Sunday, August 31, 2008

Blog Review: Along the Malecón

I find nothing amusing about foreigners who regard Cuba as a menagerie, even if an "enchanting" one which "gets under your skin." Scabies also gets under your skin. That expression sometimes means no more than that — an itch that must be scratched. If it purports to be more than that, which it rarely is, then I expect some degree of empathy with the plight of the Cuban people and certainly no attempt to balance the interests of the oppressor with those of the oppressed under the guise of reportorial "objectivity" (really moral vacuity). When, instead, this supposed fondness for Cubans hides a real detachment from them as human beings, and substitutes condescension for understanding, bemusement for indignation, and the reporter's story for theirs, as if living in Cuba as a foreigner bears any relation at all to living there as a Cuban, then I consider it neither impolite nor impolitic to question the foreigner's motivations for this attachment to a country whose people he claims to like but does not respect. [See Anita Snow the Hunger Artist, or The New York Times' "Snow Job" ].

No doubt his extended residence in Cuba was the seminal event of Tracey Eaton's career and perhaps even his life. A correspondent for the Dallas Morning News whose reportage from the island was always vastly accommodating and never confrontational in the least, it was certainly not an unconquerable addiction to telling the whole truth that abruptly ended his tenure there in 2005.

In one article of his last articles in the DMN, published on February 11, 2005, Eaton affirmed among other enormities that he was "convinced that Cuba was the safest country in Latin America," though, "the government doesn't publish crime statistics." Odd, because it publishes statistics of every other kind. That's like the old syllogism that "Castro would win an election if elections were held in Cuba." That one, at least, was retired with Castro. Eaton also reported, again on his own authority, that "hate crimes are another rarity in Cuba, one of the most intermixed nations in the world." I suppose it is a coincidence that 90 percent of prisoners in Cuban jails are black though only 34% of the population is. That inverse ratio is higher than in the U.S., where prison demographics are considered prima facie evidence of racism. Nevertheless, Eaton writes that he "[didn't] see any deep racial tensions" in Cuba.

He also bought into the myth of Communist probity, crediting Castro loyalists who claim that "Cuba is free of serious government corruption" but not Forbes Magazine which calculates Castro's personal fortune at $1 billion (Raúl will outstrip him in the next survey of the World's Richest Leaders). Eaton quoted the Portuguese ambassador to the effect that "Cuban elites are refreshingly innocent." The proof: "One night," according to the ambassador, "he and two of Fidel Castro’s middle-aged sons went to the Habana Cafe nightclub to hear salsa star Issac Delgado. The doorman told them the club was full, and they turned to leave. Suddenly, someone yelled, 'Hey, it’s the Portuguese ambassador!' and the doorman immediately let them in. Incredibly, no one recognized the Castro sons. Nor did they try to use their father’s name to get a table." Comments a stupefied Eaton (who is Gracie to anybody's George): "I can’t imagine that happening anywhere else in Latin America." Well, I can't imagine it happening anywhere in the United States. But, above all, I can't imagine it happening in Communist Cuba.

That Eaton can, after more than 30 trips to the island, believe such a story confirms what a gold medal dupe he is. In fact, he just keeps stacking those medals up: "Even when police stop and search vehicles without cause, few Cubans complain," Eaton marvels. Imagine that! What a well-regulated police state (if you exclude the whiners, which Eaton is more than happy to do): "Human-rights activists occasionally report cases of police abuse, but the officers I’ve seen have been polite and professional." In fact, finally speaking from personal experience, Eaton admits that he "can’t complain. Cuban authorities have always treated me with respect." Eaton obviously confuses respect for consideration. I doubt that his hosts ever "respected" him as they did Gary Marx, the Chicago Tribune reporter who was able to see through their artifices and was eventually expelled from Cuba because of it.

Tracey Eaton left Cuba in early 2005 when the Dallas Morning News closed its Havana bureau. He was then reassigned to cover the U.S.-Mexican border, which obviously held none of the endearments of his beach house at Tarará, Cuba. He returned to the island a year later to write a series for the Houston Chronicle and is now a communications professor at Flagler (FL) College.

His new blog Along the Malecón reminds me of Phil Peter's The Cuban Triangle, only more superficial and less calculating. There can be no doubt that Eaton patterned his blog on Peter's. Like Peter's it is filled with photographs from his trips to Cuba, which lean heavily on the caricatural and try as much as possible to avoid the "local color," that is, the abject misery of the Cuban people as seen on their faces and in their squalid surroundings. "We happy people," as Bloody Mary said in South Pacific. Both Eaton and Peters represent themselves as well-wishers and even benefactors to Cubans though both advocate an Obamist rapprochement with their henchmen as their best hope for the future.

Now that Eaton no longer has direct access to Cubans on the island, he derives his information about Cuba from three of the most anti-Cuban bloggers ever to give aid and comfort to the regime (none of whom, incidentally, happens to be Cuban): Walter Lippman/leftside (Matthew Glesne); Mambo Watch (Paul Benavides), who recently reactivated his blog; and the pervasive Peters (the media's favorite "cubanologist").

If it is from Peters that he has borrowed his approach (or "spin"), it is to "Walter Lippman" (Matt Glesne) that Eaton is most indebted for the content of his blog, as he himself acknowledged. In fact, he devoted a post to CubaNews, a Yahoo! group maintained by Glesne, which he entitled "A Valuable Archive for Cuba Stories," including his own. He called Glesne "passionate about Cuba" and vouched that he knows "a heck of a lot about the island." Eaton also claims to "have appreciated Walter's comments [about his work] over the years." I wonder if he "appreciated" this comment by "Walter" from 2005: "Reporting on Cuba is about to improve significantly with the departure of Tracey Eaton of the Dallas Morning News. He is possibly the laziest and most clueless of the entire US press corps in Havana (which is considerably larger than a "handful"as claimed by the AP in this story). Tracey Eaton must be sad; he might have to go back to working for a living."

Eaton would argue that because both "Walter" and I find his reporting objectionable that it must be objective. This is the kind of cliché that one would expect of him and others who are attacked from all sides. But because the Junkers and the Communists both hated Hitler does not make him lovable or right. To be generally condemned is no more an indication of being right than to be generally applauded.

Can I say anything positive about Along the Malecón? Yes, it made me laugh at times especially when it didn't try. Eaton is not maniacal like Glesne; vindictive like Benavides; or opportunistic like Peters. He simply has no judgment, which does not prevent him from applying himself to a subject he knows nothing about. That is the essence of humor but also of tragedy. A dog lover, Eaton has a post about "Puppy Tales from Cuba" where he gives the most original reason yet for "normalizing" relations with Communist Cuba: "If the U.S. and Cuba had normal relations, I wonder how many Cuban dogs would be adopted and sent to America." In another post about "An Unprecedented Lawsuit by Martha Beatriz Roque," Eaton inveighs that "Cuba is a country of laws in many respects." He fails to comprehend, however, that laws are meaningless when the Rule of Law does not prevail. There were laws in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, too.

But his humor (if humor it be) does occasionally turn black if not outright vile. Quoting the recent WSJ article about Armando Valladares, Eaton objects to this sentence: "The Castro government has been a killing machine since it took over in 1959." He calls it "a general statement with no supporting evidence or attribution. That looks like bias to me." When reminded by Marc Másferrer in the "Comments" about the firing squads, the 13th of March tugboat and Caimar River massacres, Eaton replies: "There's a difference between a firing squad death and the death of a rafter or the death of a hospital patient. If we say Cuba is a killing machine because of deaths that occur because of Cuba's flawed society, then why not call the United States a killing machine for the tens of thousands of murders, gang killings, drug overdoses and DUI deaths that occur every year?" Really, is it necessary to say anything more? Someone who makes no distinction between accidental deaths and those which are the result of state policy, who cannot see the difference between a man killed on the Autobahn and another killed in a gas chamber, is so much beyond reality that it bears no relation to his existence.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

A Brief History of BUCL

Resurrecting the dead did not turn out too well for Dr. Frankenstein, but I fear the lesson has been lost on Henry Louis Gómez. I have already written BUCL's obituary on several occasions (see here, here, here, here and here). It seemed impossible to me that Babalú's militant arm could sustain so many successive defeats and be unchastened until I realized that success had nothing to do with its existence. BUCL (Bloggers United for Cuban Liberty) is an amateur show, literally. This and that act takes stage, bombs, but the show continues no matter how many times the gong is rung because the spectacle is, well, the spectacle.

The inaugural BUCL campaign took on the whole nation of Spain and attempted to revive the The Black Legend of odious memory. It chiefly consisted of tagging BUCL stickers on bus stops. They managed to stick one in particular within 14 blocks of the Spanish consulate in Miami, which they announced with no less fanfare than if they had defeated the Spanish at Lepanto. They also wrote (in Spanish!) a manifesto denouncing the Spaniards' explosión (they meant "explotación") of Cuba, which, if nothing else, refuted Castro's claim of 100% Cuban literacy.

