Deportees in Their Own Country / Cubanet, Reinaldo Cosano

In Cuba, if you do not have permission to reside in Havana, they deport you to your province of origin (internet photo)
In Cuba, if you do not have permission to reside in Havana, they deport you to your province of origin (internet photo)

Cuban Apartheid, suffered by families who abandoned their homes and went to Havana in search of a new life

cubanet square, Reinaldo Emilio Cosano Alen, Havana, 15 May 2015 – Rodolfo Castro, from Santiago de Cuba, met with three other young men detained at the Guanabo police station east of Havana. Driven to the Central Train Terminal in a patrol car – so that they could not escape – they were put on the train and deported to their provinces, following imposition of a fine of a thousand Cuban pesos – some 50 dollars – each. So says Osmany Matos, of Guanabo, arrested for a traffic offense who witnessed the incident.

The “Palestinians” (as they ironically call those who come from the eastern provinces) Yordanis Reina, Maikel Cabellero and Edilberto Ledesma, from the rural area El Parnaso; and Amaury Sera, from the Manati township, all in the Las Tunas province, explained to Graciela Orues Mena, independent trade unionist: continue reading

We went to work at Guira de Melena in Mayabeque province, because here either we don’t work or they pay a pittance, always hired by a farmer. One afternoon we were walking through the city with work clothes covered in red dirt, when two police officers asked us for identification. We were arrested and deported for the crime of ‘being illegal.’ They put us on the train with the warning that if we came back we would wind up in the courts. They didn’t let us collect our pay for the time we worked or change clothes or get our belongings. We spent so many hours hungry on the train, without money. An abuse.”

The Crime? Not having a registered address in Havana.

Independent lawyer Rene Lopez Benitez, resident of Arroyo Arenas in Havana, explains: “The Law Decree 217 of April 22, 1997, Internal Migratory Regulations for the City of Havana and its Contraventions, better known as the Internal Immigration Law, tries to control immigration to Havana (also to the capitals of the western provinces). They justify its application because of the dire housing situation, difficulty getting work, public transportation crisis, the supply of water, drainage, electricity, domestic fuel, sanitation, the low level of quality in the provision of other services, which put great pressure on the capital’s infrastructure. The Decree arranges for the eradication of illegal persons and settlements in Havana and the other provincial capitals with work of the Interior Ministry and the National Housing Institute. They have carried out thousands of deportations, forced evictions. Appeals to the Government and the Communist Party for legal protection are a waste of time. The evictions seriously undermine the integrity of entire families, including children and elderly people, who had achieved labor, social and personal stability.”

Slums surround the country’s western cities. There are onslaughts of demolitions “in the name of urban order and discipline in the charge of the Institute of Physical Planning, whose director is the Division General Samuel Rodiles, which intends to eradicate the slum areas that have emerged in the face of the government’s construction paralysis. Now – with the failure of the state initiative – they are trying to increase housing construction through their own efforts and a policy of bank credits and subsidies,” adds Lopez.

Graciela Orúes (photo by author)

Acts of rebellion across the island against the evictions have managed to paralyze some removals and building collapses.

Resolution 267 of Internal Immigration is at odds with recent laws related to self-employment and Housing. Says Lopez:

“On October 7 of 2010 the Minister of Employment and Social Security issued Resolution 32-2010 arranging for the Regulation of the Practice of Self-Employment by which the restrictions of Law Decree 217 – among other reasons because of lack of work – do not have justification. Many go to the capital to work for themselves in the most varied trades to provide services in construction, plumbing, house cleaning, child care, health care, agriculture, trade, agricultural supplies, farming. Also the essential requirement of proving legality in housing in order to get a license to work is facilitated through Law Decree 288 from the October 28, 2011, Modifications to Law 65, General Law of Housing, in reference to the conveyance of property by buying and selling, inheritance and gift; and it supports the leasing of dwellings, rooms and spaces. All of which, in fact, would annul the restrictions of migration to the capital and decrease the record ‘floating population’ of almost half a million, according to the Housing and Population Census of September 2012.”

The most important thing would be to eliminate, above all, the inhumane deportation. People and even whole families abandoned their homes in order to work, study and try to move forward, but then they were deported like pariahs.

The Internal Immigration Law denies Article 13, Paragraph 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948): “All people have the right to freely move and to choose their place of residence within the borders of a nation.”

