Sin Evasión / Without Evasion
English translation of Miriam Celaya's blog "Sin EVAsión" from Havana, Cuba
Archive for Octubre, 2009
October 28, 2009 at 10:57 · Classifieds in Without Evasion
Several weeks ago, when Yoani Sánchez told some friends about her dream to establish a blogger academy, many of us knew that, rather than an idea, such a project was already “a done deal”. Surely, when this fragile looking girl “unloads” such time bombs on us, it is because the detonation is programmed to go off within a few seconds. However, this dream is no accident or improvised dream: long months of Itinerario Blogger, during which she conveyed to us a lot of her own knowledge and extensive computer experience, was the direct background of this bold proposal.
The kind-hearted and romantic commitment of creating a venue capable of “giving wings to Cubans wishing to fly through the Internet” -as she likes to call it- immediately infected us, making those of us present feel just like midwives who would shortly assist in the birth of a small but wonderful creature: an academy unique in its class, whose basic requirements for students and teachers are their outright vocation for freedom of expression and information and their decision to to exercise it.
Classes began just this Monday, October 26th.. There were about 30 people there, where we initially imagined 15. The group, a generational and professional veritable kaleidoscope, revealed known and “new” faces, all of them hopeful and optimistic in their desire to seek and find the unprecedented adventure of achieving the requisite knowledge for free expression. A current of empathy and respect prevailed in this first meeting as a good omen of better times ahead.
For some of us, a few months ago, Yoani opened the path and started to train us in the use of the virtual wings. Now, those who, thanks to that, have our own web spaces, are a group of restless idealists of the most varied training who will be alternating between the teacher podium and the student desk, according to each case, and putting in the maximum of our best energies in boosting the possible utopia of giving and receiving knowledge that very soon will be at the service of freedom.
October 26th 2009 at 19:00 · Clasificados en Sin Evasión
After a brief note published on page 2 of the Saturday, October 17th, 2009 edition of Granma, announcing the “beginning” of the official visit to Cuba of the Spanish Kingdom’s Foreign Minister, Miguel Ángel Moratinos, the official press surrounded the event with absolute silence until the following Tuesday, when it once again referred to it, to ensure that “relations between Cuba and Spain have a positive development”.
As reported in the foreign media, the Spanish foreign minister said he found “a commitment to reform” and to “improve the economic situation in Cuba” by Raúl Castro, though not clarifying the nature of these reforms or proposals through which one could trace the critical economic situation on the Island. Time frames have been mentioned far less, in either case. All in an abstract, cryptic and ambiguous language that may be interpreted in any way or none. Moratinos and his companions once again ignored both the opposition and sectors of independent civil society, because -he said- his visit to Cuba “had basically an official overtone”.
The juggling acts that Mr. Moratinos has been performing to throw in the towel at the Cuban government against the EU are well known, but -at least inside Cuba- it has never been clear why there has been so much effort. We can only scarcely speculate about which commitments the current Spanish government has with the Cuban dictatorship, how significant are the interests they defend here, what obscure reason we should assume that, by coddling the Castros, could bring any results and what does it expect from its concessions, from its efforts, from so many grace periods. Obviously, the minister’s visit didn’t just seek, among other things, to negotiate the Cuban government’s huge debt to Spanish businessmen, but also to ask Cuba to show some small token to the other EU countries to demonstrate the good intentions of the Antillean autocrats, hence the release of Nelson Aguiar Ramírez, a victim of the repression of the Black Spring, when 75 independent journalists were arrested, and the authorization to leave Cuba for dissidents Onelio Lázaro Angulo and Elsa Morejón, wife of Oscar Elias Biscet, also an imprisoned dissident; a mere cosmetic gesture, as to not leave Moratinos out in his underwear, basically to meet the demands of the opposing Popular Party. At this rate, who knows how many visits from the complacent minister would be necessary to release all political prisoners in this island.
