Watch Out! Cattle On The Road / 14ymedio, Jorge Guillen

A steer on the road. (14ymedio)
A steer on the road. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Jorge Guillen, Candelaria, 29 July 2016 — He still shudders when he remembers that morning, when the broken glass from the windshield exploded everywhere and he had a taste of metal in his mouth. Ulises Ramirez crashed into two cows loose on the national highway as he was returning from the airport to his native Candelaria. The encounter with these animals ended up with serious damag his vehicle and head injuries for himself, but at least his life was spared. Others haven’t enjoyed the same fate.

Between 2010 and 2015 at least 1,054 accidents, resulting in 12 deaths and 279 people injured, were caused by loose cattle on the road, according to data from the official newspaper Granma. continue reading

Ramirez notes that, a few minutes before he would have arrived home, he made out in the darkness a herd walking or sleeping on the asphalt. He braked, swerved to avoid the crash and desperately sounded the horn. When he thought he would get out of unharmed, he felt a strong impact on the right side of the car. The next thing he saw was two cows lying on the road and the blood running from his head.

Although the law strictly prohibits “leading animals to graze or to water and allowing them to remain on the paved road or the surrounding areas and in conditions that allow them to access it,” the problem does not seem to have gotten better.

As a general rule, the official press blames the rancher who doesn’t keep his animals safely off the road, but the farmers say “they don’t sell us barbed wire to put up a fence to keep the cattle from escaping and causing problems on the nearby roads.” “It is very easy to impose fines and confiscate cows,” complains Hermes Amador, who calls himself “the best milk producer in Candelaria.” For this Artemisan, who has 66 acres of land leased in usufruct to support his cows, the law is not applied equally to cattle belonging to state enterprises.

“The State’s cows live on the road and nothing happens,” he complains. “At Kilometer 52, Commander Guillermo Garcia has a farm and the cattle get out every day, and what happens? Nothing happens and there have been several accidents,” he explains. Garcia’s farm belongs to the Flora and Fauna company, a state enterprise that functions as a tourist villa and allows its visitors to go horseback riding, hiking, walking and bird watching. In Cuba more than 50% of the cattle are the property of the state.

The problems faced by these cattle ranchers don’t end with difficulties in buying supplies for their farms. Gregorio Garcia, another producer in the area, has problems selling his livestock. “I’ve a spent a year going after the buyers of a livestock company trying to sell three bulls who aren’t quiet in the paddock,” he explained to this newspaper. But, still, “every month they talk about the topic at the cooperative meeting, nothing happens.” The producer says he feels sorry for “some of the neighbors whose animals have been injured” and he says they had to pay “a 500 peso a day fine for when they were out on the road.”

Cuban farmers cannot slaughter their own cattle and must deliver them “on the hoof” to the state, which deals with the slaughter and distribution of the meat. Thus, Gregorio Cabezas’ restless bulls will continue making mischief until the state slaughterer intervenes.

Santiago Alfian has had to confront the problem in his work as an inspector. He has spent 15 years trying to enforce the decree, which imposes a 500 peso fine and damages against those who graze their animals on the roads or verges of the railways. “In the case of repeat offenders the animals should be confiscated.”

“We have confiscated [cattle] from some farmers who are repeat offenders, but the problems remain,” explains Alfian, who attributes the problem to lack of wire fencing. “When the government sold a little, there was not enough for everyone and it was sold at the very high price of 600 Cuban pesos for a roll of wire,” he adds.

The inspector avoids the question of whether a state company had ever been fined for letting cattle loose on the road. “Well, everyone knows how that goes,” he responds with an eloquent smile.

