Not just toppled, but fervently and gleefully pulverized.
Gotta love those iconoclasts. Pray for them, too, especially because their corrupt government is still in charge of the Ukraine.
No sight on earth is lovelier than that of a falling idol; no sound sweeter than that of sledgehammers breaking it into little pieces.
Go HERE and HERE for video.
Even The New York Times deigned the event newsworthy:
KIEV, Ukraine — Protesters in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, toppled the city’s main statue of Lenin on Sunday and then pounded it into chips with a sledgehammer as a crowd chanted and cheered. The destruction of the statue was a cathartic moment in the biggest day of demonstrations so far against President Viktor F. Yanukovich’s turn away from Europe. ...
...With the police nowhere to be seen in the city center, protesters in Bessarabia Square toppled the Lenin statue using steel cables and cranks as a crowd gathered to watch. “People were waiting for this for decades,” said one man in the crowd, Leon Belokur. “Now it’s happened.”
He pulled from his pocket a chip of granite. “This is a piece of Lenin’s hand,” he said.
Once the statue was down, men took turns smashing it with the sledgehammer. Onlookers chanted, “Glory to Ukraine!” and cheered the hammerers with cries of “Good job, guys!” as they shielded their faces from flying splinters of stone. One of the hammerers wore his hair in a Mohawk; another was a priest in black vestments. The protesters mounted a Ukrainian flag on the empty pedestal.
Many towns in Ukraine tore down statues of Lenin years ago, erasing monuments to the Soviet communism that had crushed their nation with famine, but the one in Kiev had stood intact until Sunday.
Continue reading HERE.
Cuban American filmmaker and our good friend Joe Cardona on an issue many of us have struggled with.
Via The Miami Herald:
The battle to learn Spanish
Few things are more humbling than teaching a child. As you conjure up simple explanations for their complex inquiries — all while driving through McDonald’s — you quickly figure out that no matter how ingenious your responses may be, it is impossible to transfer every kernel of information that lies in your brain. If your child gathers a quarter of your hard-earned knowledge, consider yourself fortunate.
I became a parent when I was a few months shy of 40. I had plenty of time to contemplate what information and values I deemed important to pass onto a child — compassion, self-reliance, and to believe in their dreams were all atop my list, which probably resembled the lists in most Dr. Benjamin Spock “how to” parenting books.
The one unique piece of information (perhaps not in Miami so much but it’s certainly not in Benjamin Spock”s books) that I planned to teach my child was Spanish and a good portion of the Cuban history and culture that I know. Given the fact that my daughter would never meet my mother who passed away years before, I made it a point to pass along the bit of family history and cultural flavor that her grandmother would have likely ingrained in her at a very young age.
For years, I was the guy who chastised my friends whose kids’ first names were right out of Clint Eastwood westerns or junior beauty pageants in Georgia — somewhat hypocritical on my part, as I go by my Anglicized nickname. The sound of Shane Rodriguez or Tiffany Lynn Gonzales didn’t quite roll off the tongue for me. More than silly sounding, the names seemed like a feeble attempt to mask Latino identity.
“ Arrepentidos” (shamed ones) we used to call those hoity-toity Cubans in my West Hialeah neighborhood.
I was surely going to be the parent that would teach his children Spanish so that they could communicate with their grandparents. And so when my daughter was born I made it a point to place her in a daycare where Spanish was spoken all day. Her mother and I felt this would definitely give her a good Spanish base. When she was approaching kindergarten age we began to panic as we realized my daughter spoke little if any English.
Continue reading HERE.
Another example of the corruption of Cuba's Catholic Church and its ongoing complicity with the repressive and bloody dictatorship of the apartheid Castro regime.
Via CubaNet (my translation):
Havana vicar prefers socialism over neoliberalism
During a conference that took place at the Father Felix Varela Cultural Center on November 23, 2013, Monsignor Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, vicar of the Havana Archdiocese, declared that the "current changes" being implemented by Raul Castro appear to be taking the country towards a "socialism that is more participative and democratic." Titled "The Legacy of Father Felix Varela for Today's Cuba: Letters from Elpidio," the conference of prelates was centered on the current changes taking place in Cuban society, demarcating the differences between capitalism and socialism.
"Those who know me well know that the latest path, that of neoliberalism, is not what I desire for Casa Cuba. Instead, I prefer the first, one that consists of a socialism that is more participative and democratic, which appears to be where the current changes are taking us in a slow process," said Cespedes in an account published in the Catholic publication Espacio Laical.
Continue reading (in Spanish) HERE.
You know you are really a vile and despicable dictatorship when even the murderous loons in North Korea look more reasonable than you do.
Via Capitol Hill Cubans:
North Korea Releases Hostage, Cuba Keeps Hostage
North Korea has unconditionally released American hostage, Merrill Newman, from captivity.
