Frida Kahlo / Rebeca Monzo

The daughter of a Mexican mother and German father, Frida Kahlo was born in Coyoacán, Mexico on July 7, 1910.

She attended the Escuela Normal de Maestros and graduated from the Escuela Nacional Preparatoria. She dreamed of becoming a doctor until a terrible accident destroyed her body, forcing her to lay in bed for many months and receive painful treatments, causing her to stop studying medicine.

In the midst of her dramatic convalescence, her iron will and attachment to life led her to become extensively self-taught in the arts and the mysteries of painting. She became an artist and took advantage of her knowledge to teach classes at the Escuela de Artes Plásticas in spite of her physical limitations.

Her first exhibitions demonstrated her talent, which she continued to develop and which culminated in a magnificent work, turning her into one of the most famous painters of her type worldwide.

She impressed upon her work all the pain, feeling, and sensitivity that characterized her life. The memory of Frida is inextricably linked to the great muralist Diego Rivera, who was her husband, lover, confidant, and greatest critic and admirer. In spite of a tempestuous marital relationship, art united them until the end of her life, on July 13, 1954.

This month, Mexico pays homage to those who hold a seat of honor in the plastic arts of the 20th century. I am also joining in this commemoration since Frida was a source of inspiration and presence in my patchwork art.

Frida Kahlo narrated her life through painted images. The painting of this great artist is like no one else’s. As Diego Rivera, her husband, pointed out one day, she “is the only example of the history of art, of someone who tore open her breast and heart to tell the biological truth of what she feels in them.”

Most of her work is unknown; it is held in private collections and by friends. The value of it grows each day.

Translated by: M. Ouellette

21 July 2014

What Is Happening in Venezuela Worries Cuba / Ivan Garcia

"If the media stops talking, let the streets talk"

“If the media stops talking, let the streets talk”

In one way or another, Cuba is taking note of the street protests occurring these days in Venezuela. The most nervous are the olive-green autocrats.

According to a low-level party official, since the death of Hugo Chávez on 5 March 2013, the regime has had various contingency plans filed away in case the situation in Venezuela did not turn out to be favourable to the interests of the island.

The official states, “If Maduro falls, we have a plan B. In the different groups, at least at the level where I work, it was taken for granted that Maduro would be a short-lived president. Although the PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela) controls most of the strings of power, there are divergent opinions among Chávez’s own followers about Venezuela’s relationship with Cuba. This type of socialism, with a democratic streak, is not to be trusted. Maduro can lose power both due to a plebiscite repeal or in six years. In our group meetings, it has been said that Maduro’s mandate only serves to gain time”.

The onslaught of opposition marches, barricades, and protests is shaking up different regions of Venezuela, but this force is also reaching the branches of power in Havana.

The Castro brothers still have much at stake in Venezuela. But just in case, Raúl Castro has opened a new window with Brazil in constructing the new port of Mariel and a Special Development Zone with a different jurisdiction.

And they almost begged the United States, enemy number one, to sit down to negotiate. Meanwhile, the Castro regime diplomacy crosses over to Florida, trying to seduce wealthy businessmen of Cuban origin. But the sensible businessmen continue to think about it.

When they look at the recent past, they only see shady management and a mysterious associate who changes the rules of the game at the first opportunity. Therefore, the Caribbean autocracy is going to fight mercilessly and to the teeth in order to keep its strategic position in Venezuela.

The key, as everyone knows, is petroleum. 100 thousand barrels a day acquired at sale prices keep Cubans from suffering 12-hour daily blackouts. When the skydiver from Barinas moved into Miraflores in 1998, Fidel Castro understood that after 9 years travelling through the desert, with finances in the red and exotic sicknesses devastating the country, the hour of his resurrection had arrived.

Cuba entered in a ”light” Special Period. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the island had experienced a deep-rooted economic crisis, but the faithful Bolivarian shared his chest of treasure. And this was an important part of the anti-imperialist project that so deluded the Commander.

The death of Chávez was the beginning of the end of the honeymoon. Maduro is faithful and he is allowed to lead. But he has no charisma. And after 14 years of economic insanity aimed at winning support among the most disadvantaged, all of the doubts, violence, and inflation have now exploded in the face of the PSUV.

Instead of letting go of the uncomfortable and parasitic burden that is Cuba, governing for all and looking after Lula and Dilma more than the Castros, Maduro, clumsy and stubborn, moved his tokens badly.

He professed to follow the Joropo and Pachanga of comrade Chávez. He designed a simple strategy: he shouldered his friend’s coffin and tries to govern Venezuela in his name.

And he is failing. In Cuba, either because of egoism or short-term mentality, the people on their feet, tired after 55 years of disaster, are crossing their fingers that the Venezuelan crisis does not shut off the petroleum faucet opened by the PDVSA (Petroleum of Venezuela, S.A.).

In a park in the Víbora district in Havana, a 70-year-old retiree expresses his opinion about the situation in Venezuela. “If that guy screws up, the effects on us will be tremendous. The power outages will continue, paralyzing the industries again and we will return to a situation equal to or worse than the beginning of the Special Period in 1990.”