Having failed to topple the Spanish government (though BUCL did take credit for Socialist setbacks in regional elections), it next launched its "Campaign for Sting's Soul." Unlike the "Campaign Against Spanish Explosion," it was conducted in English but not on that account more successful. Its goal was to turn Henry's boyhood idol Sting from a proto-communist to an anti-communist in time for a rumored free concert in Havana last year, where he hoped Sting would denounce the Castro regime. This campaign included the traditional protest in front of Versailles Restaurant and dinner afterwards. While there Henry fortuitously ran into Andy Summers, guitarist for The Police, who had come to the restaurant to eat but ended up being the highlight of the protest. Henry approached him for an autograph, engaged him in a brief tête-à-tête and flattered himself that he had made some progress with him. Certain that victory was in sight and to assure that it would be correctly attributed, Henry hired a crop plane with a BUCL streamer which circled the Miami Stadium where Sting and The Police performed. Sting didn't acknowledge the streamer. In fact, he didn't notice the plane.

It was a good long time before BUCL announced the CAMBIO Campaign , which defied expectations by being its most successful to date because it was its least embarrassing. No gimmicks, no grandstanding, no undue attention called to their own efforts or pretensions about them. Their efforts, though, were rather circumstantial. They unveiled on Babalú a painting of a clenched fist in three skin tones as the emblem of its Third Campaign. I never quite got the symbolism of that, nor why it was necessary to replace the already well-known CAMBIO bracelet. The CAMBIO Campaign never got beyond the launching stage. It was eclipsed by Henry's infatuation with the predictions of Nostradamus Dorshner.

If nothing else, the CAMBIO Campaign could have represented a graceful exit for BUCL. But no. After another long hiatus, BUCL returned with the launching this week of its Campaign to Free Gorki. This gave rise to a controvery that overshadowed the campaign itself. The BUCLers requested monies for a publicity initiative to bring the news of his arrest to a wider audience. Their first mistake was to presume that Gorki was an unknown figure outside of Cuba. He is not. The news of his arrest circled the globe without the necessity of privately-generated news releases placed on news wires for an exorbitant fee, the equivalent in journalism of vanity publishing. Their second mistake was to collect monies in Gorki's name without Gorki's authorization or that of his representatives, in effect, undercutting their efforts on his behalf at a crucial moment. There would have been no problem, I think, if the monies collected by Babalú had been donated to defray the costs of Gorki's defense, to support his infant daughter or to launch his almost completed album, "Porno Para Ricardo's" latest battle cry against the regime. But Babalú, as everybody knows, is opposed to providing any material assistance to Cubans on the island that would mitigate in any way their suffering and its ideological purity would not allow any exceptions.

When Charlie Bravo, representing the Cuban Underground, which handles "Porno Para Ricardo's" affairs in the U.S. and internationally, informed Henry that he was not authorized to collect monies using Gorki's name, Babalú, which could not deny that that such a practice is not only unethical but illegal, instead undertook a blog lynching of Charlie Bravo, once again violating its cardinal rule about not dumping on its own. Henry soon realized, however, that he had gone too far and at precisely the wrong time and deleted the censorious post and its even more offensive thread, which RCAB rescued and reproduced here. Henry then sought a truce with the Cuban Underground which was agreed to for the sake of not diverting attention from Gorki's plight with a "turf war" where neither Babalú nor BUCL had any competency.

BUCL's Fourth Campaign was mercifully interrupted by Gorki's release from prison. Now BUCL can claim another "victory" and conclude this charade once and for all. Having already predicted its demise on numerous occasions only to see it rise again with even more catastrophic results, I am sure that we have not heard the last of Babalú's militant arm.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Gorki Is Freed

Black Sheep of Exile is reporting that Gorki was fined $600 and released.

We are also delighted to be able to report that Black Sheep of Exile is again open to the public. No one has closer ties to or is better informed about "Porno Para Ricardo" than Charlie Bravo, who is like a second father to its members. Well, big brother, anyway.

The Cuban Revolution's One Undeniable Success

No, not infant mortality: Cuba's before 1959 was the 13th lowest in the world; it now ranks 34th. Nor literacy, which increased by 400% from 1900 to 1958 and only by 25% after 1959. The Cuban Revolution has had one undeniable success, however: it has suffocated the revolutionary spirit of Cuban youth. It was that spirit which made both the 1933 and 1959 revolutions possible. That spirit flourished because Cubans were free to rebel against authority: no revolution can succeed without freedom of action and the Rule of Law to abet it.

The generation of 1953, the last to exhibit that revolutionary spirit, was not a creation of Fidel Castro, though it would eventually be co-opted and corrupted by him. When the government raised bus fares by one penny in 1951, students hijacked a bus, carried it up the monumental stairs of Havana University (which are like a one-sided pyramid) and sent it crashing down. Then they went to celebrate in the University itself, which then enjoyed autonomy (the police could not enter its precincts). Besides, no one would have thought to charge them with disorderly conduct or destroying public property (bus and stairs). The public was on their side and their conduct was thought brave and public-spirited. To excuse their worst excesses as the natural province of youth was the general reaction. The authorities concurred.

It was in such a climate of absolute freedom bordering on anarchy that such monsters as Fidel Castro were incubated. Still, whether confronting anarchy or the reaction to it, Cubans then were a fully-integrated, self-realized, prosperous and happy people (everything which they are not today). Our national tragedy stems from the fact that too many Cubans expended their energies not in defending freedom but in abusing it.

It was the Generation of the Centenary, under such favorable auspices, which successfully waged the 1959 Revolution and whose leaders, once in power, obliterated systematically every vestige of freedom for all subsequent generations of Cubans. That is, for their children, their grandchildren and now their great-grandchildren.

The horrific spectacle which transpired last night in Havana before a crowd of thousands of Castro's young victims at the "Anti-Imperialist Forum" concert affirmed, if anyone doubted it, that civilization on our island has descended even lower than on William Golding's fictional one. Our "Lord of the Flies" has destroyed what was noblest and most aspiring in our people: that almost childlike belief in justice and in the possibility of obtaining it, which was the compass that guided us for most of our history as a nation. It did not always guide us right. The last 50 years attest to that. The absence of such a compass, however, can only guide us wrong. The last 50 years also attest to that.

There are still those, however, who uphold at great personal cost what survives of that spirit and tradition in our country. Real revolutionaries as opposed to mock revolutionaries. True, there are very few of them. They are a beacon which burns without oxygen and can be seen better from afar than up close. Still, they are the only hope of our country. Their fragile bodies are the strands which connect us to our past and the girders that will construct the bridge to our future. They are men like Gorki and women like Yoani and others who do not have their renown but share their courage and will reveal themselves as Emilio Marill did yesterday.

While Yoani and Gorki's colleagues from the band "Porno Para Ricardo" were being viciously beaten by Castro's goons at the Milanés concert for protesting Gorki's arrest, the onlookers looked away: even two syllables worth of protest was more than any of them were willing to risk. The performers on stage continued to play and the revellers to revel. Revelling is still possible in Cuba even if rebelling is not. Only one spectator, Emilio, raised his voice in protest.

But, really, what should we expect? Martyrdom is not a duty. It is, at best, a vocation and very few are called to it. We cannot demand, from the safety of this side of the Florida Straits, that Cubans act against the well-honed survival instincts which 50 years of tyranny have perfected. Just as we hope to see Cuba free again, they hope to live in a free country someday. The one requisite for the realization of either hope is to remain alive. That, too, is a form of resistance: to deny the tyrant the corpses he craves and would not hesitate to claim at the first opportunity.

Without the arms to defend themselves, confronting an enemy that threatens to "sink the island into the ocean" and very nearly did so once when its brand of socio-lismo was threatened, and with more countries in the world that have a vested interest in Cubans remaining slaves than in their liberation, what is it that we expect our countrymen on the island to do? If the onus were on us, what would we answer? Because the onus is as much on us as on them. Whatever excuses we can offer theirs are more compelling. Whatever constraints restrain us theirs are more restraining. The only difference is that they are doing the suffering. To judge them we must either share their suffering or end it.

Why There Has Been No Successful Revolution to Overthrow Castro in 49 Years

Will Cuba Ever Be Free Again?

Will Cuba Ever Be Free Again? (Part II)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

About Gorki and "Our Best Years"

From Black Sheep of Exile:

The boys from "Porno Para Ricardo" sent me this letter for immediate publication. [Charlie Bravo]

Our Best Years
By Ismael de Diego

The first time I saw Gorki was in prison during the shooting of Havana Blues. It was in a big cafeteria, with several cement tables that were built into the floor. At one end were family members pressed against the entrance door, their eyes fixed upon another door, made of steel, at the other end of the dining hall. The only voices heard were those of the guards instructing us not to enter until the signal was given. There we remained for a while until the inmates began to file through the steel door. They were searched one by one and stood about 40 meters from us, so I had time to try to guess which of them was Gorki. When he came through the door I did not recognize him at first. I saw only a familiar face, the empathy one feels for a potential friend, the stamped blue shirt and disillusioned expression. It was only when we sat down and I could see him up close that I recognized him. He didn't resemble the euphoric and provocative image that he projected in his concerts. He looked tired. "This is like a theatre," he said, "you get on stage to sing and represent a certain character, but when you get off everybody still expects you to stay forever in character." He felt like shit and the feeling was contagious. I knew he didn't belong to that place and the visit left me with a sensation of injustice that permeated my body. I realized that anyone could land there by just making himself too much of a nuissance and I asked myself just how weak and sickly this government must be to feel threatened in any way by a musical group.

