Thursday, December 20, 2012

Cuba se mueve...

Cuba se mueve

NUEVA SOCIEDAD 242   Noviembre-Diciembre 2012
Leonardo Padura Fuentes Eppur si muove en Cuba. 
Elizabeth Dore Historia oral y vida cotidiana en Cuba. 
Juan Antonio Blanco Cuba en el siglo XXI. Escenarios actuales, cambios inevitables, futuros posibles. 
Haroldo Dilla Alfonso Las encrucijadas de la política migratoria cubana. 
Juan Triana Cordoví Cuba: ¿de la «actualización» del modelo económico al desarrollo?
Alejandro de la Fuente «Tengo una raza oscura y discriminada». El movimiento afrocubano: hacia un programa consensuado. 
Velia Cecilia Bobes Diáspora, ciudadanía y contactos transnacionales. 
Samuel Farber La Iglesia y la izquierda crítica en Cuba. 
Carlos Alzugaray Las (inexistentes) relaciones Cuba-Estados Unidos en tiempos de cambio.
Pedro Juan Gutiérrez Poesía visual.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

La blogósfera cubana: 2012 Year in Review

In my previous post, I mentioned that there had been a lot of significant activity over the past year in Cuba's emergent blogosphere.  Here, I will give a brief chronicle of what I see as the most important developments.  Readers are encouraged to comment with other important things I may have missed.

[Note: This is going up now in beta, and I will add in all the hyperlinks later].

Let me begin by giving a big shout out and welcome back to Elaine Díaz and her blog La polémica digital, who - after bidding us all farewell in her "último post" over the summer - returned to blogolandia just yesterday with a new entry, "Israel Rojas cantará por ti," showing her in top form and ready to engage with her readers once again.  Happily, her readers are back and have already generated more than 40 comments in less than 24 hours.

Her return to the blogosphere seems motivated in part by the increasingly loud protestations from members and supporters of the "closed for repairs?" blog of La Joven Cuba at the University of Matanzas.

As I first reported here back in June, the guys at LJC took an extended summer vacation in July and August, insisting that: "aquí estamos y estaremos."  By mid-September this indeed seemed to be the case as they were blogging in full force once again by then.

However, LJC went silent again in October posting just twice that month (neither post was written by the bloggers themselves) and not at all in November.  Early November did see a post provocatively entitled, Soy contrarevolucionario?, by Alejandro Cruz at the blog, Cubano Primer Plano, that wondered aloud what had happened to them.

December - in contrast - has seen an outpouring of posts (mostly at other sites, such as here, here, here, and here) making clear that their "temporary vacation" was not voluntary and that they are fighting to go live once again.

In fact, if you go to their blog now, you will find the announcement that I have taken a screen shot of and posted to the left here.  It reads:

"The blog continues blocked for the administrators and we can't access it to comment or read it.  We'll continue publishing thanks to the solidarity of our friends.  We have confidence that common sense will break the virtual barrier and that we'll be able to return to normal in the near future." 

I wish them luck, but who says that you need anyone's permission to blog.  Oh yeah, we're talking about Cuba, I almost forgot...

I do hope to welcome them back to blogging once again soon, especially given that - while clearly from WITHIN the revolution - they had become more critical of errors and broken promises, attracted a wide readership, and allowed for a lively and open debate in their comments section.

But one lesson from their shut down is that even the most revolutionary bloggers can be silenced if they:

a) insist on editorial independence and

b) rely on a government institution for their Internet access.

Or, as the perceptive Havana Times blogger Alfredo Fernández wrote in a post of his own about the Díaz and LJC closures back in August:
"Things must be going pretty bad for the Cuban government if it has to pressure even its younger defenders to give up their efforts on the Internet.
Now that it seems that Raulism can’t even put up with its 'independent defenders' in a medium such as the Internet —with very low impact on Cuban public opinion— it seems logical to speculate on who will be the next pro-government blogger to 'say farewell'."

So, here's my quick 2012 Year in Review of the blogósfera cubana:

1) First, there was the April "Blogazo por Cuba," hosted by La Joven Cuba at the University of Matanzas, otherwise known under the unfortunate title "Encuentro de Blogueros Cubanos en Revolución."  Importantly, this event was attended by and Tweeted about by none other than Mariela Castro (see here and here for some of her Tweets).

2) This was followed by a fascinating, heated debate over the seemingly exclusive, "by invitation only" nature of the gathering.  As helpfully summarized (and translated) by Ellery Biddle at Global Voices, the most important posts in this debate are the event's final declaration, an eloquent response to the meeting by members of the Observatorio Crítico (actually written beforehand), as well as the criticisms from Elaine Díaz (who declined an invitation to attend) and Yasmín Machado (who was not invited at all).

3) This was in turn followed by LJC's later critical posts about Raúl's reforms and about the newspaper Granma.  There were also the previously mentioned pair of LJC posts in June, first saying goodbye and then saying that they weren't going anywhere.

4) The #BlogazoxCuba event can be contrasted with the 3-day June "Festival CLIC" hosted by Estado de SATS and co-sponsored by the Voces Cubanas Blogger Academy and the Spanish EBE blogging collective.  Havana Times blogger Alfredo Fernández summarizes CLIC here, and some of the debate that that three-day gathering generated can be read here and here.  While the portal Havana Times had no formal participation in the event, it was accused of imperial scheming by CubaDebate, with responses from HT editor Circles Robinson and Dmitry Prieto.

5) Unfortunately, the portal Bloggers Cuba has gone dark and as previously mentioned, Elaine Díaz decided to call it quits in order to "dedicate her time to research and teaching..."  Still, individual bloggers associated with BC, such as Yasmín Machado, her husband Rogelio Díaz, as well as Sandra Alvarez (Negra Cubana tenía que ser), have continued to blog quite intensively, and in the case of Yasmín and Rogelio, critically.  Similarly, the blog portal of Observatoiro Crítico has become more active, as has what seems to be a new and more pro-regime site called Cubano Primer Plano.

It is noteworthy that - without mentioning the temporarily jailed Antonio Rodiles by name, OC did post a brave declaration against the rise in arbitrary detentions in Cuba, signed by many of its members including Yasmín Machado.

