An Ethical Roadway for Civil Society / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

Meeting of Cuban Civil Society Open Forum (Photo: Luz Escobar)

Meeting of Cuban Civil Society Open Forum (Photo: Luz Escobar)

cubanet square logoCubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 25 February 2015 — This Wednesday, February 25th, 2015, a new meeting of the members Espacio Abierto [Cuban Civil Society Open Forum] of the independent civil society took place with a broad representation of members of various pro-democracy projects throughout the Island, as well as independent journalists. A total of 25 participants took part in the symposium, where, in addition, views on issues of interest to the Cuban reality were exchanged.

On this occasion, among the most important points of the discussion adopted by full consensus was the document “An ethical roadway for Cuban civil society” which — as its name suggests — provides a guide for the basic principles governing the conclave, and a Motion of Solidarity with civil society and the Venezuelan opposition at a time when the repression tends to flare up with a statement that emphasizes leaders like Leopoldo López, who recently served a year in prison; Maria Corina Machado, a former deputy who was attacked and removed from office by the Chavista authoritarianism; and the Mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma, elected at the polls by popular will, violently arrested in recent days by the repressive forces of the government of that nation.

Whereas the document adopted at the conclave should be made known to the public, especially Cubans from all shores, its contents are reproduced here in their entirety:

An Ethical Path for Cuban Civil Society

As part of the independent Cuban civil society, we believe that every moral choice is a strictly non-transferable decision, absent from all imposition. We also recognize that, because of its relational character, citizens seek to socialize and get incorporated into communities that have received an established humus solidified with values and virtues known as community ethos, whether family, group, national or international. By agreeing to an ethical path, we reject a dogmatic moral, prohibitive in itself, of frivolity and debauchery. We opt for dialogical ethics against an authoritarian moral, ethics that intrinsically link freedom and responsibility. We propose to educate ourselves to assume, in our principles and in our attitudes, the following ethical path, rooted in the best of our Cuban heritage:

  1. We acknowledge that a human being is the central character of his own story. Thus, the person must be the beginning, the middle and the end of any institution or historical process. Human beings are not the means, nor can they be an object in the hands of others, therefore they should not be manipulated for scientific, social, political or economic experiments.We believe that all human beings are equal before the law and diverse in their abilities and personal choices.
  2. We must encourage consistency between what we believe, what we say and what we do. Any personal, civic and political engagement must be inextricably supported by ethical behavior without which all individual or community action loses value and meaning.
  3. Cuba, that is, the nation known as the community of all its citizens on the Island and in the Diaspora, its wellbeing, its freedom, its progress and common good, is the inspiration and the end of all civic and political action, banishing spurious interests.We consider that the meaning and purpose of our ethical commitment to Cuba is to build a peaceful, fruitful and prosperous coexistence in our country, rather than a simple coexistence with those who are different or adversarial.
  4. We opt for peaceful methods and for seeking nonviolent solutions to both national and international conflicts and our interpersonal relationships. We opt for the absolute respect for human life and declare ourselves against all violence and the death penalty.
  5. The discrepancy of opinions and political debate should leave no room for personal or group attacks, insults or denigrating exclusions, or defamation.
  6. We believe that property, knowledge, and power are to serve and that without agile and honest institutions there is no possible governance. We believe that without civil sovereignty there is no progress, articulation, or primacy of the governance of civil society as a valid participant. Corruption, lies and excessive material interest are the main enemies of civility in the world today, so, as part of the independent Cuban civil society, we reject these evils and opt for transparency, favor truth and the primacy of spiritual values.
  7. We seek a modicum of ethics agreed to through a consensus building process. We differentiate the processes of dialogue and negotiation. Therefore, we believe that an ethical minimum must surface from a dialogue leading to consensus agreements, while specific covenants should surface from negotiations, which must be observed and followed by the parties.
  8. A civic ethic of minimums agreed to by consensus is an achievement of pluralist humanity. Its basis is the full and utmost dignity of the human person, achieved through acknowledgment, education and defense of all rights for everyone, proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights resolved by the U.N. in 1948, which we fully embrace as our inspiration and ethics program.
  9. We adhere to the three fundamental values summarized by the best aspirations of humanity: freedom, equality, fraternity and their corresponding rights. First generation rights extol the value of freedom, they are civil and political rights. Second generation rights commend the value of equality, they are economic, social and cultural rights. Third generation rights endorse the value of universal brotherhood as ecological rights for a healthy environmental balance and the right to a peaceful world.
  10. Consequently, we wish to opt for inclusion and democratic participation; moral authority, not authoritarianism; proposals, not prescriptions; what ideas are expressed, rather than who speaks them; programs and not just leaders. Unity in diversity, not uniformity. Rational convictions, not fanaticism. The decriminalization of differences, not intolerance. Decentralization and subsidiarity should replace centralism and totalitarianism. Ethics must take precedence over technique and science. Commitment must win over indifference. We opt for the ethics of politics and economics, of national coexistence and of international relations.
  11. This ethical commitment should translate into attitudes and proactive actions to heal the anthropological damage and overcome civic and political illiteracy with the systematic labor of citizen empowerment. Since we reject any moral imposition, we believe that education is the only valid way. So we direct our efforts towards an education liberating of ourselves and of all alienation, in order to be able to contribute to the ethical and civic education of all Cuban people, inspired by Human Rights and their corresponding Civic Duties.
  12. Civic and political activists or intellectuals should not be society’s moralizers. Being chosen to represent does not confer moral authority, but political commitment, subject to scrutiny and public willpower. We believe in representation as a service to society. This representation must be the product of popular choice, limited by time and succession.  Civic ethics is forged by each person, and it is the community’s responsibility to establish, educate, promote and safeguard the humus of the ethics of the nation open to the world, based on the great values of truth and freedom, justice and love.

