Cuba is Not Brazil or Venezuela / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

The leaders of the so-called wave of 21st Century Socialism, gathered during the creation of the Bank of the South. (DC)
The leaders of the so-called wave of 21st Century Socialism, gathered during the creation of the Bank of the South. (DC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 24 May 2016 – The receding tide of the populist wave in Latin America, in particular the delicate situation in Venezuela and the ouster of Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff, has uncovered all kinds of speculation about the supposed relationship of cause and effect controlling political-economic and social process in Cuba.

Those who are still waiting for the problems within the island to be solved believe they can be resolved from outside, while the ‘statist fundamentalists’ take advantage of the ‘threat’ to entrench themselves in their anti-democratic and anti-socialist positions.

However, Cuba is not Brazil or Venezuela, in any sense. Its processes have different origins, circumstances and dissimilar dynamics of development and, therefore, an evolution that proceeds along uneven paths.

Suffice it to recall that this populist wave began almost 40 years after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution of 1959, at a time of the sharp decline, due to natural exhaustion, and the disappearance of the socialist camp, and that Hugo Chavez came to power through democratic means, subject to the general principles of democracy and its mechanisms.

Now, it is precisely the setting aside of these democratic institutions and the assumption of authoritarianism that is at the center of the reversal of that wave.

This has nothing to do with the emergence and evolution of the Cuban political process, its origin and its authoritarian essence. It emerged as an offshoot of the violence and social polarization inherited from Batista’s coup d’etat and the subsequent armed confrontation. This made possible a government that went against the grain of the demand for democracy that served as a base of support for the fight against the Batista dictatorship and that was built on the confrontation between the United States and the USSR, during the Cold War.

The “socialism of the Cuban state,” which is neither socialist nor Cuban, was not what inspired this wave, but it rode it for its own benefit, encouraged the confrontation with “American imperialism” that feeds the geopolitics of its subsistence and, in any case, encouraged its authoritarian and state-centric tendencies that brought it to the current situation.

We mustn’t forget that it was Chavez and his oil that made possible the abandonment of the reforms forced by the fall of the socialist camp and the subsequent so-called “Special Period in a Time of Peace” in Cuba—a time of severe economic crisis after the loss of the Soviet subsidies.

We must also remember that the paradigms of the so-called 21st Century Socialism, which originated and gave strength to this wave, were related to democracy and participatory budgets leading to greater citizen involvement in decision making of all kinds, with the direct intervention of workers in the property, management and distribution of wealth and the Marxist concept of the law of value, pushed by Hugo Chavez, Heinz Dieterich and the People’s Summit held in Cochabamba, Bolivia, in 2006.

These fundamentals were never adopted by the Cuban government-party-state and later were gradually abandoned by Chavez himself in favor of state-centrism.

This phase of decline depresses the influence of the Cuban government in the region and could affect the support that, for Cuba’s state monopolies, are represented by Venezuelan oil and the billions of dollars Cuba obtains in “leasing fees” for Cuba doctors and paramedical personnel hired out in “medical missions” abroad.

But from there to an assumption that the Cuban government is threatened, is quite a stretch. To expect regional pressures in support of respect for human, political and civil rights, yes; to imagine a regional isolation similar to the 1960s, no. Suffice it to recall the new scenario in Cuba-US relations and the possibilities for economic exchange.

“Only Revolutionaries can destroy this Revolution,” Fidel Castro said in November 2005 at the University of Havana. This is true: the most dangerous enemies of the Cuban political process, who have been leading it to stagnation and to the “abyss,” are those who themselves are entrenched in power and who stubbornly impede the advance toward the democratization of politics and the socialization of the economy.

The political system defined by a dictatorship of the proletariat, originating in Stalinist Russia and perfected by the guerrillas in power, liquidated the opposition early on, eliminated its material base of support by nationalizing everything, and excluded all of the democratic mechanisms—multi-party elections and the full exercise of civil and political rights, the recall referendum process, impeachment, and a democratic constitution—essential to confronting authoritarianism. These mechanisms must be created from below.

