Photo: Silvia Corbelle

She left Banes on a hot and dusty morning. In a bag, some underwear and the address of relatives in Havana. When the train got to Central Station, Cosita took a deep breath and filled her lungs with that aroma of burnt oil typical of the capital. “I’m on the roof*,” she said to herself, with a feeling of victory. Six months had passed and she was returning to the city with a record of a police warning and a piece of a washing machine boarding the train with her.

Cosita settled into her cousin’s room and started to collect plastic bottles and pieces of nylon from the nearest trash cans. With these she made artificial flowers which she sold in order to eat and to “give something” to her Havana relatives. She asked around the neighborhood looking for single men — older ones — to whom she could offer herself as a “cleaning lady, who can do everything around the house,” but didn’t find any takers. She knew her days were numbered until the police would stop her in the street and discover she was an illegal. One more “Palestinian,” as many capital residents disrespectfully call people from the east of the country.

They caught her one gray and rainy afternoon, while she was selling flowers outside the farmers market. They imposed a fine, for illicit economic activity, and warned her that she had 72 hours to get out of the city. But Cosita couldn’t leave yet. She’d managed to acquire half of an Aurika washing machine, and didn’t have any way to transport it. A neighbor had also given her an old child’s wardrobe, without doors or drawers. These were all the material possessions she’d acquired on her Havana adventure and she wasn’t going to leave them behind.

The truck drivers wanted too much to transport her “treasures” to Banes. She could no longer sell her nylon decorations and the relatives who had welcomed her feared a new fine for having an illegal in their home. Cosita left, on a cold December night, with her piece of a washing machine and her bag as empty as when she had arrived. The wardrobe was abandoned in a hallway and someone used the boards to cover up a window where the rain was coming in. The clothes rod replaced a broken broom and the nails were reused in a chair.

Cosita, in Banes, dreams of returning to Havana. She tells her friends stories of her days in “the capital of all Cubans” and dreams of that “children’s furniture, of good wood,” that someday she might manage to bring — as a trophy — to her village.

*”La placa,” [in the original Spanish] is one of the popular ways to refer to Havana.

Translator’s note: “Cosita” literally means “a little thing.”

25 March 2014


24 thoughts on “Cosita

  1. Humberto: have you heard about the CIA Program call Genesis….

    Genesis is maybe the template, as an idea, of many of the things going on in the world today, because Genesis is a project aimed at the university youth of Cuba. They were doing something similar in Venezuela. Why? The idea was to convert universities — which have always been revolutionary, which have produced revolutionaries, out of those from which many of the revolutionaries of both countries came — and convert them into factories for reactionaries. So, how do you do that? By making leaders. What have they begun to do in Venezuela? They sent students to Yugoslavia, financed by the International Republican Institute (IRI), which was financed by USAID and by the Albert Einstein Institute, and sent them, in groups of ten, with their professors…hundreds being sent. I spoke with the professor, and watched one group and followed the other. Because they were working long-term. The same plan was also in place against Cuba. Genesis promoted, with in the university, a plan of training scholarships for Cuban student leaders and professors. The plan was very similar. Also, in 2003, they prepared here, in Havana, a course in the US Interests Section, which was called “Deposing a leader, deposing a dictator”, which was based on the experience of OTPOR in removing Slobodan Milosevic from power. And that was the idea, inside the Cuban university, to work long-term, because these projects always take a long time in order to reap a result. For that reason, they also started early in Venezuela. I believe as well — I don’t have proof, but I believe that in Venezuela it began before the Chávez government, because the plan of converting Latin American universities, which were always sources of revolutionary processes, into reactionary universities, is older than the Venezuelan [Bolivarian] process, to reverse the situation and create a new right-wing.
    Genesis has a scholarship plan to create leaders in Cuba. They provide scholarships to students to big North American universities, to train them as leaders, with all expenses paid. They pay their costs, they provide complete scholarships. We’re talking 2004-5 here. It was very obvious. Then, those leaders return to university at some time. They’re students. They go to end their careers. Those leaders, when they end their student careers, go on to various jobs, different possibilities, as engineers, as degree-holders in different sectors of Cuban society, but there are others who go on constantly preparing leaders within the university. One of the most important missions of the university leaders was to occupy the leadership of the principal youth organizations of the university. In the case of Cuba, we’re talking about the Union of Communist Youth, and the University Student Federation. That is, it was not to create parallel groups at that time, but to become the leaders of the organizations already existing in Cuba. Also, to form a group of leaders in the strategies of the “soft” coup. That is, training people for the opportune moment to start the famous “color revolutions” or “non-violent wars”, which, as you well know, have nothing to do with non-violence.

