Cuba Commits To Large-Scale Genetically Modified Crops To Reduce Food Shortages/ 14ymedio

Soybean plantation. (Pixabay)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 19 November 2016 – Cuba expects to grow genetically modified (GM) corn and soybeans beginning in the Spring of 2017, according to a long article published in the government newspaper Granma this weekend, which details the island’s advances in this area.

“On successfully completing all the tests required by Cuban regulatory bodies, in the spring of 2017 we can expect the introduction of [genetically modified crops…] on large areas of land,” said Mario Estrada, Director of Agricultural Research at the Center Of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB).

The major sum of money the government spends in importing food (some two billion dollars a year) is not only unsustainable, but clearly insufficient. In 2014, imports of grains whose genetically modified versions are expected to be grown, exceeded some 500 million dollars, which accounts for up to 75% of what Cubans eat. continue reading

GM crops are the object of strong controversy worldwide because of the genetic modification of organisms, but Granma says that criticisms come from “experiences related to the misuse of technological innovations, lack of information, poor training and the abusive practices of certain seed-producing companies worldwide.”

“We are currently working on obtaining new hybrid transgenic lines of corn which, on the scale of a small experimental plot, show potential yields of nine tonnes per hectare, very close to the levels reached by the world’s leading countries in this production,” explained Mario Estrada.

In addition, experiments with “transgenic soybeans resistant to herbicides, which in experimental areas of the Cubasoy company showed a yield of up to 2.8 tonnes per hectare, much higher than the usual reached there,” he added.

The official newspaper notes that controlled production of genetically modified crops is supported by the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Royal Society of the United Kingdom, the Food and Drug Administration of the United States, the European Food Safety Authority and the Academies of Science of several countries. “Genetically modified crops have helped mitigate the food shortage crisis stemming from global population growth and the impact of climate change, making it the most rapidly adopted technology of cultivation in the history of agriculture,” the article added.

As of 2009, the years in which the corresponding safety licenses were received, Cuba has been testing the first production of modified corn on some 900 hectares belonging to Cubasoy, in the province of Ciego de Avila. Although the result was more than double the yield of the traditional crop, it was lower than expected, which was the reason for suspending the application of the advances.

At present, there is a search ongoing for “new transgenic hybrid lines of corn,” with much higher yields, which, if they pass all the controls, will be applied starting this coming spring.

Costa Rican President Promises He Will Not Deport Cubans / 14ymedio

Luis Guillermo Solis, president of Costa Rica, in his message Wednesday. (Youtube / screenshot)
Luis Guillermo Solis, president of Costa Rica, in his message Wednesday. (Youtube / screenshot)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 10December 2015 – Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis sent a message of reassurance Wednesday to the nearly 6,000 Cuban migrants now stranded in his country, since Nicaragua closed its border to their journey north.

In a video of just over eight minutes the president guaranteed that no one will be returned to the island against their will. “I know that you are all concerned that the government of Costa Rica could negotiate to return you to Cuba. This is not going to happen, this I will not do,” emphasized Solis. “The life plans of any person who is a migrant in our country will not be negotiated. The only reason why a person is deported from Costa Rica is for having committed crimes, and this does not establish bad faith, it is the law,” he explained. continue reading

The president also urged Cubans who are in other countries waiting to cross the Costa Rican border not to do so until a solution is found for the nearly 6,000 migrants now sheltered in Costa Rica. He said, “If this doesn’t happen and migrants continue to gather in Costa Rican territory, we are going to have a double concern: the one we already have, in order to take good care of you, and we are going to have a problem offering equal conditions to your brothers and sisters who are on the way.”

Earlier, Solis complained about the attitude of his Central American neighbors with respect to the immigration crisis caused by the massive influx of Cubans, from Ecuador, trying to get to the United States. “Like you, I feel very disappointed that both Guatemala and Belize have refused passage through their territory to reach Mexico, and from there continue on your journey to the United States,” he said at the beginning of his message. And later, “”It was unfortunate, indeed, that the Government of Nicaragua, in an action that I still find it incomprehensible, has also denied you passage through its territory,” an attitude that, in his opinion, “damages the spirit of integration and Central American fraternity. ”

After praising the “exemplary” behavior of Cubans since the crisis began, the president asked them “to continue in the same way… No government in Latin America is going to pay more attention because you block a street or leave the shelters where you are,” he said.

Solis ended his message by reiterating, “with all my heart that we are not going to leave you on your own.” And he confided, “Know that this comes from the heart of a man whose family was also immigrants, because my greatgrandmother and my grandmother came from Jamaica in an exodus very like yours. My motivation is not only political, but has to be so because that is my job. It is also humanity.

The Costa Rican President will begin an official visit to Cuba on 13 December, where he will discuss the issue of the migrants with President Raul Castro.

20 May 1902, The Possible Republic / Dimas Castellanos

Decorations for the birth of the Cuban Republic 20 May 1902
Decorations for the birth of the Cuban Republic 20 May 1902

Once the flag of the stripes and stars was lowered amid popular rejoicing on 20 May 1902, Generalissimo Máximo Gómez proceeded to raise the national ensign at Palace of the General Captains. “I think we have made it,” were his words that day.

