Peru,Thank You for Your Example and Great Strength / Somos+

Eliecer Avila on a walk around Lima’s mountains, with two Peruvians

Somos+, Eliecer Avila, Havana, 21 March 2017 — During those days we observed with deep sorrow the disaster that Peruvians are enduring, with many deaths and thousands homeless due to flooding and landslides. A beautiful country that has overcome some of the most unfavourable historical events, to rise up to one of the continent’s and the world’s emerging economies of our time.

It has reached a stable democracy after more than a decade of civil war, dictatorship, and extreme poverty. It has since started to forge a modern history of sustained growth, advances in social issues, in infrastructure, in telecommunications, with booming business and an unprecedented right-wing state. continue reading

Eliecer Ávila visiting a family-run ice cream factory in Lima in 2014

Still far away from its potential, Peru today constitutes an example of what a Latin American nation can achieve when it advances together and is reconciled in what is necessary. One can appreciate the tremendous efforts of its entire diaspora that has not rested, collecting assistance that will soon reach the hands of their compatriots to alleviate, even if just a little, so much shared pain.

Our movement maintains strong ties of solidarity and cooperation with different institutes and civil organizations in Peru. We have witnessed there the humility, education and immense spirit of work that distinguishes its people. To all our friends, we want to let you know that we are at your disposal to help in everything that is possible.

We are sure that this dark chapter will pass and the immense South American nation will resume even more strongly its path of flourishing and progress. They will achieve it with the same spirit they express, in the motto that accompanies their shield and banner: “Steady and happy for the union.”

Happiness / Somos+

Somos+, Roberto Camba, 21 March 2017 — The United Nations has just launched the 2017 World Happiness Report, coinciding with the World Happiness Day on March 20th. From its first publication in 2012, the world has come to understand more and more that happiness has to be used as the correct measure with regards to social progress and the objective of public policies.

The report is based on statistics collected from the happiness index or subjective well-being, Gross Domestic Product, social support, life expectancy from birth, freedom to make decisions, generosity, perception of corruption (within the government or in businesses), positive or negative feelings, confidence in the national government and in society, the level of democracy and the level of income per household. continue reading

Much of the data is taken from the average of the results of Gallup’s global survey. For example, the “life’s staircase” question: “imagine a staircase, with steps numbered from 0 (at the base) to 10 (at the top). The top of the stairs represents the best life possible for you and the base the worst life possible. Which step do you feel like you are currently at right now?”

“Social support” means having someone that you can rely on during times of difficulty. Generosity equates to having donated money to a charitable organisation over the past month. Whereas, positive or negative feeling relates to questions about whether for the most part of the previous day the individual experienced happiness, laughter or pleasure; or rather did they experience negative feelings such as worry, sadness or anger. The report references its sources and explains the other indexes which negatively influence the perception of happiness such as: unemployment or social inequality.

The 2017 Happiness Report places Norway at the top of its list, followed by: Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, Finland, the Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and Sweden as the top ten.

The US was listed at number 14 and Spain at 34. The best placed Latin American nations were Chile (20), Brazil (22), Argentina (24), Mexico (25), Uruguay (28), Guatemala (29) and Panama (30). The list included 155 countries. Those that have improved the most with regards to their position between 2005-2007 are Nicaragua, Lithuania and Sierra Leone, whilst Venezuela is the country that has slipped down the rankings the most.

And Cuba? It does not appear on the list. The Network of Solutions for Sustainable Development that prepared the report only possesses data on Cuba from 2006. During that time, the average response to the “staircase of life” was 5.4 (which placed it at 69th out of 156 nations), just behind Kosovo. Possibly today many Cubans would answer “where is the staircase to even begin to climb it?”

According to the 2006 data, Cuba appeared to be high in its ranking of social support and life expectancy from birth, but it was the third worst in freedom to make decisions. It was ranked as low for level of democracy, despite the fact that its per capita GDP surpassed China, Mexico, Brazil and South Africa to name some of the prosperous economies in the world*. In the net index of feelings (the average of positive feelings subtracted by the average of negative feelings) Cuba occupied the 112th place, making it the lowest ranked country in Latin America, with only Haiti having worse figures.

This index is the most direct measurement of fulfillment or of personal frustration that influences values and behaviour.

Of course beyond scientific rigour, no statistic or survey is 100% reliable. Subjective happiness or individual perception of happiness is very variable. Replying to these questions implies making a mental comparison. We compare ourselves to our neighbour, to those abroad, to our past or to our previous situation.

who receive manipulated information will not be able to effectively compare themselves. Furthermore, people think as they live: having access to running water could be the ultimate happiness for someone living in Sub-Saharan Africa, but a European or North American considers that they must have that and would take offense if they did not have it.

Cubans do not need a global report to know that there is a low happiness index among the people. The problems seem insoluble, the shortages are growing, personal ambitions have had to be postponed for decades, emigration becomes the only hope. The government quashes individual initiatives and working towards the happiness of its people — or allowing others to do it — does not seem to be in its projections. At Somos Más (We Are More) we believe that a responsible government must have this as its main objective and we will continue to fight to achieve it.

Translator’s note: If the GDP used for this analysis was that provided by the Cuban government, it would likely have been inaccurate. 