Cuba’s Bahia Honda Coffee Farmers Denounce Lack Of Equipment / 14ymedio, Jorge Luis Guillen Garcia

Café 'Cubita' gourmet variety. (Wikipedia)
Café ‘Cubita’ gourmet variety. (Wikipedia)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Jorge Luis Guillen Garcia, Bahia Honda (Artemisa), 2 November 2015 — In Bahia Honda the coffee tastes much more bitter lately. The farmers of the Castro Brothers Credits and Services Cooperative of this Artemisa town are losing 2,840 pesos for each quintal (220 pounds) of green coffee, due to a lack of transport to take the product to the de-pulping machine, which separates the beans from the fruit. Lack of a vehicle puts at risk months of work, and the efforts of hundreds of people.

Santiago Martinez, a farmer in the cooperative, explains that the de-pulping of the beans should have started in the first week of October, but the lack of a tractor “which broke five years ago,” has prevented it. The farmer complains that the cooperative’s directors have not resolved the situation. “Clearly, it doesn’t hurt them that we are losing money and have problems fulfilling the plan, because regardless they get a guaranteed salary,” he complains loudly. “They told me to throw the coffee in the dryer until the issue is resolved,” he added. continue reading

Western Cuba is one of the most important areas for the supply of beans processed by Torrefactora Select Coffee, located in Almendares y Santa Maria, in Havana.

This company in Cuba’s capital provides coffees such as Extraturquino Especial, Turquino, Serrano Superior, Caracolillo, Alto Serra, Cubita, Arriero and other brands, both for export and for the network of hard currency stores in the country.

Field workers get a tiny share of the proceeds from the State. While, 2.2 pounds of coffee in the so-called “shoppings” costs more than 16 convertible pesos (CUC, about $17.50 US), the producer only receives some 1,000 Cuban pesos, the equivalent of 41 CUCs, for each 220 pounds of dried green choice coffee, said Maria Dolores Dominguez, a Bahia Honda farmer.

Dominguez says that “25 pounds of ripe coffee is worth 160 pesos and to get 220 pounds of green coffee, which is the equivalent of 100 pounds of clean coffee ready for roasting, you need 600 pounds of ripe coffee.” She complains that, “If we send the coffee to the de-pulper right away, they pay us 3,840 Cuban pesos for every 220 pounds, but if we dry it in the drying areas, even though it comes out prime quality, they pay us only 1,000 Cuban pesos.”

In a meeting with the coffee growers of the area on October 26, Raul Gonzalez, president of the cooperative, said he had reported the transport problem to the provincial coffee company, but so far that has not produced any results.

The problems in Bahia Honda could contribute to the coffee harvest not meeting the goals of the national plan. In 2014, the island produced 13.5 million pounds of beans, only a quarter of the annual domestic demand, which stood at 53 million pounds. However, industry directors expect to produce 51 million pounds by 2020.

Reclaiming The Parental Authority They Snatched From Us / 14ymedio, Jorge Guillen

More than 14,000 children were sent out of Cuba between 1960 and 1962 in Operation Peter Pan. (Wikimedia Commons)
More than 14,000 children were sent out of Cuba between 1960 and 1962 in Operation Peter Pan. (Wikimedia Commons)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Jorge Guillén, Candelaria, Artemisa, 15 October 2015 — In the early years of the Cuban Revolution we experienced one of the saddest chapters of our history, called “Operation Peter Pan.” Thousands of parents sent their children abroad to avoid the government taking their parental authority from them and sending their children to the Soviet Union, according to the propaganda of the time. Official figures put the number of children who left Cuba via this program at 14,048, and many of them were never reunited with their families.

Although those demons against parental authority did not materialize the way in which it was thought they might, the consequence of government policies was that we Cuban parents had less and less impact on the education of our children. We could not choose what kind of education small children received, nor where they studied. All the private and religious schools were closed, leaving it to the government to impart knowledge and values and to determine the way in which this was done. continue reading

Childcare centers arose where children were taken at a very early age, many of them as young as 45 days old. In addition, schools in the countryside appeared – high schools, technical schools and junior high schools — where children boarded, spending most of their time separated from their homes. These schools only allowed students to return home on the weekends, or every 15 days, so that children and teens slept only a few nights a month under the same roof as their parents.