The construction industry, prosperous until 1958, was in rapid decline thereafter. Internal deportation for political reasons was used by the colonial Spanish government in the 19th century. Carlos Manuel de Cespedes (1819-1874), Founding Father, was banished to Contramaestre, near Bayamo, his hometown.

About the Author

cosano.thumbnailReinaldo Emilio Cosano, Havana, May 1943, graduate in Philology from the University of Havana. He worked as a teacher the last 20 years of his career. He was removed teaching for lack of “political suitability,” as recorded in the minutes of his final dismissal. He was a member of the Cuban Committee for Human Rights and participated in the Cuban Democratic Coalition. He has written for more than ten years for CubaNet, through the Sindical Press agency, with email address of

Translated by MLK

The Honey That Used To Heal Us / Cubanet, Reinaldo Cosano

Where to find in Cuba that medicine that cured our grandparents?  (Internet photos)
Where to find in Cuba that medicine that cured our grandparents? (Internet photos)

cubanet square, Reinaldo Emilio Cosano Alen, Havana, 6 February 2015 – Bee venom is considered 500 thousand times superior to any antibiotic. But where to find that medicine and food, previously so abundant, older than mankind?

The sick man came to the clinic with a bad cough. The doctor diagnosed bronchopneumonia. She prescribed antibiotics. And issued the challenge: “If you find honey, don’t stop taking it.”

abejas-3After many inquiries he found a farmer who empties his hives, puts the honey into discarded rum bottles and sells them on the black market for 50 Cuban pesos (two dollars; a fifth of the average monthly salary) each.

It is not worth questioning the hygiene of the package or the quality of the honey, issues that are for the European Union and other importing countries. The Apicultural Research Center in Havana analyzes and certifies nine physical-chemical parameters for all honey for exportation.

“Here we check aspects like moisture continue reading

, diastase and hydroxymethylfurfural – which describes the freshness of honey – acidity, electrical conductivity, non-soluble solids, reducing sugars and apparent sucrose,” explains Maidelys Pena Garcia, technician in Food Technology in that laboratory. (…) For the export of honey to the European Union there exist rigorous regulations, among them limits on residues of prohibited substances like pesticides and antibiotics.

Some years ago they stopped selling honey in the pretty pitcher-shaped glass jars in the CUC (hard currency) stores. There was no explanation why the State, which controls honey from the agricultural phase to the retail, gave up the lucrative business in the so-called border market (in foreign currency). It was also sold at reasonable prices in state farmers markets. What happened to the honey?

Even the popular honey-filled candies disappeared from the marketplace some unknown time ago.

“The state buys all the honey from the farmers but the lack of honey in the domestic market incites traffic on the black market, theft of hives. The hives are mistreated because the thieves always are in a hurry,” says Diosdado Ferrer, an old beekeeper from the Mayabeque province.

abejas-2Deforestation and frequent periods of drought are other causes that reduce the production of honey, royal jelly, propolis and wax. The bees can die of hunger. A temporary solution is the transfer of the hives to sites with better blooming, among them the coastal flowering mangroves.


Each worker bee visits some 7,200 flowers during his fifty days of life in some two hundred thousand flights in order to make barely five grams of honey!

Bees and other useful insects effectively contribute to the pollination of flowers and the production of fruit, another cause of the reduction of agricultural production in the country.

“Bees form part of the food production chain, hence the great concern about their deaths. In temperate climate countries 30 percent of foods that are produced are thanks to bee pollination,” says Doctor Adolfo Lopez Pinero, director of the Apiculture Research Center.

Our grandparents cured themselves with honey from bees, which was sold in all the stores of the country. But that was also when we were the world’s sugar bowl. The bees are not at fault.

Translated by MLK

About the Author:

cosano.thumbnailReinaldo Emilio Cosano, Havana, May 1943, graduate in Philology from the University of Havana. He worked as a professor the last twenty years of his professional life. He was fired from teaching for lack of “political suitability,” as recorded in the minutes of the final separation. He was a member of the Cuban Committee for Human Rights and participated in the Democratic Cuban Coalition. He has been writing for more than ten years for CubaNet, through the Sindical Press agency, of which he is manager. E-mail:

The Revolution’s Pensioners / Reinaldo Emilio Cosan Alen

HAVANA, Cuba.  Jose Manuel Rosado, 74 years of age, from Havana del Este, stands in line at four in the morning to be among the first to “fill up his checkbook.”

The bank opens at 8:30 for multiple transactions.  Many other people like Jose Manuel will wait patiently, on foot, whether in intense sun or cold and rain if it is winter, in order to cash their retirement.  Jose, his two-hundred forty pesos (ten dollars average), which will vanish in the first food purchases and payments for services.

