It is Never too Late to Set Things Right / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

Several people line up in at a currency exchange. (EFE)
Several people line up in at a currency exchange. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 19 March 2016 — Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, commenting on the latest measures of the Obama Administration to loosen the strings of the blockade-embargo, announced Thursday at a press conference that the Cuban government had decided to eliminate the 10% tax on the dollar, established in 2004.

When it goes into effect, this measure will have an immediate positive effect on people’s pocketbooks and on the country in general. The dollar will be worth one Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) and remittances sent by family and friends abroad will automatically increase their purchasing power by 10%. For every dollar that comes into the country in this way, the recipients will have 10 cents more to spend on food or whatever they need. continue reading

People with account in dollars  automatically earn 10% relative to the CUC and the “little” Cuban peso (worth 4¢ US). Foreign investors will receive a 10% reduction in the costs of doing business in Cuba and, in general, the expenses of foreigners in the country will be reduced by 10%.

In addition, the prices of products sold in CUCs are effectively reduced by 10% and the cost of paying a Cuban work force is reduced by the same amount. A foreign concern that pays a Cuban worker 100 CUCs would normally face a cost to do so of 110 CUCs, but now will shell out only 100.

In the modern global economy, one of the measures taken by countries to stimulate their sales and investment is the devaluation of the national currency. This measure, in fact, is a devaluation of the national currency, the CUC, by 10% against the dollar, although it is being presented in a different light.

Several years ago, when the Cuban government implemented the tax of 10% on the value of the CUC against the dollar, it was a hard blow, not to the “empire” which continued to strengthen, but to the Cuban economy and the pockets of its citizens who receive remittances from abroad

This move will allow the dollar to be accepted by individuals in their businesses on par with the CUC and will avoid cumbersome exchanges, unless the Government specifically prohibits the circulation of the dollar in Cuba, which would be counterproductive. In fact, Cubans can carry dollars, operate and shop with them.

If such a prohibition does not appear, it is assumed that with increasing American tourism the free circulation of the dollar in the Cuban economy will also increase and this will create better conditions for establishing, in the near future, a single currency although in the short-term it is likely that we would have three basic currencies: the Cuban peso, the CUC and now the dollar on par with the CUC.

Silently, the Cuban economy would thus assume a process of dollarization that would connect us well to US market, favoring the economic development of the country in the short and medium term. “After the feast comes the reckoning,” as my grandmother would say.

This could ultimately be considered the government of Raul Castro’s most important economic measure, given the immediate impact it would have on ordinary people’s living standards and its effects as a stimulus to tourism, foreign investment and the purchase of Cuban products in the world market.

On 2 September 2007, taking as a starting point the ideas of democratic socialism, a paper titled “15 proposals for the revitalization of socialism in Cuba” was published, suggesting: “Restoring parity between the Cuban Convertible Peso against the dollar, with a minimum exchange tax to stimulate tourism, foreign investment (preferably indirect and in joint ventures), remittances and internal and external movement of the economy.”

It is never late to set things right.

Hard Blow To The Opponents Of Obama’s Policy Toward Cuba / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

Senator Marco Rubio. (Facebook)
Senator Marco Rubio. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 16 March 2016 – In the Republican primary this Tuesday in Florida, candidate Donald Trump, who has been in favor of continuing Obama’s policy toward Cuba, defeated Cuban-American Marco Rubio by a margin of more than 20%, in the bastion of Cuban exile voters.

This adverse result, achieved in his home state and the headquarters of the Cuban opposition, led Senator Rubio to the decision to end his campaign to become the candidate of the Republican Party and should serve him to reevaluate any future political strategy.

A more extensive reading of the fact should lead American politicians of Cuban origin to understand that among the hundreds of thousands of nationals from the Island living in Florida, the policy Rubio defended, of pressure and an embargo on Cuba, can no longer count on majority support, as has been repeatedly pointed out by pollsters and political analysts. continue reading

Rubio had sustained his campaign in Florida opposing Obama’s policy to exchange the embargo and the pressure for rapprochement and cooperation. A part of the most radical opposition in Cuba trusted in his victory, and that once he was president of the United States he would reverse the policy of his predecessor and return to the embargo and pressure.

It is also a hard blow to internal opposition grouped who believed Rubio would win, supported him in his efforts and did and are doing everything possible to demonstrate the unworkability of Obama’s policy. They oppose his upcoming visit to Havana and with their actions have challenged the new turn in United States policy.

Rubio’s defeat in Florida is a sign that Cuban exiles have increased their support for the new policy of the United States government towards Cuba, which should contribute to a readjustment of the strategies of the most radical groups among the exile and the internal opposition and, presumably, in the position of the United States Congress towards the embargo in the coming months.

The more moderate part of the internal opposition, which for some time has assumed a different approach to that advocated by the most radical groups in Miami, is now in a better condition to advance their position in favor of dialog with Havana.

Moreover, candidates with a greater number of supports, both the Democratic and Republican Parties, favor a continuation of the new policy towards Cuba, so it becomes increasingly likely that whatever the results in the presidential elections in the US, the current trend would continue.

These considerations must help the Cuban government feel calmer about the future of its relations with the US, while the internal opposition on the island assimilates that this new relaxed atmosphere here to stay. These perspectives provide opportunities for both the government and the opposition to consider inclusive agendas that contribute to improved welfare of the Cuban people.

Some may point out that the battle for the Republican nomination is not over and that another Cuban American, Ted Cruz, who also opposes Obama’s policy, is still in the running. This is true, but in the unlikely event that Cruz beats Trump he would have to adapt his speech to the viewpoints that have marked the results in the primaries.

The Mosquito and the Democratization of the Cuban Political System / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

Sign warning of fumigation. “Neighbors! For 5 consecutive Fridays the FAR (Revolutionary Armed Forces) Brigade will be fumigating. Help fuigate your apartment! CDR (Committee for the Defense of the Revolution) Executive (14ymedio)
Sign warning of fumigation. “Neighbors! For 5 consecutive Fridays the FAR (Revolutionary Armed Forces) Brigade will be fumigating. Help fumigate your apartment! CDR (Committee for the Defense of the Revolution) Executive (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 10 March 2016 – You don’t have to be a doctor or an epidemiologist to realize that mosquitoes are not defeated by occasional fumigation battles and the collection of debris and trash, much less with military interventions that both kill mosquitos and violate basic human rights “because nobody can prevent the fumigation.”

Threats of the use of violence against people are a part of the military campaign against the mosquito: “If you aren’t there when we come to fumigate, we break down the door,” “You have to leave the key with a neighbor,” “If we can’t fumigate we will fine you,” “They will go to court,” “Stop going to work to be able to fumigate”… The armed forces majors themselves leading the campaign have acknowledged some of the blunders. continue reading

All this has come out in one way or another in the official press, in citizens’ complaints. The soldiers are trying to carry out what has been put in their hands with the methods of command and control, but that does not solve social, political, economic and health problems.

Behind the mosquito is a serious health problem, which the state that prides itself on having the best public health system in the world does not find it convenient to recognize.

Health is not only having doctors, hospitals and the ability to offer medical care. The basic problem resides in the general sanitary conditions where people live. And this is not resolved by military campaigns against the mosquito.

Traditionally, the state campaigns, both by the Ministry of Health (MINSAT) and the Army, are concentrated on homes. But the most serious and largest breeding areas are in the piles of trash, the lack of hygiene due to lack of running water, and above all that the countless leaks in the clean water pipes and the sewers that flood the streets, potholes, drains and vacant lots and whatever pit they find on their way, are not solved with some campaign, just like agricultural production isn’t increased by harangues, but by engaging those directly affected.

