Between Indiscipline, Rudeness and Obscenities / Fernando DámasoFernando Dámaso, Translator: Unstated
To go out into the street is to be constantly tripping on social indiscipline, vulgarity and obscenity. It is not a problem of a neighborhood or an age, or even of sexes, as it happens in Old Havana, Central Havana, Cerro, Vedado or El Nuevo Vedado, both children and youth, adults and even elderly , whether one or the other sex.
The so-called bad words (some argue they do not exist, but it depends on how they are used), and when I say bad words I refer to the most vulgar and obscene imaginable are heard as part of any out loud conversation, as in a bus, in a shop, a clinic, school or just on the street, regardless of those present, be they women or children, as if in Spanish they were the only words that exist. Sometimes, poorly masked, they form part of the lyrics of some popular songs.
What's going on? Is it that the social deterioration is also bottoming out? A person who is very close to me often said: The material misery generates moral misery. I think he is right. What is the point of so many universities, institutes, schools, etc., if their graduates and students demonstrate every day, lack of civility (a little word of fashion) and extreme rudeness and vulgarity? The instruction may be good, but the education is abysmal. I must say that it not just a youth problem, but also adults who have fallen into the bad fashion. Among the many things lost, is it that we have lost the sense of shame?
To live in a civilized society we must respect social norms. Nobody has the right to violate them and, worse, to impose their violations of others. The shouting, marginality, vulgarity, disrespect, lack of discipline and many other social ills seem to be sitting squarely in the city, and given what you see (no one does anything against them), they have taken up permanent residence.
The authorities seem not to care about it: while containing no political implications, they look the other way. By this wrong path, the life of society becomes increasingly difficult, to say nothing of robberies, assaults in public and even physical assaults, which are not lacking in this vineyard of the Lord.
It seems that, for now, the only solution for the citizen is to stay home, become a hermit and go out as little as possible. But we all know that this can not be the solution. Some responsible people, for a long time, have warned of these negative phenomena, but have been ignored. So far it has been like plowing the sea, with occasional boring message on television, or a short article in a newspaper from time to time. At what moment do they foresee updating the social model to responsibly address these ills of our socialism?
December 10 2011
University Reform Without Autonomy / Dimas CastellanoDimas Castellanos, Translator: Unstated
On the 50th anniversary of the University Reform enacted in January 1962, the newspaper Granma published on Monday, January 9, 2012, an article entitled University and Society by Armando Hart Dávalos, in which he proposes that "after the triumph of the Revolution university reform was essential to realizing the final link between the university and the people and the new national socio-economic reality … "
In the article he omits the most significant: the history that led to the loss of University Autonomy as the nerve center of civil society. This simplification of the antecedents allows Hart to confer a definitive character on the reform of 1962, as if social processes have a point of closure.
Jose Ortega y Gasset, in Mission of the University and other related essays, declared: "Man inherently belongs to a generation and every generation is not installed in any place, but with great precision on the previous. This means that it is forced live up to the times and especially to the height of the ideas of the time."
Between the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Father José Agustín Caballero, Tomás Romay Chacón, Félix Varela, José de la Luz y Caballero, José Martí and Enrique José Varona, among many others, made strenuous efforts to situate education at the height of its times. It follows that education reform is an ongoing process that does not support "definitive" and that from this continuity emerged University Autonomy as unavoidable necessity of modernism.
In the Republic, Carlos de la Torre, in his inaugural speech as Rector of the University of Havana in 1921, outlined a program to reform the university and achieve University Autonomy, which for him was: "to authorize the University to manage in all its affairs in full independence, except as regards the management of its funds." The following year the Rector of the University of Buenos Aires, Joseph Maples, gave a lecture on "the evolution of Argentine universities," in which he explained the process begun with the manifesto of Cordoba, 1918, which led to a university reform whose centerpiece was the autonomy and the involvement of students in university government.
In this context a group of Cuban students published a manifesto in which they called for the formation of student association, which was founded in December 1922 under the name of Federation of University Students (FEU). Subsequently, on January 10, 1923, the fledgling federation issued the Document of the University Reform Program in Cuba, which called for "The status of the university and its autonomy in economic and educational matters." To remedy the situation, Enrique Jose Varona proposed creating a commission composed of professors and students to study the project, which upon acceptance led to the establishment of the Joint Commission, composed of the Rector, teachers and members of the FEU and recognized by Presidential Decree.
The project was analyzed by the Joint Commission, the Rector, the Board, teachers and students who went to the Presidential Palace and submitted to President Alfredo Zayas, the bases of the bill for University Autonomy. Zayas, before the force of the reform movement, legally recognized the FEU and authorized the creation of the University Assembly, composed of professors, graduates and students. The advance led reform in October 1923, at the First National Student Congress, which demanded the repeal of the Platt Amendment and agreed to establish the José Martí Popular University to open the doors of the higher educational establishment to the workers.
During the government of Gerardo Machado the University Assembly was dissolved and the FEU outlawed, but the struggle continued. Finally on September 10, 1933, after the fall of Machado, the Government of the Hundred Days, led by Ramon Grau San Martin issued Decree Law 2059 of October 1933, which enacted University Autonomy. Subsequently, the failure of the March 1935 strike, the University was taken over militarily and the government revoked the autonomy.
