Another Pedro Navaja*

Image taken

Sunday, November 27, we woke to the “red” news of a death in the neighborhood. On the Goicuría block between Freyre de Andrade and Espadero, in Vibora, Havana, they stoned a man whom they said had a bad social attitude. I couldn’t find out much, because the neighbors — given the secrecy of the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) — were unaware of the details of the case. The surrounding population did not show much interest in the event, because they were upset that the eggs hadn’t arrived at the shop and they weren’t going to come the following day, either. So I went from shock to outrage in the blink of an eye.

My neighborhood is fairly quiet — with the well-known exception of a person they extradited from the United States some years ago and who today is in hiding for having stabbed the sector chief of the PNR — so the lack of repercussions from this event among the local people came as a surprise. Two or three hours sufficed to spread the news of this Pedro Navaja*; after which interest waned in the search of something to put on the lunch plate, the required protein (or something like it) and some other vegetable to accompany it, along with the Sunday movie.

Some might think Cubans are lazy, but that’s not the case. It’s that we don’t have any time to look around when so many of our problems are not resolved and the majority of society is worn out by the fight for daily survival and almost no incentives exist beyond the horizon.

When we have a government whose leaders — with few biological-strategic changes — are the same ones we’ve had for half a century, helping the rest of the world while neglecting their own national home. The government has “instructed” us to ignore the events of the capitalist tabloids in order to put us to sleep with their own daily social, caudillo, and political chronicle. However, I hope that some day we can have a free press where events such as these can be told, among the many others that interest the population, and that we will have the option to “turn the page” to another through our own election, as we finally pass beyond the history of this long political process that has been imposed on us.

I hope to be there then, although surely — by repeated practice of my freedom of conscience — the variety and focus of the topics dealt with won’t be any different than they are today.

*Pedro Navaja is the title of a song from the Panamanian salsa singer Ruben Blades, who was very popular in the ’70s.

December 13 2011

The Shameful Exception

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The news was published on November 30 on page 4 of the newspaper Granma, in “hilodirecto” and I’m happy for those who will benefit. The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) recognizes the benefits and reach of new technologies and puts them at the service of their peoples. The interconnection of the entire region through the Internet, is seen with the construction of a “regional ring” of fiber optics to extend the service, increase bandwidth and lower prices for connectivity to the mega-web.

And Cubans of the archipelago? Through their  spokespeople, Cuban officials say they are in favor of new technologies, but only if they conform to their interests and their excessive and enslaving control. Until January 2011, the leaders and spokesmen of the government, claiming that the U.S. blockade against Cuba forced them to access the Internet only through satellite connections, to which they added servers to provide connectivity — usually to foreigners living in Cuba and to a minority of those chosen by the government — which ostensibly slow connectivity and made it impossible for them to extend it to the whole society.

But since February this year, with the advent of cable from Venezuela, hopes are envisioned for the Cubans and enthusiasm was evident in the mass media, in many people who appeared on our national television and also emphasized by the 2011 Computer Fair and the Cuban personnel participating in this event. Many “believers” in  patient waiting confided that “the noble state,” despite the U.S. embargo against our country, would look for an alternative to defend the right to information of Cuban society.

Another note on the same day — November 30 — from the Moscow agency “RIA Novosti,” reports that Cuba plans to buy a whole chain of production of ammunition for Kalashnikov assault rifles, which will go to the “Comandante Che Guevara Military Industrial Company, though no information was provided on the cost of machinery.

A few months ago, we learned from the international press that the Cuban government had bought the telephone company, ETECSA, and the amount of investment ranged between 300 and 500 million dollars. That purchase information caught our attention, because the authorities had been withholding, for several years, the capital from foreign investors “for lack of liquidity”, as pointed out. Where, then, did these millions come from for this business? Was it another financing from the Bolivarian [Venezuela] country-pocket?

A news dispatch from December 1 publicly exposes it, one more time, the leaders of the Cuban government. “The Pilots” gave the task of telling us to the Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez — not the responsible minister of Informatics and Telecommunications — as a recurring strategy to introduce a statement to society “with Vaseline” and expect the same reaction.

Speaking at the workshop “Alternative media and social networks”, held with participants from 12 countries on November 29 in the Conference Center, he asked for “new political strategies” to organize an “active cyberdefense” on the web and expressed his concerns about “the risks” associated with the internet.

