Secret Video Shows the Deterioration of Castro Enclave ‘Punto Cero’* / Juan Juan Almeida

This video, secretly recorded and exclusively provided, shows the deterioration of what was once the jewel of the Cuban crown, and which today is nothing more than the refuge of a bunch of defenestrated heirs.

Punto Cero, the residential complex where the ex-dictator Fidel Castro and his family holed up, was always a place kept in good condition: the grass well-mowed, curbs painted, access points signalized, the guard posts strategically located. Even the waste containers were well-attended to.

No less than the garbage at Punto Cero was treated as a state secret. But after the death of Fidel Castro, the ensuing power struggles extended even to the legendary family bunker’s decay.

*Translator’s note: Point Zero. A highly secured government compound on the outskirts of Havana where members of the Castro family and other high-ranking officials live.

Translated by Alicia Barraqué Ellison 

Details of ‘Operation Hatuey,’ a Plan by Castro’s High Ranking Officials, Are Revealed / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 11 March 2021 —  “Operation Hatuey” was created and approved by the country’s high command in case of a popular uprising so that a group of citizens can protect certain objectives and people with firearms.

A joint strategic plan concocted by MININT (Ministry of Intelligence) and MINFAR (Ministry of the Armed Forces), Cuban military personnel distributed weapons to civilian homes whose dwellers are not even aware of the arsenal they are naïvely protecting.

Juan Juan Al Medio Episode 529/”Operation Hatuey”

The opinions and views expressed in this program are the absolute responsibility of “Juan Juan Al Medio” production team and do not have to necessarily agree with the views of DIARIO DE LAS AMÉRICAS editorial team and our SPONSORS.

Translated by: Rita Ro

Cuban Regime Expropriates My Sister’s House, But Celebrates My Father’s Birthday / Juan Juan Almeida

Monument to Juan Almeida Bosque in Santiago de Cuba: “No one surrenders here” (EFE)

Juan Juan Almeida, 24 February 2021 — When my father died and they put on that little show in the Sierra Maestra, Raúl Castro promised one of my sisters – who lived outside of Cuba – that, as long as she “behaved herself,” he would respect her house.

He gave her a hug, they exchanged tears, and the pledge was settled at the feet of the deceased.

So then, complying with her part of the bargain, my sister behaved very well. And now, while the super homage is being paid to our father, she gets the notification from the court.

And when someone inquires at the office of Raúl Castro, to find out what’s happened with that pledge, he is informed that she did indeed behave VERY WELL – and for this, the General was most appreciative. However – and this is how they put it – the “pledge to Behave Herself also included controlling me and shutting my mouth. Therefore, through my fault, she is losing the house.”

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Bringing Fidel Castro Back From the Dead in Havana / Juan Juan Almeida

Mausoleum with the ashes of Fidel Castro, in Santa Ifigenia Cemetery in Santa Clara. (cc)

Juan Juan Almeida — On November 25th, the day on which we commemorate another anniversary of the death of Fidel Castro, a museum in his memory opened in Havana.

Located on Paseo Avenue between 11th and 13th Streets in El Vedado, Havana, the historic gallery shows pictures, gifts, photos, belongings, and other junk the ex-dictator Fidel Castro used in his life; ignoring the last wish of the dead comandante.

It’s worth remembering that on January 3rd, 2016, General Raul Castro publicly announced to the National Assembly that, to show respect for the express wish of his brother, the recently passed-away leader of the Cuban communists, his name would not be used, or any statues or busts put up in any public site, in his memory.

It’s also worth mentioning that — according to sources close to the dead commander-in- chief’s descendants — that the objects exhibited in such an overblown way, were not donated by his family, but sold.

At a cost of over $700m, the museum opened November 25th, and, among the strangest displays in this kind of church where the image worshipped is of the only saint wearing an olive green uniform and spurs, is a little audiovisual showing for the first time, among other things, the favourite cooking recipes of the legendary ex-comandante who moved from living in “Punto Cero” to pushing up the stones in the Santa Ifigenia necropolis of the history of the city of Santiago de Cuba.

Translated by GH

Raul Castro Reappears after Reports of Illness Are Leaked / Juan Juan Almeida

Our apologies, the video is not subtitled.

Note: This post is from October 2020, since which time Raul Castro has ‘reappeared’ more than once.

Juan Juan Almeida, 9 October 2020 — In recent episodes of this program I showed a transcript of a recorded conversation I had with a source who informed me that on Tuesday, September 23, 2020, the Interior Ministry informed the Politburo that weekly Tuesday meetings would be suspended (indefinitely) due to the health of the Leader.

The source also said that Politburo members, all of whom were present, were not allowed to say anything about it and that henceforth their conversations would be monitored by the armed forces.

But yesterday, October 7, on the eve of the commemoration of the death of Ché Guevara, Raúl Castro appeared on camera and many now want to eat me alive.

