Archive | November, 2012

David Escalona, the Strength of Urban Hip-Hop

26 Nov

The songs written and performed by the young musician, David Escalona, carry the very essence of a different Cuba. Omni-Zona Franca, the alternative Havana-based art group, launched the political and social quarrels into the world, and they carry a certain magic. On the night of Saturday, November 24th, I went to go see him once again. He was radiant, as he has been in the best of his concerts. The urban themes, such as survival, the banishment of living- as they have said themselves- in Alamar, a ghost city, or the repression to which they have been subjected for quite some time, are the best of incentives. The ingredients of their poetry of resistance immediately flourish in themes which include social exclusion, political intolerance, and the most refined methods of apartheid in contemporary Cuba.

From the moment the concert opened David explained the main motive of that night: to have a good time amongst young Cubans of other latitudes who had met up in that cosmopolitan city known as Miami. However, after the accustomed courtesy, this versatile artist asked for his concert-goers to pay close attention when he said, loud and clear, that he was dedicating that concert to his friend and compatriot Antonio Rodiles, who is still detained in a police station of Havana for daring to demand justice from the olive-green authorities. With the song “Dare and You Will See“, he started the party.

He’s an exceptional musician who walks on a slippery bridge of governmental confrontation and turns art into a useful tool, used to raise some fists, the will of the non-conformists. In an interview through Skype, he explained that he makes “free-hop” because he considers himself to be a free man, because when we are convinced of our cause “no one can take anything from us, no one can give us anything. Freedom is in us and no one can take that way”. The concert was enriched by the vocal talent of Soandry, the creator of Hermanos de Causa (‘Brothers in Cause’), that duo which shook the days of Havana as well as the improvised rap and hip-hop festivals of the 90’s in the island. The Cuban soul of right now vibrated this past Saturday in Downtown Miami. An extraordinary David stood in the small concert hall, and said on various occasions, “do not fall asleep, there is always an enemy”. This time, he dedicated all his urban strength and talent to a friend, to that same Rodiles who so many people want to see free from the iron bars and barbaric treatments. That is David- contradictory, luminous, and energetic like a flash of light in the darkness.

Malcom, the Generous Hand

21 Nov

It’s Monday the 19th, and it is the first day of school in the United States for my son Malcom. They have placed him in an excellent educational center. It is a preview of our lives here, but at the same time it somehow also connects with what we left behind. No one asked us for our party affiliation, and there was not a single director who demanded to see our proof of social integration. This is a sharp contrast, which we will be grateful of for the rest of our lives.

What makes me the happiest of this course which he has continued 90 miles from his first home is that he doest not have to lift his hand and put his thumb on his forehead and say that he wants to be like someone. In Cuba, when told, all students must repeat at the top of their lungs “Pioneers for Communism!”, and “We Will be like Che Guevara!” Here, they want him to be like himself, what they wish to see in his attitude is his capacity to demonstrate his talent and physical and intellectual abilities. This morning, he raised his hand to offer it in friendship to dozens of children from three continents. He made some cartoon drawings and excitedly brought them home. It was a new day, with no necessities to read him a manual about heroes chosen by a few, nor will they ask him to praise what he does not want.

A tricolor soccer ball rolled bounced off the ground and the steps of my son walked towards the field like someone searching for the world, with strength, with reasons and with desires of being the man who had his dreams interrupted a few years ago, but who stars again now as a simple schoolboy that will offer his generous hand and not a scream, a kick, or a slogan.

Rodiles, Targeted by the Regime

12 Nov

Two opposite dynamics have had to change their actions in order to prevail: government repression and the peaceful opposition.  Everyday Cubans have taken up arms with new technologies, they have supported each other with the scarce glimmers left behind by the inefficient Constitution of the Republic, while the oppressors have had to beat them out on the street without consideration, leaving themselves to be photographed by anonymous citizens and assimilating the political cost before international public opinion.

The recent temporary detentions, beatings and interrogations against a large number of Cuban dissidents have revealed two important aspects between non-conformist citizens and guarantors of the old Stalinist power.  The victims protested in front of an important department of the Ministry of the Interior in the Cuban capital.  On one hand, it has been proven that the intensity of the beatings against them is the same, while the dissidents have combined the most useful of diffusion tools to spread their message, and  their membership has been increasing.

