Monday, August 27, 2012

Guantanamo: Cuba’s Cinderella (part II)

"Guantanamo: Cuba’s Cinderella" (part II)
Alberto N. Jones  

HAVANA TIMES — This summer I stayed in Guantanamo longer than usual as my trip coincided with the National Rebelliousness Day celebration of July 26 being held there, plus there was the annual carnival festivities in that city.

Intense construction/restoration activity in the province (typical of the province hosting the commemoration) included the completion of an important stretch of the national highway, linking Guantanamo to the town of Belleza, a project halted over 20 years ago.

There was also the re-paving of the city’s main arteries, the termination and/or reconstruction of several public works projects, the completion of a beautiful boulevard that has now become the center of recreational activities in the city, and the painting of hundreds of houses and buildings. All of this gave the city a freshness that it had been lacking for decades and provided temporary relief for all of its citizens.

The July 26th celebration in any city in Cuba is a source of local pride and joy, which was widely expressed throughout Guantanamo and culminated in the conclusion of four days of festivities.

Beyond the surface

However, for those of us who love Guantanamo, for those who struggle day after day to make this region occupy the place it deserves in the country, for those who suffer in the face of the prevailing state of deterioration, the start-up of some kind of subsistence business of their own or their immigrating to another country has nothing to do with the 50 years of hard struggles and sacrifices we have made as a community.

What one finds now is a lack of development and sad prospects for thousands of youths without jobs or futures and whose only goal is to “inventar” (hustle), which pushes them that much closer towards the world of crime.

The socio-economic situation of southeast Cuba is serious, urgent, heartbreaking and debilitating. It encompasses communities, towns and cities in a stifling atmosphere of utter frustration and powerlessness, all of which ends up ripping apart the essential fiber and values of society.

Thousands of college graduates and technicians are jobless, wandering aimlessly and hopelessly, forgetting in minutes what they learned over years. Enrollment in the middle and upper levels has been significantly reduced and all services have degraded, adversely affecting the level of happiness and satisfaction of the whole community.

The impacts of disincentives and insufficient wages have been compounded by the layoffs of one or more family members in many homes, placing these social units on the brink of economic collapse. The need to provide “gifts” for access to all kinds of services has increased exceedingly, dehumanizing society and turning the majority — those without access — into machines focused on survival, ones that don’t care about the situations of others.

The embezzlement of funds, outright theft, the adulteration of products, “fines” by inspectors, the abusive costs of products sold in hard currency CUCs and the lack of a wholesale market are just some of the more obvious evils that reflect a lack of coordination between different government run companies. This has led to stagnation and even retrogression in relation to some of the plans set out in the “Guidelines” of the party.

Thousands of people responded to the call of the government to recover vacant agricultural land that had been devoured by overrunning marabou bushes. These people took to the fields to produce food for the population and reduce costly imports.

Despite the rigid bureaucracy and the resistance to change of the Ministry of Agriculture and their lack of tools and agricultural implements, huge areas of land have been cleared, planted and cultivated using archaic methods, such as yoked oxen and wooden plows.

The lack of fertilizers, pesticides and seeds, as well as the prohibitive cost of fuel that prevent the use of irrigation systems, the high cost of agricultural transportation and a significant decline in the purchasing power of the public threatens to derail this project of vital importance.

Notwithstanding all of this, if the problems outlined above seem serious, these pale when visiting any of the old Guantanamo province sugar refineries like those named Costa Rica, Honduras, Romelie, Tames, Paraguay, etc.

The mills in those places were demolished allegedly for being unproductive, but no approaches were found to replace those jobs with alternative employment. This resulted in those communities becoming human cemeteries full of impoverished, demoralized and alcoholic ex-sugar workers, unable to meet the obligations of their households.

As collateral damage, this tragedy has brought with it the losses of dozens of trades, crafts, love for the land and a sense of belonging, something which young people have no knowledge of and don’t seem interested in recapturing.

The extreme severity of the problem means that sentimentality, indecisiveness or half measures cannot be tolerated. Only an urgently needed radical surgery will be able to prevent the sea of death, rivers of blood and massive physical destruction that the concerted strategy of permanent foreign threat and deprivation has fostered.

This has created a siege mentality, one of citizen persecution and counterproductive reactions by the Cuban government, which has thereby laid the foundation for a social disaster such as those in Syria, Libya, Yemen, Iraq and Afghanistan.

All of this convincingly demonstrates that while the US soldiers stationed at the Guantanamo Naval Base enjoy the whole range of amenities that exist in that inhospitable location, for decades the city of Guantanamo has been deprived of the use of its beaches, rivers, valleys and mountains that have been declared a military zone.

