The New Escape Route for Cubans is Called ‘Nicaragua’

Dozens of people wait in the Copa Airlines line  in Havana to get a ticket to Managua. (14ymedio)

14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Generation Y, 27 November 2021 — One of my first memories dates from 1980, when I was not yet five. In the Havana tenements where I lived the shouts of several neighbors captured my attention and I looked out into the hallway. A large group was shouting insults at a young man who had decided to emigrate through the port of Mariel. Forever engraved in my memory is that explosion of curse words and livid faces.

Now we are experiencing another stampede, but unlike those years, when the Soviet bear sent substantial resources to Cuba, the official pickets don’t have eggs to throw against the doors of those who want to escape the country, nor paint with which to smear their walls with slogans. Instead, the authorities seem eager for the social pressure cooker to be alleviated and new emigres to be added to the list of those who send remittances to the island.

On this occasion, instead of opting to open a pier for all those who would like to come to look for their family or lifting the closure of the borders so that thousands of precarious rafts could cross the Straits of Florida, as happened in 1994, officialdom has come up with a formula that kills many birds with one stone. Thanks to the complicity of the political ally Daniel Ortega, it was announced this week that Cubans do not need a visa to enter Nicaragua.

The Central American country thus becomes the hope of all those who can no longer endure the material hardships and the lack of freedom. But Managua is not the final destination, just a first step to embark on the route to the southern border of the United States. The Plaza of the Revolution is well aware of these expectations and estimates that in a few months thousands of its citizens will crowd those border points demanding to enter.

With the move it has just made, the Cuban regime ensures Joe Biden will very soon have a headache, along with a great internal discussion due to the considerable increase in the number of migrants coming from this island. While, by the way, freeing the Island from the most dissatisfied and rebellious, those who might star in the next social explosion like the one that occurred on July 11.

But mass departures are a double-edged sword. The US Administration may see the matter very differently from what Havana projects, and the escape of thousands of Cubans would also have many effects on an already aging society. If, over the next few months, this Island loses a part of its young people, its professionals and those with enough self-esteem to believe that they can prosper in a competitive environment, not only will a democratic change be delayed, but it will also postpone the economic recovery and development of the entire country.

Toying with migratory alchemy can also bring other bitter surprises for Castroism.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

The Day the Cuban Regime Ran Alone… And Did Not Win

On November 14, the authorities placed a bus completely blocking the street Yunior García lives on, when he wanted to go out for a walk in white with a rose. (EFE)

14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Generation Y, Havana, 19 November 2021 — They say that the horse ran alone on the track and reached the finish line first. Locked in their stables and bound with strong chains were the possible adversaries of that contest. The victor could not contain so much arrogance in his body and he celebrated as if his legs — and not his tricks — had carried him. They say it was the 15th of November, a day when the public was prohibited from witnessing the race.

In an interview with the Russian network RT, Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez declared last Monday’s call for a Civic March a failure. “The face-to-face reality, the real, true, physical reality in Cuba indicates that nothing happened in the country,” the minister boasted. To drive it home, he told the complacent journalist: “You have been able to move freely, you know perfectly what happened, you experienced it together with the Cubans and you also know what did not happen.”

To avoid the scenes of people in the streets dressed in white or with a flower in hand, officialdom deployed the largest control operation– meter by meter – in the memory of many in this country. The bitter surprise of the spontaneity of the July 11 protests led to a preparation so that the avenues would no longer be a river of people shouting ‘Libertad‘ and demanding the resignation of Miguel Díaz-Canel. To achieve this, this time they tied up the entire island.

Police operations, a deployment of State Security agents in civilian clothes, acts of repudiation, threatening messages and the selective cutting off of telephone lines. They made use of all the cowardly tactics and abuses of power in the authoritarians’ manual, and also added to it from their own harvest of Castroism, experts in lying and in the preparation of stage sets. As they themselves tried for years to create the props of a medical power, which the pandemic shattered, for ‘15N’ the set design of “peace and tranquility” was proposed.

