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Archive for December, 2010

The Repressive Eye / Miguel Iturria Savon

December 23, 2010 Leave a comment

Albert Einstein used the say that God doesn’t play dice, but the Cuban government plays at being God and sets up the table of intolerance in any corner against those who don’t understand that the initiatives come out of the Palace and not the citizens, considered by the Owner-State like minors, incapable of enjoying Human Rights, more appropriate for Europe and North America than for an island in the Caribbean.

Friday, December 10, the game board was located around Villalon Park in Vedado, where Dr. Darsi Ferrer called for a silent march with banners, to evoke the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, approved by the United Nations General Assembly in New York in 1948.

This document is barely known on our island, and was ignored by Batista, from 1952 to 1958, and from 1959 by the Command of the Castros, still today cinging to military orders that contradict the articles of the Declaration, with which peaceful opponents to the regime identify, organized in turn around small political parties that promote democratic changes.

The struggle between democrats and the military is a common fact, but at times it touches on the absurd and reveals the unusual. Friday we watched the game of hundreds of cats against dozens of mice. The main command was located in the mansion occupied by the digital portal La Jiribilla, alongside the former mansion of Generalísimo Máximo Gómez, perhaps to frighten the ghost of the independent warrior and, incidentally, the officials of the UNESCO Regional Office, the musicians of the Amadeo Roldan Theater and the pedestrians of the area, where the arrests were a la carte.

There were guards in uniform and political police on adjacent corners, from Linea all the way to the Malecon and between A Street and the Park at Calzada and K, where those who are getting the immigration paperwork from the United States Interest Section in Havana wait, besieged by soldiers every day of the year.

Although most of the walkers don’t know the articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, many are aware of the arrogance and audacity of the young agents, who pretend to listen to music with their right hand on their pistol, while watching possible suspects and following orders they receive.

Last Friday morning I witnessed the military deployment to block potential attendees of the celebration at Villalon Park. The scheduled time was 11 a.m but at 7 the SS boys were already at their posts. I went down first to the Malecon and D as far as Calzada, with a friend who was taking his children to the school located in front of the Superior Institute of MINREX. We returned at ten to avoid the hunters and their patrols.

They completed the harassment and arrests of Friday with early morning warnings, it’s common for them to knock on the doors of the opponents while the family is sleeping. They hide in the shadows of the night and in the anonymity of the agents, one of the tactics of the troop of Warlocks who throw the dice of intransigence and disregard the freedoms and rights of citizens.

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Spanish post
December 16 2010

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Caged Educators / Miguel Iturria Savón

December 22, 2010 Leave a comment

The eminent Cuban essayist and educator Enrique José Varona, Secretary of Public Education during the U.S. occupation government (1899-1902), said: “The job of the teacher is to teach people how to work with their hands, with their eyes, with their ears, and then, with their thoughts”

The aphorism remains relevant after half a century of gambling on creating a ‘New Man’, out of which  emerges the opposite: apathy, lack of values, extreme hedonism, and other childish growths that certify the dissonance between words and deeds.

In these December days, the island press releases a flood of slogans about education, since the 22nd is the Day of the Teacher.  are Lowered from their bronze pedestal are worthies like Jose Marti and E.J Varona, whose phrases come in handy for teachers and professors, who bear the guilt of our disastrous educational system, although nobody consulted them to formulate educational policy, still based on utopias that try to annul individual initiative by means of state indoctrination, militant asceticism, promoting accessories, and the habit of obeying without question.

A government that had the luxury of closing the Teachers Normal School, and sending prospective teachers to study under palm leaves in the mountains of the Sierra Maestra, does not end by finding a path of balance in such an important area.  The syndrome of the emergency and the barbed wire of censorship of school textbooks, marches forward along with the poison of ideological propaganda, the lack of school materials and the devastating outlook of the country, where it encourages servile complicity and a denunciation of diversity of thinking.