Cuba remains one of the most desirable places in the world for its beauty, unique geographical location, climate, low crime, free quality education and health care, its ethnic composition, ecological diversity and its unique people.

Therefore nothing can explain, rationalize or justify the persistence of an acute economic and social crisis that is threatening to devour this now lethargic (even catatonic) country that has resulted from self-inflicted, necrotic, hyper-centralized decisions.

"Guantanamo: Cuba’s Cinderella" (part I)

Guantánamo, la cenicienta de Cuba (parte II)

“Guantánamo, la cenicienta de Cuba” (parte II)
por Alberto N Jones 

HAVANA TIMES — Este verano estuve más tiempo en Guantánamo que de costumbre, pues coincidió mi presencia con la celebración nacional por el 26 de Julio y los carnavales de esta villa.

Una intensa actividad constructora/restauradora en la provincia incluyó,  la terminación de un importante tramo de la autopista nacional que une a Guantánamo con el poblado de Belleza, paralizada hace más de 20 años.

La re-pavimentación de las principales arterias de la ciudad, la terminación y/o reconstrucción de múltiples obras sociales, la terminación de un bello boulevard convertido ahora en el centro de actividad recreativo de la ciudad y cientos de casas y edificios pintados, le confieren a la ciudad un frescor que había faltado en décadas y una alegría temporal para toda la ciudadanía.

La celebración de los actos por el 26 de Julio en cualquier ciudad de Cuba, es motivo de júbilo y orgullo local, lo cual se manifestó ampliamente a lo largo y ancho de Guantánamo, que culminó con la celebración de cuatro días de festejos populares.

Mas allá que el maquillaje 

Sin embargo, para los que aman a nuestro Guantánamo, para los que luchan día a día para que esta región ocupe el lugar que le corresponde dentro del país, para los que sufren ante el deterioro imperante, la falta de desarrollo y perspectiva para miles de jóvenes sin empleo o futuro y cuya única meta es “inventar”, lo que los acerca al mundo de la delincuencia, a crear alguna actividad de subsistencia por cuenta propia o emigrar, no se corresponde con los 50 años vividos de duras luchas y sacrificios.

En su lugar, estas celebraciones resultaron ser un espejismo, un sueño de verano o un chiste de mal gusto, para decenas de miles de personas que sufren y no saben cómo resolver sus necesidades más perentorias.

La situación socio-económica de Oriente sur es grave, urgente, desgarradora y debilitante, al englobar a comunidades, pueblos y ciudades en una atmosfera asfixiante de total frustración e impotencia, que termina quebrantando las fibras y valores de toda la sociedad.

Miles de graduados universitarios y técnicos medios sin empleos, deambulan sin rumbo y sin esperanzas, olvidando, por minutos, lo aprendido.  Las matrículas en los niveles medio y superior han sido reducidas sensiblemente y todos los servicios se han degradado, afectando adversamente el importante índice de felicidad y satisfacción personal de toda la comunidad.

Los desincentivantes e insuficientes salarios, se han visto agravado por la pérdida de empleo de uno o más miembros del núcleo familiar, colocándolos al borde del colapso económico. Las omnipresentes prebendas para acceder a todo tipo de servicios se han intensificado en extremo, deshumanizando a las personas y convirtiéndolas en máquinas de supervivencia, que poco les importa la situación del prójimo.

El desvío de recursos, el robo, la adulteración de los productos, el picotazo de los inspectores, el abusivo costo de los productos que se expenden en CUC y la falta de ventas al por mayor, son solo algunos de los males más evidentes que hablan de una falta de coordinación entre las diferentes empresas, que han llevado al estancamiento e involución de algunos de los planes recogidos en los Lineamientos del Partido.

Miles de personas respondieron al llamado del gobierno para rescatar terrenos agrícolas baldíos, devorados por el marabú, para ponerlos a producir alimentos para la población y reducir las costosas importaciones.

A pesar del férreo burocratismo e inmovilismo del ministerio de agricultura y la falta de aperos e implementos agrícolas, enormes áreas de terreno han sido desbrozadas, sembradas y cultivadas, utilizando métodos arcaicos como la yunta de buey y el arado de palo.

La falta de fertilizantes, pesticidas o semillas, el prohibitivo costo del combustible que impide la utilización de sistemas de riego, el alto costo del transporte agrícola y una sensible disminución en el poder adquisitivo de la población, puede dar al traste con este proyecto de vital importancia.

