Happiness / Somos+

Somos+, Roberto Camba, 21 March 2017 — The United Nations has just launched the 2017 World Happiness Report, coinciding with the World Happiness Day on March 20th. From its first publication in 2012, the world has come to understand more and more that happiness has to be used as the correct measure with regards to social progress and the objective of public policies.

The report is based on statistics collected from the happiness index or subjective well-being, Gross Domestic Product, social support, life expectancy from birth, freedom to make decisions, generosity, perception of corruption (within the government or in businesses), positive or negative feelings, confidence in the national government and in society, the level of democracy and the level of income per household. continue reading

Much of the data is taken from the average of the results of Gallup’s global survey. For example, the “life’s staircase” question: “imagine a staircase, with steps numbered from 0 (at the base) to 10 (at the top). The top of the stairs represents the best life possible for you and the base the worst life possible. Which step do you feel like you are currently at right now?”

“Social support” means having someone that you can rely on during times of difficulty. Generosity equates to having donated money to a charitable organisation over the past month. Whereas, positive or negative feeling relates to questions about whether for the most part of the previous day the individual experienced happiness, laughter or pleasure; or rather did they experience negative feelings such as worry, sadness or anger. The report references its sources and explains the other indexes which negatively influence the perception of happiness such as: unemployment or social inequality.

The 2017 Happiness Report places Norway at the top of its list, followed by: Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, Finland, the Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and Sweden as the top ten.

The US was listed at number 14 and Spain at 34. The best placed Latin American nations were Chile (20), Brazil (22), Argentina (24), Mexico (25), Uruguay (28), Guatemala (29) and Panama (30). The list included 155 countries. Those that have improved the most with regards to their position between 2005-2007 are Nicaragua, Lithuania and Sierra Leone, whilst Venezuela is the country that has slipped down the rankings the most.

And Cuba? It does not appear on the list. The Network of Solutions for Sustainable Development that prepared the report only possesses data on Cuba from 2006. During that time, the average response to the “staircase of life” was 5.4 (which placed it at 69th out of 156 nations), just behind Kosovo. Possibly today many Cubans would answer “where is the staircase to even begin to climb it?”

According to the 2006 data, Cuba appeared to be high in its ranking of social support and life expectancy from birth, but it was the third worst in freedom to make decisions. It was ranked as low for level of democracy, despite the fact that its per capita GDP surpassed China, Mexico, Brazil and South Africa to name some of the prosperous economies in the world*. In the net index of feelings (the average of positive feelings subtracted by the average of negative feelings) Cuba occupied the 112th place, making it the lowest ranked country in Latin America, with only Haiti having worse figures.

This index is the most direct measurement of fulfillment or of personal frustration that influences values and behaviour.

Of course beyond scientific rigour, no statistic or survey is 100% reliable. Subjective happiness or individual perception of happiness is very variable. Replying to these questions implies making a mental comparison. We compare ourselves to our neighbour, to those abroad, to our past or to our previous situation.

who receive manipulated information will not be able to effectively compare themselves. Furthermore, people think as they live: having access to running water could be the ultimate happiness for someone living in Sub-Saharan Africa, but a European or North American considers that they must have that and would take offense if they did not have it.

Cubans do not need a global report to know that there is a low happiness index among the people. The problems seem insoluble, the shortages are growing, personal ambitions have had to be postponed for decades, emigration becomes the only hope. The government quashes individual initiatives and working towards the happiness of its people — or allowing others to do it — does not seem to be in its projections. At Somos Más (We Are More) we believe that a responsible government must have this as its main objective and we will continue to fight to achieve it.

Translator’s note: If the GDP used for this analysis was that provided by the Cuban government, it would likely have been inaccurate. 

The Right of Assembly / Somos+

Somos+, Ezequiel Álvarez, 27 March 2017 — I believe that, in the resistance against the totalitarian, military dictatorship of the Castros, the existence of diverse organizations is essential and necessary. If we fight against a monolithic system, it is indispensable to start from a pluralist base wherein there is room for different ideas. continue reading

If communism’s major flaw is to intend for all the world to submit by force to one ideology, our response cannot be another antagonistic solution of the same kind.

The human being by nature represents a variety of opinions. The democratic system proclaims freedom of assembly, and as proponents of democracy for Cuba, we should accept that other points of view also have a right to participate in the opposition.

Starting from that premise, I propose that we should know how to work together in this phase, and allow the electoral process to decide the democratic route that the nation will take.

Meanwhile, let us continue, each according to his conscience, respecting the same right in others, working together toward the same ideal.

Let us prepare the foundations starting now, so that in the eventual future, we can be ready to prevent a repeat of the current tragedy. An upright structure that will serve as safe passage to a constitutional democracy, with the prior approval of the opposition parties, is a solution that we should explore and work towards making a reality.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Requiem For My Havana / Somos+, Grettha Yedra

Island, what happened to you?
Who changed the spring?
Who shut the door?
What ship left you alone?

Island, they have changed your clothes
They have distorted decency
They have trafficked your innocence
They have shit on your equality and mine.

