Yoani Sánchez walks us through her “peculiar” passport (English subtitles)

A few days ago I came across this recent video of Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez giving a camera a tour of her passport. It’s about the best illustration you could possibly ask for of the regime’s deliberate measures to keep the Cuban people from being exposed to life outside the communist bubble. Her passport is full of visas. Literally. There is nowhere to put a new stamp. And yet she hasn’t been able to use a single one of them to board a flight out of Cuba.

I downloaded the video and added it to my own YouTube channel for the sake of being able to add English subtitles. SO… here it is. If you don’t hve closed captions enabled, just click the “CC” icon in the YouTube player and select the English track. Subtitles should appear.

A young Cuban on liberty and confronting Ricardo Alarcón

“Lamento tener que decirlo así, de este modo. La libertad, para mí, es un sueño. Un sueño que espero que pronto deje de ser sueño. Porque no puedo hablar de libertad si no la he tenido. No puedo hablar de libertad si lo que he conocido de ella es lo poco que he luchado y me he sacrificado por lograr conocerla.
La libertad, para mí… espero conocerla un día. Aún no la conozco. La veo como un sueño. Eso para mí es la libertad.
Creo que, para mi generacion acá en Cuba, la libertad es un suenño. No podemos hablar de libertad como no podemos hablar si nos gusta el helado de chocolate si no lo hemos probado. Lo veo así.”
Pero la llevas dentro. No la conoces, pero la sueñas. ¿Cómo se explica eso?
“Es un instinto … yo diría que natural. Instintivamente, el ser humano necesita de la libertad. Aunque no la haya conocido porque no se lo hayan brindado, sueña con ella. Sabe. Sabe que ella es mucho mejor de lo que tiene.”
Several days ago, the Cuban Democratic Directorate (Directorio Democrático Cubano) released this interview from its Radio República programming. In it, they talk with Alejandro Hernández (who you might remember from video of a meeting of students with Ricardo Alarcon) about the consequences of speaking truth to authority in Cuba, higher education under communist rule, and the broad concept of liberty.
Here’s a quote from the interview (in Spanish, then English):
“Lamento tener que decirlo así, de este modo. La libertad, para mí, es un sueño. Un sueño que espero que pronto deje de ser sueño. Porque no puedo hablar de libertad si no la he tenido. No puedo hablar de libertad si lo que he conocido de ella es lo poco que he luchado y me he sacrificado por lograr conocerla.
La libertad, para mí… espero conocerla un día. Aún no la conozco. La veo como un sueño. Eso para mí es la libertad.
Creo que, para mi generacion acá en Cuba, la libertad es un suenño. No podemos hablar de libertad como no podemos hablar si nos gusta el helado de chocolate si no lo hemos probado. Lo veo así.”
Pero la llevas dentro. No la conoces, pero la sueñas. ¿Cómo se explica eso?
“Es un instinto … yo diría que natural. Instintivamente, el ser humano necesita de la libertad. Aunque no la haya conocido porque no se lo hayan brindado, sueña con ella. Sabe. Sabe que ella es mucho mejor de lo que tiene.”
In English:
“I lament having to say it this way. Liberty, for me, is a dream. A dream that I hope will soon cease to be a dream. Because I can’t talk about liberty if I have never had it. I can’t talk about liberty if what I have gotten to know of it is what little I know from fighting and sacrificing to get it.
Liberty, for me… I hope to know it one day. I don’t know it yet. I see it as a dream. That’s what liberty is to me.
I think that, for my generation here in Cuba, liberty is a dream. We can’t talk about liberty the way we can’t talk about whether we like chocolate ice cream if we’ve never tried it.”
But you carry it inside you. You don’t know it, but you dream of it. How do you explain that?
“It’s an instict… I would say a natural one. Instinctively, a human being needs liberty. Even if he doesn’t know it because it has never been made available to him, he dreams of it. He knows He knows that it is much better than what he has.”
Here’s the full interview (in Spanish):
Here is the full video from the meeting in which Ricardo Alarcón fielded questions from Cuban students:

Update on “Wassup en LA?” Kickstarter campaign

A while back, I shared an interview with some of the people behind a sitcom called “Wassup en LA?”