Months ago, the manipulative government gurus had launched a campaign on what they call “a cyberwar against Cuba,”and presented audiovisuals and continuous mentions in the press written about the “hostility of the media” toward Cuba — you have to remember that for 53 years only they are patriots and Cubans — while showing fear of social networks and the origins of the protests that were starting to arise in some countries.

Once again, the interests of the old ruling class called on “the game of war.” But they have been in power so many years repeating the same strategies that they fool almost no one. Any hint of freedom for the population, makes censorship under the guise of the enemy convenient for them. How many millions of pages are hosted on the internet? Do they all talk about Cuba? It’s ridiculous to say they’re biased — in favor of an inalienable right.

The government can’t mask the malignant scourge of censorship. I don’t believe in the official message that Cuba “is not in the condition” to finance “access for all Cubans” to the internet: the truth is they don’t have the political will to do so.

Still, I am struck by the statement of the Foreign Minister that “the media played a lethal role in Libya.” Is he comparing the Cuban government with the ousting of Gaddafi?

In the coming month of February we will blow out a candle in silence for the first year of the arrival of the fiber optic cable to Cuba, which should have brought internet access to all Cubans. It will be a commemoration, not a celebration, because in the matter of connectivity, just like in our freedoms and fundamental rights, we remain the shameful exception in our hemisphere.

December 13 2011

A New Year and an Old Problem

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2011 is over. It’s a fact that for 365 days we follow the year’s coffin until its official burial on the last second of December the 31st.  In our own private assessment, we generally make an evaluation of our passage through those 12 months and weigh up the personal, professional and familial results.  We look at the national ones as well, because for those of us involved in the fate of our country, the repeated Cuban practice of thinking about our country and for it, we have created the habit not only of monitoring and condemning the problems that concern us, but also the responsible practice of offering possible solutions to them.

With respect to our archipelago, last year left us with the taste of a certain success for the Cuban opposition.  Although slight and without anyone’s direct or tacit recognition — but rather the exact opposite — the Cuban authorities themselves, every time they introduce reforms — as obscure and timid as they are — they guarantee and ratify whatever the opposition has pointed out and proposed for years.  It is the evidence of the effectiveness of those who propose and protest against the official intolerance, intolerance which hates and makes enemies.

It’s certain that the government distorts these protests with the smoke screen of moving public interest onto other issues, with the clear aim of intelligently erasing the opposition class in Cuba.  The old ruling class octopi and their professionals of subterfuge and intrigue extend their tentacles with their plan to divide and extinguish Cuba’s passive opposition and remain in power.  But although it seems that they have ignored our protests with proposals for years, it is in these that serve as reference to those — adjusting them to their interests — to set the emerging update of its failed model on its course.  It’s worth stressing that to apply fixed reforms they are falling into a contravention of their own constitution.  Will they soon have written a revised, updated Magna Carta?

In their global plan of ‘face washing’, they seem to be at the helm of social restructuring with a ‘mutated reconciliation’ (mutatis mutandis) towards their self-seeking interests.  I imagine that if they continue down this road we will soon see NGOs, which usually support dissident organisations on the archipelago, withdrawing troops and switching their support to Cuban investors — although many are themselves the government officials responsible for the farcical state of the country — to help Cuba to come out of the systematic crisis which is ruining us.  After all, one must forget the ‘peccadilloes’ of ineptitude which broke down our economy and divided us as a nation in favour of trying to spend future decades ‘trying to fix’ what the present system cannot, or has any real interest in resolving.

I accept that in the state domino the actions and dialogue of the opposition — incongruous with the arguments with which the governance show them as enemies of the fatherland — might be out of harmony with their programme to seduce the international community with their stuffy reconciliation. Up until the present they’ve chosen to secretly promote their agents by use of the media, and to keep those aligned to the beliefs of radical transition conventionally ‘besieged’.  On this platform I suspect that they count on places of relevance which have been hoarded (not only in Cuba); and I worry that it will happen as in the 60s, in that in the end State Security led almost all of the armed organisations which fought against the — at that time — young socialist government.

