WBEZ | Cuba http://www.wbez.org/tags/cuba Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en After marrying at 16, a Cuban immigrant strikes out on her own in a foreign land http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/after-marrying-16-cuban-immigrant-strikes-out-her-own-foreign-land-108176 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/RS7358_marta and marta_cropped.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>When Marta Liriano was 9, Fidel Castro and the communist party took control in Cuba. As upper-middle-class landowners before the revolution, her family lost much of its property and faced a hostile regime. When Marta was just 15, she met an older man who offered her a way to get out of the country. Marta visited the Chicago StoryCorps booth with her daughter, Marta Garcia, to share what happened when she started wanting to become her own person.</p><p><strong>Marta (daughter)</strong>: So after you met my father, you&rsquo;re able to flee the country?</p><p><strong>Marta (mother)</strong>: Yes, but he decided to leave first. I came to Miami,&nbsp; 2 o&rsquo;clock in the morning.</p><p><strong>Marta (daughter)</strong>:&nbsp; What was Miami like?</p><p><strong>Marta (mother)</strong>: I don&rsquo;t like to remember that because when I came, nobody was waiting for me. So I didn&rsquo;t know what to do, so I called a taxi cab to take me to the address, and there was your father.&nbsp; He didn&rsquo;t go to the airport because he was sleeping.</p><p>Marta Liriano was later joined in Miami by her parents. Eventually she had two daughters. But as she got older, she longed for something more out of life.</p><p><strong>Marta (mother)</strong>:Your father married a 16-year-old girl. When I grew older, I started thinking. So he couldn&rsquo;t understand why, me, a simple girl, wanted to go to school, you know, do something productive for me &hellip; He used to tell me, &lsquo;There&#39;s a jungle out there.&rsquo; But you know what? I wanted to know the jungle, by myself.</p><p>To find out what happened next, listen to the audio above.</p><p><span id="docs-internal-guid-7ae20f65-1654-5096-507a-39d739014de4"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Arial; font-style: italic; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Katie Mingle is a producer for WBEZ and the Third Coast Festival. </span></span></p><p>&nbsp;</p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Fplaylists%2F6250422" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 26 Jul 2013 08:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/after-marrying-16-cuban-immigrant-strikes-out-her-own-foreign-land-108176 Why Assata Shakur was suddenly promoted to terrorist http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2013-05/why-assata-shakur-was-suddenly-promoted-terrorist-107093 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS7231_AP050511021581-scr.jpg" style="height: 323px; width: 250px; float: right;" title="Assata Shakur in Havana (AP)" />Last week, on the 40th anniversary of her arrest, the FBI suddenly put Assata Shakur, aka Joanne Chesimard, on the Ten Most Wanted Terrorists List. She is the first woman to reach such criminal heights. The reward for her capture has been doubled to $2 million.</p><p>But that move might say less about Shakur&rsquo;s alleged crimes than about President Barack Obama. His willingness to use a black woman&mdash;a black woman whose political roots date back to a time when official U.S. government policy was to destroy the black liberation movement&mdash;to play this kind of politics is soulless.</p><p>Because have no doubt whatsoever: putting Shakur&mdash;who is at worst a cop killer&mdash;on that list has less to do with her and any recent activities to justify her promotion to terrorist status than it does with helping to make an argument to keep Cuba on the terrorist nations list, an appointment that reflects political game-playing more than reality.</p><p>Perhaps Obama sees this as a last ditch effort to pressure Cuba into releasing Alan Gross, a USAID contractor jailed on the island for anti-government activities. (This year&rsquo;s iteration of the <a href="http://www.latimes.com/news/world/worldnow/la-fg-wn-cuba-us-terror-list-20130502,0,2494970.story" target="_blank">terrorist nations list</a> will be released at the end of the month.)</p><p>Because Cuba has long ceased being a state-sponsor of terrorism, the main accusation hurled its way by the U.S. is that it serves as a refuge for international terrorists, including about 70 U.S. citizens, many of them affiliated with the Black Panthers and other black liberation groups.</p><p>But just one quick look at the rest of the <a href="http://www.fbi.gov/wanted/wanted_terrorists" target="_blank">FBI terrorists list</a>&mdash;a collection of bombers and international kidnappers and conspirators&mdash;makes clear just how out of place Shakur and her alleged crimes are in such company. As a warning, the FBI laughably says Shakur &ldquo;may wear her hair in a variety of styles and dress in African tribal clothing.&rdquo;</p><p>For the record, this is the <a href="http://terrorism.about.com/od/whatisterroris1/ss/DefineTerrorism_6.htm" target="_blank">FBI&rsquo;s own definition of terrorism</a>: &ldquo;The unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a Government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.