Some say I am a liar.

Some more conservative observers say I am naive.

Those who are more conspiratorial say my sources are from the Cuban intelligence services and gave me misinformation to trip me up.

Others focus on subtle clues in images from General Castro’s appearance.

He certainly appeared to be much younger, and so energetic that one wonders if he had been soaking in a tub of Red Bull.

They Will Resurrect Fidel Castro in Havana / Juan Juan Almeida

Raul Castro placed the urn with the ashes of Fidel Castro in the mausoleum of Santa Ifigenia cemetery. (EFE)

Juan Juan Almeida, 22 September 2020 — On November 25th, the day when one more anniversary of Fidel Castro’s death will be commemorated, a museum will be inaugurated in his memory in Havana.

Located on Avenida Paseo between 11th and 13th streets in Vedado, Havana, the historic gallery will exhibit paintings, gifts, photos, belongings and other odd junk that former dictator Fidel Castro used in life; this will actually violate the last will of the late commander.

It should be recalled that on January 3, 2016, General Raul Castro publicly affirmed that — in view of the express wish of his brother, the recently deceased leader of the Cuban communists — he was advising the National Assembly that the name and figure of Fidel Castro not be used in any public place, nor that statues or busts or public squares be raised in his memory. continue reading

It is also worth noting that – according to sources close to the brood of the late commander-in-chief – the objects displayed in such a bombastic manner, were not donated by the relatives, but sold.

At a cost that already exceeds 700 thousand dollars (USD), the museum will be inaugurated by November 25. Among the strangest of the attractions of this sort of Church, where the venerated image will be that of the only Saint who wears glasses and a green outfit, there will be presented a small audiovisual: there, among other things, you will see for the first time the culinary recipes preferred by the legendary Ex-Commander, who passed on from his residence “Punto Cero,” to reside, Encased in Stone, over in the necropolis of Santa Ifigenia in the historical city, Santiago de Cuba.

Translated by: Hombre de Paz

What Laura Left Behind When it Passed Through Cuba / Juan Juan Almeida

(The video is in Spanish and not subtitled)

Juan Juan Almeida, 26 August 2020 — Laura left Cuba with more gains than losses: but the government hid this

Or, what is worse, it hides its inabilities behind the hydrometeorological phenomenon

The reduction of the water levels was a constant in the Guantanamo reservoirs. They were about to declare a drought.

To give you an idea, the volume of water in the dams in the most easterly province of Cuba, Guantanamo, was 171 million cubic metres and its capacity was 348.

Although less than half, any water was important, otherwise there wouldn’t be any. And I don’t know if they understand that a province without doctors can bring in doctors; a province without police can import police; if a province doesn’t have an airport, people can get in by sea, or along the highway; but a province without water, will collapse. continue reading

In Granma province, the situation was no different

Between the dams at Guisa, Corojo, Paso Malo, Cautillo, Bueycito, and all the dams in Manzanillo and Bayamo; between all of them they weren’t even at half the nearly 900 million cubic metres of water which is their capacity.

The situation in Las Tunas was a bit worse than “alarming”.

The dams in that province were not in danger of drought, but rather of what comes after.

The reservoirs weren’t even at 40% capacity

In a better state than Las Tunas, but just as worrying was Villa Clara: Placetas, Manicaragua, Camajuani, Ranchuelo and Santa Clara, received very important supplies of water

The water problem was bad in that part of Cuba, which, up to the Agabama-Gramal fork wasnt able to get into the aqueduct of the capital city of the province, leaving it without enough water

We are not just talking about water; Laura also brought other benefts, as recounted in this broadcast by Juan Juan “Al Medio”.

Translated by GH

Advice from Dentists on Avoiding Coronavirus Contagion / Juan Juan Almeida

This is a blue toothbrush (ready for a night on the town?)

Juan Juan Almeida, 8 August 2020 — Experts from the Official Dentists’ College of Castellón (CODECS) insist on the need to wash your hands before touching your toothbrush, clean and dry it correctly after each use and keep it from having contact with other members of the household in order to avoid cross contamination with Covid-19.

Other guidelines are to not share your toothbrush, place it in a vertical position and in a separate glass for each family member, put on the protective cap only if it has holes, wash your hands well before touching the toothbrush and keep it as far away as possible from the toilet. Make sure the whole bathroom is clean.

Translated by Regina Anavy

[Site Manager’s note: Yes, we’re all going a little stir crazy here.]

Raul Castro "Sparks" at the Funeral for Asela de Los Santos / Juan Juan Almeida

Raúl Castro (younger than now) with Díaz-Canel, Ramón Machado Ventura and Ramiro Valdés (photo: rtve.es)

Juan Juan Almeida, 28 January 2020 — On January 25, Army General Raúl Castro attended the funeral services for Asela de los Santos Tamayo, held in the Pantheon of Veterans at the Colón Cemetery.

