When Repression Knocks at Your Door

For me, it doesn’t matter that you have defamed me without knowing me, attacked me without arguments, or raised a fist in an act of repudiation against me or my loved ones. (Screen capture from a video taken at a violent act of repudiation against Yoani’s husband, Reinaldo Escobar*, the person on the left who is looking forward.)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, 21 July 2021 — A little more than ten days ago, violent repression was for many Cubans an alien experience, a story told by others that they doubted when narrated by government opponents or independent journalists. So it seemed until July 11th when some confirmed, firsthand, that the arbitrary arrests, the beatings, the strip searches and humiliations in police stations, and the silence on the part of the authorities regarding the whereabouts of a detainee, were not the fantasies or hoaxes of a few.

Many of those who previously doubted and questioned the victims, saying that they made everything up and that something like this could not happen on this island, now have a son or a niece locked up awaiting a summary judgment just for going out on the streets asking for “libertad!” or trying to record the popular revolts with their cell phone camera. The testimonies are coming to light, including excesses, outrages, lengthy interrogations, overcrowding in the cells and threats, many threats.

None of this is news for the part of the Cuban population that has spent decades denouncing such events. But, sometimes, you have to feel it to believe, experience it in your own flesh to continue reading

empathize with another victim, or stick your finger in the wound to convince yourself it exists.

Personally, it is not worth me now to return skepticism with skepticism, deafness with deafness, sarcasm with sarcasm

Personally, it is not worth it to me now to return skepticism with skepticism, deafness with deafness, sarcasm with sarcasm. It is time to lend a hand and support the new victims of direct repression, regardless of whether they once doubted the horrors experienced by others.

Count on me to shout for the liberation of your children. I don’t care if you mocked me or didn’t believe it when I was kidnapped and beaten in November 2009;* I don’t care if you lent yourself to watching my little boy on his way to school and yelling at him that his mother was a “mercenary”; I don’t care if you reported on people visiting me and laughed when I spent long hours in a jail cell. It doesn’t matter if you joined in the execution of my reputation and the attempt to kill me socially.

For me, it doesn’t matter that you have defamed me without knowing me, attacked me without arguments, or raised a fist in an act of repudiation against me or my loved ones. I am on your side for the release of that family member you love. I do believe you.

*Translator’s notes:

See also Blame the Victim

For a video of the event shown in the photo, see here.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

July 11: The Day Cuban Youth Overturned a Police Car

Iconic photo taken on the corner of Toyo, in Havana, on July 11.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Havana, 20 July 2021 — In flip-flops and shirtless, Yander ran down Galiano Street to join the crowd shouting “Freedom!” that had just passed his door. In the rush, he forgot the mandatory mask. The mother of this 35-year-old from Havana reached him short-of-breath. “Mi’jo, you left your mask!” she said, and handed him a piece of black cloth. She hasn’t seen him since.

That Sunday, July 11, Cuba ignited with spontaneous protests in several cities. The fuse, lit in San Antonio de los Baños, quickly spread throughout the capital. Thousands of people converged in floods, heading aimlessly towards the nearest squares.

A few meters from the Capitol, seat of the docile Cuban Parliament, Agustín, 28, was in his wheelchair, offering glasses and headphones for sale to the few passers-by who dared to walk in the afternoon sun, and when he saw ” the boys who came like a whirlwind.” He asked one of them to accompany him, and his disability saved him from arrest, but it did not save him from the blow of a policeman which has left continue reading

his arm purple.

The compact chorus, which repeated “¡Patria y vida!” and “Down with communism!” drowned out the words anchored in a past when the Cuban ruling party imposed its slogans

When the shock troops arrived to stop the revolt, an old woman leaned out of the window shouting Gusanos!* [worms] at the protesters. It was barely heard. The compact chorus, which repeated “¡Patria y vida!” and “Down with communism!” drowned out those words anchored in a past when the Cuban ruling party imposed its slogans. Most were young. On the corner of Toyo, in the center of the city, standing on a patrol car waving a bloodstained flag, trying to save a friend who was taken by the Police, standing with a fist raised in front of the riot police, they demonstrated that they are not afraid.

Leaning over her balcony, Mireya saw the tumult coming down her street, the boulevard de San Rafael. She had just shouted at her neighbor that she would wait for her at five in the morning at La Época. It is a nearby store, accepting payment only foreign currency, which offers many of the products that have been missing for months in stores that accept Cuban pesos. Both women are in the business of buying and reselling merchandise on the black market. But that meeting to collect packets of beans, canned food, some cheese, and some beer never happened. On Monday, the neighbor woke up in a cell, and Mireya was looking for her 16-year-old daughter Karla, outside a police station.

“My girl is a minor and she only came down to make a video with her mobile, I saw how the police took her by force,” she sobs. She is one of the thousands of the day’s disappeared.

In Santiago de Cuba, in the distant town of Palma Soriano, Severino has become hoarse from shouting. “Four of us in my family went out but only two came back, the others we don’t know where they are and they don’t tell us anything,” he explains. “We didn’t even think it, that day the only thing I had in my stomach was a cup of coffee … but the effect of that coffee, I felt like I had eaten a leg of pork.” Retired with the minimum pension (about 20 euros a month), Severino laughs when he hears that official voices saying that “imperialism” paid him to take to the streets.

“I lost my wallet and one shoe, but it was worth it,” says a young economics graduate from San Antonio de los Baños who was one of the first to go out to protest in a city where “when something to cook finally appears, then there is no electricity.” It was in that municipality of the province of Artemisa that the spark jumped that later set the souls on fire in almost the entire island. San Antonio is known for hosting the International School of Film and Television and the Biennial Humor Festival. “We were the town of humor, now we are the town of honor.”

“My mother did not want to come with me because she was afraid and now she regrets not having lived that historic day right here, together with the others”

“My mother did not want to come with me because she was afraid and now she regrets not having lived that historic day right here, together with the others,” the young woman boasts. His story is constantly interrupted by a worrying dry cough. The country is experiencing the worst rebound of the pandemic, but the alarming numbers of the Covid-19 did not prevent people from coming together, perhaps because “this dying every day, with the anguish and misery, is worse than the coronavirus.”

