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

“Cuba Speaks Up” For the Nation / Rosa Maria Rodriguez

Rosa Maria Rodriguez, 3 March 2015 — The Civic Project “Cuba Speaks Up” is a reality. On February 19th we completed the pilot phase of the survey entitled Doxa and we are already starting the final field work. This study, for us as much consultative and participatory as observational—as usual with polls—will give us the measure of the state of opinion in a diverse segment of the population in relation to various topics of interest, and with the results we will develop a sociopolitical program more democratic, authentically representing citizens and largely supported by the popular will. Continue reading

Busy Taking a Survey: The Reason for My Absence / Rosa Maria Rodriguez

Rosa Maria Rodriguez Torrado, 13 May 2015 — The last few months my energies have been spent doing face-to-face surveys in the streets along with other members of the Cuban Democratic Project. As I mentioned, I have been busily involved with Cuba Opina (Cuba Believes), which is ready to release the results of its first poll. I treked through areas of the national park as well as through a goodly number of gardens and neighborhoods in the capital, soliciting and obtaining citizens’ opinions. Continue reading

Living in Filth / Rosa Maria Rodriguez

We humans produce garbage and we ourselves make it our task to collect it. In many countries, garbage collection is an industrialized process. In Cuba, however, the Communal Services Company* places containers on street corners (not all of them), where citizens discard all types of residue–paper products, bottles, food leftovers, biodegradable material, plastics, textiles, cardboard, cans, dead animals, debris, etc. — which are then transferred by tractor-trailers (these designated trucks make rounds from time to time) to the dump site.

These agricultural machines moving through the city are noisy, require the labor of at least three men–a driver, someone to get down and gather the trash bags from the containers who throws them up to a third man on the truck who arranges the bags in the trailer–and they don’t run daily. Continue reading

To Die of Hunger / Rosa Maria Rodriguez

This February 23 marks five years since the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo. This humble black native of Santiago de Cuba, dissident mason and plumber, died after carrying out an 86-day hunger strike in the prison where he was being held, as an act of protest against the conditions of his imprisonment.

His death garnered wide media coverage because of the contradictory and controversial list of reasons that the Cuban government publicized against Zapata to fend off the accusations of abuse and medical neglect put forth by his family and the opposition. The official media deny that the matter involved a political dissident, but rather, that Zapata was a common criminal. Continue reading

Another “Broom” Law / Rosa Maria Rodriguez

Foreign Investment Bill | First Special Session | 8th Legislature | March 29, 2014

The National Assembly, Cuba’s parliament, easily approved (nothing odd for that body when the issue is something that, although not divinely ordained, “comes from above”) the new foreign investment law. One does not need a crystal ball to know that the new legislation — like the proverbial broom* — will sweep efficiently, basically for those in power and the barriers they have created.

The breathless financiers of the antiquated Cuban political model demonstrate that for la nomenklatura, the need of their wallets — or the need to upgrade,or air out, their state capitalism — is more important than to truly revive the the battered “socialist economy”.

As with all laws that “are to be (dis)respected” in post-1959 Cuba, it passed unanimously, i.e., everyone was in agreement — or at least, they all raised their hands — in that caricature of a senate composed almost entirely of members of the sole legal party in Cuba, which has been in power for 55 years and which, despite calling itself Communist, really isn’t. Continue reading

Toward a New Constitution / Rosa Maria Rodriguez

A group of Cubans in Cuba and its diaspora agreed to promote a roadmap for a constitutional consensus. Organizations and public figures from different generations, all ideologies, religious creeds and interests, we believe it’s good that, first, we agree on what kind of constitution we want that is established and take it as a reference for the new constitution, according to our time and reality.

The management group of this project is made up 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.

Continue reading

Soldiers of Information / Rosa Maria Rodriguez

 Graphic for “Spokespersons United”

March 14 turned out to be yet another Cuban press day with more shame than triumph. As in previous years there were media warriors who committed themselves to forging a more critical form of journalism. I ask myself, With whom? With society and its leaders? That doesn’t work! Criticizing anything except those responsible for Cuba’s devastation seems to be the currency of today’s media soldiers, none of whom want to risk their perks and privileges, which in post-1959 language means “letting someone else take the fall.”

In general the key problem is the fifty-five-year-old Castro dictatorship, or more specifically the forty-seven year rule of its original dictator, a caudillo who has left a scar on the nation with his “do as I say” mentality. It has been a period marked by verbal violence, disrespect and discrimination against anyone who thinks differently. So, what or who is there to criticize? Capitalism and the United States, of course, as well as anyone who does not fall in line or sympathize with its so-called revolution.

The group in power has always been sensitive to its own interests but deaf to the real demands of society. The monopoly on information in Cuba is in the hands of the state, which officially prohibits the circulation of independent publications, freedom of association and a multiparty political system.

The most chilling example occurred on camera sometime around 2005, after the price of electricity had gone up, and featured the journalist Arleen Rodriguez. During a visit by Fidel Castro to the program Mesa Redonda (or Roundtable), in which Rodriguez participated, she raised complaints about the increase in electrical rates. With obvious annoyance, he issued a veiled threat: “Your husband is a friend of mine.”

On the following day she was forced to appear at the start the program with a prepared text — written so to avoid any mistakes and to be read without so much as one letter more than what was proscribed — to clarify that “what she meant to say was …”

Then there was the writer and poet Heberto Padilla, founder of the organization Origenes (Origins). In the 1960s he was forced to publicly denounce his colleagues and made to commit hara-kiri with the well-worn blade of extortion.

