The New Gospel, According to the General / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

Raúl Castro has slipped the designs of the PCC into a tabloid with documents analyzed and approved during the VII Congress of the Cuban Communist Party
Raúl Castro has slipped the designs of the PCC into a tabloid with documents analyzed and approved during the VII Congress of the Cuban Communist Party

cubanet square logoCubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 26 May 2016 — The Cuban Party-State-Government has just published a tabloid containing two of the root documents analyzed and approved during the VII Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) last April, 2016. These are the Project for the Conceptualization for the Economic and Social Model of Socialist Development Project and for the National Project Plan for Economic and Social Development Until 2030: Proposal Of Country’s Vision, Core And Strategic Sectors.

No doubt this is a case of “partial declassification”, considering that the four documents adopted in April’s occult ritual were of a strictly secret character. The discussion and approval, produced in covert conditions, involved about a thousand of the anointed (so-called “delegates”) and, according to official figures 3,500 “guests.” Continue reading “The New Gospel, According to the General / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya”

The two remaining mysterious scrolls have yet to be declassified, namely, the Report on the Results of the Implementation of the Guidelines for Economic and Social Policy of the Party and the Revolution, with the Update of the Guidelines for the period 2016-2021, which contains the Working Party In Compliance With Those Approved At The First National Conference Objectives And Guidelines Of The First Secretary Of The Central Committee, i.e., the sacred commandments of the General-President himself.

The first thing that draws attention to this tabloid’s disclosure is the indifference of the Cuban population, which has not given any importance to a document where, presumably, the destiny of the nation was plotted and established. In contrast, some foreign news agencies have unleashed a wave of comments that tend to magnify those documents as if they were the creation of a miracle, focusing the spotlight on what they consider the big news: the alleged acknowledgement of “private property” by the PCC, including medium size and small businesses in that category. At the same time, the media’s most audacious analysts suggest the Cuban government has employed certain political will to enhance or enable the development of this type of economic management.

Such a mirage, agitated by the “co-responsible” of Havana’s accredited press–so diligent in legitimizing the official discourse of the ruling elite as refractory to delve into a serious and thorough investigation of the Cuban reality–part of a misinterpretation of point 91 of the “Conceptualization…”, which textually exposes “another transformation that will contribute to the economy, employment and well-being of the population is the recognition of the complementary role of private ownership over certain means of production …”.

However, it is known that true private property is only possible in societies where individuals, groups or business entities are able to exercise the right to own, control, inherit, manage and produce their goods and capital in order to achieve wealth. Those rights include the possibility of developing their properties according to their abilities, or acquiring (including importing) raw materials, machinery, equipment and all documents necessary for the development of their commercial or productive activity, which implies the existence of a lawful framework providing legal guarantees to the “owners.” That is not the case in Cuba, as should be known in the circles of the accredited press.

In fact, the newly published document endorses the opposite of what can be expected where real private property exists, as described in point #104: “the concentration of property and wealth in natural or legal non-State persons or entities is not allowed, in accordance with what has been legislated, in a manner consistent with the principles of our socialism,” and, if this were not enough, they hammer another nail on the coffin of the illusory “private property” in section 201, when it dictates: “the state regulates the constitution, dissolution, liquidation and restructuring of legal entities of all forms of property. It defines their areas of policies and principal activities.”

But the most relevant value of “The Project of Conceptualization …” is the huge number of conflicting and mutually exclusive elements, which clearly reflects not only the extent and depth of the Cuban socio-economic crisis, but the impossibility of getting it resolved from the political and legal framework established in the last 57 years.

This is evident throughout the entire document, but a few key issues that contradict the ideological assumptions on which it is intended to build the “Model” are more than sufficient. Suppose we look at the case of foreign investments, a kind of property that is currently being officially acknowledged by the government as “a source of development and means of accessing capital, technology, markets and managerial experience, which contributes production clusters and in the resolution of major structural imbalances…” (Item #90).

On the other hand, the principle that the economic system is planned, regulated and controlled by the State is sustained. The State also controls relations with international economies (point 203).

So the solution to the structural crisis of Cuba’s socialism is found in the forms of capitalist production, but the distribution of wealth stemming from market relations through foreign trade and foreign (capitalist) investment will be exerted by the socialist state. Then the wealth from capitalist production capacity would be state-socialist property, since, as stated by paragraph 124, “the State acts as a representative of the owner, which is the people.”

The colossal nationalization of the economy continues to be maintained, since, in its capacity as representative of the owners, the State decides and controls the destinies of the corporate profits of socialist property of all the people, after [the owners’] fulfillment of tax obligations and other commitments, (point 148).

This “representation” includes the regulation and control of institutions, companies and communications media as a strategic resource of the State–which is to say, the state monopoly of the media–“according to the policy designed” by the CCP, “preserving technology sovereignty, in compliance with the legislation established on matters of defense and national security” (points 110 and 111), in which it presupposes ratification of Law 88 (Gag Law).

Of course, the role of the State (government and one-party at the same time) as “patriarch” manager of wealth and properties under “representative of the people” is more than questionable, in a nation where presidential elections have not been held in over 60 years, and where more than 70% of the population was born after 1959 and has never had the opportunity to legitimize such paternity.

This is precisely what determines that the “new” proposal–absurdly futuristic, but almost identical to all the discursive rhetoric of the preceding decades–from the same octogenarian and retrograde ruling elite, does not arouse the interest of ordinary Cubans in the least. Why “debate” about the same old fait accompli? they ask themselves with the same apathy that dominates Cuban society.

Few have stopped to think that, with the popular “debate” which, it’s rumored, will take place around these documents, the ruling caste aims to “legitimize” the consecration of state capitalism for their own benefit, and will continue to cling to power beyond the biological possibilities of the olive-green banditos. This seems to be expressed in the presentation of the behemoth in question: we are facing the strategic legacy of the “historic generation” to new generations.

It is not possible to exhaust in a single article all the ambiguous rabbit trails that slither along the 330 points of the Conceptualization Project. For now, let’s summarize that they are the “good news” that Saint Raúl, of the olive-green, bearer of a truth that has certainly been revealed to him by his predecessor, the Great Orate: if we stick to the concept of “Revolution” of that wise old man, if the “Guidelines” are met and if the results of the implementation of these are effective, in the year 2030 Cubans will be in a position to “build a sovereign, independent, socialist, democratic, prosperous and sustainable nation.”

Let no one be surprised if, in the coming weeks, the number of emigrants from this impossible island increases exponentially.

Translated by Norma Whiting

The Step-Motherland’s Droit de Seigneur / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya

Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo and Minister of Development, Ana Pastor, greeting Raúl Castro. (EFE / Estudios Revolución)
Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo and Minister of Development, Ana Pastor, greeting Raúl Castro. (EFE / Estudios Revolución)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 23 May 2016 — Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, Spain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, recently made his second visit to Cuba. Unlike his first, in November 2014–when the general-president did not deign to meet with him—this time his “highest excellency” Spanish Foreign Minister was emphatically welcomed by the upper echelons of power.

This new attitude between both sides is not so strange, since García-Margallo was in a “democratic” mode in 2014, triggering the olive-green gerontocracy’s suspicion and displeasure. Now, the Chancellor has come solely in a business mode, with the mission to strengthen and expand as much as possible Spain’s investments in Cuba before the resources of the powerful northern neighbor intrude (for a second time) in the territory of the former Spanish colony, once again depriving Spain of its devalued Crown jewel. Continue reading “The Step-Motherland’s Droit de Seigneur / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya”

This time, the Castro’s media monopoly reported cryptically, in a brief note, the exchange with “the distinguished visitor,” who was accompanied by senior officials in the fields of Development and Cooperation of the Spanish Government and by the Ambassador of that country in Cuba, citing “positive relations between the two nations” and “the recent signing of agreements in Madrid regularizing Cuban’s intermediate and long term debt,” which “creates favorable conditions” for strengthening of relations between the two countries.

There is no doubt that the current scenario proved advantageous for the Spanish Chancellor when talking business with the satrapy

On Cuba’s side, the meeting was attended by the Foreign Minister, a Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers, the Minister of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment, and the Foreign Affairs Deputy Minister. It was obviously a business visit that was took place in greatest secrecy.

So, as usual, details of interest did not reach the public about bilateral economic issues, debt terms and repayment of potential Spanish investments, although it is known that Spain is one of Cuba’s main trading partners and has maintained a strong business presence for more than two decades in Cuba, especially in the tourist and hotel field. Therefore, these should be topics of importance for the population, in the midst of the deep Cuban crisis.

In another sense, but equally secret, there were the activities carried out by the same Spanish Foreign Minister during his previous visit. Less than two years ago, the now “most excellent” visitor raised great distress at the Palace of the Revolution when he delivered the keynote On Living through the Transition: a Biographical View of Change in Spain–also behind closed doors and in the presence of a handpicked audience—in such a government space as the Higher Institute of International Relations. The piece established a comparison between the Spanish reality at the end of the Franco era, the beginning of the process of democratic transition, and the Cuban reality today, under the late Castro regime.

In retrospect, it is fair to concede that—although García-Margallo’s speech in November 2014 in Havana did not reach the national media—none of the governments and representatives of democratic nations who had visited us until then had so boldly expressed criticism towards Cuban official policy nor had they spoken about the importance of freedoms of speech, press, assembly and association.

However, on his first visit, the Spanish Foreign Minister did not enjoy the same privileges as US President Barack Obama, whose speech–directed to all Cubans and not to a select group of Castro’s faithful—was broadcast in real time through Cuban media, and it made a deep impression in the minds of ordinary people. Of course, the US president is not one to be provoked.

It is as if favoring the protection of the interests of Spanish business in Cuba must necessarily involve forgetting the exclusion Cubans live under, so exploited by those same entrepreneurs

That explains why Cubans did not learn about the audacity of García-Margallo, the first representative of a democratic government who mentioned, before an official venue’s microphone, ideas as subversive as the importance of political party pluralism as a pillar of democracy and national harmony, efficiency of peaceful political transitions in order to achieve true lasting changes, and the regaining of freedoms violated by long lasting autocratic regimes.

On that occasion, García-Margallo referred to the need for monetary unification and acceleration of changes in Cuba, decentralization of decision-making, ratification of the United Nations covenants on civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights, and freedom of association, among other topics that are also taboo for the Cuban government.

