Removing Life Support from a Comatose Patient / Somos+, German M. Gonzalez

New measures of the U.S. government will cut off the oxygen to a ruined economy, which so far has not imploded but has not yet taken off either. How bad will things get?

Somos+, Germán M. González, 26 April 2019 — When Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election, the Cuban government and Communist Party assumed a disinterested attitude. At first, official propaganda outlets gave the event little attention and toned down their routine attacks on American leaders. That attitude persisted until some time after the presidential inauguration, when the growing closeness between the business-magnate-turned-president and Cuban-American politicians had become more apparent.

Initially, the new administration did not take harsher measures. It even maintained the policies of the previous administration in regards to matters of real interest to Havana: remittances, family visits and business trips by Cubans and Cuban-Americans to and from Cuba. But the power struggle in Venezuela was becoming ever more acute and Russia’s presence in the country was becoming increasingly obvious.

The Russian presence ran the gamut, from its highly publicized military presence to the much less publicized Russian appropriation of Venezuelan assets in an effort to secure loans and investments. It is worth remembering that these assets include, or may include, CITGO, a subsidiary of PDSVA (Venezuela’s state-owned oil and gas company), which owns an extensive number of properties and accounts for up to 10% of all the gasoline sold at U.S. service stations. continue reading

In other words, the Russian intrusion was not limited just to the proverbial “backyard.” It extended to the house itself, an unprecedented development, which made the Americans apprehensive. The situation began during the presidency of Barack Obama, who declared Venezuela a threat to national security, increasing the level of hostility. Nevertheless, we do not know why Cuba was not, until recently, part of the team of old hawks, known Latin American “specialists,” currently ruling Venezuela.

Recently, the U.S. canceled the agreement signed by the Major Leagues and the Cuban Baseball Federation (which would have been paid as the players’ agent), arguing that it was a Cuban government entity. Freighters owned by PDVSA and several international companies that transport oil from Venezuela were also sanctioned, striking at something of vital interest to the Cuban regime. The action involves freezing PDSVA assets under American jurisdiction, preventing financial transactions and blocking the company’s access to US ports.

It was during lunch with Secretary of State John Bolton on the 58th anniversary of their defeat during the Bay of Pigs invasion on April 17, 1961 that members of Brigade 2506 learned that the White House was applying new or toughened sanctions on Cuba, something that the State Department was putting into place that same morning. These include but are not limited to Title III and Title IV of the Helms-Burton Act, which allow individuals to file suit in American courts against companies that operate on property confiscated by the Cuban government. Enforcement has been waived every six months for the last twenty-three years.

The first cases were filed by Cuban-Americans on May 1. Potential plaintiffs vary from giant companies like Bacardi — it has annual receipts of 33 billion dollars, three times the value of all Cuban exports — to individuals whose small homes, cars, household appliances and personal effects were confiscated under Che Guevara’s philosophy that even toothbrush constituted private property.

The European Union and Canada have announced countermeasures to defend their interests. They involve various entities which manage the hard currency income generated by joint venture projects — tourism, airports, the port of Mariel, mining operations — between Cuba and its creditor nations. The projects are part of a “debt swap,” intended repay the enormous sums of money Cub borrowed from those countries.

It is an interesting development given that the Europeans, and especially Canada, have been accompanying Trump & Co. on his crusade against the Maduro regime and, like the Americans, are worried about Russia’s involvement in the western hemisphere. Title IV also allows individuals and their family members to be sued, a highly sensitive issue for businesspeople involved in global trade, especially if that trade is with the world’s most powerful economy.

Restrictions on travel and remittances. In 2018 some 658,000 Americans and 521,000 Cuban Americans visited Cuba, an increase of over 20% for both groups. According to the Havana Consulting Group, annual remittances in the form of cash and merchandise totalled 6.5 billion dollars. It is the country’s second largest source of hard currency after income from the labor force. The measure will limit the flow of travelers and remittances (one thousand dollars per quarter) and will hinder cruise operations associated with the use of confiscated properties.

Expanding the list of restricted Cuban companies. Currently there are more than 200 Cuban entities subject to economic sanctions by the United States. The list was created in November 2017 and expanded last March. Six more entities have since been added, among them Aerogaviota. The ruling prohibits financial transactions between U.S. citizens and firms with those business entities run by the Revolutionary Armed Forces and the Ministry of the Interior.

Cuba’s return to the list of state sponsors of terrorism. This measure and several others have yet to be adopted. But expectations are that, the next time the Department of State sends the new list to Congress, Cuba will added to it. International financial transactions by countries on the list are subject to extreme scrutiny. Individuals, companies and countries which engage in commercial transactions can also be penalized. The measure also means the chances are greater that the processing of visas will take longer and that state universities in Florida will have to cancel exchange programs with Cuban academies as well as student trips to the island.

This decision by the Trump administration is based on the presence of Cuban military and intelligence personnel in Venezuela, who are there to support the Maduro regime. The Cuban elite also has deep ties to organizations like the FARC and ELN in Colombia. Havana has close relations with Iran, North Korea and Syria, countries designated as sponsors of terrorism by the U.S. Department of State.

Cuba itself was on the terrorism list from 1982 until 2015, when it was removed by President Obama upon the restoration of diplomatic relations. In addition to Cuba, sanctions were placed the Central Bank of Venezuela, a Nicaraguan bank, and on a son of Daniel Ortega.

Conclusion. Based on news reports, there are clear indications that the second Special Period (one wonders why it is called this since we have been in this period, more or less, for the last sixty years) has arrived. The consequences and possible scenarios merit a separate discussion but, if anything is becoming clear with each passing day, it is the need to democratize the country and restore full rights. These include civil, political and economic rights for all Cubans, no matter where they live. If the party and government do not take action in this direction, it is sacrificing its own existence and our own national identity to the interests of caste and a political-economic system that has never worked.

