Television Notidrama

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On January 30th, the National Cuban Television (NTV) star of the 8PM news, who occasionally dresses strangely, was transparently fawning over problems which are not normally covered on Cuban TV and radio. As we know that everything on NTV is controlled and passes through that inescapable screen of censorship. At home we deduced that it was one more manipulation, due to the Cuban visit of Brazil’s President, Dilma Rousseff, and her delegation.

Unusual reports of low productivity, in general, and the decline in potato production are known evils, in our country, but suspicion is aroused when these reports are accompanied by others that indicate there are few trains on our island and reduced fertility in our population resulting in few births. In this regard, Cubans have an aging population and therefore have not reached 12 million. Ignoring the two million who have emigrated and reside outside our territory, they are only taken into account for propaganda purposes and to fill state coffers.

Ironically, the meteorologist who often appears on camera to do the weather forecast, said there was a decrease in the number of cold fronts and rainfall rates, in January, compared to the same period last year. Anyway, that day’s edition of the news, exceptional for Notidrama, made me wonder. If you didn’t know except by repetition, you would not suspect the favourable economic intentions behind that veiled whining. For them it is worth it because the crocodile tears will revert to an aerosol medicine for their economic suffocation, increase their bank accounts and give them more time in power.

Translated by: Hank Hardisty

February 5 2012

The Long Arm of Zorro

Foreign and domestic news pours forth in Cuba with extensive coverage of the international and national press; academic, intellectual, social, and cultural events, contests, speeches and appearances: all manipulated, at the convenience of the powers-that-be with a huge media coverage.

Almost simultaneously the authorities unleash a wave of repression that stirs concern and solidarity. So new information arises that will take prominence and displace other no less important news. Wilman Villar died without having been morally vindicated by those who caused his death and later, as an aggravation, they reviled him.

Hmmm! It is a strategy repeated endlessly with one arm so long that it extends beyond our borders. Some might think that luck accompanies the Cuban totalitarian government and safeguards the aftermath of world opinion, but I think that traditionally and historically they have pulled the strings of the Creole political puppet and will continue to do so, with the reins firmly attached behind the scenes and from time to time the scriptwriter-in-chief comes to light. I watch and comment, because it is my duty and right to freely express my opinion.

February 12 2012

From My Archive

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The contractions of the womb “favored” María del Carmen Peña with her birth on January 1, 1959, the same day the guerrillas led by Fidel Castro came to power. I met her in seventh grade and we studied together through the tenth.

Her classmates and teachers knew that every year all those born on that day met with Castro, took photos, and received multiple and expensive gifts that were not available in the entire network of stores nationwide.

Once she rejoined us in early January displaying a fat Rolex on her wrist that had been presented at the most recent annual meeting. We all admired the generosity of the leader of the revolution, who was more generous than the Swiss manufacturer, randomly rewarding some young people with this symbol of authority, which was only worn, at that time in Cuba, by leaders of the upper echelons of real power.

It was the misuse of office to reward at will because he was master of everything, he had and could do everything, and disposed of the resources available to him as if they were his own.

She lived in Santos Suarez and I have not seen her since. Years have passed, the Mariel Boatlift, the Cuban emigration maintained and growing, the domestic human rights movement and opposition … and I wonder if the Rolex survived the Special Period, or if it was converted into a savior in that painful period and perhaps helped — exchanged for paper money — to “warm the plate” and diversify the family table for a few days. But what then?

From the early stage to the onset of the ’70s we did not grasp the signs of arrogance coming from  power. This was just a tiny sample of the encyclopedia of disasters they have brought us and the rights they have taken away. It was cheap and broken watch that we are still paying for, that they left we Cubans who did not have the ’privilege’ of being born with the new year when Cuba was turned into a feudal fiefdom by a group of guerrillas.

January 31 2012

Macho State

In remembrance of Wilman Villar Mendoza

The Cuban state talks nonsense with the traditional verbiage with which they usually justify their inexcusable acts and remain silent about the reasons and abuse that led to the death of Wilman Mendoza. The chess strategy that “the best defense is an offense” ends whatever possibility of dialogue with sectors outside the state dramaturgy, undermines the approach to democratic governments and truncates the necessary spaces of reconciliation between all the children of the nation. To keep Cuban society subjugated and divided remains its primary objective.