In 1939, under President Federico Laredo Bru, University Autonomy was restored and the Constituent Assembly was convened which adopted and drafted the Constitution of 1940, which, in Article 53, upheld the constitutionality of the Autonomous University as follows: "The University of Havana is autonomous and shall be governed in accordance with its Statutes and the Law by which they will be tempered." Thanks to this they could form the forces that faced the military coup of 1952, though Fulgencio Batista overthrew the dangerous University Autonomy with the repeal of the Constitution of 1940.
In January 1959, rather than the promise of restoring the 1940 Constitution, as we read in History Will Absolve Me, it was reformed, without consultation, to confer to the Prime Minister the powers of Head of Government and to the Council of Ministers functions of Congress, an amendment similar to what Batista had done with the statutes that replaced the constitution after the 1952 coup. It then proceeded to dismantle civil society and all its instruments, including the University Autonomy.
To accomplish this, the Supreme Council of Universities was created, made up of professors and students from three universities in the country and government representatives. This Council developed the draft University Reform presented on January 10, 1962. That same year, the Cuban Communist leader, Carlos Rafael Rodriguez, in an article published in the press, stated that the new university would be governed jointly by teachers and students, but said, "to the extent that the university revolution is the work of a real revolution and that socialism presides over the transformations, we can not think of teachers and students as two opposing groups… A professor of revolutionary consciousness, guided by Marxism-Leninism and a member of that ideology for years [he was referring to Juan Marinello], will have no need of the watchful presence of students with him in the governance of the University, because he will have the maturity to approach problems of higher education with certain criteria. "
Thus, University Autonomy, without having been lawfully repealed, in fact ceased to exist. Since then the University, one of the most important sources of social change in our history, was rendered inoperable for that purpose. One of its worst consequences is that under such control, the State raised the slogan of "The University is for the revolutionaries," which resulted in the expulsion of hundreds of students and teachers who did not share the ideology of the system.
The result could be no other. With the intention of giving finality to a changing process, the University, with the loss of autonomy, ceased to be nerve center of civil society. Therefore, the changes that are taking place in the economy have to be complemented by changes in the rights and freedoms, including University Autonomy, which is an inescapable necessity to put the University in step with the times.
(Published in Diario de Cuba on Monday, January 16, 2012: http://www.diariodecuba.com/cuba/9112-reforma-universitaria-sin-autonomía)
January 20 2012
Wilman Villar Mendoza: The Death of a Dissident / Yoani SánchezTranslator: Unstated, Yoani Sánchez
The punishment cell is narrow, is five feet wide by two long, cold and there is not even a blanket for cover. From the hole in the floor that serves as a toilet, a rat occasionally emerges and looks curiously at the curled up man lying there. Outside shouts are heard, metal banging, and the general noise of the Aguadores prison, one of the most feared in eastern Cuba. This scene, common in our prison system, was repeated in early January and was had as its protagonist a young man of 31.
He was called Wilman Villar Mendoza was arrested on November 14, 2011 while participating in an antigovernment protest in the streets of Contramaestre, his hometown. In images broadcast after his death, he is seen at the head of a group carrying the Cuban flag, while the astonished passers-by do not know whether to join the crowd or to shout down the demonstrators. Probably the memories of that place passed through his head again and again while he shivered within the damp walls of the dungeon, but that we can never confirm. Because of that place he would only emerge — already dying — to the hospital and finally to a grave in the cemetery.
Villar Mendoza, the prisoner who recently died of a hunger strike, made a living doing carpentry and masonry work. His specialty was the most slender and beautiful wooden flowers that tourists buy as souvenirs to remember this island. A stalk and six petals carved with the patience of one who knows that time is not worth much in Cuba, the minutes will not bring him anything more successful or happier. He gave form to a piece of cedar, shaping it for hours and hours, brooding with that frustration that is always greater among the youth of the province.
In September 2011 this sense of social unrest led him to join the opposition group Patriotic Union of Cuba. According to the official propaganda je was a common criminal who had even "brutally" beaten his wife in July last year. But too many witnesses, including his own wife, suggests that such insults are only trying to kill his image after the death of his body.
In Cuba, in the words of a friend, "nobody knows the past that awaits you," because criminal records of citizens are also determined by their political behavior. As there is no separation of powers, as the judicial system is not independent of the party branch, those whose ideology falls short will find it reflected in their criminal records.
Generals have been known to have shoot their mistresses, ministers caught in million dollar embezzlement schemes, children and their fathers involved in various crimes that have never been brought before a court. But when it comes to an opponent of the regime, it is enough to have bought milk on the black market, quarreled with your wife, or parked your car badly, to be taken as a culprit.
The Criminal Code does not include any section for "political offense," so that the "inconvenient" are always charged under another section. Which is what happened to Wilman Villar Mendoza, who resisted police arrest on July 7, 2011 after a domestic incident. Purely by "coincidence" he would only be prosecuted for this case four months later, when he participated in a protest against the government. On arresting him, an officer shouted in front of several witnesses: "now we'll make you disappear," and they did.
