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Orlando Freire Santana

[caption id="attachment_39860" align="aligncenter" width="550"] [1] Hildebrando Chaviano (photo by the author)[/caption] “Some do not know me well, some are prisoners of fear.” Interview with opposition member Hildebrando Chaviano, candidate for delegate to the People’s Power. [2], Orlando Freire Santana, Havana, 15 April 2015 – Independent journalist Hildebrando Chaviano is one of the opposition candidates nominated by districts in the capital with a view towards the midterm elections to be held this coming April 19. In order to learn of the most recent events surrounding his nomination, we visited him in his apartment on the 28th floor of the Focsa building in the El Vedado neighborhood. Q: Have you noticed any change recently in your neighbors’ treatment of you? A: “I can tell you yes, indeed. But a change for the better. Neighbors approach me and greet me cordially. Even those who have never had a close relationship with me, now I notice they are friendlier. “However, the neighbors from the building are one thing, and another is the workers of the State establishments located here in Focsa. Many of them, due to the extent of their working hours -- especially those in the food business – will vote at this polling station on the 19th.   And certainly, I am aware that they have distanced themselves from me. I am convinced that they have been told categorically that they may not vote for me. “Even recently there occurred a telling event. Some reporters from the German television station Deutsche Welle visited me. When they were leaving we came to the building’s reception area where they wanted to take some pictures of me. The receptionist, very startled, left the place, because according to her own words, ‘Not for anything in the world could I appear in those photographs.’” Q: What has been the popular reaction to the exposure of your biographical data, full of insults for being a “counter-revolutionary?” A: “My perception, basically through conversations with my neighbors, is that this time the biographies have been more widely read than in prior elections. They have even told me that they have seen passersby, who have nothing to do with this polling station, stopped in front of the photos and biographies. “Most of the neighbors are convinced that the insults placed in my biography [3] are revenge by the authorities for a nomination that they did not expect.” Q: Do you believe that voters are ready to support an opposition candidate? “It is undeniable that there are many voters who are not going to vote for me. I am not referring to neighbors from my building but to people in the rest of the district. Some because they do not know me well, and others are prisoners of fear. Among the latter ideas are entertained like ‘what if there is a hidden camera that films the voting,’ ‘what if each ballot has a password that identifies the voter’… Nevertheless, it is no less certain that people want something different, and many see me as a brave person who has decided to confront the machinery of power.” Q: Do you believe that an opposition delegate can adequately carry out his work in the midst of the bureaucratic structures of the People’s Power? A: “I think so, as long as you have a program of action. Because, look, here almost all the delegates that enter office do it without a defined program, and therefore they become simple ‘errand boys’ between their voters and the municipal governments. Under those conditions, obviously, they end up swallowed by the governmental bureaucracy, and they also lose the trust of the voters. “I appreciate that my trips abroad have given me insights about initiatives that could be implemented at the community level.” [caption id="attachment_39861" align="aligncenter" width="602"] [4] Biography written by the official electoral commission. Among other things it says that Chaviano is a counterrevolutionary and that his activities are funded by foreign groups (photo courtesy of the author)[/caption] Q: What message do you send to Cuban voters a few days before the election? A: “The voters must lose the fear of voting for an opposition candidate. They should be convinced that it is possible to vote for a candidate who does not represent the interests of the government. Because even in the hypothetical – and almost impossible – case of finding out the identity of the voters, it would not be possible to repress so many people simultaneously.” Translated by MLK [1] [2] [3] [4] Continue reading
[caption id="attachment_39474" align="aligncenter" width="600"] [1] Self-employed watch repairer. “We change every kind of battery” Cuba_archivo[/caption] A letter published in the official Granma by one its readers asks the State to limit the prices charged by the self-employed in order to protect “the working people from abusive prices” [2], Orlando Freire Santana, Havana, 27 March 2015 – Notwithstanding the image that the Castro regime strives to present about small, private enterprise, in the sense of having expanded this activity as part of the economic transformations that are taking place on the island, the truth is that the non-state sector of the economy faces more than a few obstacles. High taxes, lack of a wholesale market where supplies and raw materials can be acquired, the lack of recognition by the authorities of the total costs that private businesses incur, as well as the excess of audits of Sworn Personal Income Statements, among others, are some of the daily hurdles that stand in the way of the self-employed. Last Friday, March 20, the newspaper Granma published two works that contain “recommendations” that could obstruct or kill self-employment. The first of these, “Money Well Paid?” is a report about the payments by state entities to self-employed workers in the Holguin province. The very title of the report – with that question mark included – already allows a glimpse of the distrust of those kinds of transactions, that in the past year reached 36 million pesos. The Holguin authorities insist that state entities must exhaust all options that the providers from the government sector offer when acquiring goods or services. And only lastly to approach the self-employed workers. The state payments to the self-employed in the referenced territory, with a view to exhaustive control, must pass through a bureaucratic structure that includes the Government Central Auditor Unit, the