Eliecer Avila is Received in Buenos Aires by National Deputy, Cornelia Schmidt-Liermann / Somos+

Processed with Rookie Cam

Somos+, 31 July 2015 — The engineer Eliecer Avila, president of the Movement Somos+, was received in Buenos Aires by the National Deputy Cornelia Schmidt-Liermann, member of the Union PRO party and president of Parladem (Parliamentarians for Democracy).

After a cordial conversation about the Cuban reality and Argentina, the deputy was interested in knowing whether the negotiations between the governments of Cuba and the United States had brought a significant change to the lives of Cubans inside the island. She also expressed her unconditional support to the Cubans who fight for the establishment of a rule of law in the country, which guarantees the full exercise of political participation as well as economic liberties, the only guarantee to achieve real development. continue reading

For his part, Eliecer thanked the gesture of courage and commitment of brave politicians who are capable of expressing their views about the Cuban government, openly and without fear of being labeled as “rightist”.

Subsequently, Cornelia invited the young Cuban politician for a tour of the Argentinian Rural Exposition 2015. The most important event of its kind in the South American country. Together, they toured the areas where hundreds of pigs, poultry and heads of cattle were displayed, showing the genetic livestock potential that farmers of the area have developed.

Cornelia explained how certain laws imposed under the current government hinder several processes regarding import and export activities. However she acknowledged that the agricultural and agro-industrial sphere remain successful and with high development perspectives for the country, thanks to the hard work of many dedicated households engaged in the field work, which is rewarded every year with an event such as the rural exhibition, showing to Argentina and the world the potential for further growth with the application of advanced and more sustainable and environmentally friendly technology.

Finally the deputy sent a message to Cuban youth. Meanwhile, Eliecer welcomed the invitation and said goodbye, pointing to a leg of beef that was being offered by the local cuisine: “If we get things right, we Cubans won’t need to leave the country to try something so tasty”.

From John Paul II to Francis: Opening and Reconciliation, the Path Towards Change (I) / Somos+, Carlos Hernandez

Somos+, 6 August 2015 — On January 21st, 1998 the Holy Father John Paul II arrived in Cuba. From the grounds of the International Airport Jose Marti and, in front of the expectant eyes of millions around the planet and, especially within Cuba, he said:

“Beloved sons of the Cuban Catholic Church: I well know how long have you waited for the moment of my visit, and you know well how much have I wanted it. That’s why I join with my prayers my best wishes that this land may offer to everyone a climate of freedom, mutual trust, social justice and lasting peace. Let Cuba open itself with all its magnificent potential to the world and the let the world open itself to Cuba, so that this people, as any other man and nation, who seeks for the truth, works to move forward, longs for concord and peace, may look to the future with hope.” continue reading

This phrase can be framed in the beginning of the path of dialogue that the Catholic Church has walked along with the Cuban people, many times in silence or silenced, exalted by some, slandered and reviled by others.The truth is that we have walked toward the dialogue and the beginning of changes which have undoubtedly brought benefits to many people inside and outside the Catholic Christian community.

The first visible fruits of that visit were the huge Masses attended by hundreds of thousands of Cubans gathered for the first time in nearly 40 years to hear a message and a totally different picture, not at all related to marathon speeches and rallies filled with ideological slogans, which people “voluntarily” used to attend. Hundreds of prisoners, including political prisoners were released, and it was also officially to celebrate Christmas as a holiday in the official and working calendar.

The Catholic Church since then has had an increased access to the authorities of the communist government, and greater freedom for the people to worship and better spaces for the Church concerning its mission were also allowed. The seed had been planted. The call for openness, dialogue, respect for the duty and the right of all Cubans to participate in the political scene of the nation were expressed in almost all the homilies and speeches of the Holy Father and, in a convincing way, by the Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba.

John Paul II came to Cuba as a “Messenger of Truth and Hope.” A truth that comes not from the statutes of any political party and a hope that does not emanate from the struggles between social classes. Cuba could hear in those days a message of love, peace and reconciliation. That was the beginning of a journey, today we keep walking in prayer and awaiting for another Pope: Francis. Cuba has begun to open up to the world “with all its magnificent potential.”

