Maggie Alarcón

Posts Tagged ‘Cuba’

We are all Diosdado

In Politics, US, Venezuela on June 2, 2015 at 1:10 pm

by Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada

Issued on March 9, President Obama’s Executive Order tagging Venezuela as “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the US national security” and declaring “a national emergency to deal with this threat” caused justified alarm and widespread rejection throughout the Continent and beyond. It was not the first time that Washington used a language as arrogant as it is irrational. History is brimming with examples of how the Empire has made use of such accusations to launch military attacks and break international law in various ways. They used similar words to justify their brutal armed invasions of Panama and the tiny island of Granada, among other outrageous acts which crushed defenseless populations and brought death and destruction to nations stripped of their independence as a result.

Despite worldwide disapproval, the number of media campaigns against Venezuela has increased since then through a US-led propaganda apparatus that is now especially concentrating its attacks on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela’s National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello. They are accusing him of being linked to international drug trafficking, a slanderous and yet unproved charge rapidly echoed by hundreds of newspapers and other media from all over the world.

Who is Diosdado Cabello and why is he under attack?

Ever since he was a young officer, he joined Hugo Chavez in the struggle against the abuse and corruption that marked the Fourth Republic and after that, in the peaceful transformation conducted by the Bolivarian Revolution. He played a key role in the popular movement of resistance that thwarted the fascist coup in 2002 and returned Chavez back being head of State for which he had been democratically-elected by most Venezuelans.

In a clumsy maneuver to divide Chavismo, and following Chavez’s unfortunate death, the same hardcore right-wingers who are now vilifying him tried to make him President of the Republic, but he adamantly refused. Diosdado Cabello gave a remarkable example of revolutionary firmness and spirit of unity, proving that he is moved by flattery no more than he is by threats.

Neither the conservative right nor imperialism forgives his attitude, as it embodies the will of a people bent on remaining independent and sovereign. To defend Diosdado Cabello is to defend Venezuela, it is to pay back the great excusable debt of  solidarity to all of Latin America. Because we are all Diosdado!

A CubaNews translation. Edited by Walter Lippmann.

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 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.


Una mirada al pasado

In History, US on June 27, 2014 at 11:17 am



Por Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada


La historia del Poder Negro, el movimiento que en los años sesenta del pasado Siglo encauzó las aspiraciones de la juventud afroamericana, regresa impulsada por el arte. Primero fue un extraordinario documental acreedor de distinciones en festivales del cine alternativo. Ahora lo reproduce un libro, prologado por el multipremiado actor y luchador social Danny Glover. Ambos con el título: “The Black Power Mixtape”.

Su origen es sorprendente. Un grupo de jóvenes cineastas suecos había viajado a Estados Unidos, entre 1967 y 1975 para entrevistar a quienes entonces marcaron decisivamente a la sociedad norteamericana. Conversaron entre otros, con Stokely Carmichael, Bobby Seale, Huey Newton, Eldridge Cleaver y Angela Davis, esta última en la celda de la prisión donde esperaba fuese ejecutada la sentencia a morir que le había sido impuesta y sólo evitó un amplio movimiento de solidaridad abarcador de todo el planeta.

Pero nadie pudo ver entonces estas imágenes. Durante más de treinta años las cintas permanecieron olvidadas en un sótano de la televisión sueca hasta que Göran Olson, quien en los sesenta era un niño que apenas caminaba, las encontró y se dio a la tarea de rescatarlas y armar el documental producido ahora con Danny Glover y Joslyn Barnes y que incluye opiniones actuales de artistas, intelectuales y activistas sobre lo que aquel período significó en sus vidas. Es, según The New York Times “una extraordinaria proeza de edición e investigación de archivo” y su resultado “un collage cronológico que restaura una compleja dimensión humana de la historia racial de la época”.

