Protest Time

If arrogant and contemptuous do not take urgent measures, and just sit around waiting for the protests, the next thing to arrive will be nothing other than Armageddon.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hildalgo, Miami, 6 November 2019 —  On Cuban tables the plates are almost empty, at the bus stops there are swells of people on the hunt for crowded transports, many homes on the verge of collapse are overcrowded with three and even four generations, and the blackouts and so-called “energy savings” increase the exhaustion and despair.

In Cuba, the current president of the United States, Donald Trump, is blamed for the calamities, his restrictive economic measures providing huge help to the leaders of the Palace of the Revolution by granting them a great alibi, despite the fact that the so-called período coyuntural (temporary period/crisis) was announced long before. But what does the latter matter? Is it not well known that people have little memory?

But they cannot deceive the academics, artists, journalists, professionals, civic activists and students, among others. That many today do not speak openly, or say otherwise, does not mean that they do not know. What they do is one thing, what they think another, and what they say something else, so far. continue reading

But everything has a limit. Despair and outrage can reach a point where they overcome prudence and fear, and empty pans can become musical instruments* of a national concert. This would not be all, because that symphony could be only the prelude to a storm. Any spark can light a fire.

A complaint on a corner can turn into a neighborhood protest and, from there, growing to a tsunami that sweeps the whole city is a matter of the blink of an eye.

Then there will be no mobs of repudiation or quick-response detachments that can stop crowds ravaging the stores, nor raging concentrations in the Plaza of the Revolution. What will the party leadership do then? Take to the streets in tanks? Repeat another Tiannanmen Square massacre? Cuba is not China, nor are we on the other side of the world, far from the West.

Then it will not be the fault of those who only sinned out of despair, or of the dissenters, or of imperialism, but of those who have not wanted to hear the voice of the people in time.

No one in their right mind who really loves their homeland wants this. Such a scenario can be avoided, and not through threats, arrests, or states of siege, because there will not be enough prisons to lock up so many people.

So far, only reforms have been made, but reform really means changing the structure. What needs to be done now is more than that. They can call it or interpret it as they wish, perhaps as a “revolution in the revolution,” but if they don’t make radical constructive changes from above, there will come changes, also radical, but destructive and from below.

What, then, should leadership do to avoid the latter? The keyword is called freedom. Proceed according to the advice of Abraham Lincoln, who said he destroyed his enemies by making them friends. Convert the self-employed into allies by lowering taxes and licensing costs.

Issue permits for many other professions and provide them with means of work, as well as permits to acquire microcredits from abroad, and you will see how in the midst of tribulations, miracles will be present everywhere, with people solving their problems on all sides.

The treasury coffers will be filled with money, because a swell of small informal producers will leave the black market to integrate into the formal economy. And if they want more productivity in state industries, share the profits with the workers who produce them and grant them the right to have a voice and vote in the affairs of their workplaces or companies.

Grant small agricultural producers freedom to sell their products at the market price to the population. Then many others will want to and give them land, because the State has enough to give and we will see how in a very short time the markets will be filled with fruits, vegetables, grains, and many other foods.

And if they want to get rid of the alleged “internal” enemies, allow human rights activists, those who have more credibility among the critics, to form a National Committee with access to all prisons on condition that reports of violations are delivered to them, which would be very advantageous.

First because they will have the opportunity to correct these evils without the need for international organizations to condemn them, and secondly because constructive criticisms would allow them to provide detailed information on what happens in the multiple instances and sectors, in order to correct them and prevent corrupt and abusive officials who might encourage anti-government animosities. Don’t kill the messenger!

Allow dissidents to run as candidates with the possibility of obtaining seats in the National Assembly, which will have, as an advantage, broadening the horizon of views in conflict resolution, and the framework of ideas that allow a greater variety of proposals for the prosperity of all the people.

I know that making these recommendations or similar ones is almost like demanding pears from the elm tree. But if only a small group of that leadership had the courage to ignore the warnings of the so-called “hard core” (those who are filled with dread even on hearing someone say “democracy”) and begin to take the steps that circumstances demand, they would not be alone, because the entire people would support them.

But if they ignore those who propose things like these and cross their arms, if they do not listen to the warnings of those who only wish to avoid greater evils to the country, if they continue to be arrogant and contemptuous ad do not take urgent measures, and wait for the time of the cacerolazos* — the protests — next will come nothing but Armageddon.

*Translator’s note: The original title of this post is “La hora de cacerolazos”: commonly in Latin American countries people protest by beating on empty pots and pans (cacerolas).

__________________

The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. You can help crowdfund a current project to develop an in depth multimedia report on dengue fever in Cuba; the goal is modest, only $2,000. Even small donations by a lot of people will add up fast. Thank you!

