Road Repair: Another Challenge to “Continuity”

The Cuban road network covers approximately 71,138 km, of which 10,997 are of “national interest” and 2,303 of rural roads (CC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, West Palm Beach, 7 August 2019 — The Ministry of Transportation (Mitrans) has once again announced a traffic program for the maintenance and supervision of roads. Far from being a novelty, this would be the most recent of the many road improvement plans that — like housing construction — have cyclically been announced in different periods after 1959 and that, for unknown reasons, after a spectacular investment program, whose real cost is never revealed, and a flood of press reports covering the development of the works in situ, have not been fulfilled in practice.  They have been truncated or simply, silently, disappeared without further explanation.

Years of socialist neglect have caused the deterioration and even the destruction of numerous roads under the onslaught of natural phenomena, added to the inefficiency of the country’s sociopolitical system. The Island’s highways and roads system is experiencing its worst crisis since its construction, and its current deterioration imposes greater urgency and more resources in the midst of a new economic crisis. continue reading

The Island’s highways and road system is experiencing its worst crisis since its construction, and the current deterioration imposes greater urgency and more resources in the midst of a new economic crisis.

Now it’s the hand-picked president’s turn, whose “continuity” strategy does not leave room for optimism. But in Cuba, promoting the development of any subject is not exactly what it’s about, rather it’s about “having a development plan”. The experience of the last 60 years shows that fulfilling plans is not a priority, only the plan is an end in itself.

Therefore, though the aforementioned Roadways Program has not excelled — it does not even appear on the official website of the Mitrans, the entity in charge of its execution, nor will deadlines set for its different stages of development be known until the end of 2030 — at least in the government press, the work moves at full speed.

The data provided by sources of the Ministry of Transportation to the newspaper Granma indicate that the road network in Cuba covers a total of 71,138.5 km (44,204 miles), of which 17,168 km (10,668 miles) are classified as urban roads and about 24,000 km (14,913 miles) correspond to rural roads, with most of them considered “of specific interest” because they are owned by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Azcuba (sugarcane production) group. The same source adds that “in a general way” 24% of these routes are evaluated as “in good condition”, 37% “are in normal condition” and 39% “in poor condition”.

The figures quoted do not clearly reflect the importance rankings of the roads included in this phantom plan; however, the director of the National Road Center did report that for the period 2019-2030 ” priority investments associated with the development of the northern coastal cays areas plus the Special Development Zone of Mariel, as well as works of tourist interest and others in the economic and social field will be maintained.” He also assured that, in addition, “emphasis is placed on the improvement of road signs and activities related to the sealing of cracks, paving, milling and repair of bridges and sewers, and continue mainly on the National Highway and the Central Highway.

 It is worth clarifying at this point that the so-called National Highway is a misnomer, since it does not even meet the required basic requirements

It is worth clarifying at this point that the so-called National Highway is a misnomer, since it does not even meet basic requirements, such as the absence of level intersections or crossings, with layouts allowing access to adjacent buildings directly from the road. It also does not meet the required deceleration lanes at entrances and exits, with nonexistent or diffuse and extremely narrow lateral shoulders at best, with scarce and deficient signaling system which is not consistent with high-speed traffic highways. The route lacks fences or railings that guarantee security and prevent the access of pedestrians or cattle (or other animals), among other infinite deficiencies related to the poor quality of the construction and not a few engineering errors of the original project.

The brand new “highway” does not even classify as a motorway, nor could it be compared to the marvel of engineering that was once the Central Highway, built between 1927 and 1931 under the Government of Gerardo Machado, and still considered Cuba’s most important road, extending for 708 miles through 14 of Cuba’s current provinces.

Nor does the ill-named freeway have a “national” rank since, although the project — originally devised by the now deceased Fidel Castro in his useless effort to emulate and overcome all the advances of the Republican Period — intended to build a modern high-speed road which would cross the island lengthwise in its entirety; the truth is that it only covers a total of just 597 km (371 miles) from the capital to the west, to the city of Pinar del Río, and to the east to the city of Sancti Spiritus, in the Central region of Cuba. The demise of the Soviet Union and with it the subsidies received by the Castro Regime marked the fate of a road that, to date, remains truncated.

But, returning to the issue of current maintenance and repair works whose execution is supervised by the same non-elected president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, it goes without saying that, this time, the information about the amount of the budget that will be dedicated to such commendable purpose was conspicuous by its absence. Commendable and urgent, if it were true, especially since each year the high accident rates take the lives of dozens of people and causes temporary or permanent injuries to thousand others.

 Not to mention the corruption of bribing the officials responsible for ensuring the safety of all, both in the process of obtaining driver’s licenses and in the evasion of technical controls

Last June, the official radio station Radio Rebelde reported that between January and May 2019, 4,134 traffic accidents had taken place in Cuba, with a balance of 269 deaths and 3,063 injuries, “a discrete decrease” compared to the same period over last year’s numbers. However, the official version continues to consider Road Safety Code violations by vehicle drivers as the main cause of the high accident rate, which is a half-truth, because it masks the responsibility of the Government for the lousy state of roads, the precarious and defective signaling system, plus the poor technical condition of state-owned vehicles, including the ones that operate in passenger transport.

All this, not to mention the corruption through bribes to the officials responsible for ensuring the safety of all, which is present both in the process of obtaining licenses and in the evasion of technical controls — carried out by state inspectors — or fines that the traffic police should impose on offenders.

At the moment, Cuba’s current scenario is more doubtful than certain, and despite everything, the repair of roads — although also necessary — is perhaps the least of the priorities of a population where such essential issues as finding food to place on the table and housing are still pending subjects against useless plans and empty slogans.

Translated by Norma Whiting

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

We Are Not Continuity, We Are Rupture / Miriam Celaya

Raúl Castro and Díaz-Canel, Ramón Machado Ventura and Ramiro Valdés (photo: rtve.es)

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, West Palm Beach, United States, 2 August 2019 —  On July 30th, the digital edition of the Granma newspaper published yet another of the usual hodge-podge stew texts we are so used to, in which the term “mercenary” (through Wikipedia), the crisis of Venezuela, the Helms-Burton Act in its Third Chapter, the recent report on Venezuela prepared by Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, which the autocrats of the Palace of the Revolution have found so hard to swallow, and – finally as a main course – the “stateless” in Cuba who, “by vocation” and even for chump change (…) lend themselves to any shady deal against the country that saw them draw their first breath”.

This time the official regurgitation would be perfectly inconsequential, except for its timing, in the midst of a true offensive against independent journalism and autonomous groups of the civil society.  Also, by the prosaic manipulation of facts and terms with the sole purpose of conditioning public opinion in favor of an eventual raid against all public action that they deem adverse, it is punctually directed against the “traitors, stateless and ill-born mercenaries”, who have had the inexcusable audacity of exercising their legitimate right to request the presence of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and its observers in Cuba, as well as the preparation of the corresponding report. continue reading

In this regard, and putting aside the fact that Cuba is a UN member country, the Castro scribe says “that these reports come with the script and writing of the US Department of State and it is worth noting that all these infamies have crashed against Cuba in the presence of truth (…) and with the dignity of a whole people that knows how to identify, fight and defeat its enemies, be they internal or external ”.

Because the Plaza de la Revolución has an instrumental and bipolar vision of the international organizations to which it belongs: they are legitimate if they condemn the Embargo (“blockade”, as they call it), but they are spurious if they denounce the excesses of Castro’s power or that of their allies.

But not because it’s overused is the official strategy less perverse, especially when all the setbacks suffered in recent times by the cream of the crop of regional progress -today almost folded into Havana’s Palace of the Revolution and the Palace of Miraflores in Caracas -is added “the betrayal” of someone who was assumed until the day before, and not without foundation, to be a reliable ally, tolerant of the dictatorial excesses of her leftist friends, socialist Michelle Bachelet. Good times are definitely not here for the Castro regime’s “progressive” millionaires, and they prepare to defend their power, their lair and their privileges with equal intensity.

Thus, although neither the international organizations attached to the United Nations nor Bachelet herself in her years as President of Chile have ever given due attention to the demands of Cuban civil society and to allegations of human rights violations in Cuba, the dictatorship prefers to shield itself inward, just in case. And since the elders of the Historical Generation are running out of health or biological time to continue to face displeasure or to fight “battles” — even less so now that the adversaries are the current generations of Cubans who have taken the pleasure of feeling like citizens and not plantation slaves — their beneficiaries and scribes have the sacred mission of stepping out.

They are, paraphrasing Granma’s servile scribe, the true mercenaries of vocation (himself included). Or perhaps it is more accurate to call them insignificant low-cost mercenary slaves. It is they who function as verbal minions against Cubans who, for dignity and for their love of Cuba, have the courage to rebel against the dictatorship, it is they who bark “emboldened” because they feel protected by the landlord, they are also the ones that live on crumbs and “sell their soul to the devil” for travel and small perks and those who “lend themselves to the most vile actions against their fellow citizens.” If it were not for the poison he extracts and the danger that he contains, we almost would have to thank the reporter for the accuracy of the self-portrait.

And it is not that too many expectations need to be made about an eventual (and practically unlikely) incursion of the UN High Commissioner in Cuba, starting with one insurmountable obstacle, the dictatorship would not allow it. But the initiative is worthwhile, not only because Bachelet’s functions include attending to the claims of those who have been systematically violating basic human rights for 60 years, but because every civic front in Cuba undermines the foundations of totalitarianism, and sets precedents for the civic rebirth of Cubans.