On learning the charges against him, the falsified evidence used to convict him, and the harsh and completely unjustifiable sentence handed down in his case, I was reminded of what I had been told about the UMAP concentration camps and the idiotic medieval witch hunts of the 1970s, which so profoundly affected generations of Cubans. Generations that today are convinced those persecutions are a thing of the past simply because they are not the ones targetted anymore. I always thought that it was the people, not the sysem, not Pavón, not Quesada, not even Fidel, that were to blame for that tragedy, the people that allowed it to happen, that approved of it, that were silent when they could have spoken out against it because they were afraid, or for whatever other reason. I asked myself just how abusive a government can become whose people never protests its abuses and, in accepting them, helps to prolong them. And I pondered just how alone and vulnerable a man is when no one wants to get involved however just the cause. This is now happening to our generation, which has always been kept prisoner on this island and never permitted its own voice. In order to be authentic and generate a real identity, culture must be spontaneous and born of the impetus to express oneself. An imposed culture, a morally or politically correct culture, used as a statistic with which to impress or win political points, is a deranged evasion of the creative instinct that inevitably leads to an indifference to culture itself. It is not for aught that our culture becomes less ours and more American, Puerto Rican, European or whatever else happens to be in vogue at the moment. In all Cuba there is not a single stage, not a single microphone where any idea can be expressed that has not been previously reviewed and approved, all the theatres, movie houses, dives, hovels and arbors belong to the government and it restricts their use through arbitrary laws that serve as an infallible filter for all dissent. If you don't belong to their official organizations you are barred from all these venues. I do not know what revolutionary principle can justify such an absence of freedom.

The artists and intellectuals who believe that they reflect our reality in a critical form and are granted access to the means of communications can only retain it by becoming spokesmen for the system. Their opinions, then, no longer reflect in the least the shortages, misery and incredible lack of freedom which are the staples of our daily lives. Those who refuse to modify, sweeten or transform their discourse in order to become a part of the system and earn the right to perform somewhere and earn a living doing what they want to do, are condemned to anonymity, persecution and indifference. It would appear that honesty and commitment to one's own truth have no place in country, asleep and apathetic, which has decided that to look the other way is the most intelligent and correct thing to do. What a "cultured people" such attitudes have created! If anyone thinks that there are no reasons to incarcerate Gorki, he is wrong: the reasons are obvious. For a long time now deception has been nothing more than a crude and transparent manipulation in Cuba. If anyone thinks that telling more lies is not a clumsy solution which reveals the government's pathetic political incompetence when confronted with dissenting opinions, they are mistaken: we are all aware of its lack of commitment to the truth. Not to oppose these kinds of abuses makes us accomplices to that intolerance. This is something that should concern us all because we all have a stake in liberty. The liberty to be ourselves without being judged or conditions imposed upon us cannot be enjoyed unless it is first won. I don't like to resort to quotations, but Benjamin Franklin said it better than I could:

"Those who would trade liberty for some temporary security, deserve neither liberty nor security."

History is there to tell us how the leaders of the Revolution dealt with our parents' generation. It remains to be seen what their relation will be to ours and how much longer we will allow them to steal our best years with silence as our henchman. Meanwhile, Gorki sits in a cell at "La Quinta" waiting for them to invent some reason for him to rot in the jail where I first met him, waiting for them to stop him from ever singing again.

Babalú's Deleted Post About Gorki

[Since its inception, RCAB has provided a home to Babalú's orphaned comments and even the occasional throwaway post. We do not claim that we have been able to restore everything they have deleted but enough to make them rethink their policy of making objectionable comments or inconvenient content disappear. A serious blog is not a quilt with removable panels: it is an integral whole. And we shall continue to insist that if Babalú wants to be taken as a serious blog then it must behave like a serious blog. The reason offered for deleting this post — and this is only the second time in Babalú history that Val & Co. have felt compelled to justify their deletions (the flag desecration post being the other) — is the necessity of maintaining a united front and offering a single response to Gorki's incarceration. Personally, I am no believer in united fronts or unitary responses because I'm not disposed to sacrifice principle to expediency. So long as our support for Gorki is explicit, then tactical differences should not be concealed. Censorship or self-censorship is certainly inimical to everything that Gorki stands for and seems the worst way to champion his cause. Charlie Bravo has reproduced the entire exchange on his blog Black Sheep of Exile, which is accessible only by invitation. He has also published there (and here) his reply to Henry's rebuttal. We shall, of course, be offering our own opinion of BUCL's latest campaign in a forthcoming post].

From Babalú:

August 27, 2008

An accusation and a response

As you can see from the post below we decided to throw a campaign together quickly to get the word out about Gorki's arrest and pending "trial" in Cuba. This was a gut reaction to what I saw in Ziva's post, in the CNN report and Maria Elvira's TV program in Miami last night. I received the email below late last night from a blogger that we used to be friendly with but now, not so much.

Subject: You are not autorized to ask for money on Porno Para Ricardo's behalf.
Date: August 27, 2008 2:06:40 AM EDT

Porno Para Ricardo has not authorized you to ask for money on their behalf. You are free to ask for as much money as you want, but not on their behalf, since they never authorized you to do so.

I didn't authorize the use of my graphics on Babalu (Ziva's post) nor the use of my words (Ziva's post) or my audiovisuals (your post asking for "donations"). I don't want to give the impression that I am friendly with Babalu, because.... I am not. So, the same as I do not use any material remotely related to your blogging endeavors, leave mine alone, if that's not much to ask.

We -Charlie Bravo, Gorki, Porno Para Ricardo- are not by any slight chance or even by mistake associated with BUCL.

What follows is the official position of PORNO PARA RICARDO.


Porno Para Ricardo and Charlie Bravo do not have a thing to do with BUCL, and the only official campaign to liberate Gorki is being conducted at their website. We have not been approached by anyone in BUCL and we do not know anything about their campaign and what do they plan to do with the funds they hope to collect. We are collecting donations, but mainly we are selling records by Porno Para Ricardo in order to establish the Gorki Legal Defense Fund and to contribute to his family. I repeat, we didn't' solicit by any means that BUCL or anyone else would be part of our campaign the campaign is ONLY conducted by Porno Para Ricardo on their website.

To the dismay of the organizers of BUCL we are proud to announce that we already contacted the press in several countries, the governments of those countries and prominent artists and musicians all around, including FREE MUSE and the Nobel institute with our own resources without asking for a penny to anyone.
Thanks but no thanks.

And Google is your friend, look at the coverage that Gorki and Porno Para Ricardo have obtained without your campaigns.
By the way, why don't you ask for moral support and help to the Cuban American stars who are so silent about this? That would make for a good campaign for them to show a modicum of solidarity with their colleagues in Cuba.

Since you asked for money on the open, I will reserve my right to send this communication to whomever I see fit.

And now read my Spanish note for the lads:

Gorki, Ciro,
Para mi sorpresa acabo de descubrir que hay un grupito aqui pidiendo dinero para liberar a Gorki. No para pagar abogados o para ayudar a su familia, no, se trada de "liberar" a Gorki con "comunicados de prensa" lo cual ya hicimos gratuitamente en diversos medios de comunicacion, desde la television de la ciudad donde radica este grupo, Miami, hasta otros medios en distintos lugares, como Mexico, España, USA, Canada, Brasil, Francia, e Italia, mas websites independientes y medios latinoamericanos.
Le he dicho que la unica campaña de donaciones se hace a traves del website, y que lo que preferimos es que la gente compre los discos en lugar de dar dinero sin obtener nada a cambio, aunque claro tambien las donaciones puras estan bienvenidas.
Aclaro que Porno Para Ricardo no tiene nada que ver con la "organizacion" de estas personas, ni ha pedido nada de ellos, ni ayuda ni dinero.
Al final les digo que si quieren ayudar, podrian pedir apoyo moral y ayuda a los artisas cubanos en el exilio que se mantienen tan calladitos.


This is my response:

Subject: Re: You are not autorized to ask for money on Porno Para Ricardo's behalf.
Date: August 27, 2008 8:46:07 AM EDT


Let me explain something very clearly to you. I became aware of Gorki's arrest through Ziva's post because I don't read your blogs. I was not aware of any relationship you have officially with Gorki. I, like everyone else who has bought Gorki's music in the past was disturbed about the arrest. That said, the regime has engaged in a scheme of catch and release lately and I thought that perhaps that's what this was.

Then I saw the CNN article by Morgan Neil that said he was going to stand trial on THURSDAY. This elevated the sense of urgency in my mind. Gorki wasn't going to be released, he was going to be tried (and obviously convicted).

