A Supposed Historic Right / Fernando Dámaso

Fernando Damaso, 15 August 2018 — The supposed historic right of the current Cuban Communist Party is fairly questionable.

In the first place, it is not the continuation of the Cuban Revolutionary Party (PRC), founded by José Martí to organize and carry out war against Spain for Cuba’s independence, which, according to its statutes, ceased to exist once that ended, leaving its militants free to found new parties, according to their economic, political, and social interests. Martí never demanded that the members abandon their political ideas to belong to it, but rather only that they desire and fight for independence.

The first Cuban Communist Party was founded on August 16, 1925 by Carlos Baliño and José Antonio Mella, on the base of the so-called Communist Association of Havana, founded by the former on March 18, 1923 with only fifteen members who later increased by organizing communist associations in other places. It was always a minority party. continue reading

Expelled from the party for not sharing some of its political aspects, when he was assassinated in Mexico in 1928 Mella was not fighting in it, but rather was a member of the Central Committee of the Mexican Communist Party.

Under the direction of Blas Roca, it turned into a party affiliated with the Third International, subject to its policies and those of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union under Stalin, which brought as consequences a complete gap from the situation at producing the fall of Gerardo Machado’s regime and the so-called Revolution of 1933, with calls for the occupation of the factories by the workers and of the central sugar plantations by workers and peasants, just like in the USSR.

To avoid chaos this erroneous policyhad to be repressed by the Ministry of the Interior (Antonio Guiteras) of Dr. Ramón Grau San Martín’s government, who turned into the target of the party, conspiring against the unity necessary at that moment to consolidate the revolution, assisting their own downfall and the rise to power of Colonel Fulgencio Batista.

In 1940, after the start of the Second World War, six of its directors (Juan Marinello, Blas Roca, Esperanza Sánchez, Salvador García Aguero, Romárico Cordero, and César Vilar) formed part of the Governing Coalition in the Constituent Assembly, selected to write the new Constitution of the Republic. They played their role, like those of other parties, among the 77 delegates to the Assembly, achieving the historic and never surpassed Constitution of 1940.

Later, the Communist Party formed part, along with other parties, of the so-called Democratic Socialist Coalition, which brought to power Fulgencio Batista, who ruled between 1940 and 1944. In this government Juan Marinello and Carlos Rafael Rodríguez participated as Ministers without a Portfolio.

During the governments of the Authentic Party (1944-1948 and 1948-1952), the first with Dr. Ramón Grau San Martín and the second with Dr. Carlos Prío Socarrás as Presidents, the party, by now called the Popular Socialist Party, formed part of the opposition and centered its attention on dominating the unions, which in a large measure it achieved.

After March 10, 1952, when Batista carried out a coup, the party inserted itself in the political fight against him, but without participating in the armed fight, which it criticized until nearly the end of the fall of the regime, when it created a small group of gunmen in Las Villas under the command of Félix Torres and, at the same time, situated, both in the Sierra Maestra and the Sierra Cristal, some of its leaders in the respective guerrilla leaderships, but without direct participation in combat.

At the triumph of the Revolution, it participated actively in its consolidation, as in the formation of the Integrated Revolutionary Organizations, of sad remembrance because of its manifest sectarianism, creating problems with the 26th of July Movement and the Revolutionary Directory of the 13th of March, principal organizations in the fight against Batista.

Separately, Aníbal Escalante and his followers in 1963 formed part of the United Party of the Socialist Revolution (PURS) and later, in 1965, of the Cuban Communist Party, Blas Roca delivering the banner of the party to Fidel Castro as its leader.

Both in the pre-1959 stage as well as later, the Communist Party has shown signs of mistaken assessments of the situation and of enormous errors in economic, political, and social management, which have affected the country and the citizens, incapable, in sixty years of exercising absolute power, of achieving its development and solving old and new problems. The facts are too many and known by everyone, and it’s not worth repeating them.

All this invalidates it, from the so-called “historic right,” from setting itself up as “the superior leading force of society and the State.”

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

The Original Sin / Fernando Dámaso

Fernando Damaso, 21 August 2018 — In the current project of the new Constitution one finds the original sin, which has been present in Cuba since the year 1959: confusing Homeland with Party and Nation with Revolution.

The bishiop of Santiago de Cuba, Monsenior Pedro Meurice, warned of this publicly during Pope John Paul II’s visit to that province in January of 1998.