May 1, Exaggerations and Contradictions / Somos+, German Gonzalez

Somos+, Germán M. González, 2 May 2019 — In its broadcast on May 1, 2019, NTV reported that six million Cubans attended the parade celebrating International Workers’ Day. This is impossible given it would amount to more than fifty percent of the island’s population, or a much higher proportion if you discount the sick, disabled, elderly, working people, security personnel, small children, those living abroad, etc. In that case the figure would approach close to 80% or more of possible attendees.

In Cuba we are used to seeing these types of large-scale events and, compared to what has been observed on many previous occasions in Havana, no more than 200,000 to 250,000 thousand people could have attended the parade.

To reach NTV’s reported figure, 1.2 million people, or 50% of the city’s total population, would have been needed, which obviously was not the case. The same scenario would have had to play out in the provinces. continue reading

Personal observation, however, contradicts this. In the town where this writer lives, a town with 49,000 residents, no more than a thousand people showed up. One can then deduce that, in all of Cuba, probably less than a million people, or about 10% of the population, participated. And that is being generous.

Other contradictions are no less obvious. NTV broadcasts images of the celebration from countries where the rights of workers, including salary levels, are seriously compromised. Millions of people emigrate from Cuba, Venezuela and North Korea annually, as confirmed by the United Nation’s Human Development Program in its Index of Human Development. These are countries with repressive regimes, where workers, along with the rest of their populations, do not enjoy most universally recognized rights.

Knowing the reality of Cuba, we could ask ourselves: What are they celebrating? In countries which accept migrants such as France, Spain, Germany and the United States, people march in the streets for various reasons. It is worth asking ourselves, Do those who are better off protest because they can do so, because it is a right they enjoy and exercise?

Conversely, do we celebrate publicly because the right to protest is restricted or denied? The countries who protests NTV reports also happen to be in the top ranks of the aforementioned index and are countries where the rule of law is fully respected.

Most likely, participation rates at public events in countries where attendance is mandatory for state-employed workers and students — population segments which are subject to obvious pressures — are exaggerated. In Cuba a black mark from the union or the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution for not attending a rally may jeopardize a spot at a university or workplace, threaten a job promotion or, even worse, a trip abroad due to an unexcused absence.

It is also obvious that there is exaggeration about the magnitude of protests in places where this right is exercised. In these places the only motivation people have to attend is to protest since the rest of their rights — a living wage and other labor benefits — are taken for granted, seen as something normal and come with no strings attached.

There is no need to participate in a parade except for pleasure. A seeming contradicion is the presence of many immigrants at these protests, something they would not dare to do in their countries of origin — generally dictatorships — because of the associated dangers. But they can do so in their host countries, which are generally democracies.

Unfortunately, very few Cubans, conditioned from early childhood by decades of indoctrination and propaganda from official news outlets, which are the only kind we have, have not asked these questions. Until now.

Do We Want to Be Like Che? / Somos+

Don’t idolize a dead ASSASIN

Somos+, Susana Acosta Diaz, 12 March 2019  —  To be born and grow up in a country that is dreaming, a country that is asleep and seems not to want to wake up. A dream country that lives in a constant nightmare. An island that looks out to sea, to the infinite, because it does not find answers in its fields covered by the invasive marabou weeds but in the promised future ninety miles away.

To be Cuban is to know what it is to go to school with a glass of milk (in powdered form) for breakfast. To get up early for the “morning assembly” in order to shout out, “We will be like Che!” To be a selfless pioneer who battles the “enemy” from the school’s assembly room. To not think. To repeat, always repeat to the point of exhaustion, the same worn-out slogans. continue reading

But I was and am very obstinate (as well as sleepy). I asked my second mother, the one who gave me life, “Do children in Germany also sing the anthem (or anthems) every morning?”

My father explained to her what I meant and she laughed, she laughed a lot, and told me, “No, children in Germany go to school to study, not to recite anthems. Schools are for learning, not for memorizing slogans.”

It turns out that in Germany they don’t have morning rallies, and children learn the national anthem is for soccer games, not something to be forced on them at school. It turns out that in the country of the Nazis there is no cult of personality. No child who wants to be like Müller, Schneider, Fischer or Merkel… or like those whom one might call “martyrs” or “heroes of the fatherland.”

But we had to be “revolutionary” students, with no options, or else. We had to write glowing reports when the subject was Fidel and the Revolution. We had to go to political demonstrations, to meetings where we discussed new legal statutes or “revolutionary initiatives.” And as I heard countless times, “Here we educate revolutionary students who, first and foremost, will defend Fidel, Raul and socialism.”

Yes, in Cuba we were indoctrinated to be communists, to be submissive to a party unwilling to change and which acted against the interests of its people. We were indoctrinated to support a dictatorship that regulates and misrules freely, that constantly violates basic human rights.

I never understood why my mother used to tell our neighbor, “Girl, talk lower. Saying that out loud is going to get you into trouble.” But she was only saying what the rest of the adults in my life were whispering: the same message, the same doubts, the same needs.

Nor did I understand why my teacher, who had the same complaints as my neighbor and complained quietly about the same problems, used to scream energetically during May Day celebrations, “Viva al Revolución!”

No, I did not understand it then and do not understand it now. We are still like prisoners of a system in which freedom of thought is a crime. Worst of all, we are not doing enough to change it.

That is what we were and what they still want us to continue be: lambs who praise false gods, false leaders, false heroes.

A Better Cuba / Somos+

Somos+, Ry, 15 February 2019 — Cuba needs a rebirth that unites all workers, creativity, initiative, respect, and love to transform the things for which the Cuban people suffer.