But the result was closer to the script of a funeral: deserted streets, murmured conversations in the lines outside stores , which until two days before were pure tumult, trembling hands that could not manage to remove a cellphone from a pocket before the intimidating gaze of the police, and tearful mothers who pleaded with their children not to leave the house that Monday. A white sheet hanging from a clothesline could paralyze the neighbor next door with fear, even the flower sellers hid, or only offered yellow sunflowers and very red roses. Terror starred in the day.

And then the regime believed itself powerful, shook its mane, flaunted the strength of its haunches and showed its teeth. Now, it wants to make national and international public opinion believe that it really earned the gold medal for its abilities and for the support its people gave it, but in the Plaza of the Revolution they know that everything is a lie: that if they had not carried out the the largest and most expensive repressive operation of the last quarter century on this island, Cubans would once again have shown their weariness with the current system.

Nor will the regime be able to prevent the neighing of the locked up horses from being heard. Without respecting the rules of the political game, eliminating your competitors or preventing them from showing their abilities as dissidents, you are only invalidating the court, the referees and the medals. It is forcing an entire people to find another way to get on the podium.
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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Surveillance and Acts of Repudiation Muzzle 15N in Cuba

Yunior García Aguilera showing his hand with a white rose through the window. (EFE)

14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Generation Y, Havana, 16 November 2021 –The streets almost empty and tension in the air. This is how Havana experienced this Monday, a day in which independent groups had called for a Civic March for the freedom of political prisoners and a democratic change on the island. In the same avenues and shops that two days before were full of people, on this November 15 (15N), there were only uniformed or plainclothes police.

The day before, the playwright Yunior García Aguilera – one of the main organizers of the peaceful protest – had been locked in his house with the official mobs shouting in front of his door. Despite preventing him from leaving his home, the repressors could not prevent the activist from gifting the history of Cuba with image of a powerful civic spirit: a man imprisoned in his own home, putting his hand out of the window with a white rose.

The excessive police and repressive deployment that the Cuban regime has unleashed has not only affected those who, this Monday, were victims of acts of repudiation, suffered the cut off of internet access service, or were arrested while trying to go out on the street. The main cost has gone to the account of the authorities themselves, who have shown their ugliest face to a citizenry tired of the excessive controls that have increased significantly after the protests of July 11.

Maintaining this state of terror for a long time is almost impossible for the Plaza of the Revolution

In the streets, displeasure and indignation grow at the disproportion of forces between the unarmed citizens and the official forces ready to “face any action,” as president Miguel Díaz-Canel warned last Friday. Anger grows and, although fear still grips many throats, Castroism loses more followers every day among the relatives, neighbors and friends of those who are repressed.

Maintaining this state of terror for a long time is almost impossible for the Plaza of the Revolution. Although the leaders of the Communist Party have the desire to prolong, for months, the surveillance on every corner, the squads of political police lurking in front of the houses of the dissidents and the vociferous rallies of hatred around the houses of the activists, they lack the resources to do all this. This system got used to buying loyalties, even if it was with crumbs and there are no crumbs left.

The country is bankrupt and the people are fed up. Neither the economic crisis nor the popular unrest can be reversed in the short or medium term. Although this 15N they have managed to stifle the Civic March by appealing to the old methods of intimidation, in the air-conditioned offices of power in Cuba they already know that they cannot govern this way for long. They know that they lost the path to reach the heart of the people; they know that fear changed sides on this Island and now they are the ones who fear.

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This text was originally published on the Deutsche Welle website for Latin America.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

The Causes of the Protests in Cuba are More Valid Than Ever

This coming November 15 is the day on which several independent organizations have called for a civic march in several Cuban cities. (Archiépelago)

14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Generation Y, 6 November 2021 — Yunieski’s mother is going to have to “tie him up in the house” so that he does not go out on the street on November 15, a day in which several independent organizations have called a civic march in different cities of Cuba, the first after the protests of July when thousands of citizens took to the streets demanding freedom.