By adopting this ethical pathway, we want to identify its roots in the ethics of our founding fathers. The teaching of the Apostle José Martí reminds us that: “For love we see, with love we see, it is love that sees.” We believe in civic friendship and in the reconciliation where that righteousness should flow, which Maestro José de la Luz y Caballero called the “sun of the moral world.” Finally, we share Father Félix Varela’s philosophy that taught us that “There is no Motherland without virtue or virtue without piety”.

162nd anniversary of the death of Father Félix Varela

Translated by Norma Whiting

Birds of Ill Omen / 14ymedio, Eliecer Avila

A man talks on a pay phone in Havana (photo Alejandro Ernesto/EFE)

A man talks on a pay phone in Havana (photo Alejandro Ernesto/EFE)

14ymedio bigger

14ymedio, Eliecer Avila, 28 February 2015 — A topic that is raised for discussion these days is the obsolete argument that some official voices never stop repeating at every opportunity they have to strain relations between Cuba and the United States or rather between Cuba and the Outside World. I am referring to the supposed “need” of implementing “appropriate measures designed to avoid the penetration that the enemy hopes to make into Cuban society.”

Just a few days ago, in the context of the first National Workshop on Computing and Cyber-Security held in Havana, with the physical or virtual presence of thousands of computer engineers, really absurd speeches Continue reading

Salaries for Doctors on the Island Will Increase / Cubanet, Roberto Jesus Quinones

cubanet square logoCubanet, Roberto Jesus Quinones, Guantanamo, 16 February 2015 — A rumor is keeping  the medical sector in Guantanamo euphoric, and it provokes immediate outbursts of joy in hospital corridors, in homes and in every place the supposedly good news is known. No one knows the origin of the rumor nor its hidden intent.

According to those who are in charge of spreading it, very soon the government will increase the salary for doctors. And, as happens with every rumor, there are always those who know everything about it and affirm that the new increase will be put into force to try to contain the exodus of physicians abroad by way of Continue reading

Music After The Death of Fidel / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

A ROSE IN YOUR HAIR PERISHES

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

There aren’t enough of the stupid-ass songs. Because those same songs, the ones we joked stupid-assedly about in our rage-filled adolescence, are now the only thing left that allows us to know what we were, what we are, what we will be.