Si los problemas enunciados más arriba parecieran graves, estos palidecen al visitar algunos de los antiguos bateyes azucareros guantanameros  de Costa Rica, Honduras, Romelié, Tames, Paraguay etc.- cuyos ingenios fueron demolidos, supuestamente, por ser trapiches improductivos, que no fueron sustituidos con otra alternativa laboral, convirtiendo dichos poblados en cementerios humanos, repletos de ex-trabajadores azucareros empobrecidos, desmoralizados, alcohólicos e incapaces de enfrentar las obligaciones de su núcleo familiar.

 Como daño colateral, esta tragedia ha traído consigo la pérdida de decenas de oficios, trabajos manuales, artesanales, amor por la tierra y un sentido de pertenencia que los jóvenes desconocen y no parecen interesados en recobrar.

La extrema gravedad del problema no tolera blandenguería, indecisiones o paños tibios. Solo una intervención quirúrgica radical de urgencia, es capaz de impedir a tiempo el mar de muertos, los ríos de sangre y la masiva destrucción física que una concertada estrategia foránea de permanente amenazas y privaciones, ha promovido una mentalidad de asedio, persecución y reacciones contraproducentes dentro del gobierno, que han ido sentando las bases para un descalabro social como los de Siria, Libia, Yemen, Irak o Afganistán.

Demuestra fehacientemente lo anterior, que mientras los militares norteamericanos estacionados en la Base Naval de Guantánamo disfrutan de todas las amenidades existentes en aquel enclave inhóspito, el pueblo de Guantánamo ha sido privado durante décadas del uso de sus playas, ríos, valles y montañas, por haber sido declaradas Zona Militar.

Por cuanto Cuba sigue siendo uno de los lugares más apetecibles del mundo por su belleza, privilegiada ubicación geográfica, clima, tranquilidad ciudadana, educación, salubridad, composición étnica, diversidad ecológica y un pueblo sui generis, nada puede explicar, racionalizar o justificar, la persistencia de una acuciante crisis económica y social, que intenta devorar a un país aletargado, catatónico, causado por decisiones híper centralizadas auto-infligidas.

[articulo original]
"Guantánamo, la cenicienta de Cuba" (parte I)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Guantanamo: Cuba's Cinderella City (part I)

“Guantanamo: Cuba’s Cinderella City” (part I)
by Alberto N Jones

HAVANA TIMES — We learned through the Cuban media that the upcoming July 26 celebrations of “National Rebellion Day” (commemorating the guerilla attacks in 1953 that sparked the Cuban Revolution) would take place here in Guantanamo: Cuba’s “Cinderella City.”

This filled us with local pride and joy for our being recognized as a community that, while suffering and neglected, is also unshakeable.

Shortly after, I recalled that this honor had been conferred upon this city twice before in the past, though a little later — shortly after the celebrations — everything returned to the same old thing: apathy, a lack of creativity and no accountability for what’s poorly done.

Unfortunately, all of this has come to characterize Guantanamo Province in particular and southeastern Cuba in general.


The history of Guantanamo is cruel, sinister and associated with tragedy and misfortune. Before the revolution this was the most neglected and backward area of the country, one where education, health care, communications, sports, industry and culture were noted for their low levels.

During every election campaign people politicians, opportunists and political operatives would appear promising schools, water and sewage systems, hospitals and jobs – though these individuals would only deceive everyone once the election was over.

It was not until the election of President Ramon Grau San Martin into office (1944-48) that large public works projects were implemented that provided 80-85 percent of the current drinking water and sewage services and paved streets of Guantanamo City.

Prior to his election, all municipalities and the city of Santiago de Cuba were connected to Guantanamo City by dirt roads, which became impassable during the rainy season.

A Curse Disguised As Stability

As spoils of the Cuban-Spanish-American War of 1898, in 1903 the United States occupied 45 square miles of land surrounding Guantanamo Bay, one of the best natural, deep water bays in the world. This was later turned into the Guantanamo Naval Base — “Gitmo” — which remains in existence up through today.

The presence of this military base on Cuban soil was a curse disguised as economic stability for the area. This was because it provided some 2,500 full and part-time jobs during peace time and many more during times of international conflict, thus turning the facility into the backbone of the local economy.

Every week, hundreds of US soldiers and officers who would take their regular passes from the base fostering the largest red-light districts in Cuba. This was in Guantanamo City and Caimanera (the town just north of the base), with hundreds of women from across the country, famous pimps, sexual perversion, drug addiction and trafficking, violence, venereal diseases, blackmail, gambling and bribery coexisting. In some instances these activities were even admired by the leading citizens of our community.

Guantanamo’s underdevelopment and absolute dependency on the legal and illicit economic resources coming from the base conferred absolute impunity on the US military, making all crimes — no matter what their severity — outside the legal reach of Cuban authorities.

