For a Parliament Without a Nominating Committee / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Voting in the National Assembly
Voting in the National Assembly

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 16 March 2015 – The National Assembly of People’s Power, or what foreign journalists simplified as the Cuban Parliament, consists of some 612 members. None of them performed any action to achieve their seat; all were taken by surprise when Nominating Committee announced that their name would be on the list of proposed members. Voters who voted for them either were forced to choose between one or the other, but all were approved in a block of 612 candidates. One for each existing post.

About half of these candidates were selected by the Nominating Committee from a list of nearly 15,000 district delegates around the country. The rest were “taken” by this Committee from among other personalities who, without being grassroots delegates continue reading

, stood out for their work in the arts, science or sports, or for accumulating certain historical, political or military merits.

The Parliament is a representative range of our society, except in the field of political opinions

The Committee is careful to maintain an appropriate ratio between young and old; men and women; whites, blacks and mestizos; workers, peasants and intellectuals; and, of course, making sure the fifteen provinces are equally represented. No one can deny that the Parliament is a representative range of our society, at least from the point of view of age, gender, race, occupation and regional profile.

Where there is no plurality is in the field of political opinions. In fact, the voters don’t know the candidates’ views and only assume they must be “revolutionary” because the Committee selected them.

How will this diversity be interpreted when the new Electoral Law that has been announced is enacted?

First, the Nominating Committee should be eliminated. Article 68 of the electoral law provides that:

The Nominating Committees is made up of representatives from the Cuban Workers Center, the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, the Federation of Cuban Woman, the National Association of Small Farmers, the University Students Federation, and the Secondary Students Federation, appointed by the respective national, provincial and municipal boards, at the request of the National, Provincial and Municipal Electoral Commissions.

It is this composition of the Commission that allows the official propagandists to claim that it is not the Communist Party that proposes the candidates. What is not explained is that most of the top leaders of these organizations (which appoint their representatives to the Commission) are at least members of the Central Committee of the Party and that in the statutes of each of these entities is a clause which requires fidelity to the highest political body.

In voting, unanimity is the rule; votes against are the few exceptions

 In the nearly 40 years of the National Assembly of People’s Power’s existence there is no trace of a single adverse vote on a law or a measure proposed by the government, nor has anyone registered any significant argument; is not possible to identify trends, wings, sectors or anything of that kind. In voting, unanimity is the rule; votes against, the few exceptions.

If the new Law modifies this detail, among others, to enter Parliament you should have to have something of your own to propose; if there came to be a deputy who gets to this place for people who think alike and who raised his or her voice or hand in favor of a new idea, the other roosters in this pen would crow…

In a nation where almost everyone has their own point of view but where few have the courage to express it publicly, especially if it deviates from the official line; in a nation that has spent 63 years without civil liberties, where there are at least three generations domesticated under tight ideological tutelage; in a nation like that there will be no democratic experience of a real Parliament just because a new electoral law is enacted.

However, in this house of cards, the slightest movement of a deck can have unexpected consequences in a country where so many people dream of profound changes.

A Simple Proposal for Elections / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Regina Coyula, Havana, 16 March 2015 – I always heard Ricardo Alarcon repeat, during his time as President of the National Assembly of People’s Power, that the Cuban electoral system was the most democratic in the world. The truth is that the weighted advantages of this system not only have never been demonstrated, but it finds itself under challenge with the announcement of a new electoral law.

Democracy is not only the government of the people and the enormous role of the citizenry in moving forward, to later discover that a Nominating Committee chosen by the Party or the Government has included a series of names which, not by coincidence, are continue reading

the figures who lead the country.

Democracy is also the aspiration for a good government of the people, and not this almost forty-year-old institutionalized formula in which the people are subject to the government and must carry out its will. Instead of a head of state-constituent relationship that is only practiced through voice and show of hand “debates,” what needs to be done is to submit a referendum to the ballot box.

Cubans interested in politics are following the issue closely, because over the years the limitations of our electoral law – which restricts the right to vote of Cubans who live outside the Island – have become clear. In addition to the political fidelity of a candidate, people want to know his or her abilities and proposals to improve government management; and democracy also includes the right to elect via direct and secret vote the top leaders of the nation. These and other modifications are leading a process of discussion and approval that apparently will culminate in a new electoral law planned for 2018.

As pointed out by civil society and the citizenry with regards to modifications of the electoral law, parts of the law need to be repealed and new measures need to be implemented, even with impacts on the Constitution; thus, in the upcoming April elections, nothing new will happen. But there is an action that can be taken without need for amendments, one which would speak to transparency which has always been questioned in the People’s Power elections.

It would be an act of transparency on the part of the government, which has always handled with absolute secrecy the breakdown of the numbers

Such action has to do with the results of the voting, which citizens learn through the consolidation published in the press and from the immediate data in their electoral college.

The proposal is simple: starting from these elections publish a tabloid with the detailed information by precinct or electoral college, circumscription, municipality or province, up to the consolidation of national information. In this way any citizen can know the vote totals for any electoral college in the country. This tabloid can be sold on newsstands and offered to subscribers. It can also appear on the digital site of the National Bureau of Statistics and the National Assembly of People’s Power.

It would be an act of transparency on the part of the government, which has always handled with absolute secrecy the breakdown of the numbers, and it would allow everyone to compare what they observed on election day voting in their electoral college with the published results. Nobody could speak subjectively, since the figures would speak for themselves.

Taking care to previously verify one’s name and details on the voters list.

 

Union of Young Communists (UJC): Who Is For That? / 14ymedio, Victor Ariel Gonzalez

9th Congress of the UJC (EFE)
9th Congress of the UJC (EFE)

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14ymedio, Victor Ariel Gonzalez, Havana, 24 February 2015 — The only thing Damian shares with Karl Marx may be the thick beard. In everything else, the Havana engineering student is quite different from the German philosopher who wrote Das Kapital. And the main contrast between them is found in their ways of thinking because for this young man who enjoys sporting the lumberjack style – the “lumberjack” fashion is spreading through the capital – the last thing he wants to talk about is class struggle, historical demands or communism. “Who is for that?” he asks.

To judge by his tone, it seems few. Instead, youngsters like Damian and his girlfriend, or the friends with whom they usually meet in places like the Bertold Brecht café theater or the Cuban Art Factory, prefer to talk about European football leagues while drinking beer paid for in hard currency. Things like the 10th Congress of the Union of Young Communists (UJC) appear nowhere in their conversations, despite the official propaganda that has been unleashed in an intense campaign about the event. According to the press permitted in Cuba, this “will be a congress that looks like Cuban youth.”