The Homeland and the Nation are concepts that come up with nationality, and they hold up over time until its disappearance and, because of that, enjoy a long life. The Party and the Revolution are temporary concepts, corresponding to specific moments in the life of the Homeland and the Nation and, because of that, their life is limited. continue reading

Mixing them and manipulating them, with the dark purpose of prolonging the existence of the latter, and granting them a role and importance that they lack, only serves to confuse citizens and make them commit errors in assessment and analysis on the questions that concern the country and themselves.

Its application in Cuba demonstrates it: here the Party and the Revolution occupy the foreground and the Homeland and the Nation are simple catch-alls. Everything that is carried out, in any sphere, is an action or result of the Revolution, which prolongs itself indefinitely over time, while everyone knows that it is simply a temporary phenomenon, framed within a start and a finish (the time of transformations), which then gives way to the establishment of its precepts in a government.

Here nobody says “the government did such and such,” but rather “the Revolution did it,” adding, furthermore, “under the direction of the Party.”

This induced confusion of concepts has served to dismantle the characteristic public-spiritedness of Cubans, during the second half of the 19th century and the first of the 20th, that made them active subjects of society, substituting it with a fanaticism, also induced, responsible for the loss of values and the current civic passivity, waiting for the problems of the Homeland and the Nation to resolve themselves, worried only about surviving, whatever it takes.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

The Desired Constitution / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Dámaso, 7 August 2018 — The draft of the new Cuban constitution introduces some changes to the previous Stalinist constitution of 1976 in regards to economic, social, structural and organizational considerations as they pertain to the operations of the state and government. It is simply an acknowledgement of the current situation, with the Cuban communist party continuing to exercise absolute power over the republic and the constitution, whose own text defines it as the “superior guiding force of society and the state.”

At the Constituent Assembly which drafted the 1940 constitution, Dr. José Manuel Cortina, president of the Coordinating Commission, addressed tensions that arose by delivering the historic words “Political parties out; the nation in!” The current commission seems seems instead to be saying “the party in; the nation out!” continue reading

Among the striking features of the new document are the abandonment of communism as a goal and the ratification of socialism as “irrevocable,” the acceptance of dual nationality, marriage between two people regardless of gender, acceptance of various forms of private property (while favoring socialist property), limitations on property (though not on wealth that is legally obtained), and the reestablishment of the offices of President of the Republic, Vice-President and Prime Minister as well as provincial governorships and city mayors. Compared to the previous constitution this is a clearly a step forward though not as significant as Cubans would like.

In order for this constitution to be the constitution for all Cubans and not just for one political party, it must undergo some changes:

• Eliminate wording from Article 3 that mandates the irrevocability of socialism and socio-political system that has existed since the revolution. No constitution should define as irrevocable or untouchable certain articles since all are subject to change with the passage of time and under new socio-political considerations.

• Eliminate wording from Article 5 stating that the communist party “is the major guiding force of society and the state.” If the constitution is the “law of laws,” no political party can be above it, not even the so-called “sole party.” No party can put itself above the nation unless those who created it believe it to be a religion on par with Christianity, Islam or Buddhism, which would be absurd. And if, as Article 97 states, “the National Assembly of People’s Power is the supreme organ of state power,” it is contradictory that the sole political party, which represents only a minority of the Cuban people, should be the guiding force of society and the state as Article 5 states.

• Establish in Article 14 unrestricted political pluralism and legalize all manner of organizations, not just those which are organized and controlled by the state. A political party is no more than an organization in which citizens, to a greater or lesser degree, join together out of common economic, political and social interests with the goal of putting them into practice through the exercise of power achieved through free elections in which a majority of voters express their will.

• Grant in Article 21 private property the same status and rights as state property.*

Discussion and analysis by the population of the already approved constitution will be more or less democratic; the same cannot be said of its drafting.

 *Translator’s note: Article 21 of the proposed new Cuban constitution identifies six forms of property ownership, including “socialist” and “private.” The former allows for very broad control of the means of production. While ownership of private property also allows for such control, it has traditionally been much more severely limited, typically to very small private businesses.

An Old Discourse / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, 20July 2018 — At the close of the Tenth Congress of the Union of Cuban Journalists (UPEC), the new President of the Councils of State and of Ministers said, “Cuban journalists deserve the indisputable credit for having sustained the voice of the nation during the most adverse circumstances and periods, with admirable loyalty, strong sense of responsibility, talent, intelligence, and contagious enthusiasm that always generates interesting proposals.”