6) In my humble opinion, the BIG NEWS of the year is that both Voces Cubanas and Havana Times have become even more bold, inclusive, vital, and active over the past year, with HT hosting an always broader and more critically engaged array of voices, including translations of great articles by Samuel Farber, Fernando Ravsberg, and Haroldo Dilla, as well as a trailblazing series of interviews conducted by Yusimi Rodríguez of people like Dimas Castellanos and Miriam Celaya, and others by Dmitry Prieto.

7) Voces Cubanas has doubled down on its on-going and expanding three-pronged projects all done on a "pluralistic, inclusive, and autonomous" basis.  Given the constant unsubstantiated claims from the Cuban government and its official bloggers that the members of VC are "mercenaries" working in the service of some dark foreign power, VC has reiterated:
"We are a web site that receives financing from no government, protection from no institution, advice from no expert, and orientations from no political party."
"Somos un sitio web que no recibe financiamiento de ningún gobierno, protección de ninguna institución, asesoramiento de ningún experto ni orientaciones de ningún partido."
a) Its home portal has expanded to include an always more diverse array of bloggers (also available in translation).  They have also recently produced an instructive brochure describing all these and many other activities, aimed "at working not only in the virtual world," but "in the real Cuba" as well.

b) The digital magazine VOCES - edited by OLPL - continues to put out new editions on an almost monthly basis (brochure), and

c) The ALT-TV series "Razones Ciudadanas" has entered a more technically advanced second season with new episodes dedicated to "Cuban Law," "The PCC Conference" in Jan 2012, "Cuban Elections," "The Legitimacy of the Cuban Government," and "Raúl's Reforms" (brochure).

8) Voces Cubanas has also done pioneering work - under the leadership of Yoani Sánchez - reaching out to support and publicize other independent civic initiatives such as the gatherings and marches of Las damas de blanco, the meetings at Estado de SATS, the public art and poetry festivals of Omni-ZonaFranca, the appearance of 1Cubano+ (just another Cuban) - the eloquent series of critical monologues produced by the once and future cyber-activist, Eliécer Avila -, and the trials, tribulations, and provocative graffiti art of El Sexto.

VC even organized a voluntary civic relief effort for the victims of Hurricane Sandy, collecting supplies and sending them to Cuba's Oriente to be distributed.

Sánchez has also actively reported on the systematic rise in detentions and other violations of human rights and leant her cyber-support (and given Twitter classes) to members of Cuba's various independent human rights organizations, such as Hablemos Press, La Union Patriotica, and the Cuban Commission of Human Rights and National Reconciliation.

9) 2012 has also seen a marked expansion of the use of cell phones in Cuba - as reported by Cafe Fuerte - and an increase in the numbers of Cubans who use their phones send SMS messages that magically turn into Tweets allowing users a presence on the Internet with out actually having access to the Internet.  This expansion is largely due to the Twitter workshops that Sánchez has been giving from her home, resulting in a new crop of over 100 Twitter users whom you can follow yourself.

10) Finally, there was a recent session of "Ultimo Jueves" in late-November (the on-going, Temas magazine sponsored gatherings at the Fresa y Chocolate café) dedicated to "Culture, Movements, and Social Networks in the Internet."

You can read a summary of the event here and reactions to it here and here.  While I obviously wasn't there, I have been informed by Carlos Alzugaray - who was there - that Antonio Rodiles, recently released from jail, was present in the audience and allowed to participate by asking a question.

Rodiles later confirmed this to me.

*Note: I also just received a call for papers from Temas, announcing a special issue of the magazine to be published in May under the title, "What Is Information Society?"  The deadline for submissions is March 15, 2013.

Unfortunately, the panel invited to speak seems to have been heavily weighted toward official or semi-official voices, with almost no space for representatives from civil society.  It was composed of Milena Recio, Professor of Digital Journalism; Rosa Miriam Elizalde, editor of the oficialísimo and debate-free site Cubadebate; party member, blogger, and LGBT activist, Francisco Rodríguez; Juan Fernández of the Ministry of Communications; and the blogger Iroel Sáchez, coordinator of EcuRed, Cuba's answer to Wikipedia.  The panel was moderated by Rafael Hernández.

Some of these panelists, such as Rodríguez (aka, "Paquito el de Cuba") and Temas editor-in-cheif Hernández, are known as advocates for greater spaces of debate ("jugando con la cadena," as they say in Cuba), but rarely if ever do they lodge systemic criticisms ("tocando el mono").  I don't know all the others, but Elizalde and Sánchez are two of the more notorious official mud-slingers and slanderers in the Cuban blogosphere.

I'm not saying that they shouldn't have been included, but their inclusion without some parallel representation from one or two of the more independent groups mentioned above - VC, HT, BC, and LJC - indicates that even the most open and rigorous spaces in Cuba like Ultimo Jueves still have a long way to go before they can overcome the polarizing and intellectually stifling approach to debate that includes only those expressly "within the revolution," while systematically excluding those who stand unambiguously outside of it (which is not necessarily to say against it).

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Del ciber-espacio al espacio público? Cuban Civil Society and the Emergent Blogosphere

While I'd love to find the time (and develop the technical know-how) to add an audio voice-over to this Prezi presentation that I put together earlier this year, I thought I'd share it here on my blog in its current "beta" version.

Of course, if anyone out there knows how I can add audio to this, do share.

Though the presentation not up to date and does not include the many developments in the Cuban blogosphere during 2012 (Blogazoxcuba, Festival Clic, the closure of La Polemica Digital and censorship of La Joven Cuba, and the emergence of a vigorous SMS/Twittosphere - more on all that later), it does attempt to chronicle the richness and diversity of Cuban cyber-space, as some internauts have increasingly attempted to stake out a claim to public space as well.

I have written about most of the ideas in the presentation before here in English and here in Spanish.

As always, I'd love to hear your feedback...

Also, It might help if you put it on auto-play and view it in fullscreen mode. You can also use the cursor to drag the screen to see parts that are skipped over.

Note: After you hit "Start Prezi," you will likely have to be patient as all the images, embedded video clips, and other multi-media components load.  But then you can watch it, and even export, e-mail, and embed it as you like. If nothing appears below, click HERE to see the presentation at the Prezi site itself.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

"They let him go, but he was always free"

My favorite quote from the three-week saga following the arrest of Anotnio Rodiles comes from Cuban writer and blogger Enrique del Risco who commented upon Rodiles' release:

"They let him go, but he was always free."

For a breaking update on the Rodiles story, you can read this interview with him (English & Spanish) just published at Café Fuerte.

Ivette Leyva Martinez also has this summary at CafeFuerte.

Those many of us who publicly advocated for his release can be justly proud that in only a few days petitions from Amnesty International,, and many others caught fire and put pressure on the Cuban government to realize that they really had no case against Rodiles.  That is a citizen victory and quite unprecedented.

Of course, as Rodiles said in the interview he gave to Cafe Fuerte, much remains to be done.  There are still other, similar non-violent activists unjustly behind bars in Cuba.

I personally called Antonio at home on Monday night and spoke to him very briefly.  He told me that he gives thanks to all who have supported him and his family during these difficult days.  He also said that he will continue with his citizen activism in Estado de SATS to build a better, more inclusive Cuba.

He put it this way in the Cafe Fuerte interview:

CF: Will you continue Estado de Sats? What are your plans now?  
AR: The project of course will continue and I would say even more forecefully. The idea of the project Estado de Sats, of the campaign “For Another Cuba,” has to do with respect for the rights of Cubans, with respect for the human being first and foremost, with the opportunity to debate, to openly discuss, and I think that with this beating this was the main thing they showed me: this way is the way for Cuba to change, and clearly violence is the enemy. Now more than ever I believe that the work requires total dedication.

One very interesting outcome of his arrest is the legal complaint just filed by four independent Cuban lawyers against Cuban State Security.  You can read about that in Juan Tamayo's Herald story.

"Estado de SATS," the independent, non-violent, citizen-led project founded by Antonio continues to function.

Also, remember that the other reason behind the recent wave of repression is the "Citizen Demand for Another Cuba," which continues to exist and that you can read and add your signature to.

Finally, it is important to note that the FREE RODILES that I launched with a hand-full of friends received 4,567 signatures in just a few weeks, but that the "Demand" has only received 1,279 so far.

YOU can change this by adding your voice to it now.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

For my brother, Antonio, on the occasion of Thanksgiving - Gladys Rodiles-Haney

Thanksgiving should be celebrated among family. Since I was a child I realized that my family was just my parents and my brother Antonio Rodiles; there are more than enough reasons for me to come to this conclusion but I will keep those private (for now).

That is why I’m not surprised to see my elderly parents all alone (in terms of family support) fighting this nightmare.

However, this sad chapter in our small family history has also seen a powerful outpouring of hope because while facing the horrible situation of my brother's arrest and imprisonment my family has been magically multiplied.

My family - and in particular my brother - is receiving the support of thousands of people around the world who are adding their voices to the demand that he be freed and that all charges against him be dismissed.

I'd like to remind my readers just how easy it is for the Cuban government - which has a monopoly over the domestic media - to manipulate information, pictures, and videos in order to defame its opponents and savage their reputations, leaving them no opportunity to defend themselves.

For example, an article has appeared with photos showing my brother going to the U.S. Interest Section, as if that were a crime or somehow proved that he has been working as some kind of mercenary for the CIA.

It pains me to hear these kinds of allegations because during the early years of the revolution a cousin of my mother, the lawyer Alberto Fernández Medrano, was executed in Camagüey by a firing squad for supposedly being a CIA agent, a charge that was never proven in a court of law.

While it is true that my brother Antonio did visit the USIS - and in fact did so several times - he did so for a very simple reason: to assist my elderly mother in applying for a visa to visit me where I live in the U.S. because I was expecting a baby.

They tried many times but like all everyday Cubans (they have no special privileges), they weren't able to get an interview right away. Actually, my son was born January 4, 2012 and my mother was not able to be with me at the time. She didn't arrive until 4 months later.

During those months and with my son newly born, my husband was diagnosed with cancer placing me in a desperate need of help. Because of this, my brother continued to try his best from Cuba to get my mother a visa to be able to visit me.

Knowing all this, I’m now getting used to see how the Cuban state media manipulates the the truth and says things like: "Rodiles checking in at the USIS."

Here's what I have to say to them:

Antonio Rodiles is authentic, honest, valiant, and respectful.  He knows how to make a serious argument without using violence or mounting false scenarios that rely on the bald manipulation of information, videos, and photos.

The practice of silencing one's opponents instead of debating them openly and rationally is truly shameful and only reveals fear and an utter lack of principle.

On the other hand, the illegitimate effort to silence my brother has only resulted in the growth of my extended family with over 4,200 people signing the "Petition to Free Antonio Rodiles" at

And this enlarged family of mine will not stop or give up in the face of fabrications and lies, because quite simply my brother has nothing to hide. It is just this kind of man that they most fear in the fight for justice in Cuba.

Gladys Rodiles-Haney

The sister of Antonio Rodiles, who shared this testimony with me and asked that I share it here as a part of the celebration of Thanksgiving Day in the U.S., where she lives with her family. The testimony is also available in Spanish at CaféFuerte.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

SOS Cuba - Omni-Zona Franca - Pray for Us!

"We love all Cubans, 
but we love those who are suffering more."

Who's Rodiles & why is he in jail? (Part II)

Intrepid reporter Tracey Eaton interviewed Antonio G. Rodiles on July 16, 2011 as part of his one-of-a-kind series of video interviews with many of Cuba's leading bloggers and dissidents.

Always one to listen to a broad spectrum of voices, Eaton has also interviewed a fair number of Cuba's "official" bloggers and even some "outed" undercover state security agents.

Next time, he should try to get an exclusive with Yohandry - perhaps with a paper bag over his head! 

Here's the 6-minute interview with Rodiles (with English subtitles). Go here for a full Spanish transcript of the interview.

Also, you can follow these links for more of Tracey's subtitled videos of Cuba's bloggers and transcripts.

Who is Antonio G. Rodiles and why is he in jail?

The past week has seen a major wave of repression unleashed against Cuba's emergent civil society - with a particular focus on a group of young activist intellectuals, artists, and bloggers.

While scores of activists - most of them cyber-activists in one way or another - have been temporarily detained and released (as is the new Raulista strategy), one man remains in jail.

Antonio G. Rodiles

Remember that name.

The last time I was in Cuba in April 2011 I interviewed the Havana Times blogger Alfredo Fernández.  At the end of our interview, he invited me to an upcoming session of something he called "Estado de SATS."

I responded, "Estado de WHAT?"

(So you'll be forgiven if you've never heard of it.)

It turned out that I was too busy over the next few days chasing down bloggers and getting grilled by State Security to go to Estado de SATS, and boy do I now regret it!

"Estado de SATS" (State of SATS) was started by the Cuban Physicist! Antonio Rodiles upon his return to Cuba in 2010 after having lived, studied, and worked as a professor in Mexico and the United States.  Rodiles even got a degree and worked as an adjunct for a time at Florida State University in Tallahassee.

(Café Fuerte has a brief bio of him here - go here for an English translation of the bio - written by his sister, Gladys Rodiles-Haney, who lives in the U.S.  You can also check out this brief news clip from Martí Noticias on Rodiles.)

State of SATS is an independent physical space (convened in Rodiles' family home) as well as a digital television program that is distributed via the Internet abroad and – given the dismal web access in Cuba – from hand-to-hand, flash drive-to-flash drive on the island.

The program is one of the only spaces in Cuba where vital social and political topics are addressed freely, openly, and respectfully, without discrimination or fear, and where no one is excluded for how they think.

Think of it as the Cuban version of the now famous TED Talks.  It was explained to me that the term refers to the feeling of anticipation you get when you are just about to go on stage or when something big is going to happen.

Something BIG is happening indeed.

Antonio Rodiles was arbitrarily detained a week ago by unidentified state security agents.  Reports are that upon arrest he was badly beaten and held incommunicado for a week in part to hide his injuries from the public.

Today, Wednesday, November 14, 2012, he was brought up on trumped up charges of “resisting arrest” and now – if convicted – faces between three months and one year in prison.

Antonio was not arrested for resisting arrest, however.

(Logically, of course, you can't be arrested ONLY for resisting arrest since there has to be another previous cause for the initial arrest attempt!)

He was arrested because he – together with scores of other Cubans – put in motion a demand that the government of Cuba ratify and put into practice the pacts that it signed four years and nine months ago at the United Nations for the wellbeing and prosperity of all Cubans and the respect for their civil and human rights.

This is the “Citizens’ Demand for Another Cuba.”  You can also add your name to the 1,197 others already there.

(You can go here to read and sign the English version of the text, which currently has 744 signatures, and see here for some background on the petition from Yoani Sánchez.)

Antonio and a group of fellow activists in Cuba describe their project in the following video [SP].

Antonio’s mother describes his arrest and the current situation her son is in on this radio clip.

As I say above, after living and studying abroad in both Mexico and the United States, and working as a college professor in Florida, Antonio returned to Cuba in 2010 and launched the “State of SATS” project.

However, Havana's authorities refuse to recognize that there is no law in Cuba against the free exercise of one’s civil rights. Because of this, the police must invent arbitrary charges and treat acts of civil resistance such as the "Citizens' Demand for Another Cuba" and "Estado de SATS" as common crimes.

I call on all people of conscience to put pressure on the Cuban government and on its diplomatic missions and personnel around the world so that they will free Rodiles and comply with the international agreements they have already signed.

Thank you very much for your support.

This video features a declaration by Antonio's main supporters in Cuba and is read by blogger Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo.  An English translation of the declaration follows below.

Declaration No. 2, November 11, 2012

On Wednesday, November 7, a group of citizens was arrested outside the so-called Section 21 of State Security, at 31st Avenue and 110th Street, in the municipality of Marianao. The group of about ten people was there to inquire about the legal status and whereabouts of the attorney Yaremis Flores, who was arrested without due process hours earlier.

This was the first of a series of illegal arrests that extended into the next day, when several friends and supporters went to the Acosta Station, between 2nd and 3rd, in the Diez de Octubre municipality, to inquire about the causes of what happened. Other solidarity groups took to the streets in the interior of the country, also victims of arrests and repression. These arrests were accompanies, in the majority of cases, by the cutting off of telephones with the complicity of the companies CUBACEL and ETECSA. Among those arrested were many activists related to the Citizen’s Demand for Another Cuba, which has been developing, in recent months, a campaign which aims to make the Cuban government ratify the International Covenants on Human Rights that Cuba signed in 2008.

Today, 72 hours after the violent arrest of Antonio Rodiles, the principal coordinator of the State of SATS project, and 48 hours after the equally violent detention of the writer Angel Santiesteban, both remain behind bars, on hunger strike, without seeing the sun, without their right to make the telephone call as required, and without communications with their closest family members. We assume that the main reason for the delay in their release is to hide any traces of the severe beatings to which they were subjected at the time of their arrest. So far, it is unknown precisely what the situation is with regards to their physical condition, and the future evolution of both intellectuals.

Police harassment, arbitrary arrests for political reasons, the abuse, and the imputation of crimes not committed, are procedures that are completely outside Cuban law and that were, in fact, being denounced recently by the lawyers Yaremis Flores and Laritza Diversent (of the independent law firm CubaLex), directing their complaints to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions, in a detailed register of persons who are at risk. Governance in Cuba has become pure repressive praxis, far beyond any supposed ideological sign.

We hold Cuban State Security responsible for their actions with regards to the life and health of Antonio Rodiles, Angel Santiesteban, and any other detainee whose arrest we are not yet aware of. The national police should refrain from carrying out arbitrary directions and illegal orders and psychological pressure as ordered by State Security. It should ensure the strict compliance with the laws, in favor of the rights of citizens and their safety. It should stand with the State and not with a government whose legitimacy has expired; for the Cuban nation and not for the so-called Revolution.

We demand the immediate release without charges of Antonio Rodiles and Ángel Santiesteban.

We demand a full accounting by those among the paramilitary groups and the officials involved in these events, which are completely outside the laws of our country.

This is the legitimate demand of a civil society that will not be restrained by any coercion nor driven to violence by those in power, nor will it relinquish a single one of the spaces it has won.

We thank the international community for the interest it has shown toward our struggle. We urge all Cubans, wherever they are, to continue in solidarity with the aspirations of justice and freedom in our society at this definitive historical juncture.

Havana, November 11, 2012

Boris González Arenas

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Lia Villares

Luis Trápaga

Alfredo Fernández Rodríguez

Ailer González Mena

Camilo Ernesto Olivera

David Canela

Walfrido López R.

Claudio Enrique Fuentes Madan

Luis Eligio de Omni

Kizzy de Omni

Gladys Fernández Vera

Manolo Rodríguez Planas

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Bike Ride to the Dark Side!

Bike Ride to the Dark Side!
Friday, November 2, 2012
New York City
Island of Manhattan
11:34 p.m.

At 2:30 p.m. I jumped on my trusty, rusty bike and headed south from Washington Heights down into the eerie chaos of mid-town and the ghost town that is southern Manhattan. After about an hour of pedaling south down the West Side Bike Path, I stopped at 34th street just across the street from the Empire State Building for a lecture on the Cuban economy by Carmelo Mesa-Lago at the CUNY Graduate Center's Bildner Center.

More on that excellent and informative analysis in a later post.

When that ended at about 5:45, I jumped back on my bike and rode east on 34th street, planing to pass by my workplace - Baruch College - at 24th and Lexington, and then head down as far south as I could get - and see what I could see. Upon leaving 34th and 5th Ave, I noticed a bizarre scene where the north side of 34th street had power but the south side did not - running all the way east and west like that. Then I noticed literally hundreds of people lined up on the darkened south side of 34th street under a scaffolding that ran the entire block - all of them waiting their turn to get on a bus to take them home from work back into Brooklyn or Queens or the Bronx.

I was glad to be on my bike.

When I got to 34th and Lexington and tried to turn right, I was blocked by a wall of busses and realized that I was now at the head of the line of all those people waiting and where a group of 5 or 6 police officers were directing the waiting passengers onto busses as they pulled up. It was quite strange to see all those commuters waiting huddled together and to see that the interchange of 34th and Lex had been transformed into an impromptu bus station!

Finally navigating my way around all the busses and people I flew like the wind south down Lexington toward Baruch at 24th. As I rode, I immediately noticed that the entire ten block stretch between 34th and 24th was in the dark and despite my having seen crowds of people waiting for busses on 34th street, as I glided down Lexington, I was virtually the only vehicle on the road, with all the stores shuttered and all the traffic lights out.


Baruch was shut up tight with only the gleam of emergency lights shining from inside. I crossed over 23rd street and headed past Gramercy Park Hotel, Gramercy Park, and down to Union Square. All this area was without power except for a few buildings that had huge generators humming along outside, providing the basics in power. I slowly made my way south through the darkened canyons that are now southern Manhattan. At every street crossing were a pair of cops directing traffic - the little that there was - and on the larger crossings they had even set up bright red flares to alert motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists alike. I can still smell the phosphorus in my nostrils and see that sharp gleam in my eyes when I close them.

I was happy and even a bit proud to see so many cops out keeping things safe and relatively calm. I did feel a bit of an edge to such a bizarre scene in the city that never sleeps. I was also quite impressed that most people, while perhaps frustrated, seemed to be taking things in stride and I saw no evidence of looting or any kind of crime. Nor have I heard reports about any such behavior. I also noticed that a number of stores - especially food stores and pharmacies - were open for business. The bodegas just worked in the dark, while the pharmacies had generators.

When I got as far south as City Hall, I made a point to turn right (heading west now) so that I could take a look at ground zero. I came up on it from the east, riding beside the huge Century 21 store and saw that the street between them was soaking wet with puddles and even a small stream of water running from the WTC site through a fire drainage hose onto the street and down into the storm drains. Four-days later, they were still pumping water out of "the pit" at the WTC site - and out of the subways and the Path Train tunnel!

I then made my way further south, passing Wall Street, Trinity Church, Bowling Green, the bronze bull statue, making it all the way down to the southern tip of Manhattan at Battery Park. I then turned right and headed west to take the West Side Bike Path back up north. I passed by my brother's old apartment just north of the WTC site, which cost him $4,700 a month in rent if I remember correctly!. It was all dark without power but there were generator lights in the lobby and doormen there to greet residents.

Instead of going up the West Side Bike Path, I decided to turn back into the city and ride north through the west side of southern Manhattan. I zigzagged north, sometimes on 6th Ave, sometimes on 8th, and finally ending up on 10th - where I passed Chelsea Market riding just beneath the High Line for about 20 blocks. About 80% of that area was still in the dark as of 6:30 p.m. on Friday night. It was quite desolate with very few people around except for cops at every street crossing directing traffic.

When I made it up to about 34th street, I felt like I had crossed back into civilization from the land that time, electricity, and the rule of law had forgot. Between 34th and 59th Streets, there was a massive crush of people and I had to ride my bike quite slow to avoid hitting pedestrians who would wander into the street or bike lane. It was especially crowded around the Port Authority and the NYTimes building.

For a friday night, there were a lot of people like me out riding their bikes. We would strike up cyclist solidarity conversations whenever we found ourselves waiting together at a stop light.

When I got as far north as Columbus Circle, the crowds started to thin out and as I passed into the Upper West Side, I felt as if I were riding through any Friday night in that area, with bars and restaurants open, movie theaters, the Apple Store, shopping, night life, etc. It was an eerie contrast from the different world of southern Manhattan.

Because I had seen enough, I decided to exit Broadway at 83rd Street and headed west to Riverside Drive, intending to take that all the way north to 181st street in Washington Heights, where I live. However, just as I was passing in front of the massive Riverside Church at 116th street, my front tire began to wildly hiss and went flat!


Without a spare tube, I had to walk my bike. Luckily, I was just two blocks from the 116th St. stop on the 1-line. So I went into the Subway (for the first time in a week) and - happy at not having to pay, rolled my bike through the open gate and carried it down the stairs. The first northern-bound 1-train was too packed with people for me to get in with my bike. I was able to get on the second train that took me up to 181st and St. Nicholas.

I ran into a neighbor upon exiting the subway and we talked of the eerie state of the city together as we walked the 5 blocks west home.

When I got in, I saw that Obama had ordered Army trucks to deliver gasoline to a starved city and that - responding to rising protests from the city residents and from many of the runners themselves - the organizers of Sunday's NYC marathon had decided to call it off. A neighbor whose two daughters had been staying with her for the week, refugees from the Lower East Side, told me that they (thankfully) had left since ConEd had called to tell them that power was back on in the LES!

I hear that power will be back on for most of Manhattan by tomorrow too - so I guess my "ride to the dark side" was just in time!

And what a ride it was!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Cuba's 2nd city without power, water after Sandy

Cuba's 2nd city without power, water after Sandy
AP, Monday October 29, 2012

Associated Press= HAVANA (AP) — Residents of Cuba's second-largest city of Santiago remained without power or running water Monday, four days after Hurricane Sandy made landfall as the island's deadliest storm in seven years, ripping rooftops from homes and toppling power lines.