After four centuries of colonialism, three decades of independence wars, and more than three years of foreign occupation the Republic of Cuba was officially born. This new date altogether with January 28, anniversary of the birth of the Apostle (José Martí), October 10, the Cry of Yara, February 24, the beginning of the War of Independence, and December 7, the fall of the Bronze Titan (Antonio Maceo), would form a pentarchy of illustrious anniversaries, with a singularity when it comes to political material; May 20th taught us a lesson: negotiation.

In an attempt to reduce its importance and to shape this event into a particular ideology and into the objectives of those in power, May 20 has been compared to the military coup d’etat of 1952, and it has even been denied as the event that marked the birth of the Republic. An example of the latter was the opinion expressed by historian Rolando Rodríguez who said that May not be remembered as the day that marked the birth of the Republic because the Republic had already emerged in Guáimaro on April 10th of 1869… “That is where the origin of the Cuban Republic is,” he said. continue reading

Guáimaro, undoubtedly, is inseparable from the foundation of the Republic. It represents the beginning of that process, but that is different from the moment when it became a reality, when Cuba, despite the imposed limitations, debuted as an independent country, recognized by the international community. Guáimaro is the building block, but the advent, despite what our personal inclinations may be, was in 1902. Rolando simply confuses process and results.

His rejection of the date is not illogical. It is true that the Republic was not born with absolute independence or full sovereignty, but his reasoning does not take into account that this outcome did not only result from the effort and bloodshed of Cubans, as was desired, but also from the entry of the US Army into the war due to the geopolitical interests that were being defined in the international arena by the world powers of that time period. Like it or not, beyond our desires, that is what happened.

After Spain’s defeat and the signing of the Treaty of Paris, the occupying government issued Order No. 301 on 25 July 1900, calling the Cuban people to a general election to appoint the delegates of the Constitutional Assembly that would develop the Constitution and would define Cuba’s relationship with the United States. A commission charged with the task of defining US-Cuba relationships, but their result was rejected by US authorities. After multiple discussions, procedures and disagreements, the delegates received a final blow.

The Platt Amendment, passed and signed by the president of the United States, was delivered to the delegates to be incorporated into the Constitution, and it included a note signed by the Secretary of War stating that the President “is required to comply with [the ultimatum] and to execute it as it is […] he can neither change it nor modify it, add or take out anything,” as a condition of ending the military occupation.

What were the factors that led those Cubans to approve a document so lacerating to independence and national sovereignty? Simply, that they could not count on anything else, but their commitment, dignity, intelligence and capability to fight in the political arena. And that is what drove them, regardless of whether one or the other may have felt some sort of admiration for the occupying government. To add to this quandary, the Liberation Army had been demobilized, the Cuban Revolutionary Party dissolved, the Nation had not reached a crystallization point and lacked a Republic, with a State and a government of its own, and the people were exhausted from by the prolonged war.

The events that took place in March of 1901 attested to this. After the objectives of the Platt Amendment were publicly known, a demonstration of about 15,000 people walked through the streets of the capital toward the Martí theater, the headquarters of the Consitutional Assembly, to the residence of the military governor in Arms Square, demanding independence and sovereignty with an invocation directed to the American people.

However, a few days later, when a delegation of Cubans embarked to the United States to discuss our nonconformity only about 200 people showed up for their departure and barely a few dozen attended their return: a clear expression of the exhaustion and helplessness of the people in general.

In this situation, although intransigence might have seemed very patriotic, it was groundless and of no use. Choosing belligerence would have been suicidal before the superiority of the occupier.

The “all or nothing” expressed in “Freedom or Death,” “Independence or Death,” “Motherland or Death,” or “Socialism or Death” has proved itself unreal. Life went on after 1878 when we were not able to get our freedom. Life went on after 1898 when we did not completely win our motherland. Today, while this totalitarian Socialism is dying out, life goes on, which proves that intransigence, despite its solemn declarations, has contributed very little.

However, despite that this Republic of incomplete independence and limited sovereignty was not precisely the one José Martí dreamed of, Cuba joined the international community with a juridical personality of its own and closed the doors to annexation; the occupying army was withdrawn, and our destiny would not be that of Puerto Rico, Guam or the Philippines.

Time proved our wisdom. In 1904 the Hay-Quesada Treaty was signed, and our sovereignty over Island of Pines was recovered in 1925. In less than 20 years, Cuba managed to emerge from the economic stagnation and the social upheaval caused by the war; civil society strengthened; in 1934 we got rid of the Platt Amendment, and in 1939 the Constitutional Assembly convened, from which later emerged the brand-new 1940 Constitution that served Dr. Fidel Castro to support his defense at his trial for the Moncada Barracks assault in 1953.

Reminding ourselves that this Constitution endorsed the fundamental rights in the First Section of Part IV would be wiser than judging the Cuban delegates: the essence and spirit of habeas corpus, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association for all legal purposes and freedom of movement. Freedoms/rights, inherent to human beings, that are the foundation of the respect and observance of legal guarantees, of citizen participation and the realization of popular sovereignty. Rights that are mostly absent today.

