Structural Crisis and “Elections”: It Won’t be Easy for The Designated One / Miriam Celaya

Díaz-Canel at the 1st National Conference of the Culture Union. 2018 (granma.cu)

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 9 October 2019 – There is just one day left before the 600 deputies that make up the National Assembly of People’s Power (ANPP) “elect” who will be the country’s president and vice president for the next five years, re-eligible for a second term, as the new Electoral Law (Law No. 37) reads, approved last July in ordinary session of Parliament.

However, the millions of Cubans who are part of the so called sovereign people as well as the deputies themselves, who will obediently tick the boxes corresponding to each position and to “applicant”, previously selected by the true power, still ignore who the candidates to lead are, at least in name, the always precarious directions of the nation.

It is fair to say that the subject doesn’t interest hardly anyone either. The most widespread opinion among Cubans in Cuba is that it matters little who holds the title of president when it is known that those who truly rule in the country are the surviving members of the historical (de)generation and their closest heirs and collaborators, directly responsible of the whole disaster generated over 60 years. continue reading

Whoever those designated for such responsibilities are, they will be puppets without real power and without sufficient courage to undertake the essential changes, beginning with the general transformation of a system that is clearly obsolete. 

The only certainty derived from the experience of four generations who have barely survived the six decades of crises and hardships labeled under the deceptive heading of the Cuban Revolution, is that if the promises of the future were not fulfilled by now, not one of the ones they put in place will solve anything. Such conviction weighs like a tombstone on the popular spirit, as if, at the unconscious level, people have finally begun to internalize an unquestionable truth: Cuba’s evil is not cyclical but systemic.

In fact, the civic orphanage of an entire peoples blames itself in the daily language of the so-called ordinary Cuban. In any moderately democratic society and in the middle of the electoral stage, nobody would think of referring to “the one they are going to place,” rather they would say “the one I am going to vote for.” This, of course, after public knowledge of the respective government programs of each candidate and which party they represent.

In Cuba, on the contrary, the single party and the dictatorship have been legally consecrated — not “legitimately” — in the new Constitution; and so also, after 43 years of training in social compliance under an electoral system barely modified since 1976, the recently passed Law 37, in open contempt of the popular will that reclaimed direct participation in the election of the president of the country, constitutes a true armor to avoid fissures in the official filters that could eventually allow the rise to power of candidates unwanted by the privileged elite.

Thus, the Electoral Law Draft formally presented on July 2019 to the parliamentary commission designated “for discussion and approval,” made rampant omission of direct elections, one of the most important demands of Cubans during the so-called popular consultation process that preceded the unanimous approval of the Constitution now in force.

Nevertheless, it was unanimously approved by Parliament, in the same way that the “election” of the president and vice president will be approved on the morning of this October 10, 2019, under the protection of a paradoxical legislation that was renewed with the sole purpose of perpetuating a system anchored in the past.

Perhaps the few “innovative” brushstrokes of these supposed elections are summarized in factors that right now do not seem very relevant, but of which it would be wise to take note.

Namely, they are the first votes in which none of the members of the historical generation will be part of the candidacy — although they will continue to hold the Royal Power until nature takes its course.

Secondly, it is to be assumed that, in the course of five years, their survivors  will disappear or completely lose their already scarce capacities and, consequently, end their pernicious symbolic or real influence on the decision-making of the direction of the country.

And thirdly, with marked importance, to maintain the current deepening of the crisis of the system, the “new” government will have no more than two alternatives: to implement economic changes that would eventually result in the transformation of the “model” itself or to face chaos which would derive from social discontent over the accumulation of problems in all areas of national life, thus assuming the consequences of the mistakes made by the “historicals.”

Nor should we discard the importance of new leaderships that may emerge in the independent civil society and that would join the already known groups with long experience in resistance. Recent times are showing a rebound in sectors pushing for spaces of freedom and participation within the Island. Presumably, such growth will be sustained and they will diversify their proposals and demands to the extent that political power in Cuba is not even capable of generating a plan to alleviate the structural crisis of the system.

Meanwhile, expectations must be moderate. The Cuban landscape offers no reason for optimism but rather the opposite. The increase in repression, the sharpening of the crisis, the retreat, in terms of openings of the private sector and the ideological entrenchment, are some clear signs of the cupola’s lack of willingness to change; a situation from which there is no glimpse of an exit and whose solution does not depend at all on the X’s that will mark the ballots of the deputies in the electoral farce that will take place next Thursday.

It is clear that the president will not inherit the power, but will inherit the responsibility for what happens in the future: he will need to dare to move things or accept the role of accomplice and scapegoat of the dictatorship. It won’t be easy for him.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Special Period or “Situation”?

Díaz-Canel appearing on the Roundtable TV show on Cuban State television (Twitter)

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 12 September 2019 — As announced by the official press in the morning hours of September 11th, a special appearance of the Cuban President (not elected), Miguel Díaz-Canel, took place in the usual space of State televison’s Roundtable program, in order to report on the “current energy situation” that the country is experiencing this September. This time, the program was broadcast from the Palace of the Revolution, and the Ministers of Economy, Energy and Mines, and Transportation accompanied Díaz-Canel

Looking tired – due to a day that began early, at a meeting of the Political Bureau with Raúl Castro leading, where “the measures to alleviate the situation” were approved – the “president” made his speech without departing a milligram from the script that, in broad strokes, began with the causes of all evils: the new “onslaught” of evil of the American Empire (and here, a direct mention of the funds allocated by the government of that country for “subversion in Cuba”), in addition to the capricious commitment of the current administration of the nation to the north to inflict suffering on the Cuban population, with the risky intention of blaming the inadequacies and deprivations on government inefficiency.

According to Díaz-Canel, the newly announced limitation of remittances and the efforts of the Trump administration to prevent the arrival of oil in Cuba were, among other factors, the most important ones that conditioned the “low availability of diesel,” which is directly impacting on public transportation and on freight. continue reading

Because it turns out that “there are no longer supply problems, such as those we faced at the end of last year and in the first months of this year.” It is said that there are food boats in port – loaded with meat, flour to make bread, etc. – whose cargoes have not been able to be unloaded due to the “current energy situation.” “Situation,” a word mentioned on numerous occasions during the speech by Díaz-Canel, which seems to be the new euphemism to refer to the economic crisis in the 90’s which the fertile imagination of Castro I termed The Special Period, and whose return the regime refuses to recognize.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Energy and Mines announced the “possibility of blackouts” which would be scheduled and announced in a timely manner to the population, while the Minister of Transportation referred to the inevitable “reprogramming” of inter provincial travel – that “will not be suspended, but extended” in time, which implies that “there will be people who bought their tickets but cannot travel on the planned dates” – a situation that will affect both national bus services and train travel, a service with an ephemeral life since it was reopened with much fanfare in recent weeks.

The Minister of Economy, in turn, made a triumphant mention of the financial contribution of tourism and other income derived from foreign investments, etc., all of which, in addition to the development plans undertaken throughout the country, means that we can be assured that this year’s growth in GDP will be guaranteed

There will also be effects “on the distribution of some products”, but at least they gave us the good news that “blackouts should not occur until next Sunday, September 15th, unless there are interruptions due to breakage or other factors.”

However, this time the government fortunately has a Plan. It is not without purpose that the president reminds us that we have now what we lacked in the 90’s, namely, the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) Guidelines, the Conceptualization of the Model and – as if that were not enough – a brand new Constitution, very useful tools that now allow us to successfully face imperial tricks and plots. Now, a smiling Díaz-Canel tells us that the Cuba Plan faces the USA Plan. “Plan against Plan, as Martí used to say” he stated, very pleased with himself.

And what is the wonderful Master Plan secretly created by the Druids and their “continuity”? Well, literally: “dust off some of the experiences learned during the Special Period”, such as “work at home” (if possible work is done from the home base, taking advantage of “the advances in connectivity we now have”, to alleviate the use of public and labor transportation).

State vehicles (not normally used for passenger service) must pick up passengers at bus stops, provided they have available capacities (which seems like a repeat of the famous “yellow ones”, a name that the popular wit during those hard, turn of the century years, gave to State inspectors due to the color of their uniforms. The State inspectors’ function was to force the State drivers to carry passengers, and to apply the “popular control” (a euphemism for “snitching”) for any violation of measures and laws, “to move work schedules” even to the dawn hours, if necessary, and to reintroduce animal traction – as in horse-drawn carts, ‘buses’ and trucks – in places where this variant was possible, among other pearls.

And if that were not enough to convince us that this “tense energy situation” is not a Special Period but “a training opportunity, since it can be repeated in the future” — which contradicts the very concept of what is understood as situational — Now we have a “socio-economic development strategy” based on tourism and on “the exportation of medical and drug services,” in addition to other items such as the production of eggs, pork and chicken.

But the best news is that the above “situation” is only a matter of days away. The oil contracts for the month of October have already “been negotiated,” which implies that the coming month will not be energetically tense, and on the 14th of this month of September an oil ship will arrive — from a mysterious place that our president, so shrewd and naughty, did not want to reveal so that the Empire does not find out — which will be the solution for this small energy slump.

