Debate of Positions / Fernando Damaso

Photo: Rebeca

It’s no secret that in our society, and even within the government itself, different positions are debated about how to confront and resolve our economic, political and social crisis. The honeymoon era, based on a supposed monolithic unity of all the components of the nation, which ultimately was never for real, has been left behind and is just a bad memory, displaced by the winds of change of different intensity and direction.

In recent days, some characters of known inflexible affiliation, fearful of losing their precarious positions and privileges, even with the small and slow changes introduced mainly in the economy, have targeted the so-called new rich,  principally the successful self-employed, preaching to unleash a witch hunt, something we have always had plenty of: for example Bird-on-a-Wire*, The Battle Against the Pots**, etc.

The demons being exorcised now are quinceañeras (huge parties for girls’ 15th birthdays), dressing in the latest fashions, listening to contemporary music, eating ham shank, drinking Coca-Cola and preferring Disney cartoons. Also included are some owners of vehicles dedicated to passengers and cargo which, according to these characters, has nothing to do with the culture. It seems incredible, but it is real. The absurd proposals to change the situation do not bear repeating…

Nevertheless, times have changed and people have as well, though perhaps not as much as we would have liked, but if, before, prosperity was punished by word and deed, now, at least in words it is not the case and, indeed, it is emerging strongly, hence the spear launched against it.

For myself, I don’t care about the new rich, provided they have obtained and obtain their wealth with their talent, initiative, hard work and determination. Both those who have become rich from the spoils of ancient wealth for their riches, arguing the necessity of converting it into the property of the whole people, which they did, transforming it into state property where some, acting within the state, obtained and derived their wealth, positions and privileges, adding to them at the expense of the misery of the citizens.

Nor have I ever believed in a false equality, which really only equaled poverty for the majority of the population, while a privileged elite has remained and continues “on top the ball,” as a popular song says, far above ordinary Cubans.

Translator’s notes:
*Bird-on-a-Wire was a police operation in February 1982 against speculators who were cornering rural markets and charging exorbitant prices for the goods.
**The Battle Against the Pots: The “pots” (wealthy people) were accused of diverting state resources to meet their own needs (for example, using a state-owned crane to lift a water tank onto an individual’s house).

23 July 2013

Savagery to Strays / Fernando Damaso

Photo: Rebeca

In Cuba, although before there was, currently their appears to be no effective organization to protect animals, although there is talk of one, Aniplant (Society for the Protection of Animals and Plants), which doesn’t appear in any telephone directly, and whose activity is so non-existent it lacks a presence and activism.

The outrages committed daily, mainly against dogs and cats, caused anger and pain to sensitive citizens in the face of their helplessness to avoid them. The so-called stray dogs and cats that roam our towns and cities trying to survive — many of them abandoned to their fate by their original owners, who use them as pets when they are young and then when they grow up and require responsibility dispose of them like a useless old shoe — are the objects of absurd beatings, tortures and even acts of vandalism that kill them, as denounced on Tuesday the 15th in the Rebel Youth newspaper under the title “Diary of death and kindness,” without the authorities of public order, or any other, taking action on the matter, nor those responsible being prosecuted.

This reality, palpable at any time in the streets of our neighborhoods, shows the  citizen ignorance that exists, regardless of the vaunted but very questionable education we are said to possess, which seems to leave much to be desired and be more bark than bite, considering the serious problems in education for years now.

Oddly enough, it is precisely the youngest (teens and even children) who are involved in these inhumane acts, with the complicity or indolent gaze of adults, which, rather than stop them and get their attention, often to find it funny or participate in it.

Among the many evils present, dozens of them denounced recently by the highest political authority, the lack of animal protection, with institutions and laws that safeguard the street stray, is one more, which must not be allowed not to escape our attention, if we live in a civilized society.

20 July 2013

Embracing the New / Fernando Damaso

Photo: Peter Deel

The Cuban government has rejected the term reform in relation to anything having to do with the changes being introduced, principally in the economy, preferring to use the term updating. Perhaps they fear being tagged as “reformers” and prefer to be called “updaters.” Nevertheless, it is not the terminology that matters; it is the content.

