“Peter Pan” in the Air / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, 19 February 2019 — Lately I’ve been hearing the phrase “the horrendous Operation Peter Pan” and I ask myself: Was it really horrendous?

“Operation Peter Pan” consisted of many parents sending their children to the United States through religious organizations, to avoid losing “parental authority,” which was a broadly-held concern among the members of the middle and upper classes in the year 1959.

It was a decision made within families and no one was forced to do so. In addition, nobody expected that the political process just started — the triumph of Fidel Castro’s Revolution — would last. Most people believed the separation would be temporary. continue reading

But it didn’t happen that way and many of the separations continued for years. Some children grew up and thrived in their new surroundings and others didn’t manage to do so, as is normal. Some, as the years passed, expressed their gratitude to the program, and others condemned it.

Did Cuban parents lose “parental authority” over their children or not?

Well, in reality, yes. They lost the right to educate them according to their wishes, principles and beliefs, be they secular or religious, in public or private schools. When all the schools in Cuba become public, that is, belonged to the State, it instituted atheism and the teaching of its ideology.

Cuban children were under duress, from their earliest childhood, to declare themselves “pioneers for communism” and, later, to swear “to be like Che,” as they repeated in their daily oaths during the morning assemblies at school. Although this extemporaneous militancy, with colored “neckerchiefs” and all, was said to be voluntary, in practice it became mandatory. Because any child who did not follow it, immediately suffered the induced repudiation of his or her classmates, creating the breeding ground for the “double standard” where I say one thing (what everyone wants to hear) and I think something else.

Also, in Cuba, young people were separated from their parents and the family environment for long periods of time in mobilizations, the Literacy Campaign, schools in the countryside, sent to study in what are now the  former socialist countries, compulsory military service and other forms.

Among the last was sending them to fight and die in other people’s wars, under the excuse of strengthening them physically and ideologically as men of socialism. There was also the constant exodus of family members, dismantling and vaporizing this important institution of the social fabric, and prohibiting their reunifications for years, under the absurd concept that “whomever left the country was a traitor and could never return.”

Remembering all these barbarities, in reality parents in Cuba lost “parental authority” over their children, without the need of any law to that effect.

I do not think that “Operation Peter Pan” was horrific: it was, simply, a response to a danger that was coming and that, unfortunately for many generations of Cubans, became real.

Current assessments may be different, even when they are colored by political and ideological interests, not always fair, nor worried about true human feelings.

Under Dogma and Stubbornness / Fernando Damaso

José Martí statue in Havana. (The Straights Times)

Fernando Dámaso,29 January 2019 — On Sunday, January 27th, Havana was affected by a strong tornado that caused considerable destruction, mainly in the October 10, Luyanó, San Miguel del Padrón and Regla neighborhoods.

It is striking that the “March of the Torches”, scheduled for that evening and then moved to the 28th, nonetheless was held instead of using the resources and the young people from the march to help the many victims who, as is habitual, despite speeches and promises of opportunity, will swell the lists of those who wait for solutions to similar phenomena, which extend for more than two decades without visible results. continue reading

Recall that, according to official data, on June 7, 2018 there were 1,703,926 homes in poor condition and, of them, 61,051 in total collapse. The current victims, as is logical, will be placed at the end of the list.

Dogma and stubbornness are some of the actions of the partisan and governmental authorities, who always prioritize “idiotology” rather than the most elementary reasoning.

As a result, they have molded the history of this country in their image and likeness and as a function of their political interests, always prioritized, in spite of natural catastrophes.

January 1st is “the day of the triumph of the experiment”, the 8th is “the entrance to Havana of the” supreme maker” (Fidel Castro) and the evening of the 27th “the march of the torches” in honor of the 28th, the birthday of José Martí.

In February, the 24th is the day of the “Grito de Baire” (Proclamation of Baire in 1895 that began the War of Cuban Independence), usually poorly remembered, although this year it has been linked to the spawn of a Constitutional referendum, as if it the two were related.

