Editorial: Rosa María Payá and Castroism’s fear
In Havana, Rosa María Payá, President of the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy, was going to bestow the Oswaldo Payá Freedom and Life Award on Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the OAS, and to honor late Chilean President Patricio Aylwin, represented by his daughter, former minister and ex-representative Mariana Aylwin.
In 2002 Oswaldo Payá submitted 11,020 signatures to the Cuban National Assembly and, in 2004, 14,000 additional ones demanding the freedom of association, the freedom of speech and press, free elections, and amnesty for political prisoners. Securing the support of such a large number of people under circumstances like Cuba’s entailed a complex mobilization effort headed up by the leader of the Varela Project, the largest undertaken by the democratic opposition in Cuba.
The response of the National Assembly to this request resulted in a modification of the Constitution, with socialism being described as “irreversible” in Cuba.
Oswaldo Payá perished on July 22, 2012 on a road near Bayamo. His family reported that the car he was traveling in was hit by a State Security vehicle. The circumstances of his death remain unclear. The regime has never allowed an investigation by international experts, and sought to close the case with a farcical trial.
Thereafter, while upholding her father and his legacy, Rosa María Payá has continued her struggle for the democratization of Cuba, framing it in a continental context. This has helped to overturn the tendency to approach Cuba separately, as unique exception, in the region. Payá has shown solidarity with the causes and challenges facing youth and activists from other countries, obtaining the same in return.
The result of this has been a wave of condemnations and expressions of solidarity from figures such as former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and former presidents Sebastián Piñera (Chile) and Felipe Calderón (Mexico), to the obstacles placed by the regime against the awards ceremony, to be held in Havana. Once again Castroism has shown that it is, irreversibly, a dictatorship. Denying entry to the Secretary General of the OAS and other international invitees merely evidences its desperation and fear.
According to President Obama, only unilateral concessions and the embracing of the apartheid Castro dictatorship could foster positive changes towards more freedom on the island and less repression by the Cuban regime. When he announced his new Cuba policy, it sounded desperately ridiculous and acutely wrong. Now more than two years after its implementation, we actually see how desperately ridiculous and acutely wrong it is. After countless concessions, millions of U.S. tourist dollars pouring into the coffers of the dictatorship, and U.S. support on the world stage for the viciously repressive apartheid regime, Cuba remains a totalitarian hellhole run by a corrupt regime.
The Castro dictatorship has not changed one iota since Obama reversed U.S.-Cuba policy. Unilateral concessions, the abandonment of dissidents on the island, and the tacit backing of the apartheid Castro regime has instead emboldened the dictatorship to entrench itself further. Exactly what we “intransigent hardliners” in the Cuban exile community said would happened has happened, and the Castro regime is laughing all the way to the bank.
Banning the entry of foreign dignitaries yesterday to attend an event held by dissidents is proof positive that the Castro regime has not changed at all. Obama’s “Hope and Change” policy of embracing Cuba’s apartheid dictatorship has only served to quash what little hope Cubans ever had for real change.
#PayaPrize: Castro regime reveals its totalitarian and repressive nature before region’s democrats
Our interest is to bring Cuba closer to Inter-American values and principles and expand its achievements in science, health and education. – Luis Almagro, the Secretary General of the OAS
At 11:00am with her home surrounded by Cuban State Security and with the names of Mr. Luis Almagro and Ms Mariana Aylwin taped to two empty chairs Rosa Maria Payá and a small group of activists who had managed to evade the security cordon carried out the award ceremony. At the same time in Miami, Ofelia Acevedo and other Cuba Decides activists held a press conference to update what had been going on and she explained to The Miami Herald: “We have seen their level of intolerance, arrogance and contempt for others,” she said. “They feel attacked because other personalities in the world recognize not only the Oswaldo Payá award, but also because in Cuba there are people who think differently and have different alternatives.”
Earlier this morning Luis Almagro, the Secretary General of the Organization of American States reported over social media that he had been denied entry to Cuba by the Castro regime’s immigration authorities.
