The End of Freebies by the Revolution / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

Source: Cuban government website: Cubadebate.cu
Source: Cuban government website: Cubadebate.cu

cubanet square logoCubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 7 September 2016 — In recent days, the Cuban official media announced the implementation of a tax on personal income for workers in the State’s business sector, as well as an extension of payments called Social Security Special Contribution (CESS) – that workers at the so-called “perfecting entities” were already paying into.

The new measure will take effect on October 1st of this year and will involve over 1.3 million workers who will “benefit” from the Business Improvement System (SPE) along with those receiving payments for results and profits. Such an arrangement “confirms the redistributive function of tax revenues and allows a decreasing participation of the State budget in the financing of public expenditure,” according to officials quoted by the official press. Continue reading “The End of Freebies by the Revolution / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya”

The payment of taxes will be deducted directly from State company workers’ income by the State company, which will forward it to the State Budget. That is, workers will collect their a salary after deductions are taken by their State employer for payment to the State.

Contrary to what might happen in a moderately democratic country, where workers can join together in free trade unions and make demands against measures that affect their wages and income, in Cuba there have been no demonstrations, strikes or insubordination in the labor groups affected by this arrangement. Nor is this expected to occur. Against the grain of what some imaginative foreign digital media may claim about “over one million angry workers,” to date no event in the Cuban scene justifies such a headline.

Actually, Cuban State workers, deprived of such a basic right as free association, have developed in recent decades other peculiar ways of processing their dissatisfaction with government actions that harm them, such as being less productive and increasing theft and “diversion” of resources to round up their depressed wages with additional “profits” from such diversions; or emigrating to the private sector – which has been becoming more frequent and expeditious – or permanently leaving the country to seek prosperity away from the costly “protection” of the Castro regime.

For its part, the Central de Trabajadores de Cuba (CTC, Cuban Workers Center), the only “union” legally recognized in Cuba, not only has failed to fulfill the functions it supposedly was created for, and – on the contrary – is developing a whole strategy of support for the government, holding meetings at the grassroots level so that union leaders may enlighten workers about the need to contribute to the State Budget as a way of contributing to the fabulous social benefits they are enjoying, especially with regard to health and education.

For this purpose there have been commissioners who, either due to their lack of mental capacity, out of sheer perversity, or for both reasons, mention among these “freebies” the public’s use of battered highways and roads, the calamitous sewer system or even the precarious and almost nonexistent system of streetlights.

However, implementation of the new tax measures should not surprise anyone. Since the 2011 Sixth Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC), the Guidelines framed on Fiscal Policy announced that “higher taxes for higher incomes” (Guideline 57) would be established, and that the tax system would gradually “advance widely to increase its effectiveness as an element of redistribution of income.”

In that vein, on November 2012, Law 113 (of the Tax System) was approved, repealing Law 73 of August 1994, establishing a special provision that reads: “Personal Income tax on salaries and other qualifying income, in accordance with the special rules and Property Tax on Housing and vacant lots to Cuban-born citizens and foreign individuals permanently residing in the national territory, will be required, if economic and social conditions warrant its implementation, which will be approved by the Budget Act of the corresponding year.”

In April 2016, the VII Congress of the PCC once again took up the issue of the need for the population to develop a tax culture, stressed the inability of the State to continue assuming the costs of social benefits and announced that it was studying the implementation of a system of personal income tax… when suitable conditions existed.

In light of today, it becomes obvious that these “conditions” did not refer specifically to an increase in workers’ purchasing power, which is still insufficient despite the much vaunted 54% increase in the average wage in the State business sector from 2013 to the present, which places the wage at 779 Cuban pesos (about US $31) according to official figures. Rather the “conditions” are the State’s increasing inability to ensure the already deficient social security by itself, plus the budget deficit, which the government’s own media places at 1.2 billion Cuban pesos, which must be covered by the treasury.

As officially reported, the State budget for 2016 is 52.4 billion Cuban pesos, of which 5.7 billion (more than 10% of the total budget) went to social security.

Hence Resolution #261 of 2 August 2016, by the Ministry of Finance and Prices, which sets out in detail the tax rate aimed at complementing Law 113 of the Tax System. This should have been applied starting in the second half of the year, but – apparently – nothing could be allowed to mar the Ex-Undefeated One’s 90th birthday celebration in August, so, during the last regular session of the National Assembly of People’s Power it was agreed to postpone the implementation of the resolution until the fourth quarter, starting with September’s income.

Of course, in a “normal” society, an increase in social benefits coincides with a rigorous compliance with a realistic tax policy. The problem is that Cuba does not have either of these two premises: it is neither a “normal” country nor does it have a “realistic” tax burden, but quite the opposite.

In fact, Cuba’s own laws demonize prosperity, limit and discourage production capacity, and discourage and penalize the “accumulation of wealth.” At the same time, there is colossal inflation and a deviant monetary duality: the country operates with two currencies, the Cuban peso (CUP) and the so-called Cuban convertible peso (CUC). For the most part wages are paid in the first currency, while a large portion of the necessities of daily life are sold only in the second. With an exchange rate of 25 Cuban pesos for 1 CUC, this creates an unbridgeable gap between Cubans with access to hard currency, CUCs, and the always insufficient living wage in national currency, CUPs, creating a distortion between official projections, real wages and workers’ cost of living.

Other accompanying factors to the tax culture of a nation, not reflected so far in the government’s plans, are the economic freedoms of those who produce the wealth – the taxpayers – and a necessary transparency in financial figures. Both the source of funds of the State Budget and the destiny of the revenue that feeds State funds through fiscal policy are occult matters of science, under the management of only a small group of anointed ones.

There are certain benefits of collateral privileges for some sectors, which are also not in the public domain. For example, the population does not know what percentage of the national budget is allocated to the cost of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR) and the Ministry of the Interior (MININT), although both ministries were the first to apply the SPE, while their employees enjoy higher wages, as well as prioritized plans for housing construction and free or irrationally cheap vacations at resorts with prices that are prohibitive for the pockets of common workers. They also get guaranteed transportation services, the largest motor home park in the country, preferential access to food products and a long list of freebies.

In addition, there has been no information on the relationship between the tax and the pensions that retirees get. That is, how many State workers should pay taxes to cover the pensions of all retirees, and what are the projections in this direction for a population that is aging at an alarming rate, and that is, in addition, being hit by the growing and constant exodus abroad of its labor force.

At the moment, workers – suddenly converted to taxpayers without economic rights – have not been liberated of their patriotic obligations such as the “donation” of a day’s pay for the National Militias Troops, a shell entity which nobody sees or belongs to, but with a fixed quota, or of the union fees for an association whose primary function is to defend management. Cuckolded and beaten.

What is uncontested is the efficiency of the State in sharpening its pencils and doing its math. It is known that 1736 State-owned businesses have average salaries in excess of 500 Cuban pesos at which the tax goes into effect; therefore, their workers will begin to take on the new tax burden that will make their incomes dwindle. The bad news is that, presumably, many State workers will give up their jobs to look more promising ones elsewhere. The good news is that Daddy State will stop bragging about so many expensive freebies.

The “gains” made by the workers through half a century of “Revolution” are quickly blurring.

Translated by Norma Whiting

For an Uncomfortable Journalism / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

(Photo: laopcion.com.mx)
(Photo: laopcion.com.mx)

cubanet square logoCubanet, Miriam Celaya, 26 August 2016, Havana — It’s been said that radically opposite ends end up looking alike. That truism has become irrefutable for those of us who are dedicated to independent journalism in Cuba, especially those who practice the basic right of free expression through opinion columns and end up subjected to relentless crossfire, both from the dictatorial power with its powerful monopoly of the press, and from the anti-Castro opposition, and even from “colleagues” of the profession, who are supposedly champions of freedom of expression.

Specifically the press, whose Cuban origins date back to 1790 with the emergence of the newspaper Papel Periódico de la Habana, founded by La Sociedad Económica de Amigos del País*, was one of the most solid pillars of the 1902 Republic, where dozens of newspapers and magazines circulated. In 1922 the first radio station emerged, and by 1930 the number of stations had grown to 61. Television, meanwhile, arrived in Cuba in 1950, and included new informational and news programs. Continue reading “For an Uncomfortable Journalism / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya”

Somehow, over half a century a twisted and pernicious political system has ended up undermining the social foundations so deeply that perhaps the same amount of time will be needed — if not more — to recover, at least partially, the weak republican civic fabric that was taken from us since the “Revolutionary victory.”

If we add to this the newsreels that existed previously, it can be concluded that Cuba had a strong media tradition that promoted the development of public opinion and political formation of a good part of the population through a range of views of the most diverse trends in different subjects of interest to national life.

With its lights and shadows, journalism during the republic enjoyed a healthy development until Castro I took it over and “nationalized” it to found his private press monopoly and place it at the service of the government’s power, its role today. Nevertheless, its counterpart — independent journalism — emerged in the 90’s, and in recent years, driven by the use of new information technologies and communications, has managed to gain space and even grow under truly precarious and hostile conditions, against repression, harassment, and other adversities.

The history and ups and downs of Cuban independent journalism are too extensive to address in this text, since we would stray from the essential issue, which could be summed up in one cardinal question: are parties and opposition leaders prepared to assimilate the democratic paradigms which the Castro dictatorship is presumably facing? Or, more directly, do they have a clear awareness that freedom of expression is a basic, inescapable element of any society that aspires to be considered as democratic?

Judging from my personal experience and the reactions I’ve received from some leaders and their staunchest followers when I questioned their proposals, attitudes and methods, I fear that not all “democratic fighters” in Cuba and in exile are ready to take on the challenge of a free press. In addition, I would argue that the dangerous virus of “intransigence” has undermined the proto-democratic corpus of Cuba’s independent civil society and — together with the miasma of autocratic government, authoritarianism, and its evil companions — is replicating patterns of the system it iss trying to topple.

For certain “illuminati,” criticism of the opposition it is not only harmful, but practically an act of “treason” – a term very much in vogue in the media — as it “panders to the dictatorship” or “discredits” leaders “who are really doing something.” As the General-President Raul Castro always points out, some opponents consider that there is “a right place and a right time” for criticism. That moment, in his view, has not come, and since they feel personally attacked, they react with insults and reproaches, not with arguments, in an unadulterated Castro style.

A frequent accusation launched against any question or opinion that differs from one of these illustrious champions of democracy is that criticism tends to “divide” the opposition, and unaware individuals might think that it was once united. It is also the position of another obstacle: the opportunists; who, in the absence of their own limelight take the opportunity to pose as practical and as conciliators, paternally scolding the transgressor journalist and brandishing one of the most inaccurate phrases often repeated in the corridors: “at the end of the day, we are all on the same page.”

As if instead of politicians and journalists, positions commonly in tune in fairly healthy Western societies, we were school children who bicker for a treat at summer camp.

However, what is most alarming in this senseless contrapuntal — since a truly democratic leader infused by a truly democratic sense should be more interested in the well-argued criticisms he gets than in the servile adulations always at hand — is that reality is being reflected in the self-censorship on the part of some independent journalists, who often, with greatest dishonesty and hypocrisy, silently approve the criticisms that their boldest colleagues publish, so they utter low and furtive congratulations and keep quiet their own disapproval, for fear of being branded “politically incorrect” or “agents,” this time from the antipodes of the Castro regime.

There is also no shortage of neo-chiefs who get offended when some irreverent journalist, like this writer, refuses to be of service or to become a chronicler of his personal scrapbooks. They can’t imagine how anyone could be so “lacking in solidarity” that she decides to prioritize other topics rather than their heroic campaigns and unparalleled demonstrations of patriotism and bravery.

If, to be exact, the journalist of yore prefers to avoid in his writings such bombastic phrases as “the hyena of Birán,” “the blood-spattered tyranny” or other similar theater affectation to qualify the autocrats of the Palace of the Revolution, he becomes de facto a suspicious subject.

Is any similarity to the anointed of the olive-green dome pure coincidence?