Last night on Maria Elvira's program, the former Cuban attorney Camilo Loret de Mola, was on and said that Gorki could be sentenced from 1 to 4 years and that the only way to prevent this from happening was through international pressure. Given the short amount of time I made a decision to launch a BUCL campaign.

Our efforts don't interfere in any way with yours (whatever they are):

1. Our readers and the people who give money for this are not generally your readers, this isn't taking money away from Gorki or your effort.

2. We have access to different people who can lend their voice to Gorki's cause, I know you do as well, but the more people the better.

I want you to understand something. I don't make any money on BUCL campaigns. In fact I've spent more than $500 of my own money during the three campaigns we've had to date.

Our biggest expense is putting press releases on the PR news wires. It costs just under $1000 to put a press release on the English and Spanish wires, more if you want the international circuit. I can't afford to do that on my own so we enlist the help of our readers and our contributors.

Gorki is a public figure and an important one. We have resources and contacts that we want to use to put that international pressure on the regime. Your description of our activities is at best inaccurate, and at worst, dishonest.

I'm not going to argue with you about this.



I want our readers and supporters to know that the worst thing about trying to conduct these public awareness campaigns is raising money. It sucks. I hate to ask people for money but the idea is that if we all put in a little it can amount to a lot and with money you can buy things that help get the word out.

Let me speak a bit about the news business and how it works. Reporters don't walk the streets looking for stories. They sit at their desk and wait for stories to come to them. They get email alerts and such from services like Business Wire and Hispanic PR Wire. If you want to reach a lot of journalists in a short amount of time you can put a press release on the wires but of course that costs money. The amount varies depending on the circuits you want the release distributed to. It could be domestic regional, national or international. The larger the circuit the more it costs. In the past, the circuits we've distributed our releases on cost about $500. That's just for English. We also do a release in Spanish for Hispanic PR wire. And that comes out to about another $500. In addition to putting the release in front of journalists, these wire services syndicate the content of the releases to many news oriented web sites. Here's an example of a release we did for a previous campaign. If you do a google search for the right keywords " Joins Dr. Darsi Ferrer" you can see how our information is perpetuated throughout the web because of the wire services.

Thanks for your attention and support.

Posted by Henry Louis Gomez at August 27, 2008 09:20 AM


How ridiculous.

It's causes like this that should incline us to stand together...some people can't look past their nose and act like bratty children.

De Madre!!

Posted by: AmandaD [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 27, 2008 09:44 AM

Typical dysfunctional Cuban American whining on this guys part - that's why Castro is still in power all these years and we are so divided - because everyone wants to be El jeffe Indio. I can't believe that guy's e-mail - God, when someone offers help, especially in a case like this, you take every little bit of support you can get.

Que pendejada!

Posted by: mandingo [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 27, 2008 09:53 AM

For this person, what Gorki is going through is secondary to the hatred for the opinions expressed herein and the disdain for the conributors of this blog.

of course, it's only a matter of time before we find out that Gorki's arrest has absolutely nothing to do with his music or opinions or that he lives and expresses same under the jackboot of a dictator, but because of the evil Miami Mafia.

Get your egg timers ready.

Posted by: Val Prieto [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 27, 2008 10:02 AM

Way to go Charlie! that's just what we need - to be devided.

Posted by: nurian [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 27, 2008 10:21 AM

Henry, you have my complete support.

Posted by: ORGULLOSADESERCUBANA [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 27, 2008 10:30 AM

Damned if we do. Damned if we don't. We must be doing something right.

Posted by: George L. Moneo [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 27, 2008 10:31 AM

Henry, you are doing the right think and for the right reasons. At this point, any international clamor to Free Gorki, should be welcomed by anybody interested in Gorki's and Cuba's freedom. After almost 50 years, it is high time we Cubans came together on who are the real enemies of Cubans everywhere! Enough with petty jealousies y protagonismos! Basta ya!!!

Posted by: Jose Aguirre [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 27, 2008 10:34 AM

Does the owner of CubanUnderground get a cut from the sales of cd's? If so, I don't think he's got any moral high ground here.

Posted by: jsb [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 27, 2008 10:45 AM

I don't know how they have structured the sales of Gorki's work and frankly I think that's irrelevant. Gorki is a public figure who has been detained by the regime. We are a group of interested individuals trying to promote his plight to the world. There is no ownership issue here.

Posted by: Henry Louis Gomez [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 27, 2008 10:51 AM

If Poro Para Ricardo doesn't want me posting from their "site", then perhaps they should inform the webmaster not to email me. I posted about Gorki's arrest after I received the following email:

From: Cuba Underground
Subject: FREE GORKI! (cobardía y represión)
Date: Monday, August 25, 2008, 2:57 PM

FREE GORKI! (cobardía y represión) Hace pocos minutos la policía castrista detuvo a Gorki Luis Aguila Carrasco, leader de la banda Porno Para Ricardo en su casa, cuando se disponía a grabar las últimas canciones del proximo disco de la banda.Ciro, el guitarrista del grupo, siguió al auto policial en bicicleta hasta la estación donde los esbirros de la dictadura han llevado a Gorki, que no se encuentra bien de salud, y que se disponía a hacer un esfuerzo para grabar los temas pendientes.Gorki tiene una inflamación en los pulmones y falta de aire, y fue sacado de su casa por un policía que dijo cumplir órdenes del delegado del poder popular, un tal Jesús y sin orden de arresto, en el mejor estilo comunista.En la mañana del sábado estuvimos hablando e intercambiando ideas sobre el diseño de la portada del disco y opiniones sobre algunos de los nuevos temas, además de algunos detalles relacionados con la producción de este álbum, el website de la banda y haciendo chistes.Naturalmente, la creación artística independiente en Cuba se premia solo con persecuciones y órdenes de búsqueda y captura por parte de la policía de la dictadura.El testimonio de Ciro:Cuando nos disponíamos a empezar a grabar tocan la puerta. Gorki abre y desde el cuarto escucho, "¿Usted es el Ciudadano Gorki Aguila?" era un policia que le pidió que lo acompañara, el preguntó por qué y el policía le dijo que él solo cumplía órdenes.El policía se dirigió a él siempre en buena forma. Yo los seguí al sector de policia y esperé en la esquina para por si les daba por cargar conmigo también y no quedara quién avisara.Cuando se fueron me acerque al sector de policia y estaba allí el mismo que lo vino a buscar, le pregunté que para donde lo habían llevado y el me dijo que para la estación de 3ra y 62 llamada popularmente la 5ta.De regreso me encontré con el padre de Gorki que al enterarse se puso muy nervioso y fué a la 5ta a averiguar por su hijo.Esto no es nada nuevo. Como los aficionados recordarán, se fabricó ya una vez un caso en contra de Gorki, que fué arrestado bajo cargos falsos y condenado a cuatro años de prisión. En aquella ocasión se filmaba Habana Blues y el régimen mantuvo a Gorki encarcelado impidiendole de participar en la película sobre la nueva música independiente y underground de Cuba. En realidad, el delito de Gorki es solo uno: tener los cojones necesarios para denunciar los atropellos de la tiranía contra el pueblo cubano y la ilegitimidad del régimen heredtario impuesto a Cuba.Esto no es mas que la continuación del acoso al cual ha sido sometido Gorki por parte de la policía y el delegado del Poder Popular, que cuenta con la colaboración de vulgares chivatos barrioteros. Hace solo dos meses, el 17 de junio, Gorki fue llevado a una estación policial por el mismo delegado del Poder Popular, quien lo amenazó con la cárcel por su conducta "antisocial", de un modo bastante gangsteril como quedó recogido en la la grabación clandestina que hicera Gorki de esa citación policial, en la cual tambien puede escucharse su elección de seguir con su arte y el rechazo a la pretensión del delegado a que firmara un acta de peligrosidad.Este nuevo episodio de acoso y persecución ocurre justo cuando Porno Para Ricardo se encuentra en medio de la grabación de su nuevo disco, lo cual elimina cualquier posibilidad de que este escalamiento represivo pueda calificarse de coincidencia?. En Cuba, la voz de los valientes es silenciada por el régimen, que no vacila en utilizar intimidación y fuerza.Por tanto, y en consonancia con el clima de opresión que reina en Cuba -según nos informa el padre de Gorki- lo tendrán detenido hasta el jueves, hasta que le hagan un juicio por peligrosidad y la condena que le impongan puede ser de uno a cuatro años. Ese es el precio de vivir con valentía, pensar por si mismo, y de hablar sin pelos en la lengua. Por favor distribuyan esta noticia a todas sus listas de correos, blogs, programas de radio y televisión. ¡Que liberen a Gorki! ¡Free Gorki!

This message was sent from Cuba Underground to It was sent from: Cuba Underground, P.O. Box 60541, Santa Barbara, CA 93160. You can modify/update your subscription via the link below.

Also note that the photo I posted was copied from Zoe Valdes' blog whom I credited. Also note, and I can't prove it because I didn't copy the info that the info at Cuba underground I linked on my post has been changed so that the particular text I linked to is now something else, last I checked penned by Charlie Bravo.