For that reason, the 1953 assault on the Moncada Barracks resonated powerfully among youth, who had been humiliated and frustrated by the society imposed on them. This is what led them to join the movement en masse, shed their blood, give their lives and turn Guantanamo into one of the most important anti-Batista bastions during the insurrection.

Immediately after the triumph of the revolution, the sailors stationed at Guantanamo Bay were prohibited from taking their leaves off base, the red-light district was shut down, and prostitutes were sent to schools.

The hiring of new Cuban civil servants for work on the naval base was barred and the naval base rapidly became transformed into a dangerous beachhead and center for conspiracy on the island.

Thousands of common criminals and counterrevolutionaries found refuge in this enclave and hundreds went on to receive military training in Central America and Miami – some of whom returned to the naval base and were then infiltrated back onto Cuban soil to commit all sorts of criminal activities.

Tens of millions of useless Cuban pesos were overtly laundered for dollars on its premises, and the formerly English-only local naval base radio station, WGBY, became bi-lingual, allowing it to openly incite Cubans to leave their country.

A number of Cuban workers were detained, tortured and murdered on the naval base.  Other Cuban border guards suffered gunshot wounds and three were murdered by shots coming from the base, which led the Cuban government to shut off the source of its water supply.

The commanding officer of the naval base then summarily dismissed 700 Cuban employees, which was supposed to have caused the collapse of Guantanamo’s economy with its 100,000 inhabitants.

Serious Collateral Damage 

This partial summary is an attempt to describe the level of hostility, danger and threat that surrounds Guantanamo. All of this turned the area into the second largest minefield in the world and into a place where its perennial fuse could set off an unprecedented military firestorm on our continent.

This forces the Cuban government to allocate large amounts of financial resources in defensive fortifications, which in turn leads to the stagnation of the social, agriculture, industrial, cultural and scientific development of that area. The collateral damage has been serious and irreversible in some cases.

Over half a century, Guantanamo has ceased to be the most diverse community in Cuba, with a unique mixture of customs and cultures derived from the presence of immigrants from Spain, all of the Caribbean islands, Italians, Germans, Americans, British, Swiss, Lebanese, French, Poles, Pakistanis, Chinese, Hindus, Syrians, Mexicans, Canadians, etc.

Yet today its residents are described pejoratively as homeless “Palestinians” in their own country (when in western Cuba) and they have one of the highest rates of migration abroad.

Guantanamo, the region of Cuba that produced the most physicians per capita in the country in the first five graduating classes after the triumph of the revolution, has lost its radiance and incentive. 

Guantanamo, the region with the highest level of rainfall and water reserves, the largest producer of coffee, cocoa and salt in the country, has lost most of its productive capacity, while a large section of the country is dry and thirsty.

Guantanamo, with its once famous Samy’s Ice Cream, Tudela’s Candy, India Chocolate, Coconut Pie, 13/13 Laundry Soap, the Ideal Bus Company, the America Movie Theater, the Monte Carlo Cabaret, the Modelo Bakery and “Frio/Caliente” (a popular beach area along the Bano River), has not been able to preserve these for our children, while they become dehydrated in this the warmest part of the country.

Guantanamo, the birthplace of the first human of African ancestry to travel into outer space; the home of the Ecological Processing Center for Solid Urban Waste (CEPRU in Spanish), where a descendent of Mariana Grajales placed Cuba on the world map before 3.5 billion viewers watching CNN confer upon her the environmental title of “Heroes for Defending the Planet”; the city’s excellent Olympic athletes, and the impregnable defensive barrier erected by the Border Brigade as the first and most important trench for protecting the nation, all explain and justify why these people deserve a better future.

The “Colonia Española” and the “Block Catalan” for whites, the “Club Moncada” and the “Nueva Era” for blacks, the “Siglo XX” for mulatos (mixed race), its dozens of lodges, churches, the British West Indian Welfare Center, the Haitian Community Center, the Tumba Francesa, Guantanamo’s Chinese societies, its children’s choirs, school bands, its shower of stars in the endless search for talent and in sports competitions, each of them in their own particular way have fostered and bestowed on  Guantanamo a certain vitality and moral strength.

All of this has enabled most of its youth to confront, resist and triumph over the temptations emanating from the largest corrupting center in the nation.

To restore those arms — ones that protect the present generation of Guantanamo residents and those people of southeastern Cuba — must be an inescapable and non-postponable commitment for all of us.


Guantánamo, la cenicienta de Cuba (parte I)

“Guantánamo, la cenicienta de Cuba” (parte I)
por Alberto N. Jones

HAVANA TIMES — En días pasados supimos a través de la prensa que las celebraciones del próximo 26 de Julio serán en nuestro Guantánamo, la cenicienta de Cuba, lo cual nos llenó de alegría, orgullo local y reconocimiento por un pueblo sufrido, olvidado e inconmovible.

