Archive for the ‘culture’ Category


September 22, 2015


By:  Dr. Néstor García Iturbe

A CubaNews translation.
Edited by Walter Lippmann

Historical coincidences are always interesting and especially in connection with September 11 there are quite a few. 

Today, the Nobel Peace Prize Winner signed a Presidential Determination” exercising his authority to keep Cuba, until September 14, 2016, under the Trading with the Enemy Act.

In doing so, he makes a mockery of his Secretary of State, John Kerry, who recently said here in Havana that the United States and Cuba were not enemies or rivals, but neighbors. He also provided a sample of poor political acumen by signing this determination on September 11th, when he could have signed it on the10th, or the 12th, to avoid coinciding with other events which occurred on September 11th, in which the United States has been involved.

On one September 11, another US President, from the same oval office where the Nobel Peace Prize Winner works, made the Presidential Determination to launch a coup d’etat against the constitutional government of Chile. This resulted in the death of thousands of Chileans, including President Salvador Allende, and humiliation and torture suffered by thousands of others. The United States never described all those atrocities as human rights violations by the perpetrators of the coup; because, of course, it participated in their commission.

On another September 11, the events that resulted in the destruction of the World Trade Center, known as the Twin Towers, occurred.

The then-president was at that moment visiting an elementary school and when he heard the news, made the Presidential Determination to spend more time talking to the children and going over their notebooks, as if he had been prepared for what was taking place. We all know the story that has been spun around these events, including the plane which struck the Pentagon, the remains of which were never seen, and the one that was going to attack the White House which disappeared without further explanation.

Also on a September 11, in New York City, terrorists who were residents in the US shot dead the Cuban diplomat Felix Garcia. The terrorist who was accused and convicted of the crime is already free; perhaps as a result of another Presidential Determination. 

Mr. Obama, history judges men by the determinations they make at any given moment. If they act rightly and courageously, according to justice, or if they act wrongly and capriciously, as if justice and the world were meaningless to them.

In the context we are describing, it is impossible not to remember Comandante Juan Almeida Bosque, who died on a September 11 and who –in the middle of a fierce struggle against the forces of the Batista dictatorship, indeed supported by US determination uttered his famous: “Nobody here surrenders… cojones!“.

Mr. Obama, our national poet Nicolas Guillen, in one of his famous and well-known poems, repeated something very consistent with the Cuban Revolution, when he wrote that I now have what I should have always had.”

In your case, by making this Presidential Determination to keep Cuba under the Trading with the Enemy Act until September 14, 2016, you have shown that you do not have what it takes.




Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release September 11, 2015

 September 11, 2015

 Presidential Determination

No. 2015-11  




SUBJECT: Continuation of the Exercise of Certain Authorities Under the Trading With the Enemy Act

Under section 101(b) of Public Law 95-223 (91 Stat. 1625; 50 U.S.C. App. 5(b) note), and a previous determination on September 5, 2014 (79 FR 54183, September 10, 2014), the exercise of certain authorities under the Trading With the Enemy Act is scheduled to terminate on September 14, 2015.

I hereby determine that the continuation for 1 year of the exercise of those authorities with respect to Cuba is in the national interest of the United States.

Therefore, consistent with the authority vested in me by section 101(b) of Public Law 95-223, I continue for 1 year, until September 14, 2016, the exercise of those authorities with respect to Cuba, as implemented by the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, 31 C.F.R. Part 515.

The Secretary of the Treasury is authorized and directed to publish this determination in the Federal Register.  


3 Big Benefits for Americans to Ending the Cuba Embargo

March 28, 2015

Cuba has a lot more to offer the United States than just rum and cigars.

By Felicia Gustin,

This March, representatives from the United States and Cuba met in a third round of talks geared toward normalizing ties between the two long-estranged countries.

Ever since President Obama’s announcement last year that the diplomatic freeze was coming to an end, speculation has abounded on what this will mean. There’s no question that the Cuban people stand to benefit immensely from increased trade and tourism. But few seem to be talking about what the benefits might be for the people of the United States — except for access to Cuban cigars, rum, and beaches.

Yet this small, poor country has surpassed the United States in more than just nightlife and baseball. So here are three more serious ways the American people might benefit from lifting the embargo:

1 Disaster Preparedness

Cuba’s location puts it right in the path of devastating and frequent hurricanes. Yet the country’s disaster management infrastructure is considered an exemplary international model for disaster preparedness and relief by the United Nations, the International Red Cross, and Oxfam.

How is it that a country with fewer resources than the United States is better able to evacuate millions of people in the path of a hurricane and significantly reduce fatalities and property damage?

What sets Cuba apart is the level of grassroots community engagement before, during, and after a hurricane strikes. All Cuban adults take part in civilian defense training programs designed to edu­cate them on how to assist in evacuation procedures. And once a year, they participate in a hurricane drill in which these procedures are simulated and government officials are better able to identify vulner­abilities.

The level of national coordination is massive, and each of Cuba’s 14 provinces and 169 municipalities has intricate disaster plans in place. Strategic locations, such as hospitals, bakeries, food processing centers, tele­phone providers, and educational centers are pro­vided with power generators that operate independently for up to 72 hours.

