The Opposition in Cuba: Calling Ourselves to Account / Antonio Rodiles

We are an active part of the transition

We are an active part of the transition

The result of the recent vote that gave Cuba a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council, again puts into question the credibility of this institution, which has also given seats on the Council to countries such as China and Russia, constantly denounced for their lack of respect for fundamental human rights. China and Russia are two international powers that have to be considered on any international stage, so although questionable, there is a certain logic to their selection. Cuba, on the other hand, is a small bankrupt island without resources, but its regime has toiled intensely in the field of diplomacy for all these years, generating a network of influence and allies who respond only to their interests, ignoring any element of ethics.

After 54 years of almost total isolation, the Cuban opposition has had the opportunity to participate in international forums and to denounce the systematic violations of human rights on the island, as well as to express its needs for international solidarity and support. However, it is important to recognize that while our message has been heard with more volume and we have achieved greater prominence, we still have neither the strength nor the articulation to achieve a greater impact on international actors and organizations and, thus, to exercise more pressure on the totalitarian regime.

The reelection of Cuba to the Human Rights Council highlights the urgent need on the part of Cuban opposition groups — both inside and outside the island — to articulate more effective efforts at diplomacy in the international arena.

The Cuban opposition must begin to see itself as a political force, which means that it cannot simply be a source of complaints. This leap requires a drastic change that obliges us to analyze, deeply and honestly, our strengths and weaknesses.

One of our main shortcomings is the lack of professionalism and political vision, something we must begin to overcome despite living under the longest and most devastating dictatorship in the hemisphere. Without this projection, it will be impossible to reach broader sectors of society which, although tired of the outrages, sit on the sidelines waiting for more favorable scenarios that will permit them to express their political preferences and to identify themselves with a specific group.

The role of the exile should be very active as they are an essential part of the nation. Above all, the exile must open their senses to objectively perceive the reality in which we live on the island. Without a clear diagnosis and vision, and lacking an anchor in today’s reality, the result will be failure. The Cuba of 2013 is not even the Cuba of three years ago.

To maintain that a social explosion will lead us magically to democracy has been counterproductive for decades and diminishes the prominence and support for projects that could generate the dynamics for a democratic future for the nation.

The exile is fundamental for transmitting to us a vision of contemporary societies and encouraging our growth toward a modern and dynamic opposition. If, instead, it encourages complacency and conditional or manipulated support for specific groups that respond to sectarian interests or visions, we will then, to a large extent, continue to repeat the same stagnant pattern of the regime.

To generate false expectation with manipulated figures and unconvincing scenarios could be very damaging, not only for our internal dynamics, but for the credibility of the opposition movement abroad.

That someone should call themselves the spokesperson for the entire opposition, or promote a certain group as the most important or active, shows a political immaturity and only helps to generate friction and sterile competition. No one in Cuba today has the authority, nor the reach to the opposition, nor to society, to call themselves the spokesperson of the opposition. No group has the reach to proclaim themselves as the essential actor of change. Whoever sends such a signal, is simply wrong or lying.

Cuban society has begun to shake off a disastrous regime, but we find ourselves in a still emerging moment, which is never a sign of weakness. Many of the actors in the transition are about to appear, and it will be a great surprise when some Cubans who are currently on the border of the so-called “gray zone,” break out on the political scene and play more significant roles than many of us who today work from the opposition.

The opposition must go through a process of professionalization, reach a sharper sense of politics, and have the human capital capable of competing and projecting governance options distinct from the regime which has caused the national disaster, but which has all the means and power to transmute to an authoritarian capitalism.

The honest debate on fundamental issues cannot wait any longer, we must open an exchange from the civility that stimulates the growth of diverse ideas and visions of another Cuba that we want to construct. To remain silent for the sake of an archaic and hidebound vision of unity is too damaging. Any process of democratic maturity implies questioning political capabilities, legitimacy and effectiveness in thought and action, because many of the strategies offered as engines of change are nothing more than old desires, fantasies and fetishes.

The challenge today is for a new thinking to take hold among the Cuban opposition, a thinking born in the current century, within a world of networks with novel hierarchical and dynamic structures, where creativity, knowledge and information set the standard, leaving aside personalities and epics.

Those who do not recognize, within certain sectors of Cuban society — such as professionals, artists, intellectuals and activists — the principal actors of the changes, are simply dreaming within the same formula of a “triumphant Revolution” with thousands of citizens welcoming the coming of a new Messiah.

If we want concrete results, our reading of reality should be as accurate as possible. If we do not develop acuity and effectiveness in the field of politics, we will remain complainers.

The democratization of Cuba will cease to be a chimera when we systematically uproot the spaces of a power that insists on not thinking of us as political actors.

13 November 2013

“Notebooks for the transition,” A Magazine for Discussion / David Canela Pina

tiroHAVANA, Cuba, November www.cubanet.org.- This Saturday morning the civic project Estado de SATS (State of SATS) presented a new magazine titled Notebooks for the Transition, which aims to “offer a forum for analysis and plural participation,” for all Cubans interested in “thinking and visualizing that other Cuba which is already urgent” according to an editorial note. It says that the first issue is “dedicated to the issue of transnationality.”

Notebooks for the Transition is a magazine produced and coordinated by the State of SATS civic project, which has had as one of its main strategies to become an ideological “bank,” where ideas and trust in this “human capital” that has been invested in other parts of the world due to the exodus of Cuban society can return. In this issue, for example, collaborators include intellectuals and artists who don’t live on the Island: Juan Antonio Blanco Gil, Emilio Morales, Alexis Jardines, Carmelo Mesa Lago, Garrincha, among others. Their presence is distant for now, but as the transition to democrat becomes more visible and effective, the process of return of many of these social actors will no longer be an event, but become a flow, that newly enriches the naitonal sap.

