Commemoration or Celebration? / Rosa María Rodríguez Torrado

Rosa Maria Rodriguez, 27 June 2016 — For days now, due to the upcoming commemoration of the 63rd anniversary of the attack on the Moncada Barracks, Cuban television continues to repeat a spot with the fragment of a song from a musical group called Moncada, the chorus of which says over and over, “The 26th is the happiest day in history.”

The attack on the military fort in Santiago de Cuba, by the guerilla’s led by Fidel Castro, occurred on 26 July 1953 in coordination with the assault on the Carlos Manuel de Cespedes Barracks in Bayamo, during the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. Both actions failed. Lives were lost, young men were arrested and tortured — others were murdered later, according to the authorities — who should be remembered by this long-standing government with respect, not with anodyne songs that only send a signal of lack of respect for “their fallen,” hut which are an insult to their memory.

It is true I don’t remember — I never paid attention — all the words of this old song. Which such a chorus, anyone who isn’t Cuban can assume that it’s about a carnivalesque date.

The irony of the case, is that the director of the Moncada group is a deputy to the Cuban National Assembly and a nephew of one of the revolutionaries who were injured, imprisoned, tortured and later killed as a result of the assault on the Moncada Barracks.

It seems that anything goes in dictatorships and even forgive “the irreverence or the forgetting” of the dead when it is time to adulate the living. Also , it confirms that there is no exception to the rule that the authorities apply to their unconditional followers: the promotion of their works — regardless of the quality or the controversial conceptions — and convert them into a “hit parade” that plays on radio and television ad nauseam.

When this publicity material first appeared on television, I shared these opinions with Rafa, my husband, and now I share them also with my readers, because I do want someone to brand me as working to “correct errors” for friends, accomplices and/or protect those who hold us hostage and silence us.

There are no arguments to justify this TV spot and its advertising of the upcoming anniversary of those events seems farcical and sad to me. Will the approach to other cultures make them change western traditions of respect and homage to the dead? It seems that while the globe is homogenized with globalization, they insist on “deglobalizing” the world with the political-totalitarian counterculture on this continent.

Wifi in Havana’s Monaco Neighborhood / Rosa Maria Rodriguez

Rosa Maria Rodriguez, 10 September 2015 — Ever since WiFi service was activated in Vedado in the area of 23rd and L a few months ago, there have been rumors that it will be available in Monaco — a narrow swath of land in the Havana neighborhood of La Vibora — starting in September of this year. Expectations are high among the locals. A few people have already signed contracts with ETECSA — with wireless transmitter included — in anticipation of this event. Is the information true or false? Where did it come from?

Rumors in Cuba are like an oral newspaper, circulating for decades and serving as a placebo of hope for its citizens. They also used by authorities to elicit and collect opinions. But sometimes they converge with social frustrations and desires, seasoned with a dose of fantasy, and begin to circulate among the inhabitants of countries with dictatorial regimes, where there is no freedom of information. Where can one turn for accurate news or to find a spokesperson or authorized entity? There are none! continue reading

The grotesque site of people sitting haphazardly or otherwise supporting themselves on sidewalks, low walls or outdoor tables near 23rd and L, their phones and laptops on the ground, in order to access an internet hotspot are embarrassing and leave much to be desired. It seems like a punishment the state has devised for people who want to enjoy freedom of information and communication. I ask myself what will happen in Monaco, where the streets and sidewalks are in such poor condition and where the police have declared the area to be one “of social danger.”

In Cuba, where the information and communication market is quite depressed — perhaps intentionally — and where the most coveted cell phones are smartphones — sold at state-owned stores for more than 200 CUC apiece — it is risky for people to display hi-tech equipment in public spaces or on the street.

Monaco is a shopping area three blocks from my house. It includes a shopping mall, produce market, movie theater, a small amusement park for children, buildings undergoing renovation, a bakery, an ice cream parlor, a garage, a branch of Western Union, a fishmonger, currency stores, restaurants, a park, a currency exchange office and a bank. It is so well-known that when people are taking a private taxi to get there, rather than state the name of the neighborhood, they ask the driver, “Do you go to Monaco?”