In Sancti Spíritus, Mercedes (38 years old) spent Sunday glued to the screen of her mobile phone, devouring the videos that were coming out of the protests in other provinces. Among several neighbors they collected enough money to buy a recharge that would allow them to stay connected for longer and not miss any details. “At night, the only light was on the screen, because we were in a blackout.”

The next morning, her boss summoned her early to the state office where she spends her hours between apathy and wanting to go home. “We have to defend the streets from the counterrevolutionaries and each worker must make a public commitment that he will be at the side of our Communist Party and against those mercenaries who want to take our country from us,” he said. Mercedes was stunned. That same afternoon she decided to quit her job. “Even if we are left without a peso in this family, nobody is going to put a stick in my hand to break the head of a neighbor’s son. They can’t count on me,” says Mercedes.

These episodes are being repeated in all companies and state offices in the country. The employee of an official publishing house tells that they were transferred to a farm of the Union of Young Communists to cut branches and make sticks “so that the workers defend themselves from the provocations of the mercenaries.” Many say privately that they do not intend to hit anyone. In addition to losing their jobs, some of those who have refused to take part in actions against the protesters have suffered “acts of repudiation,” a kind of violent and humiliating escrache – a public shaming – on the part of their colleagues.

The phone ringing catches Leidy Laura breastfeeding her baby. On the other end of the line, her sister, who lives in Miami, tells her that they have been following the television news by the minute since Sunday, celebrating the possible fall of Castroism.

“Here it is militarized, the streets full of police and men armed with rocks and baseball bats,” she replied with concern. She has not left her home in Camagüey for “three days” for fear of being trapped “in one of the talanqueras – makeshift traps – they have set up in the city.”

Leidy Laura is 24 years old and the daughter of two Havanans who have told her what they experienced on August 5, 1994, when the previous social explosion shook the coast of the Cuban capital in an event that has come to be known as the Maleconazo. “But no way, this has been much bigger and across almost the entire island. That was the rehearsal and this was the implementation,” she says.

“This could become unlivable, if people cannot go out to buy food because of the confrontations and barricades everywhere, we are going to starve because no one has reserves of anything”

“My father always tells me that that time he was very excited that the dictatorship was falling, but that has been almost 30 years and it still stands,” she adds with a certain pessimism. “I had already made up my mind that my son was going to have to grow up with a ration book and shouting at school assemblies ‘Pioneers for Communism, we will be like Che’, but with what happened on Sunday, I don’t know, hope has returned.”

“This could become unlivable, if people cannot go out to buy food because of the confrontations and barricades everywhere, we are going to die of hunger because nobody has reserves of anything,” says Viviana, who until the arrival of the pandemic ran a thriving business renting rooms to tourists near the Prado in the beautiful city of Cienfuegos.

Not everyone is filled with hopes. Fear is also rampant on the island. Some fear that the regime’s repressive excesses will add fuel to the bonfire of discontent and the protests will spark a civil war. President Miguel Díaz-Canel fanned those flames when he said that “the combat order is given” and that they are “ready for anything.

“This country was already on the brink of a humanitarian crisis and now with this we are going faster towards the abyss. If international organizations do not help us, we will end up falling like flies,” Viviana continues. “But we could see this coming, we were already suffering too much and young people are different. They no longer believe the same stories, nor can you convince them with stories from the past.”

“The young people” that Viviana speaks of have been the protagonist of protests that point squarely to the political model that has prevailed on the island for 62 years. Although they have grown up under the most rigid indoctrination, the youth feel like citizens of the world thanks to new technologies, they have fewer ideological ties and they perceive that they owe nothing to the bearded men who came down from the Sierra Maestra.

“Young people” are like Lucas, 22, who not only uses Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, but has spent months taking refuge in Telegram threads and WhatsApp groups ruminating on his frustrations. Sunday’s protest was the first time he saw the faces of friends until then hidden under avatars. “We met and began to speak the same language,” he now recalls about the meeting in a corner of the Havana neighborhood of El Vedado. From there they set off the entire length of Calle San Lázaro holding hands. They did not have a leader, they were not part of an opposition party, but they became the thorn in the heart of a dying system.

The hierarchs with their well-ironed guayabera and bulging bellies do not understand that these youths with their spindly bodies from long walks and short food rations are not afraid of them. They have been making fun of the official rhetoric for years, and they have not watched national television for a long time so that the information mush prepared by the Party does not cause them to retch. They are impervious to the reproaches that officialdom throws at them. They are the future; while the police who beat them, the military who shoot them and the rapid response brigades who attack them are only the vestiges of a past that refuses to die but that, will also, go away.

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Editor’s Note: This report was published for the first time in the newspaper El Mundo.

Translator’s note: “Worms” (gusanos), is a term Fidel Castro chose to describe the first wave of people who left Cuba after the Revolution, and it has been repeatedly applied to anyone who doesn’t support the government ever since.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Now They Are the Ones Who Are Afraid of Us

“Freedom does not fit in a suitcase,” warn many on social media. (Screen capture)

14ymedio bigger

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 16 July 2021 — In the line, nobody speaks. A woman stares at the toe of her show and a young man taps his fingers on the wall. A few days have passed cine Cubans took to the streets in a protest without precedents in the last 62 years and outrage pervades every space. As images of police brutality emerge in the media, with more testimonies of mothers with their children who have disappeared since that Sunday, and videos of militarized cities, popular irritation grows.

Anyone who, before that already historic date, did not know this island might say that the authorities have managed to control the situation and that calm reigns again in the Cuban streets. But, in reality this apparent tranquility is just fear, anger and pain. In Havana, the tension in the air can be cut with a knife and everywhere there are police, military and civilians associated with to the Government with improvised clubs in their hands. Inside the houses the discomfort increases and the tears flow. Few have slept through the entire night.