In attendance were the most prominent members of Cuba’s political leadership. It was the same on Sunday, December 8, for the funeral of Faure Chomón.

I should clarify that, when I say “the same,” I am referring of course to the presence of the now almost ninety-year-old younger Castro, who could be seen wearing, under his very well-pressed uniform, adult diapers.

The first-secretary of the Cuban Communist Party arrived at the funeral, which was held on January 25, surrounded by bodyguards and wearing, under his brand new green khaki pants, blue diapers. Perhaps owing to their quality, they let out a small stream of excrement that released an unmistakably foul greeting, which led to an avalanche of questions and concerns.

It is widely known that Cubans — regardless of race, creed, or inclinations either sexual or political — take few things seriously. It is understandable then that, when the attendees at the funeral service noticed the stench and realized that the general was “sparking,” there were smiles and audible comments such as, “The old general shit,” or “The first-secretary exploded a mine,” or “The Chinaman* had a stroke.”

At first there was a lot of joking. But later, after the jokes and smiles had died down, almost everyone, including the most jocular attendees, began to ask serious questions: “If he’s like this now, he can’t have much time left, at least not of useful life… What will happen when he’s suddenly no longer around… Who will fill the power vacuum?”

*Translator’s note: Cubans often refer to Raul Castro as “the Chinaman” because of his facial features.

Cuban Police Find Former Military Official and His Family Dead / Juan Juan Almeida

An entire family was found dead in Santa Clara but neither official nor independent press outlets have reported on it.

Juan Juan Almeida, 19 November 2019 — The violent deaths occurred in a house located along Camajuaní Highway, at the corner of a roundabout. According for forensic experts, the three family members and their dog died from gunshot wounds. They had been dead for more than twenty-one days when police arrived at the house.

The dead included a former Revolutionary Armed Forces officer, Colonel Eliecer Pérez Vilchés; his wife, Yaquelín Sotolongo Artiles; and their son, 23-year-old Eliecer Pérez Sotolongo.

Some time earlier the 75-year-old colonel had been demoted and fired from his job as an official of Gaviota, Cuba’s military-run tourism conglomerate. During the forensic investigation illegal arms were found at the scene that had never been registered in his name or to any military institution. continue reading

Pérez Vilchés was divorced from his previous wife. His 54-year-old current wife had quit her job as an instructor at the provincial military training school after marrying him.

Their son had been admitted several times to a military hospital for psychiatric problems. He had also been dismissed from his university for the same reason.

Evidence suggests that Pérez Sotolongo killed his parents and their dog in a premeditated act and later committed suicide but police sources caution that the investigation is not yet complete.

Neighbors say the family lived in seclusion, isolated from the rest of the world, and did not communicate with anyone, not even with their family members.

The bodies were found after the Vigilance and Protection Corps at a store next to the property reported strange odors coming from the home.

HELP! Cuba: The Castro Family Has Ties to drug trafficking / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeido, 21 November 2019 — Owing to its geography, and because the Island is part of the world, the threat of drugs is not foreign to Cuba.

And, like someone who has nothing to hide, the Cuban Government has pledged and reaffirmed that since 1989, it has had the political will to collaborate openly with international organizations in this matter.

At the beginning of the 1990s, Cuba created the National Drug Commission with representatives in every province, to try to keep a balance between prevention and confrontation.

The Ministries of Justice, Public Health, Education, Interior, Tourism, Courts and the Public Prosecutor’s Office; i.e. every mass organization and institution, are participating in this task.

They are trying to give us milk and honey where we only find bitter herbs: the Castro family’s ties to drug trafficking.

Translated by Regina Anavy

 

Returning Cuban Doctors Treated Badly / Juan Juan Almeida

Cuban doctors returning from Venezuela wait to be processed on their return to Havana.

Juan Juan Almeida, 8 June 2019 — A large number of Cuban workers, who had completed a mission in Venezuela, were treated like nobodies when they returned to the island.

What happened last Friday, June 7th, was no less important just because it was habitual. These people, mostly health workers, having finished their task, and returned to the island, waited over 3 hours, completely ignored, outside the terminal, because, not being a priority for the Ministry of Health, nobody was there to receive them.

“Now, in accordance with the usual procedure, we should have been in epidemiological monitoring; but, it didn’t happen. They forgot about us, and some of us have to think how to get home, using our own savings. They were incapable of guaranteeing us a comfortable and safe return. Obviously, as we had finished our work, and were of no further use to them, they treat us like non-reusable surgical materials,” one of the Cuban professionals who arrived on the flight told Juan Juan Al Medio. continue reading

The plane landed around mid-day at Terminal 5 (Wajay) at Jose Marti Airport in Havana. That’s where they receive and see off the workers’ flights, carry out their detailed inspections, well away from the normal passenger flow, and out of sight of the rest of the tourists and travellers visiting the country.

