What Do Cuban Dissidents Think About Diaz-Canel? / Ivan Garcia

On Monday, 22 March 2016, during his visit to Cuba, President Barack Obama met in the United States Embassy in Havana with a group of Cuban dissidents, among them Manuel Cuesta Morua (to Obama’s left), and the independent journalists Miriam Leiva (to Morua’s left) and Miriam Celaya (to Obama’s right). Source: Cubanet.

Iván García, 30 April 2018 — Manuel Cuesta Morúa, a 55-year-old Afro-Cuban historian of average height and thin build, is probably one of Cuba’s most intellectually gifted dissidents.

Morúa’s political proposals are based on a social democratic model. He has tried different strategies, looking for a legal angle that would allow him to carry out his projects legitimately. The military dictatorship, however, has thwarted him. He considers himself to be a man of the left, a position from he articulates his ideas.

The arrival of Miguel Díaz-Canel — a 58-year-old engineer from the town of Falcón in Villa Clara province, about 300 kilometers east of Havana — marks the first time someone born after the triumph of the Cuban revolution has ascended to power. He is part of a generation that, for differing reasons, began to dissent from the Marxist, anti-democratic and totalitarian socialism established by Fidel Castro. continue reading

The hardline, diehard generation is passing away. In the current political climate, the most eloquent spokespersons, both official and dissident, were born during the height of the Cold War. They experienced the fall of the Berlin wall and the collapse of the international communist bastion, the former Soviet Union.

The dialectical struggle will not be resolved at the point of a gun. The system will have to reinvent itself, unleash productive economic forces and rely on the private sector if it wants to bring an adequate level of prosperity to Cubans frustrated by the precarious conditions of their lives.

At one time Díaz-Canel, Manuel Cuesta Morúa, Luis Cino, Angel Moya and the economist Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello were all in the same ideological trenches. For reasons of their own, they stopped applauding Fidel Castro and began a long, arduous journey aimed at establishing a democratic society in their homeland.

For Morúa, the transfer of power to Díaz-Canel, “can be read in several ways, all of them interesting. The generational change, no matter who is its public face, puts society on a more equal footing when it comes to dealing with those in power,” he says.

He adds, “The only thing left to do now is make demands. Díaz-Canel is an obstructionist president. He has very little legitimacy. He is not a historical figure and he has not won an election. Every person on the street says, ’I didn’t vote for him.’ The government is incorrect when it claims that Cuba holds indirect elections. Elections here are by acclamation. To date, this president has no agenda. He comes off as a clone.”

When I ask him if he thinks it is time for dissidents to change tactics and devise a strategy to reach out to ordinary citizens, Cuesta Morúa responds, “I think it’s time to think more about politics, to offer a clearer alternative. It’s time to step up to the plate, but in political terms.”

In Lawton, a neighborhood of low-slung houses and steep streets on the southern outskirts of Havana, is the headquarters of the human rights group The Ladies in White. Most of its members are mothers, wives or daughters who had never before been interested in politics.

Their dispute with the regime centers on their demands for release of their sons, husbands and fathers, who were unjustly imprisoned by Fidel Castro. Their protest marches, during which they walk carrying gladiolas, were brutally suppressed by agents of the regime’s special services. The Cuban government’s actions led to strong public condemnations from the international community.

After entering into negotiations brokered by the Catholic church and the Spanish government, Raúl Castro’s regime agreed, for the first time, to release some political prisoners and to grant The Ladies in White space along Havana’s Fifth Avenue to carry out peaceful protest marches.

After their release most of the seventy-five former political prisoners left Cuba. The Ladies in White are still subject to brutal repression by the Castro regime, which has denied them access to the space it once gave them permission to use.

The Ladies in White’s main strategy involves street protests. Angel Moya Acosta, the 53-year-old husband of Berta Soler, leader of The Ladies in White, believes “that the Cuban political opposition needs to confront the regime. If we want people to take to the streets, the dissident community has to take to the streets and to actively persuade the people. This is not a problem about unity. Changing the electoral system in Cuba is up to the opposition and — except for some exceptions such as UNPACU, the Pedro Luis Boitel Front and the Forum for Freedom — that is not happening. Anything else is an excuse for not doing anything.”

According to Moya, the selection of Díaz-Canel was expected. “Nothing in Cuba will change. Repression could even increase. Díaz-Canel indicated that major national decisions will still be made by Raúl Castro. And he ended in inaugural speech with the outdated slogans ’homeland or death’, ’socialism or death’ and ’we will win’.”  Everyone on the island knows that real power in Cuba still rests with Raúl Castro.”

Luis Cino Álvarez, 61, one of the strongest voices in independent journalism, says he “does not expect any political reforms from the Díaz-Canel government except, perhaps, some slight fixes to the economy. He has already stated what we can expect: more socialism and a continuation of the policies of Fidel and Raúl Castro. Stagnation in its purest form. I believe that now is the time for dissidents to come up with a better strategy for confronting the regime.”

Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello, a 71-year-old economist, thinks that “Díaz-Canel is a person with many illusions. He held a meeting of the Council of Ministers that was illegal, saying that new appointments to the council had been postponed until July. Díaz-Canel feels very comfortable governing. And that is not a positive thing. When they govern, all the word’s presidents feel pressure due to multiple demands from different sectors of society.” She adds,”Cuban dissidents followed the wrong path. They should have taken the road of the people. But with each step they get further and further away from it.”

If there is anything upon which the fragmented local dissident community agrees, it is that the government of Miguel Díaz-Canel represents the beginning of a significant new era. They face two dilemmas: either find a way to motivate thousands of citizens to demand democracy or watch the military dictatorship celebrate the centenary of Fidel Castro’s revolution with a parade though the Plaza.


No Independent Candidate Made It Through The Filters For Municipal Elections In Cuba

Manuel Cuesta Morúa says that five candidates have been tried for “prefabricated” crimes to prevent them from participating in the elections. (EFE)

14ymedio biggerEFE / Via 14ymedio, Havana, 30 October 2017 — The process of nominating candidates for the municipal elections to be held in Cuba on November 26 ended on Thursday without any of the independent applicants associated with the citizen platform #Otro18 (Another 2018) having been nominated, according to Manuel Cuesta Morúa, the platform’s spokesperson.

More than 170 candidates associated with #Otro18 ran independently, although only 53 made their names known in public lists and none have been nominated as candidates for the upcoming municipal elections, which are the starting signal for the electoral process that will culminate with Raúl Castro’s handing over the presidency of the country in February of 2018. continue reading

“Some were arrested so that they would not be able to attend the nominating assemblies where they were going to run, in the case of others the municipal authorities did not inform them about the day of the assembly so they would not show up, and not even their closest neighbors were informed to ensure [[the would-be candidates] would not find out in other ways,” said the dissident Cuesta Morúa.

