Archive for December, 2009

An unattainable ALBA* (dawn)

In an effort to keep track of the macroeconomic and social plans of the Cuban government, I’ve been perusing the Final Declaration of the Eighth Summit of ALBA (Granma, Tuesday, December 15th, 2009). I reread it, fearing that amid all the fanfare surrounding “ALBA’s unquestionable progress” (?!!!), my tired eyes had missed what was most important: those agreements which, derived from the deep analyses of such illustrious statesmen, will result in getting our nations out of their economic problems, in particular Cuba, mired in a deep and irreversible crisis that, in conjunction with the still so-called “Cuban revolution”, trapped us almost 51 years ago. Then I discovered it: there it was, discreetly placed at number 14, an agreement which contains a world of speculation: “To provide the utmost support to boost the technical work in the action plan and regulations that would allow to soon implement the System of Compensation Unit, SUCRE.

Of course, the statement per se says nothing. We cannot understand wording without knowing to what “technical work” it refers, nor what the “action plan and regulations” might be, that is, they are informing us about how misinformed we are about what it suggests -neither more nor less- the implementation of a new regional currency. No wonder people on the street are speculating that soon there will be a change in the currency, and that only one currency will begin to circulate in place of the regular peso and the CUC. The prevailing feeling is uncertainty: every change in recent decades has been for the worse. On the other hand, nobody is quite clear how it will be possible to unify the currency at the most critical moment of the Cuban economy, when there is no longer any production and, in fact, there isn’t the least vestige of a superstructure left to tear down. This is a country in ruins.

So, if we are dealing with a change in currency, and taking into account the wretched condition of the member countries of the flaming Bolivarian Alliance, Chavez’s petrodollars would be the only letter of relative guarantee to back the new currency. The much-proclaimed SUCRE, an opponent of the U.S. dollar in the region would, therefore, be the “surrogate” currency. And then, in my infinite ignorance of economics, I ask myself wherein lies the benefit with regard to the much sought after “independence” of Cuba? What advantage could be accomplished by ceasing to depend on the U.S. dollar to be at the mercy of Venezuelan SUCRE? (because it undeniably belongs to that country) After 51 years, could it be considered an advance in economic sovereignty with respect to the foremost world power to switch to plainly depend on a third world country? I have the sneaky suspicion that I am missing something in this whole affair, and that “something” definitely smells fishy.

Finally, if in 10 years of Castro-Chavez compromises the Cuban peoples have not yet perceived the advertised benefits of the numerous agreements signed, we have instead seen our health services impaired and the quality of all levels of education fail, just to cite the two items most rubbed in our faces by the regime. How many more decades of suffering are waiting to be endured so we can attend the much-heralded dawn? I say this because I have already spent 50 years listening to the same promises of a future that has turned out more slippery than an eel, but it just so happen that I -as opposed to “Constitution Socialism” am not eternal.

*ALBA, meaning dawn, is an acronym for Bolivarian (Venezuelan) Alliance of the Peoples of America

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The wall of shame

Afraid, very afraid is what a misgovernment must be that tries to silence by force of repression the civic actions of the misgoverned. Not one decent Cuban can justify the plundering of which Karina and her family were victims, when, on the 15th day of this restless December the backyard of her home, in the city of Pinar del Río, was taken over and expropriated and -to glorify the official plot- the authorities erected a brick wall on the site. A day and night were all that took to build the wall of affront to civility: the punishment of hatred toward the digital magazine Convivencia and its brave team of organizers who bring it to fruition, alongside the tireless Dagoberto Valdés. This is the price for exercising freedom in the Island-Prison. Karina’s yard was too much for the ever-censoring authorities: it was hive, school, friendly shelter, civic workshop, and leavening.

The wall is just an expression of the powerlessness entrenched in the dark headquarters, a day and night of intense struggle, a squandering of resources, effort, and of blind arrogance in trying to contain the uncontainable, perhaps because the regime and its servers cannot understand that the real intentions are not destroyed by any number of walls that are built around them. In spite of it all, Convivencia will continue to be published.

If I were more compassionate, I might even feel sorry for the olive green caste and its dog pack, so weak in their hieratic force that they cannot stand the existence of Cuban independent thinking. Is it possible that they think that a wall will protect them from the future? Will they be able to stop, or hide with a mere wall, the example of public shame that has begun to emerge spontaneously and hopeful when everything seemed darker? They might as well save materials and energy; there might come the day when they feel it necessary to erect a very long wall around the whole Island… or better yet, with an economy in total bankruptcy, perhaps they should build their walls only around their winter palaces.

