15 November, The Day the Cuban Dictatorship Lost all its Masks

Government supporters during a demonstration outside the home of Yunior García Aguilera on Sunday 14 November 2021. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yunior García Aguilera, Madrid, 16 November 2022 — Ever since we first called for the Civic March for Change we knew that it would be a practical impossibility to make it happen. Even so, it was worth it to make them unmask themselves to show their absolutely tyrannical character, above all in a context in which they tried to present themselves as a State of Law/Rights.

Two weeks after 11J [11 July 2021 protests], the judicial organs of the regime held a press conference that is still shocking in its cynicism. The president of the supreme tribunal, in a faltering voice, denied there was a body of opinion which spoke of an avalanche of judicial trials. According to Rubén Remigio Ferro, he only knew of 19 cases involving 59 people. Later it became known that the number of defendants was, scandalously, approaching a thousand.

Another ploy by this man would be to claim that the tribunals operated independently and that they only had to follow the law. Díaz-Canel himself then contradicted this, saying that “in Cuba we don’t work with a separation of powers, but with a unity of powers”. Remigio must have wanted the ground to swallow him up, although for that he’d have needed to have a sense of shame.

The big lie, which definitively pushed us into organising the march, came when we heard him say that “[holding] different opinions, including political opinions different from those which are dominant in the country, did not constitute a crime”. According to the supreme tribunal president, “demonstrating, far from constituting a crime, was a constitutional right”. continue reading

From the Archipiélago platform, and along with the Council for the Transition we tried to expose these lies. Many of us have suffered prison for protesting on 11 July. And despite having done so unquestionably  peacefully, with the international press as witness, we were thrown in a refuse truck and put behind bars.

The first date we chose was 20 November. It was necessary to make our application formally and well in advance. The world would watch our every move. The first reply from the regime was the most threatening possible: the Armed Forces declared 20 November as a National Day of Defence and announced a militarization of the country for the three preceding days.

We kept our composure. Calmly, we explained that we had no interest in a violent confrontation with the army, so we put forward the date to 15 November. This date was chosen carefully because on that day the country would reopen the airports for international tourism and so they couldn’t use the pandemic as an excuse to prohibit the march.

The regime then resorted to using all the repressive mechanisms at its disposal: the municipal governments, national television, district attorneys and all State Security agents. They interrogated any citizen who dared to “like” our posts and filled social media with pictures of the batons with which they would come out to beat us. They even organised vaccination centres for children along the route we proposed for the march. It was clear that almost no one would dare to come out. And so it was.

If the regime had had a minimal amount of intelligence they would just have put low limits on the numbers of people allowed to join the march, or they’d have designated a route far from public visibility. But they couldn’t do even that. The donkey who reckons to be the head of the dictatorship didn’t want to run any risk. And it remained clear for the whole world to see that the people of Cuba have no means whatever to express a political opinion that might differ from the official line.

The international press followed the story closely and barely anyone in the world had any doubt that the banning of the march showed that we, in trying to organise it were justified in our demands. But the dictatorship has a long history of achieving Pyrrhic victories. So they played the only cards remaining to them: discreditation, character assassination, confusion, sowing of suspicion, generation of division, forcing us into exile, launching a campaign of slander against us.

Sadly, this campaign worked for many Cubans. We still suffer like a messiah in that we’re punished if we’re not seen to be flayed and crucified on a cross. It comes hard for us to realize that before leaders we need citizens. And that to face up to a dictatorship isn’t about being a superhero but it’s about learning, effort, resolve and survival.

A year after these events there’s still a lot for us to reflect upon concerning their true impact. What is beyond question though is that on that day the dictatorship’s masks were torn to pieces.

Translated by Ricardo Recluso

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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 Culture Crisis of the Cuban Revolution

The pandemic has finished off what was already the poor state of Cuban cinemas.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yunior García Aguilera, Madrid, 9 November 2022 — To the grave situation in the sectors of economy, food, finance, energy, politics, social justice, migration and health — all from which Cuba is suffering — we may add a new crisis that could deliver the final death blow to a fading, crumbling model. Because if culture is the “sword and shield of the nation”, then culture’s current scenario would seem to point to the inevitable total breakdown of the system.

From the first minutes in which Díaz-Canel took power he was already stamping his signature on Decree 349 — which is aimed at increasing institutional control over artistic endeavour — and the passing of the decree would only prove to be the beginning of this unfortunate, hopeless and charisma-free little man’s headaches.

The newer generations of creatives championed an independent art scene, one that could make the most of the tiny opening seen in other sectors during the “Obama era”. But the party idealogues preferred a perestroika without glasnost. They were indeed forced to instigate a timid restructuring  of the economy, but in no way were they disposed to giving up their iron control of the narrative.

At the Youth Show of the Cuban Institute of Art and Cinematographic Industries, El Cardumen’ (The School/Shoal) was established, which defended words such as inclusion, question, risk, equality. They declared on their manifesto: “Our films will continue to speak (…), even though they will try to gag us”. Elsewhere, Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and Yanelys Núñez organised the ’#00biennial’, on the fringes of officialdom and managed to bring together around a hundred artistes. The creation of their San Isidro Movement would mark a decisive chapter in events that were starting to unchain themselves.

In 2019, in great haste, the ninth congress of the UNEAC (The National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba) was convened. Its architects conceived the meeting as a dam which could hold back the turbulent cultural waters. But the epic songs of praise to the congress did not take into account an unforeseen event worthy of the Theban Cycle – the arrival of the pandemic.

On 27 November 2020 the abyss that has always existed between Cuban artists and the institutions that regulate cultural policy became unbridgeable again. [Ed. note: See also articles here.] Two months later, the pseudo-poet who served as minister was becoming a vulgar telephone snatcher, and a mob of fat old men would go out to beat up another group of young people in front of the sumptuous mansion (or barracks) in Vedado, where they attempt to direct culture. continue reading

Ever since [the popular song of 1916] La Chambelona, and even before that, songs have always played a decisive role in Cuban political battles. For that reason the tremendous impact of Patria y Vida has not been a surprise, chanted, as it was, in the streets during the biggest social unrest ever seen in the country. It was of no use that the regime charged their hard hitter, Raúl Torres, with the task of getting the government out of a difficult spot. While Patria y Vida was shared millions of times and was awarded two Latin Grammy prizes, including Song of the Year, its counterpart, Patria o Muerte por la Vida, got tens of thousands of “dislikes” in just 72 hours.

With the slogan “Give Your Heart to Cuba“, official journalism took it that it ought to become more “cool” —  in reality, the worst “cool press” possible. So national television would be filled with gossip programmes, such as “With Edge”, where bitching about people becomes the norm.

After 11J [the 11 July 2021 protests], a handful of artists with deserved recognition for their work, decided to face their fears and break their silence. Many of them publically renounced their membership of UNEAC or AHS because both organisations decided to turn their backs on their own members in order to yield to the despots who gave the orders.

Today, Cuban culture is suffering the greatest exodus of talent that has been seen to date. State budgets for the arts have been reduced more than ever before, and the paintings that they hang in front of the institutions possess neither workmanship nor artistic merit, nor leadership.

