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Another Transportation Crisis in Havana

January 28, 2012 1 comment

Transportation in Havana is again in a decline. It’s experiencing another crisis. Traveling inside the city limits by public bus can take two hours. If you’re lucky.

Seeing people sweating buckets under a blazing sun and trying to crowd into a small doorway of a house is really something.

It takes 40 minutes for the P-8 to come by, one of those articulated buses belonging to Metrobus, the company in charge of moving large concentrations of people in its fleet of 469 articulated buses.

The P-8 has a route that goes from the Reparto Eléctrico, in the Arroyo Naranjo municipality, up to the Pan American Village, located in the municipality of Habana del Este.

In its journey of one hour and 20 minutes it goes through the municipalities of Arroyo Naranjo, Diez de Octubre, Cerro, Centro Habana, Habana Vieja and Habana del Este.

When in late 2007 the Cuban government opened its wallet and bought 469 articulated buses in Russia, China and Belarus, the city bus service improved dramatically.

Metrobus, the company located in Nuevo Vedado, a stone’s throw from the Zoo on 26th, designed a route that covered all the important and busy roads of Havana.

There were 17 lines. And their frequency varied from 5 to 10 minutes in peak hours. Until mid-2010, with some interruptions, the system worked well.

By the last three months of the past year, bus service began to falter. At the Mulgoba terminal, where the  P-12, P-13 and P-16 buses are kept, for a route between Santiago de Las Vegas, Central Havana and Vedado, 37 out of a fleet of 70 buses were out of service, for lack of spare parts, tires and batteries.

At a session of parliament held in December 2010, the Cuban economic czar, Marino Murillo, recognized the problem and pointed out that there were no financial resources for large purchases of spare parts.

According to Murillo, the bureaucrats were to blame for the collapse of the transport service, because of their erratic calculations and poor management. He didn’t promise anything. He just affirmed that it’s possible the State might stop the tourist buses to keep the peoples’ buses rolling.

But in 2011 the service continues to be in a tailspin. This summer, when thousands of people go to the eastern beaches and the playgrounds or carnivals in Havana, the malfunction of public transport will make travel by bus crowded, and it will take people several hours to reach their destination.

In the Diez de Octubre municipality, the most populous in Havana, at any time of day the bus-stops are full of angry citizens, and between the heat and the bus delays, violence can surface.

Any stray touch on the “guagua” — as buses are called in Cuba — an accidental kick or crazy comment, can unleash verbal or physical aggression among those who are daily forced to board, as if they were expert ninjas, the Metrobus company buses.

What’s worse is that there are hardly any alternatives. In Havana there is another state company, Metropolitan Omnibus, with several hundreds of Yutong buses, manufactured in China. They have been designed to fulfill a supporting role in the scheme of urban transportation.

Their frequency should be between 25 and 40 minutes. But they normally take an hour. Or more. Therefore, the major burden of responsibility for passengers belongs to Metrobus.

When people like Sara, who’s retired, have to arrive on time, they often leave home three hours in advance. And try to maintain an Asiatic calm. Sometimes the buses don’t stop at the bus-stop. And she, with her 60 years and several extra pounds, must run 100 yards, like a Jamaican sprinter, to board the bus through the back door.

Sara sees the bright side. “It gives me some exercise. And if I get on at the back door, I don’t pay.” Bus fare costs 40 cents.

But banks and service centers don’t usually have enough change. Therefore, people pay with one peso (five cents in CUCs). Those who pay. Alejo spends 60 pesos per month to move around the city ($2.50 in CUCS).

It may seem small, but it means a third of his salary as a school custodian. A trip inside one of these buses is infuriating. Their routes are extensive. From the starting point to the end, the trip usually takes between one hour, the fastest, to an hour and a half if it crosses 10 municipalities by going around the city.

If we believe sources inside Metrobus, currently there are 227 bus-stops. And problems because of a lack of spare parts or damages after an accident. To minimize the crisis, the Havana government is taking some measures, such as using workplace vehicles in peak hours and on important routes, in an attempt to alleviate the urban transport deficit.

Since Castro came to power in January 1959, transport in Havana has been a headache.

