Cuban Politics During the Last Six Decades / Somos+, Hector Fernandez

The island of Cuba in the Caribbean.

Somos+, Héctor Fernández, 23 May 2020 — For more than five decades, the Castro brothers – good thieves that they are – did all kinds of illicit business, such as trafficking in arms, gold, marble, drugs, anything that could be beneficial to the Government. Africa, America, and Europe were their primary settings. They seized such Nubian assets as minerals and antique art and began training paramilitary groups in different countries, with the free and “disinterested” collaboration of Russia.

As a boy, I heard of all these exploits of the Cuban government, and whenever it was talked about in my house or in Havana, the sadness of my family showed on their faces. How could the Island crumble in the face of the people, who were being robbed in different ways – such as when all property was taken from the peasant owners, the functionaries telling that they would receive benefits by going to community buildings, where they would be better off. It was so sarcastic that many refused and were subjected to insults, called “worms”, and being harassed by the government militia all the time until they could take it no longer and had to turn over their property.

Just like the Colombian guerrilla army that made good people leave their native cities and emigrate. Almost more than 405-million Latin Americans emigrate daily because of these revolutions, which are believed to promote a truly just system, but all they do is to senselessly and inhumanely massacre a people. continue reading

The average Cuban learned what it means to be with God and the Devil: one goes to church and later returns to adore the image of Fidel and Raúl.

Leonardo Padura is one more apprentice of this double standard, a writer whose pen has the gift of wisdom but whose corrupt soul, like many others, is not transparent because his government so demands it. It is like the mulatto on the street corner, the mulatto criollo, nonchalantly proclaiming, “Here I am, passing for white until they find me out….” And this is the double skin, the double standard of today with God, tomorrow with the Devil.

Therefore, one way for Cuban women to protest is by prostitution; that is how they tell the Government that a hungry woman will sleep with a man who buys her dinner. It is a way of showing her bottom to the authorities, as the African Americans do by wearing their pants down by their knees (a form of protest that started long ago in jailhouses). It is the way the people have to protest, their only weapon. Society styles its fashion according to the oppression it is subjected to; there is nothing worse than to fight with God and tomorrow be friends with the Devil.

One question that emerges from the atrocity of an almost half-century of errors is, how does Castro-style socialism function? It is a question that comes to all our minds. This was answered by a friend of mine who, sincerely and without evasiveness, gave his opinion: “How does it function? By political slogans, without thinking, by repetition.”

They judge the value of a human being by his titles as if these were an indicator of one’s intelligence, by his professional achievements and not for being a true believer, using the double mask of the Revolution, the double standard. The famous Tapados [Hidden Ones] – Communist Party militants who for convenience and not by conviction rule the people – corrupt leaders who squander the few resources that the Country has, inventing economic projects that in the end do not give results… Cuba has received the equivalent of the Marshall Plan 8 times from the former Soviet Union and has not obtained any results.

The economy remains deaf, blind, and dumb, it does not obey anyone’s orders … it has its laws … with the North American embargo, and on top of that, with a centralized economy that does not work, at some point, it should – it must – change.

China, for many, is a model; but how can we say that this is good for others? A country full of socialist slogans and laws can never be an example to anyone.

One of the most harmful blockades* on the Island is demagogy and the total lack of pragmatic economic models.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

*Translator’s Note: The term, “blockade,” is used by the Cuban government to refer to the US embargo against Cuba.

A Prime Minister with Doubtful Results as a Minister / Somos+

The photo of Manuel Marrero Cruz surrounded by officers in uniform at the time of announcing his appointment to the plenary perhaps explains this inexplicable designation.

SOMOS+, Germán M. González, 6 February 2020 — Reviewing the results of the tourism sector in the current year, we have the following outcome:

The arrival of visitors decreases, the official explanation is the restrictions the Trump Administration has put on Americans’ travel to Cuba, including stopping the cruise ships, but the truth is that destinations having little or nothing to do with the coercive measures of the US government are decreasing. Let’s look at this from January to October according to the National Bureau of Statistics and Information www.onei.cu:

Only the visitors from the community (larger every day) and from Russia are increasing, representing 3.5% of the total and those from Europe and the rest of the world are decreasing by -280 thousand visitors, 210 thousand more than the decrease of those from the USA (-70 thousand). In this issue, as in others, if there were no “blockade” (embargo actually) it would necessary to invent it. continue reading

These trends continued in November and from January to September, we noticed that stays per visitor were only 4.4 days and revenues 503 CUC, in both cases, below the total of 2018.

The average occupancy rate is 38%, 1.7 percentage points below the percentage accomplished in 2018 and the most serious problem: since the early 2017 there is no occupancy over 60% in any month of the year.

In general, both absolute and relative levels in the indicators of the rates in 2019, are lower not only than 2018 but also in 2017; that is to say that the alleged locomotive of the Cuban economy has been in recession for two years.

According to the Cuban News Agency (ACN, for its acronym in Spanish), the first Deputy Minister of Tourism (now Minister), Juan Carlos García, reported in the recently concluded session of the National Assembly of the People’s Power that there are 11,000 empty rooms due to “insufficient preventive maintenance, lack of priority to prevention, solution and control fulfillment of the designed plans.”

In general, he acknowledged important breaches in maintenance and remodeling issues and listed a series of deficiencies, such as a deficit of suitable investors, technical documentation and equipment completion; insufficient preparation of the construction works; changes in the original projects; failure to fulfill the executive schedules: deficit in the supplies of the national industry; failure to accomplish the import plan; lack of skilled labor force, fuel shortage.

There were also problems in the operation of the elevators in the hotels that were not a cause for shutting rooms down, but impacted the service quality.