And to make matters worse, the numbers provided by the Annual Directory of Statistics are overwhelming. A quick comparison of the years 2018 and 2021 would be enough to show the magnitude of the disaster. From 1,765 titles published earlier, the figure goes down to just 527. In only three years 5 ’Casas de la Trova’ (music venues), 6 bookshops, 14 theatres, 19 cinemas, 26 arts centres and 27 art galleries have been lost. During that same period, more than 20 theatre companies and almost two thousand professional music groups have disappeared.

This carnival of mediocrity has laid bare another myth of the Revolution:  In “The time of the mameys[ed. note: “The moment of truth’] the first thing they’re ready to sacrifice is precisely: culture.

Translated by Ricardo Recluso

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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 Nicknames of Power

Graffiti against Miguel Díaz-Canel in the Havana neighborhood of Santos Suárez. (Twitter/@ElRuso4k)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yunior García, Madrid, 27 October 2022 — One of the first nicknames that Díaz-Canel received before becoming the visible head of the Cuban regime was when he was the first secretary of the Communist Party in Holguín. He had tried to prevent the farmers from bringing milk into the city. His “dry law” didn’t improve the production and distribution of dairy products in the province, but it did increase the anger of the few ranchers. Some of them preferred to pour the product onto the land, rather than hand it over to the police and inspectors who cordoned off the entrances to the Cuban city of the parks. Canel’s bloodhounds were trained to sniff out all forms of milk trafficking and fiercely punished such an onanistic sin. The inquisitor would be promoted, but in Holguín he was forever baptized as Miguel “Díaz-Condom.”

Epithets existed even before Homer made them famous. Already in the Epic of Gilgamesh, in the Texts of the Pyramids or in the Biblical Genesis, we find the use of appellations that alternate with the name of the character. And although they were generally used to highlight positive qualities, in modern times their usage has been much more pejorative, especially in politics.

The flatterers of power insist on placing bombastic and heroic qualifiers on their leaders, but popular wisdom always adds a little humor to the matter. Thus, the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, was called  El Caudillo [the Strongman] by his followers; others called him El Cerillita [the Short Straw] because of his short stature. Pinochet was Pinocchio, for those who endured the dictatorship in Chile, and the Dominican Leónidas Trujillo would go down in history as El Chivo [the Fraud].

Nor have the champions of the Latin American left been spared from receiving nicknames. Néstor Kirchner was called El Pingüino [the Penguin], because of his physical resemblance to the character in Batman. Hugo Chávez was El Inombrable [the Nameless]. His heir, Maduro, is well known as Maburro, due to his continuous blunders. Daniel Ortega would be baptized as El Bachi [the Stick] or Mico Mandante [Monkey (Com)mandante], while his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, is La Chamuca, a popular name that the people give to Satan. continue reading

Returning to Cuba, almost all the presidents of the Republic were popularly distinguished with some epithet. Tomás Estrada Palma earned fame as tacaño [stingy], and his enemies named him Tomasito, el cicatero [Little Tomás, the miser]. The government of José Miguel Gómez had successes and failures, but the dominant corruption led the leader to be recognized as a tiburön, a shark. The phrase: “tiburón se baño pero salpica” [the shark swims but splashes], is one of those sayings that schoolchildren remember all their lives, beyond the excessive commitment of official indoctrination to narrate the Republic in a simplistic way. Mario García Menocal was known as El Mayoral [the Overseer], Alfredo Zayas as El Chino [the Chinese man] and dictator Gerardo Machado as El asno con garras [the ass with claws]. Nor did Grau San Martín avoid the choteo [joking]. Although his acolytes called him El Mesías de la Cubanidad [the Messiah of Cubanity], others renamed him El Divino Galimatías [the Divine Nonsense].

Fulgencio Batista would be El Hombre [The Man], for many. However, the color of his skin made it impossible for him to accepted by the elites, who called him El Indio [the Indian] and El Negro [the Black man]. After the triumph of January 1, the rebels would place Manuel Urrutia in the presidency, a poor guy who didn’t count for anything and would be nicknamed Cucharita [teaspoon].

Then Fidel Castro arrived to monopolize the national record of nicknames. El Caballo [The Horse] is perhaps his most famous nickname, since that animal occupies number one in the Charada, the Cuban system for picking lottery numbers. But, almost at the end of his existence, his acolytes would insist on calling him Caguairán [a type of hardwood]. The people, however, would use other more ingenious names for him: Fifo, Barba-Truco, Coma-Andante, Comediante en Jefe, El Cenizas or, more recently: La Piedra [Fifo, Beard-Trick, Walking-Coma, Comedian in Chief, Ashes or, more recently: the Stone].

Nor did his little brother, Raúl Castro, escape the nicknames. Tropical machismo insists on calling him La China [Chinese woman], not only for being beardless in the middle of a bearded family, but also because of the countless rumors about his sexuality. Even a late convert, like troubadour Ray Fernández, alludes to this in a theme loaded with malice: “China, search for your tail… of cloud.” Surely the “player” will have to adjust his repertoire to be admitted as a court jester in the cultural activities of the regime.

Finally, we have arrived at Diaska [Polish for “what on earth!”], el ratoncito Miguel [Mickey Mouse], Miguel Mario-Neta [Puppet] the Puesto a Dedo [Handpicked] the CitroneroGuarapero major [old lemon-sugarcane juice], the Dictador del Corazón de La Machi [Dictator of the Medicine Man’s Heart] , KKKanel and DiasContados [Days are Numbered]. Although the best nickname of all, without a doubt, belongs to the authorship of rappers Al2 and Silvito El Libre: Díaz-Canel… Singao [Motherfucker].

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.

Cuba: The ‘Stockholm Letter’

Photo of the protest in Caibarién, Villa Clara on Monday. (Capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yunior García Aguilera, Madrid, 12 October 2022 — On August 23, 1973, in the Swedish city of Stockholm, Jan-Erik Olsson attempted to rob a bank. His four hostages, despite the violence and threats to their lives, ended up protecting their captor and demonstrating vehement empathy toward him. Upon seeing this strange reaction of the victims, psychiatrist Nils Bejerot coined the term “Stockholm syndrome.”

The letter signed by a group of artists and intellectuals, denying the repression and praising the administration of the worst government Cuba has experienced in all its history, seems written by the hostages of that bank. The signatories not only displayed a cynical attitude, but rather, a sick one.

How can they deny the repression in a country where the little dictator gave the combat order on national television? How can they close their eyes to what occurred on our streets, to the hordes armed with clubs exiting the trucks to beat protesters? How can they pretend that in Cuba there aren’t more than a thousand young people in jail for yelling that they have had enough of the darkness and misery? Don’t those who subscribed to that letter realize that their signature is as culpable as the blow of a henchman, or the bullet that entered Diubis Laurencio’s back?

It is not the first time something like this happens. In 2003, a group of well-recognized Cuban intellectuals signed a the Mensaje para los amigos que están lejos [A message to our friends who are far away], supporting the imprisonment of 75 dissidents and the execution of three young men. If that was called the Black Spring, this has been the Black Autumn, as somber as the blackouts, as dark as the present and future of an entire country. Some of those who placed their signature there have, with time, regretted it and have refused to make the same mistake. But others repeat it. And new names are added to the infamy. continue reading

I saw the signatures of certain people who I considered “my friends”. But in signing that letter they are backing all the terror my family suffered. It is as if they themselves were the ones who threw me onto the garbage truck on July 11th, the same ones who decapitated doves at my door, and threatened to put me in jail for 27 years, and surrounded my house on November 14th, the same ones who launched me into exile.  They are not my friends. They are the courtiers of a despotic regime, the accomplices of those who hold on to power by force and have Cuba buried in disgrace.

