Celebration and mincemeat

To mark the half century since the first of January 1959, we Cubans could buy, through the ration system, half a pound of ground beef.  The sense of humor that frequently saves us from neurosis did not spare the unexpected delicacy which was baptized as “the picadillo sent by Chavez,” an allusion to the obvious economic shoring-up that comes from Venezuela.

A political process of the magnitude of a socialist revolution should aspire, for its fiftieth anniversary, to more ambitious results and more pompous parties, but there is not much to give.  Although it seems a frivolity, for many Cubans the sale of that beef was the most significant event that happened lately.  Its flavor will be the memory we will keep of a gray December and a January equally haggard, where there were not even promises of possible improvements and reforms.

71 thoughts on “Celebration and mincemeat”

  1. Half a pound of ground beef through the ration system? That is almost a slap in the face on behalf of the government.

    @Tazeen: welcome to comments thread. You’ll find things to be much more constructive if you take anything said by Anonimo with a grain of salt.

  2. Yes, there are better ways to learn about Cuba. You can, for example, take a look to Granma (the official Cuban newspaper), which has the same news since 1959. It’s all about how great is the Cuban socialism and how bad is the rest of the world.

  3. @ Cafe Cubita: I have to laugh at your comment about Granma…it’s true…each time I visit their web page there seems to be no change in news other than how great the cuban socialism is (sure it’s great with free education and medical care but If you can’t get a job that pays for all necessities or afford buy the drugs to treat you, or freedom of speach, then it’s not so great I think)…It’s difficult to get an objective opinion on what’s going on therefore one needs to consult blogs like these, read everything written about cuban media and even american and european media with a grain of salt. The foreign reporters often seem brain washed by the Castro regime. //Kat

  4. Unfortunately learning about Cuba is difficult since most sources are very much biased one way or the other. For a less bias read try the Along the Malecon blog.

  5. Katariina, you are right 🙂
    I’m reading now “Trading with the enemy, a yankee travels through Castro’s Cuba” by Tom Miller and it’s actually very good. I lived in Cuba for more than 20 years so….
    Saludos!

  6. I hope all Cubans enjoy their one hamburger! What a worthless state!

    Espero que todos los Cubanos gozan su hamberguesa. Que estado sin valor!

  7. * Tazeen *
    And with the help of google I stumbled right into YOUR blog. Great blog. You’re going to love Yoani and Gen Y…. you guys have SO much in common. So hang around. It’s nice to see you here.

    And DON’T go hang out at Along the Malecon. I think you will be disappointed. Why? He’s just a dirty old man with a penchant for taking lots of photos of scantily dressed girls WAY too young for him.

  8. Andy, the blogger at Along the Malecon is a woman reporter – Tracey Eaton. She used to be a correspondent in Havana (not a dirty old man).

    Yoani says January was a month where “there were not even promises of possible improvements and reforms.” Actually we have two rather important reforms. In one case, Cubans will now be permitted to build their own homes from the ground up. Second, private taxis are now allowed and they can charge whatever fare they want. These are not the end of Cuban Communism, but they are important reforms and hint at continued changes to come. Yoani’s pessimistic statements would be more beleivable if she did not ignore obvious things like this.

    She also says the “revolution should aspire, for its fiftieth anniversary, to more ambitious results and more pompous parties.” Yet, I have little doubt that if the Government spent more money on celebrations and popous give-aways Yoani would be criticizing them for wasting money on vain celebrations. Cuba’s toned down celebrations are an important signal of the Government’s intention to put the public’s money to good use. It should be praised by someone like Yoani. Unfortunately, she is capable of only negativity.

  9. @ av2ts that dirty old man is a dirty old woman? how funny!!! well we’ll forgive her then…. (“Tracey” can go either way you know… kind of like “Andy”!)

    In other news… my excitement about this build your own house thing just knows no bounds. Of course Daddy State is going to tell you the dimensions of the rooms and all… but that’s ok… because we wouldn’t want one greedy homebuilder to use up all the supplies that are available for everybody. Oh! Wait! There are no supplies. As our good buddy Mini-Me-Raul said, “then you can build your little house with whatever you can find to build it….”

    “… the government’s intention to put the public’s money to good use…”
    I mean REALLY. Do they send YOU some of this money every month to write this garbage on various websites?

    Just tell me a couple things — “yes” or “no” would be just fine… but don’t let me stop your little fingers if you have more to say.
    1. Do you think democracy is a good form of government?
    2. Do you think a dictatorship is a good form of government?
    3. Do you think an entire country should be ruled by one man for nearly fifty years… and then by his brother?
    4. Do you think elections are “free and fair” when there is one candidate for each available seat?
    5. How long should a people have to wait for a “hint” of free speech, free association, free elections, a free press?

    ok — my fingers are tired now… tired and angry.

