By El País
Final Edition | Sunday, March 8, 2009
A CubaNews translation.
Edited by Walter Lippmann.
Attack on Cuban mission in Anauco
They took the sum of 26,000 Strong Bolivars that was going to pay the Cultural Mission
Caracas. A group of Cuban officials who were working for the government of Venezuela were assaulted on Friday morning in the Anauco Hilton Hotel in Central Park by a gang seeking a sum of 300,000 dollars, which had been withdrawn hours earlier to pay the wages of the employees of the Cultural Mission.
The attack took place at 11 am, when the Cuban officials arrived from the Banco Industrial de Venezuela, located in Fuerte Tiuna. The members of the mission withdrew $300,000 in cash and went to the third floor of the Anauco Hilton, where their operational center is located, but, according to the police report, several armed men were waiting for them there.
The officials offered no resistance, but the robbers had no way of dealing with the pouch containing the dollars and therefore they took 26,000 Strong Bolivars in cash, which was in the offices [in 2008 a new Bolivar Fuerte, with three zeros removed, was introduced to take the place of the old Bolivar].
According to off-the-record comments by a source in the CICPC (Scientific, Penal, and Criminal Investigations Corps), the dollars and bolivars are part of the funds used to pay those working at the Cultural Mission and to cover operational expenses.
Officials from the CICPC were notified and arrived at the hotel to carry out the required investigation. The Cubans were questioned and a forensic examination of the site was carried out.
According to the unofficial version, the police do not rule out the collaboration of some employee of the mission or the bank who could have supplied details about the withdrawal of the money.
A CubaNews translation.
Edited by Walter Lippmann.
(The US film BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN was played on Cuban TV last year. I’m told it was extremely widely watched and so, it will come as no surprise to read that, BROKEBACK evoked a long comment – two full pages in the printed journal of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Havana as you can see here. We plan to translate this for readers of CubaNews in the near future.)
Hilda Mejias writes me, on behalf of other people in her community, who were very surprised on the evening of Friday May 16, when the television show “The Seventh Gate” played the film “Brokeback Mountain”. The film showed quite erotic scenes between two men, two cowboys. “Such loathsome behavior and lack of respect for the viewers”, Hilda writes,” who, in this country, include young men, teenagers and others who have never even seen or participated in a sexual act. I felt nauseated and switched off the TV. “
Is she too prudish? Is she a woman constrained to the “macho” standard of our culture? Is she intolerant because she’s Catholic? The truth is that Hilda’s reaction was not restricted to Catholics or other Christians, who from the viewpoint of their faith, reacted similarly. Many Cubans were surprised that this film was shown at a relatively early hour, because children and young people do not wake up early on Saturdays to go to school, [and therefore stay up late].
The surprise continued on Saturday, Sunday, Monday and subsequent days when the television, radio and the printed media echoed the great social event sponsored by the National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX): the celebration, on May 17th, of the Day against Homophobia. There was no more talk of the Peasant’s Day, but of the day of gays, bisexuals, transsexuals and transvestites. With such bombardment and promotion Cuba had achieved, some think, its social maturity. In fact someone even said this was a real “revolution”: “Revolution (is) … a group of transvestites on a stage.”
On June 6 CENESEX announced the promulgation of the resolution 126 of the Public Health Ministry that establishes “all disciplinary proceedings involving the care of transsexual people”, that is, meet the demands of the Cuban men and women who want to change their sex. It is possible that the next plenary meeting of the National Assembly in July, approves some amendments to laws that have to do with this subject. Although, Mariela Castro Espin, CENESEX Director, said that on the subject of legalizing marriage between same-sex couples there is nothing yet.
The correspondent in Havana for the newspaper “La Jornada” reported on June 5 that “up to now CENESEX has diagnosed 27 people as transsexuals and is studying 57 more. Of the 27 diagnosed, 13 have changed their official identity card and seven more have applied for new ones. One of those diagnosed was operated in1988, by special permit, and lives as a woman. “
Is it too much fuss for a few hundred people in a country of eleven million inhabitants? It is not so simple. If the percent of homosexuals in Cuba is similar to that of other countries, approximately one or two percent, it is possible that the total figure is closer to 200 thousand people. To promote respect and not discriminate someone because of their homosexuality is a gesture worthy of recognition. The Church agrees (see segment in this issue), precisely because a person is not just his status and sexual potential. As a creature of God, made in His image and likeness, the person is spirit, will, consciousness, effort, love, sacrifice, service, renunciation, self-mastery, freedom, desire for justice, transcendence …
Despite our Hispanic and African heritage, one can not say ours is a macho-style society as others around us. Suffice to see the reaction of the majority of Cuban women to the unbridled aggression of a husband. It can not be said either that prior to 1959 homosexuals were significantly discriminated against. Maybe because of the traditional cosmopolitanism, tolerance and relaxation of “traditions” that has marked the history of Cuba, even in colonial times. And, at the beginning of the twentieth century, the hordes of Americans who came as discoverers of all kinds of new opportunities designated and repeated ad nauseam that Havana was a gay city, a happy city, tolerant and open to the excesses that Puritanism did not allow there. \So even before, for some, this was a joyous and tolerant city. There were many famous Cuban persons, and there still are, many painters, writers, actors, academics, scientists and politicians who were not frustrated in their professional and social status for being homosexuals. Some hid the fact, others didn’t, but neither one nor the other was marked by scandal, nor were they sanctioned by law for their homosexual condition. Did they suffer the scorn and incomprehension of certain individuals? It’s possible. But, many of them achieved their purpose in life and left their mark in history because of their human talent, not their sexual preferences.
