Art Is A Bridge That Unites Miami And Havana / Juan Juan Almeida

•June 30, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Juan Juan Almeida, 1 June 2015 —  In 1984, at the suggestion of Armando Hart and Marcia Leiseca, Lilian Llanes, then the director of the Wilfredo Lam Center, the Biennial of Havana was created, and since then, the dialogue of the Revolution with Cuban culture has seen itself obligated to change, passing from an intense tone to a prudent one, and it’s truly regretful that our opposition hasn’t ever managed to capture the attention of this brotherhood.

The Government knows that no respectable social movement exists without artists in the vanguard, and it also knows that the Biennial is the place where artists get together to promote art.

What’s interesting is that this cultural rendezvous, the Twelfth Biennial, in addition to converting Havana into a world center for contemporary visual arts, and invading Havana with an artillery of paintings, regiments of video art, battalions of sculptures, squadrons of installations and platoons of performance art, is creating a new manner of communication and collaboration among artists residing on the Island and in Miami.

It’s good to know that the works of Manuel Mendive, Arles de Río, Roberto Fabelo, Rafael Pérez, Osmany (Lolo) Betancourt, Eduardo Abella and Luis Camejo, who these days get the attention of everyone on the Havana Malecón and other seats of the Biennial, were made in Miami, in the studio-casting ASU Bronze (Art & Sculpture Unlimited).

The question is: Why is it practically impossible in Cuba for drawings and sketches of plastic artists to materialize in the art of casting?

There’s a surplus of talent in Cuba. But the quality of production work in other places, the shortage of materials and inefficiency of the State, plus the fatigue from facing the constant complexity of everything associated with the production of a work in Cuba make the elaboration of a piece on the Island an exhausting process that doesn’t make it easy for artists to organize to fulfill commitments or establish deadlines for exhibitions.

Unfortunately for them (the artists) and, hopefully, new entrepreneurs will take note, there is only one business in all of Cuba that is dedicated to these requirements. To cast art is complicated: you need specific machinery, tools that are fabricated for a determined work, special instruments, access to raw material and other gear to complete the structure. Nor does there exist in the country a photography laboratory capable of offering a wide range of services that include printing on metal, wood or methacrylate.

Today Cuban artists make magnificent art that they try to show to the world, but when they leave Cuba and face the mega-exhibitions in New York or Paris – to mention only two examples – they find that the works exhibited have a deadline that they can’t meet on the Island.

To introduce works in international circuits, each time more demanding, requires fulfilling parameters and patrons of artistic production who they can only meet in workshops like the Factum Arte in Spain, which is dedicated to producing art for artists.

Then the Art & Sculpture Unlimited (ASU Bronze) appeared in Miami, which, in addition to being geographically and operationally closer to Cubans, offers solutions, accessible prices and competent completion. It counts on the exquisite supervision of Lázaro Valdés, an excellent sculptor who, by being educated in Cuba, understands perfectly the language of his profession, his nation and his generation.

Author: Juan Juan Almeida

Licensed in Penal Science. Analyst, writer. Awarded a prize in a competition of short stories in Argentina. In 2009, published “Memories of an Unknown Cuban Guerrilla,” a nonfiction work where he satirizes the decadence of the upper elite in Cuba.

Translated by Regina Anavy


Cuba Develops Its Plan to Create Connectivity Infrastructure / Juan Juan Almeida

•June 28, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Juan Juan Almeida, 9 June 2015 — After receiving more than 120 million dollars to develop the Internet in Cuba, the government circulates this document to create its National Strategy For The Development Of The Infrastructure For Broadband Connectivity In Cuba.

Access to International Banks: Cuba’s True Objective in These Negotiations / Juan Juan Almeida

•June 24, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Josefina Vidal, Cuban negotiator with the US


Juan Juan Almeida, 25 May 2015– For many, it was a surprise that the United States and Cuba should conclude its new round of negotiations without achieving the expected agreement, the reopening of new embassies–more so when both delegations described the recently concluded meeting as “respectful, professional, and highly productive.”

Thus does the Island’s government operate; it maneuvers with painstaking craftiness any process that entails sociopolitical transcendence for the country.

I hope (although at times I doubt it) that the US State Department and US authorities involved in these proceedings clearly understand that not Josefina Vidal–member of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party and director for the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Relations director for relations with the United States–nor José Ramón Cabañas, chief of the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, nor any other member of the Cuban delegation, have decision-making authority. They are simply employees who have been given precise instructions: explore the actions and reactions of their counterparts, buy time, maximize media coverage (which they easily do because all media around the world are covering the big story), and show toughness.

