Archive for December, 2009


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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