    Venezuela now has proof that the U.S. was behind the protests…a Cuban double agent “came out” of the shadow world and exposed everything….the three embassy employees in the U.S. embassy in Venezuela were contacts and trainers…..


    BLOOMBERG: Venezuela to Jail San Cristobal Opposition Mayor, Court Says – by Nathan Crooks

    Venezuela’s Supreme Court sentenced the opposition party mayor of the city that spawned nationwide protests to a year in jail, state news agency AVN reported.

    Daniel Ceballos, mayor of Tachira state capital San Cristobal near the Colombian border, was stripped of his post after the court yesterday said he encouraged violent protests and failed to remove barricades set up in the city, AVN said.

    Ceballos, a member of the Voluntad Popular opposition party whose leader Leopoldo Lopez is being held in a military prison, was detained on March 19. His arrest came as President Nicolas Maduro toughened his response to anti-government protests that have resulted in at least 35 deaths, including a National Guard officer last week in San Cristobal.

    “Justice, justice from the Supreme Court,” Maduro said yesterday on state television, referring to the ruling. “Fascism is fought with justice.”

    Maduro ordered the arrest of three air force generals accused of plotting to overthrow the government, he said in a video clip posted on the website of state television VTV yesterday. The generals had links to the opposition and would face court, he said.

    Demonstrations that have extended across the nation originated in San Cristobal on Feb. 4 when students protested a lack of security at Andes University.

    Following Ceballos’s arrest, Enzo Scarano, municipal mayor of San Diego in Carabobo state, was sentenced to 10 months in prison for failing to comply with a judicial order to remove protesters’ barricades, the Supreme Court’s constitutional division said in a statement on its website.


    CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Cuba plans big tax breaks to lure foreign investors: official media – by Marc Frank

    HAVANA (Reuters) – Cuba is proposing a new Cuban foreign investment law that would cut the profits tax in half to 15 percent and exempt most investors from paying it for at least eight years, official media said on Wednesday.

    The National Assembly will meet on Saturday to approve the legislation that the communist country hopes will lure overseas capital and help further integrate the Caribbean island in the global economy.

    Cuba is promising legal protection for foreign investors, who have generally been averse to risking capital in the Soviet-style economy, and new incentives such as dramatically lowered tax. The National Assembly is expected to approve the draft of the law with little, or no changes.

    However, foreign ventures that mine natural resources, including oil, can be subject to a higher profits tax of up to 22.5 percent, depending on how those ventures are negotiated with the state, according to details published in the official Juventud Rebelde newspaper.

    Under the current foreign investment law, which went into effect in 1995, all tax breaks are negotiated and foreign firms pay a 30 percent profits tax and 20 percent labor tax, though the labor tax was already being gradually reduced.

    The new law “would apply (to investors) … a tax of 15 percent on taxable net profits,” after which all profit could be repatriated, Juventud Rebelde newspaper reported.

    Investors will still have to hire labor through state-run companies, a major complaint, though the hiring halls will no longer operate for profit, Juventud Rebelde reported, indicating more money will flow back to workers and their wages may be easier to negotiate.,0,5238449.story


    25th March 2014 – Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro announced today that three generals of the Venezuelan Air Force have been arrested, after they were denounced by lower-ranking officials for their involvement in alleged coup plans.

    “Last night we captured three Air Force generals that we had been investigating thanks to the powerful moral force of our National Bolivarian Armed Forces: three generals that aimed to rise the Air Force against the legitimately constituted government,” he said during a live broadcast on state TV.

    Maduro argued that those arrested “have direct links with the opposition, and said that this week was decisive”. According to the president, the alleged coup plot involves creating “psychological” chaos through attacking electricity and other services, and then striking against the government. The three generals are now under custody and will face an investigation.

    The announcement was made on the same day that foreign ministers of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) arrive in the country to support dialogue efforts between the government and opposition.


    N.Y. TIMES: Protesting in Venezuela, With Antipathy Toward Cuba’s Government – by VICTORIA BURNETT and WILLIAM NEUMAN

    CARACAS, Venezuela — Enraged as they are by their nation’s leaders, many of the protesters who have spilled onto Venezuela’s streets have their eyes fixed on another government altogether, one they resent perhaps just as bitterly as their own: Cuba’s.

