The Perfect Storm: San Isidro and Currency Unification

“You cannot do currency reform without providing goods and services. The viability of any currency is decided in the marketplace, not in some bureaucrat’s office,” asserts Jorge Hernandez Fonseca. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Jorge Hernández Fonseca, Havana, 27 December 2020 — The abolition of the Cuba’s dual currency system is, as we all know, essential to the development of a healthy economy on island. It is a reform the Communist nomenklatura has said it will adopt but which it is reluctant to undertake for fear of losing the political power it holds by force. Nevertheless, the Castro regime decided to go ahead with the so-called “ordering task” at the worst possible moment for the economy. It did so to play down and distract attention from the government’s reaction to a grassroots movement which has sprung up spontaneously in opposition to the dictatorship. This has only added fuel to an already out-of-control wildfire: rebellion.

You cannot do currency reform without providing goods and services. The viability of any currency is decided in the marketplace, not in some bureaucrat’s office. In essence, the market is about supply and demand for goods and services, exactly what universal socialism cannot provide. There can be no “ordering” possible without first offering goods and services. However, the problems caused by the government’s attempts to suppress the San Isidro Movement and clumsy public missteps by top officials of the Ministry of Culture have continued unabated.* The disruptions brought about by the ordering task will have dire consequences when chaos and disorder increase in 2021.

Additionally, there is the underappreciated level of expectation in Havana in regards to support the the regime might receive from the incoming American administration. In any case, economic support will not be forthcoming during first phase of a new relationship with the Biden administration, which will be faced with both repression in the streets of Havana and chaos caused by a disorderly currency unification process in an economy with few goods or services. This creates a situation in which the most vulnerable sectors of society — retirees, the elderly and the underprivileged — will undoubtedly suffer the most harm. continue reading

It is clear that, for a variety of reasons, the bipartisan establishment in the U.S. is not interested in defeating and replacing the Cuban dictatorship right now. However, the disorder that the island’s own authorities have planned for the beginning of next year could jeopardize this stance. One thing the American establishment does value is the island’s stability, which could be threatened by the perfect storm of political challenges posed by the San Isidro Movement and the economic disruption Cuban officials have planned.

For the first twenty days of January the U.S. government will still be led by Donald Trump, who will not hesitate to react forcefully to any possible violations of civil and political rights which the Cuban regime refuses to respect. In the event of blatantly repressive moves, the new Biden administration will be forced to take action against the regime. Civil recognition is one thing but support for a repressive dictatorship in full attack mode against a people without food or freedom who are demanding their rights is quite another.

*Translator’s note: The San Isidro Movement (MSI) begin in September 2018 as a protest against state censorship of artistic works and has become a platform for Cuban dissidents both at home and abroad. In November 300 MSI members and supporters, surrounded by police, demonstrated outside the Ministry of Culture, demanding dialogue with its vice-minister, who met with them for five hours.


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The Cuban Opposition Selfdestructs When Castroism is in Terminal Crisis

Former US President Barack Obama in a meeting with Cuban opponents. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Jorge Hernández Fonseca, Miami, 15 September 2020 —  The world of the Cuban political opposition is full of many dissimilar figures, who seem more like a patchwork quilt than a screen ready for the projector. There has always been talk of the “necessary unity,” a thesis denied with such profusion of arguments among themselves, that no one in their right mind ventures to talk about it. However, the failure of such a union is no reason for opponents to attack each other mercilessly.

Today Castroism is defeated, ideologically and practically. Marxism does not work in Castro’s Cuba as it has not worked in any of the many countries where it has been established. However, the opposition is not an option to run the government in anyone’s eyes.

It is evident that Castroism is partly responsible for the critical situation of the opposition, because one of the government’s long-time strategies has been “divide and conquer,” a strategy that separates the opposition internally and externally and that has been particularly successful. Also the limelight, the fight for material resources and other detrimental characteristics of the human being, contribute to the fact that the long-awaited coordination between the opposition groups has not been possible. continue reading

The prospect presents contrasts, however, with the existence of young, brave, intelligent opponents willing to sacrifice to liberate the country from the iron dictatorship that has been imposed on them, who should have as a priority task coordination with their counterparts.

