Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Cuba, 2013: The Year of Travel

There was a lot going on in Cuban affairs this year, what with the two-steps forward and one-step back rhythm of what I like to call Raúl Castro's economic mambo.

Perhaps the most noteworthy events were:

  • the roll out of non-agricultural cooperatives over the summer; 
  • the inauguration of 118 cyber-cafes open to the public (at very high prices) in June;
  • the expansion of the self-employment rolls along with an increase in the number of licensable occupations to 201 by September;
  • the death in Madrid of Cuba's leading independent economist Óscar Espinosa Chepe in September;
  • rising criticisms about the pace and depth of reforms, perhaps best exemplified by Robertico Carcassés' improvised musical protest (within a separate protest) demanding direct presidential elections, an end to the auto-bloqueo (self-embargo), greater access to information, an end to political demonization and polarization, a further liberalization of auto sales (which seems to have just taken place!), and the all-important legalization of marijuana;
  • continued political repression against out-of-the-closet, in-the-street dissidents with a notable increase in Raúl Castro's signature strategy of harassment, short-term detention, and mob attacks - culminating on December 10, which as fate would have it was both the International Day of Human Rights and the date scores of world leaders converged on Soweto, South Africa to celebrate the life and mourn the death of Nelson "Mandiba" Mandela;
  • some (so far) fruitless gestures and empty words aimed at mending fences and updating Cuba-US policies and improving our relationship - punctuated by a first-ever Raúl-Obama handshake at Mandela's memorial service in South Africa;     
  • a significant "law and order" shift that reigned in private 3D cinemas, arcades, door-to-door resellers of household goods, and resellers of imported clothing (the last of whom were permitted to operate until midnight tonight!); and
  • the first ever foreign travel of tens-of-thousands of Cubans, including nearly all the leading dissidents and bloggers. 
For my money, this last development - Cuba's migration reforms and their still-too-soon-to-know repercussions - has been the most important development; one that will inevitably lead to other intended and unintended developments...

So, as a tribute to all those who fought for the right to travel (more) freely from (and to) Cuba, and to all those who actually did travel in 2013, below I share a quick (and very long) list of all those Cubans who I had the pleasure of hearing and meeting (and in many cases hosting) in the US in 2013 - presented roughly in the order that they visited the US:

Benvenidos - que regresen pronto!

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, Yoani Sánchez, Eliécer Ávila, Yasmín Portales Machado, Elaine Díaz Rodríguez, Yudivián Rodríguez Cruz, Armando Chaguaceda, Abel Sierra Madero, Nora Gámez, Manuel Cuesta Morúa, Leonardo Calvo, Juan Antonio Madrazo, Rafel Campoamor, Roberto Viega, Lenier González, Antonio Rodiles, Alexis Jardines, Amelia Rodríguez, Veizant Boloy, Laritza Diversent, Karina Gálvez, Rosendo Romero, Yociel Marrero, Wendy Irepa, Ignacio Estrada, Raduel "Eskuadrón Patriota" Collazo Pedroso, Los Aldeanos (Aldo and El "B"), Obsesión (Mágia and Alexis), Omni-Zona Franca (David Escalona, Amaury Pacheco, and Luis Eligio Pérez), Julio César González Pagés, and Pavel Vidal and Yenly Machado. 

Note: A traveler's inclusion on the list above should not be taken to imply anything about their ideological leanings or agreement with my own pinko views - but I do consider everyone listed a friend and colleague.

Property Rights in Cuba & AP article on cuentapropistas - A Reader Responds...

Earlier this week, the AP put out an article on self-employment in Cuba entitled, "Lack of Customers Dooms Many Cuban Businesses,"(Spanish version in El Nuevo Herald here).

The article reported on follow-up visits their team of reporters did with a number of cuentapropistas whom they had first interviewed 3 years ago in 2011 (go here and here for previous articles in the series).

I was proud to be interviewed and quoted in the article along with the sharp, young Cuban economist Pavel Vidal Alejandro - who now teaches at the Universidad Javeriana in Cali, Colombia and is a visiting scholar this winter at Columbia University in New York City.

Below is an interesting and provocative note I got from a reader about the article.

Further comments welcome...

***

Ted,

I read in the paper that you were writing a book on private enterprise in Cuba. I will be curious to read it.

The AP article skirted the fundamental issue in Cuba (which I am certain you will cover in your book), which is also the answer to the article’s query as to why the private economy is floundering:

The property rights situation in Cuba.

This begins with the confiscation of property beginning in 1959 (“uncompensated expropriations”). It is the white elephant in the room.

As you know, in Cuba all transactions are in cash (which you correctly point out is lacking) largely because there is no credit. There is no credit because there is no secure collateral. There is no secure collateral because there is no clear title to any property.

I was an invited speaker this April at the quadrennial Neurosurgery Neurology and Psychiatry meeting in Havana (I am a neurosurgeon and my father, an American trained Cuban neurosurgeon, was widely considered Cuba’s premier neurosurgeon and the father of “modern” Cuban neurosurgery).

I had a very interesting and enlightening conversation with a Cuban entrepreneur who ran a private car service with a few other Cubans (with actual authentic American cars). He was doing very well and quite happy.

However, he was worried. The bottom line was he feared that "cuando el gobierno ya no les conviene, me quitan todo”. That is, there will be capricious criminalization of his activity to justify the confiscation of his assets.

There were no laws or precedents to protect him and the “wealth” he had created. He couldn't deposit money in the bank (like all Cubans, he under-reports his income) or spend it conspicuously for fear of the government. He worries other Cubans will not be so careful.

He gets it. Why most Americans don’t is a mystery.

I gave him the history of property expropriation in Cuba and it dawned on him that he has the same protections from the government my antecedents had: essentially none.

Ironically, if these claims are treated fairly, he would receive the best insurance any business can have: protection through the rule of law. Settlement of the outstanding claims is the single most powerful economic stimulus the Cuban government can institute.

As luck would have it, Cuba is so broke (bankrupt, actually) that the only way to do so is reconciliation through restitution with the exiled diaspora. They have a great opportunity, but are too proud to take it. 

The taxista found God, so to speak, that night. How the property claims are settled will directly correlate to the strength of the Cuban economy and civil society.

Sorry for going on and on.

Best regards and Happy New Year.

Javier

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

"Lo cortés no quita lo valiente" - entre apretones y palabras!

See video at NYT here.

My two cents on what every Cubahead is talking about today:

There's an old Spanish saying: "Lo cortés no quita lo valiente."
(Being courteous does not mean you can't also be valiant.)

I for one like Obama's style. First he shakes hands with Raúl (lo cortés). Remember, Raúl and Obama are two of the just three or four six foreign heads of state explicitly invited by South Africa to speak at Mandela's funeral service.  And both of them were invited to speak for very clear and justifiable historical reasons.

