A Cult Taken to Extremes / Fernando Dámaso

Fernando Damaso, 12 August 2016 — Despite some early warning signs, I never imagined that the cult of personality in Cuba would surpass that of Stalin, Mao Zedong and Kim Il Sung, to mention just three examples from the “socialist bullpen.” I forgot the wise words of the great Dominican-born Cuban general Maximo Gomez, when he observed that “Cubans either excel or fall short.” On the good things we usually fall short while on the bad ones we excel.

In 2016 “the elderly main character” has been called a great visionary, a political genius, the most steadfast disciple of José Martí, an invincible military strategist, a senior pioneer, an eternally young rebel, a daring fighter, the eternal guerrilla, a fiery prophet of the dawn, the reformer of Marxism-Leninism, a towering architect, a prominent educator, an unbeatable thinker, an original writer, a distinguished journalist, an innovative farmer, a senior public health professional, a solid economist, a major athlete, a stellar scientist and — to finally top it off — the creator of everything produced in the country (due to his “inexhaustible initiative”) for the last fifty years. It appears that “the Esteemed,” a term of praise reserved for the 20th century Cuban president Gerardo Machado, has conveniently been declared off limits lest it be applied to a certain absent-minded historical leader. Continue reading “A Cult Taken to Extremes / Fernando Dámaso”

"Heavyweight" Words / Fernando Dámaso

Fernando Damaso, 1 August 2016 — “Never, forever, eternal, unchanging, unchangeable, untouchable, irrevocable,” and others of the same style are common words in the totalitarian lexicon. If we look at the speeches and public and private interventions of their principal historic and current representatives, we find these words everywhere.

Incapable of understanding society in a state of constant change and development they aspire to freeze it in the narrow framework of their schematic thinking, assuming that everything they do is good and should be maintained eternally, independent of the rise of new generations and, therefore, new ideas. Continue reading “"Heavyweight" Words / Fernando Dámaso”

The 26th, Again / Fernando Dámaso

moncada
The Moncada Barracks attacked on 26 July 1953

Fernando Damaso, 25 July 2016 — Tomorrow, a new anniversary of the 26th of July–that failed insurrectional action of 1953–will be commemorated. This date, one of the principal ones of the Castro regime’s calendar, served as the title and standard for the political movement that emerged from the event. The province of Sancti Spíritus has been selected as the headquarters for the celebration–not for being the best choice, but rather for being the least bad one.

There will be “popular” gatherings, official festivities, cultural merrymaking, and even speeches with pretensions of historical authenticity. The script is repeated every year, varying only with regard to the secondary actors, being that the principals have remained in their roles for 58 years, despite the boredom they provoke among the spectators.

Throughout the course of a few days the inhabitants of Sancti Spíritus will enjoy abundant beer, one or another foodstuff, and much dance music, in addition to the traditional carnaval. Afterwards, all will return to the usual boring dailyness, with its meager wages, shortages, street violence, abuses, bureaucracy, and many other misfortunes–and the commemoration, as it does every year, will remain forgotten until the next one, if indeed it takes place, in a new chosen province.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Repression Instead of Solutions / Fernando Dámaso

almendrone
Old American cars of the kind generally used as shared fixed-route taxis in Havana.

Fernando Damaso, 19 July 2016 — The topic of discussion among Havanans today is not only the intense heat and “the evil of it,” but also the beginning of the persecution and repression against self-employed taxi drivers who have raised their prices.

Given the lack of public transport, which has been going on for a long time, the so-called “boatmen” — as the private drivers are called — have been a boon to citizen transport, helping to alleviate the problem. Taking into account the cost of their vehicles, from the high prices of fuel, the nonexistent parts for repairs, and the increased taxes they have to pay, they have raised their prices. Continue reading “Repression Instead of Solutions / Fernando Dámaso”

The Magic Number / Fernando Dámaso

Fidel Castro will turn 90 in August.

Fernando Dámaso, 1 July 2016 — In 2016, the number “90” has taken on a major importance for Cuba’s government authorities. The unleashed hysteria of the cult of personality means that, since December of 2015 government agencies and institutions have been ordered to “dedicate absolutely all their actions” to this magic number, which represents the age that the “ancient Maximum Leader” will reach in August.

