The radio I got for my last birthday rests on a bookshelf, covered in dust. Because if I turn it on I can barely hear a thing. Not even the national broadcasts can be heard well in this area full of government ministries and the antennas they use to block the shortwave broadcasts that come into the country. I had the illusion I would be able to listen to Deutsche Welle to keep my German language alive, but instead of the hoped-for “Guten Tag” all that comes out of the speaker is a buzzing noise.

We live in the midst of a real war of radio frequencies on this Island. On one side we have the broadcasts of the station called Radio Martí — banned, but very popular among my compatriots, they are transmitted from the United States — and on the other side the buzzing they use to silence it. The radio receivers sold in the official stores have had the module that allows you to hear these transmissions removed, and the police are in the habit of searching the roofs for the devices that help to better capture these signals.

Meanwhile, inside their houses, people look for the place — it could be a corner, near a window, or stuck to the ceiling — where the radio manages to ignore the annoying beeping of the interference. It is common to see someone lying on the floor while they locate the exact point where local programming is overshadowed by what comes from abroad. It doesn’t matter what they’re sending from the other shore, whether it’s a boring musical program, the news in English, or a weather report from somewhere else in the world. What matters is that it is a balm for the ears, that it sounds different, that it is something other than that mix of slogans and prose without freedom that is transmitted daily on Cuban radio.


14 thoughts on “Interference

  1. Pamela: You don’t like Humberto’s posts… keep skipping over them.
    Alberto: I’m with you, I love them.
    Humberto: KEEP POSTING. I like that fact that there’s a sort of English language “Penultimos Dios” right here in Yoani’s blog. Your comments are one of my main sources of news about Cuba.

  2. For me Humberto’s contribution is of much importance & I don’t find them annoying but informative & helpful.
    His dedication & consistency deserves (in my opinion) respect & gratitude.

  3. Humberto Capiro, Why don’t you just create your own blog? Your never-ending posts are annoying (and, of course, skipped right over without being read).

  4. We may suffer “due to the access to the media … the situation is so bad for us …”
    What situation?
    There is still freedom to choose, freedom of access, freedom to read, communicate, share ideas …
    I am confused … how is the situation bad?
    Perhaps there is no more accountability for our actions & our decisions since people tends to belive they are no longer our responsibility?
    What is it that is so bad?

  5. The “access” you want comes at a price.

    In the US, we have suffered politically, economically, and socially due to the access to (ignorant) media. Be careful what you wish for. The situation is so bad for us, I don’t even want to talk about it.

    We have over a thousand channels promoting lies, ignorance, and complacence.


    MERCURY NEWS: Albertin Montoya’s family escaped Cuba to find soccer success in America-By Matt Schwab-09/25/2010

    After a harrowing boat escape out of Cuba, it was a narrow strip of waterway near Key West, Fla., that led 5-year-old Albertin Montoya and his family to freedom in the United States. Thirty years later, it’s safe to say the Bay Area soccer landscape would not be the same without the Mariel Boatlift — a mass exodus that brought up to 125,000 Cubans to Miami from April to October in 1980.

    Albertin, 35, went on to a successful collegiate career at Santa Clara and has since established himself as one of America’s leading women’s soccer coaches. He will lead the Gold Pride into the Women’s Professional Soccer Championship at Cal State East Bay on Sunday against the Philadelphia Independence.

    Meanwhile, the entire Montoya family — including Albertin’s father Alberto and mother Elisabeth — has collectively helped build the Mountain View Los Altos Soccer Club into one of the top youth organizations of its kind, catapulting 15 players to U.S. youth national teams over the last eight years.

    Everything that the family has accomplished has been done from scratch, say those who know the Montoyas well, such as Earthquakes goalkeeper Joe Cannon, a longtime youth teammate of Albertin.

    “It’s the sweet American dream,” said Cannon.

    Flight from Cuba

    It was a turbulent time for the island nation of Cuba in 1980. The economy had taken a downturn and 10,000 Cubans were trying to gain asylum in the Peruvian embassy. The Mariel Boatlift evolved from an agreement between Cuban dictator Fidel Castro and President Jimmy Carter to allow any Cuban an opportunity to freely leave the country.

    However, it turned out to be a ruse. Castro made it known his motivation was to unload his country’s prisoners and the physically and mentally ill.

    Castro miscalculated how many other people would try to escape. Alberto Montoya, for one, was a professional soccer player and a professor who resided in Camaguey, in central Cuba.