With Lie Detectors Instead Of Ballot Boxes, It Would Be Very Different Story

A group of people waiting to vote on the constitutional referendum. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, 27 February 2019 — Almost two and a half million Cubans refused to support a constitutional project that perpetuates the condition of the country as a private fiefdom of group that has ruled its people with an iron fist for six decades. And there would have been many more, if the police had not repressed the opposition campaigning for a NO vote, if they had not exercised intimidation over the voters and over volunteer observers who had the courage to watch the vote counting, and, finally, if they had not delayed, without any justification and very suspiciously, the announcement of the results.

However, despite all these irregularities, this number of citizens who did not approve the proposal, and that the oppressors could not hide, clearly shows, in my opinion, two things: the existence of a not insignificant share of the population that disagrees with the current situation in the country, which, even if it is a minority, because of its sheer size cannot be ignored, not only by the rest of the population, but also by world public opinion, and it is a share whose rights must be respected. And, on the other hand, it shows a growing advance in awareness, not so much in all the people, as in a generation born when this sexagenarian dictatorship had already entrenched itself in power. continue reading

They can no longer say, speaking categorically, that the people of Cuba support what they call “Revolution,” as they did up until now, when their support at the polls exceeded 90%. The ‘others’ whom they labeled “anti-patriotic,” now make up almost a third of the people. Starting now, if they want to be precise, they would have to recognize, consistent with official data provided by themselves, that part of the people do not support them.

And this story does not end yet; later we will see who are the people who are truly “anti-patriotic.” Because if we talk about the majority who did support them by marking YES, they did so out of fear, because of that psychotic condition they’ve been infected with from above: the incoherence between thinking, speaking and acting.

Because if there were lie detectors in the polling places instead of ballot boxes, it would be a whole different story. The main chains around the people, they carry inside themselves. It is necessary to break them. What is missing among almost everyone in this electorate who voted Yes, is not an awareness of the illegitimacy and fateful operation of this regime – which almost everyone is already convinced of – but the willingness to change.

If, under a dictatorship, the citizens cease to idolize the rulers, if they stop believing in the invincibility of the oppressors, if they believe they can reach a better future, if they stop fearing that the power will excommunicate and repress them, if they perceive that they could prosper a lot better than they do from receiving the gifts of the oppressors, and if they become aware of their rights and perceive themselves as free people, that single conviction will set them free, because they will begin to act as such, and then there will be no tanks or armed squads that can stop them.

The governed have the ability to make the rulers change their way of ruling, because those who rule need those who obey and no one governs without the consent of the governed. If they stop obeying, they stop ruling. If the ruler is on one road and the governed are on another, governability is lost and the ruler is forced to rectify the course.

Who doesn’t remember when, despite the fact that paladares (private restaurants) and the US dollar were prohibited during the Special Period, there was a paladar in every neighborhood and a great share of the people had dollars, and the government was forced to legalize them? But if the rulers cling to their whims, the response will be non-compliance, and just like there are not enough prisons to arrest millions of people, the ruler no longer rules and the ruled become the ruler.

Thus, the oppressed can conquer freedom without hatred or violence. Because “the powerless,” united, are more powerful than the power.

_____________________________

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

Twenty Reasons to Vote No

The text that will be subject to the plebiscite was not the result of a consensual labor among the diverse currents of opinion of the citizenship. Billboard: “My will, my Constitution. I am participating in the drafting of my Constitution.” (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, 5 February 2019 — Why should we vote “No” in the February 24 referendum on a new constitutional project? Of the many reasons, these twenty seem the most important.

1. Because the text that will be submitted to plebiscite was not the result of consensual labor among the different currents of opinion of the citizenship, as it would be in a democratically elected constituent assembly, but rather it was written by a team handpicked by the elite of a single party. Party is derived from “part”, so that said text is only the work of the interests of a sole line of thinking.

2. Because that constitution would institutionalize in perpetuity a one-party dictatorial regime implicit in Article 5, as well as the concentration of the three branches of the State, legislative executive and judicial, in the hands of that same elite. continue reading

3. Because this project aims to reaffirm the institutionalization of systematic violations of fundamental rights such as freedom of expression and of association, when in reality the opposite should be sought, the rule of law.

4. Because voting “Yes” would mean giving carte blanche to the same group that in 60 years has not been able to solve vital problems of the population such as the crisis in transportation, in housing and in shortages and that continues to offer the same failed remedies over and over.

5. Because Article 22 seeks to institutionalize the principle of equality in misery for the vast majority of citizens regarding the limit on properties that they may possess, even if they are acquired honestly by their own efforts or by their talent, which blocks the stimulus of creativity and productivity.

6. Because we need a Constitution that offers a legal framework for the protection of workers and retirees and, in particular, self-employed workers, artisans and artists to be free in their creativity and free in economic initiative for their prosperity, which allows freedom of unionization, right to strike and public demonstration.