A clarification is in order: In reality, the only voice that they have sustained has been that of the sole party and of the government, not that of the nation. continue reading

At another point in his speech, he asserted, “I understand the anger of those who are not invited to the table because they are not part of UPEC, nor of the Cuban society that won, with sacrifice and effort, the exclusive right to discuss how to design the future.”

Another clarification is in order: Who decided that to make current journalism one must be part of the officialist UPEC? Who decided that to discuss how to design the future, one must be part of the exclusive governmental civil society?

A requirement so permeated by dogmatism and intolerance, of a restrictive and sectarian character–so foreign to José Martí’s thinking of “one Republic for all and for the good of all”–is shocking in our day when information no longer is institutional and, in the case of Cuba and similar countries, governmental, before it is civic: Twitter, the iPhone, Instagram, blogs, tablets, laptops, and all the new technology, has placed in citizens’ hands the means to democratize information. The era of official and sealed information, and of one opinion, has passed, and nobody cares about it anymore.

Too bad that the supposed “new discourse” is so like the old one, which seems taken from a moth-eaten archive.

Translated By: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

More About the Constitution / Fernando Dámaso

Arlequín. Héctor Catá.

Fernando Damaso, 12 July 2018 — The 1940 Constitution, considered one of the most democratic, advanced and well-balanced constitutions in the world, was prepared by important and well-known representatives of Cuban society, politics and economics, selected by way of free and honest elections, to form the Constituent Assembly, in order that each party could publicly set out its constitutional programme.

It ended up with seventy-seven selected delegates (42 opposition and 35 government), including statesmen, intellectuals, lawyers, polemicists, parliamentarians, experts in international law, workers’ leaders, and political leaders, representing all ideological and political perspectives, from the most radical to the most conservative. Although some historians say there were eighty-one, I am going on the figures provided by Dr. Carlos Marquez Sterling, which I consider the more accurate. In the end it was signed by seventy-one delegates. continue reading

All the debates were public and transmitted on the radio, with the press giving its opinions and debating the issues, putting things before the public and creating an atmosphere of patriotic fervour and real popular participation and discussion.

What is happening now, as in 1976, and its subsequent reforms, ends up as a totalitarian reform, with a project put together by a chosen group of Party and government officials, whom the people don’t know and, most of them having no public reputation apart from representing the different current national ideologies and politics. The process is run by the ancient Party and government directors, like an updating for the present day economic situation, without touching the policies, which are dogmatically maintained, with the objective of holding onto power for as long as possible.

They consider that a Constitutional Assembly is unnecessary because the National Assembly of Peoples’ Power has within its functions that of drawing up or reforming the Constitution. It is well-known that this doesn’t serve present-day Cuban society, but only the monopoly Party, to which it is completely subservient.

The public don’t know what is being debated either, as discussion is held behind closed doors, with only skimpy information provided later by the official press. Everyone knows that the so-called popular participation, opinions and suggestions, are swamped by a massive formal exercise, so that most people have no idea what the Constitution stands for, and, even less, its legal complications, having to just get on with accepting without question whatever is proposed, as has been the custom for the last sixty years.

It seems to have been forgotten that constitutions are not academic documents or bureaucratic formulas, but wide-ranging social pacts, which are routed in vigorous controversy, and in which consensus may be found. It is by way of such processes that constitutions are validated and acquire their relevance.

The current process, which excludes any democratic debate or participation by all Cuban social points of view, makes for a second rate constitution, incapable of achieving the importance of the 1940 version.

Photo: Arlequín. Héctor Catá.

Translated by GH

The Village Presidents / Fernando Damaso

Some of the major concerns of Cuba’s past presidents.

Fernando Damaso, 26 June 2018 — As I understand it, the presidents of countries deal with the main problems of those countries, and do not waste their time on matters that, at most, are the responsibility of their ministers or lower levels of the administrative apparatus of the State.

The case of Cuba is different: here the president deals with how old elevators in old buildings are replaced by new ones; how construction materials are sold in the establishments created for this purpose; how fuel is distributed among the organs and institutions of the State; and how, all around it, a huge black market operates; the coverage of sanitary napkins for our women on their critical days; and so on. The litany of trifles to which the president dedicates his attention could be endless.

He is not the only one, since his two predecessors did the same. We remember, among the “presidential tasks”: the design of school uniforms; the differentiated prices of beers and malts; the installation of establishments to sell hamburgers with added soft drinks; the four ounces of coffee mixed-with-peas per consumer; the cow “Ubre Blanca” (White Udder) and its one hundred liters of milk; the coffee pot gasket rings; the eucalyptus candies; the energy saving light bulbs; the Chinese bicycles without night lighting; the chocolate bar; the soy yogurt; the electric stoves and the cooking utensils; and many other things.