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Mr. Ivan Garcia, creator of the excellent blog Desde La Habana, recently published in the newspaper El Mundo an article entitled “The ‘other’ Yoanis” where he tries to reflect a review of four women of the alternative Cuban blogosphere, including me. Aside from liking the author, I feel I have the right to publicly correct some erroneous information that, without any malice, he states in the subtitle, “Voices of Change”, referring to my humble person.

To avoid a distorted picture, I want to lay down some assumptions: I have a good rapport with the referenced colleague, and deeply respect his work. I appreciate the courtesy of mentioning my writing as a blogger and the high esteem that he has for my blog, which he considers “one of the most lucid and mature of the Island’s blogosphere” which is, in my opinion, an exaggeration. However, after trying to unsuccessfully reach him in order to amend the errors published in his work, and aware that spreading false information could damage the credibility of this blogger, I decided to rectify those errors from my blog, confident that the colleague will understand my reasons for doing so.

I majored in art history, as Ivan notes, but I have never been a “high level” anthropologist, nor do I know what he meant by the term. I trained as a researcher in anthropology and archeology at an institute of the Academy of Sciences, but I do not have any anthropologist degree, since it is a specialty that has no graduate studies in Cuba. Ergo, I am, at best, an empirical anthropologist, (mostly self-taught) and not “high level”. Nor have I ever seen a 90-square meter computer, and, of course, never learned to operate such a device.

The referenced article states that in early 2002 I began to write “news and opinion articles for Encuentro en la Red”, an internet site. Actually, my first publication on the site was an article titled “Solidarity”, released in September, 2005, which -incidentally- was also the first collaboration I sent in. My work at the magazine Consensus, where I was not only “collaborator”, but also co-founder and editorial board member until its transformation into the magazine Contodos and its subsequent disappearance, had begun a year earlier, in December 2004 and not later, as indicated by my colleague. While at Consenso and Contodos, I published works under various pseudonyms: T. Avellaneda (in tribute to the poet from Camagüey, whom I admire so much), Lucia Morera, and Arcadia Agara (the name of my paternal grandmother, whom I never met, but whose memory I love and respect). I also published some other works there under my own name after I left my employment ties with the State.

Finally, Ivan Garcia reports that a year ago I decided to open a blog (Without Evasion) under my own name. This is inaccurate. Without Evasion was born in January 2008, in other words, it is almost two years old, and when I started it, I used the pseudonym I had created for Encuentro en la Red, Eva González. I revealed my identity in the blog on July, 2008.

The final paragraph in the article “The ‘other’ Yoanis” says that every woman in his review are “supporters of the rule of law, democracy, a multiparty system, freedom of speech and market economy”. For my part, I endorse all those things, except the “market economy”. I have never expressed any view on this concept, with which I am not even familiar.

This might come across as trivial or as excessive jealousy for me to dedicate a post to mend someone else’s minor errors, however, I have always made clear in this blog my commitment to the truth. To accept slips of any nature about things related to me or my work would be akin to aid in spreading falsehoods. Maybe Ivan should have consulted with me before publishing, because it is not a small matter to speak about third parties without verifying the data. As far as I’m concerned, if he had ever requested some small interview, I would have been glad to agree to it, just as I did with several foreign journalists and blogger Claudia Cadelo when she interviewed me for Global Voices almost a year ago. Let’s hope that such small errors do not turn into practice.

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Civic Responsibility


I just finished carefully reading my readers’ comments to the most recent posts. I consider it a real privilege to receive so many different and intelligent criteria –at times even conflicting- that force me to go over my own opinions and sometimes to even correct my course. And among the many opinions that find echo in those who approach me with issues over which I have poured more than once in this, our virtual plaza, are those relating, directly or indirectly, to the responsibility of Cubans with respect to the current state of affairs on the Island. Civic responsibility that demands -as indicated by several readers- pride, critical sense and enough maturity to not feel attacked every time someone points at us or question us.

