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Archive for December, 2009

granma1

The newspaper Granma with Raul Castro’s speech to the National Assembly

By Dagoberto Valdés

The speech of Cuba’s President of the Council of State has been a rosary of bad news for Cuban men and women: “The year 2010 will be difficult and we will continue with the financial restrictions derived from the crisis.”

“They have reduced the retentions of payment by more than a third.”  Nothing more, at the end of a year in which they froze the accounts of foreign companies.

For the other two thirds of those guys there is also bad news: they will honor the commitments to the last cent, but, “in accordance with the abilities of the economy.”  The same one that is collapsing in productivity, efficiency and liquidity.

The solution of replacing imports with national production are only “medium term”; this commonly means between three and five years or more.  Another: the introduction of new taxes, “a tool to which we will have to become accustomed in a short time.”  Medium term for that one, a little time for this one.

“Difficulties and manifestations of favortism in the distribution of lands in usufruct, are also recognized.  They have only been able to distribute 54% of these idle available lands.  The proposal to “reorient the excessive workforce in budgeted and managerial sectors,” is precisely the clearance of these idle lands full of the marabu weed.

“The low level of existing production” and the “issue of employment” will be the priorities of the coming year. This in accompanied by, “in the majority of cases the results have been far from the expectations we hoped for, in the first place because of subjective factors, among them disorganization and the passive resistance of middle management to change their mentality, which we know is more difficult.”  Will it be possible to change this in the coming year or will this be medium or long term?

It appears that significant dates to spend with your family and rest will again be eradicated from the holiday calendar in sectors such as construction, making reference to the sugar harvest: “The pernicious practice of massive time off for the builders on significant dates such as the end of the year, Mother’s Day, July 26th and the carnivals was maintained…”  Do they remember when they abolished Christmas in 1969 for the sugar harvest?

Something good and bad

“To those deputies who had the honesty to express doubts about the velocity and depth of the changes that we have to introduce into the functioning of the economy in order to strengthen our socialist society…”  The president and general expressed textually, “In this sense, I limit myself, for now, to expressing that, in the actualization (sic) of the Cuban economic model… there can be no space for improvisation and hastiness.”

Making it clear that we cannot know everything, that the actualization of the same Cuban model is only an attempt, and with regards to that, what they have tried to do many times in 50 years won’t even be rapid.

With regards to the question of race and gender, he said, “…personally I consider the insufficient advance in this area in 50 years of Revolution to be shameful.”

It is fair to say that, whatever happened in the past, something good is coming: once relations with the United States improve.  However from no source did we hear or read that there was the same intention to improve relationship between different people without the Cuban people itself.

How is it that we can be disposed to normalize relations with historic adversaries and not admit the same dialog with fellow citizens who think and act differently?

Nothing, or almost nothing, in this end-of-year speech feeds hope.  Or perhaps that is all it feeds?

(All the citations were taken from the official version of the speech published in the newspaper Granma, on Monday, December 21, 2009, pp 2, 3 and 4)

Translator: Lourdes Gonzalez

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The Incredible Wall


The wall against the digital magazine “Convivencia” in Karina Galvez’s patio.

By Jesuhadín Pérez Valdés

The wall has been a success. If it had been our initiative for the world to notice us, they would have been determined to destroy it.

Walls serve not only to divide. Used well, they are interesting. With a little paint the wall can be converted from a blank page to a canvas, an instrument for giving vent to our hopes. A pathetic wall can be changed to the point where it turns into a symbolic and sacred place, or a weapon. The secret is knowing how to transform it; looking for the bright side, the usefulness.

The wall in the Galvez’s patio is not the only wall that divides humanity, but it is the youngest. Not yet weaned and already speaking. First of authoritarianism, despotism and injustice. The poor thing hasn’t been taught otherwise. A wall is always a wall, like a donkey is a donkey, or a cactus is a cactus… there is no cure. A donkey cannot be a stallion, nor a cactus a rose bush. I touched the poor wall as a symbol of repression. And it spoke. It was a dramatic speech. Incendiary. Full of profanity. Forty-eight hours after it had been tamed. At least on our side. It went from an instrument of torture to a means of expression. Now it looks different. Much more eloquent.

