Christmas Threats / Dora Leonor Mesa

An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.
Mahatma Gandhi

After having taken a personal inventory of 2012, I’ve seen that the GECAL workers were more offensive than usual, and although we tried by all means, it was impossible to avoid confrontations. In mid-December, the situation worsened to the point where the threats escalated after the arrest and release of the independent lawyer Yaremis Flores.

At first I came to think there were prejudices and paranoia were it not that one of the most aggressive neighbors we had, said threateningly:

“The U.S. blockade doesn’t put ’this’ (the country) bad, but the internal counterrevolution!,” he shouted at the top of his voice while he stared at me, and I tried to calm my husband down.

We don’t allow ourselves to be provoked and so everything was left the same. That same day, around 11:00 in the morning, some GECAL workers, friends of the neighbor who shouted at us, began to walk around and put boards in the old backyard of the house, which adjoins the bathroom window and the kitchen. I talked to them beside the toilet and asked them to please not put anything there because that area is under litigation, the bathroom window is really low, they have plenty of room elsewhere, etc.

The request was what they needed for the crowd to grow and to begin uttering threats of hitting me. They even said that if I dared to call the police, the punishment would be worse. Good thing I decided to be quiet and move back just in time. That way, I couldn’t even see their faces, but we heard the shouting and the insults.

Although we carried on with the childcare activities, at dusk I made a complaint at the Aguilera police station. What goes around comes around… a few weeks later I refused when they tried to convince me to drop the charges.

So, a sad 2012 Christmas came to my family. As a complement, I had an interview with the municipal director of the Ministry of Labor and Social Security in Diez de Octubre, where I had the opportunity to explain the reason for the prestige achieved by the daycare centers served by ACDEI. This academic year 2012-2013, the first group of preschoolers started school successfully.

The official asked me repeatedly how the idea came up to establish private nursery education. She said that officials of theDiez de Octubre Municipality of Education claim that I must go through the pre-school learning methodology. No surprise if it’s true what they say. Lying is a very popular business tool in this island. Our project is based on an NGO, the Cuban Association for the Development of Primary Education (ACDEI), which is about to be approved. At the headquarters of the Ministry of Justice (MINJUS) they angrily asked me the same thing:

“How did you get that idea?”

More surprises cause us to worry:

1. The children learn in appropriate conditions.

2. The owners and their employees gradually become educators.

3. We don’t charge for our services to the daycare centers.

4. That there be advocacy and outreach to the citizens of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

In Cuba, being a Cuban citizen and defending our rights irritates the State. Any state entity thinks they are better than the ordinary citizen.

Gecal’s attitude is no exception, it is the rule. Months ago the police had explained to that constructive government group, in particular its director, that until the sentence is carried out in that area they can not perform any activities, or use it as their own. A bad memory? Yes, particularly when the applicant is a civil society activist who speaks to the public about the reports of the Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Regarding the continuing threats, it’s not long until we get used to it. The verb “to threaten” is used a lot in Cuban society.

He or she threatens,

They threaten,

We are all threatened…daily.

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Translated by: Michelle Eddy

January 27 2013

President Kirchner will promote surrogacy and embryo manipulation / Wendy Iriepa and Ignacio Estrada

The companies that carry out these practices promote them demonstrating an alleged altruism. A gay couple, for example, comments on the web page of the American company Growing Generations: “We want to explain that he or she is a result of a combination of very generous acts: especially the pregnant mother and the egg donor, who are also allowed him or her to exist. This gesture of offering the gifts of one’s body to others, is very nice.”

Nonetheless, beyond the companies’ marketing, surrogacy itself is an abhorrent procedure of manipulation of the human being that resembles the times of the slave trade.

The process begins by “shopping” in a catalog. First, you choose the woman who will be the egg donor, and then you choose the surrogate mother. Various embryos, obtained by the fertilization of the eggs of the first woman and the sperm of one or both of the gay couple, will be inserted into the surrogate.

Then in vitro fertilization (IVF) is performed: The embryos are inserted into the surrogate mother. When the embryos fail to develop, a new cycle should be started. Either new embryos that were previously frozen are inserted, or a new in vitro fertilization should proceed. If the procedure is still unsuccessful, another surrogate mother should be found. The large number of embryos that die in this procedure can be seen.

Two different women are used so that the surrogate mother isn’t the baby’s biological mother, to avoid creating a bond. Still, many profound psychological studies are carried out to make sure the surrogate mother doesn’t get attached to the baby and want to keep it.