7. Because the current project does not guarantee ending the policy of excessive restrictions and obstacles to self-employment, as well as the elimination of discrimination against Cubans living abroad in investing in their own country.

8. Because the new Constitution continues to perpetuate a politicized education under the exclusive control of the State, which implies generating culturally one-dimensional citizens, while at the same time, by excluding private education, parents are deprived of the right to choose for their children the type of education they prefer.

9. Because the deletion of Article 68 that defined marriage as “voluntarily arranged union between two people” leaves a gap in the constitutional text regarding the possibility of members of the LGTB community for cohabitation contracts that ensure basic rights such as that of inheritance.

10. Because the text leaves undefined a topic as vital as the death penalty, suspended but still officially in existence, which, because of the dramatic connotation in our history, must be abolished constitutionally. The life of any human being, regardless of his criminal responsibility, must be considered sacred.

11. Because if we can demonstrate that a considerable percentage of the population supports the No vote, even if it is not a majority, it would allow to demand, before international organizations, that the Cuban government be required to respect the rights of that significant part of the population in disagreement with the official policy.

12. Because a high number of No votes would help to create a civic conscience of resistance in the population before the arbitrary impositions of the current power — or any other power — against their rights and begin undermining the mentality of indolence or blind fanaticism.

13. The belief that voting Yes or No is irrelevant because there will be fraud does not take into account that many of the thousands or tens of thousands responsible for the fraud being carried out will not be able to negate their relatives and friends if there is a really significant number in favor of the No vote, and this would be important in raising the consciousness and willingness for change in the citizenry, the first step towards open expression in favor of a better Cuba.

14. The government’s thesis that voting No signifies opposing the supposed achievements in education and medical care by the regime does not hold, because those benefits whose iterations already existed before 1959 such as emergency medical care and public schools are seen as increasingly diminished by an unviable economic model, as the new Constitution does not propose any alternative model but a continuity of what has already failed; so voting No would mean, on the contrary, opting for a different  form of ensuring these universal rights.

15. The thesis that going to the polls, even if voting No, would mean legitimizing a fraudulent election, does not take into account that in many cases in which a dictatorship agreed to popular consultation in the belief that it would win, not even the potential frauds were enough to circumvent the popular decision, as was the case in the famous plebiscite in which Pinochet was defeated, or in the case of the electoral failure of the Sandinistas against Violeta Chamorro.

16. Because the option of abstaining is indirectly a Yes vote, since generally in no country is it interpreted as a rejection but more as a careless attitude of someone likely to vote Yes who doesn’t due to indifference. Silence gives consent. The No vote, on the other hand, leaves no room for doubt.

17. Nevertheless, due to harassment by pro-government elements to go to the polls, the vast majority of citizens who disagree with this proposal are more likely to attend and vote No, since they fear that their refusal to vote will mark them as malcontents by the regime.

18. Every annulled or absent vote subtracts power from the opposition against an adversary that never splits their vote, because it would be as if the opposition presented three separate candidates against the sole candidate of the authorities. They have only one slogan: Vote Yes. The opposition must not act differently with respect to the No vote, but keep the unique slogan: Everyone Vote No!

19. Because this continent lives a historical moment in which the dictatorships of the so-called “socialism of the 21st century” are in retreat thanks to the decisions and courage of the citizens of those countries, and taking into account the role played by our country in that process, we should do no less but instead go to the source of the evil to eradicate it, and this is justly the first step: vote No!

20. Finally, taking into account all the above reasons, it is necessary to vote No, also for our personal satisfaction, not only because it is our duty as citizens, but also because we must be true to ourselves and act accordingly to how we think. Every time we reject an arbitrary and unjust imposition, something very beautiful is reaffirmed within us.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

_______________________

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

Rescuing Jose Marti from His Kidnappers

Part of the image from the cover of the book The One and Only José Martí: Principal Opponent of Fidel Castro.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, January 28, 2019 — Photographs of José Martí were never missing from the offices of any of the Cuban presidents. It didn’t matter if their actions contradicted the ideas of that great master who would have pronounced these words from the prophet Isaiah with respect to the Castro regime’s leaders: “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”

They considered Martí “the intellectual author of the attack on the Moncada Barracks,” and although many of those who fought and died in that action felt truly committed to those ideals — The Centennial Generation, they called themselves — they were all betrayed when that leadership not only prolonged the wrongs against which they had fought by not restoring the Constitution or holding free elections. continue reading

It deepened with the installment of a military dictatorship with absolute powers and institutionalized the violations of fundamental rights and freedoms, something that they want to reaffirm now with the approval of a spurious Constitution.