The practice of turning activists into criminals is nothing new. In February 2010, when Orlando Zapata Tamayo died after 85 days without food, Raul Castro said publicly that he was a common criminal. He had forgotten that seven years earlier in the book The Dissenters, prepared by pro-government journalists to justify the imprisonments of the Black Spring, Zapata Tamayo appeared with photo, name and surname. Playing with history and rearranging it tends to create these contradictions … since no government has ever been able to predict "what the future holds."
Fortunately, a criminal record can not explain all of the attitudes that a man comes to take in his life. To present Villar Mendoza only as a choleric husband who beat his wife does not explain why he was left to die without food. To accuse him as a common prisoner seeks to reinforce the Manichean idea as that in Cuba there are no decent people, patriotic and law-abiding, who are also opposed to the government. Hence the flood of insults that have rained on the memory of the deceased and the official interest used his civic activism as a way to "clean up" some criminal past.
A recent editorial in Granma asserts that there was no hunger strike. It does not explain, however, how someone only 31 years old deteriorated so rapidly in two months of confinement to the point of dying in a hospital from "multiple organ failure." There is also the testimony of relatives and friends who visited Villar Mendoza in jail to convince him to eat again, but could not get him to stop repeating "Freedom or death!"
To disprove the official version, there are also numerous reports of fasting that appeared in news media in exile and Twitter accounts of local activists since mid-December. The Internet shows what the Cuban press hides.
According to the statement of Maritza Pelegrino, her husband ceased to feed himself on November 24 when he was sentenced to four years imprisonment. He interrupted the strike on December 23 because his jailers made him believe that he would be in the list of prisoners pardoned by General Raul Castro. But he returned to starvation six days later in finding out that all those promises were just lies, dirty tricks.
Tied up and naked they then put him in the punishment cell where he contracted the pneumonia that would kill him. He arrived at the hospital on January 13 and doctors warned the family that only a miracle could save him. Less than a week later he was no longer breathing.
Wilman Villar was killed by the late medical intervention and neglect of those who should have watched over him in prison. A system that has cut off all peaceful, civic and electoral paths for citizens to influence national course killed him. He was turned into a cadaver by a judicial apparatus riddled with irregularities and ideological preferences, where a political opponent is held guilty of any crime with little chance to prove otherwise.
It was not just the lack of food or water that caused the sad outcome of January 19, but having to use one's body as a public square of indignation, on an island where protest is prohibited.
At his death, Wilman Villar Mendoza had two daughters, aged five and seven years. Their mother still does not know how to explain to them what happened.
Originally published in Spanish in El Pais, 31 January 2012
Apartheid in the Lyric Theater of Cuba? / Miguel Iturría SavónMiguel Iturria Savón, Translator: Unstated
On September 12, 2011, the soprano Yoslainy Perez Derrick, a member of the National Lyric Theater Choir of Cuba (TLNC) sent a letter to the State Council, with copies to the Ministry of Culture and National Arts Council, complaining of irregularities hampering her artistic development within that institution, because for 15 years she has played only secondary roles without being evaluated as a solo artist, despite her record, high professional standards and broad curriculum.
In her extensive testimony she enumerates the requests to the director of the company, the pretexts used by him, the humiliations and the constraints that favor her exclusion. "They've been closing the fence on me every day, subtly forbidding the possibility to develop myself as an artist, I'm not scheduled even in roles that previously performed… I was evaluated as a first level singer with the choir in 2003, and since that date I have not been re-evaluated."
To amend the opportunities denied to the 38-year-old black singer of it would be enough to hear some of her recordings and concerts or read her bulging curriculum, but things are not so easy with the Master Adolfo Casas Chirino, director of TLNC, who upon receiving the complaint met with the Secretary of Nucleus of the Communist Party and the Arts Council before responding to Martha Orihuela, Director of Inspection of the Ministry of Culture, who sent arguments against the applicant, dated 31 October and 2 November.
The first alleges appreciation of "the interest of the compañera in excelling since she graduated at the senior level at ISA, and her intention to progress, aspiring to roles in the various titles of the works presented in the Grand Theater of Havana." She cites the roles performed by Yoslainy Perez in La Traviata, Cecilia Valdés, Maria La O and The Magic Flute, but warns that "she has already reached the maximum level to which she can aspire as a choir singer" and that to ascend to actress singer "would require a prior audition and a vacancy that matches her type of voice," lyric soprano. After which she cites other details and describes her as "disrespectful to the approach… we have a retrograde thinking, demagogue, favoritism, insubordinate and even patronizing …"
The second letter, signed by the Director and members of the Artistic Council members, is more of the same.
Yoslainy Pérez Derrick (Havana, 1973), graduated in Music Education from the Adolfo Guzman School (1989), has a Bachelor degree, studied English and German, art direction and production, vocal technique with Ricardo Linares Fleites, director of the Lyric Theatre Chorus, and with Martha Clarke, soloist of the company and professor at the Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA), where she majored in Voice.
