Maggie Alarcón

Archive for the ‘Cuba/US’ Category

Ya es hora

In Blockade, Cuba/US, Cuban Embargo, Travel, US on October 21, 2015 at 2:59 pm



Margarita Alarcón Perea


Era de esperar, la Habana lentamente se vuelve el lugar del momento en este hemisferio. Al igual que el ritmo de las olas de los mares, la Habana es un contínuum, un todo compuesto de muchos momentos en la historia; juega un papel – similar al de un actor – con el fin de entretener, hacer un planteamiento y crear una ilusión a la vez que permanece inmóvil.

En este caso la ilusión ha sido creada por personas que están bajo la impresión de que las cosas en la isla mágicamente han cambiado luego de los sucesos del 17 de diciembre de 2014 y que esa es la razón por la cual tantos vienen de visita a la isla.

Semanalmente desde principios de este año 2015, desde que se produjeron las primeras rondas de conversaciones bilaterales, miembros del cuerpo de la prensa, del Congreso, del Senado, a distintos niveles de gobierno, de las artes, el mundo de la ciencia, intelectuales, hombres y mujeres de negocio andan por toda la ciudad contemplándola boquiabiertos en un estado absoluto de fascinación.

Esto no debería sorprender a nadie. Era de esperar. La Habana históricamente ha sido un lugar mágico desde la época de Humphrey Bogart y Lauren Bacall o cuando el Buick del 56¨ era el carro del año. Por tanto, ahora que está en boga y resulta tan fácil llegarse a Cuba, ¿por qué no hacerlo?

No quiero que me malinterpreten. Estoy feliz de que tantos procedentes de los EEUU estén dando esos primeros pasos y se anden montando en aviones y viniendo de visita. Lo que me resulta simpático es como todos creen que ahora de repente “no hay problemas” con venir cuando lo único que ha cambiado en la isla es que la bandera estadounidense ondea delante del Malecón habanero luego de 56 años de ausencia. ¡Eso es todo! En lo que a lo demás respecta, el cuartico está igualito!

Así que recomiendo que la próxima vez que se pregunten algo respecto a Cuba y la Habana, no se vayan pensando que las cosas han cambiado en la isla y que es por eso que ahora pueden viajar de visita libremente y ver por uno mismo.

No estaría mal que se aseguren que en los próximos 15 meses se den pasos para garantizar que esos viajes puedan continuar, digamos que hacienda algo como eliminar el bloqueo estadounidense contra Cuba, ¿no creen que ya sea hora?

El tiempo pasa….

Step by Step

In Blockade, Cuba/US, Economics, Politics on October 20, 2015 at 3:38 pm


Margarita Alarcón Perea


Last century, I took off for my summer vacation in New York City. Upon arrival, I remember my mom telling me my father was over at the Mission on 38th, so I headed downtown to see him.

It was early summer, beginning of July; days were getting longer and night’s warmer in the City.

After entering the building over on Murray Hill I bumped into Abelardo Moreno, then Councilor at the Mission (Permanent Cuban Mission to the United Nations), in one of the halls on the way to catch the elevator leading to the Ambassadors office. Abelardo was in a hurry with a mound of papers in one hand and a lit cigarette in the other, I quickly said “hi” and as we were both travelling up to the top floor I asked: “what on earth are you doing so late in the day on a Saturday? Has somebody else decided to invade yet another sovereign state?!” Abe, said, no and then went on to explain, it was summer, and the gulf war was no longer on the table for Cuba as we were no longer members of the Security Council and since it was summer and no one was going off on vacation to the Caribbean, my father was bored and when he got bored he would find something for them to do. He said all of this in his classic ironic fashion with just the right amount of “Im loving every minute of this.” But what was this excess work load in the middle of the lethargic summer heat? Well, that´s the funny part, or the punch line of the joke. He along with the Minister Councilor, the second Ambassador, and two younger 3rd secretaries were gathering all the information my father was requesting in order to prepare a document that he would present to the General Assembly the first week in September, and would entitle: Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba.

It was the summer of 1992, and so it all began.

Back in 1992 when this issue was first put forth it “won” a majority of 71 abstentions ,  3 votes against and 59 votes in favor of the resolution. We are now going on the 24th year that the United Nations General Assembly puts this resolution up for a vote. Since 1993, the balance flipped and votes in favor went in the triple digits, and abstentions in this century remain steady in the single digit margin, primarily 1, 2, 3. The one thing that has remained the same, just like the song, has been the votes against. Invariably swaying from 3 or 4 to sometimes 2 and then back to 3 or 4 again.

Come the morning of October 27th of this year 2015, the UN will once again hear a speech from Bruno Rodriguez Cuba´s Minister of Foreign Affairs. It will then hold the vote and a large screen will light up with the results.

What if this year there were to be an unprecedented surprise? The United States of America has in its Constitution something which provides for a very specific and clear separation of powers. Three branches of government such that no one person or group of peoples could ever again subject the nation to any form of tyranny. You have the Congress which is the legislative power that makes the laws, the Presidency which is the executive power which carries out the laws, and then the Supreme Court which evaluates the laws. Three groups that don’t necessarily have to be in sync and as it turns out, next October 27th, they won’t be.

Since the end of last year, President Obama has been stating on camera, where ever he goes, whenever asked about Cuba and the US, when he spoke at the State of the Union, he´s probably mentioned it to his cook at the White House: the US Congress should do away with the Embargo against Cuba. His reasoning has less to do with the atrocity that the Embargo has been, subjecting the Cuban people to depravations and hardships that go beyond reason; the Embargo has been qualified by many as the longest form of warfare against a sovereign nation in the history of the world. Granted, these have not been the arguments used by the President he adheres to Einstein’s definition of insanity. Yet whatever the case, whether you do away with it because it’s insane or inhumane, the gist is to do away with it.