In addition to preparing for natural disasters and providing immediate relief, the Cuban public health system, with its extensive network of hospitals and neighborhood clinics, has been fine-tuned to provide medical care to victims of hurricanes and other catastrophes.

There are elite medical brigades, specifically trained in the emerging field of disaster relief medicine, who have also been dispatched on numerous occasions to other countries.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the Henry Reeve Brigade — made up of over 1,500 medical doctors and named in honor of the young Brooklyn man who fought alongside Cubans in their 1868 War of Independence against Spain — was poised to offer medical assistance to victims along the U.S. Gulf Coast. But Washington rebuked the offer, citing “national security concerns.”

Now, with the normalization of relations unfolding, the U.S. people can benefit from Cuba’s experience, expertise, and infrastructure, which can help save lives in the face of not only hurricanes but earthquakes, tornados, floods, and wildfires.

2 Health Care

Cuba has one of the most advanced medical biotechnology industries in the world. With 12,000 employees, including 7,000 scientists and engineers, it enjoys hefty government investment and prolifically produces new treatments and medications.

All told, according the World Health Organization, the Cuban biotech industry holds around 1,200 international patents and markets pharmaceutical products and vaccines in more than 50 countries — but not in the United States.

Ending the embargo on these products could make life better for millions of Americans suffering from a range of diseases.

For the 26 million people in the United States who have diabetes, this has special significance. Each year, some 80,000 American diabetics suffer amputations. Cuba has developed a safe and effective medication — Heberprot P — that reduces the risk of amputation by as much as 78 percent. It’s being used successfully by tens of thousands of patients in Cuba and in over 20 countries.

There’s also great potential to open up treatments for less familiar diseases.

Dengue fever, carried by the aedes aegypti mosquito, was previously only found south of the U.S. border. Yet according to Gail Reed — founder of the group Medical Education Cooperation with Cuba — due to climate change, the mosquito has been spotted in Florida, Texas, and California. “Cuba has the most expertise in dengue of any country in the hemisphere,” she pointed out. “They know more about this killer disease than the CDC.” Cooperation on dengue prevention and treatment is going to be crucial.

Cuba is also a leader in the development of therapeutic vaccines for lung, throat, and childhood brain cancer. A number of anti-cancer drugs and vaccines are in development at the Center of Molecular Immunology in Havana. Imagine the potential when these researchers are allowed to collaborate with their colleagues in the United States.

The list goes on and on. Cuban scientists have developed an advanced drug that effectively destroys coronary clots, an innovative burn treatment, and vaccines for meningitis B and hepatitis B and C. They’ve also made advances in developing a vaccine against HIV-AIDS.

“More than 90 new products are currently being investigated in more than 60 clinical trials,” says Dr. José Luis Di Fabio, head of the WHO Country Office in Cuba. “These numbers are expected to grow.”

For Americans who can benefit from these medical advances, ending the embargo isn’t just an ideological question. It’s a matter of their health, even life or death.

3 Arts and Culture

Art and culture help bring us together in ways that politics and ideology cannot.

Cuba and the United States, joined by shared histories and separated by just 90 miles of sea, have been exchanging art and culture for centuries.

In recent years, artists from both countries have found ways to circumvent the U.S. embargo.

U.S. musicians have performed at Cuban jazz festivals, U.S. ballerinas have danced in international ballet festivals Havana, and U.S. actors and directors have flown to the island to attend film festivals. Cuban bands have performed on U.S. stages, Cuban films have made their way into a few film U.S. festivals, and Cuban painters have exhibited in U.S. galleries.

From jazz to ballet, fine arts to folklore, and cinema to architecture, U.S. and Cuban artists have collaborated despite the limitations of the embargo and travel restrictions. The potential for expanding these collaborations as relations normalize is huge.

Edmundo Pino is a musician with the internationally acclaimed Cuban band Los Van Van. “The immense popularity of Cuban art and culture in Europe and throughout the world demonstrates how much we have to offer,” he says. He pointed to Cuba’s inexhaustible pool of musicians and its world-class bands and dance companies, who fill theaters and stadiums wherever they perform.

“For the American people to be able to enjoy Cuban artistic performances,” he adds, “to experience the evolution of our music for example, would go far in building people-to-people relations. The American people should have the opportunity to experience all that Cuban art and culture have to offer.”

These are but three examples of areas where normalization can benefit the U.S. people, but there are others — in the fields of agriculture, race relations, the rights of women and children, sports, education, and environmental sustainability, to name a few.

And there’s a great lesson in the fact that a country with significantly fewer resources can make major inroads in so many arenas. It’s about values that place people before profits, where taking care of the public is not market-driven.

Unfortunately, real collaboration won’t be possible with just presidential decrees. The embargo cannot be lifted without congressional action. Given the Republican-controlled Congress’ penchant for opposing everything President Obama favors and the superfluous influence of a handful of Cuban-American hardliners, overturning the laws that uphold the embargo is going to be a slow and lengthy process.

It’s going to take pressure on Congress by those who will benefit most from normal relations — that is, the American people themselves — to bring about these changes.