Not even in better times, when the Communist countries of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union existed and gave us petroleum and plumbing supplies, has Cuba had a decent transport service in its capital.

It was thought a metro would be built with the help of North Korea. But everything remained in the planning stages. Getting around the city this summer will be an ordeal. Between the heat and the bad service.

Only those who have money, thanks to remittances, working for themselves, getting good tips, having illegal businesses or stealing from their jobs, can afford the luxury of taking private taxis that for 10 or 20 pesos take you quickly to any place in the city.

About 10,000 private cars have become the best fleet of taxis in Havana. Most were made in the United States and have over 60 years of use. Their owners have had to “invent” to keep rolling. But they work. And well. In Cuba there are things that nobody can explain.

Translated by Regina Anavy

October 15 2011

Spaniards’ Cuban Grandchildren Three Years After

January 25, 2012 Leave a comment

Armando wants to be an immigrant with swing. “God willing, in December I am traveling to Valencia, where I have relatives. I’m immersing myself in slang. I’ve seen tons of shows. And I use words like flipado, mola, mogollón, qué fuerte, tío, or vale” he says in a Spanish imitating that of the Spanish Consulate in Havana.

Since 2007, when the socialist government of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero passed the Historical Memory, and within the so-called Law of Grandchildren, tens of thousands of Cubans all along the green alligator have embraced it.

Since it was put into force on December 29, 2008, the grandchildren of Spaniards may opt for dual citizenship. That day, the Consulate ran out of the 80,000 forms available.

Three years later the tide hasn’t receded. The deadline was extended until December 27, 2011. More than 165,000 applications were initially made, but the figure was reduced to over 140,000, of which some 60,000 Cubans, on meeting the requirements, have obtained Spanish citizenship.

Let’s visit the Consulate. Located on the corner Zulueta Street Jail, Old Havana, on the side of the bay. From early in the morning, groups of people are queuing up to be among the first when it opens.

Some come from afar. Antonio lives in Buey Arriba, in Granma province, 750 kilometers from the capital. He arrived 14 hours ago. With his backpack and a plastic bottle of tap water, soccer and baseball chat, with those who sleep in the line of the grandchildren of Spanish nationals residing in Cuba.

“My grandparents were from Zaragoza. I have cousins there. It has taken me some time to have the papers ready. My goal is to visit Spain, get a temporary job and return to Cuba. I do not want to emigrate, permanently,” said Antonio.

Let’s visit the Consulate. Located on the corner Zulueta Street Jail, Old Havana, on the side of the bay. From early in the morning, groups of people are queuing up to be among the first when it opens.

Some come from afar. Antonio lives in Buey Arriba, in Granma province, 750 kilometers from the capital. He arrived 14 hours ago. With his backpack and a plastic bottle of tap water, soccer and baseball chat, with those who sleep in the line of the grandchildren of Spanish nationals residing in Cuba.

“My grandparents were from Zaragoza. I have cousins there. It has taken me some time to have the papers ready. My goal is to visit Spain, get a temporary job and return to Cuba. I do not want to emigrate, permanently,” said Antonio.

The hours pass quickly for three young people sitting on a park bench opposite the former Presidential Palace, now the Museum of the Revolution. Ileana,  Lorenzo and Julian, chat about music and celebrity while passing a bottle of rum. They have become friends after seeing each other’s faces in several lines of foreign consulates.

Lorenzo and Julian met outside the Canadian Embassy. Two years ago, Lorenzo was looking for work. He heard a rumor that Canada needed strong young guys to cut down gigantic trees in inhospitable areas.

“I was the man. I looked for a long time for a way out of Cuba without having to throw myself into the sea. But in the end, or everything is a lie, or they ask for a number of documents you don’t possess. I met Julian there who was in the same. We were often at the U.S. consulate, as we have third-degree blood relatives in America. We got the bat (our visas denied). It was there that we became close with Ileana, who was also trying,” says Lorenzo.

Ileana is an authentic Galician granddaughter. “I would rather travel to the U.S., where I have family, because things aren’t so great in Spain. The crisis and unemployment, you know.”

To qualify for the visa you must demonstrate convincingly that you are the grandchild of a Spaniard. Those who do not, leaving consulate fuming.