(However, it tragically continues to hold another American hostage, Kenneth Bae.)
Meanwhile, Cuba's Castro regime refuses to unconditionally release its American hostage, Alan Gross.
Is North Korea's totalitarian regime more tolerant than Cuba's?
Neither are tolerant by any measure.
Could it be that Newman was a "spare" hostage for North Korea, while it continues to hold Bae for its coercion?
Or maybe it's just that North Korea doesn't have as many U.S.-based lobbyists and politicians peddling its ransom demands.
Well, except for Dennis Rodman, of course.
American Merrill Newman heads for freedom, 'deported' from North Korea
Merrill Newman -- the 85-year-old American detained by North Korean authorities earlier this fall -- is on a flight back to freedom after being locked up in North Korea.
Video showed him smiling as he walked past a cavalcade of reporters through the airport in Beijing. He felt good, he said, and looked forward to seeing his wife.
"I'm very glad to be on my way home," Newman told reporters.
Because in Cuba, throwing feces at regime opponents is a common occurrence. That is how the thuggish Castro dictatorship rolls.
Via Uncommon Sense:
Librado Linares (photo via CubaNet.com)
How does the Castro regime respond to its most forceful, courageous critics in Cuba?
By cowardly throwing shit at their homes.
Former prisoner of conscience Librado Linares this week accused Cuban State Security of ordering vandals to pelt his home in the town of Camajuaní with used motor oil and horse excrement.
Linares, who said he woke up early Friday morning to smells that made him ill, said it was the third time vandals had attacked his home.
Continue reading HERE.
Berta Soler, the leader of Cuba's peaceful dissident organization the Ladies in White, was finally released last night after Cuban State Security agents violently arrested her when she arrived at the Havana airport on her return to the island.
Translating Cuba has the report:
This afternoon, on her return from the Netherlands, Lady in White Berta Soler was arrested in Terminal 3 of José Martí International Airport in Havana.
Her husband, Ángel Moya, a former prisoner from the Group of 75 from the 2003 Black Spring, was waiting for her at the airport along with other family members and Ladies in White, who were not able to see her, because Berta was taken out through a back door and put in a State Security car, where they kept her for close to half an hour, and then later took her to her house where she arrived around 6:00 in the evening.
Cubanet spoke with Soler via telephone, and she related the incident which started when State Security agents, dressed as Customs Agents, started to provoke her. Berta responded to the provocations with shouts of “Down with Fidel, Down with Raul,” in the presence of foreign tourists. The agents then violently dragged her from the area.
Berta told Cubanet that she wasn’t afraid to say the same things in Cuba that she says in Holland or any other place in the world.
Reports coming out of Cuba this evening indicate that Berta Soler, the leader of Cuba's peaceful dissident organziation the Ladies in White, was arrested by Cuban State Security upon her return to Havana today. Her whereabouts and her condition are currently unknown.
Her husband Angel Moya, a former political prisoner who was at the airport waiting for her, states he was told by a uniformed police officer that his wife had been arrested for agitation and challenging the order in Cuba.
Just as she has done while on the island, Berta Soler was very vocal in her denouncements of the constant and manifold violations of human rights by Cuba's apartheid dictatorship and calling for the end of the tyrannical Castro regime during her travels outside of Cuba.
We will post updates on this latest news as more information becomes available.
According to The NY Times, change is happening in Cuba: "Within Cuba’s Revolution, Glimmers of Tolerance for Voices of Dissent"
"Glasnost it is not, say Cuban intellectuals and analysts. But glimpses of candor in the official news media and audacious criticism from people who, publicly at least, support the revolution suggest widening tolerance of a more frank, if circumscribed, discussion of the country’s problems.
“There is more space for debate,” said Armando Chaguaceda, a Cuban political scientist and blogger who lives in Mexico. “People are more outspoken.”"
Dios mio! How did I miss that one?
I am sure that these new "glimmers of tolerance" will come as a shock to "Las Damas en Blanco" and other dissidents in the island.
Perhaps they need to get a complimentary subscription to The NY Times to read about all of these "glimmers of tolerance".
Of course, the "glimmers" do come with a few limitations, as you read further in the article:
"There are still limits. While the government preaches frankness, it continues to crush opposition, and those who step over the fickle line between loyal criticism and dissent risk ostracism, loss of employment, harassment or jail.
The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, an independent group that tracks treatment of activists, said there were 761 short-term arrests of dissidents in November, one of the highest figures in the past two years.
And in October, five independent journalists were detained for several days, according to Reporters Without Borders.
“It’s ambiguous,” said Mr. Chaguaceda, the political scientist. “It depends who you are, how you say things, where you say them.”"
Maybe it depends on what the definition of "glimmer" is! It always does in Castro's Cuba!
