And Now What? / Somos+, Jose Presol

Somos+, Jose Presol, 18 January 2017 — We expected it for a long time and it happened, but when we weren’t in the line for the ration book. I am referring to the end of the “wet foot, dry foot” policy. We all knew that it would end, but what we least imagined was that it would be now and done by the current president, Barack Obama.

It had to be sooner or later. The American people are leaning toward a policy of protectionism and focusing on their own problems and stumbles, and there are many Cubans in exile who affirm, “I am not politically persecuted, I came to resolve my economic problems.”

At the same time, there are constant complaints that old and current repressors and collaborators with the Cuban political regime are also in the United States, and whether or not they are still collaborating with the tyranny is not clear. This had to come. continue reading

Obama, who not so long ago seemed wonderful to so many people, now has thousands of defects. No friends, his message was clear, “Cuba’s problems must be solved by Cubans.” One more thing we have heard and interpreted according to our own convenience.

That was a way of saying, among other things: Gentlemen, the American taxpayers have no obligation to indefinitely finance the immigration of citizens of other nationalities, especially when we are not sure of their ideology and when these funds are needed, for example, to improve the conditions of our own veterans.

Few governments in the world are not aware that these resources are not unlimited and that this problem is not solved by “minting money.”

The fault belongs to us, Cubans. We all know, we are not fools, that the problem is not that there is no food, the problem is those who have made it so that there is no food. We have found it more convenient to confuse the symptoms with the disease. We have found it more convenient to deny reality. We have found it more convenient to say, with clenched teeth “over there,” that it is an economic problem.

But yes, it is an economic problem, but please, haven’t we been under a constant bombardment of Marxist doctrine for 58 years? Have we not listened to a single word? Hey guys, they say it themselves, “The economic problems are political problems.”

I am not a fortune-teller and I don’t know what the evolution of the problem in Cuba will be, but I am sure that there have already been two things: 1) a bucket of cold water for those who hoped to “escape” the situation, and 2) the disappearance of the escape valve from the current situation in Cuba, which does not please the regime, despite their saying otherwise.

As I said, I do not know how the subject will evolve, but I have hope that it will end up radicalizing the postures inside Cuba and clarifying them outside Cuba, and vice versa.

I hope that we Cubans, once and for all, will face our problem, trying to provoke quantitative changes (so they will understand me, I use Marxist terms) that, in accumulation, end up producing qualitative changes.

And those quantitative and qualitative changes begin with ourselves.

First, we have to think about who our real rival is and face it, without palliatives; finding all the cracks in the system and enlarging them, analyzing their contradictions and denouncing them.

Second, recognize that the problem of Cuba belongs to Cubans, all of us without exception, and that Cubans must solve it, and forget about remedies, collective or individual, that come from outside.

Third, we need to focus on programs and lines of action to conquer our rival; focus on weakening everything that benefits it; focus on highlighting the weaknesses and errors of the system.

Fourth, these programs and lines of action should focus on Cuba’s real needs. We must not return to situations that we often yearn for and fail to recognize that they were the reasons for what we have now. We must build a New Republic, with the ideals of freedom and democracy from our early founders.

Fifth, around these programs and lines of action, we have to create the necessary unity (and, why not, organization) to gather forces instead of dispersing them, not looking for some leader to solve it for us.

Sixth, these programs and lines of action must be peaceful, we are children of a nation that has not known peace and tranquility since October 10, 1868, it is high time that we also address that.

Seventh: Cubans, think. You are the children of the people who fought for 30 years for independence, who suffered 4 years of American occupation, people who have had 57 years of a false republic and more occupations (material or mediated) and another 58 of tyranny. We have fallen many times and many times we have risen, even mistaking and getting it wrong again. So get up at once and contribute with your effort and imagination. This is your opportunity. Do not let it pass.

Translated by Jim

We Don’t Want to Be Like Che* / Somos+

Che in Bolivia at the time of his capture.

Somos+, José Presol, 7 October 2016 — On October 9 it will be forth-nine years since a man with dirty, matted hair, a lice-ridden beard, boots that were no more than shards of leather and a uniform in tatters emerged from the forest to demonstrate, as he had at other times when he was powerless, his cowardice.

