The Day Fidel Castro Admitted the Assault on the Moncada Barracks Was a Flop

On a program intended to commemorate the event, Castro ended up saying publicly that he should have skipped it and gone “straight to the Sierra Maestra.”

Fidel Castro during a July 24, 2000 appearance on State TV’s Roundtable program in which he spoke about the attack on Moncada. / Screencapture / Roundtable

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yunior García Aguilera, Madrid, July 17, 2024 — During a taping of the “Roundtable” program in 2000, Fidel Castro showed up unexpectedly at the television studio. “The problem is that I was listening to the program on television like everyone else,” he said on camera, “but I didn’t know that you were going to address these topics. And suddenly I see you asking a question. Someone interprets it one way, someone else another. And then I’m left thinking, ’Wow… I’m still here!’”

Needless to say, the panic on the faces of the panelists was immediately obvious. You could tell that everyone was trying to figure out where the hell they had screwed up. One of them, the most obsequious, nervously blurted out, “Who better than you, commander?” so they handed him the microphone. No one knows what brand of whiskey the dictator was drinking that day but it threw him for such a loop that it resulted in a stream of gibberish of biblical proportions.

The entire liturgy of the Castro regime is basically a celebration of failure. Mountains of books have been written on this topic but, if you ask any average Cuban student about it, the only thing he has been taught to say is: “It was the small engine that drove the big engine.” An example of how common it is in our classrooms to confuse history with mechanics.

No one knows what brand of whiskey the dictator was drinking that day but it threw him for such a loop that it resulted in a stream of gibberish of biblical proportions

The young Castro’s plan seemed simple enough: dress up some boys to look like sergeants, walk into the second largest military barracks in the country, take it over in ten minutes, give orders to the soldiers, grab the weapons Black-Friday-style and mobilize the entire party-going population of Santiago de Cuba. Such was Fidel’s confidence in the town that he decided not to recruit anyone from the area except for one person who, out of obligation, had previously cased the surroundings. In short, if the town continue reading

turned out to be too hungover to follow the beat, the fallback plan was to flee to the mountains. Piece of cake! The strategy dreamed up by this “genius” was primarily based on the assumption that the barracks’ soldiers were all as dumb as rocks.

It is not my intention in this article to rehash what happened at Moncada. Readers themselves can find thousands of accounts circulating online. Much better than listening to opponents demystify the event is being able to appreciate the personal frustration of its protagonist. Castro himself had already said in other interviews how, as a child, he became a ringworm killer. From his own mouth we found out that he learned at university it was better to bring a gun to the classroom than a book. But the Roundtable interview to which I refer is a real gem. In it, he confesses to a lot of unusual things. For example, we learn that Raúl Castro never led his battalion but that historians had just assumed he had been its leader. Or that he literally recruited a bunch of young people to support him so that he could become “the first professional revolutionary.”

In his usual smug tone, he started out characterizing the plan as “perfect,” then immediately added, “If I had to do it over again, I would do exactly the same thing. But then things got out of hand. As he was recalling the events, he began realizing how crazy it all sounded and his body language started to give him away.

“That’s why I say it. . . what I’m not going to say. . . but I’m not going to say it because, once I’ve said it, some people might, you know. . . somewhat disagree.”

The old tyrant began to doubt his own words on camera. A few seconds later, he was already admitting to a huge disappointment. I quote: “That’s why I say it. . . what I’m not going to say. . . but I’m not going to say it because, once I’ve said it, some people might, you know. . . somewhat disagree.”

The Roundtable propagandists went into full Shakira mode: deaf, dumb and blind*. The program they had prepared was supposed to celebrate the achievements at Moncada, not dismiss them. Finally, the khaki-clad fossil had had enough and categorically disavowed the whole Moncada affair. He admitted in front of everyone that he should have skipped it and gone “straight to the Sierra Maestra.” He looked at his subjects as though he had just relieved himself of a heavy burden and said: “There, I’ve said it!”

That is how Fidel Castro himself upended the whole Moncada myth.

*Video…. and Lyrics in English

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

Carlos Espinosa, An Essential Look at Cuba

I want to think that death surprised him while he was reading, with his eyes shining when he found some clue, some lost piece in the puzzle of our culture

Cuban intellectual Carlos Espinosa passed away this Saturday in Madrid at the age of 74 / Facebook

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yunior García Aguilera, Madrid, 8 July 2024 — In one of the presentations of the play Jacuzzi [written by the author of this article] in Madrid, someone from the group came running to the dressing room with the news that Carlos Espinosa Domínguez was in the audience. If there had been a nerveometer to measure the ensuing panic, it would have broken instantly. But not because of the fear that fierce critics provoked; we already knew that Carlos was very elegant when it came to giving a professional opinion, even if it was negative. What triggered our anxiety was the privilege of acting before one of the most authoritative voices of Cuban theater, whose name was synonymous with rigor, wisdom and excellence.

At the end of the show, the actors approached me: “Did you see him? Did he tell you anything about the play?” Nothing, I answered them. And we all felt low, and neither the audience’s applause nor the congratulations could raise our spirits. Nobody confessed it that night, but each of us went home with the terrible feeling that he didn’t like the play.

However, the next day, I received a call. On the other side of the phone, a soft and slow voice said good morning to me. It was Carlos. He had gotten my number through a mutual friend and wanted us to know that he had been deeply excited about Jacuzzi. He apologized for leaving the theater in such a hurry, but he had to return to Aranjuez, almost 50 kilometers from Madrid. After that he didn’t write just one, he wrote two articles for Cubaencuentro about the show. The second carried a title where it positioned itself without hesitation: The dream of a free and inclusive Cuba*. continue reading

Since that day we haven’t stopped talking. He wanted to know everything. He wondered with a child’s curiosity about details that I hadn’t even noticed myself

Since that day we haven’t stopped talking. He wanted to know everything. He wondered with a child’s curiosity about details that I hadn’t even noticed myself. I went to see his apartment in Aranjuez, a retreat where he avoided any distraction that would take him away from what was important: to investigate, rummage through the bowels of Cuban culture until he found what they call soul. I was surprised how up-to-date he was, especially about what was happening in Cuba. We conspired. We confessed terrible experiences suffered on that Island, but we did it more with hope than remorse. He himself proposed to me the publication of a volume of five of my works for the Verbum Publishing House. And that was his penultimate job.

This Saturday, when I left the flamenco show where I earn my bread, Maestro Carlos Celdrán called me to give me the news of his death. Another friend of his, the journalist Carlos Cabrera, also called to share his pain. I couldn’t believe it. I called him immediately and his cell phone was busy. It seemed like one of those hoaxes, Chomsky-style, but on the networks there were publications from serious colleagues who also talked about his death. The rest of the times I insisted on calling, a long ringing with no answer confirmed the worst.

I learned later, from an article by Carlos Cabrera, that a neighbor of his warned the firefighters, surprised because Espinosa did not respond to his calls. He lived alone, with that loneliness of the alchemist whose research has become a sacrament. I know that his last work, Así Siempre los Tiranos [Thus Always Tyrants], had become an obsession that required him to stretch every minute. And anyone who knows the size of his work, knows that Carlos was like those men of other centuries who make you wonder how the hell they could write so much. That’s why I don’t want to think about the sadness of his solitude but about the freedom that the word also implies.

I want to think that death surprised him while reading, with his eyes shining when he found some clue, some lost piece in the puzzle of our culture or our history, if they are different things. I want to remember him with his shy smile, despite the daring of his writing. I want to stay with his absence of anger, which did not imply any absence of character. Carlos Espinosa was, like few others, a man with judgment, but his opinions about the political situation in Cuba went beyond the immediate. They were much more comprehensive and profound.

I am not at all surprised by the silence of some institutions in Cuba to which he contributed a lot, nor the silence of some of his colleagues. There remains his work, tremendously immense.

I didn’t want to refer to Espinosa’s biography in this article. Other voices, more authoritative than mine, have already written excellent obituaries. Also on the networks, several artists and intellectuals have expressed deep sorrow at his loss. I am not at all surprised by the silence of some institutions in Cuba to which he contributed a lot, nor the silence of some of his colleagues. There remains his work, tremendously immense, which speaks more than anything else.

