What Cuban Doctors are Thinking / Somos+, Kaned Garrido

Somos+, Kaned Garrido, 21 September 2015 — Cuban doctors have sustained everybody’s health for decades. The reason Cuban medicine has such prestige is because of the incredible effort of its professionals. The same as Cuban teachers, doctors earn very little. They spend years and years at their careers, and later in service to the country.

That’s the reason we have quality education and healthcare in Cuba. Not by some magical social politics nor because we want to take money away from the rich, like Robin Hood. It’s because of dedicated professionals and the rest of the Cuban workers who finance the expenses, all with pathetic salaries.

But it’s not easy work to sustain such a good health service in a country with such an unproductive economy. This burden ends up falling on the shoulders of Cuban doctors. Some choose the path of the missions in the Exterior to earn a little more. Others prefer to leave the island. So we need to know what they think.

These are the opinions of doctors who presently work in Cuba.

Doctor R. M. earns 1100 pesos (44 CUC, or about US$50) a month. Her specialty is general medicine. She describes her work conditions like this:  continue reading

Dialogue… If They Allow Us / 14ymedio and Somos+, Manuel Mons

Pope Francis meeting with the youth of the Felix Varela Cultural Center and University Students Federation in Havana Sunday. (Manuel Mons / 14ymedio)

14ymedio and Somos+, Manuel Mons, Havana, 22 September 2015 — Several months ago, when the young students of Father Felix Varela Cultural Center learned about the Pope Francis’ visit to Cuba, joy spread among us. Especially when we learned that the Pope’s agenda also included a private meeting with all the students. However, the joy was short lived and the concept we had at that time was completely transformed. continue reading

It became a public event where young students at the Center would have no special deference in comparison with the rest of the guests. But still the excitement of meeting in person the Bishop of Rome and hearing from him, meant that from two in the afternoon on Sunday, hundreds of us gathered near the place on the Malecon, waiting for the permission to come in.

Metal barriers blocked the way and security guards repeated to each question: “Until prior notice, no one can enter.” After a long time outside, the students of the Center got together and decided to contact the rector, Father Yosvany Carvajal. In this way it was made possible that there would ba at least a small advantage for the students of the Center and that we would be the first to go enter in order to be as close as possible to Pope Francis.

We had still long hours ahead under the heat, standing and thirsty, but they were borne with great joy. Bishops from Haiti, Mexico, Spain, United States and Cuba, went up to the podium to thank everyone for their presence, and in addition to introducing themselves, they expressed their best wishes towards the people and the Cuban youth.

An excellent concert by Martin Valverde made the hours pass quickly and also helped to cope with a last-minute rain which delayed the meeting with Pope Francis.

Finally there he was. I confess I expected a happier Pope and a longer and more intense exchange with those present, but the experience of that afternoon filled me with satisfaction. Concepts such as reconciliation, hope and dialogue with the opponent made me feel free, as I had not felt for a very long time. His main message about understanding and talking with those who think differently brought tears to my eyes. Especially because, when Pope Francis uttered that phrase, a chorus resonated out of the crowd saying: “If they allow us.”

An Excuse to Visit Florida / Somos+, Niurvys Roca

1441983797_11125416_10153141503475326_1712893181_n1Listen to the podcast: HERE.

Somos+, Niurvys Roca, 11 September 2015 — I was traveling from New Jersey to Florida with butterflies fluttering in my stomach. It felt like a first date. At the time I was thinking about how great it was going to be to meet Cubans who shared my passion and commitment to bring about real change in our country. I was rehearsing what we might say, what tone we might use so that it what would not sound like a monotone speech to those who have been disconnected from our political culture and to those hoping for a new vision they can believe in. Ultimately, it was simply about the opportunity to speak from the heart without concern for generational differences.

The big day arrived. Though we had had little sleep and were were facing threats of a hurricane, we decided to go ahead with our event. August 29, 2015 was the first meeting of our Somos+ Club. We drank toasts to the possibility of meeting regularly and sharing activities with other clubs that will be starting up soon, working in collaboration under our umbrella organization.*

I have had the opportunity to take part in something that will go down in the annals of our country’s history, a history that has begun and is happening now. To listen, debate and share opinions in one of a series of extended discussions… this is really a dream come true.

Bravo, Somos+ for all the work and interest you put into every topic. I am proud to know we are growing every day, not only in numbers but in human quailty and surprising talent. A special thanks to everyone in the working group that had faith this could be done and risked everything in spite of our inexperience. Now no one shall surrender!

*Translator’s note: Somos+ is a Cuban political organization founded in 2015 by Eliecer Avila, who gained notoriety in 2007 when he publicly challenged National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcon during a meeting with Cuban university students.