Others are more optimistic. “It’s true, it will be hard. Since the Revolution, we have gotten used to living at the cost of someone else’s sweat. Before it was the USSR, now it’s Venezuela. If the worst happens there, we will have to accelerate the reforms here. Although this is already capitalism, but with low salaries”, states a lady identifying herself as a housewife.

A university student adds to the conversation. “Seeing the marches or strikes on the TV is something I envy. That freedom to protest before governmental institutions, such as in Ukraine or Venezuela… we need it here in Cuba.” And he added that “in FEU (University Student Federation) meetings, the situation in Venezuela is a primary theme, but I have heard rumors that there is more alarm in some Party groups.”

In this hot February, in spite of the news arriving from Caracas, the people on the street continue with their lives. Waiting in long lines to buy potatoes, which were lost in the battle. Going to the markets in search of food, vegetables, and fruit. Or sitting on the corner in the neighborhood to talk about films, fashion, football, or baseball.

And this is because for many on the Island, Venezuela is not in their agenda.

Iván García

Photograph: “If the media stops talking, let the streets talk”, says this banner painted by students marching on 13 February in the Venezuelan city of Valencia, some 172 km (107 mi) west of Caracas. Photo by Luis Turinese, taken from Global Voices Online.

Translated by: M. Ouellette

24 February 2014

Venezuela Yes, Castro No / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Venezuela, Life or Abyss: Let’s Not Abandon Them Now

Left-wing dictators never step down. Thus says a killer subject called Universal History.

Left-wing Latin-American dictatorships have no reason to be the exception. They institute eternal systems like the Castro dynasty to the humiliation of the Cuban people. Or they impose their feast of outrages before and after being deposed from power, such as in Chile with the radical regime of Salvador Allende. In both cases, the price of any change is criminally high.

Today, Venezuela is struggling in the streets between these two limits. They have already gone beyond both.

Translated by: M. Ouellette

8 March 2014

Enrique Colina: Utopian Obstinacy Turns Dreams into a Nightmare / Wendy Iriepa and Ignacio Estrada

Enrique Colina

Taken from OnCuba, by Cecilia Crespo

In November last year, the French channel France O aired the documentary “The Marble Cow” by the renowned critic and film producer Enrique Colina. It was only shown once in Cuba, during the last International Festival of New Latin-American Cinema held in Havana.

Some days ago, a Spanish friend who saw Colina’s documentary asked me about Ubre Blanca. For those who do not know, this was a cow that turned into a media phenomenon in the 1980s. In only one day, it produced 110.9 litres of milk and 27,674.2 litres in 365 days of lactation, pushing Arleen, the North American champion, out of the Guinness World Records.

At that time, many people thought that with this cow, Cuba’s economic problems would be solved. The dream fell apart several months later. Colina, a Cuban master of documentaries, took advantage of the story of Ubre Blanca (White Udder) to metaphorically discuss other failed economic plans carried out some decades ago on the island.

Given the insistence of my friend to know more about this documentary, I decided to contact Enrique Colina. We began by talking about “The Marble Cow”, but this wound up being just a pretext for one of the most lucid intellectuals of our country to talk to us about how he sees the present and the future of Cuba.

Tell us about “The Marble Cow” and its relationship to the Cuba that Cubans experience.

The starting point of this film is the never-ending phenomenon of gauging facts that are somehow exceptional and converting them into paradigms of reality. The documentary expresses what one of the people interviewed says about the Cuban press: it is more propaganda than thoughtful, and it does not offer the symptomatic analysis of reality that we need as citizens.

This is currently being demonstrated in what is happening with the exorbitant price of cars. Everyone in the streets is talking about it and nowhere has the media referenced this event. After yet another meeting of the Union of Journalists, in which they all speak in favor of reflecting reality, nothing ever appears in this respect.

The media phenomenon of Ubre Blanca in the 1980s was impressive. Some years after the propaganda paraphernalia that surrounded its appearance I was on the Isla de la Juventud, where I visited the workshop of the sculptors who made the marble cow. It had already been finished for several years and the authorities had not yet decided where to place the sculpture, whether at the entrance to the airport, in a public square, or at Ubre Blanca’s original home. The sculptors were anxious to get the statue out of the workshop because it took up a lot of space.

From that moment I had the idea of making the documentary, in which this cow could become a symbol, a metaphor of a deranged reality. It is a disorder that even today continues to be represented officially in the cult of a hero placed on a pedestal that, even though there is an overflowing trash bin at its base, is always framed so that only the hero and pedestal appear. continue reading

We are living in a time that is the expression of this obstinate deformation and which remains irreversible as long as there is no recognition of the causes and people responsible for the mistakes they have made.

The story of the cow is the magnification of an exceptional natural phenomenon, which, however, does not deny the fact that serious scientific work was done. It was explained that experiments were made to create cattle that were resistant to heat and cows that produced a lot of meat and milk.

In 1981, an extraordinary milk production process was achieved. What happens is that to manage this production with F2 animals, the result of crossings that were made and in which there is a scientific reason and success that I appreciate, there had to be favorable conditions.