Doctor Raiza Planells, a graduate in oral medicine and dentistry from the Holguin University of Medical Science, and a  member of the abandoned group, told us about their uncomfortable situation:

“This is what makes us angry. Workers, just come back from the end of the mission, and some from vacation, waited around for over 3 hours, without any transport to get us to quarantine. There was nobody from support staff or from the airport to give us an explanation for this neglect. How much longer???”, she wrote in her Facebook profile.

Translated by GH

The Cuban Paradoxes / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 4 June 2019 — Precisely in the country where the imposition of decrees far exceeds the respect for rights and, coincidently, in the city where Ignacio Agramonte, Major General of the Liberation Army, discussed his thesis of Civil and Canon Law, this June 7th has been declared “Day of the Jurist” with activities planned in Camagüey.

It seems like a sweet story to please the naive and insult the intelligence. Be that as it may, we are already used to the Cuban government showing us that on the island the staging is more important than the script.

Juan Juan ‘AL MEDIO’ Interview with Yadira Escobar / Juan Juan Almeida

Following is a translation of the first 40 minutes of the above video. Many many thanks to TranslatingCuba.com’s longtime collaborator ‘GH’ for this yeoperson’s effort!

Juan Juan Almeida (JJ)

Very good evening. How are you doing? Canada orders that the families of Canadian diplomats who have moved to Cuba must return to their country. But the Cuban government, and the official press, is concentrating on the reception of General Raul Castro in Lima, Peru at the American summit.  And they are also concentrating on an interesting meeting which – and I am reading this –  which is known as the Meeting of the Democratic International Committee of Women which will take place in Pyongyang.

And, to be honest, I see very few connections between the North Korean Republic and the word “democracy”. We will talk about that, and many other things, with the person we have invited today, who is a young Cuban American lady, who, just by mentioning her name, will arouse emotions in all the social media.  This is Juan Juan Medio, and we will start in just a minute. continue reading

As I started saying, Canada is withdrawing  the families of its diplomatic personnel from Havana for security reasons and rumours have it that they are doing it because of all the commentaries about the supposed sonic attacks and because they are worried about the symptoms being suffered, or that have been suffered,  by ten of  their officials in Cuba. For that reason they are withdrawing part … well, not part … but the families of their officials  in Cuba.

And it’s strange really because – in my opinion, obviously – we have heard a lot about those sonic attacks which took place in Havana, but really, as far as I am concerned, after reading everything, or nearly everything, they have published in the official and unofficial media, I still find it hard to believe the whole story, or at least the story we have been told. Why? Well, because, I think we could have believed it completely in Fidel Castro’s time. Fidel Castro was a man who was reckless and daring.

So, I think that Cuba, at that time, was capable  of doing that, and a lot more. But Raul Castro is a different person. Raul Castro, Alejandro Castro, and all that group of people who is now in charge of the country …   I feel are very much cowards and I would find it difficult to believe that they could authorise or carry out those sorts of actions.  Not just against Canadian diplomats … we know the commercial interests that exist between Cuba and Canada … they are very very important – one of Cuba’s principal commercial partners.

Also, I very much doubt that there was this kind of action against North American diplomats as they say has happened  … I personally find it difficult to believe … and really I don’t have all the information … not all the information. But I continue to think that at least the story, as it is, shows an absence of evidence. There are far more questions than answers.

We will be talking about this, and many other matters here with today’s guest, who am delighted  to invite to join me here now, and introduce her properly, as God would expect, and as she deserves.

Yadira Escobar (YE)

Hi

JJ

Welcome. How are you?

YE

Very well

JJ

A great pleasure to be with you and first of all of course to ask how you are … apart from the obvious, that you are a very beautiful woman … obviously very well. But, the rhetorical question … how are you?

YE

A pleasure to meet you in person. Very happy to be here with the Diario de las Americas … and let’s see …

JJ

Your first time here?

YE

Yes, yes …

JJ

The first thing I would like to know … I have seen many of your videos in the social networks … they are practically viral … and I’d like to know … is it a performance, a personality you have which you are trying to put over, or are you … or were you …the person we have seen in the social media. What difference is there between you and the person in the social media?

YE

Well, the difference is not what I make. The only difference is between what I am and what some malicious people describe. The difference is that you publish your creative material… not the image that some malicious people .. in the networks people maliciously … there is in Miami  an attempt to destroy some peoples’ reputations and they in fact put obstacles in your path.

JJ

(Laughs) Obstacles in your path! The first time I saw you in the social media was in a video which was … if my memory serves me correctly … dressed like Flash, with a gun in your hand falling behind some trees, or something like that.