    The Cuban government and its president, Raúl Castro, they contend, have leeched off Venezuela’s oil wealth, grafted Cuba’s rigid brand of socialism onto their country and helped choreograph a broad crackdown on dissent.

    Their rancor is echoed by the Cuban opposition, which has thrown itself behind the Venezuelan protesters’ cause with gusto, sharing photos and videos of protests and police abuse on Twitter, urging Venezuelans to resist and even rapping an apology for what they call Cuba’s meddling.

    The fixation with the influence of Cuba in Venezuela’s affairs reflects how meshed the two countries’ economic and political realities remain a year after the death of Venezuela’s longtime president, Hugo Chávez, who was Fidel Castro’s closest foreign ally.

    “We are invaded by Cubans,” said Reinerit Romero, 48, a secretary who attended a recent demonstration here to protest shortages of basic foodstuffs. The Venezuelan armed forces, she asserted, are infiltrated with Cuban agents dressed in Venezuelan uniforms.

    At the same march, Carlos Rasquin, 60, a psychiatrist, carried a sign that read, “No to Cubanization.” By “Cubanization,” he said, he meant repressing dissident activity, quashing private enterprise and eliminating perceived enemies of the government in civil society.

    “You can’t see it very much, but you can feel it a lot,” he said of the Cuban presence.

    “Everyone knows that the Cubans control military intelligence, police intelligence,” he added, standing near dozens of soldiers in riot gear, armed with shotguns, tear gas and truncheons, who blocked demonstrators from marching on government offices. “They control the coordination of the armed forces.”

    The Cuban government, which dismisses its own domestic opposition as mercenaries paid by the American government, has not responded directly to such assertions.
    Continue reading the main story

    Instead, Bruno Rodríguez, the Cuban foreign minister, made an attack this month on “interference” in Venezuela — by the Organization of American States and the United States, where lawmakers like Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, have called for tougher action against Venezuela’s government and accused Cuba of “exporting repression” there.

    Still, even among supporters of the relationship, there are occasional culture clashes.

    “I value the Cuban doctors,” said Arizay Vegas, 40, waiting at a clinic staffed by Cuban doctors in Caracas. She recalled rushing to the clinic at 4 a.m. about a year ago, when her 2-year-old granddaughter fell out of bed and cut her head. “Here it’s very fast, and the treatment is good,” she said.

    But when the Cuban doctor in charge of the clinic asked a reporter to leave because he did not have permission to interview patients, Ms. Vegas became indignant.

    “We’re not in Cuba, we’re in Venezuela,” Ms. Vegas said. “I’m free to say whatever I want.”


    N.Y. TIMES: Venezuela’s Failing State – by LEOPOLDO LÓPEZMARCH 25, 2014

    Los Teques, Venezuela — As I compose these words from the Ramo Verde military prison outside Caracas, I am struck by how much Venezuelans have suffered.

    For 15 years, the definition of “intolerable” in this country has declined by degrees until, to our dismay, we found ourselves with one of the highest murder rates in the Western Hemisphere, a 57 percent inflation rate and a scarcity of basic goods unprecedented outside of wartime.

    Our crippled economy is matched by an equally oppressive political climate. Since student protests began on Feb. 4, more than 1,500 protesters have been detained and more than 50 have reported that they were tortured while in police custody. Over 30 people, including security forces and civilians, have died in the demonstrations. What started as a peaceful march against crime on a university campus has exposed the depth of this government’s criminalization of dissent.

    I have been in prison for more than a month. On Feb. 12, I urged Venezuelans to exercise their legal rights to protest and free speech — but to do so peacefully and without violence. Three people were shot and killed that day. An analysis of video by the news organization Últimas Noticias determined that shots were fired from the direction of plainclothes military troops.

    In the aftermath of that protest, President Nicolás Maduro personally ordered my arrest on charges of murder, arson and terrorism. Amnesty International said the charges seemed like a “politically motivated attempt to silence dissent.” To this day, no evidence of any kind has been presented.

    Soon, more opposition mayors, elected by an overwhelming majority in December’s elections, will join me behind bars. Last week the government arrested the mayor of San Cristóbal, where the student protests began, as well as the mayor of San Diego, who has been accused of disobeying an order to remove protesters’ barricades. But we will not stay silent. Some believe that speaking out only antagonizes the ruling party — inviting Mr. Maduro to move more quickly to strip away rights — and provides a convenient distraction from the economic and social ruin that is taking place. In my view, this path is akin to a victim of abuse remaining silent for fear of inviting more punishment.