De inmediato recordé, que en el pasado este honor se le había conferido y poco después de los festejos, todo regresaba a la inercia, falta de creatividad e impunidad con lo mal hecho, que desgraciadamente ha venido a caracterizar a nuestro Guantánamo en particular y a Oriente sur en general.

La historia de Guantánamo es cruel, siniestra y está asociada con tragedias e infortunios.  Antes del triunfo de la Revolución ésta era la región más abandonada y atrasada del país, en la cual los sistemas de educación, salud, deporte, comunicación, industrias y cultura, brillaban por su ausencia.

En cada periodo electoral aparecían  politiqueros, oportunistas y sargentos políticos prometiendo escuelas, acueducto, alcantarillado, hospitales y empleos, solo para  defraudarnos poco después de haber sido elegidos.

No fue hasta el gobierno del Presidente Ramón Grau San Martín en 1944-48, que tuvo lugar un masivo plan constructivo que llevó a Guantánamo el 80-85% del actual sistema de abasto de agua, alcantarillado y pavimentación de sus calles. Todos los municipios y la capital Santiago de Cuba estaban conectados con Guantánamo mediante terraplenes, que eran intransitables en periodos de lluvia.

Como botín de la guerra-Hispano-Cubana-Americana de 1898, los Estados Unidos ocuparon en 1903, 118 Km2 de terreno circundante de la bahía de Guantánamo, una de las mejores del mundo, que fue transformado en la Base Naval conocida por GITMO hasta el día de hoy.

La presencia de este enclave militar fue una desgracia para la región disfrazada de estabilidad económica, al crear unos 2500 empleos temporales y a tiempo completos en tiempos de paz, y mucho más durante periodos de conflagración internacional, convirtiéndola en la espina dorsal de la economía local.

La salida semanal de cientos de militares de “franco” desde la base, creó en Guantánamo y Caimanera el mayor prostíbulo de Cuba, con cientos de mujeres de todo el país, proxenetas famosos, masiva perversión sexual, drogadicción, violencia, enfermedades venéreas, chantajes, traficantes, boliteros y sobornos, coexistían, y en algunos casos, eran admirados por las clases vivas, religiosas, fraternales y legales de la ciudad.

El subdesarrollo de Guantánamo y su absoluta dependencia de los recursos económicos legales e ilegales provenientes de la base, les otorgaba a los militares norteamericanos absoluta impunidad, por lo que todos los crímenes, sin importar su gravedad, estaban fuera de la competencia de las autoridades cubanas.

Es por ello, que el asalto al Cuartel Moncada en 1953, encontró una clarinada entre la juventud frustrada y avergonzada de la sociedad que se les había impuesto, llevándolos a sumarse masivamente a esta gesta, por lo que derramaron su sangre, ofrendaron sus vidas y convirtieron a  Guantánamo en uno de los pilares anti batistiano más importantes del país durante el proceso insurreccional.

Inmediatamente después del triunfo de la Revolución, se prohibió la salida de la soldadesca de franco de la base, se clausuró el prostíbulo y las prostitutas pasaron a escuelas. Se impidió el ingreso de nuevos empleados cubanos en la base naval y esta se transformó de inmediato en una cabeza de playa y un peligroso centro de conspiración dentro de Cuba.

Miles de delincuentes comunes y contrarrevolucionarios encontraron asilo en dicho enclave, recibieron entrenamiento militar en Centro América o Miami, regresando a la base y logrando, algunos, infiltrarse en Cuba para sus acciones delictivas. Decenas de millones de pesos desvalorizados en manos de desafectos fueron cambiados abiertamente por dólares dentro de la base y su emisora local WBGY se hizo bilingüe, incitando abiertamente la emigración de cubanos.

Varios trabajadores cubanos fueron detenidos, torturados y asesinados dentro de la base.  Varios soldados cubanos Guarda fronteras fueron heridos de bala, y tres asesinados por disparos provenientes de su interior, por lo que en 1964, el gobierno cubano determinó cerrar la toma del abasto de agua a dicho enclave, lo cual determinó que el jefe militar de la base despidiera en masa a unos 700 empleados, lo que supondría el colapso económico de Guantánamo y sus 100,000 habitantes.

Este resumen parcial pretende describir el grado de hostilidad, peligros y amenazas imperante en Guantánamo, que  convirtió a esa zona en el segundo campo minado más grande del mundo y en una llama perenne que podía desencadenar una conflagración bélica sin precedentes en nuestro continente, forzando a nuestro gobierno a dedicar incalculables recursos económicos para su fortificación defensiva y el consiguiente estancamiento del desarrollo social, agrícola, industrial, cultural y científico de la región.

