What “Armaments” Can the Castro Regime Buy in Russia? / Miriam Celaya

Defense Minister of the Russian Federation, Sergei Shoigu, visits a tank unit in Havana, Cuba

Miriam Celaya, Cubanet, West Palm Beach, 4 November 2018 — When, at the end of last October, it was learned through various media outlets that Russia would grant 50 million dollars to the Cuban government for the purchase of weapons, alarms went off.

Immediately, nervous headlines began to appear, stirring the old unburied ghosts of the Cold War: Russia was preparing to “rearm” the Havana regime, the credit would allow the dictatorship to buy from the Russian military industry “all kinds of weapons and military material”, and – of greater concern – the event is taking place in the context of increasing tensions in the relations between Cuba and the United States, and it is accompanied by the announced return of military units to the Cuban territory as part of the narrowing of “Russian-Cuban” collaboration relationship that has been taking place recently, which includes the signing of 60 Russian capital investment projects in Cuba.

Thus, the aforementioned loan credit contract for the alleged “re-armament” and military modernization of Cuba was signed in Havana at the bilateral meeting held on October 29th and 30th, in which the Deputy Prime Minister of Defense of Russia, Yuri Borisov, participated, and on the Cuban side the Vice President of the Council of Ministers of Cuba, Ricardo Cabrisas Ruiz. continue reading

Now, beyond the suspicions and the resentments – not exactly unfounded – that the intermittent love affairs between the Kremlin and the Palace of the Revolution can awaken in us, a credit of $50 million is an absolutely ridiculous figure if it is a question of a “re-armament”. Suffice it to note the real costs of current military technology to conclude that the aforementioned figure would barely be sufficient to replace the exhaust pipes of some obsolete armored vehicles from the magnificent Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces.

In other words, it is absurd to seriously believe that with such a meager loan Cuba could acquire modern military equipment and materiel, especially when the Russian side lists a fabulous list of potential purchases for its miserable Caribbean allies: tanks, armored vehicles, ships (we don’t know if aerial or marine) and maybe even helicopters. Technologies that, objectively, would be possible to buy for $50 million only if they were from World War II.

Although the Cuban-Russian flirtations are neither novel nor exceptional – remember that the military cooperation agreement signed between the two for the period 2016-2020 is in force, which was preceded by other agreements related to the “defense” of Cuba, including the granting of credits – the facts don’t need to be magnified.

Traditionally, the confrontational rhetoric of the US administration has had as its response these Havana warlike headlights, which – except for the distances – mimic the thorns that The Little Prince attempted to defend himself with, against a tiger that came close to attacking him. Because it is known that US troops have no intention of invading Cuba, that in the very unlikely case that it did the US firepower would overwhelmingly prevail against Cuba’s, and that, finally, Cuba is not anywhere near such an important element for Russia or the United States as to unleash a war between both giants.

So, is it wise to be alarmed? Maybe it is. But not because of the supposed risk of an international war confrontation that is not going to happen, but because of what the dictatorship would be able to acquire with $50 million and what it would mean for Cubans here if in fact that amount were invested in repressive equipment with a view to controlling possible outbreaks of discontent in the face of a worsening economic and social crisis in the interior of the country.

Because it is not a secret for the power elite that every day a collective feeling of frustration grows among Cubans of all sectors, in the face of a scenario that condemns the population of eleven million human beings to poverty and despair as they face the impossibility of building a better future, in particular because of the lack of political will on the part of a government that refuses to allow the development of their capabilities.

Paradoxically, the process of “popular debate” of the constitutional reform proposed by that same dictatorial power has exposed the fracture of the “unanimity” and the alleged “close connection of the people with the Revolution and its leaders”. For the first time in 60 years, there have been strong questions from all sectors about some of the proposals endorsed in the Constitution project, many of which directly attack what had been the “sacred” foundations of the system until now: the single party system and the supremacy of the Communist Party as “superior leadership force of society”.

When we are almost at the second anniversary of the definitive death of Fidel Castro and only seven months after the symbolic departure of his brother from his position as Head of State and Ministers, both the criticisms and disagreements, as well as the demands for participation in Cuba’s destiny cover all social strata, from retired people who live on miserable state pensions to workers, artists, entrepreneurs, LGTBI groups, the clergy, young journalists graduated from Cuban universities, doctors who have completed missions abroad and, more recently, the “revolutionary intellectuals”.

This time the demands don’t start from the opposition groups and other dissident voices that can be accused of being “mercenaries” or “sellers of the motherland” by the propaganda machinery of the official press monopoly. Ordinary Cubans want to know why they cannot directly elect their President, why they cannot invest in their own country, why they cannot acquire more than one license to work as self-proprietors, why they cannot import consumer goods and products from abroad, why freedoms are not recognized as citizens’ rights, such as those of association, free hiring and freedom to remain abroad for an indefinite period, among others.

The weariness seems to have spread throughout society along the whole Island, and the Power knows that better than anyone.

And this puts us back at the starting point. What if, as has happened in the protest demonstrations in Venezuela and Nicaragua, the Cuban regime decides to impose itself through blood and fury against the defenseless Cubans? How much anti-riot weaponry, gas, or other repressive devices against the crowds can be acquired with $50 million? Undoubtedly, in this case the figure would not be so negligible.

A reflection that does not aim to alarm, but to alert about a drift that can be extremely dangerous. We can only imagine how far the late stage Castro Regime is willing to go to preserve its power. It is more prudent to follow the signs in advance and drink from the experience of others. Venezuela and Nicaragua are there to show us the price of trust. Let us not be too trusting.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Bolsonaro Harvests the Failure of the Politics of the PT*

Jair Bolsonaro followers celebrate his victory in Sao Paulo. (EFE / Fernando Bizerra)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, West Palm Beach, 29 October 2018 — Just as the surveys indicated, Jair Bolsonaro achieved victory in Brazil’s presidential elections. A few weeks ago, Brazil’s former president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, had called on the Brazilian people to vote massively for his comrade Fernando Haddad, the Workers’ Party (PT) candidate, belatedly thrown into the ring in a desperate attempt to retain political power for his party.

“Haddad is Lula,” the popular leader wrote to his supporters, urging them to support the PT’s new ace at the polls, in a letter written from jail, where he remains locked up awaiting trial for corruption allegations.

However, the poll results this Sunday, October 28th, showed, beyond a doubt, that either Lula’s message did not go down as well as expected in an electoral mass that until recently seemed inclined in his favor, or the dissatisfaction generated by the corruption scandals that have undermined the standing of the political leadership, the increase in violence in recent years, the decline in social standards and in the economy, the specter of poverty that has once again spread through the most humble sectors and the loss of faith in leadership have finally caught up to politicians of the left. In fact, the voters voted for a change in the most radical sense of the word. continue reading

It will probably never be known to what extent the weariness of a difficult socio-economic and political panorama or simply the desire to punish the PT caused more than 55% of voters to vote in favor of the opposite extreme.

It may never be known with any degree of certainty to what extent the weariness of a difficult socio-economic and political panorama or simply the desire to punish the PT – more than real sympathy for Bolsonaro – resulted in over 55% of the millions of Brazilian voters going to the polls, but they voted quite in favor of the opposite extreme – the Social Liberal Party – thus blurring, once and for all, the few hopes that the most stubborn advocates of the regional left had in terms of demonstrating their popular roots at the polls.

An icy editorial published in the digital version of the Sunday evening edition Cuba’s main state newspaper Granma, under the meddling title of “Jair Bolsonaro won, and Brazil?”, reflected the displeasure and impotence of the Palace of the Revolution for “a result that represents Brazil’s return to the extreme right at the end of the 1985 dictatorship.”

And the Castro regime’s contrariness is not a small thing. Since his election campaign, the Brazilian elected president, who will take office on January 1st and who will complete his term January 2022, had announced his intention to send back to Cuba doctors who are serving missions in Brazil, and by virtue of whose semi-slave work the Cuban Government realizes juicy profits.

The suppression of another source of income in foreign currency can be a serious blow to the Cuban government in the midst of an economic situation that the authorities themselves have defined as “very complicated”, after the decrease in Venezuelan oil subsidies, in addition to the accumulation of external debt, the slowness and inadequacy of foreign investment and the pressures imposed by the U.S. embargo, among other adverse issues.

That beloved people – always hostage to extreme policies – now suddenly ceased to be “the hope” that would demonstrate through voting, their lucidity and their confidence in the leadership of the PT, to become a kind of amorphous and confused mass, easily deceived by the siren songs of “the far right”, manipulated by the “smear campaign” against the PT and its historical leader, a whole herd of imbeciles who did not know how to defend, as should have been done, incredible achievements of the PT, at the head of the Government between 2003 and 2016.

The most rancid liberals do not realize that the worst they can reap from this election day is that many of the voters voted, not so much for Bolsonaro as against the PT, which implies a much more adverse scenario to the left than they are capable of acknowledging.

The suppression of another foreign currency income source can be a blow to the Cuban government in the midst of an economic situation that the authorities themselves have defined as “very complicated”

Unquestionably, with its usual bad loser attitude, that left will send to the defendants’ bench the social networks, the interests of the national oligarchies, the “extreme right wing and conservative” press, the Yankee imperialism, with Donald Trump at the helm, its villain par excellence, the people’s information deficit, and even WhatsApp used as a means of misinformation of the masses, which they have taken to calling methods of “alienation of progressive thinking.”

In spite of everything, it is an announced defeat. It is worth remembering that just hours after finding out the results of the first electoral round on October 7th in Brazil, which was also favorable to Bolsonaro, one of the “genius analysts” of the Cuban official press summarized the criteria of some intellectuals of the Latin American left on the issue of the leadership retreat suffered by the progressive ideology in the region, and came to the conclusion that the left has underestimated the change that the internet implies “as the main instrument of the so-called new economy and of communication and relationships between human beings”.

That innocent slip, and not its terrible performance, seems to be its biggest sin, and the supposed reason for its regional political breakdown. Perhaps that schematic, childish and reductionist view of the matter alone explains the electoral result of this October 28th.

*PT:  The Workers’ Party (Portuguese: Partido dos Trabalhadores) is a left-wing democratic socialist political party in Brazil. Launched in 1980, it is one of the largest movements of Latin America.

