‘The Infinite Banquet’ Reflects the Violence and Corruption of Power

The play ‘The Infinite Banquet’, written by the playwright Alberto Pedro Torriente, premiered last Thursday, November 30 at the Teatro de la Luna. Tablecloth text: “Working Breakfast” (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, 4 December 2017 — Neither metaphorical nor allusive, but simply ruthless, the staging of The Infinite Banquet highlights everything insane, corrupt and violent that political power can be.

The play, written in 1999 by the playwright Alberto Pedro Torriente, premiered last Thursday, November 30, at the Teatro de la Luna in the Adolfo Llauradó hall, under the direction of Raúl Martín Ríos.

Yasel Rivero plays the leading role of two confluent characters: The Hierarch and The Paradigm. The first, an overthrown tyrant drawn in a monologue that serves as an opening to the drama; the second, a charismatic leader with a new social justice project, surrounded by a court of women called Virilefirst, Virilesecond and Virilethird. continue reading

Rounding out the cast are Averrara and Perogrullo. She, the voluptuous sentimental and erotic partner of The Paradigm; he, the infallible personification of the court jester, the organic intellectual, the opportune singer-songwriter.

Throughout two hours, intrigues and betrayals are cooked in a broth of human imperfections where pride, lust, gluttony, anger and greed stand out. The sin that is lacking, laziness, is reserved for those who do not want to work, identified with ‘the people’, that apparently invisible character who occupies the seats of the theater and who, here, is called The Conglomerate.

Supposedly all conflicts are unleashed in a 24-hour period, which is the time it takes The Paradigm to consolidate his power and to produce “the unmasking” of a face that “until now had to hide for strategic reasons.” The other pending issue is to decide what to name the process he wants to present to The Conglomerate.

In the play ‘The Infinite Banquet’ show the intrigues and betrayals linked to the rise to power.  Tablecloth text: “Working Lunch” (14ymedio)

The process is presented as “unique, original and virgin.” In the middle of the debate, the question of whether it should be called democracy or dictatorship jumps out. Perogrullo says clearly: “Despite the loss of prestige of both words, for The Conglomerate everything that is not democracy is still dictatorship.” Finally, a survey is made among the people to name it and the result is surprising.

The actress Yaikenis Rojas gives life to Averrara, a kind of First Lady who constantly reminds the leader of his commitments to “those below.” On the table, even below her, the sensual woman seems to find no end to her appetites. “I feel like eating a steak the size of my own stubbornness,” she declares discontentedly while collecting the leftovers from the banquet.

At the other extreme the actor Freddy Maragoto shines with refined force playing Perogrullo. Corrupted intelligence at the service of power brings to the aspiring dictator a precision in words and the charm of poetry. He sings a hymn to the epic that is a popular guaracha. At times he seems obliged by circumstances, but finally, when he gets a special place at the banquet table, he shows himself as he is, opportunistic and cynical.

The overflowing fantasy of Alberto Pedro borders on a surrealist hallucination in Virilefirst, a sinister, sweet and enigmatic character played by actor Roberto Romero. His militarized geisha costume represents all the creases and transvestitisms of human behavior.

Among the elements of the stage set, particularly notable are the enormous stairs that serve as platform from which to distribute bread to the people, and the rustic throne, symbol of the ambition for power. “This chair is mine,” repeats the model paradigm becoming a greedy hierarch.

The audience has fun and laughs, but surely they also reflect, faced with a representation that looks too much like a reality they know perfectly well.

The play can be seen until Thursday, December 14, if nobody in the heights of power prevents it.

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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.

I No Longer Dream Of Fidel Castro

The author’s dream used to repeat itself on the nights that Castro delivered those interminable speeches in front of hundreds of thousands of people. Text of sign: Now begins the great 10 million ton harvest.  (Archive)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 24 November 2017 — Throughout my adolescence I had a recurring dream related to Mr. Fidel Castro. It used to repeat itself on the nights he delivered those endless speeches in front of hundreds of thousands of people.

My fingers would perceive with amazing clarity the texture of the upper edge of the podium, where I would balance myself on open arms while swinging back and forth. Sometimes I suddenly changed my position and with both hands would first caress and then change the arrangement of the five microphones facing me. Every time I touched them I generated a silence among the audience and not only those in the plaza but also the other thousands who were following my speech on television. continue reading

If, during those seconds I frowned, gave a slight smile or lingered with my gaze lost in the distance, I generated an additional expectation. That was the precise moment I let fly with what would ultimately be the center of my address, which the next day would be the headline in all the newspapers and, with complete certainly, would become another event to commemorate in the future.

Ordinary mortals don’t know what it feels like in the moment to have thousands of eyes focused on your face, attentive to every gesture, thousands of ears trying to anticipate your next word. The pleasure of being the master of this situation is incomparable. Then I speak with the appropriate inflection in my voice: firm, almost militaristic, if I am responding to a threat; sarcastic, if it is preferable that the message only be decoded by good listeners; sweet or sad, when I allude to past glories; cheerful and confident to promise a future conquest.

I have spoken and I take the opportunity to caress the curls of my hair (I am hairless) when an ovation escapes from all the throats and the applause continues in a crescendo without limits. From a corner of the square someone – an older man, a young woman, maybe a child – has uttered my name such that the crowd feels invited to repeat it, at first slowly and then at a syncopated rhythm. Then I woke up.

Almost twenty years had passed without having Fidel Castro as the protagonist of my dreams, until one night he returned. This time he was no longer inside my skin but was just six feet away from me. He was surrounded by his bodyguards and his eyes met mine. That’s when, with his usual arrogant tone, he asked me: “And what was it that you had to tell me?”

As I was working through an endless stream of questions and reproaches, the Comandante suffered a slow but remarkable metamorphosis. On more than one occasion he tried to interrupt me with his index finger escaping from a threatening fist, but he could not articulate a single word and only managed to look at his increasingly diminished escort as if to ask who had allowed me to get so close.

My voice changed with each reproach and it was not me who accused him, but his victims. I spoke in the first person as those shot, those sentenced to 20 or 30 years, those stripped of their property, those excluded because of their religious beliefs or their sexual preference, the dividing up of the revolutionary flock by minimal discrepancies, those who died or suffered for following their irresponsible decisions. Sometimes I spoke as an individual, sometimes I sounded like a gigantic chorus from the distance of all the exiles or from the bottom of the sea.

In the midst of the great accusations, sometimes the spark of an apparently minor detail appeared, as when he insulted the national symbol by signing a flag that a friend took to the North Pole; his own children that he sired but refused to recognize; the promises he never fulfilled; his allergy to self-criticism; his lack of piety; the propensity to satisfy his whims at any price was necessary.

At the end of this dream episode, often repeated, he always remained alone. His clothes did not have the bright olive-green that he wore for years but the confused gray-blue of a prison uniform or the worn-out pajamas of the forgotten in an asylum. He was alone and crying, not in repentance, but in anger.

I no longer dream of him. It is not healthy. The man who taught us to hate did not take away my compassion for the defeated.