Everything is always directed from above, where the municipalities and the communities are “objects” of the campaign, not active “subjects” in them. The reason has to do with the current political system, which concentrates power at the central level, it does not provide space for citizens’ democratic participation and ignores self-government and the autonomy of the municipalities. The bureaucracy flees, like the devil, from self-management.

The mosquito’s defeat would be permanently guaranteed if the municipalities could have adequate budgets to systematically address the problems of health as part of a systemic work, not from a ministry or a campaign, but from the the Municipal People’s Power with full financial autonomy to confront the task and the local social mobilization.

That implies a change of conception about the current state. We should democratize it, decentralize everything related to the creation, discussion, approval and control of the budget and also income. Where should the taxes from the tourism companies in Varadero go? To the municipality, the province of Matanzas and finally the State or the Armed Forces?

The municipal mayors and provincial governors should be directly elected by secret ballot to respond to the interests of those who voted for them and not those who appointed them from above.

Those who prevent this being possible are those who do not want to “change everything that should be changed*.”

The persistence of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, despite all the permanent and temporary campaigns and the MINSAP campaign, and now the FAR’s campaign, is a demonstration of the failure of the concentration of power on the part of the populist paternalist state and “state socialism.”

*Translator’s note: A slogan of the Revolution in Cuba.

Cuba Declares War On Costume Jewelry Vendors / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

Police approach an illegal pushcart vendor. (14ymedio)
Police approach an illegal pushcart vendor. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 2 March 2016 — State inspectors supported by groups of police launched an offensive against merolicos – hucksters – who, in different parts of Havana, sell a large array of widely used items missing in the military’s monopoly of hard currency stores formally known as “Hard Currency Collection Stores” (TRDs). The goods sold by the street vendors arrive from the Unites States via charter flights in the luggage of “mules.”

These are items such as pasta, toothpaste, batteries, skin creams, sunglasses, electric showers and spare parts, pens, wall-mounted TVs, nail clippers, eyebrow pencils, facial compacts, deodorant, plastic sandals, wallets, bottles, teapots and a thousand other articles.

A few days ago I was in one of the areas usually frequented by hucksters trying to find some batteries I needed for the TV remote and I asked a girl sitting on the sidewalk what had happened to the costume jewelry vendors who usually crowded around there. She replied laconically, “They declared war on us.” The terminology made me anxious. But what they did was the closest thing to war, according to what she told me; armed inspectors and police arrived and went after the merchandise and the merchants.

On the other hand, rumors are flying about the eventual limitations on luggage in Miami-Havana flights, because Terminal 2, the international terminal in the Cuban capital, is being crushed under the weight of dealing with the luggage that piles up and can’t be processed fast enough.

The state apparatus that manages the airport services responds to the same interests as those who control the military monopoly of the TRDs, and those who oppose the freeing of labor from wage exploitation, be it private or state. Their predominating philosophy is authoritarianism and repression.

Everyone remembers how two years ago the state shut down the sale of clothes and shoes coming from Ecuador, so it is not hard to believe that they intend to restrict the entry of these articles via Miami-Havana, given the expected increase in approved flights from regularly-scheduled airlines.

The state may be using as a pretext for repression, against this kind of informal outdoor work, that the sellers don’t have the proper license to sell these products, or that there are existing regulations against the private sale of manufactured products. But their solution is repression, not dialog. It is a wholesale fabrication of enemies at such a complicated time, when the solution could be very simple: give permission for this type of activity without a great deal of bureaucratic paperwork and change the rules that block such sales.

They are continuing the policies against the self-employed in direct contradiction of the philosophy expressed in the Guidelines of the Sixth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), and meanwhile the old mentality persists – in the interest of monopoly control of the market – that these vendors are enemies of the state. Thus, the bureaucracy pressures workers who want to free themselves from wage exploitation and sees them as obliged to work for the state.

Those actions against individual free labor have other consequences: these small merchants support their families with these activities. Many are young people who have not found work despite their schooling and the loss of those jobs could lead them to seek alternative ways to survive, or survive badly, turning to crime, alcohol, drugs or leaving the country at any cost, the principal cause of the aging of the population that threatens the presence of the human species in the archipelago.

Informal economic activity exists widely in the world, especially in less developed countries, and sometimes occupies up to 30% of the workforce. To place obstacles to or shut down these jobs contributes to an increase in crime and offenses.

But it seems that trying to get the Cuban bureaucracy to understand this is too much to ask.

Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s Questions to John Kerry / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

The Cuban-American Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen during a hearing. (CC)
The Cuban-American Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen during a hearing. (CC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 29 February 2016 – The Miami press reports that Cuban-born US Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen asked Secretary of State John Kerry, during a Congressional hearing, what progress the Cuban government has made, given the many concessions made by the United States, and how does he justify the mass exodus of Cubans that has increased some 80%. At the same time, she requested the extradition of those responsible for the downing of the Brothers to the Rescue planes, and reminded him that since the announcement of rapprochement, there have been more than 8,000 arrests on the island.

If it were simply a political confrontation between Republicans and Democrats about some aspect of American foreign policy that had no implications for world peace, I would refrain from commenting, but the debate significantly affects the interests of the Cuban people, who Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen has always prided herself on representing. continue reading

Her questions to the Secretary of State are evidence of what everyone knows: she does not share the essence, the basis of the new policy of the Obama administration and, to try to discredit it, presents its measures as “concessions” to the Cuban government that has not done nothing to deserve them.

This is the great original error on which she bases her questions, because the new policy is not conceived as a give and take, but rather as a way to eliminate in the medium and long term the barriers that prevent the Cuban people from exercising their sovereignty for themselves, without foreign interference.

I have always believed that the policy of blockades and pressure against the Cuban government by Unites States affected the Cuban people first and not their rulers, and managed to put the ruling bureaucracy in the role of victims; in short, it has been used to try to justify disastrous economic, repressive and undemocratic policies and, ultimately, has affected the needs of the people themselves, because the bureaucracy has never lacked for anything.

Some defend this mess saying that once the Cuban people begin to starve they will rise up against the government. There is nothing more to say about that.

I am among those who are happy with the change of US policy toward Cuba, since its implementation will make it clear that the rulers have been the perpetrators who have sacrificed the Cuban people for their state-centric policies – supposedly socialist – and it will do away with all these justifications; there will be no way to continue imposing the current control over the economy, politics, the press, culture, education, public health, or of preventing the Cuban people from taking into their own hands the sovereignty that is theirs by right.

There is no defense of the socialism-that-never-was, primarily responsible for the current national disaster, without recognizing that the policy of the embargo-blockade has been its fundamental source of international support. Remove this girder and watch it collapse. But it seems that the Cuban-born congresswoman, in her attempts to discredit Obama the Democrat, does not adequately evaluate his policy toward Cuba.

This shift is intended to take effect in the medium and long term, passing from acceptance of the current Cuban government and having as its principal basis something that those who imposed and maintained the blockade-embargo never intended: it is we Cubans ourselves who have to fix this mess and not the policies of some foreign power. Interference only serves to encourage the Cuban people’s uniting behind the most vulgar nationalism/anti-imperialism.

The congresswoman’s questions are based on false premises. If the idea is to question the policy, go to the bases of it and not to some supposed effects that no one is proposing over the short term.