My main reason for this article is to be able to say goodbye, as if he could read it. In his last message he scolded me big time for taking so long to answer his calls. I didn’t have time to talk to him about my telephone phobia. I couldn’t thank him enough for his effort to bring out a book that we couldn’t present together. I didn’t get to tell him in the most sincere way how much I owed him, how much we owed him. Carlos knew how to look at Cuba as you look at the things you love. And his look – time will be in charge of confirming it – has been an essential look.

Translator’s note: The review closes with this: On his Facebook account, Carlos Celdrán, National Theatre Award winner, wrote: “Since I saw it, some time ago, in Havana, I assumed that Jacuzzi , by Yunior García, was a tremendous, sincere, unusual, highly accomplished work. Last night, and this time in Madrid, Jacuzzi has shaken me again. Not only me, but the entire audience that filled the room and gave a standing ovation, moved at the end of this performance that, I can assure you, has been a high point, very high, in Yunior’s theatre. The show crossed time, distances, the accumulated pain of these last years to arrive purified, whole and leave us with what only the theatre with its stripping down can achieve.”

Translated by Regina Anavy

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

Never a Time of Peace for the Cuban Economy

The revolution is not in crisis. The revolution itself is a perennial crisis and a chronic illness.

Photo of the most recent Council of Ministers meeting where measures to deal with a “war economy” were proposed / Granma

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yunior García Aguilera, Madrid, July 2, 2024 — Fidel Castro did not want to call the great Cuban debacle of the 1990s a crisis. He preferred the euphemism “Special Period.” He used the term twenty times during his speech on September 28, 1990 along with the tagline “in times of peace.” He made his audience’s heads spin with talk pf sweet potatoes and cassava that had been harvested nine months late yet had not dried out. When one looks back at his speeches dispassionately, one wonders how our parents came to believe in the commandante’s “consummate genius.” Clearly, his genius was in direct proportion to our stupidity.

The Royal Spanish Academy dictionary has two definitions for the word “crisis.” The first refers to “a profound change with important consequences in a process or a situation, or in the manner in which they are observed.” The second meaning indicates the “sudden intensification of a disease’s symptoms.” When we talk about the Cuban economy, the latter seems to better align with our own experience. The revolution is not in crisis. The revolution itself is a perennial crisis and a chronic illness.

In April 2019 Raúl Castro was frightening everyone with the prospect of a return to the Special Period. The measures he announced at the time now seem like a precursor to to every package of new legislation that has followed. continue reading

All the government’s fanfare masks preparations for the crisis Venezuela will experience following presidential elections on July 28

The specter of the Special Period arouses so much public anxiety that party ideologues advised Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel to avoid mentioning it. Like crossword creators, they have been puzzling out different ways to describe the crisis. In September 2019, the anointed president began talking about a situation that was “simply energetic,” describing it as “temporary.” Faced with a barrage of criticism over this, he casually mentioned a few days later that the situation could be permanent.

As the Mexican singer/songwriter Juan Gabriel would say, that’s how it goes. Currency unification and the Covid pandemic combined to expose the ineptitude and haplessness of the Castros’ heir, though, this time, widespread frustration led to the biggest public protest in our country’s history on 11 July 2019. They say that Díaz-Canel, once a fan of Communist-sponsored neighborhood street parties, now can’t stand listening to Julio Iglesias.

The crisis has gone from being a “contingency” to something worthy of a Hollywood premier: an “economy at war!” At this point, one imagines Soviet T-55 tanks transporting ration baskets and the regime’s last ten fighter planes firing rounds of grocery store bread.

If this crisis is the same as previous ones, why change the name? Why use this term at a time marked by real conflagration? Not even Fidel at his most reckless was ever so foolish. At least when he used war-time terminology, he was subtle enough to clarify that it was being done “in peace-time” to avoid poking the bear during a moment of extreme internal weakness.

It is not at all certain that, after Maduro’s eventual fall, the Castro-Canel regime will also crumble

The world’s press has reported the news without giving it too much importance or wasting one drop of ink talking about the U.S. embargo. For example, Spain’s “El País” preferred to quote the economist Pedro Monreal to help explain the subject to its readers. It cites bureaucracy and inefficient management of state institutions as some of the causes. On the other hand, the Cuban government insists that it is a matter of “correcting distortions.” All indications are that that, when they use the verb “to correct,” they are referring to the Royal Academy’s sixth definition of this word, which means to expel excrement.

All the government’s fanfare mask preparations for the crisis Venezuela will experience following presidential elections on July 28. There is no way for Cuba to emerge from the process unscathed. If Maduro loses, it’s all over. If Maduro steals the election, the public outcry will be so great that the sound of protestors banging pots and pans in the streets of Caracas will be heard back in Havana. Anyone with at least a passing knowledge of the Venezuelan situation knows that Maduro does not even have the support of his country’s Communist Party, which describes him as a gangster who brought about a national tragedy.

On the other hand, there is no guarantee that, after Maduro’s eventual fall, the Castro-Canel regime will crumble also. Some heads will roll and replacements will eventually be found for Alejandro Gil, the former economics minister who was summarily removed from office last February. The heads have been falling for more than sixty years but the abyss is so deep that they have not yet hit bottom. Just in case, Díaz-Canel has already prepared a long list of new euphemisms for his next crisis.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

Attack Yarini: The Combat Order Is Given

The great Havana pimp was the dandy who dazzled everyone while riding his white braided-tail steed or walking his greyhounds through the streets of the capital

The Havana pimp in one of the few photographs of him remaining / Archive

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yunior García Aguilera, Madrid, 23 June 2024 — Yarini has become news again. The great Havana pimp, the most bastard of national heroes, the greatest sex symbol of our myths, returns to the Cuban scene thanks to Carlos Díaz and theatre company El Público. Obviously, the regime’s moralistic halitosis has exhaled its discontent on social media. Why so? Well, because Yarini is not an accepted theme in the murals of the CDRs (Committee for the Defense of the Revolution,), but his tomb continues to receive flowers; because his name is not listed in the pantheon of the PCC (Cuban Communist Party), but it continues to inspire artists and poets. However, what irritates the one-party terrorists the most is not Yarini’s heterodox morals, but the neighborhood where he sculpted his legend, a name they would rather erase from all our maps today: the neighborhood of San Isidro.

Alberto Manuel Francisco Yarini y Ponce de León was not just a pimp. If he had not died in the “war of the pant flies,” perhaps he would have held a position as a representative to the House for the Conservative Party, and who knows if his popularity would have brought him to the highest chair in the Republic. His funeral was attended by more than 10,000 people, including President José Miguel Gómez. His friends refused to load his coffin in the imperial hearse and decided to carry it on their shoulders to the Colón cemetery. Enrique José Varona was the first to place his signature on his obituary. Sindo Garay and Manuel Corona shared friendship and songs with him. His “ekobios” [brothers or friends in the Lucumí religion] sang the dirge “Enlloró” before the cemetery walls.

His friends refused to load his coffin in the imperial hearse and decided to carry it on their shoulders all the way to Colón cemetery

Yarini was the dandy that dazzled everyone while riding on his white braided-tail steed or walking his greyhounds through the streets of Havana. He had attended the best schools in Cuba and the United States. But he was also the guy willing to help the abused, rubbing shoulders with the disadvantaged, admiring and defending patriots who had lost favor. continue reading

One of the anecdotes that started his popularity occurred in the café El Cosmopolita. Yarini and other young men were chatting with Major General Jésus ’Rabbi’, a hero of the three wars. A few meters away, two foreigners looked at them in contempt. One of them muttered in English: “What a filthy country this is, where whites get together to drink with blacks.” Yarini was perhaps the only one in the group who understood the phrase. With his usual courtesy, he asked the Mambi hero to move. But already outside the café, the racists continued their mockery. So Yarini went from words to action by fracturing the more insolent man’s nose and jaw. Later on, it would be known that this man was the chargé d ’affaires of the United States Embassy, no less.

Yarini was not and did not intend to be a pure man. It is nonsense to judge him based on the current discussions about machismo and feminism. It is precisely his anti-hero quality that has inspired so many creators for more than a century. This ‘homme fatal‘ from Havana has been inspiration for writers from Leonardo Padura to the extreme government supporter Miguel Barnet. His person has been present in films such as “Secondary Papers,” by Orlando Rojas, or “Broken Gods,” by Ernesto Daranas. The most referential biographical essay is undoubtedly “San Isidro, 1910: Alberto Yarini and his time,” by Dulcila Cañizares.