In his delirium he believed he was the most important of world’s exploited peoples, a military genius without equal. He had ventured off to “liberate” new lands but in the end had been put in his place. Trembling, surrounded by dust and enemies, he was a vision of human misery. Desperate, he cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted:

“Don’t shoot! I am Che Guevara. I am worth more alive than dead!”

He surmised they preferred him alive and defeated rather than martyred. Others thought differently. But let’s step back in time a little. continue reading

He possessed several “qualities”: an obsession for writing diaries, like those of his motorcycle trip to Bolivia; a lifelong penchant for lying; a devotion to death, his own and others; an inability to finish any project; and cowardice.

Perhaps it was genetic. They say his mother was a progressive. A supporter of the Spanish Republic, she was anticlerical and feminist — though she came from a family of cattle barons whose ancestors arrived in the eighteenth century — and had once wanted to become a nun. After claiming her inheritance, she moved in with Ernesto Guevara Lynch. He welcomed her with open arms, presumably out of love but also because of her inheritance.

His father, Ernesto Guevara Lynch, was also an “aristocrat.” His great grandfather Patricio was the richest man in South America. Like his son and namesake, he went to university but did not complete his studies, though he called himself an engineer. While at university, he distinguished himself by attacking another student, which led to his expulsion. The victim was none other than the writer Jorge Luis Borges, who brought more glory to Argentina than all the Guevaras combined.

After going bankrupt, he used his inheritance to buy a mate farm, whose workers were little more than slaves. He went bankrupt again, and then yet again in a real estate deal. He held his son responsible for the child’s own asthma. And to top it all off, in 1915 he shot the world’s most famous tango singer, Carlos Gardel, then blamed it on his brother Roberto. He spent his final days in the company of his second wife, traveling between Cuba and Argentina, living off his Cuban acquaintances.

Our Ernesto “forgot” things. Even his birth certificate was a lie. It was altered to indicate he had been born prematurely in order avoid the shame of having been conceived out of wedlock.

He started off in medicine but there is no evidence he completed his studies. The University of Buenos Aires says it has no records of him fulfilling the requirements necessary to receive a degree.**

He travelled to America on his motorcycle in hopes finding a job but was arrested in Miami and deported. It seems he had forgotten about being a doctor even before his time as a guerrilla fighter in the Sierras. After he was captured in Bolivia, he wanted to treat a wounded man. When asked if he was a doctor, he said no.

He toured Latin America and ended up in Guatemala, in the middle of a coup d’état against President Jacobo Arbenz. Under the influence of his wife, Hilda Gadea, he began thinking about becoming a Marxist. His revolutionary biographies claim he organized resistance groups but there is no evidence to support this. What is evident is the unreality of his life at this time. In a letter to his Aunt Beatriz, he wrote, “I am entertaining myself here with shootings, bombings, speeches and other activities to relieve the monotony of everyday life.”

When Hilda was arrested, his cowardice resurfaced. He left her behind in prison and fled with his infant daughter to Mexico. Hilda later reunited with him and introduced him to Edelberto Torres, director of a publishing house: Editorial de Educación Pública. It was there that he met Ñico López, who introduced him to Fidel Castro.

The Communists were looking for leaders who could give anti-imperialist speeches while claiming not to be Marxists. Fidel Castro turned out to be one of them. Fidel always liked to have a cohort by his side. At the time, it was a Spaniard, Alberto Bayo. But Bayo could not accompany him to Cuba, so he settled on Che. His simple rationale for this decision was “He’s a doctor.”

We know all too well about his time in Cuba, starting with the execution of Eutemio Guerra in La Cabaña. And the deaths and illnesses of his comrades throughout the world. We are familiar with his initiatives when he was in charge of the Cuban economy; we need only look around. We also know about his lies about the “New Man.” And his cowardice. Once he realized he had become a nuisance, he preferred to leave, without bothering to pay his respects.

His departure marked the beginning of his travels, taking him to Spain and Czechoslovakia. He ultimately found what he was looking for in the Congo. But he ended up fleeing there too, crossing Lake Tanganyika.

In a new diary he laid the blame for his defeat on those “blacks” who did not understand his French, though clearly those “blacks” can communicate perfectly well in French with the rest of the world. Elsewhere he complained about the laziness and uselessness of blacks, Indians and homosexuals.

Upon his capture, he was taken to a small school to be interrogated. There he met a “Bolivian” captain named Ramos.

Guevara realized that something did not add up. He said to the captain, “Your accent sounds familiar but it is not Bolivian. Your questions aren’t military questions; they’re military intelligence questions. Who are you?”

