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November 01 2013

Petite histoire de la photographie

La photographie contemporaine d'Amérique latine a accompagné les grands événements politiques qui ont fait de ce continent non seulement une source d'inspiration pour les utopies libertaires, mais également l'incarnation d'un autoritarisme générateur d'oppression et d'inégalités sociales. Au-delà des (...) / Amérique latine, Argentine, Brésil, Chili, Colombie, Venezuela, Art, Culture, Démocratie, Mouvement de contestation, Photographie, Cuba, Socialisme, Dictature, Amérique du Sud - 2013/11

October 17 2013

Rise in Entrepreneurship Reveals Gender Tensions in Cuba

Cuban women

The transformation of the Cuban economic model has caused the flourishing of self-employed work (cuenta propia), understood as not employed by the state.  Self-employment [es] is not a novelty in Cuba; however, it is one of the fundamental pillars of the government's recent economic measures. But that process has revealed certain contradictions and tensions within Cuban families, and especially regarding gender relations. 

This way of producing goods and services has slowly introduced, since 2010, a great number of trades and professions. According to the Trabajadores [Workers] newspaper, the voice of the Central de Trabajadores de Cuba, there were 436,342 employed people in this sector [es] by the end of July, 2013.

According to the researcher Teresa Lara:

… la actualización del modelo económico cubano requiere de una intensidad del trabajo doméstico y de cuidado para sustituir con trabajo no remunerado los gastos que antes eran asumidos en gran medida por el Estado y para producir bienes y servicios que ya no se compran en el mercado. La reducción paulatina de los subsidios a productos normados, la disminución de comedores obreros y el recorte racional de los gastos del presupuesto estatal exigen la incorporación de todos estos gastos al ámbito del hogar.

… the updating of the Cuban economic model requires an intensity of household work and care to substitute work which is not paid for with the expenses that before were mostly taken on by the state, and to produce goods and services that cannot already be bought in the market. The slow reduction of subsidies for already-established products, the decrease of food service workers, and the rational cutting of state budget expenses demand the incorporation of all of these expenses on the home front.

It is within this context that women have entered self-employed work in Cuba. According to the Oficina Nacional de Estadísticas (National Office of Statistics), the number of women in this sector rose to 62,000 at the close of 2011.

Self-employed Cuban Workers and Enterprise

The recent founding of the Entrepreneurial Women site [es] specializing in gender and employment reinforces the need to update not only the economy, but also gender interpretations and perceptions.

In this way the application of the enterprise [en] concept is revealed as an important pillar in new gender relations in the work environment, where the subordination of women has no place, and the creation of micro-companies led by women and supportive economy is favored.

The website, managed from Cuba, is coordinated by the Servicio Informativo de la Corresponsalía en Cuba del Servicio de Noticias de la Mujer de Latinoamérica y el Caribe [es] (SEMLAC in Spanish, a women's news agency) and contains seven sections where they post newspaper jobs, results of investigations, and opinion articles. 

In addition, users can access a virtual forum, in which the following questions have been discussed: how can we change this reality ? Are women and men equal within companies? And what barriers do women face in order to take charge of the direction os small enterprises?

Within the multiple projects, Entrepreneurial Women also edits a printed bulletin that is distributed only in the country's capital at the moment, Sara Artiles reveals, one the site's managers. Additionally, she manages a discussion list. The site, the service, and the email list have the goal of creating a gender culture with this economic sector: “We're getting there little by little, but we're getting there,” Artiles declares.

October 14 2013

Can This Be Home? Borderlessness & The Internet Citizen

The Malecón, Havana, Cuba. Image by Flickr user Patxi64 (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).

The Malecón, Havana, Cuba. Image by Flickr user Patxi64 (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).

I once interviewed a Cuban blogger who described the Internet as a place where Cubans (the few who were online) could experience a form of citizenship—an active, participatory democratic experience—that they couldn't have in real life. As she put it, “we are learning to be citizens in cyberspace.” Although her focus was on the particular limitations on public expression and debate in Cuba, I took her point broadly, thinking of my Internet activist colleagues who often describe themselves as being citizens or residents “of the Internet.”

As online movements have grown in scope and impact, many of us have developed a do-it-yourself, participatory sense of citizenship that is more strongly tied to a global collective than to a transactional agreement with a particular nation state. We have not only fought hard to uphold some policies and strike down others, but we've actually started to develop international standards for the exercise and protection of rights online. Countries, borders, and nationalities remain dominant and important in many ways, but they do not feel as sharply defined or as binding as before.

These two paradigms, the traditional world of nation-states and the new one of fluid borders and internauts, had a nasty collision this June, when leaked NSA documents revealed that the US government was spying on a sizable chunk of the global population. It's easy to assume that this might have happened no matter what, but the particular terms that governed the lawless, unchecked surveillance regime of the NSA cut right at the heart of this question of borders and “Internet citizenship”.

We now know that NSA spying practices hinge on an arbitrary measure of “foreignness”. Predicated on the faulty assumption that terrorists are usually foreign, authorities decided to track the communications of foreigners at large, rather than limiting their investigations to people who were actually associated with terrorist organizations.

If analysts could prove that an individual was foreign or at least bore a “51% likelihood of foreignness,” a measure based on how often they communicated with individuals outside of the country, they could spy on this person as they pleased. After all, under US law, the government is not obligated to guarantee constitutional protections to people who don't live in the US.

Many advocates in the US since have focused on defending the rights of US people before this practice—over half the population of the US was deemed foreign by this standard. But the NSA's hare-brained “foreignness” measurement scheme proves that online, it is all but impossible to prioritize the rights of one group (in this case, “US people”) over those of another.

The results of this policy also prove something about the porousness of our borders. While most of us belong to at least one state, we connect to people in many countries through our daily communications and lives online. Borders are a fluid thing.

In the offline world, we accept the fact that laws and our rights vary from country to country. But online, where both social norms and technical realities have led to a more fluid reality, this is not so easy to swallow. If we continue to protect only the rights of certain people based on citizenship or some other crude measure, we will lose. We must see the borderlessness that technology has afforded us not just as a beautiful concept, but as a practical reality. The Internet is a place where we actually could try to protect everyone’s rights, equally.

In the face of these challenges, rights advocates around the world are working to assert and uphold universal human rights, a concept of which US leaders (clearly not thinking ahead) were original proponents. Arguably, there’s never been a better time to actually put this concept into action. We have at our disposal a medium that is not entirely universal, but comes closer to being so than anything else we've ever had. The Internet not only enables us to imagine this universality on a real scale — it also empowers us to do something about it.

Ellery Roberts Biddle is the editor of Global Voices Advocacy and a long-time member of the Global Voices community. She lives in San Francisco where she devotes most of her time to thinking and writing about free expression and privacy online and the politics of Internet use in Cuba. She blogs at half-wired. Follow her on Twitter at ellerybiddle.

October 12 2013

Why is Cuban Dissident Sonia Garro in Prison?

Sonia Garro has been incarcerated in Cuba for over a year. A member of the controversial Damas de Blanco, a group of women advocating for the release of political prisoners in Cuba, Garro and her husband were arrested in a violent police raid on their home in spring of 2012. She was behind bars for several months before she was issued formal charges. Originally accused of “terrorism”, she has now been charged with assault, generating public disorder and the attempted murder of one of the police officers involved in the raid.

Sonia Garro Alfonso from Tracey Eaton on Vimeo.

US journalist and transparency advocate Tracey Eaton interviewed Garro in 2012.

Ideology smolders, but information remains scarce
Cases like Garro's are notoriously difficult to parse by following media on either side of the Florida Straits. Cuban state media portray serious government critics as “mercenaries” supported by US government money, while US news outlets regularly serve up rumors that all Cubans are either brainwashed into subservience by the Castro government or clamoring for an ill-defined clean slate of freedom. Neither side is especially convincing.

It is difficult to find an explanation of precisely why Garro is in prison and what precipitated the raid on her home. Leading Cuban state media outlets Granma and Cubadebate have not uttered a word about Garro's case. Dissident networks and foreign media report that she has been an active anti-government activist since 2009 — her activities have ranged from starting an independent community center to joining the Damas de Blanco, a group that is known to be backed by US government money. It is illegal for Cuban citizens to receive financial support from the US government agencies — despite its questionable legitimacy under international human rights norms, this could serve as a justification for her arrest under Cuban law. But Garro is one of many women involved in the effort — it may be that there is something specific about Garro's activities that led to the raid on her home.

