Fernando Damaso, 15 February 2018 — Cuban socialism started from the premise that stripping the rich of their wealth would accomplish the elimination of poverty. An absurd premise, since the relationship is not less wealth less poverty, but quite the opposite, greater wealth less poverty.
The problem is that poverty is not eliminated by taking wealth from the rich, but by creating more wealth. However, to create wealth, we must unleash the productive forces and let them act, without a chastity belt that limits and interferes with their development. continue reading
This truth has been learned and successfully applied by most of the former socialist countries, with the exception of Cuba and North Korea, which currently are precisely the most backward and without real prospects for development.
The obstinacy of the inefficient and obsolete Cuban leadership already reaches the limits of the illogical: it prefers that the country and Cubans continue sunk in misery and backwardness, in order to maintain their absolute power until the last breath.
What happens next does not interest them in the least. Hence their excessive praise of the person most directly responsible for the national tragedy, along with his closest followers, and their insistance on presenting as victories his many and resounding failures.
However, facts and reality conspire against this false vision: it has lost all political credence and very few believe in its stories. All that sustains it is the repression and fear induced in many about the necessary changes, which, in spite of everything, will come sooner rather than later.
Fernando Damaso, 24 January 2018 — This year will mark 116 since the founding of the Republic on 20 May 1902. Although it was the time of the nation’s greatest progress and development–with important economic and social achievements, including health and education–this period has been systematically discredited and distorted during the last 60 years when only its defects have been written and spoken about. The same has happened with its presidents. To better understand them, I start the publication of their biographical sketches and presidential periods. Here is the first:
The Teacher from Central Valley: Tomás Estrada Palma
As early the first months of the year 1959, the new authorities had already launched a campaign against the history of the Republic, demonizing or legitimizing figures and deeds according to their political interests. One of the first victims was the first President of the Republic. continue reading
Don Tomás Estrada Palma was immortalized in statues and busts in cities and towns, and his name appeared on streets, schools, and even a sugar milling company. Such an honor was bestowed by those who knew him and those who, with the approval of the majority of Cubans, respected his accomplishments since 1868. In Havana, his bronze figure was placed on a pedestal on the Avenida de los Presidentes, between 5th and Calzada streets, in the Vedado district.
“The revisers of History” began an attack on him and other personalities who did not share their political and ideological tendencies. Estrada Palma’s statue was cut at the ankles and removed, leaving his shoes on the pedestal as evidence of the vandalism. His likeness and name also were expunged from other public spaces and, if he is mentioned today, it is only to revile him. Why so much hatred, more than a century after his physical life, against the first President?
Tomás Estrada Palma was born in Bayamo in 1835 and was among the first who joined the war against Spain when hostilities began on 10 December 1868. In the then-Free City Hall of Bayamo, he was its first mayor and defended the abolition of slavery (which had been proclaimed by Carlos Manuel de Céspedes), but in a gradual manner.
At the hearing on 27 October 1873 in Bijagual (Jiguaní) to depose de Céspedes as President of the Republic in Arms, conducted during the Chamber of Representatives session led by Salvador Cisneros Betancourt as deputy, Estrada Palma accused de Cespedes of “attempting to undermine the unassailable rights of the people,” and of practicing a system of favoritism by awarding military ranks to debtors and undeserving friends, endangering high-level collective interests. At the site, with more than 2,000 rebel troops, were Major General Calixto García, Generals Calvar and Modesto Díaz, and Brigadier Antonio Maceo. Along with Manuel Sanguily, Máximo Gómez, and other important leaders, Estrada Palma met with Vicente García in Loma de Sevilla, following the revolt of Lagunas de Varona, so that the latter would desist from his rebel activities and respect the authority of Juan Bautista Spotorno, the recently-designated President.
On 29 March 1876, Estrada Palma was elected President of the Republic In Arms in his own right by the Chamber of Representatives to succeed Spotorno, and due to Francisco Vicente Aguilera’s inability to return to Cuba to occupy the post. On 19 October 1877, he was taken prisoner by the Spanish in Tasajeras (Holguín). Francisco Javier de Céspedes, having taken as Interim President, could not prevent the demoralization of the revolutionary troops; the Chamber of Representatives elected as his substitute, to the surprise of all, Vicente García, the rebel from Lagunas de Varona and Santa Rita, to whom it feel to reach an accord with the Spanish General Arsenio Martínez Campos and forge the Pact of Zanjón.