What was a limit to freedom, is now the mural of our aspirations. People paint and write what they want and what they feel. It doesn’t look like a wall, it looks like a blogger. Filled with short sentences. Symbols.

Everyone paints. Everyone comes to see. Everyone reads what is written and what is implied. Everyone thinks… it is a thousand times more powerful than an editorial. And the most curious is, we did not do it ourselves. They did it for us. We were insignificant, now the entire world is paying attention. Because of a wall. A wall that is now “our wall.” And that serves to say what we didn’t say before. I think we already like it! What would we do without this wall? Which of us would write words so daring and huge on paper? Now look!

It is versatile. Immediate. And above all, huuuuuge. The whole world is watching from their armchairs. And not only that, as word spreads in the media more people become interested in it. Those who, because of distance, cannot see it call Karina and ask her, please, describe it. After she does so, they exclaim: “That is incredible!”

Jesuhadín Pérez Valdés. (1973)

Member of the Editorial Board of the magazine Convivencia (Coexistence)

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By Virgilio Toledo

Most people think about what they have done at the end of a year, prepare a Christmas Eve supper, give presents to their relatives and set new goals for the coming year. Most Cubans are overwhelmed by uncertainty and fear because they have nothing to “put in the pot” or if they are asked what their plans are for 2010 the most common answers are: none, to leave the country, to try to survive or “to keep struggling”.

One can breath, feel and suffer the fear faced with the difficult present and the uncertain future because we do not know where we are going, because we only receive pessimistic messages from the present administration telling us that the only way is to plan and economize more even when they also admit that this will not be enough. You can imagine the frustration!

And to make things worse, “the pressure rises inside the pressure cooker”, “the people can not take it any longer”; every day there are more demonstrations of disagreement, of protest, demanding responsibility from a power that has always pretended to have everything under control and to be able to solve everything without managing to do so and so it responds threatening, suppressing from fear that people might take the way of civic adulthood.

In front of so much uncertainty and fear one must establish new projects, one must look for new ways to rebuild the civic-mindedness and ensure the restoration of our society, as well as putting into action the full potential of the Cuban, which are not a few.

Cuba is in a crisis in many senses. To overcome this crisis, it is not enough to plan, economize and control. I, as a citizen make three suggestions to reverse the present situation of the country:

1. To allow the private property, small and medium size businesses.

2. To allow freedom of expression, association, travel and access to information.

3. To keep the education reforms, but gradually make it less ideological; private education should be allowed and the students should be able to make use of scholarships to study inside and outside Cuba.

4. To encourage in a real way, by means of subsidies, agricultural production.

I went too far. I said three and it turned out to be four suggestions; recommend your own as a Cuban and work for them. I believe that if we do so, we would be helping to eliminate, faster than we believe, the uncertainty and the fear that rule our society today.

Virgilio Toledo López (Pinar del Rio, 1966)

Electronic engineer, member of the Editorial Board and founder of the journal Convivencia

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Municipal garbage dump of Pinar del Río

by Juan Carlos Fernández

It’s pathetic but true, I still see the same thing the same, for too long already, some will say.

At the closing session of the National Assembly of People’s Power, which wants to be but can’t, for internal and intestinal problems: The president of the Councils of State and of Ministers again proposes dialogue with the United States of America in the middle of a totally disconnected and incoherent speech, but full, it’s true, of apocalyptic predictions for the next year. Well, very good.

Raúl Castro only forgets a single detail, significant, I think: we’re left abandoned in the ditch, once again. The dialogue proposes doors opened outward, what is inside, on the island, takes second, third, fourth or I don’t know what number.

We come back to the same place, looking outside when what we must do is concentrate on the heart of our country, the proposals of thousands of Cubans who are leaving their soul in and for Cuba, are rejected.

