Achy Obejas

writer & translator


Leave a comment

In These Times: Venezuela Tries the Talking Cure

On April 25, student-led anti-government protests erupt again in Caracas. (Juan Barreto / AFP / Getty Images)

On April 25, student-led anti-government protests erupt again in Caracas. (Juan Barreto / AFP / Getty Images)

How divided is Venezuela? President Nicolás Maduro appears to believe that it’s divided enough to risk sitting down for negotiations with his opposition.

The talks, televised and uncensored, include representatives from Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and the Vatican as observers and facilitators. The meetings were Maduro’s idea—after being prodded by regional leaders, including some of his most loyal supporters. But in many ways they pose a greater peril for him than for Henrique Capriles Radonski, the opposition leader he beat in the last presidential contest, who is heading up the other side.

Part of the danger lies in Maduro’s own bumbling when speaking off the cuff: He recently mispronounced peces (fish) as penes (penises) and claimed that Hugo Chávez’s spirit talks to him through birds.

Read the rest…


Leave a comment

In These Times: Cuban Players, Caught in a Pickle

 

Come June 16, when his team, the Cincinnati Reds, have a rare day off, Cuban-born pitching phenom Aroldis Chapman will be facing charges in a South Florida courtroom as a result of alleged violations of the Alien Tort Claims Act, which allows redress in U.S. courts for acts committed on foreign soil.

 

aroldis chapmanThe lawsuit accuses Chapman, who had been banned from the Cuban national team after a failed escape attempt in 2008, of framing two men for counterrevolutionary activities in order to convince Cuban sports authorities to allow him back on the national team. Specifically, the suit alleges that Chapman accused Danilo Curbelo, a visiting Cuban-American, of trying to lure him to escape. Carlos Rafael Mena Perdomo, a Dominican citizen, was also implicated in Chapman’s testimony. Curbelo and Mena were convicted in Cuba of attempted “human trafficking,” the Cuban penal code often used against those accused of assisting Cuban citizens to illegally emigrate. Curbelo is currently on house arrest in Cuba, while Mena was allowed to return to the Dominican Republic for humanitarian reasons. Chapman, meanwhile, was allowed to rejoin the national team, but a year later he successfully defected at an international tournament in the Netherlands. The suit against Chapman, which seeks $18 million in recompense, was filed by Curbelo’s and Mena’s family living in the United States.

 

Regardless of Chapman’s guilt or innocence, the case gives face to the challenges and temptations faced by athletes in Cuba who dream of going pro.

Read the rest…


Leave a comment

Review of IMMIGRANT VOICES in Printers Row Journal

“Over the three days that I sat and read the 18 selections in Immigrant Voices: 21st Century Stories, I felt an ever-surging need to talk to somebody — really talk to somebody — about these moving and important half-dreams/whole stories. These pieces by haunted and haunting writers. These suggestions regarding arrivals, wranglings, stayings, leavings, never-quite-belongings. This chorus of yearning, of not finally settling, of divisions of heart, home, faith. [...]“

Read the rest of the review, by Beth Kephart, here.


Leave a comment

In These Times: “Ending the Pain in Venezuela”

Opponents of the Maduro government battle police in Caracas on March 5. (Juan Barreto/AFP/Getty Images.)

Opponents of the Maduro government battle police in Caracas on March 5. (Juan Barreto/AFP/Getty Images.)

Venezuela duele. On Facebook and Twitter, Instagram and Zello and many other apps, again and again: Venezuela duele. The phrase encompasses a world of hurt: Venezuela pains me, Venezuela is in pain. It goes both ways.

Beginning in mid-February, the country was wracked by confrontations between the Chavista government and the opposition. Young people overturned cars, barricaded streets and destroyed public property in frustration. President Nicolás Maduro responded by sending in troops, who teargassed and beat demonstrators. More than a dozen people were eventually killed. Scores were arrested.

No resolution is in sight, and that’s because of one simple, inescapable fact: Neither side has a popular mandate.

Read the rest…


Leave a comment

In These Times Column: Citizens of Nowhere

dominicansAbout 200,000 Haitian-Dominicans woke up one morning in September 2012 to find that the Dominican Republic’s Supreme Court of Justice had left their citizenship in doubt. They no longer held valid birth certificates, could no longer practice certain professions (such as law) and no longer had the right to vote. Even cashing a check had become a legal challenge.

The result of the manipulation of existing citizenship laws and the stacking of the Supreme Court by powerful politicians, the court decision broadened the category of non-citizen “persons in transit” to include anyone without documents—no matter if they’ve been in the DR for decades. The redefinition effectively nullifies citizenship, not just for first-generation immigrants, but for the descendants of anyone who arrived in the country after 1929. In practical terms, that overwhelmingly affects Haitian-Dominicans, most of whom know no other country than the DR and no other language but Spanish, and who consider themselves thoroughly Dominican. The history of Haitians in the DR, where about 11 percent of the population is black and 73 percent is mixedrace, has been fraught; a 2007 United Nations report called out the DR for racism and discrimination against its black neighbors and their descendants.

At 1.5 million strong, Dominicans are the fifth-largest Latin American immigrant group in the United States. So one might think that the U.S.—led by its first black president—might have, at the very least, issued a few words of protest.

But the U.S. did not speak up. It wasn’t until mid-December, three months after the decree became law and more than 300 Haitian-Dominicans had been deported in spite of the DR’s assurance that no such actions would be taken, that the U.S. expressed “deep concern” about the situation.

Read the rest…

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.