YE

Yes

JJ

And shooting at a teddy bear. And later I saw you in another video, similar to that, dressed as a soldier in olive green with a military helmet. And that was a big contrast with your appearance in another, when you were speaking out against arms. This confuses me a bit when I try to define you as a person.

YE

Let’s put in a … whatever you like …whatever compartment you fancy …

JJ

I am not wanting to compartmentalise anyone. But I’d like to know are you in favour of armed struggle, or against armed struggle … because at first you spoke well as a soldier … how do you position yourself?

YE

I am against violence. What happens is that we are used to the social networks and propaganda and violence  in popular culture. I am saying that the emotion is so strong about putting an end to all the violence that exists in this planet. And I condemn any form, any manifestation of violence. So I say to you that to put an end to violence you have to have strength. Because, to be quite honest, smoking marihuana on the beach, a hippy with a flower, will not end violence.

JJ

Well, in a sense it will …

YE

It’s a fantasy in your imagination. You have to take a position in your community in favour of good, in favour of peace, in favour of love, of beautiful things … which are very scarce …  you know, to interrupt you,  … the video of the helmet is not a uniform …  it was with a Guess brand shirt … the men love me in olive green …my brother says the shirt is a man’s shirt.

JJ

It looks very good on you

YE

Thank you  The video I made which, sincerely, deals with the effort we need to make to promote peace.

JJ

So its nothing of the olive green or the intention  to show the symbolism that many people would assume … you see it in Havana

YE

… and on safari in Africa …

JJ

But anyway …  when did you leave Cuba?

YE

I was 6. In ’94. And I would have arrived in Miami before ’94, if a certain official – Montero – had not kept my family for four years … and do you know what was the worst thing? The official Montero offered my father a proposal. Pay me and I will give you the white card (which permits you to leave Cuba).

JJ

Corrupt

YE

And do you know what was the most tragic part of the story? My father didn’t pay him … it could have been a trap.

JJ

Definitely

YE

My father didn’t pay but in the end we left Cuba …  the worst part of this story of an example of corruption and abuse of power is that this official went himself to the United States – I don’t know whether he is in New York, or Tampa, or wherever, but he is living in the US. The people who do the most damage … I tell you … the worst is not to be a communist … but to be a repentant communist. It’s a disaster … with their uniforms, they say they will do what they want. They have their privileges. They get their social security cheque when they have never contributed anything to society.

JJ

It’s an interesting question. You went back to Cuba after you left?

YE

After 15 years  … you go, after a while you go back … a political refugee … when we left Cuba we left with pain in our souls … that my last night there in ’94 …

JJ

How do you remember your departure from Cuba?

YE

Traumatic. Traumatic. I also think it was a miracle because we were country folk from Camagüey against Havana, in the Special Period. You go in the middle of the night with your suitcases. We got in the bus …a magic thing. That night, we slept by the Havana airport entrance on the floor in the night until early morning, because we could not risk missing the flight

JJ

You did it, or you would have nothing … there was just one flight.

YE

I woke up, I saw we were outside, I saw people were coming , I cried. I said look at El Moro (famous castle on the route to Havana) – it will be the last thing you will see in Cuba.

JJ

Because you went on the highway to get to the airport. Just asking, because El Moro is a little way from the airport.

YE

Yes. When we were in the plane, I looked through the window I said, I can’t look.  I was saying goodbye to my grandparents. So, when we got here, in 2000, when I said we had gone, I heard stories  … the kid came from Havana and went back again. What?! Went back?! How did I go back again? Are you mad? mad?! A communist!

JJ

Yeah, right – everyone who goes back is a communist! You had every right to go back. Its your country. Your country didn’t support or welcome you but we are Cubans, and we can return.

YE

It’s a fight. How can you continue with the fight? How will the country improve?

JJ

Quite right – it’s a struggle. You know what caught my attention when you said it, and now I think of it some more …  When you said you were a country girl from Camagüey. When I met him in the lift and I asked you father back there which part of Cuba are you from? He didn’t look like a country person from Camagüey. More like someone from Paris. But you say “we are from Camagüey” …

YE

Look …he is very proud that he is a country person.

JJ

But not a rural person from Camaguay.

YE

No, of course, I am not just a country girl from Camagüey, I am from La Avenida  de los Martires (a relatively nice address),  but I am in constant contact. Like things produced on the farm, cheese, milk, all kinds of products, so I am continually in contact with the farmland.

JJ

Now, finally, have you returned to Cuba?

YE

Few times. After 15 years of exile, Fidel goes, Raul comes. One of my grandparents had died, the other not in good health …

JJ

In 2006 …

YE

It was in 2008. After 15 years, without any fantasy of a plan for going back. In 2008, the was no Fidel Castro. My father had problems. But it is better to reunite with your family than be trapped in fear. My grandfather died in the end … and we couldn’t go there every three years … and we went in 2008. I was pleased. We had left a Cuba which no longer existed In 2013 we could see the difference. in 2008 we went to a little place deep in the heart of Cuba. And we got there in a rented car.

