Monday, September 26, 2016

Latin America, Land of the ‘Millennials’

Latin America, Land of the 'Millennials' / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 25 September 2016 – They were born at
the time when Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose was published, when
thousands of Cubans were escaping the island through the Port of Mariel,
and when a fan murdered John Lennon in New York. They are the
millennials, who became adults with the turn of the century and they are
one-third of the current population of Latin America.

The market wants to capture this Generation Y, while companies seek to
exploit its close links with technology. However, it is on the political
scene where it could yield the continent's greatest fruits. Unlike their
parents, who grew up amidst armed conflict, dictators and economic
instability, it is the lot of the millennials to clash with imperfections.

Heirs to the "end of history," these young people, who are today between
20 and 35, are confronted with the challenge of changing the face of a
region urged to reinvent itself. They bring with them pragmatism and a
certain dose of cynicism… which never hurts. Nonconformists, they want
to fight against the system they know, but without the epic outbursts of
their grandparents, nor the elevated expectations of their progenitors.
They reject heroics and acts of immolation.

To transform our societies, these "millennia" count on newly released
tools. They have come of age in the most extensive period of
technological innovation ever known and their way of appreciating the
world passes, for most of them, across the screen of a cellphone. These
creatures, hinges between the 20th and the 21st centuries, stamp their
imprint on today's digital communication. Politicians place in their
hands the management of social networks, online campaigns and
crowdfunding. In these labors they are accumulating the experience that
one day will allow them to exercise governance through the web.

Despite the inequalities that continue to characterizer Latin America,
with regards to the quality of educational systems and the purchasing
power of households, digital communication has been a frequent companion
in the lives of these young people. Internet, cellphones and social
networks have been their companions since they reached the age of
reason. In the alphabet mastered by these offspring of the baby boomers,
G represents Google and a bluebird with a T is Twitter. Thus, it is
difficult to convince them that phones were once hard-wired and that in
the past, if you wanted to buy something, you had to pay with cash. They
have never smoked on an airplane, nor made coffee through a cloth strainer.

Environmentalists, vegans, pansexuals, multilinguals and irreverents,
millennials increasingly choose distance learning and electronic
commerce. They resist paying for the music they consume and have drawn
from videogames the idea that life is expressed in a simple and hard
formula: "Action versus time."

They were small children when the darkness provoked by successive
military coups in the Southern Cone was left behind. In many cases they
have inhabited weak democracies, marked by corruption, limitations on
freedom of expression and concentration of power in the hands of a few.
Forbes magazine has predicted that in 2025 they will represent 75% of
the world's labor force, but few have ventured to calculate their
political participation and their positioning in the mechanism of power.
They are already in the offices of Government palaces, still as
assistants, interning or listening. Crouched in preparation for taking

Among the pending issues they will face in Latin America, the delayed
democratization of the armed forces will be up to them. Circumscribing
those uniformed actors who have been unwanted protagonists in the
political system, and shoring up the fragile civil power, will be a
difficult task in a region where epaulettes have ruled for centuries.
Skeptical, the millennials have seen the images of the fall of the
Berlin Wall a thousand and one times, but they know that the hammers
that destroyed that concrete were wielded by hands that now carry a cane
or wave to their grandchildren from the window.

Now, they are listening as the last echoes of the longest conflicts in
the hemisphere fade out in Colombia, but all around them are the shouts
of populism and the skirmishes of political intolerance. The strict
limits of right and left, that have defined the region for half a
century, ring in their ears like the squeaks from an inexperienced DJ
who doesn't know how to mix tunes.

These millennials exhibit a high degree of political discontent, and are
especially critical of the quality of the education systems. Without
being a homogenous population, they resemble each other in the struggle
for space for innovation and entrepreneurship. In the social networks,
they have managed to bring together all the pieces of a territory whose
principal diplomatic challenge continues to be integration. Tired of the
acronyms of so many useless regional mechanisms, they have dissolved
borders through the effectiveness of a Like on Facebook, and have bought
products on Amazon. They embody globalization.

