The Four Horsemen – undated adventures en la Planeta Cuba

Somewhere in Cuba…

Andy García Habla de Cuba

“And everywhere I see Cuba,
I taste Cuba,
I feel Cuba.”

Photo Blog: A Cuban Sitting-Room

For a moment I could hear the lizards scampering about outside.

“Photo Blog” is my generic title for those posts featuring a cool or otherwise interesting photo about which I could write several paragraphs, but which I usually get around to too late in the day to really work on – but still want to share.

Cuba: A Gangland Style Kidnapping – by Yoani Sánchez

Yoani Sánchez writes:

Near 23rd Street, just at the Avenida de los Presidentes roundabout, we saw a black car, made in China, pull up with three heavily built strangers. “Yoani, get in the car,” one told me while grabbing me forcefully by the wrist. The other two surrounded Claudia Cadelo, Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, and a friend who was accompanying us to the march against violence. The ironies of life, it was an evening filled with punches, shouts and obscenities on what should have passed as a day of peace and harmony. The same “aggressors” called for a patrol car which took my other two companions, Orlando and I were condemned to the car with yellow plates, the terrifying world of lawlessness and the impunity of Armageddon.

I refused to get into the bright Geely-made car and we demanded they show us identification or a warrant to take us. Of course they didn’t show us any papers to prove the legitimacy of our arrest. The curious crowded around and I shouted, “Help, these men want to kidnap us,” but they stopped those who wanted to intervene with a shout that revealed the whole ideological background of the operation, “Don’t mess with it, these are counterrevolutionaries.” In the face of our verbal resistance they made a phone call and said to someone who must have been the boss, “What do we do? They don’t want to get in the car.” I imagine the answer from the other side was unequivocal, because then came a flurry of punches and pushes, they got me with my head down and tried to push me into the car. I held onto the door… blows to my knuckles… I managed to take a paper one of them had in his pocket and put it in my mouth. Another flurry of punches so I would return the document to them…”. Continued

Juventud Rebelde y la información secuestrada

From Jorge Ferrer at El Tono de la Voz, comes this report on the opinion piece “Against the demons of kidnapped information” written by  José Alejandro Rodríguez, which appeared only briefly on the website of Juventud Rebelde, before it was taken down several hours later.

“Juventud Rebelde subió ayer a su edición digital el artículo “Contra los demonios de la información secuestrada” firmado por José Alejandro Rodríguez. Apenas unas horas más tarde el artículo fue retirado del site del “Diario de la juventud cubana”. Tampoco aparece en la edición impresa de hoy. Lo reproduzco aquí por su extraordinario interés. Por el modus ponens y por la censura a que fue obligada la redacción de ese diario.”

Contra los demonios de la Información Secuestrada
José Alejandro Rodríguez

pepe@juventudrebelde.cu
16 de Octubre del 2009 20:19:38 CDT

‘Voy a soñar, una vez más. Voy a imaginarme que nunca lo he meditado hasta el cansancio. Voy a creerme que vengo a estrenar un enfoque inusitado. Voy a convencerme de que vale la pena seguir bregando por esa preterida criatura llamada información, cautiva entre silencios y controles desmedidos.

La misión del periodista es informar; claro que también opinar, recrear la realidad, describir, narrar… pero antes que todo informar. Porque para desplegar todos los géneros, formas y discursos del periodismo, primero hay que estar informado… e informar.

La información es un deber del periodista y es un derecho del ciudadano, de ese sujeto histórico que ha sostenido esta Revolución, y que nunca como hoy necesita conocer el terreno que pisa y abona, en medio de múltiples complejidades. Nunca como hoy ese Liborio requiere definir y redefinir las coordenadas en que transita su vida. Nunca como hoy urge de la información para poder interactuar con la sociedad y participar en ella, como un sujeto activo, y no como un “pichón” –frase muy en boga por estos días- que espera le suministren su dosis exacta de la información desde arriba.

El problema, -y lo estamos viviendo en Juventud Rebelde- es que la información no escapa a la excesiva centralización de nuestra economía y de la sociedad en general, algo que para nada tiene que ser un fatídico componente genético del socialismo, como algunos creen; más bien lo entorpece en sus potencialidades democráticas. Bien arriba se decide muchas veces qué decir e informar, qué no decir de los grandes temas de la sociedad, aún cuando la terca vida transcurra allá abajo, con sus complejidades.