    More important, millions of Venezuelans do not have the luxury of playing the “long game,” of waiting for change that never comes.

    We must continue to speak, act and protest. We must never allow our nerves to become deadened to the steady abuse of rights that is taking place. And we must pursue an agenda for change.

    The opposition leadership has outlined a series of actions that are necessary in order to move forward.

    Victims of repression, abuse and torture, as well as family members of those who have died, deserve justice. Those who are responsible must resign. The pro-government paramilitary groups, or “colectivos,” that have tried to silence the protests through violence and intimidation must be disarmed.

    All political prisoners and dissenters who were forced into exile by the government, as well as students who were jailed for protesting, must be allowed to return or be released. This should be followed by restoring impartiality to important institutions that form the backbone of civil society, including the electoral commission and the judicial system.


  7. neutral observer: :) :) …..
    you must be a Republican Party card holder ….I am a Democrat….but, like Liberals too…

  8. Omar,

    You say right-wingers should be limited to 30% of the vote.

    I think you and Nick and all Castro/Maduro supporters are extreme right-wingers…

    Based on your support of fascist and racist regimes and organizations

    Also, you all display your own personal racism when you say that Cubans shouldn’t have the same rights as you.

    So you would agree that right-wingers like you should be barred from power?

    The only difference between you and the KKK is the color of your t-shirt.

  9. hank: This is something that Che said….
    While in Mexico, Che’ meets Fidel Castro. Castro is in exile after a failed coup attempt against Cuban dictator, Fulgencio Batista. Che’ quickly joins Castro’s band of revolutionaries as a medic and trains in guerilla warfare. In December 1956, Castro launches an attack on the Batista regime, which fails dramatically. Only twelve guerillas, including Che,’ Fidel, and Raul Castro, survive and escape.

    The defeat is a defining moment for Che.’ He later writes, “I was confronted with the dilemma of dedicating myself to medicine or my duty as a revolutionary soldier. I had in front of me a rucksack full of medicine and an ammunition case, the two weighed too much to carry together. I took the ammunition and left the rucksack behind.” The healer had become the killer.

    Che’ becomes Castro’s chief lieutenant and then the comandante of one of the largest guerilla bands. He is ruthless, frequently executing suspected traitors quickly and dispassionately. In a 1957 letter to his first wife (he remarried to a fellow guerilla in 1959), Che’ writes, “I’m here in Cuba’s hills, alive and thirsting for blood.” In a letter to his father, he writes, “I really like killing.” Che’s instructions to a subordinate are simple: “If in doubt, kill him.”

    I figure that a guy like Che was not afraid of dying…only of dying prior to seeing his Vision for Bolivia come true….

  10. Whatever, Omar.

    Coincidentally, I’ve been watching an interesting documentary this evening about how the murderer Che was hunted down and killed in Bolivia.

    It seems he wasn’t as fond of dying as he was of killing.

  11. Humberto: I read earlier today that the Venezuelan army is going to be deployed to put an end to the protests….

    A Cuban double agent spilled the beans on how the U.S. is behind the student protests in Venezuela…Machado is going to be charged with treason (most likely)…

  12. Hank: KKK and Black Panthers vote… but, they don’t hold too many high power position do they…in a future Cuba, having Right Wingers only hold 30% of the positions in governance should be the law…this will be better for the common good of Cubans …look what 45 years of Right Wing domination in the U.S. has done to the Common Good in our country…(Republicans have been in control of State government for 45 years….and controlled majority of Congress for quite a number of years during that period…)

  13. PHOTO VIA Despierta Venezuela: Woodland camouflaged uniform type for use in jungle! Assault rifle AK-103 cal. 7.62mm for use in war, Kevlar bulletproof vest … All this equipment used to disperse a protest??… I wonder if this is right and just! ‬

    Uniforme camuflajeado tipo woodland para uso en selva, fusil de asalto AK-103 cal. 7.62mm para uso de guerra, chaleco antibalas de Kevlar… Todo este equipo usado para dispersar una protesta de trinchera…me pregunto si es justo y necesario esto!!

  14. Omar,

    Why is that you Castro apologists constantly lie?

    Can’t you get your story straight?