While we wait for Pope Francis, we also make our best vows “that this land may offer to everyone a climate of freedom, mutual trust, social justice and lasting peace.”

The Movement Somos+ continues its peaceful fight, creating awareness so that our people, sooner rather than later, may have a nation where all Cubans can live in harmony, freedom and access to all rights and duties we possess by nature and law as Cuban citizens. In a republic where, as Martí wished, “may the first law be the cult to the full dignity of man”.

What Can Journalists Do For Cuba? / Somos+, Kaned Garrido

Somos+, 20 July 2015 — In 2014 the organization Reporters Without Borders released a list of “100 Heroes of Information.” They are journalists from 65 nations who have denounced crimes against humanity. From 25 to 75 years of age, they report from the most solid democracies to the most authoritarian regimes. They are brave men and women who have suffered gunfire, bombs, and torture in order to show the truth to the world.

Even countries where freedom of expression is respected have produced heroes. Journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras displayed to American and British citizens the surveillance methods used by their intelligence services. continue reading

Others like Dawit Isaac bore the brunt of the most authoritarian countries in the world. The African journalist has spent over 13 years in the prisons of the dictator Isaias Afeworki in Eritrea, a nation near the Horn of Africa. In 2014 the country ranked last in the World Ranking of Freedom of the Press.

These journalists confront governments as well as the mafias. Many of them have revealed the activities of organized crime in Sicily, Chechnya, Bulgaria, Vietnam, and Malaysia. Those who want to know their names and their stories can read them on the website of Reporters Without Borders. a??

There are also Cubans on this list. They are Angel Santiesteban Prats, punished for his criticism by imprisonment, and Yoani Sánchez for covering social and economic problems in Cuba.

Today we have much independent Cuban media. Thanks to them, we learn the small and concealed news stories, what goes on in every corner of the island. From them we learned of the death of a 14-year-old in a building collapse in central Havana. Media like ICLEP and DiariodeCuba.com delivered us this news on August 27, 2014. And reminded us that the poor condition of the buildings is not just a problem of comfort, but a constant danger to human lives.

Yusnaby Perez’s blog, with a modern and entertaining style, also gives us an incredible x-ray view of life on the streets. This is journalism, the weapon against impotence, against what upsets us. But it also has its critics. David Randall, a journalist with twenty years of experience as an editor and publisher in Europe and Africa says:

“Undoubtedly the history of journalism abounds with sloppy work and bad intentions, but it includes a long series of examples that prove how the great successes of the profession are even more abundant, and are a source of pride.”

These shortcomings that often capture journalism are also the result of what we ask or fail to ask. The stories of Reporters Without Borders show that even democratic countries can have challenges to free expression. And that censorship in authoritarian countries can never block those who decide to seek the truth. Between repressive governments and ruthless mafias, reporters make a way to break the news.

It is not enough for the brave to do their job. We must also reach out to them. If we become citizens who seek the truth like water in the desert, censorship will not have much maneuvering room.

We must encourage good journalism. If we prefer biased news and speculations, the press will have to capitulate to the media show. The news media can only do a bad job if we settle for superficial information.

What good does it do journalists to take risks to discover the truth, showing the facts from every angle and portraying reality to the maximum, if no one is going to read it?

It has always been challenging for Cubans, both outside and inside, to find out the truth, but we also have the means. Whether by going on the internet, watching a foreign channel, or hearing by word of mouth, there are always ways to learn what is happening.

Christiane Amanpour, CNN’s chief correspondent, specially assigned to dozens of wars and conflicts, says:

“I firmly believe that we journalists, with our papers and pens, with laptops and satellite connections, cameras and television crews, can make a difference, we can help make the world a better place.”

In their book Why Nations Fail, academics James Robinson and Daron Acemoglu say the media are critical to achieving democracy and therefore economic growth. Elections can sometimes malfunction and politics can be corrupted. But whenever there is a defiant press, the vicious circle can be broken.

Translated by Tomás A.