Now, will the US break with its forefathers system of government or should I say, put it to the test of true democratic principles of decent? Will this presidency actually prove to the world that real democracy can actually happen? Will the executive instruct its Department of State to instruct its Ambassador to abstain during the vote next Tuesday?

It would be a first and definitely a vote, if not a political step,  in the right direction.


Published in The Huffington Post and End the Travel Ban

The times they are a changin´… or are they?

In Blockade, Cuba/US, US on October 15, 2015 at 4:09 pm

Margarita Alarcón Perea

It was to be expected, Havana is slowly turning into the “in spot” of the hemisphere. Like the rhythmic movement of the waves in the ocean, Havana a continuum, a whole in history made up of many parts; it plays a roll, not unlike a theater production, to entertain, make a statement, and create illusion, changing while yet remaining the same.

The illusion in this case, has really been created by others who are under the impression that magically things, after December 17th of 2014, have changed in the country and that is the reason why everyone is visiting.

On a weekly basis since the beginning of the year 2015, ever since the first bilateral talks began, members of the press, the Congress, the Senate, all levels of government, the arts, sciences, intellectuals, business men and woman are prancing around town in awe.

This is not something that should shock anyone. It was to be expected. Havana had always been a sort of “private getaway” since back when Bogie and Bacall were the ¨in couple¨ and a 56´ Buick was the car of the year. So, now that it’s chic and above all, easy peasy to come down to Cuba, why not do so?

Don’t get me wrong, I am very happy actually ecstatic that so many people from the United States are taking those first baby steps and getting on flights to visit, see, scout about, gaze in awe and wonder and then go back home. I just find it funny, how suddenly it’s “ok” to come down, when the only thing that has changed on the island is technically and practically the fact that there is a US flag waving on the Malecón after 56 years. That’s it! Everything else is exactly the same.

So next time you wonder about Cuba and Havana, don’t go off thinking that things changed on the island hence making it easy for you to get there, think that things changed –somewhat- back home and now you can travel -sort of – freely down to Cuba and check the scene out.

Might be a good idea to make sure the next 16 months include steps that guarantee you make those trips as often as you desire by say eliminating stuff like, I dunno, the US Embargo against Cuba, maybe?

Tic toc Clarice


Also published in Latino Voices Huffington Post:

International Diplomacy/ Diplomacia Internacional

In Cuba/US, Politics on August 2, 2015 at 7:58 pm

Diplomacy jeff

Margarita Alarcón Perea

Full Definition of DIPLOMACY as found in Merriam-Webster
1: the art and practice of conducting negotiations between nations
2: skill in handling affairs without arousing hostility
3: the work of maintaining good relations between the governments of different countries
4: skill in dealing with others without causing bad feelings

On July 20th, 2015, the Cuban flag was raised for the first time in over half a century at what will once again be the site of the Embassy of the Republic of Cuba to the United States of America. On that same day normal diplomatic activities began across the Florida Straights at the reinstated Embassy of the United States of America to the Republic of Cuba.

No longer will there be an Interests Section. No longer will the Czech Republic or the Swiss need to bother with the issues of either nation across the Atlantic. With the re-opening of both these embassies; Cuban in DC and US in Havana, both countries began what is known as “a diplomatic relationship of one nation’s government with another,” key word here being “government”. To put it bluntly: these shall be diplomatic representations to governments, something that takes place when one country’s government recognizes the legitimacy of another country’s government, again, key word: “government”. When you are a serious diplomat you do not establish open parallel relationships with peoples or groups of peoples who are openly intent on undermining the legitimate government to which you have presented letters of credit! It’s really as simple as that.

Diplomacy is not meant to create chaos or disrespect. Quite to the contrary, it was created, and has been practiced for centuries, in order to build proverbial bridges, to prevent hostilities and bring about order in as peaceful a manner as possible. So please, more respect to both countries. And above all, more respect to the peoples of these two nations who have spent the better part of more than half a century struggling in a peaceful manner in order to reach this point in history.

Also published in the Huffington Post



1   Disciplina o conocimiento de las relaciones entre los estados

2   Conjunto de personas e instituciones que se ocupan del estado de las relaciones con los demás Estados.

3   Corrección y amabilidad interesadas o habilidad en el trato.

El pasado 20 de julio del año 2015 se izó la bandera cubana por primera vez en más de medio siglo en la sede de lo que volvería a ser a partir de ese día la Embajada de la República de Cuba ante los Estados Unidos de Norteamérica. Ese mismo día comenzaron las actividades normales de sede diplomática en el edificio que se encuentra frente al malecón habanero, reanundano sus actividades como representación diplomática de los Estados Unidos ante la República de Cuba.

Ya no hay más sección de intereses. Ya ni los checos ni los suizos tendrán más que atender los asuntos de cada una de estas naciones al otro lado del Atlántico según correspondiera. Cuando se abrieron las dos embajadas, la cubana en Washington DC y la estadounidense en La Habana, ambas naciones comenzaron lo que se denomina “la representación diplomática de cada nación ante el gobierno de la otra,” siendo clave en este caso la palabra “gobierno”. Básicamente y gramática simple: son representaciones diplomáticas ante los GOBIERNOS, lo cual equivale a que cada cual reconoce la legitimidad del otro. No son representaciones diplomáticas ante grupos de disidentes en cualquiera de los dos países. Por tanto, los diplomáticos cubanos NO deben hacer una vida paralela con grupos que aspiran a derrocar o acabar con el gobierno legitimo de EEUU (insisto, del partido que sea) y los diplomáticos estadounidenses no deben reunirse con miembros de la disidencia en Cuba.