The Scribe lord, mercenary slave of the Granma libel, does not understand, and neither do his masters understand that those of us who signed that letter that so much frightens them are not traitors or stateless, but quite the opposite. They do not understand, in their infinite stubbornness, that more and more Cubans than they can imagine are not “we are continuity”.  We are rupture.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Between “Collateral Damage” and Direct Damage”

New technologies have not only facilitated the emergence and proliferation of sites of undeniable quality and variety in Cuba, and their disappearance would certainly be an important loss of spaces rigorously attained. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, West Palm Beach, 23 July 2019 — Journalist José Jasán Nieves, general editor of El Toque, is the author of an article published last Sunday in which he exposes his particular vision about the difficulties of the new Cuban journalism in order to survive official pressures and obstacles, while noting that what he considers the Government’s current repressive escalation (though he doesn’t call it that) against the “alternative press” is the “confrontational focus” of Donald Trump’s policy against Cuba.

J.J. Nieves defines as “new journalism” what has emerged in Cuba in the last seven years outside the official press monopoly, endorsed in more than thirty websites which – “supported by the expansion of access to digital technologies, internet, and new forms of financing from the small private sector” – made it possible that “Cuba’s story” to cease to be “bi-chromatic (for or against the socialist model)” and to acquire “the same complexity as (.. .) the society in transition in this archipelago in the Caribbean Sea”.

The author mentions the participation of young professionals, graduates of Cuban universities, many of them with experience in the official press, as a factor that has elevated the quality of journalism. Another favorable factor for the rise of this new journalism is what he considers a “climate of greater tolerance towards dissent in the political sphere,” aided by the spirit of detente that led to the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between the US government and Cuba in the Obama era, and “towards emerging forms of civil society” (said to have been promoted by the “updating of the model” speech) and by Raúl Castro’s economic reforms implemented since 2011. continue reading

The author mentions the participation of young professionals, graduates of Cuban universities, many of them with experience in the official press, as a factor that has increased the quality of journalism

However, despite the fact that the “new journalism” distances itself from the poles or “factions” – “no longer the hell of a repressive dictatorship or the idyllic fantasy of the lighthouse country and guide of the international left” – and that its contents “better satisfy the information needs of the people”, Nieves complains that he is considered by the current president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, as the new subversion, which is “the clearest confirmation of an approach already applied to him by the security organs of the Cuban State since his first editions.” It seems as if the author naively considers the repressive bodies as an entity independent of the Government.

In keeping with the discourse of the same power that suffocates both the “faction” of those who speak of a repressive dictatorship and the new and conciliatory journalism, for Nieves, the great villain of this story is Donald Trump with his policy of confrontation towards Cuba. It is the American president, and not the lack of political will on the part of the Cuban Government, which “can end at once the permissiveness towards the also termed  “alternative press.”

There are many of us who do independent journalism and do not accept agendas dictated from abroad, nor do we share at all the confrontational policies of Mr. Trump or previous presidents, although we are not remiss when it comes to labeling the Cuban government as “a dictatorial regime”, just as it is, which does not include us in any faction. Instead, to label ourselves as such would be to follow the official agenda of Castroism.

The writing contains some “small” omissions, such as the fact that, like it or not, there is a long history of previous independent journalism in which many activists and professional journalists, like Reinaldo Escobar or Raúl Rivero – which cost the latter jail time during the incursion of the Black Spring – who many years ago assumed the responsibility of describing Cuba as complex and concealed (not necessarily “bi-chromatic”) in a way that never appears in the official media. It also ignores that media – such as 14ymedio or Diario de Cuba, to name two known cases – not only have their access blocked from the Island, but are also not included in “el paquete”*. That is why it is appropriate to remind Nieves that all journalism has the right to exist and that it should belong to Cubans, and not to a select elite of well-intentioned university professionals or an almighty political power to choose what type of press they should taste.

The text contains some “small” omissions such as the fact that, like it or not, there is a long history of independent journalism

 At any rate, new technologies have not only eased the emergence and proliferation of sites of undeniable quality and variety in Cuba, whose disappearance would certainly be a significant loss of hard-earned spaces and a very painful setback in terms of civic freedoms, but also the possibility of turning any citizen into a journalist who narrates his own reality, his problems, his demands and aspirations, from his community, a variant of journalism that emerged decades ago around the world and that, with its lights and shadows, has been present in Cuba.

It should be noted, however, that José Jasán Nieves’s article could be an important contribution to a long-held debate around Cuban independent journalism – understood as independent of the most holy State-Party-Government trinity – call it new, alternative, or any denomination, whose existence and character has been questioned by both Tyrians and Trojans, and that, in short, has suffered harassment and repression in its entirety from the same common enemy, which is not exactly imperialism.

If there is one thing all us factions – those who dedicate themselves to the dangerous profession of dissenting or, at least, questioning a reality that depends exclusively on the designs of the caste that holds the political power in Cuba – is that the causes of our prolonged National crisis and the threat of extinction of our free journalism spaces are within Cuba and not in the policies dictated by a foreign power, whatever it may be, as was demonstrated during Obama’s conciliatory agenda or with the worsening pressures from Trump.

If Nieves prefers to assume the current incursion against independent journalism as Trump’s “collateral damage”, and if that makes him feel any better, it will be beneficial.  For my part, as an independent journalist and as a citizen, I choose to continue fighting against the direct damage to all our freedoms, which has been (and continues to be) the one that originates from the Palace of the Revolution.

*El Paquete (the package) is a one terabyte collection of digital material distributed since around 2008 in Cuba’s underground market as a substitute for broadband Internet.

Translated by Norma Whiting

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

To Live Without a Future: Cuban Migrants’ “Legitimate Fear” / Miriam Celaya

Cuban migrants in Ciudad Juárez. File photo.

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, West Palm Beach, 16 July 2019 — Just five years ago, when the governments of the United States and Cuba reestablished diplomatic relations after 18 months of secret talks, there were ominous voices that predicted the end of the privileges for Cuban immigrants to the northern country.

According to this gloomy forecast, an accelerated increase in the number of nationals leaving the Island, both by sea and by land, began to take place. The continental exodus has not stopped even with the end of the policy of “wet foot/dry foot”, when – rumors turning into reality – the then outgoing president, Barack Obama, announced its immediate repeal on 12 January 2017.

Meanwhile, the incoming president not only did not restore that migratory privilege, but rather reinforced the obstacles. In fact, during the current administration, there was a cessation of consular functions in the US embassy in Havana, which makes it difficult to carry out the corresponding procedures. Added to this is the significant decrease in the number of visas granted in the last three years, the recent elimination of the multi-entry visa, valid for five years, and the marked slowing down of family reunification processes. continue reading

But the problems do not stop there. In recent times the avalanche of asylum seekers in the US southern border, mostly from Central America, exceeds the response capacities of the US authorities and prevents both the processing of the requests and the assimilation and adequate attention at the border posts destined to the temporary reception of migrants.

Thus, in an attempt to overcome the crisis, this Monday, July 15th, the official US Department of Homeland Security website has published a new regulation for asylum seekers, which will go into effect on Tuesday, the 16th of this month. The new regulation does not make a distinction among national origins in its text and, consequently, it could potentially also apply to Cuban immigrants.

“A foreigner who enters or intends to enter the US through the southern border without having sought protection in a third country outside of their countries of citizenship, national origin or of his last customary legal residence, who has been en route to the United States, is not suitable for asylum,” reads the rule that casts another shadow of uncertainty on the future of island migrants, especially those who cannot justify a “legitimate fear of being persecuted” or who generally avoid seeking protection in transit countries , either for fear of being deported to Cuba or to avoid the usual extortion from a large number of corrupt officials.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration continues to weave containment strategies against illegal migration and seek agreements with the countries of origin or transit in order to contain the disorderly exodus to the US border. Nor is it known to what extent the Cuban-American exile community can influence (or be willing to do so) in favor of the current Cuban migration. There are sectors that – understandably – distance themselves from the new waves of migrants. At the border, these sectors declare themselves to be “politically persecuted”, and once they get the coveted green card, they return to visit the Island as economic emigrants.

It is early for the lapidary assertions, but all signs tend to spread alarm among the most suspicious hopefuls to reach the American dream, awakening fears about the eventual disappearance of the Cuban Adjustment Act, in force since 1966, the last remaining prerogative for Cubans that allows them to legalize their immigration status and apply for the permanent resident card one year after their entry into the United States.

For the time being, far from slowing down the migratory flow from the Island, each new obstacle seems rather an incentive to escape as soon as possible to any point in the hemisphere, preferably in the northern direction. Because, what is unquestionable is that the only true and legitimate fear of the tens of thousands of Cubans who emigrate each year, is to have to live and die in a country where they feel condemned not to have present or future.

(Miriam Celaya, resident in Cuba, is visiting the United States)

Translated by Norma Whiting

Maduro-Guaido Dialogues: Between Murkiness and Hope / Miriam Celaya

Nicolás Maduro and Juan Guaidó (venezuelaaldia.com)

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 15 July 2019 — I confess that I am an unrepentant “dialoguer”. This is what the most radical sectors disparagingly call those who favor peaceful, agreeable and gradual changes – political dialogue by means of – over the violence of coups d’état and the revolutions of any ideological label.

In fact, in any moderately healthy democracy politics is essentially “dialogue”, where parliaments are the natural scenario of debates where the direction of nations are resolved. It is well known that even in conditions of dictatorship it has also been possible to find peaceful solutions to achieve democracy through dialogue as a political tool, as happened in late-Franco Spain – against the violence of fundamentalist sectors – and in the Chile of Augusto Pinochet, two of the most notorious examples of the effectiveness of dialogue.