Presentation of Notebooks

Despite the police operation, that prevented some people from coming to the meeting site, leaving their homes, and even their provinces, as was the case of Jose Gabriel Barrenechea. More than forty people attended the launch of the first issue.

From L to R - Antonio Rodiles, Ailer Gonzalez Olivera and Walfrido Camilo Lopez

From L to R – Antonio Rodiles, Ailer Gonzalez Olivera and Walfrido Camilo Lopez

The panel that presented the details of the magazine was made up of Antonio Rodiles, overall project coordinator Estado de SATS, Ailer González, its artistic director, Camilo Ernesto Olivera, freelance journalist, and Walfrido Lopez, a computer specialist. The first three are part of the Editorial Board, along with José Gabriel Barrenechea and Alexis Jardines, who is the only member currently located outside of Cuba.

During the exhibition they addressed issues such as the integration of Cuban society, the economic and “knowledge” remittances, the leadership structures, civic maturity as a prerequisite for the conscious transition, the role of Cubans inside and outside Cuba in the new political system, etc.

Not just for regime opponents

Rodiles commented that “Cuban society is badly damaged and fragmented, so we need to bring together Cubans around a frank discussion.” And he said that in the transition to democracy “it must be not only activists and opponents, but also ordinary citizens.”

With regards to the role of the internet in building a democratic society Walfrido Lopez said that it is not enough for some Cubans to move freely on the internet, with their thousands of Twitter followers and hundreds of Facebook friends, but unable to create a network of internal communication with the Cubans on the Island.

In the current economic context, Rodiles said the “economic flow between Cuba and Miami is the centerpiece of a change in Cuba,” which is already funding private businesses, buying houses, etc.  And he added that emigrant remittances provide the largest source of revenue to the national economy and today reach 62% of Cuban homes.

“The transition begins with us”

Camilo Ernesto Olivera raised the old problem of how to achieve this national unity of interest, at least within the opposition. Then he said that we must first move ourselves toward a civic consciousness and a maturity based on respect. “The transition begins with us,” he said. Rodiles, meanwhile, said that national unity should not revolve around a leader, a new Fidel Castro  and called for a “polycentric opposition.” He said that “the relationship between individuals is what generates human and social capital,” and therefore “our magazine is aimed at creating those links among all Cubans.”.

With great wit, Ailer Gonzalez enunciated that “differences of opinion between the opposition do not strengthen the regime, rather they strengthen the opposition,” as they increase its capacity for public debate.

Rodiles stressed that “the influence of Cubans abroad is extremely important,” while Gonzalez addressed Cubans who live and struggle in their own country: “What is your role in the new Cuba? Being an opponent is not an occupation. Everyone should begin imagining the place they will occupy in the new Cuba.”

Finally, Ailer Gonzalez concluded the meeting with these words: “Thank you to all the Cubans in the world. We are waiting to rebuild Cuba.”

Summary of the first issue

Although Notebooks for the Transition has an essentially academic and research profile related to the present and possible future of Cuba, it has also opened spaces for literature, translation and history (with the section called Documents).

This issue, which corresponds to the month of October, is composed of several sections: Editorial, Survey, Dossier (the main section), Documents, Translation and Literature.

In the Survey, some people in Santa Clara respond on “the issue of Cuban emigration and its role within the nation.” The Dossier meet has five articles: “The Internet in Cuba-US Relations” by Walfrido Lopez; “Remittances have become an engine of the Cuban economy” by Morales; “Civilizing and Emigration Change” by Juan Antonio Blanco Gil; “The Dominican Republic: a transnational nation-state” written by a group of authors; and “Notes for the transition” by Antonio Rodiles and Alexis Jardines.

The Documents section rescues “a forgotten letter from Enrique José Varona” written in 1900; and in Translation is published an excerpt from the book The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism by Michael Novak. Finally, the Literature section reproduces the poem “Bottle” by Otilio Carvajal (included in his unpublished book Born August 13), and also the poem “Fragment” by Angel Santiesteban.

David Canela Piña

Cubanet, 4 November 2013

Antonio Rodiles Petitions For Habeas Corpus for Arbitrary Detentions

Today the director of the civic organization State of Sats, Antonio Rodiles, filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus with the Provincial People’s Tribunal of Havana on behalf of two pro-democracy activists who were detained and who remain incommunicado.

The first petition was filed on behalf of José Díaz Silva, who was arrested near his home last Thursday, October 10, when he was arbitrarily detained by an agent from State Security identified only as Gastón. Díaz Silva was transferred to the detention center known as “El Vivac.” So far, no preliminary injunction has been brought against him and he has been denied visits from family members.

The other petition was filed on behalf of Díaz Silva’s wife, Lourdes Esquivel Veiyto, who was detained at 11 AM on Friday after appearing at the Santiago de las Vegas police station to seek information on the whereabouts of her husband. Esquivel Veiyto is a member of the Ladies in White.

Rodiles believes Díaz Silva was detained because the activist had been leading a workshop on the UN’s International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and the International Convention on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights.

“This is a reaction to the Citizen Demand for Another Cuba, which calls upon the government to ratify the conventions signed in New York on February 28, 2008 at the United Nations,” explains Rodiles in his petition for Díaz Silva’s release.

The couple lives in Santiago de las Vegas in the Boyeros district on the outskirts of the capital. Due to repeated punitive detentions of Díaz Silva and his family, the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (CIDH) has issued a precautionary injunction to protect their rights, lives and physical well-being.