In short, we would need to point that, when comparing the Spanish foreign minister’s approach on his first visit to Cuba with his second, there is no doubt that there was a setback in terms of defense of human rights and democracy for Cubans, as if favoring the protection of the interests of Spanish business in Cuba must necessarily involve forgetting the exclusion Cubans live under, so exploited by those same entrepreneurs. All this goes against the grain of the hypocrisy of officials of that country, who, when it is convenient for them, make reference to “the close historical, cultural and blood ties that bind our two nations.”

Now it turns out that García-Margallo has even chosen to be the interpreter of the wishes of the Cuban people, so his purely business mission in Cuba is not only justified by the large presence of Spanish capital in the former “always faithful island of Cuba” but because “the Cuban people now primarily want progress and economic development, and we will help in that change.” Unfortunately, we do not know how he will manage to do that. For now, freedom and the ratification of the covenants, blah, blah, blah … is still pending. Ah, Spanish politicians, always so fickle!

If Cuban rulers of the past 57 years are so very “Spanish,” it is not surprising that things in Cuba are so very topsy-turvy

However, the current considerate stance of the Spanish authorities towards Castro once again addresses the question of “roots,” no matter the tree. According to media allegations, Mr. Garcia-Margallo recently stated “in Cuba, apart from human relationships, Fidel’s and Raul’s father was a soldier who fought on the side of our troops during the [War of] Independence, and he later changed sides,” so the dictator brothers “are very, very Spanish.”

Well, finally! That explains everything: if Cuban rulers of the past 57 years are so very “Spanish” it is not surprising that things in Cuba are so very topsy-turvy, and even less strange that now—in the midst of the transition from Castro-communism to Castro-capitalism—the step-motherland’s claim for a certain droit de seigneur is being encouraged from La Moncloa*, especially when history, always so whimsical, seems to be closing another cycle that–bridging the gaps—mimics that episode over a hundred years ago when Spain and the US were quarreling over the spoils of the Island-in-ruins.

*Official Madrid residence of the Spanish Prime Minister

Translated by Norma Whiting

Rules to Prevent Debate / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya

Merchants at El Trigal protested closing of the market. (14ymedio)
Merchants at El Trigal protested closing of the market. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 18 May 2016 — A small protest convoy and a demand by a group of bicycle taxi (pedicab) operators at the Plaza of the Revolution; indignation and astonishment among producers and traders about the arbitrary and unannounced closing of the wholesale market for agricultural products in the capital; irritation of several citizens who verbally attacked the policemen who were trying to maltreat a blind and helpless beggar, who was at the Carlos III marketplace; a sit down strike led by workers at a cigar factory in the city of Holguín over wages… These are some of the events that demonstrate both the state of dissatisfaction and frustration that are taking shape in Cuba’s population, the emergence of a sense of questioning the system and the incipient rebellion against the power and the authorities that represent it.

It is without a doubt, good news. The bad news is that social balance becomes dangerously fragile in a society where rights and prosperity have been banned, where institutions respond fully to the interests of the parasite power, where any opposition to the government is illegal and where public debate and dialogue between the power and “governed” are non-existent. Continue reading “Rules to Prevent Debate / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya”

As the social tension grows and the government increases the obstacles, uncertainty becomes greater as to ways a conflict could be unleash that would elude institutional control.

If the power caste did not suffer from the colossal blindness of its proverbial arrogance, it would have enough lucidity to interpret the current signs

It seems that the above facts are insignificant and isolated amid the general acquiescence of Cubans with respect to their government. However, such events were unthinkable just five years ago, and even less so during the period prior to July 30, 2006, when the “Proclamation” was made public, which declared Fidel Castro’s supposed temporary withdrawal from the presidential chaise lounge, which he had intended to be his for life. The proclamation gave some hope to the people about improvements in their living conditions.

If the power caste did not suffer from the colossal blindness of its proverbial arrogance, it would have enough lucidity to interpret the current signs, especially when the still timely efforts of the people’s protests are taking place just weeks after the conclusion of the last Congress of the Cuban Communist Party, where presumably national economic and socio-political strategies were drawn for at least until 2030. A moderately insightful Government would at least have the perception that the social acceptance of its eternal monologue had ended and that the urgencies of the national reality far outweigh the temporary and strategic limits set by the Party Guidelines.

Like it or not, the lords of power must understand that the Cuban crisis demands changes dictated from social slogans, not from the Palace of the Revolution, and that such changes must occur willingly–that is, starting from a real national debate from which a transitional covenant might emerge–or by force, when an undesirable social explosion could take place due to the unstoppable deterioration of the population’s living conditions, with unpredictable consequences.

It turns out that autocracies are not designed for public scrutiny. Far from establishing a national dialogue which would, in principle, act as an escape valve for frustrations, the last page of the Party newspaper Granma on Tuesday May 17th, 2016 contained an article which is the absolute denial of this possibility. The article is titled Rules for Debate or Matter of Principles, signed by a (let’s use the term they prefer) “revolutionary intellectual” by the name of Rafael Cruz Ramos, which establishes two simple “rules” for an imaginary debate which, by the way, the reader never catches a glimpse of.

In Cuba, we know, all money is cursed, unless it is blessed and managed by the leaders of the Castro-cracy

Summarizing a substantial verbal extraction that fills an entire page with what might have been said in a few paragraphs, Mr. Cruz tries unsuccessfully to enunciate a first rule, designed not to establish the basis or topics for that nonexistent debate-monologue of his, but what will not be included in it, under any circumstances.

We should not ever debate with “those who come to us carrying a political fragmentation grenade ready to have it explode in the heart of the country, of the Republic, of the motherland, in order to destroy the socialist system under construction and restore the archaic and worn-out capitalist system” Cruz Ramos assures us, though no one knows what authority or supranational power this unknown subject has that he can issue such categorical guidelines.

The second rule is also set from denial, and validating the same old Castro-style singsongs: “We will not deal with anyone who is funded, backed, or supported by the terrorist anti-Cuban money from Miami or any other nation, including those of old Europe”. Because in Cuba we already know that all money is cursed unless it is blessed and managed by the leaders of the Castro-cracy, who will later distribute some loose change or other prizes among its most faithful servants. This may well be Mr. Cruz Ramos’s case.

The article is extremely emotional and perhaps because of that it is extremely vague. It is hard to figure out what he means by “we,” what topics would be subject to debate, who would participate, who would carry the dangerous “political fragmentation grenade” or what it consists of. Instead, it can be assumed that there will be no debate with anyone who is not on the side of the political power. Therefore, from this point any possibility for debate is null.

Cruz Ramos could have saved his efforts. Because if we are talking about a debate, it would be a discussion between two or more individuals, groups, etc., on topics or issues of public interest, in which a moderator and audience would also participate. It may be oral, written, or take place in an internet forum, but in all cases certain rules and recommendations must be observed that will allow for the development of the discussions, and, in the best of cases, making agreements.

The standards and recommendations are universal and unavoidable for the development of any discussion, and consist of observing principles as basic as not imposing one’s personal views, making a point through argument and counter-argument, listening carefully to others, without interrupting or underestimating their criteria, being brief and concise, respecting differences, speaking freely, expressing ourselves clearly, using appropriate vocabulary, avoiding verbal or physical attacks as well as mocking and other behaviors that might disqualify the antagonist, among others.

Cruz Ramos does not propose a debate, but total commitment of Cubans to the Government

But Cruz Ramos violates every one of these rules, ending exactly in the opposite corner: he disqualifies a priori the potential antagonist, he refuses to listen to arguments other than his own, he has no argument but argues, criticizes in the abstract without offering concrete proposals, he extends unnecessarily without managing to explain or make himself clearly understood. Cruz Ramos does not propose a debate, but total commitment of Cubans to the Government

On the other hand, his convoluted discourse mixes dissimilar topics and out of context references, distorting facts, history, characters and his and others’ realities. An apparent inconsistency which is, nevertheless, perfectly consistent with the system he defends. So, to refute each and every one of the passionate lines of Rules for Debate… would be as extensive as it would be unproductive, especially when it becomes obvious that this is his intention: to distract from the essence, which is the failure of the Cuban sociopolitical system imposed on Cubans more than half a century ago.

But, at least it is useful to note what is unable to be concealed of the conjunction of two great fears of the Government cupula: the real possibility that popular protests might become more generalized–which is not or does not have the same political costs to strike dissident demonstrations or repress poor people for whom, de jure, the Revolution was created more than half a century ago–and the impossibility of further delaying, without consequences, a broad and inclusive debate over Cuba’s destinies.

It becomes clear that if the Castro regime does not feel capable of withstanding the test of a national debate, then its weakness is as great as its arrogance. But if, in addition, the best of its think-tanks, in order to deal with that eventuality carry the same argumentative-theoretical baggage as Rafael Cruz Ramos, the debate can already be considered lost.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Danse Macabre / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

Screen Shot 2016-04-26 at 7.56.35 AM
cubanet square logoCubanet, Miriam Celaya, West Palm Beach, Florida, 13 April 2016 — The video has gone viral in the internet in just over 24 hours — between Monday afternoon, April 11th 2016, and the early hours of Tuesday night — it had been shared 42,000 times, it had been viewed almost 4 million times, and the count continued to rise exponentially. The images speak louder than words: children as young as 7 or 8 years old, in school uniform, contort in the frenzy of a lewd dance in what is obviously a Cuban elementary school. Around them, voices can be heard (their teachers or some other adult in charge of their care and their education?) encouraging them cheerfully, obviously enjoying the spectacle.

The kindest adjectives that could describe those responsible for this act are aberration, atrocity, perversity and depravity. Continue reading “Danse Macabre / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya”

The children’s bodies curl and bow with spasmodic thrusts to the rhythm of music. The girl raises her slender leg up to the boy’s waist or she turns back, bringing her child’s buttocks close to the boy’s pelvis, who also rhythmically imitates sexual gestures characteristic of adults in full intimacy. At one point in the dance, the boy lays on the ground while his “dance” companion crouches down with her legs open as she continues her writhing over the boy’s lower abdomen, while the general revelry reaches its highpoint all around them.

Such unusual entertainment, worthy of a brothel or a nightclub of the worst category, goes on for five and a half minutes to the distress of any decent spectator, and to the delight of those who continue to encourage the dancers, with not one teacher or school authority putting an end the lustful dance.