Until now, the updates that have been carried out have been positive in comparison to the ongoing stagnation of previous years. Due to their lack of substance and the delays in implementation, however, they have had little impact on the lives of average Cubans.

The buying and selling of homes and automobiles amounts simply to legalization of activities which for many years were carried out illegally. And those who carry out such transactions can do so only because they have access to resources and assets, a situation not shared by a majority of Cubans.

In addition to having the freedom to do so, there are other things that are necessary in order to be able to travel overseas, not least of which is having the financial means. Of almost equal importance are cell phones and an internet connection, which costs 4.50 CUC an hour at businesses that sell access.

To date, those who have benefitted from the updating have mainly been owners of well-maintained residential real estate. They have been able to sell at a high price, buy something smaller and pocket some of the money, or move in with relatives and pocket all of the money.

Other beneficiaries include car owners who prefer to get rid of their vehicles rather than have to deal with the high cost of operation and maintenance.

There are also those who have acquired financial resources, either legally or illegally, and have purchased these assets. They are generally the same people who own mobile phones and can afford to pay the high cost of internet access.

Then there are those who sell a home or a car, or receive money from relatives overseas, and use the capital to open their own private businesses, usually in the food service sector. In short what this amounts to is a budding form of capitalism subject to state control.

For the updating to really benefit the average Cuban, it would be necessary to extend opportunities for self-employment to all jobs and professions, something that is currently not allowed. Some people might be concerned about this happening in health care and education services, but it would really present no problem. Some of these professionals could work for the state (as they used to do) or for private institutions such as clinics and schools which provide private consultations and classes.

It is true that fifty-four years of doing the same thing dulls the brain and creates a governmental and societal conformism that is difficult to eradicate. But times and people change, and we must audaciously embrace the new.

The fact that a majority of young professionals aspire to join the exodus in order to realize their life goals should serve as a warning that this process of updating — with its many limitations and excessive slowness — has not brought real benefits to most Cubans.

The average monthly salary is no more that 440 Cuban pesos (the equivalent of 20 CUC, or about $20 USD), an amount that is inadequate to guarantee even a financially precarious life given the high cost of consumer goods — both agricultural and manufactured – and their continued rise in price.

17 July 2013

A Coca Farce / Fernando Damaso

This past week has given us the media circus orchestrated by Mr. Evo Morales, self-titled first indigenous president of his country (if I remember correctly, his predecessor was also of indigenous origin), together with his friends. Nobody talks about his irresponsible statement in Moscow, when he said he was willing to take Mr. Snowden with him, triggering the subsequent situation, and focusing all attention on the rejection by four European countries of permission to land in their territories to refuel the coca-president’s plane (the Pachamama One), magically transforming it into an attack on all indigenous Americans and all Latin Americans, orchestrated by the government of the United States.

In our history and our fiction folkloric characters abound, from Duvalier and Trujillo in the first category, to Pito Perez and Aureliano Buendia in the second, without going too far back. It seems that the saga continues. After the Pachamama and trying to impede development by indigenous backwardness — from his homophobic statement that chicken meat has genes that produce homosexuality, to wanting to introduce coca leaf in place of chewing gum; from his claim on part of the territory of Chile, to this current comic theater — what will the multinational president’s next genial gaffe be? We confidently expect we won’t have to wait long. Anyway, we should be thankful that he introduces a note of humor into the politics of our region. At least he makes us laugh!

What is incomprehensible is that governments and institutions spend time and resources on these farcical politicians and false nationalism, when there are so many serious problems to solve.

14 July 2013

Citizen Culture and Civics / Fernando Damaso

Photo: Peter Deel

It is good that the President, although not part of his core responsibilities and somewhat belatedly, has spoken publicly about the loss of ethical values and disrespect for morality, problems about which many citizens had been warning, without being heard, for many years. It is also good to have noted the deterioration of moral and civic values such as honesty, decency, shame, decorum, honor and sensitivity to the problems of others as well as to have come to the conclusion that we have regressed in citizen culture and civics and that we are a society increasingly schooled, but not necessarily more educated.

