The Government Invokes “International Tensions” to Cancel the Annual Conga Against Homophobia

The conga had become one of the fixed events of the program of activities against homophobia. (EFE/Archive)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, May 7, 2019 — The National Center of Sex Education (Cenesex) announced this Monday that the conga against homophobia that is organized every year was canceled “by order“ of the Minister of Public Health.

The communication of the institution, headed by deputy Mariela Castro, justifies the decision by some “determined circumstances that are not helping successful development,” neither in Havana nor in Camagüey, where the marches were programmed for May 11 and 17, respectively.

“New tensions in the international and regional context directly and indirectly affect our country and have tangible and intangible impacts on the normal development of our daily lives and the implementation of the Cuban State’s policies,” said the note about the ministry’s reasons, which were published on Cenesex’ Facebook page. continue reading

According to Cenesex, this change in the program doesn‘t mean the suspension of the rest of the planned activities, like the academic forums.

The conga has taken place since the beginning of these celebrations, which now are 12 years old, always in the context of the Cuban Day against Homophobia, held in May.

The LGBT activist and official journalist, Francisco Rodríguez, known also for his blog Paquito el de Cuba, responded to the abrupt cancellation with a post entitled La Conga va pro dentro o Nadie nos quito la bailado y por bailar (The Conga will happen inside or No one takes away the dancers and our right to dance), in which he requests that “such a setback“ not spoil the party.

“The conga burst upon the scene as the initial activity of the first days, and its percormance has become a whole tradition, as the main moment of visibility for LGBT people in Cuba,” he said.

The announcement of the cancellation sparked reactions on the activist social networks of the LGBT community.

The independent journalist and director of the digital magazine Tremenda Nota, Maykel González Vivero, lamented the briefness of the note and the fact that it ”doesn’t offer a clear argument” for the cancellation.

The activist and general coordinator of the Alianza Afro-Cubana, Raúl Soublett López, wonders why they didn’t cancel the May 1 parade and sees an excuse in the allusion to international tensions because “they’ve always been the order of the day,” he adds.

For his part, the activist Adiel González Maimó wonders if the measure is the result of  pressure brought by the religious community against equal marriage rights. “What happened? Did the fundamentalists get afraid?” he asks. “This is unforgivable, a lack of respect. I don’t understand why they didn’t also suspend the May 1 march. . . . It‘s for this reason that LGBT activism in Cuba can’t be linked anymore with the State. It can’t be.”

Translated by Regina Anavy

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Trumpa€™’s “Pressure Cooker” Policy

Caption: Cuban demonstrators in the spontaneous protest known as the maleconazo in 1994. (Karl Poort)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, May 4, 2019 — The comings and goings of Trump officials in Florida lately to meet with exiled Cubans and Venezuelans, and the measures taken against the Maduro dictatorship and Castroism, clearly have an electoral interest, which is very common.

All politicians, Republicans and Democrats, have always done the same thing. What is new is the application of Titles III and IV of the Helms-Burton Law, which no president, since Clinton and Obama, has dared to apply before now, because it would affect the interests of many allies—above all, in Europe.

Now this extreme step has the tinge of a last resort, because the possibilty of presidential reelection seems less clear, especially because the Democrats now have a majority in the House. And Florida, as we know, will determine whether Trump gets a second term. continue reading

Limitations on trips and remittances were added, supposedly to reduce what reputedly is the principal source of the Havana Regime”s hard currency. And, as if this weren’t enough, Trump threatens a “total embargo,” all part of a repressive policy that has failed for more than half a century.

The theory of many defenders of the hard line is based on thinking it will work this time, because the measures would be added to the profound economic crisis that, according to clear indications, will give rise to a new Special Period of calamities in what was once called the Pearl of the Antilles, and that the country would not be able to withstand a sequel.

And maybe they’re right, not only because “sequels are never good” but also because since that time the citizens have advanced in many ways, as much in frustration at so many false expectations and unfulfilled promises as at lack of access to new communication technologies. The final objective of this policy has always been to do whatever explodes the pressure cooker, so that the multitudes throw themselves into the streets against the dictatorship until it bursts.

As it is offered—like many other times—on a silver platter to the octogenerarian leaders as an opportunity to make “the Empire” responsibile for all of Cuba’s economic problems, they repeat the illusion that the main problem of Cubans is the contradiction between a great power and the small, heroic country that it wants to subdue. By this logic, it’s possible that people might actually take to the streets, but I don’t know if many would do it to demonstrate against the dictatorship or to curse Trump and imperialism. And although this reaction might seem logical, I suspect that the result would be worse than the illness.

A maleconazo multiplied by ten or twenty not only would provoke a devastating destruction but also would be accompanied this time by an incalcuable number of wounded and dead. Examples, although perhaps on a minor scale, can be seen in the demonstrations in recent years in Venezuela and Nicaragua.

Did anything good come of them? The only good thing has been the experience of what shouldn’t be done. It appears that the Venezuelan opposition has assimilated this very well, and Juan Guaidó’s message has been clear: no violence, although it can’t be avoided that there are those on the periphery of the movement who didn’t get the message.

Furthermore, the main people affected will be employees, private entrepreneurs, retirees, everyone. But none of these people have the right to vote in elections in Florida.

One day, someone asked Manuel Moreno Fraginal why such a rebellious and heroic people as the Cubans weren‘t rebelling against the dictatorship, and the prestigious author of El Ingenio answered: “Because in Cuba for some time there has been no middle class, which has always been the leader in these events.” It’s true. The middle class has nothing to lose, nor any economic strings attached.

This class has begun to emerge in Cuba for some years with private entrepreneurs, the black market, artists, bloggers and independent journalists who don’t have ties to the State. They could lead a broad, peaceful movement in favor of change, like the pre-revolutionary Third Republic in France. But now, with the Trump administration’s policy, this process might come to a halt.

If the President is removed by a political trial because of his blunders or loses the election, since many voted for him only to oppose the “Establishment” and, in particular, the politicians, these measures probably won’t last, but if he wins, we’ll have them for a long time.

But with or without Trump, the historic leadership of Cuba will be involved in the dilemma of having to make major concessions like what has happened up to now, if it wants to avoid grave dangers and the headaches that follow. Cuba could rise and thrive in very little time.

