Maggie Alarcón

Archive for the ‘Cuba’ Category

Cuba, CELAC and the parallel Summit

In Cuba, Fidel Castro Ruz, Politics on January 31, 2014 at 10:52 am

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Margarita Alarcón Perea

All of Latin America and the Caribbean gathered in Havana this week for the second summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC),  CELAC is the new version of the OAS for the current leaders of the region.

The summit was to be a grandstand event  and  major for Cuba as the pro tempore president of the organization. Never before had Cuba been host to an affair of this magnitude. The CELAC gathering in Havana had on its wings the weight of being unprecedented, not just because of the number of states attending, thirty three in total, but because of its historical significance, all the leaders from Latin America and the Caribbean gathering together with a common goal in mind: unity.  Also attending were Jose Miguel Insulza Secretary General of the OAS, Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations and Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani,  Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).  A gathering never before seen in the hemisphere taking place in Havana, Cuba.

Days before the event, a number of so called dissident groups in Cuba stated to Efe  that they were planning on holding their own parallel meeting in protest of the event, or let’s say, to tell their side of the story regarding Cuba. Organized by a  foreign dissident organization:  Centre for Openness and Development of Latin America (CADAL),  the parallel event was hoping to unite leading members of the  Cuban opposition and independent  political activists.

The way I see it, if the situation in Cuba is such that dissident organizations feel the need to protest  I totally stand behind them in their right to do so. My only quibble is when these groups lay back and wait for someone from somewhere else  to land on the island in order to help  “coordinate dissent”, that part I don’t agree with. That part is called foreign intervention, or in a much less nicer term “being a mercenary” on the part of the Cuban dissent team.

Why don’t these guys organize properly? Or is it that they have no common agenda? We have heard that one representative of one group did meet with  President Sebastian Piñera of Chile;  and a member of another with the Ceremonial Head of the Costa Rican delegation Ingrid Picado. Two different  groups met independently with two different representatives from two very different countries, and in both cases, each one of the presidents is an “out-going” one, Piñera come March will cede the post to Michelle Bachelet and Costa Rica is in the middle of a presidential campaign. There´s not much to say about that other than stating the obvious, they were  given an audience by those who no longer make much of a difference. In through the outdoor, I call it.

Each group seems to have its own agenda and they pull on the rope of dissent from different directions. Nothing was heard from the other prominent dissidents save for allegations that they were being spied on (honestly not news), that their cel phones wouldn’t reach anyone; that the streets were covered with uniformed police and plain clothes officers patrolling and controlling the “dissidents”. Again, I must say, this is an attitude way too “full of themselves” for my taste. Given the level of assistance in Havana of prominent heads of state, why not have plain clothes officers and uniformed ones all over the place? Have any of these dissidents ever heard of what  NYC looks like during the UN General Assembly?

These dissident groups had the chance of a lifetime and they blew it. Or was it that the 20 million dollars  of tax payer money from USAID didn’t arrive in time for them to figure out a plan of action?

Meanwhile, not far from all the pomp and circumstance, the real parallel  summit was taking place. No dissidents, just one man alone in the sun room of his home, nonchalantly receiving heads of state. Chatting for hours with secretary generals and the leaders of Latin America on issues ranging from conflicts in Northern Africa and  how to find a solution to end hunger and poverty, or how to better forge the future of this continents present to simply reminiscing on days past and friends no longer present… the man holding the unique parallel summit was the 87 year old Fidel Castro, who unlike the dissidents in Cuba, has a perfect idea of what he wants and how to make it happen.

La deuda pendiente

In Cuba, Cuban 5, Politics on December 9, 2013 at 11:51 am

 

Margarita Alarcón Perea

 

“Fidel Castro decía que yendo a África a luchar contra el apartheid y el colonialismo se estaba pagando una deuda pendiente”
Hedelberto López Blanch, periodista y escritor

 

Recuerdo una canción viejísima que decía Free Nelson Mandela. Era por los años 70 y yo estaba en el colegio en los EEUU, en UNIS (Escuela Internacional de las Naciones Unidas). UNIS había sido una ilusión del Secretario General U Thant, quien quiso que los hijos y las hijas de los miembros de la ONU también estuvieran unidos para compartir sus ideas, sus creencias, sus esperanzas y sus sueños. Con esto se sentaban las bases para la creación de una escuela que aunaría a personas de todas las razas y credos. Un lugar donde no habría ni blanco ni negro, el color era un arcoíris donde las diferencias se sumaban y se compartían. Éramos un festín humano de un futuro utópico en colores.

Un día por los pasillos de la escuela camino de clases me detuvo un muchacho, mayor que yo, probablemente de onceno grado. Era bajo, fuerte, un atractivo joven negro con una actitud desafiante e intensa. Me miró , señaló con el dedo índice hacia mi camiseta y me preguntó,  “¿Tu sabes lo que significa eso?”. Llevaba puesta una camiseta blanca con el continente africano impreso y las letras ANC atravesándola. Miré hacia abajo, y de vuelta hacia él, y le dije “Congreso Nacional Africano, porqué?” Levantó su puño izquierdo y me dijo “Bien!”. Luego supe que el joven había escapado de Sur África con su madre y hermanos, su padre se encontraba encarcelado por ser miembro del Congreso Nacional Africano, un partido político prohibido en la Sur África del apartheid.

Al regresar definitivamente a Cuba comencé a vivir el desespero de la presencia cubana en Angola y el resto de la región, y como muchos otros, a ratos creía comprender y por momentos no tanto. Tengo una prima que se alistó voluntariamente para ir a impartir clases como  parte de la campaña de alfabetización internacionalista. Fui aprendiendo que cada vez más iría conociendo a personas que o bien tendrían a alguien conocido o querido en África o que eran alguien que había estado ahí. Era una situación complicada. Para muchos cubanos, esta guerra no era la lucha de Cuba, entonces la pregunta “Que hacemos ahí?”. Para otros cubanos era un asunto de internacionalismo, de solidaridad con los pueblos de Angola, Namibia y Sur África. Era un asunto de poner fin a un sistema político de colonialismo, de subdesarrollo y de algo tan infrahumano como lo era el apartheid.  Era un paso enorme en el camino de devolverle algo a un pueblo entero incluyendo al padre de mi compañero de escuela de antaño y a Nelson Mandela y lo que él significaba.