Sociologists, street sweepers, artists, economists, carpenters, religious leaders, doctors, humans; together Cubans, all who are found sensible, connected with this island, wherever you are.

Let’s unite around creating proposals for sustainable social, economic, cultural, and political success; we need an “evolution of consciousness.”

We do not need a Communist system or a capitalist system, we need a Revolucionary Realist system.

Translated by: Emilee Sullivan 

Reprogramming for Change / Somos+

People don’t know the power they have.

Somos+, from a special friend and collaborator from Germany.

A friend was telling me recently (commenting on the recent events in Venezuela and the consequences that this change could bring for Cuba) that “the Cuban people don’t have the necessary courage to rise up against the dictatorship.”

These two countries, although they have gone through many similar things and the dictators have practiced the same style of government, through repression and fear, have completely different contexts. In my opinion the Cuban people have plenty of courage, what’s lacking is the information to change all the concepts they have instilled in us since we were born. continue reading

Cuba has lived 60 years with the same rulers — that’s three generations — on whom they have changed the chip and they keep injecting one single idea, one single source of information.

Information that tells you: This idea is the best in the world, look how the other countries are, even though we are blockaded we have education and healthcare, if you go out to protest we will take you prisoner, because the only ones who don’t agree with this system are mercenaries, who are paid to destroy us, they are enemies.

The Cuban has always been in check and on the front line. Before it was necessary to prepare oneself for the defense of the country because the yankees would come, then they had to create an army of computer specialists to win the media war, now the danger is the mercenaries paid by the empire.

We cannot let them take away the little that we have gained, our achievements have to be defended, first by José Martí, then by Fidel, after it will be by Raul… All those concepts have stuck in the mind of the Cuban and it is difficult to debate on any subject without some repeated slogan coming out, stripped of common sense.

Information has to arrive right now to our families in Cuba, we have to reprogram the chip, because otherwise we will not manage to change our country.

Now let us imagine the scene of my aunt Josefa, who only has access to the news and novelas from el Paquete [the Weekly Packet]. This aunt of mine was born two months after the triumph of the Revolution, she saw how her father (my grandfather) went to the hills to teach the poor illiterate peasants how to read and write.

Josefa watched the many relatives who emigrated in the ’80s leave and not come back, because “they didn’t want to live in a just system, they were gusanos (worms).” That aunt who lost her husband in Angola, and was never given details of how her companion and father of her only son perished, but she know that “he was a hero because he went to free the African people.”

That aunt, a teacher by vocation, went to Venezuela to support the novel education plan “Yes I can,” leaving behind her only son and serving that government “that gives us everything: free healthcare, free education, a basic basket that resolves [the problem of food], a salary that isn’t enough but, how can you ask for more from a blockaded country?”

Now my aunt lives alone, at almost 60, with an emigrated son, who works honorably to support his new family and his mother in Cuba.

In one of my last visits to Cuba I was speaking with this aunt of how important would be the people’s call to change the government, in order to have a better life, for her and for young people, those who have to go abroad in search of their dreams.

Only questions existed in the head of my aunt, questions like: how to fight against something that is good, just, and positive? How to take initiative to demand my rights, if I already have them? More rights don’t exist, I don’t know about them. Let us remember that the world is an unjust and difficult place where the rich, those heartless people, are those who dictate how to live and take advantage of poor people like my aunt.

How to tell my aunt that nobody pays me to say what I think? How to explain to her that the United States doesn’t want to make war with Cuba? How to explain to her that the people of Cuba are neither more nor less capable than the people of the country where I live, where there are independent unions that fight for better salaries for the workers they represent? How to explain to my aunt that rulers are there to represent the interests of a people and not the other way around?

How can you explain so many things and reprogram an almost 60-year-old chip? Just so, explaining it, speaking without raising one’s voice, without insults, with respect for a life full of sacrifices and losses, a life without hopes and full of conformity, but a life, a life that is worth living until the end with dignity.

For my aunt Josefa, and for many thousands, millions of Cubans like my aunt, it’s worthwhile arming ourselves with patience and “teaching to read and write” once again, our people. It’s time to leave apathy behind and give our little grain of sand, not for Marti, not for Fidel, but for ourselves, for our personal freedom.

It’s not true that from outside Cuba we cannot do anything, we can do a lot. Cubans abroad, we have to be like my grandfather who went to the hills to give what he knew to those who didn’t have it, not only because it is just, or correct, but because we owe it to that entire generation that fought so hard for their children to be something in life, that generation who since the ’60s was indoctrinated in a utopian system that doesn’t work.

That generation used for so many marches, the one that was given a bait and switch and made to believe that they came out the winner. Let us do it for our grandparents who perhaps died without seeing that better world, for our parents who live with disappointments and without hopes. Let us do it for our children and for the generation to come, so that they feel proud of their parents like my aunt Josefa once felt proud of her father. Let us instruct our Cuba and return to it that courage and strength that they have had stored in their chips for 60 years already.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

When A People Unites, No Dictatorship Can Prevail / Somos+

Making the sign of “L” for “Libertad,” Cubans abroad demonstrating for the right to vote in the Constitutional Referendum scheduled for 24 February.

Somos+, Richard Shirrman, 27 January 2019 — This January 26 we watched as thousands of Cuban citizens and lovers of liberty and democracy came together with one voice demanding our rights, it was more than one march or protest against that dictatorship that robs us all alike of our liberty, that subjugates, and that represses our people and dissidents who protest peacefully. It was a unanimous cry of NO!! Of Enough already! Not one year more!

