RSS

Monthly Archives: May 2011

Cyber-Cubans: Digital Anarchy


I don’t have to think too hard to come up with the question I’ve had to answer most often since I came to the United States. It’s this: “How do independent bloggers on the Island update their pages without access to the Internet?” It’s an indecipherable puzzle for those who assume a connection as a vital necessity, without which their existence would be unthinkable.

And the first thing I say, sarcastically, is, “Never ask that of an independent blogger in Cuba, because they won’t say anything worthwhile.” Claudia Cadelo, author of the blog “Octavo Cerco,” has her answer ready every time a foreign journalist asks about her arrangements. “If I tell you the methods I use, I would automatically have to find others.”

Each one a keeper of secrets regarding the opportunities, a digital rebel, slippery, using his own methods without revealing them, sometimes not even to his closest colleague, because in this revelation he might make a false step. The procedures vary from the most basic and public, to the most deviously wonderful, such that one day they will be related in sui generis conferences when this long night has finally come to an end.

Despite all that, however, some tricks do leak out, and become public because it’s unstoppable: the bloggers know that to declare them won’t put them at risk from the machine, and they throw some light on the mystery they themselves have built: stewing the censors in their own sauce, using legal tricks against which they can do nothing.

To whom, in the modern world, would it ever occur to imagine the following procedure to maintain a personal page?

A blogger writes his post, taking care that it doesn’t fill more than one screen on his computer. Then, pressing “Print Screen” on his keyboard, he makes a digital image that he stores in his cell phone, and sends via text message to a distant collaborator who can download the photo, transcribe the text, and upload it to the Web.

For other authors, facing even greater economic instability (having a cell phone in Cuba is an act of faith), the process is simpler: dictate your texts by a landline telephone to someone who, far from the city or far from the country, publishes them in your name.

Only a handful of Havana hotels offer navigation services to Cubans, with a terrifying price: 6 convertible pesos an hour–some 8 dollars–and only a handful of bloggers can sporadically access this option, knowing that their stomachs will reproach the excess. In the interior of the country this continues to be impossible, because in order to pay this abusive amount in a cybercafe you have to present a foreign passport.

But even more surprising is the social mechanism through which Cubans consume and promote these prohibited materials. The old maxim of the Three Musketeers has become law: “One for all and all for one.”

A lone Cuban with access to the Web, whether clandestine or legal–in his workplace, for example–is a potential distributor. To download an article, store it in a flash memory, and pass it to all the people in your circle of friends, is the existing norm.

Sometimes, they even print them secretly with State printers. A reckless colleague in my city stopped me right in the street one day and said, “You have me working for you. You’ve barely published something on your blog and I have to print more than one copy of it.”

Most Cubans have access to a computer today. The ways in which they procure them is worthy of another epic. But the truth is that the “information traffic,” the marketing solidarity between the disconnected and the privileged functions better than the coercive methods of the guardians of the One Truth. State Security would have to requisition from each Cuban his USB device, his personally tailored computer, his DVD bought on the black market, and, I’m sure, even so some other surrealistic way would appear.

Similarly, Cubans today have almost unwittingly brought down the information monopoly of television and audiovisual programming. They have long ceased to consume only what’s offered on the national network.

I remember, for example, that when the episodes of the successful Fox series “Prison Break” came out, I saw them one by one in my remote Bayamo at almost the same time as my friend living in Ontario. Their circulation was delayed for a couple of hours: the time it took my English-speaking countrymen to post the subtitles. The same day each episode was released on American television, a legion of illegal satellite antennas, camouflaged with a bunch of grapes under a complicit eave, would capture them for the Cuban market.

Currently, the most successful television programs in the United States, entertainment shows like that of Alexis Valdés or “Case Closed” on Telemundo; news and current affairs programs like “A Mano Limpia” from AméricaTeVé or “María Elvira Live” from Mega, move with surprising speed from one end of the Island to the other.

There is no police operation that can disrupt a practice that is already part of everyday life of Cubans, their modus vivendi. For every dish that is discovered and confiscated, they are making another ten in secret workshops, and there are twenty interested buyers.

