An omen?

This past Saturday my wife and I conducted a garage sale, the main purpose of which was to get rid of some bulky old furniture that was occupying way too much space in my house and garage. The garage sale was a success, netting us about $400 and more importantly getting rid of the clutter that we’ve accumulated in the past few years.

In any case, I went out in my 1966 Dodge Polara to pick up the garage sale signs I had strategically placed in my neighborhood. I got to the corner of SW 102nd Avenue and 120th Street and there was a man with a wrench at the fire hydrant. He was in a small pick up that said “pest control” and he was pumping water into his tanks. Now I don’t know if this is legal or not but what got my attention was the lettering the man had neatly placed on the windshield of his truck. It spelled out I N T R A N S I G E N T E !.

If you remember a few days back I made a post about T-Shirt I’m designing and it included the word “Intransigent”. Some of you felt the word had a negative connotation. But I said I was intransigent about the word intransigent. So now this guy has the word on his car and I decided to ask him what he meant. He said “I’ve always been intransigent, since I was a kid.” For a second I thought I misunderstood him and said “Is that all?” and he said “well I’m intransigent about fidel and all that shit.” We had about a five minute conversation and told him about blogging and we discussed the controversial library book, etc. Interesting how a word can be used to demean but then how it can also unite. Intransigent. I like the sound of it.

A letter worth reading (Updated)

I get a lot of email about Cuba. It’s hard to read it all. A lot of it is in Spanish, so I have to really be interested in the content to spend the time to translate it. Well tonight I received one such email. It’s a letter from Independent Journalist, Jaime Leygonier Fernández to Teresa Heinz-Kerry. Two things struck me about this letter. First off, how well it is written and how cutting the author’s remarks are at the end. The other is the method in which it was written. A God-knows-how-many-years-old typewriter was used. Notice how the typewriter is missing the “R” key and all Rs had to be hand-written. He could have hand-written the entire letter but I assume he felt it would be more professional type-written. Also look at the paper he used. These miserable pieces of scrap paper, that don’t even match each other, were probably among this writer’s most prized posessions along with that typewriter.

What follows is my best translation of the letter. UPDATE: I was given some corrections to the translation which have been incorporated below.

Havana, March [sic] 6th 2006

Mrs. Teresa Heinz-Kerry:

Tide Foundation:

Directors, shareholders and person related to I.G.C. and A.P.C.:

All persons that sympathize with a man who dies for protesting the denial of his rights:

I direct these comments firstly to Mrs. Heinz-Kerry and the above mentioned entities because for benevolent or profit motives you connected the Cuban government to the Internet which permits said government to privilege a few with state permits to communicate via Internet while discriminating against the majority of Cubans. Effectuating propaganda internationally to deceive world public opinion about the problems and violations of human rights occurring in Cuba. Influencing with its propaganda to achieve its well known ends of exporting the Cuban “model” so that it can metastasize in [Latin] America and the world.

This Internet connection also permits those fighting for human rights and independent journalists to transmit news about the Cuban reality, communicating by way of foreign embassies, which the State uses to accuse us of being “mercenaries in the service of foreign powers” and jail us under this pretext.

One prisoner of conscience, an independent journalist under house arrest, is about to die because of his hunger strike in which he demands free access to the Internet so he can complete his duties and have the human right to information be observed. A right that is enjoyed by any schoolkid in other countries. His hunger strike has lasted 62 days, and so he may die at any moment, even if he abandons the strike. He was already suffering paralysis as a result of conditions in the presidio in Cuba and other strikes, he now suffers irreversible damage to his health, and quality of life. His name is Guillermo Fariñas Hernandez.

Mistreatment and humiliation drive these extreme protests.

Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta, another journalist condemned to 20 years of prison for exercising freedom of the press has joined this protest, beaten by his jailers, he stitched mouth shut on the 23rd of March. On the 30th of March he had been on a hunger strike for 25 days.

Amnesty International is aware of their cases and has classified them as prisoners of conscience, Reporters Without Borders reported this tragedy, and called for the Castro regime to have mercy.

You are involved in the political and discriminatory use of the Internet by the Cuban state, it depends on you for this use.

You can, and I believe you have the moral obligation to, join the call for mercy and to prevent the use of your computer networks for violating such elementary human rights and for use as a mechanism of harassment in the hands of the political police, that will cost Guillermo Fariñas his life because of his act of rebellion.

Do for Fariñas, Herrera Acosta and the Cubans what you would do for any animal in danger of extinction.

I use this example because it seems that the centuries of legalities and the enjoyment of rights and material well-being makes people of certain countries like Canada excessively neutral in the face of these miseries.

Therefore, please pretend that we Cubans are not human beings, but animals whose deaths by hunger and mistreatment can inspire your sympathy.

You can save these lives, plead for rights in Cuba or wash your hands like those Swiss bankers who very neutrally kept in their bank vaults the gold teeth that the Third Reich pulled from the Jews in its concentration camps.

Jaime Leygonier Fernández
Independent Journalist

Note that although the letter is dated March 6th I believe the author meant April. The lengths of the hunger strikes mentioned in the letter would not match if it were written on March 6th.

Ziva has more.