For the Cuban government–sorry, for the 7 or 8 individuals who today comprise the center of power–reestablishing relations with the US is simply the “rice” in the chicken-and-rice pot. The compass of this process–the “chicken” of this meal–is directed towards two goals: removing Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, and press for the end of the “Embargo.” All the rest is just part of the same theater showcasing well-rehearsed acting.

It is not hard to understand that to remove Cuba from that list will unleash an immediate effect on the banking institutions, which will cease to view the largest of the Antilles through the “anti-terrorist lens” and, concurrently, erase the shock of receiving a sanction for doing business with Cuba.

I cannot state with certainty that as of today our country conforms to the definition of a state that sponsors or supports terrorism. Although I have heard Fidel and Raúl denounce terrorist acts such as that visited on Charlie Hebdo;  and a high ranking Cuban military officer describe how a representative of these terrorist groups lives a comfortable and relaxed life, very near to the residence of the Spanish ambassador; and a good friend recount an amusing anecdote in which one day, through no fault of his own, he found himself turned into a gift to the Middle East, where he was presented to a group of Islamic leaders with hyper-radical tendencies who, through an interpreter, wanted to know personal stories about his father who, even in death, continues to be an icon of history, hysteria and schizophrenia.

The end of the Embargo will open to the country the doors to credit and funding and, with them, the real possibility of buying and exporting weapons, services, information, medical personnel, medicines, or any other product–harmful or not to world peace.

I have no doubt that Cuba will emerge from this controversy in a ready mode, will reestablish its relations with the US, and, if the wind continues to blow in the same direction, the Embargo will be lifted. Is this right? I do not believe so, but I learned to be pragmatic because, as my grandmother used to say after lighting up the same cigar butt for the fourth time, “In this world there is no justice, God forgives everyone.”

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

The Congress on Soil, where soil is not cultivated / Juan Juan Almeida

•June 22, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Juan Juan Almeida, 3 June 2015 — The 2015 Congress on Soil begins today, June 3, in the Convention Palace in the capital. Experts from more than 20 countries will discuss the sustainable management of this vital resource for food security. But if more than 40 percent of the arable surface in Cuba remains idle, what can Cuba contribute to this meeting?

Translated by Regina Anavy

They talk a lot; they say little / Juan Juan Almeida

•June 22, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Juan Juan Almeida, 3 June 2015 — According to official figures, cancer, cerebrovascular illnesses, diabetes and chronic respiratory conditions represent 67.7 percent of the total deaths in 2014 in Cuba. But they leave out the exact number of accidents and suicides.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Who do you do business with in Cuba, the military or civilians? / Juan Juan Almeida

•June 22, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Raul Castro at the National Asssembly in Havana

Juan Juan Almeida,8 June 2015 — In an admirable surge of ratification in the most pure tradition of sovereignty, out of an infinite commitment of respect for human rights and in support of the Cuban people, this past June 3, on the birthday of Raúl Castro, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the prohibition of exports to the Cuban military.

I assume, without the least reluctance, that the General took it as an excellent gift. That measure won’t affect the ruling class at all; it will only shatter, even more, the agonizing economy of Cubans who don’t have sufficient resources to reach the end of the month. As my grandmother said, “What’s just is not only what suits the ones who dictate the sentence.”

Relying on memories etched by force and in the authority granted to me by the experience of having lived in the monster and knowing it, I can guarantee that in terms of effectiveness, this recently approved statute will not even begin to make a dent in the pentagram of Cuban authority.

To stop exporting American products to institutions directed by the Cuban military implies not selling anything to Cuba. And if the idea is to stop exporting in order to augment the discontent and provoke a hoped-for social conflict, we are more out of place than a piraña on the high seas.

The CIA, congressmen, think-tanks, analysts, scholars and advisors should come back to earth and understand for once that the civil-military parallelism with its commercial and banking tentacles in several places in the world, which for years sided with Fidel and Raúl, has ceased to exist.

Since 2009, when the GAE (Business Administration Group, S.A.) appropriated CIMEX (Cuba Import-Export, S.A.), they made Colonel Héctor Oroza Busutil president and arranged that the Center of Purchasing and National Imports would remain under the orders of Tecnoimport (which is not a fake business – its central offices are in the Marina Building, Ave. del Puerto, No. 102, between Justiz and Obrapía, Old Havana).