&rdquo;</p><p>If you believe Shakur did what she was convicted of, then she&rsquo;s a vicious but common criminal&mdash;and nothing more. It&rsquo;s not imperative to be sympathetic to Shakur&rsquo;s politics to see the disconnect between what she&rsquo;s been tried and convicted of doing and her new designation.</p><p>And nothing in the FBI&rsquo;s own description of her crimes suggests Shakur has done anything to merit reconsideration. Her new listing merely recounts her previous history: In 1977, Shakur was convicted of first degree murder of a police officer after a shootout on the New Jersey Turnpike. She was sentenced to life in prison. Two years later, she escaped, eventually turning up in Cuba.</p><p>Shakur maintains her innocence, pointing out that she was also wounded in the incident and that the state police&rsquo;s own investigation found there was no gunpowder residue on her hands at the time of her arrest. But now the FBI clams Shakur has <a href="http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2013/05/forty_years_later_hunt_still_o.html" target="_blank">always been seen as a terrorist</a>.</p><p>&quot;Today, Chesimard, now known as Assata Shakur, remains an inspiration to the radical, left-wing, anti-government black separatist movement,&quot; said Aaron Ford, special agent in charge of the FBI&rsquo;s Newark office in announcing the change in Shakur&rsquo;s status. &quot;While living openly and freely in Cuba, she continues to maintain and promote her terrorist ideology. She provides anti-U.S.-government speeches, espousing the Black Liberation Army&rsquo;s message of revolution and terrorism.&quot;</p><p>In other words, Shakur talks and writes about revolutionary change. Writing and talking are not in and of themselves force or violence even if the words themselves call for such actions. It seems not even the FBI, in its announcement of her new status, can actually pin her with terrorist action.</p><p>With so many other U.S. exiles in Cuba, why Shakur? Perhaps because she&rsquo;s the best known U.S. fugitive in Cuba. She is, however, not the only Black Panther convicted of <a href="http://www.assatashakur.org/forum/pan-afrikanism-afrocentricity/1779-black-exiles-cuba.html" target="_blank">cop killing</a> exiled on the island: Charlie Hill, whose crime took place in New Mexico and involved the hijacking of a U.S. airline (which, in some circles, might actually qualify as terrorism), is also living in Cuba.</p><p>Perhaps the bigger question is, without a Florida election to worry about, what Obama hopes to accomplish beyond keeping Cuba on the terrorists list. He is most certainly not going to invade Cuba or send in a drone to kill a 65-year-old African-American grandmother. Shakur is not going to surrender, Havana is not going to turn her in, and good luck to any bounty hunters who want to risk playing in Cuba.</p><p>But this is precisely the kind of move that gets the Cubans&rsquo; back up. It threatens to not only extend rather than abbreviate Gross&rsquo; sentence but to mess with <a href="http://www.denverpost.com/nationworld/ci_22997924/under-radar-cuba-and-u-s-often-work" target="_blank">bilateral cooperation</a> on a variety of matters that Havana and Washington have been quietly making progress on. What the hell, Barack?</p></p> Wed, 08 May 2013 23:15:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2013-05/why-assata-shakur-was-suddenly-promoted-terrorist-107093 Three takeaways from Jay-Z and Beyoncé's Cuba trip http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2013-04/three-takeaways-jay-z-and-beyonc%C3%A9s-cuba-trip-106608 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Screen%20Shot%202013-04-11%20at%202.39.40%20PM.png" style="float: right; height: 170px; width: 300px;" title="File: Jay-Z and Beyoncé visiting Cuba. (AP/File)" />Three takeaways from Jay-Z and Beyoncé&rsquo;s trip to Cuba:</div><p>1) It was <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2013/04/beyonce-jay-z-cuba-trip-89849.html">legal</a>, but that it was legal doesn&rsquo;t mean it wasn&rsquo;t utterly fraudulent.</p><p>2) How anybody on earth can think the embargo is doing any good is a continuing mystery of American politics.</p><p>3) Anybody surprised by Jay-Z and Beyoncé&rsquo;s trip to the island hasn&rsquo;t been listening to Jay-Z. And anybody listening to Jay-Z probably knows nothing feeds a false sense of rebellion more than prohibiting something.</p><p>Now, one at a time.</p><p>Did anybody think Jay-Z and Beyoncé were going to make such a noisy trip to the axis of evil without a legal license to do so and embarrass the hell of their buddy in the White House?</p><p>They&rsquo;re not that stupid, and Sen. Marco Rubio, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart &ndash; who asked the Treasury for an investigation into the power couple&rsquo;s trip &ndash; should have known better.</p><p>That said, Jay-Z and Beyoncé&rsquo;s trip was legal because, let&rsquo;s face it, it&rsquo;s ridiculously easy to get a license for an &ldquo;educational&rdquo; trip to Cuba. Pretty much any U.S. citizen can just sign up and go with any of the 220 agencies, museums, churches and synagogues that take tour groups to Cuba.</p><p>A visit to a school, a meeting with artists and the trip qualifies as cultural exchange when, in fact, it&#39;s touristic. In other words, the qualifying aspects, for the most part, are performances. If the U.S. opened up to tourism to Cuba, most people would travel to the island the way they do everywhere else &ndash; on their own or in tourist groups, not for formal cultural exchange . (The Cuban government, by the way, knows Jay-Z and Beyoncé were there as tourists and described their trip as such on their websites, including <a href="http://www.cubadebate.cu/noticias/2013/04/05/beyonce-y-jay-zestuvieron-en-cuba-fotos/">Cubadebate.com</a>.)