The performance of the other sectors must have been really poor for the minister Manuel Marrero Cruz to be designated as Prime Minister! Or is it that they took into account — as it usually happens in the system copied from the Soviet Union — considerations outside the efficiency and effectiveness in management.

This promotion recalls those made in favor of Inés María Chapman and Roberto Morales Ojeda, both with lower results than the usual inefficiency. Or worse, J.R. Balaguer’s promotion from Health Minister to Secretary of International Relations of the Party when the death of over twenty patients of Mazorra Psychiatric Hospital (from cold and starvation) resulted into prison sentences for staff of that hospital.

And how is it possible to justify that the investment program for 2019 foretold a hotel capacity growth of more than 3,800 rooms and the restoration of another 5,000? Why, considering the 38% occupancy rate that only exceeds 50% during one month of the year?

If parliament members were not appointed based on their unconditional support for the leaders, as the President of the Assembly has just proclaimed, if they were representatives of the Nation, they would have asked these and many other questions instead of unanimously approving every document presented before them and the decisions taken of which they are, like the cuckold of the story, the last ones to find out.

Translated by Francy Perez Perdomo 

Arbitrary Detention in Cuba of Somos+ Coordinator for Uruguay, Lidier Hernadez Sotolongo / Somos+

Lidier Hernández Sotolongo

SOMOS+, 16 February 2020 — Lidier Hernández Sotolongo, coordinator of Somos+ (We Are More) in Uruguay and a human rights activist, was arrested today in Cuba when he was going to fly back to Uruguay (Lidier’s current country of residence).

Lidier has already been released and is at his relatives’ house; however, he was served an official subpoena for Monday from MININT (Ministry of the Interior) in addition to being denied his return to Uruguay.

It is important to highlight the active work of Lidier within our movement as well as other groups, such as Actions for Democracy; and his strong political work in Uruguay, where he has actively participated in several protests despite the hostile position and harassment of communist groups.

Somos+ demands the immediate release of our coordinator, and once again reports the intolerance of the Cuban dictatorship.

Executive Board
Somos+

Translated by Francy Perez Perdomo

"Now You Will See What Legality Really Is" / Somos+

Adalberto R. Mes Duarte

Part I

SOMOS+,  Adalberto R. Mes Duarte, LLB, 7 November 2018

Now you will see what legality really is … And these were the exact words of the Head of the Municipal Unit of the National Revolutionary Police in the City of Cienfuegos, Captain (I don’t even know his name), when he showed up in my house, at exactly 06:55 hours in the morning, accompanied by more than twelve policemen, three patrol cars, a Jeep and two motorcycles, handcuffing me and indicating, without a probable cause, my arrest and driving me heavily escorted, in front of my family and neighbors, like an extremely aggressive and dangerous criminal.

WHAT VIOLATIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE CONCEPT OF LEGALITY WERE COMMITTED?

I was arrested (again, without previous explanations) at 06:55 hours on October 26, 2018, at my front door, in the presence of my family, by a dozen uniformed men and several vehicles of the above-mentioned institution. However, due to strange, and so far, unknown reasons, my detention appears registered on that same day, but at 09:50, that is THREE HOURS AFTER the scandalous and public police operation.

In this case, I hope that nobody comes up with the stupid idea of altering, or forging the document that I signed the first day of my arrest, and to which I had access on the seventh day of my confinement through the Chief Prosecutor of Criminal Procedures of the Provincial Prosecutor of Cienfuegos, who, above all, gives the impression of being a serious person. continue reading

For about an hour and a half, of the THREE DARK HOURS in which I remained NOT OFFICIALLY DETAINED but indeed, “LEGALLY DISAPPEARED” I endured PHYSICAL TORTURE, as some of my captors tightened the cuffs so strongly, that the metal penetrated in my skin and created injuries that left scars that I still have today.

If you ask yourselves: Why this bad blood? Well, the policemen who were in the place where I was held captive, approached me from behind and looked forward to a complaint or a groan of pain, which of course, would never happen.

Then, a policewoman came in and ordered them to take off the cuffs from me, and to take me out of there. All this was in the presence of the Police officer in the charge who remained unaffected, as if nothing illegal was happening around him. I showed him my hands totally swollen, bruised and furrowed by the metal and blackened as well, and told him: this is a reflection of what you commit every day to the defenseless citizens! … In response I only received silence, total silence.

This very same officer did not allow me to use my eyeglasses to read the statements that irrationally and incoherently made up around what was already seen as an absurd manipulation of the Judicial System by the Ministry of the Interior. According to this same officer, I knew that I stood accused of being “alleged perpetrator of crimes of Slander and Disobedience” (I will talk about this in the second part of this document)

The Police officer in charge himself,a young man seriously affected by his poor grammar and spelling knowledge of the beautiful Spanish language, refused at all times to grant me the right to phone my relatives so they would know in which police station I was.

I was denied the right to have access to the Experts of the provincial Department of Legal Medicine so that, prior to the body examination, they could certify the physical injuries that I presented in my hands.

From the moment the officer in charge made my detention official and made me sign an Arrest Certificate, without clearly stating the crime or crimes for which they kept me under arrest, besides the fact that I was detained after 09:50 hours, therefore leaving almost three hours in which I do not physically exist as detained anywhere, I declared myself on a HUNGER STRIKE until my rights are restored and I strictly demand the presence of a Prosecutor to whom I could inform on all the physical and mental mistreatment that I was enduring so far.

At approximately 10:20 hours on October 26, 2018, I was transferred from the Municipal Station to the Station of Region No. 1 for Criminal Prosecution, where I remained for twenty-four (24) hours. And according to Lieutenant Colonel Franklin, the reason why I was there is because one of my brothers was under custody in the Municipal Station and we could not “be together”; furthermore, I had to give up my Hunger Strike so that I could be granted all the rights I was claiming.