There are enthusiasts who say that, if a few blocks manage to get wifi access, there will be people who will rent out space in their homes so that others can surf the web comfortably and safely. Others optimistically believe that, if they live in the coverage area, they will be able to quietly review the day’s events and communicate with the outside world. Sitting in your home and surfing on your laptop? No. Society can only enjoy what “the Revolution” — the totalitarian state — “generously” grants them, even if it means humiliating themselves by groveling on the ground, soiling their clothes and their self-respect, in order to exercise their right.

I don’t know if the rumors will come true this month or this year. Even so, what other options do we have? Wifi in Monaco in September? I hope so!

Same Hatred, Different Collar / Rosa Maria Rodriguez

Graphic Source:

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Lord Acton

Hate crimes are violent acts induced by prejudices against a person or group considered “different,” owing to their social class, race, ethnicity, nationality, political affiliation, ideology, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or disability. Modernity has driven the legislative powers of many countries to establish judicial standards to combat those types of crimes and to prosecute the perpetrators. This has entailed a reduction of such abuses, which are provoked also by the social context of the persons or groups, and by the stereotypes created by societies.

In Cuba, the official and propaganda media of the regime inform us about hate crimes that are committed “in capitalist countries,” of course. Thus, the Cuban population knows of those violent behaviors that occur in places where there are no military conflicts and which are miles away from their security and wellbeing — rather than those that could be occurring at that moment in their own environment, just inches from their own backside, or at just a hair of separation from their own head. continue reading

The reports don’t reach Cubans directly or unadulterated, but rather strained through the proselytizing sieve of the state analysts. It is the same hatred, its collar placed by the official discursive demagoguery and the rulers of some countries, who because of rampant special interests — often personal, partisan or group-based — are aligned with the Cuban dictatorship.

Ever since the Castros rose to power in 1959, they have relied greatly on incentivizing, for their own benefit, this type of conduct classified as a crime in the penal codes, and even in the constitutions, of some countries. The Castros utilize this criminal behavior as propaganda, and as political confrontation and victory.

Years of repeating the same modus operandi with total impunity confirm this. While they deny one part of the society the exercise of its freedom of expression, they reward pro-government gangs when these behave in a criminal fashion that favors the authorities.

In my country, where strikes are prohibited de facto, where almost everything is directed by the authorities and nobody dares to perform that type of discriminatory violence without the consent of the government, the historic Cuban leader — retired since 2006 — has on more than one occasion called upon the citizenry to “take control of the streets,” which they allege repeatedly and coercively, belong to the revolutionaries.

Numerical advantage notwithstanding, they represent the lion and the victims represent the bound monkey. However, there is even more vileness in hiding under the civic skirt while throwing people into the bullring of that cowardly and vulgar misdeed.

Tattooed onto the history of the first two decades of this system is the humiliation, repeated and sustained for years, of ordering those who were filing their exit papers to labor in the fields.

Similarly, there was the harassment in the 1980s, with the so-called “acts of repudiation,” inflicted on those who wanted to leave for the United States via the Mariel Boatlift.

The authorities have stuffed their legacy full of actions of this type directed at leaders of the peaceful opposition, independent journalism, and civil and human rights organizations. It is a government crime that persists today. This is not because I say so, it is because they do it.

Such is the brazenness, and such has been the impunity throughout the 56 years of dictatorship, that Cuba now is not enough for them, and they dispatch their committed civil army — individuals who want to maintain their standard of living, or who are afraid to refuse in these despicable activities so as to keep their jobs or perks — to other countries, as we saw at the Summit of the Americas this past April in Panama.

It is not just that some of us extend the open hand of reconciliation and dialogue, and in return receive the fist of official ridicule and violence. But, what can we expect from an extortionist political model that took over the country, amputated and demonized democratic praxis upon imposing a single-party system — thus eliminating political competition — and that governs testicularly, according to their whims, despite the fact that its long tenure has ruined Cuba?

In these times that seem like closing stages, or like historical summations, within our territory and regarding it, in which many observers beyond the rulers are thinking positively and constructively about the Cuban people, it is necessary that we reframe the concept of the peace that we want for our society.

It should not be one with a clockwise-rotating swastika — as that intimidating one of Nazi Germany’s — but rather a “pax” anchored in respect, inclusion, social justice, sustained harmony, and equity among all the children of the same one nation.