There are signs of discreet conversations between the Castro dictatorship and the United States, basically because Washington wants to solve the Venezuelan problem using “the good will” of the Cubans, the owners and lords of Chavista Venezuela. These conversations would also imply positive results for the Island, but there are no opponents capable of taking responsibility for running the Government, because their disputes could destabilize the State and give the drug traffickers the opportunity to assume power.

The model of drug trafficking societies that exists in much of Central America, starting with Mexico, would be very easy to introduce in Cuba with a weak and divided government, such as the one projected by the Cuban opposition, which lacks the strong leader that the United States needs to safeguard its coasts, after the Castro nightmare of these last years.

For a world power like the United States, which needs a stable Cuba above any other characteristic (including democracy), negotiation with an authoritarian government in Cuba — made up of sectors of current Castroism and leaving its armed forces intact — would be preferable to a democratic team on the island, made up of current weak and divided Cuban opponents, an easy target for the Central American and Mexican drug cartels.

Faced with this reality, Cuba’s own divided, unstable and uncoordinated political opposition — honest but divided — might not leave the US any alternative but to negotiate with the enemy.


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Turning towards Capitalism in Castro’s Cuba

A privately owned cafe near the Havana airport. (14ymedio/Archivo)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Jorge Hernández Fonseca, Madrid, 8 August 2020 — Castro’s Cuba is taking a second step — timid but in the right direction — towards the implementation of a capitalist economy. First, it has partially dollarized the sale of basic goods, though it continues to pay people’s wages in a worthless currency. Second, it is doing away with the list of approved occupations, a list that dates back to colonial times, and replacing it with something more convoluted lest anyone realize that the new forms of employment are “private companies.”

There is a lot of fear within the communist regime that the Cuban people might notice how, after more than sixty years of socialist misery, all the concrete solutions being implemented are capitalist. In regards to the formation of new companies, the regime has begun asking would-be entrepreneurs (formerly referred to as cuentapropistas) to come up with “proposals” so that their business plans can be analyzed and authorized, or not, depending on the mood of the envious communist bureaucrats reviewing them.

It would be much easier to just publish the requirements for setting up small and medium sized businesses but the optics would not be good. It would be acknowledging in writing what Marxist doctrine has always denied. “What would we say to the old owners of small and medium sized Cuban businesses?” Raul might might ask at a meeting convened to discuss the topic.

Although the Cuban exodus during the 1960s was made up of the cream of Cuban society, at least in terms of their entrepreneurial skills and experience, the success of other Cubans in the United States and other countries demonstrates that entrepreneurial talent still exists on the island. If government leaders decided to seriously — they would have to do it seriously, which has not always been the case — the Cuban people could, at a minimum, enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner, which they have not been able to do for sixty years.

Perhaps we will have to wait until Raul Castro dies before making the leap to capitalism. But who knows if pressure from the street might force the general, in his waning days, to accept the defeat of his ideology in exchange for the welfare of his people? That is something the Communist Party has never prioritized. As everyone knows, the priority of the Castro brothers has always been holding onto power.

We are not talking about unrestricted freedom, something the Cuban people seek and deserve. It is simply the authorized introduction of capitalist practices into the economy, as happened in China and Vietnam, to alleviate endemic socialist inefficiencies. Nevertheless, at least in the case of Cuba, it would be a first step towards a future of total freedom for the Cuban people, something Fidel Castro never allowed, knowing that it would mean a fall from power.


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Cuba’s Hand in the Venezuelan Talks in Oslo

Juan Guaidó was included in meetings in Oslo with the mediation of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (@jguaido)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Jorge Hernández Fonseca, 22 May 2019 — After brilliant demonstrations as a wise opponent, Juan Guaidó has fallen into the trap he always claimed to reject: authorizing talks with Maduro. The reason: there is a new factor now at play in the equation, Castro’s Cuba.

