Author Archives: machetera

Alan Gross’ Fasting Folly

By Max S. Cruz

Alan Gross’ fasting folly

healthshakeTwo weeks ago, Alan Gross, a USAID subcontractor arrested in Cuba in 2009 for activities aimed at overthrowing the Cuban government, desperately announced that he was beginning a fast in an attempt to get the attention of US President Obama, who has basically abandoned Mr. Gross:

“I am fasting to object to mistruths, deceptions, and inaction by both governments, not only regarding their shared responsibility for my arbitrary detention, but also because of the lack of any reasonable or valid effort to resolve this shameful ordeal.”

All major news sources rushed to tell the world that a man had gone on hunger strike.

“Fast” and “hunger strike” are not interchangeable terms.

A fast implies a stopping point and allows for some nourishment of your choosing. One can go on a juice fast, for example, usually for a week or two. A hunger strike is more narrowly defined: no nourishment until death or a resolution to the conflict. While both can be effective tools of protest and both can cause severe health problems, they are still quite different in terms of desperation, conviction, commitment, sanity, and most importantly–outcome.

His is not a fate worse than death.

Desperation: Alan Gross ended his fast after 8 days. Did the Obama administration expect anything different? Probably not. Mr. Gross is not being tortured or even harassed. He is housed in a hospital where his age-related medical conditions are being treated, not in a maximum security prison with murderers and rapists. He receives regular visits from a wide-range of supporters and has constant communication with his family. His wife has repeatedly commented about how well she is treated when in Cuba.

Conviction: Even those who defend Cuba’s sovereignty have buckled to calling Gross a “victim”, when funding proposals written by his own hand make it clear that he was fully aware of the goal of the program. Letters to his home office reveal his anxiety about getting caught, knowing his mission was illegal. No one should have expected Mr. Gross to starve to death defending a lie.

Commitment: Alan was momentarily committed to demanding his freedom (by release or by death).  Years ago he was so committed to freeing Cubans from the evils of communism, that he was willing to gamble with his personal freedom. Now he just wants to go home.

Sanity: Incarceration necessarily takes a heavy toll on one’s mental health. It is distressing. That’s kind of the point of it. Although there have been no reports of Mr. Gross suffering any mental disorders, this fast idea may be a warning sign, especially when his announcement of it breaks from reality, by calling his detention “arbitrary” and urging the Cuban government to acknowledge their responsibility in this “shameful ordeal”.

Not only does he deny he was breaking Cuban law and situate the “ordeal” as something external to himself (as if he were on vacation in Switzerland when it all went down), he displaces blame, on the Cuban government for protecting its borders from a hostile invasion (albeit electronic). Psychosis? More likely a simple lack of strategy–a desperate grasp at straws–and a thorough misunderstanding of the principles of deed as propaganda.

Outcome: None, save for a blip on the media charts. Gross would serve himself better to trade desperation for faith, stand on conviction of his anti-communist beliefs, and admit to his commitment to promote freedom American-style. It may not get him home any faster, but it would gain him respect, rather than pity, and would save his sanity.

Just ask the unwavering Cuban 5.

For over a decade they have shown no signs of desperation. They have held steadfast to their conviction against anti-imperialism and their commitment to protect the Cuban people from terrorism, even though they have endured torture, have been surrounded by murderers and rapists, and have been denied visits from wives and daughters for years on end. Instead of fasting, they have taken up painting, poetry, and tutoring fellow inmates.

Yes, they do cast some blame on the U.S. government for their situation, given it was harboring admitted terrorists who had attacked Cuba repeatedly. They also consider their imprisonment arbitrary because, (aside from all the irregularities of their trials) as admitted covert agents, precedence dictates that they should be at best deported, or at worst swapped, back to their homeland.  It is an unwritten courtesy most “civilized” countries extend to each other. In other words, the Cubans’ stance is based on fact and precedent, not framing and pleading.

Back to the drawing board

Perhaps it is time for Mr. Gross and his supporters to give up their fictitious narrative. Nobody who matters buys it. Using the same useless tactics as the 50 year-old “end the embargo” campaign (create political space for the president to do the right thing) will get Alan no closer to home. Either speak the truth and make Obama et al. exceedingly uncomfortable…or get serious about deception and force his hand.

The truth route would entail:

  • Consistently defining Mr. Gross as a proactive, covert agent in a U.S. government regime-change scheme funded by the Helms-Burton Act;
  • Demanding that the U.S. government acknowledge and treat him like a covert agent, which would mean trading him for the 3 remaining Cuban agents;
  • Proudly placing Alan among the ranks of soldiers and CIA agents and other patriots who willingly put their lives at risk. He is a prisoner of war in need of rescue.
  • Cautiously collaborating with the international campaigns to free the Cuban 5 and with the Cuban prisoners’ wives and families to emphasize the similarities in the cases and the rationality of a swap.