But it is theater where the criollo Casanova has been fantasized about the most. There are almost a dozen drama plays inspired by him. The best known are “Requiem for Yarini,” by Carlos Felipe and”El Gallo de San Isidro“(San Isidro’s Rooster), by Brene. One of the most interesting plays is called “The French are not from Havana,” written by the exiled playwright Pedro Monge Rafuls, where the author recreates one of the most controversial rumors about the male-myth: the homoerotic relationship between Yarini and his best friend, Pepe Basterrechea. This storyline is not simply Monge’s creation. Even Cañizares herself subtly touches on it in her book.

The repressive apparatus’s spokespeople would be mocked if it were just another stupid trolling of the Cuban theater

I would have loved to see the version Norge Espinosa has written for “El Público,” but I am almost 7,500 kilometers from the Trianon of Havana. No one is surprised that it was a resounding success. Nor is it surprising that the regime’s cyber-combatants lash out at the premiere or that the chosen henchman is Marco Velázquez Cristo. This individual has been one of the ink-spitting siphons of State Security for a very long time. His writings are a hemorrhage of bad taste, ignorance and fundamentalism. But it is obvious almost no good writer would be willing to fulfill such an embarrassing task.

The presenter of the TV show “Con Filo,” Michel Torres Corona, has proposed to playwrights to do works inspired by Álvarez Cambra. It is clear that, for him, art is nothing more than a political-cultural activity, a morning paper or a pamphlet. I do not deny the possibility that someone can be inspired by the eminent Cuban orthopedist, but to turn him into a dramatic character it would be necessary to investigate his dark side, his conflicts, his contradictions. But knowing our narrow-minded bureaucrats, it would surely lead to censorship.

Carlos Díaz has already had similar experiences. When former spy Antonio Guerrero went to see Agnieska Hernández’s “Harry Potter: The Magic is Over,” he left the theater insulted and did everything possible to cancel the play. Thanks to the guild’s support, the play continued successfully, but the punishment was to leave it out of the most important national event, the Camagüey Theatre Festival. They say that Abel Prieto himself called Carlos Díaz to tell him the bad news, but Carlos responded in his own way: “Don’t worry, Abel, by that time, I will be on a trip… in Miami.”

The spokesmen of the repressive apparatus would be mocked if it were just another stupid trolling of the Cuban theater, but we know that behind these publications there is always an order given from a dark office. And in Cuba there is no “sacred cow” that is safe from being slaughtered. Anyone can be sentenced to a living death.

The order to attack Yarini is given. When a certain State Security colonel heard about a politically incorrect man, a rooster from San Isidro, a name immediately came to mind: Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara.

Translated by LAR

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

Cuba: Change So That Everything Remains the Same

In December 2014, Raúl Castro and Obama surprised everyone with the news that relations between both countries would begin to normalize.

In 2018, Díaz-Canel’s face was unveiled as “president,” although Raúl Castro would clarify that he was actually handpicked by him / Cubadebate

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yunior García Aguilera, Madrid, May 24, 2024 — The last decade in Cuba is, perhaps, the one that has seen the most changes in half a century. However, we have the feeling that everything remains the same, or even worse. This reminds us of Lampedusa’s famous novel, The Leopard. In it, Tancredi’s character says to his uncle a phrase that has been repeated countless times: “If we want everything to remain as it is, we need everything to change.”

In December 2014, Raúl Castro and Obama surprised everyone with the news that relations between both countries would begin to normalize. The opposition to the island’s regime saw this event in two different ways. For some, the decision of the US Government was a betrayal of a historical exile, who had fought for years against the dictatorship. For others, it was the most intelligent and effective way to influence, killing me softly style, the fall of Castro-communism. However, for the majority of ordinary people within Cuba, this meant nothing more than a relief from the hardships suffered daily. It seemed like a moment of hope.

In 2015, internet access for the population was expanded. This tiny detail would mark a “domino effect” that would have a decisive influence on the perception of Cubans about the world and their own reality. The horse lost its blinders. continue reading

In March 2016, Air Force One landed at José Martí International Airport in Havana. Nine months later, Raúl Castro announced on television the death of his brother. It seemed that yes, changes were finally happening and that the end of an era would be inevitable.

But the year 2017 constituted a turning point. Obama eliminated the “wet foot/dry foot” policy before leaving the White House

But the year 2017 constituted a turning point. Obama eliminated the “wet foot/dry foot” policy before leaving the White House and his successor threatened to return to treating Cuba as what it was: a dictatorship. In June of that year, Trump was applauded in Miami for promising a tough line against the one-party regime. And in August, the scandal of the sonic attacks against the US Embassy on the Island broke out.

In 2018, the nomenclatura debuted the face of Díaz-Canel as “president,” although Raúl Castro would clarify that he was actually hired by him, after failing with 11 other test tubes of officials. The bad luck of the appointee would be marked by several tragic events, such as the crash of a commercial plane with 112 deaths. And to his misfortune would be added the accumulation of endemic problems of the system, as well as the ineptitude of a new cabinet that began his management with a disastrous decree: 349.

The following year, a new Constitution was approved that was more “catty” than the Lampedusa novel. The civil service went on Twitter calling half of the Cubans “bastards” and Díaz-Canel’s lack of ashé [‘power’ in Yoruba] was confirmed by a devastating and unusual tornado. In contrast, the capacity of civil society to articulate itself increased its scale of influence. The crisis, meanwhile, showed its worst face, although the designated test tube insisted on calling it “circumstantial,” with the implications of “temporary.”

In 2020, the pandemic and masks arrived, but also the resistance of a generation of young artists against censorship. Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and the San Isidro Movement began to receive solidarity within the guild, despite all attempts to discredit them. The apotheosis occurred on November 27, when hundreds of artists stood in front of the Ministry of Culture with demands not only in the field of culture, but also in terms of citizen freedoms.

And 2021 arrived. The deadliest year in all of national history. The crude mortality rate on the Island was the highest on the continent

And 2021 arrived. The deadliest year in all of national history. The crude mortality rate on the Island was the highest on the continent, although the regime reported minimal numbers of deaths from Covid-19 and boasted of having five vaccines. The pressure cooker burst on 11 July, a date that would be engraved in national history, leaving another 26th of the same month in a corner of the calendar.

The last three years are much fresher in the memory of those who read me. The regime managed to survive the outbreak by applying the worst techniques of repression and social control. They locked up and sentenced hundreds, while they drove many more out of the country. Since then they have dedicated themselves to keeping us divided and clashing.

As in Lampedusa’s novel, the Revolution is a dead dog. And although some insist on keeping it stuffed, it will be inevitable that it will end up thrown out of the window, like the dog Bendicó [Blessed] in The Leopard, towards the garbage dump of History.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

Díaz Canel’s Ten Lies

Ignacio Ramonet and Miguel Díaz-Canel during an interview which took place on May 11 at the Palace of the Revolution.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yunior García Aguilera, Madrid, 21 May 2024 — Some Cubans have dubbed Ignacio Ramonet the “French Randy Alonso,” a reference to the host of the Cuban TV interview show “Roundtable” and his sagging face. The truth is that Ramonet was born in Spain, raised in Morocco and educated in France, where he has lived for years. The sociologist has made good use of his status as a European intellectual to land a seat at the kitchen tables of Latin America’s dictatorships. His French passport and résumé have allowed him to cozy up with Fidel Castro, Hugo Chávez and their heirs. No matter how undemocratic or repressive a regime might be, Ramonet manages to plant his flag there. Acting on behalf of the rubes of the contemporary feudal left, he is a colonizer of thought.

Ramonet’s recent interview with Raúl Castro’s hand-picked successor was rife with excuses and omissions. The Cuban bureaucrat recited the well-worn script without contributing a single new idea. What was most insulting, however, were his lies. After enduring almost two hours of an exchange that seemed more like a self-help session, I have summarized ten of the most outrages falsehoods.

1. 2030 Will Be Better

Cubans are sick of hearing that this year was bad but next year will be better. We heard it repeated, December after December, by the former economics minister, Alejandro Gil, whom the Cuban president avoided talking about during his complacent chat with Ramonet. Now we learn Díaz-Canel is postponing this idyllic future until 2030, with promises of renewable energy, a digitalized society and food security. You don’t have to be a fortune teller to predict what the speech in December 2030 will be if this bumbling and cynical regime is still in power.