 In the afternoon of October 27, the Police officer in charge appears (I do not know his name because he did not say it) and notifies me that there is a court order for  “Preventive Custody” imposed against me by the Municipal Prosecutor, Aimara Almeida, and that later in the afternoon I would be transferred to the Provincial Unit of Criminal Procedure, where the perpetrators of the most serious crimes committed in the jurisdictional area of the province remain detained. I want to make clear that this is the most rigorous military institution of imprisonment and prosecution in Cienfuegos, even higher than the Provincial Prison in terms of the regimen.

 In this military unit, I was confined to Cell No. 12, alone, isolated, incommunicado and identified as inmate No. 494. A completely sealed place, with artificial (electric) light twenty-four hours a day, two steps and a half wide by three steps long, where it is not allowed to speak or shout under penalty of punishment.

Here the damage or torture is psychological. Although there were never complaints of my behavior, from the moment I entered that place, I declared my political position against the government, as well as my only demand: “to restore my freedom and my rights.”

I would be lying, if I said that I was physically or verbally abused there. The health and security staff kept an eye on my condition, and constantly asked me if I wanted to eat any kind of food, or if I wanted to drink water, something that I emphatically refused. Many of them expressed their knowledge that my stay there was totally unjustified, but that they were only following their superiors’ orders.

Once my demands were known, the Head of the Criminal Prosecution Unit, informed me in an interview that he can only agree to bring me a Legal Physician to certify the bodily injuries that I presented, but he would keep the Certificate that the expert would issue, meaning that he was not going to deliver it to me, and that there was no other guarantee he could offer me since: “I WOULD NOT HAVE ANY RIGHTS FOR AS LONG AS I AM ON A HUNGER STRIKE, FURTHERMORE, IF SOMETHING HAPPENED TO ME, I WOULD BE THE ONLY ONE RESPONSIBLE; THEREFORE, I WAS TO REMAIN IN SOLIDARITY CONFINEMENT AND WITHOUT RIGHTS FOR AS LONG AS I KEEP MYSELF IN VOLUNTARY INANITION, WHICH WHAT THEY CALLED THE POSITION I HAD ASSUMED.”

On October 31, I cannot specify what time it was, they took me to one of the interrogation rooms, and finally: “What I assumed from the first day appeared, that was the engine that was moving all the threads for my detention, permanence and status there.”

The Department of State Security showed up in the person of one who called himself First Lieutenant Daryl, a decent individual, very temperate and interested in my demand, but with the double intention clearly visible, to tell me that I could be convinced that he was there on behalf of the prosecutor that I was demanding so insistently. That the complaints for which I was being prosecuted were already in court, and that he had the ability to have access to them and destroy them, as well as the power to solve the situation of my brother and the rest of my relatives.

After about an hour or more, of fruitless discussion, the conversation ended up in these two points, by the Department of State Security:

a)  I would immediately suspend the Hunger Strike and commit myself that once released, I would not make any new complaints against the National Police;

b)  The Department of State Security promised to immediately release my relatives and impose administrative fines (they did not define amounts).

On November 1, 2018, in the afternoon, I was taken to one of the interrogation rooms where the Chief Prosecutor of Criminal Proceedings of the Province of Cienfuegos awaited. He confirmed to me that my brother had only been detained for 48 hours, and the rest of my relatives had not been arrested. My IMMEDIATE FREEDOM was decided, and this official is the one who assured me that my official detention had started at 09:50 hours on October 26, and not from 06:55 when it actually happened.

To get an idea: I am 1.85 m (6’ 1″) tall. At the time of my arrest, I was in perfect physical and mental shape. I entered the police criminal detention and prosecution system, with 115.0 kilograms (253 pounds) in weight. I only suffer from high blood pressure (controlled), Bronchial Asthma and Chronic Allergy. When my IMMEDIATE FREEDOM was decreed, after only SEVEN DAYS, according to the daily weighing and the vital parameters measured by the Ministry of the Interior (MININT, for its acronym in english) Medical Service experts, I barely reached 104.0 kilograms (229 pounds).

I left that place suffering from a strong flu, provoked by the conditions of permanent humidity inside the cell in which I was held, which is why I am now under antibiotics treatment. I am suffering from sleep disturbances, as well as severe abdominal pain, and persistent dizziness. From these, I am still recovering today.

To be continued…

End of Part I

 Translated by: Francy Perez Perdomo

Removing Life Support from a Comatose Patient / Somos+, German M. Gonzalez

New measures of the U.S. government will cut off the oxygen to a ruined economy, which so far has not imploded but has not yet taken off either. How bad will things get?

Somos+, Germán M. González, 26 April 2019 — When Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election, the Cuban government and Communist Party assumed a disinterested attitude. At first, official propaganda outlets gave the event little attention and toned down their routine attacks on American leaders. That attitude persisted until some time after the presidential inauguration, when the growing closeness between the business-magnate-turned-president and Cuban-American politicians had become more apparent.

Initially, the new administration did not take harsher measures. It even maintained the policies of the previous administration in regards to matters of real interest to Havana: remittances, family visits and business trips by Cubans and Cuban-Americans to and from Cuba. But the power struggle in Venezuela was becoming ever more acute and Russia’s presence in the country was becoming increasingly obvious.

The Russian presence ran the gamut, from its highly publicized military presence to the much less publicized Russian appropriation of Venezuelan assets in an effort to secure loans and investments. It is worth remembering that these assets include, or may include, CITGO, a subsidiary of PDSVA (Venezuela’s state-owned oil and gas company), which owns an extensive number of properties and accounts for up to 10% of all the gasoline sold at U.S. service stations. continue reading

In other words, the Russian intrusion was not limited just to the proverbial “backyard.” It extended to the house itself, an unprecedented development, which made the Americans apprehensive. The situation began during the presidency of Barack Obama, who declared Venezuela a threat to national security, increasing the level of hostility. Nevertheless, we do not know why Cuba was not, until recently, part of the team of old hawks, known Latin American “specialists,” currently ruling Venezuela.

