Trump, Bolton and the Four Stooges

Clockwise from top left: Nicolas Maduro, Daniel Ortega, Miguel Diaz-Canel, Evo Morales.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, 4 November 2018 — It is about an implacable “electoral ploy.” That is what is behind this infernal screaming. It is absurd (and dangerous) to militarize the border with thousands of soldiers. It is also criminal to foment fear of foreigners, as Trump does, because it is politically profitable. John Kasich, Republican Governor of Ohio, was outraged in an interview with CNN. Al Cárdenas, former president of the Republican Party in Florida, responded with the same intensity in the face of the demagogic use of the images of a Mexican tried for murdering two policemen.

This is not done. Trump is going to destroy the Republican Party and then there will not be many people willing to defend fiscal moderation, the limits to the central government and the supremacy of free markets.

It is true that every country must take care of its borders, but the United States is a Republic of laws and neither he nor anyone can bypass the rules approved by Congress or international treaties signed by Washington. There are formal procedures that must be met. continue reading

If there is a right to petition for asylum, he has to respect it. Nor is it in Trump’s hands to snatch the citizenship of those born in the United States to foreign parents. It is an unconstitutional barbarity.

Not all of Trump’s actions, of course, are misguided. The appointment of diplomat John Bolton as head of the National Security Council was an intelligent maneuver. Bolton is a brilliant lawyer, Yale graduate, with a very long experience in international affairs and organizations. He has a Kantian vision of relations with other nations, founded on principles. He was one of the few heads that could replace General Herbert McMaster at the head of that organization. His work, and it is no small thing, will give meaning and form to the contradictory ideas and attitudes of Trump, a disconcerting person who admires Vladimir Putin and praises Kim Jong-un, while he (rightly) detests Nicolás Maduro.

John Bolton has just delivered one of his first keynote speeches. He has done it in Miami, in the Freedom Tower of Miami Dade College, the largest and most diverse university in the country (165,000 students, most of them Hispanic and African-American).

The event took place before Cuban-American congressmen Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart, Carlos Curbelo and 250 other prominent people, among whom were Venezuelan exiles (Asdrúbal Aguiar) and Nicaraguans, along with Cuban-Americans Lincoln Díaz-Balart (former congressman), Modesto Maidique, former president of Florida International University, Frank Calzón, of the Center for a Free Cuba, and Marcell Felipe, leader of Inspire América, an organization that, increasingly, is becoming the informal representation of the most active Cuban community in the United States.

Bolton delineated what Trump’s Latin American policy will be. It will continue the offensive of trade restrictions and punishments against corrupt people and companies and those key to sustaining the dictatorships of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, whose leaders he called “the three stooges” of socialism (Moe, Larry and Curly), without specifying which one is which.

In reality there are four stooges, because he did not mention Evo Morales, the despot of Bolivia, a nation with political prisoners, murdered adversaries, exiles, corruption with impunity, Morales’s attempts to perpetuate himself in power against the will of the voters, and the rest of the symptoms of an unmitigated tyranny.

One of Trump-Bolton’s successes has been transferring another notable lawyer, Mauricio Claver-Carone from the IMF to the National Security Council and putting him at the head of the Western Hemisphere, which includes all of Latin America. For the United States, it was (and is) crazy that such an important region of the planet should not have its place among the priorities of Washington’s foreign policy.

Claver-Carone, who regularly monitored the activities of the Cuban regime, knows that the script of the aggressive dictatorships of 21st Century Socialism is written in Havana, even though Cuban diplomat and intelligence officer Jesus Arboleya diligently tries to cover the sun with a finger.

As in the comedies of the Three Stooges, there is always one who doles out the slaps. He is the Moe of this tragicomedy. Remember? He used to discipline his brothers. He had an abundance of black hair partedin the middle. That role today belongs to Miguel Díaz-Canel, the Cuban puppet president.


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Bolsonaro Asserts That The Mais Medicos Program Finances the Cuban "Dictatorship"

Jair Bolsonaro has been very critical of the agreement signed in 2013, which allowed the arrival of more than 18,000 Cuban doctors in Brazil under the government of Dilma Rousseff. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana 3 November 2018 – The President-elect of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, questioned on Friday continued diplomatic relations with Cuba once he assumes the presidency and criticized again the situation of Cuban health professionals who are part of the Mais Medicos program in his country.

“What business can we do with Cuba? Are we talking about human rights?” Bolsonaro asked in an exclusive interview presented at Correio Braziliense.

Bolsonaro gave as an example a Cuban doctor who is part of Mais Medicos and called her “a woman dressed in white” because she has not passed the revalidation exam to make her degree is valid in Brazil.

“She has two or three children. They are in Cuba. They can not come here. Is that not torture for a mother, having to stay a whole year far away from her young children?” he asked. continue reading

The president-elect compared how doctors from other countries that are part of the Mais Medicos program receive all their salary yet Cubans receive just 25% of theirs. The rest of the money goes to Cuba to finance “the dictatorship,” he asserted.

Bolsonaro put forth as as an example how during the government of Dilma Rousseff doctors who sought asylum in Brazil were deported to Cuba immediately.

“Can we maintain diplomatic relations with a country that treats its own in that manner?” Bolsonaro asked, adding that if Cuban doctors are going to continue working in the Mais Medicos program, it should be with their full salary, with the possibility of bringing their relatives with them and revalidating their medical degree so that it is valid in Brazil.

Jair Bolsonaro has been very critical of the agreement sealed in 2013, which allowed the arrival of more than 18,000 Cuban doctors to Brazil under the government of Dilma Rousseff. At that time the Workers Party, an ally of Havana, through the intermediation of the Pan American Health Organization, allowed Cuba to keep about 75% of the $3,300.00 (monthly) salary that Cuban doctors receive in Brazil.

The relatives of Cuban doctors are prohibited by the Cuban government from spending more than three months in Brazil, in contrast with the rest of the families of the doctors who participate in the program, who can stay together as long as they wish.

“As of now they have not told us anything. There is a very suspicious silence since Bolsonaro won,” says a Cuban doctor who works in the state of Bahia. In Brazil there are just over 8,000 Cuban doctors in the program.

Since 2013, a large number of Cuban doctors have opted to leave the Cuban mission and settle in Brazil or emigrate to the United States. While the Cuban Medical Professional Parole was in place, a special program of the United States to grant refuge to Cuban doctors fleeing government missions, more than 1,400 doctors escaped with a US visa. Several thousand more have married Brazilians to obtain permanent residency and have opted to take the exams to validate their degrees.

