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Stories from and

Cubans Join Authorised Users of Google Chrome

Google Chrome finally becomes “legal” in Cuba and blogger Yoani Sanchez says that she gleans great satisfaction from “knowing that the opinions of citizens interested in the free flow of information and technology influenced the elimination of this prohibition.”

Cuba's Customs Clamps Down in “Illegal Imports”

On September 1, 2014 the Customs Service of the Republic of Cuba will begin enforcing new regulations intended to combat illegal trafficking of merchandise by relatives, friends and ‘mules’ (a slang term for couriers of goods from overseas through airports and port facilities).

Iván's File Cabinet considers this “one more turn of the screw”, explaining that since 2011, there have been new measures every year to try and stop the illegal importation of goods by families and private businesses on the island.

The Problem of Bullying in Cuba

Abuse at school is an issue that is rarely discussed in the national media, but it affects hundreds, even thousands, of students across the country.

Generacion Y blogs about bullying in Cuba.

Cuban Journalists & Bloggers

One side questioned the silence of the press on issues of interest to the public and the other cast doubt on the convenience of publishings posts with ‘incendiary’ news.

Havana Times looks at the divide between journalists and bloggers, making the point that this “runs counter to the fusion that takes place in cyberspace.”

Cuba: Throwing Sticks at Language

Havana Times explores the origin of a controversial idiom that brings into focus “the sexual idiosyncrasies of people in the Caribbean and those of Cubans in particular.”

Cuban Music Legend of “Los Van Van” Juan Formell Dies

Photo from On Cuba.

Juan Formell. Photo from On Cuba.

The founder and director of the legendary Cuban ensemble Los Van Van, the bassist Juan Formell, died in Havana, Cuba, on May 1st. He was 71 years-old. For the last 45 years, Formell and Los Van Van have been inspiring people to dance with their Cuban rhythm. Los Van Van, and Formell, are some of the most beloved Cuban musicians in the world. Blogger, journalist and Global Voices author, Rafael González Escalona, says in an article for “On Cuba”:

There are bad, mediocre and magnificent musicians. And there's a tiny club of musicians destined to radically change the soundscape of a country. And if anyone in Cuba is a member of the VIP club, that is Juan Formell.

Perhaps the best way to celebrate the life and legacy of Juan Formell is dancing. With this in mind, let's see if you can remain seated during the 2004 Los Van Van concert in the Karl Marx theater in Havana: 

Journalism, Cuban Style

Iván's File Cabinet shares some of the must-haves if you want to be a journalist in Cuba.

Cubans’ Daily Concerns Trump Controversial Handshake

While the Obama-Raúl thing sent a large part of the exiled Cuban-American community…into an uproar, in Havana [it] was little more than just another bit of news.

Iván García offers insight as to why most Cubans overlooked the exchange.

400 Cuban Doctors Go to Brazil

David Oliveira de Souza, a doctor and professor from the Research Institute of the Sirio-Libanés Hospital, sent an open letter to the more than four hundred Cuban doctors who recently arrived in Brazil and who constitute the first group of a total of 4,000 physicians who are expected to come to this country before December of this year.

Maternal home in Cuba. (Foto: Randy Rodríguez Pagés)

Maternal home in Cuba. (Foto: Randy Rodríguez Pagés)

The missive, published by the daily Folha from Sao Paulo, states:

Welcome, Cuban doctors. You will be very important for Brazil. The lack of doctors in remote and outlying areas have left our people in a difficult situation. Do not worry about hostility from some of our colleagues. You will be compensated greatly by the warm welcome in the communities for which you will care from this point on.

According to Oliveira de Souza, in states like Sergipe, it is easy to move from the capital to the Interior, but even so there are hundreds of unused job positions, even in equipped health units and in good conditions.

Before the deficit of 14,500 physicians in the South American nation, the government of Dilma Rousseff approved the “Mais Medicos” (More Doctors) program, which will contract doctors from Spain, Portugal, and Cuba, among other nations.

