Sell and Leave

Imagen tomada de: Ben, a Cuban in Europe. http://bendeasis.blogspot.com

News has several lives on this Island. First they hint at something but don’t publish it, then they announce it tersely in some national media, and later its echo repeatedly feeds popular fantasy. This has happened with the recent information about the new flexibility in buying and selling homes. For months–perhaps years–we spun the rumor that a new housing law was about to be approved, that the absurdities of real estate would no longer stand. But only when the Cuban Communist Party Congress addressed it in Guideline No. 297, could we put some hesitant certainty to it. Although late, the measure has sparked an exclamation of relief, but has also revealed our suspicions.

Curiously, most people who bring up the issue, repeatedly put the same question to me. “Can you sell your house before leaving the country?” everyone asks, as if the real estate business was just a step to fulfilling the widespread dream of emigration. Until now, someone who permanently left the country was dispossessed of their property. Only a family member living under the same roof–and for ten years–was able to stay put, but they had to pay the National Institute for Urban Reform the value of the house. Forced evictions of those who didn’t follow this rule became a common sight on the streets of this capital. Now, the great conundrum is whether a property owner will have the power to dispose of their home on the market and use that money to relocate to another latitude. How much time should elapse between this commercial transaction and the departure from the national territory?

We have been conned so much that people prefer to wrap themselves in skepticism and believe that the new selling measures will also be full of restrictions. I am surprisingly optimistic amid so much suspicion. I argue to the doubters, “The government is forced to open up, or the reality will leave them behind,” but they prefer to carry on without illusion. Notwithstanding their distrust, many cherish the idea of offering the walls within which they live in exchange for a ticket and visa to get out of Cuba. Sell and leave, trading a roof here for one there, using their small patrimony to escape. And do this before the real estate flag drops again, before the step back is taken.

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90 thoughts on “Sell and Leave

  1. @#89
    1)”…I must wonder how will those tens of thousands of Cubans obtain the elusive and unreachable permit to travel ot of Cuba when the permit CANNOT be obtained according to the team”yoani”?
    Please provide Yoani’s comment about this (topic context & date)
    .
    2)”…But how can Cubans even entertain such ideas when according to the very team “yoani” to leave Cuba is IMPOSSIBLE, and draw attention at their own case of NOT being able to leave…!!!”
    Please provide Yoani’s comment about this (topic context & date)

    I challange u … pal

  2. Let us analyse this post by the team “yoani” a little because it is quite interesting. For the YET AGAIN self-inflicted mortal wound, despite my own and many other people’s comments on hundreds of blatant lies, confused and repeatedly conflicting statements.

    The team “yoani” are hard on the jo of convincing the reader how bad is in Cuba and that everything is the Fidel’s and communist fault.

    Apart from the obvious childhood-parents issues already covered here, and in some other blogs that I have seen, here’s another blunder by the “democracy” and “freedom” “fighters:

    The title (the self0induced confusion starts with the first sentence):

    “Sell and leave”

    And immediately from the text it becomes clear that the authors claim that thousands of Cubans, no make that tens of thousands of Cubans to be in line with their false propaganda, are SELLING their houses and LEAVING Cuba.

    “Notwithstanding their distrust, many cherish the idea of offering the walls within which they live in exchange for a ticket and visa to get out of Cuba. Sell and leave, trading a roof here for one there, using their small patrimony to escape. ”

    But how can Cubans even entertain such ideas when according to the very team “yoani” to leave Cuba is IMPOSSIBLE, and draw attention at their own case of NOT being able to leave…!!!

    I must wonder how will those tens of thousands of Cubans obtain the elusive and unreachable permit to travel ot of Cuba when the permit CANNOT be obtained according to the team”yoani”?

    Who themselves travelled undeterred and without any problems (and explanation as to how) to another city and to a prison to visit a foreigner…

    None of that is possible according to the team “yoani”, and yet they do it on a daily basis, without any problems and interference by authorities.

    Must be that the police live together with their cia friends on Mars and cannot see the “hated” team “yoani” roaming the country freely.

    Of course, the other possibility, the team “yoani” lying as always, will be hotly contested by the 1 and a half persons making the support group “cuba libre anonimous”.