Final Declaration of the Second National Conference of the Somos+ Movement / Somos+

Final Declaration of the Second National Conference of the Somos+ Movement – Havana, Cuba, 13 September 2015

We find it unacceptable and offensive that the police tried to thwart this meeting. As distinguished, responsible, Cuban adults, who have not broken the law or caused anyone harm, we demand respect for our organization, movement, and freedom of expression. Especially at a time when the government has recently made amends with its “historic enemy,” it is inconceivable that its citizens are still persecuted for thinking and speaking honestly.

We are happy to hear the news of the humanitarian release of 3,500 prisoners. However, we think that those who were deprived of their freedom for political reasons should be at the top of the list. This is the case of Danilo Maldonado, also known as El Sexto (The Sixth). continue reading

We welcome Pope Francis. We are honored by his visit and we hope that his blessings pave the way to peace, harmony, and a long overdue national dialogue about the present and future of this country.

We support the citizen’s initiative for the proposal of a New Electoral Law, which various civil society organizations are also pushing for. This proposal will allow Cubans to directly participate in the presidential elections and in a plurality of political options, as this is the only guarantee of stability, reconciliation, and progress.

We express our complete solidarity and support to our dearly beloved Cuban artist Juan Carlos Cremata, who has recently fallen victim to personal attack and censorship of his work by a biased institution that does not legitimately represent the artists and much less the true spirit of art.

We’d like to congratulate the international affiliates of our movement for their efforts in the coming together of this wonderful project. We thank them for their constant support and send them our best wishes from Cuba. Moreover, we are convinced that no matter what corner of the world we are in, we are Cubans above all else and we share the same rights and responsibilities before our homeland.

We are committed to moving forward, rightfully, waving the flags that have defined us from the start. Respect, constant effort, commitment to the truth, thoughtful initiatives, love, and faithfulness to democratic principles as indispensable foundations of the future that together we will build.

Photo Gallery

 Translated by the Spanish 360 class at Dickinson College

13 September 2015

It Is Time to Demand Our Freedoms / Somos+, Richard Cores

Somos+, Richard A. Cores, 15 September 2015 — In a moment of reflection, I remembered the wise words of a great hero and civil rights leader in United States history, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He said “freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”

I thought of all those Cubans who want to say publicly what they really think, and who cannot because of fear of being persecuted or punished by their own government. Those Cuban citizens who want to be free to express themselves freely, whether in words, in artistic works, and even in books, which germinate in their minds, only to wither and die when they are never published. These rights, which are enjoyed by most civilized people throughout the world, were also recognized by Cuba (at least at the United Nations headquarters in New York) on February 28, 2008, when the Cuban Foreign Minister at the time, Felipe Perez Roque, signed two international convenants on human rights. continue reading

By signing the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the signatory states (including Cuba) agreed to:

(Article 1) Respect and protect the rights of its people to self-determination and to freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.

(Article 9) The right to freedom, personal security, and to not be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention.

(Article 12) The right to freely leave and enter one’s own country.

(Article 18) The right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, including the freedom to manifest one’s beliefs in public and private.

(Article 19) The right to freedom of expression; to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing, or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of one’s choosing.

(Articles 21 and 22) The right to peacefully and freely assemble and associate with other people.

There are other items of utmost importance, including those contained in the second accord, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (also signed by Cuba), which requires the signatory states to protect the right of every person to a fair wage, and other freedoms, which are continually violated and trampled by the Cuban government while it says it protects them.

Our national hero José Martí said “You take rights, you don’t ask for them; you grab them, you don’t beg for them.”

My reflection is not tainted by hatred, by empty complaints, much less by defeat. Indeed, I feel that today more than ever it is necessary to have a spirit of hope based on concrete ideas and sound principles that will bring tangible changes to the Cuban people.

Enough of apathy, failure, and injustice! It’s time to believe again that change is possible. This is the perfect time to demand from the oppressor, as Dr. King said, that freedom they did not want to give the Cuban people. It is time to demand the right to a public and respectful debate to discuss openly and without fear of reprisal issues of just governance, a prosperous economy for everyone, a better educational system, free access to the Internet, and many more.

The only way this can happen without bloodshed or fomenting more violence is through civil dialogue and forming a new collective, civic, and coherent consciousness among the Cuban people. Perhaps some will view this approach skeptically, but I believe it will surely bring lasting fruit in the near future.

I do believe in a Cuba full of talent, of innate strength, and of young people who clamor to see a modern country, developed and prosperous, even though they do not yet know how to make these changes. That is the need we want to meet with fresh perspectives, common sense, and a sound foundation. Let us welcome the change and the hope that will replace the conformism and apathy in young Cubans so that they will demand what rightfully belongs to them.