These innocent children, with their bandanas around their necks, their white shirts and their scarce few feet in stature are most likely the very same ones that swear each morning to “be like Che,” sing the national anthem or salute the tri-color flag. It is difficult to imagine what other, more responsible parents, who are committed to their families might think about the peculiar “recreational and cultural environment” that their children are being brought up in, and of the benefits offered by the highly praised free education, supreme jewel of the Cuban educational system, much hailed in international forums and organizations as the role model to be followed, even by developed countries.

Here we have a single video that stands as irrefutable testimony to the truth that the many voices of the independent civil society have been reporting for years: the colossal loss of moral values in Cuban society, the shocking deterioration of schoolteachers and “educators” that directly affects the deformation of the younger generations, the immorality invading countless homes and Cuban families, whose members welcome their children’s precocity and shamelessness, children who are being deprived of the gentle naïveté of childhood before of their first decade of life. Will defenders of the Castro regime reiterate this time that this is a fabrication of the enemies of the revolution?

There are certainly numerous factors that have contributed to all this moral collapse: the appalling housing conditions that make tens of thousands of families live together in the greatest promiscuity — where adults and children share the same tight spaces and sometimes even the same beds — perennial material deprivation, despair, widespread social corruption and the fight for survival. A characteristic degenerative process of the socio-political system imposed on Cubans for nearly six decades.

There might be some who will shrug their shoulders or label as prudes those of us who have become disturbed and felt disgust at the images displayed in the video, but these young children, thus exposed, have actually been innocent victims of those who should look out for their care and their education: their parents, their teachers and their political system that hypocritically portrays itself as the guardian of childhood.

The children’s rights have been stripped of the protection of adults, as have their rights to grow in a safe and dignified environment, to not be exposed publicly, and to receive an appropriate education within the parameters and universally recognized moral behaviors. Without exaggeration, we are witnessing the consecration of a crime that should be judged and condemned by peoples of all decent and civilized societies. What do agencies and institutions responsible for protecting children have to say now? Will they keep silent before this atrocity so they can continue applauding condescendingly the amazing Cuban official statistics and the fabulous “achievements” of revolutionary education?

However, the matter is not lacking in a strong symbolic charge. The danse macabre of these lewd schoolchildren seems to embody the funeral ritual that had had once been a solid educational system shaping generations of professionals with highest qualifications and the broadest of educations.

As for the Cuban authorities, we’ll have to wait and see this time how they will manage to endorse this despicable crime to some twisted “maneuver of the right in collusion with Imperialism”. Their work is cutout for them.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Epitaph for a Party / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya

Cuban president Raúl Castro speaking last Tuesday at the 7th Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (EFE)
Cuban president Raúl Castro speaking last Tuesday at the 7th Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Miami, 20 April 2016 – I ask for a minute’s standing ovation, gentlemen: the Communist Party of Cuba has died. The internment, which will be known to future generations of Cubans as the 7th Congress of the PCC, held its memorial service Tuesday, 19 April 2016, exactly 55 years after the dazzling “first great defeat of Yankee imperialism in America.”

Due to those whimsical paradoxes of history, the “Socialist Revolution,” proclaimed in those days of pure popular enthusiasm, has finally succumbed, but not by any action of the imperialist enemy warrior, but by the arrogance of its own makers. Continue reading “Epitaph for a Party / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya”

The death of the PCC, after a long and painful illness, was authenticated with the election of the “new” Central Committee, headed – but for unavoidable exceptions – by the same crested brains of the revolutionary gerontocracy, irresponsibly clinging to power counter to the country’s deterioration. The octogenarian party has not had the capability to renew itself to make way for a new generation of leaders trained to meet the challenges of these times.

Nevertheless, there were earlier signs of the inevitability of this death. In the last five years, the Cuban “political vanguard” allowed itself the luxury of wasting one more opportunity to reverse the state of national calamity , and elected instead the path to stagnation, if not retrogression. Cognition of its own frailty and the fear of losing control over society paralyzed the once powerful PCC, which ended up losing its last shreds of credibility among Cubans.

In the last five years, the Cuban “political vanguard” allowed itself the luxury of wasting one more opportunity to reverse the state of national calamity, and elected instead the path to stagnation, if not regression

Some of these signs of weakness and decay are the lack of programs of reform that would allow for the beginning of a process of changes and overcoming the persistent poverty; the disconnect between the ruling elite and the social base; the inability to move beyond the experimental phase of the few and insufficient economic openings; the improvisation of insufficient and ineffective measures designed to alleviate the consequences of the crisis rather than eliminate its causes; and the constant and growing exodus that further impoverishes the nation. The capital of popular faith which rallied briefly at the beginning of the transfer of power from F. Castro to his brother (the “pragmatic reformist” Raúl) has died.

Over a year after being announced with much fanfare, and after a process of secret meetings where only a select group of anointed ones “discussed” the documents to be analyzed in its sessions, the conclave that supposedly would trace the fate of 11 million souls not only ignored the national drift, it squandered the additional time in an attempt to counteract the harmful effect that, according to the leaders of the geriatric caste, the imperialist enemy has injected into the soul of the nation.

Behold the political power that has consecrated Cuba’s destiny according to a new turning point.

In short, there will not be a Cuba before and after the 7th Congress of the PCC, but before and after the restoration of relations with the US, specifically, after the visit of the American president, Barack Obama, to the Cuban capital. This is the implicit recognition of the failure of the Castro-communist project.

In short, there will not be a Cuba before and after the 7th Congress of the PCC, but before and after the restoration of relations with the US

Thus, the issues that would occupy de jure the discussions, namely, the conceptualization of this absurd unreality called “the Cuban socioeconomic and political model,” the problem of the dual currency, feeding of the population, constitutional reform, the highly vaunted foreign investment program and an endless list of other emergencies related to ordinary Cubans, are left hanging. The PCC has no answers to social demands.

Instead, the leaders have opted for entrenchment, and, as if current generations of Cubans believed in symbols of the past, the leadership decided to play as trump a devalued card: it dusted off and preened as much as possible the former President, former First Secretary of the Central Committee of the PCC and former Undisputed Commander in Chief, and placed him before the monastic convent’s plenary session – after also cloistering the doors to the tabernacle, safe from the inquiring inquisitorial foreign press – in an attempt to legitimize his new ideological war against the Empire.

With all certainty, a war with not enough followers, unless the new Cuban soldiers could be called that: the migrants who are invading the enemy by land, sea and air in robust legions to defeat the enemy by occupying his territory, triumphantly and permanently. Memories of the old ex-warrior’s battle and moral victories, whether real or imagined, have been left way behind in our national recollections.

Now it becomes clear that the PCC has died. The so-called 7th Congress was not that at all, but a swan song. Just the sad spectacle of a group of recalcitrant elders addicted to power and their cohort busybodies (buquenques, in good Cuban). If there is any honest communist left in Cuba – if in the imaginary case such ever existed – he must be plunged into the deepest mourning. Had our half a century of history been different, the late Party might deserve a minute of silence. But we don’t need to be hypocrites, at any rate; we Cubans have been silent for way too long.

Translated by Norma Whiting

An Encounter with Barack Obama / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya

Miriam Celaya seated next to President Obama during his meeting in Havana with representatives from independent civil society.
Miriam Celaya seated next to President Obama during his meeting in Havana with representatives from independent civil society.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 23 March 2016 — This past Tuesday, March 22, 2016 was, without doubt, a memorable day for us, the 13 representatives of a portion of the independent civil society who had the opportunity to meet with President Barack Obama at the US embassy in Havana.

During the previous days, we had been invited to participate at a “high level” meeting in the framework of the US President’s visit to Cuba, and on our arrival at the embassy, what we all had expected was confirmed: Obama would meet with us behind closed doors, away from journalists’ cameras and microphones.  The media was only present for a photo-session, moments before the start of the off-the-record exchange between the American president and the Cuban invitees. Continue reading “An Encounter with Barack Obama / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya”

Also present were other senior US officials, who were not involved in the dialogue between Obama and Cuban activists and independent journalists.

At the meeting, which lasted over an hour and 40 minutes, all guests had the opportunity to express different views on issues related to the new policy of dialogue and rapprochement between the US government and Cuba, and to advocate how some activists think this new relationship could benefit progress in the empowerment of the Cuban people and the consolidation of the civil society more efficiently.

Despite the different positions and projects represented, the great majority of Cubans at the meeting expressed openly their support for the policy of rapprochement and dialogue initiated by President Obama

Despite the different positions and projects represented, the great majority of Cubans at the meeting expressed openly their support for the policy of rapprochement and dialogue initiated by President Obama on December 17, 2014. However – and contrary to what the government discourse is spreading in its smear campaigns against the internal dissidence – none of the activists asked for any funding or material support for their projects.

Obama, meanwhile, made a show of good humor, intelligence, sensitivity and a skill in listening to everyone, though some activists went over the time allotted for their presentations, which limited further exchange with the US president, as many of us had hoped for. However, his frank interventions and the use of his usual direct language, devoid of unnecessary grandstanding, constituted a lesson in politics that left no doubt about his assertion that he is on the correct path.

This meeting demonstrates the willingness of the US government to maintain open communication channels with all participants of Cuban society, regardless of political beliefs, ideologies, dogmas and programs

Obviously, there is always much left to discuss at such encounters, but at any rate, this meeting demonstrates the willingness of the US government to maintain – as has been its tradition and political practice to date – open communication channels with all participants of Cuban society, regardless of political beliefs, ideologies, dogmas and programs. This position does not refute the importance of continuing the current dialogue with Cuban officials and should be emulated by governments and representatives of all democratic societies in the world, which are always eager to ignore the dissident sectors and to deny their corresponding role in the process of change that has begun to be carried out in Cuba.

Obama honored the activists of the independent civil society in devoting a generous portion of his time during his brief visit, and he showed absolute respect for Cubans, for our sovereignty and for the pro-democracy projects. His idea summarizes the essence of his policy: the future of Cuba and the construction of a democratic society are the sole responsibility of Cubans on the Island and in the diaspora.