(H/T to Phil Peters for the correction and his own pair of excellent posts here and here on the handshake affair).

But then, in his speech, Obama says:

"There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Mandiba's struggle for freedom but do not tolerate dissent from their own people" (lo valiente).

A picture may be worth a thousand words, and the above picture is generating thousands of words, tweets, and Facebook discussions. But one should listen to his words as well!

Priceless Garincha: Obama's quote.
Followed by Raúl's comment: "I knew it. Why did I shake his hand!"

The handshake was a show of class to one of the other invited guest speakers at the funeral of a man being remembered (among other things) for being able to constructively engage in dialogue and negotiation with his adversaries.  He was not "bowing down" to the relatively short Raúl, as some have ridiculously suggested.  The real story is the handshake combined with what Obama said for the whole world to hear later in clear reference to Cuba and other similarly repressive governments.

If this is a hint at how Obama would engage and negotiate with Raúl in some not to faraway future, bring on the talks!

And while Raúl claimed in his own speech later that:

"It is only through dialogue and cooperation that discrepancies can be resolved and civilized relations established between those who think differently."

He said these words just as his own government unleashed a wave of arrests and detentions back home in Cuba against scores peaceful demonstrations on the 20th anniversary of the United Nation's adoption of the Universal Declaration if Human Rights.

***

For a very perceptive analysis of the handshake AND the speech see Marc Caputo's column in the Miami Herald.  Caputo's article also includes the entire text of Obama's speech - the video of which you can see here.  By the way, Caputo's fine reflection also inspired some of what I wrote above. (H/T to Ric Herrero of the Cuba Study Group who turned me on to that article).

You can listen to Raúl's entire speech here. For my money, while it reflected an understandable pride in Revolutionary Cuba's past steadfast support of Mandela's anti-arartheid struggle (while the U.S. either looked the other way or supported the other side!), the speech was also delivered in an off-putting, party-line, and unnecessarily militaristic manner - but then again - it's Raúl.

Friday, December 6, 2013

CUBA IN FOCUS - New book edited by Ted A. Henken, Miriam Celaya, and Dimas Castellanos

Those of you who follow me on Twitter @ElYuma will already know that just over a month ago ABC-CLIO published a new book about Cuba, called Cuba in Focus, that I am proud to have co-edited with Miriam Celaya and Dimas Castellanos. In 2008, I wrote a book entitled Cuba: A Global Studies Handbook, also published by ABC-CLIO.  However, when they approached me three years ago wanting to do a new edition, I responded that I had already said my piece on Cuba but that I would be interested in recruiting and collaborating with a group of Cubans from the island to do a new volume that would give voice to their own analysis of the Cuban Revolution and the heady changes (from above as well as from below) that have taken place there in the last five years.

This volume is the result!

Starting young with Uncle Ted!

We benefitted from the collaboration of a host of perceptive and pioneering authors and activists, most of whom actually live on the island today.  A full list is below in the table of contents, but some of the more notable writers included in the volume are the late Óscar Espinosa Chepe, his wife Miriam Leiva, Yoani Sánchez, her husband Reinaldo Escobar, Armando Chaguaceda, Regina Coyula, Henry Constantín, Marlene Azor Hernández, Rogelio Fabio HurtadoMiguel Iturria Savón, and Wilfredo Vallín.

Of course, Dimas and Miriam did their share of stellar writing as well.


Each of the book's seven chapters is made much more vivid and memorable by the breathtaking photojournalism of Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, supplemented by photos by Tracey Eaton, Luzbely Escobar, and Uva de Aragón (all provided complementary).

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

You can learn more about the book and purchase your very own copy here and here.

What follows are the book's PREFACE, ACKNOWLEDGMENTS, and TABLE OF CONTENTS.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

"Cubans in Movement"

"Toward a New Civil Society" 
NYU's King Juan Carlos I Center
Thurs.-Fri., Nov. 7-8, 2013

I love to go to New Orleans and I'm returning for a visit over the next few days.  However, while I'm in the Big Easy, I'll miss out on this very timely and provocative symposium at NYU featuring a group of the best and brightest young Cuban intellectuals.

If you are in the City, don't miss it!

"Cubans in Movement: Toward a New Civil Society," will gather together scholars of various disciplines to discuss the limits of the changes initiated by the Cuban regime as well as focusing on the changes detectable in the thought and art of today's Cuba.

"Cubanos en movimiento: Hacia una nueva sociedad civil", reunirá a estudiosos de diversas disciplinas que discutirán las limitaciones de los cambios promovidos por el régimen, así como las políticas de cambio detectables en el pensamiento y el arte en la Cuba de hoy.

PDF here.  Full program below...

Friday, November 1, 2013

Yoani & the USA 2.0

Between reform & repression, from catharsis to collaboration, & from protection to responsibility

This afternoon blogger, activist, and soon-to-be digital newspaper publisher Yoani Sánchez returned to Cuba after spending the better part of the month of October traveling between Mexico and the United States - with time spent in New York City, Denver, Silicon Valley, and South Florida, along with a quick trip to Europe tucked in between.

Her witty, hopeful, and penetrating presentation, "Disconnected Dissent," at the Google Ideas "Ideas Summit" (6:28 min.) is here (in Spanish with English subtitles).


  • You can go here to view the panel she shared at Columbia University with three other quite brilliant and brave Cabot journalism award winners (click on "Covering Latin America: Past, Present and Future").
Maria Moors Cabot past winners: Alberto Ibarguen, (Cabot '04, President, Knight Foundation), Alberto Dines (Cabot '70, Observatorio da Imprensa, Brazil), Gustavo Gorriti (Cabot '92, IDL-Reporteros, Peru), Yoani Sánchez (Cabot '09, Generación Y, Cuba)
  • Here to see her conversation with my students at Baruch College (link to video coming soon!). 
Yoani Sánchez at Baruch College.
  • Here to listen in on her engaging conversation at Stanford University's Program in Liberation Technology, "Reporting from Cuba: How Pixels are Bringing Down the Wall of Censorship."
  • Here and here for coverage of yesterday's talk at Valencia College in Orlando (video stream of entire event here).
  • And here to listen to her Google Hangout conversation with US diplomat Roberta Jacobson, conducted while Yoani was on the Google "campus" and Jacobson was in DC.  A big H/T to the folks at Roots of Hope for their tireless and enthusiastic help in coordinating her trip to Silicon Valley and south Florida.
Just tonight Yoani reported via Twitter that upon arrival in Havana she was forced to run the gauntlet of humiliation from Cuba's customs agents, who went through all her things - including the digital files on her various gadgets and USB drives - with a fine toothed comb.

