Tempering News, Absorbing Shocks / Rosa Maria Rodriguez Torrado

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The case of Angel Carromero Barrios rapidly lost relevance because of the “atmospheric pressure” of the State. Like a tropical meteorological event, its great intensity dissipated in the mediating and officializing Cuban waters. Many know that in Cuba the State is the owner, the editorialist, journalist, reporter, photographer, and censor of all daily newspapers and journals that exist in the country, which pretty much means that we only have one newspaper in the whole archipelago.

The news of the sentence against Carromero Barrios, whose judgement became conclusive on October 5, was published on the night of October 15 in the news, and at dawn the next day (October 16th), the people were surprised with the flexibilization of the law on immigration and travel. For a dictatorship that had stepped on immigration, emigration and travel rights–among other rights–of its citizenry, it was only logical that the latter news trumped the first in the consciousness of the Cuban people and the world.

Just like the date of the oral and public trial of Carromero–which was programmed for a weekend (Friday), two days before the elections in Venezuela–the master manipulators of this country’s information, without freedom of press, didn’t wait even 24 hours to dictate a law-decree which took about two years to come up with. Why didn’t they wait a few days? Let’s remember that they similarly took advantage of the beginning of the war with Iraq to begin the wave of arrests in March of 2003; despite this, the world saw, repudiated and denounced this abominable official strategy. Even if this results in speculation, there is a chance that the new immigration/travel law was devised with this purpose in mind–in the period understood between accident and sanction–but for others, it was much more important to wait.

Anyway, they spend so many years in power repeating the same — or similar — course of action, that most of the world guesses the move before it is made. It is true that they are astute and have several master’s degree in the selection of time, place and the opportune moment — it is a 50-year-old specialization — but they are not good poker players. The feeble and recently debuted migratory modification does not vindicate the Cuban diaspora as part of our people, their rights violated for decades.

Nevertheless, once more they stimulate the rich foreign investors to obtain real estate here, encourage investors generally and tourist visitors from the United States particularly, to focus their binoculars and bring part of their capital to our soil. It is very likely that the fateful economic situation of Cuban totalitarianism, and the claims of continuity on the dynastic throne will make them hurry and commit errors. In their economic hardships and customary refusals to “call a spade a spade” in order to really resolve the country’s problems, they expose the effort to show anew image of the Cuban government in the face of the closeness of the elections in the United States, probably to lobby for a possible redesign of the politics of that government towards ours. With the pretext they are trying to break the blockade, they take years blocking the legitimate exercise of the rights of their citizens, which is the same as flogging us because others hit them and they also punish us for the same reason.

The “political tricks” propaganda, of making anorexic changes to draconian laws, will have no credit or real impact on most of the population,as long as they do not restore the rights that they have violated and postponed, respecting the fundamental liberties of all Cubans — from within and without Cuba — and democratize this society. Such dirty tricks are bluffs that trick no one, and give less light. Until now the proposed reforms are condemned to failure because of the abusive and prolonged rigor of their own laws. They will have no success, because many think that it has to do with the classic maneuver of stalling for time.

It seems that they have bet on the United States’ economic serum to resolve the national disasters in which they have sunk us, like the obligatory transfusion in the veins of the ruling class and its prosperous family and stalwarts; not in those of the whole nation. I do not know if the highest Cuban authorities really want to reestablish relations with the US.; rather it seems that they want to normalize the efforts to protect their interests and above all to guarantee their continuity. Once more “they uncorked” an oblique tactical move– a crab move — to fool the people of their own backyard and “enchant” the hungry fish of other latitudes. But they don’t catch big fish with small hooks, much less, with worthless and petty baits.

Translated by: Boston College Cuban-American Student Association (BC CASA)

October 18 2012

Traveling on Astro on the Kaftro Route / Rebeca Monzo

About a month ago, my friend, Mariana, her husband and her mom decided to go on a trip to Trinity through a tourist bus company called Astro. They were very excited about the trip and expected it to go very well since they had paid 132.00 CUP (Cuban pesos) for each person both going and returning. They were anticipating a very comfortable ride with amenities such as air conditioning.