At the moment I will remain a proactive observer, and I support any movement destined to eliminate the injustice — however insignificant they may seem — that limit our ability to exercise our fundamental rights and freedoms and prevent us from being the owners of our dreams and destinies.  Because of the urgent need for improvements for our long-suffering people, I remain dissatisfied, but optimistic, about those who back the cautious steps which the government is taking.  This is the visible goal currently within our reach to start walking towards.

Translated by: Sian Creely

January 10 2012

An Ordinary Story

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She grew up in the so-called Cuban revolution. Her father was sympathetic to the regime and her mother was politically apathetic, but they both brought her up with love for the figure of the “maximum leader”, in whom is contained, by official design, the concepts of country, state and nation.

Perhaps because of being an only child she got out of much of the housework, but she absorbed the unconditional support for the system that “made us free” and they encouraged her to participate actively in the “revolutionary” school tasks.

During junior high and high school she never missed going to “the school in the countryside,” nor was she intimidated by the distance from home, or the cold milk for breakfast without coffee, which tasted like smoke.

Her mother strained her back carrying heavy shopping bags of food to those farm schools so she would not go hungry, while her father accumulated volunteer hours and diplomas for standing guard, hoping to win a trip to the socialist countries to vacation with his family.

They always worked themselves excessively, because they lived in the house of her maternal grandparents in Nuevo Vedado, surrounded by privileged officials of the state Nomenklatura, whose children, dressed in clothes and shoes bought abroad, associated with “the girl” in the neighborhood and school.

“You will have a better future,” said her mother, who carried the trauma of being taken to Camarioca when she was eleven by an uncle, to watch the leaving of her parents, who died a few years later in an accident in the United States.

While in high school they made her give up her first love, because the boy had “ideological problems”; he was studying English and spent his time dreaming of travel. They still remembered the time of the subversive music of the Beatles, the long hair — that the paramilitaries cut off in the street — and the persecuted peace signs. The period when the devil screamed and God whispered in secret, that damaged us with Soviet-style intolerance.

Cuban artists were banned for wanting to emigrate and censored foreigners were listened to quietly in the house of someone who had a turntable and LPs. Thus, they conditioned her to be fearful and hesitant in her personal freedoms, thinking and acting according to what the authorities approved in the totalitarian system.

In the summer of 1994, she went to the beach to see her cousin and dearest friend leave, and after many tearful hugs and kisses, she raised her hand in farewell to that dark vessel floating away like the Titanic, dismembering her family and taking away her dearest friend, sharer of her common history, with whom she would no longer live.

She kept waving until the hulk became a black point on the horizon. She exchanged letters with her alter ego, a “hello!”, an occasional bright photos, and a “bye” at the end, with dot dot dot ever more filling her universe of sound.

It was the first time she’d questioned anything, and it made her discard one of the deformed concepts she’d learned as a girl, finding herself puzzled and confused — with sand in her eyes: Freedom is not won by submission, but by going beyond the horizon.

She left the university in her first year because they assigned her a career she did not like. She devoted herself to the study of English and looked hard for work, but they offered her only jobs in construction and agriculture.

She was the girlfriend of a leather worker who made shoes and learned to “make money” without union meetings or excessive politicization. But after nearly two years, by official order, they were arrested and fined by the police, who confiscated their tools and all the raw material they had in the workshop.

Her partner, who had suffered the same abuse twice before meeting her, devised with her the plan of going to a country that respected the private sector and where citizens have rights and institutions that safeguard them. Joining forces, they sold their motorbike and paid for the illegal sea passage to a better future.

She tired of looking for her cousin after a long time; but her mother still goes to the door when she knows it’s time for the mail carrier to come by.

January 10 2012

The Manipulative Dossier

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In Cuba we have six television channels, but at 8 p.m. our options narrow, because the national news (the primetime program) is broadcast repeatedly on three of them (channels 4, 6, and 27), we are treated to sports news on channel 2, on channel 21 they show a documentary (the ones during that half hour are generally less interesting), and on channel 15 they rebroadcast (they never show it live) the “friendly” news show from TeleSur. Our satellite newscaster “informs” us how well things work in Cuba in contrast to other countries, mainly capitalist, of the world. He tells us of the abundance of products in the markets, “satisfied consumers” are interviewed, and the magnanimity of our government is sugarcoated daily. So in the face of such “marvels” I am quick as a hare with the remote control, surfing through channels and looking around in the scraps of programming for topics which I expect won’t make me nauseous.