In the nation’s capital lives a colorful character who delivers cards with his e-mail and phone number to customers, and signed with an alias of war: “The NETFLIX of Central Habana.” From anywhere in Cuba you can call him, to get a documentary series, the films of Al Pacino or the latest recordings of Rita Montaner, and for a good price the Caribbean pirate will ensure they reach their destination.

The same applies to illegal connections to the Internet.

In fairly cosmopolitan cities of the country, it is a sustained act of espionage to find out who provided you with an Internet account. Nobody trusts anybody. But once you win the confidence of the “providers,” navigating is a matter of money, and strategy.

Money: For the most part it costs between two and three convertible pesos an hour. Are astronomical amount to citizens who earn, on average, 12 per month. Strategy: a blogger friend updated her volatile page for some time, thanks to the account of an official journalist of the most recalcitrant in his political purposes. Like many others, he had made ​​hypocrisy a method of survival.

Thanks to his hard-line discourse, the journalist, working for a mediocre provincial newspaper, had “won” an account of 50 hours per month, with the purpose of allowing him to be active on social networks. Of those, he would sell to anyone who would hard currency in his hands.

According to my amused colleague, the journalist who was supplying a few hours was the first to post defamatory comments under each post she published. At the time of payment, he apologized: “You know this is a good for both of us. This way we both have the most secure connection.”

Thus, I understand the anxieties of the Cuban apparatus with new technologies, with digital development. Thus, I understand the bellicose speech of the lobotomized guy in a video made by the military–also leaked thanks to the Internet!–doing the indescribable to explain to the officials with many stars and little sense, the dangers of the new cyberwar which, without their realizing it, had been introduced on their very own Island.

And although I understand it, I smile dismissively: this time they have lost. Implementing more controls will accomplish nothing, stripping more professionals of their monitored accounts. Anchoring a fiber optic cable from the Venezuelan headquarters will accomplish nothing, to strengthen their propaganda efforts, now on the Web.

That elusive cable is going to slip through their hands, and be diverted to unintended destination: like the house of a courageous voice unafraid to say what he thinks, that through the computer of a tropical hacker who meanwhile earns some money with his downloads, enables thousand of the disconnected to free themselves from the official brainwashing.

What doubts remain: Is it worth celebrating the independence won by the Cubans with respect to their mass media, something unthinkable twenty years ago. And I ask myself, intrigued, if some capricious fate hasn’t chosen this virtual ground to open the democratization of my country, leaving in shock all the great minds who dreamed, at some time, of a path, but never one from this direction.

29 May 2011

 
 

Sparrows Without a Country

"The Great Blackout," emblematic work of Pedro Pablo Oliva

Few intellectuals more timid than the Cuban must have existed in the history of art and contemporary thought. Few intellectuals with such iridescent skin that it amusingly changes tone and nuance according to the light that passes over them.

In these days when a monumental name in Cuban art has just suffered the endless fruits of intolerance, of ideological militarism, it occurs to me to ask where are those intellectuals committed not only to their society, but to the destiny of art itself through its practitioners.

The new ousting of Pedro Pablo Oliva, his beautiful and transparent statement, and the sepulchral silence of those for whom the weight of their titles requires them to take part, presented a new scenario for the intellectuals of the island to show off their pale condition.

Where are they, in this second, those writers and playwrights who staged an electronic fuss after the television appearances of Luis Pavón and Papito Serguera? Yes, where now is the host of the National Literature Awards, who only appears to jump–shyly, timidly, when they step on the keys of his memories, his memories of exclusion and punishment for hidden homosexuality or conflicting poetry? Where are the presumed chroniclers of their time?

Where is the discordant denunciation of the members of the National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba, demanding explanations, rejecting the methods, lining up on the side of an irreplaceable creator in his moment of courage and honesty?

Under what pretext, with what pantomime as an excuse have the purported names of Cuban thought, let’s say Desiderio Navarro, Reynaldo González, Alfredo Guevara and Anton Arruda closed their throats? Or is how they won’t touch with the tip of an opinion the Theoretical-Cultural Center homonym; how the practices of institutional homophobia and film censorship seem to have eased off; and how The Seven Against Thebes is published without reprisals, so it’s not worth it to raise your voice?