Personally, this meeting with Obama left me with the impression of what an unaffected person he is, of his extraordinary intellect, his knowledge about Cuban history and the relationship between our two countries. A great man, whose name will ultimately be linked to the Cuban process of transition, just as he will be known by future generations of the offspring of this Island.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Barack Obama Seduces Cubans / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya

Barack Obama with his family on their tour around Old Havana (Yenny Muñoa / CubaMINREX)
Barack Obama with his family on their tour around Old Havana (Yenny Muñoa / CubaMINREX)

Barely a few hours after his arrival in Cuba, President Barack Obama stole the hearts of Cubans.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 21 March 2016 — First, there was an accomplice rain that intensified as the presidential plane taxied down the runway after landing at the airport. The initial image that Cubans had of the president of the most powerful country on Earth turned out to be a gentle and solicitous father, holding an umbrella to protect his wife and daughters from the cloudburst as they descended the plane’s steps together, while offering his hand in greeting and a wide, warm smile to the welcoming group.

Shortly thereafter, around six in the afternoon, during his televised visit to the Cathedral in the historic center of Old Havana, the first cheers were heard from the humble people in the surrounding neighborhoods, expressing their admiration and affection towards the visitor. The links of militants of the single party and other faithful of the Cuban regime were not adequate to avoid real contact between Obama and the people: this charismatic leader seems to exert such a natural power of seduction over the crowds that it causes them to upend the blockade of the official control. Continue reading “Barack Obama Seduces Cubans / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya”

The scene was repeated when Obama went to the Ceiba tree at the Templete, one of the symbols of the capital’s traditions, and later, when he unexpectedly dined at Restaurante San Cristóbal, an eatery located in the popular district of San Leopoldo, in the heart of Centro Habana. Soon, word that he was in the area spread, and immediately, a crowd spontaneously swarmed around, just to see and greet the American president. “Obama, Obama, Obama!” chanted a crowd of all ages, while the presidential car and his accompanying entourage retreated to the Malecón, and a smiling and happy Obama waved through the window.

It is clear that the 48 hours that Barack Obama will be among us are going to be more loaded with adrenaline than the Cuban authorities had anticipated. Now it seems obvious that, while high-level visitors, popes, presidents and others, have always complacently adhered to the script prepared by the choreographers at the Palace of the Revolution, the man in the White House has his own agenda, which he’s determined to carry out. It is clear that, though Obama will condescendingly participate in the official part of the altarpiece he’s required to perform, he is determined to feel his way around the Cuban people’s beat for himself. No one should be surprised if at some point he suddenly appears in the central courtyard of some dilapidated rooming complex in Havana.

This charismatic president appears to exert such power of natural seduction on the crowds that it causes them to upend the blockade of official control.

In fact, the talk in Havana is Barack Obama’s daring appearance in the comedy show with the greatest TV audience in the country, Deja que Yo te Cuente, with Epifanio Pánfilo as its main popular character, played by comedian Luis Silva. No doubt it is the most original way he has conceived to reach every household in Cuba, and Cubans are fascinated with that perspective. The natural and easy way Obama has chosen to mingle with Cubans contrasts stridently with the distant and hardbound historical leaders and their claque. It is known that autocrats not only remain isolated in a world that is unattainable for the ordinary Cuban, but that they also don’t know how to smile.

By now, Obama’s detractors here and yonder must be tasting their own bile. It turns out that the US President’s visit to Cuba is not really “legitimizing the dictatorship,” but those who some in the media have taken to calling “ordinary Cubans.” One can also imagine the bitterness and the powerlessness of the gerontocracy, that arrogant “historic generation,” witnessing Cuban’s sincere show of affection and admiration for the highest representative of what was, until barely fifteen months ago, the enemy Empire that hated us and was trying to smother us.

Two full days remain to see how many and how unforeseeable are the cards our visitor has up his sleeve, but one may ask if we should expect other surprises. Without a doubt, today’s emotions let us expect that, this US presidential visit to Havana leaves no room for doubt, even if only to show the world how much Cubans approve of the newest White House policies towards Cuba. It constitutes a resounding success for Obama.

Translated by Norma Whiting

‘Moviecide’ in Havana

Edison Movie House, converted to apartments and now in danger of collapse. (14ymedio)
Edison Movie House, converted to apartments and now in danger of collapse. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 11 March 2016 — In its primetime broadcast on Tuesday, The Cuban Television National News (NTV) released a report by journalist Milenys Torres about what were once called “neighborhood theaters,” most of which are entirely shut down or intended for other “social functions.”

With that deviousness that characterizes official journalism and allows reporters to skirt the periphery of the information without committing to the causes or the solutions, Torres briefly interviewed several locals and showed pictures of some of the theaters that once proliferated in the Cuban capital. Since the latter part of the 20th century, they have been closed and have been turning into unsanitary landfills that are infecting neighborhoods and creating sources for disease. Continue reading “‘Moviecide’ in Havana”

Rats, cockroaches and other vermin swarm among sewage leaks and all kinds of filth in places where we Havana citizens used to enjoy an occasional movie, a wholesome entertainment that was cheap and accessible in our own neighborhoods.

No movie theatre management, regardless of the causes, was able to decide, unilaterally and without consultation, on closing down the theaters and throwing away the key

During the Republican era, the great American influence made us avid movie buffs, and we were used to “keeping up” with all film production, not only from Hollywood, but also from Europe and Latin America. From then until the 1980s, the general public in Cuba had the same access to a first-run American movie, a Mexican drama or a French comedy, while the most demanding would enjoy New Wave, Swedish or German movies, among other treats. Of course, Soviet and other Eastern European cinematography also had its glory days in Havana movie theatres.

Although many times, and over a long period, the independent press has dealt very critically with the issue of vanishing Havana movie houses, the recent NTV report tries to present it as a priority of the official press and as if the event had taken place only yesterday and not three decades ago.

Milenys Torres introduces the news almost candidly from the landfill that the old Duplex and Rex Cinemas have become, in the midst of a boulevard in Centro Habana, using an ambiguous phrase that diffuses responsibility in a vacuum: “It is said that it all began when the air conditioning broke down and the movie house was closed.”

But it so happens that all Cuban movie houses have been state-owned since the Revolutionary government nationalized them, also monopolizing film production. No movie theatre management, regardless of the causes, was able to decide unilaterally and without consultation, on closing down the theaters and throwing away the key. Neither should the responsibility be shunned by the Comunales (the local People’s Power organizations), municipal political management entities, and instances of Public Health – all of them State-run institutions – for the loss of those cultural places and the steady accumulation of all kinds of refuse that affect not only the physical aspect but the health of such a densely populated environment.

Making an incomplete list of some neighborhood movie theaters that have been closed, just in the municipalities of Habana Vieja and Centro Habana, the list speaks volumes.

Spirituality and culture did not put food on the tables of a population uniformed in poverty

Besides the movie theatres mentioned above, the following movie theatres no longer exist in Centro Habana: The Majestic and The Verdún (Consulado Street), and The Neptune and Rialto cinemas (street of the same name), The Caprí – later renamed Mégano – and the The Campoamor (corner of Industria and San José, the last one in ruins). The Cuba and The Reina (Reina Street), this last one being used by a dance group, The Jigüe and The América (Galiano Street), currently used for musical shows, The Pionero (San Lázaro Street), The Findlay (Zanja Street), and The Favorito, the current headquarters for another dance group.

The moviecide is repeated In Old Havana, although this municipality never had the large number of theatres that Centro Habana had. Movie houses Guise, Negrete and Fausto (Prado Street) disappeared, as did The Ideal (Compostela Street). The Actualidades (Monserrate Street) remains in operation, but is markedly deteriorated, while The Universal (Bernaza Street) is a ruin converted into a parking lot, and The Habana (Mercaderes Street, Plaza Vieja) was rescued and converted into a Planetarium by intervention of the Office of the City Historian.

While new technologies have brought to households the opportunity to enjoy movies at home, in the rest of the world they have contributed to the closure of old, big theaters which have been transformed into smaller spaces to accommodate fewer spectators. The initial causes of the closure of Cuban cinemas run counter to technological developments, although multiplying the offerings.

The deep unprecedented economic crisis that followed the collapse of socialism and the sharp drop to a situation of survival took precedence over cultural and recreational matters. All of Cuba, and especially the capital, were overwhelmed by emergencies such as food, health and material shortages of all kinds. Spirituality and culture did not put food on the tables of a population uniformed in poverty.

On the other hand, political power began to be questioned in homes and even in public spaces, whether in a covert way, as in the isolated outbreaks of public discontent. Many of these outbreaks occurred precisely in cultural places. On one occasion, when images of Fidel Castro appeared in newsreels, viewers broke out chanting a popular hit song – just released in a Cuban rock-opera – whose lyrics repeated in crescendo “That man is crrrazzzy!” The movie house ended up being emptied by police, though there were no arrests, and no subsequent showings of the newsreel were aired.

The theaters were centers of potential disorder and anti-government political expressions

The authorities thus found out that movie theatres – being public places, where the public congregated and were protected by the anonymity of darkness – were potential centers for disorder and anti-government political expressions, which could easily get out of official control, so they stationed plain-clothes State Security and uniformed police agents in all movie houses.

Deliberately, as the cinemas were deteriorating, they were closed “for repairs” that never took place, until the theatres were sacrificed on the altar of ideology.

Years later, when a handful of private entrepreneurs started up small theaters, they were quickly forced to shut down by the authorities. The State was not able to meet the demands of Cuban moviegoers, but it would not allow public movie transmission out of its exclusive control: nothing could escape the Revolution’s rigid sieve of cultural policy arranged in 1961 by its supreme leader.

Currently, a few State projection rooms have been renovated and adapted to new trends. These are, for example, The Multicine Infanta in Centro Habana; or The Fresa y Chocolate Theatre in the heart of El Vedado. Yet the feverish movie-goer activity that developed in the shadow of the lavish theaters of Havana seems to have disappeared forever. Only, unlike countries where new technologies have brought the glamour of movie viewing to domestic spaces, Miledys Torres’ report is hypocritical and inopportune, when she questions the calamitous state of this or that movie house.

The official journalist seems to be asking naively: “Who shut down the movie houses?” She might find the answer parodying playwright Lope de Vega, but inversely. Because, in this Cuban movie-buff drama we are not only before the consecration of abuse of power, but the culprit was not Fuenteovejuna*, but precisely the Commendador.

*Translator’s note:Fuenteovejuna is a Lope de Vega 1614 comedy of the genre “Comendador” depicting conflict between villains and noblemen, abuse of power and finger-pointing.

Translated by Norma Whiting

The New York Times, a Branch of Granma / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

Headquarters of The New York Times (Photo: wikipedia.org)
Headquarters of The New York Times (Photo: wikipedia.org)

cubanet square logoCubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 9 March 2016 – The New York Times (NYT) has just dedicated a new editorial to Cuba. Or, to be more accurate, the article, signed by Colombian Ernesto Londoño, makes a whole accolade about what he — and perhaps the executives of that influential newspaper — depict as the beginning of a process of freedom of expression on the island.