With those songs, we can forget about everything and everybody. It seems like we have it all if we have them, these jingles from our bad memory. And then we don’t feel that malady we carry that weighs us down, that ruins this life we have and can’t live.  Much less do confront destiny, that deviation that destabilizes us from despotism to despotism, and from corpse to corpse, without their ever sparking in our breast that semi-magical, semi-mendacious flame of love Continue reading

Amnesty International Denounces Increase in Arbitrary Detentions in Cuba / 14ymedio

Members of State Security arrest women from the Ladies in White organization (Ernesto Mastruscusa/EFE)

Members of State Security arrest women from the Ladies in White organization (Ernesto Mastruscusa/EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 24 February 2015 — Short-duration detentions increased considerably in Cuba in 2014, according to the annual report published today by Amnesty International. The human rights organization, with headquarters in London, emphasizes that the situation with respect to freedom of expression, association and assembly, infringed on by criminal prosecutions for political reasons, did not improve. Amnesty International expects, nevertheless, that the announcement of the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the Island and the United States may help produce a significant change in the matter of human rights.

The report highlights the 27% increase in short-duration detentions last year, according to data from the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, which counted almost 9,000 brief arrests. The Ladies in White organization suffers the most from this type of repression Continue reading

Cuba: Medical Impotence / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

salud

cubanet square logoWhile the government exports thousands of doctors, old diseases are coming back, such as dengue fever, tuberculosis, whooping cough, chikungunya, and cholera, and new exotic diseases are appearing that had never before been seen on the Island.

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 18 February 2015 – For a few days, Maritza thought that her four-year-old son’s persistent cough was due to a combination of a cold and his chronic allergies. The crisis had started with a fever and a few episodes of hacking cough, and had escalated over the next couple of days, even though he was no longer running a fever. The pediatrician’s diagnosis confirmed Maritza’s suspicions: Alain was suffering from a viral infection, so they would follow the normal treatment in cases like his: they would watch him, give him plenty of liquids, expectorants and antihistamines

But after two weeks, his coughing got so much stronger and frequent that Maritza ended up having to go to Pediatric Hospital at Centro Habana so that her son – already cyanotic and having respiratory spasms Continue reading

Seven Hours with Jorge Luis Piloto in Miami / Ivan Garcia

Jorge Lis Piloto and Ivan Garcia in Miami

Iván García, 4 February 2015 — For the prolific and noteworthy Cuban composer, Jorge Luis Piloto Alsar, born in the winter of 1955 in Cárdenas in the town of Matanzas, some 145 kilometers north of Havana, not in his wildest dreams could he have imagined that his songs would achieve international fame.

Let’s get into the time machine. An ordinary day in the ’70’s. Culturally speaking, Cuba was going through a rough period. Writers, poets and composers are being administered by the state, following Fidel Castro’s decree.

The cinema, novels, la guaracha, and sound must highlight the exploits of the revolution. The government controls all of it. In your profile, you have to indicate how many marches you have been on and how much voluntary work you have participated in, if you want to pass the summer in a house on the beach, have a Russian fridge Continue reading

The Ordeal of Automated Teller Machines / 14ymedio, Rosa Lopez

Lines at Cuban ATMs grow on weekends (14ymedio)

Lines at Cuban ATMs grow on weekends (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Rosa Lopez, Havana, 23 February 2015 – The line reached the corner and was moving with agonizing slowness. They were not selling eggs or potatoes. It wasn’t even a line for seeking a visa. Those who waited just wanted access to the automatic teller, the only one working last Saturday afternoon near Havana’s Central Park.

A few days before MasterCard can be used in Cuba, many are asking how the Cuban bank network will deal with the increased demand for money if it can barely keep its service afloat for domestic users and tourists.

The congestion in front of the machines grows even though only 1.3 million magnetic cards have been issued in the country, and for the moment only retirees, customers with accounts in convertible pesos, businesses that have contracts with the bank, self-employed workers and international collaborators can get them. The rest of society continues to depend exclusively on paper currency.