Translated by Tomás A.

From Political Violence to Citizen Participation / Somos+, Alfonso Susano

Alfonso Susano, 20 August 2015 — The highest level of conscience is required amongst those who practice politics. On the other hand, the same activity which should promote liberty and creativity of individuals can transform into the worst form of violence and suffering.

As the years pass by, various forms of political violence have been identified.

Genocide, which can be described as the deliberate and systematic destruction, entirely or in part, of an ethnic group, race, religion or nationality, is one such method of political violence. The Armenian genocide is a perfect example. The violations of human rights, recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the countries which make up the United Nations which define these violations as follows: slavery, violence towards gender, racial discrimination, harassment, etc… Different types of wars, political brutality and paramilitaries (Tonton Macoutes, etc…) and organizations like the Ku Klux Klan. Hunger, for example, was decreed by Stalin to exterminate seven million Ukrainians. continue reading

Other examples include insurgencies, guerilla warfare, urban guerilla warfare, or violent rebellion of the natives of a country against their government or political form. We also find counterinsurgency, defined as the violent repression of the insurgence, by the power of the state, also known as state sponsored terrorism, recurring proceedings such as political assassinations defined as extrajudicial execution or kidnapping or extrajudicial incarceration or by reserved order. Terrorism is, in reality, a form of insurgency. Torture, capital punishment, forced migrations, internal displacements and refugees are all included. There is also brain washing or, “political re-education.”

As we can see, the government is not the only entity capable of political violence. When there is an urban guerrilla war, or violent rebellion of natives of a country against their government or political form, we are generating political violence.

The role of political violence has been studied throughout history. Theologians, philosophers, historians, political analysts, and sociologists have undertaken this task, such as Thomas Aquinas, who in the XIII century authorized the popular uprising of the people against tyrannical governments and in the XVI century.

For Niccolo Machiavelli, the reason of state justifies, at times, the lesser evil, to avoid the greater evil and cruelty can be excused in a just government, due to the fact that politics is a reality foreign to all morality, if it is indeed human beings which are to be governed.

In the XIX century, Karl Marx affirmed that “violence is the comrade of history” and thus authorized by class warfare and historic materialism. His friend and follower Friedrich Engels wrote in such regard an un-concluded rehearsal: The Role of Violence in History (1888).

The sociologist Georges Sorel also studied this phenomenon in his Reflections On Violence (1908), where he authorizes in certain forms the use of terrorism for social and political purposes. He offers the legitimacy of violent political actions in the a posteriori success of it. As Pedro Calderon De La Barca wrote in his book, Life is a Dream, when in the third journey design civil war, “in such battles/ the victors are loyal/ the vanquished are traitors.”

SOMOS+ believes that nothing can justify the use of violence; there are always peaceful ways to achieve our objectives, although it would take a longer time and would require greater work effort. It is easy to vanquish by bullets, and the worst thing that can happen to any country in any part of the world are these violent revolutions where the country can sometimes remain divided for centuries. There are countries where peace, harmony, and a common path to success have not been found, precisely due to the killing of parents, grandparents, close family members in some moment in time so that even the children and grandchildren continue in the same conflict.

When it comes to our movement, as Eliecer Avila demonstrates: “the only weapons we have to count on are our words, our discussions, our truth.”

I think we need to understand very well, the significance of the word, “politics.”

It is the science that is charged with the study of the State’s public power. Following with this definition, politics is the exercise of power that seeks a transcendent end. It promotes participation of citizens, and possessing the capacity to distribute and execute such power according to what is necessary, to promote the common good in a society.

This implies that a government should work to find growth in all aspects that a country needs, creating space for the citizens to participate in the good of all and not that the people should work so that only they could find their common good. “Common” sounds too much like that word…

Communism, as the name implies, is a political movement whose doctrine is based in Marxism and, according to such, has by principle the objective the transitory taking of the power of the State for the creation of a social revolution, which through three phases, implants a Socialist/Communist economic organization, based on the collective control of production and consumption.

Historically, the various communist parties adopted, under their leadership, the works of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, as doctrine and “Political – Revolutionary” programs.  This was simplified under the name of “Marxism,” with the power grab by the Communists in Russia under the command of Vladimir Lenin in October of 1917.

Political-Revolutionary, is nevertheless participation by the citizen, the word “political” is discarded and we are left with the word “revolutionary.” Political violence is a method commonly used not only by the Communist regime, but also by people and governments of the whole world, to achieve “political” objectives, that is, related to legislative, executive and judicial powers of a State.

It demonstrates a concept which is habitually used in political and social sciences, which makes reference to the destruction of or physical attempts against objects, institutions, or persons–the selection of victims and damages– whose purpose, staging and effects possess political significance intending to modify the behavior of the protagonists in a situation of negotiation through means of a consummate coercion.