    If I didn’t know better, I’d say that that sounds more like an alcoholic or drug addict support group…

  3. I have met some nice people who live in those rundown houses. Now I’m sending them cans of GOOD Folgers instant coffee, so they don’t have to drink that muddy water, they were forced to serve me when I was there.

  4. Humberto, I don’t think anybody has said what you said, including trudeau.

    For my part, it’s quite the contrary, I think public safety is a part of any real democracy. And I’m for Cubans having both.

  5. SOO!! The CUBAN PEOPLE should BOW DOWN and ACCEPT a LACK OF FREEDOM due to a FASCIST STATE for the SAKE, SAFETY, LACK OF TRAFFIC, NEED FOR 1950’s NOSTALGIA OF ALL TOURISTS? SOMETHING IS WRONG HERE!

  6. I should add that according to most of the people I’ve talked to Bogota is much safer these days and safer than Caracas. Crime really has nothing to do with socialism or capitalism, but rather a government willing to punish criminals. As in many other countries, the Cuban government should stop punishing dissidents, clean up corruption and focus all the security apparatus on public security. But for obvious reasons, the Cuban government can’t afford to do that.

  7. I agree with trudeau about security of the person, but that really is more of a failing of Mexico and the USA than any success of the Cuban regime. I’m not a rabid anti-socialist or anything, but I have to say that our high crime rates are mainly due to the “socialists” and “progressives” that adopted criminal’s rights as one of their pet causes, and thought if they were pampered they would stop killing and robbing people. The result: skyrocketing crime, millions of extra corpses, and a terrified public.

    I really have no idea what the crime rate is in Cuba. I was in a hospital in Havana when several victims were brought in. The were slashed to bits by machetes. The doctor couldn’t save them. Very common the doctor said. Never heard a peep about it in the media. That’s what every Cuban tells me, crime never gets reported. I think all the bars on the windows is a clue to how much crime there is. So not as bad as Juarez or Tijuana, but still a miserable failure on the Cuban government’s part. If they took all that machinery they use to suppress dissent and used it on criminals, Cubans would feel much safer.

    As for everything else, most of the world travelers I’ve met would take Mexico on every count, including health care. OK, I prefer the lack of traffic in Havana obviously. But that is hardly a deliberate policy of the Cuban government.

  8. Trudeau said : “As to security of the person, I’ll take Havana over Bogota or Mexico City or maybe even Detroit.”

    SOOOO! Your PERSONAL SAFETY (as a foreigner) OVERRIDES the Cuban people’s FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION, ASSOCIATION, PRESS, INTERNET ACCESS ETC. ETC.!! DUE TO A FASCIST STATE? WOW! YOU ARE PRETTY SELFISH!

  9. Brian French,

    I am not sure why you bring up Article 28 of the UDHR. However inadequately, the Cuban government tries to provide a minimum of material standards to everyone. They have, in a way, democratized poverty. As to security of the person, I’ll take Havana over Bogota or Mexico City or maybe even Detroit. Where they really fall down in the lack of freedom of expression and movement, the right to be presumed innocent (look at the crime of “dangerousness, or the likelihood of actually doing something wrong. Plus the right to own property. They do actually have a free public health system, unlike some other countries.

  10. Damir! STILL USING THE STRAW THEORY!!
    Grasping at Straws- Making wild and often times unbelievable assumptions or using far fetched ideas and possibilities to reach the desired conclusion.

  11. @#77
    Julio 10th, 2011 at 06:53
    “I am humbled by the fact that I am reduced to one post per day (other posts get deleted within a few minutes).

    LOng live nazists and anti Cubans (the two being one and the same thing).

    And “democracy”, “freedom” and most of all the “freedom of speech”, as demanded for themselves by the same nazist herds”.

    Never loose the chance to insult & denigrate eh? u r justifing ur action w/unproven allegations. In the realm of allegations … pal: paraphrasing ur own boastings in this blog about ur computer knowledge/expertise in how to get around the security of the blogg … perhaps it is u the one that is causing problems eh?

  12. I am humbled by the fact that I am reduced to one post per day (other posts get deleted within a few minutes).

    LOng live nazists and anti Cubans (the two being one and the same thing).

    And “democracy”, “freedom” and most of all the “freedom of speech”, as demanded for themselves by the same nazist herds.