The current government campaign led from the higher echelons seems rather like a redress of wrongs. It was after 1959, with the purpose of creating a “new man”, that homophobia was imposed. They used jail cars, imprisonment, farm labor and the “invitation” to emigrate. The redress of wrongs and respect is great. But, there is danger that the campaign for respect moves towards promotion of homosexuality. There is danger that it can present homosexuality as “normal”, especially, if this campaign is launched so as to include young children and adolescents.
The television program “Open Dialogue”, broadcasted 48 hours after [the celebration of] the Day against Homophobia, is an example of the danger we face. This subject was treated superficially. It was not a debate, not a proper dialogue, because everyone had the same viewpoint. Besides, from time to time, one of the cameras focused on a poster with the phrase “The norm of sexuality is diversity.” Then, we can ask ourselves: When will we approve polygamy, or incest, or provide premises for swingers and other “sexual diversities”? And, maybe the most incomprehensible of all was the statement by a Baptist pastor, who was there precisely because she is Christian. “In the Gospels,” she said, and I’m quoting her more or less freely, “there is no word of Jesus against homosexuality.” Thus, it seemed she had blessed the event and banished all religious opinion to the contrary. It is true that Jesus never spoke of homosexuality, nor did he talk about ecology or the right to work. Nor is it said in the Ten Commandments, which the Pastor must know, that “you shall not covet your female neighbor’s wife or your male neighbor’s husband.” Doesn’t she realize that when Jesus speaks of marriage in the Gospels, when He speaks of adultery, or of cohabitation with the Samaritan woman, He speaks only of men and women because God incarnate could not conceive marriage, adultery and cohabitation between homosexuals?
But, there is a particular danger in this entire campaign if it insists in reaffirming this condition and no space or opportunity is given to those who wish to leave it behind. There are many who would like to change their attitude, and many in the world have done so.
When in 1973 the American Society of Psychiatry removed homosexuality from its list of diseases, it did so by a vote of its members at a rate of 58 percent in favor of the removal. So, that leaves 42 percent of psychiatrists who believe that homosexuals can be helped to overcome this condition. In fact, there are many psychiatrists, including Cubans, who continue to consider homosexuality as a disorder that arises, in many cases, because of damaged emotional relationships between parents and children’s early years.
We say yes to respecting a homosexual person, and no to the promotion of homosexuality. We walk on a razor’s edge when, from the very governmental institutions, programs are promoted that can undermine the basis of society. Homosexual behavior is not new, but the international agenda promoting homosexuality at all levels, is. Not even the Greeks and Romans, who were so devoted to homosexual practices they considered them as “distinguished” acts during their centuries of dominance, dared to equate homosexual with heterosexual unions. They were convinced that the latter ones were the ones that guaranteed and supported the existence of society.
Respect for the homosexual person, for being a person, yes; to make the program into a State priority when there are other needs, no. If CENESEX’s purpose is education, it does not suffice to show respect for homosexuals. Why not promote, with a greater and more evident force, the value of the family as the main social institution? The family today is corrupted and divided because of many social ills. Why not strengthen the family and help them to have more children and raise them in a country that is rapidly aging? Why not develop programs that demonstrate the social benefits of a strong family and of married couples that stay together until death? Why not push for stronger laws forcing many irresponsible fathers to provide sustenance for their children, who they abandon to the fate of the mothers when they divorce, or when they do not want to acknowledge them? Why not promote with real strength an education in decency, responsibility and true love? Why not put an end to so much opportunity for sexual promiscuity and vice, where young people have been driven to homosexual behavior that they never thought to have? (An action in this direction should include educational centers) Why not publicize current studies made by experts from countries that started on this journey almost twenty years ago, such as Norway? Why not talk about homosexuals who have ceased to be so of their own free will, and who declare themselves released from a sad tether?
Perhaps we have already touched bottom with the approval of sex and identity change. In fact, when the Director of CENESEX says in an interview to Bohemia magazine (May 23, year 100, No. 11) that “homosexual marriage” is not necessary; she is setting a limit to what she advocates. But, when state institutions send messages that shake social foundations, family values, and jeopardize the innocence of the youngest and most vulnerable of its citizens in a country already shaken by the uncertainty of the present and the future, the result of these messages can be counterproductive. Then it won’t be enough to turn off the TV to avoid seeing the erotic flirting of two cowboys in Brokeback Mountain.
By Marianela Martín and Alina Perera
March 8, 2009 00:58:49 GMT
A CubaNews translation.
Edited by Walter Lippmann.
Vilma’s voice is being projected across the room and large screens show images of her during distinct moments of her life. In her loving tone, she speaks of the privilege of being a woman in Cuba. Like Fidel she has been a faithful promoter of our conquests.
Minutes later, young women in uniform bring Vilma’s guerilla outfit and her pistol closer to the stage, symbols that prevail during the sessions of the 8th Congress of the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC).
These were the first moments of the most important meeting of Cuban women, which ended on Sunday in Havana’s Convention Palace. The inaugural session on Saturday afternoon include the presence of the First Vice President of the Council of State and Ministers, José Ramón Machado Ventura, the Moncada Heroine, Melba Hernández, the founder of the Federation and Vilma’s comrade from the clandestine struggle and the Sierra Maestra, Asela de los Santos Tamayo, and the mothers, wives, and sons of our five compatriots unjustly imprisoned in U.S. jails for fighting terrorism.