</p><p>Which brings us to the embargo itself and the travel restrictions that accompany it. In its 52 year history, the Cuban embargo has accomplished none of its stated goals, including free and fair democratic elections in Cuba. It has, however, caused incredible misery to the Cuban people and encouraged charades like the Jay-Z and Beyoncé trip.</p><p>The thinking is that it&rsquo;s Cuban-Americans in South Florida who force politicians into a corner on the issue. But look here: A 2012 Florida International University poll of Cuban Americans found that 57 percent <a href="http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/news/2012/02/07/us-embargo-on-cuba-turns-50/#ixzz2QAqC8dE3">favored removing travel restrictions</a> to the island for all Americans and 58 percent supported reestablishing diplomatic relations.&nbsp;</p><p>Sure, the same poll found that 56 percent of Cuban Americans said they still supported the trade embargo, even though 80 percent said they did not believe the policy worked well.</p><p>What&rsquo;s that about? Wishful thinking, that&rsquo;s what that is, especially from an older generation who believes their lives were disrupted by the Revolution&rsquo;s advent. In any case, it&rsquo;s absurd to continue to formulate foreign policy on the crazy end of a contradiction.</p><p>As to Jay-Z &ndash; <em>negro, por favor</em>. This full-of-himself-fool has been exploiting his three minutes of once-upon-a-time drug dealing for street cred for more than two decades and comparing his rich privileged ass to Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. and Che Guevara for just as long.</p><p>Remember 2002&rsquo;s &ldquo;The Bounce&rdquo;?: &ldquo;<em>Rumor has it &lsquo;The Blueprint&rsquo; classic/ Couldn&rsquo;t even be stopped by Bin Laden/&nbsp; So September 11th marks the era forever/ of a revolutionary Che Guevara.&rdquo;</em></p><p>Jay-Z was <a href="http://tweetwood.com/trends/revolutionary%20jay">retweeting</a> that sh*t days before going to Cuba.</p><p>Or &ldquo;Public Service Announcement&rdquo; when he <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eAbxCTABfis" target="_blank">full on appropriates</a> in the most laughable and absurd way of signaling he really doesn&rsquo;t understand sh*t about Che Guevara: <em>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m like Che Guevara with bling on, I&rsquo;m complex.</em>&rdquo; And then he talks about chains and the Lexus he&rsquo;s willing to kill for.</p><p>Then there was his <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=15c3JuPG0kY">wearing a Che t-shirt</a> on&ldquo;Unplugged&rdquo; in 2001.</p><p>Here&rsquo;s the thing: Forcing Jay-Z and Beyoncé to pretend this was cultural exchange meant that they were handed right over to cultural authorities who parroted the Cuban government&rsquo;s familiar bullsh*t.</p><p>They were guaranteed not to hang out with ordinary Cubans, from whom they might have found that, while they were treating Havana like a playground, Roberto Zurbano, a black Cuban and a lifetime revolutionary, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/06/world/americas/writer-of-times-op-ed-on-racism-in-cuba-loses-job.html?partner=rssnyt&amp;emc=rss&amp;_r=0">lost his job</a> as a top literary editor (probably the only black man in such a position on the entire island) for writing an opinion piece in the <em>New York Times</em> about <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/24/opinion/sunday/for-blacks-in-cuba-the-revolution-hasnt-begun.html"><em>racism on the island</em>.</a></p><p>Indeed, Jay-Z came back from his Cuba trip full of self-righteous rebel defiance about doing what pretty much anyone can do, i.e., go to Cuba. The world woke up today to a new song of his, &ldquo;Open Letter,&rdquo; in which he pushes back about criticism of his Cuba trip. You can hear it <a href="http://www.missinfo.tv/index.php/jay-z-open-letter-timbaland-swizz-beats/">here</a>.</p><p>Yeah, it&#39;s just more pseudo-rebel bullsh*t.</p><p>(And even so, the <a href="http://stereogum.com/1318672/white-house-responds-to-jay-zs-open-letter/video/">White House</a> was asked about it at Thursday&#39;s news conference.)</p></p> Thu, 11 Apr 2013 12:49:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2013-04/three-takeaways-jay-z-and-beyonc%C3%A9s-cuba-trip-106608 Encuentro con los Artistas: Pedro Páramo http://www.wbez.org/amplified/about/encuentro-con-los-artistas-pedro-p%C3%A1ramo-106208 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/NMMA-Goodman_March17-panel1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Flora Lauten y Raquel Carrío, extraordinarias innovadoras de La Habana, ponen en escena una de las obras de mayor importancia dentro del realismo mágico de la literatura latinoamericana&mdash;<em>Pedro Páramo</em>, novela de Juan Rulfo escrita en 1955. La historia cuenta de un hijo que regresa a casa a conocer a su padre y revela la manera en la que la ambición sin límites de un hombre destruyó todo lo que amaba y al igual el pueblo que le dio el triunfo.<br /><br /><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F84217143&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe><br /><br />En Chicago, se hará historia, con el estreno mundial de PEDRO PÁRAMO, una producción comisionada por el Goodman Theatre, y el MCA Chicago. La obra, fue desarrollada por Teatro Buendía, la compañía de teatro independiente más aclamada de Cuba, con artistas locales a través de una residencia de ocho semanas en Chicago y La Habana, Cuba.