A lot of milk was produced in the 1980s because there was economic support to sustain this type of national cattle raising. But this support was due to Soviet help and not to an internal economic structure that reproduced the necessary wealth to sustain this type of plan.

We have lived embracing myths. And one of the aims that I lay out for myself as a filmmaker, in the few years that I may have yet to live, is to contribute to recovering some of the historical memory of this process.

Not the memory of the transcendent facts praised and stained by official rite, but rather the memory of the daily routine of a national life seen from the ground and not from the wishful illusion of disastrous consequences, in other words, those rains that brought the type of mud that is precisely what this documentary is about in a certain way.

Ubre Blanca is also the 10 million ton sugar harvest. It is the Havana Belt, the micro-jet banana, the zeolite… it is a little of all of these economic plans that in a wishful way, and I do not doubt with the best intentions, failed.

Wanting to rapidly detach itself from underdevelopment and without its own wings to fly, reality has referred us to the magic mirror, that of the queen in Snow White, which the generation of filmmakers in the 80s critically compared Cuban television to, until one day the mirror told the queen she was not the fairest of all and she broke the mirror.

Tell me about Cuban cinema. What do you consider to be the positive and negative aspects of current film production in Cuba?

Cuban cinema is composed of different generations and many different views. It is in a delicate state of health due to a lack of material goods, and we all know it is difficult to make a film without money.

But on the other hand, another factor has facilitated filmmaking: the advent of new technologies. They are now talking about the protests made by a group of filmmakers against bureaucratic aspirations to restructure the ICAIC (Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry) without consulting the producers.

One of the things protesters are aiming for is the legal recognition of independent production, since the ICAIC does not have the resources it once had when between 6 and 8 full-length films, some fifty newsreels, and other documentaries and animated films were made every year.

This ended, the bubble exploded, and because of this we have to recognize that one has to fight independently, but with a national institution that is neither patronizing nor censorial, but rather a promoter of incentives to maintain and defend, with its collaboration, that film culture that the Revolution stimulated.

I think that interesting things are coming out of this. I recently saw works by two young producers, Melaza and La Piscina, and they seemed quite suggestive. Both expose conflicts in current reality that must be tackled from different esthetic, human, and critical angles.

This new generation has its worries, its sensitivity, and it is facing a very contradictory reality that projects an uncertain future. There are documentaries in the Young Directors Film Festival that reveal this critical, anti-conservative, and polemic view of unstated topics and taboos.They do not turn their backs on conflicts and because of this, because they are uncomfortable, are not made public or shown on television.

Another problem of Cuban cinema is its exhibition. What condition are the cinemas in? Where is the money to equip and repair them? One can make independent films, but what then? Where to show them? They took away private 3D cinemas and what is the alternative? Positive changes have been seen, but all the changes must be recognized as being due to citizen participation, discussion, and forecasting.

Many times measures are taken to stretch and shrink because they do not foresee the consequences of of their decisions. It is as if we are trapped in a cage; the mess is not only material but also ideological, and the modification that we need is not only tactical and partially economic, but also political. Paraphrasing Raúl, the only commitment that Cuban cinema has is to maintain a serious and thoughtful artistic dialogue with the national reality.

Colina, you speak not only about past, present, and future Cuban cinema, but also about Cuba. Do you consider yourself a filmmaker that questions the society in which you live?

Utopian obstinacy turns dreams into a nightmare if there is no criticism, no debating of ideas. I share the humanist ideas of the Revolution and I obsessively rebel against the practice of its distortion.

In the 1980s, I dealt with esthetics, where I addressed the theme of beauty as a need to reaffirm the human condition. Socialism, in spite of developing education and culture, has always neglected the teaching of esthetic sensibility in the appearance of dynamic urban surroundings.

Today associated with poverty, loyalty has been imposed as an expressive master of the crisis. You see places where everything is ugly and poorly made, which is also reflected as a symptom of distortion in botched jobs and “I will also make you cry”, referring to the poor quality of state services.

In “Neighbors” I highlighted the conflicts of living together and the social indiscipline tolerated by an irresponsible permissiveness, etc. Anyway, I have made different documentaries that reflect problems that already existed in the 80s and which have degraded to terrible levels today.

Beyond calling myself a critic, I think I am a person who lives in this country and who sees this reality clearly and without prejudice at the cost of experiencing bitter disappointment. Far from paralyzing me, it compels me to protest. It seems to me that there is nothing exceptional in what I do. I have an opinion and it is my right to express it.

It is a shame that this attitude is not more widespread. My point of view is that we have made ourselves a type of citizen that has not developed an elemental civic feeling. To be revolutionary has historically meant obeying, following leads, completing the tasks assigned, and it has relegated to demagogic rhetoric that…

 Translated by: M. Ouellette

24 January 2014

A Heartfelt Loss / Wendy Iriepa and Ignacio Estrada

( – On the afternoon of 15 January, Dr. Francisco Leblanc Amate passed away. He was a founding member of the executive committee of the CUTC (United Council of Cuban Workers) where he acted as legal counselor on the BAJIL (Bureau of Independent Labor Legal Advice) and the ISECI (Cuban Institute of Independent Unions).