Thousands of families are looking for someone in the police stations, while many others wait for the uniformed men to knock on their door to take away a relative suspected of participating in the protests. Some new sources of disagreement explode in different parts of the national geography and are drowned with blows and shots by special troops, the dreaded “black wasps.” Many independent journalists are detained, others are under house arrest, and internet access has been censored on several occasions since the first popular demonstration broke out.

The people whom the authorities showed as completely faithful to the system, docile and peaceful, no longer exists. In its place, there is a country full of screams, some loud and some silent, so it is not possible continue reading

to calculate exactly when it will explode. The real Cuba has distanced itself even more from the nation that inhabits the official press. The former feel that they have recovered their civic voice, massively tested their strength in the streets, and tasted shouting the word “freedom” aloud; while the headlines controlled by the official press speak of conspiracies coming from outside, of small groups that demonstrated, and of criminals who vandalized markets. Both stories are mutually exclusive and cannot coexist for long.

Miguel Díaz-Canel tried to shade things with the first words he spoke before the microphones that Sunday when, practically every hour, a new focus of protest came to light. “The combat order is given” and “we are ready for anything,” he threatened then, and the ghost of civil war flew over the archipelago. Now, without retracting those words, he intersperses concepts such as “harmony,” “peace” and “joy” but fails to convince, because along with those syrupy phrases hundreds of buses throughout the country continue to discharge their shock troops in squares and neighborhoods.

So far, the only announced easing, in an attempt to quell the protests, has been to cancel the limits on travelers bringing medicine, food, and toiletries to the Island. But the measure comes late, after years of demands it is seen as a crumb before the strong social demand that the system be dismantled, its main figures resign and a transition to democracy begin as soon as possible. “Freedom does not fit in a suitcase,” many warn on social networks, just as rebellion is not stopped by a police shield. “We were so hungry that we ate our fear”, can also be read everywhere. But now we have so much anger that they are the ones who fear us, and it shows.

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This text was originally published on the  Deutsche Welle website  for Latin America.

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And the Streets of Cuba Spoke Loud and Clear

Protesters in Santiago de Cuba, this July 11. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Havana, 12 July 2021 – It was only a question of time. The frustration and desperation had been accumulating and this Sunday the streets exploded. Thousands of Cubans left their homes to exercise the right to civic protest, the one that had been seized from them for more than half a century. With their cries of “Down with the dictatorship” they made it clear that neither the indoctrination nor the fear have managed to curtail the desire for freedom on this island.

Young people came out, those who had grown up with the dual currency, the lact of dreams, the blackouts and the brainwashing in the schools. Housewives came out, pots and pans in hand to at least bang on some cookware in which there is hardly anything to serve. Parents of families and their grandchildren came out; the first part of a generation that helped to construct the current authoritarian model, and the second, potential rafters in the Straits of Florida. The people came out.

Unprecedented and beautiful scenes all over the country, as if the spark of San Antonio de los Baños had ignited in the dry grass of social anger. Havana’s Capitol rocked with the cries of “freedom,” the streets of Cárdenas with a human cordon that challenged the shock troops, Palma Soriano shaken by the demonstrations, Alquízar exploding into its unpaved alleys and Camagüey with a human river in its squares. continue reading

This July 11 we demonstrate to the world and ourselves that we are many more than those who crush us, that when we unite and act they can only threaten us, imprison us or kill us but they cannot convince us to continue accepting the yoke. Now, officialdom will offer its version of events and blame the neighbor to the North, but we all know that spontaneity and massiveness were the distinctive sign of these protests.

You could see it coming, you just had to have your ear attentive to reality to notice the internal noise that was growing, and that yesterday shook off the gag.
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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

If It Weren’t For The Mango

Empty pallets in the EJT (Youth Labor Army) market on 17 and K streets in El Vedado (Havana, Cuba). (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sánchez, Havana, 6 July 2021 —  Of all the horrors experienced in Cuba during the crisis of the 90s, there was one that was announced as a possibility but that did not materialize: the dreaded Option Zero, in which the country would be totally shut down due to lack of fuel, families would be relocated to camps, and the collective pot would become the sole supplier of the little food that we would put into our mouths.

In my adolescence, I imagined a future of skeletal people around a campfire where water with some scraps was boiling, while the loudspeakers continued transmitting the speeches of the leader, a picture of health, with his calls for the sacrifices of others. Fortunately, before reaching that scenario, in the worst style of Cambodia under Pol Pot, a timid economic opening took place that saved us from the community soup pot. The fears did not stop with the flexibility measures, but were just temporarily put on hold.

This Tuesday morning, I toured various markets in Havana. The practically empty stands and the long faces of the customers brought those fears back to me. Are we on the brink of Option Zero? “At least we have the mangoes,” a neighbor replied when I shared my concerns. With the summer and the arrival of the rains, the trees are loaded with that fruit that “Castroism has not managed to destroy,” added the man. continue reading

However, the mango season lasts only a few weeks. After the last fruits fall from their branches, with what are we going to fill the hole left by those slices, yellow and sweet, that we now put on the plate? I fear that the humanitarian crisis that has been circling us for months is here. Every day that passes without the authorities recognizing the severity of the collapse is lives that are lost, and not only because of a resurgence of Covid-19, which the regime has let get out of hand, but because of the lack of nutrients and medicines.

These are moments to put aside arrogance and political pride and to ask for urgent international aid, to stop making up headlines and to put an end to the tactic of inflating the statistics of national production. The countdown has begun and we barely have the time for the last mangoes hanging from the bushes to ripen.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

What Denigrates the Cuban Peso the Most?

The government has created a system in which Cubans live segregated lives based on the currency they possess. (Capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchéz, Havana, 2 July 2021 — Before he was arrested and taken to the State Security barracks in Havana, the artist Hamlet Lavastida had been accused by government voices of promoting the writing of phrases on the Cuban peso (CUP) bills circulating on the island. Now, locked in Villa Marista, investigators seek to turn these incriminations into a crime that puts him behind bars. But, the indictment limps at several points, some legal, others ethical and many monetary.