Hate crimes in Cuba? Definitely — almost all instigated, run and monitored by the government.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

13 August 2015

Dreaming in Color / Rosa Maria Rodriguez

Havana’s Malecon — quiet — today (Image from Wikipedia offline)

Rosa Maria Rodriguez, 5 August 2015 — On August 5, 1994, the Havana shoreline filled with a human tidal wave that took the capital by surprise and overflowed into international news. The national press, as always, had to wait for the approval of the censor before reporting on the event. Nothing like this had happened in thirty-five years of the Castro dictatorship: a tsunami of people overcame fear, and hundreds of them went to the seaside promenade, driven by rumors that boats from the United States were coming ashore to transport those who wanted to emigrate.

Many thought it was another exodus approved by the authorities, like the Mariel boatlift. When they got there, the unraveling rumors gave way to frustration, and anti-government demonstrations broke out along the length of the Malecon and adjacent areas. Thus was born the event known as El Maleconazo. continue reading

The agitated human mass started breaking windows, trashing shops, and confronting the police. The riots lasted for several hours. Then the government sent in its specialized police force to do what it does best: suppress.

Society inevitably returned to its sheep-like obedience and today, twenty-one years later, the bleeding continues by “cutting the femoral” of the nation, which the authorities have always used—and even provoked—to their benefit, for permanently remaining in power.

After that event everything returned to the routine that characterizes life in Cuba: those who are able to emigrate do so, and many of those who do not continue to play the role of supporters of the regime, as the only way of sociopolitical survival.

After fifty-six years of the Castros’ totalitarianism and twenty-one years after that event, the Cuban people remain trapped, prevented from exercising their fundamental rights by the discriminatory designs of a dictatorial regime.

Many fellow citizens hold the goal of emigrating as the only way of achieving personal fulfillment (which is part of the pursuit of happiness) for themselves or their family members.

It is true that there have been some economic and social reforms in Cuba, but as long as the leaders in the forefront of these changes are those who committed so many injustices in the past, who imposed and repealed laws for their own convenience, many will distrust and will doubt whether they will stay.

Others will hesitate to come and invest their capital in a market run by a political class that is in power to serve the wealthy minority, not the excluded majority.

I hope this latest anniversary of El Maleconazo will cause everyone to reflect on how urgent it is for us to allow ourselves to dream of freedoms and rights, and social, political, and economic progress in our own country.

Translated by Tomás A.

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

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

In the pilot study we surveyed 85 fellow countrymen in the provinces of Matanzas, Camagüey and Havana. We hope that soon, as we anticipated when we conceived and designed this initiative, we can extend this survey throughout the Cuban archipelago.

This purposeful design, which we presented as a draft during our trip to Mexico from December 1 through 5, 2014—when we were invited to a joint event of the Christian Democratic Organization of America and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation—was born from our clear democratic vocation and the recognition and respect of all Cubans, wherever they are.

We who are dedicated to politics usually draft proposals based on what we think the people need, and then ask the people to support us. With this project we want, in modesty, to reverse the procedure and truly empower citizens. To consult them and take into account their views, in order to prepare a political platform of consensus.

The recently concluded first phase provided us a successful interaction and social feedback, which have put into perspective the need to “open” some points of “Doxa A” for carrying out further surveys and covering as far as possible all the basic themes to consider in an inclusive and participatory political project.

What do we Cubans really want? Why not ask us? Since the power there are precedents—very  few in fifty-six years—of polling society manipulated by the authorities. Such procedures prevented those consultations from being taken seriously by international observers and by the people themselves, while further lowering social self-esteem and creating in the population a disinterest in and even a rejection of these topics that by now have become chronic.

So far, we have looked unsuccessfully for a place to host an online version of the doxa, but once we get to publish it, we will present here the address of the place where, if you are Cuban, at least sixteen years old, and want to stop being a passive spectator by becoming a protagonist of your national history, participating freely and democratically, filling out the survey and letting us know your opinions. If you have any questions about “Cuba Speaks Up” you can write to and by return mail we will try to clarify any doubts. Please join!

If you are interested, you can download the documents from the Civic Project “Cuba Speaks Up” below:

Cuba speaks background

Cuba Speaks Survey

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

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

This endeavor has not been easy, neither in Havana nor in other provinces — it is easier to travel abroad if you have an American visa in your passport than it is to go to Santiago de Cuba — given the hostility we encountered from some of the people we approached.