A successful dialogue is one that manages to establish mechanisms to overcome political and social tensions, especially when these affect governance in countries where democratic institutions have been broken or – even worse – repression, terror, torture and murder have been systematized as resources of a dictatorship clinging to Power, as is the case of Venezuela. continue reading

The exhaustion and failure of the system, the irrevocable economic and constitutional crisis, the majority rejection of the usurpation of power by a mafioso group – with Maduro at the helm – the majority support of that population to a peaceful solution before military intervention, the national and international recognition of the opposition leadership, and the mediation of international actors in the process are basic conditions for the potential viability of dialogue leading to a negotiated solution in Venezuela.

These premises, however, are not enough. The failure of the attempts of dialogue between the dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro and the opposition in the last three years, mainly due to the failure of Executive’s willingness to abandon power and submit to the popular will at the polls, overshadows somewhat the expectations on the results of the current process of talks, which this time is being developed with the mediation of Norway and representatives of the European Union, and which has the participation of the interim president, Juan Guaidó.

Also contributing to reasonable doubts is the little transparency of this process, not only on the part of the representatives of Maduro, whose statements on the results of the negotiations contradict those of the opposition, but also for the never-explained change of position before the operating dialogue of the president in charge of Venezuela and, in general, by the absence of guarantees that, this time, the agreed agreements are fulfilled.

Let’s review: On January 25th, 2019, the newspaper El Espectador published a statement by Guaidó in response to Nicolás Maduro – who had said he “would be willing to dialogue with the opposition leader” – to which Guaidó had responded that it would not happen “given false dialogues.” A few weeks later, in a review published by CNN, Juan Guaidó once again maintained that “With Nicolás Maduro there is no possibility of dialogue, (…) because he has already demonstrated in previous situations, such as in 2017 in the Dominican Republic, that he used it to mock the citizens.”

However, on May 6th, after rumors broke out about the presence of the opposition at the dialogue table in Oslo, and after the ruling party’s boasting in attempt to show the event as its own achievement, Juan Guaidó confirmed that, in effect, the opposition had “sent several people to Norway to lay the foundations for a possible negotiation with the government of Nicolás Maduro”, although he stressed that any agreement would include the exit of the usurper, the establishment of a transitional government and the call for free elections with the presence of international observers.

The acceptance of the dialogue by Guaidó provoked both critical and supportive reactions within the opposition, as well as on the part of its allies in this region. However, as long as the unity of most of the opposition is maintained around the three points of consensus raised by the interim President, dialogue must be maintained as an option, although without renouncing the street demonstrations and all forms of pressure against the dictatorship.

The truth is that, for the moment, Nicolás Maduro has not shown any signs of goodwill or a negotiating spirit. Political prisoners remain imprisoned; repression in the hands of the paramilitary bodies, torturers in police barracks and other thugs who continue to sow terror among Venezuelans remain intact; and several of the closest collaborators and officials claim that there will be no elections in Venezuela and that Maduro will continue in power, statements which the Executive has not been bothered to refute, so far.

Meanwhile, the opposition has closed ranks around Juan Guaidó’s proposal as the sole candidate for the possible presidential elections that – at the closing of the third round of talks, held in Barbados – would have to be held between February and April of next year with a completely renewed National Electoral Council. For its part, the ruling Socialist Party of Venezuelan Unity (PSUV) would try to wash its face by proposing as candidate the current governor of the state of Miranda, Chavez supporter Héctor Rodríguez.

Apparently, there is finally something cooking on the table. The days and weeks to come will tell us if in reality progress is made based on the still secret agreements and steps taken by the parties, or if the current dialogue ends up being another magic trick of the Venezuelan dictatorship to, once again, evade the expectations, demands, and the hopes of its people.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Fuenteovejuna: Lessons of a Leaderless March

Havana’s LGBTI Community carries out an independent march in favor of sexual diversity (Archival photo)

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 20 May 2019 — Echoes of the peaceful independent march carried out last May 11th by Cuban LGBTI activists in Havana’s Central Park and along the Paseo del Prado, continue to move social networks with mostly messages of support and solidarity towards this historically victimized community, which has been discriminated against, and also – unfortunately – with the repression that was unleashed against the protesters during and after the event.

We must recognize the courage and determination demonstrated both by the LGBTI in claiming their spaces, their identity and their rights, as well as other activists of the independent civil society that participated in the act in demonstration of solidarity and support.

Numerous have been the voices that have denounced the violence of the repression, reflected in the abundant graphic evidence provided by participants, press reporters and eyewitnesses, but despite the unjustifiable use of brute force, beatings and arrests against peaceful demonstrators, who only fostered messages of love and inclusion, the truth is that the march can be considered a success for the Cuban LGBTI movement and, by extension, for the entire civil society. continue reading

To objectively analyze the facts and understand the scope of a march that, in any other geographical context could be considered insignificant, it is necessary to divest the criteria of any prejudice or sexist, political-ideological or sectarian atavism. The ability to call and carry out an independent march in Cuba, in defiance of official regulations and without waiting for “permission” from the autocracy and its officials, constitutes a demonstration of legitimate citizenship on the part of a group of Cubans, beyond conditions and labels, which we should all celebrate and support, especially those who, from the time of the dissidence, are committed to the triumph of democracy.

Freedom of demonstration, then, should be understood as everyone’s right, not as a the property of anyone or any group, so that it would be healthy to abandon any hint of elitism, pedigree or “droit du seigneur”* and to ponder the facts for what was done, not for what some believe should have been done or said, which attitude – on the other hand – is typical of the Power that oppresses us all.

Some have criticized the demonstrators for not raising explicitly anti-government slogans – and needless to say that any movement, thought, or independent demonstration in Cuba is implicitly anti-dictatorial – or have reproached others for supporting the LGBTI march and (allegedly) “not showing solidarity” with some opposition groups. Fortunately, this reluctance to recognize the merit of the effort of others is a minority position.

A first relevant and peculiar element of the LGBTI march of May 11th is that it was not organized by a subject or by a personal leadership, but that it was developed in social networks from a group of activists that freely and spontaneously decided to express their determination to defend their rights to demonstrate peacefully in public spaces.

At this point, the effectiveness of social networks intelligently used for these purposes was demonstrated, even in a country where connections are precarious and excessively expensive in relation to income. Will and technology allied themselves, and the march was possible: an important lesson for all civic movement of these times.

At the same time, the “collective leadership” not only guaranteed the performance of the act by avoiding the usual limelight or egocentrism – which have caused so much harm to other civil movements and opponents in Cuba – but it also won the solidarity of other openly anti-government activists who demonstrated the respect and ethical stature of participating in it without trying to hijack the demonstration in favor of their own agendas or in pursuit of personal glory.

The horizontal perception of leadership, moreover, constitutes a strength because it dislodges the illogical traditional sense of the repressor, also accustomed to a strong vertical leadership in its own command structures. A collective leadership, on the other hand, has the advantage of relatively limiting the disarticulating and demoralizing effect of the political police in sectors of the independent civil society, since there is no individual or “ringleader” – as is usually referred to – to be located as mobilizing leader or generator of actions and proposals, whose movements can be constantly monitored or simply canceled, thus, the capacity of existence and growth of the independent group, the speed of organization of its actions, and the visibility of its proposals are enhanced .

It was not by coincidence that on May 11th, among the first detainees who were beaten by the repressive forces, were several well-known dissident activists – to whom, perhaps initially, the direction of the demonstration was mistakenly attributed – and it is not fortuitous that in the days following the march and until the moment in which this column was written, operatives and arrests have been carried out in the typical style of “kidnapping” of several participants, whose testimonies agree that their interrogators have insisted on the same recurrent point: “who organized the march?” “who is responsible?” Obviously, the regime needs a scapegoat and, most likely, in its absence, they will contrive one.

The concern and powerlessness of the Power are evident, and not only is such a disproportionate repressive effort against the managers of a demonstration perceived that, paradoxically and according to Mrs. Mariela Castro as the “maximum leader” of Cenesex, was tiny and did not represent anyone. The Roundtable, on Cuban TV on Monday, May 13th, in whose panel Mrs. Castro took part, devoted a not inconsiderable segment of its time on screen to disqualifying and trying to discredit both the march and its participants, a common practice of the regime, one which is increasingly less and less effective.

Without the slightest embarrassment, the members of the television panel lied about alleged funding received from the U.S. by the imaginary leaders of the march – although they conveniently omitted the financing that Cenesex receives from abroad – while they tried to minimize the number of participants and to distort the objective of the march.

Same as always, but different in that essential element: the regime desperately needs a guilty party, and a week after “the crime” the responsible party has still not appeared.

A little in jest, but very seriously, the situation evokes that piece by the famous Spanish Golden Age playwright, Lope de Vega, entitled Fuenteovejuna, in which peasants of that imaginary town assumed the collective responsibility for a revolt that ended the life of its abusive Knight Commander of the Military Order. Do the repressors want to know who organized the May 11th march? It was Fuenteovejuna. However, it is prudent to avoid anticipated triumphs, because the truth is that the Cuban dictatorship will definitively lose the game at the moment when all Cubans who aspire to live in freedom and democracy put aside our differences and we become exactly that: Fuenteovejuna.