Island, by Lien Y Rey

Somos+, Gretther Yedra Rodriguez, 29 March 2017 — A few days ago I arrived from Cuba. I was there about a month. Havana was where I spent most of my time. I hadn’t seen it for almost two years, two years of not feeling the breath of the Malecon which enchants even the most skeptical. I suffered the spectacle. The most controversial capital in the world felt to me like a Dantesque chaos. In a few years, I thought, it’s going to look like a pile of trash where there once was a city. Cardboard houses proliferate on the periphery and spread throughout the country. Havana, my beautiful Havana, what happened to you? continue reading

I saw something that I had not seen before and that, in the country where I now reside, caused me great sorrow: I saw beggars, tons of them. Beggars and children wandering aimlessly along the Malecon and the historic center. Old people with lost gazes, filled with despair and empty hands. Irritable people, alcoholic men… and even women. State companies in a lamentable state, indolent workers who say NO for the pleasure of saying it.

I saw Havana as a raggedy old man, lying in a doorway while a copy of the Granma newspaper pretends to protect him from the cold.

On my way from Matanzas to the city I could see idle lands, plagued by the invasive marabou weed, and I thought enviously of the Ecuadorian earth, deeply cultivated, filled with cattle, of the rows of plants created by the indians and native people. I thought with sadness that there was a time when Cuban land did not suffer by comparison to the beautiful Andean land. It is not necessary to be a specialist to see the decline in agricultural and livestock, to notice the huge expanses of idle farmland, the volume of imported food continually increasing, making up for the deficit in national production.

While most of the Asian and Latin American countries lagged behind Cuba in the 1960s, they have now overtaken Cuba in the diversification of their economies, the development of competitive manufacturing sectors for export, and the decline in their dependence on a limited group of export products. And knowing this data and returning to Cuba, it hurts. It forces you to rethink many things, to not remain silent when the instinct of self-preservation demands it.

As I was walking along Montes street, I looked in disbelief at how the building collapses multiplied in only two years of absence. A man, seeing my puzzled face, told me: “Looks like they threw bombs, right?” My silence was agreement. And the bombs exploded in my head. Nothing they promised was fulfilled, economic failure has made a beautiful country into an arid land, cold and dirty, where people fight to survive.

How to wake an entire people from their slumber? How to tell them that humanity said “Enough” and got up and walked, and that we should do the same if we want a future?

We cannot remain with the masterful lines of Gabriel García Márquez, where an omniscient narrator asserts that those condemned to a hundred years of solitude do not have a second chance on earth. We are not García Márquez’s fictional Macondo, we are Cuba. We come from the line of Maceo, Gomez and Martí, Jose Antonio Echeverria, Frank and Camilo. Let us honor these men by rescuing what we have all lost. Let us awaken from this lethargy and, without shaking off the dust of the road, let us act. These are times to act.

It would kill me to say that Cubans are afraid, that it is difficult to reveal ourselves to a totalitarianism that constantly represses and annuls. In Cuba today, fear no longer exists, what we lost was faith and with it shame. From the ashes of Havana we must rescue her.

13 March 1957: The Assault on the Presidential Palace / Somos+

Canter with arm raised: José Antonio Echevarria

We trust in the purity of our intention,
May God favor us,
To achieve the Empire of Justice in our country.
José Antonio Echeverría Bianchi

Somos+, Jose Presol, 13 March 2017 — Today, March 13, we celebrate a date that, fifty years ago, could have radically changed the history of Cuba. A date that could have been, but was not. And it was not because of betrayals that, even today, are not clearly defined

That day, according to the policy of the Revolutionary Directorate, was “to attack the head.” A very high “head”: Fulgencio Batista.

From the beginning of the idea, towards the end of 1955, the goal was unity of action between its time.

In 1956, the plan was picked up again and, recalling the pact between the Directorate and the M26J (26th of July Movement) so-called Mexican Letter, Faustina Perez who was heading the “26th” in Havana was contacted, and he refused to collaborate on orders of Fidel. The writer doesn’t know of any reference to the proposal being communicated to Frank Pais or to other members of the National Directorate, on some dates when Fidel was by no means the Maximum Leader. continue reading

Thus, everything was conceived, planned and executed by the joint forces of the Authentic Organization and the Revolutionary Directorate.

Nothing was left to chance. There were enough weapons. Surveillance equipment. Political and military leadership. The leaders were Menelao Mora (for the Authentics) and Jose Antonio Echeverría (for the Directorate). The military commander was Carlos Gutiérrez Menoyo, who had been an officer with the Free French Forces during World War II.

Those who did not participate in the action were intended to: (1) Start the guerrilla action in the Escambray Mountains, (2) Arm and reorganize the Revolutionary Directorate in Havana, (3) Send troops to Frank Pais to be used in the El Uvero combat and to initiate the 2nd Eastern Front.

The plan was complex and simple at the same time: A frontal attack by a group transported in a delivery truck and two cars, which would go up to Batista’s office and take him prisoner or execute him, and that would be supported by men distributed on nearby roofs, to prevent the arrival of reinforcements; others as support and in reserve along the Paseo del Prado; and a main reserve that would arrive from Guanabacoa.