He also denounced that the police appeared in some nomination assemblies to coerce the people casting their votes and that in the municipality of Aguada, in the province of Cienfuegos, the authorities “stole” the vote since the neighbors nominated the independent candidate Michel Piñero, but his name was changed in the final list.

In addition, five of those 53 candidates have been tried for “prefabricated” crimes to prevent them from standing for election, as happened in the municipality of Perico (Matanzas) to Armando Abascal, prosecuted for “instigation to commit a crime,” said Cuesta Morúa.

According to Cuesta Morúa, the only thing Abascal did was to address the local authorities, at the request of his neighbors, to request the restoration of water and electricity services following the passage of Hurricane Irma, without making any political demands.

Despite the fact that none of the independent candidates was confirmed, Cuesta Morúa was satisfied because, according to him, one of the objectives of #Otro18 has been met, which was to demonstrate that independent voices have popular support.

“We have acted with the law and respecting the law, it has been the Cuban authorities who have violated the laws to prevent other voices from entering the political contest,” he said.

The Cuban electoral law only allows people not linked to the Communist Party of Cubato run at the municipal level, and they must run independently since other political parties are illegal.

Municipal elections were scheduled for October 22, but were postponed after the passage of Hurricane Irma and the deadline was extended to hold nominating assemblies of candidates for delegates (councilors), which take place by an open show of hands in each constituency.

Once these assemblies have been concluded, the biographies and photos of the candidates for delegates to the Municipal Assemblies of the People’s Power will be published as of November 1 so that their constituents will know them; these posted biographies are prepared by the Electoral Commissions, not the candidates themselves or their supporters, and are the only “campaign activity” legally allowed.

On November 26, Cubans will elect the municipal delegates for a period of two and a half years, with a second round on December 3 in those districts in which none of the candidates get more than 50% of the votes.

Most of the candidates for the provincial elections and the general elections will be chosen from these elections, on a date not yet announced, and in the latter elections the deputies of the National Assembly will be elected, with a mandate of five years. The National Assembly formally ratifies the choice for president of the country.

President Raúl Castro has reiterated that he will retire from office in February 2018, and although there have been no official announcements, it is foreseeable that his successor will be the current first vice president, Miguel Díaz-Canel.

State Security Blocks Independent Candidate Yusniel Pupo Carralero

Weeks before Yusniel Pupo Carralero was detained, members of the local Committee for the Defense of the Revolution, retired officers of the Armed Forces and militants of the Communist Party tried to discredit his candidacy. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 20 September 2017 — The independent candidate Yusniel Pupo Carralero denounced on Wednesday that he had been detained by State Security to prevent him from participating in the People’s Power Nominating Assembly for his district in the municipality of San Juan y Martinez in Pinar del Río.

Once communications were restored in his town after Hurricane Irma, the 34-year-old activist explained by phone to 14ymedio that two officers with the rank of captain, known as Orestes Ayala and Juan Perez, intercepted him while he was walking from his house to the area outside La Estrella bodega, where he was planning to go to the meeting, last Wednesday at 8 PM.

“I was kidnapped in a green car with a private plates,” he says. The vehicle “circled for about two hours and after that time I was released about 8 miles from town, on the road to Punta de Carta,” he says. continue reading

A few months ago, Pupo Carralero was motivated by the #Otro18 (Another 2018) campaign for independent candidates to represent their communities. In the event that he was elected as a delegate, he proposed to “act in the interests of the people and to try to find solutions.”

Even before aspiring to that position, many in his district nicknamed him Delegate because when there is a problem the neighbors come to him. “They know that I am the counterpart of the Delegate [of People’s Power], that I am always on him, demanding that he perform,” he says.

In the weeks prior to his detention, the activist learned that Captain Ayala met with several members of the local Committee for the Defense of the Revolution, retired officers of the Armed Forces and members of the Communist Party of the Celia Sánchez neighborhood to discredit his candidacy.

The participants in that meeting with the State Security were warned that Pupo Carralero, a tobacco grower, has also been the president of the peasant committee of the Independent and Democratic Cuba opposition organization for five years.

The same situation has been experienced by other independent candidates, who in a recent declaration denounced “the discrediting campaigns” coming from the authorities that aim to prevent them from becoming nominated as delegates in the municipal elections.

In the Assembly, while Pupo Carralero was being held by State Security, a resident named Rodolfo Pérez Mena “started talking to other voters to encourage them” to propose him as a candidate, but the police sector chief, Lieutenant Brito, “intimidated him by telling him to shut up,” he told this newspaper.

Since that incident several residents have avoided greeting the activist when they see him on the street. “Even my family feels afraid,” he reflects. “Sometimes life becomes a little complicated in the neighborhood in the face of so much harassment, but we have to keep fighting.”

Manuel Cuesta Morúa, the main promoter of the #Otro18 platform, believes that events of this nature are “complete violations of the Electoral Law.” The government “seems determined to prevent citizens, polls and ballots from being the ones who choose the representatives,” he denounces to 14ymedio.

Cuesta Morúa warned that “in all cases where the government tries to prevent the presentation of independent candidates, the result will be the establishment of municipal assemblies tainted by lack of legitimacy.”

Dozens of Opponents Attend Mass in Honor of Oswaldo Paya in Havana

Our apologies for not having subtitles for this video.

14ymedio, Havana, 21 July 2017 — At least 40 activists attended a mass in tribute to opponents Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero on the fifth anniversary of their deaths, on Thursday evening. The ceremony took place in the church of Los Quemados in Marianao, Havana, and passed without incident.

The daughter of the leader of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL), Rosa María Payá, traveled from the city of Miami, where she lives, to participate in the memorial. About 60 people attended the mass, among whom were family, friends and opponents of the Castro government.

Among the activists who participated were former Black Spring prisoner Félix Navarro, the dissident Manuel Cuesta Morúa and the leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler.

Speaking to 14ymedio Rosa María Payá said she found “the whole of civil society represented” to honor the memory and legacy of his father. “[All opponents] agree fundamentally: this system does not work and we have to change it.”

Berta Soler said that “the Cuban regime thought that killing Oswaldo Payá was going to do away with him” but that was not the case because “he lives among us.”

Oswaldo Payá founded the MCL in 1988 and died on 22 July 2012 with Harold Cepero, after the vehicle in which they were traveling, driven by the young Spanish politician Ángel Carromero was driving, went off the road and hit a tree.

Payá’s daughter is carrying out an intense international campaign to demand an independent investigation of the case and maintains that the death of her father was a murder orchestrated by the authorities of Havana, and that the car was purposefully run off the road.

A report by the international Human Rights Foundation (HRF) points to “solid indications” that the car in which Payá and his companions were traveling was hit by another vehicle before the crash.