So, in the end, it was all about “a ship’s” arrival! Could it mean, perhaps, that with that solitary oil vessel that will arrive secretly, as if it were a seventeenth century filibuster, all the problems of this Island of 110 thousand square kilometers and 11 million low-life souls can be situational? And then, wasn’t it sufficient to do a press report explaining the fact instead of inventing implausible and medieval plans at the highest governmental level? Does the main plan of the cupola really take Cubans for fools?

But I will tell my readers a secret suspicion that’s eating me alive: I know that we are not in the Special Period because neither the person who became president because he knew somebody nor his team of babbling ministers has yet to mention that artifact that was the hallmark of the dark crisis: the bicycle. Or is it that it has not yet been possible to unload the ship “loaded with cycles” due to the lack of diesel?

In the end, all this absurdity of a “sovereign and independent” Island that makes such painful boast of its blarney economy reminds me of a phrase a poor madman repeats like a parrot to enliven his meaningless speeches and slogans at the Emergency Hospital bus stop, where his involuntary public crowds together. At the end, even if irrelevant, the poor man ends his rant by invoking that not so innocent other lunatic: “This did not happen with Fidel.” In Cuba, from the highest of Power to the lowest of the outcasts you can hear any nonsense.

Translated by Norma Whiting

We Don’t Understand Each Other: The Myths and Facts of Baragua

The meeting between both generals, the Spaniard and the Mambí, took place on March 15th, 1878, at a remote point in the rural geography of Cuba.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 3 September 2019 — The phrase is attributed to Antonio Maceo, general of our Wars of Independence and one of the essential pillars of the foundational theogony of the Cuban nation, whose feats and proverbial value in the insurgent camp, added to his majestic bearing and mestizo complexion, earned him the nickname of The Bronze Titan.

“We don’t understand each other,” it’s said to be the definitive answer given by the famous Cuban warrior to Spanish general Arsenio Martínez Campos, architect of the Covenant Agreement or Pact of Zanjón, under which the colonial power of the Island put an end to a bloody war that had extended for almost 10 years between the Spanish army and the Cuban insurgent forces.

The meeting between the two generals, the Spaniard and the Mambí, took place on March 15th, 1878 at a remote point in the Cuban rural geography, Los Mangos de Baraguá, and since the Pact of the Zanjón imposed peace without having achieved either Cuban independence or the abolition of slavery -the main objectives of the insurgent army’s fighting program- General Maceo refused to accept it, and declared a truce of only eight days before the continuation of a war that, clearly , the Cuban patriots had already lost. continue reading

Writings exalt the intransigence of the distinguished Mambí leader, and has been impressed on the national imagery from times of the Republic to the present day as an example of dignity and patriotism

For purposes of instrumentation of History it matters little that just 55 days after proclaiming the continuity of the armed struggle, the leader himself appealed to the mediation of his adversary, Arsenio Martínez Campos, to leave the Island for Jamaica — supposedly to raise funds and support for the independence cause — leaving in the mountains of Baracoa a handful of guerrillas without sufficient supplies and with hardly any food, who ended up surrendering and accepting the capitulation of the Zanjón in mid-June 1878, thus accentuating a defeat that is not reflected in the official teaching textbooks in Cuba.

Writings, on the other hand, exalt the intransigence of the distinguished Mambí leader, a fact that ended up in the History of Cuba as the “Protest of Baraguá” and has been impressed on the national imagery since the era of the Republic to the present day as an example of the dignity and patriotism of the hero who refused to lay down his arms, even though most of his fighting companions, in obvious “betrayal” of the patriotic ideals and the blood spilled on the battlefields, had embraced surrender.

Perhaps there is no hero as conducive to the official discourse of the Castro regime as Antonio Maceo. He is the epitome of national identity, both for his remarkable physical appearance and for the strength of his character. Tall, handsome, strong, elegant, patriotic, intelligent, energetic, brave and — as icing on the cake — mulato, Maceo not only embodies the patriotic ideal of independence, sovereignty and Cubanness embroiled in the heat of the independence fights, but he also symbolizes it from that racial mixture that distinguishes us as a people, the result of the fusion of the two most representative anthropological components of the Cuban ethnos: the Spanish white conqueror and the black African slave.

Thus, beyond the warrior’s will, Cuban historiography mutilated Maceo into a rigid archetype and Baraguá marked the starting line of an almost infinite succession of “symbolic victories,” a phenomenon that has become increasingly recurrent in the last six decades, consisting of putting on glory makeup and selling every defeat as a victory.

Dismal fate for a hero who, with intelligence and courage, demonstrated the ability to win numerous battles against his adversaries in arms, to be remembered for an episode where his stubbornness and ineptitude for civilized dialogue were revealed, and to accept the futility of the sacrifice of continuing an already lost war.

That said, and beyond the obvious manipulation of history, it is not difficult to understand that Maceo transcended his simple human dimension to become a national legend — an unblemished hero, so pure, elevated and unattainable that made him seem divine — and in addition, his legacy as a uncompromising warrior was transmuted into a legitimizing myth of a political power and a communist ideology, which are hard to compare with the avatars and true yearnings of the famous Titan.

These days, when tensions between the governments of Cuba and the United States are increasing after the activation of Chapter III of the Helms-Burton Act, the spokesmen for the Castro regime have once again recalled the unfortunate episode at Baraguá, decontextualizing it through TV spots in which a famous actor repeats the well-known phrase as a mantra, which in no way relates to the powerful enemy to the North: “We don’t understand each other.”

Dismal fate for a hero who demonstrated the ability to win numerous battles against his adversaries in arms, to be remembered for an episode where his stubbornness and ineptitude for civilized dialogue were revealed

Few Cubans today know that, after the setback Zanjón entailed for the longings for independence in the 17 years of tense peace between the end of the Great War and the outbreak of the one in 1895, the definitive abolition of slavery took place, and Cubans were granted the exercise of rights that are currently denied to us, such as the existence of political parties — autonomists and reformists — that played an important role in the awakening of the political interest of large Creole social sectors, as well as new press, literature and opinion spaces that exerted a definite influence for the impulse of Cuban national thought.

Moreover, the Zanjón Covenant recognized the independentistas as legitimate interlocutors, a sign of respect that the Cuban dictatorship refuses to show before a growing opposition that has been in an unequal peaceful struggle for decades.

The Pact of Zanjón, even with the defeat it meant for the independentistas, opened spaces in a Cuba approaching the end of the 19th century which today, 20 years after the end of the 20th Century, constitute aspirations. So, after all, it turns out that the phrase applies with more reason today than at Los Mangos de Baraguá, because when speaking of autocratic power and the governed, it can be said, with all relevance: “No, we do not understand each other.”

Translated by Norma Whiting

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Road Repair: Another Challenge to “Continuity”

The Cuban road network covers approximately 71,138 km, of which 10,997 are of “national interest” and 2,303 of rural roads (CC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, West Palm Beach, 7 August 2019 — The Ministry of Transportation (Mitrans) has once again announced a traffic program for the maintenance and supervision of roads. Far from being a novelty, this would be the most recent of the many road improvement plans that — like housing construction — have cyclically been announced in different periods after 1959 and that, for unknown reasons, after a spectacular investment program, whose real cost is never revealed, and a flood of press reports covering the development of the works in situ, have not been fulfilled in practice.  They have been truncated or simply, silently, disappeared without further explanation.

Years of socialist neglect have caused the deterioration and even the destruction of numerous roads under the onslaught of natural phenomena, added to the inefficiency of the country’s sociopolitical system. The Island’s highways and roads system is experiencing its worst crisis since its construction, and its current deterioration imposes greater urgency and more resources in the midst of a new economic crisis. continue reading

The Island’s highways and road system is experiencing its worst crisis since its construction, and the current deterioration imposes greater urgency and more resources in the midst of a new economic crisis.

Now it’s the hand-picked president’s turn, whose “continuity” strategy does not leave room for optimism. But in Cuba, promoting the development of any subject is not exactly what it’s about, rather it’s about “having a development plan”. The experience of the last 60 years shows that fulfilling plans is not a priority, only the plan is an end in itself.

Therefore, though the aforementioned Roadways Program has not excelled — it does not even appear on the official website of the Mitrans, the entity in charge of its execution, nor will deadlines set for its different stages of development be known until the end of 2030 — at least in the government press, the work moves at full speed.

The data provided by sources of the Ministry of Transportation to the newspaper Granma indicate that the road network in Cuba covers a total of 71,138.5 km (44,204 miles), of which 17,168 km (10,668 miles) are classified as urban roads and about 24,000 km (14,913 miles) correspond to rural roads, with most of them considered “of specific interest” because they are owned by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Azcuba (sugarcane production) group. The same source adds that “in a general way” 24% of these routes are evaluated as “in good condition”, 37% “are in normal condition” and 39% “in poor condition”.

The figures quoted do not clearly reflect the importance rankings of the roads included in this phantom plan; however, the director of the National Road Center did report that for the period 2019-2030 ” priority investments associated with the development of the northern coastal cays areas plus the Special Development Zone of Mariel, as well as works of tourist interest and others in the economic and social field will be maintained.” He also assured that, in addition, “emphasis is placed on the improvement of road signs and activities related to the sealing of cracks, paving, milling and repair of bridges and sewers, and continue mainly on the National Highway and the Central Highway.

