The Maleconazo in a Can of Condensed Milk

14ymedio, YOANI SÁNCHEZ, Havana, 5 August 2014 – We had run around together in our Cayo Hueso neighborhood. His family put up several cardboard boxes in vacant lot near Zanja Street, similar to those they’d had in Palmarito del Cauto. His last name was Maceo and something in his face recalled that Titan of so many battles, except that his principal and only skirmish would entail not a horse, but a flimsy raft. When the Maleconazo broke out he joined in the shouting and escaped when the arrests started. He didn’t want to go home because he knew the police were looking for him.

He left alone on a monstrosity made of two inflated truck tires and boards, tied together with ropes. His grandmother prepared water for him in a plastic tank and gave him a can of condensed milk she’d been saving for five years. It was one of those products from the USSR whose contents arrived on the island congealed, after the long boat ride. My generation grew up drinking this sugary lactose mixed with whatever came to hand in the street. So Maceo added the can to his scanty stores—more as an amulet than as food—and departed from San Lazaro cove.

He never arrived. His family waited and waited and waited. His parents searched the lists of those held at the Guantanamo Naval Base, but his name was never on them. They asked others who capsized near the coast and tried to leave again. No one knew of Maceo. They inquired at the morgues where they kept the remains of the dead who washed up on shore. In those bleak places they looked at everyone, but never saw their son. A young man told them that near the first shelf he had come across a single raft, floating in nothingness. “It was empty,” he told them, “it only had a piece of a sweater and a can of condensed milk.”

Editor’s note: Today is the 20th anniversary of “The Maleconazo.” You can read more about this uprising and the subsequent Rafter Crisis in previous posts:

20 thoughts on “The Maleconazo in a Can of Condensed Milk

  1. From 1959 through 2013 some 53,000 Cubans managed to escape from the island, mostly by sea in small boats and makeshift rafts keep afloat by using inner tubes and disregards tires as floating devises. The estimate number of the victims is based in Dr. Armando Lago research, data from the Oceanographic Institute of the University of Miami and the University of Havana, and reports by the U.S. Coast Guard.

    The .U.S. Coast Guard estimates that only one in four “balseros”(rafters) who have attempted to escape has been successful, 25% have been captured and many of them send back, and 50% have died in the attempt. The estimate number of casualties that died at sea attempting to escape is over 105,000.

  2. ***
    HI OMAR–yes–I go to Church every Sunday. Here’s my letter to the Castro Brothers, “Thou shalt not steal. Not the peoples liberty, freedom, services, wages, right to leave your island prison, right to free speech, and political activity!” Maybe I can send them a copy of the U.S. Constitution–and Bill Of Rights. A complete list of free people’s rights. Unlike Cuba.
    ***
    HOLA OMAR–Si–voy a la Iglesia cada Domingo. Aqui es my carta a los Hermanos Castros, “No roban. Ni la libertad de la gente, ni servicios, ganancia, derecho salir de su isla carcelero, derecho a hablar abiertamente, y actividad politico!” Es posible que puedo mandarles una copia de la Constitution de los Estados Unidos–y Lista de Derechos. Una lista completa de los derechos de un gente libre. No como en Cuba.
    ***
    John Bibb
    ***

  3. Humberto: Alan Gross is a mercenary for the Empire. He took thousands of dollars to take the communication gear into Cuba. The only reason he was not executed as a spy is because Cuba does not have the military might to fight the Empire.

  4. DEAR Omar Fundora!! YOUR “BAD OLD USA SONGS” ARE REACHING AN OPERATIC ARIA LEVEL DEAR! BUT YOU KNOW WHO IS REALLY BAD, THE CASTRO OLIGARCHY MAFIA, FASCIST DICTATORSHIP! AND YOU CANNOT DIVERT ATTENTION ENOUGH IN THESE COMMENT SECTIONS TO HIDE THAT FACT! THE CASTRO KINGS LOST THEIR CLOTHES DEAR WITH THE INTERNET! THESE LAST AP ARTICLES ARE MEANT TO MAKE THE CASTRO OLIGARCHY A “VICTIM” AS A WAY TO PRESSURE THE EXCHANGE OF ALAN GROSS FOR THE CUBAN 5 SPIES! THERE IS A SMALL PROBLEM, ALAN GROSS IS NOT A SPY, HE IS A HOSTAGE AND THE WORLD CAN SEE THAT!

    BBC NEWS: US contractor Alan Gross ‘may not survive’ Cuba jail term – by Sarah Rainsford

    The lawyer of a US government contractor imprisoned in Cuba says he doesn’t know how long he will survive in prison.

    Alan Gross has served four years of a 15-year term for taking internet equipment to Cuba illegally.

    According to his lawyer, Scott Gilbert, Mr Gross has bid farewell to his family and “withdrawn”.

    Mr Gross’s imprisonment has stymied efforts to improve diplomatic ties between Cuba and the US.