Maria Victoria, 81 years old, stands in line in front of Branch 286 of the People’s Savings Bank — a state bank — in the San Miguel del Padron township:

“I retired at 65.  I was a cook in a business the last thirty.  I worked another eight years.  The money goes to deficient nutrition. I “resolved” my food at my work, do you understand, for my home.  Now I almost cannot walk because of my ulcerous legs, I am diabetic. I rent a pedicab to go get my cash. A dollar going, another returning. Fifty pesos spent, but it is dangerous to walk through broken, dark streets, exposed to robberies to go to the bank.”

She pays another fifty pesos monthly on installment for a bank loan for the purchase of her Chinese refrigerator. She has paid off five years, five are still left.

Build up for whatever official or individual management: mail, Currency Exchange, tax payment, liquidation sale and transfer of property and vehicles, fines, repayments, deposits, bonds, required seals–foreign and national currency–monthly payments for dwelling, loans retirement and pension payments. Craziness!

Pensioner Eloy Marante, 76 years old, pays triple the tax for his courier license. Day by day, he loads, transports and distributes gas cylinders to homes with his tricycle, in order to obtain a supplement for his lean pension.

“We run errands in the warehouse, attentive to if they are selling the piece of chicken allowed to those on a special “health diet.” We pay electricity, telephone, gas. We take the little kids to school and pick them up; take the snacks to the kids in high school, also we do favors for neighbors for a small tip. Jobs that the family throws to the old people. The worst: standing in unending lines to exchange bills for coins because business clerks and bus drivers say they don’t have change!  An fraud*,because the government does not demand responsibility. . .” says Jose Manuel.

Milagros Penalver, director of Budget Control for the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, says there are 672,568 retirees and pensioners out of 2,041,392 people over 70 years of age, according to the Population and Household Census of 2012.

Significant is the prediction by the Center for Population Studies and development of the National Office of Statistics: 33.9 percent of the population will be over six decades old in 2035.  The birthrate continues in permanent decline because of factors so adverse to procreation.

*Translator’s note: The fraud is refusing to give the customer coins and so the business or bus driver “keeps the change.”

Cubanet, April 11, 2014, Reinaldo Emilio Cosan Alen

Translated by mlk

Cuesta Morua’s Wife Threatened With Eviction Notice / Reinaldo Emilio Cosano Alen

Gloria LLopis, photo by Cosano Alen
Gloria LLopis, photo by Cosano Alen

Havana, Cuba. – Professor Gloria Llopis Prendes, her daughter Gloria and her 3-year-old granddaughter Amanda, have received an Eviction Notice to vacate their current home located at Avenida 71 Edif. 3, Aprt 10, Zona de Desarrollo, Batabano, Mayabeque province, a community known as Las Casas de los Maestros (Teacher’s House).

How did you become aware of this Eviction Notice?

“On February 20th an official commission showed up at my home to give me an ultimatum, that I had only 15 days to go back to work, otherwise I would be considered an illegal occupant of the premises. Among the local officials were Julio Cesar Martinez, Director of the Ministry of Education (MINED) here in Batabano; Hildo Caballero, general secretary of the Communist Party (PCC) in the municipality; and a lady named Liset, head of the MINED Department of Inspectors in the municipality. I have no choice, if I refuse to vacate the house, all utilities will be cut off, the police will enforce the eviction notice and we’ll be homeless.

What is the basis for this eviction threat?

Our apartment is an asset of Ministry of Education. Once you don’t work for them anymore, you cannot be in possession of such asset. I have been working for the Ministry of Education since January 3, 1983, until two years ago when I was fired for becoming a peaceful dissident, a “crime” sufficient to cause you to lose your job.

Do you know someone who has been given such an ultimatum? 

“Yes, Odalys Fernandez Quesada, History professor, received a similar notification from the same Commission. Odalys is member of the NGO Zero Violence Feminine Platform, of which I am the Coordinator, and associated with the NGO Nuevo Pais (New Country) Forum, presided over by Dr. Manuel Cuesta-Morua. continue reading

Cuesta-Morua is your husband. What is his legal status?

“Manuel is on probation now. He has to go once a week to a Police Station located at Septima y 62, Miramar, Municipio Playa. He was imprisoned some days before the CELAC Summit in Havana for daring to call a parallel convention which did not take place because the government obstructed it. They charged him with “Disseminating False News against World Peace.”

