The Revolution and its Functional Illiterates / Diario de Cuba, Jorge Olivera Castillo

diariodecubalogoDiario de Cuba, Jorge Olivera Castillo, Havana, 23 April 2015 — According to a close friend, no fewer than half of the graduates of Cuban universities during the last 50 years, have been graduated in vain.”

Such an assertion might be considered distorted and extremist, but the reality outweighs the data that continue to have no place in the official press nor in the other spaces controlled by the State-Party.

From the start, what counted was massiveness. The only insurmountable barrier to higher education is ideological divergences. The slogan about the university being “only for revolutionaries” is kept as current as on the first day it was proclaimed from the platforms and acclaimed by the multitudes. continue reading

Intelligence and suitability became secondary factors to be considered during the university admissions process.

If we add to such follies the regression in teaching methodologies and the limitations in using new technologies, conclusions are easily reached that have nothing in common with the statistics that overstate successes and promote perspectives that are realized, only and exclusively, in the reports by the officials.

In this scenario it is normal for the diploma which documents a university graduation to often be a false trail.

At times, all it takes is a simple conversation to confirm ignorance about key topics in national history and other subjects that taught in junior high and high school.

There are cases in which abilities are limited to a subject studied and do not signify an excellent education.

The future consolidation of capitalism in Cuba is a prospect that generates little enthusiasm for many who display with ill-concealed pride their university degree.

In such a context it will be impossible to cover up the many gaps in knowledge.

What will dictate standards is competitiveness – not participation in acts of revolutionary reaffirmation and other contrivances that exemplify the culture of social parasitism and the institutionalization of fraud as a norm of citizenship in the struggle for survival.

It is a shame to have invested so many material and human resources for such poor results.

The collapse of the paradigms of Caribbean-style socialism is a phenomenon undergoing its final phase.

Among the ruins that exceed their figurative framework to showcase their leading role across the country are those of the Ministry of Education.

In this act of the tragedy, what stands out is the army of functional illiterates coming out of the classrooms of the Revolution.

One of the legacies of a project that failed and whose founders refuse to accept the verdict of history.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

The “Opening” by “Granma” / Diario de Cuba, Hildebrando Chaviano Montes

In a passage about today’s elections, the Communist Party newspaper “Granma” says that “every citizen has the right to a single vote […] regardless of [his] political position.”

DiariodeCuba, Hildebrando Chaviano Montes*, Havana, 19 April 2015 — The daily Granma, in its Wednesday, April 15 edition, brings a timid message of opening hidden in an article about the Cuban electoral system.  The mention that “in the process of electing delegates to the Municipal Assemblies the vote is characterized as being:  free, equal, secret, direct, nominal and preferential (Prieto Valdes and Perez Hernandez)” may not call the attention of many readers.

However, the mentioned authors make a contribution to the Constitution of the Republic itself when they explain that “every citizen has the right to a single vote and of equal value, without regard to race, religious belief, skin color, political position.”

The passage, although incomplete in my opinion, obviously is supported and inspired by Article 42 of the Cuban Constitution which says:  “Discrimination on the basis of race, skin color, sex, national origin, religious belief, and any other offense against human dignity is proscribed and prohibited by law.” continue reading

The substitution, however, of the phrase “any other offense against human dignity” by the more specific “political position” is noteworthy for being the first time that there appears in the official organ of the Communist Party an admission that different political positions exist in Cuba and above all, that they have equal value.

The express recognition by the mentioned jurists that Cuban political thought is not a single one but is rich in its diversity, as in any other country on the globe, is the first public gesture that could lead to a lifting of the strict blockade on ideas imposed since 1959.  Some may think that the Government is manipulating a sensitive topic in order to ingratiate itself with old and new friends, but at this point speculating with pretty words does not seem smart.

Moreover, and at the risk of being accused of being a dreamer, naïve and even a collaborationist, this could well be the antecedent of future changes announced in an obsolete Constitution whose roots date to 1917 and which stopped being justifiable many years ago, above all in Latin America, a natural environment in which Cuba seeks to insert itself but where the left is not entirely red but more pink, generally respecting the market economy and democratic institutions.

“Chavista” Venezuela constitutes the exception to the political pragmatism of the Latin American left; taken by the hand of Castro I, it jumped into the abyss into which apparently Castro II does not wish to accompany it; he increasingly distances himself from his predecessor, undoing as he can the inherited absolutist framework.