CB's right about one thing, we are not friends and have nothing to do with each other. The reasons are obvious. I said it before and will repeat it here, to paraphrase Marti: There are two kinds of men, those who love and build, and those who hate and destroy. I prefer to associate with the former.

Posted by: Ziva Sahl [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 27, 2008 11:20 AM

I feel really bad that I can't contribute to this cause. Money is really tight at this moment, but if I had the chance I'd definetely put something in the piggy bank.

As for the letter from Charlie, there's no time for "he likes me - he likes me not" business. There's someone that's going to be sentenced to jail for speaking his own mind. Set your differences aside and unite to help Gorki.

Posted by: j2tharome [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 27, 2008 11:20 AM

The best I can do for this cause was write to the person in charge of Latin American coverage for the L.A. Times and explain to her the situation. I doubt anything will happen, but hopefully they can look into this.

Posted by: j2tharome [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 27, 2008 11:35 AM


Don't sweat the donation. It's important to get the word out. Send emails to your entire address book.

Posted by: Henry Louis Gomez [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 27, 2008 11:37 AM

Are we going to have to get an "authorization" from Cuba's eleven-million enslaved residents to advocate for their freedoms now too?

When did worthy causes become copyrighted material?

Posted by: albertodelacruz [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 27, 2008 12:03 PM


Stop being such a sangano and be proud that folks like Henry and Val care and are action oriented when things like this happen.

I can tell you the Castros love it when we bicker amongst each other because that negative energy is what has kept them going for so long.


Posted by: mandingo [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 27, 2008 01:11 PM

Mr. Bravo,

You exhibit a severe case of "displaced anger" towards the Cuban-American community as if they were or are responsible for the sinister system that has made Aguilar its latest victim; But only its latest. You apparently feel uniquely victimized, but after nearly 50 years of brutal repression millions of lives have been destroyed by the Castro tyranny. Millions of those lives are represented, both literally and figuratively, by the Cuban-American community who has lost fathers, brothers, sisters, friends and perhaps most devastating, a homeland.

So while you draw attention to the plight of Aguilar do not lose sight of the fact that he is hardly the regime’s only victim. There are hundreds sitting in Castro’s jails and thousands who served stints over the years for similar “offenses;” Millions sitting in far away lands separated from loved ones; Thousands lost at sea trying to escape the despotic rule. Millions suffering daily repression on the island prison. Courage comes in many forms and is hardly exclusive to Aguilar. Ultimately, the problem isn’t a supposed lack of solidarity from Cuban-American artists; the problem is the Castro tyranny.

I wrote an article last year critical of the politically active celebrity culture in the US and their lack of real courage when compared to the actions of the outspoken Aguilar.

I do not know Aguilar or his political views, only that he should have the right to express those views as a free human being. But bear in mind his views are no more important than the views of any other victim of the despot, Castro. In the end, if you and Aguilar are seeking support from only like minded people than you truly do not understand the concepts of freedom and self-determination.

Posted by: Grateful American [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 27, 2008 01:34 PM

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Lyndon Baines Johnson (1908-2008)

"Johnson was as complicated and multi-faceted as Abraham Lincoln, a man writ large, with titanic flaws and titanic virtues, bigger than life except that he actually lived. He was also a deeply compassionate man who loved mankind in all its diversity, whether the poor white sharecropper or the descendant of slaves still kept in legal fetters; the Vietnamese fighting for freedom and civilization or the Cuban fleeing from Communist barbarism because that option had been closed to him." -- "Lyndon Johnson: Our Statue of Liberty," RCAB, July 27, 2007

Lyndon Baines Johnson was born 100 years ago today. Although it coincided with the anniversary, the National Democratic Convention chose to ignore it, preferring instead to honor the Kennedys' calamitous legacy to their country and party. Barack Obama, in his acceptance speech, made no allusion to it, though he would surely not have been standing there as his party's nominee if LBJ had not made Martin Luther King's dream a reality.

John F. Kennedy had shown no inclination to sponsor a civil rights bill because he was a believer in evolution rather than activism when it came to enforcing the constitutional rights of black Americans in sharp contrast to both his predecessor and successor. He had even been opposed to the March on Washington and contrived to be out of town when it took place. There was no word that he had for America's disenfranchised except: "Wait." He never realized that the time for waiting was over. Johnson did.

On the day that Johnson introduced the Civil Rights Bill of 1965 before a joint session of Congress, King cried when Johnson proclaimed in three familiar words that the agenda of the civil rights movement was now also that of his administration: "We shall overcome." King understood what it meant to have an ally in the White House whose commitment to securing the citizenship rights of all Americans was absolute and would not be denied. It meant victory.

The U.S. Postal Service issued postage stamps this year to mark the centenary of the births of Bette Davis and Frank Sinatra but did not honor LBJ's. If you want to know what is wrong with American values at the dawn of the 21st century, there you have it in a nutshell. Entertainers are now America's national heroes and, among such a people and at such a time, it is only natural that a Barack Obama should be the brightest star.

As for ourselves, Cuban exiles owe a special debt to LBJ: we owe him our lives --

Lyndon Baines Johnson: Our "Statue of Liberty"

Beacon Street Irregular is Out

Nowhere is bureaucracy more bureaucratic than in New York City, and no bureaucracy is more entrenched and immutable than the New York Board of Education's. It is harder to remove a bad teacher in NYC than a bad politician. Politicos, after all, don't have a union like the American Federation of Teachers. In fact, bad teachers are rarely fired because it is too costly and complicated a procedure. Instead, they are "exiled" to a school which exists solely to house miscreant teachers. There are no students at this school because it is their interaction with students that got them in trouble in the first place. They remain there, doing nothing but collecting their full salary, till they reach their retirement day, whether months or decades away. It was to this school for incorrigible teachers that I assumed Beacon Street's Nathan Turner was headed. I know that he wouldn't move to Cuba to work as a teacher there. He may be idealistic or cynical but he isn't stupid.

The teacher who broke city and state regulations as well as U.S. laws by taking excursions of schoolchildren to Communist Cuba as if he were running a travel agency from Beacon School has resigned. So has another teacher who served as a chaperones on those trips, Geoffrey Hunt. In such cases a resignation usually comes because what is known is the least there is to know. Whatever the reasons for their departure, students in New York City are free of one noxious influence, anyway.

The question I have is whether his former classroom, festooned with posters of Castro and Che Guevara, is still a shrine to Cuba's henchmen? Or has it been redecorated with posters of Barack Obama? Well, at least we know that those will be coming down in November when Barack Obama joins the other "gods that failed."

Babysitting the Beacon School Bitongos

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

"Open Letter to Pablo Milanés and Other Cuban Musicians Concerning the Arrest of Gorki Águila"

Translated from Penúltimos Días:

[Here is the text of the letter. All are invited to sign it in the "Comments" section or by e-mailing me at You may do so from this moment till tomorrow, Wednesday, August 27 at 22:00 hours (Spanish time). At that time the letter (along with the signatures that have been collected) will be sent to Pablo Milanés, Santiago Feliú, Kelvis Ochoa, Omara Portuondo, Polito Ibáñez, Haila María Mompié, David Blanco and "Los Aldeanos" as well as to the Cuban and international press. Please circulate it; there is very little time -- Ernesto Hernández Busto]:

"Open Letter to Pablo Milanés and Other Cuban Musicians Concerning the Arrest of Gorki Águila"

August 26, 2008

Dear Pablo:

We the undersigned, having learned that you will be giving a concert the day after tomorrow at the “Anti-imperialist Forum” in Havana, have taken the liberty of sending you this "Open Letter" in the hope that you and the other invited musicians will use the opportunity the public forum affords you to request the release of Gorky Águila, lead singer and director of the band "Porno Para Ricardo."

Beyond the artistic associations and political ideologies of each artist, we think that the right to freedom of expression should not be violated by any government, including Cuba's.

This week, on the morning of August 25, while the members of “Porno Para Ricardo” were rehearsing in Gorki's house, a policeman knocked on the door and took the popular singer to the police station located on 62 Street, commonly known as “the Villa”. There he still remains a prisoner, and the only thing his family has been told is that he will be kept there until Thursday when he shall be turned over to the courts to stand trial for "peligrosidad pre-delictiva" (pre-criminal social dangerousness) which carries a possible sentence of between 1-4 years.

We do not think that those charges can be proven in any just and impartial legal process, but the fact that he is being held incommunicado and the history of threats and harassment to which he has been subjected by the authorities make us fear for the worst.

We ask you as musical artists who have taken a clear stand in support of the Revolution, but who have also defended fundamental values and human rights, not to remain silent before this abuse committed against one of your profession. It is not ingermane to point out that one of the groups invited to perform at Thursday night's event, "Los Aldeanos," shared a studio and stage with "Porno Para Ricardo” when they recorded the song “La Política." And all sang together something which today, unfortunately, sounds like a prediction: “I don't like politics, but it likes me, compañero."

We appeal to you to echo publicly the outcry for Gorki Águila's immediate release.