Después de mucho, la guerra habría terminado. Angola era libre, Namibia iba a llevar a cabo elecciones democráticas y Nelson Mandela ya había salido de prisión. Recuerdo la despedida de dos colegas namibias en la universidad que regresaban a Windhoek , regresaban a casa para votar por primera vez en sus vidas.

Ver la salida de Mandela de su último recinto carcelario por televisión desde la Habana me trajo lagrimas a los ojos, nunca pensé estar vivía para ver el fin  de algo tan terrible y el nacimiento de algo mágico y tan esperado.

Para muchos cubanos que regresaron de la guerra, el término “veterano” oscila entre ser un insulto o un homenaje. Hablar sobre el tema se vuelve  una conversación difícil la mayor parte de las veces. Pasan de hablar sin fin a un silencio sepulcral, algo que nos muestra que la guerra es vil no importa las circunstancias, llegar a una concesión con la guerra es probablemente una de las cosas más difíciles que hay.

Pero esta fue una guerra necesario como pocas. Estamos todos en deuda con el continente africano y aun no saldamos ese compromiso. La lucha contra el colonialismo en esa región, poner fin a un sistema infrahumano de gobierno, ver la belleza en los ojos de niños con juguetes en sus manos por primera vez, verlos sonreír con esperanza, todo eso, hace que haya valido la pena.

A todos los combatientes que regresaron y a sus familias. A las familias de todos aquellos que no volvieron. A todos los que luchaban y entendieron las razones, a los que no entendieron entonces y aun dudan. Son todos ustedes parte intrínseca de la historia. Ustedes ayudaron a validar la vida y la muerte de muchos. Nelson Mandela ha muerto en libertad y yo por mi parte, les doy las gracias.

Cuando la torpeza se multiplica…

In Cuba, Cuban 5, Politics on September 18, 2013 at 12:18 pm

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Margarita Alarcón Perea

Hace años la actriz británica, Vanessa Redgrave usó el podio de los Oscares en la noche de las premiaciones para exigir a favor de los derechos del pueblo palestino. Recuerdo bien como mi madre me comentó que ahí tenía yo en frente a una mujer de temple y principios que no iba a dejar una oportunidad como esa pasar por alto. Eso fue en la década del 70 del siglo pasado y muchos más fueron los que la secundaron en usar el mismo podio para dejar saber sus opiniones en temas políticos y sociales.

No hace mucho, y ya en este siglo, durante la invasión del presidente Bush hijo a Irak, la Academia de Artes e Industria Cinematográficas de EEUU,  habiendo aprendido bien la lección de antaño, le aclaró a los artistas- presentadores que quedaba terminantemente prohibido usar la noche de premiaciones para hablar otra cosa que no fuera lo que apareciera en el guión establecido. Esto trajo consigo que muchos artistas ahí presentes portaran lazos de paz a modo de dejar claro su postura respecto a la guerra y otros en rojo blanco y azul portados por aquellos que apoyaban la invasión.

El pueblo estadounidense ha aprendido que hay lugares para cada cosa y que cada cosa debe ir en su lugar.

¿Es correcto esto?

Bueno, no. No todo el mundo está a favor de establecer un guion respecto a la libertad de expresión. Pero si hay ciertas reglas éticas y de comportamiento que no debemos perder de vista. Digamos que no sería la decisión más feliz gritar a favor del aborto y del uso del condón en medio de una boda televisada, aun cuando tu derecho a expresarte nunca deba ser censurado.

La semana pasada se cumplía el 15 aniversario del injusto encarcelamiento de 5 cubanos considerados en la isla como Héroes. Estos cinco hombres llevan años encerrados en cárceles de EEUU acusados injustamente y sentenciados a penas que van de 15 años hasta dos cadenas perpetuas.

El gobierno cubano en coordinación con varios artistas de la isla organizó un concierto al aire libre para honrar a estos hombres y a la causa que aúna al pueblo: su regreso a la patria. El pueblo ahí presente portaba cintas amarillas en las solapas, en las muñecas, de bufanda o simplemente se vistieron de amarillo esa noche. Cintas amarillas fueron atadas a los postes de banderas que hondean frente al malecón habanero delante del edificio de la Sección de Intereses de los EEUU en la Habana. Cintas amarillas significando, como lo hacen en EEUU, que Cuba quiere que regresen los Cinco a casa.

Cerca del final de la noche cuando faltaban pocas agrupaciones por presentarse le tocó subir a escena a uno de los músicos más renombrados y cabales de Cuba, Robertico Carcassés, quien es el director y fundador del grupo Interactivo, una agrupación que sin dudas es el Suma Cum Laude de la excelencia musical y artística.

Durante la presentación,  Carcassés se hizo a un lado, dejó el piano y comenzó a improvisar letras. Durante la improvisación se viró hacia la Sección de Intereses de EEUU en la Habana y pidió la libertad de los Cinco. También le pidió a EEUU que pusiera fin al bloqueo de más de 50 años que tienen contra la isla y  pidió a Cuba que cesara con el  auto bloqueo que tiene la isla contra sí misma. Solicitó más libertad de información, facilidades para poder adquirir un carro, libertad para “María” y que pudiera él algún día elegir de manera directa a su presidente.