Thus, democratization will be a process, not an act, that demands the creation of an atmosphere of relaxation and harmony that can facilitate an inclusive national dialog; the recognition of fundamental freedoms; moving to a new Constitution that is the fruit of the creation and democratic and horizontal discussion of the Cuban people and approved by referendum; promulgation of a new democratic electoral law; and the establishment of a modern state of law with full functional and informational transparency, under permanent popular control: a Republic that is democratic, humanist and supportive, one in which there is room for everyone.

The Step-Motherland’s Droit de Seigneur / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya

Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo and Minister of Development, Ana Pastor, greeting Raúl Castro. (EFE / Estudios Revolución)
Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo and Minister of Development, Ana Pastor, greeting Raúl Castro. (EFE / Estudios Revolución)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 23 May 2016 — Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, Spain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, recently made his second visit to Cuba. Unlike his first, in November 2014–when the general-president did not deign to meet with him—this time his “highest excellency” Spanish Foreign Minister was emphatically welcomed by the upper echelons of power.

This new attitude between both sides is not so strange, since García-Margallo was in a “democratic” mode in 2014, triggering the olive-green gerontocracy’s suspicion and displeasure. Now, the Chancellor has come solely in a business mode, with the mission to strengthen and expand as much as possible Spain’s investments in Cuba before the resources of the powerful northern neighbor intrude (for a second time) in the territory of the former Spanish colony, once again depriving Spain of its devalued Crown jewel. Continue reading “The Step-Motherland’s Droit de Seigneur / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya”

Lady in White Berta Soler Threatened With Prison / 14ymedio

Berta Soler at the Havana airport. (File / 14ymedio)
Berta Soler at the Havana airport. (File / 14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 24 May 2016 — Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White, faces a prison sentence of three months to five years for the alleged crime of resistance. The activist was arrested last Sunday when she attempted to go to the Cathedral of Havana for the inauguration of the new archbishop of the capital. After being charged by the authorities, she is required to available to them at all times and cannot leave Cuba before her trial. “I didn’t become an opponent [of the regime] in order to travel and I am prepared to go to prison if that is the decision. I won’t even get a lawyer,” Soler told 14ymedio.

The group of 31 activists, among them 22 Ladies in White, was intercepted on leaving the Ladies in White’s headquarters in the Lawton neighborhood. The repudiation rally against them before the Sunday Mass was organized for 9 in the morning and involved many people who were not even from the neighborhood. “Although we already knew we wouldn’t be able to get there,” Berta Soler said, “we decided to leave [for the church] because our house is not a jail cell.” As commonly occurs, tempers flared and finally the police arrived to arrest them.

“When they stopped us we sat down, which is a common practice in peace movements around the world, except in Cuba,” Soler emphasized.

Berta Soler was driven to the Alamar neighborhood where, she said, there was “a classroom reserved by the PNR (People’s Revolutionary Police).” At about six or seven in the evening they told her that this time there would be formal charges. “At first they said that I had scratched a policewoman, but eventually they dismissed the charge of attack,” she said.

That night an official who said she was the investigator/prosecutor on her case told her that she was accused of resistance. “I didn’t respond in any way and went to sleep. At a quarter to ten at night they came to find me to sign the accusation but I didn’t sign any document. We (and they as well) have videos that show I never lifted a hand to anyone or attack anyone, not even verbally.”

Berta Soler says she has no problem complying with the requirement that she not leave the country. “At the moment I have no plans for any trip. The closest is an idea to go to Geneva, but that still has not materialized. If before [the trial], or at any time I need to leave the country for some event, they will have to stop me from traveling at the airport itself,” she said.

The date of her trial has not been set.

Rosa María Payá: “Totalitarianism is not broken in Cuba, we can not pretend it is” / EFE (14ymedio), María Tejero Martín

Rosa Maria Paya (Photo: Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo)
Rosa Maria Paya (Photo: Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), María Tejero Martín, Oslo, 23 May 2016 — Cuban opposition member Rosa María Payá said Monday ,in an interview with EFE, that the “totalitarianism” of the government led by Raul Castro “has not broken” despite the open contact with the United States and the European Union (EU), and so she asked that these approaches be used to achieve “concrete progress.”