She - and her husband Reinaldo Escobar who was traveling abroad with her for the first time - were eventually allowed to enter the country with all their belongings intact.  However, they assume that copies of all the physical and digital files they carried with them are now in the hands of state security.

(Cuba seems to be learning from the recent airport customs tactics of the US itself, which has subjected the documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras to similar shenanigans - treating the customs/immigration areas of international airports in the US with the same legal "creativity" as it does Guantánamo Bay Naval Base - but in this case targeting the digital documents of US citizens)!

Good thing Yoani has continued her practice of radical transparency, never hiding and in fact repeatedly declaring her full intent to start a full-fledged digital newspaper in Cuba before the end of the year.

In fact, when she met with the US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power last week (a very sharp woman and equally good listener), I remember that she responded to the Ambassador's wishing her good luck with the newspaper with the comment:

"Well, more than a newspaper, we've really conceived of it as an exercise in democracy and journalism 2.0."

At the same time, she wouldn't tell me or the Ambassador the name of her newspaper, saying instead:

"When you hear the name, you're going to say to yourself - 'that's what it had to be called'."

A few important things I remember from her conversation with the Ambassador - which I repeat here on my blog only because I heard her say them again in different ways in many of her more public (and live-streamed or recorded) conversations at various universities and tech companies around the country (see above).

When Amb. Power asked her to share her take on the "pulse" of the island today given the much trumpeted economic reforms of President Raúl Castro, including the newfound ability to travel, Yoani used two potent metaphors to describe the dynamic situation:

Cuba can be characterized as caught between "the carrot of reforms and the stick of repression" and as a "train leaving the station."

As she had done back in March on her first visit to New York, Yoani recognized on the one hand that the reforms were both positive and moving in the right direction (that is, toward the market and toward greater autonomy for the people).

However, she also insisted that the reforms were far too timid (they can't even use the word reforms, using instead the euphemism "updating"), not being nearly fast or deep enough to meet the rising demands or increasingly desperate needs of the Cuban people.

She explained that the reforms represent Raúl's "carrot" for the portion of the Cuban population that demands a better standard of living and an end to the myriad ridiculous prohibitions of economic freedoms, but that these reforms are also systematically coupled with with the "stick of repression" immediately used against anyone whose demands go beyond the piecemeal economic reforms seen to date and "touch the monkey" of urgently needed civil and political changes.

In other words: We'll give you a bit of economic oxygen if you agree not to demand a political blood transfusion or a civil bone marrow transplant.  (OK, these bad metaphors are my own, not Yoani's).

She also characterized the current situation in Cuba as a train leaving the station.  She respectfully if pointedly rejected the notion that the reforms to date merely amounted to a "fraud," saying instead that the government has little choice but to enact them in an increasingly constrained domestic and international context - but is still trying to implement them in a way that maintains its top-down control and political power.

To paraphrase her always eloquent and penetrating analysis:

"The train is moving far too slow.  It is an old, rusty train full of parts that don't work.  And, of course, we can't trust the engineer at the helm.  He wasn't put there by the passengers.  But instead of standing on the platform and insisting that the train is going nowhere, I want to be on the train so I can have an impact on its speed, how it works, give voice to how the passengers feel, and above all to take advantage of the movement - of the little cracks in the wall - to ensure that its destination is not the same tired, intolerant, and totalizing place where we have been headed for more than 50 years."

Finally, as Yoani has said before, when Amb. Power asked her what she thought of US policy toward Cuba, she first described herself as a "popular diplomat," insisting that she has no other title or position that that of "citizen."  Still when pressed, she urged for the continuance of Obama's policy of openness to greater back-and-forth travel, engagement, and people-to-people contacts as such policies are oxygen for the Cuban people and much like kryptonite to the the supposed superman of the Cuban state (again my metaphor), which much prefers an aggressive and isolationist enemy in the White House against which it can rail over a firm but open-handed president who refuses to let US policy be set by hard-liners in Havana (I would have added - "or in Miami or Washington" - but she didn't say that!).

While Yoani was here in New York last week, and later as I followed her travels across the country to the HQs of Twitter, Google, and Facebook in Silicon Valley and to Stanford University earlier this week, and to Orlando's Valencia College yesterday, she also gave voice to the idea that upon her return to Cuba she will be putting the finishing touches on a collective digital newspaper project.  She contrasted this new "endeavor of collaboration" with her original (and on-going) project of personal reflection, idiosyncratic reportage, and intentionally subjective "catharsis" - her blog, Generación Y.
  
Finally, lest we think that we will no longer hear her signature voice, she assured the packed house at the 75th annual Maria Moors Cabot awards at Columbia University's School of Journalism that while the award has afforded her protection and made her ever more aware of her responsibility as a journalist, she insisted that her responsibility is:

"not that of the entomologist, who looks down on the ant colony from above; writing in her fine notebook filled with white pages while down below, the ants live, kill, and die."  But instead, to "engage each day in a better kind of journalism, from within the ant colony, from to point of view of the ant."

What follows is her acceptance speech - first in my English translation followed by her original Spanish.

Columbia University President Lee Bollinger presenting Yoani Sánchez with her special Maria Moors Cabot citation, flanked by Steve Coll, dean of Columbia's School of Journalism, Josh Friedman, chair of Cabot awards, and a member of the Cabot family.

Cabot Remarks - Yoani Sánchez
Delivered, Monday, October 21, 2013

Good evening to everyone,

Tonight, being together with you, I want to recall the mixture of feelings that overcame me four years ago when I found out that I had won a special mention from the prestigious Maria Moors Cabot prize. As is always the case when someone gets such good news, my first sensation was one of joy, happiness, the desire to call all my friends to share the news. Then I started to imagine attending the award ceremony, sharing the words that I deliver tonight and receiving in my hands the prize medal. Nevertheless, the longest-lasting impact that winning this distinction has had - after the initial euphoria passed - was one of responsibility.
The responsibility of knowing that I am exercising journalism within a very battered society. In a country where a strict control over information has been erected as one of the most important mechanisms of political control. A society of barricades, where sharing one's opinion, reporting, doing an interview can immediately tar one as untrustworthy, as someone to be spied on and silenced. But, as in any society rife with censorship, I perform journalism in a nation where a simple chronicle, an op-ed column, or even a brief article of reportage also has the power to reveal reality, to liberate.
I have never understood the role of a journalist to be that of the entomologist who looks down on the ant colony from above. Writing in her fine notebook filled with white pages while down below, the ants live, kill, and die. I am an ant and I want to write about life in the ant colony from within. Like so many other Cubans, I have preferred to live and write, to breathe and blog, to walk and tweet, to be and also to narrate what I am and what surrounds me. This commitment brings with it a great responsibility, one that I felt with the greatest force when Columbia University honored me with this prize.
The responsibility to commit myself to help mend through words, what has been erected on a foundation of shouts and slogans. The responsibility to assure that the press contribute to finding solutions, to generate all those debates that we haven't been able to have in Cuba for decades. The responsibility to rescue those moments of history that were stolen from us. The responsibility to refuse to remain silent in a country where the mask is always more convenient and advisable than using one's own voice. In sum, the responsibility to engage each day in a better kind of journalism, from within the ant colony, from to point of view of the ant.