<br /><br />El elenco cubano está integrado por los actores Dania Aguerreberez, Alejandro Alfonzo, Ivanesa Cabrera, Carlos Cruz e Indira Valdéz, y el músico Jomary Hechavarra.<br /><br />Los actores de Chicago son; Charín Álvarez, Steve Casillas, Laura Crotte y Sandra Delgado.<br /><br />Como músicos participan Victor y Zacbe Pichardo, de la agrupación Sones de México.</p><p><strong id="internal-source-marker_0.11533360672183335">Esta grabación la podrán escuchar&nbsp;&nbsp;a través&nbsp;de Vocalo 90.7 FM el próximo Domingo, 24 de Marzo, a la 12&nbsp;pm, medio dia.</strong></p><div><span>La platica fue moderada por <strong>María Inés Zamudio</strong>, reportera de la publicación periodística, the Chicago Reporter, y en el panel participó, <strong>Henry Godinez</strong>, asociado de dirección artística en el Goodman Theater, la directora y fundadora del Teatro Buendía, <strong>Flora Lauten</strong>, la dramaturga <strong>Raquel Carrió</strong>, y <strong>Victor Pichardo</strong>, músico de la agrupación, Sones de Mexico.&nbsp;</span></div><p>La obra, Pedro Páramo, se estrena el 22 de Marzo, 2013. Para más informes visite <a href="http://www.goodmantheatre.org/" target="_blank">Goodmantheatre.org</a>.</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 21 Mar 2013 12:16:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/amplified/about/encuentro-con-los-artistas-pedro-p%C3%A1ramo-106208 From Cuba to Chicago: Pedro Páramo and Havana Blue http://www.wbez.org/series/chicago-amplified/cuba-chicago-pedro-p%C3%A1ramo-and-havana-blue-106939 <p><p>Listen to artists from River North Dance Chicago, Chicago Jazz Philharmonic, Goodman Theatre and Cuba&rsquo;s Teatro Buendía as they discuss cross-border collaborations with dance, original music and theater that led to the world premiere productions of Havana Blue (music and dance) and Pedro Páramo (theater). Moderated by WBEZ&rsquo;s <strong>Tony Sarabia</strong>.</p><div>Panelists include:</div><div><strong>Raquel Carrió</strong>, Playwright, Cuba&rsquo;s Teatro Buendía<strong> </strong></div><div><strong>Frank Chaves</strong>, Artistic Director, River North Dance Chicago</div><div><strong>Orbert Davis</strong>, Artistic Director, Chicago Jazz Philharmonic<strong> </strong></div><div><strong>Henry Godinez</strong>, Resident Artistic Associate, Goodman Theatre</div><div><strong>Flora Lautén</strong>, Artistic Director, Cuba&rsquo;s Teatro Buendía</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>**Note: This audio starts a few minutes into the discussion.</div><div><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/IC-webstory_3.jpg" title="" /></div><div><div class="image-insert-image ">Recorded live on March 14, 2013 at Instituto Cervantes Chicago.</div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 14 Mar 2013 15:36:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/chicago-amplified/cuba-chicago-pedro-p%C3%A1ramo-and-havana-blue-106939 Change at the top in Cuba, though the old guys linger http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2013-02/change-top-cuba-though-old-guys-linger-105789 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS7068_AP222515787094-scr.jpg" style="height: 408px; width: 620px;" title="Miguel Diaz Canel sits between Ramiro Valdes (R) and outgoing National Assembly president Ricardo Alarcon (AP)" /></div><p>On Sunday, Raúl Castro announced that he would serve as Cuba&rsquo;s president for one more five year term, as had been widely predicted (including <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2013-02/raul-castro-teases-retirement-while-lining-successor-105713">here</a>). And almost as anticipated, Ramón Machado Ventura, his First Vice President, was kicked to the curb in favor of a fresh face, Miguel Díaz Canel.<br /><br />The naming of Díaz Canel to be the country&rsquo;s number two caught most observers by surprise. He was widely rumored to be under consideration for the post of President of the National Assembly, roughly equivalent to the U.S.&rsquo;s Speaker of the House, and few had imagined him in the Biden role. (The presidency of the National Assembly went to Esteban Lazo, a longtime loyalist, the first Afro-Cuban to reach such a high post, and the assembly&rsquo;s first new president in 20 years.)<br /><br />If Díaz Canel actually makes it to the presidency, he&rsquo;ll be the first non-Castro in the top post in Cuba since, technically, 1976, when Osvaldo Dorticós was pushed out of the presidency -- a post that been mostly ceremonial until that point. Fidel Castro, then the prime minister and the real head of government, assumed the presidency and imbued it with its current significance.<br /><br />If there appears to be muted enthusiasm for Diaz Canel, even in Cuba -- you&rsquo;ll notice that there have been no open, public events with Díaz Canel -- it&rsquo;s that there have been Castro dauphins before (Carlos Lage, Felipe Pérez Roque, Roberto Robaina and Carlos Aldana, to name a few) who stumbled and fell on the way up. They&rsquo;re all still in Cuba, relegated to a kind of internal exile where they&rsquo;re left alone but have no say about anything and are completely unavailable to the people and the media.<br /><br />Díaz Canel, who at 52 signals a generational transition, isn&rsquo;t as flashy as any of these other guys: he hasn&rsquo;t been central to policy the way Lage was, or had a particular mentoring relationship with Fidel like Pérez Roque, or has had the kind of international assignments that Robaina was trusted with, or given the kind of internal profile that Aldana was allowed.