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 From Cubanet, 14 October 2013

Cubans Are Losing Their Fear / Antonio Rodiles, Estado de Sats

Antonio Rodiles

Antonio Rodiles

By Carmen Muñoz for ABC.es

To Antonio G. Rodiles (born Havana, 1972) it seemed “unthinkable” that a Cuban musician would dare to ask for free elections during an official concert, until the jazz musician Roberto Carcassés did it last week in the capital. “It’s a sign of the new times,” said this physicist, director of the Estado de SATS (State of SATS) think tank, and coordinator of the citizen campaign For Another Cuba. The arrest of the human rights activist over 19 days last November, accompanied by a brutal beating, had wide repercussions.

After participating in Prague in a forum about transitions, this Friday he will meet in Madrid with the Secretary of State for Latin America, Jesus Gracia, and speak at the Real Instituto Elcano. His biggest challenge now is the international meeting on human rights that he is preparing for this December 10 in Havana. “If now they let us (the dissidents) travel. Why don’t they let Cubans and interested foreigners enter the country to participate in a civil society activity. We challenge the system to demonstrate whether it is really changing or not.” This Saturday he returns to the island.

- Do you think Roberto Carcasses incident has ended with the sanction imposed by the regime?*

AR: Robertico Carcassés will just have to deal with it, the regime is waiting for the storm to pass to go after him. He has put on numerous concerts, inside and outside the island, and has never put on any demonstrations like this, even though people know that neither he nor his father (the showman Bobby Carcassés) are unconditional supporters of the regime, like Silvio Rodriguez. His daring is a sign that times are changing in Cuba, people want substantial changes, of greater significance, the current ones are just superficial. Cubans are losing their fear, they are daring more, 54 years of a totalitarian regime is too much time. They now understand that for there to be changes the system must change. What Carcassés did was unthinkable, he didn’t do it as an act of suicide.

- Did the singer Silvio Rodriguez challenge the dictatorship by inviting Carcassés to his concerts?

AR: Silvio tried to throw water on the fire, to find the smartest solution for the system. The censorship of Carcassés censorship would have implied that the news of the act of free speech had acquired major notoriety, counterproductive for the regime.

- What message about the Cuban reforms did you send to Spain?

AR: They are totally inadequate, especially when the country is undergoing such an crisis. For Cuba not to collapse we need to undertake structural changes that would imply accepting all the political, economic, social and cultural rights contained in the UN covenants to enter into a real transition process.

- What do you think the appeal this week from the Cuban Catholic Church for political changes to accompany the economic?

AR: Recently the Church has taken an unwise position. However, it seems very important to me as a political actor and it would be highly recommended to begin to focus on and respect the fundamental rights in Cuba. If that happens, it could play a vital role in the short and medium term.

- Do the new times also affect the dissidence?

AR: There is a rethinking of many points of strategy, of projection, that may have had something to do with the ability to make contact with the outside world through immigration reform. Opponents can travel and make contact with politicians from other countries, Cubans abroad … which leads to a new scenario.

- And to repression?

AR: They have changed their tactics but continue doing it. Now it’s surgical, focused on the projects and actors that the Government considers dangerous to its totalitarian hegemony of power. There are still beatings, large operations to block the opposition from attending events, and short duration arrests. Lately they don’t even take those the arrest to police stations, they abandon them in inhospitable places.

State of SATS and For Another Cuba

During the summer of 2010, Antonio G. Rodiles launched this “think tank mixed with art” in order to “create a public space for discussions” in Cuba among intellectuals, artists and human rights activists . A group of eight people, among them the writer and political prisoner Angel Santiesteban, coordinate exhibitions, documentaries, debates or videos that seek to impact the civil society.

From these discussions, emerged the idea of promoting the For Another Cuba campaign, with the objective of urging the Castro regime to ratify and implement two United Nations covenants on civil and political rights, and on economic, social and cultural United Nations. The creator and director of Estado de SATS adds that “its implementation is a kind of road map to begin the transition from the recognition of fundamental rights.”

Translator’s note:
*After this interview the regime withdrew the sanction — that he would not be allowed to perform in public — against Robertico Carcassés.

Source: ABC.ES. Interview originally published on 9 September 2013

We aren’t the kind of people they are trying to make us out to be / Ernesto Santana Zaldivar, Antonio Rodiles

Antonio Rodiles. Photo: Ernesto Santana Zaldívar

HAVANA, Cuba, August, www.cubanet.org- The organizers of Estado de SATS have worked very hard and the result is that, three years after its inception, in July 2010 in Casa Gaia, this civic project is a fundamental component in the network of organizations that, from civil society and with great variety in points of view, fight to promote changes to democratize our country. Because of this it has also been repressed by the political police and accused of everything the authorities usually accuse those who propose a solution to the crisis. Estado de SATS takes as a fundamental cause that there is no dispute between Cuba and the United States, but rather the dictatorial practices of the Cuban government against its own people.

Hence in the last year, they have focused most of their efforts to disseminate and gather support for the Citizens’ Demand for Another Cuba which, as we know, demands that the Cuban government ratify the UN Covenants on Human Rights. In that work, the project has engaged with many important civil society groups for the sake of a purpose that supersedes political interests, and focuses on citizens and their basic needs.

In recent days, we were able to talk with Antonio Rodiles about the prospects of the project, three years since its inception. The director of Estado de SATS said “Our main goal now is to achieve much more drawing power. Hopefully State Security will stop bothering us,” he said, although he recognized that “at this time there really is something less than harassment of the work we are doing.”

