Private Initiative / Fernando Dámaso

After being closed for too many years, the door to self-employment has opened and you can see the activity on the streets of our towns and cities. The Cuban has always been an enterprising person with initiative. These aren’t unique qualities as many other people also have them. Because of this, however, Cubans were able to take a country devastated by the wars of independence into a republic and a prosperous nation in the historically short space of 56 years, despite political tensions, violent clashes, a banking crash and two dictatorships, placing it in the top ranks globally with regards to health, education, social and labor security, culture, sports, urban development, transport and agricultural and industrial production, which can be easily proven by browsing historic documents and letters.

Starting from the early sixties, private initiative was suppressed by absurd laws, decrees and regulations, and everything began to be considered and decided at the highest level of government, implanting the inertia and stagnation which brought with it, as a consequence, a profound and accelerated process of involution, partially mitigated for over thirty years by the millions in subsidies received from the extinct Soviet Union and other socialist nations, but in the end leading to the current crisis and misery, where agriculture and industry have disappeared, more than 80% of what is consumed is imported, there no longer being producers of sugar, coffee, and other items.

The other side of the coin is the city of Miami and the Florida peninsula where, before 1959, it was mainly a resort of bored elderly, and otherwise an area of swamps and crocodiles, but today, thanks mainly to the initiative and entrepreneurial spirit of Cuban immigrants, it has become a crowded modern city, one of the richest in the United States.

The initiative and entrepreneurial character came to us from our roots, of those immigrants who came as employees of businesses and farmers and, in a few years, working with determination, themselves became owners of the same, making Cuban families.

It would be healthy if the open door was opened to all, and if private initiative and the entrepreneurial character of our citizens was not restrained. This would, despite the many limitations that still exist, breathe a little life into the Cuban reality and we could begin to emerge from the abyss in which we find ourselves.

March 2 2011

Official Stupidity from the G 21* / Antunez

When resorting to physical blows, this displays a degree of errors in intelligence and professionalism. Many times, fear makes people lose their wits.

It seems as if this is what happened to officials of the political police. That night, they went to go look for me at the cells of the Aguilera Unit, in the 10th of October municipality. They had arrested me during the morning hours as I was leaving the home of the distinguished civil leader, Eriberto Liranza Romero, where we had just held an important meeting for the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Civic Resistance and Disobedience Front. In that encounter, activists representing multiple organizations throughout the Western region of the country were present.

“Antunez,” they told me, after identifying themselves as high ranking officials from the popular Section 21, also known as the National Headquarters of the Confrontation Unit, “we are going to talk clearly to you. That Front which you now lead will simply not be permitted in Havana. And I’ll tell you more. Due to activities like the ones you are carrying out, our Revolution has been losing allies that were slowly dropping their hostile positions against us,” and he continued, “And that will simply not be allowed. You are scratching our limit, and at any given moment, the leaders of our Revolution will order your imprisonment.”

“Don’t think for a moment,” the stupid major named Ignacio continued, “that because we are releasing prisoners we will cease condemning counter-revolutionaries.”

I remembered the time when Colonel Tamayo told me, “Antunez, you should know that whenever we unleash another operation, which you all refer to as repressive waves, you will be one of the first to be imprisoned, and with the longest sentence.”

Although the interrogation was ingenuous, it still was very interesting, for it acknowledged that the struggle which irritates them the most is that which is carried out through public protests and actions. They also let me know that the Front has kept them very nervous, and that they do not have the most minimal of desires to cease oppressing any dissenting voices. And that is why we will continue in the streets, because the streets belong to the people, and the government has tried, and continues to try, to steal them from us.

Translator’s note: “G2” is the designation for Cuban State Security, “G21” is specifically the Confrontation Unit.

Translated by Raul G.

January 3 2011

They Returned Yili: Another Victory for the Resistance / Antunez

We received the call precisely when we were concluding the Central Opposition Coalition reunion and were displaying our unconditional support of our leader, Idania Yanez Contreras.

“They released Carlos, but they don’t want to give him back his daughter, Yili.”

“They have to give her back! They’ve made them suffer far too much already,” my wife Yris exclaimed, full of tears and clearly bothered.

“Let’s go to Los Arabos,” Idania and Yris exclaimed in unison.

“What a mess. Now how are we supposed to do this? We barely have the necessary resources for so many of us to go out, and the only one who can transport us in his car only has room for 6. And there are almost 20 of us!”

Everybody wanted to go.