<br /><br />He is an up by the bootstraps guy who performed well enough in a series of provincial assignments and has been slowly, like molasses, moving up the ranks. As a friend of mine in Cuba said, he&rsquo;s either brilliant or a complete mediocrity. For more on Díaz Canel and his rise, there&rsquo;s a pretty decent piece in the <em><a href="http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-cuba-diaz-canel-20130227,0,5971888.story">Los Angeles Times</a></em>.<br /><br />Díaz Canel does, however, have an ace: a longstanding relationship with Ramiro Váldes, the third Comandante de la Revolución after the Castro brothers, and Cuba&rsquo;s former longtime security chief and all-around Darth Vader. How close they might be is a mystery, but Díaz Canel -- who is rumored to have tensions with the outgoing VP Machado Ventura, one of Raúl&rsquo;s closest personal friends -- would not have been made heir without Váldes&rsquo; approval. How far back they go is unknown, but in 1997, when Che Guevara&rsquo;s remains were returned to Cuba, Váldes and Díaz Canel stood guard together -- a pairing over which Váldes would have had complete say.</p><p>In other words, there may be a generational change coming, but with Váldes hovering, there may not be much of a power shift at all.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ramiro%2Bmiguel.jpg" title="Ramiro Valdes and Miguel Diaz Canel stand guard over Che Guevara's remains in 1997 (Photo from http://josma.blogia.com/2007/100201-regreso-de-un-gigante-moral.php)" /></div><p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 27 Feb 2013 13:53:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2013-02/change-top-cuba-though-old-guys-linger-105789 Raul Castro teases with retirement while lining up successor http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2013-02/raul-castro-teases-retirement-while-lining-successor-105713 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS7050_AP071117011156-scr.jpg" title="Ramiro Valdes (L) is Raul Castro's most likely successor in Cuba (AP)" /></div><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Raúl Castro, Cuba&rsquo;s president for the last seven years (since 2006, though not officially until 2008) sent tongues a-wagging yesterday when he suggested that he&rsquo;ll address his retirement on Sunday, during the National Assembly&rsquo;s meeting, when the nation&rsquo;s president will be selected.<br /><br />&ldquo;I&rsquo;m going to retire,&rdquo; the 81 year-old Cuban president <a href="http://latinotimes.com/latinos/44471-cuba-s-raul-castro-jokingly-hints-at-possible-retirement.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&amp;utm_medium=twitter#comment-808953446">told reporters</a>, grinning.</p><p>And, of course, sparking wild speculation about what should be a pretty predictable government meeting, as nearly all the National Assembly meetings in Cuba have been since the Castros -- Raúl and Fidel before him -- came to power.<br /><br />But anyone expecting anything other than routine tomorrow is bound to be disappointed.<br /><br />Raul Castro is not going to retire on Sunday.<br /><br />He may announce that he&rsquo;ll retire after this next term, another five year stint, but that should come as no surprise. Unlike his brother Fidel, who played like power didn&rsquo;t matter but held on until the last possible second, Raúl Castro -- love him or hate him -- has been forthcoming about this from the very beginning of his ascendancy, when he said the head of government should be limited to two five-year terms.<br /><br />So, Sunday, if Castro mentions retirement in anything other than an abstract fashion, or as a tease, it&rsquo;ll be only to repeat what he&rsquo;s been saying all along.<br /><br />What will be much more interesting, especially if Castro chooses to stress his retirement, is how the Council of State -- from where Raúl&rsquo;s successor (the first non-Castro head of government in 54 years of Revolution) will be plucked -- will be lined up. And how Castro&#39;s heir is manuevered.<br /><br />Constitutionally -- if you believe the Cuban constitution -- Castro&rsquo;s official successor is Ramón Machado Ventura, the country&rsquo;s first vice president, the same position Raúl Castro held under Fidel Castro. Machado Ventura, who is actually about a year older than Raúl, is an old school hardliner whose friendship with Raúl goes back to 1958.<br /><br />But whether it&rsquo;s Machado Ventura or anyone else officially at the helm, real power in Cuba will most likely pass from the Castros to Ramiro Valdés, the <em>eminence gris</em> of the Revolution -- the only man twice deposed from power and twice returned meaner and stronger.<br /><br />Technically, Valdes is number two to Machado Ventura but he&rsquo;s number one in the Scariest Guy in Cuba category.<br /><br />Valdés, 82, was an early supporter of the Revoluton -- and the only one besides Raúl and Fidel still alive with the title Comandante de la Revolución -- but by 1969, when he was serving as Minister of the Interior -- the internal security apparatus -- he was kicked to the curb at the Soviet&rsquo;s request. Fidel brought him back in 1978 but he was fired again in 1986.