Adhering strictly to that maxim, for starters, a good part of the delegates to the Congress must come from abroad, given the number of people who are leaving Cuba. Of the almost half million who have emigrated in the last ten years, a high percentage are young continue reading

people seeking opportunities that their country is incapable of offering them. Damian talks about that also, his desire to leave, and about something curious: the majority of his friends who have managed to do it used to belong to the UJC. “It’s a double standard,” he says. The most radical and exclusive leftist militants went on to live under “cruel” capitalism.

Nevertheless, the increasing emigration is a taboo subject in the current municipal assemblies preceding the big meeting of the young communists. According to a leader of the organization interviewed Monday on national television, such assemblies are in their final stage and from them must emerge a document with “the major problems raised” by their members then to be discussed in the “grass-roots committees.” Only then would topics be chosen for taking to the final Congress, and this via mechanisms perhaps too arbitrary, as usually happens in a country governed by an elite that stopped being young a long time ago.

Among those pre-Congress “proposals,” the leader said, “the transformations themselves of the organization” have prominence. Although there are also “recreation as a necessity,” and the ever greater challenges that globalized cultural consumption poses for “proper” values; or the search for fun spaces whose availability in Cuba now depends only on how much money – that beast that communism tried to eradicate with time – the customers are able to offer.

It is also said that other subjects from the official list will be youth employment and opportunities for study. This Congress will be carried out in a context in which the private sector is gaining appeal in the face of the previously omnipresent State and where university courses are of little use in earning a decent wage. The “updating of the economic model” has not prevented the phenomenon of labor migration from skilled positions to others of lower skill but greater remuneration.

One could not miss, among the “proposals made” that the communist leader mentioned, the “responsibility of the youth with respect to the continuity of the Revolution.” Something logical coming from one who defines himself as the “vanguard” of young Cubans and whose main function is indoctrination. “The UJC not only has the responsibility for the revolutionary and communist formation of new generations, but also (…) that the organization that represents them, directs them, guides them, and leads them towards each one of the transformations of our society,” said the interviewee in the morning report.

Accused of being elitist for assuming the right to speak on behalf of the broad spectrum of young society, the Union is demonstrating a lack of a monolithic nature that contrasts with the discourse of assured historical continuity. Rarely do ordinary Cubans hear on official television an expression of lack of trust in an institution that used to be sacred. This is the reason that the organization’s directors themselves are considering working more closely with the “youth universe,” a classification with which they usually refer to non-members.

The most novel feature about this Congress is the new landscape that emerged after December 17 and the consequent view of rapprochement with the United States, the preferred geographic destination of youth who, like the unbeliever Damian, pursue the dream of prospering outside of Cuba.

Belonging to the UJC is no longer a guarantee to access the state meritocracy. Even the most popular singers, even if they keep a prudent distance from the open political opposition, have never carried communist youth membership cards. What icons or deals does the UJC have to offer?

Traditionally, to be part of the organization meant an advantage for those who aspired to good recommendations in their records, obligatory for a university career or a job, the guarantee of belonging to a more favored caste. Today, with young Cubans competing to see who has the best cell phone, it is no longer like that. Without having been officially recognized, the principal enemies today of the Union of Young Communists are political apathy, the loss of its significance and its function as a social placeholder.

The tie to the UJC has turned into a stigma and even a cause of ridicule among youth. Young people often call its members “militontos” (member-idiots) in their private conversations. In a society where intransigence stopped being a virtue and everyone resorts to illegality in order to live, the role of the “correct” has lost too much impact and is even satirized by official media. “Who is for that?” Damian, who definitely “is not for that,” repeats over and over.

Translated by MLK

Rationing in Venezuela: A ‘Déjà vu’ for Cubans / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya

The ration book (14ymedio)
The ration book (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, Miriam Celaya, 11 March 2015 — Commissar Nicolas Maduro, president of Venezuela to the misfortune of its people and – let’s admit it – also for the prolongation of our own misfortune, has just announced recently the installation of 20,000 digital fingerprint readers in state food markets and in several private sector retail chains that, according to him, adopted the initiative “voluntarily” after meetings held with the government.

Let’s draw a merciful veil over the aforementioned secret meetings and imagine the atmosphere that must have reigned there in the midst of the “permanent economic war” that Venezuela suffers, the successive “soft coups” that have been provoked almost bi-weekly in that South American nation – according to the president’s denunciations – and the growing repression of opposition factions and civil society that demonstrate publicly and openly against the government. continue reading

It is not very hard to guess what caused the “voluntariness” of these businessmen, who are definitively representatives of the “oligarchies” constantly defamed in official speeches and press.

But returning to the topic of Comrade-President Maduro’s above-mentioned fingerprint readers, his lofty purpose is, while guaranteeing the feeding of the people, to counter smuggling, or more exactly, “the smugglers” since smuggling can exist without socialism but socialism has never existed without smuggling.

This way, the fingerprint readers – which will limit the purchase of foods and other products in high demand whose supply has been greatly depressed causing lines, hoarding and disturbances in the stores – now are added to the prior rationing through magnetic cards established in 2014. It is clear that the Bolshevik Nicolas has not the least ability to overcome his country’s economic crisis, but at least in contemporary times the new technologies permit digital management of the misery. It is without doubt a real contribution of Socialism in the 21st Century which the late Hugo predicted in his glory days, before being planted in the Mountain Barracks and turned into a tiny little bird dispensing bad advice*.

Decades later, the Venezuelan government model – if it is possible to call it that – is dragging the country in a sort of reverse race through experiences similar to those that we Cubans have gone through under Castro-ism.

Those of us born before or in the years immediately following the catastrophic accident of January 1959 remember clearly some of the bureaucratic variants created to manage poverty, an ill that the older ones among us believed had been almost overcome with the economic boom experienced in the 50’s.

This administrative strategy, typical of war and famine economies, was first established for food products, and a little later, with the decline of Cuban industries due to the extreme nationalization of the economy, it was rapidly extended to other consumer products, such as clothing, footwear and other goods. Then came the industrial products book, popularly known as the store booklet, which currently functions only for the acquisition of school uniforms.

This version of control not only indicated the limits of access to the said articles, but it also reached the point of establishing shopping schedules for groups, with subsections inspired in the strongly sexist standards of the Revolution, which assigned two days a week – Monday and Thursday – on which only women workers could shop; an enviable privilege in the widespread poverty that, moreover, took for granted in a Revolutionary way that trifles like shopping were not worthy of men.