Perhaps she herself and the Cuban-American caucus in the United States Congress, which has opposed President Obama’s call to end the blockade-embargo, could provide some of the answers to these questions. Meanwhile, the blockade-embargo continues to be an indirect support to economic and political centralization. It prevents the empowerment of Cubans and stimulates mass exodus and arrests, while proposals to end the Cuban Adjustment Act support and encourage internal groups who are for confrontation and not for dialog.

Republicans have every right to try to defeat the Democrats, but they do not have the right to do so at the expense of the Cuban people.

Mistaken Focus Hinders Cuban Dialogue / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

Since 1959, the rebel group that capitalized on the triumph of the Revolution began to question anyone who disputed their decisions. (Historical Archives)
Since 1959, the rebel group that capitalized on the triumph of the Revolution began to question anyone who disputed their decisions. (Historical Archives)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 23 February 2016 – As of early 1959, the rebel group that capitalized on the democratic revolutionary win against the Batista dictatorship began labeling as counterrevolutionaries anyone who questioned their decrees, policies and decisions, without differentiating between those who did it through healthy dialog – including from their own ranks – and those who openly and violently confronted them.

The fight for the restoration of democratic institutions was what had united the Cuban people at that time. The trigger that divided the large anti-Batista coalition was the interest of the rebel leaders to prioritize social and economic transformations and to postpone, indefinitely, the holding of elections and the establishment of a democratically elected government based on the 1940 Constitution. continue reading

This disdain for democracy, a disregard for the interests of others and those who thought differently, as well as the channeling of the torrent of revolutionary spirit among the people according to the narrow interests of this rebel core, led to early and subsequent confrontations and gave rise to a diverse opposition and “counterrevolution” that would encompass every political-economic and social aspect that this core considered a threat to its power.

Throughout all the years since, they have maintained this approach of putting in the same “counterrevolutionary” bag all those who simply disagreed or who did not support some “revolutionary” measure, along with those who chose to confront them in a violent way.

Now in Cuba, in 2016, general-president Raul Castro, brother of the historic leader, will soon receive the president of the United States, a country that is “the center of the imperialist world, cradle of the counterrevolution, the historic enemy that has tried by every possible means to destroy the Cuban Revolution.”

But internally Raul Castro’s government does not even recognize that there is an extensive non-governmental democratic socialist side that, from dialog rather than confrontation, has done everything possible to make its constructive positions known to the leadership of the Party-State-Government, the Cuban people, international public opinion and the historical opposition.

Many of us have been treated as counterrevolutionaries and enemies, and if they have left some spaces where we can participate, such as the magazine Temas (Themes), meetings of the Cuban Writers and Artists Union (UNEAC), the Juan Marinello Foundation and others, they apply to us covert and sophisticated forms of repression, trying to block our message and keep us as far as possible from decision making, that is away from the bureaucracy that is the main brake on advances in the country, and which, like ivy clinging to a wall, clings to power and denies the people and the workers.

But even this does not lead us to fall into provocations and abandon our democratic vocation of dialogue and move to confrontation and violence.

We must trust and work so that the influence of the majority of the people who do not want more violence, but rather democracy and participation, leads the Government to undertake a process of internal dialogue and negotiation, like that it is undertaking with the “historical enemy,” “French imperialism” and other less recognized imperialisms, that will open the channels to the democratization of politics and economy.

As a democratic socialist I deplore violence, terrorism, vindictiveness and a settling of old scores and once again I call on the Government-Party-State to cease repression of thought and the peaceful political activism of those who think differently, and to undertake a process of democratization leading to the reconciliation of Cuban society.

It is time to understand that it is not the same to disagree, to differ, to dialogue and try to seek an understanding, as it is to oppose dialogue and engage in open confrontation. It is not the same to support the blockade-embargo and the politics of external pressure, as it is to support international policies of dialog and rapprochement.

Some of us democratic socialists have met with members of the opposition in search of consensus for an inclusive national dialogue and to open avenues for the process of democratization that we long for, but we have never supported open confrontation, violence and provocation, nor have other peaceful opponents done so.

It is time for the Cuban government to change this mistaken focus of considering anyone who does not share its methods and conceptions a “counterrevolutionary,” which hinders a much needed national dialog, and to internalize the same processes of consultation and peace that guide its foreign policy.

It Is Too Early To Say That Obama’s Cuba Policy Has Failed / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

The American flag was hoisted last July in front of its embassy on the Malecon in Havana. (14ymedio)
The American flag was hoisted last July in front of its embassy on the Malecon in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 10 February 2016 — The Washington Post, international analysts, politicians committed to the discourse of the radical groups in Miami and individuals within the internal opposition in Cuba, all say that United States President Barack Obama’s policy towards Cuba has failed, because a year after the announcement of the restoration of diplomatic relations, little has changed in our country.

They argue, further, that the policy is not conditioned on advancement in the area of human rights, that the systematic arrests of dissidents continue, that the goal of empowering the private sector has not been met, and that Internet connections have not improved.

All these opinions are grounded in false expectations and a mixing of desires, not policies, with false time frames. continue reading

On 17 December 2014 both governments announced their intentions to normalize relations, but only on 20 July 2015 did they reopen their embassies. Therefore, it has only been six months.

Can a partial change – major restrictions of the embargo remain in force – in the policies of a world power lead to important transformations in another state — one with a model of ironclad domination established over many decades — in only six months?

Obama’s policy is not more advanced because of the opposition of Republicans and Cuban-Americans in Congress, who do not want to lift the terms of the embargo-blockade and who block banking, business and financial measures. Keeping these laws codified by Congress allows the Cuban government to argue that “the imperialist blockade remains in effect” and to continue using this as an excuse to try to justify the economic and social problems caused by the absurd and anti-socialist centralized state model of wage exploitation and political authoritarianism.

Is it not inconsistent to block a policy and then declare it has failed?

If the opening was not conditioned on advances in human rights, how can they be demanded now? If rapprochement had been thus conditioned, the Cuban government never would have allowed it. Resolving the internal problems of democratization is a matter for Cubans alone.

Whomever expects the United States to resolve the issue of human rights in Cuba is playing the game of the communist government, divorced from the nationalist sentiment of many Cubans, and supporting the negative image of their political strategies being subordinated to the U.S.

The United States has the right to be concerned about human rights in Cuba, which are systematically violated, just as the Cuban government has the right to criticize U.S. abuses against its own people who are black, immigrants, old or otherwise vulnerable.

But it is something else entirely to condition relationships of every kind on the solution of these problems.

The largest United States interest in Cuba is related to national security and policies must be subordinated to this, ahead of the wishes of interest groups. Stability in Cuba, the peaceful nature of any internal change and regional bilateral security agreements all correspond to this interest.

The democratic changes that Obama is seeking in Cuba are longer term and related to previous transformations relating to nationalizations, the structure of production, property, social classes and the empowerment of entrepreneurs, points that coincide in part with the policies approved at the Cuban Communist Party Sixth Congress and subsequently slowed down by the Cuban government itself.

Changing the failed politics of half a century was also necessary to improve relations between the United States and Latin America as a whole.

Arrests of government opponents related to the #TodosMarchamos (We All March) campaign in Cuba have increased and some of the organizers of this campaign oppose Obama’s policies. Such repression is reprehensible, violates the right to freedom of expression and is not less unjust because it is expected. But long detentions without due process have declined and during the visit of Pope Francis to Cuba several hundred prisoners were released, some of whom were political prisoners.