Do you know any other former employee of Ministry of Education in possession of housing that belongs to the Ministry?

“Yes, many. When the Escuelas en el Campo (schools in the countryside) idea failed, some employees went to work in different fields, others took clerical jobs, others were promoted to political or administrative positions, always keeping the roofs over their heads.

“The same thing happens with all the housing that belongs to any government entity. Officials look the other way, they never review the lease as long as the employee continues working for the government*. Whoever is in possession of an asset is tied for life to government entities. Years ago apartment buildings were built in the countryside for those teachers who were permanently working in middle schools and high schools in those areas.”

Gloria Llopis holds a BA History and Social Sience 1983 and a BA Psychology and Pedagogy 1989

*Translator’s note: Since the vast majority of jobs in Cuba are in State entities, this covers most working people.

Cubanet, 28th of February, 2014 Reinaldo Emilio Cosano Alen

Translated by: Rafa

Jineteras [Hookers] in Cuban Pesos / Reinaldo Emilio Cosano

Havana, Cuba – The colonial authorities never imagined that the covered portals of the buildings and homes of Havana, a mandatory construction to protect pedestrians from the sun, rain and night dew would have another use, also very human.

E.O.F., age 31, counts on the notoriety, although not exclusively, of the portals of Monte street. Or rather Monte and Cienfuegos, the sin corner.

“There is a secret commerce after eleven at night. In the past, you’d find nothing. For a few months pretty women of different ages and races are parked there. They accost the men, inviting them for ’a good time.’ They knew what they were doing there and why men were there at that time. An occupation easy to recognize from the way they walk, the really short skirts, tight clothing, vivid lip colors, eyebrows and eyelashes. Prices are adjusted with few words. They accompany them to a nearby room and pay the rent. In the end, they’re paid. ’A good time…’”

EOF explains a curiosity, “There is no commerce with homosexuals and transvestites with intermediaries. Not from discrimination. They’ve found their half-tolerated space on the Malecon, the Coppelia ice cream parlor, and other places in the capital, although at times the police harass them.

“Now you don’t see them in any of the doorways. It’s the intermediary. He approaches, asking, ’Looking for a girl. They’re good, nice and cheap.’

The doorways of Monte and Prado

Five CUC (in domestic currency, one CUC=25 Cuban pesos) for the jinetera [hooker*], one CUC for the intermediary, and another CUC for renting a room for an hour in some solar [as the tenements are called in Havana]. For the most part small, dark, warm, not very clean.

“You go and six or seven women, who a minute ago were chatting, laughing, drinking, between puffs of smoke, stand up. Not for courtesy but intentionally, rubbing their breasts, biting their lips, trying to be chosen. It’s hard to decide, you have to choose fast, pay by the hour, and not overstay your time. Outside two strong guards have the keys and twist the arms of those who try to leave without paying.

“We climb up to the ’barbecue’ [an improvised platform to extend the space]. Generally there are two ’rooms’ separated by a wood partition across which you can hear the whispers and imagine the positions. Not very hygienic rooms. The same sheet all night. Sometimes no water to wash with. No towels, just newspapers. I ask ’Violeta,’ my occasional companion about the chance of catching AIDS. Immediate response, ’Without a condom, nothing!’”

Alejo Carpentier (1904-1980), a Cuban writer and musicologist called Havana “The City of Columns” (1970). The doorways of houses and important commercial establishments were well-lit at dusk on Monte, Reina, Belascoaín, Paseo del Prado and Diez de Octubre streets. So many that it was pure pleasure to walk along the colonnades and contemplate the full shop windows, ruined, in shadows, with many gaps from the sad collapses of our patrimony.

“Why have the jineteras — a word accepted as natural — disappeared from the doorways?”

’Violeta’ answers:

“The police step up the repression streak against prostitution. Sometimes they resolve it with some fulitas (CUCs — hard currency). But if they’re… A….s, not even that. They grab us and we end up in jail. The situation is tough. But many women and men live this.”

A report from the Minister of Justice published on the website of Foreign Ministry last October, said that 241 people were prosecuted for the crime of pimping. Of them 224 were found guilty. Formerly prostitute was relegated and controlled by the authorities to the so-called Tolerance Zones, which now permeates the city.

“And what if the police surprise them in the room?”

’Violeta’ replies:

“Every trade has risks. We would test fate saying that we are friends who are celebrating one of our birthdays, and may God protect us!”