Tomás Estrada Palma remained imprisoned in Spain until the signing of the Pact, which won him his liberty and later relocated to the United States, where he worked in education and ran a prestigious school in Central Valley, near New York City. He established political and personal ties with José Martí,* with whom he worked closely in pro-independence activities and who designated him (upon traveling to Santo Domingo en route to Cuba) as Delegate of the Cuban Revolutionary Party.
In 1901, upon Generalísimo Máximo Gómez’ refusal to run as a candidate for the upcoming elections, Estrada Palma was nominated by his party (with Gómez’ support) to face off against the other proposed candidate, Bartolomé Masó. On 31 December 1901, while residing in the US, Estrada Palma was elected as the first President of the Republic soon to be established. He returned on 17 April and assumed the office on the very birthday of the Republic of Cuba: 20 May 1902.
During his presidency, Estrada Palma continued the reorganization of the Public Administration begun by the US provisional military government in Cuba. He allocated major resources to education, bringing to 3,712 the number of schools and classrooms, creating Kindergarten schools, summer schools for teacher training, and the National Library.
He devoted attention to the development and protection of industries, improving public safety and the prison system, construction of communication lines, and obtained compensation for the members of the Liberating Army by way of a $35-million credit. It fell to him to confront the first labor strike in the Republic, that of tobacco workers calling for better salaries in November 1902, which was suppressed due to the country’s lack of means to satisfy their demands.
In February 1903, Estrada Palma ratified the Cuban-American Treaty of Relations, which insured against any economic disaster and conceded spaces within the national territory for the installation of naval and coal bases. This action reduced the initial requirement of concessions in Cienfuegos, Nipe, Bahía Honda and Guantánamo to only two (Guantánamo y Bahía Honda) and, finally, to only one–in Guantánamo– with a larger expanse.
During his presidential period of 1902-1906, Estrada Palma practiced irreproachable honesty, did not give or nor permit “botellas”** (public-sector positions which paid salaries for no work), reduced the Republic’s expenditures, maintained a just and flourishing annual budget, the sugar industry was rebuilt ***, public services were well-run, and citizens’ rights were respected.
Estrada Palma’s principal errors were of a personal and political nature, having presumed that nobody but he possessed the competencies to execute the presidency (an affliction that runs throughout our history, taken to the extreme in the last 56 years) and listening to those surrounding him who petitioned him to run for re-election. To achieve this objective he allowed frauds in the partial elections of February and, even worse, in the general ones, forcing the withdrawal of the Liberal Party which was putting forth José Miguel Gómez for President y Alfredo Zayas as his running mate.
On 20 May 1906, Estrada Palma once again assumed the presidency of the Republic against the wishes of most citizens, who wanted a change, and which provoked the so-called “Little War of August” incited by the Liberal Party. Unable to stop the events, Estrada Palma sought the US government’s intervention, which was denied, and he was ordered to resolve the situation through agreements with the opposition. He did not comply and again demanded US action from President Theodore Roosevelt, who refused and tried to remain neutral–although, to protect North American interests and citizens, sent ships, some troops, and a mediator.
Faced with this situation, Estrada Palma resigned, leaving a power vacuum which the Congress was unable to fill for not convening nor electing a President. This seemingly irresponsible behavior brought about the Second North American Occupation, which began on 19 September 1906 and lasted until 28 January 1909.
Some historians accuse Estrada Palma of having ordered the assassination of Quintín Banderas. Banderas was the brave, but undisciplined and troubled, Mambí general who had been sanctioned several times, had a summary judgment pending against him and was relieved of his command for the final 11 months of the last war, for which he did not receive back pay when the Republic was established. The accusation, supported by no type of evidence, does not fit in with Estrada Palma’s personality.