As I mentioned before, the project is seeking funding via Kickstarter, an online platform by which you can make a pledge that only gets charged if they reach their fundraising goals.

Now, based on the comments on that last post, there’s something of a split among Babalu readers in terms of excitement about this project. So consider this an update on the project’s progress for all of you, and a link to a way to act for some of you.

The Wassup people are about halfway to their goal of $50,000. With Just a few days left, they have raised about $21,000.

So… if you’re into this project and would like to contribute, do so here.

For the sake of full disclosure, I’ll say that I did pledge $50 to this project. I don’t pretend to have read scripts or gotten to know all these people intimately. More than anything, I’m curious to see where this goes, and confident that — at the very lest — this group would put together a more faithful portrayal of Cubans and Cuban-Americans than anybody doing so now.

Thank God for Che Guevara or get the hell out of town…

A young Cuban Jehovah’s witness and her family have been forced out of their town over the kid’s refusal to follow her teacher’s instructions to write a prayer in praise of Che Guevara and the “Cuban Five.” (Story in Spanish)

Cuba: Niña Testigo de Jehová reprobada por no redactar oración del Che y los cinco espías

Según alega Danais Alfaro Consuegra, madre de Jessica, los problemas de su hija con los maestros comenzaron desde el primer día del curso escolar, cuando éste le pidió que redactara una oración  avalando el heroísmo de Ernesto (Che) Guevara y de los cinco espías cubanos prisioneros en cárceles de los Estados Unidos.

Según alega Danais Alfaro Consuegra, madre de Jessica, los problemas de su hija con los maestros comenzaron desde el primer día del curso escolar, cuando éste le pidió que redactara una oración  avalando el heroísmo de Ernesto (Che) Guevara y de los cinco espías cubanos prisioneros en cárceles de los Estados Unidos.
“El mandó a la niña a hacer una oración con el Che y otra con los cinco héroes y ella dijo que no, que su posición era neutral, que ella no se mezclaba en esos asuntos, y él le dijo que si ella no hacía las oraciones la iba a dejar sin merienda; y efectivamente, le quitó la merienda”, -describió la madre

“El mandó a la niña a hacer una oración con el Che y otra con los cinco héroes y ella dijo que no, que su posición era neutral, que ella no se mezclaba en esos asuntos, y él le dijo que si ella no hacía las oraciones la iba a dejar sin merienda; y efectivamente, le quitó la merienda”, -describió la madre.

Read the rest of the story here.

Excuse the naughty language, but you’ve got to see these shirts…

Friend and artist Emilio Carnero (a.k.a. Mr. Toxico) is always coming up with great t-shirt designs. These are his latest gems.

Nothing in it for me or Babalú. Just saw this and thought some of you might want to snatch a few up before they’re gone. Apparently, by “limited” edition, he means there are 100 of them.

You can buy yours at ShopToxico.com, where you’ll also find plenty of other Cuba-themed stuff.

Toxico Fuck Fidel shirt

Video from a gas station fire in Santiago de Cuba

In this video acquired by UNPACU (follow them on YouTube here), onlookers in Santiago de Cuba rush toward a damaged gas pump to collect whatever gasoline they can sell on the black market. As the video notes, just a liter of gasoline can sell for about 20 Cuban pesos (not CUC, but the regular currency) — about a day’s wages for your average Cuban professional.

Eventually, the party ends and the entire gas station catches fire, hospitalizing several people.

According to the text added to this video by UNPACU, authorities and state media are reporting that there were no deaths in this fire, but locals say there were.

It’s not clear why the government would see fit to lie about whether there were deaths (it does seem like the fire started accidentally). If anything, it might be that onlookers can be heard yelling at firefighters to inform them of screams coming from inside the flames — something the firefighters, who were standing much closer to the blaze, should have been able to hear themselves.

Part 1

Part 2

I try to avoid engaging in or provoking conspiracy theories, but I find it worth noting that, in this video, the fire seems to start right as a police cars arrives on the scene. Maybe it means something. Maybe it doesn’t.