With warm greetings,

Ernesto Hernández Busto, Zoé Valdés, Enrique del Risco Arrocha, Ginés Gorriz, Dr. Pablo Fuentes-Prior, Ricardo Vega, Jorge Salcedo, César Beltrán, Juan (Polo) Avilés, María Garcillán, Isis Wirth, Charlie Bravo, Alexis Núñez Oliva, Milena Rodríguez, Carlos Hernández, César Reynel Aguilera, Zenaida Valdés, Miguel Iturralde, Laura García Freyre, Roberto Acosta, Manuel Sosa, Al Godar, Camilo Loret de Mola, Frank A. Caner, Luis Casacó, Joaquín Estrada-Montalván, Alexis Romay, Maria Bonastre Fargas, Nieves Cáceres, Justo Ruiz Malherbe, Mayda Rodríguez Gil, Luis Reyes, José Alberto Fuentes, Ernesto González, Alexis Rodríguez Cáceres, Sebastián Machado, Alejandro Barreras, Heriberto Hernández, Mayra Vega, Santiago Martín, Armando Añel, Luis Montiel, Naday Balbuena, Juan C. García, Roque S. González, José Aguirre, Hilda Fuentes, Verónica Pérez Konina, Tania Quintero, Rosa Álvarez…


"Pedimos que ustedes, músicos que han hecho explícito el apoyo a la Revolución, pero también la defensa de los valores y derechos humanos fundamentales..."

I think it entirely appropriate that musicians loyal to the Castro regime be called to account for their hypocrisy. Gorki's case presents a perfect opportunity to do just that. However, I disapprove of flattering these cretins whether the praise is sincere or not. If it is intended to offend the recipients, the "Open Letter" will not benefit Gorki; and if intended to flatter them, then it can only offend him. For that reason I will not be signing the Penúltimos Días "Open Letter," which though well-intentioned is poorly framed and will not, of course, stir the cubanidad of those who long ago traded theirs for a bowl of porridge.

If you yourself believe that their consciences may not be as petrified as I believe them to be, then please follow your own conscience and sign it:

Monday, August 25, 2008

From Black Sheep of Exile: Gorki Is Arrested

The police has just picked up Gorki, in Havana. In a few more minutes I will be posting more about this, please contact all your friends and acquaintances and let them know that Gorki is in danger.

Well, Ciro just called to let me know that security forces have put Gorki in a patrol car and are apparently taking him to the police station; he is following the patrol car on his bicycle and will call me shortly; that's all for now. Earlier in the day, at approximately 10:00 AM, I had spoken to Gorki and he informed me that Ciro was on his way to his house and that they intended to record a duo for only one song, because Gorki wasn't feeling very well due to congestion in his lungs and difficulty breathing. It was at that precise moment, when they were about to record the song, that the police arrived accompanied by the delegate [from the Assembly of the People's Power]. [Charlie Bravo]

Ciros's Eyewitness Account:

Just as we were about to begin recording the song, we heard a knock at the door. Gorki opened the door and from the bedroom I heard someone ask, "Are you citizen Gorki Aguila?" It was a policeman who requested that Gorki accompany him and told him that he was only following orders.

The policeman continued to address him in a courteous fashion. I followed them to the police sector and waited at the corner lest they should decide to arrest me as well and there be no one left to relay the news of Gorki's arrest.

When the patrol car had left I approached the arresting officer who was still there and asked him where Gorki had been taken. He answered the station at 3rd and 62nd, popularly known as "La Quinta."

On my way back I met with Gorki's father, who on learning the news of his son's arrest became very nervous and proceeded to "La Quinta" to inquire about him.

Comment Left on Yoani's Blog by Charlie Bravo:

Gorki has been arrested for peligrosidad (social dangerousness) and under this judicial farce he will be tried on Thursday. They are asking for 1-4 years. He is currently held at the police station located at 3rd and 62nd, the notorious "Quinta Unidad" [Fifth Unit] of the PNR [National Revolutionary Police]. The local delegate of the Assembly of the People's Power is behind this, and as we know this is Gorki's punishment for having the balls to denounce the dictatorship. His arrest deserves to be denounced energetically as well.

[This comment has not yet appeared on Yoani's blog though it was left more than an hour ago].

From the band's website:

[Victim of] Cowardice and Repression

A few minutes ago the Castroite police arrested Gorki Luís Aguila Carrasco, leader of the band Porno Para Ricardo, in his house when he was preparing to record the last songs from the band's forthcoming album.

Ciro, the guitarist of the group, followed the police car on his bicycle to the station where the government henchmen had taken Gorki, who is not in good health and was, at the time of his arrest, making a great effort to record the remaining songs.

Gorki has an inflammation of the lungs and difficulty breathing, and was taken from his house without an arrest warrant by a policeman who said he was following orders from a certain Jesús, a delegate in the Assembly of the People's Power. Everything was done in the best Communist manner.

On Saturday morning we had been exchanging ideas on the design for the new record cover and opinions about the some of the songs, as well as discussing details related to the production of the album, the layout of band's website and cracking jokes.

Naturally, independent creative activity in Cuba is rewarded only with persecution, search warrants and orders of arrest carried out by the dictatorship's organs of repression.

Ciro's Eyewitness Account:

"Just as we were about to begin recording the song, we heard a knock at the door. Gorki opened the door and from the bedroom I heard someone ask, "Are you citizen Gorki Aguila?" It was a policeman who requested that Gorki accompany him and told him that he was only following orders.

"The policeman continued to address him in a courteous fashion. I followed them to the police sector and waited at the corner lest they should decide to arrest me as well and there be no one left to relay the news of his arrest.

"When the patrol car had left I approached the arresting officer who was still there and asked him where Gorki had been taken. He answered the station at 3rd and 62nd, popularly known as "La Quinta."

"On my way back I met with Gorki's father, who on learning the news of his son's arrest became very nervous and proceeded to "La Quinta" to inquire about him."

This is nothing new. As our fans will remember, there was a previous attempt to fabricate a case against Gorki, who was arrested under false charges and sentenced to 4 years imprisonment. On that occasion Havana Blues was being filmed here and the regime jailed Gorki in order to prevent him from taking part in this documentary about Cuba's new independent underground music scene. In truth, Gorki's only crime was having the balls to condemn the tyranny's human rights violations and the illegitimacy of a hereditary regime imposed on the Cuban people 50 years ago.

This is no more than a continuation of the harassment to which Gorki has been subjected by the police and the delegate of the People's Assembly, who are assisted by vulgar neighborhood chivatos (informants). Only two months ago, on June 17, Gorki was taken to a police station by the same delegate, who threatened him with jail for his "anti-social" conduct in a rather thuggish manner as is evident from the secret recording made by Gorki of the interrogation, where his own refusal to abandon his art or to sign a confession admitting to his alleged peligrosidad (social dangerousness) can also be heard as well.

This latest episode of intimidation and persecution comes just as Porno Para Ricardo was in the middle of recording their newest album, which eliminates any possibility that this renewed repression could be a "coincidence."In Cuba, the voice of the brave is routinely silenced by the regime, which never hesitates in using intimidation and force.

Therefore, in keeping with the climate of oppression which reigns in Cuba, we have been informed by Gorki's father that he will be detained until Thursday, when he will be tried for peligrosidad (social dangerousness) and that the sentence that will be imposed upon him may range from 1 to 4 years. This is the price that one pays in Cuba for bravely trying to live as a free man in a country that is not free, for thinking for one's self and speaking one's own mind.

Latest News:

As you all know, Gorki is being kept in the holding cells of the infamous police station known as "La Quinta."

They are keeping him incommunicado, his father has taken numerous trips to the precinct to no avail, they have not allowed him to see his son.

Gorki has a young daughter, who is also under the stress of not knowing what is happening to her father or what is in store for her and her grandfather if Gorki is smeared in court and convicted of the crime of thinking independently and speaking his mind.

At this point, all we know is that Gorki will be tried summarily with no charges, but under the accusation of social dangerousness, or for proclivity to commit a crime — in Cuba, the sole fact that you have not died under the restrictions imposed on the population makes you a criminal, because buying food on the black market is illegal. Let alone having the balls to speak your mind, let alone having the fortitude to think independently.

From today to Thursday a lawyer has to be located, a lawyer that has no fears to represent a criminal like me — or as a matter of fact, like you and Gorki. Yes, because to the government of Cuba, all of us are dangerous criminals who have a lethal weapon in our minds, and the proclivity to use said weapon against them.

A Gorki Legal Defense Fund will be established at the the band’s site. Please help his cause by visiting the donation area and tag yours as Gorki Legal Defense Fund. [Charlie Bravo]

CNN takes note:

Fidel Blasts Miami Mafia for "Sabotaging" Cuban Athletes at Olympics (Including Valodia Matos)

Since 1990, the Castro regime has spent a total of $1.36 billion on Cuba's Olympic program. Can there be any justification for such an expenditure? Castro boasts in his latest "Reflection" in Granma that Cuba once had the highest concentration of Olympic medals per capita of any country in the world. I think that Cubans would have been far happier and prouder if milk were available to Cuban children after the age of 7. The $1.36 billion certainly could have made that possible and much more. Instead it was squandered so that Cuba could be an "Olympic power," which is something that matters to Fidel and nobody else. Ironically, Fidel laments in his "Reflection" that even the splendor of the Olympics cannot make us "forget the hunger, the malnutrition, the lack of schools and teachers, hospitals, doctors, medicines and other vital necessities from which the world suffers." Yet Cuba's participation in the Olympics is intended to be just such a soporific (for Cubans and the world) at the cost of aggravating all those social ills.