Tomás Estrada Palma, removed from power, retired to a country estate on the outskirts of Bayamo, where he died two years later, on 4 November 1908. He was interred in the Santa Ifigenia cemetery in Santiago de Cuba, near the tomb of José Martí. Despite the political mistakes he committed towards the end of his presidential period, the austerity, honesty, and patriotism that Estrada Palma maintained during the major part of his life make him one of the noblest Cuban figures of his time.
Translated By: Alicia Barraqué Ellison
Translator’s Notes: * José Martí lived in exile in New York at various times while garnering support for Cuba’s independence from Spain. ** “Botella” literally translates as “bottles,” but in this context is used as Cuban slang for sinecures. *** Which had been decimated during the Wars for Independence.
Fernando Damaso, 28 January 2018 — When reading the list of candidates for deputies to the National Assembly of People’s Power, prepared by the National Candidacy Commission (formed and directed by the Party, with designated representatives of the so-called mass organizations), I am struck by some of the elderly people which are part of it, some of them over 80 and others even over 90, although they are practically unable to exercise their duties due to their advanced physical deterioration.
I do not question their accumulated merits, real or fictitious, but the National Assembly should not be satisfied with deputies and honorary deputies: for this there are other institutional spaces. continue reading
It is assumed, although in reality it is not so, that in the National Assembly all currents of political, economic and social thought are represented and, through debate and confrontation, laws are drawn up and approved for the benefit of the Nation.
The current spawn, which represent a single thought and a single party, where only unanimity works, is a great farce. For that reason, it is possible to use the Assembly as a showcase for figures which might more appropriately be displayed in a museum.
On the street it is thought that, at least out of simple decency or out of respect for the citizens and themselves, some of the nominees should not be on the list, and rather should give way to representatives of the new generations, but this, it seems, was not the order that the National Candidacy Commission received. Instead, they were told to keep them until the last breath.
Today, January 28, the anniversary of the birth of José Martí, the greatest of all Cubans, it is good to remember this thought of his: “Only strong heads resist the poisonous vapor of power. The despotic spirit of man attaches itself with mortal love to the pleasure of looking down from above and commanding as an owner, and once having enjoyed this pleasure, he feels as if his life been torn up by the roots when they deprive him of it.”
Fernando Damaso, 9 January 2018 — I have always respected those who avoid extreme positions, which, in short, do not lead to anything good even if, at certain times, they might be considered correct.
The Pact of the Zanjón was a wise and intelligent decision, which responded to the reality of the time in which it was signed, although it was rejected by some and criticized historically by many, and its signatories with disparagingly referred to as “zanjoneros,” ignoring all their accumulated merits during years of struggle
The Baraguá Protest was an example of stubbornness, which did not respond to the reality of the moment, although it was approved by some and its participants honored by historians. In short, it lasted only a few days and, in the end, the “Protestors,” with a few exceptions, accepted the Covenant they had repudiated. continue reading
Without the the Pact of Zanjón it would have been impossible to preserve and rebuild the forces that, years later, would participate in the War of Independence that ended in 1898, since these individuals would have been decimated and their main leaders sacrificed in vain.
Years later, with the acceptance by the most reasonable Cubans of the Platt Amendment, the emergence of the Republic would have been impossible, because the US occupation troops would not have left Cuba, and Cuba would have become a protectorate, without actually constituting Nation, regardless of everything bad that would have flowed from this.
If. in the 1930s, the intelligence of certain groups had prevailed instead of their ambitions, the reality would have been different, and the country would have moved more quickly on the path of development.
If, in the decade of the 50s, those who worked for a political and non-violent solution had triumphed, instead of those who believed in armed struggle, we would have avoided these six decades of backwardness and misery.
That is, betting on the extremes has never been synonymous with wisdom, although some people are more attracted to noise and hubbub than to good sense. It would be convenient if, in the days and months to come, the latter would prevail.
Fernando Damaso, 22 December 2017 — It seems that moving tombs and monuments from place to place has become a common practice. Now it turns out that, without consulting the citizen, where the real people’s power supposedly lies, the equestrian statue of General Calixto García Íñiguez which, since the 1950s, has been installed in the Malecón and Calle G roundabout (Avenida de los Presidentes) in El Vedado, has been moved from the Plaza Municipality to the Playa Municipality.
