The Great Chronicler of the Cuban Economic Disaster / Ernesto Santana Zaldivar

chepe cronica 1 ImagenesDinamicas.do_-300x225HAVANA, Cuba , September www.cubanet.org  – I don’t remember the first time I heard or read his name, but it must have been in the mid-90s on Radio Marti, which at that time, despite the strong obstruction of its signal, I could still listen to. I do know that by the end of that decade his name was one of the most recognizable to me among the journalist who were dedicated to disclosing, from within Cuba, the reality we were living in the country, while offering his ideas and opinions that helped to better understand not only what happened, but also why it happened and what could be done to stop it from happening.

For many years Radio Martí was, for me, as it was for many Cubans, the only source of alternative information, and listening to Oscar Espinosa Chepe I learned and understood, from my ignorance in this respect, the value of many of those small and innumerable elements that shaped the economy of the nation.

In fact, I had a more concrete idea of concepts such as methods of production, which always seemed to me like entelechies of Marxist economic doctrine. In general, over the years — also reading his frequent articles published in different media — I discovered the integral thesis of Espinosa Chepe, although I fear this term is reductive; it was that almost all the elements that constituted the entire machinery of the Cuban economy didn’t work or worked badly because, simply, the economic conception that ruled the gears didn’t function in practice, but in a fictional world composed of ideological and authoritarian dogmas, an absurd world divorced from human reality.

Others said this as well, of course, but it was Espinosa Chepe who demonstrated it without stridency or getting lost in the numbers, but with balanced studies on specific topics where the data and analysis formed a convincing and irrefutable body, with what Miriam Celaya, talking about one of the economist’s books, called “the particular accent of documentation.”

In his articles, the variety of themes is so vast that his investigations could hardly fail to be important in the economic field of the country. And in the end, the conclusion this social scientist showed us described the process of how, simply, the Revolution was turned into Involution.

chepe cronista 2 5351B2C6-1024-4C53-BAEF-8AEDB45784A9_mw1024_n_s-300x195But what Oscar Espinosa Chepe communicated to us with a simplicity and remarkable wisdom, came not only from his research and diving into a thousand books and countless theories, but also, and perhaps above all, his own experience of life itself, although he never speaks of that in his writings.

For this man, committed to the pursuit of a better future for his country, was not imprisoned for the first time in the sinister spring of 2003; he had already been in prison in 1957, as a teenager, for opposing the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. After 1959, he was among the millions who participated in what they believed to be the building of a dream; he worked in the Central Planning Board, as an economic adviser in the diplomatic service, and finally in the National Bank of Cuba.

The events that began to shake Eastern Europe from the mid-80s showed him the necessity for profound changes in economic and social thinking and, accused of being counterrevolutionary, he had no option but to enter the political opposition, even if it meant passing through Villa Marista prison and the worst prisons in the country, which ended up aggravating his health, by then already deteriorating.

But neither prison nor illness convinced him that he should cease his work, let alone leave his country permanently. He devoted himself to his mission with diligence and conviction of a Jesuit, he felt obliged to give evidence as an expert working in the events. The titles of the books he has published (“Chronicle of a disaster,” “Cuba: Revolution or involution”) illustrate what has been his reason for living: to shed light on the details of a long and gloomy national event that is inscribed in a socio-economic system that he called “the most colossal scam known to history.”

Deep in the eye of the hurricane, Oscar Espinosa Chepe has always been an honest person courageously committed to the progress of Cuba which, dedicating to us with the great generosity of his years and his intelligence without a hint of complaint, never allowing himself to sacrifice professional ethics. This is perhaps the best part of his lucid and illuminating example.

By Ernesto Santana Zaldivar

From Cubanet

23 September 2013

We aren’t the kind of people they are trying to make us out to be / Ernesto Santana Zaldivar, Antonio Rodiles

Antonio Rodiles. Photo: Ernesto Santana Zaldívar

HAVANA, Cuba, August, www.cubanet.org- The organizers of Estado de SATS have worked very hard and the result is that, three years after its inception, in July 2010 in Casa Gaia, this civic project is a fundamental component in the network of organizations that, from civil society and with great variety in points of view, fight to promote changes to democratize our country. Because of this it has also been repressed by the political police and accused of everything the authorities usually accuse those who propose a solution to the crisis. Estado de SATS takes as a fundamental cause that there is no dispute between Cuba and the United States, but rather the dictatorial practices of the Cuban government against its own people.

Hence in the last year, they have focused most of their efforts to disseminate and gather support for the Citizens’ Demand for Another Cuba which, as we know, demands that the Cuban government ratify the UN Covenants on Human Rights. In that work, the project has engaged with many important civil society groups for the sake of a purpose that supersedes political interests, and focuses on citizens and their basic needs.

In recent days, we were able to talk with Antonio Rodiles about the prospects of the project, three years since its inception. The director of Estado de SATS said “Our main goal now is to achieve much more drawing power. Hopefully State Security will stop bothering us,” he said, although he recognized that “at this time there really is something less than harassment of the work we are doing.”