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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.

Alquízar’s Truckers Challenge the Police, Showing Them the Wording of the Law

Eduardo Ramos Suárez, owner of a Mack truck manufactured in 1956, claims that the police chief of Artemisa told him that the law pertaining to truck drivers “doesn’t work.” (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 20 November 2017 — Several impounded trucks and numerous drivers demanding respect for the law have been the results of the stiffening of police controls, in recent weeks, on the transport of agricultural products in the municipality of Alquízar, located in Artemisa province.

Around a dozen truck owners complained to 14ymedio this weekend that they had suffered harassment from the authorities, including confiscation of their merchandise and the impounding of their vehicles for several days, as punishment for transporting agricultural products to the markets that, unlike the state markets, operate on supply and demand. continue reading

For several weeks, and especially after the passage of Hurricane Irma and the subsequent problems of food shortages in several provinces, private carriers have seen an increase in police actions against them.

On the roads on the outskirts of the Artemisa towns and on the roads that lead to the city of Havana, the police presence has multiplied. “Every time they see a truck with a private license plate, they stop it to find out if it is carrying agricultural products,” says an Artemiseño driver who preferred anonymity for fear of reprisals.

When a vehicle transporting that type of merchandise is impounded, the products are diverted to the state distribution networks and the driver is fined. “They do not allow us to make a living and we have lost thousands of pesos between confiscations and the impounding of our trucks,” the source says.

In response to the police controls they label as “excessive,” private truckers in the area now travel with a copy of the Official Gazette in the glove compartment of their vehicles, so they can show it to the police in support of demands that they be allowed to transport food, vegetables, fruits and grains.

The document these drivers turn to is Decree Law No. 318, which came into force in 2013 and regulates the transport of agricultural products. This law establishes the right of owners of private trucks to enter into contracts to carry agricultural products.

In 2013 the official media said that the measure sought to “unleash the obstacles of the productive forces” and that it would allow producers and marketers to take advantage of the laws of supply and demand, once they had fulfilled their social commitments to the state.

The legislation, which was then presented by the authorities as “the definitive solution” for the problems of distribution, is not being respected in Alquizar, according to the testimony of several truckers consulted by this newspaper.

Eduardo Ramos Suárez, owner of a Mack truck manufactured in 1956, states that the police chief of Artemisa insists that “this law does not work” and the mere act of evoking it is considered by the official as demonstrating “a lack of respect.” The driver, however, claims that they have not been informed of a new regulation that repeals the provisions of Decree 318.

On the night of Tuesday, November 14, Ramos left in his truck from Alquízar heading to Pinar del Río with a shipment of yucca, taro, banana, fruit, cabbage and sweet potatoes. He was accompanied on the job by a small farmer with a self-employed worker’s license as a “selling wholesale buyer.”

A National Revolutionary Police (PNR) patrol intercepted the vehicle in the neighborhood of El Portugal, both were arrested and slept that night in the cells of Artemisa station. The merchandise was sent to the state-owned Acopio company for distribution in state markets.

Acopio has acted for decades as an intermediary between private farmers and the state. The entity buys a good part of the merchandise at prices that the producers denounce as being very low, and it is in charge of selling it in the markets managed by the state.

In addition, since the end of 2016 price caps have been applied to agricultural products, a practice that has spread throughout Artemisa and finally also been extended to Havana, Villa Clara, Cienfuegos and other provinces.

“I was treated like a criminal and to be able to leave they forced me to agree to sign in without fail every Tuesday, as if I were a dangerous criminal,” complained Ramos, who makes a monthly payment to the National Tax Office (ONAT) of 585 pesos as a tax on his activity as an independent worker.

The stop went badly for Ramos in another way as well. When the police stop a vehicle, they can hold it for two or three months during the investigation. In his case, the truck he drives is being “stored,” as of that moment, at the Alquízar Police Station.

When the police stop a vehicle, they can hold it for two or three months during the investigation. The truck that Eduardo Ramos drives is being “stored” at the Alquizar Police Station (14ymedio)

During the time the vehicles are being held, the drivers must continue to pay the fees on their carrier licenses to ONAT. “The PNR refuses to give us a paper that attests that the truck is in the station, which would mean we would not have to pay the license fee during that time,” explains Ramos.

Faced with this situation, the driver has more questions than answers. “Why, if I pay for a license to be within the law, do they prevent me from doing my job?” he protests. “It seems to me that the state is cheating me out of my money. What can I do in my country to work decently?”

Onelio González, another private transporter who has owned a 1948 Ford truck since 1978, has also denounced the situation to the inspectors of the Ministry of Transport, popularly known as “los verdes” (the greens). The officials say that the police should not keep the trucks and so avoid the owners suffering losses.

Despite the injustice they claim to be experiencing, most carriers prefer to remain anonymous to avoid further punishment. In contrast, Eduardo Ramos shows his face and does not hesitate to show this newspaper his truck, locked behind the bars of the station.

The courage of this driver may come from what he has experienced in recent years. In 2006 he left Cuba illegally from a point near the port of Mariel and after living a year and three months in the United States decided to return, also by sea.

On the other side of the Straits of Florida, he drove another Mack truck but this time in the ‘90s. “I used to go where I wanted, I paid my taxes and nobody ever messed with me,” he recalls now.

This “round-trip rafter,” who spent 35 days in the dungeons of Villa Marista – where political prisoners are kept – and almost a year in prison for returning to his own country, does not understand why it is so difficult to start a business and make his way honestly. “I’m Cuban and I want to stay here with my truck, why don’t they let me work?”

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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.

Threat of Giant African Snail Reappears in Cuba’s Official Press

On the Santa Ana farm, in the municipality of Arroyo Naranjo, residents are desperate to find a solution to the plague of African snails. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 14 November 2017 — “Have you come about the Giant African snails?” the residents of the Santa Amalia neighborhood ask any stranger who walks through their streets and seems to be looking for something.

People have become increasingly alarmed after the publication, this Sunday, of a reader’s letter sent to the Juventud Rebelde (Rebel Youth) newspaper, warning about the proliferation of the mollusk on the Santa Ana farm in the Arroyo Naranjo municipality. It is the same area where, three years ago, this newspaper uncovered, for the first time, the presence of this dangerous animal in Cuba. Shortly afterwards the official media reported that a citizen of Nigeria had introduced several of these animals to the island, presumably for religious reasons. continue reading

Over the months, the plague has been spreading across the area south of the Cuban capital, and has now reached as far as San Antonio de los Baños, Artemisa, according to several contributors to this newspaper.

This Monday, José Antonio Cruz, the author of the Letter to the Editor published in Juventud Rebelde and owner of the Santa Ana farm, spoke with 14ymedio about the alarming situation on his land, located near Grant Street, due to the invasion of the huge snails.

Dozens of these animals, with their narrow  conical reddish brown shells with vertical yellow stripes, can be seen on the trees in the courtyard, climbing up the pipes, and moving across the dry leaves of the patio.

