Unnecessary Portraits / Fernando Damaso

A banner of Venezuela’s late president Hugo Chavez is seen at the Venezuelan embassy in Havana March 10, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer

Fernando Damaso, 9 January 2016 — In Venezuela it appears that the “Chavista circus” is coming to the end of its work in some public spaces, in this case in the Legislative Palace where the National Assembly meets, from where some portraits of the “eternal president” — as designated by himself before his death — have been removed, leaving only those of the Liberator Simon Bolivar, uncontaminated and unadulterated by fanatical Chavez propaganda.

This practice of placing yourself under the protective shadow of some independence leader to better sell yourself to the masses, seems to be a tactic conceptualized by the majority of “populist” Latin Americans: their principal victims being Bolivar, Sucre, San Martin, Marti and others. Continue reading

Closed Game / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Dámaso, 29 December 2015 — The year 2015 ends, and stagnation seems to have sat squarely on the Cuban authorities. Entrenched in dogma and their absurd demands to the U.S. Government, shielded in the supposed defense of sovereignty and independence, something they forgot when they delivered the country to the Soviets for 32 years, they aren’t moving any political domino tiles, closing the game with the double nine.

The 12th Plenary Session of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party and the work in the commissions, prior to the sessions of the National Assembly, not for the first time repeated the existence of the same problems presented in similar, previous activities, without the appearance of real solutions that would improve the country’s situation or that of its citizens. The talk is of multiple pretenses in all the sectors of production and services, which now form an habitual part of the content of these meetings, where the deputies unanimously approve all agreements without the least disagreement, giving an irrefutable demonstration of totalitarian unity.

The year 2016 is gloomy, with little hope for important changes, at least while the current historical leadership holds power.

Translated by Regina Anavy

The Chavista Hysteria / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, 6 January 2015 — The Chavista hysteria is embarrassing: in addition to being unintelligent it is ridiculous. Those who proclaimed the need to accept and respect the results of the elections, convinced they were going to win, after having lost talk not about the National Assembly, but of the rightists in it. Before, when they were the majority, they could have talked about the leftists in it.

That National Assembly, which until 5 January 2016 was used by the president to do whatever he pleases, and was in reality a simple echo chamber for executive power for the application of its policies, was considered an important body of the system. Continue reading

Against the Changes / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, 1 January 2016 — The Cuban authorities and their organizations inserted into civil society, have launched a fierce media campaign against the politicians elected by the majority of their citizens to hold public office both in Argentina and in Venezuela: in the first case, the presidency of the country, and in the second a majority in the National Assembly.

Reading and hearing the statements, it seems that the Argentinians and Venezuelans have mistakenly given their votes to criminals, traitors, mercenaries, and other anti-socials, denying those votes to the “good and self-sacrificing Kerchnerists and Chavistas,” the “eternal patriots” of their respective countries. Continue reading

Misplaced Support / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, 18 December 2015 — Cuban authorities as well as organizations that make up the so-called official civil society have unleashed a ferocious campaign against politicians elected to public office by a majority of their citizens. In Argentina it was a presidential election while in Venezuela the opposition won a wide majority in the National Assembly.

Hearing and reading their statements, one would think that Argentinians and Venezuelans, lacking political maturity, had mistakenly cast their ballots for criminals, outsiders, mercenaries, traitors and other anti-social types instead of for the good, noble and selfless kirchernerista and chavista candidates, the “eternal patriots” of their respective countries.

Such out of control hysteria is nothing new given the outcry from the losers. Remember that, despite the expressed will of a majority of Puerto Ricans, both the Cuban authorities and their affiliated organizations continued to clamor for Puerto Rican independence, something for which only 4% of the population voted and which 96% rejected.

There is similar support for the FARC narco-guerillas, who are now in negotiations with the legitimate government of Colombia, which was duly elected by a majority of its citizens. Unfortunately, there are many other similar examples in all parts of the world. Illustrations of a primitive fanaticism!

Always on the side of those who reject democracy, of totalitarians, of populists and the extreme left in spite of “the many blows which life has dealt.”