And the unusual miracle of opening up which was announced triumphantly has been taking place just “since the United States began to normalize relations with Havana in late 2014.” So, magically, by the grace of Barack Obama’s new policy, “Cubans have begun to debate subjects that were once taboo, and to criticize their government more boldly.” (Oh, thank you, Barack. Cubans, always so incompetent, will be forever grateful to you!). Continue reading “The New York Times, a Branch of Granma / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya”

Unfortunately, such sublime journalistic purpose is truncated because of the obtuse ignorance editorialists and publishers have about Cuban history and reality. In fact, from his first paragraph, Londoño’s forced rhyme to “illustrate” Cuban advances in matters of freedom of expression could not have been any more unfortunate: “In the past, when a Cuban athlete disappeared during a sporting event abroad, there was no official acknowledgement or any mention of it in the State media.”

Then he refers to the recent extent of athletes defecting, starring with brothers Yulieski and Lourdes Gourriel — two young baseball stars who escaped the Cuban delegation during its stay in the Dominican Republic — as “an episode that illustrates how citizens in the most repressive country in the hemisphere are increasingly pushing the limits of freedom of expression”.

This New York Times apprentice is either misinformed or totally clueless, because all Cubans on the island, especially those of us born soon after that sadly memorable 1st of January 1959, are aware of the numerous official statements of the National Institute of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation (INDER), a repudiation of what the Cuban government qualifies as defection of athletes who sell themselves to the powers of capital. Who in Cuba does not remember the deep voice and the indignation of the newspaper commentator and sports broadcaster, Héctor Rodríguez, now dead, reading passionately those intense pamphlets against the traitors?

Such official statements have certainly not been released each time a desertion has occurred, but definitely every time they have turned out to be extremely outrageous and blatant, as with the recent case of the Gourriel brothers.

Another noteworthy aspect is the NYT’s overvaluing of the role of the U.S. government “to reduce the culture of fear and the obedience that the State has long-used to control its citizens,” which has resulted in, “Today, a wider section of Cuban society is speaking with less fear.” It would seem that the efforts of opponents, dissidents, independent journalists and other civil society organizations, as well as the natural wear and tear of a whole society subjected to decades of deprivation and deceit by a ruling elite, has achieved absolutely nothing.

Of course, nobody with a modicum of common sense would deny the influence any political change of a U.S. administration has on Cuba, especially when all of the Cuban dictatorship’s foreign (and domestic) policies have based their central axis on its dispute with the U.S. Personally, I am among those opponents who support a policy of dialogue and reconciliation, since the conflict of over half a century did not produce any results, and it is still too early for the Obama policy towards Cuba to be classified as a “failure.” In political matters, every process needs a time period to reach fruition, and we should not expect major changes in just 14 months of dialogue between parties to a half a century of conflict.

However, to grant the new position of the White House the ability to open democratic spaces of expression within Cuba in that short period of time is wrong, irrational, and even disrespectful. Not only because it distorts reality and deceives the American public, but because it deliberately fails to acknowledge the work of many independent journalists who have pushed the wall of silence that has surrounded the island for decades, reporting on the Cuban reality, and who have suffered persecution, imprisonment and constant harassment for their actions, by the repressive forces of the regime.

Nevertheless, the real latent danger in the biased NYT editorial is its presenting as champions of freedom of expression those who are useful tools of the regime in its present unequivocal process of mimicry: the pro-government bloggers, a group that emerged in the shadow of official policy as a government strategy to counter the virulent explosion of independent bloggers that began in 2007 and that two years later had grouped in the Voces Cubanas blogger platform, the access to which from Cuba was immediately blocked by the government.

Blogger Harold Cárdenas, who is Mr. Londoño’s chosen example of a critic of the Castro autocracy, is actually what could be defined as a “Taliban-light,” equivalent to a believer convinced of the superiority of the Cuban system, disguised as a critic. If the Castro dictatorship has any talent, it is the ability to adapt to each new circumstance and survive any political upheaval, a quality that allows it to manipulate the discourse and elect its “judges” at each new turn.

In the present circumstances of non-confrontation with the Empire, Hassan Pérez, an angry and hysterical beefeater, now disappeared from the scene, would be out of the question. Instead, someone like Harold Cárdenas is ideal: he is reasonably disapproving, moves within government institutions (so he’s controllable) and knows exactly where the line that cannot be crossed is. Additionally, sensible Harold remains safely distant from all the independent press, and he uses the same epithets to refer to it as does the government: “mercenaries at the service of imperialism,” or “CIA agents.”

Another dangerous illusion is the alleged existence of a “progressive wing” within the spheres of power in Cuba, to which — according to what Londoño stated in the NYT — Harold Cárdenas is closely related. On this point, the utter lack of journalistic seriousness of the NYT is scandalous. The myth of a “progressive” sector as a kind of conspirators — which is actually a host of opportunistic individuals — close to the tower of power, waiting for the chance to influence changes in Cuba, has been spreading in the media outside the island for a long time, but, so far, this is mere speculation that has no basis whatsoever.

In addition, it is unacceptable to limit the hopes of a better future for Cubans from the inferred recognition of those who are the currently close supporters of the regime. No change in Cuba will be genuine unless it includes as actors, in all its representation and variety, the independent civil society and all Cubans on the island and the diaspora. Nor will there be true freedom of the press as long as the dictatorship is allowed to select its “critics” while it punishes independent thinking of any fashion.

As for the imaginary meetings at all the universities in the country to discuss the political future of Cuba, this is the most fallacious thing that could have occurred to Mr. Londoño, and it exposes a huge flaw in the credibility of the NYT. Could anyone seriously believe that the Cuban dictatorship would allow questioning of the regime within its own institutions? Could it be perhaps that Londoño and the NYT managers have shattered in one fell swoop the Castro principle that “universities are for revolutionaries”?

But none of this is really a surprise. The prelude started in October, 2014, when an avalanche of NYT editorials was written by Ernesto Londoño, noting that it was time to change U.S. policy towards Cuba, an idea I share in principle, but for very different reasons and arguments as those the NYT advocates. Two months later, the restoration of relations would be announced.

By then, Londoño and his employers didn’t remotely have a clue of the Cuban reality; neither do they have any now. But what has become a conspiracy against the rights of Cubans cannot be construed as naive or as good intentions gone astray. Perhaps it is time that this Latin American, whose will has been tamed so appropriately to the old northern colonial mentality, that which considers the people of the subcontinent incapable of self-achievement, should write about the serious conflicts of his own country of origin — which, paradoxically, are being decided in Cuba today — if he at least knows more about Colombian reality than Cuban.

Meanwhile, it appears that the peddlers of Cuban politics have managed to weave much stronger ties with the NYT than we imagined. No wonder NYT editorials seem to have turned that newspaper into the New York branch of Cuba’s State and Communist Party newspaper, Granma.

Translated by Norma Whiting

21st Century Socialism: Rest in Peace? / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

Raul Castro, Nicolas Maduro, evo Morales, Rafael Correa, Daniel Ortega (clockwise from upper left)
Raul Castro, Nicolas Maduro, Evo Morales, Rafael Correa, Daniel Ortega (clockwise from upper left)

cubanet square logoCubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 25 February 2106 — The crisis of the ghostly 21st Century Latin American socialism has been demonstrated once again with the negative outcome of the referendum on the reform of Bolivia’s constitution that sought to legitimize the candidature of Evo Morales in the 2019 elections. The controversial petty king aspired to remain screwed to the presidential armchair at least until 2025… but most of his countrymen, including native ethnic groups, have given him the brush-off.

So far, and despite the maneuvers that — according to what opposition sectors of the Andean country claim — the Morales government is taking advantage of to reverse its resounding defeat, everything indicates that the NO vote is irreversible.

Within a few months, the decline of the leftist leadership — which started in Argentina with the fall of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in the presidential elections, followed by the loss of Chavismo in last December’s parliamentary elections in Venezuela and now with the refusal to allow Evo to hijack power in Bolivia Continue reading “21st Century Socialism: Rest in Peace? / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya”

— shows plainly that the lifetime aspirations of the leaders of XXI century socialism are being left in the lurch.

With this new knockout to the Hemisphere’s progressive leaderships, it has been demonstrated that, in actuality, populism movements with Castro-Chávez-Marxist leanings are neither all that popular nor have they brought with them the changes that voters were hoping for, including the poorest sectors, the supposed “beneficiaries” of “the model.” The rejection by the majority of citizens of the new and, paradoxically, the already exhausted paradigm, makes clear a truism: the neoliberalism of the ‘90s deepened the schism between the richest and the poorest of this continent, heightening the deep social conflicts and ruptures that have historically marked relations between governments and the governed. This gave way to the emergence of socialism of the XXI century, but, before long, it became clear that it is not the holy ointment to heal all of the region’s ills. Instead, it makes them worse.

The late Hugo Chávez was the highest representative of the model he attempted to implement, and it is expected that, together with his model, another ghostly excrescence will also disappear: ALBA, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, currently unmentioned, as a relative who has brought disgrace to the family. ALBA is a colossal pipedream, devised by the leader from Barinas himself in a recipe inspired by unadulterated selfishness, a mixture of leftist ideology, anti-imperialism, egotism, messianic in nature and spiced throughout with plenty of corruption. A pipedream stirred into the sea of ​​oil taken from Venezuelans for more three decades with the sole purpose of artificially supporting allies in the region, something that has become unsustainable in the current economic crisis in Venezuela, the largest in its history, born in the shadow of the doctrine of the new socialism.

Without a doubt, the matrix of the radical left has been taking on setbacks of late, almost without pause: scandals involving corruption, drug trafficking, influence peddling, patronage and other similar bits and pieces that keep many leaders under the magnifying glass of public opinion. It’s not so easy to keep people’s eyes under wraps. It is no wonder that the effusive president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, has discreetly lowered his profile, putting away his fervent speech for some other symbolic occasion. The Central American drunkard, Daniel Ortega, is also not being seen around much these days. It’s not a good time for the leaders of the operetta.

However, it is still too early to place the tombstone on the tragic fate of 21st century socialism. At least we Cubans know very well how not to underestimate the capacity for survival, not of populist-type ideologies, so entrenched in Latin American veins, but in its “idiocrats” (or should I say idio-rats).