*Translator’s note: The word for hooker/prostitute in Cuban Spanish, jinetera, comes from “jockey.”

Cubanet, 31 January 2014,

Government Orders Added Buildings Demolished / Reinaldo Emilio Cosano

HAVANA, Cuba, December, – Many Havanans are confused and outraged that the government is eliminating constructions added without permits from the Institute of Physical Planning. After allowing them for decades, the withdrawal of authorization of thise privately-constructed buildings now is creating a very serious conflict, one more in the severe housing crisis in the capital.

Felix Mengana Franco, 34, an electrician living on the capital neighborhood of San Agustin, where multi-family five-story buildings predominate, states:

“They have demolished buildings and are continuing to do so. It’s unreasonable to dismantle the improvised garages. Neighbors in my building and others in the area are going crazy trying to think about how to protect their cars. They don’t have any other place. Do they take them up to their apartments on the third, fourth or fifth floors? Its absurd that so many buildings have been built in 50 years but they don’t build garages to protect vehicles from the risks of weather and theft.”

Garages, workshops for the repair of cars and motorcycles or the repair of home appliances, shacks for water pumps, bike repairs, living quarters… There is a huge need and lack of renovations of buildings ruined or destroyed, and now, to make it all worse, this plan aggravates the situation.

“I know of a case of a married couple with two children, six and seven, and two grandparents, who live crammed into a little shack,” added Mengana Franco.

Parking outdoors is exposed to the weather and to the plague of thieves. They steal parts off of cars and motorcycles, especially tires and batteries, scarce and expensive. The vehicles they steal from are dismantled piece by piece and sold, taking advantage of the lack of parts of state-run establishments, the only ones, or their astronomical prices.

Rodolfo, a resident of Alamar to the east of Havana, expressed his disagreement:

“Before demolition, the state should adequately resolve the problem created. I sacrificed myself in numerous sugar harvests. I earned the distinctions of “national vanguard” and “millionaire harvester” for the millions of arrobas of cane I harvested, and for this I got the right to buy a Russian Lada car. Now I have no way to protect it if they tear down my garage. I live on the fifth floor.”

Felix Mengana concludes, “If it’s prohibited, why does the government allow people to fool themselves, having their space, their privacy, to late tear down their huts and their dreams?”

23 December 2013 / Cubanet

Who Will Succeed Cardinal Ortega? / Reinaldo Emilio Cosana Alen

Havana, November 2013 — Cardinal Jaime Ortega turned 77 on October 18 of this year. Canon law sets the retirement age for cardinals at 75. Pope Benedict XVI asked Cardinal Ortega to postpone his retirement but Benedict is no longer in charge at the Vatican. Time has passed and the Cardinal is looking exhausted. Finding his replacement can no longer be put off.

Numerous questions arise. Who will be his successor? What might his relationship with a dictatorial government be? Will he retain Ortega’s policies? Will he maintain a middle-of-the-road position or will he shift in favor the opposition?

Applauded by many and criticized by others, Cardinal Ortega is a saint to some while others criticize him for a lack of energy, for caving in to government pressure and for remaining silent in the face of acts of repudiation against peaceful dissidents, most notably the Ladies in White.

The Catholic Church has made several announcements of prisoner releases. On February 11, 2011 it announced “the impending release of opposition figure Elías Biscet, one of Cuba’s most prominent political prisoners. Biscet, who was serving a twenty-five-year sentence for crimes against the independence and territorial integrity of the state, is one of several opposition figures who have rejected exile as a condition for release from prison.”

Cardinal Ortega was a spokesman for those pardoned and served as the inmates’ “mediator”, or more precisely a “facilitator,” arranging the release and expatriation of nearly two hundred political prisoners.

During that time the church and the government developed close ties after half a century of conflict and political strife. This seems to have been the main reason that Benedict XVI did not accept the cardinal’s retirement as proscribed by canon law.

Ramona Muñiz Hernández — the 84 year old director of a Catholic congregation, the Daughters of Mary, and resident of Tarará in Eastern Havana — told us, “You have to acknowledge the cardinal’s patience. The ’beasts’ have been tamed. There was no other way to confront the government.

“This is a government that, when I worked as a hair dresser in a state-run hair salon, docked 70 pesos from my 280 peso paycheck for being Catholic, for going to mass and for not hiding my beliefs. I could not live without God.

“When Jaime Ortega, who is now Cardinal Ortega, and Troadio Hernández, the current pastor in Bejucal, were seminarians studying for the priesthood, the government took them and others out of school and forced them into obligatory military service. They spent three years interned in camps on the Isle of Pines. It was almost like being banished.”