Although in his statement he did not discuss the many causes that have provoked this terrible situation, preferring to blame the so-called Special Period, ignoring that material misery generates moral misery, that man thinks as he lives, and you can not demand of a population that mostly moves in the margins or close to it, not to be more or less marginal, or not to steal from the State when it steals from them with low wages, the dual currency and the high prices they must pay for services and products.

The balance of the above is positive, especially when it calls for the establishment of a climate of order, discipline and exigency in Cuban society and states that can not become one more campaign. Aware of our extremism, I hope that this call does not become a call for a new witch hunt, and that they take appropriate measures to avoid it.

From all of the above, the reference to the reversal in citizen culture and civics is of great importance. Our Apostle, José Martí, spoke of the need “to be educated to be free.”A society cannot be  truly free if it is not educated, regardless of all the instruction its citizens receive. It’s a truth as big as a temple.

Nor can a free society function without the daily practice of citizenship, which includes, among many things, both the performance of duties as well as the exercise of rights, in full harmony. I think the president, who confessed having meditated a great deal about all this, is aware of the real extent of his plans and their application in practice shows it.

11 July 2013

Don’t Lose Any More Time / Fernando Damaso

In defense of the current Cuban model and its updating within the straitjacket of the so-called Guidelines, some citizens are frightened by the idea of the possible restoration of capitalism in Cuba, mechanically repeating verbally and in writing all the propaganda that has been overwhelmingly spread by the news media. Nobody stops to point out the negative aspects of the current model (its main critics lie precisely within them), they simply deny the positives of change.

Fifty-six years of capitalism in Cuba, despite its shortcomings, problems, fratricidal conflicts, dictatorships, politics, theft of public funds and other misfortunes, represented development and wealth, unlike fifty-four years of socialism, even with its many misfortunes, which have only represented underdevelopment, involution, lack of productivity, backwardness, poverty and accumulation of problems, both old (lack of housing, unemployment, racial discrimination, etc.) and new (lack of possibilities, exodus, inefficient services, social indiscipline, arbitrariness, bad manners, rudeness, etc.). These realities, however much they try, cannot be hidden: they appear whenever you explore, even superficially, our past and present history.

In recent days, at the current session of the National Assembly, they have repeated the need to perfect the socialist state enterprise, forgetting its failure for seventy years in the former USSR, forty in the former socialist countries, and fifty-four in Cuba. They also have declared that socialism is the compass. Ideological stubbornness has never solved any problem.

To continue parroting these absurdities is to lose resources and time. What’s important is to end the current impasse and join the real world. The work isn’t easy, but it will only get harder if we don’t all join together in our efforts to achieve it.

8 July 2013

Accumulation of Power / Fernando Damaso

Photo Peter Deel

When authoritarian, centralized and vertical power has been exercised for such a long time and without any opposing counterpart, where decisions are taking and implemented from above to below, without effective citizen participation, as it is not in their compliance and enforcement, it’s tremendously difficult to set aside these habits and to think and act in a democratic way.

In the case of Cuba, this is what has happened. As a result, institutions and organizations created with the objective of offering the world a “light” image of the Cuban “model,” have not been able to change anything, because they are simple bureaucratic constructs, where everything is determined beforehand, both with regards to its selective composition as well as for the issues authorized to be addressed and the decisions taken.

Neither the National Assembly nor the Central Workers Union of Cuba, nor any of the existing organizations (UNEAC, ANAP, FMC, FEU, FEEM, etc.) respond to the interests of their members; rather they are no more than chains of transmission of government policy, used to control and manipulate the population.

As long as they don’t produce economic, political and real social changes, with laws and regulations that are legally binding on all social subjects and, mainly, on the State and its institutions, everything is simple words that blow away in the wind, whether or not those who utter them are sincere or not.

This country, to save itself, needs a complete turnaround, that doesn’t necessarily have to be violent, but it has to be deep. The patches, re-soles and mends are ineffective, and instead of solving problems, they extend them and in time complicate them. Understanding this is not that hard!

4 July 2013

The Cuban Mega-Soap Opera / Fernando Damaso

Street Graffiti

The mega-soap opera of the Five Spies, recycled as anti-terrorists and heroes, for years have occupied a lot of space in the national political programming. Structured for the seasons, in the best style of the soaps, they appear one after another, regardless of the actual audience. The main characters presented at the beginning as meek and innocent doves attacked by the imperial eagle, according to the season it’s broadcast, have been adapted to the arguments of the interests of the moment.

