Saturday, March 21, 2009

Buried in the Sand

I am totally ripping this off from Claudia Cadelo's blog because it broke my heart to read this and since misery likes company... I figured I'd share this with you all.

Muchacho Enfermo

Buried in the Sand

By Claudia Cadelo
(translated from the original Spanish)

I can’t, at times, shake the idea of being immobilized in the middle of time. A feeling similar to what I felt as a girl when my Papa played at burying me in the sand, I couldn’t stand it for more than a few seconds. The concept of absolute freedom is an illusion, but our ability to measure and to understand it is not an illusion; to understand that being buried in the sand unable to move is not the same as standing in front of the sea, looking at the far horizon, so distant that it almost makes no sense to call it a limit.

In my country, while the thoughts are nice and warm below the sand, one can feel safe not to be literally locked behind bars; but when we decide to put our ideas into an empty bottle and throw them into the sea, headed for the distant horizon, our body runs the risk of relinquishing, for an indefinite time, swimming along the shore.

Friends speak to me of changes, I get emails that say little, and a botero comments to me, stupidly optimistic, that they are fixing the streets (later, faced with my apathy and pessimism, he confessed to me that he was in the program for “political refugees” and, in passing, advised me for some strange reason that I should sign up too). I look all around me and I see an expectation that I not feel the slightest friction; the truth is I have no Faith, I don’t believe in these changes, I can’t help it.

More than 200 people are in prison for thinking differently, and have been for six years; the news is a vomit of lies; the newspaper Granma is a joke in bad taste; we still have the same problems, the same lack of freedom as always, with the same party, the same mass organizations, the same politics and ideology. I’m sorry but the truth is that I don’t see anything new with some ministers more and some less, and a younger brother up and an older brother down.

I would like to be able to say that the only one responsible for this situation is Fidel Castro, but I can’t. I remember when he gave up his power, in the interim before Raúl took charge, that Randy Alonso was always saying on The Round Table television show, “The Leadership of the Revolution” had ordered this, “The Leadership of the Revolution” had decided that, and I wondered, half jokingly half serious, under what new abstract concept were we being governed.

I don’t care whether the model is Chinese, Russian or Martian; at this point I can only think, and really hope, to be wrong, that until the whole “The Leadership of the Revolution” is no longer in power, nothing will change very much for those of us down here.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Montreal: a tale of two cities

I've come to realize there are two Montreals... the one I love and the one I saw today.

I take classes at a local college here in Montreal for my job. I am currently taking an 8 month program in the risk management sector. When I showed up on my first day of class in October I sat down and looked around the room at the 18 other people there. I was thrilled to see so many people from so many different walks of life, rich and poor, immigrant and native montrealer, all these people in the same room. I thought to myself: this is a true picture of my city, the way I love it.

We had Jewish people, Filipino people, Indian people, Greek people, Italian people, Turkish people, Lebanese people, Chinese people and two native montrealers.

A few weeks into the courses I found out that the only other native montrealer was a complete racist separatist douche bag named René. I was once saw René yell at very young asian children who were speaking Cantonese to their mother: "You're not in China anymore, if you want to talk Chinese go back there... here we talk French!" Inevitably I threatened to hit him with a blunt instrument and that was the end of that. But that was only the first sign that things were going to go horribly wrong. The next sign was when one of the Jewish girls quit school and made a complaint that she felt that people were judging her for her religious convictions...

We had a class today that spoke of bias in the business world, how we would face bias because of our color or our creeds. This brought up a bunch of stupid arguments, which all started because René said something along the lines of: "We're not in Manila anymore stop talking with your funny accent" to the Filipino ladies in the class and ended up with everyone arguing and me watching in shock.

It was like watching a train wreck: it's horrifying but yet you can't turn away.

A girl from the Democratic Republic of Congo was threatening to kill one of the Filipino ladies, the rest of the Filipino ladies were saying they would never do business with anyone from Arab countries, the Turkish lady was saying she wasn't Arab and not to insult her like that, René was talking to the Greek guy about how Québec had to separate and take the restaurant industry back from the Greeks. Many more things were said, but they're not fit to type... It was utter insanity.