*droit du seigneur: a feudal lord’s right to bed a servant girl

Translated by Norma Whiting

Political Snobbery or Consensual Propaganda

The truly surprising thing about this modest little hostel is the strange display hanging from its balcony. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger

14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 19 April 2019 — As Cuba sinks into a new period of crisis, the absurdity of existing in parallel planes has been imposed as the norm in the daily lives of its inhabitants. Submerged in the desperate search for subsistence, a growing number of Cubans choose to ignore other signs of reality that reveal alarmingly the alienation that attacks us at a spiritual level from public spaces without the majority being aware of it.

This kind of social blindness prevents perceiving the flagrant rupture between the official discourse and the social practice, as well as the divorce between the real life of ordinary people and the performance of the earthly paradise offered to foreign tourists – that privileged Pleiad of occasional visitors that later leave, pleased to find so much charm in the midst of general decadence – in a Cuba of props that looks less and less like itself and its inhabitants.

In this idyllic representation made for the foreign guest, certain successful private hostels play an important role, which – contrary to the semi-deserted hotels of mixed state capital and foreign investors – usually keep their rooms full throughout the year. continue reading

In this idyllic representation made for the foreign guest, certain successful private hostels that usually keep their rooms full throughout the year play an important role

The historic center of Old Havana stands out among all the areas of tourist interest, not only for its architectural values, its old buildings, its old churches and stone palaces and its colonial squares, but also for the emergence of many small private investment spaces – lodging, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, sale of handicrafts, art galleries, among others – that began to proliferate everywhere in recent years in that compact and unique urban geography.

The interior of a hostel is a world apart that hides from prying eyes what is not within the reach of ordinary Cubans: comfort, quietude, the warm friendship of the owners, the abundance of a good breakfast, the cordiality of the employees.

Needless to say, every successful host is, or at least appears to be, “politically correct” according to the official canons: revolutionary, socialist, Fidel-fanatic and integrated into the system, which allows him to take certain rare liberties. This seems to be the case of the Colonial Casa Tali Hostel, located at 406 Lamparilla Street, a few steps from the Church of Santo Cristo del Buen Viaje and the square of the same name, in the inner area of Old Havana.

The house in question is not really a colonial building, but a typical construction of the first third of the twentieth century, although it exhibits colonial elements, with arches, columns, high ceilings, balcony with wrought iron railing on the façade, and French louvered window-doors, an architectural style quite common in any of the oldest areas of the city.

The Colonial Casa Tali Hostel is located at 406 Lamparilla Street, a few steps from the Church of Santo Cristo del Buen Viaje and the square of the same name. (14ymedio)

However, what is really surprising in this modest inn is the strange display hanging from its balcony: at one end the multicolored gay flag, at the other, the Cuban flag, and between each one of them, cloth banners written in English, one of they with a big sign that says: “Free Assange”, while the other one – which is even more enigmatic and inexplicable – sends the following message: “Lee Harvey Oswald where are you now? The world needs you more than before.”

For an American it would be unthinkable to place a petition to Lee Harvey Oswald on his facade

For any foreigner, both posters can be proof of the freedom of expression that Cubans enjoy. In fact, for an American it would be unthinkable to appeal to Lee Harvey Oswald on his facade.

But the citizens of Cuba know that, in this country, publicly and freely displaying a poster with political content, and written in Spanish constitutes in itself a very touchy problem for any artist or sign painter, and it is at least suspicious for a private entrepreneur to allow a similar audacity.

Furthermore, asking for freedom for the famous Australian hacker is to go one step ahead of what the official press monopoly has ventured to express; but to openly invoke the memory of Lee Harvey Oswald, presumed guilty of the 1963 assassination of John F. Kennedy, the then U.S. President, as subject of “the world needs more than before,” is not only an act of inadmissible insolence, but also a gross incitement to violence that contradicts, head-on, the overhyped will for peace speech of the Cuban Government.

Isn’t the owner of this business clearly suggesting that a new assassin is needed to shoot dead the U.S. president? What scruples do the Cuban authorities employ to condemn the alleged assassination attempts of their ally, the usurper Nicolás Maduro, and at the same time allow the display of this type of message? Are there good murders and bad murders?

Perhaps we will never know exactly if this is a case of naive political snobbery motivated by the excess enthusiasm of the owner of the hostel or a not very subtle propaganda the authorities have consented to. The truth is that most of the Havana inhabitants who move about under that balcony may not pay too much attention to the banners, or do not understand the message, written in English.

It is also more than likely that many of them don’t know who Lee Harvey Oswald was, or that they have only heard in passing in the official media the name of the arrogant hacker who has published so many secrets affecting the American Government.

This may be the case, so the hostel propaganda is tolerated or allowed precisely because both messages contain a deep anti-American sentiment

But that may be the case, and the hostel’s propaganda is tolerated or allowed precisely because both messages contain deep anti-American sentiments, the quintessence of the Castro regime.

It would be very different if another entrepreneur were encouraged to place on his balcony, even if written in Mandarin Chinese, a petition to free the artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, arbitrarily kidnapped by the political police to prevent him from carrying out a performance within the framework of the Havana Bienial, where the American flag was used as motive.

We would also have to see what would happen to private hostel operators or any anonymous citizens if they placed posters in their balconies demanding freedom for Dr. Eduardo Cardet or for all the Cuban political prisoners. These banners would, without a doubt, unleash all the repression demons. And if someone questioned it, here’s the challenge: try to do it and you’ll see who and how establishes the limits to freedom of expression in Cuba.

Translated by Norma Whiting
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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

The New Castro Constitution and the Economic Crisis: Born Twins

Hunger in Cuba: A people living on croquettes. Photo file

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 18 April 2019 — Only a few days have passed since the proclamation of the new Castro Constitution, but nobody is talking about it on the streets of the Cuban capital. Of the entire boring speech by the Army General, the central character of the announcement and of his shiny new work, only one sentence –as lapidary and ominous as the last nail that seals a coffin — stuck in the minds of Cubans, and that was when the head of the geriatric power elite made public what was already an open secret: we must “prepare for the worst variant” of the economy. Officially, the feared ghosts of the “Special Period” of the 90’s, which have been circling for the last year, and which the most deluded considered over and done with, have become reality.

Leaving aside the very questionable exceptionality that makes Cuba the only country in the Western world where a new Constitution and a new economic crisis are announced at the same time and on the same stage, the most contradictory fact is that the aforementioned ‘Magna Carta’, Far from adapting to current times and promoting changes that help oxygenate the economy, is designed to consecrate precisely all the elements that guarantee a state of permanent and irremovable crisis, with the sole objective of perpetuating a class in Power.

By keeping the economy strongly centralized, with state ownership and the inefficient management of the State as its main economic pillars, by refusing to open up to a market economy, and by limiting the minimum expression of citizens’ private initiative and economic freedoms and civil rights — not to mention their political rights — it is more of an epitaph than a Constitution. continue reading

Before the total lack of will to make changes, and given that no miracle or saving source is seen on the horizon to subsidize the unquestionable failure of the system, Cubans have been plunged into the critical phase of the battle for survival in the midst of shortages, extreme rationing and hordes of people in the few markets where some foods in high demand are still marketed, especially oils and meat.

The shopping center Plaza de Carlos III, in the Havana municipality of Centro Habana, is one of a few favored markets enjoying what we could call “the assortment grace” and, consequently, a habitual scenario of that silent battle. Despite the small and limited variety of the supply of increasingly scarce products, in the meat department of this shopping center — as in the other regular city markets, including the one at 3rd and 70th, in the privileged neighborhood of Miramar — the supply of some of the most popular products has sustained relative regularity, so far.

As a result, there are daily swarming crowds at the Plaza de Carlos III, jam-packed for hours before the gates open that give access from the parking lot, which has been exclusively assigned for individuals who want to do their shopping at the butcher shop. The long line crosses a good part of the parking area, particularly on weekends, when many people also come from the provinces near the capital, or even from more distant places, where the shortages are atrocious.

It is generally unknown which products will go on sale each day, but the feeling of urgency and the need to bring food home does not allow most people viable options. Day after day, the same scene is repeated throughout the opening hours of the market: a constant human tide, forced to dedicate hours of their daily lives carting around food at prices that do not correspond to Cuban wages.

And while hardships are becoming the norm, the exclusions are growing at the same time. At the end of March, the directors of the Gastronomy and Services Company of Centro Habana, in a meeting with the directors of each establishment, reported that it is strictly forbidden for them and their subordinates to even mention the phrase “Special Period.

At the same time, the employees of the shopping centers that operate in foreign currencies received the same orientation. “Special period,” “crisis,” “shortages,” are some of the terms that have swelled the extensive list of subversive words, as if the terminology — and not the bad performance of the country’s administration — was the cause of the economic setback that dooms Cubans to a state of poverty.

Meanwhile, the regime has been oiling the mechanisms of repression and controls. The National Bus Company has recently begun to apply strong restrictive rules to control the contents of passengers’ baggage. Each traveler can transport up to two liters of edible oil to the interior provinces. There have also been drastic limitations on the allowed weight, with significant added fees for excess baggage.

Other food and hygiene products — such as bath soap, toothpaste and detergent — are also being restricted in baggage. According to the officials in charge of these controls, these measures seek to avoid speculation and smuggling on the black market, but this regulation also affects families who are forced to get their supplies in the capital city, all those necessities that have practically disappeared from the villages in the interior of Cuba.