Raudel is one of them. “My mother did not believe that this black girl had a Spanish grandfather. My story is incredible, but true. It turns out that my grandfather made my mother with a black woman in an extramarital affair, typical of certain ’Galicians’ settled in Cuba. Then my mother, a mulatto, married a black man. A stuck up consulate official can not understand the intricacies and love stories of many Spanish residents in Cuba.”

Orlando is white, but also leaves angry. “How ungrateful are these Spanish. We opened the door to their emigration in the last century when the situation in Spain was critical. Now they have an economic crisis and they want to commit suicide. What would they say if they lived in a country in perpetual crisis like Cuba. However, they shut the door in our face. “

If you want to hear stories about grandchildren or relatives of Spanish descent, pass along Zulueta Street. There’s everything there. From people like Armando who speaks like a Spaniard. Up to black Raudel, who swears he is the grandson of a Galician.

There are also the desperate. Those to whom all legal exit doors are closed. And they do crazy things. They are then a snack for sharks in the Florida Straits. Or die of hypothermia in the landing gear of an airplane. Like Adonis.

September 7 2011

Cuba: Trading Card Villains

January 24, 2012 Leave a comment

Everyone has a list of types that arouse our worst instincts. No matter if you are a longtime Democrat, ultraliberal or convinced Marxist.

No matter what you go to church on Sundays, or count to ten to calm yourself down when their names appear in the media.

To love and despise is a uniquely human quality. And like any Earthling I have my trading cards of contemptible beings. They are present. Contrary to popular belief, none of the Castro brothers exacerbates my manias or my sets off a string of curses in my mind.

Yes, Fidel Castro has been a lousy manager of the nation. A bomb proof caudillo and an annoying autocrat annoying. General Raul Castro, the current president, is another political dinosaur who governs from the loyal clan.

Anyone who thinks differently is a sworn enemy. Everyone knows that is the only rule for Castro supporters. But I am still able to read through a ‘reflection’ of the old commander or sit through a speech by Castro II, who fortunately does not talk much.

The Biran duet that has ruled Cuba for the past 53 years, I have them as political opponents. But their perorations, locutions or writings always set me off to write a note refuting them.

There are other characters in the media map of my country, even across the border, the first reaction to whom causes me to run out to join a Nazi party.

The list is short. In the foreground stands Aleida Guevara, Che’s daughter. Her statements irritate me greatly, her twisted foreign forays, despite having been born and lived all her life in Cuba, and her face is hard.

She wants to sell us the image of a monolithic Bolshevik, but hides behind a corporate soul who claims and receives every dollar of marketing with the image of her father.

Armando Hart is next. What a mess the former Minister of Culture provokes in me. I’ve never been able to read his texts in full. He’s a real drag. How cumbersome and intelligible I find his articles, with that lethal combination he concocts from the ideals of Martí, Marxist manuals, and iconic worship of Fidel Castro.

I always turn the page when I see your signature. I feel sorry for the editors who have to include his abominable tripe. Hart awakes in me the censor that many of us conceal.

In any society that respects itself, this old man would be out of a job. Except in Cuba. The mini-collection of trading card villains is completed by Mariela Castro.

Daughter of the soldier’s who governs us, she’s led me to change my opinion. Earlier, I had a certain appreciation for her tolerance toward homosexuals and her trying to open a space closed and barred by her uncle and father.

But then, suddenly, I realized she is a liar of the worst sort. A puppet which purports to show a liberal face nonexistent in Cuba. Her statements in the Amsterdam Red Light District made me pull out my hair.

She should be archived to serve as an example of what a politician or public figure should never say. If she went mute she might pass unnoticed. But she talks, and about what things.

In addition, Mariela wants to form a fifth column with gays, transvestites and prostitutes. The only premise is to support the political ideology of the family clan. Everything else goes.

When the rulers  don’t give a damn, or are in their decline, they usually ally themselves with any scoundrel, with God, even with the devil, in hopes of legitimizing their ludicrous policies.

On another level, but equally repellent, are the presenters Randy Alonso, of the Round Table (especially when he laughs), and Rafael Serrano, the mustachioed histrionic of the dull news. When they start to act up I turn off the TV. What heavies they are.