Yirisleidys Alvarez Perez.  The young girl was returned to her father, Carlos Alvarez, with those scars and bruises on her face.
Yirisleidys Alvarez Perez. The young girl was returned to her father, Carlos Alvarez, with those scars and bruises on her face.

Alcides, Idania, Yris, Adriano, Columbie, Francisco, and I all hopped into the car, where we were only able to get as far as Santa Clara, for there was a strong police operation underway. Those of us who went were strategically chosen due to our individual representation of the provinces which took part in the event: Matanzas, Sancti Spiritus, Ciego de Avila, and Villa Clara. Our brother, Tur Valladares from Cienfuegos, could not join us due to health reasons.

Along with the cold which chilled our bones in Santa Clara, we were joined by Guillermo, Frank, and Carlitos. In the railroad terminal for Colon, we were also joined by Joseito and Carlos himself, and we traveled to Colon, where the same police operation was taking place.

They did not want to give him his daughter back until he pulled out his ID Card. This was a condition the father did not accept.

With a hunger strike, along with our support and the support of other compatriots — the Lady in White Alejandrina Garcia, Lazarito, and Cari — there were more than 20 of us in that display of solidarity.

Three hours had not even passed when State Security major Alejandro knocked on the door to tell Carlos to go to Los Arabos to pick up his daughter. Yris, Idania, and Alejandrina all accompanied him, and they were all witnesses of that emotional moment where a desperate father once again embraced his daughter after 4 months of absence and separation. The young child had scars on her face.

That moving scene put an end to the “Return Yili to her Father” campaign, which had been launched by the Rosa Parks Feminist Movement for Civil Rights and counted with the support of many Cubans in and out of the island which joined in solidarity through this unforgettable drama.

That is the Coalition, that is unity, and those are the results. And that is our response to those who, for matters of greed and other grave reasons, never cease to attack us.

Translated by Raul G.

December 28, 2010

Opinion Journalism / Regina Coyula

Once again I’ve seen how public opinion can be conditioned just by preparing a group of people and putting a camera in front of them. I won’t question the sincerity and good faith of those who agreed to give their opinions, but in Cuba there is a tendency to say on camera what one is expected to say and not what one really thinks. In this case, it has to do with neighbors from the district of El Vedado who gathered to see the last episode of the series The Reasons of Cuba.

The first interviewee caught my attention, Thalia Fung, a name that means nothing for most viewers, but who is a Doctor of Marxist Philosophy with a professorship at the University of Havana. Others gathered in the living room of the spacious apartment are also interviewed, even a teenager like my son, of the three that could be seen in the report. They ended with the opinion of a lady absolutely convinced by the arguments expressed in this television show.

This journalistic work prepared as a special report for Noticiero sets the tone of political correctness. I still wonder when they will accept the reality that individuals can have different opinions, that it is necessary for our society to recognize that the double standard can only lead to a worsening situation, that in spite of all the secret and public mechanisms, the government still has no idea of what the people who shout and applaud when they are standing in front of a camera, actually think.

Translated by Dodi 2.0

March 2 2011

Band-aids to Save a Country / Luis Felipe Rojas

Photo: Luis Felipe Rojas

The Council of Ministers of Cuba expanded its quorum in order to hold a session this past February 28. Nearly 30 thousand proposals were already calculated in the meetings to discuss the lineaments, and now the olive-green leaders are rushing to put band-aids on the wounds of the battered Cuban society.

Now, it turns out that the layoff process is not the purpose, but instead it is an attempt to recover some unknown sort of efficiency. After 52 years of arbitrary administration, the ruling hands have been informed about the worst evil present in the Cuban ecosystem. Thousands of acres of untouched lands destroyed with the purpose of establishing fields of sugar cane, which are no longer of economic interest, leading to a grave mistake which is now very difficult to fix. The charred and salty ground has lost its fertility. The effects of this are present for everyone to see. The full-blown process of establishing a system of hotels with better beaches in nearby keys has dried out natural lakes, lost a great amount of sand, and destroyed much of the vegetation along the Cuban coasts.

This is how the next planned Communist congress in April has designed its agenda. Now, we will have to believe that we have benefited, and continue benefiting, from the economy of an Old Havana which was saved by the sacrifices of the messianic Eusebio Leal. The trained forces of the National Revolutionary Police, which are stationed in the historic district, have not had much training in the area of safeguarding peace among the population. Instead, they have had more experience in the field of harassing their own citizens who approach tourists in an attempt to get their hands on any crumbs, establishing a friendship, or engaging in simple human communication.