With the increase in tourisms and remittances – from Cubans abroad to their family members in Cuba – private business including restaurants, and the rental of houses, rooms and cars to tourists have grown.

The Cuban government, after just six months of relations with the United States, has not completely opened the internet. First it needs to forget its fear, but internet service, too, has advanced. There are now Wifi zones open serving 150,000 connections a day, the price of one hour of internet has been reduced from 4.50 dollars to 2.00 dollars, and the state cellphone company, Nauta, has established a system of international email with modest reductions in the cost of some services. All insufficient.

Despite the obstacles from Republicans and the Cuban government, Obama’s policy is already creeping forward and is under development. At the six-month mark of an actual relationship, it is too early to say that it has failed.

Realism In The Future Of US-Cuba Relations / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

The flags of Cuba and the United States waving as a lady on her balcony gives the “thumbs up.” (EFE)
The flags of Cuba and the United States waving as a lady on her balcony gives the “thumbs up.” (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 3 February 2016 – Last week President Barack Obama’s administration approved new measures to loosen the strings of the blockade-embargo on the way to normalization of relations between his country and Cuba. Presumably this will be the norm during what remains of his administration. Should the Democratic candidate win in the upcoming presidential elections, we can assume that this policy will continue.

But the same cannot be expected if any of the current Republican candidates wins, according to statements made by themselves and the opinions of prestigious international analysts. continue reading

The person in change of the matter in the Cuban Foreign Ministry, Josefina Vidal, has said that in no case would the new president of the United States break off relations with Cuba. This is a sign of Cuba’s willingness to maintain its current course with any new administration in the US.

Diplomatic relations between the two countries have been restored and now there is an effort to expand cooperation in a number of fields, some of them blocked by the policy of the embargo supported by both Republicans and Cuban-Americans in the US Congress.

However, we must not lose sight of the fact that, “it’s one thing with a guitar and something else with a violin”; that is, it is not the same to be in the opposition as it is to be in the government.

No one could rule out that behind the Republican resistance in Congress to lift the blockade-embargo, the most important factor could be avoiding that Obama and the Democrats get credit for delivering the coup de grace to communism in Cuba, which could mean reserving the lifting of the whole mess for themselves, once they are in the White House.

It was Republican Richard Nixon who began the thaw with China. The policy of rapprochement with the USSR, which many consider the beginning of the end of communism in Europe, was the work of another Republican administration, that of Ronald Reagan. Nixon visited Beijing, Reagan, Moscow. Perhaps they want to reserve the visit to Havana for another Republican and therefore are working to hamstring the current president.

Previous Republican administrations tried to approach Cuba. It was the administration of George W. Bush that was the first to lift some restrictions of the embargo-blockade related to the sale of food.

The United States establishment as a whole, for some time, has been becoming aware that the politics of the blockade-embargo should be changed for different reasons, and Republican governors, senators and representatives from states with potential investment interests in Cuba have been behind all of the moves to lift some of the prohibitions.

The current maneuvers in the American Congress to try to modify the Cuban Adjustment Act have served to encourage emigration and stimulated the open confrontation of sectors of the opposition, knowing that government reprisals will complicate progress in relations between the two governments and hinder Obama’s announced trip to Cuba.

No one knows better than the Republicans that there is a close relationship between the Cuban Adjustment Act and the lifting of the blockade-embargo.

On the other hand, the imperialist image of the United States trying to impose itself on Latin American has been broken with its approach to Cuba and it is no secret that this was one of the objectives of the new policy.

The setback for the anti-imperialist populist-statist forces in the region is not a direct consequence of this change in the image of the United States, but it is related to it to the extent that these forces find it more difficult to blame imperialist interference for their internal failures. Meanwhile the Cuban-American rapprochement strengthens the defenders of the United States on the continent.

Whoever becomes president after Obama, regardless of their party, could also benefit from this new image in the region to make U.S. policies aimed at strengthening its interests in the hemisphere more effective

Diplomatic relations are one thing and good political relations and collaboration are another. The administrations that follow Obama’s could take advantage of the opportunities that rapprochement brings to the U.S. as a nation to continue advances in areas of security, drug trafficking, human trafficking and the environment.

Those who continue to condition the relations between the two countries on democratic changes in Cuba are not taking into account that it could be reversed. This does not negate that there are fundamental obstacles to Cuba’s economic and social development derived from the persistence of the model of a centralized political economy imposed in the name of a non-existent socialism, and not as a result of imperialist policies as the Cuban government charges in an attempt to justify itself.

As opening spaces for the export of capital and goods is one of the objectives of any United States administration, and fostering conditions to achieve this with Cuba is what is now in play in the relations between both countries, any new administration would leave this path open.

A general assessment of this whole equation suggests that the predictions of some international analysts about the uncertain future of relations between both countries is a matter about which it is better to wait for events to develop, to be able to make a more accurate prognosis.

Central Committee Plenary, Beans, Clothes, and the Roof / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

President Raul Castro at the inauguration of the Sixth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba
President Raul Castro at the inauguration of the Sixth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 23 January 2016 — A brief note on 15 January in the State-Party controlled newspaper Granma reports that the 13th Plenary of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) was apparently held in secret – as it mentions no place nor date – and that at the session it was recognized that only 21% of the agreements of the 6th Party Congress, held in 2011, had been implemented while the rest continue to be in the process of implementation.

The press note disclosed that at the meeting there was an evaluation of the documents to be debated at the 7th PCC Congress, in particular “the conceptualization of the Cuban economic and social development model” and another document on the economic plan for 2030. This latter is a kind of three-part set of five-year-plans for 15 years. “In future editions Granma will provide more information on the issues evaluated in the 13th Plenary.” continue reading

Form and content suggest that, apparently, the leadership of the Party-Government is divorced from what is happening with the population, what its concerns and needs are, where and how ordinary people get along.

Nor do they appear to be connected to the serious problems of food and the prices of widely consumed products, nor the low wages, nor the serious issue of the dual currency system, nor the housing crisis, nor the transport failures, about all of which they were silent, not even trying to calm people’s worry. Nothing is said about the international situation and how it affects the country, nor about what some 10,000 Cubans stranded in Central America are going through.

Everything, as if none of this existed, is treated very sparingly, as if in this country there were not a collection of emergency situations.

Many wonder why these issues are not resolved with so much money entering the country, with so much left after the State pays their salaries, and with so much collected through taxes.

In Cuba there are two budgets: the official budget that is disclosed in the National Assembly and the “petty cash” budget, which in any case must be rather large and is controlled by the party leadership. So, with that concentration of decisions and wealth, this country cannot seem to work things out.

I have known that even senior government officials confess they do not know why the demands of the population are not being met, and that and analysis of the problems and solutions are offered by intellectuals, professionals of social sciences in the nuclei of the party. I have heard about the concerns of officers of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR) and the Ministry of Interior (MININT) because no effective measures are taken to solve the serious problems identified. The discontent is general. Many of the highest ranked leaders have seen their own children leave the country.

And when you think about all this is when you realize that, given that these leaders have not reached these heights through the direct, free and democratic popular votes of anyone, they are apparently “lost in the clouds,” although they know what is happening down below on the ground and they do nothing to resolve it.

As “good Marxists” they know that human beings must, first of all, have food, clothes, shoes and a roof over their heads, before they can think about politics. Meanwhile, people are totally frustrated, worried about finding beans, saving money to buy clothes and shoes, and worrying about whether their roof is going to fall in, not thinking about how to resolve all this with the new political and economic approaches brought by new governments. In short, they are not going to get involved in politics. Hence, the de-politicization of the population. Meanwhile, of the internet we only have expensive, uncomfortable and dangerous wifi.