<br /><br />But what a very lucky bastard he turned out to be: he ended up as the chief of Copextel, the national electronics firm, just as computer technology was changing the world. In this new position, Valdés wisely made himself indispensable (by learning the new technology and by<em> withholding</em> knowledge of the new technology) and eventually Copextel became a kind of mini-ministry within the Ministryof Information Technology and Communications. By 1996, Valdés had taken over the ministry -- and turned it into a security behemoth. Raúl made him a VP in 2008.<br /><br />How important has Valdés become since then? Well, while Venezuelan President Hugo Chavéz recovered from myriad surgeries in Havana,&nbsp; Venezuelan officials met exclusively with Raúl Castro and Valdés (Machado Ventura was nowhere to be seen). And this made perfect sense: For the last few years, Valdés has been advising Venezuela -- Cuba&rsquo;s economic lifeline -- on behalf of the Cuban government on energy and security. He supervises the more than 40,000 Cubans sent to Venezuela as doctors, sports instructors, planners, military advisers and intelligence agents (many embedded in Venezuela&rsquo;s armed forces, foreign and finance ministries, ports, electricity grid, central bank and intelligence agency).<br /><br />Make no mistake: The next guy to control Cuba is the guy who keeps Venezuelan oil coming. There&rsquo;s only one of those, and it doesn&rsquo;t hurt that he&rsquo;s ruthless.<br /><br />But Raúl isn&rsquo;t ready to hand the reins over just yet.<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />&nbsp;</p></p> Sat, 23 Feb 2013 05:23:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2013-02/raul-castro-teases-retirement-while-lining-successor-105713 My 50th anniversary of arriving in the U.S. http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2013-02/my-50th-anniversary-arriving-us-105483 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/familia.png" style="height: 394px; width: 620px;" title="My family, not long after arriving here from Cuba." /></div><p>Fifty years ago today, my family and I arrived in the U.S.<br /><br />The night before, we&rsquo;d gathered just outside of Havana, my parents, my brother and I, joined by 40 other people to board a 28 foot boat to escape from Cuba.<br /><br />For my parents, it was goodbye forever to the life they&#39;d known. For my brother and me, a transformation of the promise of whatever life we&#39;d had, or could have had, under any circumstances, in Cuba.<br /><br />For this queer girl (in every sense), that&#39;s been a gift.<br /><br />Over the years, I&rsquo;ve heard often enough about my parents&rsquo; courage in embarking on this journey. Those were and remain a treacherous 90 miles that now, so many years later -- and regardless of whatever politics we espouse -- are a grave of bones, the last refuge of all the people who didn&rsquo;t make it.<br /><br />But as an adult, I&rsquo;ve also heard some less charitable takes on my parents&rsquo; decision. They were reckless, I&rsquo;ve been told, to risk our lives like that.<br /><br />The truth is that, as a parent myself now, I can&rsquo;t imagine bundling my son and taking him on such an excursion.<br /><br />But as a parent now, I&rsquo;m also much more relieved to be here and not there. Not for the material things but for the less tangible ones: my son is growing up surrounded by a community of diverse backgrounds (Cuban and every kind of Latin American, Eastern European and Vietnamese, Irish and African and African-American, Middle Eastern, Muslim and Buddhist and pagan, Hindu and every imaginable kind of Christian and Jew, and every color under the sun, and with every family structure imaginable), diverse experience (artists and writers and political operatives, teachers and doctors and nurses and computer geeks, bankers and drug counselors and construction workers, teachers and real estate agents and PhDs and high school drop outs, bakers and stay at home moms and dads, mechanics and lawyers and journalists), diverse political affiliations (a Tea Party great-uncle, a communist -- not just a lefty, a communist -- cousin, a slew of Republicans of different stripes, Democrats of all sorts, anarchists on the left and right).<br /><br />All of these people come and sit at our table, tell their stories, argue their ideas, and talk about their successes and their failures, their happiness and their pain.<br /><br />It&rsquo;s not that this couldn&rsquo;t happen in Cuba. But it would be less likely. There&rsquo;s simply less diversity by race and class, and while there&rsquo;s much more racial miscegenation, there&rsquo;s -- ironically -- much less social mobility. And more importantly, while conversation is certainly smart and provocative, it lacks the kind of difference, and tolerance of difference, that I experience here. And, as trite as it sounds, it lacks the freedom we have here.<br /><br />I have a dear friend back in Cuba, a brother almost, who&rsquo;s got a well-earned reputation as a conversationalist and host. He&rsquo;s not quite part of the nomenclature, but he&rsquo;s well-protected, comfortable, a man of certain privilege. And I so enjoy his company when I visit. But there comes an inevitable juncture in every visit when the conversation goes astray and he suggests we finish it out on the terrace, where there&rsquo;s fresh air and the sounds of the city -- wind and noise to cover our voices in case we&rsquo;re being listened to in his living room.<br /><br />I used to be amused by this, to joke about it. And now I just find it sad.