Two Cuban Activists From #Otro18 Arrested

Lawyers Amado Calixto, Wilfredo Vallín and Rolando Ferrer during the press conference of the # Otro18 campaign. (14ymediate)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 26 April 2017 — Activists Arturo Rojas Rodríguez and Aida Valdés Santana were arrested at noon on Tuesday as they tried to reach the Justice Ministry in Havana. The dissidents planned to enter into the associations register the Citizen Observers of Electoral Processes (Cope) initiative, one of the branches of the #Otro18 (Another 2018) platform, which pushes for multi-party and democratic elections in Cuba in 2018.

Rojas, 51, was taken to the Santiago de las Vegas police station and Valdés, 78, was taken to the Zapata and C Station and then to Aguilera, where police threatened to prosecute her legally.

The woman was released on Tuesday at about 10 at night, but there is still no information on the whereabouts of Rojas Rodriguez whose telephone continues to be out of service. continue reading

Manuel Cuesta Morúa, speaking on behalf of #Otro 18, told 14ymedio that “actions of this nature make clear the government’s intention to prevent the free participation of citizens in the next electoral process, thus opening the way to delegitimizing it.”

“The narrative of the government consists in classifying what we do as counterrevolutionary activities, but we have to assume that the law is not only for revolutionaries, but for all citizens and precisely because of this we are within the law,” he added.

The #Other18 initiative collects citizen proposals for new electoral laws, associations and political parties. In addition, at the moment it is focused on obtaining the nomination of independent candidates for the next elections for the People’s Power.

Who Does Jose Marti Belong To? / Somos+

Somos+, 28 January 2017 — Very early today, January 28th [José Martí’s birthday], State Security agents were at Eliecer Avila’s house to warn him about the impossibility of his “doing anything” today.

Later they returned and still have a guard posted out front.

We know of several colleagues who are in the same situation or, such as Manuel Cuesta Morua, who have been arrested.

Apparently José Martí is the “private property” of the Cuban Communist Party.

As if anyone could prevent us from drinking of his thought!

Somos+ National Council

Washington Closes The Escape Valve / 14ymedio

Cuban rafters arrive in Florida / Archive. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 13 January 2017 — Matilde sold her home just two weeks ago to pay for the immigration route to the United States. Thursday, the hope of achieving her dreams burst when president Barack Obama put an end to the wet foot/dry foot policy that granted legal residency to Cubans who reached the United States.

The news dropped like a bombshell on the island. “My family is desperate, having put all their hopes in this journey,” the retired woman told 14ymedio. With a son living in New Jersey, the woman planned to travel at the end of this month to Mexico and cross the border “to the land of freedom.”

Since the death of former president Fidel Castro, no other event has so shaken the Cuban reality. The announcement this Thursday affected many who normally live their lives outside politics and official issues. “I feel as if someone had snatched away my lifejacket in the middle of the sea,” said Matilde. continue reading

Attorney Wilfredo Vallín, of the Cuban Legal Association, believes that the decision is “something that belongs to the sovereignty of a State.” In 1995, during the Bill Clinton administration, the policy was approved that today “is considered opportune to change,” but “the repercussions of that in other countries is a problem of other governments.”

“It has been said that these facilities provided by the US Government encouraged emigration and now a part of the argument is over”

The attorney maintains that what happened transcends the issue of migration and touches the pillars of the ideological propaganda of the Plaza of the Revolution. “It has been said that these facilities provided by the US government encouraged emigration and now that part of the argument is over.” For Vallín the decision could “increase discontent among citizens.”

The end of this immigration policy comes at a bad time for the government of Raúl Castro. Last year closed with a stagnant economy that experienced a fall of 0.9% in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). For those most affected by hardship and the high cost of living, the possibility of emigration to the United States was a source of permanent illusion.

However, the ruling party has welcomed a new era. Josefina Vidal, the director general for the United States in Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told the national media that with this suspension, “the migration crisis between Cuba and the United States is eliminated.” The end of the wet foot/dry foot policy has been a old demand of the government of the island, which has also pressed to end the Parole program for Cuban health professionals, a measure that was also suspended this Thursday.

“With these measures, Cubans who believed they could find prosperity and wellbeing in the United States will have to find another solution,” reflects opposition leader José Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Cuban Patriotic Union (Unpacu).

In a telephone conversation with this newspaper from eastern Cuba, Ferrer says now begins a stage of “thinking more about how to obtain freedom, prosperity, opportunities and rights here in our own land.” The scenario that opens “will make us much more responsible and aware that we must take the reins of our destiny as a people and as a nation here within.”

In front of the University of Havana, Ramon, 48, reflects on the possible repercussions of what happened. “Every time the popular disagreement reached a high point, the government managed to calm it by opening up emigration,” he says. “Now we are all unable to get out of this pressure cooker that is always getting hotter.”

“Political refugee status is too serious, too honorable for it to continue to function as it has until now”

Activist Eliécer Ávila, leader of the Somos+ (We Are More) movement, considers it an “excellent” decision. “The refugee status for political reasons is something too serious, too honorable for it to continue to function as it has so far,” he reflects. “Any measure that makes Cubans take more responsibility for their nation instead of fleeing it is something that should be supported.”

For opposition member Manuel Cuesta, a member of the Democratic Action Roundtable (MUAD), the elimination of this policy “should have been taken long ago to avoid the type of risky emigration that has resulted in the loss of the lives of young people, children and whole families.”

He acknowledges, however, that the decision is “controversial because those who were preparing their raft to leave early this morning have just been dissuaded in a way that cannot be appealed.” It is likely that “Trump is applauding the measure,” he said.

UNPACU Reaches 5th Anniversary Amid Achievements And Criticisms / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Mario Penton

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar/Mario Penton, Havana/Miami, 24 August 2016 – Five years can be a long time in Cuba, when we’re talking about an opposition organization. In the complex kaleidoscope of dissident groups and parties that make up civil society on the island, many are active for only a few months or languish amid repression and illegality. The Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) will reach its fifth anniversary on Wednesday with several of its initial objectives completed and others still in progress.

While the Cuban government classifies all opponents as “enemies” of the nation and “hirelings of the Empire,” UNPACU members have preferred to describe themselves in their own words. They consider themselves “a citizens’ organization and a pro-democracy and progressive social movement” interested in “freedom, sovereignty and prosperity.” Their epicenter is the city of Santiago de Cuba and other areas in Eastern Cuba, although they also have a presence in Havana. continue reading

Organized around their leader and most visible head, Jose Daniel Ferrer, UNPACU was born in 2011 after the process of the release of the last prisoners of the 2003 Black Spring, among whom was Ferrer. Ferrer’s prior experience was in the ranks of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL), which was vital for his own political development, according to what he has said in several interviews.

Over the years, several faces have stood out in UNPACU’s ranks, such as the young Carlos Amel Oliva, who recently led a hunger strike in protest of the arbitrary arrests and confiscations of personal belongings. However, UNPACU has also suffered, like the rest of the country, the constant exodus of its members through the refugee program offered by the United States Embassy and other paths of emigration.

