Cuban Alternative Journalism: Challenges and Commitments / Iván García

In the homage that the Club of Independent Cuban Writers paid the poet, Rafael Alcides, January 26, 2016, among other independent journalists were Luis Cino (shirt with blue and white stripes), Iván García (dark red shirt) and Jorge Olivera (black jacket), who was a political prisoner during the Black Spring of 2003.
In the homage that the Club of Independent Cuban Writers paid the poet, Rafael Alcides, January 26, 2016, among other independent journalists were Luis Cino (shirt with blue and white stripes), Iván García (dark red shirt) and Jorge Olivera (black jacket), who was a political prisoner during the Black Spring of 2003.

Ivan Garcia, 3 May 2016 — One morning in 1996, the poet and journalist, Raúl Rivero, Director of the press agency Independent Cuba Press, called me at home in Víbora, to ask me to cover the trial of a dissident in a municipal court in Cerro.

The reporter, Ariel de Castro Tapia, (presently living in Turkey) and I were to write up a statement after the judicial ruling and read it on the Radio Martí news broadcast at noon. continue reading

“Improvise, but the news has to go out,” Rivero told me, haltingly. There were many problems. At that time, there were no cell phones or Internet rooms in Cuba, and Twitter and Facebook were the stuff of science fiction.

The trial was attended by agents of State Security. We verified the number of a public telephone from which, although we couldn’t communicate directly with Radio Martí, we were able to establish a point of connection.

We called Rivero so he could inform the broadcasting station, and with the number we gave him Radio Martí communicated with us every half hour. A source inside the trial came out at each break and told us how things were going. A few minutes after the ruling was read, we went on the air with Radio Martí News.

We did all this with only a notebook and a pen. Necessity generates creativity. Like many independent journalists in the ’90s, I took notes by hand and then cleaned them up on an old, Soviet-era typewriter.

Once, a European journalist gave his laptop to Cuba Press as a gift. Raúl Rivero decided that my mother, Tania Quintero, Ariel and I – we all lived near each other in La Víbora – would share it. But the novelty brought us a problem.

At that time, State Security had unleashed a spectacular hunt for computers. Around 10:00 in the morning of June 2, 1997, agents of counterintelligence, commanded by an official who identified himself as Pepín, tore apart the house in search of the laptop.

They didn’t find it. By foresight, we had hidden it somewhere else. We decided to return the laptop to Raúl Rivero and to continue using the typewriter. Once we edited our notes, we read them from a fixed line.

Until Fidel Castro’s raid in March of 2003, when he imprisoned 75 peaceful dissidents, among them 27 reporters, the texts of independent journalists were read by telephone, and collaborators in Miami posted them on websites.

In spite of harassment from the political police, the arrests, acts of repudiation and threats, we wrote from our own perspective about that other Cuba that the regime wanted to hide, without any fuss or pretensions to heroism.

I give this personal anecdote as an example of the fact that you don’t always need sophisticated computer or audiovisual equipment to do journalism in Cuba, one of the worst countries in the world for the profession.

Of course, with good tools and monetary backing, you can do a better journalism, above all, outside Havana. The reality of the capital isn’t the same as that of Villa Clara, Las Tunas or Guantánamo.

But you can do high-quality work with just a few resources. If there is any doubt, just read Periodismo de Barrio (Community Journalism), a project begun by Elaine Díaz, ex-professor of the Faculty of Communication at the University of Havana, who, with a part of the money she received from a scholarship at Harvard, is creating wonderful Cuban journalism.

Today there’s a boom in free journalism. Whatever its bias or format, the independent press is enjoying good health. Havana Times, On Cuba Magazine and El Estornudo (The Sneeze) and El Toque(The Touch) are some examples of alternative media. And several publications specializing in sports, fashion, art and cooking circulate on the Internet, all Made in Cuba.

There is also a more committed journalism, openly anti-Castro, which supports a real democracy, like Primavera Digital (Digital Spring), managed by Juan González Febles and edited by Luis Cino, one the best ungagged journalists. They don’t mince words. They call the Castro Regime a dictatorship, and they don’t turn away from criticizing the dissidence either.

High-style journalism costs money. But the reporters for Primavera Digital stopped receiving money from Switzerland two years ago, and they continue publishing a weekly without one cent coming from the exterior.

Yoani Sánchez administers 14ymedio, a daily whose articles present a balanced point of view. Dagoberto Valdés directs Convivencia (Coexistence) in Pinar del Río. And in almost every province there is some dissident media.

In a parallel manner, audiovisual journalism is taking steps. Ignacio González, Claudio Fuentes and Augusto César San Martín figure among its best exponents.

Ignacio is a man of many talents. Hyperkinetic and creative, he has an online review named En Caliente Prensa Libre (In Caliente Free Press). He has just created a debate program named La Ventana (The Window). And he is thinking about the release of a news website.

There are now more alternative journalists, women and men, who write freely. At the present time, around 300 reporters work for independent media or foreign newspapers.

The quality has improved. Specialists have surged in subjects like economics, history or politics such as Arnaldo Ramos, Orlando Freyre Santana, Osmar Laffita, Miriam Celaya or Dimas Castellanos. Young people like María Matienzo, Yusimí Rodríguez, Marcia Cairo, Ana León, Adriana Zamora, Luz Escobar and Lourdes Gómez perform “street” journalism.

In the sphere of investigation, Elaine Díaz and her group of reporters in Periodismo de Barrio (Community Journalism), and Waldo Fernández Cuenca, author of a book that details how Fidel Castro’s censorship against the press began, do more exhaustive reporting about Cuban society. Others, like Regina Coyula, collaborate with the international media.

There are many challenges and difficulties, mainly from the State, which continues to control the flow of information with an iron hand. The political police still harass and blackmail alternative journalists to keep them from working. Because of these pressures and threats, many have left Cuba, opting for exile.

When you look for the nations with the least freedom of expression on the world map, Cuba is colored red, belonging to the countries with the least press freedom.

Of course the State hasn’t actually killed any journalist. They kill them in another way. They convert them into state reporters, scribes and ventriloquists. Or they try to recruit them as snitches.

Alternative journalism still has some room to maneuver for its growth. We’re always going to be at a technological disadvantage, and we can’t compete with the foreign agencies for “scoops.” Our strength lies in telling stories from another context and showing the variety of opinions that exist on the Island.

One piece of advice for Cuban journalists: Don’t throw away your old typewriter (I still have mine). In an autocracy like Cuba, you never know when you might need it.