“And that’s nothing, the worst is yet to come!” predict the most famous who lived through the unspeakable hardships of the 90s as adults, and know that, this time, the situation in the interior, as well as at the regional and international level, is a lot more complex than it was then, and doesn’t leave any room for extemporaneous optimism.

At any case it is a sentence much more realistic than all the unfulfilled promises of the Castro regime through more than 60 years, and more realistic than the Constitution, whose birth, on April 10th, was announced with all the solemnity and fanfare along that of its twin sister: the new Castro economic crisis, maybe the worst of all.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Cuban Constitution: A False Legacy / Miriam Celaya

Constitution Project (Cubadebate Photo)

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 12 April 2019 — As implausible as it may seem, 60 years after its arrival in power, the Castro regime has not yet been able to legitimize itself. The self-awareness of the nature of its bastard lineage is reflected with particular force in the persistent insistence of inventing associations of historical continuity with the wars of Independence and their heroes, and also with the civic and intellectual legacy of the Republic.

The matter is not trivial. For the regime, the search for historical legitimacy became an essential strategic issue at the beginning of its storyline. Not coincidentally, Fidel Castro placed the blame for his audacious armed assault on a military barracks on José Martí’s constitutional army, an alarming sign of recklessness and almost suicidal violence completely alien to Martí’s legacy.  However, this pronouncement was ignored by a people too attached to the worship of leaders.

But the epics of the Moncada, the Granma and the Sierra Maestra  ̶ whose essential purpose was the restoration of the model 1940 Constitution – which was tainted in 1952 by Fulgencio Batista’s military coup – disappeared as soon as the Castro’s yearned-for democratic revolution turned into a dictatorship, although many Cubans of that time didn’t notice it. continue reading

Now, in another forced round of acrobatics, today’s Castro regime is, once again, desecrating the historical memory when proclaiming the new Constitution on exactly the same date it was approved 150 years ago, by consensus and by means of a Constituent Assembly of the Republic in Arms, consisting of delegates representing the three insurgent regions of the Island of Cuba  ̶ Oriente, Las Villas y Centro (Camagüey) ̶  the first authentically Cuban Law of laws: La Constitución de Guáimaro.

For further derision, it was Army General Raul Castro, First Secretary of the Communist Party and heir dictator by dynastic line, who proclaimed the spurious ‘Magna Carta’ (today’s constitution) instead of the “civil power” representative, supposedly sanctioned at the National Assembly.

According to the General, the recently imposed new Constitution, “is a continuity” of the one at Guáimaro’s (1869) and of the Constitutions of Jimaguayú (1895) and La Yaya (1897), “because it safeguards the unity of all Cubans and the Homeland’s independence and sovereignty.” The truth, however, is that there are not only abysmal differences between the old Constitutions and the shady Castro regime’s edict recently established, but that the latter means a true regression with respect to those in terms of recognition of civic rights and freedoms.

The first difference is in its origin. The the genesis of the current legal embryo was the dictatorial Power’s creation of a dark Commission charged with writing, in greatest secrecy, what would be the “Project” of a Constitution. This “Project” would later be submitted to what they called “popular consultation”  ̶  whose debates, “contributions” and proposals were never published ̶   a process that continued with the formal amendments carried out by the same mysterious “Commission,” always under the autocratic power’s baton, giving us the above-mentioned Project, which today was officially consecrated as the “Constitution.”

Regarding the differences in essence and text, it is enough to mention, for example, the perception among the delegates to the Constituent of 1869 of the need to divide powers, a democratic-liberal spirit that begins to be reflected in the Constitution of Guáimaro, in spite of it being a political proposal under war conditions and being destined to exist only while the armed conflict with Spain lasted. In its Article 22 (of a total of 29 Articles) it endorses: “The Judicial Power is independent; its organization will be the object of a special law”.

Later on, Article 28 establishes rights that, 150 years later, are only remote aspirations to essential rights, whose exercise may result in repression, imprisonment, or exile of Cubans: “The Chamber will not be able to attack the freedoms of worship, printing, peaceful assembly, education and petition, nor any inalienable right of the People.”

So significant was this democratic principle for the founding fathers that they kept it in force in the Constitution of La Yaya, through its Thirteenth Article: “All Cubans have the right to freely express their ideas and to meet and associate for the lawful purposes of the living.” A basic right of every free and democratic society because of which thousands of the best Cubans of that time lost their lives, and which found a place in the magnificent Republican Constitution of 1940, only to be violated by corrupt leaders of different political groups but with identical ambitions and thirst for power in the past 67 years.

Therefore, such continuity does not exist. If invoking Guáimaro is what this is about, we are facing a false legacy. The Castro Constitution is not only the negation of the rebellious and libertarian spirit of Guáimaro, but, on the contrary, it condemns us, from 10 April 2019 onwards, to live under a permanent dictatorship. The General’s constitution is neither legacy nor continuity: it is an epitaph.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Signs of a Silenced Crisis

A Cuban shows editions of the state press Granma and Juventud Rebelde. (File EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 6 April 2019 — A new and unequivocal signal of the current difficult times in Cuba has just arrived with the news of the reduction of the number of pages in the printed editions of several official publications.

At first glance, the news could seem the least of the problems in a country whose population has, as its top priority, finding and acquiring food for the day to put on the table. Over the course of the last year, Cubans have been gradually but inexorably witnessing an increase in the lack of basic foodstuffs — such as cooking oil, wheat flour, bread, eggs, chicken, pork, among others — which, together with the increase in the cost of agricultural products and the chronic shortages in the hard-currency markets, bring the shivers of the collective memory  of  the unburied ghost of the decade of the 90’s.

However, the drastic contraction of the official press in the current Cuban scenario is an indicator of the greatest relevance, bearing in mind that it has always been an ideological tool that cannot be discarded and is of great importance to the political power, which has used it for the indoctrination and the numbing of the masses, as well as for the control and manipulation of information. Contrary to the infiltration of other sources and the relatively greater access to the Internet and social networks that has been taking place in recent times, a large part of Cubans on the Island still assumes the government press as a priority — or unique — source of information. continue reading

The drastic contraction of the official press in the current Cuban scenario is an indicator of the greatest relevance, considering that it has always been an undeniable ideological tool

The press has been so significant as a strategic instrument in the hands of the power that the enormous control sustained by the Castro regime over the entire society along 60 years could not be explained independently.  Thus, the dramatic reduction that is currently being announced supposes a loss of strategic spaces for the regime. Therefore, it suggests a lack of growth in liquidity and a much more complicated economic outlook than the authorities are willing to recognize.

However, there is a past history of this, and it is framed precisely in the period of the crisis of the 90’s, when editions of the official press were also reduced. In that scenario, the now defunct founder of the Castro regime not only kept his political power intact, but also had the audacity to announce the economic collapse.

Even worse, he also had the audacity to draw a fabulous road map that supposedly would permit us to adjust in order to survive the crisis at different stages, through which he imagined we would journey, including a dark final phase that he termed “option zero,” in which Cubans would eat from a collective pot placed at intervals one city block apart — using wood as fuel, since there would be no oil, gas or electricity – in which would be cooked a kind of soup made with what each neighbor was able to contribute.

The Castro regime drew a road map whose end was the “option zero”, in which Cubans would feed from a collective pot, a kind of soup made with what each neighbor was able to contribute

Generations born at the end of the decade of the 80’s and beyond are unaware that in the midst of that crisis the “war of the whole people” was planned and disseminated to the most extreme stage, a war that never took place, but that vividly illustrates the levels of delirium that a dictatorship can reach in its eagerness to stay in power.

Despite the absurdity of the plan, and unlike today, in the 90s there was the perception that there was someone in charge. There was no democratic government — quite the contrary — but beyond the sympathies or antipathies of the maximum representative of the regime there was still the feeling that there was structure, a certain order of authority, although, obviously, it was an authority that was based more on its symbolic power and on its repressive capacity than on any real legitimacy.

Currently, Cuba is plunging into a crisis perhaps as deep as that of 30 years ago, but with the aggravating circumstance that today there is a great vacuum in its authority. The current president not only lacks legitimacy because he was not elected by the popular vote at the polls, but he also did not inherit the symbolic power of the so-called “historic generation,” those who fought in the Revolution that triumphed in 1959.

While many Cubans begin to perceive the signs of an economic collapse, the authorities continue to refer to the existence of “economic tensions” and, both the false agent and his team of bureaucrats — inept and handcuffed — insist on silencing the impending grim scenario that is approaching, and even fewer have presented a master plan to deal with it.

It is not possible to ignore that today’s Cubans are not exactly an ungovernable people, but rather largely “ungoverned.” The power class is aware of this.

But the differences between the two crises do not end there. It is not possible to ignore that today’s Cubans aren’t exactly an ungovernable people, but that they are rather largely “ungoverned.” The power class is aware of this, which perhaps explains the recent arrival in Cuba of an unusual and “generous” donation from Russia: a load of trucks, not to transport food from the countryside to the markets or to alleviate the eternal crisis of public transportation, but for no other reason than for the transfer of prisoners. There could be no more suspicious gift amid such a complex internal and external panorama.

So we can already guess that, although the current representatives of the spoils of the Castro regime do not have a contingency plan in the face of the impending crisis, they do seem to be deeply concerned about the social response Cubans may have as shortages increase and living conditions deteriorate.

Because we shouldn’t forget another great difference between the scenarios of the decade of the 90’s and the current one. This time around, the power claque could end up suffering the greatest losses.