With the Lyric, she joined the cast of Porgy & Bess, under the general direction of Maestro Manuel Duchesne Cuzán and musician Enrique Pérez Mesa, which won success in Austria and Spain in the summer of 2000. She took on the characters Estrella in the operetta Amalia Batista, of Flora in La Traviata, of the Second Lady in The Magic Flute, and was a cast member in the operetta Cecilia Valdés.
She has been a soloist in in concert-tributes to G. Gershwin, Gonzalo Roig, Mariana Gonitch, Lyrics of the Future, la Sala San Felipe Neri, the Plaza de Armas with the National Concert Band, the Amadeo Roldan Auditorium, and the Catalan Society; as well as singing in Galas of closure and Master Classes of foreign directors such as the Austrian Hartmut Krones, George Backer, from Luxembourg, the Korean Jae-Joon Lee, and the Spanish soprano Elisa Belmonte. In 2009 she won 2nd place and the award for best performer of opera Gonitch Marian Competition.
Such a record belies the disqualification about the lack of skills and other pretexts used by the Director and the Arts Council to deny the place of the TLNC singer actress where she remains in the choir since 1996. Is the color of her skin the cause of marginalization at the elite institution?
Adolfo Casas argues that his company has no racial prejudice and that the staff includes significant actors of African descent, among them one of the leading sopranos. Yoslainy Pérez Derrick expressed otherwise and considers it "segregated" because she prefers to realize her aspirations without flattery or will not remain silent about nepotism and the abuse of power practiced by Casas.
Artists requesting anonymity say that all who claimed their rights or alleged irregularities in the "fiefdom de Zulueta 253″ (seat of TLNC), were shown the exit door with little in hand.
This "bureaucratic apartheid" enjoys the complicity of the State Council and the Ministry of Culture, agencies that sent Pérez Derrick's letter back to the slaughterhouse, without subjecting it to an impartial analysis with advice or views of experts not involved in the problem.
In the aftermath, the aspirations of the black soprano continue to be held back by the unilateral opinion of the Maestro Adolfo Casas and the Arts Council who bend their necks before its draconian codes. Undoubtedly, this mechanism will continue wasting the artistry of talented professionals.
The TLNC is losing ground to companies that exhibit greater force in their development and scene settings. The easy way is to recycle the same pieces, sets, actors, stage movements and concessions, but it only manages to bore fans of the genre and divert viewers to other companies that seek excellence.
For its human material, the Lyric Theater could multiply its proposals and present them in various locations. Its professionals need practice and freshness before the viewpoints of different managers and specialists, which provide opportunities for singers like Pérez Derrick.
For such purposes a competent director is needed, and not an overseer who cracks the whip on the slaves he develops. Despotic vices and styles turn Cuban culture into a victim of these mistakes.
December 13 2011
Cuba: paraíso tropical de rodillas
Los viajes turísticos a la isla para promover contactos "pueblo-pueblo" enmascaran la realidad del país, según profesora estadounidense.
martinoticias.com 06 de febrero de 2012
El artículo dice que la tan promocionada reforma económica en la isla es "polvo" en los ojos de los cubanos.
Como paraíso tropical que ha sido "puesto de rodillas" por un gobierno comunista opresivo, Cuba tiene por delante un largo camino antes de que ninguna reforma económica pueda devolverle su "vieja gloria", según un artículo publicado este lunes en Canada Free Press.
La profesora Ileana Johnson comenta un reciente y amplio reportaje aparecido en el diario The Washington Post sobre más de 100 licencias que desde abril pasado presuntamente ha otorgado el Departamento del Tesoro de EE.UU. a varias organizaciones para promover viajes de contacto "pueblo-pueblo" a la isla.
En su artículo titulado "Viaje al paraíso cubano", Johnson dice que los estadounidenses que viajan con uno de esos operadores, Friendly Planet, deben llenar un formulario con un calendario de las actividades de "intercambio educacional" que piensan realizar interactuando con individuos en la isla.
"Esto no me suena como una visita libre a otro país, sino como una gira de adoctrinamiento controlada por el estado", dice Johnson, quien luego precisa que la reportera del Post que viajó a Cuba, Andrea Sachs, dio el calificativo de estereotipos a algunas de las penurias con que suelen vivir los cubanos.
"La autora reconoce la multitud de automóviles de la era de Eisenhower (años 1950) en el Malecón de La Habana" y que "chillones murales, vallas con propaganda revolucionaria contra Estados Unidos, imágenes del Che Guevara están por todas partes", escribe.
Sin embargo –apunta–, "las famosas Damas de Blanco no son mencionadas", ni tampoco el movimiento de oposición pacífica en Cuba, y en su diario de viaje, la reportera del Post "no explica el deprimente estado de la economía (…) el adoctrinamiento en las escuelas (…) la falta de suministros médico básicos".
El artículo además destaca que la tan promocionada reforma económica es "polvo" en los ojos de los cubanos, que el papel higiénico escasea, y que hasta se aconseja a los turistas que cuando viajen a la isla lleven el que van a necesitar.
También pone de relieve que muchas hermosas viviendas coloniales en La Habana se han derrumbado por falta de mantenimiento, y dice que si el comunismo es tan superior al capitalismo como el gobierno de la isla asegura, por qué se alienta a los turistas a que donen plumas, libretas y otras necesidades "a escuelas y centros médicos".