Ramos told him his real name: Felix Rodríguez. He said he was Cuban and that he was part of the advance group that infiltrated the island to provide logistical support during the Bay of Pigs invasion. He later described how Che then lost what little composure he had, soiled himself and turned whiter than a sheet of paper.

A coded message was transmitted to La Paz, “Papa is tired,” indicating that Che had been captured and was wounded. The reply was “500-600,” which meant “positive identification” and “execution.” A little later headquarters received confirmation: “Regards to Papa.”

The rest is history, though not the way Fidel tells it. (Yet another lie in the life of Ernest Guevara.) We know all about it. What to do next? Turn him into a martyr and put his image on T-shirts to be worn by all the fools and bourgeoisie of the world.

Translator’s notes:

*Elementary school students in Cuba, at morning assemblies, raise their arms in unison and chant, “Pioneers for communism, we will be like Che.”

**In a blog post, Enrique Ros — author of the Spanish language book, Guevara; Myth and Reality — questions whether Che Guevara ever received a medical degree. He points out that Che could not have fulfilled the stringent academic requirements or the University of Buenos Aires School of Medicine because, during what should have been his final period of study, he was out of the country, “never to return.” When Ros asked the university for a copy of Che’s transcripts, he was told they could not be provided because they had been stolen.

The War of the Blacks / Somos+

Somos+, Jose Manuel Presol, 17 May 2016 — If there is something shameful in our republican history, it is the events of 1912. Nothing much is being said about it, not even in the government’s current propaganda. It is mentioned, articles and books are published about it, although it is not widely exposed.

Relatively few things have been written about it; the data, which is scarce at the source, are lost, and it is difficult to achieve an in-depth knowledge about it. Oral transmission is likewise poor, perhaps out of shame by some or out of fear by others.

I am referring to what is called the “War of the Independent People of Color,” or the “War of the Blacks.” continue reading

Whoever denies the significance of our compatriots of color in the War of Independence is blind. Their freedom from slavery, their recognition as citizens and all their rights as Cubans stem from it. Apparently, there was something deeper: friendship and brotherhood amongst whites and blacks who had jointly fought as mambises (patriotic fighters).

But that equality was merely on the paper the Constitution was written on and in multiple laws. The fact is that Cuba had, and still has, an important racist component. At the 7th Cuban Communist Party Congress, Raúl Castro himself mentioned that “the fight against any vestige of racism which hampers or slows down the promotion of blacks and mestizos to leading positions shall be relentlessly pursued.” And even after 57 years of a theoretical “egalitarian revolution” and three generations under “socialism,” we still encounter expressions such as “Dude, you strike me as an ’Oreo’.”

Legal equality had been achieved, but not in reality.  In 1902 began the creation of organizations in defense of the rights and interests of black people, such as the Black Veterans Committee, some of whose meetings were presided over by Juan Gualberto Gómez.

In 1908 the Group of Independent People of Color was created, a rather more political organization, which on August 7 of the same year became the Party of Independent People of Color (PIC, according to its Spanish acronym). Its platform was not only anti-racist but also social, as it called for an eight-hour working day and general and free education.

However, from then on big mistakes were made by both parties:

On the part of the State a black senator, Martín Morúa Delgado, filed a motion against that party, by considering a party based on racial principles to be unconstitutional, and the “Morúa Amendment,” modifying Section 17 of the Electoral Act was adopted and the PIC was declared illegal.

Morúa, in his–likely honest–attempts to avoid social division, even forgot the continuous insults to which he and other black and mixed race senators and congressmen were subject. One of the most frequent was that in all receptions, these were directed to the guest and companion or mistress, while discriminating against their wives.

On the other hand, Evaristo Estenoz, a slave-born PIC leader, distanced himself from many whites who supported him, thus politically isolating himself, and attempted to foster a new U.S. intervention, to which end he held meetings with figures such as Charles Magoon, the U.S. occupation governor between 1906 and 1909, and Enoch Crowder, former Military Governor of the Philippines, who had taken part in U.S. interventions in Cuba and in wars against the Apaches, led by Jeronimo, and the Sioux, led by Sitting Bull. Both of them being “very good company.”

Finally, on May 20, 1912, a PIC armed uprising took place in Pinar del Río, Havana, Santa Clara and Oriente to achieve their demands, although it did not contemplate the overthrow of the government presided by José Miguel Gómez.