    You keep saying Yoani can only see through one lens… what about your lens. Either everything in Cuba is great, or about to be great, or has a hint of greatness to come. These antediluvian “leaders” know what’s best for EVERYBODY and they should get to make all the decisions… until they’re dead and in their graves, or like one rather prominent one, we suspect, sitting in a giant ice chest somewhere while the other old guys tremble and try to figure out how they can stay in power once they’ve trotted out the corpse. Hell, why don’t they just stuff it and prop it up at the front of the room and stick a little speaker in its head and start playing back fifty years of egomaniacal sociopathic self-deluded claptrap?!

  10. There are countries that do not have Western type of political system and are economically very successful – eg. Saudi Arabia and China. Answers to Andy’s question from their point of view would be very different from answers that Andy assumes are the only logical ones.

  11. I do have to say that the half pund of beef signals a light at the end of the tunnel…sadly enough it probably is the headlight of a speeding freight train (I crack myself up). The fact that the government allows certain miniscule economic liberties is good, but is also inevitible.

    It is amazing how long the Fidelistas have been hanging on to power with success. Of course looking at the socioeconomic transofmations of Eastern Europe, it will be the Fidelistas who will build the fondation of wealth for the future free market economy in Cuba. After all they have been in a position of privilege for years now, and they will be the most natural business partners for any foreign investors in the future. I believe they already are acting as such and they are thus amassing the capital for future internal investment. Obviously some Cuban immigrants from Florida will come and bring money in, but they will be desperately outclassed by the New-Cubans with their Communist Party/G2 pedegree who are currently preaching the virtues of a socialist state while continuously feeding their fat bank accounts in the Bahamas

  12. @Ray
    I appreciate that totalitarian states can be economically successful… but they are still totalitarian states with severe restrictions on personal freedoms, some more some less.

    Does that mean that all the so-called democracies (and I use the term “so-called” because there is NO democracy that is perfect) don’t trample personal freedoms? Of course not. Some do it more and some do it less and some notable ones run around the world trampling other people’s personal freedoms (I won’t mention names). In some the government tramples personal freedoms, in many the social structure tramples personal freedoms, whether it is the freedom of women or others.

    But — to my way of thinking — I don’t want to live under the governments of China or Saudi Arabia or North Korea or Burma (Myanmar) or…. CUBA.

    Finally — In my questions I was not asking for LOGICAL answers… I was asking for HONEST answers regarding what av2 thinks. What do you think the answers to those questions are?

  13. @Andy…
    there’s no pint in trying to reason with people like av2ts… just do like I do… read his remarks, laugh a little bit, then just pretend he’s not even there. He’s a fan of a Utopian political and social system that has proven time and time again that it cannot function in even its simplest form. And about the”reforms” of home building… I wrote about them on my blog January 6th… I honestly think that it’s more of a: “holy smokes we can’t provide for the people anymore, we just can’t afford it…. So why don’t we tell them to do it themselves and then the problem becomes theirs and not ours” type of thing.
    But what do I know?

  14. Sickboy is dead on right. I have noticed that the “ideological wars” are now being fought here as well. I don’t recall it being this bad when I first found the blog many months ago, but maybe I just wasn’t in tune with it. I guess we should have expected the regime’s defenders to inundate the place once Yoani’s blog gained the notereity that it did. I agree that people like av2ts should simply be ignored. Of course my intuition is to punch him/her in the face, but I digress. 🙂

    I don’t know what the detractors of this blog expect from the blog-owner. She is not a full on-line reporter who reports all happenings on the island. From my point of view, it appears as though she is simply reporting on observations she makes as someone living on the island and dealing with the challenges of daily life. What’s wrong with that? Nothing. As I have said before, those who don’t find the blog useful or interesting should just move on, but apparently there are plenty of people who can’t help but pee in other people’s cornflakes.

  15. There are only two nations left in the world that have predominantly collectivist economies: Cuba and North Korea. Some nations like China are still ruled by one political party that call itself “Communist”, but it is in name only, being that it has a thriving market economy with a large middle class and more individual and social liberties compared to the oppressive fascist mafia governments of Cuba and North Korea with their ideological dinosaur “revolutions” without end. Many leftists consider totalitarian governments to be just fine as long as they have predominantly collectivist economies instead of market economies. They are nothing more than Nazis turned inside out. If Cuba were not an island, not as many of its people would be brainwashed by its castrista propaganda, and it would probably be a democracy with a market economy. Hopefully the government has some reformist Gorbachevs waiting in its wings.

  16. @Patricio… you’re right as well. My first instinct is also to punch them in the face. But then again, I love to preach about free speech and freedom of expression. So I can’t tell people that disagree with me to shut up.

    I think the reason that people like them don’t move on and go somewhere else is that this place is their claim to fame. It’s the only place that guarantees that people will read what they have to say. By ignoring them you take away whatever power they think they have.

    But if by any chances any of you feel like debating with them… check out Yoani on the huffington post they also spam her posts there with the communist crap… it’s really comical. Feel free to answer them there you’ll be doing Yoani a favor by getting her hits up on HuffPo and having fun belittling communists 😀 It’s like getting two birds stoned at once!