All those of us who do not forget our country, we feel proud of each Cuban who raised his voice. It set a standard in the fight for the freedom of Cuba, and it said to the ruling regime on our Island what we Cubans have carried guarded in our hearts for 60 years. This 26th of January history was made, we managed to gather thousands of Cubans in the world and it was shown that united, we can do anything. continue reading

But this doesn’t end here! We will keep working with all our brothers and sisters who want with all their hearts to see our Mother Country free and prosperous, this rebellion is the beginning of the path to follow, because when a people lets itself be defeated by tyrants, any dream and longing for liberty will perish, let us not allow ourselves to be intimidated by lack of faith in ourselves and by external agitators, it’s necessary that every Cuban who loves his Mother fight for the liberty, democracy, and prosperity of our nation.

That is why we ask for the union and cooperation of all for the good of all and to fight until the end of the dictatorship that robs us of our most elemental rights and the peaceful coexistence between our different ideologies, creeds, and positions on life.

The enemy is only one, my friends, it is that criminal and murderous regime that has killed our dreams, our future, and our human dignity. There are never words to persuade when one is fighting for a just and true cause. Let us all unite as children of the same mother! Because if we don’t do it, the dictators and politicians will do whatever they feel like with us.

Cubans, brothers and sisters, José Martí fought in exile for many years until achieving the objective that was always the light in his thoughts, an inheritance that leaves us the path toward liberty, that thought and path that the murderers and vile, ambitious men of power have covered up so that we do not see it, and have placed stones in our path so that today the people of Cuba lives without decency and human dignity.

And today on the eve of the birthday of our greatest Cuban of all time, I dedicate to all those Cubans who protested against the vile and cruel dictatorship that has oppressed us for more than 60 years. And quoting José Martí:

…Thus we want the children of America to be: men who say what they think, and say it well; eloquent and sincere men.

…A man who hides what he thinks, or doesn’t dare to say what he thinks, is not an honorable man. A man who obeys a bad government, without working for the government to be good, is not an honorable man. A man who complies with unjust laws, and permits men who mistreat the country where he was born to tread its soil, is not an honorable man.

…There are men who live content although they live without decency. There are others who suffer as in agony when they see that men live without decency around them. In the world it is necessary to have a certain quantity of decency, as one must have a certain quantity of light. When there are many men without decency, there are always others who have within themselves the decency of many men. Those are the ones who rise up with terrible force against those who rob the people of their liberty, which is to rob men of their decency. In those men go thousands of men, goes an entire people, goes human dignity. Those men are sacred.

Long live free Cuba!

José Julián Martí y Pérez

National Hero of the Republic of Cuba

God, Homeland, and Liberty!

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

The March of the Prohibited: #I Vote No / Somos+

List of March Coordinators, by Country

The March of the Prohibited

Somos+, 17 January 2019: This coming February 26th will be transcendental for all Cubans abroad, who will answer the call to responding NO to the unacceptable proposal of the constitutional reform that the Cuban government has launched.

Cubans from all over the world will demonstrate against this constitutional project that enslaves Cuba to a single party (the Cuban Communist Party, PCC), and therefore to a communist dictatorship, for life.

Somos+ summons all Cubans who want to support this initiative to join the protests. Contact the coordinator of your country and inform yourself of the exact time and location of the march.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

Believing is Easier than Thinking / Somos+

Somos+, Jorge Pantoja, 3 December 2018 — Upon hearing and studying the history of Cuba, as told by the victors of the so-called Cuban Revolution, there are many points of total incoherence that we, without being experts, can ask ourselves. Did it really happen like that?

Wherever there exist doubt, there is a very high possibility that history was changed to favor of the victors, generally those most disadvantaged until the moment just prior to reaching their objective.

I ask myself, how is it possible that such a ruthless tyranny as Batista’s would give an opportunity to its main opponent, Fidel Castro, to have a fair trial, defend himself and win the court’s ruling, this being perhaps the determining factor of the future as Castro himself removed from the constitution of the republic the right of a Cuban to defend himself in front of a court by his own means. continue reading

Instead guaranteeing with the great lie of judicial security representation by a professional who only responds to the interests of the government because it is his employer; lawyers in Cuba are present only because they have to be there and not because they can perform their work with dignity.

Just the mention of the physical disappearance of Camilo Cienfuegos my stomach churns; Cuba needed one last hero to complete the process and this man was Castro’s sacrificial lamb.

It is very easy to deceive a people when only one voice is heard and others that arise are silenced. What a coincidence that very few survived the year 1959 but the commander-in-chief suffered not even a scratch.

Democracy in Cuba was in good shape but it was well screwed up in the first minute of the Revolution, with those massacres of supposed traitors, that holocaust of silencing competing ideas because we already had the great thinker-in-Chief , I regret how my people let themselves be deceived in this cheap and vile way.

Another murky point in the history of Cuba is that after the Granma there were very few revolutionary’s left, and yet, they were always nearby to defend a peasant family that was under assault by the rural guard throughout the Sierra Maestra.

The great power of the revolutionary government was centered around the survivors of the landing of the Granma, little by little they got rid of those who were not on that boat until creating that closed circle of individuals overrated in heroism. I would say that it was cynicism more than anything and a well thought out plan.

I don’t know about everybody else, but for me, it has become easier for Cubans to BELIEVE THAN TO THINK.

 Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

I Am Voting No / Somos+, German Gonzalez Rodriguez

Somos+, Germán González Rodríguez, 5 January 2019 — Compatriots:

If you do not want your family or partner to have to migrate for personal and professional fulfillment.

If you do not want to have to leave your country and your family to fulfill yourself personally and professionally.

If you are a worker and want a decent salary that allows you to live honestly.

If you are retired and you want a pension that allows you to live with dignity.