2. The Anniversary Tour

When asked by Ramonet about his recent trip to Moscow, Díaz-Canel described it as “an anniversary tour.” He did a quick calculation and immediately went into a juggling act, trying explain away the gaffe. The fact is that he and his wife, Liz Cuesta, are celebrating their fifteenth wedding anniversary this year. The first lady does not accompany him on domestic tours but she is the first to sign up for every international trip the appointed president makes. Evidently, Moscow was her anniversary gift.

3. Cuba’s Role in the Putin Alliance

It is obvious from his response, however, what specific role Cuba plays for Putin. It is useful enough as pawn to be invited to the victory parade but not so useful as to attend the inauguration. For such solemn domestic occasions Putin prefers the company of others. Like Steven Seagal for example.

4. The BRICS* “Alternative”

Alternative is a difficult word to pronounce but what fascinates Díaz-Canel is not BRICS’ potential to foster development in its member states but rather the threat it represents to American hegemony and the dollar. It is not about what it can contribute but rather how it can stick it to the regime’s longtime enemy. No matter how “inclusive” BRICS may seem, continue reading

there is nothing to indicate it is ready to shoulder a ruined economy like Cuba’s.

5. Creative Resistance

When Díaz-Canel and his retinue visit the hinterlands, they do not allow local officials to use the U.S. embargo as justification for their shortcomings. What is required down in the trenches is “creative resistance,” pure and simple. When it is their turn to take responsibility, however, they never hesitate to whip out the ever-handy “blockade” umbrella. The word was mentioned about forty times in this interview alone. The basic message boils down to this: I can use the blockade as an excuse but you may not.

6. A Tighter “Blockade”

There are people in this world who truly believe that a fleet of American ships is encircling Cuba, preventing deliveries of food and medicine to the island. With all the talk about the “blockade,” not even Cubans themselves fully understand the implications of the embargo. That is why they are surprised when they see the “Made in USA” label on the packages of chicken they consume. What Díaz-Canel did not say is that the United States continues to be one of Cuba’s main trading partners according to data provided by the country’s National Office of Statistics and Information.

In terms of trade volume with Cuba, the superpower to the north ranks fourth among countries in the Americas and eighth globally. Not only did this commercial activity not fall in 2019, it actually grew to more than 308 million dollars. In 2022, the U.S. embargo was tightened so much that the figure grew to more than 391 million dollars.

What Díaz-Canel never mentioned was the disastrous implementation of Cuba’s currency unification rollout and its direct relationship to the subsequent inflation and general deterioration of the Cuban economy.

7. Social Justice

Díaz-Canel and his troops like to champion flashy reform measure and want to eliminate of freebies and subsidies. While there is a lack of resources for investments in healthcare and education, it is no secret that they find creative ways to fund hotel construction. Publicly, they often use demagogic terms like “social justice” but in the 2023 “Projections of Cuban Communist Party Central Committee” the phrase was conspicuous in its absence. Instead, they preferred to talk about “vulnerability” and reducing expenses without daring to mention the word “poverty.”

8. Management of the Pandemic

Raúl’s appointee does not know how to pronounce the word “epidemiology” yet still insists on boasting about his success at fighting COVID-19. He intentionally ignores the fact that the country closed its borders quite late in the pandemic. This was after claiming that the virus could not survive the Caribbean sun. He also intentionally avoids mentioning that, in 2021, there were 55,000 more deaths in Cuba than in the previous year though authorities claim only 8,500 died from coronavirus. And he intentionally hides the fact that the gross mortality rate that year was 14.68 per thousand inhabitants, much worse than rates in the United States, Brazil, and even Haiti.

9. The Right to Protest

The first to lie was Ramonet, claiming that, while the 11 July 2021 protests were unusual, they were not massive. What is undeniable, however, is that not even during the Machado and Batista regimes was there ever such a large outpouring of public discontent as occurred on “11J.” But Díaz-Canel raised the bar for cynicism by claiming that this was also the result of the “blockade,” adding that protest was a respected right, even if protestors were demonstrating against the Revolution.

Díaz-Canel’s lie is contradicted by the Archipelago initiative and the ill-fated Civic March, which was scheduled for November 2021. Even asking for permission two months in advance, and strictly meeting all requirements needed to hold a demonstration, were not enough. Instead , we were met with direct threats from the military, acts of repudiation, persecution, political repression and exile.

There are over a thousand political prisoners in Cuba, the most in the region. Hundreds of people have been sentenced merely for taping protests or defending themselves against brutal crackdowns during which shots were fired. In one instance, a young man died after being shot in the back.

10. Sitting Down with Biden

Lastly, this Castro figurehead announced that he is willing to talk with Biden even though throughout the interview he described the U.S. government as arrogant, stubborn and corrupt. He also stated that the purpose of this negotiation would be to end sanctions while stipulating that Cuba would not make a single concession. His facial expression betrayed a visceral hatred towards those he called perverts as well as towards the Cuban exile community living in the United States.

This time, Díaz-Canel did not play his usual hand. He didn’t need to. Ramonet was his teleprompter, continually nodding, completing his sentences and generally being extremely accommodating. This time, Ramonet was his card.

*Translator’s note: An acronym for a group of emerging market countries that includes Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa. It seeks to deepen ties between member states and foster economic cooperation and expansion. Its goal is to serve as a counterbalance to traditional Western influence.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

How To Forget Cuba in Three Tries

The complex thing here is that it is not about forgetting a person, but about removing an entire country from your bones, from your liver

Being Cuban is a singularity, not an identity that functions as a straitjacket / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yunior García Aguilera, Madrid, 11 May 2024 — Those who have had a toxic relationship desire with all their soul to be able to say: it’s over, a clean slate. But, I wish forgetting were so simple! It usually happens that the more you try to leave behind that story that hurts you, the more you remember it. To get your ex-partner out of your head, there are dozens of manuals. The complex thing here is that it is not about forgetting a person, but about removing an entire country from your bones, from your liver.

No supermarket sells the famous Coca-Cola of oblivion. Even those who claim to have taken it often have relapses. I have met several countrymen who swear to me: “I had disconnected from Cuba, compadre, until November 27 or July 11.” That means that, in reality, they had not forgotten. They had simply put Cuba on pause.

Some neurologists claim that the brain never forgets. The memories are still there, trapped in collections of neurons called “engram cells.” The illusion of forgetting occurs when the circuits that connect these sets are broken. It is as if a path leading to an intricate place were filled with grass. The place still exists, what we can’t find is the path. continue reading

I know of Cubans who keep their phones on Cuban time, even though they live in France

I know of Cubans who keep their phones on Cuban time, even though they live in France. There are others who spend hours digging through Facebook, more aware of what is happening in Marianao than the Marianaos themselves. It doesn’t matter if you have an Australian passport, you are probably aware of the relationship between Lázaro and Yarelis; or Fernando, the pianist from Guanabacoa; or the dismissal of Lisandra, the “Cuban Amy Winehouse.”

Some, with greater political awareness, are unable to sleep all night every time they arrest an activist, and wear out their brains thinking of a thousand ways to bring down the dictatorship. But, let’s be honest, even those of us most committed to the fight for democracy have, more than once, felt deeply disappointed and exhausted. Above all, when after so much misery and abuse, we see thousands of Cubans marching and shouting slogans, trying to defend the indefensible. That is why we read comments like: “Cuba has no remedy” or “a people have the dictatorship they deserve.”

Those who opt to turn the page avoid websites and profiles that remind them of that piece of land with more marabou trees than palm trees. They try to get the algorithm to do its thing and send them different content. “You’re a masochist,” I am told all the time by a friend who has been successful, according to him, in tricking Zuckerberg and Elon Musk into getting the networks to show him news about Dubai, instead of talking to him all the time about Jatibonico.

The second piece of advice from successful forgetters is to assimilate into their new context. I met a girl recently who has only been in Madrid for a couple of months and she is already more Spanish than Lola Flores. In a single sentence she is able to say vale (okay), tío (dude), hostias (hosts), majo (nice), currante (hard-working) and even gilipollas (douchebag). The only problem is her spelling, the girl puts the Z wherever she wants. But I won’t be the one to judge her. She has her own reasons to prevent the Cuban from coming out of her pores. No Madrilenian cat will take her as a breed, but she will heal the occasional wound.

“The third and final step to hide Cuba in the drawer of amnesia is to achieve that abstract and idyllic condition of being a “citizen of the world.”