Even in Cuba, "the island of the disconnected," with the lowest rate of
Internet penetration in the hemisphere, they are seen filling the parks
where the government has opened wifi zones. They can be recognized
because they stare constantly at the screens on their phones, even in
bed, in the bathroom or behind the wheel. They have an intense need to
share information, so they are censorship's natural enemies. On a
continent where television has shaped the leaderships and dictators have
behaved more like soap opera stars than statesmen, millennials prefer to
consume audio and visual media online and a la carte, rather than be
tied to programming directed by others.

From the images of themselves receiving their diplomas to their most
intimate moments, a good share of them want to post it all online. They
feel that the times of privacy have come to an end and life now is
public. On the social networks we have seen them conquer their acne, get
the braces off their teeth, and show off a new beard or hair extensions.
They are willing to exchange personal information for a more intense
social experience. Their children are a part of the experiment and
appear on the web, smiling, naïve, devoid of filters. They are born,
love, protest and die in front of a webcam. They create relationships
based on horizontality, in part because the networks have inculcated
them with the conviction that they are interacting with their peers,
without hierarchies.

To Latin American millennials all that is left is optimism, and in most
cases they believe their nation's best time is still ahead. They don't
dare to say out loud that the future of the continent rests entirely on
their decisions, but they will shape it according to their will. They
are the survivors of that tumultuous 20th century in which they were
born, but which they do not feel a part of. With such antecedents, could
they have turned out any better?

Editor's note: This text was published on Sunday 25 September 2016 in
the Spanish newspaper El País.

Source: Latin America, Land of the 'Millennials' / 14ymedio, Yoani
Sanchez – Translating Cuba -

Havana - Tourism Boom Leads to Increase in Prostitution

Havana: Tourism Boom Leads to Increase in Prostitution / Iván García

Ivan Garcia, 22 September 2016 — Empty bottles of rum and Domincan beer
lie scattered around the courtyard as five people drink and talk about
sports and business. A Reggaeton tune, "Until the Malecon Runs Dry" by
Jacob Forever, plays in the background.

Meanwhile, four girls take turns inhaling a mixture of cocaine and
tobacco, known locally as cambolo, from a discarded soda can.

The party could well cost the equivalent of two hundred dollars.
Eduardo, a mid-level bureaucrat in the Foreign Trade office, adds up the
costs: "Forty-eight convertible pesos (CUC) for two cases of beer, forty
CUC for five bottles of rum, twenty five for five kilos of chicken and
two cans of tuna, and a hundred CUC for drugs and whores."

And what are they celebrating? "Nothing in particular. A success or a
failure. We're not going to solve the economic crisis by getting all
worked up. If a little money comes your way, you throw a party. That's
all there is to it," says Armando, the owner of an auto repair business.

This is now routine, at least in Havana, where a group of friends might
rent a pool or a house, buy some food, hire some prostitutes and have a
good time. In summer, hookers like Elisa often take advantage of this
period of prosperity to pad their wallets.

In privately owned bars, discotheques and downtown areas of Havana, the
hookers roam freely. Their extremely short, tight fitting skirts and
overpowering perfumes make them instantly recognizable.

"The customers are like flies to honey. I've made as much as 250 CUC a
night. An Italian in the morning, a Spaniard in the afternoon and a
Cuban who thinks he is a bigshot at night," says Elisa.

And the economic crisis? Or the period of austerity? "That's for state
workers. Those who own businesses, work in tourism or make money under
the table are still enjoying the high life. Just kick a can and the
hookers come out of the woodwork. There are always more of us," adds Elisa.

And predictions are that their numbers will continue to grow. At least
that is what Carlos, a sociologist who lives in southern Havana, thinks.
"In periods of economic difficulty, people choose the easiest paths to
making money. During the Special Period from 1993 to 2000 the number of
Cuban prostitutes soared. They didn't work only in the tourism sector.
They began operating among Cubans who owned businesses and now can be
seen in poor neighborhoods where the main source of recreation is
drinking alcohol and hiring cheap hookers."

