UNPACU Reaches 5th Anniversary Amid Achievements And Criticisms / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Mario Penton

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar/Mario Penton, Havana/Miami, 24 August 2016 – Five years can be a long time in Cuba, when we’re talking about an opposition organization. In the complex kaleidoscope of dissident groups and parties that make up civil society on the island, many are active for only a few months or languish amid repression and illegality. The Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) will reach its fifth anniversary on Wednesday with several of its initial objectives completed and others still in progress.

While the Cuban government classifies all opponents as “enemies” of the nation and “hirelings of the Empire,” UNPACU members have preferred to describe themselves in their own words. They consider themselves “a citizens’ organization and a pro-democracy and progressive social movement” interested in “freedom, sovereignty and prosperity.” Their epicenter is the city of Santiago de Cuba and other areas in Eastern Cuba, although they also have a presence in Havana. Continue reading “UNPACU Reaches 5th Anniversary Amid Achievements And Criticisms / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Mario Penton”

Organized around their leader and most visible head, Jose Daniel Ferrer, UNPACU was born in 2011 after the process of the release of the last prisoners of the 2003 Black Spring, among whom was Ferrer. Ferrer’s prior experience was in the ranks of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL), which was vital for his own political development, according to what he has said in several interviews.

Over the years, several faces have stood out in UNPACU’s ranks, such as the young Carlos Amel Oliva, who recently led a hunger strike in protest of the arbitrary arrests and confiscations of personal belongings. However, UNPACU has also suffered, like the rest of the country, the constant exodus of its members through the refugee program offered by the United States Embassy and other paths of emigration.

Among those who have decided to stay on the island, is Lisandra Robert, who never imagined she would join an opposition organization. Her future was to be a teacher, standing in front of a classroom and reviewing mathematical formulas and theories. However, her studies at Frank Pais Garcia University of Teaching Sciences ended all of a sudden when she refused to serve as an undercover agent for State Security. The “mission” they demanded of her was to report on the activities of several activists of the Patriotic Union of Cuba, among them two of her family members.

Today, Robert is a member of UNPACU, and although she started with the group as an independent journalist, with the passing of time she has addressed the issue of political prisoners. “At first it was hard, because the neighbors participated in the acts of repudiation, they wouldn’t look at us or speak to us.” Something has changed because “now they are the ones most supportive of us.”

Among the characteristics that distinguish the work of UNPACU is the use of new technologies. Through copies on CDs, USB memory sticks or external hard discs, Cubans have seen the acts of repudiation from the point of view of the opponents who have been victims of them, and they have even used tools such as Twitter, which they teach in their Santiago headquarters.

“This is a way to bring more people to all the work we do and they receive it with love and great appreciation, because we also include news that doesn’t appear in the national media,” says Robert.

Zaqueo Báez’s face became known during the mass Pope Francis offered in Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution last September. Along with other colleagues, the current UNPACU coordinator in Havana approached the Bishop of Rome and demanded the release of the political prisoners. This Tuesday he told 14ymedio that he felt “very proud” of belonging to the movement dedicating “great efforts” to “social work undertaken directly with people to involve those most in need.”

Jose Daniel Ferrer, on a visit to Miami, said he was satisfied by what has been achieved and feels that “in its first year UNPACU was already the opposition organization with the most activists in Cuba.” The figure of 3,000 members stated publicly has been a center of controversy, such as that sustained between Ferrer and Edmundo Garcia, a Cuban journalist living in Florida. On this occasion, Garcia asked sarcastically, “How many people (from UNPACU) can you introduce me to?”

Garcia also questioned the organization’s source of funding and said the United States government was the main source, through the National Endowment for Democracy. Ferrer openly acknowledged that part of the funding comes from the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF) and what he describes as “generous contributions from Cuban exiles.”

Former political prisoner Felix Navarro belonged to UNPACU, but said he had left the group “without grievance, without separation.” He considers it “the most representative organization in opposition to Castro within the Cuban nation.” In addition, “it is in the street and has created a very positive mechanism from the point of view of the information to immediately find out what is happening every minute.”

For José Daniel Ferrer one of the biggest challenges is to achieve “a capable and committed leadership” because many activists “scattered on the island don’t do better activism because of not having good leadership.” The limitation on resources such as “equipment, disks, printers and the money it takes to bring more people into the work of spreading information” also hinders the action of training, he adds.

The dissident Manuel Cuesta Morua considers UNPACU to be “one of the most active organizations, especially in non-violent protests in the streets, bringing light and giving relief to the demands of ordinary people.” A result of this activism is that in April of this year the number of political prisoners belonging to the organization rose to 40 people.

When Jose Daniel Ferrer was asked if UNPACU can remain active without him in the personal leadership position that has characterized Cuban political movements, he responds without hesitation: “It has been demonstrated very clearly in my absence.”

Guillermo Fariñas’ Organization Withdraws from MUAD / 14ymedio

The Cuban regime opponent Guillermo Farinas. (Laura Maria Parra de la Cruz)
The Cuban regime opponent Guillermo Farinas. (Laura Maria Parra de la Cruz)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 1 July 2016 — In the same week, the Democratic Action Roundtable (MUAD) has lost two of its most representative organizations. On Tuesday, the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) withdrew from the organization of opponents, and Thursday the United Anti-totalitarian Front (FANTU), led by Guillermo Fariñas, made public its departure.

In a note circulated by email within the island, the FANTU National Council said that MAUD “is permeated by a majority of organizations and personalities that are not representative of the entire non-violent opposition.” Something that, according to the group, distances them from those who daily confront “in the streets, the Castro’s totalitarian regime.” Continue reading “Guillermo Fariñas’ Organization Withdraws from MUAD / 14ymedio”

The statement, signed by eight activists among whom is Fariñas, winner of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, said that FANTU’s members believe that the opponents who belong to the United Roundtable reject the carrying out of “actions in the public rights-of-ways” and “reject the methodology” of the organizations that hold them.

Unlike UNPACU’s more diplomatic declaration of withdrawal from MUAD, the FANTU note offers very harsh criticisms of the entities that make up MUAD. In their opinion, they are “very popular in the media, but with few members in their ranks,” at times only one person, “and act only towards the exterior of Cuba.”

Manuel Cuesta Morua, one of the main drivers of the MUAD initiative, told 14ymedio that MUAD is preparing “a well-thought out” response to these criticisms.

For its part, FANTU has reproached MUAD for using “methods to buy and get commitment as well as votes from opponents, which consist of facilitating travel abroad”; a way that seeks to “defend the postures and opinions of certain personalities within this rebellious entity.”

The document notes that “the struggle must be carried out within Cuba and not be [going] constantly from airport to airport [since] the real scenario for the democratization our country is within the island itself.”

Cuesta Morua recognizes that the withdrawal of these organizations “is a blow” for the MUAD project, because both groups “have worked hard and are very prestigious within Cuba.” However, he dismissed the seriousness of the rupture, which he described a “a growth crisis” that “will not end” the umbrella organization.

Cuesta Morua, who is the leader of the Progressive Arc, said that there is still “a lack of maturity in the coexistence between the same proposal from different viewpoints, distinct concrete strategies of change, of how to push democratic change.” He notes that “the doors remain open from FANTU and UNPACU,” if in the future they want to return” to the organization.

Fariñas is setting his sights on the Second National Cuban Meeting, an event that will take place in San Juan, Puerto Rico, between this August 12th to 14th. That is “another attempt at unity in which we are involved,” the opponent emphasized to this newspaper.

Patriotic Union of Cuba Withdraws From MUAD / 14ymedio, Havana

Joanna Columbié, Eroisis Gonzalez, Jose Daniel Ferrer and Rolando Ferrer at a presentation of the MUAD program. (14ymedio)
Joanna Columbié, Eroisis Gonzalez, Jose Daniel Ferrer and Rolando Ferrer at a presentation of the MUAD program. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 29 June 2016 — The Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) announced Tuesday its intention to withdraw from the Democratic Action Roundtable (MUAD), a political association involving at least 42 groups and social projects.

A statement signed by UNPACU’s board of coordinators also explains that the organization will not continue to be involved in the #Otro18 (Another 2018) campaign, because at this moment any involvement in “training structures” can affect its “dynamic” and “effectiveness.” Continue reading “Patriotic Union of Cuba Withdraws From MUAD / 14ymedio, Havana”

The text clarifies that the largest opposition organization in the country will continue to enjoy “the best relationship and collaboration” with MUAD, which was defined as a political association “under construction.” UNPACU says that it values the work of the coalition “in favor of a democratic, just, prosperous and fraternal Cuba.”