From my own point of view -and I apologize for such a shocking display of ignorance on my part- Mr. Moratinos’ undertaking in Cuba is the consecration of failure in using diplomacy with dictators, which is doubly contradictory, since he is the representative of a nation that also suffered in the flesh through decades of a military dictatorship and was able to move on, gradually and peacefully, into a democracy. The Spanish Foreign Minister seems to be turning a deaf ear to the demands of large sectors of the independent Cuban civil society and blind eyes to the reality that the Island is suffering. The Island’s lack of freedom and disrespect for the most basic human rights, essentially evidenced by the large number of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience that are painfully just surviving in the regime’s prisons, are sufficiently grave evils that demand, once and for all, that so many hypocritical caresses be turned aside.
And if, this time, the efforts of Mr. Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of Spain have had superior intentions and results, may he forgive me: take into account that, in such an instance, my error could be derived from the mysterious enigma and the official silence that his performance is always surrounded with in around these parts.
October 23rd, 2009 at 09:36 · Classifieds in Without Evasion
I will not thrive in the shadow of the event to express my sympathy for the Cuban journalist José Alejandro Rodríguez, of the official daily paper Juventud Rebelde. I already made that feeling very clear last April, when I published two posts that made reference to his section, Acuse de Recibo (Acknowledgement of Receipt) –which he writes for that newspaper- and, on that occasion, I stated that, regardless of any political sympathies the journalist may have, he was a brave individual, having the courage to bring out into the open before public opinion, via the official media, many of the problems that afflict ordinary Cubans. In a country like this, the mere desire to criticize evils and question reality is in itself a phenomenon that deserves respect.
José Alejandro doesn’t exactly attack the system. There is no need. In reality, the system attacks itself as it did just now, when it withdrew from the online version of Juventud Rebelde the article that this rare avis of official Cuban journalism, who is an honest professional and likes to call a spade a spade, wrote last October 16th under the title “Against the demons of kidnapped information”.
Without a doubt, José Alejandro is neither a fool nor a madman. The original wording of his article proves it (”I’m dreaming once again. I am going to imagine that I have not thought very hard about it…”) He knew where he was headed and what he would face when he decided to leave written and public evidence of his anguish as a professional journalist, working for a system that is exceedingly afraid to inform, and this does nothing but increase my esteem and my respect for such a brave and responsible attitude.
Granted, I don’t know what José Alejandro will tell tomorrow, after he has personally observed and incorporated into his consciousness the real repressive power of the system; we don’t know if he will “correct”, if he will recant like Galileo, or if he will stick to his guns. I’d like to believe the latter will happen, but nothing would change my admiration and quiet applause for the author of the October 16th article. Perhaps, after all, there are some decent journalists left among the many pen-pushers and boot-lickers of the official press, perhaps José Alejandro is a miracle of decency and decorum that reminds us of the danger of branding with epithets and absolute generalizing all elements of the same set. In any case, this will be a good opportunity to see if there are others of such worth among his colleagues.
October 20th, 2009 at 13:39 · Clasificados en Sin Evasión
Allow me to state that, up to today, October 20th was a meaningless date to me. At the risk of being incinerated in numerous pyres, I reject the National Anthem for being regionalist, jingoistic and warmongering: I am not from Bayamo but from Cuba, I don’t identify with what they have tried to instill in me under the deceptive glitter of what is commonly known as “the Motherland”, I don’t want to run to battle, and I believe even less that death, under any circumstances, may be glorious. Death is the most absolute word I know. In general, I hate violence in all its manifestations and -in my small personal credo- I sustain that what is glorious is life.
History, meanwhile, is often a fickle old lady that, regardless of the facts, has been violated, subjected, and placed into the service of the most diverse masters. Therefore, it doesn’t move me that a passionate Cuban –in the heat of the ebullience of the nineteenth century warrior, and surrounded by his thunderous companions- composed some bellicose verses that were sung for the first time on a day like today, in a city that soon would be burned in vain. Anyway, before that day, there were already Cubans, and, despite all the storms, there still are.