“Rapprochement with Cuba is very good, but it depends on how and how it is sold. It also has negative consequences, such as the rest of the world perceiving an internal process of openings toward democracy, and this has not occurred,” said Payá in the Norwegian capital, where she has come to participate in the Oslo Freedom Forum (OFF). Continue reading “Rosa María Payá: “Totalitarianism is not broken in Cuba, we can not pretend it is” / EFE (14ymedio), María Tejero Martín”

Why Cuban Agriculture Is Inefficient / Iván García

Plowing in Cuba with oxen. (From On Cuba)
Plowing in Cuba with oxen. (From On Cuba Magazine)

Ivan Garcia, 19 May 2016 — The raindrops tinkle on the zinc roof of a greasy hut used to store sacks of fertilizer, agricultural tools, and the various ancient contraptions that are always be a nuisance to keep in the house.

Osvaldo, the sixty-five-year-old owner of a farm southeast of Havana, calmly takes a drag on a cigarette butt, scratches his head with his thick fingers, which look like twisted meat hooks, and asks his son, “Where the hell have you left the wrench to open the water pump?” Then, once the engine has been started, he runs through the rain back to the entrance of his house. Continue reading “Why Cuban Agriculture Is Inefficient / Iván García”

The New Archbishop Of Havana Confesses To Being “Scared” / 14ymedio, Zunilda Mata

The new archbishop of Havana, Juan de la Caridad Garcia Rodriguez at his inaugural Mass (14ymedio)
The new archbishop of Havana, Juan de la Caridad Garcia Rodriguez at his inaugural Mass (14ymedio)

14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 22 May 2016 – In a packed cathedral with screens showing the mass for those who couldn’t enter the temple, Havana’s new Archbishop, Juan de la Caridad Rodriguez, took possession of his new post this Sunday. The successor to Jaime Ortega y Alamino delivered a homily in which he acknowledged he was “scared” the face of so much responsibility.

“You will understand that I’m scared” and “do not understand the mystery of why I’m here,” said the prelate who also enumerated his wishes that Cubans might “live in peace, eat in peace, work and study in peace, and die in peace.. For which “we dream that no one touches anyone, no one hits anyone, no one, nobody hurts anyone.”

A multitude waited for García Rodríguez from the early hours of the morning in the vicinity of the church. At the front door of the Cathedral Cardinal Ortega y Alamino awaited him, and he opened the ceremony with the crozier in his hands, subsequently handing it over to the new archbishop. On June 29 Pope Francisco will deliver to him in Rome the pallium, a liturgical ornament appropriate to his status.

For Marcia, 66, “it begins a new era for our church and I hope he will bring harmony and respect,” she told this newspaper. Christian and very attentive to ecclesiastical life, the woman notes that “there are high expectations among those who frequently come to this church and people have received the appointment with joy.”

The ceremony on Sunday was attended by several Cuban bishops of various dioceses and the Archbishop of Miami, Thomas Wenski. Government representation was headed by the Vice President of the State Council, Salvador Valdes Mesa and Caridad Diego, head of the Office of Religious Affairs of the Central Committee of the Communist Party.

The new archbishop of Havana, Juan de la Caridad Garcia Rodriguez presided at the Eucharist accompanied by several concelebrating bishops (14ymedio)
The new archbishop of Havana, Juan de la Caridad Garcia Rodriguez presided at the Eucharist accompanied by several concelebrating bishops (14ymedio)

Along with parishioners who usually attend Sunday Mass in Havana’s main church, numerous foreign press correspondents, tourists passing through town and dozens of onlookers also gathered. “This is a historic moment and I came to take pictures and send them to my relatives in Tampa,” a young history student at the University of Havana explained to 14ymedio.

A group of faithful Catholics from the Camaguey region also came to the church. “I am very proud that one of our own has come so far,” Mauritius, age 58 and a resident in Sibanicú told this newspaper. He added, “it has been known for years now that this priest was destined for great challenges.”

Garcia Rodriguez, who served as bishop of Camaguey, was appointed in April by Pope Francis as the new archbishop of Havana. The appointment came after the pope accepted the resignation of former archbishop of the city, Jaime Ortega y Alamino, who had passed the age of 75 years, which is the limit set in the Code of Canon Law.