In general, political violence is usually clarified by the legitimate constituted power as felonies such as assault or vandalism, but the end, (assuming that there is a purpose) it is purely political, though the means are violent.

SOMOS+ (WE ARE MORE) is a peaceful movement, a movement of ideas, of debate, where we believe that these should be the weapons of political modernity in the 21st century, promoting tolerance and respect towards the right to think differently.

“These are the weapons of peace” and they are based on the participation of citizens, where a group of young people and even those who are not so young, have made an analysis of the situation of the spheres in which we live: economic, political, and social.

Proposals have been created where we affirm that: we believe that the culture should be this way; we believe that the economy should pass through certain determined trajectories so that it can flourish; we believe that a military should function on the foundations of democracy and determine the best way to safeguard not only national sovereignty but to protect the human rights of society.

We also believe that politics should be pluralistic and participatory, where citizens can become actively involved, in and outside of Cuba.

We have compiled an integrating set of proposals of a country, of a nation, to share with all the people so that they see how many of us think the same way and how many of us believe that change is needed in Cuba.

These are the reason that SOMOS+ seeks the participation of citizens. What is citizen participation?

The term citizen participation is the conjunction of actions or initiatives which intend to inspire participatory democracy to flourish locally through the integration of the community to the exercise of politics. It is based on various mechanisms so that the population can have access to the decisions of the government in an independent way, with no need to become part of the public administration or of a political party.

Another way in which citizen participation is made manifest is through NGOs, which place emphasis on certain social subjects without intervention in governmental functions, rather evaluated, in order to support them or democratically seek to remove or substitute them. It can also be proposed through the discussion of important subject matter to the citizens in organized forums or through other venues in order to arrive at a consensus.

Nevertheless, since none of this exists in Cuba we are inviting all of the Cuban people to join us, to begin to think like a nation, to feel like a nation, to study all the proposals that exist and weigh the options, their options, and to decide on a correct path. Where there are fewer judges and more parties. One must join and participate and taste the delicious savor of helping to build the future that you desire!

Somos+ Official Statement, Sept 12, 2015, 11:55 am / Somos+

Somos+ Movement

Official Statement, Sept 12, 2015, 11:55 am

Given the increasing involvement of people within the country in the movement and the human and professional quality of them, we set this Sunday, 13 September, to hold our Second National Council.

The main objective is to further strengthen our provincial structures and to continue with the improvement and the exchange of ideas between our members. Throughout this week we learned that several people who planned participate in our meeting, including our national coordinator Manuel Días Mons, were “visited” by or summoned by the police. continue reading

This morning we confirmed that Yohana Columbie, Municipal Education Methodologist, was detained in the Police Unit of the Céspedes municipality in Camaguey and remains under arrest at this time. She is being helpd to prevent her traveling to travel to Havana for the meeting, in a clear violation of her legitimate right. Yohana’s phone is +53 54247379.

The only way we can explain the various events that have marked the last few months of the repressive atmosphere in Cuba, is that State Security has launched a drive to infuse fear and to orchestrate a sabotage of the process of negotiations with United States and the “normalization” mentioned by Raul Castro.

Far from being consistent with the demand for the end of the embargo, every day they undertake new actions to assure that the United States Congress will never approve the lifting of the embargo.

This is the cause which we, from Cuban Civil Society, fight for and believe in: the well-being and opportunities to all Cubans.

You can follow events from our blog en.somosmascuba.com, facebook and twitter.

Are all Latin American Left Wings the Same? / Somos+, Kaned Garrido

Somos+, Kaned Garrido, 26 August 2015 — You may think that the answer is “yes,” that their speeches always speak of “socialism,” of “the power of the people,” of the ” rich and poor. ”  However, a study by the University of the Andes in Colombia found some interesting differences.

It measured the relationship between a personalistic style of government and the level of approval of the presidency in the region. Among other things, the study found a crucial difference between the Latin American left wings. Although their speeches sound the same to many, they are actually very different. continue reading

Throughout the world, debates are waged over whether the state should intervene more in the economy. There are socialists who say that the root of all evil is the free market. Others believe that the problem is too much intervention with the poor and the bureaucracy.

It is true that there are some who break this consensus. Latin American presidents such as Maduro, Correa, Morales and Kirchner do not stop at debate–they also create profound conflicts with the opposition. They become argumentative and end up attacking institutions.

But this does not mean that the entire Latin American left is this way. The biggest moral blow to these authoritarian presidents is not from the right, but rather from the democratic left, itself.