I don’t know what they gain by “acting like Swedes.” I don’t know if, for them, it is worth smearing their names with mud forever to keep their positions, publish a little book, come out with an album or gain some sad privilege. By signing “the Stockholm Letter” they’ve reached the limit of subservience.

There were always people like this in Cuba, willing to applaud the horror. Today, almost no one dares to admit they supported the parameterization or that they were the architects of the Five Grey Years. But none of those horrible chapters would have happened without counting on the acolytes, slime balls, and applauders. Each sinister phase of history has its side kicks, fixers, co-authors.  And the signers of that letter have made a pact with the mafia that gets fat at our expense.

Returning to Stockholm syndrome, there is an important detail that deserves attention. One year after the bank robbery which gave rise to that psychological reaction, another important event occurred. Patricia Hearst, the granddaughter of a magnate, was kidnapped in California by the Symbionese Liberation Army. Shortly thereafter, the victim herself joined the kidnappers and helped them rob a bank. Patricia, who had been sexually abused by her captors, changed her name to Tania, just like the guerrilla fighter who accompanied Che Guevara. The cameras at the bank recorded her holding a rifle and actively participating in the robbery. Although her lawyers tried to defend her, alleging she suffered from the syndrome, the jury convicted her anyway.

Don’t believe, signers of the infamous letter, that history will absolve you. Lately, you have experienced a massive rejection by most Cubans. And abroad, those hypocritical letters no longer have much of an effect. The world has already seen the repression in Cuba. And the world has seen you buckle, as shameless opportunists, under a perishing dictatorship.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

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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 Padilla case, or the ‘Generous’ Terror of the Cuban Revolution

A frame from The Padilla Case by Pavel Giroud

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yunior García Aguilera, Madrid, 28 September 2022 — I was finally able to see The Padilla Case, Pavel Giroud’s film that brings to light a disconcerting, devastating historical archive. The original material remained hidden in the vaults of the Castro regime for half a century, until now. And it’s urgent that we look back at that unburied corpse, because it’s not about ancient history, but about an urgent topical issue.

Many already knew the details of that meeting at the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC) in April 1971, where Heberto Padilla revealed the Stalinist character of the Cuban Revolution. But seeing the images, observing the gestures, listening to the tone of self-criticism, contemplating the panic in the eyes of those present and feeling the sweat on the poet’s shirt, is an extremely shocking experience.

They say that Mario Vargas Llosa himself, after seeing it, confessed that he regrets not having seen the material when Padilla was still alive, because he would have embraced him and told him: “Now I believe you.” Others have stated that, with materials like this exposed to light, history will not be able to absolve Fidel Castro in any way.

I was in shock for several seconds at the end of the film. Pavel is a renowned Cuban filmmaker who had already triumphed with titles such as Tres veces dos, [Three Times TwoLa edad de la peseta [The Age of the Peseta], Omertá or El acompañante [The Accompanist]. And in this last installment he turns the documentary genre into something different. It’s as if we were dealing with a thriller, a spy movie, a horror drama, an archaeological adventure. His talent for editing allows him to transform an archive filmed in an elementary way into something absorbing, fast-paced, disturbing. Beyond the testimony, Pavel gives us a work with a high cinematic aesthetic and a screen setting of something alive and current. continue reading

What happened in that room of the UNEAC was much more than a warning: it was a collective suicide. The Cuban union of writers, artists and intellectuals emasculated itself, put on its own gags , let itself be violated by a system that spilled all its authoritarian semen into the creative belly of a generation, to force it to give birth to the New Man.

Seeing the faces of those who attended that meeting is quite a spectacle. Recognizing Reinaldo Arenas among the crowd, contemplating a Virgilio Piñera who refuses to applaud, noticing the indifferent yawn of Nancy Morejón… How many of those attendees were paralyzed by fear for lives? How many started suffering from Stockholm syndrome? How much poetry died suddenly that night?

Even today, a part of the intelligentsia still has that absurd romance with a stagnant and dying Revolution. Some still believe, as García Márquez did at the time, that Cuba is a battering ram for which everything must be forgiven, in pursuit of I don’t know what utopia, like the submissive wife who endures the blows of her husband in the name of a sick love. Until when?

The protagonist of the film is neither a traitor nor a martyr. He’s a chip in a game that he cannot win or lose, a game that would leave him out, irremediably, as in the title of his book. Was Padilla sending messages to the future? Was his performance useful? Was it ethical to stab himself in front of everyone and stick a knife into the back of his friends, even if they were forewarned? Did he know how to read the world’s signs? Did he act out of cowardice, sarcasm or the ego of transcending when he was grateful for the “generosity” of the Revolution?

The Chilean writer and diplomat Jorge Edwards said that Padilla felt untouchable, because the Revolution had an image to show to  the European left. But State Security would be in charge of showing him that no one escapes revolutionary terror. The poet was arrested, taken to Villa Marista, locked up, threatened, humiliated, forced to publicly self-flagellate, and what? García Márquez admitted that Padilla’s indictment did even more damage to the Revolution than his own confinement, so? The regime’s hand does not tremble when it decides that it’s time for heads to roll. No one is safe; no one is considered untouchable; no one will have clemency.

How important it is that this material is exhibited right now! How urgent it is to definitively tear the veil off those who continue to defend a mafia that hides behind the word “Revolution”! Thanks to Pavel Giroud and his team for this work, which is already essential for Cuban cinema and for Cuba.

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.

Cuba: Ballot Boxes in Captivity

Official promotional poster for Cuba’s new Family Code. (Invasor)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yunior García Aguilera, Madrid, 14 September 2022 — No one will be surprised if on September 25th the regime’s referendum on the Family Code is rejected. In addition to machismo, which persists in Cuban society, the growth of evangelical religions or even reasonable doubts about the implementation of certain areas of the project, the “No” vote will also be a vote of punishment.

The outcome of that referendum cannot be analyzed using the same standards that are applied in countries where these topics have been the subject of debate. In the first place, because Cuba is not a democracy. The Parliament is not group where different views in the country seek counterweight, consensus and balance, but rather, a group of pets belonging to power and accustomed to following orders, wagging their tails, and clapping like seals. Submitting the rights of minorities to a vote has been a strategy of the Communist Party with a less-than-noble purpose.

Anyone who knows a bit about recent Cuban history knows that those in power have never been allies of the LGBT community nor defenders of the family, but the contrary. I am not speaking only of the [prison camps known as] UMAP (Military Units to Aid Production) and the parametrados* those who were ‘parameterized‘*, but rather recent events during which activists have not only been discriminated against, but have also suffered repression with distinctly homophobic characteristics. continue reading

I’m not only talking about the nefarious declarations of Fidel Castro where he called homosexuals “sick little boys,” but rather the permanence of profoundly machista discourse. One only needs to hear the terrible poem one delegate read at the Assembly exalting the virility of the commandante, at the time the Family Code was being debated.