 It is worth clarifying at this point that the so-called National Highway is a misnomer, since it does not even meet the required basic requirements

It is worth clarifying at this point that the so-called National Highway is a misnomer, since it does not even meet basic requirements, such as the absence of level intersections or crossings, with layouts allowing access to adjacent buildings directly from the road. It also does not meet the required deceleration lanes at entrances and exits, with nonexistent or diffuse and extremely narrow lateral shoulders at best, with scarce and deficient signaling system which is not consistent with high-speed traffic highways. The route lacks fences or railings that guarantee security and prevent the access of pedestrians or cattle (or other animals), among other infinite deficiencies related to the poor quality of the construction and not a few engineering errors of the original project.

The brand new “highway” does not even classify as a motorway, nor could it be compared to the marvel of engineering that was once the Central Highway, built between 1927 and 1931 under the Government of Gerardo Machado, and still considered Cuba’s most important road, extending for 708 miles through 14 of Cuba’s current provinces.

Nor does the ill-named freeway have a “national” rank since, although the project — originally devised by the now deceased Fidel Castro in his useless effort to emulate and overcome all the advances of the Republican Period — intended to build a modern high-speed road which would cross the island lengthwise in its entirety; the truth is that it only covers a total of just 597 km (371 miles) from the capital to the west, to the city of Pinar del Río, and to the east to the city of Sancti Spiritus, in the Central region of Cuba. The demise of the Soviet Union and with it the subsidies received by the Castro Regime marked the fate of a road that, to date, remains truncated.

But, returning to the issue of current maintenance and repair works whose execution is supervised by the same non-elected president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, it goes without saying that, this time, the information about the amount of the budget that will be dedicated to such commendable purpose was conspicuous by its absence. Commendable and urgent, if it were true, especially since each year the high accident rates take the lives of dozens of people and causes temporary or permanent injuries to thousand others.

 Not to mention the corruption of bribing the officials responsible for ensuring the safety of all, both in the process of obtaining driver’s licenses and in the evasion of technical controls

Last June, the official radio station Radio Rebelde reported that between January and May 2019, 4,134 traffic accidents had taken place in Cuba, with a balance of 269 deaths and 3,063 injuries, “a discrete decrease” compared to the same period over last year’s numbers. However, the official version continues to consider Road Safety Code violations by vehicle drivers as the main cause of the high accident rate, which is a half-truth, because it masks the responsibility of the Government for the lousy state of roads, the precarious and defective signaling system, plus the poor technical condition of state-owned vehicles, including the ones that operate in passenger transport.

All this, not to mention the corruption through bribes to the officials responsible for ensuring the safety of all, which is present both in the process of obtaining licenses and in the evasion of technical controls — carried out by state inspectors — or fines that the traffic police should impose on offenders.

At the moment, Cuba’s current scenario is more doubtful than certain, and despite everything, the repair of roads — although also necessary — is perhaps the least of the priorities of a population where such essential issues as finding food to place on the table and housing are still pending subjects against useless plans and empty slogans.

Translated by Norma Whiting

_________________

The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

We Are Not Continuity, We Are Rupture / Miriam Celaya

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

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, West Palm Beach, United States, 2 August 2019 —  On July 30th, the digital edition of the Granma newspaper published yet another of the usual hodge-podge stew texts we are so used to, in which the term “mercenary” (through Wikipedia), the crisis of Venezuela, the Helms-Burton Act in its Third Chapter, the recent report on Venezuela prepared by Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, which the autocrats of the Palace of the Revolution have found so hard to swallow, and – finally as a main course – the “stateless” in Cuba who, “by vocation” and even for chump change (…) lend themselves to any shady deal against the country that saw them draw their first breath”.

This time the official regurgitation would be perfectly inconsequential, except for its timing, in the midst of a true offensive against independent journalism and autonomous groups of the civil society.  Also, by the prosaic manipulation of facts and terms with the sole purpose of conditioning public opinion in favor of an eventual raid against all public action that they deem adverse, it is punctually directed against the “traitors, stateless and ill-born mercenaries”, who have had the inexcusable audacity of exercising their legitimate right to request the presence of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and its observers in Cuba, as well as the preparation of the corresponding report. continue reading

In this regard, and putting aside the fact that Cuba is a UN member country, the Castro scribe says “that these reports come with the script and writing of the US Department of State and it is worth noting that all these infamies have crashed against Cuba in the presence of truth (…) and with the dignity of a whole people that knows how to identify, fight and defeat its enemies, be they internal or external ”.

Because the Plaza de la Revolución has an instrumental and bipolar vision of the international organizations to which it belongs: they are legitimate if they condemn the Embargo (“blockade”, as they call it), but they are spurious if they denounce the excesses of Castro’s power or that of their allies.

But not because it’s overused is the official strategy less perverse, especially when all the setbacks suffered in recent times by the cream of the crop of regional progress -today almost folded into Havana’s Palace of the Revolution and the Palace of Miraflores in Caracas -is added “the betrayal” of someone who was assumed until the day before, and not without foundation, to be a reliable ally, tolerant of the dictatorial excesses of her leftist friends, socialist Michelle Bachelet. Good times are definitely not here for the Castro regime’s “progressive” millionaires, and they prepare to defend their power, their lair and their privileges with equal intensity.

Thus, although neither the international organizations attached to the United Nations nor Bachelet herself in her years as President of Chile have ever given due attention to the demands of Cuban civil society and to allegations of human rights violations in Cuba, the dictatorship prefers to shield itself inward, just in case. And since the elders of the Historical Generation are running out of health or biological time to continue to face displeasure or to fight “battles” — even less so now that the adversaries are the current generations of Cubans who have taken the pleasure of feeling like citizens and not plantation slaves — their beneficiaries and scribes have the sacred mission of stepping out.

They are, paraphrasing Granma’s servile scribe, the true mercenaries of vocation (himself included). Or perhaps it is more accurate to call them insignificant low-cost mercenary slaves. It is they who function as verbal minions against Cubans who, for dignity and for their love of Cuba, have the courage to rebel against the dictatorship, it is they who bark “emboldened” because they feel protected by the landlord, they are also the ones that live on crumbs and “sell their soul to the devil” for travel and small perks and those who “lend themselves to the most vile actions against their fellow citizens.” If it were not for the poison he extracts and the danger that he contains, we almost would have to thank the reporter for the accuracy of the self-portrait.

And it is not that too many expectations need to be made about an eventual (and practically unlikely) incursion of the UN High Commissioner in Cuba, starting with one insurmountable obstacle, the dictatorship would not allow it. But the initiative is worthwhile, not only because Bachelet’s functions include attending to the claims of those who have been systematically violating basic human rights for 60 years, but because every civic front in Cuba undermines the foundations of totalitarianism, and sets precedents for the civic rebirth of Cubans.

The Scribe lord, mercenary slave of the Granma libel, does not understand, and neither do his masters understand that those of us who signed that letter that so much frightens them are not traitors or stateless, but quite the opposite. They do not understand, in their infinite stubbornness, that more and more Cubans than they can imagine are not “we are continuity”.  We are rupture.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Between “Collateral Damage” and Direct Damage”

New technologies have not only facilitated the emergence and proliferation of sites of undeniable quality and variety in Cuba, and their disappearance would certainly be an important loss of spaces rigorously attained. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, West Palm Beach, 23 July 2019 — Journalist José Jasán Nieves, general editor of El Toque, is the author of an article published last Sunday in which he exposes his particular vision about the difficulties of the new Cuban journalism in order to survive official pressures and obstacles, while noting that what he considers the Government’s current repressive escalation (though he doesn’t call it that) against the “alternative press” is the “confrontational focus” of Donald Trump’s policy against Cuba.

J.J. Nieves defines as “new journalism” what has emerged in Cuba in the last seven years outside the official press monopoly, endorsed in more than thirty websites which – “supported by the expansion of access to digital technologies, internet, and new forms of financing from the small private sector” – made it possible that “Cuba’s story” to cease to be “bi-chromatic (for or against the socialist model)” and to acquire “the same complexity as (.. .) the society in transition in this archipelago in the Caribbean Sea”.

The author mentions the participation of young professionals, graduates of Cuban universities, many of them with experience in the official press, as a factor that has elevated the quality of journalism. Another favorable factor for the rise of this new journalism is what he considers a “climate of greater tolerance towards dissent in the political sphere,” aided by the spirit of detente that led to the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between the US government and Cuba in the Obama era, and “towards emerging forms of civil society” (said to have been promoted by the “updating of the model” speech) and by Raúl Castro’s economic reforms implemented since 2011. continue reading

The author mentions the participation of young professionals, graduates of Cuban universities, many of them with experience in the official press, as a factor that has increased the quality of journalism

However, despite the fact that the “new journalism” distances itself from the poles or “factions” – “no longer the hell of a repressive dictatorship or the idyllic fantasy of the lighthouse country and guide of the international left” – and that its contents “better satisfy the information needs of the people”, Nieves complains that he is considered by the current president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, as the new subversion, which is “the clearest confirmation of an approach already applied to him by the security organs of the Cuban State since his first editions.” It seems as if the author naively considers the repressive bodies as an entity independent of the Government.