Seventh Cuban Communist Party Conference and Electoral Reform: Continuity and Succession or Disruption / Somos+, Alberto Bruno Diaz

Somos+, Alberto Bruno Diaz, 28 July 2012 — At its Tenth Plenum, the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) agreed to hold its Seventh Congress in April 2016 and to adopt a new electoral law before the general elections of 2018, among other measures. This could mark the first intergenerational transition of power at the highest levels since the 1959 revolution. The evidence so far suggests it will be an orderly process, with the promotion of of Miguel Diaz-Canel — now the number-two man in the government —to the post of first secretary in the party, according to Agence France Press (AFP) analyst Arturo Lopez-Levy of the Center for Global Studies at the University of New York.

“The experience of recent years suggests that the top leadership in Cuba intends to hand power over to younger militant cadres within the party without constitutional amendments or concessions to opposition groups,” said Jorge Duany of Florida International University in an interview with AFP.

Analysts anticipate that the Seventh Party Congress will mark the departure of the old guard of the Politburo: the PCC’s number two man, Jose Machado Ventura, interior minister Abelardo Colome, Commander Ramiro Valdes and General Ramon Espinosa, among others. continue reading

The younger group is headed by Diaz-Canel, 54, who has been Cuba’s senior vice-president since 2013. It also includes 54-year-old Politburo member and economics minister Marino Murillo, 57-year-old foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez and 50-year-old PCC first secretary Mercedes López Acea.

The armed forces minister, 72-year-old General Leopoldo Cintra Frías, could stay on to guarantee a seemless transition.

Though there is currently no information about what will be discussed at the Seventh Party Congress, nor anything about the new electoral law, analysts do not foresee radical changes. López-Levy rejects the idea “that direct popular elections for president is on the reform agenda since it would involve a radical change to the (political) system.”

According to Cuba’s 1976 constitution, the Council of State is the body which acts on behalf of the National Assembly of People’s Power when it is not in session by executing its agreements and fulfilling other constitutional duties such as representing the Cuban state at the national and international levels. It is a collegial body in which decisions are made by simple majority vote of its members.

Some believe the fate of a Diaz-Canel presidency will in essence depend on his ability to ensure economic growth and social stability, an enormous task. I believe it will depend on continued institutionalized repression, denial of Cubans their civil rights and an expensive foreign policy marketing campaign by the government in Havana.

However, one modification is visible is on the horizon. The question is whether the new electoral law will serve as the the basis for an “updating” of the Cuban political system.

In his closing address to the First National Party Conference, army general Raúl Castro ruled out any possibility of multi-party elections in 2012.

He stated, “We will defend the one-party system against demagogic diversions and the commercialization of politics. If we make choices based on sovereignty, with the respect and support of the people, the (only) option is that of a single party.”

In February 2013  General Castro announced an upcoming change to the electoral law, noting that ” it is not healthy to be continually reformulating the nation’s constitution. However we carry out constitutional reform, we must do so within a reasonable period of time.”

It is worth remembering the current electoral law emerged from the 1992 reforms which revised portions of the 1976 constitution.

The constitution’s last article mandates that any significant change to the legislative branch, requires “ratification by an affirmative vote of the majority of citizens in accordance with electoral law through a referendum called for that purpose by the Assembly.”

There is one detail the president of Cuba did not overlook: “Some questions can be resolved by the legislature itself. Other more important ones require ratification by a favorable vote by a majority of citizens in a referendum.”

Anyone who understands the formal mechanisms of Cuban politics has known since 2013 that moving the National Assembly of People’s Power back to the semi-circular chambers of the Capitol means the number of delegates — currently at 605 — must be reduced.*

Why is a change to the electoral law in the works? Is it simply intended to reduce the size of the National Assembly so that the number of delegates does not exceed the number of seats in Havana’s National Capitol?

It is somewhat like the story of the husband** who comes home to find his wife cheating on him with his best friend in his own living room: he throws the sofa off the tenth floor balcony. It was the sofa that was to blame.

Translator’s notes:

*The Capitolio, Cuba’s national capitol building until the Cuban revolution, has been under restoration since 2013 in preparation for a planned move by the National Assembly into the building.

** “Throwing out the sofa” is a very common Cuban expression, derived from this joke. For Cubans, the expression needs no further explanation. See here, and here and here.