JJ

When you went back to Cuba … from my point of view, there are many different Cubas. There are many Cubas.

YE

Yes, that’s true

JJ

There are many Cubas. The Cuba that many intellectuals visualise or try to see or talk about. There is another Cuba  that the tourists see. There is another Cuba that the opposition and the dissidents see. Another that we see. That the musicians see. There are many Cubas for different people to see. There are many positions from which to view our country.  But which is the Cuba which you see, or have seen, when you go?

YE

The Cuba I have seen … the first time I  visited it in 2008 after 15 years of seeing the Yuma (meaning the United States) with the perfumes, the colours, the plastic  … because the US has a beautiful attractive  face …  when I  went in 2008 the first thing that hit me was … I know that making comparisons with other countries in the world  isn’t right …  it has its ecosystem, its work, it has vaccines, the people don’t fall dead in the street.

JJ

They are still poor, but in good health.

YE

Yes. They are poor and they are still poor  … Yes they survive but what impressed me was seeing this poverty …  and I cried, I  was crying … I am obsessed with the theme of Cuba because I  love it.  In the night I met a friend of mine in Havana. I took a photo of a farm in Cuba and it got to my heart. A little indistinct photo of my palm trees. It touched my heart. I tell you … the most precious thing that we have is our island, with all its problems   … what we have to do is improve it.

JJ

The palms that I love. But i sometimes think that you are idealising a bit. This image of Cuba  … when I left Cuba, I did something illegal. What I did first, I went in a bus from the province of Granma. I was looking at all the Cuban countryside … the pines, the palm trees, and I was moved by nostalgia … I knew i would not return. I looked at the palms with lots of nostalgia thinking i will never again return, will never again see the palms, and when I arrived here I saw there are more palms here than in Cuba and they are more beautiful too.

YE

More beautiful? More beautiful than in Cuba?!

JJ

Yes when you go to a hotel like the Breakers in Palm Beach … the palms are beautiful

YE

But they are foreign palms … come on!

JJ

If there were not many things, but one thing which, with certain changes you would leave as it is, what is that?

YE

To preserve … I like security … I like that my grandparents can walk in the street without having to worry and walk normally. Cuba is a third world country. I can’t say that Cuba is a safe country for my grandparents … I would like more security. Cuban security is in danger

JJ

You think that Cuba is that insecure?

YE

You can’t compare …

JJ

Compare with what?

YE

No, without making comparisons … you can’t compare today’s Cuba with yesterday’s in terms of security. Because now with a bigger dose of capitalism, and a greater inequality, people can’t walk with iPhones, with … there is a privileged class in Cuba and a class …

JJ

There always was.

YE

Yes, but … more exhibitionist.

JJ

Well one thing about Raul Castro is that he allowed the doors to open.

YE

And he wants more.

JJ

Of course. Everyone wants more.

YE

They want more. They are trying to create a type of underworld in which … I don’t want to defend it, but … I want the day to arrive that the marginalisation caused by lack of education, with no chance to escape, comes to an end. I think that the most vital thing is that every Cuban has at least one chance in their life … to move forward. That the poor person gets a chance to go to university or he will remain there, stuck in the mud.

JJ

The press,  or many people in the social networks, make a big thing out of the violence in Cuba. But really I don’t know about that many cases of violence in Cuba. And the press in Cuba  report many cases of violence. But really there are only a  few.

YE

There are few but these few cases may be a signal of something which is coming. You have to think not just of the country you come to but  where are you going with that. I am not going to watch the culture of the barrios with the “what nice chicks” and all that. And that is why i am against arms, because the worst would be to introduce arms into Cuba. Now the gangs, the kids, inoffensive because they only have little knives  … that they should be armed, go around armed like the ones in Mexico.

JJ

No no I don’t think that will happen. First because they don’t have arms. The police do … but put arms in the hands of the people … from the retired military people or could be some stores that they have robbed … and they end up in the hands of people who shouldn’t have them. But I don’t see many arms in Cuba … or much violence. But lately more arms to do with drugs which could to lead to more violence.

YE

Something that i would definitely take away is the limitation … this prison without bars … the inability of the civil society to form groups. Because  there are people who don’t want to form political groups, like for example a group that was mentioned to me to protect animal rights and have nothing to do with the state … but it is on the margins of illegality

JJ

There are groups …

YE

Yes there are some which have no connection with the state, but, once again, they are not protected by the law because it is prohibited. I think that should be permitted because the civil society each time gets more legal spaces to express itself vigorously.

JJ

Definitely. I think that if something would change … radical …it is the law, the constitution. The Law of Civil Association permits prisons … the Law on Investment, Business Law … all that  … all … to change the constitution. I think, in my opinion. But do you think that, Yadira, with your knowledge and the experience you have now,  if it would be useful, or if you would like to participate in politics in Cuba, in a position in the government?

