A Prime Minister with Doubtful Results as a Minister / Somos+

The photo of Manuel Marrero Cruz surrounded by officers in uniform at the time of announcing his appointment to the plenary perhaps explains this inexplicable designation.

SOMOS+, Germán M. González, 6 February 2020 — Reviewing the results of the tourism sector in the current year, we have the following outcome:

The arrival of visitors decreases, the official explanation is the restrictions the Trump Administration has put on Americans’ travel to Cuba, including stopping the cruise ships, but the truth is that destinations having little or nothing to do with the coercive measures of the US government are decreasing. Let’s look at this from January to October according to the National Bureau of Statistics and Information www.onei.cu:

Only the visitors from the community (larger every day) and from Russia are increasing, representing 3.5% of the total and those from Europe and the rest of the world are decreasing by -280 thousand visitors, 210 thousand more than the decrease of those from the USA (-70 thousand). In this issue, as in others, if there were no “blockade” (embargo actually) it would necessary to invent it. continue reading

These trends continued in November and from January to September, we noticed that stays per visitor were only 4.4 days and revenues 503 CUC, in both cases, below the total of 2018.

The average occupancy rate is 38%, 1.7 percentage points below the percentage accomplished in 2018 and the most serious problem: since the early 2017 there is no occupancy over 60% in any month of the year.

In general, both absolute and relative levels in the indicators of the rates in 2019, are lower not only than 2018 but also in 2017; that is to say that the alleged locomotive of the Cuban economy has been in recession for two years.

According to the Cuban News Agency (ACN, for its acronym in Spanish), the first Deputy Minister of Tourism (now Minister), Juan Carlos García, reported in the recently concluded session of the National Assembly of the People’s Power that there are 11,000 empty rooms due to “insufficient preventive maintenance, lack of priority to prevention, solution and control fulfillment of the designed plans.”

In general, he acknowledged important breaches in maintenance and remodeling issues and listed a series of deficiencies, such as a deficit of suitable investors, technical documentation and equipment completion; insufficient preparation of the construction works; changes in the original projects; failure to fulfill the executive schedules: deficit in the supplies of the national industry; failure to accomplish the import plan; lack of skilled labor force, fuel shortage.

There were also problems in the operation of the elevators in the hotels that were not a cause for shutting rooms down, but impacted the service quality.

The performance of the other sectors must have been really poor for the minister Manuel Marrero Cruz to be designated as Prime Minister! Or is it that they took into account — as it usually happens in the system copied from the Soviet Union — considerations outside the efficiency and effectiveness in management.

This promotion recalls those made in favor of Inés María Chapman and Roberto Morales Ojeda, both with lower results than the usual inefficiency. Or worse, J.R. Balaguer’s promotion from Health Minister to Secretary of International Relations of the Party when the death of over twenty patients of Mazorra Psychiatric Hospital (from cold and starvation) resulted into prison sentences for staff of that hospital.

And how is it possible to justify that the investment program for 2019 foretold a hotel capacity growth of more than 3,800 rooms and the restoration of another 5,000? Why, considering the 38% occupancy rate that only exceeds 50% during one month of the year?

If parliament members were not appointed based on their unconditional support for the leaders, as the President of the Assembly has just proclaimed, if they were representatives of the Nation, they would have asked these and many other questions instead of unanimously approving every document presented before them and the decisions taken of which they are, like the cuckold of the story, the last ones to find out.

Translated by Francy Perez Perdomo 

Removing Life Support from a Comatose Patient / Somos+, German M. Gonzalez

New measures of the U.S. government will cut off the oxygen to a ruined economy, which so far has not imploded but has not yet taken off either. How bad will things get?

Somos+, Germán M. González, 26 April 2019 — When Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election, the Cuban government and Communist Party assumed a disinterested attitude. At first, official propaganda outlets gave the event little attention and toned down their routine attacks on American leaders. That attitude persisted until some time after the presidential inauguration, when the growing closeness between the business-magnate-turned-president and Cuban-American politicians had become more apparent.