Published in Diario de Cuba

Translated by Chabeli

31 May 2013

The Philosophy of Marti versus the Totalitarian Model

Published in the second edition of Cuadernos de Pensamiento Plural, April 2013.

People cannot live without history. On the 160th anniversary of the birth José Martí, “the crowning figure of Cuban political thought,” his ideas, instead of being used to solve the serious social problems that afflict Cuban society, continue to be manipulated in order to validate a failed social model whose goal was to increase production while ignoring basic economic laws such as respect for fundamental rights and freedoms.

The process began on February 19, 1959 when, just days after assuming the post of Prime Minister, Fidel Castro — in one of his typical fits of volunteerism — stated that he would significantly increase agricultural production and double the consumption capacity of the rural population. He added that “Cuba would sweep away its horrific rate of chronic unemployment, achieving for the people a higher standard of living than any country in the world.” However, the dismantling of civil society, the suspension of civil liberties and the process of economic nationalization led to stagnation and international isolation, to discontent and hopelessness among the citizenry, to apathy, corruption and mass exodus.

Since the early years of revolutionary government this process has had two co-existing pathways to a socialist economy. One is the Economic Calculation in which businesses operating under a state plan enjoy a certain level of independence and self-financing. Employment decisions are based more on financial concerns than moral ones. The other is the System of Budgetary Financing, characterized by greater centralization, a high degree of subjectivity and a preference for the use of moral incentives over financial ones. For decades these two pathways have alternated with an exacerbating volunteerism. This phenomenon can be summarized in the six examples that follow.

1. Between 1962 and 1965 the Economic Calculation system was applied to agricultural businesses, although not in a comprehensive way. For example, self-financing, one of its cardinal features, was not applied, which led to businesses having to turn to the government for funding. During this period the leader of the revolution ignored planning guidelines and allocated large resources to develop his own initiatives such as the Agrupación Básica del Cauto, an agricultural project made up several western municipalities headquartered in the city of Bayamo.

 2. In 1967 more rational standards were instituted. The System of Budgetary Financing was introduced, though with restrictions. It was called the New System of Economic Accounting. Its introduction led to the disappearance of the Ministry of Finance, the state budget, methods for billing and payment, and salary scales.

To develop the “new man,” a work schedule was introduced based on conscience and the extreme use of moral incentives. One of its failed attempts was the conversion of the Isle of Pines into Cuba’s first communist territory.

Later, the Revolutionary Offensive of 1968 did away with the last 56,000 small commercial businesses and private service providers which had managed to survive nationalization. This period reached its climax with the crazed attempt to produce ten millions tons of sugar, an effort which deformed the entire economy.

The mistakes made then were acknowledged in a report to the First Congress of the Cuban Communist Party in 1975 during which Fidel Castro said he had made the least correct decision by developing a new methodology. “We wanted to establish our own methods through the New System of Economic Accounting, which was preceded by the eradication of mercantile categories and the elimination of billing and payment practices between state enterprises.”

3. In 1972 Cuba gained entry to the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, or Comecon, and in 1975 introduced the System of Economic Management and Planning (whose Spanish acronym was SDPE). It combined state planning, top-down management and rejection of the market. The SPDE was doomed to failure from the start since the Soviet experience had already demonstrated that efficiency in a planned economy was dependent on decentralization and the introduction of market forces.

The most daring initiative from this period was the opening of the Free Peasant Market (Mercado Libre Campesino or MLC) which began operations in 1980. It allowed small producers to sell their surpluses based on supply and demand, “after fulfilling their commitments to the state,” and to hire contract workers. It also allowed for self-employment in forty-eight activities.

In 1986, due to the influence of perestroika in the USSR, the reform experiment was interrupted. In a rush to reject the laws of economics, the Cuban leader decreed that in the area of production we would have to use economic tools to augment political and revolutionary work. This led to his replacing the Central Planning Board and its directors with the Support Group. The MLCs were closed and replaced with state agricultural enterprises. Economic decision-making was recentralized.

The Process of Rectification of Mistakes and Negative Tendencies began based on the argument that negative phenomena were appearing which threatened “the process of building socialism.” There was a return to subsidies for inefficient state enterprises. In the context of this counter-reform there emerged a slogan: “Now We Will Really Build Socialism.” Later, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the loss of subsidies which it had granted to Cuba, combined with the domestic counter-reforms, would lead to a steep drop in the nation’s GDP.

4. The above-mentioned disaster led to a deep crisis which the government termed the Special Period. In response a package of reforms was introduced between 1995 and 2003 that permitted the sale of food in homes, and snacks, soft drinks and ice cream on the street. It also made possible the existence of workshops and small studios, foreign investment, the reopening of the MLC’s (now termed Agricultural Markets), and the opening of a market for industrial products.

The dollar could circulate freely and legally, foreign commerce was decentralized, free trade zones were opened and UBPCs (so-called co-operatives set up by the state) were created. During this period the System of Corporate Perfection continued to be applied, though in a selective way, to those military-run businesses which had been experimenting with it for several years.