Today our Island is more broken than ever. The dictatorship has had very dark moments throughout its more than six decades but this is the worst. The scarcity, the inflation, the blackouts, the endless lines, on top of the brutal and sustained persecution of any dissent. There have never been as many protests as there are now, nor the constant threat of another large-scale, social uprising. ##Cuba is suffering the largest exodus in our history, which is emptying the country at an intimidating pace. Never before had the regime received such a massive and explicit rejection. The current nomenklatura is, without a doubt, the most inefficient and unpopular since 1959. And there is no remedy for that, because the political gameboard is designed so that only the mediocre ascend, dismissing anyone who shows a bit of their own light.

Worst of all is that if the No vote wins, the authorities will not care. They will say they did what they could, that it was not up to them. They will accuse the opposition of being backward, right-wing extremist, fascist, ultraconservative. And rights will once again be postponed. If the Yes vote wins, the regime will tout the response as meaning total support for the Revolution and the Party. But in the end, they will do very little, in practice, to benefit the people who really need it, because neither the social base nor an efficient structure exist to enforce those rights.

It is true that there is a lot of superficial propaganda on social media, but I completely understand the fears of some about the very delicate issue of child custody. It is also true that in democratic countries there are similar regulations, but let’s not forget that in Cuba there is one Party that is above the Constitution and the laws. They interpret everything, always in their favor, and they have never needed the law to crush whomever they want. With the Code or without it, any Cuban who becomes the target of destruction will be completely defenseless when facing the henchmen in power.

I have always declared my support and solidarity with the LGBT community. I defend their right to have rights to the end, but I respect the decision each person will take on September 25th. Whatever happens, the struggle to conquer as much dignity as possible and to eradicate all kinds of discrimination should continue with greater force.

The debate surrounding the Code had generated so much controversy that very few have noticed that the dictatorship will return to the ballot box in November. Last year they had announced that, due to the pandemic, the delegates’ terms would be extended. The date is very symbolic, November 27th. But that will be the topic for another article.

*Translator’s note: *Parametrados / parametracion: From the word “parameters.” Parametracion (parameterization) is a process of establishing parameters and declaring anyone who falls outside them (the parametrados) to be what is commonly translated as “misfits” or “marginalized.” This is a process much harsher than implied by these terms in English. The process is akin to the McCarthy witch hunts and black lists and is used, for example, to purge the ranks of teachers, and even to imprison people.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez 

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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’s Enemy is in the Plaza of the Revolution

Raúl Castro placed his son Alejandro (on his left in front of his grandson Raúl Guillermo) in what he called the Commission for Defense and National Security. (Cubanet)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yunior García Aguilera, Madrid, 31 August 2022 — If we take into consideration that the security of any country is based on the notion of stability, peace, development, as well as in the strategies to achieve these objectives, there is no doubt that the authoritarian powers on the Island constitute the main threat to National Security.

This concept emerged in the United States shortly after the end of World War II. In the context of the Cold War and facing the threat of nuclear weapons, the term focused on prevention, on the capacity to predict danger and strategies to mitigate its effect. Over time and as globalization erodes borders, the term has acquired other connotations.

Today, a state’s National Security does not only depend on external threats. Included in that concept are common delinquency, mafias, environmental risks, pandemics, catastrophes or uncontrolled migration.

In Cuba, Raúl Castro positioned his only son within something called the Commission for Defense and National Security. As usual, none of the delegates asked uncomfortable questions and no one questioned whether placing Alejandro Castro Espín in that area on a whim was in response to a true national interest or only had to do with having a colonel with the last name Castro mindfully watching over (with his only eye) the monarch’s sacred Family Security. continue reading

It is extremely difficult to define the Cuban system. It is not communist because communism does not exist, pure fiction, something which has never been nailed down anywhere on the planet. Socialism, on the other hand has so many definitions, it would be vague or imprecise to describe Cuba as a socialist state, especially when taking into consideration that on the Caribbean island, laborers are not a force with any political weight, nor do they have the opportunity to propel change in any way.

This small portion of the world has been a territory controlled since 1959 by a clan of individuals who have monopolized decisions, development strategies, and the notion of national security. Since then, Cuba has remained under the yoke of a gang which has used the ideologies of the day at whim to justify its empowerment. This caste has already failed precipitously in the country’s economic development, the conquest and guarantee of individual and collective rights, in achieving the wellbeing of the population and even in the state’s own survival.

The situation becomes more complex when the chiefdom, self-legitimized as a result of historical events, biologically disappears, in addition to the elimination of its contrarians or the best press any generation has had. But they’ve been replaced by a gang of legendless bureaucrats. The replacements (tombs in guayaberas) do not appear in the history books read by schoolchildren,  nor have they worked a day in their lives, and no dove ever posed on their shoulder. The forced replacements did not inherit the charisma of their models, they cannot count on popular support, they don’t even have the benefit of the doubt.

The current situation in Cuba is the worst it’s been in decades because, beyond the inflation, lack of bread, or the 18-hour blackouts, people are no longer willing to keep silent. We are the country in Latin America with the most political prisoners, we are at the bottom of most development list, and we compete with the worst countries in rankings of human rights violations.

However, the gang that has recently moved to Siboney refuses to accept democratic solutions. They continue to blame a “blockade” which collapses every time a Cuban buys chicken “made in the USA” in a freely convertible currency (MLC) store. They insist on the threat of foreign military intervention, which even the most recalcitrant opponents in Miami completely discard. They repeat like parrots that all demonstrations of discontent are paid for by the CIA, which must be bankrupt with so many accounts to settle. Officials of team Diaz-Canel beg ordinary residents for sacrifice, babble slogans that seem like tongue twisters, demand “creative” resistance. They appeal to the people to endure face slaps from police, beatings of 11-year-old girls, and all this for a bright future in which no one believes.

Silvia Rodríguez had a point when he predicted that the people will end up confronting the government. It has done so with flowers, songs. . . or stones. Tomorrow could be worse. The main threat to national secuirty is the system itself.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

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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 Seven Lives of Revolution the Cat

Four years after Fidel turned to dust, his name lives on in a new dynasty. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yunior Garcia Aguilera, Madrid, August 16, 2022 — Does the Cuban revolution still exist? For some it ended at the exact moment Fidel Castro delared it to be Marxist.  In the pages of Bohemia years earlier he had accused Fulgencio Batista of being the communists’ candidate in the 1940 election, of being photographed with Blas Roca and Lazaro Peña. Socialists writing for New York’s Daily Worker criticized the assault on the Moncada Barracks, characterizing it as a fool-hardy adventure, a provocation, a putsch. Even a far-left Chilean journalist claimed the events of July 26 had been organized by the CIA.

In his biography, History Will Absolve Me, Fidel makes no mention of Marxism. In interviews with journalist Herbert Matthews in the Sierra Maestra, he would deny that Marxist ideas played any role in his movement. And after taking power in 1959, he would again swear before the press and the entire world, in Spanish and in English, that he categorically rejected communism. To associate him with that ideology, he said, was “a smear campaign.”

But Eisenhower’s less-than-polite welcome during Castro’s visit to the United States would motivate Khrushchev to send an emissary. The revolution’s red shift was not borne of conviction, much less of popular demand. It was the result of a bruised ego. It was also the pragmatic solution of a street fighter. If he was going to take on the neighborhood bully, he had to join forces with another bully of the same weight and size as that of his enemy.

In December 1961 Fidel Castro not only betrayed all his democratic promises, he also killed off his “green as the palm trees” experiment, turning it into something else.