The national currency, those banknotes that bear the faces of various heroes of independence, have long been systematically tainted by the very authorities that issue them. The peso was dishonored when it was condemned more than a quarter of a century ago to be second-rate money, which was not used to buy in the well-stocked stores, popularly known as shopping malls, which were opened in the midst of the crisis. A coin that is stained by its little value and that condemned to misery whoever carried it in their pockets.

I remember seeing workers in shabby clothes approach a market cash register and not be able to pay for the merchandise they were carrying. “This is in dollars,” the clerk would say almost reluctantly. Our money was not used at that time to contract for a mobile phone line, pay for a night in a hotel or buy a ticket for a trip abroad. They humiliated the Cuban peso so much that taking those bills out of one’s pocket is still more a source of shame than pride. continue reading

It is enough to read the three letters CUP to know that what we will receive in return will be impaired service, a lot of abuse of the customer, and  low quality merchandise. Our every-day peso has been disdained by the Central Bank of Cuba, which created a more colorful and powerful emulator, which for more than 25 years overshadowed what should have been the country’s main currency. The so-called chavitos – Cuban convertible pesos (CUC) – were a greater offense to the national currency than any phrase, even an expletive, that an indignant citizen might stamp on their watermark.

Lavastida’s idea of ​​writing 27N, next to the face of José Martí, is not what tarnishes or insults paper money. It has been the terrible management of the economy, the official historical disregard for the Cuban peso, the segregation between those who can access the stores that take payment only in freely convertible currency – where prices are expressed in US dollars – and those who only have CUP, along with the little signs that say “payment exclusively with Visa or Mastercard” – at the gates of certain state offices – those who have smeared blood and shit on every bill that circulates on this Island. This, indeed, is an outrage, a tremendous crime.

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Cuban Regime Loses Ground in the Battle for Control of the Internet

When Etecsa offered the ability to connect from mobile phones, we were already “Internet users without internet.” (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Havana, 5 June 2021 – An uninvited presence hovered over the spacious room where the eighth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) was held this April. The Internet was an unwanted and feared guest at the three-day event that took place in Havana. The organization, which governs the destiny of eleven million Cubans and which, for decades, has maintained a tight news monopoly on the island, is now challenged by social networks and memes.

“There should be no room for naivety at this point, nor for excessive enthusiasm for new technologies without ensuring computer security,” said Raúl Castro in the central report that he read to the delegates before leaving the post of general secretary of the PCC. His words displayed the concern that had been felt by the entire Castro leadership for months.

The Cuban government has lost the terrain of the internet for not understanding it, for believing that – as is the case with physical streets or university classrooms – fear and punishment are enough to silence dissent. The emergence in late 2018 and the continued resistance of the San Isidro Movement, which exists both online and on the streets, is a tribute to this failure.

The date of birth of the San Isidro Movement is no coincidence. With the arrival of the web browsing service to Cuban mobiles, in December 2018, an avalanche of popular denunciations, questions and ridicule against bureaucrats, officials and party leaders has been unleashed. As if in this nation, long gagged, we had all begun to scream at the same time, in a howl that mixes indignation, boredom and desire for change. continue reading

However, the history of this chorus of despair heard today on social networks began long before the Cuban Telecommunications Company (Etecsa) allowed Cubans to connect from cell phones. More than a decade ago, when the first independent blogs appeared on the island, part of a path was traced from which citizens are now beginning to see the fruits.

It was 2007 when the first personal blogs outside the control of Cuban institutions and ministries began to gain visibility on the networks. Generation Y, the blog that I started in April 2007, was for me “an exercise in cowardice” since it gave me a space to describe what was happening in Cuba in a way that was forbidden to me in my civic actions.

Now those times seem prehistoric, times when to publish we had to go disguised as foreigners to a few Internet cafés in Havana where access to nationals was restricted, while high prices were charged to tourists.

Also long gone the days of “tweeting blindly” on Twitter, a tool that, thanks to the possibility of publishing through text-only messages, allowed a thriving community of activists and reporters to have immediate insight into what was happening in the interior of the country. The independent journalism movement, still trying to recover from the repressive blow of the spring of 2003, found in these new technologies a breath of oxygen to grow.

A vibrant alternative blogosphere then emerged that was immediately placed at the center of official attacks, government propaganda smear campaigns, and repressive police operations. But, the main response from the Plaza of the Revolution was to create a captive and controlled blogosphere, which would serve as a sounding board for its slogans: take to the internet with a hammer and sickle in your hands.

Since then, the skirmishes on one side and the other have been countless, but the balance favors the protesting voices. The Cuban regime chose to censor web pages and to create controlled bubbles with substitutes for Facebook, Twitter and Wikipedia. Months of work, with professionals devoted to the programming of these parallel networks – resulted in the understanding that the Internet virus had already irremediably infected Cubans.

Despite the high prices for connecting to the web, which are still prohibitive for many state workers, people were peeking into the great world-wide-web and it was then very difficult to try to shrink it back to a ghetto of applications and digital sites associated with the Government. Unlike in China, where party leaders pushed for the creation of a neutered and guarded network very quickly, on this island it took too long for the olive-green elders to recognize the new enemy that was upon them.

By the time the state telecommunications monopoly Etecsa offered the ability to connect from mobile phones, on the other side here we were already “Internet users without internet” and we knew the potential of a tool that we had conquered with years of demands and creativity.

Then came everything that followed: the first images in more than half a century of a Cuban presidential caravan being booed by a crowd furious about the official delay in helping victims of a tornado in Havana; the acid mocking of a Commander of the historic Sierra Maestra who came up with the proposal that we eat ostriches to alleviate the chronic food crisis; the disconsolate tears of several families from whom the collapse of a balcony – which had been in danger of falling for years – robbed them of three little girls.