The third and final step to hide Cuba in the drawer of amnesia is to achieve that abstract and idyllic condition of being a “citizen of the world.” It sounds great, the problem is achieving it. Let’s see… I myself am against chauvinism and it seems very ridiculous to me to try to fit “in a Pepe way” with the stereotypes of what they call Cubanidad. For me, being Cuban is a singularity, not an identity that functions as a straitjacket. But, if getting a single residence, a single citizenship, is already a hell of a bureaucratic hassle, then imagine achieving them all and declaring yourself cosmopolitan!

Despite everything, some claim to have cured themselves of Cuba using this formula: evasion, assimilation, universality. If for the sake of your mental health you think it is necessary to permanently bury the memory of the place where you were born, well… try it. But if you have already tried everything and Cuba is still beating in your brain, then, like me, you suffer from chronic Cubanitis. We have to continue doing everything possible and the impossible so that this beautiful land is a place worth remembering and where it is worth returning… someday.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

Batista, a Tropical Messiah

Six decades of indoctrination can somewhat distort our view of the past.

Fulgencio Batista was born on January 16, 1901, the feast of Saint Fulgentius / Archive

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yunior García Aguilera, Madrid, 5 May 2024 — Fulgencio Batista landed a major role in the soap opera that is Cuba on September 4, 1933, during the Sergeants’ Revolt. He went on to become its biggest star, earning the grandiose nickname The Man. How could an unknown sergeant go from bit player to leading man? How did a short peasant with a ruddy complexion manage to dominate the front pages during several chapters of our nation’s history?

His father, Belisario, fought in the Cuban War of Independence. In spite of being illiterate, he managed to educate his son while regaling him with stories of battlefield exploits. Little Beno’s first teacher was a girl from the village. Though not actually a trained educator, she did teach children to read. He would later enroll in a run-down Quaker school. After a day of cutting sugar cane and doing household chores, the boy would study at night. There are photos of him working as a tailor or carpenter, before he had any hint of a mustache.

His mother Carmela, by contrast, was a deeply religious woman. Batista would recall, however, how level-headed she could be, taking him in 1910 to watch the path of Halley’s Comet rather than succumbing to the fear and superstition which led the town’s other residents to hide under the covers at the time. He would lose her five years later when he was just fourteen years old.

There are photos of him working as a tailor or carpenter, before he had any hint of a mustache

A fan of the railroad, the young Batista managed to become a conductor though his true vocation was putting on a military uniform. Six decades of indoctrination might somewhat distort our view of the past. It is difficult for us to understand what impact the sight of the Rural Guard might have on a peasant of that time. However, there are stories that claim every Cuban peasant would look up from the fields or out the door of his hut whenever a pair of them rode by on horseback. It was a mixture of fascination and fear. And that was what Batista wanted until he achieved it in 1921. continue reading

He did not particularly distinguish himself as a soldier but he did use his free time to take a correspondence course in shorthand. The habit of walking around all day long with books under his arm earned him the nickname The Man of Letters, something he certainly did not mind. The most distinctive thing about that period of his life was that he became part of President Zayas’ security detail at a farm in Wajay. It was there that he met his first wife, Elisa Godínez, whom he would marry in 1926.

A year later he would be promoted to corporal, hardly an extraordinary accomplishment. He would have to wait another year before being promoted to sergeant-major and given a job as stenographer at the Cabaña fortress. Dreaming of becoming a captain was perhaps too lofty a goal for a soldier from such humble beginnings, someone without money, family connections or notoriety.

Batista gave a speech in which he employed all of his father’s working-class eloquence and all his mother’s wonder at seeing Halley’s Comet pass overhead

After the fall of President Gerardo Machado, civilian and military officials were unhappy with Carlos Manuel de Céspedes. A rumor, a mere rumor, was the trigger that sparked the mutiny. There was talk that the government was going to reduce the Army’s staff and cut salaries. That was how the Gang of Eight, led by a certain Pablo Rodríguez, came to be. One of the reasons Batista got involved was because of his skills as a typist. And he had an old Ford which allowed the conspirators to get around.

But Batista had another trick up his sleeve. He knew how to speak in public. Pablo Rodríguez never imagined he would have to step aside for a stenographer, who would end up sidelining him in the history books. Batista gave a speech in which he employed all Belisario’s working-class eloquence and all Carmela’s wonder at seeing Halley’s Comet pass overhead. He spoke of the “soldier-man” and emphasized with a peasant’s rage the word “dignity.”

At the conclusion, he said just one thing: Viva Batista! A week later he was a colonel and would go on to become the the Cuban Strongman, a nickname he had for a quarter of a century.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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 Decline of Alba

Last Wednesday, in Caracas, the XXIII Summit of Heads of State and the Government of Alba-TCP / Prense Latina

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yunior García Aguilera, Madrid, 27 April 2024 — Alba-TCP, the alliance created by Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro, has reached 20 years with the vitality of an “almendrón,” a 1950s American car, without spare parts. The high price of oil during those founding years was the viagra that unleashed the social-imperialist fantasies of both leaders. But with the subsequent fall in crude oil prices, as well as the death of its ideologues, the organization experienced a stage of flaccidity that they are now trying to shake up with motivating speeches and new agendas.

Josefina Vidal leaked a few words to show the early detumescence of the Bolivarian Alliance. In an interview with Prensa Latina, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cuba talked about affectations, lack of economic resources, programs on a smaller scale, coercive measures and blockades. Of course, she did not refer to the political and economic crisis that Venezuela is experiencing, nor to the crisis of attractiveness suffered by the Cuban regime. Thus, without a pipe gushing petrodollars and charismatic leadership, Alba offers less light than a night without a moon.

The idea of this “alternative” emerged as a counterpart to Alca. Since the time of Bush senior in 1988, the United States had tried to create a free trade area that ran from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, with 34 nations and a market of 800 million people. The asymmetry between the countries of the hemisphere aroused suspicions around the project, but many saw more benefit than danger in its concretization. In 1993, Bill Clinton signed the agreement, to take effect in 1994. However, when the IV Summit of the Americas arrived in 2005, Bush junior received a “No” in response, and Hugo Chávez mounted a parallel organization with a slogan that went viral: Alca, Alca, go to Hell!” continue reading

In 1994 Bill Clinton rounded out the idea a little more and planned to implement it in 2005

Fidel Castro, from his bunker in Havana, rubbed his hands and smiled sarcastically. His purpose was never for Latin America to win anything, but for the United States to lose. In addition, he was dying of nostalgia for those years of the Comecon where it was enough to stay in the nest with an open beak, chirping like an eagle in heat. That’s why the bearded man needed something like Alba. It would not be necessary to produce competitively, something in which he did not have the slightest experience or any enthusiasm. Its purpose was to establish a ritual of charitable exchanges, with a whole propagandistic and demagogic apparatus behind it. He was an expert at that. It was always an ideological alliance with subsidies, never a regional cooperation and development project. About the small Caribbean States and their role in this soap opera, we will have to write later.

Alba failed to reduce poverty or inequalities, despite its “mission” and its paraphernalia. On the contrary, both Cuba and Venezuela suffer worse rates of poverty today than in 2004. Nor was it an alternative for “the people,” since decisions have always been made from the hierarchies of these regimes, where civil society cannot even look out.

Last Wednesday, in Caracas, the XXIII Summit of Heads of State and the Government of Alba-TCP took place. Twenty-three summits in twenty years – that’s typical of our tireless bureaucrats! The host, Nicolás Maduro, for whom originality is an unknown concept, presented the Alba 2030 agenda. Don’t expect to find anything new, much less verify results within six years. It’s a diet of bombastic ideas like that of the Petro cryptocurrency*, which the dictator sold as the most solid and stable in the world. Now he sells us a septet of “great goals,” including the resurrection of Petrocaribe**, the University of the Peoples, a “fair” trade zone and other pretty things.

The host, Nicolás Maduro, for whom originality is an unknown concept, presented the Alba 2030 agenda

Díaz-Canel, the front man for the Castros, awkwardly read his flash cards. His dyslexia prevented him from distinguishing between “vecino” (neighbor) and “destino” (destiny), “precedent” and “president.” Which prankster thought of writing the word “consolidation” in his speech? At the conclusion, he made his characteristic grimace of dry swallowing, picking his nose and going from robotic seriousness to a childish smile, looking for a friendly face in the crowd, like a bad student after an uncomfortable oral presentation. Sympathizing with his ineptitude, Maduro released one of his pearls: “Together we are invincible. And together with the women, even more invincible.” That’s Alba, a group of idiots.