Decades of shortages, manipulated in detail by those in power, sowed in ordinary Cubans an extreme dependence on the State – an always insufficient provider but the only one possible – and a whole culture of systematized poverty that includes a peculiar glossary with phrases that we drag around even today in popular speech: “what they are offering” in this or that establishment, “what’s assigned to you,” “what’s expiring,” “plan jaba**,” “chicken diet***” and many similar ones that reflect the national acceptance of misery as the common destiny, something that one day – hopefully not too distant – should embarrass us.

Rationing in Cuba has been quite an institution that has played a role in the socio-economic realm and also in the political, functioning more as an instrument of subjection of the people by the Government than as a true guarantor of a just distribution of consumer goods, established with a vulgar egalitarianism that annulled individual initiative and turned the citizen into dough.

The ration book has constituted a mechanism of social control, even to the point that currently the Government has not been able to eliminate it, on pain of absolutely abandoning the most disadvantaged social sectors, especially the elderly without filial protection and the many humble homes which receive no remittances from abroad nor have any other hard currency income. In spite of that, the food products rationed and subsidized through the book – that artifact that constitutes a complete leftover of the Cold War – are today fewer than a dozen, and they barely cover precariously some of the most pressing food needs while the rate of inflation keeps increasing and wages hardly have even symbolic value.

Bread lines (14ymedio)
Bread lines (14ymedio)

That is why, when I now witness the Venezuelan rationing process, when I hear the openness with which Comrade-President Nicolas Maduro disguises in modernity the cataclysm of misery that looms for his people, I cannot escape a kind of jolt, like déjà vu. We Cubans already traveled that path, we walked half a century over its thorns and we are convinced that it only leads to disaster. We have painfully and abundantly proven that misery is the only thing that, divided among many, touches more.

Personally, I hope that the poor Venezuelans, who lately pursue their food anxiously and stand in long lines at stores with empty shelves, manage in time to avoid that serious confusion that sometimes leads people to interpret as justice that which is the manipulation and burial of freedoms.

Translator’s notes:
* Nicolas Maduro says that Hugo Chavez appears to him as a tiny little bird, and dispenses advice. In this video, otherwise in Spanish, he imitates the sounds the bird makes flying around his head and then imitates the bird whistling a message. 
** “Plan jaba” is literally “sack plan” and can mean one of two things: (A) you leave your bag and come back and pick it up at a convenient time so you don’t have to wait in line all day, which is allowed for some working people; or (B) you get a “special bag of extras” because of age, illness or pregnancy, and again, you just pick it up.
*** “Chicken diet” means that you get extra protein because of age, illness or pregnancy.

Translated by MLK

Outside of Havana, the partial results of the referendum give a solid majority to Berta Soler / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White. (CC)
Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White. (CC)

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14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 10 March 2015 — The leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler, talks about the first voting on the referendum to determine whether she will remain at the front of the organization, and denounces the repression that accompanied the consultation. The first results are very favorable, although the votes from Havana still need to be counted, those results are expected to be known on Wednesday.

Escobar. What is the latest news about the recall referendum?

Soler. It was planned to hold it this coming March 16, but considering the conditions in each province and the problems of some Ladies in White that should be dealt with, it was decided to move up the date.

Escobar. Was Matanzas the first province to vote?

Soler. Yes, they voted last Saturday. For me it has been impressive since this province has 33 Ladies in White with voting rights and all continue reading

participated. Of these 32 voted “yes” and one voted “no.”

On Sunday, many of them went to the sites of each delegation to exercise their vote. Of the 22 members in Guantanamo, 18 participated and 16 voted “yes” and two annulled their ballot. In Santa Clara 12 of 13 members participated; eight voted “yes.” In Santiago de Cuba, of the 12 with a right to vote 10 chose “yes” and two chose “no.” In Bayamo, five voted “yes” and one did not show up. Today, Tuesday, the referendum was held in Holguin, with 22 “yes” and 4 “no,” plus one annulled ballot and one blank ballot.

“If the Cuban government has pasted up photos of “The Five,” we know we have the right to do that for our prisoners” 

The vote of seven people from Ciego de Ávila is now pending now, as are five votes in Pinar del Rio and at least another 92 in Havana.

In all the provinces the vote has followed the same rules. There is a ballot box, the girls come, watched by observers from various organizations that have nothing to do with the Ladies in White, like UNPACU and the Republican Party for example.

Escobar. How is the information reported?

Soler. By phone. As soon as the voting ended, with observers present and the ladies who were there, the ballots were opened, the counting was done and the results publicly announced. It was then sealed and the votes were sent to Havana so there can be a count before Wednesday.

Escobar. Has there been any kind of repression?

Soler. Yes. An observer from Granma province was arrested in the morning and as of five in the afternoon had not yet released. In Havana, we pasted up pictures of Ángel Santiesteban and El Sexto (Danilo Maldonano). We did it, we are doing it and we will continue to do it, because if the Cuban government has pasted up photos of “The Five,” we know we have the right to do that for our prisoners.

I congratulated everyone including those who said no. I wanted there to be “no” votes so people could see that is it possible to vote “no.”

They arrested seven Ladies in White in Virgen del Camino along with three human rights activists from other organizations. One security agent who is called Luisito said to Dayami Ortiz, “If you vote for Berta you’re going to spend four days locked up with prisoners.” Sobrelis Turroella, who is ill, was also taken prisoner yesterday in Alamar. They said to her, “How’s your cancer going?” “You’re really sick, what are you going to do with cancer?” Or, “If you vote yes, instead of fining you 1,500 pesos for having ‘undocumented’ sugar, we’re going to find you 3,000 pesos.”

We looked for this referendum to be clear, very transparent, but the Cuban government wants to tarnish it. So far, there are 112 “yes’s,” nine “no’s” and five ballots blank or annulled. I congratulated everyone including those who said no. I wanted there to be “no” votes so people could see that is it possible to vote “no.”

This process emerged from a disagreeable incident and, in the end, will strengthen the movement. I think that in Cuban civil society we have to learn democracy by practicing democracy.

Take care of politics! / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 4 March 2015 – The political and electoral system put in place in Cuba in the name of a socialism that has never existed, on which bureaucracy placed its bets and with which it has always won, has distinguished itself for its representative and indirect character, like that of the representative democracies that it has always criticized in other countries.

That indirect and representative form, where those at the bottom only count when its time to vote for candidates that have been predetermined by the top – except in the case of district delegates – of whom all that is known is a small biography, has only served to depoliticize constituents and make them lose interest in politics, which is nothing more than a way to manage continue reading

issues that concern everyone, be they political, economic, fiscal, labor, judicial, or social.