If you are a Cuban emigrant and the discriminatory and excluding Foreign Investment Law prevents you from legally investing in your native country.

If you have family or friends who have emigrated and the discriminatory and excluding Foreign Investment Law prevents them from investing in their native country honestly.

If you want to enjoy universally recognized rights in your Homeland.

If you are an emigrant and you want to enjoy the universally recognized rights in your native country.

If you want to start and develop your own business without bureaucracy and persecution.

If you want to stop being a discriminated against in your own country, exploited by foreigners who predominate over Cubans.

If you are convinced that to achieve all the above the first thing is to enjoy freedom of information, opinion, the means to express it and be able to choose your rulers:

The reasons are overwhelming FOR NO on the Constitutional Referendum

I am voting NO, on that fraud they are putting before us.

Housing In Cuba / Somos+, German Gonzalez

Somos+, Germán M. González, 11 November 2018

Absolute power equals absolute responsibility: the socio-economic situation of the country is disastrous, party & government admits it: Who will answer for that?

In the final days of this October, several references to the subject of housing appeared in the official Cuban media. Published first is that Pinar del Rio lacks more than ten thousand homes in order to fully recover from “prior hurricanes,” we are talking at a minimum of at least 10 years, and later, in the public version of a meeting of the council of ministers the “president” announced the proposal of building homes at a rate of 50 thousand per year. Let’s look at some background.

The universal right to decent and adequate housing is reflected in international and multilateral documents and agreements, as well as in the legislation of many countries, including national constitutions. Recognized in this manner, the human right to adequate housing — and its environment – is of fundamental importance for the enjoyment of all economic, social and cultural rights. Let’s look at the current situation in Cuba according to official sources.

The official newspaper Granma (January 25, 2018) reports that 47% of homes are inadequate, only exceeded in Latin America by Brazil (64%) and far higher than Argentina (22%) and Chile (23%). In addition, in the latter two countries, due to their climate, considering a home adequate implies many more requirements than in our sub-tropical archipelago. continue reading

The pace of construction has declined in the last twelve years, from more than 111,000 units in 2006 to fewer than 22,000 in 2017 (denying the claimed efficiency of the raulista term of office) according to the Cuban Statistical Yearbook (AEC), the smallest amount since statistics became available. Graphic view:

In its June 1st edition, Granma offers chilling data:

Housing pending solution: Grand Total/Total Collapses — Hurricanes prior to Sandy (2012): 42,000/25,000; Hurricane Sandy (2012): 36,000/14,000; Hurricane Matthew (2016): 8,000/7,000; Hurricane Irma (2017): 115,000/15,000.

In total, there are 201,000 homes affected; of those 61,000 were total collapses; 42,000 and 25,000, respectively, occurred before 2012.

In summary, if the pace expected by Díaz-Canel is reached, it would take four years to replace the homes affected by hurricanes and then ten years to repair the “not adequate” ones, plus an indeterminate period for impacts from new hurricanes and the currently adequate homes that, due to the passage of time and the poor quality of construction of the last 60 years, will inevitably deteriorate.

Add to this that the projected Diaz-Canelian pace is 2-1/2 times greater than what was achieved in the last five years as an annual average, plus the aforementioned unpredictable destructions and deteriorations, and the hopes of decent housing for most Cubans is more than remote.

A problem without a solution? For sure, under the current mandate of the “five” and their dogmas that are only effective for maintaining power.

The liberalization of the economy, the creation of a real estate market with modern credit system included, and above all the restitution to millions of Cuban diaspora members of their civil, political and economic rights with the consequent financial injection would surely give better results — in this and any other socioeconomic spheres — than the diffuse Díaz-Canelian dreams, which are nothing more than a badly copied version of the thousands of similar promises made by the Castro brothers… and look where we are after sixty years of listening to them.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

The ‘Chicken’ of ‘Rice with Chicken’ / Somos+

Somos+, Germain Gonzalez, 13 October, 2018 — There’s a certain surprise in digital media over the active participation of the Cuban population in the “debates” about the project of the constitution. The surprise is valid because in reality the “revolutionary” enthusiasm is minimal. The “electoral” processes as well as in the status reports from the delegates, the meetings of the organizations of the masses in the neighborhoods, workplaces and schools can be characterized by their formal structure. The population attends and completes this necessary process for the inspections carried out in their vicinity in order to get a job, scholarship, promotion, trip abroad, etc. The religious services of all creeds usually show greater attendance and happiness among the parishioners.

What’s certain is that Cubans, even with the extremely limited amount of information offered by the media, which is also scarce, biased, incomplete, and generally untruthful, feel anxious since something could improve or worsen. Like Pánfilo, the popular television character, who searched fruitlessly in the tabloid of project information for the quota of chicken or other rationed foods. continue reading

What’s certain is that the assemblies and their “debates,” just like the elections turn out “bread with nothing.” The uncomfortable explanations — of having something — stop right there, the media spreads only the favorable ones, and the chicken [i.e. not chicken but a substitute] of ’rice with chicken’ isn’t even mentioned: the “superior guiding power of society and the State” party, article five that takes away all validity from the rest of the monstrosity, if it had any.

Therefore the discussion of the rest of the article ends up an intellectual exercise. The referendum having taken place, and the final version of the thingamajig approved, in the first meeting of the political executive committee that presides over it throws out an idea, it’s approved — unanimously — the formal party processes are carried out (secretariat, full central committee), it’s presented to the National Assembly of Peoples Power (ordinary or extraordinary session according to the urgency), and this most docile parliament in universal history will approve the changes to the recently debuted constitution — unanimously — or simply as today they will do whatever is a good idea, taking notice of this.