It would be enough to liberate and stimulate the creative forces of Cubans. But that would mean renouncing the monopolistic control of the rich. If the leaders don’t do it, others will have to, and those others won’t be just the dissidents but all of civil society: academics, professionals, students, independent journalists, bloggers, writers, film makers and other artists, agreeing to draw up a joint, agreed-upon program of necessary changes and raising their voices high.

This is not a wish or a whim but an emergency and a duty for all Cubans if they want to avoid the tragedy that is approaching.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

It’s Forbidden to Say the Word "Crocodile" on Cuban Television

The actor Luis Silva, who incarnates the character of “Pánfilo,” denounces censorship in a program where bread in the form of a crocodile was shown. (Luis Silva/Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 2 May 2019 — The popular actor, Luis Silva, known for his comedic character, Pánfilo, reported this Wednesday that one of the episodes he had recorded in January for the program Vivir del Cuento (Living by One’s Wits) wasn’t put on the air because of a joke about bread in the form of a crocodile.

“Because of bread in the form of a crocodile, this episode wasn’t released on Monday. You can’t mention a crocodile, a hutia, or an ostrich. Worst of all, this episode had been recorded in January,” the actor wrote on social media.

The censorship is related to a declaration made by a  comandante of the Revolution, Guillermo García Frías, on the program Mesa Redonda (Round Table). The military nonagenarian, in charge of the National Enterprise for the Protection of Flora and Fauna, said that the meat of the hutia, a type of large rat found in the fields of Cuba, has more protein than “all the meats” and a “high quality” skin. continue reading

García also praised the ostrich and said it produced more meat than a cow. After his declarations, the words “crocodile”, “hutia” and “ostrich” trended on social media, where a multitude of memes and jokes about these animals circulated.

However, Luis Silva didn’t mean it as a joke and said the bread that appeared on Vivir del Cuento was a gift from the people of Triunvirato, a small town in Matanzas Province. “I decided to show it on the program as an expression of gratitude to the town. Draw your own conclusions. Friends of Triunvirato; I tried.” added the comic.

After publishing his first post, the actor qualified the situation and added that “the episode will be shown, surely. But with that scene cut.”

Comments weren’t long in coming. “What a shame that a comedian can’t mention it, and a high official of the country robs a comedian’s work and makes himself a national laughingstock,” said one user identified as Claudio Cabrera. For Idalia Quintana, “We Cubans are the only ones on planet earth who laugh at our misfortunes.”

Another “internaut” thought it ironic that the icon of Matanzas’ baseball team is a crocodile and suggested that they “change the name to a lizard.”

In comedy programs on Cuban television, jokes about the bureaucracy, the absurdities of the socialist state enterprise and intolerant ideologues are frequently included, but jokes against the Communist Party or the revolutionary leaders are still taboo.

Vivir del Cuento is one of the few programs that has survived on Cuban television with a critical script that focuses on everyday difficulties, the hardships experienced by retired people and the problems in buying food.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Dozens of Congolese Tightly Guarded in Havana Await Repatriation

Police surround the outskirts of the Embassy of Congo in Havana (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, April 27, 2019 — Dozens of Congolese students who are studying medicine in Cuba find themselves being detained and guarded in a place close to the international airport in Havana, waiting to be repatriated to their country, according to several students who managed to remain in the Salvador Allende Faculty of Medicine in the Cuban capital.

”They took them in a bus on April 18, and at first we thought it was for a meeting where they were going to explain things, but they never came back,” one of the students who remained on the university campus said, under condition of anonymity. “They’re not letting them speak with anybody, but we’ve learned that they are holding them in a well-guarded place to send them back to the Congo.”

“They carried out a raid at the Faculty of Medicine and put them on a bus,” the neighbors confirm. “All of us in the neighborhood thought that finally the situation was going to be managed because later we saw only a few buses return,” they add. continue reading

This newspaper can’t confirm if repatriation of the students has begun, but several sources said that they are awaiting “a response from the Congolese.”

Last Monday, an opposition group in this African country, in a comminication, had denounced the fact that the students were called to the Embassy of Congo in Miramar under the pretext that they were going to receive part of their overdue stipends. “Actually, the Cuban and Congolese authorities laid a trap for them,” the opponents explain.

“Shortly after they arrived, the students were separated into groups, and more than 200 were forced, by Congolese and Cuban agents, to get on the bus, supervised, and then were taken to an unknown stop. Other students waited more than 6 hours for their friends, without success. The telephones of the detainees had been out of service this whole time,” explains the text.

New images have come to light of the violent repression against students from Congo by the Cuban police. The student interns were protesting because of the delay of two years for their stipends and the poor conditions in which they are living on the island. Images here

— Mario J. Pentón (@marijose_cuba) April 9, 2019

The detention was also confirmed on the Facebook page, “I’m not returning without my diploma,” created by Congolese students to demand back-payment of 27 months of their stipends. On this platform, the students clarify that the protests that began at the end of March aren’t the work of a leader manipulated by “dark forces” as claimed by the Congolese Government.

The group of medical alumni also said that they presented legal remedies in agreement with Cuban law, and they launched a petition to the authorities on the island to allow release and academic reinstatement of the detainees.

After this happened, the Chancellor of Congo, Jean-Claude Gakosso, went to Havana, where he met with Miguel Díaz-Canel and presented him with a letter from the Congolese President, Dennis Sassou Ngueso. However, the official press only mentioned the visit as an opportunity to strengthen commercial and political ties.

Junior Bokaka, a Congolese student of epidemiology, who has been featured as one of the protest’s spokesmen, said on Facebook that the complaint about the stipends for the Congolese students has “nothing to do with the Cuban Government.”

Bokaka took advantage of the opportunity to point out that, contrary to what some press media have said, he is a simple student who reported the situation on his Facebook account, but he doesn’t consider himself a leader of the demonstrations nor a student representative.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Assault on Cuban Doctors’ Home in Caracas

Cuban doctors in the Herminia Farías school, Venezuela (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, April 26, 2009 — A home in Caracas where 20 Cubans lived was broken into on Thursday by six men in hoods who carried knives and blunt weapons. According to the victims, the criminals robbed them of cell phones, televisions, a power generator and $1,300 dollars in cash, the Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional reported.

Troops from the Bolivarian National Police and the Corps of Scientific, Penal and Forensic Studies went to the home, located in Alta Florida, to begin the investigation.

Members of Cuba’s medical mission in Venezuela have repeatedly complained about being victims of the widespread violence that exists in this South American country. continue reading

In July 2018, eight armed, hooded men attacked a group of prominent Cuban doctors in Venezuela and robbed them of more than $152,000 and 30,000 pesos, according to statements collected by this newspaper.