Triana Cordovi in Economics and Prieto Valdes and Perez Hernandez in Law, are for the moment isolated authorized voices whose academic discourse has nothing to do with the Real Socialism defended with shouts and blows in Panama a few days ago.

All of Cuban society is obligated to force the necessary changes.  In the same way that according to those illustrious professors the votes of those who have a different political position are equally valid, so is the candidacy of anyone who does not profess the Communist faith.

Discrimination on the basis of political ideas is as offensive to human dignity as racial discrimination; a change with respect to the official discourse tempered with the current times would go a long the way to replace the absurd ideological hatreds with tolerance and civilized dialog among all Cubans, for the good of all Cuba.

*Translator’s note: Hildebrando Chaviano Montes is an opposition candidate for the local People’s Power; the regime allowed his candidacy but his “biography” (the only campaigning allowed) identifies him as a “counterrevolutionary… funded by foreign groups.”

Translated by MLK

Monopolies? Neither state-run nor foreign-owned are wanted here / Diario de Cuba, Pedro Campos

Opinions of an entrepreneur in view of the new economic scenario.

diariodecubalogoPedro Campos, Havana, 17 March 2015 — Alex Castro, son of Fidel Castro, declared recently that McDonald’s and Coca Cola are welcome in Cuba. Of course, he must have been speaking in a personal or family capacity, being that he does not hold any representative office.

In this regard it is worth noting that, from the viewpoint of participative and democratic socialism, state-run monopolies harm the economy as much as foreign-owned ones. Both block the development of productive forces and, especially, the decline in costs and prices of raw materials and finished products.

In state-run, centralized economies such as the Cuban one, or in more liberal capitalism, such as that of the United States, monopolies that control economic and market niches are also great sources of corruption, and of the destruction of continue reading

consumer goods in order to maintain high prices.

Examples of the consequences of monopolistic control abound in the economic literature dating back from more than century ago, and in particular in the international press, and in Cuba’s own official media.

Having consulted the owners of a restaurant that serves fast food (and of high quality), they told me they agree that relations between the US and Cuba should be normalized, but that, for obvious reasons, they are not so enthusiastic about the eventual arrival of McDonald’s in Cuba.

One of these young entrepreneurs told me, “Obama promised help for small businesses, and for the empowerment of the people – not an invasion of large transnational corporations which, instead of helping the self-employed and cooperatives, would try to monopolize our markets, and consequently sink us.

“We are against the big monopolies on principle. We believe that the essence of imperialism is in the big monopolies. We are anti-imperialists not because of politics, but for our need to survive,” he said.

“This is not from a fear of competition,” he added. “We can compete in terms of quality and price even with McDonald’s itself, whose hamburgers are actually not mainly made of meat. Our hamburger is indeed nutritious, mostly pork, and is not junk food, as McDonald’s offerings have been internationally declared to be.”

He also remarked that his business does not pay salaries to its workers, but rather a fixed share of the profits, for which the employees perform with a sense of ownership, even though they are not owners. They all work enthusiastically, taking care of the small restaurant’s means and resources, and they strive to provide the best quality and service.

This restaurateur surmises that Alex Castro may have had the opportunity to try McDonald’s. “He must have liked it very much, to have given it a welcome in the name of Cuba, without having taken into account the Cuban population, the majority of which has not had that opportunity,” he said.

It is also possible that Alex Castro has not tried the hamburgers made in the private Cuban restaurants which lend prestige to our national cuisine – unlike those inefficient little state-run establishments – with far fewer resources than that transnational corporation, but with much higher quality.

I should add that if those Cubans who are self-employed or in cooperatives could count on half the access McDonald’s has to the market for acquiring raw materials, and if the National Tax Administration Office and the inspectors of the various government agencies wouldn’t interfere with them so much in search of reasons to close them down, any foreign business would be hard-pressed to compete with our native enterprises in terms of quality and prices.

In fact, among the causes of the State’s non-declared war against the self-employed is the bafflement of the government-run businesses by the private enterprises, which greatly exceed them in quality and service.