Recently, the U.S. canceled the agreement signed by the Major Leagues and the Cuban Baseball Federation (which would have been paid as the players’ agent), arguing that it was a Cuban government entity. Freighters owned by PDVSA and several international companies that transport oil from Venezuela were also sanctioned, striking at something of vital interest to the Cuban regime. The action involves freezing PDSVA assets under American jurisdiction, preventing financial transactions and blocking the company’s access to US ports.

It was during lunch with Secretary of State John Bolton on the 58th anniversary of their defeat during the Bay of Pigs invasion on April 17, 1961 that members of Brigade 2506 learned that the White House was applying new or toughened sanctions on Cuba, something that the State Department was putting into place that same morning. These include but are not limited to Title III and Title IV of the Helms-Burton Act, which allow individuals to file suit in American courts against companies that operate on property confiscated by the Cuban government. Enforcement has been waived every six months for the last twenty-three years.

The first cases were filed by Cuban-Americans on May 1. Potential plaintiffs vary from giant companies like Bacardi — it has annual receipts of 33 billion dollars, three times the value of all Cuban exports — to individuals whose small homes, cars, household appliances and personal effects were confiscated under Che Guevara’s philosophy that even toothbrush constituted private property.

The European Union and Canada have announced countermeasures to defend their interests. They involve various entities which manage the hard currency income generated by joint venture projects — tourism, airports, the port of Mariel, mining operations — between Cuba and its creditor nations. The projects are part of a “debt swap,” intended repay the enormous sums of money Cub borrowed from those countries.

It is an interesting development given that the Europeans, and especially Canada, have been accompanying Trump & Co. on his crusade against the Maduro regime and, like the Americans, are worried about Russia’s involvement in the western hemisphere. Title IV also allows individuals and their family members to be sued, a highly sensitive issue for businesspeople involved in global trade, especially if that trade is with the world’s most powerful economy.

Restrictions on travel and remittances. In 2018 some 658,000 Americans and 521,000 Cuban Americans visited Cuba, an increase of over 20% for both groups. According to the Havana Consulting Group, annual remittances in the form of cash and merchandise totalled 6.5 billion dollars. It is the country’s second largest source of hard currency after income from the labor force. The measure will limit the flow of travelers and remittances (one thousand dollars per quarter) and will hinder cruise operations associated with the use of confiscated properties.

Expanding the list of restricted Cuban companies. Currently there are more than 200 Cuban entities subject to economic sanctions by the United States. The list was created in November 2017 and expanded last March. Six more entities have since been added, among them Aerogaviota. The ruling prohibits financial transactions between U.S. citizens and firms with those business entities run by the Revolutionary Armed Forces and the Ministry of the Interior.

Cuba’s return to the list of state sponsors of terrorism. This measure and several others have yet to be adopted. But expectations are that, the next time the Department of State sends the new list to Congress, Cuba will added to it. International financial transactions by countries on the list are subject to extreme scrutiny. Individuals, companies and countries which engage in commercial transactions can also be penalized. The measure also means the chances are greater that the processing of visas will take longer and that state universities in Florida will have to cancel exchange programs with Cuban academies as well as student trips to the island.

This decision by the Trump administration is based on the presence of Cuban military and intelligence personnel in Venezuela, who are there to support the Maduro regime. The Cuban elite also has deep ties to organizations like the FARC and ELN in Colombia. Havana has close relations with Iran, North Korea and Syria, countries designated as sponsors of terrorism by the U.S. Department of State.

Cuba itself was on the terrorism list from 1982 until 2015, when it was removed by President Obama upon the restoration of diplomatic relations. In addition to Cuba, sanctions were placed the Central Bank of Venezuela, a Nicaraguan bank, and on a son of Daniel Ortega.

Conclusion. Based on news reports, there are clear indications that the second Special Period (one wonders why it is called this since we have been in this period, more or less, for the last sixty years) has arrived. The consequences and possible scenarios merit a separate discussion but, if anything is becoming clear with each passing day, it is the need to democratize the country and restore full rights. These include civil, political and economic rights for all Cubans, no matter where they live. If the party and government do not take action in this direction, it is sacrificing its own existence and our own national identity to the interests of caste and a political-economic system that has never worked.

May 1, Exaggerations and Contradictions / Somos+, German Gonzalez

Somos+, Germán M. González, 2 May 2019 — In its broadcast on May 1, 2019, NTV reported that six million Cubans attended the parade celebrating International Workers’ Day. This is impossible given it would amount to more than fifty percent of the island’s population, or a much higher proportion if you discount the sick, disabled, elderly, working people, security personnel, small children, those living abroad, etc. In that case the figure would approach close to 80% or more of possible attendees.

In Cuba we are used to seeing these types of large-scale events and, compared to what has been observed on many previous occasions in Havana, no more than 200,000 to 250,000 thousand people could have attended the parade.

To reach NTV’s reported figure, 1.2 million people, or 50% of the city’s total population, would have been needed, which obviously was not the case. The same scenario would have had to play out in the provinces. continue reading

Personal observation, however, contradicts this. In the town where this writer lives, a town with 49,000 residents, no more than a thousand people showed up. One can then deduce that, in all of Cuba, probably less than a million people, or about 10% of the population, participated. And that is being generous.

Other contradictions are no less obvious. NTV broadcasts images of the celebration from countries where the rights of workers, including salary levels, are seriously compromised. Millions of people emigrate from Cuba, Venezuela and North Korea annually, as confirmed by the United Nation’s Human Development Program in its Index of Human Development. These are countries with repressive regimes, where workers, along with the rest of their populations, do not enjoy most universally recognized rights.