    “He was involved in the government and he knew where the economy and everything was headed in Cuba, and he decided it was best for his family to try to escape,” Albertin said. “Obviously, that was not what they wanted him to do. So we were in hiding from house to house, and we escaped on a boat and the rest is history.”

    The Montoyas used teamwork to pull it off.

    Albertin’s grandfather, also named Alberto, came to the Bay Area in the 1970s, and paid for the boat. Albertin’s aunt made the voyage from Miami to collect the family.

    “She gave me the call and gave me the opportunity, and I jumped at it,” said Alberto Montoya, who settled in Mountain View to be near his father, grandfather, brother, sister and cousin.

    However, Albertin’s mom agonized over having to leave all her relatives behind. She was not allowed to return to visit them for 17 years.

    “Now she doesn’t have any regrets because of the life for Albertin here,” Alberto Montoya said. “He’s been to 20 countries through soccer, and he met his wife (Erin, a former Santa Clara player) in soccer.”

    Perilous journey

    But the actual journey 30 years ago still brings back terrifying memories.

    After eluding Cuban authorities, the family braved a terrible storm during an 80-mile boat trip, accompanied by seven released Cuban criminals who had jumped on at the last minute.

    Giant waves pounded the 23-foot vessel as the family’s odyssey dragged on for 22 hours. They ran out of gas, sounded an emergency horn and were towed the final 10 miles by another boat, landing in Opa-Locka, Fla., in Miami-Dade County, on May 21, 1980.

    “I don’t know if I had to do it again I’d do it,” Alberto Montoya, now 59, said recently. “Huge waves. Honestly, I didn’t think that we would make it. We tried to get into a Coast Guard (vessel) and it was impossible because the waves were so high, our boat would crash, just break up.”

    But once settled in their new homeland, Albertin and Alberto Montoya quickly forged an unbreakable soccer bond.

    Dad said he coached his son every day in their backyard in Mountain View, and the two would play imaginary World Cup tournaments.

    “My dad took me out to soccer practice, and I got started playing,” Albertin said. “I guess because of my height and size I couldn’t really play basketball or football or some of the other sports, and I developed a passion early on and had quite some success.”

    Known for his magical touch on the ball, Montoya helped the U.S. youth national team to its best finish in the Under-17 World Cup in Italy, advancing to the quarterfinals.

    Albertin went on to star at Santa Clara and played for coach Bruce Arena in the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. He was drafted in the first round by the San Jose Clash in 1997, but an injury ended his career.

    Albertin’s father found soccer through a twist of fate. He was nearly killed in a fire at home in Cuba when he was 11. In the aftermath, he was unable to walk for two years. A friend introduced him to soccer, and it rejuvenated his life. He went on to play in the Cuban First Division for 10 years and got a masters in physical education.

    “Then all my life I was dedicated to soccer,” Alberto Montoya said.

    And what a soccer life it’s been. Alberto Montoya has guided MVLA youth teams to 11 State Cup championships. Cannon and Albertin were teammates for 10 years on the MVLA Shooting Stars coached by Alberto. The two friends capped their youth careers with an under-19 national championship, an achievement Cannon will always cherish.

    “That was probably one of best moments of my life,” Cannon said. “Alberto, Albertin and I, we’d all been with the team for 10 years. It was something we could all look back on and see as a product of all the work.”

    And ultimately made possible by one daring escape.


    Aroldis Chapman 105 mph pitch vs. the Padres 9/24/2010

    Albertin Aroldis Chapman de la Cruz (born February 28, 1988[1]) is a Cuban Major League Baseball pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds. He currently holds the record for the fastest thrown pitch ever recorded in Major League Baseball.[2]

    After a failed attempt to defect in the spring of 2008, Chapman was brought to Havana to meet with Cuban President Raul Castro who gave him a conditional reprieve, suspending him for the remainder of the National Series season and also keeping him off Cuba’s national team for the Beijing Olympics, but allowing him to return to the National Series and play in the World Baseball Classic.[4]

    A few years after Alexei Ramirez defected, Chapman successfully defected from Cuba while in Rotterdam, Netherlands where the Cuban national team was participating in the World Port Tournament on July 1, 2009; Chapman walked out the front door of the team hotel and entered into an automobile driven by an acquaintance.[4][5] Chapman eventually established residency in Andorra[6] and petitioned Major League Baseball to be granted free agent status.[7]