Nada de esto es nuevo para la mayoría de los cubanos. El “bloqueo interno” como le dicen muchos es algo tan viejo que casi que es un cliché y se refiere a cosas muy especificas que afectan a un sistema que debería luchar por ser siempre mejor. Se refiere a la burocracia que ahoga, la estupidez la rigidez y la intolerancia. Un cambio en el sistema electoral tal que exista el voto directo,  un tema que comparten pocos pero sin dudas un tema que insta a opinar. En mi caso personal la idea es bella pero solo funcionó sobre papel y piedra. Murió  junto a la Grecia antigua al igual que las muchas columnas que una vez construyeron; la verdadera democracia simplemente no existe – al menos por ahora – en ninguna parte del mundo. Pero bueno, Carcassés tiene derecho a soñar.

Al día siguiente fueron citados él y sus compañeros de grupo a una reunión en el Instituto Cubano de la Música donde les fue informado que las palabras de Carcassés en el acto de la noche anterior eran inapropiadas, autocomplacientes y no estaban en concordancia con el objetivo por el cual se había llevado a cabo el concierto. Esto puede que sea o no cierto, y definitivamente que es un asunto de opinión personal. También se le informó que debido a esto quedaba suspendido de llevar a cabo presentaciones en localidades del estado hasta nuevo aviso.

¿Se pasaron?

Si uno está de acuerdo en que un concierto honrando a Los Cinco,  hombres que han dedicado los mejores años de sus vidas a protejer a su patria contra actos de terrorismo, no es el momento para vociferar quejas y sugerencias que van de lo sublime a lo ridiculo, entonces en consecuencia con eso, hay que también estar de acuerdo en que prohibirle a un artista el derecho a presentarse en vivo hasta “nuevo aviso” por haber hablado lo que piensa, es igualmente inapropiado por no decir otra cosa. Silvio Rodríguez lo dijo mejor cuando calificó a ambos hechos de “torpezas”.

Si, es cierto, el momento no fue el más feliz  para hacer públicas sus opiniones, y si, puede que algunas o todas  no cuenten ni por mucho entre los mayores problemas que tiene la Revolución Cubana, pero al final, cuando se analiza a fondo, el castigo no se ajusta al “crimen”.

Roberto Carcassés es un músico de 41 años, no es un político. Es un hombre con una enorme cantidad de seguidores dentro y fuera de la isla; es prueba viviente que el sistema de educación musical en Cuba se puede parar al lado de cualquiera en el mundo. La semana pasada no solo esgrimió su opinión personal sobre aspectos que considera importantes, sino que se viró hacia la representación de los EEUU en Cuba y pidió dos cosas que para la nación cubana son incondicionales: la liberación de los Cinco y el fin al bloqueo.

¿Parece fácil, no?

Pues no lo es. Para muchos artistas en Cuba es bien conocido que hablar abiertamente a favor de Cuba y en contra de los EEUU puede significar la diferencia entre obtener una visa de entrada a “la Yuma” o no. Carcassés puso la suya en riesgo el 12 de septiembre pasado, no muchos han hecho lo mismo.

Según lo veo, el momento no fue el más feliz para lavar la ropa sucia como dice el refrán, pero mirándolo con vista larga, cuando alguien como él hace lo que hizo y de alguna manera logra que se hable de los Cinco dentro del muy manido y controlado mundo de los medios, no se merece un castigo, se merece una medalla.

Declaración de Silvio Rodriguez http://segundacita.blogspot.ca/2013/09/puntualizando.html

Declaración de Robertico Carcassés https://www.facebook.com/iinteractivo?hc_location=timeline

Vence el raciocinio http://www.havanatimes.org/sp/?p=90678

“Crime” & un-just Punishment

In Blockade, Cuba, Cuban 5, Cuban Embargo, Culture on September 17, 2013 at 1:36 pm

Margarita Alarcón Perea

Years ago Vanessa Redgrave used the podium of the Oscars on Oscar Night to demand the rights of the Palestinian people. I remember how my mother pointed out to me that there stood a gutsy woman with principles who wasn’t going to allow an opportunity like that one pass. It was back in the early 1970’s and many more like her followed suit using the podium to voice their opinions on political and social matters.

Not that long ago, during the Bush Jr.  administrations invasion of Iraq, the Academy having learnt its lesson, prohibited any artist-presenter from using Oscar night to say anything other than what appeared on the teleprompter. This brought about an appearance of ribbons of peace on the lapels of those who were against the invasion and ribbons in red white and blue donned by those who supported the idea and or the troops.

People in the US have learned that certain podiums are simply considered inappropriate for certain outburst s of opinions.

Is this correct?

Well, no. Not everyone is in favor of establishing guidelines regarding freedom of speech. But there is an issue of ethics in the Amy Vanderbilt sort of way. One would never expect it to be appropriate to shout out in favor of the use of condoms and abortion rights in the middle of a televised wedding for example, although your right to express yourself should never be prohibited.

Last week marked the 15th anniversary of the imprisonment of 5 Cubans, known in Cuba as Heroes and incarcerated in US federal prisons wrongly accused of acts that garnered them sentences from two life sentences to 15 years.

The Cuban government organized a live concert at an open air esplanade where over 30 artists performed honoring these men and demanding that they be set free. People in attendance had yellow ribbons tied to their wrists, around their necks as scarves or on their lapels.  Ribbons were also tied to the many flag posts that separate the esplanade from the US Interest Section in Havana. Yellow ribbons indicating as they do in the US that Cubans want the Cuban Five back home where they belong.

Nearing the end  of the concert was a performance by one of Cuba’s foremost musicians, Robertico Carcassés who is the director and pianist of Interactivo (Interactive) a jazz fusion band which by all accounts is the Suma Cum Laude of musical and artistic excellence.

During the presentation, Carcassés stepped aside from his piano and began to improvise lyrics. During this improvisation he turned around and faced the US Interest Section and requested the Cuban Five be released. He also demanded an end to the 50+ year embargo the US has against Cuba and the internal embargo Cuba has against Cuba. He requested freedom of information on the island, facilitation rights in order to acquire a car and direct voting rights in order to elect a president. He also requested freedom for  “Maria”. (Street term for marijuana).