Thus began another revolution, one that aroused the sympathy of many leftist intellectuals, who saw in it the chance to cleanse socialism of its Stalinist stain. “It will be different in Cuba,” they claimed. Their enthusiasm would wane in 1968, however, when the bearded lover exposed his hairy chest. The Revolutionary Offensive to nationalize all of Cuba’s remaining small businesses was irrational and extremist. Censorship of poets was rampant. Che died disheveled and alone in a Bolivia that he neither knew nor cared about. Fidel supported Soviet tanks’ rolling into Prague. That year marked the end of another revolution: the romantic one. continue reading

A new constitution in 1976, a carbon copy of the bureaucratic Eastern European model, consolidated the state. Cuba had officially become a satellite, with the constitutional text itself serving as the marriage contract. The rhetoric and liturgy of the Leninist creed reached their climax in a country that, just a few years earlier, did not know how to say tovarisch (comrade) or spasiva (thank you).

Seemingly solidified, the regime managed to survive the 1980 Mariel crisis but would again be in mortal decline by the end of the decade. Perestroika and glasnost had supporters among the population but the nation’s leaders were not about to give up even a millimeter of their absolute control. The firing-squad execution of General Ochoa, a Hero of the Republic, along with three other officials sent a loud and clear warning. Not long after, General Abrahantes, a former interior minister and head of Fidel’s security detail, died in prison. As far as the Cuban public and the world at-large were concerned, it all had something to do with drugs. For reformist factions within the palace, it was an ultimatum.

So began the fifth life of a cat named Revolution. Like a feline on a hot tin roof, tired and bleary, it had to survive. People took to the streets for the first time to challenge the regime. They later took to the seas on anything that would float. After the economy hit bottom, strategists revived Bastista’s dream of filling the country with hotels. There was no miracle capable of multiplying the loaves and the fishes. Only the problems and the prostitutes multiplied.

A new feline life-cycle began when Castro took off his uniform and put on a suit to receive the pope. With Chavez, Evo, Correa and Kirchner in power, it was a new period of optimism: the Pink Tide. The cat thought it would live forever.

But death brought an end to that period too. Four years after Fidel turned to dust, his name lives on in that of a new dynasty. Except that New Man turned out to be just as clumsy as the Golem in Jorge Luis Borges’ poem. And today, lying in literal darkness, the cat counts out its days.

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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 Arm Over the Shoulder, the Metastasis of Power in Cuba

In the ranks of the PCC and the UJC, opacity, mediocrity and the absence of authentic leadership reign. It would be enough to look at the character who has been placed at the top of the visible pyramid: the first secretary, Díaz-Canel. (Cubadebate)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yunior García Aguilera, Madrid, 19 July 2022 — For millions of Cubans it is clear that sovereignty does not reside in the people, but in the Communist Party. We could even say that Article 5 of the Constitution is the Platt Amendment of our times, although in this case it is not a simple removable appendix, but a tumor embedded in the body of the nation.

Article 5 establishes that the single party is the superior force of society and of the State. Any initiative, proposal, idea or solution that opposes this totalitarian power is automatically branded traitorous or anti-Cuban. The main enemy of Cuban authoritarianism ceased to be external a long time ago. Today, all the cannons of the regime are aimed against its own citizens.

Even in supposedly cultural organizations the omnipresence of the Party is confirmed. The statutes of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba, from the second article, establish their full obedience to the PCC. And the same thing happens, although with an even more fundamentalist tone, with the Hermanos Saíz Association(AHS). Its statutes read: “The AHS recognizes the political direction of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) and the Union of Young Communists (UJC), the leading organization of the Cuban youth movement. For what is established as a principle, the strongest will of all its members in defense of the ideals of the Cuban Revolution.”

It is clear why both organizations turned their backs on their own members after the 27N (27 November 2020) and 11J (11 July 2021) protests. It is more than evident that this is not about civil society organizations that promote the creations of their artists, but crude control mechanisms by the State to monitor and control the guild related to culture.

It is difficult to understand the magnitude of ridicule when one is immersed in that broth of indoctrination and propaganda that normalizes the absurd. But it is unthinkable that, in democratic societies, a cultural association would have to swear allegiance in its statutes to a political party in order to exist.

Nor can Cuban citizens cannot freely choose their representatives, rather these are carefully selected by the Candidacy Commissions, which in turn are controlled by the Party and State Security. The Platform Otro18 [Another2018] convincingly demonstrated how the political police operate to prevent opposition candidates from running as delegates in their constituencies. continue reading

On the other hand, the cadre policy of the single party is designed so that it is not the most capable who climb the rungs, but the most obedient. In the ranks of the PCC and the UJC, opacity, mediocrity and the absence of authentic leadership reign. It would be enough to look at the character who has been placed at the top of the visible pyramid: the first secretary, Díaz-Canel. If this individual was the best choice of the dictator Raúl Castro to occupy his position, we can already imagine what the rest of the troops were like.

It seems that in the Ñico López (Higher School of the PCC) they are in charge of annulling individualities. When listening to the president of the Municipal Assembly of People’s Power, José Ramón Cabrera, speaking after the protests in Los Palacios, you feel you are facing a pioneer news presenter. Most of these “cadres” or “community factors” have the same gestures, emphasize the same words, are trained in the most simplistic demagoguery: that of placing an arm on the shoulder of the dissatisfied, without offering any concrete solution, just justifications.

The Party’s cadre policy cannot be fixed, because its architects do not tolerate competition. Its victims are chosen from an early age, and the casting takes place in school assemblies. From there, the young cadres begin a career of self-nullification. The continuous, endless and useless meetings will prevent them from frequently attending classes, but their absences will be justified. They will never be able to perform as a good professional sin their field, because the “Revolution” takes up all of their time.

Thus we have Pedro Jorge Velázquez, a young promise of official propaganda. The young man promotes himself as the super “cool and sexy” journalist, although in reality he is a student without many lights, repeating, with an exaggerated need to be taken into account by the nomenclature, but with very poor professional results. And the height of that policy is the “president” himself. The paradox of Díaz-Canel is his being nothing less than an electrical engineer, while under his mandate Cuban is suffering the worst energy situation in the last 30 years.

The only party is a tumor that has already metastasized.

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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.

Cuba, Between Sects and Heretics

The fundamentalism of the Castro sect is radicalizing as the crisis of faith in its practitioners increases. (Cubandebate)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yunior García Aguilera, Madrid, 6 July 2022 — According to the Pan-Hispanic Dictionary of Legal Spanish, a sect is a religious group usually characterized by a charismatic, messianic and dogmatic leader, with a vertical and totalitarian structure, which demands absolute detachment from its members. Any Cuban who reads this definition could agree that, effectively, the Cuban Revolution is a sect. Much more so now that the maximum leader of the doctrine rests on a stone altar, as if he were an Egyptian pharaoh.

The fundamentalism of the Castro sect is radicalizing as the crisis of faith in its practitioners increases. We have seen the high priests of the Politburo cling to the rock with the same devotion of a penitent before the Wailing Wall. “Talk to us, we need you!” murmur the worshipers with beards and uniforms before the rosary of plagues that a country that is so far from God and so close to Miami suffers.