An example of the second route might have gone something like this:

Alan Gross, in cahoots with Cuban government, fakes a hunger-strike…Cubans allow no visitors except his wife (also in cahoots)…Cuban media report on his deteriorating health and force-feeding, Amnesty International goes berzerk, supporters and haters accuse Obama of abandoning a U.S. patriot in the hands of ruthless communists, etc.…Obama cooks up a scheme that allows Gerardo Hernandez and Ramon Labañino to escape while being transported for some reason. (Antonio will be out on his own soon). Raul has a change of heart and Alan is released, looking not much worse for wear.

Yes, yes, it’s crazy… but U.S. history is full of such capers. Besides, it couldn’t possibly have had any less success than this fast.

Cuba’s Updated Migration Policy Totally Confounds the United States and the Micro-Republic of Miami

tumblr_ls54y12Nd81qa0pmyo1_500Cuba’s Updated Migration Policy Totally Confounds the United States and the Micro-Republic of Miami - español aquí

Edmundo García

Translation: Machetera

On Monday, January 14, Cuba’s updated migration policy went into force and one of the listeners of my radio program, La Tarde se Mueve (Afternoon Moves) called in to say that it was as though the floor had been yanked right out from under the Miami critics of the Cuban revolution. They can’t figure out where to stand; they’re completely adrift in the comments they’re making on the radio, TV, and other regular press outlets. Continue reading

The Cubans are coming! The Cubans are coming!

Panic in Washington: The Cubans are coming! 

Jean-Guy Allard

English translation: Machetera - (español)

Now they don’t even bother to hide their worry: the same politicians who slandered Cuba for decades, saying Cubans “can’t travel,” and even going so far as to draft laws meant to push disaffected Cubans to hurl themselves into the sea, are now rushing to figure out how to stop Cubans from arriving in the United States and, in case they manage to arrive, how to stop them from returning to Cuba.

Victims of the traps they themselves set at the height of the Cold War, when the Cuban Revolution, criminally isolated by the blockade, was forced to protect itself by any means, including restrictive migration laws, the Cuban American members of Congress and their clan have suddenly realized that they’ve shot themselves in the foot.  The political structure manufactured to serve U.S. annexationist plans toward Cuba is on red alert and desperately seeking a solution to what it has announced is a dangerous and unexpected invasion by those it has pretended to be defending. Continue reading

Department of double standards: Ángel Carromero

Carromero's deathtrap

Carromero’s deathtrap

Ángel Carromero: How the Spanish media are covering the legal impunity of a homicidal driver

José Manzaneda

Translated by Manuel Talens/Edited by Machetera – (español)

Imagine a man who had his driver license revoked after 46 traffic tickets, 6 of them for high-velocity speeding. Imagine that he then caused the death of two people as a result of driving at excessive speed in a construction zone. [1] The Spanish Criminal code defines this action as “reckless driving resulting in death” and imposes a sentence of several years in prison. [2] No one would believe that such a reckless driver could have TV news and leading newspapers at his beck and call, demanding his release without being countered in any way. Continue reading

Héctor Pesquera on the loose in Puerto Rico

Héctor Pesquera, Puerto Rico’s new Police Chief

Héctor Pesquera, Official Mafioso Hitman Against the Cuban Five, is Chief of Police for Puerto Rico - español

Jean-Guy Allard

Translation: Machetera

Puerto Rico’s governor, Luis Fortuño, has officially named Héctor Pesquera, the former head of the FBI in Miami and the mastermind of a conspiracy that led to the arrest of five Cubans who’d infiltrated terrorist groups in Florida, as the new Superintendent of the Puerto Rican police.

Puerto Rico is facing its most serious wave of crime, violence and corruption in many years.

Pesquera arrived in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on a flight from Fort Lauderdale, and was immediately escorted by FBI agents to the Federal Building, his “alma mater,” at Chardón Street in Hato Rey, where the federal agency is headquartered.

It was at the request of the Mafioso Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart that Héctor Pesquera directed, organized and carried out the arrest of the Cuban Five, who had been sent to Florida from Cuba in order to fight the terrorist campaigns being waged against the island from that city.  The five were transformed into spies through a huge media show.

Pesquera ordered the mistreatment, solitary confinement, and rigged trial of the five Cuban patriots who remain kidnapped in US territory.