“When the subject is money, people fume,” says a young man whose Saturday night hangs by a thread because of the congested ATM. Even though this weekend the temperature dropped in the city, no one seemed ready to leave before getting their cash.

The scene is repeated at most of the 550 ATMs (Automated Teller Machines or automatic tellers) of Chinese manufacture, of which 398 are in Havana. In 2013 200 new units were purchased in China, but the majority were to replace defective terminals and did not solve the serious deficit of tellers. Cash payment is still the most common method in Cuba for acquiring products and services.

The scarcity of terminals combines with the deficient functioning of the system, affected by electrical outages, frequent connection failures between the ATM and the bank and lack of cash

The terminals are only available in private businesses with great resources and obvious official backing 

Almost all the self-employed workers offer their services for cash payment. The use of point of sale terminals (TPVs) for card scanning and payment, also known as POS, is only available in private businesses with great resources and obvious official backing.

In state business networks, the landscape is different but not very promising either. Although there exist POS terminals in most big department stores and hard currency shops, their service is unstable and slow. “When a client comes to pay with a card, the line stops for minutes because sometimes the communication with the bank is down and you have to try it several times,” explains a cashier from the busy market at 70th Street and 3rd in Miramar.

In the provincial cities and above all in the townships, where they are practically non-existent, the ATM and POS situation is even worse. Tourists who travel deep into Cuba must carry cash with them, increasing the risk of theft and loss in addition to the demand for liquidity.

The problem hits natives and foreigners. “Why do they pay me on the card if in the end I have to go get the money at the bank because I can make purchases almost nowhere with this?” complains Marilin Ruiz, a former elementary school teacher who also was waiting in line on Saturday for the ATM near Central Park. The delay was so long that she wound sharing recipes for making flan without milk and knitting suggestions with another woman.

 “I have a pension of less than 200 pesos (about $8 US) and I spend up to two hours in line at the teller to collect it,” an old woman complained

Between the 4th and 6th of each month, Cuban retirees go to ATMs to collect their pensions. “I have a pension of less than 200 pesos (about $8 US) and I spend up to two hours in line at the teller to collect it,” explained Asuncion, an old woman of close to eighty years of age. Meanwhile, some kids scamper from one side to the other. They are the children of a couple waiting at the end of the line without much hope of getting money before nightfall.

“We are late for everything; when the world has spent decades using plastic, now it is that we are trying it,” laments Asuncion. The first ATMs, of French manufacture, were installed in Cuba in 1997, but after 2004 only Chinese terminals arrived.

Asuncion keeps in her wallet a Visa card that her son sent her from Madrid. “I use this only every three months when he puts a little on it for my expenses.” There are no public statistics about how many of the country’s residents might be making frequent use of debit or credit cards associated with a foreign bank account of an emigrated relative, but the phenomenon has grown in the last decade.

In the line several Chinese student also put their Asian patience to the test with the red and blue cards in hand from the Chinese banking conglomerate UnionPay. More than 3000 citizens of that country study or work on the Island, and they receive their family remittances through that channel. Also, in 2013 alone some 22,000 Chinese tourists visited Cuba.

“We Cubans and Chinese are good at waiting, but let the gringos arrive in great numbers, they are more desperate, they want everything fast,”

“We Cubans and Chinese are good at waiting, but let the gringos arrive in great numbers, they are more desperate, they want everything fast,” says Lazaro, a teen with tight clothes, to a friend with whom he waits in the line.

The alternative to the ATM, which might be the window of the bank branch, is not recommended. In Havana there are 90 branches of the Banco Metropolitano, but at the end of 2014 at least twelve offices were partially or completely closed because of problems ranging from leaks, sewer network blockages, danger of building collapse or other infrastructure issues. Insufficient attention and lack of trust in the banking system make many continue to prefer hiding money “under the mattress.”

The limited work schedule of banks and the scarcity of offices open on weekends cause long lines on weekends in front of ATMs. The more optimistic, however, manage to profit from the wait. Marilin managed to achieve everything by renting a room in her house to the Chinese students who must, of course, pay in cash.