Translated by Regina Anavy

MININT Confronts What Could Be Its Worst Challenge: Information Theft / Juan Juan Almeida

Raúl Castro pins the title of Hero of the Cuban Republic on division general Carlos Fernández Gondín.

Juan Juan Almeida, 31 March 2016 — Not so long ago there was a rumor that high officials of MINIT had been arrested by the Ministry. In agreement with those implicated in the event and making a clear allusion comparable to Case No. 1 of 1989 [a highly respected Cuban general was executed for drug trafficking], there was speculation about a new report. But the rumor faded away under a suspicious silence and a potent, air-tight cloak of secrecy.

Theories have flaws, and even the Roman Empire lasted four centuries longer than predicted.

What’s certain is that the Division General, Carlos Fernández Gondín, left his office in the MININT building accompanied by a doctor, after an attack of rage that gave him a stroke and left him hospitalized. continue reading

What could have made him so irritated, or what could be so serious that it could reduce the blood flow of someone who had been capable, without remorse, of ordering the “ready, aim, fire” and, furthermore, justifying it.

A little more than four months after the Army General, Abelardo Colomé Ibarra (alias “Furry”), resigned from the Council of State and as Minister of the Interior, the Ministry faced what could be its biggest challenge: information theft.

What’s certain is that the recent initiate as Minister, Division General Carlos Fernández Gondín, who also holds the “honorable” award as Hero of the Republic of Cuba, left his office accompanied by a doctor, after an attack of fury, which provoked a stroke and left him hospitalized.

The possessor of a sinister countenance, General Gondín is known for keeping himself in the vanguard of the struggle. His principles, as well as his doctrine, begin and end with the word “terror.”

But when he had the new appointment, when he felt part of those who call the shots, a group or an individual, still not identified, entered the warehouse where the ultra-secret rumors are guarded and ransacked a very important data base with privileged information.

What information was stolen? I have no idea! And those who know aren’t talking. However, the Cuban Government has let loose the largest operation ever seen in many years, and, by the aggression of the search, is showing desperation.

Officials of Internal Control, Intelligence, Counter-Intelligence, Military Counter-Intelligence and the Commission of Defense and National Security have been given the task of finding and questioning, completely, without exceptions, those who entered and left the Ministry in question.

And, as all computer networks are fashionable these days, despite assurances that the theft was not the result of any cyber attack, there’s a good group of investigators, working full-time, who are snooping around, with incisive scrupulousness, in the corners of cyperspace.

The fear and reprimand suffered by the sadistic, cowardly, possessed and insecure Gondín, weren’t because he didn’t have copies of the stolen archives, but for the fear and worry of not knowing into whose hands what some consider “delicate information” could fall.

Translated by Regina Anavy

State Security fears a Cuban Snowden / Somos+, Javier Cabrera

Somos+, Javier Cabrera, 1 April 2016 — Yesterday the news came out in various media: Ultra-secret information has been stolen from the Cuban Ministry of the Interior. The poor proclamation “Raúl’s Sovereign Technology” showed itself more focused on censorship of content and limiting communication than on constructing a true plan of security in the service of the nation.

It’s not the first theft of confidential information, although the previous ones were by citizens and not directly by people in the military, like the surveillance videos in Havana or the telephone directory of the state phone company ETECSA. The absurd pledge of reinventing technology has ended up being, as expected, manipulation. continue reading

State Security, formerly considered one of the most efficient bodies, has succumbed to ridicule. The absence of generational relief to conserve jobs and benefits, the government secrecy and the absurd plan of creating technologies that are dedicated only to counteracting the bad reputation of the “Revolution” in the digital world, such as in this blog, have produced fruits, although they aren’t the ones hoped for.

The Internet and technology are not re-inventable. It’s not necessary to adapt technology to Cuba, but for Cuba to enter with full force into technology. It’s not a matter of creating professionals to work in offline businesses, repair computers or traffic in movies, but of forming true leaders in digital businesses that generate quality employment at all levels.

While this change in mentality doesn’t happen, it’s more than probable that this isn’t the only case that scares the analog government of Havana. I’m very curious to know if Raúl will defend the rights of a “Cuban Snowden” when he’s presented to public opinion with the same arguments as the North American analyst.

Mr. President, permit me to welcome you, on behalf of all computer engineers, to the Twenty-First Century.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Cuban Education through the Keyhole / Somos+

Somos+, Amelia Albernas, 26 February 2016 — In my time, professors were proud of being what they were: a living gospel. We students were instructed by them and, furthermore, educated. The values and principles I have are thanks to my parents — one a psychologist and the other a history teacher — and to those teachers who had a true love for their profession.

Sadly, the new generations of Cubans don’t count and won’t be able to count on this. Material deficiencies and — why not? — spiritual ones, also, have wrecked the education that many of us received in past decades. The social and economic deterioration of the country has destroyed educational teaching. The exodus of teachers to other professions with better salaries is a reality that is striking but perfectly understandable. Our teachers lack great commitment, but it’s hard to ask for that commitment if salaries are low. continue reading

So it’s urgent and necessary that a profound change be produced in Cuban society and in the system of government, because a generation of sad, ignorant and lazy people will inherit this island, which José Martí defended with so much impetuous reason*.

It’s because of this that, today, I will share some ideas about what path our social project of Somos + should take in order to stop this disastrous process of demoralization in such an important sector as education. The nation owes an enormous debt to its teachers, and the general opinion is that there should be a more effective way to pay them.

The profession of teaching deserves respect and consideration.

Education, by necessity, should continue to be subsidized; this is an unavoidable principle for every nation and a human right. Apparently it’s not a way to earn money, but only apparently. In reality, school is the beginning of everything. Without an integral and convincing education it’s impossible to count on good professionals and technicians. But it’s to be noted that there should be no indoctrination and, much less, a personality cult of any man.

Education, for most of the dictatorial governments, means trying to direct children in order to reproduce the typical behaviors of the society they represent. For Somos+, education means making creators, inventors and innovators, not conformists. And because we have been and are witness to the enormous loss of values in the young generations that live today in our Cuban society, we champion an education where the maxim is to “drink from all sources, taking as a base the spring of our nationality**.”

Educating for creativity is educating for change and shaping people who are rich in originality, flexibility, future vision, initiative, confidence, risk-taking and readiness to confront the obstacles and problems that are presented to them in their lives as students and in everyday life, in addition to offering them tools for innovation.

Creativity can be developed through the educative process, favoring potentialities and making major use of individual and group resources inside the teaching and learning process.