Teaching is one of the pillars of the Castro regime, which uses indoctrination with media propaganda, adorned in turn by the precepts of cultural institutions, in tune with the monotonous discourse of power, able to punish political difference, insult those who express themselves without masks, and makes up for the lack of arguments with outdated slogans and dogmas.

An education system that instills loyalty to the leader, forces children to take an absurd oath and excludes from universities those who do not support their revolutionary pedigree, is like a barricade against intelligence, creativity and individual development.

Like on every Dec. 22, teachers wait for their presents and the authorities ring the bells about the wonders of the educational system in Cuba. They forget, however, the phrase of Varona about teaching how to work with thoughts, and the maxim of Marti about the respect for freedom and the thinking of others

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Translated by Rick Schwag

December 22, 2010

Santeria on the Stand / Miguel Iturria Savón

December 16, 2010 Leave a comment

A young lawyer who sometimes invited me to his trials told me a few days ago about something unusual that happened in the Territorial Military Court in San Jose de las Lajas, to the south of Havana, where some Santeros filled the judges’ stand with dust, seeking a favorable result for their relatives, implicated in serious crimes. His client didn’t contract for the services of any witch, but received an unexpected penalty just like the other defendants.

The criminal attorney assumed that the decision was influenced by the discomfort of the judges before the trail of dust and other signs of witchcraft. On noticing “the work” the Head of the Chamber ordered the Registrar to find a cloth to “sweep away the trash.” The tension of the oral hearing with the interventions of the prosecutor, witnesses, the accused, the defense and the arbitration by the judge were warmed by the challenge of the alleged curse.

A friend notes that this is more common than many assume. Some believe that the engagement of a palero, a Santeria practitioner, can reverse the outcome of the trial and “soften the prosecutor’s proposal, tie the tongue of the attorney if his client is on the opposite side, or put into the mouth of the judge the orders of the “pot,” linked to the dead who assist the practitioner, who speaks with them through a complex system of divination that passes through the interpretation of the snails and the feeding of animals like a rooster, goat or sheep.

Although there are naive and opportunistic, the “godchildren” of paleros, santeros and babalawos believe in the power of those called on, the strength of the dead and the details of their own magical religious conception, which leads them to “throw the judges, the lawyer or the prosecutor” after exploring the possible sentence, so that sometimes, when passing by a ceiba tree or at the door of their houses, these powers of the law face signs of witchcraft.

The defense attorney doesn’t worry about “the mess in the pot” because he believes that every trial is a theatrical performance under pressure from above, through money or the police they invoke “secret operational tests” that complicate things for the accused, leaving the defense at a disadvantage, unless the Head Judge, committed to fairness, disregards the testimony of those in uniform.

He says that a few weeks back, a babalawo who got someone accused of molesting his stepdaughter out of jail, went through his house and instead of thanking him, told him he owed his freedom to Orula and Olofi, gods from the Yoruba pantheon, who advised him what to do during his confinement.

The faces of error of such a peculiar way of influencing justice are evident also in the Havana Provincial Court, where sometimes they have to dust off the stands and remove “other gifts” intended to appease judges, prosecutors and lawyers. According to the defense attorney friend, if anyone benefits it’s the family of the victim since the judges are not impressed and issue judgments without thinking about the anger of the dead or the power of Oshun, Yemaya and Orula.

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December 16 2010

Of Extremes and Omissions / Miguel Iturria Savón

December 9, 2010 Leave a comment

While Hugo Chavez reported to the Venezuelan Parliament his intention to establish an armed forces of the extreme left, that would make government decisions and prevent the triumph of right in the elections of 2012, his Cuban mentors promoted some liberal measures to survive without the support that put him over the top when he assumed absolute power decades ago.

Chavez neither learns from the mistakes of his ideological patriarchs, nor loosens Castro’s hand on critical issues. The South American sorcerer’s apprentice is not subtle, he enters the ring with the sword of Bolivar as a mask and the precepts of socialism to expropriate and to exclude his opponents and then indoctrinate the masses through education and media.