  8. Meanwhile in the US:

    Diane Wickberg didn’t intend to become a public defender of the First Amendment. But now that she’s found herself in that position, she’s not backing down from the fight.
    The 55-year-old Flagstaff grandmother, with the help of the Goldwater Institute, is suing Coconino County Recorder Candace Owens after Wickberg was twice stopped at the polls for wearing a “tea party” T-shirt.
    Every Tuesday for the past two years, Wickberg has attended a meeting of her Flagstaff tea-party group wearing a T-shirt that depicts the American flag and the Constitution. On May 18, the day of the state sales-tax vote, Wickberg said she threw on that T-shirt and a pair of jeans, drove her 11-year-old grandson to school and headed to her polling place.
    “I’m a jeans and T-shirt person,” said Wickberg, who works as a fundraiser for her grandson’s school. “I didn’t think about what I was wearing.”
    She was told by a poll worker that she needed to either change her shirt or cover it up.
    “They said the shirt I was wearing was making a political statement,” Wickberg said. “All it says is ‘We the People – Reclaiming our Constitution.’ ”
    Is Kastroism coming to the US ?? S.

  9. IF YOU THOUGHT YOUR TAXES WERE HIGH! GET A LOAD OF THESE RATES PROPOSED BY “LA CHINA”& “THE MUMMY” FOR SUCH HIGH INCOME EARNERS AS: home and car rentals, wine makers, public bathroom janitors, small restaurants run out of homes (paladares)-which can now have more guests and offer seafood and beef (this is a pathetic truth)

    “Cuba’s government released details of its plan to “redesign” the island’s largely state-run economy to allow more private enterprise, including easing of restrictions on home and car rentals and guidelines for an anticipated boom in the private sector job market.”

    “Tax of 36 percent to 65 percent on private-sector incomes may discourage new employment, drive workers into the informal sector and create unrest, Mesa-Lago said in a telephone interview.”

    BUSINESSWEEK: Cuba Lays Out ‘Redesign’ of Economy to Boost Private Enterprise-September 24
    Sept. 24 (Bloomberg) — Cuba’s government released details of its plan to “redesign” the island’s largely state-run economy to allow more private enterprise, including easing of restrictions on home and car rentals and guidelines for an anticipated boom in the private sector job market.

    The government set out its plans in the Communist Party newspaper Granma today after announcing last week it will dismiss 500,000 state workers, affecting 10 percent of the workforce, by March as the island faces its worst economic slide since the former Soviet Union ended support in the 1990s.

    The measures aim to boost supply of goods and services, create new income for Cubans and “allow the state to shake off a good part of the burden of excessive subsidies,” Granma reported.

    Granma listed 178 job fields that will be allowed, from wine makers to public bathroom janitors, and said the central bank may offer micro-credits to new entrepreneurs.

    Cubans will be allowed to employ people other than family members in 83 of those fields, creating new boss-employee relationships, Granma reported, citing interviews with Economy Minister Marino Murillo Jorge and Deputy Labor Minister Admi Valhuerdi Cepero.

    Cubans who live overseas will be permitted to let third parties rent out their cars. Cubans will be allowed to rent their homes to travelers with fewer restrictions and can hire staff to manage the business for the first time.

    Seafood and Beef

    Restrictions were also eased on so-called “paladares,” or small restaurants run out of homes, which can now have more guests and offer seafood and beef.

    The government employs about 84 percent of the workforce. It will be “very difficult” to ease the transition as the number of self-employed more than doubles to 400,000 within six months, said Carmelo Mesa-Lago, a Cuba economics expert and professor at the University of Pittsburgh.

    Tax of 36 percent to 65 percent on private-sector incomes may discourage new employment, drive workers into the informal sector and create unrest, Mesa-Lago said in a telephone interview.

    Raul Castro, 79, has initiated measures to open the economy since his brother Fidel began handing over power in 2006.

    Looser Controls

    In August the government loosened controls that prohibited Cubans from selling their own fruit and vegetables. It also eased property laws, extending lease periods to 99 years from 50 years for foreign investors in an effort to build up the tourism infrastructure and draw more visitors to the Caribbean island of 11.4 million people.

    Cubans can now run private taxi companies, own mobile phones and operate their own barber shops.

    The state still controls 90 percent of the economy, paying salaries of about $20 a month in addition to free rationed food staples and health care, and nearly free housing and transportation.

  10. ASSOCIATED PRESS: Cuba details brave new world of private enterprise-
    HAVANA — Cuba’s communist leaders mapped out a brave new world of free enterprise on Friday, approving a laundry list of small-time businesses, allowing islanders to take on employees and even promising credit to burgeoning entrepreneurs.