Nor have I heard or read any opinion from a recently elected deputy from these municipalities: it seems that in making the decision they were not consulted.
The public explanation given to the press is laughable: “To avoid its deterioration, due to its proximity to the sea.” continue reading
This means that for the same reason, those of Antonio Maceo and Máximo Gómez, also near the sea, will be moved. And the multiple iron sculptures installed by the Historian of the City on Avenida del Puerto along with Roberto Fabelo’s bowl on the Malecón at Galiano.
Will it also happen with the anachronistic Martí of the Anti-Imperialist Bandstand and with the bandstand itself, built by the sea, making this part of El Vedado ugly?
It is explained that there will be a park with a star, a large Cuban flag and a bronze plaque built in the space where the monument was, explaining that the monument was here and the reasons for its move. I suppose that a budget has been established to replace the large flag from time to time, due to the effects of the saltpeter and the strong wind.
I think that maybe this is no more than a temporary park, similar to those that are built where buildings collapse. Will anyone be interested in such a magnificent place?
In short, these measures only serve to lacerate the identity of our towns and cities, depriving them of part of their architecture, which is also their history.
Fernando Damaso, 12 December 2017 — Attuned to the recently concluded so-called “general elections,” which did not really interest anyone or represent any change in the political life of the country, different articles have appeared in the written press comparing these elections with those held in Cuba during the era of the Republic, as well as others that continue to be carried out in most democratic countries. Among other points of discord, one article compares the candidates of then and now.
The article asserts that candidates of that time were corrupt and opportunistic and that they did not represent citizens, dedicating themselves to getting rich at the expense of the State’s resources. What if they did! continue reading
However, they all had a full name, a record of their service, proposals for the government and followers. The ones we have now are totally gray, lack names and surnames, are only known in their own homes, if at all, at lunch or dinner time, they lack a record of service, have no proposals and no followers. They are, in short, simple strangers, who pass through their offices without sorrow or glory, they agree unanimously and are lost, when they leave, among the population.
The article also says that the bourgeoisie and the wealthy were criminals, and that they had obtained their riches by exploiting the workers and the peasants.
Before these assertions some questions arise: Who built our towns and cities? Who developed the country? Who built all the valuable things we have today? We must assume that it was not the workers or the peasants who were exploited.
If everything happened that way when everyone was bad, why, now that everyone is good, does nothing work and the country, instead of advancing, has retreated?
Perhaps we can find in this trend the current reluctance and apathy of most Cubans. We have stopped believing in the storytellers and their stories.
Fernando Damaso, 6 December 2017 — We have always considered Carlos Manuel de Céspedes as the Father of the Nation and José Martí as the Apostle. Recently a Mother of the Nation has been imposed on us. It would not be unreasonable to assume that soon they will also impose a female Apostle. Along that absurd path, grandparents and grandmothers, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters and even male and female cousins “of the Nation” could also appear.
Recently that indigestible Cuban Television program ’The Roundtable’ decided to address the subject, with the theme: “The Granma … is the Nation.” [Ed. note: This “Granma” is not a grandmother but rather the name of the yacht that the Castro brothers and their compatriots sailed from Mexico to Cuba, to launch the guerrilla actions that ultimately triumphed as the Revolution. The previous owner of the yacht had named it after his grandmother, and so it remained, ultimately giving its name to a Cuban province and the Communist Party’s daily paper.] Thus, if we follow this idea, even a soccer ball could be the nation, regardless of being kicked by everyone. The same could be said about a baseball.
When the sacred symbols are manipulated so festively and disrespectfully, we must seriously concern ourselves as citizens. It is something that should not be allowed or accepted, no matter who it comes from.
Fernando Damaso, 23 October 2017 — The moving of the remains and mausoleums of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, the Father of the Nation, and Mariana Grajales, the mother of Maceo, from their original locations to the area near the mausoleum of José Martí, whom we Cubans call the Apostle, and the monolith of the “historical leader” (Fidel Castro), continues to be a topic of discussion among Cubans.