Johnson afirma que "el paraíso tropical, la isla con tanto potencial, puesta de rodillas por un gobierno comunista opresivo "revolucionario", tiene un largo camino por delante antes de que cualesquiera reformas económicas decretadas por un gobierno anémico puedan devolverle su vieja gloria".
Detenciones a Damas de Blanco en varias ciudades de la Isla
En Santa Clara y Holguín la policía detuvo a varias Damas de Blanco y a otras se les impidió asistir a la misa dominical.
martinoticias.com 06 de febrero de 2012
Las Damas de Blanco es un grupo que tiene representación en muchas regiones de Cuba.
En Santa Clara, las Damas de Blanco, Digna Ebañez Rodríguez, Magda Monteagudo Barrios, Aimee Moya Montes de Oca y Lisset Zamora Carrandi pudieron asistir a misa en la iglesia la Divina Pastora, ayer domingo, pero otras de sus compañeras, no tuvieron la misma suerte.
Según relató Zamora Carrandi a Radio Martí, algunas Damas de Blanco no pudieron ir a la Iglesia porque fueron arrestadas o impedidas de salid de sus casas.
Por otra parte, en la ciudad de Holguín al menos seis mujeres del movimiento Damas de Blanco resultaron detenidas este domingo en la ciudad de Holguín. Eric Sander, hijo de Caridad Caballero, una de las arrestadas, informó a Radio Martí ….
El activista de la UNPACU, Marcos Antonio Lima Damau, reportó la detención de su esposa Adisnidia Cruz.
Detenido Guillermo Fariñas
Un agente de la Seguridad del Estado le comunicó a su esposa que posiblemente estaría detenido 72 horas
martinoticias.com 05 de febrero de 2012
El psicólogo Guillermo Fariñas Hernández, Premio Sajarov 2010, fue arrestado, nuevamente, en la tarde del sábado en Santa Clara.
Fariñas, quien permanece en una celda de la Unidad de Policía de Orden Interior de esa ciudad, está reclamando se acepte una demanda que él presentó contra un custodio (CVP) del hospital Arnaldo Milián, que en noviembre de 2011, lo golpeó y amenazó de muerte.
Alicia Hernández, madre de Fariñas, declaró a la periodista de Radio Martí Yolanda Huerga que un agente de la policía política le dijo a su esposa que "posiblemente estuviera 72 horas detenido"
Posted on Sunday, 02.05.12ROOTS OF HOPE
Roots of Hope inspires a new generation to help Cubans find freedomBY CARMEN PELAEZwww.carmenpelaez.com
As I was lining up in the corrals before our run in the ING Miami Half Marathon for a fundraiser for Roots of Hope, a U.S. college network of students and their supporters who are helping find ways to connect with young Cubans on the communist-controlled island, I felt kind of helpless.
Ironic considering how empowering the many months of planning, training and fundraising felt. As a group, we chose to dedicate our inaugural Run for Roots race to Ladies in White founder Laura Pollán, who died in October in a Cuban hospital. But standing in front of the Freedom Tower, looking down at my bib number and the words "para LAURA" (for Laura) made me wonder if anything that I had done, or could ever do, for a civil society in Cuba would matter. As the fireworks went off signaling the start of the race, I decided to use the run as a meditation on Cuban dissidence.
I thought of Wilmar Villar, the 31-year-old political prisoner who died Jan. 19 in prison while on a hunger strike. I imagined how confused his two little girls, who will never know their father, must be. I wondered how they'd feel for the rest of their lives when people said to them that their father was a hero. Would they believe their family's sacrifice was worth the reward?
I thought of José Martí and how he spent more time in exile than in Cuba, fundraising in young American capitals and writing a few lines that would inspire a people for centuries to come. Our Bronze Titan, Antonio Maceo, flashed before my eyes as a figure of unwavering courage, the same kind of courage that Havana blogger Yoani Sánchez exhibits when she takes to her laptop to liberate all of us one tap of a computer key at a time. Though divided by centuries, they were united by purpose in even the most abysmal circumstances.
Looking at the thousands of runners ahead of me, it struck me that every Cuban I know strives for a better Cuba in their own way. Individually it can be inspiring, but collectively, it's made our best intentions the collateral damage of our heartfelt hopes. And why?
If we're all on the same side, why must the quest for a Cuban civil society be so divisive? More often than not, the talking heads like to pin Roots of Hope as counterpoint to the other Cuban exile groups because of our youthful membership and modern-day approach to Cuban relations. But in reality, we're just filling a gap, coming at the struggle with fresh eyes and a new set of possibilities.
We don't oppose our elders, we're the natural evolution of their work.
Thinking about that continuum, I wondered if we could move beyond our differences and focus on the net gain of our efforts. There's clearly not one right way to take on a dictatorship, no one person can do it alone, so why shouldn't we swarm in, like a pack of ants, each one of us working in our own way to eliminate the false construct of "us" vs. "them," transforming us once again into a "we."