March is adorned with the “Assault on the Presidential Palace” on the 13th (1957), the bravest action of the whole insurrection, and with the “Protest of Baraguá” (rejection in 1878 of Treaty with Spain ending Ten Years’ War) on the 15th that, although it was a powerful event, was actually an act of stubbornness that did not lead to anything, because it was impossible to continue the war for independence.

April is Girón (Bay of Pigs) and the supposed “first defeat of imperialism in America”.

May begins with the “Day of the Workers”, on the 1st, where they happily parade without making demands, giving thanks for the crumbs given to them, forgetting that Martí died on the 19th and that the Republic was founded on the 20th.

June is for Maceo (2nd in command of Cuban War for Independence) and Ché, artificially joined on the 13th by their birthdays, although in totally different eras.

July is the month of the “supreme maker”, with the “Day of Kings” and the Carnival of Havana, moved absurdly to this month (traditionally it was held in February), and the Assault on the Moncada Barracks, which they unsuccessfully try to make more important than the Proclamation of Baire.

August 13th is the day of the birth of the “supreme maker” with displays of banners and music.

September is the month of the CDR (Committees for the Defense of the Revolution), a government organization for monitoring and controlling its citizens.

November is for the medical students shot in the 19th century by Spanish forces and December is for the “Landing of Granma”, relegating Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve, as inconsequential dates.

This imposed “shrine”, where not everything presented deserve honors, crushingly repeats itself annually, trying to dilute in time our true patriotic dates and commemorations, forgetting that history is not a blur and new account, but a chained continuity, where all the links are important.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

Pure Burlesque Theater / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Dámaso,24 January 2019 — Around the vote “Yes” campaign in the upcoming referendum, the government has unleashed demented propaganda, which tries to influence citizens to comply with their wishes. The absurdity reaches the point that, even when it is assumed that the vote “is individual and secret”, the “characters” interviewed and presented in the official media declare without equivocation and without the slightest shame that “they will vote Yes”, leaving aside these rights. In addition, the vote in the referendum, which should be Yes or No for the Constitution, has turned it into the vote “for the Homeland”, “for socialism”, “for the Revolution”, etc., changing its meaning completely.

We know that the referendum, like the Constitution approved “unanimously” by the National Assembly of People’s Power, constitutes a farce, one of the many that we have by now grown accustomed to, to keep us entertained and make us believe that the “system” is irrevocable and eternal, which constitutes sovereign nonsense negated by history, which shows that everything changes sooner or later. continue reading

This referendum replaces the carnival celebrations that were traditionally celebrated during February, which were moved to July by the work and grace of the “supreme maker” since disappeared [Fidel Castro], although the official media ridiculously pretends to keep him alive.

It seems 2019 will be lavish in the works of this theater of the burlesque, taking into account the string of laws that will have to be elaborated and approved, to apply what is already established in the Constitution.

Of course, in terms of economic development, of solutions to the problems that have piled up during six decades and in the improvement in the standard of living for the citizens, it will be even more disastrous than in 2018.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

One Single History / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Dámaso, 14 January 2019: Cuba’s history runs from 1492 to the present day, and men and women have contributed to it, for good or ill, throughout this period.

Because of that, I have never understood why they talk and write about science, art and sport, to name but three examples, as being pre-January 1st 1959, and post that date. This absurd and unnatural division, motivated purely by political considerations, splits up our national history into little compartments. As if the earlier people have nothing to do with present day people, and vice versa. continue reading

This phenomenon is most deeply rooted in sport and music, maybe because of their widespread appeal. So, in the first one, there are baseball players from before and after, and also boxers, volleyball players, swimmers, athletes, chess players, etc., as if all of them weren’t Cubans. The baseball players Orestes Miñoso, Conrado Marrero, Adrián Zabala and Willy Miranda are just as Cuban as José Antonio Huelga, Braudilio Vinent, Armando Capiró or Agustín Marquetti, to name but a few. Also Orlando “Duke” Hernández, José Ariel Contreras, Kendry Morales, Yasiel Puig and Aroldis Chapman as much as Alfredo Despaigne, Yurisbel Gracial, Frederich Cepeda and  Yordanis Samón. And, in the boxing ring, Kid Chocolate, Kid Gavilán and Puppy García as much as Teófilo Stevenson, Roberto Balado or Félix Savón.