He was the third high ranking Latin American democrat to be blocked from entering Cuba in the past 72 hours. A day earlier on February 21, 2017 former Mexican president Felipe Calderón was also told he would not be able to enter Cuba and on the evening of February 20, 2017 former minister and member of parliament Mariana Aylwin, who is also the daughter of the former Chilean president Patricio Aylwin was declared inadmissible by the Castro regime’s immigration machinery. The past seventy two hours should have dispelled any notions that the Castro regime has changed.
— OAS (@OAS_official) February 22, 2017
Cuba under General Raul Castro remains a totalitarian communist state that only legally recognizes the communist party, one educational system that it controls, one centrally planned economy that it also controls, regime monopoly over all media, and a communist moral code. Independent grassroots organizations are illegal and critical thought is punished.
Continue reading HERE.
The Two Marielas
Cubanet, Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello, Havana, 14 February 2017 – The story I want to relate has two parts, one is true and the other is fiction. The real one is an event I was involved in at the Carlos III market while in line to buy yogurt, one of the products in shortest supply in this country – despite the fact that it is sold in hard currency – and in this case with a price of 0.70 Cuban convertible pesos (CUC), although there are other yogurts sold in different containers for as much as 5 CUC (1 CUC is roughly equal to $1 US).
In front of me, while we were waiting, was a young woman of around 30 something, but I could see she’d had a pretty rough life. She had the money in her hand, some of it in 5 and 10 centavo coins in CUC and a note for 5 Cuban pesos (CUP) – because, as you know, now the stores have to accept both currencies. All of a sudden she dropped a 10 centavo coin and to her great misfortune it rolled under one of the display cases and although the woman made a great effort to retrieve it, she could not.
She turned to leave the line and I asked, “Are you leaving?” and she said, “Yes, I had the exact amount of money and I dropped 10 centavos under that case.” Without thinking twice I said, “No, don’t leave, take the ten centavos.”
She accepted with the happiest look on her face and told me, “You have no idea how grateful I am, because my older daughter is sick and she doesn’t want to eat anything.”
From that moment, with the facility a Cuban has to establish communication with another person, even if they don’t know them, we spent the next thirty minutes while we continued to wait in line talking to each other.
She explained that she worked as a teaching assistant at an elementary school, but often had to be the teacher because there aren’t enough educators. She is divorced and the monthly support she receives from the children’s father is 50 Cuban pesos (roughly $2 US). That plus her own salary is not enough to live on and she has to “invent” and go begging to her mother. She told me, literally, “You have no idea what I have to do to be able to feed my kids.”
Like any good Cuban, she lives in a building considered uninhabitable, but she won’t accept going to a shelter because she knows other people who live in those conditions and it is dangerous for the girls, now that they are becoming young ladies. Because her apartment is on the second floor and nothing works, she has no running water and every other day has to carry up 10 or 12 buckets of water to meet highest priority needs, although she says she is grateful to her mother who washes and irons the girls school uniforms.
“Imagine. My mother was a member of the Party (Communist) and worked in the Federation of Cuban Women and as for my my father, may he rest in peace, his surname was Castro, so it occurred to her to name me Mariela [after Raul Castro’s daughter]. Now she regrets it.”
“What a dumb ass, Mariana Aylwin was denied entry into the country.”
“What kind of moron is she that she thinks she can come here and get involved in the politics?”
Ecuador’s dictator née president, Rafael Correa, has long been a fan of the Castro dictatorship and the dictatorial regime it installed in Venezuela. As a corrupt leftist (at the risk of sounding redundant), he dreams of power in perpetuity, which provides an endless stream of riches stolen from the people that he can bestow on his family, friends, and himself. To achieve this, Correa has apparently taken a page out of Cuba’s Venezuela playbook and is attempting to rig the nation’s presidential election to ensure his hand-picked successor will win.
However, the pro-democracy Ecuadorean opposition is refusing to sit on the sidelines and simply watch as their country descends into a corrupt tyranny. They have taken to the streets and are demanding a second round to the election.