Cuban blogger Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo detained, tweets Yoani Sanchez

Yoani Sanchez tweeted earlier today that Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo has been detained by Cuban authorities. Apparently, as he was being arrested, he had the good sense to dial her number and leave his cell phone in his pocket so she could listen in.

Yoani is now in the process of tracking Orlando down, going from police station to police station (and getting the run-around).

Follow Yoani on Twitter here (for her original Spanish tweets) or here (for tweets translated into English).

Follow Orlando here.

DELET AFTER USE YOANI ORLANDO DELETE AFTER USE

UPDATE:  Orlando and Silvia, his girlfriend who was also detained, were released at 11 p.m. last night, according to Yoani.

Yoani Sanchez tweets that Orland Pardo is freed

Urging ODCA to push for an investigation of the deaths of Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero

In this video, Osmel Rodríguez of Movimiento Cristiano Liberacion (MCL) urges the Christian Democrat Organization of America (or ODCA, for Organización Demócrata Cristiana de América) to seek an independent investigation of the deaths of MCL leaders Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero.

In Spanish / En español

Soledad O’Brien puts words in Christine O’Donnell’s mouth, then invokes her mother’s Cubanness to justify it.

In this interview, Christine O’Donnell comments on the Romney campaign’s communications strategy and its criticisms of what she calls Obama’s philosophy of “collectivism.” Soledad O’Brien, whose mother was born in Cuba, pounces: “Collectivism is another word for communism.”

From there, O’Brien rides the premise that O’Donnell is referring to “communism” through the end of the clip, using that premise to beat back an O’Donnell charge that never actually came.

As evidence tat Obama is not a communist, O’Brien points out that his administration has put money “into the private sector.”

“I mean, my mother’s Cuban right? So I can talk a lot about communism, between you… I know a lot about it.”

She goes on to talk about government-funded levees that protect private oil company assets.

My opinion:

O’Brien’s statement that the Obama administration has put tax money into the private sector, or invested it to the benefit of the private sector, is right. Where she misses the mark (in principle, not in scale) is in suggesting that there is difference between taxing Americans to redistribute wealth to the benefit of American corporations, and enslaving Cubans to the benefit of Spanish investors in Cuba.

The somewhat uniquely ignorant (“uniquely,” that is, among people news media) thing about O’Brien’s comment is that she invokes her mother’s Cuban heritage as evidence that she “knows a lot about communism.” But the fallacy she engages in together with people of both parties is the suggestion that crony capitalism and Cuban Communism are significantly different in any way other than how they’re branded.

There isn’t a fundamental moral difference between government saving an automotive company from the market forces of a financial crsis and government saving a hotel chain from consequences of freedom in the labor market.

The Cuban system is only communist in name. It has never redistributed wealth equitably. There are still slums. There are still privileged classes. And it’s all by design.

No. Cuban-brand communism is the same cronyism we’re accustomed to here, but taken to its most radical extreme. It’s government taking what is rightfully the people’s to protect big businesses in which the people have no stock, sell the people propaganda that claims its all in their best interest, and maintain what is, ultimately, the hemisphere’s largest government housing project.

It’s one thing to debate the degree to which government involvement is acceptable. Maybe you think there’s a place for a little socialism, communism or redistribution in America. In fact, chances are you do. You might not describe it that way, but if you want income tax money being spent on just about anything the government currently does, you favor a government initiation of force for the sake of wealth redistribution. Maybe you even think the world needs a crony or two (like a some big infrastructure and military contractors) to run properly.

But this — having the responsibility of so prominent a place in journalism, only to treat it so flippantly as to say “my mother was born in a certain place, so I know what I’m talking about,” and then turn it into an excuse to grandstand on empty rhetoric and avoid calling a spade a spade — is another thing entirely.

The Diaz-Balarts in Tampa — Photos from a Babalú reader

Earlier this month, we let you know about a “Meeting with the Cuban community in Tampa, Florida / Reaffirmation of the struggle for Cuba’s freedom” that would take place today. According to the initial press release, it would be a meeting of:

Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Congressman David Rivera (R-FL), former Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart,  members of patriotic Cuban-American organizations in Tampa and former Cuban political prisoners.

In that post, we solicited photos from anyone who might be able to attend. Babalú readers came through!