While a senior representative of Cuban art is accused of being a traitor and unpatriotic, and is forced to close his workshop of artistic fantasies, where are the words of the media figures Nelson Domínguez, Alexis Leyva (Kcho), Ernesto García Peña, Roberto Fabelo?

Will Amaury Pérez denounce in his much loved television program this offense against an author whom I dare say is among those he most admires? Will Roberto Chile feel motivated to turn the focus of his lens, and will he film not a postmodern promotional, but a documentary about the outrage against Pedro Pablo?

I know these are all rhetorical questions. I know they are sullen and empty questions. Because we all know the answers. And because Pedro Pablo Oliva knows them too.

In the presentation of his catalog, I read some words of Pedro Pablo Oliva that come to mind now, as if caught on a hook. Pedro Pablo who, incidentally, does not write as dazzlingly as he paints… but almost.

In this text the Pinar del Rio artist evoked his mother, in the old house where the family lived, scaring away a flock of sparrows which every day sought rest within. His mother waged a war without quarter. But one afternoon of stifling weather, of the island heat, the painter’s mother decided to escape by passing the time under the damp shade of the fruit trees that crowded the entrance to the mansion. There, above her, were the same sparrows that she frightened from her home with curses. They were perched on the branches of the tree: their home. And they did not attack her for sitting underneath. A few hours later the woman returned to the old house and proclaimed, “I will never again frighten a sparrow from this house. Here there is room for everyone.”

Unfortunately, dear Pedro Pablo, on your beloved island there is still no room for all the sparrows.

May 24 2011

 

Investors’ Incentives… Cuban Style

Vendedora de periódicos en Cuba

Newspaper vendor in Cuba

My mother just closed the business that fed the better part of my family in Cuba over the last decade. The reason: the country’s new plan of economic recovery.

A little over ten years ago, someone who shares my blood and who had an immense business vision, became a pioneer in a particular business: Renting to foreigners. She started in 2000, in the tiny provincial town where we live, accompanied by barely a couple of reckless people, in the new enterprise of allocating part of her house to accommodate tourists.

Born at that time, striving, beset by doubts, was what then would be the most “ambitious” of the private businesses in socialist Cuba: renting in foreign currency.

Timid reforms at first, then significant investments, an ever-growing number of Cuba households deforming their square feet to cram their members in like contortionists, and reserving one or two rooms for the gentlemen with pink cheeks to spend their nights in.

In the beginning the State was cautious. It allowed economic activity reluctantly, like one accepts the inevitable: like it accepted the circulation of the dollar only to veto it later. But it allowed it.

In order to be an altruistic benefactor? Out of a desire to elevate the standard of living of its citizens? Not so much.

If they turned a blind eye at first, if they legalized the activity after the fact, it was for reasons of elementary logic: the sugar industry had been demolished and tourism emerged as the savior of the Cuban economy. But where to host the growing number of the curious who looked to the island, the pry into the Jurassic relic of a Bolshevik state in the 21st Century? In what hotels? In what infrastructure?

The inventive salvation of the starving was the solution: if they want to rent their homes, fine, let them do it. Earning a few pesos in hard currency. Sleeping with less space. And let them deliver a big chunk of gold later.

The initial amount of monthly taxes seemed disproportionate to landlords: $ 100 per active room. They were unaware that even that number would grow over time to much, much more.

House for rent in Cuba, with its official and obligatory logo

Because the always well-informed inspectors from Housing–the governing body of the activity–responsible for keeping a vigil over their martyrdom, because the iron rules in these home-businesses would be met, learned something unexpected: the homeowners were preparing breakfasts, cooking Creole dinners for their guests, and pocketing five, seven, ten dollars more than usual.

After a lot of meetings and deliberations, the Olympian bureaucracy spoke: Whoever chooses to offer food must officially declare it. And pay for it 30 CUC a month more into the treasury. (The era of convertible pesos, those funny little notes in color, had been born).