As I have said on other occasions, I personally believe that our communication professionals neither have nor feel the freedom to express what they truly desire or what is of concern to much if not all of the population. Thus there can be no true transparency of information to facilitate and encourage freedom of expression for industrial workers or for society in general.

Unless they themselves turn away from the violence that destroyed Cuba’s democratic institutions, which now exist to perpetuate power and to maintain a dependent and manipulated press, they will not be able to achieve what government leaders have wanted for a long time. By “resorting to political flirtatiousness” when talking about the current system, as is routine in the Cuban media, they rely on theatrical props to give the false impression that in Cuba there is freedom.

25 March 2014

Descriptive Penury / Rosa Maria Rodriguez

An acquaintance of mine swapped his apartment of a room and a half for a smaller one and “some chump change on top of that” to relieve his alcoholism and misery.  I never entered his home and that’s why I was unaware of his poverty. His furniture had the appearance of shabby knick-knacks, which probably — as in the majority of Cuban homes — were bought before the triumph of this guerrilla model which installed itself in power in 1959 and has been there ever since.

A matte oil painting, covers the surface of a dresser that perhaps once was covered in formica, the quite ramshackle wardrobe tells a story of age and overuse, the hollows of his three-quarter mattress, the remains of his sofa and of his Russian half-washing machine — they had to amputate the dryer — that accuse like the speeches of the rulers of Cuba, are words blurred by abandonment and demagoguery.

During the move, he got from a yellowish nylon bag a bunch of black and white photographs to show to his companions how beautiful the apartment was when his father first moved into it in 1958. Then the furniture seemed alive and the walls still wore an attractive and aesthetic coat of paint. Monochromatic feelings showed the nostalgia on his face buffeted by frustration and liquor. Continue reading

Farewell, Adolfo Suarez / Rosa Maria Rodriguez

Adolfo Suarez, Spanish lawyer Catholic politician, finally extends his hand in a physical goodbye. From now on we will resort to memory, photos and audiovisuals to see him greet us with his amiable gesture of unwavering gallantry in the fight for democracy in his country. History records him as the architect of the Spanish transition. For me, he is the foundation and the pillar itself of the magnificent bringing in of democracy and the entire process of political development that happened after the death of Francisco Franco.

As a public man and a decent statesman he worked for the reconciliation of Spaniards, to eradicate the vestiges of dictatorship in Spain, and to help lift his country, not to bring it to its knees it as dictators and their partisans in uniform usually do.

The warm smile of this kind man – a leader without rancor who didn’t hide behind the knife of vengeance, but offered the embrace of reconciliation – earned him the love and respect of the entire world. He starred in the development of a democratic monarchy and gave lessons in respect for the institutions and laws which with the transfer of power have been maintained from 1976 until today.

We Cubans, who suffer from 55 years of a dictatorship that defeated another one of seven years to remain in power and ruin Cuba, value the moral stature of politicians who serve their countries and their societies, rather than those who use a pedestal, as José Martí said, to rise above them.

I remember during my childhood how the Cuban dictator criticized the caudillo of El Ferrol for his years in power and, with the passing of time, he himself broke the record for the most years in power in Cuba.

Democratic societies are mourning today for the eternal loss of this citizen and politician who showed the world that intentions are demonstrated with acts not with words. May this illustrious son of Spain, an exemplary example of a democracy, rest in peace.

27 March 2014

Descriptive Hardship / Rosa Maria Rodriguez

An acquaintance of mine traded his one-and-a-half-room apartment for an even smaller one and a little cash, to ease his alcoholism and misery. I never entered his house and so I was unaware of his poverty. His furniture looked like shabby junk, which was probably — as in most Cuban houses — bought before the triumph of this guerrilla model that installed itself in power in 1959 and has been there ever since.

An oily film covers the surface of the dresser that was perhaps once covered in formica, the dilapidated cabinet narrates a history of old age and over use, as do his mattress and the remains of his sofa and Russian washing machine–from which he had to amputate the dryer–which are as revealing as the speeches of the Cuba’s leaders, their words blurred by neglect and demagoguery.

During the move, he took out a yellowed nylon bag with a ton of black-and-white photos to show his companions how beautiful the apartment had been when his father moved in 1958. Then the furniture seemed alive and the walls still wore an attractive and aesthetic coat of paint. Monochromatic sentiments showing the nostalgia on his face, pummeled by frustration and liquor.

His drinking buddies helped him carry out his things and let them in the sun for an hour waiting for transport. They were a dozen addicts invited to show “solidarity” and encouraged by rum, which served as fuel to maintain their enthusiasm. A truck from the thirties carried a part of the “skimpy” patrimony to the “new house,” which was clearly built before the Castro government and which sheltered, as in many other homes in Cuba, the ethyl-alcohol scandals of that part of society that drowns its disappointments and miseries with a cheap sulfuric homemade rum which is all they can afford.

The alcohol solidarity brigade turned themselves over to the care of the liquid treasure left int he bottle. The emptying of this was the shot that ripped through their own hardships accumulated over decades of governmental injustices, apathy, anti-democratic subjugation and social exhaustion. The delirium tremens, or tremendous delirium of trying to trick societies all the time with drunken ideological and economic theories, has failed worldwide.

Perhaps, in the quiet of their homes, before the bottle gives them the knockout blow, they pull from their personal yellowed plastic bags of history, photos that bear witness to that fact that once–before addiction had them tied by the neck–these were their houses and this was their country, before this evil government drove it to ruin.

17 April 2014