In the meeting, where almost half of the delegates were born after 1959, the secretary general of the FMC, Yolanda Ferrer Gómez, displayed confidence in the women who will provide continuity to the life of the organization.
“Cuban women will never return to the oppressive past”, the member of the Party’s Central Committee affirmed. She repeated something that Vilma said and which Fidel has always praised: women have to put up a fight for life and the Revolution alongside their male comrades.
Especially moving was the proposal to place an image of combatant Vilma in front of the logo on the Federation’s flag. The delegates raised their hands in a sign of approval and afterwards a young woman declared that the face of this exceptional woman will be an incentive for women to become members of and take an active part in the organization’s endeavors.
Reading a summery of the Central Report to the Congress, Yolanda Ferrer emphasized that Cuban women are a «true army», in which the precepts conceived of by Vilma for the full liberation of women have taken root.
The Secretary General of the Federation acknowledged that the organization has become stronger and its membership base has grown. It has identified the most important challenges for women, developed and promoted educational and preventative programs, taken part in the tasks of the Energy Revolution, defended the incorporation of women into the work force, and decided on the modification of cardinal laws for the country, among other achievements.
“This, our first Congress of the 21st century, serves to consolidate what has been achieved” Yolanda Ferrer stated. She said that even though the FMC has advanced, it continues face challenges. The organization must improve the politics of cadres; achieve the smooth functioning and liveliness of each section of the Federation; work in a multifaceted manner in order to attend to individualities; make it so that the organization is felt in every community; energetically confront all the symptoms of corruption; and revolutionize content and ways of organizing.
During the first day, the delegates also approved the suggestion of the National Secretary to not fill the position of the President of the FMC in the future and for it remain symbolically in the hands of compañera Vilma Espín as a tribute to her.
From woman to woman.
In the morning, there were reflections by commissions dealing with cadre politics and the operation of the organization, ideological work, the formation of values, the defense of the country, international solidarity work, the participation of the women in the economy, community and preventative work, and the fight for equality and the promotion of women.
This last subject provoked multiple people to express their ideas, among which was the need to go beyond analysis that refers only to men and to women when it should be about equality.
According to the delegate’s criterion, it’s necessary to add other variables that display the principal areas where inequality is generated in Cuba today. How do the families depend on women’s economic contribution in the home? How does subjectivity function depending on the social group to which a person pertains?
Only if we see the Cuban reality as something heterogeneous and contradictory, a female member alerted, will our ways of doing politics be more effective.
Another concern expressed in the commission was in reference to the importance of respecting the diversity of preferences among human beings. This principal applied to the area of sexuality, which, according to more than one voice in the Congress, is the antidote to prejudices and discriminatory attitudes.
One woman requested that we not forget that behind each person that has sexual preferences, to which we either are or are not accustomed, there is someone who has feelings and can struggle together with us.
The director of the Cuban National Center of Sexual Education (CENESEX), Mariela Castro Espín, said in a reflection about the challenges of achieving equality that in some ways we are returning to the 1970s, when at the height of the Second Congress of the Federation, women asked for sexual orientation for their children so that they did not repeat the same errors that they had.
“We return to those problems, although with a dialectical focus – Mariela said –; gender violence is not longer as explicit; the bad keeps reducing but it does not disappear, which is why we must keep working intelligently”.
The director of CENESEX posed a question for all to ponder: How does a woman that has governmental, administrative, and political responsibilities live? With how many contradictions? “This is a problem whose solution can be found in the joint work of men and women”.
To envisage, the curative attitude of José Martí, was in the spirit of the delegates that participated in the commission, where they spoke about efforts in the community and in educational settings where it is possible to deeply confront attitudes that lessen the moral health of the nation.
Lázara Mercedes López Acea, member of the Secretariat of the Party’s Central Committee emphasized that good intentions are not enough for deploying effective preventative work: its necessary to prepare oneself. If direct attention for children and youth is important to the Federation, it’s cardinal to provide guidance to the organization’s social workers who work closely with families.
The organization’s impact in homes, in the School Councils, in its projects like the Courses of Integral Advancement for Youth, and in all of the key spaces for the education of new generations was highlighted by Lázara Mercedes. When one speaks about prevention, she said, one must always do it with infinite reserve, which the FMC has in its work with the human being.
What woman can do
In 2000, Aida Leonor Oro Lau, director of the company Inejiro Asanuma Holguin Spinning Mill, suffered an accident that caused her to lose her right hand, but did not weaken her desire to work. Now «left-handed by force», she admits, the initiatives arising from her are countless and go beyond giving orders or singing papers.
This Saturday, among delegates of the 8th Congress of the FMC analyzing the participation of women in the Cuban economy, Aida Leonor brought up the epidemic sadness that the hurricanes left in Hoguin, also known as the city of parks.
“Of my workers, 171 suffered damage to their homes and 41 were left without a place to live. The factory had to take on, amidst the chaos, the production of food for these workers and also form a strategy so that absenteeism would not affect production plans.”
With this Cuban woman in charge, operating one thread winding machine, 57,000 hours of voluntary work were done and the plans were completed.
Aida took over this company in 1992. At that time, the center suffered from shortages and the exodus of many workers. Coming from the standpoint that willpower is more powerful than the available consumables, she had the intention of diversifying products to temporarily ride it out.
With a 40 year-old sowing machine that belonged to the center and three female workers, they began to make pillows. Later the workshop grew with the obtainment of 8 of these machines and with the reclamation of the movement Sewing at Home, which the Federation promoted.
