The Doctor of Cubanness / Fernando Damaso

Ramón Grau San Martín. Source: Wikipedia

Fernando Dámaso, 15 April 2019 — Dr. Ramón Grau San Martín was the seventh President of the Republic. He governed from 10 October 1944 to 10 October 1948. During the very month he took office, a fierce hurricane struck the Island, causing great destruction. For many citizens, this natural phenomenon constituted an important omen: the Grau government was kicking off with stormy winds — and a stormy government it would be, despite being established amidst the prosperity produced by World War II, when sugar came to achieve a high price on the world market.

Grau, who promised to achieve a “government of Cubanness,” and who liked to say, “Cubanness is love” — and that, besides, in his administration, women were “in charge” — promulgated the Law of the Sugar Differential to benefit the industry’s  workers, fixing the producers’ share of the final molasses (a statute of indisputable social utility).

He also launched a vast Public Works Plan that notably improved many neighborhoods in the city of Havana — despite some projects being so poorly constructed that they eventually had to be demolished and rebuilt. He established the compulsory licensure of degreed and non-degreed professions, a summer schedule for businesses, a lawyers’ pension, and retirement funds for workers in the textile, sisal and tobacco industries, among others. continue reading

From the start of his administration, Grau tried to associate it with the “hundred days” (9/10/1933-1/15/1934) and lend it continuity via social measures — although many contained a high dosage of demagoguery, so much that he became popularly known as “the Divine Gallimaufry.”

At the same time, in a moment of weakness, he allowed certain armed groups (remnants of the 1933 Revolution’s action groups who had been unable to insert themselves normally in the subsequent political process, and who practiced violence and carried out shady dealings) to roam the streets, primarily, of Havana.

This infinite tolerance for gangsterism revived the anarchic episodes of that prior period — which, during the previous administration, had seemed a thing of the past — thereby demonstrating the terrible current state of relations between the Executive and Legislative powers, which had suffered a great decline.

Grau abandoned the semi-parliamentarism instituted by the previous adminisration and went back to a presidentialist style of government, ignoring what had been established by the Constitution of the Republic in this regard.

In addition, his presidency was characterized by some picturesque, even extravagant, successes that reduced his credibility and respectability — such as the strange disappearence of the diamond embedded in the floor of the Capitol (which, some time later, one fine day, with no coherent explanation, appeared on the table in his office, and which he nonchalantly returned to its rightful place as if nothing had happened, without revealing who had masterminded such a misdeed).

Among the tragic events occurring in those years, one that merits pointing out is the so-called “Battle of Orfila,” more like a slaughter, wherein the two most important action groups that operated in the city of Havana vented their personal and business rivalries with bullets, resulting in a great number of dead and injured.

On the international plane, Grau allowed the formation of a clandestine army – the so-called Legion of the Caribbean — which established its base of operations in Cayo Confites and was aimed at overthrowing dictatorships in the region, in frank violation of international laws in force then.

Notwithstanding all these errors, which discredited the government as well as the President himself (turning him into a cartoon-like figure), there was always an absolute respect for civic liberties and freedom of expression — and, as he liked to say, in his government, all Cubans “had five pesos in their pockets.”

Grau was a President subjected to great opposition — not just the traditional kind, but also that of Dr. Eduardo R. Chibás, dissident leader of the Partido Revolucionario Cubano-Auténtico (PRCA), who went on to head it when he was not selected by Grau as the party’s candidate for the upcoming presidential election.

Chibás, a charismatic and populist politician who had directed Grau’s campaign during the so-called “glory days” that had swept him to power in 1944, felt discriminated against, and he became Grau’s most fierce critic and impugner — with and without cause.

On 6 January 1948, general elections were held in which the following candidates participated: for the PRCA, Drs. Carlos Prío Socarrás and Guillermo Alonso Pujol; for the Coalición Socialista Democrática, Drs. Emilio Núñez Portuondo and Gustavo Cuervo Rubio; for the Partido del Pueblo Cubano-Ortodoxo, Drs. Eduardo R. Chibás and Emilio Ochoa; and for the Partido Socialista Popular, Dr. Juan Marinello.  The winning ticket was that of the PRCA.

President Ramón Grau San Martín, a popular figure who aroused great hopes in the citizenry (as much for his support of culture as for his performance during the government of the “hundred days” following the overthrow of Gerardo Machado’s dictatorship), who assumed the presidency with a great majority of the population in his favor — little by little, due to his political weaknesses, began to lose prestige and turn into more of a folk character than a head of state.