Never before in History as the celebration of such an anniversary been extended for such a length of time, an original of “socialism a la Cuba” which, certainly, should be entered into the Guinness Book of Records. Continue reading “The Magic Number / Fernando Dámaso”

Total Addiction to Power / Fernando Dámaso

Fernando Damaso, 22 June 2016 — Some years ago the Latin American left abandoned the guerrilla struggle as the main way to gain power, choosing to use, instead, the existing democratic institutions and mechanisms in their respective countries.

The problem presents itself when, through these same institutions and mechanisms, they must leave power. Then we see the machinations begin, the changing of constitutions, the setting aside of democratic institutions, abuses of power and other aberrations of a totalitarian character. The examples are endless. Continue reading “Total Addiction to Power / Fernando Dámaso”

A Ridiculous Declaration / Fernando Dámaso

Fernando Damaso, 17 June 2016 — It is completely ridiculous that the Cuban Writers and Artists Union (UNEAC), a totally government organization that tries to present itself as “non-governmental,” issues a statement about the desecration of the bust of a popular Venezuelan singer, Ali Primera, that occurred in that country, when they’ve never been concerned to protest against similar events that happen in Cuba.

Here, in the face of the complicit silence of UNEAC, statues and monuments of colonial and Republican eras have been systematically destroyed, ones that although they have not been welcomed by the current authorities, form a part of the history and identity of the nation, independent of their political ideologies. The busts of many important figures in cities and towns have disappeared, opening spaces, for example, to convert the Avenue of the Presidents in Vedado — once dedicated to remembering the country’s presidents — to place foreign figures which should have been placed in Fraternity Park, which was constructed with this objective. Also accepted has been the changing of the names of public buildings, streets and avenues, as an act of political opportunism, along with the implementation of many other outrages.

All this has been a negation of the supposed national identity that they say they defend “with the sword and shield.”

If UNEAC, as a governmental organization, had to issue a statement in support of the discredited Venezuelan government, and its even more discredited president, it should not hide between this reprehensible act: it should do it openly.

Paying the Political Price / Fernando Dámaso

Fernando Damaso, 5 June 2016 — For several days “the five heroes by decree” have been dusted off again and put to work, apparently leaving behind the only thing they have done since they were released: traveling at the expense of the Cuban people, living the story and talking nonsense.

After visiting Moscow, invited by the minority and inconsequential Communist Party of Russia, where, as important people in world anti-terrorism believe (trying to forget their work as spies), they were presented as the greatest pacifists of the “dove of peace,” three have been given positions: once as the vice-rector of the Higher Institute of International Relations (ISRI), another as vice president of the Jose Marti Cultural Society and the third as Vice President of the National Association of Economists and Accountants (ANEC). Continue reading “Paying the Political Price / Fernando Dámaso”

Some Interesting Information / Fernando Dámaso

Fernando Damaso, 10 June 2016 — Reading the few independent media which, against all odds, are published in Cuba, I learn about things that happen and that aren’t published in the official media, as well as what high taxes we Cubans pay compared to our Latin American neighbors, despite the fact that the nominal wages of our workers are, possibly, the lowest in the world, being even less than half of those in nearby Haiti ($20 a month in Cuba, $53 in Haiti). Continue reading “Some Interesting Information / Fernando Dámaso”

Harsh Reality / Fernando Dámaso

Fernando Damaso, 17 May 2016 — In the few available spaces for people to express their opinions in the official Cuban media (letters to the editor of “Granma,” “Rebellious Youth,” a page of “Workers”, “Ordinary People Talking” on Havana Channel, “Cuba Says” on Cubavision, and others), they complain about and attack useless, bureaucratic, irresponsible and lazy officials, who don’t do what they’re supposed to do and let problems mount up and increase. The editors of these spaces are no better. The criticisms are not forwarded, but remain stuck at square one. They are rarely sent on to the relevant government ministries or organisations. It seems that these deplorable events only occur because of officials’ mistakes, since, higher up, everything is perfect and there is no responsibility for any of it. Continue reading “Harsh Reality / Fernando Dámaso”

Critic or Commissar? / Fernando Dámaso

Fernando Damaso, 30 May 2016 — A well-known film critic and staunch enemy of Hollywood — someone with an affinity for plastic surgery and black hair dye — is now taking on the role of political commissar. In response to Cubans’ enthusiasm for US symbols, mainly flags, he has proposed that every American flag that shows up in public should be surrounded by a hundred Cuban flags. Continue reading “Critic or Commissar? / Fernando Dámaso”

A Dead End / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, 24 May 2016 — Historically, Venezuela has been a country of dictators, as have others in Latin America: Simon Bolivar was one, regardless of his merits as the Liberator of America from the Spanish yoke;  and then the Monagas brothers were (1846-1858); followed by Guzmán Blanco (1870-1888), Cipriano Castro (1899-1908), Juan Vicente Gómez (1908-1931), Delgado Chalbaud, Marcos Perez Jimenez (1950-1958), Hugo Chavez and now, in the process of learning, Nicolas Maduro.