The Right of Assembly / Somos+

Somos+, Ezequiel Álvarez, 27 March 2017 — I believe that, in the resistance against the totalitarian, military dictatorship of the Castros, the existence of diverse organizations is essential and necessary. If we fight against a monolithic system, it is indispensable to start from a pluralist base wherein there is room for different ideas. continue reading

If communism’s major flaw is to intend for all the world to submit by force to one ideology, our response cannot be another antagonistic solution of the same kind.

The human being by nature represents a variety of opinions. The democratic system proclaims freedom of assembly, and as proponents of democracy for Cuba, we should accept that other points of view also have a right to participate in the opposition.

Starting from that premise, I propose that we should know how to work together in this phase, and allow the electoral process to decide the democratic route that the nation will take.

Meanwhile, let us continue, each according to his conscience, respecting the same right in others, working together toward the same ideal.

Let us prepare the foundations starting now, so that in the eventual future, we can be ready to prevent a repeat of the current tragedy. An upright structure that will serve as safe passage to a constitutional democracy, with the prior approval of the opposition parties, is a solution that we should explore and work towards making a reality.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Eliécer Ávila, The ‘New Man’ Who Became An Opponent

Eliecer Ávila, leader of the Somos+ (We Are More) Movement (CC).

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 8 April 2017 – Walking along the streets with Eliécer Ávila can be a complicated task. His face is well known thanks to a viral video broadcast almost a decade ago. However, before fame came into his life, this young man born in Las Tunas was a model “New Man”: the most finished product of ideological indoctrination.

Like all Cuban children, Avila shouted slogans during his school’s morning assembly, participated in countless repudiation activities “against imperialism” and dreamed of resembling Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara. But while, in school, they taught him the social achievements that the Revolutionary process brought to the population, at home reality was stubborn and showed itself to be something quite different. continue reading

The residents of Yarey de Vázquez are poor, the kind of poverty that grabs you by the throat

The residents of Yarey de Vázquez – the Puerto Padre municipality of Puerto Padre where the leader of the Somos+ (We Are More) Movement was born – are poor, the kind of poverty that grabs you by the throat. A place lost in nothingness, where many families still use latrines for their bodily needs, and live in houses with roofs made of palm fronds.

Surrounded by pigs, chickens and tedium, Avila realized that his life did not resemble the official version he was being taught. Born in 1985, in the middle of that “golden decade” when the Soviet Union was propping up the island, he was barely walking a year later when Fidel Castro ordered the closing of the free farmers markets in the midst of the “Process of Rectification of Errors and Negative Tendencies.”

Eliécer Avila reached puberty during what was called the Special Period. With the voracity that still characterizes him, he faced many days of his adolescence with his plate half full, or almost empty. He hand stitched the shoes he wore to school, invented all kinds of “outfits” from his grandfather’s old shirts, and turned off the light when it was time to strip down to his underwear, so no one could see the holes.

Surrounded by pigs, chickens and tedium, Avila realized that his life did not resemble the official version he was taught. He was born in 1985, in the middle of that “golden decade” when the Soviet Union was propping up the Island

With a natural leadership quality, in which a certain humor mixes with an undeniable histrionic capacity to narrate anecdotes, the young man made his way through those years without climbing aboard a raft to escape the country or ending up in jail. Those who knew him predicted a future in politics, because of those “fine lips” that helped him in student meetings and in romantic conquests.

A little bit later, luck smiled on him. He was able to enroll in the University of Computer Sciences (UCI), founded in 2002 in the middle of the Battle of Ideas. UCI was located on the site that had once been the Center for Exploration and Radioelectronics Listening, known as the Lourdes SIGNIT Station, where until 2001 Russia – and the Soviet Union before it – had had its largest spy station outside its borders. UCI was a school for trusted young people to become computer soldiers for a Revolution that fears the Internet.

While a student at UCI, Avila led Operation Truth. His task was to monitor digital sites and blogs critical of the Government. In those spaces, the young revolutionary sharpened his arsenal of tools for political struggle that included everything from hacking to the execution of the reputation of anyone who opposed the Plaza of the Revolution.

Little by little, like acid that filters through the cracks, those anti-government arguments he read on the web began to sink into his mind and mingle with his own disagreements. Restless, in 2008 he took his turn at the microphone during a visit to UCI of Ricardo Alarcón, then president of the National Assembly. The minutes of that public appearance that followed marked the rest of his life.

The video of the collision between Ávila and Alarcón jumped to first place in the hit parade on the clandestine networks that distributed audiovisuals. No one wanted to miss it, especially the moment when the leader of Parliament justified the travel restrictions imposed on Cubans by saying how congested the skies might be, if everyone were allowed to board an airplane.

Avila led Operation Truth while studying computer science; his task was to monitor digital sites and blogs critical of the Government

Now, nine years later, the young activist prefers not to be called “Eliécer, the one who debated with Alarcon,” but for the rest of his life it will be his most important letter of introduction to millions of Cubans. His challenge of power, with simple questions and a firm voice, has been one of the most accurate and best documented gestures of rebellion in almost six decades of Castroism.