Felicia Gustin is a writer who first visited Cuba in 1974. She lived in Havana for ten years, working as a journalist from 1982-92 and travels to the island regularly. She has been a blogger at War Times/Tiempos de Guerra, works at the educational organization SpeakOut, and collaborates with BASAT (Bay Area Solidarity Action Team) and SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice).

Kids Teaching Adults How To Read And Write: Three Cuban “Brigadistas”

March 24, 2015


In 1961, Fidel Castro’s new Cuban government organized a massive literacy campaign, recruiting 100,000 teenagers to move to the rural areas and teach illiterate farmers how to read and write.

Altogether, The Cuban Literacy Campaign (Campaña Nacional de Alfabetización en Cuba) recruited more than a million Cubans as teachers, school-builders, trainers of new teachers, and students. By the end of 1961, over 700,000 Cubans had learned enough to read a book and write a letter, raising the country’s official literacy rate to 96%. It stands as one of the 20th century’s most ambitious education campaigns.

Brian Kahn talks with three members of The Year of Education’s “literacy brigades:” Marietta Biosca, Pamela Rios, and Felo Rojas. Recorded in Havana.

Marietta, age 19 at the start of the campaign: “I saw the difference between the city and the country in Cuba. Something had to be done about these very poor people who had nothing to eat and nowhere to live…
We arrived at their houses at four in the afternoon and taught them till ten at night. They felt a little uncomfortable at first, like we were invading their privacy – we could see their poverty.”

Felo, age 13 in 1961: “I was very happy to go there. They were very poor farmers with very poor conditions. I was sleeping in a hammock. The house had a dirt floor, no running water – water came from a well – and the roof was made of leaves. There were no schools in that community, and just one doctor, very far away. The food was very poor but I didn’t care. I lived there about eight months, very happy to teach reading and writing.”

Pamela, age 10 during the campaign: “Some people didn’t want to be taught, because they didn’t understand that they really needed it. Some said, “I’m too old to learn to read and write.” I explained that reading would allow them to understand what was happening in the entire country, not just in their towns. And no one would be able to cheat them.”

“Before 1959 it was the countryside versus the city. The literacy campaign united the country because, for the first time, people from the city understood how hard life was for people before the revolution, that they survived on their own, and that as people they had much in common. This was very important for the new government.”
— Luisa Yara Campos, Cuban literacy museum director

By Brian Kahn, Montana Public Radio

World Bank: Cuba has the highest investment in education worldwide

March 23, 2015

JSC: Jamaicans in Solidarity with Cuba


March 14 2015

by Salim Lamrani

According to the international institution, no country, including the richest, spend such a high part of its national budget on education as Cuba. The results are outstanding.

cuban school children 3Cuba is a world leader in education, according to a World Bank classification which placed Cuba in the top position in terms of investment in education for 2009-2013.  With nearly 13% (12.9%) of GDP invested in this sector, Cuba has made social policy a development model for nations as it leads the world, including the most developed countries, in this area. [1]

Timor Leste and Denmark round the world podium, with 11.3% and 8.7% of GDP respectively, dedicated to education. By comparison, the United States spends only 5.4%, i.e. less than a half of corresponding figure for Cuba; and Canada 5.5%.

In Europe, France spends 5.9% of its national budget on education, Germany 5.1%, UK 6.2%, Italy…

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All in this together: Cuba’s Participatory Democracy.

March 18, 2015

Expo : 15 watercolors of Antonio Guerrero

November 15, 2014


For the first time in Belgium . Expo : 15 watercolors of Antonio Guerrero . ” I will die the way I’ve lived “
From nov 14 till dec 11…