It feels like something trivial, however, it is really worrisome for the health of journalism that tomorrow’s censorship is taking shape in certain niches of the opposition today. If it continues, the end of the Castro dictatorship would only mean a change in the color of the political power’s muzzle over the free expression of citizens, and the beginning of an authoritarianism with a different emblem, but equally restrictive.

Barring our having chosen the exercise of opinion in the press as a profession, let’s have enough sense of ethics and respect for ourselves and for our readers to continue doing that uncomfortable journalism that keeps politicians today and tomorrow under the rigor of public scrutiny, just as they should be in a democratic society.

Personally, I reject sappy and complacent journalism, journalism’s subordination to any leadership, and, particularly I reject impunity. That may not be what is expected of independent journalism by the very controversial “servants of the people”; but it certainly is what good Cubans expect.

*Translator’s note: Sociedades Económicas were established in the Spanish colonies (Havana’s is the only one that still survives to date, since 1793) whose mission was that of promoting local economic development, Members were generally drawn from the local aristocracy, scholars, professionals and skilled artisans. Some of the groups strayed into activities that bordered on the political, and were punished by having their legal licenses revoked.

Translated by Norma Whiting

The Best Way to “Become a Man”? / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

Cuban soldiers carry rocket propelled grenade launchers during a military parade in Havana's Revolution Square April 16, 2011.
Cuban soldiers carry rocket propelled grenade launchers during a military parade in Havana’s Revolution Square April 16, 2011. Reuters

cubanet square logoCubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 16 August 2016 — Recently, during my brief stay in Miami to participate in an academic meeting on legal issues, I was surprised to hear from a Cuban emigrant – fairly old in age – about his wish that, in a future democratic Cuba, a law of compulsory military service would be maintained. His proposal was based on the assumption that military life imposes discipline and maturity in young people. Virtues – his opinion – which are practically extinct on the island.

Very frequently and with minimal variations, I’ve heard this phrase in different scenarios for Cubans of the most dissimilar political ideas or with no political ideas at all. The common denominator is the age of those who think this way: usually adults over 55 or 60. Continue reading “The Best Way to “Become a Man”? / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya”

It would seem that the experience of the failed Republic, where so many presidents came from military life, and the nearly six decades of this calamitous revolution, led and directed ad infinitum by the military, there are some that just don’t get the damage inflicted by this entrenched militarist tradition in our history.

There are still those who think that certain “misguided” young people can “become men” after being forced to complete their military service, preferably in so-called combat units. “The boys have to go through hard work and get to know what hunger and hard life are in order to have discipline,” state many venerable septuagenarians. However, if such a principle were true, we Cubans who have been born and raised under the Castro regime would be among the most disciplined people on the planet.

The strange thing is that the same principle has been valid for both Tyrians and Trojans. Suffice it to recall that supporters of Fulgencio Batista were convinced that the country’s leadership should be in the hands of a “strong man,” even if it meant the violation of constitutional order, a perception that made the March 1952 coup possible, which opened a new door to military violence.

Just a few years later, another “strong man” was beating popularity records among Cubans, when he took power by force of arms, overthrew the earlier “strong one” and imposed the longest military dictatorship that this hemisphere has known.

That same militaristic thought made possible the existence of the notorious Military Units to Aid Production, created with the aim of amending and “making men,” through the rigor and discipline of military life, out of homosexuals, religious, “softies,” petty bourgeois and other elements whose tendencies and attitudes did not seem worthy enough to the “macho” olive green power elite.

And, on behalf of that bellicose national spirit, invoked from Law 75 (or the National Defense Act), thousands and thousands of young Cubans have been called to the military ranks. Castro-type military testosterone planted in several countries of South America and Africa in the form of guerrillas has not just been exported from Cuba, but hundreds of young Cuban recruits who completed the Compulsory Military Service were sacrificed uselessly in the war in Angola. Those who returned alive still carry the trauma of war to the present day, although there has never been a single patient officially reported with post-traumatic stress syndrome. Young people who refused to go to war, meanwhile, suffered military prison for “treason.”

The chimeric moral superiority of military training in men is directly correlated to the machista Cuban culture and is reflected even in familiar popular phrases. Who has not heard of “if you do not like it, go lead an uprising in the Sierra”; or “don’t act so brave, you have never fired a shot,” because being “one who fires shots” is not only an irrefutable sign of manly courage, but also the source of legitimacy of the force imposed over arguments.

Undoubtedly, those who advocate the supposed virtues of military discipline as a solution to the crisis of Cuban social values forget that over half a century of Compulsory Military Service, far from forming the character of our young people, has been a source of humiliation and deprivation, having only succeeded in enhancing the resentment and frustration of being forcibly subjected to an activity for which they do not feel the slightest vocation. I cannot think of a worse way to “become men.”

Keep in mind that a mechanism for corruption has been promoted from the standpoint of purchasing permanent deferments at recruitment offices by parents of young men subject to the draft, often with forged medical certificates alleging their adolescent children have some sort of handicap and are unable to undergo the rigors of a combat unit. Another way is through bribing the officials in charge of enlisting, who, for a set amount in hard currency, make the candidate’s file disappear, and he is not called to serve.

But the military band of men in Cuba extends beyond the compliance of active duty, since once he is “licensed,” the soldier becomes part of the country’s military reserve and is subject to mobilization whenever the Party-State-Government declares some imaginary threat or craves a show of force.

In so-called combat units, an inaccurate term for referring to the camp and shooting areas, weaponry and exercises, most of the recruits’ time is spent clearing fields and cleaning, or in some activity related to repairing and maintaining the headquarters’ kitchens. At the end of their active duty, many of them may only have “practiced” shooting their weapons once, and some not even that, so they are very far from being trained to carry out a war or to defend the country in case of aggression.

Of note, among other factors in the “training” of young recruits in Cuba, are poor living conditions in the units, poor health, poor diet, lack of drinking water or sanitary services, forced labor, mistreatment by officers, among other hardships that have nothing to do with military training, with preparation for the defense of the country or with the forging of character in discipline and high ethical and moral values which they would have to aspire to.

Compulsory Military Service has not only served the regime as a clamping and blackmail mechanism over Cuban adolescents – restricting the continuance of their studies, travel abroad or holding jobs – but it constitutes one of the most backward obstacles we need to get rid of as soon as possible. In a democratic Cuba the army should not replace the functions of home and civilian schools in forming our youth’s values. In fact, most Cubans who have lived for nearly six decades in this prison of olive-green uniformed guards, who have endured a regime of orders and control as if instead of citizens we are obedient soldiers, wish to be present at the conclusion of the detrimental cult of the epaulets and the philosophy of “people in uniform.”

A simple look at the most emblematic figures of Cuban civic history reveals the primacy of civilian-humanist over militaristic thought in forging the nation. Examples abound, but we quote only emblematic names like Félix Varela, José de la Luz y Caballero and José Martí, champions of virtues very distant from the staunch Hispanic militarism breath that has choked our spirit since 1492 until today.

A separate topic would be the future existence of military academies, where officers with real military vocations would be trained in different specialties, and would lead a well-paid professional army, properly prepared and much smaller in numbers than the substantial hordes of hungry and resentful rookies that are bundled in the armed forces today, who, in an imaginary case of aggression, would only serve as cannon fodder.

It is not reasonable that a small, poor and malnourished country that is not at war or under the threat of an armed conflict has more men lazing about wasting time in an unnecessary army than producing the wealth and food so urgently needed.

However, it remains true that in a future Cuba we will need a formidable army, only not an army of soldiers, but of teachers, professionals from all walks of life, from the labor forces, from our peasant population, our merchants, businessmen, free citizens. They will shoulder a much greater responsibility than a thousand regiments of warriors: the material and moral reconstruction of a nation ruined specifically by the military caste planted in power in the last half century, which has been more pernicious and destructive than the sum of all wars fought in the history of this land.

Translated by Norma Whiting

A Deplorable Spectacle / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

Fidel Castro at the Colmenita Gala event on the occasion of his 90th birthday (photo: Juvenal Balán/Granma)
Fidel Castro at the Colmenita Gala event on the occasion of his 90th birthday (photo: Juvenal Balán/Granma)

It is a crime to manipulate a child’s conscience for the adulation of a dictator.

cubanet square logoCubanet, Miriam Celaya, 15 August 2016, Havana – This Saturday, August 13, 2016, was the culmination of true torture after months of putting up with the fanfare in the official media on the occasion of the ninetieth birthday of the Specter-in-Chief.

Against any reasonable forecast, the responsibility for the birthday celebration was delegated to the members of the children’s art troupe “La Colmenita,” (The Little Beehive) and was presented to an audience that was beyond unusual: a theater crowded with adults dressed in military accoutrements or in pressed white guayaberas, Cuban dress shirts.

In the front row, flanked by the president of Venezuela on his left and his brother Raúl Castro on his right, the Orate Magnus in the flesh writhed in his seat and turned to whisper something to the Venezuelan catafalque, without paying much attention to the apotheosis of bad taste that was taking place on stage. Undaunted and haughty, as he has always been, he remained indifferent to the adulation, as if the whole deployment of major sucking-up were not exclusively devoted to him and his irreparable 90 years. Continue reading “A Deplorable Spectacle / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya”

However, it this upside-down granddaddy, to whom the children narrated stories, is not what this commentary is about, but specifically about the child actors who were charged with the responsibility for the pathetic spectacle, whose most salient feature was a waste of a repulsive cult towards the ancient dictator.

An alienated representation of Abdala, José Martí’s well-known theater piece, where the hysteria and the over-acting of the two young performers stood out in stark contrast to the firm, serene and happy mood behind this work of Martí, was the strong dish that attempted to draw a parallel line between the hero of the play–young Abdala marching off to war—and Cuba’s ex-chief.

Meanwhile, the girl in the role of the mother of Patriot Abdala rendered herself on the stage with the same deranged passion of a slum tango, to the delight of all spectators… except one. Poor children, victims of the political manipulations of their elders! Poor Martí, so used and abused by the power of a satrapy that has turned Cuba into exactly the opposite of what he dreamed of!

Meanwhile, on the backdrop, images from the Wars of Independence were projected, followed by other, real ones, of the guerrillas in the Sierra Maestra, the Bay of Pigs battle and the thousand useless fights tussled by the ex-Undefeated from his climate-controlled headquarters. The same ossified scheme of the aesthetics of socialist realism rooted in the years of the Cold War. The consecration of mediocrity.

And just in case the show wasn’t tasteless enough, the City Historian and a decrepit Omara Portuondo were brought onto the stage. In a shaky voice, Portuondo sang (again!), “The era is giving birth to a heart.” Castro I sat in an armchair because his dreadful state of health no longer allows those incendiary speeches standing on his feet before the public. The City Historian, one of the most notorious pimps of Castro I, made a grotesque and vulgar tribute praising the culture and genius of the nonagenarian honoree, his astonishing knowledge, his aptitude for speaking (and supposedly also “for listening”), the beauty of his hands and that “Fidel” had given him a tie 20 years ago.

The children’s feigned passion, the fake joy of the director and the artificial rigidity of the public provoked embarrassment among the rest of the people, but it especially arouses indignation to note how brainwashed these children are. Their carefully learned scripts, their acting gestures, the projection of their voices; everything indicates thorough indoctrination, long hours snatched from the play and joy of that brief period of their lives, to be submitted to obedience and sacrifice in order to satisfy the vanity of the old tyrant.

The U.N.’s Convention on the Rights of the Child should condemn this practice as a criminal violation, suitable to Nazism, to manipulate the conscience of defenseless children in serving the ideological interests of adults.