<br /><br />My parents would say -- certainly my father would insist -- that this was the whole point of coming here. That the freedom I experience in my home, at my table, is precisely what they were offering to us by coming over, by risking our lives.<br /><br />But, honestly, sometimes it just sounds so hokey, especially from my parents, who weren&rsquo;t always so tolerant (and also were sometimes shockingly tolerant).<br /><br />Then I look at my own son. And when I doubt my own courage, I just say thank you, from the bottom of my heart, to Pepe and Alicia, who came over on that boat and brought me, sparing me the agony of having to make such a decision myself.</p></p> Tue, 12 Feb 2013 12:31:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2013-02/my-50th-anniversary-arriving-us-105483 Updates: Cuban dissident released, Payá accident verdict, Rivera loses http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2012-11/updates-cuban-dissident-released-pay%C3%A1-accident-verdict-rivera-loses-104098 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/antoniorodiles.jpg" style="height: 300px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="Antonio Rodiles, founder of Cuba's Estado de SATS" /></div><p><strong>Rodiles released&nbsp;</strong></p><p>Antonio Rodiles is an <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antonio_Rodilesis">odd bird</a>. He&rsquo;s mild-mannered, soft-spoken and nerdy. He wears little John Lennon glasses and looks pained when he speaks. Recently released after 19 days in Cuban detention for &ldquo;resisting arrest,&rdquo; Rodiles said he doesn&rsquo;t know what he was arrested for when he resisted &mdash; because he hasn&rsquo;t bothered <a href="http://babalublog.com/2012/11/cuba-antonio-rodiles-released-by-castro-regime/">to read the complaint</a>.</p><p>So what <em>was</em> Rodiles actually doing when he was arested? He and a few others had gone to Section 21, headquarters for Cuba&rsquo;s fearsome state security, to protest the arrest of a human rights lawyer.</p><p>Like many Cubans, Rodiles once emigrated to the U.S. He studied for a master&rsquo;s degree in mathematics to go with his doctorate in physics, and even taught for a bit at Florida State University.<br /><br />But a few years later, Rodiles did what&rsquo;s rarely done. He went back to Cuba, with a purpose:&nbsp;to promote democratic change. These days, Rodiles is the founder and director of <a href="http://www.estadodesats.com/">Estado de SATS</a>, a group that presents&nbsp;public conversations on a variety of topics affecting civic society. The talks are as public as they can be in Cuba given they lack government affiliation or approval. They&rsquo;re videotaped and passed around hand to hand on memory sticks.&nbsp;<br /><br />For this, Rodiles and his supporters get harassed to no end, and they&rsquo;re not the only ones. According to the Cuban Commission for <a href="http://babalublog.com/2012/11/political-arrests-in-cuba-surpass-5000/">Human Rights and National Reconciliation</a>, a dissident group on the island, there have been more than 5,600 arrests so far this year, 520 in October alone.&nbsp;Most of the detentions are short-term, violent and public;&nbsp;many are <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2012-07/what-happened-cubas-oswaldo-pay%C3%A1-101228">caught on video</a>, as I&rsquo;ve detailed before.</p><p><strong>Verdict deliverd in&nbsp;Payá crash&nbsp;</strong><br /><br />Last July, I wrote about <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2012-07/what-happened-cubas-oswaldo-pay%C3%A1-101228">the death of Oswaldo Payá</a>, one of Cuba&rsquo;s most important dissidents, in what appeared to be a suspicious car crash.<br /><br />Payá&rsquo;s wife, Ofelia Acevedo, maintains that the state is responsible for his death. Meanwhile, the Cuban legal system has <a href="http://www.europapress.es/nacional/noticia-av-cuba-condena-cuatro-anos-prision-angel-carromero-20121015170436.html">condemned Ángel Carromero</a>, a Spanish native, for manslaughter. Carromero, a youth leader for Spain&rsquo;s conservative Popular Party, was at the wheel when the accident occurred. Though Acevedo said she knows of texts sent by Carromero and a second foreigner in the car alleging that they were being bumped by another vehicle just before the crash, Carromero &mdash; whose Spanish driving record was atrocious &mdash; has insisted in all his media appearances that there was no second car and that he sent no such texts.<br /><br />We&rsquo;ll check back when he gets released, which could be well short of four years, and see if the story changes.<br /><br /><strong>Rivera loses Florida seat&nbsp;</strong><br /><br />God knows there was probably <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2012-11/latest-senate-races-romneys-jeep-ad-and-crazy-david-rivera-103613">no crazier congressional race </a>in the whole country this month than in South Florida, where Democrat Joe Garcia took on Republican incumbent David Rivera, Sen. Marco Rubio&rsquo;s best friend. (I&rsquo;m not being hyperbolic &mdash; they&rsquo;re close enough to co-own property.)<br /><br />Garcia finally won, beating Rivera by a comfortable ten-point margin. By the time voters had their say, Rivera was under two different federal investigations and had been slapped for 11 ethics violations during his time in the Florida state legislature. Rivera lost party support and barely had enough cash to finish out the race.<br /><br />But to hear Rivera tell it, none of that mattered. The problem was mostly demographics and a strong showing by the president.