Does anyone doubt it? Here goes an example:

On September 10, 1993, the political executive committee agrees on the creation of the Basic Units of Cooperative Production (UBPC) from the state-owned agricultural entities affected by gigantism, inefficiency, not economically and environmentally sustainable in the new situation created by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the European socialist camp the loss of the subsidies they gave to Cuba.

Ten days later Decree 143 is issued by the Council of State; in the next session of the assembly the Decree is approved, without questions and unanimously.

Regardless of being a terrible law, full of contradictions and incongruencies, it made available assets of billions of pesos, including 1.7 million hectares of agricultural land, hundreds of thousands of workers, and many millions of pesos of production, starting from the unappealable decision of an organ of power whose members have no practical nor theoretical experience in agricultural administration. Result: the cooperatives created are not profitible for the most part and agricultural production in clear retreat.

This example is not an isolated fact, the deterioration of the socioeconomic situation of the country is related to the system that gives ones man, or at most a small team, absolute powers for life, fulfilling the José Martí’s premonition:

Any wide and long-exercised power degenerates into caste. With caste comes interests, high positions, the fear of losing them, intrigues to hold on to them. The castes interweave, and they act tough to each other. (O.C. t9, p 340)

For example, the cooperative is master of production but had to sell it to the Company that the State designated at fixed prices, so for this reason, is it or is it not the master? The necessary supplies are received in the same manner, the rules for their functioning are so bureaucratic that there is almost no difference from a state entity, in short, all of the principles of cooperativism are violated.

Among the elders is the defenestration of the sugar industry; the “battle of ideas” with the creation of a super ministry, in the practical fount of corruption and waste of resources; martial decisions of great magnitude even for a power with interference in the internal affairs of other states or in conflicts between sovereign nations, etc.

In the brief historical existence of “real socialism” similar catastrophic actions abound: the forced collectivization of Stalin, the great “leap forward” of Mao are examples of absurd decisions that caused millions of death by hunger.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

Cuba: Exploring Civic Opinion Under the Government of Diaz-Canel / Somos+

Ask us anything about Cuba We specialize in market studies. When you need data, you’re not alone.A project of Cubadata. (For more information visit http://www.cubadata.com.es)

Somos+, 15 August 2018 — Cuba is finding itself in a moment of great changes. Constitutional reform and the legitimacy of new leaders, together with a lack of rights and the prolonged socioeconomic crisis, are the elements combining together over growing social uncertainty.

The survey that we are presenting today — probably the biggest independent public opinion study carried out on the island since the triumph of the Revolution in 1959 — focuses on measuring the aspirations, perceptions, and evaluations of Cubans in various spheres: their economic rights and the effectiveness of reforms, political institutionalization, freedoms, and the functioning of social services.

Do you believe that the Constitution should change to permit direct presidential elections? Yes: 61.4% No: 17.0% I don’t know: 21.6%

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Does the Cuban state media represent the diversity of opinions present in Cuban society? How would you rate the quality of education in Cuba? (Blue: Very Good. Red: Good. Yellow: Regular. Green: Deficient. Purple: Very deficient. Turquoise: Don’t know.)

Carried out between June 4 and 11, 2018, the survey covered a sample of 2,287 people, with individual and verifiable profiles, who agreed to respond voluntarily via the online tool of CubaData.

The results, analyzed by a team of specialists from academic centers in the United States, Mexico, and Venezuela, were compared with the main surveys carried out in Cuba and other countries of interest. Showing a diverse country, with concrete questions of a dissimular nature, that reveal the opinions of a society that is reconfiguring itself and that by this time does not allow black and white readings.

We highlight here the most relevant aspects of the survey.

In the field of economic reforms:

– 83.4% of those polled believe that foreign businesses on the island should be able to hire Cuban workers directly

– 81.9% understand that the government should not control a monopoly over imports and exports

– 87.6% believe that Cuban professionals should be able to start businesses and companies within their professions

In the field of social services:

– 62.9% think that Cuban public health is not good, qualifying it as “regular” (33.3%), “deficient” (18.9%), and “very deficient” (10.7%)

– 61.7% have had to pay or give a gift to a doctor at least once to be seen or to get a consultation more quickly

– 64.7% believe that the quality of education is “regular” (35.4%), “deficient” (18.6%), or “very deficient” (10.7%)

In the field of freedoms:

– 65.6% do not believe that Cubans can say what they think in public places, forums, or communication media without the fear of suffering reprisals

– 58.9% do not believe that the state media reflects the diversity of opinions present in society

– 84.4% believe that Cubans do not have sufficient internet access

In the field of Constitutional reform:

– 38.2% do not know if the article that declares the irrevocability of socialism should be eliminated, while 34.8% say yes and 27% no

– 45.7% believe that political parties other than the Communist party should be permitted, while 28.9% do not know and 25.4% oppose the idea

– 61.5% believe that presidential elections should be direct, while 21.6% say they don’t know and 17% oppose them

Finally, in the field of the biggest worries of Cubans, the surveyed give priority to income (26.6%), food (21.2%), and public services (13.9%), while they find themselves very divided over the possibilities that the new president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, can manage to change and improve things in the country. 46% of the responses believe that Díaz-Canel has little chance of achieving change, while 35% seem more optimistic. The indecisive find themselves in the middle of these two groups.

See the survey (http://www.cubadata.com.es)

The results were analyzed by the specialists: Armando Chaguaceda (Universidad de Guanajuato), Elaine Acosta (Florida International University), Juan Manuel Trak (Universidad Católica Andrés Bello) and Rodrigo Salazar-Elena (FLACSO México), who presented a detailed report on the matter.