My other damned character is the irrational Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. But the guy from Barinas deserves a separate chronicle.

Photo: Aleida Guevara, dressed in the Cuban flag, paraded on a float in a tank dedicated to the ‘Cuban Revolution’. It happened in the carnival of Florianópolis, capital of the Brazilian state of Santa Catarina, in March 2011.

November 17 2011

Palestinians in Havana

January 22, 2012 Leave a comment

For the ‘Palestinians’, as people from Havana call those born in the eastern provinces, to live in Havana is almost a mission impossible. By Decree 217, passed in 1997, the law sanctions and fines people born outside the capital who wish to settle there without official permission.

It’s like a border without a border. There is no wall that prevents thousands of easterners from moving to Havana. But thousands of regulations, inspectors, police and members of the CDR (Committees for the Defense of the Revolution), are directed at the newcomers who settle in neighborhoods of the capital.

Not all hate people from Havana hate the ‘Palestinians’. But there are many who have a grudge against people from Santiago, Guantanamo, Las Tunas, Holguin and Granma, among others who arrive on the early morning trains with antiquated suitcases and the desire to conquer the world.

Easterners who come to the city have the same aspirations as an exile when he leaves his homeland. To make money and help their family. To flee their provinces shocked by the poverty and lack of opportunities.

In general, they are good people. Do everything. Care for a garden, collect aluminum cans for 13 hours under a fearful sun, pedal the pedicabs in the vicinity of the Capitol and Havana’s Central Park.

There are also the sleazy types. Violent fringe. Pimps. Thieves. Crooks and cheats in the game of fools, who in a blink of an eye pluck the money.

For the police it is easy to identify an easterner. Because almost all of them are also easterners. They recognize them by how they look and the “singing” sound when they talk, along with swallowing their the S’s. Any given night, a truck packed with policemen make their raids.

They ask for the identity card, and if they have the right papers, they make them talk. Those “sing” when they talk are handcuffed to the truck. The removal process is expedited.

The next night they put them on the train, back to their villages. Deportees. Prohibit them from visiting Havana for 3 years. They are excommunicated in their own country. Of course, this procedure is unconstitutional.

Havana is the capital of all Cubans. The easterners are not a different ethnicity. They are of the same nationality. But in practice, the authorities treat them as if they were authentic Palestinians from the West Bank or Gaza.

Still, they manage to return and settle in the ‘plate’, as they call Havana. On the outskirts of the city settlements have grown up. Concuní is one of them.

State inspectors have threatened to bring bulldozers and destroy the trail of huts and aluminum shacks. But the easterners are planted as if they were mambises. Machetes and sticks in hand, trying to defend their right to live better. Women and children armed with stones. Given this mess, the authorities turn away.

These settlements are true slums. There in the towns of Regla, Guanabacoa, Cotorro, Lisa, San Miguel de Padron and Marianao. The living conditions of their people are subhuman.

There is no drinking water. People do their business in bushes or on rudimentary latrines where the excrement drains into the vicinity. Almost none of the eastern residents in these favelas have ration books.

They eat what they can get during the day. Or do not eat. Paul, from Santiago who lives in one of these settlements, says he has gone up to three days without eating. “The food I find or that friends give me is for my children.”

In a cardboard and wood shack without electricity, TV or fridge, he lives with his wife and three children. Paul wants to get a job and support his offspring.

It will be difficult. Managers of companies and state institutions can not accept ‘illegals’. Therefore, they are forced to work “on the left” — under the table.

Many of the illegal easterners no longer have homes in their home provinces. They burned the bridges. They sold everything to try their luck in Havana.

Despite the odds, they are optimistic. From the time the sun rises, they go out to try to get some pesos. Returning late at night. Sometimes with food and money. At times with empty pockets.

Their worst enemies are the police, mostly civilians. Above all, they have to endure taunts and sneers of some habaneros, who call them ‘Palestinians’ to humiliate them.

Between Havana and the East a wall of police harassment and abuse has built up. With the consent of the authorities.

September 4 2011

Emigration is Good Business for the Cuban Government

January 20, 2012 1 comment

It’s daylight robbery.  Every time a Cuban residing abroad decides to visit their home country, the must pay a crude ‘revolutionary tax’ to the Castro brothers government.