The first stop was at the Mulles de la Coubre. At this stop, which was not part of the schedule, five people got on the bus and paid the bus driver directly. However, all the seats in the bus were already full so the extra passengers were forced to accommodate themselves in the aisle of the bus. The luxurious image that they had envisioned had already been disrupted. They were not sitting in comfort, but were cramped in the bus unable to recline their chairs.

My friends also noted that the bus driver would stop to pick up anyone on the side of the road who offered him money, because of this the bus began to fill up little by little. In front of Mariana there was a woman who was holding a huge bag against her body and she had nowhere to move. As they were arriving at Aguada de Pasajeros, the bus driver recognized someone he knows. He starts yelling and signaling for the acquaintance to notice him almost throwing himself out of the window. All of the sudden, he hits the breaks, parks, and gets out of the car. He was there for about half an hour conversing with his friend, while the passengers waited patiently inside the bus. Then the bus driver returned and the journey continued until they stopped at a Terminal, where they were serving pork sandwiches without any attention to hygiene; there were flies and abandoned dogs peeing on the table where the merchandise was kept. All the passengers who desired this meal got down to satisfy their appetites. Trucks pulled by horses and trucks from the 1950s waited for possible clients.

Exhausted and tired and after traveling for five hours they finally arrived in Trindad. The three of them swore not to return through Astro and for that matter never again. After enjoying themselves for a couple of days in this colonial city, they had to negotiate their return trip to Havana through a taxi driver who had driven some people to Trinidad. They were able to bargain for a fair price under the table. Their ride back was much more enjoyable and peaceful.

Translated by: BC CASA

October 11 2012

Estado de Sats Enveloped in Venemous Spines / Anddy Sierra Alvarez

Like every other citizen, the invitation to the Estado de Sats is taken with enthusiasm, in order to take part in a work of illumination dealing with human development, both spiritual and socially.

This brings up the understandable work schedule for those who work for the Estado. The positive culture projects help offer tranquility and happiness to an island with little room to breathe.The project helps break the silence of those who are in fear and oppresed.

The repressive regime is felt stronger after every encounter, fitting perfectly with the motto and hymn of the enforcers of the state: “What will you do, retire… or be retired?”

Words so simple make you reflect; and for the most part, people do retire. There’s no need to seek physical punishment if your objectives are set aside by the desperation of those who are your superiors, who in fact fear losing their power in a not too distant future.

Translated by: Carlos Andrés Garcia, BC CASA

October 22 2012

Genesis of Today / Rosa Maria Rodriguez Torrado

They say that God created the world in six days, but the truth was that to have a palpable vision of his creation, he created a first draft. I don’t know how someone could have let this occur because God almighty was an improvisor; and more with the world that he left us, that despite the unequal disribution of natural resources, his creation was pretty good. The problem is our free will, in men and women, in our jealousy, our selfishness and our ambitions; the leaders, the struggles for power, the patronage and the justification and–of course–conveniently legalized, the underworld of et cetera.

Boston College Cuban-American Student Association (BC CASA)

October 17 2012

Socialist Legality / Lilianne Ruiz

Lourdes Esquivel, Lady in White, was also detained in the jails of the Santiago Station of Vegas last October 14.  When she left her house, 20 men — at least those whom she could count — threw themselves on her and told her:  “There is no mass; jail.”  She was conducted to the aforementioned Police Station and locked up with a woman with HIV, to whom one of the jailors said: “Do you want me to give you a knife?”

Thursday night we visited the home of Lourdes and her husband Jose Diaz Silva, who is president of the Opposition Movement for a New Republic, and is also a former political prisoner.