The idea, according Rodiles, is to try to reach many more sectors and to be a place that helps articulate civil society, and above all,”to be able to expand and work on all the plans we have: holding exhibitions, film screenings, panels, debates, literary cafes. All we can do to articulate civil society and grow like any normal country.”

Although it seems like a very easy program to carry out, the reality suggests otherwise. The proof is in the recent past and if recently the political police haven’t harassed as many activities, it has been in part because they have not been as intense as around a year ago, when the Citizen Demand was launched. “Evidently,” observes Rodiles, “we know that everything is not as we would like, but well, I  think it’s important to accept the challenge and work focused on everything we have proposed, despite the obstacles.”

Some people have commented that, lately, they have been showing college students videos about civil society activists, including Estado de SATS, where it’s presented through the usual procedures, with a negative image. On this subject Antonio Rodiles says, “The same as always. That’s part of what the system can’t quit doing.”

But, he says, he would like to know exactly what they’re putting out there so he’ll be able to make statements about it. “Unfortunately,” he says , “there is a group of people who have always been characterized by trying to devalue and personally offend any opponent, anyone who thinks differently from the official line.”

In events such as this he sees a disturbing characteristic. “I think this shows the low level of those who have organized it ,” he says, “because they are not able to enter into any discussion of ideas or plans . It is a manipulation, but in any event, thank God, the new technologies allow us to show who we are,” he says, convincingly.

Well, ironically and contrary to the intentions of those who orchestrate this slanderous propaganda, the results could be otherwise. “In a way, this type of action helps disseminate our work. When people look for our CDs, our work, and they see them, then they realize perfectly well that we are not the kind of people they are trying to make us out to be,” he concludes.

He’s probably right. In addition, the days are long gone when some opponents thought Estado de Sats was a project of the “opposition light” and it has gained respect and collaboration, including that of almost all of the most important  political opponents, as well as countless artists and intellectuals.

As the director of this project, what lies ahead is a major challenge. Perhaps the hardest path, with all the cultural activities and the panels put on, but especially with the commitment to strengthen the Citizen Demand for Another Cuba and the continuation of this work, in cooperation with other civil organizations, he tries to contribute, gradually, to the extent possible but always with sights set still higher, for a positive change in the country.

A few months ago, Antonio Rodlies and Ailer González — his domestic partner and main collaborator — were in Miami and there at Cuba 8 and at Miami Dade College, they organized panels and concerts of Estado de SATS, besides promoting the Citizen Demand, which has managed to strengthen the support of Cubans from the outside, but inside Cuba there has not been remarkable progress of the campaign in recent months.

According to Rodiles itself, the term “Estado de SATS” (State of Sats) is a phrase used in the theater to represent the moment when all the energy is concentrated to begin the action, or when an athlete is at the precise moment before the starting gun. It is the concentration required to later explode. Hopefully, after three years of hard and complex work, this project is mature and ready to take off, against all obstacles, as the crucible where the forces of the emerging civil society are articulated.

Call for Estado de SATS : First International Meeting on Human Rights and UN Covenants

The independent Estado de SATS project invites artists, intellectuals, activists and human rights defenders to participate in the First International Meeting on Human Rights and the UN Covenants as part of the Campaign for Another Cuba and the 65th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Estado de SATS has worked for the past three years in the creation and growth of a public space where different perspectives on reality and the future of our nation can be openly discussed and planned.

Since August of 2012, together with various groups and activists committed to the social situation of our nation, we started the Campaign for another Cuba. This initiative has been involving a growing number of Cubans on and off the island in a civic demand that the Cuban government ratify and implement the United Nation Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Covenant  Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

In a time when Cuban civil society is growing the direct exchange with different actors within and outside the island is essential. Holding of this meeting will allow an approach from the perspective of art and thought to a subject as vital as human rights. Activists, artists, intellectuals and professionals, Cubans and the international community, will spend two days sharing views and experiences, in a country where such guarantees and rights are not part of the everyday reality.

The inaugural meeting will be on December 10, 2013 and during the event there will be thematic panels, audiovisual displays, an exhibition with the theme: Art and Human Rights (painting , graphics , photography, installations), performances and a closing concert .

For more information the interested can communicate to this email address: estadodesats@gmail.com.

About the author

Ernesto Santana Zaldívar, born in Puerto Padre, Las Tunas, 1958. Graduate of the Enrique José Varona Pedagogical Institute in Spanish and Literature. He has been a radio writer for Radio Progreso, Radio Metropolitana and Radio Arte. He is a member of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba. Awards won: Mentions in the genre of story in the David contest of 1977 and Trece de Marzo, 1979; prizes in Pinos Nuevos, 1995, Sed de Belleza, 1996 (both in the genre of story) Dador, 1998, (novel project) and Alejo Carpentier, 2002 (novel), the Franz Kafka Prize, 2010, for his novel The Carnival and the Dead.

From Cubanet

23 August 2013

Note from Estado de SATS

Phone screen: On the way with a friend I got a message that said SATS is suspended today, is that true? / It’s false, State Security sent it; yes there will be Estado de SATS / Thanks, we’re coming there without fail and will be in SATS.

On the afternoon of August 16, State Security deployed an inordinate operation at intersections and around the site of Estado de SATS to stop the public from coming to the screening of the documentary Ai Weiwei Never Sorry, at our usual audiovisual space, Cinema at All Costs.

Earlier, with the complicity of the telephone companies ETECSA And CUBACEL, they blocked the cellphone service of all members of the Estado de SATS working team, and sent false messages announcing the suspension of the event using Antonio G. Rodiles’ cellphone, in a serious act of identity theft, punishable internationally as the crime of fraud.