Translated by Norma Whiting

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

High Prices and Greater Control: An Old Formula for A Renewed Crisis

Officer watches as Cubans line up to shop (Reuters)

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 1 April 2019 — It’s Saturday morning and The Carlos III Shopping Plaza in Centro Habana recently opened, but already the butcher shop, in the interior of the establishment, is packed with people while, beyond the windows of the front door, another crowd swarms, expectantly waiting their turn to come in.

The customary shortages, made worse during the final months of 2018, have become chronic in hard currency stores, so that in the few markets where there is some assortment, large crowds gather. People in Cuba devote a large part of their time to the search for and acquisition of food.

“This is the only place I’ve found chicken and ground beef after looking in lots of other stores”, says a mature woman while placing the desired products in her shopping cart. Like her, dozens of people lean over the refrigerators gathering food to buy and take home. continue reading

In comparison with the empty shelves of previous days, this weekend the market has released products of dubious nutritional quality but of popular acceptance, due to their more modest prices: beef burgers, meatballs, sausages, various types of chopped meats, mixed with soy and starches — all of them imported — and artificially flavored and sweetened yogurt produced domestically. Chicken, which has become an obligatory character at the Cuban table and enjoys great popular demand, has reappeared after being absent for several days in this market. Nobody knows when the food supplies will be restocked, so everyone tries to hoard food as far as their limited finances will allow.

The endemic food shortage in Cuba has been joined by a subtle but steady increase in the prices of some foods. At the back of the butcher shop, next to the glass case, a blackboard displays what looks like science fiction for the Cuban pockets. The notice board is insulting: Marbled, bone in Beef Loin 20.25 CUC* / Kg (equivalent to 506.25 CUP). The same boneless product is also offered at 19.30 CUC / Kg (equivalent to 482.50 CUP), in addition to “super” ham at 10.25 CUC / Kg (256.25 CUP), bacon at 3.00 CUC / 250gr (75.00 CUP), Siboney brand processed cheese 4.95 CUC / Kg (123.75 CUP) and several types of sausages produced nationally with mixed capital of State companies and Spanish partners, in tubes of 500 grams whose prices range between 4.65 CUC (116.25 CUP) and 7.10 CUC (177.50 CUP). Most customers are buying only processed cheese, while a large stale piece of beef worth 88 CUC (2,200 CUP) continues to age, dark and forgotten, behind the vitreous refrigerated showcase.

Concerning the agricultural markets, they have joined the upward prices spiral that, usually high, continue to shoot even higher without mercy in the agricultural demand and supply (i.e. unrationed) markets, whose products are of greater variety and of superior quality to the ones offered in the small kiosks of other private sellers. As for the agricultural markets of state cooperatives, they usually have a poor supply, and their products, with some exceptions, are usually of the worst quality, and even their more modest prices do not have a realistic relationship with the purchasing power of the common Cuban.

Although not everyone is aware of the complexity and depth of the economic crisis that grips them and threatens to worsen in times to come, the perception of the deterioration begins to be felt on the minds of the people. The uncertainty about the near future continues to grow, along with the certainty that the government does not have a viable alternative to address the growing problems of the economy and society.

The most recent meetings of the Councils of Ministers have uncovered some of the huge cracks through which finances disappear, as well as other serious ills ailing the national economy that have forced the government to make public certain deficiencies that years ago would have remained hushed. However, far from implementing reforms to end with damaging centralism and to free up the productive forces leading to the development of private initiative, the authorities have opted for the formula, largely unsuccessful, of “control increases,” savings “as source of income” and the eternal calls for the productive efficiency of workers.

However, in crisis situations nothing is as useful to the official script as a villain. And, since the “blockade” (the embargo) is still useful but no longer enough to justify internal failures, in recent issues the television news program has been focusing precisely on the “hoarders-speculators”  — that fauna, the natural daughter of scarcity and unproductiveness — as if it were about a new phenomenon and had not been a permanent character of our existence for at least the last half century.

Thus, in order to remedy the shortages, the hot potato has been launched at the population by the Castro media: “the people” have been invited to go onto the National Television News (NTV) website and other lampoons to present their proposals as to what measures the authorities should take to curb this scourge of parasites that make the lives of the most humble Cubans so expensive by appropriating large quantities of basic goods and then reselling them at multiplied prices in the informal market.

With that amusing touch of modernity — a sign of the new style of media-focused governance with which they have been refreshing the image of the failed Castro experiment in the hands of the “young” commander without command — the power cupola not only evades its direct responsibility in the economic catastrophe into which it has plunged Cuba, and its obligation to present a proposal to mend it, but suggests to the servants of the ruinous medieval village to disburse a part of their already meager pockets to connect to the Internet (also with the onerous prices of its connections) and declare on the official page of the NTV what to do with these lesser delinquents, that is, the hoarders.

What the plan is really about is to set an example by punishing, not the true and biggest hoarders-speculators who have been squeezing all of us for 60 years, but to chastise those petty rascals who engage in small-scale mercantile fiddling and who, in the last instance, also survive, protected by the general corruption of the system.

Because, in a good fight, the State-Government-Party is the first link of the chain of speculators dragging Cubans to poverty. They are officials of the Castro regime — many of them proven corrupt over the years — who are responsible for the ever increasingly insufficient purchases of food at the lowest price abroad later sold for prices that are multiplied several times in the state retail trade networks, in which Cubans must necessarily buy to survive, and it is the economic paralysis of state centralism that fosters the proliferation of those markets and these speculators, in a system that reproduces its own basic vices time and again.

The inefficient and unproductive State-Party-Government is the parasite that sets low prices for food production by peasants, imposes what kind of crops they must develop, monopolizes harvests, which often deteriorate or are lost in the fields or in storage warehouses, and thus pushes producers to sell to intermediary speculators, who offer better prices for the farmers’ harvests, but raise consumer costs.

Thus, by diverting attention to the effect to mask the causes of evil and, at the same time, manipulate national public opinion, the leadership creates a false impression that popular participation is part of the decision-making of the economy and in the solution of the problems that afflict the population, at the same time that it increases the time to implement the essential apertures that, sooner or later, would mark the route towards the inevitable end of the socialist experiment in Cuba.

*Translator’s note: The CUC (Cuban Convertible Peso) is roughly equivalent to one U.S. dollar. Monthly wages in Cuba average roughly 17-30 CUC a month, thus this price for 2.2 pounds of beef is more than many Cubans’ monthly wage.

Translated by Norma Whiting

What Did Their Royal Highnesses Come For? / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

Source: radioreloj.cu

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 26 March2019 — Despite the publication by the Castro press of each of two decaffeinated official biographies of their Royal Highnesses, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall — who arrived on the afternoon of the same day at the Cuban capital, fulfilling a visit announced months ago, in response to an official invitation from the Cuban government — and the brief mention on TV news of the activities and tours of the distinguished couple during their short stay in Havana, the modest profile granted by the government media to guests of such vintage ancestry makes one stop and think.

Being such an unprecedented historic event, which some foreign media tried to view as a visit which will draw closer or improve the relations between Havana and London, the cold discretion of the Cuban authorities and the scant media coverage offered to the event are striking. If, in truth, the objective of this visit was so favorable to the leaders of the Government, they would not have missed the enthusiastic receptions and the mobilizations of the faithful, perhaps carrying posters in the style of: “Welcome Your Royal Highnesses” or some other similar tacky ploy.

Needless to also mention that the visit of the representatives of the British monarchy — or of any other of old Europe’s crown heads — is as unusual as it is foreign and distant to ordinary Cubans. Irreverent and plebeian by nature, anti-monarchists — earlier by inherited tradition from the independence wars; later, due to communist ideological indoctrination — and culturally refractory to any royal pedigree or palatial label, the idiosyncrasy of the inhabitants of this other archipelago has nothing in common with representatives of any royalty. continue reading

And so alien is the British royalty to Cubans that most do not even know of the scandals carried out in their day by the infidelities of the Prince of Wales who now visits us, his controversial divorce from Princess Diana, and the role the current wife of the heir to the throne, the former lover of the once restless Charles, played in those entanglements. Absorbed in the urgencies of daily survival, Cubans are not interested in this pair of aristocrats. To be sure, the heroes of the tearful regional telenovelas and their avatars are much closer and more familiar to the natives of this island than the intrigues of Buckingham Palace.

So, in perspective, it can be said that the presence of their British Royal Highnesses among us is a rather folkloric event which, at most, will awaken some curiosity among the plebes, but that will barely pass with neither sorrows nor glories and will be forgotten as soon as the visitors go back to where they came from.

Stranger still than this extemporaneous visit is that it is taking place in the midst of another turn of the screw in Cuba’s eternal economic crisis, when the deficiencies worsen, migrations abroad continue to show a growing trend and we can glimpse (literally) a grim horizon at the possibility of the loss of Venezuela’s oil subsidies in the near term.

If we look at them from the point of State relations, the links between a European monarchy with a long tradition and a rich lineage and a communist-cast dictatorship do not seem to be very consistent either. It is hard to believe that a politically influential personality such as the heir to the British throne can lend himself to offering friendly support to the Palace of the Revolution, especially when it is not usual for European royal houses to mark very clear political positions with the governments or mis-governments of the world.

Less credible still is that their Royal Highnesses should have taken the trouble to land in Cuba just to place a wreath to honor José Martí, visit the Palace of the Captains General, attend a function of the children of La Colmenita and another of the Alicia Alonso Ballet at the Gran Teatro de La Habana. They are princes, not dumb-asses.

