of political prisoners Orlando Zapata Tamayo and Wilman Villar Mendoza on hunger strike, and it maintains strong repression over many members of civil Cuban society.

The 48th Session of the Committee analyzed the report presented by the Cuban Government the 22nd and 23rd of May, fulfilling its commitment as a State that is party to the Convention against Torture and Other Agreements or Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Punishments (which it subscribed to in 1987 and the National Assembly ratified in 1995). On June 1 the Committee against Torture issued its Final Observations. The Cuban authorities always have denied the use of torture, in reference to the notable physical evidence, but the concept is much wider.

Article 1 of the Convention specifies that “’torture’ is any act by which serious pain or suffering, whether physical or mental,is intentionally inflicted n a person with the goal of getting information or a confession from him or a third person, punishing him for an act he may have committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing that person or others, or for whatever reason based on whatever kind of discrimination, when said pain and suffering is inflicted by a public official or other person in the exercise of public duties, at his instigation or with his consent or approval.”

The Committee against Torture is composed of 10 independent experts, proposed by the countries, but they work in their personal capacity. Their work is to supervise the application of the Convention by the states that are parties to it, which must present periodic reports and respond to questions about the complaints received, as well as take part in the meeting of the Committee for the consideration of the reports. It meets in Geneva twice a year, and on this occasion they analyzed Albania, Armenia, Canada, Cuba, the Czech Republic, Greece, Rwanda, and Syria.

As verified  the reports of the international press agencies, the rapporteurs Nora Sveaass and Fernando Marino Menendez, together with other experts, analyzed the Report and referred in detail to the well documented complaints received. On May 22 and the next day, the Cuban delegation rejected all the accusations.

The Cuban deputy prosecutor Rafael Pino Becquer argued that between 2007 and 2011, 263 complaints of mistreatment in places of detention were answered,by reason of which “46 agents of the security forces were held criminally responsible.” He said that all the complaints about mistreatment were false, denied the existence of overcrowded jails, and said that there had not been a single prison death that could be blamed on the authorities. With regards to the human rights activists’ situation, he repeated the Government’s traditional falsehoods that they “cannot be qualified under that concept, according to the precepts of the UN” because their actions”. . . seek to destroy the internal order of Cuba (. . .) in the service and under the direction of a foreign power. In Cuba, the authentic defenders of human rights are protected. No one in our country has been persecuted or sanctioned for exercising his rights, including those of free expression and association.”

“. . . they look to destroy the internal order of Cuba (…) in the service and under the direction of a foreign power. In Cuba, the authentic defenders of human rights are protected. No one in our country has been persecuted or sanctioned for exercising his rights, including those of free expression and association.”

About the concept of danger, he expressed that it is applied by independent judges under the rules of due process in accord with sufficient proof,”and certainly not because of the political beliefs of the individuals. There only exist detentions under the rules of due process for a citizen or a group that wants to alter the public order, “and certainly not because of political beliefs of individuals. There only exist properly registered detentions for a citizen or a group that wants to alter the public order.”

The document “Final Observations” from the Committee begins showing that the Periodic Report presented by Cuba, more than nine years late, does not fully conform to the established guidelines, and regrets that some of the questions were not answered. It reiterated the recommendation of 1997 that defined the crime of torture in domestic law,as contained in Article 1 of the Convention.

“Final Observations” recommended that all detainees should be guaranteed all of the fundamental judicial rights; that the necessary measures are adopted so that prison conditions meet the UN’s Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Inmates; that diet and sanitary and medical resources are improved; that communication between relatives and a lawyer is guaranteed; that any cruel, inhumane or degrading punishments, such as solitary confinement in deplorable conditions, be completely prohibited.

The Committee raised concern about the legal ambiguity of former prisoners under “parole,” and confirmed the reports received about the arbitrary restrictions of their personal liberty and free movement. It also exposed the need to modify the provisions of the Penal Code regarding pre-criminal social dangerousness, “an ambiguous criminal offense.”