If we look at music, we have a right old mongrel stew, composed of Brindis de Salas, García Caturla, Ernesto Lecuona, Gonzalo Roig, Rita Montaner, Martha Pérez, Esther Borja, Rosita Fornés, Meme Solís, Miriam Ramos, Pablo Milanés, Benny Moré, Pacho Alonso, Silvio Rodríguez, Beatriz Márquez, Maggie Carlés, Celia Cruz, Olga Guillot, Willy Chirino, David Calzado, Juan Formell, and others.

All of them play their part in forming the national identity, never mind where they come from, or their political and ideological points of view or belief, and nobody has the right or the power to deny them that.

Cuban history is one and indivisible.

Translated by GH

History A La Carte / Fernando Damaso

Busts of Martí and Maceo at the entrance of a state company on Calle Colón in Havana’s New Vedado district.

Fernando Damaso, 8 December 2018 — When the political leaders have lost their past, have no present and have no future, they take advantage of history, with the aim of legitimizing their actions, protected by the founding fathers. Then we hear absurd phrases such as, “We would have been like them yesterday and they today would have been like us,” very difficult to verify. In a lurch they place themselves next to Cuba’s heroes of old: Cespedes, Agramonte, Gomez, Maceo, Marti and others, though they lack any real merits for it

To do so, they use the “charlatans” (today called “laptoperos“) of the time, always abundant among historians, writers, journalists and intellectuals, who sell themselves to power for a few crumbs. Their work floods the official communication media and provokes repudiation between people with an ounce of common sense. continue reading

The practice of physically burying today’s dead next to yesterday’s illustrious leaders continues, with the idea that the “newcomers” will benefit from past glories. Allegorical songs appear, along with art works, dances, installations, books and other cultural products, signed out of submission and cowardice.

However, despite how they may represent themselves today, their future is condemned to oblivion.

Two Deadly Sins / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Dámaso, 28 December 2018 — In democratic systems, Constitutions are drafted by a Constituent Assembly, formed by the most prepared representatives on the subject,from the different political parties that participate in their elections, whose number depends on the votes obtained according to the projects presented. The election, as is to be expected, is made by citizens according to their political, economic and social criteria.

In the current constitutional reform project in Cuba, the preparation was in the hands of a 33-member Commission, chaired by the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba and made up of members of the pParty and of different State institutions, all committed to the socialist project and its implications, without any type of citizen participation in the choice of it.

This is the first deadly sin. continue reading

To try to present an impression of citizen participation, it was decided to submit the project, once approved in the first instance by the National Assembly of People’s Power, where the vote on everything is always unanimous, to the citizen consideration, through Assemblies, where everyone could give their personal opinion and this should be recorded in the corresponding minutes, but without submitting the proposal to a vote among the participants.

The trick is easy to detect: no matter how many citizens might agree or disagree with it, only one proposal was recorded since, once an opinion had been expressed, the repetition of it was not accepted.

This is the second deadly sin.

If the proposals had been put to vote and the number of votes for and against registered, a real indicator of the citizen opinion would have been obtained and not the figures of squalid percentages, made known by Señor Homero Acosta, in the session of the National Assembly where it was approved, also by the unanimous vote of the members.

This same gentleman pointed out that “This is the Constitution of the Revolution,” and he is absolutely right: it is the political testament of a phenomenon in extinction. Furthermore, it is not the Constitution of all Cubans, but that of the Communist Party, whose selective militancy does not exceed 0.7 percent of the eleven million Cubans living on the island and the almost three million Cubans residing abroad.