Thanks to this initiative, the factory sold 224,000 dollars worth of products at TRD stores last year, and in 2009 its sales will reach $314,000, almost 36% of which the company will pay to the state. The company envisages producing thread for textile products made in the country, including the production of antiseptic tape.
Aida spoke in the commission about replacing imports with national products and that national industry must recover its reliability. In the same discussion, Odalys Álvarez from Pinar del Rio requested that the FMC more rigorously to demand that companies pay based on results because not doing so weakens women’s incorporation in the workplace.
Audit and Control Minister Gladys Bejerano called for the creation a culture of control and prevention. She was an invited guest at the 8th Congress and spoke about the presence of women in the economic life of the country, where they have not only spread intelligent ideas but have also known how to confront corruption and other illegalities using their talent of persuasion and love.
By Pascual Serrano
A CubaNews translation.
Edited by Walter Lippmann.
If it hadn’t been for Fidel Castro’s reflection published the day after the changes announced by the Cuban government on March 2, the shake-up would have been no different, either in form or in content, than those we see all the time anywhere in the world. It was what turned the “release” of the relevant “comrades” from their “normal duties” officially notified by the Council of State, as befits its authority, into a string of serious accusations against “two of them”.
No doubt that stating and sharing personal impressions and views with the Cuban people is perfectly within the rights of whoever has been in command of their Revolution. It’s also true that, once released from his commitments as the head of the Cuban state, his words may respond exclusively to his free thoughts, as they’re no longer restrained by the moderation and diplomacy that his former post involves.
Fidel Castro himself made it quite clear on February 19, 2008 when he publicly declared his intention to not run for office again. “All I want is to fight like a soldier of ideas. It will be still another weapon we can use from the arsenal. Maybe my voice will be heard, so I must use caution”, his words were. That’s why his articles started to come out under the humble heading “Reflections by Comrade Fidel”. Some friends went so far as to compare his writings with a simple blog posted by someone who kept contributing ideas from his retired leader’s watchtower.
What complicates matters is that comrade Fidel’s reflections make headlines in the country’s two only newspapers, score more hits than any other item in all Cuban portals on line, and are read without fail on national television to the point of ousting every piece of institutional information posted by the government’s legitimate bodies.
We find, therefore, that all Cuban public institutions get subverted when it comes to communications. It had already happened when Chilean president Michelle Bachelet visited the island: a personal comment by an analyst –Fidel Castro– taking a stand in favor of Bolivia’s right to an outlet to the sea became a diplomatic issue, now twisted to the point of schizophrenia in face of the recent changes in government.
The Cuban people, Cuba’s friends, and whoever in the world follows the course of events in the country very closely noticed the gap between the government’s official statement and the ex-president’s reflection. Consequently, those of us who support Cuba find ourselves without the resources or the information we need to explain Cuban institutionalism.
We are faced with a mistake that the Cuban leaders must acknowledge and rectify. Obscurity has never been known to be a good cement to bind a people, while trust is gained by shedding light around. I would bring up the words of the great pro-independence hero José Gervasio Artigas: “With the truth I neither offend nor fear”
By Luis Luque Alvarez
April 16, 2009 0:19:13 CDT
A CubaNews translation.
Edited by Walter Lippmann.
“Color revolutions” flourished in Eastern Europe in the past few years. In Ukraine, for instance, the “Orange Revolution” managed to push Víctor Yuschenko (European Union and US favorite) to the presidency in 2005, while in Georgia, in 2003, through the «Rose Revolution» former Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs Eduard Shevardnadze yielded his post vis-à-vis the momentum displayed by Mijail Shaakashvili, graduated in New York and Washington universities, and to whom the opposition now wants to give a taste of the very same medicine.
These days, another country from that same geographical area so prone to “peaceful changes” is in the headlines. It is the Republic of Moldova, a small state that was formerly a part of the Soviet Union. And it has common elements with respect to the situations developed in the above-mentioned countries: elections are staged, the opposition challenges results and incites people’s protests under the Aristotelian precept about the fact that “those who push don’t get the heat”, with the tiny presence of a foreign hand to make the «revolution» bear fruit…
It would be interesting, nevertheless, to review certain data about the country in order to better illustrate developments. Moldova is a territory of barely 33,800 square kilometers, trapped between Romania and Ukraine. At least one third of its 4.5 million inhabitants has Romanian ancestors, and the cultural influence of that nation (Romanian is the most frequently used language, for instance), to which it was united until 1940, is highly visible.
In economic terms, Moldova is considered Europe’s poorest country. The disintegration of the USSR pushed it into a deep crisis. It was only in the past few years that government actions positively operated on the population’s standards of living. Thus, if in 2001 67,8 per cent of the people were under the poverty level, this indicator was reduced to 29,1 per cent by 2006. From that year on, the conjunction of unfavorable climatic conditions (this country exports agricultural commodities, especially wine), the limitations imposed to the access to various markets and the increase in the cost of energy produced an economic decline, although President Vladimir Voronin’s administration displays a better readiness to attenuate the impact of this crisis on the more humble segments.
Another interesting element in the Moldavian case bears the name Transdnitria, a territory west of the Dniester River, inhabited mainly by Russian and Ukrainian minorities that have been fearful, since the early 1990s, of a potential annexation of Moldova to Romania, decided to disassociate themselves from Chisinau (Moldovan capital, the seat of central power) and to go their own way. After the ensuing war, a critical peace was established, because Transdnitria has not restored its links with the small country, nor has it gained any recognition from the international community as an autonomous entity, nor has a solution been found to return to Moscow a voluminous arsenal that still remains there from Soviet times.