The exact number of prostitutes is unknown. Carlos, the sociologist,
believes the figure "exceeds twenty thousand women in the entire island.
If we add the number of men who prostitute themselves, the number could
rise to thirty thousand. We must also add to this those who profit from
the trade, which include pimps, corrupt police, tourist industry
workers, people who rent out their homes, taxi drivers and
photographers. We are talking about a big business."

The boom in tourism on the island is too tempting a lure for many girls
living in truly hellish family situations. "Although most prostitutes
come from dysfunctional families, there has been in an increase in cases
of prostitution involving adolescents from decent families without
economic problems who are dazzled by the good life, easy money or the
chance to obtain a visa," says Laura, a former social worker.

It is likely that the number of foreign visitors in 2017 will exceed
four million. And if the United States Congress lifts the ban on tourism
to Cuba, the figure could be in the neighborhood of five million.

American tourists are highly sought after in Cuba. They have a
reputation for being generous with tips and other payments when taking a
woman or man to bed.

Yaité, a former prostitute now married to a German, believes "that
prices could have a rebound. In the the 1980s the rate was $100. Then,
because of the number of prostitutes and because tourists traveling to
Cuba did not have a lot of purchasing power, the rate dropped to forty
and even to thirty CUC a night. Now it could go up. An American might
pay up to 200 CUC for a young, attractive prostitute with a good body."

Elisa, a hooker, prays to her orishas* for that prediction to come true.

*Translator's note: Deities in the Yoruba religion, whose practice is
widespread in Cuba.

Source: Havana: Tourism Boom Leads to Increase in Prostitution / Iván
García – Translating Cuba -

A Not Very Smart Rejection

A Not Very Smart Rejection / Fernando Dámaso

Fernando Damaso, 24 September 2016 — At the end of World War II, and
after the capitualtion of imperial Japan, thousands of young Japanese of
both sexes went to the United States to study, supported by scholarships
granted by the US. This allowed them, once they graduated, to support
the accelerated development of their nation, and to leave behind the
secular backwardness in which they had lived.

The young Japanese of the time, who had suffered the horrors of the war,
were able to forget about the indoctrination against the United States,
"the enemy," that they'd been subjected to for years. And they
demonstrated that they could be modern without renouncing their roots or
their national identity.

Today Cuban young people, indoctrinated in the "socialist idiotology,"
through their "governmental student organizations — Young Communist
League, Federation of University Students, Federation of Secondary
Students, and others — and "counseled" by "retired agents" and "official
spokespeople" well known for their histories of submission and political
opportunism, reject "massively" — in public demonstrations — the
scholarships offered to them by the United States, alleging that the
only objective of this program is to convert them into
"counterrevolutionary leaders."

In reality, the ruling system in Cuba is, itself, the best school
available for teaching students to be against it.

The young people of today who thoughtlessly reject the scholarships will
regret this missed opportunity once this absurd era of failed "Messiahs"
and even worse "disciples" passes, and they will lament the lost
opportunity to support the development of their country in a healthy and
normal situation, when civic responsibility takes precedence over
politicking slogans.

The current backwardness of Cuba is not the fault of the embargo, but of
the lack of ability among its leaders and of the "socialist idiotology"
inculcated in its citizens.

Source: A Not Very Smart Rejection / Fernando Dámaso – Translating Cuba

The "Savage Entrepreneurs"

The "Savage Entrepreneurs" / Fernando Dámaso

Fernando Damaso, 21 September 2016 — The few state restaurants that
offer varied and quality menus, along with good service, have high
prices that are totally inaccessible for the average citizen. Entrees
costing 10, 12 or more Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC: worth roughly $1
each, in a country with an average monthly wage of around $20-$24).
Sandwiches are 5 CUC, side dishes 2 CUC and desserts 3-5 CUC. Domestic
beers are 1.50 and 2.50 CUC and soft drinks, also domestic, are 1 and
1.20 CUC.