To solicit responses, a questionnaire was specially developed for the first investigation, called “Doxa A.” Ambitious in our vision, we decided to consult citizens of all social classes along the width and breadth of the Cuban archipelago. But the lack of resources forced us to delay our activities as we approached “the finish line” and to significantly reduce the number of citizens being polled.

This first study consumed precious time — delaying us by a month — because we followed the recommendations of sociological studies downloaded from the internet, which advised conducting a “pilot study” first.

This involved surveying the field of the respondents — the sampling size — to check the wording, understanding and the viability of the basic questionnaire (the doxa), correct the shortcomings and errors it is likely to have and avoid the mistakes inherent in the information collected.

This meant the sociopolitical conditions in Cuba imposed an additional burden on the project and involved twice as much effort. Therefore, we agreed that future civic research projects by Cuba Opina would not involve such trials or tests.

We know that behind every dictatorship is a frightened and divided society. I am referring to the divisions within society itself, which requires citizens to feign political loyalty. It is a society which causes people to look with suspicion on acquaintences and strangers alike, on those who sell beef under the table, on those who rummage through trash, on neighbors and even on one’s own mother.

After fifty-six years of totalitarianism, Cuban society is one in which loved ones — people to whom we were close — are struck from our list of friends because of political differences. Families are divided over the same issues to the point that, in search of freedom, the distances become not only ethical but geographic.

The doors of more than a few friends and acquaintances stayed closed or were slammed shut — doors which under normal circumstances would have been opened wide — with the plea of “Don’t complicate my life, Rosita.”

There were excuses such as, “It’s not me; it’s my son who wants to go to university,” or “He’s hoping to travel out of the country,” or “Damn, Rosy, I’m waiting for them to send me on a mission overseas.”

Though the state “ships them” overseas (exploiting them in the process), this is perhaps the  only way that many Cuban professionals from a variety of fields can resolve their personal and families’ financial problems. These and other fear-based responses are symptoms of a socio-political, economic and cultural panic.

The regime has sowed terror since its inception, which the international community was recently able to witness at the stormy Summit of the Americas in Panama last month when the government’s attempt to sabotage a parallel event organized by civil society groups failed.

It did, however, demonstrate the high price it charges some acolytes for the privileges they receive. It extorts them in order to later crudely use and abuse them, like trained pawns, in a political chess game in which it discredits, threatens and verbally assaults those who dissent from a government forced on them more than half a century ago. This is not just verbal vandalism; it is a violation of the rights of its own followers.

On the occasion of the conclusion and tabulation of Doxa A, we call upon Cubans visiting this blog to respond by May 18 to the eighteen-item questionnaire to be found in the link below. We also request that you forward the URL of this survey to your compatriots so that they might also contribute their opinions.

We are now in the final push to complete this poll but, in prioritizing tasks at Cuba Opina, we neglected to provide the interaction and promotion that an internet project such as this should have. As a result, the number of people who have completed the online questionnaire is low.

We, therefore, politely ask for your support, which means simultaneously recognizing and respecting your sovereign right to express yourself in this and subsequent polls. Do think about participating; think and express yourself by participating! Thank you in advance.

On-line survey (in Spanish) is available here.

Living in Filth / Rosa Maria Rodriguez

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

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

Therefore, the garbage accumulates on the street corners like a monument to stench. Perhaps this is a strategy devised to cover up the sidewalks left broken by the claws of the front end loaders they use to clean up these neighborhood dumpsites when they grow to the size of mountains — and which equally destroy curbs, scoop up earth, and cause flowerbeds to sink into craters.

The double-speak of which the national press so often accuses antagonistic nations is the worst virus that infects the managers and communicators who are under the dome of power in Cuba. Among these there is a counter-politics of exonerating the maximum leaders — even in advance, through adulation, and just-in-case — from all responsibility in situations of any type that emerge in the country.

They practice alarmist, sensationalist and dramatic journalism when the issue is about adversaries — and another very reserved or secretive regarding our own affairs and those of countries whose presidents are our “friends.”

In such a system, where almost everything is controlled by the state, the flatterers in the media redirect blame to the people, who are the victims of the leaders’ shoddy work (or lack of work), holding them responsible for the accumulation of problems and lack of solutions — which is not, and should not be, their responsibility.