In the meantime, "Las Damas" will march on Sunday and see no "glimmer" that the harassment and name calling have disappeared.
No "glimmering" for "Las Damas" this Sunday! It's another repressive Sunday in Cuba for them!
Our good friend George Utset from The Real Cuba is featured in a Martí News report on his great project La Singularidad, which brings uncensored websites to Cuba:
50 free sites that require no Internet connection
A new web package, contained on USB drives and CDs are available to Cubans each week.
A new alternative communications project is available to Cubans through the site, “ La Singularidad.” Rafael Gonzalez and Jorge Utset, promoters of the site, spoke on the Marti radio program, 1800 Online.
A web package with 50 sites filled with digital content is available to Cubans each week via USB drives and CDs. Some sites are a mainstay, while others are added at the request of various information-hungry users, the webmasters explained.
Besides downloading, which can be done from anywhere in the world, including Cuba, the promoters of this project encourage family, friends and people close to the Cuban cause, to copy these sites in electronic devices and send them to Cuba as often as possible.
Gonzalez explained that once the CD is installed in the computer or the USB is hooked up to a cell phone, the user can browse the sites as they would with a real connection, up to three clicks deep.
To facilitate navigation, the pages have a plain text format and some pictures. The weight of the videos prevents them from including sites with a heavy mulitmedia presence, but they are currently working on a package for video sites only.
Although initially the project aimed to take political content to the audience on the island, the themes of these websites have diversified, thanks to feedback from the Cuban public. Now the Cuban people may be able to peruse a variety of digital publications such as Cosmopolitan Magazine, El Nuevo Herald, the blog Generation Y, among others.
For your consideration...
Finn-Olaf Jones @ The Wall Street Journal tells the story of a romantic and exotic Cuba that writer Hemingway chose for his creative and personal refuge ... the Cuba of "The Old Man and the Sea" ... that seems all but fiction over 50 years later as generations of post-Castro Cubans struggle daily for more than a bragging-rights fish, but for food and freedom itself. Hemmingway's old Cuban dwelling outside Havana also has not escaped the decay of communism's lack of incentive and general maintenance...
Of all the places Hemingway lived, none had such a hold on the author as his home outside Havana—now being restored through an unlikely alliance. Here, a guided tour of the Cuban haunts that shaped a literary legend.
FIVE MINUTES' STROLL down the shore from La Terraza is a narrow beach cluttered with driftwood, plastic bottles and other flotsam brought in by the tide, and where the fictional Santiago dragged the sad remains of his once-majestic shark-chewed marlin. Cojimar's fishermen dock their creaky wooden boats in an inlet just beyond the beach. Three men just back from the sea, stripped to the waist and smoking cigars, are merrily fixing their ancient engine beneath the open deck when I come across them. "Any swordfish?" I ask the skipper. "Lots," he responds, with the confident laugh sports fishermen always seem to have but which I don't often notice among professional ones. "We caught six in 24 hours. The Gulf Stream is always easy," he adds, puffing on his stogie.
Fishing provided the only occasion for Hemingway to meet Fidel Castro. In 1960, Cuba's new leader entered a fishing contest sponsored by the author. Off a harbor west of Havana, where sailboats from all over the world (including a few illicitly from Florida) now dock at the renamed Marina Hemingway, Castro caught a 54-pound marlin, winning the competition. Afterward, Hemingway himself presented Castro with his trophy. Castro claimed to have kept a copy of For Whom the Bell Tolls in his backpack while engaged in guerilla fighting in the Sierra Maestra mountains. But the conversation didn't go far.
"I've always regretted the fact that I didn't... talk to him about everything under the sun," Castro said later. "We only talked about the fish." As relations between Cuba and the U.S. became increasingly strained, Hemingway was encouraged by American officials to leave lest he be seen as a Castro supporter. "He was very sympathetic to the revolution in Cuba until things got too difficult," recounts Patrick. "I don't think he had much respect for Castro. When he left, he knew he would never be returning. And that depressed him greatly."
... In late 1960, battling writer's block, alcoholism, deteriorating physical health and his inner demons, he checked himself into Minnesota's Mayo Clinic, where he got electroshock treatment. During a layover in Casper, Wyoming, he tried to step into a moving propeller. He finally managed to end his suffering less than a year after leaving Cuba by shooting himself in the entry foyer to his strikingly banal ranch-style home in Ketchum, Idaho, a setting unimaginably far from the Finca...
And so Hemingway's Cuban heritage rolls on, sometimes literally, waiting to be rediscovered by compatriots who are so close, but still an embargo away.
Well, Hemingway didn't stick around long enough to see what an apartheid mess his pal Fidel would change and transform his beloved Cuba and her victimized people into ... the reality and source of which socialist/communist-romanticizing Western elitists simply ignore, or deflect blame from and onto an embargo, but NEVER the failed ideology and corruption of their communist hero.