Nobody in their right mind declared it. With the abusive and monthly sum of 100 CUC per room, whether or not they had any customers, whether or not they had any income, no one wanted to pay one cent more. In the interiors of their houses, with the shutters closed, with the caution of the criminal, enterprising Cubans were preparing orange juice, tortillas with cheese, toast; they cooked their  lamb stew and their fried plantains.

Measure, countermeasure and response: a short time elapsed until the new decree: whether or not they offered food, all homeowners renting rooms would pay 130 CUC monthly per room to the state. And problem solved.

Thus passed a few years. Some furnished and air-conditioned two rooms knowing they had to take in 260 CUC just to maintain their license, and many times it was the work of faith and charity. In boom months, especially at the ends of the year when tourists from half the world take refuge from the snow on a tropical island, the profits could allow them to pay that sum and enjoy some income. And above all: to save money for the coming months when not a single “Charlie” would knock at the door.

But, again, the map of the country moved. The naive joy of some music served to celebrate the decision: the General-cum-President, with power firmly in his own hands, discovered that the country couldn’t take it any more — with the same clairvoyance that he’d discovered a year earlier that the marabou weed had taken over Cuba’s farmland — and that he had to reform the national economy.

Meetings and discussions, proposals and refusals, Granma newspaper articles and entertaining Roundtable TV shows, speeches, briefs, reports and memos: with the parsimony of the big decisions, one fine day they informed expectant Cubans that the economy finally would shake off the rust. Finally private activities would not be stigmatized, banned or reluctantly tolerated.

Economic revitalization–Cuba and its eternal euphemisms!– was on the march.

I remember a suspicious first incident that I heard about by chance: next to me, a country barber was telling his interlocutor that very soon he would be handing in the license for his “business.” Cutting hair in the remote community of Mabay–where a tarnished plaque recalls that the first soviet in America was built there–had become unviable since he had to pay a tax of 200 pesos a month.

Before me was the first victim of the experiment: the economic revitalization, which would put the State barber shops into private hands, had just raised, astronomically, the cost of the license for a barber who could, at most, charge two or three pesos for each haircut.

And like a raging avalanche, before which taxi drivers are swept away, before which exhausted workers lose their jobs, the Cuban State implemented its economic recovery with notable efforts: raising the taxes on every economic activity by which Cubans maintained their poverty level standard of living. And the worst of the worst: imposing taxes on activities that had always been exercised without paying any taxes on them.

Neither the palm tree toppers, nor the scissor sharpeners, nor the grass cutters, would be exempt from the joyous revival.

So my mother, with the pain of closing something of a tradition; with a vague nostalgia for the days when a family member who is no longer with us founded his small but successful business, just turned in the authorization to be allowed to rent two rooms to regular customers after a decade in business.

When the impossible and shameless figure of 200 convertible pesos per room reached the ears of the shorn landlords, they thought it was a joke in bad taste. Later they understood.

The think tanks did not assume that the time had come to alleviate the hardship and deprivation of its citizens. The government measures to encourage investment, were the horrifying mechanisms implemented by an abusive State to more effectively empty the pockets of its squalid servants.

May 19 2011

 

Other Circular Symphonies

Lionel Messi (Argentina, Barcelona FC) y Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal, Real Madrid)
Lionel Messi (Argentina, Barcelona FC) and Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal, Real Madrid)

When God is bored he repeats himself. Generates cyclical crises in the economy, identical natural disasters, literary characters called William Wilson in Edgar Allan Poe’s stories. And creates suspiciously similar and symmetrical duets from time to time. As worldly amusements.

I think about this every time Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo appear on the same playing field, either before or after the kickoff, the background of hundreds of decibels generated by a match between their teams, and between them, the tension almost tangible, you can almost touch it, in a game where they match in egos, status and talent.

I look at them and think: the story of a Mozart and Salieri, capriciously transmuted to two men who make music with their feet. Not in an art, but in a sport.

What could be the unspeakable martyrdom of an elite player like Cristiano Ronaldo? Not to possess, today, the Golden Ball or the FIFA World Player? No. Let’s look further. To be player number two, shadowed by another name, the one who is spoken of as a complement, not as essence? So close, but no.