    “Alan is not in a good place,” Scott Gilbert told the BBC on a trip to see his client in Havana this week. “As he puts it, he is done with this situation. I don’t know how much longer he will survive in there.”

    Scott Gilbert told the BBC that he is ‘worried’ about the health of his client. He says the 65-year-old suffers from hip pain and can ‘barely see’ through one eye. He is now confined for 24 hours a day, unable to exercise because of his hips.
    Extreme anger

    Alan Gross launched a hunger strike earlier this year, only calling it off after eight days when his mother intervened.

    “Alan has extreme anger. He’s certainly angry at the Cuban government for what he believes is a […] very inappropriate and harsh sentence,” Scott Gilbert explained.

    “He is [also] extremely angry with his government, which sent him to Cuba without adequate warnings and training – and since his incarceration, as far as we can see, has done virtually nothing to obtain his release.”

    In the State Department’s latest comments on the case, spokeswoman Jen Psaki insisted his fate remains at the “forefront of discussions with the Cuban government”.

    Cuba says it is ready to discuss the case of Alan Gross, which they link directly to the fate of the so-called “Cuban Five” intelligence agents, three of whom are still serving long prison sentences in the US.

    The US government has ruled out linking the cases, arguing that Alan Gross was not a spy.
    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-28684535

  5. Neutral Observer: a reality check for you about “Freedom” in the United States…the United States has more people in jail than China (over 2 Million Americans) or 1 for every 100 Americans. Do you really believe that a country that claim stands for Freedom would have 2Million of its People in jail for breaking a law????….or the leading cause of gun violence is suicide or the number one disease in the country is mental health problems. Do you really think that Capitalism is not responsible for all of these maladies that plague our society..

  6. Humberto: the U.S. is trying to do damage control with pathetic well traveled techniques. You know what the problem is with U.S. clandestine operations???…They have too many of them going on around the World at the same time with more than 2 Million covert operatives. It is impossible to keep them secret. Every country in the World is on red alert to avoid being victim of U.S. intrusions into their business of governance. The World needs to push back against this acts of Hegemony.

  7. John Bibb: your comments sound like those of a preacher in church. Freedom for all (God will Provide for all), Wealth for all ( all you need is God in your life). All of these nonsense and lies to inspire us to keep putting up with exploitation and economic apartheid since before Jesus walked the Earth and there is still people like you who eat up all this lies from the Empire or the Vatican. Incredible, really incredible….Scotty beam me up, there is no intelligent life on this planet…. :) :)

  8. SO LET ME SEE! IS “BAD” FOR THE CUBAN PEOPLE TO HAVE INTERNET, TWITTER AND THE OPPORTUNITY TO HAVE INDEPENDENT ORGANIZATIONS FROM THE CASTRO “GOVERNMENT”?? THE CASTRO OLIGARCHY MAFIA IS PLAYING THAT OLD “VICTIM” GAME WHEN THE REAL VICTIMS ARE ALL THE CUBAN PEOPLE IN AND OUT OF CUBA!

    TICO TIMES: UPDATE: Human rights group founder says AP misrepresented work in Cuba for USAID – by Zach Dyer
    A Costa Rican human rights organization founder accused The Associated Press of “misrepresenting” his group’s humanitarian work in Cuba for the United States Agency for International Development and claimed that an AP reporter “extorted” interviews from his staff and broke his agreement with a source, in a statement Monday.
    Fernando Murillo, founder of the Fundación Operación GAYA Internacional (FundaOGI), accused reporter Alberto Arce and his editor, Trish Wilson, of twisting his organization’s humanitarian work in Cuba to fit a predetermined narrative about USAID’s “clandestine” plot to use young volunteers – including some from Costa Rica – to recruit pro-democracy activists and to destabilize the Castro regime. At the heart of the exposé, “US sent Latin youth undercover in anti-Cuba ploy,” was the alleged use of an FundaOGI HIV-prevention workshop to identify prospective provocateurs.
    Murillo said that Wilson told him in a telephone call that their interest in the article was to “hurt the United States.”
    “[The AP] manipulated information in order to make it look like FundaOGI had instructions to set up cultural and artistic activities in an undercover way for destabilizing ends, which is totally false,” Murillo wrote in a statement published on the foundation’s website Monday.
    The AP’s report Monday was the second in a series about Washington, D.C.-based Creative Associates International’s work in Cuba, including the ZunZuneo micro-blog, funded by USAID and reportedly operated out of Costa Rica.
    CLICK LINK FOR ENTIRE ARTICLE!
    http://www.ticotimes.net/2014/08/06/human-rights-group-founder-says-ap-misrepresented-work-in-cuba-for-usaid

  9. John Bibb,

    Too bad so many people in the West can’t count their blessings. Wealth for all, freedom for all, and some people spit on it all.

    The poorest man in Canada lives better than the vast majority of Cubans. Our homeless shelters are nicer than most Cuban homes. That’s what Churchill meant.