5. Although the reforms of the previous period generated good results, they were put on hold in 2004 in yet another return to centralization and a limitation on the role of the market. The Battle of Ideas, initiated by Fidel Castro, was adopted as a method for fighting administrative corruption, the siphoning of state resources and illicit personal enrichment — evils of the socialist economic model that were blamed on the market. As a result the issuance of new business licences was limited, taxes were increased and foreign investment was reconsidered. This shift was linked to closer relations with Venezuela, a country which supplied petroleum at cut-rate prices in exchange for services. The magnitude of this trade, which made up for the loss of Soviet subsidies, replaced sugar, nickel and manufacturing as the top export sectors.

6. The beginning of the current period began with the transfer of power from the First Secretary of the Cuban Communist Party, Fidel Castro — who also served as President of the Council of Ministers, President of the Council of State and Commander-in-Chief — to Army General Raul Castro. In the absence of civic forces with the ability to influence the course of events, the transfer took place within the existing power structure, which determined the character, sequence, depth, direction and speed of change. Raul Castro, faced with an extremely complex national and international scenario, began a period marked by speculation, aspiration and hope.

With the goal of introducing some rationality to the Cuban economic model while at the same time ignoring the role of the market in relation to property and individual liberty, Raul Castro began by getting rid of methods and plans which relied on the volunteerism that was part of the Battle of Ideas. He announced the introduction of structural and conceptual changes outlined in a basic reform plan.

These included: 1) building a strong and efficient agricultural sector capable of providing food for the population and reducing imports, 2) making people feel the need to work in order to survive, 3) strongly rejecting illegalities and other signs of corruption, 4) reducing workplace staffing, whose redundancies exceeded one million and 5) encouraging self-employment as a way to absorb the surplus workforce.

The most important aspect of this basic plan was a provision to lease out idle farm land. It was an insufficient and contradictory measure since it acknowledged the inability of the state to produce while identifying food production as a national security problem, but kept property in the hands of the state, reducing producers to nothing more than tenants. Although the changes were too little and too late, they nevertheless marked a shift after decades of stagnation.

Attempts at reform were hindered by a kind of power sharing agreement in which all important decisions were made only after the new president had consulted with his brother, who was opposed to change. The critical point in this arrangement came in mid-2011 when Fidel Castro, in repeated appearances before the National Assembly on and before August 7, expressed his concerns about an “imminent” nuclear war.

During his final appearance he referred to President Barack Obama, who would presumably order the commencement of this holocaust, stating that perhaps he would not would give the order if we could persuade him otherwise. In contrast, on August 1, 2011 at a session of the National Assembly Raul Castro announced the expansion of self-employment, including the right to hire employees, something unprecedented in Cuba. And on August 13, Fidel Castro’s birthday, the release of six more political prisoners was announced.

The key features of the basic program were “outlined in the Guidelines of Economic and Social Policy.” Approved by the Sixth Cuban Communist Party Congress, they were constrained by the system of socialist planning and state-owned enterprise, which remained the principal means for economic development. In addition to these constraints the inherent contradictions and inconsistencies of the reforms became clear during fifteen provincial party conferences held after the party congress.

During these conferences the party’s second secretary, José Ramón Machado Ventura, reiterated certain ideas, saying, “We have to know beforehand what every producer is going to plant and harvest,” adding, “We must demand this of those who do not make the land productive.”

Decrees were issued to make sure the economy remained under state and party control. Finally, between June 11 and June, 2012 eight short pieces by Fidel Castro appeared in the official press. Nebulous and out of touch with Cuban reality, they marked the end of the period of power sharing. Only then and not before could one speak of the government of Raúl Castro.

During a session in July 2012 of the National Assembly, the president of the Council of State returned to decrees issued in a report to the Sixth Congress. Several days later in Guantánamo he once again took up the subject of a willingness to improve relations with the United States and on July 30 he led a parade on Martyr’s Day in Santiago de Cuba, which marked the real beginning of his rule.

Since then his time as head of government has had, on balance, the following results:

1. Agricultural production fell 4.2% in 2010. In 2011 GDP grew less than expected. Food imports increased by 1.5 billion in 2010 and 1.7 million in 2011. Sales decreased 19.4% compared to 2010 and retail prices increased 19.8%. Meanwhile the average nominal monthly salary increased only 2.2%, leading to a worsening situation for workers. Yields from sugar harvests were comparable to those at the beginning of the 20th century. This included the 2011-2012 harvest, which was forecast to 1,450,000 tons of sugar, but which failed to meet either its target amount or target date.

2. Criminal activity, as evidenced by the number of completed and pending criminal procedures, grew to such a degree that corruption and economic inefficiency became national security problems.

3. The limitations imposed on self-employment prevented this sector from absorbing as many state workers as anticipated. Of some 400,000 self-employed workers, more than 330,000 lacked work experience or were retirees, which meant that less than 17% of state employees were absorbed into the private sector.

Among the multiple reasons for these failures was the attempt to overcome a structural crisis by applying partial measures. There was also a lack of political willingness to allow diverse forms of property ownership, the formation of a middle class or to alter the unsatisfactory state of civil rights.

The First Conference of the Cuban Communist Party, held in January 2012, once again did not address these basic issues. More recently President Hugo Chavez’ illness has threatened the huge subsidies that Cuba receives from Venezuela, which means the authorities will have to introduce more energetic, profound and comprehensive reforms. Regardless of what happens in Venezuela, nothing will be be the same without Chavez.