Outline of my artistic development
Nov. 15, 2007
At the beginning of 2003, when I had just completed my first year of imprisonment in
this penitentiary in Florence, Colorado, I searched, anxiously, for something that would
occupy my time, far from the tense and violent atmosphere that reigned in this prison.
Poetry had been an effective weapon to overcome the long periods of unjust punishment
in the cells of the so-called “hole,” as well as the prolonged “lockdowns,” which the
whole prison population here was subjected to after any violent incident. But with the
constant commotion during the “normal” routine of the prison, my muse, sometimes
startled, would fade away and fail to inspire me.
So, one fine day, I went to the so-called “Hobby Craft,” (Department of Recreation) and
I found a prisoner giving pencil drawing classes; basically everyone was making a
portrait. I was impressed above all by the work of the instructor and I asked him how I
could participate in his class. It turned out this person was very enthusiastic about
teaching what he knew, and even more fortunate, he was in my dorm unit.
He gave me some materials and by the following day I had decided on my first project:
a portrait of my beloved mother.
Before I even finished this first work, that sudden and vile punishment came in which
we were isolated in cells in the “hole,” the five of us in our five prisons. It was the result
of the application of the Special Administrative Measures (SAM), ordered by the U.S.
Attorney General. International solidarity and the energetic demands of our attorneys
made it possible for that unjust punishment to be lifted in one month.
It so happened that upon returning to my dormitory unit I had “lost” my placement and
they had no cell in which to put me. I noticed that the inmate who gave the drawing
classes was alone in his cell, and I told the guard: Put me with him. He was surprised
because that prisoner was Black, what they call here Afro-American, and here it is
rarely seen (nor is it accepted by the prisoners) that prisoners of different races or
groups (or gangs) live together.
As I hoped, Andre accepted me into his cell. Living together my interest in drawing
grew and we formed a good friendship.
Every day I dedicated several hours to drawing. My first five works required the help of
the instructor. But I remember we were locked down for almost a month, and Andre
told me, “Now you are going to do portraits on your own.” And it was during that
lockdown that I made the portraits of José Martí and Cintio Vitier on my own. When I
finished I realized that I could now continue my independent course, and it was the right
moment because Andre was transferred to another penitentiary in California as soon as
that lockdown was lifted.
A Native Indian, also imprisoned in my unit, took Andre’s place as instructor. We also
became good friends. Every night we worked together on different projects. The
combination of Andre’s and the new instructor’s teachings allowed me to create my
own method of work.
On some occasions I was able to finish a painting in one day. Up to now I have created
more than 100 works with pencil.
In 2005 I met a prisoner who offered to teach me calligraphy. I was interested in making
a clean copy of all the poems I had written in these years of imprisonment. I acquired
some essential materials, but I realized that the watercolors that I used as ink were not
good, nor was there enough. Looking for something that could take the place of the ink
(which they don’t authorize for purchase) a bunch of watercolor paint tubes fell into my
hands from another prisoner. But using it for the calligraphy proved to be another
disaster and I asked myself, “What do I do with all this?” I decided to try them out with
small paintings. Nobody here painted with that technique, so I could only count on the
help of some books I had bought with the paintings. Little by little I was gaining
confidence in my strokes with the handful of brushes that I had and I started setting
bigger goals.
Color gave another life to my creations. Painting made me happy. In one or two days
now I finished each work.
With the help of a great friend of Cuba and the Five, Cindy O’Hara, who sent me books
and photos, I was able to finish two interesting projects in watercolor: the birds that are
endemic to Cuba and the species of Guacamayos. Other caring friends in the United
States, like the tireless Priscilla Felia, have sent me books that have been very useful for
my self-taught progress in these and other techniques.
At the end of 2005 a prisoner arrived from Marion in Illinois, who began to show
impressive pastel photo works. They placed him in my dormitory unit and right away I
became interested in this new technique. I acquired some materials, following his
instructions. He had a great will to teach, but soon he had problems and was taken to the
“hole.” He never returned to the general population.
Once again I found myself wondering what to do with the painting materials I had
acquired and once more I returned to the books to immerse myself in an unfamiliar
technique. I decided a portrait of Che would be my first work in pastel and after that I
undertook a project of 14 portraits of the most relevant figures of our history. I have
continued using pastels without interruption in my artwork. The most recent with this
technique are a group of nudes which I have used to study the human figure and the
different skin tones under the effect of lights and shadows.
Just two months ago, also being self-taught, I broached painting in acrylics, using an air
gun (in English this technique is known as “airbrushing”).
And oil painting didn’t escape my interest either. Here they only authorize a type of oil
paint that is soluble in water and although it is not the traditional paint it is similar
enough in its use and results. Up to now I have completed five works with this
Without a specific plan or guide, I believe that it was the right path to first do pencil
portraits, and then to take on watercolor, pastels, and finally, oils. Of course, all of these
works have been without benefit of the professional instruction that an art school would
give, or the guide of an instructor with real knowledge of plastic arts.
What is most important, I think, is that I have overcome imprisonment with a healthy
and useful activity like plastic arts. Each work expresses not only my human essence
but that of the Five, united by unbreakable principles.
The little I have learned I share unselfishly with other prisoners, and, at times, with
great patience. “Truth desires art” as José Martí said, and truth reigns in our hearts,
forged with love and commitment to the just cause of our heroic people: That is my
motivation for each work of art!




Time for a Little Anarchy in America? Imagine: Cuba

August 30, 2014



Imagine living in the world’s most literate nation—a nation where health care is free and universal, and of the highest quality by world standards.

Imagine that, in this nation, education (also free and universal) is not only considered a human right, but it is also higher in quality than that of the wealthiest, most super industrialized country the world has ever known.

Imagine that this nation actively seeks—from social to governmental dimensions—to correct and eradicate racism, and racist proclivities, so as to ensure a truer, more democratic inclusion for all.

Imagine its dedication to gender equality and women’s rights: more than forty percent of its parliament is female; more than sixty percent of its university positions are occupied by women; and all its women receive maternity leave for eighteen weeks with full pay.

Imagine that this nation prizes unity and community so greatly that many desire to participate in local government because they genuinely want to ensure social solidity and welfare, and because they want to keep unemployment low.

Imagine a million people celebrating International Workers’ Day (May 1st) every year in honor of the working class’ coordination of political power.

Imagine living in a radical democracy where virtually everyone votes in political elections that require neither party allegiance nor money in order for candidates to be elected to publically serve.

Imagine living in the only country to achieve sustainable development. What about homelessness and poverty? This nation is singular in its dedication to keeping homelessness nonexistent and to also ending poverty however it can. This nation also trains tens of thousands of medical doctors (and medical personnel) from all over the world, providing them with schooling that is accredited by the most rigorous medical board from the world’s most developed country. In fact, just imagine that doctors are this nation’s major export. Then, imagine a rich sports culture where not money governs sports but the love of the game. Imagine living in a nation whose poets and musicians enchant and lull the world.