Unfortunately, there is little transparency around law enforcement and judicial processes in Cuba, thus search and arrest warrants, charges, and other documentation are unavailable for public view. Either way, the long period of time during which Garro was held without charges suggests that there may not be a strong legal justification for her incarceration. Without further information, it seems most likely that Sonia Garro is in prison because of her political activities.

Did she cross a line?
In an article for Diario de Cuba, Ivan García wrote,

Aunque nadie conoce a ciencia cierta cuál es la delgada línea que separa lo permisivo de aquello que el Gobierno considera delito. Sonia Garro tampoco lo sabe. Ella está convencida de que solo reclamaba sus derechos.

Although no one knows the exact sciene that determines the thin line separating what's permitted from what that government considers a crime. Sonia doesn't know either, but she is convinced that all she did was attempt to exercise her rights.

In popular conceptualizations of political speech in Cuba, writers often refer to this “line” that García mentions. This construct can be problematic in many cases, but when it comes to financial support, the location of the proverbial line is as clear as day.

Upon crossing this line, one becomes a “gusano” or traitor, suspected of subversive behavior. Those who cross this line risk losing their jobs, severing ties with family and friends, harassment by government loyalists, and sometimes legal action. Do the Damas participate because of their political beliefs, or mostly for financial gain? Or are they motivated by some combination of the two? It is hard to know.

Some Cubans avoid the political pitfalls of this paradigm by narrowing their critiques to areas of policy and regulation, rather than ideology. But others, particularly those whose lives have been irrevocably changed by harsh penalties for political activity and small crimes alike, generally seem more willing to risk the consequences both of making broad, sweeping critiques of the system as a whole, and of accepting foreign support that allows them to sustain their livelihoods, despite the ways that this can leave them marginalized within society. Sonia Garro took major risks by engaging in anti-government activities and joining the Damas group. And now she is paying a high price for it.

September 17 2013

Mixing Politics at Live Concert in Cuba Gets Musician Banned

Robertico Carcassés, fundador de Interactivo. (Foto reproducida por autorización)

Robertico Carcassés, founder of Interactivo. (Photo reproduced with permission)

On September 12, the campaign to free “Los Cinco” culminated with a concert at the Anti-Imperialist Tribune, located near the United States Interests Section in Havana. For over three hours, artists belonging to diverse musical genres participated. Near the end, when the group Interactivo was performing, its founder, pianist Robertico Carcassés, improvised a chorus that made a critique of the Cuban government.

“We want our brothers to return and we want much more,” said Carcassés, referring to the four Cuban political prisoners that still remain imprisoned in the United States. The audience hummed, “I want, remember that I always want.” Carcassés asked again, “I want them to free the Five Heroes and María,” alluding to marijuana, a drug whose sale and consumption is illegal in Cuba today.

Later he added: “[I want] free access to information to have my own opinion” and “to elect a president by direct vote and not otherwise.” The improvisation ended with the phrase, “Neither militants nor dissidents, all Cubans with the same rights and may the blockade [of the United States towards Cuba] and the self-blockade come to an end.”

Although the performance was not interrupted, and was broadcast live entirely on Cuban state television, Interactivo posted the following on its Facebook page [es]:

Declaraciones de Interactivo en su perfil de Facebook

Interactivo's statements on its Facebook page

(…) Roberto dijo algunas cosas que seguramente ya todos conocen y nos citaron ayer a todos a una reunión al Instituto Cubano de la Música donde se nos informó que Roberto queda ‘separado del sector’ por tiempo indefinido. Quiere decir que no se puede presentar solo ni con Interactivo en ningún lugar estatal.

(…) Roberto said some things that surely everyone already knows, and all of us were called into a meeting at the Cuban Institute of Music where we were informed that Roberto is now “separated from the sector” indefinitely. What this means is that he cannot perform solo nor with Interactivo at any state facility.

When the post was deleted, minutes later, it had already been shared 40 times and had 36 comments. The group's performances in two nightclubs in Havana last Saturday and next Wednesday have been canceled, a fact this this author confirmed via telephone. A worker at Café Miramar said that “she did not know the reasons” behind the cancellation.

Reactions on blogs and social networks emerged immediately. Carcassés has been praised and criticized from a diverse audience. According to Cuban journalist Marta María Rodríguez, who interviewed Carcassés [es] in 2003 for the Cuban daily Juventud Rebelde:

No puedo, no quiero dejar de solidarizarme con Robertico (Roberto Carcassés) y con Interactivo. Es inaceptable no pronunciarse a favor de la libertad de opinión, de expresión, en cualquier circunstancia. Si permitimxs se censure a nuestrxs artistas, qué pasará con nosotrxs? Ya decía otro gran artista, James Mullen, que “La libertad, al fin y al cabo, no es sino la capacidad de vivir con las consecuencias de las propias decisiones”. Las consecuencias de Robertico serán suyas. Pero, las de permitir su censura sin pronunciarnos, más allá de nuestras ideologías, son todas nuestras.

I cannot nor do I wish to stop expressing my solidarity with Robertico (Roberto Carcassés) and with Interactivo [es]. It is unacceptable not to rule in favor of freedom of opinion, of expression, under any circumstances. If we allow our artists to be censored, what will happen to us? Another great artist, James Mullen, already said that “Freedom, after all, is nothing but that ability to live with the consequences of our actions”. Robertico's consequences will be his. But, the ones that come from allowing his censorship without speaking out, beyond our ideologies, are all ours.

Cuban Americans for Engagement alluded [es] alluded to recent statements [es] by the pianist about the United States blockade on Cuba.

¿Qué dice Robertico Carcasses sobre el bloqueo de EE.UU a Cuba? “Las relaciones políticas con Estados Unidos marcan el nivel de alcance que pueda tener nuestra música en el exterior, ya que ellos dominan la mayor parte del mercado mundial y practican un bloqueo ridículo a mi país, hace más de medio siglo”. CAFE desea que todos los que andan alabando a Carcasses por sus críticas al gobierno, legítimas o no, en lugar apropiado o no, discutan con el mismo vigor y actúen para quitar lo que el llama: “bloqueo ridículo a mi país, hace más de medio siglo”.

What does Robertico Carcassés say about the U.S. blockade on Cuba? “Political relations with the United States mark the level of scope that our music can have abroad, since they dominate the majority of the world market and practice a ridiculous blockade against my country from over half a century ago.” CAFE wants all of those who praise Carcassés for his criticisms of the government, legitimate or not, appropriate or not, to discuss these expressions with the same vigor and to take action to get rid of what he calls: “a ridiculous blockade against my country from over half a century ago.”

On blog Capítulo Cubano [es], Vizenso Basile considers the following:

No se trata de juzgar las peticiones de Robertico. Carcassés ha ejercido su elemental derecho a la opinión y sobre esto no cabe la más mínima duda (…) No ha dicho nada de subversivo, contrarrevolucionario, ni de otro planeta. Al contrario, ha abordado quizás las cuestiones que -hoy día- más pueden interesar a la población de la Isla. Un cambio en los medios de comunicación, la abertura completa a un internet que no cueste más que pepita de oro, un sistema presidencial en vez de uno parlamentario (aunque sobre esto pueden haber distintas dudas y opiniones), una reconciliación nacional que elimine anacrónicas divisiones debidas a las contingencias históricas del siglo pasado. En una sola palabra, el autobloqueo, ese bloqueo interno, a veces absurdo, que sintetiza, contiene y genera muchas contradicciones, reconocidas en varias ocasiones por los mismos dirigentes de Cuba.

It is not about judging Robertico's requests. Carcassés has exercised his fundamental right to an opinion and there is not even the slightest doubt about that (…) He has not said anything subversive, counterrevolutionary, nor out of this world. On the contrary, he has addressed perhaps the questions that – today – may most interest the island's population. A change in media, the complete opening to an Internet that does not cost more than a gold nugget, a presidential system instead of a parliamentary one (although regarding this there may be distinct doubts and opinions), a national reconciliation that eliminates anachronistic divisions due to historical contingencies of the previous century. In a word, the self-blockade, this internal blockade, sometimes absurd, which synthesizes, contains and generates many contradictions, recognized on several occasions by the very leaders of Cuba.