We are more than a few well-wishers who were hoping that this time an investigation of the causes of our compatriot Villar Mendoza’s death would be ordered, but for the authorities, the harassment, coercion and abuse are weapons that guarantee political control and their remaining in power. A “macho” state militarized, prohibitive and completely choking us, which,  despite having so much power, is afraid and shows its moral weakness by insulting and lying about the hunger strike of an opponent.

The luxuriant tree and good of the country, which should give shade for everyone equally, is torn apart with verbal and physical abuse of the imprisoned peaceful opponents — according to statements from prisoners, ex-political prisoners and their families — and they pour insults and defamation over those who dissent from the system. But they don’t fool anyone. The leaves of the wicked continue to fall in this perennial autumn and their exuberance of slander is lost with new winds of disobedience by peaceful citizens, who throb expectantly behind the locks of this repressive society that increasingly refuses to live without speaking up.

February 2 2012

Another Blog

Esteemed visitors and collaborators:

I invite you to visit a new blog written from Cuba.  It’s called “Rafael’s Lamp” and the author is my husband. So those who want to explore the different aspects and views of the Cuban reality, have a new alternative. I thank you in advance for your solidarity.

[The Spanish version of the blog is here: El candil de Rafa]

February 1 2012

Painting the Forgotten

He has drawn a table and put a patched plate on the worn paper: there is no canvas nor oils because of the scarcities. Even the air is going hungry, and the brushes go back and forth over the watercolor in an effort to hypnotize the spiritual asthma that such poverty provokes. He loves his Casablanca so much that he wants to go far away, where the nostalgia won’t force him to dream of it and he won’t have to live in his abandonment.

He waits for success with his brushes and a degrading sign — that they profaned with white — that he rescued from his big neighborhood. Long ago he left off the practice of painting bars. Now he draws on the potholed pavement and broken sidewalks, his alienated steps back to what he will remember if he does not return.

January 30 2012

Ciguarayas and Double Standards

Image taken from “”

Regina is my friend from years ago. We finished primary school together and she went to the Camilitas, following the steps — and the marches — of her military father, but on her weekend passes we met and visited in her house or mine, went to the movies, the park, or wherever our parents and ages allowed us.

When we had secret boyfriends we went out with them together, and when they were allowed, we did the same. Over time we replaced the visits with phone calls, but we always had each other: a friendly voice who promised to come to our aid at the first sign of trouble.

Gina — as we affectionately call her “in the family” — is a highly skilled professional who managed to graduate with honors in a career in letters. But in the 1990s she left her job, because the meager salary the state paid her wasn’t enough, and at the height of the decade, after more than thirty years of the same government and the coming of the Special Period, the excessive politicization seemed stale, and the buses felt like cages used to transport livestock.

She began “to fight” clandestinely with the family car — transporting people in the city for 10 or 20  pesos each — eventually changing the route to avoid attracting the attention of the police. One day she thought it would be better to open a small business in the name of her retired mother, because she, being a college graduate, would not be given a license.

They cut through the fence and put a counter on the sidewalk. Her mother was the visible face and she the rearguard in the kitchen performing gastronomic diligence. She became an excellent collaborator of the opposition organization to which she belonged, but was unwilling to commit herself too far, and to risk her affiliation with the mass organizations, “just in case.”

A few years later, her husband joined to a joint venture in Cuba and became a top executive. I called because I hadn’t heard from them recently, and learned from a stranger that they had moved. Due to the economic solvency they now enjoyed, they “resolved*” an exchange of money for a residence in Miramar.

I called their new telephone number and her treatment was not cordial. She spoke to me briefly of banal topics and that she had to prune some plants on the patio that she didn’t like. she gave me their home address reluctantly, and told me they spent little time there, because she had started to work in the same foreign firm as her spouse.

On Sunday I called and she barely talked to me. The told me she was busy seeing to the garden who had been contracted to fix the yard and cut the plants they didn’t like. It turned out they were ciguarayas. As I know they’re atheists, I asked if they have had already been removed and she told me no, they were leaving them there “just in case.”

Ciguaraya: meliaceous plant used in medicine and industry. People in the religions of African origin such as the Rule of Ocha and Palo Monte, also attribute magical powers to it, and assert that to cut it, you have to ask permission from the Orishas.

*Translator’s note: “Resolve” is the verb Cubans use to describe the daily activities of survival.