After the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff, the Cuban government pressured the Brazilian authorities to renegotiate the contract of their doctors and obtained a payment increase of 9%. The Plaza de la Revolución also achieved an increase of 10% in the meal allowance for doctors in indigenous areas. None of that money came into the hands of the doctors, according to several testimonies obtained by this newspaper.

“If they catch you trying to revalidate your title they send you immediately to Cuba. You lose all your benefits in the mission,” said a doctor who works in Sao Paulo and who intends to leave the mission before returning to the island.

“In Cuba they also have an absurd law that forbids us to return for eight years. It is a way to punish the ’wayward’ doctors who do not want to continue being slaves,” he added.

Bolsonaro will also have to confront the problem of the Cuban debt with Brazil. Under the governments of Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva and Dilma Rousseff, Brazil financed through the National Development Bank (Bandes) the works in the port of Mariel that have fallen short of expectations. It also allowed Cuba to buy food on credit through the Export Financing Program.

Cuba has tried to renegotiate the maturity of its debt with the South American giant. At this time the overdue debt is $110 million dollars, so some in the media have speculated that it could be paid with the money Havana receives from Mais Medicos.

The Cuban State has declared that income from professional services abroad has risen to more than $11.5 billion dollars annually, the country’s main source of foreign currency.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

A Clandestine Work for Freedom of Expression

‘Patriotism 36-77’ came about largely thanks to a fundraiser on the Verkami platform. (Pedro Coll)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Miami, 3 November 2018 — Teatro Kairós continues to defy censorship and police repression. After months of rehearsals and study, last weekend he premiered Patriotism 36-77, directed by actress Lynn Cruz, in the abandoned buildings of the former Circus School of the Higher Institute of Art.

Cruz told 14ymedio that “when the news came out of Decree Law 349 that makes the right to do theater in homes impossible,” she was forced to be more creative when choosing the place of presentation.

“I realized that the corridors and halls were ideal for simulating a prison and the galleys. On the other hand, natural light solved all the problems and the acoustics, with a sound design that started from the environmentitself that we could create with the elements of the work, we could do without the music. continue reading

We already had to principal resolved so as not to have to do a generatl rehearsal and avoid being discovered. This is the most risky  and performative part of the show. If they make the private spaces illegal, we can take the abandoned State spaces and they can be occupied by the artists,” the actress and director of the piece explained.

The piece premiered last Sunday without advertising, almost in secret, and only a select group of guests attended. The cast of the work consisted of Cruz herself, the actress Juliana Rabelo and the painter Luis Trápaga.

The actress arranged with a group of taxi drivers to collect the guests house by house to help them get to the Circus School, far from the center of Havana.

“The work addresses the psychological and physical violence exerted by the State on people who dare to raise their voices, and in the middle of the process I discovered a Swiss director Milo Rau who did a work, Five Easy Pieces, on pedophilia, starring children. The critics talked about the feeling of suffocation it left, because the piece was about the submission and power of the adult over the violated child.

I said to myself: “I want the spectators to feel what a prisoner of conscience feels in Cuba. Beyond the words I was interested in being suggestive with what was happening in the scene,” she explains.

For Lynn Cruz the bringing of the guests provoked that sensation that she was looking for, something that for her was a “maxim.” The audience, who never knew where they were going or with whom they would share the car that would transport them, would experience that “transit to a place of distrust, fear, uncertainty.” That is, she says, what the people who went felt.

The characters are a critical painter, played by Luis Trápaga; a student of humanities and daughter of a dissident, played by Juliana Rabelo, and Lynn’s character, who is a human rights activist and daughter of a member of the Communist Party.

To achieve her scenographic idea, Cruz thought of everything in direct opposition to the theatrical tradition.

“I had thought of a design with lights that simulate a tunnel, which was difficult to do in a house without losing the visual quality because sometimes one fails, there, to create the atmosphere you need in a play. It happed to me with Los enemigos del pueblo (The Enemies of the People). We were not satisfied with the visuality, and thanks to some young photographers I was able to have an ideal scenario that they offered me in secret, and when I was filming [the film Blue Heart] with Miguel [Coyula] I started studying the ruins.”

Patriotism 36-77 came about largely thanks to a fundraiser on the Verkami platform , where it was described as “a work for the right to freedom of expression in Cuba.”

Lynn Cruz has personally experienced censorship in several creative projects promoted outside the cultural institutions of the country and has faced the persecution of State Security, which has interfered occasionally to prevent presentations scheduled by her on behalf of her independent theater project.


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Theater in the Name of Freedom / Lynn Cruz

Screenshots from Patriotismo 36-77

Lynn Cruz, Havana Times, 1 November 2018 – Like the feeling you have when a baby you’ve been longing to have finally arrives, I was overcome by the same emotion after Patriotismo 36-77 made its debut.

More than half a year went past until it could finally hit the stage. The idea for the play was conceived after I suffered an act of repression for the first time, by the police and State Security in April 2017, when we tried to screen the documentary Nadie by Miguel Coyula at the Casa Galeria El Circulo.

That event marked my life, it made me more responsible for my country’s reality and the need arose to create a dialogue via theater, about the State’s psychological and physical violence towards anyone who openly criticizes them. continue reading

It’s no coincidence that the characters this time are: A critical painter (Luis Trapaga), a Humanities student and daughter of a dissident (Juliana Rabelo) and a human rights activist and daughter of a Communist Party member (played by yours truly).

I wrote the script based on the actors’ real-life experiences. Their fascinating personalities and intelligence took the play to new heights every time we rehearsed it. There is a scene dedicated to a select group of Cuban writers in exile and others in virtual exile on the island, which is based on the creative conversations we had with them.

However, financial hardship became a factor we had to wrestle with and so we launched a crowdfunding campaign on the Spanish website Verkami in late July. A digital platform to collect money. It’s a dynamic which stems from poor communities.

Thanks to many friends and people who identified with the project, we were able to collect our target which has allowed us to pay dignified wages to the actors involved, as well as to finish producing the play.

Not forgetting that it’s in the Cuban government’s DNA to decapitalize, just getting by in Cuba continues to be a precarious task.

On the other hand, the Kairos Theater’s philosophy has been solidified further as a result of Patriotismo 36-77. It won’t be easy-to-watch theater. And every play will have to be born in the spur of the moment.

If we used living rooms in homes as our space for Enemigos del Pueblo, this time and as a way to protest Decree-Law 349, we have sought out a public space.

The city is full of ruins, why don’t we fill these places of rubble with art? Why don’t we give them back a bit of the life they once had?