Originally no attention was paid to it, but the contacts initiated by Estenoz were in motion, and the Cuban government was warned that, in order to defend U.S. interests, armed troop vessels were being sent to Guantánamo and other destinations.

Thus, the President ordered the army to intervene, which put an end to the uprising–to the embarrassment of all–by murdering all the black and dark-skinned mixed-race people encountered, whether or not they had participated in the revolt; it even removed peaceful workers from their homes and killed them in front of their families.

The leaders of the uprising, Evaristo Estenoz and Pedro Ivonet, perished. Regarding the former there are versions that he committed suicide and that he died in combat; his body had a shot in the temple. Ivonet was simply murdered after being taken prisoner.

It is not known how many victims there were. Some mention 60 victims, which could be ludicrous if we were not referring to human lives, others mention 6,000. The safest thing is that they ranged between 3,000 and 4,000.

In order not to revisit similar mistakes and embarrassments, let us recall that we are all Cubans and it is no good to merely state it on a piece of paper. This is another pending change which has to be begun, as all changes, by ourselves.

January 1, 1959: The Beginning of a Betrayal? (Part 2) / Somos+

SOMOS+, Jose M. Presol , 3 January 2016 — Part 1 enunciated what I consider to be the four main points of the “Manifesto to the People of Cuba,” but there are many more. Let’s recall these four points and take a look at what actually happened.

1. Restoration of the 1940 constitution.

Technically speaking, it was reinstated on January 1. But a little more one month later, on February 7, the Fundamental Law of 1959 replaced it by decree, as happened years earlier after a coup d’état led by Batista. Parts of the constitution were adopted, though with some fundamental changes. Among them were the dissolution of Congress and concentration of both legislative and executive power in the Council of Ministers. The law was revised and modified on multiple occasions, most notably to allow for appropriation and confiscation of property as well as to legalize the death penalty. continue reading

2. Free and democratic elections after a year of provisional government.

As it happened, Fidel could not forget that as a member of the University Student Federation (FEU) he had never been able to secure enough votes for anything. And in the 1952 elections he had to falsify internal documents of the Orthodox Party in order to get his name on the ballot. With these experiences in mind, he began coming up with excuses to postpone the elections.

In April 1959 he claimed, “First we must tackle unemployment and illiteracy.” Other setbacks came later. On May 24 the Humanist Workers’ Front defeated the Communists for control of the Worker’s Central Union.

Afterwards, Fidel was forced to work behind the scenes to remove Pedro Luis Boitel, who was backed by the 26th of July Movement (and who later died in prison during a hunger strike), from the FEU presidency and to replace him with Rolando Cubela (who later was exiled to Spain).

By May of 1960 a significant proportion of those who opposed Fidel were dead, in exile or in prison. Only then did he pose the famous question, “Elections. What for?” The same reply we get today.

3. Freedom for all political prisoners.

Slowly but surely the jails began filling up with a new batch of prisoners, many of whom were not Batista supporters. One former prisoner, who had been released, later returned. Strange accidents also began to occur, like the plane crash that killed Camilo Cienfuegos. There were strange suicides, like that of Commander Félix Pena. Others fled into exile, like the commanders Luis Díaz Lanz and Raúl Chibás Ribas. Among those imprisoned, Commander Huber Matos comes to mind, and we certainly cannot forget Mario Chanés de Armas.

Chanés de Armas was a revolutionary through and through. He was born in Havana, where he was a labor union leader. He knew Abel Santamaría and joined a group “organized” by Fidel. He participated in the assault on the Moncada Barracks and was imprisoned on the Isle of Pines (now the Isle of Youth). He was released, along with Fidel, as part of the general amnesty (though his image was airbrushed out of the release photo until 2015).

He took part in the Granma expedition — from Mexico to Cuba — and survived the battle at Alegría de Pío. He got to Havana on his own initiative and joined the clandestine groups that made up the 26th of July Movement. He was taken prisoner and on January 1 he was in jail.

For a time he held a position of responsibility but resigned in protest because he did not like where the Revolution was heading. He was arrested and accused of conspiracy. Is spite of there being no evidence, he was sentenced to thirty years in prison, though he served longer. He was naked or dressed only in underwear for almost his entire captivity because he refused to wear the uniform of a common criminal. (As we know, in Cuba “there are no political prisoners.”) He founded the movement of the plantados,* constantly organizing strikes and protests over prison uniforms and the conditions of their incarceration.