The phenomenon is the same in private establishments. Many of them
started off as more or less affordable, with prices more or less
accessible, good quality menus and also good service. Gradually they
have raised prices 50% and even 100%. So plates that used to cost 3 CUC
now cost 5, and those that used to cost 5 now cost 7 or 8 or even more.

With the drinks it's even worse. A domestic beer that used to cost no
more than 1 CUC is now 1.50, 2 and 2.50. Domestic soft drinks that were
0.55 CUC are now 1 and 1.20.

Wines and spirits, it's better not to talk about them, the prices have
skyrocketed. The same is true for desserts, which are never less than
1.50 CUC and even as much as 3 and 5 CUC, for just a wedge of cake.

These new businesspeople forgot the classic Cuban inn, where you could
eat well at affordable prices, and they only want to get rich overnight,
at the cost of emptying their customers' pockets.

It is true that Cuba today is a difficult market, depreciated and
debased, where many new entrepreneurs, "knife in hand," are ready to
flay anyone in front of them, but this, necessarily, will change and
some honest and responsible restauranteurs will prevail, earning
reasonable profits and offering quality food and good service, and
gaining the esteem and fidelity of their customers. This, no doubt, will
earn their establishments a name and prestige, as well as profits.

El Floridita, Monseñor, El Castillo de Farnés, La Zaragozana, La
Bodeguita del Medio, El Emperador, Europa, El Centro Vasco, Rancho Luna,
El Polinesio, Mandarín, Hong Kong, Wakamba, La Cibeles, América and many
other restaurants and cafes were not famous for their high prices, but
for the quality of their offerings and their magnificent service, where
there were respectful relationships between owners and customers. This
must also be present among the new "savage entrepreneurs."

Source: The "Savage Entrepreneurs" / Fernando Dámaso – Translating Cuba

Cuba And The Parable Of The Elephant

Cuba And The Parable Of The Elephant / 14ymedio, Pedro Armando Junco

14ymedio, Pedro Armando Junco, Havana, 17 September 2016 — The vagaries
of fate are unpredictable. Who would have thought ,15 years ago, when
food containers and all types of first world goods and gushing oil came
from Venezuela to Cuba, that today the Cuban collaborators in that
country would have to bring their own groceries?

The invested positions of both governments denote the great differences
between the small concessions of the general president and the

in which Nicolas Maduro wants to lock away Venezuela. Even Cuba's
relations with the United States are developing greater diplomacy today
than the bitter vituperations of the Venezuelan executive. Is there a
certain presumption from a friend in the early years of the current
century? "Is communism starting in Venezuela now, but ending in Cuba?"

Cuba, at least, without renouncing its ideology, is taking steps to move
forward. The importance of an aperture implied by the bilateral accords
coming to fruition with the United States is huge, despite the silence
of the official press; nor it is adequate to exclude the circumstantial
coincidence in an era with a US president who is sufficiently tractable
and is a facilitator of suitable arrangements. But are the limitations
that still persist and hinder the emergence of civil society on the
island objective and condemnable?

Given the recent pronouncement by the Minister of Culture, Abel Prieto,
calling the economic empowerment of Cubans on the island a plot by the
US government to destroy the Revolution, and another wisecracking friend
who said, laughing, "Imagine a caricature of Raul, up to his waist in
the economic swamp, with his left hand caressing the sorrowful faces of
those clinging to the old centralized system and his right hand making
signs to Uncle Sam behind his back to come to his aid."

We have to keep in mind, above all, the limitations of freedoms and
rights that Cubans have experienced since the sixties, their privations
still exceeding those of the other socialist governments on the
continent, no matter how tyrannical they seem. In the island there is no
opposition party and no legitimate elections, The last two generations
know nothing of freedom of the press, free labor unions, the right to
strike, the ability to generate their own wealth, etc. Only in this way
is it comprehensible that one nation has become accustomed for more than
half a century of meekness, disinformation and the lack of its
fundamental rights.