Yunieski is 35-years-old and lives in Centro Habana, one of the poorest areas of the capital. At least two of his best friends have been in prison for more than three months. They are among the almost 600 people arrested during and after the popular protests on July 11 who are still behind bars or are being prosecuted. The prosecution requests sentences of up to 27 years in prison for some of the protesters.

That Sunday, which seemed like a day like any other, dozens of kilometers from Yunieski’s house, the residents of the town of San Antonio de los Baños took to the streets, fed up with the continuous power cuts, the poor hospital management of the pandemic and lack of freedom. The spark of that protest, transmitted through the social network Facebook, spread throughout the country.

The echoes of popular action reached the capital and surprised the ruling party which, in the first moments, believed that it was something specific and easy to control. Miguel Díaz-Canel went to San Antonio de los Baños to try to placate the discontent. But as he was traveling by road, thousands of people gathered outside Havana’s Capitol building.

The social explosion came at a time when it seemed that the Cuban dictatorship could extend its control over the country for many more years. That false mask of popular unanimity that the ruling party built for decades was broken in one day. The Plaza of the Revolution responded with a repressive wave that brought the images of coups and excesses to the front pages of every newspaper in the world.

The repression was not only against the citizens and the participants in the protests, but the independent press also suffered the official onslaught with a particular fury. Telephone services cut off, house arrests, threats to families, police citations, fines and retaliation have increased since that day and as the next civic march draws near.

But, the disproportionate repression and the hardening of the official discourse experienced in these more than three months have not been able to prevent the causes that led thousands of Cubans to the streets from continuing to be present day. The lack of freedom, the desire for a democratic change and an economic opening were the main fuel of those protests and they continue to be conquests to be achieved.

Yunieski’s friends who took to the streets are under 40 and grew up with the dollarization of the economy that Fidel Castro imposed after the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1990s. They have nothing to lose, not even freedom, because in their day-to-day lives they feel trapped by the controls, the absurd prohibitions and the impossibility of choosing a party, expressing themselves without being gagged, and improving their standard of living.

They had never been freer than that day in July when in the streets they sang the musical theme Patria y Vida (Homeland and Life), which has become the anthem of change in Cuba. That day they used their mobile phones to record others like them who wanted a democratic transition on the island and who believed that the dictatorship was ending at that very moment. For 24 hours they inhabited the future.

For their part, the leaders of the Communist Party know that their system constitutes a political, economic and social anomaly, they are only trying to buy time. That time that the young people like Yunieski have plenty of and that Castroism lacks.

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Editor’s Note:  A version of this article was originally published in Crusoé magazine .

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<p class=”p1″><span style=”color: #ff6600;”><strong><span class=”s1″>COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: </span></strong></span>The <em>14ymedio</em> team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by <span style=”color: #ff6600;”><a style=”color: #ff6600;” href=”http://membresia.14ymedio.com/&#8221; target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>becoming a member of <em>14ymedio</em> now</a></span>. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.</p>

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Facebook, Authoritarianisms and the Thumbs Down

When the protests began in Cuba on July 11, Facebook accounts and their ability to broadcast the demonstrations live were the fundamental elements for a gagged population to find its voice. (Marcos Evora)

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchéz, Generation Y, Havana, 31 October 2021 — The giant is wounded and there are many reasons to gloat over his misfortune. The social network Facebook is once again involved in a scandal that calls into question its working methods, the use it makes of its users’ personal information and even the immense power it has achieved over governments, local laws and ethical standards. Nothing new in its more than three decades of existence.

However, among its critics there are not only people concerned about the addiction generated by the tool or the traps of its algorithm, but also several authoritarian regimes that do not support the civic plaza that Mark Zuckerberg’s creature has become. They rub their hands, watching the insults rain down on the US conglomerate that has recently been accused of prioritizing profits over network security.