Later, Basile points out:

Lo que ha ocurrido es que Carcassés ha hecho peticiones sagradas, casi imprescindibles en la Cuba de hoy, pero en un lugar equivocado y en el momento menos oportuno. Esto es lo que ha pasado el 12 de septiembre. Y la cuestión problemática es la consecuencia de su actuación. Roberto se ha convertido en el héroe mediático del momento, en el que desafía al régimen.

En otras palabras, Roberto -consciente o inconscientemente- ha robado espacio a la causa de lo Cinco y ha dejado en un segundo plano el principal objetivo de una -hay que repetirlo- gigantesca y espontánea movilización popular. No se trata de juzgarlo, criticarlo o condenarlo. Solamente se trata de analizar las consecuencias mediáticas de su gesto, quizás genuino y necesario pero que ha dado un pretexto más a la prensa internacional para manipular y silenciar las verdades de Cuba. Más allá de esto, nada más y nada menos. No se pretendan aplausos, ni represalias.

What has happened is that Carcassés has made requests that are sacred and almost essential in the Cuba of today, but he did so in the wrong place at the wrong time. That is what happened on September 12. The problematic issue is the consequence of his actions. Roberto has become the media hero of the moment in which he challenges the regime.

In other words, Roberto – consciously or unconsciously – has stolen space from the Los Cinco cause and has left the main objective of a giant and spontaneous popular mobilization – which must be repeated – in the background. It is not about judging, criticizing, or condemning him. It is solely about analyzing the media consequences of his act which, while perhaps genuine and necessary, has given another pretext to the international press to manipulate and silence the truths of Cuba. Beyond this, nothing more and nothing less. Neither applause nor retaliation is expected.

An article published in Progreso Semanal [es] considers that “the outcome of this saga will reflect the limits of official tolerance in a context in which the very Raúl Castro has called to debate – in the right place at the right time and in the right way – and to the defrosting of certain issues.”

Reposted bycheg00 cheg00

September 13 2013

Labour Code Promotes Debate on Sexuality and Racism in Cuba

[All links lead to Spanish language websites.]

The draft of the Cuban Labour Code is being discussed as much in workplaces as in digital spaces based on the island. The law proposal, approved by the National Assembly of People's Power on December 2012, was launched on 10th July, creating debate in every workplace in the country.

blogpaquitoSince the publication of the regulations in Cuban official media, the document has also drawn the attention of various bloggers residing on the island. Journalist Francisco Rodríguez produced two responses to the aforementioned draft in his blog PaquitoeldeCuba.

In the first of them, Rodríguez, besides making specific proposals about amendments to the wording of the law, also encourages the sex diverse community to participate in the debate:

El reconocimiento del derecho al trabajo con independencia de la orientación sexual o la identidad de género de las personas podría incluirse en una nueva ley, si todos los trabajadores y las trabajadoras que somos homosexuales, bisexuales o trans proponemos en nuestras secciones sindicales una adición al anteproyecto de Código de Trabajo que actualmente se discute en Cuba mediante consulta popular.

The recognition of the right to employment regardless of the person's sexual orientation or gender identity could be included in a new law, if all us workers who are homosexual, bisexual or transsexual propose an addition to the Labour Code draft in our union sections, which is currently being discussed by way of referendum.

Cruz's main preoccupation, exposed in his second post, is the need for political will in the voices of the decision-makers of the country, so that those and other suggestions on the inclusion of homosexuals, the transgendered, etc. are taken into account in the mentioned law.

Los expertos que redactaron la propuesta de ley no solo obviaron cualquier mención explícita a la discriminación por orientación sexual e identidad de género en el entorno laboral, sino que tampoco pusieron en blanco y negro el derecho al trabajo para las personas discapacitadas y seropositivas, aunque en este último caso sí se mantiene una protección salarial cuando asistan a las consultas médicas programadas.

Not only did the experts who wrote the law proposal avoid any explicit mention of discrimination due to sexual orientation and gender in the working environment, but they also did not establish explicitly the right to employmentfor those disabled and HIV-positive, although in the latter's case, there is indeed a wage protection for when they attend scheduled medical consultations.

Meanwhile, on 10th August the doctor Alberto Roque published an open letter to the president of the National Assembly, Esteban Lazo, in his blog, in which he leaves “evidence of the discriminatory acts that persist in our country's work environment.”

blogroqueFurthermore, in the missive, Roque reveals that discriminatory concepts are used in the text, some of them surmounted in the social sciences, such as that of race, while demanding the inclusion of workplace harassment within the mentioned law to be assessed:

Considero necesario incluir en el Anteproyecto un artículo específico que defina el acoso moral en el trabajo, su identificación, así como hacer mención a las obligaciones de la administración y del Sindicato de crear espacios y ambientes seguros para los trabajadores víctimas de mobbing.

I consider it necessary to include a specific article in the draft that defines psychological harassment at work, its identification, and mention the obligations of the administration and of the union to create safe spaces and atmospheres for workers who become victims of mobbing.

The new Labour Code has also provoked analysis on how it contradicts other already-existing laws in the country, in particular the Constitution of the Republic. In the post Solavaya con este código, Rogelio Manuel Díaz Moreno, member of the Observatorio Crítico [Critical Observatory], admits that “the draft violates the secular state and discriminates among religions, given that one enjoys two days of holiday and the rest, not one.”

More recently, the lawyer Deyni Abreu, founder of the project Alianza Unidad Racial [Racial Unity Alliance], has been circulating her notes about the Labour Code through the web, some of which are more general while others are specifically related to racism and discrimination in Cuba. With respect to the latter, she thinks:

Un inconveniente puntual en los centros de trabajo se observa en la inexistencia de herramientas legales que protejan al trabajador, si el empleador lo humilla o comete maltrato, irrespeto, desde su jerarquía, proveyéndose de acepciones racistas o si otro trabajador origina un conflicto desde el imperativo del color de piel.

A punctual disadvantage in workplaces is observed in the lack of legal tools that protect the worker if the employer humiliates, mistreats or disrespects him, from their hierarchical position, using racist terms, or if another worker causes a conflict stemming from the skin colour.

Abreu considers the Cuban Criminal Code's plans with regard to racial discrimination to be insufficient, and recognises the need for the present law project to strongly include this matter. Likewise, she believes that all possible discrimination of an explicit nature needs to be named.

On 15th October, the discussion period for the Labour Code Draft in Cuba closes, a debate that has been organised jointly by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security and the Cuban Workers’ Union, the only organisation of its type in the country.

September 11 2013

Four Hundred Cuban Doctors Go to Brazil

David Oliveira de Souza, a doctor and professor from the Research Institute of the Sirio-Libanés Hospital, sent an open letter to the more than four hundred Cuban doctors who recently arrived in Brazil and who constitute the first group of a total of 4,000 physicians who are expected to come to this country before December of this year.

Maternal home in Cuba. (Foto: Randy Rodríguez Pagés)

Maternal home in Cuba. (Foto: Randy Rodríguez Pagés)

The missive, published by the daily Folha from Sao Paulo, states:

Welcome, Cuban doctors. You will be very important for Brazil. The lack of doctors in remote and outlying areas have left our people in a difficult situation. Do not worry about hostility from some of our colleagues. You will be compensated greatly by the warm welcome in the communities for which you will care from this point on.

According to Oliveira de Souza, in states like Sergipe, it is easy to move from the capital to the Interior, but even so there are hundreds of unused job positions, even in equipped health units and in good conditions.

Before the deficit of 14,500 physicians in the South American nation, the government of Dilma Rousseff approved the “Mais Medicos” (More Doctors) program, which will contract doctors from Spain, Portugal, and Cuba, among other nations.

Recently, one of the principle critiques on the contracting of Cubans states that ”they were being exploited.” In the face of this argument, Oliveira de Souza says in his letter:

It was talked about as if they would work like slaves. The Panamerican Health Organization (PHO), with a century of experience, would be an accomplice, since it signed the cooperation agreement with the government of Brazil. Their smiling faces in the airports condemn those hypotheses. In the name of our village and the majority of our doctors, I can only say with conviction: a brotherly hug and thank you very much.

