The ‘Communist’ Meeting In Peru Harks Back to the Olden Days / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

”International Meeting of Communist and Revolutionary Parties of Latin America and the Caribbean. For a real independence and socialism!”
”International Meeting of Communist and Revolutionary Parties of Latin America and the Caribbean. For a real independence and socialism!”

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 30 August 2016 — Last weekend Latin America’s communist and leftist parties held a meeting in Peru. Its objective: To structure the “struggle against neoliberalism” in the region. Is this the purpose sought by socialism?

The first socialists (nothing to do with the statist, authoritarian, police and totalitarian versions) always understood the society they aspired to as being the reign of freedom for human beings and especially in ways of working, labor that would be undertaken for satisfaction, not out of obligation, and that would be the general basis on which the entire framework of the new society would rest. continue reading

The great development brought to the world by the productive forces of capitalism and its needs for the freeing of markets and the expansion of education and new methods of production, especially the unstoppable progress of the new technologies of information and communications, has created the basis for the deployment of every kind of possibility of free, private and interconnected work.

And this is what the “anti-capitalists” of this so-called Latin American left don’t understand, as they continue to cling to the old and absurd “communist” schemes of the 20th century. Determined to fight capitalism and neoliberalism and to impose state-centric economic and political models, like Fidelism in Cuba, or its Venezuelan or Nicaraguan variants, or Peronism in Argentina, they don’t understand, first and foremost, that Fidelism and, likewise, every totalitarian framework were complete failures.

Other caricatures of socialism in the region do not depart from the social-democratic concept of the protector-state, which through the collection and distribution of taxes puts an end to inequality, taking from those who have the most to give to those who have the least.

It is not about lowering the standard of living of those who have the most, but of elevating those on the bottom through their own efforts, although with the assistance of credits and financing to support their technical skills and to help them build their own private or collective microenterprises.

And it would be these policies, of “teaching the hungry how to fish, rather than giving them fish,” that would free human beings from exploitation and turn them into free producers and free thinkers.

The so-called socialist countries that emerged from the Stalinist processes that took place in Russia in the last century understood that new society as a work of the “proletarian State” which, through laws and violence, deprived the small, medium and the great bourgeoisie of their properties and administered them centrally and vertically, exploiting them without changing salaried work to the common benefit of society. It was an idealized vision of a primitive community. Great nonsense.

Logically, this vertical state-socialism from a “communist”-directed and regulated power could never overcome freely expanding capitalism, more horizontal, more democratic, precisely because of the degree of liberation of the productive forces, of the market, of human development and of the means of production.

The new post-capitalist society – more free, just, humane, democratic, protective of nature and the environment – will be achieved starting from the progress made possible by capitalism itself in its development and utilization of free workers and their own efforts, mechanisms and freedoms, achieved by capitalism and not by the suppression of capitalism through violence, the restrictions of liberties and the fratricidal class struggle.

Free workers, a class that is not in itself a capitalist mode of production (they are neither capitalists nor salaried workers), developed from the mechanisms of capitalism itself, is the new revolutionary class, not the “proletariat” that brings with it no new mode of production.

Therefore, it is not about fighting “against capitalism and its neoliberal variant, raising the proletariat” but about fighting for the development of free private or cooperative work.

The role of socialists would be better if they supported, promoted and took advantage of the mechanisms of capitalism that favor the progress of free private or cooperative work, particularly freedom in every sense, of the market, of technical and professional training for all, low interest lending policies and taxes that stimulate small and medium private or cooperative enterprises and that limit private or state monopolies and above all, fuller democracy that is ever more direct and transparently exercised and horizontal for citizens, with regards to taxes, budgets and spending at all levels.

The “communists and the leftists” who participated in the event do not understand this and continue their statist voluntarism, following the approaches of the olden days. If they do not change, the Peruvian forum will be condemned to repeating the failures of its predecessors.

‘Coffee, Three Cents’ / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

An independent seller of peanuts and sweets on the streets of Havana. (Luz Escobar)
An independent seller of peanuts and sweets on the streets of Havana. (Luz Escobar)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 23 August 2016 – Self-employed Cubans are tossed out of places where they’ve contracted with the State to work, without consideration of the consequences for them and violating what is established in their “contracts.” Recently this happened in Pinar del Rio, according to various reports, thanks to the redevelopment of the city boulevard. But this happens commonly all over Cuba.

An emblematic case happened in a Havana park when it was closed to the public for repairs and two dozen self-employed individuals, among them food vendors, sellers of toys, balloons and baby things, photographers, parking attendants and others, were left without work and without any ability to demand redress, although they had one year contracts and their licenses, payments and other documents were in order. continue reading

Months later, having finished some light painting and other things that could have been done between Monday and Friday without closing the park, which was mainly used on Saturdays and Sundays, this important recreation area was reopened, but under another administration.

The protests of the self-employed were ignored. The new administration had no “responsibility to the old contracts,” they told those who tried to reestablish themselves there. They needed new contracts for which they had to present all new documentation, photographs, self-employment licenses, tax payments, letters of good conduct from their local Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, and other things.

About twenty self-employed people were out of work for months, and had no recourse. The new administration set up new contracts with other self-employed people and some of the previous ones who had learned about it in time when they reopened the park. Others weren’t able to get new contracts. The opportunities were limited. And the previous contracts? Fine, and you?

In Cuba it is very normal that when the management of a company, a factory, a municipality or a province change, many other things also change.

It comes from the genesis of the top-down statist system introduced in Cuba by Fidel Castro, in the name of a socialism that has never existed other than in the dreams of many Cubans.

With the new administrations there are always changes among the most important positions, in the relationships between bosses and subordinates, in the old and new privileges granted by the boss, and in the way a business works in general.

And for this model – top-down, directed, bureaucratic, paternalist and populist – “the cadre is the backbone of the Revolution,” as Che Guevara said in one of his programmatic writings, not institutions nor their arrangements. According to this philosophy, present in Cuba at every step, when the cadre, that is the backbone, doesn’t exist, the whole body collapses.

This philosophy on leadership and management is very typical of Stalinist regimes, where the central figure, the leader, and his decisions are everything for his political subordinates. It happened in the USSR and other “socialist” countries: the bureaucracy, the so-called “unforeseen class,” according to some scholars, quickly adapted to the changes and went from socialist bureaucracy to capitalist bureaucracy, or from virtual owners in “socialism” to real owners in the new private capitalist model.

It is like one of those historical regularities of state-socialism, which invariably is found in the system at all levels and everywhere.

So it was not surprising that the fall of a leader changes many things, because these personality-focused governments are not capable of generating structures or institutions that serve the interests of the majority and the communist parties themselves, in reality, have been nothing more than political armies loyal to their founding bosses.

Today we see the Cuban Communist Party is incapable to presenting a program of consistent, comprehensive development for the Cuban nation and where, backwards and forwards, exclusions, designations, impositions, contradictions and failures are our daily bread.