All of this is really not news to most Cubans. The internal blockade as many refer to it on the island has been an issue that goes back in time. It speaks against red tape, stupidity, and restrictions. A change to the electoral system is something that some, not that many in reality, also have issues with. In my personal opinion, the idea is beautiful but was only good on paper and stone, it died along with the Greeks as have the many columns they once built; true democracy simply doesn’t exist – at least not for now – anywhere in the world. But again, he has the right to dream.

The following day he and his band mates were called to the Cuban Institute of Music and were informed that Carcassés actions the night before had been inappropriate, self serving and were not in line with what the concert had been designed for.  This may or not be true, and it definitely is a matter of opinion. He was then informed that he would not be allowed to perform live till further notice.

Going too far?

If one agrees that a live concert honoring Five Cuban men who have dedicated the better part of their lives to protecting their home land against acts of terrorism,  is not the place for one individual to voice concerns ranging from authorization to buy a car to changing the voting process in Cuba, one also has to bear in mind that prohibiting an artist from performing goes beyond inappropriate, it is downright insane.

Yes , he could have chosen a different place to voice his opinions, yes,  some of those opinions may not necessarily be the most important issues that are wrong with the Cuban Revolution. But in the end, when you come right down to it, the punishment doesn’t  fit the “crime”.

Roberto Carcassés is a 41 year old musician not a politician. He is a man with an enormous following inside and outside of the island, he is living proof that the system of musical education in Cuba is as good as any anywhere in the world, and last week, he not only voiced his personal opinion on aspects within the country that he believes need be mended, he also turned around faced the US Interest Section in Havana and called for an end to the embargo and the freedom of the Cuban Five.

In my book,  when  someone like him does what he did,  and gets the word out on issues that are close to the Cuban peoples hearts, he doesn’t deserve a reprimand, heck! he deserves a medal.

… to err os human, to forgive divine http://www.businessweek.com/ap/2013-09-18/cuban-troubadour-singers-concert-ban-lifted

From the heart of Cuba/Del Corazón de Cuba Diana Fuentes

In Calle 13, Cuba, Puerto Rico on August 15, 2013 at 12:03 pm

 It is undeniable that Diana Fuentes is one of the most prolific and interesting artists of her generation. A unique voice with a remarkable interpretive power, the Cuban singer-songwriter is set to introduce one of the most impressive albums within the Latin genre. The new album is a milestone, a colorful all-encompassing and original production that explores a wide range of sounds.  It will be released in Latin America and the United States through Sony Music Latin.

 ‘Planeta Planetario’ includes 12 songs and was recorded in Havana (Cuba) and San Juan (Puerto Rico), where Diana currently resides.  Under the production of Eduardo Cabra (‘Visitante’ from Calle 13) and with the collaboration of a select group of musical guests, this album is unsurprisingly one of the most noteworthy albums of all time.

 Diana captures the tradition of great singers, musicians and Cuban artists integrating it into her own style of composing, performing and expression through her music.  By fusing Afro-Cuban rhythms, pop, folk and electronic music among others, Diana created an eclectic group of songs that comprise ‘Planeta Planetario’.

“It’s been years of hard work. It’s been a long wait, especially for the fans that have followed me since the beginning, but I’m certain that everything comes at the right time. I am very happy with the final result.  It is an album that marks a time in my life with many changes, mostly positive.  I hope to perform live very soon because it will be a very special moment for my musicians, fans, and myself.  Being part of the Sony Music Latin family is a great opportunity for me as a Cuban artist.  I will be eternally grateful to Afo Verde for his support and trust, as well as to his entire team”, reveals Diana.

“Working with Diana has been very interesting…very intense. As a producer I have guidelines, but this has been a real mutual collaboration; Diana has broad experience as a singer, songwriter and also on stage.  She dresses each song not only with her voice but with her interpretive strength”, explains Eduardo Cabra, producer of ‘Planeta Planetario’.  “Personally, it was a discovery of many sounds from Cuba.   When you have the time to explore a country you can dive into its musical traditions and in the end you realize that you have added many new elements to your musical knowledge,” affirmed Cabra.

During the process of creating the album, Diana also had time to write and compose. On the piano with a pencil in hand, she delivered new songs that were added to the previous repertoire of ‘Planeta Planetario’.Diana and Eduardo’s idea was to recreate a unique atmosphere for each song, recording her vocals on different days in order to capture the essence and feeling of each track.  During the recording process, guest musicians were invited to participate in the project as it developed.  Friends of Eduardo and Diana’s such as Sebastian Paz, Carlos Varela and others would drop in the studio to collaborate on songs or create original compositions.  Another special guest on the album was Martin Ferres (Bajofondo), who made an amazing contribution to the bandoneón on the song “Ritmo Sexual”.

The album is finished and the expectations continue to rise.  Diana Fuentes fans anxiously await the album and her radiant on-stage presence.  It is time to discover Diana Fuentes and her ‘Planeta Planetario’.

For more information about Diana Fuentes please visit:

www.dianafuentes.com 

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 Diana Fuentes es sin dudas una de las artistas más prolíficas e interesantes de su generación.  De voz única y con una gran potencia interpretativa, la cantautora cubana llega para presentar uno de los discos más impactantes dentro de la música Latina.  Su nuevo álbum es original, completo y explora una amplia gama de sonidos y colores y que, además, marcará un hito en la industria, una artista y álbum que llegan a Latinoamérica y Estados Unidos a través de Sony Music Latin.

‘Planeta Planetario’ es un álbum de 12 canciones, grabado en La Habana (Cuba) y San Juan (Puerto Rico) donde actualmente reside Diana.  Bajo la producción de Eduardo Cabra (‘Visitante’ de Calle 13), con la colaboración de un selecto grupo de músicos invitados, este disco se convierte en uno de los trabajos más interesantes de los último tiempos.