Cuba Colors Itself Yellow for “Los Cinco” Prisoners in the U.S.

Perfil de Facebook de usuarios solidarios con la causa de Los Cinco

Facebook profile of users posting in solidarity with the plight of Los Cinco.

[Links are to Spanish-language pages.]

September 12, 2013, marks 15 years since the arrest of five Cubans who infiltrated groups in Miami, United States, and disrupted subversive actions and psychological warfare against the Cuban people. Four of them remain in U.S. jails.

On the eve of the anniversary and throughout the week, a video has been circulating on social networks and Cuban television. It features a version of the popular “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Oak Old Tree,” performed by the Cuban singer-songwriters Silvio Rodríguez, Amaury Pérez Vidal, Frank Fernández and Kiki Corona, among others.

According to René González, one of the five Cuban prisoners in the United States who recently returned to the island after having served his 13-year sentence:

La idea de la campaña me la dio la gente en la calle… lo que necesitábamos era el lenguaje norteamericano… Un día me desperté y dije: la cinta amarilla! por el significado que tiene en Estados Unidos.

The idea for the campaign came to me from the people in the street…what we needed was something which North American could identify with…One day I woke up and said: the yellow ribbon! because of what it represents in the United States.

In an address rebroadcast by Cuban television, González said:

Yo cumplí mi sentencia íntegramente, pero tenemos que impedir que eso suceda con mis cuatro hermanos por todo lo que implica y, aunque es duro decirlo, tenemos que recordar que eso para Gerardo implica que si los designios del gobierno norteamericano se cumplen, él moriría en la cárcel.

I served my whole sentence, but we must prevent this from happening to my four brothers because of all that it implies and, even though it is painful to say it, we must remember that for Gerardo this means that if the intentions of the American government are fulfilled, he will die in prison.

Then he added:

Durante estos años hemos tenido como protagonista del cariño al pueblo cubano. Ese cariño se ha manifestado de todas las formas posibles en las cartas, en los mensajes, en los dibujos de los niños y ese cariño es el que queremos que sea en esta ocasión el protagonista de la jornada.

Yo he tenido ocasión de sentirlo, de vivirlo, de palparlo, de experimentarlo en las calles de Cuba, de todas las formas posibles y en cualquier punto geográfico de la Isla y ese es el cariño que le estamos pidiendo que se manifieste en esta ocasión, donde ustedes lo hagan de la forma en que quieran, con toda la diversidad que nos caracteriza como cubanos y en la mejor manera que cada cual considere en su aula, en su centro de trabajo, en su barrio, en su proyecto comunitario, que puede ser capaz de manifestarlo.

During those years, the highlight for us was always the affection of the Cuban people. That affection was manifested in many ways, in letters, messages, children's drawings—and it is this same affection that we want to highlight on this commemorative day.

I was fortunate to feel it, to live it, to touch it, to experience it in the streets of Cuba, in all possible ways and in every geographical spot on the Island; and this is the affection that we are asking you to demonstrate on this occasion, wherever and however you choose, with all the diversity that distinguishes us as Cubans and in the best way each one can—whether in the classroom, workplace, neighbourhood, or community project.

In an emotional article, Progreso Semanal reported:

Cualquiera de estos días podrían aparecer cintas hasta en el Morro habanero… Serán las señales de anhelo, espera, fidelidad a cuatro cubanos encarcelados en Estados Unidos desde hace 15 años. René González ha convocado. El pueblo cubano se pronunciará. El pueblo norteamericando podrá captar el reclamo.

On any one of those days ribbons could appear, even in Havana's El Morro…They will be signs of longing, waiting, and keeping faith with four Cubans jailed in the United States for 15 years. René González has called us. The Cuban people will make themselves heard. People across North America will understand our demand.

During a concert by the popular Cuban duo Buena Fe, on September 6 in the Diez de Octubre district of Havana, Israel Rojas declared:

Buena Fe concert. Photo Iroko Alejo, used with permission.

Buena Fe concert. Photo Iroko Alejo, used with permission.

No iba a decir esto, pero ya que estoy acá sobre la canción lo diré. Hay uno de los cinco compañeros que si se cumple lo que está escrito no verá la luz al final del túnel. Es Gerardo. El diario Juventud Rebelde publicó hace un tiempo unos testimonios de Gerardo sobre cómo enamoró a Adriana [su esposa] y me conmovió tanto, me pareció tan humano que sin saberlo al día siguiente nació esta canción que quiero dedicársela a Adriana y a Gerardo, se llama de “Proa a Popa” y quisiera cantársela si vienen un día a un concierto nuestro”.

I wasn't going to say this, but now that I am here I will say it about the song: There is one member of the group of five who, if forced to serve his sentence, will not see the light at the end of the tunnel. It is Gerardo. A while ago, the newspaper Juventud Reblede published some declarations by Gerardo about how he fell in love with Adriana [his wife] and it so moved me. It seemed so human that without knowing it the next day this song was born, which I want to dedicate to Adriana and Gerardo. It's called “Proa a Popa” [From Bow to Stern] and I would like to sing it one day if they come to one of our concerts.

According to the creators of Alamesa, a popular directory of state and privately owned restaurants in Havana, which recently expanded to include the province of Matanzas: “We are going to publish yellow food on the 12th; that is our way of contributing.”

But the request of the Cuban people also extends to the Puerto Rican Oscar López Rivera, a political prisoner who has been in jail in the U.S during 32 years. Miguel Fernández, on his blog Cuba la isla infinita, explains: “On this September 12 my yellow ribbon will be for the Cuban Los Cinco and for the Puerto Rican Oscar López Rivera.”

August 20 2013

At 87, Fidel Castro is “Imperfect but Human”

He’s alive. Last week, Cuba’s former president and commander-in-chief turned 87. In addition to a host of official celebrations on the island, Fidel received a mix of well-wishes (and death wishes) from abroad: Newly elected Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro tweeted ”feliz cumpleaños” to Fidel, while in Madrid, Cuban exiles marked the occasion with a mock coffin labeled, “Sepultura al Castrismo” [“Castrism to the Grave”].

In a communique sent from the “mountains of Colombia,” the Secretariat of the FARC [Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia] rebel group sent birthday wishes to Fidel, emphasizing his importance as an inspirational figure for revolutionary leftist movements in the region and hailing his guidance and teachings in their “battle of ideas for true democracy, social justice and national sovereignty.”

Billboard in Cuba. Photo by Jim Snapper. (CC BY 2.0)

Billboard in Cuba. Photo by Jim Snapper. (CC BY 2.0)

The FARC leaders are not alone in saluting the Commander this way –in Latin America and beyond, Fidel has held an almost mythical status for leftist revolutionary movements for decades. Since his 1959 inaugural speech in which a white dove perched upon his shoulder and the other at his podium, parallels between Fidel and religious leaders have inspired believers and historians alike. He has become a figure of legend, arguably as much for those who revere him as for those who reject his legitimacy as a leader.

In a “birthday post” for Fidel, blogger Ivan García remarked on the strangeness of Fidel’s continuing existence. “[Fidel Castro] has been given up for dead so many times that when death does come for him, many will believe it’s a joke.” Indeed, death has long seemed close at hand for Fidel, who has endured decades of attempts on his life (mainly by the U.S. government), as well as rumors of his death. From time to time, observers will interpret silence from Fidel as a sign of permanent departure and send the Twittersphere into a frenzy, only to be quelled by photographs and remarks from the Comandante himself.

While he now appears to be cheating death by illness, rather than by the hands of other governments, the legend lives on. “I had arrived at death, but then resuscitated myself,” he told Mexican journalist Carmen Lira Saade in a 2010 interview for La Jornada, several months after his emergence from intensive medical care for intestinal cancer.

Last week, a few bloggers on the island took the opportunity to reflect on the meaning of Fidel’s life for their generation, one that knows him in a different light than those past. At La Joven Cuba, Harold Cárdenas commented on the idea of Fidel as “superhuman”.