Thus, those who think that the general rules that govern the country won’t change until there is a change in our administrator in chief are not mistaken, the same as always, and then, when other winds blow through Cuba, the loyal bureaucracy will act like the coffee seller who was walking along the wall of the Malecon in Havana in 1961, when the Bay of Pigs invasion happened. As he hawked his little cups of coffee he called out, “Cafeeé, … Cafeeé tres centavos, tres centavos” and when he heard that the American boats could already be seen approaching the coast, he quickly revised his come on: “Coffeee, three cents … Coffeee, three cents.”

Cuban Military Takes Over Businesses of Havana Historian’s Office / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Mario Penton

In its 23 years of work the City of Havana Office of the Historian has created more than 13,000 jobs directly and thousands indirectly. (14ymedio)
In its 23 years of work the City of Havana Office of the Historian has created more than 13,000 jobs directly and thousands indirectly. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar (Havana), Mario Penton (Miami), 16 August 2016 — “Do you see that building? Ten years ago it was full of stinking water, rats and trash. When people passed through the doorway a balcony could fall on their head. Today it is housing, thanks to the work of Eusebio,” Mirna says excitedly.

After expressing her gratitude to the Office of the Historian of the City of Havana (OHCH) for having provided her a home, this 68-year-old woman confesses her concern for the future of this institution, which has passed gradually into the hands of the military. continue reading

It is an open secret that the majority of the Historian’s companies have been transferred to an entity of the Armed Forces. It has not yet been published in any official decree nor has the national press spread the news, but the Historian of Havana, Eusebio Leal Spengler, has confirmed to 14ymedio that assets have been transferred to the Business Administration Group (GAE), a consortium managed by the Army. “It has not been transferred to the Armed Forces, but rather to GAE, a development company with investment capacity and prestige, which the Historian’s Office maintains the power to advise on the conservation of the work and also on new projects,” he explained via email.

Leal assures that the institution is calm because “the work of conservation now extends to the heritage cities of Cuba.” However, the historian expresses his sorrow at what this means for his efforts to protect the national patrimony. “It hurts us, that at the time when perhaps the greatest respect for the circumstances of life is required, the mediocre who lack any work are taking advantage, the poor in spirit, to hurt and damage many who have worked over the years to save the patrimony of a nation, whether in Cuba or anywhere else on earth.”

The Office of the Historian of Havana emerged in the ‘30s, in Republican Cuba. In 1967, after the death of the first title holder, Emilio Roig de Leuchsenring, Eusebio Leal took the helm of an entity that gradually grew not only in size and income, but also autonomy.

Its uniqueness comes from the ‘90s, when the OHCH received by Decree-Law Number 143, the freedom of economic initiative. The Government, in an unusual gesture of decentralization, entrusted Leal with creating a corporate structure that would allow social reinvestment and restoration of buildings. The institution responsible for the conservation and rehabilitation of the historic center of Havana, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, would be answer directly to the Council of State, and would have a special legal jurisdiction, personality and permissions to import and export, among other prerogatives.

The bar of La Luz Restaurant. (14ymedio)
The bar of La Luz Restaurant. (14ymedio)

In addition, it gave the Office the ability to have entities not subordinate to it and encompassed within in the prioritized are contribute to the conservation of buildings with payment of 1% of their income from operations in national currency (Cuban pesos, of CUPs) and 5% from operations in hard currency (Cuban convertible pesos, or CUCs).

Within the broad and complex business fabric that OHCH has woven for more than two decades are the Habaguanex hotel chain; the San Cristobal travel agency; the Opus Habana cultural magazine; the Habana Radio station; the Bologna publishing house; and several websites for marketing its products. The company also controlled two real estate agencies, Aurea and Phoenix; more than fifty cafes and twenty restaurants; museums, concert halls and shops; an import company, a workshop school and three construction companies (later merged into one), among other assets.

In its 23 years of work, the Office has created more than 13,000 jobs directly and thousands indirectly. According to research published by the University of Havana, of the 500 million dollars generated during this time, 60% has been earmarked for social works. In addition, the company has received more than 30 million dollars in funding from international cooperation.

About 55% of tourists coming to Cuba visit Havana, and 90% of them tour the Historic Center. Tourism revenues are soaring, therefore, in this area, reaching 2,185 CUC per resident compared with 245 CUC for the whole city.

“The best part of the cake is Old Havana, everyone knows that, so they are taking all of Leal’s businesses,” said a worker in an old-age home funded by the Historian.

Leal confirmed that the Office retains some financial instruments, including the 5% tax on any public or private activity in the historical district and the shops considered heritage, linked to the system of museums. In addition, other State institutions continue to contribute to the operation of the entity.

The Historian’s Office was getting fat in the first decade of the century when it added to his portfolio the Traditional Malecon, in 2003, and Chinatown in 2005. Following the publication in the independent press of several corruption scandals related to its administration, some of the OHCH companies were taken over by other state agencies.

“The process of disengagement has been slow. They have been removing one company after another to save Leal. The comptroller has uncovered a very large embezzlement and the only way not to charge the Historian, who actually had nothing to do with these thefts, is to exempt him of responsibility for these companies,” said a Cuban economist who prefers to remain anonymous.

Leal flatly denies these allegations and explains that “wherever someone is willing to sell his soul to the devil there will be administrative or corruption scandals.” The historian also says that “it is simply about consolidating efforts for development that we can not handle within our own means.”

But there are other theories. Eugenio Yanez, a Cuban academic who belongs to the study center Cubanálisis, believes there are three problems the transfer is designed to solve: “First, Raul Castro has a more pragmatic view, so he may want there to be a specialized management company that is responsible for business in Havana. Then there is the issue of the Leal’s deteriorating health, and thirdly there is the problem of serious corruption in the Office of the Historian companies. The Comptroller has discovered shady businesses. The solution has been to the transfer them to the Army, which is trusted by Castro.”

Self-employed individuals in Old Havana say they feel protected by the OHCH. Some expressed to 14ymedio their misgivings about the transfer of the Office of the Historian’s business to GAE. “The state always promotes its own restaurants, hotels and businesses instead of private businesses, so we don’t know what will happen now,” said Reinaldo, who operates a fashion business.

Camilo Condis, self-employed, who works with Gilberto Valladares (Papito), the hairdresser who spoke with President Barack Obama during his visit to Cuba, says that small and medium sized businesses have worked in Havana as managers of local development. “Without the Historian’s Office the work we do would not have been possible,” he said at a meeting of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy (ASCE).

As of August 1, the institution that has saved at least one third of the historic center of Havana has seen its activities reduced to “museum management, promoting cultural activities and conservation of the heritage,” says a source at the Vitrina de Valonia cultural center.

No one knows how the restoration processes in the capital will proceed from now on, but many fear that the military will not know how to manage the legacy of the Historian and will seek a more immediate profitability, without taking residents into account.

Wake Up, America / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

Cuban migrants stranded in Turbo, Columbia (courtesy)
Cuban migrants stranded in Turbo, Columbia (courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 11 August 2016 — Latin American governments who are closing their borders to the crossing of Cubans seeking to leave Cuba’s state slavery to reach the United States are complicit in the genocide that is increasing in the Straits of Florida, the only escape route left to the island’s new escaped slaves.