Undoubtedly, public scrutiny is positive given the voracity of this technological behemoth that can influence the electoral course, sink reputations and bury transcendental issues in benefits of banalities. But those are not the reasons why dictatorships abhor Facebook. It is not the challenges about security flaws or dependencies generated by the “like” network that are behind the onslaught of the oppressors against the company.

When the protests began in Cuba on July 11, Facebook accounts and their ability to broadcast the demonstrations live were the fundamental elements for a population, muzzled for more than half a century, to find its voice. The confluence that had been created in cyberspace, in a country where the right of association is severely limited, broke the barrier of mistrust and fear that had paralyzed citizens until that moment.

Despite the cuts in internet access that occurred in the following days, social networks and instant messaging services have continued to be the fundamental scene of the rebellion. The Archipiélago platform, the main organizer of the civic march called for November 15, has used the potential of the digital group to unite more than 30,000 members. For them, Facebook has been the only possibility to meet and debate.

In the same country where school textbooks include enormous doses of political indoctrination and the Orwellian television screen is an innocent caricature of the political police, the official media rejoice in the questioning of Zuckerberg in congresses and in the press of democratic countries. They applaud the setting of limits on the tool, but not because they are concerned for the privacy of its users, or want to protect them from the excesses of advertising. They do it because it is in their interest that the network fails, thus closing the gap that has been opened in their strict internal controls.

When the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana rejoices in the media beating against Facebook , it is not thinking of protecting us but of gagging us.

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This article was originally published in DW Español.

Cuba, The Rope Tightens as November 15 Approaches

Military vehicles on the streets of Havana this week. (14ymedio)

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 14 October 2021 — They are dressed in civilian clothes and pretend to wait for the bus or to converse on a street corner, but everyone knows that they are segurosos, the popular word applied to agents of the dreaded political police. Their presence has increased in Cuba’s streets since the popular protests of July 11 and is expected to grow even more, as November 15 approaches, the date chosen by the activists platform Archipiélago to carry out a peaceful march.

Using current legislation to their advantage, several young people submitted requests to local authorities — in at least six provinces — to demonstrate on November 20. Those who wrote the text appealed to the guarantees provided by the Constitution to respect the rights of assembly, demonstration and association. In addition, they asked the authorities to order that the country’s security forces provide the protesters with “due protection.” That letter was like stirring up the hornet’s nest.

Immediately, the official spokespeople began to call the organizers of the march “mercenaries of the empire,” some of them have been threatened by State Security, their mobile phone services cut off, and their homes put under surveillance. All the bullets of the assassination of reputation and the pressure on their closest relatives have fallen on these young people to advise them not to continue with such efforts.

A few days after the missive was delivered, the ruling party pulled out of its sleeve the announcement that a national military exercise was going to be held on the proposed date of the demonstrations, in clear response to the activists’ request. But they were not intimidated and brought the call to march forward to November 15, and submitted the documents to the local leaders again. This Tuesday, the government’s response has been categorical: it considers the initiative to be “illegal” and calls it a “provocation for regime change.”

In this way, officialdom acts with no surprises, but it is also committed to a dangerous position. The Plaza of the Revolution has chosen not to allow even a millimeter of public dissent, it wants to extend for more time these 62 years without legal marches of citizen disagreement, without workers who can take to the streets demanding better wages, or political opponents who show in a plaza their criticism of the Executive. Castroism has decided to continue showing itself unbreakable.

However, a Japanese proverb says that “the bamboo that bends is stronger than the oak that resists.” Not giving in, not choosing to permit the march and locking oneself into intransigence can be one of the gravest mistakes leaders make in the system’s death throes. After the demonstration of popular exhaustion that Cubans staged in the summer, choosing the heavy hand and repression is like shooting oneself in the foot. They could be accelerating their downfall and, in the worst case, leading the country into civil war. In a nutshell, they don’t know what they’re doing.