Messages would be broadcast for the uprising of the militants and sympathizers of the FEU and the Authentic Party throughout Cuba. In Havana they had to concentrate on the School of Architecture, where the group that had previously occupied Rádio Reloj would be organized, armed and instructed to occupy their objectives. As for the Army, the officers of higher rank next to the Authentics would take control of the garrisons.

Menelao Mora would assume the provisional presidency, until the arrival of the previous President-elect, Carlos Prío Socarrás, and then the process of elections interrupted by Batista with his coup d’etat would begin.

But, if everything was so measured and calculated, what was it that failed? Well two things:

  1. Batista fled from the Presidential Palace at the moment of the attack through a door the assailants didn’t know about.
  2. Someone sabotaged the action. I base  this on two things.

A. Everything (weapons, communications and vehicles) was checked several times and was in order. On leaving the Presidential Palace a tires of the delivery truck were low in air, affecting the suspension. The driver, Amado Silveriño, insisted on  continuing, promising to get there. Did someone let the air out?  It is not known.

B. The reserves did not receive the order to mobilize. Who was in charge of sending it? Someone who still walks around Havana: Fauré Chomón. The men who had to occupy the access points and those concentrated in Guanabacoa never moved of their collection point.

The result was, apart from the failure of action, the almost total dismissal of the only two organizations that could have cast shadows Fidel Castro’s aspirations: the Authentic Party and the Revolutionary Directorate.

Fidel can be considered the only winner of the failed attack.

Translated by Jim

Numbers, Reason and Principles / Somos+

Somos+, Eliecer Avila, 8 March 2017 — Daily, as part of my functions as leader of Somos+ (We Are More), I meet people who are interested in knowing the details of the organization. In theory, these people would become members of Somos+ if there is a sufficient match between their ideas and the ones we promulgate.

It turns out that often, I prepare to explain our proposals, program, explain the logical arguments about the need for changes, etc… but the first question that I ask is, “Come here… and how many are you?”

It never ceases to amaze me, the extreme importance that many people give to the number of people who adopt an attitude that they then adopt as their own. I believe their it would be much more worthwhile to concern ourselves with the number when we acquire some product for our use or contract for some service between the number of people previously satisfied by the same offer could be an indicator of its quality. continue reading

Instead, when it’s about values, principles, ideologies, justice and political positions, I don’t believe that the priority should be the number of people who adopt this or that position.

History abounds with examples in which great multitudes committed the most terrible and horrible crimes. Were they right? No, but they were many, many more joined them and the wave became so immense and unstoppable that opposing it would seem an act of uselessness, masochism or stupidity.

This overwhelming game between majorities and minorities is preferred by revolutions, because they establish in advance what is the “good side” and the “bad side” where people can position themselves, and depending on that decision their lives will be respected or tainted.

For me, democracy will never be described by the reductionist argument of “the dictatorship of the majorities,” because this primitive mentality is the one that always existed and does not necessarily contemplate a civilized advance that guarantees the peace and the participation of the whole society in decision-making. Instead, it will be the “opportunity for minorities” to exist in dignity and to be represented that would distinguish a democracy.

We should not be afraid to be alone or accompanied by few in the place that we consider right. If we think that striking a woman is wrong, we should not hit her to be in tune with the millions of men who do. Or if we believe that animals should be protected, or that corruption affects us all, it is legitimate to say it even though there are probably no de facto crowds chanting in our favor.

It is thanks to the rebels of the past, those who did not care about the number of their followers, that today we have, around the world, less violence, machismo, corruption and oppression than in previous centuries.

A political position is above all a right, but it is also a duty, which should never be exercised by imitation, enthusiasm, or pressure of any kind. It must be an act of responsibility based on abundant or full information, the product of a deep and measured analysis, strictly attached to what we are and what we believe to be just for us, our families, our nation and for all humanity.

Only in this way will we feel full, happy and secure in expressing our opinions or taking action both individually and in groups, voluntarily or remunerated, supported or rejected, blessed or repressed. Learning to think for oneself is to be free.

Numbers, reason and principles always have been and will be three different subjects.

Who Does Jose Marti Belong To? / Somos+

Somos+, 28 January 2017 — Very early today, January 28th [José Martí’s birthday], State Security agents were at Eliecer Avila’s house to warn him about the impossibility of his “doing anything” today.

Later they returned and still have a guard posted out front.

We know of several colleagues who are in the same situation or, such as Manuel Cuesta Morua, who have been arrested.

Apparently José Martí is the “private property” of the Cuban Communist Party.

As if anyone could prevent us from drinking of his thought!

Somos+ National Council

Granada, 1983, the Hidden Cuban Martyrology / Somos+, Pedro Acosta

US soldiers taking Cubans to a prison camp

Somos+, Pedro Acosta, 19 January 2017 — Thirty-three years later, I talked to more than 60 people under age 40 and with more than a 9th grade education; none of them knew exactly what I was talking about.

I asked them: Do you know what happened on the island of Granada in 1983? Most of them looked at me like I was asking them to solve a riddle. Some, the oldest, without being sure what I was talking about, said they thought there had been a military intervention there. Only one explained it to me, with middling clarity, because he had heard about it from his family. continue reading

A little history lesson, well hidden! In October of 1983, the Chief of the Armed Forces of that country, at the request of the party in power, “The New Jewel,” staged a coup d’etat and assassinated Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and his entire family. The United States threatened, and days later invaded the island.