Then began the far-reaching process of depersonalization and uprooting. These boarding schools had a semi-military regimen, but bullying and vulgarity raged throughout. Any glimmer of culture and delicacy displayed by a student was interpreted as weakness or as evidence of being a petit bourgeoisie, which was the equivalent of being a counterrevolutionary.

Those who professed any religion were treated similarly. Thousands of people were forced to renounce their faith or their way of thinking to be allowed to study and to avoid being branded as traitors.

Brainwashing, applied from an early age to the students at these schools, also deprived parents of the chance to have more control over their children. Fidel Castro’s slogan in which he asserted “we no longer belong to ourselves, we belong entirely to the motherland” became increasingly real. Under this maxim, the government gave itself the right to break apart families in the name of the Revolution.

Meanwhile, parents were overwhelmed by “voluntary work,” military mobilizations and other ideological and work responsibilities, which also reduced the time available to spend at home with their families. Life was lived away from home, among “comrades” and colleagues, so that over time ties within the home were weakened.

These circumstances did great damage to families and, as a result, to society. In many cases parents confronted their own children and demanded that they give up their personal plans to take on the challenges of the Revolution. In this process of “massification,” the individual was degraded to the point of being turned into a puppet.

Today we are reaping the fruits of these policies. The official discourse tries to hold families responsible for the ethical and moral disaster overwhelming Cuban society when the main culprit has been the government itself, in its zeal for control and maintaining power, regardless of the effects on the dismemberment and corruption of families. The loss of values is also blamed on the hardships of the Special Period, but the reality is that this disaster began to take shape from the beginning of the Revolution.

We parents need to recover the right and the freedom to decide how and what kind of education we want for our children. Giving prominence to the family in the raising of the youngest children could begin to repair the evil that has been done. Only then, would we be reclaiming our parental authority.

Dreams of a Cuban Catholic / 14ymedio, Jorge Guillen

Pope Francis during his homily at the Mass celebrated in Holguin. (Video capture)
Pope Francis during his homily at the Mass celebrated in Holguin. (Video capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Jorge Guillen, 23 September 2015 — Pope Francis left Cuba and left us several important messages. He spoke to us of service to others, mercy, love, humility. However, more than words, his ideas also came with gestures and attitudes. After hearing and seeing him, I wondered: Could this man help to transform the attitudes and the language of our leaders?

We will have to wait a little to find out, but the seed is planted and it’s up to us to fertilize and water it to fruition. We cannot allow ourselves to continue bleeding in this sterile struggle. Cuba belongs to all Cubans, no matter how they think and no matter how they live. Those who run the country have the obligation to guarantee the peaceful coexistence and social friendship of all the people. continue reading

For many years, we Cubans have been engaged in one of those phases of the third world war mentioned by Pope Francis. In our case it involves the infamous Battle of Ideas, the main ingredient of which is feeding hatred and violence among Cuban themselves.

While this is happening in the interior of the island, the official delegations that attend international events like the ALBA and CELAC summits make speeches where they squander solidarity, commitment and love.

I dream that this government’s foreign policy would also apply to the Cuban people.

That attitude was also perceived in the Cuban television journalists who covered the papal visit. Francis repeated phrases and tried to link all the positive things he said to the Cuban Revolution, while the negative he laid on the rest of the world. He gave the impression, in his words, that in this island everything is fine and that is the rest of the planet that is very wrong. They did not want to recognize that although the Holy Father addressed his remarks to everyone, he did so in a way especially to Cubans: from the government, the religious, regime opponents and even non-believers.

Inspired by the messages of Francis, civil society must work together in building a new Cuba, in a culture of encounter and dialogue, justice and love. There also needs to be an end at the information monopoly of the Communist Party and give recognition to civil society, regardless of ideological differences and points of view. It’s time to stop being “a light on the street and dark at home*,” and to work within our country for love and humility.

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