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This text was originally published on the Deutsche Welle website for Latin America.
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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

The Smell of Metal on Metal, Life Has the Aroma of Pig Iron

The railroad in Cuba ended up collapsing, the locomotive of our lives remained still. (Archive / TV)

14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Generation Y, Havana, 18 September 2021 – I was stopping the train. This is not a metaphor. I would arrive at the platform with my mother and sister in the middle of the morning. The station and switchboard workers told us there were no longer scheduled departures. This was true for others, but we were not ordinary mortals: my father drove the locomotive, guided the iron serpent that would end up slavishly braking before our feet.

I was the daughter of a hero. He did not carry a shotgun, but rather drove the metal monster that populated every child’s fantasy. The difference is that I had him at home, I didn’t need to fantasize. They dreamed of an engineer, I lived with one every day: his long and agonizing days without getting home, the celebration of his return, and the fear that a bad crossing would end his life.

There is nobody on a platform at four in the morning. Just you and the belief that someone is going to pick you up. But we had no doubts. Whatever happens, no matter what they say… shortly, a snorting monster will pull up. Who made us believe that? My father: he assured us he would be there, despite the near misses, the unexpected and the derailments. He gave us confidence.

And there we were without hesitation. My mother, my sister and I, holding hands in that mixture of humidity and the sound of cicadas that are the train stations in the middle of “Cuban nothing.” Knowing that fate had given us our own titan of iron and steel, with a whistle at hand.

First it was just the belief, then a light wind came that tousled the hair behind our ears as the scent flooded us. It smelled of pig iron. This is what “perfume” is called when it comes from the friction of metal against metal when a convoy full of wagons stops on the line… it smells like pig iron, a word widely used in the rail industry, although to most people it sounds rare and novel.

My maternal grandmother knew this well because she had to incessantly wash the uniforms of her husband, also a railway employee.

Ana knew very well the “stink” that is left when, from the cabin, someone “puts the brake” on a locomotive that is dragging dozens of wagons screeching along the rails. It also creates some very peculiar crusts; they are black and when you remove them from your face with your fingers they feel very hard. They are the waste, on the human body, of the railroad.

It was the time when clothes were starched, which Ana did so well. She was the best. I ironed the edges of my grandfather and father’s shirts. They had an emblem in their pocket, on the gray cloth, that captivated us; it was a white rectangle embroidered in black of a locomotive giving off smoke. I always wanted (and managed it several times) to drive a train.

My paternal grandfather had a “doll’s hand.” One day, faced with the imminent crash, he threw himself from the locomotive but his ring got caught on a metal ledge. Then, like a magician, he would show us his four-fingered hand and we naive girls would laugh. They were the war wounds of our people. The killings of a railway clan.

But not everything was jokes or anecdotes. One day they started calling home to give condolences. Supposedly I had died in a train accident. It was my first and last name, but it was not me, but a younger, homonymous cousin who had been trapped by the crash in his early teens, accompanying his father, also an engineer. The scars accumulated on us.

In the mid-nineties, my father came home with a grimace on his face and a jacket that smelled of blood. His locomotive, failing to stop, had run over a herd of goats. We daughters jump on the feast; we were very hungry and he knew it. He was a provider; in those pieces of flesh and bone he gave us his “last hunt.” Then the railroad in Cuba ended up collapsing, the locomotive of our lives remained still.

However, the aroma lingers. My family smells like pig iron. My father died a little over a week ago and I returned to the symbolic platform of waiting. First the wind came and shook my short hair. The railwayman’s daughter knows only one perfume. It is the balm of existence, the same one I felt when I stood on the line in the middle of the morning and unknown voices assured me that the train was not going to stop, but I knew it would: I smelled what was coming.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Diaz-Canel in Mexico, the Invitation That Never Should Have Been Extended

Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, during an official visit of the former in 2019. (Presidency of Cuba)

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 15 September 2021 – salsa dancing or smiling with several Hollywood actors, this was Miguel Díaz-Canel’s look three years ago during a visit to New York. Now, cornered by the complaints after violently repressing the July 11th protests, the Cuban president finds himself isolated on the international scene, a repudiation from which Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s invitation to Mexico attempts to extract him.