Frente a la cámara aparece el testimonio de esa época. Hombres y mujeres empeñados en alcanzar un mundo mejor desde abajo, desde comunidades empobrecidas y discriminadas a las que había que devolverles su dignidad y autoestima con proyectos educacionales y sanitarios incluyendo el desayuno gratis para los niños y también la música, el teatro y la poesía.

Pero lo hacían sometidos al asedio y la persecución  de un régimen racista, represivo, que los obligó a crear sus propios instrumentos de autodefensa y al surgimiento del Black Panther Party.

Experiencia semejante se produjo en las comunidades boricuas, sobre todo en New York y Chicago, que darían nacimiento al Partido de los Young Lords, organización que siguió el mismo camino de brega y sacrificios emprendido por su gemela afroamericana.

Eran tiempos de ebullición cuando todo parecía marchar rápido, a la velocidad de los sueños. La bárbara agresión contra el pueblo vietnamita y el empeño por conquistar la igualdad racial nutrieron una rebeldía juvenil que se extendió por todo el país enfrentando al gobierno corrupto, delincuencial, de Richard Nixon, quien no conoció límites en sus violaciones a la legalidad.

Conmueve ver y escuchar a Eldridge Cleaver repitiendo “hay un punto donde la cautela termina y la cobardía comienza”.

No pocos de aquellos jóvenes fueron asesinados. Otros buscaron refugio más allá de las fronteras norteamericanas. Algunos están encerrados todavía en prisiones federales.

Quedan sobrevivientes que aun recuerdan. Como Kathleen Cleaver, en aquel tiempo Secretaria de Comunicaciones del Black Panther y ahora profesora de Derecho en la Universidad Emory de Atlanta. Mirando hacia atrás, ella rememora el romanticismo de jóvenes acostumbrados a vivir peligrosamente mientras cantaban “no sé si volveré a verte” o “esta puede ser nuestra última vez juntos”. Pero también, desde el presente, reflexiona con amargura: “Hemos retrocedido consistentemente. Es deprimente y hasta cierto punto desconcertante que durante la época de la Guerra de Viet Nam las condiciones de la mayoría de las familias negras eran un poco mejor que ahora. Hemos declinado en la educación y en la economía”.

Es triste comprobarlo cuando, por primera vez en la historia, un negro ocupa la presidencia de Estados Unidos. Alguien que, por cierto, inició su carrera política como organizador comunitario.

Pero la lucha continúa y no todo conduce a la depresión. Acaba de anunciarse, por ejemplo, que las autoridades de New York, ciudad dirigida hoy por una mayoría progresista, decidió rendir homenaje a los Young Lords el próximo 26 de julio al cumplirse 45 años de su fundación.

Al volver la mirada hacia aquellos años soñadores viene a la mente la advertencia de William Faulkner: “El pasado nunca muere. Ni siquiera es pasado”.


Publicado el 27 de junio de 2014 en el No. 807 de la Revista Punto Final, Chile

Alan Gross, American Jailed in Cuba, Vows to Come Home ‘Dead or Alive’

In Alan Gross on April 23, 2014 at 2:39 pm


From NBC News

Alan Gross, the American subcontractor jailed in Cuba, has vowed that he will return to the United States within a year “dead or alive” and is pleading for the White House to intervene, his lawyer said Wednesday.

In an interview from Havana, attorney Scott Gilbert told NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell that after more than four years in 23-hour lockup, his client can’t face the thought of another decade behind bars. 

Photo Credit: Roberto Leon NBC News Havana

Photo Credit: Roberto Leon NBC News Havana

 “He will return to the United States before his 66th birthday, dead or alive,” Gilbert said on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” after meeting with Gross and Cuban offcials.

Gross, 65, lost 11 pounds during a nine-day hunger strike earlier this year. It was unclear if his pledge meant he might undertake another one.

“I think Alan can be volatile, as would be anyone confined in this situation. And I take Alan’s statement not as a threat but as expression of extraordinary frustration and determination and, and as he said to me yesterday, continued hope.”