Even such an indefensible waste of scarce resources was not enough to achieve the results that Fidel expected in Beijing. Why? Because "the mafia" robbed Cuba of some of its laurels. Although the fraternal venue of the 2008 Olympics made it impossible for "the mafia" to entice Cuba's athletes with promises of freedom and just compensation for their talents, Castro alleges that the same sports agents that "prey upon" his athletes elsewhere bribed IOC judges and referees to assure that amateurism itself would be defeated in the only nation that still enforces it.

Oddly, it was the case of Ángel Valodia Matos which Fidel claims precipitated him to denounce "the mafia's" latest machinations against Cuban athletes. According to Castro, Valodia Matos, the taekwondo gold medal winner in 2000 who was banned for life (along with his trainer) for kicking a referee in the face after forfeiting the bronze medal match, was upset not only on account of the call against him but also because "the mafia" had tried unsuccessfully to bribe his trainer and, he presumed, had succeeded in bribing the Swedish referee. Under such provocation, Castro writes that Valodia Matos "could not contain himself." The impression is left, moreover, that he should not have been expected to contain his rage, that his conduct was a natural reaction to such "provocation." Castro pledges his "total solidarity" with Valodia Matos and his trainer and urges his subjects to receive them as heroes on their homecoming and do everything in their power for them, as well as for all other Cuban athletes who "held high the country's honor" despite "the repugnant mercenary actions" of Cuba's enemies.

Poor sportsmanship, indeed, the antithesis of sportsmanship, is now hailed in Cuba as a revolutionary virtue. If you can't win a medal for Cuba, then at least kick, bite or bloody an opponent, referee, or judge for Cuba. In the end, this was inevitable; indeed, long in coming. Castro pollutes and devalues everything he touches. Fair play to him is an alien concept that goes against every fiber of his being. If "warring against both competitors and referees" is what's expected of Cuba at international competitions, Castro warns that its athletes may only be able to compete intra muros (literally) in the future. He seems especially adverse to the 2012 London Olympics, which he is sure will be plagued by "European chauvinism, corrupt judges, the sale of muscle and brains, a strong dose of racism and all at too costly a price [for Cuba to pay]."

By 2012, hopefully, Cubans will see other marvels that will interest them more than the Olympics. Freedom is a medal that every man wears in a free country, and it's real not electroplate.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Anyone But Mitt Romney, Please

By selecting Joe Biden, Barack Obama has placed a lock on Delaware's 3 electoral votes. Of course, those 3 electoral votes were in his column already for all the good they will do him.

John McCain shouldn't make the same mistake.

He has absolutely nothing to gain by selecting Mitt Romney as his running mate.

Romney is not going to help him carry Massachussetts, his home state. God Himself couldn't help McCain to carry Massachussetts.

Romney's not going to help him carry Michigan, his father's home state, either. If Mitt thought that he had a chance of making a political career for himself in Michigan, he would have.

As for Utah, enclave of Romney's coreligionists, it's going to go for McCain, Romney or no Romney. On the other hand, selecting Romney would antagonize the Christian right which does not consider Mormonism to be a mainstream Christian religion.

The only thing McCain gets by picking Romney is a spate of tv commercials with mutually deprecating comments from their primary debates which will neutralize Biden's own putdowns of Obama.

RCAB has not concealed its profound distaste for Romney and shall be greatly disappointed if McCain picks Mr. "Patria o Muerte" as his running mate. If he does, however, we will have nothing more to say on the subject because a McCain-Romney ticket is immeasurably preferable to an Obama-Biden one.

So here, before the die is cast and hoping that it won't be, Mitt Romney's unique American story:

Mitt Romney: Gone Like His Father and Hopefully Never to Return
Mitt Romney's Ten Biggest Gaffes
Guess Which Presidential Candidate Was a Mexican Anchor Baby?
The Continuing Saga of Mitt Romney, Mexican Anchor Baby
Mitt Romney: The Buck Stops With the Landscaper


The Republican National Committee has launched a "Biden Gaffe Clock" on its website to keep track of his slip-ups on the campaign trail. The first gaffe ocurred on Saturday, August 23 at 3:31 PM EST when Biden referred to his running mate as "Barack America." Mitt Romney is also subject to foot-and-mouth disease (see link above to his "Ten Biggest Gaffes") and were he tapped to be McCain's running mate the Democratic National Committee would surely return the favor.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Obama Picks Biden

It would have made no sense for Barack Obama to pick an even bigger political lightweight as his vice presidential running mate (if such a creature could be found). Joe Biden has been in the senate since Barack Obama was 11 years old. His 36 years of experience there dwarfs Obama's 3. To say that this ticket is the most lopsided in American history is to put it mildly. If Biden had been the nominee it is doubtful that he would have picked Obama as his vice president. No Democratic senator except Hillary Clinton has been as vociferous in pointing out Obama's lack of qualifications for the presidency. Even when Biden tried to say something nice about the junior senator from Illinois, this is the best that he could manage: "I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that’s a storybook man."

Not that Joe Biden himself is temperamentally qualified to be president. He is the Democratic Party's biggest loose cannon and seems congenitally incapable of opening his mouth without demeaning himself or his party. Even more than Obama, Biden is in love with his own words. But, unlike Obama, he doesn't need to have words spoonfed to him by a teleprompter. He is as naturally loquacious as Obama is inarticulate. Speaking gibberish has served Obama in good stead by concealing his very real vacuousness. The last thing that Obama needs is for someone like Biden to set lyrics to his tune.

I don't know what Joe Biden brings to the Democratic ticket that would actually help it to win in November, but he's at least made McCain's age irrelevant as an issue in this campaign. Obama's choice will also alienate Hillary Clinton's supporters who had hoped that stealing the nomination from her would not prevent him from offering her the consolation price.

When he ran for president in 1988, Biden made a bold bid for Southern support by stressing the fact that Delaware was a Border State where slavery was legal at the time of the Civil War. Speaking to the South Carolina Rotary Club, Biden noted that Delaware was a “slave state that fought beside the North. That’s only because we couldn’t figure out how to get to the South. There were a couple of states in the way.” The point of all this was to imply that, unlike Dukakis, he was a "good ole boy" with all the usual trappings (except the Confederate flag on the hood of his car). It will be amusing to see if Biden again presents himself as the South's last hope north of the Mason-Dixon line.


Biden does have something in common with Obama besides his hard-left politics: he never let personal qualifications stand in the way of personal ambitions. In 1970, Biden was elected a councilman in New Castle County, Delaware. Two years later, at age 29, he ran for the Senate and won by one percentage point. Biden was the least qualified senator ever elected in U.S. history. Even Obama had served 7 years in the Illinois legislature before running for the Senate. However, Biden had been in the Senate 16 years before he first ran for president in 1988. Obama had barely served one year in the Senate before announcing his candidacy for president. When it comes to hubris, they are both well-matched.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Notable & Unexpected: "Pressure Cooker" As a Kitchen Appliance Not a Metaphor

"I'm walking towards the kitchen and realize just how much I miss that old house. How much I miss coming home from school or work and taking in all of the aromas from my Mother's kitchen. Opening the front door to that familiar hisssssss of the pressure cooker competing with Telemundo full blast on the tv. Sitting there with Dad, watching the news, waiting in anticipation for that "ping" from the Hitachi, the Cuban Dinner Alarm." — Val Prieto, "Ropa Vieja and Steak Sandwiches," Babalú, August 21, 2008

"Pressure cooker" is mentioned by Val without reference to Cubans on the island.

Is it too optimistic to hope that the "rivers of blood" will dry up too?

Progress, anyway.

CNN Reporter Discover His Jewish Roots In Cuba

There are more Cubans in the world than anybody supposes but no "secret Cubans" at least to other Cubans. There is a distinct Cuban idiosyncrasy which is difficult to disguise even if one were inclined to do so, which few Cubans are. Call it a national marker that transcends and synthesizes all superficial differences. It has nothing to do with race or ethnic origin because it is stamped as indelibly on the black Cuban as on the white Cuban, on the Chinese Cuban as on the Jewish Cuban. I always knew that Sammy Davis Jr. was Cuban even when he claimed to be Puerto Rican. The first moment I saw Cameron Díaz, I said "Cuban." We know these celebrities at second hand, but even when seen on film or television, their distinctive cubanidad manages to make itself known to the gens (gente). This idiosyncrasy is so unique that even Cubans raised in Puerto Rico exhibit it, and there, of course, the differences are the least distinct and yet still perceptible to us.