The thousands of doctors that the Cuban Government maintains in Venezuela are experiencing the political struggles and growing violence without any plans for evacuation.

After Guaidó’s proclamation as President, many health professionals confessed to feeling they would be in the middle of a crossfire if the tension led to civil war.

“The Venezuelan army is expecting an invasion from the United States, and the criminal gangs are rampant,“ a doctor of general medicine in Táchira told 14ymedio.

in addition, they are under suspicion of having been infiltrated by members of the Cuban Armed Forces who support the Chavista government, and some have complained about being used to transmit the regime’s ideology.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Factual, a Project That Supports Young Cuban Journalists

Xochiketzalli Rosas and Jordy Meléndez, promoters of the “Factual” project that supports young journalists in Latin America. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, April 3, 2019 — All over the world, young journalists hope to be published in prestigious media, to be in contact with recognized professionals and to have alternatives in order to better themselves, but frequently there are more obstacles than support. in the case of Cuba, the situation is complicated.

The independent press on the Island is illegal and has been officially stigmatized. Journalists have had to sort out problems of connectivity and, on more than one occasion, several have been prohibited from traveling outside the country as reprisal for their work.

For this reason Factual, founded in Mexico in 2014, decided to take a chance on Cuba, in order to smooth the way for more reporters. The project is the creation of the Latin American Network of Young Journalists, which organizes a forum of digital media and maintains a web platform where reporters can make their work known and develop networks of contacts. continue reading

Xochiketzalli Rosas and Jordy Meléndez, two of its principal founders, told 14ymedio that “Our main goal is to identify this talent in the under-30 group who are barely known.” The support includes “an educational process and learning sessions with some of the best journalists in the digital sphere in Latin America.”

Menéndez confesses that when they initiated the network, they had barely defined its purpose. “We didn’t have a clear idea of how we were going to finance it or what programs we would develop. We only counted on the desire to generate interaction, networks, communities and, above all, learning.”

Up until now, Factual has had three open calls to join the network. In 2014, 150 journalists applied, from which 16, between the ages of 20 and 28, were selected, coming from 11 countries. In the second round in 2016, there were 315 candidates, and 28 between the ages of 20 and 29 were selected, from 14 countries.

Rosas explains that they missed something in their projects. “We talked a lot about Latin America as if the Caribbean didn’t exist, and the most notable absence was Cuba.”

This omission was resolved with a call for applications that the promoters of the initiative called “the third generation.” At this time, 220 journalists from 21 countries, between the ages of 22 and 32, applied, and at the end of October, 2018, it was announced that 42 had been selected, among them several Cubans.

Mendéndez explains that up until the last minute they were not sure if the Cubans would be able to attend the virtual meetings. “We know the difficulties with connectivity on the Island, but we’re very happy to see that, in spite of the problems, the Cubans have had a good presence in the meetings.“

“Beginning with this, the regional character of our meetings was enriched, because in any analysis about Latin America, it’s essential to know what is happening in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Cuba,” Rosas points out.

Factual has helped its members publish in 28 international media, and, in addition, it sustains a web platform where more than 40 reports, the fruit of the work done in the workshops, can be read.

Every Saturday, online learning sessions take place with highly-qualified professionals (Yina Morelos, Javier Sinay, winner of the 2015 Gabo Prize, or Pablo Rivero), an opportunity to express their experiences and expand themes, focuses and ways of constructing an informative text.

They work on creating a micro-profile in order to capture the essence starting with the description of physical and psychological features. “Some of the best profiles are created by them,” says Meléndez.

”How much of Cuba is there in Latin America?” we ask.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re in San Salvador, Buenos Aires or México City.  It’s a matter of ascertaining the connection you can maintain in spite of the distance, through music, gastronomy, history or politics,” says Rosas.

The third program of the Factual project is the Latin American Forum of Digital Media and Journalism, which has taken place for seven consecutive years in Mexico City, and will happen again in 2019. Cuba was present for the first time last year, and its attendance was inaugurated with a table dedicated to independent journalism.

Factual, a context where the press media isn’t controlled by the Communist Party, will gain space on the Island. Its initiatives and projects help elevate the quality of reporting, and it connects journalists with other professionals in the hemisphere and promotes new informative subject matter, resulting in an injection of life for the sector.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Fourteen Cubans Detained near Caimanera to Prevent Exodus to U.S. Base

Caimanera is next door to the U.S. Naval Base in Guantánamo. (EFE/Archive)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, April 1, 2019 — Fourteen young people were incarcerated recently  in Caimanera, Guantánamo, for trying to enter the U.S. Naval Base. A rumor had been spreading for weeks that the U.S. would take in any one who tried to leave the island by getting onto the base, and this caused a streak of detentions and strict militarization of the zone by Cuban State Security forces.

According to sources cited by the Spanish newspaper ABC, the army prevented non-residents from entering the province, and on Sunday, some 159 people were detained by the municipal police for trying to bypass the system of access control.

The U.S Government decided to notify Cubans in Caimanera that they had been the victims of a hoax. “It is not true that the U.S. Naval Base is processing Cubans for immigration,” the Department of State’s communication said. continue reading

“We continue to support safe, legal and orderly immigration under the laws of the United States,” it pointed out.

According to ABC, those arrested up to now are: Argelio Lechuga, Yorie Céspedes, Daniel Manuel Estrada Gorra, Rafael Vadari Sánchez Ruíz, residentes en Guantánamo; Roinel Espinosa y Adonis Domínguez, of Holguín; Amari Martínez, Yordanis Ramírez, Yasiel Galván, Aniel Martel, Lázaro Valdez, Jesús Miguel Aguilar, Carlos Antonio García and Yasmani Marcelino Mendoza, of Cienfuegos.

According to ABC sources, they have been accused of “violating the security perimeter” and “disobedience,” but not of “intent to exit the territory illegally.”

Yulieth Yero and Lisbeth Téllez, the wives of Rafael and Daniel Manuel, said that their spouses arrived at the Naval Base, where they were met by U.S. military authroities, who facilitated a safe-conduct pass for them to avoid detention before being deported according to the migration accords. However, according to their spouses, the documents were taken away from them by the Cuban police, and they were detained in order to be processed.