The CubaData survey is based on a non-probabilistic sample of 2,287 users of mobile apps with identified profiles and access to email. The reported conclusions are not intended to be representative of the totality of the Cuban population, but rather solely those of the group of subjects who answered the questionnaire. Subjects who, for the diversity of their identities, express real tendencies of Cuban society. Given the restrictions in carrying out surveys in the field or via the internet, the data of this study are a first approximation of the scope of Cuban opinions.

In the immediate future, we will continue extending and perfecting the reach and the representation of this type of study.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

Manipulation and Shamelessness in the Decline of a Dying Man / Somos+

If the republic doesn’t open its arms to everyone and move forward with everyone, the republic dies. José Martí

Somos+,Lcdo. Adalberto R Mesa Duarte, 22 August 2018 — I believe that if the Cuban people felt consciously free to express what they have kept in for sixty years, Raúl Castro and his “Always Unanimous National Assembly” would resign en masse from such a serious responsibility.

In a real democracy, “cooption” cannot be an option. So I ask: Why keep doing the same thing? … How is it possible that the Constitution of 1940, one of the most advanced legal documents of its time, and whose application could extend to even today, needed to be destroyed in 1976, only to subsequently and repeatedly modify it to the whims of the eternal censor, to the point that its original idea has disappeared?

The answer is very simple: to guarantee that an entire class remain in power! That in the style of the most classic dictators, to dazzle some, and to subdue, arrest, or murder others, only to subdue an entire people in the name of liberty. continue reading

The Constitution of 1940, and the democratic system of government that it established, was violated by “Commander Censor” and his Revolution long before his arrival in Havana in 1959. Any debate in this direction turns into a broad and justified questioning of each one of the rules that over time were introduced to the Constitution, and which objectively blinded and made impossible a popular response that could turn back the social unhappiness that hovered over the people and in the end caused the stagnation of the society that we live in.

Six decades have been more than enough for Cuban society to become resigned to sadness, fears, and the inability to carry out by themselves significant contributions to the development of the nation. For example, we can take as a reference socially blameworthy situations, in which the personal interests of the Dictator took precedence above those of the Cuban people, and in those in which it is obvious that the word “PEOPLE” is only used to manipulate and thereby justify absurd ambitions. A total analysis of the constitution’s rules would be interesting, but too extensive for this occasion.

From the Constitution of 1940, Article 10, I cite: “The citizen has the right. Subsection a) To live in his homeland without being an object of discrimination or any kind of extortion, no matter his race, class, ‘political opinions’, or religious beliefs.” End of citation.

In the Constitution of 1976, in Chapter VI Equality, Article 42, I cite: “Discrimination because of race, skin color, sex, national origin, religious beliefs, and any other reason prejudicial to human dignity is forbidden and sanctioned by the law.” End of citation.

So, for what reason does the “Censor in Chief” curiously leave out, in the Constitution of 1976, the reason of discrimination for “political opinions?”

I have here one of the answers: In daily practice, it is certain that in Cuba, any person that is discriminated against for reasons of race, skin color, sex, national origin, religious beliefs, or any other reason prejudicial to human dignity, is relatively protected by the State, only that the wronged person must have one condition: that the person discriminated against must be a revolutionary, or at least keep a low profile sufficiently in line with revolutionary doctrine! Or rather: keep your head down and don’t protest!

Everyone knows that in any other case, the actions of the district attorney, the courts, and the Ministry of the Interior turn out overwhelmingly differently, because to think and have different opinions in Cuba is an obvious sentence to live in disgrace, submission, and institutional neglect.

Perhaps it’s necessary to keep trusting this government only because it has given “free” education and health to the people? The people also have a right to the fundamental freedoms that were eliminated as of 1959!

I believe that before taking part and voting mechanically to legitimize by referendum the Project of the Constitution proposed by Raúl Castro and his dictatorship, Cuban society must be made aware of the answers to many of the questions that I raise here, otherwise we will continue with the “boot of oppression above our heads.”

In the Constitution of 1940, I repeat, were implemented many of the guarantees that today the Cuban people lack, so they were intentionally eliminated, in order to perpetuate totalitarianism as a fundamental element of direction and social submission, and so it is appropriate now to ask:

  • Why does the government of the Republic of Cuba, which boasts of the total support of the people, need to establish and shield the ruling role of the Communist Party at the head of Cuban society, without submitting it to a review, vote, and approval of the people? All told, and so it is well understood: the party is even above the Constitution itself!
  • Why was the Court of Constitutional Guarantees abolished? Everyone knows that the district attorney neither guarantees nor respond tos with total transparency the claims of human rights violations on the part of the Ministry of the Interior, including those that are endorsed in the Constitution of 1976 itself and the subsequent reforms.
  • What rights, for example, does the citizen have when his property or personal goods are confiscated by the police or the Department of State Security? In the legal framework of 1940, the judicial authority was the entity that determined what would proceed. Today it is carried out by a simple civil servant and on many occasions the act of confiscation isn’t even reflected on the record. And in this case: don’t even ask!
  • Why is the principle of the presumption of innocence not observed? In Cuba a citizen is detained… Even for being ugly! …It is enough that the State presumes that a person could commit a crime for him to be imprisoned. He is detained and then they investigate…
  • Why are the registries of detained and imprisoned people not public? There are many examples in which this vital information was denied to family members and/or interested parties, even after days have passed. And sometimes the aforementioned information isn’t even offered.
  • Why are prisoners and people detained for political motives locked up along with people imprisoned for common crimes? There are many well-documented reports of cases where they have received beatings from “some revolutionary prisoners or detainees”…
  • Why are Cubans restricted or prohibited from living in places or territories of the country, and including: why are they exiled inside of their own homeland? Example: In the capital*…
  • Why are Cuban citizens denied entry to their own country, or why are they prohibited from leaving without giving reasons to justify themselves?
  • Why are citizens with political opinions opposed to the regime objects of repression and censorship? Where is freedom of expression? Why are they even denied the right to work?
  • Why is it a crime to associate or gather peacefully without weapons, why is marching or gathering for all the aims of life, without any more restriction than is necessary to guarantee public order, a repressible act?
  • Why is any act which would limit or prohibit the citizen from participating in the political life of the nation not made punishable? Why is any form of coercion to force a citizen to affiliate, vote, or demonstrate against his will in any electoral operation not sanctioned?
  • Why is the free formation of associations and/or political parties of different ideological tendencies, with adaptation to the laws, not permitted?
  • Why is the President of the Republic not elected by means of universal suffrage of the people, by way of a direct and secret vote? And why isn’t he limited to serve for a term of four years with the possibility of a single reelection?
  • Why doesn’t the diaspora have the right to vote, while it already totals nearly three million Cubans? These people have even been stripped of the right to live in their own country.
  • Why is the man who considers himself the king of this country, and not the citizens of the land, the only one who proposes reforms to the Constitution?