It is obvious that, in spite of its tiny proportions, Moldova contains every necessary ingredient to become a powder keg, wedged between Ukraine (a country that longs to join NATO in spite of Russia’s opposition), Romania (a land that hosts NATO and US bases, nostalgic enough from the times when both countries were integrated, to the point of distributing Romanian passports to over 100 000 Moldovians), and, lastly, a portion of territory led by Moscow’s sympathisers, while the echo of two autonomous republics (Abjasia and Southern Ossetia, that declared their independence from Georgia and were recognized by Russia) still rings in the air.
Nevertheless, there is an ongoing peace that seems to bother certain people. How can the “revolutionary” scenarios be repeated? Thus: the opposition, dissatisfied with the new victory of the Communist Party, manages to put 5 000 people —mostly youngsters— out on the street to destroy, to request an annexation to Romania and to denounce a fraud, even if the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe has certified the integrity of the ballot!
And to conclude with a perfect scene of interference, comes the hand from beyond. According to President Voronin, there is evidence to prove that Romanian agents fueled the fire of demonstrations in Chisinau. That is why he expelled the Romanian ambassador, a move reciprocated by Bucharest.
But of course, there is one last trump card that is still missing. As US journalist Daniel McAdam points out on the blog LewRockwell, it was a strange sight to see so many young demonstrators armed with iPods, a modern telecommunication equipment used to summon the mob. With the low salaries paid in Moldova, these would be a luxury for any native. But putting two and two together —and here comes the trump card— we arrive at the “generosity” displayed by the US Agency for Development (USAID), that, according to its own web page, implements in this country programs to “train” “communities» in technological matters, and also in “mobilizing, pushing for change and putting demands to government”.
But days have gone by and calm has returned. The colored “revolution” did not take place, and the only thing that the Constitutional Court has ordered is not a re-run of elections, as the liberal opposition wishes, but a vote recount.
Meanwhile, some people endowed with power and influence would better, for their own health’s sake, meditate and determine if –after Kosovo, Southern Ossetia and Abjasia— it is worthwhile or not to go around throwing sparks on the Eastern European haystack…
A CubaNews translation.
Edited by Walter Lippmann.
We could discuss at length whether something was right or wrong, or well thought-out or badly conceived, but here’s a work to be reckoned with. Those who want to use me had better know that I still feel for and act in a twofold capacity: I’m an old Cuban communist and an old French communist. Remember I joined the French [communist] party when I was studying in that country.
Walterio Carbonell (18-I-1920)
Walterio Carbonell’s major historiographic merit was that he highly valued the blacks’ contribution to Cuban culture and society as a whole social phenomenon, in keeping with Georges Gurvitch’s views on this kind of process. Until then, bourgeois historiography had either neglected or underrated black people’s participation in the national historiographic work. Among the first-class scholars, only Fernando Ortíz and Elías Entralgo had given these disregarded ethnic groups the recognition they deserved.
He was an upright opponent of the Soviet flow of manuals used to start spreading Marxism and Leninism in Cuba, the reason that he had to stop teaching this subject. (…) I’m grateful to Walterio for making me understand our revolutionary process in depth and with all its complexities. Since we talked for the first time he made it plain to me in a very simple way that the solution to the problems of social, economic and racial inequality that prevail in the world today lies in socialism, as long as it’s real, democratic, participatory and free of any sign of dogmatism and intolerance.
–Tomás Fernández Robaina
Rather than a strict approach to its object of reflection, Walterio Carbonell’s book [How natural culture emerged] is one of the most singular and engrossing testimonies about the history of Cuban intelligentsia in the second half of the 20th century. It addresses the cultural debate that took place in those days from a different perspective, one way above any political quarrel, literary squabbling or intrigues to seize cultural power. Walterio Carbonell proposed a Marxist dialogue about the nation’s historical foundations, racial premises and its possibilities to keep playing its role in the Cuban Revolution’s ideological discourse. Carbonell’s book, however, went unnoticed, and with time its pages were hushed into gloomy oblivion.
Author: PEDRO DE LA HOZ
A CubaNews translation.
Edited by Walter Lippmann.
Forty-five years after the first edition, the José Martí National Library has again published Walterio Carbonell’s Cómo surgió la cultura nacional (How national culture emerged) in order to launch Ediciones Bachiller, a humble but arduous effort to rescue long-forgotten, yet essential, texts of Cuban letters.
National Library director and renowned essayist Eliades Acosta rightly remarks that Walterio’s “is one of the most radical books of the Revolution’s historiography”. Both the author and his book were surely tagged as evil as a result of their radical nature. Going headfirst and with fully loaded cannons into historiographic conventions and domestic myths gave rise to an upheaval of wariness and denials in his epoch. What should have become a consistent discussion of his theses remained hidden in a miasma of ostracism, perhaps tampered with by the existing circumstances.
It came as no surprise to Walterio, who personally confessed to this reporter a few months ago: “my statements were racked with urgency; it was the dawn of the Revolution, our internal ideological struggle had reached its peak and I wanted to help ideological revolutionary views to gain ground. I should have reviewed what I wrote then, develop my ideas more and go deeper into more than one thing or two, but it proved impossible”.
These considerations by no means reduce the basic significance of an essay that for the first time highlighted, in an organic and integrated manner, the contribution of a dominated culture, that of black slaves, and the birth and growth of our nation.