The families of Jesús Miguel Aguilar and Aniek Martel also spoke with the newspaper and reported that the detentions were meant as an example to prevent similar cases. “If the Cuban Government had denied the rumor on time, our sons wouldn’t have been prosecuted,” they protested. Both families say that their sons are being mistreated in prison.

Since the end of February, in the context of the constitutional referendum, Guantánamo’s neighbors have denounced the excessive militarization of the province. At that time, the deployment was interpreted as a method of control for possible protests, but weeks later, the army and the police continue controlling the entrances and exits to the territory, with special emphasis on Caimanera.

According to what a neighbor from the town told ABC, several journalists have tried to contact him to get information about the situation, but none has been able to get through. At the National Revolutionary Police control points on the highway at the entrance to the city, they denied access to them after taking down their names on a list,” he said.

ABC’s correspondent in Havana, Jorge Enrique Rodríguez, was detained for approximately 24 hours on March 21. The journalist had, days before, reported the unusual military activity and notable influx of people with the apparent intention of approaching the Caimanera Naval Base of Guantánamo in order to leave the country. His release was made possible by the intervention of the Ambassador from Spain in Cuba at the request of the Director of the Spanish newspaper.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Cuban Exile in Miami Urges a Declaration of ‘Void’ for the Constitutional Referendum in Cuba

Rosa María Payá criticizes the referendum, saying that the “constitutional text directly violates the most basic rules of democracy.” (@RosaMariaPaya)

14ymedio biggerEFE, via 14ymedio, Miami, February 25, 2019 — Opposition and Cuban exile organizations called on the international community today to declare the process of constitutional reform in Cuba invalid and to ignore the official results of the “fraudulent” referendum of Sunday.

Rosa María Payá, the leader of the Cuba Decides movement, told EFE that the process has been “flawed since the beginning,” and she denounced the increase in repression and intimidation of civil society during the voting held this Sunday on the island.

She said that at least “nine people are missing and a hundred detained,” and dozens of opponents were beaten during a day that also lacked “national and international observation.” continue reading

The activist considers the process in which more than 7,000,000 Cubans went to the polls this Sunday to decide on a new constitution “illegitimate” and said that it doesn’t modify the Communist political system.

Cuba Decides and other exile groups in Miami, among them the Movimiento Democracia, denounced the constitutional referendum as an “imposition” of the ex-President and leader of the governing Communist Party of Cuba (the only legal party), Raúl Castro.

In this sense, they urge the international community, including the democratic governments of the region and the European Union to follow the Organization of American States (OAS) in disavowing “whatever result” the constitutional process produces.

The Secretary-General of the OAS, Luis Almagro, said today that it “does not recognize the acts and institutions” created by the new constitution in Cuba.

Opponents and exiles say that the referendum originates from a commission formed by the Communist Party and members of the National Assembly, “none of whom were chosen in free, just and plural elections.”

During a news conference, attended by Miami Mayor, Francis Suárez, the Cuban exile groups complained that the “constitutional text is designed to guarantee the perpetuity in power” of the Cuban Communist Party.

Payá also stated that the “constitutional text directly violates the most basic rules of democracy” and threatens with the “use of arms” Cubans who “want to change the system it defines.”

The activist said that on the island there is also a sense of nervousness over the crisis of political legitimacy in Venezuela facing president Nicolas Maduros and that it contributed to the repression this Sunday.

The day was marked by “the lack of transparency and verbal and physical violence against members of civil society and the opposition by repressive forces and, in many cases, the electoral authorities,” said Cuba Decides.

In addition, Payá condemned the raids on homes, the absence of conditions for a secret vote and propaganda in favor of the official option in polling places, among other irregularities.

According to official Cuban data, of the more than 8 million voters registered, more than 7.5 million (81.5%) had already voted one hour before the polls closed on Sunday.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Apathy in the Streets and Unease in the Cuban Government

Antonio, a habanero who lives on the street, says that he has “nothing to lose. I’m going to vote No.” (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana / Camagüey | 23 February 2019 — Clown performances promoting a Yes vote on the referendum, long lines to buy food and a general apathy about voting on the new constitution shape the scene on Saturday in Cuba, a few hours before the polling places open, where government officials have more at stake than a new charter.

From early in the morning families have been lining up at the Coppelia ice cream parlor and people are crowding into the agricultural markets. The cinemas and theaters are running their usual programs, but the countdown for the vote this Sunday has increased police patrols in the streets, with uniformed troops and members of State Security.

In the cafeteria of the Hotel Tulipán, in Nuevo Vedado, a clown encourages the toddlers with statements about the Constitution. “Raise your hands, children, if you’re going to wake up early tomorrow,” says the blue clown, played by the actor, Noel Torriente, in a show called Children also vote for the fatherland. continue reading

In the Hotel Tulipán, the blue clown puts on a show called Children also vote for the fatherland. (14ymedio)

A man of 36 years who offers guide services to tourists on the outskirts of the Plaza de la Revolución doesn’t seem very enthusiastic and adds that the new constitution won’t do much to put “beans on my table”. He is one among many who believe that the referendum has nothing to do with their own interests.

In the Market at 17th and K, in Vedado, there are carrots and beets, but the longest line is for pork, even though the price per pound is more than a worker earns in a day. The seller screams “No photographs!” when he sees a reporter approach; his kiosk is papered with posters for a Yes vote.

The pork seller screams “No photographs!” when he sees a reporter approach. (14ymedio)

Nearby, in the doorway of the bus terminal, Miguel sells newspapers and believes that the correct thing to do is to go and vote, because he considers it “important for the country. In the assemblies everyone expresses their opinion and now you have to go and ratify,” the old man of 80 years adds.

Esperanza, a school employee, doesn’t share his opinion. “Everyone should vote No, to see the Government’s reaction.” She has already decided to reject the constitutional text but hasn’t told her colleagues and friends because she “doesn’t want to lose my job” or be marked as a “counterrevolutionary”.

Outside the Immigration and Naturalization office on calle 17 in Vedado, people barely interact to avoid any critical opinion aborting their trip abroad. The Yes propaganda is everywhere, and one joke assures that “after February 24, passports will be cheaper,” which they all pretend not to hear.

Outside the Immigration and Naturalization office on calle 17 in Vedado, people barely interact to avoid any critical opinion aborting their trip abroad. (14ymedio)

Outside Coppelia, Antonio takes in the sun. Homeless, missing a shoe and with years of living on the street, he says that he is registered to vote in Playa. “I have nothing to lose. I’m going to vote No.” He says this categorically while the passersby move away.