Since no one is elected for the policies they would put in place to resolve issues in the community, the region, or the country, people simply don’t discuss politics nor do they vote for a specific policy. Thus far, those elected are the one’s who are “best trained” to make and defend the policies that have already been established by the Government-party. This has been the essence of the “socialist democracy.”

Given that the vast majority of Cubans have left politics in the hands of the same people who have governed this country – under a single party and in a single direction – for over half a century, they have decided and continue to decide all our destinies.

It’s time for Cubans, regardless of our ways of thinking, to begin taking care of politics, making it work for all our interests and pulling it from the stagnation into which it has been plunged. We should do the same with the economy, to extract it from the high levels of centralization that have characterized it. The point is not to be consulted about what should be done; it’s to make ourselves the deciders of what occurs.

No one explains what the Party’s Central Committee’s announced new electoral law proposes

 The last plenary session of the Party’s Central Committee approved the establishment of a new electoral law. There are no doubts that it is necessary, but no one explains what the new legislation proposes or how it will impact citizens, if we will participate in its drafting and if we will vote for it in referendum or not, as it should be due to its importance.

Meanwhile, independent civil society demands a new constitution, rule of law, a multi-party system, and democratic elections, and the left, additionally, urges the delivery of a more direct democracy, increased public control, and more effective forms of participation and decision-making.

How will we Cubans participate in the discussion process regarding the new law so that politics doesn’t continue to take care of us and instead it is us who takes care of politics?

How to reconcile that new law with the demands of a great part of Cuban society? Why link it to the negotiations with the United States when it deals with a topic that is solely the responsibility of the Cuban people? Will a new electoral law be democratic or just a patching up of the previous one aimed at keeping up appearances and prolonging the Party’s time in power? How can a new electoral law be conceived without having previously changed a Constitution that has various antidemocratic articles such as the following?

  1. Article 5: establishes the rule of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) over the society.
  1. Article 53: restricts the freedoms of expression and press insofar as it advances the interests of the socialist society, a socialism that also lacks a precise definition.
  1. Article 54: limits the rights to assembly, protest, and association to existing organizations that are subordinate to the PCC.
  1. Article 74: establishes indirect elections for the offices of President and Vice-President at the hands of the National Assembly of People’s Power.
  1. Article 116: establishes that Provincial and Municipal Assemblies are responsible for indirectly electing mayors and governors.

How can a new electoral law be conceived without having previously changed a Constitution that has various antidemocratic articles?

 How to discuss and approve a new electoral law in a country whose political climate does not allow free expression of different ideas or the right to form political associations to defend them.

Regardless, relative to the electoral system, Chapter XIV of the Constitution is sufficiently ample and imprecise to allow for almost anything, even when it seems to contradict other aspects of the Magna Carta, it would be too hasty to draw conclusions for now, given that there are also many other articles that would justify an electoral law that would be entirely democratic.

Regarding this with an optimistic eye, which would not be supported by the actions of Raul Castro’s government in this area, it would be possible to expect that this announcement could be a prelude to others, essential for the creation of a climate of national dialogue and confidence needed for the longed-for process of democratization to open up.

Consequently, we should practice politics, organize ourselves and continue to demand, through every possible track, the creation of a political atmosphere that will be conducive to a necessary national dialogue without exclusions; the establishment of thorough respect for the freedoms of expression, association, and election; the beginning of the works toward a new democratic Constitution that will be approved in a referendum and will allow for the establishment of a rule of law; and continue to push for the complete liberation of the country’s forces of production from all the bonds, regulations, and monopolies imposed by the salaried state forces.

Take care of politics, or politics will take care of you!

Translated by Fernando Fornaris

Queens for a Night / 14ymedio, Rosa Lopez

Painting of a woman's face (Silvia Corbelle)
Painting of a woman’s face (Silvia Corbelle)

14ymedio, Rosa Lopez, Camagüey, 8 March 2015 — On the kitchen table is a smeared plate of pink meringue. It’s been there since Friday afternoon, when she brought that piece of cake from the party for Women’s Day. After the celebration, the music and a boring speech from the factory director, Magaly returned to the routine of her life. To a house where a double workday awaited her, with no union, no protective laws, much less a salary. Almost sixty, she’s learned that the speeches about gender equality are just that, speeches.

In the distant year of 1869, within a few hours of the proclamation of the Guaimaro Constitution, Ana Betancourt launched a phrase that would mark women’s illusions with the processes of political change in our country. “Citizens: the woman in the dark and quiet corner of the house waited patiently and with resignation for this beautiful hour in which the new revolution broke her yoke and continue reading

unchained her wings.”

Which is what Magaly felt as a teenager when she went to a meeting of the Federation of Cuban Woman (FMC) for the first time. In those years she was also a part of a squad in the Territorial Troops Militia (MTT), and at the same time she did volunteer work almost every weekend and was raising two small children.

Those were the days of the so-called “orchestra woman” this graduate in Chemical Engineering says now, with disappointment — a time when women thought they could play all the instruments at once. Her disenchantments are shared with many women who gave the best years of their lives to a process where emancipation was only achieved on paper in official reports. “Before every problem where I needed some kind of protection for being a woman, I found myself helpless,” remembers Magaly, sitting in the living room of her house, an old mansions with cracked walls in the city of Camagüey.

I experienced moments of domestic violence with a husband who was obsessed with me, but the police would never give me a restraining order

 She details the situations where she felt the weight of her ovaries like a difficult burden to bear. “I experienced moments of domestic violence with a husband who was obsessed with me, but the police would never give me a restraining order and when I complained they told me that we had to ‘work things out ourselves.’ Imagine how frightened I was, barely able to go outside.”

She became an expert in hiding bruises behind dark glasses and looked for a lover who “would punch out the abuser, and so it was resolved, because here it’s only done man to man.”

“When I divorced that husband, just to top it off, they only gave me a monthly support payment of sixty pesos [roughly $2.40 US] for each child. What could I do with that?” she asks, upset. Although in Cuba child support after a divorce is obligatory, the amount is determined based on the legal earnings of the father, or of his salary in Cuban pesos. In a society where the Government itself recognizes that wages are not people’s principal source of income, calculating support in this way puts the main economic burden of raising children on the mothers’ shoulders – who retain custody in most cases.

In Magaly’s family the women were always strong and fighters, she says, while showing some photos from the past. “My grandmother participated in 1923 in the First National Women’s Congress, when there were 31 women’s associations in the different provinces.” It was the first meeting of this type in Latin American and in its discussions they demanded the chance to campaign for women’s suffrage. The voices of women were also heard in getting laws to protect children and to achieve equal social, political and economic rights.