Don’t they know that the border closures are forcing Cubans to risk their lives at sea? Don’t they realize, doesn’t it pain them, don’t they feel remorse?

First was the government of Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, unconditional ally of the Castro regime, which was then was followed by other Central American governments and joined by Mexico, Colombia and Ecuador, the latter of which is now deporting Cubans. continue reading

These are countries with millions of its citizens in the United States, a good part of them illegally, whose governments systematically condemn our northern neighbor for its policy of closing its borders with Mexico to try to prevent the arrival of Mexicans, Nicaraguans, Central Americans, Colombians, Ecuadorians and other nationalities.

They scream about the, but now close they close their borders so that Cubans cannot pass. This is called the politics of a double standard.

Where is the solidarity with Cuba? Or do they understand that this should be addressed to the government responsible for this genocide and not the Cuban people, its victim?

How long are they going to look away before the Cuban government’s repression against its own people, its guilt for the exodus because of the absence of democracy and freedoms of every kind imposed on the island in the name of a socialism that doesn’t exist and whose mission is to piteously and arbitrarily exploit the workers, who are paid poverty level wages by the state that decides everything and is the principal employer, for the primary benefit of an elite and corrupt elite?

Are they still afraid that the Castro regime will send them guerillas? Do they know that one of the most famous Latin Americans of all time, José Martí, called state socialism, later imposed on Cuba by the Castro regime, “future slavery”?

Every day the international press agencies report on dozens of Cubans intercepted on the high seas by the US Coast Guard and returned to Cuba, or that dozens of others reach the coasts of Florida, but almost never reported are those who leave and never arrive, who are not news because their corpses never appear and their families in Cuba keep a desperate silence, imaging that some day they will get a call from the United States.

Do they have any idea of how many thousands of Cubans have lost their lives facing the waves, the Gulf Stream and the sharks, trying to escape to the north? Latin Americans trying to do the same run other dangers in the jungles, with the coyotes, whose existence is the responsibility of those governments, precisely for making the passage through their territories forbidden when it should be normal.

These governments should show solidarity with the Cuban people, open their doors and allow them to continue their journey to the United States in a safe way. This is their responsibility and I hope they rectify their position.

There is already a certain resentment, a deep rejection among many Cubans toward these governments for their attitude toward our fellow citizens, who have been mistreated for the simple desire to get to the United States, something very common among Latin Americans tired of the misery and repression in their countries.

We Cubans have always shown solidarity with the just causes and misfortunes of our Latin American brothers, we have always opened our doors to Latin American victims of repression. Do the Cuban people deserve this treatment from their governments.

It is well-known that many Latin Americans who arrive in the United States have received broad support and collaboration from Cubans who live there; Artists, businesspeople, media workers, simple employees. We also know that Cubans are a wealthy and influential nationality in the United States.

The demands made by some nations to end the US laws that favor the emigration and settlement in the United States of Cubans, seem motived more by the desire to have the same advantages conferred on their citizens. Then fight for this and not for it to be taken away from the suffering Cuban people.

Wake up, America.


Editor’s Note: The author of this article is a former Cuban diplomat and was in charge of consular affairs of the Embassy of Cuba in Mexico.

Not In The Name Of Socialism. Another Sign Of Contempt For Cuban Workers / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, 25 July 2016 – Several news reports confirm that there is a contingent of Indian workers in Cuba… Yes, you read that right: workers from India, from the other side of the world, working on tourist projects for foreign companies. A French company brought them over here and is paying them first world salaries.

Can anyone in the State-Party-Government explain what is happening? Are there no Cuban workers to employ in these construction projects?

Is the state-run Construction and Specialized Installations Company (ECME), which builds and remodels hotels, luxury buildings for foreigners and hospitals, among other projects, which has seen the most brilliant contemporary Cuban engineering and architecture, unable to undertake this work? continue reading

Does the remodeling company under the Office of the City Historian of Havana, which has rescued wonders of Cuban architecture, not have the capacity for these commitments?

I originally found it hard to believe the news, because no one could explain to me the reasons why foreign companies prefer to contract for Indian workers instead of Cubans, but it was even harder for me to understand why the “socialist” government, “representative of the Cuban working class,” accepts it when there are thousands of professionals, specialists, technicians and workers who are unemployed or under-employed in this kind of work, eager to exercise their professions and receive good remuneration for their work.

I don’t pretend to have found the reasons. Something that only the Government-Party-State can understand, one god in three persons like the holy trinity, although nobody explains it, nobody knows, they believe that nobody cares and ultimately nobody agrees.

Several media reports address the issue, and there is no shortage of information and speculations about the interests of the company run by the Cuban military that is charged with these works, in allowing this contracting on the part of a foreign firm because “Cubans can’t do the job,” “they are not good workers,” “the boys in the military service don’t know how,” and other things of this style.

Whatever the explanation might be, one thing is clear: workers from very far away are being employed in Cuba, they are being paid good salaries, while there are hundreds of thousands of Cuban workers who are trying to invent a life without adequately paid jobs, who have no other option in order to improve their and their families’ lives other than to leave Cuba, if they can, risking everything.

At the very least, this is another example of the contempt the bureaucracy has for Cuban workers, who decide nothing and receive little.

But it is no coincidence that such a barbarity is happening right now. The bureaucrats who have appropriated the country, who manage “their state enterprises” as if they were the owners, seem desperate to please the few foreign investors who have accepted their conditions to try to resolve the crisis, the disaster, of what they want to continue calling socialism in Cuba.

And because the Cuban government does not allow foreign companies to freely contract for Cuban labor, but requires them to go through the state-run intermediaries who authorize the selection of the personnel and who keep around 90% of what the foreigners pay for each worker, the foreign capitalists who want to select and control their own workers have adopted this method of importing labor to be able to do so.

The desperate rulers, in their eagerness to produce joint venture companies, have accepted this nonsense, as usual, without considering all the consequences.

Of course, they do not care about the reactions of the Cuban workers and the Cuban people. Anyone who doesn’t agree can leave, and if they protest they can go to jail. All very democratic.

It is no wonder that since the late nineteenth century this kind of state-socialism as been called a prison or a barracks. No wonder, as our José Martí wrote, “It goes badly for a people of bureaucrats! All the power which would be gradually acquired by the caste of public officials, bound by their need to remain in a privileged and lucrative position, would be gradually lost by the people, who lack the same reasons for complicity in hopes and profits to confront the public officials fettered together by their common interests.”

It is left to us once again, from the positions of democratic socialism, to condemn these anti-national, anti-labor and counterrevolutionary practices of the centralized statist-wage economic and political model, of the semi-feudal court, imposed in Cuba in the name of socialism.

No, no. No more in the name of socialism.

