Panama Declaration / Rafael León Rodríguez

Rafael León Rodríguez, La Habana, b. 1945.

Rafael León Rodríguez, (El candil de Rafa), Panama City/Cuba, 10 June 2019.The members of the Coalition for Democratic Unity (Muad), who met in Panama City 3rd and 4th of June, 2019 in the 2019 Strategy Workshop, along with our colleagues from the island of Cuba, who were hindered from going there by the government, agreed the following:

The rise to political power in Cuba of Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez and the taking effect of a new constitution, not only have implied no change in the political and economic conditions in the country, but have also exacerbated the lack of political representation in the government organs and the precarious material and spiritual state of the nation.

Muad, since its creation in 2015, has offered its meetings to help overcome the decades-long climate of confrontation and hostility in Cuba, and nothing has been achieved since then. continue reading

Our objective is to help bring about a nation which respects democracy and the rule of law, but not as a result of the victory of one player over the other, but rather the triumph of everybody over idleness, irresponsibility, and neglect. A change that every individual can feel they have contributed to.

Our fundamental liberties continue to be violated by our own constitution, and the laws which derive from it. They continue to use the rhetoric of “enemy” as their way of remaining in ignorance about their opposition. They stigmatise those who emigrate, who are a mixed population, but remain always Cubans, and lock up anybody who thinks differently. They insult those who work, and, even worse, those who manage, through their work, to free themselves from poverty and necessity.

These conditions don’t help the country or offer any hope. Even less when they are accompanied by the excessive economic power of the military organisations, determined to build gigantic luxury hotels using foreign companies and workers, putting into practice generous policies to attract foreign capital, offering nothing to any corresponding national entities.

Faced with the overriding need for “enemies”, we Cubans find we have been classified as such by the state, which is supposed to be our support. It’s an anomalous situation which views all good deeds with suspicion

Muad rejects the treatment recently handed out to our fellow-countrymen who tried to help the victims of the tornado, which hit some of the poorest areas of Havana last January 27th.

We also reject the repression which ended the march against homophobia last May 11th, and showed the image of a country which persecutes what in the rest of the world would be seen as a party. And we reject the silence of the state in the face of femicide, and crimes related to sexual, or racial discrimination, or anything else which damages human dignity.

We appreciate the facility of getting internet and social media access in the island. This novelty has shown that Cuban civil society is a reality, as initiatives which were up to recently difficult to deal with have acquired the ability to let people know about stuff which was previously unknown.

People have been mobilised to help victims, defend more humane treatment for animals, fight against homophobia, denounce state decrees blocking artistic liberty, and reduce the price of the so-called network of networks, just to give a few examples.

In the same way it was possible to mobilise a No vote before the constitutional referendum last February 24th. The campaign in support of it, organised by the Cuban government, monopolising the communication media and sanctioning any public protest against the proposed text, found itself up against a public argument mobilised by the social media. The partiality in the communication media, and the mobilisation of public opinion, put into doubt the approval sought.

As a result of the new constitutional text, the country will prepare a new electoral law. Muad urges the Cuban state to draft it so as to be a model which permits effective citizen participation in the process of electing political representatives, respecting freedom of association and movement irrespective of ideological preferences.

We call on the Cuban government to free up a space for participation, so that the growing movement does not hit a brick wall of repression and insult, which is what happened with help for the victims of the tornado in the days following January 27th, and with those who protested against homophobia last May 11th.

Right now we are seeing a growing distance between the governments of Cuba and the US. Our neighbour’s regime of sanctions against Cuba has been re-energised, with unexpected consequences.

Muad considers that our vulnerability to these actions by the United States are due to the country’s inability to produce food, and generate productive and financial resources which could make us independent of the actions of other countries. The signatories to this Declaration once again urge the Cuban government to free up the obstacles holding back our productive capacity and our  agriculture and high added value services.

Muad supports the fighters for democracy in Venezuela and Nicaragua, and wants all illegitimate governments to be replaced by democratic regimes. Because of our movement for democracy in Cuba, we know the cost and pain suffered by both peoples.

Political repression is, in Muad’s view, the most troublesome and unacceptable part of the authoritarian practices of the Cuban government. The maintenance of a one-party system in the new constitutional text renders ineffective the proscription of discrimination in that same text. We specifically reject the existence of political prisoners and the criminalisation of the children, spouses, brothers and sisters of members of the opposition, as a way of discouraging their fight.

Freedom is freedom – and that’s it. Without it, there is infinite pain. Time to put an end to this nonsense.