Although I do not question or stigmatize, as some representatives of the regime are already doing, the vote of every Cuban in the next referendum, on seeing violated many of the political, economic and social rights of citizens, with impositions and arbitrariness, my civic duty is to vote “NO.”

A Decree That’s Not All It’s Cracked Up To Be / Fernando Damaso

Máscara [Mask].  Work by Rebeca Monzó, Havana.
Fernando Damaso, 16 December 2018  — Decree 349, which concerns regulations governing the broadcast, exhibition and promotion of artistic products, has created much concern among creators. The problem is not about “the enemies” making propaganda against it, but rather the real danger that the decree represents.

The danger consists in that, under its shelter, the authorities could establish censorship over what is authorized, as well as over the strict political/ideological criteria used–in place of intrinsic value–by those who evaluate artistic products. continue reading

This is not a new phenomenon and it has, in our country, its closest antecedent in the sadly known “grey decade,” during which the cultural bureaucrats of the National Cultural Council approved or disapproved creations, taking into account the creators’ militancy, or lack thereof.

The phenomenon had already been manifested before in the now-extinct USSR and other socialist countries, when everything new and innovative was persecuted and prohibited, shielded by the supposed defense of the socially convenient. Further back, it had emerged when the so-called “academies” refused the works of the Impressionists, Cubists, abstractionists and modernists in the fine arts, and the new tendencies in music and dance.

In other words, the concern is valid.

I ask myself, who are the “superfunctionaries of culture” selected to determine the good and the bad, and what should be authorized or prohibited? I don’t believe they exist.

To date, just as has occurred in the economic sector, I only know bureaucrats who strictly comply with the orders from the powers that be in defense of their political/ideological interests–which are not necessarily those of the majority of the citizens. Besides, we Cubans tend, by custom, to hold back or overdo it–more often the latter than the former.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

National Identity / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Dámaso, 21 November 2018 — The theme of national identity, along with that of sovereignty and independence, form the favourite triad of the official idiotology.  Everyone talks about that.

National identity is not an ideological abstraction, but a historical reality, which comes loaded with its baggage of events and personalities from the colonial era up to the present day, without artificial black holes or spaces edited out for political convenience. continue reading

It is made up of the good, the bad, and the ordinary. Intelligent people and stupid people. People who get things done, and those who don’t. Pimps, prostitutes, thieves, liars, and decent people, of either sex. Also, people with different political, ideological, economic, social, sexual opinions, sportsmen and artists.  This mixture of different people makes up the national identity.

No-one has done more to attack the national identity than the regime founded in January 1959, dislocating the national, provincial and municipal structures, with absurd changes and transformations to economic, political and social levels.

Now, our towns and villages aren’t anything like the way they used to be, with only little bits surviving which have been saved by municipal and provincial historians. Popular traditions have been lost or adulterated, all the economic and commercial structures have been taken apart, along with their well-known factories, businesses and establishments. Most of them disappearing, or given new names without meaning or popular support.

The streets and avenues have not escaped the ideological cruelty, losing their familiar historic names in favour of less  important ones, or those indicative of cheap political messing about. Nor have the arts or sport escaped, with renowned figures, who form a legitimate part of the national identity in their own right, wiped out. The same thing has happened to education and health centres.

A time traveller from the 19th century or the first half of the 20th, would find themselves completely lost in today’s Cuba, with almost no discernible references to the past or to those who constructed it or graced it with their presence.

Everything has been replaced with stuff done in the last sixty years. A monster born of chaotic thinkers and worse doers, elevated into decision-makers, ruling by economic and political power, in the name of an obsolete ideology and a failed system, which has destroyed the country, converting it into a sad residue of what it used to be.

Translated by GH

An Unwanted ’Fellow Traveler’ / Fernando Damaso

Signs in Havana advertising services provided by the self-employed.

Fernando Dámaso, 13 November 2018  — Although it has been shown that self-employment work, even with absurd limitations, excessive taxes and overt or overlapping state persecution, resolves problems that the State, with its obsolete companies and deficient socialist services, has been unable to solve in sixty years of exercising absolute power, it is still considered “an unwanted ‘fellow traveller’.”