There is a journalist on the TeleSur program who wears an eye patch in the old style of buccaneers and pirates. They say he lost that eye in a helicopter accident during a mission. His image strikes me as somewhat grotesque, because I think that his warlike nature and the blackened eye-socket which highlights it are part of a well-modeled image of the militant journalist committed to a 21st century socialism without manual or program, who bases his raison d’être on the perpetuity of the power of the strongmen and on the fight against the “Empire of the United States”. I have to give credit to this man, the anchor of “Dossier”, which opens and closes with a catch-phrase, saying that it broadcasts “from our beloved, contaminated, and only (here he raises an index finger) spaceship”, referring to Earth. I credit him and his production team, because it seems that they are getting their signal out to various corners of the Milky Way. That feeling leaves me every time he uses that unnecessary sentence to refer to his location. It wouldn’t surprise me if on the same program we found another host wearing a surgical mask because he had a decaying smile or was missing his teeth. It would simply be yet another eccentricity.

TeleSur, with its headquarters in Caracas, and which counts on financing from Ecuador, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Cuba, among others, is transitioning on its journalistic path toward the “Cuban disinformation style”, evidence of the protective and consultative role of the largest of the Antilles in that Latin American media outlet with international distribution. It is an echo discordant with democracy and anachronistic in a particularly fashion to repeat the formulas of this long-lived, mature, and failed sociopolitical and economic experiment, and to adapt them to a project which claims to promote regional integration in societies where, despite the influence of our Antillean archipelago, plurality still survives. What would be fairer with respect to the realities of our brethren to the south is the exercise of objective, impartial, and truthful journalism in which there is no need, as there is in Cuba, for recourse to the “censorship patch” or the “surgical gag” to violate their people’s rights and deceive them with disinformation and manipulation.

Translated by: Adam Cooper

December 20 2011

Recurring Arguments

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Cuba’s elderly leaders must be celebrating, because once again their Cuban-American adversaries in the U.S. Congress have served up to them, on a golden platter, the old, spruced-up reasons that provide their cadres and officials the banquet of arguments with which they justify and “feed” the rigidity of the model. It’s the recurring, long-distance slap from the extremists under a fossilized policy which hasn’t worked, which is almost 53 years old, and which even so they refuse even to reconsider for the welfare of Cuban society.

On December 13 the front page of the daily Granma informed us that the United States Congress was considering a bill which would again restrict travel by Americans and Cuban-Americans to our archipelago, as well as remittances to Cuba. The article cites the Chicago Tribune and points out that the initiative is sponsored by Mario Díaz-Balart, a Republican representative for the state of Florida. It goes on to say that the measure is intended “to reinstate the restrictions approved during the George W. Bush administration, such as a single trip every three years for Cuban-Americans for the purposes of ‘family reunions’ and a limit of $1200 per year on remittances”, and that the relaxing of the sanctions approved by President Barack Obama would be annulled ipso facto. It is a strategy designed to slam the doors on any possibility of dialogue, instead of extending a hand in national reconciliation.

Some time ago, in these parts, the country’s leadership announced — among the timid reforms they inserted due to the burden of the disaster that is rotting Cuba — the abolition of the exit visa and the facilitation of travel for Cuban émigrés to our common home. In the measures announced most recently they have neither commented nor legislated on the matter. I don’t know if they’ll be supported given this senile strategy which divides and serves both sides so that they can defend their respective territories and rhetoric. I will go on defending the truth, and as in a game of dominoes, I choose a third position so as not to be a wild card for either faction; I pound the table and act in accordance with what I consider best for the Cuban nation: Stop bickering!

Translated by: Adam Cooper

December 20 2011

Onomatopoeia of Tears

From ""

It seems that the Honey of Power is addictive and that many civilians and military consume and permanently succumb to this sweetness. Like a psychotropic leadership it collects bosses, subordinates and entire peoples. It doesn’t matter if they aren’t in the same spectrum of colors, yellow and red hallucinogenics mix just the same in Asia and America like a dusk in modernity. We already suspect what will happen in North Korea when Kim Jong-Il is no more, the former “daddy’s boy”; it’s normal now that another “brilliant” descendent will take the reins of that country. After all, it doesn’t matter to real power if a toddler is recognized, stealing the cameras, the microphones and all the attention, they always allow them to enjoy absolute domination and impunity.