Panama City/Cuba, June 10th, 2019.

 Translated by GH

February Declaration / Rafael León Rodríguez

Rafael León Rodríguez, General Coordinator of the Cuban Democratic Project, Havana, 7 February 2019

1.- Last year, after the appointment of Miguel Díaz Canel as president of the Republic of Cuba by the highest leadership of the Cuban regime, new expectations emerged, both inside and outside the country, about the possibility of starting a process of real changes in Cuban society that not only encompasses the economic and social realms, but also the politics. The president himself denied, repeatedly and in different scenarios that this would happen, pointing out that the key to his government was based by continuity, not on changes.

2.- Within the framework of the legal rearrangement determined by the new spaces occupied by private workers, mainly in the fields of services, agriculture and construction and the creation of new management structures for the government, the authorities of the islands initiated the project of revising the Constitution of the Republic of Cuba which, after being promulgated in 1976, had already undergone changes in the years 1978, 1992 and 2002. continue reading

In this latest version of the Law of Laws, already approved by the National Assembly last December, they have maintained the articles that define the Communist Party as a leading force of society and the state, as well as the irreversibility of the sociopolitical system that has governed Cuba for more than 60 years, in its various modalities. Martí, our Apostle, has told us,“It is always a misfortune for freedom if freedom is a party” [1] and also that: “A Constitution is a living and practical law that can not be built with ideological elements”[2].

3.- During the process of consultation, discussion and reception of proposals from the citizenry last October, which can be considered as the analysis of the preliminary draft of the Constitution put to public consideration, although the participation was estimated by the authorities and their media as very significant, it is noteworthy that the articles imposed that define and guarantee the continuity of the dictatorial regime could not be discussed or questioned.

4.- A referendum on this new Constitution will be held on February 24, which will decide whether or not it is approved by the citizens. But, beyond this plebiscite, the new constitution continues to ignore political plurality, continues to obscure the peaceful democratic opposition and disrespects, by action or omission, in parts of its articles, both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Covenants on International Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and Civil and Political Rights.

5.- The Message from the Cuban Catholic Bishops dated February 2 of this year, regarding the new Constitution of the Republic of Cuba and the upcoming referendum to which it will be submitted, after the analysis of the fundamental issues of the text, concludes:

“21. We urge every citizen, with their vote and from their conscience, to contribute to the edification of a society in which all Cubans feel ourselves respected in our rights and, at the same time, build a dignified and prosperous life with the participation of all, with no exclusions.”

“22. We entrust these intentions to the Virgin of Charity, Mother of all Cubans and implore the blessing of God on our beloved Fatherland.”

6.- The Proyecto Demócrata Cubano (Cuban Democratic Project) joins the spirit and the letter of the Message of the Cuban Bishops and endorses all the considerations on the text of the new Constitution that will be put to the consideration of those who should be the true sovereign, the Cuban people.

7.- The reiterated discourse of the island’s authorities regarding the defense of “unity in diversity” is significant when it comes to policies towards and with the exterior; when it comes to policies within, in relation to the Cubans, they continue to demonize the different politicians, maintaining an antidemocratic contradiction of evident moral double standard. While this contradiction is sustained and fed by the regime, many of the words of the Apostle José Martí will continue to be a pending issue, among them, those of great importance for the theme that brings us together: “The republic, for all must be fair, and it has to be   with everyone”[3] , and finally: “A neglected vote is a lost right, and the indifference in the suffrage is the prelude to the despot” [4].

[1] Escenas Mejicanas – 1877
[2] Escenas Norteamericanas – 1882
[3] “Patria” N.Y. – 1892
[4] “Patria” N.Y. – 1893

Resolution 4 on Human Rights / Rafael León Rodríguez

Rafael León Rodríguez, 19 June 2018 — Presented by the Cuban Democratic Project (Prodecu) of Cuba.

The Council of the Christian Democratic Organization of America (ODCA), meeting in the city of Bogotá on June 14, 2018, with regards to the situation of Human Rights and freedoms in Cuba.


1.- The ODCA warns that, despite the recent change in the Presidency of Cuba formalized on April 19, 2018, the Government has remained without fundamental changes in the relevant issues of respect for Human Rights and the exercise of civil and political liberties in Cuba. On the contrary, there have been some more restrictive measures regarding the ability of dissidents to travel and actions to strengthen the official repression of opponents.

2.- The ODCA reiterates to the Government of Cuba its obligation to fulfill the international commitments in the matter of Human Rights, signed before the United Nations in February 2018, and make the necessary changes so that Cuba acts in accordance with International Law and reintegrate into the community of nations that recognize the dignity of the human person and the universal rights and freedoms that belong to all people at all times and places.