Diana captura la tradición de grandes cantantes, músicos y artistas cubanos integrándolo en su propia forma de componer, interpretar y expresar sus propias canciones.  De esta forma ha creado un sonido ecléctico, en el que explora con los sonidos afrocubanos, pop, folklor y música electrónica, entre otros, para crear este exquisito grupo de canciones que conforman ‘Planeta Planetario’.

“Han sido tiempos de mucho trabajo. Para el público que me ha seguido durante todos los años anteriores, ha sido una larga espera, pero tengo la total convicción de que todo cae en su tiempo.  Estoy muy feliz con el resultado final, es un disco que marca una época en mi vida de muchos cambios, en la mayoría positivos. Espero presentarlo muy pronto en vivo, porque los músicos que me acompañen, el publico y yo viviremos un momento bien especial.  Llegar a la familia de Sony Music Latin, es una gran oportunidad para mí como artista cubana. Le estaré eternamente agradecida a Afo Verde por su apoyo y su confianza, al igual que a todo el equipo que lo acompaña”, dice Diana.

“El trabajo con Diana ha sido muy interesante, muy intenso.  Como productor tengo lineamientos, pero esto ha sido una verdadera colaboración mutua; Diana tiene muchísima experiencia como cantante, compositora y además en el escenario. Ella interpreta, ella viste cada canción no solo con su voz sino con su fuerza interpretativita”, explica Eduardo Cabra, productor de ‘Planeta Planetario’.  “Personalmente fue un descubrimiento de muchos sonidos de Cuba, como en cada país cuando tienes el tiempo puedes sumergirte en su tradición musical y al final dimensionas que sumas muchos elementos nuevos a tu conocimiento musical”, afirmó Cabra.

Durante el proceso de creación del álbum, Diana también tuvo tiempo de escribir y componer.  En el piano y con un lápiz surgieron nuevas canciones que se sumaron a las que previamente habían elegido para‘Planeta Planetario’.  La idea de Diana y Eduardo fue la de recrear un ambiente exclusivo para cada canción, grabando las voces en días diferentes para capturar la esencia y sentimiento de cada tema. Así se fueron sumando los músicos invitados, llegaron al proyecto a medida que se desarrollaba el proceso de grabación.  De esta manera pasaron por el estudio muchos amigos de Diana y Eduardo, para plasmar esas composiciones originales y otras en las que colaboraron cantautores como Sebastian Paz, Carlos Varela entre otros.  Un invitado especial fue Martín Ferrés (Bajofondo) quien hizo su gran aporte en el bandoneón en “Ritmo Sexual”, una de las canciones del álbum.

El disco ya está finalizado y la expectativa sigue creciendo por conocer el talento de Diana Fuentes, su álbum y esa energía que irradia desde el escenario. Ha llegado el momento de descubrir a Diana Fuentes y su ‘Planeta Planetario’.

Para más información sobre Diana Fuentes visite:

www.dianafuentes.com 

Reasons for a celebration

In Cuba, Fidel Castro Ruz on August 13, 2013 at 2:56 pm

 

Margarita Alarcón Perea

 

There is a neighborhood on the outskirts of Havana in  the municipality of La Lisa, known as Coco Solo which roughly translates as “lonely coconut”. Please do not confuse it with the US Navy Submarine Base in Panama, although the coincidence is ghastly hilarious. Cuba’s Coco Solo is a working class neighborhood mostly inhabited by blacks, mulatos and that rare breed of “white” Cuban only acknowledged by those who fully understand that the island is no longer divisible by race, but yes, still, unfortunately by social and economic strata.

Still, last night Coco Solo was in festive mode. With few motives for celebration in a place where one still feels so much needs to be accomplished, a concert took place, with a small representation of current Cuban art: Adrian Berazain, young representative of the modern day Cuban Nueva Trova with a tinge of pop, Tony Ávila, an extraordinary musician full of grace and double entendre in his lyrics and lastly Laritza Bacallao a young mulato woman who sings pop and ballades in a very unique Cuban street style. Two films were projected in an open air impromptu street cinema, Strawberry and Chocolate for the adult crowd and HavanaStation for the kids.  Yesterday was International Youth Day, yet this was just a mere justification for the real motive that brought people out to take part in the attractions. The underlying motive was something else.

Aside from being habitually obscured by other more attractive parts of the city, Coco Solo is also a place where most things Cuban make sense. Its low lying buildings, streets in dire need of repair,  lack of sufficient ..well, lack of sufficient anything is more than evident.  Yet its inhabitants had something to celebrate. They took part in a massive social gathering, a community party, awaiting midnight, today, August 13th.

Today marks many things, the birthday of René Gonzalez Sewheret, one of the Cuban Five, the birthday of twin members of my extended US/Chicago family, and much more. Although none of these were the reasons that brought people out to celebrate last night. Ironically, what pulled many of them out from inside their homes was the chance to acknowledge the birthday of a man that dedicated his entire life to trying to make life better for his country, especially those living in places like Coco Solo. Whether one agrees with his motives or not, the reality, undeniably, is that today, although some beg to differ,  there is a man who is another year older, and has grown larger than life and will forever hold a place in the history of places like Coco Solo and the rest of the world.

Fidel Castro turns 87 today. He is no longer in power, he has grown old and weak., and while during his years as Statesman his birthday was never acknowledged, now it can be. The best part, though is that last night’s celebration took part precisely in the area where Fidel and his ideals were always most needed, semi urban quasi rural areas in Cuba that had been left unattended for so very long in the islands history. By sacrificing more wealth for the already wealthy, Fidel and his revolution began a process of trying to make life better if not at least, livable for those who had lived in dire straits for decades.

So maybe the upper crusts of Cuban society inside and out of the island won’t be celebrating today and didn’t celebrate last night, but for those less fortunate in history, for those who truly believe that a better world is possible, not only is the 26 the happiest day in history like the song says, but so is August 13th, because a man who not only changed history, but was also absolved by it, was born.