Thank you very much.

***


This year's Cabot awardees: Donna DeCesare (US-El Salvador), Jon Lee Anderson (US), Mauri Konig (Brazil), Alejandro Santos Rubino (Colombia), and Yoani Sánchez (Cuba).  

Buenas noches a todos,

Quiero hoy recordar junto a ustedes la mezcla de sentimientos que me embargó cuando hace ya cuatro años supe que había ganado una mención de este prestigioso premio María Moors Cabot. Como siempre ocurre cuando alguien recibe una buena noticia, la primera sensación fue de alegría, felicidad, deseos de llamar a todos los amigos para contárselo. Después sobrevino una fase en que me imaginé en la ceremonia de premiación, diciendo estas palabras que hoy pronuncio y tomando entre mis manos la medalla del galardón. Sin embargo, el efecto más duradero –después de la euforia inicial- pasó a ser la responsabilidad.
La responsabilidad de saber que estoy ejerciendo el periodismo desde una sociedad muy lastimada. En un país donde el estricto control sobre la información se ha erigido como uno de los más importantes mecanismos de poder político. Una sociedad de barricadas, donde opinar, reportar, hacer una entrevista puede ubicarte inmediatamente en el terreno de los no confiables, de los que hay que observar y acallar. Pero también, como en toda realidad llena de censura, hago periodismo en una nación donde una simple crónica, una columna de opinión o breve artículo pueden generar efectos de revelación, de liberación.
Nunca me ha gustado ver al profesional de la prensa como el entomólogo que mira al hormiguero desde arriba. Escribe en su impecable cuaderno de hojas blancas mientras allá abajo, las hormigas viven, matan, mueren. Yo soy una hormiga y quiero narrar el hormiguero desde adentro. Como tantos otros cubanos, he preferido vivir y escribir, respirar y bloguear, caminar y twittear, ser y también narrar lo que soy y lo que m rodea. Eso entraña una gran responsabilidad, que sentí con mayor fuerza cuando la Universidad de Columbia me agasajó con este premio.
La responsabilidad de comprometerse a ayudar a enmendar con la palabra, lo que se ha levantado a base de gritos y consignas. La responsabilidad de que la prensa contribuya a encontrar soluciones, a generar todos esos debates que no hemos tenido en Cuba por décadas. La responsabilidad de rescatar esos momentos de la historia que nos fueron arrebatados. La responsabilidad de no callarse en un país donde la máscara siempre es más cómoda y más recomendable que la propia voz. En fin, la responsabilidad de hacer cada día un mejor periodismo, desde dentro del hormiguero, desde la óptica de la hormiga.

Muchas gracias.

Monday, September 23, 2013

RIP Óscar Espinosa Chepe: Se nos ha ido pero su trabajo y legado ejemplares nos quedan

Miriam Leiva &
Óscar Espinosa Chepe,
Havana, Cuba,
May, 2009
The brave, sharp-minded, soft-spoken & fiercely independent economist Óscar Espinosa Chepe died this morning in Spain. He was a great light of critical reason for Cuba and he and his deep socio-economic and political analysis will be sorely missed at this critical time in the nation's history.

The Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy - of which he was a long-time member and proud participant - mourns his passing and celebrates his great contribution to our ongoing work.

He has left us but his exemplary work and fine legacy remain.

Photo from a May, 2009 visit to Oscar and Miriam's book-filled apartment in Havana. 

Obituary from the Associated Press.

By Andrea Rodriguez

HAVANA (AP) -- Oscar Espinosa Chepe, a high-level Cuban economist and diplomat who broke with Fidel Castro's government in the 1990s and was imprisoned for dissident activities, died in Spain Monday. He was 72 and had been hospitalized for a liver ailment.

Espinosa died in Fuenfria Hospital in Cercedilla, just north of Madrid, according to The Cuban Human Rights Observatory. The group said he had been in Spain since March receiving treatment.

Espinosa was one of 75 writers and political activists locked up in 2003 during the Black Spring, a notorious crackdown on dissent that provoked international criticism and EU sanctions lasting five years.

Little known at the time of his imprisonment, Espinosa was sentenced to 20 years but released after 19 months on medical humanitarian grounds, on his 64th birthday.

By then his name was more familiar, in part thanks to the work of his wife, fellow dissident Miriam Leiva, who helped found the Ladies in White protest group to press for their husbands' release.

Espinosa said the government had made a mistake by locking him and the others up, and vowed they would not be silenced. The Cuban government frequently accuses island dissidents of accepting money from Washington to undermine the government, but Espinosa frequently denied being a "mercenary."

"We are non-violent people who have not committed any crime," he told reporters in November 2004 at his and Leiva's tiny Havana apartment, always overflowing with the books, papers and statistical reports they used to write about Cuba's complex and troubled economy.

Espinosa had suffered from liver problems for years and in the early 2000s was diagnosed with cirrhosis. He was hospitalized with liver troubles in August 2012.

"My health problems are from before I was imprisoned, but the conditions of the prison contributed to making them worse," Espinosa told The Associated Press shortly before he traveled to Spain for medical treatment.

Gray-haired and soft-spoken, "Chepe," as he was commonly called, was known for fixing his gaze firmly on whomever he was talking to and repeatedly adjusting his spectacles as he spoke.

He was born Nov. 29, 1940, in the central province of Cienfuegos, and along with many of his generation was infused with revolutionary fervor following Fidel Castro's 1959 Cuban Revolution.

He graduated with a degree in economics from the University of Havana in 1961 and began a long career of mid- and high-ranking posts in the government, including as counselor to then-Prime Minister Castro in the `60s and later as head of the powerful Office of Agrarian Reform.

Espinosa also was a member of the State Committee for Economic Collaboration, specializing in a handful of Soviet bloc nations, and did a stint as Cuba's economic attache in Yugoslavia.

He took up a position at the National Bank of Cuba upon his return in the 1980s, but increasingly found himself at odds with government policy.

According to Espinosa's account, in the early 1990s, after voicing disagreement with the country's economic policies, he was denounced by a colleague, publicly sanctioned and ultimately fired.

From his later writings, it was clear that Espinosa believed the Communist government wielded excessive control over the economy and he was a strong critic of corruption and bureaucracy.