As I crossed the finish line, exhausted, dehydrated and in pain, I wondered if Laura could have ever imagined that on any given Sunday, we'd be running for her. Could this 63-year-old literature teacher have guessed that she would have made such an impact on a young group of Cuban Americans so profoundly that we would choose to train for weeks, ask our friends and family for money and tell all that would listen about this small woman who liberated an oppressed people?
And no, Cuba has not been completely liberated yet — but at the end of this horrible chapter of our story, Laura she will be recognized as the lioness who showed unimaginable courage in the face of grotesque oppression. Her efforts paved the way for our forward motion. She mattered, and by mattering she showed us all we do, too.
Carmen Pelaez, who grew up in Miami, is a playwright who lives in New York.
Mexico rescues 6 Cubans from drifting boatPublished February 06, 2012Associated Press
MEXICO CITY — The Mexican Navy says it has rescued six Cubans from a makeshift boat adrift off the Caribbean island of Isla Mujeres.
The Navy says a recreational boat reported the drifting craft. Photos provided by the Navy showed what appeared to be a sort of mast and sail, with inner tubes strapped to the sides.
The Navy said Monday the six were rescued Sunday and were slightly dehydrated. The men said they left Cuba Jan. 25, aiming to reach Honduras.
They were turned over to immigration officials.
Mexico signed a pact with Cuba in 2008 promising to deport illegal Cuban migrants. Before, Mexican generally only briefly detained Cuban migrants and gave them a 10- to 30-day exit order, giving them time to make their way to the United States.
Texas agricultural exports to Cuba continue growthFebruary 6, 2012 By: Blair Fannin
COLLEGE STATION – Though tightly controlled, there are opportunities for Texas agricultural producers and businesses to capitalize on potential exports of food products to Cuba, according to a Texas AgriLife Extension Service economist.
Dr. Parr Rosson, AgriLife Extension economist and director of the Center for North American Studies at Texas A&M University in College Station, said the Cuban economy has held its own amid world economic turbulence.
Dr. Parr Rosson, Texas AgriLife Extension Service economist.
Thanks to the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000, U.S. businesses may export food, agricultural and forestry products and medicines to Cuba.
Texas supplies Cuba with several export items, including chicken leg quarters, corn and wheat. U.S. corn exports to Cuba saw more than a 200 percent increase in value in 2011 to $109 million during the January-November period as Cuba uses more corn products for poultry feeding operations and other uses.
"We've begun to see some higher quality beef cuts enter the Cuban market as well," Rosson said. Pork, cotton and dairy products produced in Texas are also exported there.
"Pears, apples, raisins and dry (pinto) beans were exported in 2011, along with corn chips and potato chips," Rosson said. "These are products that we are seeing more interest in due to the growing tourism market in Cuba."
International visitors are increasing, Rosson said, with 2.7 million traveling to the island in 2011, 7 percent above 2010 and a new record. Revenue from tourism exceeded $2 billion, providing more money for Cubans to use in purchasing imported foods. Canada is the top visitor, Rosson said, with 900,000 going to Cuba in 2011.
"They are more likely to go during the winter months," he said. "They can fly from Canada directly to the major beach resort of Varadero."
Those resorts serve many items, including chips, fresh fruit and table cuts of beef and pork.
"The downside is that Cuba is attempting to implement several economic reforms and design a new more market-oriented path for their economy," Rosson said. "It creates some instability and uncertainty."
Rosson said Cuba is "very proficient" in producing certain tropical crops such as sugar, tobacco, citrus and vegetables grown in greenhouses, but other crops such as rice, wheat and corn struggle due to high humidity, insects, disease and the high cost of production.
"And, of course, hurricanes are a threat with each season," he said.
Cuba also lacks consistent agricultural credit, so some crop and livestock production is constrained.
Agricultural commodities, such as dry beans for example, are shipped out of Corpus Christi. Corn and wheat grown in the Lone Star State ships out of the port of Houston, Rosson said.
The Cuban government's buying agency, Empressa Cubana Importada de Alimentos (Alimport), handles all U.S. exports to the island, Rosson said.
"Alimport is Cuba's exclusive agent for all purchases from the U.S. and negotiates purchases, handles documents and arranges logistics and transportation of goods," Rosson said.
Before a U.S. firm can take product samples or export its products to Cuba, Rosson said each product must be reviewed and licensed by the Office of Exporter Services, Bureau Industry and Security, U.S. Department of Commerce.
"The license is free and is valid for one year," Rosson said. More information on licensing requirements can be found at www.bis.doc.gov.
Dr. Parr Rosson, 979-845-3070,
Cuba producing sugar with new technologyLast Updated: Monday, February 06, 2012, 11:21
Cuba producing sugar with new technology Havana: Cuba has begun to employ a new technology to produce white sugar, a measure that improves its quality, avoids the refining process and reduces the cost of manufacture, a media report said Sunday.
The technology, which to date had never been used in the island's sugar industry, uses a sulphur salt produced in Guatemala that – once dissolved in water – directly adds to the bleaching, according to official daily Juventud Rebelde.
The procedure replaces the method of "sulphurizing" the sugarcane juice via the combustion of sulphur, which is very damaging to the environment, the report says.