En algún momento tuve que definir qué postura tomar hacia Fidel, cómo interpretarlo, opté por encontrar en él a un ser humano con virtudes y defectos como cualquier otro. Alguien dotado de un desinterés extremo, inclinado hacia el altruismo, dotado de disímiles armas sicológicas y de un liderazgo natural. Alguien que también se equivoca, que compartió los prejuicios sociales existentes en los 70 y tuvo poco tino para escoger a las generaciones que lo relevarían en el cargo. Es decir, un ser imperfecto pero humano como yo, con el semidiós no podría identificarme nunca. Este Fidel que lucha, se equivoca pero lo vuelve a intentar una y otra vez, ese me parece admirable.

At some moment I had to identify what position I would take towards Fidel, how to interpret him, I decided to find in him a human being with virtues and flaws like any other. A person gifted with an extreme disinterest, inclined towards altruism, endowed with dissimilar psychological weapons from the ‘70s, and with innate leadership. Someone who also makes mistakes, who shared some of the social prejudices of the '70s, and who had poor judgment in selecting the generations of leaders who would follow him. This is to say, a person who is imperfect but human like me –I could never identify with the [idea of Fidel as a] demigod. This Fidel who fights, he may err but keeps on trying time after time, that one seems admirable to me.

While Cárdenas contemplated Fidel on a personal level, Ivan Garcia described a public disenchanted by the leader:

Aunque debido al ajetreo cotidiano de penurias sin resolver, un segmento amplio de la ciudadanía no evoca con agrado a su otrora máximo líder. Lo culpan del atraso, la escasez y la precariedad que vive hoy el país. Lo ven como un barco lejano en el horizonte. Ya pocos se preguntan cómo será el día después de su muerte.

Y es que el rumbo tomado por el General hace pensar que el legado de su hermano perdurará tras su desaparición física. Las predicciones sobre el futuro de Cuba son poco halagüeñas.


En el panorama lo que se distingue es más castrismo. Sin Fidel Castro.

[D]ue to the daily grind of hardship without letup, a broad segment of the public does not have pleasant feelings toward its former top leader. They blame him for the delays, the shortages, and the precarious standard of living in the country today. They see him as a distant ship sailing toward the horizon. Few ask anymore what it will be like the day after his death.

And the direction taken by the General suggests that the legacy of his brother will endure after his physical disappearance. Predictions about the future of Cuba are bleak.


All they can see in the picture is more Castroism. Without Fidel Castro.

Despite the predictions of media and political leaders abroad, many of whom seem certain that Fidel’s death will trigger an immediate and enduring transformation of the island and its outsized bureaucracy, García’s notion seems likely. In a country where the great majority of working-age citizens are employed by the government, it could take years or even decades for such a fundamental shift in government policy and practice to take place.

As Cárdenas puts it, Fidel is human. Like the rest of us, there's no telling when he'll go. But after he does, he will likely remain the stuff of legend for a very long time.

August 08 2013

United States Embargo Breaks Into the Intimate Lives of Cubans

Cuban bloggers inside and outside of the island have held a form of protest this week through posts in which they report their experiences on the economic embargo of the United States against Cuba that has lasted half a century.

The embargo is “inside or outside Cuba, beyond the Mediterranean and also in the Caribbean.” With these words, the Cuban blogger Sandra Álvarez, author of the Negra cubana tenía que ser [es] blog, finishes a post [es] dedicated to her neighbour Mayra, a Cuban resident, for whom the embargo imposed on Cuba by the United States government is “a tremendous lie, an exaggeration.”

Álvarez, who currently lives in Hanover, Germany, recalls her experience in October 2011 in Costa Rica, when a bank employee prevented her from receiving a payment because her passport was not listed “among the possible options to select.”

According to the author, the bank employee, after having made several calls, confirmed that she could only proceed with the payment if the money was in the name of a person who was not Cuban. “Western Union is an American company and because of the embargo, your country is not here, your passport cannot be used to withdraw that money even though it's in your name.”

Foto por Panel Rock, tomada de Flickr bajo Licencia CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Photo by Panel Rock, taken from Flickr under Licence CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

La isla rebelde [The Rebellious Island] [es] confirms the extraterritorial character of the economic sanctions and alludes to the recent fine imposed on the Italian bank Intensa Sanpaolo for transferring 1,643,326 dollars between 2004 and 2008 in 53 transactions processed to Cuba.

Arthur González, author of the blog, points out that this development unearths the proposal of the subsecretary of State Lester Mallory in April 1960, published in the U.S Department of State book “Foreign Relations USA”, that established that “any conceivable method must be promptly utilised to weaken the economic life of Cuba. Denying money and supplies to Cuba to diminish the real and monetary wages, in order to bring about hunger, desperation, and the overthrow of the government.”

However, other bloggers, like Harold Cárdenas, one of the authors of La Joven Cuba [es], say that the there is also an “internal embargo” that “is expressed through obsolete prohibitions and points of view, that in recent years seems to be breaking down, but continues to be supported by a bureaucracy that tries to resist or distort the necessary changes.”

For Cárdenas:

Una forma de expresión del bloqueo interno ha sido utilizar a menudo la política de los Estados Unidos hacia Cuba como pretexto para justificar nuestras propias insuficiencias, la mala administración no puede achacarse solo a los condicionamientos externos, mucho tenemos de culpa nosotros mismos pero el chivo expiatorio sigue utilizándose. Lo peor de esto resulta en que al convertir el bloqueo norteamericano en fetiche se provoca que la gente lo ignore, lo descarte y lo olvide, bonito favor a los yanquis.

One form of expression of the internal embargo has been to frequently utilise the United States’ policy towards Cuba as a pretext to justify our own shortcomings. Deficient administration cannot be attributed solely to external conditions, we have a lot to blame ourselves for, but a scapegoat is still being used. The worst of this is that by making the North American embargo a fetish, it causes people to ignore it, dismiss it, and forget it, a nice favour for the Yankees.

His post, entitled La isla de los dos bloqueos (The Island of the Two Embargoes) [es], was republished on the blog Aló presidenta do Brasil [pt].

The Facebook group Cuban Americans for Engagement published [es] the request that Kim Ng, the Major League Baseball's (MLB) Vice President for Operations, made to Juan Francisco Puello, of the Caribbean Confederation, on 15th of July, to nullify Cuba's return to the Caribbean Series, from which they have been absent since 1960.

If Cuba returns to the next season of the Caribbean series, the Mexican and Venezuelan leagues would have to play without baseball players who belong to the Major League Baseball (MLB), the main source of supply of circuit players, the Dominican Diario Libre [es] [daily newspaper] published.

According to Cuban Americans for Engagement,

Resulta que cuando Cuba toma un paso positivo para acceder al profesionalismo y a un sistema más cercano al mercado en el beisbol, del otro lado quieren cerrar la puerta. A propósito, ¿no dicen los partidarios del embargo, que no hay bloqueo, que lo que defienden solo afecta a las relaciones con EE.UU?

It appears that when Cuba takes a positive step to accede to professionalism and a system closer to the baseball market, on the other hand they want to close the door. Speaking of which, don't the supporters of the embargo say that there is no embargo, that what they defend only concerns the relationship with the USA?

The tensions between the United States and Cuba affect the lives of millions of Cuban families. For the author of the blog La mariposa cubana [es], there are embargoes that destroy families, memories… and lives, lost just 90 miles away.

July 27 2013

La bataille du Chili est sans conteste un des plus saisissants films politique qui m'ait été donné…

La bataille du Chili est sans conteste un des plus saisissants films politique qui m’ait été donné de voir.
Le cinéaste et son équipe arrivent à capter cet instant si fragile ou la conscience politique collective du « peuple de gauche » entend le bruit des bottes et de la cravache de la soumission. les poings levés vont être coupés, l’ordre bourgeois, patronal, et militaire va régner. Une résistance sans armes va s’opérer jusqu’à la chute finale.
Bouleversant de voir comment une telle volonté politique d’organiser les moyens de productions, la répartition des richesses, et de la propriété va être écrasée par les forces les plus réactionnaires et conservatrices du pays.