But the new anointed one completely lacks what the Greeks called areté and that could be translated as the virtue that Olympus gives you. No white doves perch on his shoulder, only dyed doves of very bad omen. The only thing that he is capable of multiplying are lines, blackouts and discontent. The prosperous and sustainable paradise that he keeps promising is, in real life, the worst hell imaginable.

And those who dare to dissent are quickly excommunicated, demonized, expelled from the congregation. Whoever writes these lines many years ago was expelled from the Jehovah’s Witnesses and today he is once again a heretic, a wandering Jew, an apostate. That is my karma. But my real crime, my cardinal sin, has been refusing to die on the cross.

I do believe in what they call “anthropological damage,” I have seen it with my own eyes. I have seen how even those who oppose the cult can end up recycling its methods and fanaticism. They are like Thomas, the unbelieving apostle, who after seeing Jesus walk on the water, still needed to put his hand on the wound to be convinced that miracles exist. continue reading

Many of those who yesterday wanted to turn anyone into a messiah and pushed him to martyrdom, today claim that the same person is possessed by the demons of State Security. The G2 is more ubiquitous than the Holy Trinity. Many of those who shout the word freedom at the top of their lungs actually prefer their leaders behind bars, so that they become credible. Morbidity is stronger than reason and common sense. Many of those who learned Patria y Vida by heart continue to function with the logic of “fatherland or death.”

Small groups that proclaim themselves the “only true opposition” grow on social networks. There is a whole conspiracy and apocalyptic explosion burning other opponents at the stake of defamation. They have no proof, but they have no doubt either. Everyone is a traitor until proven otherwise. Anyone who does not agree with the new dogma is automatically declared a false prophet. The sects do not understand democracy, only inquisition.

The playwright René Ariza affirmed that we Cubans should be very careful with the Castro that each one carried within. Coca-Cola versions of Fidel are just as bad as the original. Never again should we allow single thinking, blacklisting, or acts of repudiation. The homeland will have to belong to everyone or we will continue, indefinitely, going around in circles. But Cuban civil society could take years to heal the wounds that seven decades of intolerance have caused us.

Although, when it comes to sins, I prefer to be optimistic. It only takes an ounce of lucidity to identify those whose mentality is as authoritarian as the dictatorship itself. They can swear that their ideology is the opposite, they can fill their profiles with anti-communist slogans, but deep down… they are Fidel. They repeat the scheme that excludes those who think differently. They hate the plurality of voices. They only accept their own speech.

As July 11 approaches, each of us should place less emphasis on the speck in the other’s eye. The dictatorship may be about to fall and we may not even be ready to prevent a new cycle of intransigence. Let’s not waste a single minute in slandering the other who is also risking everything. My truth, your truth, are only parts of a larger and more complex truth called 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.

Cuban State Security and its Operation Babel

‘The Tower of Babel’, by Pieter Brueghel the Elder, exhibited in the Kunsthistorisches (Art History Museum), in Vienna, Austria. (DC)

14ymedio bigger14medio, Yunior García Aguilera, Madrid, 8 June 2022 — The Biblical story relates that, shortly after the universal flood, humanity spoke a single language and wanted to erect a tower so high that it reached the sky. Such arrogance aroused the wrath of the God of the Old Testament, who used a sui generis strategy to frustrate the attempt: to confuse the languages. The Almighty could have destroyed the city of Babel with fire, but it was not necessary. It was enough for him to prevent men from being able to understand each other, to communicate.

“Divide and rule” has been the favorite practice of State Security in Cuba. Repression, imprisonment or exile have not been able to annihilate an opposition that is renewing itself and surviving the constant harassment of the dictatorship. But that opposition has also failed to become solid. The continuous attacks between one and the other, the ideological differences, the caudillismos and the sectarian thought have kept it fragmented, confronted, Babelic.

Nor is it a new phenomenon among Cubans. Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, the Father of the Nation, was betrayed and abandoned by his own comrades-in-arms. It would be very difficult for José Martí to earn the respect of the mambises chiefs and he would even challenge one of them to a duel. His differences with Maceo are well known and who knows what internal pressures threw him to an early and useless death in Dos Ríos.

I remember every detail of my first interrogations. State Security took me to one of those houses with walls lined with long curtains. I knew there were cameras everywhere. Every word I said could be manipulated and used against me. In the center, a table showed the contradictions of a country where misery reigns. Filled with crystal glasses, there was everything that was scarce in the stores. Instinct prevents you from touching food, until the hours go by. So you eat and they record you doing it. And if another day they decide to torture you and you report it, they will take those images of you eating shellfish. And they will say: look everyone, this is the torture he talks about! And unfortunately many people will believe them, because the seafood tactic never fails. continue reading

In each interrogation, the officer insisted on speaking ill of other opponents to me. His objective was to confont Tania Bruguera and Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara. He mentioned horrible videos that I refused to see and that probably didn’t even exist. But the description of those images that he narrated stayed in my mind, as much as I wanted to ignore them. This is how they play with your psyche. I am convinced that they did the same later with some of the members of Archipiélago. They probably told them horrible things about me, activating their egos, mentioning videos that don’t exist either.

Social networks have constituted for Cubans a new space of struggle, but they are also a double-edged sword. The army of anonymous profiles created by the regime is not only made up of cyberclarias [cyber catfishing]. There are thousands of these profiles posing as opponents. The same template used by some declaring themselves 100% Fidelistas is used by others confirming themselves 100% anti-communist. The pattern is the same and its mission is very clear: attack other opponents.

Anyone who browses Twitter can see how many characters are used to disqualify anyone who has any leadership. This army is much more effective than the traditional cyberclarias. From an apparently radical discourse, suspicions are spread, opinion matrixes are sown, sterile confrontations are generated, reputations are dismembered.

Already the tactic of accusing dissidents of being paid by the CIA does not convince anyone, so they resort to another resource: accusing you of being from the G2 [Cuban State Security]. They know they are so discredited that they use their own discredit to crush the image of an opponent. And even if you are someone who shook the entire dictatorship, some will believe and suspect you.

The opposition must not be monolithic. To build democracy, open and free debate, the confrontation of ideas, the diversity of thoughts are vital. But to achieve a solid opposition that commands the respect and support of the international community, it is necessary to cultivate ethics and political maturity. No group is the absolute owner of the truth, no leader is exempt from errors, no strategy is infallible. When we learn to communicate without imposing our voice on others, we will be much closer to defeating Operation Babel. If we can understand each other, despite our differences, we can reach the clouds and, as the Greeks would say, take the sky by storm.

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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 Left Hand of Latin America

Gustavo Petro with his future vice president, Francia Márquez. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yunior García Aguilera, Madrid, June 21, 2022 — Latin America has voted again with its left hand. Gustavo Petro’s victory in Colombia breaks a historic wall that had kept his country on the right for 200 years. Among the causes of his unprecedented triumph is the deterioration of traditional political forces, unable to reinvent their proposals in the face of a completely new reality.

Nor can the impact of the pandemic, which accelerated popular discontent and caused a social explosion between April and June 2021, be ruled out. In addition, the Uribe leadership didn’t know how to handle the complexities of the peace process that, in the end, have placed Petro in the presidential sash. The Colombian left has achieved with the polls what it could not achieve with weapons. And society has not voted with its brain or heart, not even with its stomach: it has voted with its liver.