After reviewing the history of the women in her family tree, Magaly says that “when the Revolution triumphed my mother was very excited by the advantages this would bring us.” However, the consensus opinion is that with the speeches about emancipation that accompanied the process from its first day, women achieved major representation in public positions and a double workday, but very little changed inside the home.

“All my friends spent the day working on domestic issues, some even left their jobs to be able to dedicate full time to their homes,” says this professional who makes a living reselling products she manages to extract illegally from the factory where she works. She clarifies her statements with a dose of irony, “It’s true that having an abortion became very easy and divorce is achieved at the blink of an eye, but the machismo structure of society remains intact, leaving us the role of almost-slaves in the home.”

“Having an abortion became very easy and divorce is achieved at the blink of an eye, but the machismo structure of society remains intact”

“And the FMC?” she asks loudly. “Well thank you for convening meetings and giving us more tasks to do because that’s all it does.” This in reference to the only women’s organization allowed in the country, founded in August 1960, which today comprises more than four million females. The majority of them have joined the federation in an almost mechanical gesture, very similar to the push making so many Cubans members of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR).

Magaly belongs to that generation that grew up surrounded by promises of equality. “Most of my classmates at the university were women, but today a large percentage of them are no longer working.” The economic collapse of the Special Period sent many women who had worked in a company or state entity back to their homes. Today, many depend economically on their husbands, and upon retirement receive they will receive only a symbolic pension, leaving them to be supported by their children.

Someone knocks on the door while this woman from Camagüey describes her daily life. It is an onion seller who asks two days wages for one bunch. There’s no choice but to buy them, because “I’m soaking some beans and I have to have something to put with them,” she says, wrapped in a robe so old it’s transparent. When the transaction is over she continues talking about her frustrations. “My friends can’t afford hardly anything, even to buy makeup they have to jump through hoops.”

“But I don’t fight it,” she concludes. “What I can’t do without is diazepam,” she explains, taking from her purse a packet with little white pills that are prescribed for anxiety, muscular spasms and seizures. In Cuba there is an extensive illegal market for this drug and other anti-anxiety medications which are greatly used by women. “This is the real emancipation, almost all the women I know take something like this… it is the pill that makes us feel like queens, at least for a night, while we sleep.”

The Annual Potato Ritual / 14ymedio, Orlando Palma

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A line to buy potatoes in Havana. (Luz Escobar / 14ymedio)

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14ymedio, ORLANDO PALMA, Havana, 9 March 2015 — Last weekend, the arrival of the potato in several farmers markets in Havana provoked fights that recalled the despair of the most difficult years of the Special Period. Hours after the squabbles ended, it was possible to buy potatoes in the same places, but from the hands of those clever enough to speculate in the product.

The Ministry of Agriculture authorities insist that the current crop of the tuber is notably larger than last year’s, however the lines and fights to buy them also seem to have multiplied.

In the current “potato campaign” 60,000 tons of the product are expected, but precedents raise fears that this estimate will not be reached. The 2014 harvest fell significantly short of the production plan, delivering 53,300 tons instead of the 65,700 tons projected. The difference was felt on the dinner tables of Cuban families and provoked desperation in neighborhoods and continue reading

villages, something that is easy to observe whenever you see a truck with the precious foodstuff.

In the case of the city of Havana, given its population density, the situation becomes more complex. The product is sold in at least 51 authorized markets in the neighborhoods of Playa, Plaza, Centro Habana, La Habana Vieja, Diez de Octubre, La Habana del Este, San Miguel, Boyeros, Arroyo Naranjo and Cerro. These places are battlegrounds where people wait for hours, shouting and shoving.

The panorama of long lines and fights is now repeated in the illegal market, where the prices for potatoes have also shot up. If at the official stalls a pound costs one Cuban peso (about 4¢ US), buying them under the table is going to cost you one convertible peso, twenty-five times the official price. And that despite the fact that sales are restricted to twenty pounds a person, a limitation the resellers seem to overcome with ease.

If at the official stalls a pound costs one Cuban peso (about 4¢ US), buying them under the table is going to cost you one convertible peso, twenty-five times the official price

Nancy Wilson Perich, Commercial Deputy Director of the Provincial Company of Agricultural Markets, looks to the future with optimism, however. According to what this functionary told the official media, the number of stalls selling potatoes will increase to 210 during March, and they are expected to sell 26,500 tons, of which 3,500 have already been sold.

Most of the potatoes arriving in the capital this season come from the provinces of Mayabeque, Artemisa, Matanzas, Cienfuegos and Ciego de Avila. Perich Wilson says that of the 60,000 tons expected from February to April, about 30,000 will go to into cold storage in Havana, Güira, Alquízar and Guines for later sale.

“Operation potato” not only involves the Provincial Company of Agricultural Markets, it also involves the Ministry of Domestic Trade, the Logistics Group of the Ministry of Agriculture and the National Revolutionary Police themselves, who are in charge of controlling lines and maintaining discipline among buyers. A long involved chain, which can neither produce nor distribute this staple efficiently.

Farmers point to the scarce supply of seed as responsible for the decrease in the presence of the potatoes in Cuba. Most seeds are imported from the Netherlands and Canada at a cost of over 10 million dollars. The national variety, known as Romano, can’t produce the yields of the foreign seeds, but it has the advantage of coming earlier in the year compared to the foreign supplies, which only begin to arrive in the country starting in the month of November.

Farmers complain of poor seed distribution, doled out to them in dribs and drabs, late and often in bad shape

Farmers complain of poor seed distribution, doled out to them in dribs and drabs, late and often in bad shape. To this is added the climate requirements for good growth of the tubers, which need a temperature between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit for full development. The good news is that, at least in recent weeks, the cold fronts that have hit the western region have been favorable for potato cultivation.

The same has not been true for the supply of fertilizers, insecticides and the quality of the irrigation systems of the farmers engaged in this work. Problems are felt in towns such as Alquízar, Güira and Artemis, with a long tradition of potato farming, where farmers reported delays and gaps in the delivery of the “technology package.” The bad technical situation or absence of sprayers for pests is one of the obstacles most mentioned by the producers.

The potato problem, however, transcends potatoes. It is not just about the difficulties facing production. In 2000 there was a very positive peak of 348,500 tons, almost six times today’s production. The situation is closely related to the increase in prices and the lack of substitute products.

This is also the case with rice and meats, which in recent months have experienced cycles of shortages and rising imports. Given the high price of beans, the potato becomes a product that can salvage a meal. The desperation to buy potatoes does not represent a special fondness on the part of Cubans for its flavor, but an urgent need to alleviate the lack of food that has increased in recent months because of shortages.