His strong professionalism characterized his work as a labor lawyer for independent unions. Many remember his decades of collaboration and participation in seminars and conferences on union workers, which he shared with provincial delegates and activists in the Council along with well-aimed opinions in articles on these and other topics related to law and the labor situation, whether state-run or not, in modern-day Cuba.

His family has received heartfelt condolences from his colleagues in Cuban independent  unions, who remember Dr. Leblanc for his unprecedented honesty, courtesy, and wealth of knowledge.

 Translated by: M. Ouellette

20 January 2014

We Would All Win / Fernando Damaso

Photo: Rebeca

In 2013, and seeming to continue into 2014, a trend developed to test every measure to be implemented through pilot projects in “laboratory” provinces. Everything from the most simple to the most complex has had to go through this process, the only accomplishment of which, essentially, is slowing down a measure’s implementation.

Thus, things that have been more than thoroughly tested over 54 years of failures, such as how any private commerce or service functions better and more efficiently than a national one, have suffered from this absurd transition.

It appears as though our authorities, unaware for years of the real problems in the country and immersed in international matters, are only now discovering these problems and, instead of relying on the Republic’s 56 years of rich experience, have forgotten about it.

All of this, reestablishing itself now after years of prohibition, existed and worked before: public transportation, water and sewage systems, garbage collection, the cleaning of streets, sidewalks and entryways, their maintenance and repair as well as that of the buildings, health and education services, the supply of propane and industrial gas for consumers, electricity and telephone grids, railways, shipping, and others. continue reading

Why lose time experimenting with what has already been tested enough? Or is it that someone really believes that this country began on 1 January 1959?

If this continues, becoming ever more absurd, ignoring the solutions to problems that affect the daily lives of the people, such problems will get worse and, although some believe the opposite, it could produce social uproar: the cord can only stretch so far.

It would make sense to let go of the experimentation for more important things, and approve and put into practice all the rest of these trifles without further delay: Cubans would be thankful.

It would also be welcomed if the historical mummies that still hold back change realized that their time is running out and that the real direction of the country’s destiny should be assumed by representatives of the younger generations, better prepared and with fresher minds. I am sure that we would all win.

Translated by: M. Ouellette

7 January 2014

Another Bastion / Regina Coyula

For speaking so much about peace, being at an economic crossroads, and having announced moderation in the use of resources, the government spared nothing on its Bastion 2013 strategic exercise, and the entire country came out to prepare against an illusionary enemy. That is, if we believe what we read in the media; my son experienced it a different way.

A call was made by the University during the normal class schedule, and attendance was guaranteed since not attending amounted to an unexcused absence. Male students in Economy, Finance, Cybernetics, Tourism, and Geography were gathered in the university stadium. Noisy and disorganized, the students gathered in the center of the field into something vaguely resembling formation. In front, a stranger in civilian clothes, tried to bring them to order; for their part, the professors spread among the students tried to do the same.

Before the general disorder with microphone in hand, the stranger in front shouted in a booming voice “Attention!” Failure. Mockery broke out among the students and the man with the microphone had to resort to conciliatory patriotism without much success. However, he did manage a general laugh after haranguing them with his diatribe when he put “At ease!” students who had never been in any other position. Troublemakers in the group yelled at him to shut up and there was spontaneous applause for problems with the sound.

The only moment of silence came during the hymn; an even bigger silence if you keep in mind that the students weren’t singing; a silence broken only by a cell phone that rang twice. Later, a girl read the requisite communication from a Lieutenant Colonel who spoke of compromise, country, the enemy, and such things. The activity ended with the students moving to the theatre of the School of Psychology to see the movie Caravana, Kangamba, or some other bellicose audiovisual presentation. Failure. With attendance now taken, most students found better things to do.

A television camera witnessed what happened at the University stadium: perhaps with good editing of the material, something has come out of these days of victorious exercise to guarantee “our military invulnerability”.

 Translated by: M. Ouellette

25 November 2013

All Rights for All Families / Wendy Iriepa and Ignacio Estrada

The “National Meeting of LGBT Families with Sons and Daughters” will take place 16-17 November, 2013 at the National Secondary of Buenos Aires, located at Bolivar 263 in the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires.

The meeting will bring together LGBT families with children from around the country. It aims to discuss means that will allow us to rely on legal tools and different social, educational, and cultural aid in order to move through the process of inclusion and visibility in areas of education, work, health, and society in general.

This community meeting is designed around the idea of integration, where boys, girls, and teenagers from our families can socialize within a perspective that celebrates differences as a value that enriches us as a society.

The event is organized by 100% Diversidad y Derechos (Diversity and Rights) and relies on the support of the National Secretary of Childhood, Adolescence, and Family of the National Ministry of Social Development, the National Cultural Secretary, the National Secretary of Human Rights, and the National Institute Against Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Racism (INADI).

During the meeting, we will work in committees related to different themes. These groups are designed to strengthen and empower LGBT families with children and aim to discuss visibility, rights, and full inclusion. We will also rely on discussion panels where we will address the advances and challenges of family diversity in our country.