Ecuador Near Boiling Point as Opposition Demands Final Vote Count
Tensions are nearing the boiling point in Ecuador as the National Electoral Council (CNE) continues to delay reporting completed vote totals. With 96.7% of votes counted as of 7pm, Lenin Moreno continues to maintain an 11 point lead over closest rival Guillermo Lasso. Moreno has 39.29% of valid votes, with Lasso at 28.27%. The CNE has all but declared a second round, noting a “marked tendency” regarding the pattern of outstanding votes, and strongly implying that Moreno will not reach the critical 40% threshold with remaining votes.
Under Ecuadorean election law, a candidate can win outright in the first round with either 50% or 40% plus a 10 point margin of victory.
The Ecuadorean opposition has viewed the CNE’s delays with skepticism, with many suggesting that they are being used as an opportunity by Rafael Correa‘s Alianza Pais party to manipulate the vote count and give an outright first round victory to Lenin Moreno.
Assemblywoman Mae Montano of Movimiento CREO confirmed today in an interview with Ecuadorean daily El Comercio, that Guillermo Lasso will be making an appearance this afternoon in front of the CNE headquarters in north Quito. “I believe that at this time, we need Lasso’s presence here in the capital. But to be clear, this goes beyond just a political movement or candidate. This is to defend democracy in Ecuador.”
Guillermo Lasso joined his supporters today in front of the CNE at 3pm this afternoon, and will subsequently return to his native Guayaquil where he will speak with the local delegation of the CNE.
Close elections are nothing new in the Andean region. Ecuador’s current situation brings to mind the bitterly contested Peruvian presidential election of last year when Pedro Pablo Kuczynksi defeated Keiko Fujimori by the narrowest of margins.
The Ecuadorean opposition is particularly concerned about the potential for fraud because of the closeness between outgoing president Rafael Correa and state institutions.
Continue reading HERE.
Today in Cuba, the Latin America Youth Network for Democracy and Cuba Decide are planning to hold a ceremony to award the first ever Oswaldo Paya Award for “Liberty and Life.” The award will be given to OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro and posthumously, Chilean President Don Patricio Aylwin. As would be expected of Cuba’s brutally repressive and violent dictatorship, the Cubans behind this event have been harassed, threatened, and detained by Castro State Security for their act of dissent.
However, since this event also includes the participation of officials and dignitaries from other nations, the Castro dictatorship has also refused to allow some of them entry into the country to participate in the awards ceremony. This heavy hand of repression and censorship extending beyond Cuba has rankled the governments of Chile and Mexico who are demanding a full explanation from the apartheid Castro regime.
Cuba blocks Chilean, Mexican former officials from entry
Cuba stoked tensions across Latin America on Tuesday by blocking a former Chilean minister and one of Mexico’s ex-presidents from traveling to the island to attend an award ceremony hosted by political dissidents.
Chile said it was recalling its ambassador to Cuba for consultation and asking the Cuban government why Mariana Aylwin, a former education minister and daughter of an ex-president, was blocked from entering Cuba on Monday night.
Aylwin was traveling to the island to receive a prize on behalf of her father. The event, planned for Wednesday, was organized by the Latin American Network of Youth for Democracy, a group opposed to the Communist government.
Cuba opposes anything that legitimizes dissidents, which it claims are funded by U.S. interests. The government is bracing for a tougher U.S. approach to the island under President Donald Trump.
“Exercising the right (to travel between nations) should not be interfered with, especially given that Chile has recognized the feats of various figures in Cuban history and politics,” Chile’s Foreign Relations Ministry said in a statement.
Former Mexican President Felipe Calderon tweeted on Tuesday that Cuban immigration prevented him from boarding a flight from Mexico City to Havana to attend the same meeting.
Aylwin was prevented from checking in to her flight in Chile’s capital, Santiago, apparently at the request of the Cuban authorities, she told journalists on Tuesday.
Calderon, from Mexico’s conservative National Action Party, ruled Mexico from 2006 to 2012 and improved relations with Cuba, which had been severely tested by his predecessor.