Havana Impedes Progress of Obama’s Policy Toward Cuba / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

 US president, Barack Obama, and his Cuban counterpart, Raul Castro, in March of 2016 at the Palace of the Revolution in Havana. (White House)
US president, Barack Obama, and his Cuban counterpart, Raul Castro, in March of 2016 at the Palace of the Revolution in Havana. (White House)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 18 July 2106 — Paradoxes of history: The United States and Cuba began a process of normalization of relations on 17 December 2014 and with the visit of President Barack Obama to Havana in March of 2016, aimed at expanding and deepening what has been achieved, came the counteroffensive of Fidel Castro to put on the brakes with his sarcastic Reflection column titled “Brother Obama.”

Since then, not only have they pushed the stop button on the process of rapprochement with the “main enemy,” difficult by nature, but they have increased the government’s repression against the opposition and those who think differently, and begun advancing positions against the reforms initiated and slowly developed since Raul Castro assumed power. continue reading

The clear moment of the halting of the process can be found in the Seventh Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC), which supported the statist-wage model as the axis of the economic system, and the only party as the base of the political system, while at the same time postponing the expected renewal of the ruling elite.

Documents of the “conceptualization” and the 2030 Plan reference the stagnation and recent speeches by Raul Castro and other deputies, calling for confronting the critical situation looming with more of the same. In the most recent session of the National Assembly, they unambiguously supported the anti-reformist course.

This doubling-down on state-socialism comes accompanied by the decline in the authoritarian wave Latin America, especially the crisis in Venezuela.

Meanwhile, there is the push and pull in the US Congress for and against the policy changes toward Cuba favored by Obama. More recently, in the House of Representatives, support has grown to not loosen the strings of the embargo-blockade thanks to the Cuban government’s open reaction against the new policy out of a fear that the rapprochement will end up giving control of Cuba’s economy and society to the United States, as if the “American Dream” did not already draw a great part of the island’s population.

In this sense, Mario Diaz-Balart, a member of the Appropriations Committee of the House, told El Nuevo Herald that “there is bipartisan support in the House to strengthen sanctions against the regime and reject the policy of appeasement of the dictatorship.”

However, the counter-reform is in open contradiction with the economic policy of the island Government that is trying to benefit from money coming and expected from the exchange with the US and especially its tourism, particularly now that the Government of Venezuela is less able to continue sending oil to Cuba.

Measures have already been announced that clearly recall the worst moments of the so-called Special Period, which never ended. They want to blame imperialism “for creating the crisis in oil prices and destabilizing the Bolivarian Revolution,” when nobody doubts the Party-Government-State’s opposition to undertaking real economic reforms, to making consequent progress in the relations with the United States and to relieving the pressures of the internal political environment.

With these policies, the Cuban government is contributing to consolidating the support in the United States Congress for not loosening the embargo, which is directly proportional to Havana’s policies in support of Fidel’s faithful, reaffirming a proclamation of isolation and “anti-imperialism,” while running like the devil from the cross in the face of rapprochement, dialog and exchange.

The latest battle between the two forces just took place when the Cuban government refused to allow the United States commission charged with reviewing the conditions of the island’s airports to enter the country, and when of a group of U.S. legislators presented a bill to block travel to Cuba until the necessary security norms are met.

The United States Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said it will not allow flights to Cuba until it is convinced that island airports are as safe as those of the rest of the world.

If anyone had doubts, this event is the latest evidence of how the Cuban government, while showing a negotiating face, in practice hinders any progress in the normalization of relations. But regardless of who is at fault for the new Special Period, for the lack of progress in relations, the failure of the tourism that would save us will surely be the fault of the United States “blockade.”

The Cuban Adjustment Act Is Not The Main Cause Of The Exodus / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

Cuban boat people arrive in Florida / Archive. (EFE)
Cuban boat people arrive in Florida / Archive. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 4 July 2016 — The Colombian government labels the Cuban Adjustment Act “perverse” and calls on other Latin American governments affected by the flow of migrants from the island to pressure Washington to repeal it.

Without a doubt, the countries closest to Cuba are recipients and “victims” of the vast wave of Cuban emigrants trying to get to the United States, and have been forced to confront complex situations in which thousands of people’s lives have been in danger. They have had to offer them shelter, medical care and other services, and all this without the slightest help from the Cuban government, always quick to display its solidarity with humanitarian crises anywhere else in the world.
continue reading

However, the Cuban Adjustment Act is not the main cause of this wave. The main culprit is the populist-authoritarian system, the Statist-wage model, which has exhausted all its possibilities and is advancing irretrievably to its final phase, impoverishing its population more and more and shutting down every prospect of development and prosperity for the majority, given its refusal to democratize the political system and the economy.

The Cuban Adjustment Act, although it does provide a certain stimulus to the exodus, is designed to provide assistance to Cubans who leave, fleeing the regime, and even if it is true that many of those who come to the United States, didn’t dare utter a peep when they were in Cuba, it is not false that everyone leaves in search of the freedom and possibilities that they cannot find in Cuba.

The Cuban people are tired of dealing with so many absurd regulations over their lives and their way of organizing their subsistence and reproduction, always mediated by an all-powerful state, one that makes all decisions, abrogating all the rights of citizens, expropriating all their businesses and factories, large, medium and small, and paying them nothing for the value of their labor, curtailing all their chances for development and imposing on them who they must work for and what their income will be.

The repression against the opposition movement is abusive, because they systematically violate all the freedoms and civil and political rights of citizens. The people cannot choose other leaders. As democratic socialists we have taken a position of not seeking confrontation but rather seeking understanding, and also have been repressed in various ways.

Certainly the Cuban Adjustment Act gives some privileges to Cubans who reach the United States, but if it were repealed, if such privileges did not exist, most likely Cubans would continue coming to the coasts and borders of the United States and would be willing to live there illegally, as hundreds of thousands of other Latinos do, until they can legalize their situation, as long as in Cuba nothing is fixed and we cannot achieve a democratic system of government and a prosperous economic model.

The privileges currently enjoyed by Cubans, through the Cuban Adjustment Act, are given precisely because of the kind of government that exists on the island, which, despite the rapprochement and changes in US policy, continues to have its blinkers on and shows no willingness to change its authoritarian model.

Latin American governments concerned and affected by this situation, willing to pressure the US to change its laws, should also show the same willingness to pressure the Cuban government to change its laws, which prevent the democratization of the system and hinder the economic development of the country.

If the established government in Cuba decided, for the sake of its people and its own history, to initiate a process of democratization of the politics of the country and to take real steps to begin denationalizing the economy, turning it over to society, workers, employers and entrepreneurs, surely most Cubans who are planning to go, would remain, and many of those who have left would be willing to return and invest in their country, directly or indirectly, the capital they have accumulated outside the country.

Havana, Definitely a “Wonder City” / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

Completed in 1929 and home to the Cuban government until 1953, the Capitol was the tallest building in Havana until the 50s (Marius Jovaisa)
Completed in 1929 and home to the Cuban government until 1953, the Capitol was the tallest building in Havana until the 50s (Marius Jovaisa)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 27 June 2016 — Recently, Havana has been declared a New7Wonder City of the Modern World, based on the votes of thousands of people in a contest by the Swiss foundation New7Wonders, citing its “mythical attraction, the warm and welcoming atmosphere and the charm and gaiety of its inhabitants.”

Winning the honor, given the palpable deterioration of the city, has kicked up a bit of scandal with protests from those who believe that Havana does not deserve such a title because of the amount of trash, debris, destroyed buildings, potholed streets, and shattered sidewalks where there are drunk people lying on every corner. continue reading

All this, along with economic backwardness and socio-cultural disaster that has been brought to us by more than half a century of populist authoritarianism, have not been able to bury the splendor of Havana’s exquisite and eclectic architecture, from earliest times to the first half of the twentieth century, the warm and welcoming atmosphere of the city and the traditionally friendly, attractive and cheerful characteristics of its population.

No, it has not been possible. Neither abandonment of the capital by the all-powerful state, occupied with survival, nor so much filth dropped or thrown on Havana could hide El Morro and La Cabaña, or conceal the intact Malecón, the Paseo del Prado with its lions, 23rd Street known as La Rampa, Paseo, G and 5th Avenue with its green areas and benches made for love, the still fabulous tunnels of Linea and 5th Avenue, or the entrance of the bay.

No amount of contempt could tarnish the luster and lineage of Central Park, or the monuments to Marti, Maximo Gomez, Maceo and Jose Miguel Gomez. Still shining in all their splendor are the Capitol building, the Government Palace, the Palace of Fine Arts, Aldama Palace and the Asturian Center.

Still standing today are the magnificence of the Hotel Nacional, the Hilton Hotel – now the Habana Libre – the Riviera Hotel, and the majestic and unsurpassed Focsa building and the Civic Square complex, just to mention signature buildings, along with the old and historic Havana Cathedral.

The damage so-called “state socialism”has brought us has not been able to destroy this work, the wonder of Havana remains intact, as does the welcoming atmosphere offered by the charm of its multi-ethnic population with their cultural diversity, musical spirit and good cheer.

Havana was and remains a Wonder City thanks to the charm that remains from the decade of the ‘50s, with the classic and antique cars, maintained and embellished by popular initiative, which present us with a city that moves slowly, as if frozen in time; leaving us unclear whether our future never comes, or we yearn to return to the past. The greatest charm of the city is its children for whom, despite all the nonsense and inattention from the unchanging government of the last 57 years, we have done what we could to care for them bring them joy.

The wonder of Havana resisted outright the snub from a government that, only in recent years, has begun to realize that it is not Varadero but the City of La Giraldilla* that is Cuba’s greatest attraction, capable of enticing millions of tourists, and so it has begun to devote some attention and resources to the restoration of some of the city’s historic buildings, including the Capitol.

It is worth noting that the historic center of Havana was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1982 and, thereafter, an intense and reverent restoration work was undertaken by the Office of the Historian of the City as a self-funded** project, independent of the central authorities.

Hopefully, in the future, given the interest of the military and state monopolies in exploiting the tourism potential of the city, they will continue the restoration of facades, parks, main streets and sidewalks, although without the ability to add new wonders of construction to the traditional splendor of those buildings.

But ignoring of the lesson of the New7Wonder designation, the government and military remain engaged primarily in promoting golf courses and housing complexes for millionaires that could produce some money in the medium term, but which have the effect of diminishing our already critical sources of drinking water, s, living in overcrowded conditions and carrying water in buckets, are the thousands of ordinary citizens who are the ones who continue to provide the most important part of the wonder that continues to attract tourism from all over the globe.

Translator’s notes:

*A statue of a woman, and a symbol of the city, atop the observation tower in the former governor’s house.

**That is, relying on donations from overseas.

Cuba is Not Brazil or Venezuela / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

The leaders of the so-called wave of 21st Century Socialism, gathered during the creation of the Bank of the South. (DC)
The leaders of the so-called wave of 21st Century Socialism, gathered during the creation of the Bank of the South. (DC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 24 May 2016 – The receding tide of the populist wave in Latin America, in particular the delicate situation in Venezuela and the ouster of Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff, has uncovered all kinds of speculation about the supposed relationship of cause and effect controlling political-economic and social process in Cuba.

Those who are still waiting for the problems within the island to be solved believe they can be resolved from outside, while the ‘statist fundamentalists’ take advantage of the ‘threat’ to entrench themselves in their anti-democratic and anti-socialist positions.

However, Cuba is not Brazil or Venezuela, in any sense. Its processes have different origins, circumstances and dissimilar dynamics of development and, therefore, an evolution that proceeds along uneven paths. continue reading

Suffice it to recall that this populist wave began almost 40 years after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution of 1959, at a time of the sharp decline, due to natural exhaustion, and the disappearance of the socialist camp, and that Hugo Chavez came to power through democratic means, subject to the general principles of democracy and its mechanisms.

Now, it is precisely the setting aside of these democratic institutions and the assumption of authoritarianism that is at the center of the reversal of that wave.

This has nothing to do with the emergence and evolution of the Cuban political process, its origin and its authoritarian essence. It emerged as an offshoot of the violence and social polarization inherited from Batista’s coup d’etat and the subsequent armed confrontation. This made possible a government that went against the grain of the demand for democracy that served as a base of support for the fight against the Batista dictatorship and that was built on the confrontation between the United States and the USSR, during the Cold War.

The “socialism of the Cuban state,” which is neither socialist nor Cuban, was not what inspired this wave, but it rode it for its own benefit, encouraged the confrontation with “American imperialism” that feeds the geopolitics of its subsistence and, in any case, encouraged its authoritarian and state-centric tendencies that brought it to the current situation.

We mustn’t forget that it was Chavez and his oil that made possible the abandonment of the reforms forced by the fall of the socialist camp and the subsequent so-called “Special Period in a Time of Peace” in Cuba—a time of severe economic crisis after the loss of the Soviet subsidies.

We must also remember that the paradigms of the so-called 21st Century Socialism, which originated and gave strength to this wave, were related to democracy and participatory budgets leading to greater citizen involvement in decision making of all kinds, with the direct intervention of workers in the property, management and distribution of wealth and the Marxist concept of the law of value, pushed by Hugo Chavez, Heinz Dieterich and the People’s Summit held in Cochabamba, Bolivia, in 2006.

These fundamentals were never adopted by the Cuban government-party-state and later were gradually abandoned by Chavez himself in favor of state-centrism.

This phase of decline depresses the influence of the Cuban government in the region and could affect the support that, for Cuba’s state monopolies, are represented by Venezuelan oil and the billions of dollars Cuba obtains in “leasing fees” for Cuba doctors and paramedical personnel hired out in “medical missions” abroad.

But from there to an assumption that the Cuban government is threatened, is quite a stretch. To expect regional pressures in support of respect for human, political and civil rights, yes; to imagine a regional isolation similar to the 1960s, no. Suffice it to recall the new scenario in Cuba-US relations and the possibilities for economic exchange.

“Only Revolutionaries can destroy this Revolution,” Fidel Castro said in November 2005 at the University of Havana. This is true: the most dangerous enemies of the Cuban political process, who have been leading it to stagnation and to the “abyss,” are those who themselves are entrenched in power and who stubbornly impede the advance toward the democratization of politics and the socialization of the economy.