He reinvented himself as a writer about the Cuban economy, publishing articles and books in the United States, Spain and elsewhere, and doing some work for Radio Marti - U.S.-funded broadcasts aimed at Cuba that Havana bitterly objects to as an intrusion on its sovereignty.

However Espinosa also vocally opposed the U.S. embargo and economic sanctions against the island, saying it gave the Cuban government an excuse for its shortcomings and the restrictions it placed on Cubans.

Espinosa's independent, critical voice touched a generation of Cuba scholars around the world, one colleague said in a prologue to his book.

"Oscar's admirable labor in his numerous, documented and brave works on the economy and social aspects in Cuba have inspired and influenced the work of many Cuban economists in the exterior," the U.S.-based economist Carmelo Mesa Lago wrote.

Espinosa's death is the third significant loss for Cuba's tiny community of outspoken dissidents in as many years, following the passing of Ladies in White co-founder Laura Pollan in 2011 and Varela Project author Oswaldo Paya the following year in a car wreck.

---

Associated Press Writer Ciaran Giles contributed to this report from Madrid.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Carmelo & I travel to China (via radio)

An in-studio photo (from left to right):
Zhao Yang (co-host), Jiang Shixue (guest), and Ben Leung (co-host)

Last night I had the honor of accompanying distinguished professors Carmelo Mesa-Lago (who needs no introduction) and Jiang Shixue, Vice President of the Chinese Association of Latin American Studies, on the China Radio International English Service show "Today," with co-hosts Zhao Yang and Ben Leung (I love it when someone from China sounds like they are from Britain).  

Above is a photo from the Beijing studios, while Carmelo participated via telephone from Pittsburgh and I from NYC.

With all the hullabaloo about this new-fangled "Inter-Web," we sometimes forget the power of the good ole radio. 

(On second thought, I guess you're going to listen to this radio show on the Internet, so I stand corrected!)  

Cuba & Raúl's Reforms 
    2013-07-25 14:24:47     CRIENGLISH.com       Web Editor: Wuyou
Panel discussion:When asked about Cuba- what springs to mind? Cuban cigars? Rum? Fidel Castro? Maybe Communism? Well, cigars and rum are very much here to stay whatever the weather; Castro is getting on but is still there.
Communism, on the other hand, the raison d'etre of the state of Cuba as we know it, well, that's looking a bit more tenuous now than say, 10 years ago.

-Jiang Shixue, Vice President of the Chinese Association of Latin American Studies
-Ted Henken, President, Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy
-Carmelo Mesa-Lago, Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of Economics and Latin American Studies, University of Pittsburg

 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Eliécer y Alarcón - Round II (5 años después)

Eliécer Ávila visiting West New York/Union City, New Jersey
contemplating a bust of José Martí with an inscription that reads:
"The fatherland is an altar, not a pedestal." (Photo: Ted Henken)

It seems incredible to me that it took Ricardo Alarcón 5 years to respond publicly to Eliécer Ávila given that Ávila was thrown under the nearest bus after his impertinent questioning of the then President of Cuba's National Assembly.

Alarcón says that he was prevented from responding earlier by unnamed powers that be.

"Thanx to our self-censorship, they prevented me from making my arguments while they gave arguments to him (...) For me that was very painful because with that I was out of the game, and I will die with this hanging over my head."

Believe me, I've heard Alarcón speak in public and he's not easy to get the best of in an open debate. But in this case, he was caught defending the indefensible and - as he says - will be remembered for the "sky filled with planes" argument.

Friday, July 12, 2013

ASCE, ASCE; everywhere ASCE!

In less than three weeks, the 23rd annual conference of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy, will kick off for a three-day marathon of panels, receptions, debates, and discussions from August 1-3 at the Miami Hilton Downtown.

You can register yourself, and pay via PayPal.

Given recent changes in Cuba's migration laws, the organizers of the conference (including myself) have been working hard for months to bring in a record number of participants from the island itself.

Full preliminary program.

The Cubans Are Coming!
I can confirm that we will have the honor of hosting:
  • Roberto Veiga and Lenier González (the co-editors of the essential socio-culural magazine of the Catholic Church, Espacio Laical);
  • The young professor and doctoral student from the University of Camagüey, José Luis Leyva Cruz;
  • The independent economist Karina Gálvez (Convivencia Magazine);
  • The independent laywer Lartiza Diversent (possibly together with her colleague Veizant Boloy);
  • Estado de Sats co-founder Antonio Rodiles (who will likely attend with the defense lawyer, Amelia Rodríguez Calá);
  • Environmental social entrepreneur Yociel Marrero of the Fundación Antonio Núñez Jiménez;
  • Veteran dissident attorney, René Gómez Manzano; and
  • The young scholar Armando Chaguaceda, who will be coming in from the University of Veracruz where he works.
It is also likely that we will once again benefit from the informed analysis of Oscar Espinosa Chepe, but via teleconference from Spain where he is receiving medical treatment.

We will also benefit from the presence and participation of a number of recently immigrated Cuban scholars, including Nora Gámez and Abel Sierra Madero, whom I met at the recent FIU CRI conference and at LASA.

Of course, I have left out many other attendees such as ASCE stalwarts - like Carmelo Mesa-Lago and Jorge Pérez-López - as well as this year's keynote speaker Harvard labor economist, Gorge Borjas, but my intention here is to emphasize our efforts to grow the organization and make it ever more inclusive and dynamic.

The organizing committee also invited a number of other economists, scholars, and intellectuals who work in Cuban educational and research institutions.  Unfortunately, none besides Leyva Cruz and Marrero is able to attend this year.  But we have let them know both publicly and privately that our doors remain open as we value their scholarship and would benefit from their participation.

$10 Student Registration and The Jorge Pérez-López Student Prize
In order to encourage greater graduate and undergraduate student participation, we have SLASHED the price of registration for all students (and recent graduates) by 95%.  Student can register here for just $10!

One of the cornerstones of ASCE’s outreach to young scholars is the Jorge Pérez-López Student Prize, which awards the author of the best undergraduate and graduate paper on Cuban economic issues with a cash award, travel and lodging costs to attend and present their work at ASCE’s annual conference, one year of ASCE membership, and publication in Cuba in Transition.

This year we received a record number of submissions from two dozen universities in Cuba, the United States, Canada, and Europe!

And the winners are... (Click the image to enlarge)


Edward Snowden: In his own words...

Edward Snowden, center. At left is WikiLeaks' Sarah Harrison. The woman at right is unidentified at this time.
Photo is courtesy of Human Rights Watch, via NPR.

From Wikileaks via NPR, excerpts from Snowden's press conference Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport today, Friday, July 12, 2013.  Well worth reading:

"Hello. My name is Ed Snowden. A little over one month ago, I had family, a home in paradise, and I lived in great comfort. I also had the capability without any warrant to search for, seize, and read your communications. Anyone's communications at any time. That is the power to change people's fates. ... 