I fully agree with those who argue that we are also responsible for what happens in Cuba, we all are: the ones before and the ones now, those who left and those who stayed, those who did evil and those of who allowed it, the daring and the meek, those who remained silent, those who tolerated, those who betrayed, the ones looked the other way, the flatterers, the opportunists, the cowards, the mediocre, the envious, the intolerant and the condescending, those of us who clapped at times and those still cheering, even when they do not believe in the work. Dictatorships exist because there are irresponsible masses that, consciously or unconsciously, nurture and support them. They have deprived us of what we let them grab from us, whether for convenience, complicity, ingenuity, cowardice or meekness.

I already know what the most benevolent will say: that totalitarian regimes have all the power, all the resources and all the strength, that they penalize and impose themselves by terror, and that’s true too, but, how did they get all of that, and how were they able to retain it? Probably the most indulgent are going to tell me that dictators manage to prevail by manipulating the truth, deceiving the people, but how long can a bunch of crooks deceive millions of people? Hasn’t the regime itself also existed from the fruit of the labor or the silence of those who are disappointed? Who forces Cubans to participate in repudiation rallies, to march, to do volunteer work, to be members of the CDR, to participate in the so-called “elections”, to pay for a labor union that does not exist, and even to participate in invisible militias of territorial troops for a tenacious imaginary war?  

The lack of civic sense of many Cubans is not a blemish born in the last 50 years. Without doubt, it has worsened in recent decades, but the germ was already present at the very genesis of the nation. Just look back on Cuban history to repeatedly find the same circus: hedonistic people that are only inspired on immediacy, eager to find a “strong man” to deal (or to pretend to deal) with state affairs so they can continue with their lives, happy and carefree. Millions of people have lived with their backs turned to the milestones of our common destiny, and at the same time, when plots are conjured, they have either escaped or were willing to applaud childishly to the flowery speech, or they have just given in. The most infamous even imitate the poses of patriotic boasting. Passion has ruled where there should have been reason. They have proceeded with vengeance where there should have been justice, and -as if all this were not enough- the constant and immediate forgetting of the past is the greatest obstacle to understanding our present and project ourselves into the future. 

Not even one of us is exempt from liability, but many have not realized that the time has come to assume it. As for me, I want and I should think there is hope. I won’t require of others what I am not able to do, and I won’t stand at the barricades because I am not willing to go there myself. I do not believe in violence as a means because it often becomes an end in itself. Almost every day of my life, I sit at the keyboard and write my own impressions and experiences so I can share them, to meet with each other, and to think together. I feel I have found a path and this has made me freer, but also more accountable. I still have faith. I know that everyone, in his own way, can do something, the point is how many are willing to do so and submit to the fatigue of effort. Let’s not get more distracted by blaming each other, let’s think instead what we can each do and not what others should do. Only through changing ourselves will be able to drive changes for Cuba.

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Freedom is practiced


In an outward mockery of the content and meaning of Human Rights on December 10th, the government showed its true colors prodding the “repudiating” pack against those who had the civility of hold public demonstrations against the continuing violations that all Cubans are subjected to, including those ignorant people who don’t know what it is.

The confrontation against the Ladies in White was launched yesterday, when an enraged and brutal mob of about 200, emboldened by their large numbers, attacked them while the Ladies in White read a statement demanding the release of their husbands. By Thursday the 10th, the excited hordes reached the point of forming a true circle of vociferous and rabid hatred that interrupted the traffic flow of Neptune, a central street in the capital, opposite the home of Laura Pollán, a spokeswoman for the group.

In another incident, writer Juan Juan Almeida was arrested Wednesday night from 9 o’clock on, to prevent a demonstration on World Day for Human Rights, while representatives of the group Omni Zona Franca were repressed and threatened, and a press conference scheduled to take place at the Bertold Brecht Theater was cancelled. It is also said that there were riots and other disturbances in different parts of Havana that disrupted the normal rhythm of the city. Unofficially, it was learned that, days before, the authorities were “recruiting” converts among the militants of the Communist Youth from colleges and other educational and labor centers, to merge them into their fascists nuclei (Rapid Response Brigades) and to launch them against any protest occurring on this day. The government’s nervousness and the desperate and dangerous nature of the repressive actions shows that the growing discontent of a significant proportion of the population is known to the circles of power, and the sectors of the emerging civil society are quietly gaining ground in matters of activism and visibility within Cuban society. Nothing is more dangerous for a government which -contradictorily- describes as “insignificant splinter groups” the individuals and independent groups in this country. Today, some of the most praiseworthy Cubans in this island honored Human Rights Day. The government and the low-lifers that offer themselves obsequiously to the infamy of repudiating values that they are not capable of professing have demonstrated by their actions what their concepts of law and humanity are. In recent days, the preachers of the dictatorship, intending to justify any possible crackdown measures, spread the lie that alternative bloggers were calling for a demonstration for freedom this December 10th. Obviously, they don’t know us. Those poor, unhappy servants cannot understand that freedom cannot be summoned. Freedom is simply practiced.