According to press reports, the Oslo talks were initially suggested by Havana. Hence the danger of having planned a solution on the island that is akin to their interests, even if it means Havana has to deliver some piece of the complex chess game that is being played in Caracas. Maduro would be sacrificed.

Since the failed negotiations of the Venezuelan opposition with senior leaders of the Madurista dictatorship, it was already more or less clear that Havana’s plans of Havana could involve the exchange of Maduro for General Padrino. Behind the idea of General Padrino’s leadership as a condition for the transitional government was Cuban intelligence, trying to control the process and placing one of its best men to lead the changes towards “democracy.” This is a scheme Castroism already tried before in Nicaragua. continue reading

This most likely signifies that the opposition has received guarantees of putting in a relief player for Maduro in exchange for a transitional government plus elections, as Guaidó demands, but leaving intact the army led by Padrino and the party led by Diosdado Cabello.

This would be followed by elections that Castroism would be willing to lose, at the beginning (recalling Violeta Chamorro’s 1990 victory in Nicaragua), but would ensure a continuation of oil for Cuba and as well as of the Chavista scheme in Venezuela, incubating and waiting.

The scheme that Castroism promotes for Venezuela could now satisfy US requests that “Cuba send home its military,” and Cubans may suggest to the Americans a solution for the island similar to the Venezuelan one. It would withdraw from its 20,000 men from the country (almost all doctors) but leave intact the Cuban system of counterintelligence planted in the Venezuelan Army headed by Padrino. Within the Island, the process would continue without political changes and without elections, but with certain capitalist guarantees in the economy. Would the United States accept this?

There will be no democratic solution in Venezuela — nor in Cuba — that does not involve rooting out the Castroist ideology, something that the current Venezuelan opposition apparently is not very aware of when it demonstrates against against a military solution, although this would be the only way to completely “clean” the Venezuelan and Cuban Marxist panorama.

Nicaragua bears witness to the mistake of having allowed a half-way solution, leaving behind a party and a Marxist army, ever ready to return.


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Three Lessons for the Cuban Opposition from the Venezuelan Struggle

Julio Borges y Carlos Vecchio, representatives of Guaidó in Washington, meet with Mike Pence. (VP)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Jorge Hernández Fonseca, Lisbon, 8 March 2019 — The struggle of the Venezuelan people to liberate themselves from the Castro-Communist yoke is on the definitive path to victory. The sequence of events that have led to today contain lessons important for the struggle of the Cuban people, for the fundamental reason that the Castro regime provides the main political advisers of the Venezuelan dictatorship and the ones who direct it.

Three important lessons – among others – can be extracted as experience for the Cuban political opposition absorbed in a similar struggle to that of the Venezuelan people for their freedom.

A first lesson is related to the weight that international support has had in this struggle, recognizing, supporting, and encouraging democratic Venezuelans in their effort, above all, the almost total and unconditional support that the United States has offered. For the struggle of the Venezuelan people this is very important, because Cuban opposition sectors insist in keeping their distance from US support, to avoid the inevitable and hackneyed Communist propaganda. Being supported by the US does not mean being their puppet. continue reading

The second lesson that we Cubans must learn is the importance of the exile in the struggle for freedom. We know that the Castroite dictatorship has always sown the seed of division between “Cubans inside and Cubans outside,” a seed that has been absorbed to a certain extent by opposition sectors from within the Island. If, in the case of Chavista Venezuela there is a monolithic external support, it is in large measure the result of the work of the Cuban exile.

There is a third lesson that applies to the Cuban case, increasingly clear in the Venezuelan case. Despite the fact that all of Latin America insists on ruling out an external military solution, we Cubans know that Maduro will not hand over power if he is not forced to do so. When he was alive Fidel Castro coined a phrase that is also valid in Venezuela: “What we obtained by force, they will have to take away from us by force.” In Venezuela it’s a matter of the force being that of the Venezuelan army itself, but if that is not possible, then an outside force.