Eventually, he was released and allowed to leave the country. For the rest of his life, he continued to denounce Fidel Castro, encourage peaceful opposition and promote Cuban reconciliation. But I was forgetting a small detail: Chanés de Armas was the 20th century’s longest serving political prisoner, serving a longer sentence than even Nelson Mandela.

4. Absolute freedom of the press.

Again, yes, true in theory. The examples below are from print media, but there are similar examples from radio and television. Now, you be the judge.

Because of their ties to the Batista regime, Tiempo en Cuba and Alert y Ataja ceased publication immediately. Mañana and Luz y Pueblo disappeared in 1959 but Alerta, Revolución, Combate, Verde Olivo, Adelante, La Calle and others were born (though most no longer exist).

The assumption was that these new publications would be “loyal” but that turned out not to always be the case. La Calle was “refounded” as La Tarde and re-refounded as Juventud RebeldeRevolución and Lunes de Revolución, edited by Carlos Franqui and Guillermo Cabrera Infante, have since disappeared.

Bohemia, under the directorship of Miguel Ángel Quevedo, supported Fidel, going so far as to concoct a story that 20,000 were killed under the Batista regime. It never provided any proof; it could only come up with a list of 700 names. It also initially boasted of 1,000,000 people being set free on January 1 itself. A year later Quevedo went into exile and committed suicide in 1969 after confessing his remorse.

To gain control over privately owned media, advertising was banned and a system of subscription by raffle was invented. Deprived of funding, publications began to close and their owners to emigrate. Those who resisted were forced to add a “tagline,” which authorized the communist-controlled unions to add commentary attacking articles, photos, jokes and other items that were not to their liking. By 1961 there was no media outlet in Cuba that was not controlled by the state, at which point publications were no longer required to publish a tagline.

One might say the death certificate of the free press was signed on May 11, 1960, the day Diario de la Marina was shut down. Founded in 1844, the newspaper was considered the dean of the Cuban press. Its facilities were attacked and destroyed, and it was symbolically interred in a “celebration” at the University of Havana.

This discussion only addresses the four promises I have highlighted. I urge you to read the manifesto yourselves and draw your own conclusions about the rest.

*Translator’s note: Los plantados, or the planted, were prisoners who were confined to cells so small there was only room to stand upright, like trees.

January 1, 1959: The Beginning of a Betrayal? (Part 1) / Somos+, Jose Presol

Somos+, Jose M. Presol, 1 January 2016 — “The Revolution declares its absolute and reverent respect for the constitution, which was given to the people in 1940, and restores it as the official legal code. It declares the only flag to be the tricolor with the lone star and carries it forth as always, glorious and strong, into the heat of battle. And there is no other anthem other than the Cuban national anthem, recognized worldwide by the vibrant stanza, ’To die for the homeland is to live.’ ”

These are not the words of a counterrevolutionary. They are not the words of the current defenders (for how long?) of the current Cuban government. They are not even the words of Dr. Fidel Castro. They are the words of our own Martyrs of Moncado. And I say “our” because they are ours; they long ago stopped being theirs. We are the revolutionaries of today, fighting against an unjust dictatorship, just as they were the revolutionaries of yesterday, fighting against another unjust dictatorship. continue reading

This was written by Raúl Gómez García and is excerpt from the so-called “Manifesto from the Moncada Revolutionaries to the Nation.” It amounts to a statement of conscience, assuming they had one, that has not been fulfilled.

The first revolutionaries to enter Havana on New Year’s Eve 1958 were not the forces of the 26th of July Movement, a claim that is not disputed when the subject comes up. The first to go in were men and women of the Second National Escambray Front.

Nor were Camilo Cienfuegos nor Ché Guevara the ones who occupied the Columbia or La Cabaña military barracks. It was a Ramón Barquín, a native of the city of Cienfuegos and an army colonel, who took command of those installations. He had been imprisoned on the Isle of Pines (now the Isle of Youth) since 1956 for leading a rebellion of Los Puros (“the pure”) against Batista. After he was liberated, he flew to Havana, where he became de facto commander of the army and president of the republic. However, he put aside any personal ambition and on Day 3 handed over command to Cienfuegos on the orders of the acting president, Manuel Urrutia Lleó. Colonel Barquín died in exile on March 3, 2008.

