Higher Salaries Equal Higher Production / Fernando Dámaso

Fernando Damaso, Havana, 26 October 2018 — According to some economists, the minimum wage in Cuba today, in order to keep up with the high cost of living, should exceed 1,200 CUP* per month (the equivalent of 50 CUC*, or roughly $50 US), well above its current level. This amount does not take into account one’s desires, repairs or improving one’s housing, for which it would be insufficient. We are talking about a subsistence minimum wage, where the citizen would have about 40 CUP per day (the equivalent of 1.55 CUC).

With regard to salaries, for years, government authorities have adopted the absurd principle that, in order to increase it, they must first increase production. This principle, internationally dismissed as wrong, is intended to remain irrevocable, when it is more than proven that an increase in wages is what leads to the increase of production, and the increase of in production, in turn, develops the market and increases consumption (with the wages earned by citizens), forcing a greater increase in production. continue reading

The link between wages-production-markets-consumption is the one that can help to cut the “Gordian knot” of our economy although, for now, it is clear that no one dares to do so, because political interests predominate over economic interests.

This economic anomaly, together with many other absurdities, imposed on Cuban society, has discouraged citizens’ initiative and the development of more efficient and modern forms of production. Meanwhile, the authorities, rather than solving the great problems they have created, concern themselves with prosecuting and punishing everything that demonstrates the economic inefficiency of socialism: the lack of productivity, the low quality of the goods produces, theft, corruption, embezzlement, losses and constant failures that characterizes it. It is the story of the “tree that is born crooked and its trunk never straightens.”

Meanwhile, our pro-government economists continue to invent formulas, ignoring the many successful experiences applied by different countries around the world.

*Translator’s note: Cuba has two official currencies, the Cuban Peso (CUP) and the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), with the latter being worth 25 times more than the former.  Most wages are paid in CUP but many products are only sold in CUC. The rationing system, it is generally agreed, only provides enough food — at extremely low prices but of limited types — for about 10 days per month.

Real and Wonderful / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, 8 October 2018 — Next year, in the month of November, we will celebrate 500 years of the founding of Villa de San Cristóbal de La Habana. The authorities, after sixty years of abandonment and neglect, with the honorable exception of the Historian of the City, mainly in Old Havana and its surroundings, are mobilized to try to beautify it and make it a little presentable on such an important date.

The city’s large accumulated problems, such as 90% of its housing stock in only fair or poor condition, hundreds of unhealthy slums, where families are crowded, thousands of homeless sheltered for years in inadequate facilities and in miserable conditions, lack of public transportation, the shortage of drinking water, the collapsed drainage and sewage systems, the lack of public lighting and frequent power cuts, streets and sidewalks destroyed, dirt and filth due to the lack of garbage and solid waste collection, the destruction and non-replacement of trees along the streets and in avenues and parks, depressing and poorly supplied state shops, deafening noises, widespread social indiscipline and others, of course, can not be solved in thirteen months of work. continue reading

For this, time, workforce and material resources are lacking. In addition, we cannot do in a year what was left undone for six decades.

Therefore, it is foreseeable, accustomed as we are to these massive cyclical marathons, that everything will be concentrated on rescuing some of the other important facilities, mainly in Old Havana, Plaza and Playa, the privileged municipalities, renovating some parks and painting the facades (never the side or rear walls) of the buildings in the main streets and avenues, as “showcases.”

It has been announced that Chinatown will be rescued, where there are very few Chinese left, mainly with an eye to the tourists. Will Chinese be imported to inhabit it? Will they be authorized to run private businesses? A Chinatown without active Chinese would be a mockery.

The “deep city,” that formed by the remaining municipalities, except the avenue that joins the José Martí international airport to the city in the Boyeros Municipality, which will surely be used as a showcase, will receive only a few crumbs of the feast. This will be compensated with a lot of music, rum and beer in the days of the celebration, so that the sorrows are forgotten.

Once the marathon is over and the goals have been met by all the participating agencies and institutions, political events will be held with the most notable to reward the work done, flags and certificates will be handed out, and so on until the next anniversary.

We must pray that nature will not spoil the party with the visit of a hurricane in September or October, months in which they usually visit us every year, because then the 500th Anniversary would be sad.

Political Discrimination / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, 30 August 2018 — The need to eliminate the various types of existing discrimination is constantly discussed and written-about in Cuba. Among them: race, gender, sexual orientation, region or country of origin, physical or mental disabilities, etc., etc. Even so, nothing is said or noted about getting rid of political discrimination. Apparently, just as the “irrevocable socialism” article–appended to the previous Constitution and also present in the current one–says, it possesses a like character.