Mexico’s foreign ministry said on its Twitter account that it “regretted” Cuba’s decision to block Calderon’s entry.
The group, known as JuventudLAC, has also invited Luis Almagro, the head of the Organization of American States, which suspended Cuba in 1962 for being Communist. It agreed in 2009 to lift the ruling, but Cuba declined to rejoin the Washington-based group, which it deems an instrument of its former Cold War foe the United States.
“The behavior of the Cuban government is deeply gross, vulgar and rude,” Rosa Maria Paya, the group’s leader and daughter of dissident Oswaldo Paya, who died in 2012, told Chilean media.
“We have all received information that (invited guests) are receiving pressure from the Cuban government.”
Mariana Aylwin is seen as an ideological leader of the most conservative segment of Chile’s center-left ruling coalition. Her father was Chile’s first democratically elected president after the 1973 to 1990 dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.
(Reporting by Gram Slattery in Santiago; Additional reporting by Sarah Marsh in Havana; Editing by James Dalgleish and Richard Chang)
Private Taxi Drivers Feel Harassed By The Cuban Government
Decidedly, equanimity isn’t one of Pastor’s strong points. He’s an industrial engineer transformed into a private taxi driver, and six days a week he drives a 1954 Dodge with a body from a Detroit factory, patched up a couple of times in a Havana workshop and improved with a German engine from a Mercedes Benz, a South Korean transmission and a steering wheel from a Lada of the Soviet era. With this car he operates on a fixed-route as a shared-taxi.
This mechanical Frankenstein is the livelihood of Pastor, his wife, four children and two grandchildren. “When I stop driving, it’s felt in the house. So I have to be driving 12 or 13 hours daily. My family and even my in-laws live from my almendrón (old American car). The government considers us taxi drivers as tycoons, newly rich. But that’s not true,” says Pastor, while he drives his taxi through the narrow Monte Street in the direction of the Parque de la Fraternidad.
At the end of the trip, he parks very close to the Saratoga Hotel and enumerates details of the collective taxi business in Havana. “There are two types of taxi drivers. Those who own their car, like me, and those who lease it to someone who owns five or six cars and makes money renting them out. We all pay the same tax, which the State raises each year, by using some ruse,” he comments, and he adds:
“The study that ONAT, the National Tax Office, did, which controls private work on the Island, is very elementary. Its calculations are removed from reality. The deductions for the time we aren’t working are erroneous. Sometimes the car has to be in the shop for two or more months.
But the transportation problem, which the government tries to blame us for, is something that they haven’t resolved. If my business is one of supply and demand, then no one should stick their nose into my prices. It doesn’t concern the State. If they want to improve public transportation let them buy hundreds of busses and taxis, so they can see how low prices have fallen,” says Pastor, who, as we’re chatting, becomes impassioned, and more than a few swear words sprinkle the conversation.
“This can only happen in a dictatorship. If they really want things to get better they would have had a dialogue with us, the taxi drivers, who in the capital alone number more than 10,000. Compadre, the State doesn’t give a shit about helping us. They don’t give us so much as a single screw. We pay them everything. What would have been a good solution? To sell us gas, which now costs 1.10 Cuban convertible pesos (roughly $1.10 US) in the government filling stations, at 10 or 15 Cuban pesos (roughly $0.40 to $0.60 US), and then require us to have fixed prices on a route,” says Pastor, indignant.
“Yes, we are a ‘Charcoal Country,’ but we have hope that one day we will become a Banana Republic.”
Like Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela, Ecuador’s president Rafael Correa is an adherent and student of the Castro dictatorship’s method of remaining in power in perpetuity. Correa watched what Cuba did in Venezuela and according to those opposing his corrupt leftist government, he is trying to do the same in Ecuador.
Uncertainty in Ecuador as Votes Trickle In, Opposition Confident in Second Round
In the wake of a nerve-wracking 24 hours, former Guayas governor Guillermo Lasso appears to have narrowly advanced to face ruling party candidate and former vice president Lenin Moreno in a second round election, scheduled for April 2.