Among those who have decided to stay on the island, is Lisandra Robert, who never imagined she would join an opposition organization. Her future was to be a teacher, standing in front of a classroom and reviewing mathematical formulas and theories. However, her studies at Frank Pais Garcia University of Teaching Sciences ended all of a sudden when she refused to serve as an undercover agent for State Security. The “mission” they demanded of her was to report on the activities of several activists of the Patriotic Union of Cuba, among them two of her family members.

Today, Robert is a member of UNPACU, and although she started with the group as an independent journalist, with the passing of time she has addressed the issue of political prisoners. “At first it was hard, because the neighbors participated in the acts of repudiation, they wouldn’t look at us or speak to us.” Something has changed because “now they are the ones most supportive of us.”

Among the characteristics that distinguish the work of UNPACU is the use of new technologies. Through copies on CDs, USB memory sticks or external hard discs, Cubans have seen the acts of repudiation from the point of view of the opponents who have been victims of them, and they have even used tools such as Twitter, which they teach in their Santiago headquarters.

“This is a way to bring more people to all the work we do and they receive it with love and great appreciation, because we also include news that doesn’t appear in the national media,” says Robert.

Zaqueo Báez’s face became known during the mass Pope Francis offered in Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution last September. Along with other colleagues, the current UNPACU coordinator in Havana approached the Bishop of Rome and demanded the release of the political prisoners. This Tuesday he told 14ymedio that he felt “very proud” of belonging to the movement dedicating “great efforts” to “social work undertaken directly with people to involve those most in need.”

Jose Daniel Ferrer, on a visit to Miami, said he was satisfied by what has been achieved and feels that “in its first year UNPACU was already the opposition organization with the most activists in Cuba.” The figure of 3,000 members stated publicly has been a center of controversy, such as that sustained between Ferrer and Edmundo Garcia, a Cuban journalist living in Florida. On this occasion, Garcia asked sarcastically, “How many people (from UNPACU) can you introduce me to?”

Garcia also questioned the organization’s source of funding and said the United States government was the main source, through the National Endowment for Democracy. Ferrer openly acknowledged that part of the funding comes from the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF) and what he describes as “generous contributions from Cuban exiles.”

Former political prisoner Felix Navarro belonged to UNPACU, but said he had left the group “without grievance, without separation.” He considers it “the most representative organization in opposition to Castro within the Cuban nation.” In addition, “it is in the street and has created a very positive mechanism from the point of view of the information to immediately find out what is happening every minute.”

For José Daniel Ferrer one of the biggest challenges is to achieve “a capable and committed leadership” because many activists “scattered on the island don’t do better activism because of not having good leadership.” The limitation on resources such as “equipment, disks, printers and the money it takes to bring more people into the work of spreading information” also hinders the action of training, he adds.

The dissident Manuel Cuesta Morua considers UNPACU to be “one of the most active organizations, especially in non-violent protests in the streets, bringing light and giving relief to the demands of ordinary people.” A result of this activism is that in April of this year the number of political prisoners belonging to the organization rose to 40 people.

When Jose Daniel Ferrer was asked if UNPACU can remain active without him in the personal leadership position that has characterized Cuban political movements, he responds without hesitation: “It has been demonstrated very clearly in my absence.”

Guillermo Fariñas’ Organization Withdraws from MUAD / 14ymedio

The Cuban regime opponent Guillermo Farinas. (Laura Maria Parra de la Cruz)
The Cuban regime opponent Guillermo Farinas. (Laura Maria Parra de la Cruz)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 1 July 2016 — In the same week, the Democratic Action Roundtable (MUAD) has lost two of its most representative organizations. On Tuesday, the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) withdrew from the organization of opponents, and Thursday the United Anti-totalitarian Front (FANTU), led by Guillermo Fariñas, made public its departure.

In a note circulated by email within the island, the FANTU National Council said that MAUD “is permeated by a majority of organizations and personalities that are not representative of the entire non-violent opposition.” Something that, according to the group, distances them from those who daily confront “in the streets, the Castro’s totalitarian regime.” continue reading

The statement, signed by eight activists among whom is Fariñas, winner of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, said that FANTU’s members believe that the opponents who belong to the United Roundtable reject the carrying out of “actions in the public rights-of-ways” and “reject the methodology” of the organizations that hold them.

Unlike UNPACU’s more diplomatic declaration of withdrawal from MUAD, the FANTU note offers very harsh criticisms of the entities that make up MUAD. In their opinion, they are “very popular in the media, but with few members in their ranks,” at times only one person, “and act only towards the exterior of Cuba.”

Manuel Cuesta Morua, one of the main drivers of the MUAD initiative, told 14ymedio that MUAD is preparing “a well-thought out” response to these criticisms.

For its part, FANTU has reproached MUAD for using “methods to buy and get commitment as well as votes from opponents, which consist of facilitating travel abroad”; a way that seeks to “defend the postures and opinions of certain personalities within this rebellious entity.”

The document notes that “the struggle must be carried out within Cuba and not be [going] constantly from airport to airport [since] the real scenario for the democratization our country is within the island itself.”

Cuesta Morua recognizes that the withdrawal of these organizations “is a blow” for the MUAD project, because both groups “have worked hard and are very prestigious within Cuba.” However, he dismissed the seriousness of the rupture, which he described a “a growth crisis” that “will not end” the umbrella organization.

Cuesta Morua, who is the leader of the Progressive Arc, said that there is still “a lack of maturity in the coexistence between the same proposal from different viewpoints, distinct concrete strategies of change, of how to push democratic change.” He notes that “the doors remain open from FANTU and UNPACU,” if in the future they want to return” to the organization.

Fariñas is setting his sights on the Second National Cuban Meeting, an event that will take place in San Juan, Puerto Rico, between this August 12th to 14th. That is “another attempt at unity in which we are involved,” the opponent emphasized to this newspaper.

Patriotic Union of Cuba Withdraws From MUAD / 14ymedio, Havana

Joanna Columbié, Eroisis Gonzalez, Jose Daniel Ferrer and Rolando Ferrer at a presentation of the MUAD program. (14ymedio)
Joanna Columbié, Eroisis Gonzalez, Jose Daniel Ferrer and Rolando Ferrer at a presentation of the MUAD program. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 29 June 2016 — The Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) announced Tuesday its intention to withdraw from the Democratic Action Roundtable (MUAD), a political association involving at least 42 groups and social projects.

A statement signed by UNPACU’s board of coordinators also explains that the organization will not continue to be involved in the #Otro18 (Another 2018) campaign, because at this moment any involvement in “training structures” can affect its “dynamic” and “effectiveness.” continue reading

The text clarifies that the largest opposition organization in the country will continue to enjoy “the best relationship and collaboration” with MUAD, which was defined as a political association “under construction.” UNPACU says that it values the work of the coalition “in favor of a democratic, just, prosperous and fraternal Cuba.”

UNPACU made the decision public a few hours after its leader, Jose Daniel Ferrer, presented the democratic project of his group in the European Parliament, according to a press release from the Association of Ibero-Americans for Freedom (AIL).