Despite this, 33 people came, as many others were detained on the way and coerced to return home, some beaten and handcuffed were “freed” later on the highway heading to Pinar del Rio.

Days ago, on August 5, they had mounted a first operation and threatened and intimidated young people leaving Estado de SATS after the first day of a Playback Theater workshop.

The next day, two of these students could not attend as they were arrested, forced to ride in a police car, and abandoned in a distant city.

In recent days there have been similar brutal acts of abuse against activists and Ladies in White in the province of Matanzas. The constant violation of individual rights is routine in Cuba, and the regime aims using violence to silence any dissenting voice.

Over the past year the operations and arrests around Estado de SATS were  increasingly violent, reaching its climax with the beating and detention for 19 days of Antonio G. Rodiles last November.

Now, they are starting again.

We are continuing to exercise our liberties. We will sustain our civic work anchored in respect for the human rights contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Covenants, whose ratification and implementation we are demanding through the Campaign For Another Cuba.

Our commitment in the face of mediocrity and totalitarianism will continue to be creativity and talent.

Our responsibility, a better country

Estado de SATS team

17 August 2013

Estado de SATS Celebrates Three Years / David Canela

1.-Público-2-300x225HAVANA, Cuba, July 29, 2013, David Canela / www.cubanet.org.-The civic project Estado de SATS this Saturday celebrated its three years of existence with a children’s party. About 10:30 in the morning Rodiles’ house was full. At the party two clowns performed, exciting the children with games, dances, songs and puppets. Children’s music videos were also projected.

Estado de SATS was born as an event of dialog between the actors of civil society, who attended in many voices and independent groups (artistic, religious, legal, community) to talk about the the future of Cuba. It was held in Gaia House in Old Havana, between 23rd and 25th on 25 July 2010. As the meeting led to open debate, outside an established script, the project was censored, and no other State institution was permitted (or risked) to host it again.

For this reason, Antonio González-Rodiles, one of the principal coordinators, decided to resume it in his own house, in the municipality of Playa. The original idea of the project, of being a marketplace of social diversity, and a public space for alternative ideas–beyond the narrow limits of official discourse ideological–crystallized again on March 5, 2011, when Raudel Collazo and Adrián Monzón were invited to speak about their artistic projects. Since then (and with the exception of Festival Click), the sessions are no longer structured as a “mini-conference” but as a meeting for a specific topic.

Since then, in March 2011, it adopted the slogan Where art and thought converge. In its three years of work, they have held panels, interviews, screened documentaries and films–which had not been shown before in Cuba–poetry recitals and one of short stories (with the writer Ángel Santiesteban), parties, presentations and music concerts, independent project fairs, exhibitions of photographs, art, cartoons and publicity spots.

Over time they have created some spaces or specialized programs, such as Analysis Forum (FORA), for political, social and legal debate, Cinema at All Costs, for the display of audiovisuals, and recently CafeSatso, devoted to literature.

Other independent projects have collaborated with Estado de SATS: Omni-Zona Franca, the Endless Poetry Festival, Voces Cubanas, the Cuban Law Association, Cubalex, EBE (of Spain), Talento Cubano, among others. Many people in the diaspora and Cubans in exile, through speeches and videotaped interviews, media outreach, or the donation of works (for example, the exposition of CoCodriloSmile graphic humor). In addition, Radio and TV Marti and Cubanet have helped to broadcast some of their programs.

From March 2011 to June of the current year, there have been around 66 meetings (one of them when Antonio Rodiles was imprisoned in November of last year). Of these programs, 30 were held with the public and 35 with no audience. One had to be suspended due to police repression; those who could were able to get there recorded his testimony.

Estado de SATS is also the civil society project that promotes the Citizen Demand For Another Cuba, which calls on the Cuban government to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

CARTEL-SATS

Monday, 29 July 2013, from CubaNet

29 July 2013

Notes for the Transition / Antonio Rodiles, Alexis Jardines

ajindex

Alexis Jardines

HAVANA, Cuba, July 29, 2013: The political landscape of the island has been energized recently. In the international arena the event with the greatest impact is undoubtedly the death of Hugo Chavez and his succession embodied in Nicolas Maduro, a man with few political tools who, despite many odds, has managed, for now, to maintain a certain equilibrium. However, given the difficult economic situation being experienced by Cuba and the uncertain scenario facing the Chavistas in Venezuela, Cuban totalitarianism is forced to avoid placing all its bets on Venezuela.

arindex

Antonio Rodiles

For the elite in power, time, as a part of the political equation, becomes the most important variable. The relaunch of their position in the international arena has become one part of their priorities, and it shows that a new moment in relations with Europe and the United States is vital in the search for new economic and political partners who will provide them stability and legitimacy.

In the interior of the island, the transformations in the economic sector are not generating a new impression given the years of accumulated statism, decapitalization and the precarious situation in multiple sectors. A genuine process of reforms would involve much deeper actions that would stir up a reality already admitted to be a social disaster, as acknowledged even by Raul Castro in his latest speech. But the fear of losing control has become an obsession and the principal obstacle.

The ability of some regime opponents to travel represents, in this sense, the boldest step taken by the elite in power, a clear commitment to improve its image abroad and to rid itself of the stigma of lack of freedom of movement. It is highly likely that this move was taken under the assumption that some bitter pills would be no more than that, that reality would remain stuck in its usual straitjacket, because we opponents would not penetrate the media and, on our return to Cuba, State Security’s absolute control and lack of social expression would keep everything in its place.