As of 11pm, the CNE (National Electoral Council) announced that with 92% of precincts reporting, Lenin Moreno led with 39.08%, while Guillermo Lasso trailed in second, with 28.43%. Both candidates asked for calm as results come in, with the CNE warning that they may not have complete results for 5 to 8 days. Andres Paez, Guillermo Lasso’s running mate on the CREO ticket, called for their supporters to gather in front of the CNE in north Quito to make their voices heard.
Under Ecuadorean election law, a candidate needs 50%, or 40% with a 10% margin of victory to win outright in the first round. Lenin Moreno appears to have narrowly missed reaching the 40% threshold and will thus be facing a hard fought campaign with Bank of Guayaquil head Guillermo Lasso.
Both Alianza Pais candidate Lenin Moreno and current president Rafael Correa acknowledged the possibility of a second round, although Moreno still contends that according to his projections, he will triumph in only one. Rafael Correa further warned via his twitter account, that if Ecuador faces a second round, they should be prepared for a “dirty campaign” from the opposition.
Yesterday at 9:30am Lasso arrived at the Universidad Tecnologica Equinoccial in the north of Quito to accompany his running mate Andres Paez, where he was greeted by throngs of supporters of his Movimiento CREO. Just minutes after the departure of Lasso and Paez, Lenin Moreno arrived at the same polling place to vote.
Soon after the closing of the polls third place finisher Cynthia Viteri of the Partido Social Cristiano, announced that she would support Guillermo Lasso in eventuality of a second round. Paco Moncayo, on the other hand, acknowledged the election results but announced that he would support neither Moreno nor Lasso.
The four early exit polls that were released on Ecuadorean television at 5pm showed a range of outcomes. Two showed a second round, with Moreno failing to reach the 40% threshold, and two showed him reaching 42% and 44%.
Lenin Moreno’s Alianza Pais supporters waved the party’s trademark lime green and midnight blue flags on Avenida de los Shyris, in the north of Quito, with their confidence boosted by the exit polls. At 8pm when Ecuador’s National Electoral Council showed a tighter race than expected, the crowd quieted. With results slowly trickling in, at 9:30pm Moreno took to the stage to address supporters, expressing confidence that he would win in one round, or “una sola vuelta”, but also acknowledged the possibility of facing off against Lasso in April.
Moreno alluded to his confidence in oustanding returns from coastal Manabi province and votes from Ecuadoreans living abroad, which the Alianza Pais campaign believed would be favorable to them. The former vice president then proceeded to serenade his nervous supporters with nearly an hour of ballads, demonstrating his musical talents.
However, despite Moreno’s confidence in strong support with Ecuadoreans abroad to put him over the finish line, the Miami Herald reported that after counting 57% of the ballots from the United States and Canada, Moreno led Lasso 38% to 30%, roughly the same as the margins within Ecuadorean territory.
Like its Andean neighbors in recent presidential elections, Ecuador is likely to be facing a fiercely contested race, with a photo finish. Despite Ecuadorean desires for change, Rafael Correa remains relatively popular, and his Alianza Pais party has deep support among the country’s working class, as well as significant electoral resources at their disposal.
Should the elections head to a second round, Moreno and Lasso will face a nation that is suffering economically. Despite the relative political and economic instituted during Correa’s ten year rule, Ecaudor has been hammered by falling oil prices in a nation where petroleum revenues account for 30% of government budgets and 40% of export earnings.
Continue reading HERE.
It appears that a vacation in apartheid Cuba where tourists can enjoy sandy beaches, all-you-can-eat buffets, free-flowing liquor, and salsa dance lessons while the Cuban people remain enslaved by a viciously oppressive dictatorship and are denied the most basic human rights is just not as popular with Americans as many thought it would be. Imagine that…
Airlines Forced to Cut Trips to Cuba Because Americans Don’t Want to Go
President Barack Obama’s concessions to Cuba opened the way for U.S. airlines to do business with the communist dictatorship. After announcing frequent flights to the island over a year ago, however, many major airlines have found the demand they expected from U.S. tourists simply is not there.