UNPACU made the decision public a few hours after its leader, Jose Daniel Ferrer, presented the democratic project of his group in the European Parliament, according to a press release from the Association of Ibero-Americans for Freedom (AIL).

The UNPACU leader told 14ymedio unity exists and they are in agreement with MUAD’s actions and cooperation. “The problem is that our dynamic is more active will act together to them, or they with us, when both sides believe it necessary.”

Also participating in the presentation to European Union parliamentarians, entitled “Cementing civil society in Cuba,” was Manuel Cuesta Morua, spokesman for the Progressive Arc Party, an opposition party and one of the most visible faces of MUAD.

Ferrer’s visit to Brussels is part of an intensive travel itinerary that has included several European and US cities, in response to the Cuban government having issued the former political prisoner of the 2003 Black Spring a special travel permit allowing him to leave the country “only once.” The permit was granted after intense pressure.

During his stay in Miami, Florida, Ferrer said in an interview that estimated UNPACU’s membership at more than 3,000 activists and supporters, mainly in Santiago de Cuba and other eastern provinces.

Last week several members of MUAD participated in a meeting in Quintana Roo, Mexico, sponsored by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the Christian Democratic Organization of the Americas (CADO). The meeting served to reaffirm the consensus projects and elect the members of its Executive Secretariat.

57 Years Later: Towards a New Contract for Cuba (Pt. 2) / 14ymedio, Manuel Cuesta Morua

A man walk past a political billboard in Havana: “Socialism is the only alternative to continue to be free and independent.” (14ymedio)
A man walk past a political billboard in Havana: “Socialism is the only alternative to continue to be free and independent.” (14ymedio)

14ymedio, Manuel Cuesta Morua, Havana, 8 May 2016 — The only certainty in Cuba in political terms is that the government accumulates a lot of power but lacks leadership. The kind of leadership required when a country faces an economic challenge, or a cultural, sociological, information, knowledge and generational one, plus the obvious dangers of any new era. They could all be summarized, therefore, by the following: how to manage the Government to maintain a political model that is beneath the basic intelligence, the accumulated experience of Cuban society and cultural pluralism?

Faced with this dilemma, the government has sacrificed the possible options for a new leadership before the metaphysics of the Revolution.

But, 57 years later, can we speak, beyond a memory and a name, of the Cuban Revolution? From the point of view of conviction—a psychological support—there is no doubt it exists. It is this kind of conviction that founds religions and that can only be respected in its specific dimensions. But from the point of view of its initial proposals, the Cuban Revolution has long since dissolved its only assumable scope: the external independence and sovereignty of Cuba. Continue reading “57 Years Later: Towards a New Contract for Cuba (Pt. 2) / 14ymedio, Manuel Cuesta Morua”

Those who defend the Cuban government using the record of the Revolution, never satisfactorily answer these two questions: Is Cuba the only country where healthcare and education are free? Is it legitimate for current generations to express the need for another revolution? A revolution that blocks the possibilities of other futures is not a revolution made by revolutionaries.

But from the point of view of its initial proposals, the Cuban Revolution has long since dissolved its only assumable scope: the external independence and sovereignty of Cuba

But the revolutionaries do not surrender, not even in the face of clear evidence that the Cuban Revolution no longer exists because, beyond its convictions and proposals, it was, by nature, conservative. I offer the example par excellence for the followers of cultural studies and their relationship to political models: faced with three subjects that, by their anthropological condition gave substance to every emancipatory revolution of the 20th century, and within diverse societies, the Cuban government launched an active defense that closed the possibilities for a coherent social, political and cultural modernization, in line with global dynamics: the movements of feminists, blacks and the homosexuals. This was an early sign of the conservative nature of the 1959 project.

Moreover, the closing of Cuba with respect to the initial freedom that in the ‘60s of the 20th century citizens around the world began to respond to, the freedom of movement, was the hallmark of this conservatism that disconnected Cubans from their foundational dynamic as a country. And the Revolution’s reaction in the face of the impact of technology was and is antediluvian: witness the political impact on the regime of technological processes that are democratizers in their own right. Nor today, in Cuba, are these matters are discussed—present here despite and against the policies of the state—but they have been incorporated for a long time into the reality of most nations, from Haiti to Sweden.

By its nature, the Cuban Revolution is the last expression, in the 20th century and so far in the 21st, of the criollo modernization project, with its two clearest models: the expanded model of the plantation-economy export-power, and the restricted model of farm-bodega-control, more anchored in the structure of the Spanish conquest of the Americas.

This project of modernization began its long march with the hegemonic invention of Cuban in the 19th century. And this criollo conservatism was updated through a dictatorship of social benefit that created, with the Cuban Revolution, the second Jesuit state of the Western Hemisphere, after the state of the same kind founded by Dr. José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia in Paraguay in the 19th century.

This criollo conservatism was updated through a dictatorship of social benefit that created, with the Cuban Revolution, the second Jesuit state of the Western Hemisphere

Now, facing a crisis, it has no more economic imagination than that of the restoration of old models: the development of tourism, that was Fulgencio Batista’s celebrated project cut short, and the development of a port, this one in Mariel, which was the most “modernized” project possible for the Spanish metropolis.

The most important achievements of this Revolution, then, have to do with its ability—taking as a starting point its own definition of itself—to arrest poverty at the limits of misery exhibited by many Third World countries, and with its confrontational visibility with the first power in the world: the United States. This was a never a project for the future.

These success of image and minimal cohesion fed a certain romanticism on both the left and the right, often at the edge of political obscenity, of the darkness of history before 1959, of cultural racism, and of a vision of post-imperialist borders for its constant opposition to the policies of the United States. They masked the conservative structure of the society encouraged by the Revolution, and the revolutionary imperialism toward the Third World: in the form of ‘missions’–military, medical and educational.

The conservative revolution, for 57 years, has triumphed. This allows us to understand how it became a movement of diminishing expectations, how it made the ration book a virtue, how it made a desire for modernization counterrevolutionary and exchange with the United States a problem of national security. This latter, taken to the limit, has meant a cultural weakening of the country in the face of the challenge represented by the United States in terms of the cultural continuity of Cuban society—we could speak of the cultural ripe fruit—and an exhaustion of the Cuban project in its inability to project and continue its policies in an era of full globalization. To the extent that this criollo project has tried to identify itself with the fundamentals of Cuba, it also endangers the viability of the nation.

To the extent that this criollo project has tried to identify itself with the fundamentals of Cuba, it also endangers the viability of the nation

As a criollo project, with one foot in the structure of colonial Spain, the Cuban Revolution is a project of hegemony and domination that has legitimized the “counterrevolution,” only the one made by the revolutionaries in power.

The original 1959 contract updated itself in 1961 styling itself as socialist; and updated itself again in 1976 with a Constitution that established the hegemony and superiority of the communists; it broke in 1980 with the events at the Peruvian embassy and the resulting Mariel Boatlift; it updated itself again in 1992, with the admission of another moral universe within the Communist Party with the laicization of the state; and it broke again in 1994 with the Malecon Uprising in Havana; and it is trying to re-update itself with the liberalization of the markets in food and other areas, which subsequently are distorted.

Throughout all this time, the government has done one thing and then the opposite to remain in power, regardless of economic, social or political practices that have been in absolute contradiction with earlier or later ones. All in the name of the Cuban Revolution. Every one of these “revolutions” and “counterrevolutions” carried out by a power ever more divorced from society and that allowed them, finally, in 2002, to rethink their organic relation with citizens.

Yes, “Within the Revolution, everything,” but “within the counterrevolution, also,” is the epilogue of the political process launched in 1959.

Incapable of criticizing its fundamentals—unlike representative democracies, the Cuban Revolution does not permit a discussion based on its pillars, which explains its lack of democracy—the government undertook a constitutional reform in 2002, an authentic political counter-reform, which was the ultimate and definitive rupture between the criollo project and Cuban citizens.

On constitutionally declaring the “irreversibility of socialism,” the government pulverized the constitutional precedents of the founding of Cuba. From our origins as a national project, these assimilated, without contradictions, the unity of subject and sovereign that is the base of the modern citizen. Subject to the law, sovereign to shape it, we Cubans lost with this counter-reform the condition of citizens and the organic relationship with a state that only knows and cares how to justify itself.

Starting from here it became clear that for the state we Cubans are only a source of duties, not of sovereignty. Thus, the republican nature of Cuba is dissolved, establishing a political “contract” to block any future contract. An aberration that must have few precedents in the constitutional history of the world.