In the first season, the starring performances were given by the attorneys, some designated officials and chosen journalists, who were charged with trying to convince us of their innocence, constantly bombarding us with scholarly interventions and articles. In it, the main characters were kept discreetly in the background, with few public declarations, to give the impression that in addition to imprisonment, they were subjected to isolation.

In the second, they started to appear alongside the popular figures (mainly actors who visited them) and their mothers, where they looked lush and healthy, although on returning these people speak of the cruel physical and psychological tortures, the subhuman conditions, harassment, etc. and shed a tear to add spice to their words in the in the best style of the soap operas from the fifties of the last century.

The melodramatic weight increased from chapter to chapter, with the incorporation of the loving and long-suffering wives and daughters, who lost no opportunity for national and international stardom, both in print and on radio and television.

The third season was characterized by their recycling as intellectuals. It turns out that not only were they anti-terrorists and heroes, but also cartoonists, painters, poets and writers. The reason for this readjusted argument was given so they could incorporate national and foreign artists and intellectuals and to the cause, and it was necessary that the main characters belong to that sector. Cartoons, paintings, poems and writings proliferated, most of poor quality, despite the hard work of surreptitious cartoonists, painters, poets and writers, trying to improve the work and make them more digestible.

In this fourth season, with one of the main characters gone from the plot (he already served his sentence), the argument has moved on to the moral and altruistic, related to virtue, dignity, loyalty and courage. Thus, one of those who is still in prison, marvels at the attitude of a self-employed punch seller in Las Tunas, whom he welcomes and greets for offering free punch to the ambulances.

The one released, now acting as a hero at events (he has no other work), participates in whatever congress, conference, meeting or workshop held, and offers lectures on morality, loyalty, dignity, etc. to students and, out of sync with the times, talks to them about visiting the Coppelia ice cream stand, without realizing that this hasn’t been an option for young people for several years, more interested as they are in discos, hotels, trips abroad and private restaurants (paladares).

Together, with the participation of some artists from the Governmental Team Cuba, draw up a huge mural for the Cuba Pavilion on the Havana La Rampa, and so it continues.

We don’t know what they’re going to try in the fifth season nor those that will come later, but it seems that the mega-soap opera will be prolonged in time, considering that in the absence of some more interesting argument, they will continue stretching it out as a way to keep a part of the population entertained and make them forget more important and momentous things, at least until the boredom of “more of the same” runs its course. The argument, which is nothing original, has already been used multiple times. They are only changing the characters!

1 July 2013

Some Considerations / Fernando Damaso

The 52nd National Baseball Championships ended with the triumph of the Villa Clara team, and after a few days passed, some considerations came to mind: most along political lines and a few with regards to baseball.

I do not understand the presence of the flag of the 26th of July Movement next to the Cuban flag in the Sandino stadium. When the so-called Integrated Revolutionary Organizations (26th of July Movement, 13th of March Revolutionary Directorate, and People’s Socialist Party) were merged into the United Party of Socialist Revolution, which later came to be called the Communist Party of Cuba, it was agreed to deactivate these organizations and their symbols, using them only on important occasions related to them (the 26th of July flag on the anniversary of the assault on the Moncada Barracks, the Directorate’s flag on that of the Assault of the Presidential Palace, etc.), and to adopt, then, the flag created for the Party.

This has been complied with by the other organizations, but not by the 26th of July Movement which uses its flag indiscriminately on any occasion, without anyone protesting or any protest against this violation of the agreement.

The Cuban flag should fly alone, sovereign and independent, unescorted by any other, except in specific activities, where it flies with those of other countries. It is the only one that truly represents all Cubans. The remaining represent only a part.

Why in the stadiums and other sports facilities are vivid images of political leaders present, when this was banned on the triumph of the revolution so as not to fall into the cult of personality? Would it not be better and more pleasing to the eye, to have images corresponding to outstanding athletes in their respective sports? I have never seen in any foreign sports facility (except in the countries of the extinct socialist camp and in some current stragglers) party flags and pictures of political leaders.