Continuing with these ideas, we can’t speak of creative education without mentioning the importance of a creative atmosphere that fosters reflective and creative thought in the classroom.

The concept of creative education begins with the approach that creativity is linked to all spheres of human activity and is the product of a determined historical social evolution.

On the other hand, creative education implies a love for change. Creativity must be fostered in an atmosphere of psychological freedom and profound humanism, so that students feel capable of confronting what is new and giving it respect, teaching them to not fear change, but rather to feel at ease with it and enjoy it.

Based on our reasoning for a freer country, we state our principles:

“The best way to defend our rights is to know them; thus we keep faith and strength. Every nation will be unhappy as long as they don’t educate their children. A town of educated men will always be a town of free men. Education is the only way to free oneself from slavery.”

*Martí, José. Complete Works. Volume XVII.

**Taken from Ideas and Principles of the Movement Somos+.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Crisis in Agriculture: Land for Those Who Work It / Dimas Castellanos

By Dimas Castellano, 9 February 2016

Property and crisis

Once the Cuban Government arrived in power, imbued by an exacerbated voluntarism, it ignored the laws that govern the economy and subordinated them to ideology. From this moment on, the loss of the autonomy that is required by economic processes was converted into a factor of poverty.

In 1959, with the first agrarian reform law, the Government handed over property titles to 100,000 farmers but concentrated in its own hands some 40.2 percent of cultivable land. In 1963, with the second agrarian reform law, the 1,000 farms that had more than five horses swelled the fund of State lands, which grew to almost 70 percent.

In 1976, with the objective of decreasing the numbers of small owners, the Government initiated a project of “cooperativization,” through which it created the Cooperatives of Agricultural Production (CPA), thereby raising the share of land that was State property to 75 percent. The result was inefficiency, scarcity of products and high prices, which obliged the Government in 1993 to convert continue reading

a part of unused State land into the Basic Units of Production Cooperative (UBPC), while retaining the property ownership for itself.

Fourteen years later, on July 26, 2007, in his speech in Camagüey, General Raúl Castro recognized the deficiencies, errors and bureaucratic or indolent attitudes reflected in the fields infected with the marabú weed, and he announced the decision to “change everything that should be changed.’

And in 2007, he promulgated Decree Law 259, through which he began the handing over of idle land to private individuals. However, the measure sidestepped the declaration of changing everything that should be changed and was limited to transferring — through a form of leasing known as ’usufruct’, which is the right to use the land without actually owning title to it — a part of the land that the State wasn’t able to make productive. The poor result obtained from this measure did not achieve what was proposed.

Of the 420,000 acres held by the 1,989 existing UBPCs, almost 40 percent remained idle; their expanse, although comprising 27 percent of the agricultural area of the country, produced only 12 percent of the grain, food and vegetables, and 17 percent of the milk, and only 27 percent had satisfactory results. In 2010, 15 percent of the UBPCs closed with losses, and another 6 percent didn’t even submit a balance sheet.

In order to stop the deterioration, in August 2012, the Council of Ministers issued a package of 17 measures and a new General Regulation for the UBPCs that recognized what before had been denied: the capacity to acquire rights and to contract obligations; that is, juridicial personality [a legal term meaning an entity that has a distinct identity, with rights and obligations].

In December 2012, without altering the structure of the property, Decree-Law 300 was substituted for Decree-Law 259. It alleviated some restrictions, but it kept others and implemented new ones. Article 11 said that lands in usufruct could integrate with a State farm with a juridicial personality, to a UBPC or a CPA, for which “the usufruct cedes the right of usufruct over the lands and the improvements to the entity with which it integrates.”

In May, 2013, at the meeting of the Council of Ministers, Marino Murillo Jorge, Vice President of the Council of State, recognized that the measures, which for decades had been put into practice for managing the land, hadn’t led to the necessary growth in production. Finally, in 2014, Decree-Law 300 was modified with Decree-Law 311.

The loss of autonomy — which is to the economy what oxygen is to living bodies — together with voluntarism, the methods of command and control, the centralized planning, the inability of the bosses and administrators, and the diminished interest of the producers, shaped the agricultural inefficiency that has characterized Cuban agriculture for several decades.

The process described shows the impossibility of resolving the crisis in agriculture with the monopoly of State property and leads to the analysis of usufruct and the cooperatives in Cuba.

The cooperatives and usufruct 

As far as cooperatives are concerned, the Declaration of the International Cooperative Alliance (ACI), adopted in 1995, defines cooperatives as autonomous associations of persons who unite voluntarily to cope with their needs and their common economic, social and cultural aspirations, through an enterprise of conjoined and democratically controlled property.

In agreement with this definition, the ones created in Cuba — with the exception of the Cooperatives of Credits and Services, where, although without juridicial personality, the farmers conserved ownership of the land and the means of production — are not classified as such.

The Sugar Cane Cooperatives, created in March 1960 in areas that formerly belonged to private sugar mill owners, almost immediately were converted into State enterprises. The emergence of the CPAs in 1976 with the purpose of reducing, even more, the quantity of land in private hands, was also a State decision. And the UBPCs, organized in 1993, didn’t result from a true socialism but from the crisis in State agriculture.

If the cooperatives in Cuba are created by the will of the State; if the Council of Ministers  regulates them; if the entity that authorizes their constitution is the entity that controls, evaluates their functioning and defines when the “members” can contract with salaried workers; if the activities and tasks that the “partners” can assume are created in places decided by the State and “deal with segments of the market that are not competitive with the State”; and, on top of this, if the State retains ownership over the fundamental means of production, then they are not true cooperatives, but State cooperatives in usufruct.

A convincing proof of this false cooperativism was the report published in the newspaper, Granma, on Friday, January 25, 2013, which announced the decision of the National Association of Small Farmers to replace or remove from their positions 632 presidents of agricultural cooperatives.

For its part, usufruct consists of the use and enjoyment of a good belonging to others. If there had been consistency with the principle of changing everything that should be changed, the idle lands, infected with marabú, would have been handed over to those who work the land.

Nothing justifies making private producers — who have demonstrated they can be efficient — owners in usufruct, and giving ownership to the State, which is responsible for the inefficiency. The question sends us to one of the reasons declared by the 1959 Revolution: to return the land to the farmers. Why now does the land not belong to those who work it?

Neither the State lands, nor the cooperatives created by the State, nor the 17 measures of 2012, nor the successive decrees that handed over land in usufruct have managed to pull Cuban agriculture out of the crisis created by the State monopoly of property.