Earlier, last October 2nd, Jose Diaz Silva was detained near his house (located at 5th street Number 18406/184 and final. Apartment Complex Porvenir, Boyeros, La Habana)  At the time of his detention, he was in the company of Lourdes Esquivel, his wife, and they took him in a patrol car number 870 to the Station of Santiago de Las Vegas.  The cause, on this occasion, was his having occupied some several printed pages with the Citizen Demand For Another Cuba, which he has promoted since the Civil Society inside the Island, and which have been signed by a good number of Cubans, in order to urge the government (which we cannot elect via free elections) to ratify the Covenant of Political and Civil Rights, and the United Nations’ Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, signed by the Cuban Government February 28, 2008, in New York City without having ever been implemented, apparently because of not being forced to do so until ratified by a second signature which is what the Citizen Demand is asking for.

Silva was transported to the Santiago Station of Las Vegas, in the first place; but then he was transferred to another Station about which they gave no information to Lourdes until the moment in which he was freed.  Meanwhile, she did not stop seeking that information about his whereabouts, going to all the Police Stations in Havana, accompanied by one of her children.

In the interim, on October 3, the police returned to the house.  Lourdes’ younger son and his wife were alone, because Lourdes was searching, without finding an answer from the authorities, where her husband had been taken when they removed him from the Santiago Station of Las Vegas.

The police threatened to break down the door, they were accompanied by State Security, commanded by agent “Joan.”  The made a search and “appropriated” a series of the family’s articles and goods, whose list I reproduce here below, and that, starting now I will  begin to call by its name, given that the action carried out by the police and State Security is clearly and plainly a theft, stealing, justified by the political and social position of the police and State Security in Cuba.

The list of articles stolen by the police and State security is as follows:

1.  A laptop.

2.  An Amazon Kindle, electronic book, which forms part of the collection of the Independent Library that functions in the home.

3.  Two cameras,  one completely new.

4.  Cards of the said cameras.

5.  Flash drives.

6.  Mp4.

7.  A broken printer.

8.  Hundreds of photos, among them family photos.

9.  300 C.U.C. (convertible money)

10.  Playing cards, printed on the back with a promotion of Cambio and another with promotion for the release and memory of the 75 of the Black Spring of 2003, Cuba’s darkest spring.

11.  T-shirts used to promote Cambio, another one of Bacardi.

12.  Promotion caps for the Library and some 50 Cambio bracelets.

13.  Three thousand seven hundred cards with information about the members of the Opposition Movement for a New Republic.

14.  Two hundred accounts books bought in the Book Fair . . . of the Cabana.

15.  Hundreds of books:  literature, essays, religious, political, science fiction, youth.  Records and other documents belonging to the Library.

16.  1 Cuban flag.

17.  1 flag of the Movement.

18.  1 flag of the Resistance.

19.  Poster of the Library.

20.  The Poster of the Library that was placed on the Doorway and the stickers placed on the door.

21.  Passport and documents that were issued to the family members since 2007.

22.  A 64 GB iPod.

The closing of the story, as much as its middle and its beginning, serves to denounce the justice system between the citizens and the State in this dictatorship model, and to put in evidence the human and intellectual quality of those State Security agents that have been “improved,” by the ideological political chapter of the Cuban education system, and very especially in the formation of the political police which is the upper echelon of that moral ladder.

Agent “Joan” (persistent bully also of Sara Marta Fonseca, because she is in charge of repression of the Boyeros municipality) threatened Silva that:  “They’re not going to let the Opposition Movement for a New Republic rise.”  Every time Silva has a compendium of his members “they going to throw it out.”  And “Now that Silva has a full record, ’they’ could close it, sending him to prison and giving him 20 years.”

October 5 at 5 in the afternoon Silva was freed and before learning of the sacking of his house in his absence, agent “Joan” imposed a fine of 200 pesos for the crime of “Hoarding Books.”