Why did a baseball series have to be politicized to the point of absurdity, establishing in the closing ceremony (no one knew until then) a dedication to the so-called Five Heroes, with the presentation of the champion trophy presentation  made by one of them along with their family members, with a bland political intervention? Do there not exist in Cuba important and respected sports heroes to do it? Baseball is the national sport and its fans have different political views, it is not lawful to restrict it to one of them.

Now, something about sports. Why not allow each team, respecting generally established rules, to design their own uniform, avoiding the current impersonal eyesores mass-produced with a single design? I’m sure we would gain in aesthetics, the players would feel better, and it would be clearer to the spectators.

I think the best reward for the players, who really deserve it, ignoring the speeches of the occasion and the obligatory expressions of gratitude, both false and irrelevant, would be to improve their economic conditions and allow them to rise in their careers without any ceiling and, please, maintain decent conditions on the playing fields, to where playing is a pleasure and not a risk.

22 June 2013

Everyone’s Task / Fernando Damaso

Archive photo

If we observe the behaviour of the Cuban economy in 2012 and the first half of 2013, what becomes clear is that, in spite of the “updating” and new “guidelines” (which amount to nothing more than a simple wish-list), there are no significant achievements to indicate that at least we are on the right path.

Neither agriculture (a real disaster), nor industry, nor construction, nor transport have shown improvement. On the contrary, they remain laggards, failing to make a collective contribution to the country or to improve the lives of its citizens.

The only successes to be reported are in what is referred to as international collaboration (the hiring out of professionals at low-cost) and tourism. Reaching a level of two million visitors a year (a ridiculous figure for any country in the region) has been billed as “a great achievement” in spite of all the many projects and all the foreign capital invested in this sector.

What is really going on? The effectiveness of the few measures taken so far has been limited by absurd restrictions and excessively slow implementation (so in that sense nothing is new). They hinder development and, worse yet, do not completely free up productive forces or allow for economic expansion in all areas.

Politics continues to be focused on the economy. Out of fear of having to pay the costs for decades of mistakes and volunteerism (which by necessity will have to be paid), the economy is being sacrificed. Bets are being placed on an uncertain, miraculous future, the discovery of oil, a change in U.S. policy, a Latin American economic union, and even effects from widening the Panama Canal and the possibilities presented by the port of Mariel. The hope is that one of these developments will get our chestnuts out of the fire.

Cuba’s economic problems, as well as its political and social problems, have been multiplied many times over. They must be resolved by all Cubans — those here and those overseas — with our resources, efforts and intelligence. As long as this participation is premised on accepting absurd and archaic political restrictions, and as long as a small group of “chosen ones” retain control of the thunder key — the only ones capable of doing anything in spite of their multiple failures – very little will be accomplished.

28 June 2013

Playing Dirty / Fernando Damaso

Archive photo

With those incomprehensible absurdities of politics, the United Nations Decolonization Committee adopted the resolution presented by Cuba, with support from Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela, on behalf of the inalienable right of the people of Puerto Rico to self-determination and independence.

By any chance does this Committee know that on 6 November 2012 a plebiscite was held in Puerto Rico, where the majority of the population voted to join the United States as the 51st state, somewhat smaller numbers to maintain the current status of the Commonwealth, and only a tiny minority to be independent? Is it, perhaps, not the will of Puerto Ricans, for years now, to remain joined to the United States in a way or another, as demonstrated in the four plebiscites?

That Cuba and its populists friends propose every year, in an act of manifest interference in the internal affairs of another country, is nothing unusual, but that the United Nations accepts it is shameful. In addition, the information offered by the official Cuban press is manipulated, stating that the text now adopted stressed the majority pronouncement made last November 6 by the population of this country in rejecting the current condition of political subordination. In reality, the majority pronouncement was to cease being a Commonwealth and to become a State of the United States.

How long will they continue politicking in favor of a small group of separatists who, convinced of the rejection of its citizens of independence (the minimum percentages obtained in four plebiscites prove it), have chosen to live it, his backed by the will of most Puerto Ricans, who have not lost their language, nor their flag, nor their music or dances, their customs or their identity, but have enriched it with new contributions? How long the UN will be continue to lend itself to this dirty game?