The UNPACU leader told 14ymedio unity exists and they are in agreement with MUAD’s actions and cooperation. “The problem is that our dynamic is more active will act together to them, or they with us, when both sides believe it necessary.”

Also participating in the presentation to European Union parliamentarians, entitled “Cementing civil society in Cuba,” was Manuel Cuesta Morua, spokesman for the Progressive Arc Party, an opposition party and one of the most visible faces of MUAD.

Ferrer’s visit to Brussels is part of an intensive travel itinerary that has included several European and US cities, in response to the Cuban government having issued the former political prisoner of the 2003 Black Spring a special travel permit allowing him to leave the country “only once.” The permit was granted after intense pressure.

During his stay in Miami, Florida, Ferrer said in an interview that estimated UNPACU’s membership at more than 3,000 activists and supporters, mainly in Santiago de Cuba and other eastern provinces.

Last week several members of MUAD participated in a meeting in Quintana Roo, Mexico, sponsored by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the Christian Democratic Organization of the Americas (CADO). The meeting served to reaffirm the consensus projects and elect the members of its Executive Secretariat.

57 Years Later: Towards a New Contract for Cuba (Pt. 2) / 14ymedio, Manuel Cuesta Morua

A man walk past a political billboard in Havana: “Socialism is the only alternative to continue to be free and independent.” (14ymedio)
A man walk past a political billboard in Havana: “Socialism is the only alternative to continue to be free and independent.” (14ymedio)

14ymedio, Manuel Cuesta Morua, Havana, 8 May 2016 — The only certainty in Cuba in political terms is that the government accumulates a lot of power but lacks leadership. The kind of leadership required when a country faces an economic challenge, or a cultural, sociological, information, knowledge and generational one, plus the obvious dangers of any new era. They could all be summarized, therefore, by the following: how to manage the Government to maintain a political model that is beneath the basic intelligence, the accumulated experience of Cuban society and cultural pluralism?

Faced with this dilemma, the government has sacrificed the possible options for a new leadership before the metaphysics of the Revolution.

But, 57 years later, can we speak, beyond a memory and a name, of the Cuban Revolution? From the point of view of conviction—a psychological support—there is no doubt it exists. It is this kind of conviction that founds religions and that can only be respected in its specific dimensions. But from the point of view of its initial proposals, the Cuban Revolution has long since dissolved its only assumable scope: the external independence and sovereignty of Cuba. continue reading

Those who defend the Cuban government using the record of the Revolution, never satisfactorily answer these two questions: Is Cuba the only country where healthcare and education are free? Is it legitimate for current generations to express the need for another revolution? A revolution that blocks the possibilities of other futures is not a revolution made by revolutionaries.

But from the point of view of its initial proposals, the Cuban Revolution has long since dissolved its only assumable scope: the external independence and sovereignty of Cuba

But the revolutionaries do not surrender, not even in the face of clear evidence that the Cuban Revolution no longer exists because, beyond its convictions and proposals, it was, by nature, conservative. I offer the example par excellence for the followers of cultural studies and their relationship to political models: faced with three subjects that, by their anthropological condition gave substance to every emancipatory revolution of the 20th century, and within diverse societies, the Cuban government launched an active defense that closed the possibilities for a coherent social, political and cultural modernization, in line with global dynamics: the movements of feminists, blacks and the homosexuals. This was an early sign of the conservative nature of the 1959 project.

Moreover, the closing of Cuba with respect to the initial freedom that in the ‘60s of the 20th century citizens around the world began to respond to, the freedom of movement, was the hallmark of this conservatism that disconnected Cubans from their foundational dynamic as a country. And the Revolution’s reaction in the face of the impact of technology was and is antediluvian: witness the political impact on the regime of technological processes that are democratizers in their own right. Nor today, in Cuba, are these matters are discussed—present here despite and against the policies of the state—but they have been incorporated for a long time into the reality of most nations, from Haiti to Sweden.

By its nature, the Cuban Revolution is the last expression, in the 20th century and so far in the 21st, of the criollo modernization project, with its two clearest models: the expanded model of the plantation-economy export-power, and the restricted model of farm-bodega-control, more anchored in the structure of the Spanish conquest of the Americas.

This project of modernization began its long march with the hegemonic invention of Cuban in the 19th century. And this criollo conservatism was updated through a dictatorship of social benefit that created, with the Cuban Revolution, the second Jesuit state of the Western Hemisphere, after the state of the same kind founded by Dr. José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia in Paraguay in the 19th century.

This criollo conservatism was updated through a dictatorship of social benefit that created, with the Cuban Revolution, the second Jesuit state of the Western Hemisphere

Now, facing a crisis, it has no more economic imagination than that of the restoration of old models: the development of tourism, that was Fulgencio Batista’s celebrated project cut short, and the development of a port, this one in Mariel, which was the most “modernized” project possible for the Spanish metropolis.

The most important achievements of this Revolution, then, have to do with its ability—taking as a starting point its own definition of itself—to arrest poverty at the limits of misery exhibited by many Third World countries, and with its confrontational visibility with the first power in the world: the United States. This was a never a project for the future.

These success of image and minimal cohesion fed a certain romanticism on both the left and the right, often at the edge of political obscenity, of the darkness of history before 1959, of cultural racism, and of a vision of post-imperialist borders for its constant opposition to the policies of the United States. They masked the conservative structure of the society encouraged by the Revolution, and the revolutionary imperialism toward the Third World: in the form of ‘missions’–military, medical and educational.

The conservative revolution, for 57 years, has triumphed. This allows us to understand how it became a movement of diminishing expectations, how it made the ration book a virtue, how it made a desire for modernization counterrevolutionary and exchange with the United States a problem of national security. This latter, taken to the limit, has meant a cultural weakening of the country in the face of the challenge represented by the United States in terms of the cultural continuity of Cuban society—we could speak of the cultural ripe fruit—and an exhaustion of the Cuban project in its inability to project and continue its policies in an era of full globalization. To the extent that this criollo project has tried to identify itself with the fundamentals of Cuba, it also endangers the viability of the nation.

To the extent that this criollo project has tried to identify itself with the fundamentals of Cuba, it also endangers the viability of the nation

As a criollo project, with one foot in the structure of colonial Spain, the Cuban Revolution is a project of hegemony and domination that has legitimized the “counterrevolution,” only the one made by the revolutionaries in power.

The original 1959 contract updated itself in 1961 styling itself as socialist; and updated itself again in 1976 with a Constitution that established the hegemony and superiority of the communists; it broke in 1980 with the events at the Peruvian embassy and the resulting Mariel Boatlift; it updated itself again in 1992, with the admission of another moral universe within the Communist Party with the laicization of the state; and it broke again in 1994 with the Malecon Uprising in Havana; and it is trying to re-update itself with the liberalization of the markets in food and other areas, which subsequently are distorted.