From our elders we inherited the expression, “por donde ve la suegra” (“here comes the mother-in-law”) to justify a quick and superficial clean-up of the home when we are expecting a visit from the mother of our spouse.

It appears that this is precisely the modus operandi of the authorities when they are expecting foreign guests at an event: a “makeover” for the buildings and curbs along the main avenues, with watered-down paint that will maybe last through a couple of rainstorms; a little “clean-up” to the parks over here, a little “fill-in” to the potholes over there; and later, a welcome for the visitors with much choreographed flag-waving at the airport!

Every day, in countless street corners of the capital, we see the depressing collage of unhealthiness that attests to the dirtiness and governmental apathy that surround us. It is an image that has been present for so many years in our daily picture, that many take it for granted and accept this filthiness as something normal. So much waste, grime and neglect have muddied the name of the capital so that now the assertion, “Havana is dirty,” is becoming a redundancy.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Translator’s Notes:

* The “Empresa de Servicios Comunales”–which Cubans, including several bloggers in Translating Cuba, simply call, “Comunales,” is a state-owned garbage collection company.

27 February 2015

To Die of Hunger / Rosa Maria Rodriguez

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

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

However, the 2003 book, “The Dissidents,” by Rosa Miriam Elizalde and the recently deceased Luis Baez, had already included Zapata’s name and photo as a member of the opposition movement–and also, before his death, Amnesty International had declared him a prisoner of conscience.

There are two constants of dictatorial regimes: that they invariably have powerful enemies as well as political prisoners. The latter are associated with the former, even if they are only peaceful compatriots and are engaging in independent discourse. Any pretext is valid so long as they can stay in power. This is why, five years after the martyrdom of Orlando Zapata, there are still political prisoners in our jails, even though the authorities insist that they are common convicts.

It is because of living without freedom that individuals often choose a form of struggle that threatens their own lives. The option to abstain from eating food is a decision that tends to be linked to the desire to denounce unjust situations. A government composed of just persons should attend to these claims, rather than victimize those who sacrifice themselves and ask to be vindicated using fasting as a tool.

After 56 years of the Castro regime’s government, Cubans continue to escape towards any geograpic coordinate. The lack of democracy and the oppression during this government’s tenure has caused many to launch themselves in the sea in migratory suicide missions–in which we know not how many have lost their lives–just to satiate the hunger for freedoms and rights that this society endures.

I pay homage to Orlando Zapata on the fifth anniversary of his departure–and also to the people of Cuba, who for decades have been longing for full and complete respect for their rights, and whose abusive and stagnant government causes them to die a little of hunger every day.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

25 February 2015

Another “Broom” Law / Rosa Maria Rodriguez

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

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

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

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

It follows, therefore, to suggest to the Cuban authorities that to be consistent with their own laws, they should conduct an aggiornamento (update) of the philosophical foundations of their ideology, and of the historic government party.

The Cuban state has long had its eyes on foreign investors. Rodrigo Malmierca, minister of exterior commerce and foreign investment, stated several months ago in Brazil that Cuba will continue to have just one political party. He was, of course, speaking to the interests of Brazilian entrepreneurs, and emphasizing the message of confidence and stability that Cuba’s governing class wants to convey so as to encourage them to do business on the island.

This standard produces another discriminatory law that baits foreigners with financial benefits and tax breaks, in contrast to the prohibitive taxes imposed on Cuban nationals who launch themselves into the private sector. They took everything away from Cuban and foreign entrepreneurs when this model was imposed, and now they stimulate and favor only foreign capitalists to invest in our country. They say it’s not a giveaway, but any citizen of other provenance is placed above our own nationals, who once again are excluded from investing in the medium and large companies on their home soil.

Just as our Spanish forebears did, they engage in shameless and abusive marginalization of Cubans on their own turf, and restrict Cubans’ economic role in their own national home. The state continues holding “the master key” of the hiring process. It serves as the employment agency to calm the fears of its followers and urge them to continue their unconditional support, with the established and visible promise of compensation and privilege — albeit with a diminutive, revolutionary, symbolic and coveted “little slice” of the national pie.