The Achatina fulica, the scientific name of the species, is mainly herbivorous, but can also feed on the remains of dead animals, excrement and even some construction materials such as plaster. It can grow to be 8 inches long and it is one of the most harmful invasive exotic species in the world.

Cruz, an engineer with the Public Health services and a member of the Communist Party, tells this newspaper about his odyssey. His “despair, indignation and impotence as a citizen” led him to write the letter and send it “to every place where they may have in their hands the technical and material resources to stop this epidemic.”

Cruz has been living on the farm that belonged to his parents for more than 27 years. “In this place we grow flowers, fruits, root crops and vegetables, and we have to suffer seeing how the snails eat everything, avocados, guavas, mangoes and even the leaves of the malangas,” he tells this newspaper.

José Antonio Cruz’s house is in the same area where, three years ago, ’14ymedio’ uncovered the presence of the dangerous animal for the first time in Cuba. (14ymedio)

However, what worries him most is the imminent danger of an irreversible spread of the plague throughout the country.

“You have to find a solution to this problem, someone has to answer for this,” he protests. The snail, it is known, “has not yet caused any deaths, but it could happen at any time,” he warns.

This species harbors roundworms that transmit diseases such as meningoencephalitis. Children are especially in jeopardy because of their greater tendency to approach the striking animal and to ignore the risks of touching it.

In addition to transmitting parasites and bacteria, the enormous snail causes irreparable damage to the ecosystems it colonizes. It also has a great ability to adapt to varied climates and terrains. In Cuba it does not have natural predators that can curb its devouring cravings.

In the absence of official information speculation springs up, and fear spreads through ignorance. “They say it’s already in the metropolitan park of Havana, in Sancti Spíritus and in San Antonio de los Baños,” says the owner of the farm.

With the exception of Cruz’s letter, the official press has not published any update on the situation of the snail in recent months. As a rule, national newspapers only confirm the presence of a plague or an epidemic after independent media have disseminated the information.

While state guidelines and aid arrive, the inhabitants of Santa Ana farm have not remained idle. All around the house there is an true cemetery of African snails that members of the family have been killing with their own resources.

Rainold Facundo Plascencia, a resident of the area, complains that it is common for farmers to have a wounds on their hands, so they run the risk of getting poisoned if they run their fingers over a place where the snail has left its slime.

Cruz repeats that he has complained to the municipal section of the Party, Public Health, Plant Health, Epidemiology and the Ministry of Agriculture. “When I saw that there was so much apathy, I decided to write to the newspaper,” he explains.

The alternative solution that they have found to liquidate these hermaphroditic mollusks, capable of putting out up to 1,200 eggs in a year, is to sprinkle them with common salt, but it cannot be applied intensively because there is a risk of salinizing the soil.

In addition, salt is a rationed product and there are frequently shortages of it. “Finding a pound of salt is sometimes more difficult than spending a day smacking those snails,” adds a resident of Grant Street.

José Antonio Cruz believes that state institutions should be involved in the problem. “It is not possible for a person, or for a small group of farmers, to eradicate this plague, it would be necessary to fumigate the land or to apply a radical variant that is not in our hands.”

Several of those affected insist that they do not want to “turn this issue into a political problem,” because when these irregularities are pointed out there is always the risk of being misinterpreted.

Cruz shares this concern, but adds that you can’t be afraid to tell the truth. While speaking, he keeps his brow furrowed and his eyes fixed on a snail that is climbing up the trunk of a nearby tree. “A man who does not say what he thinks is not an honest man,” he says, paraphrasing José Martí.

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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.

Self-Employed Workers In Cuba Show Little Enthusiasm For Bank Loans

Gustavo Romero, self-employed, offers pizzas in a narrow wooden bar that he financed with a family loan. (Alex S.)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 31 October 2017 — Gustavo Romero’s grandfather opened a hardware store in Cuba in the 1950s and a decade later it was confiscated during the “Revolutionary Offensive.” The old Canary Islander lost all his merchandise, but he had protected the cash under his mattress. A lesson that his grandson remembers now that he is working for himself.

“The bank is the last place I would go to save or ask for money,” says the small businessman, who runs a café in Centro Habana. In his case, as in that of so many entrepreneurs, distrust of banking institutions is like a gene that is passed down from generation to generation. continue reading

Despite the fact that in November 2011 a new bank credit policy was implemented in Cuba to support the private sector, entrepreneurs have made little use of this alternative and the amounts they have requested remains low, as demonstrated by a recent investigation by economist Jorge Ignacio Guillén published in the magazine Convivencia.

As of December 2016, fewer than 7% of the self-employed licensed in the country had received financing through bank loans; of the money that banks have in their loan portfolios, only 2.1% had been allocated to support the private sector.

On the other hand, the largest portion of the resource pie available in these portfolios had gone to financing the State budget, to state companies and to individuals who request loans to support self-managed home construction/repairs and to acquire kitchen equipment.

The lack of enthusiasm of small entrepreneurs for bank loans was reflected in statements made two years ago by the vice president of the Central Bank of Cuba, Francisco Mayobre Lence, who acknowledged that the number of “self-employed workers” who had taken out lines of credit was not yet “representative of the total registered in the country.”

The official expected these numbers to grow thanks to the creation of a new type of loan for amounts up to 10,000 Cuban pesos (400 dollars) without the need to present economic guarantees or a guarantor to the Banco Popular de Ahorro (People’s Savings Bank), which operates throughout the country except in Havana. However, the increase in applications has not appeared.

Share of Cuba’s self-employed who have taken out bank loans. (14ymedio)

In the case of Gustavo Romero, the initial investment for his pizza stand was $500 USD that a brother sent him from Pennsylvania, he tells 14ymedio, a type of credit common among the self-employed who prefer to appeal to family or friendship ties before they knock on the door of a bank.

Many local entrepreneurs keep their earnings or the amount to start a new business under the bed or in a drawer, according to the results of a thousand interviews conducted by Guillén. More than 70% of self-employed persons interviewed for the study rejected the option of keeping their cash in a bank and more than 85% have never applied for a loan.

The measures promoted by the government more than six years ago for these self-employed to access sources of financing show alarming results, according to the young economist, “both in terms of regulations and in the practice of loans to self-employed workers.”

In a country where, for decades, citizens hid their resources from public view to avoid being branded as “rolling in it,” “hoarders” or “bourgeois,” it is still taboo to talk frankly with banks and see them as allies in some business, especially because there is no private banking in Cuba, rather the entire system of savings accounts, loans and pensions is managed by the state. The connection between the Bank, the State, the Ministry of the Interior and the Office of the Comptroller of the Republic is a recurrent association when it comes to putting money in a safe place or requesting a loan to start a business.

The guarantees that the applicant must offer also complicate the process. The bank only accepts assets such as vacation homes, automobiles, jewelry, works of art or bank deposits of the would-be borrower and third parties. Resources that in many cases are out of reach of a self-employed person who lives day-to-day and seeks a loan just to “get out of the hole.”