The political system defined by a dictatorship of the proletariat, originating in Stalinist Russia and perfected by the guerrillas in power, liquidated the opposition early on, eliminated its material base of support by nationalizing everything, and excluded all of the democratic mechanisms—multi-party elections and the full exercise of civil and political rights, the recall referendum process, impeachment, and a democratic constitution—essential to confronting authoritarianism. These mechanisms must be created from below.

Thus, democratization will be a process, not an act, that demands the creation of an atmosphere of relaxation and harmony that can facilitate an inclusive national dialog; the recognition of fundamental freedoms; moving to a new Constitution that is the fruit of the creation and democratic and horizontal discussion of the Cuban people and approved by referendum; promulgation of a new democratic electoral law; and the establishment of a modern state of law with full functional and informational transparency, under permanent popular control: a Republic that is democratic, humanist and supportive, one in which there is room for everyone.

Clothes Do Not Make the Man / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

Voting unanimously at the Seventh Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba.
Voting unanimously at the Seventh Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 23 April 2016 — Army General Raul Castro, newly re-elected first secretary of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC), in his closing speech at the Party’s 7th Congress spoke of moving forward with our democratic, prosperous and sustainable socialism. It turns out that the adjective democratic has just been added to the socialism officially promoted in Cuba.

The leadership of the first Communist Party was allowed to take the name, later used to turn the country into a disaster, even recognizing one day that “no one knew how to build socialism.” The leadership of the PCC has the right to name the society they are proposing whatever they want. But those of us who have been defending a democratic socialism in Cuba also have the right to make it clear that this name has nothing to do with the socialism as practiced by the PCC. continue reading

Everything done from the leadership of the PCC is solely intended to strengthen the state monopoly capitalism with ingredients of paternalistic populism that has always characterized what has been intended in Cuba since 1959.

In his speech, the general was precise: one party, the Communist, based on Marxist-Leninist ideology, which, in any case, is based on democratic centralism (promoted by Lenin to crush the growing dissent within the Bolshevik Party) and not on democracy.

He also argued that Article 5 of the Constitution regarding the leading role of the Communist Party in society will remain, and that there will be a continuation of the centralization of decisions and state ownership as the linchpin of the economy. Only wells are built from above: everything from the top down.

The election of the first and second secretaries of the Politburo was not performed by the full Congress nor directly by the Party membership, but by the members of the Central Committee. The age limit for new members of the Central Committee is established as 60. By the stroke of a pen the possibility is eliminated that the generation that fought at the Bay of Pigs, that ran the literacy campaign, and that carried the hardest tasks of the Revolution on their shoulders, will serve on the Central Committee. And the limit applies arbitrarily to new members, but not to those who are now in their 70s and 80s and who have been in the PCC leadership ranks for more than five decades.

Self-managed cooperatives and self-employment are still regarded contemptuously as secondary “non-state” forms of work, while appropriate ways of self-management for workers in state enterprises is not even mentioned.

How can there be democratic socialism when the means of production are controlled by the bureaucracy and the wage labor that typifies the form of capitalist exploitation is maintained, without democratization of politics and without socialization of the economy?

If the Communist Party decided to honor the democratic qualifier for its socialism, it should assume the minimum standards of democratic socialism: democratization of politics, socialization of property and ownership in the economy, and allowing free expression and political activism of our groups and all democrats.

But we are not exclusive nor sectarian. Hopefully Raul Castro and his Party will act consistent with this new adjective and not as occurs with the term socialism, which they converted into an undesirable word for many.

If the Communist Party is open to the interests of the entire Cuban nation, it will promote a true popular, broad, horizontal participation, without restrictions in discussions of the documents 7th Congress and of a new democratic constitution, in town meetings, without pre-conditions.

If, as a part of that process it assumes the overall defense of all human rights of all Cubans; if it prevents repression against peaceful opponents and those who think differently and releases all prisoners of conscience; if it endorses freedom of expression, association and election; if it accepts the free development of various forms of production and property; if it grants ownership, management and profits to workers in state enterprises; if it accepts that Cubans living abroad can visit their country with passports from other countries and that those who want to can invest in it; it would not be democratic socialists who turn their backs on them.

If they take steps in that direction, I am sure they will have the support of many Cuban democratic socialists and democrats.

A View From Cuba of The US Presidential Campaign / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 11 April 2016 — The current election campaign in the United States has been characterized by low blows and “disqualifications” in the Republican camp where, at this point, the person not wanted by the party establishment, Donald Trump, appears to be in the lead, with the entire structure of the party trying to cut the floor out from under him and supporting his opponent Ted Cruz, who carries Cuban blood.

The frontrunner is accused of being an extremist, fascist, crazy. While they crucify Cruz as impertinent, lacking charisma, and too conservative in religious matters, although both can claim another image in front of the national convention. It is well known: a fascist extremist and an impertinent extreme conservative do not have many chances in modern US presidential elections. continue reading

The Democrats, Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders, project more presidential images and no one could accuse them of being extremists in any sense.

Trump assumes positions that concern a good share of the American public, and many around the world, because of their implications for the economy and security, but his insults to the establishment and his ordinary manners appeal to a part of the electorate tired of the dominance of a tax-imposing political class.

The lack of democracy within the Republic Party is seen is the maneuvers its establishment is using to try to unseat the billionaire during the party convention. This has led the candidate to consider the possibility of leaving the party, but so far there is nothing definite.

In the presidential elections in the United States the figure, respect and sympathy inspired by the candidate weigh heavily, as does his or her platform and the money to support a campaign.

Some analysts believe that the Republicans are already defeated because they failed to advance a candidate from the beginning with the weight and personality capable of uniting the party. But they have fought among themselves, and so have been weakened in the ultimate battle against the Democratic candidate and, at this point, “inventing” a winning candidate could result in a disaster for the party.

The campaign for the Democratic nomination has been cleaner and with greater unity and coherence. Clinton is ahead and, if nominated, could become the first woman president of the United States, a great attraction indeed. In addition, her skills were demonstrated from the State Department.

Sanders, without backing from millionaires or the establishment, has built his campaign from small donations from young people and workers who, weary of the great social differences and the abuses of power, want systematic changes; an outcome of the Occupy Wall Street movement. He is not a common socialist, and no one questions his commitment to democracy. His discourse has forced Clinton to declare that “companies must distribute part of their earnings to their workers.”

A common problem for the Democrats is mobilizing the vote of their historic base: Hispanics, blacks, workers and the middle class. A controversial or socialist candidate as their nominee could encourage these voters to go to the polls.

A Clinton-Sanders combination would unite a part of the establishment with some of its challengers, women, the liberal left and the traditional Democratic base; but it could be too far to the left of the traditional axis of the electorate, However, since Obama the Democrats seemed to have moved in that direction. However, both Clinton and Sanders come from the Northeast, so they may prefer a running mate from the South or West to gain greater support in those regions.

Traditionally, if the economy grows, if unemployment is at tolerable levels, if the rate of inflation is not elevated, if there are no international conflicts that jeopardize national security and if the outgoing government is viewed favorably, the candidate of the current president’s party has a greater chance of winning.

From here to November, everything will depend on the eventual changes that could occur in these parameters and on the level of unity and coherence that is finally achieved at each party’s convention, which, for now, favors the Democrats.

Without dramatic changes in these aspects, either of the Democratic candidates or a combination of them both would be more likely to win over any of the Republicans, who are still burdened by the novelty of an agitator with popularity among the Republican base but with positions that are too controversial to unite the party and defeat the Democrats. But a lot can happen between now and November.

Without Democratization There is No Guarantee of Cuba’s Independence / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

The Mariel Special Development Zone. (ZEDM)
The Mariel Special Development Zone. (ZEDM)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, Pedro Campos, 6 April 2016 — Politicians, analysts and academics, both socialists and liberals, have addressed the importance of the political and economic democratization of Cuban society as a basis for the desired lift-off towards the development and modernization of the nation.

For a sector of the democratic left and more than a few nationalists, this democratization would also be a strategic guarantee for the independence of Cuba in every sense. continue reading

In the absence of subsidies, the current state-centric political and economic model can only guarantee its survival with a significant increase in foreign capital investment in the joint development of state mega-enterprises or direct investment in support of the plans for its “portfolio of businesses.”

In the belief that foreign capital will save the state companies, the official economic policy prioritizes its alliance with foreign capital, while opposing the full and free development of independent “non-state” forms, whether joint-venture or fully private, because it considers them “enemies of state capital.” Not to mention the dreaded “big bad wolf”: self-management under workers’ control.

In these circumstances, a democratization of the economy that put the bulk of it in the hands of the people – workers in self-managed state enterprises, and medium and small businesses, private or state-associated—is what could cushion the impact, absorbing into the Cuban economy as a whole the expected US investment once the blockade-embargo is fully lifted.

Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez told the state website CubaDebate that authorization for US telecommunications companies to operate on the island and financial support the non-state sector by the Obama administration only seeks to build opposition to the government of Raul Castro.

The internet and the development of the non-state sector are seen as “opposed to the government of Raul Castro.” To the bureaucracy it is the same whether the support for these activities comes from the US or from the Moon: the US has always interfered in the free development of”state socialism” in Cuba and wherever it has been tried.

It could not be otherwise for the “new class” generated by the statism that tries to preserve its control-power, which explains the limitations imposed on the internet, on self-employment and on the development of cooperatives, despite approval by the Sixth Congress the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) itself, to not mention that the term self-management has disappeared from the vocabulary.

The independent development of small and medium-sized private and associated businesses (cooperatives, mutual or stock) in the short and medium term would displace inefficient and anti-worker state enterprises, as is already happening, if the regime does not move quickly to self-management or co-management. Were they to do so, workers would no longer be simply underpaid employees, but can become become effective owners of companies and participate directly in the property, or carry over to full or partial control of domestic or foreign capitalist enterprises.

In the first variant, the current state monopoly savage capitalism, which exploits the workers and impoverishes them, would thus be forced to transfer real economic power to the workers, which it has always refused to do because it would imply a decrease in and/or disappearance of the power of the bureaucracy and the current control exercised on all dividends generated by state enterprises. This is why they have preferred the second variant, an alliance with international capital so that power can continue to support itself, now sharing the exploitation of its employees with foreign capital.

But this involves delivering much of the country’s economy to foreign capital and eventually to the great American capital.

The principal enemy, the limitless capital of the United States, would become the government’s main ally in the joint exploitation of Cuban workers and in a fundamental way would lead to a new socio-economic dependence: a kind of virtual annexation to the United States, where there is no blockade and it costs little more to travel to Miami than it does to go from Havana to Varadero.

The communists who still believe that socialism relies on the salaried state company, where the workers continue to be widgets for which they don’t even have to pay full cost, are making the game into one of virtual annexation.

The fault is not the United States’, but the official policy against free labor. Without democratization and socialization of the economy and politics there will be no guarantees for the future independence of Cuba.

A Battle For Democratization In Cuba / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

Closure of the Sixth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba. (Youtube)
Closure of the Sixth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba. (Youtube)

14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 1 April 2016 – Cuban Communist Party (PCC) member Francisco Rodriguez Cruz, a journalist for the newspaper Trabajadores (Workers) and an activist against homophobia and for sexual rights, wrote an open letter to the first secretary of the Party Central Committee, Raul Castro, asking that the 7th Party Congress be postponed to give the organization time to allow the documents that will be approved there to be discussed ahead of time by the party base and all citizens.

This call from “Paquito de Cuba,” as he is know in the media, reflects the feelings of broad sectors of the PCC militancy and of the Cuban population, concerned that this Congress is going to approve specific documents that have a great deal to do with the immediate future of all Cubans. I am referring to the “conceptualization of the Cuban socioeconomic model” and the “prospective development plan for the year 2030.” continue reading

Since Raul Castro has risen to the top leadership of the Party and the Government, processes have been developed for consulting the party training bases, the unions, the Union of Young Communists (UJC) and the People’s Power, with regards to the general problems of the country and especially in relation to the Guidelines of the Sixth Congress of the PCC.

It has been a concern of many Party members and ordinary citizens that the proposals don’t take their concerns sufficiently into account, and that other suggestions appear in a limited and biased way, tied to the old concepts of state and bureaucratic control.

Specifically, it happened with self-employment, cooperatives, independent entrepreneurial self-management independent of state control of the workers, and with the need to democratize the political system with freedom of expression and association and free elections, and strengthening the independence, abilities and autonomies of the local organs of People’s Power. The political and economic essence of a democratic society with broad support from the bases of the PCC, workers and citizens, according to what it has been possible to confirm in the opinions of thousands of Cubans expressed in the media, meetings, official conferences and not only among family and friends.

Recently, the Party leadership acknowledged that a portion of the Guidelines approved at the last Party Congress had not yet been implemented and had played only a small part.

During the five years since the Sixth Congress, hundreds of thousands of critiques have appeared in the Party press and in blogs and leftist alternative pages from the moderate opposition, about the inability, lack of will and even the obstacles evidenced in the leadership of the PCC and the government to implement their own agreements.

Raul Castro invited the Party bases to offer their opinions; the leadership of the Party and the government organized vertical consultations in Santiago to learn what Havanans thought and vice versa, and later the higher bodies reached agreements that bore no resemblance to what people from below had said. And then come the laws and decrees to implement them laden with bureaucratic constraints. Where is democracy?

This “system of participation” has demonstrated its inefficiency, people are dissatisfied with what has been done, including with the agreements of the PCC, and now, on top of that, the thousand or so representatives (a minuscule proportion of the population) who will meet in the Seventh Party Congress, will approve what economic, political and social model that will rule the destiny of 11 million Cubans on the island and another three million of us outside the island, and that will be the development plan for the next 15 years.

All Cubans of good will, Party members or not, inside or outside, should unite their voices and support the request from “Paquito de Cuba” for the postponement of the Seventh Congress and the democratic discussion of its documents so that they are subject to open, horizontal and free debate of the entire Party membership and all the Cuban people.