Given this scenario, we have to ask ourselves certain questions: Is Cuban society in a position to push for greater freedom and independence? Can the opposition capitalize politically on these trips? And by capitalize we mean our capacity to articulate and project ourselves inside and outside the island as pro-democratic forces with civic or political weight in both venues; a projection that also allows us to end the nefarious cat and mouse game with which State Security, as the arm of the system, has kept us inefficiently occupied. It then becomes imperative to mature as an opposition and as civil society, to be able to widen the cracks in an exhausted system that holds onto control and exercises State violence as elements of social containment.

The experience of multiple transitions shows the importance of understanding the moment of change as a step in the process of national reconstruction and to see it not as a discontinuous turning point. In an extreme scenario like the one facing us, a successful transition will necessarily involve the active participation of skilled human capital with a strong social commitment and a clear vision of the nation that it wants to build.

Without a social fabric that represents least a micro-cosmos, of the mid- and macro-cosmos we visualize, it will be very difficult to build a functioning democracy. Unsuccessful examples are plentiful and it is irresponsible to omit them. The famous Arab Spring-become-Winter is the most recent case, and shows that the establishment of a political system requires a process of maturation and articulation of civil society. To imagine the change and reconstruction of a broken, fragmented country, not only in the physical sense but also in its social and individual dynamics, is an essential exercise if we aspire to construct a democracy that contains the ingredients of every modern nation

As the opposition we must break with paradigms that imply regression and a copying of what has been experienced, in which glorious symbols, epics and personalities play a significant role. An imagined future that places too many hopes on an expansive “spark,” and that often postpones effective work with visions of the medium and long term.

It would also be healthy to readjust the idea that has dominated our minds for more than half of a post-republican century: the desired unity of the opposition as the only path to effective pressure to promote change. We believe that the main role of the transition should fall on civil society, while the opposition, as a political actor, must push with discourse and coherent action so that civil society has the necessary reach and penetration.

Hegel was right in saying that “everything that was once revolutionary becomes conservative.” The words lose their original sense and are redefined to change the context that nurtured and sustained them, so much so that the logic itself of revolutions backfires.

The truly revolutionary act is an abrupt gesture, a moment of rupture that disrupts the established order.  All revolutions, including scientific, are designed to transform, to subvert, the bases of the model or previous paradigm and, in this way, to bring it down.

Thus, what is new in our time is to understand the possible abruptness as a moment in a process, which must be permeated with the ingredients that shape modern societies: knowledge, information, thought, art, technology. The revolution is a time of evolution, but not the inverse.

In the second decade of the present century we can not think of any social processes without taking into account the transnational nature of them. In our case it would be impossible to analyze a transition to democracy and a process of reconstruction without involving the diaspora and exile with its political actors. While they are not anchored in the everyday life of the island they are living elements of the nation and as such gravitate to her. About this, the ordinary Cuban is not wrong. In the Cuban imagination part of the solution to our problems is in Miami (as the diaspora is generically defined). The modern vision of contemporary societies must come from and consist largely through constant reinforcement between the island and its diaspora. The opposition and exile should be precisely the hinge that makes such articulation possible.

And this, in our view, is the other element that would end up framing the Cuban scenario: how, looking forward, the opposition overlaps with a transnational civil society so that the binary logic of the internal and external, of the figures of the “Cuban insider” and “Cuban outsider,” come to an end. For this to happen it is not enough to recognize, on the level of discourse (as the regime does as well), that there are no differences between us, that we are equal, etc. It is something more: we are one and indivisible and this single Cuban has to have the right to exercise the vote and to influence the political present and future of his country, regardless of where on the planet he finds himself or lives; this is, for the opposition and the exile itself, not only a political problem, but a conceptual one.

As political actors we must show that we are an option for governance, presenting the human capital at our disposal, the capacity we possess to generate a political and legal framework capable of filling the possible void that would be left by the one-party nomenklatura. To prove that we could ensure security not only for the country but for the whole region, and last, but no less important, the ability to overtake at the polls the campaigns of the Castro supporters in any eventual free elections.

This would be, perhaps, the most desirable scenario in terms of expansion of the transnational civil society and the corresponding constraint of the totalitarian State. Let us, then, be careful not to confuse succession with transition; let us learn to see ourselves as ordinary Cubans and to demand our full civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights as reflected in the two United Nations Covenants. Let us admit that for the transition the human capital dispersed through the State institutions is needed as badly as the skills, knowledge and financial capital of those who have had to grow up far from — but not out of — their country.

The problem of the Cuban nation today is the problem of the democratic transition and reconstruction, a process that will be possible only if it involves the largest number of Cubans, wherever they may live. We do not say that the country belongs to everyone, which is a de jure declaration; we say that all of us, together, make up the Cuban nation, which is already a de facto declaration.

Antonio G. Rodiles and Alexis Jardines
Monday, 29 July 2013

Published in Cubanet  and in Diario de Cuba

29 July 2013

Cuba’s Civil Society Is Transnational Says Rodiles / David Canela

From left to right: Antonio Rodiles, Roberto de Jesús Guerra, Yaremis Flores, Jorge Olivera, and Manuel Cuesta. Photo by the author.

HAVANA, Cuba, July 22, 2013, David Canela/www.cubanet.org — Last Saturday the independent Estado de SATS project sponsored a panel discussion among Cuban civil society activists. The participants included attorney Yaremis Flores, journalist Jorge Olivera (one of seventy-five dissidents imprisoned during the 2003 Black Spring crackdown), Roberto de Jesús Guerra, director of the news agency Hablemos Press, and Manuel Cuesta Morúa, a political analyst. The topic of the event was the current situation on the island following the latest political reforms and especially after recent trips overseas by many independent activists.