  13. THE DOUBLE SIDED SWORD OF WIKILEAKS! TAKE IT AS YOU WILL! YOU CANNOT ESCAPE YOUR PAST AND ACTIONS FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE AS A PUBLIC FIGURE! TOO BAD THE INTERNET DID NOT EXIST IN 1959, CUBA WOULD BE A DIFFERENT PLACE! SO WOULD THE WORLD!

    MIAMI HERALD : WikiLeaks: Cable says peace group’s founder threatened U.S. students in Cuba-By JUAN O. TAMAYO
    WASHINGTON — The founder of a New York-based group that supports the Cuban government threatened to pull the scholarships of U.S. medical students in Havana if they contacted the U.S. diplomatic mission on the island, according to a State Department cable.

    Pastor Lucius Walker, then head of Pastors for Peace, allegedly made the threat the day before one of the students attended a 2007 meeting of the mission’s warden system – U.S. citizens who volunteer to contact other Americans in case of an emergency, such as a hurricane or earthquake. U.S. embassies throughout the world organize similar arrangements.

    The cable, one of hundreds of thousands obtained by WikiLeaks and shared with McClatchy, did not identify the student who made the allegation. Pastors for Peace spokeswoman Lucia Bruno said she did not believe Walker, who died last year, would have made such a threat.

    But the dispatch, dated Nov. 30, 2007, showed no such doubts and said Walker’s alleged comments “suggest that he would deny all contact between (the U.S. mission) … and the American citizen students even for basic consular services.”

    The cable underscores the bitterness of a half-century of division over U.S. relations with Cuba. Pastors for Peace advocates lifting the U.S. trade embargo against the island nation, and the cable hinted, without providing details, that Walker and U.S. diplomats in Cuba had clashed previously. The cable was titled “Pastors for Peace serve American medical students threats for Thanksgiving dinner.”

    An estimated 100 U.S. citizens, most from poor families, currently study at Cuba’s Latin American School of Medicine, a showcase on the outskirts of Havana for Cuba’s highly touted efforts to assist other countries by training their doctors.

    Tuition, room and board are free for all of the estimated 10,000 students from nearly 30 countries, mostly in Latin America and Africa. The Pastors for Peace office in New York processes and approves the applications of U.S. citizens.

    Cuban officials have long refused requests from the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana, officially called the U.S. Interests Section (USINT), to make regular consular visits to the American students at the school.

    When one State Department official managed a rare visit in 2009, U.S. students “told us that they were unaware that USINT had been kept from visiting them,” according to a second WikiLeaks dispatch from Havana.

    The 2007 cable said the Walker warning came on the day before the diplomatic mission was to hold its first organizational meeting of the warden system at the home of the mission’s top diplomat, Michael Parmly.

    The cable said the complaining student was in his fifth year of study at the school, and said Walker usually “complimented and encouraged the students” during his speech at the annual Thanksgiving dinner.

    But this time, the cable said, Walker’s speech “took a threatening tone,” spending “over an hour warning students against having contact with USINT” and “threatened that Pastors for Peace would consider withdrawing scholarships to students who contacted USINT.”

    Walker died of natural causes last year at the age of 80. A Baptist minister, he founded the Pastors for Peace group in 1988 and organized 21 annual campaigns to deliver assistance for communist-ruled Cuba, in violation of the U.S. embargo.

    The dispatch noted that Walker’s reported threat came shortly after USINT officials tried “to increase contacts between the students and the Consular Section” and designated the medical school as a part of a nascent warden system.

    But the student believed the threat had been triggered by a letter he had written to five Cuban spies in U.S. prisons after he was repeatedly urged to write letters demanding their release, according to the dispatch.

    He urged the five to demand “not only their own freedom but also the freedom of all political prisoners in Cuba” and “within hours many of his classmates … confronted him with remarks that he made in the supposedly sealed letter,” according to the cable.

    The student said he feared he and his wife – a citizen of another, unidentified country also studying at the school – would lose their scholarships. But the cable said he agreed to act as warden at the school and “to come to USINT to use the internet and receive newspapers but that he will limit his contact with USINT officials to protect the five years he and his wife have invested in their medical education.”