If we want to understand, then, why the relationship of Cubans with their state is fundamentally cynical, when it should be an ethical relationship, the reason can be found in this static fluidity that the Cuban Revolution has established with society, based on the assumption that what is, is not, but should continue to remain as if it were, to achieve mutual survival amid the blackout of our future and the suspension of all strategic perspective.

The complicity and mutual deception that the society-state comes to forge, over the span of 57 years, that modus vivendi has dissolved more than one hope and has placed the country at a dead end. Corruption as a zone of shared tolerance both by power and by citizens, in the midst of a vital tension, is a clear example of the progressive national collapse and crashing demoralization of the decent foundations of coexistence.

The last definition of the Cuban Revolution, offered by Fidel Castro on May Day of 2000, is reducible to the phrase, “change everything that should be changed,” when a revolution is defined by changing everything, only confirms the diagnosis: for 50 years the Revolution has made a costly transition from justification based on its essences to justification based on its circumstances. In this sense, “counterrevolution” and “revolution” are vacant words fixed in the general vocabulary of society for the purpose of psychological control.

Outside of this—and only for a tiny minority of honest men and women who have a sense of communion in the work and defense of a past that doesn’t contradict the answer to this question: What, ultimately, is the Cuban Revolution?

It is this: Power and its circumstances defined both by a rogue state, which was updated, at the recently concluded 7th Congress of the Cuban Communist Party, with a bad monarchic joke: Our bipartisanship will bring together the same surnames, Castro Ruz.

From this irresponsible rogue state we must move to the responsible reconstruction of a national project that is anchored in something less metaphysical and more promising: a democratic state governed by the rule of law.

Part 1 of this article is here.

57 Years Later: Towards A New Contract For Cuba (Pt. 1) / 14ymedio, Manuel Cuesta Morua

Miriam Celaya, President Obama, Manuel Cuesta Morua and Miriam Leiva meeting during Obama's recent trip to Cuba (courtesy image)
Miriam Celaya, President Obama, Manuel Cuesta Morua and Miriam Leiva meeting during Obama’s recent trip to Cuba (courtesy image)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Manuel Cuesta Morua, Havana, 7 May 2016 — I am offering, for critical discussion, a viewpoint discussed in more than one place about what I consider the progressive and punctilious deconstruction of our national project. Cuba is no longer one nation, but rather an unfinished project. I will offer this in two parts, not only in line with the needs of newspaper publishers, but also so as to not overly exhaust my readers with a piece of writing that could become tedious. I insist, however, because like many Cubans, I feel the dynamic drive of my country, as described by Manuel Manolín González Hernández, “the Salsa doctor” as he is called, in his cogent letter to Fidel Castro.

It is always necessary to think of one nation, but after the fiasco of the recently concluded pedagogic 7th Party Congress, in which the substantive content of the words were the words themselves, to think of the nation plurally, I believe, is an imperative for survival.

Where is the Cuban nation headed? Almost everyone agrees, as commonly expressed, we are all in the same boat. And as the boat must sail in a reasonable and civilized way, I believe it is necessary to think and discuss, to read and reread, and above all, to imagine. Continue reading “57 Years Later: Towards A New Contract For Cuba (Pt. 1) / 14ymedio, Manuel Cuesta Morua”

The Cuban nation is not defined by a self-selected group, but by its citizenry: the only legitimate body for such an enterprise.

As we have been trapped in very harsh political processes, people get used to it and are no longer impressed or intimidated by the idea that Cuba belongs to a “very special” group of people who are given to calling themselves revolutionaries. Cubans and foreigners both, we have accepted this classification, which could have great weight and standing, but which does not coincide with Cuban culture and nationality, which are the two main conditions of belonging to Cuba or to any other nation and, above all, the two that can experience collateral damage or benefit, according to the angle of position.

Still today, after the almost grotesque exhaustion of all the most respectable meanings of revolution—that of Nicolas Maduro’s Venezuela is dreadful—many people are put on the defensive for desiring changes for Cuba. They must explain that they are not counterrevolutionaries and do not want to work in support of “imperialism” without considering that the term counterrevolution in Cuba can now acquire the same—exceedingly positive—connotation as mambí, the term pejoratively applied by the Spanish in the nineteenth century to refer to Cuban insurrectionists, that is those who were fighting for Cuba’s independence. And that is not right. At least in the arena of words and ideas. The debate of ideas in Latin America has lacked mental strength. On the side of the democrats.

For me, any case, beyond this discussion, the fundamental question that must be asked so as not to let oneself be impressed by the psychological violence of power is, who defines what? And the Cuban nation is not defined by a self-selected group, but by its citizenry: the only legitimate body for such an enterprise. Revolution as a source of law is a reactionary concept. What is overlooked, perhaps in an opportunistic way, is that there comes a time in which the revolutionaries make themselves the power, and thus, unfortunately, they have not differed either in form or in justifications from more traditional political models.

In any case—that of Cuba is special in this sense—they have revived modes and rationales that were supposedly buried by modernity. A simple irony is that, once in power, the revolutionaries openly and profusely use the concepts of subversion and stability to defend themselves against their adversaries. The least revolutionary concepts that could exist, and ones that would be applauded by Prince Metternich, the Austrian Chancellor who led the most thunderous conspiracy against the French Revolution.

The second essential thing is the realization that the citizen is the legitimator par excellence, if we want to avoid regressing to states of more or less divine origin.

The citizen is the legitimator par excellence, if we want to avoid regressing to States of more or less divine origin

In Cuba we need to define a new country from history, from politics and from culture, and from the mentality of subjects and actors in and for an inclusive national project. This definition, after all, must include a consideration of the international context to explain to ourselves our options and possibilities as a nation, something that in Cuba is fundamental, because it has historically been defined in negative terms. We who should not belong, rather than we who own the nation, is an old and unresolved dilemma.

At the end of the ‘90s and in the early 2000s, Cuba let the beginning of the new era pass it by, an era which, from my perspective, began with the end of apartheid in South Africa.

The end of apartheid in South Africa was the stark political expression of this cultural movement, and demonstrated the ethical unviability of cultural hegemony in territories with diverse populations. Nelson Mandela’s reconciliatory solution captured the message that the new South African contract could not be based on a new hegemony that marginalizes diverse traditions within a single nationality.

In the Western Hemisphere, this new contract begins in Bolivia, with the ascent to power of Evo Morales as a representative of America’s forgotten and exploited ancestry. And even though he has been repeating the same pattern of hegemony he fought against, his importance is there: the Western Hemisphere is open to this cultural movement that defines the new legitimacy of future social and political contracts: cultural diversity conveyed through the political citizen.

The latest and most vigorous expression of this movement was the ascent to power of Barack Obama in the United States. His arrival brought a nuance that confirms the irreversibility of this cultural movement: the ascent of cultural minorities, given their capacity to build majorities, to the legitimate field of political decisionmaking.

The new era begins with two connected powers: the power of diversity for the civil reconstruction of states and the power of the imagination which this diversity provides for solving the problems that the world has inherited from the excess of hegemonies based on criteria of superiority. It is the clear triumph of the new anthropology and of its associated aesthetic, which has few global precedents.

Cuba, which needed to sign this new contract in order to structure a new country, dangerously distanced itself from this global current, 57 years after the failure of its own scheme of hegemonies.

In July of 2006 [ed. note: when Fidel Castro, seriously ill, transferred the duties of president to his brother Raul] it seemed that the Cuban authorities approached society in order to enter this new era, and in order to take the initial steps toward this new contract. Ten years later, they irresponsibly wasted the opportunity, only to behold how the United States took the initiative within this cultural movement, even within Cuba.

Beyond the contrast or the comparison between the two societies, the issue is capital from the strategic point of view, due to the political and cultural dispute with which the American political class confronts the Cuban government, and the importance of the political decisions in Washington for the kinds of defensive responses from the Cuban government.

The fact that an ever increasing number of citizens are willing to leave behind revolutionary citizenship in favor of dual citizenship is a sign of lack of confidence in Cuba’s possibilities as a nation.

The paralysis in the project—which does not proceed—of “structural and conceptual changes” that demand the country to reflect, in any case, both on the lack of imagination in the current political hegemony of Cuba as well as on its inability to absorb the force, the elements and the civil consequences of our own cultural diversity, is endangering Cuba’s continuity as a viable nation in the medium and long term.

The danger is also immediate, although its consequences are strategic. The accelerated loss of confidence in the government accelerated the loss of time-confidence in society and, most importantly, of nation-confidence. The fact that an ever increasing number of citizens are willing to leave behind revolutionary citizenship in favor of dual citizenship is a sign of lack of confidence in Cuba’s possibilities as a nation. A message that in Cuba one can live as a Spaniard, as French, American or Italian, that is, as a global citizen, but not as a Cuban.

We have here a first foundational rupture that now confronts two other dangers: first, the lack of leadership and vision within the Government to address the country’s challenges in a global era; and, second, its metaphysical perseverance in the idea of a Revolution that is rapidly losing its social registers to strengthen its punitive registers. That Revolution is supported more by the police force than by its philosophy. First hand out bread, to later offer punishment.

A billboard quotes Raul Castro: Our most powerful weapon: The Unity of the Nation. (14ymedio)
A billboard quotes Raul Castro: Our most powerful weapon: The Unity of the Nation. (14ymedio)

Part 2 of this article is here.

Civic Engagement of Peruvians / 14ymedio, Manuel Cuesta Morua

An elderly man signs in at the polling station to exercise his right to vote in a school district of La Perla, Callao. (EFE / Eduardo Cavero)
An elderly man signs in at the polling station to exercise his right to vote in a school district of La Perla, Callao. (EFE / Eduardo Cavero)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Manuel Cuesta Morua, Havana, 19 April 2016 — In many ways, the elections in Peru reflect in some way the process of democratic maturation in the Americas. I participated in the elections of 2016 as an international observer in response to a shared invitation from Peru’s Political Institute for Freedom (IPL) and the Center for Assistance for Electoral Processes (CAPEL), based in Costa Rica. This was my third experience, after Argentina and Spain, whose electoral processes I also observed.

It was the first time that two representatives of Cuba’s public platform #Otro18 (Another 2018) managed to be present in elections as international observers. This has allowed us to look at the polls from a new angle to gauge the strength of the electoral system as a whole. Continue reading “Civic Engagement of Peruvians / 14ymedio, Manuel Cuesta Morua”

Electoral Integrity is, roughly, a concept that allows us to analyze elections from a conception that goes beyond the day of the vote. We observe the conditions of electoral competition, the degree of independence of the agencies involved in the process, the level of independence and freedom of citizens to elect and to be elected, the role of the press, respect for human rights, the balance of participation among candidates and, of course, the process itself starting from the call for elections through counting the votes and releasing the results, as well as all the logistical conditions.

Electoral Integrity goes to the quality of the process. It precedes the elections, follows them, and follows up post-election, looking at how citizens perceive the process itself. This concept holds that electoral systems are perfectible. A system is not a permanent given, rather every system has to evolve, readjust to technological conditions, and – this is fundamental – respond to changes in context. The main thing is the quality of representation and the clarity of the elections.

The idea is dying, therefore, that good elections are reduced to participation, calm, competition and transparency on the day of the vote.

Based on this concept, I was able to observe that the elections in Peru began long before they were called, at the end of 2015.

I was in Trujillo, the most important center of La Libertad region, in the north of Peru. In the National Organization of Electoral Processes (ONPE) I observed closely the well-oiled electoral architecture for the elections convened this April. I talked to the judges of the National Elections Board (JNE) and with the Organization of Electoral Processes, responsible for overseeing voting and ensuring the necessary logistics.

Voting is compulsory, with corresponding fines for those who do not turn out, but I noticed more civic engagement than fear of harm to one’s purchasing power. Fines respond, in any case, to social classes: 29 soles (the official currency) for the poorest, 90 for the middle classes, and 193 for economically privileged sectors. Probably 29 soles could be very important for the 20% in the lowest band of Peruvian society; however, 80% of the more than 23 million Peruvians who took to the polls could easily pay a fine, for them symbolic, to punish the system.

From here I drew a first conclusion: democracy is a civic virtue in Peru, despite the remnants of political violence. We attended a crowded rally at the end of the Pedro Pablo Kuczynski campaign. The participation of thousands of his followers was a sign that democratic conviction is probably more important than the political and communications capacity, and perhaps the vision, of their leaders.

I noticed that the leadership of the parties responds to the leadership and civic engagement of Peruvians, a fact that solidifies the soil of democracy in that country, although one should not lose the perspective of the importance and value of political leadership in democracy. My doubt arose from whether the presidential candidates shared the stature of their citizens.

A second condition of Electoral Integrity is thus satisfied: the political space for the civic expression of citizens. This is a substantial element to strengthen the relationship between civil society, the citizenry and political parties: electoral transparency.

The behavior of the press is the third essential element for Electoral Integrity. El Comercio, La Republica and Peru 21 , despite their clear backing for one candidate or another, covered the development of the day with good objectivity. The same happened with television. There was a balance in the treatment of candidates and plurality in editorial treatments, with arguments for all ideological tastes.

Peru voted. And, as the daily La Republica headlined on its front page on Monday the 11th, the voters turned to the right. Adding the votes obtained by Keiko Fujimori (40%), Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (22%) and Alan Garcia (6%), shows that more than 67% of Peruvians voted for continuity while Veronika Mendoza , the candidate of the Frente Amplio (the Left) received only 18% of the votes.

The runoff between Fujimori and Kuczynski, on 5 June, will define the course of Peru for the next five years.

Police Prevent Attorney Wilfredo Vallin From Leaving Home / 14ymedio

The lawyer Wilfredo Vallin, President of the Law Association of Cuba. (14ymedio)
The lawyer Wilfredo Vallin, President of the Law Association of Cuba. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 8 April 2016 – On Friday, State Security prevented attorney Wilfredo Vallin from leaving home to participate in a discussion on the Electoral Law. The meeting, to be held at the home of Eliecer Avila, leader of the independent movement Somos+ (We Are More), was hindered by the police who only allowed two of the participants to reach Avila’s home, according to the testimony of Rachell Vazquez, an activist in the group.

From the early hours, the police forces knocked on Vallin’s door in the Diez de Octubre district to warn him that if he left his home he would be arrested. Continue reading “Police Prevent Attorney Wilfredo Vallin From Leaving Home / 14ymedio”

The professor was to give the first training course for the promoters of the Otro18 (Another 2018) Democratic Platform, an initiative that is promoting a change in the Cuban electoral system.

Esperanza Rodriguez, the lawyer’s wife and also a member of the Cuban Law Association, told 14ymedio that the police did not allow them to meet their commitment. When they tried to cross the threshold of the building where they live, they found themselves “surrounded by an operation.”

To Vallín it is “obvious” that the authorities want to “prevent opponents participating in the Cuban electoral process.”

The Otro18 campaign, supported by 45 independent organizations within and outside of Cuba, promotes reforms of the laws governing elections, associations and political parties. Represented by government opponent Manuel Cuesta Morua, last week in Madrid the promoters of the initiative requested that the international community monitor the situation on the island because “the reform process undertaken in Cuba must address not only the economy, trade and investment sectors, but also the political sector.”

“Otro18” Elections Project Presented in Madrid / 14ymedio

Otro18 (Another 2018) was presented at the Madrid Press Association on Thursday 31 March. (14ymedio)
Otro18 (Another 2018) was presented at the Madrid Press Association on Thursday 31 March. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 31 Mach 2016 – Like “a small crack in the Cuban political system” from which an opening coming. Thus did the attorney and activist Rolando Ferrer define the Otro18 (Another 2018) project during a meeting with journalists this Thursday at the Madrid Press Association. Four of the promoters of this process travelled from the island to present in Spain this initiative that promotes reforms in laws addressing elections, association, political parties and others.

Opponents are seeking, with their proposals, to influence a democratic opening that would take effect in Cuban with the elections to be held in 2018. This was emphasized by Ferrer, a member of the Anti-totalitarian Forum (FANTU), as well as by historian Boris Gonzales Continue reading ““Otro18” Elections Project Presented in Madrid / 14ymedio”

, Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) activist Yusmila Reyna, and opposition leader Manuel Cuesta Morua. All of the participated in the press conference this morning, accompanied by the exiled journalist Carlos Alberto Montaner.

With the support of 45 independent organizations inside and outside of Cuba, the initiative demands that the international community follow the situation on the island. “The process of reforms initiated in Cuba should address not only the economic, trade and investment sector, but also the political sector,” Cuesta Morua declared this Thursday.

“We have included a candidate’s right to campaign,” declared Ferrer, in response to a question from 14ymedio about a possible reform that would allow candidate to campaign for votes. “We want to facilities the candidates having a work plan, proposals that they could take to the citizens, and we also want to insert independent candidates,” he added.