Behold smart aleck octogenarians of the Palace of the Revolution in Havana, who have had so much to do with the harmful leftist regional epidemics. They have been keeping anti-imperialist trappings under their thrones to enter into friendly lobbying ­precisely with “the natural enemy of the people,” Yankee imperialism.

And so, while Cristina has vanished from the political scene, Maduro continues his hysterical tantrum in the swampy Venezuelan panorama, and Evo seeks solace for Sunday’s setback, ruminating one after another his coca leaves in the Palacio Quemado, [The Bolivian Government Palace], the druids of the olive green gerontocracy are decked out in their finery, ready to receive the highest representative of the brutal capitalism whose hard currencies leftist leaders are so attracted to.

Of course, we should not be suspicious. Perhaps it is not a betrayal on the part of Cuba’s General-President and his claque of Marxist and Castro-Chavista principles in Our America, as claimed by some of the ill-intentioned, but a reshuffling of the action in view of the new circumstances. Over half a century of experience as successful pedigree conspirators supports the survivors of these chameleonic “Marxists.” We’ll see how they will recycle slogans and anthems of the proletarian Internationale as soon as leaders of the Castro regime succeed in laying their hands on dollars, since, when it is all said and done, it seems that the end does justify the means.

Because, without exaggerating, the so-called “socialism” with an autocratic soul is like a disease that cannot be cured and often kills. It’s like a mutant virus that changes in appearance and succeeds in multiplying in order to continue making human societies sick. The bad news for Cubans is that such an infection is cured only with a strong dose of democracy, a medication that has been in short supply in Cuba for more than six decades.

Translated by Norma Whiting

The Dangerous World of Cuba’s Pushcart Vendors / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya

Pushcart vendor on a Havana street (CC)
Pushcart vendor on a Havana street (CC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 13 February 2016 — There is a great poster of general-president Raúl Castro on the façade of a private building in the heart of Central Havana. In the image, he is saluting, dressed in a military uniform, accompanied by the memorable phrase, extracted from one of his promissory speeches he made during his era as an imitation reformist: “Those who are committed to demonize, criminalize and prosecute the self-employed chose a path that, in addition to being mean, is ludicrous because of its untenable nature. Cuba is counting on them as one of the engines of future development, and their presence in the urban landscape is clearly here to stay.” As it is customary to those among his caste, the general was lying, and of those intended engines of future development only a few remain, trying to survive with much difficulty and almost furtively.

However, under the mantra placed in the shadow of their modest Havana trade, those mistaken sellers believe they will be protected from the whims of a regime well versed in denying its own creations, either because they don’t properly subordinate themselves to the interests they were created for, or for considering them to be a potential threat to its supremacy. Is the same simulation game that propelled thousands of self-employed to join the apocryphal official union, which has turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to the abuse of their members by the most powerful boss on this island, the State-Party-Government, from which no one is safe.

To hold such a conclave amid a starving population would be too cynical, even for the Cuban Government Continue reading “The Dangerous World of Cuba’s Pushcart Vendors / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya”

While there are fewer operations of confiscation and persecution against the merchants in the squalid private sector, in particular the popular vendors engaging in street selling of agricultural products, an occasional cart starts to appear timidly, usually at dusk, when the inspectors and heads of sectors of the uniformed police have concluded their workday.

According to unconfirmed rumors from official sources, many of the pushcart vendors affected by the crackdown in late 2015 and early 2016 have been informally allowed to trade again, though “quietly and low-key.”

A survey conducted in several districts of the populous municipality of Central Havana is able to prove the effect of the bellows technique — stretch and loosen – that the authorities usually apply, where each raid is followed apparent tolerance, under the careful eyes of the guardians of system, in part to control both the boom of the emerging sector sellers who have proven to be highly competitive against the State sector, and partly to lessen the great popular discontent triggered by the sudden decrease in the flow of food available to feed families.

Some cell phone video images uploaded to the internet which were recorded by ordinary citizens, witnesses of the official crusade against pushcart vendors, have shown the public the true nature of the so-called “Raul reforms” the people’s disdain in the face of official abuse and of its repressive forces, and the spontaneous popular solidarity towards the sellers. New communications technologies, even in a country as disconnected from the web as is Cuba, make it increasingly difficult to peddle the old discourse of “good and fair government” and “happy Cubans.”

On the threshold of the Seventh Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba nothing is more inconvenient than to implement unpopular measures, particularly when the State is incapable of emulating, in terms of production and food trade, even the fragile self-employed sector. To hold such a conclave amid a starving population would be too cynical even for the Cuban government.

In Cuba, there is a diffuse band of tolerance between legality and crime, as the authorities see fit

For that reason, and without making much fuss, agents and government control officials have notified several pushcart vendors that they can once again sell their products, though they have not yet returned the licenses to the more obstinate ones from whom they were seized.

Yasser is one of them. Although he’s only 30, he has great work experience. He began working as a teenager, after quitting his studies at a technological institute due to poor economic conditions at home, where the only sources of income were his mother’s salary and his grandmother’s pension, a story that has become extremely common in Cuba.

“First I started as bicycle repairman, but I soon discovered that it was more profitable to buy and sell bicycles and spare parts than to be getting my hands dirty and breaking my back repairing old clunkers. That’s where I learned that my true calling was trade: the buying and selling and the constant and hard cash profits. I do my best work in trading,” he smiles, sure of what he is talking about.

When the bicycle business began to decline, he went to work with his uncle at a State agricultural cooperative, in the countryside. “I did not intend to work the land forever, but the agricultural trade interested me. After I stopped working in bikes, I had managed a vegetable stand for a while, through my uncle’s contacts, but it was risky and the profits were low, so I decided to learn more about the countryside and production management first hand. Meanwhile, I would develop a good network of contacts to use later, when I could have my own little business, which was my set idea.”

So that’s how it went. And Yasser, the young man from Havana did so well in that State cooperative he even got a license which legally certifies him as “delegate of the National Association of Small Farmers (ANAP),” a document that allows him to stock up on products sold in his pushcart as a self-employed person.

Now, with his peculiar charisma and his skills as a merchant, Yasser buys directly from a private producer and ships the products home using private transportation services. To avoid having the goods confiscated, he uses his card as “delegate of the ANAP” and an authorization from a bribed manager of a State co-op “that produces absolutely nothing” but that certifies that his products were bought from that co-op and are destined for a State Agricultural Market (MAE), or to some workplace, or any other place. With these papers of safe passage and his getup as producer, wearing a hat and high water galoshes up to his knees, embedded with mud from the furrows, Yasser has managed to survive in the dangerous world of private business.

General corruption in Cuba is, at the same time, the real support of the “economic model” and of the social balance, the trap that standardizes all Cubans as transgressors of the law

However, he knows perfectly well that he is teetering on a tightrope. In Cuba there is a diffuse band of tolerance between legality and crime, as suits the authorities. Simply put, if an administrator who signs his “passage” falls into disgrace, the chain of beneficiaries will also fall, including Yasser. General corruption in Cuba is, at the same time, the real support of the “economic model” and of the social balance, the trap that standardizes all Cubans as transgressors of the law. Anyone can end up in a dungeon.

“When this business with the pushcarts started, I thought it might be an opportunity for me. I really believed in the premise that, this time, we were really going to be respected as contributors, though my uncle kept telling me that the government was going to change gears and go in reverse, as always. I went as far as owning two carts, which my uncle and my cousin took care of, because I am the owner and the go-between at the same time, and I’m always going between the country and the city, getting the products. Now I only take this one out – he points to a simple chivichana [a rustic skateboard] loaded with the best tomatoes around town, at 12 Cuban pesos – and I am putting out the goods gradually. I do not want evil eyes on me, because, in the end, this business will also go bust, it will be one more deception. As my grandmother says, these people are a lost cause.”

It’s only been a few years since the false blessing of the self-employment industry workers, and the very Government has taken it upon itself to demonize, criminalize and prosecute them, belying its own discourse. “They do not even respect themselves, that’s why nobody believes them, nobody wants them and nobody respects them anymore.” says Yasser with what seems more like a pessimistic old man’s view than the words of a young 30-something. His disillusionment is, by far, the most authentic symbol of a society which has succumbed to the fatigue of almost 60 years of hypocrisy.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Leap Year, Creepy Year / Miriam Celaya

The Cuban outlook does not look hopeful for the beginning year (photo taken from the Internet)
The Cuban outlook does not look hopeful for the beginning year (photo taken from the Internet)

Miriam Celeya, Cubanet, Havana 15 January 2016 – The year 2016 has begun under a bad omen. If it weren’t enough with the general gloominess after one year of uneasy peace between the governments of Cuba and the US without any perceived improvement in living conditions, the food crisis has become more acute, and shortages are increasing. Agricultural products are increasingly scarce, of poor quality and high prices, while merchandise at foreign currency stores is very scarce. Many self-employed (cart pushers) have disappeared from the cityscape, while the cooperative stores are showing shortages signaling worse times ahead.

The high expectations arising out of the 17 December 2014 announcement of a reestablishment of relations between Cuba and the United States are shipwrecked and long gone. The stubborn reality has once again proved to everyone that Cuba’s ills are endemic: they rest only in the evil combination of an obsolete and failed sociopolitical and economic system and the persistence of a politically inept dynastic clique that seized the country 57 years ago, whose beginning and essential end are centered in clinging to power at any cost. Continue reading “Leap Year, Creepy Year / Miriam Celaya”

In other words, the national disappointment is based on placing the prospects of happiness in a miracle that would come from “outside” to save us from the native demon we have in Cuba: Castro-ism, cradle and reservoir for disaster. Hence, in the face of disappointment (delusion?), thousands of Cubans choose to seek abroad the happiness that is denied here.

However, by coincidence, the natural decline of the Castro experiment, which is already exhausted, will have its biggest survival test this leap year. Because, while 2016 threatens to be difficult for ordinary people — that conglomerate of the majority which some are in the unfortunate habit of referring to as “Cubans on foot” — will not be a honeycomb for the olive-green gerontocracy and its brown-nosers.

It is true that the Government-State-Party, embodied in the General-President, continues to hold power at his own free will, but in recent times the circumstances have not turned out to be as favorable as were expected. Despite the many awards and being hosted by governments and international organizations and against the grain of legitimation – useless to date – of the Cuban dictatorship in forums, including those of a financial nature, throughout the democratic world, envisioned foreign investment has not yet materialized, investment which would provide the necessary capital to start to repair the internal economic crisis.