It is the parable of the circus elephant that from childhood was subject
to having his foot tied to a stake in the circus. From the time he was
young, no matter how much he pulled on the stake, he failed to pull it
out and learned to live in chains. The years passed, the elephant became
an adult, but he never tried to remove the small stake that would have
been easy to pull out.

This is also the story of the Cuban people in the Revolution: they
planted the state of fear and with it limited or eliminated their
fundamental rights. They were prohibited from feeding themselves at
their pleasure, leaving the island, acquiring wealth, saying what they
thought, dissenting from what they considered unfair… And over time,
like the chained elephant, they became accustomed to living subject to
certain unjust laws and mandates, without answers, without reason,
because one word and one man monopolized all power.

The man above any citizen, including his closest collaborators, above
the law, above reason, above God. The word revolutionary, an absolute
and obligatory qualifier, the golden key to open any kind of lock, and
its lack, the most aberrant and degrading blemish on a human being. In
that word was contained all the virtues of man, its absence contained
the vices of the world.

But the descendants of the old elephant of the parable have discovered
that the stake has deteriorated. The passage of time has eaten away its
old wood, and by nature itself, it has been pulled out. The
grandchildren of the elephant have looked up and discovered that beyond
the circus enclosure there is a horizon to walk to, to feed themselves
better, to create a herd. And the stake their grandfathers were subject
to is fragile, anachronistic, useless. The wheel attached to the foot,
but incapable of serving as a snare under any credible concept.

Times have changed. Everyone knows that the economic salvation of the
country lies with the United States. Some resist as much as they can,
juxtaposing conditions – elimination of the embargo, the Cuban
Adjustment Act, the "enemy" broadcasts and the return of the Guantanamo
Naval base.

This constantly echoes to the nation, although its well known that these
grants are dependent on a greater opening on the Cuban side, are only
discussed behind closed doors in the bilateral conversations between the
two governments.

It is similar to the game of the stingy trader who until the last minute
attempts to get one more crumb from the transaction. Ultimately, the
only correct path is a major opening to investment and American tourism,
for which they have to concede important political changes, necessarily.

But, when and how will they handle the recognition of the opposition,
respect for the dissenting demonstrations, for the mass media and the
economic empowerment of the people? This task belongs to the
grandchildren of the decrepit elephant.

Source: Cuba And The Parable Of The Elephant / 14ymedio, Pedro Armando
Junco – Translating Cuba -

Cuban Police Seize Legal Center’s Work Equipment

Cuban Police Seize Legal Center's Work Equipment / 14ymedio

14ymedio, Havana, 24 September 2016 – Friday's police assault against
the headquarters of Cubalex, Center of Legal Information, located in the
Havana municipality of Arroyo Naranjo, resulted in the seizure of six
computers, several hard drives, USB drives and cell phones. The officers
informed the lawyer Laritza Diversent that she could be accused of the
crime of "illicit economic activity," according to a report from the
activist Kirenia Yalit to this newspaper.

The headquarters of the independent group was searched on Friday,
by members of the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) and members of
State Security, who stormed the place breaking down the doors.

The thorough search of the building lasted until after eleven p.m. and
"when it seemed that everything was going to end and they had concluded
their interrogations" of the activists, they forced them to strip naked
"and squat to verify that there was nothing hidden in their bodies,"
said Yalit.

The independent lawyers denounce the fact that they never showed a
warrant that met the requirements for a search.

"They took everything, they just left some chairs and tables," says
Yalit, which 14ymedio was able to confirm through sources near the
site. The prosecutor who led the operation informed the attorneys that
the case "is of interest to the Attorney General of the Republic" and
that they would undertake all relevant investigations to determine
whether to proceed with an indictment against them.

Dayan Pérez Noriega, who was taken to a police station when he tried to
send Twitter messages about what was happening, was released at around
ten at night. The attorney Julio Ferrer, a member of Cubalex, remains
missing after having been intercepted by the police on Friday.