    “Given Walker’s past relationship with USINT it is not surprising that they would (limit) their students’ contacts with USINT,” the dispatch added. It gave no details on Walker’s previous contacts with the diplomatic mission, and a search through the WikiLeaks cables turned up no other significant mentions of Walker.

    Another WikiLeaks cable, written by U.S. diplomats in Venezuela in February of 2006, did mention Pastors for Peace’s participation in a “World Social Forum” held in Caracas the previous month by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

    The dispatch reported that the Forum featured a “Poverty in the United States” pavilion and a presentation titled “Locking Horns with the Empire: Challenging the U.S. Blockade Against Cuba,” that were “hosted by the pro-Cuba group ‘Pastors for Peace.’ ”

    (Juan Tamayo reports for El Nuevo Herald in Miami.)

    http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/07/09/2307191/wikileaks-cable-says-peace-groups.html

  14. The United Nations defined Basic Human Rights as: Food, Water, Housing, Clothing, and personal safety. None of these are offered to Cubans by the Castros. And yet Cuba is often on the UN Human Rights Commission.

  15. THE CASTROFASCISTS PUSHED THE CUBAN PEOPLE FROM THE HIGHER LEVELS OF THE MASLOW PYRAMID IN THE 1950’S TO ITS BOTTOM AND HAS NOT LET THEM ASCEND IN OVER 50 YEARS!

    Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a theory in psychology, proposed by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper A Theory of Human Motivation.[2] Maslow subsequently extended the idea to include his observations of humans’ innate curiosity. His theories parallel many other theories of human developmental psychology, all of which focus on describing the stages of growth in humans.

    Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is often portrayed in the shape of a pyramid, with the largest and most fundamental levels of needs at the bottom, and the need for self-actualization at the top.[1][6]

    The most fundamental and basic four layers of the pyramid contain what Maslow called “deficiency needs” or “d-needs”: esteem , friendship and love, security, and physical needs. With the exception of the most fundamental (physiological) needs, if these “deficiency needs” are not met, the body gives no physical indication but the individual feels anxious and tense. Maslow’s theory suggests that the most basic level of needs must be met before the individual will strongly desire (or focus motivation upon) the secondary or higher level needs. Maslow also coined the term Metamotivation to describe the motivation of people who go beyond the scope of the basic needs and strive for constant betterment.[7] Metamotivated people are driven by B-needs (Being Needs), instead of deficiency needs (D-Needs).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow's_hierarchy_of_needs

  16. Humberto, I love the following quote:

    “According to Juan Triana, from the Havana-based Centre for the Study of the Cuban Economy, housing is one of the three main problems, along with food and transportation.”

    Is there anything else (on the physical plane) that is so important to a people as food and shelter and transportation?

  17. BBC NEWS : Cubans eye prospect of being able to buy and sell homes- 9 July 2011

    Now the government has started fleshing out some of the details and says that the changes should be in place by the end of the year.

    “It’s difficult living together, ” said Lilian.

    “Everyone has their own habits; some are tidier than others. It’s OK when you are in love but afterwards such things become really annoying.”

    By Cuban standards, Mario and Lilian’s first-floor flat is relatively spacious with a small balcony off the living room. They share a tiny kitchen and bathroom but do have separate bedrooms.

    It was a relatively amicable divorce and at least they remain on speaking terms. The pressure, though, is hard to bear.

    “It’s all about respect. I can have a girlfriend but I can’t bring her home just as she can’t bring a boyfriend here. It’s one of the conditions we jointly agreed on, ” said Mario, a jazz and rock drummer who is struggling to make ends meet.

    CLICK LINK FOR ENTIRE ARTICLE

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-14062105

  18. Sad to see what Venezuela has become. Reading about it now compared to 40 and 50 years ago shows a society’s descent into hell.

  19. NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE : In Venezuela, an Unpleasant Foretaste of What’s to Come- By Mark Falcoff

    When I commented on NRO a few days ago about the possibility of Chávez’s death from (we now know) cancer, I predicted that there would be no obvious heir apparent. Instead, I argued that the country would lapse into a military dictatorship or a civil war, or possibly both. Several people e-mailed me that I was surely taking too grim a view of Venezuela and Venezuelans.