The idea, according Rodiles, is to try to reach many more sectors and to be a place that helps articulate civil society, and above all,”to be able to expand and work on all the plans we have: holding exhibitions, film screenings, panels, debates, literary cafes. All we can do to articulate civil society and grow like any normal country.”

Although it seems like a very easy program to carry out, the reality suggests otherwise. The proof is in the recent past and if recently the political police haven’t harassed as many activities, it has been in part because they have not been as intense as around a year ago, when the Citizen Demand was launched. “Evidently,” observes Rodiles, “we know that everything is not as we would like, but well, I  think it’s important to accept the challenge and work focused on everything we have proposed, despite the obstacles.”

Some people have commented that, lately, they have been showing college students videos about civil society activists, including Estado de SATS, where it’s presented through the usual procedures, with a negative image. On this subject Antonio Rodiles says, “The same as always. That’s part of what the system can’t quit doing.”

But, he says, he would like to know exactly what they’re putting out there so he’ll be able to make statements about it. “Unfortunately,” he says , “there is a group of people who have always been characterized by trying to devalue and personally offend any opponent, anyone who thinks differently from the official line.”

In events such as this he sees a disturbing characteristic. “I think this shows the low level of those who have organized it ,” he says, “because they are not able to enter into any discussion of ideas or plans . It is a manipulation, but in any event, thank God, the new technologies allow us to show who we are,” he says, convincingly.

Well, ironically and contrary to the intentions of those who orchestrate this slanderous propaganda, the results could be otherwise. “In a way, this type of action helps disseminate our work. When people look for our CDs, our work, and they see them, then they realize perfectly well that we are not the kind of people they are trying to make us out to be,” he concludes.

He’s probably right. In addition, the days are long gone when some opponents thought Estado de Sats was a project of the “opposition light” and it has gained respect and collaboration, including that of almost all of the most important  political opponents, as well as countless artists and intellectuals.

As the director of this project, what lies ahead is a major challenge. Perhaps the hardest path, with all the cultural activities and the panels put on, but especially with the commitment to strengthen the Citizen Demand for Another Cuba and the continuation of this work, in cooperation with other civil organizations, he tries to contribute, gradually, to the extent possible but always with sights set still higher, for a positive change in the country.

A few months ago, Antonio Rodlies and Ailer González — his domestic partner and main collaborator — were in Miami and there at Cuba 8 and at Miami Dade College, they organized panels and concerts of Estado de SATS, besides promoting the Citizen Demand, which has managed to strengthen the support of Cubans from the outside, but inside Cuba there has not been remarkable progress of the campaign in recent months.

According to Rodiles itself, the term “Estado de SATS” (State of Sats) is a phrase used in the theater to represent the moment when all the energy is concentrated to begin the action, or when an athlete is at the precise moment before the starting gun. It is the concentration required to later explode. Hopefully, after three years of hard and complex work, this project is mature and ready to take off, against all obstacles, as the crucible where the forces of the emerging civil society are articulated.

Call for Estado de SATS : First International Meeting on Human Rights and UN Covenants

The independent Estado de SATS project invites artists, intellectuals, activists and human rights defenders to participate in the First International Meeting on Human Rights and the UN Covenants as part of the Campaign for Another Cuba and the 65th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Estado de SATS has worked for the past three years in the creation and growth of a public space where different perspectives on reality and the future of our nation can be openly discussed and planned.

Since August of 2012, together with various groups and activists committed to the social situation of our nation, we started the Campaign for another Cuba. This initiative has been involving a growing number of Cubans on and off the island in a civic demand that the Cuban government ratify and implement the United Nation Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Covenant  Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

In a time when Cuban civil society is growing the direct exchange with different actors within and outside the island is essential. Holding of this meeting will allow an approach from the perspective of art and thought to a subject as vital as human rights. Activists, artists, intellectuals and professionals, Cubans and the international community, will spend two days sharing views and experiences, in a country where such guarantees and rights are not part of the everyday reality.

The inaugural meeting will be on December 10, 2013 and during the event there will be thematic panels, audiovisual displays, an exhibition with the theme: Art and Human Rights (painting , graphics , photography, installations), performances and a closing concert .

For more information the interested can communicate to this email address: estadodesats@gmail.com.

About the author

Ernesto Santana Zaldívar, born in Puerto Padre, Las Tunas, 1958. Graduate of the Enrique José Varona Pedagogical Institute in Spanish and Literature. He has been a radio writer for Radio Progreso, Radio Metropolitana and Radio Arte. He is a member of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba. Awards won: Mentions in the genre of story in the David contest of 1977 and Trece de Marzo, 1979; prizes in Pinos Nuevos, 1995, Sed de Belleza, 1996 (both in the genre of story) Dador, 1998, (novel project) and Alejo Carpentier, 2002 (novel), the Franz Kafka Prize, 2010, for his novel The Carnival and the Dead.

From Cubanet

23 August 2013