  17. @Sickboy : I think the reason that people like them don’t move on and go somewhere else is that this place is their claim to fame. It’s the only place that guarantees that people will read what they have to say.

    OMG — that is BRILLIANT. Of course! Who else in the world wants to listen to these people.

    Well soon enough they’ll get to join the super-de-duper-top-jefe-bearded-one in SDDTJBO paradise… and no.. that is not a threat… just a fact… we all will end up with our little dust particles floating in our own utopias… and they can just line up and do whatever SDDTJBO tells them to and they’ll all be happy together. Me… I’ll be in some anarchists’ heaven… ‘doing my own thing’… pretending I’m back in the 60’s or something.

    OK Sickboy– I’m going to dream of future paradises and leave off arguing with these folks. And like MLK said… I’ll just remember that:

    THE ARC OF THE MORAL UNIVERSE IS LONG, BUT IT BENDS TOWARDS JUSTICE.

  18. Listen, what Yoani writes is a blog, it’s her view on her world. She neither claims to speak for all Cubans, nor should we be so simple as to think that she does. She writes what she observes. SHe writes from her place of truth. That’s why we read her blog – so that we can sift through what she says and mix it with what we know, or think we know. What I hope is that those who read this blog understand the limits of what anyone knows about Cuba who doesn’t live there, and understands that Cubans, like people everywhere else, are a diverse people with many different opinions about what it means to live there.

    The phrase: ‘Speak Truth to Power’, is taken from the pacifist Quaker faith. They speak to ‘power’ in three senses:

    To those who hold high places in national life and bear the terrible responsibility of making decisions for war or peace.
    To the people who are the final reservoir of power in their country and whose values and expectations set the limits for those who exercise authority.
    To the idea of Power itself, and its impact on Twentieth Century life.

    In this case the ‘truth’ is an ancient one: that love endures and overcomes; that hatred destroys; that what is obtained by love is retained, but what is obtained by hatred proves a burden.

  19. @ Gaia Azul

    As a descendant from a long line of Quakers…. very nicely put. Thank you for your comments.

  20. Sickboy, on the housing reform, we might even agree. I said it can “almost be seen as an admission of defeat on the housing front. The hurricanes obviously played a role in diverting labor and materials from the housing program but the (housing construction) plan proved ambitious.” (they wanted to build almost twice the amount they actually built last year). Your idea that Cuba “does not function” is very much misguided. I’ll leave it at that, as you don’t want to engage.

    Andy, your 4 questions are a bit trite and impossible to answer in a place like this. But I’m up to the challenge.

    1/2 Do you think democracy/dictatorship is a good form of government?

    Of course, a government must be run by and for the people. The question political philosophers have been debating for millennia is what kind of democracy works best and what characteristics are most important. There, it still seems to depend on what goals a society finds important. I see every day why a US-style representative democracy focused only on elections falls way short of the type of participation, deliberation and ability to challenge the “power elites” that I find essential.

    Cuba’s system is a mixture of a Parliamentary and Participatory democracy. It gets points for its mass participation, high rates of political literacy and and emphasis on taking money out of the political equation. They lose points on other things, such as encouraging a diversity of voices in the political leadership. But to call a system whereby this same political leadership is elected by the people at the local constituency level a Dictatorship is not at all accurate.

    3. Do you think an entire country should be ruled by one man for nearly fifty years… and then by his brother?

    Well I do not believe in term limits. In California we have seen the disaster they have caused with pols just moving from office to office, gaining no experience in any. I think that nation’s under attack or undergoing revolutionary change often do have to be led by one person, to maintain unity and stability. Fidel Castro is enormously popular in Cuba, still today. To deny that would be to show one’s lack of understanding about Cuba. Does that mean he is perfect? Hell no. But Cubans know that Fidel is a once in a lifetime type of leader. Someone who will give everything for the dignity and sovereignty of the Cuban people.

    4. Do you think elections are “free and fair” when there is one candidate for each available seat?

    If this were the only electoral process, of course not. You, of course, neglected to mention all the steps before getting to that final step. You forgot to mention that ANYONE can be nominated for office in each district, through a process of neighborhood-level meetings. Each area nominates 2 to 8 people. Then, votes take place until one candidate reaches 50% of the vote. There needs to be multiple votes in hundreds of districts. These delegates then choose 50% of those provincial and national assembly candidates. The other 50% are chosen by (yes Commie) student, worker, farmer, artist, union, women’s, etc. groups. (It is a bit like Hong Kong actually…) THEN, voters are given a ballot, which they can deface, leave blank, voter for some of the candidates, or approve the entire slate. 85% of all Cuban voters (98% of all adults) checked off the slate option, which was clearly the Government’s hope. But they did not have to. Why would people in a Dictatorship help the Government like this??