The latest Cuban to "out" himself to an American audience was CNN's David Kastenbaum. He shares his last name with an iconic newsman of FDR's day, but that never threw me off. He was as obviously Cuban to me as Rick Sánchez, the CNN anchor who never made a secret of his Cuban roots. So many Cubans at CNN, I thought, but so little understanding of the plight of the Cuban people on the island and so much unfeigned hostility towards Cuban exiles.

It was on a trip to Cuba to explore "the future of U.S.-Cuban relations and the reforms under Cuban leader Raúl Castro" that Kastenbaum reconnected with "his family history in Cuba." He should have said his Cuban roots, since even a stranger may have a "family history" in any far-off land. I am reminded of the descendants of American slavers who recently visited the Gold Coast of Africa to expiate for the sins of their ancestors. They, too, had a "family history" in Africa though none had "roots" there. Since Kastenbaum's great-grandparents immigrated to Cuba 100 years ago, and his grandmother was born and his grandfather raised there from the age of 3, they are as Cuban as most Cubans. It is good that Kastenbaum agrees: "To me, they were as much Cuban as they were Jewish." But this is not so much a personal concession on his part as it is a fact. "To[him]," yes, but also to everybody else. His grandmother's parents escaped from Tsarist Russia and his grandfather's made it to Cuba just ahead of Hitler. No doubt Morro Castle meant to them what the Statue of Liberty has meant to generations of immigrants to this country. Cuba was their country. When Kastenbaum writes that Cuba "is a place close to [his] heart," he is only attesting to his grandparents love for Cuba, which they imparted to his father and him. Would that he had honored their memory by telling their story and that of all Cuban Jews with a little more candor and honesty.

Kastenbaum reports that "more than 15,000 Jews were living in Cuba in the 1940s and '50s. Today, there are about 1,500. " Again, they weren't just "living in Cuba" like that famous Jewish gangster who resided there for one year and had absolutely nothing to do with our "running" our country nor ever claimed to. Kastenbaum's grandparents were not merely "living in" Cuba" but Cuban Jews, just like the other 30,000 (not 15,000) who called Cuba home before 1959. Nor, for that matter, are there 1500 Cuban Jews left in Cuba today. The figure is closer to 100. Kastenbaum does not explain what happened to Cuba's lost Jews. The story of their involuntary displacement, which involved the theft of their homes, businesses and even synagogues, he does not mention, perhaps because it resembles so closely what happened to many of them in Germany a generation before. It happened, of course, to all Cubans after Castro's takeover, and because Cuba's Jews were also Cuban it happened to them, too.

Unmentioned by Kastenbaum, and, perhaps, unknown to him, is the fact that Castro clearly did not want any Jews in Cuba, not only because he considered them "incubators of capitalism," but because he was himself an anti-Semite and enemy of the Jewish people. It was Castro who sponsored the "Zionism is Racism" Resolution at the United Nations; Castro who sent military advisers to the Syrians during the Yom Kippur War: Castro who has hosted Palestinian terrorist-training camps in Cuba for 35 years; and Castro who gave the Palestinians the former Jewish Community Center in Havana to use as their "embassy" there. Like Hitler's, Castro's hatred of the Jews may be founded on the fact (or suspicion) that he is himself Jewish. His mother's father was a Syrian immigrant descended from a long line of Turkish rabbis. Castro and Raúl were both circumcised at birth, which neither then nor now was practiced in Cuba except among Jews. Bernardo Benes, a Cuban Jew and longtime friend and business associate of Castro, once said to him point blank "Fidel, you are a Jew" and Castro, though taken aback, did not deny it.

Kastenbaum limited the scope of his exploration of Cuba's Jewish past to a series of locales in Old Havana associated with the Jewish presence in, and now absence from, Havana. He visited the building that once housed the synagogue where his grandparents were married; a kosher butcher shop which exists for the benefit of tourists and caters exclusively to them (beef being unavailable to ordinary Cubans) and other points of interest. His sojourn reminds one of nothing so much as the packaged tours of major Jewish attractions in Eastern Europe. Sadly, most are not Jewish anymore but monuments to a life and culture which is irrecoverable.

At Adath Israel, the immured synagogue reopened in the 1990s with an imported rabbi, Kastenbaum met 86-year old Salomon Leyderman, who proudly introduced himself as "Cuba's oldest Jew" and is, I suspect, the only remaining Jew of his generation in Cuba. This last leaf has been featured in every story and documentary about Cuban Jews since the 1990s. He recognized Kastenbaum's grandfather and great-uncle from an old family photograph as tailors and well-respected members of Cuba's Jewish community before the Revolution. Coincidentally, Kastenbaum's great-uncle had even made a gift to Salomon of a new suit for his bar mitzvah. The recollection of this act of charity brought tears to both their eyes.

Kastenbaum, however, does not seem to have inherited his great-uncle's generosity because when the old man complimented his sneakers and expressed the wish to own a pair some day (and wishes for 86-year olds do not have a long shelf life), the CNN reporter, rather than offering to buy him a pair or at least to give him his upon leaving Cuba, gifted the old man instead with a cellphone call to his (Kastenbaum's) father in New York, so that the old man could relate to him the story about the suit that his uncle had presented to him for his bar mitzvah 73 years ago. Kastenbaum didn't even commit to sending the old man a Hanukkah card as he had requested when the prospect of getting a pair of sneakers didn't seem too good. Kastenbaum could have made himself the hero of his own story and had a nice wraparound for the anecdote about the suit ("like great-uncle like great-nephew"). There must be some CNN rule about feeding (or shodding) the natives. Wouldn't want to "compromise them" in any way like the bad old U.S. government does to dissidents by mitigating their suffering.

If Kastenbaum had really wanted to know the history of Cuba's Jews rather than use Cuba's "oldest Jew" as a prop, he should have interviewed the thousands of exiled Jews in Miami, who no doubt also remember his grandfather and great-uncle and are free to discuss other matters, which Salomon Leyderman is not. But, of course, Kastelbaum did not go to Cuba to tell the real story of its vanished Jews but to report on "Raúl Castro's reforms."

Interesting videos and slideshows on "Tracing My Jewish Roots in Cuba;" "Life Under a Different Castro;" "Efforts to Restore Parts of Havana," etc. Take all with copious dashes of salt, as needed:

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Fidel Gets the "Homer" that He Deserves

Stalin had Neruda to sing his praises, but the best that Fidel Castro can manage is Orlando José Colmenares Sayago, who composed this execrable "A Song to Fidel On His 82nd Birthday from the Land of Bolívar." Granma actually reproduced the "Song," which I would regard as an act of sabotage except for the fact that its editors are too cretinous to give offense intentionally and too dour to see its unintentional humor. I myself had intended to write a mock review of it; but, really, that would be putting a coat of varnish on a vignette that does not need it.

It is instructive that no Cuban poet, whether veteran sycophant or newcomer, has written an ode to the maximum leader since Nicolás Guillen. I suppose that this is not from want of trying but from fear of going too far or not going far enough. One must be at some remove from the subject of one's panegyric to feel sufficiently confident to distill his "greatness" and no Cuban living on the island is that far from Fidel. Hugo Chávez, himself an artist of señor Colmenares' calibre, may just declare him Venezuela's "National Poet" for his homage to Castro; but that would, of course, entail upon him the additional task of writing an ode to Chávez and the poet has yet to be born who could pull that off for all the flagons of wine in the world.

Una canción a Fidel en su 82 cumpleaños desde la tierra de Bolívar

Viejo pero joven camarada,
Tú figura señera y ejemplar
Va produciendo ideas

De sabiduría mundial.
82 añitos de un joven guerrero
Que sin cansarse de la vida
Sigue siendo ejemplo de Fidelidad
A las ideas de Carlos Marx, Lenin,
Mao, El Che, Martí, Bolívar y tantos otros
Que hicieron su contribución
Para la libertad y soberanía de los pueblos.
Yo te canto a ti viejo y joven maestro,
Siempre tierno en tu trato
Y profundo en tu pensamiento ejemplar,
Desde aquí, desde Caracas, la cuna de Bolívar
Donde una vez nos visitó Don José Martí.
Aquí en Venezuela donde le tendemos
La mano de hermanos a la antilla mayor
La que tiene cinco hijos injustamente presos
En las cárceles del imperio terror
Y Usted mi respetado Comandante
Con su incansable brazo empuñando la pluma
Y haciendo sus análisis de fina y bien tejida orientación.,
En Venezuela lo leemos y lo seguimos casi a diario
Y en los batallones revolucionarios
Discutimos sus conceptos para clarificar
El avance de una común revolución
Gran Capitán de las causas nobles,
Guerrero de la paz y la solidaridad
Yo le deseo que llegue a la edad de Matusalén
Para que vea el velorio y el sepelio
De un imperio ya decadente, entrando en agonía
Y el día de su funeral,
Tomaremos una copa de caña blanca
Para cantarle a los pueblos que llegó la Paz.
Salud Comandante, no desmaye, adelante joven
Y siempre miliciano, tejedor de sueños y buenos ejemplos
Para todos los pueblos amantes de la paz...

Orlando José Colmenares Sayago

Caracas, 12 de agosto de 2008
A los 82 años de la era Fidelista