A estas alturas, da tristeza constatarlo, una ministra puede permitirse rechazar una solicitud de una periodista y cercenar el derecho a más información, asumiendo que ya fue a la Mesa Redonda a desempacarlo todo. O más bien todo lo que se quiere decir. La hiperbolización de la Mesa Redonda como el escenario de la información suprema, es un atentado a la necesaria versatilidad y variedad que distingue al buen periodismo. Esa «mesaredondización» es un aporte redondo a la burocratización del periodismo, con el debido respeto para los colegas de ese espacio, que no son los responsables del fenómeno.

Alguien –juro que no imagino quién es ese alguien- puede decidir que determinadas medidas en el escenario socioeconómico se pongan en práctica, sin una estrategia informacional dirigida hacia el sujeto histórico que las asumirá. Ejemplos sobran de cambios que se han registrado sin la necesaria información en nuestros medios: del proceso de solicitud y entrega de tierras en usufructo, algo que supuestamente dinamizará nuestra agricultura, hubo un instante, dos, tres… ha habido ¿o habrá todavía?, en que no se podía hablar ni apenas mencionar. Se me dijo en esta redacción que venía de arriba.

No se reflejó en los medios el rico proceso de debate promovido por Raúl hace dos años, expresión cimera de nuestra democracia socialista. Tampoco se puede hoy mencionar este último, en el cual militantes del Partido y revolucionarios más allá del carnet, debaten los problemas que aquejan a sus colectivos.

Se convoca a la prensa para que acompañe gregariamente la promoción de la Resolución sobre el pago por resultados del Ministerio del Trabajo y Seguridad Social. Este redactor se emociona con acariciar un rescate de la Ley de Distribución Socialista, que tanto se nos ha alejado: Entrevista al viceministro del MTSS, crea expectativas con aquello de que los que trabajen más y mejor podrán ganar y vivir mejor.

Al final, la aplicación de la Resolución aborta, los burócratas se resisten a complicarse en las normas y las formas de pago móviles. Es más fácil el igualitarismo, lo que te toca. Y nadie explica por qué el pago por rendimiento está obstaculizado en Cuba.

Un reportero, por indicación de sus directivos, acude al Ministerio de Economía y Planificación para que, ante la avalancha de rumores sobre la desaparición de los comedores obreros en la prensa extranjera, con sus enfoques cismáticos y tendenciosos en ciertos casos, ese ministerio confirme si es verdad, y lo fundamente, y si no es verdad lo rebata. El ministro delega en la viceministra, la viceministra le dice al reportero que debe consultarlo con el ministro…Ahí empieza el peloteo, hasta que la viceministra le confiesa al periodista que hay una experiencia en estudio, pero no se desea informar de eso «por ahora». A la semana, aparece en Granma un trabajo al respecto, y el reportero se siente engañado. ¿Será el concepto de la «mesaredondización» o la «granmatitis»? ¿Será que en Granma adquiere majestad suprema la información?

Ejemplos sobrarían, de cuántos funcionarios se abrogan el derecho a decidir qué se puede informar, después de mirar hacia arriba para recibir la extremaunción de la noticia ya muerta. Casi nadie se atreve a informar a la prensa y desplegar relaciones horizontales sin la venia de sus superiores. Y muchas veces la genuflexa cadena transita por varios niveles e instancias…hasta que la noticia ya está sepultada por la propia vida.

Es cierto que la información es un arma de doble filo, porque revela las luces, pero también los hoyos oscuros de la realidad. Pero la información es un bien público, y no podemos sustituirla por la oportuna información permitida, por la información virtual, por la información-propaganda o la información conveniente, la información con pinzas, o como quiera llamársele. La información es información.

En todo caso la información, con todos sus matices, con sus claroscuros, siempre nos hará más eficaces y revolucionarios, más concientes del momento histórico; más preclaros para discernir lo posible de lo imposible, y más participativos; porque todo –incluida la información- no se puede cocinar desde cenáculos. El cubano necesita mirar hacia el futuro, saber qué sucede, y no andar a tientas y a ciegas, a merced del mendrugo de información. El cubano necesita participar activamente, proponer y ser tenido en cuenta, sopesar entre el bien y el mal, para fortalecer su Revolución.

Claro que no hablaré de las culpas de los periodistas, unos más osados, otros más cansados y conformistas. En la medida en que persista este modelo de política informativa restrictivo y controlador, se fomentarán más los desencantos e hibernaciones entre nuestros profesionales.

Y sin información, sin participación del sujeto histórico, es imposible cimentar concientemente un socialismo más pleno y democrático.

Después de todo esto, no vamos a cortarnos las venas de la profesión. El periodista revolucionario tiene que seguir batallando aquí y allá. Si se te cierran las puertas, esa puede ser la noticia. Una alternativa ante la cerrazón es enfocar los fenómenos desde otras fuentes no tan institucionales y tan arriba, desde el pueblo que es el principal sostén de esta Revolución. Y hacerlo con compromiso y seriedad.

Juventud Rebelde ha ganado buen trecho y prestigio en esta pelea cubana contra los demonios de la información secuestrada. ¿Vamos a retroceder? Ese es el desafío mayor para la nueva dirección de este periódico que aún no se sabe, pero que, en definitiva somos todos.’

H/T Jorge Ferrer – El Tono de la Voz

Though I don’t often read her work, Yoani Sánchez provides a view of the significance of the piece, and its subsequent disappearance. Quoting from the English-language version of her blog, Geneation Y:

“No one knows the mechanisms of censorship in Cuba better than those who write in the few newspapers of national circulation. The press here has been turned into a delicate profession required to measure adjectives, carefully weigh topics and often to hide personal opinions in order to keep a job. It is a life decision to be a journalist for the official media, I know, but I also know some who have been trapped in the twists and turns of complicity, waiting for the day when they can write what they think.

From the Juventude Rebelde newspaper office where Reinaldo worked until 1988, there is very little left because most of his colleagues now live in Miami, Mexico and Spain. Others have retired from the profession, disillusioned with the aborted glastnost and the consecutive calls for criticism, which ended up being bait for the most daring. José Alejandro Rodríguez survived all this and carried his personal battle into the “Receipt Requested” section where he published readers’ letters with their complaints and questions. Every time I read his crusade against bureaucracy and poor work, I sense the regressive countdown that will probably culminate in his professional silencing.

A few days ago José Alejandro could take no more. He took everything he has accumulated about the “excessive centralization” that the press on this Island is subject to and condemned the secrecy surrounding government decisions. In his article “Against the demons of kidnapped information” he used the language of an honest man who always believed in the possibility of humanizing the current system through the transparency of information. I respectfully differ with him, because what has been built on a foundation of hiding, condemning and filtering cannot survive the clear light that emanates from an incisive and free journalism.

The three pages of his harangue lasted just a few hours on the on-line version of Juventud Rebelde. The article was kidnapped by the shrewd hawks of orthodoxy, who know well the danger of a Nation that begins to learn everything you have hidden.”


Pobre Cuba…

Coming Soon…

Waking to sunshine pouring through my windows this morning, I thought, “it sucks to be under the weather when the weather is so nice!” Sunny days are rare in Pittsburgh, so rare in fact that the actual number is a matter of some debate – is it 59 or 145? Having lived in California and Italy, and even Cuba (across the span of 20+ trips to that Pearl of the Antilles), neither 59 nor 145 is enough sun for this son of ancestors who surely must have had Aztec-roots. Of all the places I’ve been, were I free to choose and the conditions ideal, it would be Cuba to which I would move my home base. (For ideal conditions, answers are required to such weighty questions as, What to do with Mom? and will Richard Branson peg a route from la Habana to either Cleveland or Pittsburgh so I’m not again cut-off from my non-Aztec, Irish and Czech family?