A group of Cuban construction workers were there building an airport along with a small group of Colonels sent by Fidel in its presidential plane, AN-24 (el patico), had to confront the elite troops of the US 82nd Airborne Division.  You, who went to build, without the slightest right, without the simplest analysis and for the absurd chimera of someone looking for a military victory over his eternal enemies, is there weapons in hand and in mortal danger.

They did not have the right, nor the reason, nor the recurrent and often false, Internationalism!

I wonder, in a spectacular maneuver of my fantasy, and if, in the face of an uncontainable push of the builders, the elite American troops would have withdrawn: Who were we going to hand over power to? How long would we have remained in that territory? What role would we play there in the meantime?

We, like the ancestral custom of the regime, learned what happened through foreign radio stations and, first of all, those of the “enemy.” Despite there having been Cuban builders there, and Maurice Bishop was a great friend of Fidel, it was not until three days did we offficially here what happened there, when the entire Cuban people had a different version of the events.

Maurice Bishop and Fidel Castro

The officers were meant to block the US troops from taking control of the airport under construction, with the help of the builders. But the undesirable things happened. When confronted with the American troops, the immense majority of those who fought back were the construction workers, while the military experts and “warriors” sent by the Commander, Fidel Castro, including the chief of the troops, turned tail and left the field to the civilians. Those Colonels, some of whom were stations at the USSR embassy on this island, and others, wandering the mountains and the city, were detained by US forces.

The Cuban military were cowards for not confronting the big boss and telling him that they weren’t willing to commit suicide as they were being asked to do, and much less demand that others do it. And they were traitors for allowing those inexpert builders to do it. They should never have asked someone to fight. This was not their battle, and what’s more, incredibly unequal. They were asked to immolate themselves, and in whose name? By whom and for what?

While our soldiers were fleeing the news was alienating. The disgrace that was happening was also oversized, huge and fallacious. The last thing they put in the mouth of a brilliant figure on Cuban radio and television was that Cubans, defending their last redoubt, had offered their lives, embracing the Cuban flag.

What really happened in Granada is know only to the Cubans who returned with their lives from there, and they are the only ones who know the US military committed with the Cuban officials. Speaking correctly, they are not the only ones who know what happened, the international press played up the Cuban disgrace.

Because in Cuba it is taboo to talk about Granada, it has not been possible to get figures or data of any kind, I have only written what I remember. I don’t want to resort to foreign data.

There is no mention of Granada because, more than what is said, it was the greatest blunder, among all the orders, of the now deceased comrade Fidel, then Commander-in-Chief.

Also, the position and honor of a man, the head of the Cuban “troops,” has come to be talked of and he is compared with the Bronze Titan: “Emulator of Maceo.” What a crime and how embarrassing!

In Granada, Fidel suffered his hardest, saddest and most sobering defeat. But those who really suffered and felt it were the people of Cuba, and particularly the families of those who uselessly gave their lives and shed their blood in the land of others.

When will anyone ask forgiveness, publicly, to the mothers, wives and children of the martyrs of Granada? When will the people of Cuba get an explanation for such decisions. For the martyrs of Granada, there has been no minute of silence, only suspicion and slyness, that has lasted for more than thirty years.

And Now What? / Somos+, Jose Presol

Somos+, Jose Presol, 18 January 2017 — We expected it for a long time and it happened, but when we weren’t in the line for the ration book. I am referring to the end of the “wet foot, dry foot” policy. We all knew that it would end, but what we least imagined was that it would be now and done by the current president, Barack Obama.

It had to be sooner or later. The American people are leaning toward a policy of protectionism and focusing on their own problems and stumbles, and there are many Cubans in exile who affirm, “I am not politically persecuted, I came to resolve my economic problems.”

At the same time, there are constant complaints that old and current repressors and collaborators with the Cuban political regime are also in the United States, and whether or not they are still collaborating with the tyranny is not clear. This had to come. continue reading

Obama, who not so long ago seemed wonderful to so many people, now has thousands of defects. No friends, his message was clear, “Cuba’s problems must be solved by Cubans.” One more thing we have heard and interpreted according to our own convenience.

That was a way of saying, among other things: Gentlemen, the American taxpayers have no obligation to indefinitely finance the immigration of citizens of other nationalities, especially when we are not sure of their ideology and when these funds are needed, for example, to improve the conditions of our own veterans.

Few governments in the world are not aware that these resources are not unlimited and that this problem is not solved by “minting money.”

The fault belongs to us, Cubans. We all know, we are not fools, that the problem is not that there is no food, the problem is those who have made it so that there is no food. We have found it more convenient to confuse the symptoms with the disease. We have found it more convenient to deny reality. We have found it more convenient to say, with clenched teeth “over there,” that it is an economic problem.

But yes, it is an economic problem, but please, haven’t we been under a constant bombardment of Marxist doctrine for 58 years? Have we not listened to a single word? Hey guys, they say it themselves, “The economic problems are political problems.”