Current regulations do not even clearly specify how the bank should proceed with these assets in the case of non-payment. There is no defined and public protocol for the institution to sell, exchange, occupy or confiscate the property identified as collateral.

Not do those who decide to start a business have it easy. The banks only provide loans to those who are already working as self-employed, hence the initial capital of most of the ventures comes from remittances received from abroad, personal savings and other types of informal financing.

A growing phenomenon is black market lenders, formerly thugs, one of the emblematic figures of the capitalist past, “who were swept away by the Revolution” and now resurface before the need for resources to start any small business.

Among the bureaucratic obstacles to obtaining a loan there is also ignorance. An opinion held by Niclaus Bergmann, general director of the German Foundation for Savings Banks, based in Bonn, which collaborates with several Cuban banking entities, such as Banco Popular de Ahorro (BPA) and Banco Central de Cuba.

Banks lack experience in the granting loans and methods for assessing the solvency of the ventures. “Therefore, a component of cooperation” between the German Foundation and its counterpart on the island is focused on teaching “how to make business decisions and judge when investments are sensible,” says Bergmann.

The collaboration paid off in the creation of a Business Unit in the city of Trinidad on an experimental basis, which shortens the deadlines for the delivery of loans and tries to eliminate the suspicions that remain among the self-employed in their relations with banking institutions.

A couple hundred miles away from this historical town, Gustavo Romero offers pizzas in a narrow wooden bar that he financed with a family loan. Under the mattress of his bed, like his Canarian grandfather, he keeps his earnings and the money that one day he will return to the brother who helped him to open his business.

The Other Diversity

A diversity of candidates in Cuba is not evident in the always-unanimous voting pattern in the National Assembly. (MINREX)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 26 October 2017 — On the eve of the People’s Power elections in Cuba, the issue of representation in municipal, provincial and national bodies has again come to life, this time in an interview in Cubadebate with Gisela María Duarte Vázquez, president of the National Candidacy Commission.

The official insists that diversity among the representatives of the people is guaranteed by the appropriate proportion in the number of men and women, young people, students, workers, farmers, technicians, professionals, those engaged in more significant economic activities, state and non-state workers.” continue reading

This range of genres, ages and activities – together with an unmentioned intention to achieve a racial balance and a more or less equitable territorial distribution – forms a mural that represents the population of the country but with a common denominator: identification with the politics outlined by the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC).

The president of the Candidacy Commission does not present it so directly, but refers to several of the catchphrases that reflect the PCC line, such as “commitment to the Revolution,” “commitment to the people,” or “the concept of Revolution that Fidel bequeathed us.”

One of the most widespread criticisms of the current Electoral Law is precisely the existence of these commissions that should guarantee the representativeness of the people in the different People’s Power Assemblies, from the local level up to the national level, but that do not consider the diversity of political opinions.

Duarte Vázquez explained that in the process of preparing the lists of candidates, “as much as possible, we consult the opinions of as many institutions, organizations and workplaces as are necessary, as well as the opinions of the delegates to the Municipal Assemblies of People’s Power.”

This consultation does not exclude information that may also be provided by the organs of State Security and the opinions of the ever-vigilant Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR).

The main argument put forward by the Candidacy Commission is, according to the president, that the system “does away with every kind of stage for conflict, competition and politicking and promotes merit, capacity and commitment to the people” as the elements to consider.

The confusion between “politicking” and politics has its roots in the republican past and refers to the murky maneuvers, frauds, and unfulfilled promises of unscrupulous characters of the last century who exchanged their votes for hospital beds and even enrolled the deceased on the voter lists.

What no one can explain is, why it is that the voters are not allowed to know the platforms of their candidates and must vote for someone without knowing how they will act in Parliament when they become a deputy.

Examples include such controversial issues as the solution to the dual monetary system, the approval of same-sex marriage, the acceptance of small and medium-sized enterprises, the definitive abolition of the death penalty or the end of immigration restrictions, which oblige Cubans residing abroad to update their Cuban passports on a regular basis, even if they have adopted another nationality.

Hypothetically, at least two lists of candidates with equal diversity in the areas of race, sex, age or occupation could be formed in parallel, and with the same social merits, but that would vote differently in these matters.

The function of a parliament is to subject proposals to discussion and to vote for proposals whose essential differences are of a political nature. When a Candidacy Commission annuls diversity of opinions or ignores them, the possibility of political opinions ascending from the people to the powers-that-be through the democratic vote is lost.

It doesn’t matter if they are excellent workers, great students, good parents and better children; equity between men and women and between old and young is useless if the balance between political tendencies can not be measured, resulting not only from the successful or unsuccessful outcome of governmental decisions but also from the many existing ideological currents in the world.

When Cuba has a new electoral law the first thing that must disappear is this Candidacy Commission. The difficulty is that in order for voters to find out how their candidates think, they would have to enjoy sufficient freedom of expression to make their approaches known, and also enjoy freedom of association in order to agree on proposals.

Cuba’s Ruling Party Looks With Relief on China’s Communist Party Congress

The Cuban government sees a reliable ally in China, whose present Congress is a sign of continuity and stability. (EFE / How Hwee Young)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 18 October 2017 — When the 19th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, with its hammer and sickle as the dominant element in the decor, opened in the Great Hall of Peking in Beijing, the Cuban government breathed a sigh of relief. Havana is betting that the partisan meeting guarantees the continuity of the system in the Asian giant and puts the power of the United States against the ropes.

Raul Castro’s government needs the Chinese Party’s conclave to consolidate Beijing’s leading role internationally and for “the Chinese solution” to renew the air of the communist utopia in the face of the “advance of neoliberalism.” The motto of Chinese President Xi Jinping, “a modestly affluent society,” is reflected in the version here of “a prosperous and sustainable socialism.” continue reading

With these expectations, national orthodoxy felt at ease with the opening speech of Xi Jinping, who proclaimed to 2,300 delegates that in the next five years they will continue the same policies as in his first five-year term, although more markedly so, and that there will be no space for divergence.

This last point is reassuring to the island’s Government, which has copied many of the Chinese repressive methods, especially those related to internet control, censorship of digital sites, and creating a large army of cyber cops to control or influence the opinions of the internauts.

The island’s government has copied many of China’s repressive methods, such as internet control, digital censorship, and creating a large army of cybercops

However, the most important thing for the Cuban Communist Party is to be able to count on its Chinese counterpart amid a changing international landscape, looking ahead to Raul Castro’s pending departure from the presidency this coming February. Donald Trump’s arrival in the White House, and his backtracking in the diplomatic thaw between both nations, also forces looking in another direction, especially with a Venezuela that every day sinks more deeply into economic problems and political volatility.

The stable ally is China, whose present Congress is a sign of continuity and stability, a power far enough away not to pose a threat to sovereignty and ready to speak up for Havana in international forums. It is a country that ventures to sign economic agreements with the island, though without the magnanimous generosity of the former Soviet Union.

The current relationship between the two regimes is marked by a certain amount of amnesia that makes them forget that years ago the Chinese were not seen in these parts as allies, but as a danger to the cause of communism. Today’s friends were rejected until very recently.

In early 1965, Fidel Castro denounced the distribution of political propaganda by the embassy of the People’s Republic of China among high commanders of the Armed Forces and, a few months later, the Cuban leader ranted against the Asian nation over the decline in its rice sales to the Island.

In 1977, Castro said in an interview with CNN that Mao Zedong “destroyed with his feet what he had created with his head over many years,” an act that “one day the people of China and the Communist Party of China will have to recognize,” he predicted.

After decades of estrangement in the relationship, Havana and Beijing again approached each other in 1989

After decades of estrangement in the relationship, Havana and Beijing again approached each other in 1989 and six years later Fidel Castro made his first state visit to China. References to the disagreements were erased from official books and publications.

Nowadays it is difficult to find in any library one of those manuals prepared by the Communist Party of Cuba in which it called Maoism a “counterrevolutionary current.” The Soviet-produced documentary titled The Long Night Over China has also conveniently gone out of circulation.

This week, when several Chinese-language students approached the Chinese embassy to request published documents about the XIX Congress, they were not even invited in. They were just told that they should make an appointment in advance. In addition to that incident, ordinary Cubans have hardly raised their expectations of what will come out of the Congress in Beijing.

In general, Cubans are convinced that the Chinese wall will not collapse like the Berlin Wall and that the reforms brought about by the current congress will not bring democracy to that country. For its part, the Plaza of the Revolution knows that the island will not have an ally like the Soviet Union, but Raul Castro is relieved to confirm that he is not alone on the planet.

Crime or Combat? The Death of Che

Ernesto Guevara shortly before his death in La Higuera, Bolivia, in 1967. (DR)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 5 October 2017 — Half a century after the death of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, the official narrative of what happened on October 9, 1967 in La Higuera, Bolivia has significantly changed.

After repeating for decades that Che was murdered in a school in that South American country, the Communist Party’s propaganda media, and in particular the official Party newspaper Granma, have rebaptized the event “The fall in combat of the Heroic Guerrilla.”

The variation is no small thing if one takes into account that dying during an armed confrontation, in addition to having a more heroic character, implies that the deceased was not a victim, but an active participant in a conflict. At the stroke of a pen, government propaganda has opted to discard the version of a crime and highlight the military epic, thus withdrawing blame from those who ordered the trigger to be pulled. continue reading

Had he not died in those bellicose circumstances, Guevara might have celebrated his status as a nonagenarian on June 14, although others say that he was actually born on May 14. Like every human being turned into myth, his biography is plagued with contradictions and dark areas, controversies and half truths. Even the dates of his arrival and departure from this world are under discussion.

Perhaps if he not died in La Higuera, the Argentine would have ended his days in the boring offices of some ministry or would have been ousted from power in one of the purges that took place over the last half a century. In any case there would not be so many legends about his life today, nor would any films have been made idealizing or stigmatizing it.

Without those rifle shots fired at 1:10 pm in that small classroom, the man in that emblematic photo where he is seen with long hair and a gaze lost in the distance would not have become a twentieth century icon. He would not fill the shelves of the souvenir shops or stare out from the shirts of so many young people.

With slight variations, all accounts agree that on October 8, 1967 Guevara was captured and one day later, without having been subjected to a judicial process, he lost his life at the hands of a Bolivian soldier who carried out the orders of his Government. He was unarmed and wounded.

Other versions directly or indirectly blame the CIA, especially the Cuban Félix Rodríguez, alias El Gato.

At the Summit of the Americas held in Panama in April 2015, Cuban official media reported that Rodríguez was there to meet with some of the island’s opponents who attended the event. Among other insults from the ‘shock troops’ organized by the Plaza of the Revolution at the Summit, Cuba’s human rights activists were accused of having traveled there “to embrace Che’s murderer.” Now this individual appears to have been exonerated from homicide by the grace of the pro-government press.

Cuba continues to insist on commemorating the death of Guevara on October 8, as Fidel Castro mentioned in the first official information about his death. That is the reason why this Sunday a common program with symphonic works, poems and songs will be presented in several concert halls of the country.

In the city of Santa Clara, where the memorial is located with the remains of the other Cubans who fell in the guerrilla war in Bolivia, recalling the date will be the central act. None of those present will dare to question the significant change in the official version of events surrounding the anniversary.

Chronicle Of A Failed Nomination

Roberto Santana Capdesuñer, independent candidate from Holguín. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 26 September 2017 — Located between two bays, the Holguin municipality of Antilla is among the smallest of Cuba. In District 3, young Roberto Miguel Santana Capdesuñer aspired to be a delegate at the Nominating Candidates Assembly, but a mixture of chance and likely bad intention prevented it.

Santana, 27, has been collaborating for two years with the platform #Otro18 (Another 2018) and has become coordinator of the initiative in the provinces of Granma and Holguín. In order to make a living, he obtained a license as a food seller, but the inspectors pursued him with the fines until they made his “life impossible.”

He then got a job at a state-run restaurant where he kept the accounts. However, they soon dismissed him on the grounds that he was not reliable because he was not revolutionary. Fed up with feeling segregated for not sharing the ideology of power, he decided to throw himself into activism. continue reading

Santana talks about the situation of his town with the same pain that he would recount his personal sufferings. “Our main problems are housing, food and lack of medications. In our pharmacy there is a list of 120 drugs which are missing,” he says.

The port of Antilla, which previously gave life to the place, is no longer operating and there is only one tobacco factory and a corn mill.

Like most Cubans linked to the political opposition, Santana has been the subject of police citations, arbitrary arrests, searches of the house where he lives, confiscation of his belongings, interrogations and, above all, a systematic campaign to discredit him.

Along with the risks, his attitude has also placed him in a leadership position among his neighbors. “Many people come to tell me their problems because they see in me an alternative, something different and that fills me with satisfaction,” he tells this newspaper. “There are more people who put their trust in me than those who see me as an enemy.”

In the current electoral process, the Nominating Assembly of his area was scheduled for September 7, but was suspended without fixing a new date due to Hurricane Irma. After a few days, the nomination process began again throughout the municipality, with the exception of District 3 where the activist resides.

Santana recalls that on Monday, September 18, he was advised that they could see his daughter at the pediatric hospital in Holguín. That same night he went there with his little four-year-old Lauren, and she was immediately admitted, he says.

The haste to hospitalize her came as a surprise to Santana, who on other occasions found that “there is a long wait for that.” At seven o’clock the next day he received an urgent call to inform him that the people in charge of calling the meeting were telling the voters that the Assembly would be held in an hour.

Trapped in the provincial capital, two hours from his village, the aspiring delegate saw his candidacy dissolve. The neighbors who were in a position to propose him thought that his absence was a sign that he had given up standing for election. The work he had done for more than two years and waiting for that moment came to nothing.

He later learned that no citation to come to the meeting was delivered to his mother-in-law’s house where he lives with his wife. “At that time there was no transport between Holguín and Antilla and even if I had had a car of my own it would have taken two hours to get there,” Santana laments.

Of the 200 voters in the district only 70 participated in the Assembly, according to what several residents told 14ymedio. An irregularity that contradicts the electoral rules, which require that “the massive presence of the voters of the area be verified beforehand,” before the meeting begins.

“They took advantage of the fact that I was facing a family problem to call the meeting just one hour ahead of time,” claims the activist. In his mind, the idea that State Security was behind such haste took shape. “It was unethical, a real trick,” he said.

Contingency and arbitrariness conspired against Santana that night to prevent his being chosen as a different delegate. “Not like others who want to serve as puppets to the government, sheltered behind the wall of the Communist Party, but as a counterpart in favor of the people of the neighborhood,” comments the frustrated candidate.

For the moment and under the current Electoral Law, the young activist will have to wait at least two and a half more years to try again.

The Intellectual and Power, More Than an Epistolary Relationship

’Love Letters to Stalin’, by Juan Mayorga, is being performed at the Argos Theater in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 25 September 2017 — When leaving the Argos Theater after the performance of Love Letters to Stalin, a good part of the audience needs to shake their heads. Like someone waking from a nightmare, there will be those who, for long minutes, fear that the monsters from the dream might appear around the next corner.

The play, with the original text by Spaniard Juan Mayorga, brings to the stage the drama experienced by the writer Mikhail Bulgakov (born Kiev, 1891) given his tense relationship with the Soviet Government. The author of novels such as The White Guard became known on the Island thanks to his book The Master and Margarita (1926), which could only be published 26 years after his death.

The piece, directed by Abel González Melo, tackles the thorny issue of the interaction between intellectuals and power, a bond that is stretched thin when rulers exercise strict censorship and the freedom of the artist is mired in the marshes of politics. continue reading

Although complacent art, which sings praises to tyrants, rarely survives the fall of dictatorships, the script suggests that the irreverent pay a high personal and editorial cost to transcend the sterilizing whims of power. In the words of the protagonist in Love Letters to Stalin: “An artist who is silent is not a real artist … How can I write songs to a country that for me is like a prison?”

In the small theater on Ayestaran Street the audience watches the scenes in which Bulgakov writes letters to the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin (1879-1953) denouncing that performances of the play The Purple Island have been prohibited. The writer also complains that the play The Days of the Turbins was barred and that Zoe’s Apartment was removed from the listings.

“I do not have the courage to live in a country where I can neither represent nor publish my works. I am writing to you so that you will return to me my freedom as a writer or expel me from the Soviet Union with my wife,” he cries in his letter.

According to Bulgakov’s biographers, Stalin responded to this letter in 1930 with a telephone call. In the scene in which the sound of the ringing phone is heard, the actor Alberto Corona – who represents the writer – jumps for joy and embraces his wife, played by Liliana Lam. Full of glee he shouts: “Comrade Stalin has called me!”

Desperation leads Bulgakov to the delirium of imagining, standing in his living room, the unmistakable figure of the dictator, who is given life by the actor Pancho Garcia, winner of the 2012 National Theater Award. (14ymedio)

However, the communication remains unfinished due to technical problems at the moment when Stalin was about to schedule a personal encounter with the artist. From that moment, the novelist and playwright does nothing more than write new missives and stay home waiting for the phone to ring again. “All I have written is a child’s play if I compare it with a letter to Stalin,” he says.

Desperation leads Bulgakov to the delirium of imagining that he sees, standing in the middle of his living room, the unmistakable figure of the dictator, brought to life by the actor Pancho Garcia, winner of the 2012 National Theater Award.

The specter of Stalin that dialogues with the writer is not only that iron man who orders the death of his fellow combatants, but also the magnanimous chief who feels “surrounded by the incompetent” and who wishes to sit down and converse with an uncomfortable intellectual to hear his views about the future of the country.

A Stalin who, at the same time, shows his darker side. A rogue who “has almost driven our friend Zamiatin crazy, and has succeeded in getting Maiakosvki to commit suicide,” says Bulgakov. The innocent idealization of that Stalin also represents the writer’s last hope of becoming accepted without having to give up himself.

The need to prove that he is not on the side of enemies, his love of the country where his writing is nourished, and growing unease because his work is pushed aside, weave the fall of the Russian writer. A descent into the abyss of ostracism, from which only a pact with the censor could save him.

“I suspect that in Cuba in 2017, some of his phrases and situations will be heard and observed as they have not been anywhere else,” said the author, Juan Mayorga. Comparisons between that USSR and a Cuba where, for years, critical authors were penalized with an exclusion from the catalogs of published books, a ban on travel and the execution of their reputations.

The staging of Love Letters to Stalin in a theater in Havana reopens the debate on the consequences of decades of censorship and control over cultural production and over the island’s intellectuals. From Fidel Castro’s Words to the Intellectuals, to the arrest of graffiti artist Danilo Maldonado, all the stories of exclusion or submission of an artist parade in the minds of the spectators.

Thus, Bulgakov becomes at times Virgilio Piñera, Heberto Padilla and Maria Elena Cruz Varela. For moments he also longed to be closer to the authorities and enjoy the status of a novelist pampered by institutions, in the style of Manuel Cofiño, Miguel Barnet or Abel Prieto. Only to finally discover in his own experience that authoritarians do not seek writers but propagandists; they prefer slogans over literature.

Aimara Peña: “I want to hear what the citizens have to say”

Aimara Peña, a spiritual activist who will stand as a candidate for the elections. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana 16 September 2017 — Aimara Peña was a little over 16 when she enrolled in a degree to qualify as a primary school teacher, but in the last semester of the course she was expelled from the Pedagogical University of Sancti Spiritus for her incipient political activism.

Now, the young woman seeks to represent her constituency as a delegate to the People’s Power. To achieve this, she will have to be proposed at one of the nomination meetings for candidates in the Las Pozas community, where she lives with her husband and two children, aged four and nine.

Peña has extensive experience in the reporting of human rights violations, the exercise of citizen journalism and work as an independent librarian. Works that have allowed her to know the exigencies of her neighbors. continue reading

Six kilometers from the provincial capital, Las Pozas, with 2,000 in habitants, has bus service only until six in the afternoon and lacks private carriers to alleviate the situation. The activist intends to seek a solution to this problem if she is elected.

Aimara Peña joined the Network of Electoral Facilitators whose main purpose is to ensure that citizens – ones with the will to represent the true interests of the population – occupy positions in these basic structures of People’s Power.

“The idea of ​​being a delegate always appealed to me,” explains the young woman who, at just 27, decided to run “to show that the work we do as activists is completely legal.”

With her attitude she also wants to motivate those people whom she energized to participate in the electoral process. “They are afraid and some are also undecided, so I wanted to set the example.”

The spiritual activist is dedicated “to listening to everything citizens have to say.” She believes that “at present the functions of the delegates are very limited despite being public figures in direct contact with the population and the only one that Cubans elect [directly].”

Peña is convinced that his main duty “is to help make the role of the district delegate a truly important one.” Until now the authorities use it as a channel to transmit information to the people but the delegate must work to “demand from the government what the people want,” she explains. “We have to start reversing that equation.”

Peña knows what she is facing. Although she has not received direct threats so far, not even an “unofficial visit,” she has received signals that the Party and Government organs are trying to deal with her candidacy by spreading negative rumors about her.

Something that does not kill her dream: “I think I have all the qualifications to present myself, and at least until now they have respected that, I hope that during the assembly, which still has no fixed date, things continue as before.”

In the Nominating Assembly, voters will have vote by an open show of hands and the fear of reprisals can have a negative effect.

“To some extent, many people close to me feel a little fear, because this is a decision that also involves the family, but my parents and my husband support me, they have been a pillar to strengthen me,” says the enthusiastic young woman.

If, in addition to being proposed, she manages to get the majority of hands to raise for her in that assembly, the name of Peña will appear on a ballot. Her photo and biographical data will be displayed in the same electoral district where a ballot box will collect the sentiment of the 754 voters of Pozas’s District 23.

“A lot of people will be afraid to raise their hands in my favor in the assembly, but once that barrier is overcome, the chances will be greater with the secret ballot.” She doesn’t doubt that if her name reaches the secret ballot in the next round her neighbors will vote for her. “All this, what I have been working for so long, will bear fruit,” she said.

The Strength That Weakens Us

Line to buy unrationed bread after the passage of Hurricane Irma through Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 14 September 2017 — The passage of the devastating Hurricane Irma along the northern coast of Cuba and the subsequent recovery process have underscored the strength of a powerful state and the fragility of a deprived citizenry.

In each of the 14 provinces affected, from Guantanamo to Artemisa, substantial resources were mobilized almost immediately to restore power and communication networks, to reopen blocked roads and to collect solid waste. Following the order issued from the highest governmental body, priorities were established to restore the accommodation capacity of affected tourist centers and to make hospitals and schools fully operational.

Inside the thousands of houses hit by the fury of the winds or flooded by the penetrations of the sea, the drama unfolds at a different speed. In each of them, insignificant in appearance, are the possessions treasured by a housewife in her kitchen, clothing, mattresses, old furniture inherited from ancestors, appliances, and a long list of personal belongings, acquired through unimaginable sacrifice; everything that was once irreplaceable, has suddenly become unrecoverable. continue reading

The almighty state presents itself as generous with what it considers essential, so it “advanced” the monthly quota for the rationed market and sells food “at reasonable prices” in the most vulnerable areas. But speaking in legal terms, the state “does not know” what the citizens obtain through the intricate roads of the black market, nor is it aware of the backpack sent by a relative in Miami, shoes bought in the hard currency market, the television delivered by a mule who traveled from Panama or the computer sold by a neighbor before leaving the country.

Many losses cannot even be declared because of the fear of becoming a confessed recipient of goods acquired by illegal means.

Another aspect that emphasizes the fragility of those affected is the huge difference between the real cost and the legal price of the properties. What the buyer paid for a house or car can be 2000% higher than the value officially recorded for it, so that when quantifying the total damage or destruction, the true damage caused to the victim is never reflected.

In a nation of the dispossessed, the resilience of individuals and families affected by natural disasters depends on what the all-owning state assigns to everyone under the rules of distribution imposed by egalitarianism.

Those who, by one means or another, have achieved economic empowerment do not have a guarantee that assures them prompt reparations for the damages. This emerging middle class, which rose after Raul Castro’s timid reforms, is marked by the concept of self-sufficiency, which means that everyone must face the risks of entrepreneurship as best they can by themselves.

It will soon be reported that the hotels in the keys are even better than they were before Irma passed through, that air-conditioned buses filled with foreigners are already circulating along the causeways, and that all the airports are in service. What will never be known is how many snack bars, repair shops, restaurants and privately rented homes have disappeared.

The power of the state should not rest on the fragility of its citizens.

The New Electoral Guardians

A woman participating in the municipal elections in Cuba is saluted by two schoolchildren as she deposits her ballot. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 4 September 2017 — The Cuban elections have several publicized trademarks, among them the presence of children dressed in the school uniform to guard the polls. These Pioneers* confirm with a salute when the voter deposits their vote, in contrast to the armed soldiers who in the Republican past prevented the theft of the ballot boxes.

For four decades, the presence of these Pioneers has become a favored image of photographers and a symbolic gesture, in its double meaning of a signature act or uselessness. It is clear that no one is going to manipulate the ballots since all the legitimized candidates represent the interests of the only permitted party. continue reading

This September 4 is the first step in a process that will end on February 24, 2018, when Cuban citizens will find out who has been designated to fill the seats of the Council of State, particularly its president. This Monday the process starts as a “pilot experience” in a single constituency of each of the country’s 168 municipalities. Voting will take place in the other constituencies during the month of September.

The Government is concerned that these candidate nominating assemblies will allow an unwelcome candidate to make it through. Not only do they fear an opponent who belongs to an anti-government organization, but in a secluded district someone might appear who has the reputation of not applauding with sufficient enthusiasm.

To prevent such a thing from happening, the allegorical appeal of the Pioneers as guardians of the ballot boxes is of little use. With plenty of time in advance, a harsh-demeanored seguroso—State Security agent—will have visited anyone who intends to run independently.

It will not be necessary to show the ‘instruments’ to the nonconforming, it will be enough to warn of the fatal consequences that such daring might bring. Someone will remind them that they have a grandparent admitted to the hospital, a child who hopes to be a college student some day, a brother who is applying for a license to be self-employed, or a pig that fattens in their yard without permission.

If the threats do not take effect and the disobedient show up to be proposed in the nomination assembly, the work will be finished by the militants of the zone’s Party nucleus, who will have been schooled in the darkest corners of the biographies of the intrepid candidates.

Without modesty or shame they will point out some baseness such as “if he has been unfaithful to his partner, how can he be expected to be loyal to his constituents”; or mention that he buys on the black market or never shows up to perform voluntary work. Finally, the duly warned participants will be asked by a public show of hands whether the discredited aspirant will be nominated as a candidate.

On this occasion a new resource will come into play. The youth brigades of the 9th Congress of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) have programmed their agenda of activities precisely during the time period in which the nominating assemblies are held.

The initiative, which aims to carry out volunteer work and tour historical sites in tribute to the great CDR event, counts among its efforts “to support the assemblies where the people propose their candidates,” and everyone knows what this means. As Red Guards they will be watching over the purity of the proposed from the very genesis of the process.

The ballots will only bear the names of the most obedient and when the time comes to deposit them in the polls, the innocent Pioneers will have nothing to worry about.

Translator’s note: Cuban children are initiated into the Communist Party’s Pioneer movement in early elementary school and continue until adolescence, when they are expected to join the Young Communist League. The Pioneer’s motto, shouted by the children at school assemblies, is “Pioneers for communism: We will be like Che!”