Faced with so much disaster and such uncertainty, we now come to talk about a 15-year economic plan in three five-year parts, at the end of which period 25% of the current population will already be dead and buried.

So it goes: without haste, with many pauses*, without details, without clear perspectives and as if there were little uncertainty, with “information” like this, laconic, unspecific, undefined… adding more uncertainty for a people who continue to worry about beans, clothes and the roof.

*Translator’s note: A play on words of what has become a “meme” from a 2014 speech by Raul Castro to the National Assembly, where he declared that the process of updating Cuba’s economic model would “advance without haste, but without pauses.”

In Venezuela Chavismo-Fidelismo Failed, Not 21st Century Socialism / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez together in 2002 (EFE)
Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez together in 2002 (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 15 January 2016 – Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez was the result of a political and economic crisis of capitalism, driven by opportunists and embezzlers. His first speech about 21st Century Socialism sustained by a model of economic development beyond oil, in a participative and progressive democracy with production through self-management and cooperatives, was very encouraging for Venezuelans and for the people of the region.

However, during Hugo Chavez’s government, these project cores were abandoned, intensifying the actions of the paternalistic state, the growth of the bureaucracy, movements, leftist institutions and mobilizations, cronyism and corruption, along with medical and education missions, organized by Cuban professionals in order to finance, with the Venezuelan oil received in exchange, the obsolete monopolistic capitalism of the Cuban state, in crisis since the fall of the USSR and the “socialist camp.” continue reading

With the oil boom, the ability to purchase from abroad all kinds of food and supplies to counter private national capitalism and to use these riches to promote regional solidarity with the political processes of Venezuela and Cuba, “under siege from imperialism,” was concentrated in the actions of Chavez and his government.

The abundant money coming from Venezuela’s oil and the tightening of ties with Havana led the Chavista leadership to believe it could forget the economic and social foundations of the 21st Century Socialism it was promulgating. Chavez kept talking about 21st Century Socialism, but assumed the bureaucratic and interventionist practices of Fidelismo.

The ability to expand the “new socialist model” with the support of the then powerful Venezuelan economy, based on rising oil prices, was designed by the Bolivarian Alliance (ALBA) founded in response to the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), the United States based alliance to create a free trade area in the Americas that would support the economic development and integration of the continent.

The fear of imperialism from the powerful north, fomented especially since the Triumph of the Revolution in Cuba in 1959, the traditional influence of Western Europe in the Caribbean and in much of South America, and a regional lack of self-esteem prevented the idea of a continental trade integration taking shape. And ALBA, initiated by Fidel Castro and Chavez, was the catalyst for the rejection.

The Bolivarian Alliance could have been a project of revolutionary integration if it had considered involvement from below, from the social and economic bases of the countries involved, unification of the currency, free movement of people and capital, and the expansion of ideas to finance the development of a solidarity economy led by equal exchanges, on the basis of cooperatives and self-management. The issue, with all its implications, was addressed in February 2007 in “Some Tactical and Strategic Issues of the Bolivarian Integration” (

That opportunity was lost, as the original Chavista project was lost, because state development and relations between states prevailed, and “socialism from above” prevailed over real socialism from below.

Heinz Dieterich, the leading international promoter of the ideas of 21st Century Socialism who initially advised Chavez, on January 4 told the newspaper El Nacional:

“I was disappointed when my friend Hugo Chavez did not impose, for many reasons, this combination of possible Latin American developmentalism and the scientific-political paradigm of 21st Century Socialism, which would have put Venezuela in the vanguard of the global society. However, he only used the term 21st Century Socialism, not the respective institutions. Therefore, no sane person can say that there is 21st Century Socialism in the country. What failed in Venezuela was a poorly executed Latin American developmentalism. My disappointment, however, was continental. I spoke to almost all the progressive presidents of Latin America and the Caribbean and none of them had a serious intention to transcend the capitalist system with a new civilization.”

The death of Chavez left Chavismo without its leader’s charisma and without having developed the original program. Chavismo fell into irreversible crisis and the pro-Cuban policies of President Nicolas Maduro ended up sinking it. The situation created in Venezuela with the triumphant arrival of the opposition in the National Assembly can be considered the failure of Chavismo influenced by Fidelismo; but not the failure of 21st Century Socialism, which never managed to develop, not even during the life of Chavez himself.

With the failure of Chavismo-Fidelismo in Venezuela, ALBA, which never developed the 21st Century Socialism alternative, could also quickly succumb as a political alliance. The states that benefited from this project will soon begin to suffer its effects because of their own inability to develop an integration from below, which would have meant the consistent application of 21st Century Socialism, ideas abandoned by Chavez and rejected by Fidel Castro.

The governments of Nicaragua, Ecuador and Bolivia took part in some of the original ideas of 21st Century Socialism and were careful not to embark on the previous statism of Chavismo, essentially maintaining their traditional capitalist development projects, with a State deliverer in the social-democrat style. So they would be less affected by this situation.

What happened in Venezuela was not the failure of 21st Century Socialism, but rather of a development model of state monopoly capitalism, inspired by the obsolete neo-Stalinist Cuban experience, which also failed. It was Chavismo-Fidelismo that failed there.

Cuban TV Highlights National Assembly Attacks on the Self-employed / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

An image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the facade of a self-employed blacksmith in Central Havana. (14ymedio)
An image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the facade of a self-employed blacksmith in Central Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 1 January 2015 – December 29 was the National Assembly of People’s Power last day of work in its final session of 2015. Cuban State television highlighted two moments: the speech of a delegate, supported by president Raul Castro, blaming intermediaries for the high prices of farm products, and another from a delegate blaming non-State entities for the increase in corruption. Not a single word about the 9,000 Cuban migrants stranded in Central America.

It was clearly the intention of Cuban State TV to focus public attention on the “negative” work of non-state forms of production and markets, as a way to divert attention from the bureaucracy which is to blame for the entire disaster that is taking place. continue reading

About corruption in every sphere of the State, which we all hear about every day, not one word. No one asked what happens to the billions of dollars the government collects through taxing the remittances sent to their families by Cubans abroad; no one asked about the State monopolies in internal and external markets; nor about the exploitation of more than four million workers providing services in other countries, especially the thousands of doctors and specialists in different professions working abroad on State contracts; nor about the high taxes paid by the self-employed; nor the artists and athletes who sell their works or provide services outside the country; nor how the State benefits from other countries’ debt forgiveness.

However, Cuban State TV couldn’t avoid showing tiny bits of other speeches, where the delegates addressed the problems of low production, the absence of a wholesale market, and the permanence of the dual currency system, all elements related to State policies.

Of course, we don’t know it there were any speeches addressing the high prices of food and other widely consumed products, because if there were, they took care not to show it, and if there weren’t, it would demonstrate that the Assembly is very badly informed on economic issues, as president Raul Castro indicated in one of his reflections.

They broadcast no speech, if there was one, that commented on the report that 50% of potentially productive land continues to be covered with the invasive marabou weed and is in the hands of the State; or that of those who received land (via leasing and other arrangements) a good share of them have not been able to make it productive because of the number of obstacles the State throws in their way. Nor did they air any speeches about the laughable prices the State pays for the large share of farm production it claims, or that the State companies are often less productive than individual farmers and cooperatives, or that the State continues to pay miserable wages to its workers without adequate stimuli; or that all the processed food – chicken, pasta, oils, sauces, good quality beer, alcohol and others – is sold only through the military monopoly of the “Hard Currency Collection Stores” (as they are called) and in Cuban Convertible Pesos, which continue to trade at 1 for 25 of the measly Cuban pesos, the currency in which wages are paid.

