Archive for January, 2012

Photograph by Orlando Luis, taken from his blog, Lunes de Postrevolución (Post Revolution Mondays)

On the night of Tuesday January 17th, 2012, an uninhabitable but lived-in building at the corner of Infanta and Salud streets in Centro Habana collapsed, taking with it the lives of four teenagers.

If the disaster had occurred on a side street, away from the capital’s busiest traffic, it is possible that only those of us who reside in this municipality would have found out.  After all, these incidents have become commonplace in the city. But it took place there, loud and undisguised, in the middle of Calzada Infanta, one of the busiest roads in the capital. For this reason, and because, thanks to Cuban twitterers, the event was public knowledge for the entire world to know, the Cuban press covered the news. They did so neither to mourn the death of the teens, nor to explain the reasons justifying that there are entire families occupying buildings on the verge of collapse in the entire realm of this battered city. No. The revolutionary press took advantage of the tragedy to highlight the importance of the involvement of the Fire Department, the National Revolutionary Police, the Emergency Medical Services and the authorities of Centro Habana and Plaza de la Revolución province and municipalities. They were, judging by the media, the true central characters. Human tragedy was dwarfed and paled in comparison to the greatness of the revolutionary institutions.

Summary of Granma’s article of Thursday, January 19th, 2012, p. 2: “Intense and coordinated action” of “the forces of Fire and Emergency Medical Services in the rescue of victims and in the effort to save the lives of those who were trapped”, as if those were not exactly the expected roles of such organizations, or as if building collapses were an act of God, or just an architectural whim; something by chance, unexpected, unpredictable or capricious.

The most painful thing, besides the always tragic deaths of young people, is the indifference of the onlookers crowded around the rubble. Most people’s faces, beyond the superficial impact and compassion for victims and survivors, only amounted to reflect their relief: “thank God it did not happen to me”, as if this were not everyone’s tragedy. Selfishness is one of the most genuine products of this system.

At this stage of the game, we can attribute to the revolution the peculiarity of having contributed to this nation what can be summed up as just three of the main causes of death of Cubans in these last few decades, not to delve into other causes: the thousands of deaths from drowning or shark attacks in the Straits of Florida, the deaths reaped in foreign war campaigns waged in other countries, and Cubans (also in great numbers) buried by the rubble that once were their homes.

Let no one be surprised. The case of Infanta and Salud is not, even from afar, just the collapse of another building.

Translated by Norma Whiting

January 20 2012


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Last January 10th on the Havana Times website (www.havanatimes.org) was published an interview that journalist Yusimí Rodriguez conducted at my house a few days before. I wish to acknowledge my thanks publicly to Yusimí, who not only honored me with her attention, but gave me the opportunity to appear in alternative spaces, beyond the usual platforms Desde Cuba and Voces Cubanas, the cyber-homes I dwell in with other independent bloggers the past four and three years respectively.

I would also like to attest to the veracity of everything Yusimí published in said interview. Although, for reasons of space and requirements of the website she works for, it was necessary to edit and maul the extensive recording – which she gave me a copy of, a welcome show of ethics which I admire — I must say that the interviewer adhered to the spirit of my words and nothing that was published was either untrue or a misrepresentation to any degree. It is true that, as some friends who know me have noticed, certain issues seem incomplete, hence the odd commentator at Havana Times — perhaps not very well-intentioned — accusing me of “being superficial” in my analysis, but we know that it is impossible to summarize in a short space everything concerning the complex issues of the Cuban reality, which were answered more fully in the original interview. Yusimí herself had anticipated that the final version would be a brief excerpt of what was recorded. However, the essential ideas of the answers to her questions are reflected honestly in the Havana Times published version.

I can only hope that we continue to draw closer in the future, like in this instance, citizen forums of Cuban civil society, against the grain of anyone’s ideas, tendencies or political sympathies. Who knows if other faces will begin to appear in the Razones Ciudadanas and greater diversity of authors in the digital magazines Convivencia and Voices, for example! In fact, in this sense, there are already new faces in the latter. May there be further consolidation of those contacts from the Estado de SATS meetings, and that this spirit might spread and become generalized throughout the Island to banish, once and for all, the hatred fueled by the authorities to keep alive the isolation and suspicion.

Yusimí has proven to be a brave person, and, better yet, she has decided to make her own inquiries among the “demons” of the opposition. I am pleased that in her interview, in addition to focusing on what a controversial and dissenting blogger  I am, she has revealed my human side. I’m sure that, thanks to her work and the work others, ordinary Cubans will continue traveling the bridges of communication, sharing venues and weaving common interests. To my readers who have not read the interview, I invite you to enter and participate in the dialogue.