It’s no easy feat to put on a play with formal ambitions in an unknown place, that is to say, storm it. The conditions we faced at the site of an unfinished Art School forced us to be strategic.

We are dedicating this action to everyone who has died in the name of freedom, whether that’s out of desperation, romanticism or irresponsibility.

Vegans, Vegetarians and Omnivores in Cuba’s Gastronomic Jungle

Cubans prioritize fats, proteins and sugar, to the detriment of consuming healthy options such as vegetables and fruits. (Stephen Weppler)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 27 October 2018 — Four years, seven months and 22 days. That is the length of time that Ana Laura Macías has not eaten any product of animal origin, after assuming a strict vegan diet. A decade ago her decision would have been crazy, but now Cuban gastronomic offerings  increasingly includerecipes for people who do not eat meat.

For decades, meat has been an almost sacred food in a country where cattle ranching has been in decline due to the excesses of nationalization and restrictions on private producers. The strict legislation, which criminalizes the slaughter of cattle with long prison sentences, has resulted in foods made with meat becoming even more desired.

“When I visit a friend and tell him that I’m not going to eat the steak he offers me or the ropa vieja [literally ’old clothes’, a dish made with shredded meat] that he prepared with a lot of effort, it’s like he’s offended,” Macias tells 14ymedio. “At the beginning it was like a battle every day, to get my family to respect this decision but they no longer try to impose any foods on me.” continue reading

A study conducted by the anthropologist Margalida Mulet Pascual confirmed that after the Special Period of the 90s — a time of great deprivation after the breakup of the USSR and the loss of its subsidies to Cuba — “food uncertainty” led many families to prioritize “the importance of meat and derivatives (such as sausages, croquettes, etc.) and consider other food, such as salads and fruits, less essential for optimal nutrition.”

Mulet Pascual says that in the Cuban collective imagination there is a concept of “supremacy of animal protein” and an insufficient evaluation of other foods such as fruits and vegetables. Three thirds of the dish are filled with meat products, carbohydrates or fried foods, to the detriment of vegetables or other agricultural products.

“If you feel ill there is always someone who tells you that what you need is a good soup of chicken or meat, if you look tired then they recommend a steak and there are even those who say that if you have not had a piece of chicken, a sausage or some pork rinds that day, then you have not eaten,” laments Ana Laura Macias.

With the increase in the arrival of tourists in recent years, paladares (private restaurants) and hotels have been pushed to expand their vegan and vegetarian offerings. “Before, when a foreigner came and said he did not eat meat, we invented a dish but now we have our own recipes,” explains an employee at El Café, a private restaurant in Old Havana with a wide range of vegan and vegetarian options.

“Cubans who do not eat meat have been coming for a while, and that’s a novelty, because before we only had vegan or vegetarian customers who came from other countries,” says the private sector worker. “Among young people the practice of not eating meat products is growing and there are groups that promote it,” he adds.

At the end of the 90s, vegetarian restaurants under state management emerged throughout the Island. The creation of these places was promoted by Fidel Castro but, like many of his campaigns, it also ended up losing steam until it disappeared. Since then, vegan and vegetarian gastronomy has been led by the private sector.

“Almost all paladares already have several dishes without animal products and there are numerous restaurants dedicated exclusively to a vegan and vegetarian clientele,” explains Massiel, a young entrepreneur who, with her mother, manages a place in Vedado where they sell “dishes free of animal protein,” she explains proudly.

Massiel lived in Madrid for almost a decade and in that city she was inspired to create her menu of offerings. Tofu, soy milk, seeds, burgers made from beans and lentil pasta, cheese-free pesto and fruit smoothies without added sugar are some of the options they sell. “We are pretty full every day, with foreigners and Cubans, so there is a demand, without a doubt,” explains Massiel.

Some of these products are not sold in the markets of the Island but Massiel and her mother alternate traveling to Cancun or Panama City and bring back in their luggage some ingredients that are missing on the Island. “From there we bring the almonds, pistachios, nuts and even some cereals to make our own gluten-free bread.”

The young woman hopes that soon a wholesale market for the private sector will open on the island but, above all, “that the stores won’t only have the same products as always but also have variety and diversity so that gastronomy can develop and diversify,” she says.

This New Year’s eve, Massiel’s restaurant will offer an “all vegan” dinner for families who want to celebrate 2019 with this type of food. “Telling a Cuban that they are going to spend the party on December 31st without eating meat was, a few years ago, like insulting them, but now more and more people are interested, especially the younger ones who have a greater awareness of their health and the environment.”

Ludmila and Raudel, both graduates of economics at the University of Havana, have been vegans for more than five years. They decided to assume that lifestyle for reasons ranging from their physical condition to the care of nature, the young woman explains to 14ymedio. “At first they looked at us as if we were extraterrestrials but now people are more aware that this is a life decision that everyone has the right to make.”

Ludmila cooks for herself, her boyfriend and the rest of the family. “It’s complicated because for us two I have to prepare everything free of animal products but my parents do eat meat.” The economist says that “although it is sometimes more difficult to find fresh fruits and vegetables, the truth is that we save a lot of money by not having to buy meat which is always the most expensive.”

Ludmila’s parents define themselves as “omnivores” because they eat everything. When their daughter decided to become a vegan, they “screamed blue murder,” recalls the young woman. “Little by little, they have come to understand but it is not easy for them, because they still see meat as something that should never be rejected,” she says.

In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) generated a stir by declaring that processed meat such as sausages, hamburgers or sausages increase the risk of cancer. These products were included in the group of substances most dangerous to health along with tobacco smoke, alcohol, contaminated air and plutonium.

The information was barely disseminated in Cuba where, up until now no school has a curriculum about the basics of nutrition for students so they can choose a healthier diet, as confirmed by this newspaper with officials of the Ministry of Education in Havana.

Also, there has never been an island-wide survey of food consumption habits. However, an investigation carried out by the Institute of Nutrition and Food Hygiene showed that Cubans prioritize “the satisfaction of the needs of fats, proteins and sugar, to the detriment of the consumption of healthy options such as vegetables and fruits.”

“Poor nutritional quality, imbalance, and monotony characterized both actual food consumed and that desired,” concludes the study that urged “training the Cuban population in knowledge about healthy eating, as well as increasing the availability and accessibility of healthy foods.”