The most recent measures reflect this. Non-agricultural cooperatives have been created with greater autonomy than their predecessors. A new emigration policy has relaxed absurd prohibitions on freedom of movement. Tariffs on cell phones have been reduced, a move which will lead to increased communication.

The amount of live programming from Telesur has greatly increased, weakening the official media’s monolithic control and its attempts at disinformation. Coverage of professional sports such as basketball and baseball on Cuban television — something unheard of until now — has been introduced.

Information has been released on the first tests of the fiber optic cable intended to normalize electronic communications, breaking the government’s extended silence on this issue. The timing of these decisions suggests they are a response to issues that will arise upon the impending demise of President Hugo Chavez and the subsequent need to improve relations with the United States and the European Union.

These steps point in the direction of change. However, as long as the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights are not adopted as legal foundations for citizens’ rights, one cannot properly speak of a true political willingness for change.

The relevance of Marti’s philosophy

Is there some relationship between the José Martí’s ideas regarding the party, freedom and democracy, Cuban political participation, and small and medium-slzed property on the one hand, and the current state of Cuban society on the other?

After analyzing the causes for the failure of the Ten Year’s War, Martí conceived the Revolutionary Party of Cuba (PRC) as a tool for organizing, controlling and creating a conscience for developing the nation and defining the republic. He believed that winning immediate independence would plant the seeds of permanent independence. On April 1, 1893 he said in New York, “The greatness of the Revolutionary Party is this: In order to found the Republic, it has begun with a republic. This is its strength: In the work of everyone, it gives rights to everyone. It is an idea that we must take to Cuba, not a person…”

And in the statutes of the PRC he defines it as follows: The party “does not propose to perpetuate in the Cuban Republic the authoritarian spirit and bureaucratic composition of a colony through new forms or alterations that are more superficial than essential. Rather, it proposes to establish, through the honest and cordial exercise of legitimate human abilities, a new people and true democracy, capable of overcoming, through the discipline of real work and a balance of social forces, the dangers of sudden democracy in a society designed for slavery.”

In regard to other things we currently lack such as freedom and democracy, he wrote, “Let us close the path to a republic that is not prepared to provide dignified means to human decency, for the good and prosperity of all Cubans…”

In 1891 he said, “Of the things for my homeland that I would prefer to have, it would be a good for everyone, a fundamental good that would be the basis and beginning of all others, and without which the others would be false and uncertain. This would be the good that I would prefer: I want the first law of our republic to be the cult of Cubans for the full dignity of Man.”

In New York on October 10, 1889 he stated, “Everything in my homeland is common property, and the free and inalienable object for action and philosophy of all who have been born in Cuba. The homeland is the happiness of everyone, and the pain of everyone, and the sky for everyone, and not the fiefdom or chaplaincy of anyone. And public things in which one group or party of Cubans puts its hands with the same undeniable right with which we put them, these are not theirs alone. And privileged property, through subtle virtue and unnatural character, is ours as well as theirs…”

And in a letter to José Dolores Poyo from December, 1891 he wrote, “It is my dream that every Cuban shall be an entirely free political man.”

In reference to Cubans’ participation in political matters, he stated on February 17, 1892, “I will show them those workshops where men practice politics, dealing with real life instead books, which is  the study of the public interest, in work that cleanses it and moderates it and in the truth that places it on solid ground.”

On the third anniversary of the PRC he returned to this subject: “A people is not the will of one man, no matter how pure he may be, nor the puerile determination to effect in one human group the naive ideal of a celestial spirit, a blind graduate of the unsteady university of the clouds… A people is a composition of many wills, vile or pure, honest or stern, constrained by timidity or precipitated by ignorance.”

On a subject as vital for its social function as property, José Martí said, “Rich is a nation with many small property owners. A people with a few rich men is not rich, but rather one in which everyone has a bit of wealth. In political economics and good governance its distribution is beneficial.”

Conclusions

Martí’s philosophies retain their relevance not only because they were advanced in his lifetime or because they have stood the test of time, but also because, in terms of rights and freedoms, Cuba has regressed to the 19th century in which Martí lived.

Martí imagined the Republic as a path to destiny. In contrast he imagined the Party as a tactical necessity in a larger strategy, not as a way to represent one social class, or to have electoral goals, or to dominate other parties or prohibit their existence, or to annul voter participation, or to declare that the street and the university belong to the revolutionary, much less to repress those who have every right to think differently.

For Martí the republic, by its very nature, had to be inclusive. It had to be a Cuban-born state of equal rights for all, a place of free expression, and for the good and prosperity of all, a republic where every Cuban could be an entirely free man. For such elevated goals he dreamed, thought, fought and died so that the First Law of the Republic might be the full dignity of Man.

Therefore, since the socialist model has failed, Martí’s philosophy — one which is both historical and current — serves as a valid point of reference which we should use to overcome the stagnation in which we find ourselves. That would be the best and most poignant homage to him on anniversaries to come.