Gross, a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID),was arrested in 2009 while trying to establish an online network for Jews in Havana.

He was sentenced to 15 years in prison for subversive activities. Gilbert said that Cuban officials reiterated their offer to begin talks about Gross’ possible release with no pre-conditions, but the U.S. has balked.

“We have asked the president to engage,” Gilbert said. “We believe the administration should do whatever it takes to free Alan, who was in Cuba in the first place on U.S.government business.”

Gross spends all but one hour a day in a cell with two other men, his lawyer said. He is allowed two short phone calls a week and his meals are “limited and mediocre,” he said.

 “He does not intend to endure another year of this solitary confinement,” Gilbert said.
— Tracy Connor


Watch  live video from Havana on Andrea Mitchell Reports   @NBC News  Havana

Menos voces en BBC Mundo.

In Politics on March 28, 2014 at 2:54 pm



Me llamó la atención que en la entrada del Sr. Hernando Álvarez de la BBC no hubiera comentario alguno e intenté enviar uno.

Más abajo verán el comentario que intenté publicar en el sitio de BBC Mundo.

No hay forma que lo publiquen. Al parecer, quieren más voces desde Cuba pero en la BBC no quieren oír más que sus propias memeces.


“Me van a tener que disculpar los directivos de la BBC y con el mayor respeto, no entiendo. Cómo el Sr. Álvarez nos cuenta que con Cartas desde Cuba, “Hubo polémica, debates y muchos comentarios a favor y en contra. Es decir, un éxito” para luego decirnos, “Queremos escuchar voces críticas de la revolución que no encuentran espacio en los medios cubanos, pero también a aquellas que apoyan el proceso y de jóvenes que sueñan con mejorar el sistema desde dentro.”

Cartas desde Cuba precisamente se plasma como un éxito gracias a que a través de la buena redacción, una que fue siempre, directa, precisa y oportuna, se logró establecer un dialogo a partir de los comentarios, entre todos; individuos a favor de la Revolución Cubana a ultranza, aquellos que la desprecian visceralmente y los que conforman esa inmensa gama de grises en el medio, todos, participaban. Me parece que lo que BBC Mundo no nos está diciendo es que el problema no es con el contenido de Cartas… el problema es con el creador.

Y si quieren,  considérenme creyente en las teorías de la conspiración, pero me resulta muy interesante que el “fin” de Cartas se produzca justo después de que BBC se negara a publicar la entrada EEUU y la paja en el ojo ajeno | Un escrito donde el autor, arremete contra la doble moral del gobierno de los Estados Unidos respecto al tema de los derechos humanos y hace referencia al caso de los Cinco Agentes cubanos encarcelados en esa misma nación. Es realmente lamentable que la BBC haya caído tan bajo y le brinden tan poco respeto a sus lectores.

Señores míos, no hay peor ciego que el que no quiere ver, mantuvieron a Ravsberg mientras tocaba temas “políticamente correctos” para los intereses allende los mares, en cuanto mencionó algo que no gustó, se acabó la fiesta.

Verdaderamente lamentable. y con los documentales tan buenos que hacen, …  di tu!”

The US and the speck in your neighbor’s eye

In Cuban 5, Politics, US on March 14, 2014 at 2:32 pm


By Fernando Ravsberg

Originally published in Spanish in Cartas desde Cuba 


Cuban-American congresswoman,  Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), surprised many by recently questioning the US justice system when she said it was “extremely disappointing” that the courts had freed one of the 5 Cuban agents, after serving his sentence.

She doesn’t explain what else they could have done, maybe an alternative would have been to send him off to the US Military Base in Guantanamo Bay, where he would have had no legal rights or lawyers to reclaim him, nor would he have been subject to a judicial process..