The children arouse pity. In a not-too-distant day, when the revered specter of today is just a bad memory next to a pile of ashes, they will discover that they were used in the service of an outdated ideology and that their candor was sacrificed at the foot of a statue of the past, with the willing consent of those who should protect them: their parents. I would like to think that at least the children will have the opportunity to change course.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Neither “Humble” Nor “Young” Nor “Majorities”: Simply “Citizens” / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

Source: diarioexpresso.com.ve
Source: diarioelexpresso.com.ve

cubanet square logoCubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 1 August 2016 – We are nearing 60 years since that ominous January 1959, and after decades of ideological fraud and demagogic discourse, we might expect that at least the political pillars on which the current aspirations of Cuban society rest would have radically changed. However, this is not the case. Some populist myths have become so deeply rooted in the social imagination that they have become commonplace and even been assumed to be incontrovertible truths.

Some of these principles useful for political messianism, especially in Latin America and Cuba, have been the perceptions of “the humble,” “the youth,” and “the majority.” These, not to mention other subdivisions that also carry political weight – such as those wielded by racial claims (for non-whites or whites), gender (women only), or sexual preference (for LGBT) – in a county where absolutely all of us have been dispossessed, far beyond our individual categorizations. Continue reading “Neither “Humble” Nor “Young” Nor “Majorities”: Simply “Citizens” / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya”

It is these intangible categories that skillfully serve to place everyone – subjects that can be classified in any of those areas by their condition as supposed beneficiaries and protagonists of policies dictated from the speeches and political projects; and the politics of any position – whose projects rarely get past the proposal stage – to gain the goodwill and votes of those sectors.

Put this way, any interlocutor could argue that these are strategies used by almost all the politicians in the world, which is true. But in free societies there are also democratic structures such as the separation of powers; civil society in its various manifestations and its specific objectives; freedom of expression, communication and press, as well as multiple independent state institutions that question, demand and moderate politicians.

In the case of Cuba, however, more than half a century of autocracy has not only consolidated the demagoguery from Power, but – in the absence of a strong independent civil society and a well-articulated opposition – this demagoguery has become a kind of political subculture that has even polluted the speech of some opinion leaders and the opposition, despite the value of many of their proposals.

This is why, in the laudable desire to demand democratic spaces for all Cubans, more than a few discourses presented as alternatives to the official line also commonly reference the demands of “the humble,” while calling on the inspiration of the transformations of the country, especially from “the youth,” and offer themselves as interpreters of the demands of “the majority.”

“They are humble people, and so good and hardworking people,” some of them affirm referring to the poor sectors of society – the majority. As if poverty itself constitutes a virtue or that implicit in it is honesty and industriousness. One might think, then, that prosperity is the parent of evil and laziness.

With such assumptions, the legitimacy of political projects would be directly proportional to the defense they offer to the interests of “the humble,” which are “the majority,” in detriment to the rights of the more economically advantaged “minorities,” thus following the patterns of populist regimes who have done so much damage in the region and, incidentally, strengthened the dispossession of these economically advantaged “minorities.”

And, given that in Cuba the “Revolution” has performed the miracle of converting an entire people into an army of the needy, with no lack of new messiahs, some of them as egocentric as that boastful young man in the olive-green uniform with the dove on his shoulder [Fidel Castro]. These new messiahs return to draw upon the discourse of the victimization of the “humble people,” for whom they fight and sacrifice, because this “childlike people” is immature and congenitally incapable of defending itself.

However, it is a truism that the most relevant social transformations are led by minorities, as minorities are also opposition groups facing dictatorial regimes. Minorities are, in addition, the entrepreneur class that in free societies contribute taxes to the public treasury, and at the same time create jobs, among other contributions.

A class that, in counterpoint to so much populist megalomania, we need to consolidate in a post-Castro Cuba to lift the country’s dire economy. In a future democracy it will be this will be accomplished not only by investors who come from the outside, but also those entrepreneurial sectors (the so-called “cuentapropistas” in today’s Cuba) – a minority – that today is repressed and stifled by the same power that strangles all of us.

On the other hand, to award “the young” in Cuba the role of the “vanguard” in the changes espoused – perhaps as an unwitting parody of the official tendency to devalue the present, always expendable for the sake of a luminous future – is at the very least an illusion in the light of current reality. Not only because “the young” are not, in and of themselves, do not enjoy the condition of success without which the changes needed cannot be guaranteed – as shown by the fact that the 1959 Revolution was led and carried out primarily by young people, with the results that we all know – but also because a great part of Cuban youth choose emigration abroad over rebuilding their nation.

In this regard, the emergence of some pro-democracy centers and organizations of youth activists on the island is a hopeful sign, as they have endeavored to gain representation and have incorporated new proposals within already existing ones from previous years. Sadly, these projects are still in the early stages, but they are renovating spaces and bring a different vision, more attuned to this century than are some of the old formulations.

But it also happens that in Cuba, where there is an accelerated demographic trend toward an aging population, that the enormous segment of Cubans over ages 45 or 50 must be taken into account, not in terms of their economic potential but because of their broad political representation and their potential as voters in an eventual scenario of transition and democratic elections.

In fact, most of the opponents, dissidents, and independent journalists of today are exactly in that age group, such that one of the current challenges is to achieve the creation – apparently still well in the future – of an inclusive strategic block that on the one hand brings together the minimum consensus of all proposals and, on the other, capitalizes on social discontent and reflects the interests of everyone.

It is an old aspiration, whose attempts at realization have so far ended in failure, due mainly to the extreme fragmentation of the opposition and independent civil society – divided by leadership, methods of struggle, finance, prison pedigree, age, geographic region, proposals, ages and even racial or gender composition – which weakens the whole and in turn makes it easier for the repressive forces and, ultimately, the powers-that-be.

But, back to the initial topic, it is not about omitting the interests of the “majority” of society, scorning the importance of “the young” or failing to recognize the importance of the new leadership for the present and the future. What it really is about is the need to move to a new political message, better articulated, that reflects the reality of these times and abandons once and for all the Manichean tenets of postulates of the twentieth century, peppered with praise for “the humble, the young and the majorities.”

Specifically, it urges offering a hopeless, faithless and apathetic people an alternative of real changes and an image of convincing cohesion, particularly in these moments when Power has not only lost its capital of faith, but has just announced a promised future of major difficulties. This task belongs to political leaders.

And that alternative is not going to be achieved with the repetition, from opposite poles, from positions of martyrdom, immolation and victimization, however sincere and well-intentioned they may be. Let’s not fool ourselves: ordinary Cubans are tired of martyrs; they no longer want leaders willing to die to “point the way,” because they prefer the way to life and prosperity. Leaders need to live.

We leave it then, to social scientists, this task of elaborating the taxonomies and nominalist segmentations that separate us. Opponents must articulate a more integrated discourse and postpone internal competition for a future in democracy, if they truly desire “the good of all.” And times of freedom will arrive that will permit the certification of social divisions without their implying secular privileges nor transgressing against the rights of one person or another.

Personally, I will continue to distrust any harangue vindicating the humble, flattering the young or legalistically defrauding minorities. Let us say “citizen,” and let this simple word alone encompass the dreams of Cubans of any origin, social sector and age.

About False Taínos and Alleged “New Trends” / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

In the "Taíno" village “Guamá” blowing into a conch shell (photo Martí News)
In the “Taíno” village “Guamá” blowing into a conch shell (photo Martí News)

cubanet square logoCubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 7 June 2016 — I recently read an internet article published by Martí News (Bogus Taíno1 Dance in Cuba Shocks an Intellectual Canadian Native), which — as the title indicates — is about a Canadian tourist’s experience during his stay in Cuba. He witnessed an imaginary Taíno show, choreographed in the Matanzas province by a group of dancers “with bare-breasted women, painted skin and wearing wigs,” who “talked about a dubious native Cuban rite on the force of a river.”

The scene that the tourist describes was a mixture of contemporary dance movements and alleged ritual representations, performed by… artists(??) supposedly dressed in Taíno costumes, including white bullseye circles painted on the women’s bare breasts. Continue reading “About False Taínos and Alleged “New Trends” / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya”

The greatest indignation of the Canadian tourist, who is himself a native North-American, was the amusement of his fellow travelers, who were so pleased with the scam that they even took pictures with the fictitious natives. The Canadian regarded – and with reason — that this ridiculous representation conveyed a false image of “a Caribbean Indian culture.”

On the subject, Martí News comments that this “picturesque” show was previously criticized by the “Castro regime’s organic intellectuals” but that now, “cash is king, and so is the tourist industry, which the authorities want to turn into a locomotive to drive the economy, taking advantage of the murky waters of the thaw with the US.” So the government “does not hesitate to use the pseudo-culture as bait for unwary tourists.”

This, however, is only a half-truth. Ancient culture farces is a universal practice and not exclusively Cuban. In addition, the use of nonexistent native expressions in Cuba as a tourist hook to catch foreign currency is a reality, but far from being a novelty. In fairness, it predates the current avalanche of American tourists and, without a doubt, existed for a long time before President Barack Obama decided to restore relations with the Castro dictatorship. Though some find it hard to understand, not everything that is taking place in Cuba today stems from the new framework of relations between the two governments.

The interest in selling an “indigenous” tourism product beyond rum, cigars and the most affectionate prostitutes in the world has numerous precedents, ranging from apocryphal legends -like the love stories of Hatuey and Guarina in the eastern region of Cuba or that of the Indian lovers of Jagua, to chimeras, such as the treasure of Guamá, which, according to the oral folkloric tradition, lies at the bottom of the lake by the same name, in the current Matanzas province, where it was thrown by the Taíno rebel so the Spanish conquistadores could not find it.

In fact, Matanzas1 is one of the provinces with the highest record of aboriginal legends, even though it had low Taíno presence compared to the south-central and eastern regions of Cuba. There is, for example, the legend of the Yumurí — another romantic saga of love between a young Taíno couple — and the massacre of Spaniards by natives (or of natives by Spaniards, depending on who’s telling the story) which took place in the ample bay. Both the province and the bay were named after the incident.

All these sagas, more or less whimsical, come from pre-1959 Cuban traditions, and were compiled from the work of archaeologists, anthropologists and other scholars of pre-Columbian Cuba from the country’s practices. In particular, stories on these topics collected by members of the National Board of Archaeology around 1940 and 1950 stand out.

Such traditions, like so many others considered by the Castro regime as hoaxes and unenlightened thinking, typical of “colonialism and neo-colonialism eras” were almost completely erased from popular memory by the overwhelming thrust of decades of “revolutionary” indoctrination, but quickly unearthed starting in the 90s’, when the boom in tourism from foreign capital investments — mainly Spanish — took place, which saved the Cuban regime from asphyxia in the early post-Soviet crisis.

And it was precisely during that period in the 90s’ when the debauchery in search of dollars made possible the miracle of the existence of nothing less than a whole “Taíno community” in eastern Cuba, specifically in the town of Caridad de los Indios, in Yateras, Guantánamo province, whose population, though predominantly descended from the ancient Taíno people of the same region and with the same visible physical traits of that original ethnicity has not preserved the Arawak language of their native ancestors, nor their customs, arts, traditions, or belief systems.

In fact, residents of Caridad de los Indios, as in other remote villages in the region, have mixed equally with peasants of Spanish and African descent, and do not differ substantially in habits, customs and standard of speech of any other peasant population in the eastern region.

However, this did not prevent the cultural authorities and other astute provincial officials from recreating a semblance of a Taíno village with all the components of the stagehands out of those very poor locals in order to attract foreign exchange earnings for themselves and for the province in the depths of the 90s’.

Thus, they built caneyes2 in the modest village and created spaces. From the dressing rooms, they invented body adornments (necklaces made of shells and stones and polychromatic paintings on the skin), and even the feathers to be worn by locals, imitating the style of the colorful headdresses of certain continental native cultures. The animators staging the scenes probably copied from old Cinemascope western movies that were once shown on Sunday matinees at any neighborhood cinema.

So that nothing is missing and tourists will enjoy the unforgettable experience of an encounter with the true Taínos of Cuba, in the cacique4 village, there were medicine men [behíques], drugs smoked through the nostrils [cohoba], “Taíno princesses,” ceremonial dances and rites [areítos], bows and arrows (just props, of course) and even songs in an unintelligible “Arawak” language that probably made more than one venerable ancestor of the new Taínos of pastiche turn in his grave.