This tends to draw attention to the least favored. It encourages the seeking of equality among persons, and greater sensitivity towards the environment. Meanwhile, the right reminds us that idealism is not enough to construct the future. An understanding of market logic and of the nature of the modern economy are necessary.

Today we have all kinds of combinations and we cannot divide them drastically. There are leaders of the left who are conscious of market logic, and leaders of the right with very responsible social and environmental policies.

There is no need to view these differences as a conflict, as a human defect, but rather as a debate that enriches our decision-making. The only flags that should not be lowered are those of freedom of expression and the opportunity to participate equitably. And not all Latin American left wings deny them.

The governments of Uruguay and Venezuela could be viewed as comparable because of their popularity and appeal. However, ex-President Mujica handled democratic institutionality quite differently. A libertarian such as Gloria Álvarez can discuss her proposed reforms to the justice system and communication media, but it is undeniable that the Uruguayan ex-president did not attack democracy as did the Venezuelan government.

President Michelle Bachelet also exemplifies a left-wing that respects institutions. She has promoted social policies such as education without having to set the stage on fire with her opponents; unlike in Ecuador, where President Correa’s governing style has been deeply polarizing with media and the opposition.

It is very important for us Cubans to understand this. To achieve a new democracy in Cuba, it will be necessary to build bridges with the left and the right; to drink from both cups; to listen to each group and individual and see how they can enrich us; to renounce authoritarianism and promote peaceful debate.

It will not be hatred of the left, but rather love for democracy, which will bring Cuba back.

Here are some conclusions from the study, “Because I love you, I support you“:

“Thanks to this method of mediation, we demonstrate that there exist  distinct repertoires of action within the personalistic style of government that would not permit referring to the so-called Latin American ’new left’ as a homogenous group of leaders. Presidents such as Hugo Chávez and José Mujica share an ideology and the establishment of an emotional relationship with the electorate.

“However, they are separated by their relationship with democratic institutionality. The first modified the institutional frame according to his political agenda, concentrating power in the person of the executive. The second has governed tied to an institutionality that transcends the person of the president. Now, it is presidents such as Hugo Chávez and Álvaro Uribe who, despite the ideological breach that divided them, ended up as brothers insofar as their style of governing: emotionally close to the electorate, and marked by some authoritarian hues.

“This result turns out to be quite relevant to the present Latin American context, for it highlights that the political agendas of the left that promote an egalitarian and participative democracy, and which have been set in motion through the establishment of very close ties between the presidents and the electorate, do no necessarily intend to supersede institutionality and the balance of powers.”

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

To the Diaspora / Somos+, Manuel Diaz Mons

”  . . we are a family, a team, our duty is to look out for each other . . . that is the only way to achieve the objective for which we struggle . . .”
Carlos, Somos+

Somos+, Manuel Diaz Mons, 9 September 2015 — I’m sure if Maceo and Agramonte had achieved this feeling during the Ten Years’ War, there would have been no need for a war in 1895, much less the political upheavals that followed. The lack of unity and the failure to gather enough support has cost many lives in this country. But today, despite everything we have lived through, there are those who indulge in dividing, marginalizing, and forgetting.

“Divide and rule” or “divide and conquer” is a control technique of the ruling class that has yielded excellent results in Cuba. The current government does it, Batista did it, and so did many before. This political tactic allows the central power, no matter how small it may be, to dominate millions of people very easily: just by creating disputes between factions a significant deterioration can be provoked between them, thus hindering alliances and and collaborations.

Born in Cuba and organized by Cubans, Somos+ is one of the social movements that has for a little while escaped the government’s virus of unfounded suspicion, and all because we Cubans here inside the island decided to remove the blindfolds from our eyes and reach out to those outside, to the diaspora that we had viewed as enemies, but who are mostly just young people who have learned from the mistakes of Maceo, who above all have read and understood the importance that Martí placed on unity, and who for a long time have been reaching out to us.

A diaspora willing to create, collaborate, and even to sacrifice everything in order to support those inside, a diaspora with modern names like Carlos, Nelson, Titina and Iliana. A diaspora that deserves the respect of all and that Felix Varela would be as proud of as I am.

Translated by Tomás A.

Somos+ to Launch its First Foreign Group in Florida / Somos+

Translation of the video:

I am pleased to announce that the Somos+ movement will open its first site outside Cuba on Saturday, August 29th, 2015. From twenty-nine countries we chose the United States as a platform for this important event. And it is Florida that opens its doors to us so we can move forward with more strength as an alternative political movement for change. That change that is you, that is me, that is all of us. We are more. Somos+

Translation of Spanish summary:

The time has come to organize our efforts territorially and to instituionalize our goals. To follow our news and stay connected, and to actively participate, visit our section SÚMATE, #ElCambioEresTú.