    5. How long should a people have to wait for a “hint” of free speech, free association, free elections, a free press?

    Before we get into all those issues you’ll have to give us the name of one Cuban in jail for one of these things. People who had relations with the US Government or its subsidiaries do not count.

  21. Alright… I’m going to set aside my “ignore av2ts” policy for this response, I hope no one minds.

    For once I’m going to say that you made a sound argument to back up your point and I’d be a heck of a lot more open to debate/discussion if all of your answers were formulated this way. This is very refreshing coming from a Castro supporter and now we actually debate. Thank you.

    So without getting into the housing debate… which we can do later 😀
    I’ll give you my counter opinions on a point by point basis in regards to Andy’s original questions.

    —–QUESTIONS 1 and 2—–

    “I see every day why a US-style representative democracy focused only on elections falls way short of the type of participation, deliberation and ability to challenge the “power elites” that I find essential.”
    There are many examples worldwide of where this statement is at least a little wrong. Take for example Evo Morales: he is a high school drop out, a 1st nations person, who raised llamas and worked as a brick layer. He is now in charge of an entire country.

    “They lose points on other things, such as encouraging a diversity of voices in the political leadership. ”
    I’m assuming you mean they lose point for the LACK of encouragement of diverse voices. If that’s the case we completely agree. I’d even take it a step further though, it’s not just a lack of encouragement it’s a flat out refuse to acknowledge their legitimacy, saying that everyone who disagrees with the government is on US payroll. That’s just lunacy.

    —–QUESTION 3—–

    I think term limits are necessary…. like in Canada we have the four year term. But you can be elected for as many terms as the voters choose. So if say, Fidel, had 4 year terms and the people had voted him back for 13 consecutive terms in elections where there was more than one party on the ballot we wouldn’t even be here having this discussion.

    —-QUESTION 4—–

    See question 3…. in addition doesn’t it say somewhere in the constitution that you are free to vote but that the only recognized party is the CCP? I’m pretty sure I read that somewhere… I’ll find some literature to back that up. Also, has it occurred to you that the high participation might be due to the fact that at least some of those people live in fear that they will be treated badly should they not appear to support the party? You have to admit it’s at least a possibility.

    —–QUESTION 5—–

    Oscar Elias Biscet
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oscar_El%C3%ADas_Biscet

  22. Hillary stated yesterday Obama would immediately let Cuban-American’s travel to Cuba. Probably reverting back Bushie’s policy. If so, I’m coming to Cuba to warm by poor old bones. Please take care.

  23. @av2ts, below is what the United Nations Commission for Human Rights says about Cuba’s so-called elections.

    “9. On 11 January 1998, elections were held for 601 members of the People’s National Assembly and 1,192 delegates of Provincial Assemblies, following the elections for Municipal Assemblies in October 1997. One of the main features of the elections was that the two single lists contained one candidate for each seat. Although voters could vote for individual candidates, the authorities announced publicly that this was not recommended and that it would be best to exercise the “combined vote”, by voting for all the candidates as a bloc.

    10. Although the authorities say that candidates were chosen by the people and that membership of the Communist Party was not an important factor for election, in reality the system established by the Electoral Law of 1992 does not genuinely make it possible for persons opposed to the Government and not looked on favourably by the authorities to compete freely. One of the provisions of the Law is that lists of candidates are drawn up by the Candidature Commissions, made up of representatives of the Cuban Workers’ Federation, the Committees for the Defence of the Revolution, the Federation of Cuban Women, the National Small Farmers’ Association, the University Students’ Federation and the Federation of Secondary School Students. In proposing candidates, the Commissions must seek the views of any institutions, organizations and labour federations that it deems necessary, as well as of delegates to the Municipal Assemblies. These Assemblies can approve or reject one or all of the proposed candidates, in which case the Candidature Commissions must submit others. The nomination of candidates for election to the Municipal Assemblies is done by nominating assemblies, in which all voters are entitled to propose candidates. In practice, however, these district assemblies are usually organized by the Committees for the Defence of the Revolution or the Communist Party, which makes the selection of an opponent of the regime most unlikely.

    11. In addition to the election propaganda put out by the government press media (the only ones allowed in Cuba), members of the Party and of the Committees for the Defence of the Revolution, as well as children outside school hours, made house-to-house calls to persuade people to go and vote, although in theory voting is not compulsory. Furthermore, all the voters know about the candidates is what is contained in the biographical notes distributed by the government press, and candidates are not able to present their own electoral platform. All in all, the electoral process is so tightly controlled that the final phase, i.e. the voting itself, could be dispensed with without the final result being substantially affected.”
    Source: http://www.unhchr.ch/Huridocda/Huridoca.nsf/TestFrame/e5cd0d891d0d6566c125661300495d69?Opendocument

  24. @av2ts

    Tracey Eaton presents “himself” on “his” blog as a man — he even has a photo… beard and all…….