During the Mass on Sunday a message sent by Pope Francis from the Vatican was read, in which he explained his decision and said that Garcia Rodriguez is “endowed with recognized intellectual and moral qualities,” in addition to enjoying “a wide expertise in the exercise of the pastoral work.”

Born in 1948, the new archbishop of Havana was appointed priest in 1972 and joined the parish of Morón and Ciego de Avila. He was also pastor of Jatibonico and Florida, as well as the founder and director of the School for Missionaries in the diocese of Camagüey, for which was named archbishop in 2002.

Garcia has stressed that he expects his episcopate to serve to increase the dialogue with the Cuban government, so that “the Church can be present in spaces that belong to them, such as education, the media and prison ministry.”

Missing People / Dora Leonor Mesa

Dora Leonor Mesa, 13 May 2016

Guide for Members of Parliament No. 17-2009

This manual is the result of a collaboration between the Interparliamentary Union, a world-wide parliamentary organisation, and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), with the support of the International Red Cross Movement and the Luna Roja Media.

On all five continents, parents, brothers, spouses, are children are desperately seeking  family members, about whom they have no news. Families and communities, who don’t know what has happened to their loved ones, cannot move on from the violence which has disrupted their lives. Continue reading “Missing People / Dora Leonor Mesa”

In Search Of The Owner Of The City / 14ymedio, Pedro Armando Junco

Camagüey is one of Cuba's largest cities and is more than 500 years old (14ymedio)
Camagüey is one of Cuba’s largest cities and is more than 500 years old (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Armando Junco, Camagüey, 21 May 2016 — Every city rests on the man who safeguards it. He can be called mayor, administrator or public official; ultimately the label is the least important. This is his charge, like the steward of the millionaire’s mansion. His obligation lies in the zeal with which he is able to optimize the performance of the city’s people. For this he counts on public economic resources and the necessary personnel.

He is, almost always—as he always should be—the ideal citizen. He is the man everyone knows, who knows everyone’s name and where they live, because, among his reasons for being, his priority is to be ready to hear the needs of the last inhabitant of the village at any time. Continue reading “In Search Of The Owner Of The City / 14ymedio, Pedro Armando Junco”

Filmmakers Reaffirm Their Demands / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

A meeting of the Cuban Filmmakers G20 group held last year in the Fresa y Chocolate Cultural Center. Standing is Juan Carlos Cremata a recently censored Cuban filmmaker. (14ymedio)
A meeting of the Cuban Filmmakers G20 group held last year in the Fresa y Chocolate Cultural Center. Standing is Juan Carlos Cremata a recently censored Cuban filmmaker. (14ymedio)

14ymedio, Luz Escobar, 21 May 2016 – Three years after the first meeting of the G20, a group of Cuban filmmakers who are demanding a Film Law, the group continues to wait for an institutional response that addresses their demands. This week a letter was made public reaffirming their demands for greater recognition for filmmakers and the legalization of independent productions, among other benefits.

Ignored by the official media and frowned upon by the authorities who should be responding to these demands, the group has also been transformed over its three years of existence. Exhausted, worn out and with the responsibility of other commitments, a group that formerly contained 22 names now has only eight members. Continue reading “Filmmakers Reaffirm Their Demands / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar”

Cuba: Capitalism From Afar / Iván García

Golf Course in Cuba
Golf Course in Cuba

Ivan Garcia, 14 May 2016 — Eight months haven’t been enough for the state-owned employer in the tourism sector to hire Yasmani, 23, a black guy nearly six feet talk who is perfecting his English in a private academy in Havana and who has wasted time and money learning the secrets of golf at a club south of the city.

Almost a year ago, on a night of drinking and reggaeton, Yasmani, with a degree in tourism, met a British businessman who wants to do business in Cuba in high class tourism.

“Do you know golf?” the man asked me. “I told him a remembered reading somewhere about Tiger Woods, little more. He said to try to learn the sport, with my command of English and the education I have, maybe I could get a job as a caddy,” said Yasmani, speaking from the doorway of his house. Continue reading “Cuba: Capitalism From Afar / Iván García”

Cuba to Close Medical Missions in Brazil and Venezuela / Juan Juan Almeida

Cuban doctors on medical missions in Brazil (Source: am revista)
Cuban doctors on medical missions in Brazil (Source: Ceara em Revista)

Juan Juan Almeida, 16 Ma 2016 — Quite unexpectedly, Cuban authorities say they are prepared to suspend or cancel medical missions to Brazil and Venezuela.