In an extensive report Friday, Bloomberg noted a general dismay both among airlines and other tourism-related businesses that Cuba was not proving as popular as they expected. The outlet reports that American Airlines was forced to cut a fourth of its flights to Cuba. JetBlue chose to use smaller planes rather than limit the number of flights but nonetheless had to address the low demand.
Different experts offered different explanations for this situation. One noted that the popularity of Cuba trips did increase in the immediate aftermath of President Obama’s 2014 announcement of restoring diplomatic ties with the dictatorship but that the initial interest ultimately fizzled. The soaring prices following the U.S.’s entry into the Cuban tourism market did not help. According to Bloomberg, “some rooms now cost as much as $650 per night, serving as a major deterrent to Americans hunting for novel warm-weather destinations,” and those prices began to rise long before the airlines began flying south.
While the United States relaxed laws allowing big businesses to operate in Cuba, the Cuban government did not change any of its laws to accommodate the extensive freedoms Americans are used to on free soil. This may have also impacted both Americans’ interest in Cuba and the ability of U.S. businesses to operate there.
A major example of business’s profit hopes clashing with draconian Communist laws occurred last year when Carnival Cruises announced its first voyages to Cuba. Cuban-Americans looking to take advantage of the trips rapidly found they were not welcome because the arrival of Cuban-Americans by ship violated a Communist Party law passed after President John F. Kennedy chose to doom the Cuban Bay of Pigs invasion to failure. Carnival’s decision to abide by Cuban law put the corporation at odds with the 1964 Civil Rights Act and triggered a wave of protests and a lawsuit. The Cuban government ultimately made an exception for Carnival.
Continue reading HERE.
Tomorrow, Cuba’s Latin America Youth Network for Democracy and Cuba Decide, a Cuban organization advocating for free elections on the island will hold a ceremony in Cuba to award OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro and posthumously, Chilean President Don Patricio Aylwin with the first ever Oswaldo Payá Award “Liberty and Life.”
Wednesday, February 22, 2017, Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Almagro will receive the 1st Oswaldo Payá Award “Liberty and Life” 2016 in Havana.
The Latin America Youth Network for Democracy and the Cuban citizen initiative Cuba Decide are honored to invite all members of the press to the award ceremony of the 1st Oswaldo Payá Award “Liberty and Life” 2016 to Secretary General Luis Almagro, OAS.
We are pleased to recognize the honorable Mr. Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the Organization of American States and, in a posthumous manner, Don Patricio Aylwin distinguished with an honorable mention to be received in his name, by his daughter, the former parliamentarian and former Chilean minister of foreign affairs, Mariana Aylwin.
The ceremony will take place Wednesday, February 22, 2017 at 11:00 am at the Payá residence.
In Cuba, however, any event or public discourse that advocates freedom and democracy is of course viewed the by brutally repressive apartheid Castro dictatorship as an act of provocation. The regime has harassed and imprisoned the Cubans behind this event and now they have banned the daughter of President Aylwin from entering the country to receive the award in the name of her late father.
Castro regime refuses entry to President Aylwin’s daughter to receive Oswaldo Payá Prize
OAS Secretary General and Chile’s President Patricio Aylwin to be presented Oswaldo Payá Liberty and Life Prize in Havana
Tonight at 9:15pm Mariana Aylwin, daughter of the former Chilean president Patricio Aylwin tweeted “I can not embark to Cuba because of a ban issued by immigration from Cuba.” A short while later Rosa María Payá posted the document prohibiting Mariana from traveling to Cuba by order of the Castro dictatorship’s immigration department.
Rosa María Payá Acevedo returned to Cuba on February 15, 2017 to receive Luis Almagro, the Secretary General of the Organization of American States at her home a week later on February 22, 2017 at 11:00am in Havana, Cuba. The purpose of the encounter is the presentation of the annual Oswaldo Payá Liberty and Life Prize to Luis Almagro also present at the ceremony will be Mariana Aylwin, daughter of the former Chilean president Patricio Aylwin who will receive the posthumous award on behalf of her late father. Patricio Aylwin was the president who oversaw the democratic transition in Chile following General Pinochet’s military rule and passed away on April 19, 2016.