Photograph by Orlando Luis

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The pleasure of controversy



I’ve waited several days before commenting on the debate that ensued among readers on my post titled “Don’t lecture us”; urgent matters had me prioritize other posts. However, I don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to return to that issue. I was hoping, indeed, that it would be as controversial as it turned out, but some comments have brought to the surface certain doubts I want to clarify: I have never shown or felt hatred for Zapatero, nor have I ever questioned the right of Spanish voters to elect him president, I am glad that there are countries where people have the opportunity to elect democratically (an unknown experience for millions of Cubans) and furthermore, I am glad that citizens allow themselves to criticize the elected leader’s performance. However, for my part, I reserve the slightest right to question, at least, the dealings of any public official, from whatever country he may be, especially if he proclaims intentions that he doesn’t carry out de facto. I do not recall having mentioned Zapatero, but you can be sure that if I deemed it necessary to disagree with his position in any matter related to Cuba -as was the case with Moratinos- I would, even if he had been elected by the totality of Spanish voters as a whole. I don’t think I will ask permission to voice my opinion.

As for the fact that I, as a blogger, took a reader’s comment as reference, does not seem so special nor is it a particular honor, as some seemed to think, but it is a natural consequence of the debate that has been pursued in this blog, where I don’t intend to impose ranks or castes. I write with the same willfulness with which you read and comment, and I submit to my readers’ trial, criticism or questioning with each post I upload, offering my name and face to the public, so why shouldn’t I discuss or comment on certain readers’ criteria that move me to reply?

And since I don’t wish that anyone should suggest a tone of xenophobia on my part either, I insist that my evaluation of Spanish companies -among others- as “bandits,” comes from the in-depth knowledge that I have of the conditions of employment and wages Cubans that work for them are paid. There are not bandits because they are Spanish… but they are bandits indeed. To my knowledge, ALL foreign firms that invest in Cuba or contract Cuban personnel recruited from their respective countries, harbor and apply the draconian conditions of the contracts for nationals, knowing that, by doing so, they are violating major agreements of the International Labor Organization. And here I want to insert a proactive patch, the fact that this happens not only in Cuba, and that other sub-developed countries may suffer the same wrong, does not change the essence of my complaint. However, these investors are bypassing such “trifles” because Cubans are good workers and the contractors –such as the Cuban government- have obtained large profits in these dealings… Profits that now, ironically, are partially confiscated in the gaunt vaults of Cuban banks.

Similarly, foreign firms may impose unfair working hours because they know that the Cuban under contract, unprotected by any trade union, will be compelled to accept them or be turned out onto the streets, while dozens of other Cubans stand on line awaiting to be hired instead, to get at least a small amount of foreign currency with which to gain access to essential consumer goods. It is not mere sentimentality; it’s the stark reality. So it is that the so-called foreign “companies” have been contributing also to the “anthropological damage” that the renowned Cuban intellectual, Dagoberto Valdés, director of the digital magazine Coexistence, once defined.

I have reason to know of these maneuvers, and believe me, to share in them because they allegedly constitute a source of opportunity for Cubans is almost equivalent to justifying child pornography: “what the heck, those children were starving and their own parents sold them off”. Yes, I responsibly evaluate those Spanish companies and the rest of them as “bandits”, and I stand by it.

Finally, I support and encourage the participation of people of all nationalities in this humble forum, but I will not accept that my answer or response to any commentary be deemed as a special honor or as an exception; it is not about flattery or personal attack either. I feel close enough to the readers as to consider myself one of them. I tend to read each entry carefully and, as far as my limited Internet access permits, I respond to the e-mails I receive. Many readers can attest to that. Finally, I never tried to make anyone feel uncomfortable by bringing him into the ring -my sincere apologies to the reader that saw it that way- at the end of the day, I am the one who places herself permanently under the readers’ demanding magnifying glass, and I don’t flinch. Nor can I commit myself to never to do again: I avoid making promises that, in advance, I know I could not fulfill. Come on, friends, we are not among bandits in this blog!

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