In regards to the experience of trying to be part of a globalized world, Flores emphasized that “the issue for Cubans is the lack of information.” Referring to his work representing those involved in legal cases, whose rights have often been at risk, he said, “If you cannot travel (to Geneva), they can send you information.”

Guerra and Olivera emphasized the need to strengthen the intellectual and organizational capabilities of the peaceful opposition. We must “continue organizing and empowering opposition groups,” said Guerra. For his part Olivera pointed out that the government “tries to manipulate international public opinion and buy time, which means we must adopt a more articulate and professional approach.”

According Cuesta Morúa, “the government has moved the battle of ideas abroad, and in Cuba tries to present a friendly dissent or a loyal opposition.”

The trend to a more balanced and dynamic migration flow would be a catalyst in the modernization of the country, as there is now a “transnational Cuban civil society,” as Rodiles called it.

As for the present, not all agreed with the idea that we are in a political transition, — as the journalist Julio Aleaga said — although this has not been officially declared. He explained that the reforms in China had begun in 1979, although its results were visible a decade later, with the Tienanmen protests, and that the Soviet Union no one imagined, in 1985, that Perestroika would be the dismantling of socialism.

Olivera believes that in the future “there will be a negotiation between the government and the opposition, because the country is in ruins.” In this regard, the journalist José Fornaris enunciated that “we have to prepare a program of government,” and not be ashamed to admit that we want to be part of the new government.

When the panel was asked what recommendations would that give to those traveling abroad, the lawyer Yaremis Flores suggested bringing evidence and documents on specific cases that demonstrate the problems of Cuban society that are not exposed in international forums, and so give a new face to the society, that humanizes it, and belies the manipulated figures from official groups of the government.

Cuesta Morúa added to avoid saying “I speak on behalf of …”, “I am the voice of …” He said there are receptive people abroad, who don’t want to hear protests, but rather proposals. And with regards to his experience at the last meeting of the Latin American Study Association (LASA), he noted that for the first time they broke the monopoly and the image (official) of Cuba at these academic meetings, due to the actions of independent sectors of the Island

This coming Saturday will be the three-year anniversary of the Estado de SATS project.

22 July 2013

From Cubanet

Antonio Rodiles Will Return to Miami This Tuesday / Estado de Sats, For Another Cuba

Antonio G. Rodiles en el lanzamiento de la Campaña Por otra Cuba en Miami este mayo

Antonio G. Rodiles at the launch of the “For Another Cuba” campaign in Miami this May

The renowned activist and Castro regime opponent Antonio G. Rodiles, director of the Estado de SATS movement (an independent and intellectual group that encourages the exchange of ideas) will visit the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies (ICCAS) at Casa Bacardi, 1531 Brescia Avenue at the University of Miami, Tuesday, 30 July 11:00 am to give a press conference.

Acompanying Rodiles at this press conference will be the attorneys Veizant Boloy González, member of the Organizing Committee of the Citizens’ Demand For Another Cuba and correspondent for Cubanet and Primavera de Cuba, and Amelia M. Rodriguez Cala, who has defended many political opponents.

This event is open to the public. If you wish to attend please call the Institute at 305-284-CUBA (2822).

Change by Attrition: The Revolution Dies Hard / Antonio Rodiles

From World Affairs

hp.07.24.13.WAJRodilesBy Antonio Rodiles

Five years ago, hopes were high among Cuba watchers when Raúl Castro officially succeeded Fidel. There was particularly intense speculation about who would be named the next first vice president of the Council of State. Bets focused on two candidates: Carlos Lage Dávila, a bureaucrat in his late fifties, and José Ramón Machado Ventura, an apparatchik in his late seventies who had been a captain in the guerrilla war that brought the revolution to power in 1958. Which of the two men was chosen, observers theorized, would suggest Raúl Castro’s orientation over the next five years and give a clue about whether Cuba’s course would be Raulista (reformist) or Fidelista (status quo).

The answer came when Lage and his friend Felipe Pérez Roque were ousted along with other senior officials. Despite his substantial portfolio—he had initiated a series of reforms that gave standing to small private businesses and had negotiated a supply of subsidized oil from Venezuela—Lage was stigmatized for deviation from communist principles and especially for trying to consolidate a base of personal power. It later emerged that on several occasions he and Roque had mocked the Castros as dinosaurs of a prior age.

In 2008, the international context was different from what it is today. Raúl Castro was attempting a modest rebranding of the Cuban government with the signing of the United Nations human rights covenants in New York. Hugo Chávez had become an inexhaustible source of resources and support for the disastrous economy Fidel had bequeathed to his brother. Barack Obama was emerging as the probable next president of the United States whose election would, according to Raúl’s calculations, increase the chances of ending, or at least relaxing, bilateral differences with the US without requiring that too much would have to be given up. The stakes were raised that same year when three hurricanes lashed the Cuban island, depressing its precarious economy even further.

Still, despite diplomatic encouragement by the new US administration, the Cuban government gave little evidence that it actually wanted a new dynamic. Clinging to a society totally controlled by State Security and a huge army of informers, the Raulistas instead sent a signal of their own in 2009 by arresting American Alan Gross, a subcontractor for the US Agency for International Development, for allegedly passing satellite phones and computers to members of Cuba’s Jewish community.

As the status quo regained its critical mass, Cuba’s democratic opposition increased its activities. Guillermo Fariñas’s hunger strike, activism by the photogenic Ladies in White, and the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo after his own prolonged hunger strike all combined to create strong internal and external pressure on Raúl’s regime on the issue of political prisoners. A recognition that the situation must be dealt with led the government to enlist the intervention of the Catholic Church as liaison between the regime and the pro-democracy forces.