After that, he received his punishment. After graduating, the authorities sent him to a remote Youth Computer Club to purge his audacity. It was the decisive moment in which he decided to cross the red line towards independence. He left the state sector, founded the Somos+ Movement and relocated to Havana. One audacious act after another.

The attacks rained down from all sides. State Security raised the level of pressure on his environment, traditional opposition leaders threw darts at the upstart, and there was no shortage of those who claimed that he was only a mole for the political police disguised as a dissident.

Since then, Ávila has tried to give shape to a civic discourse that uses new technologies and a less politicized language, closer to the concerns of ordinary people. But, like every dissident, he is caught in the grip of charges of illegal action, subjected to constant vigilance and assigned the halo of demonization imposed on anyone who does not applaud power.

Nothing is more disturbing to a system that has played with social alchemy than the fact of a creature from its own ideological laboratory turning against it

The numerous trips abroad that he has made since the Travel and Immigration Reforms of 2013 have allowed him to know the world, only to discover that the most exciting and indecipherable of the territories that await him is located in the future Cuba. That country so many have dreamed of and that is taking so long to arrive.

Recently he went a step further and announced that he was prepared to represent the electors of his constituency as a delegate. A somewhat remote possibility, given the oiled mechanisms of control over the People’s Assemblies maintained by the ruling party where, by show of hands, the attendees must nominate the potential candidates.

This week, the guajiro of Yarey de Vázquez has crossed another line. A public protest at José Martí International Airport has resulted in his house being searched, and him being arrested and charged with “illicit economic activity.” The trigger was the seizure of his laptop at Customs when he returned from Colombia.

Now, it is expected that the siege around the young leader and his Somos+ Movement will continue to close. Nothing is more disturbing to a system that has played with social alchemy than a creature from its own ideological laboratory turning against it. Eliécer Ávila will be doubly punished because power acts with more fury against its own, when it rebels.

More articles in English by and about Eliécer Ávila can be read here.

Police Arrest Activist Eliécer Ávila and Raid His Home

The video shows Eliecer Avila and other human rights activists at the Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, protesting the confiscation of Avila’s laptop when he returned to the country from abroad.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 8 April 2017 – Some fifty uniformed members of the National Revolutionary Police and the Ministry of the Interior raided the home of the activist Eliécer Ávila, leader of the Somos+ (We Are More) Movement this Saturday morning. The police seized documents and home appliances, in addition to arresting the opponent, according to detailed information from his wife, Rachell Vázquez, speaking to 14ymedio.

The police search began at six in the morning and lasted about four hours during which the troops did not allow access to the property located in the neighborhood of El Canal, in the Havana’s Cerro municipality. “We were going to eat something when they knocked on the door,” says Vázquez.

During the search, the police were accompanied by two witnesses of the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR). “All they left us was the TV,” adds the wife. “Right now Eliécer is missing, because no one knows where they took him,” he says. continue reading

Hours earlier, the couple was at Terminal 3 of José Martí International Airport, where Avila staged a protest to demand the return of several of his belongings retained by the General Customs of the Republic. Last Thursday, when the activist returned from a trip to Colombia, his personal laptop was confiscated.

After being arrested this Saturday Ávila made a phone call to his wife to inform her that he is being held at the Police Station of Aguilera and Lugareño

The opponent remained at the airport for more than 36 hours and insisted to security agents that he would not leave the place until they returned the computer. Other members of his organization joined in the protest.

After being arrested this Saturday Ávila made a phone call to his wife to inform her that he is being held at the Police Station of Aguilera and Lugareño in La Viñora. “He asked me to bring the deed of the house and 1,000 CUP,” says Vázquez, but “the police took the money in the drawers.”

In a video posted on the Somos+ website, Avila is seen in an airport lounge with two activists carrying posters with the phrase “No More Robbery.” The opponent denounced in front of the camera that the authorities “gave no explanations” and have not told him the reason for confiscating his computer.

Police searches and raids on dissidents’ homes have become common in the last year. In its report for March, the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) denounced this procedure.

During that month “there were innumerable cases of dissidents deprived of their computers, cell phones and other means of work as well as cash,” the report adds. These actions are aimed “to prevent the work of peaceful opponents and to make them increasingly poor,” said the independent entity.

Several Opposition Leaders Detained On Their Return To Cuba

Eliecer Avila detained at the airport on his return to Cuba (Somos+)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 6 April 2017 — Cuban opposition leaders were detained at Havana’s international airport on Thursday, when they arrived from Colombia, according to sources in the political movement Somos+ (We Are More) speaking with 14ymedio.

Eliécer Ávila, president of that movement remains “in open protest” at the capital’s airport after the authorities’ attempt to confiscate his electronic devices. continue reading

“Immigration has not allowed us to pass, it seems there are signs on the computers that say: interested in confrontation,” Avila explained in a message addressed to his movement. Later they were allowed to enter the national territory but in the face of the attempt to confiscate their belongings, the opponents rebelled.

Carlos Oliva, a member of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), is being held at the police station in Santiago de las Vegas. Eliecer Avila has said that he refuses to leave the airport without his laptop. The opponent has been there for more than seven hours.

Customs Officer in the process of confiscating the belongings of Eliecer Avila. (Somos+)

The order to seize his computer was issued by Carlos Pons, Chief of Confrontation at the airport.