The IVF procedure can result in twins or triplets. When that many babies aren’t wanted, an “embryonic reduction” is performed, or rather, some of them are aborted. This is agreed upon in the signed contract.

 Translated by: Michelle Eddy

August 6 2012

From the Olympics to London to Havana / Rosa María Rodríguez Torrado

Mascots for the London Olympics

A few days before the end of July celebrations for the Summer Olympics Games in London will begin. In our country, as in many others, it will be a sporting festival that will see many fans anchored in front of their TV sets to enjoy the competitive displays, with their bold summer colors, and to witness the many sporting events that will be broadcast.

Emotions will be bound together with the flags, the anthems, the blood, sweat and tears that sum up the participants’ sacrifices, and the pride and recognition of the viewers.

In Cuba, as always, it will be much more because sports has a surname. It’s “Revolution.”

Success in sports is politicized and every Cuban player who crosses the finishing line first—according to the voice over from the national commentators—will do so not only with limbs and organs trained for locomotion, but with his blood, his guts and “with his heart.”

This verbose dismemberment will come with a package of political commercials included that we Cubans will have to endure with our telereceptors.

Translated by: Michelle Eddy

July 14 2012

Extractions / Cuban Law Association, Wilfredo Vallín Almeida

Site of a collapsed building in Havana. Photo: Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Soon, a new population and housing census will take place that shall show how many of us there are and the current living situation in our country.

Among the many and ever more acute problems, that of housing is one of the most difficult given all that it implies for the family and individuals. Extended cohabitation among different generations, many times with a great deal of overcrowding, leads sometimes to the loss of values, dehumanization and domestic violence.

The cases of close family members — in a pitched battle for a place to live — turn out to be dramatic and many times embarrassing.

For some time now the inns where rooms were rented to couples by the hour — welcome in a country where multi-generational families cram into small apartments — have been converted to shelters for victims of hurricanes, fires, building collapses and so on. Today these true citadels crammed with people in precarious conditions.

Like many things in today’s Cuba, this problem remains static, without any sign of a plan or on the part of the State which, for many years, did not permit the repair of homes or the construction of new ones through the sale of building materials to the inhabitants; now it  appears there is no answer to this problem created by State itself over long long years.

Thus, the death of the owner of a home, often creates a whole conflict between those who consider they have a legal right to the housing for one reason or another, because they know: either they make it theirs or they will have to stay put… where no one wants to go or stay.

Another problem with this harrowing case is that of forced evictions … sorry, I meant to say “removals”.

When a house is abandoned by its inhabitants for any reason whatsoever, and sealed by the State, is not uncommon for the seal to be broken and be occupied by people who literally live on the street.

In other cases, there is no housing and people are forced into squats or one-room tenements, or they may “fabricate” (if this can even be called a fabrication) something that brings to mind a room but is made from cardboard, palm fronds, pieces of zink or whatever things that can find… and show up with wives… and children… sometimes babies.

In many of these opportunities, they end up forcibly evicted … sorry, (in Cuba there are no evictions), again, I meant to say the “extraction” which is performed by the security forces, responding to a different conception of “due obedience “.

And if the UN says in its document, The Practice of Forced Evictions, of June 1997…

Forced evictions constitute prima facie violations of a wide range of internationally recognized human rights and can only be carried out under exceptional circumstances and in full accordance with the present Guidelines and relevant provisions of international human rights law.

…it says what is wants to say because it doesn’t have anything to do with us since here there are no evictions… there are extractions.

Translated by: Michelle Eddy

July 13 2012

To Travel or Not to Travel / Regina Coyula

I have curiously followed the debate within the exiled community about traveling to Cuba as soon as you receive legal status in North America, after having received the status of potential political victim. This shows me two things: that Cubans have privileges and they take advantage of them, and that the world has changed since the time of the approval of the famous law.

I wasn’t thinking about the David Rivera* changes, however, that have their community divided with the project. I was thinking that the Cuban government just issued a conspiratorial wink with certain provisions which eliminate the “mules,” a reason that became increasingly common to come back to visit Cuba.

But this is an anecdote, told with that triviality that people already know me by. The politician will follow with his politics and we’ll be separated by 45 minutes of the most expensive airplanes there are. To travel or not to travel is a sentimental and ethical dilemma.

*Translator’s note: David Rivera is a U.S. Congressman from Florida who has proposed legislation that would revoke the residency status of any Cuban who has claimed political asylum in the U.S. and then travels back to Cuba. His bill has no co-sponsors.

Translated by: Michelle Eddy

July 13 2012