Initially, the new administration did not take harsher measures. It even maintained the policies of the previous administration in regards to matters of real interest to Havana: remittances, family visits and business trips by Cubans and Cuban-Americans to and from Cuba. But the power struggle in Venezuela was becoming ever more acute and Russia’s presence in the country was becoming increasingly obvious.

The Russian presence ran the gamut, from its highly publicized military presence to the much less publicized Russian appropriation of Venezuelan assets in an effort to secure loans and investments. It is worth remembering that these assets include, or may include, CITGO, a subsidiary of PDSVA (Venezuela’s state-owned oil and gas company), which owns an extensive number of properties and accounts for up to 10% of all the gasoline sold at U.S. service stations. continue reading

In other words, the Russian intrusion was not limited just to the proverbial “backyard.” It extended to the house itself, an unprecedented development, which made the Americans apprehensive. The situation began during the presidency of Barack Obama, who declared Venezuela a threat to national security, increasing the level of hostility. Nevertheless, we do not know why Cuba was not, until recently, part of the team of old hawks, known Latin American “specialists,” currently ruling Venezuela.

Recently, the U.S. canceled the agreement signed by the Major Leagues and the Cuban Baseball Federation (which would have been paid as the players’ agent), arguing that it was a Cuban government entity. Freighters owned by PDVSA and several international companies that transport oil from Venezuela were also sanctioned, striking at something of vital interest to the Cuban regime. The action involves freezing PDSVA assets under American jurisdiction, preventing financial transactions and blocking the company’s access to US ports.

It was during lunch with Secretary of State John Bolton on the 58th anniversary of their defeat during the Bay of Pigs invasion on April 17, 1961 that members of Brigade 2506 learned that the White House was applying new or toughened sanctions on Cuba, something that the State Department was putting into place that same morning. These include but are not limited to Title III and Title IV of the Helms-Burton Act, which allow individuals to file suit in American courts against companies that operate on property confiscated by the Cuban government. Enforcement has been waived every six months for the last twenty-three years.

The first cases were filed by Cuban-Americans on May 1. Potential plaintiffs vary from giant companies like Bacardi — it has annual receipts of 33 billion dollars, three times the value of all Cuban exports — to individuals whose small homes, cars, household appliances and personal effects were confiscated under Che Guevara’s philosophy that even toothbrush constituted private property.

The European Union and Canada have announced countermeasures to defend their interests. They involve various entities which manage the hard currency income generated by joint venture projects — tourism, airports, the port of Mariel, mining operations — between Cuba and its creditor nations. The projects are part of a “debt swap,” intended repay the enormous sums of money Cub borrowed from those countries.

It is an interesting development given that the Europeans, and especially Canada, have been accompanying Trump & Co. on his crusade against the Maduro regime and, like the Americans, are worried about Russia’s involvement in the western hemisphere. Title IV also allows individuals and their family members to be sued, a highly sensitive issue for businesspeople involved in global trade, especially if that trade is with the world’s most powerful economy.

Restrictions on travel and remittances. In 2018 some 658,000 Americans and 521,000 Cuban Americans visited Cuba, an increase of over 20% for both groups. According to the Havana Consulting Group, annual remittances in the form of cash and merchandise totalled 6.5 billion dollars. It is the country’s second largest source of hard currency after income from the labor force. The measure will limit the flow of travelers and remittances (one thousand dollars per quarter) and will hinder cruise operations associated with the use of confiscated properties.

Expanding the list of restricted Cuban companies. Currently there are more than 200 Cuban entities subject to economic sanctions by the United States. The list was created in November 2017 and expanded last March. Six more entities have since been added, among them Aerogaviota. The ruling prohibits financial transactions between U.S. citizens and firms with those business entities run by the Revolutionary Armed Forces and the Ministry of the Interior.

Cuba’s return to the list of state sponsors of terrorism. This measure and several others have yet to be adopted. But expectations are that, the next time the Department of State sends the new list to Congress, Cuba will added to it. International financial transactions by countries on the list are subject to extreme scrutiny. Individuals, companies and countries which engage in commercial transactions can also be penalized. The measure also means the chances are greater that the processing of visas will take longer and that state universities in Florida will have to cancel exchange programs with Cuban academies as well as student trips to the island.

This decision by the Trump administration is based on the presence of Cuban military and intelligence personnel in Venezuela, who are there to support the Maduro regime. The Cuban elite also has deep ties to organizations like the FARC and ELN in Colombia. Havana has close relations with Iran, North Korea and Syria, countries designated as sponsors of terrorism by the U.S. Department of State.

Cuba itself was on the terrorism list from 1982 until 2015, when it was removed by President Obama upon the restoration of diplomatic relations. In addition to Cuba, sanctions were placed the Central Bank of Venezuela, a Nicaraguan bank, and on a son of Daniel Ortega.

Conclusion. Based on news reports, there are clear indications that the second Special Period (one wonders why it is called this since we have been in this period, more or less, for the last sixty years) has arrived. The consequences and possible scenarios merit a separate discussion but, if anything is becoming clear with each passing day, it is the need to democratize the country and restore full rights. These include civil, political and economic rights for all Cubans, no matter where they live. If the party and government do not take action in this direction, it is sacrificing its own existence and our own national identity to the interests of caste and a political-economic system that has never worked.

May 1, Exaggerations and Contradictions / Somos+, German Gonzalez

Somos+, Germán M. González, 2 May 2019 — In its broadcast on May 1, 2019, NTV reported that six million Cubans attended the parade celebrating International Workers’ Day. This is impossible given it would amount to more than fifty percent of the island’s population, or a much higher proportion if you discount the sick, disabled, elderly, working people, security personnel, small children, those living abroad, etc. In that case the figure would approach close to 80% or more of possible attendees.

In Cuba we are used to seeing these types of large-scale events and, compared to what has been observed on many previous occasions in Havana, no more than 200,000 to 250,000 thousand people could have attended the parade.

To reach NTV’s reported figure, 1.2 million people, or 50% of the city’s total population, would have been needed, which obviously was not the case. The same scenario would have had to play out in the provinces. continue reading

Personal observation, however, contradicts this. In the town where this writer lives, a town with 49,000 residents, no more than a thousand people showed up. One can then deduce that, in all of Cuba, probably less than a million people, or about 10% of the population, participated. And that is being generous.

Other contradictions are no less obvious. NTV broadcasts images of the celebration from countries where the rights of workers, including salary levels, are seriously compromised. Millions of people emigrate from Cuba, Venezuela and North Korea annually, as confirmed by the United Nation’s Human Development Program in its Index of Human Development. These are countries with repressive regimes, where workers, along with the rest of their populations, do not enjoy most universally recognized rights.

Knowing the reality of Cuba, we could ask ourselves: What are they celebrating? In countries which accept migrants such as France, Spain, Germany and the United States, people march in the streets for various reasons. It is worth asking ourselves, Do those who are better off protest because they can do so, because it is a right they enjoy and exercise?

Conversely, do we celebrate publicly because the right to protest is restricted or denied? The countries who protests NTV reports also happen to be in the top ranks of the aforementioned index and are countries where the rule of law is fully respected.

Most likely, participation rates at public events in countries where attendance is mandatory for state-employed workers and students — population segments which are subject to obvious pressures — are exaggerated. In Cuba a black mark from the union or the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution for not attending a rally may jeopardize a spot at a university or workplace, threaten a job promotion or, even worse, a trip abroad due to an unexcused absence.

It is also obvious that there is exaggeration about the magnitude of protests in places where this right is exercised. In these places the only motivation people have to attend is to protest since the rest of their rights — a living wage and other labor benefits — are taken for granted, seen as something normal and come with no strings attached.

There is no need to participate in a parade except for pleasure. A seeming contradicion is the presence of many immigrants at these protests, something they would not dare to do in their countries of origin — generally dictatorships — because of the associated dangers. But they can do so in their host countries, which are generally democracies.

Unfortunately, very few Cubans, conditioned from early childhood by decades of indoctrination and propaganda from official news outlets, which are the only kind we have, have not asked these questions. Until now.

I Am Voting No / Somos+, German Gonzalez Rodriguez

Somos+, Germán González Rodríguez, 5 January 2019 — Compatriots:

If you do not want your family or partner to have to migrate for personal and professional fulfillment.

If you do not want to have to leave your country and your family to fulfill yourself personally and professionally.

If you are a worker and want a decent salary that allows you to live honestly.

If you are retired and you want a pension that allows you to live with dignity.

If you are a Cuban emigrant and the discriminatory and excluding Foreign Investment Law prevents you from legally investing in your native country.

If you have family or friends who have emigrated and the discriminatory and excluding Foreign Investment Law prevents them from investing in their native country honestly.

If you want to enjoy universally recognized rights in your Homeland.

If you are an emigrant and you want to enjoy the universally recognized rights in your native country.

If you want to start and develop your own business without bureaucracy and persecution.

If you want to stop being a discriminated against in your own country, exploited by foreigners who predominate over Cubans.

If you are convinced that to achieve all the above the first thing is to enjoy freedom of information, opinion, the means to express it and be able to choose your rulers:

The reasons are overwhelming FOR NO on the Constitutional Referendum

I am voting NO, on that fraud they are putting before us.

Housing In Cuba / Somos+, German Gonzalez

Somos+, Germán M. González, 11 November 2018

Absolute power equals absolute responsibility: the socio-economic situation of the country is disastrous, party & government admits it: Who will answer for that?

In the final days of this October, several references to the subject of housing appeared in the official Cuban media. Published first is that Pinar del Rio lacks more than ten thousand homes in order to fully recover from “prior hurricanes,” we are talking at a minimum of at least 10 years, and later, in the public version of a meeting of the council of ministers the “president” announced the proposal of building homes at a rate of 50 thousand per year. Let’s look at some background.

The universal right to decent and adequate housing is reflected in international and multilateral documents and agreements, as well as in the legislation of many countries, including national constitutions. Recognized in this manner, the human right to adequate housing — and its environment – is of fundamental importance for the enjoyment of all economic, social and cultural rights. Let’s look at the current situation in Cuba according to official sources.

The official newspaper Granma (January 25, 2018) reports that 47% of homes are inadequate, only exceeded in Latin America by Brazil (64%) and far higher than Argentina (22%) and Chile (23%). In addition, in the latter two countries, due to their climate, considering a home adequate implies many more requirements than in our sub-tropical archipelago. continue reading

The pace of construction has declined in the last twelve years, from more than 111,000 units in 2006 to fewer than 22,000 in 2017 (denying the claimed efficiency of the raulista term of office) according to the Cuban Statistical Yearbook (AEC), the smallest amount since statistics became available. Graphic view:

In its June 1st edition, Granma offers chilling data:

Housing pending solution: Grand Total/Total Collapses — Hurricanes prior to Sandy (2012): 42,000/25,000; Hurricane Sandy (2012): 36,000/14,000; Hurricane Matthew (2016): 8,000/7,000; Hurricane Irma (2017): 115,000/15,000.

In total, there are 201,000 homes affected; of those 61,000 were total collapses; 42,000 and 25,000, respectively, occurred before 2012.

In summary, if the pace expected by Díaz-Canel is reached, it would take four years to replace the homes affected by hurricanes and then ten years to repair the “not adequate” ones, plus an indeterminate period for impacts from new hurricanes and the currently adequate homes that, due to the passage of time and the poor quality of construction of the last 60 years, will inevitably deteriorate.

Add to this that the projected Diaz-Canelian pace is 2-1/2 times greater than what was achieved in the last five years as an annual average, plus the aforementioned unpredictable destructions and deteriorations, and the hopes of decent housing for most Cubans is more than remote.

A problem without a solution? For sure, under the current mandate of the “five” and their dogmas that are only effective for maintaining power.