On the other hand, despite the fact that Prince Charles ignored US Senator Rick Scott’s request, when in February he asked him to change his travel plans to Havana and visit Florida instead, where, as Scott wrote, he could ” to learn firsthand the six decades of atrocities, oppression and misery that the regime inflicted on Cubans”; and although the Prince’s agenda in Havana did not include any meetings with the dissident sectors or statements about the situation in Venezuela and the important role of Cuba in the military and intelligence support in that South American country, there are no indications of any kind so far of compromise or alliance between the unelected President of Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel and his geriatric conga line with the representative of the British monarchy.

Rather, everything indicates that the presence of Charles and Camilla in Havana responds more to an agenda related to aspects of financial interest and exploration of possible investments than to issues of a political nature, although protocol and appearances may suggest otherwise. Maybe, behind the scenes, the prince has also come to air the debts to the United Kingdom on the Cuban side. In any case, historically, English policy has maintained its independence with respect to Washington and has drawn its own agenda — as was demonstrated when it carried out the Falklands War — but when it comes time to cut the cake, London knows where its allies are.

For now, the details of the meeting of the Prince of Wales with Díaz-Canel and the real purposes of this visit of the British Royal House to Cuba are wrapped in a halo of mystery about which we can only speculate. In any case, on Wednesday, March 27th, the royal couple will leave Cuba to visit their former Caribbean island colonies. They will leave behind the same poverty and despair that have become the sign that marks the reality for Cubans.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Cancellation of the B2 Visa: Another Parting of the Waters Between Cubans

Photo taken from the Internet

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 21 March 2019 – The recent announcement by the US authorities of the cancellation of the five-year visas (B2) for Cubans, as of March 18, 2019, has fallen like a pitcher of ice water on those who have, so far, benefited from this type of visa that grants to those who wished to obtain it stays of up to six months in the US and the possibility of multiple entries.

It is not surprising, then, that almost everywhere these days this has been the unavoidable subject in Cuba: bus stops, shops, queues, work centers or the usual groups of friends and acquaintances. The impact of the news for the common Cubans far exceeds any other event that has taken place in recent times, including the very controversial constitutional referendum on February 24th, and it seems to have produced a desolation effect similar to that caused by the tornado that devastated a large swath of the Cuban capital just several weeks ago.

Once again it has become clear that the dispositions and the policies dictated by our Northern neighbor with respect to Cuba weigh more on the national mood and cause greater effects on the life of Cubans than any guideline that comes from the dome of power inside Cuba. continue reading

In spite of the so-called “independence and sovereignty”, after six decades of “communist” dictatorship, only the opposite results has been achieved: today  ̶ and increasingly ̶  the survival of a large part of the inhabitants of this island depends in some way on the US, either because of the family ties that intertwine both shores, because of the life-saving remittances, because of the flow of the kinds of articles that are scarce in Cuba and that reach Cuban families through the parcel agencies that proliferated as a result of the thaw of the Obama era, or because the US is an important source of supply for small businesses and the supporter of informal commerce, through the constant trips of an entire army of “mules”.

From now on, instead of the B2 visa, Cubans will be able to apply for a visa valid for only three months of stay in the US, which they can use for a single entry, which significantly increases the formality of the paperwork and visa payments for frequent travelers  ̶  that must necessarily be made through a third country since the closure of consular services at the American Embassy in Havana in response to the “acoustic attacks” on embassy personnel ̶   adding additional expenses for tickets, accommodations, food, etc.

This leads directly to the consideration of other possibilities that will begin to emerge in the new scenario going forward, such as greater number of Cubans who might decide to stay in US illegally, once their legal three month stays expire, until they reach the time needed to apply for status under the Cuban Adjustment Act and, eventually, obtain a permanent residence permit.

Another consequence will be the impact on ticket sales of the airlines that offer regular flights between Cuba and the US, of which a good part of the customers are Cuban residents on the Island. It is expected that, in the short term, by decreasing the number of travelers, the cost of these fares will become more expensive, directly affecting the Cubans who reside in the US who commonly pay for the trips of their relatives who live in Cuba. Logically, the shipment of parcels to the Island will become more expensive as well.

Despite this new thrust, and leaving aside the March 16th Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs hypocritical statement, where the authorities reject what they cynically consider “an additional obstacle to the exercise of the right of Cuban citizens to visit his relatives in that country” since, among other issues, “it also imposes high economic costs on family trips and exchange in multiple areas”, it is surprising the virulence and the merriment with which not a few Cuban emigrants living in the US have applauded a measure that so much affects their compatriots on both sides of the Straits of Florida.

“It’s good,” some say, because that’s how the dictatorship will stop the influx of dollars, the flow of snitches and State Security agents who have been entering the US, and the internal pressure on the Island will increase until a social explosion takes place that overthrows the puppet Díaz-Canel. They do not seem to care about the cost of family separation between parents whose children emigrated, between close relatives and close friends, a heartbreak that they themselves had to endure in the past.

“They get what they deserve”, others affirm, who feel chemically pure and politically enlightened, although there is no lack among them of those who participated in marches, were members of the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR), the Young Communist Union (UJC) or the Cuban Communist Party (PCC), those who felt afraid to express themselves freely and even applauded at the Plaza de la Revolución.

Both do not seem to be disturbed by the material needs of their compatriots inside Cuba. The grudges accumulated by their own pain have degraded their souls, and in response to so much inexplicable sense of revenge, many Cubans on the Island respond with distrust. Are these “paladins of absolute truth” those who pretend to trace the common future? Do they feel so elevated that they will be an imitation of the Castro leadership, from the antipodes? No, thanks.

Obviously, the anthropological damage that the well-known Cuban intellectual Dagoberto Valdés defined so clearly does not limit itself to Cuba’s territorial boundaries, but rather – like a plague that corrodes the spirit of solidarity that should exist between nationals – extends beyond a large part of the exile community.

Because, while it is true that the US government and its institutions have the sovereign right to decide and dispose of what they consider best or more appropriate to their interests, although the laws of that country have no obligation to look after foreign interests  ̶ in this case those of Cubans ̶  and if, indeed, the (un-)government of Castro-Canel is the one responsible for the national crisis and the only one from which we must demand accountability and demand rights, it speaks much and very badly of us as a Nation and as fellow citizens that we should rejoice at the misfortune of one or the other.

Personally, although my condition as a “cubañola” (Cuban of Spanish citizenship) did not harm me in particular with regards to visa issues, I feel a real embarrassment before the witches coven unleashed on the networks, pitching Cubans against Cubans, with ridicule, hatred, contempt and resentment, as if we were not already sufficiently fractured and divided, as if we had not consumed enough tons of hatred inculcated from the dictatorial power. And there are still arrogant people who dare to call out Cubans living in Cuba because of our spiritual miseries and the loss of values that, according to them, we all suffer from!

We definitely a lot of growing to do as Cubans and as human beings before we can overcome the trauma of the Castro regime and find the good and the kind that should unite us beyond our differences … Or we will simply be condemned to disappear as a Nation.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Declaration of the “Revolutionary Government”: Late, Murky and Mendacious

Raúl Castro and Miguel Díaz-Canel. Archival photo

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 18 March 2019 — Under the strident title of “Cuba condemns terrorist sabotage against the Venezuelan electric system”, the monopoly of the Castro press disclosed on Monday, March 11th, an official declaration of the “revolutionary government” where it directly accuses the US government of unleashing “an unconventional war” against the government of Nicolás Maduro.

Needless to say, in the 20 tedious paragraphs that make up this statement, although there are many accounts based on the official mythology of the last 60 years of Cuban history, as well as the disqualifying epithets against many current and bygone figures in American politics, the official declaration does not offer proof or a single piece of evidence that the colossal electrical failure that began in Venezuela last Thursday, March 7th, whose effects continue as I write these lines, is the result of “terrorist sabotage”.

And they could not provide any evidence, because as far as several highly experienced electrical engineers have assured – including some who are very familiar with the “sabotaged” installation and the system that produces electricity for 85% of the entire Venezuelan nation – there isn’t the least chance of hacking the Venezuelan electrical system because it is not digital but analog; and on the other hand, the damage that caused the service interruption took place within an area strongly protected by the army and the chavista special security forces. continue reading

This means that no external agent could have been the cause of the disaster and that the Cuban government has no basis to describe terrorist sabotage as an event that, according to Nicolás Maduro himself and other vociferous roosters in his corral, is still under investigation, though they already have some “guilty” detainees and, in the days to come, there will be no shortage of “confessions” and accusatory fingers for sure, pointing against the usual villains.

However, the aforementioned statement by the Cuban government wouldn’t have been so outrageous if it were not for its shocking clumsiness and the fear and concern that transpire throughout its lines. The text is confusing, hazy, and obviously mendacious. It is clear that no preacher or druid of the Palace of the Revolution inherited Castro I’s twisted talent; it is fair to acknowledge that in his glory years he was master among masters in the questionable art of lying convincingly about any event and manipulating the crowds at his whim.

To this should be added that different times and different popular moods are now circulating. Many Cubans today question the double standard of the official discourse that is made clear in the Declaration. How can the Cuban authorities justify accusing the US government of “lying” in the case of the sonic attacks on Cuban officials in Havana because “they do not present evidence of this”, but in turn allow themselves to denounce a “terrorist sabotage” led by the US government against Venezuela, without providing evidence to prove it?

How to explain the selective amnesia of the Castro leadership and its spokesmen, capable of enumerating a multitude of historical examples of Yankee interference in the world and accusing the United States of meddling in the internal affairs of Venezuela, while conveniently forgetting also the numerous military intromissions of Cuba in armed conflicts in Latin America and Africa, as well as the Cuban interference in Allende’s Chile or in the Venezuela of Chávez and Maduro, just to mention well-known and documented examples?