“Currently in Cuba the only access the voter has is to the candidates’ biographies, through their past, and this is not a program,” added Boris Gonzalez. To publicize the proposal among Cubans, Cuesta Morua believes that they have to try to reach the citizenry, so it will be perceived as a citizens’ initiative.

The proposed electoral reform, Reyna noted, “was already presented to the National Assembly” and now they are awaiting a response. Right now they are “training independent candidates, who are nothing more than social activists who have a certain popularity and recognition, in addition to the slanderous campaign that the government has undertaken against them,” he added.

“The Spanish transition [from dictatorship to democracy] was a process that favored going from the law to the law,” said Cuesta Morua, who has asked for Spain’s involvement in the process. Spain “has supported the process of the restoration of democracy in Venezuela and could do the same with Cuba,” he added. The European Union “in its political dialogue with the Cuban authorities should ask that they respect the will of thousands of citizens who are demanding free, fair, democratic, competitive and internationally observed elections.”

Cuesta Morua, the leader of the “Progressive Arc”, has stated that “this is a political proposal” and a “a project directed to the citizenry,” and he distanced himself from the process of electoral changes “made to order by the power,” which the government is pushing. The promoters of Otro18 are seeking that it be possible that “citizens can choose not only vote,” he said.

The opponents also stressed that the three strategic demands of the project are the demands for “an independent national electoral commission; that citizens can choose without the mediation of the national commission nomination; and at the same time that the President of the Republic is directly elected.”

The management group of the project is currently made up of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), Independent and Democratic Cuba (CID), United Anti-totalitarian Forum (FANTU), Cuban Youth Roundtable (MDJC), Progressive Arc Party, Citizens Committee for Racial Integration, Center for Support of the Transition, and the Cuban Law Association, but its promoters say they are open to the “incorporation of other civil society organizations and independent actors.”

Cuesta Morua insisted that this is a political process, not one more a Latin American revolution, and it is intended to allow the citizenry to assume their rights and choose who will be their representatives.

The opponents did not shirk the thorny issue of the unity of the opposition and organizations that have not joined the Otro18 project, such as the Christian Liberation Movement and the Ladies in White. Cuesta Morua said that “the perception of disunity no longer represents the current reality of how the opposition is organized in Cuba” and called the present time a “mature stage.”

“Today more than yesterday, the opposition is working together, coinciding in many respects and has put any irreconcilable differences in the past to work on concrete proposals for democratic change,” said Cuesta Morua.

The opposition denounced pressures, “threats and the confiscation of working tools” against the promoters of the initiative and cited the arrests that occurred around the first Forum of the initiative, held in early March at the home of an activist in the Vedado neighborhood of Havana.

Dissidents Call Meeting With Obama Positive And Give Him A List Of Political Prisoners / EFE, 14ymedio

Barack Obama meeting with dissidents in Havana on Tuesday. (14ymedio)
Barack Obama meeting with dissidents in Havana on Tuesday. (14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerEFE (14ymedio), Havana, 22 March 2016 – Several dissidents who met with President Barack Obama in Havana this Tuesday, assessed the meeting as “positive” and “frank,” and one of them delivered a list of 89 political prisoners recorded by the group he leads.

Elizardo Sanchez, spokesman for the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), said Obama was “very clear” and reiterated to the participants at the meeting “his commitment to the cause of human rights and democratic freedoms.”

Sanchez explained that during the dialogue with the US president, he handed him a copy of the list of 89 political prisoners prepared by his group, Continue reading “Dissidents Call Meeting With Obama Positive And Give Him A List Of Political Prisoners / EFE, 14ymedio”

the only one that undertakes an ongoing documentation of these cases in Cuba.

For veteran government opponent, the balance of Obama’s visit to the island was “favorable to the cause of bilateral democracy” but he lamented that far from encouraging an “atmosphere of calm” the Cuban government unleashed “a wave of political repression” which, according to the records of his group translates to between 450 and 500 arrests across the island between Saturday and today.

For his part, the former political prisoner of the 2003 Black Spring “Group of 75,” Jose Daniel Ferrer, one of the thirteen government opponents invited to the meeting, described as “very positive” the meeting because “it was a show of solidarity with those of us who are fighting for the reconstruction of the nation.

“We talked about the process initiated with the Cuban government to normalize bilateral relations, also about his visit, and we also had the opportunity to make suggestions and give opinions on issues that we believe should continue to be pursued and what should not be done in this case,” said Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU).

Miriam Leiva, also invited to the event, considered it “very open” because the president listened to the participants who “could express their views on the current situation of repression and human rights in Cuba” and also he made comments.

“There were some who raised positions contrary to the policies of President Obama, but in the end he expounded on his views about what he is doing and what he can do to benefit the Cuban people,” said the independent journalist.

In her opinion, the fact that Barack Obama set aside a space in his busy schedule of about 48 hours in Havana for this meeting at the US embassy, ​​represented “recognition and support” for the Cuban opposition.

Antonio González-Rodiles, who heads the Independent Estado de Sats (State of Sats) project, said the meeting was “very frank” and led to a debate in which “everyone raised their point of view and President Obama heard the different positions.”

Rodiles, critical of the new US approach to Cuba, said he told Obama his doubts about the process of normalization of relations and the “enormous level of violence and repression” in recent times.

He also criticized that “we have not heard from their government a clear condemnation regarding these excessive violations against the dissidence.”

Also at the meeting dissidents and activists such as the leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler; Guillermo Fariñas; Manuel Cuesta Morua, of the Progressive Arc; and the critical intellectual Dagoberto Valdes.

In brief remarks to reporters about the meeting, Obama said that one of the objectives of the normalization begun with Cuba is to be able to “hear directly” from the Cuban people and ensure that they also “have a voice” in the new stage initiated between the two countries fifteen months ago.

Note: Cuban dissidents, independent journalists and human rights activists present at the meeting were: Angel Yunier Remon, Antonio Rodiles, Juana Mora Cedeno, Jose Daniel Ferrer, Laritza Diversent, Berta Soler, Dagoberto Valdes Hernandez, Guillermo Fariñas, Nelson Alvarez Matute, Miriam Celaya Gonzales, Manuel Cuesta Morua, Miriam Leiva Viamonte, Elizardo Sanchez.

Obama Praises The Courage Of Dissidents In An Unprecedented Meeting / EFE, 14ymedio

US President Barack Obama meets with representatives of Cuban independent civil society in Havana (14ymedio)
US President Barack Obama meets with representatives of Cuban independent civil society in Havana (14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerEFE (14ymedio), Havana, 22 March 2016 — The president of the United States, Barack Obama, praised the “courage” of the dissidents and representatives of independent civil society Cuba at the beginning of the meeting held with them at the headquarters of the United States Embassy in Havana this Tuesday.

In brief remarks, Obama stressed that one of the objectives of normalization with Cuba is to be able to “hear directly” from the Cuban people and to ensure that they also “have a voice” in the new stage initiated between the two countries.

The meeting with president of the United States was attended by Berta Soler (Ladies in White), Miriam Celaya (activist and freelance journalist), Manuel Cuesta Morua (Progressive Arc), Miriam Leiva (freelance journalist), Guillermo Fariñas (former political prisoner and 2010 Sakharov Human Rights Prize recipient), Antonio G. Rodiles (State of SATS), Elizardo Sánchez (Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation), Nelson Matute (Afro-ACLU president, defense organization for black people discriminated against because of their sexual orientation), Laritza Diversent (Cubalex), Dagoberto Valdes (Coexistence ), Jose Daniel Ferrer (UNPACU), Yunier Angel Remon (rapper The Critic ) and Juana Mora Cedeño (Rainbow Project).

“It often requires great courage to be active in civil life here in Cuba,” Obama said, adding he said.

“There are people here who have been arrested. Some in the past and others very recently,” stressed the president.

On Monday, at least a dozen dissidents were arrested in Cuba, according to the dissident Cuban National Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), which also counts nearly 90 political prisoners on the island.

Participating in the meeting with Obama were government opponents who support the new US policy toward the island, as is the case of Cuesta Morua, and others who criticize it, as is the case with Berta Soler of the Ladies in White.