In the past few days, I have seen trucks full of workers and professionals heading toward fields of sugar cane in an attempt to “change jobs” or join in on “voluntary labor”. This is happening in various Eastern provinces of the country. It’s the new institutionalized blackmail strategy aimed at those who will attempt to enhance their standing before the massive layoffs arrive. It’s the open door for those who are laid off.

We must be very attentive, for these are the whip lashes of a country, of a government which looks out for itself in the midst of a crisis… which has been going on for more than 50 years.

Translated by Raul G.
March 2 2011

Prisoner in Canaletas on Hunger Strike / Voices Behind The Bars – Pedro Argüelles Morán

For an audio recording of Pedro’s phone call dictating this post, CLICK HERE

The 43-year-old prisoner Rene Valle Ibarra, also known as “El Bimbo”, who is from Zero Street number 2355 between 4th and Lindero, Luyano Moderno, in the municipality of San Miguel del Padron, declared himself on hunger strike this past February 22nd, demanding his right — according to the regulations set by the Director of Penitentiary Establishments of the Ministry of the Interior within the jail system — to progress to being considered a minimum severity prisoner and to be able to enter work camps and to enjoy furloughs.  However, the penal leadership from this Ciego de Avila prison alleges that he cannot be considered minimum severity because he has yet to serve 5 years to achieve conditional freedom.  Valle Ibarra has responded to this by displaying a list of various prisoners who are in the same exact conditions as his and are already taking part in the work camp. So then, why yes for some but not for him?  Perhaps it has to do with the fact that Rene Valle Ibarra, “El Bimbo”, is black and poor.

Pedro Arguelles Moran
Group of the 75
Provincial Prison of Canaletas, Ciego de Avila

Translated by Raul G.

2 March 2011

The Stubborn Names of Things / Yoani Sánchez

Nothing is called what they told me. Salvador Allende Avenue, the only street from my childhood with trees, has gone back to being called by its noble name of Carlos III. I cross a re-baptized city, although the corners still show signs with the names of heroes that no one uses. The old descriptions re-emerge, even among people my age who didn’t come to know them when those were the public names. However much the news insists, for example, on speaking of the summer celebrations as “popular festivals,” we stubbornly refer to them by the nickname “carnivals.” Something similar happens with the celebrations of each December, which the announcers and bureaucrats designate “year-end celebrations,” but among ourselves — for more than a decade — they’ve come to be known again as “Christmas.”

The adjectives betray us; the nouns get ahead of us, contrasting with the subdued and cautious attitude we assume daily. To name something has been converted into the most widespread way of changing reality. We no longer hear the vocative compañero — comrade — rather it’s the once stigmatized señor — mister — and it’s been a long time since the first person plural has included those who govern us. Now they are simply “them,” while in the maternity hospitals no one chooses names from that olive-green lineage for their newborns. Even the strange phenomenon officially designated as “Revolution” has come to be known among us by a neutral demonstrative pronoun. We have renamed it “this,” because there are times to show dissatisfaction by removing names or returning to things the stubborn names by which they were once known.

2 March 2011

FAMILY PHOTO / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo


Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Here we all are. So young, so innocent, so complicit. A picture can be worth more than a thousand Ministry of the Interior videos leaked by Cubaleaks.

The nineties. The Special Period. Zero Option. Then.

Death in black and white. Cadaverous laughter. Looking to the horizon beyond the camera lens. The sadness of being beautiful and hopeful in this country. The clothes.

The University of Havana. What a lovely phrase. I repeat. The University of Havana.

On the far right, Eduardo Fontes, almost a baby. Two beautiful girls away from him, the hairless face of Orlando Luis, a ghost who at that time had never connected to the Internet.

We didn’t even know each other, Eduardo Fontes and me. Not that night of a Havana rooftop party, nor any other night in the world. Perhaps he reads this blog every day. Perhaps he is an apocryphal follower of Twitter @OLPL. We never exchanged a syllable, but a fleeting flash joined us for all eternity. And now his professional work as a political pixels expert in the Interior Ministry.

Human life never ceases to surprise me. As children we all play together. We are free in ignorant. We hold our bodies close. Touching. Without barriers, beyond the laughable surveillance of parents. Nonsense.

Then adolescence is pure attraction for another. As if everything is haunted. Breathing is so intense it hurts. We love each other. Fear each other. The world turns because we push it with every little gesture.