When the citizens of that neighboring country celebrate the date of the Grito de Dolores on Thursday, a graying and grim figure will be among the guests at the commemoration. In just two months — since he insisted on national television that he was ready “for anything” and that “the combat order is given,” in a call to crush the protesters – the official-propaganda-imposed image of the pragmatic engineer has been shattered.

Although, since his occupation of the presidential chair, Díaz-Canel has been surrounded by criticism of not having been elected at the polls, the president came to enjoy the sympathy of those who were relieved that, at least, “his name is not Castro.” The political cabals mention him as a man from a generation with less guilt and “without bloodstained hands,” unlike his predecessors.

However, the same headlines of the newspapers that until recently called it a respite in the long family dynasty that has controlled this Island for more than half a century, now broadcast images of the police beating unarmed citizens, their fists raised in the cry of “libertad” – freedom – that has spread throughout the entire country, and mothers with tear stained faces whose children are locked up in cells without any respect for their legal procedural guarantees.

The entire publicity arsenal aimed at showing Díaz-Canel as an efficient, popular and modern administrator was inoperative after that day that divided contemporary Cuban history into two parts. Since then, the leaders who used to shake his hand, smile with him for the family photo or pat him on the back in meetings of international organizations, now flee from him and rebuke him.

Only López Obrador has extended an invitation to this president whose people told him loud and clear that they do not want him and who responded with the arrogance of one who feels that he should not apologize, amend his course or give up his position to another. What is this gesture of the leader of Mexico’s Morena Party about? Is it in payment of an old ideological debt? Is he looking to inconvenience his political adversaries or a neighboring government? Was the request born in the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana and the Mexican could only say “yes”?

Aware that his trip raises criticism and suspicion, the man who is also the First Secretary of the Cuban Communist Party has preferred keep the details of his agenda under a cloak of secrecy. Information on the place or time when he will participate as a speaker in the Mexican national holidays has not even been offered. A mystery that seeks to avoid public rejection not only by hundreds of Cuban emigrants who are already organizing to reject his visit, but also by many other Mexicans who are in solidarity with the cause of democratic change on this island.

From the main focuses and starring lights of his tour of Russia, Ireland and Belarus a few years ago, Díaz-Canel will avoid journalists, and escape from public presentations and rope lines to prevent the uncomfortable image of another invited guest who shuns his greeting or leaves him with his hand in the air. It is a dangerous choreography, because rudeness and protest can await one anywhere.

The warmth and sympathy that his host professes will also clarify much of this trip: whether it is a simple formality or a resounding political endorsement of a dictator rejected by his people, a man who called for a fratricidal confrontation for which, hopefully, one day he may be tried in national or international courts. The number of yards that separate the two rulers in the main act, whether or not López Obrador mentions the Cuban, even the number of hours that he spends in Mexican territory, will all be very revealing. We will have to be attentive to each of these rituals.

But also, we will have to look towards the interior of the island in the absence of Díaz-Canel. His unpopularity is not unrelated to the “wolves of the pack” who are vying for power in Cuban. As soon as they feel that keeping him in the presidential chair endangers their control over the country, they will dispense with this Villa Clara engineer, a man unable to string three sentences together without making it sound like a boring litany dictated by others.

This trip may be designed to clean up his image outside of national borders, but it also risks things getting out of control at home. Be that as it may, López Obrador has chosen the sad role of supporting a man who will go down in Cuban history as a puppet who, on the day he could have cut the strings and acted with the greatness of a statesman, preferred repression. The old practice of the Castros, of the blow and the gag.