    Tracey Eaton

    * Age: 49
    * Gender: Male
    * Astrological Sign: Virgo
    * Zodiac Year: Boar
    * Industry: Communications or Media
    * Occupation: Journalist, Photographer, Teacher
    * Location: Palm Coast : Northeastern Florida : United States

    About Me

    Tracey Eaton was Havana bureau chief for The Dallas Morning News from 2000 to early 2005. A journalist for 25 years, he has covered guerrilla uprisings, presidential elections, riots, war, hurricanes and volcanic eruptions. He has written about everything from the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Pope in Israel to surfers in Brazil and snakes popping out of toilets in Florida. He has wide experience in Latin America. He was metropolitan editor for the Houston Chronicle before joining Flagler College in 2007. Eaton holds a master’s degree in journalism from Temple University. He was a Fulbright scholar in Ecuador. He has conducted journalism workshops in Central America and has been an invited speaker at conferences in the U.S., Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica and Cuba. Eaton has been a staff writer at seven newspapers, including the Miami Herald, Tampa Tribune and Orange County Register. His work has appeared in more than 60 U.S. and Canadian newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Daily News, USA Today and Denver Post. He blogs when he should be mowing the lawn.

  25. I had to chuckle when I read above that private taxi drivers (assuming they can find vehicles and fuel) can “charge what they want.” This would certainly not be seen as a positive reform in most capitalist countries! It underlines the point made a few entries ago, about “pocket determining ethics.” In a free-enterprise economy, most behaviour is mediated to a great extent by self interest, but it is perfectly possible to trade ethically within a well regulated system. Where normal commerce is illegal, it is, of course, unregulated. Whether it’s bribing officials or, like Andy, ripping off customers and suppliers (who have no legal recourse) ethics is one of the first things to go. Ernesto Guevara wanted to produce a “new man” who would be so brainwashed and isolated that he would become a flesh-robot, blindly obeying the vainglorious “Comandante” without need of supervision. Like every project undertaken by the regime, the result has been the precise opposite of that intended, with intrusive, round-the-clock, surveillance still insufficient to impose any kind of ethical standards.

  26. Iain Salisbury: Well put. Couldn’t have said it better. And to add to that, at this point what we all think here on the outside really doesn’t matter…Yoanni has a right to describe her surroundings as she wishes and it so happens that her views are substantiated by many on the island. This is how she sees her world and however way you want to rationalize it, discredit it or applaud it is irrelevant. It’s our choice to read what she chooses to write and believe it or not. I think it’s arrogant and indicative of privilege for anyone to sit here and discredit what she has to say while we cozily sit in our living room with our own private internet connection in a country where we’re, for the most part, entitled to say what we want .

  27. >>>I can’t get inside Yoani web-blog, If some bady can tell what is the real situation?….Tnak You. Fabin Pacheco Casanova…

  28. Yoanis blog’s? What is going on?

    Sine yesterday no emial have been out of havana city.

    I recived 10 to 12 e-mail, and yesterday was cero.

    NO LUZ EN LA HABANA?

  29. I have reported the comments about the Spanish site for Generacion Y being “broken” for some readers — but I am able to see it from my country.

    If those of you who can’t see it would like to tell me what country you’re in, that might help narrow down the problem.

  30. The conversation is here in this side very interesting, but I would like to comment on my mother language and I CAN`T !

  31. Gracia Web…pero esperaré. Odio las registraderas…leo entretanto a los expertos por aquí.
    Me encantó la discusión esa de Andy, Iain Salisbury, Sickboy, Gaia Azul…great comments !

  32. From Ernesto of Penultimo Dias a friend of Yoani Sanchez:

    January 15th, 2009 · 4:18 pm ·

    El blog de Yoani Sánchez, Generación Y, tiene problemas técnicos que impiden dejar comentarios. Yoani me pide que, por favor, les diga que pronto se resolverá el asunto y de paso desmienta un texto apócrifo que anda circulando bajo su nombre a propósito de los recientes rumores sobre la salud de Fidel Castro.

    http://www.penultimosdias.com/

  33. Karmen, Ramiro. Oye nos tiranron durisimo, vamos a ver cuando arreglan eso por alla,, saludos, a ver si nos dicen que nos vayamos de este lado, que es en ingles, jejeje

  34. WebMaster dice:
    15 Enero 2009 a las 17:37
    From Ernesto of Penultimo Dias a friend of Yoani Sanchez:

    January 15th, 2009 · 4:18 pm ·

    El blog de Yoani Sánchez, Generación Y, tiene problemas técnicos que impiden dejar comentarios. Yoani me pide que, por favor, les diga que pronto se resolverá el asunto y de paso desmienta un texto apócrifo que anda circulando bajo su nombre a propósito de los recientes rumores sobre la salud de Fidel Castro.

    http://www.penultimosdias.com/
    ——————————————————————————————————————————————–
    I see now. They’re having technical dificulties.

    Baudi.