I am not a fortune-teller and I don’t know what the evolution of the problem in Cuba will be, but I am sure that there have already been two things: 1) a bucket of cold water for those who hoped to “escape” the situation, and 2) the disappearance of the escape valve from the current situation in Cuba, which does not please the regime, despite their saying otherwise.

As I said, I do not know how the subject will evolve, but I have hope that it will end up radicalizing the postures inside Cuba and clarifying them outside Cuba, and vice versa.

I hope that we Cubans, once and for all, will face our problem, trying to provoke quantitative changes (so they will understand me, I use Marxist terms) that, in accumulation, end up producing qualitative changes.

And those quantitative and qualitative changes begin with ourselves.

First, we have to think about who our real rival is and face it, without palliatives; finding all the cracks in the system and enlarging them, analyzing their contradictions and denouncing them.

Second, recognize that the problem of Cuba belongs to Cubans, all of us without exception, and that Cubans must solve it, and forget about remedies, collective or individual, that come from outside.

Third, we need to focus on programs and lines of action to conquer our rival; focus on weakening everything that benefits it; focus on highlighting the weaknesses and errors of the system.

Fourth, these programs and lines of action should focus on Cuba’s real needs. We must not return to situations that we often yearn for and fail to recognize that they were the reasons for what we have now. We must build a New Republic, with the ideals of freedom and democracy from our early founders.

Fifth, around these programs and lines of action, we have to create the necessary unity (and, why not, organization) to gather forces instead of dispersing them, not looking for some leader to solve it for us.

Sixth, these programs and lines of action must be peaceful, we are children of a nation that has not known peace and tranquility since October 10, 1868, it is high time that we also address that.

Seventh: Cubans, think. You are the children of the people who fought for 30 years for independence, who suffered 4 years of American occupation, people who have had 57 years of a false republic and more occupations (material or mediated) and another 58 of tyranny. We have fallen many times and many times we have risen, even mistaking and getting it wrong again. So get up at once and contribute with your effort and imagination. This is your opportunity. Do not let it pass.

Translated by Jim

We Have to Take Responsibility for Our Own Land… / Somos+

Somos+, 14 January 2017 — Forty-eight hours have passed since we have officially declared ourselves, as a movement, with regards to the elimination of the “Wet foot/Dry foot” policy. There is a reason for that: We do not want to say anything without, at least, consulting the National Council and the greatest possible number of active members. Also, it was prudent to read and listen to all the explanations to correctly understand the scope of the measure.

Today we affirm that, in the long term, we consider it positive for Cuba as a country, a nation and a homeland. continue reading

We are deeply pained by the situation of thousands of Cubans stranded in distant countries, almost all of us have some family member in this situation. We know their expenses have been huge as have their sacrifices. But logic tells us that the departure of the all the people of Cuba will not fix the problems that face us.

On the contrary, to the extent that the already limited number of energetic and dissatisfied youth leave the island, the ability to rebuild our society is ever more distant, starting from the profound changes which can only be driven by millions of people determined to take control of the reins of the nation.

Many argue for the exceptionality of the political situation of Cubans, we among them. But it was precisely the thousands of Cubans traveling through Latin American who are leaving us alone in this thesis, because when we put our cameras in front of people they always say the same thing: “We are not leaving because of political problems, but to improve our economic situation.”

Some even throw in slogans in support of Fidel and Raul, or proudly show off tattoos with images of the creators of the system in which they cannot support themselves. It was these images that convinced a great share of international public opinion that there is no difference between Cuban emigrants and those from the rest of the continent. So?

In our opinion, if this attitude had been put into practice 20 years ago, or never existed (as it doesn’t exist in many former-Soviet controlled countries), another rooster (or hen) would be singing today in Cuba — that is, everything would be different.

If doctors are treated like modern slaves, they should unionize with or without permission, and no longer accept this business model that is a thorn in their sides. Those serving on “missions” abroad can take advantage of the ability to use social media and their access to the news media to unite in a just fight for their rights.

If young people don’t have opportunities, they also should join together in their institutes and universities and peacefully express their demands. Do no accept that some gentlemen who have lost all contact with reality have condemned them to material and spiritual poverty for the rest of their lives.

If parents do not see a future for their children, demand changes in the educational system so that the children will be prepared to be 21st century citizens. Do not let the authorities use their children as instruments of political propaganda and do not teach them, at home, to remain silent and bear up “until we can leave.”

We will probably sound harsh, weird, evil, like oddballs, in the midst of this whole wave of more or less justifiable sentimentality, but with full honesty, we are tired of this sick and victimizing mentality that describes us as the mental and political underdogs of the world, which we are not.

We are comforted by the idea of expressing this opinion from here. We hope that with time this measure will contribute to more of our compatriots taking responsibility for our land, wherever they are. Our entire family cannot move to the neighbor’s house, much less because we don’t like “our own parents”? Because those gentlemen are not our parents, not even our friends or allies… they are common people like you and me and can and should be exchanged, dismissed, replaced, expelled from their jobs if this house doesn’t work. And… it doesn’t work.

Let us stay and fix our own house. Together, we will be more.

Somos+ (We Are More) National Council


14 January 2016 

Repression Spiking in Cuba / Somos+, Eliecer Avila

Somos+, Eliecer Avila, 12 January 2017 — Two days ago, our eastern coordinator in Las Tunas, Wiliam Espinosa, spent 24 hours in jail when he tried to leave to attend our meeting in Havana.