Woman in Cuba Today: A Photo Essay by Silvia Corbelle / 14ymedio

Photo essay by Silvia Corbelle

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By Secret and Direct Ballot / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Ballot for Election of the Municipal Assemblies of People's Power (Photo: Yoani Sánchez)
Ballot for Election of the Municipal Assemblies of People’s Power (Photo: Yoani Sánchez)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Panama, 7 March 2015 — A few years ago I asked a friend why he had voted for a candidate he barely knew during the election of delegates to the municipal assemblies. His response at the time was simple and full of wisdom. “I don’t want to get into trouble, it’s not that the ballots are marked,” he warned me slyly. With my face showing how embarrassed I was for him, he immediately declared, “Fine, in the end, voting or not voting, it isn’t going to change anything.”

My friend’s comments highlighted two of the most serious limitations of the current mechanisms for electing the people’s representatives. On the one hand, the little confidence that Cuban voters have in the secrecy of the process, and on the other hand, the inability of the candidates elected to influence the direction of the nation. Two of the aspects most mentioned continue reading

in a forum about the electoral system just held on the digital site of the government newspaper Juventud Rebelde (Rebel Youth).

The discussion occurred during the days when a citation was put under my door to participate in the elections for the Municipal Assemblies of People’s Power. A piece of gray paper, which most of my neighbors received with the reluctance of a formality that doesn’t influence nor relieve the serious problems they face every day. Many of them will go to vote like automatons, just like during past elections, and with the same lack of faith in the process.

Not even the discreet announcement – of just a few weeks ago – of a new Electoral Law in Cuba, managed to put to rest these suspicions they harbor. A situation made clear in the discussion promoted by the official media, where among the demands most repeated by the readers was the right to a direct and secret ballot to elect the highest offices in the country.

It is true that the questions the People’s Power has heard for decades in their own district assemblies are the fodder of comedians and even critics in the official media, but so far there has been a line no one dares to cross, that of questioning the method by which those occupying the highest positions in the nation are chosen. Discussing something like this immediately places the dissatisfied voter on the side of the enemy, of the opposition, and of the “puppets of the empire.”

In ‘Juventud Rebelde’ discussion, readers asked about the right to a direct and secret ballot to elect the highest offices in the country

It is a relief to know one can inquire – at least on the Internet – about the mechanisms to decide who will sit in the presidential chair, although it only serves to receive an answer as poor as that given by the National Electoral Commission (CEN), which avoided the controversy by stating that, “at the appropriate time it will be addressed as a part of the legislative policy of the country.”

There was another twist of the knife when a different participant in the virtual forum inquired about the existence of “a mechanism to measure the performance of the positions of President and First Vice President of the Council of State and Ministers, and if the National Assembly has the power to remove them from office.” In response, the CEN demonstrated its scarce power of decision, “We regret we are unable to respond to your request, as it is not our responsibility,” it confessed.

Among the notable absences in the discussion, however, was the ban on candidates putting forth a program, which means the voters mark their ballots based on a biography, rather than on the proposals of their future representative. When will we know if this university graduate, good father and better professional is also someone who shares our ideas about economic decisions, gay marriage or foreign policy? To vote for a photo and a list of merits – as inflated as they are impossible to prove – only prolongs the Government of the incapable and docile.

Nevertheless, the Juventud Rebelde forum has opened a crack that hints at a ballot that is independent and with guarantees – improbable for now – for our electoral system, raising broad and devastatingly deep criticisms of the ruling regime. The daring with which several commentators expressed themselves in the official organ of the Communist youth suggests that, when these opinions can be expressed without reprisals, they will become a veritable waterfall of dissatisfied voices.

Cuban Opposition Prepares its Proposals for the Summit of the Americas / 14ymedio

Transitions in Latin American Societies meeting participants in Madrid
Transitions in Latin American Societies meeting participants in Madrid

Representatives of civil society meeting in Madrid agree on a set of strategies for 2015

14ymedio, Madrid, 6 March 2015 — Cuban dissidents, gathered in Madrid on Thursday and Friday at the Transitions in Latin American Societies conference, have agreed on a set of actions for 2015.Their proposals include:

  1. Implement actions to maintain the demands of Four Points of Minimum Consensus
  2. Promote discussion of the document An Ethical Path for Cuban Civil Society at the grassroots level (Open Space agreed by the meeting of February 25, 2015 in Havana)
  3. Support peaceful pro-democracy movements for greater visibility among citizens
  4. Discuss proposals for new laws on Associations and Parties and an Electoral Law
  5. Begin the Journey of thought to Cuba (3.0)
  6. Encourage projects by youth for youth

Among the participants in the meeting continue reading

, which took place in La Casa de America, were Dagoberto Valdés Hernández (of the magazine Convivencia), Daniel Millet Jiménez (Comando Agromontino F.N.R. Orlando Zapata), Eliécer Ávila Cicilia (leader of Somos+), Elizardo Sánchez (Comisión Cubana de Derechos Humanos y Reconciliación Nacional), Jorge Luis García Pérez “Antúnez” (Frente Nacional de Resistencia Cívica Orlando Zapata), Manuel Cuesta Morúa (Arco Progresista), Reinaldo Escobar (editor-in-chief of14ymedio), Yoani Sánchez (director of14ymedio) y Yusmila Reina Ferrera ( Unión Patriótica de Cuba).

Also participating in the event were Alejandro González Raga (executive director of Observatorio Cubano de Derechos Humanos), Amado Lorenzo (president of the Grupo de Estrategia y Geopolítica), Andrés Hernández (vice president of the Partido Demócrata Cristiano de Cuba), Antonio Guedes Sánchez (Asociación de Iberoamericanos por la Libertad), Antonio José Ponte (Diario de Cuba), Elena Larrinaga de Luis (FECU/Observatorio Cubano de Derechos Humanos), Frisia Batista ( Raíces de Esperanza), José Oscar Pérez Couce (President of the Centro Cubano de España), María Matienzo Puerto (Diario de Cuba), Tomás G. Muñoz y Oribe (Vice president of Relaciones Internacionales Unión Liberal Cubana), as well as Spanish politicians and representatives from European embassies in Spain.

Attendees discussed the establishment of the Democratic Unity Roundtable in Venezuela and its possible applications to the Cuban case

Attendees discussed the establishment of the Democratic Unity Roundtable in Venezuela and its possible applications to the Cuban case. The current status of the opposition in Cuba was also discussed, along with short-term action strategies (before the conclusion of the Summit of the Americas in Panama on 10 and 11 April), as well as medium- and long-term strategies.