Let’s go to La Rampa! / 14ymedio, Eliecer Avila

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Eliecer Avila, Havana, 7 August 2015 — It’s seven in the evening and at home we’re hurrying to eat early. We decided to try to the WiFi connection on the capital’s La Rampa, a stretch of arterial which extends from the Coppelia ice cream stand to the Malecon. The preparations are the same as for going to the theater or a movie. With the difference that now we have to bring equipment bigger than a telephone, to be able to type with ease and take better advantage of the time.

Bus 174 with its new route favors us this time and before eight-thirty we’re entering the area. We are immediately struck by the number of people gathering on the sidewalks and on every corner, as we walk down the few blocks that make up what we might call the “hot stretch.”

As we brought our computers, we are impatiently looking for a little gap where we can squeeze in, but it’s impossible. Every stone, step, or piece of wall is occupied. Even the sidewalk itself is covered with people sitting and the almendrones – fixed route taxis – pass a few inches from feet with no one noticing. continue reading

The public is of all ages, although the predominance of teenagers is remarkable, in many cases a little impatient with their older family members, as they try to teach them to connect and navigate the web. Probably this nice gesture by the kids for their parents and grandparents happened in the same way all over the world 20 years ago, when mass access to the internet started, but that process started inside homes and later in public spaces, generally free.

On not finding any adequate space, we decide to try the Habana Libre Hotel, and we realize there is a little space in the outside corridor on the second floor. We hurry to sit on the floor, machines on our knees and enter the access passwords to see what happens.

Instantly, several boys ask us if we can do them the favor of allowing them to access the phone company’s portal through our PCs to recharge their accounts, because from certain types of phones it’s not easy to enter the site. We help some of them out and then go on-line ourselves.

We manage to enter and for a few minutes we experience this feeling of freedom that is the sense of a modern and civilized existence, where you feel yourself a part of something very big, infinite… It is like breathing the air of the outside world and flying through it to the point where you want to stop and contemplate the beauty and the tragedy in which we live. When we start to feel pains in our legs, aches in our backs and the irritation of the ambient noise, a half-hoarse voice wakes me up, “You can’t be here gentlemen, you have to go down to the world, let’s go.” It was one of the hotel guards, who constantly pass to “clear the area.”

With great difficulty we manage to gather ourselves, computers in hand, headphones on. With dozens of users on the stairs, we can barely see to descend to start a new search for a space. We find a ledge in front of the Ministry of Public Health and along with other internauts climb aboard again. This time our hands are moving faster because we have lost several golden minutes. We no more than alert a couple of friends to chat on Facebook when another guard comes along and repeats the same phrase. We stand up and head toward the Malecon, to see if we can find better luck.

On the way, there is no shortage of offers for access cards at three CUC, one more than the State phone company ETECSA charges, a commission that puts it in your hand at the right time and the right place, which is something ETECSA does not do. At the top of O Street, we see something inconsistent with a rational scheme and the logic of business. While the street is full of people trying to get comfortable to surf and the heat is tremendous, several State-run places that serve as restaurants and cafes with tables and chairs are completely empty. We ask other friends who have spent days in the hustle and bustle of the WiFi and they tell us they don’t allow people to connect there.

To those who have been lucky enough travel out of Cuba, this is especially shocking and uncomfortable, because we are aware of the volume of refreshments, snacks, beer and all the rest people might consume while checking their email or working on the web. In fact, the majority of the notable food establishments in any country in the world have free WiFi as a way to attract customers.

In the case of Cuba, the national food service functions more under the logic of corruption than the logic of business, because its false profitability has never depended on satisfying the customer, but rather on managing the inputs to feed a chain of interests that would merit another article.

The truth is that there is no place anywhere along La Rampa to sit decently and consume an overpriced hour of internet. Or that is, there are places, but you can’t use them. Getting up again, I see to my right a spacious plaza facing the ICRT building. I imagine it full of tables and comfortable benches, with elegant and discreet service that harmonizes with the peace necessary to make productive use of the web. But it’s just a mirage: the space is part of the park belonging to the provincial committee of the Cuban Communist Party.

As I walk I notice another important detail, which is the darkness, already chronic, of 23rd Street in general and of the stretch of it called La Rampa in particular. This condition has long been conducive to other activities that now coexist and intermix with people using the WiFi. The result is an interaction that could be the perfect opportunity for some malefactors to easily snatch from someone’s hands a phone, tablet or laptop, because usually those surfing the web are concentrating too hard on their device to take the time to perceive the danger all around them. There has already been some incident, despite the permanent police presence.