A Policy Difficult to Understand / Fernando Damaso

One of the demands the Cuban government is making of its American counterpart as part of the normalization of relations is the repeal of the Cuban Adjustment Act and an end to the preferential treatment professionals who leave the island receive under the so-called wet foot, dry foot policy.

The recent stampede to Ecuador and the arrival of massive numbers of Cuban emigres in Costa Rica are being used — with the help of the Nicaraguan government, which is prohibiting their passage through its territory — in an effort to pressure the U.S. government. Continue reading

A Temper Tantrum is Never Beautiful / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, 11 December 2015 — The temper tantrum of President Nicolas Maduro and his Chavistas, in addition to being tragic, is comical. Now, after losing the National Assembly, won cleanly through the will of Venezuelans by the opposition, he’s rushing around trying to approve laws and regulations before the handover of power, with the objective of keeping his supporters in the government, in the name of a supposed defense of the workers. It’s like sticking corks into a boat that is taking on water.

Maduro’s demonstrated inability as president, along with the clownish bird that gave him directions, and his multiple mistakes, are the main causes of his failure and of the failure of Chavismo. Blaming the opposition media, the national and international right, the “empire” and others supposedly at fault, is nothing more than the sad lament of a loser, incapable of recognizing and honestly accepting his defeat.

Accusing the opposition-victors of being counterrevolutionaries and mercenaries, the people for whom most Venezuelans voted, is accusing the voters as well of being counterrevolutionaries and mercenaries. These ravings demonstrate his political incompetence and his lack of tact in dealing intelligently with an adverse situation.

If the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) wants to ever have a shred of credibility and regain the support of a majority of Venezuelans, it should start by getting rid of the ballast represented by Maduro, Diosdado Cabello and other losers, including Maduro’s wife, Cilia Flores, whom he calls not his “First Lady” but rather his “First Fighter.”

A Deplorable Example / Fernando Damaso

Source: Video of Rafael Alcides by Miguel Coyula

Fernando Damaso, 2 December 2015 — Once again we residents of Nuevo Vedado have had to suffer the incompetence and irresponsibility of the “Tree Destruction Brigade” from the Electric Company. Without the least knowledge of what it means, they “prune” them, leaving just a trunk with two or three branches that look more like arms with their hands amputated, raised to heaven begging for mercy. Continue reading

The Lie Continues / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, 25 November 2015 — The authorities, the functionaries and some so-called Cuba experts, as well as some “friends” abroad, continue to blame the Cuban Adjustment Act and the application of the “wet-foot-dry-foot” policy for the stampede of Cuban citizens which has created a tense situation in Central American countries, due to their constant arrival in transit to the United States.

In fact, the principal cause, which they do not want to recognize, is found in the complete failure of the socialist experiment, which has been incapable of creating political, economic and social conditions that allows Cubans to realize their plans for their lives in their own country.

Arab, African and other emigrants heading to Europe don’t do it because there is an Adjustment Law, but because, as in Cuba, in their home countries the living conditions to support self-development are also missing, along with war and terrorism in some of them.

Emigrants from El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and other Latin American countries also head to the United States not because there is an Adjustment Law for their benefit, but because in their countries they cannot create their own present nor their futures.

It would be healthy to set aside the lie and come to accept that the main cause of emigration is found within the countries that generate it and not outside of them. What’s more, the Cuban authorities are primarily responsible for the current stampede, as they have been for all the previous ones, and as they will be for the ones they continue to produce. They should recognize their failure as leaders and stop blaming others for the terrible consequences of their repeated errors.

An Absurd Unionization / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, 21 November 2015 — The official media is continually promoting the need for self-employed workers to affiliate themselves with the unions of the Cuban Workers Center (CTC). No matter how much they repeat the calls for it, achieving it seems to be a difficult task.

The principal reason could be that the CTC forms a part of the government organizations, which make up the fabric of unconditional support for the Party, which directs and controls them, even naming their leaders in various instances.