But this October 20th, 2009 I am compelled to blog, not for an anthem, a flag or my fortuitous birth in this brief 111-thousand square kilometers of geography, but because in this Cuba that I know and love, in spite of that anthem and that flag, the same humiliating conditions persist, those that independence wars and 50 years as a republic could not sweep off. Half a century of darkness prevents Cubans today to glimpse at their rights to free speech, hundreds of political prisoners are purging behind bars their brave and dignified exercise of free opinion, while outside those prisons, eleven million Cubans live the degrading confinement imposed on them by a dictatorship which claims the right to allow or not the movement of those it considers slaves of its power.
Cubans, who, like me, have conquered a modest virtual space of civic expression, could join in a permanent blog action in order to multiply the clamor of this urgent call: freedom for all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, freedom of speech, freedom of movement, freedom of opinion and association, internet for every one… May it be so, forever.
October 17th, 2009 at 13:50 · Clasificados en Sin Evasión
A friendly reader sent us, through her commentaries, a magnificent and ironic piece by journalist Pablo Alfonso, published October 3rd in the Diario Las Américas, with the title “Papa State and Revolution Mom.” Very much in tune with the Cuban reality of these times, the author refers to, not without a mocking chant, one of the official strategies most used through the era of the revolution, and most recurrent today, when everything here is a sign of the failure of the system: blaming the ordinary Cuban about the Island’s critical socio-economic situation. At the same time, with such a stance, the government evades its own responsibility in the case, arising from systematically curtailing the initiatives and individual freedoms to achieve a subject that seems not to be interested in anything that requires “working” or “producing” for a State that no longer has the resources to ensure at least the minimal health and education requirements that, until a few years ago, were the showcase displaying the supposed superiority of morality and justice of the system.
It can be said, almost as an absolute, that in today’s Cuba the labor culture has been lost. A society where salaries are not able to satisfy even basic needs, where there is no stimulus to creativity and productivity through cash payments, where personal talent was practically considered almost a petit bourgeois afterthought, condemned by the ruling mediocrity, doesn’t deserve to survive. The desperation of the geriatric ideocrats is clearly manifested in the contemptuous action by Ramiro Valdés last September 27th in Santiago de Cuba, when he branded the “masses” as “pigeons” waiting with open beaks for Papa State to solve their problems. For 50 years the people were banned from having their own ideas or initiatives, each indication of freedom of thought has been considered an act of sedition and has been severely punished. No one knows as much about this as Ramiro Valdés himself, who -nevertheless- seems unaware that the state has no moral authority to erect itself as father, because it is a parasite living off what society produces; the state does not give away anything because, in reality, nothing belongs to it, though it has been responsible for squandering what it doesn’t have and what it doesn’t own.
Today, reality is indisputable: no one wants to work for a useless utopia. The neglect, the systematic and widespread theft, corruption, apathy and letdowns are the qualities that adorn the common Cuban. The planned New Man has eventually emerged as Castro’s Frankenstein, because poverty is the only thing that, divided among many, results in more, and Cubans, as any rational being in the world, only want to work for money. I applaud that. At this stage of the game, if Papa State wants fidelity, it might as well buy itself a dog.
October 14th , 2009 at 13:42 · Clasificados en Sin Evasión
On the morning of October 9th, coincidentally, the day I turned 50, I learned from a journalist friend at Radio Martí that President Barack Obama had won the Nobel Peace Prize. I was very happy. I sympathize with Obama for several reasons, but mainly for having put the Cuban government against the ropes with a pacifist and tolerant stance that doesn’t set well with the antagonism that has fueled Castro policy for decades. I immediately began to spread the word among friends, relatives and acquaintances, because I knew that the Cuban press would not echo it.