Translated by Norma Whiting

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Migration Crisis: Authentic Caravan or Managed Maneuver?

Honduran immigrants charging the first security border gate by force and entering Mexican soil. Internet photo.

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 24 October 2018 — The new Central America migratory wave that has resulted these days in violent actions at the Mexican southern border, where the migrants forced the official fence and invaded that country’s territory by force, is monopolizing the media’s attention and threatens to become the new crisis point of the already complex relations between the US and its southern neighbors.

This Monday, October 22nd, the US President has considered the advance of the migratory caravan as a “national emergency” and has warned about the possible use of armed forces, if necessary, to prevent the passage of illegal immigrants into US soil.

Simultaneously, as a response to the passivity of the governments of the region, which have not stopped the migrant movement, the US president has also announced, through his Twitter account, a cut or substantial reduction of the aid that Washington allocates to Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. continue reading

Meanwhile, social networks are a hotbed of debate these days, most of them moved by prevailing emotions. No one seems indifferent to the images of men, women and young children crossing vast distances, dragged into the uncertain adventure of a journey full of risks and hardships that is a hard experience even for any young adult. The fear reflected in the innocent faces, helpless victims of both the misery of their lives in their countries of origin and the manipulations of unscrupulous politicians and their parents’ irresponsibility, is truly moving.

And in the absence of coherent explanations or sufficiently verified information in the meantime, there has been growing speculation about the origin of this new migratory avalanche – organized and apparently led by certain characters in regional politics – which, like a stubborn herd, continues its march towards a destination, though it knows the doors will be closed. It is really hard to believe that so many people have spontaneously succumbed to what, by all accounts and beyond the real deprivations that afflict millions of the poor in Latin America, is revealed as a political maneuver.

As often happens behind each human drama, passions are polarized among those who ask to allow the caravan march to continue and be offered entry to the US, for humanitarian reasons, and those who are vertically opposed to the avalanche. The former invoke the human right to emigrate and find better living conditions, and appeal to their own experience as argument (“we were also immigrants, the US is a country built by immigrants”, etc.); while the latter point out the dangers of uncontrolled immigration, the overload that immigrants pose, as recipients of benefits that, in the long run, will affect taxpayers, etc. And, of course, there is no shortage of cries from xenophobes and racists, ready to put their poisonous note on the matter.

Bridge at the international frontier between Guatemala and Mexico. Internet photo

The worst part of the case, however, is that regardless of the reasons that everyone believes they have, there isn’t the slightest possibility of escaping this crisis. That is, there is no politically correct way to solve such a problem. Because allowing the passage of this migration wave not only creates a succession of crises in the economies of the host countries – where even without receiving this large a number of immigrants, numerous social ill exist for their nationals, such as unemployment and poverty – but it creates political tensions in the relations between these countries and in the relations between of all of them with the US.

On the other hand, if the US accepted such a situation and allowed entry to this (other) caravan, it would be setting a terrible precedent, since it would open the possibility that similar successive invasions would continue to become an unstoppable torrent.

Not even an economy as powerful as the one in the US could withstand such pressure or escape unharmed. This, without mentioning that it would open the doors to racial violence in the interior of the country, in a spiral of hatred from which nobody – neither nationals nor immigrants – would come out as winners, but quite the contrary.

The European experience with migrants from Syria and other nations involved in violent conflicts, which have entangled the political and social environment in that small continent, is a pattern that shows the economic as well as political consequences that such an uncontrolled and constant migratory flow that has ended up turning the borders into areas of tension can produce in the receiving countries. At the same time, they have been causes of social confrontations, of tensions in the relations between countries, and between the governed and governments.

Until now, the crisis arising from the heat of this migratory avalanche towards Europe shows no signs of ending, but continues to stir hatred and rejection in open confrontations with the most permissive and tolerant positions.

And it is also not possible to deny the impact that the clash of cultures produces when it happens massively and on a large geographical scale. Because, while we are in an era where everyone talks about “globalization” – on the basis of human solidarity, tolerance, respect for differences, etc. – the truth is that there is no ideal recipe that minimizes the adverse effects of what already seems more a phenomenon of continuous and infinite stampedes than a natural and gradual process of migrations, where cultural insertion and mutual enrichment takes place between those who emigrate and the society that welcomes them.

Hondurans on their way toward the United States in the migrant caravan. Internet photo

Without wishing to tilt the scales in favor to one or the other side, we must understand that the human right to emigrate cannot ignore the right of receiving nations to establish the rules of the game, to choose what immigrants and how many of them will be accepted in their country and how many will not, according to their own interests and the administration of their own economy and social order. No one allows the expedited entry into their home, or dispenses its resources to anyone who demands them just because of the decisions someone else makes.

And this brings us to another important point of the case in point: the current migration from Central America to the USA, the violence at the outposts of this human torrent, added to the demands that the US government be responsible for solving a problem they created, are elements that suggest the work of third parties, cleverly hidden behind the scenes.

There are those who say that it is a dirty maneuver plotted and managed by the villains of the region: the failed regimes of the Castro-Chávez alliance (Nicaragua, Venezuela and Cuba) with the intention of diverting the attention from public opinion and the forums of international organizations of the deep crisis in those countries, reflected in the growing migrations of millions of people who are fleeing, frightened by the trail of misery of “XXI Century Socialism”.

The truth is that these continuous avalanches from south to north – and always with only one final destination: the USA – are not plainly and simply explained as a result of the congenital poverty of our nations or as the always romantic dream of conquering the American dream; but as the sum total of the failure of the Castro regime experiment, expanded to the continent, and the manipulations of a defeated ideology that refuses to go away.

Because what all this convulsive and difficult scenario overlaps is the intention to create a crisis of great magnitude between North and South and not the vindication of the rights of the “exploited and dispossessed” peoples, which regional radical leftist ideologues so often proclaim. These are, in short, the dangerous throes of a twisted system that tried to conquer the continent and that now agonizes, victim of its own inefficiency. Possibly, the best thing for everyone would be to help it die.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Spanish President Pedro Sánchez Doesn’t Raise Expectations Among Cubans

Presumably, during his visit, Sánchez will meet with businessmen or representatives of the many Spanish companies present in Cuba. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, West Palm Beach, 18 October 2018 — The Spanish language version of the online American newspaper HuffPost has just published its own vision about why the upcoming November 22nd and 23rd visit to Havana by the Spanish President, Pedro Sánchez, is important.

Judging from the note, there are several reasons that give importance to the bilateral meeting on the Island between the leaders of Cuba and Spain. All of them refer to expectations on the Spanish side – in this case, the entrepreneurs of the European country present in Cuba and of their own Government – and in no case to the benefits that Cubans should expect as a result of this exchange between the two governments. continue reading

To some extent, this could be reasonable, given that, when it comes to meetings between politicians, each defends his own interests. Hypocritical speeches only work in protocol rooms.

Thus, in the effort to enhance this visit, the HuffPost uses the unoriginal resource used by so many other foreign newspapers: to falsify the Cuban reality by recreating it from the stereotyped vision of someone who absolutely ignores the scenario in which the action is moving. Or about whom, deliberately, chooses to ignore it. This explains the reference to “the new Cuba, which does not have a Castro in its government since April, which is committed to openness even with the United States, its classic adversary.”

Judging by the note, there are several reasons that lend importance to the bilateral meeting between the leaders of Cuba and Spain on the Island. All of them refer to the Spanish-side expectations

A “new” Cuba, and in the midst of a transition, described as a place where there are all kinds of openings, which now Spain regrets having distanced itself from, compared to other countries which have “taken the lead,” despite – and this is the way that the Spanish foreign minister, Josep Borrell refers to it – Spain having “strong historical, cultural, and human relations with this Island,” which makes it a contradiction that Spaniards “have nothing to say or nothing to contribute.”

About the latter, it must be admitted, Mr. Borrell is somewhat right: it does not seem that until now the Spaniards have contributed much to the Cubans.

Thus, suddenly, Sánchez’s trip acquires a sense which is “not only political but also historical and cultural”. And, incidentally, “it can serve as an outpost and pave the way to possible royal status in November 2019”, the date when “the fifth anniversary of the founding of Havana will be celebrated”.

Obviating the small error of the American media – let’s call it “errata” – of so drastically reducing the Cuban capital’s age (which, far from reaching the age of five, is approaching half a millennium since its foundation), nothing would seem more counterproductive than having the condescending presence of their Spanish Majesties at the celebration of such a relevant date.

Not only because of the strangeness of the monarchical origins of the informal plebeian Cubans, natural enemies of the label, but even without it, the sufficiently humiliating impotence of having contributed, for the last 30 years, to the recolonization of the Island through Spanish investments, while those born on this land are deprived of that right that is naturally theirs. It is not very delicate that our status as neo-subjects should be emphasized so incisively more than a century after having reached our independence.

Meanwhile, La Moncloa* has declared that the objective of the trip of the Spanish head of government is “to intensify the relations between both countries and their economic and commercial exchanges”

The HuffPost assures that this visit will be “like Spring rains” for Spanish businessmen in Cuba. Presumably, during his visit, Sánchez will meet with businessmen or representatives of the numerous Spanish companies present in Cuba, including nine hotel chains, due to the “high economic component that is to be imprinted on the visit”.

On the other hand, the note says that, “according to ICEX (the Network of Economic and Commercial Offices of Spain Abroad), Cuba was the #2 country in the Caribbean (with a total of €899 million) receiving Spanish exports in 2017.

The note adds that “Spain maintains commercial and investment relations with Cuba of a great tradition, evidenced by being the country with the most joint venture companies and most branches established in Cuba, and with an outstanding presence in the tourism and services sector”. A fact that, nevertheless, shows an asymmetry in the benefits of these relationships, since it does not reflect in any way an increase in the consumption capacity of Cubans.

Finally, the fifth and last important reason for Sanchez’s announced visit to Havana are the approximately 140,000 Spanish citizens living in Cuba, to whom The HuffPost refers in terms of “Spanish colony.”