In keeping with the discourse of the same power that suffocates both the “faction” of those who speak of a repressive dictatorship and the new and conciliatory journalism, for Nieves, the great villain of this story is Donald Trump with his policy of confrontation towards Cuba. It is the American president, and not the lack of political will on the part of the Cuban Government, which “can end at once the permissiveness towards the also termed  “alternative press.”

There are many of us who do independent journalism and do not accept agendas dictated from abroad, nor do we share at all the confrontational policies of Mr. Trump or previous presidents, although we are not remiss when it comes to labeling the Cuban government as “a dictatorial regime”, just as it is, which does not include us in any faction. Instead, to label ourselves as such would be to follow the official agenda of Castroism.

The writing contains some “small” omissions, such as the fact that, like it or not, there is a long history of previous independent journalism in which many activists and professional journalists, like Reinaldo Escobar or Raúl Rivero – which cost the latter jail time during the incursion of the Black Spring – who many years ago assumed the responsibility of describing Cuba as complex and concealed (not necessarily “bi-chromatic”) in a way that never appears in the official media. It also ignores that media – such as 14ymedio or Diario de Cuba, to name two known cases – not only have their access blocked from the Island, but are also not included in “el paquete”*. That is why it is appropriate to remind Nieves that all journalism has the right to exist and that it should belong to Cubans, and not to a select elite of well-intentioned university professionals or an almighty political power to choose what type of press they should taste.

The text contains some “small” omissions such as the fact that, like it or not, there is a long history of independent journalism

 At any rate, new technologies have not only eased the emergence and proliferation of sites of undeniable quality and variety in Cuba, whose disappearance would certainly be a significant loss of hard-earned spaces and a very painful setback in terms of civic freedoms, but also the possibility of turning any citizen into a journalist who narrates his own reality, his problems, his demands and aspirations, from his community, a variant of journalism that emerged decades ago around the world and that, with its lights and shadows, has been present in Cuba.

It should be noted, however, that José Jasán Nieves’s article could be an important contribution to a long-held debate around Cuban independent journalism – understood as independent of the most holy State-Party-Government trinity – call it new, alternative, or any denomination, whose existence and character has been questioned by both Tyrians and Trojans, and that, in short, has suffered harassment and repression in its entirety from the same common enemy, which is not exactly imperialism.

If there is one thing all us factions – those who dedicate themselves to the dangerous profession of dissenting or, at least, questioning a reality that depends exclusively on the designs of the caste that holds the political power in Cuba – is that the causes of our prolonged National crisis and the threat of extinction of our free journalism spaces are within Cuba and not in the policies dictated by a foreign power, whatever it may be, as was demonstrated during Obama’s conciliatory agenda or with the worsening pressures from Trump.

If Nieves prefers to assume the current incursion against independent journalism as Trump’s “collateral damage”, and if that makes him feel any better, it will be beneficial.  For my part, as an independent journalist and as a citizen, I choose to continue fighting against the direct damage to all our freedoms, which has been (and continues to be) the one that originates from the Palace of the Revolution.

*El Paquete (the package) is a one terabyte collection of digital material distributed since around 2008 in Cuba’s underground market as a substitute for broadband Internet.

Translated by Norma Whiting

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

To Live Without a Future: Cuban Migrants’ “Legitimate Fear” / Miriam Celaya

Cuban migrants in Ciudad Juárez. File photo.

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, West Palm Beach, 16 July 2019 — Just five years ago, when the governments of the United States and Cuba reestablished diplomatic relations after 18 months of secret talks, there were ominous voices that predicted the end of the privileges for Cuban immigrants to the northern country.

According to this gloomy forecast, an accelerated increase in the number of nationals leaving the Island, both by sea and by land, began to take place. The continental exodus has not stopped even with the end of the policy of “wet foot/dry foot”, when – rumors turning into reality – the then outgoing president, Barack Obama, announced its immediate repeal on 12 January 2017.

Meanwhile, the incoming president not only did not restore that migratory privilege, but rather reinforced the obstacles. In fact, during the current administration, there was a cessation of consular functions in the US embassy in Havana, which makes it difficult to carry out the corresponding procedures. Added to this is the significant decrease in the number of visas granted in the last three years, the recent elimination of the multi-entry visa, valid for five years, and the marked slowing down of family reunification processes. continue reading

But the problems do not stop there. In recent times the avalanche of asylum seekers in the US southern border, mostly from Central America, exceeds the response capacities of the US authorities and prevents both the processing of the requests and the assimilation and adequate attention at the border posts destined to the temporary reception of migrants.

Thus, in an attempt to overcome the crisis, this Monday, July 15th, the official US Department of Homeland Security website has published a new regulation for asylum seekers, which will go into effect on Tuesday, the 16th of this month. The new regulation does not make a distinction among national origins in its text and, consequently, it could potentially also apply to Cuban immigrants.

“A foreigner who enters or intends to enter the US through the southern border without having sought protection in a third country outside of their countries of citizenship, national origin or of his last customary legal residence, who has been en route to the United States, is not suitable for asylum,” reads the rule that casts another shadow of uncertainty on the future of island migrants, especially those who cannot justify a “legitimate fear of being persecuted” or who generally avoid seeking protection in transit countries , either for fear of being deported to Cuba or to avoid the usual extortion from a large number of corrupt officials.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration continues to weave containment strategies against illegal migration and seek agreements with the countries of origin or transit in order to contain the disorderly exodus to the US border. Nor is it known to what extent the Cuban-American exile community can influence (or be willing to do so) in favor of the current Cuban migration. There are sectors that – understandably – distance themselves from the new waves of migrants. At the border, these sectors declare themselves to be “politically persecuted”, and once they get the coveted green card, they return to visit the Island as economic emigrants.

It is early for the lapidary assertions, but all signs tend to spread alarm among the most suspicious hopefuls to reach the American dream, awakening fears about the eventual disappearance of the Cuban Adjustment Act, in force since 1966, the last remaining prerogative for Cubans that allows them to legalize their immigration status and apply for the permanent resident card one year after their entry into the United States.

For the time being, far from slowing down the migratory flow from the Island, each new obstacle seems rather an incentive to escape as soon as possible to any point in the hemisphere, preferably in the northern direction. Because, what is unquestionable is that the only true and legitimate fear of the tens of thousands of Cubans who emigrate each year, is to have to live and die in a country where they feel condemned not to have present or future.

(Miriam Celaya, resident in Cuba, is visiting the United States)

Translated by Norma Whiting

Maduro-Guaido Dialogues: Between Murkiness and Hope / Miriam Celaya

Nicolás Maduro and Juan Guaidó (venezuelaaldia.com)

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 15 July 2019 — I confess that I am an unrepentant “dialoguer”. This is what the most radical sectors disparagingly call those who favor peaceful, agreeable and gradual changes – political dialogue by means of – over the violence of coups d’état and the revolutions of any ideological label.

In fact, in any moderately healthy democracy politics is essentially “dialogue”, where parliaments are the natural scenario of debates where the direction of nations are resolved. It is well known that even in conditions of dictatorship it has also been possible to find peaceful solutions to achieve democracy through dialogue as a political tool, as happened in late-Franco Spain – against the violence of fundamentalist sectors – and in the Chile of Augusto Pinochet, two of the most notorious examples of the effectiveness of dialogue.

A successful dialogue is one that manages to establish mechanisms to overcome political and social tensions, especially when these affect governance in countries where democratic institutions have been broken or – even worse – repression, terror, torture and murder have been systematized as resources of a dictatorship clinging to Power, as is the case of Venezuela. continue reading

The exhaustion and failure of the system, the irrevocable economic and constitutional crisis, the majority rejection of the usurpation of power by a mafioso group – with Maduro at the helm – the majority support of that population to a peaceful solution before military intervention, the national and international recognition of the opposition leadership, and the mediation of international actors in the process are basic conditions for the potential viability of dialogue leading to a negotiated solution in Venezuela.

These premises, however, are not enough. The failure of the attempts of dialogue between the dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro and the opposition in the last three years, mainly due to the failure of Executive’s willingness to abandon power and submit to the popular will at the polls, overshadows somewhat the expectations on the results of the current process of talks, which this time is being developed with the mediation of Norway and representatives of the European Union, and which has the participation of the interim president, Juan Guaidó.

Also contributing to reasonable doubts is the little transparency of this process, not only on the part of the representatives of Maduro, whose statements on the results of the negotiations contradict those of the opposition, but also for the never-explained change of position before the operating dialogue of the president in charge of Venezuela and, in general, by the absence of guarantees that, this time, the agreed agreements are fulfilled.

Let’s review: On January 25th, 2019, the newspaper El Espectador published a statement by Guaidó in response to Nicolás Maduro – who had said he “would be willing to dialogue with the opposition leader” – to which Guaidó had responded that it would not happen “given false dialogues.” A few weeks later, in a review published by CNN, Juan Guaidó once again maintained that “With Nicolás Maduro there is no possibility of dialogue, (…) because he has already demonstrated in previous situations, such as in 2017 in the Dominican Republic, that he used it to mock the citizens.”

However, on May 6th, after rumors broke out about the presence of the opposition at the dialogue table in Oslo, and after the ruling party’s boasting in attempt to show the event as its own achievement, Juan Guaidó confirmed that, in effect, the opposition had “sent several people to Norway to lay the foundations for a possible negotiation with the government of Nicolás Maduro”, although he stressed that any agreement would include the exit of the usurper, the establishment of a transitional government and the call for free elections with the presence of international observers.