Cuba’s ‘Super Tuesday’: US Dollar ‘Freed’ and Havana Plants a Ceiba Tree / 14ymedio

An American flag flies on a pedicab Monday in Havana. (EFE)
An American flag flies on a pedicab Monday in Havana. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 15 March 2016 — It was an open secret that the United States would approve a new package of relaxations before Barack Obama’s official visit to Cuba. However, the new measures that widen Cubans’ access to the dollar and the ability of Americans to visit the island have taken some by surprise, among them the official press which, two hours after making the information public, still hasn’t reacted.

On the streets the rumor is just starting to get out that “the yumas (Americans) opened up the fulas (bucks),” a reference to the authorization to use the U.S. dollar from Cuba, and the new ability for residents of the island to maintain bank accounts in the United States. Amid the daily hardships, many cling to the hope that “Obama’s package-attack,” as it was baptized by a taxi driver this morning, will improve their lives.

Among the amendments that are beginning to spark the most excitement is the possibility that United States companies can engage in transactions “related to sponsorship or contracting with Cuban citizens to work or provide services in the United States,” a measure that benefits athletes, artists and other professional sectors.

Moises is 39 and drives a horse-drawn carriage for tourists around Havana’s Central Park. “I just heard about it because a customer heard it on TV in the hotel,” he told this newspaper. He has a degree in mechanical engineering, and hopes “to get a pinchita (visa) to come and go… I don’t want to stay permanently, but I would like to earn some money over there and live over here,” he explains.

Near the Plaza de Armas, the booksellers only have time to think about their own problems. The authorities in Old Havana have warned them they can’t set up there between 15 and 23 March. “It’s all about Obama’s visit,” complains one who sells books from the fifties and sixties. His daughter, who works in the food industry near the airport has also been told her workplace will be closed until after the visit of the US president.

Despite the inconvenience and the loss of money it means, the bookseller is happy with the new measures. “At last some good news, thank God, because the truth is we’ve had a tremendous bad patch of problems,” he says, cheerfully. Next to him is Osmel, another bookseller who has been selling there for more than a decade. “For my business this is very welcome because it means more trade and probably more tourists. Maybe now they’ll bring more greenbacks to the country,” he speculates.

Among members of the independent civil society, opinions have not been slow in coming. Dagoberto Valdes, director of the magazine Coexistence, believes the new relaxations are consistent “with the policy put in practice in Washington.” However, he demands that “in return, the Cuban government should now end the tax imposed on the dollar, which they justified by the difficulties that existed (in exchanging it) until today.”

Manuel Cuesta Morua, leader of the Progressive Arc, also applauded the gesture. “This is excellent news that indicates the acceleration of the normalization process and it will allow Cuba to better integrate itself into the global economy,” he says. A regime opponent and coordinator of initiatives such as the Otro18 (Another 2018) campaign, Cuesta Morua believes that “the world opening itself to Cuba implies the United States opening itself and that is what is happening.”

“The house of cards constructed by the government over the last fifty-some years to prevent Cubans from connecting to the world is falling down,” added Cuesta Morua.

Activist Miriam Leiva consider it “timely and positive” that Cubans can now use the dollar in banking transactions, because that opens the opportunity for American companies to buy in Cuba companies and also Cuban citizens can import or export goods, not just the self-employed. “What I think is important is that the Cuban government open the possibility to Cubans to enjoy the new measures, that is that it be not only useful for the state, but also for citizen transactions. In short, it is necessary that there be reciprocity with this measure,” she adds.

Satisfaction among the tourists was also evident this morning, as bit by bit they heard the news. Dominic, a German photographer who was waiting for the planting of the new ceiba tree at Havana’s El Templete, believes that news like today’s before the coming of Barack Obama is a hopeful sign. “I’m happy to be in Havana on a historic day, I hope that when I return the economic improvement resulting from a decision of this nature will be noticeable,” he adds.

An artisan on Obispo Street said he didn’t know if the news coming from Washington will be good or bad for Cuba. “To comment on that you have to be an economist, but for me it would be good if, in addition to the Americans ending the ban on using their currency, the government here allowed it to circulate freely and the currency exchanges gave you the real value for it.”

However, skepticism also abounds. “No one can fix this”, said a man who, broom in hand, was trying to remove fallen leaves around the statue of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, in the center of the square. Near him some were throwing coins – Cuban pesos or Cuban convertible pesos – into the hole where the ceiba will be planted in Havana this Tuesday.

Forty Years Later, What Does The Cuban Constitution Need? / 14ymedio, Manuel Cuesta Morua

The current Cuban Constitution was adopted 40 years ago, in 1976 (EFE / FILE)
The current Cuban Constitution was adopted 40 years ago, in 1976 (EFE / FILE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Manuel Cuesta Morua, Havana, 23 January 2016 – Forty years in the life a nation is a short time in the long span of history. In politics, on the other hand, three generations are enough to measure the significance of accomplishments that mark a specific period.

With the Socialist Constitution of Cuba turning 40, we are left with the feeling that 1976 was an insignificant year for the institutionalization of the country. The seminal date continues to be 1959, in which the nature and dynamics of power – anti-institutional – were expressed, and not 1976 in which the Cuban Revolution supposedly institutionalized a process of inclusion of the whole society within fundamental rules that are the same for everyone. Continue reading “Forty Years Later, What Does The Cuban Constitution Need? / 14ymedio, Manuel Cuesta Morua”

The distance of 16 years between the Revolutionary event and its political institutionalization established and stabilized a particular habit that is typical of pre-modern politics: command by those who triumphed. And the triumph was one of a party above a nation. And so, before 1976, there was the First Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba in 1975, which was the year when those few who came to dominate the destiny of everyone were institutionalized.

The Communist Party is the origin of the 1976 Constitution. It goes without saying that the origins of the Cuban Constitution were anything but democratic. Its conception and drafting were not the work of a group of notables chosen for their diversity and representative of society, but a rather of a small appointed group consisting of militants of the old Socialist Party, specifically directed to copy the outline of the Bulgarian Constitution from the Socialist era, which in turn was a facsimile of the Soviet Constitution of 1936.

Thus, Cuba backtracked almost four years, if we take 1940 – the year Cuba’s pre-Revolution Constitution had been adopted – as a point of departure for a rich constitutional history that responded to the foundations of a modern constitutional state: limitation of power, fundamental freedoms and separation of powers.

Without prior public consultation, the 1976 Constitution inverts sovereignty and crystalizes two sovereign dimensions over society. In this it exceeds, so to speak, the socialist world that it imitates and where it constantly seeks legitimacy. The inverted sovereignty makes it clear to everyone that the source of law for the acts of the Government is not in the people but at the top of the pyramid: in those who rule in their name. The double dimension of this recovery of the concept of sovereignty that precedes the French Revolution warns us that above us is the Communist ideology and above it, and everything else, including international law, is the Revolution, the source of law in Cuba.

The history of the country over the past 57 years is one of tension between the hegemony of the Communists and the hegemony of the Revolutionaries who are active in the Communist Party and who, owners of everything, rule outside of them and the constitution they copied.

But there are two other basic tensions: that which occurs between the Revolutionaries and the country in which they reign, combining caprice and hormones; and that which is born from the clash between the will of the powers-that-be, and constitutional life.

These two tensions push sporadic reforms and counter-reforms of the Constitution to adapt to social and economic reality, that resists the structural and systematic blows of power, and the needs of survival in the face of this same reality. The 1992 reforms, reasserting the secular character of the Constitution and national sovereignty are in the first sense an adaptation. They were reforms to the extent that they put an end to official atheism, a form of State religion, and deleted the article that thanked the former Soviet Union for the very existence of the Cuban State.

In 2002 there was the counter-reform that once again evidenced the dominion of Revolutionaries with card-carrying Communist credentials. To any doctrinaire Communist, not to mention the rest of society that was emerging in all its plurality, it declared the irreversible character of socialism at the exact moment when evidence suggested the complete contrary. Nothing was irreversible nor had history come to an end: neither that proclaimed by the Communist Manifesto of 1848, nor that proclaimed by the American intellectual Francis Fukuyama in 1980 in his book The End of History and the Last Man.

The 2002 counter-reform indicated, however, a more important fact: the Cuban Revolution managed to institutionalize itself as habit precisely because it denies the constitutional life of the country. Cuban has been governed since 1976 in the same way it was in the 16 years between 1959 and 1976: by force of will and wishful thinking. This seems to tell us that the fundamental and necessary changes in the country can only be achieved through the triumph of another revolution.

Is this advisable? In my view, no. Someone said it superbly: The ends are nothing, the means are everything.

Cuban society has come to maturity through the blows of failures and there is already awareness, across all of society, that the country’s progress will be associated with clear and precise rules of the game that avail everyone and that are above everyone in the sense only that no one is above them.