Unfortunately the repressive nature of the regime was already on display with Julio Álvarez and Félix Fara two promoters of the Cuba Decide initiative, a campaign for a plebiscite led by Rosa María Payá Acevedo, were taken and have been under arrest since February 18, 2017 at 11:00am.
In addition communication has become much more difficult with the telephones out of service and all matter of obstacles to prevent that the information surrounding this event be made known inside Cuba. Despite this there is optimism that the word has gotten out and that civil society will be well represented on Wednesday.
Continue reading HERE.
This provocative picture by photographer Erick Coll is a perfect example of art imitating life. In this case, Coll’s art imitates life in Castro’s Cuba. Here, the Cuban people not only wipe themselves with the daily state-run newspapers in a figurative sense, the decades-long shortage of toilet paper in this Workers’ Paradise means they wipe themselves with it literally as well.
The image so well illustrates the misery of life in Castro’s Cuba that the aparthed dictatorship banned it from the Havana Art Festival.
(Note: This is the same “international book fair” in Cuba where as a guest of the totalitarian Castro regime, Margaret Atwood, author of the “The Handmaid’s Tale,” denounced Donald Trump as a harbinger of a dystopian America.)
Books Banned at Cuba’s Book Fair
Cubanet, Roberto Jesus Quinones Haces, Guantanamo, 10 February 2017 – The Havana International Book fair and its provincial offshoots would be more important events if there were debates where all Cuban intellectuals could participate without exclusions. But they are walled prosceniums where there is only room for writers who never raise their voices against any internal injustices. The discriminated and persecuted find solidarity in other parts of the world; here, no.
So it is not news – nor will be – that these uncomfortable writers are excluded from debates and even the Fair itself, if they do not fit the established molds for “docile wage earners of official thought,” a phrase from the Argentine guerrilla with a happy trigger finger and fierce hatreds.
Beyond the characteristics of the Fair, where there are more people eating and getting drunk than buying books and participating in cultural activities, I want to dwell on the intolerance of Cuban publishing policy.
“We do not tell the people to believe, we say read”
This phrase is from Fidel Castro and belongs to the earliest days of his totalitarian state. When the National Printing Company of Cuba issued a massive printing of “Don Quixote,” our country inaugurated a luminous time for culture by making available to readers, at very cheap prices, innumerable classics of universal literature. That effort, which is maintained, was and is praiseworthy, although it has also been marked by prohibitions and notorious absences.
Disciplines such as Philosophy, Sociology, Law, Politics and History did not receive the same attention as literature, and today, after 58 years of Castroism, authors and works of international prestige still have not yet been published because the censors are the ones who decide what we can read, and what is published must be consistent with the policy imposed by the regime. To this is added the justification that Cuba cannot pay copyright fees to the affected writers.
Among these, are the Chileans Roberto Bolaño and Isabel Allende, while Nobel laureates Octavio Paz and Mario Vargas Llosa, have been published very little, although perhaps the exclusion of the latter is due to his criticism of Castroism. Gabriele D’Annunzio, Aldous Huxley, Milan Kundera, Boris Pasternak and Alexander Solzhenitsin also appear in the waiting circle. William Faulkner’s “The Sound and the Fury,” Robert Musil’s “The Man Without Attributes” and Vasili Grossman’s “Life and Destiny” have also not been published and still unknown in Cuban are Karl May, Enid Blyton, Albert Camus and Heinrich von Kleist while other authors are being re-published to exhaustion. And don’t even talk about contemporary European and American literature. I am writing from my declining memory, for if I consulted a book on the history of universal literature, the list would be immense.
Authors and texts with a strong democratic vocation remain unpublished here, although historical developments have proved them right. Within that extensive group are Simone Weil, Nikola Tesla and Wendell Berry. After little tirades made in 1960, not published again in Cuba are “The Great Scam” by Eudocio Ravines, “Anatomy of a Myth” by Arthur Koestler and “The New Class” by Milovan Djilas.