On the other hand, the impunity that inheres to bureaucrats in management, along with the lack of respect toward Cuban society implied in their excessive secrecy, unbuttons the shirt of corruption.

Some of the many examples that strike a nerve among Cubans of diverse geographic areas are: What is the state of affairs of the country? What are the revenue and expenditures of different phases of the economy? Why do they not inform the public of the annual income generated from remittances by Cuban émigrés, and how these resources are used?

I could say and write much about the new law and the same old discrimination and practices contained in the same old legislation. As far as I am concerned, despite everything, the result is just another flea-bitten dog with a reversible — but no different — collar.

But that would be giving too much relevance to the segregationist, shoddy and desperate hunt for money by the elite in power, which needs ever more colossal sums of evil capital to “sustain” its unsustainable bureaucracy and inefficient model.

Anyway, this new law – like the proverbial broom – will always sweep clean for them. Considering their dynastic, highborn, 50-plus-year-old lifestyles, this seems to be all that matters to them.

*Translator’s  Note: The writer refers to a saying, “Escobita nueva barre bien” – parallel to the English a new broom sweeps clean.

Translated by Alicia Barraqué Ellison

15 April 2014

Toward a New Constitution / Rosa Maria Rodriguez

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

The management group of this project is made up of Rogelio Travieso Pérez, Rafael León Rodríguez, Manuel Cuesta Morúa, Fernando Palacio Mogar, Eroisis González Suárez, Veizant Voloi González, Wilfredo Vallín Almeida and Rosa María Rodríguez Torrado.

continue reading

We want to end the vicious and corrupt circle of the elite which, for decades, has set the course of our country without taking into consideration the opinions of its citizens. The constitutional road map has also been created to bring down the perverse myth born with the ruling political model, in which Cuba is only a part of its children: that extends a hand to take money from emigrants and with the other hand pushed them away and separates them from the environment to which, by right, they belong.

Therefore, we are working together to seek a consensus and constitutional and legal order emanating from the citizens, their diversity, their place of residence and their plurality.

Thousands of Cuban have signed the call for a constituent assembly in Cuba and we continue to call on all our compatriots, wherever they may be or reside, to join this effort, to arm ourselves with a new civilized shield of coexistence. In this course, we invite Cubans to offer their ideas on how to finally manage a Cuba for all within the law.

To promote this effort, compatriots abroad created the site, where there is an update on this project.

We drafted a methodology in which we encourage Cubans interested in participating are invited to submit papers in which they argue, in about ten points, the reasons why they defend this or that constitutional proposal as a point of departure toward changing the law of laws as we embark on the democratization of our nation.

In May 2014, Cubans inside and outside of Cuba will begin to hold meetings in which we will discuss ideas about the process of promoting consensus. Right now, we are waking to create initiative discussion groups on the island and this design is just the beginning of a long road to justice, equity and the rule of law for all Cubans.

10 April 2014

Soldiers of Information / Rosa Maria Rodriguez

 Graphic for “Spokespersons United”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

25 March 2014

Descriptive Penury / Rosa Maria Rodriguez

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

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

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

His party friends helped him get the old junk and they had it in the sun for close to an hour awaiting transport. There were a dozen “solidarity” addicts summoned and encouraged by the rum, which at times served as fuel to keep up enthusiasm.  A truck from the ’30’s took part of the “skinny” heritage to the “new house,” that for sure also was built before the Castro government and which will host, as in many other Cuban homes, the alcohol scandals of that part of society that plunges its disappointments and misery in cheap and sulphuric homemade rum, which is what they can afford.

The solidarity and drunken brigade remained on site to care for the liquid treasure that remained in the bottle. Its emptying was the starting shot towards their own contraptions and penuries accumulated through decades of governmental injustices, apathy, anti-democratic subjugation and social fatigue. The delirium tremens or terrible delirium of trying to deceive societies all the time with drunken ideological and economic theories has failed all over the world.

Maybe in the tranquility of their houses and before the knockout punch of the drink, they will get out their own yellowish nylon bags of history, testimonial photos of what they once were — when addiction did not have them bound by the neck — of what their houses once were and of what this country was, before this bad government brought it to ruin.

 Translated by mlk.

17 April 2014

Farewell, Adolfo Suarez / Rosa Maria Rodriguez

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

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

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

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

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

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

27 March 2014