    During yesterday’s parade to celebrate 200 years of Venezuelan independence from Spain, opposition congresswoman Maria Corina Machado was physically attacked by a mob of Chávez supporters. They attacked her with fists, hurled objects at her, and punched her in the face. The army officer assigned to protect her reportedly suffered a head injury from a large object thrown by the same group.

    This is only one incident, of course, but it underscores the incredible polarization and class hatred that Chávez has stirred up in his country, formerly one of the more socially integrated Latin American republics.

    Moreover, during the few days when Chávez was unable to communicate with his followers while recovering from surgery in Cuba, some of his associates publicly threatened violence to keep power if challenged.

    The brickbats launched at Señora Corina Machado are a mere foretaste of what is to come, whether Chávez lives or dies.

  20. THE CASTROFASCIST SCHOOL OF INTIMIDATION, BULLYING, MANIPULATION OF THE POOR/GULLIBLE AND OUTRIGHT MOB RULE, VENEZUELAN CAMPUS SHOWS OFF ITS GRADUATES ON THIS VIDEO!

    YOUTUBE : MARIA CORINA MACHADO EN LOS PROCERES 5 DE JULIO DE 2011

  21. Corruption: The true counter-revolution? – 21 April 2010- Esteban Morales

    When we closely observe Cuba’s internal situation today, we can have no doubt that the counter-revolution, little by little, is taking positions at certain levels of the State and Government.

    Without a doubt, it is becoming evident that there are people in positions of government and state who are girding themselves financially for when the Revolution falls, and others may have everything almost ready to transfer state-owned assets to private hands, as happened in the old USSR.

    Fidel said that we ourselves could put an end to the Revolution and I tend to think that, among other concerns, the Commander in Chief was referring to the questions relative to corruption. Because this phenomenon, already present, has continued to appear in force. If not, see what has happened with the distribution of lands in usufruct in some municipalities around the country: fraud, illegalities, favoritism, bureaucratic slowness, etc.

    CLICK LINK FOR ENTIRE ARTICLE

    http://progreso-weekly.com/2/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1589:corruption-the-true-counter-revolution&catid=36:in-cuba&Itemid=54

  22. BUT THE REAL CORRUPT KING AND QUEEN OF CUBA, “THE MUMMY” and “LA CHINA” ARE YET TO BE JUDGED!

    ASSOCIATED PRESS : Cuba academic: Party expulsion order overturned- By ANDREA RODRIGUEZ
    HAVANA (AP) — A prominent Cuban intellectual who came under fire for an unusually frank article denouncing high-level corruption says an order expelling him from the Communist Party has been overturned.

    Esteban Morales wrote Thursday on his personal website that a party appeals commission called him in last week to tell him of its ruling.

    “I was informed of the decision to nullify the separation order from the municipal party community … to return my membership,” Morales said.

    An economist and columnist known for his work on topics including racism and U.S. relations, Morales published the article that got him into trouble in April 2010 on the website of the National Union of Writers and Artists.

    He wrote that some top officials were preparing to divide the spoils if Cuba’s communist political system disintegrates, and that graft posed a greater threat to the state than the island’s small, fractured community of dissidents.

    “Corruption is the true counterrevolution,” Morales wrote.

    The essay broke a taboo by openly discussing corruption rumors surrounding the dismissal of a top government aviation official who had fought alongside Fidel and Raul Castro and Ernesto “Che” Guevara in the 1950s.

    In the following months, authorities have reported trials and convictions of dozens of Cubans, including one former Cabinet minister and at least three foreign businessmen who were accused of falsifying documents, fraud against the state and even laundering drug money.

    Last July, Morales announced that his essay had led to an effort to expel him from the Communist Party. At the time, he defended his right to air his critiques and said he would appeal the decision.

    President Raul Castro himself has said fighting corruption is a major challenge for Cuba, and this April he urged Communist Party members not to keep quiet with their criticism

    http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hTEyVnqpVTN8_anaFOZMHiplCljA?docId=22764c6385ec4c96b4695bbaa3130df8

  23. MIAMI HERALD : Cuban dissident praised by Bono ordered to report to police-By Juan O. Tamayo

    One week after rock icon Bono honored him during a U2 concert in Miami, Cuban dissident Oscar Elias Biscet has been ordered by police to check in once a month because of his pending 25-year prison sentence.