But, returning to the official text, it is obvious that the current scribes of the “continuity” of the Castro sign are emotionless, lack conviction, are dull and forget that more and more Cubans have some access to other sources of information and social networks and, as if all this were not enough, the officials can’t express themselves in writing, as evidenced by this indigestible bundle of useless paper – i.e. “declaration” – where events and characters from different periods and from the most diverse world geographical points are mixed chaotically, and where, in an angry jumble, one sentence attacks Juan Guaidó and in the next, Cuba’s “solidarity” with Venezuela is extolled, the American military bases in the region are enumerated, the participation of Cuba in the operations of the Venezuelan National Armed Forces and in its Security Services is denied (which, paradoxically, seems to reaffirm it) and – as is inevitable – unfeasible figures are mentioned about the achievements of Cuba’s medical services in Venezuela, while inflating those of the victims of the evil US interference in the entire planet.

Obviously, the lords of the cupola look down on Cuban intellect. It would seem that they are writing for that amorphous and hypnotized mass, isolated from the world, uninformed, grateful and credulous, that decades ago applauded the false Messiah, convinced and happy, and not for the people we are today: disenchanted, unbelieving, cynical, irreverent and deeply frustrated. The lords of the power caste do not understand that the corrosive effect of 60 years of deceit makes us distrustful and sarcastic—if not with calculated indifference—of everything that comes from the summit.

So, reading in reverse, now it has been confirmed from the huge Castro press monopoly that the days of Maduro at the Miraflores Palace could be numbered. If something we’ve been taught by these six decades of informative obscurantism is that when the whistles and cymbals of the Plaza de la Revolución replace triumphalist slogans and bravado with warnings and accusations it is because they are already giving up the battle. More than a denunciation, the declaration of the Cuban government tastes like an obituary. Soon or later, Maduro will fall, and, with him, the Cuban dictatorship will lose its main energy sustenance and who knows what and how many other revenues. Diaz Canel’s bad luck is past being a simple streak … and there is more to come.

Cuba and the Castro Constitution: To Vote ‘No’ or To Not Vote?

Ballot boxes in Cuba (EFE)

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, West Palm Beach, 10 January 2019 — We are less than two months away from the referendum that will be submitted to Cuban citizens to consider whether to “ratify” or not the constitutional reform already approved unanimously by the National Assembly. Social networks have been the scene of a bitter controversy among those who encourage the campaign for a massive vote against the “new” spurious constitution written by the scribes of the Castro regime and, at the opposite extreme, those who advocate a massive absence at the polls.

Each one of the proposals has its own arguments. Those who support not going to the polls (an option that in electoral terms equals abstention), consider the exercise of the vote as a “legitimation of the dictatorship,” assuming that both the newly drafted Constitution and the official electoral apparatus constitute a fraud in themselves — which does not cease tobe true — and that to vote in such conditions is to “play the game” of the government. At the same time, several of those who lead in the support for abstention state that the “legitimate” alternative would be to take to the streets and march against the Castro regime. continue reading

However, would the option of “street march abstention” be viable? It does not seem so. At least, past experience does not favor it. It is acknowledged that — beyond supposed political compromises with the “Revolution” — the overwhelming majority of voters in Cuba go to the polls for fear of “finger-pointing” and retaliation. For decades, the pressure of the authorities on the electorate has been felt both through the enormous and suffocating Castro propaganda and in the figure of minor “agitators,” be they elements of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution or little pioneers (children) sent door to door to urge the more morose to vote.

Nor is it a secret to anyone that, if fraud is involved, the authorities may well use the ballots of those absent in their favor by marking them with a resounding “Yes,” which makes it clear that abstaining does not constitute a guarantee of success.

Not to mention achieving a chimeric popular mass march in rebellion against the elections or against the regime. It is unthinkable that an electorate fearful of the simple act of refusing to vote will have the courage to take to the streets to march and face the fury of the Castro repressive forces. Leaving aside other essential considerations such as the lack of sufficient convening power to mobilize a critical mass of Cubans, or the absence of leaderships adversarial to the regime that are recognized by the crowds, it could be affirmed that the option to abstain and/or march is (almost) absolutely unfeasible.

Meanwhile, the proposal to attend and cast a NO vote has some elements in its favor. In principle, the initial call was born from civil society through social networks, not from opposition political parties or organizations of any political tendency. It is an authentic citizen reaction that has been drawing more consensus than dissent among Cubans from all shores, whose campaign has been so fast and viral that it was even anticipated, and put the dictatorial regime on the defensive, forcing its powerful propaganda machinery to a hasty campaign for the YES vote.

As an additional benefit, the spontaneity and speed of the “YoVotoNo” (IVoteNo) campaign has prevented leaders or groups of any denomination from monopolizing its leadership and from “assuming” or taking credit for its course. This seemingly insignificant detail favors the participation of Cubans who do not feel identified with the opposition or who are suspicious of leaders they are not familiar with, but who also reject the dictatorship and aspire to changes within the country, without suggesting the rejection of opponents or the participation of dissidents.

The official discourse – that the YoVotoNo option is a “proposal of the enemy” – collapses with the mere fact that it does not require external financing or financing of any nature: it is the simple, voluntary and straightforward exercise of a citizen’s right, the right to vote, one of the few that we still have and that, judging by the virulence of the Castro regime’s discourse, now stands as a threat to its totalitarian reign, based on unanimity in obedience.

And that is another indisputable strategic advantage of the negative vote: it does not suppose risks of repression, since it is founded on citizens’ right to the secret vote recognized in the Electoral Law. It is impossible to prohibit or hinder the participation of every the Cuban voter on the Island in the referendum, contrary to what happens with street demonstrations that may end up dissolved or simply prevented from being carried out by the repressive forces of the dictatorship.

As for the alleged “legitimation of the tyranny” and of its Constitution, it is just the opposite in this case: the NO strategy is based on using the weapons of the system itself, not to legitimize it, but to empower the citizen vote. That is to say, that the citizen himself legitimizes his rejection of the aforementioned Constitution through his vote, not thanks to the Castro electoral law, but in spite of it.

A strategy whose closest antecedent was – saving the differences – the Varela Project, promoted from the end of the 1990s by Oswaldo Payá, who advocated political reforms based on the Constitution itself, and whose repercussions ultimately meant a political cost significant for the dictatorship, although by virtue of legal subterfuges the initial objective of its promoters was not achieved.

In the current case, however, we are facing a different scenario with very objective favorable circumstances to confront the regime in its own ballot boxes. First, because the referendum call is official, which would make each ballot a legitimate vote, and secondly because almost two decades of failures have accumulated in the system. The shortcomings, despair and frustrations of the population have multiplied, the historical leadership has disappeared, we are at the beginning of another economic schism, the failure of the system is evident after 60 years and the “Revolution” does not have the minimum capital of faith among the majority of Cubans.

Add to this the disenchantment of those who created some expectation around the so-called “popular consultation” and whose suggestions or dissatisfactions were not taken into account in the final result: the LGTBI groups that were literally mocked with the suppression of Article 68; the artists who have rebelled publicly against Decree 349 – now in moratorium but not abolished; and the private transporters who recently staged a sit-down strike in the Cuban capital.  An approximate idea of all the popular discontent that is growing within the island will be apparent.

This suggests that, although it is difficult (though not impossible) to impose the “no vote” at the polls, due to the oiled propaganda machinery and electoral Power fraud, the current conditions are propitious to reach a considerable number of negative ballots against the Castro regime, which means a triumph in itself, because not only would the authorities be forced to commit the most scandalous of frauds, but because the larger the quantity of negative votes the more it would make it virtually impossible to alter all the scrutiny processes, and they will have to at least accept a significant part of the votes opposing the proposal.

Some detractors of the YoVotoNo initiative have suggested that the Castro regime would only accept, at most, the existence of 20% of negative votes. If that is so, they forget that we would be talking about almost two million voters with adverse votes. Recognizing them officially would open the door to future steps and legitimate claims of that broad social sector that does not feel represented in the Constitution and that, consequently, would push for new spaces and freedoms. Almost two million adverse votes mean a deep fissure that would disprove the official discourse of the “unity of the people around their Revolution” and place the true Cuban civil society on stage. The social strength would be greater if the results were higher, in the case where a massive poll turnout to cast NO votes occurred.

It is worth noting, in addition, that contrary to all apparent logic, the Castro regime, in its infinite arrogance, has always relied on fear, apathy, indifference, the fatigue of ordinary Cubans, and also on the eternal internal divisions between the different dissident groups and the opposition. That is why capitalizing on that confidence of the power’s claque in the abject national inertia, and turning it against itself is even more feasible than trying to capitalize late popular discontent in terms of political interests of particular sectors or groups.

A force that multiplies with the support of many emigrated Cubans, who have been encouraging the campaign YoVotoNo from the outside, which indicates that it far exceeds the “legal” limits of the simple exercise of the vote – a right that emigrants lack – to become an axis of unity in rejection of the Castro regime. Probably no opposition proposal had managed to attract so much solidarity and cohesion among Cubans from such different sectors and thoughts as this simple citizen initiative, and that fact alone indicates that in Cuba a before and after may be possible, even from the ballot box.

 (Miriam Celaya, residing in Cuba, is currently visiting the U.S.)

Translated by Norma Whiting