Knowing the reality of Cuba, we could ask ourselves: What are they celebrating? In countries which accept migrants such as France, Spain, Germany and the United States, people march in the streets for various reasons. It is worth asking ourselves, Do those who are better off protest because they can do so, because it is a right they enjoy and exercise?

Conversely, do we celebrate publicly because the right to protest is restricted or denied? The countries who protests NTV reports also happen to be in the top ranks of the aforementioned index and are countries where the rule of law is fully respected.

Most likely, participation rates at public events in countries where attendance is mandatory for state-employed workers and students — population segments which are subject to obvious pressures — are exaggerated. In Cuba a black mark from the union or the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution for not attending a rally may jeopardize a spot at a university or workplace, threaten a job promotion or, even worse, a trip abroad due to an unexcused absence.

It is also obvious that there is exaggeration about the magnitude of protests in places where this right is exercised. In these places the only motivation people have to attend is to protest since the rest of their rights — a living wage and other labor benefits — are taken for granted, seen as something normal and come with no strings attached.

There is no need to participate in a parade except for pleasure. A seeming contradicion is the presence of many immigrants at these protests, something they would not dare to do in their countries of origin — generally dictatorships — because of the associated dangers. But they can do so in their host countries, which are generally democracies.

Unfortunately, very few Cubans, conditioned from early childhood by decades of indoctrination and propaganda from official news outlets, which are the only kind we have, have not asked these questions. Until now.

Do We Want to Be Like Che? / Somos+

Don’t idolize a dead ASSASIN

Somos+, Susana Acosta Diaz, 12 March 2019  —  To be born and grow up in a country that is dreaming, a country that is asleep and seems not to want to wake up. A dream country that lives in a constant nightmare. An island that looks out to sea, to the infinite, because it does not find answers in its fields covered by the invasive marabou weeds but in the promised future ninety miles away.

To be Cuban is to know what it is to go to school with a glass of milk (in powdered form) for breakfast. To get up early for the “morning assembly” in order to shout out, “We will be like Che!” To be a selfless pioneer who battles the “enemy” from the school’s assembly room. To not think. To repeat, always repeat to the point of exhaustion, the same worn-out slogans. continue reading

But I was and am very obstinate (as well as sleepy). I asked my second mother, the one who gave me life, “Do children in Germany also sing the anthem (or anthems) every morning?”

My father explained to her what I meant and she laughed, she laughed a lot, and told me, “No, children in Germany go to school to study, not to recite anthems. Schools are for learning, not for memorizing slogans.”

It turns out that in Germany they don’t have morning rallies, and children learn the national anthem is for soccer games, not something to be forced on them at school. It turns out that in the country of the Nazis there is no cult of personality. No child who wants to be like Müller, Schneider, Fischer or Merkel… or like those whom one might call “martyrs” or “heroes of the fatherland.”

But we had to be “revolutionary” students, with no options, or else. We had to write glowing reports when the subject was Fidel and the Revolution. We had to go to political demonstrations, to meetings where we discussed new legal statutes or “revolutionary initiatives.” And as I heard countless times, “Here we educate revolutionary students who, first and foremost, will defend Fidel, Raul and socialism.”

Yes, in Cuba we were indoctrinated to be communists, to be submissive to a party unwilling to change and which acted against the interests of its people. We were indoctrinated to support a dictatorship that regulates and misrules freely, that constantly violates basic human rights.

I never understood why my mother used to tell our neighbor, “Girl, talk lower. Saying that out loud is going to get you into trouble.” But she was only saying what the rest of the adults in my life were whispering: the same message, the same doubts, the same needs.

Nor did I understand why my teacher, who had the same complaints as my neighbor and complained quietly about the same problems, used to scream energetically during May Day celebrations, “Viva al Revolución!”

No, I did not understand it then and do not understand it now. We are still like prisoners of a system in which freedom of thought is a crime. Worst of all, we are not doing enough to change it.

That is what we were and what they still want us to continue be: lambs who praise false gods, false leaders, false heroes.

A Better Cuba / Somos+

Somos+, Ry, 15 February 2019 — Cuba needs a rebirth that unites all workers, creativity, initiative, respect, and love to transform the things for which the Cuban people suffer.

Sociologists, street sweepers, artists, economists, carpenters, religious leaders, doctors, humans; together Cubans, all who are found sensible, connected with this island, wherever you are.

Let’s unite around creating proposals for sustainable social, economic, cultural, and political success; we need an “evolution of consciousness.”

We do not need a Communist system or a capitalist system, we need a Revolucionary Realist system.

Translated by: Emilee Sullivan 

Reprogramming for Change / Somos+

People don’t know the power they have.

Somos+, from a special friend and collaborator from Germany.

A friend was telling me recently (commenting on the recent events in Venezuela and the consequences that this change could bring for Cuba) that “the Cuban people don’t have the necessary courage to rise up against the dictatorship.”

These two countries, although they have gone through many similar things and the dictators have practiced the same style of government, through repression and fear, have completely different contexts. In my opinion the Cuban people have plenty of courage, what’s lacking is the information to change all the concepts they have instilled in us since we were born. continue reading

Cuba has lived 60 years with the same rulers — that’s three generations — on whom they have changed the chip and they keep injecting one single idea, one single source of information.

Information that tells you: This idea is the best in the world, look how the other countries are, even though we are blockaded we have education and healthcare, if you go out to protest we will take you prisoner, because the only ones who don’t agree with this system are mercenaries, who are paid to destroy us, they are enemies.

The Cuban has always been in check and on the front line. Before it was necessary to prepare oneself for the defense of the country because the yankees would come, then they had to create an army of computer specialists to win the media war, now the danger is the mercenaries paid by the empire.