If anyone commented about it, there was no broadcast saying that the State blocks non-state forms of production – as they call the private and cooperative economy – from receiving direct support, be it financing or equipment, from international organizations, as everything has to come through the Government and its system of companies.

Nor did we see any speeches about the high, abusive and absurd taxes the self-employed are subjected to, or that these people have to plow the earth, harvest it and move their supplies and goods in old transport equipment, the cost of maintenance of which is unfathomable and requires oil whose high prices have been maintained in the domestic market even though worldwide prices have dropped by more than half.

Nor is anything said about the impact of the increases in retail prices, the State’s refusal to let farmers sell their products directly in Havana, and forcing them to use markets concentrated on the outskirts, where they have to pay taxes and work through intermediaries to get their goods with the consequent increases in in the cost of transportation.

In what seemed like a direct allusion to his personal opposition to the policies approved by the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) at its 6th Congress, President Raul Castro directed Marino Murillo, the national economic czar, to question whether some market formulas such as the law of supply and demand should continue to be applied in the marketing of farm products.

Murillo, raising his eyebrows behind his glasses, a gesture I don’t know if Raul was able to see but which was seen on television, said nothing in response. It is not difficult to imagine the thoughts passing through his brain, given that he studied economics. But he preferred not to speak, and he knows why.

Behind it all is the silent war of the bureaucracy against work that is independent of the State, which they label “non-state forms” to discriminate against it and exclude it. It is not a coincidence that the National Assembly, supposedly in charge of legislating, executing and financing (all at the same time) the Government’s plans, is filled with leaders of the PCC, with bureaucrats from the central administration and from provincial and municipal administrations, with high level officers from the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR) and the Ministry of the Interior (MININT), with leaders of the pro-government trade unions and other mass organizations controlled by the PCC.

The bureaucracy gathered there is the same one that was incapable of legislating and enforcing the Guidelines of the 6th Congress of the PCC and, in addition, the one that mercilessly attacks the few measures that managed to get through. I don’t know if it was a coincidence: yesterday afternoon, the self-employed who work in Maestranza Park in Old Havana – toy sellers, photographers, children’s cart-ride providers, light tattoo artists, food vendors – some authorized and duly legalized and others not, were informed that “the Party and the Government” had decided they could no longer work there, without any further explanation.

There is no easy fix, gentlemen: this centralized political and economic statist model should be changed if we want this country to emerge from its current quagmire.

Cuba Also Needs Democratic Multiparty Elections / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

Fidel Castro exercises his right to vote from home in Havana in the last election. (EFE / EPA / Cubdebate / Revolution Studios)
Fidel Castro exercises his right to vote from home in Havana in the last election. (EFE / EPA / Cubdebate / Revolution Studios)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 29 December 2015 — Cuba is the only country in this hemisphere that does not conduct democratic multi-party elections, which is what the Revolution of 1959 fought for and what different wings of the democratic left and the opposition forces of all stripes have been advocating for years.

Democratization of the political-economic process is an urgent need for Cuban society. A historical debt to the people. The 1959 Revolution attracted the support of everyone because it is proposed to restore the democratic 1940 Constitution and the institutional system interrupted by the 1953 coup. This has been postponed indefinitely. continue reading

It is no secret that the economic and politically centralized state model imposed on Cuba in the name of socialism has failed all along the line. Its inability to fulfill its own agreements from the Sixth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba is conclusive. The model isn’t even capable of implementing the modifications approved by its own party and leaders.

President Raul Castro says he will retire from the leadership of the government in 2018. With him, the fundamental base that has sustained the regime in power for more than half a century will also go: the glories of the attack on the Moncada Barracks, the yacht Granma bringing the revolutionaries back from Mexico, and the fight in the Sierra Maestra. And no matter how much those who come after want it, they will no longer have those credentials. And they cannot, not even if they carry its name, for the simple and sensible reason that they were not there, the test of authenticity imposed by the Castro brothers themselves. The Revolution was their source of power, but legitimacy is another thing altogether.

If, before finally retiring from the government, Raul Castro is not subject to a direct and secret popular vote, future generations will always be left with the doubt about whether the work of the Castro brothers was done with or without the support of the majority of the people.

If he were elected president, he could still retire and fulfill his promise to leave power, but leaving a vice president no longer tied to those glories but with legitimacy won at the ballot box. And if he doesn’t want to or can’t face elections, let the Cuban Communist Party candidate he supports and for whom he would openly campaign be submitted to a popular vote. The success or failure of their candidate would be that of the Castros.

But if their candidate is not submitted to such scrutiny, not only would the doubt about the true popular support for the Castros continue, but the legitimacy of the successor would always be in question, because he or she would not even have these glories, nor would they have been elected by popular vote.

As the leaders and the current high level bureaucracy of the Communist Party is convinced that they can always count on the support of the majority of Cubans, there should be no reason in the next elections not to elect the president and vice president of the republic by popular vote, along with the provincial governors and city mayors.

This would bring enormous benefits for the current government. In fact, if they were to initiate and develop in 2016 a process of democratization that implies a fundamental respect for Cubans’ human rights, such as freedom of expression, election and economic activity, and that establishes a new constitution and a new electoral law that enables truly democratic elections, what remains of the US blockade-embargo would be completely undermined, forcing its immediate repeal by the United States Congress.

This would be, in fact, a triumph of their government and would help them in democratic elections and could also contribute, depending on who wins the upcoming elections in the United States, to an expedited normalization of relations with that country.

Moreover, within a couple of years economic and political liberalization would generate rapid economic growth, slow the exodus of Cubans overseas, and make all Cubans feel free to express themselves, organize parties and associations, promote their political proposals, vote for whomever gives them real economic gains thrugh deploying their abilities of every kind, which would be visible at the time of the elections and could widely favor popular support for the government candidate, if he or she was in the vanguard of this democratization.

“You’re dreaming, Pedro Campos,” more than a few readers will comment. No, my friends, this is no dream. Nor are they hopes, though woe to anybody who does not have them! I am trying to bring some light to the path for the good of everyone. Whether they see it or not, that’s another thing. Some think that if there is openness, the opposition will erase the government. Not if the opening is truly democratic and authentic.

It is very clear that those who spearhead the process of democratization, now or later, are going to lead the country in the following years. The opposition did not bury Mikhail Gorbachev, it was the military conservatives. Here, I do not think any members of the military could do something similar. And the other thing that is clear to all Cubans is that this model of state capitalism disguised as socialism has no future. “This model doesn’t even work for us any more,” Fidel Castro himself said once, although later he “clarified” that he had been misinterpreted.

I imagine that no one will go down in history as the gravedigger of the Revolution, above all if it is the Revolution itself that makes possible the opening to full democratization and development of the country.

Critical Times for Cuba / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

The change in the Venezuelan Assembly involves the loss of one of Raul Castro’s biggest supporters (EFE)
The change in the Venezuelan Assembly involves the loss of one of Raul Castro’s biggest supporters (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 21 December 2015 – The year 2015 is drawing to a close and Cuba is living in critical times. There are five main factors that contribute to the Cuban situation: the breach of the fundamental agreements of the 6th Communist Party Congress; the aging and political exhaustion of the “historic leadership”; the spasm in Cuba-United States relations; the reversal of the leftist wave in Latin America – in particular the parliamentary defeat of the Maduro government in Venezuela; and growing popular discontent with the centralized economic and political model, evident in the exodus of Cubans from the country and in the growth and improved organization of the opposition.

The situation is leading to an economic and social crisis and, predictably, to a political crisis, that obliges all Cuban actors – especially the government – to think in terms of the general interests of the people and to put aside those of specific groups.

1. Clearly, had the principal agreements of the 2011 6th Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba been implemented with respect to self-employment, cooperatives, business autonomy, and the opening to foreign investment, the situation today would continue reading

, at least, be one of prosperity. Instead, the staunch support for the Statist model continues to depress farm output and cause retail prices to rise, and the awful dual currency system continues.

Although slight changes have improved the situation of minority groups and strengthened the development of an emerging middle class, economic and social conditions for the dispossessed majority continue to worsen. The impoverishment of state employees – who are the majority – has also worsened, aggravated by problems in transport, food and housing, which are everyone’s greatest concerns.

2. Raul Castro has said he will retire from the government in early 2018. His legitimacy, like that of Fidel Castro and the other “historic” leaders who have ruled this country for more than half a century, comes from his participation in the assault on the Moncada Barracks, his presence on the yacht Granma that brought the revolutionaries from Mexico, and his presence in the Sierra Maestra during the Revolution, not from being elected by a direct and secret vote of the people. Among this group, who may arise enjoy their legitimacy, and so would have to pass the test of direct and democratic election to achieve that legitimacy before the people.

This situation requires that, in Raul Castro’s remaining time in power, a process of democratic negotiation is undertaken in Cuban society that enables a broad inclusive national debate, a new constitution and a new multi-party Electoral Law that allows his successor to run as a candidate in democratic elections.

These are also the two years left to the “historics” to finish dismantling the calamity of the Statist model imposed in the name of socialism, and to develop a free market economy that includes free cooperatives of every kind and size and self-employment without restrictions, and, in addition, where the state enterprises that remain are indispensible they must have a high level of autonomy and for the most part be co-managed with their workers. Alongside them, private businesses of all sizes should be developed, including with Cuban capital from outside the country and with foreign capital.

Should Cuba not advance in this process of democratization and the expansion of the economic system to one that supports new entrants of all kinds, the nation’s future could be very uncertain and bleak.

This is also the time remaining to Fidel Castro’s brother to resolve the fundamental problems with the United States, to ensure that relations with the neighboring country benefit Cuba without jeopardizing its sovereignty.

3. The spasm in relations between Cuba and the United States stem from the Cuban government’s demands for a total lifting of the blockade-embargo, the elimination of the Cuban Adjustment Act and the return of the Guantanamo Naval Base. Also contributing are the emigration crisis and the presence of 8,000 Cubans stranded in Central America, as well as the upcoming election year in the United States, which will make it more difficult for the Obama administration to move forward in normalizing relations. All this suggests a somewhat grim picture, although the president of the United States and some US lawmakers are pushing Congress to address the issue of Cuba.

The underlying problem is that the United States Congress has indicated that it will condition any progress on the issue of democratic changes in Cuba, “concessions to imperialism” that the “revolutionary” government is not willing to concede.

Nobody understands what concessions to imperialism could devolve political and economic sovereignty to the Cuban people, who fought a revolution that triumphed in 1959 to restore institutionalized democracy and the 1940 Constitution violated by Batista; objectives that have always been postponed by this “revolutionary” government. It is not a concession to imperialism; it is a debt to the people.

There are indications that this impasse might be being supported by figures within the Cuban government itself opposed to the necessary changes, those who say they would prefer to see the island sink into the sea rather than compromise on these positions. This sinking does not enjoy majority support among Cubans.

4. The reversal of the leftist wave in Latin America is creating conditions for greater pressures on the Cuban government to advance toward democratic changes. The great parliamentary defeat of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) will probably lead to a drastic reduction in Venezuelan oil flowing to Cuba, and in part to the exchange of doctors for oil, which will significantly affect the Cuban economy and Cuban society in general. This will force Raul Castro’s government to pay for the oil it consumes, but now from other nations, with payment conditions that will not be as beneficial as those contracted with President Maduro.

It should also serve to make the government embark on the path of the economic reforms approved by the 6th Communist Party Congress, to date only narrowly applied, and open spaces for democratic participation, where all sectors – including the opposition and those who think differently – can engage publically without repression.

5. The disaster sustained by the economy due to lack of government willingness to advance the economic reforms approved by its own Communist Party, the lack of democratic advances, the hopelessness because there are no tangible improvements in the changing relations with the United States for those at the bottom, and the loss of Venezuelan aid have increased popular discontent, the exodus of Cubans to other countries, and the size and organization of the opposition.

Accustomed to ruling for more than half a century with the opposition crushed by repression, the government doesn’t know how to deal with a growing peaceful alternative that, banned and lacking outlets, manifests itself in dissimilar ways, both in the heart of the Communist Party and in official institutions, as well as in the streets.

This entire set of circumstances puts Raul Castro’s government up against a very clear dilemma for 2016. Either advance in the fulfillment of the agreements of the 6th Party Congress and start a process of internal democratization that facilitates a greater relaxation of the cords of the blockade-embargo, or watch the Cuban economy and Cuban society become involved in a serious period of turbulence with unpredictable consequences.

Elections In Venezuela And Cuban Experiences / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

”Thank you Venezuela, we won!” Message of the Bureau of Democratic Unity (MUD) after the results of parliamentary elections on 6 December 2015. (Youtube / screenshot)
”Thank you Venezuela, we won!” Message of the Bureau of Democratic Unity (MUD) after the results of parliamentary elections on 6 December 2015. (Youtube / screenshot)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 11 December 2015 — The victory of the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) in Venezuela brings an endless list of implications for Cuba, depending on how events develop there. We will have to wait some time to make a comprehensive assessment of the phenomenon.

According to Maduro’s speech, the blame for his crushing defeat in parliamentary elections last Sunday belongs to imperialism, its internal acolytes, and their economic and media war. We Cubans know this justifying discourse, which is incapable of self-criticism.

Madurismo” says that the counterrevolution triumphed in an election where the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) lost overwhelmingly, due to its own mistakes. The popular majority who voted for democratic change, according to this version, were counterrevolutionaries, including the forces of the left and the Chavistas who voted for opposition candidates: this is a misreading. continue reading

This approach is part of the philosophy of traditional authoritarian populism of a “left” that has seen as revolutionary and socialist centralized state control over the economy and politics, and the Manichaean “with me or against me”… “because the Revolution is me.”

A constructive vision of the future obliges the PSUV, along with the Cuban and international left, to make a calm, deep and dialectic assessment of the MUD’s triumph in the Venezuelan parliamentary elections, which seem to mark the failure, perhaps announced, of the statist experience of Chavism, as it deviated from its initial socialist currents.

To begin with, such a crushing defeat cannot be attributed solely to the “economic and media war waged by imperialism and the opposition,” which undoubtedly did exist. No support could be expected for a broad populist policy of vast government spending, restrictions on domestic investment and support of a huge bureaucracy all paid for by oil revenues, whose prices could not recover for many reasons. In addition, the government – authoritarian and engaged in systematically harassing the opposition – has close ties with and financially contributes to the only non-democratic state in the region.