    “While Bono praises me, the government represses me,” Biscet said Thursday, adding that he will refuse to obey the order because there were not conditions when he was freed in March after eight years in prison.

    One of Cuba’s best-known opposition activists, he was freed as part of the Raúl Castro government decision to release more than 125 political prisoners over the past year under so-called “extra penal licenses.”

    But Biscet, who was serving a 25-year sentence since a 2003 crackdown on 75 dissidents known as Cuba’s Black Spring, is the only one known to have been ordered to report to police as though he was on parole.

    “It could be that the government was upset with the words of the singer Bono,” the 49-year-old physician told El Nuevo Herald by phone from his home in Havana.

    Biscet said he went to a government office earlier this week to update his national ID card but was told to go to a police station near his home, where he was ordered to check in each month from the fist to the fifth.

    Police also opened a file with his personal details and photo, he added, “which means that I am only half-free, not fully free, and that my case remains pending and is not closed.

    Biscet added that the order violated Castro’s promise to Catholic Cardinal Jaime Ortega last year to release the political prisoners without conditions. Efforts to contact Ortega’s office in Havana on Thursday were unsuccessful.

    Biscet said that he did not know for sure whether the sign-in order is part of a calculated government effort to intimidate him or merely a bad decision by some bureaucrat — but he has an idea.

    “I am followed every day, every hour, by State Security agents. So they know about and are complicit” in the requirement, Biscet alleged.

    Biscet accused the Cuban government in the mid-1990s of allowing and covering up botched abortions, and was imprisoned from 1999 to late 2002. He had been free for 37 days when he was arrested again. President George W. Bush awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2008.

    During the U2 concert last week at the Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Bono praised Biscet and declared that “some day soon Cuba will be free” before a crowd of 73,000.

    “We’d like to do something we’ve never done before,” Bono declared as he urged the audience to hold up their hands. “A beautiful man, a doctor who spent time in the prisons of Cuba. He was released. His name is Doctor Biscet.”

    “I want you to hold him up and let everyone in Cuba know he is special to us and we are watching, we are watching,” he added “Hold him in your thoughts. Hold him in your prayers.”

    The praise came during a regular segment of U2 concerts in which the band celebrates human rights as people walk around the stage carrying paper lanterns with the symbol of the London-based Amnesty International.

    Bono had met the previous week in Washington with U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz Balart and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, both Florida Republicans, who urged him to take note of Biscet and Cuba’s record of human rights abuses.

  24. I wonder if the government will use the ‘excuse’ of the selling of a residence to investigate the seller as a potential defector. I would think that the government would monitor transactions and watch for individuals who are suspect.

  25. God bless all those at NASA and the many other organizations that have made the US space program such an inspiration to the world. Good luck to the crew of the Atlantis on its final journey.

    And good luck to Serena Maria Auñon, the first Cuban-American astronaut. I hope she gets to fly on whatever comes after the Space Shuttle.

    “Auñon, like the others, had to overcome social and class barriers to reach her goal. Her father arrived penniless in the United States in 1960 as Fidel Castro was assuming power in the island nation.”

    http://www.poder360.com/article_detail.php?id_article=2530

  26. GULF NEWS : Chavez is not immortal- Venezuela president’s illness has other implications for the people. The man’s fragility has been exposed from under his red jacket – By Yoani Sanchez,

    Hugo Chavez’s announcement that Cuban doctors had found and removed a cancerous tumour, coming after weeks of speculation about the Venezuelan president’s absence from public life, touches a particular chord for Cubans.

    For decades, the health of the Cuban president was information cloaked in secrecy. It was the least transparent topic in our national life, until reality forced disclosure about the physical state of our ruler.

    On July 31, 2006, a proclamation announcing the sudden illness of Fidel Castro was read. I remember that night, when my phone seemed on the verge of exploding because all my friends called to confirm that they had heard the news.

    The next day, the streets of Havana were surprisingly empty. Those who were out tended to speak in whispers and avoided looking each other in the eye. Many of us, who had been born and grown up under the rule of one man, were in shock.

    Some were filled with sadness; others — the great majority, I must confess — with relief. Then came the many months when we were administered doses of medical news in tablespoon-size updates.