Such an original country, where presidents fulfill “important tasks,” can not advance, develop, or create anything prosperous and efficient.

The job of a president is not to visit provinces and municipalities to do political proselytizing, nor dunk a basketball at a school to demonstrate their physical skills.

The job of a president is to steer the state responsibly and make it work efficiently in the interests of citizens.

Of Traitors and Opportunists / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, 11 June 2018 — In the Granma newspaper of June 6th of this year, there is an article by the historian Rolando Rodríguez, under the title “A Hero Courageous Before Every Test,” referred to the patriot Ramón Leocadio Bonachea. In one of its paragraphs it is stated that “he was part of the escort of Major Ignacio Agramonte and participated in the rescue of the man who would later be traitor Julio Sanguily.” No arguments or evidence are offered for the accusation.

As I learned in school and after I read different historians, “Julio Sanguily was one of the most prominent figures of the Revolution of 1868. Taken prisoner by the Spaniards on October 8, 1871, he was rescued by Ignacio Agramonte at the head of 35 men, in a brave and reckless charge. Subsequently, his left foot was crippled and his right hand atrophied, and though he wanted to participate in the War of 1895, he could not do so, being held in prison by the Spaniards and locked in a dungeon in La Cabaña Fortress on February 24, dying in 1906.” continue reading

Regardless of his fondness for the game, which brought him enough problems, I do not understand that he was designated as a traitor. I do not know where this accusation would have come from, although for a few years now, the history of Cuba has been suffering a lot of manipulation and distortion by political interests, and the word “traitor” is applied too often. Events and important personalities of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century are questioned and distorted, and their place is occupied by less important events and personalities.

Due to this, General Narciso López is accused of being an annexationist, although there is no document, declaration or fact that proves it. There is also talk and writings about General Antonio Maceo of the Baraguá Protest on 15 March 1878, but nothing is said of Maceo on 9 May 1878 (55 days later), when he left the fight and left for Jamaica in the gunboat “Fernando el Católico,” placed at his disposal by the Spanish general Martínez Campos.

Nor does anyone speak or write about 28 May 1878 (19 days later), when the Baraguá Protesters accepted the terms of the Zanjón Pact and laid down their arms, with the exception of Brigadier Ramón Leocadio Bonachea, who prolonged a futile resistance eleven months longer, in areas of Camagüey and Las Villas.

And if that wasn’t enough, even José Martí himself, in a stage of exacerbated dogmatism, was questioned for not communicating Marxist ideas and criticizing them. In other words, the “historical opportunism” has grown like the invasive marabou weed.

It would be interesting if Cuban historians, so concerned about the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, decided to jump over the wall of 31 December 1958 and begin to judge the events and personalities of these last sixty years, which are also history, with its lights and its shadows.

A New Constitution / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso,6 June 2018 — The history of Cuban constitutions is an interesting one. All of them — beginning with the Guáimaro constitution (1869), continuing on to Jimaguayú constitution (1895), the Yaya and Santa Cruz constitutions (1897 and 1898), the constitution of 1901, and the constitutional reforms of 1928 and 1940 — left open the possibility that they could be modified, in whole or in part, in accordance with changes that had occured since their ratifications and implementations. This was the case even in the socialist constitution of 1976 and in its reforms of 1992 and 2002, when the arbitrary article about “the irrevocability of the socialist system” was added on.

There are now indications that, in the draft of the newest Magna Carta, the article defining “the role of the Communist Party as the “organized vanguard and leading force of society and the State” will remain unchanged. continue reading

Just as the Platt Amendment remained in force in the 1901 constitution until 1934, the intention now is to retain the “Castro Amendment” as a compulsory straitjacket on present and future generations. The “historical assumption” is that socialism was accepted by our sovereign people when in fact it was imposed on April 16, 1961 in an event with a few hundred armed and ardent militiamen on the corner of 23rd and 12th streets in the capital’s Vedado district without consulting the the Cuban people. This was subsequently ratified in the 1976 constitution by an “exercise in popular approval,” which more closely resembled a farse than a legal action, in response to a tirade by the president, who urged Cubans to sign his decree at tables set up in every neighborhood of the country.

Certainly, when any political, economic or social system comes to power, it tries to secure its interests and legally shield itself by drafting its own constitution. This was the case in Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union as well as in the latter’s satellite countries. However, sooner or later, they all came to an end and were replaced by other constitutions to address the new realities. The same has happened in other systems, which reformed or changed constitutions based on the needs at the time.