Alba, Alba, to the trash!

Translator’s notes:
*Petrocurrency was launched by President Maduro six years ago to sidestep US sanctions but was shut down in January, 2024, due to corruption.
**Petrocaribe was a 2005 agreement between Venezuela (under Hugo Chávez) and Caribbean nations for selling and buying oil.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

Cubans, Between the Battle of Ideas and the Cultural Battle

The majority of Cuba’s young people — those who left and those who stayed — are no longer interested in mass rallies

Almost all the speakers whom Fidel Castro thrust into stardom later faded under the brightness of the four stars on his little brother Raúl’s shoulder straps / Centro Fidel Castro

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yunior García Aguilera, 13 April 2024, Madrid — Those open mass rallies in which Hassan Pérez Casabona stunned the crowds with his rapid-fire barrage of words are still fresh in the minds of many Cubans. At the end of each Saturday, the streets were a sea of trampled flags, empty plastic bottles and chewed-up chicken bones. People went home not understanding why these events were called “open.” In reality, they were a closed circuit in which every speaker just repeated what the previous one had said. A highly rehearsed monologue of multiple voices, it was the culmination of the Castro liturgy. Almost all the speakers whom Fidel Castro had thrust into stardom later faded under the brightness of the four stars on his little brother Raúl’s shoulder straps.

The vast majority fell into disgrace. For example, Otto Ribero, the former first secretary of the Young Communist League and vice president of the Council of Ministers went into a drunken, downward spiral before going through a public catharsis on Facebook. He proudly confessed on that platform to having personally signed the regulation preventing Cubans from leaving the island even though his children were already living overseas. Never before has the expression “other people’s shame” made more sense. That poor devil was full of praise for his executioners from the Ministry of the Interior, thanking them for every slap in the face, every kick in the groin.

Hassan Pérez Casabona managed to survive by sneaking away, lowering his profile by retreating into the basement

Hassan Pérez Casabona managed to survive by sneaking away, lowering his profile by retreating into the basement. He emerged two weeks ago in an appearance on the Venezuelan state television network Telesur, spouting the same rhetoric as before but now breathing like someone with chronic continue reading

asthma. He appeared gray and gaunt but with a belly acquired in the Communist Party Central Committee dining rooms. Hassan’s tongue has lost its former horsepower, which once allowed him to go from zero to a hundred in a matter of seconds. Instead, he attempted to distract the interviewer with quick hand gestures like those used by katas in Shotei-style karate.

Over a five-year period, dozens of these rallies were held, wasting the flow of oil that Hugo Chávez had given us. The last one took place on March 12, 2005, in Caimanera, thus concluding the cycle of a larger project: the Battle of Ideas. The emperor’s last act of madness worked like a temporary suppository. For five years the country had been entertained by demands for the return of a shipwrecked boy and the release of five would-be spies. From time to time Díaz-Canel tries to resurrect this ethos but, with no causes of his own, he has to inspire people by pretending to be Palestinian.

The majority of Cuba’s young people — those who left and those who stayed — are no longer interested in mass rallies. However, some have enthusiastically signed up for a new crusade: the Cultural Battle. Now the rhetoric is coming from the other end of the spectrum. Dozens of Cuban social media users spout paleo-conservative slogans with religious zeal. Some have become shepherds  — instructing their flocks in the theories of some Austrian economist — with the same effusiveness with which others previously indoctrinated us with Marxist ideas. New mirror-images of Otto and Hassan have emerged, trying to impose absolute truths, worshiping new commanders-in-chief, or shouting “we don’t want them, we don’t need them” at those who do not think like them.

New mirror-images of Otto and Hassan have emerged, trying to impose absolute truths

First of all, I consider the ideology of these Cubans to be as valid as that of anyone else. I also believe they have every right in the world to passionately defend it with arguments, to choose the leaders they prefer, to share beliefs as a group, to participate in whatever public discussion they desire and even to win out in the end. However, the alarm bells go off when democracy stops making sense for them, when they reject pluralism or when they try to present themselves as the only possible option in a future Cuba. We have suffered from authoritarian thinking for too long. The best antidote to decades of dictatorship would be a diversity of opinions, a search for consensus between opposing views, and political alternatives.

Believing that we are right and everyone else is wrong is as human as blushing. But killing the tyrant we carry within us is essential to overcoming this long totalitarian period and building something truly different. Nothing is more boring than a meeting between those who think the same way and share the same opinions. Nothing stagnates a country more than the imposition of a single doctrine. That most beautiful word, freedom, should not be limited to discussions about economic freedom. It has to also be about freedom of mind and body.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

Who Killed Julio Antonio Mella?

Portrait of Julio Antonio Mella in Mexico (1929) / Tina Modotti

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yunior García, Madrid, 23 March 2024 — On the night of Thursday, January 10, 1929, two scandalously beautiful young people walk down a Mexican street. In a room nearby are photos that some might consider indecent. Not only have they made love until dehydration in every corner of that space for the last four months, but she has wanted to immortalize the glory of their naked bodies. He is not yet 26 and she is about to reach the age of Christ. He has left a wife and a small child in Cuba. She has other lovers.

Two shots ring out at the corner of Abraham González and Morelos. A bullet from a 38 caliber revolver enters Julio Antonio Mella through his left elbow and passes through his intestine, the second one tears his lung. He falls to the ground, bleeding out. She screams for help and kneels next to him. An ambulance takes the body to the Red Cross hospital. When he inevitably dies, Tina closes his eyes and does what she does best in this world: flash on the corpse’s face, which is still strangely beautiful.

Officialdom blames Machado, without questioning any other possibility  

From there, all kinds of theories have been launched about who was the intellectual author of Mella’s death. The complex thing is that almost all the hypotheses are too sprinkled with ideology. The ruling party blames Machado, without questioning any other possibility. The opposition insists on pointing out the communists themselves, whether they are Cubans, Mexicans or hitmen sent directly by Stalin. Agatha Christie devotees swear by the love triangle and the crime of passion. There is so much material on the networks claiming to be “the definitive truth” about this case, that any reader will find some “conclusive” version that satisfies their own ideological prejudices.

It is a fascinating story, on that we all agree. Starting with the fact that neither Tina nor Julio Antonio were their real names. La Modotti was actually called Assunta Adelaide Luigia, a little less sexy than Tina. And he was registered in Havana as Nicanor McPartland y Diez, even less sexy.

The son of an adulterous relationship, little Mella wanted to take on the world from his cradle. As a child, he grew up hearing anecdotes about his grandfather Matías Ramón, a Dominican hero. When he traveled to the United States, while still a teenager, he lied about his age to enlist in the Army. They dragged him out of there by his ears and made him return to continue reading

Cuba. At 17 he tried the same thing in Mexico, but the new Constitution prevented him from doing so, due to the fact that he was a foreigner. Then, since fate was kicking him away from the dream of weapons, he decided to embrace communism. A fatal decision, but understandable, in an era full of utopias.

It is known that Mella was arrested for some bombs that exploded at Havana’s Payret theater box office in September 1925.

It is known that Mella was arrested for some bombs that exploded at Havana’s Payret theater box office in September 1925. It is also known that the young man declared a hunger strike, holding out for 17 days, until suffering a heart attack. What the regime avoids saying out loud is that the Communist Party itself founded by Mella expelled him after his strike. The action was described as insubordination and “tactical opportunism.” They accused him of having ties to the bourgeoisie and “lacking feelings of solidarity.”

Disappointed, Mella did what almost all of his historical role models did before: he went into exile. But the Mexican communists would not receive him with just smiles and hugs either. There, too, Mella would show his rebellious side, generating a greater crisis among the ranks of the supporters of Trotsky or Stalin.

By that time there were already many people with an interest in his death. Beyond differences and political positions, there was something much more vulgar in the desire to annihilate him: envy. Mella had it all, he was tall, attractive, athletic, sensual, intelligent, charismatic, bold… and on top of that he had a legend. Juan Marinello would say that to know him was to believe in him. Both for his enemies and for his allies who aspired to achieve some measure of prominence, Mella was too burdensome an obstacle.