The acceptance of the dialogue by Guaidó provoked both critical and supportive reactions within the opposition, as well as on the part of its allies in this region. However, as long as the unity of most of the opposition is maintained around the three points of consensus raised by the interim President, dialogue must be maintained as an option, although without renouncing the street demonstrations and all forms of pressure against the dictatorship.

The truth is that, for the moment, Nicolás Maduro has not shown any signs of goodwill or a negotiating spirit. Political prisoners remain imprisoned; repression in the hands of the paramilitary bodies, torturers in police barracks and other thugs who continue to sow terror among Venezuelans remain intact; and several of the closest collaborators and officials claim that there will be no elections in Venezuela and that Maduro will continue in power, statements which the Executive has not been bothered to refute, so far.

Meanwhile, the opposition has closed ranks around Juan Guaidó’s proposal as the sole candidate for the possible presidential elections that – at the closing of the third round of talks, held in Barbados – would have to be held between February and April of next year with a completely renewed National Electoral Council. For its part, the ruling Socialist Party of Venezuelan Unity (PSUV) would try to wash its face by proposing as candidate the current governor of the state of Miranda, Chavez supporter Héctor Rodríguez.

Apparently, there is finally something cooking on the table. The days and weeks to come will tell us if in reality progress is made based on the still secret agreements and steps taken by the parties, or if the current dialogue ends up being another magic trick of the Venezuelan dictatorship to, once again, evade the expectations, demands, and the hopes of its people.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Fuenteovejuna: Lessons of a Leaderless March

Havana’s LGBTI Community carries out an independent march in favor of sexual diversity (Archival photo)

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 20 May 2019 — Echoes of the peaceful independent march carried out last May 11th by Cuban LGBTI activists in Havana’s Central Park and along the Paseo del Prado, continue to move social networks with mostly messages of support and solidarity towards this historically victimized community, which has been discriminated against, and also – unfortunately – with the repression that was unleashed against the protesters during and after the event.

We must recognize the courage and determination demonstrated both by the LGBTI in claiming their spaces, their identity and their rights, as well as other activists of the independent civil society that participated in the act in demonstration of solidarity and support.

Numerous have been the voices that have denounced the violence of the repression, reflected in the abundant graphic evidence provided by participants, press reporters and eyewitnesses, but despite the unjustifiable use of brute force, beatings and arrests against peaceful demonstrators, who only fostered messages of love and inclusion, the truth is that the march can be considered a success for the Cuban LGBTI movement and, by extension, for the entire civil society. continue reading

To objectively analyze the facts and understand the scope of a march that, in any other geographical context could be considered insignificant, it is necessary to divest the criteria of any prejudice or sexist, political-ideological or sectarian atavism. The ability to call and carry out an independent march in Cuba, in defiance of official regulations and without waiting for “permission” from the autocracy and its officials, constitutes a demonstration of legitimate citizenship on the part of a group of Cubans, beyond conditions and labels, which we should all celebrate and support, especially those who, from the time of the dissidence, are committed to the triumph of democracy.

Freedom of demonstration, then, should be understood as everyone’s right, not as a the property of anyone or any group, so that it would be healthy to abandon any hint of elitism, pedigree or “droit du seigneur”* and to ponder the facts for what was done, not for what some believe should have been done or said, which attitude – on the other hand – is typical of the Power that oppresses us all.

Some have criticized the demonstrators for not raising explicitly anti-government slogans – and needless to say that any movement, thought, or independent demonstration in Cuba is implicitly anti-dictatorial – or have reproached others for supporting the LGBTI march and (allegedly) “not showing solidarity” with some opposition groups. Fortunately, this reluctance to recognize the merit of the effort of others is a minority position.

A first relevant and peculiar element of the LGBTI march of May 11th is that it was not organized by a subject or by a personal leadership, but that it was developed in social networks from a group of activists that freely and spontaneously decided to express their determination to defend their rights to demonstrate peacefully in public spaces.

At this point, the effectiveness of social networks intelligently used for these purposes was demonstrated, even in a country where connections are precarious and excessively expensive in relation to income. Will and technology allied themselves, and the march was possible: an important lesson for all civic movement of these times.

At the same time, the “collective leadership” not only guaranteed the performance of the act by avoiding the usual limelight or egocentrism – which have caused so much harm to other civil movements and opponents in Cuba – but it also won the solidarity of other openly anti-government activists who demonstrated the respect and ethical stature of participating in it without trying to hijack the demonstration in favor of their own agendas or in pursuit of personal glory.

The horizontal perception of leadership, moreover, constitutes a strength because it dislodges the illogical traditional sense of the repressor, also accustomed to a strong vertical leadership in its own command structures. A collective leadership, on the other hand, has the advantage of relatively limiting the disarticulating and demoralizing effect of the political police in sectors of the independent civil society, since there is no individual or “ringleader” – as is usually referred to – to be located as mobilizing leader or generator of actions and proposals, whose movements can be constantly monitored or simply canceled, thus, the capacity of existence and growth of the independent group, the speed of organization of its actions, and the visibility of its proposals are enhanced .

It was not by coincidence that on May 11th, among the first detainees who were beaten by the repressive forces, were several well-known dissident activists – to whom, perhaps initially, the direction of the demonstration was mistakenly attributed – and it is not fortuitous that in the days following the march and until the moment in which this column was written, operatives and arrests have been carried out in the typical style of “kidnapping” of several participants, whose testimonies agree that their interrogators have insisted on the same recurrent point: “who organized the march?” “who is responsible?” Obviously, the regime needs a scapegoat and, most likely, in its absence, they will contrive one.

The concern and powerlessness of the Power are evident, and not only is such a disproportionate repressive effort against the managers of a demonstration perceived that, paradoxically and according to Mrs. Mariela Castro as the “maximum leader” of Cenesex, was tiny and did not represent anyone. The Roundtable, on Cuban TV on Monday, May 13th, in whose panel Mrs. Castro took part, devoted a not inconsiderable segment of its time on screen to disqualifying and trying to discredit both the march and its participants, a common practice of the regime, one which is increasingly less and less effective.

Without the slightest embarrassment, the members of the television panel lied about alleged funding received from the U.S. by the imaginary leaders of the march – although they conveniently omitted the financing that Cenesex receives from abroad – while they tried to minimize the number of participants and to distort the objective of the march.

Same as always, but different in that essential element: the regime desperately needs a guilty party, and a week after “the crime” the responsible party has still not appeared.

A little in jest, but very seriously, the situation evokes that piece by the famous Spanish Golden Age playwright, Lope de Vega, entitled Fuenteovejuna, in which peasants of that imaginary town assumed the collective responsibility for a revolt that ended the life of its abusive Knight Commander of the Military Order. Do the repressors want to know who organized the May 11th march? It was Fuenteovejuna. However, it is prudent to avoid anticipated triumphs, because the truth is that the Cuban dictatorship will definitively lose the game at the moment when all Cubans who aspire to live in freedom and democracy put aside our differences and we become exactly that: Fuenteovejuna.

*droit du seigneur: a feudal lord’s right to bed a servant girl

Translated by Norma Whiting

Political Snobbery or Consensual Propaganda

The truly surprising thing about this modest little hostel is the strange display hanging from its balcony. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger

14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 19 April 2019 — As Cuba sinks into a new period of crisis, the absurdity of existing in parallel planes has been imposed as the norm in the daily lives of its inhabitants. Submerged in the desperate search for subsistence, a growing number of Cubans choose to ignore other signs of reality that reveal alarmingly the alienation that attacks us at a spiritual level from public spaces without the majority being aware of it.

This kind of social blindness prevents perceiving the flagrant rupture between the official discourse and the social practice, as well as the divorce between the real life of ordinary people and the performance of the earthly paradise offered to foreign tourists – that privileged Pleiad of occasional visitors that later leave, pleased to find so much charm in the midst of general decadence – in a Cuba of props that looks less and less like itself and its inhabitants.

In this idyllic representation made for the foreign guest, certain successful private hostels play an important role, which – contrary to the semi-deserted hotels of mixed state capital and foreign investors – usually keep their rooms full throughout the year. continue reading

In this idyllic representation made for the foreign guest, certain successful private hostels that usually keep their rooms full throughout the year play an important role

The historic center of Old Havana stands out among all the areas of tourist interest, not only for its architectural values, its old buildings, its old churches and stone palaces and its colonial squares, but also for the emergence of many small private investment spaces – lodging, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, sale of handicrafts, art galleries, among others – that began to proliferate everywhere in recent years in that compact and unique urban geography.

The interior of a hostel is a world apart that hides from prying eyes what is not within the reach of ordinary Cubans: comfort, quietude, the warm friendship of the owners, the abundance of a good breakfast, the cordiality of the employees.

Needless to say, every successful host is, or at least appears to be, “politically correct” according to the official canons: revolutionary, socialist, Fidel-fanatic and integrated into the system, which allows him to take certain rare liberties. This seems to be the case of the Colonial Casa Tali Hostel, located at 406 Lamparilla Street, a few steps from the Church of Santo Cristo del Buen Viaje and the square of the same name, in the inner area of Old Havana.