On the contrary, the crisis has worsened.

Such a result, like it or not, places on the agenda the need for a new reform directed at eliminating the large State land holdings, converting the present owners in usufruct to owners in title and transforming the rest of State property into private property and large cooperative enterprises.

Therefore, what is needed is to determine what are the most effective forms of property in each moment and place for personal and social development, which will make the institution of property a foundation of personal and social order.

Not recognizing this need explains how the administrators of cooperatives can be separated, not by the members, but by a para-State institution like the National Association of Small Farmers, or that the Second Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba threatens the owners in usufruct with the emphatic declaration: “The land belongs to the State. Without discussion.” The obvious question is: And what is the State going to do with land that it never managed to make productive?

The answer is requires the democratization of economic relations, so that parallel to the State, Cubans participate like subjects with institutionalized rights.

From Diario de Cuba

Translated by Regina Anavy

Cuba and the Phantom of the Internet / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Free Internet, Mayor’s Office of Guayaquil (Ecuador). Image courtesy of photographer Julio R.B. for Jeovany Jimenez Vega.

Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 26 January 2016 — A ghost is haunting Cuba: the phantom of the Internet. All the forces of the old guard have joined in a holy crusade against that spectre: the Castros and Ramiro Valdes*, the censor, before ‘Furry’ Colomé Ibarra and now Fernández Gondín**, the radical communists and all the opportunistic cops … Thus begins the Manifesto of the Internet for the Cuban people, placed at a horizon so far away that it’s as elusive as everything else concerning connection to the outside world.

Walking through any park in Guayaquil, Ecuador, at every Metro stop, in many cafes and shops, in every mall, and at every corner, I find at each step an announcement of a free Wi-fi signal, and my thoughts fly to my closed little island.

Internet censorship in Cuba is a subject that has been brought up so many times it now stinks. The amply demonstrated reluctance of the Cuban Government to cede a bit of ground in its information monopoly has ended up putting our country at the bottom of the index of connectivity on the whole American continent, and in the select group of those who are behind globally. continue reading

I’m bringing up the trite question again on this page, before the news that the representatives of both governments of Cuba and the U.S. have sat down to talk about the subject in recent days, as part of the thaw fostered after 17 December 2014 by the Obama administration and accepted by Raúl Castro, but only because Venezuelan President Maduro’s boat is going under.

But I certainly heard nothing new. “The blockade prevents the financing of any United States project to enlarge the infrastructure; it would be precisely to democratize the administration of the global network; that if cyber-security, that if the solar storms or the rings of Saturn” —  whatever excuse the censors could use to delay our right to unconditional access to the world highway.

Surely nothing was mentioned by the Cubans at this meeting about the three-quarters of the Venezuelan submarine cable that remained, deliberately, without exploiting its potential for almost a decade, and they dissimulated or evaded when any allusion was made to concrete proposals, on more than one occasion, by U.S. businesses to make investments in the island, which, in the short term, would make Internet service accessible for the average Cuban and would ostensibly improve telephone service.

Before every proposal by the U.S. or any other country on the matter, the Cubans have followed their usual strategy: find a problem for every solution. On this rough point the dictatorship has its eyes fixed on its only intent: maintaining, at all cost, until its last breath, the most absolutely possible iron control of information. Thus every U.S. proposal came up against this primordial interest, since the dictatorship knows that censorship is a vital matter.

When I walk through the streets of Guayaquil and see at every step announcements of a free Wi-fi signal offered by the city, and the posters from cyber cafes inviting you to use the Internet at a comfortable speed and without restrictions, for U.S.$1.00 for three hours of connection (!), and I see on every roof a parabolic antenna or a coaxial cable, I can’t help but contrast this reality with the Cuban government’s cynical policy and ETECSA’s*** monopoly on “free” Wi-fi service at selected points in drips and drabs.

They all have something in common: you pay $2.00 CUC (more than U.S. $2.00) for an hour with a very slow connection, in a country with an average monthly salary between U.S. $15 and $20. You get connected from a navigation room, outdoors in a park, or “accommodated” under the sun on a sidewalk, but never from your home, since such a service is available only for the Regime’s acolytes, and you always have to show your identification and personal data when you enter.

Furthermore, you should know that every click of the keyboard or every site you visit will be spied on, and you will find that all the sites that are inconvenient to the Government have been zealously censored.

For my part, beyond the fact that my blog, Citizen Zero, is not approved in Cuba — I didn’t have the occasion to try the “superb” Wi-fi service or ETECSA’s navigation room — I will never forgive the satraps of Havana who, by their cojones (balls), vetoed something as simple as a video-conference with my children. This is something that hurts and offends, and converts my conflict with the dictatorship into something personal.

As for their policy, however, there is inescapable evidence to take into account, which is the essential and last cause of the problem: the uncontainable and absolute terror of the Cuban dictatorship before the unsubmissive truths poured out on the Web, which it hides them from the Cuban people because the despots who dis-govern depend on this censorship to perpetuate their power. The Cuban dictatorship’s dilemma is as simple as that. This “menace” makes them lose sleep.

Translator’s notes:

*He defended Internet restrictions, saying, “The wild colt of new technologies can and must be controlled.”

**The old and new Ministers of the Interior.

*** La Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba S.A., Cuba’s one telecommunications company.

Translated by: Marlena (PL) and Regina Anavy

Discrimination Against the Poor, an Injustice in Present-day Cuba / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 11 January 2016 — Racial and gender designations were fundamental in the dynamics of international politics, basically dominated by white men; but, fortunately, and like the rough action of a Russian-made Aurika washing machine, there are cycles with an expiration date.

Several penal codes in the world sanction racism, homophobia and whatever other ways to exclude human beings; and, disgracefully, there are people and groups that, clinging to outworn concepts, tarnish themselves by raising flags, at least in Cuba, that are shameful and unrestrained. continue reading

It’s clear that bad news is always the most fascinating, and segregation of whatever type is an image that, by being unpleasant, seduces the media and certain politicized groups. But I don’t think that Cubans who live on the island are racist or homophobic; it’s more a matter of being “classist.”

Discrimination, whether racial, sexual, religious, ideological or by social condition, is a phenomenon that came to our hemisphere long before Columbus. Fidel Castro didn’t invent it, nor did the so-called Revolution create it, although, without doubt, in a purposeful moment they used it. This “divide and conquer” stimulated resentment and generated a cruel individuality that, paradoxically, ended up dynamiting the essence of an “egalitarian nation.”