Moncada: Fidel and the Power of Faith

In Cuba, Cuban 5, Fidel Castro Ruz, History, Social Justice, US on July 31, 2013 at 12:00 pm

 

By Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada

On March 10, 1952, former dictator Fulgencio Batista seized power in Cuba again. This happened eighty days before the elections in which he would have received the least votes.  

With one blow, he overthrew the president, abolished the constitution, dissolved parliament, crushed unions, student and guild organizations, took control of the media, unleashed a brutal repression and set up a regime of corruption and plunder which C. Wright Mills characterized as “capitalism run by gangsters and the Mafia”. Washington gave Batista quick recognition and always supported him, until the tyrant and his henchmen escaped on January 1st, 1959. 

The 1952 coup d’état greatly shocked Cuban society. Beyond its political consequences, it cut deep into the national conscience. The overthrown president sought refuge in the Mexican Embassy, the political forces supporting him were paralysed; the forces in the opposition, including those of Marxist inspiration, were not able to defend legality nor organize resistance; they became entangled in endless debates on strategy and tactics with only one thing in common: inaction.   

Frustration and disbelief grew among the population. Their democratic aspirations were defeated once again.  All the political parties had lost credibility and public trust. Only among the young people and students was there still a spirit of rebellion, seeking their own path outside the failed structures. To steer that rebelliousness they needed and exceptional leader. They found it in Fidel Castro. 

Fidel chose a group of young people who looked to him as an example and prepared them for armed struggle. It was a group without a name or political affiliation. The action on July 26, 1953 was, in military terms, a double failure: the attempts to take by assault two main army garrisons in Eastern Cuba: Moncada in Santiago de Cuba and Carlos Manuel de Céspedes in Bayamo. In both, the assailants were defeated and most of them murdered after the battle.    

The 26th of July Movement (Movimiento 26 de Julio),  was born losing its first battles and under the almost unanimous attack of the political forces, the media and other institutions of Cuban society. But that day was, in true fact, a rebirth. It began a process of moral rescue which allowed the people to recover strength and start the long and difficult march to victory. The starting point was the recovery of trust. That day reached many, and gave impulse to the creation of a movement that would keep growing provided it could preserve faith.      

Compelled by popular pressure, Batista was forced, in 1955, to give amnesty to Fidel and his comrades in prison. Fidel travelled to Mexico and promised to return before the following year was over to conduct the final battle. Once again he was betting on popular trust. 

Meanwhile, the dictatorship launched a campaign to create distrust. This was supported by many sectors in the opposition which were against armed struggle. The pro-Batista media made fun of Fidel’s promise and kept publishing the countdown on their front pages. The arrival of the rebels took place on December 2, and it was another military catastrophe. The failure of the expedition made big headlines in the Cuban press and far beyond.   

The 82 men who arrived in the Granma yacht faced a far superior military force equipped, armed and trained by The United States. The twelve survivors scattered in the forest with no weapons or resources, managed to regroup in the Sierra Maestra. Months of disinformation and anguish followed. In the remote mountains, backed by their followers in the city, the guerilla contingent was formed step-by-step. In the cities, the clandestine fighters who supplied the guerrillas and resisted brutal repression also had to fight the permanent “peacekeeping” manoeuvres of the political opposition.  

Two years later, the movement had spread to the entire country and the dictatorship was defeated. This was five years, five months and five days after the foundational action. 

Those were hard and difficult years. But they brought freedom and happiness to a people emancipated forever. As expressed in the lyrics of a song that we have all been singing for many years now: “The 26 is the happiest day in history”. 

 

http://www.walterlippmann.com/docs3874.html

A CubaNews translation.

Edited by Walter Lippmann. 

Moncada: Fidel y el poder de la fe

In Cuba, US on July 29, 2013 at 1:51 pm

Cuba Celebra el 60 Aniversario del Asalto a los Cuarteles “Moncada” y “Carlos Manuel de Céspedes.”

 

 

Por Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada

 

El 10 de marzo de 1952 el ex dictador Fulgencio Batista se adueñó otra vez del poder en Cuba, a ochenta días de las elecciones en las que habría sido el candidato menos votado.

De un manotazo destituyó al presidente, abolió la Constitución, disolvió el Parlamento, aplastó sindicatos, organizaciones estudiantiles y gremiales, asumió el control de la prensa, desató una feroz represión e instauró un régimen de corrupción y saqueo que C. Wright Mills calificaría como “capitalismo mafioso y gangsteril”. Washington le dio rápido reconocimiento diplomático y lo apoyó siempre, hasta que el tirano y sus secuaces escaparon, el 1º de enero de 1959.

El golpe de Estado de 1952 provocó una honda conmoción en la sociedad cubana. Más allá de sus consecuencias políticas hirió en lo profundo la conciencia nacional. El presidente derrocado se refugió en la embajada mexicana, las fuerzas políticas que lo apoyaban quedaron paralizadas; las corrientes opositoras, incluyendo las de inspiración marxista, no fueron capaces de defender la legalidad y mucho menos encauzar la resistencia, se enredaron en debates interminables sobre estrategia y tácticas coincidiendo sólo en un punto: la inacción.

En el pueblo cundía la frustración y el descreimiento. Otra vez sus aspiraciones democráticas eran derrotadas. Todos los partidos políticos habían perdido credibilidad y la confianza pública. Sólo entre los jóvenes y estudiantes se mantenía un espíritu rebelde en busca de cauces propios, fuera de estructuras fracasadas. Para madurar esa rebeldía necesitaban un conductor excepcional. Lo encontraron en Fidel Castro.

Fidel seleccionó un puñado de jóvenes que lo tenían a él como referente y los preparó para la acción armada. Era un grupo sin nombre ni filiación política. La operación, el 26 de julio de 1953, fue, militarmente, un doble fracaso: los intentos de tomar por asalto dos cuarteles claves del ejército en el oriente cubano, el Moncada, en Santiago de Cuba y el Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, en Bayamo. En ambos los asaltantes fueron derrotados y la mayoría asesinados después del combate.