Can you imagine it? Admittedly, is difficult to do so. Such a country seems farfetched at best. Yet, this is no make-believe utopia. This is Cuba.

One of the most disgusting habits of today’s imperium is that it continues to wave its rotten carrot in front of the faces of more than three hundred million Americans, swearing all the while that no alternative system to its own even warrants fathoming. Imagine that! America is the wealthiest nation on earth, and Cuba, one of the poorest, is even hard to conceive of despite the fact that it is real! Yet, maintaining domestic control of several hundred million Americans might prove very hard to do without unapologetically inveigling the public every single day on any number of issues. Think about how long this travesty that revolves around international and economic insecurity has kept power inside in its white house, guarded by its black gates. Then again, think about what might happen if too many people—too many Americans—really began participating democratically. If this seems scary to imagine, this alternate, democratic reality, then just imagine how badly it must scare the powers that be. It must scare them shit-less.

Of course, to compare the United States of America to Cuba is to compare apples and oranges. Nevertheless, the US appears fairly dull when one weighs the dissimilarities extant between it and its nearby Caribbean neighbor. While Cuba busies itself spreading literacy to some of the most remote and poorest countries in the world, Americans themselves are not yet as literate as Cubans. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) ranked Cuba sixteenth in its Education for All Development Index—the highest in Latin America; the US ranked twenty-fifth. Even Cuba’s goodwill embarrasses the US: Cuba mobilized 1,500 medical workers to aid Haiti after its 2010 earthquake catastrophe. The Cubans had reportedly vaccinated 400,000 people, treating more than 225,000 people. The US reportedly treated little more than eight hundred. Speaking of healthcare and treatment, the lowest HIV prevalence rates in the Americas are found in Cuba—not America. Another medical statistic shows that Cuba also has a lower infant mortality rate than the US does. The list, sadly, goes on.

For blue- and red-blooded Americans who might yet claim to love their democracy and freedom, it is a good idea to consider whether or not they truly live in the democracy to which they allude when proselytizing about their little “city on a hill” to future generations. Not only can one imagine the many unprecedented political strides that Cuba has nurtured with its progressive socialism (under an aggressive, US-sponsored embargo), but one can also empirically evince it. Moreover, it leaves the American system looking rather suspect.

Yet, the story need not end with facts and statistics stagnating the way they are—or worse. Long, long ago, Jean-Jacques Rousseau presented the political philosophy that a people, ruling through their collective will, constituted the autonomous sovereign within the state. Even in a constitutional government such as the US has, the people are the sovereign which rules through a corpus of law. Not only sovereignty, but also the consequences of anarchy—it must not be forgotten—are socially generated within a state. So, America has laws and people, but perhaps not the kinds of democratic freedoms that disturb their overseers with night terrors. But, for the thinking American, working toward the kind of democracy that Cuba has must outweigh the consequences that come with making it a reality. Perhaps all the American sovereign needs to do is accept that it is time for a little anarchy. Not to worry; the sovereign will define the consequences of it. Then, America need not contend with Cuba for rankings, but it can work alongside it to foment democracy around the world in a way that arouses not terrorism, but inclusion and freedom.

Mateo Pimentel lives on the Mexican-US border.,

Education in Cuba: A reform on the way?

July 25, 2014


By José Jasán Nieves y Alejandro Ulloa •

The recent changes announced by the Ministry of Education (MINED) for the school year 2014-2015 describe another shift in a system that, since the early 2000s, has been correcting its course in the search of a more effective model of teaching.

Although classes in Cuba begin punctually each September and the state guarantees all students a desk, basic school supplies, uniforms and teachers, free of charge, education in Cuba has suffered the effects of the crisis and, apparently, some incorrect decisions that ended up accumulating problems outside the classroom.

Since the 1990s, pendulous movements have characterized the adjustments to the educational system, at both its elementary and secondary levels, amid a social crisis that has affected the entire country.

From the specialization of teachers in specific subjects, the system turned to the so-called General-Integral Teacher, accompanied by video teaching in the classroom. The technique caused massive boredom and waste of school time.

Then the system swung back to specialization by areas of knowledge or subjects, but this time without solving the numerical shortage of teachers and their lack of training.

More than 7,000 new teachers will enter the classrooms next September, although it is not clear whether they will fill all the vacant positions. As to their quality, there is no doubt that lack of experience will be a weighty factor in their selection.

They are young graduates from pedagogical schools that were recently reestablished. Rolando Forneiro Rodríguez, deputy minister of Education, said that these graduates received “a broad program of study with theoretical-practical contents that included teaching classes with the aid of tutors.”

Now, according to the authorities, a great many of the transformations that will be introduced at the various levels of learning have been agreed upon by the parents and teachers.

According to Education Minister Ena Elsa Velázquez, they are part of “scientific studies to create the theoretical and methodological basis of improvement in the Cuban pedagogical system” that should be completed by the school year 2019-2020 with the implementation of new plans of study and bibliography throughout the educational system.