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Moncloa Promises That Sanchez Will Defend Human Rights in Havana

Pedro Sánchez will travel to Cuba on November 22 and 23 during his first official visit to the island. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 31 October 2018 — Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez will defend human rights in his visit to Havana, as the Moncloa Palace has expressed in its response to a letter addressed to him by the activist Iliana Hernández. The Cabinet of the Presidency did not offer more details on what specific gestures Sanchez will make when he is in Havana on November 22 and 23.

“We acknowledge receipt of the letter sent to the President* of the Government, in which you have sent your comments and reflections on his next official trip to Cuba, which we have read with interest, as we have done with other personalities, such as [the former president of USA] Barack Obama and Pope Francis, and there is not the slightest doubt that the President will defend human rights on his visit to the island,” the text says.

Iliana Hernandez wrote  a letter addressed to Sanchez this month in which she criticized his trip to Cuba and explained her personal situation. Hernandez said she has not been able to leave Cuba for eight months, not even to travel to Spain, where she also lives. continue reading

The activist added, after detailing some of the penalties to which opponents are exposed, that she has gone to seek help at the Spanish embassy and the answer has been that they do not have legal mechanisms to act, since Cuba does not recognize her dual citizenship.

Hernández condemned that Sanchez accepted a meeting with Miguel Díaz-Canel at the UN. “Is it that you do not accept that there is a dictatorship in Cuba? Do you not know that in Cuba the most elementary universal rights that belong to us as citizens and are protected by the UN Magna Carta are violated, or have you simply decided to ignore it?”

For all these reasons, the activist asked Sanchez to decline to visit to the island. “Out of respect for Spain and Cuba, and for the most elementary rights that are being fought for in the civilized world today.”

Moncloa thanked her in its response for the “contributions that allow the Chief Executive to know first-hand the needs and opinions of citizens.”

The activist, who published the letter and the response on her Facebook profile, has been satisfied with the response and has expressed her desire to recognize the reality.

*Translator’s note: The Spanish “Prime Minister” is also the “President of the Government”


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Cuban Bishops Ask the Government to Accept a Diversity of Opinions

The Cuban bishops warn that the Constitution “can not be subordinated to laws, decrees, resolutions, political parties, ideologies, judicial dispositions or judgments.” (COCC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 28 October 2018 — The Conference of Catholic Bishops of Cuba (COCC) has issued a pastoral message on the draft Constitution in which it urges citizens to participate in the debates in a “conscious and responsible” manner, but regrets that the Constitution does not recognize the right to a “diversity of political opinion.”

In the text, published on the COCC website, the bishops take a position against the death penalty, the practice of abortion and equal marriage, in addition to demanding greater spaces for the pastoral and humanitarian work of the Church.

The prelates believe that the referendum on February 24 will be “an act in which every citizen of the island is called to express themselves with ‘yes’ or ‘no’ by their vote, or abstaining.” A vote that they think “will be the last word of our people on the Constitution.” continue reading

That the Constitution “can not be subordinated to laws, decrees, resolutions, political parties, ideologies, judicial dispositions or judgments,” is emphasized in the message and the government is urged to create a “Court of Constitutional Guarantees with the purpose of safeguarding the rights enshrined therein.”

The members of the COCC are pleased that the Constitution includes “the declaration that people are equal in their dignity, in their duties and rights, without any discrimination” but lament “the absence of recognition of the diversity of political opinion” in the text.

Prior to the writing of this pastoral message in each diocese, there was a reflection on the document.

Article Three of the new Constitution, which says that “socialism and the social and political revolutionary system established by this Constitution are irrevocable,” and adds, “Citizens have the right to combat by all means, including armed struggle, when other means are not available, against anybody who seeks to topple the political, social and economic order established by this Constitution,” is also criticized by the COCC, which calls to protect “the integrity and exercise of the right of the people.” The Bishops comment that “the use of force is an extreme resource, only justified in certain circumstances and under exceptional conditions and must be proportional to the causes that provoke it.”

With regards to Article 68, which has generated a great controversy in recognizing marriage as the union between two people, beyond their sex, the bishops say that its wording has an “evident influence from the so-called ‘gender ideology’,” which they adjudge “a strong subjectivism,” in “its main postulate that each person chooses his own sexual identity.”

The inclusion in the Project of Constitution of an article that opens the door to the legalization of equal marriage has been one of the most controversial points, and has unleashed strong campaigns by the Catholic Church and the evangelical churches, in oppostion to the activists of the LGBTI community.

The bishops believe it “improperly-founded and erroneous” that a definition of marriage should appear in the constitutional draft as “the union of two persons with aptitude for it, in order to make a life in common,” and they reject that their position on the subject implies “discrimination.”

Several groups of the Cuban opposition have denounced that the discussion about Article 68 seeks to eclipse more important issues such as political freedoms, the perpetuation of the Communist Party in power and the situation of human rights in the country.

The message of the bishops also calls for greater spaces for the Catholic Church, especially in the areas of education, the construction of new churches and the posssessopm of “adequate goods for its activity.”

The text calls for a guarantee “That every citizen has a salary that really meets their needs and, equally, the social benefits necessary to balance family life must be guaranteed, so that a stable life and decent housing can be achieved and attained by all its members, including after the end of their working life.”

The bishops are pleased that the Draft Constitution “recognizes private property, although it should always be borne in mind that the limits of any property should be conditioned only by the principle(…) The Economy at the Service of the Common Good.”

However, they urge that the opportunities given to foreign investment, also be extended “to the Cuban citizen” to enforce “the equality of all Cubans in their rights, duties and opportunities without any discrimination.”


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Cuban Government Raises the Minimum Pension for the First Time in Ten Years

The sociologist Elaine Acosta believes that the increase in pensions “will not affect” the elderly, a traditionally vulnerable group. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario J. Pentón / Luz Escobar, Havana/Miami | 31 October 2018 — Beginning in December, Cuban pensioners who receive the minimum monthly pension of 200 Cuban pesos (equivalent to $7.50 USD) will receive 242 CUP ($9.00 USD). The increase, announced Tuesday by Belkis Delgado, Director of Prevention, Assistance and Social Work of the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, is the first increase in the minimum pension in ten years. In addition, social assistance will be increased by 70 CUP ($3.00 USD).

The last time minimum pensions were increased was in 2008, when Raúl Castro raised pension and social assistance payments by 20%. At that time, the amount of the lowest benefits of this type was 164 CUP.

The measure will come into force in November, but the beneficiaries will not notice the increase until December because many of them have already received benefits for this coming month, when the increase had not yet been announced. continue reading

The official explained that the Government is working on a salary reform plan that would “not leaving anyone helpless” and facing “the low capacity to make purchases in the face of high prices in the retail market.”