Throughout all this time, the government has done one thing and then the opposite to remain in power, regardless of economic, social or political practices that have been in absolute contradiction with earlier or later ones. All in the name of the Cuban Revolution. Every one of these “revolutions” and “counterrevolutions” carried out by a power ever more divorced from society and that allowed them, finally, in 2002, to rethink their organic relation with citizens.

Yes, “Within the Revolution, everything,” but “within the counterrevolution, also,” is the epilogue of the political process launched in 1959.

Incapable of criticizing its fundamentals—unlike representative democracies, the Cuban Revolution does not permit a discussion based on its pillars, which explains its lack of democracy—the government undertook a constitutional reform in 2002, an authentic political counter-reform, which was the ultimate and definitive rupture between the criollo project and Cuban citizens.

On constitutionally declaring the “irreversibility of socialism,” the government pulverized the constitutional precedents of the founding of Cuba. From our origins as a national project, these assimilated, without contradictions, the unity of subject and sovereign that is the base of the modern citizen. Subject to the law, sovereign to shape it, we Cubans lost with this counter-reform the condition of citizens and the organic relationship with a state that only knows and cares how to justify itself.

Starting from here it became clear that for the state we Cubans are only a source of duties, not of sovereignty. Thus, the republican nature of Cuba is dissolved, establishing a political “contract” to block any future contract. An aberration that must have few precedents in the constitutional history of the world.

If we want to understand, then, why the relationship of Cubans with their state is fundamentally cynical, when it should be an ethical relationship, the reason can be found in this static fluidity that the Cuban Revolution has established with society, based on the assumption that what is, is not, but should continue to remain as if it were, to achieve mutual survival amid the blackout of our future and the suspension of all strategic perspective.

The complicity and mutual deception that the society-state comes to forge, over the span of 57 years, that modus vivendi has dissolved more than one hope and has placed the country at a dead end. Corruption as a zone of shared tolerance both by power and by citizens, in the midst of a vital tension, is a clear example of the progressive national collapse and crashing demoralization of the decent foundations of coexistence.

The last definition of the Cuban Revolution, offered by Fidel Castro on May Day of 2000, is reducible to the phrase, “change everything that should be changed,” when a revolution is defined by changing everything, only confirms the diagnosis: for 50 years the Revolution has made a costly transition from justification based on its essences to justification based on its circumstances. In this sense, “counterrevolution” and “revolution” are vacant words fixed in the general vocabulary of society for the purpose of psychological control.

Outside of this—and only for a tiny minority of honest men and women who have a sense of communion in the work and defense of a past that doesn’t contradict the answer to this question: What, ultimately, is the Cuban Revolution?

It is this: Power and its circumstances defined both by a rogue state, which was updated, at the recently concluded 7th Congress of the Cuban Communist Party, with a bad monarchic joke: Our bipartisanship will bring together the same surnames, Castro Ruz.

From this irresponsible rogue state we must move to the responsible reconstruction of a national project that is anchored in something less metaphysical and more promising: a democratic state governed by the rule of law.

Part 1 of this article is here.

57 Years Later: Towards A New Contract For Cuba (Pt. 1) / 14ymedio, Manuel Cuesta Morua

Miriam Celaya, President Obama, Manuel Cuesta Morua and Miriam Leiva meeting during Obama's recent trip to Cuba (courtesy image)
Miriam Celaya, President Obama, Manuel Cuesta Morua and Miriam Leiva meeting during Obama’s recent trip to Cuba (courtesy image)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Manuel Cuesta Morua, Havana, 7 May 2016 — I am offering, for critical discussion, a viewpoint discussed in more than one place about what I consider the progressive and punctilious deconstruction of our national project. Cuba is no longer one nation, but rather an unfinished project. I will offer this in two parts, not only in line with the needs of newspaper publishers, but also so as to not overly exhaust my readers with a piece of writing that could become tedious. I insist, however, because like many Cubans, I feel the dynamic drive of my country, as described by Manuel Manolín González Hernández, “the Salsa doctor” as he is called, in his cogent letter to Fidel Castro.

It is always necessary to think of one nation, but after the fiasco of the recently concluded pedagogic 7th Party Congress, in which the substantive content of the words were the words themselves, to think of the nation plurally, I believe, is an imperative for survival.

Where is the Cuban nation headed? Almost everyone agrees, as commonly expressed, we are all in the same boat. And as the boat must sail in a reasonable and civilized way, I believe it is necessary to think and discuss, to read and reread, and above all, to imagine. continue reading

The Cuban nation is not defined by a self-selected group, but by its citizenry: the only legitimate body for such an enterprise.

As we have been trapped in very harsh political processes, people get used to it and are no longer impressed or intimidated by the idea that Cuba belongs to a “very special” group of people who are given to calling themselves revolutionaries. Cubans and foreigners both, we have accepted this classification, which could have great weight and standing, but which does not coincide with Cuban culture and nationality, which are the two main conditions of belonging to Cuba or to any other nation and, above all, the two that can experience collateral damage or benefit, according to the angle of position.

Still today, after the almost grotesque exhaustion of all the most respectable meanings of revolution—that of Nicolas Maduro’s Venezuela is dreadful—many people are put on the defensive for desiring changes for Cuba. They must explain that they are not counterrevolutionaries and do not want to work in support of “imperialism” without considering that the term counterrevolution in Cuba can now acquire the same—exceedingly positive—connotation as mambí, the term pejoratively applied by the Spanish in the nineteenth century to refer to Cuban insurrectionists, that is those who were fighting for Cuba’s independence. And that is not right. At least in the arena of words and ideas. The debate of ideas in Latin America has lacked mental strength. On the side of the democrats.

For me, any case, beyond this discussion, the fundamental question that must be asked so as not to let oneself be impressed by the psychological violence of power is, who defines what? And the Cuban nation is not defined by a self-selected group, but by its citizenry: the only legitimate body for such an enterprise. Revolution as a source of law is a reactionary concept. What is overlooked, perhaps in an opportunistic way, is that there comes a time in which the revolutionaries make themselves the power, and thus, unfortunately, they have not differed either in form or in justifications from more traditional political models.

In any case—that of Cuba is special in this sense—they have revived modes and rationales that were supposedly buried by modernity. A simple irony is that, once in power, the revolutionaries openly and profusely use the concepts of subversion and stability to defend themselves against their adversaries. The least revolutionary concepts that could exist, and ones that would be applauded by Prince Metternich, the Austrian Chancellor who led the most thunderous conspiracy against the French Revolution.

The second essential thing is the realization that the citizen is the legitimator par excellence, if we want to avoid regressing to states of more or less divine origin.

The citizen is the legitimator par excellence, if we want to avoid regressing to States of more or less divine origin

In Cuba we need to define a new country from history, from politics and from culture, and from the mentality of subjects and actors in and for an inclusive national project. This definition, after all, must include a consideration of the international context to explain to ourselves our options and possibilities as a nation, something that in Cuba is fundamental, because it has historically been defined in negative terms. We who should not belong, rather than we who own the nation, is an old and unresolved dilemma.