The “new era in relations between Cuba and the international financial community,” according to the French Department of Finance, has yet to bear fruit for the elite of the Palace of the Revolution, while the Foreign Investment Act continues to lack the legal guarantees required by potential investors. Widespread corruption, rooted in the national reality, also advises caution when negotiating. Obviously, the slow pace of “reforms” of State socialism may be commendable in the hypocrisy of the forums, but it is incompatible with the urgencies of capital.

On the other hand, important changes have taken place in the regional political physiognomy, undermining alliances on which the plans of the Castro regime’s eternity rest. “21st Century Socialism” is shaking, and, just like the ‘real socialism’ of Eastern Europe, it tends to “come undone.” While the fallen scepter of populism Kirchner-style in Argentina, Venezuela’s Chávez-style regime also just suffered a tremendous setback, when the opposition won the majority seats in the recent legislative elections amid a national crisis ranging from the greatest food shortages, corruption and citizen insecurity in recent history, to drug charges that point to the President himself and his closest acolytes.

In this vein, Venezuela’s support for the Castro regime through daily oil shipments – already in a phase of decline since 2014 – is hanging by a thread. Raul Castro’s promise of a reform “without haste, but without pause,” has not ameliorated the fear of blackouts that have begun to spread across Cuba, and the increasing uncertainty adds pressure to the valve, which will guarantee the ongoing exodus, mainly to the US.

Add to this scenario is the political crisis generated by the corruption scandal in Brazil, involving the president and his party. The region’s left has fallen into the cone of a tornado and is lagging far behind those glorious days when a jubilant Chávez hurled threats and “anti-imperialist” insults at every podium, and lavishly gave away Venezuela’s national wealth for the benefit of Latin American autocracies and other opportunistic parasites.

In closing, repressive signs in Cuba’s interior have been emphasized. This is an indication of the regime’s growing insecurity, as well as its preoccupation with maintaining control over an increasingly poorer, unhappier, more irreverent and less fearful population.

By natural logic, in this leap year we will witness the last congress of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) to be led by the so-called historical generation. It is unlikely that a 90-year old Raúl Castro or his spectral, 95-year old brother would be able to direct the 8th Congress in 2021, nor does it seem possible that the shadow of what was once the Cuban nation will be able to survive five more years of Castro-ism.

The 7th Congress of the PCC to be held in April will undoubtedly be the most important domestic political event in Cuba. Like it or not, this improbable Party that lacks a political program, with ranks of less than one million members, and which not a single fairly lucid Cuban believes in “is the highest leading force of society and the state,” as Article 5 of the Constitution endorses, so that, at least the intention of the government on the political future of the country for the next five years should be made clear. It would be unwise to propose 300 more ineffective guidelines.

Another important event of the year will certainly be the proposed new Electoral Law. Given the fear that anything that resembles democratic elections awakens in the gerontocracy, we will have to see what freak of jurisprudence they will propose to “make perfect” (even more in their favor) the electoral system, and how they propose to make it look “more democratic.” In particular, the recent Venezuelan experience will make them cling more strongly to that famous maxim of our former President: “Elections? What for?”

“Leap Year, creepy year,” our grandmothers said. And indeed, so far, all signs point to more poverty, more emigration, more corruption, more repression… and also to the fastest growing dissatisfaction and internal dissent. However, nothing will prevent a change for the better in Cuba, with the help of those who have nothing to lose but their own fear. The picture being sketched is thorny, and it suggests that 2016 will be a decisive year for Cubans.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Venezuela, a Lesson for Cubans / Miriam Celaya

A “Venezuelan Che Guevara” after finding out the election results (Internet photo)
A “Venezuelan Che Guevara” after finding out the election results (Internet photo)

Miriam Celaya, Cubanet, Havana, 8 December 2015 — Despite all adversities and cheating to attempt to sabotage the opposition’s victory in Venezuela’s parliamentary elections, the forecasts were on target: the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) didn’t just come ahead in surveys, which Maduro was hoping for, but it swept the polls.

The puppets at Telesur, “Latin America’s television channel”, could barely hide their apprehension. The long wait that followed the closure of the polling stations was a clear indicator that the ballots cast were so in favor of MUD that no Castro-Chavista trickery could reverse the outcome. However, announcing the results would turn out to be a bitter and difficult pill for Maduro and Cabello’s patsies to swallow. Continue reading “Venezuela, a Lesson for Cubans / Miriam Celaya”

Well after 12 midnight in Venezuela, Tibisay Lucena, president of the National Electoral Council (CNE), officially announced the results in a nervous and stuttering manner, in contrast with her usual energetic and poised style. MUD had risen, so far, to 99 seats in the parliament, well above the 46 achieved by the Chavistas. It is such a crushing blow to the ruling party that until last night [7 December] the results of the remaining 22 seats, completing a total of 167 in Parliament, had not been declared.

A stunned Nicolas Maduro posed as a democrat and pretended to be satisfied with the “triumph of democracy.” An advisor obviously suggested he leave his belligerent stance of the previous days, when he threatened to “govern in the streets” with “a military civic coalition” if Chavistas (Maduro’s party) conceded losing the election. We can imagine the advisor: “Mr. President, ‘the street’ is precisely who voted against you”. Thus, the speech accepting his defeat could not have been more gray and monotonous, recounting past victories which contrasted even more against the failure of the day. The faces of amazement of his audience shouted clearly that the glory days of Chavismo were over. Another one that bites the dust, after the sharp fall of the empty figurine of the Casa Rosada just days ago.

The saga is going to be very interesting. The new Parliament will assume its functions on 5 January 2016, and even the 99 already seats called for MUD will guarantee the simple majority, those who will be allowed to directly rescind root matters, such as electing the assembly board, (‘bye, ‘bye, Mr. Diosdado Cabello!) approving or vetoing appointments, enacting legislation or appointing Supreme Court judges and the Attorney General of the Republic, among other powers that would put an end to 16 years of Chavismo government impunity and authoritarianism enforced through violence, fear and coercion.

Such power in the hands of political opponents, however, would not be the Bolivarian autocracy’s worst nightmare. The most hostile circumstances for the dying Venezuelan regime is that MUD only has to win 11 more seats of the 22 remaining open (two have yet to be announced). Reaching 112 deputies will allow the opposition contingent to get two-thirds of seats, a sufficiently overwhelming force to bring down the whole dictatorial scaffolding erected by Hugo Chavez and his followers. MUD could exercise legislative functions of great scope and depth, such as promoting referendums, constitutional reforms and constituent assemblies.

It is no wonder, then, that however incomprehensible it may be — given the speed and efficiency of an electoral system fully computerized with the latest digital technology — almost 24 hours after completion of the referendum, CNE officials, still mostly Chavistas, had not made public the final results. Maduro’s supporters and his troupe are worried, and they have very good reason to be.

Yesterday dawned with Telesur completely silent on the subject. It would seem that there had been no Sunday parliamentary elections held in Venezuela. Elections which, by the way, the government itself announced would be “historic”. Admittedly, they were right this time. Yesterday, December 7, however, Telesur focused on the French municipal elections…. things of the Orinoco.

Havana’s Reaction

Castro II’s message to his Venezuelan counterpart has a somber tone, like those formal condolences one coldly offers an acquaintance on the loss of a close relative: “We’ll always be with you.” With enough problems of his own, the General-President was sparse, dry and distant with his “Dear Maduro” letter, despite the ‘admiration’ with which he listened to the words of the arrogant president. It ends with “a hug.”

Democratic Cubans, however, are celebrating. The victory of democracy in Venezuela cheers and encourages us, and we hope that MUD knows how to appreciate, in all its worth, the enormous importance of the victory achieved. It is a well-deserved laurel, solidly fought by them at a very high cost, but it is only a first step on a path that promises to be difficult and full of obstacles. Personally, I think it is a beacon of hope for all who aspire to the end of the dictatorship in our own country. The time is right to wish Venezuelans success as they return to the path of democracy.

And it is also opportune for dissidents and opponents here, inside Cuba, to meditate on the need to exploit the cracks of the precarious official legality more effectively. It is true that political parties alternative to the Powers-that-be in Cuba are without any legal recognition, that they are demonized and persecuted, their forces are constantly repressed and that we do not have the legal space that democratic Venezuelans have been able to defend, but the legalistic route has not only proven to be an effective tool, it is the only one that would have international support.

In the last elections, in the city of Havana two members of the opposition opted for the office of district delegates. It was a courageous act, and they were repressed by mobs at the service of the government, and criticized by quite a few of their fellow members of the opposition ranks. However, they both demonstrated that a representative portion of their communities dared to vote for them, and so they broke the myth of the opposition’s absence of roots.

Today, Venezuela’s victory stands not only as a hope, but also as a lesson for us: no dictatorship is too strong to not be defeated. If it happens at the polls, all the better. No space gained from a dictatorship is small or negligible. In the coming year, a new electoral law will be enacted in Cuba. Perhaps this is a good opportunity to push in that direction: pressing hard and with determination against authorities to achieve legal recognition spaces, fighting from these spaces, leaving defeatism aside because “that’s their game.” The distance between the Venezuelan reality and ours is indeed very great, but when results could motivate the change, it’s worth trying.

Translated by Norma Whiting

*Note to readers: Sadly the translation of this post got “lost in the internet ether” and it is now appearing here, very belatedly.

17 December: First Anniversary of a Sterile Marriage / Miriam Celaya

On 17 December 2014, Raul Castro and Barack Obama announced the start of restoration of relations (file photo)
On 17 December 2014, Raul Castro and Barack Obama announced the start of restoration of relations (file photo)

Miriam Celaya, Havana, 17 December 2015 – At the end of the first year of the restoration of relations between the governments of the United States and Cuba, the expectations that the historical event awakened in Cuba remain unfulfilled. With much pain and no glory, Cubans have continued their struggle with a precarious and hopeless existence, that, far from improving, has witnessed the permanent economic crisis deteriorate further, with increases in the cost of living and consolidation of chronic shortages.