The house in question is not really a colonial building, but a typical construction of the first third of the twentieth century, although it exhibits colonial elements, with arches, columns, high ceilings, balcony with wrought iron railing on the façade, and French louvered window-doors, an architectural style quite common in any of the oldest areas of the city.

The Colonial Casa Tali Hostel is located at 406 Lamparilla Street, a few steps from the Church of Santo Cristo del Buen Viaje and the square of the same name. (14ymedio)

However, what is really surprising in this modest inn is the strange display hanging from its balcony: at one end the multicolored gay flag, at the other, the Cuban flag, and between each one of them, cloth banners written in English, one of they with a big sign that says: “Free Assange”, while the other one – which is even more enigmatic and inexplicable – sends the following message: “Lee Harvey Oswald where are you now? The world needs you more than before.”

For an American it would be unthinkable to place a petition to Lee Harvey Oswald on his facade

For any foreigner, both posters can be proof of the freedom of expression that Cubans enjoy. In fact, for an American it would be unthinkable to appeal to Lee Harvey Oswald on his facade.

But the citizens of Cuba know that, in this country, publicly and freely displaying a poster with political content, and written in Spanish constitutes in itself a very touchy problem for any artist or sign painter, and it is at least suspicious for a private entrepreneur to allow a similar audacity.

Furthermore, asking for freedom for the famous Australian hacker is to go one step ahead of what the official press monopoly has ventured to express; but to openly invoke the memory of Lee Harvey Oswald, presumed guilty of the 1963 assassination of John F. Kennedy, the then U.S. President, as subject of “the world needs more than before,” is not only an act of inadmissible insolence, but also a gross incitement to violence that contradicts, head-on, the overhyped will for peace speech of the Cuban Government.

Isn’t the owner of this business clearly suggesting that a new assassin is needed to shoot dead the U.S. president? What scruples do the Cuban authorities employ to condemn the alleged assassination attempts of their ally, the usurper Nicolás Maduro, and at the same time allow the display of this type of message? Are there good murders and bad murders?

Perhaps we will never know exactly if this is a case of naive political snobbery motivated by the excess enthusiasm of the owner of the hostel or a not very subtle propaganda the authorities have consented to. The truth is that most of the Havana inhabitants who move about under that balcony may not pay too much attention to the banners, or do not understand the message, written in English.

It is also more than likely that many of them don’t know who Lee Harvey Oswald was, or that they have only heard in passing in the official media the name of the arrogant hacker who has published so many secrets affecting the American Government.

This may be the case, so the hostel propaganda is tolerated or allowed precisely because both messages contain a deep anti-American sentiment

But that may be the case, and the hostel’s propaganda is tolerated or allowed precisely because both messages contain deep anti-American sentiments, the quintessence of the Castro regime.

It would be very different if another entrepreneur were encouraged to place on his balcony, even if written in Mandarin Chinese, a petition to free the artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, arbitrarily kidnapped by the political police to prevent him from carrying out a performance within the framework of the Havana Bienial, where the American flag was used as motive.

We would also have to see what would happen to private hostel operators or any anonymous citizens if they placed posters in their balconies demanding freedom for Dr. Eduardo Cardet or for all the Cuban political prisoners. These banners would, without a doubt, unleash all the repression demons. And if someone questioned it, here’s the challenge: try to do it and you’ll see who and how establishes the limits to freedom of expression in Cuba.

Translated by Norma Whiting
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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

The New Castro Constitution and the Economic Crisis: Born Twins

Hunger in Cuba: A people living on croquettes. Photo file

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 18 April 2019 — Only a few days have passed since the proclamation of the new Castro Constitution, but nobody is talking about it on the streets of the Cuban capital. Of the entire boring speech by the Army General, the central character of the announcement and of his shiny new work, only one sentence –as lapidary and ominous as the last nail that seals a coffin — stuck in the minds of Cubans, and that was when the head of the geriatric power elite made public what was already an open secret: we must “prepare for the worst variant” of the economy. Officially, the feared ghosts of the “Special Period” of the 90’s, which have been circling for the last year, and which the most deluded considered over and done with, have become reality.

Leaving aside the very questionable exceptionality that makes Cuba the only country in the Western world where a new Constitution and a new economic crisis are announced at the same time and on the same stage, the most contradictory fact is that the aforementioned ‘Magna Carta’, Far from adapting to current times and promoting changes that help oxygenate the economy, is designed to consecrate precisely all the elements that guarantee a state of permanent and irremovable crisis, with the sole objective of perpetuating a class in Power.

By keeping the economy strongly centralized, with state ownership and the inefficient management of the State as its main economic pillars, by refusing to open up to a market economy, and by limiting the minimum expression of citizens’ private initiative and economic freedoms and civil rights — not to mention their political rights — it is more of an epitaph than a Constitution. continue reading

Before the total lack of will to make changes, and given that no miracle or saving source is seen on the horizon to subsidize the unquestionable failure of the system, Cubans have been plunged into the critical phase of the battle for survival in the midst of shortages, extreme rationing and hordes of people in the few markets where some foods in high demand are still marketed, especially oils and meat.

The shopping center Plaza de Carlos III, in the Havana municipality of Centro Habana, is one of a few favored markets enjoying what we could call “the assortment grace” and, consequently, a habitual scenario of that silent battle. Despite the small and limited variety of the supply of increasingly scarce products, in the meat department of this shopping center — as in the other regular city markets, including the one at 3rd and 70th, in the privileged neighborhood of Miramar — the supply of some of the most popular products has sustained relative regularity, so far.

As a result, there are daily swarming crowds at the Plaza de Carlos III, jam-packed for hours before the gates open that give access from the parking lot, which has been exclusively assigned for individuals who want to do their shopping at the butcher shop. The long line crosses a good part of the parking area, particularly on weekends, when many people also come from the provinces near the capital, or even from more distant places, where the shortages are atrocious.

It is generally unknown which products will go on sale each day, but the feeling of urgency and the need to bring food home does not allow most people viable options. Day after day, the same scene is repeated throughout the opening hours of the market: a constant human tide, forced to dedicate hours of their daily lives carting around food at prices that do not correspond to Cuban wages.

And while hardships are becoming the norm, the exclusions are growing at the same time. At the end of March, the directors of the Gastronomy and Services Company of Centro Habana, in a meeting with the directors of each establishment, reported that it is strictly forbidden for them and their subordinates to even mention the phrase “Special Period.

At the same time, the employees of the shopping centers that operate in foreign currencies received the same orientation. “Special period,” “crisis,” “shortages,” are some of the terms that have swelled the extensive list of subversive words, as if the terminology — and not the bad performance of the country’s administration — was the cause of the economic setback that dooms Cubans to a state of poverty.

Meanwhile, the regime has been oiling the mechanisms of repression and controls. The National Bus Company has recently begun to apply strong restrictive rules to control the contents of passengers’ baggage. Each traveler can transport up to two liters of edible oil to the interior provinces. There have also been drastic limitations on the allowed weight, with significant added fees for excess baggage.

Other food and hygiene products — such as bath soap, toothpaste and detergent — are also being restricted in baggage. According to the officials in charge of these controls, these measures seek to avoid speculation and smuggling on the black market, but this regulation also affects families who are forced to get their supplies in the capital city, all those necessities that have practically disappeared from the villages in the interior of Cuba.

“And that’s nothing, the worst is yet to come!” predict the most famous who lived through the unspeakable hardships of the 90s as adults, and know that, this time, the situation in the interior, as well as at the regional and international level, is a lot more complex than it was then, and doesn’t leave any room for extemporaneous optimism.

At any case it is a sentence much more realistic than all the unfulfilled promises of the Castro regime through more than 60 years, and more realistic than the Constitution, whose birth, on April 10th, was announced with all the solemnity and fanfare along that of its twin sister: the new Castro economic crisis, maybe the worst of all.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Cuban Constitution: A False Legacy / Miriam Celaya

Constitution Project (Cubadebate Photo)

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 12 April 2019 — As implausible as it may seem, 60 years after its arrival in power, the Castro regime has not yet been able to legitimize itself. The self-awareness of the nature of its bastard lineage is reflected with particular force in the persistent insistence of inventing associations of historical continuity with the wars of Independence and their heroes, and also with the civic and intellectual legacy of the Republic.

The matter is not trivial. For the regime, the search for historical legitimacy became an essential strategic issue at the beginning of its storyline. Not coincidentally, Fidel Castro placed the blame for his audacious armed assault on a military barracks on José Martí’s constitutional army, an alarming sign of recklessness and almost suicidal violence completely alien to Martí’s legacy.  However, this pronouncement was ignored by a people too attached to the worship of leaders.

But the epics of the Moncada, the Granma and the Sierra Maestra  ̶ whose essential purpose was the restoration of the model 1940 Constitution – which was tainted in 1952 by Fulgencio Batista’s military coup – disappeared as soon as the Castro’s yearned-for democratic revolution turned into a dictatorship, although many Cubans of that time didn’t notice it. continue reading

Now, in another forced round of acrobatics, today’s Castro regime is, once again, desecrating the historical memory when proclaiming the new Constitution on exactly the same date it was approved 150 years ago, by consensus and by means of a Constituent Assembly of the Republic in Arms, consisting of delegates representing the three insurgent regions of the Island of Cuba  ̶ Oriente, Las Villas y Centro (Camagüey) ̶  the first authentically Cuban Law of laws: La Constitución de Guáimaro.