What is interesting is that the restrictions and prohibitions imposed by these articles serve no purpose. Times change, other men will modify them and, if they decide to shed the burden of socialism, they will change them entirely.

It is also pedantic and arrogant to think of themselves as framers of the “absolute constitution.” Such a position only demonstrates how out of touch people become when they exercise absolute power for too long.

Among the "Roots" / Fernando Dámaso

Fernando Damaso, 14 April 2018 — Cuban aborigines–Ciboneys and Taínos–were at very primitive stage of civilizational development at the time of the Conquest, and barely left any important marks on the national identity.

The Spanish colonizers arrived in 1492, establishing the “primal roots” with their customs, language and culture, planting the first seeds of what, with the passage of time, would become the national identity. continue reading

It is noted that a decade later, in 1502, the first African slaves were brought to Cuba, replacing the depleted aboriginal labor force. African slaves occupied an inferior level on the social scale from that of the aborigines. It is at this time that the so-called “African root” appeared in our as-yet unformed nationality, although its influence was still rather poor, being limited to the vicinity of the barracks where the slaves were crammed and exerting no other, transcendental influence upon the life of the colony.

As the years went on, the original “Spanish roots” blend with the African, Chinese and those of other immigrants to the Island, comprising the “cultural ajiaco” of which Don Fernando Ortiz would speak. However, it should be kept in mind that, like any other good ajiaco, the “protein” came from the “Spanish roots,” and the African and other roots contributed the starchy vegetables.

In the crucible of the struggles for independence were united desdendants of Spaniards (the majority), of Africans, of Chinese and other nationalities, giving rise and growth to the national identity.

According to the 1953 Census, the last one conducted during the Republican era, 72.8% of the Island’s inhabitants comprised the white population, 14.5% the “mestizo” (mix of black and white), 12.4% the black and .03% the yellow (Chinese). In this setting, the majority religion was the Christian–primarily Catholic, with more than 70%–and the minority was composed of African religions and others. Today these percentages have changed, but the majorities are still held by whites and by Christianity in a syncretic form.

During the years of the Republic and in many of the socialist era, the black and mestizo populations were discriminated against, primarily in relation to their religious beliefs and practices, until–more for political convenience than out of a sense of justice–these stopped being an impediment to membership in certain political organizations and to occupying some official positions.

This caused the surge in Afrian culture, particularly in music, dance and the plastic arts–as well as the massive “initiation of the saints”–for snob appeal in the case of nationals, and in the case of foreigners, for tropical exoticism. It should be noted that, regarding the latter, a lucrative business has developed, charging prices that range between two and five thousand CUC to obtain the “initiation” by the “babalawos.”*

This does not mean that there have not been nor currently exist talented artistic creators who profess these religions and defend their “African roots” in their works. However, there also many merchants who have made out of “the African” the raw material for obtaining abundant and easy earnings.

The official empowerment of “African roots” to the detriment of the “Spanish” ones has always been in response to political conveniences–as well as to place them above the majority Catholic religion, which is less dependent on the economic, political and social system implanted in the country. This is the source of their national proliferation, obviating the fact that the majority of Cubans have always sung habaneras, sones, boleros, guarachas and the like, and not African chants; and they have danced flamenco, waltz, contradanse, danzón, mambo, cha-cha-cha, pilon and other dances, and not African dances. These latter, in one or another case, have been relegated to very specific folkloric or ethnic troupes in some regions of the country.

It is notable that, when thousands of Cubans in the 1990s decided to adopt a foreign citizenship, they opted for the Spanish one and not one from any African country. Nor are our Afro-Cuban women and men interested in marrying African citizens–rather, they prefer Spaniards, Europeans, North Americans and even Latin Americans.

It appears that the “African roots,” despite their imposition by the authorities and their deputies, have been unable to supplant the “Spanish roots” and what these mean to Cubans, regardless of the color of their skin.

*Translator’s Note: The practices described pertain to the Afro-Cuban religion of Santería. Babalawos are priests of this religion.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Obligation and Demand / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, 30 May 2018 — In 1944, when Grau assumed the presidency, Cuba was hit by a powerful hurricane. The Cubans saw in the storm the omen of a stormy government. And so it came to pass. Now, when the new president is taking office, the tragedy of the Boeing 737-200 plane in Havana has occurred and the storm “Alberto,” with its intense and prolonged rains, has caused serious floods and destruction in the country. Is it also a bad omen?