Then we specialize because we create a home and a wall and we need to show that we are useful and will succeed. And then the enchantment is made of stone and the reality is even more sparse, inexplicable, belligerent. Everything around us is bad. And we are left very alone imagining that we are doing good. And we no longer love if not by inertia. And our own colleagues who applaud today tomorrow will condemn us with the same indifference. It’s the end.

Death. The death of truth. That of Eduardo Fontes and me and those nine young people and three adults who take on the horror of a Cuban photo. I still remember their names. I’m tempted to name them now. I do, in the darkness of my room. Syllables that for centuries have not left my throat. Words that I thought forgotten and that quickly hurt again. Hurt forever. Like the mediocre life into which we were falling by the weightless force of gravity. I say them, but don’t type them. They know. They were in my soul and I didn’t remember. And, as usual, the screen of my mercenary laptop is blurred by the tears that accompany me post after post.

I didn’t know how to grow up. I aged as a baby. I’m sorry.

I have seen similar photos of Yoani Sánchez disguised as a Moncadista Pioneer, with her shabby slum girl laughter wiser than her parents to be able to survive. We were the same. The debacle. The report. An impossibility. And the ideological adult life turned us upside down, sick with despair in exchange for a monthly salary. Wanting to go out into the street naked. Vomiting and digging through the gastric juices to see if something pure still shines in the middle of the indigestible fib of being Cubans.

It’s horrible we didn’t understand each other. Not having tried.As free inhabitants of a cosmopolitan city, we Habaneros, bastard children of that great whore unconquerable by the populist prudery of a Revolution, we should have the civic balls to not let the bearded peasants eat up all of Cuba. Havana means resistance in an imaginary language.

The young in black and white of the earliest years of the nineties, we were called to consummate the collage of a future less futile for the rest of the Island, but we didn’t even try. Fuck it. Exile is a thousand times better (this photo is statistical evidence of that flight). Better despicable times to make war instead of dialogue.

I feel sorry for me. For my memory of all of you. Eduardo Fontes: Does this post deserve an official report or continuing the blind advance my operative case?

March 1 2011

Birds of a Feather Flock Together / Rebeca Monzo

Archive photo

Many years ago, while studying journalism, I had a teacher who taught Marxist philosophy, in a totally original way. At the beginning of each class, writing a saying from a popular Spanish proverb on the blackboard and taking that as a point of reference, he would explain the philosophical categories that related to that issue. He also told us that all wisdom was present in the chosen proverb. Thus I also acquired the habit, which I am rarely able to abstain from.

Once again, yesterday, listing to the shortwave, I was amazed by the statements about the dictator Gaddafi made by the Venezuelan leader — “I cannot condemn him from a distance, he is my friend, my friend forever, the friend of our people, Gaddafi is like Bolivar” — and other nonsense. Now that false news that leaked last week that said the country had offered asylum to the tyrant made sense. Then came to mind two very wise proverbs: Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and another that says, Birds of a feather flock together. Paraphrasing the title of a popular TV program here on my planet, I say: You can draw your own conclusions.

March 2 2011

A Death That Could Have Been Avoided / Iván García

Every time I pass by the sports fan club in Parque Central, right in the heart of Havana, I think I hear Orlando Zapata Tamayo debating baseball matters.

Baseball was more than a passion for him. It was a style of life. The dissident — jailed for three years in 2003 for the crime of contempt, and then later the sentence was extended to 32 years for his rebellious attitude inside the prison — was a Cuban in its purest form.

I prefer the simple type of Banes, who like thousands of fellow countrymen born in the eastern regions of the island, flee from the ‘obstine‘ (frustration) and poverty in their villages and try to find better luck in the capital.

Zapata was one of those. In Havana he worked as an assistant bricklayer in the construction of Parque Central hotel, where at this very moment I’m composing this note. His political concerns were identical to those of the silent majority of Cubans, drivers with old cars for hire, fritura (fried food) vendors, or bicitaxistas who pedal twelve hours a day.

For several years Orlando was an anonymous dissident. It’s possible to investigate how his personal political transition started and when, openly and publicly, he began to desire a collection of freedoms for all citizens.

Zapata was similar to the front balcony neighbor that criticizes the state of affairs in the country. A desperate man of the street who doesn’t see a way, since constitutionally it doesn’t exist, to move Cuba on a democratic path.