We cannot let them take away the little that we have gained, our achievements have to be defended, first by José Martí, then by Fidel, after it will be by Raul… All those concepts have stuck in the mind of the Cuban and it is difficult to debate on any subject without some repeated slogan coming out, stripped of common sense.

Information has to arrive right now to our families in Cuba, we have to reprogram the chip, because otherwise we will not manage to change our country.

Now let us imagine the scene of my aunt Josefa, who only has access to the news and novelas from el Paquete [the Weekly Packet]. This aunt of mine was born two months after the triumph of the Revolution, she saw how her father (my grandfather) went to the hills to teach the poor illiterate peasants how to read and write.

Josefa watched the many relatives who emigrated in the ’80s leave and not come back, because “they didn’t want to live in a just system, they were gusanos (worms).” That aunt who lost her husband in Angola, and was never given details of how her companion and father of her only son perished, but she know that “he was a hero because he went to free the African people.”

That aunt, a teacher by vocation, went to Venezuela to support the novel education plan “Yes I can,” leaving behind her only son and serving that government “that gives us everything: free healthcare, free education, a basic basket that resolves [the problem of food], a salary that isn’t enough but, how can you ask for more from a blockaded country?”

Now my aunt lives alone, at almost 60, with an emigrated son, who works honorably to support his new family and his mother in Cuba.

In one of my last visits to Cuba I was speaking with this aunt of how important would be the people’s call to change the government, in order to have a better life, for her and for young people, those who have to go abroad in search of their dreams.

Only questions existed in the head of my aunt, questions like: how to fight against something that is good, just, and positive? How to take initiative to demand my rights, if I already have them? More rights don’t exist, I don’t know about them. Let us remember that the world is an unjust and difficult place where the rich, those heartless people, are those who dictate how to live and take advantage of poor people like my aunt.

How to tell my aunt that nobody pays me to say what I think? How to explain to her that the United States doesn’t want to make war with Cuba? How to explain to her that the people of Cuba are neither more nor less capable than the people of the country where I live, where there are independent unions that fight for better salaries for the workers they represent? How to explain to my aunt that rulers are there to represent the interests of a people and not the other way around?

How can you explain so many things and reprogram an almost 60-year-old chip? Just so, explaining it, speaking without raising one’s voice, without insults, with respect for a life full of sacrifices and losses, a life without hopes and full of conformity, but a life, a life that is worth living until the end with dignity.

For my aunt Josefa, and for many thousands, millions of Cubans like my aunt, it’s worthwhile arming ourselves with patience and “teaching to read and write” once again, our people. It’s time to leave apathy behind and give our little grain of sand, not for Marti, not for Fidel, but for ourselves, for our personal freedom.

It’s not true that from outside Cuba we cannot do anything, we can do a lot. Cubans abroad, we have to be like my grandfather who went to the hills to give what he knew to those who didn’t have it, not only because it is just, or correct, but because we owe it to that entire generation that fought so hard for their children to be something in life, that generation who since the ’60s was indoctrinated in a utopian system that doesn’t work.

That generation used for so many marches, the one that was given a bait and switch and made to believe that they came out the winner. Let us do it for our grandparents who perhaps died without seeing that better world, for our parents who live with disappointments and without hopes. Let us do it for our children and for the generation to come, so that they feel proud of their parents like my aunt Josefa once felt proud of her father. Let us instruct our Cuba and return to it that courage and strength that they have had stored in their chips for 60 years already.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

When A People Unites, No Dictatorship Can Prevail / Somos+

Making the sign of “L” for “Libertad,” Cubans abroad demonstrating for the right to vote in the Constitutional Referendum scheduled for 24 February.

Somos+, Richard Shirrman, 27 January 2019 — This January 26 we watched as thousands of Cuban citizens and lovers of liberty and democracy came together with one voice demanding our rights, it was more than one march or protest against that dictatorship that robs us all alike of our liberty, that subjugates, and that represses our people and dissidents who protest peacefully. It was a unanimous cry of NO!! Of Enough already! Not one year more!

All those of us who do not forget our country, we feel proud of each Cuban who raised his voice. It set a standard in the fight for the freedom of Cuba, and it said to the ruling regime on our Island what we Cubans have carried guarded in our hearts for 60 years. This 26th of January history was made, we managed to gather thousands of Cubans in the world and it was shown that united, we can do anything. continue reading

But this doesn’t end here! We will keep working with all our brothers and sisters who want with all their hearts to see our Mother Country free and prosperous, this rebellion is the beginning of the path to follow, because when a people lets itself be defeated by tyrants, any dream and longing for liberty will perish, let us not allow ourselves to be intimidated by lack of faith in ourselves and by external agitators, it’s necessary that every Cuban who loves his Mother fight for the liberty, democracy, and prosperity of our nation.

That is why we ask for the union and cooperation of all for the good of all and to fight until the end of the dictatorship that robs us of our most elemental rights and the peaceful coexistence between our different ideologies, creeds, and positions on life.

The enemy is only one, my friends, it is that criminal and murderous regime that has killed our dreams, our future, and our human dignity. There are never words to persuade when one is fighting for a just and true cause. Let us all unite as children of the same mother! Because if we don’t do it, the dictators and politicians will do whatever they feel like with us.

Cubans, brothers and sisters, José Martí fought in exile for many years until achieving the objective that was always the light in his thoughts, an inheritance that leaves us the path toward liberty, that thought and path that the murderers and vile, ambitious men of power have covered up so that we do not see it, and have placed stones in our path so that today the people of Cuba lives without decency and human dignity.

And today on the eve of the birthday of our greatest Cuban of all time, I dedicate to all those Cubans who protested against the vile and cruel dictatorship that has oppressed us for more than 60 years. And quoting José Martí:

…Thus we want the children of America to be: men who say what they think, and say it well; eloquent and sincere men.