When one carefully observes the actions of the Cuban Government, it gives the impression of being a fossilized organism, totally paralyzed, stuck in a previous historical time and incapable of facing the present. continue reading

The decisions to try to solve the urgent national problems do not appear anywhere, supposedly because everything is being studied so as not to make mistakes and make new mistakes. An old saying goes, “delay, despair” and, in this case, “the delay” lasts sixty years.

In most countries, power is exercised for periods of four, five or six years and, if re-election is allowed, it can be extended to eight, ten or twelve. During these terms governments must face and try to solve problems.

The Cuban Government, unlike the rest, has settled down to exercise power for dozens of years, and to use all the time necessary for their studies and experiments, without taking into account that every fifteen years a new generation of citizens emerges, is incorporated into the national life, while another disappears. The generations endure and suffer from this state slowness in their relatively short lives.

Today, the problems accumulated over years without solutions, plus new ones, overwhelm Cubans. The accumulated problems are the lack of housing and the poor state of the existing housing, the chaos in transportation of all kinds and the bad state of the roads, the agricultural unproductivity, the livestock crisis, the industrial obsolescence and the lack of investments, the lack of many freedoms, those that are limited by regulations and provisions that restrict them in practice, and the emigration of young people in search of new horizons, among others.

New problems are the deterioration of the health and education services, low salaries and pensions, social indiscipline, generalized violence, public unhealthiness, the loss of moral values, citizens and homelessness, corruption, theft and the lack of management by the public officials in every state apparatus, among others.

Facing this reality can not be delayed by waiting for the arrival of the “Greek calends“: it is an obligation of today and a demand for those who have claimed the right to govern us.

A Question to Answer / Fernando Damaso

Maximo Gomez statue. Wikipedia

Fernando Dámaso, 24 April 2018 — In April 1898 the United States got involved in the Spanish-Cuban War. 120 years have passed…

Lately, continuously, we hear and read in official media that, in the year 1898, when the intervention of the North American Army in the war took place between Spaniards and Cubans, that it was practically won by the latter.

We’ve seen some data, that we cannot confirm nor deny this assertion. continue reading

At the time of the events, the Spanish Army had more than 250,000 men in Cuba and some 60,000 Cuban guerrillas fought at their service. It controlled all the towns and cities, as well as the main roads and railways, in addition to the ports and piers. The naval force constantly sailed the Island’s territorial waters, hindering or preventing the arrival and disembarkment of expeditions with men, weapons and supplies.

Only about 12,000 troops participated in the defense of Santiago de Cuba, distributed in more than 110 defensive strongholds around the city, as well as in the nearest towns.

The Mambí (Cuban) Army, at that time, did not exceed 9,000 troops, with almost 5,000 in the central region of the country, under the command of General Máximo Gómez. In the East, Lieutenant General Calixto García only had about 4,000 troops scattered between Holguín, Jiguaní, Bayamo, Santiago de Cuba and Guantánamo.

In general, the Mambí Army, despite the arrival of some expeditions in recent months, was poorly armed, dressed and shod. In addition, throughout the war, although it had attacked and occupied some populations of relative importance, it could never keep them under its power, having to abandon them when the Spanish troops appeared. Nor did it control the roads or the existing railroads, but was forced to act through ambushes and live and move in the jungle,

At the political level, there were serious contradictions and divergences within the military commanders and between them and the political power, the main one being that between General-in-Chief Máximo Gómez and the Governing Council, which ultimately led to the end of the war, and the removal of Gomez from the front of the Mambí Army by the Assembly of the Cerro.

The death of some of their principal leaders, among them José Martí, Flor Crombet, José and Antonio Maceo, Juan Bruno Zayas, Néstor de Aranguren, José María Aguirre, Serafín Sánchez and Adolfo del Castillo, had a huge negative impact on Cubans, as did the capture by the Spaniards of Rius Rivera. In addition, in some territories soldiers and officers were deserting, as were complete units.

To liquidate the Spanish resistance in Santiago de Cuba, the North American command landed, under the orders of General Shafter: 18,216 men, 16 field guns and 8 siege guns. For the attack they were joined by some 4,000 infantrymen of the Mambí Army, subordinated to General Calixto García, together totalling almost twice the number of Spanish defenders, also equipped with modern infantry and artillery weapons. It must be taken into account that, at that moment, United States naval forces surrounded the Island.

In the operations, in addition to participating in the securing of the landing, Cuban troops, being the best experts on the terrain and the tactics of the enemy, acted as vanguards, something normal in all operations of this type, when they participated jointly national and foreign troops, something that has come down to our days (Korea, Vietnam, Angola, Ethiopia, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.).