    The reforms — laid out in a three-page spread in the Communist Party-daily Granma — seem sure to create a society of haves and have-nots in a land that has spent half a century striving for an egalitarian utopia.

    They follow last week’s announcement that the government will lay off 500,000 workers by the end of March — or one-tenth of the country’s workforce — the biggest change in Cuba’s economic system since the early 1990s.

    For the first time, Cubans in 83 private activities will be allowed to employ people other than their relatives, and they will be able to sell their services to the state as private contractors. Accountants, currently only permitted to work for the state, can set out on their own, keeping the books for the new businesses.

    Cubans who want to rent their homes to travelers will no longer have to live on the premises and can hire staff. Even islanders authorized to live overseas — though apparently not exiles — can take part in the economic changes by renting out the cars and homes they leave behind.

    And the Central Bank is studying ways to grant small-business loans that are crucial to any free-market system, but which would have been unthinkable in Cuba just weeks ago.

    “The decision to loosen the rules on private employment is one of the steps the country has taken in the redesign of its economic policies to increase production levels and efficiency,” Granma reported, citing Economy Minister Marino Murillo Jorge and a vice-minister of labor and social security, Admi Valhuerdi Cepero.

    In an acknowledgment that the Cuban economy lacks the raw materials to support many private enterprises, Valhuerdi said some activities that rely on hard-to-get items like marble, paint for cars or soap will continue to be restricted. Eventually, the country hopes to create a system of wholesalers, but it will take several years.

    Granma is the voice of the Communist Party and one of the principal ways the government communicates plans with the people. The paper promised more details in coming days, saying that the expanded private enterprise would be “another opportunity, under the watchful eye of the state” to “improve the quality of life of Cubans.”

    Many will welcome the changes in a country where young people have been clamoring for more opportunities for years, but they will also create tension and upheaval. Whether the reforms will work depends on the reaction of Cubans who have seen past openings fizzle, and on the cash-strapped state’s ability to draw fresh tax revenues from the new businesses.

    Granma said private businesses would not only pay personal income tax, but also sales and payroll taxes — as well as contribute to social security. A vibrant, untaxed black market already exists in Cuba offering many of the services the government hopes to legitimize.

    Uva de Aragon, a Cuba expert at Florida International University in Miami, said those hoping to enter the legitimate markrt would be faced with a system that is totally alien to them.

    “Cubans have no capital, no credit, no experience at management — and the government is talking about imposing a new tax system, for which there is no culture,” she said. “The process is positive. My concern is how it will function.”

    On the streets of Havana, some said they hoped to take advantage of the openings, but many expressed skepticism.

    “I think people want to live better and have better services,” said Marilis Bador, a 32-year-old housewife. “I hope this isn’t just a one day flash in the pan, but rather something that will allow the country to develop.”

    Others, like Marley Martinez, said they were already thinking of joining the new private workforce.

    The 22-year-old is a state-trained accountant but is studying to become a hair dresser and hopes to open her own shop.

    “It’s not really a dream, but it’s something I want to do and feel I need to do,” she said during a stroll through a crowded Havana shopping center. “What the people need are more economic freedoms, the ability to work for themselves.”

    Currently, the state dominates nearly every aspect of the Cuban economy, employing at least 84 percent of the work force and paying an average of $20 a month. In return, islanders are guaranteed free education and health care, as well as nearly free housing, transportation and basic food.

    President Raul Castro has said the government can no longer afford such generous subsidies and that he wants to modernize Cuba’s economy without abandoning socialism. The article tries to allay any fears that the country is embracing free-market capitalism, saying that the changes will always be “faithful to the socialist principles our constitution demands.”

    In all, some 178 private activities will be allowed and expanded, though only seven of those are entirely new — including accountants, bathroom attendants, tutors and fruit vendors. The full-page list of allowed jobs includes floral wreath arrangers, animal trainers and interior decorators.

    The reforms, which are set to go into effect next month, will also allow a great expansion of private restaurants — called paladares — which will be able to serve up to 20 people and expand their menus to include higher-priced items like beef and lobster.

    Previously, government rules limited them to 12 seats and banned some menu offerings, though most establishments blatantly violated the rules.

    Ted Henken, a professor at Baruch College in New York who has studied Cuba’s policy toward the private sector, said the list shows the government is still interested in maintaining control rather than just allowing any form of private enterprise.

    “It’s still socialism,” he said. “But it is a different kind of socialism.”

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