…A man who hides what he thinks, or doesn’t dare to say what he thinks, is not an honorable man. A man who obeys a bad government, without working for the government to be good, is not an honorable man. A man who complies with unjust laws, and permits men who mistreat the country where he was born to tread its soil, is not an honorable man.

…There are men who live content although they live without decency. There are others who suffer as in agony when they see that men live without decency around them. In the world it is necessary to have a certain quantity of decency, as one must have a certain quantity of light. When there are many men without decency, there are always others who have within themselves the decency of many men. Those are the ones who rise up with terrible force against those who rob the people of their liberty, which is to rob men of their decency. In those men go thousands of men, goes an entire people, goes human dignity. Those men are sacred.

Long live free Cuba!

José Julián Martí y Pérez

National Hero of the Republic of Cuba

God, Homeland, and Liberty!

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

The March of the Prohibited: #I Vote No / Somos+

List of March Coordinators, by Country

The March of the Prohibited

Somos+, 17 January 2019: This coming February 26th will be transcendental for all Cubans abroad, who will answer the call to responding NO to the unacceptable proposal of the constitutional reform that the Cuban government has launched.

Cubans from all over the world will demonstrate against this constitutional project that enslaves Cuba to a single party (the Cuban Communist Party, PCC), and therefore to a communist dictatorship, for life.

Somos+ summons all Cubans who want to support this initiative to join the protests. Contact the coordinator of your country and inform yourself of the exact time and location of the march.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

Believing is Easier than Thinking / Somos+

Somos+, Jorge Pantoja, 3 December 2018 — Upon hearing and studying the history of Cuba, as told by the victors of the so-called Cuban Revolution, there are many points of total incoherence that we, without being experts, can ask ourselves. Did it really happen like that?

Wherever there exist doubt, there is a very high possibility that history was changed to favor of the victors, generally those most disadvantaged until the moment just prior to reaching their objective.

I ask myself, how is it possible that such a ruthless tyranny as Batista’s would give an opportunity to its main opponent, Fidel Castro, to have a fair trial, defend himself and win the court’s ruling, this being perhaps the determining factor of the future as Castro himself removed from the constitution of the republic the right of a Cuban to defend himself in front of a court by his own means. continue reading

Instead guaranteeing with the great lie of judicial security representation by a professional who only responds to the interests of the government because it is his employer; lawyers in Cuba are present only because they have to be there and not because they can perform their work with dignity.

Just the mention of the physical disappearance of Camilo Cienfuegos my stomach churns; Cuba needed one last hero to complete the process and this man was Castro’s sacrificial lamb.

It is very easy to deceive a people when only one voice is heard and others that arise are silenced. What a coincidence that very few survived the year 1959 but the commander-in-chief suffered not even a scratch.

Democracy in Cuba was in good shape but it was well screwed up in the first minute of the Revolution, with those massacres of supposed traitors, that holocaust of silencing competing ideas because we already had the great thinker-in-Chief , I regret how my people let themselves be deceived in this cheap and vile way.

Another murky point in the history of Cuba is that after the Granma there were very few revolutionary’s left, and yet, they were always nearby to defend a peasant family that was under assault by the rural guard throughout the Sierra Maestra.

The great power of the revolutionary government was centered around the survivors of the landing of the Granma, little by little they got rid of those who were not on that boat until creating that closed circle of individuals overrated in heroism. I would say that it was cynicism more than anything and a well thought out plan.

I don’t know about everybody else, but for me, it has become easier for Cubans to BELIEVE THAN TO THINK.

 Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

I Am Voting No / Somos+, German Gonzalez Rodriguez

Somos+, Germán González Rodríguez, 5 January 2019 — Compatriots:

If you do not want your family or partner to have to migrate for personal and professional fulfillment.

If you do not want to have to leave your country and your family to fulfill yourself personally and professionally.

If you are a worker and want a decent salary that allows you to live honestly.

If you are retired and you want a pension that allows you to live with dignity.

If you are a Cuban emigrant and the discriminatory and excluding Foreign Investment Law prevents you from legally investing in your native country.

If you have family or friends who have emigrated and the discriminatory and excluding Foreign Investment Law prevents them from investing in their native country honestly.

If you want to enjoy universally recognized rights in your Homeland.

If you are an emigrant and you want to enjoy the universally recognized rights in your native country.

If you want to start and develop your own business without bureaucracy and persecution.

If you want to stop being a discriminated against in your own country, exploited by foreigners who predominate over Cubans.

If you are convinced that to achieve all the above the first thing is to enjoy freedom of information, opinion, the means to express it and be able to choose your rulers:

The reasons are overwhelming FOR NO on the Constitutional Referendum

I am voting NO, on that fraud they are putting before us.

Housing In Cuba / Somos+, German Gonzalez

Somos+, Germán M. González, 11 November 2018

Absolute power equals absolute responsibility: the socio-economic situation of the country is disastrous, party & government admits it: Who will answer for that?

In the final days of this October, several references to the subject of housing appeared in the official Cuban media. Published first is that Pinar del Rio lacks more than ten thousand homes in order to fully recover from “prior hurricanes,” we are talking at a minimum of at least 10 years, and later, in the public version of a meeting of the council of ministers the “president” announced the proposal of building homes at a rate of 50 thousand per year. Let’s look at some background.

The universal right to decent and adequate housing is reflected in international and multilateral documents and agreements, as well as in the legislation of many countries, including national constitutions. Recognized in this manner, the human right to adequate housing — and its environment – is of fundamental importance for the enjoyment of all economic, social and cultural rights. Let’s look at the current situation in Cuba according to official sources.