After analyzing this data, you may already be able to answer the initial question of this work. Was the war really won by the Cubans in 1898?

Leaving to one side the infantile jingoism, everything seems to indicate that no and that, but for the American disembarkation, the war would have been more prolonged, with an uncertain result and many more human and material losses.

In 1898 there had been an impasse in the warfare: the Spaniards could not defeat the Cubans, nor could the Cubans defeat the Spaniards. The first were exhausted and the latter tired. In addition, mutual stubbornness prevented any attempt at dialogue to resolve the situation. All this was taken advantage of by the government of the United States to impose its conditions and achieve its expansionist objectives.

Doing a Little Math / Fernando Dámaso

A member of the militia plays the flute at an empty polling station during the presidential election in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday, May 20, 2018. (The Columbian)

Fernando Damaso, 22 May 2018 — Just a few days ago, Nicolas Maduro said that more than 20 million voters were expected to cast ballots, and that he expected to get no fewer than 10 million votes.

This Sunday, 21 May, the reality was otherwise: Only 9,261,839 voters showed up (46% of the predicted number), meaning more than 11 million people decided not to vote.

Maduro only got 6,157,185 votes (68% of those cast), falling 3,842,815 short of what he expected. continue reading

The remainder of the votes (32%) opposed him or were nullified.

In short, there were 20 million voters and only 9 million showed up, while 11 million did not. With these numbers we can infer that 14 million voters (the 3+ million who voted against him and the 11+ million who didn’t bother going) are not interested in Maduro or in his predecessor Hugo Chavez. Thus, Maduro will govern with the support of just 6 million Venezuelans, compared to the 14 million against or indifferent to him. This represents a third for him and two-thirds against him or indifferent.

Mathematics shows that, instead of a great victory, it was a pyrrhic victory, well seasoned by the left and its followers to make it drinkable.

The “Heavenly Father” / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, 15 May 2018 — In spite of a complete loss of credibility after years of mass demonstrations and marches of “revolutionary reaffirmation” that Cubans “spontaneously” attended on certain dates, authorities have been given the task of presenting the deceased “historic leader” as a kind of heavenly father who, from “eternal space and time,” guides, corrects, protects, scolds and directs us lest we veer from the path he has set out. It amounts to turning his words and actions into a “socialist bible,” a parody that more closely resembles a comic book than the original tome.

This is nothing new.

The same thing happened with Lenin. Ultimately, the Soviets decided to let him rest in peace inside his historic burial chamber even after they had changed, having set forth on the road to capitalist development. This phenomenon was repeated with Dimitrov in Bulgaria, with Mao Zedong in China and with Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam — to name a few well-known examples — though each country did it in its own particular way. continue reading

Official media outlets do not know how to maintain this “virtual presence.” They resort to saccharine articles, inept news spots, propagandistic documentaries, posters, billboards, dogmatic rhetoric and ridiculous statements that intrude on citizens’ daily lives. Cubans have opted to turn on their televisions only to watch soap operas, foreign mini-series, and sporting events, avoiding newscasts and so-called “opinion programs” such as Mesa Redonda. They turn on the radio to listen to music. They buy newspapers to wrap the garbage in. It is a normal reaction to exhaustion, an attempt to keep from losing one’s mind.

This celestial chorus — it is said the purpose is “to not forget history” — has included certain personalities from other eras, with an emphasis on warrior heroes from the 19th century, duly stripped of facts or words that might call into question the present.

This submission to the past — envisioning an ever more remote and unfeasible future while ignoring the terrible present — has been the government tonic for the last sixty years. In spite of recent changes, it seems it will continue to be.

It is worth remembering the words of José Martí: “We can stop praising those who were once universally praised. The world is full of incense bearers and there is no one with the authority or wealth to compel the world to fall to its knees.”

Future Questionable / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Dámaso, 20 March 2018 — Today the economic theory of poverty and wealth of countries is fashionable, depending on whether they have “exclusive” or “inclusive” institutions. Its authors, Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson, thoroughly explore it in their book “Why Nations Fail.”

Consistent with this, as long as there is a government in Cuba with “exclusive” institutions, defenders of the one-party system, that reject citizens’ initiative and private property, prohibit the creation of wealth and discourage investment for development, we will remain in the vicious circle of poverty. To speak of an “efficient, prosperous and sustainable socialism” constitutes a fallacy. continue reading

For a nation to be efficient, prosperous and sustainable, “inclusive” institutions are needed, which promote the citizens’ initiative, ensure political and economic freedoms and do not punish the creation of wealth, but, on the contrary, stimulate it.