Demonizing wealth had the opposite effect to the one desired by the Revolutionary leaders. It ridiculed the “way of acting that had been established as the way of the proletariat” and created a negative image of the working class. They started to disrespect the sacrifices of the journalist, the soldier, the housewife, the engineer, the builder, the street sweeper and everyone who was working. Thus, the work of those who were able criminals was glorified.

The pyramid inverted itself, and the persistent spectacle of indoctrination saturated everyone. By force of repetition, the echo of the word “discrimination” contaminated all of us and converted us into a transmitter of a thought that, I’m not saying is a lie, but yes, truth was exaggerated so much that today I consider it worthy of study.

It’s true, Cuba is a dictatorship where the consumption of any hallucinogen is better than Raúl Castro for social health. We don’t have a multiparty system, much less a free press, and it’s shameful to see how every day the percentage of the population that finds a solution by fleeing the island is growing. But to say that apartheid and homophobia are growing is a mistake or a very studied manipulation of those who analyze the phenomenon from a single side of society, and identify it as a generality.

It’s a serious fault, I think, the fact of seeing things in a provincial way, clearly biased, and not taking personally our social responsibility; but this appears to be a subject that is as interesting as the problem of mating between a drone and a queen bee.

No one can deny that there exist racists, homophobes and a pack of people who feel superior or with the right to exclude others in Cuba, but this isn’t the majority. It’s a shame that the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), the National Center of Sexual Education (CENESEX), and even some opposition organizations seem to be pushing strategies that, instead of helping, are stimulating the fracture of Cuban society.

The reality is that today in Cuba, with rare exceptions, Cubans don’t discriminate by black, woman, old, gay nor religious; they discriminate against the poor, and more so when the underdog shares the aforementioned conditions. Without a doubt, the rejection, marginalization and differentiation by social status is frightening.

Translated by Regina Anavy

It is Better to Run a Risk than to Shut Up / Angel Santiesteban

Correspondence between Toine Heijmans and Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

The renown Dutch writer and journalist, Toine Heijmans, a regular columnist for the national Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant, and who sponsored Ángel Santiesteban during his political imprisonment, published the correspondence they maintained during those two and a half years. He has dedicated four pages to it in the prestigious medium. continue reading

We reproduce here the photos of the printed version.

Angel’s Editor, 10 January 2015

Translated by Regina Anavy

Higher Education in Cuba: A Vision (Part 2) / Somos+

Somos+, Rolby Milian, 6 January 2016 — So I begin this second part of my comments remembering the announcement, this past September 6, 7 and 8, through the media of propaganda and creation of the Roundtable excitement, of new “innovative measures” in higher education.

The measures were announced and explained by the Minister himself, Rodolfo Alarcón Ortiz and a government team. It’s worth pointing out, that among other ideas presented by these gentlemen, is the legal reestablishment for the continuing training of professionals, the creation of a new educational level (“non-university higher education”), the requirement of English in order to graduate and the gradual reduction of the length of degree courses to four years.
continue reading

Now, to questions raised with respect to this, they had treasures of linguistic escapism, like: “…these measures are very novel, and right now we can’t exactly explain all the changes they imply….” or “…we still haven’t had meetings to decide how we are going to organize access to the courses.”

What I particularly think is that these measures are a propaganda spectacle about a project that is still in a beginning phase. A typical strategy of the Government to alleviate pressure, deflect attention and pretend that it’s doing something before a crisis of great proportions, like higher education in Cuba (for example, the touted Law of State Businesses, that supposedly will come out in 2017).

From the foregoing I can deduce that right now the Government has no truly solid, concise and intelligent plan to begin solving the multiple problems of higher education in our country.

On the other hand, none of these “measures” match up with the supposed present politics of the Government with respect to the creation of businesses and the increase in private initiatives, in the sense of not mentioning adjustments in the matters of marketing and business management in the related courses of study nor the creation of new disciplines for the training of professionals specializing in this sector (business administration, for example).

With all this it’s difficult not to ask: Are our youth really prepared for a future of economic opening and the creation and development of businesses, with all the logistic and structural support that implies?

My present opinion is no. Youth in Cuba are not ready to efficiently confront an economic opening to the world. Nor does the Government intend to facilitate improvement in the educational system in this sense; in fact, it seems to not even be contemplating this scenario (nor one in which citizens freely participate in any constructive project for the country).

Having arrived at this point, one can look with horror at the future of Cuba, given that the present Government doesn’t offer objective solutions, nor do they listen to proposals that don’t come from their own fiefdom. Which makes me sure that they have no real interest in the education of Cubans. They don’t take it into account or they pretend to ignore reality with respect to the preparation of our professionals, and they ignore the opinions of the student body for creation of their “plans and measures.”

We believe that a packet of emergency measures for the recovery and restructuring of our higher education should be passed, first for the realistic identification of absolutely all the problems, including opinions and proposals from our students.

In addition, there should be no restrictions on absolute freedom of teaching and learning in every one of the institutions and for students, presenting real opportunities for all citizens to have access to higher studies, through an efficient system of vocational training, admission and retention.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Higher education in Cuba: A Vision (Part 1) / Somos+

Students at the University of Havana

Somos+, Rolby Milian, 5 January 2016 — Education has always been one of the propaganda bulwarks that the Havana regime has used to sell the image of Cuba as a perfect, paradise society. Like so many others, this has resulted in a lie of gigantic dimensions. But it’s no secret that lately the profound crisis in which the Cuban educational system is plunged has become more and more evident. Fraud, the selling of exams, poor academic results and the critical shortage of professors are some of the reasons that the system of Cuban education, so acclaimed, free and promoted, is in trouble.

Each one of the levels of teaching, by its intrinsic characteristics, suffers decadence in its own way. This time I propose to explain my vision of the problems that presently afflict higher education in our country. Articulating problems and blowing off steam is something that’s been done for more than 50 years; many of us Cubans know very well how to do it — some freely and where they like, and others in the context they consider convenient and comfortable. continue reading

So I’m going to comment similarly about the general proposals that our movement, Somos+, has put forth, for the education reforms, which, we are convinced, will take place when we finally have the freedom to implement a system of informed assessments, with our vision fixed on prosperity for the country and freedom for each citizen.

One of the main problems of higher education in Cuba is that our students can’t gain access to all the information generated in the world about the different subjects of study. They have to learn generally from already out-dated books with retrograde visions and/or prejudiced material, where each paragraph is totally politicized. This fully puts the brakes on the possibility of continually modernizing the study programs, and, of course, it circumvents the professors.