Recently, one of the principle critiques on the contracting of Cubans states that “they were being exploited.” In the face of this argument, Oliveira de Souza says in his letter:

It was talked about as if they would work like slaves. The Panamerican Health Organization (PHO), with a century of experience, would be an accomplice, since it signed the cooperation agreement with the government of Brazil. Their smiling faces in the airports condemn those hypotheses. In the name of our village and the majority of our doctors, I can only say with conviction: a brotherly hug and thank you very much.

Cuba: Another Brick in the Wall?

The whole process is managed and legitimated by a whole army of high-level psychologists and pedagogues in the name of the common Good.

Erasmo Calzadilla blogs at Havana Times about the state of education in Cuba: “Till recently, school and repression were for me synonymous.”

Safety Measures Against Ebola in Cuba

Thus far, no-one in Cuba has contracted the deadly Ebola virus and the government wants to keep it that way. Havana Times reports on “increased control measures to prevent the possible introduction of Ebola into Cuba”, adding that The Ministry of Public Health and other supporting agencies are being extra vigilant with monitoring any visitors arriving from high-risk countries.

Cuban Architect Mario Coyula Remembered

Bloggers mourn the passing of prominent Cuban architect Mario Coyula, who died at 79 from cancer.

“We are Leaderless” in Cuba

Jóvenes cubanos (Foto: El Microwave)

Young Cubans (Photo: El Microwave)

In an emotional post by Rafael González, author of the blog El Microwave, he questions: Are any of us willing to sacrifice time, prestige, fortune and emotional stability in support of an improbable change in the climate of the state of affairs in Cuba?

The author builds on multiple issues which the current Cuban society has yet to resolve.  

 El basurero recoge los desechos cómo y cuándo le parece; que el médico tiene –conscientemente o no– instaurada la cultura del regalo como método de sobrevivencia; que el abogado solo está buscando cómo extraerle algunos pesos de más al cliente; que a los comerciantes no les basta con lucrar irracionalmente sino que encima pretende –y logra– robarte en la mercancía; que los maestros han confundido, en el mejor de los casos, la instrucción con la cultura, cuando no han llegado a sucesos como el de Waterpre.

The garbage man picks up the rubbish how and when he feels up to it; the physician has –consciously or not– imposed the gifting economy as a method of survival; the attorney is only searching for ways to take away yet a few more pesos from the client; it's not enough for the shopkeeper to profit unreasonably, but also sets out –and achieves– to short you your goods; the teachers have confused, in most cases, an education with culture, when happenings like the Waterpre haven't even surfaced.

“What is left for us with such outlook?,” asks the author.

Al periodismo –periodistas mediante– le queda recuperar su responsabilidad social como bien público que es, y a la sociedad en general reasumir esa condición ética que –dicen– atraviesa nuestra historia y explota de tanto en tanto.

In journalism–by means of reporters– accountability of the social responsibility has yet to be recovered as a public asset, and  as a society in general, resuming that ethical status –which they say– runs through our history and exploits from time to time.

“If so much discontent exists and so many sense the issues and its probable causes, why is that nothing changes?,” he questions once again.  

No tenemos líderes (…) el no tener líderes es fatal para cualquier proceso de transformación social, por más inquietudes ciudadanas que hayan.

We are leaderless(…) not having leaders is fatal to any social transformational process, no matter how many citizen's concerns there are.

Since the remarks, Disamis Arcia points out

No puede evitar preguntarte si entonces tiene que existir primero un líder para que la gente se mueva, o si la indiferencia esta que padecemos in extensus no tiene causas más jodidas que la inexistencia de liderazgo.

One can not fail to ask if a leader needs to exist, in order for the people to take action, or if the indifference that we suffer from in extensus is stemmed from no other than the damned nonexistence of leadership.

Cuba: The Joys of Getting Older

Cuban diaspora blog My big, fat, Cuban family shares 59 “wonderful truths” about aging.

It's Not Easy Being Black in Cuba

The worst news for black and mixed-race Cubans is that there are no independent legal institutions that protect them in the face of government neglect.