It is obvious, moreover, that it has been precisely this private sector that has given work to the 600,000 people displaced by the state sector, and that today is the main generator of jobs. It also constitutes the sector most active in generating productive forces. In short, discourse goes on one side and reality on the other. continue reading

For months the delivery of new self-employment licenses has been “frozen”, under the pretext of studying improvements, to avoid illegalities by those who practice it. This preoccupation with illegalities should have been a focus of the State for many years based on the multiple illegal activities that are committed in their centers of production and services.

But, as is logical, you can not be a judge and jury at the same time. Now they come up with new Decree-Laws, Decrees and Resolutions published in the Official Gazette of July 10, 2018, which impose new restrictions, raise taxes and complicate with more bureaucratic measures the exercise of self-employed work.

The problem seems to be something else: the bureaucrats of the state apparatus (Ministry of Labor and Social Security, Ministry of Finance and Prices, Ministry of Internal Trade, Housing Institute, National Institute of Physical Planning, National Tax Administration Office and others) see self-employment as a dangerous competitor, which can’t be defeated or overcome in good faith, and they press on — so as not to lose their privileges — to bring it down with obstacles and abitrariness.

Some time ago the newspaper Juventud Rebelde published an article about the problems with the so-called preventive and orthopedic footwear, which is produced in the country only by two state companies — the so-called National Center of Technical Orthopedics Cuba-RDA (as obsolete as its own name) and Combell Company — both of which are rejected by their customers for their poor quality and worse design, which ensures that their warehouses are full of idle products, which have no customers in the market.

Faced with this situation, many citizens in need of this type of footwear choose to go to self-employed artisan shoemakers, who manufacture them with better quality and design, although at prices much higher than those of the state, but they have to produce them illegally because their licenses do not cover the manufacture of this type of footwear.

Simply one more of the many absurd rules in ridiculous licenses that limit the function of the trades. That is repeated with the carpenters, electricians, plumbers, masons and others, who can only legally perform a small portion of their trades, those that the incumbent bureaucrat came up with.

Bad examples abound:

The much publicized State Wholesale Market (Mercobal), until now the only one in the entire country, located on Avenida 26 and Calle 35, Nuevo Vedado, Plaza Municipality, functions only for non-agricultural cooperatives located in facilities leased to the State, under contract with the state suppliers that assign their orders.

In the also publicized Digital Commerce, which only functions at the Market of 5th and 42th, Playa municipality, you select the product and pay for it digitally and, to pick it up, using your own means, you must wait 72 hours. In other words, the payment is digital but the delivery is analog.

Who are the winners with so many absurdities?

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

Between Solidarity and Business / Fernando Dámaso

“April 19th Polyclinic” in Havana’s Nuevo Vedado neighborhood.

Fernando Dámaso, 28 November 2018 — These days, the official media are bored with the case of Cuban doctors who served in Brazil, and the second anniversary of the death of the “older Cuban” (senior athlete, senior doctor, senior educator, senior artist, senior rumba artist, etc, etc, etc.). In both cases the “teque*” is aberrant. However, I will refer only to the first case, because the second is inconsequential for most Cubans.

If we accept the case of the official propaganda, the only person responsible for what happened is the newly elected president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, with his aggressive statements against the doctors and for meddling in matters that do not concern him, as the doctors fulfilled a humanitarian mission and an act of solidarity, providing medical care to dispossessed Brazilians. Nothing is said in the official discourse about the great economic business that they represented for the government of the Island. continue reading

Using some data available here and in Brazil, we can derive the following table: 8,500 doctors x 4,000 dollars per month is equivalent to 34 million dollars per month, which multiplied by 12 months of the year gives us the figure of 408 million dollars.

To this figure should be subtracted the 5%, which is paid to the Pan American Health Organization, that is 20,400,00 dollars, leaving 387,600,000 dollars.