The official newspaper Granma (January 25, 2018) reports that 47% of homes are inadequate, only exceeded in Latin America by Brazil (64%) and far higher than Argentina (22%) and Chile (23%). In addition, in the latter two countries, due to their climate, considering a home adequate implies many more requirements than in our sub-tropical archipelago. continue reading

The pace of construction has declined in the last twelve years, from more than 111,000 units in 2006 to fewer than 22,000 in 2017 (denying the claimed efficiency of the raulista term of office) according to the Cuban Statistical Yearbook (AEC), the smallest amount since statistics became available. Graphic view:

In its June 1st edition, Granma offers chilling data:

Housing pending solution: Grand Total/Total Collapses — Hurricanes prior to Sandy (2012): 42,000/25,000; Hurricane Sandy (2012): 36,000/14,000; Hurricane Matthew (2016): 8,000/7,000; Hurricane Irma (2017): 115,000/15,000.

In total, there are 201,000 homes affected; of those 61,000 were total collapses; 42,000 and 25,000, respectively, occurred before 2012.

In summary, if the pace expected by Díaz-Canel is reached, it would take four years to replace the homes affected by hurricanes and then ten years to repair the “not adequate” ones, plus an indeterminate period for impacts from new hurricanes and the currently adequate homes that, due to the passage of time and the poor quality of construction of the last 60 years, will inevitably deteriorate.

Add to this that the projected Diaz-Canelian pace is 2-1/2 times greater than what was achieved in the last five years as an annual average, plus the aforementioned unpredictable destructions and deteriorations, and the hopes of decent housing for most Cubans is more than remote.

A problem without a solution? For sure, under the current mandate of the “five” and their dogmas that are only effective for maintaining power.

The liberalization of the economy, the creation of a real estate market with modern credit system included, and above all the restitution to millions of Cuban diaspora members of their civil, political and economic rights with the consequent financial injection would surely give better results — in this and any other socioeconomic spheres — than the diffuse Díaz-Canelian dreams, which are nothing more than a badly copied version of the thousands of similar promises made by the Castro brothers… and look where we are after sixty years of listening to them.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

The ‘Chicken’ of ‘Rice with Chicken’ / Somos+

Somos+, Germain Gonzalez, 13 October, 2018 — There’s a certain surprise in digital media over the active participation of the Cuban population in the “debates” about the project of the constitution. The surprise is valid because in reality the “revolutionary” enthusiasm is minimal. The “electoral” processes as well as in the status reports from the delegates, the meetings of the organizations of the masses in the neighborhoods, workplaces and schools can be characterized by their formal structure. The population attends and completes this necessary process for the inspections carried out in their vicinity in order to get a job, scholarship, promotion, trip abroad, etc. The religious services of all creeds usually show greater attendance and happiness among the parishioners.

What’s certain is that Cubans, even with the extremely limited amount of information offered by the media, which is also scarce, biased, incomplete, and generally untruthful, feel anxious since something could improve or worsen. Like Pánfilo, the popular television character, who searched fruitlessly in the tabloid of project information for the quota of chicken or other rationed foods. continue reading

What’s certain is that the assemblies and their “debates,” just like the elections turn out “bread with nothing.” The uncomfortable explanations — of having something — stop right there, the media spreads only the favorable ones, and the chicken [i.e. not chicken but a substitute] of ’rice with chicken’ isn’t even mentioned: the “superior guiding power of society and the State” party, article five that takes away all validity from the rest of the monstrosity, if it had any.

Therefore the discussion of the rest of the article ends up an intellectual exercise. The referendum having taken place, and the final version of the thingamajig approved, in the first meeting of the political executive committee that presides over it throws out an idea, it’s approved — unanimously — the formal party processes are carried out (secretariat, full central committee), it’s presented to the National Assembly of Peoples Power (ordinary or extraordinary session according to the urgency), and this most docile parliament in universal history will approve the changes to the recently debuted constitution — unanimously — or simply as today they will do whatever is a good idea, taking notice of this.

Does anyone doubt it? Here goes an example:

On September 10, 1993, the political executive committee agrees on the creation of the Basic Units of Cooperative Production (UBPC) from the state-owned agricultural entities affected by gigantism, inefficiency, not economically and environmentally sustainable in the new situation created by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the European socialist camp the loss of the subsidies they gave to Cuba.

Ten days later Decree 143 is issued by the Council of State; in the next session of the assembly the Decree is approved, without questions and unanimously.

Regardless of being a terrible law, full of contradictions and incongruencies, it made available assets of billions of pesos, including 1.7 million hectares of agricultural land, hundreds of thousands of workers, and many millions of pesos of production, starting from the unappealable decision of an organ of power whose members have no practical nor theoretical experience in agricultural administration. Result: the cooperatives created are not profitible for the most part and agricultural production in clear retreat.

This example is not an isolated fact, the deterioration of the socioeconomic situation of the country is related to the system that gives ones man, or at most a small team, absolute powers for life, fulfilling the José Martí’s premonition:

Any wide and long-exercised power degenerates into caste. With caste comes interests, high positions, the fear of losing them, intrigues to hold on to them. The castes interweave, and they act tough to each other. (O.C. t9, p 340)

For example, the cooperative is master of production but had to sell it to the Company that the State designated at fixed prices, so for this reason, is it or is it not the master? The necessary supplies are received in the same manner, the rules for their functioning are so bureaucratic that there is almost no difference from a state entity, in short, all of the principles of cooperativism are violated.

Among the elders is the defenestration of the sugar industry; the “battle of ideas” with the creation of a super ministry, in the practical fount of corruption and waste of resources; martial decisions of great magnitude even for a power with interference in the internal affairs of other states or in conflicts between sovereign nations, etc.

In the brief historical existence of “real socialism” similar catastrophic actions abound: the forced collectivization of Stalin, the great “leap forward” of Mao are examples of absurd decisions that caused millions of death by hunger.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey