Exclusion as a policy / 14ymedio, Fernando Damaso

The Cuban flag serves as a symbol of the nation (14ymedio)

The Cuban flag serves as a symbol of the nation (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Fernando Dámaso, Havana, May 17 2015 – The Cuban government, since it seized power on January 1959, has maintained an authoritarian and exclusive approach to politics. Patriots, Cubans and citizens are considerations that have only been extended to those who unconditionally support the establishment. Those who do not or who simply criticize it are deemed unpatriotic, traitors, and anti-socials.

This system is primitive in its simplicity, but it has been useful. This absurd and unnatural positioning has been applied to everything: democracy, liberty, human rights, unity, opposition and many other terms have been redefined according to the ideological and political interests of those who govern, giving the impression that the Island exists in an unreal political and geographical space, outside of planet Earth. Continue reading

Changing the Subject / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, 12 May 2015 — When it comes to talking about human rights, our authorities ignore the 30 items in the Universal Declaration about them, and they go on to extol the medical, educational and other types of assistance they lend to dozens of countries–as well as to foreigners in our country–without clarifying the fact that in the majority of these cases, this help is paid-for by those countries, and by the individuals who receive it in Cuba. In reality, more than help, it consists of services that are commercialized for very good political and economic returns for the government. Everything should be called by its proper name.

Such assistance, albeit respectable, does not form part of human rights and, therefore, should not be used to evade responsibility for their disrespect where Cuban citizens are concerned, nor accepted in international forums. Continue reading

Better Than Nothing / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, 6 May 2015 — A few years back, in one of the many failed initiatives of Cuban socialist commerce, there was an attempt to promote the sale of items for which there was little demand. The  term coined to describe this was venta convoyada, or “joint sale.” Three different items (a deodorant, a machete and a roll of toilet paper for example) were bundled and sold together for one price. The items had nothing to do with each other but were sold as a unit rather than separately, which would have better served the needs of purchasers. Rather than being customers, buyers were forced to take on the role of lenders. As might have been expected, the initiative failed.

It seems this practice has been revived, repeating the same mistake, but this time with political and cultural events rather than commercial goods. For example, we have just found out that there will be a political event in support of Venezuela as well as in honor of “The Five.” (The two causes are fashionable right now.) There will be a concert marking the anniversary of a muscial group, which will also be giving it. Additionally, it will commemorate an old speech as well as the allegedly successful fulfillment of a production target. In other words, we are seeing the emergence of the “joint celebration.”

Perhaps this is because the number of anniversaries, events and people to commemorate has become so large that it exceeds the number of days in the year, hence the need to bundle them.

While not being terribly important, this initiative might well be considered one of Cuba’s greatest contributions to twenty-first century socialism. It’s better than nothing.

Give It Time / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, 30 April 2015 — Looking over some documents from different eras, I have determined that, when it comes to renaming things, our authorities have broken all records. Victims of their frenzied efforts have included numerous streets, public plazas, parks, virtually all sugar refinery factories, businesses and outlying buildings, towns, cities, provinces, commercial and service establishments, educational and health care facilities, theaters, cinemas and even some of the keys within our archipelago. One needs the patience of a saint to find a name from the past that is still in use today. I can only imagine how arduous the work of our historians must be.

The result has been to create widespread historical confusion, which strikes me as being more than a coincidence given that it happens to coincide with an interest in blotting out significant parts of our past in order to address the political needs of particular moments in time. Continue reading

Trashcan City / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, 21 April 2015 — Half a century ago Havana was a clean city with an efficient system for trash collection and streets that were swept every day. Not only did mechanized sweepers ply the main boulevards and avenues, after midnight these thoroughfares were also washed down with high-pressure water hoses. In addition to the steps taken by the city government, owners of business and covered walkways made sure the sidewalks adjoining their buildings were clean. As though that were not enough, both public buses and commercial transport vehicles had to be absolutely spotless, both inside and out, in order to operate.

When new officials came to power, the system began to decline. In its current state the city is one big trash can. Continue reading

One More Insult / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, 15 April 2015 — The culture minister’s presentation of Cuban flags to twenty Cuban artists and intellectuals, members of the “governmental Jurassic park,” in recognition of their shameful behavior during the Summit of the Americas civil society forum — actions criticized and condemned the world over — is deplorable.

It is true that our national standard, debased through improper and cheap use, has been losing over time, among many ordinary Cubans, the respect it always deserved, especially during the most complex moments of our history.

Since wearing the flag as apparel (not unusual in some countries) is prohibited in Cuba, how ironic to be using it now as a mop cloth.

The unacceptable and swaggering behavior of these artists and intellectuals deserves not recognition, but a reprimand, for how poorly they have represented all Cubans.

True representatives of intolerance, dogmatism and the most caveman-like authoritarianism, they have amply demonstrated that, if this is our only civil society, we are better off without it.

As no one has before, they have demonstrated that “within the Revolution, everything….” is possible.*

Translator’s Notes:
*A reference to Fidel’s so-called Speech to the Intellectuals in 1961, in which he proclaimed, “Within the Revolution, everything. Outside the Revolution, nothing.”

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Speaking of Legitimacy / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Dámaso, 8 April 2105 — The claim that governmental organizations and associations are the sole representatives of Cuban civil society to the exclusion of all others not legally recognized by the authorities figures prominently in public statements and actions by leaders and officials of the regime and is a frequent topic in articles by academics and some official journalists.

Government leaders and officials simply state it. Academics try to provide a rationale for it while journalists generally disparage, accuse and repeat tired slogans.

The idea that “civil society has advanced beyond the primitive stage to the point that it is organized to serve political ends, with the state directing and regulating it,” is not only absurd, it amounts to blatant manipulation. Continue reading

Cuban Festival in Panama / Fernando Damaso

The violent events in Panama, where the representatives of the Cuban regime shed their lamb skins and, ready for action, turned into a real pack of wolves, and launched insults and blows against Cubans who think differently, becoming a national shame.

The stars of this shameful spectacle were a mediocre writer, a frightened poet and a historian of Cantinflasian oratory, transformed into energetic state officials. Seeing figures of culture and intellect downgraded to simple “neighborhood bullies” (some lacking any demonstration of courage in their whole lives), was humiliating and laughable. Continue reading

Hysteria in Panama / Fernando Damaso

The circus staged by the delegation of governmental organizations at the Forum on Civil Society in Panama, supported by a similar one from Venezuela, was to be expected. Those people, used to imposing their opinions by force, without listening to anyone who thinks differently, are impossible to argue with, debate, much less have discussions with. They limit themselves to repeating what they are ordered to say by their bosses.

They are used to actively participating the “repudiation rallies” against the opponents, always protecting the authorities and the repressive organs, and have found a different scenario, where there is equal respect for everyone, where differences are accepts and political adversaries are just that, not mercenaries nor traitors, because they all know that the opponents of today are the leaders of tomorrow and vice versa. Continue reading

Dialogue or Monologue / Fernando Damaso

Our authorities have always been preoccupied with extolling the originality of anything coming out of Cuba. Our freedoms, socialism, democracy, human rights, political and economic system, electoral process, governmental bodies, political and grass-roots organizations, and everything else are unique and unlike anything comparable in the rest of the world. Furthermore, it is argued — with scant modesty — that they are the best and most perfect. What is striking is that this unhealthy addiction to being different applies only to the outside world. Differences within the country, among Cubans themselves, are not acceptable.

Dictating how things are to be done has become a daily and unhealthy practice over the years, especially when done by those have held and still hold absolute power. We have seen the imposition of a political, economic and social system, one-party rule, a socialist Constitution, basic laws, organizations and associations, educational, cultural, and moral standards, and many other things that should have involved consultation with citizens and should have been freely approved or rejected by them. Continue reading

The Problem Is Not the Packaging / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, 23 March 2015 — Many years ago when I worked at an advertising agency named Marketing, Research and Public Relations, Inc., its head — Enrique Cuzco — would often say, “A bad product won’t sell no matter how good the advertising is.”

In an effort to get young people to actively participate in the current electoral process, the National Electoral Commission recently decided to give responsibilty for the entire public relations campaign to a group of young journalists, designers and artists, figuring they can speak a common generational language.

Cuzco’s words immediately came to mind.

If anyone thinks that by designing more colorful and attractive “packaging” he will better be able to sell a low-quality “product” such as the Cuban electoral process, he is wasting time and resources. Continue reading

Intransigence at Any Cost / Fernando Damazo

Fernando Damaso, 16 March 2015 — When a phenomenon is analyzed, or a historical occurrence or any important matter, this analysis should be done objectively evaluating all its components, be they internal or external, without a priori positions, keeping in mind their positive or negative aspects.

Yesterday marked another anniversary of the events which occurred at Mangos de Baraguá on March 15, 1878.

The Baraguá Protest, mounted by General Antonio Maceo and other generals and officials of the Cuban Army of Independence [in the 19th Century against Spain], as a response to the Pact of Zanjón, has been included by history as a symbol of intransigence for Cubans. The virile gesture by Maceo and his comrades deserves the greatest respect — even though it did not correspond to the actual status of the struggle which, except for within the jurisdictions of Santiago de Cuba and Guantánamo, had waned, primarily because of the exhaustion of the Mambí forces, the internal divisions within Continue reading