  35. HELLO TO ALL THE VISITORS from “the other side” — YOU ARE WELCOME HERE… IT’S NICE TO SEE YOU. Feel free to carry on your discussion in Spanish, English or any other language you like… because this blog IS A FREE COUNTRY and you can say whatever you like!

  36. Hola!

    First, congratulations on this AMAZING blog & on the accolades that were so justly earned!

    I am a fan & freelance type from NYC and am heading down your way in mid-February – I wondered if we might be able to meet?
    My email address is di_atplay@yahoo.com … please le me know if you might have time to have a coffee or some such…

    Potencia!
    Diane

  37. Anonimo, you are right about Tracey Eaton. My apologies. I had just looked at the thumbnail photo and thought I was looking at a woman (plus the name)…

    Sickboy, I appreciate your response. Here’s mine.

    First I would argue Bolivia’s recent election of Evo shows they are, in many profound ways, more democratic than the US. Bolivia and the US system have proufound differences. And I am not advocating on behalf of Cuba’s exact political system either. It has its faults, yes in regards to not encouraging a diversity of opinion. As I said, it is my opinion that the challenges from the US recessitated such a priority placed on unity. Yet, the system is far from Dictatorial and its positive features are not at all well understood by most in the West.

    Re: term limits, I see we agree on that too. But it looks like you do not understand that (national) Cuban elected officials DO have to be elected every 5 years. No, there are no direct elections of the President and other members of the Council of State, who are chosen by the legislature. But everyone must get elected to the national legislature… ‘

    Yes, the Communist Party is the only Party legally allowed, though many others are tolerated to exist. The CP, however, has little to no direct role in the elections. Many non-party members are elected every election. High participation is encouraged by community members who knock on doors and provide assistance to those needed to get to the polls. This is not a bad thing. What is more significant is that, once in a secure polling booth, Cubans everwhelmingly do not choose to defile or reface their ballots, or vote against the selected candidates. Bya a huge majority (85%), they choose the State’s preferred slate. These are secret ballots. No one has ever been harmed for thir anti-State vote. Yet, they choose to go along with the system. This says something profound that people need to acknowledge.

  38. Thanks Andy to welcoming me to this blog/free country. I’m interested in healthcare, and was wondering if this blog like America with 45 million plus uninsured or like Cuba? Just curious, cheers!

  39. Dice — well this blog might have 45 million readers but I don’t know how many of them live in the USofA and how many have and don’t have health insurance. (ok… solo una chiste pequena!)

    But seriously — the 45 million people in the US without healthcare are probably about like the 11 million people in Cuba who do have health care. All of them can go to the doctor…. in the US it might be a free clinic or an emergency room…. and all of them can sit there and wait and wait and wait and wait and wait, sometimes all day… and then… well some will get good care, and some will get bad care, and some might die while they are waiting.

    But my question to you is, why is Cuba’s healthcare system always compared to the United States which only has government care for some children and old people. Why isn’t it compared to the wonderful systems that exist in other countries like Norway and Sweden? Why does the government of Cuba say, on the one hand, “America is the evil empire… the horrible imperialists… everything about it is bad,” and then brag that it is not as bad as the “worst in the world” at something? If the system in Cuba is so wonderful, why don’t they compare themselves to the best in the world? Like some of the European countries where people live very well, with all their human rights and personal freedom intact, and there is much less stratification of society — fewer very rich and fewer very poor. Why does Cuba only aspire to not be as bad as the worst? Why doesn’t it aspire to be as good as the best?

  40. Andy, Cuba ought not to be compared to the US or Europe. They ought to be compared with the Carribean and Latin America. Using the 2 most important statistics to health care analysts (infant mortality and life expentency) Cuba’s health care is indeed tops in the region. I think when people (like Michael Moore) compre the US’ terrible system to Cuba they are doing so to prove a point that even a poor “basket case” (the popular conception) of country can achieve better results than is. It is meant to shame the US into much needed action. After all, no good, proud American is going to want to be beaten by Cuba at anything.

  41. @av2ts SAID
    After all, no good, proud American is going to want to be beaten by Cuba at anything.

    —–

    I am not advocating any particular comparison at all and I’m not sure there are any that are valid. I was asking the question about those who do compare. And I think the idea of beating or being beaten by is destructive of our worth as human beings. Regardless of where I was born or live, I want all the world’s people to prosper and to enjoy basic human rights and freedom. My gain is not someone else’s loss. All of us on this planet sink or swim together.

    As for valuing only things we can count, to quote someone who was no friend of Fidel’s… so you can toss it out on that basis if you like:

    “Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our gross national product … if we should judge [insert name of any country you like here] by that – counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead, and armored cars for police who fight riots in our streets. It counts Whitman’s rifle and Speck’s knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.

    “Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it tells us everything about [insert name of any country you like here] except why we are proud that we are [insert name applied to citizens of any country you like here].”

  42. I like this discussion from Andy and avt2ts but I don´t really see these views as counterpoints…

    Can someone explain to me which their main problem is, please? Maybe Andy or avt2ts themselves?