Returning to the Cuba Pavilion, home of the Hermanos Saiz Association, I draw the team together again and sit on the stairs, filling a space just abandoned by a girl who, after turning off her tablet, continued laughing on her own. What news did she get? There I finally managed to get the 30 minutes remaining to me and discover with pleasure that at certain moments even videos work, and I can also chat with several guys from Somos+, who were also waiting to see me at this time. I show them from this side of La Rampa, the people, the cars, and no end of laughing, of questions and wonder. It is like magic, we are connected and we experience it intensely until the time runs out and once again we are isolated and distant.

Despite everything, the WiFi passes the test of the first month with the joy of its existence, serving mainly as an appetizer to unleash a much greater hunger for connectivity and freedom.

Open letter from the Government of Buenos Aires to Maduro / Somos+

Somos+, 4 August 2015 — Mauricio Macri, chief of the government of Buenos Aires, wrote an open letter to Nicolas Maduro. In it he urges Maduro to support the right to think differently and to restore the guarantees to make this happen. Above all, he reminds Maduro that the thousands of people whom he has called fascists are none other than his own people, who are demanding a system that includes them.

Governments should stop labeling and inflicting physical and psychological violence against those citizens who peacefully speak out for a political alternative. This is one of the premises of Somos+ (We Are More) and we want all Cubans to soon be able to enjoy this great freedom.

Letter from the Government of Buenos Aires to Maduro

Mr. Maduro:

Obviously you and I see different things, and in different ways. For example, where you see enemies that you want to annihilate, I see angry Venezuelans demanding changes to their government. Where you see a conspiracy, I see Genesis Carmona being carried away on a motorcycle, shot dead at age 22. And I do not see you. I did not see you at the funerals of those innocents. continue reading

Where you see protesting fascists, I see people, human beings who disagree with you. They do it however they can, they are people, they are also the true Venezuelan people. Or is it only those who applaud you who are the people, and the others are enemies? I also see what you seem not to see. I see the dreaded motorcycles of paramilitary groups that under cover of night shoot at unarmed civilians, even firing into their houses and apartments, as shown in the videos on Youtube.

Where you see in the social networks only defamation and lies (what is there I condemn), I find also the real outrage of Venezuelans, who there have the only remaining space left to them to fully express it, because you have virtually shut them out of means of communication because the others you have closed down, choked off, and driven out of the country. How fortunate that Twitter and Facebook are there so they can let us know what is happening in Venezuela!

Previously the Argentine government extended to you its “total and absolute support.” You should not confuse the Argentine government with the Argentine people, as we do not confuse you with the Venezuelan people. We do not all support you totally and absolutely in your abuses. I, for one, would rather demand the immediate release of Leopoldo Lopez and all Venezuelan political prisoners. I choose to ask you to take control of the paramilitary forces that spread fear and death by gunshots. I prefer to ask you to ensure freedom, and to sit down in honest dialogue with those who think differently.

The protesters are not enemies or conspirators, they are Venezuelans.

Signed, Mauricio Macri, Chief of Government of Buenos Aires

Source of letter is here.

Translated by Tomás A.

Cuban Evolution / Somos+

Somos+, 24 July 2015 — After the announcement of Cuba / USA relations on December 17, it is not surprising that some of the major news networks are interested in the evolution of the historic rapprochement. This is the case with PBS, which since last month has been conducting a series of reports in Havana under the name “Cuban Evolution.”

On June 17, the official website of PBS published the video presented below, focusing primarily on the poor internet access on the Island compared to the rest of the Western Hemisphere, the populace’s expectations of change, and control of the mass media by the Cuban government.

Manuel Mons, a member of Somos+ (We Are More) in Cuba, was one of those interviewed.

Original source: PBS,org

Translated by Tomás A.

Twenty-One Years After the Maleconazo* / Somos+, Elizabeth Cruz

The Maleconazo. Photo: Karl Poort, 5 August 1994

Somos+, Elizabeth Cruz, 5 August 2015 — We Cubans are chatty, talkative and protagonists of everything whether it’s for good or for bad. Recently arrived in Miami, I heard someone say that we’re like crabs in a pail: when one tries to escape, another one pulls it back to the bottom without needing a lid. The analogy seemed so ingenious to me that, for a long time, it was enough to confuse me about our essence.