Additionally, the support for the democratic Venezuelan people to the current struggle is owed in large part to the work of American members of Congress of Cuban origin, like Marco Rubio and Miguel Díaz Balart, among other Cuban American officials, who have contributed decision-making support to the United States presidency, instructing it to take decisive actions in favor of the democracy and freedom of an oppressed and needy Venezuela, even humanitarian aid. The Venezuelan fighters inside the country feel heartfelt thanks for their Latin American brothers and sisters in key positions within the American administration, without feeling self-conscious about that support, selfless and in solidarity, as it is from fellow Latinos.

In Cuba there has been enough division over these three matters, now put on the discussion table and highlighted in the struggle of the Venezuelan people. The dictatorship of Maduro, like the Castro dictatorship, insists on placing the conflicting dichotomy between Chavismo and the US, copying the Castro regime’s outline, which repeats that the Cuban dilemma is not between the oppressed people of the Island and the oppressive dictatorship, but rather between “the Revolution and the US.” No one from the opposition within Venezuela rejects international support and much less do they reject the collaboration of the United States against Maduro. We Cubans must learn that lesson.

Translated by Sheilagh Carey


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The Sonic Attacks Began With Fidel Castro

Fidel Castro was the only person who could give orders without consulting his younger brother Raul. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Jorge Hernandez Fonseca, Miami, 6 October 2017 — The mystery surrounding the so-called “sonic attacks” perpetrated in Cuba against US and Canadian diplomats, set off a major diplomatic crisis between the US government and the Cuban dictatorship of Raúl Castro. Now Cuba suggests that such attacks belong to “science fiction”, although they do not deny categorically.

The analysis I will do on the basis of the following clue: who would benefit from the crisis that these attacks would provoke? With this premise we deduce that there are two sectors that would take advantage of the developing crisis: on the one hand, the most anticommunist sector of the anti-Castro exile in the United States, and on the other the most conservative sector within the Cuban communists. continue reading

There are third countries probably involved in the plot, such as China or Russia; but we concentrate the analysis on the sectors closest to the “Cuban problem” without ruling out another possibility, although logic indicates that the interest in these attacks must come from the international actors.

Official Cuba suggests that the CIA could be the cause of the attacks, but what interests would that agency have above the interests of its country? It could be, but it seems unlikely. The Cuban exile could be the source, but does the exile have enough power to execute such an operation from the outside? It’s unlikely.

The Communist sectors within Cuba interested in derailing relations with the US seem to be the most likely to organize such an operation, including because they have all the means and are acting inside their country. As these attacks began during the Obama administration – and even when Fidel Castro was still alive – it seems very likely that he was the one who directed the attacks for the following reasons: no one other than the deceased dictator could have given that order without consulting Raul Castro, or even, with consulting him. No one, apart from the retired dictator, was personally more interested in thwarting the rapprochement with the US, as he stated in writing and was public and notorious about.

Thus, the dictatorship of Raul Castro now has no way out of the problem. It fails if it speaks the truth, and fails – as it is doing now – if it doesn’t speak it. There is no other hypothesis with more force that explains such a mystery. It is well-known of the ancestry

The ascendance of a special security body commanded by the deceased dictator is well known, a body faithful to him, and very probably it was them, under his orders, who executed the attacks, to provoke an estrangement between both countries, contradicting his brother.

No one but Fidel Castro – neither the CIA, nor the Cuban exile, nor Russia or China – can be more satisfied, enjoying from his grave the current estrangement between Cuba and the United States.