If this transfer had been made before placing the anachronistic monolith in place, when the area belonged mainly to José Martí and other heroes, it might have been acceptable, although this idea of relocating remains, according to the political conveniences of the moment is reprehensible and carries overtones of outdated totalitarianism and socialism. continue reading
It recalls the game with the remains of Stalin in Moscow’s Red Square, which were first located next to Lenin inside the latter’s mausoleum and, years later, when the dark side of Stalin’s character was publicly revealed, they were removed and buried near the entrance, with a simple pedestal without a bust.
This move now, whatever they say about it, reflects deep manipulation, perhaps with the aim of attracting visitors to the site and, therefore, as a collateral gain, towards the monolith.
And as if the manipulation was not enough, Dona Mariana is also supposed to be granted the title of “Mother of the Nation,” something that no Mambí (fighter for Cuban independence) gave her nor did any of the veterans of the War of Independence, as if it happened with Carlos Manuel de Cespedes. The greatest title of Doña Mariana’s is that of being the mother of the Maceo, and that of having accompanied them in the first independence struggle: she does not need another.
They justify this by saying that when she died José Martí sent a wreath of flowers in whose ribbon said “Mother,” is too farfetched like something from the Historian of Havana, who,for a long time. became the historical oracle of the authorities. It would be good to remind him of an opinion from our Apostle: “There is no spectacle, in truth, more odious, than that of servile talents.” (Volume 13, page 158 of his Complete Works).
Although, according to what we were told then, the “historical leader” asked that his name not be given to any public establishment, institution, avenue, street, etc., what is being done now is worse: they are trying to place it, in importance, next to Céspedes and Martí. The Fathers of the Homeland deserve respect.
As if that were not enough, a white stone coffin, with bones brought from the Pantheon of the Veterans, dedicated to the Unknown Mambí Soldier, has now been located in the Hall of the Lost Steps of the National Capitol.
Everything seems to indicate that this funerary addiction will continue.
Fernando Damaso, 3 December 2017 — Human beings are born and they die. Before being born they never existed and, after death, they cease to exist. In their honor monuments can be erected and their names given to streets, avenues, plazas and public establishments, but they are not there. Depending on their deeds, good or bad, they will be remembered with love or with hate.
José Martí died on 19 May 1895 and on that day his life cycle ended. What has endured afterwards are his thoughts and his ideas, but he did not live another day after that date.
For Antonio Maceo, what endured after his death on 7 December 1896, is his military exploits and for Máximo Gómez, after 17 June 1905, it was his brilliant strategy of war.
Other Cubans who are closer in time live on in their music, like Ernesto Lecuona, in their painting, like Wifredo Lam, in their theater, like Virgilio Piñera, or their poetry, like Nicolás Guillén. None of them accompanies us on a day-to-day basis nor do they go back to the places they visited during life, or greet or embrace those who shared with them the days of their existence, because it is impossible.
Lately we have been spectators of an absurd and grotesque phenomenon: trying to present as a living being someone* who died a year ago. To do this, they have used all possible means, including overflowing masses, amazing expressions and even special mourners, in a real circus show. Something truly shameful, which should embarrass the organizers.
Remembering is good, but excesses do not generate respect, rather they generate repudiation. This lesson should be well learned by politicians.
Fernando Damaso, 26 November 2017 — Maintaining the concept of “perpetual revolution” is convenient for government authorities because, in this way, those who do not agree with them are not against the government, but against the “revolution,” that entelechy turned into a myth, and confused by most of the citizens with the Nation and the Fatherland. It is a primitive formula that has given good results for sixty years.
Revolution is simply a violent change in the political, social or economic structures of a State. Nation is a human community generally established in the same territory, united by historical, linguistic, religious and cultural traditions and economic ties to a greater or lesser degree. The difference between the two is notable. continue reading
All revolutions have a beginning and an end, totally unrelated to the wishes of those who execute them: in the case of political, social or economic revolutions, they begin with the assault on the established power and end with the institutionalization of the new power. They are ephemeral phenomena, although their consequences and effects extend over time, beyond the periods of their own existence. The Cuban Revolution is no exception: it existed only during the transition stage.