I imagine the austere North Korean soldiers pompously breaking the news to them of the death of the “Supreme Leader” and the brave soldiers tearing up at the loss. I suppose those who worked most closely with the “Great Leader” of the Workers Party of Korean forged a halo of genius over the offspring of the Korean “Dear Leader” as a prelude to the announced succession.

The Cuban television cameras showed us the village women and men in the streets crying over the death of the”Beloved Guide.” Perhaps because of this in this Oriental country, psychoanalysts and politicians, noting the identification of people kidnapped with their kidnappers, coined the term “North Korean Syndrome” to refer to the collective psychological reaction on the death of a dictator.

Although with logical cultural differences, perhaps the descendants of the Cuban “Juche” will look closely at these events through the prism of their genetic relationship with the highest office in the country for which their parents fought and which allowed them to enter, as in Korea, the “progressive” caste of the “enlightened” owners of power in Cuba. Hopefully I’m mistaken.

December 27 2011

The Party of a Democrat

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As peaceful pro-democracy fighters in Cuba we are filled with deep regret at the news of the death of the Czech playwright and politician Vaclav Havel. I’m sure there was also consternation in all democratic countries in the world. This distinguished intellectual born in Prague, condemned by the Soviet invaders who stole the Prague Spring in then Czechoslovakia and who then banned his works and repeatedly harassed and imprisoned him for defending human rights.

He founded, in 1977, the Charter 77 movement in which he stated his disagreement with the single-party political system prevailing in his country. He was also one of the architects — from his leadership of the opposition group Civic Forum — of massive public protests that brought down the communist regime, the so-called Velvet Revolution, in that republic in Central Europe.

He left us a springtime of hope for those who peacefully work toward the same goals for which he fought. In friends like Havel — a symbol of the peaceful struggle for freedom — we Cuban democrats find helpful solidarity in the demand for respect for human rights in Cuba and for our civil and political rights. His example confirms to us the inspiration to continue paving the way for justice, democracy and national freedom.

I hope the day is not too distant when we will have our own forum of good will and complementarity, where “the power of the powerless” allows a role for all Cubans, in the common and highest purpose of peaceful national reconciliation. That would be our best tribute to this great man of the world.

December 27 2011

My Tree of Hope

I want to share with readers, colleagues and visitors, the good wishes that radiate from my Cuban tree of hope.

[On the tree: Implementation of Human Rights. Market Economy and Social Solidarity. Free and Democratic Elections. Separation of Powers. Subsidiary Principle. Participative Democracy. Respect for Diversity. Direct and Secret Vote. Citizen Sovereignty. National Dialog. Multiparty State. Common Good. Justice. Peace.]

May the light of Bethlehem light your way this Christmas and in the coming year, and the Family of Nazareth be a permanent and living reference for us to defend with discernment, prudence, and wisdom our rights and desires for peace, justice, freedom and democracy for all.

A very Merry Christmas and a prosperous 2012.

Havana, December 2011.

Diversity vs. Demagoguery

Freedom. Truth. Graphic taken from

For some time here the leaders of the Cuban government have been given to talking about diversity and defending the importance of respecting this in different groups of people in our national home. It’s a positive discourse, of course, but something rather “tricky” if we take into account that it only refers to the social and cultural which in our country is always imposed with militaristic criteria from the seats of power. But perhaps it is the sowing of a seed — I tell myself — of the context for a transition towards which Cuba seems to be beginning to “crawl,” toward a society of openness in which we all can walk. I don’t want to be too innocent, but neither do I want to be too skeptical about some curtains that seem to be moving, although they still won’t let us open the window.

The Cuban government is going to integrate “in its own way” into the world and needs to legitimize itself with slow and calculated steps, into the community of democratic nations in the world, most concretely in Latin American, where it is the only one that currently has a single-party system. With its radar focused on this hemisphere — keeping in mind the recent creation of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, CELAC; its partial reconciliation with the Catholic Church which covers the majority of the continent and is a force for action — although with great fear of losing power; timidly instructing and ordering as Party concession the spaces and socio-economic achievements and policies we used to enjoy in society and that they took from us on violently coming into power.