In addition to sharing experiences in each region of the country, we will work to identify obstacles to inclusion due to visibility in different areas, good recording practices, challenges for inclusion of family diversity in cultural and educational aspects, access to rights, and timely needs.

The specific objectives are:

– Promoting social and political recognition of LGBT families with children in the areas of education, culture, health, work, unions, and communication, facilitating community empowerment and their full inclusion in society.

– Contacting LGBT families with children and identifying their legal situation in recognizing their filial and documented relationships.

– Promoting access to and information regarding the use of assisted reproduction techniques for LGBT families.

– Accompanying and advising two-mother families as beneficiaries of the DNU 1006/2012 and other facts.

– Accompanying and advising two-mother families in registering their sons and daughters in the context of same-sex marriages.

– Accompanying, informing, and offering judicial advice regarding the adoption process, for female couples and single women as well as male couples and single men.

– Discussing and generating proposals for inclusion from the perspective of family diversity in cultural areas, especially those destined for children and adolescents.

– Discussing and generating proposals for inclusion from the perspective of family diversity in educational areas, especially at the preschool and primary school levels.

Translated by: M. Ouellette
4 November 2013

South Africa Reports Alarming Increase in HIV among Adolescents / Wendy Iriepa and Ignacio Estrada

Madrid, Spain (15 Mar 2013) – The South Africa government reported today an alarming increase of school-aged girls and teenagers infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the cause of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.

The South African Minister of the Department of Health, Aaron Motsoaledi, published figures on the AIDS situation in the country, where at least 5 million South Africans—10.0% of the population—live with HIV, and on youth sexuality.

In a speech during an official event in the northeastern province of Mpumalanga, Motsoaledi said that there is an alarming increase in the number of cases of HIV-positive young girls with respect to boys.

He specified that at least 28.0% of adolescent girls in South Africa are infected with the AIDS virus, 85.7% more with respect to the 4.0% of affected boys, according to a report by the official news agency SAPA.

The Minister attributed this stratospheric difference to older men that sexually abuse or exploit adolescent girls. “It is clear that these girls were not involved in sexual relationships with boys of the same age, but with older men,” he said.

“This is destroying our children,” the Minister added, in reference to adults that abuse or seduce adolescentes with gifts and promises to give them a better life than what their parents can provide.

The leader of the South African Department of Health also gave figures regarding the incidence of pregnancies and abortions among South African teenagers. These have also increased in recent years.

In agreement with data from 2011, at least 94 thousand South Africans between 10 and 15 years old become pregnant, some of them HIV-positive, while more than 77 thousand have abortions in public centers and many more have them in other places.

“We cannot continue like this any longer. We have to put an end to this,” affirmed the Minister, who has been widely praised for his efforts to stop the spread of AIDS.

Motsoaledi has directed the largest anti-retroviral (ARV) program in the world, under the attention of 1.5 million affected people, since the South African President, Jacob Zuma, appointed him Minister of Health in 2009.

In addition, he has fought to reduce the spread of AIDS and to prevent more people losing their lives due to this disease, which affects 10.0% of the population and caused the death of 260 thousand people in 2012, half of all such deaths throughout the world.

Translated by: M. Ouellette

14 October 2013

Russian Athletes Pose in Support of their LGBT Teammates / Wendy Iriepa and Ignacio Estrada

During the Out Games, considered the Olympic Games of the LGBT community, the Russian team posed for Adam Bouska’s NOH8 campaign against discrimination, in support of the LGBT community in their country.

In this way, the Olympic team showed their support to the silent LGBT community in Russia. Neither after the Olympic Games in London nor after the World Athletics Championships in Moscow did any Russian athlete come out in support of the community.

The NOH8 (No Hate) Campaign is a silent photographic protest against the world’s anti-gay laws and propositions. The campaign is composed of photographs of people dressed in white t-shirts in front of a white background with their mouths taped shut and “NOH8” printed on one cheek. The campaign was created on 10 February 2009 by the famous photographer Adam Bouska and his partner Jeff Parshley as a direct response to California’s Proposition 8, which tried to eliminate the right to marriage of same-sex couples in the state.

Every day there are more demonstrations of support for the Russian LGBT community on the national and international level, even amid persecution and the continued violation of their human rights.

Since Vladimir Putin approved several anti-gay measures, the protests have extended throughout the world, especially leading up to the next Winter Olympic Games, which will be held in Sochi (Russia) in 2014.

Without travelling very far, the FELGTB (National Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Transsexuals, and Bisexuals) symbolically lit an Olympic torch this past Monday in Madrid with the aim of denouncing homophobic policies in Russia.

Some of the attendants—among whom were found the president of the FELGTB Boti García, representatives of the PSOE (Spanish Workers Socialist Party), such as Pedro Zerolo and Carla Antonelli, and the Equo, such as Juan López de Uralde—participated in a symbolic relay race that ended with the lighting of the multi-color ceremonial flame installed in Plaza Mayor.

The basic aim, according to the manifest read by García and Rubén López, board member of the FELGTB international area and spokesperson for the Acrópoli University Association, was to show their “solidarity” with the Russian LGBT community and athletes that will participate in the Olympic Games in Sochi, who will see “their dignity reduced”.