To this new figure should also be subtracted the amount of $400 per month for each of the 8,500 doctors, which is what the Cuban government paid them (200 in Brazil for expenses and 200 deposited in an account in Cuba, available to them only after they complete the mission), or 3,400,000 dollars per month, which multiplied by the 12 months of the year equals 40,800,000 dollars.

Summing up: of the 408 million dollars that Brazil paid annually, 20,400,000 went to the Pan American Health Organization, 40,800,000 went to payments to the doctors and the Cuban government kept 346,800,000 dollars per year. A lucrative business!

In short, the two main approaches of the new Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro were: to subject doctors to an examination, which is a common practice in most countries that hire foreign professionals, and to pay the salaries directly to the doctors. This second approach seems to have been the real trigger of the hasty decision of the Cuban authorities to order their withdrawal from the Mais Medicos (More Doctors) program.

The conditions could have been accepted, even if Cuban doctors received their salaries directly, due to the unjust current tax system in Cuba. The doctors would have had to pay the Cuban government 50% of the profits exceeding $2,000 per year.

It is true that the authorities would not have received the 34 million dollars a month, but they would have received 17 million and, annually, discounting  the 5% to the Pan American Health Organization (20,400,000 dollars), they would have received 50% of the amount paid to the doctors (193,800,000 dollars). Something is more than nothing!

I do not deny the right of the Cuban authorities to throw a tantrum over the millions of dollars they will stop receiving, but we must speak clearly without so much humanistic rhetoric, which recalls the arguments of the “soap opera novels” of the forties and fifties, with too much crying and melodrama.

Nor do I deny that Cuban doctors miss their patients, but it seems that they also miss the 400 dollars a month the Cuban government paid them for their work in Brazil, which was much more than the 40-60 dollars a month they receive working in Cuba, and which allowed them to satisfy some of their accumulated personal and family needs.

Let’s be clear about this!

*Translator’s note: El teque is Cuban slang for the unrefrained barrage of official rhetoric.

An Indecent Proposal / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, 26 November 2018 — Now that the 500th Anniversary of the founding of the Villa of San Cristóbal de La Habana will be celebrated next year, with the aim of helping the city recover its identity, it would be healthy to restore some of its avenues, streets, roads, theaters, cinemas, health and education centers, parks, shops, businesses, museums and other public places, to their original and traditional names, which were changed in times of ideological disease and political opportunism.

Thus the original Carlos III and Dolores avenues; the Jesús del Monte road; the Blanquita theater; the Warner, Radiocentro, Rodi and Olympic cinemas; the Normal School park; the La Covadonga, La Benéfica and La Dependiente hospitals; La Balear, the Baldor, Trelles and Marist schools — La Salle, Belen and Escolapios; the Edison Institute; La Estrella, La Ambrosía, Tropical, Polar and Hatuey factories and dozens of other places and commercial centers would reclaim their historical names. continue reading

The changing of the original and traditional names under which they were known, in addition to an attack on the identity of the city, shows a lack of respect for the residents of Havana.

The new names, logically, should have been used for new constructions or installations of different types, but never to supplant the original designations, deeply held by the citizens.

The Queen’s Road (Reina), although officially called Simón Bolívar, was, is and will always be Reina. The same will happen with Monte, although it is officially called Máximo Gómez, and with many other roads, avenues, streets, establishments, and so on. The force of custom, converted into tradition and identity, is much stronger than any bureaucratic decision. Our authorities should know that. The only one who has respected the identity of the city has been Dr. Eusebio Leal, Historian of Havana.

By the way, Havana was founded, built and developed during the 440 years corresponding to the colonial period and that of the Republic: in the last 60 years of tropical socialism it was destroyed and became the ruin that it is today. That is more clear than filtered water!

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

A Doctrinaire Constitution / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Dámaso, 15 September 2018 — A constitution is not a doctrinaire document, but is rather the result of consensus among differing political, economic and social positions.