One of the objectives of activists gathered in Madrid has been the development of a Journey of Thought for a new country that would include a diagnosis of the major social and economic challenges and the development of possible solutions. They also attempted to come to consensus on ideas and actions for Cuban civil society inside and outside the island, to achieve unity in the face of a peaceful transition, including freedom of expression, the ethical use of the media and new technologies, a process of civic education for the proper exercise of freedom, entrepreneurial empowerment, in addition to the essential legal and constitutional changes.

Participants agreed to organize follow-up meetings based on themes – economy, education, agriculture, communications media, new technologies – and the widest possible dissemination of these discussions outside the Island under the slogan “Another Cuba is possible.”

 

Lettuces of Lead / 14ymedio, Rosa Lopez

Urban organic garden in Miramar, Havana (flickr)
Urban organic garden in Miramar, Havana (flickr)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Rosa Lopez, Havana, 1 March 2015 – The raised bed exhibits its curly lettuces a few meters from the rough concrete building. There is an hour to go before the urban organic garden near Hidalgo Street in the Plaza township begins its sale, but already customers are thronging to get fresh vegetables and lower prices. None of them knows that the products they will buy here are neither organic nor very safe for their health.

Urban agriculture is a phenomenon that dawned in the nineties with the rigors of the Special Period. In the words of a humorist, “We Havanans turned ourselves into peasants and planted leeks even on balconies.” The economic crisis and the inefficiency of state farms required taking advantage of empty lots in order to cultivate greens and vegetables.

The initiative helped all these years to alleviate shortages and has many defenders who emphasize their community character, so different from the mechanization of modern agriculture. Nevertheless, together with the undeniable merits are hidden serious problems that point to the contamination of the crops with wastes characteristic of urban areas. continue reading

Hidden, serious problems point to the contamination of the crops with wastes characteristic of urban areas

Nationwide, about 40,000 people work in urban agriculture projects on some 83,000 acres (130 square miles) that are divided into 145,000 parcels, 385,000 patios*, 6,400 intensive gardens and 4,000 urban organic gardens. These last under the leadership of the Ministry of Agriculture, although with some autonomy for crop management.

With these lands planted in populated areas, it has been the goal to reduce food insecurity, offer greater access to fresh produce and to expand green spaces in urban zones.

Havana has 97 high yield urban organic gardens. One of the best known is located in the Alamar neighborhood and is currently managed by a cooperative of 180 members. The capital also has 318 intensive gardens, with crops sown directly in the ground, in addition to 38 crops that are semi-protected and in enriched soil.

The soil enrichment uses a technique known as vermicomposting, which consists of transforming solid wastes by the action of earthworms and micro-organisms. The problem is that many of the urban wastes that serve as a basis for the process are gotten from residential trash and carry a big load of heavy metals that with time accumulate in greens and vegetables.

The compost comes from household trash containing cadmium and lead above the maximum permissible levels

A study carried out in 2012 by several researchers from the Institute of Soils and that included samples from urban organic gardens in Havana and Guantanamo brought to light that “the compost obtained from the urban solid wastes originating in household trash extracted from landfills without prior sorting, and the subsoils prepared from them, contain heavy metals, especially cadmium and lead, above the maximum permissible levels.”

The lack of an effective system of trash sorting and processing works against us, because much of the waste used for compost in the urban organic gardens has had previous contact with materials like cans, paints, and batteries, thrown indiscriminately into landfills all over the country.

Urban agriculture in Havana (flickr)
Urban agriculture in Havana (flickr)

Furthermore, the process to achieve compost often is not carried out properly, so that the pathogens contained in the wastes are not destroyed. Although part of the material used in this process comes from the garden itself, trash from nearby settlements, market wastes and agro-industrial refuse are also added.

Family gardens account for close to 90% of the greens consumed by the population, so ingestion of high doses of heavy metals could be affecting a great number of Cubans.

Irrigation adds a high content of chlorine and other water purifiers 

Irrigation of the urban organic gardens aggravates the problem because the water comes from the population’s supply network and affects the amount of water available for human consumption, besides also being unsuitable for crops because of the high content of chlorine and other purifying products.

The proximity of streets and avenues to the crops worsens the pollution because heavy metals also arrive through the ground and the air. Add to that the use of pesticides and fungicides for control of pests in the urban organic gardens. An un-confessed but widespread practice.

Most alarming is that the Ministry of Agriculture keeps silent about this matter and does not promote research into the presence of chemical agents harmful to health in produce that consumers imagine fresh and organic. Complicity or apathy? No one knows, but there are many reasons to distrust that bunch of lettuce with its attractive green leaves.

*Translator’s note: “Patios” in this context refers to home gardens producing food primarily for family consumption.

Translated by MLK

Naty Revuelta, Some Notes for an Incomplete Biography / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula

Natalia Revuelta Crews
Natalia Revuelta Crews

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14ymedio, Regina Coyula, 2 March 2015 — Beautiful, intelligent, affluent – as Félix de Cossío portrayed her, dressed for a party – Natalia Revuelta Clews was collaborating with the Orthodox Party when, on 10 March 1952, hearing of Batista’s coup d’etat on the way to her job as an executive at Esso Standard Oil, she ordered two sets of copies of the keys to her home in Vedado: one for Milla Ochoa, leader of the Orthodox Party, and the other for another Orthodox Party member, Fidel Castro. Giving them the keys was offering them a safe place in case of danger. Fidel and Naty didn’t know each other personally, but that action would mark the rest of her life.

A university degree, fluency in three languages, and a strong culture would have allowed her to engage in any activity; but she was relegated to the mid-level bureaucracy, always under the burden of her adulterous relationship with Fidel – a petty-bourgeois prejudice of the Marxist Revolution. She went on trying to be useful.

I met her through my husband, with whom she shared half a century of friendship, and we were friends despite the huge differences we had on matters of politics. Our conversations were peppered with disagreements, but we never allowed such differences to tarnish our good relationship.

Many knew her as “the mother of Fidel’s daughter” and it’s easy to assume that she enjoyed the privileges of a kept woman. Quite the contrary continue reading

, the personal and social cost was enormous. Among other things, Naty pawned her jewels to finance in part the Moncada Assault and, at the triumph of the Revolution, she gave her home (now a diplomatic residence) and moved to a smaller house.

The society to which she belonged never forgave her; and her daughters had to suffer the breakup of the family they knew. She felt responsible for the estrangement of her daughters, and never said anything that reflected badly on them; on the contrary, she was happy with the achievements of both and especially proud of her granddaughter.