“The Church put up a tremendous fight, and Jaime and Troadio were able to return to the seminary and finish their studies. Ortega is from Matanzas, the only child of Catholic parents. He has always fought against the ’beasts’ with kindness and love for God. How many relatives of political and common prisoners have been been able to survive because the Church quietly gave them two hundred pesos a month? It is always engaged in works of charity. Many people never find out about this. The cardinal does good, and triumphs! He is a saint.”

Ortega was archbishop of Havana when he was named a cardinal in 1981. He paved over differences between the church and the communist government to gain authorization for visits to Cuba by John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

Ortega was the architect of the lavish celebration of the 500th anniversary of the appearance in the northeastern Bay of Nipe of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, the patroness of Cuba. The pilgrimage of the virgin’s statue across the island — beginning in Cobre, where she is venerated, and ending in Santiago de Cuba — served to significantly revive the Christian faith of the Cuban people after half a century of state-imposed Marxist doctrine.

Because of the cardinal’s involvement, Cayo de la Virgen and Playa Morales — two sites on the virgin’s trek after her appearance in the Bay of Nipe — were recently declared national monuments. Other locations were designated “sites of historic interest.”

December 25, Christmas day — long eliminated from the official calendar — was reinstated as a holiday after Pope John Paul II petitioned Fidel Castro to do so during his pastoral visit to Cuba, asking that “Cuba open itself to the world.” Will they retain the day of rest?

The archdiocese regained possession of the splendid church in Tarará, which had been confiscated and turned into a warehouse and later into a mundane nightclub. It was a move that had the hallmarks of efforts by the cardinal, who will soon leave behind a controversial legacy bathed in light and shadow. Ultimately, Pope Francis and time will have the last word on Cardinal Ortega and who his successor will be.

Cubanet, 6 November 2013

Our Daily Bread: Stolen Today / Reinaldo Emilio Cosano Alen

AF5EEA4D-E0C1-46B3-A1F0-5627C44CB3DA_mw800_s-300x200HAVANA, Cuba, October, – Part of the population of Guanabo, east of Havana, spent two days without bread — an essential food in the current Cuban diet — being available off the ration book, because of a quarrel among bakers, including injuries and the breaking of the gas lines to the ovens, which needed to be repaired and interrupted production.

“Several police officers quelled the war between the bakers. The injured were treated at the polyclinic. It was learned through statements from the contenders that the fight started because some bakers stole wheat flour from others,” says Isabel Torres, a customer who couldn’t buy any bread because the fight broke out just as she arrived.

But the flour didn’t belong to anyone but the State bakery, just like the oil, salt, yeast, fuel, the ovens, and even the water, though these ingredients are often appropriated. Corrupt practices extend to almost all bakeries — not to be absolute — including the illicit sale of the flour and oil.

What was the private reason for the conflict?

26447_413518626671_705961671_5119970_5240098_n1-300x225The Administration of the State bakeries and dessert shops have the custom of authorizing (illegally) the bakers and other employees to take home two pounds (loaves) of bread at the end of the day. They took them or, without having paid for them, sold them right from the bakery. In addition, they fabricated a collective plot for another quantity of bread to sell for their own profit, using raw ingredients to their advantage. They claim this profit is a supplement to their low wages. The consequences are that the “official” bread is low quality and underweight, and too expensive at ten Cuban pesos.

The State dairies also authorize the milkers to take two liters of milk. But, bakers or milkers, are they honest in not exceeding their assigned quotas of bread or milk? Not on your life!

For decades citizens have complained at neighborhood meetings with representatives from the government and the Communist Party about the terrible quality and low weight of the bread. It has also been denounced in the official press, but in response there are only momentary solutions, excuses, and hopes for improvement.

How is it that the government authority is incapable of definitively solving such an old social problem? That is the point. People are tired of eating — sometimes as their principal food source because of the shortages — their daily ration of Anti-Bread.

The six bakers could face trial for brawling and labor indiscipline. That is, if there is a trial. Otherwise, as sometimes happens, it will all stay in the family with administrative reprimand and conciliatory talk, “Gentlemen, nothing happened here!”… because they have to preserve the image of the business in order to continue stealing.

cuba-panaderia-300x187It’s common to find bakeries with “under the table” staff, off the payroll, whose salaries are determined by the suction of the illicit profits.