We Cubans know the rest of the movie, but do not know how to shake off the nightmare, whose last chapter has as its script the “discussion” of The Social and Economic Guidelines of the Sixth Congress of the Communist Party to be held in April 2011; nothing new, for certain, from the zigzagging discussions preceding these congresses from the distant year of 1975.

The congresses serves to keep power in the same hands, the “popular discussions” to legitimize the Party and its chosen ones. The novelty of the next conclave is that the captains need to shake off the ballast that risks unbalancing the ship and its arrival at the port of socialism, far into the mists of the future.

While Chavez seeks the freeway to socialism on the far left, his counterpart of the Caribbean opened some valves to get credit, reduce international pressure, prevent the growth of internal opposition and solve minor problems, such as inertia, the “improper gratuities,” fictitious employees, inefficiency of production, labor and social indiscipline, widespread theft and the “chick syndrome,” which points to the decentralization and corporate and individual autonomy, tempered by absolutism and bureaucratic regulations.

Accustomed to “discuss” from within the socialist model, Cubans talk about the Guidelines in their workplaces, they know that it is “more of the same” because once approved it will justify the mass dismissal letters and the end of the termination subsidies. The document ignores the role played by private property, whose reform is essential; there is no signal toward a concession regarding rights and freedoms abolished in the sixties, from free speech, assembly and association to the right to own property and independent unions.

The attempt to preserve an exhausted model makes a mockery of the Cuban nation. Half a century of socialism shows that planning and state ownership does not solve the country’s problems. It is not about updating the disaster, we need new players and an end to recycling the same people in power to finish off the face of intimidation. If Chavez repeats that the staging is his problem, ours is to leave the theater.

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December 9 2010

The Incessant Banging of the Drawer / Miguel Iturria Savón

December 9, 2010 2 comments

For the third time in a row a writer from our island is honored with the Premio Novelas de Gaveta “Franz Kafka,” awarded by its Czech sponsors to the Carnival and the Dead, by Ernesto Santana, who introduced it in a brief evening ceremony on Friday, December 13, at the apartment of Yoani Sánchez and Reinaldo Escobar, creators of the Cuban Alternative Blogosphere Academy, a civic non-profit entity that disseminates new technologies and citizen journalism.

The words of praise were delivered by the writer Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, winner of the 2009 Kafka prize for his story collection Boring Home. A critical appraisal of Pardo Lazo on the literary works of Ernesto Santana will be published in the next issue of the Voices digital magazine and commented on in this Cubanet blog, Island Anchor on the Voces Cubanas portal.

In 2008 the Premio Novelas de Gaveta “Franz Kafka” was awarded to the Habanero Orlando Freyre Santana, author of Blood and Freedom, which addresses, in fiction, the struggles against the Cuban military dictatorship.

The essay competition, sponsored initially by the Independent Library Movement and the Czech Republic NGO People in Need, is an option for authors who live on the island and have no chance of publication, such that their texts are sleeping in drawers and computers. It requires of the participants an unpublished and exclusive text.

Ernesto Santana (Puerto Padre, 1958) is an agile prose narrator, whose works oscillate between realism and the poetry of memory. In 2002 he received the National “Alejo Carpentier” Award.

As it is not possible to read and review a 174-page novel in a single weekend, I offer the reader a summary of the review written by Carlos A. Aguilera on The Carnival and the Dead, by Ernesto Santana.

“More than desire, disease, or Africa, the new novel by Ernesto Santana is about the dead. The dead that a determined ideology have produced. His characters, shadow plays acting up against a vacuum, are turned into characters almost in contradiction to themselves. They are skinny, alcoholics, hard; sons of quarrelsome mothers and sleepwalkers of war. The come and go from nowhere, as if life (that place where everything is defeated) had taught them to swim precisely so they would drown. And from this suffocation, which in turn is pure pleasure and extreme ordinariness, The Carnival and the Dead draws its story. The rest we could talk about is their different voices, their geographic countries, their veracity. But none of this is as important as knowing that The Carnival and the Dead is a “dance macabre,” a dance where we find nothing more alive than the dead.”