The increase will affect a total of 445,748 retirees and 157,791 low-income people, and will cost 313 million pesos from the public treasury, according to the Ministry of Labor and Social Security.

“Since the Raulist reforms, or guidelines, began, subsidies have been eliminated which has especially affected vulnerable groups such as the elderly.” The reduction of subsidized products available through the ration book is a good example, explains sociologist Elaine Acosta, who considers that the increase in pensions “will not affect” that social group because of the country’s current economic situation.

Acosta, of Cuban origin and resident in Miami, believes that the State has turned over responsibility for the care of the elderly to families, which also do not have enough resources to alleviate the problem.

“On the one hand you have the authorities saying they want to confront the problem of an aging population and on the other hand they eliminate subsidies and cut the beneficiaries of social assistance, we have a problem with that,” she explained.

Cuba is the country with the oldest population in Latin America, with 20.1% of people over 60 years of age. This, together with the low levels of birth and fertility, have led the Government to face the challenge of having an increasingly small group of active working people support a growing number of retirees and pensioners.

Guillermina Laso, a former worker in the textile industry in Cienfuegos described the increase as “a joke in bad taste.”

“After so many years working for this Revolution and they give us an increase of 42 pesos, which isn’t enough to buy anything,” he protests.

“Now they say that they are going to increase pensions, but they do not say that it isn’t enough to buy what we need, nor that on the other hand they take our last centavo with the prices they put on products in the state stores,” he added.

Angela Iglesias, a retiree from Sancti Spíritus, points out that the increase is barely enough for “a bottle of oil and a pack of 10 sausages.”

“How dare they publicize this increase as if it were something we should be grateful for? We have worked for years and what we receive is barely enough to eat,” she added.

The high prices in state stores that charge in Cuban convertible pesos (CUC, each worth 25 CUP) as well as low salaries, whose average barely exceeds $30 a month, are some of the criticisms that have emerged in the consultation process on the constitutional reform project.

The academic Carmelo Mesa-Lago has calculated that with the end of Soviet subsidies in the early nineties, the purchasing power of retirees was 16% of what it was in 1989. According to Mesa-Lago, the real value of pensions has not recovered and last year was close to 50% of what it was compared to the period before the crisis.

“We must emphasize that this increase occurs at a time of greater differentiation of income. In Cuba the gap between those who receive more and have access to consumption is growing and, on the other hand, there is a large population that can not meet its basic needs,” says Elaine Acosta.


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Rebellion in Cuba’s Writers and Artists Union

Esteban Morales has complained that he is being used as an example in support of a situation which he is manifestly against. (M. Bernabé)

14ymedio bigger

14ymedio, Havana, 31 October 2018 — The Cuban Writers and Artists Union (Uneac) is facing complaints from several of its members who have openly protested against the refusal of the organization to debate the constitutional reform project.

The most recent to join controversy, and the one who has most openly explained it, is doctor of economics Esteban Morales who, on Tuesday, made public a letter to the vice minister of culture, Fernando Rojas, to refute a tweet in which the minister celebrated the high participation of Uneac workers in one of the meetings.

Morales reproaches Rojas for using him as an example to justify opinions he does not share. In his letter, the intellectual explains that his Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) nucleus, the writers of the Uneac, demanded to debate the reform project as all workers have done, something that apparently was rejected by the leadership, and he considers it “a political error of incalculable magnitude” not to allow the participation of the entire Uneac. continue reading

On October 17, an assembly was finally held in which Uneac workers participated, as did Morales himself and other people from his nucleus. However, as of today there has not been the meeting that they expected where, in their opinion, it was necessary to invite the entire organization.

“In our communication it was clear that we were dissatisfied with the fact that Uneac does not discuss the Constitution Project, a fight in which we have continued and will continue, considering it a political error of incalculable magnitude.” How is it possible to even imagine that the intellectuals represented in Uneac can not discuss the Constitution Project? It seems an inconceivable madness, for not issuing a stronger opinion,” Morales claims.

Although his protest has been the most recent and forceful, it certainly has not been the first. Before him, the historian Gladys Marel García spoke through a letter that she addressed to Miguel Barnet, the president of the pro-government organization.

García directly accuses Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel and the leadership of the Cuban Communist Party of giving the order to Miguel Barnet not to summon the members of the Uneac. “Whoever made that decision has discriminated against us and violated the right of the colleagues of the Association of Writers,” denounces the intellectual.

Last Sunday, the writer and journalist Gisela Arandia Covarrubias also made public a letter to express her disagreement with the situation as it stands, and demanded her right to participate as a member of the entity in the debate. The intellectual argues that “as an NGO” the organization has the same right that has been enjoyed by other social groups, including “teachers, doctors, lawyers, farmers, workers, scientists, students, self-employed, churches and housewives.”

Arandia considers it “inconceivable” that millions of Cubans have found space to discuss the project while the members of the Uneac have not been summoned to that debate. “How is it possible that the NGO that brings together intellectuals and artists does not invite its membership to offer their reflections, to make use of that right as part of Cuban society?” she asks, adding that it is not “a favor or a privilege but the right of participation.”

Also this Tuesday the writer Rodolfo Alpízar expressed feeling “embarrassed by the Uneac” decision in his article The Intellectuals and the Constitutional Debate. In the article, he says the writers have “insistently demanded” their right to participate and he believes that someone “from above” decided for everyone and the leaders accepted it without defending “the citizen rights” of the members of the organization.

“Do we Cuban intellectuals have to wait for someone to guide us to be patriotic? Should we expect ‘top-down guidance’ to be de facto and de jure, and not merely repetition of slogans in the public square or in the media? Do you fear the expression of our ideas?” asks Alpízar.

The debates of the popular consultation on the project to revise the Constitution began on August 13 in neighborhoods, schools and workplaces, and are intended to conclude this coming November 15. Once the popular consultation ends, the proposals must be submitted to the National Constitutional Reform Commission responsible for the re-drafting of a new document and its presentation to the National Assembly, where it will be discussed again and submitted for approval.

The next and final step of the process will be the call for a national referendum on February 24, 2019 for the population to weigh in at the polls.


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Bubbles and Foam / Fernando Dámaso

Fernando Dámaso, 2 November 2018 — As it does every year, the Cuban government put on a show in the United Nations calling for the end to the embargo, which it refers to as a blockade, by the United States government. And as they do every year most countries formally voted in favor of its elimination, votes that are absolutely meaningless given that these United Nations resolutions are non-binding, which is to say they require no action.