In case you're wondering these people aren't kids, they're well into their 40s. The sad part is that these people have kids. What kind of example are they for their kids? The even sadder part is that my last blog post was about how I love this city because it is multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and all encompassing.

Today I hang my head because these people broke my heart. They broke the image I had of this city, even if it's only broken for today. From here on in there are two Montreals, theirs and mine.

Muchacho Enfermo

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

The train left and you weren't on it.

McGill metro station

For 2.75$ you can travel the city and see it through the underground. Every station has its own design, its own neighborhood, its own smells, its own personality. A few years back I got on the metro one morning with my tunes in my ears and went to every single station. I got off at everyone of them, looking at the architecture the decor, the people, the houses around the station. It was an amazing day.

I grabbed a croissant at a bakery at Berri-UQAM metro (the central hub of the city's underground) and sat on the subway until I reached Mont-Royal on the Plateau district, the heart of the french artist community, I got off and walked the street looking at the shops. I walk back to the metro and from there to Park Metro station on the blue line, seeing along the way Montreal staples such as the old Rialto and the old Club Soda. I took the blue line and kept going, one station at a time, until I made my way back to the orange line and went all the way north towards Du College, home of two of the best music school in the province Vanier and St-Laurent. Eventually I made my way back towards downtown and go off at Vendome station in NDG and walked towards McGill station on the green line, the station with the most traffic. It connects the Eaton Center with about 10 other office buildings and connects the networks of underground shopping centers.

In doing this you get to discover your home, your city, its people. It made me feel like I was part of something, like I was a Montrealer. It's funny how when I'm visiting some place whether it's Cuba or Tampa or Salt Lake City I'll take public transportation just to see the sights and get to know the cities but most of us never take the time to do it in our own cities. I discovered places and restaurants and businesses I didn't know existed. Little corner shops that are really worth the long metro ride.

Not to mention that you really realize how multi-cultural Montreal all is when you take the time to visit every neighborhood, from Hochelaga, to Little Burgundy, to St-Michel, RDP, Mile End, St-Leo, Westmount, South-Central. I've lived here for the last 15 years and I'm still discovering things about this ever changing city and her people.

I love this city. And so far it has loved me back. With all its colors, flavors, cultures and moods, Montreal has been good to me. When people I meet abroad ask me where I'm from I don't say I'm from "Canada, I live in Quebec" I say "I'm from Montreal, in Canada".

Muchacho Enfermo

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Pope: No condoms for you Africa!

In another surprising flash of genius Pope Benedict told reporters who were flying with him on his private plane: “You can't resolve it with the distribution of condoms,” speaking of the spread of HIV in Africa “On the contrary, it increases the problem.”

This surprisingly illuminated statement comes right after the Pope saw fit to reinstate a holocaust denying bishop and less than a year after issuing the Ten Commandments of Driving. I am honestly impressed at the stones on this guy making one bad call after another and flying around in his private jet. Here is a man who runs an organization so rich that it could probably treat every single aids patient and Africa, feed the poor and have every single corrupt dictator removed, but Benedict takes the time to talk about condoms.

I understand the churches stand among its followers that abstinence would be a better way to prevent the spread of this killer disease. The Pope however needs to understand, the harsh realities of Africa, where women are raped, sold and bought, where sex is often the only way to feed your children and where life expectancy is about the same as that of a decent stove.

I really hope that the Pope will meditate on what he says before he opens his mouth again. The Catholic church is gaining steam in Africa, it is growing faster there than anywhere else in the world, this message from Benedict is probably sentencing hundreds to death as they believe his word to be that of God. If they place their faith in this man, they might well stop using whatever condoms they have and hope that the Pope can save them.

I hope the Vatican invested in biotech and aids reaserch because at the rate of infection in Africa their new followers are dying faster than their "recruiters" can convert them.