Arawak names also became more frequent — though they retained their Castilian surnames — so “Hatueys” and “Guamás” and even some “Atahualpas” and “Monctezumas” proliferated. At the end of the day, when it comes to profits, chauvinist concerns are non-existent.

Incredibly, the Taíno fraud worked for a while, and there was more than one visitor who, amid the obligatory areíto ritual — in which foreign tourists participated alongside the natives — was possessed by the spirit of some bellicose aboriginal great-great grandfather and fell in a kind of trance, in the style of spiritualism that is practiced in the eastern region of Cuba. Of course, this was very Taíno-like emotional and truthful.

The locals played their new roles with enthusiasm worthy of better causes, and got used to wearing their Taíno costumes before each group of visitors, and embodying the ambiance of what they believed would be a typical Taíno village, plenty of musical gourds, [guayos], feathers, loincloth, stoves for cooking cassava bread, campfires and a battery of artisanal tools created for this purpose. Everyone was happy: the new Taínos felt important for the first time in the history of their community; cultural and tourism dollars flowed into the official coffers — and especially into their thirsty pockets — and collaterally, the “Indians” also benefited financially and materially. They had discovered that it was more lucrative and less fatiguing be a Taíno than a peasant.

But behold, the unwary villagers came to believe they were genuine Taínos. So, when at one of the annual meetings of the Caribbean Festival — hosted in Santiago de Cuba, one of the sources with the most tourism influx to the “Taíno” village of Yateras — a group of similar “Taínos” appeared from Puerto Rico, representatives of a so-called “Taíno Nation” created to vindicate their rights as authentic West Indian natives and to demand compensation and return of land seized from their ancestors from the time of the Conquest, those from Yateras didn’t want to be left behind and decided to join the aforementioned pipe dream.

Numerous forms were filled out, with photographs and personal details of the alleged Taínos, and each were obstinate to “prove” tenaciously their aboriginal pedigree, to have the honor of belonging to the intangible nation and to have access to the appropriate compensation. The foreign press, meanwhile, had unleashed a whole tendentious campaign on the existence of “ethnic minorities” in Cuba, thus triggering the demons of censorship and repression on the Island.

It was, without a doubt, a “political problem” and a counterrevolution crime to encourage these Cuban peasants to acknowledge themselves as members of a particular ethnic group, and especially encourage them to claim ancestral rights. It was a crime to thus divide the Cuban nation and manipulate so perversely the goodwill of the people of Yateras.

As might be expected, there were purges. The official heads of those in charge rolled, provincial political authorities pretended to ignore the “diversionary” phenomenon that had developed in the face of the unsuspecting ideologues of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC); villagers were visited and warned by the censors about the dangers of such temptations of autonomy. As quickly as it had sprouted, the myth of the aboriginal village in remote eastern Cuba vanished.

Or, rather, it was transformed, since, even today, tourist excursions to Caridad de los Indios remain, so that foreign visitors may get to know the descendants of the original inhabitants of Cuba close-up, and see how much the Castro revolution has benefitted them. It is rumored that “areíto” rituals are carried out discretely. That is a peculiar spiritualist ceremony in which – in the afternoons — the spirit of mythical Hatuey comes to dance among the living, of which the locals are very proud, because, since now nobody deceives them, the leaders of the PPC have made it very clear that they descend from him: “the first Cuban revolutionary.”

1-The Taíno were an Arawak people who were indigenous to the Caribbean and Florida. At the time of European contact in the late 15th century, they were the principal inhabitants of most of CubaJamaica, Hispaniola and Puerto Rico in the Greater Antilles, the northern Lesser Antilles, and the Bahamas They spoke the Taíno, one of the Arawak languages.

2-Matanzas in Spanish means massacre

3-Caney (plural, caneyes) Village chief hut

4-Cacique: Tribal chief

 

Legal Framework for the Enemy / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

Source: eltiempo.com
Source: eltiempo.com

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 2 June 2016 — The phrase uttered by Castro I a few years ago, when he confessed that no one knew how to build socialism, remains in the minds of many Cubans. Most of us, stunned and unbelieving, wondered back then what they had been doing for all previous decades, when the official discourse specifically maintained that we were immersed in the construction of this idyllic “society, qualitatively superior to capitalism”.

However, the successor to the throne, Castro II, apparently does believe to know how socialism is built, not socialism as the soviet manuals indicated, but something similar to it: a gestational namesake that, in reality, would only be the consumption of the State capitalist monopoly, the absolute eldest son of the Galician-Birán caste, his close followers and their offspring. Continue reading “Legal Framework for the Enemy / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya”

In fact, the General has even calculated even how much “prep time” will elapse until we can view this wonder: exactly 13 years, i.e. from the year 2017, when the new National Plan for Economic and Social Development (PNDES) will be defined and approved until 2030, when the “successful” implementation of the Guidelines has fertilized the field for “socialist development”. The PNDES is the complement and the tool of the Conceptualization Project (PC), as discussed in a previous article.

Let the new bricklayers get ready, the ones that will stir together the new mixture that the Castro regime brings us, if we assume the folly as a certainty, the promised “socialism” could start to be built just 70 years after the takeover of power by the guerrillas who are still in the warpath from the heights of comfort of the Palace of the Revolution, far removed from ordinary people’s daily hardships.

Of course, we’re dealing with an amazing accumulation of chimeras. First among them is the assumption that there are Cubans who are ready to read and seriously analyze documents flowing from last April’s secret conclave of the Druids. The other — no less dreamy — is that anyone (including their own promoters) will take seriously the contents that are summarized in them. And, finally, there is the alienation of the ideal “model” from where we diverge to project the future of a country that doesn’t even have a present, in which the predominant demographic features are the low birth rate, the rapid aging of the population and the unstoppable emigration abroad. It is unlikely that the ruling caste will have enough slaves in the endowment to build another “revolutionary” lie of such magnitude.

But it is not my intention to dwell on another analysis of senile — though not naïve at all — utopias, but to focus on some shady elements which, paradoxically, are part of a kind of glossary, presented under the title Meaning Of Terms Used In Documents Presented At The Seventh Congress Of The CCP, which establishes, in 33 categories, the new battery of Castro concepts “over property and socialism,” so that the most educated population on the planet might fully understand the scope of such illustrious pages.

But, just like the bedsheet that’s too short to cover your toes, the glossary in question does not mask the demons that the Castro regime is trying to conjure. An example that jumps out is that the concept of “private property” – acknowledged as one of the forms of property for the Cuban Model (subsection d of point 120 PC) — is not included in the list of glossed definitions for either document.

Instead, ersatz categories, such as Non-State Ownership, Personal Property, or Common Proprietor of the Basic Means Of Production, euphemisms intended to blend for the sake of a purported “common interest” the rights of individuals to manage, control, inherit or dispose of their property. In Cuba, such an interest has already be determined by “the leading role of the socialist State in the economy” and that stands for “State-owned” – the so-called “socialist property of all the people” — in “the backbone of the entire system of property of the socialist society”(point 123, PC).

This guiding character of the State, in turn, is strictly based on “the principles of our socialism,” therefore the “projects of personal life, family and collective” are also selected by free will and responsibility “of each person, but within the political-ideological framework outlined by the CCP, and, in any case, the individual and family projects can be conceived “as counter or antagonistic towards the collectives.” In this equation, “collectives” equals people-society and, especially, State. Contradictorily, individuals or entities defined as “common owners” are included among the “non-State forms” of property.

If the reader has not understood a thing, this is the purpose of the official tabloid. I will simplify it to a minimum: the State (Castro and his conga-line) is the representative of the people (everyone else who is a native of Cuba) and as such, he is the one who controls everyone’s property, including assets that presumably do not belong to the State. As a corollary of this legal-theoretical aberration, the “people” own everything but every day is more deprived in assets, capital and rights; while the State collects and manages all the wealth and benefits of the nominal owners, it establishes production strategies (although they not produce anything) and it launches the legal and political order of the “owner-people.”

Another notable omission in the glossary is the latest type of property mentioned in section 120 of the CP, “property of mass political organizations and other forms of association” – implicitly understood in these institutions created by the government-State-party to ensure its control of society, which fittingly overlaps within the generic concept of “socialist civil society” (glossary term number 10).

Interestingly, unlike other forms of property, “political organizations of the masses, social, and others …” (Sub-paragraph e, point 120 of the PC) enjoy a special privilege, as these associations “have legal personality and work in the established framework “(point 188 PC) and “can receive State or other support, in the interest of the country’s advancements and its well-being” (section 190 PC).

There is no need to be an accomplished analyst to discover the Castro trick. When organizations created for the State’s own service — such as the CDR, FMC, CTC, FEEM, FEU, OPC, UPEC, UNEAC* and a whole long list of “foundations” defined as “socialist civil society” — are acknowledged as “properties” with legal personality and independent from the State and then the rights of these organizations are legitimized to receive “help” (financing? donations?) from the State or from “others” (institutions, organizations or other foreign actors?). This not only justifies the permanence of a monstrous unproductive and parasitic institutional structure within a country in debt and in perennial economic crisis, but frees the State-Party-Government from the burden that support for them implies, and in addition converts them into potential tax contributors to the State itself.

Taking this analysis a step further, it is difficult not to relate the category “socialist civil society” and the official recognition of the form of ownership of ” political organizations of the masses, social, and others …” — defined in the glossary as a “form of non-State ownership” — with the easing measures dictated by the US government regarding the approval of bank loans and other benefits for non-State entrepreneurs. It would not be surprising if socialist civil society becomes the entrepreneurs of the future. Suffice it to remember that the origin of the capital of many of the tycoons of today’s Russia stems from the workings of the institutions created by the Soviet State. If this seems a bit twisted to the readers, be aware that, in effect, it is.

And since everything seems to be thought out, not by chance, concept number 6 of the glossary (forms of non-State-owned property) literally states in paragraph 4 that “the possibilities of different non-State forms for the effective management and efficient use of resources” must contribute “to the development of the national economy, instead of being a burden to the socialist State.” That is, all must pay income taxes to the State.

Obviously, regardless of the unworkable nature of almost all Castro plans, we must not lose sight of the obvious intention of making a comprehensive legal framework for the whole society, which is to be favorable to its interests as a military and political enterprise. Such a framework would cover both the minimum formal requirements to satisfy legal scruples for the sake of appearances from abroad and to legitimize the Castro transition to State capitalism disguised as socialism.

So it is that we finally know that, hereinafter, when the power elite speaks of how to “construct socialism” it will actually be referring to how to best consolidate the private emporium founded by the two most illustrious sons of… Birán**.

There will be no shortage of those who think that this is causing too much worry, that the absurdity of the official plans is, in itself, the warranty of its failure. Those who think that way might be forgetting how much damage it has caused us as a nation to underestimate the mimetic and survival skills of the Castro regime. Personally, I agree with those who believe that we would be better off if we kept our enemies under close scrutiny, even if we are convinced that they are in agony. And I don’t know anyone who is more deserving of the title of enemies of the Cuban people than the Castro brothers.

Translator’s note:

*The acronyms stand for: CDR – Committees for the Defense of the Revolution; FMC, Federation of Cuban Women; CTC, Cuban Workers Center; FEEM, Federation of High School Students ; FEU, Federation of University Students; OPC, Cuban Patriotic Organization; UPEC, Cuban Journalists Union; UNEAC, Cuban Writers and Artists Union.

*The birthplace of Fidel and Raul Castro

Translated by Norma Whiting

The New Gospel, According to the General / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

Raúl Castro has slipped the designs of the PCC into a tabloid with documents analyzed and approved during the VII Congress of the Cuban Communist Party
Raúl Castro has slipped the designs of the PCC into a tabloid with documents analyzed and approved during the VII Congress of the Cuban Communist Party

cubanet square logoCubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 26 May 2016 — The Cuban Party-State-Government has just published a tabloid containing two of the root documents analyzed and approved during the VII Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) last April, 2016. These are the Project for the Conceptualization for the Economic and Social Model of Socialist Development Project and for the National Project Plan for Economic and Social Development Until 2030: Proposal Of Country’s Vision, Core And Strategic Sectors.