As a result, even with the prevailing economic boom during his six years of governing and the many constructive works accomplished with the objective of improving our towns and cities, the people did not feel totally satisfied. A monument or bust was never erected in his memory.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Patriotic Clamor / Fernando Damaso

Various uses of the image of the flag from times past.

Fernando Dámaso, 29 April 2019 — The uproar continues between those who reject and those who accept the use of patriotic symbols, mainly the flag, in utilitarian objects. With this in mind I would like to clarify a few things and offer some personal thoughts.

“Patriotic puritans,” who mainly come from the intellectual community, want to sanctify the flag and turn it into an object of religious devotion.

“Patriotic populists” use it excessively, and often inappropriately, as a decorative object in shops, farmers markets, public offices, companies and vehicles. Also included in this group are political leaders, entrepreneurs and business executives who use it at any number of events and activities, no matter how insignificant, at which the flag’s size is in direct proportion to the magnitude of the failures they want to cover up. continue reading

“Jingoistic opportunists,” mainly musicians and athletes, use it to varying degrees in unoriginal and inartistic clothing designs.

I believe that, when the flag is used (in whole or in part) in everyday objects such as clothing, towels, bedsheets, curtains and upholstery, it should display some artistic quality and originality.

Examples of good design can be found in multiple utilitarian objects which feature various elements of the American and British flags. These are popular throughout the world, including in this country.

Rather than attacks or insults to a patriotic symbol, citizens view these examples, which they have known since infancy, with affection, not as inaccessible objects to be placed on an altar.

To celebrate the anniversary of the founding of the republic, Cubans have followed the yearly tradition of wearing the colors of the flag, and even the flag itself, on May 20 as a healthy sign of patriotic pride, with the blessing of all the country’s war veterans.

Instead of debating the flag’s use or non-use on everyday items, it would be better to educate citizens from an early age on its proper use while not allowing it to be used indiscriminately in bodegas, farmers markets, business settings or street demonstrations.

If a flag is made of cloth, it should not be left outside, exposed to sun, wind and rain to the point of disintegration. If it is applied to some other backing (paper, cardboard, poster board), it should not be left in streets, plazas and sidewalks to be mindlessly trampled on, like trash, by passers-by.

For those who do not remember or do not know, during the Republican era the flag could only remain outdoors from dawn, when it was hoisted, to dusk, when it was taken down, correctly folded into a triangular shape with the star on top, and kept in a designated place until the following morning, when the process was repeated.

When it became worn out, it was incinerated. The same held true for flags printed on paper products. All this was taught in school, and was common knowledge and required practice.

Furthermore, printing images, landscapes, text and signatures of any kind on flags was prohibited. In other words, its use was subject to regulations, which were respected and adhered to by officials and citizens alike. There were also established standards governing where it was to placed and when it was to be displayed alongside other flags.

Today, almost of this has been lost, along with many other things. Government officials and citizens alike are ignorant of these practices. I believe rescuing them is more important than wasting time squabbling over whether the flag should be used on everyday objects.

Requiem for Havana / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, 19 March 2019 — That Havana is falling apart stopped being news a long time ago. The institutional abandonment, the widespread apathy and irresponsibility, during the six decades that the city has been affected by the “tornado” that hit down in January 1959, have totally destroyed it.

In November will be Havana’s 500th anniversary of its foundation and, for this reason, the authorities have foreseen to beautify it a little, that is, to give it some rouge, so that it looks a little better and is somewhat more presentable, at least for the foreign guests who will surely attend the celebration.

As usual, this involves many more words than actions and, everywhere, the date is announced with the slogan “For Havana the Greatest.”

However, the work that is being done, except in a few cases, is quite sloppy, of low quality and over it by those responsible. Examples of bad work can be seen on Línea Calle in Havana’s El Vedado neighborhood, full of cuts that hinder vehicular and pedestrian traffic, which has been going on for months and, most of the time, without anyone working on it.

Meanwhile, in Nuevo Vedado’s Acapulco Park they have demolished some of its areas, rebuilt and demolished then again, thanks to the bad quality of the work undertaken, also for months. If this is the case in these two examples, I think that very little can be done for the celebration.

We all know that, a situation that represents the deterioration accumulated over decades can not be solved in a few months, but, at least, what is done should be done with quality.

The Man of the White Suit / Fernando Damaso

Batista lunching with his wife in the Presidential Palace, 8 months before fleeing Cuba. (Wikicommons)

Fernando Dámaso, 28 February 2019 — As a result of the Constituent Assembly and the elaboration and implementation of a new Constitution of the Republic, in an electoral process characterized by legality and tranquility, Fulgencio Batista Zaldívar became the sixth president, a man who had left the army with the rank of colonel (in February 1942, the new Organic Law of the Army grants him the rank of general retroactively), and fused into this same person the two antagonistic currents during the seven prior years, with losses for both sides and for the Republic: the military and the civilian.