In the case of Marthadela Tamayo and Zuleidy Pérez, they were subjected to a “rigorous search” and their personal computers siezed.

Requiem For My Havana / Somos+, Grettha Yedra

Island, what happened to you?
Who changed the spring?
Who shut the door?
What ship left you alone?

Island, they have changed your clothes
They have distorted decency
They have trafficked your innocence
They have shit on your equality and mine.

Island, by Lien Y Rey

Somos+, Gretther Yedra Rodriguez, 29 March 2017 — A few days ago I arrived from Cuba. I was there about a month. Havana was where I spent most of my time. I hadn’t seen it for almost two years, two years of not feeling the breath of the Malecon which enchants even the most skeptical. I suffered the spectacle. The most controversial capital in the world felt to me like a Dantesque chaos. In a few years, I thought, it’s going to look like a pile of trash where there once was a city. Cardboard houses proliferate on the periphery and spread throughout the country. Havana, my beautiful Havana, what happened to you? continue reading

I saw something that I had not seen before and that, in the country where I now reside, caused me great sorrow: I saw beggars, tons of them. Beggars and children wandering aimlessly along the Malecon and the historic center. Old people with lost gazes, filled with despair and empty hands. Irritable people, alcoholic men… and even women. State companies in a lamentable state, indolent workers who say NO for the pleasure of saying it.

I saw Havana as a raggedy old man, lying in a doorway while a copy of the Granma newspaper pretends to protect him from the cold.

On my way from Matanzas to the city I could see idle lands, plagued by the invasive marabou weed, and I thought enviously of the Ecuadorian earth, deeply cultivated, filled with cattle, of the rows of plants created by the indians and native people. I thought with sadness that there was a time when Cuban land did not suffer by comparison to the beautiful Andean land. It is not necessary to be a specialist to see the decline in agricultural and livestock, to notice the huge expanses of idle farmland, the volume of imported food continually increasing, making up for the deficit in national production.

While most of the Asian and Latin American countries lagged behind Cuba in the 1960s, they have now overtaken Cuba in the diversification of their economies, the development of competitive manufacturing sectors for export, and the decline in their dependence on a limited group of export products. And knowing this data and returning to Cuba, it hurts. It forces you to rethink many things, to not remain silent when the instinct of self-preservation demands it.

As I was walking along Montes street, I looked in disbelief at how the building collapses multiplied in only two years of absence. A man, seeing my puzzled face, told me: “Looks like they threw bombs, right?” My silence was agreement. And the bombs exploded in my head. Nothing they promised was fulfilled, economic failure has made a beautiful country into an arid land, cold and dirty, where people fight to survive.

How to wake an entire people from their slumber? How to tell them that humanity said “Enough” and got up and walked, and that we should do the same if we want a future?

We cannot remain with the masterful lines of Gabriel García Márquez, where an omniscient narrator asserts that those condemned to a hundred years of solitude do not have a second chance on earth. We are not García Márquez’s fictional Macondo, we are Cuba. We come from the line of Maceo, Gomez and Martí, Jose Antonio Echeverria, Frank and Camilo. Let us honor these men by rescuing what we have all lost. Let us awaken from this lethargy and, without shaking off the dust of the road, let us act. These are times to act.

It would kill me to say that Cubans are afraid, that it is difficult to reveal ourselves to a totalitarianism that constantly represses and annuls. In Cuba today, fear no longer exists, what we lost was faith and with it shame. From the ashes of Havana we must rescue her.

13 March 1957: The Assault on the Presidential Palace / Somos+

Canter with arm raised: José Antonio Echevarria

We trust in the purity of our intention,
May God favor us,
To achieve the Empire of Justice in our country.
José Antonio Echeverría Bianchi

Somos+, Jose Presol, 13 March 2017 — Today, March 13, we celebrate a date that, fifty years ago, could have radically changed the history of Cuba. A date that could have been, but was not. And it was not because of betrayals that, even today, are not clearly defined

That day, according to the policy of the Revolutionary Directorate, was “to attack the head.” A very high “head”: Fulgencio Batista.

From the beginning of the idea, towards the end of 1955, the goal was unity of action between its time.

In 1956, the plan was picked up again and, recalling the pact between the Directorate and the M26J (26th of July Movement) so-called Mexican Letter, Faustina Perez who was heading the “26th” in Havana was contacted, and he refused to collaborate on orders of Fidel. The writer doesn’t know of any reference to the proposal being communicated to Frank Pais or to other members of the National Directorate, on some dates when Fidel was by no means the Maximum Leader. continue reading

Thus, everything was conceived, planned and executed by the joint forces of the Authentic Organization and the Revolutionary Directorate.

Nothing was left to chance. There were enough weapons. Surveillance equipment. Political and military leadership. The leaders were Menelao Mora (for the Authentics) and Jose Antonio Echeverría (for the Directorate). The military commander was Carlos Gutiérrez Menoyo, who had been an officer with the Free French Forces during World War II.

Those who did not participate in the action were intended to: (1) Start the guerrilla action in the Escambray Mountains, (2) Arm and reorganize the Revolutionary Directorate in Havana, (3) Send troops to Frank Pais to be used in the El Uvero combat and to initiate the 2nd Eastern Front.