It seized, among other things, the last civilian redoubt divesting itself of the Panamerican Shops, the Servi-Cupet (service centers), the El Rápido cafeterias, the Video centers and the photo shops, Photoservice, the Commercal Centers, the shipping company, Zelcom (which includes the free zone, the industrial parks and the storage services in bond), the International Group of Tour Operators and the tour company Havanatur, the services of Rent a Car and taxis, Black Coral (jewelry), Contex (design and production of uniforms and fashion collections), Coinage of Money, the Customs agency, Images (publicity and production of videos), Ecuse (repair and maintenance of automotive equipment and construction of property), the Estate Agent, the Center of Credit Cards and financial services, the BFI (International Finance Bank), Cubapacks (messaging, parcels and catalog sales), Abdala (recording studios, record labels and music editing) and the division that manages all the trademarks and patents.

The same thing happened in Habaguanex, in the system of self-employment and in all the ministries and institutions, be they governmental or not. In all of them there are colonels and generals dressed like CEOs with clothing from Anderson & Sheppard.

You only have to look to see that the social, economic, financial, business and institutional structure today is under the control of the military and/or the families of the legendary leaders of the Cuban Revolution, who paradoxically fake their ideological positions but in reality are more committed to their generation and their own desires than to their loyalty to Raúl.

Without a doubt, with this measure they will entrench themselves, and it will help them reorganize the rank and file that is already divided and with serious internal conflicts. I am sure that other ways exist, including better ways of making this ruling class implode, from the inside, without having to affect the Cuban people.

Translated by Regina Anavy 

President of Cienfuegos Government Falls in Police Raid / Juan Juan Almeida

•June 10, 2015 • Leave a Comment

He confused having a political position with autonomy and freedom, used the Internet service to call his daughter who resides in Canada, was summoned for it, and had to pay the price for believing in the future.

Eduardo Walfrido Coll Rodríguez, known as Eddy Coll, President of the Municipal Assembly of People’s Power in Cienfuegos, is one of those rare men who, occupying a certain medium rank, and possessing leadership skills to spare, accepts the word “change,” listens to the voice of an exhausted nation and, from a government position, defends and identifies with the people’s priorities.

He is known for the effort he puts forth when an issue concerns helping others, and for his perseverance in battling against bureaucratic pettiness. Perhaps because of this, he was only summoned, and not expelled from his post. Let’s review step by step.

In Cuba, the government provides resident foreigners (via ENET and its various plans) an option that it does not offer its own citizens: to legally contract with an Internet service and associate it with the telephone numbers of their domiciles.

To ignore this difference is not a good sign; but this particular type of apartheid opened a commercial breach used by some Cubans to purchase Internet service from foreigners, and turn their own computers into telephone switchboards.

This appears to be a good business, and produces significant savings for customers. Tariffs imposed by the Telecommunications Company of Cuba (ETECSA) fluctuate between 1.00 and 1.20 CUCs per minute, depending on the geographic zone with which a connection is being made. The parallel network for international calling offers an identical service at .20 or .25 CUC cents per minute.

I should point out that, according to unofficial data, the volume of calls out of Cuba via the Internet does not impact ETECSA’s revenue–but does impact the interests of the Interior Ministry (MININT) which, because it cannot monitor those calls, has circulated a resolution that punishes this activity with a decommission of the telephone line, and places its proprietors at the disposition of the court.

To enforce this regulation, ETECSA is constantly monitoring ENET users’ connection times and–if it detects a notable increase in usage on one of its lines–ETECSA will presume the existence of a business arrangement, and will alert MININT, which organizes the shutdown.

So, as if the “new economic model” were to also involve being implacable towards family communication, Eddy Coll was caught in one of these roundups, reprimanded for using the resources of the State for personal benefit, for visiting the clandestine cyber-café, nicknamed “the telephone booth,” of his neighbor, Lisette, and calling his daughter in Canada.

Some individuals who have a knack for staging events showed their solidarity [with the government] when they learned of the reprimand, and supported it as a warning. At this point, what’s the use? But it’s not surprising. What kind of legacy can we expect from a country that we can only view through the lens of folly? From a small nation which (according to what I’ve heard) has an Islamist terrorist living a pleasant life in Havana–in Siboney, to be exact–and that soon will be removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism? Inconceivable, yes; but that’s another story.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison and others

5 May 2015


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