Until now, the “Cuban scheme,” centralized, dogmatic, exclusive and obsolete, has proved convincingly to be a sovereign failure. In sixty years of the exercise of absolute power, they have not been able to come up with a real solution to any of the great economic, political and social problems.

All their efforts have been concentrated on maintaining an iron grip on the citizens, assuring the collapse of the Nation. Today Cuba is among the poorest nations in the world, with most of its citizens having annual incomes of well under one thousand dollars, since the monthly average wage does not exceed twenty dollars.

They try to hide this widespread poverty by means of the propaganda of supposed free systems of health and modern and efficient education, when in fact both services are of bad quality and, in last instance, are financed by what is not paid to Cubans for their work, given their miserable wages.

These economic and social anomalies, unchanged for six decades, due to the existence of “exclusive” institutions, have led to labor unrest, widespread unproductivity, galloping corruption, social indiscipline, loss of moral and citizen values, violence and the irrepressible exodus of the population, mainly of the youngest.

The authorities, exhausted physically and politically, are unable to propose a courageous and decent exit, insisting, with the sole objective of maintaining power, in their obsolete arguments about “the defense of the independence and sovereignty of the Fatherland,” and manipulating the better feelings of the new generations, urging them to defend the indefensible and to swear unconditional loyalty to those who have always been unconditionally disloyal to the Nation, because, instead of serving it, they have dedicated themselves to living off of it.

Neither the recent electoral farce, nor the battered so-called “guidelines,” nor the absurd plans out to the year 2030, which is written and spoken about daily in the official media, will solve any problem: they constitute simple “soap bubbles” to continue trying to entertain the unwary and ensure a few more years of exercise of absolute power.

Baragua Again / Fernando Damaso

Fidel Castro speaking at a commemoration of the Protest of Baragua. Sign in the background reads: The Protest of Baragua, the Most Important in Our History

Fernando Dámaso, 14 March 2018 — Once again, as every March 15, the Protest of Baraguá is exalted as a transcendental event in our history, which “demonstrates Cubans’ vertical refusal to accept defeat and their tenacity.”

The gesture of Antonio Maceo and his followers of the Cuba Division, to not accept the peace agreed upon in El Zanjón by the majority of the insurgent leaders, although arrogant and brave, did not address the real situation of the war and of the opportunities to continue it at that moment, where the regional caudillismo proliferated, the fatigue of ten years of struggle without achieving victory and exhaustion and loss of interest in providing the necessary resources, for the emigration that supported and sustained it economically. continue reading

With regards to the situation prevailing at that time, Enrique Collazo, in his work “From Yara to the Zanjón,” states: “Peace was a necessity imposed by circumstances, since the insurgents were, according to Sanguily, exhausted, decimated, disenchanted, hungry, without ammunition and without faith.”

Subsequent events confirmed it: fifty-five days after Baraguá, on May 9, Maceo agreed to cease the fight and left Cuba for Jamaica in the Spanish gunboat “Fernando el Católico,” placed at his disposal by General Martínez Campos, the same one who had offered to sign the peace in Baraguá.

Eight days later Lieutenant Colonel Lacret, who had accompanied Maceo on his trip to Jamaica, returned with the conviction that the cause of Cuba was lost and that no resources should be expected from abroad (in Jamaica they had only seven men had signed up to come to Cuba, and the collection to acquire weapons and ammunition added the derisory amount of five shillings, that is, ten reales of the time). On May 28, with the exception of Limbano Sánchez, Leocadio Bonachea and some others, all of the “Baraguá protestors” accepted the Pact of Zanjón and laid down their arms.

Máximo Gómez and those who had accepted the Pact of Zanjón from the beginning (they knew the reality of the situation and acted in correspondence with it), were accused disparagingly of being “zanjoneros” for a long time.

Later Maceo settled in Costa Rica and became a prosperous landowner. Máximo Gómez returned to Santo Domingo and dedicated himself to tilling the land.

Martí praised the gesture, with the aim of mobilizing Cubans for the new war he organized, intelligently linking the men of ’68 with the new generation. However, to achieve his goals, he needed to unite the “zanjoneros” (Máximo Gómez) with the “Baraguá Protestors” (Antonio Maceo), without whom the new contest would have been impossible.

But good intentions are not enough to ensure a good decision: Baraguá is an example. Our most recent history is lavish in stubbornness.