The Sounds of the Crisis in Cuba

There is a soundtrack of the disaster that is barely mentioned, but that surrounds us on all sides. (14ymedio)

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 24 August 2021 — Dawn breaks and the sound of some chickens from a nearby patio can be heard throughout the neighborhood, when midday comes we can hear the shouts of a neighbor letting us know there are bananas in the market on Tulipán Street and, in the afternoon, the squeaking of a wheelbarrow with two little kids nostalgic for the amusement park.

Although the images of long lines, unsmiling faces and empty shopping bags are the most recurrent when it comes to describing the current situation on this Island, there is a soundtrack of the disaster that is barely mentioned but that surrounds us on all sides. Some of the sounds echo what we heard in the 90s during the Special Period, as if the needle on the record player of our lives had skipped and went back to playing the same music.

These times remind me of that period when some neighbors in our building raised a pig in their bathtub and, so it wouldn’t bother everyone too much, they operated on its vocal cords, leaving the animal to emit a hoarse breathy sound much more disturbing than its original grunts. Now, on a nearby balcony, someone has a cage with several turkeys that cluck all the time, a practice intended to guarantee protein for families fearful there are worse times ahead.

But there is also another permanent ringing and it is that of irritability. The swearwords of domestic fights, fueled by the lack of resources and the forced confinement the pandemic has brought to families with positive cases of covid-19; the crying of children who do not understand why they can’t go out to play; and the sobs of the son whose mother died for lack of oxygen or medicines.

A suffocating resonance, the chorus of a city and of a desperate country.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

When Repression Knocks at Your Door

For me, it doesn’t matter that you have defamed me without knowing me, attacked me without arguments, or raised a fist in an act of repudiation against me or my loved ones. (Screen capture from a video taken at a violent act of repudiation against Yoani’s husband, Reinaldo Escobar*, the person on the left who is looking forward.)

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, 21 July 2021 — A little more than ten days ago, violent repression was for many Cubans an alien experience, a story told by others that they doubted when narrated by government opponents or independent journalists. So it seemed until July 11th when some confirmed, firsthand, that the arbitrary arrests, the beatings, the strip searches and humiliations in police stations, and the silence on the part of the authorities regarding the whereabouts of a detainee, were not the fantasies or hoaxes of a few.

Many of those who previously doubted and questioned the victims, saying that they made everything up and that something like this could not happen on this island, now have a son or a niece locked up awaiting a summary judgment just for going out on the streets asking for “libertad!” or trying to record the popular revolts with their cell phone camera. The testimonies are coming to light, including excesses, outrages, lengthy interrogations, overcrowding in the cells and threats, many threats.

None of this is news for the part of the Cuban population that has spent decades denouncing such events. But, sometimes, you have to feel it to believe, experience it in your own flesh to empathize with another victim, or stick your finger in the wound to convince yourself it exists.

Personally, it is not worth me now to return skepticism with skepticism, deafness with deafness, sarcasm with sarcasm

Personally, it is not worth it to me now to return skepticism with skepticism, deafness with deafness, sarcasm with sarcasm. It is time to lend a hand and support the new victims of direct repression, regardless of whether they once doubted the horrors experienced by others.

Count on me to shout for the liberation of your children. I don’t care if you mocked me or didn’t believe it when I was kidnapped and beaten in November 2009;* I don’t care if you lent yourself to watching my little boy on his way to school and yelling at him that his mother was a “mercenary”; I don’t care if you reported on people visiting me and laughed when I spent long hours in a jail cell. It doesn’t matter if you joined in the execution of my reputation and the attempt to kill me socially.

For me, it doesn’t matter that you have defamed me without knowing me, attacked me without arguments, or raised a fist in an act of repudiation against me or my loved ones. I am on your side for the release of that family member you love. I do believe you.

*Translator’s notes:

See also Blame the Victim

For a video of the event shown in the photo, see here.

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