In El País, Panamanian ambassador to the OAS Guillermo Cochez on the total cubanization of Venezuela (my translation):
"The Cuban penetration of the land of Bolivar has been very intense and coordinated. There is not a single strategic area of the country that is not dominated by the Cuban apparatus. Above all at the military level where they have total control of everything Venezuela's military commanders do and do not do with the intention of preventing any type of revolt."
H/T Penúltimos Días
Ann Tashi Slater writes about the late, great Cuban writer, poet, and lover of freedom, Reinaldo Arenas, and an interview she did with him thirty years ago.
Via The New Yorker:
The Literature of Uprootedness: An Interview with Reinaldo Arenas
On a fall afternoon in 1983, I interviewed the exiled Cuban author Reinaldo Arenas at Princeton University’s Firestone Library. I was writing my senior thesis on his work and, as part of my study, translating some of his fiction. (My translation of “La Vieja Rosa,” a novella, was later published by Grove.) Though I was nervous about meeting the great man, one of Cuba’s most admired writers, Arenas immediately put me at ease. “Encantado,” he said, smiling and taking my hand. Forty years old at the time, he had thick, curly black hair and enormous, sad eyes; his face was lined and leathery.
We talked for a while in the library and then went for a drive to a nearby apple orchard. “Ah, a day in the country!” Arenas exclaimed, happy to see the trees and smell the fresh air. We concluded our conversation a couple of hours later on the platform of the train that would take Arenas to Princeton Junction and then back to his derelict apartment in Hell’s Kitchen. In a soft, melodic voice, Arenas answered my questions about his writing process, his influences, and the experience of exile with a natural eloquence and often startling profundity. Below is an edited and condensed version of our conversation, which is being published on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of Arenas’s brilliant memoir, “Before Night Falls.”
Arenas was born in Cuba in 1943, in the eastern province of Oriente. An only child, he spent his time roaming the fields and forests around his family’s farm, captivated by the natural world. In 1959, he joined Castro’s rebels in the mountains, but he soon grew disillusioned. After toiling as an agricultural accountant at a chicken farm, he studied politics and economics in a government-sponsored program at the University of Havana and began working at the National Library, a job that allowed him time to write. His first book, “Celestino Antes del Alba” (published in the United States as “Singing from the Well”), won second prize in the 1965 UNEAC (Cuban Writers and Artists Union) competition, and was published in 1967. It was the only book Arenas was allowed to publish in Cuba. “El Mundo Alucinante” (published in the United States as “The Ill-Fated Peregrinations of Fray Servando”) was smuggled out of Cuba and published in France in 1968; a collection of short stories, “Con los Ojos Cerrados,” was published in Uruguay in 1972. Persecuted by the Castro regime for his homosexuality, counterrevolutionary writings, and publishing activity, Arenas spent two nightmarish years in prison. He was released in 1976 and, in 1980, he escaped to Miami, slipping away in the chaos of the Mariel boatlift.
Unhappy in Miami, which he would describe in his memoir as “a caricature of Cuba,” Arenas moved to New York after a few months. There, in addition to writing poetry, essays, plays, and stories, he continued work on his semi-autobiographical “Pentagonía,” a passionate indictment of tyranny consisting of five novels.
Continue reading HERE.
A martian visiting earth this week, coasting TV channels and perusing papers, would have to conclude that among the items that most interest this planet’s news bureaus is the plight of former political prisoners, especially black ones.
Well, many Cubans (many of them black) suffered longer and more horrible incarceration in Castro’s KGB-designed dungeons than Nelson Mandela spent in South Africa’s (relatively) comfortable prisons, which were open to inspection by the Red Cross. Castro has never allowed a Red Cross delegation anywhere near his real prisons. Now let’s see if you recognize some of the Cuban ex-prisoners and torture-victims:
Mario Chanes (30 years), Ignacio Cuesta Valle, (29 years) Antonio López Muñoz, (28 years) in Dasio Hernández Peña (28 years) Dr. Alberto Fibla (28 years) Pastor Macurán (28 years) Roberto Martin Perez (28 years) Roberto Perdomo (28 years) Teodoro González (28 years.) Jose L.Pujals (27 years) Miguel A. Alvarez Cardentey (27 years.) Eusebio Penalver (28 years.)
No? None of these names ring a bell? And yet their suffering took place only 90 miles from U.S. shores in a locale absolutely lousy with international press bureaus and their intrepid “investigative reporters.” From CNN to NBC, from Reuters to the AP, from ABC to NPR to CBS, Castro welcomes all of these to “embed” and “report” from his fiefdom.
Our friends at Human Events help place Mandela-mania in proper perspective.
A democracy activists in Ukraine flashes a one-finger salute to a statue of Russian dictator and mass murderer Lenin:
H/T Capitol Hill Cubans