After almost fifty-three years, these steps are the tacit acknowledgment that their model failed and they are preparing the society for its incorporation into the democratic world when they are no longer. However, it is illogical to talk about diversity only for a part of the social fabric. For a people subjected for decades to assimilate this concept, it should cover the entire spectrum of national life, including the political. It should legitimize political parties and respect for the human rights established by the United Nations. Diversity in everything and for everyone should be the motto, which is synonymous with pluralism and rule of law; if not it is a euphemism for the repression of progress. To offer it in a partial sense, according to the interests of the state is demagoguery, at least I think so.

December 13 2011

The Pineapples of Wrath

I’m not referring to John Steinbeck’s novel The Grapes of Wrath written in 1939. I’m talking about the culinary experience that led me to the farmer’s market: I decided to make a cold salad with a pasta base. For any mortal in another country, it’s probable they would have the option of buying the dish ready-made, or if they wanted to make it at home, of buying all the ingredients at one time, or perhaps making a second trip because they forget something, but everything would be available.

In Cuba it’s an exercise in mental hygiene requiring huge portions of patience. This recipe calls for — at the least the one we make at home — lots of mayonnaise and white onions, as well as boiled potato cut in small pieces. Some reinvented their own recipe for mayonnaise, and by saving great quantities of oil (a scarce product selling dearly in hard currency), make it by giving the oil body with mashed potato, milk with cornstarch, or some other ingenious and available substitute.

Rafa and I preferred, this time, to spend the hard cash — I don’t think mayonnaise is sold in Cuban pesos — to give it the familiar taste. For a customary exercise in survival, we Cubans often forget to eat, and so to feed ourselves is a pleasure.

Recovered from the horror of the fiftieth anniversary of Castro, I didn’t want to find myself surprised by the usual shortages and was collecting some of the ingredients several days in advance. After roasting the quarter chicken I was going to throw shredded into the salad, I tossed my lucky coin and went out shopping to buy what I lacked. As we were packed like sardines in the farmer’s market I searched quickly for what I needed so I could get away from so many people rabid for food. The onion cost me very dear, I bought it with a little mountain of national currency, and I also acquired the mayonnaise easily — notwithstanding the excessive price which I paid in hard currency — but it is the third ingredient that led to this post.

Incredibly, the farmer’s market near my house only sold green pineapples. To avoid disgracing my salad with sour pineapple, I walked from market to market and found the same thing at some while others had none at all. After two hours and so as not to waste the whole day, I went to a stall and asked the seller for a ripe one. “Señora, all that I have are ready to eat and very good.” As she had them in front of her and I am not colorblind, I responded and we got into an argument because she wanted to tell me that a green rind is a sign of ripeness, and that I shouldn’t “be picky” and ask for “difficult things,” but just be grateful there was pineapple at all.

In the end, as I didn’t have enough cash to substitute apples — which are only sold in convertible pesos — and I left the crush of people disgusted by the dispute, wanting to punch myself for my stupidity in demanding “ripe tropical fruits in the tropics” and in frustration for “leaving the party” empty handed.

I left mentally fuming, making an analogy with the title of the Pulitzer Prize novel of 1940 which is considered a major work: The Grapes of Wrath. I also remembered the phrase attributed to the late Armando Calderon — anchor and host of the long-gone Sunday TV show, “The Silent Comedy” — who said that one morning he had modified his usual chatter for the children present: “This is de piña*, dear little friends!”

*If you substitute “ng” for the letter “ñ” in “piña” (pineapple), we have the name of the masculine sex organ which is a part of so many expressions and expletives in the vulgar Spanish of Cuba.

Translator’s note: This text in the original Spanish plays with longer words that include the letters “piña”; unfortunately this wordplay cannot be reproduced in translation.

November 15 2011

The Church Taken by Parishioners

The temple of the Evangelical Pentecostal Church, located at Infanta and Santa Marta in Central Havana, displays an unusual situation since a few days ago, in that more than 60 people, among them 19 minors and 4 pregnant women, have remained in the church for a lengthy period of time, found in withdrawal behind closed doors.

These people, reunited on their own volition in the temple since this past August 21st, were summoned by Braulio Herrera Tito, whose religious denomination removed him as a pastor since May 2010 for reasons of an internal nature.