Brazil And The Decline Of Latin American Left-Wing Populism / 14ymedio, Jorge Hernandez Fonseca

Rafael Correa, Evo Morales, Nestor Kirchner, Cristina Fernández, Lula Da Silva, Nicanor Duarte and Hugo Chavez signed the agreement for the foundation of Banco del Sur in 2009. (DC)
Rafael Correa, Evo Morales, Nestor Kirchner, Cristina Fernández, Lula Da Silva, Nicanor Duarte and Hugo Chavez signed the agreement for the foundation of Banco del Sur in 2009. (DC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Jorge Hernandez Fonseca, 13 May 2016 – Like a good Brazilian novel, where the best scenes are reserved for the end, the Brazilian left is finally exiting the stage of that South American giant. This Thursday, having first served successive terms in the Chamber of Deputies and later the Federal Senate, Dilma Rousseff was officially informed that she had to step away from the presidency, to give her time to prepare her defense in front of the Senate.

Supposedly, Rouseff has 180 long days for this purpose, but the incriminating evidence, as well as the fragility of the defense (although she says otherwise) portend a process that will not use up the available time. The suspended president argues that other presidents did the same thing she did, but without being sanctioned. However, the fact that others committed crimes does not authorize her to commit them. Dilma Rousseff will not return to the presidency of Brazil, and nor will her mentor and leader Lula de Silva, because their party emerges ethically tarnished after numerable cases of corruption. continue reading

It has to be said that Da Silva’s and Rousseff’s Workers Party (PT) only came to power by allying themselves (over these long 14 years in power) to Brazil’s largest party, the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB). The PMDB’s departure from the coalition determined, in good measure, Rousseff’s fate in both the House and the Senate. Rousseff’s party was never the majority party in Brazil, and after the “armed assault” staged to steal by the fistful from the state oil company Petrobras, it will not be for the foreseeable future.

Rousseff argues that her actions were not a crime, but more than three-quarters of the House and Senate believe otherwise. All in the context of the moral decadence of her party. The treasurer of Rousseff’s party is in jail, as is the head of the president’s last election campaign, both of them accused of corruption.

The fall of the main bastion of the South American left is nothing more than the continuation of the collapse of the Castro-Chavez project in Latin America, after the fall of Cristina Kirchner in Argentina, the victory of the opposition in the National Assembly elections in Venezuela, Evo Morales’s loss in a referendum to allow his reelection in Bolivia, and Rafael Correa’s agreeing not to run again for the presidency of Ecuador.

The South American subcontinent is beginning to emerge from the long night in which it was mired in left-wing populism promoted by Castro-Chavezism, and hopefully these democratic winds from the south, will reach Venezuelan soil first and Cuban soil afterwards, bringing the democracy that we Latin Americans desire and deserve.

The Castros’ Chess Game in Venezuela / 14ymedio, Jorge Hernandez Fonseca

Venezuelan opposition activist Lilian Tintori, wife of the political prisoner Leopoldo Lopez, Sunday. (Twitter)
Venezuelan opposition activist Lilian Tintori, wife of the political prisoner Leopoldo Lopez, Sunday. (Twitter)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Jorge Hernandez Fonseca, 8 December 2015 — The surprising, though expected, results of the Venezuelan elections have a fairly simple explanation if we consider that it implies the exit from the Venezuelan political scene of Disdado Cabello, Nicolas Maduro’s major enemy and, therefore, also that of the Castro brothers.

President Maduro’s last minute change in attitude towards the electoral process could be an order from Havana with an eye to resolving, with the triumph of the opposition, two aspects that are of major concern to the Castros: the current power of the president of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, enemy of Cuba and therefore of Maduro; and in second place, avoiding the international blow that would derive from giving the president-elect of Argentina Mauricio Marcri’s a legal basis for his proposal to apply the “democracy clause” against Venezuela to expel it from Mercosur, the southern common market bloc. continue reading

In the final days before the elections we witnessed a radical change in the position of Nicolas Maduro regarding the electoral process. From original messages warning he would take violently to the streets, he switched to an attitude of apologizing for his words saying he “had been misinterpreted” and assuring that the government would accept the results.

He received his (former enemies), the Latin American ex-presidents in the Government Palace (sent – unsuccessfully – to expel Cabello from Venezuela), and allowed opposition politician Leopoldo Lopez to vote from prison, among other clear changes in his posture, which can only be explained if there had been an order from Havana to that effect.