Here are some photos from reader Omar Díaz:

Meeting with the Cuban community in Tampa, Florida (1)
From left: Oscar Rodriguez, fmr. president of La Casa Cuba de Tampa; Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart; Alfredo Moreno current president of La Casa Cuba de Tampa; Lincoln Diaz-Balart; Ana Carbonell

Meeting with the Cuban community in Tampa, Florida

Omar summarized the event and the Diaz-Balarts remarks this way:

The bros. each spoke of the present day of Cuba under the dictatorship with Lincoln talking about the twitter note he read recently of the activist whose young daughter was beaten up by state security agents. They both quoted Churchill’s never give in when speaking of negotiating with Castro’s shmafia (shit + Mafia). I made that one up.
Their message was one of hope for Cuba’s future and the need for the exiles to maintain a hard line.

The brothers each spoke of present day Cuba under the dictatorship, with Lincoln talking about a tweet he read recently of the activist whose young daughter was beaten up by state security agents.

Their message was one of hope for Cuba’s future and the need for the exiles to maintain a hard line.

As a bonus, Omar sent us this photo of Cuban bread at a nearby bakery.

Gratuitous photos of Cuban bread at a Tampa bakery (Photo by Omar Díaz)
Gratuitous photo of Cuban bread at a Tampa bakery (Photo by Omar Díaz)

Many thanks to Omar for these contributions.

Daughter of Cuban VP has defected. How’s that for “fugo de cerebros”?

One of the differences between voting with a ballot and voting with your feet: When you vote with your feet, some votes just count more than others.

For the cause of liberty, this is one big “get.”

Daughter of Cuba Vice President Defects to US, Report Says
Read more: http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/news/2012/08/28/daughter-cuba-vice-president-defects-to-us-report-says/#ixzz24ti0DgE5

Daughter of Cuba Vice President Defects to US, Report Says

Glenda Murillo Diaz, 24, crossed the Mexican border this month into the city of Laredo, Texas, according to The Miami Herald. Murillo Diaz is now living in Tampa and intends to make the United States her home, the paper reports citing unnamed sources.

Murillo Diaz originally traveled to Mexico to attend a psychology conference, according to the Herald. She never received a U.S. visa to visit relatives or study, the report says.

Whether or not she entered with a visa, Murillo Diaz is permitted to stay under the wet-foot, dry-foot policy, which allows Cuban nationals to reside legally in the United States and apply for citizenship if they manage to set foot here.

The defection, if true, would be an embarrassment to the Cuban government. Vice President Marino Murillo Jorge holds the key position of implementing Head of State Raúl Castro’s economic reforms aimed at liberalizing Cuba’s half-century-old Communist economy.

Read the rest of the story here.

The daughter of Cuban VP MArino Murillo has defected to the U.S.
The daughter of Cuban VP MArino Murillo has defected to the U.S.

Major Rafael Soriano Paintings Donated to Smithsonian American Art Museum

MIAMI, Aug. 27, 2012 — MIAMI, Aug. 27, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — This summer two major paintings by Cuban master Rafael Soriano were given to the Smithsonian American Art Museum for its permanent collection. These two works, Un Lugar Distante (A Distant Place) (1972) and Candor de la Alborada (Candor of Dawn) (1994), represent significant moments in Soriano’s artistic production.

About Rafael Soriano
Rafael Soriano was born in 1920 in Matanzas, Cuba. He fled the island with his wife and daughter in 1962. The family settled in Miami, and he was forced to temporarily take a respite from his artwork. When he returned to his artwork, Soriano began to combine abstract forms of light, space and shadows with metaphysical images. He has exhibited widely in the Americas and in Europe and is included in a myriad of museum collections.
Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/08/27/4760646/major-rafael-soriano-paintings.html#storylink=cpy
About Rafael Soriano
Rafael Soriano was born in 1920 in Matanzas, Cuba. He fled the island with his wife and daughter in 1962. The family settled in Miami, and he was forced to temporarily take a respite from his artwork. When he returned to his artwork, Soriano began to combine abstract forms of light, space and shadows with metaphysical images. He has exhibited widely in the Americas and in Europe and is included in a myriad of museum collections.
Rafael Soriano
Rafael Soriano