January 28 2012

Unhealthy Concept

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The Sixth Sexology Congress convened in Havana on January 23rd and will conclude on the 26th. It was announced that the director of the National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX), Mariela Castro, would offer a session about sex education in the process of social transformation. The cameras and journalists have focused on her and pursued her since 2006 looking for a scoop, an interview or, simply to augment and update their library. She always looks at them with great satisfaction and as if she is enjoying her frequent appearances in the media and in academia.

I support the project she leads like every other mortal because — fortunately! — modernity has brought us greater equality in the legal system and we are increasingly those who defend the rights of all, respect diversity and oppose any discrimination. I do not approve that this graduate in pedagogy and sociology, 49 years old, limits her cognitive tools to her specialty in CENESEX. That she disregards the rest of the rights inherent in a person; it’s a slip that affirms her fear of losing her share of power and privileges that she surely enjoys.

Perhaps her behavior responds to an “inclusive” design –I’m an optimist — drafted from the Cuban political zenith that implies a transformative process of several stages. But, how, what and to what point? Diversity is not delineated from the state with an elitist theory, but with pluralism and the participation of all. I consider the fight for the rights of our gay, lesbian, bisexual, intersexual and transsexual compatriots a good cause, but better still is to work and fight for the rights of the Cuban community in its totality. This is a process more congruent with the concept of respect for diversity which the daughter of the Cuban president advocates with ambivalence.

January 24 2012

Human Rights: the Ongoing Struggle

On the occasion of the conference “Cuba: Changes in the Cuban process?” sponsored by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and CADAL (Center for the Opening and Development of Latin America), held last December 4th through the 6th, I was invited to participate, along with other Cubans on the island, on Panel 5, about human rights, and I sent them the letter I publish here.

In Cuba, the topic of fundamental rights and freedoms has been the subject of constant debate and controversy, not only because our country is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations, but also because it was a sponsor of some of its provisions, which were extracted from the Cuban Constitution of 1940. But during the last five decades, our society has been subjected to repeated and systematic, indeed systemic, violations of its human rights. The transgression most obvious to any observer: no political system is democratic with a single party. A single-party system, which undermines plurality, the fundamental bulwark and pillar of democracy, triggers other offenses.

It is true that acts violating societal rights also occur in democratic countries, but the majority of these stem from the nature of the repressive bodies themselves, not state policy, as is usually the case with totalitarian regimes. In our country the evil practice of violating the rights of people is ongoing because there is no legal body established by legislation charged with preserving these rights, to insure they are respected and to fight for them.

Down the years, we have borne witness to how human rights have been violated for those who have denounced the offenses of the authorities in this aspect, and how excessive prison sentences were handed down to them, up to and including the death penalty. Today’s government, due to international pressure, has found itself obliged to stop applying it, although it hasn’t been repealed. Also with globalization, the world in general acts with greater interdependence and swiftness.

With the development of computers, the people seek access to information, and by alternative means society knows what happens on the globe and now cannot maintain itself isolated as it has until just a short while ago. The sultanistic Cuban model doesn’t want to accept the values and principles which govern today and even holds itself to totalitarian practices which have fallen into disuse in the modern era.

The world has changed, nonetheless Cuba declines to change and respect human rights because it doesn’t accept the will of the majority. And this is the essence and origin of her violation of human rights, for if respect for political diversity doesn’t exist across the spectrum of national life, there is no chance of participation of minorities in the debate that must arise about this matter at the center of peoples’ lives. Cuba sustains the propaganda of its successes in rights to life, health, and education, these being the weak footing on which it erects its body of rights to maintain immobilization in this sense.

The appearance on the public scene of the Ladies in White and their courage in taking the streets was something unexpected that the repressive bodies and the authorities in general saw themselves obliged to accept. For them, they succeeded in the release of their relatives from prison and a significant number of political prisoners. But more important than the result was the fact that for the first time the streets were taken by a group of citizens who weren’t aligned with the government and to its habitual campaign of propaganda and immobilization. In that case, they were simple citizens who demanded the liberation of their relatives, but the spark couldn’t veer off its course into a claim of civil and political rights through this same form of non-violent struggle.

As well, the strike in Santa Clara of the independent journalist Guillermo Fariñas, for the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, and the demand for the liberation of twenty-six Cuban political prisoners had an unprecedented result: creating interest in the international community for his health and to demand with him the release of the prisoners. This made it attractive that the authorities should liberate the prisoners in an interplay with the Spanish government and the Catholic Church to prevent the death of the striker.