To top off all that mess, the new forms of social criticism have thrown themselves fully into the virtual village and use its tools effectively. The San Isidro Movement and its most visible figure, the artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, are practically digital natives to whom chatting, posting on YouTube or putting a live broadcast on Facebook are like breathing.

When on November 27, dozens of artists and activists met in front of the Ministry of Culture to demand the end of censorship and greater creative freedoms, mobiles connected to the web were the ideal infrastructure to narrate the protest. At nightfall, in front of the dreaded state agency, cell phone screens illuminated young, restless faces… full of energy.

Accept, however, is a verb that is not in the dictionary of the Cuban regime and since that November it has unleashed a fierce repressive campaign against these artists, mobilized its most intolerant television presenters, and turned the national media into firing squads against the reputation of its critics.

Since that time there has not been a single day of calm for the Cuban regime, which once strutted to control even whispers. A downpour of citizen criticism, even from those who identify with the official ideology, has fallen on them and threatens to continue to rage as new voices are added. To protect themselves from such acid rain they have tried to respond by displaying their slogans on the social networks… but it hardly works.

On the internet, the regime’s soldiers are effortlessly recognized, lack of spontaneity is paid for dearly, and blocking positions are detected with ease. Like an impromptu performer who sneaks into a high-level dance contest, the steps that the government has taken in the fields of propaganda through the Internet are clumsy, without rhythm and even ridiculous.

It is not in its medium and it shows; because its medium is controlled newspapers and censored television. For Castroism, the internet is a terrain where it is forced to operate but one it does not understand well.

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Editor’s Note: This text was originally published on Rest of World.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

The Cuban Baseball Federation Suffers From Historical Amnesia

Kiele Alessandra Cabrera during her intrusion on the field of the Palm Beach stadium during the game between Cuba and Venezuela. (Screen capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 1 June 2021 — The writer Eliseo Alberto Diego, known as Lichi, used to say that “history is a cat who always falls on her feet.” The Cuban Baseball Federation should be warned about this ability of the past to stand up, a way of avoiding silence and manipulation.

The official entity has protested the events that occurred in this Monday’s pre-Olympic baseball game between the teams from Cuba and Venezuela. In an exalted note, it describes as “unacceptable that characters contrary to the spirit of a sporting event attempt against the team’s concentration.”

The tantrum is in response to the posters with the phrases “Homeland and Life,” “Free Cuba,” and criticisms of Miguel Díaz-Canel, that were displayed in the stands of the West Palm Beach stadium during the live broadcast of the game, displays that Cuban State television was unable to prevent from sneaking into the Tele Rebelde channel. But it turns out that what happened yesterday is part of a civic tradition of baseball field protests that the regime itself praised when they occurred in Republican era Cuba. continue reading

On December 4, 1955, a group of young people threw themselves onto the field of the Cerro stadium while a game was being played between teams from Havana and Almendares. They carried a banner with demands against the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, with the moment captured by the television cameras broadcasting the ballgame, allowing the images to reach the screens of thousands of spectators throughout the island.

According to the official Cuban discourse, that action was more than justified, and they constantly recall it as a revolutionary feat. But with regards to what happened this Monday, they reproach the Florida stadium guards for not having acted “as established by the security protocols”…

The story is nothing other than a feline with a penetrating gaze that flips in the air and ends up landing with its nails on the susceptible skin of those who want to hide and distort it.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Stubbornness and Inefficiency Go Hand In Hand in the Cuban Leadership

“My generation already has a couple deep material wounds, to its cost.” (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 29 May 2021 — A few days ago in the middle of the night they removed all the light bulbs that illuminated the corridor on the 14th floor where I live in Havana; a friend’s cat was stolen and shortly afterward she found the remains of what was evidently the sacrifice and feast that some neighbors made with her pet; in a line to buy frozen chicken, the crowd went wild as the door was opened and trampled on two old women who fell in the stampede.

All these scenes and many others have returned to populate the lives of Cubans, as they once did during the crisis of the 1990s that, in an excess of putting makeup on the language, the regime dubbed “The Special Period.” For those who were born in this century, the current social and economic disaster is the most serious of their lives, but my generation already has a couple of these deep material wounds, to its cost, while for my parents’ generation we must add the rigors suffered in the 70s.

The return of these vignettes of misery is part of a stubborn cycle that has touched the existence of everyone on this Island. Faced with so much repetition, some honest statesmen concerned about the country’s well-being would have redirection the national course, abandoned the practices that led to constant scarcities suffered by the population, or ceded their positions to more capable executives. But stubbornness and inefficiency go hand in hand in the Cuban leadership. continue reading

A few years ago, an analyst and writer asked an interesting question during a conference held at a study center in the capital: “How many more times must the implementation of Marxist economic ideas fail to conclude that failure is it inherent in the model?” If we apply that doubt to Castroism, then it is worth asking how many more crises will Cubans have to suffer so that officials understand that the system does not work? How many “special periods” must accumulate for the leaders of the Communist Party to recognize their inability to provide us with prosperity and freedom?

Yesterday I saw a girl break a chocolate cookie in two. “I’m going to eat half today and save the other for tomorrow for breakfast,” she said. My eyes watered. It reminded me of a scrawny and hungry teenager in a very long line to buy some little chicks that we had to raise in our apartment in the San Leopoldo neighborhood. After an hours-long line, plus blows and shoves, that young woman returned home with some tiny yellow animals, none of which survived her inexperience in raising poultry or lack of food.

Of those images from the 90s there are some we have yet to see. I hope they do not arrive: The rafts loaded on shoulders crossing the streets heading towards Havana’s Malecón; the friend who embarked on one and was never heard from again; the kerosene-flavored pizza that was the only food for a couple of days; the Numantine leader asking us for more sacrifices from the dais. How much longer must a people endure to conclude that conformity is inherent in their character?