3.- The ODCA requests the Cuban Government lift the restrictions on leaving the country that unfairly affect, since the summer of 2017, the Vice President of ODCA and General Coordinator of the Cuban Democratic Project Rafael León. This right has already been exercised previously by Rafael León and other Cuban citizens who have participated abroad in conferences, seminars or political, technical, cultural, artistic, and various kinds of meetings. The application of new exit restrictions constitutes a setback to the rights of citizens already recognized by the Government.

4.- Finally, the ODCA calls for the immediate release of prisoners of conscience and human rights defenders and for the recognition of the right of all Cubans to dissent and exercise their universally recognized civil and political freedoms.

Cuban Authorities Block Seven Activists From Traveling to Mexico for Democracy Action Meeting

Regina Coyula was not able to board her flight this Monday, like six other activists, to go to Cancun to a Forum on Democracy in Cuba. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 27 June 2017 – Cuban authorities blocked at least seven activists from traveling to Cancun, Mexico this Monday, to participate in the 4th Forum on Roads to a Democratic Cuba, a meeting of the United Democratic Action Roundtable (MUAD) organized by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS), according to blogger Regina Coyula speaking to 14ymedio.

“When I arrived at the immigration window in Terminal 3 of Jose Marti International Airport, they told me to step back and wait a minute” said the activist. Then she was approached by an immigration official who, after asking for her documents, informed her that there was “a ban on travel abroad” in effect against her.

Coyula demanded explanations for the reasons she was prevented from leaving, but the agent would only say that she “had nothing to do with this” and told her if she wanted more information to visit the Office of Attention to the Population near the Plaza of the Revolution. continue reading

The other activists who were not allowed to board the plane are Rafael León Rodríguez, general coordinator of the Cuban Democratic Project; Hildebrando Chaviano, director of the Center for Analysis of Public Policies of Freedom and Development; Wilfredo Vallín and Amado Calixto Gammalame, members of the Legal Association of Cuba; Erick Álvarez, promoter of the CubaDecide initiative; and Alexei Gámez, activist of the Somos+ (We Are More) Movement.

The practice of preventing dissidents from leaving the country has become a repressive method of State Security in increasing use in recent months.

The practice of preventing dissidents from leaving the country has become a repressive method of State Security in increasing use in recent months.

In early 2013 a Migration Reform measure came into effect which eliminated the “exit permit” required for travel abroad. In the first ten months after the approval of the new measures, Cubans made more than 250,000 trips abroad. The opposition also benefited from this relaxation of controls.

However, any time it likes the Government may invoke certain subsections of article 25 of the new immigration regulations that prohibit departure “for reasons of public interest or national security.”

Travel bans are put into practice in a number of ways, including preventing opponents from leaving their home, intercepting the vehicles taking them to the airport, or notifying them at the immigration window at the airport that they are forbidden to leave, as happened on Monday.

End of Year Declaration / Rafael León Rodríguez

Rafael Leon Rodriguez, 30 December 2016 — One more year of the young third millennium is about to conclude and give way to the next, 2017, the fifty-eighth of the totalitarian and one-party regime that, under the omnipotent power of the Castros, has controlled the Cuban archipelago since the middle of the last century.

This year, which is now over, has witnessed important and hopeful political events on the islands, framed fundamentally in the real opportunity of an opening towards a new, prosperous and plural state of law.

The visit to Havana of the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama, last March, certified the political will of the head of the US executive branch of government to accompany us in this essential and urgent task. continue reading

The European Union, for its part, recently concluded an agreement with Cuba to try to leave behind the so-called Common Position and to make viable other political openings.

The refusal of the Cuban authorities to take positive steps in terms of civil and political rights of citizens — that promote their plural participation in the political and economic development of society — has stopped the start of this process of democratic opportunities.

The other significant event of the year that will soon end was the physical disappearance of Fidel Castro. The fall of the founder of the dictatorial regime began, actually, ten years ago, in July of 2006 when, due to health problems, he was forced to hand over power to his brother Raúl. This transit towards the end, announced in some way, concluded last November.

But in our opinion, all this recent history must be analyzed and projected in the future, which obviously does not imply erasing historical memory. Cuba and the Cubans deserve a better present and a hopeful future.