</p><p>&quot;I think an analysis of the results demonstrates that the presidential election had a significant impact on several congressional races, including my own,&rdquo; Rivera told the <em>Miami Herald</em>. &ldquo;It makes it <a href="http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/11/07/3086820/changes-in-district-helped-lead.html#storylink=cpy#storylink=cpy">tough for Republicans</a> down ballot to be successful.&rdquo;<br /><br />Though there&rsquo;s already talk of Jeb Bush Jr. running against Garcia in 2014, Rivera isn&rsquo;t going away. There are still those two investigations to be concluded. Ana Alliegro, his campaign manager and cash courier, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2012-09/witness-missing-case-rubios-pal-rivera-102600">is still missing</a>.</p></p> Thu, 29 Nov 2012 09:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2012-11/updates-cuban-dissident-released-pay%C3%A1-accident-verdict-rivera-loses-104098 Five countries that will be mentioned during tonight’s debate http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2012-10/five-countries-will-be-mentioned-during-tonight%E2%80%99s-debate-103298 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS6564_AP164381960866-scr.jpg" style="height: 362px; width: 300px; float: left; " title="President Barack Obama stretches to shakes hands with supporters after speaking about the choice facing women in the upcoming election. (AP/Carolyn Kaster)" /></div><p><strong>1. Libya</strong><br /><br />Duh. Mitt Romney&rsquo;s had two chances to go at President Barack Obama on this issue, where there&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/22/us/politics/explanation-for-benghazi-attack-under-scrutiny.html?hp">enough haze for him to make some hay</a>, but has blown both. Which means that <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2012-10/five-obama-vulnerabilities-debate-102828">if there&rsquo;s one issue</a>, one question, that the Romney debate prep team has been hammering, it&rsquo;s this one. I know everybody was blown away by Obama&rsquo;s answer last time, but he missed an opportunity to poke back at Republicans, and particularly at Romney&rsquo;s VP choice Paul Ryan, all of whom <a href="http://www.drudge.com/news/161889/gop-cut-embassy-security-funding">voted against more funding for embassy security</a>, not just in Libya, but all over the world. C&rsquo;mon.<br /><br /><strong>2. Iran</strong><br /><br />Iran suddenly says it&rsquo;s <a href="http://swampland.time.com/2012/10/22/the-real-foreign-policy-issue-war-with-iran/">willing to talk</a>, but is just waiting for the elections to know who the chat will be with. Obama says nothing&rsquo;s new on our end and, of course, we talk. Romney says Obama&rsquo;s weak, weak, weak, but can&rsquo;t seem to say what he&rsquo;d do different. If Obama doesn&rsquo;t turn this around and make it seem like Romney wants to bomb Tehran tomorrow, it&rsquo;ll be another missed opportunity -- especially to bring back <a href="http://original.antiwar.com/buchanan/2012/10/18/will-obama-paint-mitt-as-warmonger/">women voters, who are particularly anti-war</a>.<br /><br /><strong>3. Israel</strong><br /><br />The men don&rsquo;t differ much on actual Israel policy, except for the fact that Romney has pretty much said<a href="http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/world/2012/1022/1224325542216.html"> he&rsquo;ll back Israel on a unilateral strike against Iran</a> if Israel feels threatened. This one isn&rsquo;t actually a Middle East concern -- this is all about Florida, where Romney looks poised to win, <a href="http://www.politico.com/p/2012-election/polls/president">leading in most polls</a>. He&rsquo;s hoping seniors in Florida forget his Medicare policies and vote ethno-religiously.<br /><br /><strong>4. Cuba</strong><br /><br />The biggest strawman in American politics, Cuba was mentioned a handful of times at the GOP convention and will come back for two reasons: one, rumors were hot all last week that Fidel Castro was on ice and, two, <a href="http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1012/82695.html">Florida</a>. Never mind that the pendulum is swinging away from hard right politics in the Cuban-American community as those who were born and/or raised in the U.S. come of age. And never mind that the Latino group that has the power to swing the state is now the Puerto Ricans in Orange and Osceola counties. Never mind, too, that most Puerto Ricans don&rsquo;t give a twit about a Cuba and that the only real question is whether they&rsquo;re going to show up at the polls -- in Florida, Puerto Ricans have numbers, even on registration, but blow it on attendance -- but nobody can keep themselves, it seems, from playing the useless Cuba card.<br /><br /><strong>5. China</strong><br /><br />Romney will continue to <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2012/10/22/world/asia/grant-china-us-election-scapegoat/index.html">accuse the Chinese</a> of being currency manipulators (they are) but offer no plan. And Obama, with an opportunity here to make Romney squirm about the Chinese factory with virtual <a href="http://www.nationaljournal.com/2012-presidential-campaign/leaked-video-shows-romney-recalling-china-trip-20120916">slave women workers</a>&nbsp;that Bain may or may not have bought while Romney was at the helm, will probably not mention it. But he should.</p></p> Mon, 22 Oct 2012 10:43:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2012-10/five-countries-will-be-mentioned-during-tonight%E2%80%99s-debate-103298