Last night there was a great witch hunt and persecution all over the Havana neighborhood of Vededo to prevent us from attending a meeting of Otro18. They even forced a private restaurant to close.

Today dawns with the news that they have seized the home of Karina Galvez, Dagoberto Valdes’s right-hand person on the Convivencia (Coexistence) team. She was arrested and no one is allowed to see her.

Right now, the official who calls himself “Leandro,” along with a police car, has closed my block at the corner. It is very likely there will be arrests.

I just talked to professor Wilfredo Vallin who has been blocked from leaving home and they told him he could not come to my house. Because I am a “danger” to State Security. My God…

They seized and are still holding Alexey Gamez’s laptop, cellphone and hard drives, as a sequel to the latest offensive against our academy, where we seek to educate citizens.

And added to this is that El Sexto (the graffiti artist Danilo Maldonado) has been under arrest since November, without trial, and we have a panorama of extreme despair on the part of a system that cannot find any way to emerge from its crisis and clings tooth and nail to violence as the only path to salvation.

What disaster it going to happen at the highest levels of the government, where they do not want anyone at the base to be able to move?

Revolutionary Christmas / Somos+, Javier Cabrera

Somos+, Javier Cabrera, 24 December 2016 — I was an atypical Cuban child because I always had Christmas. My mother, whom they tried to expel from her teaching job once because Christians didn’t have the morals to teach classes to the “New Man,” said that she wasn’t going to let a man tell her whether or not to celebrate Christmas or the Three Kings in her own home.

In those Decembers, she took out the little tree from her childhood, with what we called “the balls from before ’59,” and bought gifts with whatever she could. I remember perfectly that the gifts were increasingly fewer, and in the ’90s moved from the floor to the little table. Of course, the celebration was never interrupted, not even in 1994, a year to forget. continue reading

For me, the year started to come to an end when Christmas showed up in our house. And I suffered many conflicts in kindergarten and elementary school, because I couldn’t understand that I lived in a country that was so equal, and so different.

Today I look back and understand that the best Christmas gift I got was this: “No one has the right to tell you to celebrate or not to celebrate. Your freedom ends when you let one group of the ‘enlightened’ impose their celebrations, wakes, or whatever they want.”

Earlier this year, I landed a few hours apart in the same airport where the Chapecoense team’s plane crashed. I was going to work, and I was warned that there was a huge local party. I heard some fireworks set off in celebration, but not even 3% of what was normal. In general, without imposition, or fines, or prohibitions, I saw a people in pain come together to fill stadiums.

An image in complete contrast to the imposed mourning that same week in Cuba, mourning that they are now trying to extend indefinitely, annulling our freedom to celebrate, or choosing not to participate without facing the loss of one’s job, which in any event only pays a pauper’s wages.

Christmas is many things, but above all it is home, family and celebration. Today it is no longer completely banned, and even so it is scandalous that no one has asked an entire people for forgiveness for forcing them to cancel it.

Today, Christmas day, I remember my mother a lot and thank her for not allowing them to tell her what to do. I also remember friends who didn’t dare, and who didn’t even hear about Christmas until they were older.

Today is a good day to tell the mother of all of us, Cuba, that we celebrate and we celebrate with her. That she gives us once again the ability not to listen to those who would bother a united family that celebrates. To them, as a nation, she also gives the freedom to celebrate their frustrations where no one interferes with them.

It Is Not Because Fidel Says It, It Is Because I Believe It / Somos+, Arlenys Miranda Mesa

Cuban President Raul Castro speaking in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, December 3, 2016. © Carlos Barria / Reuters

Somos+, Arlenys Miranda Mesa, 21 December 2016 — December 3rd was the ceremony in Santiago de Cuba after the death of Fidel Castro and the procession of his ashes across the entire Cuban archipelago. I sat down to observe the ceremony, although I knew it would be repeated many times, but I preferred to be an eyewitness rather than “hear about it” in the hallway. At the end, Fidel Castro stood up. His speech is important, of course, be is the president of the nation. And not because the majority elected him, in fact, I don’t know who elected him, no one ever explained it, but he is.

His speech was more of the same, and the figure of his brother was exalted one more time, to the height of a god. May God have mercy on Cuba, for He sees the wickedness of the idolatry of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Him. continue reading

He spoke about how, in circumstances of extreme difficulty, Fidel always said, “Yes we can.” Yes, we can attack the Moncada Barracks, yes we can make a revolution i Cuba, arrive on the coast in a yacht, resist the enemy and even do away with him in less than 72 hours; resist hunger, rain, cold. Yes we can organize an army in the Sierra Maestra and open a new guerrilla front, withstand the blackouts, the limitations of public transport, preserve health and education in the midst of crises and blockades, in short, so many things. A visionary man.

Today he no longer exists. It is the end of one era, giving way to another, where we see our hopes reborn. It is for this that I feel very excited and inspired because like him I believe that “Yes we can.” But I go in the opposite directions from everything he believed and that he could do and not do in Cuba. He imposed his opinions, his crazy ideas. I am even-tempered, sensible, logical. I am a mother, woman and Cuban. I think about my children, my family, my country.

