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“1.8 …a climate of utmost trust should be encouraged and the necessary conditions created at all levels for the widest and honest exchange of opinions, both within the Party an in its relations with the workers and the people. This would allow, in a framework of respect and commitment, the expression of ideas and diverse concepts, in a way that disagreements are assumed to be a normal thing.”

Taken from the base document of the First Cuban Communist Party Congress.

On this point I have more questions that opinions. Here are some of them:

Does this climate of utmost trust refer exclusively to the relations that the Communist Party establishes (a) among its militants, (b) in its relations with the workers and the people?

Does the widest and honest exchange of opinions include the political opinions of others or those adverse to the ideology of the Communist Party?

It is understood that this must happen in a framework of respect, but what does a framework of commitment signify?

Can the expression of diverse concepts happen through the mass media?

Will “spontaneous reprisals” be prohibited, such as the repudiation rallies directed against those who express in the streets and in a peaceful way their disagreement with the politics of the Communist Party?

Will official reprisals be ended, such as arbitrary arrests, preventing people from entering public places, home arrests, kidnappings, forced interrogations, denial of permission to leave the country, false accusations and public disgrace with no right to respond, the control of technological and communications media, the confiscation of literature, wiretapping, surveillance, harassment and other oppressive activities practiced daily against those who don’t want to wait to be given permission to be honest?

25 October 2011


On Sunday, October 2 at about eight in the evening, I visited the home of Laura Pollán and Héctor Maceda. I intended to film a short interview with both. Half an hour earlier, Maceda had confirmed with me that it would be possible, but when I arrived at 963 Neptuno Street on the heart of Central Havana, he told me that his wife had begun to feel ill almost exactly when he’d hung up the phone.

Obviously I didn’t interview Laura, but I did interview Hector and before I left I went to her room where I saw her shivering with cold and fever; she allowed me to make a couple of good humored medicinal jokes, and then she lowered the sheet covering her a little so I could see her smile. I touched her forehead and gave her a kiss.

I did not see her in that unspeakable wood gray box where I was told she was unrecognizable. I’m keeping her  invincible smile.

17 October 2011

The other day, watching a triumphalist report on the news about the unrestricted sale of construction materials and under pressure from his wife who has been asking him to build a closet in the bedroom for years, my neighbor Chicho made the trek to the corner of Paseo and 33rd to buy washed sand, gravel, cement, and four-inch thick blocks. The rest, the tools and the knowledge, he already had, having been a bricklayer for more than six years in those long-ago days of the microbrigades*.

He walked from his house to the place hoping to find someone there with the entrepreneurial spirit to offer to transport the materials, and indeed, outside was an old Toyota with a little trailer and two men with wheelbarrows waiting for customers. They gave him a little signal meaning “we can load up and get out of here right now” and he entered a kind of office where a woman was filling in the orders and taking money. “Who’s last in line?” he asked, purely as a formality, as there was only one person at the counter. When it was his turn to be helped he said, “My dear, put me down for 40 four-inch blocks, a sack of cement, two sacks of sand and another of gravel.”

The woman looked at him as if he were a Martian, and with her best smirk asked him, “Didn’t you see what it said on the chalkboard?”

Only then did he realize that at the entrance there had been a piece of black cardboard written on in white chalk, but he’d overlooked it in the excitement of trying to behave like a customer. “My eyesight is poor,” he fibbed, to justify himself. Then the woman told him, “For sand, you have to come on Monday and check in early. That same day you can get the cement and the blocks but the four-inch aren’t available now. But look, the gravel is only available on Thursdays.”

“So I have to come twice and pay for two separate deliveries?”

“Look here, son, not only are you near-sighted, you’re deaf, or are you making fun of me?”

* Translator’s note:
Microbrigades = “In 1971 a novel form of sweat equity, the microbrigades, accompanied government investments. Under this system groups of employees from given workplaces would form brigades to build housing while other employees agreed to maintain production at current levels. Housing units were then allocated among the employees from that workplace…. Microbrigades experienced a revival in 1986 due to several social forces.”
Source: Kapur and Smith, Housing Policy in Castro’s Cuba, 2002

12 October 2011

... and democratic. Photo: Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

In his regular column in the newspaper Granma today, Monday October 3rd, the Spanish consulate general directly informed the citizens of that country living in Cuba that from today until October 10th the “electoral list will be exhibited” at the consulate. Thus, these Spaniards will know in advance who the candidates are, and eventually they will return there to exercise their right to vote.

Have the citizens of “the motherland” noticed that such announcements, directed at Cubans, do not appear in the newspapers of their country?

Because the outraged who demand a better democracy for Spain know it. We, not even that. When we travel beyond the island, be it for a temporary visit or because we have decided to live elsewhere, no one advises us of the electoral processes.

I forgot to mention that those of us who live permanently in Cuba, we don’t get to choose anything. Every five years they present us with a list of Parliamentary candidates for a complete or partial approval, but we have nothing to do with selecting the choices, and what’s more, nobody is outraged, or almost nobody.

Link to Original Blog in Spanish

Please help translate

Reinaldo Escobar (1947), an independent journalist since 1989, writes from Cuba where he was born and continues to live. He received his degree in Journalism from the University of Havana in 1971 and subsequently worked for different Cuban publications. His articles can be found in various European publications, and in the digital magazines "Cuba Encuentro" and "Contodos."

Desde Aquí/From Here is a personal undertaking born from the need to write about those topics that fill my head every day but that cannot find a space in the official Cuban media.

reinaldoescobar@desdecuba.com

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