The consequence is that in more than 50 years of isolation, our teaching plans are invalid, and many of our professionals, at the same instant they graduate, aren’t able to compete in the world labor market, which has become more demanding and specialized.

Another visibly problematic situation is the increasing absence of professors able to give classes with the level of excellence that a university requires. The potential recent graduate prefers to look for a way to emigrate (scholarship to study abroad, marriage to a foreigner, jumping on a raft or a flying carpet), and the indices of retention are almost null in the principal faculties. Also, the best professors we once had are now retired, and others have taken the path of emigration or have gone to more profitable jobs: working in hotels or tourism.

These points make it obvious that our educational system needs a radical change; our movement proposes, above all, that education continue to be an inalienable human right of greatest priority, and that the educational process be thought-out in a universal way and that all the information that humanity has generated be put within reach of all students. We reject all the indoctrination, loyalties, myths and personality cults.

For us, education will be a vehicle for the liberation and growth of man, materially as well as spiritually, consumed from all sources, taking as the base the spring of our nationality.

Another question is of the greatest importance: it’s that young people have less motivation to take university courses, which is understandable: for them it means investing five years of their lives in study without earning anything in order to later present their skills in exchange for salaries that don’t even cover basic necessities.

Now, faced with the dichotomy between Engineer or Culinary Worker, our adolescents clearly know that serving in a restaurant brings them closer to their daily bread than does a day designing bridges. Consequently, there has been a considerable reduction in university graduations these last years. This, added to the massive exodus of professionals, is, short of alarming, an urgent call to action for the future of our country.

Our movement proposes, in the interest of minimizing the flight of qualified personnel, that the remuneration for professors be in accord with the importance of education in any society. This is a moral duty of the Nation.

The Cuban Government hasn’t been able to remain blind to the crisis of higher education, and in one of its propaganda strategies, on September 6, 7 and 8 of 2015, it announced a series of “innovative measures.”

In the next post about the subject, I’ll expose the essence of these measures and give my opinion about their effectiveness. I’ll continue to comment on some of the problems and will try to shed a little light on the debate about the preparation of our youth to assume the challenge of bringing clarity and growth to the new Cuba, which we seek, and the need to include them in decisions about the future of education in our country.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Clandestine Fight Clubs are Booming in Cuba / Juan Juan Almeida

Two officers of the People’s Revolutionary Police (PNR) in Cuba in a patrol car.

Juan Juan Almeida, 7 January 2016 — Tired of family conflicts, without a future, restless by today and without a better model for living, clandestine fights become a place where hundreds of Cuban adolescents believe they can fulfill the dream of becoming famous and earning “a lot” of money. It’s a shame that they receive little interest from the State and no sensitivity.

The phenomenon is already part of the underworld, a jungle that seems to combine sports, barbarity and human decadence; something that for the time being can’t be confronted, because it’s impossible to put the brakes on those who have nothing to lose.

A trainer and former member of the Cuban team that participated in the Sydney Olympics explained to me that “with only 5 CUCs (or its equivalent in national money) and the appropriate contacts, anyone can come to those closed and shady places to witness an interesting spectacle. continue reading

“The boxers are young people from the slums who dream of having the money and fame that a professional boxer gets. They’re bored with looking in the mirror of family frustration or of the retired glories of the amateur sport, the national flag having been raised for a gold medal at the Olympics. They don’t have enough money to consume anything, not even in the cheapest makeshift shop.”

“To attend these clandestine coliseums you only have to pay, put yourself on a list and wait; the response arrives by SMS message, which almost always originates from a cell phone with a blocked identity, where they tell you the day, the time, the place and the program.”

The rookies begin charging, depending on whether they win or lose, from 25 to 100 CUC for fights of 4, 6 or 8 rounds, performed in boxing rings built in such an artisanal way that, instead of a ring, they look like cages. And, as in the movies, before starting the fight, the employees register all the bets.

The fighters wear gloves, boxing shorts, mouthpieces and almost never a shirt; and, in spite of looking like outlaws, the support team consists of trainers, ex-martial arts sportsmen, chiropractors, nurses, doctors, sports and health professionals with connections in clinics and hospitals in case of emergency, for any injured boy who needs it.

The PNR (National Revolutionary Police) pursues them.

It’s known that these “illegal circuses,” almost all located in the Havana municipality of Cerro, take place in private gyms and with a business license as “instructor of sports practices,” which, by being designed for a Cuban clientele, would have had to close if they hadn’t struck this vein.

They’re easy to detect, and because of that, there are periods of frequent raids. Although many guess that the earnings from this type of business are impressive, those arrested can’t be indicted because — according to an expert in reliable gossip — it’s not an illegal game but a sports exercise with certain legal guarantees, and there doesn’t exist, as far as I know, a legal description in the penal code that conceptualizes the crime.

Surely the Cuban authorities, moralist and complicated, are thinking about legislation; but the solution is simple and can be found behind that door that still resists opening: authorizing and supporting professional boxing.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Exodus, Cubans and the Law of Adjustment: the Beginning of the End? / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 30 November 2015 — The present migratory crisis, unleashed by the Nicaraguan Government’s refusal to permit transit through its territory for Cubans walking to the United States, has brought to the foreground a drama that has been going on for decades.

Too many stories of suffering and death have spattered the dangerous route followed by tens of thousands of emigrants from the island going north through Central America. But what could have been a rapid solution of the problem at the meeting of chancellors of the Central American Integration System (SICA) which took place this week in San Salvador was frustrated by the intransigence of Daniel Ortega’s Government, obstinately opposed to permitting the caravan’s passing in spite of the good will shown by the majority of the governments in the region in handling the matter as a humanitarian problem rather than a question of national security. continue reading

It’s not by chance that the present crisis generated, a few days ago, Raúl’s recent visit to México. On Aztec soil, the dictator was assured of blocking the last obligatory link of the stopover of these terrestrial rafters, getting from Peña Nieto’s Government — the same one that criticizes the U.S. when it deports Mexicans — its unrestricted commitment, beginning now, to deport any Cuban it encounters passing through.

Scarcely days later, suspiciously, the governments of Costa Rica and Nicaragua also announced measures that were analogous. But the Costa Rican Government revised rapidly and authorized transit visas to the caravan, and later assumed a constructive posture when the Nicaraguans sent army troops to stop the attempt of these emigrants to cross the border. Things still remain at this point two weeks later.