The personal drama of Cristiano Ronaldo, an industrial  Portuguese so media prominent, a factory to make millions and attract flashes, is to be the acolyte of a little, too-flamboyant star and at the same time, too vulgar. To say today that the Argentinean Lionel Messi, at 23-years-old, with his good-natured image is the best football player in the world, may sound facile. In fact it is.

But if we look at recent history, only in 2008, when the Portuguese Christiano seemed untouchable, and in an egocentric fit worthy of anthology said to the Brazilian newspaper O Estado de Sao Paulo, without his voice trembling, that he was “the first, second and third in the world,” everything takes a new twist.

The next year and the year following, he would no longer be.

I think of Cristiano like that Antonio Salieri portrayed in Milos Forman’s fabulous film, who secretly sniffed Mozart’s scores, enjoying with searing passion that inaccessible matter, too high, inhumanly sublime for his talent of a worthy, but mortal, artist.

Mozart (Tom Hulce) and Salieri (F. Murray Abraham) in the film “Amadeus”

Salieri himself did not understand how God had made such a terrible mistake of giving such an extraordinary gift, the unfathomable genius of the eternal, to a ridiculous character like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: uneducated, boorish, lacking the solemnity of creation.

Christiano’s face, put on a scale with Messi’s, could not inspire a more exact, more visceral envy, than that of the courtier Salieri.

Why Lionel Messi? Why is the player who is spoken of in irritating terms (not just the best in the world, but, horrors! the one pointed to by many players, authoritative voices, as the best of all time), why is he, it’s precisely that, well, such a little thing?

How is this so? Because inverting the sense of certain of Ronaldo’s own words: so short, so little. I piece of a man. A boy at odds with all glamor: no facial beauty, no physical beauty, no class. With the voice of a happy little laborer, who cuts short every sentence, and who must be pushed by the interviewers if they want to hear him say more than platitudes and little kitsch phrases.

Left: CR7: The moniker given to the sophisticated Portuguese striker of Real Madrid

Lacking charisma, not seeming to understand that he’s the third highest-earning athlete on the planet, who seems not to know that two hundred and seventy children’s clubs in Latin America have his name, and who is still showing he wants to be the scrawny kid who just wants kick the ball around the neighborhood. And nothing more.

If we add the ability to convert great goals, his ability to make destabilizing moves, we have a crack that moves the sports world at his feet.

But this fierce Lusitanian didn’t take something into account, known to be talented, enjoying it, looking down and savoring it. The best man in 2008 didn’t take into account, when it was said he was the first, second and third best in his sport: the silent presence, almost insignificant, of an undeniable genius, the kind that only occurs once every hundred years. As one Argentinean writer would say: because they tear the womb of Nature.

Right: Messi “the Flea”: Golden Ball in 2009 and 2010 and the FIFA World Player in 2009 and 2010

And it is not always that he breaks his own his records. The magic of him name comes, above all, from his way of playing. It is unique, an unrepeatable secret. The sense he gives the ball on the ground, the juggling, the impossible tricks, the joy with which he starts every play, whether it is frustrated or ends up in the goal.

Leo Messi plays like no one, scores like no one. According to Eduardo Galeano, writer and soccer maniac, he is the best of all because he still plays like a little kid in the neighborhood. And revels in it. Just does it. And if he misses, he suffers in silence: he doesn’t cry for the cameras, he doesn’t look for cover. At the same time, nor does he externalize happiness far beyond normal. Even with some of those goals for which some football idols and have coined a particular term: Playstation goals.

Because there is an immaterial particle, an atom higher and elusive, that separates the great men of real genius. There is something in a certain class of men — Miguel Angel, John Lennon, Pablo Picasso, Capablanca — that distances them from those whom we admire, but who are rarely remembered through the centuries.

And that’s the tormented difference for a man of exceptional virtues like Cristiano, but distant — perhaps just by a step, a single damn step! — from the category of genius: he knows that this little drab-haired man will be remembered by world football fans, when he himself we be spoken of only in statistics.