An inscription in big letters at the bakery on Neptune near the corner of Belascoain, in Havana, says the same thing as at every other bakery in the country, “We work for you!” For who?!

Christ commanded, “Distribute the wine and bread!” Biblical bread that should be of good quality, without the subtraction of ingredients because the story does not include a popular protest about the bad quality of the food. Do we have to go back to ancient times to some day eat good bread?

By Reinaldo Emilio Cosano Alén,

From Cubanet

3 October 2013

Taken Out of the Closet, But No One Asks Forgiveness / Reinaldo Cosano

By Reinaldo Cosano. Havana, Cuba

Posted in the blog of Wendy Iriepa and Ignacio Estrada

The veil covering violent homophobic repression is slowly being drawn back, but the gulity aren’t asking for public pardon.

It is hard to specify just how the virus of homophobic repression was incubated, sharp-eyed with the machismo of the days of guerrilla groups in the Sierra Maestra, whose magnitude never had precedent in Cuba, converted into official policy aggravated by principal governing figures, that spiritually mutilated or ended many lives.

Raúl Martínez González (Ciego de Ávila, 1927 – Havana, 1995), internationally renowned famous Cuban painter, designer, sign painter and photographer, homosexual, puts forth in his Memoirs:

“It was 1965.  The attacks and reprisals against homosexuals began.  The UMAP was created, supposedly a rehabilitation center.  Its creation was justified according to already old ideologies, but totally believing in the “New Man.”  This was before the Congress of Culture in 1971 that ratified the official [repressive] policy given the fact of the existence of homosexuals in the country […]  I believed naively that this new rehabilitation camp wouldn’t affect me, because of my personal characteristics, the values that I had as a painter and professor at ENA [National School of Art] and the Department of Architecture of the University of Havana.

“I quickly discovered that the methods employed to recruit candidates and take them as far as Camagüey, where the camps were located, were totally reprehensible, an abuse into which the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution fell, charged with providing names and pointing out all those who they thought had – in their way – an improper sexual conduct, or who simply lived a life apart from the rest of the neighbors.

“Many must have cooperated out of belief that the Revolution acted with good intentions.  Others, with bad intentions, took the opportunity to “toss out [denounce] everyone who was bothersome and caused problems.” (1)

Massive repression against real or imagined dissidents of the Revolution, whose punishments grew worse from 1965 when the raids intensified against intellectual artists, the religious, the disaffected, homosexuals, the underclass and “big babies” — an expression of hate towards generally Catholic youths, children of people of confiscated wealth — interned in work camps cutting sugarcane by hand in Camagüey province, which recalls the Nazi pogroms against Jews, prisoners of war, the politically disaffected, Jehovah’s Witnesses and homosexuals, condemned to concentration camps with the maxim at the entrance “Work sets you free,” concealing veneer of genocide.

Coincidentally the Military Production Aid Units (UMAP) emerge in Cuba appealing to work as a means of sexual and political reeducation.  Official strategy of obligatory imprisonment, forced work, isolation of dozens of thousands of Cubans in subhuman conditions.  An epoch of terror for men between 16 and 50 years of age, the age of military conscription.  Bodily self-harm and suicide among the recruits were frequent escape routes from the UMAP.

Alicia Alonso, Prima Ballerina Assoluta, director of the National Ballet of Cuba, protegée of leader Fidel Castro, asked her protector on more than a few occasions to rescue homosexual members of the Ballet from the fate of the UMAP when they were caught in police raids.

The witch hunt showed no mercy to the Intelligentsia — not just homosexuals — for dissenting from the Castro orthodoxy: intellectuals, writers, artists, journalists. Of course, also plain citizens.  Repression that calls to mind the concentration camps and murders of the Maoist Khmer Rouge.

The then-seminarian Catholics Jaime Ortega Alamino, current Cardinal of Cuba, and Troadio Hernández, later priest, for example, were forced guests of the UMAP — the same as other parishioners, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Evangelical Band of Gideon and other Christian denominations — on the inhospitable solitary plains of Camagüey, isolated from the rest of the planet.  One means of punishing and dismembering religion on the premises of the declared Marxist atheism of the Revolution.

The poet José Mario Rodríguez, accused of being “dissolute and liberaloid” (sic), and other writers of the pro-government El Puente Publisher went to stay at the UMAP.  While many writers and artists were besieged, imprisoned, although not precisely in the UMAP camps.  Among them, the poet Herberto Padilla, Lorenzo Fuentes, Reinaldo Arenas, Manuel Ballagas, Roberto Luque Escalona, Fernando Velázquez, Víctor Sierpa, Nancy Estrada, Lina de Feria, María Elena Cruz Varela, Manuel Díaz Martínez, Raúl Rivero, Bernardo Marqués, Manuel Granados and Reinaldo Bragado.