Many have said, among whom I count myself, that for the whole blessed problem of the nation to be solved we must start from within. The government has already tried, with bitter scenarios, solutions that have put aside the proposals from within the island, to exclude them would repeat the mistakes of the past and to delay a process of change that, however much it hurts the Cuban government is inevitable, and in fact, for some time, has begun to move.

The repression that is taking place across the country and the raising of all types of walls does not help in anything that is unfolding in Cuba, it may delay delivery, but never stop it.

Hopefully the Cuban government will not, once again, drive the bus… it could be the last and now they don’t have to face it.

Juan Carlos Fernández Hernández. (1965). Ex Co-Director of the Brotherhood of Help for Prisoners and their Families of Prison Pastoral Care. Animator of civil society.

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Last December 15, 2009, was a historic moment for “Proyecto Convivencia” (Project Coexistence) and its magazine.

Proyecto Convivencia started two and a half years ago and its magazine will celebrate 2 years on February 15, 2010. Its spreading has been affected by our ineffectiveness and inexperience in overcoming the obstacles generated by the Cuban cyber-censorship over the mass media.

The boomerang that created walls of exclusion has began to fly, and now comes back with waves of solidarity for many Cubans inside and outside Cuba, for many people of goodwill that work for justice, peace, and prosperity of humankind. Before December 15, just a group of friends, readers, and fans of the old Vitral magazine, and some interested in the issue of Cuba, knew of the existence of the new project called Convivencia and its magazine. But now, thousands of people in the world are aware of our little efforts in achieving a better future for Cuba.

Of course, the biggest benefit from this wall of exclusion has not been publicity but solidarity, unity among Cubans who love their country, to show to the world the true nature of a political regime that has kidnapped liberties in Cuba, to contemplate the capacity and huge potentials of our people, potentials that well channeled can build up many walls of coexistence and harmony.

I believe in the positive force of good aiming, in the stronghold of walls when their materials have the consistency and flexibility of coexistence, I believe that all this unwanted publicity that the Virgin of Caridad del Cobre and her son gave us will be a new stimulus in bringing fresh air and hope to Cuba, new dreams to come true and projects that can lead us to happiness at last after all this waiting and suffering.

May this 2010 be the year when coexistence is built up among all Cubans with no exception and no violence, with justice and love. The boomerang of this coexistence will benefit us all and will bring well-being for the Cubans as José Martí dreamed of and worked for.

Translated by: Josema

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by Livia Chiu Galvez

I was told that behind the wall they divided the spoils.  That behind the wall they don’t want to stop and think about what they did.  That behind the wall they made new plans: “We will put umbrellas on the roof” and “How great is the bathroom, you have to open the other door!” and “We already have a meeting room!”

I see in front of the wall we share the dreams and the chores, the real friendship grows and the sharing, too.  This is our loot.  We divide and we share it.  Here we decide what to do with it, that as time passes it becomes larger.  To have it, we didn’t have to break walls, nor take anything away from anyone.

Livia Chiu Galvez
Lic. in Accounting and Finance.
Copy Editor of the journal Coexistence.

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By Virgilio Toledo

The screw that we see in the photo is one of the screws that they tried to use to build the double layer dividing wall that took by force a big area of the patio of the property of the Gálvez Chiu family . However this screw refused to be part of it because it has been made to be part of a building where all Cubans could live together.

This could be a good time for each Cuban to meditate and decide. What kind of screw are we or will we be? Which type of building do we want to be a part of? Are we going to be part of a wall that promotes division, confrontation, hate and destruction or are we going to be part of the building which encourages us to live together, in solidarity, peace and uplifting?

Cuba needs no more walls like the one in the Gálvez Chiu house, which was built to destroy a place of peace, creation and harmony. Cuba needs every day more and more screws willing to sustain the building of prosperity and happiness, which will encourage us to live peacefully together.