Much repeated is this phrase: “Martí promised it to you and Fidel fulfilled it for you.” In my opinion this is the worst mockery and the worst calumny that can be thrown against any honorable man. Now, to top it off, this thing that they call “Revolution” is described as “Marxist, Leninist, and Martí-ist.”

Under this regime the Seminars for Martí Studies are held each year, and a center for the study of his thoughts was created. Although more than a few intellectuals hide behind Martí to make a covert complaint against Castroism, his appropriation by the oppressors was carried out with the pretext of his Latin American and anti-imperialist ideas.

It is true that Martí advocated the unity of the peoples of Our America, for what he conceived as a great homeland (“From the Rio Grande to Patagonia there is no more than one people”), and that he opposed the expansionism of the United States (the “seven-league giants”). But he himself had expressed that he loved “the land of Lincoln” just as he feared “the homeland of [Augustus K.] Cutting,” two interests at odds still today.

These aspects of Martí thought were taken advantage of by the group installed in power with the intention of gathering the support of the Latin American peoples and of maintaining, in the international arena, the idea that the Cuban problem was summed up in the contradiction between a small country that was supposedly fighting for its sovereignty and the aims of a large empire that was trying to subjugate it, to conceal the real contradiction: a group that has turned an entire country into a large fiefdom and a people subjected to the most humiliating conditions.

Many thousands of Cubans have passed through prisons without having attacked or insulted anybody, without destroying even a lightbulb, only for having expressed ideas different from the policy dictated by the ideological secretariat of the governing party, be it under the cause of “enemy propaganda” or that of “contempt,” something diametrically opposed to the ideology of Martí.

In Martí’s conception of democratic revolution, the right to free expression is sacred. This key principle in his thought, which is an insurmountable wall between him and that leadership, can be read repeatedly in his Complete Works. “Respect for liberty and different thought, even of the most unhappy entity, is my fanaticism: if I die, or they kill me, it will be for that,” he wrote. Or: “I feel as if they kill a child of mine every time that they deprive a man of his right to think.”

Another type of Martí’s thoughts that the authorities try to sidestep are those that refer critically to ideological aspects that touch them closely. Of those, the one that they have most dared to cite is that of Martí’s reservations about Marx, because along with the criticism there is some praise, like this: “Profound observer of the reason for human miseries and the destinies of men and man eaten by the yearning to do well.”

But he also declares: “He went in a hurry and a little in the shadows, without seeing that children who have not had a natural and laborious gestation are not born viable, neither from the womb of the people in history, nor from the womb of the woman in the home,” which seems to indicate that Martí reflected upon the importance of a development process of civic consciousness in order to achieve, peacefully, a just social order, which he reiterates when he says: “Shameful the forced turning of some men into beasts for the benefit of others, but a way out of indignation has to be sought, so that the beast ceases without getting out of control and frightening.”

Martí, it is necessary to clarify, was not only an apostle for independence but also of social justice, but he didn’t stop harshly criticizing those who, in the name of that justice, intended to raise themselves up and lord over humble people.

In the article Future Slavery, about an essay by the English philosopher Herbert Spencer, Martí refers very clearly to the model known as state socialism, later incubated in the gloomy Russia of Stalin and which Cubans have been suffering for 60 years.

In these societies where all riches would be under the control of the state, he warns, “the number of public employees [would increase] in a terrible manner. With every new function, a new stock of officials would come.” He adds: “From being his own servant, man would pass to become the servant of the state. From being the slave of capitalists, as they call him now, he would go to being the slave of officials.” And he concludes: “The servitude will be lamentable, and general.”

Another text is the letter to his friend Fermín Valdés Domínguez in 1894. The latter had communicated his participation in activity for May 1 along with socialists and anarchists, and Martí warned him about “the dangers of the socialist idea.” Among them “the arrogance and furtive rage of the ambitious, who to raise themselves in the world begin by pretending to be, to have shoulders on which to rise, fierce defenders of the helpless.” But at the same time he warns him that such objections do not mean the abandonment of the ideal of social justice, because “of how nobly must be judged an aspiration: and not for this or that wart that human passion puts on it.”

Today, when the citizenry is expected to approve by referendum the constitutional institutionalization of the violations of their fundamental rights and liberties, it’s necessary to rescue Martí from those kidnappers with the same bravery with which Agramonte rescued Sanguily in the middle of the scrubland. To make very clear that the emblematic image of those rights and liberties is that of Martí, and that, as a consequence, we, defenders of those guarantees, have more right than they to claim it.

If all those groups opposed to that sacrilege meet in a place of cyberspace in a campaign to vote No on the Constitutional referendum on 24 February, and declare themselves in permanent convention, even to face the tasks that duty will set for us after the referendum, that cause itself must carry the name of José Martí.