La diplomacia no debe servir como arma para crear el caos sino por el contrario, debe ayudar a evitarlo. Por favor, más respeto tanto para una nación como para la otra. Y sobre todo más respeto para los pueblos de los dos países que a lo largo de más de medio siglo han estado luchando de manera pacífica y respetuosa por llegar a este punto en la historia.

Cuba and the United States: a new era?

In Blockade, Cuba/US on February 12, 2015 at 1:33 pm

By Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada

On December 17, by freeing the five Cubans imprisoned for more than 16 years in the United States, President Barack Obama put an end to an excessively prolonged injustice and, at the same time, gave a change of direction to history.

By recognizing the failure of the anti-Cuban policy, restoring diplomatic relations, abolishing all restrictions within his reach, proposing the complete lifting of the blockade and the beginning of a new era in relations with Cuba –all in one speech– he broke all predictions and surprised everyone, including the brainiest analysts.
The hostile policy established by President Dwight Eisenhower(1953-1961), before the current President was born, was the rule applied–only with secondary sharing s– by Republican and Democratic administrations alike. It was eventually codified in the Helms-Burton Act, signed by Bill Clinton in 1996.

In the early years they practiced it quite successfully. In 1959, at the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, the US was at the zenith of its power and exercised unchallenged hegemony over much of the world and especially the Western Hemisphere. This allowed it to secure the exclusion of Cuba from the Organization of American States (OAS) and granting the almost total isolation of the island. Cuba could count only with the help of the Soviet Union and its partners in the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA), formed by the Warsaw Pact countries.

The collapse of “real socialism” created in many the illusion that this would bring the end of the Cuban revolution.

They anticipated the advent of a long period of “uni-polar” dominance. Drunk with victory, they failed to assess correctly the depth of what was happening: the end of the Cold War opened up new spaces for social struggle, and presented capitalism with increasingly difficult challenges.
The fall of the Berlin Wall prevented them from seeing that, at the same time, in February 1989, Venezuela was shaken by a social uprising called “el Caracazo“, a sign  indicating the start of new era in Latin America.

Cuba managed to survive the demise of its former allies and its resistance was instrumental in the profound transformation of the continent. Years ago it became obvious that the policy designed to isolate Cuba was a failure. Such a policy ended up isolating the United States as its current Secretary of State, John Kerry, has recognized.

A new relationship with Cuba was indispensable for Washington. It needed to rebuild its ties with a continent that is no longer in its backyard. Achieving this is crucial now because, despite its power, the US cannot exercise the comfortable leadership it had had in times gone by.

There is still much to achieve with this new relationship. First of all, it is necessary to completely eliminate the economic, commercial and financial blockade as demanded with renewed vigor by important sectors of US business.

But normalizing relations would especially imply learning to live with the differences, and abandoning old dreams of domination. It would mean respecting the sovereign equality of states, a fundamental principle of the United Nations Charter, which, as history shows, is not liked by the powerful.

Regarding the release of the five Cuban prisoners, all US presidents without exception, have widely used the powers exclusively granted to them by Article II, Section 2, Paragraph 1 of the Constitution. This has been so for more than two centuries without anything or anyone being able to limit them.

This constitutional paragraph empowers the President to suspend the enforcement of sentences and grant pardons in cases of alleged crimes against the United States.

In the case of the Five there were more than enough reasons for executive clemency. In 2005, the panel of judges in the Court of Appeals quashed the process against them –defining it as “a perfect storm of prejudice and hostility”– and ordered a new trial.

In 2009, the full meeting of the same Court found that this case had nothing to do with espionage or the national security of the United States. Both verdicts were adopted with unanimity.

Regarding the other main charge of “conspiracy to commit murder”, made only against Gerardo Hernandez, his accusers acknowledged that it was impossible to prove this slander. They even tried to withdraw the accusation in May 2001 in an unprecedented action, taken by none other than the prosecutors under President George W. Bush (2001-2009).

For five years, Hernández had been expecting some response from the Miami court. He had made repeated requests for the court to release him, or review his case, or order the government to present the “evidence” used to convict him, or agree to hear him, or ask the government to reveal the magnitude and scope of the official financing of the massive media campaign that had created the “perfect storm”.

The Court never responded. Nothing was said by the mainstream media about the unusual legal paralysis. It was obvious that this was a political case and could only be resolved by a political decision. No one but the president could do it.

Obama showed wisdom and determination when, instead of just using his power to release any person, he courageously faced the underlying problem. The saga of the five was the result of an aggressive strategy and the wisest thing was to end both at the same time.

Nobody can ignore the significance of what was announced on 17 December. It would be wrong, however, to ignore the fact that there is still a road to travel that can be long and tortuous.  It will be necessary to move forward with strength and wisdom.


 A CubaNews translation. Edited by Walter Lippmann.

Cuba en el imaginario de los Estados Unidos

In Cuba, Cuba/US, History, US on January 29, 2015 at 2:22 pm


Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada

La edición cubana de éste, uno de los más recientes libros de Louis A. Pérez Jr., se suma a la fértil cosecha de quien es profundo estudioso de Cuba y de sus vínculos con Estados Unidos. Su publicación tiene especial importancia ahora cuando el restablecimiento de las relaciones diplomáticas provoca tantos comentarios, especulaciones y también no pocas ilusiones. A ese tema, el de nuestra posición hacia el poderoso vecino, dedicó Martí reflexiones que siempre tendrán plena vigencia, entre ellas su recomendación de examinar con ojos judiciales lo que era y habría de ser cuestión determinante para la suerte de la nación cubana.