    Sometimes foreign visitors would announce they had seen the commander-in-chief. A Non-Aligned Nations summit held in Havana that September named, in absentia, the olive-green-clad convalescent as its leader.

    To us, however, he never appeared. Speculation grew and grew about whether he continued to breathe or had gone to swell the pantheon of historical figures. But the official media maintained its silence, interspersed with some triumphalist phrases about his recovery.

    Few dared to say aloud that the health of our ruler couldn’t be treated as a state secret. Nearly three years inched by like this before the patient himself confessed, in one of his Reflections of Fidel published in the newspaper Granma, that he had been on the brink of death.

    Thus, we discovered that those who had had access to him and who reportedly said such things as “He’s walking in the countryside and through villages,” “He looks like he will live to be 120” or “His state of health is enviable,” had been lying to us.

    Political trick

    Only then did we know how we had been cheated, the victims of a political trick to keep us under his paralysing influence. Accustomed as we are to reading medical reports upside down and lacking confidence in benign diagnoses, the convalescence of Hugo Chavez had not gone unnoticed in our country.

    As with Fidel Castro, Cuban media sought to allay concerns about Chavez. Until recently, details of his condition had not been made public. The secrecy surrounding the surgery performed on Venezuela’s president reinforced our feeling that information was being concealed. As was the case five summers ago, the official reports play at distraction and understatement.

    Chavez’s illness has other implications for us. The man’s fragility has been exposed from under his familiar red jacket.

    The degree of economic dependence binding Havana’s Revolution Square to the Miraflores Palace in Caracas suddenly seems more perishable than it did just a few weeks ago.

    Now, long-term forecasts have to be reformulated: How many had dared to consider that the other commander would not be eternal, either? Over the past few weeks, panic has gripped fat-necked bureaucrats, officials who control the subsidies that come from Venezuela and entrepreneurs who resell a portion of the hundred thousand barrels of oil sent to us by what we like to call our ‘new Kremlin’.

    They are all holding their breath, hoping that, as soon as possible, he will be signing agreements, speaking to the cameras, governing by force of presidential decrees.

    To quell the speculation about Chavez’s presence in our country, the official media recently published a brief note mentioning an intestinal abscess. There was no word of the cancer Chavez disclosed recently.

    Now, Chavez is also a target for our rumours. Thus, we have come to know that in the span of history he — like Fidel Castro — is mortal, ephemeral and transient.

    Yoani Sanchez is a writer in Cuba and winner of the 2010 World Press Freedom Hero award. She is the author of Havana Real: One Woman Fights to Tell the Truth About Cuba Today.

  27. Brian, if you look at my copy and paste history I always give credit and put a link too. Would love to see more of your writing/opinion on Cuba here! I think is so important to have honest, personal anecdotes on the Cuban experience here.

  28. Humberto, Be my guest to copy and paste (with credit…).
    I have a wealth of other articles on my blog that I might also post here. A couple are on the lies of the recent Congress.

  29. I’m humbled by your comments.
    Thank you.
    The book is just a silly spy book, but I really wrote it to tell about the people I have met (and become friends with) and what the place is like.
    I wrote the Isle of Lies piece as an article for a newspaper but, as is suggested elsewhere in Yoani’s blog, nobody in the print media was interested in publishing it and telling the truth.
    I feel very at home in Cuba although I am as gringo as a person can get. I read all of Yoani’s writing and it helps me learn Spanish. I had the honour of meeting her a few years ago and she impressed me greatly by her peace and obvious inner strength.

  30. Sorry, I take that back, Mr. French says it can be read on your PC and other digital devices also, so I can read it without a kindle. Not sure how all this ebook stuff works but I guess it’s time to find out.

    http://www.mojitonovel.com/

  31. “The Isle of Lies”! I S L E = L I E S , same four letters rearranged! I get it! Im slow and dyslexic! BUT a few beers can open my mind tonight! CHEERS! BURP!

  32. BRIAN FRENCH, your spot on. Only thing missing is Fidel’s OLD TIME Story about the AMERICANS INVADING. Cubans have been stripped of their BASIC HUMAN RIGHTS by an egomaniac with repressive tactics to maintain absolute power. God bless everyone here who defends and supports those who seek a better existence for the Cuban People.