The plan was complex and simple at the same time: A frontal attack by a group transported in a delivery truck and two cars, which would go up to Batista’s office and take him prisoner or execute him, and that would be supported by men distributed on nearby roofs, to prevent the arrival of reinforcements; others as support and in reserve along the Paseo del Prado; and a main reserve that would arrive from Guanabacoa.

Messages would be broadcast for the uprising of the militants and sympathizers of the FEU and the Authentic Party throughout Cuba. In Havana they had to concentrate on the School of Architecture, where the group that had previously occupied Rádio Reloj would be organized, armed and instructed to occupy their objectives. As for the Army, the officers of higher rank next to the Authentics would take control of the garrisons.

Menelao Mora would assume the provisional presidency, until the arrival of the previous President-elect, Carlos Prío Socarrás, and then the process of elections interrupted by Batista with his coup d’etat would begin.

But, if everything was so measured and calculated, what was it that failed? Well two things:

  1. Batista fled from the Presidential Palace at the moment of the attack through a door the assailants didn’t know about.
  2. Someone sabotaged the action. I base  this on two things.

A. Everything (weapons, communications and vehicles) was checked several times and was in order. On leaving the Presidential Palace a tires of the delivery truck were low in air, affecting the suspension. The driver, Amado Silveriño, insisted on  continuing, promising to get there. Did someone let the air out?  It is not known.

B. The reserves did not receive the order to mobilize. Who was in charge of sending it? Someone who still walks around Havana: Fauré Chomón. The men who had to occupy the access points and those concentrated in Guanabacoa never moved of their collection point.

The result was, apart from the failure of action, the almost total dismissal of the only two organizations that could have cast shadows Fidel Castro’s aspirations: the Authentic Party and the Revolutionary Directorate.

Fidel can be considered the only winner of the failed attack.

Translated by Jim

Numbers, Reason and Principles / Somos+

Somos+, Eliecer Avila, 8 March 2017 — Daily, as part of my functions as leader of Somos+ (We Are More), I meet people who are interested in knowing the details of the organization. In theory, these people would become members of Somos+ if there is a sufficient match between their ideas and the ones we promulgate.

It turns out that often, I prepare to explain our proposals, program, explain the logical arguments about the need for changes, etc… but the first question that I ask is, “Come here… and how many are you?”

It never ceases to amaze me, the extreme importance that many people give to the number of people who adopt an attitude that they then adopt as their own. I believe their it would be much more worthwhile to concern ourselves with the number when we acquire some product for our use or contract for some service between the number of people previously satisfied by the same offer could be an indicator of its quality. continue reading

Instead, when it’s about values, principles, ideologies, justice and political positions, I don’t believe that the priority should be the number of people who adopt this or that position.

History abounds with examples in which great multitudes committed the most terrible and horrible crimes. Were they right? No, but they were many, many more joined them and the wave became so immense and unstoppable that opposing it would seem an act of uselessness, masochism or stupidity.

This overwhelming game between majorities and minorities is preferred by revolutions, because they establish in advance what is the “good side” and the “bad side” where people can position themselves, and depending on that decision their lives will be respected or tainted.

For me, democracy will never be described by the reductionist argument of “the dictatorship of the majorities,” because this primitive mentality is the one that always existed and does not necessarily contemplate a civilized advance that guarantees the peace and the participation of the whole society in decision-making. Instead, it will be the “opportunity for minorities” to exist in dignity and to be represented that would distinguish a democracy.

We should not be afraid to be alone or accompanied by few in the place that we consider right. If we think that striking a woman is wrong, we should not hit her to be in tune with the millions of men who do. Or if we believe that animals should be protected, or that corruption affects us all, it is legitimate to say it even though there are probably no de facto crowds chanting in our favor.

It is thanks to the rebels of the past, those who did not care about the number of their followers, that today we have, around the world, less violence, machismo, corruption and oppression than in previous centuries.

A political position is above all a right, but it is also a duty, which should never be exercised by imitation, enthusiasm, or pressure of any kind. It must be an act of responsibility based on abundant or full information, the product of a deep and measured analysis, strictly attached to what we are and what we believe to be just for us, our families, our nation and for all humanity.

Only in this way will we feel full, happy and secure in expressing our opinions or taking action both individually and in groups, voluntarily or remunerated, supported or rejected, blessed or repressed. Learning to think for oneself is to be free.

Numbers, reason and principles always have been and will be three different subjects.

Who Does Jose Marti Belong To? / Somos+

Somos+, 28 January 2017 — Very early today, January 28th [José Martí’s birthday], State Security agents were at Eliecer Avila’s house to warn him about the impossibility of his “doing anything” today.

Later they returned and still have a guard posted out front.

We know of several colleagues who are in the same situation or, such as Manuel Cuesta Morua, who have been arrested.

Apparently José Martí is the “private property” of the Cuban Communist Party.

As if anyone could prevent us from drinking of his thought!

Somos+ National Council

Granada, 1983, the Hidden Cuban Martyrology / Somos+, Pedro Acosta

US soldiers taking Cubans to a prison camp

Somos+, Pedro Acosta, 19 January 2017 — Thirty-three years later, I talked to more than 60 people under age 40 and with more than a 9th grade education; none of them knew exactly what I was talking about.