That night, my blogger friends had prepared a small party for me at Yoani and Reinaldo’s home, and -of course- the topic of the award to Obama came up for debate. And so it was that Barack Obama, not happy with such a significant award, stole -unknowingly and unintentionally- the humble setting for my birthday celebration. We had a very interesting and controversial debate about the fairness or unfairness of this award, we discussed and questioned Obama’s course and undertaking as president of a nation that, like it or not, and regret it or not, is crucial in determining the effects on the world’s present and future. But, since this is our blog, let me explain here why I thought of this Nobel Prize as welcome and important, although I know that some readers and permanent members of this forum do not sympathize with Obama (a position that I deeply respect).
I think that Obama’s prize is not simply and flatly directed at his person: it is directed at hope, harmony, tolerance and respect for differences. The award is aimed at the future, at confidence in youth -young people are my creed and are the force, the future, the leavening- it is a prize awarded to compromise. When Rigoberta Menchú was given the prize, the world expressed sympathy for a simple woman representing the fate of her race; when the legitimacy of her testimony was questioned, she placed a pious cloak on the facts: what mattered was that she had managed to focus the world’s magnifying lens on a suffering minority, and that, by itself, legitimized her prize. I also think so.
Barack Obama’s responsibility is great because he is not the representative of an ethnicity, a group, or a minority; he is president of a power that greatly appends its signature on the future of all. He is not my president, true, I have no presidents, but we must recognize the moral authority of someone who was popularly and democratically elected. Obama is needed by the government of Cuba for liabilities that do not relate, he did not declare war on Iran or Afghanistan, he did not create the Guantánamo prison, he was not conducive to the current global economic crisis, he did not invent the embargo or invade the Bay of Pigs. Obama, without a doubt, is not perfect, but I’d like to think that this award will further bind him onto his course. Believing in the course of peace is a must.
So it is that, on my 50th birthday, I felt Obama’s Nobel Prize was kind of an additional present. I am just an unknown woman, to quote a good friend of old, a “nice and bold plebeian”, who has been sufficiently rewarded by the grace of having a wonderful family and friends without equal. On the night of October 9th, I had the privilege of sharing with a group of them the complicity of our affection; I deeply regret that Barack Obama has such great responsibilities that may prevent him from experiencing these pleasures. Anyway, in the hot Cuban night of October 9th, my solidarity toast was for the young U.S. president: may luck be with you, Obama. And may luck be with all of us, for we really need it.
October 12th , 2009 at 15:01 · Clasificados en Sin Evasión
Suddenly, the media has begun to disclose some information about the pandemic of swine flu in Cuba. Until a few weeks ago, the disease was mentioned only occasionally in reference to cases that arose in the U.S. and other countries, or about the very few cases reported in Cuba, always related to “foreigners” or to Cubans who were traveling, carriers that introduced it to the country and were properly treated and cured by the fabulous and efficient health system on the island. Judging by the media, the pandemic was something belonging to “the outside”, one of those terrible things that afflicted the poor people who live beyond our blessed our social system.
Now, by coincidence, after the Juanes concert and his invitees that was held in Havana before a crowd of more than one million people, the terrible influenza appears to have gained strength here, and a gloomy forecast calls for an increase of the outbreak in the winter months. Given the current official emphasis on disseminating the symptoms of the disease and the measures taken to prevent its transmission, some Cubans question the lack of responsibility of the authorities when promoting such a human concentration this past September 20th, in the midst of the potential danger of the virus about which -according to statements by the official media itself- little is known.
There is already talk of some closed schools and the suspension of the morning patriotics, it is recommended to stay at least 1 meter away from other people, avoid crowds, greetings with kisses or handshakes and enclosed spaces; a set of measures directed at another world, not at the reality in which people are forced to crowd into buses, in poorly ventilated classrooms, in stores without air conditioning, on the eternal lines. Officially, it is recommended that we improve our hygiene -despite the high prices of toiletries and cleaning products- while we live in an extremely dirty city, crowded with waste, sewers, leaks, with a deplorable and outdated water supply and sewage system, and in which a significant portion of the population has no running water. We do not know if it’s possible to get vaccines or retro-viral drugs in any pharmacy and, as reported by the press, and it’s only possible to be tested for the disease at the Institute for Tropical Medicine, in the city of Havana.