Let’s get out the calculator.  In 2012 nearly 400,000 Cuban emigrants visited the island.  Before unpacking the plasma TVs, computers, video games and smartphones for their relatives, all of them had to pay, in cash at the Castro’s Consulates abroad, 240 dollars for a ‘carta de invitacion‘ and 80 dollars for a months stay in the land where they were born.

Nostalgia and the desire to meet the grandchildren, or simply to drink a glass of run with no shirt on at their mother’s house with old friends, has a price to those who have emigrated.

No one understands that a Cuban can be a foreigner in their own country.  There is a huge legal aberration in the Constitution of the Republic:  one cannot have dual citizenship.  However, when visiting their country, emigrants must do it with a Cuban passport.  These absurd immigration laws don’t stop there.  If they are unfortunate enough to be arrested and sent to one of the hard prisons, they must pay for their legal representation in hard cash.  They find themselves in a no man’s land.

For the Cubans who’ve decided to leave, the abusive and excessive costs are better to have done with.  Let’s go over our expenses.  55 pesos (CUC) for a passport, 400 for a basic medical.  200 to validate a bachelor’s degree.  150 for an exit permit.  Apart from these 805 CUC or ‘small change’ – equivalent to three years of an engineer’s salary – the government is getting other sources of pocket money from the provision of airport services and commission on plane tickets.

The industry of milking immigrants and potential emigrants doesn’t stop there.  If you choose a 3 month ‘carta de invitacion‘ or an exterior work permit you must also go past the till.

Let’s put some numbers in.  Due to a lack of government figures on the numbers of Cubans travelling abroad, let us suppose that 100,000 Cubans leave the island temporarily every year.  If we multiply that by 805, we can see that the regime pockets 80 million pesos just from these journeys.

To the grand business that immigration turns into for the creole mandarins, add to it the billions coming from family remittances, and the hundreds or thousands of millions that they obtain through the concept of travel agencies and shippers rooted in Florida.

To put the cherry on top, the succulent ‘hustling’ adds to the hundreds of millions which Cuban emigrants spend on ‘shoppings’, buying food, electrical appliances and other bits and bobs for their relatives.

This industry, plonked on top of immigration, is one of the few profitable Castro brother enterprises.  Now, with the alleged migration reform it remains to be seen is whether the prices for those who decide to leave permanently or travel abroad temporarily will fall.

It’s already known that for “basic security measures” they don’t allow Yoani Sánchez to leave. And the journalists Carlos Alberto Montaner and Raúl Rivero will have to keep on hoping that God will take them to foreign lands.

While this persists, no migratory reform will be achieved. You can’t applaud shameful concessions that are basic rights.

Cuba belongs to all Cubans, not just those of an olive green caste.

Iván García

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January 18 2012

The Time for Racial Integration in Cuba

January 16, 2012 1 comment

Leonardo Calvo, 84 years of age, historian and political scientist and Juan Antonio Madrazo, 42, specialist in management and food services, are now two of the most lucid and coherent voices on the map of Cuban opposition.

They are dissidents for two reasons.  On the one hand, Calvo for 20 years and Madrazo for six, have desired strongly that the Castro brothers’ government enter the ring of democracy.

And on the other, they have struck up an all out battle for racial integration for the those of African origin in all social strata in Cuba.  This monumental task is being carried out as if they were missionaries, educating, if possible, person by person.

‘Everything makes its way into society by education.  Tackling racism in its historical context.  This is our job in the Citizen’s Committee for Racial Integration (CIR).  Not racism the other way around.  We shouldn’t wait for the state to confront this thorny issue.  If up until now they haven’t acted, in fact they’ve done the opposite, they won’t do anything in the future.  This government has no answers on the topic of racism.  Not politically nor culturally’, assures Leonardo Calvo.

CIR’s main headquarters is based in the house of Juan Antonio Madrazo, in the heart of central Havana, a tall black man with the voice of a radio presenter, is the national coordinator of a movement which groups together in 50s and without racial distinction activists avoiding any political preferences.

They take on the subject of racial discrimination on the island in an academic way.  It’s not a problem created by Fidel Castro.  No.  But Castro has taken no notice of it.  And today it has become a precarious Pandora’s Box.

The unfair treatment of blacks, nor their rise up the social ladder, was not abolished in 1886 when the Spanish Crown decreed that an end would be put to slavery.

Perhaps it was that very moment when fear of blacks began.  Fifty-eight years of republic and fifty-three of ‘olive green’ authoritarian revolution have failed to meet the expectations of blacks and mixed race people in Cuba.

They are by no means few in number.  If we go off the information of the last National Census of Population and Housing, carried out in 2002, blacks make up 10.08% of the population and those of mixed race 23.84%, we get a total of 33.92%, a figure which contrasts with the 65.05% of whites (1.02% are Asian).  But many doubts about the accuracy of these statistics exist.  In a hasty fashion, those of mixed race with fairer skin who shy away from their race are shown as whites in official paperwork.

It could be that blacks and mixed race make up half of the Cuban population.  And it could be still more. However, in the current state of affairs, no one takes notice of them in the circles of power, nor in the high offices of economics or academia.

It is known the positions that dark-skinned Cubans hold on the island: sport, pop music, Santeria or prison.  In the prisons they are the majority.  Eighty-eight percent of the prison population on the island is black or mixed race.

They’re also those who live the worst.  The lowest salaries and the hardest jobs.  The historian Leonardo Calvo doesn’t understand why it had to be this way.

‘Since the war of independence, blacks and mixed race have fought head to head with the white population to have our independence.  And the stripes have been won by a daring stroke.  Whilst whites seeking independence, through their merits and knowledge, began the fight against the military, blacks had to earn their stripes battle by battle’ says Calvo.

To wield the machete in the depth of the swamp or the AK-47 in the burning African jungle the blacks have been counted on.  Now is the time to share out the privileges and ministerial posts which have been kept from them.

Juan Antonia Madrazo has had personal experience of the ‘socialist racism’ practised in Cuba.  There are white friends of the party who will drink a litre of rum in the early hours of the morning and treat you as a friend, but if you have a relationship with his sister racist passions are unleashed.  But Juan carries on regardless.

After graduating in Food Management with high marks, Madrazo went on to run several shops.  He went openly into a racist, mafia-run enclave.  Where clans and corruption have come together to arm a formidable cartel which steals and buys favours to its hearts content.

‘In the working aspect I felt contempt because of my skin colour.  Imagine, I’d be in charge of eight white managers and I tried to apply transparent rules.  They didn’t accept my authority in any way. They did everything possible to get rid of me.  Until they succeeded.’

In 2005 it was already clear to Madrazo.  Fighting for respect and so that desegregation laws would be put into place was not enough, other methods had to be used.  On this date he met Leonardo Calvo and Manuel Cuesta Morua (Calule) and they started to cook up the present desegregation movement which counts on the support of mixed race compatriots and blacks in exile such as Juan Benemelis and Carlos Moore.

The renowned Colombian investigator Juan de Dios Mosquera, leader of the  Movimiento Cimarrón (Runaway Movement) put forward a proposal at a meeting made by the CIR on the 23rd, 24th and 25th of November, an event which developed under the difficult sieges by State Security, which detained a dozen activists and guests.

It was an act of stupidity rather than an abuse of power, think Calvo and Madrazo.  ‘What should have been a calm forum of debate, at a home address, turned into a news story.  Before the eyes of the foreign press, as there were some Brazilian journalists from ‘La Globo’ present in my house, the repression of the political police took place in front of them and they were astonished’, added Madrazo.

The CIR’s activists, let us say Madrazo, Calvo or Calule, are of an academic bent.  Their podium is not the street nor are they inclined to cries of ‘Freedom’ or ‘Down with the Castros’.  They venture calm, sensible discussion on the theme of racism.

And they’re not going to get themselves arrested on any account.  ‘We don’t break the law, but we don’t shy away from it’, states Calvo. Next year will be a busy one for the CIR.

The year 2012 is the 100th anniversary of the uprising of the Independent Party of Color led by Evaristo Estenoz and Peter Ivonet, which provoked a violent response from the government of José Miguel Gómez, in whose high command was the son of José Martí Bazán. Three thousand blacks were lynched.