The daily also reported that the sugar produced with this method can be sold for a higher price than either crude or standard refined sugar on the world market and that its use is spreading rapidly.
Rigoberto Toledo, the director of the Melanio Hernandez sugar refinery in central Sancti Spiritus province, the first to use the new technology, said that using it they will be able to optimize the production process and avoid refining the raw sugar, a situation that will reduce production costs.
That refinery is scheduled to produce between 15,000 and 17,000 tonnes of white sugar during the current harvest, all of which will be destined for local consumption.
Cuba is carrying out its current sugar harvest at a time when it is in the midst of restructuring the sector by replacing the Sugar Ministry with the Sugar Agro-industry Business Group with the aim of achieving more efficient management, employing new technologies and generating exports to finance its own expenses.
According to government forecasts, this harvest should see a 20 percent rise in sugar production, after the country in 2011 experienced a slight recovery and after the drastic plunge in the sugar harvest registered in 2010, the worst in 105 years.
Principales riesgos políticos a observar en Cuba viernes 3 de febrero de 2012 16:57 GYT Por Jeff Franks
LA HABANA (Reuters) – Cuba aplicará paulatinamente una reforma para terminar con la permanencia indefinida de funcionarios en cargos públicos, aunque el presidente Raúl Castro dejó en claro el pasado fin de semana que el país seguirá apostando al modelo político unipartidista.
El Gobierno, dentro de un programa de más de 300 reformas, promueve la expansión de la iniciativa privada y el recorte del peso del Estado para actualizar la economía de estilo soviético.
A la par, una plataforma petrolera inició sus perforaciones en aguas profundas de la isla como paso clave para impulsar la economía doméstica.
No obstante, el Gobierno cubano debe lidiar con la situación interna expresada en la subida de los precios de los alimentos en casi 20 por ciento en el 2011, según cifras oficiales divulgadas esta semana, en la última señal de alerta de que el cambio económico no será sin dolor.
La plataforma de perforación Scarabeo 9 está en Cuba desde fines de enero y la española Repsol-YPF comenzó a perforar en aguas cubanas del Golfo de México, marcando el inicio de la exploración del primer pozo en sus yacimientos petrolíferos en alta mar aún sin explotar.
Autoridades en la oriental provincia de Holguín dijeron que 211 cafeterías hasta ahora de propiedad estatal podrían ser arrendadas a empleados, pasando a una forma de semipropiedad, similar a lo ocurrido con las peluquerías, salones de belleza, talleres de reparación de relojes y carpinterías, entre otros.
Medios locales no han informado sobre el programa piloto que se desarrolla en Holguín, pero probablemente se trata de una prueba que será generalizado en todo el país como ha ocurrido con otros servicios.
El Gobierno, que busca recortar más de un millón de empleos estatales y expandir la iniciativa privada, ha entregado muchos de los negocios que fueron nacionalizados en la década de 1960.
Unas 362.355 personas trabajan por cuenta propia en Cuba, desde las 157.371 que lo hacían antes de la expansión del trabajo privado en octubre del 2010.
El ministro de Economía, Adel Yzquierdo, dijo al Parlamento cubano a fines de diciembre que en el 2012 se reducirían 170.000 puestos de trabajo estatales y señaló que se crearían hasta 240.000 nuevos puestos de trabajo no estatales.
El Estado aspira a que un 40 por ciento de la fuerza laboral de la isla de 5,2 millones de empleados pase al sector no estatal para el año 2015.
El presidente Raúl Castro ha hecho de la reforma en el sector agrícola una prioridad desde que sucedió a su hermano Fidel por motivos de salud en el 2008.
El Estado, que posee el 70 por ciento de la tierra cultivable, ha cedido 1,4 millones de hectáreas a 150.000 agricultores privados.
En algunas zonas ha aumentado la cantidad de tierra en arriendo a los agricultores hasta 67 hectáreas, amplió a 25 años el tiempo de arrendamiento, permitió construir casas en las parcelas y que los familiares puedan adjudicarse los contratos.
Pese a ello, la producción de alimentos subió sólo un 2 por ciento en el 2011 y sigue aún por debajo de los niveles del 2005.
La reducción de las importaciones de alimentos por parte del Gobierno que está escaso de efectivo y las reformas que están permitiendo a los campesinos vender sus productos en el mercado dispararon los precios de los alimentos el pasado año.
La Oficina Nacional de Estadísticas informó que el precio de la carne subió un 8,7 por ciento, mientras los de otros productos alimenticios crecieron un 24,1 por ciento, para un promedio de un 19,8 por ciento en el año.
Al mismo tiempo, el salario mensual promedio subió sólo unos pocos puntos porcentuales hasta el equivalente de 19 dólares al mes, según cifras oficiales. Las estadísticas indican que el poder adquisitivo de los cubanos se redujo tras las reformas emprendidas por Castro.
El presidente dijo ante el Parlamento que el país gastará 1.700 millones de dólares para importar alimentos en el 2012.
Y enfatizó en la reciente conferencia del Partido Comunista sobre la importancia que el Gobierno concede al combate a la corrupción, que llevó al cierre de tres firmas extranjeras y envió a la cárcel a funcionarios de empresas estatales.