If the Cuban government hopes to end the blockade, it must first be willing to enter into a dialogue with the United States government and, more importantly, be willing to both give and take. Simply making demands without offering any concessions, as it always does, will not work.

Russia, Vietnam, China and other countries in the former communist bloc did this and resolved their differences. Now North Korea is doing the same.

As long as the Cuban government and its leaders refuse to relinquish their failed ideology and innate stubbornness, continually clinging to the past and forgetting the present, they will solve absolutely nothing.

In short, what impacts Cubans is not the blockade by the United States government but the blockade that the Cuban government has imposed on the Cuban people for sixty years, now made harsher by a draft constitution which includes recently approved laws and resolutions restricting self-employment, now referred to as non-state employment.

Bolsonaro Harvests the Failure of the Politics of the PT*

Jair Bolsonaro followers celebrate his victory in Sao Paulo. (EFE / Fernando Bizerra)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, West Palm Beach, 29 October 2018 — Just as the surveys indicated, Jair Bolsonaro achieved victory in Brazil’s presidential elections. A few weeks ago, Brazil’s former president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, had called on the Brazilian people to vote massively for his comrade Fernando Haddad, the Workers’ Party (PT) candidate, belatedly thrown into the ring in a desperate attempt to retain political power for his party.

“Haddad is Lula,” the popular leader wrote to his supporters, urging them to support the PT’s new ace at the polls, in a letter written from jail, where he remains locked up awaiting trial for corruption allegations.

However, the poll results this Sunday, October 28th, showed, beyond a doubt, that either Lula’s message did not go down as well as expected in an electoral mass that until recently seemed inclined in his favor, or the dissatisfaction generated by the corruption scandals that have undermined the standing of the political leadership, the increase in violence in recent years, the decline in social standards and in the economy, the specter of poverty that has once again spread through the most humble sectors and the loss of faith in leadership have finally caught up to politicians of the left. In fact, the voters voted for a change in the most radical sense of the word. continue reading

It will probably never be known to what extent the weariness of a difficult socio-economic and political panorama or simply the desire to punish the PT caused more than 55% of voters to vote in favor of the opposite extreme.

It may never be known with any degree of certainty to what extent the weariness of a difficult socio-economic and political panorama or simply the desire to punish the PT – more than real sympathy for Bolsonaro – resulted in over 55% of the millions of Brazilian voters going to the polls, but they voted quite in favor of the opposite extreme – the Social Liberal Party – thus blurring, once and for all, the few hopes that the most stubborn advocates of the regional left had in terms of demonstrating their popular roots at the polls.

An icy editorial published in the digital version of the Sunday evening edition Cuba’s main state newspaper Granma, under the meddling title of “Jair Bolsonaro won, and Brazil?”, reflected the displeasure and impotence of the Palace of the Revolution for “a result that represents Brazil’s return to the extreme right at the end of the 1985 dictatorship.”

And the Castro regime’s contrariness is not a small thing. Since his election campaign, the Brazilian elected president, who will take office on January 1st and who will complete his term January 2022, had announced his intention to send back to Cuba doctors who are serving missions in Brazil, and by virtue of whose semi-slave work the Cuban Government realizes juicy profits.

The suppression of another source of income in foreign currency can be a serious blow to the Cuban government in the midst of an economic situation that the authorities themselves have defined as “very complicated”, after the decrease in Venezuelan oil subsidies, in addition to the accumulation of external debt, the slowness and inadequacy of foreign investment and the pressures imposed by the U.S. embargo, among other adverse issues.

That beloved people – always hostage to extreme policies – now suddenly ceased to be “the hope” that would demonstrate through voting, their lucidity and their confidence in the leadership of the PT, to become a kind of amorphous and confused mass, easily deceived by the siren songs of “the far right”, manipulated by the “smear campaign” against the PT and its historical leader, a whole herd of imbeciles who did not know how to defend, as should have been done, incredible achievements of the PT, at the head of the Government between 2003 and 2016.

The most rancid liberals do not realize that the worst they can reap from this election day is that many of the voters voted, not so much for Bolsonaro as against the PT, which implies a much more adverse scenario to the left than they are capable of acknowledging.

The suppression of another foreign currency income source can be a blow to the Cuban government in the midst of an economic situation that the authorities themselves have defined as “very complicated”

Unquestionably, with its usual bad loser attitude, that left will send to the defendants’ bench the social networks, the interests of the national oligarchies, the “extreme right wing and conservative” press, the Yankee imperialism, with Donald Trump at the helm, its villain par excellence, the people’s information deficit, and even WhatsApp used as a means of misinformation of the masses, which they have taken to calling methods of “alienation of progressive thinking.”

In spite of everything, it is an announced defeat. It is worth remembering that just hours after finding out the results of the first electoral round on October 7th in Brazil, which was also favorable to Bolsonaro, one of the “genius analysts” of the Cuban official press summarized the criteria of some intellectuals of the Latin American left on the issue of the leadership retreat suffered by the progressive ideology in the region, and came to the conclusion that the left has underestimated the change that the internet implies “as the main instrument of the so-called new economy and of communication and relationships between human beings”.

That innocent slip, and not its terrible performance, seems to be its biggest sin, and the supposed reason for its regional political breakdown. Perhaps that schematic, childish and reductionist view of the matter alone explains the electoral result of this October 28th.

*PT:  The Workers’ Party (Portuguese: Partido dos Trabalhadores) is a left-wing democratic socialist political party in Brazil. Launched in 1980, it is one of the largest movements of Latin America.

Translated by Norma Whiting


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Cuba Looks for Investors Ready to Take Risks

This Monday Díaz-Canel inaugurated the 36th edition of the International Fair of Havana (Fihav). (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, October 30, 2018 — “Now it’s a high-risk investment but I hope that in five years everything changes for the better.” That’s the hope expressed by an Italian businessman who has invested in the Island, stumbling over the habitual difficulties of doing business in Cuba.

“Since I first became interested until I was finally able to start work here, two and a half years passed,” laments the investor who has opted for the sector of hygiene and skincare products. “This isn’t a market for people who come trying to do business quickly, and you have to use the official language very well,” he specifies.

With the 36th edition of the International Fair of Havana (Fihav), the authorities want to present the image of a country open to foreign capital in the middle of an especially complicated panorama for the Cuban economy, which faces once again the challenge of attracting a greater number of foreign investors to the Island to solve the liquidity crisis. continue reading

After the approval of a foreign investment law in 2014, businessmen have been very timid and, instead of the $2 billion annually that the Government was expecting, only $1.3 billion had come at the end of 2016.