In recent years, the center of focus of Nicolas Maduro’s government was the violent actions of extreme right groups, to which he linked all opposition — off-center, right or left — forgetting the causes of the phenomenon: the absence of effective policies to tackle the growth in insecurity, government corruption, inflation and shortages.

This, coupled with the abandonment of the initial process of installing socialism, already present in Chavez’s last years, alienated the government from its original base. All very typical of Cuban voluntarism: pay attention to the effects and not the causes.

There was a lot of fanfare about imperialism, a lot of unnecessary repression, and little in the way of political and economic practice to address these problems. Time and resources were dedicated to trying to raise the price of oil, to “international solidarity” in search of friends and supporters, to arbitrarily increasing the salaries of workers in the public and private sector, and little effort was directed to diversify the economy and tap into and make use of national productive capital. A lack of production and liquidity equals inflation. Good Cuban advice!

While the “missions” and general plans focused on social benefits for lower income sectors supported by oil revenues, with prices systematically undervalued in the international market, centralized distribution of resources brokered by the State was prioritized at the expense of making participative local budgets work and of promoting free, private or associated work, initially promoted as the pillars of Chavista socialism.

Those modalities, which many of us viewed with enthusiasm, were drifting to the Cuban approach of state monopoly capitalism, not socialism, where the main role of economic development does not lead to private and social initiative, but rather to employees of state enterprises attempting to violate laws and control the economy, and to an underestimation and even dismissal of forms of private and associated self-management of production, while different types of private capitalism are frankly rejected or only reluctantly accepted.

Instead of the originally democratic, self-managed and socializing Chavismo influenced by authoritarian Fidelismo and state control of labor, the opposite occurred and that is one of the causes of the disaster now facing the PSUV. Here and there, “socialism” has been swept away.

History has demonstrated everywhere that centralized control of labor – where the state is the main employer – along with centralized control of the markets, is contrary to the sustainable development of the economy.

Other Latin American governments, who felt solidarity with Havana, were careful not to fall into the same rut, as in the case with the presidents of Nicaragua, Ecuador and Bolivia.

In Cuba, the authoritarian and undemocratic political system of absolute control of the Communist Party over the state and society prevent the democratic opposition and the socialist left from organizing, publicly disclosing their programs and working for political change from democratic structures, as the PSUV opposition has been able to do.

Cuba’s leaders from the Sierra Maestra, who capitalized on their success of 1959, have never allowed a democratic election and, with what has happened in Venezuela, possibly conclude that the democratic system has nothing to do with their political interests. Sadly, they have not learned the lesson of the “socialist camp”: it is preferable to share and lose power democratically, power that will definitely be lost by other means.

A year after the announcement of the restoration of relations with the United States, and nine years since Raul Castro took the reins of government, improvements for the people come in dribs and drabs and are unstable.

As there are no democratic mechanisms of participation in Cuba that allow the manifestation of forces opposed to and distinct from the Government-Party-State forces, a telluric movement has been building that could erupt like a volcano, with all its consequences. But the people do not want a volcano, they want a channel for their concerns. The sustained exodus of Cubans, recently increased, is the most obvious proof of popular discontent.

But within the Cuban Government-Party-State the predominate forces appear to be those contrary to a process of democratization, due to their fears of losing all the levers of power. The recent statements by the president of the official National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC) demonstrate the dread of the powers-that-be in the face of a democratization growing from below and the lack of political realism on high.

These blind and dark forces are responsible for everything negative they generate.

It’s easier to do things for the good of all: an observance consistent with the main agreements of the 6th Cuban Communist Party Congress – real opening for self-employment, cooperatives, entrepreneurial autonomy, the decentralization of budgets, foreign investment and especially investments by Cubans who are outside the country – along with a clear democratic opening to eliminate repression for political reasons and to expand the freedom of expression and association.

All of this would strengthen the environment for dialog and national accord, support almost immediate growth in the national economy with prosperity for all Cubans, and renew the desire to live in this country for so many young people who leave. In addition, it would be crucial for the United States Congress to begin eliminating all the outstanding restrictions of the blockade/embargo.

A change in this inclusive democratic direction would permit a soft landing in the inevitable denationalization and decentralization of the economy and politics, consistent with a fundamental principle of political science: The power of the state is inversely proportional to the power of the people.

Possible Regional Implications Of The Cuban Migration Crisis In Central America / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

In Puerto Obaldia, Panama, there are already more than a thousand Cubans. (La Estrella de Panama)
In Puerto Obaldia, Panama, there are already more than a thousand Cubans. (La Estrella de Panama)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 4 December 2015 – Cubans wanting to leave the country for the United States found in Ecuador’s visa waiver a chance to undertake the journey by different routes, but basically traversing a continent via Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico.

Nicaragua’s recent decision to close passage to some thousands of Cuba who made it Costa Rica from Ecuador, and to require visas from the island’s nationals who enter their country, has created an immigration conflict in the region and temporarily closed the doors to Cubans who want to go to the United States via this route.

Have Cuba, Nicaragua and Ecuador taken into account the many regional implications of these decisions? Let’s look at some of them. continue reading

In Costa Rica there are hundreds of thousands of Nicaraguans. In Central America, traditionally the borders are not strictly controlled for the thousands of natives of the region who move informally in the border areas.

Is Nicaragua aware that it is setting up eventual immigration-border conflicts in a region that is experiencing a peaceful era among neighbors, after decades of political violence? Does this attitude have any relationship with Nicaragua’s intentions to create a new inter-ocean canal in open opposition to the one in Panama? Have they thought about how violent repression of Cubans could affect future relations between the two countries?

Has Ecuador noticed that its measure complicates life for thousands of Cubans who aspired to leave Cuba by this route, and that it has affected the supply of clothes, shoes, costume jewelry and other products for thousands of self-employed Cubans who life of this market, and that any Ecuadorian suppliers will also suffer the consequences? Has Ecuador considered the affects on Cuban families in both countries? Has Ecuador thought about the effect of taking this measure on future relations between both countries?

Is the Cuban government behind these decisions by Nicaragua and Ecuador, two of its allies on the continent? Are Nicaragua and Ecuador aware of what this means?

And, lastly, have Cuba, Nicaragua and Ecuador taken into account all the regional consequences that could derive from these actions and situations, including the complications in the Straits of Florida, the relations between Cuba and the United States and others possible between the United States and those two countries for contributing to an eventual complication on its southern border, should a stampede of Cubans heading to the United States by sea develop, which could be considered a threat to the national security of the U.S.?

Does Cuba’s looking for the elimination of the Cuban Adjustment Act divert attention from its disjointed internal situation or is it a complication in relations that buries the advances made so far in this matter, with all the consequences for the island itself and the domestic and foreign policy of the United States?

Is there an express intention of complicating regional relations in the event of the parliamentary elections in Venezuela?

The latest developments point to a partial solution to the current presence of Cubans in Costa Rica, but complicate in the Cuban emigration phenomenon. With regards to a meeting between the governments of Cuba and the United States, the first declared that the United States was politically manipulating the Cuban Adjustment Act, and the United States reiterated that it will not change its immigration policy toward Cuba. Havana criticized the American law that facilities the awarding of visas to Cuban doctors and Cuba just suspended the ability of doctors to freely leave the country, who will now have to obtain permission from the Ministry of Public Health if they wish to travel.

Every sensible foreign policy takes into account not only the narrow interests of the political groups in power, but also those of the entire nation and those of its neighbors, allies or otherwise.