This policeman with multiple connections to Cuban American terrorist fauna, is of Puerto Rican origin, the black sheep of a family with deeply held nationalist convictions. Continue reading

Burson-Marsteller, Alan Gross, and the light at the end of the tunnel

The lesson at the Salpêtrière (1887), by Pierre-André Brouillet (1857 - 1914)

PR as Valium - español, traducido por Manuel Talens, de Tlaxcala


Saltpêtrière is a legendary Parisian hospital.  Built in the 17th century, it was known as the cradle of neurosciences for having hosted great teaching doctors such as Charcot, Babinski and Freud.  In the image above, a famous painting by Pierre-André Brouillet, the French doctor Jean-Martin Charcot is portrayed explaining how to diagnose hysteria in a female patient whose name has gone down in the annals of medical history: Blanche Wittman.

The scene is unmistakably sexist: a roomful of men deciding how to treat a woman for a condition whose very etymology reveals its sexism.  Simply by virtue of the fact that she is a woman, she is at the mercy of their decisions. A victim.  The two nuns waiting to catch Blanche as she collapses are mere voiceless spectators.  The men in this image know everything, the women, nothing.

A century and a quarter later, the story behind this painting suggests nothing so much as the case of Judy Gross, the wife of the USAID contractor imprisoned in Cuba. Paternalism remains very much alive, and both The New York Times and Washington Post confirm this through their participation in the inane media campaign to pressure Pope Benedict XVI to counsel Cuba to exchange Rene González for Alan Gross.  Counseling Cuba, as though it were an unruly child, not a sovereign country, is offensive enough.  But it’s nothing new.  The counsel that Judy Gross is receiving on the other hand, is another matter.  Instead of being treated as an active subject, capable of taking her future into her own hands, Judy’s campaign to bring her husband home is being managed and reported by people who have their own, very different priorities. Continue reading

Rene González and Alan Gross: speed and bacon

Disparates - (español)


I suppose the Latin American term for an apples and oranges comparison is peras y manzanas.  [Pears and apples.]  Somehow it doesn’t have quite the same ring.  In Spain, the expressions are funnier.  No hay que confundir el culo con las témporas. [No need to confuse the ass with the temporal bones].  No confundir churras con merinas.   [Don't confuse the sheep that produces itchy wool with the sheep that makes merino].

But at the moment, thinking of Rene González and Alan Gross, I prefer the Spanish no mezclar la velocidad con el tocino [don't mix up speed and bacon], because it’s an expression that highlights the absurd, and nothing is more absurd than the comparisons that are being marketed by the mainstream U.S. press on behalf of the State Department about these two men. Continue reading

The Cuban Five and the Tricks Ahead

The Cuban Five and the Tricks Ahead - español

By Edmundo García

Translation: Machetera

I’d like to begin this article by making something perfectly clear: If the Government of Cuba agrees to allow Alan Gross to travel to the United States, for whatever period of time or reason, I believe that not even the bones of the anti-terrorist fighter Gerardo Hernández Nordelo, who is currently serving a double life sentence plus fifteen years, will ever see the sun of Cuba again.  That’s what I think, and now I’ll explain. Continue reading

The Marketing of Yoani Sánchez: Translation as invention

Machetera and Manuel Talens - español

“There are no accidents.” – Sigmund Freud

As one might have expected, Bloomberg and Reuters dutifully shaded their reports on the recent visit to Cuba of Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff with mentions of the Yoani Sánchez Twitter campaign to pressure Rousseff to intercede on Sánchez’s behalf and persuade the Cuban government to grant her an exit visa to attend a propaganda event in Brazil.

That’s not so surprising.  Sánchez is an egomaniac, for sure, insisting that anyone should care in the first place, when her compatriots Olga Salanueva and Adriana Pérez O’Connor have been denied entry visas by the United States for more than a decade to visit their husbands (Rene González Sehwerert and Gerardo Hernández Nordelo, two of the Cuban Five) unjustly imprisoned in the U.S.  - but if all she has to do is tweet and the press come running, judging the tweet as equal in value to Rousseff’s criticisms of the U.S. gulag at Guantánamo, well, that’s not really her fault – it’s just part of a marketing plan that counts on press complicity. Continue reading

Soviet rubles, Cuba’s debt, the Paris Club and simple math

Marc Frank, writing for Reuters, reports today that the Paris Club is looking to re-open negotiations with Cuba regarding its foreign debt, and mentions Cuba’s outstanding debt to Russia of 20 billion Soviet rubles as a stumbling block.

In 2001, when the Economist wrote about Cuba’s Soviet ruble debt, it pegged the value of that 20 billion debt at $690 million USD, while pointing out that in 1991, 20 billion rubles equaled $11.8 billion.  If you check the Russian ruble -> USD conversion rate today, you’ll find that a 20 billion Russian ruble debt is currently worth $662 million.  What will it be worth next year?  What was it worth in 1997? Continue reading