YE

Well, one thing is the future, because, right now that isn’t possible.

JJ

No, no, but hypothetically … in a future Cuba …

YE

I don’t  know … I am not resident of Cuba …

JJ

Well suppose you went back …

YE

Obviously i would like to participate in a future Cuba. In politics, because I think that …  I was not brought up in the United States …  in a Cuban community … here you are seen as communist exiles … they say yes, I fled Cuba, … syndicalists, marxists reds, … but I am in Calle Ocho with them … and therefore I say that I don”t want to break the laws of etiquette … but it seems to me that i could help, because I am a nationalist, a centrist nationalist, who brings at least a little inspiration to raise Cuban dignity, a bit. I think i could help. we will have to wait and see if they open a space for people like me who have this interest.

JJ

And you would like that?

YE

Yes, I certainly would.

JJ

In everything we have seen of you … that has been demonstrated … as a dissident, or member of the opposition … how to you see the possibilities of representing a particular group of Cubans? What do you think is the possibility of leading a group … something political?

YE

Right. I don’t know if you should call them dissidents. I mean, if I have a complaint the people say that it’s a dissident … but the people who have most impressed me … I have said … are not from the government, with no connection with the government … you are a Cuban, 100% clean … you defend your honesty … but you know, they are not exactly well known. They aren’t  people … I shouldn’t say their names, because they have not taken me into their confidence. They are young people. They have their complaints, their criticisms, but have not lost their sense of Cubanism and they say to you I want this for Cuba … more or less what they want, their nationalism, not to break the social order, in order to start over again from zero.  Life is short, take what is theirs, working to a certain extent, and improve it. To improve things as best they can, to improve the economy, it wont be the best politics in the world, the economy is broke.

JJ

But, but, but …

YE

But they are all similar, Juan,

JJ

What I see personally … me … me… in my opinion … I don’t see in any of them … again, I repeat , in my opinion, I have not seen a project which produces anything. The housewife working in her house who says “ok i will do that but what is in it for me?

YE

Yes. suspicious of an imaginary collective which comes up with a deluge of complaints with no platform at all. You know why they have no platform? Because they have no proposals.

JJ

I don’t know them …

YE

I would say what they are proposing … they criticise the embargo …  but their discussion is not about the embargo, it is …. I have heard this since I was a child and it is something in Miami and doesn’t produce any result … except to annoy them over there. However much we have here and however much we want change in Cuba …  and we love Cuba … there are 11 million people who can collectively go up the mountains. The people aren’t stupid. They are you and me. They are normal people. If Cubans want to change the way things are, they will do it.

JJ

Would you like to take charge of the people?

YE

I am not the Trump of Hialeah … I don’t want to inherit from Fidel Castro and nor to I like Donald Trump,  and I want … to serve you, the people. To be a representative. You are sovereign … all of you, the 11 millions, really have the power … they remain neutral re: their agendas.

JJ

The platform of Rosa Maria Paya who talks about a plebiscite … that there should be a plebiscite … I don’t see how they could implement that. But, the intention seems very laudable and  it seems she speaks well and that Cubans could decide for themselves …

YE

Look, regarding La Paya and her father, these kind of people are trying to get signatures … to become an opposition accepted by the state. But the reality is they always have to make their proposals … their reasonable demands, and definitely annoying other opposition groups. But I don’t think Miami would vote for Paya and her people. I don’t think that people in Miami would be allowed to vote, because they always have to put their proposal and reasonable demands. Want to put the opposition to one side. The most irrational event would be a plebiscite. Because …

JJ

They can legitimise them there, but i think that a good option would be that I could say I do not agree that they are legalised and I have the possibility or option to vote against you and say I don’t want to go there . That seems to me probable . If you want for your own reasons to gather signatures to get into Cuban politics  …ok, but I don’t want to get into that because unfortunately there is nowhere in the world where politics is carried out in the street. Yes, proselytising, but politics happens in parliament and you have to get in there to speak up there in the name of a particular group in the community. In my personal opinion I don’t like the word “help”. The cuban exiles need representatives in the Cuban parliament … and why not?

YE

Obviously. the Cuban parliament should have space for those who don’t agree. In any parliament there needs to be a dissident voice. But, to get into Cuban politics and to do things which affect 11 million people  … to have a lot of power  … to get into the assembly, to get into government …

JJ

you could get in …

YE

… no I can’t get in …

JJ

you were modelling in front of the Capitolio … very beautiful, very beautiful …

YE

Yes, that has to do with returning to my previous image …

jj

Going out of the Convention Centre, which is ugly, going to the Plaza de la Revolucion to the seat of the Assembly, which is also hideous,  and going to the Capitolio which is a beautiful building …

YE

Yes yes yes, but for those people …

JJ

you could have the palms as well

YE

Ha ha yes wearing a palm brooch  … for this opposition to get into the assembly I think there has to be a minimum requirement … with finance from another power …

JJ

For me personally, I don’t like it very much.