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

The Most Closely Watched Patient in the World

Members of State Security patrol the hospital where Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara is admitted. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Generation Y, Havana, 26 May 2021 — It is easy to spot them: they wear their hair short and closely observe everyone who passes near the Calixto García Hospital in Havana. They are the members of the State Security who patrol the hospital where the artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, the most closely watched patient in the world, has been admitted since May 2. Since he was taken to the hospital by State Security, he has only been seen through crude, highly edited videos that the political police themselves disseminate.

Otero Alcántara’s friends insist on speaking directly with him but they have not been allowed to visit him, nor does the artist have access to a telephone to communicate without intermediaries. The days are accumulating and the official version is becoming more and more untenable, according to which, after more than a week on a hunger and thirst strike in protest of the repression, this 33-year-old Havanan arrived at the hospital in perfect condition and with some enviable health indicators.

If he is in good physical shape, why has he been held there for more than two weeks? What is really happening in the long days that the artist spends between the four walls of a hospital room? All the answers that come to mind when asking such questions are, to say the least, disturbing. The official medical apparatus’s complicity with the repression has a long history on this Island. The publication of medical records of dissidents in the official media without consulting them, and the confinement in asylums of people who protested peacefully in public places are part of this worrying collusion. continue reading

If, to that, is added the strict surveillance operation that surrounds the Calixto García Hospital since Otero Alcántara’s arrival at one of its pavilions and the arrest of several activists who have tried to get closer, then the concerns grow even more. Among those who could gain access to the place, surrounded by some protection, are the most important figures of the Catholic Church, members of the foreign diplomatic corps and foreign media correspondents whose job it is to report what is happening on the island. But none have done so.

It is unknown so far if there have been efforts by any of them to access the room where the artist spends his days, but it is most likely that most of these bishops, ambassadors and accredited reporters have weighed the cost of making a request of that nature to the Cuban authorities. For the moment, their paralysis suggests that they have measured the price of interceding or reporting on the situation in Otero Alcántara and, after evaluating the pros and cons, they have chosen to keep their distance and not bother Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution.

While the accomplices are silent and the undecided remain in the shadows, the life of a man who until recently was pure energy may be falling over the precipice into a dark abyss. The irreverent artist who organized an independent art biennial, protested the removal of the bust of a communist leader and carried the Cuban flag over his body for several days, now looks quiet and bony in the images filtered by the ruling party: a patient with a dull gaze dull and debilitated body.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Seven Years of 14ymedio: ‘La Edad de la Peseta’*

First cover of ‘14ymedio ‘on May 21, 2014. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 21 May 2021 — Today marks seven years since the first cover of the newspaper 14ymedio. Do I regret having founded a general newspaper together with a group of colleagues? No … not at all: thanks to this our early mornings are as intense and noisy as midday; on top of that, it must be said that this profession, defined as the worst option “for making friends,” takes a heavy toll when it comes to “thinking well of” certain people…; editorial shock is the most common state of mind… life is going to hit the headlines and at the “last minute”; the philologist that I once was has been totally absorbed by the reporter and the editor… there is no rest, there is no peace… nor any possibility of going back; politicians look at us with reluctance and citizens with complaints; the newsroom’s phone does not stop ringing and we can barely cover a part of the stories that come to us; our digital site continues to be blocked on servers in Cuba and, yesterday, part of the team “went dark” when they cut our internet connection.

Anyway, today we toast this newspaper that raises our cortisol and adrenaline, that is not ‘thought well of’ by those who would the gag, the complicit silence or the servile applause; which is a repressive objective but also the target of some words of encouragement… that has made us find the meaning of being here and now. In short, it has allowed us not to pack our bags to leave our country and – staying in it – to not shut up…

Translator’s note: The title of a film by Cuban director Pavel Giroud, translated into English as “The Silly Age.”

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Camilo, a Repressor “Disqualified by History”

The agent Camilo was also involved in the act of repudiation against Reinaldo Escobar at the corner of 23rd and G streets, in 2009. (Collage)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 1 May 2021 – A long history of repression accompanies the State Security agent who calls himself “Camilo” (the lack of creativity in the use of pseudonyms is inherent in the type of person who works for the political police). He was and has been one of the most active repressors against the alternative blogosphere on this Island, especially against the journalist Reinaldo Escobar and this servant.

In the distant year 2008, he summoned us to threaten us in a station in Havana’s Vedado district. Now (with more gray hair, more belly and less modesty) we have seen him repressing the young people who protested this Friday on Obispo Street in the Cuban capital. He was also at the act of repudiation against Reinaldo Escobar on the corner of 23rd and G streets, in 2009 and again when we were arrested in Bayamo in 2012. Just by looking at his image I can feel his knuckles on my skin and the strong odor of his sour sweat stuck to my face.

Oh… Camilo… Do you remember when you told my husband and me that we were “disqualified for dialogue”? What “dialogue” were you talking about? The conversation that is established between one who screams and another who is gagged? Of the cackle of one voice? Of the uniform chorus that flows from a single throat? Oh… Camilo… you will be “disqualified by history” that will only give you the place you deserve: that of an instrument used and discarded by his masters.

Selection of posts relating to ‘Camilo’

Paramilitaries

The Reprimands of Wednesday

Continued Wave of Kidnapping Regime Opponents From Their Homes

Human Rights Defender Kidnapped in His Home

Kiss of the Tiger

Journalist Missing

My Interrogator Didn’t Come Because He Had No Gas

Report on Government Actions and Repression in Cuba

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

“I Know that at Some Point People in Cuba are Going to Wake Up En Masse”

Eliécer Jiménez-Almeida is the director of the documentary ‘Veritas’. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 23 April 2021 — Curiosity is the hallmark of the work of the Cuban journalist and filmmaker Eliécer Jiménez-Almeida (b. Camagüey, 1983). It was the desire to investigate that led him to make documentaries such as Persona (2014), in which he approaches the lives of five individuals; Now! (2016), which denounces the repression against human rights activists on the Island; and Usufructo (2010), an incisive look at land management.