Ever since Cuban informants, who are spread across the continent, warned that Brazilian legislators were planning to remove President Dilma Rousseff from power and long before President Maduro began facing pressure from the opposition-controlled National Assembly, the Cuban government — calculating as ever and with a proven penchant for creating adversity — secretly devised a plan B, which has now begun to take effect. Continue reading “Cuba to Close Medical Missions in Brazil and Venezuela / Juan Juan Almeida”

Revolutions and Democracy / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula

Entry of Fidel Castro into Havana in 1959 (Camilo Cienfuegos, Fidel Castro and (in profile) Huber Matos). (File)
Entry of Fidel Castro into Havana in 1959 (Camilo Cienfuegos, Fidel Castro and (in profile) Huber Matos). (File)

We observe a man who always speaks of patriotism and he is never patriotic, or only with regards to those of a certain class or certain party. We should fear him, because no one shows more faithfulness nor speaks more strongly against robbery than the thieves themselves.

Felix Varela (in El Habanero, 1824)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Regina Coyula, Havana, 19 May 2016 – Observing the tranquil surface of Cuban society offers a misleading impression. The stagnation is localized only in the government and in the party; and even there it is not very reliable. There is no doubt that many party members participated in and observed the 7th Congress of Cuban Communist Party (PCC) hoping for changes and, watching the direction of the presidential table, dutifully (and resignedly, why not) voted one more time unanimously.

Outside this context, where one thing is said but what is thought may be something else, there is right now a very interesting debate in which all parties believe themselves to be right. The most commonly used concepts to defend opposing theses can be covered in the perceptions of revolution and democracy, which each person conceptualizes according to his or her own line of thinking. Continue reading “Revolutions and Democracy / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula”

The War of the Blacks / Somos+

Somos+, Jose Manuel Presol, 17 May 2016 — If there is something shameful in our republican history, it is the events of 1912. Nothing much is being said about it, not even in the government’s current propaganda. It is mentioned, articles and books are published about it, although it is not widely exposed.

Relatively few things have been written about it; the data, which is scarce at the source, are lost, and it is difficult to achieve an in-depth knowledge about it. Oral transmission is likewise poor, perhaps out of shame by some or out of fear by others.

I am referring to what is called the “War of the Independent People of Color,” or the “War of the Blacks.” Continue reading “The War of the Blacks / Somos+”

Maduro and the Country That is Disintegrating in His Hands / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

A woman protests against members of the Bolivarian National Guard in the march on Wednesday in Caracas. (EFE / Miguel Gutierrez)
A woman protests against members of the Bolivarian National Guard in the march on Wednesday in Caracas. “We are starving to death. Total dictatorship.” (EFE / Miguel Gutierrez)

14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 19 May 2016 — All signs point to the collapse of Venezuela. Every minute that passes the country is disintegrating in the hands of Nicolas Maduro, who insists on maintaining with revolutionary violence a power that he has not known how to keep through efficiency or results. His stubbornness has led a nation rich in resources to misery and his incendiary oratory is now pushing it towards a violent explosion.

In front of the microphones, Maduro claims to defend a chimerical 21st century socialism that only works in the minds of its progenitors. However, his political and repressive actions are aimed at preserving the privileges of a clan that rants against the bourgeoisie while living in opulence and looting the public coffers. He believes in the Robin Hood of the children’s stories, but this time Sherwood Forest has become unlivable, even for the poor. Continue reading “Maduro and the Country That is Disintegrating in His Hands / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez”

Meeting in New Jersey with Eliecer Avila this Saturday / Somos+

13220111_10207578844722699_1539987182_nSomos+, 17 May 2016 — On Saturday, May 21, at 2:00 p.m., at the Club Cubano de New Jersey (New Jersey Cuban Club), the president and founder of Somos+ Political Movement, will give a lecture about current issues in Cuban society. After several months of efforts, this meeting is possible thanks to the cooperation of the members residing in the U.S. You are all invited to this meeting and debate. Hoy Somos+.