For further derision, it was Army General Raul Castro, First Secretary of the Communist Party and heir dictator by dynastic line, who proclaimed the spurious ‘Magna Carta’ (today’s constitution) instead of the “civil power” representative, supposedly sanctioned at the National Assembly.

According to the General, the recently imposed new Constitution, “is a continuity” of the one at Guáimaro’s (1869) and of the Constitutions of Jimaguayú (1895) and La Yaya (1897), “because it safeguards the unity of all Cubans and the Homeland’s independence and sovereignty.” The truth, however, is that there are not only abysmal differences between the old Constitutions and the shady Castro regime’s edict recently established, but that the latter means a true regression with respect to those in terms of recognition of civic rights and freedoms.

The first difference is in its origin. The the genesis of the current legal embryo was the dictatorial Power’s creation of a dark Commission charged with writing, in greatest secrecy, what would be the “Project” of a Constitution. This “Project” would later be submitted to what they called “popular consultation”  ̶  whose debates, “contributions” and proposals were never published ̶   a process that continued with the formal amendments carried out by the same mysterious “Commission,” always under the autocratic power’s baton, giving us the above-mentioned Project, which today was officially consecrated as the “Constitution.”

Regarding the differences in essence and text, it is enough to mention, for example, the perception among the delegates to the Constituent of 1869 of the need to divide powers, a democratic-liberal spirit that begins to be reflected in the Constitution of Guáimaro, in spite of it being a political proposal under war conditions and being destined to exist only while the armed conflict with Spain lasted. In its Article 22 (of a total of 29 Articles) it endorses: “The Judicial Power is independent; its organization will be the object of a special law”.

Later on, Article 28 establishes rights that, 150 years later, are only remote aspirations to essential rights, whose exercise may result in repression, imprisonment, or exile of Cubans: “The Chamber will not be able to attack the freedoms of worship, printing, peaceful assembly, education and petition, nor any inalienable right of the People.”

So significant was this democratic principle for the founding fathers that they kept it in force in the Constitution of La Yaya, through its Thirteenth Article: “All Cubans have the right to freely express their ideas and to meet and associate for the lawful purposes of the living.” A basic right of every free and democratic society because of which thousands of the best Cubans of that time lost their lives, and which found a place in the magnificent Republican Constitution of 1940, only to be violated by corrupt leaders of different political groups but with identical ambitions and thirst for power in the past 67 years.

Therefore, such continuity does not exist. If invoking Guáimaro is what this is about, we are facing a false legacy. The Castro Constitution is not only the negation of the rebellious and libertarian spirit of Guáimaro, but, on the contrary, it condemns us, from 10 April 2019 onwards, to live under a permanent dictatorship. The General’s constitution is neither legacy nor continuity: it is an epitaph.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Signs of a Silenced Crisis

A Cuban shows editions of the state press Granma and Juventud Rebelde. (File EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 6 April 2019 — A new and unequivocal signal of the current difficult times in Cuba has just arrived with the news of the reduction of the number of pages in the printed editions of several official publications.

At first glance, the news could seem the least of the problems in a country whose population has, as its top priority, finding and acquiring food for the day to put on the table. Over the course of the last year, Cubans have been gradually but inexorably witnessing an increase in the lack of basic foodstuffs — such as cooking oil, wheat flour, bread, eggs, chicken, pork, among others — which, together with the increase in the cost of agricultural products and the chronic shortages in the hard-currency markets, bring the shivers of the collective memory  of  the unburied ghost of the decade of the 90’s.

However, the drastic contraction of the official press in the current Cuban scenario is an indicator of the greatest relevance, bearing in mind that it has always been an ideological tool that cannot be discarded and is of great importance to the political power, which has used it for the indoctrination and the numbing of the masses, as well as for the control and manipulation of information. Contrary to the infiltration of other sources and the relatively greater access to the Internet and social networks that has been taking place in recent times, a large part of Cubans on the Island still assumes the government press as a priority — or unique — source of information. continue reading

The drastic contraction of the official press in the current Cuban scenario is an indicator of the greatest relevance, considering that it has always been an undeniable ideological tool

The press has been so significant as a strategic instrument in the hands of the power that the enormous control sustained by the Castro regime over the entire society along 60 years could not be explained independently.  Thus, the dramatic reduction that is currently being announced supposes a loss of strategic spaces for the regime. Therefore, it suggests a lack of growth in liquidity and a much more complicated economic outlook than the authorities are willing to recognize.

However, there is a past history of this, and it is framed precisely in the period of the crisis of the 90’s, when editions of the official press were also reduced. In that scenario, the now defunct founder of the Castro regime not only kept his political power intact, but also had the audacity to announce the economic collapse.

Even worse, he also had the audacity to draw a fabulous road map that supposedly would permit us to adjust in order to survive the crisis at different stages, through which he imagined we would journey, including a dark final phase that he termed “option zero,” in which Cubans would eat from a collective pot placed at intervals one city block apart — using wood as fuel, since there would be no oil, gas or electricity – in which would be cooked a kind of soup made with what each neighbor was able to contribute.

The Castro regime drew a road map whose end was the “option zero”, in which Cubans would feed from a collective pot, a kind of soup made with what each neighbor was able to contribute

Generations born at the end of the decade of the 80’s and beyond are unaware that in the midst of that crisis the “war of the whole people” was planned and disseminated to the most extreme stage, a war that never took place, but that vividly illustrates the levels of delirium that a dictatorship can reach in its eagerness to stay in power.

Despite the absurdity of the plan, and unlike today, in the 90s there was the perception that there was someone in charge. There was no democratic government — quite the contrary — but beyond the sympathies or antipathies of the maximum representative of the regime there was still the feeling that there was structure, a certain order of authority, although, obviously, it was an authority that was based more on its symbolic power and on its repressive capacity than on any real legitimacy.

Currently, Cuba is plunging into a crisis perhaps as deep as that of 30 years ago, but with the aggravating circumstance that today there is a great vacuum in its authority. The current president not only lacks legitimacy because he was not elected by the popular vote at the polls, but he also did not inherit the symbolic power of the so-called “historic generation,” those who fought in the Revolution that triumphed in 1959.

While many Cubans begin to perceive the signs of an economic collapse, the authorities continue to refer to the existence of “economic tensions” and, both the false agent and his team of bureaucrats — inept and handcuffed — insist on silencing the impending grim scenario that is approaching, and even fewer have presented a master plan to deal with it.

It is not possible to ignore that today’s Cubans are not exactly an ungovernable people, but rather largely “ungoverned.” The power class is aware of this.

But the differences between the two crises do not end there. It is not possible to ignore that today’s Cubans aren’t exactly an ungovernable people, but that they are rather largely “ungoverned.” The power class is aware of this, which perhaps explains the recent arrival in Cuba of an unusual and “generous” donation from Russia: a load of trucks, not to transport food from the countryside to the markets or to alleviate the eternal crisis of public transportation, but for no other reason than for the transfer of prisoners. There could be no more suspicious gift amid such a complex internal and external panorama.

So we can already guess that, although the current representatives of the spoils of the Castro regime do not have a contingency plan in the face of the impending crisis, they do seem to be deeply concerned about the social response Cubans may have as shortages increase and living conditions deteriorate.

Because we shouldn’t forget another great difference between the scenarios of the decade of the 90’s and the current one. This time around, the power claque could end up suffering the greatest losses.

Translated by Norma Whiting

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High Prices and Greater Control: An Old Formula for A Renewed Crisis

Officer watches as Cubans line up to shop (Reuters)

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 1 April 2019 — It’s Saturday morning and The Carlos III Shopping Plaza in Centro Habana recently opened, but already the butcher shop, in the interior of the establishment, is packed with people while, beyond the windows of the front door, another crowd swarms, expectantly waiting their turn to come in.

The customary shortages, made worse during the final months of 2018, have become chronic in hard currency stores, so that in the few markets where there is some assortment, large crowds gather. People in Cuba devote a large part of their time to the search for and acquisition of food.

“This is the only place I’ve found chicken and ground beef after looking in lots of other stores”, says a mature woman while placing the desired products in her shopping cart. Like her, dozens of people lean over the refrigerators gathering food to buy and take home. continue reading

In comparison with the empty shelves of previous days, this weekend the market has released products of dubious nutritional quality but of popular acceptance, due to their more modest prices: beef burgers, meatballs, sausages, various types of chopped meats, mixed with soy and starches — all of them imported — and artificially flavored and sweetened yogurt produced domestically. Chicken, which has become an obligatory character at the Cuban table and enjoys great popular demand, has reappeared after being absent for several days in this market. Nobody knows when the food supplies will be restocked, so everyone tries to hoard food as far as their limited finances will allow.