Many things would have to come to pass before I could ever return to the (tarnished) Pearl (ex. both Castro bro’s dead; restoration of Constitution of 1940; reestablishment of capitalist economic system and democracy), so until then, consider the following:

1) There is hope for more/better bike trails in Pittsburgh, and 2) I’m reviewing Ted Rall’s new book, “The Year of Loving Dangerously.” As Ted himself writes:

“My new graphic memoir, “The Year of Loving Dangerously,” is my first new book in three years. It relates my experiences getting expelled from Columbia University, fired, dumped, arrested and evicted and finally winding up homeless on the wild and weird streets of NYC during the 1980s. This 128-page book is a game changer for me–an autobiographical comic with lots of brutally honest introspection down the dark side of memory lane…with some (OK, a lot of) sex mixed in. Full-color painted artwork is by Pablo G. Callejo, the award-winning illustrator of the “Bluesman” graphic novel series. (This is my first collaborative effort.) “The Happy Hooker” author Xaviera Hollander wrote the introduction. “Year” is a declaration of war against the arch-cliché of the lonely awkward male cartoonist who refuses to engage with the world. It’s also the perfect metaphor for the economic collapse: if an Ivy-educated white male can be reduced to penury by a few strokes of bad luck, it can happen to anyone.”

Should be amazing, eh? But guess what? I’ll let you know once I finish “The Year of Loving Dangerously!” While the book will not hit store shelves until November, you can pre-order a copy inscribed by Ted to the person of your choice by visiting rall.com.

After you’ve ordered your copy, perhaps you’ll want to scrub off some of that anticipatory energy by considering that “Major steps [were] announced to finishing bicycle trail.” The Post-Gazette reports today:

“A 335-mile biking/hiking trail that will connect Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C., moved one mile closer to completion yesterday but took a far bigger leap forward with the announcement of an agreement for future construction. Dignitaries snipped the ribbon on a one-mile section of the Great Allegheny Passage in Duquesne, from the Riverton Bridge through Regional Industrial Development Corp.’s Riverplace City Center to Grant Avenue, a stretch that includes a 60-foot tunnel. Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato also announced an agreement with Norfolk Southern Railway that will clear the way for completion of another 2.5 miles by next summer, from Duquesne to the Waterfront shopping complex…” Read more…

OK, gotta go throw-up now – though whilst retching I can find solace in the thought of a massive, 2.5 mile-long addition to our city’s fine network of proper bike trails…

Cuba admits failure to pay farmers on time

If you want to lift the embargo on Cuba, that’s fine. Just don’t extend credit to the Castro regime and require payment in cash, in-advance prior to delivery of any good or service. The AP reports on the dictatorship’s inability to pay its own farmers, in the following article:

HAVANA — Cuba on Monday acknowledged a failure to pay cash-strapped farmers on time and said some local officials lied to cover up the problem — a blunt admission from the communist government that crucial agriculture reforms lauded by President Raul Castro have so far fallen short.

The public mea culpa came in a full page spread Monday in the state-run Granma newspaper, which acknowledged that the issue is a main cause of discontent in the countryside.

It said that after an enormous effort to repay farmers that began in 2004, the problem has come up again.

“We ought to admit that provincial agriculture officials, local governments and the Agriculture Ministry itself have not taken responsibility,” Agriculture Minister Ulises Rosales de Toro is quoted as saying.

The minister said that some local officials have falsified records to hide the lack of payments, something that he described as “unconscionable.”

“Anybody who acts in this way calls into question his moral authority to lead,” the report quoted him as saying.

Despite a warm climate and rich soil, Cuba lacks the ability to feed itself and must import more than $2 billion worth of food a year, much of it from the United States.

Cuban markets offer a grim selection of basic products, and often run out. Many complain that it is hard to get by on government ration books that grant only about 15 days worth of food for an entire month.

Raul Castro, who took over from his elder brother Fidel in February 2008, has made agriculture reform one of the main goals of his administration. He has handed over 80,000 parcels of fallow government land to private farmers and exhorted his countrymen to produce more.

The government says the program is working, although it acknowledges progress is slow. Farmers say they often lack the equipment and fertilizer to plow the new fields, and that inefficiency has caused some food to rot before it can reach supermarket shelves.

According to the Granma report, the government owes farmers about $95,000 — not much by international standards, but a windfall in a country where farmers get by on well under $100 a month and must sell most of their production back to the state.

The payment problems “constitute an immorality in that they make producers think that the state is not willing to pay them,” the newspaper said.

By PAUL HAVEN (AP)
Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Photo © 2005 Chris Milliman.