Cristiano knows he is a man for the years, but not the ages. He knows that stripe is Roberto Baggio, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Fernando Redondo, David Beckham: unforgettable players. But that never, how hard he tries no matter how much he wants it, no matter how violent his fibrous body and scoring goals like a machine, as much as he is the “scorer” of the League, he could join other display names , residents of another shrine: Maradona, Pele, Di Stefano. He will not be a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF. Time Magazine will not consider him one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

What will it feel like, the number one, two, three Cristiano, when listening to legends such as Karl-Heinz Rummenige, Enzo Francescoli, Romario, and Maradona himself, saying quietly that Messi-the-flea is not just better today, but in the history of the sport, there has not been another like him?

What will he feel when they say that other cracks today, like Arjen Robben, Thierry Henry, Wayne Rooney and Ronaldinho Gaucho, I say it again?

How to digest that the man who left the post of deputy, who has taken the last two gold balls, measuring seven inches less than him, unless it is the vigilance of advertisers who do not know how to sell his image deteriorated, and to top it off: he has cost 95 million euros less than him?

That is the acid data, that exclusivity adds ironies in the history of the elect: while the most celebrated club in the sport, Real Madrid, paid 95 million euros to Manchester United’s Portuguese striker, it is estimated that the FC Barcelona invested in Lionel Messi, since he became a child player at age 11, only 330,000 euros.

Lionel Messi, snapped up by FC Barcelona at age 11

God is also often beautifully wicked, and builds legends worth speaking of: The parents of little Lionel should move from Argentina to the Catalan city, if they wanted to save his talent and even his life. At eleven years old he was diagnosed with a serious illness affecting his growth, so that he should be in Europe. It was the only way that the boy could grow normally.

For the minimum sum of $900 a month, the Barcelona Club paid for Lionel’s hormonal treatment: daily injections in both legs for three years. In this way, he entered for life the only professional club he has belonged to, the ties of gratitude to which bind him beyond what football, and from which it has managed to destroy all the hallmarks of previous legends.

While today’s clubs would be willing to shell out terrifying sums on this player, the team paid for Messi only through his treatment. Not a penny more.

The motto of the Cristiano is a futuristic spectacle: CR7. Like everything about him. His initials, and number. The motto of Messi, is also worthy of him: the flea. Just that. The magazine player versus the ugly duckling. The virtuous selfishness against modesty exacerbated. A refined Antonio Salieri that will not forgive his God for placing the sacred genius in Mozart’s trashy soul.

Cristiano knows that he desired by the fans, by the technicians. He knows he is feared by goalkeepers. But within him, a bitter taste, an imperceptible twinge pulses, pulses, pulses: he knows he is number two. And against that, there is no remedy. Especially when journalists make hay from his unbridled grief: when he is asked, mercilessly, by the raptors of the news: To you, is Leo Messi the best in the world? And he should say yes. Although he swallows the phrase. And even chews his assent, almost biting, with an indifferent expression in his eyes.

The two: one a machine player, the other player a rustic genius, Cristiano Salieri, Amadeus Messi, unknowingly staged an exciting and sinister plot, a script of impeccable suspense, in the mosaic of characters, secret poetry and vital energy, which is to play the ball. In what better way to define football, as there is none other than the mercies of God.

Translated by: Angelica Morales

May 11 2011

 

Doomed to Solitude

Is there anything really new in the terrible incident that has just cut short the life of another nonconforming Cuban? In my view, only the speed with which his death has been echoing around the world, on Mother’s Day, when the news wires and standard television programming prefer to convey messages of family harmony.

Sad to admit it: the new chapter of extreme intolerance, militaristic asphyxia, which snatched the breath of Wilfredo Soto Juan Garcia of Villa Clara, is not just another episode to mark in the history of abuses and misdeeds of a system designed to kill, one way or another, the rebels who refuse to live without freedom.

Similar stories of prolonged martyrdoms, beatings that end in the cemetery, physical and psychological torture, have occurred for decades without many–I include myself among them–even suspecting among the dense fog that repressors extend them to ensure impunity.

Not surprisingly the dictatorial procedures manual that all the tyrants and aspiring tyrants seem to work from, includes absolute ownership of the media as an inviolable element. The fourth power in the hands of the State makes it impossible that any reporter dares to attach to a national newspaper the stories of those who knew the damp hell of Kilo 8, Las Mangas, Villa Marista, Boniato, or any of the provincial gulags where opposing Cubans are confined.