In reality, the CTC doesn’t really represent Cuban workers, most of them working for the state, and much less can it claim to represent the self-employed as well. The CTC, for more than half a century, has defended first and foremost the interests of the Party and of the Government, and the problems of the workers only when they do not contradict those of the former. Continue reading

The Story of the Wage Increases / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, 6 November 2015 — Currently the minimum wage in Cuba is 225 Cuban pesos a month, which is the equivalent of about $10 US. In 1958 it was 85 pesos, equivalent to $85 US. If we compare both minimum wages, the current wage has dropped 75 dollars relative to 1985. The equivalent of 85 dollars is 2,040 current pesos, so Cubans, as a minimum wage, receive 1,815 pesos less (2,040-225=1,815) than before.

But the problem doesn’t end there: what we can buy today with the Cuban peso is infinitely less than what we could buy before. Let’s look at some examples: a can of condensed milk cost 20 centavos then; today it costs 29 pesos. A loaf of bread that cost 10 centavos, today is 10 pesos. A pound of pork was 18 centavos then, today it is 40 pesos. A pair of shoes was 8 pesos, today it is no less than 400. A pair of pants then was 7 pesos, and today 300. The list could go on forever. Continue reading

Reimbursement is Important / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Dámaso, 23 October 2015 — In Cuba, unlike other countries, public services are totally centralized by the State through its different companies: electricity, gas, telephone, water and sewer, municipal and other.

Being part of the same thing, these entities are considered untouchable, and they do things and undo them at their own whim, without considering the effect on citizens and businesses, State as well as private. Thus, they connect and disconnect the electricity according to their interests. The same thing happens with the gas service, telephones and drinking water. Continue reading

The Remake / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, 28 October 2015 — The Cuban authorities applaud the “victory” obtained in the vote for the lifting of the blockade-embargo at the United Nations. It’s actually their twenty-fourth Pyrrhic victory since 1992, when they lost the substantial Soviet economic subsidies, and began to be bothered by the blockade-embargo, which they previously didn’t care about and treated as a joke.

These 24 Pyrrhic victories have not advanced one iota the cause of ending the blockade-embargo because the resolution that was approved is not binding, that is, there is no mandatory compliance; the countries vote according to their current interests, so a vote in favor of ending it does not affect its relations with the United States, and a vote in favor of keeping it would affect their relations with the Cuban government. It’s all nothing more than sheer political opportunism, without much real significance. Continue reading

Something Has to be Done / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, 16 October 2015 — Some governments declare that they are fighting and defeating the fundamentalists of the so-called Islamic State, but the facts seem to negate their words: The fundamentalists are expanding their territory, expelling the inhabitants, committing horrendous crimes, destroying architectural, religious and artistic jewels, which form part of humanity’s heritage, raping and enslaving women, girls and boys, and committing many more atrocities in an interminable orgy of blood and terror, in the supposed name of religion. Continue reading

A Dubious Decision / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, 10 October 2015 — At a time when many Cuban youths, adults, and even elderly are choosing to  emigrate, it is noteworthy that a Cuban who has lived in Canada for a decade, with a wife and young child, posted on Facebook his decision to return to Cuba. Maybe he has been influenced by the ongoing process of improving relations between Cuba and the United States, or even the recent visit of Pope Francis. Hope springs eternal, but in this case, all that glitters is not gold. Cuba, a decade later, continues frozen in time.

The profound economic, political, social, and moral crisis persists, compounded by a climate of corruption and violence; wages continue at the poverty level, failing to  meet the minimum needs of citizens; prices of necessities are rising geometrically; the health system is fine for foreign tourists, and for exporting professionals to other countries, but is poor within the island, with deteriorated hospitals, lack of hygiene, a shortage of experienced doctors and nurses, and insufficient drugs; education is of low quality, carried out in inadequate teaching facilities, lacking maintenance and materials; and citizens lack the most basic rights, being subjected from cradle to grave with the most absurd ideological bombardment.

Everyone is free to decide what to do with his or her life, but when a wife and child are involved, you also have to think about them. To exchange Canadian security, development, and democracy for Cuban insecurity, poverty, and totalitarianism, is a very dubious decision.

Translated by Tomás A.