‘Granma’, the official newspaper, barely just published, simultaneously, a brief note in the section Hilo Directo (Direct Thread) announcing, without much fuss, Sanchez’s imminent visit

It is about none other than Cubans who have acquired Spanish citizenship under the Law of Historical Memory – better known as the grandchildren law – who perhaps should be called “Spaniards of convenience”, not only because Spanish citizenship is useful for certain practical purposes, especially easing travel by making use of a passport that opens doors to numerous destinations without the need for a visa, but because the “Cubanish”, usually treated as lesser carnival dance processions and undesirables at the Spanish Consulate in Cuba, are recognized as fellow citizen by the Spanish authorities when it’s convenient. Now it seems to be the case, so that, as if by magic, they have been transmuted into “a great Spanish community”.

This way, The HuffPost affirms that “Sánchez will have an opening to meet with Spanish colony in Cuba”, which means that he will meet with those Spanish groups that have been acknowledged and promoted by the Cuban authorities in terms of their own political and economic interests.

And while the most enthusiastic are rubbing their hands and making plans to share in the benefits of the new resumption of relations between Spain and Cuba, Havana has not given the same relief to the fact. The official newspaper Granma just simultaneously published a short note in the section Hilo Directo (Direct Thread), announcing the next visit of Sánchez, without much ado.

Perhaps the hierarchs of the caste of the insular Power, who do know exactly how tense the social vibration in Cuba is, favor keeping a low profile? Or, more traditionally stated, the oven is not ready for cookies here.

 Translated by Norma Whiting

*Translator’s note: Moncloa Palace is the official residence and workplace of the Prime Minister of Spain

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Apples of Discord, Corruption and Selective Punishment / Miriam Celaya

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 28 September 2018 — For some unknown reason, apples have had an extraordinary role in the cultural imagination of the West. For better or for worse, this fruit has marked milestones that have transcended the passage of time and geographical borders.

For example, in Greek mythology, a golden apple sowed discord between the goddesses Pallas Athena and Aphrodite, a discrepancy that would dramatically influence the Trojan War. For its part, in biblical mythology, an apple was the temptation that drove Adam and Eve to the original sin, for which we have all been punished (blessed sin!).

An old Swiss legend tells that the national hero William Tell had to skewer with an arrow, accurately shot from his crossbow, an apple placed on the head of his son by the tyrant oppressor of his people; while another fable explains how the wise Isaac Newton discovered the law of universal gravity, one of the most important physical-natural phenomena, thanks to an apple that fell directly on his head. continue reading

The apple is a kind of cult object sown in our consciousness since earliest childhood. What child did not know Snow White’s apple? And, as adults, who has not dreamed of visiting that other “Big Apple”, New York, at least once in his life?

The surprising thing is that in XXI Century Cuba these fruits again have become not only central characters, but in the body of the sin of one of the many sagas of corruption that cross Cuba’s harsh daily reality. In recent days, the sweet apple, or to be more exact, 15 thousand apples, have evolved into a temptation much more dangerous than that in the Holy Scriptures.

The case has been sufficiently disseminated by the official press, but it is appropriate to briefly summarize the facts. It is about the allegedly illegal sale, in a retail market in Havana (La Puntilla market in Miramar), of a large number of apples (15 thousand) to “a group of tough youngsters” – according to an aggressive commissioner (allegedly “an exemplary revolutionary journalist”, in the words of the hand-picked President) which aroused the suspicion of the referred to writer, who, unfortunately for the offenders, personally witnessed the transaction.

For a greater sin, “a good part” of these young people were “uniformed” with the American flag. It would have been better if they wore fig leaves, like the primal sinners of the earthly paradise. The President’s favorite journalist was not going to stand for an insolent provocation, such as that of displaying a symbol of the Evil Empire.

That might explain, far from facing the youths to give them an educational talk and prevent the “hoarding” and “the misuse of state resources”— since the buyers bribed the driver of a state minivan to transport their merchandise – this intransigent revolutionary spied on their movements, followed them, carefully pointed the license plate number of the vehicle that transported the 150 boxes of apples “at 100 CUC (roughly $100 US) each box” (what grief this detail caused the combative reporter!), and demanded a copy of the receipt as proof of purchase from the store clerk. Both photographs, the minivan and the copy of the receipt, were published on his personal blog. (“The …something…pupil”), where “someone is watching” becomes evident).

As a result, sanctions proliferated. Two employees of the store were fired as an administrative measure. Their names were published in the press though they were not subject to criminal sanctions. Some were lectured, and all other members of the collective were warned and reprimanded. As far as some of the aforementioned young apple addicts, they have been accused of “illicit enrichment”, among other causes, have been arrested and must face court trials.

The case is not exactly a novel incident, and it’s not less true that corruption is a scourge which must be fought, has metastasized throughout Cuban society, and now covers all areas of daily life. Corruption has reached such colossal dimensions in Cuban society that it not only touches all of us in some way, but it’s an indispensable part of survival. Given that the system itself generates and replicates it, it’s not possible to eradicate it by attacking its effects, but by eliminating the cause: the system, which is essentially corrupt. Ergo, it’s a problem with no solution.

However, what is more alarming is that the scapegoats are always anonymous people, opportunistic peddlers, marginals of all sorts, mules, the self-employed, or any propitious victim of the social subsoil that the authorities deem handy to use to intimidate the population through a collective lesson.

What the official press does not publish is the most dangerous of the chains of corruption thriving under the protection of official institutions, in particular those responsible for ensuring compliance with the laws: the bodies of inspectors, the national police (including the “revolutionary” also, let it be known) and a bunch of officials available at various prices.

So it goes that, curiously, also around the days of the apples of discord there has been a case of police corruption that, despite the silence of the government press monopoly, is circulating informally through some neighborhoods of the Cuban capital. According to rumors, a policeman arrested one of the many Venezuelan bachaqueros*, who swarm with relative impunity, especially in Old Havana. The policeman seized his merchandise, a backpack loaded with flip-flops. It is worth remembering that in Cuba almost everything is marketable and profitable.

The “cheating” agent, like so many of his colleagues, decided not to report confiscation of the merchandise, appropriating it instead to profit from it himself. However, also like most, he did not have enough smarts to secure his booty. The Venezuelan, meanwhile, feeling injured – or perhaps appealing to the protection he enjoys in Cuba – decided to complain at the Calle Zanja police station, so that when the superiors ordered a review of the agent’s belongings, not only did they find all the seized merchandise in the backpack, but an additional unexpected find: a bundle of marijuana. That sealed the fate of the clueless agent.

According to an informal source and unconfirmed rumors, the Office of the Prosecutor is asking for 25 years in prison for the agent – it has not been made clear if for being an idiot or for being corrupt – and it has not transpired if the Venezuelan involved has received any punishment or if he has been deported to his country.

Very likely, these rumors may contain part truth and a lot of fantasy. But, in any case, the national experience of decades of fraud and corruption, and knowing the administrative mechanisms and government press monopoly’s lack of transparency, everything points to much more reality than fable in this matter.

I have been visiting the blog of the President’s zealous journalist, so combative, so revolutionary, to see what he thinks of such an audacity, but for some mysterious reason he has not published anything about the matter. It must be because the police are also supposed to be a body of “revolutionaries” and one does not air our dirty laundry among members of the brotherhood…

*bachaquero Venezuelan slang meaning hawker of goods bought at government-set prices

Translated by Norma Whiting

Interview With Díaz-Canel: Neither So Presidential Nor So Much “Media Appeal”

Interview with Miguel Díaz-Canel in Telesur. Photo Telesur / Rolando Segura

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 20 September 2018 — If something stands out in the interview recently granted to the transnational Telesur by the (not elected) president of Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel, it is the way in which the poverty of his vocabulary is revealed, the inconsistency of his arguments , the triteness of a discourse as preposterous as the interviewee himself and especially the theoretical fragility of the supposed heir of the Marxist-Leninist-Martiano-Fidelista torch endorsed as the jewel in the crown in the “constitutionalist” project that is currently – ignominiously — circulating throughout the Island.

In fact, the president’s babble overflows with so much mediocrity that trying to dismantle it would be an exercise almost as vain and simplistic as his own arguments. It’s quite enough, as a matter of example, to highlight the worn-out defense of the single party in Cuba under the ridiculous assumption that José Martí – for greater absurdity, an obstinate liberal and antisocialist – founded a single party. Obviously, only if Martí had been bipolar or schizophrenic would he have founded more than one party. But of course, the President did not stop to consider such an insignificant detail. At the end of the day, the masters will say to themselves: the Cuban people have never questioned the political decisions of the Castro regime and its emissaries, why should they do it now? continue reading

Perhaps even more embarrassing was the gibberish he introduced to justify the elimination of the term “communism” as the goal of society in the new constitution. “If one goes to classical Marxism, the mode of production to which we aspire is communism. (…) Communism and socialism are closely related. If you want to build socialism, it is because you want to reach communism, “the President said, undaunted. Perhaps he was convinced that such an inference should settle the matter. So much dialectical genius can only be the result of a very personal and outdated interpretation of the classics of Marxism (God save us from all of them, especially their interpreters!).

In addition, the entire interview overflows with common places such as the “U.S. government Blockade” (“a brutal practice which seeks to condemn our people to die of necessities” and “constitutes the main obstacle to our development”), Imperialist “violence” against Venezuela and its “laborer president”, the defense of the entelechy called “Latin American integration”, and other similar invocations.

Those who expected that in this, his first official interview – given not to a national media but to a foreign one, a disdain to the guild of native scribes – would offer the public some glimpse of a government program, a strategy to promote the battered economy or some kind of master plan to (at least) stop and reduce, in a reasonable timeframe, the pressing and multiple problems of the daily existence suffered by the Cuban population; In short, those who aspired to listen to a president’s proposals were left wanting.

There were no surprises. It is clear that Diaz-Canel was not going to depart from the old script dictated by his tutor and patron from the concealing shadows of the General’s supposed “retirement,” even less so in such uncertain times for both rulers and “governed” and for the region’s allies.  In it are included the responsibility, the ever-conditioned benefits and perhaps something else.

Let’s not forget the sinister Article 3 of the new constitutional script that states that “Treason against the nation is a most serious crime, and he who commits it is subject to the most severe sanctions” (instead of nation, read “the Power”). And it is known that the closer you are to the cupola of an autocratic power, the more serious the “betrayal” considerations become, and punishment results in a greater warning lesson.

Miguel Díaz-Canel interview on Telesur. Photo Telesur/Rolando Segura

By the way, causes number 1 and 2 of 1989 are worth citing. They took place amid the “dismantling” of the USSR and the “socialist camp,” which ended with the execution of several conspicuous servants of the regime and with long prison terms – not exempt of fatal health “accidents” – for others. They are the most convincing demonstration of this statement.

However, and following the basic principle of reading between the lines, he points out that, this time, the president’s words did not show the overflowing triumphalism that usually saturates official discourses. In general, there was emphasis on tone but the message lacked conviction. Diaz-Canel hesitates even when he claims to affirm.

A clear example of this is when it refers to Cuban youth as “active and anti-annexationist” – an attention-grabber use of this second term, which is not part of the common lexicon of Cubans and rather seems to reflect an unspeakable concern for them. The Power Caste that a reality – and later expresses: “This generation is cultured and educated (…), I do not believe that its main desire is to be against the Party and the Revolution”.

The subtlety of this message may be invisible to those who are unaware of the Cuban reality; however, the official discourse has traditionally referred to the country’s youth, not from the point of view of what “it does not want” or what “is not,” but in unequivocal terms of what it is supposed to be: “revolutionary,” “politically committed,” “intransigent” and “combative.”

A detail that apparently does not say much, but constitutes a flagrant slip that would not have been committed with impunity in the days of Castro I … Or perhaps it was an involuntary (and untimely) betrayal of the subconscious.

Because if the President, in his privileged position, is allowed to have the widest and most accurate information about the social temperature of this Island, does not seem very convinced of the revolutionary militancy of the young people and (what seems more serious) considers that the wishes of the current young generations “are concentrated on development, more progress, wishing to be included, aspiring to have more participation and striving for technological development and also social communication” instead of the holy defense of the Socialist Motherland, which was the mission commissioned to the generations that preceded them.

What sense would the authentication in the Law of laws make of an ideology and a sociopolitical system with aspirations of eternity not considered a priority by the current youth, who are heirs by fate and not by choice of a failed legacy?

Without a doubt, the President is confused, and that should not have gone unnoticed by the zealous political commissaries. Pretending to have “media appeal” can be tempting, especially when one does not have enough prestige or an adequate political pedigree, but it also entails many risks. Especially when you are an interpreter of someone else’s libretto, which reduces the probability of interpretation and authenticity to the character.

It may be that at this point the designated successor has received the corresponding phone call from his tutor, whom he considers “a father,” who will have warned him that in successive public presentations he should concentrate only on what the manual dictates and be more revolutionarily convinced of what he says, in order not to hand the enemy excuses to distort things or imagine weaknesses.

In spite of everything, in the coming days the official media will disclose, ad nauseam, the original or edited version of the aforementioned interview. For this, they can count on, to start, the political apathy of a population that, as we know, does not usually consume this type of product.

Not coincidentally, in the television programming this Tuesday, September 18th, the telenovela schedule was shown earlier so then aforementioned interview would be aired… With all certainty, that will be the moment in which, in spontaneous unanimity, the great majority of Cubans, according to their possibilities, will tune in to other channels, they will go into “package mode*” or will dive into “subversive” antenna shows.

*El Paquete Semanal (“The Weekly Packet”) is a one terabyte collection of digital material distributed since around 2008 on the underground market in Cuba as a substitute for broadband Internet. In 2015 it was the primary source of entertainment for millions of Cubans.

Cuba: Without a Real Transition There Will Be No Winners / Miriam Celaya

Cuban on Havana’s Malecon (EFE)

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, West Palm Beach, 16 August 2018 –With its lights and its shadows, the virtual debates surrounding the constitutional reform undertaken by the Cuban government have created the benefit of uncovering a host of non-conformities and claims long repressed by Cubans from all corners of the globe, and at the same time, stirring the polarization around the issue that operates as a turning point: to participate or not in that which, from the outset, is perceived as the leadership’s farce.

So much reluctance is not by chance. Sixty years of scams by the dictatorial power has developed in Cubans a natural distrust of everything that flows from it. However, this has not been an impediment to breaking the silence. Demands are overflowing the virtual spaces of some websites and social networks, where they have been creating discussion groups on constitutional issues, and in which very interesting analyses and discussions are taking place.

However, the truth is that certain uprisings of civic rebellion are taking place in Cuba, either because of the uncertainties generated by a reform project clearly designed for the benefit and consecration of the top leadership or by the feeling of general frustration among a population that had pinned its hopes on improving its living conditions. The population also had its hopes pinned on true participation in the national economy and politics from the “transition” of power, from the hands of the historical generation to a new younger president, supposedly better linked to “the people.” They are not seeing such hopes expressed in the lapidary constitutional proposal that only reaffirms and prolongs the demise of citizen rights. continue reading

The motives may be apparently disconnected and disengaged from the strictly constitutional issues – such as Decree 349, which affects the artistic sector; marriage between LGTBI couples; the censorship of an art show or of one in a theatre scene; the arbitrary detention of a citizen; etc. – however, protests are focused on and related to the same basic problem: the boredom of a nation in which all individual rights have been violated for too long. The general feeling of malaise inside Cuba is palpable.

The trigger that would spark the delicate political and social balance could be both the enforcement of certain decrees and laws that further limit citizen rights and the arbitrary detention of an artist or a group, the censorship of a film or a play, the confiscation of the means of work of any business owner or independent professional, the shortages in the markets, the high prices of food, the eternal problems of transportation or any eventuality within the endless accumulation of setbacks and limitations that characterize the days of the common Cuban.

Authorities are aware of this. That’s the reason there has also been a rebound in the repression and surveillance against the “disaffected” sectors, that is, the dissidence, the opposition groups, the protest artists, the independent journalists and against any hint of demands, even within the “socialist” ranks themselves.

These demands are growing in their number and in their intensity, as reflected in the great variety and quantity of independent and “alternative” journalism that is currently taking place in Cuba despite the censors, and to the chagrin of the power elite, in hubs of disobedience of several young filmmakers; in the gradual but tangible process of loss of fear, especially among the younger intellectuals and artists sectors. It is the spirit of the generations that distance themselves from the “zombie effect” that still afflicts their parents and grandparents.

At the same time, this other sector of the dissatisfied is increasing. It is much larger and more dangerous, and is composed of the poorest individuals, those who depend on insufficient wages, who lack other means of making a living, a decent home; who see their children grow up among material shortages of all kinds and who, when the time comes, and in the absence of a leadership that will channel their demands peacefully, could become a violent and uncontrollable force, with unpredictable consequences and at an incalculable social and political cost.

And just as the rupture of the so-called “revolutionary social pact” between the un-government and dis-governed is becoming evident, also palpable is the leadership’s fear of things getting out of control if the usually meek flock turns into an ungovernable mass. The agents of the State (in)Security have threatened – not just by chance – a small group of popular artists after their arrest for protesting against an official decree, telling them that they would not allow another “Nicaragua” in Cuba. If there is something the Castro hound pack fears it is people without fear.

Without a doubt, “they will not allow it,” just as they are not allowing it in that Central American country where, according to witnesses, the repression is directed and monitored by Cuban troops. A “constancy” that has also been reported by numerous sources from Venezuela, where elite Castro troops have played an important role in the tenacious repression against the opponents of the dictator Nicolás Maduro.

Consequently, following the dictatorial logic, everything points to an eventual increase in the repression in Cuba, in direct proportion to the increase in citizen protest demonstrations or any spontaneous popular protest. Obviously, the so-called “debates” of the constitutional project that will only consecrate the rights of the power caste will also be jealously guarded by the agents of the political police, supported by the everlasting neighborhood snitches. The regime will try to keep everything on an even keel, but it knows that nothing is the same anymore. Especially when it does not even have the supreme resource: to release the pressure through a massive migratory wave.

Without the Mariel boatlift, without the “maleconazo“*, without fleets of rafters and without the land migrations toward the US borders of thousands of Cubans through South America, Central America and Mexico, the pressure stays in Cuba. It’s all about seeing who and how they will release it. If there is no economic reform and no real democratic transition in Cuba, this time there might be no winners

(Miriam Celaya, resident in Cuba, is visiting the United States)

*Translator’s Note: Uprising that took place in Havana August 1994, to protest government policies.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Decriminalizing Abortion: The Mother, The Son… and The Holy Spirit

This week, the new abortion law was passed in the Argentine Senate, an issue that motivated Wilfredo Leiter Juvier’s letter to journalist Cristina Escobar. (@PorAbortoLegal)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, West Palm Beach, 6 August 2018 –Catholic priest Wilfredo Leiter Juvier, in charge of the Cathedral of Santa Clara, Cuba, recently sent an open letter to Cristina Escobar, a journalist of the official press. The letter provokes reflection on the decriminalization of abortion, a topic that continues to raise fierce controversies in Latin America.

The Catholic Church’s opposition to abortion is a long-standing issue but it’s not this article’s central objective to resolve it. Nor do I consider it a profitable investment of time to participate in a debate between a journalist of the Cuban press monopoly — a word that demands absolute faith in the “communist” government — and an individual whose essential principle of existence is based on religious faith. Obviously, it is a matter among “the faithful”, although they wear different ideological colors.

That said, I think it appropriate to express my total disagreement with the priest’s criteria in the referenced letter, and in particular with the Manichaeism* and the manipulation that supplants almost all of his theses, despite the correctness of his grammar and the “respectfulness” of his language. continue reading

I do not consider it a profitable time investment to participate in a debate between a journalist from the Cuban press monopoly and an individual whose essential principle of existence is based on religious faith. Obviously, it is a matter among “the faithful”

That Manichaeism is reflected in the invalidation of the opponent’s arguments, assuming his own faith as valid from presuppositions that do not allow argument, although he aims to expose “scientifically proven” points. As far as is known, no scientific discovery can invalidate the indisputable and elementary right that a woman must have when deciding any matter regarding her motherhood.

As for his manipulation of the subject, it is obvious when, in an absurd comparison, he places in a same “rational” plane what he calls “the abortionist logic” with the murder of an “inconvenient” old man. Or when he argues that proof that sexuality “is not only for pleasure”, but that new beings materialize from it. It is the preaching of a man whose holy ministry demands celibacy, but who presents himself as an expert in sexual matters.

Almost all Catholic morality is based on principles as retrograde as those that still defend virginity (feminine, of course) as a symbol of virtue and purity in many regions, that assume that sex is a merely reproductive function or that qualifies relationships between people of the same gender as sinful and diabolical.

In light of this, we could ask why no representative of that Church spoke with the same passion in defense of life when, in 2003, three men who had committed no blood crime were summarily convicted and shot in Cuba for the attempted abduction of a boat. Or why, with the same force, they did not demand it of the Cuban government on the terrible night of the sinking of the tugboat 13 de marzo, when dozens of innocent people were murdered, among them, over 10 children. Does an embryo have a greater right to life than one of those men, women and children who died then? At what point does human life begin or cease to be sacred and who establishes those limits?

It is clear that, on this level, the Catholic Church has demonstrated not only a fairly accommodative moral, but a highly questionable piety

 So, the essential issue here is abortion and the struggle for its “decriminalization”. It is known that — with the exception of Mexico, Cuba and Uruguay — the countries in this region do not allow for the voluntary interruption of pregnancy and only authorize it in certain circumstances. In addition, three countries — El Salvador, the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua — absolutely prohibit it.

In the case of Cuba, the practice of abortion has been carried out, in some cases, since 1936. In fact, several generations of Cuban women have (incorrectly) considered induced abortion as a right, “free of charge and in a safe manner”, included among the services provided by the health system within the first three months of pregnancy, or later, in cases of congenital malformations of the fetus or of risk to the woman’s life.

However, the truth is that there is no actual abortion law to date in Cuba, which is why its practice ultimately depends more on the political will or on the permissiveness of the country’s authorities than on recognition of a woman’s right to decide about her own body and about her motherhood. In other words, abortion is spoken of as a “social achievement”, but the fact is that it does not constitute a legal achievement. 

Until there is a law ratifying it, the decriminalization of abortion in Cuba cannot be considered a true and total female victory, as is often proclaimed from the political power

This nullifies any guarantee for Cuban women. Why? Let’s say that the Cuban State had an interest in raising the birth rate and, consequently, ordered specialized health centers to reduce the practice of abortions or the so-called “menstrual regulation”, a less invasive procedure performed in the first six to eight weeks of pregnancy and that does not require the use of anesthesia. In such a case, the issue would depend on the vagaries of demography and State will and not on a true legal guarantee for decision-making by each woman.

For that reason, and until there is a law that ratifies it, the decriminalization of abortion in Cuba cannot be considered a true and total female victory, as is often proclaimed by the political power. It is actually a mirage that has been reinforced in practice with the use and abuse of abortion — almost as if it were a contraceptive method- in the absence of a legal framework that supports it, but also without having made the necessary emphasis on sexual education from an early age to promote both the perception of the risks of abortion and its indiscriminate use, as well as the importance of responsible and conscious motherhood (and fatherhood).

As an additional evil, there has been a lack of a broad social debate to sensitize and involve everyone which would allow us to begin to overcome machismo and sexist conceptions deeply rooted in the national culture, such as the custom of attributing the responsibility for the use of contraceptives to women, as well as assuming the greater part in the education and upbringing of children, even if, to be able to do so, she has to renounce to her own personal and professional ambitions. This is one additional way of subjecting female rights to the masculine will, and a fact that shows that the “decriminalization of abortion ” alone is not the solution to the problem but only a first step. 

And it is in this sense that the open letter of priest Wilfredo Leiter acquires its real value, because it warns us that the demons of the sanctimonious and misogynist Inquisition have not died.

 Such voids, the legal and the debate spaces in Cuba, have propitiated that, while on the surface there seems to be a social consensus around this issue, deep down there are strong currents of prejudice and atavistic concepts that in the future — not necessarily in a distant one — could endanger what is already urgently recognized as a feminine right.

And it is in this sense that the open letter of the priest Wilfredo Leiter acquires its real value, because it warns us that the demons of the sanctimonious and misogynist Inquisition have not died. If with the “presents” obtained by the grace of the political power Cuban women view the battle as having been won, they will certainly will have lost the war.

*Translator’s note: Manichaeism: religious or philosophical dualism system with Christian, Gnostic, and pagan elements. founded in Persia in the 3rd century, based on a supposed primeval conflict between light and darkness.

Translated by Norma Whiting

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

The Traps of Constitutional Reform

Copies of the draft constitution are now available at newsstands. (EFE/Ernesto Mastrascusa)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, West Palm Beach, 1 August 2018 – A reading of the 224 articles of the constitutional draft confirms the Government’s intention to shore up and update its own legitimacy through the modifications made to the Constitution.

The second objective seeks the elimination of any possibility, whether current or future, of questioning the illegitimately established “socialist” political system, with the Communist Party (alone) as the “society’s and the State’s leading and superior force” at the forefront — now with the appended epithet of “fidelista” — which in itself contradicts any presumption for a democratic Constitution.

The third intention is to tweak the legal framework in order to adapt it, to some extent, to XXI Century-language, and to offer a chameleonic response to the requirements and criticisms that are being made against Cuba in the forums of many international organizations. continue reading

As expected, an autocratic legal empire is maintained which makes it impossible for the governed, in their capacity as citizens, to regulate, modify or suppress the outrages of power. This legal anomaly will remain camouflaged under terms previously demonized because it corresponds to the liberal principles of the “decadent capitalist society” that will now be made sacred even from the very preamble of the Law of Laws. This is demonstrated by the introduction of the “new” concept of a democratic, independent and sovereign socialist State of Law, declared in article 1, chapter I (Fundamental Principles of the Nation)

This article reaffirms the congenital malformation that characterizes the current Constitution by establishing that Cuba “has as its essential objectives the enjoyment of political freedom, equity, justice and social equality” rights that, nevertheless, are abolished by the obligatory nature and irreversibility of socialism as a political system, endorsed in Article 3, which does not recognize the multiparty system, and by the greater power that Article 5 grants to the Communist Party, whose attributions are incontestable.

Later on, Article 39 insists that “the Cuban State guarantees the enjoyment and inalienable, indivisible and interdependent exercise of human rights to the people, in accordance with the progressive principle and without discrimination,” when in fact the Constitution project — though it penalizes discrimination on the grounds of gender, race and religious beliefs — ratifies, without disguise, the existing political ideas that differ from those set by the Power.

This is reinforced by Article 224, which declares that “the pronouncements about the irrevocability of socialism and the political and social system established in article 3 will not be able to be reformed at all.”

Another detail of article 39 is this gem that masks another subtle legal trap: “The rights and duties recognized in this Constitution are interpreted in accordance with international human rights treaties ratified by Cuba,” but it just so happens that the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights are among the main international human rights treaties in existence, none of which has been ratified by Cuba.

While Title IV (Rights, Duties and Guarantees) dedicates the entire chapter III to Social, Economic and Cultural Rights, Civil and Political Rights do not receive an equal treatment. This corresponds, undoubtedly, to the fact that this is an absolutely private plot of the Communist Party. The recognition of private property, a term that is hardly mentioned to indicate that it is one of the five “forms of property” recognized in Article 21, is one of the new developments that have been privileged with the attention of the international information media in recent weeks. At this point we should make mention of the undeniable talent of the dictatorship for creating suspense, dazzling the foreign press and introducing false expectations of democratic changes that, in reality, only reinforce the omnipotent power of the ruling caste.

Types of property allowed in the project are: the socialist, in which the sagacious State acts as owner “representing and in the benefit of all the people” the cooperative, as conceived by the State-Party-Government itself; the mixed, which combines two or more forms of property; that of the political, mass and social organizations, which constitutes a true unknown and undoubtedly a heavy burden for the public treasury; the private one, which “is exercised over certain means of production” and, finally, the personal, which “is exercised over goods that, without constituting means of production, help in fulfilling the material and spiritual needs of the owner”, which, expressed in such ambiguous terms, could include at the same level both housing and automobile, as well as the TV set or the deodorant used by anyone. This is how deep the changes are.

Of course, threats to any manifestation of dissidence are ever-present, permeating the spirit of a constitutional reform “forged by the people to give continuity to the Revolution and socialism”. The text is even more explicit when it asserts that “citizens have the right to combat, by all means, (…) anyone who attempts to overthrow the political, social and economic order established by this Constitution.” Among that which must be “combatted” is “the cyberwar” (Article 16), as a sort of reproachful little finger that points to independent and alternative journalism and that, in the end, constitutes an unacceptable recognition of the advancement of these methods of communication, hand in hand with information technology sneaking into Cuba, in spite of controls and State censorship.

The profusion of articles about the project, the diversity and complexity of the issues and the pedestrian mode of their writing prevent a complete analysis all at once. Undoubtedly, each paragraph is worthy of comments that cannot be addressed in a space as limited as an opinion column.

If this time anything can be made to coincide with the masters of the plantation, authors of the legalistic monster, it is the fragment of a statement that reads as follows: “We Cubans must be aware of the commitment that the new Constitution of the Republic implies for present and future generations.” It could probably be the truest words of the whole project. Because, although of the “popular consultation” surprises cannot be expected, Cubans will have the opportunity to say NO at the polls and assert their rejection of a dictatorship that, since before learning to protect itself with legalistic tricks, had stripped the Cubans of their dignity and of their rights. It is now trying to snatch the last hopes from us, but it wouldn’t necessarily have to be “more of the same.” Acquiescence or rebellion: that is the real issue, and it is not to be decided by the Government, but by the vote. Will we go for it?

Translated by Norma Whiting

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

More Cuban Doctors to Venezuela: From Modern Slaves to “Strikebreakers”

Cuban doctors before leaving on an international mission (Reuters)

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, West Palm Beach, 24 July 2018 — In Venezuela, while hundreds of health workers have been out on the street on strike for a month in demand for decent wages and better working conditions, the official Cuban media have just announced the immediate delivery of 62 Cuban doctors, recently graduated from the University of Medical Sciences of Havana (UCMH), who will provide free services in popular areas of that South American country as part of the Barrio Adentro Mission.

The labor dispute taking place between health personnel and the government of Venezuela was initially promoted by the nurses’ guild, but doctors, lab technicians, service employees and administrative staff of several public hospitals have quickly joined, without receiving any satisfactory response from the president, Nicolás Maduro, despite the demonstrators’ requests for dialogue, and their current intention to join forces with workers of other public companies, also on strike for similar reasons. continue reading

In addition to the demands for wage increases, there are also complaints about the shortage of medicines, the poor state of hospital facilities and the collapse of the infrastructure that impedes adequate treatment for patients with serious and/or chronic diseases. It also prevents guaranteeing an adequate diet for patients who require admission and surgery. In fact, the capacity for hospitalization or surgical interventions is, at present, minimal, as various medical, humanitarian, religious and Human Rights institutions have been reporting for a long time.

Paradoxically, in a country where, according to Decree #8.938 of April 30, 2012, “with rank, value and force of Organic Labor Law, Male and Female Workers” (LOTTT) promulgated by the then President, Hugo Chávez, and published in the Extraordinary Official Gazette #6.076 of May 7, 2012, workers’ right to strike is acknowledged, and replacement by others to occupy their posts is expressly prohibited, so it is outrageous that the leader himself is allowed to royally violate his country’s legislation.

Thus, instead of facing the situation and responding to his own workers, the Executive simply replaces them, sub-hiring through his buddy the Cuban president, 62 inexperienced Cuban physicians who will perform as so many others of their countrymen’s shamans, modern slaves who have preceded them or who continue to serve as voluntary captives of both governments. It is highly unlikely that these new villains can solve any problem in the critical health picture in Venezuela, but at least they will help Mr. Maduro show his care for the poorer of those he governs, and for Mr. Díaz-Canel to justify the continuity of the already dwindling deliveries of oil to Cuba.

And all this despite the fact that just three months ago, on April 30, 2018, the official Telesur press monopoly published, at full speed, a triumphant headline that read: “Venezuelans have been protected by Labor Law for six years.” And then iy offered a laudatory text to celebrate the prodigious social advances achieved in a six-year period through LOTT, “a legal tool worthy of the revolutionary process of transition to socialism that Venezuela is experiencing,” as expressed in April 2012 by Hugo Chávez when he promulgated said Decree-Law, whose regulations were later signed by Nicolás Maduro as head of state to wash his… hands with him.

Thus, without any disguise or embarrassment, the Caracas-Havana conspiracy claimed the prerogative of desecrating, in a single haul, the Venezuelan labor law and the supposedly sacrosanct words and drive of one who considered himself Bolívar’s spiritual heir, a visionary who had hallucinations of “socialism, XXI Century style” and one who, once “planted” at the Cuartel de la Montaña and evidently no longer able to transmute into the little bird adviser* to his disadvantaged pupil, Nicolás Maduro, remains the same as the ashes of his master, Castro I, only for the permanent symbolic evocation that “legitimizes” the continuity of the chaos in their respective countries.

With the rampant shamelessness of those who feel immune, the duet Maduro-Díaz Canel has just set aside Article 489 of the LOTT, which stipulates “the protection of the exercise of the right to strike” and establishes the ban on the contracting of other workers “to carry out the work of those who participate in the strike.” For further derision, the same article adds that “Workers during the exercise of their right to strike shall be protected from trade union immunity under this Law …” And all this contempt to what has been legislated is done by invoking the medical assistance program in exchange for oil – euphemistically called “Mission Barrio Adentro” – promoted in 2003 by the then presidents Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro.

It’s just a matter of time before we see how many of these new instant doctors, hastily trained in courses taken after mass registration, are more proficient in serving the interests of the regime and its allies than in conscientiously performing the altruistic work that would correspond to a profession destined to save lives and alleviate human suffering, and who will most likely end up “defecting” from the “mission” and reaching their true goal: escaping to freedom. At least such is the dream that many of them secretly cherish, while out loud, and before a flag so often defiled, they solemnly swear “to defend the revolution and the conquests of socialism” wherever duty calls.

And, if at the end of all the farce the very sacred “mission” ends in the Yuma*, that would be better still. For, after all, it seems that in many cases, the end does justify the means.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Translator’s notes:
* Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro has claimed that deceased president Hugo Chavez appears to him as a little bird and advises him. On announcing this he reproduced the tweeting noises he hears from Chavez .
**”La Yuma” is Cuban street lingo for the United States

Rights in Cuba: The Privilege of a Minority? / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

Conga against homophobia in Cuba, 2018. Banner: I am part of the Revoluion. Me too. I am Fidel (cubadebate.cu)

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, West Palm Beach, 18 July 2018 – With that sleight of hand that the Cuban authorities have always so skillfully displayed, currently they seem to have convinced a good part of national public opinion – and even more than a few foreign press agencies – of their supposed “will to change,” starting from the novelties that will be confirmed in the constitutional reform being planned behind closed doors by none other than Raul Castro himself.

The modifications that are part of those momentous developments that will soon adorn the Cuban Constitution include the recognition of private property, which already exists in practice; the limitation of the presidential term to a maximum of two periods of five years each, as had already been anticipated in the VIII Congress of the PCC; the concurrent establishment of the figures (hitherto unrecognized) of the President and Vice President of the Republic; as well as the prohibition of discrimination against people because of their gender identity, their ethnic origin or their disabilities.

The issue of “private property” has not generated much interest among the population, which is partly due to the fact that its recognition is restricted within the rigid governmental controls that demonize “the accumulation of wealth” (and therefore of property), and also because the majority of Cubans do not really have the patrimony or pecuniary capacity to acquire it. Thus, for this poor majority, this Law does not constitute a direct benefit or a significant change relative to their previous status. continue reading

The time limitation of the presidential mandate does not mean a real change as long as there is only one legally recognized political party in Cuba and no new electoral law is enacted that recognizes the right of all Cubans – rather than the insignificant 600 commissars – to decide at the polls who to elect to hold this position.

However, regarding the issue of gender identity, the response has been very different. Like a pack to which a bone has been thrown to tease its hunger while the masters reserve for themselves the juicy slices of meat, both those supposedly “benefitting” or “harmed” by this reform have been embroiled in a pithy speculation about the appropriateness or not of marriage between homosexuals, the rights to adopt, and other endless “pros” and “cons” that have not been explicitly reflected in the (unknown) official agenda, but that have exacerbated the prudishness of religious communities more retrograde and dogmatic than the old aspirations for equality of rights among the LGBTI communities.

That said, the matter would seem “normal” and even proper to a democratic society. Moreover, it suggests that Cubans on the Island are at the same level (or even at a higher level) of debate or recognition of social rights than the most democratic nations in the world.

And it is exactly here that the deception lies, because while religious leaders and LGTBI communities engage in a Byzantine battle that – we already know – will end up being resolved at the heights of power and at the convenience of the powerful, the essential issue that is being overlooked is the violation of the rights of all Cubans when it is reaffirmed that the constitution will maintain the “socialist character of the political and social system” and the role of the Cuban Communist Party as a “superior leadership force” that will continue to control, with its iron fist, the destinies of all, be they heterosexual, homosexual, white, black, mestizo, women, men, religious, atheists or agnostics.

The endeavor is so Manichean that it is hard to attribute naivety to those who succumb to the illusion of a “democratic” debate about their gender identity, their equal right to marriage and the creation of a family and even assisted reproduction, while no Cuban can even recognize such basic rights as the freedom of association, of expression, of information, of movement, of choosing what kind of education they want to give their children or who they want the president of their country to be.

It is not a matter of denying the just claims of particular rights of each group or community, particularly those that have been systematically relegated and discriminated against. But the truth is that under conditions of dictatorship no Cuban will have their rights guaranteed, especially because the recognition of those “rights” responds just to the political interests – and only to them – of the privileged class that holds absolute power over lives and haciendas.

If we believe that the “great battle” is the one that will be waged only by some social sectors more discriminated against than all Cubans, and if the “conquests” to which they aspire are confined to appearing finely dressed before notaries who will certify a sentimental union or the creation of a family whose members will remain in a thousand ways subjugated by an omnipotent dictatorial power legitimized in the constitution, then we can renounce all aspirations of freedom that belong to us as nationals.

In pursuit of the small crumbs of legality now offered by the autocrats, some useful fools – and with them also some carefully hidden servants of Castroism, because the “revolutionaries” are everywhere – continue to leave behind the larger interests that involve all of us. And this is, exactly, the government’s objective.

It is all a diversionary maneuver to fragment the aspirations of freedoms of common interest, create false sectarian expectations, and stimulate the attendance at the polls of an electorate that in the last “elections” has increasingly demonstrated clear signs of apathy and fatigue.

For the moment, the hoax is working for the government. If this is the case, we already know who will be the winners and who will be the losers in this endlessly announced saga.

(Miriam Celaya, resident in Cuba, is visiting the United States)

Cuba’s Docile Press Rebels Against Free Information

Alexander Jiménez (in the center) with members of his team after receiving the Flag of Labor Prowess. (Radio Villa Clara)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, West Palm Beach, 18 July 2018 — Nothing defines the essence of Cuban official journalism better than its own discourse. This was clearly demonstrated with the standing ovation that greeted the speech of Cuban president, Miguel Diaz-Canel, at the closing ceremony of the 10th Congress of the Cuban Journalists Union (UPEC) on July 14.

Diaz-Canel heaped praise on an article by a combative hack – one of those who, in the absence of arguments, defends the “system” with slogans from the barricades and insults to the adversary – as an example of the journalism that reflects the “Cuban truth” against those who have been called the “new revolutionaries,” whom he claims are bought with hard currency by foreign powers that seek to subvert Cuba’s political and social order.

Just in case the absolute subordination of the press monopoly to the service of power was not already amply exposed and enshrined at the 10th Congress, state television insisted on returning to the theme, this time presenting the “outstanding” intervention of an unknown ideological commissar, who participated as a delegate (nothing less) from the Ethics and Communication Commission. continue reading

Alexander Jiménez is the director of the radio network in Villa Clara province. However, incredible as it seems in these times of global connections and lavish new communications technologies, this supposed information professional cannot find any work in the national press or social networks.

His tenuous professional footprint seems to be limited to his performance as a functionary. On April 8, the collective of workers of the Villa Clara Radio System under his direction – made up of a provincial chain and several local radio stations – received the ‘Banner of Labor Prowess’ for “outstanding work informing people during the scourge of Hurricane Irma and later in the recovery phase.” In other words, he and his subordinates were distinguished with a banner just for doing their job. “Moral stimulus,” is what this type of award is called in Cuba.

But not all Jiménez’s subordinates are deserving of awards, as can be seen from his speech at the UPEC Congress, broadcast on television, which has provoked a lot of comments on social networks. In his speech, the journalist-functionary attacked certain colleagues, “mostly young people who sell their souls to the devil and, for payment in hard currency, contribute their writings to publications aligned with subversion against Cuba.” He adds that those journalists, “little girls and boys” who “until yesterday were docile (…) on occasion are transformed and become real monsters.”

“Those of us who direct press organs sometimes have our hands tied, or lack a legal basis to judge these wage-earners who are paid for subversion against Cuba and its social system, and who believe – because sometimes they do believe it – that they are going to overthrow the Revolution with a five-paragraph newsletter,” Jiménez complains. He goes on to demand that the draft of the new code of ethics for Cuban journalism must include a provision that doesn’t allow “collaboration with media that are hostile, clearly or covertly, to the political and economic order in force in our society.”

With this regulation, says Jiménez, press executives would not feel “bound hand and foot” when it comes to sanctioning “or considering two-faced” those “hostile” journalists who deviate from the government’s official line.

It is clear that for this paradigmatic servant of the ‘holy office’  – and therefore for his bosses in the Palace of the Revolution, the owners of the press monopoly – docility is a quality of (good) journalists.

That imaginary metamorphosis necessarily involves the endless refrain that these journalists are financed by “Cuba’s enemies,” and the hard currency payments they receive far exceed the salaries earned by official journalists. Sometimes the professional zeal of government amanuenses is too much like envy.

To the greatest alarm of the guardians of the old Castroite orthodoxy, those “monsters”– many of them graduates of the journalism schools in Cuban universities, and all born and educated under the sign of Castroism – are not only growing in number, but they dominate the exercise of their profession and (oh, sacrilege!) have the temerity to break the established rules and question reality, including political decisions at the highest level of the country.

Given the activities of the 10th UPEC Congress and the uproar among Castro’s troops, there are those who feel we are witnessing a great demonstration of the omnipotent power and its colossal press apparatus oiling its gears to launch a devastating blow to crush the independent press which is gaining in quality and distribution within the Island.

In reality it is the opposite: we are facing a clear demonstration of weakness; almost a declaration of defeat in another battle anticipated to be lost by the ‘inquisitors’. Because it is a fact that the grayness and stiffness of the official press, with its repertoire of slogans, anniversaries and intangible victories, cannot compete with the freshness and irreverence of the young journalism.

When the president of Cuba, his “docile” favorite yeoman, Manuel Lagarde, or an obscure commissar, such as Alexander Jimenez, launch their barrages of bravado and announce such a disproportionate campaign of harassment against the new Cuban journalism, in reality they are poorly concealing the terror inspired in them by free information, a fear that is also reflected in the terms they use to define their counterparts: mercenaries, traitors and, now, monsters.

Do not underestimate the repressive capacity of those in power, but do not let yourself be impressed by their war cries. It is the bravado of the bully who feels threatened by a strange force he does not understand but that he guesses is superior: that of freedom.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Plebiscites and Elections in Cuba: Between the Illusory and the Possible

(Photo taken from the internet)

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, West Palm Beach, 27 June 2018 — After more than a year since the death of Castro I, and just a few weeks after the symbolic withdrawal of Castro II from his post at the head of the Cuban government, the only verifiable changes within today’s Cuba are the accelerated and unstoppable deterioration of the living conditions of the population, the increase in material shortages, the growing scarcity of markets and the increase in repression.

All this, framed in an extremely confusing political and economic reality, where the highest authorities of the country announce at the same time, in a constitutional reform — under the assumption of adapting the legal framework to the “reforms” introduced by the government of General Raúl Castro — a “very, very tense” economic and financial situation for the second semester of the year 2018. More poverty on the Cuban horizon, while discontent and despair also grow in a society sunk in an eternal state of survival, suffocated by the accumulation of old and new problems, never overcome. continue reading

In the midst of such a scenario, it is perfectly understandable that political apathy should spread among a population that increasingly distances itself from the power elite. An epidemic apathy that continues to sow disbelief in the population, and that should be the appropriate breeding ground for the advance of proposals of the opposition, but that – unfortunately — is being projected, also to a large extent, towards the so-called opposition leaders and their projects.

Thus, paradoxically, the widening of the gap between government and the governed is not being interpreted at a sociopolitical level into a proportional approach of those governed to the different opposition projects.

It is true that all responsibility for this cannot be attributed to the opposition, at least not in an absolute way. The failure of numerous proposals over decades and the backlog of current opposition projects is associated, even more so than with the nature of the legitimate acceptance the opposition claims, with the repression and harassment suffered by activists, with the lack of spaces available to express themselves freely, with the helplessness and harassment suffered by those who disagree with the government in a country where there is no freedom of association (or any other civil liberty), and with the colossal campaign that is applied to them from the official press monopoly that defames and demonizes them, simultaneously sowing fear and social distrust towards everything that might mean confronting the totalitarian power of the Castro regime.

However, the opposition is not immune to the ills that afflict Cuban society, since it is the fruit of the same reality. This explains why dozens of proposals have been spoiled by the combination of the aforementioned adversities, but also by other evils not attributable to dictatorial power, such as the frequent internal fractures between parties and opposition movements that almost always involve confrontations and mutual disqualifications; the excessive self-interests of many leaders, the sectarian and often exclusive character of some projects, the lack of consensus and common strategies, as well as the inability to articulate truly realistic programs, among other limitations.

The sum of all these calamities and the unquestionable social base insufficiency make the Cuban opposition a marginal sector within Cuba, which moves in parallel direction without being able to penetrate the critical masses with viable and effective proposals which might eventually generate enough force to stand up to the government and begin — finally! — a democratic transition. This is, essentially, the biggest weakness of the opposition proposals.

Let’s view it from today’s perspective. It is enough to look at social networks to see a constant anti-Castro media boom, a flood of activists — almost exclusively from outside Cuba — and a permanent brawl between one project and another, one leadership and another, without absolutely any benefit for anyone.

This is how we see unrealizable plebiscites roaming only the virtual universe, fable “elections” and hallucinatory calls to demonstrations or street uprisings to “overthrow the dictatorship” which all who feel the daily rhythm within Cuba know very well will not happen, other than in the imaginations of some of today’s extremists.

Projects that, in principle, would be perfectly valid if they came together with an instruction manual that would indicate to “the masses” how to make them possible.

Because, in good faith, a plebiscite in Cuba would not solve anything except to “demonstrate” the dictatorship’s known bad nature, which will abort any attempt to carry it out. An “election” would not be possible without the existence of political parties, without freedom of expression, communication and the press, without the existence of institutions that certify the transparency and legitimacy of the process and without due legal guarantees. This, without taking into consideration the catastrophic results of a popular uprising in the streets.

Neither would any proposal be of help, whether in the form of a peaceful plebiscite or a violent assault on power from the streets without a master plan for “the day after.” How to establish changes from an event (and not a process), especially in a society so tense and so devoid of civic culture? How will the violent settling of accounts be avoided, how will justice be guaranteed, how will the excesses of a social polarization that has been fed from power for decades be controlled?

But let’s abstract from the reality we know so well and give these projects the benefit of the doubt. Imagine that a plebiscite can be held and that it will demonstrate (at a minimum) that there is an important segment of society that aspires to greater political participation and that demands a multiparty system and other freedoms such as freedom of expression, information, press, rights, economic, etc. How could we ensure that the dictatorship will respect the results of the polls and open the spaces claimed by that segment, when the reality of their actions proves otherwise?

If this is a challenge, we can imagine what it would be like to call for elections in a nation that has not had a government democratically elected at the ballot box since 1948 and where, for 60 years, the existence of a political party or a true public debate on any matter of common interest has not been permitted. Is the Cuban population (those living in Cuba and a good part of those living abroad) prepared to confront the responsibility of the most decisive exercise in civil law? I don’t think so.

As for taking power by force, it is scary to think of the human crisis that would bring unleashed violence in the streets, the social unrest, the consequences of unleashing the beast. Who would assume the consequences and how would we recover from such a long and definitive fracture? Who would be saved from this new Haitian Revolution?

Many readers will assume this analysis too pessimistic or defeatist. There will not be a lack of those who accuse me of promoting divisionism or even label me with worse epithets. However, the Cuban situation is so desperate and urgent that we should not continue to use time and bullets to confront one another, but to conceive answers for a possible solution. Such is the task of the opposition parties, in case they had not realized it: to propose alternatives and a route to attain them.

I must clarify, finally, that I do not consider the plebiscite proposals and (eventually) elections in Cuba totally misguided, but only incomplete. All efforts have the courage to break the inertia, promote action. But it is necessary to abandon, once and for all, the cravings for personal wishes to be in the limelight and find one or several feasible solutions in the shortest time to overcome the Castro nightmare. Right now, the “who” is not so important, rather the “what” and especially the “how” are. Cuba languishes while some walk around, thriving in its name and contemplating their belly-buttons.

Or, who knows? Maybe there is already a solution properly thought out and strategically realizable, as an old friend always tells me, “momentarily locked in a desk drawer of some good Cuban, who is waiting for the right moment to bring it to light.” Or maybe the miracle will finally take place and the wills of many Cubans from all over will come together to allow light to shine and open the way. Only this thought exposes me for what I am: an incurable optimist.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Diaz-Canel: A New Image and an Old Dogma

Miguel Díaz-Canel during a meeting with the youth in Granma in which he asked them if they all had internet. (La Demajagua)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 2 July 2018 — In recent weeks, the presence of Díaz-Canel in the official media has become frequent to the point of saturation, in stark contrast to the opacity he maintained during his years in training as the dauphin of former president, Raúl Castro, with the exception — if anything — of the days before being elected by the deputies of the National Assembly, when he began to appear more regularly among the old hierarchs of the historical generation as a prelude to his future position as head of the Government.