This dramatic situation of thousands of Cubans stranded in Costa Rica, like a shot centered even more attention in the U.S. on the justification or not of keeping alive the Cuban Adjustment Act, and intensified one even chillier polemic that, as never before in half a century, ended by putting this regulation on the dissection table of US policy.

These are compelling questions that line up like daggers toward the center of the problem: would the abolition of this law stop the exodus of Cubans? Is that law really the essential cause of the perpetual flight maintained during decades by a considerable part of my people? What would happen if the Cuban Adjustment Act was repealed this very day?

The matter seems to me as obvious as the question, “What color is a white horse?”  I’m among those absolutely convinced that if the repeal of the law materializes this would only redirect the present exodus from the island. In case speculation turns into fact, it would produce only a momentary reduction in attempts to leave; but once the initial stupor is overcome, and spurred on by the real cause of their flight — the absurd hardships imposed by a Communist dictatorship — Cubans would continue arriving at their own rhythm in the United States, even under an illegal status — amply exemplified by Mexicans — since one river more or one river less would mean nothing to those who also are ready to row 90 miles and brave the sharks.

Trying to reduce the motive for the stampede and the discriminating protection offered by the Cuban Adjustment Act would simplify the matter too much and would disavow the categorical fact that a quarter of the Cuban population remains dispersed outside the country; and if it is true that most live in the U.S., it’s also true that the Cuban diaspora has left barely any virgin space between both poles in its sustained and frenetic escape.

Even if the abolition of the existing Cuban Adjustment Act led to another that was rigorously directed to the contrary, the exodus would continue as long as the present cause exists, which is the absolute lack of hope for Cubans — above all for the youth, of course — under a totalitarian regime, a dictatorship that has hijacked the future of their nation and traitorously curtailed any possibility of wellbeing for its people, that has systematically obstructed their prosperity and has submitted them to the most oppressive and unhealthy despotism that has ever been known in the American hemisphere.

The latest news seems to presage a long wait for those stranded in Peñas Blancas: the lack of agreement of the good will of most of the chancellors meeting in San Salvador before the bad faith of Managua, in addition to the mentioned policy of extradition assumed by México, added to the new migratory policy announced by Ecuador of requiring a visa for Cubans beginning next December and the recent detention of hundreds of Cuban migrants in Panamá by the express petition of Costa Rica thus appear to warn them. The recent UN announcement of support for the Government of San José in its humanitarian attention to Cubans in Peñas Blancas and its intention to find a solution for the crisis – all are very illustrative evidence of the gravity and regional repercussions of the present migratory crisis.

But in all this mess, what stands out above the rest of the elements is the intransigence of Daniel Ortega’s Government: the hermetic posture assumed by Managua is very striking.

They have managed to stigmatize the Cubans on the Costa Rican border as being a mob of criminals, and they arrived at the ridiculous — in their desire to ingratiate themselves with their accomplice in Havana — by demanding that Costa Rica remove the Cubans from the border, because they consider them a danger to national security, even knowing that if they gave them passage the Cubans wouldn’t even stop for a drink of water, and not a single one of them would remain in Nicaragua after 24 hours.

The unconditional acquiescence shown by Daniel Ortega — disguised as ultranationalism in the presumed protection of territorial integrity — is so shameful and boot-licking, and is strictly aligned with his servility to Havana’s directives.

This chapter of the drama has shown America and the world that Cuba continues stuck in time as thousands of Cubans remain stuck in Costa Rica, living testimony to the despair of a people who now expect nothing of the dictators who misrule their country. All the ostensible reforms proclaimed by the regime of Raúl Castro are left unveiled as barren tinsel, and a shattering proof of that is the perpetual flight that never stops.

The very late and biased official pronouncement of the Cuban Government on the subject — blaming, of course, the Cuban Adjustment Act for the disaster — and the scandalous indifference shown by the Cuban embassy in San José in regard to the irregular situation of those thousands of their citizens on Costa Rican soil are highly illustrative evidence that the Cuban dictatorship continues holding exactly the same arrogance and contempt as always for the rights of my people. The despotic message released by the tyrants in Havana loudly and clearly suffices as a warning to those dreamers who still hope to harvest some fruit from the tree.

Translated by Regina Anavy


Discontent is Growing on the Island / Somos+, Sandy Perez

Somos+, Sandy Pérez, 7 January 2015 — Every day that passes, the Castro dictatorship loses more followers, which was demonstrated in the past elections for delegates to the Municipal Peoples Power Assemblies. The official press supervised by the regime published the results of the polling stations on April 25, in the Juventud Rebelde paper. It’s clear that the figures are made up but, even so, they reflect the growing popular discontent of the now-exhausted Cuban people.

Some 11.22 percent of the electorate didn’t bother to pass through the colleges where they were supposed to vote; that is to say, there are 850,314 people who don’t believe in the political system that has reigned in Cuba since 1959. If you add to that the 343,430 voters who left their ballots blank, and the 372,351 who made them invalid, there are now 1,566,095* non-conformist Cubans, a figure that should worry Castro.

There are several motives for the disinterest showed by the electorate: the very low salaries for workers and pensioners; the lack of housing for young couples and the impossibility of renting, which provokes instability in marriages; the deficiency of the basic basket (ration book) and the low purchasing power.

In the case of young Cubans, most of them are obliged to vote by their parents, who have been indoctrinated since they were little and implant the same fear in their kids. These days you hear things like: “You have to go vote or I’ll be fired from my job!” That’s the sad reality for Cuban youth.

*Translator’s note: The 2013 voting age population in Cuba was reported to be about 8.87 million, with about 8.66 million registered to vote.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Closed Game / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Dámaso, 29 December 2015 — The year 2015 ends, and stagnation seems to have sat squarely on the Cuban authorities. Entrenched in dogma and their absurd demands to the U.S. Government, shielded in the supposed defense of sovereignty and independence, something they forgot when they delivered the country to the Soviets for 32 years, they aren’t moving any political domino tiles, closing the game with the double nine.

The 12th Plenary Session of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party and the work in the commissions, prior to the sessions of the National Assembly, not for the first time repeated the existence of the same problems presented in similar, previous activities, without the appearance of real solutions that would improve the country’s situation or that of its citizens. The talk is of multiple pretenses in all the sectors of production and services, which now form an habitual part of the content of these meetings, where the deputies unanimously approve all agreements without the least disagreement, giving an irrefutable demonstration of totalitarian unity.