El Apóstol era todavía un adolescente cuando el Padre de la Patria descubrió que “apoderarse de Cuba” era “el secreto de la política norteamericana” y que para llevarlo a cabo buscarían el momento más oportuno y las condiciones más propicias. A ese cálculo frío y actitud malévola se referiría Martí quien conoció como pocos aquella sociedad y alertó a tiempo el peligro mortal que encerraba para Cuba.

El libro de Louis A. Pérez, fruto también de un conocimiento a fondo de la sociedad norteamericana, es resultado de una investigación minuciosa que abarca todos los terrenos, desde la política hasta la vida cotidiana, incluyendo las más diversas manifestaciones de la cultura.

Su lectura puede sorprender a quienes han reducido el tema a las contradicciones coyunturales y desavenencias que enfrentaron a dos buenos vecinos a partir de la Revolución cubana de 1959, el llamado “diferendo”, eufemismo muy abusado a ambos lados del estrecho de la Florida.

“Cuba in the American imagination” prueba que se trata de algo mucho más complejo y antiguo, anterior al surgimiento de la nación cubana. Su origen se remonta a los años inmediatamente posteriores a la independencia de las Trece Colonias y ha perdurado, como una constante invariable, a lo largo de más de dos siglos, durante todo el proceso de formación, expansión y desarrollo de los Estados Unidos.

La idea de que Cuba les pertenecía, que su incorporación era necesaria para la existencia misma de la Unión Norteamericana y en consecuencia, era obligación inevitable de ésta decidir el futuro de la Isla, es el verdadero punto de partida para entender la dinámica de las relaciones entre los dos países desde entonces hasta hoy.

Esa idea, acompañada de una visión distorsionada de la realidad de Cuba y los cubanos, siempre paternalista y discriminatoria y muchas veces racista, estará presente en los discursos de estadistas y políticos, en editoriales, caricaturas, y artículos periodísticos, en disertaciones académicas, en libros, sermones, poemas y canciones y también, por supuesto, en documentos oficiales y confidenciales. La pretensión de dominar a Cuba, claramente manifestada en estos últimos, requería contar con el apoyo o la aquiescencia del pueblo norteamericano en el seno del cual siempre hubo simpatías y sentimientos amistosos hacia los habitantes de un país cercano a ellos por muchos motivos. Controlar y dirigir la mente de ese pueblo ha sido objetivo permanente para los dueños de Estados Unidos.

El resultado lo resume el autor:

“Cuba ocupaba mucho niveles dentro de la imaginación norteamericana, frecuentemente todos a la vez, de ellos casi todos funcionaban al servicio de los intereses de Estados Unidos. La relación norteamericana con Cuba era por sobre todas las cosas servir de instrumento. Cuba –y los cubanos- eran un medio para alcanzar un fin, estaban dedicados a ser un medio para satisfacer las necesidades norteamericanas y cumplir los intereses norteamericanos. Los norteamericanos llegaban a conocer a Cuba principalmente por medio de representaciones que eran por completo de su propia creación, lo cual sugiere que la Cuba que los norteamericanos escogieron para relacionarse era, de hecho, un producto de su propia imaginación y una proyección de sus necesidades. Los norteamericanos rara vez se relacionaban con la realidad cubana en sus propios términos o como una condición que poseía una lógica interna o con los cubanos como un pueblo con una historia interior o como una nación que poseía su propio destino. Siempre ha sido así entre Estados Unidos y Cuba[1].”

La raíz de ese modo de representarse a Cuba –y también al resto del mundo- era la representación que los norteamericanos han hecho de sí mismos, producto igualmente de su propia imaginación. El primer gran mito es el de atribuir un carácter revolucionario a las acciones de los propietarios de las Trece Colonias para independizarse de la Corona Británica. Indagaciones posteriores revelan que el proceso tuvo como motivaciones principales el interés de los colonos en extender su dominio sobre territorios ubicados más allá de los límites geográficos establecidos por Londres y la preocupación ante el avance indetenible en la metrópolis de los sentimientos abolicionistas que amenazaban con poner fin, cual sucedió, al tráfico y la explotación del trabajo esclavo. Entre los que enfrentaron a su Majestad Británica había representantes del pensamiento más avanzado de la época, como Tom Payne y sectores populares que aspiraban a cambiar también la estructura de la sociedad colonial, pero fueron derrotados y reprimidos por los Padres Fundadores y sus continuadores. No exagera el profesor Gerald Horne cuando titula uno de sus estudios más recientes “La Contrarrevolución de 1776”.

El otro gran mito es el que vincula a la nueva república con la idea de la democracia. Este resulta particularmente notable pues desde el principio Hamilton, Madison y Jay se empeñaron en demostrar lo contrario e insistieron en asegurar que su Constitución garantizaría que el país fuera siempre gobernado por sus amos, los dueños de sus riquezas materiales.

Esos mitos conjugados animan la idea de la “excepcionalidad” norteamericana y el carácter mesiánico, providencial, de su papel en la Historia. Esa creencia ha sustentado el discurso de todos los gobernantes desde Washington hasta Obama. La eficacia de su proyección es obvia. Con él han logrado embriagar, hasta el embrutecimiento, a un muy amplio sector de su población y a no pocos en otros países.

La función del lenguaje, y la comunicación como instrumentos de control político, con diversas y cada vez más sofisticadas técnicas, alcanzan ya un poder del que resulta difícil escapar. Hace casi medio siglo Brzezinski vaticinó que las nuevas tecnologías serían capaces no sólo de “manipular las emociones” sino también de “controlar la razón” del hombre contemporáneo.

Cuando en fecha tan temprana como 1805 Thomas Jefferson diseñó un destino para Cuba, que en su convicción más profunda era indispensable para el futuro de su propio país, definió al mismo tiempo la estrategia para conseguirlo. Estados Unidos tendría que apoderarse de Cuba pero antes deberían existir las condiciones que lo facilitasen.

Entonces la soberanía norteamericana no iba más allá del Mississippi. Las dos Floridas, desde el gran río hasta el Atlántico, seguían bajo la autoridad española. Cuba y Estados Unidos no eran aun vecinos.

Transcurrió casi una centuria durante la cual los sucesores de Jefferson no se limitaron a esperar. Intentaron comprar la Isla, mantuvieron a raya las apetencias respecto a ella de otras potencias europeas, se empeñaron en frustrar el proyecto liberador bolivariano, fomentaron la corriente anexionista de la sacarocracia criolla, y, durante nuestras guerras por la independencia, se negaron a reconocer las instituciones cubanas y la beligerancia del Ejército Libertador, mientras permitieron a España artillar y equipar su flota y utilizar sus puertos como bases para bloquear a los territorios insurrectos.

El momento propicio para pasar a la acción llegó, como sabemos, en 1898.

Como ilustra este libro ese año se desbordó la campaña para ganar las conciencias del pueblo norteamericano y convencerlo de la necesidad de participar en la guerra que España estaba a punto de perder. La realización del interés imperialista ejecutando, finalmente, un plan largamente concebido, fue presentada, sin embargo, como el cumplimiento de una obligación moral, altruista, la de ir al rescate de un vecino en desgracia.

El libro examina el papel de la metáfora, los símbolos, para el logro de objetivos políticos condicionando de manera más o menos sutil el modo de pensar y el estado de ánimo del receptor. Ofrece a este respecto un abundante repertorio de textos oficiales, discursos y declaraciones y también de producciones artísticas y editoriales y artículos de prensa y no falta una amplia muestra de caricaturas de la época. Cuba aparece como una joven maltratada pidiendo auxilio, o como un niño desvalido o malcriado y sucio y el Tío Sam como el caballero que viene al rescate de la doncella, o el maestro empeñado en limpiar y educar al infante descarriado. Las imágenes van cambiando según marchan los acontecimientos desde la bella mujer abandonada –los mambises, recordemos, no existían- hasta los niños díscolos, preferiblemente negros, urgidos de limpieza y disciplina.

Este muy valioso estudio abarca el Siglo XIX y los primeros años del XX. El triunfo revolucionario en 1959 iniciaría otra etapa en la que la manipulación de símbolos también desempeñaría una función primordial. Se puso de moda entonces hablar de un imaginario distanciamiento entre Washington y Batista supuestamente decisivo para el derrocamiento del dictador. Hubo que esperar hasta 1996 para conocer el texto del último mensaje del Secretario de Estado a su Embajador en La Habana, cuando concluía el año 58 en el que el señor Herter recapitulaba con amargura la ayuda que en todos los terrenos habían dado hasta ese instante al tirano derrotado.

O la leyenda incesantemente repetida acerca de los “millones” de cubanos que “escaparon” de la isla después de la victoria de enero y que ha servido de instrumento para denigrar a Cuba y manipular groseramente la cuestión migratoria. Según sus propias estadísticas oficiales, sin embargo, es ahora, en el Siglo XXI, que esa emigración, incluyendo a su descendencia nacida allá, sobrepasa el primer millón. Y algo que suele obviarse aunque consta en los mismos registros gubernamentales, en 1958 la emigración cubana era superior a la de la totalidad del Continente exceptuando a México.

Sería interminable la relación de imágenes inventadas y falacias diseminadas en los años del período revolucionario. Permítanme rendir homenaje sólo a la “proeza” ejecutada en abril de 1961 por los intrépidos navegantes que desembarcaron por el puerto de Bayamo.

Aquella, la de 1898, fue una campaña exitosa. La solidaridad del pueblo estadounidense, manifestada con gran amplitud desde el alzamiento de Céspedes, se había intensificado treinta años después. A la simpatía natural se unía el rechazo ante la crueldad weyleriana. El respaldo popular a los cubanos alcanzó niveles muy notables y se reflejó, más allá del discurso político, en el teatro, la música y la poesía.

La intervención en el conflicto no fue vista como lo que era, una conjura imperialista, sino como la realización de un ideal noble y puro. Sumarse a los mambises y pelear junto a ellos fue el anhelo de muchos. Basta mencionar a Mark Twain y Carl Sandburg.

Esa visión generosa, desprendida, aparecería en la Resolución Conjunta por medio de la enmienda Teller que, sin embargo, contradecía al verdadero plan oficial que se concretaría en el texto del Senador Oliver Platt.

Lo que vino después es conocido. Los sueños frustrados, la lucha siempre renovada hasta el amanecer de enero y luego medio siglo de resistencia y creación, en los que no han faltado la hazaña y los sacrificios, los momentos de amargura y alegría, pero sobre todo, la certeza de haber llegado a la tierra prometida que concibieron los abuelos.

Ahora cuando se anuncia un nuevo capítulo en esta larga saga urge impedir que el olvido cubra de sombras el camino tan dolorosamente recorrido.

Porque como advirtiera Cintio Vitier en un texto que hoy y mañana habrá que recordar “en la hora actual de Cuba sabemos que nuestra verdadera fortaleza está en asumir nuestra historia”.

