Estado de Sats Presents “Notebooks for the Transition” in the Midst of a Police Operation

Screen Shot 2013-11-19 at 8.25.26 PMSaturday morning Estado de Sats presented the first issue of their magazine “Handbooks for the Transition” despite a political operation to prevent the audience from arriving; several activists were detained, Antonio Rodiles, director of the independent project, informed Diario de Cuba

According to Rodiles, Gabriel Barrenechea, a member of the magazine’s editorial board, and Andrés Pérez were besieged in their homes. Meanwhile, the artist Luis Trápaga was arrested on his way to the presentation, as was José Díaz Silva, who was beaten and held at least six hours.

Screen Shot 2013-11-19 at 8.27.26 PMHowever, about 60 people managed to attend the event. Rodiles said that some participants were arrested by regime’s agents on leaving, to take copies of the magazine from them.

“Despite arrests, violations, pressures, we presented ‘Handbooks for the Transition.” SATS will continue because the desire for freedom us unstoppable,” insisted the director of the independent project.

The monthly magazine, in print and digital editions, “has as its objective to address different themes about the future transition to democracy on the Island, with authors from within and outside the country,” Rodiles told Diario de Cuba this week.

The first volume includes articles by Walfrido Lopez (The Internet in Cuba-US Relations), Emilio Morales (Remittances have become an engine of the Cuban economy), Juan Antonio Blanco (Civilizational and migration change), and Antonio Rodiles and Alexis Jardines (Notes for the transition), among others.

Future issues will address topics such as economic liberalization and legality.

“We must begin to discuss these issues openly. We need to debate them, without fear,” said Rodiles.

Screen Shot 2013-11-19 at 8.28.08 PM

Diario de Cuba | 2 November 2013

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

tiroHAVANA, Cuba, November 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

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

A Call for a Meeting on Human Rights and UN Covenants, 10 December 2013 / Estado de Sats

1ero-224x300Estado de Sats
At the confluence of Art and Thought
A Call for a Meeting on Human Rights and UN Covenants

The independent Estado de SATS project invites artists, intellectuals, activists and defenders of human rights 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 the reality and future of our nation can be discussed.

Since August 2012, along with diverse groups and activists committed to the social situation of our nation, we began the Campaign for Another Cuba. This initiative has involved a growing number of Cubans within and outside the island in a civic demand that the Cuban government ratify and implement the United Nations Covenants on civil and political rights and on economic, social and cultural rights.

At a time when Cuban civil society is growing, it is essential that there be direct exchanges among different actors within and outside the island. Holding this meeting will allow an approach through art and thought to the vital subject of 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 a part of everyday reality.

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

For more information those interested can email or telephone (535) 371-6460 in Havana.

Estado de SATS Team

- See more HERE

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, 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:

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

First International Conference on Human Rights and the UN Covenants / Estado de SATS

The independent project Estado de SATS invites artists, intellectuals, activists and defenders of human rights to participate in the First International Conference 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.


United for the Same Dream

Date: December 10-11, 2013

Place: Havana, Cuba

- Subject panels

- Audiovisual Screening

- Exposition on Art and Human Rights (photography, painting, graphics, installation).

- Experimental and Playback Theater

- Concert

For more information:

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 / 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.


Monday, 29 July 2013, from CubaNet

29 July 2013

Notes for the Transition / Antonio Rodiles, Alexis Jardines


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.


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