Political discrimination has been a constant practice, applied from the highest levels of the Party and the State towards any such citizen who does not agree with the party line, and it can be seen–in its most fanatic, dogmatic and unhealthy extremes–in the Union of Young Communists, and in the student and youth organizations ruled and controlled by it.

Its leaders, advised and directed by their party and government “elders,” shout outdated slogans, rattle on about subjects of which they know nothing, and regularly use physical violence to impose their retrograde ideas on the rest of the young people.

They have tied them to the past, swindling them out of their present and compromising their future. For them there is no such thing as respectful dialogue, nor civilized engagement with differing opinions, because they have been brought up in the perpetual monologue: that of themselves with themselves.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

A Time That Should Not Be Forgotten / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, 25 September 2018 — When I argue that the Cuban Communist Party lacks aby historical endorsement for calling itself the “leading force of society and of the state,” I do so based on concrete facts of its trajectory. One of them is in reference to their current acceptance of sexual diversity.

Although, before 1959, the original Communist Party was never homophobic (it had in its ranks important figures and homosexual militants of both sexes), after 1959, with its new leadership, this liberal policy changed and it became homophobic, devoting itself to rejection, persecution and repression of homosexuals and of those who seemed to be so, in all spheres of society, beginning with the artistic and intellectual world.

Do not forget the infamous “gray decade,” where important artists and intellectuals were marginalized and repressed due to their different sexual preferences. Although, later, the blame for this was attributed to certain characters, used as “scapegoats,” these had been placed in office by the Party and the Government and, simply, they obediently executed the discriminatory policy they were ordered to apply. continue reading

The National Council of Culture, the Cuban Radio and Television Institute and the universities are good examples. But not only was the artistic and intellectual sector was affected: in workplaces, institutions of secondary and pre-university education, mass governmental organizations (the so-called current civil society), military units and, as was logical, in the Party and in the Union of Young Communists themselves, many Cubans with different sexual preferences were publicly questioned and expelled.

The Military Units in Aid of Production, the infamous UMAP, interned not only homosexuals, but also those who wore long hair, wore tight trousers or listened to the music of The Beatles, because these later behaviors were considered “attributes” of the former. Those who professed some religion also fell in the raids.

The facts are there and also the many lives destroyed. None of the primary leaders has asked for forgiveness from the Cuban people for all these barbarities.

In these critical moments the Party, unanimously, supported and executed all these arbitrary measures promulgated by its leaders, although now, also unanimously, under the influence of the daughter of the current First Secretary (Mariela Castro, daughter of Raul Castro), it proclaims itself a defender of sexual diversity and even of marriage between persons of the same sex.

These extremist swings in its history, together with many other well-known ones, invalidate the Party establishing itself in the constitution as a “leading force of society and of the state.”

Speaking of Inviability / Fernando Damaso

Sign on tree: Forbidden to throw trash.

Fernando Dámaso, 3 October 2018 — Five reasons that demonstrate the inviability of socialism in Cuba.

1. In 1958, Cuba occupied the 29th place among the largest economies in the world. After 60 years of the socialist experiment, it has come to occupy one of the last places, both for its economy and its GDP.

2. From being the largest sugar producer in the world, with annual productions that grew from a few thousand to 7 million tons in 1952, with an annual average of 4-5 million, for years the country now produces a figure similar to that of 1894, which was 1,054,214 tons. continue reading

3. From having, in 1837, the first railroad in Ibero-America and the third in the world, it now has the worst railroad, with obsolescence in railroads and equipment, incapable of even working badly and providing an elementary service. The same has happened with vehicular transport in roads and towns and cities, with roads in terrible condition and insufficient car parking.

4. From having, in 1958, important light industry, where more than 10,000 different articles were manufactured, which satisfied most of the national demand, today everything has to be imported, including items as simple as toilet paper, detergents and jams.

5. From being a hygienic country, characterized by cleanliness and the state of conservation of its towns and cities, it has become an unhygienic, dirty country with ruined buildings, with 45% of the homes at the national level, in a “bad and regular” state.

There are many more economic, political and social reasons to demonstrate the nonviability, shown by chain of failures of socialism in Cuba, but these five are more than enough.

In short, socialism has shown its unviability wherever it has been tried, including China and Vietnam, where they have had to adopt the market economy to get out of arrears and achieve development, although they still maintain their political-partisan status.

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.