Among otherissues traditionally rejected by the Government of Cuba, the Committee suggested the ratification of the Optional Protocol of the Convention in order to create a system of periodic visits by national and international observers without prior notice, designed to prevent torture or inhumane and degrading punishments, and reiterated its previous recommendation that non-governmental human rights organizations be permitted entry into the country, and to cooperate with them in the identification of cases of torture and mistreatment. It also expressed serious reservations about the three last executions of death sentences, after summary proceedings, carried out April 11, 2003, and called for the examination of the abolition of the death penalty.

The committee started that the State Party should guarantee the impartial and exhaustive investigation without delay of all the deaths of detainees, and the monitoring and adequate medical treatment of detainees who declare hunger strikes. It demonstrated concern because significant changes have not been produced in the judicial system since the presentation of its initial report in 1997, particularly the lack of independence of the executive and legislative powers. It recommended a guarantee with respect to the Basic Principles of Lawyers; called for the end of repression with arbitrary detentions or the application of pre-criminal security measures against political opponents, human rights defenders and activists, independent journalists and other actors of civil society who put themselves and their families at risk.

The Committee sought to guarantee that everyone be protected from the intimidation and violence to which the simple exercise of their freedoms of opinion and expression and rights of association and peaceful assembly could expose them, as well as to authorize enrollment in the Register of National Associations of non-governmental human rights organizations that apply for it. Also, it invited the ratification of fundamental treaties of human rights, in particular the International Pact of Civil and Political Rights, the International Pact of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and others.

In Cuba the achievement of this session of analysis has not be published,almost certainly the Government will default on the recommendation to widely disseminate through official news media and non-governmental organizations the report presented to the Committee and its final observations. In any case, one can expect repression of the opposition NGOs that divulge it.

Mr. Manfred Nowak, special rapporteur against torture, could not carry out the invitation to visit Cuba in 2009, the Committee urged repeating it to his successor, Juan E. Mendez. The Cuban government representative stated that he is reconsidering a visit, even though he “had no faith in the sources of information used by the Committee.”

Let us remember the initial illusion of Mr. Nowak, who ended up with a total disappointment, because they gave him excuses and changed the dates of each of his proposed trips, evidently due to his statement that he proposed to visit prisons without prior warning and meet with all Cubans. Now his successor, Mr. Juan E. Mendez, 67, an Argentinian jailed for 18 months during the military dictatorship of the 70’s, could expect a similar situation, above all after the detailed display of the repressive methods of the Government against the Cuban people.

Translated by mlk

June 19 2012

In Defense of the Hustlers / Dora Leonor Mesa

Vices come like travelers; they visit us as guests, and stay as masters.

In the old East Germany where I worked years ago as a German translator, I learned,through snobbery,top level cooking in a five star hotel. Later in Cuba, in my debut as a mother, I should have chosen between a promising professional career or resigning myself to being mother and wife. After choosing the longest road, I “got” the title of cook with an European experience, so I could get good jobs, those that pay in convertible currency (C.U.C.) and create on our humble table a culinary culture that would make us proud, in spite of the daily difficulties.

In one of my experiences as cook, a known painter for whom I worked sarcastically called me the English Lady. When I asked him why, his answer perplexed me:

“You cook very well, and you don’t steal or ask questions.”

The saddest thing about the situation is that after changing jobs, because of my employer’s return to his country, my excellent references did not avoid initial suspicions. You often found the house full of garments, another day, delicacies everywhere, sometimes money in unexpected places, “forgotten” digital equipment. . . In the end the favorable judgment, far from being flattering, is embarrassing: We Cubans, at least for some time now, have acquired fame as thieves, hustlers. . .

The controversial issue about the shameful reputation of Cuban as thieves and hustlers is real. You just have to read from time to time the weekly sections of Letters to the Editor of the Granma and the Juventud Rebelde newspapers. Passengers on the public bus avoid paying the fare. There are even citizens who steal electricity or domestic gas. In the stores you can find a cracked toilet bowl for $25 CUC (“La Especial” of Infanta) in a country with an average salary of $20 dollars. And in the farmer’s market, pretending to forget the price and the weight of the products on sale is the best strategy.