At the end of the ‘90s and in the early 2000s, Cuba let the beginning of the new era pass it by, an era which, from my perspective, began with the end of apartheid in South Africa.

The end of apartheid in South Africa was the stark political expression of this cultural movement, and demonstrated the ethical unviability of cultural hegemony in territories with diverse populations. Nelson Mandela’s reconciliatory solution captured the message that the new South African contract could not be based on a new hegemony that marginalizes diverse traditions within a single nationality.

In the Western Hemisphere, this new contract begins in Bolivia, with the ascent to power of Evo Morales as a representative of America’s forgotten and exploited ancestry. And even though he has been repeating the same pattern of hegemony he fought against, his importance is there: the Western Hemisphere is open to this cultural movement that defines the new legitimacy of future social and political contracts: cultural diversity conveyed through the political citizen.

The latest and most vigorous expression of this movement was the ascent to power of Barack Obama in the United States. His arrival brought a nuance that confirms the irreversibility of this cultural movement: the ascent of cultural minorities, given their capacity to build majorities, to the legitimate field of political decisionmaking.

The new era begins with two connected powers: the power of diversity for the civil reconstruction of states and the power of the imagination which this diversity provides for solving the problems that the world has inherited from the excess of hegemonies based on criteria of superiority. It is the clear triumph of the new anthropology and of its associated aesthetic, which has few global precedents.

Cuba, which needed to sign this new contract in order to structure a new country, dangerously distanced itself from this global current, 57 years after the failure of its own scheme of hegemonies.

In July of 2006 [ed. note: when Fidel Castro, seriously ill, transferred the duties of president to his brother Raul] it seemed that the Cuban authorities approached society in order to enter this new era, and in order to take the initial steps toward this new contract. Ten years later, they irresponsibly wasted the opportunity, only to behold how the United States took the initiative within this cultural movement, even within Cuba.

Beyond the contrast or the comparison between the two societies, the issue is capital from the strategic point of view, due to the political and cultural dispute with which the American political class confronts the Cuban government, and the importance of the political decisions in Washington for the kinds of defensive responses from the Cuban government.

The fact that an ever increasing number of citizens are willing to leave behind revolutionary citizenship in favor of dual citizenship is a sign of lack of confidence in Cuba’s possibilities as a nation.

The paralysis in the project—which does not proceed—of “structural and conceptual changes” that demand the country to reflect, in any case, both on the lack of imagination in the current political hegemony of Cuba as well as on its inability to absorb the force, the elements and the civil consequences of our own cultural diversity, is endangering Cuba’s continuity as a viable nation in the medium and long term.

The danger is also immediate, although its consequences are strategic. The accelerated loss of confidence in the government accelerated the loss of time-confidence in society and, most importantly, of nation-confidence. The fact that an ever increasing number of citizens are willing to leave behind revolutionary citizenship in favor of dual citizenship is a sign of lack of confidence in Cuba’s possibilities as a nation. A message that in Cuba one can live as a Spaniard, as French, American or Italian, that is, as a global citizen, but not as a Cuban.

We have here a first foundational rupture that now confronts two other dangers: first, the lack of leadership and vision within the Government to address the country’s challenges in a global era; and, second, its metaphysical perseverance in the idea of a Revolution that is rapidly losing its social registers to strengthen its punitive registers. That Revolution is supported more by the police force than by its philosophy. First hand out bread, to later offer punishment.

A billboard quotes Raul Castro: Our most powerful weapon: The Unity of the Nation. (14ymedio)
A billboard quotes Raul Castro: Our most powerful weapon: The Unity of the Nation. (14ymedio)

Part 2 of this article is here.

Civic Engagement of Peruvians / 14ymedio, Manuel Cuesta Morua

An elderly man signs in at the polling station to exercise his right to vote in a school district of La Perla, Callao. (EFE / Eduardo Cavero)
An elderly man signs in at the polling station to exercise his right to vote in a school district of La Perla, Callao. (EFE / Eduardo Cavero)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Manuel Cuesta Morua, Havana, 19 April 2016 — In many ways, the elections in Peru reflect in some way the process of democratic maturation in the Americas. I participated in the elections of 2016 as an international observer in response to a shared invitation from Peru’s Political Institute for Freedom (IPL) and the Center for Assistance for Electoral Processes (CAPEL), based in Costa Rica. This was my third experience, after Argentina and Spain, whose electoral processes I also observed.

It was the first time that two representatives of Cuba’s public platform #Otro18 (Another 2018) managed to be present in elections as international observers. This has allowed us to look at the polls from a new angle to gauge the strength of the electoral system as a whole. continue reading

Electoral Integrity is, roughly, a concept that allows us to analyze elections from a conception that goes beyond the day of the vote. We observe the conditions of electoral competition, the degree of independence of the agencies involved in the process, the level of independence and freedom of citizens to elect and to be elected, the role of the press, respect for human rights, the balance of participation among candidates and, of course, the process itself starting from the call for elections through counting the votes and releasing the results, as well as all the logistical conditions.

Electoral Integrity goes to the quality of the process. It precedes the elections, follows them, and follows up post-election, looking at how citizens perceive the process itself. This concept holds that electoral systems are perfectible. A system is not a permanent given, rather every system has to evolve, readjust to technological conditions, and – this is fundamental – respond to changes in context. The main thing is the quality of representation and the clarity of the elections.

The idea is dying, therefore, that good elections are reduced to participation, calm, competition and transparency on the day of the vote.

Based on this concept, I was able to observe that the elections in Peru began long before they were called, at the end of 2015.

I was in Trujillo, the most important center of La Libertad region, in the north of Peru. In the National Organization of Electoral Processes (ONPE) I observed closely the well-oiled electoral architecture for the elections convened this April. I talked to the judges of the National Elections Board (JNE) and with the Organization of Electoral Processes, responsible for overseeing voting and ensuring the necessary logistics.

Voting is compulsory, with corresponding fines for those who do not turn out, but I noticed more civic engagement than fear of harm to one’s purchasing power. Fines respond, in any case, to social classes: 29 soles (the official currency) for the poorest, 90 for the middle classes, and 193 for economically privileged sectors. Probably 29 soles could be very important for the 20% in the lowest band of Peruvian society; however, 80% of the more than 23 million Peruvians who took to the polls could easily pay a fine, for them symbolic, to punish the system.

From here I drew a first conclusion: democracy is a civic virtue in Peru, despite the remnants of political violence. We attended a crowded rally at the end of the Pedro Pablo Kuczynski campaign. The participation of thousands of his followers was a sign that democratic conviction is probably more important than the political and communications capacity, and perhaps the vision, of their leaders.