During the 20th century, there were several times when the left about to govern by electoral means, but in the context of the Cold War, the United States wasn’t willing to allow it. Latin America was shaken by various coups d’état that installed far-right dictatorships. Pinochet, Somoza and Videla caused panic in the face of possible communist expansion and shed rivers of blood in order to defend their notions of freedom.

At the opposite extreme, the Cuban dictatorship shot, imprisoned or banished anyone who dared to express an opinion against its doctrine, while exporting armed revolutions from the Rio Grande to Patagonia. With the collapse of the USSR, the United States softened its positions to the south and stopped seeing the victories of the left as threats to its national security. Fidel Castro, for his part, could no longer continue investing in expensive rebel enterprises and decided to use his tentacles to put his allies in power through a more sustainable path: the ballot box.

Then came the “pink tide” headed by Chávez, Lula, Evo, Correa and the Kirchners, among others. The Cuban regime was appointed as official guru and used its very long experience in propaganda and its romantic-mystical speech. The new great enemy would be neoliberal globalization. The successful formula was to shout to the four winds that the identity of the oppressed peoples was in serious danger. The ideologues of Castro-Chavism reformulated the proposals of 21st Century Socialism, presented in 1996 by the German sociologist Heinz Dieterich Steffan.

The São Paulo Forum was joined by ALBA and UNASUR, regional institutions opposed to the Washington Consensus and created with the purpose of establishing, on firm ground, the roots of the socialist clan. The wave advanced as much as it could, although it didn’t reach a tsunami. The deterioration of economies, the fall in the prices of raw materials, the corruption scandals, the death of leading figures, as well as the democratic inadequacies of Bolivarian theory, caused the decline of that crest, tearing it apart against the electoral reef. continue reading

However, at the end of the first quarter of a century, the Latin American left hand rises again. It does so in a post-pandemic context, in the midst of Putin’s war, with China pretending to be Swedish as it moves towards becoming the world superpower, with the United States weaker and more ignored than ever, and with the European Union frightened by the winds blowing from the other side of the planet. Global institutions responsible for ensuring peace, democracy and human rights now have symptoms of obsolescence. Humanity is on the verge of radical change, which could lead to a new order or the extermination of the species.

So far, the new Latin American left remains fragmented into three blocs. On the one hand, there is the Cuba-Nicaragua-Venezuela triumvirate, fossils that have survived embedded in the rock of authoritarianism, with strident discourses and policies. Very close to them, but with a more moderate tone, are López Obrador [Mexico], Xiomara Castro [Honduras] and Luis Arce [Bolivia]. All three were absent from the Summit of the Americas and have openly defended the triumvirate. In a third group we see Alberto Fernández [Argentina], Pedro Castillo [Peru] and Gabriel Boric [Chile], somewhat more correct than the previous ones and critical of the dictatorships in the region with which they are ideologically related.

It remains to be seen if Petro’s victory or Lula’s possible triumph unify these blocs and resurrect a cycle that pushes the left to its most sinister side. Among so many waves, there are already those who call our Macondian piece of world “América del Surf.”

Translated by Regina Anavy

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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.

Cuba’s Machiavellian Use of Migration

Four Cuban migrants cross the Rio Grande in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua (Mexico). (EFE/Luis Torres)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yunior García Aguilera, Madrid, 25 May 2022 — On June 22, 1990, before the United Nations, Nelson Mandela firmly demanded that the sanctions against Pretoria be maintained. The African leader wondered what mistake had been made to allow a country with apartheid to be seated after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or the Nuremberg Trials. He strongly urged that the measures not be relaxed until the crime is stopped.

In Cuba we have suffered for decades an ideological apartheid that segregates citizens into two camps: “revolutionaries” and “worms.” Those who have been pigeonholed in the second group have suffered imprisonment, physical and psychological torture, persecution, acts of repudiation, exclusion, censorship, harassment, separation from their jobs or expulsion from their places of study, forced expatriation and even death.

##The historical amnesia that they try to impose on us from the propaganda machine cannot erase horrendous memories such as the shootings, the UMAP (Military Production Aid Units), the ’parameterization’, the sinking of the tugboat March 13 or the combat order of July 11 of last year, where the “revolutionaries” obtained a license to stone, beat or shoot at the demonstrators.

There are testimonies that claim that several public health centers were instructed to deny medical assistance to those they considered “worms.” The irrefutable mark of that apartheid that we suffer is summarized in the phrase that affirms that the streets, the common space, belong only to the ethnic group that carries the revolutionary gene in its cells.

The accession of Miguel Díaz-Canel to the one-party throne has been a huge setback for the aspirations of citizens in areas such as freedom of expression, pluralism, social participation, rights, economic prosperity or democratic changes. Today, a generation without charisma, mediocre to the core, lacking legitimacy or historical weight, clings to the reins of power. The current leadership knows that it no longer has the support of the majority, and the panic of suffering the same fate as Nicolae Ceausescu is reflected on their faces. continue reading

That’s why they quickly resort to the club and the gag. That’s why they keep the largest number of political prisoners behind bars in all of Latin America and see young people as a major danger. That’s why they unanimously approve a reactionary, cowardly and medieval Criminal Code. That’s why they include penalties of up to ten years in prison for the crime of treason that not even contemporary monarchies have taken so far.

It’s a fact that the majority in Cuba is already fed up with the dictatorship and want change. Opinion is divided into how and where. Many were optimistic when Obama decided to try a new strategy, defrosting tensions and trying to empower the private sector on the island. Trump returned to ice and aggressive speech. Now Biden zigzags between isolation and the relaxation of sanctions.

But beyond the leaders’ back and forth is a population of 11 million trapped in hopelessness, misery, impotence and fear. That same citizenry that erupted on June 11 today finds no choice but to sell everything, grab a backpack and cross borders. Although the ruling press says with cynicism that Cubans go to Nicaragua to contemplate the lava of the Masaya volcano, we all know that the stampede advances much further north.

The regime, an expert in turning its defeats into victories, has always used migratory waves for a triple purpose. First, the exodus serves as an exhaust valve to release internal pressure. Second, migration crises are used as weapons to put anyone sitting in the White House on the ropes. These frequent exoduses have almost always been the responsibility of Democratic administrations. Lyndon B. Johnson naively believed that the quarter of a million Cubans who left through Camarioca and the Puente Aéreo could return to Cuba in a short time.

Jimmy Carter lost the 1980 elections, among other things, due to the bad press that exaggeratedly reported the exodus of the Mariel Boatlift. Clinton had to set up the Guantanamo Naval Base as a temporary refuge to avoid a collapse in south Florida, during the Rafter Crisis. But the third and most Machiavellian use of migration by the regime is to convert exile into economic investment. Every Cuban who flees becomes a potential sender of hard-currency remittances.

The vaunted national sovereignty is nothing more than a mirage, a kidnapping, a fallacy.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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.

21st Century Fascism and Cuba

All authoritarian caudillos need to match their personal ambitions with a certain dose of ideology. Billboard: “The Party is the soul of the Revolution” (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yunior García Aguilera, Madrid, 12 May 2022 — I will try to avoid falling into Godwin’s law, according to which, any discussion on the internet that is prolonged leads to the possibility that someone will call someone else a fascist, or compare them to Hitler and the Nazis. However, in the Cuban context a variation of this law usually occurs. If we examine the debates on social networks, we will find that, in almost all cases, someone will insult another by calling them a “communist,” without ever having read a single page of Capital.  