Commission of Charges and Payments, and the Provincial Administration Council. And by the way, what becomes of the highly vaunted “entrepreneurial autonomy” if the entrepreneurs can barely decide from whom to buy what they need? The other material featured in Granma is the letter from a reader, “For the excessive desire to obtain greater riches,” in which he complains of the prices charged by the self-employed who entertain children in the Palmira township in Cienfuegos. In addition to that specific situation, the writer of the missive extends his criticism to all the self-employed and says in one paragraph: “I think that the Administration Councils, municipal as well as provincial, must control the prices of the offerings by the self-employed, protecting the working people from abusive prices and giving those people a legal foundation on which to demand their rights.” It should be emphasized that an opinion of this kind, appearing in an official organ of the Communist Party, cannot be underestimated in any way. So began the attacks against the self-employed who sold home products, to those who were called “retailers.” In the end, that activity was prohibited, and many self-employed who used to hold those licenses lost them and were left unemployed. When I commented to a café owner in my neighborhood about the Granma reader’s letter, the man reacted indignantly: “Don’t tell me…self-employed prices are abusive…Listen to me, abusive is the tax that I pay, which they have raised on me three times; abusive is that I spend more than 50% of my revenues on buying everything that I need to work, and the people from ONAT [the State tax collector] only recognize 25% as expense; and abusive was the fine that they imposed on me last year, of several thousand pesos, when they deemed that I had under-reported personal income. You have to hear every silly thing in this country!” About the Author [3]Orlando Freire. Matanzas, 1959. Graduate in Economics. He has published the book of essays, The Evidence of Our Time, Vitral Prize 2005, and the novel The Blood of Liberty, Franz Kafka Novels From the Drawer Prize, 2008. He also earned Essay and Story prizes from the magazine The Universal Dissident, and the Essay Prize from the magazine New Word. Translated by MLK [1] [2] [3] Continue reading
HAVANA, Cuba — Prices of agricultural products have increased between 15 and 25 percent in recent months. An unsustainable burden if we take into account the population’s salaries. The price increase coincides with new forms of marketing. It turns out … Continue reading Continue reading
HAVANA, Cuba.  The 20th Congress of the ruling Cuba Workers Central (CTC) has just concluded its sessions.  Even though authorities proclaimed that this had been a democratic meeting, what is true of every workplace discussion of the main documents is … Continue reading Continue reading
HAVANA, Cuba – The Cuatro Caminos (Four Roads) Market, one of the most important of Havana, and pioneer of the system of supply and demand for agricultural products, will close its doors on 2 February. They already met with the … Continue reading Continue reading
At first glance, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) is a laudable mechanism for consultation and integration of the nations located south of the Rio Grande. When it was founded in Caracas in December of 2011, under … Continue reading Continue reading
HAVANA, Cuba – The echoes of the unfair audits of the Declarations of Personal Income haven’t even faded yet, nor have the prohibitions of the marketing of imported household objects and clothing, and government action again threatened to overshadow the … Continue reading Continue reading
Havana, Cuba, December – http://www.cubanetorg – It’s not a secret for anybody that, in general, youngsters favour transformations which advance social development. As far as Cuba is concerned, the majority of young people who are academics and researchers urge that … Continue reading Continue reading
At this point few will doubt that in a totalitarian system like Cuba, centralized control of the economy by the state is inherent; and if the leaders agree to allow some space for private initiative, they do it as a … Continue reading Continue reading
HAVANA, Cuba , November – Karina laments having come rather late to Havana from her native Santiago de Cuba. According to her, if her arrival in the capital had happened five or six years ago, the job of becoming … Continue reading Continue reading
HAVANA, Cuba, November, -In closed societies, where there is no freedom of information, it’s necessary to read between the lines to break the secrecy imposed from above. Secrecy that, among other things, makes it impossible to know the real … Continue reading Continue reading
HAVANA, Cuba, October, — The official announcement in the newspaper Granma this Tuesday, October 2, with its timeline for instituting the changes regarding currency unification, unleashed a torrent of rumors, which some say circulate faster that news from the … Continue reading Continue reading
HAVANA, Cuba, September, – At almost the same moment that Mariela Castro declared that Cuba only penalizes pandering, but not prostitution, police officers in uniform and in plainclothes conducted an operation against prostitutes who frequent Águila Street, between Monte … Continue reading Continue reading
HAVANA, Cuba, September, Orlando Freire Santana, –The Cuban health system has a vertical structure that has its base in family run medical practices, followed by polyclinics and hospitals. In the ’80s of the 20th century, when they were created, … Continue reading Continue reading
According to the government, there are 47,000 medical students in Cuba, and a doctor for every 137 persons. What is the real picture  on the national health service? The popular Cuban refrain, when referring to the contradiction which presents itself … Continue reading Continue reading
HAVANA, Cuba , September , — For some time now we’ve noticed the absence of Elián Gonzalez and other members of his family from the pages of newspapers, radio broadcasts and television channels. We even know the failed attempt by … Continue reading Continue reading
For several days the inspectors of the Ministry of Labor and National Tax Administration Office (ONAT) in the Havana municipality of Cerro have been telling the self-employed workers who sell in the doorways of their homes in the area that … Continue reading Continue reading