Now, that incessant search brought him close to one of the most controversial topics in contemporary Cuban history: the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961. But in his most recent workVeritas (2021), Jiménez-Almeida does not try to narrate the details of a battle but rather gives voice to the protagonists of that action, to the part hidden and vilified in the official manuals.

Sánchez: You are from the generation that grew up hearing in school that members of the 2506 Brigade were “mercenaries.” How did you experience emotionally getting closer to the other part of the story?

Jiménez-AlmeidaWhen I lived in Cuba, I was always curious to know what was beyond the word ‘mercenary’. Why did Fidel Castro give them that name? After one grows up and culturally matures, one realizes that Fidel Castro disparagingly named all those who were his enemies, as we can see with the “bandits” in the Escambray or the “worms.” continue reading

When you live in Cuba and see how reality does not match the story, one always has an attitude, or at least I had it, of mistrusting what they said. It is a process of unlearning what they told you in Cuba and learning new knowledge. I always think that knowledge is what makes us free and knowing about our history is what will help us break down the ideological walls of Castroism. You grow up poisoned by propaganda and you have to make a great effort to first become a normal human being and then become mature enough to understand reality. In this process, my curiosity and my desire to know were fundamental.

Sánchez: You filmed part of the material within Cuba. What risks did you face and what were the satisfactions of that part of the shoot?

Jiménez-AlmeidaI filmed in Cuba as I always did, without permission and being myself. The difference is that now I am a person who lives abroad, and although I am still Cuban I have other responsibilities and another worldview. That implies a very great risk because you know that there is a totalitarian dictatorship there and you know what the henchmen of that dictatorship are capable of.

But as a filmmaker, as a documentary filmmaker and as a human being, I felt responsible for being there. It was important for me to go to Playa Girón* [the Bay of Pigs] and take those images. Those were the first images I recorded, because if I hadn’t managed that there would be no documentary. We had some clashes because the lady who was renting us her house got in touch with State Security. The driver who took us noticed and we got out of there as soon as possible. Once I got to Havana, I got on a plane and nothing happened, but it could have happened.

Sánchez: Since the documentary Usufructo, made in the midst of the so-called “Raulist reforms,” ​​and up to the present time, a lot has changed in Cuba and in the work of Eliécer Jiménez-Almeida. How much have both been “transformed”?

Jiménez-AlmeidaI made Usufruct in 2010 and it started to become known a year later in the midst of Raúl Castro’s reforms. It is very difficult to establish a parallelism in the process of the transformation of my life and that of the country. While those changes failed like those made by his brother Fidel before, my life has improved tremendously and I think it is because I have always fought and worked for my individual freedom.

It makes me very sad for the Cubans who live on the island because of the conditions in which many of them live. Unfortunately, socialism is a resounding failure. But in Cuba there is neither socialism nor communism, but a mafia family that controls people’s lives at will. I detached myself from all that, I ended up leaving and I have a better life, sometimes very sad because one leaves Cuba, but Cuba does not leave one.

Sánchez: Veritas is garnering applause and headlines in the press. Has it also caused you any problems yet?

Jiménez-AlmeidaIt is a documentary made in a quiet voice, in a very passive, peaceful voice. It has garnered some applause and it has not caused us any problems and I think it is because of the treatment that is given to the film. We try to achieve a human film, not a political film, distancing ourselves as much as we could on a subject as politicized as this, to get closer to human beings, to their transparency, to their honesty, and I think that Cuba will appreciate that because we are fed up with so much ideology.

The example of these men who were in the Bay of Pigs, their courage, their dignity, their moral example, taking on the freedom of Cuba from such an early moment, I hope it will serve us all to emancipate ourselves and be better people, better Cubans, and at some moment to have a better country. Veritas has no other pretension than to become the story of a historical moment from a very human point of view. That is why we decided to make a film in which only the voice of the protagonists, of these heroes, was present.

Sánchez: How do you see the protests that have occurred in recent months in Cuba from the artistic sector, such as the 27N (27 November) and the San Isidro Movement?

Jiménez-AlmeidaThe protests that occurred in San Isidro and in front of the Ministry of Culture are a ray of light and I am very proud that these protests come from artists, from people that I know are strongly committed. The commitment of an artist is emotional, sentimental, affective, very different and honest. I am a radical optimist in the case of Cuba and I know that at some point people in the country are going to wake up en masse. It fills me with great optimism that they have the courage to do it from a poor neighborhood, to do it from the deepest asceticism, because when you look inside the house of Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, there is nothing there. In other words, every image there is of that house flatly proves false the campaigns that the Cuban government carries out against it. I feel like one of them and very excited.

With the song Patria y Vida (Homeland and Life) they turned that little flame into a pretty big fire. I just want them to be persistent, to be patient, to take care of their lives and to teach all of us what a force of will and a moral force it is to rebel against an oppressive system like the Cuban system. Although I am an optimist with experiences and I know that what they are doing is not easy, they are brave people and their commitment is very strong. I am infinitely grateful to them.

Sánchez: Can Veritas be seen in Cuba? Will other historical documentaries come from the hand of Eliécer Jiménez-Almeida? What other passages in Cuban history would you like to make films about?

Jiménez-AlmeidaVeritas is made for Cubans, conceived for them. It is a movie that moves me and I am a human being. It is the first of a trilogy that I would like to develop that includes this documentary, a film that will be called Bandidos, about the war in the Escambray, and then I would like to do Prisión, on Cuban political prisoners.

This trilogy would be a dream to do, but I am aware that getting money to make this type of film is very difficult because, unlike what the Cuban government and the official media say over there, over here neither the CIA nor Yankee imperialism has the least interest in anything you do, and you have to go out every day to earn your dollars to pay your rent, car registration, gas, and feed yourself.

I am going to work very hard to make this happen, but I know it is a very difficult road. I love Cuba very much and if we can get to know its history better, we will have a better chance of building a better, inclusive future in which we all have opportunities to be happy.