The state of helplessness of the ordinary Cuban is reinforced in this lethal combination that is the lack of information about the real state of the epidemic on the island, the poor hygiene and the total dependence on a health system increasingly more precarious and inefficient. Never before was our health more threatened: to the usual influenza that typically affect us every year around these months, add the new strain A (H1N1), conjunctivitis, and the already familiar dengue fever persists among us, without it being officially considered as chronic. So far, we don’t sense an effective response on the part of the authorities.
October 9th, 2009 at 11:02 · Clasificados en Sin Evasión
Seventeen days alternating as my grandson’s companion at the Pediatric Hospital Juan Manuel Márquez in Marianao was the exercise that confirmed, firsthand, the sorry state of health facilities in Cuba and the poor hygiene and sanitary conditions in them. Make note that, according to the testimony of patients and of their companions with whom I had contact, when compared with others, the Marianao Pediatric is a true paradise: “You don’t know what a bad hospital is like!” As you can see, the philosophy of some ordinary Cubans has devolved radically: it is no longer about looking forward, but backwards, so that, instead of aspiring to be better, they simply settle for “not being worse”, which is, paradoxically, the worst of positions.
The Juan Manuel Márquez has a nice façade, that is, as pretty as a typically socialist architecture façade can be. But at least it is carefully painted, there are no broken glass panes, and it has showy green areas that shade the spaces around the entrance, parking lot, and surrounding areas. Its external appearance is, therefore, friendly and pleasant, which influences its approval. The pavilion for in-patients and their companions is a very different issue. Let’s save the sordid details of the deterioration of the construction of its interior, the dirt floors, the large and robust cockroaches, the darkness of the stairs, the deserted halls, the many rickety doors and windows, the spots in the lobbies where tiles have fallen off the walls, the grime on the walls and ceilings, and let’s move on to the priorities of the enforced stay that I experienced in the orthopedic ward (4th floor), where the professional and humane quality of most of the medical staff contrasts with the unsanitary conditions of its surroundings, plus the lack of comfort for patients and companions.
Running water is available twice a day, due to disciplined savings measures, but water runs undisciplined from the pantry sink’s broken faucet, from the defective tank on the midway terrace, and from the occasional leaky shower head. Due to the same savings concerns, TV sets cannot be turned on before one p.m. As a foot note, the TV sets belong to the patients, who bring them in from home, as well as fans, buckets for bathing, containers for heating the food they get from their respective homes (since the meals the hospital provides are indigestible) and even some medications as basic as acetaminophen tablets, which are not available at the wards.
The shortage of cleaning equipment and products contributes to the generalized filth, as do the frequent backups of showers and toilets, the pantry waste collectors without adequate covers, the deposit of uneaten food debris and empty containers in the baskets that are not picked up regularly enough, and the accumulation of feces in the toilets during the “dry” intervals between periods when there is running water and the next. Add to that the infestation of tiny cockroaches that live in the folds of the inner compartments of the two refrigerators in the room, moving familiarly over the containers that are kept there, and you will have a rough idea of the prevailing hygiene.
The truth is, folks, that only when our medical discharge arrives and we exit from the hospital can we consider ourselves almost safe.
1 .- Façade of the Marianao Pediatric Hospital, built at the initiative of the “Undefeated One” and opened with great fanfare during the crisis of the 90’s, Reference Center for Multiple Trauma.
2 .- Condition of the shower for cubicles 5 and 6 of the orthopedic ward. The back-ups are frequent. It is unusual that this drain has retained its grate.
3 .- One of the two toilets for cubicles 5 and 6. This is the “clean one” because its flushing mechanism works. Note the condition of the floor.
4 .- Mid-way fourth floor roof terrace. The constant water spills from the water tank in the picture have contributed to weeds other plants around it. In addition to the garbage that accumulate in the area, buckets of dirty water are routinely emptied in this area after cleaning the top floors,