(source for quotes Globe and Mail)

Muchacho Enfermo

Open Letter to President Obama from Cuban Dissident

Jorge Luis Garcma Pirez (Antunez), one of Cuba's dissident who had been released from prison in 2008 after serving 17 years for speaking out against the Castro regime, has written a letter to President Obama shortly after or before being hospitalized following a 24 day hunger strike he had started from his prison cell to demand better treatment of prisoners. The letter is copied verbatim from Sunrise in Havana:

"Open Letter to the President of the United States

Mr President, I write to you from Cuba, this small Caribbean island, Jorge Luis García Pérez "Antúnez", one of the thousands of former political prisoners in Cuban prisons who suffered torture and all forms of repression by the prison guards in their inordinate desire to destroy and break our will to struggle and resist.

I am one of many Cubans who inspired by the struggle of Martin Luther Kin, is on the streets calling for the Cuban civic resistance and civil disobedience as a strategy to achieve the much-awaited and necessary change to democracy in my country where there is a tyranny now in power for half a century, contravening the fundamental freedoms of its citizens, imprisoning alternative voices, and pushing people to extreme poverty, both economic and moral.

Mr President, I must stress that I the author of this letter, was arrested by combined forces of the political police on the eve of your ascension as president, with the deliberate purpose of preventing me from attending an embassy, which had invited me, along with the peaceful opposition also LORETO HERNÁNDEZ GARCÍA too witnessed this important historical event, your inauguration as the democratically elected president.

It is ironic and embarrassing for many a paradox that while in the grand and hospitable country, a black man took the highest judiciary, just 90 miles away, two black youths were also arrested, confined in filthy cells, by organs of political repression for almost 72 hours.

Imagine how many letters you received and will continue to receive, Cubans inside and outside the island. In my humble letter I would like, on behalf of hundreds and hundreds of my brothers imprisoned for their ideas, the beaten, harassed and punished for fighting in a peaceful and open manner, suggesting that the government in Havana is continuing and will remain faithful to its traditional vocation anti-democratic and dictatorial. This is evidenced by the arrests and the escalation of repression against their people who maintain peaceful opposition.

Mr President, the dictatorship in Havana was reluctant to give the smallest opening that it brings into play and the only thing you must know is: the regime will perpetuate itself in power at the expense of pain, suffering and sacrifice of an entire people.

History has shown, so do not forget that any relaxation of policy towards the Castro regime is equivalent to the oxygenation of his government and law enforcement apparatus.

On the other hand, I'm among those who believe that the initiatives for dialogue and understanding are positive and indicate strong qualities of those who promote them. But it has been shown that a dialogue with the deaf and intransigent counterproductive, and even more risky when done without real and concrete conditions for the repressors.

In that sense I believe that the basic and essential condition to require the dictatorship of the Castro, is the urgent and immediate release of all political prisoners in Cuba, as well as the sincere assurances of implementing an immediate and effective program for deep and radical reform political, economic and social changes that are aimed at establishing a democratic society with a genuine rule of law, and assure you with great respect and responsibility that it would prolong this long and difficult ordeal than 5 decades the Cuban people suffer.

I can not ignore, which in the opinion of all my compatriots are and must always be our main demand and ask: the freedom of each and every political prisoners in Cuba. Know that hundreds and hundreds of my brothers are dying in filthy and solitary cells, starvation, disease and abuse, men and women whose only crime was to defend the fundamental rights and freedoms of man, advocate and fight for a free society.

We hope you and your government solidarity to them and their families. We hope that your administration not overlook a detail, and really as obvious as a fundamental and pernicious that the main restrictions that our people suffer are those that we just applied a system that refuses the liberation of markets, free enterprise, and with the poverty that creates a constant outflow causes, above all things and blame others for the damage they are causing their own people.

Cubans as lovers of freedom, we do not oppose all such noble initiatives aimed at bringing fence and reunification of Cuban families separated, much less that can be helped in such difficult times.

I do not believe that decent and patriotic, is that many continue to use the so-called flight of the community to swell the coffers of the repressive apparatus to gain the privileges enjoyed by foreign tourists who visit Cuba at the expense of domestic crude.