Palabras en la presentación de la edición cubana del libro de Louis A. Pérez Jr. el 27 de enero de 2015 en la UNEAC

[1] ‹‹Cuba in the American imagination-Metaphor and the Imperial ethos››. The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 2008, p. 22-23


Cuba: So Close You Could Almost Swim There

In Cuba/US, History, Sports on January 29, 2015 at 1:44 pm

Diana Nyad

The Cuban Revolution happened when I was a nine-year-old living in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Literally overnight, thousands of exiles flooded into my town. We were suddenly eating Cuban food, dancing salsa in my new friends’ living rooms. The mystique ran deep. Already a little swimmer, I was standing on the beach at that time and I asked my mother, who had danced salsa many times with my father at the fabled Hotel Nacional in Havana:

“Mom. Where is it? I know it’s out there, but I can’t see it.”

And my mother took my arm and pointed it across the sea.

“There. Out there. It’s right over that horizon. It’s so close, you could almost swim there.”

The story I first knew of Cuba was from the exile side. Good people forced out of their homes, given 24 hours to gather of few possessions and cash out at the bank. Their houses, their clothing, their cars, their boats, many of their friends and family never to be seen again.

Then there was the Fidel side. It reads a noble story. Fidel and his comrades in justice Che and Camilo, ride stealth one night on horseback from the mountains into Havana, to save the people from the dictator regime of Batista, where the rich were vastly rich and the poor were desperately poor, with no middle ground. The famous, defiant face of Che has been plastered to millions of young persons’ bedroom walls through the years. Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, Camilo Cienfuegos — soldiers of and for the people.

I have learned the hard way not to take either side, not to speak of the politics of Cuba. Socialism, in its bare bones definition, every individual entitled to the same material necessities, can be interpreted as a just way to manage a nation. On an anecdotal level, I can say that in the dozens of times I have visited Cuba, since my first try to swim from country to country back in 1978, I have never once seen a homeless person. I have found a population of educated, polite, intelligent, fit, musical, athletic, compassionate, philosophical, seemingly happy people. So there was a time that I defended Fidel’s original vision, that I joined many who touted his success in taking the majority from third world to second world.

The one thing I could never explain, understand, or defend about the Fidel regime was that Cubans weren’t allowed to leave the island. If you love your country, love the life you live there, why is there such fear that a trip anywhere abroad would convince you never to return home?

Clearly, in recent years after the Soviet Union’s collapse and withdrawal, Cuba has devolved toward a deeper and nearly tragic state of poverty. Goods have always been hard to come by, but it’s been a long time since asthma medicine, cooking oil, and a decent loaf of bread have been on the market shelves.

A couple I have stayed with in Old Havana, both highly educated, with a daughter who has asthma, stand outside the hospital ER in the middle of the night, begging any worker leaving to go back inside and find them an inhaler. Every two weeks they stand in a line to receive one chicken, six eggs, and a few staples. They invite visitors to their “Casa Privada” for dinner, stretching those staples into creative meals so that travelers can tell the tale of eating in a private home, and then they pare back their own family meals to the bare minimum.

Again, just a layman’s anecdotal evidence, but it used to be that to discuss a rapprochement with an average Cuban citizen was to encounter tears standing in his eyes, the loyalty to Fidel was so fierce. The giant painted faces of Fidel and Che and Camilo around the city, slogans such as “Viva El Socialismo!” in vivid red below, spoke volumes to the national esprit of having been freed from colonial oppression.

But we are almost six decades past Batista now. The days of the Bay of Pigs are also long-ago history. There is nothing to fear from each other. No reason to further punish each other.

My swim from Cuba to Florida, aside from the personal challenge to make endurance history across a wild, epic ocean, was always meant to also make a statement of hopeful reconnection between our two beautiful nations. Too many, on both sides, have wanted for too long to know each other, to enjoy the colorful Cuban culture, to help the Cubans restore economic stability.

Our Team was invited to Havana this past Labor Day, on the anniversary of our successful crossing from Havana to Key West, September 2, 2013. It was the first time in thirty years that the American and Cuban flags were flown together in an official government building in Havana. The first time the American National Anthem had been played at an official event in thirty years. We wept with pride. And so did the Cubans. We all wept because this Swim was a universal message of will, to Never Ever Give Up. But we wept in part because our two countries understood the magic of the endeavor and the Cubans helped us through every step. We wept because we all want a better life for these good people, our friends and neighbors.

I can tell you our Team was very emotional a few weeks ago, when both President Obama and Raul Castro announced the new era of rapprochement between us.

A personal note: This series for Huff Post carries with it a tag line: 90 miles.

To be perfectly accurate, it is 103 miles, the closest distance between Cuba and Florida. A long time ago, the nautical measurement of 90 was assigned, a measurement used by only large ships at sea. We measure distances across the sea between countries in statute miles. For instance, it is 28 miles around Manhattan Island. That’s statute miles. Trust me, it’s 103 miles to Cuba. I should know.

One more personal note, to my mother, no longer with us. Mom, it’s so close, Cuba, that somebody has actually swum there.

This post is part of a Huffington Post blog series called “90 Miles: Rethinking the Future of U.S.-Cuba Relations.” The series puts the spotlight on the emerging relations between two long-standing Western Hemisphere foes and will feature pre-eminent thought leaders from the public and private sectors, academia, the NGO community, and prominent observers from both countries. Read all the other posts in the series here.

If you’d like to contribute your own blog on this topic, send a 500-850-word post to (subject line: “90 Miles”).

Cuba y Estados Unidos: ¿Una nueva era?

In Cuba/US, Cuban Embargo, Politics on January 19, 2015 at 4:43 pm

Ricardo Alarcon de Quesada

El 17 de diciembre, al liberar a los cinco antiterroristas cubanos que guardaron prisión por más de 16 años en Estados Unidos, el presidente Barack Obama reparó una injusticia excesivamente prolongada y al mismo tiempo dio un golpe de timón a la historia.