To speak of the Cuban Revolution today, as if it were still a current event, and even worse of the “Revolutionary Government of Cuba,” as it is often written in official statements, in addition to referring to something that does not exist, is illegal, since, what the Constitution recognizes is the Government of the Republic of Cuba. It seems that this absurdity responds to the need that the “old revolutionaries” have to maintain their “histories” and to defend their old conceptions, without daring to insert themselves in the present.
They are addicted to the little word (economic, agricultural, industrial, educational, cultural and other revolutions), although over time, despite having tried to erase the so-called bourgeois period, changing the political, social and economic structures, and also the names of many towns, companies, businesses, and health, educational, cultural and other centers, as well as plazas, parks, avenues and streets, they have become well-off leaders and officials, with higher standards of living than those of the bourgeois they fought, with the difference that the old bourgeois lived off their own resources while the well-off leaders and officials live at the expense of the people’s resources.
They will continue to call themselves “revolutionaries” until the end of their days, but their revolution has long since ceased to exist.
Fernando Damso, 8 November 2017 — In these days of November, in the absence of more important occupations, the Cuban Government has taken on the task of being the apologist for the October Revolution, something that even the Russian Government itself has not done.
Nobody denies that what happened in Russia in 1917 was not momentous or moved the world at that time, but soon it was shown that theory was one thing and practice was another: arbitrariness, repressions, impositions, crimes, genocides of entire populations, backwardness, misery, lack of freedoms and other evils were enthroned in the distant country, until the experiment disappeared seventy years later, for the good of the subjected countries of Eastern Europe and for humanity. continue reading
Today’s Russia, and the countries that formed the former Soviet Union, are something else entirely. The Russian Revolution is simply ancient history and lacks validity in the current era, except for the eternal dreamers of global communism.
It is striking, that official speeches and writings only refer to the so-called “heroic years” of the experiment, and say nothing about the many black years that were imposed on millions of citizens with arbitrary arrests, deportations, forced labor. and summary executions, all in the name of the “luminous communist future.”
Much is said and excerpts from the book of the American communist writer John Reed’s “Ten Days That Shook the World” are published, where the “heroic stage” of the revolution is related, but it is not told what happened to the writer and his Russian wife, when they were forbidden to leave the country, although for political convenience their remains are located at the foot of the walls of the Moscow Kremlin.
It would be helpful, if one wanted want to know the true story of the experiment, to read “Doctor Zhivago,” the novel by the Russian writer Boris Pasternak, which tells the cruel reality of those difficult years, from the perspective of ordinary citizens.
Fernando Damaso, 6 October 2017 — It has become an everyday occurrence that, with every anniversary of some political, economic, social, medical, juridical, pedagogical, scientific, artistic, agricultural, industrial, ecological, military, etc. event, it is credited to the late Cuban historic leader.
It gives the impression that everything done in Cuba in the last 58 years has been due to “his original ideas and brilliant intelligence,” and no thanks to anybody else. Everything points to his monopoly on good ideas, among many other things.
The fact is that, in totalitarian regimes, everything supposedly positive always is down to the current dictator, and everything negative to his subordinates, who are incapable of understanding him correctly. But, there are limits which cannot be crossed, without looking ridiculous and being mocked by the people, that’s to say, the locals taking the piss. continue reading
In the case of Cuba, it has not been like that, and everything said and written about it bears the unmistakable seal of fawning adulation, without the slightest inhibition on the part of the adulators.
Gerardo Machado was “The Illustrious One” in the thirties, and his works filled the media of his time, but his regime didn’t last any longer than eight years. And Fulgencio Batista was “The Man” in the fifties, and the same thing happened, but his government didn’t go on for more than seven years.
In spite of everything you can criticise about some of their actions, both of them left important achievements which can be admired, even today — the Central Highway, the National Capitol, enormous hospitals and educational institutions, roads, bridges, tunnels, avenues, streets, plazas, parks, aqueducts, drainage systems and other public works.