The freedom to leave their country and return a basic right is universally recognized, but when used against those who suffer oppression, when passion or personal interest strengthens the oppressor, it falls on something as serious as it is unpatriotic.

Mr. President, for the Cuban homeland is much bigger and important than ourselves, and after this long and disastrous totalitarian experience we arrived at the full conviction, that similarity of the civil rights movement in the U.S., we just Cubans We shall be free when we are ready for the greatest sacrifices, and vicissitudes.

Although the solution to the problem of Cuba is not a democrat or republican, but the effort and determination of the Cubans, we are aware that the solidarity and support of a president of his intelligence, charisma and prestige could help to accelerate change both the longs Cubans.

I wish him every success in their governance, and reiterating that and do not forget to follow up these people and their struggle for freedom.

* Jorge Luis García Pérez Antúnez.

Former Cuban political prisoner who stayed 17 years and 38 days in punishment cells and confinement, subjected to the cruelest torture of all kinds to maintain his dignity as a defender of Human Rights"

Muchacho Enfermo

Monday, March 16, 2009

Burmese Monk has website hacked.

As I just reported on

The news site, of Burmese monk in exile Ashin Mettacara, was attacked twice in the past week with DDoS attacks. The first attack came on March 11th and the second on March 15th. A distributed denial of service attack (DDoS) usually aims at flooding a web server with so many queries to requests as to render it unable to process further requests. The query limit on, which is designed to accept huge volumes of traffic, was exceeded within the span of an hour on both of these dates.

This is not the first time a Burmese news site in exile has been hacked using this method; last fall the news sites Mizzima and Irrawaddy were both victim of DDoS attacks. The perpetrators of these attacks are still unknown and have yet to be brought to justice. The attacks of March 11th and March 15th were the second attacks on, the first wave of them occurred January 20th and 21st 2009 shortly after the launch of the website.

The attacks on took place at a time when Ashin was lecturing on web programming to over 50 monks and could not monitor his site. The site, which gathers news from all over the world and is crawled by Google News, has the slogan “Free Press for Freedom of Thought, Belief and Expression”. It is clear that whoever is behind these attacks does not share the values of the writers that publish their news on the site daily or those of their readers. It is unclear whether the Burma’s military junta is responsible for the attacks.

Muchacho Enfermo

Riots in the streets of Montreal

Montreal is a city that is known throughout North-America as a party city, we have one of the biggest Jazz festivals in the world, one of the largest comedy festivals, the oldest St-Patrick's day parade in Canada... in short everything here is an excuse to party. But the other thing Montreal has become known for is our riots.

There were the Hockey riots of 1955 following the suspension of Maurice Richard, there were the Guns 'n' Roses riots in 1993, the "We won the Stanley Cup" riots of 1994, more recently the 2008 "Police shot Villanueva", just to name a few. Yesterday we added another dark chapter in the long book of Montreal Riots: The Anti-Police Brutality Riots. The annual march against police brutality is one that usually ends with a clash against police, but yesterday was even worse than usual.

It was the first march of the sort since the young Villanueva was shot and killed by police last summer, the hearings are due to start in May, organizer's were hoping the march could raise awareness against police violence and racial profiling. As usual a few bad apples showed up in the crowd and the March turned violent, some protesters hurled rocks, concrete, vegetables and flares at police officers and started heading from the trendy Plateau neighborhood to towards the downtown core.

Things got so bad that tear gas was released into the crowd and 221 arrests were made. The rest of the people present, 189 other, received citations. The damages are estimated at over $200,000 as it was reported in the Montreal Gazette.

What was a march against brutality idiotically became a brutal march. A march against police brutality that saw to officers injured as the protesters became brutal against them. The protesters have cost the city and small business owners a lot of money and for what? So they could throw stuff at police? This march that should have been a moment where people peacefully come together in unity to show their disapproval and support one another ended, yet again, as a black eye to the city, the community and to all those involved.

This march has lost its credibility, the organizations behind it have lost their way and the marchers themselves have lost their minds. Police brutality is always something worth protesting but it's not an excuse to vandalize the entire city.

Muchacho Enfermo