Across the Caribbean, the storm's death toll rose to 69, including 52 people in Haiti, 11 in Cuba, two in the Bahamas, two in the Dominican Republic, one in Jamaica and one in Puerto Rico.

Cuban authorities have not yet estimated the economic toll, but the Communist Party newspaper Granma reported there was "severe damage to housing, economic activity, fundamental public services and institutions of education, health and culture."

Yolanda Tabio, a native of Santiago, said she had never seen anything like it in all her 64 years: Broken hotel and shop windows, trees blown over onto houses, people picking through piles of debris for a scrap of anything to cover their homes. On Sunday, she sought solace in faith.

"The Mass was packed. Everyone crying," said Tabio, whose house had no electricity, intermittent phone service and only murky water coming out of the tap on Monday. "I think it will take five to ten years to recover. ... But we're alive."

Sandy came onshore early Thursday just west of Santiago, a city of about 500,000 people in agricultural southeastern Cuba. It is the island's deadliest storm since 2005's Hurricane Dennis, a category 5 monster that killed 16 people and did $2.4 billion in damage. More than 130,000 homes were damaged by Sandy, including 15,400 that were destroyed, Granma said.

"It really shocked me to see all that has been destroyed and to know that for many people, it's the effort of a whole lifetime," said Maria Caridad Lopez, a media relations officer at the Roman Catholic Archdiocese in Santiago. "And it disappears in just three hours."

Lopez said several churches in the area collapsed and nearly all suffered at least minor damage. That included the Santiago cathedral as well as one of the holiest sites in Cuba, the Sanctuary of the Virgin del Cobre. Sandy's winds blew out its stained glass windows and damaged its massive doors.

"It's indescribable," said Berta Serguera, an 82-year-old retiree whose home withstood the tempest but whose patio and garden did not. "The trees have been shredded as if with a saw. My mango only has a few branches left, and they look like they were shaved."

On Monday, sound trucks cruised the streets urging people to boil drinking water to prevent infectious disease. Soldiers worked to remove rubble and downed trees from the streets. Authorities set up radios and TVs in public spaces to keep people up to date on relief efforts, distributed chlorine to sterilize water and prioritized electrical service to strategic uses such as hospitals and bakeries.

Enrique Berdion, a 45-year-old doctor who lives in central Santiago, said his small apartment building did not suffer major damage but he had been without electricity, water or gas for days.

"This was something I've never seen, something extremely intense, that left Santiago destroyed. Most homes have no roofs. The winds razed the parks, toppled all the trees," Berdion said by phone. "I think it will take years to recover."

Raul Castro, who toured Cuba's hardest-hit regions on Sunday, warned of a long road to recovery.

Granma said the president called on the country to urgently implement "temporary solutions," and "undoubtedly the definitive solution will take years of work."

Venezuela sent nearly 650 of tons of aid, including nonperishable food, potable water and heavy machinery both to Cuba and to nearby Haiti, which was not directly in the storm's path but suffered flash floods across much of the country's south.

Across the Caribbean, work crews were repairing downed power lines and cracked water pipes and making their way into rural communities marooned by impassable roads. The images were similar from eastern Jamaica to the northern Bahamas: Trees ripped from the ground, buildings swamped by floodwaters and houses missing roofs.

Fixing soggy homes may be a much quicker task than repairing the financial damage, and island governments were still assessing Sandy's economic impact on farms, housing and infrastructure.

In tourism-dependent countries like Jamaica and the Bahamas, officials said popular resorts sustained only superficial damage, mostly to landscaping.

Haiti, where even minor storms can send water gushing down hills denuded of trees, listed a death toll of 52 as of Monday and officials said it could still rise. Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe has described the storm as a "disaster of major proportions."

In Jamaica, where Sandy made landfall first on Wednesday as a Category 1 hurricane, people coped with lingering water and power outages with mostly good humor.

"Well, we mostly made it out all right. I thought it was going to be rougher, like it turned out for other places," laborer Reginald Miller said as he waited for a minibus at a sunbaked Kingston intersection.

In parts of the Bahamas, the ocean surged into coastal buildings and deposited up to six feet of seawater. Sandy was blamed for two deaths on the archipelago off Florida's east coast, including a British bank executive who fell off his roof while trying to fix a window shutter and an elderly man found dead beneath overturned furniture in his flooded, low-lying home.


Associated Press writers Anne-Marie Garcia in Havana, David McFadden in Kingston, Jamaica, and Jeff Todd in Nassau, Bahamas, contributed to this report.

Monday, October 29, 2012

As Hurricane Sandy devastates Cuba, bloggers rise to the challenge

As Hurricane Sandy devastates Cuba, bloggers rise to the challenge

By Max Fisher, MONDAY, OCTOBER 29

Cuban bloggers are showing surprising initiative in responding to Hurricane Sandy, which has killed 11 and caused significant damage since making landfall there on Thursday. It's still not clear how costly the storm will be for Cuba, but 2005′s Hurricane Dennis caused $2.4 billion in damage, about 6 percent of GDP. This week's hurricane crisis is allowing bloggers to assert their value in a country that does not always welcome them.

It's not easy to be a blogger in Cuba. According the annual Freedom House report on Internet freedom, released last month, Cuban Web freedom is the second worst in the world, after Iran, out of the 47 nations surveyed. Bloggers can face "extralegal detentions, intimidation, and occasional beatings." The report adds, "An estimated 1,000 bloggers recruited by the government have disseminated damaging rumors about the personal lives of the island's influential independent bloggers." Only about 5 percent of Cubans have intermittent access to the Internet, as opposed to the state-run intranet.

Even the small community of Cuban bloggers has been at times divided by infighting. In May, what was supposed to be a national meeting of bloggers devolved into controversy over two admittedly difficult questions: should the pro-government "within-system" bloggers invite more critical "dissident" bloggers, and, as one blogger asked, "how can one be critical in Cuba without being considered a dissident?"

The past week, though, has seen Cuba's bloggers spearheading coverage of Hurricane Sandy's impact. Leading the charge has been Havana Times, an independent blog that says it represents "the voice of Cuban youth." It has expanded on official damage assessments and reported damage to 17,000 homes in a single northeastern province, where reconstruction work from a 2008 hurricane is still "pending," meaning that homes were especially susceptible. In an impassioned Sunday post, a Havana Times blogger praised the volunteers and government workers poring over the "trail of destruction," but bemoaned the blocked roads, still-down electric and telephone services, and shortage of drinking water. "The sight of women, elderly individuals and children sifting through debris to salvage whatever was left of their belongings was simply heartbreaking," he wrote. The post concluded by asking for help with collecting and transporting donations.