I believe that Yes we can have internet in Cuba, cheap and uncensored. Why in internet a human right in other countries but not for us, is it perhaps that we are not human. What are they hiding from us that is on the internet?

Yes we can have free elections, where every Cuba can, with dignity and conscientiously choose their president. Yes we can dream of a younger leadership in tune with our reality, that although it did not participate in the in attack on the Moncada Barracks in the 1950s, arrive later that decade on the yacht Granma, or fight in the mountains, is not therefore less qualified to take on the challenge.

Yes we can aspire to have different political parties for one to belong to and identify with. Yes it is possible for an army and a police officer without surnames, that responds not to the interests of the elite but rather of the people.

Yes we can aspire to a government that pays attention, and creates a space for dialog with those who think differently. Yes we can aspire to an objective and committed journalism, but not with an ideology, but simply with the truth, so that the press doesn’t silence those who shout in the street.

Yes we can respect those who think differently and not call them worms or scum, those who want to “change everything that needs to be changed,” as Raul Castro himself is so fond of repeating.

If, for capturing these ideas in this article, they disappear me, then what is said about Camilo Cienfuegos is true. If after doing so, I die in a car accident, then what is said about Oswaldo Payá is true. If they put me in a car and drive me far away and release me in some other province without any money, or bruised in a gutter or threatened, then I am fighting for the right side, because Fidel fought against these things in the Batista dictatorship. The national president of the Federation of University Students said in her speech that Fidel was a friend who defended just causes.

I am defending a just cause, freedom and democracy, therefore I am not on the opposite site, I am not a terrorist nor a counterrevolutionary. I am a 41-year-old woman, married for 18 years, the mother of three children, Christian since I was 19, pastor of a church for 9 years. A licensed English Teacher and licensed in Sacred Theology.

I am a woman who years for changes and who has not lost faith or hope, because I believe “That Yes We Can.”

Legacy and End Point / Somos+, Pedro Acosta

Somos+, Pedro Acosta, 6 December 2016 — After your departure the Cuban people should be eternally grateful for:

The fall of the dictatorship. Fulfilling your political promises, especially the respect for the 1940 Constitution, the quick holding of free elections, and not placing yourself permanently in power.

For making us economically independent (??!), developing our industry and raising it to levels never before seen, diversifying production and eliminating our dependence on our dangerous neighbor to the north and transferring it first to the Socialist camp and then to the first ones who came along. Maintaining the boom and constantly growing our powerful sugar industry. continue reading

Also for giving us a dignified wage that allows us to live at ease. Because our children can savor a tasty breakfast, lunch and dinner. And the Cuban family has the possibility to enjoy some deserved vacations in the respectable hotels that adorn the national territory, including the keys.

For granting us a Social Security System that covers the basic needs of the human being and allows us to retire without having to depend on our families to maintain us or having to take up any task we can find to be able to subsist and not live by begging.

For giving us decent housing that resists hurricanes, with only 52% of the housing stock in the country in fair or poor condition. Because the stores have fair prices according to the generous income the government pays us. In addition to having at our disposal all kinds of new generation appliances.

Giving us free choice and having telephones, TV channels and internet and so having an excellent level of information and not being subject to the opinions of any individual or of the communication media.

For giving us free (??!) education and health care. And in the schools and hospitals having facilities and technologies sustained by country’s powerful economic development.

For giving us the chance to feel proud of the behavior and formal education of the population, especially the youth. For eradicating: gambling, prostitution, racism, marginalization, corruption and other evils of the past.

Establishing diligent public services and eliminating absurd bureaucratic and cumbersome procedures, with officials who feel proud of serving the people, for fulfilling an honorable duty.

Infinite thanks:

For not interfering in warring conflicts of any kind. And not squandering the country’s abundant resources. For respecting our free will and possessing an unsurpassed freedom of expression, given through the media.

For never having lied to the people and for expressing from the first day your intentions to implant socialism in Cuba.

Because with your example we learned to respect and never denigrate our compatriots with political opinions different from those proclaimed by the Communist Party, and the Organs of State Security never having repressed in any way the regime’s opponents, much less tried and condemned them under false accusations. With your actions jealously respecting the Constitution of the Republic.

For maintaining a clear separation between legislative, executive and judicial powers.

For giving us the best Electoral System in the world where others think and argue for us and for having the ability to know, through their biographies, the Deputies of the National Assembly, people who don’t need to be from the area where they are elected from and whom we have never seen in real life. For giving us the ability to elect the president of the county.

Also, for giving us, at 50 years, hopes that in the next 50 years it will be possible to find the right road.

For this and a thousand other things:


From Girl to Woman in Cuba / Somos+, Marcia Castillo Alvarez

Somos+, Marcia Castillo Alvarez, 7 December 2016 — Today I woke up with many thoughts and memories I’m trying to sort out, and it seems incredible to me how time passes and we with it. I remember when I was a girl, how I dreamt of and visioned the future, always wanting to see farther. I was raised in a humble home of peasant origin, with great thanks to Fidel and the Revolution, where I only heard about achievements and good things, but no one talked about mistakes.