There are many on the island like Zapata. Or in Cairo. Ideally this mulatto, who died at age 42, could be shouting slogans in Liberation Square. Or be Mohammed Bouazizi, the 26-year-old who set himself on fire in a Tunisian town far from the tourist brochures.

A memory comes to me of a chat I had on a cold night in February 2010 with one of his Republican Alternative Movement friends. He described to me those days, when unhappy with the arbitrary laws of the government that had imprisoned 75 dissidents in March of 2003, they left the Estadio Latinoamericano and, without a leader to exhort them, they marched from the baseball debating club in Parque Central along the streets, protesting the arrests.

And of course, I remember a short and sturdy opponent, who had suffered in prisons and hidden her emotions like everyone else, crying in silence in the living room of her house, remembering the young man, quiet, almost invisible, who was together with her on a fast, days before the raid of 2003.

I cannot forget the giant that is Reina Luisa Tamayo, his mother, who will not see Orlando, with his duffel bag in tow, coming down the alley of the poor neighborhood section of Banes where she lives.

A year after his death the message of Zapata Tamayo has force. It was precisely his death which led to a series of marches heard through the streets of Havana by the Ladies in White, shouting “Zapata lives.”

The repercussion and global condemnation over his death forced General Raul Castro’s government to negotiate a solution with the Catholic Church. If today a majority of the Black Spring dissidents can walk freely through the streets of Spain, Chile, the United States, or Cuba, it is thanks to this forceful weapon that was the death of Zapata.

A death that could have been prevented. Due to arrogance the regime did not stop it. They gained nothing. A maxim which every statesman must remember is that they should never use the relentless forces of power against an individual, healthy or dying.

It is not about ideology. It is a matter of humanity. The government of Cuba would gain credibility if, at one year after the death of Zapata, they would apologize publicly. Out of respect and decency they owe it to his mother, so shamefully harassed.

Reina Luisa will never recover her son. But it might be an initiation of the unavoidable dialogue that Cuba needs. The Castros should use leniency as a shield. It would be a way to atone for their faults. And believe me, they need it.

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Translated by DoDi 2.0

February 24 2011

State Security’s Soap Opera / Claudia Cadelo

Translation of Audio:
Voice of “Carlos”: Claudia, it’s the independent journalist Carlos Serpa Maceira. I’m here in Isla de Pinos where I was beaten and detained by the authorities. Please, my cell phone number is 52914540. Please, I tried contacting Yoani, I sent her a message. Help me with this. Take care, Serpa.
Voice of Claudia: Tell me, what do you think of that? Voice of Yoani: We should send him a message saying ‘what a spy’, ‘what a low life’…

State Security has launched a soap opera entitled “Cuba’s Interests,” and it’s awful. Whoever wrote it — oh my — was included like an extra in the script. Above I’ve posted the message Carlos Serpa — confessed agent — left on my answering machine the day before Saturday night’s premier on Cubavision, which exasperated half of Havana which doesn’t want to hear even one more second of ideological propaganda on television.

I mean really, Villa Marista is in need of an image manager and also a speech therapist. Perhaps they are short on budget and human resources, but it’s important — say I — that people know how to talk, especially when they are giving speeches or launching themselves as tropical-James-Bond-style soap opera actors. Nothing is as depressing as the vulgarity, the lack of education, the trashy accents of the latest characters who have made their leaps to fame from the ranks of State Security. If these are the presentable ones, what do the ones we don’t see look like? The Ministry seems more and more like a zoo, the officials poor classless puppets that the system moves at will, like pawns. The last remaining pawns: The snitches.

Who is paid for being a snitch? That’s the harsh reality facing Power, because the human qualities of those who accept such work at this stage of the championship leave much to be desired: Twisted principles, lacking values, shameless, amoral, uneducated, vulgar and extremely mediocre and envious, two feelings that always seem to go hand-in-hand.

Goose Stepping / Yoani Sánchez

My neighborhood is experiencing a small shock, a change that comes in the form of new asphalt, the workers are removing the pavement and adding a black sticky layer which, in a few days, will once again be solid under the tires. We’re all amazed. The happiness would be greater were it not for the reasons behind this road restoration, the impulse that underlies these works. The whole Plaza of the Revolution and the “frozen zone” where I live is getting ready for the big parade on April 15. A sea of military power seeking to dissuade all those who want change in Cuba.