No image brings together more Cubans than his does. Martí unites. Martí includes. As far as I’m concerned, that convention in honor of Martí not only must be created, but must not be dissolved until those rights and liberties have achieved a definitive victory.

If its members claim that name before global public opinion and do not respond with insults to their offenders, nor resist arrest before their oppressors, it would be a great victory if the international media reports that the followers of Martí, only because of their being that, are being persecuted and harrassed in the homeland of Martí.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

_____________________

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

The Triumph and Defeat of the Cuban Dissidence

Photo taken in the Combinado del Este prison, in Havana, during a visit made in 2013 by the national and international press on the Island. (EFE/Archivo)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, 14 January 2019 — The dissidence, as an organized civic movement, wasn’t born in Cuba until 1983. At the beginning of October of that year, I found myself in Combinado del Este prison, serving eight years for a manuscript critical of the political system, when I met a new prisoner: Ricardo Bofill had been active in the Youth of the Popular Socialist Party and had already been in prison in 1967 for the charge of “Microfaction” (expressing differences with the Party line). For several weeks, we exchanged impressions and ideas.

At that time I was worried about the subhuman situation of a friend in solitary confinement in the walled off cells and Bofill said he had connections with foreign press agencies to send them a complaint. He even offered to help me write it, but he maintained that we had to sign it with our own names so that it would have credibility, something that was until then inconceivable in political imprisonment. continue reading

We wrote it, on the back he wrote his name and underneath I put my own. To my surprise, at the end Bofill added: “Cuban Pro Human Rights Committee.” Then, next to his name he wrote “president” and next to mine, “vicepresident.” I didn’t attach any importance to that.

I didn’t make a note of the day as a memorable date. For me it was only about helping a friend, but when the information reached abroad, the headline wasn’t his case, but the creation, for the first time in Cuba, of a committee of human rights.

Right away, Bofill sent messages to Gustavo Arcos Bergnes, who had participated with Fidel and Raul Castro in the attack of the Moncada Barracks and who was isolated in a separate cell, and to Elizardo Sánchez, social democratic activist, who was in Boniato prison in Santiago de Cuba. Both responded positively. Three more prisoners in Combinado joined up.

The Committee was already created, but repression didn’t take long. Some were put in isolation, among them Bofill, who was then admitted to a room in the prison hospital. He remained there for a long period of time until they took him out for an unknown destination. We didn’t know if they had taken him to another prison, to his home in Cuba, or abroad, which is why in a meeting of the Committee members, I was elected, on a provisional basis, acting president.

Then began the development of a strategic plan. Prison became an immense laboratory, a model for what could later be the dissident movement throughout the country.

We helped to group together many political prisoners according to their activities: an association of writers and artists, another of religious figures from different churches, and the Liga Cívica Martiana [Martí Civic League].

The writers’ group created their own magazine, El Disidente, which we used to write by hand and came to number more than 60 pages, so perfect that it seemed printed. Various copies circulated around the prison, and some were even covertly taken out and circulated through the streets, others were sent abroad and some extracts were published in El Nuevo Herald in Miami.

Sometimes, State Security raided our cells and we had to start again, so we had to hide each page we produced really well. All the groups ended up working in such a united way in the interest of the prisoners that, one way or another, each and every one did some type of job, so that the authorities had to rely on us for any change in the criminal division.

That was how, more or less, we wanted it to be on a societal level. A support committee should have been founded from every social sector in defense of its interests: for journalists, for teachers, religious figures, artists, self-employed people, and so on.

When all these committees were strengthened with the support of their respective branches, they should have joined together in a federation of social self-defense to peacefully confront, in the name of all of civil society, the totalitarian power. We calculated that, carrying out this plan like we intended it, it would not take 10 or 15 years for the great changes that we desired to be made. And we were in 1985.

Our complaints led to an international scandal and the Government found itself obligated to allow the inspection of prisons by representatives of different international bodies.

In 1988 I accepted an offer of freedom on the condition that I left the country, a form of unofficial exile. On the afternoon of August 4, a little more than a month before a UN commission would enter Combinado del Esta, they took me out of my cell and I was brought to José Martí International Airport.

The Cuban Government was condemned at the United Nations. The movement spread all over the country and has been the only one in the opposition, in six decades, that has managed to remain without being destroyed despite threats, harassment, persecution, arrests, and long sentences.

This meant a great victory. The answer is that new dictatorships, whether they are communist or of the so-called socialism of the 21st century, prepare to confront their adversaries on a level of violence, but when faced with nonviolence, they are disoriented.

However, the movement failed in the most important thing: obtaining the support of different social sectors. What went wrong?

The main reason was a shift of discourse in many groups. Abroad, until the middle of the 90s, a great majority of exiles viewed the dissidence as a governmental trick to fabricate an easily manipulated opposition. Among the few who believed was the activist and actress Teté Machado. Together we founded the first center of support for dissidents, the Buró de Información de Derechos Humanos [Information Bureau for Human Rights] (Infoburo).

For several years Teté was the voice of the entire dissident movement at the most important conclaves all over the world. But when some dissidents overshadowed the leadership in exile, powerful political organizations offered material and media support to several of their leaders in exchange for support for their own demands, like supporting the embargo and opposing travel and remittances.

Those who accepted, by adopting a rhetoric totally contrary to the interests of the population, lost contact with her and were moved to social marginalization. Other groups, although they did not adopt that rhetoric, did not fully assume their social commitment.

So we arrived at a dead end: neither the Government was capable of exterminating the dissidence, nor was the dissidence capable of defeating the Government. Only those groups — very few — loyal to the original commitment, received large support and became the most numerous.

With these reflections I would like to invite others to make a critical analysis.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

_______________________________

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

The True Path is Not to Weaken the Oppressor but to Strengthen the Oppressed

The ‘boteros’ (self-employed taxi drivers) drove empty during their ’strike’ on the 23rd street in Havana and did not stop for passengers, as a sign of protest. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, 21 December 2018 — The tug-of-war between a government leadership accustomed to impose its will like an absolute monarch and the sectors of the citizenship that are beginning to energetically claim their rights through peaceful resistance as actors of an emerging civil society, has come to the fore in recent months, especially in December of 2018, a year that, when it concludes, will mark sixty years of the same group in power. These days of protest show conclusions and lessons that we can not fail to point out:

1. The offensive of government restrictions such as the paquetazo* and Decree 349, is a clear indication of the concern of the Party-State leadership, and in particular of the hard-line sector, over the development of civil society in recent times: independent galleries, alternative theaters, private recording studios, blogs, the unbridled growth of the self-employed market, in particular the paladares (private restaurants), the private transporters and an infinity of micro-businesses with a wide variety of services. continue reading

This is something reminiscent of the growth of the Third State on the eve of the French Revolution in the face of the excessive obstacles of the feudal monarchy. In this case, it is a living and creative force, both economically and culturally, against a political-military superstructure that slows down its development.

2. The power has made a serious mistake in imposing such unpopular measures less than three months from the date chosen to carry out the popular consultation on its proposed constitutional reform, probably because of its confidence that it can continue to benefit from the consent of the population.

Either because of indolence or fear, or, in the later instance, because they feel they can manipulate the results of the referendum to their benefit without unfavorable consequences, as has been done on previous occasions, or because they underestimate the response capacity of civil society, including the protests of well-known personalities which, until now, have distinguished themselves by their support for that leadership.

The result has been a malaise that the opposition could exploit in favor of the campaign to vote NO on the constitutional reform.

3. The granting of access to the Internet through cell phones on the same day, December 6, when the restrictions announced against artists and self-employed workers came into force, shows that their main objective was to divert the attention of the population to better weather the storm of protests. The internet access had been delayed by the fear of unleashing the “untamed wild colt” of the internet on the population with their computers and cell phones.

The new telecommunications technology undermines all centralized structures, mainly totalitarian models, as it breaks the monopoly of government information, dissemination and propaganda, enables rapid communication between citizens in different locations, and facilitates the recording of the outrages of the authorities and a rapid international dissemination through mass communication networks.

The oppressors, especially those who hide behind Marxist ideology, know very well how the changes of social regimes take place, a theory embodied by Marx himself in “A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy,” where he wrote “the productive forces” (read: technology) “when reaching a certain stage of development (…) are in contradiction with the relations of existing production” (read: the economic-political structures of the oppressors) which generates a deep crisis of the system, “and thus opens an era of social revolution,” that is, a time of profound changes.

4. The fact that after the start of the protests the regime reacted by reversing some of the announced restrictions means that citizens (that is, those nominally without power) do exercise power when they become aware of their rights and express, publicly, their willingness to change.

5. The opposition must take note of the magnitude of the protests in general that far surpassed the most numerous of its political demonstrations and adjust, accordingly, its steps and its demands. Instead of urging the population to join them, they must unite themselves with that population in their demands and support them as much as possible, focusing on their immediate needs.

To the extent that they give their support to these spontaneous initiatives, they will achieve the sympathies and support of the people, they will gain prestige, and even, in this way, they will be able to call on them when they need to reach more far-reaching goals.

*Translator’s note: A package of restrictions tightening the conditions of self-employment.

____________________________

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

60 Years of Permanent War

Fidel Castro entering Havana on January 8, 1959

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, 1 January 2019 — A group of men — not a generation, but the so-called “historical leadership” along with their hand-picked successors — is celebrating 60 years in power this week,  without ever giving the Cuban people the right to choose another option.