Despite that, the promises haven’t allayed the skepticism and dissatisfaction of some Cubans who voice concern over the effects that a five-year delay in the reforms on an already reformed system might have on the lives of the students and society at large.

Some changes

The measures adopted this time restate the methods of evaluation and give more flexibility to the classroom schedules. They also relieve the teachers from some of the excessive weight they were carrying ever since the changes implemented through the so-called “Battle of Ideas.”

For example, in elementary schools, examination sessions will be extended to 4 hours. The basic subjects will be concentrated in either the morning or afternoon classes, alternating with the specialized courses — art, physical education, English, computer skills. This new order will allow the teachers to increase (from 2 to 8 hours a week) their pedagogical improvement studies.

At the Junior High School level, it will not be necessary for students to remain in school from 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., because the “school snack” (a cold-cut or cheese sandwich or a hamburger, and a glass of soy yogurt, at room temperature or hot) will no longer be obligatory.

In the new school year, only those students who request it will receive the free meal, whose quality does not satisfy most of the consumers. Those students who do not desire it will be given time off to go home for lunch or stay in school and eat a meal they have brought in from home.

This way, too, the state budget for school meals will decrease. In the small province of Cienfuegos, school lunches cost about 29,000 pesos per day, about 1,450 U.S. dollars, at the current rate of exchange.

For university-bound students — and after the recent news of massive fraud during the tests for admittance to Senior High School — the authorities have announced a novel and controversial change in procedure for those tests. There will be no secret questionnaires. Instead, the students must know the answers to 100 questions about three subjects — math, Spanish and history — but the five topics of each exam will be selected at random.

The bell and the cat

The decision to impart general education free of charge as a guarantee of the Cuban social system is a key issue for any change or analysis that is made. For decades, the continuing deficit of teachers, the low wages and the difficult working and studying conditions have kept the system in a constant state of contingency.

“Mass education has to somehow generate mechanisms to guarantee quality, even though mass and quality appear to be incompatible,” says teacher Miriam García, who has more than 40 years’ experience in junior and high school education.

García believes that the opportunities for training and improvement that the MINED has provided are “enormous,” but that the teaching staff has lacked vocation and rigor.

“The teaching burden has had an effect, too,” she says. So have the insufficient wages, made worse (for teachers and all others) by the contradictions of currency duality and the sustained devaluation of the national peso over a period of decades.

“Emerging” teachers, teachers who are not sufficiently qualified, and a shortage of teachers weakened education in many aspects, especially at the elementary and high-school levels.

“As long as families like mine need to turn to paid tutors to give specific tests to our children or support their daily school work, something’s wrong,” says Yusmila Padrón, a mother in Cienfuegos.

“Fraud occurs first because of a breakdown in values, but also because of a breakdown in the teaching, which doesn’t justify [fraud] but provokes it, since a deficient education makes students feel insecure,” Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, Cuba’s first Vice President, told the Cuban parliament this month.

“Education is not just the acquisition of knowledge but also an integral formation,” says teacher García, who appreciates that the cultural changes generated by a deficient education represent a danger for the Cuban social project.

The educational process will see a new stage of modifications next September. Some see it only as Band-Aids required by circumstances, but the authorities insist that they add up to a thorough reform that — like reforms in other sectors of society — must not be hastened. We need to believe and see.

To Nadine Gordimer

July 17, 2014

Nadine Gordimer

Homage from the Five to South Africa’s Nobel Prize Laureate

She fought against the hateful South African Apartheid together with Cubans, siding with the victims when the complicity of the powerful nations of the time favored their assailants. She supported Cuba when the forecasters bet on our defeat and favored the victory of infamy. She joined the line of good people when a sense of shame brought them to fight for the freedom of the Five. She challenged the cruelty of the empire in times of elated revenge. She accompanied us and was always ready to add her name to the increasing list of those who call to end the torment imposed on us and our families by a corrupt legal system.

She was fair. She was humane. She was great. That is why she has the respect and admiration of the Five, our loved ones and the entire Cuban people.

Nadine Gordimer has passed away. She shall live forever with the peace of these who are just. Immortal and tireless.

Gerardo Hernández Nordelo
Ramón Labañino Salazar
Antonio Guerrero Rodríguez
Fernando González llort
René González Sehwerert

July 15th, 2014.

Cuba before the demographic challenge

June 10, 2014


By Lisandra Fariñas Acosta

Cuba is one of the most aged Nations of Latin America and the Caribbean, and the predictions say that by 2050 it will be one of the most aged of the world. Success or problem? Both, without losing sight that high rates of human development in the field of health, for example, mean that we showcase today a 18.3% of the population above age 60, according to statistics from the last census of population and housing (2012).

It is a phenomenon that at present constitutes the major of the socioeconomic and demographic challenges of the country. It is not news the current and future scenario facing Cuba’s demographic almost zero growth, with rates of fertility below replacement level for more than 30 years, high life expectancy and a negative balance of external migration. Precisely, the combination of these factors has affected not only the size and the pace of the growth of the population, but also its structure by age, giving rise to a real process of aging.

Official health statistics put the average life expectancy at 78, 97 years, 76 for men and 80 for women. Also the life expectancy of people who reach the age of 60 is 22 years, and for those arriving in the eight decades, about 8.8 years more.