Juan Soto Wilfredo Garcia, an opponent bludgeoned to death in Santa Clara.

The problematic, however, of this dreadful new death of a man whose crime consisted of not wanting to leave a public park in his city, and who, on refusing to do so, received a police beating that hospitalized him until his death this last Sunday, is that it puts Cuba back in an internationally embarrassing dilemma that no one seems to want to resolve.

But to keep your mouth shut when three youths are shot for wanting to escape from the country where they were born, to keep your mouth shut when a bricklayer dies of hunger for claiming fair conditions for a prisoner of conscience, and to keep your mouth shut when a peaceful opponent is beaten to death by police who encroach on his right to remain where he pleases; to look the other way when this is happening in the Socialist Paradise, goes beyond indecency: it’s an ethical and moral disgrace.

But to keep your mouth shut when three young people are shot for wanting to escape from the country where they were born, to keep your mouth shut when a bricklayer dies of hunger for claiming fair conditions for a prisoner of conscience, and to keep your mouth shut when a peaceful opponent is beaten to death by police who encroach on his right to remain where he pleases; to look the other way when this is happening in the Socialist Paradise, goes beyond indecency: it’s an ethical and moral disgrace.

I have never understood why these intellectual thugs, under the camouflage of “progressives” advocates for universal justice, go to extremes to cry for the rights of the butcher Osama Bin Laden to have a legal representation; which is why I hate the hypocritical humanity of those who shed tears of ink for the innocent children of Muammar Gadaffi, but who change the channel, turn the page, and dance salsa with a good cigar in their mouth, when the atrocities taking place in Cuba are right before their eyes.

What can we expect after this Monday, when the body of another innocent rest underground and his mother will never again enjoy an ordinary day? Well, I believe two things are too predictable to be able to boast of my powers of prediction:

First, the swift campaign to discredit those who can not defend themselves today, as they could not defend themselves in life. The unimaginative script that runs whenever the name of an opponent brings ill winds to the guardians of power: we will expect to hear about a long criminal history, perhaps as a butcher, perhaps as a pederast, his record of vandalism that made him a scourge to without the right to sit in a public park, where some said that Mariela Castro, daughter of the General-cum-President, was going to make her appearance.

This, if the turmoil caused by the crime is similar to that of the notorious Zapata case, when it was impossible to conceal or to not offer an official version to the world and to Cubans. If the tide does not cause too strong of waves, nor require the work of defamation, they will simply ignore it.

The second thing we expect is that John Wilfredo Soto García feed the news agendas of some of the world media, his name and his case will be followed with great attention while generating readers, listeners and viewers, until another news event will steal the scene, and his drama will remain as some vague, incessant, incurable pain, that his poor mother will exhale forever.

Nothing will change. No conclave of the powerful will take this straw that broke the camel’s back, and what is worse: no group of the masses, of the millions of Cuban, will take this new assassination as the call to slaughter against the satraps who ride the straw horse of “change” and “reforms” and “congresses,” while death or exile remain the only options for those who refuse to live without dignity.

And so those who cling to a habitable Cuba are alone. So those who are not afraid of silence are alone. Doomed to solitude in hostile territory.

May 9 2011

 

…And Cyber-Justice For All

One

Wael Ghonim

Wael Ghonim

The sui generis Egyptian revolution which occurred very recently changed the status of two people in particular. The first, Hosni Mubarak, moved from an everlasting and plenipotentiary leader of the African nation, to swell the list of dictators happily overthrown. The second: Wael Ghonim. A name unknown until recently and who would soon be considered by Time magazine as one of the most influential people in the world, in its list of 100.

A professional in computing, a Google executive, and a fearless activist, Ghonim inscribed his name in the history of his country by developing an effective campaign of information and organization against Mubarak, employing social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

 Two

Mark Zuckerberg

 Mark Zuckerberg

Strongly related thematically to the previous name, another name that a few years ago could have been mistaken for a football player, or a professor of anthropology; not only does he share a place among the 100 characters that move the planet today, but he possesses one of the most mouth dropping fortunes, with nearly 7 billion dollars: Mark Zuckerberg.