I asked them: Do you know what happened on the island of Granada in 1983? Most of them looked at me like I was asking them to solve a riddle. Some, the oldest, without being sure what I was talking about, said they thought there had been a military intervention there. Only one explained it to me, with middling clarity, because he had heard about it from his family. continue reading

A little history lesson, well hidden! In October of 1983, the Chief of the Armed Forces of that country, at the request of the party in power, “The New Jewel,” staged a coup d’etat and assassinated Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and his entire family. The United States threatened, and days later invaded the island.

A group of Cuban construction workers were there building an airport along with a small group of Colonels sent by Fidel in its presidential plane, AN-24 (el patico), had to confront the elite troops of the US 82nd Airborne Division.  You, who went to build, without the slightest right, without the simplest analysis and for the absurd chimera of someone looking for a military victory over his eternal enemies, is there weapons in hand and in mortal danger.

They did not have the right, nor the reason, nor the recurrent and often false, Internationalism!

I wonder, in a spectacular maneuver of my fantasy, and if, in the face of an uncontainable push of the builders, the elite American troops would have withdrawn: Who were we going to hand over power to? How long would we have remained in that territory? What role would we play there in the meantime?

We, like the ancestral custom of the regime, learned what happened through foreign radio stations and, first of all, those of the “enemy.” Despite there having been Cuban builders there, and Maurice Bishop was a great friend of Fidel, it was not until three days did we offficially here what happened there, when the entire Cuban people had a different version of the events.

Maurice Bishop and Fidel Castro

The officers were meant to block the US troops from taking control of the airport under construction, with the help of the builders. But the undesirable things happened. When confronted with the American troops, the immense majority of those who fought back were the construction workers, while the military experts and “warriors” sent by the Commander, Fidel Castro, including the chief of the troops, turned tail and left the field to the civilians. Those Colonels, some of whom were stations at the USSR embassy on this island, and others, wandering the mountains and the city, were detained by US forces.

The Cuban military were cowards for not confronting the big boss and telling him that they weren’t willing to commit suicide as they were being asked to do, and much less demand that others do it. And they were traitors for allowing those inexpert builders to do it. They should never have asked someone to fight. This was not their battle, and what’s more, incredibly unequal. They were asked to immolate themselves, and in whose name? By whom and for what?

While our soldiers were fleeing the news was alienating. The disgrace that was happening was also oversized, huge and fallacious. The last thing they put in the mouth of a brilliant figure on Cuban radio and television was that Cubans, defending their last redoubt, had offered their lives, embracing the Cuban flag.

What really happened in Granada is know only to the Cubans who returned with their lives from there, and they are the only ones who know the US military committed with the Cuban officials. Speaking correctly, they are not the only ones who know what happened, the international press played up the Cuban disgrace.

Because in Cuba it is taboo to talk about Granada, it has not been possible to get figures or data of any kind, I have only written what I remember. I don’t want to resort to foreign data.

There is no mention of Granada because, more than what is said, it was the greatest blunder, among all the orders, of the now deceased comrade Fidel, then Commander-in-Chief.

Also, the position and honor of a man, the head of the Cuban “troops,” has come to be talked of and he is compared with the Bronze Titan: “Emulator of Maceo.” What a crime and how embarrassing!

In Granada, Fidel suffered his hardest, saddest and most sobering defeat. But those who really suffered and felt it were the people of Cuba, and particularly the families of those who uselessly gave their lives and shed their blood in the land of others.

When will anyone ask forgiveness, publicly, to the mothers, wives and children of the martyrs of Granada? When will the people of Cuba get an explanation for such decisions. For the martyrs of Granada, there has been no minute of silence, only suspicion and slyness, that has lasted for more than thirty years.

And Now What? / Somos+, Jose Presol

Somos+, Jose Presol, 18 January 2017 — We expected it for a long time and it happened, but when we weren’t in the line for the ration book. I am referring to the end of the “wet foot, dry foot” policy. We all knew that it would end, but what we least imagined was that it would be now and done by the current president, Barack Obama.

It had to be sooner or later. The American people are leaning toward a policy of protectionism and focusing on their own problems and stumbles, and there are many Cubans in exile who affirm, “I am not politically persecuted, I came to resolve my economic problems.”

At the same time, there are constant complaints that old and current repressors and collaborators with the Cuban political regime are also in the United States, and whether or not they are still collaborating with the tyranny is not clear. This had to come. continue reading

Obama, who not so long ago seemed wonderful to so many people, now has thousands of defects. No friends, his message was clear, “Cuba’s problems must be solved by Cubans.” One more thing we have heard and interpreted according to our own convenience.

That was a way of saying, among other things: Gentlemen, the American taxpayers have no obligation to indefinitely finance the immigration of citizens of other nationalities, especially when we are not sure of their ideology and when these funds are needed, for example, to improve the conditions of our own veterans.

Few governments in the world are not aware that these resources are not unlimited and that this problem is not solved by “minting money.”

The fault belongs to us, Cubans. We all know, we are not fools, that the problem is not that there is no food, the problem is those who have made it so that there is no food. We have found it more convenient to confuse the symptoms with the disease. We have found it more convenient to deny reality. We have found it more convenient to say, with clenched teeth “over there,” that it is an economic problem.