Castro dijo que el gobernante Partido Comunista limitará de forma paulatina el tiempo de permanencia en cargos estatales, pero no ofreció más detalles.
Aspectos a observar:
- Ritmo de las reformas y sus consecuencias.
- Desarrollo de las pequeñas empresas.
- Producción agrícola y precios de los alimentos
Castro dijo que la economía creció un 2,7 por ciento en el 2011 y se espera que avance en un 3,4 por ciento en el 2012.
Según cifras oficiales, una cantidad récord de 2,7 millones de turistas llegaron a la isla en el 2011, representando ingresos de alrededor de 2.300 millones de dólares.
Expertos de la industria turística dijeron que el sector ha crecido durante el invierno boreal impulsado, en parte, por la inestabilidad causada por la llamada “Primavera Arabe” y una flexibilidad en las regulaciones de Estados Unidos para los viajes a la isla.
También admitieron que muchos visitantes aterrizan en la isla para ver los efectos de los cambios que se producen y sostienen que se necesitan más hoteles para alojar a su creciente industria, considerada una de las principales fuentes de ingresos de divisas en el país.
Cuba está muy endeudada y aún se recupera de una crisis de liquidez que llevó a la suspensión de pagos y la congelación de las cuentas bancarias extranjeras desde el 2009.
Castro dijo al Parlamento que las cuentas de los proveedores extranjeros a Cuba habían sido descongeladas y fueron tomadas las medidas para que el problema no se repita.
Las esperanzas de que las reformas van a atraer más inversión extranjera han sido lentas en materializarse, pero la empresa brasileña Odebrecht dijo esta semana que firmaría un contrato para ayudar a Cuba a mejorar su industria azucarera inmersa en problemas. Un ejecutivo dijo que el acuerdo incluiría la producción de etanol.
El esperado desarrollo de campos de golf, con el objetivo de atraer a los turistas más adinerados, sigue a la espera.
- Resolución de la deuda a corto plazo
- Mayores signos de interés en la inversión extranjera
- Crecimiento turismo y capacidad de Cuba para manejarlo
Una plataforma de perforación petrolera fabricada en China, Scarabeo 9, llegó a aguas cubanas a fines de enero y comenzó la exploración del primero de los tres pozos en aguas profundas de Cuba en el Golfo de México.
La española Repsol YPF y sus socios, Petronas, de Malasia, y la compañía rusa Gazprom Neft planean perforar este año otros dos pozos con la misma plataforma.
El proyecto ha generado la oposición en el Congreso de Estados Unidos, pero para calmar las preocupaciones de seguridad, Repsol permitió a los expertos estadounidenses inspeccionar la Scarabeo 9 en Trinidad y Tobago.
Y dijeron que cumplía con los requerimientos técnicos y las normas internacionales de seguridad para iniciar las perforaciones debido a que las empresas estadounidenses tienen prohibido operar en Cuba por el embargo comercial de Washington.
Cuba depende de las importaciones procedentes de Venezuela, su aliado rico en petróleo, pero dice que tiene 20.000 millones de barriles de crudo en el mar. El Servicio Geológico de Estados Unidos estima que posee 5.000 millones de barriles.
- Resultados exploración del pozo por Repsol-YPF.
- Presión de EEUU para detener la perforación.
Una visita prevista del Papa Benedicto XVI en marzo y la mejora de las relaciones con Brasil, cuya presidenta realizó esta semana un viaje a La Habana, son puntos destacables para Cuba, incluso cuando la isla se enfrenta a un Gobierno español más hostil elegido en noviembre.
Una gran preocupación para Cuba es la salud del presidente venezolano Hugo Chávez, un aliado leal a la isla, cuyo Gobierno ofrece 114.000 barriles diarios de petróleo a La Habana mediante un acuerdo de cooperación, y además posee importantes inversiones en el país.
Chávez se sometió a cirugías y quimioterapias en Cuba y se ha declarado libre de cáncer, pero los expertos consideran que es demasiado pronto para conocerlo. Un diario español dijo que su cáncer se ha diseminado y su pronóstico es sombrío, pero el Gobierno de Caracas descartó el informe.
Si no estuviera en capacidad de continuar en el cargo, sería un gran golpe para Cuba.
Las relaciones de Estados Unidos con Cuba, que se descongelaron brevemente con la llegada al poder del presidente Barack Obama, se afectaron tras el encarcelamiento del contratista Alan Gross.
Gross cumple una condena de 15 años de cárcel por proveer equipos satelitales de comunicaciones prohibidos en la isla a grupos cubanos, que la justicia dictaminó que era parte de un programa para promover un cambio político en Cuba.
Un documento, en alusión a la sentencia dictada por un tribunal de la isla, señala que Gross conocía de los objetivos políticos de su trabajo y que intentó esconderse de las autoridades cubanas, a pesar de sus afirmaciones contrarias.
(Reporte adicional de Marc Frank; Traducción de Rosa Tania Valdés y Nelson Acosta en La Habana. Editado por; Silene Ramírez)