For weeks, the parking lot at the Latin American Stadium has been the practice site for soldiers testing their goose step. Forty-five degrees of extended leg calling to mind a puppet pulled by its strings, by a cord that is lost somewhere up there in the immensity of power. I don’t know how a military parade can be beautiful, what emotion can be found in these synchronized automatic beings who pass by with their faces turned to the leader on the podium. But the resulting effect I know well: Afterwards they will say the government is armed to the teeth and those who take to the streets in protest will be crushed against the same pavement that is being repaired today. The marching of the squadrons will be a warming to us that the Party not only has militants to defend itself, but also anti-riot troops and elite corps.

The choreography of authoritarianism is what I would call it, but others prefer to believe that this will be a demonstration of independence, of a national autonomy which, in reality, resembles Robin Crusoe abandoned on his Island. But beyond my doubts about uniforms, my allergy to a procession of squadrons marching in unison, today I’m concerned about the tar, that recently-laid asphalt that the tracks of the tanks will damage.

Of Trios and Duos / Rebeca Monzo

Archive photo

They were a deeply rooted tradition in our country, the groups made up of three members, called Trios or Tercetos, which proliferated in the 40s and 50s.

The country’s development took with it the creation and expansion of multiple recreational venues: cabarets, restaurants, open airs, the movies, and later, television. A country of musical greats and different opportunities to develop and express oneself. This made ever more musical groups appear, above all those of this little format, which served to lighten and make long Cuban nights more cozy. Thus emerged: The Matamoros Trio, Trio La Rosa, Trio Taicuba, The Lake Brothers, The Chancellors, The Ambassadors, Voices of America, The Indomitables, to only mention a few of the endless list.

After ’59, they went around closing those venues mentioned earlier, and around the middle of the seventies a sort of dry law popped up which finally shut them down for good; until television was left as the only option for these musicians. Thus they left little by little, most of them abandoning the country; and those who remained dedicated themselves to surviving at unrelated jobs, losing many good examples of our popular music.

Nonetheless, the picturesque creole has brought a new definition that doesn’t appear in Spanish language dictionaries: a trio is a symphonic Cuban orchestra which goes on tour abroad and returns.

However, on our planet there exists another small format: a duo, which, as its sole option for more than 50 years, is making us dance to the same tired rhythm.

Translated by: JT

February 28 2011

A Wake for Our Cadaver / Francis Sánchez

This February 23 marks the first anniversary of the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo after suffering a hunger strike that lasted 86 days. The official press hastened to say that it was just another fallen mercenary in service to the empire. But not everyone in the general public subjected to this propaganda saw it that way, even some avowed communists revealed their bewilderment in remarks circulated by email: can one give their own life, coldly, in exchange for money?

The old discredited argument against dissent, against differences, continues to transmit the classic standard of proof: supposedly all “others” are lacking not only good sense, true motives, but also lack the most minimal ideal or altruism. But now its lack of logic has left this argument without a leg. This victim was different, he had crossed the vast threshold of the pain of an entire people until he entered into death, carried forth by his own sturdy will, over to where Cubans, because of their culture and distinctive characteristics, do not charge or demand, but instead offer to give themselves freely to their fellow man. Apart from puppets, that other cartoonish idea of masochistic dissidents, that they are looking for ostracism and repression in return for a few perks they are thrown from the outside, does not even remotely fit the case. Zapata gave everything. He gave, and here this word acquires its full meaning, his life.

Absolute power, which is always marked by rigor mortis, does not permit even in theory a social actor who dissents legitimately. Seemingly the most elemental human condition is lost when a person questions or doubts the vertical power, receiving the exclusion that is reserved for monsters, that’s why the revolutionary songbook is full of dehumanizing terms such as “worm”, “scum”, “faction”, it has been used over the long course of Cuban history to institutionalize an overwhelming fear of disagreements.

One might ask the tribunal of untainted pure censors this question: what is the prototypical dissident for which they have planned, do they concede to a life the right to question, that those who choose to live could believe that a monolithic social model is unsustainable or impossible. Given this abundant reality and the ideological contradictions why don’t we see an opponent worthy of minimal respect emerge in the national arena, someone permitted to share the same space with them minus the stigma, and a judge that is chosen who will accept all parties: does some type of a priori approved opponent exist? A person who authentically challenges power and its axioms? Is there an application process to follow, some conditions to be met, at least on paper, which won’t cause oneself to deserve punishment or to have oneself compared to rats? Well no. This very complex reality and national history gives us the answer: it has not been planned for. In a Revolution, supposedly more sacred than the existence of the people caught in its vortex, one where the means disrupt the ends, simply put, a good citizen is “revolutionary” or they cease to be a citizen.