In Camagüey, the authorities have increased the presence of civil police, especially around the long food lines. (14ymedio)

Hundreds of kilometers from the capital, in the streets of Camagüey, the residents are more interested in the shortage of food than in the constitutional referendum. This Saturday, there are also a larger number of police and members of State Security, dressed in civilian clothing but identifiable by their Suzuki motorcycles, traditionally used by the political police.

“Every day more products disappear,” comments Ariel Almansa, a young entrepreneur who waits in line at DiTú on 12 Plantas del Avenida Finlay, to buy two packages of chicken, a product that has been absent in previous days. Among the merchandise that has disappeared, he enumerates “oil, eggs, deodorant and condoms.”

The shortage has increased the popular malaise, a discontent that could be reflected in the ballot boxes in a rejection of the new Constitution. “I’m going to vote No because this has become unsustainable,” another client who waits in the food line tells 14ymedio. “It’s not that I reject the Constitution; it’s that this can’t continue,” she adds.

In Camagüey, the authorities have increased the presence of civil police, especially around the long food lines. “They say they’re here to avoid fighting and that now the cooking oil has been delivered,” explains Damaris Marín outside a market in the Montecarlos area.

The reappearance of the product hasn’t passed unnoticed, and many think it’s an electoral maneuver for the referendum on Sunday. “Now a little chicken and oil appear in some shops because they want us to vote Yes tomorrow,” says a woman at the bus stop on Route 19.

In these last weeks, officials have used all the resources at their disposal to promote ratification of the constitutional text. The residents in Camagüey were surprised these last days when groups of kids, with school uniforms and during school hours, ran through the streets leaving propaganda in favor of a Yes vote under doors.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Controversy in French Guayana Over the Project to Hire Cuban Doctors

French Guayana needs at least 15 dental surgeons, three oncologists, and five pulmonologists. (OPS)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, February 22, 2019 — The project announced in the middle of February to contract Cuban doctors to address the shortage of personnel in French Guayana is facing resistance from the organizations of national professional health workers, who question the technical skills of the Cuban doctors.

Rodolphe Alexandre, President of Guayana, explained to the AFP agency that last Tuesday, February 12, he met in Paris, together with Senators George Patient and Antoine Karam, with the Cuban ambassador in France, Elio Rodríguez Perdomo, and with the Vice Minister of Health Marcia Cobas, to discuss the details.

Since 2005, Guayana has had an ordinance that permits the hiring of doctors outside the European Union. continue reading

Alexandre explained that there is a real urgency in Guayana and that the idea would be to bring “one hundred specialized (Cuban) doctors into hospitals to overcome the medical shortage. At least 15 dental surgeons, three oncologists, five pulmonologists,” said the French agency.

The President added that it would be the Cuban State that would directly receive payment for the service.

If the project manages to be finalized, he would study on a case-by-case basis the candidates who want to offer their services overseas.

This possible new agreement happened two months after the exit from Cuba of Mais Médicos, the program that supported 8,471 Cuban doctors in Brazil.

The rift with Jair Bolsonaro, who wanted to revise the agreement so the professionals would stop receiving their salaries through the Government of Havana, caused the precipitous return of the doctors from the South American country.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Decree Law 349 and the Cuban State a€™s Cultural Politics in 7 Points / Cubalex

Cubalex, 15 August 2018 — The Council of Ministers, in Decree Law No. 349, on April 20, 2018 (effective on December 20, 2018) establishes sanctions for not complying with the cultural policies established by the Ministry of Culture, in relation to the suitability, professionalism and remuneration of artists, whether they are graduates of art education, general education or amateurs. The following 7 points summarize this policy:

1. Cuban artists, whether they are graduates of artistic education, general education or amateurs, in order to practice professionally, have to be qualified by the State.

2. Only artists who have been approved or enrolled in the Registry of Creators of Plastic and Applied Arts can exhibit, provide artistic services in public or have commercial space for their art. continue reading

3. Artists will be required to establish links with a State institution in order to receive remuneration for their work. Those who don’t comply with this policy can be subject to disciplinary measures by their work institution, including measures that affect their economic support.

4. Only institutions that are authorized by the Minister of Culture or the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television can establish work relations with artists and represent them to market their productions and artistic services in public.

5. Artists will not be able to benefit from productions or shows, or develop and expose their skills, talents and artistic attitudes in public without State authorization. Nor can they express their identity using national symbols. People who are not considered artistis are excluded from access to practices, benefits and cultural services.

6. State officials have it within their discretion to decide if a book doesn’t comply with ethical and cultural values; if audiovisuals, music or artistic presentations promote discrimination, violence or use sexist, vulgar and obscene language. Victims, affected groups, denunciations or guarantees of due process are not required for accusations.

7. State supervisors and inspectors will decide, at their discretion, if fines between 1,000 and 4,000 pesos or confiscation of goods are merited. Both measures can be applied to any person, organization, business, etc. “in places of State and non-State public installations,” which do not comply with the policy stablished by the Ministry of Culture. They also can suspend, immediately, any show or film and request cancellation of authorization for independent work activity.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Ángel Santiesteban: "Europe has left us alone to confront the dictators" / Amir Valle, Ángel Santiesteban

Angel Santiesteban

Deutsche Welle, Amir Valle with Angel Santiesteban, 18 September 2018 — Invited to the International Festival of Literature in Berlin, the Cuban writer Ángel Santiesteban speaks with Deutsche Welle (“DW”) and criticizes the passivity of the European Union and international public opinion in the face of the tragic situations in Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.

Considered one of the most important Latin American writers at present, the Cuban writer Ángel Santiesteban was condemned to five years in prison for opening his blog in 2007, “The Children that Nobody Wanted” to give his opinion about the political and social disaster imposed by Castroism in Cuba. continue reading

Beginning from that moment, his life became a struggle against governmental censorship and for democracy on the island. In 2014, Reporters without Borders elected him among its 100 Information Heroes in the world. The Cuban Government prevented him from traveling outside the island for 10 years, but he finally was able to visit Berlin, in order to present the German edition of his book of short stories, Lobos en la noche (Wolves in the Night), published by the prestigious publisher, Fischer.

DW spoke with him, in his role as intellectual and dissident, about matters of relevance that mark his life and that of Cubans.