“The reasons are simple,” says the Cuban restaurant owner. “We are broadly fluent in commercial techniques, in the new digital and communication technologies (even without Internet access), many of us have attended schools and courses for hospitality management and tourism, we are fluent in other languages, and we know how to compete, as has been demonstrated by the majority of the Cuban workers, technicians and professionals who have left and established themselves outside the country.”

“We Cubans, who have been so exploited by the State, have learned to try to get ahead through our own efforts, starting with producing the best quality, the best presentation, and the best services at the lowest cost. When we were salaried government employees, with miserable wages, we did not put in the same effort that we now do in our own businesses, and we know that the worker cannot be mistreated and poorly paid, because that just encourages workplace theft.”

“For that reason,” he continued, “even though our restaurant is not a cooperative, we apply similar principles. There are workers who with their tips earn more than even we owners do, and this does not bother us, in fact we are glad for it.”

In closing, he expressed, “Cuba is for Cubans. We do not like, we do not accept, foreign businesses coming here to do what we know and can do, but have not been able to develop because of all the bureaucratic roadblocks. We find ways to raise capital, we borrow, friends and family within and outside the country help us, and we have sold many of our possessions, confident that we are going to do good business.”

“In the event that the great foreign capital arrives to try to crush us, we will not allow it. Let nobody forget that we are the generations raised in the spirit of Baraguá and Moncada.”

Translated by Alicia Barraqué Ellison

The Regime Advances in the “Chinese Internet Model” and Creates Its Own Internet Platform / Diario de Cuba

diariodecubalogoDiario de Cuba, Havana, 19 March 2015 — It prohibits bloggers from publishing “content that is illegal, counterrevolutionary, harmful, threatening, harassing, salacious, defamatory, or vulgar,” among other characteristics.

The regime announced this Thursday that it is now equipped with a “solid blogging platform, open to the entire national .cu online domain,” which is accessible outside the country, according to official media. continue reading

“This young interactive space, named Reflejos (“Reflections”), functioning since September, has permitted millions of users to create their own blogs to express their interests and opinions,” said the official news agency AIN.

Kirenia Facundo, a specialist with the Cubava Digital Facilitation Project, explained that the service functions “as a mirror of the national reality, and contributes to the needed technological sovereignty that is proposed for digitizing our society.”

Diario de Cuba was able to determine that the platform requires information such as the national identity card data of any potential blogger.

In addition, the terms of use prohibit bloggers from “transferring, transmitting or publishing content that is illegal, counterrevolutionary, harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, salacious, defamatory or vulgar,” among other characteristics.

Raúl Van Troi, director of the Youth Computing Club, indicated in Havana that “the principal policy governing the use of this space is and will always be to promote the truth of Cuba and its Revolution, from a position of commitment and respect.”

Recently, the authorities announced that a “secure” digitization, in keeping with “national priorities,” was underway.

In addition to the blogging platform, other services are being developed, such as La Tendedera (“The Clothesline”) and El Pitazo (“The Whistle”), substitutes for Facebook and Twitter, respectively, which cannot be accessed from abroad.

In this field, Havana follows the Beijing model, which blocks access to the most-used, global digital services.

Previously, the regime launched EcuRed, a type of Wikipedia that is very controlled and scarcely participatory. The China Facebook is called Renren, and its Twitter, Sina Weibo. There are also products that stand in for YouTube, Google, and WordPress.

In China, technology platforms are managed by private companies, but they are strongly controlled by the Chinese Communist Party. Even so, from time to time, controversies are sparked in those spaces.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Rejecting Fidelism and Empowering Citizens / Diario de Cuba, Dimas Castellano

diariodecubalogoLooking back on the history of the conflict, Cuba and the United States tried to impose their political philosophies through confrontation only to have them run aground on the negotiating table. They opted for war as a continuation of politics in order to return to politics as a substitute for war. The presidents of both countries have now announced their willingness to normalize relations, which have been suspended since 1961.

The encouraging news has generated a variety of opinions ranging from those who believe that the problem has been solved to those who believe that nothing in Cuba will change. Some believe that changes are already taking place while others question the intentions of the Cuban government and America’s Republican legislators. Some — I being one of them — think the resumption of relations will be beneficial, albeit difficult continue reading

and prolonged, for Cuban democratization. This optimism is based on six considerations.