I am not pulling your leg; in Socialism that is possible and the crime of the Tribunal’s “Moral Conviction” for which Silva was sentence fo 6 years in jail in 1994.  (And although this is material for another post, also on that occasion they evicted his wife from the house where she had lived for 7 years with her three children and made her live in a wooden room attached to the house that they had expropriated and in which today another family lives.  In spite the facts that all the lawyers and housing inspectors recognize that the property is still that of the Silva Esquivel family, the socialist legality permits these injustices that do not exist in an independent Tribunal that protects the citizen from the “omnipotent” State).

The members of the Opposition Movement for a New Republic have been visited and threatened equally by the “State Security.”

Which of the articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights have not been violated in Cuba in these 53 years?

 Translated by: Boston College Cuban-American Student Association

October 23 2012

Praise for the Cowardly / Wendy Iriepa and Ignacio Estrada

Havana has carried out a process of appropriation of post-Marxist nationalism, through a nearly mystic cult of the figure Jose Marti, at the same time attempting the depoliticization of writers and artists.

The mechanism of terror employed by a dictatorship fails only with one social group: the intellectuals.

It’s not necessarily that the intellectuals are the most valuable citizens. It could be that among them are the most cowardly, but they demonstrate a larger capacity for assimilation and resistance. They are also the ones that transcend.

Jorge Edwards, in his biography of Pablo Neruda, “Goodbye, Poet,” says: “I always found Fidel irritated in the presence of writers, suspicious, as if that precarious power that they maintain, that which allows them the use and the art of words, embitters in some way, in his most vital and sensitive nucleus, his own power.”

The biography on Stalin by Edward Radzinsky narrates the preparation of judgment at Babel y Meyerhold, that would involve figures like Einstein, Katoyev and Ehrenburg. But in the course of the interrogations, Stalin lost faith that the intellectuals would play their part just as it was planned. He stopped confiding int he process, as, for example, Babel admitted everything and later retracted it. Stalin decided that artists are “unpredictable types,” to a dangerous level: that they too easily admit invented faults, but with that same ease negated what was said a minute ago. So he opted to kill them quietly.

In Cuba, Ernesto Che Guevara raised more starkly the conflict between intellectuals and the government, stating: “The original sin of the Cuban intellectuals is that they are not true Revolutionaries.” The phrase could have been reversed: the first sin of the Cuban Revolutionaries has always been that they are not intellectuals (begging pardon from Jose Marti), or worse still, that they are false intellectuals, but Che was a proud man.

With The triumph of the Revolution, a guilt complex was imposed on the intellectuals. Roberto Fernández Retamar (did he go on to be Catholic?) expressed it in an unhappy verse: “Who died for me in the slaves’ prison? We the survivors, to whom do we owe our survival?”

The complex of guilt for not have been a terrorist or executioner extends over the first stage of Cuban literature before the first of January 1959 — dominated by Sartre’s existentialism — and is transformed into a complex of the proletariat class, for not being a manual laborer, in the later literary generations.

More than half a century after the Revolutionary triumph, years also marked by the failure — of the diaspora, the United States and a good part of the international community — when it comes to offering a “democratic enlightenment” based in liberty, and the possibility of the existence of a representative government as a counterpart to the “socialist enlightenment,” built on a frustrated project of social justice, the regime continues to be one-party and persists in calling itself “Marxist-Leninist,” despite the signs of exhaustion of the model.

However, the ideological exhaustion of Marxist-Leninist model has not led to a collapse of the system, much less has it led to greater external influence. If those living under Cuban socialism are subjects molded into believing that the State must carry out a wide distribution of rights and social benefits — something never accomplished, always justified with the pretext at hand: underdevelopment, blockade, the end of the socialist camp, the international economic crisis — they have also been socially conditioned in the constant postponement of the moment at which they will be able to exercise their civil and political rights in freedom.