    Viva Dr. Oscar Biscet , Viva Orlando Zapata , Viva Las Damas de Blanco

  33. WOW! Mr. French! How in a few paragraphs you have described the Cuban People and the Cuban Experience in the Island over the past 52 years! Wish I could write like that, but better stick to Copy and Paste! Would love to take this and keep it as resource!

  34. Cuba: “The Isle of Lies”.
    The great lie that is Cuba was started by Fidel Castro on New Year’s Day, 1959. It is continued by his “useful idiots” in Canadian universities, in “friendship” organizations, in tour companies, through the voices of Hollywood film makers, the Congressional Black Congress and even a former U.S. President.
    Lies are a permanent way of life on the Castros’ island paradise lost. Young Cubans have to lie about their opinions of the Cuban government and the United States to have a future. Old Cubans lie about Fidel because those lies are the only opinion they’ve ever been allowed to have. The Cuban politburo lies about everything it does, and just about everything everyone else does. Especially the USA. The Castros spew lies constantly but are so absent from reality that they seem to believe them.
    Along with telling lies, there is only one way to survive in Cuba. Theft. At least what Fidel considers theft; participation in the black market. Families are provided with housing (of a sort), and a ration booklet that provides rice, beans and milk (if you’re a pre-schooler). And families are given about ten to twenty bucks a month to live on. Sick looking green onions and tiny garlic bulbs can be purchased at markets for a pittance. But meat isn’t on the menu and eggs are treated like they are laid by a golden hen. Protein is at a premium.
    Young and old share the responsibility to come up with shtick and stuff to trade. Grannies dress up in Santarian priestess costumes to have their picture taken by tourists for a fee. Children look for kind foreigners who will give them a buck because they’re cute. Some young Cubanas dream of having a child with a rich tourist and, if the Dad has at least some ethical standard, an annuity by way of child support.
    Fidel’s Canadian friends tout Cuba as being a place where all are equal and everyone gets a great education and tremendous health care. But as in Animal Farm, the pigs are more equal than others. Almost all the official jobs that might result in tips from generous tourists are given to Cubans of Spanish heritage. Illegal “tour guides” are almost all black. You will know them by their furtive whispers as they pass you in the streets of Old Havana, “Chica, Senor?” “Cigar, Senor?” “Restaurant, Senor?” Trust me. Chances are that the cigars are fake, the girl despises her source of income, and the restaurant will be over priced.
    Public Health? Cubans have admirably healthy people at least partly because their lifestyle prohibits them from enjoying the goodies that make us die prematurely. Their limited diet pretty much eliminates any chance at obesity. Rum, even at a dollar a bottle, is beyond their budget. Drugs? Really beyond their budget.
    Cubans don’t die in car accidents because no one has cars (but their few vehicles do put out an admirably unhealthy quantity of exhaust). Cuba brags about it’s low level of infant mortality, and the paucity of unhealthy life choices helps this, but so does abortion on demand. Only a special few get access to decent health care, but if you’re down there doing a documentary, they’ll invite you to have a kidney or cornea transplant.
    Schools are pretty good but all the kids are members of Fidel’s version of the Young Pioneers, which was such a rousing success in the USSR. Fortunately, around about the time that testicles start dropping and breasts lifting, the political indoctrination of the Communist Party on Cuban youth is forgotten and replaced by a desire to have nice clothes and a moto to drive your sweetie around in style.
    As far as crime, nobody has anything so there really isn’t very much to steal.
    Cuba’s Canadian “friends” brag about how well Cuba manages through a fairly regular procession of hurricanes and tropical storms. But they don’t mention that there is very little in property value there to be lost in a storm and Cubans are savvy enough to get out of the way. Unlike millions of Americans living on the Gulf Coast.
    The big lie, or course, was the first one. Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, supposedly took over Cuba to rid it of a torturous tyrant in Fulgenio Batista. But Batista, a mulatto, offered mixed race and black Cubans a lot more opportunities to get ahead than Fidel ever has.
    Freedom of speech? Batista only sent Fidel to jail for 3 years for starting a bloody rebellion. Fidel throws drunkards in the slammer for complaining about not having food to eat. And he provides “vacations” for journalists who don’t appropriately honour him with praise.
    So Fidel has a lotta esplainin’ to do. But whatever he says, don’t believe him.

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