In the scuffle which State Security started this past 10th of November, there was a well-known writer, various lawyers (three of whom were detained and taken to dungeons), a scholar, a blogger known to the entire world, five former political prisoners from the group of the 75 (The Black Spring of 2003), the 2010 Sakharov Award Recipient, various human rights activists, and Antonio G. Rodiles, the director of the independently produced TV show Estado de Sats, which was recently nominated for an Emmy.

In other words, the group of detainees represented a large range of social disagreement happening right now.

Rodiles…the new repressive wave.

At this point in time, many ask themselves why the aggressions against Antonio Rodiles.  What did the prudent political police officials find in this restless intellectual?  The Citizen Demand for a Another Cuba could have gone by as just another initiative, but the restrictive claws of the high ranks of the Military’s Counter-Intelligence do not want to take any more chances.

The Citizens’ Demand for Another Cuba, which demands that the government ratify the covenants it signed at the UN in 2008 and “immediately put the legal and political guarantees in practice,” in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, has gained the support of diverse sectors of the dissidence in Cuba.  In this manner, with each passing day more Cubans in and out of the island are supporting it — a detail which rapidly gains support.

Rodiles, a young intellectual, devised a way to report and shed light on the most diverse of thoughts and anti-Castro activism through filmed interviews in his home.  The “televised programs” of Estado de Sats are filmed and edited in a beautiful, yet simple, fashion, without any technological gadgets and as soon as they are uploaded onto channels for massive diffusion such as YouTube, they quickly receive much attention throughout the entire national geography.

Yoani Sánchez… stepping it up to another level.

In the video of the arrest this past 7th of November, one can see precious details of the brutal repression, and there are two aspects which should not be forgotten if one wants to know the current Cuban reality.  The first is that, once again, an anonymous citizen filmed high-ranking soldiers during an operation.  The second factor is that the repressive actions are being accompanied by a face, and in that sense, the blogger Yoani Sanchez carries a fundamental weight.

Known for her brief writings in the most popular blog in the Spanish-speaking world, Yoani has been the protagonist of courses and workshops about the tools of the modern technological world, and of citizen empowerment.

That brief video of an Immigration official, lacking arguments, notifying her that she had no Exit Permit for leaving Cuba, went around the world.  Yoani was inaugurating the sessions of cyber-victims, promoting (nearly online) her outrage.  Without a doubt, the strategists of the Cuban Intelligence fell in the trap of a haughtiness which they did not need and with which they cast blame on themselves.

The husband of the dissident blogger, journalist Reinaldo Escobar, being pushed by a mass of braggarts with lynching licenses was another episode for which he and Yoani supplied the architecture.  Escobar challenged a notable operation and posted himself, like a neighborhood kid on a central street of the capital, to await his ‘opponent’ and this time turned the screw: the accredited media outlets in Havana filmed and projected the images of these government sponsored repressive acts against a defenseless citizen to the world.  Once again, Yoani Sanchez was pulling the strings, and moving the chess pieces.

When a well-known independent journalist revealed his ties to the political police, Cuban television let loose its machinery of propaganda and aired a series of documentaries titled “Cuba’s Reasons,” where they exhibited photos, videos, and other testimonies about the Civic Resistance.  As a response, the author of Generation Y took it to another level and created an improvised television studio in her house.  She  started to publish interviews with members of civil society which she put in the series known as “Citizen’s Reasons,” revealing the freshest of faces and thoughts of those confronting the old military dictatorship.

They seem like small skirmishes, but with her actions Yoani Sanchez has received  the same amount of praise outside of Cuba as slanders published by former president Fidel Castro, as well as an acceptance among the important actors of the Cuban opposition, acknowledging that she has opened a crack, a path paved by legitimate appropriations of civic tools which have always been there but which the dictatorship has criminalized.

The act of a citizen publishing the face of repression in Cuba from his/her cell phone arms the arguments against the regime’s henchmen.  It is not an invention of the famed blogger, but it was she who put it in practice, which consecrates her in the history of the Civic Resistance on the island.