1. In his speech the U.S. president distanced himself from previous demands that Cuba democratize before the embargo is lifted. Instead, he proposed a series of measures that would encourage the empowerment of citizens and serve as a precursor for a discussion in Congress on repealing the law. This shift means there is no more  “enemy” to fight and no need to “circle the wagons.” On the Cuban side, there was a tenant of Fidelism, which held that Cuba had already changed in 1959 so there was no need for further change. This has given way to the Raulist viewpoint, which is inclined to see some things change.

2. The shift by the United States is a response to the failure of a policy whose goal was to promote change in Cuba as well as to the regional and international self-isolation that resulted from the policy. Cuba’s shift, though presented as a victory, reveals a failure of economic leadership, meager results from efforts at reform, mass exodus, widespread corruption and growing dissatisfaction. It occurs at a time when the fragility of Venezuelan oil subsidies is a topic of discussion and no new financial savior has appeared on the horizon.

3. The series of measures by the White House includes an increase in authorized travel to Cuba, management training for private Cuban businesses and farmers, an increase on the limit of remittances to individuals and donations to humanitarian projects, an expansion in the sale and commercial export of goods and services from the United States including to Cuba’s private sector, expanded communication access from Cuba and the ability to communicate freely, and allowing U.S. telecommunication providers to offer internet services at lower prices.

4. Since assuming power in 2006, the Cuban president has expressed a willingness to normalize relations with the United States and to adopt some domestic measures such as emigration reform. On the other side there has been a relaxation of certain policies by the American president since 2009, which paved the way for the joint announcement on December 17, 2014.

5. The measures by the White House assume an orderly and peaceful transition. This policy serves as a guarantee to those in power, to those who are responsible for everything both good or bad that has happened over a very long period of time. Nevertheless, I think the government of Cuba will try to slow the process even though its leaders know it is unavoidable. They realize that, if it all ends in violence, they will be the losers. Organized democratization guarantees stability and the future of the Cuban nation.

6. Cuba was able to mobilize individuals, institutions and governments to subvert the embargo. Several Latin American figures were involved or served as intermediaries. Canada and the Vatican also played a prominent role. With the enemy gone and the threat allayed, the previous rhetoric has become meaningless. These committed forces expect changes in Cuba in response to Obama’s speech. Denying this would mean losing the support achieved so far.

In order to evaluate the significance of these measures, it is worth analyzing the stagnation and reversals suffered during the period of confrontation. These include the disappearance of civil society, the absence of basic liberties, the subordination of the economy to politics, the loss of the Cubans’ status as citizens and other ills. Under a regime which might more accurately be defined as Fidelist, a key characteristic of which was confrontation, there was a refusal to back down until the opponent backed down. Better for the country to sink into the ocean, as was stated on one occasion.

As external conflicts supplanted internal ones, military confrontation became a way to avoid making any compromises on human rights. As the effects of the above-mentioned negotiations begin to take effect, however, external tensions will gradually give way to the tensions between people and government. What happens after that will be the sole and exclusive responsibility of Cubans themselves.

Given current conditions, doubts over the normalization of relations will be kicked aside at the negotiating table. Previous rescues were financed by subsidies from the Soviet Union and Venezuela, but the former has disappeared and the latter is bankrupt. There has also been little success at attracting foreign capital and there is no chance a new financial savior will suddenly appear.

It is a phenomenon unprecedented in history. A government that came to power by force has — despite fifty-five years of ongoing ineffectiveness and economic mismanagement — spearheaded this change without any other person, group or party managing to establish an alternative power base. With apparent continuity, Fidelism is being discarded in the name of Fidelism. It is an oddity that calls for detailed analysis, debate and research. How did a country with a western orientation and a civil society that arose in the first half of the twentieth century and lasted until mid-century — a country that had one of the most advanced constitutions for its time – manage to regress to a point of such economic, spiritual and societal decay?

The normalization of relations, although important, is only a first step. Lifting the embargo now depends more on the Cuban government than the United States. It involves moving beyond an expressed willingness to actually implementing measures to empower citizens and weaken opposition to repealing the law in Congress. Otherwise, it will work to the advantage of opponents of normalization. It is quite simple: lifting of the embargo is in the hands of Cuba, in domestic actions implemented for the benefit of Cubans.

