Archive for July, 2012

The Empty Table

Photograph taken from Cubadebate.cu

Again, Cuba’s general-president has offered his gastronomic policy to the American president. “The table is set …” said a Raúl Castro who appeared erratic and inconsistent at the podium this 26th of July, as if a touch of rum had been added to his morning coffee. He laughed at his own bad jokes like some street corner drunk, alternating with pathetic bravado. The public appearances of the Cuban leaders are a real embarrassment to the nation. Unfortunately for him, despite his antics the government to the north doesn’t seem interested in the love feast, perhaps because it’s unworthy of democratic governments to negotiate with dictators.

Most contradictory is that in the same address just minutes before, Castro II had accused the “empire” of trying to subvert order in Cuba and of hoping that the same thing would happen here as in Libya or Syria, using for this the internal dissent (mercenary, annexationist, submissive). It is at least paradoxical that a government resists dialog with its own opposition and with all representatives of alternative civil society and, instead, tries to sit down at the negotiating table with a foreign government and, what’s more, with one distinguished with the official epithet of “enemy.” The general insists on declaring that Cuba is sovereign but calls into question such sovereignty by wanting to resolve the internal conflicts of a nation with the power that supposedly provokes them. The apotheosis of absurdity.

On the other hand, it is the Cuban authorities and not the dissidents who are leading the violence within Cuba, which reinforces the thesis that official fear becomes hatred and repression. For many years opposition sectors have tried to establish a path for dialog with the government, without success. The world is a witness to the fact that the Cuban dissidence, contrary to that of other countries, uses peaceful methods to promote its demands and is not armed, so it does not constitute a danger to national security.

The government, however, is a powder keg that threatens internal peace and it is increasing the pressure on a conflict with unpredictable consequences. Far from recognizing the legitimate right of citizens to dissent and propose alternatives, given the acute structural crisis of the system, the military caste has chosen to increase the persecution and harassment against all demonstrations of civic dissent. Furthermore, it appears to have a strategy directed at assassinating selected leaders of the opposition and of independent civil society.

In October 2011 it was Laura Pollán, this time they got rid of Oswaldo Payá, an opponent who fought for democratic changes in Cuba for more than 20 years and who put the government in a straitjacket with his Varela Project, forcing them to unmask themselves with the farce of a plebiscite on “eternal socialism.” Events show that they didn’t forgive him.

It must be made clear that the Island’s authorities are directly responsible for the turn of events in Cuba. A nation is not governed based on terror and force, nor on negotiating with foreign powers. The government, incapable of overcoming the internal crisis and recognizing citizens’ rights, increasingly loses any semblance of legitimacy before Cubans.

A peaceful solution to Cuba’s problem is becoming ever more elusive, thanks the stubbornness of an olive-green gerontocracy; but in any case, it is not ethical to dialog with assassins. Perhaps when some come to understand that a negotiated solution is preferable, they will find themselves at an empty table.

Note: I could not find a picture on official government websites of R. Castro standing on the podium on July 26, 2012.

July 30 2012

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Tribute to Payá

Yesterday afternoon a piece of hope for Cuba died. Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas was the fatal victim of an auto accident in circumstances still not clarified. Cuba is dying while continuing to lose its best children, emptying the vital fountains due to unrestrained emigration, galloping corruption, the larceny of such a prolonged dictatorship that has sucked the sap out of four generations, and loses like this one: the death of a Cuban of great worth that fills us with grief.

I did not share all of Payá’s points of view, I was even critical at times of some of his proposals. I would be again; but I always respected the man who created them, his will, his spirit and his dedication. I admired above all his courage and his faith in a better Cuba, the dream to which he dedicated so much energy and so many sacrificed over many years, longer than some deserve who now shrug their shoulders and look away.

Not all the leaders of the opposition have had the merit of confronting absolute power without flinching, without abandoning the fight, without giving in. So today is particularly tragic. In a few hours a Havana perish will hold a wake for the body of a man whose principal weapon was his faith in God and love for Cuba, I bow my head before his death.

I see people walking the streets without even known that an essential Cuban has died; surely the administrators of the terror, cowardly and selfish, will be celebrating a feast in their barracks. But to feel resentment at this time would profane the memory of this fighter for peace. It is consoling to know that Payá had already transcended in life; so death will not be enough to silence him.

I would have wanted us to be able to count on him in the democratic future that we will have some day, no longer so far off, because we need leaders of his stature in a nation that is left bereft of values. Hopefully there are many like him, hopefully they won’t have died. Here is a farewell and a small tribute that I would have preferred never to offer. So that death does not triumph, we offer thanks to Oswaldo Payá for his life, and may God welcome him at his right hand, as befits the righteous men.

July 23 2012

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Reply to SPD Bulletin

A couple of weeks ago a friend told me he was surprised to find “my collaboration” in the digital newsletter Socialismo Participativo y Democrático (SPD) (Participatory and Democratic Socialism). Since he likes to play tricks, I thought it was another one of his pranks, but he swore over and over that he was telling the truth. In addition, he said that there was even a note specifying that I had authorized its publication. Since this was a strange lie, I decided to investigate the matter when I had sufficient internet connection time for it, which became possible a week ago.

Indeed, my friend was right: in this SPD newsletter number 100, dated June 1st, 2012, an article “And Yet, What Would Be” appears, claiming I was its author, that I wrote it for Diario de Cuba in May, the site where it had been published. Shortly after that, I reproduced the article in my blog (Sin EVAsión), where apparently it was taken from by the publishers of the SPD Bulletin, who did not bother to cite the source, though I was careful to specify in my blog that the work had been published originally in Diario de Cuba, where I often collaborate.

Now I must pause. I am not opposed at all to any site that deems it appropriate to quote from any article published in the web or other media, and this includes the SPD Bulletin, but it would make elementary ethical sense to cite the original source where it’s been taken from. In fact, I feel honored when someone cites my work. However, since this time it’s about a website whose ideology I don’t agree with, and since I’m not ready to keep silent in the presence of lies concerning me, I feel it’s my duty to clarify this issue. I’ve never been a contributor to the SPD Bulletin, its directors never asked me to publish my work, and I am not moved by the Bolshevik militancy of the site, where one often finds criticism of private ownership, capital and prosperity, elements which, on the other hand, I advocate.

I consider the final note particularly disrespectful. It states “This article appears in the SPD, with the consent of the author”. Both the comma and the untrue note are unnecessary: No one asked my authorization, nor did I consent, directly or indirectly. Therefore, the managers of the SPD Bulletin are lying, unless there is a strange misunderstanding among them, since this writer was not consulted about this matter. Even worse, as a consequence of this “oversight”, in occasional informal conversations the fallacy is being circulated that “Miriam Celaya is collaborating with the SPD web”. I sternly deny it. Is it a socialist trait to arbitrarily make use of that which does not belong to them? In any case, at this point, lying should not be an option for a group composed primarily of highly experienced former government officials, with old curricula and a long history. It is not prudent, and it does not serve their cause.

Lastly, if I feel compelled to challenge the statement in the SPD Bulletin, it’s not because of hostility, but because of a strict observance of the truth. I refuse to lie and to encourage, through my silence, the lies of others; on the other hand, would be disloyal to the administrators of another very serious and responsible site, Diario de Cuba, who honor me by the publication of original articles I send them from time to time, or when they are courteous enough to cite the source when they reproduce some part of my blog. I suppose the subtle difference between the two must be apparent. Finally, I would be grateful to the militants of the SPD Bulletin if they would retract the final note that smeared with a lie not only my humble article –which, to tell the truth, is not a journalistic gem- but their own bulletin. By the way, they might clarify that it was originally published in Diario de Cuba.  If this request seems wrong to them, there is always the option of retracting the old web article, which, when all is said and done, adds nothing to the socialism which its theoretical publishers (and not this disloyal and irreverent blogger) are trying to recycle. And everyone in peace.

July 16 2012

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Photo taken from Cubadebate

A few days from the announced celebration of that mournful date, July 26th, in the province of Guantánamo, rumors continue to be increasingly stronger that there are several cases of cholera in eastern Cuba, plus it is even being said that there have been several deaths due to the disease. Since the situation was reported in the independent press, the official press is maintaining its usual silence on matters that may damage the image of the system and affect foreign tourism on the Island. The presence of the disease in Cuban territory is not officially confirmed or denied, nor is its impact and potential expansion, except for a brief report in the media on Tuesday. The lack of information and misinformation, though they might seem the same, are not, and are also a kind of permanent epidemic among us.

Earlier today, just in case, I turned on my TV to listen to the morning news, but reports from eastern Cuba were only about street activities to entertain children during vacation, that is, the news they were showing were of kids in parks before the cameras, doing the same thing that they do every day in neighborhoods without any group organizing them: riding home-made scooters, running and playing. There was also news about the awards received by the “paintings” by the Communist Party leadership and other government officials in the region, now graduates and employers, and that a company received special recognition for having met the economic indicators: more diplomas, kisses and smiles. Nothing about cholera.

Meanwhile, some who became aware of the rumor continue to worry, and there are signs that evidence that something is fishy. A neighbor told me that bus transportation to the eastern region had been curtailed, and she was told that her ticket to travel to Santiago de Cuba in late July would be canceled, though they did not give explanations about the causes of such termination. A doctor friend, who knows my aversion to boiled water, called me to warn me emphatically that I should not drink water directly from the faucet “for anything in the world”, as I usually do, while, on television, commercial spots are being aired warning of the need to wash hands frequently, “rub your palms thoroughly with soap and water, rub between your fingers and under nails …” as if your lives depended on it. Do you think our lives really depend on washing our hands?

And, as often happens among us, the rumor is growing in exponential proportion to the lack of official information about the case, and some say that there are cholera cases in Havana, in tandem with our ever-popular and endemic dengue fever, which is alarming in a particularly dirty city, with thousands of leaks in its outdated water and sewage systems, its plethora of landfills and slums, where over two million people live, amid the wettest summer on record in the last decade.

It would not be surprising, however, that this new exaggeration, greatly publicized by one or another “enemy of the Cuban people” at the service of foreign interests, might be confirmed in the course of the next few weeks if things get out of control. After all, there are thousands of Cuban doctors who have traveled to Haiti to assist the campaign against the cholera epidemic in that country, who have returned to Cuba, reinstating themselves in family and social life without even going through the isolation of quarantine. Under such circumstances, one could say that cholera took its time in making its presence known in Cuba. For now, many of us have begun to take extreme hygienic measures, while some others shrug their shoulders carelessly and in disbelief: what’s not announced, won’t really happen, at least, not unless we are the ones to die in the process.

At the time of this post, I found out that at least 6 deaths have been attributed to the dengue fever in Havana, and there are several cholera cases.

Photo taken from Cubadebate

July 9 2012

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Castillo de Jagua State Restaurant, though centrally located on 23rd and G Streets in the capital, remains empty.

I heard on good authority that the government is “studying” how to allow state-owned restaurants and other eating establishments to become mini-cooperatives in the hands of their own workers, to make them productive and rotate the food, which — due to poor quality of the ingredients, the deplorable condition of the premises or a combination of these and other factors — accumulates in the warehouses of these entities. Operations for the inspection process in the gastronomic industry have been unleashed in the capital, specifically in premises belonging to the Provincial Enterprise of Luxury Restaurants — a mouthful to describe the unfortunate culinary slums that were formerly Havana’s pride(!) — and they have revealed that the value of stored ingredients, products not being rotated for lack of customers, is several million dollars, not counting the numerous violations and detected corruption cases that are inherent to the system. This is how the system of renting those venues to restaurant co-ops by the year 2013 is being analyzed by (competent?) authorities.

It is a well-known secret that, while state restaurants and cafes remain completely lacking in customers, many of the so-called “paladares“, [eating places] in private hands are the choice of Cubans and foreigners. Some of the paladares usually have long lines from the time they open until closing which demonstrates the better quality, working conditions, service, etc., of private versus state performance.

The implementation of co-operatives is still good news. In any case, for a long time, the offering of services in general should have enjoyed autonomy. In fact, this turning of pages to what is officially and euphemistically being termed “other forms of employment” is the tacit acknowledgment of the failure of nationalization and the need to privatize as the only way to turn profitable these and other places of the domestic economy. The bad news is that, most likely, the process will be fraught with obstacles and excessive controls that will slow down the results, and that state restaurant employees should be patient; such an old government moves with difficulty and is slow to learn.

So the addition of these state establishments in the autonomous culinary chain adds a new component to the already established competition among the private ones, and a potential increment in the demand for foodstuffs that the government will not be able to satisfy. It is expected that the new measure (reform?) is accompanied by greater economic freedom for food producers, i.e. the private-sector farmer, given the proverbial incompetence of the state agricultural production. In the end, the government will be forced to give up obstacles to producers and to establish a more flexible marketing system for foodstuffs. Competition, a natural result of the market, will expose the incompetence of the socialist system that currently the Reformist General insists on “renewing”, which is to say that apparently the only way to “upgrade” socialism is to return to the production and market ways of capitalism… or what the voice of the people is saying: “all that swimming and swimming to end up dying on shore!”

July 2 2012

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