At the same time, the general deterioration of the healthcare and education systems continues – the last stronghold of the official rhetoric – and a new and unstoppable process of emigration has been spawned and become a stampede, amid fears that negotiations between the two governments will eventually lead to the demise of the Cuban Adjustment Act. Continue reading “17 December: First Anniversary of a Sterile Marriage / Miriam Celaya”

With the diplomatic bases settled, the respective embassies in Washington and Havana reopened, and the agendas of a negotiating process that continues running in secret established, the Cuban authorities have set a policy to thwart, to the point of invalidation, the effects of the measures dictated by the US president in favor of opening up Cuba to the benefit of private, not governmental initiatives. The increase of visitors from the neighboring nation and the broad flexibility that renders ineffectual many of the limitations imposed by the embargo have not significantly benefited the Cuban people, although they contribute to foreign exchange earnings for the Cuban government and foreign businesses established in Cuba, especially those related to tourism.

Despite all this, revenues are insufficient even for the ruling clique, burdened by huge foreign debt, lack of access to credit from the International Monetary Fund, the agonizing dependence on external support – an issue which, paradoxically, is used as an element for discrediting and delegitimizing internal dissent – the lack of reaction by foreign capital to the “attractive” new Investment Law, and the urgent need to buy time to ensure their perpetuation of power.

Finally, in the shadow of Uncle Sam, the revolution cycle has closed with an end which, though long-awaited, is no less dramatic. Behold, the agonizing “Marxist-anti-imperialist” gang is working the miracle of recycling itself, metamorphosing from communist to bourgeois precisely thanks to the imperial capital.

Judging from the evidence, and in the absence of authoritative and verifiable information, the almost dizzying avalanche of unilateral proposals from the White House that took place during the course of the year have not gotten any proportional response from the Palace of the Revolution. The Cuban President-General has not only turned out to be incapable of matching in intensity and magnitude Washington’s positive steps towards an approach that would not be for the sole advantage of the ruling elite, but for the direct benefit of Cuban society, but has, instead, taken on the same pace (“no rush”) of the so-called “normalization,” the same rhythm as the untimely Guidelines of the last Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) that were never fulfilled.

From 17 December 2014, though not as a result of that event, the Cuban crisis has grown more acute. With the economy in a tailspin, a large part of the workforce in flight or with aspirations to escape, the aging population, the depressed birth rate, the rampant corruption, the rising inflation and countless other evils to solve, any other government would have taken this moment of relaxation and approach as an opportunity to open a path to prosperity and welfare for its people. Not so the Castro dictatorship.

In response, ordinary Cubans are more politically disbelievers, more indifferent and more pro-American than ever before.

Opponents and dissidents: a growing sector

Contrary to the most widespread criterion, and despite being divided and fragmented into multiple projects, the independent civil society, in particular opposition groups and dissidents, has been gaining in organization and growth. Unquestionable evidence of this is the increased repression against them.

The increasing intensity of the repressive forces does not indicate – as some might suggest, using simplistic logic – a “strengthening of the dictatorship” from the of the process of talks with the US government, but, on the contrary, a sign of weakness that indicates both fear of the impact of US influence in Cuban society and the inability to contain the growth of civic forces, which compels them to apply violence to possibly avoid, or at least slow down, its spread and social contagion. A counterproductive strategy that has achieved just the opposite effect: increasing the dissidence faction and popular discontent.

After the breakthrough generated by the different positions assumed before the process started on 17 December, a period of intense opposition activism has ensued in which all tendencies have gained visibility and spaces. Partnerships have begun to take shape between organizations of the most varied viewpoints, from a common consensus: the urgency to strengthen civic struggle to achieve democracy in Cuba. In this vein, the general agreement is that all forms of peaceful struggle are valid, since they put pressure on the cracks in the system and contribute to its weakening.

In all fairness, we must recognize that the efforts of all opposition groups – whatever their orientation and proposals – not only face the challenge of repressive and violent action of the regime in power, but the almost total indifference of the international community and, what is worse, of insufficient solidarity and recognition by many democratic governments of the world.

Apparently, Western political and business leaders expect from the Cuban opposition the cyclopean task of building a strong coalition or becoming a political alternative to the absolute power of the Castro regime, almost unaided, before recognizing the legitimate right of representation, notwithstanding the colossal difference in resources and opportunities among the dissidents. Compared to capitalist interests, the democratic dreams of Cubans mean nothing.

2016, a pivotal year

Thus, 17 December is the paper wedding anniversary of the marriage of convenience between the governments of the United States and Cuba, but the union has, so far, been fruitless, at least for the Cubans, who we were never invited to the wedding.  The conspiratorial style of the olive-green caste ruled the celebration. However, it would be unfair to attribute Cuba’s current ills to an alleged White House political error. In any case, with this approach to the regime, Barack Obama is doing what is expected of a ruler: looking after the interests of his country and its constituents. Good for Obama, bad for Castro.

Truthfully, the Cuban general crisis existed long before the current US president took office, so the frustrations that the more deluded are experiencing are more a response to excessive and unjustified expectations and an overestimation of the importance of Cuba, barely an insignificant island with delusions of grandeur, governed by an outdated and inefficient system, and lost in the huge regional geopolitical map.

It has been an intense year, but, in retrospect, ordinary Cubans and the opposition at least should have assimilated a valuable experience: no one will come to save us from the wreck.

A year ago, the unthinkable happened just when the most bitter enemies of this hemisphere decided to sit at the negotiating table to settle their differences. This incredible saga teaches us something important: 2016 could be a pivotal year if those who us who aspire to turn Cuba into a country of law can demonstrate that we are capable of doing what now seems an impossible task: creating a civic coalition in the face of a dictatorship that assumes itself to be eternal. It doesn’t seem that we have any other options left.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Choosing between Chaos and a New Order / Miriam Celaya

Why are Sunday’s Venezuelan elections so important? (picture from La Nación)
Why are Sunday’s Venezuelan elections so important? (picture from La Nación)

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 4 December 2015 — Next Sunday, December 6, 2015, when the legislative elections in Venezuela finally take place, not only will they be deciding the short-term political fate of that South American nation but also, to some extent, they will be deciding future policies of various nations of this region, whose regimes — especially the Cuban government — have depended for decades on the dilapidation of the huge Venezuelan natural wealth in the hands of the “Bolivarian” claque.

These past few days, there have been several comments about the Venezuelan suffrage in the media, and various predictions have been made about the possible scenarios that might emerge from the results. The picture is complex. For the first time, since the late Hugo Chávez took office in February, 1999 and began to destroy the country’s civic structures, the Unified Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) will go to the polls with a significant disadvantage compared to the opposition’s Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) and even below the level of independent candidates, according to data released by surveys conducted by Verobarómetro. This is a reality that the country’s president refuses to accept, threatening not to consent to any result that is adverse, and to lead the country into chaos if the “Bolivarian Revolution” loses at the polls. Continue reading “Choosing between Chaos and a New Order / Miriam Celaya”

On gaining control of parliament, the opposition would face the real possibility of curbing the mismanagement that Chávez initiated that has led the country to economic ruin and deep social tension, and open the door to the hope of restoring democratic order as it becomes a true counterweight to the president, a new order which would balance the forces and return power to the civic institutions guaranteeing democracy

Beyond this, the challenge for the opposition to win social spaces and legitimize its capacity as an alternative to Chavez would only have just begun, given the high rates of poverty, violence, shortages of commodities, growing discontent and the colossal inflation, these factors further complicate the already complex Venezuelan landscape. It will represent a daunting task for any alternative political force in the country in ruins.

Obviously, the first responsibility of the new parliament would be to try to solve Venezuela’s internal crisis, which will necessarily involve the control and comprehensive review of managing the national wealth, the oil, which has been the mainstay of expensively unaffordable social programs (“missions”) with which the Bolivarian government won-over the vote of the masses, and the backbone of ghostly alliances such as the ALBA and Petrocaribe programs, among other regional associations.

The “Venezuela effect” for Cuba

Although the octogenarians hierarchs, architects and sextons of what was once the Cuban Revolution, were once the ideological patrons and material beneficiaries of that other creature with congenital malformations, known as the Bolivarian Revolution, now it is obvious that the Castro regime’s survival goldmine is running out.

Falling oil prices and the waning popularity of the ruling PSUV seriously threaten the continuity of the Castro-Chavista alliance and the undeniable failure of the Cuban system is a fact, not only in Cuba but also in its transnational experiment, Cubazuela.

Not by chance have the crafty former Sierra Maestra guerrillas, shortly after the sterile “seeding” of the commander Chavez, been lobbying a hasty and secret reconciliation with the forever ‘enemy’ (and the enemy of all), the US government. They have also desperately auctioned off the crumbs that remain of this island, to make them available to the once depraved foreign capital, although potential investors have not yet resolutely taken the bait.

Another direction that is being depleted for the olive green gerontocracy is the derivative of the very juicy ‘solidarity industry’, centered around the ‘missions’ developed by Chávez at the cost of hiring, under conditions of semi-slavery, Cuban professionals, mainly from the areas of health, education and culture, which guarantee direct inflows to the Palace of the Revolution. However, this has meant a serious impairment to health care programs for Cubans and it has also brought with it the defection of thousands of doctors, who have chosen to leave for more promising destinations or to be hired in the countries where they worked as “collaborators.”

Everything indicates that the Castro-Chávez alliance strategy of domination of power disguised as socialist and nationalist ideology that temporarily combined, fairly successfully, the experiences of the failed Cuban system, the messianic ambitions of Hugo Chávez and Venezuela hydrocarbon reserves, is about to become another bad memory. It is expected that some other aberrations will be flushed down the drain with the Bolivarian Revolution. These aberrations were equally sustained by the merciless plunder of Venezuelan petrodollars, whose main objective has been spewing the leftist epidemic around the region and dealing with the North American influence in this hemisphere.

Meanwhile, ordinary Cubans are rather indifferent to the important electoral succession about to be held in Venezuela. At best, some express some concern about impending blackouts and paralysis in Cuba. Apparently, mere survival imposes too many problems for them to be interested in those faced by Venezuelans. Immediacy is the most important element of daily life in Cuba, and, currently, the subject of emigration occupies a central place in the musings of the Cuban people.

In any case, in the eventuality that a dramatic change takes place in Venezuela that might have repercussions in deepening the Cuban crisis, most likely the result will be an increase and stepping up in the tide of migration to the United States. In the end, a friend jokes that we might not even have to turn off the lights on the Desert Island when the last Cuban leaves “because, without Maduro, there will be not oil left to generate electricity.” This, literally, is a very somber expectation.

Translated by Norma Whiting