    Thank you in advanced and greatings!

  43. @ YOARKY
    “Can someone explain to me which their main problem is, please? Maybe Andy or avt2ts themselves? ”
    -=-=-=-=-=-

    HI Yoarky — nice to see you here. Well like most discussions on Gen Y you have to work back through the comments on multiple posts — so I will give my view and avt2ts can respond or not as he/she pleases.

    To me, and I think many others, but I can’t speak for everybody, avt2ts is a “true believer”… Fidel is good, communism is good, the system in Cuba is great, people live well in Cuba, they have excellent health care, no one is homeless, no one is hungry, and it really IS a democracy because everyone gets to vote!!!!

    From my point of view, Fidel is a fundamentally evil man who has enslaved a nation for 50 years — evil and of course psychotic — what kind of human being thinks 11 million other human beings should be his personal slaves — his huge cast for his own “fantasy island” — where everything good is a direct result of how wonderful he is and everything bad is the fault of the evil empire 90 miles across the waves.

    So… we get into the arguments of comparison… all about things we can count. And should Cuba be compared to the US or Ecuador or Germany or North Korea?

    In an earlier post, as you can read here — I said why does Cuba compare itself to what it says is the worst country in the world — the U.S.? Why doesn’t it strive to be like the “best” country in the world, whatever country that may be?

    But in this latest post I was just making the point that I don’t think comparing one country to another — and only on things that can be counted — is necessarily a good way to measure what we value as human beings. To me, yes, it is important that people have a decent standard of living. It’s not just that in Cuba ‘everything’ is falling down (ok not everything… but certainly the buildings in Havana are crumbling every day)… but the amount of TIME and EFFORT people have to spend to meet their basic daily needs is enormous. I know in other countries people WORK long hours to make the money to buy what they need and want and we can compare lives looking at being at work versus working all day standing in line and making deals and so on… But I am not interested in say comparing the lives of Cubans to the lives of the poor people who cling to the hillsides in shacks in other countries. That should not be a good measure of economic success.

    And… I think we also need to expand our definitions… to me… freedom of speech… freedom of the press (and it is not ‘freedom of the press’ to tell me that the writers of the only papers allowed… those controlled by the government… can and do write what they want… first of all because it’s not true and second of all because having only government owned papers is not press freedom)… freedom of association… freedom to demonstrate and demand the redress of grievances… freedom to travel… to LEAVE one’s country and to RETURN to it without losing your citizenship after 11 months… all these freedoms are the MOST important.

    Without freedom people are simply serfs. We are back to the 12th century and before — where there were rulers/owners and ruled/owned. That to me is what the Castros are… the rulers and owners. Everyone else is ruled and owned. They are treated like small children… worse than small children. ok rant rant rant my fingers are tired!

  44. @ Yoarky – PS
    A LOT of us here can READ spanish but, like you, it’s much harder to write in another language than to read it… so you should feel free to comment in spanish. Some won’t be able to read it but a lot will!

  45. @ av2ts, re your post 55 above.

    I’m curious as to why you choose to ignore the UN Human Rights Commission report on Cuban “elections” that I quoted from in post 28 above, choosing instead to regurgitate propaganda from the Castro regime in #55? I even helpfully provided a link to the full report in #28.

    Oh, and a specific question. Can you name the other political parties in Cuba (other than the Communist Party) and explain what you mean by the phrase “many others are tolerated to exist”?

  46. I wish someone could translate this discussion into spanish or publish it for the world. Most of cuban people who emigrated think like you Andy, but unfortunately cannot explain it as good as you do…. at least it that´s my case.
    I think your opinion is important above all, for all those who naively believe cubans emigrate because of greed so to speak, or lost of moral values. Some people do not seem to understand that material needs condition peoples´s psychological state and therefore their personality and identity.
    If you spend months and years only struggling with problems: looking for money to buy the same food everyday, clothes and shoes and things of a very bad quality at incredibly high prices, trying to repair all things which actually do not work anymore, and hearing and seing everywhere difficulties, carring the responsability for the whole family if you are young, without having expectations of a better future (no plans of having your own nice small place for a family, a good job, and sometimes a retribution for your work), then it is very difficult to experience any satisfaction in your dayly life. At large, get everybody just tired of frustrations. Frustrations make you decide someday that nothing is important anymore, you decide to quit fighting with the dayly nonsense. Then there is only one way, you just want to scape at least in a song, or to live the life of a book you could´t have.

    On the other side, we all human beings have a goal in life. We are like boats and we need a direction. If you don´t know that goal, where to go, then you are lost and could only arrive nowhere. Which is the goal of the comunist government? To survive at any cost. Which are the strategies from the government to improve? Waiting for someone to help us… Great expectations ! This is the same that happens in personal dimensions.
    Maybe another very important aspect to mention is that cuban people never experienced anything really better. Before revolution, Cuban looked great but that´s it. So, cuban doesn´t have a modell which is also very important in life.