El daño colateral vivido es grave e irreversible en algunos casos. Guantánamo ha pasado en medio siglo a ser, la comunidad más diversa de Cuba, con un sincretismo de hábitos y cultura sui géneris, derivada de la presencia de inmigrantes españoles, caribeños de cada una de sus islas, italianos, alemanes, ingleses, norteamericanos, suizos, libaneses, franceses, polacos, pakistaníes, chinos, hindúes, sirios, mejicanos, canadienses etc., a palestinos en su propia tierra y con uno de los mayores índices migratorios hacia el exterior.

Guantánamo, la región de Cuba que produjo más médicos por habitantes en el país en las primeras cinco graduaciones después del triunfo de la Revolución, ha perdido hoy su brillo e incentivo.

Guantánamo, la región con el mayor caudal y reserva de agua del país, la mayor productora de Café, Cacao y Sal, ha perdido su capacidad productiva, mientras gran parte del país está seca y sedienta.

Guantánamo, la del famoso helado Samy’s, los Caramelos Tudela, el Chocolate la India, el Pie de Coco, el jabón 13/13, los ómnibus La Ideal, el cine América, el Cabaret Monte Carlo, la panadería Modelo o el Frio/Caliente, el popular balneario en el rio Bano, no hemos sido capaces de preservarlos para nuestros hijos, mientras se deshidratan en la región más cálida del país.

Guantánamo, el lugar de nacimiento del primer hombre en el espacio con vínculos filiales en África,  el CEPRU, donde una heredera de Mariana Grajales puso a Cuba en el mapa-mundi ante 3.5 mil millones de espectadores, sus excelsos deportistas olímpicos y la inexpugnable barrera defensiva de la Brigada Fronteriza en la primera y más importante trinchera del país, justifican con creces, que este pedazo de tierra y su gente, sean dignos de mejor suerte.

La Colonia Española y el Block Catalán para blancos, el Club Moncada y la Nueva Era para negros, el Siglo XX para mulatos, decenas de logias, iglesias, el Center, la Tumba Francesa, las Sociedades Chinas, los coros juveniles, las bandas y paradas escolares, Lluvia de Estrellas en su búsqueda constante de talento y las competencias deportivas, forjaron y le confirieron a Guantánamo una vitalidad y fortaleza moral, que permitió al grueso de su juventud, resistir y vencer las tentaciones emanadas del mayor centro de corrupción del país.

Restituir esas armas, esa coraza a la generación actual de Guantánamo y de Oriente sur, ha de ser un compromiso ineludible e impostergable de todos.

[articulo original]

Sunday, May 20, 2012

May 20th: The most tragic date on the Cuban calendar

"May 20th: The most tragic date on the Cuban calendar."
by Alberto N. Jones
May18, 2012

In 1902, the United States government turned over a crippled and severely war-torn nation to a group of privileged upper class opportunists.  They dismantled the Army of Independence and replaced it with a corrupt Rural Guard where blacks could not rise above the rank of lieutenant and a police force that excluded blacks altogether. The government was formed by a cadre of preselected lackey politicians who, through an electoral farce in which illiterate, women and those owning less than $500.00 in a war ravished nation, were precluded to vote.

Black Cubans were marginalized to the worst neighborhoods. Education was segregated and privatized. Government’s jobs were prioritized for those of Spanish ancestry. Private companies excluded blacks and mulattos from large enterprises, banks, utilities, transportation, commerce etc.

In a carefully conceived plan, Teddy Roosevelt encouraged a selective migration of over 71,000 Spaniards from the Canary Islands, hoping to bleach the country, dilute the demographics and tip the voting balance.  Thousands of them received agricultural lands for the development of tobacco in western Cuba or at discount prices elsewhere.  Blacks and mulattos received none.

Hoping to find a way to overcome this severe marginalization, segregation, and various inequalities that afflicted blacks and mulattos, former members of the Cuban Army of Independence, workers, intellectuals, housewives and some whites, came together in 1908 and founded the Independent Party of Color in Havana. Rather than welcoming this socio-political development, the dominant class and the media unleashed a barrage of accusations against them accusing them of being sectarian, allied with the United States embassy, and attempting to create a black republic like Haiti, being violence-prone, rapists and believers of voodoo.