Reconocer el fracaso de la política anticubana, restablecer las relaciones diplomáticas, suprimir todas las restricciones a su alcance, proponer la eliminación completa del bloqueo y el inicio de una nueva era en las relaciones con Cuba, todo en un solo discurso, rompió cualquier vaticinio y sorprendió a todos, incluyendo a los analistas más sesudos.

La política hostil instaurada por el presidente Dwight Eisenhower (1953-1961), antes del nacimiento del actual mandatario, había sido la norma que aplicaron, con matices casi siempre secundarios, administraciones republicanas y demócratas y fue codificada con la Ley Helms-Burton, sancionada por Bill Clinton en 1996.

En los primeros años la practicaron con bastante éxito. En 1959, al triunfar la Revolución cubana, Estados Unidos estaba en el cenit de su poderío, ejercía indiscutida hegemonía sobre gran parte del mundo y especialmente en el Hemisferio Occidental, que le permitió lograr la exclusión de Cuba de la Organización de Estados Americanos (OEA) y el aislamiento casi total de la isla que pudo contar solo con la ayuda de la Unión Soviética y sus asociados en el Consejo de Ayuda Mutua Económica (CAME), que integraban los países del Pacto de Varsovia.

El derrumbe del llamado “socialismo real” creó en muchos la ilusión de que también llegaba el final para la revolución cubana.

Imaginaron el advenimiento de un largo período de dominio unipolar. Embriagados con la victoria, no apreciaron el sentido profundo de lo que ocurría: el fin de la Guerra Fría abría nuevos espacios para las luchas sociales y colocaba al capitalismo frente a desafíos cada vez más difíciles de encarar.

La caída de muro de Berlín les impidió ver que, al mismo tiempo, en febrero de 1989, estremecía a Venezuela el levantamiento social llamado “el caracazo”, señal indicadora del inicio de una nueva época en América Latina.

Cuba logró sobrevivir a la desaparición de sus antiguos aliados y su resistencia fue factor fundamental en la profunda transformación del continente. Hace años era ostensible el fracaso de una política empeñada en aislar a Cuba, pero que terminó aislando a Estados Unidos como reconoció su actual secretario de Estado, John Kerry.

Una nueva relación con Cuba era indispensable para Washington, necesitado de recomponer sus vínculos con un continente que ya no es más su patio trasero. Lograrlo es fundamental ahora pues, pese a su poderío, Estados Unidos no puede ejercer el cómodo liderazgo de tiempos que no volverán.

Falta aún mucho para alcanzar esa nueva relación. Ante todo es preciso eliminar completamente el bloqueo económico, comercial y financiero como reclaman con renovado vigor importantes sectores del empresariado estadounidense.

Pero normalizar relaciones supondría sobre todo aprender a vivir con lo diferente y abandonar viejos sueños de dominación. Significaría respetar la igualdad soberana de los estados, principio fundamental de la Carta de las Naciones Unidas, que, como muestra la historia, no es del agrado de los poderosos.

Con respecto a la liberación de los cinco prisioneros cubanos, todos los presidentes de Estados Unidos, sin excepción, han utilizado ampliamente la facultad que a ellos exclusivamente otorga el Artículo II, Sección 2, Párrafo 1 de la Constitución. Así ha sido durante más de dos siglos sin que nada ni nadie pudiera limitarlos.

Ese párrafo constitucional faculta al presidente a suspender la ejecución de las sentencias y a conceder indultos, en casos de alegados delitos contra Estados Unidos.

En el caso de los cinco sobraban razones para la clemencia ejecutiva. En 2005 el panel de jueces de la Corte de Apelaciones anuló el proceso contra ellos –definiéndolo como “una tormenta perfecta de prejuicios y hostilidad”- y había ordenado un nuevo juicio.

En 2009 el pleno de la misma Corte determinó que este caso no tenía relación alguna con el espionaje ni la seguridad nacional de Estados Unidos. Ambos veredictos fueron adoptados con total unanimidad.

Respecto al otro cargo importante, el de “conspiración para cometer asesinato” formulado solo contra Gerardo Hernández Nordelo, sus acusadores reconocieron que era imposible probar semejante calumnia e incluso intentaron retirarla en mayo de 2001 en una acción sin precedentes, tomada nada menos que por los fiscales del expresidente George W. Bush (2001-2009).

Hacía ya cinco años que Hernández esperaba alguna respuesta a sus repetidas peticiones a la Corte de Miami para que lo liberase, o accediese a revisar su caso, u ordenase al gobierno presentar las “pruebas” utilizadas para condenarlo o accediese a escucharlo a él o a que el gobierno revelase la magnitud y el alcance del financiamiento oficial a la descomunal campaña mediática que sustentó aquella “tormenta perfecta”.

El tribunal nunca respondió. Nada dijeron tampoco los grandes medios de comunicación ante la inusual parálisis judicial. Era obvio que se trataba de un caso político y sólo podría resolverse con una decisión política. Nadie más que el presidente podría hacerlo.

Obama mostró sabiduría y determinación cuando, en vez de limitarse a usar el poder para excarcelar a cualquier persona, enfrentó valerosamente el problema de fondo. La saga de los cinco era consecuencia de una estrategia agresiva y lo más sabio era poner término a ambas al mismo tiempo.

Nadie puede desconocer la trascendencia de lo anunciado el 17 de diciembre. Sería erróneo, sin embargo, ignorar que aún queda un camino, que puede ser largo y tortuoso, en el que será necesario avanzar con firmeza y sabiduría.


a Letter to Obama

In Cuba/US, Cuban 5 on April 3, 2014 at 1:17 pm


April 5, 2014

President Barack Obama
The White House
Washington, D.C.