Along these lines, they demanded that the Spanish Olympic Community and the Spanish Sports Council take a step forward to defend the rights of Spanish athletes, who “are surely not all heterosexuals”. They denounced the “inaction of the authorities”, who have succumbed to the “shame of keeping quiet”, López explained.

In recent months, Russia has approved laws such as those that prevent same-sex couples from adopting children, or the one known as the “law of homosexual propaganda”, which carries a marked homophobic tone according to LGBT associations. This law, such as they those from the Federation that they denounce, has led to a series of declarations in recent days on behalf of certain Russian politicians.

The manifest reports two in particular. First, the words of the Russian Sports Ministry, whom they accuse of ensuring that “during the Olympic Games, athletes may not show signs of affection with people of the same sex because they may be detained”. Second, those of the Vice Minister in charge of the Sochi Games, who ensures that “in compliance with this law, if people of traditional sexual orientation spread propaganda about non-traditional sex to children, they will be held responsible”.

The approval of these laws by part of the Duma, along with homophobic attacks that have come to light in recent months, has lead some associations to call for boycotting the Sochi Olympic Games, the first Winter Games to take place in the country.

It has also sparked demonstrations and protests in different countries, such as the celebrated one in front of the Russian Embassy in Spain last August, or in front of the Foreign Ministry coinciding with the G-20 summit.

Translated by: M. Ouellette

14 October 2013

Cases of Dengue in the Cuban Military School / Ignacio Estrada

By Ignacio Estrada Cepero, Independent Journalist

Havana, Cuba. In recent days, the “José Martí” Military Polytechnic Institute (IPM, ex-Belén College), located in the capital municipality of Marianao, has had to increase medical attention in the military infirmary due to the appearance of constant cases of fever.

According to information not published by any medical official, the military school is keeping a total of 54 cases isolated from the rest of the students. It is unknown how many of these patients have been diagnosed positive for Dengue through the known laboratory IgM test.

Students of this military school confirm the existence of the sickness, but are afraid to speak of its presence at the institute for fear of retaliation by their superiors.

The military school is located in a marshy area, and thick underbrush surrounds its sides. Besides the presence of tunnels and an old rail line trench, there are other places prone to the appearance of sources of the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, the transmitting agent of this sickness.

The “José Martí” Military Polytechnic Institute has a student body of around 5000 boarders, in addition to a small number of youth from the General Obligatory Military Service (SMGO), these last destined for work at the center.

Translated by: M. Ouellette

October 8 2012

The Impact of Hispanics in the United States / Miriam Leiva

Miriam Leiva, Havana | 09/27/2012 9:52 am

From Cubaencuentro

National Hispanic Heritage Month in the United States, from September 15th to October 15th, holds particular importance this year, since it occurs during the electoral campaign heading up to the elections on November 6th. Hispanics can determine the results, especially if they use their right, which they do not always exercise, granted as American citizens.

Among Hispanics, Cuban-Americans could contribute to the country and the people that took them in, sharing opportunities, and even with the Cuban people living in our small archipelago through their support for the continuation of the measures adopted by the current administration.

Celebrating Hispanic heritage started on the national scale in 1968 with a celebration that lasted a week, the week chosen so as to coincide with Independence Day in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua on September 15th; Mexico on September 16th; and Chile on September 18th. In 1988, President Reagan approved a law that extended the celebration to a month, from September 15th to October 15th.

The population of the United States is 311,000,000 people, of which 50,500,000 are Hispanic (63% of Mexican origin), or 17.9%, and this is expected to rise to 30% by 2050. 19,500,000 of these Hispanics were eligible to vote in the 2008 Presidential Elections.

Each month, 50,000 youth reach adulthood, and in 2012 there are more than two million new voters, for a total of 23,000,000; however, only 60% are registered to vote. In the previous elections, 2 out of 3 voted for Obama. In swing states, the Latin population is 245,000 (14.2%) in Nevada, 104,000 (5.9%) in Utah, 455,000 (12%) in Colorado, 749,000 (8.5%) in Illinois, 128,000 (1.5%) in Ohio, 254,000 (2.2%) in Virginia, and 2,100,000 (16%) in Florida, where, as it is well-known, Cubans play an important role, go to vote, and, in this opportunity, could do even more.

The different visits to these states by President Barack Obama and the Republican candidate Mitt Romney, their interviews in Spanish-language television, radio, and newspapers, as well as their campaign materials in this languages, confirm the importance they place on how Hispanics can influence the results.

The notable participation of Marco Rubio, senator of Cuban origin, at the Republican Convention and Julián Castro, mayor of San Antonio, Texas, and second-generation Mexican, at the Democratic Convention demonstrate the importance of Hispanics in the current contest.

Rubio, a young man supported by the Tea Party, reached his current position in the last elections, but his captivating impression made people wonder if he would be presented for Vice President, or if he would prefer to wait and aspire to the Presidency four years from now.

Castro, 37 years old, is seen as a potential candidate, as he is a great orator, capable of reaching the public, and shows the aggressiveness required to be President of the United States.