No doubt this is a case of “partial declassification”, considering that the four documents adopted in April’s occult ritual were of a strictly secret character. The discussion and approval, produced in covert conditions, involved about a thousand of the anointed (so-called “delegates”) and, according to official figures 3,500 “guests.” Continue reading “The New Gospel, According to the General / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya”

The two remaining mysterious scrolls have yet to be declassified, namely, the Report on the Results of the Implementation of the Guidelines for Economic and Social Policy of the Party and the Revolution, with the Update of the Guidelines for the period 2016-2021, which contains the Working Party In Compliance With Those Approved At The First National Conference Objectives And Guidelines Of The First Secretary Of The Central Committee, i.e., the sacred commandments of the General-President himself.

The first thing that draws attention to this tabloid’s disclosure is the indifference of the Cuban population, which has not given any importance to a document where, presumably, the destiny of the nation was plotted and established. In contrast, some foreign news agencies have unleashed a wave of comments that tend to magnify those documents as if they were the creation of a miracle, focusing the spotlight on what they consider the big news: the alleged acknowledgement of “private property” by the PCC, including medium size and small businesses in that category. At the same time, the media’s most audacious analysts suggest the Cuban government has employed certain political will to enhance or enable the development of this type of economic management.

Such a mirage, agitated by the “co-responsible” of Havana’s accredited press–so diligent in legitimizing the official discourse of the ruling elite as refractory to delve into a serious and thorough investigation of the Cuban reality–part of a misinterpretation of point 91 of the “Conceptualization…”, which textually exposes “another transformation that will contribute to the economy, employment and well-being of the population is the recognition of the complementary role of private ownership over certain means of production …”.

However, it is known that true private property is only possible in societies where individuals, groups or business entities are able to exercise the right to own, control, inherit, manage and produce their goods and capital in order to achieve wealth. Those rights include the possibility of developing their properties according to their abilities, or acquiring (including importing) raw materials, machinery, equipment and all documents necessary for the development of their commercial or productive activity, which implies the existence of a lawful framework providing legal guarantees to the “owners.” That is not the case in Cuba, as should be known in the circles of the accredited press.

In fact, the newly published document endorses the opposite of what can be expected where real private property exists, as described in point #104: “the concentration of property and wealth in natural or legal non-State persons or entities is not allowed, in accordance with what has been legislated, in a manner consistent with the principles of our socialism,” and, if this were not enough, they hammer another nail on the coffin of the illusory “private property” in section 201, when it dictates: “the state regulates the constitution, dissolution, liquidation and restructuring of legal entities of all forms of property. It defines their areas of policies and principal activities.”

But the most relevant value of “The Project of Conceptualization …” is the huge number of conflicting and mutually exclusive elements, which clearly reflects not only the extent and depth of the Cuban socio-economic crisis, but the impossibility of getting it resolved from the political and legal framework established in the last 57 years.

This is evident throughout the entire document, but a few key issues that contradict the ideological assumptions on which it is intended to build the “Model” are more than sufficient. Suppose we look at the case of foreign investments, a kind of property that is currently being officially acknowledged by the government as “a source of development and means of accessing capital, technology, markets and managerial experience, which contributes production clusters and in the resolution of major structural imbalances…” (Item #90).

On the other hand, the principle that the economic system is planned, regulated and controlled by the State is sustained. The State also controls relations with international economies (point 203).

So the solution to the structural crisis of Cuba’s socialism is found in the forms of capitalist production, but the distribution of wealth stemming from market relations through foreign trade and foreign (capitalist) investment will be exerted by the socialist state. Then the wealth from capitalist production capacity would be state-socialist property, since, as stated by paragraph 124, “the State acts as a representative of the owner, which is the people.”

The colossal nationalization of the economy continues to be maintained, since, in its capacity as representative of the owners, the State decides and controls the destinies of the corporate profits of socialist property of all the people, after [the owners’] fulfillment of tax obligations and other commitments, (point 148).

This “representation” includes the regulation and control of institutions, companies and communications media as a strategic resource of the State–which is to say, the state monopoly of the media–“according to the policy designed” by the CCP, “preserving technology sovereignty, in compliance with the legislation established on matters of defense and national security” (points 110 and 111), in which it presupposes ratification of Law 88 (Gag Law).

Of course, the role of the State (government and one-party at the same time) as “patriarch” manager of wealth and properties under “representative of the people” is more than questionable, in a nation where presidential elections have not been held in over 60 years, and where more than 70% of the population was born after 1959 and has never had the opportunity to legitimize such paternity.

This is precisely what determines that the “new” proposal–absurdly futuristic, but almost identical to all the discursive rhetoric of the preceding decades–from the same octogenarian and retrograde ruling elite, does not arouse the interest of ordinary Cubans in the least. Why “debate” about the same old fait accompli? they ask themselves with the same apathy that dominates Cuban society.

Few have stopped to think that, with the popular “debate” which, it’s rumored, will take place around these documents, the ruling caste aims to “legitimize” the consecration of state capitalism for their own benefit, and will continue to cling to power beyond the biological possibilities of the olive-green banditos. This seems to be expressed in the presentation of the behemoth in question: we are facing the strategic legacy of the “historic generation” to new generations.

It is not possible to exhaust in a single article all the ambiguous rabbit trails that slither along the 330 points of the Conceptualization Project. For now, let’s summarize that they are the “good news” that Saint Raúl, of the olive-green, bearer of a truth that has certainly been revealed to him by his predecessor, the Great Orate: if we stick to the concept of “Revolution” of that wise old man, if the “Guidelines” are met and if the results of the implementation of these are effective, in the year 2030 Cubans will be in a position to “build a sovereign, independent, socialist, democratic, prosperous and sustainable nation.”

Let no one be surprised if, in the coming weeks, the number of emigrants from this impossible island increases exponentially.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Danse Macabre / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

Screen Shot 2016-04-26 at 7.56.35 AM
cubanet square logoCubanet, Miriam Celaya, West Palm Beach, Florida, 13 April 2016 — The video has gone viral in the internet in just over 24 hours — between Monday afternoon, April 11th 2016, and the early hours of Tuesday night — it had been shared 42,000 times, it had been viewed almost 4 million times, and the count continued to rise exponentially. The images speak louder than words: children as young as 7 or 8 years old, in school uniform, contort in the frenzy of a lewd dance in what is obviously a Cuban elementary school. Around them, voices can be heard (their teachers or some other adult in charge of their care and their education?) encouraging them cheerfully, obviously enjoying the spectacle.

The kindest adjectives that could describe those responsible for this act are aberration, atrocity, perversity and depravity. Continue reading “Danse Macabre / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya”

The children’s bodies curl and bow with spasmodic thrusts to the rhythm of music. The girl raises her slender leg up to the boy’s waist or she turns back, bringing her child’s buttocks close to the boy’s pelvis, who also rhythmically imitates sexual gestures characteristic of adults in full intimacy. At one point in the dance, the boy lays on the ground while his “dance” companion crouches down with her legs open as she continues her writhing over the boy’s lower abdomen, while the general revelry reaches its highpoint all around them.

Such unusual entertainment, worthy of a brothel or a nightclub of the worst category, goes on for five and a half minutes to the distress of any decent spectator, and to the delight of those who continue to encourage the dancers, with not one teacher or school authority putting an end the lustful dance.

These innocent children, with their bandanas around their necks, their white shirts and their scarce few feet in stature are most likely the very same ones that swear each morning to “be like Che,” sing the national anthem or salute the tri-color flag. It is difficult to imagine what other, more responsible parents, who are committed to their families might think about the peculiar “recreational and cultural environment” that their children are being brought up in, and of the benefits offered by the highly praised free education, supreme jewel of the Cuban educational system, much hailed in international forums and organizations as the role model to be followed, even by developed countries.

Here we have a single video that stands as irrefutable testimony to the truth that the many voices of the independent civil society have been reporting for years: the colossal loss of moral values in Cuban society, the shocking deterioration of schoolteachers and “educators” that directly affects the deformation of the younger generations, the immorality invading countless homes and Cuban families, whose members welcome their children’s precocity and shamelessness, children who are being deprived of the gentle naïveté of childhood before of their first decade of life. Will defenders of the Castro regime reiterate this time that this is a fabrication of the enemies of the revolution?

There are certainly numerous factors that have contributed to all this moral collapse: the appalling housing conditions that make tens of thousands of families live together in the greatest promiscuity — where adults and children share the same tight spaces and sometimes even the same beds — perennial material deprivation, despair, widespread social corruption and the fight for survival. A characteristic degenerative process of the socio-political system imposed on Cubans for nearly six decades.

There might be some who will shrug their shoulders or label as prudes those of us who have become disturbed and felt disgust at the images displayed in the video, but these young children, thus exposed, have actually been innocent victims of those who should look out for their care and their education: their parents, their teachers and their political system that hypocritically portrays itself as the guardian of childhood.

The children’s rights have been stripped of the protection of adults, as have their rights to grow in a safe and dignified environment, to not be exposed publicly, and to receive an appropriate education within the parameters and universally recognized moral behaviors. Without exaggeration, we are witnessing the consecration of a crime that should be judged and condemned by peoples of all decent and civilized societies. What do agencies and institutions responsible for protecting children have to say now? Will they keep silent before this atrocity so they can continue applauding condescendingly the amazing Cuban official statistics and the fabulous “achievements” of revolutionary education?

However, the matter is not lacking in a strong symbolic charge. The danse macabre of these lewd schoolchildren seems to embody the funeral ritual that had had once been a solid educational system shaping generations of professionals with highest qualifications and the broadest of educations.

As for the Cuban authorities, we’ll have to wait and see this time how they will manage to endorse this despicable crime to some twisted “maneuver of the right in collusion with Imperialism”. Their work is cutout for them.

Translated by Norma Whiting

The New York Times, a Branch of Granma / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

Headquarters of The New York Times (Photo: wikipedia.org)
Headquarters of The New York Times (Photo: wikipedia.org)

cubanet square logoCubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 9 March 2016 – The New York Times (NYT) has just dedicated a new editorial to Cuba. Or, to be more accurate, the article, signed by Colombian Ernesto Londoño, makes a whole accolade about what he — and perhaps the executives of that influential newspaper — depict as the beginning of a process of freedom of expression on the island.

And the unusual miracle of opening up which was announced triumphantly has been taking place just “since the United States began to normalize relations with Havana in late 2014.” So, magically, by the grace of Barack Obama’s new policy, “Cubans have begun to debate subjects that were once taboo, and to criticize their government more boldly.” (Oh, thank you, Barack. Cubans, always so incompetent, will be forever grateful to you!). Continue reading “The New York Times, a Branch of Granma / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya”

Unfortunately, such sublime journalistic purpose is truncated because of the obtuse ignorance editorialists and publishers have about Cuban history and reality. In fact, from his first paragraph, Londoño’s forced rhyme to “illustrate” Cuban advances in matters of freedom of expression could not have been any more unfortunate: “In the past, when a Cuban athlete disappeared during a sporting event abroad, there was no official acknowledgement or any mention of it in the State media.”

Then he refers to the recent extent of athletes defecting, starring with brothers Yulieski and Lourdes Gourriel — two young baseball stars who escaped the Cuban delegation during its stay in the Dominican Republic — as “an episode that illustrates how citizens in the most repressive country in the hemisphere are increasingly pushing the limits of freedom of expression”.

This New York Times apprentice is either misinformed or totally clueless, because all Cubans on the island, especially those of us born soon after that sadly memorable 1st of January 1959, are aware of the numerous official statements of the National Institute of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation (INDER), a repudiation of what the Cuban government qualifies as defection of athletes who sell themselves to the powers of capital. Who in Cuba does not remember the deep voice and the indignation of the newspaper commentator and sports broadcaster, Héctor Rodríguez, now dead, reading passionately those intense pamphlets against the traitors?