Dear President Obama:
I write you today to urge that you look at the case of the three Cubans still held hostage to our outworn and dangerous foreign policy towards Cuba. Called “The Cuban Five” by their supporters, they were sentenced to lengthy prison terms in 2001 for the crime of trying to protect the lives of their fellow citizens-and, for that matter, the lives of many U.S. citizens too. Two have been released from prison, and of the three who remain, one was sentenced to life imprisonment. I understand far too well the urgency that led the Cuban government to send these very brave men to infiltrate the Cuban exile terrorist organizations.   
“Terrorist” is not too strong a word to describe the groups these men infiltrated in Miami. For decades they have ignored the laws of the United States which gave them new lives and protection. These groups were left alone by U.S. authorities to carry out a war against both Cuba and these with whom they disagree on U.S. territory. Many of them were U.S. citizens. I am one of these victimize by them.  
In March, 1973, a member of one of those exile terrorist organizations placed a large plastique bomb in the Center for Cuban Studies, almost destroying the entire facility in Greenwich Village, New York City. The only part that was NOT destroyed was where I was sitting – my only injuries occurred because the blast caused the large glass window next to me to shatter and fall on me as I was typing.  
For me, then, the “Cuban Five” represent a heroic effort to disrupt activities deemed illegal by our own government. It is past time for the release of the three remaining imprisoned.

Sandra Levinson
Executive Director
Center for Cuban Studies  

SANDRA LEVINSON is the President and Executive Director of the Center for Cuban Studies, and was one of the Center’s founders in 1972. In 1991 Levinson spearheaded a lawsuit against the U.S. Treasury Department which resulted in legalizing the importation of original Cuban art.  She is currently directing works at the Cuban Art Space, which she founded in 1999, to properly house and archive the thousands of posters, photographs and artworks which the Center has collected in the past 42 years. The Center collection consists of more than 3,000 works of art, 2,000 photographs and 5,000 posters and the Art Space shows art exclusively from Cuban artists. It also sponsors talks, film showings, performances, and serves as an arena for visiting artists and writers from Cuba.In 2004 Levinson was awarded the José Maria Heredia Medal in Santiago de Cuba, that city’s most important cultural award, for her dedication to the city’s artists. Earlier, she was given Cuba’s Friendship Medal from the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples. 



U.S. Secretly Built ‘Cuban Twitter’ to Stir Unrest, AP Reports

In Cuba/US on April 3, 2014 at 12:45 pm


The U.S. government masterminded the creation of a “Cuban Twitter” — a communications network designed to undermine the communist government in Cuba, built with secret shell companies and financed through foreign banks, The Associated Press has learned.

The project, which lasted more than two years and drew tens of thousands of subscribers, sought to evade Cuba’s stranglehold on the Internet with a primitive social media platform. First, the network would build a Cuban audience, mostly young people; then, the plan was to push them toward dissent.

 Yet its users were neither aware it was created by a U.S. agency with ties to the State Department, nor that American contractors were gathering personal data about them, in the hope that the information might be used someday for political purposes.

It is unclear whether the scheme was legal under U.S. law, which requires written authorization of covert action by the president and congressional notification. Officials at USAID would not say who had approved the program or whether the White House was aware of it. The Cuban government declined a request for comment.

At minimum, details uncovered by the AP appear to muddy the U.S. Agency for International Development’s longstanding claims that it does not conduct covert actions, and could undermine the agency’s mission to deliver aid to the world’s poor and vulnerable — an effort that requires the trust and cooperation of foreign governments.

USAID and its contractors went to extensive lengths to conceal Washington’s ties to the project, according to interviews and documents obtained by the AP. They set up front companies in Spain and the Cayman Islands to hide the money trail, and recruited CEOs without telling them they would be working on a U.S. taxpayer-funded project.

“There will be absolutely no mention of United States government involvement,” according to a 2010 memo from Mobile Accord Inc., one of the project’s creators. “This is absolutely crucial for the long-term success of the service and to ensure the success of the Mission.”

The project, dubbed “ZunZuneo,” slang for a Cuban hummingbird’s tweet, was publicly launched shortly after the 2009 arrest in Cuba of American contractor Alan Gross. He was imprisoned after traveling repeatedly to the country on a separate, clandestine USAID mission to expand Internet access using sensitive technology that only governments use.

USAID said in a statement that it is “proud of its work in Cuba to provide basic humanitarian assistance, promote human rights and fundamental freedoms, and to help information flow more freely to the Cuban people,” whom it said “have lived under an authoritarian regime” for 50 years. The agency said its work was found to be “consistent with U.S. law.”

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and chairman of the Appropriations Committee’s State Department and foreign operations subcommittee, said the ZunZuneo revelations were troubling.

“There is the risk to young, unsuspecting Cuban cellphone users who had no idea this was a U.S. government-funded activity,” he said. “There is the clandestine nature of the program that was not disclosed to the appropriations subcommittee with oversight responsibility.”

The AP obtained more than 1,000 pages of documents about the project’s development. It independently verified the project’s scope and details in the documents through publicly available databases, government sources and interviews with those involved in ZunZuneo.

 The estimated $1.6 million spent on ZunZuneo was publicly earmarked for an unspecified project in Pakistan, public government data show, but those documents don’t reveal where the funds were actually spent.

For more than two years, ZunZuneo grew and reached at least 40,000 subscribers. But documents reveal the team found evidence Cuban officials tried to trace the text messages and break into the ZunZuneo system. USAID told the AP that ZunZuneo stopped in September 2012 when a government grant ended.

First published April 3rd 2014, 4:07 am NBC News Online







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