Although he was a military caudillo, and had acted as such in previous years, exerting his influence in the rise and fall of several presidents, his personality also projected on the political plane. His rise to the presidency gave continuity to the Generals-Presidents of the Republic. Perhaps, because of this, he was able to easily defeat the military coup of the Chief of Police, General Jose Eleuterio Pedraza, at the beginning of his term. He exercised power from October 10, 1940 until October 10, 1944. continue reading

The main objective of his government, formed by the so-called Socialist Democratic Coalition, was to consolidate the state of peaceful coexistence that had been achieved during the Constitutional Convention, where parties, organizations and political and social groups of different stripes had managed to debate their proposals with civility and reached important results for the good of the Republic. In spite of this, from the beginning of his mandate, he had to face the opposition of the Cuban Revolutionary Party (Authentic), his main opponents and losers of the elections.

Unlike prior presidential terms, which began in 1902, he set in motion the semi-parliamentary regime established by the 1940 Constitution, appointing as its Prime Minister Dr. Carlos Saladrigas, a relevant personality, who managed to establish and maintain correct relations between the Executive and the Legislative branches.

During his exercise of the presidency,  Batista created the National Development Commission, with the objective of coordinating and promoting the development of the country, set a gold standard for the issuance of monetary certificates and achieved important advances in labor policy, establishing the Sugar Workers Retirement plan.

In addition, he  approved the creation of the National Council of Education and Culture, which achieved good results in the improvement and development of these two important activities, turned over the Calixto García General Hospital and the Limones Central (a sugar mill) to the University of Havana, for their use as learning centers, built the National Archive building, as well as that of the Economic Society of Friends of the Country and established the Order “José María Heredia”, to reward Cuban and foreign personalities in the world of science, letters and the arts.

Upon entering Cuba into the Second World War, he called for national unity, the ABC Party, an ally until that point of the Cuban Revolutionary Party (Authentic), responded favorably and came to collaborate with the government. In the context of the war, important measures were taken, with the aim of avoiding the scarcity of supplies and making the lives of citizens too expensive.

Although the Cuban Revolutionary Party (Authentic) continued in the opposition, it collaborated from the Congress with every act of national defense and with the belligerent attitude that Cuba had assumed. In response to this, the government appointed Engineer Carlos Hevia, an important figure of this party, as President of the ORPA, the Office of Regulating Prices and Supplies.

The President, during the years of his mandate, was able to summon and surround himself with people prepared to successfully carry out his government projects, allowing the country to live a stage of social tranquility and progress, experience that, unfortunately, has been forgotten by the others who suceeded him.

On June 1, 1944, general elections were held, including the candidacies of the Socialist Democratic Coalition, composed of Carlos Saladrigas-Ramón Zaydín, and the Cuban Revolutionary Party (Authentic) by Ramón Grau San Martín-Raúl de Cárdenas.

In an orderly process, honest and with all the guarantees, Dr. Ramón Grau San Martín obtained the victory, as the Republican Party of Dr. Guillermo Alonso Pujol joined his ranks, with the goal of, at the last minute, softening the excessive radicalism of some authentic leaders, among them, mainly, Dr. Eduardo R. Chibás, that affected the intention of voters. The transfer of powers was carried out in the most perfect democratic order.

Fulgencio Batista Zaldívar was the first President elected in democratic general elections, in accordance with the new Constitution of the Republic, after the fall of the government of General Gerardo Machado. His presidential term was characterized by the achievement of peaceful coexistence among Cubans, and the realization of important works, both material and social, which helped the country’s development after the impasse of seven years of political and economic instability. By restoring the democratic order, he created the base for its continuity.

The facts show that Batista was not the illiterate politician that they tried to make us believe, but someone intelligent who made good government during this presidential period. No monument or bust was erected that would honor him, although during his presidential termt the 4th of September flag fluttered next to the Cuban flag in the military camps and institutions.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

Between Heaven and Hell / Fernando Damaso

Damage from the tornado that struck parts of Havana earlier this year. (14ymedio)

Fernando Dámaso, 4 March 2019 —  As had been predetermined, the monstrosity of a constitution was ratified in a referendum last Sunday, February 24, in spite of the clumsy manipulation of polling data by the regime.

The reasons vary: government induced fear and an insane level of propaganda; political pressure exerted on workers, intellectuals, artists, athletes, professionals and students, who are elegible to vote, and and even on infants, who are not; all clamoring “I Vote Yes!”