In 2017 authorities announced that $2.3 billion in investment had come in during that exercise, but not even the arrival of that capital managed to lift up the economy suffering from the cuts in petroleum shipments from Venezuela and the inflated debts with numerous creditors.

The slowness in the approval of investments burdens the arrival of cash, to which is added a complex bureaucracy in which “there are many civil servants of the third or fourth level who don’t decide anything but waste a lot of time,” continues the Italian businessmen who prefered to remain anonymous.

The businessman insists that, right now, the Cuban side owes him “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in late payments, but that he has continued importing merchandise to the Island in the hopes of being able to recoup his money and remain in the country with his sights set on the future.

In an interview with the official press, the Minister of Foreign Business and Investment in Cuba, Rodrigo Malmierca Díaz, insisted on the protection of sovereignty in the policies of investment. “We, nevertheless, are not going to sell the country. We are going to develop this process in agreement with our laws, and with our policies,” he warned.

Malmierca urged that people not despair in face of the slow results of the ZEDM and clarified that “it is conceived for a long-term development” and is “a project for 50 years of development.” His declarations have increased skepticism among Cubans, tired of waiting for the economy to experience an upturn.

The signature work of ex-president Raúl Castro, the Special Zone of Development of Mariel (ZEDM), has also not offered the expected fruits. Until now the place anticipates investments from 15 countries and 37 approved business projects, much less than projected.

The increase in shortages of food, the rise in prices of agricultural products, and the new restrictions for the private sector complicate still further the internal scene of the Island.

Expocuba, created as a showcase in the 80s during the greatest closeness with the Soviet Union, now takes in 2,500 businessmen from more than 60 countries and also the presence of the mandatory Miguel Díaz-Canel, who made the inaugural speech and has developed an intense agenda of meetings with representatives from delegations, among them the Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami, and Yuri Borisov, Vice Prime Minister of the Russian Federation.

Spain is the most-represented country in Fihav with 112 businesses, 63 of them grouped in the official pavilion, 29 in the Basque country pavilion, and 20-something distributed among the rest of the exposition’s perimeter. The Spanish presence is also accompanied by the recently named ambassador, Juan Fernández Trigo, and in a few days the president of the Spanish government, Pedro Sánchez, will come to the Island.

The Cuban economist Elías Amor, settled in Spain, has a very critical opinion on Fihav. “If the Cuban economy wants to export more, it must forget about parties and fairs and dedicate itself to increase productivity,” he says in his blog Cubaeconomía.

For the specialist, the Island “needs to increase its exports of products if it wants to correct the grave deficit in its external accounts,” but since 2011 the number of sales abroad “has done nothing more than fall” in a nominal drop of 59%.

Amor recommends that to raise exports, Cuba must “produce better and know how to sell what is produced, they have to train the working population, introduce modern technologies, and do things well and not more cheaply.”

The mammoth state socialist business continues dominating the economic landscape of the Island, where the existence of two currencies also slows down many interested in investing. Failure to pay and judicial insecurity are some of the other motives that dissuade foreign businessmen from putting their money in the country.

For the economist Omar Everleny Pérez, more flexible legislation to favor the arrival of foreign capital is not enough, but rather Cuba needs “a new mentality in orientation of the economic policymakers and of the risks that need to be taken for Cuba to join the international circuits of business and investment.”

Recently the Havana Government made a small payment of the third installment of a renegotiated debt of 2.6 billion to 14 countries. The initial amount of 11.1 billion was restructured to be paid until 2033, of which $60 million has already been paid in 2017 and close to 70 in 2018 so far.

Fihav is also developing amidst the debates in neighborhoods and workplaces in which the project of constitutional reform is discussed. One of the most-questioned points in the text has been, exactly, that which doesn’t include nationals among the businessmen who can invest in the Island.

Numerous voices have been raised across the country to demand recognition of the right of Cubans living inside and out of the country to invest in industry, tourism, services, and other key sectors.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.14ymedio bigger

Cuba’s Private Businesses Market Halloween Supplies

Private business in Cuba sell costumes and decorations for Halloween, includingr masks, fangs, witch hats and wigs. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 31 October 2018 — For some days now private businesses in Cuba have displayed decorations related to the underworld. Skulls, spider webs, skeletons, ghosts and pumpkins with candles are incorporated into the usual décor in cafes, bars and restaurants.

Tonight Havana’s Avenue of the Presidents, the Malecón and La Rampa, will be filled with vampires, werewolves, witches and zombies parading to observe Halloween, a celebration that more each year sneaks into the list of dates favored by younger Cubans.

Costumes and decorations are almost always improvised and homemade, but others sent from relatives who live abroad and may appear in the Havana night, with scary masks being the most entertaining.

You can also buy costumes from the self-employed who, for this date, offer masks, fangs, witch hats and wigs.

While younger people roam the streets with disguises that sometimes produce chills while others induce laughter, the government appears to be scared of the innocence of these children when they see how this Anglo-Saxon celebration, so celebrated in the United States, triumphs on the Island.


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

LGBTIQ ‘Kiss-In’ Cancelled for Fear of Being Called a ‘Provocation’

A group of activists gathered at the meeting point despite the cancellation of the event. (Proyecto Abriendo Brechas de Colores)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 29 October 2018 — The Proyecto Abriendo Brechas de Colores (Opening Color Gaps Project) was forced to cancel an event that had been promoted to mobilize the LGBTIQ community in favor of equal marriage for fear that it would be considered a provocation and harm “the very project” they are trying to promote.

The call to “Take Your Kisses Out of the Closet” was intended to be a “Kiss-in” on the last Saturdays of October, November and December between 3 and 5 pm at the corner of Prado and the Malecón. The event had already shifted its initial location, which was to be in front of the church at K and 25th, to avoid possible confrontations, but ultimately the organizers gave up on holding the event.

“Our enthusiasm prevented us from foreseeing some circumstances that have materialized along the way in favor and against an action like this,” the organization said in the statement announcing the cancellation. continue reading

“We have spent many years of work, a lot of joy and endless efforts for LGBTIQ people to get to where we are, and experience has shown us that there are battles that it is better to lose to achieve a much bigger future,” the text states.

“We want to kiss, hug, celebrate with pride our identities and share with the whole world how happy we are to see that Cuba advances on the path of justice,” stated the announcement of the planned event which, according to the organizers, was received with great success and shared more than a hundred times leading to about 600 confirmed participants. The event was to have been enlivened, they said, with activities such as a session of photographs of the most creative kisses, a touch of body painting, the handing out of educational materials and a flashmob.