They celebrate it without any modesty, when they should rather be ashamed. In their own official ’History’ program they insulted a president of the 1930s because he tried to extend his term for three or four more years, a president who industrialized the country, embellished the cities with beautiful buildings and roads, and who, when he left, he left behind — in what had been a country in foreign hands with sugar factories worked by semi-slaves — a modern and prosperous country that excited the admiration of all the foreigners who visited it, and that in many respects was at the head of all Latin America. continue reading

That president had been democratically elected, while those who today celebrate six decades of uninterrupted power came to it by violence, executing, without guarantees of due process, hundreds of soldiers, and perpetrating a vile betrayal of the ideals of many of their own comrades who had given their blood to restore the Constitution abolished after the 1952 military coup, in addition to celebrating the free elections that that coup had prevented. The caudillo himself had slammed the door on all those martyrs when he asked, during a public rally: “Elections, what for?”

This group has done the opposite of what that president from the 1930s did. It has turned its people into one of the poorest of the continent, as if we had just emerged from a devastating war, with ruins everywhere, including those of most of the sugar mills, after having been the first country in the world in that industry. Today the Cuban people must stand in long lines for a piece of bread and crowd the streets struggling to access any vehicle that moves, because public transport has almost disappeared.

The money obtained from the high prices of sugar in the 1970s and that paid by the inflated prices paid by the Soviet Union — tens of millions, hundreds, thousands of millions — were squandered in wars on other continents to the satisfaction of that leader’s narcissism, while his people suffered precariousness of all kinds.

Was it all the fault of the enemy of the North and its blockade? What kind of blockade is this that, despite itself, Cuba has maintained trade relations with almost every country in the world, and today, even with the farmers of the United States itself? The US embargo only served as an alibi to justify all the disasters provoked by the whims of an omnipotent ruler.

What war is that? What enemy confronts this people? Because he spent his life in an indefinite state of siege, in perpetual suspension of constitutional guarantees, and in a call to ’action stations’, one after the other, waiting for a foreign invasion that supposedly would arrive to ravage the country and seize our homeland. He warned that, if it happened, that enemy would only collect “the dust of our soil drowned in blood.”

Did that invasion ever happen? For almost the whole world it never came to pass. But I say yes, this invasion has been ongoing since the first of these 720 months, and still, to this day, continues to devastate the country.

Because the enemy of this nation is that group in power. The real blockade against this people is imposed by that group with all its bureaucratic obstacles, its prohibitions, its censorship, its persecutions and expropriations of hundreds of thousands of independent workers, and even the semi-slave exploitation of tens of thousands of employees and professionals from whom it takes more than 80% of their salaries.

Everything has been done in the name of “the Revolution.” During these 60 years there has been constant talk of “defending the Revolution,” the Revolution is alive, the Revolution first of all, “within the Revolution, everything, outside the Revolution, nothing,” and so on.

According to the most in vogue definition of that word — “violent change in the political institutions of a nation” — that revolution occurred in Cuba in the first nine years.

That is to say, more than 50 years ago it was over, despite the fact that it is still spoken of in the present, something that no longer exists — or never existed if we consider that it was the result of a betrayal — a ghost that presents itself everywhere like an embalmed corpse that is intended to be believed to still alive, as when Juana La Loca dragged the remains of her beloved Felipe el Hermoso throughout the kingdom of Spain.

It’s time to lay bare the lie once and for all. Here there is nothing revolutionary and much less an elite in power, only a group of reactionaries in a dictatorial cupula trying to perpetuate an unsustainable model that even the caudillo himself, shortly before dying, recognized was unviable: “This model doesn’t even work for Cubans,” he said.

The real war that has ravaged this nation is the one that this group has maintained against its own people for six decades with its insane decrees. And if it continues in power, the aforementioned warning will probably come true and our country will have nothing left but that: the dust of our soil drowned in blood.

 ________________________

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

The Regenerative Power of NO!

“This project has not been prepared by a Constituent Assembly composed of delegates elected through an electoral process with all the guarantees.” Source: Granma, Cuba’s major newspaper, owned Communist Party.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, 1 December 2018 — A patriarchal group that has governed Cuba for 60 years is presenting a project for a revised constitution to become the law of the country. But this cosntitutional project has not been prepared by a Constituent Assembly, one composed of delegates chosen through an electoral process with all the guarantees of free and fair elections, as is supposed to be done in a truly democratic country. Rather it was prepared by a team of hand-picked editors.