Though no figures have been released, the amount of money and resources spent on the campaign must have far outstripped those of any presidential election held in the United States, which Cuban leaders and their front men never fail to criticize. In addition, the “Don’t Vote” and “Vote NO” campaigns, which left the opposition ridiculously divided, were suppressed. continue reading

With state monopoly of all media, including social networks, citizens were bombarded with constant sermonizing, leaving opponents with no legal public platforms to express themselves.

As of the 24th, Cuba has a new constitution, though it will require an additional twenty-four months for its articles to be formulated before it can be put into practice. Given the circumstances, it is likely to be the shortest-lived Constitution in the history of Cuba, surpassed only perhaps by the ephemeral Baraguá constitution, which lasted only a few days, during which time Antonio Maceo tried in vain to prolong a war that had already ended. It was an attempt to extend the life, at least on paper, of a failed revolution.

Shortly after Dr. Ramón Grau San Martín became President of the Republic in 1944, the island was hit by a devastating hurricane, which led the press to predict, “The new government threatens to be stormy.” And that’s was happened.

Since the current “designate” assumed the presidency, there has been a terrible airline crash in which there was only one survivor, intense rains and floods have washed away crops, homes, roads and bridges in central Cuba, and a tornado has destroyed parts of the already heavily damaged areas of Santos Suárez, Regla, Guanabacoa, and San Miguel near Havana. As if that were not enough, a meteorite has even broken up over Pinar del Río.

If we had a free press, it would predict that “the new government threatens to be disastrous.” On top of repeated economic failures, industrial decline, lack of investment and the deterioration of social services, we must now add the fall — sooner of later — of the Maduro regime in Venezuela, our main sponsor.

As a result, alarm bells have gone off and Cuban officials now spend hours flying around the world, looking for new partners who might be willing to “throw a rope,” as the local saying goes. But times have changed.

I doubt that Europe, which is having serious problems with some of its major member countries, is inclined to provide new credits knowing they might not be repaid. Russia is now capitalist, as are all the republics which made up the former Soviet Union.

Similarly, China and Vietnam have adopted market economies. In all of them, things cost money and nothing is free. If they extend credit, it must be repaid with corresponding interest. Even isolated North Korea, which has nothing to give, is in talks with the United States, its historic adversary.

In Latin America they have shut the door, with the exception of the indigenous Aymaran*, who spends his time ranting about the empire, blaming poultry consumption for causing homosexuality and worshiping the goddess Pachamama through dance.

Lacking resources, few can help their “brother president.” Mexico — a country immersed in serious problems on its northern and southern borders, as well as others such as drug trafficking, a violent crime wave, and longstanding, widespread corruption — does not have time to deal with its complicated Caribbean neighbor.

The little surrounding islands are of no use since, by necessity, they take more than they give. That leaves only Canada and the United States, and the former has always coordinated its policy in the region with the latter. In short, to escape the quagmire and save Cuba, dialogue with the latter is essential, but that does not necessarily mean also saving its government.

Dialogue, however, will require abandoning the brusque swagger, the childish arrogance, the antiquated dogmas, the rampant and cocky stupidity, and the outlandish demands. A dialogue requires two suitcases: a full one from which to give and an empty one in which to receive.

May God and the Orishas open our leaders’ eyes to the prevailing bleak reality so that they might think of Cuba and the Cubans, and set aside their addiction to absolute power. Otherwise, they will be consumed by the fire of Lucifer and Shangó.

 *Translator’s note: A reference to President Evo Morales of Bolivia.

Requiem for Havana / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Dámaso, 19 March 2019 — That Havana is falling to pieces is hardly news. The institutional neglect, apathy and general irresponsibility, which has affected the city, over the six decades since the “tornado” hit in January 1959, has totally destroyed it. November will be the 500th anniversary of its foundation and it is expected that the authorities will do it up a little, that’s to say, apply a bit of makeup, so that it looks a bit better and more presentable, at least for the foreigners who have been invited to attend the celebration.

As usual, there is more talk than action, and everywhere you look they are announcing the date with the slogan “Havana is the greatest”.

Nevertheless, what they are doing, with one or two exceptions, is slapdash, poor quality, with the worst productivity and even worse control. As an example of poor work, just look at  Calle Línea in El Vedado, with power cuts which hold up the traffic and pedestrians, and which has been going on for months, without anybody doing anything about it. And also Parque Acapulco in Nuevo Vedado, with bits demolished, rebuilt, and torn down again because of poor workmanship, and which has also been going on for months.  If that’s how it is in just two examples, it seems to me they won’t get much done in time for the celebration.

We all know that you can’t sort out a situation which has deteriorated over decades in a few months, but, at least whatever they do should be done properly.

Translated by GH

“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