Such official statements have certainly not been released each time a desertion has occurred, but definitely every time they have turned out to be extremely outrageous and blatant, as with the recent case of the Gourriel brothers.

Another noteworthy aspect is the NYT’s overvaluing of the role of the U.S. government “to reduce the culture of fear and the obedience that the State has long-used to control its citizens,” which has resulted in, “Today, a wider section of Cuban society is speaking with less fear.” It would seem that the efforts of opponents, dissidents, independent journalists and other civil society organizations, as well as the natural wear and tear of a whole society subjected to decades of deprivation and deceit by a ruling elite, has achieved absolutely nothing.

Of course, nobody with a modicum of common sense would deny the influence any political change of a U.S. administration has on Cuba, especially when all of the Cuban dictatorship’s foreign (and domestic) policies have based their central axis on its dispute with the U.S. Personally, I am among those opponents who support a policy of dialogue and reconciliation, since the conflict of over half a century did not produce any results, and it is still too early for the Obama policy towards Cuba to be classified as a “failure.” In political matters, every process needs a time period to reach fruition, and we should not expect major changes in just 14 months of dialogue between parties to a half a century of conflict.

However, to grant the new position of the White House the ability to open democratic spaces of expression within Cuba in that short period of time is wrong, irrational, and even disrespectful. Not only because it distorts reality and deceives the American public, but because it deliberately fails to acknowledge the work of many independent journalists who have pushed the wall of silence that has surrounded the island for decades, reporting on the Cuban reality, and who have suffered persecution, imprisonment and constant harassment for their actions, by the repressive forces of the regime.

Nevertheless, the real latent danger in the biased NYT editorial is its presenting as champions of freedom of expression those who are useful tools of the regime in its present unequivocal process of mimicry: the pro-government bloggers, a group that emerged in the shadow of official policy as a government strategy to counter the virulent explosion of independent bloggers that began in 2007 and that two years later had grouped in the Voces Cubanas blogger platform, the access to which from Cuba was immediately blocked by the government.

Blogger Harold Cárdenas, who is Mr. Londoño’s chosen example of a critic of the Castro autocracy, is actually what could be defined as a “Taliban-light,” equivalent to a believer convinced of the superiority of the Cuban system, disguised as a critic. If the Castro dictatorship has any talent, it is the ability to adapt to each new circumstance and survive any political upheaval, a quality that allows it to manipulate the discourse and elect its “judges” at each new turn.

In the present circumstances of non-confrontation with the Empire, Hassan Pérez, an angry and hysterical beefeater, now disappeared from the scene, would be out of the question. Instead, someone like Harold Cárdenas is ideal: he is reasonably disapproving, moves within government institutions (so he’s controllable) and knows exactly where the line that cannot be crossed is. Additionally, sensible Harold remains safely distant from all the independent press, and he uses the same epithets to refer to it as does the government: “mercenaries at the service of imperialism,” or “CIA agents.”

Another dangerous illusion is the alleged existence of a “progressive wing” within the spheres of power in Cuba, to which — according to what Londoño stated in the NYT — Harold Cárdenas is closely related. On this point, the utter lack of journalistic seriousness of the NYT is scandalous. The myth of a “progressive” sector as a kind of conspirators — which is actually a host of opportunistic individuals — close to the tower of power, waiting for the chance to influence changes in Cuba, has been spreading in the media outside the island for a long time, but, so far, this is mere speculation that has no basis whatsoever.

In addition, it is unacceptable to limit the hopes of a better future for Cubans from the inferred recognition of those who are the currently close supporters of the regime. No change in Cuba will be genuine unless it includes as actors, in all its representation and variety, the independent civil society and all Cubans on the island and the diaspora. Nor will there be true freedom of the press as long as the dictatorship is allowed to select its “critics” while it punishes independent thinking of any fashion.

As for the imaginary meetings at all the universities in the country to discuss the political future of Cuba, this is the most fallacious thing that could have occurred to Mr. Londoño, and it exposes a huge flaw in the credibility of the NYT. Could anyone seriously believe that the Cuban dictatorship would allow questioning of the regime within its own institutions? Could it be perhaps that Londoño and the NYT managers have shattered in one fell swoop the Castro principle that “universities are for revolutionaries”?

But none of this is really a surprise. The prelude started in October, 2014, when an avalanche of NYT editorials was written by Ernesto Londoño, noting that it was time to change U.S. policy towards Cuba, an idea I share in principle, but for very different reasons and arguments as those the NYT advocates. Two months later, the restoration of relations would be announced.

By then, Londoño and his employers didn’t remotely have a clue of the Cuban reality; neither do they have any now. But what has become a conspiracy against the rights of Cubans cannot be construed as naive or as good intentions gone astray. Perhaps it is time that this Latin American, whose will has been tamed so appropriately to the old northern colonial mentality, that which considers the people of the subcontinent incapable of self-achievement, should write about the serious conflicts of his own country of origin — which, paradoxically, are being decided in Cuba today — if he at least knows more about Colombian reality than Cuban.

Meanwhile, it appears that the peddlers of Cuban politics have managed to weave much stronger ties with the NYT than we imagined. No wonder NYT editorials seem to have turned that newspaper into the New York branch of Cuba’s State and Communist Party newspaper, Granma.

Translated by Norma Whiting

21st Century Socialism: Rest in Peace? / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

Raul Castro, Nicolas Maduro, evo Morales, Rafael Correa, Daniel Ortega (clockwise from upper left)
Raul Castro, Nicolas Maduro, Evo Morales, Rafael Correa, Daniel Ortega (clockwise from upper left)

cubanet square logoCubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 25 February 2106 — The crisis of the ghostly 21st Century Latin American socialism has been demonstrated once again with the negative outcome of the referendum on the reform of Bolivia’s constitution that sought to legitimize the candidature of Evo Morales in the 2019 elections. The controversial petty king aspired to remain screwed to the presidential armchair at least until 2025… but most of his countrymen, including native ethnic groups, have given him the brush-off.

So far, and despite the maneuvers that — according to what opposition sectors of the Andean country claim — the Morales government is taking advantage of to reverse its resounding defeat, everything indicates that the NO vote is irreversible.

Within a few months, the decline of the leftist leadership — which started in Argentina with the fall of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in the presidential elections, followed by the loss of Chavismo in last December’s parliamentary elections in Venezuela and now with the refusal to allow Evo to hijack power in Bolivia Continue reading “21st Century Socialism: Rest in Peace? / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya”

— shows plainly that the lifetime aspirations of the leaders of XXI century socialism are being left in the lurch.

With this new knockout to the Hemisphere’s progressive leaderships, it has been demonstrated that, in actuality, populism movements with Castro-Chávez-Marxist leanings are neither all that popular nor have they brought with them the changes that voters were hoping for, including the poorest sectors, the supposed “beneficiaries” of “the model.” The rejection by the majority of citizens of the new and, paradoxically, the already exhausted paradigm, makes clear a truism: the neoliberalism of the ‘90s deepened the schism between the richest and the poorest of this continent, heightening the deep social conflicts and ruptures that have historically marked relations between governments and the governed. This gave way to the emergence of socialism of the XXI century, but, before long, it became clear that it is not the holy ointment to heal all of the region’s ills. Instead, it makes them worse.

The late Hugo Chávez was the highest representative of the model he attempted to implement, and it is expected that, together with his model, another ghostly excrescence will also disappear: ALBA, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, currently unmentioned, as a relative who has brought disgrace to the family. ALBA is a colossal pipedream, devised by the leader from Barinas himself in a recipe inspired by unadulterated selfishness, a mixture of leftist ideology, anti-imperialism, egotism, messianic in nature and spiced throughout with plenty of corruption. A pipedream stirred into the sea of ​​oil taken from Venezuelans for more three decades with the sole purpose of artificially supporting allies in the region, something that has become unsustainable in the current economic crisis in Venezuela, the largest in its history, born in the shadow of the doctrine of the new socialism.

Without a doubt, the matrix of the radical left has been taking on setbacks of late, almost without pause: scandals involving corruption, drug trafficking, influence peddling, patronage and other similar bits and pieces that keep many leaders under the magnifying glass of public opinion. It’s not so easy to keep people’s eyes under wraps. It is no wonder that the effusive president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, has discreetly lowered his profile, putting away his fervent speech for some other symbolic occasion. The Central American drunkard, Daniel Ortega, is also not being seen around much these days. It’s not a good time for the leaders of the operetta.

However, it is still too early to place the tombstone on the tragic fate of 21st century socialism. At least we Cubans know very well how not to underestimate the capacity for survival, not of populist-type ideologies, so entrenched in Latin American veins, but in its “idiocrats” (or should I say idio-rats).

Behold smart aleck octogenarians of the Palace of the Revolution in Havana, who have had so much to do with the harmful leftist regional epidemics. They have been keeping anti-imperialist trappings under their thrones to enter into friendly lobbying ­precisely with “the natural enemy of the people,” Yankee imperialism.

And so, while Cristina has vanished from the political scene, Maduro continues his hysterical tantrum in the swampy Venezuelan panorama, and Evo seeks solace for Sunday’s setback, ruminating one after another his coca leaves in the Palacio Quemado, [The Bolivian Government Palace], the druids of the olive green gerontocracy are decked out in their finery, ready to receive the highest representative of the brutal capitalism whose hard currencies leftist leaders are so attracted to.

Of course, we should not be suspicious. Perhaps it is not a betrayal on the part of Cuba’s General-President and his claque of Marxist and Castro-Chavista principles in Our America, as claimed by some of the ill-intentioned, but a reshuffling of the action in view of the new circumstances. Over half a century of experience as successful pedigree conspirators supports the survivors of these chameleonic “Marxists.” We’ll see how they will recycle slogans and anthems of the proletarian Internationale as soon as leaders of the Castro regime succeed in laying their hands on dollars, since, when it is all said and done, it seems that the end does justify the means.

Because, without exaggerating, the so-called “socialism” with an autocratic soul is like a disease that cannot be cured and often kills. It’s like a mutant virus that changes in appearance and succeeds in multiplying in order to continue making human societies sick. The bad news for Cubans is that such an infection is cured only with a strong dose of democracy, a medication that has been in short supply in Cuba for more than six decades.

Translated by Norma Whiting

The Fable of Miguelito and His "Haier" Chinese Refrigerator / Miriam Celaya

Old fridges being taken away (Claudia Cadelo)
Old fridges being taken away (Claudia Cadelo)

Miriam Celaya, Sin Evasion (Without Evasion), 15 February 2016 – This Sunday in February, Saint Valentine’s Day, my neighbor Miguelita was overjoyed, although it was not exactly because of it being day of love. He had just finished paying for his Haier refrigerator, made in China, that he had acquired almost a decade earlier by the work and grace of the last sub-revolution orchestrated by the Revolutionary-in-Chief, Castro I shortly before he abandoned the podiums and microphones for good; this particular sub-revolution was known as the “Energy Revolution.”

Admittedly Miguelito, an exceedingly honest type, has not skipped even one of the payments for this “drizzle” refrigerator, as these appliances were popularly baptized due to the continuous streams of water that flood their interiors. It is said that no one, of those who “benefited” from one of these cold artifacts, finished paying the modest bill for the equipment, barely 6,000 Cuban pesos (equivalent to 250 Cuban convertible pesos – CUCs), paid through direct withholding from the monthly salary of those who work for the State. It is also said that there were exceptional cases of those who paid cash for the new equipment, in order to further reduce the cost of the appliance. Continue reading “The Fable of Miguelito and His "Haier" Chinese Refrigerator / Miriam Celaya”

As was common in project spushed by Castro I, the scenic unfolding of his delusions amply justified any waste. So, as long as the energy campaign lasted there was a gigantic mobilization of inspectors, police, social workers, delivery trucks, members of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, student helpers, carting stuff off to the dump – how many other 21st century Alladin fans – in the replacement of old equipment for new.