Maduro’s pedantry, his attempt to be Chavez’s “designated” successor, his accelerated loss of popular support, the unassailable triumph of the opposition in achieving a majority in the National Assembly, the systematic setbacks of his operation and, now, the overwhelming number of signatures collected to proceed with a midterm recall referendum, plus his economic failures, have made him hysterical, inventing conspiracies, economic wars, interventions and other absurdities, products of his fevered mind and those who guide him from inside and outside the country. As Uruguay’s former president Mujica said, “He is madder than a goat.”

To this is added the environment around him which is not favorable: Argentina without Cristina Kirchner and with Macri, Brazil without Dilma Rousseff and with Temer, Evo Morales unable to be reelected, Correa responsibly dedicated to the his country’s recovery from the earthquake, and Cuba getting worse all the time.

As if that were not enough, the institutions and organisms created by the Latin American Left (UNASUR, ALBA, CELAC and others) in the years of splendor, for their mutual support and to maintain themselves in power, ignoring those existing previously, are in the doldrums, having lost their main sources of economic support, and very little has been done, other than some passing some generic declarations, more formal than real, to make it clear that they are still breathing, although they are in intensive care.

Maduro blames the opposition, the “empire” the OAS, Uribe, and the many who criticize the problems in Venezuela, but forgets that it is, above all, he and Chavism that is to blame. With Maduro and those who sustain him in power, Venezuela will not emerge from the political, economic and social crisis in which it finds itself.

Servile Talents / Fernando Dámaso

Fernando Damaso, 10 May 2016 — “There is really no spectacle more hateful than that of servile talents.” (José Martí, Complete Works, Volume 13, Page 158, Cuban National Press.) I wanted to start these lines with this thought of the Apóstol [Cubans refer to Martí in this way], as many of our intellectuals, some of them with famous names, have joined the flock of government sheep, without having any need to do so, taking an active part in its campaigns of disinformation and manipulation of the people, going so far as to commit acts of violence against those who think differently to them, and demonstrating an aggressiveness which is foreign to them and does not fit well with their personalities. Continue reading “Servile Talents / Fernando Dámaso”

Two Absurd Terms / Fernando Dámaso

Fernando Damaso, 4 May 2016 — When I hear the elderly political leaders talking about the irrevocability and the permanence of Cuban socialism, I feel sorry for them, thinking about how everyone in the world with at least half a brain must be laughing at them. It’s clear that nothing made by man is irrevocable or permanent.

Lenin, Mussolini, Hitler and Stalin, just to give four examples from history, thought that their ideas and regimes would indeed last, and, nevertheless, harsh reality demonstrated how wrong they were. It seems that there is a lot of historical illiteracy about.

To think that Cuba could be the exception, is absurd. Albert Einstein stated “Two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity.” It seems like the latter is flourishing.

Having hurriedly included these terms in the Constitution means nothing, since Magna Cartas can be written and unwritten. Without looking any further afield, how many have been revoked or changed in the last few years in Latin America? It will happen in Cuba too.

It seems that political leaders who consider themselves to be intelligent people, when their final hour draws close, try to cling on, to make sure everything continues in accordance with their wishes. Once again, harsh reality demonstrates that this rarely happens, although sometimes change is slowed and delayed more than it should be.

This Cuban-style socialism, imposed with so much enjoyment, constructed with so little seriousness, will disappear like a failed monster, and it will do so because it has plunged Cubans into misery and destroyed the country.

Translated by GH

Cubans on the Borders / Fernando Dámaso

Cubans are once again crowded along the border between Costa Rica and Panama. the Cuban government, as usual, blames it in the “Cuban Adjustment Act” and ignores, as always, the real causes: Cubans don’t believe in the promised “prosperous, sustainable and irrevocable socialism” and, even less, in their old political leaders.

The political, economic and social situation, instead of improving, has continued to deteriorate, without the appearance of any intelligent measures that could turn it around. Everything goes back to words, slogans, recycled speeches and empty promises, by the same “historicals” responsible for the current crisis and their national and international spokespeople. Continue reading “Cubans on the Borders / Fernando Dámaso”