After the operation at the property was completed, the lawyers received
no immediate injunction, fines or written summons.

Attorney Laritza Diversent intends to denounce "the outrage committed,"
as she has done on previous occasions when she demanded the return of
her belongings seized by Cuban Customs at the airport.

The Legal Information Center, Cubalex, is an independent agency that has
provided free legal advice since 2010. The lawyers' group also focuses
on human rights issues. In July of this year Cuba's Ministry of Justice
rejected the application filed by the group's members for legal status
for the organization.

Source: Cuban Police Seize Legal Center's Work Equipment / 14ymedio –
Translating Cuba -

Cuban State Security Prevents a Meeting of Pinar del Rio’s Coexistence Studies Center

Cuban State Security Prevents a Meeting of Pinar del Rio's Coexistence
Studies Center / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 23 September 2016 — Tania de la Caridad
Reyes and her husbandYosvany Alfonso were intercepted by police in Pinar
del Río when they tried to reach the Coexistence Studies Center (CEC) to
attend the course "My Neighborhood a Community." Two police patrols
forced them to return to Cienfuegos, where they reside. On Friday the
organizers denounced the intervention by State Security, which prevented
the realization of the planned activity with various groups of civil
society to share ideas on "civic learning."

"This last month we have had nine interrogations of team
members. Finally we had to suspend the 'My Neighborhood a Community'
program, which is part of the ethical and civic project for the safety
of the participants," Dagoerto Valdes, director of the CEC, explains to

"Where in the world are people prevented from attending a course that
the only thing it does is make them better and more responsible citizens
in their community?" asks Valdes.

Reyes and Alfonso are the ones responsible for "Project New Hope," which
operates in the South Caunao neighborhood, a recently completed
residential area on the outskirts of the city of Cienfuegos. According
to the couple, under the auspices of the Czech NGO People in Need they
do training work with children and youth in the area, organize walks and
create networks to promote work in the neighborhood.

"We chose this course because ours is community work and this meeting
would allow us to obtain tools to improve our work in the neighborhood,"
Reyes told 14ymedio.

According to the activist, when they arrived at the bus station in Pinar
del Río Thursday night, three police officers in plainclothes stopped
them and made them turn off their cellphones. After allowing them to
make a call from a landline provided by the officers themselves, they
were driven to the outskirts of the city to send them to Havana.

"They stopped two tractors that make the trip to Havana and sent us
separately. They took down the license plates of the vehicles and told
the drivers they were responsible for what happened to us," says Reyes.

When they got to the capital they were left at a gas station from where
they had to get to the bus station and get "overpriced" tickets to
return to Cienfuegos. (The regular tickets are subsidized and cost about
two CUC (about $2 US), but the huge waiting list forced them to buy the
tickets under the table).

"When we learned what had happened with the group from Cienfuegos, we
decided to suspend the meeting. We advised the ecological group
Eco-Social Movement for the Protection of Nation and the Environment
(PRONATON), which sent several delegates from Sancti Spiritus, and the
Pinar del Rio group Independent and Democratic Cuba, which would also
participate in the event," explained Yoandy Izquierdo, member of the
editorial board of the magazine Convivencia (Coexistence).

Izquierdo also denounced the presence of several people who were
monitoring the place where the course would be held from early in the
morning, and making it difficult for the organizers to communicate by
phone and text message.

The Coexistence Studies Center organizes training courses for
citizenship and civil society in Cuba. It has four main lines of action,
ranging from the publication of the magazine Convivencia to the debate
of ideas through reflection and study groups. It also has a
comprehensive training program and so-called micro-projects. It is a
project of the nascent Cuban civil society and its members are totally
independent of the State, the Church and any political group.

Source: Cuban State Security Prevents a Meeting of Pinar del Rio's
Coexistence Studies Center / 14ymedio, Mario Penton – Translating Cuba -