A friend who hates communism, but who admires this controversial figure, tells me that she does not see the Mella of today in any of the test tubes of the FEU [University Student Federation], the UJC [Young Communist League] or the AHS (Asociación Hermanos Saíz), much less in the insipid presenters on Cuba’s State TV Con Filo program. For my friend, today’s Mella is surely in some dark cell, or perhaps in exile, while others plan his death.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

Cuban TV Program ‘Con Filo’ Campaigns for the Execution of Ousted Economy Minister Alejandro Gil

Con Filo also made reference to an article by Luis Toledo Sande, who compared Gil to a murderer / Screen Capture

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yunior García Aguilera, Madrid, 14 March 2024 —  The most recent edition of the Cuban TV Con Filo* program has touched on “a slaughter” against Cuba’s ousted Minister of Economy and Planning, Alejandro Gil Fernandez. The most unpopular program on Cuban television began by quoting Che: “this counterrevolutionary must be persecuted and annihilated.” They then established a parallel, not at all subtle, with Arnaldo Ochoa Sánchez, major general and Hero of the Republic of Cuba, executed by firing squad on July 13, 1989. To top it all off, they cited a fragment of a speech by Fidel Castro, also related to the Ochoa case, where the bearded man shouted that, in the name of the martyrs, they were forced to be “severe.”

It must be remembered that the death penalty is still in force in the Cuban Penal Code. The new regulations raised to 24 the number of criminal offenses that could put a citizen before a firing squad. Despite the existing moratorium and the fact that the maximum penalty has not been applied since 2003, there are many enthusiasts who demand that this letter be dusted off and used as a lesson during the current political crisis.

Con Filo also made reference to an article by Luis Toledo Sande published in Cubaperiodistas. Under the title Corruption/corrosion, the ultra-Marxist writer compared Gil to a murderer, called him antisocial and an accomplice of the most bitter enemies of the Revolution.

The man became a magnet of hatred, disaster after disaster

The truth is that almost no one would bother to come out to defend Gil if they decided to put him to death. That the first vice minister knew nothing about economics… who is surprised by that? That he was corrupt… who is surprised by that? That is usually the norm, not the exception. The man became a magnet of hate, disaster after disaster. The regime now needs three things: someone to take all the blame; to demonstrate that their pulse does not tremble to annihilate whenever and wherever; and to throw a piece of meat to the side of the most radical. The pack must continue to appear united. continue reading

Anyone who is even remotely attentive to the “debates between revolutionaries” that swarm online knows that there is a heated controversy surrounding private businesses. Reformists defend the idea of ​​expanding this sector, taking the experiences in China and Vietnam as references. In contrast, those who have failed to benefit from a piece of the pie fanatically cling to the communist playbook. The latter camp grudgingly accepts MSMEs, for example, but only as temporary measures and under strict state control.

In the interview he gave to his friend Arleen Rodríguez in October 2023, Díaz-Canel defended himself against the criticism from that side, calling it “offensive.” He stated that these people “were generating distrust and discredit in the Revolution.” His irritation in his gestures and words revealed his tremendous internal anger. To close, making a handsome gesture, he questioned whether this group had what it takes to stay standing. Some of those mentioned, in private conversations, would later speak of ideological softness and go so far as to ask for his head.

Toledo Sande himself, in the article cited above, states: “We must not close our eyes to the evidence that corruption can go beyond the scope of mid-level officials. It can go so far beyond it that it is capable of getting close, not to the knees or shoulders of the nation, but to its head.” Who was Toledo Sande referring to? Obviously, he wasn’t talking about Gil anymore.

Some of those mentioned, in private conversations, would later speak of ideological softness and would go so far as to ask for his head.

Lis Cuesta, Cuba’s first lady (for international tours), or “wife who works at her job” (for domestic matters), recently posted on X a quote from Fidel Castro about difficult times. The now deceased leader had spoken of hesitant, confused, discouraged, cowardly, softened, traitors, deserters. The use of the plural was overwhelming. Cuesta finished off the quote with her own contribution and in capital letters: “In force for everyone.” It is curious that the wife of the nominal head of the State remains completely silent about the rumors of corruption that also circulate about her.

It is also very eloquent that the chancellor himself, Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, succumbed to the temptation of sending messages between the lines. In his X account he posted: “It is clear that the greatest enemy of every revolution is division, that the best ally of the enemies of the people is divisionism.” This is how things are going in the palace.

The most radical wing of the Roman coliseum wants blood. What remains to be seen is whether the real Caesar, Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, will give them a knee, a shoulder… or the very head of his front man.

*Translator’s note: Source Wikipedia: A month following the July 11 protests in 2021, Cuba’s state media announced a new political program called ‘Con Filo’ that was designed to push back against international “media manipulation” surrounding Cuba. [Con Filo = ‘with a knife’ or ‘with an edge’] 

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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 Fear In the Eyes of Cuba’s Regime

An old sign that was located in front of the United States Embassy in Havana / Cubanamera

14ymedio biggerYunior García Aguilera, Madrid, 29 February 29 —  On February 21, an article appeared in El Ciudadano , under the long and boring title The network of interference against Cuba, which goes from the United States to Spain, passing through Mexico. Although the Chilean media declares itself committed to human rights and democracy, it had no qualms about offering its space for a publication conceived from the very headquarters of the Cuban State Security, enforcer and guardian of authoritarianism on the Island.

Neither quick nor lazy, GranmaCubadebate and their entire queue of replicating media echoed a soap opera loaded with conspiracy intrigues, data manipulated to avoid burning their sources, typical phrases from the Cuban propaganda and repressive repertoire, a lot of misogyny and overwhelming lies. They have turned the presentation of a book in Madrid into a whole plot of CIA operations, coups d’état and violent actions.

If it had been a script, Netflix would have rejected it immediately, for being bland and lacking in drama

If it had been a script, Netflix would have rejected it immediately, as bland and lacking in drama, but the network at the service of totalitarianism is running out of content and needs to generate noise. The orders come from Cuba, Venezuela provides the money and the person in charge of signing the pamphlet is a well-known Castro-Chavism operator, the pro-ETA Katu Arkonada.

The publication would be laughable if it weren’t for the fact that it exposes women who live in Cuba, a country with more than 1,000 political prisoners. The article could serve as a prelude to new arbitrary arrests, more continue reading

repression, prohibitions on entering or leaving the country, as well as years in prison for the simple crime of daring to think differently from what the single party dictates.

The comments at the bottom of the post are even worse. In Granma , a user named Enrique Rodríguez suggests that “those worms (…) not be allowed to return to Cuba.” In Cubadebate, another reader named Rafa says that they can count on him for “total war, inside and outside the country,” and closes with a threat: “Don’t let a worm get in my way here in Spain.”

The article in question also mentions me in one of its paragraphs, describing me as “one of the most strident and violent Cuban dissidents.” It seems that, in the eyes of the regime, a simple white rose has more uranium and plutonium than weapons of mass destruction.

But, ultimately, who is Katu, the individual who puts his signature on the article? His real name is Israel Arconada Gómez, a Basque born in 1978. Although his communist parents encouraged him to study Economic Sciences, what fascinated the boy was politics, and he became at 16 a kind of “little Nicolás” of the ultra-left.  He was arrested in 1998 for his links with groups involved in vandalism and terrorist acts. So, at just 19 years of age, he managed to leave for Cuba. It was then, presumably, that Cuban intelligence began using him. The young man stopped using his real name, assuming Katu as an alias, and changing the “c” to a “k” in his last name.

In 2003 he was sent, obviously, to Venezuela. From there he became coordinator of the World Social Forum in Brazil. In 2009 he made the leap to Bolivia, where he became nationalized and held high positions as a whisperer to Evo Morales. But Israel or, rather, Katu, found enemies even within its own nationalist ranks. He then went to Mexico, seeking new sponsors, until he got as close as he could to the ear of López Obrador.

Several women, like the Mexican journalist Karina Velasco, reported having been victims of this character

His blatant interference in Mexican internal affairs generated the collection of more than 1,500 signatures to request his expulsion from the country. Furthermore, the Castro-Chavista operator was implicated in several scandals for believing himself unpunishable and showing his other side of: that of a sexual harasser. Several women, like the Mexican journalist Karina Velasco, reported having been victims of this character.

That is why I am not surprised that a misogynist like Katu Arkonada exudes so much hatred in his article, especially against Cuban women. Nor is it surprising to me that a guy with a record so close to the ETA members accuses me of being “violent.” Anyone even remotely informed about my activism would laugh at Katu’s ignorance or audacity. Furthermore, how dare a guy with such an interventionist history talk about interference?