The endemic food shortage in Cuba has been joined by a subtle but steady increase in the prices of some foods. At the back of the butcher shop, next to the glass case, a blackboard displays what looks like science fiction for the Cuban pockets. The notice board is insulting: Marbled, bone in Beef Loin 20.25 CUC* / Kg (equivalent to 506.25 CUP). The same boneless product is also offered at 19.30 CUC / Kg (equivalent to 482.50 CUP), in addition to “super” ham at 10.25 CUC / Kg (256.25 CUP), bacon at 3.00 CUC / 250gr (75.00 CUP), Siboney brand processed cheese 4.95 CUC / Kg (123.75 CUP) and several types of sausages produced nationally with mixed capital of State companies and Spanish partners, in tubes of 500 grams whose prices range between 4.65 CUC (116.25 CUP) and 7.10 CUC (177.50 CUP). Most customers are buying only processed cheese, while a large stale piece of beef worth 88 CUC (2,200 CUP) continues to age, dark and forgotten, behind the vitreous refrigerated showcase.

Concerning the agricultural markets, they have joined the upward prices spiral that, usually high, continue to shoot even higher without mercy in the agricultural demand and supply (i.e. unrationed) markets, whose products are of greater variety and of superior quality to the ones offered in the small kiosks of other private sellers. As for the agricultural markets of state cooperatives, they usually have a poor supply, and their products, with some exceptions, are usually of the worst quality, and even their more modest prices do not have a realistic relationship with the purchasing power of the common Cuban.

Although not everyone is aware of the complexity and depth of the economic crisis that grips them and threatens to worsen in times to come, the perception of the deterioration begins to be felt on the minds of the people. The uncertainty about the near future continues to grow, along with the certainty that the government does not have a viable alternative to address the growing problems of the economy and society.

The most recent meetings of the Councils of Ministers have uncovered some of the huge cracks through which finances disappear, as well as other serious ills ailing the national economy that have forced the government to make public certain deficiencies that years ago would have remained hushed. However, far from implementing reforms to end with damaging centralism and to free up the productive forces leading to the development of private initiative, the authorities have opted for the formula, largely unsuccessful, of “control increases,” savings “as source of income” and the eternal calls for the productive efficiency of workers.

However, in crisis situations nothing is as useful to the official script as a villain. And, since the “blockade” (the embargo) is still useful but no longer enough to justify internal failures, in recent issues the television news program has been focusing precisely on the “hoarders-speculators”  — that fauna, the natural daughter of scarcity and unproductiveness — as if it were about a new phenomenon and had not been a permanent character of our existence for at least the last half century.

Thus, in order to remedy the shortages, the hot potato has been launched at the population by the Castro media: “the people” have been invited to go onto the National Television News (NTV) website and other lampoons to present their proposals as to what measures the authorities should take to curb this scourge of parasites that make the lives of the most humble Cubans so expensive by appropriating large quantities of basic goods and then reselling them at multiplied prices in the informal market.

With that amusing touch of modernity — a sign of the new style of media-focused governance with which they have been refreshing the image of the failed Castro experiment in the hands of the “young” commander without command — the power cupola not only evades its direct responsibility in the economic catastrophe into which it has plunged Cuba, and its obligation to present a proposal to mend it, but suggests to the servants of the ruinous medieval village to disburse a part of their already meager pockets to connect to the Internet (also with the onerous prices of its connections) and declare on the official page of the NTV what to do with these lesser delinquents, that is, the hoarders.

What the plan is really about is to set an example by punishing, not the true and biggest hoarders-speculators who have been squeezing all of us for 60 years, but to chastise those petty rascals who engage in small-scale mercantile fiddling and who, in the last instance, also survive, protected by the general corruption of the system.

Because, in a good fight, the State-Government-Party is the first link of the chain of speculators dragging Cubans to poverty. They are officials of the Castro regime — many of them proven corrupt over the years — who are responsible for the ever increasingly insufficient purchases of food at the lowest price abroad later sold for prices that are multiplied several times in the state retail trade networks, in which Cubans must necessarily buy to survive, and it is the economic paralysis of state centralism that fosters the proliferation of those markets and these speculators, in a system that reproduces its own basic vices time and again.

The inefficient and unproductive State-Party-Government is the parasite that sets low prices for food production by peasants, imposes what kind of crops they must develop, monopolizes harvests, which often deteriorate or are lost in the fields or in storage warehouses, and thus pushes producers to sell to intermediary speculators, who offer better prices for the farmers’ harvests, but raise consumer costs.

Thus, by diverting attention to the effect to mask the causes of evil and, at the same time, manipulate national public opinion, the leadership creates a false impression that popular participation is part of the decision-making of the economy and in the solution of the problems that afflict the population, at the same time that it increases the time to implement the essential apertures that, sooner or later, would mark the route towards the inevitable end of the socialist experiment in Cuba.

*Translator’s note: The CUC (Cuban Convertible Peso) is roughly equivalent to one U.S. dollar. Monthly wages in Cuba average roughly 17-30 CUC a month, thus this price for 2.2 pounds of beef is more than many Cubans’ monthly wage.

Translated by Norma Whiting

What Did Their Royal Highnesses Come For? / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

Source: radioreloj.cu

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 26 March2019 — Despite the publication by the Castro press of each of two decaffeinated official biographies of their Royal Highnesses, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall — who arrived on the afternoon of the same day at the Cuban capital, fulfilling a visit announced months ago, in response to an official invitation from the Cuban government — and the brief mention on TV news of the activities and tours of the distinguished couple during their short stay in Havana, the modest profile granted by the government media to guests of such vintage ancestry makes one stop and think.

Being such an unprecedented historic event, which some foreign media tried to view as a visit which will draw closer or improve the relations between Havana and London, the cold discretion of the Cuban authorities and the scant media coverage offered to the event are striking. If, in truth, the objective of this visit was so favorable to the leaders of the Government, they would not have missed the enthusiastic receptions and the mobilizations of the faithful, perhaps carrying posters in the style of: “Welcome Your Royal Highnesses” or some other similar tacky ploy.

Needless to also mention that the visit of the representatives of the British monarchy — or of any other of old Europe’s crown heads — is as unusual as it is foreign and distant to ordinary Cubans. Irreverent and plebeian by nature, anti-monarchists — earlier by inherited tradition from the independence wars; later, due to communist ideological indoctrination — and culturally refractory to any royal pedigree or palatial label, the idiosyncrasy of the inhabitants of this other archipelago has nothing in common with representatives of any royalty. continue reading

And so alien is the British royalty to Cubans that most do not even know of the scandals carried out in their day by the infidelities of the Prince of Wales who now visits us, his controversial divorce from Princess Diana, and the role the current wife of the heir to the throne, the former lover of the once restless Charles, played in those entanglements. Absorbed in the urgencies of daily survival, Cubans are not interested in this pair of aristocrats. To be sure, the heroes of the tearful regional telenovelas and their avatars are much closer and more familiar to the natives of this island than the intrigues of Buckingham Palace.

So, in perspective, it can be said that the presence of their British Royal Highnesses among us is a rather folkloric event which, at most, will awaken some curiosity among the plebes, but that will barely pass with neither sorrows nor glories and will be forgotten as soon as the visitors go back to where they came from.

Stranger still than this extemporaneous visit is that it is taking place in the midst of another turn of the screw in Cuba’s eternal economic crisis, when the deficiencies worsen, migrations abroad continue to show a growing trend and we can glimpse (literally) a grim horizon at the possibility of the loss of Venezuela’s oil subsidies in the near term.

If we look at them from the point of State relations, the links between a European monarchy with a long tradition and a rich lineage and a communist-cast dictatorship do not seem to be very consistent either. It is hard to believe that a politically influential personality such as the heir to the British throne can lend himself to offering friendly support to the Palace of the Revolution, especially when it is not usual for European royal houses to mark very clear political positions with the governments or mis-governments of the world.

Less credible still is that their Royal Highnesses should have taken the trouble to land in Cuba just to place a wreath to honor José Martí, visit the Palace of the Captains General, attend a function of the children of La Colmenita and another of the Alicia Alonso Ballet at the Gran Teatro de La Habana. They are princes, not dumb-asses.

On the other hand, despite the fact that Prince Charles ignored US Senator Rick Scott’s request, when in February he asked him to change his travel plans to Havana and visit Florida instead, where, as Scott wrote, he could ” to learn firsthand the six decades of atrocities, oppression and misery that the regime inflicted on Cubans”; and although the Prince’s agenda in Havana did not include any meetings with the dissident sectors or statements about the situation in Venezuela and the important role of Cuba in the military and intelligence support in that South American country, there are no indications of any kind so far of compromise or alliance between the unelected President of Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel and his geriatric conga line with the representative of the British monarchy.

Rather, everything indicates that the presence of Charles and Camilla in Havana responds more to an agenda related to aspects of financial interest and exploration of possible investments than to issues of a political nature, although protocol and appearances may suggest otherwise. Maybe, behind the scenes, the prince has also come to air the debts to the United Kingdom on the Cuban side. In any case, historically, English policy has maintained its independence with respect to Washington and has drawn its own agenda — as was demonstrated when it carried out the Falklands War — but when it comes time to cut the cake, London knows where its allies are.

For now, the details of the meeting of the Prince of Wales with Díaz-Canel and the real purposes of this visit of the British Royal House to Cuba are wrapped in a halo of mystery about which we can only speculate. In any case, on Wednesday, March 27th, the royal couple will leave Cuba to visit their former Caribbean island colonies. They will leave behind the same poverty and despair that have become the sign that marks the reality for Cubans.

Translated by Norma Whiting