In reality, the vast majority of Cubans are noble, brave and full of solidarity, and there are innumerable examples of this. Why delve into despair? Who benefits from our division and mistrust?

Today it’s been more than two decades since the Maleconazo took place. I don’t know if you remember, but in my memory I’m in my apartment facing the Malecón and there is a party feeling. Down the streets comes a lot of excited activity, which at first we confuse with some official act, one of the many that go by unnoticed, even for those who participate. continue reading

From the propped-up balcony, it didn’t take long for us to hear the shouts of “Freedom.” A good neighbor pointed out the little boat from Regla that, facing the Morro, was trying to escape. With binoculars I managed to see it threatened by two Coast Guard boats, and this time they didn’t dare carry out the order to sink it. I like to think that they put on the brakes because of the spontaneous protests. From my roof-top, stones were flying, and the police shot in the air, so that the adults protected us kids. And the fact was that before Fidel made his presence known, now more members of State Security occupied my balcony than members of my family.

The Maleconazo was a popular expression of rebellion, solidarity and dissatisfaction, which didn’t stop with the arrival of civilian militias and Fidel. It reached its conclusion in the so-called crisis of the rafters, where the vote was exercised with rafts. If free and plural elections had existed in our country, neither the violence experienced in those streets nor the loss of the rafters’ lives would have been necessary.

Although I believe firmly in peaceful ways to participate in political activism, what happened shows me that we Cubans aren’t in any way like crabs, but rather are ready to demand what we deserve.

The siege against any political alternative provoked an explosion of this type, disorganized and violent. But it’s elementary that the means and disposition exist so that we Cubans can present different proposals. We should recognize plurality, minimize slogans, flight and blows, and allow dialogue to be the road to keeping peace in our streets, but happily, knowing that the country marches toward prosperity.

*On August 5, 1994 there was a spontaneous uprising in Havana, as Cubans poured into the street along the Malecón and chanted “Freedom.” The demonstrators were dispersed after a few hours by Cuban State Security and police. This event is remembered around the world as “Cuban Resistance Day.”

Translated by Regina Anavy


…And We Continue to Be More / Somos+

We Are More: The Change is You

Somos+, 26 June 2015 — Somos+ [“We Are More”] is renewing itself. As a sort of reflection of the profound structural and organic transformation that we are undergoing as a result of the increase in our membership, a new visual identity now distinguishes us, brings us closer to our own people — whose borders transcend the Cuban realm and reaches into exile, the diaspora — dispersed, but united in the same feeling.

Digital platforms have been witnesses to the change. A new Web page, a permanent presence throughout our accounts and/or groups in Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, have served to expand the movement’s message, now with new colors and typeface in its identity. continue reading

The new graphic, produced by our designers and approved by the movement’s council, was accepted with satisfaction by our Somos+ followers. For nothing so characterizes our projects as that constant spirit of change, renewal and creativity — premises of the future that we desire to construct.

Changes in and of themselves provoke doubts, worries, questions: Why do something different if things have been going well for us just as they are? Won’t our message become diffuse if we introduce new elements, somewhat different from the original ones? Will the changes produce the desired results?

But, what have we we done? Our members have summarized it thus: A perfect simbiosis between the colors and the symbols that represent, without doubt, effective signifiers of our message.

Regarding the colors, there is now a high contrast between the orange, which links to the beginnings of the movement and which also evokes enthusiasm, optimism, vitality, brotherhood, unity — and the blue, which evokes tranquility, serenity, reflection.

On the other hand, the white, located in the position used in mathematics to indicate raising a base number to a power, expresses very well our character: every day more connected to peace, development and the purity of ideas.

The symbols are the other agents of change. Their location inside a square connotes well-defined solidity and stability. The “S” that appears in the middle is one of the most dynamic textual symbols of our language, as much for its sinuous shape as for being the indicator of the plural form in Spanish.

Meanwhile, the + sign — which mathematically indicates aggregating, adding — becomes an indicator of the spirit of the movement, always positive, multiplicative, flexible, as is our horizon: as José Martí said, “For all and for the good of all.”