In light of this situation, a group of family members reached out to the authorities, particularly worried about the children, who are not attending school, and for the pregnant women, who do not receive the medical attention prescribed for them.

By virtue of these circumstances, conversations have been held with family members, religious leaders and some members of the congregation. The premises have also been protected and people provided with medical attention.

After various contacts with those directing the site, a medical team assessed the health of the women, who have decided to remain on site. Medics alerted them that a prolonged stay, without specialized attention, could affect the health of the expectant mothers. They expressed equal worry about time passing without the children attending school.

The public order authorities will maintain protection of the citizens’ security to avoid any incidents and offer apologies to the population for troubles caused by the situation.

The order has been confirmed to continue the necessary procedures for a favorable solution to this situation, whose origin is beyond our authorities, who reiterate the desire to collaborate with the family members, the community and the representatives of the religious institutions involved.

Translated by: Courtney Finkel

September 20 2011

Increase of Dengue in Cuba

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Participants of an anti-insect fumigation brigade from the Cuban public health system commented on November 3rd that there is an elevated number of cases of dengue in the Havana municipality of La Habana del Este.

Calling our attention is the recent increase of this acute viral illness — transmitted by the female aedes aegypti mosquito — and the official silence on the subject, explained by the overused pretext of not alarming the public, but with the result of disinforming society about topics of fundamental interest. Due to public service announcements on national television and the intensity in calls by health workers to eliminate the possible focus — reproduction springs and breeding grounds — already there is popular distrust, “he has read straightness in the twisted lines,” and suspicion of the increase in cases for this pandemic in our country. They further mention that the reported patients are being attended to in their houses for the number of infected people and the people’s distrust of being admitted to the hospital, given their substandard hygienic/sanitary conditions. This illness, that the aedes albopictus also spreads, is known as “bone breaking” and produces fever, headaches, and aching joints; it lasts approximately a week and can lead to death. The increasing incidence of outbreaks has also been detected in other capital area municipalities like Arroyo Naranjo, Old Havana, Central Havana, and Diez de Octubre, but for the lack of informative transparency we do not know the rates of dengue in the rest of the nation.

The causes of the proliferation of this transmitter fundamentally stem from entrance areas, the lack of water in many households, and the shortage of places to store it. In zones lacking daily supplies of this vital liquid, inhabitants are obliged to store it in 55-gallon tanks with improvised caps that do not close properly and facilitate the entrance of these insects which then consequently start reproduction. This is brought about by people arriving in our country with the sickness, which then encounters adequate conditions for its propagation. The state sells plastic tanks in convertible currency and at exorbitant prices in hard currency stores that are not within reach of the average Cuban.

Many distrust the magnitude of the problem and the fact that they are asking citizens to open their doors to the fumigators without hesitating. Secrecy by the authorities in almost all levels of national life is traditional practice and secrecy concerning dengue is no exception. It is taking place just as we arrive at the high tourist season in Cuba.

Translated by: M. Ouellette

November 8 2011

My Baptism By Fire

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It was 6:30 in the morning and we rode on a cart pulled by a tractor that shook from the uneven dirt roads.

The guardrail moved and didn’t offer any guarantee that it would support our weight–moving involuntarily as if we have neurological problems–we sat on the floor so that at least the rustic planks of the guardrail would protect us from the dew and cold of dawn. It was the first “school in the countryside” for everyone, except the responsible teacher who traveled with us. I was twelve years old, a girl who had still not had her period.

Our breath condensed in the air and the silence overcame us the night before, when a melancholy student from our shelter fell prey to the mockery of the group because she missed the privacy of her own room and bed when it was time to sleep. They began to call her “coward”, “weak”, and with these “little bourgeois attitudes” she wouldn’t be a good communist. One of the tests of stoicism that we “autoimposed” (as an policy and a political guide common to all schools), was that of spending the 45 required days in the countryside, without leaving no matter what happened–unless it was a compelling reason–and to be an example by working the furrows, which amounted to working like a beast for a simple and invisible recognition–that no one could confirm–in the school record. Breakfast that morning, in a little aluminum jar as hot as the scorching midday summer sun, consisted of burnt milk. Washing our faces in the washtubs with icy water from the tap–at Camp “La Concordia”, like in others, sinks did not exist–had the advantage of waking us up as if we were in the Siberian tundra and we had the “high honor” of forming part of the Komsomol.