They corner and they crush the “vermin” on the pretext of preventing harm to human beings and the community. Denied as individuals the reasons or lack of reasons of the State that enforces a degraded standard of living, what mark of our uniqueness are we left, what tacit humanism, what borderline is there which can be used to avoid mistaking ourselves for the blind murderous deformities that illustrate the official bestiary. Harming oneself is the extreme attitude test, but also practically the only one that comes to a person already cornered and crushed in order to argue for their harmlessness and their human rights: actions like separating oneself from the sheep kept secure in a pen, the renunciation, the fasting or a tragic suicide… Zapata crossed those boundaries. Clearly, not even that was sufficient: official spokesmen cataloged it as perverse. Without a doubt, he made himself a martyr.

To continue the story starting from the same place. They had also wanted this February 23 to be for Pedro Arguelles’ birthday, one of the few prisoners who are left of the 75 condemned in spring of 2003, in spite of causing the government to promise last year to free all of them in November later that same year. So Arguelles had planned his visiting day, which occurs approximately every month and a half, for this date. Yolanda, his wife, had the bags prepared to bring to him, when she received his call: He decided to renounce this visit in order to pass his birthday in complete fasting as an homage to the memory of Orlando Zapata. He who has nothing, but still finds a way to find the strength and express himself civically, sacrificing the little that he still has.

Yolanda must wait another 45 days to see the man she loves and who makes her feel proud. “Stateless” usually encompasses peaceful dissent, here it’s synonymous with traitor and monster. Arguelles has seen his imprisonment prolonged including after the promise of the government, until arriving at that day which shared his birthday and the first anniversary of the death of Orlando Zapata, precisely for rejecting the only condition which until now they have given to him in order to leave the jail: Abandon his homeland.

We are having a wake for our cadaver and, at the bottom of the deep future, trembles a flame, an idea much more daunting than the open eyes of a dead man: the soul in torment from the nation “with all and for the good of all.”

Translated by Dodi 2.0

February 24 2011

Reply, After the “Battle” / Miriam Celaya

I have taken some time to reply to the many comments to the post “Fantasies and realities of a virtual rebellion”, but I had good reason to do so. The reactions from readers, in the face of what might have seemed like a cold shower, were diverse, but expected. They did not disappoint or surprise me. The truth is that such participation shows that the topic was interesting to many … The lords of certain “leanings” that are scattered around here would love to see Cubans show such interest in debating them! Thank you sincerely for nurturing this little forum with your ideas.

There’s been everything, “as in a drug store”, like my grandmother used to say. Some comments show some misunderstandings, I’m guessing due to reading too fast. There are also those who respectfully offer opinions that don’t agree with mine, which offers the opportunity to incorporate different perspectives about matters that affect all of us, while some that do agree with irrelevance or with few possibilities to achieve a demonstration or with little prospect of achieving an Egyptian-style uprising on the Island not only provide arguments, but they also suggest other avenues for action. I won’t even bother to respond the offenses, of course.

In general, analyzing the compliments readers have honored me with, I could not help feeling like that perverse childhood friend, who, with malicious intent, not only told us that the Magi were not real, but –- in addition — took us by the hand with evil pleasure to prove it by showing us the hiding place where our parents, almost with the same enthusiasm as ours (or maybe even more enthusiastically) kept our new toys hidden until the camels’ expected arrival. We felt both a passing anger towards the illusion-breaker that, with his clean stabbing, smashed a beautiful childhood dream, we would end up being grateful for having shown us the deceit. Better yet, after the bitter pill of disappointment, we had the advantage to negotiate directly with our parents for toys each year, according to the possibilities, without going through the hassle of writing the necessary letter –- also full of deceit — to Melchior, Gaspar and Balthazar in order to demonstrate that we were worthy of their grace.

I use this parable also quite deliberately, because most of the time, when facing difficult situations we behave with the immaturity typical of a kid who doesn’t want to see reality. Behold! this time, I was the evil friend who opened the closet door and showed the hidden toys while, knowing our reality, I insisted that no protest would ever come to fruition in Cuba. Some reactions were so ardent in their fury that I was even accused of spoiling the successful achievement of the uprising with my “pessimistic” attitude, without considering that it is not about what I want or don’t want, but about the Cuban reality, such as it is. Those who think that way are overestimating my extremely limited (almost nil) influence over the opinion of a people who in their majority does not have Internet access and — as a result — does not know my blog. I truly believe that I am more useful in helping to sow the little civil seed than encouraging revolutions of doubtful outcome. In any case, civil awareness promotes men, while revolutions unleash beasts. You can bet that, hypothetically, if I had the power to influence the thoughts and actions of my countrymen, I never would have called for any exercise that could lead to violence, in the same way that I never suggested to Cubans living abroad to stop helping to maintain the regime with their family remittances or with their trips to the Island. I understand the powerful reasons of those whose parents, children or siblings are still living here, though I also know of some opportunists on this side of the strait who live without the slightest effort, waiting for the manna that comes from the sacrifice of his relatives abroad. I have spoken: there is a bit of everything.