Although President Obama is indebted to this segment of the American population, which mainly supported him in the 2008 election, above all for the hoped-for law for immigration reform (there are around 12 million undocumented immigrants), the advantage currently goes to Romney, for 63% against 28%. In addition to positions unbecoming to traditional Republican Party members, the current candidate has expressed opinions detrimental to eliciting sympathy, and which actually spark great fear.

For its part, the populace of Cuban origin has been able to participate in all of the opportunities that competitive, thriving American society offers, and with its efforts, has elevated itself to outstanding positions in business, culture, sports, science, religion, politics, and more.

There are Representatives and Senators of both parties that reach these notable positions through their capabilities and attention to the diverse interests of voters. In Florida, in particular, they carry out an important role as the decisive vote in this state, so that relations with Cuba constitute not a theme of international (exterior) politics, but rather domestic (internal) politics.

Keeping in mind that they have been the driving forces behind the commercial embargo, they lamentably coincide with the immovable ruling on the Island over the course of the last 53 years, which in reality favors the interests of those who hope to remain in power and bequeath it to their heirs or chosen people.

The embargo, called “blockade” in Havana, benefits the regime against which it acts, since it is  used as an argument to justify the regime’s whims and failures, blaming imperialist aggression, but fundamentally to suppress any opinion contrary to what is dictated.

However, for more than a decade, since the presidency of George W. Bush, fortunately for the poorly fed Cubans, the United States has been the main supplier of food to Cuba, and it occupies fifth place in the socio-commerce of goods, mainly for this reason.

The Island population very positively recognizes the measures of President Obama to allow visits by Cuban-Americans and to send money, which have: contributed to normalizing family and friendly contacts; largely mitigated the economic precariousness; notably reduced dependence with respect to the Government, almost the only employer; and favored expanding information about the exterior reality, especially regarding possibilities for personal and social development in the United States, as well as visits to the country.

Currently, a change in the politics of bringing the peoples of both sides of the Straits of Florida closer together is greatly feared in Cuba. The course of the American elections is followed with great interest, in great contrast to what occurs with the elections in October to select delegates to the People’s Power, whom everyone knows are chosen beforehand, and which will neither resolve any problems for the citizens, nor will have an influence on the serious economic, political, and social crisis prevailing in Cuba.

Translated by: M. Ouellette

September 27 2012

Glosses / Regina Coyula

Since I was in the hospital waiting for my mother to undergo a small surgery (as you see, I keep going with hospitals), I had time to read the entire Granma newspaper from Friday, the thickest of the week with its 16 pages.

Page 1

The person in charge of a business is the director.

Ergo, the person in charge of a ministry is its Minister; the person in charge of an institute is its Director; the person in charge of a country is its President.

Pastors for Peace cross the US border with Mexico.

Defying the US blockade for the 23rd time. Either these pastors are really defiant or the blockade is weak!

Page 2

Contract violations impact the direct sale of agricultural products to tourist outlets.

More than 30 million CUC enter the Ministry of Agriculture for these sales, but they later clarify that of 181 production centers that have signed contracts with hotels, only 45 occur in a regular way. 136 are in breach of contract?!

Summer Festival in Jibacoa.

If I am not wrong, this is Rotilla in disguise. [See also.]

Page 3

The North American occupation fed the most spurious racist sentiments and the official press did not hide its complicit stance.(From the speech made by Miguel Barnet on the 100th anniversary of the massacre of the Independientes de Color.)

I do not doubt it, but said today, where in the US a black man has arrived at the Presidency thanks to the fight for civil rights, this sounds as if one simply has to speak badly of the Americans. And anyway, what was the official press of the time?

Page 4

The BCC’s report to Parliament

In the payment system between businesses, they note that balances due and accounts receivable have decreased; it talks about contractual disrespect, but not about the offender’s punishment. Plastic money continues to wait in line and there will be no increase in ATMs.

Challenges of Higher Education.

… conducting ideological political work creatively and with marked intention, to guarantee the formation of highly competent professionals, who are engaged in society and revolutionary principles.

I seem to have heard the same so many times before!

Page 5

Resources and responsibility to prevent water loss

It is already known that an amount of water is lost equal to what the largest reservoir in the country can store. If 16% is lost in pipes, and 20% in the aqueduct, and 22% in homes, I get 60%. Does the State waste the remaining 40%? Now is when they speak about strategy? This is not serious, although I imagine that the people in Santiago are not laughing at this news.

These pages about the meeting of the National Assembly leave me with the feeling that this government has just reached power, having inherited serious problems.

Page 6

The white mulberry, an animal feed option.

Nothing against the white mulberry, but as Lezama would say: this report smells like Oporto.

Page 7 (international)

Ben Alí condemned to life in prison.

Probably the most newsworthy item in the entire newspaper, lost in the small section Direct Feed.

Small spokespeople.

The article criticizes the manipulation of child spokespeople on behalf of the Syrian opposition.

…they are using the natural innocence of a child to win supporters and play with people’s sensibility… It seems that their parents are not worried about sending them to demonstrations… Simply, they end their childhood for their own benefit, cutting their innocence short.