25 June 2013

Consciousness Asleep / Fernando Damaso

Photo Rebeca

One of the main sources of my posts is the newspaper Granma, not only for what it says, but also how it says it and for what it doesn’t say. Although sometimes it publishes this or that interesting letter, the Letters to the Editor section from last Friday was priceless: either everyone who wrote supports the “Cuban model,” or they only publish this type of letter.

A reader, after pondering the existence of this section, and linking it with objectives 70 and 71 of the guidelines (which couldn’t be ignored), and also with 16, without adding anything new, finished in slogan-style, with the official sentiment: Our worst enemy is our own mistakes.

A fancier defends the breeding of carrier pigeons and ornamental pouter pigeons by the members of the respective federation and association, and denounces the so-called pigeon-raisers who profit off them, making it clear that the Pigeon Fanciers Federation gives its unconditional support to the Revolution. I think this assertion does not include the opinion of the pigeons themselves.

Another reader complains that in a town he visited, there has been no water for three months because the engine that supplies it is broken, and explains that all the measures taken by the authorities to solve the problem have been unsuccessful. He complains about the charge of 50 Cuban pesos for every water delivery and adds that he understands that the blockade, the hard work of the leaders, etc. has prevented a solution to the problem, and ends with the same slogan as the previous writer, that this Revolution can only be destroyed by ourselves.

A hothead, shield raised high, states that each patient should be informed about how much their treatment costs the State, forgetting that the State, with what it doesn’t pay citizens in their penurious wages, has many more financial resources at its disposal to distribute to the services of health and education.

Despite its small size, this sample demonstrates how low the level of public awareness still is, and how much we have to advance to be able to have a true civil society.

19 June 2013

An Archaic Concept / Fernando Damaso

Archived image

It’s worth noting that, in most of the programmatic documents of the Old and the New Left, the concept that “the workers and peasants constitute the principal movers of society, together with the participation of other of its leaders” remains unalterable. This concept that, perhaps, in the epoch of utopian socialism might be valid, owing to its being a simple, theoretical proposal without any basis in experience, today and for much time, has been totally absurd.

The nascent French bourgeoisie used the malaise of the masses to unleash and guide the French Revolution, using them as a shock force for violent confrontations, but reserving for itself the role of leading. The Russian political agitators, nominating themselves as “professional revolutionaries,” did the same thing with the workers, peasants and soldiers, unleashing the October Revolution, but reserving for themselves the exercise of power. Neither Robespierre, Danton, Marat, Desmoulins and others in the first case, nor Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin in the second, were workers or peasants. In the Cuban Revolution something else happened: None of the principal leaders was a worker or peasant; rather they belonged to the middle class and the petit bourgeoisie, being principally professionals and students. The workers and peasants simply constituted masses to be used.

If we are realists, we must accept that, in the end, Leonardo da Vinci, Pasteur, Ford, Edison, the Wright Brothers, Bill Gates and many others, to mention only a few in the field of science, have brought more to human development and society than all the workers and peasants put together in their respective countries as well as in the world. From the appropriation of fire up to the invention of the wheel, printing, the steam engine, the internal combustion motor, electricity, the use of the atom, computers, the Internet and everything that amazes us today, it’s been the talent of brilliant people who with their work and tenacity have played the role of being the true moving forces of society. The principal merit of bringing development to society belongs to them and not to generic workers and peasants. This has been repeated in medicine, the arts, architecture, transport, communications and in many other spheres of human activity.

To pretend to eternally bestow this honor on workers and peasants, without taking into account the process of continual change, in addition to being dogmatic is unreal, and forms part of the archaic concepts that still prevail in part of the thinking of the current Left. It’s about time that the hammer and sickle were replaced with the combine and programmable robotic lathes.

Translated by Regina Anavy

15 June 2013

National Values / Fernando Damaso

Photo: Peter Deel

When the state-run media writes or talks about education in Cuba, they always start with the obligatory preamble, discussing how bad things are in the rest of the world, including in so-called first-world countries. They then go on to discuss the encouraging situation in Cuba, where students are guaranteed free education as well as health care, nutrition and other basic services. Those of us who suffer under Cuban socialism, however, know that things are not quite so simple.