La bataille du Chili (1973) un film documentaire en trois parties de Patricio Guzman avec la collaboration entre autres de Chris Marker

Ici est présenté la première partie :
L’insurrection de la bourgeoisie

Une analyse du film par Rosa Llorens

Le #film, tourné pendant la présidence d’#Allende, dans des conditions dramatiques, pourrait s’intituler #Chronique d’un Coup d’État annoncé : effectivement, dès la victoire d’Allende aux élections de septembre 1970, les #partis_politiques de #droite, les secteurs #radicaux de l’#armée et la #CIA avaient mis au point la stratégie du #chaos qui devait conduire au #coup_d_État.
La grande difficulté, pour l’équipe de #tournage, dit P. Guzman, était le décalage entre le peu de moyens matériels (le film fut tourné grâce à la #pellicule offerte par #Chris_Marker, et monté, après le coup d’État, à #Cuba) et la masse d’#événements et l’#effervescence des années 70-73 : il fallait choisir et planifier ce qu’on allait couvrir ; les choix furent judicieux, puisqu’on suit le film dans l’angoisse, l’estomac noué, revivant les possibilités extraordinaires de cette période, tout en pensant aux #tragédies #humaines auxquelles elle a abouti ; mais on assiste aussi, au-delà du #documentaire, à de grands moments de #cinéma.
Les #séquences font alterner trois groupes, trois centres de #pouvoir : les #ouvriers dans leurs #usines, la #droite_parlementaire appuyée sur l’#armée, et, entre les deux, Allende et le gouvernement d’#Unité #Populaire.

Face à la #stratégie de tension et de #sabotage de la part de la droite, Allende ne pouvait compter que sur le #peuple : il a donc encouragé les ouvriers à s’#organiser, ce qu’ils ont fait avec une détermination et une efficacité impressionnantes ; les usines passent entre les mains du peuple, constituant les nouveaux « #cordones », où le travail est inséparable des #actions_de_défense : on voit les ouvriers dresser des #barricades et obliger la police mais aussi le #gouvernement, qui voulait revenir sur ces nationalisations sauvages, à reculer.

Mais le moment le plus fort, c’est l’assemblée des responsables de cordones face à la direction des #syndicats, la #CUT, où les #communistes jouent un rôle (modérateur) important. Un ouvrier, visiblement exaspéré par les discours du responsable de la CUT, prend la parole : « Vous nous avez demandé de nous organiser, nous nous sommes organisés - mais pour quoi faire ? Les #camarades sont fatigués de s’entendre dire que ce n’est pas le moment, qu’il faut rendre des usines, parce qu’elles appartiennent à la reine d’Angleterre ou à des #banques suisses. Les camarades ne comprennent pas, ils veulent agir pour soutenir notre camarade #Président. »

Pendant ce temps, la droite déroule son plan. L’armée suit sa propre #politique : elle encercle les usines pour vérifier qu’il ne s’y cache pas d’armes, fouillant et arrêtant les ouvriers - sans qu’elle ait jamais rien trouvé ; mais ces opérations servent à étudier les lieux possibles de #résistance et à habituer les jeunes #soldats à #affronter les ouvriers. Parallèlement, la « #société_civile », appuyée par les #médias (ou du moins 75% des médias) s’organise : en 1972, la grève des #transporteurs routiers paralyse le pays ; les « ménagères » typiques, en grosses lunettes de soleil de marque et coiffure au brushing impeccable, celles auxquelles les médias français donnaient toujours la parole pour rendre compte de la situation au Chili, collectent des fonds pour soutenir les grévistes (déjà subventionnés par la CIA) et les médias accusent le gouvernement d’atteinte à la #propriété_privée quand il essaie de #réquisitionner les camions.

Entre les deux, il y a Allende, fidèlement soutenu par des #manifestations #populaires, et toujours respectueux de la #Constitution, même quand la droite fait assassiner son aide de camp, le commandant #Araya, pour le couper des secteurs #loyalistes de l’armée. La séquence des funérailles d’Araya est la plus magistrale du film : on voit, littéralement, les officiers supérieurs, filmés en plan américain, se féliciter, dans le dos d’Allende, de leur succès et se concerter pour les étapes suivantes du plan. Guzman explique comment il a obtenu cet effet de naturel : il avait juché, bien en vue, un cameraman sur une chaise, pendant qu’un autre, plus discrètement, avec un zoom, prenait les vraies images. Mais que pesait le soutien des ouvriers aux mains_nues face aux #tanks et à l’aviation ? L’issue de la #confrontation, on la connaît, et le film nous fait entendre le dernier message d’Allende, depuis la #Moneda bombardée : « Que mes paroles soient le châtiment de ceux qui ont trahi », « Je paierai avec ma vie la loyauté du peuple », « L’#histoire est à nous et elle est faite par le peuple », bientôt, de nouveau, « s’ouvriront les larges avenues par où passe l’#homme #libre pour #construire une #société #meilleure ».

#Chili #Salvador_Allende #Patricio_Guzman #Commando_communal #Nationalisation #Expropriation #Capitalisme #Socialisme #Marxisme #Fascisme #Ordre #Etudiant #Etats_unis #La-bataille_du_Chili #Vidéo

June 26 2013

Caribbean: Snowden Raising Spectre of “Monster Under Bed”?

Caribbean bloggers continue to follow developments in the Edward Snowden case – some view him as the whistleblower who is championing freedom of the Internet, while others maintain his disclosures have overstepped security boundaries.

Cuban diaspora bloggers appeared to be firm in their opinion that Snowden was wrong to have leaked the information. The Cuban Triangle, for instance, noted yesterday that:

It appeared that Edward Snowden, the rat on the run for divulging U.S. government secrets, might depart Russia for a life of political asylum in Ecuador, making a brief stop on our favorite island.

(Update: President Putin confirms that he’s in Russia and won’t be extradicted.)

The post speculates over the possibility of Snowden seeking refuge in Cuba:

The reason Snowden is having to hop-scotch around the world is that the United States has agreements with many countries that would require them to turn Snowden over. And in the absence of agreements, we have relationships with many countries that are sufficiently strong that they would be open to a request from Washington. Add up the two categories of countries, and Snowden’s options narrow.

The United States and Cuba do have an extradition agreement in force, dating from 1904. But it is a dead letter because neither side has honored its terms for years. From the first weeks of Cuba’s revolution, the United States refused to hand over persons sought by Cuba, and Cuba has fugitives from U.S. justice that it has refused to hand over.

Since extradition agreements are based on reciprocal obligations, and since the United States thinks little of Cuba’s justice system, it is unlikely that the United States would seek to revive an extradition agreement with Cuba. Even in cases where we have agreements, some do not apply to all crimes.

It ends by asking:

But what if we did negotiate with Cuba? Each side would carve out exceptions from the obligation to extradict, and the agreement might exclude past cases such as Luis Posada Carriles and JoAnn Chesimard. Even if it’s an agreement full of holes, it would be worth it if it complicates the life and travels of the next Edward Snowden.

Babalu Blog, meanwhile, refers to what it calls “Edward Snowden's whirlwind tour of the world's most repressive tyrannies and most blatant violators of individual rights”. The blog also speculates about a possible Cuba destination:

Snowden is very likely on a Havana-bound flight from Moscow where the criminal Castro dictatorship will no doubt greet him with open arms. They will also quickly take possession of his luggage, laptop computers, computer storage devices, documents, and anything and everything else he has on him. From there, he is possibly heading to the Cuban colony of Venezuela and finally settling in Ecuador, another Cuban proxy.

Snowden may be safe from the American government for now, but if he thinks the U.S. is bad, wait until he gets a load of his hosts.

When it comes to Snowden, however, Jamaican diaspora blogger fyrfli has concerns that are much more personal:

With all the talk of Manning, Snowden and the like, I am increasingly aware of all the knowledge I have about how technology works. And I don’t particularly want to be caught in the fallout.

She explains how this has affected her blogging:

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t necessarily believe anything I have to say is criminal. Nor do I believe that anything I have said here is likely to net me an espionage charge. I am not into treason. But what I do have to say is sometimes controversial and plenty unorthodox. The result is the silence you have been observing on this blog for months now. I just don’t want what I have to say going down in internet history. I now write, again, in paper journals. Anonymity online is a thing of the past.

The post continues:

The truth is that no matter what you have to say – whether it is to disparage the latest bikini fashion…or commentary on the latest political nightmare that is racism or potential treasonous acts by so-called ‘whistle-blowers’ – it will be stored on a server somewhere. Accessible by all manner of people with all kinds of agendas. People have an unattractive way of showing their bigotry and will use anything they can get their hands on to persecute those of us who speak our minds.