    At 9:33 pm you said: “I would not allowed [sic] a Right Wing Political Party to be one of the political parties [in Cuba].”

    At 10:08 pm you said: “I do believe in one man, one vote.”

    So, which is it?

    (a) Do you believe in the idea of one man, one vote, even if said voter wants to vote for a right wing political party?


    (b) Do you believe right wing political parties should be outlawed altogether?

  15. Hank: I do believe in one man, one vote….but, to me Right Wingers should be treated like the KKK or the Black Panthers…

  16. Hank: Free elections would not have made a difference in the 40% contraction in GDP Cuba experienced….this is the historical economic reality of Cuba… Cuba is more sovereign today than at any other time its history…the Cuban People should rejoice in that fact even though economically they are not where they want to be. They cannot afford to bring about regime change today and turn the clock back to a period where the U.S. owned most of the critical industry in the country and enjoyed the best the island could offer while the Cuban People were left out outside of the Ten Cents Store looking at the conveniences and abundance through a glass display window…in other words, Cuban were nothing more than tenants in their own homeland. (The Platt Amendment…really ….the arrogance of the Empire…)

  17. Well, Omar.

    Then you don’t believe in pluralism or democracy.

    I think extreme right wing groups and extreme left wing groups, and every group in between, should be legal in any civil society.

    When you start outlawing ideologies and thought, you only undermine and delegitimize your own.

    That’s what Castro did to Cuba.

    That’s why Cuba is the basket case that it is today.

  18. Hank: I got to share something with you regarding free elections:

    If I was the architect of the Cuba of the Future, I would make sure that it will be a Democratic Society, but, I would not allowed a Right Wing Political Party to be one of the political parties. I would allow Right Wingers to only hold 30% of all the governance jobs in the country. I would have a U.S. like Democratic Party and a Green Party made up of Leftists and Tree huggers. The big issues in the near future are going to be the Climate Change, Scarcity, size of World Population, Restoration of ecosystems, Conservation and not efficiency of consumption and individualism. Unity of the People through inclusive governance is essential to balance the Mega Corporation domination of a few Right Wingers (mainly) because of Capitalism. (46 Americans are part of the Right Wing Rich Club of 67 people that control or direct 50% of all the World’s money in circulation….this is the real threat to Freedom and not ideological differences.)

  19. Omar,

    The catastrophe you refer to could have been avoided if there had been free and fair elections in Cuba decades ago.

    I support regime change in Cuba via the mechanism of free and fair elections that are monitored by non-partisan, neutral observers made up of qualified experts from the international community — something that has not occurred in Cuba for 50+ years.

    Do you?

  20. People like “Cosita” should not have to suffer for the struggle between the Right and the Left. I understand that Decree 217 was necessary because of the lack of revenues to deal with the population increase in Havana. Residences were being condemn and because they were unsafe to live in, water, electric , sewer services, schools, hospitals in need of repair. It makes perfect good sense to me to restrict movement of the citizenry even though under normal circumstances it would have been a violation of Human Rights. The necessary money to rebuilt Havana to meet the need of today’s population is still not there, so restrictions in movement within the country is essential to prevent a catastrophe.

  21. Omar,

    I support regime change in Cuba — it’s called free and fair elections that are monitored by non-partisan, neutral observers made up of qualified experts from the international community — something that has not occurred in Cuba for 50+ years.

    You should too.

  22. Decree 217 was a knee jerk reaction to the Special Period and the Paranoia over CIA operations in Cuba. (Cuban double agents have come out and revealed how organizations like USAID and others are really in the business of supporting the regime change policy of the United States. Unfortunately innocent people get caught in the squeeze play between opposing poles.

  23. And Castro’s gullible fan club like to believe Cubans have the right to leave the country. Most Cubans can’t even leave the countryside for Havana!

    It’s still illegal for most Cubans to visit the “capital of all Cubans”

    Can an Englishman imagine if the Queen made it illegal to visit London without her written approval?

    I don’t think Henry VIII could get away with such a stunt. But Castro’s groupies say Cubans shouldn’t complain.

    Yoani left out the amount of the fine. I’ve seen fines so high they could never be paid off on a Cuban salary.

  24. made me cry. I was in havana last November, I loved it…the old part of town is beautiful, I know there are parts that are falling apart and there is so much to be done. my cuban husband is not very fond of it, and only goes there when there is a need.

Comments are closed.