The negative of the Cuban authority’s permission at whatever cost that individuals from the independent civil society should “take the streets” actually creates environments of hostility and social tension in certain sectors of the Cuban archipelago, although this independent civil society hasn’t yet managed to impose its presence nor has it massively mobilized the population.

The changes that until now the Cuban government has been making since the last Party congress by means of the approval of the Guidelines of Economic and Social Policy of the Party and the Revolution only refer to the economic spheres, not to the political ones. The authorities continue privileging societal control at whatever price to maintain power and transfer it to its successors designated by themselves.

In the Cuban present, the alternative civil society finds itself engrossed in this dilemma: shall it maintain itself in the scope of protest, denouncement, and analysis as much in the spheres of intellectualism, art, alternative or independent movements, etc; or shall it take the citizen’s initiative in the environment of proposing to the authorities from their own mobilized capabilities? The decision for the power of a better outcome for all would be the implementation from the law of the political plurality. From that statute forward, a process of indispensable rebirth of the full dignity of the human person, who surely will put us on course toward a National Democratic State of Rights, of justice and peace.

December 13 2011


He was a boy who was accustomed to ask permission for everything; that they should take him by the hand and sometimes lead him through dangerous streets, and as a matter of education, they’d chew him out and impose punishment on him if he misbehaved. When he was an adolescent, he understood that you have to listen to wise advice from experienced people; that you couldn’t go everywhere because danger lurks and you have to behave well to escape punishment. Now he is a man and expresses without permission that he wants no advice nor company to go wherever he’d like. He discovered that the hand that guided him has been and is his executioner, and that this is the larger punishment.

Translated by: JT

January 20 2012

Talibans of Art

Image taken from:

For over five decades, they have violated the rights of Cubans and of our artists, as part of this society, there have been no exceptions. Residents living abroad have also failed to completely avoid the long arm of the officialdom in power and have been victims of the injustice that blocks them from visiting their homeland. But in recent times there has been a boom and increased travel for local Cuban artists going to the United States. They perform for some of those who left and reside in Miami, where a large part of the Cuban émigré society is located.

I would like to be able to see them there, sharing with other artists who jumped the wall of water and salt and who now live in freedom and who do not undervalue or despise their fellows who were left behind; or others who until recently were sympathetic to the government, or those who were afraid to mention those who “escaped” from State control and from art with chains.

Everyone should have the same rights, regardless of where they have taken residence. But I would like to see them together here, in a theater or on national television, without seeing myself forced to surreptitiously swap CDs like a trafficker in the narcotics of culture and Cuban identity. Consistent with the norms of international law. it is unlawful for them to prevent recognized members of our artistic and cultural heritage located abroad who want to enter their own country to work for their compatriots.

I don’t give up hope of attending, without the police stopping me, a concert in the Plaza of the Revolution — built during the government of Fulgencio Batista — to enjoy a performance by Cuban artists living outside of our soil. To see them singing along with our own from here, the most beautiful song of all: that of reconciliation and respect among all Cubans, without any government or party in the way.

To those here, as to those of other countries, earning a living wage that allows them to be travel around the world and to enjoy the freedom to do so without the disgraceful exit permit. Legalizing the recordings of successful Cuban programs overseas to be displayed on the screens here to nationals who want to watch them, and to go through the inescapable mill of the history of a group of dictators who call their fellow countrymen “anti-Cuban” for the crime of emigrating and thinking differently.

December 5 2011

Genital Grand Masters / Rosa Maria Rodriguez

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The chess-playing brothers of the Cuban Council of State spend almost all their time in separate presidential seats moving pawns. Eventually they leave scars, but they smear them with the Honey of Power with great healing properties, so they are healed quickly and turn into keys proof against replacement. They have an excessive and unattainable ELO rating in the game, so the international association (known as FIDE by its acronym in French: Federation Internationale des Eschecs) has left them incorrigible. They play with their own rules on a different board, with fewer squares for their subordinates and more squares for themselves. They have no queens and only one knight, but still they call it chess.

These chess players do not participate in international tournaments because they refuse to be examined by FIDE and, at home, they do not care to submit to anyone’s judgment their capabilities and titles of grand masters of the scientific game that they did not invent, but their consider their own, and they  and are unwilling to expose it to the scrutiny and service of others.