Final Note: While writing this post, on the afternoon of Sunday January 15th, 2012, I found out, through a message from my friend Dagoberto Valdés that the Ladies in White in the Pinar del Río province were subject to violence from the “repudiating” hordes, and even a two year old child was hurt, the victim of this criminal event. It is time we raise all our voices to condemn such practices and to end the government’s impunity and its repressive forces. We want no more fascism in Cuba. No to violence, to discrimination, and to exclusions of any kind.

A hug,

January 16 2012

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"ALL THIS WILL BE YOURS!" -- Picture from La Nueva Cuba on the Internet

A recurring theme among the last days of 2011 and early 2012 by Cubans and foreign individuals interested in the Cuban reality has been about the outlook for the year just begun, given the chronic nature of the national economic crisis, the ongoing measures (reforms) of the General-President, with his Galapagos kind of pace, the announced increase in the worldwide recession and the political events that will have an important influence on the situation in the medium term, namely, the presidential elections that will take place in the United States and, fundamentally, those in Venezuela.

The warning signs that constitute the tip of an iceberg floating adrift erratically became more pronounced in Cuba in 2011: the removal of some subsidies, the end of the monthly lifetime allowance in hard currency (50 CUC) to staff having completed health “missions” in other Third World countries, the shut-down of several work centers and other silent layoffs, the reduction in ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of Our Americas) student programs, especially at the Latin American Medical School, increases in food prices and other staples, worsening economic living conditions in the poorest sectors of society (the majority), in contrast against increases in the standard of living of a small sector of the new middle class, among others. This, coupled with the general apathy and the growing feeling of helplessness on the part of groups that will not benefit from Raulista measures, is a picture that points to the further deterioration of social situations and the potential increases in crime, among other adverse factors.

One of the strongest contradictions is the slow pace of government reforms, which, so far, has been unable to stop the deterioration of the system, compared to the rapid social impoverishment that is directly reflected in the disappointment, uncertainty, and lack of confidence in the future, especially a future dependent on the power group that controls both the macro economy and national politics.  There don’t seem to be many flattering indicators, or reasons for hope. If the welfare of Cuban families hinges on setting up a kiosk or an eatery, on remittances received from relatives abroad –those who have that luxury- or on expectations that hang on the generosity of the government, we might as well start turning out the lights and closing the doors: that is not a future.

On the other hand, none of the new economic “rights” has been matched by social and political rights, as is logical under totalitarian regimes. Cubans have been so thoroughly disenfranchised and have been subjected to such “paternalistic” controls that even we in the opposition factions and independent civil society have sometimes unconsciously wished that freedom of expression, of association and of the press be “allowed”, as if they weren’t natural rights inherent to the human condition. What can we expect from others who have let discouragement win!

Nevertheless, 2011 was also witness to a surge in alternative and civic groups and to obvious links between the two. A spontaneous process of modest but visible growth has been taking place within the independent civil society, which could be consolidating gradually. Undoubtedly, though it is a small sector, corresponding to the conditions of the dictatorship, this is the reflection of the will of Cubans with emancipated mentalities, determined not to ask permission to be free, convinced that it is vital to transform reality within ourselves. A few years ago this was unthinkable. Similarly, along with the growth of civic spaces, we can expect strong resistance from the authorities, and an eventual increase in repression.

The fate of one and all in this 2012 will be marked, among other situational factors, by the interests that have already been outlined more clearly, which, in very general terms, are: the olive green elite and all of its caste, by virtue of recycling itself in order to maintain power; the great entrepreneurs, members of that same caste or associated with it, for maintaining an economic monopoly and increasing their private capitals; new small businessmen and owners, for increasing their profits, making use of the meager reforms, and perhaps for fighting for other reforms; the ever-unfortunates, for surviving another year of shortages; we, the disobedient dreamers, for increasing activism in order to promote awareness of democratic changes and for seeking new ways to foster them.

Some readers may think I’m pessimistic, but that is not the case. My greatest optimism consists precisely in viewing reality face-to-face and continuing to wish for changes. Today, the despair of tens of thousands of Cubans is one of the main allies of the regime. However, we must not give up. We might find the opportunity and perform a miracle in the midst of all this dark, murky and imprecise present. Nobody knows how much time we have left, but it is not the time to throw in the towel. Those of us who are alive and want to achieve will not allow fatigue and defeat to win the game.

Translated by Norma Whiting

January 9 2012

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