However, so far, the authorities are reluctant to take steps in the direction of respect for civil liberties and the human rights of society. Worse still, they have increased repression and harassment of peaceful opponents and open dissent. This reality, coupled with the uncertainty caused by statements by the US President-elect Mr. Donald Trump on migratory issues, which may have some effect on certain modifications to the Cuban Adjustment Act, have once again triggered a citizen exodus in all directions.

The country’s economic scenario also remains stressed, a victim of lack of productivity and government contradictions. Right now, President Raúl Castro informed the National Assembly that we are in an “economic recession.” The nation’s GDP decreased 0.9% in 2016.

The historical dependence of specific countries, as for example in recent times to Venezuela, paralyzes us when they suffer adverse situations. In these December declarations to Parliament, the president also assured us that Cuba would not return to the capitalism. Nevertheless, he called for work to boost foreign investment.

That is: the investment of foreign capitalists in Cuba. Then: capitalism in Cuba, but not of Cubans. Is not this a contradiction and an absurdity? In essence we continue to live under the effects of a systemic crisis that, of course, will only be resolved when the prevailing system changes. A system that has already provided evidence that proves that it has not been successful in those Western countries where they have implemented it. And we belong to that part of the world: the Western Hemisphere.

In recent years, Cuban institutions dealing with statistical issues have been warning of the accelerated aging of the population. And even, they warn about the decrease of the population, saying that we will never reach 12 million people. False. We are already more than that, scattered all over the world. Therefore, we must begin by recovering them through a necessary new law.

One Constitution that we contemplate recognizes all of us, through dual citizenship, with rights and duties as equals, without privileges of individuals, groups or classes. Beginning a process of democratization involving all the children of the Cuban nation and based on the United Nations Human Rights Covenants, which have been signed by the Cuban authorities and now are only awaiting ratification and implementation.

Then and only then, we will leave behind the crises and will begin a new era of progress towards modernity, prosperity and the common good, with all, for all and in Peace.

21st Congress in Santiago de Chile / Rafael León Rodríguez

Rafael Leon Rodriguez, 8 June 2016 — The 21st Congress of the Christian Democratic Organization of America (CADO) ended on May 27the in the Chilean capital. The Cuban Democratic Project (PRODECU)  sent a representation of its leadership to the event, composed of members residing in Cuba and in the Diaspora, headed by Rosa María Rodríguez Torrado.

The new leadership elected for the 2016-2019 period consists of Juan Carlos Latorre as president and Francisco Javier Jara as Executive Secretary. The outgoing president, Don Jorge Ocejo Moreno, was unanimously elected first vice president of this new leadership. The two vice presidencies of Special Affairs created in 20th Congress remained: Rafael Leon of PRODECU and Eduardo Cardet of the Christian Liberation Movement, both based in Cuba. For vice president of the Caribbean area, Rene Hernandez Bequet of the Christian Democratic Party of Cuba. was elected.

The conclave was attended, among other personalities, by the former Chilean president Eduardo Frei, the President of the Republic of Chile, Dr. Michel Bachelet, who devoted a few words to the audience gathered in the old Palace of Congress, where this major meeting of Social Christians of Our America was held.

Eighth Month / Rafael Leon Rodriguez

Rafael Leon Rodriguez,1 September 2015 — Cuba is preparing to receive Pope Francis, who will visit in the month of September as a “Mission of Mercy.” The third Pontiff who comes to these lands in just over 17 years. He was preceded by Benedict XVI, the “Pilgrim of Charity,” and the now Saint John Paul II, as the “Messenger of Truth and Hope.”

It was he who marked a milestone in the recent history of Cubans and inspired the beginning, with its advances and setbacks, of the current reform processes. This last 17 December and the events that day revealed, are frames in his call for the world to open itself to Cuba and for Cuba to open itself to the world, overcoming all, all the fears, realized in January of 1998. continue reading

But, the times of the Cuban authorities continue at an inappropriate rhythm for all that needs to be transformed. Now they declared that they are documenting, by request, the theory of the named socialism of the 21st Century. After experiencing live, as is the custom, in the great national laboratory, surely will visualize the supposed thesis and the certain supposed results. They also announced the holding of the 7th Congress of the only party, the Communist, this coming April.

And they had already announced the promulgation of a new electoral law and even a new constitution. The issue is that they are continuing to ignore and marginalize the political diversity in the country and everything decided, as in every military authoritarian government, continues to be through command and control.

Now, after reestablishing diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States of America, the need to also start of process of normalization of relations between the regime and the Cuban people has also been demonstrated, which should be nothing other than an opening toward democratic plurality and a rule of law. The peaceful opposition, within and outside the Cuban archipelago, worked for these objectives.

The “Declaration of Morelos” and more recently the “Declaration of San Juan” are in line with this. The announced presence of Pope Francis among us we hope will contribute, with his already proven experience, to push this other just cause.

Roads to Democracy for Cuba / 14ymedio

Conference participants gathered in Mexico. (14ymedio)
Conference participants gathered in Mexico. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 20 June 2015 — The second edition of the event Roads for a Democratic Cuba is taking place in Mexico from 18 to 23 June 2015 under the auspices of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the Christian Democrat Organization of America (ODCA). Participating in this meeting are dozens of political activists and civil society leaders of the Island and the Diaspora. The event will continue through the weekend and until next Tuesday.

Among the topics discussed on the first day is the impact on the Island of everything related to the talks between the governments of Cuba and the United States for the purpose of restoring diplomatic relations. Other areas to be discussed are the options of the opposition, various proposals before a new Cuban Electoral Law and ways to strengthen Cuban civil society. continue reading

Among the participants from the island are Dagoberto Valdes, Manuel Cuesta Morua, Vladimiro Roca, Laritza Diversent, Juan Antonio Madrazo, Juan Carlos Gonzalez Leiva, Wilfredo Vallin, Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina, Rosa Maria Rodriguez, Rafael León Rodríguez, Guillermo Fariñas and Boris Gonzalez Arenas.

The first meeting of the event was held last December 2014 in the Mexican capital. At that meeting they talked about the diversity of peaceful means to fight for democracy, the role of exile and the importance of identifying the minimum points of consensus to move forward, if not in the desired unity, at least in arranging purposes.

Conference participants gathered in Mexico. (14ymedio)
Conference poster for this year’s meeting.

Five Months and… / Rafael Leon Rodriguez

Image from

Rafael Leon Rodriguez , 22 May 2015 — A little over five months have transpired since the conversations between the governments of Cuba and the United States of America were made public. After half a century of disconnected positions, hope has returned of renewing the ties that have historically linked the two nations. An exchange of political prisoners, conversations about the reestablishment of diplomatic relations, consideration of measures to improve exchanges between the two countries, of communications, of human rights; removal of Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, among other significant steps, auger a new era for Cubans and Americans.

As for the relationship between the authorities of the archipelago with the national society in this new scenario, everything appears to reaffirm that only the economic categories are subject to modifications or changes, but the political categories remain unalterable, based on the anti-democratic hegemony of a single party. They talk about a new electoral law but the first-round votes for the delegates to the Municipal Assembles this last April was conducted under the existing law. They suggest they are considering enacting another constitution, but provide no information about this important issue. continue reading

Now, finally, they sent a strong and clear message at the 7th Summit of the Americas in Panama, of intolerance in the face of political diversity. To the representatives of Cuba’s independent civil society that attended the parallel forums, they confronted us with dozens of members of the civil society dependent on the Cuban State, sent as representatives of a questionable institutional civility.

Ordered to show through their actions their loyalty to the regime, they preferred confrontation over the sharing of spaces for dialog with their fellow compatriots. If it weren’t for the significance of the event itself for the present and future of the nation, we could call on island humor, rejoicing over having two civil societies: one dependent and one independent of the State.

In the speeches of the most senior political leaders of the archipelago about the conversations with the American authorities, we heard constant allusions to: “We must learn to live with respect for our differences.”

Is the national context not applicable to this affirmation. The Cuban nation belongs to all Cubans, independent of where we find ourselves and the way we thing. We are people, we are diverse, we are all subjects of the law and respect for our human dignity.

Beyond the importance of normalization of relations without neighbors to the north, the formation of a true Cuban nation “of all with for the good of all” should not and cannot be kept waiting.

Message from Cuba from the Cuban Democratic Project / Rafael León Rodríguez

Taken from

The latest developments in negotiations between the authorities of the Cuban government and those of the United States augur interesting expectations for peoples on both sides of the Straits of Florida in the coming year of 2015. The announced normalization of diplomatic relations at the level of embassies will certainly strengthen the creation of new and significant bridges for both societies.

To what extent this new political context will help the empowerment of civil society in Cuba will depend, primarily, on whether Cubans will be able to continue working peacefully to achieve Cuba’s return to democracy, freedoms and the rule of law.

The Cuban regime must recognize, finally, that human rights constitute an indivisible whole. The ratification and implementation of the International Treaties on Civil and Political rights and Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, signed by the government of the island in 2008, and they are still a crucial unresolved issue this, they must endorse the law.

If the blockade or embargo of the United States against Cuba is one more violation of the human rights of the Cuban people, this hiding behind the adoption of a Constitution in 1976, now disregarded, to legitimize a singular government party and discriminate against political plurality, is also. Both violations must cease.

We so-called Cuban political minorities have inalienable rights that must be respected by the authorities of the regime, which, after 56 years of totalitarian power, show that in the interior of the country the only things “updated” are the poverty, hopelessness, failure, corruption and escapism.

Many people in the world, because of goodwill, accompany the Cuban people in an attempt to facilitate the recovery of their freedoms and improve their situation through dialogue and negotiation. Pope Francis sublimely represents all of them. We thank you.

We are confident that the coming year will bring Cubans to the so long-awaited national reconciliation, with justice and peace. We wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a bright New Year 2015 of our Lord.

Rafael León Rodríguez, General Coordinator
Cuban Democratic Project

Translated by: Hombre de Paz

24 December 2014

Cuba 2014 / Rafael Leon Rodriguez

The 32nd Havana International Fair (FIHAV) 2014 closed its doors after a generous awarding of prizes this past Friday, Nov. 7. It’s said that Brazil was the exhibitor that saw the most growth in traffic from prior years, and Spain — with 132 participating companies — was the most-represented.

This statistic took into account Cuba’s presentation of the “Purse of Opportunity,” now a feature of the country’s new Foreign Investment Act, and the offers of special perks to businesses from the Mariel Special Development Zone. The Cuban proposals, fundamentally framed within the joint-venture model, places at the disposal of foreign investors concerns ranging from those that are active to semi-active – such as sugar refineries – to arable lands, as well as biotechnology and pharmaceutical enterprises.

In short, a promotional gamut of possibilities encompasses virtually all domains of production and services. The Cuban Revolutionary State, which confiscated everything, and everybody, at the start of its totalitarian experiment, now puts up for sale at least half of every asset they have remaining. Of course, this is just for foreigners.

When we Cubans on the Island approach these fairgrounds, we mark them with a bit of wonder, as distant spheres cut off from our reality — A Different Cuba, of which little or nothing has to do with us.

The same happens to us with tourist zones: Varadero, Cayo Coco or Cayo Roman, and with the medical and pharmacological research institutes — these are all spaces that are alien to the majority of Cubans.

They fill the isolated display cases/oases that are viewed and enjoyed by foreign visitors and a privileged few from the home turf. They are diverse pieces of this rigged jigsaw puzzle which the state has made of Cuba.

They are also a likely cause of the flattering, but inaccurate, comments from outsiders regarding our national scene. This whole dynamic – coupled with the crony-capitalist bad habit of ostensibly over-investing beyond the profit potential of the country — has created in the minds of many foreign speculators a “virtual reality” view of Cuba.

But our nation can only be itself. It is the product of all these different spaces, of its successes and failures, in which we Cubans all participate, be we here in the islands, in exile or in the diaspora spread across the world. It is this sense of joint belonging that unites and lifts us up, that makes us feel a certain, commonly-shared pride, when one or some of us stand out. It matters not if they are Cuban players in the American Major Leagues, artists, or volunteer doctors fighting Ebola in Africa.

Therefore, what we need to recover, so that we may join together as one people, are our liberties. We need to re-insert ethics into our value system, to once again place honesty above loyalty that is blind, deaf and dumb. In short, to relaunch a pluralistic democracy in which we all may participate with dignity, without exclusions, in the rights and duties appertaining to Cuban citizens – with no display cases in sight.

 Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

15 November 2014

Embargo 2014 / Rafael Leon Rodriguez

Image downloaded from

The present year, 2014, started and in the last trimester Cuba began to pack its bags. And it is something that has been repeated since the last century to the point of exhaustion; as if year after year at the end, it sneaks out the window to return, stealthily, by the back door. Plans, promises, programs, guidelines; anyone would say: “More of the same with the same people.”

But it seems that finally something has started to move, mainly in the economic and social sectors. Self-employment, taxes, workers contracted to private domestic companies; use of the land by farmers leasing it under usufruct; recovery of some rights to buy and sell, to travel abroad and return. Political prisoners freed between deportation and parole. New laws addressing foreign investment and work. continue reading

All a package of reforms from the authoritarian government, to maintain the governments authoritarian power, with the intention of consolidating state capitalism and guaranteeing a peaceful dynastic succession.

Logically, national and international observers have different viewpoints on these matters. From those who claim they are only cosmetic changes, to those who argue the opposite. It’s clear that the authorities still haven’t addressed what they owe the peaceful political opposition and the world community with regards to the ratification and implementation of the United Nations’ International Covenants on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and Civil and Political Rights.

Eityher way, there is a new synergy, with its actions, contradictions and surprises. Who would have thought, for example, that the newspaper Granma, the organ of the Communist Party, would publish an article from the New York Times almost entirely for domestic readers, as happened on 14 October of this year.

It is as if suddenly the maximum historical leadership of the country would turn to independent journalism. And the topic of the American embargo on Cuba is news again this month at the United Nations.

In addition, the next Summit of the Americas in Panama, to which Cuba is invited for the first time, brings an unique opportunity for the Cuban government to face that of the United States in a framework propitious for the initiation of conversations.

The current instability in Venezuela, the electoral swings in Brazil, the systemic Cuban economic crisis and the phenomena of international terrorism, seem to have forced the Island’s authorities top take seriously the need for a constructive dialogue with our closest neighbors.

One of the significant aspects of these possible meetings and perhaps an element that has conspired against their prior realization is that, over the past 55 years, eleven eleven presidents and their respective administrations have passed through the White House and Cuba the leaders have remained the same, each with their respective histories.

However, only through negotiations can conflicts be peacefully resolved. The embargo on Cuba, which has served to victimize the regime, is senseless and has fallen on the most vulnerable sectors of the people and should be negotiated.

It is, without a doubt, another violation of Cubans’ human rights and an obstacle to our just aspirations for freedom, justice and peace in democracy.

19 October 2014

Setting the Record Straight* / Rafael Leon Rodriguez

“Sin embargo” (literally “without embargo”) means “however” in Spanish. Image:

In recent years, every time the issue of Cuba comes up, whether in relation to the transition to democratic freedoms or to other topics of a political nature, from any place in the world, our repressed national island passions are unleashed. It doesn’t matter whether it’s about a concert at the Civic Plaza** in Cuba, such as the one held in 2009 by Juanes and other artists, or, as now, it’s about a letter with proposals to the President of the United States on Economic Issues.

The reactions for and against, beyond the extremes, show a plurality of opinions from Cuba’s emerging civil society. And this is logical, since democracy is essential plural, as the peaceful opposition is plural, in opposing the only thought embodied by the half century military dictatorships that remains in power in Cuba.

The letter referenced, signed by forty Cuban and American personalities based outside the island, invited President Barack Obama to east some of the restrictions imposed by the American embargo on Cuba. This set of long-standing laws, in our opinion and in the opinion of the majority of the countries of the international community, have been counterproductive for the Cuban people in every sense, justifying and strengthening in different ways the human rights violations of the Castro dictatorship, such that maintaining it is a difficult case to defend. continue reading

With regards to the text of the missive, focused primarily on aspects of the market and not on human rights, at least places in the public arena the agenda of the necessary and urgent changes in our archipelago.

The changes produced so far, determined by the new guidelines of the Communist Party and the Revolution, clearly point to an economy of state capitalism which guarantees the dynastic succession, under the processes of the so-called 21st Century Socialism. Thus they flirt, supposedly through the markets, with the merchants. But, as we already know from experience, real socialism can only be patched up, and participative democracy is the only form which is truly perfectible, and it is in that direction, without a doubt, that we must turn our course.

In December 1996, the Cuban Democratic Project (Proyecto Demócrata Cubano, or Prodecu) in an open letter to the U.S. government states: “It is a fact that the political acts of the leaders of the United States of America have influences and, at times, determined, the history of the Cuban people over time. The last four decades have not escaped this reality.”

And it asked that, “the authorities of the government of United States of American accept the proposals of the Cuban government to initiate unconditional talks with the purpose of negotiating the Cuban-U.S. dispute.”

It is this formula, of negotiating, that is the only one that can bring us peacefully to democracy, justice, and the rule of law. The essential elements are synthesized in the letter from the forty.

Translator’s notes:

*The title “Singing the forty” is a play on words. In Spanish the expression (from a card game) means “to read the riot act” or “to set the record straight”; Rafael is also referring to the forty (in fact, 44) signers of the letter to Obama.

**”Civic Plaza” is the original name of what is now called the Plaza of the Revolution.

10 June 2014

First Trimester of 2014 / Rafael Leon Rodriguez

“Cuba looks for money to sustain the regime.” Image from:

The first three months of 2014 and part of April have stood out for the now traditional practice of the government use and abuse of congresses, symposia, fairs, assemblies, etc, from which emanate, almost always, two messages: one for abroad and another for the boring local citizens.