The government in Havana has done everything possible to maintain this condition, steering according to the time without letting go of control of the course. To perform this maneuver, the regime in Havana has not only headed up a process of redefinition and appropriation nationalism leaning toward Marxism — supported by an almost mystical cult around the figure of Jose Marti — but has also developed a tactic based on the depoliticization of writers and artists — marked by the passage of the “organic intellectual” to the neutral creator — exemplified the forgotten quasi official Communist poet Nicolas Guillen and the canonization of the Catholic Jose Lezama Lima Catholic and Origenes (Origens) magazine.

To sustain these ideological treats, the regime in Havana has needed to control both reading and writing. Although in both cases progress has been made in Cuba, beyond specific cases  genres and historical moments mentioned, even the Cuban government and the intellectuals who defend its cultural policy based on an administration territorial in the creation and practice of an ideological filter, which allows some to pass and others not. Although not published in Cuba it can not be considered synonymous with the unread on the island, the presence of marginalized books, topics and authors is not strong enough to break the logic of exclusion.

In this sense, Cuba becomes part of another world, largely alien to the West: A species of Africa, where the conditions for the preservation of the species are created by a band of outlaws disguised as guardians of the park, who obey the orders of the great hunter. Here the attempts to devalue the role of intellectuals are more serious for several reasons.

While on the one hand, the complex relationships between writers and the revolutionary process are still under dispute on the island and in exile, there is a labor of a erasing and re-telling by the regime in Havana, which aims to dilute the need for a moral and civic orientation in the country. it is an attempt at the trivialization of censorship: a minister of culture who displays a mane of ancient curls, rock and rap concerts, a statue of John Lennon opened to great fanfare, the appearance of banned works by exiled writers already dead.

Late acts and gestures. A policy of cages with the doors open but watchers at all four corners. Outdoor zoos for tourists. In return, a systematic effort to tame the group. A tactic of not using the stick but the carrot.

For unlike Europe, where the intellectual class’s ability to influence was diminished as a result of political and social change — which has benefited leaders and businesspeople —  in Cuba there is a government campaign to replace the repression against writers and artists, wherever possible, by a controlled permissiveness. Circumstances differ, but the goal is the same: to limit the power of a social group.

To control the intellectuals continues to be an interest of the Cuban regime, and efforts in this regard are not underestimated. The government in Havana does not feel safe. Among its fears is that any moment the intellectual says: “On one side Comrade Mauser” and takes the floor.

From: Alejandro Armengol, Miami, 06/09/2011 Cubaencuentro.com

Translated by: Boston College Casa

February 27 2012


















































































Guinness Record / Lilianne Ruíz

The socialist State does not provide the luxury of silence, because it is in silence that our desires speak to us. Such that the State doesn’t cease the liturgy of remembering all the successive years and the heroes of the past, nor does it cease with the maddening and repressive ideological discourse: a discourse intended to hide us from our own selves, to block access to our own personal realm. This discourse is incapable of naming that which brings happiness to humankind. They are discourses that stone to death happiness. Happiness which perseveres in the silence of our homes, and that we are going to marginalize until we believe we have forgotten the songs that move our hearts and suddenly we remember why we’re so miserable.

Translator: Boston College CASA

March 13 2012

Cuba: You Can Buy A House / Iván García

The worst of the timid reforms of General Raul Castro is amnesia. In addition to the cynicism. All the prohibitions, whether it is sightseeing in your own country, having a cell phone, buying a car or now being able to sell, buy or exchange a home without the absurd regulations promulgated by the State, were designed by the government, where Castro II was the vice president.

There is no public apology from the government recognizing their blunders, especially not recognizing the guilt for those mistakes that ruled in national life for more than 50 years.

It is known that Fidel Castro, with no official opposition, drew up the rules, even violating his own constitution. Then in 2008 the General took the reins of power, at par, renewing the seats of power and retiring most of the ministers loyal to his brother. He terminated the inconsistencies, absurd violations of individual freedom, such as the boarding schools in the countryside where the students worked in the field, or not being able to stay in a hotel or sell your own home.