Speaking of Manuel Urrutia, he was a key figure in the trials of Frank País and many other prisoners after the Santiago uprising, as well as the trials of various men captured from the Granma expedition. They were found innocent and released because, as Urrutia reasoned, the 1940 constitution recognized the right to take up arms against anyone holding power illegally.

But it was not just in Havana where things were happening. Santiago de Cuba had been taken by a column led by Huber Matos. The city was serving as the provisional capital of the country and it was there on January 1 that Urrutia was sworn in as acting president based on previous agreements made among the various anti-Batista organizations.

Urrutia began appointing a government, the first post revolutionary government and one which did not include either Fidel or Raúl Castro, or Ernesto Guevara, or any number of the future “great leaders.” Of its nineteen members, which included Urrutia, eight held no government positions at the times of their deaths in Cuba. Six died in exile, one died in a traffic accident, one was shot, one committed suicide, one died in office, and one still lives in Cuba, though in a low-level government position.

It is quite striking how lethal being a member of that first government turned out to be. Those who died in exile were the president (Manuel Urrutia), the prime minister (José Miró Cardona), the minister of state (Roberto Agramonte Pichardo) the minister of public works (Manuel “Manolo” Ray Rivero), the minister of social welfare (Elena Mederos Cabañas) and the minister of housing (Rufo López Fresquet). The one who was shot was the minister of agriculture (Humberto Sori Marin).

And speaking of the 1940 Constitution, the fact that it outlawed the death penalty did not stop one “gentleman” named Ernesto Guevara and another named Raúl Castro from making good use of it in Havana and Santiago.

And speaking of manifestos once again, we might conclude with another one: the “Manifesto to the People of Cuba,” published by Bohemia magazine on July 26, 1957. (Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Cuba’s “capitalist and bourgeois” press was allowed to publish manifestos by those fighting in the mountains.). This manifesto — signed by Fidel Castro, Raúl Chibás (who died in exile) and Felipe Pazos (who also died in exile) — promised four things:

  • Restoration of the 1940 constitution.
  • Free and democratic elections after one year of provisional government.
  • Freedom for all political prisoners.
  • Absolute freedom of the press.

But since Fidel did not enter Havana on January 1 but rather on January 8, shall we wait a few days to discuss these four points?

Paris, Eternally Paris! / Somos+

Somos+, Jose M. Presol, 18 November 2015 — Why Paris? It’s not by chance. By 1814 and 1815 the wars between France and — I think we can say — the rest of Europe, finally came to an end. Everyone had tried to invade and control the city. By 1789 it had become not just the capital of elegance but also the crucible from which ideas emerged that gave rise to what we now think of as Europe and the West (in the widest sense), as well as to all the innovative concepts which evolved into what we now think of as democracy. continue reading

It is to Judeo-Christian, Graeco-Roman and Mediterranean cultures that both America and Europe owe much of their identity and values. But it is to France, to Paris, to which we owe such fundamentally modern ideas as popular sovereignty, separation of powers, human rights, representation through periodic elections, freedom of assembly, of expression, of the press, of movement, as well as the sanctity of the person, of his family and of property.

Paris continued to grow as a symbol of peace, democracy, and human rights. At the city’s Universal Exhibition, held in 1889, the Eiffel Tower made its debut. Three-hundred meters tall and made entirely of iron, a new symbol of the city had been born. A little before that, the surrender of Napolean III to the Prussians led the people of Paris to rise up once again. They took up arms and proclaimed the Third Republic in 1870. In 1871 they proclaimed the Commune, the predecessor to the workers’ struggles of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Franco-Prussian war had not ended well. France was forced to accept an armistice against the wishes of its people. Parisians, now surrounded, preferred to die of starvation rather than surrender.

During the First World War the troops of the not exactly democratic German Empire advanced towards the city. France was bleeding after the battles of Lorraine and Charleroi, where many of its finest youth had fallen. Stopping the advance depended on being able to bring five British divisions and all the French reserve forces to the front. Once again Paris came to the rescue! After sending its youth into the battlefield, Parisians stepped up, and exerted the force and effort necessary to repel this new German army back towards the Marne. The city’s taxi drivers — yes, taxi drivers — tirelessly drove to and from the front, some 160 kilometers each way, ferrying men, arms and munitions.