If, in the early days — and I’m referring only to education — taking advantage of the  facilities, the physical foundations and the existing licensed teachers, it was of high quality, the fact is that very soon, with the advent of failed educational experiments and other changes, the quality began to decline. Schools for teachers were closed, replaced by training in inhospitable environments in an effort to strengthen revolutionary commitment. Quick courses were taught in short time spans. Poorly trained personnel were allowed into the system. Televised courses replaced teachers in classrooms. The schools in the countryside program was introduced. As a result of these and other changes, a large percentage of good teachers are now at retirement age. Competent newcomers do not exist and replacements are not foreseen given the lack of interest among young people, who are attracted by the greater incentives and better working conditions offered by other professions.

In addition to its well-known and difficult material and pedagogical problems, the Cuban educational system has not been able to train the citizens the country needs and will need over the short and medium term. An attempt to emphasize politics and ideology at the expense of education has distorted Cuban teaching, which had always enjoyed respect since the era of Félix Varela, José de la Luz y Caballero, Martí, Varona and many others. This has led to a critical loss of values, which is palpable on a daily basis in the streets of our cities and towns, and which is shared equally by different generations. The teacher-student-parent relationship has been broken for many years, abrogated by the state monopoly on education. Trying to restore it now is no easy task, especially when, instead of emphasizing the formation of citizens, there is an ongoing emphasis on the formation of “patriots,” which is understood to mean those who are loyal to “the model.” They are trying to rescue the “system of revolutionary values” when in reality what they should be trying to rescue is the system of national values, which are much more important and significant than the former.

In a social scenario of absurd and archaic constraints imposed by those in power, there is little that teachers can do (if they act as such and not as mere transmitters of a failed ideology in which even they themselves do not believe). The same is true for parents and the rest of the family, who are also obligated to engage in a double standard, known as the “dual morality,” which is really a lack thereof. Faced with this reality and trapped in the middle of a tense situation, the only path left for a student is escape, either through alcohol, drugs, exodus, or through individual or group rebellion as part of one of the many current urban tribes (such as emos, rockers, rappers, reparteros* or skaters).

I feel that, rather than organizing and staging large events to show the world the “achievements of Cuban education,” efforts and resources should be spent on addressing the real situation, which endangers the national identity and directly threatens the country and its very existence.

*Translator’s note: Followers and fans of reggaeton music.

11 June 2013

A New Failure / Fernando Damaso

Photo: Peter Deel

The announced rescue of sugar production, after the ravages of the Alvaro Reynoso Task that finished dozens of plants, and the adjustments and readjustments of the “upgrade” and the application of the “guidelines”, seems not to have achieved the objectives, with production having, in some cases, declined.

Despite nearly six months of harvesting, it appears that we not exceed the one million four hundred thousand tons of sugar expected (an extended time when historically, with less technological equipment and development, the harvest reached four to five million tons in less than ninety days).

At least, that is what emerges from the literature on the harvest in the province of Villa Clara. Figures are figures: despite organizational measures taken, resources allocated, etc., the harvest produced 11,000 fewer tons than planned (5,400 tons more than the previous harvest, which was 5,600). In addition, it missed the 44% of the time (26.66% is attributed to the rains), the sugar mill capacity reached  56%, a very low indicator, and industrial performance was 10.60.

The listed causes are many: lack of control, lack of coordination and forecasting, rainfall, human activity, especially among those cadres led the process, administrative and technological indiscipline, excessive foreign matter, grinding cane backward and burnt, low combined productivity, lack of on time completion with the necessary means to guarantee the results, indiscipline among the brigades at the beginning and end of the day, poor quality of delivered equipment and parts, late delivery to the centers (up to 37 days overdue), and so on. The list of misfortunes could go on and become endless. A similar picture is repeated in other provinces.

I ask two simple questions: Is this not enough, repeated year after year, to finally understand that the “model” does not work? Why do we have to wait before deciding to discard and replace it with one that has shown itself, despite its imperfections, to be better, more productive and better?

7 June 2013