El Movimiento 26 de Julio nació perdiendo sus primeros combates y sometido además al ataque casi unánime de las fuerzas políticas, de la prensa y otras instituciones de la sociedad cubana. Pero en verdad ese día fue un renacer. Comenzó un proceso de rescate moral que permitiría al pueblo recobrar fuerzas y emprender la marcha, aún larga y trabajosa, hasta la victoria. El punto de partida fue reencontrar la confianza. Aquel día conmovió a muchos, y dio impulso a la creación de un movimiento llamado a crecer siempre que fuera capaz de preservar la fe.

Forzado por la presión popular, Batista se vio obligado, en 1955, a amnistiar a Fidel y a sus compañeros de prisión. Fidel se marchó a México, prometiendo regresar antes de concluir el siguiente año para dar la batalla final. Apostaba otra vez a la confianza popular.

Mientras, la dictadura desataba una campaña para revivir la desconfianza a la que se sumaban no pocos sectores de la oposición, reacios a la lucha armada. Los medios de prensa batistianos se burlaban de esos planes, recordando cotidianamente, en primera plana, los días que faltaban para el cumplimiento de su promesa. Esto se produjo finalmente el 2 de diciembre, y fue otro descalabro militar. El fracaso del desembarco ocupó grandes titulares en Cuba y más allá.

Los 82 hombres del yate Granma enfrentaron una fuerza militar incomparablemente superior, toda ella equipada, armada y asesorada por Estados Unidos. Los doce sobrevivientes, dispersos por los montes, desprovistos de armas y recursos, lograron al fin agruparse en la Sierra Maestra. Siguieron meses de desinformación y angustia. En las lejanas montañas, con el apoyo del aparato urbano, poco a poco, se levantaba el destacamento guerrillero. En las ciudades los luchadores clandestinos, que sostenían a la guerrilla y resistían la brutal represión, debían combatir también las incesantes maniobras “pacifistas” de la oposición política.

Dos años después, el movimiento abarcaba todo el país y la dictadura era derrotada, a cinco años, cinco meses y cinco días del acto fundador.

Fueron años duros, difíciles. Pero trajeron libertad y felicidad a un pueblo emancipado para siempre. Como dice una canción que desde hace años todos cantamos por acá: “El 26 es el día más alegre de la historia”.

 

Publicado en “Punto Final”, edición Nº 786, 26 de julio, 2013

Former U.S. diplomat Patrick Ryan: Time to drop Cuba from terror list

In Alan Gross, Cuba, Politics, US on April 30, 2013 at 1:16 pm

 

 

By Former U.S. diplomat Patrick Ryan

 

From The Hill

As a former U.S. diplomat who authored the 2007-09 Country Reports on Terrorism for Nigeria and visited Cuba many times on official business, I believe keeping Cuba on the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism is absurd and highly political, particularly given its glaring omissions. 

Where is North Korea, which has conducted small-scale attacks against the South over the past several years — and recently threatened a nuclear first strike against the United States? Despite the fact that Cuba maintains a capable espionage network, no credible intelligence sources claim it is currently a security threat to us. Cuba’s listing is about Florida electoral politics. 

A small minority of Cuban-American politicians has been dictating U.S. foreign policy toward one of our most geographically proximate neighbors for too long — and using the highly questionable terrorist listing to justify continuation of the Cold War-era embargo. 

Ironically, these members of Congress support Cubans’ ability freedom to travel to the United States but not Americans’ freedom to travel to Cuba, and use the terrorist justification for this. If we truly want to undermine the Castro regime, the best way would be to end the listing, including the embargo and travel ban, and flood Cuba with American visitors, as well as our products and democratic ideas. Ending the restrictions would also demonstrably help the Cuban people — a stated aim of these same politicians. 

In comparison, most Vietnamese-Americans — who also lost a civil war to communists, 16 years after the Cubans — long ago accepted reality and supported the 1994 normalization of relations with Vietnam. The U.S. buried the hatchet and engaged a country whose human rights record, like Cuba’s — and China’s — has been disappointing, and with whom we were actually involved in a war that took the lives of more than 58,000 Americans. 

So why not Cuba? 

The fact that members of the Basque separatist group ETA have retired to the island with the blessing of the Spanish government, that FARC members are residing in Cuba during peace talks hosted by Havana and supported by the Colombian government and that various fugitives from American justice — none of whom have been accused of terrorism, by the way — have lived in exile there since the 1970s, are simply not credible arguments for maintaining the designation.

Frankly, it’s well past time that U.S. policymakers had the courage to tell the most vocal Miami exiles to acknowledge reality and move on, as many of them already have. Fortunately, the younger generation of Cubans in Miami isn’t as obsessed with the island as their forebears — and Cubans are no longer a majority of the Latin American population in South Florida.   

President Obama won Florida twice, and is in a unique position to remove Cuba from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism and push Congress to end the embargo in his second term. As Cuba continues its sporadic offshore oil exploration with foreign partners, including U.S. allies, it would seem advantageous for it to be a part of the process, in order to help ensure there will not be another disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, not to mention the economic benefits it would receive from increased exports to the island. The only way to do so is to take Cuba off the terrorism list.

The Castros have used the listing and embargo as excuses for their economic mismanagement and the dismal plight of ordinary Cubans for decades. The last time momentum existed in the U.S. Congress towards lifting it, the Cuban government shot down two small planes flown by the exile group “Brothers to the Rescue” that allegedly violated their airspace, ensuring the embargo and listing would continue. 

I am well aware of the poor human rights record of the regime and am not an apologist for it. The incarceration of Alan Gross, a USAID subcontractor who brought communications gear into Cuba, contrary to Cuban law, is regrettable, but should not hold U.S.-Cuban relations hostage. Nevertheless, it’s time for a new approach, as the current anachronistic policy has failed miserably for more than a half century.