We already know that Cuban intelligence dedicated itself to forming and planting “katus” everywhere. But what do they want with this insubstantial article? What does Katu demonstrate, beyond the fear in the eyes of a dying regime?

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

Cuba: The Peseta President

Zayas’ eight-foot-tall statue has one hand in its pocket and the other pointing towards the Presidential Palace. (Carlos Jordi/CC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yunior García Aguilera, Madrid, February 16, 2024 — Alfredo Zayas is portrayed in Cuba as the most corrupt president of the pre-Castro era. To support this thesis, our school textbooks emphasize one event in particular: the Protest of the Thirteen. No one can deny that buying the old convent of Santa Clara for more than double its previous price was a very santa (saintly) or a very clara (obvious) thing to do. It is also true that the country was going through a profound economic crisis brought on by the collapse of sugar prices.

But Alfredo Zayas (a.k.a. El Chino, or the Chinese guy) was really no more corrupt that his predecessors. What there was, during his presidency, was greater freedom of expression. Everyone had carte blanche to publicly tear him to pieces. And that, at least, is certainly not something the last three people who have had their buttocks in the seat of power following the demise of the Republic can brag about.

Don’t tell me, “Yunior, you’re now going to defend Zayas!” Well, no. I am not related to the man though my relatives would have supported him. I won’t deny that he appointed himself the official historian, a job that came with a very nice salary, though he never did complete his promised History of Cuba. Nor will I deny that he had the astonishing good fortune to win the national lottery twice. I won’t ignore the fact that a statue of him was erected while he was still alive. continue reading

The eight-foot tall sculpture has one hand in its pocket and the other pointing toward the Presidential Palace. Cuban wags used to joke that the message was, “What I have in here, I took from over there.” In the place where that monument once stood, people now worship at a ship whose name [‘Granma’] means “grandmother” in English, the vessel that brought over from Mexico the biggest thief in our history.

I am not asking the Vatican to beatify Zayas. But despite his flaws, the Havana native — a man who always carried a Spanish peseta in his coat pocket — had many good qualities

A lawyer, poet, journalist and great orator, Zayas was the first doctor to become president. He was probably the most learned of our heads of state. He also managed to reach that position without causing a war, which was no small feat. In the Republic’s formative years, the fight between political parties for a piece of the action was violent and ongoing.

The press at the time called these constant internal battles la brava (the threat). El Chino had been eclipsed by former president José Miguel Gómez (a.k.a The Shark) in the Liberal Party’s ranks for too long. Until his “four cats” party — he actually preferred the term Popular — finally managed to win the presidency. He had already beaten General Mario García Menocal in 1916 but the general went into “Maduro mode” and refused to admit defeat, launching the failed Chambelona Revolt.

It must be said that, as a delegate to Cuba’s constitutional convention of 1901, El Chino opposed the Platt Amendment and to leasing the U.S. land for a naval base in Guantanamo. It must also be said that, during his presidency, women earned the right to vote. And the Isle of Pines was returned to us. It should be noted that he legally recognized the the University Student Federation, empowering the students. It must be emphasized that he suppressed an insurrection by the Veterans and Patriots Movement without issuing an order against the people and without firing a shot. It must be remembered that his package of measures did work, getting the country out of a tremendous economic crisis, unlike certain later realignments, reform measures and appeals to national self-reliance. Cuba was the first country in the world to replenish its treasury after the First World War. And it was also the first to pay its war debt to the United States.

Getting back to where we started, what our history teachers neglected to mention was what later happened to each signatory of the famous Protest of the Thirteen. Fifty years later, Juan Marinello himself wrote in the magazine Bohemia, “How many, among the thirteen protestors remained aligned with the masses and national liberation. The first traitor was Lamar Schweyer. Mañach, Ichaso, Lizaso and Masó went over to the enemy camp, taking up arms against the Revolution. The others shrugged their shoulders and categorized their protest as a youthful dalliance.” How ironic history often is.

I am not asking the Vatican to beatify Zayas. But despite his flaws, the Havana native — a man who always carried a Spanish peseta in his coat pocket from his days in exile — had many good qualities.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

Our Intellectual Stupidity

Like dozens of other artists and intellectuals, flutist José Luis Cortés (a.k.a “El Tosco”) pays homage at the tomb of Fidel Castro. (Juventud Rebelde)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yunior García Aguilera, Madrid, 7 February 2024 — No one is stupider than the idiot who thinks he is an intellectual, myself included. When I started becoming politically active, I arrogantly believed that, where others had failed, I would succeed. I thought that the higher the collective IQ a movement had, the better its chances of success. I figured that the more illustrious the names on the list, the more people would be willing to join. I had forgotten that most of our mambises* were illiterate.

For the last two years, the resistance and the fight for change in Cuba have been led primarily by the poorest, least enlightened people, not by some egghead. The most significant aftershocks of the mass demonstrations on 11 July 2021 have occurred in marginalized areas, far from provincial capitals. The very few scholars who have displayed a courageous, dignified attitude have had to deal with a very harsh isolation, beyond the metaverse.

On the other hand, the dictatorship knows it can rely on the support of tens of thousands of ambidextrous artists and intellectuals who, yes, do offer some criticism from time to time, following the mantra “a little positive, a little negative.” But they still sign loyalty oaths, attend marches and official events, and remain active in the National Writers and Artists Union (UNEAC) or the Hermanos Saíz Association (AHS), organizations which exist expressly and openly to monitor and control their members, not to promote their work in any way. continue reading

Why do exceptional cases, like members of the Filmmakers Assembly, run around in circles, ruminating on the same statements and making the same speeches?

So what’s going on? Why have Cuba’s cultural and academic unions not known how, not been able, or not wanted to effectively articulate ways to bring about change? Why do exceptional cases, like members of the Filmmakers Assembly, run around in circles — ruminating on the same statements and making the same speeches — like cattle heading inexorably to the slaughterhouse, never leaving the corral?

By the time Fidel Castro issued his ultimatum**, “Words to the Intellectuals,” State Security had already meticulously planned how to keep us subjugated. They would employ our own egos against us, our very enlightened banalities, our jealousies and envies, our desire to be in the spotlight, our ambiguities, our contradictory herd mentality. Their tactics and strategies ranged from flattery — designating sacred cows and golden calves — to public sacrifices which would serve as a lesson. We normalize the use of masks and the misuse of allegories.

It is so sad and so naive when an artist boasts of having defended himself against his inquisitors by saying, “That is not what my work says. You are just interpreting it that way.” It is so very painful to have to hide behind an alter-ego to say what we dare not say aloud  to ourselves.

It is so very painful to have to hide behind an alter-ego to say what we dare not to shout ourselves

When a state-supported intellectual asks to speak at a meeting, he first asks himself if it will be the right time and place to say what he thinks. He then starts his speech by clarifying that he (or she) is indeed a true revolutionary and that his criticisms are, of course, from within. In common parlance, this is referred to as putting on a patch before there is a hole. When the person in question finally finds the courage, he launches into a stern criticism of himself. Never against the disease, only against the symptoms.

Those with experience in this type of public venting know all too well that the the big shots really enjoy attacks like this, which are directed at low-ranking officials. It is the perfect opportunity to display power, demagoguery and populism. They will make a fool of the little guy even if his misstep is the result of an order from above or something endemic to the system.

This sacrifice — the fall from grace, the exile of one’s contemporaries — benefits the mediocre intellectual. It presents an opportunity to attain what had previously been out of reach. That is why almost all the country’s top prizes and awards ignore Cubans living overseas. Their colleagues on the island do not want the competition. They should have eliminated the National Prizes’ absurd categories long ago but the topic is never even mentioned at their conferences.

The Spanish word necedad, a term the regime’s defenders use to explain their actions, can mean stubbornness or obstinancy. But if you look it up in a dictionary, the first synonyms you find are simply stupidity, imbecility, idiocy and nonsense.

José Martí and Reinaldo Arenas would be disgusted by all these supposed intellectuals who believe themselves to be superior for knowing how to disguise their cowardice as intelligence.

Translator’s notes:
*Afro-Cuban insurgents who fought for Cuba’s independence from Spain in the 19th century.
**”Within the Revolution everything, outside the Revolution nothing.”

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.