*Translator’s note: In Cuba the event is called after Playa Girón, a beach on the Bahia de Cochinos (Bay of Pigs); in the United States the event is called after the Bay of Pigs.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Congress or Funeral? In Cuba, You Never Know

Raúl Castro and Miguel Díaz-Canel during the Eighth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba. (Revolution Studies)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Generation Y, Havana, 20 April 2021 — In the illegal Cuban lottery, the number eight means death, the same number as this edition of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) Congress that concluded on Monday in Havana. The conclave has had all the solemnity of a political funeral for a generation that is vacating its high positions, but it has offered few optimistic signs for our national life which is going through its worst crisis in this century.

The departure of Raúl Castro from the secretariat of the most powerful organization in the country is not surprising. The irremediable footsteps of biology have pushed him to step aside, at least publicly. Even so, although no one at the top of the Party now bears the surname of the family clan that has ruled Cuba for 62 years, it would be naive to think that the lineage that came from the small town of Birán will not try to continue to control the national destiny.

To remain at the helm of the ship without being visibly in the main cabin, Raúl Castro drew up a plan in advance that is consistent with the methodical discipline of his personal motto: “without haste but without pause.” The naming of Miguel Díaz-Canel to lead the Communist Party, a ‘favored youngest son’ trained to maintain the continuity of the system at all costs, has been a fundamental step in this plan for the transfer of public responsibilities. continue reading

The intrusion into the Political Bureau of  Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Calleja, Raul Castro’s former son-in-law and head of the military consortium that controls a large part of the island’s tourism business, suggests that the priorities of the outgoing Party leader are to prevent a reformist turn of events from collapsing the system with the result that the family would lose the management of the most succulent pieces of the national economic pie.

This is the roadmap that the general has defined to spend his last days safe from courtrooms and prison bars, but it is not enough. The country that has been passed along, at least nominally, is experiencing its moment of greatest citizen dissatisfaction with, and unrest over, the political and economic model. The absurd bans, centralism and poor productive management have contributed to a material disaster that the pandemic has deepened in the last year.

Public demonstrations of disagreement are no longer exclusive to the opposition and rare is the week in which a street protest, a confrontation between the people and the police, or a denunciation of the excess of State Security is not broadcast on social networks. The entire nation seems like a vast expanse of dry grass under the inclement sun of misery and repression, which could be ignited with a small spark or lead to another of the many migratory crises that Cubans have cyclically lived through.

In this Eighth Congress, the outgoing leaders of the Communist Party preferred to send the message of persistence on the current path instead of promoting change, and opted to stick to the script of passing on the ideological baton to the detriment of announcing a plan of openings that a part of the population was expecting. In the coming weeks, as more details of the event are released, there will be a few who will rub their hands, many who end up assembling a makeshift raft to emigrate, and others who will light a candle for the nation that continues to expire.
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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Castro Leaves, Castroism Remains

The responsibility of carrying out the urgent reforms that Cuba needs rests on the shoulders of the successors appointed by Raúl Castro. (EFE / ACN)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 17 April 2021 — A few hours before the start of the Eighth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), there were those who insisted that the conclave would be canceled and Raúl Castro’s departure from office postponed. The hypothesis was not entirely far-fetched but it failed to take into account two very important aspects of the man who,  until yesterday, was secretary of the PCC: his mediocre predictability and the almost 90 years that weigh on his shoulders.

Without surprises, as one who carries out a long-drawn up plan down to the smallest details, Castro not only opened the Party meeting but also confirmed that his name will no longer formally head an organization placed above any institution or entity of power on this Island. He had long prepared for that moment and postponing it was to risk dying on the job.

Since the announcement, the international media has been filled with headlines about a farewell to a surname that has ruled the country for 62 years, but without perceiving that Castroism is more than a man and his clan. It is a way of managing politics, controlling the press, managing the economy from the military sector, defining education plans, managing international relations and structuring ideological propaganda. continue reading

Now, when Raúl Castro says goodbye to his secretariat in the Party and goes through the last stretch of his finite biology, he remains looking over the shoulders of the successors to whom he designated the responsibility of carrying out the urgent reforms that the country needs. But embarking on the path of these changes implies dismantling, to a large extent, Castroism, that system marked by voluntarism, inefficiency and intolerance.

Molded and promoted by Fidel Castro and later touched up by his brother with the flexibilities carried out in the past decade, Castroism has ended up establishing itself as a way of behaving. Hence, it does not matter if the surname that gives the system its name will no longer be in the minutes or documents. As long as the heirs to power do not dismantle such a legacy, it will be as if both brothers were still in command of the national ship.

Is Miguel Díaz-Canel willing to dismantle that strict network of controls and absurdities in which Castroism has gripped an entire country? Does he want his legacy to be as a continuist who sank the Island, or as a reformist who prioritized the well-being of the people over the dark task of prolonging a dysfunctional regime? As long as Raúl Castro breathes, those questions are unlikely to be answered, and by then the situation is likely to be even more catastrophic.

In order to say goodbye to Castroism, it is necessary to remove the fundamental pillars that make this stale populism, disguised as sovereign nationalism, an evil deeply rooted in Cuba. They would have to dismantle their hatred of difference, that deep allergy to any criticism or dissent that has been one of its most characteristic signs. But its end would also have to eliminate the economic centralism with which they have controlled everything from the sugar trade to the importation of a vehicle.

In order to say goodbye to Castroism, it is necessary to eradicate the confusion that national independence is only possible from the socialist management model and, incidentally, set aside the fallacy that something similar to a system of social justice and equality for all governs in Cuba. Burying Castroism involves opening the parliament to plurality, the newsstands to the diversity of the press, and the schools to other versions of history.

Raúl Castro’s farewell eulogy this Friday in front of a party organization increasingly diminished in number and social descent, is not enough. The true end of the Castro era will come with the eradication of that constant hatred of the other, of prosperity, wealth and freedom, that one family managed to sneak into the DNA of an entire country.
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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.