 

Ryan is a 12-year veteran of the U.S. Foreign Service who previously worked on Capitol Hill. Recently having returned after 14 years away, he has a degree in International Studies from Johns Hopkins and is currently consulting in D.C. on issues that have nothing to do with Cuba, the embargo, or potential business interests there.

 

Read more: http://thehill.com/blogs/global-affairs/guest-commentary/296867-former-us-diplomat-patrick-ryan-#ixzz2Ry1RShQv 
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Spring is in the air

In Alan Gross, CAFE, Cuba, Cuba/US, Cuban 5 on April 19, 2013 at 1:04 pm

Margarita Alarcón Perea

Spring is in the air. It is a constant much like Pi, happens every March 21st whether it’s snowing or raining or bright and sunny.  Its striking  that on this same date,  March 21st, was also the birth of Benito Juarez, known as the Benemerito of the Americas, title bestowed on him by the people and government of Colombia on May 1st of the year 1865, because of his unrelenting struggle to free Mexico and gain independence.

While president of Mexico, Juarez had a maxim that lives on today in the Mexican nation: “Among individuals and nations alike, respect for the rights of other people is what constitutes peace”. This statement always comes to mind when I think of the place Cuba has held in the region since its independence from Spain in the XIX century.

Cuba’s rights as a nation have never been respected by other nations or individuals, ever.  After the island garnered its independence from Spain the Paris Treaty left the island at the bequest of the Government of the United States and it remained so till 1959 when the Revolution of Fidel Castro triumphed establishing a socialist government in the country. Although the Cuban Revolution brought about much needed change on a social level, educating the uneducated, bettering conditions outside of the capital and establishing universal health care as the main government strategies to help its people, the country still depended because of an embargo imposed by the US on the next best option, the Soviet Union, and again, Cuba depended on someone else and much of its sovereignty was put on hold. After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the demise of the Soviet Union as a country and a concept, Cuba was left stranded economically, politically and even socially.

Those were very difficult times, but the social benefits that still existed on the island were still stronger than the hardship and the Cuban people continued in their strife to advance, even if alone. The embargo against the island continued as it does today, but the rest of the world began to slowly open up to Cuba, and not just because of His Holiness John Paul II desire that this be so.  Cuba had proven over the years that it had something to offer and that sovereignty and independence were not to be gambled with. Cuba has never been a satellite of the Venezuelan Bolivarian Revolution, although the relationship with it  and with Hugo Chavez was strong. The difference between the two moments in time is simple: during the first forty some years of the Revolution the country had to build itself up from scratch, by the time Chavez and his oil and social justice powered revolution came to power, Cuba already had sufficient bargaining chips to stand on its own and level the playing field. No longer were the stakes as lopsided as they had been in the past.

The Soviet Union is no longer around, neither is Chavez,  and his Revolution looks to be walking on unsteady ground, which is sad not only for Cuba on a personal and national note, it is also sad for the rest of Latin America as a whole. For no matter what one may opine on President Chavez, he did put the continent on the forefront and he did bring much needed changes to both the nation of Bolivar and the rest of the region. Yet the one thing that has not changed, the one thing that remains the same, is not just spring on the 21st of March. The one thing that remains the same is that on April 30th, well into spring, the secretary of state of the United States will have to submit his recommendation to the president on whether to keep Cuba on the list of terrorist nations or not.  Keeping Cuba on the list means no chance on earth of giving the president even the slightest chance of moving forward on bettering relations. Relations which if were to compare to a tennis ball, are now, and have been on the White House´s court for a number of years now.

More recently during the last Congressional visit to the island when President Raul Castro told US Congress members that a sit down with all cards on the table was in the offer.

It is true, Cuba has Alan Gross in jail. But he is being detained because he came down with an agenda to help undermine the Cuban government or regime, however you want to put it. Cuba has the same although slightly different situation in the US. Five Cuban intelligence agents are still in prison in the US. But their crime was never trying to undermine the US government to which they not only had no access, they also had no intention of doing, and quite frankly it would have been the most foolish of intentions.

The Cuban Five were in the US collecting information from US based paramilitary terrorist organizations in Miami which have been plotting, conspiring and bringing about terrorist acts against the Cuban people for over 50 years. They not only plot against Cuba and its people on the island, they also plot and have achieved to harm, destroy, terrorize and kill those who, whether Cuban or not, have the interest in forging better more rational relations with the island.  These terrorist groups have names, Omega 7, Alpha 66, Vigilia Mambisa, Brothers to the Rescue  and others. They have henchmen and they have leaders, one of which is infamously well known in Miami as one of the cities proud citizens, Luis Posada Carriles, a man who has more blood on his hands than most have running through their veins.  The Cuban Five infiltrated the US under false identities, this is true. They also infiltrated these terrorist organizations under false pretenses  But they did all of this in order to protect Cuba and those who want a normal life between Cuba and the US. News flash: they also, did most if not all of this, with the acquiescence of both the US government and the FBI.

Exchanging them for Alan Gross may not seem like the logical thing to do, but not on the US side, after all, Gross was accused of something he did do and something which is illegal not only in Cuba and the rest of the world, it is also illegal in the US: in theory, you are not allowed to openly try to topple foreign regimes in the United States of America. Heck, even Alan Gross accepts responsibility for his actions and recommends he be exchanged for the Cuban Five.

Now,  Secretary John Kerry has to decide if Cuba, an island that has never committed a terrorist act against the US or any other nation for that matter, should remain on an infamous obscene list.  Cuba deserves to be treated with the same respect it does its neighbors and colleagues in the world arena, it doesn’t set standards, it doesn’t disrespect others rights to decide, it thus, should be commended for its desire, as put by Juarez , to establish peace.

Unlike the unvarying Cherry Blossoms in DC and Pi, let’s hope Mr Kerry’s decision breaks one constant this Spring.

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