The purchase of electrical generators that were placed in different localities, as well as the distribution of rice cookers, electric stoves, and other equipment, to thousands of nuclear families, along with the substitution of old Soviet- or US-made electrical appliances, for new more energy efficient Chinese equipment, unleashed a kind of modernizing frenzy throughout the capital.

Those were the times in which tens of thousands of incandescent bulbs were collected from Cuban homes by contingents of “social workers” – the standard bearers of the occasion, today extinct – and “energy-saving bulbs” were handed out. Meanwhile thousands of Soviet air conditioners were dismantled, even though they were still working, and their owners were given new Chinese equipment.

And as also used to happen in all Castro I’s out-of-control campaigns, speculation broke out and we saw traffickers proliferate – especially among the social workers and inspectors assigned to the sacred mission of the moment – dedicated to the illegal sale of those old Russian and American refrigerators, which were collected from homes. For an additional “under the table” payment, you could even switch out a refrigerator or air conditioner that had been broken for a long time.

No one knows exactly what that last Delirium-of-the-Unnamable cost in hard currency. It is true that the old appliances were large consumers of energy, and at that time with Venezuela’s generosity Chavista oil flooded the Cuban horizon, allowing the government a populist campaign of great magnitude. However, still today the cost of such a mass mobilization is unknown, as is the amount of debt acquired from China, provider of new equipment, or the payments committed to this Asian nation, usurer par excellence.

Nor is it known the fate of tens of thousands of wrecks removed from homes and transported, with few controls, to dubious warehouses by flotillas of state trucks.

Either way, and as had happened with the massive handout of bicycles at the beginning of the ‘90s, Cubans’ enthusiasm for the Haiers was boundless, although most prefer not to remember that.

And given that Miguelito’s meager income, as in so many other Cuban homes, did not enable him to pay the total for the refrigerator in cash, he chose to pay for his Haier in installments. With the natural mischievousness all natives of the island are believed to possess, and taking into account the age of the Great Orator – he assumed that “the process” of payment would last as long as what remained of that person’s life – the refrigerator would be extremely cheap: a period of a little more than eight years seemed so long to him, that Castro I would never end up collecting it, nor would he – Miguelito – end up paying it.

Simply, “there is not enough life span left for this.” And with a knowing wink he urged all the neighbors to choose this type of payment. “Don’t pay cash, don’t be dumb, this isn’t going to last that long!” Although many of the Haier refrigerators haven’t lasted that long either. In fact, Miguelito’s has already been repaired twice.

But this Valentine’s Day Sunday my neighbor just had a bitter surprise: as he was just leafing through the Juventud Rebelde (Rebel Youth) newspaper, where a photo on the front page showed the former Undefeated Commander, today a stooped old man with an perplexed gaze, next to the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia who was visiting Havana, the motor of his Haier quit. His Chinese refrigerator stopped working – this time for good, according to a friend of his, a refrigeration technician, who came to look at it – exactly when had he made the last payment, of 60 Cuban pesos monthly over more than eight years, withheld from Miguelito’s salary at the bank.

Now, while lamenting his bad luck, my neighbor has found comfort in the teaching: “I should have known that old trickster wasn’t going to invest in anything that was capable of surviving him.” And he went to his mother’s house to pick up a Westinghouse American refrigerator, which she never wanted to exchange, and which she lent to her son to “resolve” things, until Miguelito could buy his own.

And from Claudia Cadelo on TranslatingCuba.com: More Refrigerator Stories

Fun (or not!) with Fridges, Part 1: Cold Water and Eternal Debt / Claudia Cadelo

Fun (or not!) with Fridges, Part 2: The arrival of the refrigerator / Claudia Cadelo

Fun (or not!) with Fridges, Part 3: The coming of the refrigerator (II) / Claudia Cadelo

Fun (or not!) with Fridges, Part 4: They finally arrived / Claudia Cadelo

Fun (or not!) with Fridges, Part 5: Rendering of Accounts (and refrigerator gaskets) / Claudia Cadelo

 

The Cuban Adjustment Act is not the Problem / Miriam Celaya

A foreign law is being held responsible for the solution of problems that are clearly national in their nature.
A foreign law is being held responsible for the solution of problems that are clearly national in their nature.

Miriam Celaya, Cubanet, Havana, 22 January 2016 – The imminent arrival in the US of thousands of Cubans stranded in Costa Rica has, once again, unleashed the debate whether the Cuban Adjustment Act its right or not, its original foundations, and opinions on whether Cubans who are exiting today should be considered political immigrants and, because of it, deserve to benefit from that law.

The subject stimulates strong feelings, as is always the case among Cubans, clouding objectivity and making it difficult to demarcate between legal matters, political interests, personal resentments and the purely human issue, which is ultimately what motivates all exodus, beyond particular circumstances marked by politics and economics. Continue reading “The Cuban Adjustment Act is not the Problem / Miriam Celaya”

Positions are usually polarized, unqualified and exclusive: they either favor the infinite arrival of Cubans to the US – particularly to Miami, the offshore capital of “all Cubans” – and the ‘irreversibility’ of the Cuban Adjustment Act, as a sort of divine right inherent to those born within the Cuban Archipelago’s 110,000 square kilometers, or they advocate the repeal of the law and limiting or cutting off aid to all those who arrive.

And, since anything goes when it’s time to taking advantage of the situation, the new migration crisis has also been seized by some Cuban-American politicians to stoke the embers against the move towards the warming of diplomatic relations with the Cuban government initiated by the White House, creating uncertainty about the possible disappearance of the Cuban Adjustment Act, and with it, the privileges Cuban immigrants to the US have enjoyed.

Unfortunately, this approach overlaps the real cause of the growing exodus out of Cuba: asphyxia, decay, and condemnation to eternal poverty under an obsolete and failed sociopolitical system thrust on them almost 60 years ago. With or without the Cuban Adjustment Act, Cubans will continue to emigrate, either to the US or to any other destination, which is evident in the existence of communities of Cuban emigrants in countries where there are no Adjustment Act Laws from which they might benefit.

Ergo, the controversial Law – which, by the way, the Cuban authorities did not even mention during the honeymoon days with the Soviet Union – is an undeniable part of the problem, but not the most important one, so that its repeal will not constitute the solution to the unstoppable flow of people from Cuba.

In fact, we can categorically state that if the legislation should disappear, Cubans will not give up on their desire to enter US territory, and, once in the US, they would survive in illegality, just as millions of “undocumented” Latin-American immigrants have done.  Haven’t we been trained for decades here in Cuba, where everything good seems to be prohibited, to survive in illegality in a thousand different ways?

The “legitimate” children of the Cuban Adjustment Act

It is difficult to objectively review a legal tool that has protected so many fellow Cubans. But when we talk about the Cuban Adjustment Act itself, we inevitably recall the causes and circumstances that gave rise to it.

Enacted in 1966, the Act gave legal status to a large number of Cubans who had been forced to flee Cuba, many of whom had been affected by revolutionary laws or had serious accusations hanging over them, either for real or alleged collaboration with Batista or other crimes considered ‘against’ the triumphant Castro revolution.

We must recall that, back then, the firing squad was still the usual sentence applied to “traitors” by the guerrilla gang that took power in 1959. Punishable categories could equally include being members or supporters of the former dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, and being participants in the revolutionary struggle that opposed Fidel Castro’s turn to communism, some of whom returned to armed struggle as a form of rebellion and were defeated.

Cuban exiles of the ‘60s were mainly families of the upper and middle classes of the bourgeoisie who had been economically affected by nationalizations and other “revolutionary” measures, and whose interests were incompatible with the political line taken by the Cuban government.

And it must be noted that when they left Cuba they were stripped of all their rights by the Cuban revolutionary laws.  From a legal point of view, returning to Cuba was not an option for them. Thus, the Cuban Adjustment Act was created to resolve the legal limbo in which these early Cubans were living, when, seven years into the Castro regime, all indications were that their return to Cuba would be more protracted than previously anticipated.

The rest of the story is well known. A law arising for the benefit of Cuban political exiles in the heat of the Cold War evolved into a standard when it extended to every Cuban who sets foot in the US, even though most of them arriving today do not consider themselves as politically persecuted by the Castro dictatorship.

 “I’m going there to do my own thing”

None of the phases of the long Communist experiment in Cuba have been without migration. With its peaks and valleys, the outflow was an important sign of the history of the Cuban nation in the last 57 years under the same government and the same political system.

Current circumstances, however, are not the same as those that existed as the backdrop of the migration of the 1960’s, the spectacular Rafter Crisis of 1994 or the colossal Mariel Boatlift of 1980, when the abuse of repudiation rallies, humiliation, and beatings promoted by the government, organized by the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) and the mass organizations are etched forever in the memories of both those who left and those who stayed.

Cubans who fled in the early years of the Revolution suffered a complete break with what was their way of life in Cuba and were stripped of property and rights as nationals. They endured the condemnation of those who are exiled without the possibility of returning to their homeland for decades, by which time many of them or their family members who stayed behind had died, without even being able to say goodbye. They were the direct victims of the political system that some of them had even helped bring to power. What is clear is that in the last four or five years the reality has changed, and so has the perception that the current emigrés have about their own situation.

Cubans who emigrate today not only define themselves mainly as having economic motives, but under Cuba’s migration reform of 2013 they preserve both the rights to their property and the right to enter and leave Cuba within 24 months, plus at least the minimum rights that are enshrined in the Cuban Constitution.

A great part of them have declared that their intention to emigrate was so they could improve their material living conditions and help their family in Cuba – that is precisely the same aspirations of millions of Latin-Americans – and they even repeat that everlasting, all-knowing phrase, so often heard around here: “I don’t care about politics, I’m going there to do my own thing.”

And, indeed, once they have obtained their legal residence (the famous “green card”), they begin to travel to Cuba before the expiration of the two-year grace period granted to them by the Cuban government to preserve their rights as natives of the dilapidated island hacienda. “Fears” of reprisals from the Castro regime that they were experiencing when applying under the Cuban Adjustment Act abruptly and magically disappear, once they qualify.

This is a triple benefit: for Cuban emigrants because they get favored twice, with the Cuban Adjustment Act and with Raul’s immigration reform, and for the Cuban government, because migration has become one of the few sources guaranteeing steady net income and constant foreign currency inflows.

After that, privileges to fast legal access to work, a Social Security number, food stamps and other benefits received because of their alleged condition as “persecuted,” in reality becomes a kind of legal scam of the public treasury to which taxpayers contribute, especially Americans who have nothing to do with the Cuban drama. This is the essential argument used by those who believe that the time has come to – at least – review the Adjustment Act and modify it so that it can accommodate only those who can reasonably be regarded as “political refugees.”

But the biggest trap of the Adjustment Act does not lie exactly in tending to reinforce the intangible (and false) Cuban exceptionalism, or in its current ambiguity or discretion that some future modification might grant it, but – just like happens with the embargo – its real inconvenience resides in making a foreign law responsible for the solution of problems that are clearly national in their nature.

Once again, the quest for solutions to the eternal Cuban crisis is placed on the shoulders of legislators and other foreign politicians, a reality that is indicative of the pernicious infancy of a country whose children are incapable of seeing themselves as protagonists of their own destinies and thus, with a change in the rules of the game in their own country, opt to escape the miserable Castro paternalism in order to benefit from the generous kindness of US paternalism. Cubans, let’s stop going around in circles; the problem is not the Adjustment Act or the clique of politicians here, there, or yonder, but in ourselves.  It’s that simple.

Venezuela, a Lesson for Cubans / Miriam Celaya

A “Venezuelan Che Guevara” after finding out the election results (Internet photo)
A “Venezuelan Che Guevara” after finding out the election results (Internet photo)

Miriam Celaya, Cubanet, Havana, 8 December 2015 — Despite all adversities and cheating to attempt to sabotage the opposition’s victory in Venezuela’s parliamentary elections, the forecasts were on target: the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) didn’t just come ahead in surveys, which Maduro was hoping for, but it swept the polls.