"I did what I believed right and began a campaign to correct this wrongdoing. I did not seek to enrich myself. I did not seek to sell US secrets. I did not partner with any foreign government to guarantee my safety. Instead, I took what I knew to the public, so what affects all of us can be discussed by all of us in the light of day, and I asked the world for justice. ...

"Countries around the world have offered support and asylum. These nations, including Russia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Ecuador have my gratitude and respect for being the first to stand against human rights violations carried out by the powerful rather than the powerless. ...

"I announce today my formal acceptance of all offers of support or asylum I have been extended and all others that may be offered in the future. With, for example, the grant of asylum provided by Venezuela's President Maduro, my asylee status is now formal, and no state has a basis by which to limit or interfere with my right to enjoy that asylum. ...

"I ask for your assistance in requesting guarantees of safe passage from the relevant nations in securing my travel to Latin America, as well as requesting asylum in Russia until such time as these states accede to law and my legal travel is permitted. I will be submitting my request to Russia today, and hope it will be accepted favorably."

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Must watch: "Redes.Cu" - Excellent new mini-doc about Internet in Cuba!

Directed by David Vázquez Abella, this brand new documentary entitled REDES.CU profiles the daily struggles of three young Cuban professionals to get and stay connected to the web. H/T Penúltimos Días.

 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Encuentro fraternal entre Guillermo Fariñas y cubanos de NY-NJ

New Jersey, 19 de junio de 2013

A los cubanos y amigos de la democracia en general,

El próximo viernes estará con nosotros el destacado periodista independiente y opositor cubano Guillermo (Coco) Fariñas, premio Sakharov 2010. Fariñas salió de Cuba en el marco de la Ley Migratoria promulgada en Cuba en enero del presente año y su propósito principal es el de dar a conocer ante el mundo la falta de libertad y democracia que hay en nuestra patria y los esfuerzos que se están haciendo para cambiar dicha situación. Antes de finalizar el acto habrá un espacio de preguntas y respuestas.

LUGAR: Local de la Unión de Expresos Políticos Cubanos, Zona Noreste
Calle 43  # 508, Union City, New Jersey
FECHA: Viernes 21 de junio de 2013
HORA: 7:30 PM

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Décimas del Anauta

Décimas del Anauta

Posted at Observatorio Crítico by Lucha tu Yuca Taino

Por El Anauta

¡Ya tenemos Internet!,
nos dicen con alegría
Y se anima el alma mía
pensando entrar en la red.
Pero encuentro otra pared
levantada ante mí ahora.
¡Caramba! ¡Esto no mejora!
¡Tiene un precio inaccesible!
En moneda convertible:
cuatro cincuenta la hora.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

NYT Lede Blog: Cuban Blogger Elaine Díaz both Reveres Castro & Pushes for Reform

Thanx to Natalie Kitroeff for shining a light on this fascinating part of the emergent Cuban blogosphere and civil society.

Reading my quotes below (which are accurate) makes me reflect that this group of what I refer to as “silent dissidents,” are neither very silent nor do they consider themselves dissidents - if the term is understood to mean that they are against the government or against socialism.

However, they do constantly dissent from official policies - even if they often do so very carefully - "rattling the chain" of reform, while not "touching the monkey" of the system itself - as the Cuban saying goes.

Also, while I say that: “Their big problem is that they’re constantly biting their tongue.” Such caution might just be their particular solution, allowing them to be able to express criticism and keep their day jobs in a polarized political context.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Cuban bloggers in NYC (again)! Wed., June 5, 1:00 p.m. NYU

Co-sponsored by
the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy
and NYU's Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies

Friday, May 31, 2013

Coming home: CNN Reports on Yoani Sánchez's return to Cuba


Cuban dissident blogger Yoani Sánchez is surrounded by relatives after her arrival, at the José Martí International Airport in Havana, Cuba, Thursday, May 30, 2013. Sánchez is back home after a more than three-month globe-trotting tour that has turned her into the most internationally recognizable face in the island's small dissident community. Sánchez has been on the road since Feb. 17 and visited more than a dozen countries in Europe and the Americas. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