But it would have been diplomatically incorrect to have done so on the same week that Washington was publishing their list of nations that violate human rights. Every year it highlights the name of Cuba, without mentioning Guantanamo, although that is where the largest number of political prisoners on the island is concentrated.

Secretary of State Kerry didn’t say anything either in spite of the fact that his President opposes the existence of that prison camp and promised to close it down during his first year in office, a time frame long overdue.

The violation of human rights by some does not justify that others do the same. It is absurd that the nation which possesses the most infamous prison in the world, due to the lack of rights offered those detained there, write up a list of violators world wide and not include itself.

But wait, there is more. Beijing also published a report on human rights where the US does appear,  accused of “having perpetrated 376 drone attacks in Pakistan and Yemen, killing 929 people, most of whom were civilians, various children among them.”

It is always easier to see the speck in your neighbor’s eye than the log in your own or in the eyes of “friends”. Thus the governments most vehemently denounced in the US report happen to be “enemies” of Washington, while the human rights violators that are “friends” are barely mentioned.

It wasn’t by coincidence that it was in the US where they said that you can protect an “SOB” as long as he’s “our SOB.” The statement is the best example of a double standard used by the international community and a disservice to the struggle for human rights the world over.

Now things are getting more complicated because the Russian Defense Minister announced that his country is negotiating with Cuba the possibility of establishing Russian military bases on the island. In case anyone has any doubts that they are serious, the next day a Russian navy warship anchored in Havana harbor.

The  students of the University of Computer Sciences (UCI) must be trembling. What if the Russians were  to reclaim their teaching facilities? The current site where the school of higher education resides was previously the Soviet base known as Lourdes, used for  spying on US communications.

It will be difficult for Washington to protest a Russian military presence in Cuba when they maintain a base on the island and subject the rest of the world to illegal eavesdropping, including its European and Latin American allies.

Things have gone so far that the EU and Brazil have agreed to lay a submarine telephone cable between the two continents one which the US will not have access to, and thus avoid the temptation of spying on the official communications of other nations.

Some analysts wonder whether the world will return to a new “Cold War” and nobody knows how all this will be framed within the efforts of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, CELAC, to turn the region into a “Peace Zone.”

Latin America has been free of nuclear weapons for a long time. This year, at the CELAC summit, it decided that all disputes must be resolved peacefully and in the future may well close foreign military bases to avoid getting involved in other nation´s conflicts.

In Cuba´s case, if Washington were to agree to return the Guantanamo Naval Base it would then have the moral authority needed to demand that Havana not allow the installation of military units of other countries on its territory.

This would then be tantamount to a dream come true for two presidents. It would put an end to the military occupation of Guantanamo, a constant  demand made by Raul Castro, and Barack Obama would fulfill his promise of eliminating the prison that has brought the United States so much criticism.


Note: AjiacoMix regrets that this past Thursday marks the first time in seven years that a post from  Cartas desde Cuba does not appear on the BBC site.

Political faux pas or was something lost in translation? …

My grandson in the Protest of the Thirteen (*)

In Education, History on March 11, 2014 at 12:05 pm

By Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada 

Originally published in Spanish for  Cubarte

We spent most of the afternoon watching the sparrows and talking about neocolonial Cuba. “What was young people’s life like then, what were they like?” He would stop playing to ask me over and over again. “Where were you and what were you doing when you met Fidel?”

That’s my grandson, who’s eager to know about Cuba back when his grandfather was his age. In my answers I tried to explain to him what Cuba had been like under [the tyrant Fulgencio] Batista . I think I noticed a certain disappointment on his face when I told him that [president Gerardo] Machado’s regime had come to an end before I was born. As the last of the hummingbirds were flying away and we were going into the house, we talked a little about [Cuban poet, writer and revolutionary leader Rubén Martínez] Villena’s immortal phrase.