28 August 2015

A Second and Even More Important Literacy Campaign / Somos+, Guennady Rodriguez and Javier Cabrera

Somos+, Guennady Rodriguez and Javier Cabrera, 17 July 2015 — The literacy campaign was an important chapter in the romantic years of the Revolution. Forgetting the propaganda factor, it was a national effort and it brought out the most noble of its protagonists. To aspire for every Cuban to be able to read and write is still a high standard for our human and patriotic duty.

The results of the campaign were successful. Within only three years, the illiteracy rate declined from more than 20% before 1958 to 3.9% by 1961. This brought opportunities to around 707,000 Cubans, who, as of this moment, were able to have a broader access to information and culture. This was the modern equivalent of getting Cubans “online” with universal knowledge. continue reading

Today, however, we use criteria different from that of the 20th century to determine whether a person is “literate” or not. In pre-digital societies, people were only required to be trained in the print media. In this century it is essential to know how to get to the information and resources on the Internet, and how to interact in digital social networks.

In 2015, Cuba stands as one of the least connected countries in the world. This is a serious problem that the new generations are inheriting. It is absolutely contradictory to be boasting about the great aspirations of public education while limiting universal and complete access to the Web.

This is a national emergency and it will not be solved with a “drop-by-drop” Internet, because every day other societies exponentially increase their skills in these information fields, becoming more competitive. We know that there is a plan by ETECSA — the State telecommunications company — to connect 50% of Cubans by 2020, but… shouldn’t we be coherent with the standards of ha digitally literate in less than three years…? For every day of delay our youth pay a high price…

Would the Cuban government and people be willing to promote a digital literacy campaign, inside and outside the island, with the same magnitude of the one in those inaugural moments?

The answer may be “no,” because the conditions are different; and it may not be related to resources or awareness issues, but rather to issues of control. In the previous literacy campaign, people received school supplies, books, a backpack and a smile. It was simple and controlled, like a movie script.

But this new technology has broken everything, so disruptive and irreverent. Expectations are there before the first class; and how not to fail? How to teach without speaking of packages, connections, networks, scope, content, emails, opinions, blogs, online jobs, sharing, etc.? However, not doing so evidences the failure. An illiterate man in this century is a failed man.

For both cultural and spiritual purposes, Internet access and mastery of its potential should be as high a priority as education and medicine are today. The full access to information and the ability to interact globally are today problems of human dignity.

It does not matter whether we can foresee a “no” for an answer. It is our duty to put in the hands of the Cuban institutions our willingness to bring a digital literacy campaign to our country, and to promote this national effort as necessary, as our consciousness demands.


Ecured – campaña de alfabetización

Cuba Promete internet para todos en el 2020

Open space for all Cubans / Somos+, Manuel Diaz Mons

Somos+, 18 July 2015 — Many times I heard about the existence of this “Espacio Abierto” (Open Forum) however, from the beginning I decided to enclose it in quotes; in Cuba, there is nothing so inclusive! Used to the constitutionally legal and obligatory silence, lack of spirituality and double standards, it was impossible for me to believe in a respectful dialogue among the diversity, and much less if it was about Cuban dissidents; those who, according to the official press, do everything for money. With Fidel everything and without Fidel nothing! Or at least so I thought.

Being a member of the Somos+ movement, has definitely been a real transition in my life, it has been like being reborn in a different Cuba, where everything is possible as long as courage and desire walk together. continue reading

Last July 16, I had the honor of representing Somos+ in a forum called Espacio Abierto de la Sociedad Civil Cubana (Cuban Civil Society Open Forum) and to my surprise, the quotes were not necessary. Organized at the headquarters of 14ymedio and with representatives of a large majority of independent political, social and cultural organizations, this meeting was held with the healthiest and friendliest of the intentions, a better Cuba.

With Miriam Celaya as moderator and a down to earth agenda, the meeting took place with interventions from people who could easily be classified as experts: Dagoberto Valdes, Director of the magazine Convivencia, José Conrada, a Catholic priest, the young Saul R. Quiala, from the Social Democratic Party of Cuba and the journalist Reinaldo Escobar, among many others.

As a result of this important and respectful event, three important agreements were reached:

  • To call for a National Dialogue where all Cubans can participate.
  • To request by official letter to His Holiness, Pope Francis, an agreement to receive one by one, every representation of the Cuban Civil Society on his next visit to the island, and act as guarantor in the calling for a National Dialogue.
  • To speak out with an official statement of Espacio Abierto de la Sociedad Civil Cubana, against the repression of the independent civil society.

At this meeting, where is not forbidden to think differently, and unanimity is almost impossible, I learned that a democratic alternative is what we all want and respect and good listening are the main ingredients to achieve it.