But yes, it is an economic problem, but please, haven’t we been under a constant bombardment of Marxist doctrine for 58 years? Have we not listened to a single word? Hey guys, they say it themselves, “The economic problems are political problems.”

I am not a fortune-teller and I don’t know what the evolution of the problem in Cuba will be, but I am sure that there have already been two things: 1) a bucket of cold water for those who hoped to “escape” the situation, and 2) the disappearance of the escape valve from the current situation in Cuba, which does not please the regime, despite their saying otherwise.

As I said, I do not know how the subject will evolve, but I have hope that it will end up radicalizing the postures inside Cuba and clarifying them outside Cuba, and vice versa.

I hope that we Cubans, once and for all, will face our problem, trying to provoke quantitative changes (so they will understand me, I use Marxist terms) that, in accumulation, end up producing qualitative changes.

And those quantitative and qualitative changes begin with ourselves.

First, we have to think about who our real rival is and face it, without palliatives; finding all the cracks in the system and enlarging them, analyzing their contradictions and denouncing them.

Second, recognize that the problem of Cuba belongs to Cubans, all of us without exception, and that Cubans must solve it, and forget about remedies, collective or individual, that come from outside.

Third, we need to focus on programs and lines of action to conquer our rival; focus on weakening everything that benefits it; focus on highlighting the weaknesses and errors of the system.

Fourth, these programs and lines of action should focus on Cuba’s real needs. We must not return to situations that we often yearn for and fail to recognize that they were the reasons for what we have now. We must build a New Republic, with the ideals of freedom and democracy from our early founders.

Fifth, around these programs and lines of action, we have to create the necessary unity (and, why not, organization) to gather forces instead of dispersing them, not looking for some leader to solve it for us.

Sixth, these programs and lines of action must be peaceful, we are children of a nation that has not known peace and tranquility since October 10, 1868, it is high time that we also address that.

Seventh: Cubans, think. You are the children of the people who fought for 30 years for independence, who suffered 4 years of American occupation, people who have had 57 years of a false republic and more occupations (material or mediated) and another 58 of tyranny. We have fallen many times and many times we have risen, even mistaking and getting it wrong again. So get up at once and contribute with your effort and imagination. This is your opportunity. Do not let it pass.

Translated by Jim

We Have to Take Responsibility for Our Own Land… / Somos+

Somos+, 14 January 2017 — Forty-eight hours have passed since we have officially declared ourselves, as a movement, with regards to the elimination of the “Wet foot/Dry foot” policy. There is a reason for that: We do not want to say anything without, at least, consulting the National Council and the greatest possible number of active members. Also, it was prudent to read and listen to all the explanations to correctly understand the scope of the measure.

Today we affirm that, in the long term, we consider it positive for Cuba as a country, a nation and a homeland. continue reading

We are deeply pained by the situation of thousands of Cubans stranded in distant countries, almost all of us have some family member in this situation. We know their expenses have been huge as have their sacrifices. But logic tells us that the departure of the all the people of Cuba will not fix the problems that face us.

On the contrary, to the extent that the already limited number of energetic and dissatisfied youth leave the island, the ability to rebuild our society is ever more distant, starting from the profound changes which can only be driven by millions of people determined to take control of the reins of the nation.

Many argue for the exceptionality of the political situation of Cubans, we among them. But it was precisely the thousands of Cubans traveling through Latin American who are leaving us alone in this thesis, because when we put our cameras in front of people they always say the same thing: “We are not leaving because of political problems, but to improve our economic situation.”

Some even throw in slogans in support of Fidel and Raul, or proudly show off tattoos with images of the creators of the system in which they cannot support themselves. It was these images that convinced a great share of international public opinion that there is no difference between Cuban emigrants and those from the rest of the continent. So?

In our opinion, if this attitude had been put into practice 20 years ago, or never existed (as it doesn’t exist in many former-Soviet controlled countries), another rooster (or hen) would be singing today in Cuba — that is, everything would be different.

If doctors are treated like modern slaves, they should unionize with or without permission, and no longer accept this business model that is a thorn in their sides. Those serving on “missions” abroad can take advantage of the ability to use social media and their access to the news media to unite in a just fight for their rights.

If young people don’t have opportunities, they also should join together in their institutes and universities and peacefully express their demands. Do no accept that some gentlemen who have lost all contact with reality have condemned them to material and spiritual poverty for the rest of their lives.

If parents do not see a future for their children, demand changes in the educational system so that the children will be prepared to be 21st century citizens. Do not let the authorities use their children as instruments of political propaganda and do not teach them, at home, to remain silent and bear up “until we can leave.”

We will probably sound harsh, weird, evil, like oddballs, in the midst of this whole wave of more or less justifiable sentimentality, but with full honesty, we are tired of this sick and victimizing mentality that describes us as the mental and political underdogs of the world, which we are not.

We are comforted by the idea of expressing this opinion from here. We hope that with time this measure will contribute to more of our compatriots taking responsibility for our land, wherever they are. Our entire family cannot move to the neighbor’s house, much less because we don’t like “our own parents”? Because those gentlemen are not our parents, not even our friends or allies… they are common people like you and me and can and should be exchanged, dismissed, replaced, expelled from their jobs if this house doesn’t work. And… it doesn’t work.