Cuban diaspora blogger Marc Masferrer is aggregating social media from within the eastern town of Santiago de Cuba, including tweets from the ground and powerful photos of the devastation.

Havana-based blogger Yoani Sanchez (via Global Voices) used the storm to call attention to the challenges already facing the economically depressed regions of eastern Cuba. Emphasis is mine:

Thursday morning will never be forgotten by thousands of people in Eastern Cuba. The wind, flying roofs, heavy rains and trees falling on streets and houses, will remain as permanent memories of Hurricane Sandy. Nor will they be able to get out of their heads that first night after the disaster in which, from their battered beds or rickety sofas, they found nothing separating their faces from the starry night sky.

Some people lost everything, which was not much. People from whom the gale took the modest possessions they'd accumulated over their whole lives. A human drama extended over this area already affected beforehand by material shortages, constant migration westward, and the outbreaks of diseases like dengue fever and cholera. For the victims it rains and it pours, literally and metaphorically. Nature intensifies the economic collapse and social problems of this region of the country.

She concluded by calling for action from the government and "solidarity" from citizens to push for post-Sandy reforms that would help protect from the next storm. Her proposals are strikingly free market-oriented, including reduced custom duties for food imports, reduced taxes on small businesses, and allowing privately run relief organizations to supplement government efforts. It's hard to foresee Havana allowing any of these, but maybe this is the point, as Sanchez's criticisms implicitly highlight the central government's weaknesses and inability to follow through on its revolutionary promises.

Still, even as the hurricane made landfall last week, bloggers seemed more preoccupied with the country's loosening visa laws, which will allow easier foreign travel, and with esoteric intra-activist squabbles. It's easy to see why these would be topics of particular concern for the young, Web-savvy, and often government-abused bloggers. But it's a reminder of the degree to which activist-blogger communities — including those in, say, Egypt — can end up talking mostly to one another rather than to their countries' larger, less Web-focused majorities.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Viaje al "Sueño Americano" - Sandra Ramos in NYC

The Cuban artist, Sandra Ramos -an old friend from Havana- will be in NYC this week for the opening of her new exhibition, "Viaje al Sueño Americano" at the Accola Griefen Gallery (547 W 27th St. #634). Her exhibition opens on Thursday night, Oct. 18 from 6-8 p.m. and will be up until Nov. 24, 2012.

NY Subway (Collectibles series), 2012
mixed media, 26” x 19” 

Sandra's little pionera alter-ego, Alice (as in "Wonderland") will be present through her art, dancing through the NYC subway system and across the pages of a bunch of actual reworked U.S. Passports! 

Libertad (Travel to the American Dream Series), 2012
digital print, drawing, collage, mixed media, 30” x 40” 

I'm sure glad I did not lend her mine when she asked to "borrow" it the last time she was in town.

For more info: Accola Griefen Gallery 547 West 27th St #634 NY NY 10001 Open Tues - Sat 11am - 6pm 646 532 3488

Friday, October 12, 2012

Unfinished Spaces - Tonight on PBS!

Watch Unfinished Spaces - Preview on PBS. See more from VOCES.

I highly recommend that you watch, "Unfinished Spaces," an unflinching and very human documentary that airs tonight (Fri. Oct. 12, 2012) on your local PBS station. I saw it at the Architectural Film Festival here in NYC last year before it conquered festivals in BOTH Havana and Miami. You can't say that about many Cuban-themed films!

It is part of the PBS series VOCES.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Jorge Domínguez: "Can Cuba's leaders govern?"

Professor Jorge Dominguez delivers the Ernesto Betancourt Keynote Address at the 22nd Annual Meetings of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy.

Miami, Florida, August 2-4, 2012. 

As I tweeted at the time, the take away of his excellent talk for me was this:

While Fidel Castro may have had many cockeyed economic ideas that led to periodic unrealistic all-or-nothing mobilizations that often ended in disaster, when that "Comandante-en-jefe" gave an order, it was followed.

Under Raúl, Domínguez argued, economic policies are much more pragmatic, realistic, and potentially beneficial, but due to what Domínguez called a pernicious "bureaucratic insurgency" there is an epidemic of foot dragging with Raúl's economic "updating" policies.

That is, under Raúl Cuba's "bureaucratocracy" fails or refuses to implement his policies, thus significantly weakening the state

Professor Jorge Dominguez delivers the Ernesto Betancourt Keynote Address from Asce Web Presence on Vimeo.

Friday, October 5, 2012

@OLPL on confirms detention of Yoani Sanchez

Follow this link to hear Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo confirm via "Hablalo Sin Miedo" that he received a call early this morning from Teo Escobar Sánchez, son of Reinaldo Escobar and Yoani Sánchez, saying that his parents had indeed been detained in Bayamo yesterday around 6 p.m. while attempting to cover the trial of Spaniard Angel Carromero.

Update: Sánchez narrates some of the key events during her 30-hour under arrest at Huffington Post and on her blog Generation Y.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Venezuela, Oct. 7: The possible, the probable, and the preferable

By Armando Chaguaceda

Hugo Chavez. Photo: Venezuelan presidency
HAVANA TIMES — It's been 14 years since Hugo Chavez burst into the Venezuelan presidency, and with him his project known as the "Bolivarian Revolution."
Weariness with the corruption of the Fourth Republic and the exclusion of the poor (who were suffering the impact of neoliberal policies) led to the establishment of an electoral front that put forward the lieutenant colonel, who won by a large margin over the other candidates, especially the representatives of the traditional parties.
From that moment on, the new government faced stiff resistance from those parties, as well as from an alliance of the media and the urban middle and upper classes, which in 2002 and 2003 turned to strategies of destabilization, including a failed coup. The new government managed to weather the storm, reconstructing a framework of domestic and international legitimacy in successive elections from 2004 to 2006.
The process, in an attempt to overcome the deficits of the Fourth Republic, expanded citizens' participation in Venezuela and put the social agenda in the center of the debate. Public policies grew, generating processes for including the marginalized – thanks to revenues generated by oil.
These elements — certainly positive — joined the redefinition of the regulatory framework (with a new constitution and the passage of new laws) with the recuperation of the role of the state as an active agent in national life, as it delineated the main features of the project that was (self) identified as Bolivarian.
But the democratizing effect of the new government was gradually tinged, starting in 2006, by increasing personal ambitions and political bureaucratization with the emergence of a hyper-presidential regime, a dominant political organization (the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, or PSUV), and the development of participatory mechanisms (community councils) that operated as instruments of political control and mobilization.