Although even by today’s standards, the Independent Party of Color programmatic platform was the most advanced at the time, it was withheld from the public and routinely distorted. Following are some of its most outstanding objectives:

  1. Repatriation with government funds, of every Cuban wishing to return to their country of origin, if they could not afford it on their own.
  2. Universal, obligatory and free education through university for all.
  3. Opposition to the death penalty, penal reform and trade education for inmates prior to their re-integration into society.
  4. Distribution of government land to landless citizens and review of those acquired during the military intervention.
  5. Eight hour work shift and the creation of a labor mediation tribunal.  Regulation of child labor.
  6. Hiring of blacks and mix race by the Cuban government for foreign service.


Although this most advanced, non-sectarian constitution remains a dream for many countries in the world one hundred years later, the Independent Party of Color was subjected to constant police harassment, incarceration of its leaders, regular suspensions and finally, with the help of an unprincipled, sell-out black congressman, an amendment was passed forbidding the formation of political parties based upon racial affiliation. Left with no other option, 10 years to the day of the infamous proclamation of the pseudo-republic, hundreds of poorly armed or unarmed members of the party, rose up against the government to express their displeasure with the prevailing environment primarily in the provinces of Oriente and Las Villas.

The government of president Jose Miguel Gomez assembled the largest military strike force to date under the command General Monteagudo, head of the Cuban army, which entered Yateras, Guantanamo, Songo-La Maya, Micara and Santiago de Cuba, slaughtering every blacks or mulatto who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. The United States army participated indirectly by relieving many military posts in Oriente. In a report from General Monteagudo to president Jose Miguel Gomez he wrote that the strike had become a butchery in the woods in which it is impossible to determine the number of casualties. Unofficial reports put the toll at between 3000 and 6000 individuals.

In a clear attempt to teach a lesson and terrorize blacks and mulattos, enraged soldiers and urgently enlisted volunteers, paraded mutilated bodies on horseback through towns and villages, while carrying bags with ears, cut-off from their victims. Adding insult to injury, a huge victory luncheon was hosted in Havana Central Park by President Jose Miguel Gomez, where the best and brightest of the Cuban society, including Ismaelillo, the son of Jose Marti, celebrated the country’s worst and most horrendous bloodbath, tarnishing its history for a lifetime. Then on May 18, 1936, one of the most ornate, glamorous monuments in Cuba, was dedicated to Jose Miguel Gomez, the mastermind and executioners of this crime, on President’s Avenue in Havana.

Inexplicably 100 years later, no political party, religious organization, humanitarian association, workers union or governments, have had the courage, decency or dignity to erect a wooden cross, plant a tree or light a candle in Songo-La Maya for the victims. Following this brutal massacre, a huge official veil of complicit silence, wrapped and hid this repulsive chapter, expecting it to disappear as other oral history. Just two paragraphs, as an epithaph in our bourgeois history books, reflected on it. Our nation has failed shamefully to educate our children, publish books, produce films or TV programs about this barbaric behavior, which remains the only resource available to us to help us eradicate lingering prejudices and preconceptions in our society.

The triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959 and the present government has nothing to do with this horrendous page of our tragic history.  In numerous speeches, government leaders at the highest level have denounced this scourge in our society to no avail. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the development of tourism, joint-ventures and corporations in Cuba, racism re-emerged with a viciousness and virulence, that has spread across the country like a wildfire, devouring much of the core values of our nation.

To assume, that such brutal and overt racism, segregation and marginalization of our society could have taken place without capturing the attention of our authorities, is implausible to say the least. Blacks were not employed at front desk jobs, managerial positions or even as token leadership in the hospitality industry.  Most were limited to be in the kitchen and gardens, clearly away from all access to hard currency. Housekeeping in hotels and resort became off limits for black women. Miramar, Vedado, old Havana and even Vista Alegre in Santiago de Cuba business centers, looks more like Finland than Cuba.  A code word became popular among human resource employees for not hiring certain people, was not having  “fine features”.  Police patrols on Obispo St. and other tourist area, became internationally renowned for their overt racial profiling.

The Cuban government did not introduce racism, segregation and marginalization to Cuba, but after 50 years in power, with every possible resource at its disposal and an effective information gathering capability, the government cannot abdicate or deny its full responsibility in the perpetuation and tolerance of this social aberration. The past three years in Cuba have seen the first serious, profound, concerted attempt by the government to deal with this repulsive issue. Numerous seminars, conferences, and symposiums, are discussing this matter across the country.  A discrete attempt to reduce demeaning performance by blacks in TV programs and films, a mildly more balance composition of soap operas etc., seems to be responding to a generalize outcry of the population.

Every honest person, whatever their personal views maybe of the Cuban government, must commend and respect the courageous, unprecedented and firm corrective steps that president Raul Castro has implemented to deal with this thorny issue. Unfortunately, the severity of the level of marginalization, segregation, poverty, desperation, tension and social instability that is breeding among this sector of society, cannot wait or do not understand most of the heated theoretical, intellectual discussions that are taking place everywhere.  For hundreds of thousands of blacks and mulattos, trapped by hunger, despair, living in infrahuman condition and unfulfilled hopes in slums across Cuba, this is not a matter of academic or philosophical analysis.  For them, immediate solution and a means of survival are the only game in town!