Let us stay and fix our own house. Together, we will be more.

Somos+ (We Are More) National Council

Havana

14 January 2016 

Washington Closes The Escape Valve / 14ymedio

Cuban rafters arrive in Florida / Archive. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 13 January 2017 — Matilde sold her home just two weeks ago to pay for the immigration route to the United States. Thursday, the hope of achieving her dreams burst when president Barack Obama put an end to the wet foot/dry foot policy that granted legal residency to Cubans who reached the United States.

The news dropped like a bombshell on the island. “My family is desperate, having put all their hopes in this journey,” the retired woman told 14ymedio. With a son living in New Jersey, the woman planned to travel at the end of this month to Mexico and cross the border “to the land of freedom.”

Since the death of former president Fidel Castro, no other event has so shaken the Cuban reality. The announcement this Thursday affected many who normally live their lives outside politics and official issues. “I feel as if someone had snatched away my lifejacket in the middle of the sea,” said Matilde. continue reading

Attorney Wilfredo Vallín, of the Cuban Legal Association, believes that the decision is “something that belongs to the sovereignty of a State.” In 1995, during the Bill Clinton administration, the policy was approved that today “is considered opportune to change,” but “the repercussions of that in other countries is a problem of other governments.”

“It has been said that these facilities provided by the US Government encouraged emigration and now a part of the argument is over”

The attorney maintains that what happened transcends the issue of migration and touches the pillars of the ideological propaganda of the Plaza of the Revolution. “It has been said that these facilities provided by the US government encouraged emigration and now that part of the argument is over.” For Vallín the decision could “increase discontent among citizens.”

The end of this immigration policy comes at a bad time for the government of Raúl Castro. Last year closed with a stagnant economy that experienced a fall of 0.9% in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). For those most affected by hardship and the high cost of living, the possibility of emigration to the United States was a source of permanent illusion.

However, the ruling party has welcomed a new era. Josefina Vidal, the director general for the United States in Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told the national media that with this suspension, “the migration crisis between Cuba and the United States is eliminated.” The end of the wet foot/dry foot policy has been a old demand of the government of the island, which has also pressed to end the Parole program for Cuban health professionals, a measure that was also suspended this Thursday.

“With these measures, Cubans who believed they could find prosperity and wellbeing in the United States will have to find another solution,” reflects opposition leader José Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Cuban Patriotic Union (Unpacu).

In a telephone conversation with this newspaper from eastern Cuba, Ferrer says now begins a stage of “thinking more about how to obtain freedom, prosperity, opportunities and rights here in our own land.” The scenario that opens “will make us much more responsible and aware that we must take the reins of our destiny as a people and as a nation here within.”

In front of the University of Havana, Ramon, 48, reflects on the possible repercussions of what happened. “Every time the popular disagreement reached a high point, the government managed to calm it by opening up emigration,” he says. “Now we are all unable to get out of this pressure cooker that is always getting hotter.”

“Political refugee status is too serious, too honorable for it to continue to function as it has until now”

Activist Eliécer Ávila, leader of the Somos+ (We Are More) movement, considers it an “excellent” decision. “The refugee status for political reasons is something too serious, too honorable for it to continue to function as it has so far,” he reflects. “Any measure that makes Cubans take more responsibility for their nation instead of fleeing it is something that should be supported.”

For opposition member Manuel Cuesta, a member of the Democratic Action Roundtable (MUAD), the elimination of this policy “should have been taken long ago to avoid the type of risky emigration that has resulted in the loss of the lives of young people, children and whole families.”

He acknowledges, however, that the decision is “controversial because those who were preparing their raft to leave early this morning have just been dissuaded in a way that cannot be appealed.” It is likely that “Trump is applauding the measure,” he said.

Repression Spiking in Cuba / Somos+, Eliecer Avila

Somos+, Eliecer Avila, 12 January 2017 — Two days ago, our eastern coordinator in Las Tunas, Wiliam Espinosa, spent 24 hours in jail when he tried to leave to attend our meeting in Havana.

Last night there was a great witch hunt and persecution all over the Havana neighborhood of Vededo to prevent us from attending a meeting of Otro18. They even forced a private restaurant to close.

Today dawns with the news that they have seized the home of Karina Galvez, Dagoberto Valdes’s right-hand person on the Convivencia (Coexistence) team. She was arrested and no one is allowed to see her.

Right now, the official who calls himself “Leandro,” along with a police car, has closed my block at the corner. It is very likely there will be arrests.

I just talked to professor Wilfredo Vallin who has been blocked from leaving home and they told him he could not come to my house. Because I am a “danger” to State Security. My God…

They seized and are still holding Alexey Gamez’s laptop, cellphone and hard drives, as a sequel to the latest offensive against our academy, where we seek to educate citizens.

And added to this is that El Sexto (the graffiti artist Danilo Maldonado) has been under arrest since November, without trial, and we have a panorama of extreme despair on the part of a system that cannot find any way to emerge from its crisis and clings tooth and nail to violence as the only path to salvation.

What disaster it going to happen at the highest levels of the government, where they do not want anyone at the base to be able to move?