A short-lived peace was followed by a new invasion from the same point of origin by — as one might expect — the enemies of democracy, now calling themselves Nazis. This time they did invade the city. Intent on humiliating it, they staged constant military parades along the Champs Elysées and raised their red flag with its broken cross above the Eiffel Tower. Rather than humiliating the city, these actions only served to stoke its rage.

At almost the same time that an armistice was signed in June 1940, General de Gaulle crossed the English Channel and announced in London that the Free French would continue fighting. By August 21, 1941 the French Resistance was strong enough to launch an attack in Paris, killing a cadet of the occupying navy. Initially, the invaders did not make much of it, but opinions changed when three days later two officials in Lille were killed. On the same day there was another attack on two soldiers at the Belgian border. And August 29 saw an attack against a barracks of collaborationist French troops headed for the front, which injured Pierre Laval himself.

Little by little, the tide of World War II began shifting in favor of the Allies and victory was achieved in August 1944. The Resistance in Paris was headed by a communist, Henri Rol-Tanguy, and a Gaullist, Jacques Chaban-Delmas (later the French prime minister from 1969 to 1972). Both were fixated on one idea: to hand over to the Allies a self-liberated Paris. This was also General de Gaulle’s idea but one with a broader vision: to hand over his capital to the French Republic and to launch from it, as soon as possible, the Free French Second Armored Division to finish the work of the Resistance.

Destruction is always on the minds of evil people. If Paris were to revolt or was in danger of being liberated, Hitler ordered that it be razed to the ground, exactly as he had done to Warsaw on August 1 after the Polish Home Army uprising. But there were three things the Great Dictator had not counted on.

The first was the Swedish consul-general, Raoul Nordling, who was not willing to see the city destroyed. While he was trying to save as many lives as possible, he served as a tireless intermediary between the Resistance and the military commander of Paris, arranging pacts and truces to give the Allies more time.

The second factor was the commander of Paris himself, General Dietrich von Choltitz, who was appointed specifically to oversee the destruction of the city. But when he saw Paris, he refused, the first time in his military career that he disobeyed an order. After putting up a token resistance to avoid reprisals by the Nazis against officers’ families, he surrendered the city.

But the most important factor was the people of Paris themselves. On August 13 the subway workers and the National Gendarmerie revolted. On August 15 the police joined the revolt. On August 16 postal workers did the same. On that same day all civilian vehicles capable of being used in the uprising were commandeered. On August 17 the National Council of the Resistance agreed to launch a full-scale offensive. On August 18 a general strike was called and the General Prefecture of Paris was occupied. Finally, on August 22 the Ninth Armored Company, an advance unit of the Second Armored Division, entered the city.

At this point history and legend converge. (Afterall, this is Paris.) There is a story that the driver of a Sherman tank, whose side had been painted with the name Madrid, reached his commanding officer by radio and a conversion in Spanish  ensued, which went something like this:

“Sir, I have arrived at the center of Paris!”

“So what the hell do you see in the center of Paris?”

“It must be Notre Dame in front of me and the gun range finder tells me it’s a hundred fifty yards away!”

Whether this conversation actually took place or not, the story goes that it was conducted in Spanish because the commanding officer, Captain Raymond Dronne, was married to a Spaniard from Burgos while the tank driver, Carlos Gutierrez Menoyo, was born in Madrid. What the latter did not yet know was that thirteen years later he, as military commander of the Cuba’s Revolutionary Directorate, would die in a failed assault on Havana’s Presidential Palace on March 13, 1957.

For all this and much more. For the writings of Voltaire’s, for the kisses of lovers, for sidewalk cafes, the breeze along the Seine, its beautiful women, Les Invalides, the Louvre, Notre Dame, Montmartre, the Arc de Triomphe, Sacré Coeur, the Latin Quarter, the Luxembourg Gardens, the Place de la Concorde, the Tuileries, the paintings of Picasso and Toulouse Lautrec, for the Central Hammam Mosque Hammam and for many other reasons Hemingway described Paris as “a moveable feast.” Paris is a symbol, a banner for all democrats and people of good will. This is why the wicked want to destroy her. They will not succeed. Parisians of all colors, religions and democratic political ideologies will prevent it. And if those efforts are not enough, there are all the people of France. And if those efforts are still not enough, then there are all the democratic-loving peoples of the world.