I digress at this point to place an unavoidable marker. To my personal satisfaction, and to respond to a dart someone threw at me which I did not deserve, I maintain that I am one of those Cubans who does not receive any remittances, either from individuals or from institutions, for which I congratulate myself more every day. My income stems from my own work, though — given the circumstances in Cuba — I don’t just work for the money, but also for the satisfaction of helping to bring on change, doing what I consider useful. I accept handouts from absolutely no one; therefore, the possibility of rubbing that in my face does not exist. This does not mean, however, that I haven’t accepted cell phone account refills from some of my friends and supporters, internet cards I’ve been given and other items like flash drives, discs, etc., that have supported my work as blogger. I’ll be eternally grateful for this.

Another reason why I delayed in writing this reply, possibly unnecessary, judging by the experiences life has taught us, was to miss the date of the alleged revolt to which so loudly and for so long before we were being summoned, giving both the rebels the opportunity to prepare and the regime to prevent it. Just as we knew beforehand, on February 21st there was no protest at all. And it was clear that there couldn’t be one, not only by the limitations that I indicated in that controversial post and that numerous commentators have expressed, but because the better part of those who might have joined the protests were detained at police units, or under house arrest by the repressive forces; not to mention the deployment of the instruments of the regime throughout the area of the Avenida de las Misiones (across the street from the former Presidential Palace) — selected location for the start of the action — with the task of preventing any demonstration attempts.

Incidentally, similar measures were taken throughout the Island for days prior to February 23rd to prevent public commemoration of the first anniversary of the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo. There have been arrests in almost all provinces. In places like Banes, for example, the town was literally taken over by the political police and troops were placed at strategic points. Reina Luisa Tamayo’s house was surrounded from all accessible points by soldiers with rifles. Government fear has been so impressive on the face of the symbolic stature of Zapata that even they, paradoxically, have helped to increase it with such excessive deployment.

But, back to the original topic, I would have preferred that the passion had not blinded the good sense of some readers. You can be in disagreement of certain criteria or positions (I enthusiastically welcome the lack of unanimity), but I insist that we must not confuse our desires with reality. I live here, how I wish for change! I don’t know if somewhere in the world what people want will occur exactly; I allow myself to doubt it. I do not pretend to pontificate on political thought, since I have no capacity for it, but to exchange criteria by offering my views. I cannot, however, share absurd generalizations as someone who holds that “all dictatorships are the same” –- the truly shocking example of Pinochet — Chile’s economic benefactor who saved the country from communist ruin, but over whom weigh thousands of deaths and disappearances; nor can I consider as a “minuscule sum” the deaths of “10, 20, 30, or maybe 100 Cubans”, especially when those who seem to consider them a kind of collateral damage is safe from risk. I really prefer to not label such an attitude: the epithet would not sound pleasant.

Finally, I have not chosen to “wait.” In my own way, I do what is possible for me to do to contribute to changes in Cuba. I’m not sitting around, waiting. I’m doing, as my fellow travelers are, and also those beyond the reefs, who support and encourage us. Personally, my wish for Cuba is a process of gradual and orderly changes, whose synergy will arise from the maturity and coherence that all social components would achieve. It would not be a 15-day process, but neither is it expected to be too long. After 52 years of totalitarianism, any hint of an aperture would accelerate the changes. More than a century of improvisations and patches have proven to be fully ineffective, and if we want to ultimately attain a strong and lasting democracy, we also need to have citizens, just like Estrada Palma stated in the early faltering and truncate Republic. I have no answers but I do have hope, which negates any presumption of pessimism about me. I also have the will and perseverance to continue, as do my measured energies and meager talents, doing my tiny job just like a polyp piercing the wall. Believe me, this is an exercise of pure faith nurtured on the most resounding optimism.

Translated by Norma Whiting

February 25, 2011