The liberalization of the economy, the creation of a real estate market with modern credit system included, and above all the restitution to millions of Cuban diaspora members of their civil, political and economic rights with the consequent financial injection would surely give better results — in this and any other socioeconomic spheres — than the diffuse Díaz-Canelian dreams, which are nothing more than a badly copied version of the thousands of similar promises made by the Castro brothers… and look where we are after sixty years of listening to them.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

The ‘Chicken’ of ‘Rice with Chicken’ / Somos+

Somos+, Germain Gonzalez, 13 October, 2018 — There’s a certain surprise in digital media over the active participation of the Cuban population in the “debates” about the project of the constitution. The surprise is valid because in reality the “revolutionary” enthusiasm is minimal. The “electoral” processes as well as in the status reports from the delegates, the meetings of the organizations of the masses in the neighborhoods, workplaces and schools can be characterized by their formal structure. The population attends and completes this necessary process for the inspections carried out in their vicinity in order to get a job, scholarship, promotion, trip abroad, etc. The religious services of all creeds usually show greater attendance and happiness among the parishioners.

What’s certain is that Cubans, even with the extremely limited amount of information offered by the media, which is also scarce, biased, incomplete, and generally untruthful, feel anxious since something could improve or worsen. Like Pánfilo, the popular television character, who searched fruitlessly in the tabloid of project information for the quota of chicken or other rationed foods. continue reading

What’s certain is that the assemblies and their “debates,” just like the elections turn out “bread with nothing.” The uncomfortable explanations — of having something — stop right there, the media spreads only the favorable ones, and the chicken [i.e. not chicken but a substitute] of ’rice with chicken’ isn’t even mentioned: the “superior guiding power of society and the State” party, article five that takes away all validity from the rest of the monstrosity, if it had any.

Therefore the discussion of the rest of the article ends up an intellectual exercise. The referendum having taken place, and the final version of the thingamajig approved, in the first meeting of the political executive committee that presides over it throws out an idea, it’s approved — unanimously — the formal party processes are carried out (secretariat, full central committee), it’s presented to the National Assembly of Peoples Power (ordinary or extraordinary session according to the urgency), and this most docile parliament in universal history will approve the changes to the recently debuted constitution — unanimously — or simply as today they will do whatever is a good idea, taking notice of this.

Does anyone doubt it? Here goes an example:

On September 10, 1993, the political executive committee agrees on the creation of the Basic Units of Cooperative Production (UBPC) from the state-owned agricultural entities affected by gigantism, inefficiency, not economically and environmentally sustainable in the new situation created by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the European socialist camp the loss of the subsidies they gave to Cuba.

Ten days later Decree 143 is issued by the Council of State; in the next session of the assembly the Decree is approved, without questions and unanimously.

Regardless of being a terrible law, full of contradictions and incongruencies, it made available assets of billions of pesos, including 1.7 million hectares of agricultural land, hundreds of thousands of workers, and many millions of pesos of production, starting from the unappealable decision of an organ of power whose members have no practical nor theoretical experience in agricultural administration. Result: the cooperatives created are not profitible for the most part and agricultural production in clear retreat.

This example is not an isolated fact, the deterioration of the socioeconomic situation of the country is related to the system that gives ones man, or at most a small team, absolute powers for life, fulfilling the José Martí’s premonition:

Any wide and long-exercised power degenerates into caste. With caste comes interests, high positions, the fear of losing them, intrigues to hold on to them. The castes interweave, and they act tough to each other. (O.C. t9, p 340)

For example, the cooperative is master of production but had to sell it to the Company that the State designated at fixed prices, so for this reason, is it or is it not the master? The necessary supplies are received in the same manner, the rules for their functioning are so bureaucratic that there is almost no difference from a state entity, in short, all of the principles of cooperativism are violated.

Among the elders is the defenestration of the sugar industry; the “battle of ideas” with the creation of a super ministry, in the practical fount of corruption and waste of resources; martial decisions of great magnitude even for a power with interference in the internal affairs of other states or in conflicts between sovereign nations, etc.