Politics is a complex game of chess. The victory of the opposition in these parliamentary elections is a defeat for Nicolas Maduro, but there is no doubt that the main person defeated is Diosdado Cabello, and that this objective is greatly prioritized in Havana and will be very well received by Maduro. Of course, as the island is already preparing for how to deal with an opposition legislature, because Maduro has another three years in office, there is enough time – from the Cuban point of view – to neutralize it, having gained time.

Venturing a hypothesis, after the Cuban directive to accept the popular will in Venezuela, it could be the current US-Cuba relationship and possible negotiations that led Havana to influence Caracas in this regard, with the intention of initiating a thaw between Washington and Caracas without removing Maduro from power, only Cabello. The current President of the National Assembly is accused of being a drug kingpin in Venezuela, and we have seen Havana’s solution to this earlier, with accusations against Cuban generals (and ultimately the execution of a national hero General Ochoa).

It is still too early to speculate with a reasonable degree of accuracy, but a statement of opposition victory readily accepted by President Maduro – the same man who had previously spoken of “massacres” if this were to happen – merits further investigation beyond saying “he complied with the popular will,” when we know that for the Castro brothers there is no reason other than always ensuring the protection of their interests.

Thus the acceptance of the Venezuelan opposition victory could have been driven by the division within the ruling party and the Cubans’ desire to get rid of a dangerous enemy.

In Cuba, We Have The Worst Of Both Worlds / 14ymedio, Jorge Hernandez Fonseca

Container Terminal Development Special Zone of Mariel.
Container Terminal Development Special Zone of Mariel.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Jorge Hernandez Fonseca, 4 August 2015 – Cuba has lived under the rule of the Castro brothers for a long “socialist” period, the result of which has been an impoverished society. The solution now promoted by the authorities is “to befriend the imperialist enemy,” because, “without the restoration of capitalism it is impossible to construct socialism.” However, it is not the socialism that Raul Castro and his generals are going to implement on the island, but rather a hybrid of the worst of both worlds.

Capitalism requires individual freedom as a condition to better develop the entrepreneurial potential of society, to foster the development of the productive sources. Individual freedom implies, however, a certain dose of social insecurity – an undesirable feeling for many people – but that strengthens the entrepreneurial capacity of the other part of the same society. continue reading

Capitalist production organization is structured naturally so that the few entrepreneurs – owners of the businesses – give employment to a greater number of employees. Socialists denounce the “capitalist exploitation” by these entrepreneur-owners of the “unredeemed” masses.

Socialism, for its part, prioritizes “the social” at the cost of sacrificing individual freedom. It argues that “the social security is obtained at the sacrifice of individual freedom,” as a kind of payment to obtain the longed-for “social justice for the great dispossessed masses.

The productive socialist organization is very similar to the capitalist. In order to eradicate capitalism, it nationalizes the productive enterprises and in parallel limits individual freedom through a dictatorship in order to “give social justice in exchange for freedom.” As there are no owners, the earnings go to the all-powerful state which supposedly distributes them “equally” to offer the promised social justice. This scheme doesn’t work and decreases the earnings until the final collapse of the economy, an incentive for the return to the “old” capitalism.

The Castro regime has decided to implement a State capitalism that allows only foreign “capitalist exploitation,” but leaves the dictatorship intact

In the current circumstances, the Castro regime has decided to implement a State capitalism that allows only foreign “capitalist exploitation,” but leaves the dictatorship intact to curtail the individual freedoms of Cubans. In this case, we have the worst of both worlds: on the one hand, the lack of freedom implied by a socialist dictatorship, on the other hand, that lack of social justice implied by capitalism only for foreigners. This, for Cubans, means the continuation of the struggle against the dictatorship.

The Castro regime will disappear with the disappearance of the Castro brothers, with or without the presence of the United States on the national stage. It will be then when the Cuban people, inside and outside the island, will assert their rights, violated in this half-century of oppression and treachery.


Editorial Note: This text was previously published (in Spanish) here. It is reproduced with the permission of the author.