Walterio’s starting point was a Marxist conception of history detached from any mechanistic and oppressive dogmas. When he says that, “neither the nation nor national culture are exactly its social classes, but a product”, and “the problem of creating a nation and its national culture demands an analysis that goes beyond a mere appraisal of a society’s living conditions and class conflicts”, a highly complicated issue in Cuba since, in the 19th century, “not only were the fundamental classes, to wit slaves and slaveholders, in conflict but also the psychic and cultural formation of the Spanish and African population”, the author took a decisive step towards a dialectical articulation of this topic.
He had already smashed to pieces what he called “a bookish and aristocratic approach to culture”, by wondering “whether it would be true that our cultural inventory is made up of a collection of reactionary ideas put across by Arango y Parreño, José Antonio Saco, Luz y Caballero and Domingo del Monte” or “whether by any chance popular culture, whose strength lies in black people’s traditions, is not a cultural tradition”.
In his conclusions, oddly enough, placed halfway through the text, Walterio summarizes several assessments that are full-fledged science nowadays but at that time, and so passionately expressed, they seemed inflammatory. Today, for instance, we know that “the Ten Years War is the expression of the ultimate decomposition of slavery in Cuba” and “it was waged against the metropolis as much as it was against the vast majority of slaveholders”, but I’m not sure at this juncture that ideas like “as the driving force of the colonial economy as well as the most exploited class (…) the slaves became the most revolutionary class” have been deeply studied or, instead of a response to the metropolis’s restrictive policies, “the multiple slave uprisings were a major cause of division amid the ruling class (…): annexationists and reformists”.
Walterio’s book provides the Cuban scientists with present-day proposals to debate and discuss. It would suffice to reintroduce this statement to encourage analysis: “Africa has facilitated the victory of social changes in the country, which by no means imply that Spain has disappeared. It has Africanized instead “.
At any rate, it would be both useful and convenient to breathe the fresh air supplied by Cómo surgió la cultura nacional. Walterio’s work is alive, just like he is, day after day in his quiet post there in the National Library José Martí, proud of having dedicated his book to Fidel and with the memories of having been the one who, in Paris, during the years of Batista’s tyranny, flew the 26th of July banner from the Eiffel Tower.
May 2, 2017
A CubaNews translation by Walter Lippmann.
Icon of the Argentine cinema, actress and director Norma Aleandro arrives today at her 81st birthday in a full creative phase.
Much rain has fallen since she starred in The Official Story in 1985, the first film from this southern nation to win the Oscar for best foreign film and for which she earned the laurel at the Cannes Film Festival for Best Actress.
She became one of the most acclaimed faces inside and outside of Latin America, Aleandro remains very active, at once directing theater or lending her voice to classic national and world tales in a new cycle in Buenos Aires telling a story.
She recently primiered the play Escena de la vida conjugal, about the work of Swedish Ingmar Bergman, in which she directs two other great actors, Ricardo Darín and Erica Rivas, at the Maipo.
Although almost always seen in front of the cameras, the role of director also draws her.
“It’s a different place to the extent that someone else is going to take the stage but I’m in a place where being an actress is good for understanding the actor’s mind and vice versa. We are good for the actors and we also like to be able to direct, although they are two very different things,” she said in recent statements to an Argentine media.
When asked recently in an interview with the Infobae website, what is the best thing that this career has given her. She answered many things, for example she answered that many things, for example, she said, the knowledge that she can give authors telling stories.
“It helps a lot to understand the human being and therefore yourself. You have to put other people in place who have very different customs, who have loves and hatreds very different from yours, which helps you empathize with the other human being next door.
Argentines who have grown up with Aleandro thank her for her memorable movies and leave nice messages for her on social networks like Twitter and Facebook on this new birthday.
Born on May 2, 1936 in Buenos Aires, Aleandro made her debut in 1952. Among her most notable films are: Autumn Sun, Anita, Gaby: a true story, The son of the girllfriend and The Son of the Bride, and the bed inside.
(With information from Prensa Latina)
Dr. Miguel Angel Azcue, oncologist, would surely have taken many years to find out who had been the patient to whom, in the first months of 1978, he had diagnosed advanced cancer of the tonsils. In fact, it is even more probable that the doctor would never have come to know the identity of that old and sallow Spaniard who was brought to his clinic by none other than the hospital director, Dr. Zoilo Marinello.
For Dr. Azcue to find out, on October 21, 1978, who this enigmatic patient had really been (and you will understand why I use this qualifier), a whole series of coincidences, were shaped up and developed almost by a superior destiny interested in revealing to the doctor a hidden and alarming story.
The first essential fact to make the whole assemblage effective was that on October 20 Dr. Azcue saw and immediately diagnosed– the invisible assassin of Trotsky, Ramon Mercader del Río, died in Havana devoured by that cancer.
The second indispensable fact is that, against what had been arranged, news of Mercader’s death crossed the iron curtains of anonymity and silence, and, by some means, was leaked to the international press. Because –it goes without saying– the Cuban press never published this or any other news related to the presence, for four years, or the death in Cuba, of the Spaniard who, in 1940, had violently murdered the number two man of the October Revolution.
Other facts that combined to make the doctor astonished to the point of shock were that on October 21, 1978, Dr. Azcue and his colleague, Dr. Cuevas, left Havana for Buenos Aires to participate in an oncology congress to which they had been invited. If there had not been such a congress and such an invitation, Azcue and Cuevitas –as everyone calls the experienced Cuban oncologist– would not have been aboard the Aerolineas Argentinas flight that covered the Havana-Buenos Aires route at that time.