Asuncion could not stand the pain in her legs and left without her money, while the couple at the end of the line had to buy some ice cream to pacify their restless children. Lazaro was luckier, and in addition to exchanging phone numbers with a French woman whom he met in the crowd, he managed to extract twenty convertible pesos from the ATM to spend that same night. At least this time the blue screen did not appear with the “out of service” announcement, nor was there a power outage and, yes, the machine had cash.

Translated by MLK

Musings of a Blind Man (2) / Angel Santiesteban

Angel Santiesteban, 7 January 2015 — To know that there is a Cuban who knew how to work against the dictatorship makes it easier to bear that the regime’s five spies are now back on Cuban soil. I rejoiced when it was revealed that this Cuban — responding not to the North American government but against the dictatorship of the Castros — was the cause, having passed information to United States intelligence agencies about the enemy network that was operating in its territory. He is a free man today, having been exchanged for the last three of those spies who were still in prison in the US].

In turn, the fact that Alan Gross is now back with his family also means relief for those of us who harbor good feelings — especially those of us who know firsthand the suffering Continue reading

Why Do Cubans Continue To Be Spaniards? / 14ymedio, Ferran Nunez

Treaty of Paris 1898

Treaty of Paris 1898 (CC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ferrán Nuñez, Paris, 21 February 2015 — With the signing of the Treaty of Paris of 1898, Spain ceded or sold the last pieces of its former empire where, in the time of Carlos V, “the sun never set.” This treaty, as has already been proven by Pedro Albizu Campos, had several legal defects that made it invalid. Curiously, no Spanish politician has used these arguments to challenge it outright. This is due to two main factors: The first, ignorance, and the second, of equal weight, reality. Spain today, as it has been for the last 115 years, is not in any shape to oppose the “Pax Americana.”

However, today this legal fissure acquires an unexpected dimension. Spain, through various laws, decrees and circulars, has decided to re-establish the rights of nationality for many of its former citizens who lost their nationality for different reasons in the last century (and even earlier, as is the case of the Sephardic Jews). Over time this worthwhile path is going to turn out partial and incomplete because unfathomable depths of injustice Continue reading

The Malecon as Pier / 14ymedio, Orlando Palma

Image of the Cayo Hueso-Havana ferry taken 1951 (History Miami Archives and Research Center)

Image of the Cayo Hueso-Havana ferry taken 1951 (History Miami Archives and Research Center)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Orlando Palma, Havana, 21 February 2015 — Jose Manuel is 70 years old and has spent more than half his life fishing from Havana’s Malecon. For this retiree with leathery skin and eyes that have seen almost everything, it is a dream to catch sight again of that ferry that used to go to Florida and that he so liked when he was a child. “We kids used to pretend to say goodbye, and although I could never travel on it, my grandmother did every now and then.” Now, while the evening falls, the septuagenarian hopes that some fish will take the bait, and before him a sea without boats extends to infinity.

Maritime transport between Havana and Cayo Hueso came to be very common in the first half of the 20th century until it was suspended in August of 1961 as a consequence of the restrictions from the American embargo of the Island. Now, the ghost of a ferry Continue reading

Americas Summit: Opportunity and Challenge / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya

Enrique Peña Nieto and Barack Obama spoke at the Summit of the Americas in their meeting last January 6 in Washington. (EFE / Michael Reynolds)

Enrique Peña Nieto and Barack Obama spoke about the Summit of the Americas in their meeting last January 6 in Washington. (EFE / Michael Reynolds)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 8 February 2105 — One of the most controversial issues facing both the Cuban government and Cuban independent civil society is one stemming from President Barack Obama’s December 17th speech when he stated: “Next April, we will be ready for Cuba to join the other nations in the hemisphere at the Americas Summit, but we will insist that Cuban civil society joins us so that it will not only be the leaders, but the citizens who will shape our future.”

Immediately after, Obama added: “And I urge all my colleagues and leaders to give meaning to the commitment to democracy and human rights, which is the essence of the Inter-American Charter. Let’s leave behind the legacy of colonization and communism and the tyranny of drug cartels, dictators Continue reading