Iván's File Cabinet reports that non-whites are still marginalized in Cuba.

Human Rights Video: 2013 Year in Review

A video by WITNESS on the Human Rights Channel of YouTube wrapped up some of the most significant protests and human rights abuses of 2013. Dozens of clips shot by citizens worldwide are edited together to show efforts to withstand injustice and oppression, from Sudan to Saudi Arabia, Cambodia to Brazil.

A post on the WITNESS blog by Madeleine Bair from December 2013, celebrates the power of citizen activism using new technologies including video, while readers are reminded that the difficulty of verification and establishing authenticity remains a big obstacle.

“Citizen footage can and is throwing a spotlight on otherwise inaccessible places such as prisons, war zones, and homes,” says Bair. “But given the uncertainties inherent in such footage, reporters and investigators must use it with caution.”

Cuba: Madiba Was Great, But Not Perfect

Cuban blog Without Evasion says the best way in which she can pay tribute to Nelson Mandela is by “imitating him in forgiveness and reconciliation”:

I forgive you…for the friendship with…the vilest dictator my people has ever had…for placing your hand –redemptive for your people- on the bloodied shoulders of the one who excludes and reviles mine.

Cuba Temporarily Reestablishes Consular Services in the United States

The Cuban Interest Section, the country's diplomatic mission in Washington, has temporarily reestablished its consular services until 17 February 2014. The decision comes after M&T Bank Corporation indicated they would postpone closing the Cuban diplomatic mission's accounts in the United States. 

The official announcement by the Cuban Interest Section is an indication that the country “will continue efforts to identify a new bank to take over the operation of its accounts and, to the extent that this is achieved, will be capable of permanently normalizing consular services.” 

According to the website Café Fuerte, “it is estimated that some 80,000 people travel to Cuba from the United States during the December holiday period.”

Last July 12, M&T Bank Corporation informed the Cuban Interest Section in Washington that it would no longer offer banking services to foreign diplomatic misions. As a result, the Cuban Interest Section and the Cuban Permanent Mission to the United Nations found themselves, in short order, having to terminate the relationship and initiate the search for a new financial institution with which to conduct their banking activities. 

This situation had prompted the Cuban Interest Section to suspend its consular services until further notice. 

Could Guantánamo Be Returned to Cuba?

Michael Parmly, ex-representative of the United States in Cuba, suggested to President Barack Obama that the Guantánamo military base be returned to the island's authorities, along with other recommendations mentioned in a 26 page report which the news agency Reuters had access to and which will be published shortly at the Fletcher Forum of World Affairs.

Entrada a la provincia de Guantánamo, Cuba. (Foto: Ángel Baldrich)

Entering the Guantánamo province, Cuba. (Photo: Ángel Baldrich)

The negotiation of an agreement with Cuban President Raúl Castro about the naval base could contribute to the establishment of a direct relationship with the Cuban government and with Cuban citizens, thinks Parmly, who was Chief of Mission of the United States Interests Section in Havana between 2005 and 2008.

Most of the prisoners at Guantánamo could be moved to jails on United States soil, while the most problematic cases would stay on the island, notes Parmly.

According to the diplomat, the naval base is a “historic anomaly”:

The current partisan tensions on the (Capitol) Hill ensure that it would be an uphill climb, but it is the thesis of this paper that a similar bold step, akin to the Panama Canal, is called for regarding Guantánamo.

New York Times Profiles Global Voices Cuba Contributor

Elaine Díaz en el Global Voices Summit 2012, Nairobi, Kenia. Foto de @Rezwan.

Elaine Díaz at the Global Voices Summit 2012, Nairobi, Kenya. Photo by @Rezwan.

According to the New York Times’ The Lede blog, Global Voices Cuba contributor Elaine Díaz “may be the most important Cuban dissident you’ve never heard of.” Elaine, currently on a visit to the US, is profiled in a June 11 post titled “Cuban Blogger Who Reveres Castro Pushes for Reform”.

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