Because, if, instead of traveling with the Argentinean company, they had traveled with Cubana de Aviación, perhaps Azcue and Cuevas would not have learned the truth.
The difference lies in the newspapers that are available to the passengers in one and the other airline: On Cubana, Cuban papers; on Aerolíneas Argentinas, Argentinean press.
The Cuban newspapers, as I said before, would have contributed to keeping Azcue in ignorance for at least another day, or perhaps many more days, perhaps even forever. The Argentinean paper, on the other hand, showed him a headline which, from the start, touched him in many ways: “The Murderer of Leon Trotsky Dies in Havana” –and a photo that shook him up and down: this Ramón Mercader which appeared in the newspaper, had to be the same patient who, months ago, he and Cuevitas had diagnosed with cancer.
This was confirmed by Cuevas, his colleague from the Oncology Hospital and seat mate on the Aerolíneas Argentinas airplane it was on this plane, to almost complete the conjunctions of this history, the doctors had been given a newspaper from Buenos Aires and not one from Havana.
But, in fact, the story of Dr. Azcue’s relationship with Trotsky’s killer had begun thirty-eight years earlier in Mexico City. Azcue, who had been born in Spain, had come to Mexico very young and did not move to Cuba until about 20 years later. As a child, he heard his father say that the Soviet leader had been killed in his house in Coyoacán.
Since then, he had lived with curiosity awakened by that story that had moved not only his father –a Spanish Republican– but also millions of men and women in the world.
Over the years, he would learn the few facts everyone knew about Leon Trotsky’s killer: that his name (presumably false) was Jacques Mornard. He claimed to be a disenchanted Trotskyist, even though everyone knew it was a scam; that he had killed Trotsky with an mountain-climber’s axe, with much premeditation and tons of treachery; and that, for that crime, he served a twenty-year sentence in Mexican prisons … and practically nothing else.
Perhaps the veil of mystery, silence, plot, and deception that had gathered around the murderer had kept Azcue’s interest in that man alive over time. He kept it in Mexico, brought it to Cuba and kept it almost lost in a corner of his memory, but alive and latent.
The interest was buried in his mind when he got on the Aerolineas Argentinas plane and opened the newspaper that would place him face to face with a remarkable truth: that he, Azcue, had had this same assassin before him, had spoken to him, had touched him, and had been in charge of telling him that he would soon die.
Azcue would always vividly remember the afternoon when Dr. Zoilo Marinello brought him that patient. The fact that the director of the hospital asked him to –with his other oncologist colleagues specialized in “head and neck cancer”– examine that Spaniard who was a case “of his”, motivated Azcue’s curiosity.
Then there was also the fact that the man who –according to his words– had been seen by many doctors (he did not say who or where) who had not been able to diagnose the obvious and widespread tonsil cancer that was killing him, was a surprise to the team of specialists and marked a notch in the memory of the doctor.
Finally, the fact that the consolation treatment –a few radiation sessions that Azcue and his colleagues prescribed to the patient considering the spread of the disease– was not given to him at the Oncology Hospital, but at another institution, completed the engraving of the case in Azcue’s memory. Otherwise, perhaps he would have become one of the tens, or hundreds of people he examined every year.
In the request of the director of the hospital there were several elements that, only months later, when he knew who his patient was, did Dr. Miguel Angel Azcue begin to understand: Dr. Zoilo Marinello was an old Communist militant, brother of the politician and essayist Juan Marinello, one of the most renowned leaders of the former Popular Socialist [Communist] Party in Cuba.
As the doctor would learn much later, Ramon Mercader and his mother, Caridad del Río, had friendly relations with some of those old Cuban Communist militants, including Juan Marinello himself, and with musician Harold Gratmages with whom –Azcue would learn much, much later—Caridad had worked when Gratmages served as Cuban ambassador in Paris (1960-1964).
So, if anyone knew or had to know who the Republican Spaniard invaded by cancer was, that man was Zoilo Marinello. It was not, therefore, an ordinary request.
It was also years after Mercader’s death, and the discovery of his real identity, that Doctor Azcue would have a strange new commotion related to that dark and obscure character. It happened in the mountainous area of the center of the island: the Escambray, where there is a museum dedicated to “La Lucha contra Bandidos” (The War Against the Bandits), as the low-intensity war developed in the 1960s in that area between the guerrillas of opponents of the system and the militias and revolutionary army was called.
In that museum, among many photos, there is one of a group of fighters “cazabandidos [bandit hunters]” in which a man appears appears who … according to Azcue, had to be Ramón Mercader! Is it possible that when we all believed he was in Moscow, Mercader was in Cuba, collaborating with the Cuban anti-guerilla or counterintelligence services? Although the evidence at hand makes that possibility unlikely, Dr. Azcue believes that only if Mercader had a twin, the man in the photo at the museum (not identified in the written notes of the display) was not Mercader.
Twenty-five years after the death of Ramon Mercader, while I was beginning my research to write the novel about the assassination of Trotsky, which I named The Man Who Loved Dogs, I had the misfortune and the luck of meeting Dr. Miguel Angel Azcue. The reason was initially painful and worrisome: following the removal of a small wart that my father had on his nose, the routine biopsy done in those cases had proven positive, that is, that cancer cells were present. I immediately got in motion to see what we could do for my father and, as we always do in Cuba, the first option was to find a direct path to the possible solution: the way of friends.
