Achy Obejas

writer & translator


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Oct 16-18, Covering Cuba in an Era of Change, Columbia University

The Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University will be hosting an invitation-only conference

October 16-18, 2014, designed to deepen journalists’ reporting involving Cuba and Cuban-American

relations at a critical moment of transition. Achy will be joining a distinguished group of speakers to

discuss a wide range of issues.

 

“Covering Cuba in an Era of Change” will explore the country’s history and relationship to the United

States, recent shifts in public opinion, generational changes in Cuban-America immigrant communities,

economic factors, as well as current conflicts and policy debates. Sessions will focus on Cuba’s economy,

public health innovation in Cuba and abroad, human rights and free expression, environmental issues

and prospects for reform.

 

The conference will include expert briefings and panels by historians, scholars, economists, policymakers

and community leaders, as well as journalist-to-journalist discussions on innovations and challenges

involved in reporting on Cuba in this key period.

 

Confirmed speakers include: Marjorie Connelly, editor of Special Polling Projects for The New York

Times; John Coatsworth, Provost of Columbia University and leading scholar of Latin American

economic and international history; Jon Lee Anderson, staff writer, The New Yorker; Ann Louise

Bardach, author and journalist; Guillermo Grenier, professor of sociology and director of the Cuban

Research Institute, Florida Atlantic University; Peter Kornbluh, author and director, Cuba Documentation

Project; Achy Obejas, author and journalist; Louis A. Pérez, Jr., J. Carlyle Sitterson professor of history,

University of North Carolina and editor, Cuban Journal; Miriam Celaya, independent journalist and

blogger; Ted Henken, professor of sociology, Baruch College; Mirta Ojito, director of News Standards,

Telemundo; Rafael Betancourt, principal, Havanada Consulting; Marlén Sánchez, professor of

economics, University of Havana; Gail Reed, International Director of MEDICC; and many more yet to be

announced.


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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…


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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…


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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.


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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…

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