Thursday, May 30, 2013

#LASA2013, #Nauta & #YoaniRegresa

Lots of buzz in and around Cuba this week.  Given that it's late and I'm anticipating a quite busy first full day of #LASA2013 tomorrow, here I'll just give a quick round up of all the big news with links below. (See *note below re removed banner).
  • Tuesday morning saw the big announcement in Juventud Rebelde and the Gaceta Oficial that 118 telepuntos will finally provide service to the Inter- (or is it Intra-?) net starting on June 4.  While three levels of service will be provided via the so-called "Nauta" plan, and while there are promises to continue expanding and improving said service, the takeaway at this point seems to be that 1) all service will be in hard currency ($4.50/hour for "full" Internet), 2) it will be offered exclusively by the state monopoly telecom ETECSA in newly equipped centers across the country (not via private, household connections), and 3) that it will be offered to the divisa-paying public in a tightly controlled "walled garden" format that will allow the government maximum ability for surveillance and filtering.  Penultimos Dias sums this approach up with the memorable phrase: "Intranet, y de pago."  You can also get good analysis of the announcement from  Cafe Fuerte, Larry Press, and the NYT.
  • After three and a half months of travel to more than 11 countries, Yoani Sánchez is set to arrive home to Havana sometime on Thursday morning to begin the next stage in her improbable journey.  Peter Orsi and Paul Haven do a bang up job on an AP article entitled, "Cuban Blogger Returns Home to Unknown Future," gaging the impact of her trip abroad and the unclear future that awaits her back on the island.  Her husband, Reinaldo Escobar, offered what was likely the most realistic, grounded quote of all, telling Orsi and Haven that, "What awaits her is a lot of work, a lot of responsibility and the possibility to realize her dreams." I'm set to be on CNN sometime tomorrow discussing her trip and return - so stay tuned...
  • While I was in Miami last week attending the 9th semi-annual FIU/Cuban Research Institute conference, I managed to escape to Calle Ocho to see the dynamic musical duo Raudel (Escuadrón Patriota) and David D'Omni bring the house down at the Cuba Ocho Art and Research Center (and bar!) in Little Havana (pictured to the right).  For those of you who do not know Escuadrón or his work, Raudel Collazo (his given name) is a "real deal" Cuban hip-hop artist and civil rights activist.  His music delivers sharp, poetic, and often very spiritual social and political criticisms.  He has put out various independently produced albums as well as being the subject of the documentary film, Despertar!  His latest disks include: Mi testimonio, El legado, and Somos la raíz del cambio.  Go here to view a recording of his live show at Cuba Ocho from last week. 
  • While waiting for Raudel's show to start, the crowd was treated to a showing of the wonderful new documentary, "Ni rojo, ni verde, azul" (Not Red [communist], Not Green [military], Blue), about the life, "kidnapping," and death of Cuba's largest counterculture music festival, Rotilla.  For more on the festival and to see a second, 23-minute mini-doc, "Rotilla: Si dios quiere y el partido lo permite," follow the hyperlink above.  Below is a photo I snapped of Diddier Santos, one of the main organizers of the festival who has a prominent role in the film and is now touring with it around the US.
  • As mentioned above, LASA is upon us and so now is a good time to recall/reread the pungent series of hard-hitting articles about this annual conference of Latin Americanists published by Cuban Sociologist Haroldo Dilla at CubaEncuentro in April.  In the articles, Dilla underlines the importance of LASA as a forum where "the two Americas can meet."  He also advocates for greater access to the conference for young scholars from the island, through a more rational US visa policy.  At the same time, he publicly and quite devastatingly analyzes some of the objectionable practices that have become standard within LASA's Cuba Section - such as state-party control over the Cuban delegation and undue influence of the University of Havana on section activities and funds for participants.  I recommend that you read them all in the order they were published, here (English); here, and especially here.  You might also like to read another article (in English) where Dilla reflects on some of the unfortunate antics that took place at last year's conference in San Francisco.  
  • *Let me apologize to some of the people named in the now removed #OccupyLASA2013 graphic - especially Zaida Capote and Mylai Burgos who both objected to me in person - who were not consulted and very surprised to see their names on the "occupy" list. While I did not make the poster (my good friend Rolando Pulido did) I should have checked with the named individuals before reposting. While I am encouraged by the more inclusive representation of Cubans at #LASA2013, I agree that no one should have been included on the list without their consent.  Scarred but smarter.
  • Finally here are a few LASA panels to watch
Thursday, May 30, 3-4:45 p.m.
* "Cuban Youth in the New Millennium" - Ethan Allen
Panelists include Carlos Tapia (Catholic Church), Ana Ruiz (Juan de los Muertos), Donna Chambers (Education), and Marcelo Fajardo-Cardenas (New Technologies and Non-Conformist Discourse).  I will serve as discussant.  We will also hear briefly from the special Cuban guests: Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo (on the independent blogosphere) and Manuel Cuesta Morua and Leonardo Calvo Cardenas (who will discuss the Movement for Racial Integration, the Arco Progresista, and the magazine Islas).

Friday, May 31, 5-6:45 p.m.
* "Los afrodescendientes en la nación cubana" - Washington 2
Rafel Campoamor, Juan Antonio Alvarado, Manuel Cuesta Morua, and Leonardo Calvo Cardenas

Saturday, June 2, 3-4:45 p.m.
* "Internet and Society in Cuba" - Park Tower Suites 8211
Session Organizer: Yasmín Silvia Portales Machado, CLACSO
"La 'nueva universidad' cubana: Internet y pedagogía crítica" - Hiram Hernandez Castro, Universidad de La Habana
"Perfil demográfico de la blogosfera hecha en Cuba: Primeros resultados de investigación" - Yasmín Silvia Portales Machado, CLACSO
"Informatización y empresas en Cuba: Resistencias y caminos" - Lázaro J Blanco Encinosa, Centro de Estudios de Técnicas de Dirección de la UH
"Impacto y posibilidades del acceso a las Tecnologías de la Sociedad de la Información en el nuevo modelo económico cubano" - Yudivián Almeida Cruz, Universidad de La Habana

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

UPDATE: "Diplomats should engage in dialogue" - USIS Deputy Chief Conrad Tribble joins #TwittHab in Havana!

UPDATE - May 21: Peter Orsi and Andrea Rodríguez of the AP in Havana just put out a really good article summarizing Tribble's trailblazing in Havana's Twittosphere and some of its interesting repercussions.  It is entitled: 


Besides El Yuma, who got in a pair of quotes, they include comments from a wide variety of other players in this on-going drama, including Elaine Díaz, Carlos Alzugaray, Carlos Alberto "La Chiringa" Pérez, Miguel Díaz-Canel, Alejandro Cruz, and of course Yohandry Fontana.  

* * *


Last Friday, May 10, at 4:00 p.m. in the Vedado district of Havana, a group of about 20-30 Cuban Twitter users held an open meet-up called #Twitthab.  This was the second such gathering under that name coming almost two years after the first one in the summer of 2011.

One unique element to Friday's gathering was the surprise presence of the Deputy Chief of the US Interest Section, Conrad Tribble (@ConradTribble).  Below is a video of his brief and to my mind very positive intervention.

A short summary of his comments at #TwittHab in Havana:

"Diplomats should engage in dialogue."

Well said, well done, & keep it up!



You can go herehere, and here for some of the interesting back and forth between him and a number of Cuban bloggers that followed his visit.

(Here's another brief video of him speaking [in German] at his previous post in Munich about the relationship between diplomacy and social media. So his interest in digital technology and US diplomacy is not something new.  There's even a great video of him here singing "Jack the Knife" - so Jazz and diplomacy go well together too it seems)!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Quotable (+video): Díaz Canel on "the impossible chimera" of information control

"Today, with the development of information technologies; today, with the development of social networks; today, with the development of computers and the Internet, to prohibit something is nearly an impossible chimera.

"It makes no sense.

"Today, news from all sources, from good ones and from bad ones, those that are manipulated, and those that are true, and those that are half-truths, all circulate on the web and reach people and those people are aware of them.

"The worst response then, what is it?

"Silence."

-First Vice-President of Cuba,
Miguel Díaz-Canel, May 5, 2013



Fragmentos de las palabras de Miguel Díaz-Canel, miembro del Buró Político del Partido Comunista de Cuba y primer vicepresidente de los Consejos de Estado y de Ministros, en la clausura del seminario nacional preparatorio del curso escolar 2013-2014.

"Hoy, con el desarrollo de las tecnologías de la información, de las redes sociales, de la informática y la Internet, prohibir algo es casi una quimera imposible. No tiene sentido.

"Hoy, las noticias de todos lados, las que son buenas y las que son malas, las que están manipuladas y las que son verdades, las que están a medias, circulan por las redes, llegan a las personas, la gente las conoce.

"Lo peor entonces es el silencio.

"Por tanto, nosotros constantemente tenemos que estar dialogando, argumentando, discutiendo para poder lograr que en esa diversidad de información nuestros estudiantes, profesores, y nuestro pueblo en general, puedan discernir las verdades y lo que es el bien de lo que es mal, lo que es favorable para la Revolución de lo que no lo es.