The puppets at Telesur, “Latin America’s television channel”, could barely hide their apprehension. The long wait that followed the closure of the polling stations was a clear indicator that the ballots cast were so in favor of MUD that no Castro-Chavista trickery could reverse the outcome. However, announcing the results would turn out to be a bitter and difficult pill for Maduro and Cabello’s patsies to swallow. Continue reading “Venezuela, a Lesson for Cubans / Miriam Celaya”

Well after 12 midnight in Venezuela, Tibisay Lucena, president of the National Electoral Council (CNE), officially announced the results in a nervous and stuttering manner, in contrast with her usual energetic and poised style. MUD had risen, so far, to 99 seats in the parliament, well above the 46 achieved by the Chavistas. It is such a crushing blow to the ruling party that until last night [7 December] the results of the remaining 22 seats, completing a total of 167 in Parliament, had not been declared.

A stunned Nicolas Maduro posed as a democrat and pretended to be satisfied with the “triumph of democracy.” An advisor obviously suggested he leave his belligerent stance of the previous days, when he threatened to “govern in the streets” with “a military civic coalition” if Chavistas (Maduro’s party) conceded losing the election. We can imagine the advisor: “Mr. President, ‘the street’ is precisely who voted against you”. Thus, the speech accepting his defeat could not have been more gray and monotonous, recounting past victories which contrasted even more against the failure of the day. The faces of amazement of his audience shouted clearly that the glory days of Chavismo were over. Another one that bites the dust, after the sharp fall of the empty figurine of the Casa Rosada just days ago.

The saga is going to be very interesting. The new Parliament will assume its functions on 5 January 2016, and even the 99 already seats called for MUD will guarantee the simple majority, those who will be allowed to directly rescind root matters, such as electing the assembly board, (‘bye, ‘bye, Mr. Diosdado Cabello!) approving or vetoing appointments, enacting legislation or appointing Supreme Court judges and the Attorney General of the Republic, among other powers that would put an end to 16 years of Chavismo government impunity and authoritarianism enforced through violence, fear and coercion.

Such power in the hands of political opponents, however, would not be the Bolivarian autocracy’s worst nightmare. The most hostile circumstances for the dying Venezuelan regime is that MUD only has to win 11 more seats of the 22 remaining open (two have yet to be announced). Reaching 112 deputies will allow the opposition contingent to get two-thirds of seats, a sufficiently overwhelming force to bring down the whole dictatorial scaffolding erected by Hugo Chavez and his followers. MUD could exercise legislative functions of great scope and depth, such as promoting referendums, constitutional reforms and constituent assemblies.

It is no wonder, then, that however incomprehensible it may be — given the speed and efficiency of an electoral system fully computerized with the latest digital technology — almost 24 hours after completion of the referendum, CNE officials, still mostly Chavistas, had not made public the final results. Maduro’s supporters and his troupe are worried, and they have very good reason to be.

Yesterday dawned with Telesur completely silent on the subject. It would seem that there had been no Sunday parliamentary elections held in Venezuela. Elections which, by the way, the government itself announced would be “historic”. Admittedly, they were right this time. Yesterday, December 7, however, Telesur focused on the French municipal elections…. things of the Orinoco.

Havana’s Reaction

Castro II’s message to his Venezuelan counterpart has a somber tone, like those formal condolences one coldly offers an acquaintance on the loss of a close relative: “We’ll always be with you.” With enough problems of his own, the General-President was sparse, dry and distant with his “Dear Maduro” letter, despite the ‘admiration’ with which he listened to the words of the arrogant president. It ends with “a hug.”

Democratic Cubans, however, are celebrating. The victory of democracy in Venezuela cheers and encourages us, and we hope that MUD knows how to appreciate, in all its worth, the enormous importance of the victory achieved. It is a well-deserved laurel, solidly fought by them at a very high cost, but it is only a first step on a path that promises to be difficult and full of obstacles. Personally, I think it is a beacon of hope for all who aspire to the end of the dictatorship in our own country. The time is right to wish Venezuelans success as they return to the path of democracy.

And it is also opportune for dissidents and opponents here, inside Cuba, to meditate on the need to exploit the cracks of the precarious official legality more effectively. It is true that political parties alternative to the Powers-that-be in Cuba are without any legal recognition, that they are demonized and persecuted, their forces are constantly repressed and that we do not have the legal space that democratic Venezuelans have been able to defend, but the legalistic route has not only proven to be an effective tool, it is the only one that would have international support.

In the last elections, in the city of Havana two members of the opposition opted for the office of district delegates. It was a courageous act, and they were repressed by mobs at the service of the government, and criticized by quite a few of their fellow members of the opposition ranks. However, they both demonstrated that a representative portion of their communities dared to vote for them, and so they broke the myth of the opposition’s absence of roots.

Today, Venezuela’s victory stands not only as a hope, but also as a lesson for us: no dictatorship is too strong to not be defeated. If it happens at the polls, all the better. No space gained from a dictatorship is small or negligible. In the coming year, a new electoral law will be enacted in Cuba. Perhaps this is a good opportunity to push in that direction: pressing hard and with determination against authorities to achieve legal recognition spaces, fighting from these spaces, leaving defeatism aside because “that’s their game.” The distance between the Venezuelan reality and ours is indeed very great, but when results could motivate the change, it’s worth trying.

Translated by Norma Whiting

*Note to readers: Sadly the translation of this post got “lost in the internet ether” and it is now appearing here, very belatedly.

17 December: First Anniversary of a Sterile Marriage / Miriam Celaya

On 17 December 2014, Raul Castro and Barack Obama announced the start of restoration of relations (file photo)
On 17 December 2014, Raul Castro and Barack Obama announced the start of restoration of relations (file photo)

Miriam Celaya, Havana, 17 December 2015 – At the end of the first year of the restoration of relations between the governments of the United States and Cuba, the expectations that the historical event awakened in Cuba remain unfulfilled. With much pain and no glory, Cubans have continued their struggle with a precarious and hopeless existence, that, far from improving, has witnessed the permanent economic crisis deteriorate further, with increases in the cost of living and consolidation of chronic shortages.

At the same time, the general deterioration of the healthcare and education systems continues – the last stronghold of the official rhetoric – and a new and unstoppable process of emigration has been spawned and become a stampede, amid fears that negotiations between the two governments will eventually lead to the demise of the Cuban Adjustment Act. Continue reading “17 December: First Anniversary of a Sterile Marriage / Miriam Celaya”

With the diplomatic bases settled, the respective embassies in Washington and Havana reopened, and the agendas of a negotiating process that continues running in secret established, the Cuban authorities have set a policy to thwart, to the point of invalidation, the effects of the measures dictated by the US president in favor of opening up Cuba to the benefit of private, not governmental initiatives. The increase of visitors from the neighboring nation and the broad flexibility that renders ineffectual many of the limitations imposed by the embargo have not significantly benefited the Cuban people, although they contribute to foreign exchange earnings for the Cuban government and foreign businesses established in Cuba, especially those related to tourism.

Despite all this, revenues are insufficient even for the ruling clique, burdened by huge foreign debt, lack of access to credit from the International Monetary Fund, the agonizing dependence on external support – an issue which, paradoxically, is used as an element for discrediting and delegitimizing internal dissent – the lack of reaction by foreign capital to the “attractive” new Investment Law, and the urgent need to buy time to ensure their perpetuation of power.

Finally, in the shadow of Uncle Sam, the revolution cycle has closed with an end which, though long-awaited, is no less dramatic. Behold, the agonizing “Marxist-anti-imperialist” gang is working the miracle of recycling itself, metamorphosing from communist to bourgeois precisely thanks to the imperial capital.

Judging from the evidence, and in the absence of authoritative and verifiable information, the almost dizzying avalanche of unilateral proposals from the White House that took place during the course of the year have not gotten any proportional response from the Palace of the Revolution. The Cuban President-General has not only turned out to be incapable of matching in intensity and magnitude Washington’s positive steps towards an approach that would not be for the sole advantage of the ruling elite, but for the direct benefit of Cuban society, but has, instead, taken on the same pace (“no rush”) of the so-called “normalization,” the same rhythm as the untimely Guidelines of the last Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) that were never fulfilled.

From 17 December 2014, though not as a result of that event, the Cuban crisis has grown more acute. With the economy in a tailspin, a large part of the workforce in flight or with aspirations to escape, the aging population, the depressed birth rate, the rampant corruption, the rising inflation and countless other evils to solve, any other government would have taken this moment of relaxation and approach as an opportunity to open a path to prosperity and welfare for its people. Not so the Castro dictatorship.

In response, ordinary Cubans are more politically disbelievers, more indifferent and more pro-American than ever before.

Opponents and dissidents: a growing sector

Contrary to the most widespread criterion, and despite being divided and fragmented into multiple projects, the independent civil society, in particular opposition groups and dissidents, has been gaining in organization and growth. Unquestionable evidence of this is the increased repression against them.

The increasing intensity of the repressive forces does not indicate – as some might suggest, using simplistic logic – a “strengthening of the dictatorship” from the of the process of talks with the US government, but, on the contrary, a sign of weakness that indicates both fear of the impact of US influence in Cuban society and the inability to contain the growth of civic forces, which compels them to apply violence to possibly avoid, or at least slow down, its spread and social contagion. A counterproductive strategy that has achieved just the opposite effect: increasing the dissidence faction and popular discontent.

After the breakthrough generated by the different positions assumed before the process started on 17 December, a period of intense opposition activism has ensued in which all tendencies have gained visibility and spaces. Partnerships have begun to take shape between organizations of the most varied viewpoints, from a common consensus: the urgency to strengthen civic struggle to achieve democracy in Cuba. In this vein, the general agreement is that all forms of peaceful struggle are valid, since they put pressure on the cracks in the system and contribute to its weakening.

In all fairness, we must recognize that the efforts of all opposition groups – whatever their orientation and proposals – not only face the challenge of repressive and violent action of the regime in power, but the almost total indifference of the international community and, what is worse, of insufficient solidarity and recognition by many democratic governments of the world.

Apparently, Western political and business leaders expect from the Cuban opposition the cyclopean task of building a strong coalition or becoming a political alternative to the absolute power of the Castro regime, almost unaided, before recognizing the legitimate right of representation, notwithstanding the colossal difference in resources and opportunities among the dissidents. Compared to capitalist interests, the democratic dreams of Cubans mean nothing.

2016, a pivotal year

Thus, 17 December is the paper wedding anniversary of the marriage of convenience between the governments of the United States and Cuba, but the union has, so far, been fruitless, at least for the Cubans, who we were never invited to the wedding.  The conspiratorial style of the olive-green caste ruled the celebration. However, it would be unfair to attribute Cuba’s current ills to an alleged White House political error. In any case, with this approach to the regime, Barack Obama is doing what is expected of a ruler: looking after the interests of his country and its constituents. Good for Obama, bad for Castro.

Truthfully, the Cuban general crisis existed long before the current US president took office, so the frustrations that the more deluded are experiencing are more a response to excessive and unjustified expectations and an overestimation of the importance of Cuba, barely an insignificant island with delusions of grandeur, governed by an outdated and inefficient system, and lost in the huge regional geopolitical map.

It has been an intense year, but, in retrospect, ordinary Cubans and the opposition at least should have assimilated a valuable experience: no one will come to save us from the wreck.

A year ago, the unthinkable happened just when the most bitter enemies of this hemisphere decided to sit at the negotiating table to settle their differences. This incredible saga teaches us something important: 2016 could be a pivotal year if those who us who aspire to turn Cuba into a country of law can demonstrate that we are capable of doing what now seems an impossible task: creating a civic coalition in the face of a dictatorship that assumes itself to be eternal. It doesn’t seem that we have any other options left.

Translated by Norma Whiting