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Havana International Film Festival / Miguel Iturria Savón

December 2, 2010 Leave a comment

The Journal of the International Festival of New Latin American Cinema is already out with its XXXII edition with previews the festival scheduled from December 2-12. Playing in the main theaters of Havana, home since 1978 to one of the most comprehensive festivals of images and sound on the continent; it includes the U.S. and Canada with co-productions, representative samples, conferences and the section “Latinos in the USA,” to which this year is added the Homage of the National Film Board of Canada, which is showing 47 works at the festival including animated, fiction, and documentary films.

As in previous years, the filmmakers will compete for Coral Awards in fiction (feature films), first works, documentaries, animation, script and posters, along with the coveted award of popularity, the Latin American First Copy Award and other awards. In 2010 there will be works on the Bicentennial of Independence, with the 25 Glances in 200 Minutes — shorts of Argentina; the animated series Fates, humorous and short stories of Independence and the Mexican Revolution, which will showcase 26 movie minutes lasting 90 seconds each (13 dedicated to the Independence and 13 to the Centennial of the Revolution started in 1910).

The schedule contains 21 feature films, 4 from Argentina and the same number from Cuba and Mexico, 2 from Brazil, Chile and Venezuela and 1 each from Peru, the Dominican Republic and Uruguay, and two Uruguay-Spain co-productions, and another from Venezuela, Cuba and France – plus a Brazilian film outside the competition on the life of president Lula, supplemented by 23 medium-length and short films, among them a German film about Cuba, which premieres Bathers, Carlos Lechuga, and Aché, about the writer and filmmaker Eduardo Llano; and including Brazil (7) and Mexico (5), and followed by Peru (2), Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic and Venezuela (1 each).

Twenty-three first-run films are competing, led by Brazil and Mexico (4), followed by Argentina (3), Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba and Uruguay, each with two works. Generating the most interest are the entries from Argentina: The Intern, No Return and Puzzles; Five Favelas from Brazil; Of Love and Other Demons (Costa Rica) and Fierce Molinas and Affinities (Cuba), the second directed by actors Jorge Perugorria and Vladimir Cruz; and The Mute House, by Uruguayan filmmaker Gustavo Hernández, based on real events.

Argentina leads the festival with 91 pieces in total, including documentaries, animation, scripts, posters, etc., revealing a fascination for its films, the most convincing of Latin America; followed by Cuba (85), which benefits from its status as host to show 33 minor works and 17 audiovisual productions from the Superior Art Institute; and then Mexico (70), Brazil (42), Chile (24), Colombia (15) and Venezuela (10).

This edition is well served by animated film, characterized by color, humor and brevity, and represented by 28 titles, led by Argentina (7), Brazil, Chile and Venezuela (4), Cuba (3) — among them Nikita Chama Bom, by Juan Padrón Blanco — Mexico and Colombia (2) and the unusual presence of El Salvador.

The organizers scheduled 42 films in the section Made in Cuba, of which 35 are documentaries, 6 fiction, and one experimental; 33 are from Island producers and the others are from Ireland, Italy, Britain and Uruguay. That of Ireland appears as a formal request as it constitutes the Castro regime’s version of the Black Spring of 2003.

In “The Hour of Shorts” (23 tapes), are submissions from Vanguards (17), Latin American Panorama (22 fiction), and Latin America Documentaries in perspective (38), as well as fantasy and horror films, confirming the “fraternal rivalry” between the film industries of the leading countries in regional culture.

International options at the Film Festival of Havana include films from Germany, Spain, Italy, Britain and Poland, as well as Finnish Animation 8 titles and some from Denmark, France, Norway, Egypt, India and Iran.

Moviegoers will be able to attend two seminars, see seven exhibits in the Chaplin Room and other locations, buy books and magazines, attend shows with actors and directors and choose what to see among the 515 films on billboards, of which 122 are competing. It may be too many for ten days and more than 20 theaters.