Book Banning? (Updated)

Several of my blogging colleagues have commented on a story in today’s Miami Herald. The story is about a book currently available in area school libraries entitled Vamos a Cuba. According to the Herald:

A portrait of kids outfitted as Pioneers — Cuba’s communist youth group — is emblazoned across the book’s cover. Inside pages show scenes of a joyous carnival held on July 26, the anniversary of the Cuban revolution.

After seeing the book, the parent of a Marjory Stoneman Douglas Elementary student promptly contacted officials at the West Miami-Dade school.

”The parent was offended with the book’s content,” district spokesman Joseph Garcia said Wednesday. “We’re following School Board procedure to have the book removed from library shelves.”

Now I’m quite sure that that the book is 100% propaganda and therefore worthless garbage but I’m not too fond of banning books. Book banning is what the Nazis did. It’s what the Bolsheviks did. It’s what castro does. A free society does not ban books. I understand the concern about children being exposed to propaganda but parents have to take responsibility for what their children read. They need to engage their children when they come to them with questions about the stuff they are reading. You can’t win a debate by silencing the opposition. That’s not a debate.

That said, I wonder how long that book would last on library shelves if instead of communist propaganda it featured cartoons of the prophet Mohamed.

More on this story here and here.

Update: (Val) Here’s the contact page from Miami-Dade Public School’s Library Media Services Web Portal. Perhaps a few questions as to how, exactly, any particular book is chosen for an Elementary School Library are in order? Do they have a standardized list? If so, who puts together that standardized list? The ALA, perchance?

Going for broke in quest for freedom

Another great article from Gary Marx of the Chicago Tribune was published today. Here’s some excerpts:

MATANZAS, Cuba — Emiliano Batista has spent more than a decade planning, scheming and risking his life in 18 failed attempts to reach Florida by raft.

Over the years, the 31-year-old laborer sold his television, refrigerator and, in the end, all his worldly possessions for materials to build boats. When that wasn’t enough, he dismantled his home. Even the light fixtures and sink were sold.

“It’s been a nightmare not reaching my objective,” said Batista, a resident of this port city 60 miles east of Havana. “All I’ve thought about is leaving.”

But hidden from view is a psychological phenomenon–a state of obsession–that can overwhelm people’s lives here regardless of whether they ever reach foreign shores.

“When people say, `That guy, all he has in his head is leaving,’ you know that means the person is lost,” said a 27-year-old Havana resident, referring to the psychological state that can lead to sadness, desperation, anxiety and depression.

The average Cuban salary is about $15 a month, making a trip something that most people can only dream about.

Yet the constant stream of Cuban emigres visiting their homeland with tales of life in the outside world creates a yearning for something other than Cuba’s tightly controlled socialist system. The fact that Cuba is so tantalizingly close to the United States — 90 miles across the Straits of Florida–doesn’t help either.

“When you get to the point when you want to leave, nothing else matters,” said the 27-year-old Havana resident, who asked that she not be identified.

The woman said she became obsessed with the idea of emigrating after realizing that fidelity to the government rather than excellence was the key to advancement at work in Cuba.

“It’s like living with a roof pressing down on you,” explained a 25-year-old psychologist, who says she hit the tipping point when, after two years at an $18-a-month job, she realized she had no prospects in Cuba’s tightly controlled economy.

Updated: What do you think?

int.jpg

I’m thinking of printing this T-shirt up. Any reactions?

Some people have objected to the use of the word “intransigent” on the shirt. I respect everyone’s opinion but the story of the genesis of the shirt deserves to be told. About 5 years ago a fellow graduate of Belen and I were having a pretty hot debate about Cuba. You see my friend went away to college and got brainwashed by a bunch of liberal professors and Jesuit priests. Anyway, in this debate he continually called me intransigent. I had never even heard the word before, but that’s OK there’s probably a lot of words I haven’t heard before. Anyway I’ve noticed a trend that everyone who is anti-castro is labeled intransigent. As some of you have commented intransigent can have a negative connotation, particularly when it’s used with the venom that castro sycophants use it with. But I’ve decided to own that particular criticism. Why? Well because I prefer this definition of the word:

adj.: not capable of being swayed or diverted from a course.

Intransigent is the key word on the shirt design. In fact, I’m pretty intransigent about the word intransigent.

When it comes to Human Rights, I’m intransigent
When it comes to pluralism, I’m intransigent
When it comes to freedom, I’m intransigent
When it comes to a free Cuba, I’m I N T R A N S I G E N T !

Just like my Miami Mafia shirt design, this perhaps doesn’t appeal to everyone. I’m not afraid of labels. Sticks and stones may break my bones…

To trade or not trade…

That is the question.

I’m only 36 but I am an old school, hard line intransigent anti-castro, Cuban-American. That means that I support the embargo (as limited as it is) and other trade and travel restrictions on Cuba. In this online clash of ideas I’m often asked why the United States should try to isolate Cuba with sanctions while at the same time trading with China. After all China is communist too. It’s an interesting point. The purpose of the question is brand the United States as hypocritical by equating China with Cuba. But there are some very big differences between the two situations. I hope to enlighten you with my thoughts on the matter.

Read more

An Honor

As the newest contributor to Babalu, I’m honored and humbled to be in such great company. I hope you enjoy my musings in the coming weeks and months. I will not be abandoning my other blog or my web site but I’m very happy to be here, blogging under those beautiful all-seeing, all-knowing eyes.