The Constitutional Consensus project, promoted by various organizations of civil society and politically independent emerged from this awareness. For it what is essential it to define the what before the who and to return sovereignty to its only legitimate owners: the citizens. A prosperous and sustainable country can only grow within clear rules. Also moving in this direction are the proposals of the Cuba Possible project and the Coexistence project.

Similarly, the #Otro18 (Alternative Cuba 2018) project does the same, specifying and seeking to recover sovereignty through civil proposals for a new Electoral Law that guarantees plural participation without mediation of all Cuban citizens, leaving behind the single political subject recognized and legitimized by the powers-that-be: the revolutionary.

Important constitutional reforms of at least four articles of the Constitution are key to move in this direction. These are:

Article 3: Which has to do with the exercise of sovereignty and in which, for these involuntary derivations of the popular rhetoric, it is recognized that the people can exercise direct political power;

Article 5: Which awards hegemonic and implicit superiority to the Communist Party, whose reform extends to;

Article 62: Conceived to limit the exercise of the few recognized citizen rights, and;

Article 137: Which clearly defines the legal subjects with the capacity to reform the Constitution, and specifically excludes the citizens from this capacity.

These constitutional articles taken as a whole proportion the typical shielding of the State from society and the citizenry, and reveal the conceptual distortions in the contractual nature that are at the origins and foundations of constitutional law.

The Cuban government has realized that a profound constitutional reform is necessary. It has raised, on several occasion, that it is working on it, and is doing so clearly behind the backs of the citizens, as it develops a proposal for a new electoral law.

Unfortunately, 40 years later, the same spirit prevails: power is attempting an adjusted reform of its measure without prior public deliberation. A weak logic for the institutional future of the country.

Spanish Lessons for Cuba / 14ymedio, Manuel Cuesta Morua

Citizens choose ballots to exercise their vote in elections at the polling station located at the University of Barcelona. (EFE / Toni Albir)
Citizens choose ballots to exercise their vote in elections at the polling station located at the University of Barcelona. (EFE / Toni Albir)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Manuel Cuesta Morua, Havana, 28 December 2015 — The general elections held in Spain this 20 December (20-D) contain a number of important lessons for Cuba and for Cubans, as we look ahead to the electoral process in 2018. Here is a reflection on these lessons, at a distance of space and time.

I participated in 20-D as a kind of international observer in the role of representative of the initiative #Otro18*. In the Principality of Asturias, where I was invited – and which I would like to thank, not only for the beauty in miniature of a city like Oveido, but also because the workings of the political systems can be better observed far from the major metropolitan cities – I observed on my arrival the calm bustle in which all the competing political groups prepared, in various ways, for the important exercise of choosing among the diversity of parties and between the four major faces: Mariano Rajoy (Popular Party, PP, in power since 2011), Pedro Sanchez (Spanish Socialist Workers Party, PSOE), Pablo Iglesias (Podemos, (We Can)) and Albert Rivera (Ciudadanos, (Citizens)). Continue reading “Spanish Lessons for Cuba / 14ymedio, Manuel Cuesta Morua”

Upon my arrival I was quickly driven to the House of the People in Oviedo: an exquisite and well-preserved example of the architecture of the 18th century which once served as a home for Catholic nuns and now is home to the PSOE. Being held there, and this is the first lesson for us, was the most fortunate of those typically boring meetings we humans commonly hold. It was the usual meeting, prior to the election cycle, of the different political groups among what they call auditors and guardians: a troop of party members who, on election day, monitor the transparency and fairness of the process.

The meeting included: a rereading the manual updated for the elections; a recounting of the incidents and problems associated with previous elections (the municipal elections held in May throughout Spain); a reminder, in the case of old auditors and guardians, and guidance in the case of new ones, of their duties and rights on the election day; a discussion in detail of what constitutes, according to the code, an electoral offense; and the locations of the local polling stations, among the total of 23,000 to be opened in throughout Spain. All of this was part of the necessarily boring night meeting in one of the PSOE headquarters. I learned there that this also was taking place among the other political parties.

This boredom of this process is a fortunate thing for a political exercise as important and complicated as elections. We should grasp the need for it because it is the only way to tackle one of the key axes of democratic systems: the nervousness that spreads among the political class faced with the uncertainties of citizens’ votes.

The second lesson is that, when it comes to elections in pluralistic system, we must be prepared for surprises. It is not always what you expect, whether it is the trends that mark traditions, or the currents expressed in opinion polls, that do or do not coincide with what happens in reality. In the 20-D elections there were several surprises: a clear end of bipartisanship — that is the dominance of two major parties; the emergence of new parties in Congress (Podemos and Ciudadanos); the dissolution of the arrogant majorities; and a return to the culture of dialogue and agreement needed to advance public policies.

The third lesson is that democracies cannot be hegemonic and respect the rights of minorities. One complaint I hear constantly is that majoritarian systems unleash the temptation to ignore the needs and interests of the minority, to manipulate the mass of voters and to turn the opposition into a noisy species unable to reverse pernicious decisions legitimated by the weight of the majority. Ultimately, and this is a modern element relevant to at least all Western countries, globalized societies are highly fragmented by a multitude of minorities – religious, political, ideological, ethnic or cultural – so that democracies should encourage coalitions that take into account the interests of all. For Cuba this lesson is urgent.

However, the most important lesson for us Cubans is the tolerance and respect for diversity displayed in a society like Spain’s, despite the bitter tone of political debate.

*Translator’s note: #Otro18 refers to the citizen’s initiative “AlternativaCuba2018”, which anticipates multiparty democratic elections in Cuba in 2018, the year in which Raul Castro has announced he will step down as president.

Revolutionary ‘Plattism’* / 14ymedio, Manuel Cuesta Morua

The inevitable contamination of the United States can only be assimilated in a Cuba faced with the exhaustion and advanced age of the Revolution, and the cultural failure of “We will be like Che.”
The inevitable contamination of the United States can only be assimilated in a Cuba faced with the exhaustion and advanced age of the Revolution, and the cultural failure of “We will be like Che.” (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Manuel Cuesta Morua, Havana, 23 October 2015 — During the State-sponsored 12th Forum of Cuban Civil Society Against the Blockade, which ended last Friday at the Ministry of Public Health’s auditorium in Havana, a unique paper was presented. Under the title “The Blockade: Methodology for Calculating Costs,” Pico Nieves, and expert from the National Institute of Economic Research, presented findings that deserve political attention, but not economic.

After listening to the presentation, one question lingered in the air. What logic does the Cuban government follow when it demands compensation for the costs of a voluntary war and, moreover, one that it did not win?

There are at least six arguments that challenge the proposal from Pico’s research:

Political: Two enemy States do not negotiate. Nothing in international practice or in the literature on States in conflict shows or demonstrates that the friend-enemy relationship, according to the German political theorist Carl Schmitt, involves trade in goods and services between them. The goal motivating such a pair is the disappearance of the other, not business relations. Continue reading “Revolutionary ‘Plattism’* / 14ymedio, Manuel Cuesta Morua”

Economic: The structure of the Cuban economy is not compatible with the American economy. Goods and services that Cuba could offer are not in the “market basket” of the American citizen, and, with regards to what Cuba could receive from the United States, which is everything, there is no Cuban monetary or wage structure, unless it was reproduced, since the 1970s or ’80s, of the type of a central or peripheral economic relationship that supposedly justified the Cuban Revolution.

Ownership structure: A privatized economy such as that of the United States does not fit with an economy as nationalized as that of Cuba. What would be the State partnership of Cuba with a country like the United States where there isn’t the most remote possibility for a role like the State’s in the Cuban economy, except with regards to trade relations?

Creating wealth: If the Cuban economic model of production was always one of State capitalism, there is a key difference with the American model. There the economic model is one of openness and plurality par excellence, and in Cuba, on the contrary, we are faced with the most closed and centralized economy. This leads to an increasingly important difference, the technological differences which are enormous. In this sense, the only option would have been for the United States to give international organizations political license to flood Cuba with credits. But again, we encounter the obstacle that we are enemies.

Economic policy: The sectors that could be attractive to the United States, for example tourism and cultural sectors, were only opened up in Cuba in the nineties and then only reluctantly.** In the 1970s and ‘80s allowing Yanke tourism in Cuba, the only potential area of economic ties, would have run up against that era’s most important concept of political control: ideological diversionism. US tourism would have brought the American Way of Life, inconceivable in that time.