Everybody is entitled to speak their minds and be allowed to do so without persecution. Yet that is not what is happening. This so-called ‘free speech’ is being attacked from all quarters these days. No one is immune.

The Snowden case has stirred up some of her deepest fears:

The internet has become that dark space under my bed for me. I don’t want to be caught saying things that can and will be used against me…I don’t want to feel the urge to scream bloody murder when the lights go out because of some unnameable monster who is likely to take my words and twist them to their own advantage. I don’t want to be afraid. And thus, I continue to be quiet.

June 18 2013

Caribbean: Is Somebody Watching?

The ongoing saga with U.S. Internet surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden has captured the attention of the world – Caribbean bloggers included. There has been a fair amount of discussion about the issue on Facebook: users of the social network have been sharing up-to-the-minute news links and signing the petition to “Stand with Snowden”.

In two blog posts, one from Trinidad and Tobago and the other from Cuba, there is an interesting juxtaposition between high-tech spying and old-fashioned intelligence, even though they both pit the citizens against the state. ICT Pulse, which prides itself on discussing global technology issues from a Caribbean point of view, opens by saying:

The recent revelations of the breadth and depth of the telecoms surveillance being conducted by the United States has been highlighting the extent to which communication is no longer private.

Unless you have been wholly disconnected from international news over the last two weeks, we have been inundated with reports about the extent of the surveillance and spying being done by the United States National Security Agency (NSA). Although from time to time we here at ICT Pulse have been discussing the fact that Internet privacy is an illusion, and suggesting ways in which to improve your privacy online, these recent revelations indicate a more pervasive (and government-sanctioned) programme exists.

The post then sums up the United States’ approach to telecommunications surveillance, explaining:

Through electronic surveillance projects, most notably one codenamed PRISM, the NSA has been collecting data from…telecoms companies, such as AT&T and Verizon, and from large internet properties, such as Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, AOL, YouTube, Skype and Apple. When news about PRISM was made public, some of companies sought to refute claims that the NSA was collecting the data ‘directly from the servers'. However, subsequent reports have suggested that the US government has indeed been getting access to user content.

To defuse some of the outcry that occurred in the US when the story broke, the government revealed that its surveillance has been geared primarily towards identifying potential threats to America.

With regard to voice calls, the US government indicated that it collects the metadata of those transactions, and did not necessarily listen in on people’s conversations. However, the metadata, while not capturing the actual content of persons’ interactions, can provide enough information to deduce the nature of those conversations.

So what does that mean for people who live in the Caribbean?

Our telephone conversations generally might fall outside of US jurisdiction, and so not be immediately subject to PRISM and other forms of scrutiny. However, in circumstances where Internet Messaging and Voice over Internet Protocol- (VoIP) type services are being used, e.g. Skype, Viber, and iChat, and especially when the servers might be located in the US, those interactions could be subject to US government surveillance.

The blog is careful to issue a warning:

We…ought to bear in mind, that even in the region, law enforcement is increasingly seeking to have access to and to rely on the tapping of phones (fixed and mobile/cellular) in their investigations. In many Caribbean countries, mobile/cellular phone registration is mandatory, which means that, up to a point, the original owner of a device is known. Moreover, from time to time, proposals are mooted to relax device-tapping or call interception procedures – for example so that a government Minister can sanction such activities instead of the courts. Although generally there has been opposition to those proposals, they will continue to rear their head, as law enforcement continues to grapple with crime, and governments place increasing focus on ‘national security'.

With the exception of the European Union, countries worldwide have been relatively silent about the disclosures regarding the depth and breadth of US electronic surveillance. Hence it could cause us to question whether or not, or the extent to which countries, including those in the Caribbean, might have cooperated with the US on such matters.

Tackling what it calls an “over-reliance on US Internet facilities”, the post suggests a possible solution:

We…need to…recognise that our personal and business-related data could also be subject to US scrutiny, should they be stored in the US.

From a sovereignty and national security perspective, a case could be made for individual countries or even the region collectively, to actively develop their own web hosting, server facilities, Internet infrastructure, etc., in order to encourage their citizens to bring their data closer to home.

In Cuba, however, according to Yoani Sanchez, “home” is exactly where the spying originates from:

His own neighbor watches him. No one has confirmed it, he hasn’t read it any report, and he doesn’t have any friends in the police who have warned him. He’s simply not stupid. Whenever he opens the gate to his house, a white head peers out from next door. For every five times that he comes and goes, at least three times he runs into the old man who lives in the next apartment pretending to water the plants in the passage. The pots are overflowing, but the improvised watcher continues to add more and more water. Also he asks questions, a lot of questions, on the most imponderable topics: Um… what you have in that bag, where did you buy it? It’s been some time since you visited your mother-in-law, right? So he has his own private informer, an intelligence cell — of just one member — focused on his existence.

The post continues:

In an unwritten, but very frequent, formula, most of the people involved in the betrayal of other Cubans also exhibit a great frustration in their personal lives. Not that every unhappy person becomes an informant for State Security, but failure is a breeding ground that the recruiters of informers take advantage of. With these individuals they develop shock troops willing to destroy others.

Cuba: Another Brick in the Wall?

The whole process is managed and legitimated by a whole army of high-level psychologists and pedagogues in the name of the common Good.

Erasmo Calzadilla blogs at Havana Times about the state of education in Cuba.

June 13 2013

New York Times Profiles Global Voices Cuba Contributor

Elaine Díaz en el Global Voices Summit 2012, Nairobi, Kenia. Foto de @Rezwan.

Elaine Díaz at the Global Voices Summit 2012, Nairobi, Kenya. Photo by @Rezwan.

According to the New York Times’ The Lede blog, Global Voices Cuba contributor Elaine Díaz “may be the most important Cuban dissident you’ve never heard of.” Elaine, currently on a visit to the US, is profiled in a June 11 post titled “Cuban Blogger Who Reveres Castro Pushes for Reform”.

June 12 2013

Cuba Increases Internet Access From Designated Public Centers

Cuba opened 118 browsing centers to increase Internet access points on the island. Called Nauta, the service can be requested at any Cuban Telecommunications Company (ETECSA) commercial unit that has partnered with the program.

Nevertheless, the opening of these public centers of Internet connection on June 4 has not been exempt from controversy. According to Resolution 182/2013 of the Ministry of Finance and Price [es], the service will cost 0.60 cuc per hour for national browsing, 1.50 for international email, and 4.50 cuc for complete access to the Internet and all of its services.

Tarjeta Nauta para el acceso a Internet. (Foto: Cubadebate)

Nauta card for Internet Access. (Photo: Cubadebate)

These prices have been considered excessive by some Cuban bloggers, like Alejo3399, who points out [es]:

Mientras 1 hora de conexión cueste casi 5 dólares, será el dinero quien diga quién se conecta y quién no. Y dudo que alguien, por nuevo rico y adinerado que sea, pueda hacer un uso recreativo de la nueva oportunidad.

While 1 hour of connectivity costs almost 5 dollars, it will be money that dictates who can connect and who cannot. And I doubt that someone, despite how newly rich and wealthy he or she may be, can make recreational use of this new opportunity.

On this topic, Alejo3399 adds [es]:

Se aduce que las desmesuradas tarifas que tendrá el servicio (lo cual se reconoce autocríticamente como si eso resolviera algo) responden a la débil infraestructura de telecomunicaciones del país, y se sugiere con sutileza que esas tarifas privilegian a la navegación nacional para educar a la gente en el consumo de lo propio.

They claim that the excessive fees that the service (which is self-critically recognized as if that were to resolve anything) respond to the country's weak telecommunications infrastructure, and they subtly suggest that these fees grant privilege to national browsing to educate people in its consumption.

Nonetheless, an article [es] published by Aurelio Pedro in Progreso Semanal says:

Internet ante la posibilidad de acceso al simple ciudadano era una cuenta pendiente, de amplio reclamo de la ciudadanía. Los responsables de esta operación reconocen lo elevado de las tarifas y han prometido que cuando las condiciones económicas lo propicien, bajarlas.