24 April 2013

Salve, Erasmo / Mario Lleonart

The Church should ask for those rights not only for themselves, but they should ask for all their people. Dagoberto Valdés Hernández

It seems that The Praise of Folly by Erasmus of Rotterdam remains in effect.

Much of his paragraphs, as well as his original illustrations came to life in a context apparently as distant in space and time from the Europe of the XV and XVI centuries as it appeared to be from the Caribbean Cuba in the days that elapsed between 26 and 28 March 2012.

On one side the world beheld another of those generals-turned-chief-of state declare with all calm, as he welcomed the Bishop of Rome: “Religious freedom is respected by the Revolutionary Government which I head.”

On the other hand the pontiff was heard emitting a phrase as magisterial as it could be taking into account the theologian who also embodies a task to which he should have been devoted: “God not only respects human freedom, but it appears to need it.”

The irony is that while all the protocol loaded with hypocrisy and compliments took place in public spaces, hundreds of dark, damp dungeons throughout the island were crowded, not with brutal criminals or delinquents  conspiring to do damage to either of the two octogenarian politicians, but peaceful people, writers, artists, journalists, and some even faithful Catholics, deprived of participating in the masses held, a practice that indeed continues to take place every Sunday to dozens, if not hundreds, as it did during the Pope’s visit to Cuba. continue reading

Added to all those literally detained, dozens of others were immobilized and incommunicado in their homes under strict surveillance. The media monopoly on the island, including of the telephone systems, took advantage of its unjust hegemony to extort and breach agreements with their hundreds of their own customers who were thus affected by the improvement of operating technology that had been implemented recently in Cuba, carried out by the authorities themselves, and that silences fixed and mobile phones in what has come to be called Operation Vote of Silence, ordered and directed by the criminal Organs of State Security.

In this way this misrule of Cuba incurred in the violation of its own laws that they trampled, always to the detriment of the individual, ignoring Law No. 62/87 of the Penal Code (Updated) included in Book II, Title IX, Chapter 1, Section III, Article 286 where it warns that anyone who commits violence without legitimate reason over another or makes threats in order to compel them at that moment to do something they do not want to do, whether right or wrong, or to tolerate someone else doing it, or to prevent them from doing what the law does not prohibit, or by other means prevents another from doing what the law does not prohibit or exercising their rights, will be punished and sentenced to imprisonment or fines as the case.

12 May 2013

An Unwanted Office That Never Should Have Been (III) / Mario Leonart

Since 2007 my wife and I Yoaxis Marcheco have also been serving as assistant professors at the Luis Manuel González Peña Baptist Theological Seminary of the Trinity Baptist church in the city of Santa Clara.

The magnanimous Office also opposes this, and not just from what has been disclosed verbally, but has also been made evident for months through the freezing of the bank account as client No. 287 in the International Financial Bank (BFI). It is the foreign currency account with about 27,000 USD which remain inaccessible under Account No. 030000000028738.

Of course, here the political sanctions are also shared with Rev. Homer Carbonell, rector of the seminary, who was also, for over twenty years, pastor of this church, and with his family who share his ministries; historically they have also been objects of pressures that are now demanding that the Rev. Homer retire on October 31, 2011 through their “Open Letter to those who love our Lord Jesus Christ.” Now with the upcoming Congress of the General Assembly of the Latin American Council of Churches (CLAI) this month in Cuba and in an huge hypocritical harangue the account suddenly gets frozen, it seems to be a joke for the CLAI, but they already warned that it would be operative for eight months. Could they admit to such nerve?

18 May 2013

An Unwanted Office That Should Never Have Been (II) / Mario Leonart

In January 2010 the Office used its networks and spokespeople to interfere with my transfer as a pastor in Taguayabon to the Baptist church in Bejucal, then in Havana province, now Mayabeque Province.

According to the spokesman whom they used to communicate with Pastor Ivan Elio García Muñoz who invited me in support of this congregation to be his assistant pastor: “In Taguayabon you have been tolerated, but you will not be in Bejucal.” Which constituted a threat and intimidation to the free exercise of religious freedom in Bejucal Baptist Church.

Given this constraint I myself addressed a thank you letter to that church for considering me but I responded that I given the threats referred to I refused his invitation to avoid pressures announced.

17 May 2013

An Unwanted Office That Should Never Have Been (I) / Mario Leonart

I, the priest Mario Felix Lleonart Barroso, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in the town of Taguayabon, Cuba, find myself in the painful and distressing need to condemn before the world the manipulation and blackmail of the so-called Office of Attention to Religious Affairs of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba of myself, my family and ministries; at least so that they do not occur with impunity.

Without internet access in previous weeks I was able to publish my full complaint through the blog Religion in Revolution. After hours of publication, Granma responded with an article by Dalia González Delgado — “Is there religious freedom in Cuba?” — on April 30. Now I am publishing each complaint separately and in different posts and I welcome the VII Congress of the Latin American Church Council in Havana:

– From mid-2009 the Religious Affairs Office has been harassing the leaders of the Western Cuba Baptist Convention to take action against my person and ministries. These leaders are constantly called to the Office for scolding and pressures not to interfere in my pastoral ministry, nor in the decisions as an autonomous church that is ours, but that is associated with the Baptist Convention, with its own doctrine and ecclesiastical practice of our churches, in this Political Bureau of the Central Committee trying to interfere at all costs violating our fundamental principle of church-state separation.