The following day I attended “Un paseo por la Historia” [A walk through history]0) at the UIE Elementary School. It was one of those beautiful celebrations that give the word “participation” a real meaning beyond any rhetoric. Present there were all the children from preschool to sixth grade and their teachers –most of whom, not surprisingly, were female– as well as family members and local neighbors. The school building was used both as “dressing room” for the “artists” and to accommodate the audience around.

The students and teachers took over the street. We saw a parade of natives and slaves, mambí and rebel fighters (and their opponents) enacting historic events ranging from the“discovery” to the Cuban Five’s heroic deed. I saw my grandson with the other twelve“protesters”, voicing [president Machado’s nickname] “donkey with claws” and daring the“pro-Machado henchmen” to come out in the open.

It was a form of  Jerzy Grotowski´s “poor theater” , with few material resources. All that was needed was provided by the children, their families and teachers. It was above all, a labor of love and a testament to the enormous moral force that continues to animate countless anonymous educators willing to keep the legacy of Luz, Varela, Martí and so many others alive. Men and woman who throughout the years have known how to feed patriotism and plant the seeds of values in our smallest. Some there present that day lamented the lack of press coverage and one asked me to write something for Cubarte.

I had been to this place over half a century ago on many occasions, with colleagues from the FEU (Federation of University Students) and members of the UIE, (International Union of Students), all of us guided by Ernesto “Che” Guevara, doing voluntary work in the construction of a building where today you can feel Che´s presence, his revolutionary spirit, his authentic magistrate sustained always by example.

At the end of the ceremony we went inside the school, where I saw a comrade from my younger days. Several of his photographs accompany a text which summarizes the life of José Ramón Rodríguez López, whom we called “Ramoncito”, never mind that his strong body had been forged by physical exercise and sports. He was born and raised in Havana’s Vedado neighborhood, right where he was cowardly murdered by the Batista police,  not far from this school which remembers him so well. “Ramoncito” had yet to celebrate his 20th birthday. Had he not been killed on that distant August day, he too would have surely enjoyed –with his own grandchild– last Friday’s unforgettable tour of our history.

And yet, who is to say he wasn’t there? José Ramón, “Che” Guevara and many others came back to life that morning along side all those children whom they joined in song, dance and laughter. Because, as is written on a wall of the  school, children are the ones who know how to love, and love will always vanquish death.



(*) Manifesto drafted by Rubén Martínez Villena and a group of fellow Cuban intellectuals denouncing governmental corruption and triggered by the purchase of the Santa Clara Convent by then-president Alfredo Zayas for more than two million pesos.

A CubaNews translation. Edited by Walter Lippmann. With special thanks to Eileen Boruch-Balzan

And Then There Were Three

In Cuba/US, Cuban 5 on March 4, 2014 at 2:46 pm


By Tom Hayden


Fernando Gonzales became the second member of the Cuban Five to be repatriated to his homeland when he arrived at Havana’s Jose Marti airport on Friday. His prison term cut from nineteen to fifteen years, it was a long journey for Gonzales from a desert cell in Arizona to his release in Havana.

This was one deportation to celebrate.

Gonzales is fifty years old, and will join hands with Rene Gonzales, released last year, in advancing the campaign to free the remaining three.

The US government and media define the men as “spies” who belonged to a Cuban “Wasp network”, when the truth is far different and complicated. The five Cubans were not stealing US nuclear secrets, but monitoring live plots by US-supported Miami Cuban exiles to harass and attack the island. (For a recent authoritative account, see Stephen Kimber, What Lies Across the Water, 2013.)

Resolution of the Cuban Five matter is one of the impediments to overcome in normalizing US-Cuba relations after a fifty year hot-and-cold war. Behind the scenes, contacts and talks are developing. The Cubans are holding a US AID contractor, Alan Gross, convicted in 2011 of illegally smuggling advanced communications equipment into Cuba. His sentence runs through 2026.

There is reason to believe the US position is changing gradually. If so, releases of both Gross and the remaining Cuban Three could evolve on separate tracks as part of a mutual overall resolution of the US-Cuban conflict before President Obama leaves office and President Raul Castro retires.