Internet and the possibility of access to the simple citizen was a pending issue, a broad citizen demand. Those responsible for this operation recognized how elevated the fees are, and they have promised that when economic conditions permit, they will decrease them.

The first Nauta users have shared their experiences on social networks. Mayle González recount [es] her experience:

Subir 5 minutos de video en La Habana aunque seas un usuario Nauta puede llevarte 6 horas de trabajo…

Uploading 5 minutes of video in Havana even if you're a Nauta user can cost you 6 hours of work…

According to Siomel Savio Odriozola [es],

Usando una hora semanal de Internet se te van 18 cuc al mes casi el 75 % del salario promedio. Definitivamente la bolsa negra se convertirá en un “Hueco negro”. Contemos los meses o años que demorarán en bajar los precios como ha pasado paulatinamente con la telefonía celular…

Using an hour of Internet a week costs you 18 cuc per month, almost 75% of the average salary. The black bag will soon become a “black hole.” Let's count the months or years it will take to lower the prices like it gradually happened with cell phones…

Cuba maintains a social Internet access policy that promotes connectivity to the web freely from university, academic, and scientific centers, mostly. In May 2013, the Vice Minister of Information Technology and Communications declared [es] to the state-run daily Granma that “it will not be the market that regulates access to knowledge.” For the time being, the only thing left to do is hope that the fees gradually decrease, and that getting the service from private homes is permitted.

June 03 2013

Vu et entendu à La Havane

Devant le portail, vêtues d'un uniforme vert olive, ce sont presque toujours de jeunes femmes qui montent la garde. Rares sont celles qui portent l'arme à la ceinture. Autour d'un petit lac, on distingue plusieurs maisons, d'un étage pour la plupart, séparées par des arbres et des jardins. Entouré (...) / Colombie, Conflit, Guérilla, Médias, Cuba - 2013/02

May 23 2013

Second Segment of Fiber Optic Cable Connects to Cuba

The fiber optic cable, which is expected to improve Cuba's connectivity to the Internet, is of utmost importance to the country, and every piece of information continues to clarify the current state of this technological infrastructure. In the past days, U.S. company Renesys announced on its blog that during this week they “observed a second non-satellite connection established for the Cuban state telecom, ETECSA [Cuban State Telecommunications Company]“.

In January of this year, Renesys stated that the ALBA-1 submarine cable had begun to bring Internet traffic in the segment that connects Cuba to Venezuela.

According to Doug Madory, a Renesys employee:

esta vez un segmento diferente del cable submarino ALBA-1 se utiliza para conectar Cuba a la isla vecina de Jamaica. A las 15:04 UTC del 13 de mayo de 2013, se observó que ETECSA comenzó a recibir el servicio internacional de Internet a través de Cable & Wireless Jamaica

this time a different segment from the ALBA-1 submarine cable is being used to connect Cuba to its neighboring island, Jamaica. At 15:04 UTC on May 13, 2013, it was observed that ETECSA began receiving international Internet service through Cable & Wireless Jamaica

Madory also confirmed that two weeks ago, during a presentation by LACNIC 19 [es] in Medellín, Colombia, ETECSA representatives confirmed the initial statements from Renesys. According to the employee, “it was a pleasure meeting some of the people involved in this historic activation.”

The description of the project [es] on the Cuba-Venezuela International Telecommunications Systems confirms that the Cuba-Jamaica segment will be used for “the purpose of restoration.” As a result, Renesys believes the activation could “help alleviate some minor connectivity problems recently experienced by ETECSA.”

Image of the connection between Cuba, Venezuela, and Jamaica through the ALBA 1 fiber optic cable. Taken from the Renesys blog.

Image of the connection between Cuba, Venezuela, and Jamaica through the ALBA 1 fiber optic cable. Taken from the Renesys blog.

Following the Cuban State Telecommunications Company's initial statements in January 2013 regarding the operational nature of the fiber optic cable and the start of several tests, a group of resident users on the island took to social networks to discuss computerization and increased Internet access in the country.

According to Daniel Salas [es], professor at the University of Havana:

Para irnos montando en el debate sobre cómo extender Internet en Cuba, podríamos empezar por ir teniendo claro cuál es la situación de la infraestructura nacional de comunicaciones, qué nodos enlaza la fibra óptica nacional, cuál es la saturación de las centrales telefónicas y los pares de cobre, qué tipos de soluciones tecnológicas estarían disponibles y sus costos, y no estaría de más saber un poquito de las cuentas de ETECSA.

In order to continue participating actively in the debate on how to extend Internet in Cuba, we could start by clarifying the current situation of the national communications infrastructure, which nodes the fiber optic cable links, the saturation of central operator exchanges and copper pairs, the types of technological solutions that would be available and their costs, and it would not hurt to know a bit about the ETECSA accounts.

Meanwhile, Cuban professor and researcher Milena Recio considered [es]:

Según la nota de ETECSA, se derivan dos posturas de política: 1) habrá que sacar divisas de algunos servicios para repartir gratuidad en otros. Dice: “aumentar los recursos en divisas, destinados a pagar el tráfico de Internet”. Es decir, se mantiene el esquema gratuidad; 2) se multiplicarán las posibilidades de acceso, aunque no “automáticamente”, pero se multiplicarán. Es decir, no solo mejorarán las actuales. Ahora bien, preguntas posibles ¿conectividad social, implica necesariamente gratuidad? ¿qué parte de la infraestructura interna de telecomunicaciones se priorizará en función de qué objetivos?

According to ETECSA's announcement, there are two political positions: 1) currency will have to be taken from certain services in order to deliver free services in others. It says: “increase foreign exchange resources, intended to pay for internet traffic.” This is to say that it maintains the free-of-charge scheme; 2) Access possibilities will multiply, though not “automatically,” but they will multiply. This is to say that not only will the current ones improve. Now, possible questions – does social connectivity necessarily imply a free-of-charge service? which part of the internal telecommunications infrastructure will be prioritized depending on which objectives?

The Cuban telecommunications company's late statement also motivated a number of criticisms among bloggers. Blog Fanal Cubano reflects it as follows [es]:

El sólo hecho de divulgar cuatro días antes esta propia nota, escueta, pero rotunda, habría despojado a ETECSA de la responsabilidad de darle un sesgo confirmativo al hecho, y nuestra entidad, cubana ciento por ciento, hubiese emergido como fuente portadora de una noticia de alcance mundial por su significado, en tanto victoria de la integración regional sobre la política de cerco económico, comercial y financiero practicada por los Estados Unidos contra Cuba desde hace más de medio siglo.

The mere fact of divulging this very brief yet emphatic announcement four days earlier, ETECSA would have been stripped of the responsibility of giving it a confirmatory bias, and our entity, one hundred percent Cuban, would had emerged as the source for news of global reach because of its significance, as much as it would have been a victory of regional integration over the economic, commercial and financial siege of the United States against Cuba for over half a century.

Cuba currently has a bandwidth of 323 Mbps (megabits per second) via satellite for the entire island. A website can take several minutes to open and even hours to see a video.

May 11 2013

Chef ! chef ! oui, chef !

« Les hommes en foule ne sauraient se passer de maître », affirmait en 1895 Gustave Le Bon, dans une formule qui plaira beaucoup aux esprits peu portés sur la démocratie. Selon Yves Cohen, c'est précisément à la fin du XIXe siècle que s'invente la figure du chef, lorsque s'évanouit une aristocratie qui (...) / Allemagne, Angola, États-Unis, France, Mexique, URSS, Démocratie, Histoire, Idées, Inégalités, Mouvement de contestation, Politique, Cuba, Mouvement de libération - 2013/04

April 29 2013

Open Letter to Blogger Yoani Sánchez

Journalist and Global Voices author, Leila Nachawati, writes an open letter [es] to Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez, who has been touring the United States, Latin America and Europe talking about Cuban technopolitics. Sánchez has been embraced by some, and criticized by others during her voyage. In her open letter, the Spanish-Syrian blogger Nachawati refers to some of Sánchez's comments on the Spanish state and society:

I was struck by your admiration towards the policies and institutions of this country [Spain]. I cannot deny that you may value aspects that pass unnoticed to many of us who live live here, but the truth is that our reality is far from a mirror to want to look into. I think we are far from being a model to follow or a formula to imitate.


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