  10. Mario,

    Castro received the support of 100% of Cuban voters, all 2 of them, Fidel and Raul.

    I hear Mariela and Fidelito might get to vote one day, which would increase the voting population to 4.

    I’m sure the Castro in charge would still get 100% though. It’s a very stable democracy.

    Sort of like North Korea.

  11. Mr John Bibb

    If you have any problems with the “Castro brothers” please write to them. You may post a copy here. I’d be curious what they might be?

    97% of cuban voters do not have this problem. Please check recent election results.

  12. ***
    HI HANK and MRS. MATULOVIC–well said! Mario and Omar–not so much–wake up, clowns! The Castro Brothers–and communism–and dictators–are the problems. Not capitalism. Cubans lived much better before the Castros.
    ***
    Winston Churchill said, “The problem with capitalism is that it provides unequal benefits for all. The blessing of socialism is that it provides equal misery for all!” Except for the ruling class. Venezuela, Zimbabwe, and the old USSR are the proofs of this.
    ***
    HOLA HANK y MRS. MATULOVIC–bien dicho! Mario y Omar–no tanto–despiertan, payasos! Los Hermanos Castro–y communismo–y dictadores–son las problems verdaderos. No capitalismo. Los Cubanos vivieran mucho mejor antes de los Castros.
    ***
    Winston Churchill dijo, “La problema con capitalismo es que provee beneficios desiguales por todos. El bendicion de socialismo es que provee pobresas iguales por todos!” Excepto por la classe que manda. Venezuela, Zimbabwe, y el USSR viejo son las preubas de esto.
    ***
    John Bibb
    ***

  13. Hank

    Nice to hear a voice of sanity again. I need a vacation from the asylum.

    Everyone in Cuba has had the experience of waiting to see if their loved ones survived their escape attempt from Castro.

    This year again, over a thousand have already tried to escape.

    And I’m still puzzled as to why no socialist has ever joined the Cuban working class.

    Maybe life is too good in a socialist paradise? That must be it.

  14. Mario and Omar may believe the nonsense they post here, but I doubt it.

    No one with an ounce of sense could possibly believe their garbage.

    The latest from Mario is appalling in its outright arrogance and insensitivity. Omar’s latest merits no comment. Not surprising for a couple of castro apologists.

    The castros — last vestiges of a murdering totalitarian dictatorship in the western hemisphere.

    No hay mal que cien años dura. Menos mal.

  15. There will always be outcasts, in every society. Believe me or not, I have seen homeless persons in Switzerland.

    This article is about a cuban outcast. I am not saying a criminal, because he was not judged by a cuban court. The guy has committed suicide for reasons known only to him. People are doing it everywhere.

    A sad story. We do not know whether he had worked or not. Why he did not seek support in his local CDR (citizens committee on his block). Or he did, but they turned him down? Maybe the CDR guys in his town were just bums or alcoholics?

    Did the central government did his job to avoid this death? Yes, it did. Cuban media have always been warning people of the perils of rafting. The justice system would have treated him fairly if he turned himself in.

    What else could have been done to reduce the number of tragedies? Punishing the suicide surviviors? Those who return from the seas are nor prosecuted in Cuba. Maybe this is a mistake? 5 years of hard labour for putting one’s life at peril? Little chance that the cuban parliament would support such measure.

  16. The Cubans victims can be added to the Mexican victims that try to escape the exploitation in the free market democratic republic of Mexico and die in the desert crossing the border into the U.S. or the Haitians who drown every year trying to escape their situation in their country or Africans that cross the Sahara dessert trying to escape their economic situation in their country or Indians that live in slums that are 1 Million strong even though the country has a very large economy. People in the slums of Brazil or Americans living in the ghettos of every city in the riches country in the World. World Capitalism is the problem.

  17. Anyone who supports the “revolution” should be ashamed of themselves. Families torn apart, people risking their lives to flee on rickety homemade boats to flee an oppressive way of life, people without enough to eat or sustain themselves, having to work for slave wages, all while the brothers Castro, and their cronies, live the high life. It’s disgusting.

    I sincerely hope that things will change for the Cuban people, that they will be free from the dictatorship very soon.

  18. VICTIMS OF THE CUBAN REVOLUTION- Cases up to January 25, 2012
    This work documents loss of life and disappearances of a political or military nature attributed to the Cuban Revolution. Each documented case is available for review at The Cuba Archive and substantiated by bibliographic/historic data and reports from direct sources. Due to the ongoing nature of the work and the difficulty of obtaining and verifying data from Cuba, the following totals change as research progresses and are considered far from exhaustive. Cuba Archive is currently examining additional cases -most are expected to be added to this table. Experience has shown that as additional outreach efforts are undertaken, many more cases are likely to be uncovered.

    Non-Combat Victims of the Castro Regime: Work-in-progress-Documented Cases
    Total = 10,500
    “Balseros” (estimate to 2003) = 77,833 victims
    http://cubaarchive.org/home/images/stories/1.25.2012_update.pdf

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