“We did not foresee that an initiative motivated by the pride of seeing Cuba advance in the field of human rights, as well as the determination to combat the ideas that religious fundamentalism is spreading against that just and necessary change, could run up against so many closed doors, as it now has,” says the vague cancellation notice.

“When we changed the meeting point to Prado and the Malecón, we declared that we did not want them to use our action as an excuse to unleash the violence which the religious leaders of some denominations have called for in their preaching, since the beginning of the public consultation [over the text of a revised constitution],” the statement said.

Despite the announcement, around the initially agreed upon time a group of people carrying rainbow flags — mostly those with links to Cenesex, which was not the organizer of the event — danced to the song Música Vital, performed by Buena Fe, Yomil and el Dany and Omara Portuondo.

Jimmy Roque, one of the activists who came to Prado and the Malecón this Saturday despite the cancellation, said that what he saw “was fine, it was nice, they had choreography, they shouted ’Viva Cuba’,” but he regretted that “not a word” had been said.

“Let each one do what he can, it’s fine, but for those things you do not ask for permission, you do it and now, we’re going to do it again, to kiss on the Prado you do not have to ask for permission,” he said.

The Kiss-in was posed as a response to the statements of Alida León, president of the Evangelical League of Cuba, and the Reverend Moisés de Prada who intend to collect 500,000 signatures among their faithful against the inclusion in the new constitution of Article 68, which defines marriage as the union “between two persons.” The religious leaders insist that the concept of marriage “between a man and a woman” be maintained in the text, as it is in the current Constitution. Leon threatened to vote No if the suggested new wording of the article is maintained in the bill to reform the Constitution.

Since last June, posters have appeared in defense of the “original design of the family, as God created it” and against equal marriage on the facades of homes in various provinces of the country and public spaces.

The LGBTIQ community and defenders of the island’s sexual rights also disseminate in social networks their proposal to respond to these campaigns. Posters with more inclusive definitions of the concept of family and promotional videos with the message of “an original design of Cuban families” or “all rights for all families,” are some of the initiatives to promote inclusion.


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

The Single Party, A Relic That (Almost) Nobody Dares To Denounce In The Constitutional Debate

Just nine months after Brezhnev’s visit to Havana, the commission in charge of drafting the draft constitution was created.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 25 October 2018 —  Hidden behind the guise of sovereignty and independence, the reality we see is often a model of elements or impositions that come from other latitudes. The reform of the Constitution that is currently being carried out in Cuba is not exempt from these contradictions, presenting as “ours” several points that have been copied from third parties.

One of the most emblematic cases of this mimicry is Article 5 of the current project to reform the Cuban Constitution where the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) is described as “the leading force of society and of the State.” Although this has been one of the points most rejected by the political opposition, few have dared to question it in public debates.

This definition of the superpower of the PCC in society was introduced in the first version of the draft of the Constitution of 1976, which a commission in charge of its drafting delivered to Fidel Castro on February 24, 1975. That text was approved by the Party’s Politburo in April of that same year, in a context of an ever increasing approach to the Soviet Union. continue reading

The harmony with the Kremlin was reflected in the Constitution that was born, whose main body has survived to this day.

At that time, the text of the article underwent slight modifications from the preliminary draft to the final version. The most striking was the change of the definition of the PCC that went from reading the “organized Marxist-Leninist vanguard of the working class” to reading the “Martian [i.e. modeled on José Martí’s thought and writings] and Marxist-Leninist, organized vanguard of the Cuban nation,” to give it a more local touch that just barely managed to hide its deep foreign essence.

On February 15, 1976, a referendum was held in which more than five million voted, of which only 1% (54,070 people) dared to mark the ’No’ on the ballot. At that time Article 5 was seen by the vast majority of citizens entitled to vote as the formal definition of what everyone accepted as an accomplished fact, which was not worth trying to refute.

The failure of the 10 Million Ton sugar harvest, the collapse of the national economy and the visit of Leonid Brezhnev to the island in 1974 had cemented the Russian bear’s all-encompassing embrace around the Cuban model. That approach resulted in the sending of huge resources from the USSR to Cuba, but with the obligation on the part of the island’s nomenklatura to create structures and models of management and administration clearly compatible with the USSR.

The alignment with the Kremlin was reflected in the Constitution that was born, whose main body has survived to this day and is still present in several of the articles discussed in neighborhoods and workplaces.

A brochure internally circulated to Party cadres, published in limited edition in April 1975, clearly showed the elements that allow a comparative study between the articles.

That “copy and paste” was not a secret to anyone and a brochure internally circulated to Party cadres, published in limited edition in April 1975, clearly showed the elements that allow a comparative study between the articles proposed in the Cuban draft and other constitutions of various countries of what was then called “the socialist camp.”

The comparative study passed out among Party militants explained the affinities between the nascent Cuban Constitution and its close cousins in the Soviet Union, Albania, Poland, Vietnam, Mongolia, Czechoslovakia, Romania, the German Democratic Republic, Bulgaria, Hungary and North Korea. At that time Cuba did not consider China a socialist country and it did not enjoy the favor of the Plaza of the Revolution, so it was not included in the volume.

The concordance of article 5 of the Cuban Constitution with the definitions that appear in the laws of these countries reflects the conceptual similarity in expressing, in more or less the same words, that the entity in command in the country is none other than the party of the communists.

The Cuban model thus adopted a tight corset which contrasted with the first 16 years after 1959, when the country lacked an adequate Constitution to govern it. The Party began to organize its first congress and only nine months after Brezhnev’s visit to Havana, the commission in charge of writing the draft constitution was created, presided over by Blas Roca, a man who enjoyed the confidence of Moscow.

With the presence of Roca at the head of the task, the similarities between the Cuban Constitution and its Eastern European twins were assured. Creole traditions in constitutional issues were reduced to nothingness and the previously highly weighted sovereignty was diminished to the condition of symbol.

Today, the only country on the list with which Cuba maintains a constitutional agreement is North Korea. The rest have left in the past the pretensions of the compulsory leadership of the Communist Party. The articles that shielded the system did not do much to stop the democratizing thrust that those nations experienced.  And when those nations’ constitutions wanted to stop reality they were, simply, repealed.

However, the proposal of Cuban constitutional reform, instead of looking for similarities with the democratic laws of Latin American countries based on the competitiveness of different political parties, continues to cling to the idea of imposing by law the prevalence of a single party. It is tied to precepts that have already demonstrated their failure.

Bad copies bring worse results and this case will not be the exception.


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.