Cuba is a bizarre nation. Here, what is normal is abnormal and vice versa. For years, a majority wondered aloud why swapping homes should require permission from a state institution or why we have been denied the option of selling our homes, when the title shows us as the owner of the dwelling.

It was one of the many masks that allow the head of state to handle his citizens as if they were puppets. Castro II is throwing down some irrational regulations out of a pure instinct for survival.

There is still a large pile of prohibitions. From the abominable permits Cubans must ask for in order to travel, to the fatal stubbornness denying open access to the Internet, burdening the economic and personal future, in addition to monopolizing information, for a country with more than one million college graduates.

But let’s go back to the point. As of November 10, 2011, you can buy a house in Cuba.

According to the lawyer Laritza Diversent, the measure has its little tricks. To buy or sell in ‘special areas’, due to the population density in neighborhoods such as October 10, Cerro, Habana Vieja and Centro Habana, the person must have the approval of the corrupt Institute of Housing.

The licensed attorney, Diversent, has doubts about the new measures actually expediting the processing of the purchase and sale of a home. It is now mandatory to register the property in the Property Registry.

It turns out that the dilapidated legal offices do not have sufficient staff to deal with the number of customers who are coming round the corner. Something similar happens with the notaries, who are now increasing their legal presence in matters regarding the acquisition of a car or a house.

In each municipality, Havana has Notaries and Registries of Property. But due to the shortage of staff and computers, people have to wait in long lines from early in the morning.

Castro II attempts to lighten the bureaucratic burden suffered by ordinary Cubans as they try to process anything. Far from achieving this, the processing burdens are likely to increase. It is also unclear whether residents in so-called “frozen zones”, where ministers and mandarins live or where there are public or military institutions, can move without notice.

Despite the long lines, the paperwork, and of course the bribes that will run under the table to get things going, Cubans welcome the possibility of selling or buying a home.

Of course, the Real Estate stock is not very big. In Cuba, there is a deficit, the government says, of 600,000 homes. I think we should multiply this by three. It is common in a house to have, living together under one roof, three different generations. Given the lack of space, people expand their housing haphazardly.

It is very rare to see a house on the island that’s retained its original architecture. Rooms are added, sometimes endangering the structure of the house.

Those who have money go to the store and buy New York priced ceramics, floor tiles, sanitary ware or cement mortar. Note the record prices.

One meter of flooring costs between 12 and 27 CUC (convertible pesos). Tiles are around the same price. A sanitaryware set, including a sink produced in Brazil or Ecuador, costs from 150 to 200 CUC. The cement mortar costs 6.60 CUC. Sinks, faucets (taps) and other items also cost a good deal. To repair a house, the cost will not be less than 2,000 convertible pesos. That amounts to 48,000 national currency pesos. This is equivalent to the salary of an engineer working for 7 years, and he may not make even make that.

The government has removed subsidies for building materials sold in establishments known as ‘junkyards’. But because of the minimal delivery of items, within a few hours there is no cement or steel rods for sale.

There is so much apathy and corruption, that according to the official media, there are warehouses full of sand, blocks and other materials that lack means of transportation and so remain stranded.

Those who intend to buy a house in Cuba must have 2,000 CUC for a single room in a rooming sites; 20,000 CUC if you want a three bedroom apartment in satisfactory condition, or 60,000 CUC on average for a residence in the old quarter of Vedado, Nuevo Vedado or Miramar.

And, according to house brokers, it is likely that sales prices will rise rapidly. In Havana, a well-preserved 1956 car costs more than a two-bedroom apartment.

This tendency is bound to be reversed. The housing demand exceeds the supply. The remaining problem is the lack of money of the majority to take over a house. I guess that will increase phone calls to relatives abroad to send them the money. Exiles, prepare your wallets!

Photo: loooquito, Panoramio. Buildings repaired along the Paseo del Prado, Old Town Havana.

Translated by: CIMF, CASA

November 10 2011