It could be said that the de facto leader has not only inherited the Castro’s throne, but also the gift of ubiquity of the historic leader, who during his 47-year reign of omnipotence seemed to be everywhere at the same time.

So many and such public media presentations seem to pursue the intent of dressing up Raul Castro’s chosen with the legitimacy that was never verified at the ballot boxes with the votes of the electorate, and with prestige that does not even belong to him, the supposed historical distinction that the members of the almost extinct guerrilla cast of the yacht Granma or of the Sierra Maestra have granted onto themselves. continue reading

This would explain, to some extent, the forced importance that the official media give to this young president of stony temperament and impenetrable expression, whose strong attachment to the script of his predecessors confers the inevitable aura of a puppet, subject to the will of his superiors. Thus, orphaned of authority, prestige, true capacity for decision, charisma and ability for communication, the real power urges him to manufacture his doll props leadership, by cultivating that image as energetic guide, laborious, human, familial, committed to the direction of the country and very in touch with the people.

So many and so public media presentations seem to pursue the intent of appointing Raúl Castro’s chosen with the legitimacy that was never verified at the urns with the votes of the electorate

Thus, as a superhero capable of saving the nation in these turbulent times of crisis, we have seen the new president in the most varied circumstances and contexts: in shirt sleeves at the scene of an air disaster just one hour after this occurred, with an interest in the details of the tragedy, and endorsing an in-depth investigation of the facts and a complete and transparent information of what happened; on a tour of several provinces, where he has thoroughly immersed himself in the people, visiting the Sanctuary of La Caridad del Cobre, patron saint of Cuba; reverencing, as in appearance of deep reflection, before the stone that guards Fidel Castro’s ashes; leading important meetings, among others, those of the Council of State; receiving ambassadors and other distinguished visitors or attending a popular music concert where he was congratulated by one of the artists and cheered by those present.

And uncaringly and unexpectedly, taking a walk through the streets with his wife. The socialist Cuba finally debuts a first lady who appears on the asphalt in lycra and low-heeled shoes, taken by the hand of the president and slightly behind his firm step, or in a snug-fitting dress at a solemn ceremony. She does not wear fashion designer clothes or a stylish haircut; for that would not be a very dignified image of the companion of a communist president.

At the same time, there is a special interest in programming the image of a modern, carefree president, aware of what goes on in social networks and in international media, an active participant in the economic, social and cultural life of the country, distant from the stiffness and rigidity of the olive-green gerontocracy that was the visible face of power for decades.

Everything suggests an implicit will to rejuvenate the image of power, which, however, contrasts with the prevalence of the old discourse of Fidel’s revolutionary orthodoxy

Everything suggests an implicit will to rejuvenate the image of power, which, however, contrasts with the prevalence of the old discourse of Fidel’s revolutionary orthodoxy. New wine in old wineskins. Thus, paradoxically, a renewal of form coexists with a propping up of the old dogma. Just a change of appearance, a symbolic leadership that overlaps the survival of an autocratic leadership that, under the guise of evolution, continues to show its seams.

And as is to be expected, all this flapping of apparent changes is unleashing a barrage of opinions. There is no shortage of those who, even from the “enemy” of the Castros’ press, support the idea that Díaz-Canel “is winking” at the intentions of reforms for Cubans on the Island, or those who fall back into the trap of populism (“Díaz-Canel does mix with the people”), unconsciously paving the way for a renewed autocracy.

Because, it is well known, the media has great power, even to demonstrate that what is good and new is perhaps harmful and old. This very president, who now monopolizes the attention of the Castro press monopoly, has been one of the most furious Torquemadas to whip up independent journalism, incite control over the press and promote the total control of internet administration by the Government.

A modern, reformist, youthful, accessible president? As far as I’m concerned, he will remain the same as his mentors until he demonstrates the opposite with very clear actions.

Translated by Norma Whiting

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

The “New” Cuban Constitution: Defeat or Opportunity? / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

A billboard celebrating the 35th anniversary of the current Cuban constitution. “Party, People, Government, State, a Single Will”

Miriam Celaya, Cubanet, West Palm Beach, 28 June 2018 — A recent inquiry by colleagues Ana León and Augusto César San Martín about the expectations of several citizens, in the face of the constitutional reform, arouses reflection on some of the numerous gaps in the field of civic culture and rights ailing the Cuban population.

Perhaps an illustrative example, which portrays the colossal work of citizen education that will have to be developed in an eventual transition scenario towards democracy, is the evidence of the almost absolute ignorance of the Law of laws by at least some of the Cubans questioned on the subject.

However, ignorance and even disdain regarding constitutional issues are not the only existing factors. In fact, illiteracy in legal and civil rights issues in Cuba is practically a congenital social disease, something perfectly understandable in a country governed for decades by autocratic voluntarism, through decrees and improvised regulations that commonly overcome — and even contradict — the letter, the spirit, the strength and the legal hierarchy of the Constitution itself. continue reading

Add to this that both the content of the Constitution and the laws, the courts that must enforce them and the institutions that must ensure order, exist in order to guarantee the privileges of Power, not the rights of citizenship, which determines that the subject (let’s call him the “citizen”) is constantly forced to commit crimes because of the imperatives of survival, and tends to alienate himself from a legal body that neither represents nor favors him.

Such legal confusion is also reflected in the opinions reaped by León and San Martín, where a segment of the participants, whom the authors define as “more radical,” believe that in the current constitutional reform process “everything must be changed, starting with the political vision from which the new document will be written,” while another imprecise number of testimonies show “modest aspirations,” of which only one is revealed: “increase in salaries and pensions.” A longing that would be related to a specific law in any case, but not to a Constitution.

Unfortunately, we do not know the number of subjects involved in the aforementioned journalistic survey, and we also lack other information about them, such as their ages, occupations and places of residence, which may be useful for venturing additional assessments. For this reason — scarce in testimonies and abounding above all in opinions issued by the authors — the text does not meet the expectations suggested by the title.

However, it is appreciated that León and San Martín bring up a topic as important as the preparation of a new constitution in Cuba. Especially if one takes into account the environment of conspiracy in which the new Statute is being cooked, the peculiar moment in which its drafting has been decided — marked by the transfer of the presidency of the country from the so-called “historical generation” to the “generational relay” — and the inexplicable fact that such a complex task is headed precisely by the ex-president, General Raúl Castro, who had the opportunity of convening a Constituent Assembly and amending the Constitution during the more than 10 years of his ill-fated mandate, but didn’t do it.

And since the corset that will truss the “new” Constitution from its inception was already announced — socialism’s irrevocable character and the role of the Cuban Communist Party as the leading force of society and of the State — it can be assumed that the novelties the new Statute brings are simple accommodations to disguise the subtle return to capitalism that has (illegally) been taking place before our eyes.

Clearly, the Constitution of Castro II will legitimize the highly vilified “exploitation of man by man,” which returned decades ago to successfully emulate the already previously sacramental (though never explicit) exploitation of man by the State; the privileged presence of foreign capital; the exclusion of Cubans and the perpetuation of power, all camouflaged under the innocent euphemism of “the Cuban model.”

So, if the official media have made reference to the debate by the National Assembly of Peoples Power of less conspicuous issues, such as equal marriage or revision of the Family Code, I do not think it intends to catapult Princess Mariela Castro towards future political stardom — in such a macho and homophobic country, much more is needed than the support of an army of gay revolutionaries to assume the presidency — but to create a smokescreen, a mere distraction that offers the world the image that, in effect, Cuba is changing and that it is more democratic and inclusive than many developed countries. From the UMAP* to the Palace of Marriages… Now that is the will to change, gentlemen!

As for the political and economic freedoms for Cubans, we already know that this option is vetoed. The olive-green mafia, now dressed in elegant suits and neat guayaberas, will move only the chips that certify their political interests, endorse their capital and maintain social control and “political balance.”

And in addition, they may astutely throw some legal crumbs that favor the minimal and undemanding private sector — a wholesale market, even if it is not stocked or offering better prices than the retailer, for example — in order to win their support and compliance. It is known that, as a general rule, the goals of long-term societies are not related to being freer, more prosperous and independent, but also to the petty aspiration of not belonging to the majority sector, the poorest members of the population.

And assuredly, the remnants of the Castro regime and its political heirs will make their legalistic move so well that they will be able to show the world how some eight million idiots will go docilely to the polls to consecrate with their vote the perpetuity of the dispossession of their rights. We have already seen it before.

Except that (who knows?), the “masses” should understand that, this time, only they have the possibility to surprise us, and to use the power of their vote to say “NO” to a Constitution that is born mutilated and spurious. Maybe we are facing an opportunity and not a defeat.

Perhaps some opposition leaders, so engrossed in defending their own little egos, are missing a golden opportunity to show the world that there are a large number of Cubans who deserve recognition and support in their democratic aspirations, and — in passing — to clarify to the autocracy that they can no longer count on a unanimous and monotonous herd.

A tiny step, yes, but a step forward. It’s true that it would be an arduous task for leaders and activists to mobilize this time to get people to go the polls – rather than to boycott them – and to cast NO votes to oppose the conspiracy of Power. It is also true that this would not produce money or allow for personality cults, but on the contrary: it would cost capital and blur the leadership into “all of us.” For the first time the common leader would be the electorate. But, if what it really is about is the future of Cuba and of all Cubans, it would be well worth the effort.

*The UMAP, Unidades Militares de Ayuda a la Producción, (Military Units for Aid to Production) were forced-work agricultural labor camps operated by the Cuban government during the mid-1960’s. Scant information available has characterized the camps solely as an instance of gender policing, though it was created for individuals who, for religious or other beliefs were not able to serve in the regular military units.

Miriam Celaya is a Cubanet journalist, resident in Cuba, who is visiting Florida

Translated by Norma Whiting