Throughout the current project to revise the constitution, the effort has been made — using other language — to introduce the Party’s political, economic and social guidelines, so as to endorse them constitutionally and pull one over the eyes of the Cuban people. A single ideology permeates each article — sometimes at the start, others at the end. It’s like the master pastry chef who deems it necessary to add a drop of lemon to each one of his creations.

The 1940 Constitution, free of ideological adornments and respectful of Cuban history and traditions, when analyzed today — 78 years after its promulgation — continues to dazzle for its responses to the moment in which it was drawn up and its foresight about the immediate future, without imposing straitjackets on succeeding generations. Without a doubt, the delegates to the Constitutional Assembly of 1939 achieved a Constitution for “with all and for the good of all,” as the Apostle would have exhorted.* continue reading

The 1976 Constitution and the current project do not come close to it in depth nor transcendence — but rather remain as simple doctrinaire documents, far from the conviction and needs of the Cuban people — what with both being focused on maintaining one Party’s hold on power, at all costs and with no regard for the country’s development nor its citizens’ wellbeing.

Herein is the reason that, in the current draft document, are found so many restrictive and discriminatory measures in the political, economic and social order — which will only be greater in the new laws that will complement it.

*Translator’s Note: Refers to a phrase spoken by Jose Martí (christened by Cubans as “the Apostle”) in 1891. It has since been invoked by countless orators and writers to convey the spirit of the ideal Republic.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué  Ellison

A Simple-Minded Argument / Fernando Dámaso

Fernando Dámaso, 25 August 2018 — On Saturday, August 25, the Communist Party newspaper Granma published a front-page article with a headline in red letters that read, “Five Reasons Why a Multi-Party System Is Not Viable in Cuba.” Though based on faulty assumptions and even weaker arguments, it deserves a response.

1. The writer broadly casts the goals of political parties during the the formative and later years of the Republic as being purely partisan and demagogic, thus condemning a large number of important Cuban figures, party members and people who remained patriotic, responsible, civic-minded, decent and honest in spite of the irregularities, vices and lack of civic consciousness of some others.

The various parties, from the ultra-right to the ultra-left, coexisted and competed to gain, through their platforms, the approval and support of the people. It was a period when voters determined the outcome of elections. Not all the parties were good nor were all of them bad. If they had not succeeded, Cuba would not exist as a country, the proof being that the nation’s greatest advances were achieved during this period. continue reading

2. The writer maintains that the people had no say in government because in the first elections, which took place in 1901, a voter had to be over twenty-one years of age (a requirement in most countries at this time), know how to read and have assets in excess of two-hundred fifty pesos, with exceptions granted to those who had fought in the Liberation Army.

This is of little consequence considering that electoral laws evolved and were later amended in response to changing times. Subsequent elections in fact saw massive citizen participation. The author also forgets to mention that, although women’s suffrage did not exist during this period, it was granted in 1937, with Cuba being one of the first countries to do so.

But where exactly did those who occupied political office come from if not from among the people themselves? Were they perhaps extraterrestrials?

3. Citing force fragmentation and foreign interference, the author mocks the “free” elections to which Cubans were formerly entitled, claiming that the multi-party system was no guarantee of democracy. Yet the one-party system is? Furthermore, in the final years of the Republic 85% of the economy was in Cuban hands, including 60% of sugar production. I do not know how the author concludes that 75% of productive capacity was in foreign hands.

4. In writing about political and administrative corruption, the author accuses everyone of being “thieves and embezzlers, though they had been thought to be incorruptible.” No one denies that there were such people, just as there were also many who were not. Havana mayor Manuel Fernández Supervielle committed suicide in 1947 after he was unable to fulfill a campaign promise.

Today there is an abundance of corrupt officials, perhaps even more than before, though their cases are not reported in Granma. They are imbedded in various powerful agencies but none of them is committing suicide or apologizing to citizens for mistakes they made.