Mi nieto en la protesta de los Trece

In Cuban 5, History on March 4, 2014 at 11:55 am

Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada

25 de febrero de 2014

Nos pasamos buena parte de la tarde mirando a los gorriones y hablando de la Neocolonia. ¿Cómo vivían entonces los jóvenes, cómo eran? Hacía un alto en su juego para interrogarme una y otra vez ¿Dónde tú estabas, qué hacías, cuándo conociste a Fidel?

Es mi nieto que quiere descubrir cómo era Cuba cuando su abuelo tenía su edad. Traté de explicarle lo que había sido el batistato respondiendo siempre a sus preguntas. Creí notar cierta frustración cuando le dije que el régimen de Machado había terminado cuando yo aun no había nacido. Algo conversamos sobre la imborrable frase de Villena mientras el último zunzún se perdía entre las ramas y entramos a la casa.

Al día siguiente asistí a “Un paseo por la Historia” en la Escuela Primaria UIE. Fue un acto hermoso de esos que dan veracidad al vocablo “participación” más allá de toda retórica. Participaron todos los niños y las niñas, desde los de preescolar hasta el sexto grado y también los maestros y las maestras (ellas, por supuesto, eran mayoría) y no faltaron tampoco los familiares ni los vecinos. El edificio de la Escuela sirvió como “camerino” para los “artistas” y para alojar al público en su exterior.

Los alumnos con sus maestros se hicieron dueños de la calle. Por allí desfilaron aborígenes y esclavos, mambises y rebeldes y también sus antagonistas, desde el “descubrimiento” hasta la heroica hazaña de los Cinco. Vi a mi nieto, junto a los otros doce “protestantes” y luego proclamando “Asno con garras” y desafiando en la calle a la “porra machadista”.

Fue una suerte de “teatro pobre” sin grandes recursos materiales. Todo lo necesario lo aportaron los niños, sus familiares y maestros. Fue sobre todo, una obra de amor y una prueba de la enorme fuerza moral que sigue animando a incontables educadores anónimos capaces de mantener viva la herencia de Luz, Varela y Martí y de tantos otros de nombre desconocido que, a lo largo de los tiempos, han sabido alimentar el patriotismo y sembrar valores en los más pequeños. Algunos de los presentes lamentaron que en el lugar no estuvieran representantes de la prensa y alguien incluso me pidió que hiciera esta nota para Cubarte.

A este lugar concurrí muchas veces hace más de medio siglo, con compañeros de la FEU y miembros de la Unión Internacional de Estudiantes, guiados por Ernesto Guevara, a hacer trabajo voluntario en la construcción de un edificio donde hoy se palpa la presencia del Che, su espíritu revolucionario, su auténtico magisterio fundado siempre en el ejemplo.

Concluido el acto pasamos al interior de la Escuela y me topé con un camarada de juventud. Varias fotos suyas acompañan un texto que resume la existencia de José Ramón Rodríguez López a quien solíamos llamar Ramoncito aunque su cuerpo estaba forjado en la práctica sistemática del ejercicio físico y el deporte. Nació y se crió en el Vedado. Y también en el Vedado, no lejos de esta Escuela que lo recuerda fue asesinado cobardemente por la policía batistiana. Ramoncito no tenía aun veinte años de edad. Si no lo hubiesen matado aquel día de un agosto ya lejano seguramente él habría disfrutado, también con su nieto, el pasado viernes, de un inolvidable paseo por nuestra historia.

Pero ¿quién dice que él no estuvo allí? José Ramón, el Che y muchos otros, volvieron a la vida aquella mañana de la mano de las niñas y los niños y con ellos cantaron, danzaron y rieron. Porque como está escrito en un muro de la Escuela los niños son los que saben querer, y el amor siempre vencerá a la muerte.


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