Although it seems obvious, it is necessary to clarify that, beyond the Marxist theories and the rhetoric of those who have claimed to follow their doctrines, communism has never really existed. Marx was closer to Nostradamus than to Hegel. His works might have qualified as mystical lyricism rather than science, but there is always someone willing to take fiction too seriously. The Marxists who survived him would not show such patience for history to take its spontaneous course. If the hated capitalism did not die a natural death, it had to be assassinated.

Lenin modified his readings of the German philosopher as much as he could to make them fit his context. And then Stalin would see to it that all the nightmares that old Marx had refused to speak out loud would come true. If the Soviet experiment did not collapse at that very moment, it was because another monster appeared on the scene that would monopolize universal repudiation: Adolf Hitler.

Fidel Castro triumphantly entered Havana in January 1959. He managed to get a white dove to perch on his shoulder, he swore that he was not a communist to any journalist who asked him the uncomfortable question, he repeated ad nauseam that his revolution was green like the palms, but ended up diving headfirst into the red pool. Was Ángel Castro’s son really a communist? If one examines the phrases of the bearded man, the fascist readings of him immediately come to light.

From the Moncada Statement itself, where he ends with his famous “Condemn me, it doesn’t matter, history will absolve me,” the similarities with Hitler’s Mein Kampf are noticeable . Later, when continue reading

official censorship was regulated in his Words to Intellectuals, Mussolini’s voice would appear behind it. “With the Revolution everything, against the Revolution nothing” is nothing more than an echo of the Duce’s speech: “Everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State”. Fidel Castro used against his opponents the same derogatory term used by Hitler against the Jews: maggots. And the phrase “Work will make you men” that was read at the entrance to the forced labor camps where homosexuals and religious believers were imprisoned in Cuba, reminds us of the fateful phrase about Auschwitz: Arbeit macht frei.

All authoritarian caudillos need to match their personal ambitions with a certain dose of ideology. And fascism is the one that best suits their tyrannical aspirations, but it is too discredited. The rhetoric of solidarity and social justice sounds more pleasant to innocent ears. But the truth is that Cuba is closer to State Corporatism than to the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. The poor workers in Cuba have no say in the matter. And the leaders of the Political Bureau are closer to the conservative prototype than to contemporary liberals. To add insult to injury, the infamous Rapid Response Squads are now trying to be replaced by the Red Scarves, a much more blatant carbon copy of the Blackshirts or Brownshirts.

The international left has been running out of causes, after spending its ideological arsenal against globalization. The world is upside down. The great champion of capitalism today is China, a country governed by a communist party. The Asian giant is also the country that pollutes the environment the most, sparing no effort in exploiting and repressing its large population, while surplus value fills their coffers.

The heralded Socialism of the 21st Century, proposed by Chávez, ended up plunging Venezuela into the most painful misery of its history. The Nicaraguan orteguismo [Ortega regime] could not be more despotic, locking up all its political opponents and assuming fraud as the norm. Putin’s Russia shamelessly shows its imperialist face, launching its troops into Ukraine and threatening the planet with nuclear holocaust, while his lackeys applaud him.

The problem of the world today is not left or right, let’s grow up. The problem is authoritarianism, of any color. That is the Fascism of the 21st Century.

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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.

Cuba and the New Tweets of the Blue Bird

Twitter was bought this Tuesday by Elon Musk, who promised to wage war on bots. (Caribbean Channel)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yunior García Aguilera, Madrid, 27 April 2022 — When I got on Twitter in April 2018, I almost stopped using Facebook. I was fascinated by the rhythm of the platform, the synthesis, the stark debate held there by a group of young Cubans who were beginning target shooting with just 140 ammunition. Those Creole tweeters, in the absence of a country where they could really participate, distributed tasks in an imaginary village. They felt comfortable, because their parents did not read them. There they would not be told to keep quiet or to “speak softly.”

Cuban president Díaz-Canel joined four months later and they began to consider how to spoil the party. The newly enthroned bureaucrat also had the gift of talking to animals, like his Venezuelan compadre*. But unlike the other, this juvenile was not whispered to by the birds, but by certain opportunistic fish capable of breathing out of the water. Wikipedia describes them as paraphyletic fish, with a uniform dark gray coloration: clarias [catfish].

Iroel Sánchez had joined Twitter almost a decade earlier. Perhaps he did it to spy on one of the Cuban pioneers in using networks in a subversive way. Yoani Sánchez, however, had two years of experience and a great nautical advantage. Iroel had become a political corpse since Abel Prieto denounced him for daring to call him “not very ideological.” When his countryman Miguelito [Diaz-Canel] was seated on the throne, he felt that it was time for him to reincarnate. So, like a biblical story from Genesis, the pupil approached the dictatorial couple. Both rested on the grass of a garden in Siboney, completely naked, from a political point of view. It was time for Iroel to get his teeth into the apple.

Getting serious, there is no Cuban who is unaware of the cyberclaria phenomenon. It is an army of false profiles with the mission of defending the indefensible. The order they receive is clear: like the bosses, position hashtags, attack dissenting voices, sow states of opinion and promote bad taste. They began by assigning this task to State Security agents, although some barely knew how to write their own names. Among them, for every one who thinks (more or less), there are four who are only trained in hitting and abusing. continue reading

So they took on the task of recruiting hundreds of students from the University of Informatics Sciences (UCI). In exchange for a good phone and free navigation, some guys were willing to sell their souls even to a poor devil and assume ridiculousness as a watchword. Later they felt that it was not enough and included thousands of bots. However, officials who own “oil” phones are also forced to tweet revolutionaryly, and it is sometimes impossible to tell the difference between the network activity of a cadre and the behavior of a bot.

When the ministerial cabinet was forced to open accounts on the platform, we understood why the Ñico López (the Party’s little school) has such a bad reputation. The Minister of Education herself published a photo of the beginning of the school year where she said “welcome.” Such was the disaster that Iroel himself, chatting with Ernesto Limia and Pedro Jorge (two outstanding catfishers), recognized that they were losing the battle on social networks.

Twitter is the fifteenth social network in the world by number of users, but it works as the nervous system of our societies. Umberto Eco pointed out that some defenders of social networks even maintained that “Auschwitz would not have been possible with the Internet, because the news would have spread virally.” Even the Iron Man of real life himself, the billionaire Elon Musk, was convinced that the platform is the digital public square where vital issues for the future of humanity are debated. That is why, among other things, he has offered 44 billion dollars for it and has bought it.

Twitter, in the hands of Elon Musk, has generated oceans of ink, between apocalyptic forecasts and messianic hopes. But someone does not sleep since the president of Tesla and SpaceX has solemnly sworn that he will defeat the bots or die trying. The only good news for the cyberclarias and for the Minister of Education is that they will be able to edit all the spelling errors that escape them. Now, where is the project that Iroel wanted to bequeath to posterity? Where will he find substitutes for his catfishers if even the UCI boys have ’gone looking for volcanoes’? Who will be left to give Díaz-Canel a sad ’like’? The dictator has no one to write to him.

*Translator’s note: Nicolas Maduro has claimed that the deceased former Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, speaks to him in the voice of a little bird. In this video he demonstrates the voice of Chavez-as-a-bird.

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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.