The year 2016 is gloomy, with little hope for important changes, at least while the current historical leadership holds power.

Translated by Regina Anavy

A Glance at Cuba in 2015 / Ivan Garcia

Reading_Newspaper_Gerry_Pacher-_ab-620x330Ivan Garcia, 2 January 2016 — Joel Castillo, 19, passed from expectation to frustration in 12 months. After graduating in 2014 in electronics from a technology school south of Havana, he still hasn’t been able to work in his specialty.

“With the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States, I thought there would be better options for people. But things remain the same. And I haven’t gotten a job that fits my profile,” says Castillo.

It’s precisely the youngest who are the most disillusioned with the inertia of the olive-green Regime. A government with almost six decades in power and an executive faction whose combined age adds up to more than 300 years should have better policies for its youth. continue reading

Above all, it should take into account that Cuban society is rapidly aging and that in the fiscal year which just finished, in an irregular way, 43,059 compatriots left the Island, an increase of 77 percent in relation to 2014.

Among the irregular emigrants are the terrestrial rafters who, leaving from Ecuador, cross eight countries and different time zones, in order to try to get to the border of the U.S. with Mexico, and those who throw themselves into the sea in precarious embarkations.

If to this quantity we add the more than 20,000 visas for family reunification that the U.S. embassy in Havana grants, in 2015, around 65,000 Cubans abandoned their country in one form or another to go to the U.S.

Other thousands leave for any country. Spain, Germany, Italy, Russia, Alaska, Kazakhstan….Cuba is emptying of young and talented people. In almost all the branches of knowledge, jobs, sports or culture there exists a worrisome deficit.

For many residents on the Island, the future is to “jump the fence.” Ask a Cuban between 15 and 40 years old what his life goal is. Planning an illegal exit or finding a way to emigrate has become a national sport.

Why are Cubans leaving? It’s obvious: The economy continues to be down. It’s not a situation or a period of thin cows. It’s a stationary crisis that has extended for 25 years.

The “Special Period,” that war without the roar of tanks which began in 1990, still hasn’t ended. The inflation is more mundane, but it continues to devour the worker’s salary, and the dual currency is a liability for productivity and economic reasoning.

Economic logic in Cuba is a headache. Whoever works for the State does it eight hours a day, from Monday to Friday, and earns a salary that doesn’t exceed 23 dollars a month. And to have a dignified life, with breakfast and two decent meals, at a minimum you need 250 dollars a month.

Thanks to the taxes, the exaggerated assessments on private entrepreneurs and the poverty wages, the State pays for public health (going downhill) and a highly doctrinaire education.

But no one can repair a house or buy a car. A fundamental repair of a dwelling costs no less than 8,000 dollars. And a Peugeot 508 is worth 300,000 dollars at a State agency. Which is six lifetimes of work for a professional.

With the ration book, every citizen receives monthly, at subsidized prices, seven pounds of rice, 20 ounces of black beans, five pounds of sugar, a pound of chicken and half a pound of soy picadillo. And daily, an insipid bread roll of 80 grams.

These meager rations last for 10 days. The rest of the month you have to take out money and rack your brains. According to the autocrats’ optimistic predictions, in 2015 the Cuban economy grew 4.0 percent, but this growth hasn’t landed on the family table.

On the contrary. Pork, cheese, yogurt, milk, vegetables and fruits went up in price in the State peso markets and in the convertible money shops.

If you have only coffee for breakfast and one hot meal a day, you can understand why more than 65,000 Cubans abandoned their country in 2015. But the economic crisis can’t be summed up by the alimentary arrangement.

Every day life is more uncomfortable. Public transport is a calamity. The streets are torn up, dark and full of water. Garbage accumulates on the corners. Any personal matter occupies several hours or months owing to the lethal bureaucracy.

The hospitals have deteriorated. It’s easier to find a Martian that a medical specialist. In the primary, secondary and high schools, the low quality of teaching is alarming.

The loss of values, family violence, machismo and homophobia are reaching worrisome levels. An important segment of the population barely reads or informs itself. They master around 500 words; when they speak it sounds like they’re barking, and they gesticulate like apes.

They talk by screaming, as if people were deaf, and they listen to loud music. The lack of education has taken root with many Cubans. The most harmful thing isn’t the disorder, the precariousness and the ruins. The worst is living in a nation where you can’t plan for the future.

If you try to change the status quo by political channels, you run risks. Being a dissident in Cuba is illegal. Political parties are prohibited, except the Communist Party, and the institutions of civil society are rigorously controlled by the State.

In 2015, short-term detentions of dissidents multiplied. The beatings of the Ladies in White and peaceful opponents in a park in the neighborhood of Miramar are repeated Sunday after Sunday.

Not even moderate political tendencies are accepted, nor those that flirt with autocracy. Nor alternative press media. The economic and political situations have pushed thousands of Cubans to pack their suitcases and get far away from their country.

Despite the socialized poverty and the lack of freedoms, beginning with December 17, 2014, when Barack Obama and Raúl Castro announced the reestablishment of relations, Cuba became fashionable.

More than 50,000 Americans and famous Anglo-Saxons visited the Island. Among them Conan O’Brien, Rosario Dawson, Paris Hilton, Naomi Campbell, Rihanna, Mick Jagger, Katy Perry, Anne Leibovitz, Frank Gehry, Floyd Mayweather and sports groups from the NBA and the MLB.

Also, representatives from the Democratic and Republican parties, among them Nancy Pelosi, leader of the Democratic minority in the House of Representatives, and delegations of governors from the States of New York, Arkansas, Texas, North Carolina and Missouri, all accompanied by entrepreneurs and businessmen.

The thaw, a much-used work in the international press, has brought to Cuba tourists and people who want to take a selfie in a Havana full of propped-up houses, to ride in an almendron (old American car) and eat in a paladar (private restaurant). Ordinary Cubans see them coming and going. They form part of a thaw that is foreign to them.

Fed up with the hardships and limitations, devoid of hope for a change with the reestablishment of relations between Cuban and the U.S., and noting that in 12 months except for wifi connections in parks and public spaces barely nothing has changed, thousands of Cubans have opted to leave. For any other country.

Iván García

Photo: The photographer, Gerry Pacher, named it “Reading Newspaper,” but of the thousands of images on the Internet that are taken in Havana, we selected it to reflect the decadence of one of the most cosmopolitan cities that existed in the western hemisphere prior to 1959. Taken from the graphic report, “From the Malecón until Ernest Hemingway,” published on

Translated by Regina Anavy