In my modest opinion, the only legal and non-violent way to stop this farce is with the vote of all the people of Cuba, and if the government of Raúl Castro wishes to demonstrate a truly democratic opening, it must observe a tangible transparency, it must go without the accustomed manipulations of public opinion, and additionally it must permit the attendance of international observers, and as is logical, it must include the popular consultation, that is the votes, of all the Cuban exiles. In any other case, it will just be another excluding and biased Constitution.

The Constitution of 1940 was massacred by Fidel and Raúl Castro, and if the majority of its precepts that were eliminated are not restored, Cuban society will continue to be subjugated by resignation, fear, and oppression. Sixty years of this “Royal Monopoly – Revolution” is enough to demonstrate that.

Translator’s note: Cubans are not permitted to live in Havana without legally established residency.

Informative Note about Detained Members / Somos+

Somos+, 18 August 2018 — The Executive Council has been able to contact the six members of our movement who had been arbitrarily detained by the State Security in Puerto Padre, province of Las Tunas. All have been released and are in their respective homes.

We are deeply grateful to all our members for their solidarity, and to the honorable and exceptional instances of journalists, influencers and members of other political projects that responded on behalf of our representatives during these days. continue reading

  • In our initial contact, these brave men and women have expressed firmness in their decision to stay in our movement and the certainty that nothing will make them bow down.

As we have already reported, their phones, a video camera, as well as the money provided for their travel expenses and performance of their duties, were confiscated

Repressive actions against Somos + is increasing, but no obstacle will stop us.

Executive Council

Political Movement S+

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

Theory and Practice in Our America / Somos+, Eliecer Avila

Source: CLAES

Somos+, Eliecer Avila, 1 May 2018 —  or at least two decades, since Hugo Chavez’s rise to power, the policial debate in Latin America has centered its discussions around the populist model, which was introduced in Venezuela and which has not stopped being exported, with more or less success, to the rest of the continent.

After the resounding failure of the experiment called “21st century socialism,” the arguments against it were greatly strengthened; today, it is not so difficult for any well-informed Democratic candidate to win a debate by a large margin when facing the representatives of the radical Left.

With the overwhelming evidence we have at hand about the impracticality of this type of political project, it seems impossible that candidates like Gustavo Petro in Colombia or Manuel López Obrador in Mexico will be competitive in the face-to-face surveys in the next elections. continue reading

Apparently, voter perception is not based solely on television content, educational videos, or posts on social media. A majority of the world’s citizens continue to reference the concrete situation in which they live to determine whether they will support or oppose any given politician.

To save democracy from the claws of populism is, in the opinion of many, the “mission” that voters have in the next elections, and this is true. What’s not healthy is that this perspective overlooks the necesary debate that must be had about the quality of the democracies and governments which aspire to be elected as alternatives to populism.

It is of no use today to win ideological debates or to demonstrate the falsity of the proposal aligned with Chavism if, after being elected, many Democratic candidates don’t last in their seat without being prosecuted for corruption, vote buying, alliances with the mafia, links to drug trafficking, crimes against journalists, shell corporations to launder money, and a string of things that have become rule, with honorable exceptions from the Rio Bravo to Patagonia.

No matter how hard it is to admit, bad Democratic governments are the principal architects of populism and its consecuences, because they have not taken full advantage of their years in power to implement the structural changes, investments, and public policies that are urgently needed in Latin America to improve the quality of life of a majority of our people.

It’s difficult to believe that in the era in which we live, millions of people in our America are unable to access the medical attention that they need, some are unable to study at elementary levels because they’ve needed to work since childhood, and crime, scattered or organized, runs rampant in entire populations where governments and police mean nothing to the Left.

I know that the populist formula does not resolve these problems, or if it resolves them in part, it does so in exchange for your life, your will, and your conscience. But, if we are clear that this is not the way, that the solution is not that “you give him the fish without teaching him how to fish,” that “you can’t drink the milk and eat the meat from the same cow,” and many other adages that appear to be obvious: why are there not sufficient advancements with solutions emanating from democracy? Isn’t that what democracy itself is for?

I have no doubt that the western democratic design, based on balance of power, freedom of expression, and respect for the human rights recognized in the Universal Declaration, is the best one that exists on the face of the earth, but if the human capital entrusted with making the system work does not respect its rules and repeatedly betrays the social pact and the trust of the outraged voters, then they will inevitably end up rejecting the politicians and also the democratic design.

Now more than ever, the future of our America depends on the integrity, honesty, and commitment of the democratic leaders. This should, at least in theory, make us feel safe and happy. We’ll see what will happen in practice.

Translated by: Emilee Sullivan