Nevertheless, the repressive waterwheel against the intelligentsia doesn’t stop.  It has never stopped in half a century of “revolution”.

In recent days, the multiple award-winning writer Ángel Santiesteban (2) was sentenced to five years in prison for the supposed crime of housebreaking and offense causing injury, a common crime whipped up as a screen to punish a writer or journalist whose criticisms, even within the revolutionary framework, annoy the regime.

Meme Solís, composer, singer and director of his musical ensemble, was condemned by homophobic rulers to ostracism on the island for being homosexual in his moment of greatest artistic glory, his personal and recorded appearances completely cut from radio, TV, and cabarets because his sexual deviation displeased the ruling class.  He had to wait out eighteen years of censure and human suffering beyond his control until they would grant him the kindness of a permit to leave the country.

Now the Havana regime, intending to take him out of the closet, to make amends, to pardon his defect, invited him lately to visit his country to take part in a luxury gala titled after of one of his greatest hit musicals, Another Dawn, years after his exile and and another fifteen years of imprisonment in the closet, his music banned, making him nearly unknown to the latest generations of Cubans.  An invitation expressing no public nor private apology for condemnation to ostracism,  being shut in the closet, frustrated.

But that most outstanding musician did not fall into the trap of the insulting ransom and declared, in the Nuevo Herald of Miami, that “it is one thing for my music to be played there and another for me to go.  I do not wish to offend anyone but I don’t think that this is the time to go.  The reasons are obvious.  I have been through too much there to want to return.”

The painter Raúl Martínez goes on to say: “Many friends — homosexuals or not — were sent to the camps.  As were well-known figures of the Nueva Trova, budding writers, dramatists.  A wave of fear was loosed among us to learn that the police, especially in the [busy ice cream shop] Coppelia, were making raids or taking prisoner anyone who stood out for their clothing or [feminine] gestures.  I was afraid to be mistaken.  I remember the fear with which I drank coffee at the bus stop, looking from side to side, ready to flee if anything happened.  When I had to stand right there, after leaving the Radiocentro [theater] or the Habana Libre [hotel], I prayed that the bus would come as soon as possible.” (1)

Once Mariela Castro Espín, director of the National Center of Sexual Orientation (CENESEX), daughter of the current ruler, was questioned about the responsibility of her uncle Fidel Castro for the existence of the UMAP.  She astutely stated (or at least so they have her believe) that Fidel Castro — always well informed — had no responsibility at all because at that time he was too occupied with other matters of government.

Raúl Martínez, just like so many other distinguished homosexual people of letters and the arts: the poet and storyteller Lezama Lima (Havana, 1910-1976); Virgilio Piñera (Cárdenas, 1912 – Havana, 1979), storyteller, poet and dramatist; Antón Arrufat (Santiago de Cuba, 1935), writer, dramatist, they were as oysters shut in their shells, persecuted, rounded up, marginalized only for not singing praises to the regime, for not bowing their heads, for staying in Cuba, for not accepting emigration, condemned to live poorly, hidden in the closet from which now, dead or alive, one by one, in turns, the dictatorship goes craftily taking them out, promptly rehabilitated with rounded dates of birth or death.

A suspect fence-mending for political convenience in an attempt to change the repressive image of the regime, to tidy it up with a few strokes of the pen.  Paradoxically “resuscitated” by the same regime which punished them, but without offering a public or private apology to them, their families and friends for so many crimes against honorable people.  Hereditary crimes against the Nation.


(1) Martínez González, Raúl. Confesiones (de) Raúl Martínez, Yo Publio. P.394. Instituto Cubano del Libro, Editorial Letras Cubanas, Artecubano Ediciones, Palacio del Segundo Cabo, O’ Reilly, 4, esquina a Empedrado, La Habana Vieja, Cuba.

(2) Ángel Santiesteban. Autor of the blog The Children Nobody Wanted. Prizes: Sueño de un día de verano (Dream of a summer’s day), UNEAC Prize, 1995; Los hijos que nadie quiso (The children nobody wanted), Alejo Carpentier Prize, 2001; Dichosos los que lloran (Happy are those who mourn), Casa de las Américas Prize, 2006.

Translated by Russell Conner

8 July 2013