Nevertheless, today’s hero is the one most responsible for the country’s prolonged economic, political and social crisis, as a result of his repeated errors and failures. In truth, his legacy has been one of intolerance, destruction, poverty and misery, and very little worth remembering. It all needs to be “rescued,” that verb that is so fashionable in Cuba today.
Health and education, his principal “successes,” which were already making progress year on year during the Republic, are being used as a shop window to the outside world, with the objective of political preaching to the gullible, in praise of a disastrous system which is not, and never will be prosperous, efficient or sustainable, let alone sovereign, independent and democratic.
With most Cubans more worried about survival than thinking about him, as we approach the first anniversary of his death, the authorities have chosen to use these occasions to start his premature glorification. They are trying to offer up an idyllic image of his character, to legitimise him in the eyes of history, a difficult enough task in view of his mountain of blunders.
We know that those who have exercised power for long periods of time try to create myths. Then, subsequently, there has always been a process of taking them apart, to see them in the clear light of day. In this case, we have to get on with the second stage.
If it doesn’t happen, they will continue to manipulate history in the interests of spurious political interests and ideologies, far removed from reality, poisoning generations to come with falsehoods and lies.
Fernando Damaso, 22 September 2017 — According to Cuban authorities, 32% of food services and of personal and technical services for domestic use are now operated by forms of non-state management. At the moment there are 4,173 of these businesses, of which 1,878 are dedicated to food services and 2,295 to personal and technical services.
It is also reported that, in 2014, 498 non-agricultural cooperatives (CNA) were approved while in 2017 there are 397 in operation, of which 62% are linked to the commerce and services sector and 17% to construction. In addition, in 2016, 291 state entities were managed as CNAs, an organization for economic and social purposes, which is voluntarily constituted (although there are many “induced” by the authorities) and is sustained by work of its partners. continue reading
It is also said that CNAs have their own assets, autonomy of management and cover their expenses and tax obligations with their own income (Resolution 305/12). All this constitutes a partial solution, which demonstrates the historical failure of state management.
The absurdity is that the agency (Ministry of Internal Trade) responsible for this failure, which was not able to efficiently run state enterprises of any kind, and destroyed them when they were under its direct administration, is now in charge of overseeing the good operation of this entire new structure, as well as controlling it and dictating its legal norms. As a part of this control it interferes in pricing, quality, and other matters that the services offer, issues that should be the responsibility of the new managers.
In addition, certain problems that conspire against the success of these forms of management have not been solved: there is no wholesale market with differentiated prices, state suppliers know nothing of contracting procedures, nor do they know how to negotiate with the CNAs, and they do not have transport to deliver supplies to them.
The socialist state, unfortunately, is inefficient and it is impossible for it to stop controlling and imposing “straitjackets” on the citizens, even if it is these same citizens who are the ones who solve the problems and render services with a quality that none of the state agencies, institutions and companies have achieved for years, and the body designated to ensure all this lacks credibility and the moral strength to do so.
Here it seems that the reason for maintaining a bureaucratic and incapable ministry, which has proved to be unnecessary and has acted as a “bottleneck” between producers, marketers and the population, complicating all kinds of distribution, is its “single achievement” of maintaining the greatly reduced “ration book.”
Fernando Damaso, 5 September 2017 — The manipulation of José Martí — whom we Cubans call “the Apostle — not just his life but also his ideas, has been progressive. Accused, in 1953, of being the “intellectual author” of the attack on the Moncada Barracks, and the assailants self-styled the “centenary generation” (it being 100 years since his birth), from 1959 on he was “unchained”.
The “Lenin-Martí” rooms (Lenin first and then Martí) in the military bases were there until the disappearance of the Soviet Union, embellished with “Martí-Ho Chi Minh Days”, when we felt like “giving our blood for Vietnam”.
Cautiously at first, when the Apostle was still thought of as a liberal-democrat, but distanced from socialism, in the eyes of the more dogmatic, they soon began to ascribe to him ideas he had never had, in order to convince us that now, had he been alive, he would have been a socialist. continue reading
In reinventing history and attributing merits or defects to their subjects, in accordance with the political convenience of the moment, our leaders have been very good at getting submissive historians to endorse their opinions.