YE

Obviously

JJ

It sounds small town. It seems it doesn’t transcend other cultures which have been very nationalist … Hitler for example … in Germany at that time …

YE

laughs

JJ

No, I am not comparing Cuba with that … there is no way that I could disrespect the Jews like that … impossible …

YE

There would be no genocide like that

JJ

No, no, … I am not into comparing Fidel Castro with Hitler – nothing like that.  But i think that nationalism stays, remains, very provincial … and we are more than that … we are in a global world … we are not just Cubans – although they have robbed us of that many times … but also Caribbean people, Latin Americans ..lots of things … 39:37:13

Translated by GH

Lazara Lopez Acea, A Cuban Leader Sure to Be in the New Group in Power / Juan Juan Almeida

Lázara Mercedes López Acea (right) with Esteban Lazo Hernández, president of Cuba’s National Assembly (center)

Juan Juan Almeida, 20 March 2018 — The historical leadership of the island’s regime proceeds, forced and with urgency, towards a transfer of power that does not arrive by conviction but by biological exhaustion. Therefore, for the men and women on whose shoulders the support of the structure of the Government and the State weighs, much more than the successor, the important thing is to know who will be the members of the new Government group that will be installed this coming 19 April. Who will be the vice presidents and ministers, who are already emerging as the new influencers?

Born on 1 September 1964, Lázara Mercedes López Acea has managed her contacts to be among the leaders who have already secured their passage to the new power group. continue reading

A professional engineer, obstinate, compassionate, she carries the additional label of “intelligent student”, according to her university classmates. Lázara Mercedes grew up in a small Cienfuegos town known as Caunao. Having an alcoholic brother forced her to grow up early and transformed him from an elusive and complex child, to a woman of strong character and few words.

The history of an individual, in a certain way, is that of those around her. Her mother Liduvina, housewife, and her late father Tomás, barber of Orrutinel Street between San Carlos and San Fernando, made a humble home, which later became dysfunctional due to the alcoholism of her brother Frank. Perhaps for that reason, the current member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba , maintains a low media profile and is the furthest thing that exists from the concept of feminine elegance and sensuality.

Her co-workers describe her as a hard-working woman and insist that she is not a corrupt official. However, most of Cienfuegueros consider that her political-administrative management, as the first Secretary of the Party in the province, went through many sorrows and glory. It is impossible to hide that under her mandate the street lighting was installed in most of Cienfuegos, which, according to its inhabitants, was non-existent until then.

But if we look at her history, in July of 2005, while the province suffered the onslaught of Hurricane Dennis, she continued to report on Mesa Redonda (The Roundtable) on Cuban television. The whole country saw her lying about the state of the province and, in one of her trips through the affected areas, in the neighborhood of Reina, a fishing village, Lázara announced that the area was recovering, that electrical service had already been restored and the water supply stabilized, as a result of which a group of people stoned her and she even received a slap from a protester in front of the microphones of Cuban television.

After the passage of the hurricane, the province was destroyed and many food warehouses were roofless. Hunger and desperation took over “the pearl of the south,” and by order of Lopez Acea, in clear disrespect for the duties of government and the rights of the people, poor quality rice was distributed to the population. The population protested and to relieve the discomfort, as a lifesaver, she suggested distributing honey because of its nutritional properties. But the plan was clearly absurd because the storm had destroyed all the local beehives. Since then, as a joke, she has been nicknamed “Larzarita Bee Honey.”

During her time in the presidency in Cienfuegos, 2003-2006, several plans were not carried out. So much so, that everyone thought that she would be removed from office; but that same year the Cuban government needed blacks and women in important functions, within the leadership of the country, to show plurality among its cadres.

And so it was, on that occasion, her friendship with Cuban Vice President José Ramón Machado Ventura, along with her gender and race, served the need unquestionably, so that on May 27, 2006, Mercedes was given the unexpected boost to First Secretary of the Party in Havana and the chance to join the Council of State.

She is currently an important national politician and vice president of the Council of State of the Republic of Cuba. It was she who influenced the appointment of Roberto Morales Ojeda as her successor in 2006, in the position of first Secretary of the Party in Cienfuegos. And then, already based in Havana, she influenced General Raúl Castro to appoint her unconditional friend, the same Roberto Morales Ojeda, to the post he holds today, Minister of Public Health of Cuba.

From Cienfuegos they moved her to Havana’s Nautico neighborhood, right next to the house where the first Cuban Vice President Miguel Mario Díaz-Canel Bermúdez lived. But things have changed. Today both live in another more comfortable and better guarded place, which we will speak of in another article.