In the brief historical existence of “real socialism” similar catastrophic actions abound: the forced collectivization of Stalin, the great “leap forward” of Mao are examples of absurd decisions that caused millions of death by hunger.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

Which Jose Marti do Cuba’s Rulers Read? / Somos+

“I feel like they murder a child of mine each time they deprive a man of the right to think.” –José Martí

Somos+, Germán M. González, 29 January 2018 —  In Cuba, there is an urgent need to restore, rehabilitate, revive, reconstruct, rescue, all familiar terms in the party/government media. The sugar and coffee agro-industries, livestock breeding, the fishing and merchant marine sectors–all are barely surviving at less than 30% productivity. Also at risk are intangibles such as culture, the transmission of our history–in short, everything.

But for Cubans, both in and outside the Island, there is an urgent need to rescue José Martí, our Apostle, because his thought is proving today–in the shadow of our civic extinction and the battered state of our national pride–an indispensable guide. continue reading

They combine Martí with incompatible things, starting with his appeal that heads up the current Constitution: “I want the first law of our Republic to be the cultivation of Cubans towards the full dignity of Man”–negated when the supremacy of one small part of the society over this Republic, and the state, is proclaimed in Article 5–wherein additionally he is mixed up with characters (“…follower of Martí and Marxist-Leninist…”) who were antithetical to the ideology that can be noted throughout his entire body of work. The following maxims are representative examples:

A Constitution is a living, pragmatic law that cannot be constructed out of ideological elements. José Martí Complete Works, v. 9, p. 308.

On the “candidacy commissions” during “elections”:

 The Republic is lifted on the shoulders of universal suffrage... Op.Cit., v. 1, p. 91

On considering Marxism-Leninism to be an exclusive ideology:

To know diverse philosophies is the best way to free oneself from the tyranny of some of them… Op.Cit., v. 15, p. 91

On eternal socialism:

The right of the worker cannot ever be hatred of capital: it is harmony, conciliation, the coming together of one and the other. Op.Cit. v.6, p. 275.

On thousands of executions following extremely summary trials lacking procedural safeguards:

(…) capital punishment is unjust for it quenches in the body (…) the rage roused by the crime of the spirit. Op. Cit. v.21, p. 25.

On the plans for massive scholarships:

There is great danger in educating children away from home, for it is only from parents that the continuous tenderness flows which should water the youthful flower, and that constant mix of authority and affection–ineffective, owing to the very domination and arrogance of our nature, but that both proceed from the same person. Op. Cit. v.5, p. 260

On the medical missions and emigration that break down the family:

 (…) so necessary in the family home is the father, always dynamic, as well as the mother, always cautious. Op. Cit. v.4, p.275.

On intervening in the internal affairs of and conflicts between sovereign nations:

Nothing so imprudent there is as to perturb with their own rancors–given that there are unfortunates who hold them–the peace of a foreign people: (…) Op. Cit. v.4, p. 137.

On the abrupt eradication of thousands of small and medium-sized businesses and farms:

A nation is rich that includes many small proprietors. Op. Cit. v. 7, p. 134.

The finest citizen is he who cultivates a large tract of land. Op. Cit. v. 7, p. 164.

On heavy bureaucratization:

A country of paper pushers is headed on the wrong path. Op. Cit. v. 15, p. 391

On the absolutist State:

 (…) from being a slave of the capitalists, as is said today, would a man go to being a slave of the functionaries. Op. Cit. v.15, p 391.

On the absolute and lifelong power guaranteed by the current political system:

All power that is fully and prolongedly exerted degenerates into a caste. With the caste comes the vested interests, the high positions, the fear of losing them, the intrigues (…) Op. Cit. v. 9, p. 340.

On the militarization of the economy and society:

What in the military sphere is a virtue, in the government sphere is a fault. A country is not a battlefield. In war, to command is to bring down; in peace, it is to raise up. No known edifice exists that was built upon bayonets. Op. Cit. v. 13, p. 129-143.

On caudillismo [Spanish or Latin American-style autocratic government]:

 A Revolution is still necessary–that which does not make of its caudillo a President, that revolution against all revolutions: the raising up of all men of peace (…) so that neither they nor anyone else will ever see him again!  Op. Cit., v. 6, p. 360. 

Let us rescue Martí–the true one has been hijacked–and we need him.

Translated By: Alicia Barraqué Ellison