DW: “Europe has legitimatized the Cuban dictatorship” is a recurring phrase in your interviews. 

The Cuban writer Ángel Santiesteban, creator of the blog “The Children that Nobody Wanted.”

Ángel Santiesteban: Talking with a Regime that has shown for decades that it does not believe in dialogue legitimizes it. That’s undeniable. There have always been businessmen flirting with Castroism, but it’s understandable, since the only thing that matters to them is making a profit by being in Cuba. But to have a business based in a region that is struggling to establish what they call “the State of Wellbeing and Rights” is an enormous contradiction and, in many ways, shameless.

Since the European Union decided to sit down and talk with Cuba, the only thing we’ve seen is that it has had to cede time and time again to Havana’s demands, and that the dictatorship has repressed the opposition with more force, since it has seen that no one questions its violations. The same thing is happening in Venezuela, in Nicaragua. Europe has left us alone to confront the dictators. And that makes it responsible for our suffering and our dead.

As an opponent, in your blog, you were one of the most concerned with denouncing the responsibility of the Cuban Government for those social disasters that we see in Venezuela and Nicaragua. 

I believe that what’s called the “Free World” should once and for all condemn the Regime openly, and not just with timid sentences, for the moral support and advice in many areas that the Castros give to Maduro in Venezuela and to Ortega in Nicaragua.

Castroism has always been a parasitic government: first, the Russians and the socialist camp, then Venezuela. It’s a parasitism disguised as “the struggle for the rights of the poor in Latin America,” and now we know how many dead were the result of Fidel Castro’s promotion of the guerrillas in the region, not to mention that those guerrillas ended up being terrorists and narcotraffickers supported by the Cuban dicatorship.

Later, Fidel Castro and Chávez invented the poorly named Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), supposedly to defeat the neoliberalism and impose 21st-century socialism: another failure encouraged only by Castroism. And now, with their plan of extending socialism throughout Latin America, they behave like what they are: dictators, because they know that the “Free World” will criticize them only with politically correct words.

As a protagonist of Cuban culture, you have demonstrated against the most recent Cultural Law, Decree No. 349. Is it really dangerous?

From the time he came to power in 1959, Fidel Castro knew that he had to keep a lid on freedom of creation and expression. But with the exception of Law 88 directed at journalism, which we opponents call the “Gag Law”, all artistic censorship has been based on the application that the cultural commissars made from those famous words of Fidel: “Inside the Revolution, everything; outside the Revolution, nothing.”

But now the censorship is law: among many other obstacles, it limits the freedom of creative expression, then criminalizes and punishes those who try to show their work in public without the approval of governmental institutions. But the intellectuals are gagged by fear, and very few have raised their voices against it. Only the independent cultural opposition movement is protesting against this legalization of censorship.

Many people don’t understand that a large part of the Cuban opposition supports the North American president who is the most controversial of the last 100 years: Donald Trump.

Although there were some timid openings in economic matters, increasingly, as far as achievements in human rights go, we know what a failure Obama’s politics were for opening a supposed “new era” between Cuba and the United States. We can today question Trump’s other measures, but his pragmatism makes him understand that you can’t have a conversation with someone who doesn’t want to listen.

People who criticize our support of Trump should go to Cuba and suffer  all the repression that has fallen on us since Raúl Castro saw that his eternal enemy, the United States, was ready to sit down and negotiate, and placed human rights last in the list of demands of the Cuban dictatorship. Trump, whatever you say about him, has leapt into first place in resepct to demanding that Castroism should grant human rights to Cubans.

Author: Amir Valle (CP)

Reproduced on Angel Santiesteban’s Blog

Deutsche Welle is the international network of Germany and produces independent journalism in 30 languages. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

THE END OF THE CASTRO ERA IN CUBA

1959 – The Triumph of the Revolution

The rebels, led by Fidel Castro, come to power after expelling the dictator Fulgencio Batista in January. The United States recognizes the new government. Soon “revolutionary laws” (such as agrarian reform) affect U.S. businesses. In December, Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower approves a CIA plan to overthrow Castro in one year and substitute “a junta friendly to the U.S.”

Recent coverage of Cuba from DW

NO TO DECREE #349: AGAINST THE “CRIMINALIZATION OF ART” IN CUBA

One of the first decrees signed by the new Cuban President, Miguel Díaz-Canel, penalizes independent art on the island and denounces artists and activists. Their protests have been repressed by the authorities. (August 29, 2018)

POSADA CARRILES: HERO AND VILLAIN IN DEATH

While Cuba and Venezuela announce “A terrorist has died without paying for his crimes,” intellectuals and Latin American political exiles hope to one day know the true face of this man. (May 24, 2018)

BOOK FAIR IN HAVANA: LIGHTS AND SHADOWS

Although thousands of Cubans attend the book fair, Cuban writers and intellectuals say that the International Book Fair is no longer as important for Cuban letters as it was in the ’90s. (February 10, 2018)

THE END OF THE CASTRO ERA IN CUBA

Almost no one in Cuba can remember life without the Castros. Since April 19, there hasn’t been a Castro at the front of the State. For almost 60 years, the brothers Fidel and Raúl have governed the country with an iron hand. (April 18, 2018).

Translated by Regina Anavy

The Embargo Has Actually Accomplished a Lot / Ángel Santiesteban

Angel Santiesteban, 18 October 2018 — The embargo has actually accomplished a lot, and it’s that the Regime has not been strengthened. That leftist Obama discourse which suits the dictatorship, needs to be undone. Imagine if the embargo didn’t exist how much more pain the totalitarian Cuban Government would have imposed on us.

In fact, the first thing it would stop doing would be exporting guerrillas around the world because it wouldn’t have money, and the socialist camp, also under pressure, would have accepted not continuing to do it, nor would they be able to continue advising and protecting terrorists.

The Cuban Government never would have permitted the paladares (independent restaurants), rentals and the other businesses of independent entrepreneurs. Everyone knows that Fidel Castro accepted it because he had the noose around his neck. If it were up to the dictator, the “Cuban community in the Exterior” never would have been let in; he had no other option but to accept it in order to suck up the money they left. In his economic insanity, he didn’t want tourists either because they would bring the scent of freedom. continue reading

The proof is that in the two years that Obama ceded before the Regime, the population didn’t see any improvement. And when they began to taste tourism, which was going to have a strong economic impact, the response was to raise the price of permits for independent entrepreneurs, asphixiate them so that they would give back their “licenses” and the State could fill its retaurants, taxis and hotels. They wanted everything for themselves; the population didn’t matter.