Tonight in Miami, USA: U.S. Cuba Policy and the Cuban-American

The Center for International Policy 
in collaboration with the Department of Global 
and Sociocultural Studies, 
Florida International University (FIU) 
& the Greater Miami Chapter of the ACLU 

Invite you to a discussion of

U.S. Cuba Policy 
and the Cuban-American

Thursday, October 4, 2012
4:00 - 7:30 p.m.
Tower Theater
1508 S.W. 8th Street
Miami, Florida

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

La Gran Familia: TONIGHT Corina Matamoros on Raúl Martínez

Guess who will be on hand to interpret for this event at The 8th Floor tonight?  Yours truly.  A little Cuban culture before the first presidential debate!!

TONIGHT Corina Matamoros on Raul Martinez

Please Join Us
for a special presentation by author and curator

Corina Matamoros Tuma
Contemporary Cuban Art Curator
National Museum of Fine Arts, Havana, Cuba

in celebration of the seminal monograph
Raul Martinez: La gran familia
Wednesday, October 3rd 6-8 pm

Lecture 6:30 Reception to follow

Books for sale at special reduced price $40
All payments accepted, administered by the Bronx Museum


The 8th Floor
17 West 17th St
New York City

Co-hosted by The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation and the Bronx Museum of the Arts


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Dolor & Horror: State Homophobia in Cuba

For those who haven't read my last post or the comments it generated, or the original post from Alexis Romay that prompted it (all in Spanish), here's a quick summary:

Mariela Castro, the daughter of Cuba's current president (and the niece of its former one), made a trip to the U.S. in May, which included a presentation at the LASA conference in San Francisco followed by a supposedly public talk at the New York Public Library (the main branch at 42nd Street).

Many Cubans in the NY Metro area attempted to get tickets to her talk to engage her in a real debate but were told inexplicably that the event had already reached capacity.

Some of them sent a letter to the NYPL demanding an explanation and a public hearing.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Cuba, Miami y la homofobia

De izquierda a derecha: Jafari Sinclair Allen, Achy Obejas, Mabel Cuesta, Emilio Bejel y María Werlau.  Arriba en la pantalla (y presentes en vivo por teléfono): Leannes Imbert e Ignacio Estrada.

Hoy leí en PD un resumen del panel sobre LGBT del sábado pasado en el NYPL de Harlem (vea mi foto de los ponentes arriba). Acerca de lo que Alexis Romay escribe allí sobre mi pregunta acerca de la homofobia en Miami hacia el final del evento, le digo: o me entendió mal o no me quisó entender.  A eso regreso mas abajo.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A friend weighs in on Lybia

Having just returned from two weeks honeymooning in Morocco, the attacks on the US consulates in Benghazi and Egypt strike particularly close to home. 

Also, I understand that Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, who was killed along with three other Americans, was a much admired figure to many in the Libyan resistance last year given his support for them.  

What follows is a brief note I received this morning from a life-long friend of mine recently retired from the USMC. During his 20 years in the military he served in many foreign countries including Afghanistan and Serbia. 

We don't always agree on politics, but his eloquent and impassioned words deserve to be heard and discussed. 
From: William Pelletier

Sept. 12, 2012
This morning, news organizations reported the death of J. Christopher Stevens, U.S. ambassador to Libya, and three other Americans who worked for the State Department, near the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. The four were killed in a riot related to ongoing violence in Egypt and Libya by crowds purportedly enraged by an American-made video that protrayed the prophet Muhammad as being homosexual, a pedophile and a philanderer, all of which are considered blasphemous in Islam.

The video was made by Sam Bacile, an Israeli-American who lives in California and has reportedly gone into hiding. It was publicized by World Dove Outreach Center pastor Terry Jones, the same man who held a trial for the Koran in his church and subsequently burned it in 2010. 
To Mr. Bacile: Why are you hiding? Did you honestly think that creating such a movie would produce any result other than pandemonium? Israel is a beautiful, vibrant country that lives in existential danger, and THIS is how you contribute to efforts to keep it safe? Your lack of judgment is matched only by your absence of courage in letting others stand accountable for the chaos you created. Theo van Gogh at least had the courage of his convictions, for which he died. On second thought, stay wherever you are.    
To Mr. Jones: I omit the honorific "Pastor," because a pastor is one who tends a flock. You clearly have no one's interests at heart but your own, and as a former Gainesville, Fla. resident, it pains me to see that town's name tarnished because of its association with the likes of you. Justice would be seeing you and all zealots cast into a pit together where the only havoc you could wreak would be on each other, but that's not for me to decide. However, I say that your teachings in no way resemble the answer to the question "What would Jesus do?"    
To the Cairo and Benghazi rioters: Whether you were willing participants or unwitting dupes of manipulating masters, you have been party to murder and mayhem. Your action is that of a mad dog, a person who has nothing to lose, and eventually you will force someone to treat you that way. If your goal was to move us one step closer to an end-of-days clash of civilizations, you have succeeded.     
To those who demand an apology from the U.S. government for the film:  Go suck an egg (and I restrain myself in my choice of language). This is what freedom looks like, this is what it means to have choices. Your inability or unwillingness to restrain the infantile, anarchic impulses of the people is why America's way has always been the way of the future. Your way is built on a foundation of sand and the result shall be a surprise to no one but you.  
To campaign operatives of any party who would even think of political gain from these events: God's own shame on you.   
To the wives, children, family and friends of Ambassador Stevens, Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith and our other fallen comrades: You have my family's prayers and condolences. Please pay no mind to the above-listed cowards, charlatans, nihilists, mobsters and calculators who posture grandly with other people's gold. You are the Americans, along with the families of our military, State Department and other overseas agencies, with real skin in the game, and your word carries weight because of your sacrifice. Please take comfort in the fact that while others bloviated, ranted, conspired and threw tantrums, your men walked the walk and died in the noblest of pursuits. 
Finally, to the U.S. Marines who guard our embassies around the world: Days like this are what you have trained for. Steady. Semper Fidelis.//