The national survey of population aging (ENEP-2010) warns that “a population without replacement is aged and then decreases, so that Cuba has begun to decrease in absolute terms. In this way, the decrease in a population intensifies their aging process”.

The panorama complicates if we bear in mind that, according to the mentioned research, has been considered the importance of defining the aging not only in relation to the increase in the proportion of elderly people compared to the rest of the population, but also as the inversion of the pyramid of ages, since the phenomenon is not only an increase in the proportion of elderly, but also a decrease in the proportion of children and young people aged 0-14 years (17.2% of the population, according to the results of the last census). In other words, the country does not have replacement of the productive forces either.

The challenges are already felt. The projections of the Cuban population dynamics demonstrate that it will increase the demand for geriatric services, gerontology, of safety and social assistance together with the picture of current health, where the cancer is, like hypertension, diabetes and diseases non-communicable chronic diseases cardiovascular brain, among the leading causes of morbidity and mortality.

Own national survey of aging shows that more than 80% of older adults suffer from chronic illness. This ratio, as you might expect, is increased for the Group of 75 years and more, from 60 to 74.

According to the study, women show disadvantage compared with men, regardless of age, which can be attributed to one better declaration of first or to their greater propensity attending the doctor. Most frequent chronic diseases among the elderly Cuban are blood hypertension, present in more than 55% of the total of this age group, and which reaches 63% of women. In addition, more than one-third suffers from arthritis, rheumatism or arthritis, also most frequent disease among women and adults aged 75 years and over. Diabetes, heart disease and nervous problems are the relatively common ailments among these people, even if they belong to the female sex.

The study presents results in terms of the type of daily diet and their frequency in older adults, which determines the nutritional risk which could be exposed. In this sense, evidence that food consumption survey almost generalized by older adults are eggs and grains or legumes, as it least opts for dairy products and fruit and vegetables. Not seen differences by sex or age in these findings, except for dairy products, which are part of a higher percentage of adults 75 and more, compared to the younger group. It was checked with the data of the survey that 93% of older adults consume at least two of these foods with the appropriate frequency, no differences between women and men.
Who cares who?

One of the biggest challenges faced by the society to the accelerated aging of the population is that of care, and a great responsibility falls on medical services. Historically, health systems are designed to meet children’s maternal problems or diseases of short duration, which caused not disability. With aging, the scenario changed and it complicates, which develop and transform the welfare services and to confront this phenomenon is urgent task. In Cuba, although it boasts a network of grandparent’s houses and nursing homes, the demand still exceeds capacities.

The Census of population and housing of the 2012 reflects that around 13% of homes have one single senior, which opens a challenge to security and welfare systems.


According to the national survey of aging, in relation to the marital status, the highest proportion of older adults are married or attached (45.6%), followed by widows, representing 30.2% of the population in the study. It was found that this proportion of widowers, joined the separated or divorced (17.5%) and unmarried (6.7%), 54.4 percent; that is, a considerable proportion of older adults that being without a partner may lack this important affective link in old age. These proportions are more pronounced in the Group of 75 and more.

This analysis denoted a significant difference by sex. Men who are without a partner represent 37.2%, compared with 69.7% among women, which stood at 68.2% after 74 years. This is due to the presence of a proportion considerably more women widows, primarily in the age group most advanced, in contrast with a much higher proportion of married and united men. In both cases, the explanation is given, on the one hand, by the higher male mortality, but also by more women to remain without a partner after a union, the same for widowhood than by separation or divorce.

Then emerges the dilemma of who cares who. Ensure the care of the elderly is one of the main difficulties the family is facing, resulting in the departure of the employment of persons with full working capabilities, being women the most affected, who generally assume the care of the elderly. In this way the tradition reproduces according to which they par excellence continue being the nursemaids.

The situation may be more sensitive for primary caregivers, if we take into account, in accordance with the latest research, in Cuba around 130 thousand people suffer from Alzheimer’s, number that will be increased by 2.3 times to the year 2040. It means, there will be 300,000 people with dementia, 2.7% of the Cuban population. According to updated studies, more than 50% of these people need permanent care or some of the time, that would be worthwhile to add that by each patient two family are psychologically affected and 40% of them have to stop working.

Women and old age

In Cuba, a higher proportion of women than men survive at more advanced ages – 53%-, with an index of 1 119 women for every thousand men. Therefore, it is essential to analyze subjective and construction of meanings revolving around being a woman, and live in an aged woman’s body. How experience the transition to old age Cuban women, before the so-called feminization of ageing?

Psychologist Laura Sánchez Pérez, who has researched gender identity in higher adult, concerned that it has been proven that “the paradigm of eternally young and beautiful woman is an almost unmovable content in gender identity of women, which is contradictory to the arrival of an age where the human body is visibly transformed, becoming a source of discomfort and dissatisfaction. The refusal is to live a full sexuality, thought from cultural to a young body. In addition, the contradiction between old age and wisdom and experience and fear to loneliness”.

The reality indicates that despite existing social policies seeking a gender equality, the Cuban women continue themselves perceiving overloaded in the domestic scope.

Research on population aging hardly incorporate the views of women, and about it alerts us sociologist Reina Fleitas in a recent article entitled “invisible speech of aging: the dilemma of gender”, included in the publication of the Chair of anthropology Luís Montane of the University of the Habana.

The researcher emphasizes that even though they have a longer life expectancy they also suffer a greater burden of disease that impairs their quality of life. “The female group in those ages often suffer degenerative dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and osteoporosis, and other chronic as ischemic diseases, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases,” she stressed.

In addition, Fleitas refers that “despite the notable progress that equal opportunities between men and women in education, health and employment since the second half of the century to the present, still inequalities in employment and wages are important”. In that sense, it emerges to researcher the care dilemma, since above inequities “are reflected in wage differences, as a result of a greater number of absences to work, determined by their role of caregivers in the family, or their important presence in occupations of lower grades which have a lower remuneration”.

At the end of life, indicates the researcher, they are those that tend to have an economic situation more difficult for these reasons, that many have no income because they never worked outside their homes. According to the census, the Cuban are 10% of the population occupationally employed in the ages 60 and older, while men constitute 27.3%.

There are many specialists, including Fleitas, who share the view that aging is “a matter of women” if you consider that about them lies with the heaviest burden of care for the elderly, both in public institutions and in the homes. In this sense, says the researcher, “numerous research on family shows that Cuban women remains the center of the family”, and those with public commitments live the conflict of trying to reconcile the demands of home and employment.

Men have a growing role in attention to family”, but still the shift shows no signs of parity,” said. “At this point we need policy monitor to assess the work of care of the elderly by a member of the family as a useful activity”, recommended the specialist, who proposes to also see the idea as a job change.”

It should not be seen retired to a person who takes in time full care of an old man by the fact that no longer work in a traditional public occupation”, she says.

“The lack of time and the overload of roles experienced by women caregivers in the ages of 50 and more, is a direct determinant of health problems that they live. These conflicts could be mitigated if you change the focus of policy towards families and women living those realities”, concludes the researcher.
Take the economy after 60

There are many seniors who continue to work after retirement age, proportion that is higher in men. The national survey of aging (2010) asked the major causes that they remained active in labor, and the majority of those surveyed responded that they felt useful and capable (70.8%). The second predominant reason was that the money was not enough (56%), and the third is that they had to help their children and others (22, 5%).

In general, the research showed as more important sources of income for women retirement or pension, the help of family resident inside or outside of the country (15 of every 100) and other sources not specified, while income of men comes mainly retirement or pension, wages and stimulus and work on their own.

In comparison with the other regions, retirement or pension and salary/incentive are sources of income of a greater percentage of older adults in Havana. Also in the capital, a higher percentage of older adults, regardless of their sex, benefit with the help of relatives residents in Cuba or outside the island. This concept also has a percentage weight relatively high in the eastern zone.

Of the total of responses on the sources of income, 9% said that did not receive income in the last month, with higher percentages for women. Concerning satisfaction with the level of revenues, the study reflected that four of every 10 older adults can live between good and a little tight with the money that they receive, as 60% done with hardships and deprivations. This may be reflecting that most of them only has income for retirement or pension. Women, according to this study, more than men tend to feel that living with hardship and shortages, probably because a higher proportion of them not perceived income and because perhaps they are in charge more of the economic aspects of the homes.

To the question of which economic resources have seniors for the future, the National Survey of Aging reflects that 75.5% mentioned the retirement or pension, in as much 13% related in addition other resources. Stresses that 15% of all older adults consider that they do not account with any economic resource for the future, a proportion that reaches 20% in the eastern region and which is emphasized much more for the female sex in the region, reaching 29%.

Also, every two elderly feels fear or uncertainty regarding their economic situation or health in the future, regardless of age. By sex, proportions not deviate much from this pattern, although the Group of 60 to 74 women tend more to express feelings of this nature than men of the same group. This seems to be in accordance with that more women than men reported not having any sustenance for the future.
…but useful

Deprive society of stereotyped visions, that almost always placed to the elderly in a position of dependence and social disadvantage that is not able to take initiative and encourage social development, is still a pending subject in Cuba.

It is about winning in gerontological culture, i.e., learning to live together in harmony and health with the elders. The patterns of today’s modern society, reflect “to be old”, comparable to racism or sexism, consider that older adults have little or nothing to bring to the social group to which they belong. Nothing further from reality. Aging is one stage of life and as such have to understand it.

The labor retirement involves a risk of alienation from society. But it should not be considered an exile’s life, but we must not lose sight that arise other problems such as loneliness due to lack of social relations and the indifference towards the opportunity to develop new interests, situations that need to be resolved through appropriate social services and family support.

This demographic growing phenomenon in the world leads us to rethink the concept of old age, and imposes on us a change in attitude that is conducive to the actual location of the elderly in their family and social environment.

We must bear in mind that in the next decade our elders will be individuals with a high technical score, with a deep capacity for analysis and response to problems; a high percentage will have a university profession and a high level of information. Not to mention that the appropriation of the socio-cultural phenomena of this population group will not be it showing the newly-completed century adults.

Change our perception of aging, create conditions conducive to arrive with expectations at this stage of our existence and banish prejudices in lathe to it is essential in the determination of that to live more years will mean, additionally, live better.

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