Look at the absurdity they have propagated, that “before, we would have been like them, and now they would have been like us”, which is totally appropriate to the process of “baloneyfication”, which started then and has continued to the present day.
At a particular moment difficult to pin down exactly, during the period of the personality cult, the ideas of the “Maximum Leader” started to be considered as continuations of those of Martí, and that he was his best disciple.
Now, both of them, with their remains (bones and ashes), near to each other in the same cemetery, are presented as indivisible, where one cannot exist without the other, and they even affirm that Cuba cannot be thought of without them.
Without asking his permission, they have put an annoying travelling companion beside Martí. This soup (or rather an indigestible stew) of homeland, nation, party, Martí and “historic leader”, is what they offer to the younger people in the country, trying to gain their eternal commitment, without freedom of choice, and conditioned by conveniently manipulated facts.
Fernando Damaso, 24 August 2017 — The narrow streets of Havana, in the colonial and early years of the Republic, were covered with awnings from one side of the street to the other, to protect passers-by from the inclement tropical sun and heavy rains. They were mainly placed, along with their commercials, by the owners of the establishments located in them. The awnings and advertisements were part of the image of the city and helped to make it more colorful. Corroborating this are the chronicles of visitors and photographic and cinematographic images, as well as different works of art.
With the development of the city and the widening of its streets, the awnings adapted to the new conditions, occupying only the space of the sidewalks, whether narrow or wide and, without disappearing totally, giving way to the portals in our main shopping streets (Galiano, Reina, Monte, Belascoaín and others) and, in the fifties, returning to the modern avenues of the newly urbanized areas and their commercial centers, enriching the urban environment with their striped designs and colors. continue reading
Something similar happened with commercial announcements: small and mainly textual in their beginnings, they were transformed, gaining in size and artistic quality, until becoming the original illumination of the fifties, adorning the streets and avenues of our cities and towns , Enriching them by day with their color and at night with their luminosity.
Starting in 1959 the awnings began to disappear, destroyed by the weather and indolence and never restored, and the commercial announcements were removed from cities and towns and even prohibited. Then came the unique political propaganda, directed and controlled by the Party: streets, commercial establishments, public fences and artistic and sports centers, still today, display their heavy ideological, dogmatic, repetitive, boring and unbearable weight. Only in some international event that requires it, are the spaces of the propaganda enlivened with some commercial advertisements. It is a secret to no one that commercial advertisements could serve to defray the costs of maintenance of these facilities.
Currently, due to one of the many absurdities, both the installation of awnings and advertisements, especially if they belong to the self-employed, require a long and complicated chain of authorizations and bureaucratic procedures, excessive payments and regulations, which make them unlikely, even if this is detrimental to the comfort of customers and the advertising of businesses.
It would be interesting to know which urban bureaucrat can be blamed for these barbarities and which leader approved them. Awnings and advertisements, in every city in the world, embellish sidewalks and boulevards. In Havana, in addition to the streets, they existed everywhere: at first in front of the restaurants, cafes and bars, as the famous ones in the “open airs” of Paseo del Prado, in front of the National Capitol, and later, also surrounding the whole environment, on the roofs of buildings, both in Central Park and Fraternity Park as well as and along the Malecon, just to name a few.
The authorities of the city and the National Institute of Physical Planning should be more interested in solving the serious problems that affect Havana, than waging a war to awnings and advertisements. This schematic application of the austere, monotonous, gray and unbearable socialist order, has brought as a consequence public spaces (stadiums, sports halls, cinemas, theaters, shops, establishments and even parks) that are ugly, cold and unfamiliar, something different from what happens in any self-respecting city. Regulation is one thing and prevention is something totally different: our authorities have always been prodigal in the second.
If by day our streets are bustling and broken, dirty and stinking, at night they become somber and dark. Then, only the small spaces dedicated to international tourism shine, as if the foreigners were the only ones who deserve to enjoy the beauty and the light, perhaps for the currencies that they contribute to the coffers of the State; while this is denied to Cubans.