The streets of Cuba are not free filled with these slogans, but indeed all the official and non-official websites from Granma, Trabajadores, Juventud Rebelde, Cubadebate, and the rest of the social networks.

It is not a battle within the Party, it is the Cuban people’s battle for democratization, and on its outcome will depend, to a great extent, the future of the homeland of all Cubans.

“The Enemy Is The Enemy” / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

The US president, Barack Obama, in a public speech Tuesday from the Gran Teatro de La Habana. (Fotograma)
The US president, Barack Obama, in a public speech Tuesday from the Gran Teatro de La Habana. (Fotograma)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos Havana, 23 March 2016 – Cuban National Television’s (Dis)Information System collected opinions from members of the “official” civil society who went to the Alicia Alonso Gran Teatro to hear, on the final day of his visit, United States President Barack Obama’s speech to the people of Cuba.

The vast majority of those selected to comment highlighted their differences with the United States on topics of politics and human rights. Almost all sought to distance themselves from the words of the visitor although a few recognized his ability to master the stage and as a communicator, and his courage in having decided on rapprochement.

“He didn’t talk to us of the Martí we know.” “Here he said one thing and I’m sure that now in Argentina he is going to say something else,” were some of the expressions heard. continue reading

Some indicated that behind the apparent good intentions of the president was his desire to impose his policies. “He said Cubans were the ones who have to decide our future, but he wants to impose on us his vision of human rights.” One of those interviewed got to the climax, “We can’t get confused, because the enemy is the enemy.”

Even some academic commentators said they felt sorry for the discourse of the extremist bureaucracy, leading some to say that speeches are one thing and actions are something else.

There were few references to the conciliatory and constructive intentions of Obama’s speech. The best offered by the “opinionated” chosen was that we should admit our differences and live with them.

Those interviewed rejected looking forward, “You can’t forget the past like he is trying to do,” said several of them, with a Manichean viewpoint.

It reminded me of the positions assumed by the extremists in Miami who do not want to come to any arrangement, all they want is to “do away with the Castros,” precisely because “you can’t forget the past.” Between these two extremes trapped in the past, Cuba’s present and future is hijacked.

Cuban National Television’s (Dis)Information System did not interview any dissident, any opponent, anyone who had a different thought, while the government only invited to the Gran Teatro the “civil society” that supports their policies.

It was an irrefutable example of the attempt to project the idea that everyone in Cuba, unanimously, has the same position as the extremist bureaucracy that dominates the official media.

If, unfortunately, such is the discourse in the official press, in redress it must be said that such positions do not represent the majority of the population. Several videos and commentaries uploaded to social networks projected this other reality.

Many people with whom I spoke showed a totally different spirit, felt warmly toward the United States president, applauded his speech and felt that he had shown a constructive position that should be honored by the Cuban side.

Many, like the visitor, felt that human rights are universal, that there is no justification for failing to uphold some because others are upheld, that there must be freedom of expression and association and that the leaders should be freely and democratically elected. They liked his words about the future, about the work of entrepreneurs and the importance of the internet to fostering development.

Ordinary people, who were never invited to the president’s official activities, those who cheered at the few opportunities where they could, making a mockery of the wide circle drawn to try to avoid any contact between the people and the visitor, never shouted “Down with Obama!” or “Down with Imperialism” as some groups shout in chorus in other parts of the world where he goes: here the chorus and the words were of respect and friendship.

Not even in the White House could Obama be safer than he is in Cuba. The echoes of this historic visit will not be easily or quickly smothered. The “imperialism” in the figure of a black man, of humble origin, but elegant, with his family, with a wide smile and his friendly and relaxed character, is nothing like that snarling white-bearded face under a striped top hat with long bloody fingernails that is always presented as our neighbor to the north.

The Cuban people outside the chambers of the Cuban National Television’s (Dis)Information System, in no way resemble the cold faces of most of those chosen to be interviewed.

Respect For Human Rights Is Guaranteed With Democratization / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

Arresting a Lady in White in Cuba
Arresting a Lady in White in Cuba

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 21 March 2016 — Although there is a close relationship of interdependence between democracy and human rights, they are often treated as if they were something independent of the political system, when objectively only a fully democratic system can fully guarantee them.

A friend wrote me, totally correct, that in other countries whose governments have signed and ratified the Covenants on Human Rights, they are still violated in many ways because the political system did not guarantee their exercise and defense with laws, institutions and real democratic power, truly in the hands of the people.

It being legitimate to demand respect for human rights, in Cuba we could be very happy were the government, tomorrow, to ratify the international Covenants continue reading

on civil and political rights and on economic, social and cultural rights, and even enshrine them in Cuban laws; but what would happen in practice?

The current political system would be incapable of enforcing them, so first there would have to be a change in the Constitution, its development and content, passing new laws on freedom of expression, association, labor and property, and even addressing  the philosophy of why and for what there is a police force.

The problem is how to achieve this process of democratization, with the essential differences within the opposition, the different thinking, including even among government officials who are aware of the need for changes in these directions.

This returns to the forefront a fundamental philosophical problem: there is a relationship of interdependence between means and ends. The means must be identical to those ends. We cannot achieve democracy by undemocratic means. Violent methods, or provocateurs of violence, have never brought such results. Such attempts have always ended up engendering new cycles of violence, when they don’t maintain the existing one.

The wars of independence and the intervention of the United States in 1898 resulted in a flawed democracy of strongmen, militarism and violence, whose most terrible, cruel and shameful episode was the “little war against blacks” in 1912. The revolution against Machado generated new violent cycles until a democratization process led to the Constitution of 1940, with participation of all political views, the elections of the same year, and the beginning of a period of democratic stability until the coup of 1952, which opened another cycle of violence.

Then, attempts to find a negotiated democratic solution were thwarted by the appearance on stage of “revolutionary violence.” Since then violence has prevailed, resulting in what we still have today: more violence to sustain what has been achieved in this way.

An example of which, I had yesterday, Sunday, March 20, the day Obama arrived. From the early hours a State Security official was in my house, dressed in plainclothes, and with great respect telling me that he would be with me until the afternoon, to make sure that I did not leave the house. House arrest for eight hours, with no reason and without the involvement of the justice system.

The only possible exit from the political, economic and social gridlock that is Cuba is to create an atmosphere of relaxation and harmony in the nation, with the support of all parties to take us to the establishment of an inclusive national dialogue, along with the restoration of fundamental freedoms.

Thus, would be created the conditions for a broad horizontal and free democratic debate that leads us not to an accounting of the past or to revenge, but to building together, from diversity and respect for differences, new legal institutions, comprehensively integrating human rights.

This would imply a new Constitution, approved by referendum; a new electoral law allowing multiparty democratic elections of all public offices; the establishment of a modern state of law with proper separation of powers and fully functional and informative transparency, under popular control, with municipal autonomy, participatory budgets and submission to referendum of laws that affect all citizens.

The humanist and supportive Democratic Republic, with full social justice, where there is room for all of us, would be achieved through a gradual process and not as an act of “democratic restitution.”

To achieve this will require that all parties assume full readiness for dialogue.