The word ‘party’ comes from ‘part’, so it is clear that this project represents only a part of the population and not all the currents of thought among the citizenship, so it cannot really be considered the fruit of the popular will. This revised Constitution would reaffirm the violation of elementary rights of human beings, rights such as free association, free expression and the free activity of citizens to seek their own prosperity. The response of citizens before this consultation should be: No! continue reading

Our great problem as a nation is that we have spent our existence saying ‘Yes’ or, at least, shutting up when we should have said ‘No’. When a group of soldiers perpetrated a coup to overthrow a democratically elected president and abolish the Constitution, we did not throw ourselves into the streets to shout with one voice: “No!” And that was the beginning of our current misfortunes.

Then a group of supposed redeemers arrived and, in gratitude for our presumed liberation, we blindly obeyed everything they imposed on us. Why have free elections? Why reinstate the violated Constitution if those chosen by providence were there to guide us on a path of freedom and prosperity? If you idolize a caudillo and elevate him to an altar, that false god will rule your destiny with an iron fist.

This group that at other times has also persecuted and repressed citizens for their sexual orientation, for their religious practices and even for their artistic preferences, and who later had to tolerate even the veneration of a saint, the gay pride celebrations, and even erect a statue to John Lennon, has not ceased to be the same, but has had to yield to the swell of the people practicing civil disobedience in silence.

Now is the time to impose the right to think differently and to respect the different options and preferences of the population in spheres such as the economy, the social and the political, and for all us us to united in a single force to say ‘No’ to this constitution that they want to impose on us.

There are those who still believe that the correct attitude is to abstain, to refuse to go to the polls in response to the electoral consultations staged by the powers-that-be, that everything is a farce, that they will manipulate the counting of the votes and that the ‘consultation’ on the revised constitution will be legitimized by the attendance at the polls of those without power.

But this option to abstain has been chosen many times and has been repeated before the deaf ears of citizens for whom it is not easy to abstain in a country where one’s absence at the polling stations marks you as disaffected and where the pro-government organizations pressure you to participate, while it is less noticed to go and vote ‘No’ in the privacy of the polling place.

And today, in this world, abstention is nothing new in any country, but rather the most frequent response of a humanity tired of corruption and the lies of politicians. It is not seen as rejection but as laziness, a laziness that in a certain way also means acceptance, because those who call the elections win. That is why we must urge citizens to go to the polls and to vote ‘No’.

That Power will to manipulate the results is known, but with an overwhelming vote in favor of ‘No’ the truth would filter out through all corners and crevices, and run through different and unsuspected trajectories, like the flood of a river. And if the majority is reached, a vigorous minority will suffice to be impressive in a world where fear has always reigned, and where unanimity is demanded. And it will send a clear message to those who still collaborate with the regime, whether through fear, opportunism, or ignorance, among which there are officials, soldiers, and Party militants.

Let them know that the winds are already blowing in the opposite direction, announcing the proximity of a renewing storm. And if the fearful begin to lose their fear, and the opportunists to rethink their unconditional support, and the ignorant to question what until then they accepted blindly, that will be the beginning of the end of that world built on the basis of the lie.

Because no one governs without the consent of the governed, that is, of the people or a part of that people, and if this part finally decides to live in the truth, that world crumbles like night shadows before the luminous rays of dawn.

The campaign for ‘No’, could also bear an invaluable fruit: the confluence of the renewing forces that fight for change. The real fronts and coalitions are not made around a table, but in joint work and struggle. And there is no time more than now that requires the bringing together of all the opposition ranks in a single force capable of peacefully defeating ‘Yes’.

Because this campaign could not win any isolated group against a regime that has a monopoly over all the mass media. But in the face of a united front for ‘No’, it would be able to achieve victory. Our differences, our different projects and perspectives, a reflection of the polychromatic richness that we represent, far from distancing us, unites us like a rainbow in the defense of freedom of thought in the face of those who want to impose, by force, a sterile unanimity.

A consensual, measured call is needed, one that convincingly exposes the reasons for voting ‘No’, the fruit of the representative ranks of all currents of thought that, consequently, can be presented, alien to all partisanship and ideology, in the name of — and as the voice of — a whole civil society that until today has remained silent, gagged by censorship.

It could, with the cooperation of all, be published on all the networks, blogs and circulated hand-to-hand in neighborhoods, workplaces, universities, in theaters and seminars and other cultural activities, and thus expose Power’s manipulation of the results.

Such a joint document would not require its editors to gather at any meeting place, it would not take more travel than browsing through cyberspace, or more room to host delegates than a virtual site.

There is no need to fear campaigning for ‘No’, because it is a legitimate right to inform citizens about the other side of the coin of what the leadership wants to impose through coercion and fear. Because in a real popular consultation in which it is legal to vote for one of the two options, and Power has all the means to advocate for one of them, it must also be lawful to defend the opposite option.

Let us all be united in a single force capable of peacefully defeating the governmental proposal. Everyone vote ‘No’!

 ________________________

Editor’s note: Ariel Hidaldo is a writer and historian.

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