That dark spot is something to try to forget. The study of it in the history books of Cuban universities is so fleeting. And accuses those who paid with their lives for the audacity to claim a place in the political pie, of annexationism or racism.

With their writings, meetings and forums, Leonardo Calvo and Juan Antonio Madrazo replicate the thesis that since the Republican period until the Castro autocracy, the monumental crime sustained was a ‘simple stumble’ without major consequences in the history of Cuba.

So what it’s about, according to Calvo and Madrazo, is that if anything unites — above all ideology — the government of the Castro brothers and an important sector of modern Western society, it is the intellectual and biological racism toward black people.

They feel that their place is to publicly discuss these discriminatory attitudes. They want to lose the fear of black people. Time for racial integration. The real thing. Not the official discourse.

December 15 2011

Spain: Zapatero Reinvents the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE)

January 12, 2012 1 comment

If the democratic left in the world wants to take lessons of what not to do in state policy, please look to Spain. History tends to fickle twists. And perfect anonymous types, after death, joined the army of sacred cows. Also the inverse. Distinguished in life, when God took them, they were despised.

But however it is analyzed, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero passed into Spanish political history as a pariah. He fled through the kitchen door on the night of November 20 when the numbers confirmed the victory, announced months in advance, of the People’s Party (PP) leader Mariano Rajoy.

He didn’t even show his face. He passed the dynamite with the fuse lit to that political suicide named Alfredo Rubalcaba. Who, perhaps because he’s a dreamer or to enforce party discipline, agreed to become a puppet shooting blanks at his own electorate, who defected from the disillusioned Socialist ranks.

Rubalcaba had to throw in the towel. For political ethics or decorum. If he really wanted to redeem the PSOE he would have had to take the knife of criticism in his hands and make dust out of the bad management of Zapatero’s government.

It was more than a punishment vote for the PSOE. It has also been a valuable message that their imperishable record for modern politicians is recorded in ink. The government lie to buy time in the presidential chair is paid for by the political death.

Zapatero in his last term was irresponsible. And a coward. He put his ambition for power first, before telling the truth about the Spanish economic crisis and implement the harsh cuts in haste.

He played the game as if his people were a puppet in the hands of a giant. The final story of the Spanish executive reminds me of the battle of Waterloo. Historians tell us that an indecisive and obedient general obedience was incapable, despite the reality of the terrain clearly showing otherwise, of contradicting Napoleon. He complied with his orders and thus was defeated.

Have done the opposite and moved his troops and the history of the battle, of  Napoleon, and, why not, France and Europe could have been written in other terms. Therefore, political shamelessness is attributable not only to Zapatero. And also his whole team.

I don’t know if it’s accurate to say that the PP won the race on its own merits or that PSOE lost because of gross political errors. Looking at the numbers, the number of PP voters increased a few thousand.

The disaster is among those who always supported and believed in the socialist Iberians. 4.5 million voters failed to vote for the PSOE. If Zapatero had been a high-caliber leader and faced the vagaries of the whole crisis, perhaps the story would have been different.

We have an example in the CiU. The Catalan party understood a series of hard cuts, necessary and unpopular. However, this 20-N came out of the polls with it head held high.

The new Spanish president, Mariano Rajoy, has a real timebomb in his hands. The Galician and his team will have to split hairs to overcome the harsh crisis that goes beyond the economy and attacks the poor performance of political institutions, democracy and European sovereignty.

As for Cuba, it’s bad news. In the political and military sectors of the island bilateral relations with Spain are going to be tense.

In any international forum where there is a representative of the new Spanish government, Cuban officials will have to keep their heads down as they listen to repeated discourse about respect for democracy and human rights.

Latin America is waiting. For many radical left-wing governments in the region. Cuba is part of their agenda. Spain already left behind the days when it was the second largest investor in the continent. China passed them at supersonic speed while sticking out its tongue. And Brazil is on track.

If Rajoy goes ahead and finds a solution to the crisis and tempers his foreign policy objective without hysteria he will be a giant. Jose Luis Rodriguez, for his part returns to his lair. Zapatero, back to the drawing board.

Photo: EFE. Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero during the ceremony held in July 2010 to commemorate the tenth anniversary of his election as general secretary of the PSOE.

November 25 2011

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