Then I wrote to my old friend and study partner José Luis Ferrer, who has lived in the United States since 1989, because his mother, Dr. Maria Luisa Buch, had been the assistant director of the Oncology Hospital (under Dr. Marinello). Although she had died, surely there would remain friends on the staff of the institution. In this way, only a few days later, I arrived holding my father´s hand, at the clinic of Dr. Azcue. From the very start, he took the case as his own and –today we know: and here lies the fortunate part of the story– saved my father´s life.
It was in one of those visits to Dr. Azcue’s clinic –I had already given him some of my books and an extra-hospital friendship had developed– when I told him that I was getting ready to write a novel about Trotsky’s killer. I remember that the good doctor’s gaze locked on mine before he said, sardonically and proudly, “I met that man and I have an incredible story about him…”
* Leonardo Padura, Cuban writer. Award Princess of Asturias 2015. Author among other books of “The Man Who Loved Dogs” (Tusquets, 2009, first edition)
A CubaNews translation by Walter Lippmann.
Political and Russian theorist.
First name Lev Davidovich Bronstein
Birth November 7, 1879
Yakovka Flag of Ukraine Ukraine
Death August 20, 1940
Flag of the United States of Mexico Mexico
Leon Trotsky (Lev Davidovich Bronstein) Intellectual, political and Russian theorist. He participated actively in the Russian Revolution (1917) and was organizer of the Red Army .
He was born in Yákovka (Ukraine) on November 7, 1879, into a Jewish family of farm laborers.
He studied in Odessa and Mykolayiv, standing out for his intellectual abilities.
He studied law at the University of Odessa.
He began in politics in the year 1896, joining in the populist circles of Mykolayiv, although soon he joined the Marxist movement. He was a profound student of Marxist theory, to which he contributed developments such as the theory of permanent revolution.
In 1897 he founded the Workers’ League of Southern Russia, whose activities against the tsarist autocratic regime would result in his being arrested, imprisoned and sentenced to exile.
He was arrested several times and banished to Siberia. Escaped exile in 1902 and moved to Europe adopting the pseudonym of Trotsky (name of a jailer who had guarded him). During his stay abroad, he joined Vladimir Lenin, Julius. Mártov, Gueorgui Plekhanov, and other members of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party (RSDLP) who edited the newspaper Iskra (La Chispa).
When the second congress of the RSDLP was held in London in 1903, it was marked by differences with Lenin and the Bolsheviks and he joined the Mensheviks, without establishing strong ties.
When the Revolution of 1905 failed, he was deported back to Siberia and escaped once again in 1907 and dedicated the next decade to defend his ideas, being involved in frequent ideological disputes.
When the Russian Revolution began in February 1917, Trotsky was in New York , collaborating on a Russian newspaper, so he moved to Russia and joined the Petrograd Soviet, becoming directly involved with the Bolsheviks in the revolutionary process, becoming part of the Central Committee of the Party.
The return to Russia
After crossing several countries coming into contact with the foci of revolutionary conspirators, he moved to Russia as soon as the Revolution of February 1917, which overthrew Nicholas II, broke out.
During the first stage of the Russian Revolution, he became a trusted man of Vladimir Lenin, participating in several missions, including the negotiated withdrawal of World War I (1914-1918), through the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (1918)
He played a central role in the conquest of power by Lenin, was responsible for the taking of the Winter Palace by the Bolsheviks.
Then he became Commissar of War (1918-1925), a position from which he organized the Red Army under very difficult conditions and defeated the so-called white (counterrevolutionary) armies and their Western allies (1918-1920) in a long civil war.
Lenin was forced to withdraw from political life in May of 1922, after suffering a stroke asa consequence of an assassin’s attack. After Lenin’s death, he was removed from his position as Commissar of War in 1925 and expelled from the Political Bureau in 1926.
Stalin sent him into exile to Central Asia in 1928 and was banished from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in 1929. He spent the rest of his life making public his criticisms of Stalin.
He lived in Turkey, France, Norway and finally in Mexico, invited by General Lázaro Cárdenas, president of the country, in 1937. He initially lived at the home of Mexican painter Diego Rivera and his wife Frida Kahlo .
He was subjected to several attacks in almost all the countries and cities where he lived in exile, including the one carried out by under the orders of the Mexican communists.
Ramon Mercader, a Catalan trained by Soviet intelligence and sent from the USSR, entered the circle closest to Trotsky and carried out his. Mercader attacked Trotsky in the residence he occupied in the Mexican city of Coyoacan, on August 20, 1940 with a piolet (mountaineer’s axe), which sank in his head; But he was able to react and asked for help. Trotsky passed away the next day.
He wrote numerous essays, an autobiography, My Life (1930), The History of the Russian Revolution (3 volumes, 1931-1933), The Revolution Betrayed (1936), and articles on major current issues of his time (Stalinism, Nazism, fascism or the Spanish Civil War).
His works were also highlighted:
The Permanent Revolution (1930)
Socialism in the Balkans (1910)
Literature and revolution (1924)
Results and perspectives (1906)
He is considered by many one of the most important Marxist theorists of the twentieth century, especially in relation to the theory of revolution in the imperialist epoch: his theory of permanent revolution.
As a journalist and historian, he was recognized as one of the greatest political writers of the century. Also emphasized contributions in the field of art and culture.
Biography of Leon Trotsky . Taking biographies and lives.
Phrases and thoughts
The man who loved the dogs. Leonardo Padura, 2009