Although this is an individual decision, it can help to know that it is never too late to stop being a screw of a dividing structure. Just like it happened in the case of the Gálvez Chiu property, when some of the builders who were asked to build the double layer dividing wall, used their freedom and refused to collaborate, conscious of the unfairness of the work to which they’d been summoned.

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Walls and Walls

boquete-por-donde-irrumpierona

By Karina Gálvez

Power that is misused will always attempt to put walls on the natural freedom of the human soul. And I think we can do this too. Many Cubans have been victims of the walls. The walls in many forms: threats, imprisonment, beatings, acts of repudiation, expulsion or walls, literally. Fear, apathy, inertia, indifference, ignorance. Everything that slows the release of the person is a wall.

There is at least one difference between the walls. Some, we must build slowly inside the person. You have to plant them, grow them inside. Having fear, apathy or indifference grow in our being in crippling dimensions, is putting up walls inside. Walls are very harmful because they dominate the human will and make our critical judgement and our decisions and actions subordinate to the space they leave us. Arguably the most effective are wrong because the interior walls are not your responsibility. They are the responsibility of those that put them in place.

This eases my conscience gives me peace that our wall had to be another type.

Translated by Karen

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miembros-del-equipo-de-convivencia1

by Dagoberto Valdes

In front of Karina’s backyard wall up by the Cuban government against Convivencia on December 15, 2009 I wondered myself what to do after the impact of the early days. I remembered that old saying of the Civic Center and Vitral: 15 minutes to complain and 45 to propose answers.

The avalanche of solidarity has been big. Through my mind pass the first wordless handshakes, pats on the shoulder in the middle of the street with a phrase that says much in Cuba: Dago is not easy, not easy. We begin to get the first calls of the diaspora, journalists who wish to witness first hand, the diplomats accredited in Havana, the neighbor who constantly ask me: but what are they thinking?

I go back to Karina’s backyard. I meditate in front of the wall that is getting filled with roosters, hearts, doves and hands. I put mine on the paint can and paint a sun while I pray for Cuba. Inside the sun shape my open hand and I promise myself not to raise it to the aggressor, not to react to the slanderer with the shadows of hatred, or to the walls with asphyxia.

But this is not just good intentions, something must be done to be worthy of this unearned honor: nothing less than a wall for Convivencia. A wall speaks for itself. What explanation can be given to this double block of zinc and brick with which they meet our noses? One must be blind or complicit: They built a wall in Pinar del Rio. Does anyone need more evidence?

As we always do faced with danger or joy, our group meets. We share the pain of the family, we divide among us the impotence of repression. And soon, Toledo proposed to do what for as long as two years, we have considered and postponed to give priority to the magazine Convivencia: The magazine is only bimonthly. Let’s each write a testimony and publish it with our pictures on the website We did it. We worked through the late night and during a whole intense morning. At 5pm our testimony was posted on the web.

The next day, another meditation, another push. Many people ask us how are we going to respond to this provocation. We all agree that faced with violence, walls and gags, there is only one peaceful and profound response: more peace, more space and voice. Not louder but more frequent voices. Not with offensive voices but with proposing voices. That’s it.

If they want to wall off Convivencia then I think it’s best to weave more coexistence into the space within the walls. Thus, from the crevices of the double wall of Pinar del Rio, emerges a new communal blog to the web. Behold the miracle: walls that give birth from their wombs to more information, more communication, more solidarity, and so this blog will be called INTRAMUROS, within the walls.

I thank those who ordered, implemented and built the two walls: they, also, are responsible for this blog. I thank the Convivencia team to which I belong, specialists in turning crisis into growth, walls into space and gags into voices. I will not be able to thank enough this training that has enable me to gain a foothold in the mystique of the proposals for Cuba and not in the regret and paralysis.

More coexistence, now within walls, is one of the fruits kneaded by the sledgehammer, the block and the steel that have raised a symbol that everyone in the world can understand.

Translated by Lourdes Gonzalez

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