16 May 2013

April Left and May Arrived / Mario LLeonart

And my poor blog had almost no spring. Angel Santiesteban, the cry of the last post I was able publish back in March, he is still in prison, and injustice is still have a party. To think that some people look and me and accuse me in Cuba of privileged access to the Internet. And the whole month of April passed with its rains but in my blog not a single drop.

But don’t cry. Here I am again. At least, for those who nevertheless pass through here to see if I reappear, here I am, still alive today, and trying to get out a word while I still have breath. At least you know as long as I’m write I’m not sitting around with my arms crossed. And to witness it and for the glory of God there are my religious communities and the two forums held at the Patmos Institute, and for a witness to the latter I refer to latest that we sent to Diario de Cuba who gives us a voice when we entirely lack one. A hug to everyone, and as my friend Antonio Rodiles says: ever onward!

9 May 2013

We Approach the Present Through the Past / Dimas Castellanos

New resolutions issued by the Ministry of Economy and Planning, introducing changes in economic relations, give more attention to the re-insertion of non-state forms of management. The measures, published in the Official Extraordinary Gazette, No. 4, of February 21, 2013, authorize the “payment in convertible pesos (CUC), to legal entities to natural persons in certain activities.”

Among the new provisions are food services offered by self-employed workers, the contracting of minor repairs services for government entities and the tourism system. They also apply in the experiments that are approved as new forms of management. Contract payments are to be made by “checks, cards, notes, bills of exchange, local credit cards and others.” The amounts payable are not limited by administrative decisions, as the amounts to be executed must be approved in the budgets and plans for the fiscal year of legal persons.

The information, that with the exception of North Korea which has no news range anywhere in the world, in Cuba, due to the pushback suffered in economic relations, is a peculiar, necessary and important fact.

It is a peculiar fact, because it is a step backwards. In 1959 the government unleashed a crackdown on private property and economic rights that began with the nationalization of foreign-owned companies, continued with national companies and did not stop until the elimination of the last 56,000 small private enterprises with the Revolutionary Offensive of 1968.

The result of the nationalization was inefficiency. The disappearance of the products and services provided by the closed establishments could never be made up for by the State. Instead, interest in productive results began to decline, which together with the insufficiency of wages, forced Cubans to survive on the margins of legality with consequent ethical deterioration.

It is, therefore, a partial return to what existed in Cuba before 1959, when the products and services offered by small private companies were paid for with the Cuban peso which was pegged to the U.S. dollar. The difference with the past is that there is now a dual currency: charge devalued pesos salary paid in CUC and the vast majority of products and services, which means Cubans return to the past in worst conditions.

At the same time, it is a necessary event because limitations and contradictions of the measures introduced to overcome the crisis in which the country is sunk, are not yielding positive results and must be amended and supplemented. Self-employment, a step in that direction, is only a tenuous resurrection of what existed before 1959 and require the removal of the barriers that were born to play an effective role in economic relations. Hence the need for the recent measures and other measures that will have to be enacted.

And finally, it is an important event because the delay has been so great that the return to the past is a step forward. The intention of the changes, that were manifested in 2006 and began to take shape from 2008, has not yielded the expected results. While the causes are many, among them two contradictions are highlighted: one, the attempt to achieve an efficient economy while preserving the model that led the country into the crisis; two, changing some aspects of the economy while ignoring the systemic character of social phenomena. These two contradictions, in an unfavorable national, regional and international context, with a huge debt and the possibility of losing at least part of the large subsidies from Venezuela, prevents the possibility of further retreat.

In this sense, according to an article by Yaima Puig Meneses, that appeared in the newspaper Granma on Thursday February 21, Marta García Pino, the specialist of the  Macroeconomic Policy Group of the Standing Commission for Implementation and Development, said, “It is not a casual or isolated measure, rather a strengthening of self-employment in conjunction with the creation of other forms of non-state management as part of the reorganization of the economy in the country, making it necessary to modify the limits for the payments to natural persons from legal persons.”

The few results obtained with the measures that have been implemented are forcing them to reform the reforms in real time, complementing them with new provisions, such as the recent decisions about the payment in CUC from legal persons to natural persons as well as other provisions sure to be enacted.

Consequently, to advance is imposing the need to reintroduce economic relations and forms of property that were removed and remained banned for decades.

The result of this process is that it is producing changes. Whether or not the results of political will, what is important is that each step generates new contradictions, new scenarios and new possibilities. For that reason opinion journalism has a duty to point out the slowness, limitations and inconsistencies of the changes with critical remarks and suggestions, and at the same time to stimulate everything that goes in the direction of the transformation, until vital aspects that remain outside the government agenda are introduced.

I mean citizen rights and freedoms, without which the current measures also will not yield the results that Cuba urgently needs.