The country’s important companies, among them ETECSA, Enterprise of Telecommunications of Cuba, have legalized rapacity: exorbitant rates, discriminatory service. A different kettle of fish is the National Electrical Union, responsible for supplying electrical service to the nation and thus to the residential sector. Frequently, the Cuban magazine Bohemia explains in detail how to read the electric meter and make payment calculations according to the prevailing price rates.

For years my maternal grandmother kept her payment receipts (I do it, too). This habit helped us to discover how the household consumption’s numerical trends rose disproportionately even before the months of highest spending, Christmas holidays, vacations in August. The Company defended itself saying that consumption increases with an increased demand for electricity. Nevertheless, the actual analyzed data do not coincide with those of the receipt. With an Excel table and a simple statistical analysis you saw that the variations were significantly unequal yearly.

Sometimes we had problems with the “electricity” collectors thanks to our valuable table, which predicted when they would try to charge more. On top of that, we had to complain in the municipal billing office several times, where, it is fair to say, they still receive their clients in a friendly way, the bundle of payment receipts from several years, this “weapon”, had to be present, the actual readings and the table of statistical fact on Excel, printed with the pertinent data and graphics.

In our house we had no high-consuming new equipment or air conditioning, but the same two old refrigerators as always, responsible for the increased domestic electrical expense. We never changed them for the new Chinese appliances proposed by the State, very small and expensive. Apparently, there were some adjustments in the Electric Union. For some reason the current cost of domestic electricity is more reasonable.

Payment date / Amount in Cuban pesos

January 2009 $84.40          August 2009 $157.65

January 2010 $71.00           August 2010 $171.20

January 2011 $56.00           August 2011 $137.30

January 2012 $54.80

The Manufactured Gas Company has a history in our family. The charge for gas is really moderate (100 cubic meters cost 11 Cuban pesos, about $0.50), but we have little luck. We had a gas collector who, little by little, began to bring us the bill without the payment stamp, and the consumption readings did not correspond with what appeared on the receipt. Upon confronting her, she arrogantly told us that she was a “cutting edge worker,” that is to say, the best employee.

The first time I went to ask the Provincial Company of Manufactured Gas about the collection procedure, God was with me that day; the director of our corresponding office was there. In front of the clerks of the Office of Customer Service, she highlighted the “efficient collection work” and put into question the quality of my humble stove:

“That is not why! I too spend more than 11 pesos, but by leaving it burning. . .”

After the interview, normalcy returned. Nevertheless we detected that the value of the bill was always the same. The bridge collapsed when the collector told my oldest daughter:

“The next bill will come higher.”

In the rain, for the second time, I approached the Office of Costumer Service of the Provincial Company with all the paraphernalia of several years of payment. A clerk, Jorge L. Galban, compromised to investigate the case. He visited our house, reviewed the gas meter and soon after that, in the month of January, as compensation we did not have to pay the monthly bill. Our bills were being reported as if we had a broken meter.

Eighteen months later, another gas collector appears. The reading of the month of June did not coincide with the real one, the consumption climbed again without excuses. The payment receipts returned with the date of the reading without changes. I tried to convince the worker about the anomaly. I made him come into the kitchen to corroborate the reading of the meter. In truth, three pesos is nothing; we are just a mass, people. Why not clients?

Thousands of Cubans fled over the ocean, so they could feel they are treated as persons. Some made it. Others rest in the ocean. Bryan, my nephew, lives among the fish. I am sure he is happy, surrounded by freedom and beauty. We decided to stay in Cuba. We really like the idea of thinking and acting like people with rights. Previously the boss at the Gas office rejected criticisms from her exemplary collector. An announcer from a television show recommends:

“Follow the path of money.”

“Perfect. Anti-scoundrel clients, FORWARD!”

Translated by mlk

June 12 2012