Ideological: The inevitable contamination from the United States can only be assimilated in a Cuba faced with the exhaustion and advanced age of the Revolution, and the cultural failure of “We will be like Che.” What’s left of that model supposedly superior to and incompatible with capitalism?

In reality, the only chance of economic relations with the United States, in conditions of political peace, would have been through the facilitation of credit and then we would have had a problem not only with the Paris Club, but also with the Washington Consensus and the vulture funds. The inefficiency of the Cuban economy cannot be solved with money.

There is no analysis that could reconcile the Cuban Revolution being in a normal economic relationship with the United States. The Cuban Revolution is a “permanent revolution.” Permanent revolution is war, although it was a cold war, with the United States.

But the government’s insistence on compensation for a voluntary war with the United States, far beyond the political necessity of balancing the accounts for the uncompensated nationalizations, reveals the subconscious of those in power in Cuba: If the model of the command economy was possible with a war mentality, it is only sustainable in relation to the American economy. The Revolutionary “Plattism*” of the better.

Translator’s notes:
*The term “Plattism” refers to the Platt Amendment passed by the US Congress and subsequently adopted into Cuba’s first Constitution in 1901 as a condition for the United States removing its troops from the island. The Amendment gave the United States authority to intervene in Cuba’s foreign affairs, an “occupation without occupiers.”
**After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of its massive subsidies to Cuba, the State was forced to seek other sources of foreign exchange.

An Interview of a Friend / Lilianne Ruiz

Lilianne Ruiz, 9 October 2015 — Oscar needs visibility to get them to stop bothering him in his work just because he is the person he is and because he defends his identity. Typical of those systems where they try to prevent any participation, initiative, voting, creativity. Imagine what kind of hell it is when those who are violent, idle, less intelligent, those who repress, restrict the freedom of the rest.

This interview with Oscar Casanella, my friend, is late appearing in other media and so I am publishing it in my blog.

Oscar Casanella Saint-Blancard has a degree in Biochemistry and is a researcher at the National Institute of Oncology and Radiobiology (INOR). He is also an adjunct professor of Immunology with the Faculty of Biology of the University of Havana, where he has taught without receiving wages since 2006. Despite all the services he offers to society, Casanella has been continually harassed by the political police from Thursday 5 December 2013, when he planned to throw a party to welcome home Ciro Javier Díaz Penedo, a graduate in Mathematics from the University of Havana and a musician in the punk rock band “Porno para Ricardo,” who has been his friend for twenty years and who was returning to Cuba. Continue reading “An Interview of a Friend / Lilianne Ruiz”

In 2008 Casanella won a scholarship in bioinformatics at the Complutense University of Madrid for 2009 to 2011, and received training in bioinformatics at the Swiss Institute of this specialty in the city of Lausanne. He is currently studying the National Collaborative Curriculum PhD Program in Bioinformatics coordinated by the Virtual Center for Bioinformatics.

Ruiz: When did the harassment against you in your work start?

Casanellas: Both the Deputy Director of INOR, Lorenzo Anasagasti, as well as Pedro Angulo Wilfredo Fernandez Cabezas, both members of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), despite my reputation of 10 years of good work in the INOR, believed the lies of the political police officials that my friends and I were mercenaries, terrorists, annexationist [i.e. want Cuba to become part of the United States] and I continued to maintain friendly relations with Ciro and friends in the opposition that I had met through him. Anasagasti removed me from the post of Executive Secretary of the Forum of Science and Technology of INOR, and he has prevented me from participating in research projects with the centers of the Havana Scientific Center.

He also coerced my colleagues to give him copies of my legal documents, which contain the facts and items violated by the State Security and their collaborators and the letter sent by me to Raul Castro, with an attachment documenting the excellent opinions of me from my colleagues, my neighbors and my students at the University of Havana, claiming that all these documents are enemy propaganda.

 Ruiz: What is your work situation at the moment?

Casanellas: The most recent events are the constraints Anasagasti Angulo is putting on my colleagues. He demands that several laboratory chiefs at INOR’s research department block my access to them with the argument that there is a rule at the center that restricts access to the labs. However, he demands that this apply only to me, not to the rest of the employees who, although they don’t belong to a laboratory can freely enter any one of them, so I feel discriminated against.

I am one of the professors of the molecular biology module, a subject that is taught to doctors who are doing their specialty in oncology, and the person responsible for coordinating the instruction said something very sad to me–distressed and with tears in his eyes–that Anasagasti demanded that I not enter his laboratory, not even to work. This person is very psychologically unbalanced by all the pressure from Anasagasti and is thinking about asking to step down from INOR due to the ethical, professional and personal dilemma, because in addition to the working level we also have a strong friendship.

Anasagasti told another person that he preferred he not do a thesis on which I did the bio-statistic analysis. Despite the pressure, this person allowed and recognized my collaboration on his thesis.

Last year I had planned to teach a course on bio-informatics for researchers and interested workers from INOR and for students from the Biology Faculty at the University of Havana. I obtained authorization from my immediate boss, a classroom was reserved with the teaching department, but Anasagasti didn’t give me authorization. I asked him for a response regarding this negative and he told me, “Oscar, get it into your head that I am going to do everything possible so that you will not have a future in this institution, and I am going to make every step you try to take difficult.”

That is, for the deputy director, his work as a collaborator with State Security — applying the psychological war against me, which has as a secondary effect of a war against my colleagues as well — is more important than researching cancer, teaching and improving the medical and non-medical work of the INOR.

Ruiz: Have you heard anything about the deputy director doing the same thing to other workers?

Casanellas: Yes, Anasagasti showed up with the State Security agents “Victor” and “Mario” on a Sunday last August at the home of Dr. Carlos Vazquez, chief of peripheral tumors at INOR to intimidate him because of his friendship with Manual Cuesta Morua, leader of the Social-Democratic Progressive Arc Party.

Ruiz: Do the conditions at INOR guarantee the best development for the research projects?

Casanellas: I can tell you that many supplies and materials are arranged for personally by the workers. They aren’t provided by the institution. For example, INOR does not provide us with water of the quality required to carry out the experiments. Personally, I have had to go to the  Center of Molecular Immunology in my own car with my own gasoline to look for several gallons of water for INOR research labs, as this center does have the necessary equipment for the purification process.

Years ago we transported cell lines on public buses between INOR and the Scientific Center. The funny part of the story is that in a crowded bus people opened a space around us as a result of my spilling some liquid nitrogen at 196 degrees below zero, which instantly evaporated. People said we were terrorists who were transporting acid.

Imagine that I am doing a PhD in bioinformatics and INOR won’t give me internet access. The chiefs have it. Internet access can already be considered a human right. But here this tool is prioritized for the political cadres, not for the researchers. So I consider myself an off-line bio-informatics specialist.

We recently had the opportunity to publish an article on brain metastases in the World Journal of Oncology Research. The magazine editors ask authors of the selected articles for around $200 USD for the right to publish. When I discussed it with my work colleagues they thought I was crazy, that INOR would never give that amount.

Thanks to my sister, who lives abroad, who paid this amount, we could publish and now INOR’s name appears in an international scientific journal. Everywhere in the world there are institutions that pay the publications who publish their researchers in magazines. In addition, outside of Cuba institutions pay for their workers to have access to scientific journals. We have to ask for help from friends abroad who work in research centers who download items of interest to us and email to them.

Ruiz: Any other anecdotes?

Casanellas: On Tuesday, December 30, 2014 at 11:40 am, I was kidnapped in the INOR by agents from State Security and the PNR (People’s Revolutionary Police). Several members of the INOR leadership left their offices to let the agents use them as they were trying to interrogate me because I had invited several friends to Tania Bruguera’s performance in the Plaza of the Revolution, which for us would have recovered a little of the character of the Civic Plaza [its former name] with the completion of performance.

After an hour, the directors of INOR allowed my kidnapping during work hours and without a warrant. Three police cars took me along with my wife, Eleanne Triff Delgado and my cousin Walter Saint-Blancard Valdes to Tarara. Later after another hour of uncertainty they took us to the Guanabo Police Unit.

I was interrogated by several political police agents, among them agents Victor and Mario, until 9:20 PM. Agent Mario sent us off telling us to be careful because it was night, and the end of the year and there were a lot of accidents.

On the return trip my wife, my cousin and I felt that my cousin’s car, which had also been taken on this journey, had a sound in one of the tires that hadn’t been there before the trip to the PNR Station. When we got to my house we checked it and realized that the bolts that hold the wheel on were making the noise because they were loose.