The 20th Congress of the Cuban Workers Center (CTC), in which, as usual, the secretary general was designated by the authorities and not election, as would happen under free, plural and democratic elections by the attending delegates, diminishing the credibility and independence of the Cuban unions is an example.

On the other hand, the National Assembly unanimously adopted the new Foreign Investment Law, which establishes, once again, discrimination against Cuban citizens residing on the island, who can not invest or participate on their own processes of this nature, nor through free association or self employment. That is for state officials, state capitalist, and for foreigners. Again, a state employment office will fulfill the function of providing the labor force to the foreign investment companies, as to not leave any loophole to free employment for Cuban residents.

And it’s as if they depreciate and despise we Cubans who live in Cuba. For a long time we weren’t even allowed to stay in hotels. Now, reviving this examples, Cubans cannot enter the waiting rooms at our own airports. And doesn’t this embarrass the authorities? At the precise point of access of those who visit us they begin the practice of discriminating against locals. In the resorts of Varadero or Boyeros this practice has been institutionalized. It’s humiliating to see how with indifference, without giving it any importance, they humiliate our fellow citizens.

The most recent event ended last weekend: the VIII Congress of the Cuban Writers and Artists Union, UNEAC. In his closing speech, Cuban Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermúdez, among others, spoke of the need to regulate the dissemination of music and audiovisual materials in public spaces. He also spoke about the battle against pseudo-cultural messages associated with the exaltation of consumerism, to get ahead economically, and stressed that the choice is socialism or barbarism.

Surely he  must have been referring to a socialism not yet known nor what will be, the so-called Socialism of the 21st Century, because the other one, the socialism that wasn’t, is already completely known. He said this was the only alternative to save our culture. So if it’s about saving it, he should start by saving the productive culture of a country because right now the animals in our fields are practically in danger of extinction.

The current sugar harvest is the smaller in the history of Cuba and the lack of productivity of our land is stupefying. And looking back, at Marti, we recognize the solution when he said in a speech at Hardman Hall, NY on 10 October 1890:

“Neither childish boasting, nor empty promises, nor class hatred, nor pressures from authority, nor blind opinion, nor village politics has met our expectations, but the politics of foundation and of embrace, where terrible ignorance gives way to justice and culture, and the proud worship abides repenting the fraternity of man, from one end of the island to the other, swords and books together, together those of the mountains and the villages, hear, above the forever uprooted suspicions, the creative word, the word: ‘Brother!'”

Toward a New Constitution / Rafael Leon Rodriguez

1397149468_1ideaconstitucionA group of Cubans in Cuba and its diaspora agreed to promote a road map for a constitutional consensus. Organizations and public figures from different generations, of all ideologies, religious beliefs and interests, we believe it is good that, firstly, we agree as to the type of constitution we want to establish or take as a reference for the creation of a new constitution, in accord with our time and reality.

The managing group making this project viable consists of Rogelio Travieso Pérez, Rafael León Rodríguez, Manuel Cuesta Morúa, Fernando Palacio Mogar, Eroisis González Suárez, Veizant Voloi González, Wilfredo Vallín Almeida and Rosa María Rodríguez Torrado.

We want to escape from the vicious and corrupt circle of an elite that for decades has set the course of our country regardless of the opinion of its citizens. The constitutional road map arises also to bring down the perverse myth that was born with the ruling political model, in which Cuba is only a part of his children: extending one hand to take money from its emigrants and with the other pushing them away and separating them from an environment to which they rightfully belong. So for this reason we will work in common to seek a consensus and legal and constitutional order that emanates from citizens, from their diversity, place of residence and plurality.

Thousands of Cubans have already signed the call for a constituent assembly in Cuba and we continue to call on all our compatriots, wherever they are or reside, to join us in this effort, for arm ourselves with a new shield of civilized coexistence. In this undertaking we invite Cubans to offer their ideas about how to finally achieve a Cuba for all within in the law.

In order to promote these efforts, compatriots living abroad have created the site in which there is an update on this project.

We are drawing up a methodology in which we encourage Cubans interested in participating to submit papers in which they lay out, in about ten points, the reasons why they defend one or another constitutional proposal as a starting point for change in the “law of laws” in order to lead us toward the democratization of our nation.

This coming May, Cubans inside and outside of Cuba will begin to hold meetings in which we will debate ideas about this process of promoting consensus. Right now, we are working for the creating of “initiative tables” on the island and this design is just the start of a long road to justice, equity and a state of rights for all Cubans.

10 April 2014