November 29 2011

The Shocked Silence

Ignacio Ramonet. Taken from

Ignacio Ramonet is a Spanish journalist working in France who was, for 18 years, editor-in-chief of the French edition of Le Monde Diplomatique.  Nobody doubts that his journalistic skill or his comprehensive general knowledge.  To his name there are several books, many articles, essays and lectures.  He is also the driving force of the Social Forum of Porto Alegre.

In the Granma newspaper from 16th December I read the article on his most recent visit to my country he had given a talk in the Cuba Pavillion for the Festival of Latin American Cinema.  There he spoke about journalistic ethics, of ‘truthful information in the media’ -he didn’t mention the true media or the biased press-, ‘of the repercussions of Wikileaks and the scope of new technologies in the world order, amongst other things’.  What other things?  Whilst totalitarian models of government exist which ‘supervise and orient the press’ and manipulate and discriminate against their own citizens’ access to new technologies to avoid any of them ever being able to self publish their own opinions in a blog, the above quote is diluted in the muddy insipid waters of talk.  As a result it seems immoral and propagandistic to talk about the US recession in Cuba when here the people have not been given independence in this area and it has permanently been subjugated -still worse when it lost its Russian rock- during the long continuance of the Cuban regime.

In his speech also referred to the movement of the outraged. In Cuba, Mr. Ramonet, there are also outraged, only instead of turning to the streets, they are frightened by the ferocity — induced from the powers-that-be — of the political police. They choose to “march” to the embassies of any country to emigrate or to put their lives on the line to cross the Straits of Florida.

Of course, as is natural, the lecturing friend of the elite of the Cuban power structure does not question why there are no strikes in our country, nor legally recognized political parties nor a legitimate independent press, nor why the institutional means of dissemination are only in the hands of State.

The professor’s position is a very comfortable one, as he has, among many other freedoms, the freedom to travel and to come to our country to speak about the issues with which the omnipresent State media saturates us every day as bombastic as a reggaeton chorus.

He alluded in addition to the idea that the movement of the outraged “(…) has the slogan that politics, as it is practiced, does not work” and that “(…) we can criticize the way of doing politics, but we not can change things without going through politics.”

Ramonet discovered the warm water, but I agree with him on that maxim of universal application that indirectly challenges the emerging socio-economic reforms being introduced by the Cuban government ignoring the rights and legitimate interests of our nation.

December 20 2011

With Chewing Gum on His Face

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Rodney is a mischievous and happy child who is a little confused, because since he became a pioneer in October he does not fully understand the slogan “We will be like Che!” It is true that he has incorporated it like the rest of his classmates and repeats it as if he had a sensor that operates at certain stimulus. His parents and grandmother say that Che is the black spot appears on T-shirts, posters and on national television; that it is the poster of a photo that made him famous. they tell him he is also a martyr, but what does a child of six years understand about a champion? How many times will they have to repeat that the neck-scarf is not a rag for him to use to wipe his snot?

Last week, the school principal summoned his parents, because an extremist teacher ‘saw him’ stick gum on the bust of Marti that is in the patio. It really wasn’t her, it was another student who discovered the rubbery polymer in his hand and told her about it, but it is for her to “take on the case” because she is an educator and knows that the father of the student speaks ill of the government loudly.

As if it were a profanation, she was the highest authority with the information and so obliged to proceed, and she threw out the grave threat of “elevating it” to a higher level. So the parents came to the school and the director raised the issue with repeated interventions, and threatened to go to the police specializing in juvenile matters, and this mention set off the dissident father who ended the meeting.

This all set off such a commotion that Raul Fidel, the boy who really put the gum on the apostle’s face, arrived home terrorized and told his parents and grandparents, who know that an insignificant childish prank will not define the adult.

He told them that at the end of recess, he was fixing the velcro on this shoes and that he raced back to the classroom, spitting the gum out into the wind. His father and paternal grandparents have a long record in the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR) and the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) — the father entered the Camilitos (the Camilo Cienfuegos Military School) when he finished sixth grade — and all hold high military rank.

So they put on their uniforms, hung all their badges and medals on them, and set off for the school. They were gang under the direction of the leader and they called the teacher on the carpet who apologized and praised “our glorious combatants of the FAR and the Interior Ministry.”

The surprise in her face, the gesturing excuses, the throwing aside of educational culture, anything not to look for trouble or a stain on her work record. That was the burial of an “ethics education” that saved Rodney from being wrongly accused because his father expresses himself freely in a country where we walk morally herniated due to the shackles of slavish thinking and the weight of words.

December 13 2011