Miguel Díaz-Canel Commits An Electoral Crime

Banner: (…) It is necessary that these elections be superior to all others. It is necessary that these elections show what the Revolution is, and the strength of the Revolution (…) We All Vote! (Yusmila Reyna / Twitter)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 28 August 2017 — A video posted on social networks shows the first vice president, Miguel Diaz-Canel, concerned that critical activists with the Communist Party (PCC) will become candidates in the next elections. The “favored youngest son” of the power elite does not hesitate to propose actions to block the opposition candidates, thus committing a crime under the current electoral law.

The official alludes to six projects that are running “counterrevolutionary people as candidates for People’s Power delegates.” If the dissidents “become delegates, they will reach the Municipal Assembly and could reach the Provincial Assembly,” he warns. If they enter Parliament “it would be a way of legitimizing the counterrevolution within our civil society.” continue reading

Not satisfied with these assertions, Diaz-Canel insists on violating the law that regulates elections in the country, confessing to his audience, made up of cadres of the PCC, that “we are now taking every possible step to discredit this, so that people sense there is a risk. ”

The “favored youngest son” of the power elite does not hesitate to propose actions to block the opposition candidates, thus committing a crime under the current electoral law

Coincidentally, last Thursday the newspaper Granma reported on the actions that are considered crimes against the process. Among them is to violate article 171 of the legislation, which states that “every elector will only take into account, in order to determine which candidate he will cast his vote in favor of, the candidate’s personal circumstances, prestige, and ability to serve the people.”

The rules in force are strict: “The propaganda that will be offered will be the dissemination of the biographies, accompanied by reproductions of the image of the candidates.” No individual or organization is entitled to add details about any programs they support, their political tendencies, or any other publicity, to these few elements.*

The ruling party also insists that the party does not nominate any candidate, an assertion that has just been denied by Diaz-Canel when he reveals that the organization will discredit opponents or, and it’s the same thing, will post negative propaganda against them and boycott their candidacy.

The absence of electoral campaigns has been offered up years by the Government as one of the basic principles that differentiates the Cuban electoral process — which is “alien, in principle, to all forms of opportunism, demagogy and politicking” — from contemporary international political practice.

Behind the scenes there are other powerful forces: intimidation of the electorate, vigilance of State Security and tight monitoring by the Party

Beyond Cuba’s borders, campaigns of this type are based on two essential components: highlighting a candidate’s values ​​and discrediting political opponents. Unfortunately, on too many occasions the competition between programs takes second place, while personal attacks and insults prevail, intended to insure that “people have a perception of risk” of what would happen if the candidate being attacked is elected to a public position.

On the island, the Popular Power elections are presented as the upper echelon in democracy as they do not appeal to clashes between antagonists, television debates and advertising paraphernalia. However, behind the scenes there are other powerful forces: intimidation of the electorate, vigilance of State Security and tight monitoring by the Party.

Many citizens dreamed that the upcoming elections, which will end with Raul Castro’s farewell to the presidency, would be governed by a new electoral law that would allow election campaigns between different parties. Rather than relying on such changes to be driven by the powers-that-be, initiatives like #Otro18 (Another 2018) and Candidates for Change set out to promote them from the bottom up.

The fear of losing political control has, however, prevented such transformations and has led Diaz-Canel to commit an electoral crime. It is paradoxical that what the current law considers an infraction is what opponents are demanding be included in a future electoral law: the ability to run a political campaign, to present proposals, and to publicly discredit the adversary.

*Translator’s note: Briefly, election campaigning is illegal in Cuba. Candidate biographies are drafted by the Communist Party and posted, with the candidate’s photo, on a single sheet of paper in a window in the candidate’s district. In the rare instance of a candidate not approved by the party making it through the first round, the official biography will make assertions along the lines of “the candidate is a counterrevolutionary who accepts funds from foreign sources.” An example of such a biography can be seen here.

License to Kill

Several young people remain beside the remains of a vehicle, at the scene of the attack last Thursday on Barcelona’s La Rambla. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 21 August 2017 — The most complex ethical dilemma facing a human being is to make the decision to die or to kill. Faced with this conflict, there are those who justify themselves by arguing that only by taking a life can they defend their family, their patrimony, the sovereignty of a nation, ideological principles or religious beliefs.

The terrorist attacks of the recent years have been committed mostly by Islamic fundamentalist groups convinced that “the infidels” should be eliminated wherever they are. The perpetrators of these acts are willing to sacrifice themselves to the cry of “Allah is great” as they leave a trail of civilian casualties.

There is no novelty in these hate crimes. In Spain itself, where last week a truck hit dozens of people, more than half a century ago Republicans shot the priests and the Falangists killed the poet Federico García Lorca, accused of being a communist and a homosexual. In 2004, in a single day, on 11 March, terrorists killed 193 passengers on four trains in Madrid. continue reading

The revulsion in the face of the attack on Barcelona’s La Rambla now becomes energetic but not unanimous, because revolutionaries find it hard to condemn such actions. The reason for this timidity is simple: Marxist ideology is based on the philosophical principle that the elimination of the opposition — by means of violent action — is the only formula for solving an antagonistic contradiction.

In his well-known Message to the Peoples of the World, published in April 1967 in the journal Tricontinental, Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara defined in a radical way the sentiment that should accompany every revolutionary soldier: “Hatred as an element of the struggle; a relentless hatred of the enemy, impelling us over and beyond the natural limitations that man is heir to and transforming him into an effective, violent, selective and cold killing machine.”

As if he is advising the jihadists of today, the guerrilla concluded his recommendation warning, “We must carry the war into every corner the enemy happens to carry it: to his home, to his centers of entertainment; a total war.” A phrase that fits with the scene of the pedestrians who were walking along, last Thursday, on the Paseo Marítimo in Cambrils, unaware that the terrorists were preparing to turn their stroll into tragedy.

Revolutionary morality justifies murder and can be used by members of any political or religious sect. There is no difference between killing in the name of social justice, the supremacy of a race, or the imposition of a faith. Hate is intrinsic to the Marxist dialectic because, in the face of the “other,” the position that promotes this ideology does not come to accept it, but to annihilate it. Where the two do not fit, the solution is not to enlarge the space but to eliminate the excess.

Revolutionaries suspect that if they renounce this maxim they will lose the power they obtained by force, and that by showing themselves too tolerant they weaken their authority. A guerrilla, although disguised in the suit and tie of a statesman, knows that he cannot undermine the legitimacy of the armed struggle or violent acts, because they are part of his ideological DNA, they are in each of the chromosomes of his political actions.

These radicals, once they have society under control, undertake another form of extermination against their political opponents. They cut off their economic autonomy, prohibit their free association through laws, prevent them from expressing themselves in the media, and enact laws that penalize their disagreement. They are socially murdered.

The attempt to impose a single religion is similar to that of implementing the doctrine of a single party. In both cases, the promoters of fundamentalism are willing to denigrate, silence and kill “the infidels.”