This doesn’t count the harm done to the opposition by Obama’s recognition, which immediately raised the number of arbitrary detentions, kept the Ladies in White from marching on Fifth Avenue and prevented their going to church to attend mass, as well as encouraging their being beaten.

What Obama really didn’t want to see, hear or understand is that the only thing the Castro family dictatorship understands is force. He’s complicit, he perceives some benefit or simply doesn’t have the mental capacity to understand it because the history is there, fresh and at hands’ reach, collected in the history books and its testimony.

Nor would they accept a plebiscite or other variants. There is no dialogue with the dictatorship, and they demonstrated that yesterday in the United Nations. It didn’t have to happen to know what they are capable of doing!!! With what they have done up to now it’s sufficient to know their nature and what they would be capable of doing to stay in power. The best example of their intransigence is Venezuela and Nicaragua, which are their pupils in these matters of repression.

There is no other option with the Regime but international pressure. The rest is fallacy, stupidity or furtive work in favor of the Castros.

ACERCA DEL AUTOR

Ángel Santiesteban

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

(Havana, 1966) Graduate of Film Direction, he lives in Havana, Cuba. Mention in the Juan Rulfo competition (1989), UNEAC national prize of the writers guild (1995). His book, Sueño de un día de verano (Dream of a Summer Day) was published in 1998. In 1999 he won the César Galeano prize. And in 2001, the Cuban Institute of the Book Alejo Carpentier Prize with his book of essays: Los hijos que nadie quiso (The Children that Nobody Wanted). In 2006, he won the Casa de las Américas prize in the short story genre with his book Dichosos los que lloran (Happy are Those Who Cry). In 2013 he won the Franz Kafka International Prize for paperbacks, convoked in the Czech Republic, with the novel El verano en que Díos dormía (The Summer when God Slept). He has publisihed in Mexico, Spain, Puerto Rico, Switzerland, China, England, the Dominican Republic, France, the United States, Colombia, Portugal, Martinique, Italy and Canada, among other countries.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Report: Prostitution a la Carte in Cuba / Luis Felipe Rojas

Luis Felipe Rojas, 8 October 2018 — Brothels in Cuba are within reach of anyone who wants to find them, as the Spanish newspaper El País described this Sunday in a report on the panorama of prostitution on the island.

The journalist Alvaro Fuentes interviewed women in Havana who dedicate themselves to “the oldest profession in the world”. Arlen, a 50-year-old who says she started in the profession at 13, told El País that times have changed. “Now having a prostitute at home is not seen as something bad, and their families support them even, since they bring a standard of living that is unthinkable for the rest of the population”.

In an interview for Radio Martí, the independent journalist Agustín López Caninó evaluated the social phenomenon. continue reading

Yanet, another of the women interviewed by the Spanish newspaper who looks for tourists near the Malecón around the Hotel Deauville, explained: “My father is a doctor; his monthly salary is some 50 dollars. I can earn that in an afternoon. It’s frustrating to think about the near future on this island.”

The Cuban Regime has never recognized the existence of prostitution. The U.S. Department of State, in its 2018 report on human trafficking, says that “the Castro government does not fulfill ’the minimum requirements’ for the elimination of the trafficking of people” although it recognizes that the Cuban authorities are making significant efforts to do so.”

Translated by Regina Anavy

Angel Santiesteban: "The Castros are professionals in the art of transformation." / Ángel Santiesteban

Angel Santiesteban”When I left the fold they settled the score because, in addition to their spiteful nature, the Castros needed to punish me so that other artists wouldn’t escape from the corral.”

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats (Havana, 1966) is one of the most prolific writers of his generation. Dichosos los que lloran (Happy are Those Who Mourn) (2006), Suerte que tienen algunos y otros cuentos (The Luck of Some and Other Stories )(2012), El verano en que Dios dormía (The Summer When God Slept) (2013) and El regreso de Mambrú  (Mambrú’s Return) (2016) are some of his most well-known works. The winner of several prizes inside and outside the Island, he is a member of the PEN Club of writers in Sweden. continue reading

In 1995 he won the prize for short story from the Writers and Artists Union of Cuba (UNEAC) with Sueño de un día de verano (Dream of a Summer Day), a harrowing look at the war in Angola, which was not the official version, and the book was banned until 1998. When he founded his blog, Los hijos que nadie quiso (The Children Nobody Wanted) (also the title of one of his most praised books, awarded the Alejo Carpentier prize for short story in 2001) in order to denounce the reality of his country, the response of the political police was to beat him, threaten him and fabricate a case of a common crime against him, in order to condemn him to prison.

Since then he has also become an independent journalist and dissident, one of the most hated and persecuted by State Security, for disarming and openly denouncing the farces and violations of the Cuban Regime, while most intellectuals remain silent.

Santiesteban-Prats gave an exclusive interview to Martí Noticias about Decree Law No. 349/2018, which implements a long list of new political crimes in the cultural sphere, increasing the dictatorship’s censure and control of artists on the Island. He also spoke about other subjects.

Why are these new censorship measures, outlined in Decree 349, coming precisely at this moment?

Santiesteban-Prats: They are trying to sustain a regime that is fading. They know it but don’t want to admit it; they think they can continue deceiving the international community. The Cuban people took off their blindfolds a long time ago but are still afraid. They fear reprisals to the point that they might even be killed, above all those opponents who aren’t visible on social networks, meaning that no one will raise the cry for them. After suffering and enduring unfair trials in the courts, which answer to State Security, they rot in prison. Cuban families can barely bring food to their tables, and it’s very difficult to feed a prisoner. In general, the families reject any rebel who comes up against the Regime, because they know the high cost they all will have to pay later, apart from being marked as suspect by Castro royalty. The Castros and their hit-men use terror to stay in power. It’s that simple.

Some opponents have sacrificed themselves, and the best have managed to show the rest of the people that the sacrifice is valid, that it is possible to confront Power even when it slaps them in the face. Thanks to those who have endured punishment and have duplicated their opposition in response, many have decided to join the struggle. Every time, people speak more openly, say what they think, which before was unthinkable. Things have changed, and who knows it better than Alejandro Castro, the power behind the scenes, and he needs to keep hold of the reins and try to control his puppet, Díaz-Canel. They are sacrificing him like a pig, without minimum consideration. He will be there as long as he fulfills his orders; when he no longer complies, he will have a fatal illness, committ suicide or simply be charged with corruption or treason, and he will leave the scene.