For these and other reasons, I have not been drawn into the understandable and bitter arguments of some, who believes the monument of Jose Miguel Gomez is a national affront and should therefore be removed.  Then what? I prefer to believe, that the Cuban government must commit itself immediately to build a human development monument to the Cuban people, beginning with those in the Yateras-Guantanamo-Santiago de Cuba corridor, where thousands of members of the Party of Color, were slaughtered exactly 100 years ago. They died not for asking for anything for themselves, but for demanding justice, equality and fairness for all.

This region comprise 10% of the country’s population and enormous natural resources. It has a unique history and culture, and a high educational level. As long as the filial relation with the Caribbean and Afroamerica remain ignored and untapped, it will continue to be the poorest, blackest, most forgotten and least developed portion of the country. We will continue to sit on a tinder box with unpredictable consequences.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

May 20th. The most tragic date on the Cuban calendar. Part I

"May 20th.  The most tragic date on the Cuban calendar.  Part I"
by Alberto N. Jones
May 18, 2012

In a few hours, the calendar will mark another twentieth of May,  the most  fatidic  date in Cuba’s convulsive history, which has shaped like no other day, the views, emotions, frustrations and behavior of millions of its people.

The first recorded tragic May 20th, began at noon with the lowering of the American flag and the rising of the Cuban flag at the Morro Castle in Havana’s harbor.  It is said, the Cuban people were joyous to see the Americans leave after occupying our country for the past four years and in so doing, we were made to believe, we were a free, independent and sovereign nation.

Gratitude to our powerful neighbor to the north was instilled in us and celebrated with huge yearly parades, bands and flutes, honoring a pseudo-independence and a liberation day that never was.

Even today, 110 years after this fateful day, powerful Cuban American interests in the United States and in other large Cuban communities around the world, receive unqualified moral support from the US State Department to honor, keep alive and perpetuate this fatidic day among younger generations.

Facts of life would soon make it clear to most Cubans, that the precursors of this national tragedy, can be traced back to the unsolicited arrival of the USS Maine into the harbor of Havana in 1898.  The questionable cause of the massive onboard explosion, its subsequent sinking in deep waters by the US Navy and a full-blown mass media hysteria of “Remember the Maine” with cries for revenge, suggests a master conspiracy plan, designed to create the Cuban-American-Hispanic war.

After thirty years on the battle field in one of the most unequal  struggle in the history of mankind, the fully integrated Cuban Army of Independence had literally defeated the exhausted Spanish Occupying Forces, when the United States unilaterally decided to intervene in Cuba with a racist, segregated armada.

This military skirmish, which lasted less than three months and  most US casualties  were due to tropical diseases,  set the stage for the intractable, century old grievances, suspicion and resentment between the United States and Cuba, which like a suppurating, painful wound, refuse to heal.

Cubans were not allowed at the surrendering ceremony of the Spanish Army in Santiago de Cuba, nor were they allowed months later at the Paris Conference, where Spain officially relinquished all of its rights over the Philippines, Guam, Puerto Rico and for all legal purposes Cuba to the United States, turning this country overnight, into an empire with the stroke of a pen.

With the help of corrupt, unprincipled, opportunists Cuban politicians, tens of US companies prompted by the US State Department, flocked to Cuba and purchased for pennies on the dollar, millions of acres of prime farmland, sugar factories, utilities, transportation, banks, industries, energy, communication and every other important sectors of the Cuban economy.

Politically, Cuba was strapped to United States through the Monroe Doctrine and the Platt Amendment, a stranglehold that prohibited Cuba from entering into any legal, economic or political agreement with any nation, without prior approval by the US State Department.

Equally damaging to the country’s future, was the introduction of government corruption, cronyism, kick back, favoritism and political parties divorced from their people, which corroded the moral fiber of the nascent nation.

Still, the worst legacy left in Cuba by the presence of the United States since 1898 through 1958, was the resurrection of racism, segregation, marginalization and other divisive tools based upon class, creed, color and ethnic origin as it is in the United States.

This monstrosity have weaken the substrate of  a once solidly unified nation on the battlefield, whose motto was more than white, more than black more than mulatto, just say Cuban, by exposing its integrity to machinations by foreign manipulations of our people sensitivities, enhancing conflicts and by endangering the security and future of our nation.

Chapter two will focus on this cancer, which sadly, is alive and well in Cuba.