On our inexperienced expectations, the day arrived, and even though the thick fog robbed us of our view of the landscape, we watched the faces in silence, listening to the song of the rooster, the moo of some cow, the warble of the birds, and the rumble of the tractor. We dressed in androgynous clothing that the revolution had “fatherly and generously” provided for us so that we could freely accomplish hard agriculture work during the next month and a half. To break the mist and the muteness that we dizzy and inexperienced aspiring communists were suffering from, the teacher in charge of our group sang a chant copied from from the indoctrination program made in USSR that she repeated over and over again so we could learn it.

I even remember the wet grass covering and moistening my canvas tennis shoes and pants to celebrate my baptism by fire and “our battle against the softness and hereditary diseases of capitalism”. We looked like test tube girls abandoned in the laboratory of the New Man. They lost us in the winding literary paths and we jumped from fairy tale to political fable. To the schools in the countryside, I thank you as I thank the revolution: the deep deception and thanks to the voracious appetite that I had from working the earth, I learned to eat peas with weevils; this eagerness has transformed over the years to a hunger for freedom. That was my “collision” in the Cuban countryside, my baptism by the colored earth.

Translated by: Meg Anderson

November 8 2011

Of Errors, Terrors and Horrors

“It is not about trying to forget everything that has happened, but to reread it newer understanding, precisely from experiences suffered, that only love can build, while hate produces destruction and ruin.”

– Pope John Paul II

I still remember the indignity and sadness generated by the terrorist attack against a Cuban airplane in Barbados in 1976 and how I went, of my own accord, to pay tribute to the 73 victims in the Plaza de la Revolucion. I am sure that many went spontaneously to demonstrate solidarity with the fallen, as I did, feeling saddened by this barbarism. The Cubans in the archipelago felt a great sense of brotherhood after terror pointed and fired at us, wounding us profoundly and demonstrating that hate, impotence and malignancy also result from bombs.

There are wounds that never heal, and losing a loved one to a criminal act is something that impedes the psychological recovery of family members and those close to them. But if this loss is a sad, cruel and irreparable action on one hand, it is much worse when the person who committed the act goes unpunished. It is then compounded by the Cuban authorities who constantly bring this up, not just to commemorate the event, but with propagandist political objectives. Moreover, because they intend to clarify their goals and explain to their followers why political inflexibility is needed, they repeatedly talk about the threat that emanates from the north, bringing a catechism of terror, sculpted in murderous plaster. They lie openly and repeatedly from the state leadership, conveniently casting disparaging generalizations about all of Cuba’s exiles, because this is the convenient narrative about an enemy who has “besieged the plaza”, guaranteeing a long, rigid and inflexible presence in power.

Manipulation of historical information — common practice among our national leaders — foments anger that divides, degrades, influences and exhausts people. No one should exacerbate hatred in order to justify coercion and repression. Rereading with new ideas, putting constructive strategies into practice that contribute to understanding, and healthy coexistence is the path toward common good.  Repeatedly reopening old wounds with belligerent manipulative intent, is a cruelty to society. In order for governments to be considered responsible, they should learn to end these practices; the Cuban government is no exception. Our relations with the Spanish government would not be the same if we had not forgiven and refocused on a more edifying vision, and instead brought up Valeriano Weyler‘s role in 1897 during the Cuban War of Independence. What would have become of the European Union with Germany — one of the region’s economic engines — if Israel and the world had not forgiven them for the Holocaust?

It seems inconsistent and unjust that our national leaders campaign to defend the rights of people all over the world, while ignoring the rights of their own compatriots. I urge then the eradication of any government that establishes and practices civic terrorism, without considering the rights of its own citizens. When the good of the people is not considered, but is rigidly ordered from the seat of government, the interests of both the people and the government become disassociated, leading to totalitarianism. There should be no room in modern society for terrorism — neither from governments that sow fear or those that violate the fundamental rights of its citizens — nor should there be any justification for any sort of crime. I raise my voice  to demand a democratic coexistence that respects differences and in which the state guarantees the people’s rights, peace and pluralism.

Translated by: Erico

October 31 2011