In his final argument, the writer affirms that the country was ultimately unable to change, a claim that is completely false. The Cuba in 1901 bears no resemblance to the Cuba of 1958. From an unhealthy, disease-ridden country, it was transformed into a country with the best health and education indices in Latin America, as well as the one with the lowest rate of illiteracy.

Economic development took off and in 1958 it ranked 29th among the world’s most developed economies. All this led to the emergence and growth of a large, powerful middle class, raising living standards for a majority of Cubans.

It affected mainly those in urban areas, where 75% of the population lived, with development being much slower for the remaining 25% living in rural areas.

This wealth led to the construction of schools, hospitals, factories, housing, highways, bridges, streets, avenues and all manner of modern construction, placing Cuba in an enviable position relative to the rest of Latin America. Its labor laws and constitution were the most advanced for their time and served as examples to many countries for years.

I recommend that, the next time this gossip columnist is ordered to write about the evils of Cuba under the Republic, he at least does some research and enlightens himself so as to avoid writing nonsense and looking ridiculous. It is a matter of etiquette and respect for oneself and for the readers.

Bubbles and Foam / Fernando Dámaso

Fernando Dámaso, 2 November 2018 — As it does every year, the Cuban government put on a show in the United Nations calling for the end to the embargo, which it refers to as a blockade, by the United States government. And as they do every year most countries formally voted in favor of its elimination, votes that are absolutely meaningless given that these United Nations resolutions are non-binding, which is to say they require no action.

If the Cuban government hopes to end the blockade, it must first be willing to enter into a dialogue with the United States government and, more importantly, be willing to both give and take. Simply making demands without offering any concessions, as it always does, will not work.

Russia, Vietnam, China and other countries in the former communist bloc did this and resolved their differences. Now North Korea is doing the same.

As long as the Cuban government and its leaders refuse to relinquish their failed ideology and innate stubbornness, continually clinging to the past and forgetting the present, they will solve absolutely nothing.

In short, what impacts Cubans is not the blockade by the United States government but the blockade that the Cuban government has imposed on the Cuban people for sixty years, now made harsher by a draft constitution which includes recently approved laws and resolutions restricting self-employment, now referred to as non-state employment.

An Article That Does Not Belong in a Constitution / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Dámaso — Article 3 of the draft Constitution states: “The defense of the socialist homeland is the greatest honor and supreme duty of every Cuban.”

The Homeland, with a capital letter, is one for all Cubans, both for insiders and outsiders, regardless of how they think. It has never been ascribed. Céspedes, Agramonte, Maceo, Gómez and Martí did not refer to it as a revolutionary or independence homeland.

In the times of the Republic there was no liberal, conservative, or authentic, orthodox, or capitalist country, or anything like that. Nor does there exist a socialist Homeland. The Homeland is above all ideologies and all economic, political and social systems. The applied adjective is a manipulation used by totalitarian regimes. Here we have enjoyed others: socialist democracy, human rights that we defend, patriotic civil society, et cetera. In this case, it is an imposition. continue reading

On another point, Article 3 raises the absurd and unnatural demand that the established system is “irrevocable,” a “straitjacket” directed against future generations, who do not have to respect or comply with what is decided here, but will decide on their own, according to the situation that they live in.

As if all this were not enough, it states that “Citizens have the right to fight by all means, including armed struggle, when no other recourse is possible, against anyone who attempts to overthrow the political, social and economic order established by this Constitution.”

It is ironic that those who overthrew the order established by the 1940 Constitution, having promised that they would enforce it and respect it, try, with a warlike spirit, to prevent that event from repeating itself when new Cubans decide to do so. It is good to remember that, as recent history shows, failed regimes fall by the weight of their errors and incompetence.

This article seems more to be part of a doctrinal document of the Communist Party than of a Constitution, both in its content and its form.

These impositions and arbitrary demands, unfortunately, not only appear in Article 3, but are disseminated throughout the entire constitutional project, product of the simplistic and dogmatic vision of society, under which it has been developed. A document with these characteristics is born sentenced to enjoy a short life.