And where was the journalist during the Elián González case? I am not only speaking about Elián, but about the many children that we see haranguing like adults on the Mesa Redonda (Roundtable TV show) and in “anti-imperialistic tribunes.”

Page 8 (international)

About the US elections: informative; I wish they would speak with this breadth about domestic politics.

Obama launches a plan to “control the internet” in case of emergency.

Wow! This piece, taken from Rebelión, reports that the Americans could wind up with Internet like mine? False alarm: after reading the piece, the title is sensationalist.

Pages 10 and 11 (letters to the Editor)

It is too exhausting to try to write about these two pages. I was already tired when I got here. Likewise for the rest, up to page 15, where culture and sports are. I would have changed the great title We Knock Out Japan, referring to the Harlem baseball tournament, for another more modest one in view of the Cuban team’s bad start. On the 16th and final page, I am informed obliquely, knowing the inside world of a salt works in Guantanamo, why salt in Cuba continues to be rationed.

How good I am for reading the entire Granma, and how good you are for reading this.

Translated by: M. Ouellette

July 23 2012

What Hygiene Are We Talking About? / Wendy Iriepa and Ignacio Estrada

De qué Higiene estamos Hablando (1)

De qué Higiene estamos Hablando (2)

De qué Higiene estamos Hablando (3)

Havana – In recent days, the health authorities on the Island reported the presence of a cholera outbreak in the town of Manzanillo in the western province of Granma. Starting from that same day, July 2nd, the rumors have created fear and distrust about something that seems like it will become, yet again, another one of the many state secrets.

Since the appearance of this illness in Cuba, only the health body has drafted two very succinct notes that appeared in the official Granma daily newspaper and on TV. They mention that the outbreak is under strict control, but it is apparently not so, since they have detected new cases in other provinces in recent days.

What most catches my attention is the way in which the government tries to sidestep reality by making a call to intensify hygienic measures and water chlorination or treatment. As is expected, the response is immediate for each Cuban who hopes to not contract this sickness.

It would be reasonable to ask all the competent authorities on the Island if the call to sanitizing extends just to the private sector while the State continues without due control. To judge by the images, they continue selling refreshments in the streets from poorly cleaned movable tanks, offering consumers a very low-quality product.

The images show some of these tanks that remain at the park in La Ceiba, a suburb of Playa: the people crowd around and collect the liquid in bottles, these many times taken from the streets. The tap on these tanks is very close to the ground and so it is rare that a bottle is not placed on the ground prior to filling.

Who can guarantee that this refreshment, in most cases baptized with water from Lord knows where, is not also one of the means of infection? If we are really called to maximize the sanitary means on the Island, we will do it no matter whose business it is. Let us keep in mind that what is first is the preservation of the human species.

We speak sincerely and we do not leave the responsibility for our health only in our hands or those of our families; we call for every institution, organization, or ministry to take on the responsibility of hygiene in each local area. There is no potable water, chlorine, or detergent in many of them. Are they not also responsible then? If the situation returned to the same way described before, it would be worthwhile to ask the Health Ministry in Cuba and the competent authorities, “What hygiene are we talking about?”

Translated by: M. Ouellette

July 16 2012

Repression of Religious Minorities / Wendy Iriepa and Ignacio Estrada

The levels of intimidation and repression of religious freedom on the island are the highest since 1980, according to a report by Christian Solidarity Worldwide, published in May 2012.

Their report documents a total of forty religious freedom violations in different regions of Cuba and compares them to those from previous years.

Benedict XVI’s visit to the island in March 2012 caused a strong display of security which prevented defenders of human rights and pro-democracy activists, many of them practicing Catholics, from attending the events of the papal visit. Because of this, hundreds of Cubans were jailed or imprisoned in their own houses through police harassment.

The report highlights the case of people like the Lady in White Caridad Caballers, who was regularly prevented from attending religious services, especially Sunday mass. Her family has been the victim of verbal and physical abuse and, in spite of relying on the support of religious leaders in their community, some family members have not been able to make their first communion.

The report illustrates the pressure that the government exercises over some religious groups to expel leaders who are not in agreement with the regime.

Many congregations belonging to the Western Baptist Convention have been threatened with church closures and the confiscation of vehicles and other goods.

They mention the case of pastor Omar Gude Pérez, who was condemned to six and a half years in prison and was freed in 2001. He is prevented from leaving the country in spite of the fact that the United States has granted political asylum to him, his wife, and his children.

Marriage of religious groups works to disclose the persecution of the Apostolic Movement, a network of churches constantly attacked by the authorities.

The report highlights an increase in physical aggression against pastors, as well as the brutality used. The pattern repeats in every case: victims have been leaders of small denominations that don’t have a support network and are found in isolated places.

Local security agents are responsible for the beatings, but since they have never been investigated, it is suspected that they rely on the backing of the government.

Last week, Cuban religious leaders gave testimony before the Congressional International Religious Freedom Caucus in the United States and members of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, and prepared a petition to include Cuba on the list of Countries of Particular Concern in relation to religious freedoms, according to the Capitol Hill Cubans blog.

Translated by: M. Ouellette

June 25 2012