From John Paul II to Francis: Opening and Reconciliation, the Path Towards Change (II) / Somos+, Carlos Hernandez

Somos+, 10 August 2105 — Between March 26th and 28th , 2012, His Holiness Benedict XVI, today Pope Emeritus of the Roman Catholic Church, conducted a very intensive visit to Cuba as a “Pilgrim of Charity”. In his farewell speech in a ceremonial hall at the José Martí International Airport in Havana he expressed:

“The present hour claims in such an urgent way that in human, national and international coexistence, immovable positions and unilateral viewpoints, which tend to make understanding more difficult and collaborative effort ineffective, should be cast out. Possible discrepancies and difficulties have to be solved by looking tirelessly for what unites everyone, with patient and sincere dialogue, mutual understanding and a loyal willingness to listen, that accepts goals filled with new hope.”

The words of the Holy Father, connected in the same line to the ones of his predecessor, re-evoke the patient and true dialogue, in order for reality to change and with it the life of the Cuban nation. continue reading

As a result of this trip the commemoration of Good Friday as a holiday was legally stablished by the government.The Catholic Church also mediated for the release of almost all political prisoners convicted from the Black Spring, although this process had already begun months earlier when preparations for the Pope’s visit to Cuba were initiated, involving the unprecedented dialogue between the Church and General Raul Castro, after he assumed the presidency of the State Council of the Republic.

Progress was also made on the construction of the Seminary of San Carlos and San Ambrosio in Havana, the first ever approved to be built after the dictatorship was installed in power. A process of returning properties previously expropriated from the Catholic Church and other religious confessions started as well. The Church was allowed to start training people on different issues like economics, business administration and many other aspects.

If we value all these events with a pragmatic perspective, we can see how they have created different scenarios of dialogue and concessions from the government, in this case with the Catholic Church or through it.

However it is true that it didn’t happen with the speed and depth desired and needed. The General and his subordinates know that they don’t have much time, they don’t have the messianic mysticism of the bearded commander and because of their age, the situation does not grant them much time to maneuver. Of course no change glimpsed by them would be for an opening towards the Rule of Law, democratic and inclusive we aspire to. But they had never before been in such a vulnerable position.

At the same time some questions arise: Why has the dictator has not held a dialog with the opposition? Why did he do so with the Catholic Church and not the opposition? Is it realistic to expect an opening from the regime to democracy, dialogue and national reconciliation through peaceful means?

First we must remember that for the communist hierarchy and its political-military machinery, the Catholic Church has always been considered a powerful adversary, part of the “counterrevolutionary worms” that had to be crushed, suppressed and exterminated.

Then, by starting a dialogue with representatives of the Church, they have begun the dialogue with a section of the opposition. It’s true they have not spoken to political parties or social movements of the rest of civil society, or the exile.

But it would be unwise and even little serious to ignore the church as an institution that brings together many Cubans and has never been aligned with the government, but rather repressed, silenced, exiled, slandered and discredited by Castro’s propaganda and all its institutional machinery.

The Church’s social doctrine does not encourage violence and demands – in its coherent dialogue — a series of well-defined objectives that are supported by the hundreds of thousands of the Cuban Catholics it represents.

The opposition, which grows tinged by different political parties or social movements, has no doctrine or alternative program that most people are familiar with or that a large majority of the people assume with full identity.

Let’s recall the Varela project and also take that example. After the thousands of signatures submitted to the National Assembly, the emeritus tyrant called a referendum to further radicalize the constitution of the Republic, knowing that the sympathy that project had aroused in the population was real and although it was not a large percentage of the citizens who signed it, there were indeed millions who watched that project with total support. Unfortunately, the political circumstances at the time were not those of today.

We must analyze whether the demands of opposition groups match the ones of the majority of Cuban citizens, if there is harmony between what the parties consider important and what people regard as important.

Meanwhile, the General continues to dialogue with the “empire.” Embassies got opened, tourists come over, there is a galloping increase of commercial contracts, dollars get multiplied and gross domestic product grows. Many other changes will be introduced by the dictatorship.

It is up to our intelligence and wisdom whether Cuba opens up to Cubans in peace with all its magnificent potential, or instead, we give them once again another chance without having to respond to popular discontent and to their discredit act against a Cuba for all Cubans. The dismantling of the regime and the reconstruction of the nation can only be achieved by non-violent means. That is the only field of operations for which they are not prepared.

Another Catholic Pope, Francis, through whom the opening dialogue has been materialized with our new “fellows of the Turbulent North and no longer brutal” comes to Cuba. His message this time is as a “missionary of Mercy”. We’ll listen to the bishop of Rome speaking – in perfect Spanish — to the people about reconciliation, forgiveness, peaceful coexistence, and respect for the ideas of all…

And I do not rule out a more bold statement considering his performance in previous visits to different countries since he began his pontificate. This is not about putting our hopes on the Pope, but the opportunity for the people to hear and comprehend what that message means.