As its motto “fluctuat nec mergitur” says, “She is tossed by waves but does not sink.”

They will never be able to destroy Paris.

Prostitution in Cuba: Solutions to a Current Reality (Part 1) / Somos+, Jose Manuel Presol

“How can we get out of school to meet foreigners?”

Somos+, Jose Manuel Presol, 3 November 2015 — I’ll never forget a comment from my father: “Jose Manuel, remember we made the Revolution, among other things, so that Cuba would no longer be the whorehouse of the United States. Years later, during a rather heated discussion with a person who said he was close to the so-called “Committee to the Support the Commander,” I repeated what my father said and his response was, “the compañeros didn’t do it for vice, but for patriotism, to bring currency to the Revolution,” and I’ll never forget that either. It was one of the rare times in my life when, faced with the cynicism, I was floored.

The truth is that now Cuba is no longer the whorehouse of the United States, but it is for Canadians, Spaniards, Italians, Mexicans and anyone landing on the island who brings enough dollars or euros in their pockets to pay a pittance for something that in their own country, if they offered that amount someone would laugh in their face. continue reading

I am not trying to do a sociological or anthropological study on the current phenomenon of prostitution in Cuba, there are people much more capable than I am than those who have done and continue to do such studies. What I want to express is the problem, trying to offer some solutions.

Prostitution in Cuba, as in almost all countries, is not a new problem. It has existed for many years. The oldest antecedents in our country are perhaps, not counting the brothels erected by landowners, in non-harvest times, to “take advantage” of the surplus labor, where free slaves prostituted themselves to earn a few pesos to buy the freedom of their children and other family members. The big difference today is how widespread it is.

This generalization is not based on the huge number of women, men, girls and boys who dedicate themselves to is, but to the chain of accomplices and abettors that come with it, which means that a high percentage of society is directly or indirectly involved in it.

The first accomplice and abettor is the State itself, I mean the current Cuban government that — despite its laws, its supposed warnings, its famous three warning letters, after which the victims can be sent to prison for 1 to 3 years — tolerates the situation.

I say victim because everyone, absolutely everyone who engages in or tolerates prostitution is a victim of the situation created. All are victims and make up a long chain.

The chain is formed, at a minimum, by:

  1. The teachers who allow the girls and boys trusted to their care leave classes with impunity to prostitute themselves, and they do it, because the remuneration they receive and the methods at their disposal are not adequate to exercise their profession in proper conditions. It is hard for me to think of a teacher who on a whim is capable of letting their students prostitute themselves. Their morality is simply “asleep,” if it is that, because of the need to solve their own problems and for the lack of an honorable alternative from the system itself after more than fifty years and the same thing happens with the rest of the links in the chain.
  2. The police who, far from preventing the offense of the offenses, in the case of minors, prefer to look the other way and take a few Cuban convertible pesos (CUC), that allow them to resolve some of their needs. I am not capable, as in the former case, of imagining any component of the People’s Revolutionary Police (PNR) acting this way for the pleasure of it. They are all aware that the person who prostitutes themselves tomorrow could be their daughter, their brother, their lifelong friend.
  3. Those in charge of control in the hotels, who are the in the same case as the previously. They know perfectly well that today someone walking through the doors of their hotel could be their sister, or that this could be happening at that precise moment in any other hotel. No one wants to see a loved one on the arm of a tourist stinking of rum.
  4. The pimps. Even these, although they personally dedicate themselves to the offense, I cannot imagine they are very comfortable in the role of suppliers of “fresh meat” if they could dedicate themselves to some other activity. Evidently, in the world as it is today, everyone, absolutely everyone deserves, at least, the benefit of the doubt.
  5. The prostitutes themselves. There is no greater victim. Here we can’t help but affirm that, absolutely everyone is the owner of their own body and can to with it what seems most opportune, but they cease to be such owners from the moment when a child is hungry, a mother needs medicine, a brother has to pay a debt, or simply they need the power to have whatever is not within their reach that could make them feel equal to those yumas (foreigners) who brazenly pass in front of them. Here we must highlight the high number of people who engage in prostitution, despite an elevated cultural level and superior training, seeing themselves brought to it because of not being remunerated in their profession and on the point of being unable to solve their basic daily problems at home.

In short, the ultimate culprit is none other than the government oppressor, which has imposed an undeclared blockage that is the origin of the problems we suffer.