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In recent days we have been bombarded with news of the Gaza Strip. Given our physical and cultural distance from these matters it is very difficult to have an independent opinion when all we hear, through the official media, is biased information that dismisses Israel and victimizes the Palestinians, or rather Hamas.

We all wonder how it is that the rockets that the commentator Cristina Escobar (no relation of mine) calls “artisanal” — which are falling on Israel — are so sophisticated that they only kill soldiers and never reach the elderly, women and children, and how the Israeli artillery can be so ineffective and so cruel that it never manages to hit military targets but only kills defenseless civilians.

Yesterday the editors of the news images missed the screen-crawl of a foreign news agency, which scrolls across the bottom of the screen while the images flash. The screen-crawl claimed that Tehran supplied the technology for the Palestinian rockets. Suddenly the entire official truth with its undeniable claims of “real truth” was called into question.

I don’t know who to blame for that conflict. I just know that innocents die.

23 November 2012


Translator’s note: Our apologies for not having a subtitled version…

As of this afternoon the latest chapter of Citizens’ Reasons will be available, dedicated to discussing a topic that is abstract but essential: Legitimacy. Participating on this occasion are Dagoberto Valdés, Miriam Celaya, Antonio Rodiles and, as moderator, this humble servant who is pleased to announce the program.

Of particular interest is the presence of the animator of the space Estado de Sats — Antonio Rodiles — who was arrested just as we were finishing editing the chapter.

As its title indicates, this edition of Citizens’ Reasons tries to respond to the question of to what extent we citizens should recognize the legitimacy of the “current” Cuban government and what we must do from civil society to achieve our own legitimacy.

The arbitrary arrest of Antonio Rodiles occurred confronting a department of State Security while participating in a civic and peaceful action to inquire about the situation of the attorney Yaremis Flores. There he was brutally beaten, but it was not his attackers who had to answer to the law, but rather the victim, accused of “resisting arrest.” At the time of this writing the courts have not ruled on the matter.

This has been the reality that gives the context to what is discussed in the most recent chapter of Citizens’ Reasons. I recommend that you watch it.

16 November 2012

I had a friend who had a very short fuse. Alcibiades was a man with a bad temper and his family and the neighborhood learned the lesson that no one should contradict him. As a result, among other consequences, he was always the last to hear bad news and in his entire adult life he lacked a thermometer to measure the effects of his own actions. Obviously he died of a heart attack.

I remembered Alcibiades when people from civil society were arrested, having gone to the police station out of concern for their friends. An agent of State Security, whose name I couldn’t learn, warned me with authoritarian gestures that “they” were not going to tolerate any provocation. I’ve thought a lot about that warning.

We could wear ourselves out clarifying that this is not a provocation but very sensitive people and we end up concluding that the only way of not provoking them is to follow the old advice of the poet Heberto Padilla in his Instructions to Enter a New Society:

One step forward, and
two or three back:
but always applauding.

Every day more Cuban citizens refuse to follow these instructions. A sense of self-esteem is growing among us and turning us into individuals, far from a domineering “us.” This inevitably leads us to disobedience. “They” whom I can’t name as “the authorities” so as not to irritate the other sensitive people, sooner or later will have to face the reality that they are on the brink of ungovernability, because anger is not usually gradual nor does it build slowly but surely. The anger that originates in seeing our most elemental rights trampled jumps directly from meekness to rebellion.

As I am an optimist and an enemy of violence, I think we have to time to seek an understanding. To whom does it fall to take the next step? I think it’s precisely up to “them,” initiating a process of political reforms that need to start with the decriminalization of political dissent, the dissolution of the mechanisms of repression against those who think differently, and a clear message to all of society where it is proclaimed, once and for all, that a legitimate rule of law will be established in the Nation.

12 November 2012

Video showing the arrest of Yoani Sanchez and the beating and arrest of Angel Santiesteban

In the last 48 hours a wave of arrests has been unleashed that at this point can’t be explained in any reasonable way. The first difficulty in understanding what happened is that it is very difficult to think like the repressive forces. They have their own “logic” and it is often confusing.

Shortly after learning that among the people arrested was my wife, the blogger Yoani Sanchez, I went to the police station on Acosta street with the blogger Agustin Lopez (his blog is Dekaisone). Minutes after asking uniformed men about Yoani’s presence in this place, others came, dressed in plainclothes and also uniformed, and told us we were being arrested.

The frisking process was brief, they handcuffed us and put us in the car. The squad car pulled out and turned the corner. We had barely gone 60 yards when a man in civilian clothes stopped the car and ordered them to let us go. Probably Agustin and I have starred in one of the shortest detentions of recent times.

The night went slowly, full of news of other arrests and releases. At this point, still behind bars are Yaremis Flores, Antonio Rodiles, and an undetermined group of civil society activists.

9 November 2012

Note: This article was originally published on election day in the U.S., before the polls closed.

Four years ago a good number of Cubans conceived the hope that President Barack Obama would introduce into the foreign policy of the United States changes that would lead to an improvement in relations with Cuba. Among the most significant points was the reduction or elimination of the embargo/blockade, the relaxation of travel and remittances to Cuba, and the closure of the prison at the Guantanamo Bay naval base.

“Unfortunately” Obama has not been the dictator of the United States, but just a president who must abide by the democratic system that the Americans have built over more than two centuries. Nevertheless, he eliminated restrictions put into place by his predecessor, Bush, relating to Cuban-Americans and the sending of remittances. More Americans can travel to the Island at this time, but the persecution of companies that trade with Cuba continued, and the Guantanamo prison continued to operate as before. We can always ask ourselves would the situation have been if, in the 2008 election, the winner had been the Republican McCain.

In parallel, the four years of the Obama administration coincided with the “Raul reforms,” in which, as expected, the same level of anti-imperialist belligerence has been maintained, combined with the assertion that the table is set for discussions with our northern neighbor, if and when they are carried out in conditions of full equality. Throughout this entire time the approach offered by the Cuban media — the private property of the Communist Party — has focused on demonstrating that the “black president,” has he has repeatedly been called by Fidel Castro, has been more of the same and even worse in some respects.

With less than a week before we will know the results of the election, the Cuban Foreign Ministry (MINREX) issued a Statement in which it reacts with considerable irritation to some courses offered by the United States Interests Section in Havana and the establishment of centers where Cubans can connect to the Internet. The term “illegal” appears five times in the text that contains the assertion that “the current government of the United States has no real desire to leave behind the worse policies and practices and of the Cold War…”

Some say this statement could be the harbinger of a new wave of repression against dissidents. Others are suggesting that it simply sends a message to Obama, should he be reelected, or to Romney if he turns out to be the winner. In a few hours we will know if there will be change or continuity in the United States. I have the impression that there is less optimism about what Obama will do if he is reelected, and a great expectations about what Romney might do if he carried out his threats. What is significant is that this country, which has spent half a century demonstrating how it has broken all dependence on its powerful neighbor, continues to depend on what is legislated in the USA to determine how it will repress its opponents and even how far it will relax its travel and immigration policies, to cite only two examples.

I fear that, whoever wins, it will be on this side where we will continue to have more of the same.

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.

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