"Por tanto, no nos podemos empantanar en un dialogo que sea formal y en que otros pongan el debate que nosotros debemos desplegar. El escenario de las clases y el aula es de los ideales para desarrollar todo este trabajo".

Monday, April 29, 2013

Welcome Eliécer Ávila: Meet & Greet @ Baruch College, NYC 4-6 p.m., Thurs. May 2 - RSVP now!

We've been having quite a different kind of "Cuban spring" here in NYC this year!

Following April's historic visits of Yoani Sánchez and OLPL to the Big Apple, this week I have the honor of hosting the 27-year Cuban old computer engineer and activist Eliécer Ávila.

He arrives to JFK on Tuesday afternoon, April 30.

We have set up an informal "meet & greet" for him at Baruch College, this coming Thursday, May 2, from 4-6 p.m. just following his visit to my "Sociology of the Internet" class.

If you'd like to come and welcome him, or even ask him some impertinent questions like the ones he posed 5 years ago to Ricardo Alarcón, launching him on his still-unfolding odyssey, you can RSVP by sending me an e-mail at yumated@gmail.com.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

My Week with Yoani: Another reader responds...

Dear Ted,

I have been meaning to email you to say thank you. I appreciate the time that you took and the interest you showed in helping me to get a ticket for the Yoani Sánchez event at the Freedom Tower.  As you may recall, I ended up getting two tickets.

I really liked the way it started – with Yoani reading “Cubanos y punto.” I also saw her at the Coral Gables Country Club. That was a Q & A format and I got to ask a question:

"Had she read Vaclav Havel’s El Poder de Los Sin Poder?" I asked.

"Yes, . . . of course," she responded.

I thought she was absolutely, incredibly, 110% terrific.

She is extremely well-spoken, poised and composed.

She’s determined and focused, warm and genuine.

She won us over!!! Big time!

She did not have to say much to win me over, but for those (few) who had their doubts about whatever, she was impressive.

I really liked her spirit of reconciliation.

Sincerely,

Laura María

The City that Care Remembered: My Students Reflect on New Orleans

My students working at a Habitat for Humanity site, 
Central City, New Orleans, March, 2013. 

For the sixth time since 2007, during Spring Break I led a group of 14 of my students on a 10-day service-learning adventure in New Orleans, Louisiana. As part of my honors class at CUNY entitled, “The City that Care Forgot: The Roots, Ruin, and Rebirth of New Orleans," we all visited the “Big Easy” from Friday, March 22, through Tuesday, April 2, working on rebuilding projects with Habitat for Humanity and harvesting vegetables at Grow Dat Urban Youth Farm.

My students and I also took levee and "human geography" tours of the city, visited the swamps at Barataria Preserve, rode the St. Charles Street Car, evaluated the progress of Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation in the Lower Ninth Ward, and even learned how to Zydeco at the famed Mid City Lanes Rock 'n' Bowl!

Click here to see a quick 30-second YouTube video of us each saying our favorite N'Awlins word: CreoleGumbo, Y'all, Jazz, Crawfish, 9th Ward, Lagniappe...

What follows are a series of reflections on the trip written by the students themselves.

Monday, April 22, 2013

My Week with Yoani: Day 1 - Columbia's J-School (Thursday, March 14)

Josh Freedman and Mirta Ojito of the Columbia University School of Journalism.

What I have begun below and will continue in a series of subsequent posts is to create a digital archive of the heady and historic week of March 14-21 when I played host to Yoani Sánchez and Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo in New York City and Washington, DC.

Given that we covered so much ground visiting a half-dozen universities (Columbia, New School, NYU, Cardozo, Georgetown, and CUNY), did scores of interviews (CNN, CNBC, PBS, NPR, NYT, NY1, NTN, etc.) and sit downs with editorial boards (Bloomberg, WSJ, and WaPo), made various presentations at assorted think-tanks (Americas' Society, Cato, and Brookings) and human rights organizations (Committee to Protect Journalists), and paid visits to a hand-full of government institutions such as the Czech Embassy, the US Congress, the OAS, and the UN, I think it valuable to provide a detailed listing of our day-by-day activities, with embedded videos and photos of public events with links to key articles from the many interviews.  That way, there will be a one-stop place to get a day-by-day summary of all the events from that week.

Let's begin with the conversation Sánchez had (via LiveStream) with Mirta Ojito of the Columbia University School of Journalism followed by a Q&A with Columbia students.  Ojito is a former Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times reporter and the author of Finding Mañana, a memoir of the Mariel Boatlift.  She previously interviewed Yoani via phone in December 2011 for the episode, "Tweeting Under Castro," as part of Columbia's J-School BlogTalkRadio series.

 

Other interviews done by Yoani either just prior to or immediately following the J-School event include:

*Andres Correa of the Venezuelan newspaper El Universal interviewed Sánchez (audio on SoundCloud). In the interview she discusses the challenges facing Venezuela and the Venezuelan opposition. She also acknowledges that Venezuela is heading down the road that Cuba is now walking away from.
  *Part I: Yoani Sánchez: "Venezuela está entrando donde Cuba va de salida."
  *Part II: Yoani Sánchez: Una espina clavada en el pie.

*An exclusive international Telemundo Interview, with other good coverage from Miami Telemundo reporter Maria Montoya herehere (also with Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo), and here.

*A report for CNBC by their chief international correspondent Michelle Caruso-Cabrera.

Yoani Sánchez and Juan Manuel Benítez.

*New York 1 - Noticias - Pura Política: Entrevista Exclusiva con Juan Manuel Benítez (but you need Time Warner Cable to view it).  If you do have TWC you can see some of Benítez's past coverage and interviews with Sánchez via telephone from Havana here.

Sánchez and Josh Freedman.

*Huffington Post - Roque Planas, "Yoani Sanchez, Cuban Blogger, Plans Independent Newspaper Online." After Yoani herself, Planas is my go-to Twitter feed (@RoqPlanas) - over 3,800 Tweets and counting - for a wide variety of news related to Latinos in the US.  His updates are smart, constant, comprehensive, and full of wit and wisdom.

*The Guardian - Gizelle Lugo, "Yoani Sánchez: dissident Cuban blogger hopeful of digital change." Lugo is a stand-out former student of mine who now works for both the Guardian and the Nation.  I reached out to her for what turned out to be her first solo-authored exclusive interview - a very good one at that!

*Florida Center for Investigative Reporting - Tracey Eaton, "Cuban Dissident Blogger Tours the US" - article and video in English and Spanish).  Eaton is a good friend, former Dallas Marning News correspondent in Havana, and fellow blogger who was also kind enough to post 152 of is photos (many of them very good like the one to the left) from Sánchez's visit to New York.


Interview with Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez from Tracey Eaton on Vimeo.
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