Thanks to him, the globe grows smaller every day, I talk with my Cuban friends across the sea, and Egyptian revolutionaries–including Ghonim–taught the tyrant Mubarak to the times of the eternal pharaohs are in the distant past. The word “Facebook” must be one of the most used in all the languages we speak today.

Three

Yoani Sánchez

 Yoani Sánchez

Not long ago, a Cuban in her thirties outshone the stardom of almost all the enemies of the gerontocratic of the regime that governs her country. Yoani Sánchez shares the now historic podium with those who belong to the Castro family, their acolytes and gatekeepers, considered the most visible faces of evil.

What has been the terrible work of this driven woman from Havana? Simple: to dare to have a blog. To dare to use Twitter as an unclosable door of freedom and expansion. And to spread the virus of cyber-expression to Cuban souls who will, in the future and to a greater or lesser extent, integrate themselves into this axis of evil (from the official point of view).

It doesn’t surprise me that some of the Island’s traditional opponents, brave as borders, have a grudge against this girl of Generation Y: she has unwittingly become Public Enemy Number 1 of the tropical dictatorship.

Four

Sohaib Athar

 Sohaib Athar

In the early morning in his peaceful region, a night owl twitterer was surprised by the noise of helicopters in an area where the only thing that flies in the heavens are birds of prey. Seconds later, hearing the sound of bombardment, continuous shooting, Sohaib Athar realized that what he heard in his district of Abbottabad was not a product of his fertile imagination, but something momentous, worthy of being tweeted, happening a few steps from his home.

What this Pakistani never would have assumed is that in that instant he became the first person in history to cover a momentous event via Twitter: almost step-by-step this man informed the world before anyone else, before any powerful television channel, of the operation that killed Osama Bin Laden.

Five

Rest In Hell

Rest in Hell

During the structural planning of the concealed bunker that would host him as of 2005, the protectors of the world’s most wanted terrorist thought with devastating logic: one of the simplest ways to capture a pursued man is through communication devices.

In his residential complex of high walls and extreme vigilance, the mega-millionaire and mega-assasin Bin Laden survived peacefully, without telephone, television or the Internet. He believed he was more protected without these communication media, and

What his strategies found impossible to provide is precisely this detail that would turn irremediably against him: an enormous house valued at one million dollars, that turns its back on communications, technology, could only be a place that is hiding something. And hidden within it, was someone very important.

According to the CIA reports, their lack of any telephone, television or Internet services was one of the determining points to conclude who its terrible inhabitant was.

Epilogue

There are those who still do not understand that technology has become the best ally of the free and democratic mentalities in the world. People who distrust the devastating power reached by an invention without pretensions, as the Internet once was. Those who can not explain why the totalitarian governments that still swarm around the world, furiously insist on controlling, with an iron fist, the access of their subjects to advanced technologies, be it cell phones, satellite antennas, or a World Wide Web connection, must know: the balance of forces, the global picture has changed. And the modern era, with its creations of science fiction, and something like an implacable cyber-justice, increasingly complicate the impunity of terrorists and dictators in either hemisphere.

May 3 2011

 

The News of the Decade

A different new article was to appear in this blog today. But the big news, never-expected nor announced in advance. It simply appears. And to distort or ignore it is folly.

The electrifying announcement of the locating and death of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan, at the hands of U.S. soldiers, I believe occupies the place of the “News of the Last Decade.” I have no doubt.

In the second when the avalanche of news began, I can only publish a few paragraphs that express my pride as a simple human being who loves his life and that of others, for this victory over a mass murderer, as aptly described by President Obama in his official statement.

It comes in all languages , in every possible and impossible way, my embrace of solidarity for all those who suffered from the action by a criminal who no longer exists. And it arrives to the memory of the first passenger on the first plane, and to the fireman who gave his last breath in the Dantesque ruins, my simple tribute to the memory of these beautiful people.

I invite all commentators and readers of this blog, to let their words as a mark of the joy we, good people, feel on this date worth marking.

May 2 2011

 
 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.