The Country Which Screams and the Country Which Waits

9 Nov

National baseball season in Cuba is about to begin. Once again, the bleachers of the entire nation will hear the free screams of those who bet for their local picks, and the island will have news of the fervor of its sons. The best known workers of the interior towns will organize trips to the capitals of the provinces, renting trucks to see the games. It doesn’t matter that they return during late night hours. For them, the valor of that sacrifice lies in seeing the local prospects, wearing the shirts of their local teams and screaming at the top of their lungs in favor of their favorite team, the allowed insults, the obscenities of a spirit contained in rage and frustration. Many times I have asked myself when will be the day when those shouts and expressions take on the cause of civil disobedience, of the unconformity of those inside, with the ovens turned off, scorched hopes and broken dreams. When one screams at the top of their lungs for teams like the Industrials, Santiago or Matanzas, something begins to take part in the conscience for the scream of tomorrow.

One defender of the socialist Cuban essay occurred to say one day that the baseball “meeting” in the Central Park was one of the most important democratic debates in the country. Of course, he said it in the lampoon “El Caiman Barbudo” [‘The Bearded Alligator], which served as the cultural organ of the Young Communist Union for a long time. Years later, the non-conformist Orlando Zapata Tamayo decided to make his own public debate in favor of Human Rights in the Central Park of Havana, which was an antecedent which cost him an abusive sentence, of more than 50 years, which led to his death during a hunger strike. The ‘democratic space’ of the baseball parks of Cuba are muzzled by laws as absurd as Disrespect of the Commander in Chief, Public Disorder and the ridiculous Pre-Criminal Social Dangerousness Law, all of which attack citizen unconformity, which will break free sooner or later.

In Search of Hope

9 Nov

Steps towards collapse.  Do they tell the true story of that project of a nation usurped and which they have named Cuba?  Cuba says, time of election or voting?  Do they tell the story of unknown faces, of that dreamt Cuba in the simplest of grasps.  Do we all count, says the state gibberish.  “We all count?”, asks the anonymous soldier of everyday life.

Violator and Ousted

1 Nov

The whirlwind of corruption, the lack of ethics and the indiscipline have shaken the foundations of the police unit of San German, in Holguin. Another neighborhood bloodhound has been victim of its own bite, originally trained to demolish any form of human vestige. This time, the ousted person is First Lieutenant Eduardo Gomez Quinones who, until the moment of his removal, worked as Second Chief of the Police Unit of San German, Holguin. The mentioned soldier was surprised when caught forcing his 15 year old stepdaughter to take part in lewd games. He was taken to trial now and locked up in the dungeons of the Instructional Police Unit, waiting a sentence no less than 20 years, according to the penal code. Just a few weeks ago, his wife surprised him at night, which brought forth a family scandal and then came the detention. It would have been just another piece of news, but Lieutenant Quinones has been considered one of the most violent police officers of this area in a long time, according to the testimonies of various citizens.

Eduardo Gomez Quinones, an impetuous young police agent, rapidly ascended from a Patrol Guard to Functionary of Public Order and from there to Second in Charge of the local police barracks. Last February, on this blog I denounced the beating he gave to the prisoner Ramiro Hernandez Batista. In addition to fracturing one of his legs and one of his arms, the prisoner was imprisoned under charges of disobedience and resistance of arrest. At that time, the wife of the mentioned police, who worked as the Director of Commerce in that area was substituted of her charge a few weeks later due to inefficiencies in her job. However, this functionary continued getting away with his crimes. A source close to the family assured that the minor had a personal diary where she had mentioned the death threats, the morbid scenes, the sexual obligations which she was subjected to, and all the details between the first and last time. Other sources have indicated that Eduardo Quinones was under investigation also because of corruption, which has not been confirmed due to the secrecy in which the case has been sealed.

From the beginning of 2011 to the date, other inherent agents have been sentenced to military discipline because of Abuse of Power in San German: Captain Vladimir Aldana Rodriguez (Chief of the Unit), First Lieutenant Alexander La O (Chief of Sector), and Lieutenant Jerson Blanco (Chief of Sector). All of these were demoted and are serving a sentence in penitentiaries of the province. In addition, Lieutenant Manuel Gonzalez, up to just a few months ago, had substituted Aldana Rodriguez as Chief of the Unit. Quinones, on his part, had substituted Manuel Gonzalez as 2nd Chief of Unit. The opinion of the locals is that as long as appalling actions such as these by the police keep occurring, then they will keep persecuting independent sellers, unemployed youths, dissidents and non-conformists.