    Andy, if you could help me, please…I cannot explain myself that good… I try.

  47. Hey Andy, I wouldn’t worry too much about what av2ts has to say. It’s interesting how he can talk from his comfortable home in California where he’s got his own computer connection and can say whatever he likes about Cuba or the country he lives in. He has no idea apparently what it’s like NOT TO BE ABLE TO DO JUST THAT.

  48. Hi Yoarky,

    I think you expressed yourself in English very well. Thanks for sharing your views to this blog’s English language readers.

    If you are looking for a model for Cuba to emulate, I would suggest Costa Rica. Despite being in a politically unstable part of the world, Costa Rica in 2009 is celebrating 60 years of uninterrupted multiparty democracy. Costa Rica has one of the strongest economies in Latin America, and also ranks very highly (not only in the region but in the world) in terms of its health and educational achievements, low levels of poverty and inequality, and strong record of environmental protection.

  49. Hi John 2,

    Thanks for your reply. Your example is good, but I spoke about cuban experience, other governments or times in Cuba, though about Costa Rica, I don´t think they know either. Instead of investigating about those things…they waste their time controlling.
    On the other side, Costa Rica and Cuba have a lot of differences, specially because they have a lot more resources.
    We have some natural resources we don´t take profit on.
    Cubans in charge of the economy do not know anything about economy, and those who know, are not alloud to offer alternatives to the situation.

  50. YOARKY —
    I know there are a few mistakes in grammar in your sentences, and a word here or there that is misspelled or maybe just a typo, and I thank you for your kind words about how I express myself… but I think your words are so much more eloquent, so much stronger and more powerful… they really touch my heart. Like Yoani touches my heart, you touch my heart.

    Because my words about Cuba… they come from so little experience and from someone who lives a completely different life, so different I can hardly imagine. I can imagine not having enough money, I myself have stood in line at a food bank for free food, I can imagine a life with many painful and difficult things in it because like most people I have had painful and difficult things. What I can’t imagine is not having hope. Not being able to think about and plan and to try to make my own future. I can’t imagine myself back in the line at that food bank (where they gave me about five pounds of delicious cheese! It was great! We ate that cheese for a long time), I cannot imagine standing in line at that food bank and thinking “this is my life now”… “I will always have to depend on others to help me”… “I will never be in a better condition than I am today.”

    That’s not what I was thinking when I stood in that line. I was thinking, “Thank god we have this food bank… this is going to be so nice to have some extra food… I’m glad this is here for people like me who aren’t working.” But I was also thinking, “I probably won’t have to come back here… I think that job I applied for, I will probably get it, and in a few weeks I’ll be making money again. And once I get a few bills paid and things are going better… I think things are going to be good for me again. I’m sure I’ll do fine because I’m smart, I work hard, I do good work… everything is going to work out great. Maybe when I get more settled I’ll spend some time volunteering at this food bank and helping other people who are where I am today….”

    It seems to me, in Cuba, there is no hope, no future to plan for. What do the young people look forward to? What can they make of their lives?

    In one of Yoani’s articles I remember she was talking to a young person (another young person, she herself is young!) and he said something about comparing the span of history and the span of one individual’s life, 10 years, 20 years, 100 years, it’s nothing in the history of man. But in one human life, ten or twenty years, that’s the time you have to find a partner and start having children, if you miss that chance it’s gone forever. When you are young, and you are strong and healthy and still have your mind (!!!), that is the time to become educated and try things and see what you can do. If you miss it, you can’t get it back. Maybe someone in the future can have that time but you never will again, for your life, it is gone.

    Anyway… when I read your words, you say this better than I ever can. And it really touches me. You don’t need anyone else to speak for you. You speak very well for yourself.

  51. I want to make a comment in response to an earlier discussion about China and Saudi Arabia….China is very successful because it completely exdploits its people. It has the worse record for children in the world working in factories; it has the worse statistiics for people being killed in its mines and they shoot hundreds each year for crimminal offences and sell their body parts….this is a country that does not have democracy and Ray says is very successful! What do you think?

  52. Hi Yoarky,

    I don’t know enough about Cuban history to know whether there is any past government that could be used as a model. What I do know is that Latin America and the Carribean has transformed itself in the past 50 years while Cuba – despite calling it a revolution – has made little progress. In 1959, Latin America was mostly governed by dictatorships and military juntas. Today, with the exception of Cuba, all Latin American and Carribean countries are – despite their imperfections – multiparty democracies.

    I mentioned Costa Rica because it was one of the first countries in the region to embrace democracy. Many others have followed, and hopefully some day so will Cuba.

  53. Yoani,ante todo mis saludos,me gustaria tener contacto contigo sobre todo de CINE,VEO que has cambiado algo del formato,por ejemplo ya no veo REFRANES CUBANOS Y TODO EL MUNDO HABLA,DEJAME SABER.ABRAZOS

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