In spite of this difficult hurdle, there will be a gradual and civilized process of transformation, whose success will depend on the commitment of the Cuban people, who have been deprived of the freedom and opportunities that are the lifeblood of a nation’s citizenry. It is one whose sense of civic responsibility has been lost but which can now no longer be ignored.

The shifting landscape will allow for a restructuring of the foundations that determine the fate of a nation and each of its people. Therefore, the importance of restoring diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States will depend to some extent on the behavior of both governments, but above all on the will and actions of Cubans themselves, a responsibility that can not be assumed by any government foreign or domestic.

19 January 2015

Listening to Obama / Diario de Cuba, Dariela Aquique Moon

diariodecubalogoDiario de Cuba, Dariela Aquique Moon | Havana | 21 Jan 2015 – Of course it wasn’t shown on Cuba television’s state channel, but Telesur did broadcast live and in full the State of the Union speech delivered yesterday evening by President Barack Obama. His spontaneity, his affable but convincing tone, his way of exhorting but not prescribing, and each of the issues addressed in his speech; it all makes me think this man is perhaps now one of the most progressive politicians in the world, though I wouldn’t want to be absolutist.

In the final of his two terms, when he has only two years left in the White House, Obama doesn’t want to leave the arena without having accomplished his proposals. And as he said himself, at this point in the game, his proposals go far beyond promises to gain followers in an electoral campaign, it is about doing what he believes is right and best for his country.

Listening to a speech like this and seeing the natural reactions of the audience, that some stand and applaud, get excited and express it; or some simply disagree, don’t clap and remain seated; seeing and hearing a speech like this, where there is no obligation of unanimity, no set slogans shouted, I see the face of democracy a little bit closer continue reading

, something I do not know because having been born in Cuba, and being only eleven when the bearded-ones entered Havana, I’ve lived here on this island that I don’t want to leave my whole life.

I confess I was excited when the American president asked Congress to suspend the Cuban embargo. When he talked about the reforms necessary in favor of immigrants who make up an important part of the economy and of US society. When he referred, without trappings and stock phrases, to respect for diversity. Beyond being male or female, black or white, gay or straight, Democrat or Republican.

Since I was a child, I’ve become accustomed to hearing only two types of allocutions: the bombastic, pamphleteering and extensive harangues of the Comandante; and for some years now, the brief, always read, and dull proclamations of the General. But both have something in common, the marked intention of convincing people that there is nothing more fair than socialism (their socialism). These fanatical outbursts that always try to show the dark side of any political practice would be somewhat compromised if all Cubans could hear Obama’s speech in its entirely, where he demonstrates that is possible to fight for social equality (or at least to try to), regardless of whether one is capitalist or socialist.

The American leader has demonstrated his excellent skills as an orator; this annual State of the Union will perhaps be considered along with Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech, as one of the best in American history.

Perhaps readers will think I have an excess of enthusiasm for a speech, And perhaps they are right, but I am not used to proclamations like this. This was a positive and hopeful speech in a context where everything appears to be starting to change once and for all. I’ve always heard political tirades to the point of paroxysms. And hearing Obama, I who want a different Cuba, I have a dream.*

*In English in the original

Appeal against the arrest of graffiti artist El Sexto rejected; prisoner transferred to Valle Grande / Diario de Cuba

diariodecubalogoDiario de Cuba, Havana, 7 January 2015 — The graffiti artist Danilo Maldonado, known as El Sexto, remains imprisoned in Valle Grande prison after authorities rejected the habeas corpus appeal presented by the Cubalex organization, led by independent counsel Laritza Diversent.

The appeal denounced the “arbitrary detention” of El Sexto which took place when he led two pigs, named Fidel and Raul, to stage a performance in Havana’s Central Park on 26 December. The graffiti artist is accused of “insult.”

Diversent explained to Diario de Cuba this Wednesday that the authorities rejected the appeal “with very subtle arguments” and hid behind an assertion that there was “no legal basis” to consider the arrest as “illegal.”

The independent counsel recalled that her appeal did not cite the detention as illegal but “arbitrary.” Likewise, in her demand she specified that the names of pigs, Fidel and Raul, were “common” and that authorities had to “accept criticism.”

For now, according to independent counsel, there is still no trial date and she hopes that there will be a change of custody, because the events in which El Sexto is involved are a “misdemeanor.”

Also, Diversent said that she had sent information to international bodies so that they will speak out on the situation of graffiti artist.