SOMOS+ (#WeAreMore) the citizens that every day long for a change. Blessed be the one who comes in the name of the Lord.

What Flag Was Raised in Cuba Today? / Somos+

Somos+, 14 August 2105 — Today the American flag was raised in Cuba. But was it a flag of victory or defeat, and for whom? And in the coming years how will the story ultimately play out?

Was this appropriate for Cuba? Will this set us back, or propel us toward democracy?

After 70 years, a U.S. Secretary of State could say on Cuban soil:

“We are convinced that the people of Cuba would be better served with a genuine democracy, to be able to express their ideas, to choose their leaders.”

Calls for democracy, and the place where they are uttered, are crucial to driving change. To demand freedom of speech for Cuba in Washington, or by a senior official meeting with the Cuban Foreign Minister in the White House, is not the same thing as doing it in front of the Malecon. Still, many are concerned that the rights of Cubans are being forgotten. And that business is being placed above the needs of freedom.

Outside the island the Cuban community is polarized. But it’s amazing how the opinions of Cubans on the island tend to be in favor. And apart from the repression, it really seems to have a spirit of support within Cuba.

They aren’t in agreement with the situation, but believe that the restoration of relations will improve things. It’s the desire for change. For decades, we’ve been in the same situation, and there are more chances for change happening by doing something different than by continuing along the same line.

Cubans are tired of the conflict, of the interminable discussions that don’t solve problems, even though we’re not sure how we will promote this change. We don’t know what influence the U.S. Embassy will have on the decisions that Raul Castro will make in the coming years. We don’t know if Cuba will open up politically, and if the government will allow political parties and independent media.

History also calms us. Trade openings in authoritarian regimes haven’t led directly to democracy. There are dictators who rule with an iron hand and have business relations with the whole planet. But history is not 100% predictable. Political science tells us there’s something called multicausality. There is no single cause or single factor. There are many variables at play. We can’t compare ourselves with Vietnam or China. We have our own situation, our own geography, and our own history. And our will can always determine our destiny.

The blockade has hasn’t caused Cuba to change. There is a belief that the regime is supported by the amount of wealth it has. But if it didn’t collapse during the Special Period, why should it now?

No matter how rich or poor, the system will remain as long as people depend on the government. The main obstacle to expressing yourself in Cuba is the threat of losing your job and source of income.

China is not a good example of economic independence, because the private sector is so tightly tied to the state; there is thereforelittle room for dissent. President Obama mentioned something crucial during these months of debate: the restoration of trade relations could help individual Cubans become independent of the state. And this may be the most important argument in favor of Cuban-American relations.

If the opening of relations achieves economic liberation for individual Cubans, however minimally, a great step will have been taken to democratize Cuba. The rest, the other 90% required, we will have to take ourselves.

Translated by Tomás A.

The Visit of Pope Francis Presents the Opposition with a New Test / Somos+

Somos+, Eliecer Avila, 15 July 2015 — The upcoming visit of Pope Francis sets the stage for a new opportunity for civil society and the political opposition to live up to the expectations of thousands of Cubans inside and outside the country, who have waited for a long time for a coherent and dignified performance by a true force for change.

On previous occasions, when we have had the opportunity to exercise political influence and make a positive impact on public opinion—mainly in front of Cubans on the island—someone has always managed to polarize the effort and portray us as divided and quarreling, unable to work together to achieve a minimum degree of strategic consensus. continue reading

Some organizations are already taking steps so their representatives will be received by the pontiff. Many of us have never understood what external criteria have been established to select those who deserve the vote of legitimacy bestowed by the handshake of universally prominent figures.

I suppose the impossibility of doing internal surveys, or of finding someplace to gauge the opinion of the people about those involved in political and civil society, forces many advisers to favor the most colorful, no matter whether positive or negative, because in any case they stand out.

This, coupled with some external efforts of those who have mastered the cunning tricks and have the contacts, results in the same sacred and impassable media ghetto.

From my point of view, the Civil Society Open Forum is an ideal place for coordinating the plural and inclusive message that Pope Francis should receive, given the high level of agreement by the principals and organizations among our ranks.

The ideal would be to choose a delegation capable of fulfilling with seriousness, elegance, refinement, and professionalism the mission of conveying the unified message of all Cubans who make up this seed of democracy, this free and independent island pulsating within the country.

Hopefully we can begin to carry out good democratic training for this and other similar situations. It is time to practice at home what we propose for the country.

Translated by Tomás A.

Originally published in 14ymedio.