All during these crises, the government maintained that its “reforms of the economic model,” supported by Venezuelan subsidies, would bring about neo-Castroism at an “adequate” pace, without creating social tensions or breaking continuity with the founding principles of the revolution.

However, the much-publicized transformations of the economy never happened. Foreign investors have not queued up to invest in the Cuban future. First abject economic dependence on Venezuela (an echo of an earlier dependence on the USSR) and then the death of Hugo Chávez, “the brother from the Bolivarian country,” have upset all the nomenklatura’s rosy scenarios for transition without change.

As it confronts what is likely to be a bleak future without the support of Venezuela, which must now turn inward to deal with its own soaring inflation and the legitimacy crisis of Chávez’s successor, Nicolás Maduro, Cuba needs to look once again and more realistically to the US and to what it would take to get a relaxation of economic sanctions. The release of Alan Gross would be a sign of weakness, but it would at least remove one key obstacle in the way of dialogue.

But the regime’s room for effective maneuvers—maneuvers that would give hope for recovery without causing a crisis of legitimacy for the Communists—has narrowed. As all the early expectations created by Raúl Castro fade to black, the government looks for steps it might take to allow Cubans to breathe a little more freely and lower their demands. Relaxing the controls of the iron-fisted travel and migration policy, in hopes of easing the growing shortages suffered by Cubans, is one of the “audacious” steps the regime has taken.

It is also naming “new” figures to fill the senior government posts who are actually part of the ancien régime. One of these, Esteban Lazo, was named president of the National Assembly. Symbolizing everything about the system that is old and unworkable, he will take the reins of an assembly that has never had a contested vote, not even on the very trivial issues which that body is allowed to discuss. Lazo is part of a retaining wall to block any initiative that might arise or come to this governing body.

Substituting Miguel Díaz-Canel for José Ramón Machado Ventura—as first vice president, and presumptive heir—is an attempt to provide a Potemkin succession. Díaz-Canel, younger, obedient, lacking in charisma, and without his own power base, will depend entirely on the consent of an entrenched military apparatus to keep his post. As in the case of Lazo, his appointment is another indication that the old dynamic has not been discarded but merely given a face-lift. Both men will improve the image of the ruling elite but in no way diminish its power or control.

Given the likely governmental schizophrenia that lies ahead—trying to create a narrow opening to the US while also making sure that any change in the upper echelons of government is only cosmetic—the opposition inside Cuba could begin to play a more crucial role. The collaboration among different opposition groups is more cohesive than in the past. The emphasis in recent months has been woven into a campaign called “For Another Cuba,” which demands the ratification and implementation of the United Nations covenants on human rights as the first step in a transition to democracy.

How the opposition plays its cards could influence the form the government’s Plan B ultimately takes when all else fails, as it certainly will. In the near term, however, it can be assumed that the government, looking ahead to the end of the Castros, will continue to assign key positions to its most reliable cadres, people who will guarantee that “neo-Castroism” is the only alternative. It will also try to create the illusion that the faces it presents to the world as its new government are not actually Castroistas in sheep’s clothing.

This narrative of rejuvenation will, however, require an economy that can afford it. And that is the sticking point: How can a completely disjointed and broken economy be repaired without fundamental change? It is hard to see how such a rescue operation could take place without a huge injection of capital, an injection that today could come only from Cuba’s northern neighbor.

The US embargo and the EU’s Common Position are key pieces in the political chess game now taking place behind closed doors in Havana. If the government manages to pull off the magic act of getting the embargo dropped and securing an infusion of resources without first installing the basic reforms that would in effect toss the old regime on the ash heap of history, it would be able to keep its repressive apparatus intact—and we could say goodbye to any dreams of democracy. When I hear several pro-democracy figures advocate an immediate and unconditional end to the US embargo, therefore, I wonder at their naïveté.

If on the other hand the international democratic community signals to the totalitarians in Cuba that ratification and implementation of the fundamental rights set out in the UN covenants is the only path to solving the Cuban dilemma, and if it conditions any measure relaxing the economic sanctions on the fulfillment of those international agreements, it will not take long to see results.

The Cuban government has not been and is not reckless, despite the provocative behavior it engaged in when it sheltered under the Soviet umbrella. The elite want to maintain power, but not a brief, après moi le déluge power that lasts only for their own lifetime, with family and close friends inheriting a wasteland.

The vast majority of the opposition, for its part, continues to hold the line by promoting peaceful change that transitions to a true democracy with the full and absolute respect of individual liberties and that will stand as a moral and political measurement of whatever status quo the government settles on in a desperate attempt to maintain its power.

One subtle sign that this change is on the way, even if there is not immediate economic reform or political liberalization, will be the disappearance of the metaphors of combat as Cuba’s lingua franca: “heroic territorial militias,” “socialism or death,” “impregnable bastions,” etc. These clichés represent the necrosis of Castroism; their disappearance will mean that the head has finally gotten the message that the body of Cuban communism is dead.

July/August 2013 Issue of World Affairs

Followers of “For Another Cuba” Campaign Continue to Increase / For Another Cuba

Workshop offered to activists and volunteers by Antonio G. Rodiles, general coordinator of the campaign, and the activist Jose Díaz Silva, campaign coordinator in the City of Havana (Santos Suárez, 10 de Octubre)

Antonio G Rodiles with activists and volunteers

Workshop offered to activists and Campaign volunteers in Consolación del Sur, Pinar del Rio.

26 June 2013