Archive for March, 2009

The "Classic"

Some people were surprised when the Great National Reflector* multiplied by zero the two most conspicuous of the recently tossed-out governmental functionaries, minimizing their importance compared to the most significant thing of the moment: The World Baseball Classic. Briefly, to judge by the voice of the Antillean Olympian, it’s not worth talking about the inconsequential replacement of more than ten officials, including nine ministers, in a complete cabinet reshuffle,when right in front of his nose is the important sports tournament in which HIS team, whose principal merit is, without a doubt, patriotism, will defend the colors of the national flag and with it the always superior values of the revolution and socialism.

So, in keeping with the inherent nature of the sons of this land, people were gossiping on every corner about the dispossessed, only until the first pitch was tossed out.  How important could the cabinet of a government—supposedly facing the challenge of the country’s economic crisis, now aggravated by the global recession—possibly be, compared to the power of baseball teams such as those from Japan, Korea or the United States, which must be beaten at any cost?  What significance could our profound social ills have compared to the pitching of the mythical Matsuzaka, who already beat the Cuban team three times?  Now that is a matter of the greatest importance.

Perhaps that’s why there hasn’t been any mention in the official Cuban press of the approval by the Congress of the United States of a law that allows Cubans living in that country to travel to the Island once a year, and to stay here for any length of time, spending up to 179 dollars a day (rather than the previous limit of 50 dollars), plus the right to ask permission for an additional visit in the case of a family emergency.  Nor has the press informed Cubans here that in the same session of Congress, on March 10th, they authorized the sale of food and medicines to the government of Cuba without the need to pay ahead of time, a condition imposed by the previous administration.  The relaxation of the measures against the Island are not something our government would want to prioritize, but neither does it seem to be of much interest to Cubans: everything pales in comparison to the Classic.  Now, when the slogan “Fatherland or Death” doesn’t seem to mobilize anyone, the most useful is the new rallying cry: HOMERUN!!!!!

Illustration: Photo from the National Geographic Society

*Translator’s note:  A reference to Fidel Castro; his written “Reflections” are published regularly in Granma, the main national daily newspaper.

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Thank you

I haven’t had the opportunity to thank you for the many message of support I’ve received after the report I published on February 17th; technical issues relating to our website have kept me from the Internet.  I was surprised and moved by the response of so many people interested in my and my family’s fate, your solidarity has been the force that foiled the intimidation attempted by the repressors.  Many of the comments were from my usual readers, whom I already feel as close to as old friends; they were joined by voices from Yoani’s blog or by messages from other cybernauts.  I can identify the Cubans who know me personally over many years and who signed with their initials, nicknames or pseudonyms, and I also remember with affection a former classmate who lives in Paris (Kiki) with whom I shared a classroom during our happy student years in the Faculty of Arts and Letters.  A big hug to everyone; you are the main reason for the existence of this blog.

I am going to take advantage of the chance to answer some of the comments and to make some clarifications on some particularly confusing points, because I have always said that this blog should disseminate truths, not spread lies.  Some say that admission to party membership in certain centers of study, in this case the Lenin Vocational School, is obligatory.  This isn’t true, though I don’t think those who said it meant to lie.  It’s a peculiarity of totalitarian regimes that they make individuals believe that everything that is not prohibited is obligatory: an additional way to keep us subjugated.  In fairness, I have to clarify that entry into the communist youth organization or into the party has never been “obligatory,” but it is no less true that such membership conferred (and still confers, in many cases) some advantage in choosing a particular job, which means that a good share of young students, especially university students, decide to join the ranks of the Young Communist League (UJC) to avoid impediments in their future working life, that is simply “to pave the way.”

Yes, there are certain work centers or professions that require party membership, the career of journalism is one example.  So, many Cubans have joined the party for mere convenience, which I can respect even if I don’t approve, because it’s a personal decision for each person.  What I can say is that I was a member of the young communists between ages 15 and 20, out of pure, naïve and sincere conviction, and I stopped being one—expelled for “indiscipline”—when I lost faith, on discovering it was a fundamentalist group in the style of the purest fascism.   Then I began to know many other realities I’d ignored, and that—regardless of what some bitter people may say now—were not then in the public domain.  I can, and I wish to, live with who I was and who I am.  This is also the story of hundreds of thousands of Cubans and there’s no need to cover it up.

And, finally, as this is our blog, I assure you that I will always keep you informed if the repressive forces insist on coercing us, or if their unhappy actions of last February 10th have other consequences.  We know that to keep silent out of fear would be to establish complicity with the dictatorship.

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The Scam as Politics

Everything indicates that U.S. president Barack Obama is turning out to be an annoying pebble in the shoe of more than one leader of those who still swarm Our America (our poor America).  Apparently, the dictator-in-training, Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, is beginning to perceive the dizzying price drop that crude oil is undergoing.  The drop, in addition to the commitment to cut oil production agreed to last year in Algeria by 12 members of OPEC in order to stop or mitigate the collapse of such prices, are tough obstacles for the fulfillment of his populist plans and other commitments both inside and outside Venezuela.  It is urgent, therefore, to fuel the theory of the powerful and arrogant “external enemy,” scourge of the peoples and of social justice, like the one eternally responsible for the failures of our peoples.

During a whole decade of mass jingoism, Chavez has had at his disposal, by the handful, the natural wealth of the country to promote his political interests.  Buying supporters, however, has never been good business practice: the result is that the “fidelities” end when money ends or is just scarce.  That is a subject that his elderly mentor did not teach him, perhaps because even he himself never ever learned it, despite so many brown-nosers who ended up urinating on his boots and even barking behind his back.

The fact is that now, faced with the next Americas Summit, the Caracas government is taking up the flag of the members of the claque against the entrails of the monster (Oh, the likable monster that threatens us both!) and attacking the government of the newly minted Barack Obama, this time to complain that the northern president has referred to those situations that Washington cannot control due to “charismatic figures, messianic leaders and to benefits from important natural resources, among them oil, as is the case in Venezuela.” The denouncing of this U.S. attempt to “isolate president Hugo Chávez” is simultaneous with the announcement in Venezuela of a radical social transformation “that excludes any negotiation or compromise with the national oligarchy,” as well as with Chavez’s orders to take the ports of Cabello and Maracaibo, the latter the most important one in the country, which ports “should be controlled by the people and not by mafias.”

Besides the traditional bravado, slogans and songs, it seems that Chavez-the-Red’s political strategy-–as the olive green strategy has been to Havana for decades–will be to analyze each mouthful from each U.S. president, in order to discover the direct or veiled insults towards his illustrious person, and to use those as a basis for the defense of Bolivar’s homeland.  Campaigns to discredit Obama as a way to prop up the increasingly discredited Chavez are, not only old, but an inadequate and childish recourse at this point in the game.

It is hopeful, however, that in Venezuela there still exists a civil society, private property and a good segment of the population with the spirit of citizenship who have defended their place at the polls and have managed to maintain the pressure on their vocal and emotional president.  By the way, rumors have been circulating in Havana about the alleged (or actual) refusal of the Venezuelan baseball players attending the Classic, to wear on their uniforms the name by which the Chavez constitution calls the country: Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.  In fact, I have seen players wearing uniforms that simply say: “Venezuela.”  Lucky: if they had accepted the very long official name of their country, they surely would have had to attend the sporting tournament wearing cassocks.

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