I noticed that the leadership of the parties responds to the leadership and civic engagement of Peruvians, a fact that solidifies the soil of democracy in that country, although one should not lose the perspective of the importance and value of political leadership in democracy. My doubt arose from whether the presidential candidates shared the stature of their citizens.

A second condition of Electoral Integrity is thus satisfied: the political space for the civic expression of citizens. This is a substantial element to strengthen the relationship between civil society, the citizenry and political parties: electoral transparency.

The behavior of the press is the third essential element for Electoral Integrity. El Comercio, La Republica and Peru 21 , despite their clear backing for one candidate or another, covered the development of the day with good objectivity. The same happened with television. There was a balance in the treatment of candidates and plurality in editorial treatments, with arguments for all ideological tastes.

Peru voted. And, as the daily La Republica headlined on its front page on Monday the 11th, the voters turned to the right. Adding the votes obtained by Keiko Fujimori (40%), Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (22%) and Alan Garcia (6%), shows that more than 67% of Peruvians voted for continuity while Veronika Mendoza , the candidate of the Frente Amplio (the Left) received only 18% of the votes.

The runoff between Fujimori and Kuczynski, on 5 June, will define the course of Peru for the next five years.

Police Prevent Attorney Wilfredo Vallin From Leaving Home / 14ymedio

The lawyer Wilfredo Vallin, President of the Law Association of Cuba. (14ymedio)
The lawyer Wilfredo Vallin, President of the Law Association of Cuba. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 8 April 2016 – On Friday, State Security prevented attorney Wilfredo Vallin from leaving home to participate in a discussion on the Electoral Law. The meeting, to be held at the home of Eliecer Avila, leader of the independent movement Somos+ (We Are More), was hindered by the police who only allowed two of the participants to reach Avila’s home, according to the testimony of Rachell Vazquez, an activist in the group.

From the early hours, the police forces knocked on Vallin’s door in the Diez de Octubre district to warn him that if he left his home he would be arrested. continue reading

The professor was to give the first training course for the promoters of the Otro18 (Another 2018) Democratic Platform, an initiative that is promoting a change in the Cuban electoral system.

Esperanza Rodriguez, the lawyer’s wife and also a member of the Cuban Law Association, told 14ymedio that the police did not allow them to meet their commitment. When they tried to cross the threshold of the building where they live, they found themselves “surrounded by an operation.”

To Vallín it is “obvious” that the authorities want to “prevent opponents participating in the Cuban electoral process.”

The Otro18 campaign, supported by 45 independent organizations within and outside of Cuba, promotes reforms of the laws governing elections, associations and political parties. Represented by government opponent Manuel Cuesta Morua, last week in Madrid the promoters of the initiative requested that the international community monitor the situation on the island because “the reform process undertaken in Cuba must address not only the economy, trade and investment sectors, but also the political sector.”

“Otro18” Elections Project Presented in Madrid / 14ymedio

Otro18 (Another 2018) was presented at the Madrid Press Association on Thursday 31 March. (14ymedio)
Otro18 (Another 2018) was presented at the Madrid Press Association on Thursday 31 March. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 31 Mach 2016 – Like “a small crack in the Cuban political system” from which an opening coming. Thus did the attorney and activist Rolando Ferrer define the Otro18 (Another 2018) project during a meeting with journalists this Thursday at the Madrid Press Association. Four of the promoters of this process travelled from the island to present in Spain this initiative that promotes reforms in laws addressing elections, association, political parties and others.

Opponents are seeking, with their proposals, to influence a democratic opening that would take effect in Cuban with the elections to be held in 2018. This was emphasized by Ferrer, a member of the Anti-totalitarian Forum (FANTU), as well as by historian Boris Gonzales continue reading

, Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) activist Yusmila Reyna, and opposition leader Manuel Cuesta Morua. All of the participated in the press conference this morning, accompanied by the exiled journalist Carlos Alberto Montaner.

With the support of 45 independent organizations inside and outside of Cuba, the initiative demands that the international community follow the situation on the island. “The process of reforms initiated in Cuba should address not only the economic, trade and investment sector, but also the political sector,” Cuesta Morua declared this Thursday.

“We have included a candidate’s right to campaign,” declared Ferrer, in response to a question from 14ymedio about a possible reform that would allow candidate to campaign for votes. “We want to facilities the candidates having a work plan, proposals that they could take to the citizens, and we also want to insert independent candidates,” he added.

“Currently in Cuba the only access the voter has is to the candidates’ biographies, through their past, and this is not a program,” added Boris Gonzalez. To publicize the proposal among Cubans, Cuesta Morua believes that they have to try to reach the citizenry, so it will be perceived as a citizens’ initiative.

The proposed electoral reform, Reyna noted, “was already presented to the National Assembly” and now they are awaiting a response. Right now they are “training independent candidates, who are nothing more than social activists who have a certain popularity and recognition, in addition to the slanderous campaign that the government has undertaken against them,” he added.

“The Spanish transition [from dictatorship to democracy] was a process that favored going from the law to the law,” said Cuesta Morua, who has asked for Spain’s involvement in the process. Spain “has supported the process of the restoration of democracy in Venezuela and could do the same with Cuba,” he added. The European Union “in its political dialogue with the Cuban authorities should ask that they respect the will of thousands of citizens who are demanding free, fair, democratic, competitive and internationally observed elections.”

Cuesta Morua, the leader of the “Progressive Arc”, has stated that “this is a political proposal” and a “a project directed to the citizenry,” and he distanced himself from the process of electoral changes “made to order by the power,” which the government is pushing. The promoters of Otro18 are seeking that it be possible that “citizens can choose not only vote,” he said.

The opponents also stressed that the three strategic demands of the project are the demands for “an independent national electoral commission; that citizens can choose without the mediation of the national commission nomination; and at the same time that the President of the Republic is directly elected.”

The management group of the project is currently made up of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), Independent and Democratic Cuba (CID), United Anti-totalitarian Forum (FANTU), Cuban Youth Roundtable (MDJC), Progressive Arc Party, Citizens Committee for Racial Integration, Center for Support of the Transition, and the Cuban Law Association, but its promoters say they are open to the “incorporation of other civil society organizations and independent actors.”

Cuesta Morua insisted that this is a political process, not one more a Latin American revolution, and it is intended to allow the citizenry to assume their rights and choose who will be their representatives.

The opponents did not shirk the thorny issue of the unity of the opposition and organizations that have not joined the Otro18 project, such as the Christian Liberation Movement and the Ladies in White. Cuesta Morua said that “the perception of disunity no longer represents the current reality of how the opposition is organized in Cuba” and called the present time a “mature stage.”

“Today more than yesterday, the opposition is working together, coinciding in many respects and has put any irreconcilable differences in the past to work on concrete proposals for democratic change,” said Cuesta Morua.

The opposition denounced pressures, “threats and the confiscation of working tools” against the promoters of the initiative and cited the arrests that occurred around the first Forum of the initiative, held in early March at the home of an activist in the Vedado neighborhood of Havana.