It was in my house where she came to vent her humiliation of having been excluded from the celebrations for the release of the Moncada barracks attackers. They also refused her a place in the 26th of July events, despite her having been the third woman to become a “moncadista.” All this happened after her daughter Alina fled the country.

Naty gave me the complete originals of the correspondence between her and Fidel Castro during the almost two years he was in prison on the Isle of Pines

Life often offers substitutes. Naty was a required presence at book launches, concerts or exhibitions; she was always invited to the activities at the diplomatic sees of Spain, Netherlands or the United States; she was a supporter of the National Library or of the Fragua Martiana (Marti’s Forge).

In her later years she was assiduous in a history group at the Dulce Maria Loynaz Cultural Center and dedicated many hours to reading and selecting what came to her by email to forward the articles and news that were of interest to her friends. This effort came to overwhelm her, but she considered it a duty to share this information, which they later thanked her for.

Naty’s confidence in me became clear ten years ago when she gave me the complete originals of the correspondence between her and Fidel Castro during the almost two years he was in prison on the Isle of Pines and later when he was in Mexico, to organize chronologically and transcribe into digital format.

It was weeks of work to unravel with a magnifying glass the rushed and cramped handwriting of the letters from the Presidio Modelo; however Naty’s letters were very easy because they were typed. Letters that the whole world had heard of but very few had seen and that Naty, aware of the value of this collection of paper, had never given to the Council of State’s Office of Historical Affairs, nor did she want them published in her lifetime. Now, major publishers will begin the bidding with her daughter Alina, fruit of that relationship and inheritor of the correspondence.

Behind all the media attention she has always sparked, Naty was a woman who paid for her decisions and who was loyal, not to Fidel Castro as many think, since over the years she learned to separate the public man from the private, but with the idea of social justice associated with the triumph of the 1959 Revolution.

Like any human being, she had her defects and virtues. Everyone will have their own Naty Revuelta, a character worthy of literature.

Natalia Revuelta, Mother of Castro’s Daughter Alina Fernandez, Dies in Havana / 14ymedio

Natalia Revuelta Crews
Natalia Revuelta Crews

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14ymedio, Havana, 2 March 2015 — Natalia Revuelta Clews, Fidel Castro’s ex-lover and the mother of his daughter, Alina Fernandez Revuelta, died last Saturday in Havana, according to the website Café Fuerte. Naty, as she was popularly known, was 89-years-old and died of emphysema.

Naty Revuelta’s remains were cremated at the request of her daughter, who was in Havana at the time of her death. Last August, Alina Fernández Revuelta returned to Cuba after 21 years in exile in Miami, when her mother suffered a stoke from which she was recovering favorably. Since then, her trips to Havana were frequent.

Naty Revuelta became a great political activist during the dictatorship of Batista. She met Fidel Castro in 1952 and three years later began a romantic relationship from which her daughter was born in 1956. Revuelta never withdrew her support for Castro and the Communist Party.

Cuban Civil Society Open Forum Holds Third Meeting / 14ymedio

Meeting of Cuban Civil Society Open Forum. (14ymedio)
Meeting of Cuban Civil Society Open Forum. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 25 February 2015 – The Cuban Civil Society Open Forum held its third meeting this Wednesday with 25 people attending, among them activists, opponents and members of civic groups. The first point on the agenda was the approval of a document titled “Ethical Path for Cuban Civil Society,” which lays out the basic principles that should be supported. Also under discussion were internal organizational issues relative to the inclusion and representation of the participants.

A motion of solidarity with Venezuela (see below) was passed during the day and important agreements were made with regards to the attendance of Cuban civil society at the Summit of the Americas in Panama, to be held this coming April 10-11. Finally, those present were invited to make proposals about the elements and improvements that should be included in the next Elections Act, announced last Monday in an official note after the Tenth Plenum of the Central Committee of the Communist Party.

On this occasion there were new faces continue reading

around the table, while other activists weren’t present as they were participating events abroad or for other reasons. As has already been seen, a characteristic of the Open Forum is that discussion are of a frank character, marked by precise arguments and a thorough knowledge of the national reality.

Among those attending (see below), the idea prevailed that Open Forum is emerging as a good opportunity for civil society to find new points of consensus, but without the intention of becoming a political coalition. The horizontality in which everyone keeps their own individual personality is one of the most notable strengths of this organization, which resists being considered a group to which people belong, because it prefers to define itself as a place where people participate.

The participants confirmed that the Open Forum is “without hierarchies, or party discipline, but moved by a common denominator, love of Cuba and the stubborn will to seek solutions to the problems of the country.”

Motion of Solidarity with Venezuela

The independent Cuban Civil Society Open Forum meeting in Havana on 25 February 2015, has a approved a motion of solidarity with Venezuelan civil society and opposition victims of the repression unleashed by the government of that nation.

We emphasize our support for the former member of the National Assembly María Corina Machado; opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, who has already served a year in prison; and Caracas mayor Antonio Ledezma, elected by the popular will, recently imprisoned.

Attendees

  1. José Díaz Silva (UNPACU)
  2. José Daniel Ferrer García (UNPACU)
  3. José Conrado Rodríguez (Diócesis de Cienfuegos)
  4. José A. Fornaris (Asociación por la Libertad de Prensa)
  5. Guillermo Fariñas Hernández (FANTU)
  6. Fernando Palacio Nogar (Partido Solidaridad Liberal Cubano)
  7. Félix Navarro Rodríguez (Partido por la Democracia Pedro Luis Boitel)
  8. Ernesto García Pérez(Unión Social Comunitaria Cubana)
  9. Elizardo Sánchez Santa Cruz (CCDHRN)
  10. Eliécer Lázaro Ávila Cicilia (Somos +)
  11. Eduardo Díaz Fleitas (UNPACU)
  12. Dagoberto Valdés Hernández (Director de Convivencia)
  13. Belkis Cantillo (CXD) Ciudadanas por la Democracia)
  14. Karina Gálvez Chiu (Proyecto Convivencia)
  15. Laritza Diversent Cámbara (Cubalex)
  16. Lázaro Báez (Movimiento ONR)
  17. Librado Linares García (Movimiento Cubano Reflexión)
  18. Mario Félix Lleonart (Instituto Patmos)
  19. Miriam Celaya González (Periodista Independiente)
  20. Pedro Campos Santos (Boletín SPD)
  21. Reinaldo Escobar Casas (periodista)
  22. René Gómez Manzano (Corriente Agramontista de Abogados Independientes)
  23. Saúl Raúl Quiala Velázquez (PSC-Fundación Sucesores)
  24. Yoaxis Macheco Suárez (Instituto Patmos)
  25. Yusmila Reyna Ferrera (Periodista independiente)