Published in Diario de Cuba

1 March 2013

The Constitution of La Yaya and the Future Cuban Constitution / Dimas Castellanos

1352037605_conztituicion-300x168On the 29th of October of 1897 in the pasture of La Yaya, in Sibanicú, Camagüey, the drafting of what would become the last mambí Constitution came to an end. The resulting text represented a qualitative leap forward in Cuba’s constitutional history. This was due to the inclusion, for the first time, of a dogmatic part that included the most advanced individual political and civil rights at the time: habeas corpus, freedom and confidentiality of postal communications, freedom of religion, equality before taxation, freedom of education, right to petition, inviolability of the home,  universal suffrage, freedom of expression and the right of assembly and association.

This result was determined by multiple causes; particularly because the always-present interdependence between development and individual freedoms in every social project is reflected in the constitutional history of human rights. continue reading

For example: the Magna Carta imposed by the English nobility on John Lackland in 1215, the Habeas Corpus Act of 1674, the English Bill of Rights of 1689, the United States’ Declaration of Independence of 1776, and France’s Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 1789. These, among other documents, spread at a global level, along with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 and the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, put into force in 1976.

Cuba’s constitutional history began in the colonial period with the Project for an Autonomous Government in Cuba, drafted in 1811 by Father José Agustín Caballero. In 1812, Joaquín Infante, an attorney from Bayamo, drafted the Constitutional Project for the Island of Cuba, and in 1821, priest Félix Varela drafted the Project of Instruction for the Politically and Economically Autonomous Government of the Overseas Provinces. Later, during the wars of independence, in a context of contradictions between military and civil law, Cuba’s constitutional history was enriched by the mambí legislation.

On the 10th of April of 1869, the Guáimaro Constitution, in which an emphasis on civil law was imposed, was signed. This Basic Law based on a tripartite division of powers, gave the legislative power to a House of Representatives that had the authority to appoint and depose the President of the Republic in Arms and the Commander-in-Chief. The executive power was in the hands of the President, and the judiciary was independent.

Despite the facts that it was created during the war of independence and that the House of Representatives was granted authority over the Republic’s sovereignty, the Constitution’s emphasis on civil law? allowed for the rights and freedoms of all Cubans to be protected? in Article 28 as follows: “The House cannot attack the right to freedom of religion, freedom of the press, peaceful assembly, education and petition, or any inalienable right of the people.” According to Dr. Oscar Loyola, in Guáimaro, the possibility of a military dictatorship, always latent in a historical process of this nature, was programmatically eliminated.

From the 13th to the 18th of September of 1895, at the rebirth of the war of independence in Cuba, a new Constitution was drafted in Jimaguayú, which reflected the experience gained from The Ten Years War. As M. Sc Antonio Álvarez expressed, three groups of interests intersected in this document: predominance of military power, José Martí’s principles and an exacerbated anti-militarism, between those who had a pact of interests reflected in that the highest authority of the State was concentrated in a Council of Government with powers to dictate all matters relating to the civil and political life of the revolution; in other words, this body had executive and legislative powers. Article 24 limited the validity of this Constitution to a period of two years.

In compliance with this article, a new Constituent Assembly met in La Yaya from the 13th to the 29th of October. The resulting Constitution readopted the civilian character from Guáimaro. It consolidated the organization of power in civil institutions, and closed the cycle of the type of constitutionalism that had resulted from the wars of independence (Guáimaro, Baraguá, Jimaguayú, and La Yaya), which, obstructed by the American occupation and the imposition of the Platt Amendment, gave way to the Republican Period. The best evidence of the scope and importance of La Yaya is that the civil and political rights enshrined in this document were readopted and enriched in the constitutions of 1901 and 1940.

The advocates of the supremacy of militarism wondered: Why did the Basic Law include a dogmatic part whose immediate purpose was to serve as judicial instrument during wartime? The answer to this question had been already answered in several writings by José Martí, for whom the Republic had become the definition of the democratic soul of the nation.

Martí established a logical genetic relationship between war, independence, and the Republic, where the first was a bridge to reach the last one.  This is why he clearly defined the purposes of the war, so that after that conquest of immediate independence, these then would become the seeds of tomorrow’s long-lasting independence. He believed that, in times of victory, only the seeds that were planted in times of war thrive.

In his speech, “With All and for the Good of All,” delivered in November of 1891, Martí said: “Let’s close the doors to a Republic that is not founded on means worthy of the decorum of men, for the good and the prosperity of all Cubans!” In April of 1893, he expressed: “That is the greatness of the Revolutionary Party: that to found a Republic, it has started from a Republic. That is its strength: “that in the work of all, are the rights of all.” In the Montecristi Manifest, he wrote: “Our motherland must be built, from its roots, upon feasible ways that are self-born, so that a government that lacks truth and justice cannot lead it to the path of favoritism or tyranny.”

The post-1959 events are what best proves the importance of the civil law emphasis of the Constitution of La Yaya.  After 17 years of government under The Basic Law of the Republic of Cuba, the Constitution of 1976, which abolished the Constitution of 1940 and made political and civil rights were subject to the legitimization of the Communist Party as the maximum leading force of the State and society, was approved; something alien and contrary to the day when a new Constituent Assembly, elected by the people, assumes the task of drafting a Magna Carta that includes our constitutional heritage and shapes it into the reality of today’s Cuba and of the winds blowing across the universe.

Originally published in El Diario de Cuba

Translated by: Chabeli 

1 November 2012