How important is it for the Regime to control cultural expression, which has so much to do with the freedom of expression?

Santiesteban-Prats: In general, dictatorships fear journalism and art. From experience, they know that artists and journalists drive public opinion, and it’s the last thing they need now when it’s so easy for anyone to give an opinion or put the news on social networks. So they try to gag the independent voices. It’s a gesture of desperation in order to delay the tsunami that will come without fail.

When I left the fold they settled the score because, in addition to their spiteful nature, the Castros needed to punish me so that other artists wouldn’t escape from the corral. Since then, the intellectuals have learned the lesson, and after me, no one who is established in Cuban culture, like I was, has opposed them with the force and decision that I did.

They always need to close off any opening so the truth won’t come out. Thus they now are implementing new measures and more censorship, counting on their Stalinist way of doing things; maybe they think it’s the only way to stay in power a little longer. They are betting on that. The Castros don’t want to loosen their grip on the family estate. They are convinced that it belongs to them and they will hang onto even by their fingernails.

What is the concrete objective of these regulations that affect freedom through economics?

Santiesteban-Prats: To slow down the freedom that we will have in our lives sooner rather than later. While they test out who can continue Fidel and Raúl Castro’s work, which isn’t anything other than an outrage for the Cuban people, continuing to make them live in total misery. They don’t want any Cuban, whom they consider their slaves, to empower themselves, be independent, live without the “charity” of their dictatorship. It’s like that anecdote of the featherless chicken in the snow that always ran between Stalin’s boots in order to get warm.

How do you think most creative people will respond to this? 

Santiesteban-Prats: With silence. Most who are established are busy begging to be allowed to travel in order to survive. They will not sacrifice what they’ve won when they are convinced that it won’t solve anything and that they would be crushed like cockroaches. And those who still haven’t managed to establish themselves push, lower their heads and pretend that nothing matters to them, the only important thing is their work, art, while they wait for their scrap to fall from the sky. They believe that if they move away from power, they will freeze, like the chicken, and they prefer to be sheltered between the boots of the master. They believe that by publishing their books, singing their songs, or having their work shown in theaters, they already have enough. Although they know that things could be worse, and thinking of me in jail is enough for them to do nothing.

Let’s continue speaking out so we can deal with our fears together, until they take us out or lose power. We can’t count on the artists in the National Writers and Artists Union of Cuba (UNEAC). They have something more important to do: protect themselves. Don’t forget that, in spite of everything, the artistic sector gets the most benefits, so they feel lucky about surviving the calamities when they look around and see the rest of the people.

What artistic expressions are the most affected by the new censorship regulations?

Santiesteban-Prats: Everything in general, but mainly those who deal in words. I think they’re the most fearful because they permeate more in the population, at least in the professional sector, through scripts for movies, television, theater and literature. Don’t forget that many of these creative people write for alternative, independent media, far from the Castro umbrella.

How is Díaz-Canel seen in Cuban artistic circles?

Santiesteban-Prats: For what he is, an innocuous man. There are no “revolutionaries” left in the cultural sector, maybe some fidelistas: but at this point in the game they feel deceived, even by that man who hauled them out of poverty in order to ultimately steal the lives of several generations. Every Cuban knows that Díaz-Canel doesn’t represent anything. He doesn’t occupy any particular post in the cupola. He’s a carnival toy that you can throw balls at to try to knock off his hat. Every time that happens and it falls off, the owner – meaning the Castros – put it back in the same place or substitute another toy. Thus, successively, while the international community allows it or the desperate people throw themselves into the streets and are massacred like in Venezuela or Nicaragua.

What does Díaz-Canel have to do with these new regulations that intensify the censorship?

Santiesteban-Prats: He also is busy praising the Regime while fulfilling the Castros’ orders. He assumes his role of overseer of the slaves and plays it without protest. But as far as making decisions, it’s clear they don’t come from him. He only has to show his face, pretend that he’s the “President” and Raúl and his children, Alejandro and Mariela, will take care of the rest.

The Regime sold Raúl Castro as a supposed reformer. Then it designated Díaz-Canel to succeed him. What do these successions mean for the System and what do they mean for the people?

Santiesteban-Prats: Pure makeup, a cosmetic display. Fooling international public opinion, like they’ve done with the European Union. They pretend to make decisions that will gradually lead to democracy, but it’s nothing but great theater. The Castros are professionals in the art of transformation. They change every time they feel pressure, the possibility of losing power. They’re professionals of illusion. They spent decades making a large part of the population believe in accomplishments that they couldn’t feel. Intangible projects where millions of Cubans got involved so that the final result would be catastrophic. One project after another, and on like that for six decades. These successions mean nothering for the people because nothing will be resolved for them, while for the System they mean another breath, gaining time while they wait for better times to arrive, sips of oxygen that will permit them to remain in that imprecise space, but definitively, staying in power is the only thing that interests them. Now that family doesn’t know how to live without it, and they aren’t ready to cede power peacefully.

What should independent artists do in this new context?

Santiesteban-Prats: Not abandon the struggle. Don’t give up even if it’s all we can do. Don’t leave Cuba. Staying inside the archipelago now is a challenge to the Regime. I’m one of those who has exercised freedom of creation, and now that I’ve done it, I don’t know how to live without that divine grace. As long as artists don’t taste freedom, don’t remove their fear of writing, they will never know the satisfaction of being an artist with full integrity.

Luis Leonel León

Luis Leonel León

Journalist, writer, director of radio, film and television. After living in Venezuela and Colombia, he went into exile in the United States. His weekly column appears in Latin America media (El Nacional), Spain (Disidentia) and the United States (El Nuevo Herald, Infobae, HispanoPost), among others. Previously he wrote for Diario las Américas. Among his prize-winning documentaries are Habaneceres, La gracia de volver and Coro de ciudad. He has produced entertainment, opinion and debate programs for Florida television. His texts have been published in books and journals. He founded the publishing house Colección Fugas, dedicated to the writing of the diáspora. He is a member of the Interamerican Institute for Democracy, for which he has made documentaries, feature reports and interviews about freedom, democracy and their institutional framework in the Américas. His web page is luisleonelleon.com. Follow him on Twitter: @LLLeon_enMarti.

Translated by Regina Anavy