As a girl I didn’t question myself, because in my fantasy, for me the whole world was good. At home, on the block, at school, i was raised as a disciple of José Martí, a patriot and a revolutionary. When I saw the comandante on the TV screen I saw him as an infallible giant. Along with my classmates I wonder what day the leader would day and how people would react and what would happen. continue reading

Today everything is different, I’m no longer a child, and unlike those times I have a lot of questions, and my way of thinking has changed. I wonder how a man who has imposed his way of thinking, his ideology, his thinking, however, he transcends history today. How millions of Cubans recognize his achievements, while in other areas our country is paralyzed in time. It is impossible not to talk about these things that touch us very closely every day.

How one man who fought for a single social class, “the humble,” had at his disposal the car he wanted, while the people barely had a bicycle. How he partook of delicious banquets, when the working class didn’t earn enough money to eat, not to mention the keys to hunting lodges, luxury hotels and places he visited, when a Cuban could go only if he or she received help from abroad or if their family came, and on occasions hundreds have died without being able even to visit the capital city of all Cubans. If I continued to cite examples it would take me a long time to finish, and the truth is, they want us to see something that in reality doesn’t exist.

Today I ask myself, is if worth investing our time and paying tribute to a person who manipulated, cheated, abused, lied, just to remain in power? Can we teach today’s children to follow the example of a person whose deeds do not correlate with his principles, words and ideas?

I invite you all to reflect and decide what to follow, what to teach and what to remember. But beyond the differences, all of us together can bet on a better country, where man is truly free, to choose and to act, and that the people who lead us, we can really know them and choose them.

I’m Telling You I’m Here / Somos+, Arlenys Miranda Mesa

Somos+, Arlenys Miranda Mesa, 4 December 2016 — Nine days of national mourning have been decreed for the death of Fidel Castro. Fidel has died, but it seems like he is still alive. However, we who are alive, it seems we are dead.

There are many ways one can be dead and not only physically or spiritually because of sin, as God says in his Word. From the moment we whisper to express what we believe or because we don’t want any trouble, denouncing the injustices that are committed daily in Cuba, we can talk about the death of the conscience.

Today I took my younger son to Gerardo Domenech School, located in Jovellanos, Matanzas, Cuba, and I found that they didn’t ring the bell, because they haven’t had any electricity since yesterday. I approached one of the teachers and asked how they could hold class in classrooms without light. Maybe they don’t know that the low light is affecting our children’s vision and this will affect them for life because they are in the midst of their development. continue reading

I asked, then, “Why hasn’t the fault been fixed?” She explained to to me that it’s not a fault, but that the school has a determined amount of kilowatts assigned to it for each month and when that is used up then there isn’t any more. She told me about the efforts to save electricity, and that includes they themselves turning off the lights, but it still isn’t enough and doesn’t last and that from now until December 5th there won’t be any more kilowatts assigned.

Other mothers present in the group complained and then I asked them, “Will we continue bringing our children to school so they can be educated and authorized to slowly lose their vision?” They looked at me as if I were an extraterrestrial, and seeing the boldness with which I spoke and with that expression that shows the death of the consciousness, they said: “Nothing can be done, you’re going to make problems for yourself.”

Then the teacher approached me to ask why I hadn’t entered my son in the Mathematics Olympiad. “Teacher,” I said, making use of the Holy Spirit for self-control, “I don’t know how to do these problems,” and she said, “why don’t you ask the other children?”

I answered, “Because the Olympiads, so far, have been optional, not obligatory, because I don’t have any interest in solving them, because I won’t get anything from it, nor will anyone else, because I have more complicated problems than the Olympiads to solve every day and they are these:

“What am I going to feed my children, how can I stretch my income, when I have to get a transurethral resection (RTU) for my dad who has spent two months with probes but his urethra is obstructed, and we already went to the National Hospital, the Naval Hospital, Oncology and they couldn’t do it, because the equipment for the procedure is broken.

“From Oncology they sent to the Almejeiras Brothers Hospital, and without going into the details, they saw us, and for more than 15 days we have been waiting for the miraculous phone call that says: Come to the hospital.

“How can I guarantee that my children can study in a university and that they can become what they want, and not have some career determined by someone else? How do I resolve the problems in some of the stores where they change the prices of the products, or they don’t label them and you have to ask the clerks one by one, as happened to me in the Varadero Airport?

“How do I know what I’m buying in the state stores are industry made products and not handmade as has happened?

“How can you tell our children during school hours to have us come to sign a pledge* to give continuity to the Revolutionary Concept expressed by Fidel, involving my children in political matters without consulting their parents?”

“Sure, they know it, but we don’t, they want us to keep Fidel alive and they are trying to keep us dead, with a conscience callous to the reality of our country. And I am saying this to you, that I am here.”

Note: In the Naval Hospital they only see military and their families. My father is seen as a combatant who already lost his hands in a detonator explosion, during maneuvers by the Territorial Troop Militias (MTT), preparing for ’the war in a time of peace’ in the year 1996.

*Translator’s note: Since Fidel Castro’s death, the government has set up gathering points all over the country where Cubans are asked to come and sign a loyalty oath to his Revolution.