Another way to view it is to also see in the logo the colors of our flag, but instead of the red of spilled blood, it is orange, which represents the young, active mind, the non-violent form of struggle in which current causes are defended.

The hashtag, “#ElCambioEresTu” [“#The Change is You”], as the new slogan of the movement, is centered on the individual responsibility of every Cuban to contribute to a better country, always to positive and inclusive change. Everyone of us has immense power.

After two years, Somos+ is committed to difference, to marking a milestone, to being a reference point. We launch into the world a new image, as a show of the strengthening of our concepts and our consolidation in the Cuban political scene, with a view to the future. It is, simply, perfecting our strategies, following the same path as always. Only in this way will we continue to be more.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Leaving the Footprints of Some First Steps / Somos+, Niurvys Roca

Somos+, Niurvys Roca, 22 June 2015 — I inserted a flash drive in my old and slow computer, and a young man’s image appeared, nothing special about it except for his courage in questioning the limitations that we Cubans must endure. I admit that I had to contain an exclamation. Until that moment, I did not think anyone capable of revealing our problems in such a bold way, direct and honest. The next morning, people were talking about it, in whispers, in the schools, on street corners, and even at my workplace.  Later, a silence took over and everything seemed to return to normality — not because it is normal, but because it is the same, that which involves despair, denial and sadness.

Many years after connecting that flash drive, a young man I barely knew asked me, “Do you remember Eliécer Ávila, that guy from the University of Information Science (UCI)? He has a proposal that you should read.”

I thought that Eliécer had been “disappeared,” and I confess that I was very happy to find out that he was active, because this was about a hope for changes for my country. The young man continued, “He’s started a movement called Somos+, but…you know…without Internet access it’s almost impossible to hear much from them. I’ve heard that there’s a girl in Spain who helps out. I’ll try to get in touch with her.”

Meanwhile, a group of friends and I would gather to discuss how we could help Cuba in any way possible and, suddenly, that young man who was now well-known to me, said to me, “We have contact with those who are supporting the movement from abroad!” I knew than that we should take part in our country’s history, and that it was the perfect opportunity to get involved.

Today we really are more, and so many more are joining that, when I try to recall those early days when there were hardly ten of us in exile, it is almost impossible not to share the excitement. I remember a comment about how we should be called “Somos-” [“We Are Less”], which hurt me at that time, but now I laugh about it because time puts everything in its place. You have to be inside of this thing to know how delicious it is to unite with other Cubans who are full of energy, abilities, proposals, curiosity, and genuine desire to do for our country. Today I can only feel pride in what is accomplished if only the individual desires it — all that is obtained when love and dedication are given to something.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Machado’s Young People / Somos+, Javier Cabrera

Machado Ventura

Somos+, 13 July 2105 — One of the most important qualities of a politician is credibility. I am one of those who believe that credibility must be earned — and must not be lost, because sometimes it cannot be recovered. The obligatory homage to “the caste” has been the tool used to obviate the need for credibility in Cuba, and processes have been created to redress its loss: “rectification of errors,” “update of the economic model,” and even “voting for everything.”

This is why it is not strange that the octogenarian Machado Ventura addressed us, the young people of Cuba, telling us what we should do, think or feel. Those who in the old days were dazzled by promises of faraway lands and indeed enjoyed (and still enjoy) privileges, today demand that we not be dazzled by pretty things — basically because many of these things might turn out to be good, and might sentence them to a forced retirement. And it is there that they leave us their legacy: Remember the confrontation! A war cry against the rapprochement, against the aim of those models that have encouraged it on both sides. continue reading

Finally, Machado Ventura justifies the lack of Internet access because of cost, despite us knowing that the current infrastructure is still not even at half its capacity. And he reveals to us the result of the negotiations with the American companies: do not give us free Internet, because we cannot control it. In its place, as a consolation prize, we will have “the prosperous and sustainable socialism that we are now contemplating.”

Confrontation, preservation of the status quo, adoption of technological ignorance, and off-line socialism: these are the young people that Machado wants.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

I Want To, But…I Can’t / Somos+, Alexander Perez

Somos+, 26 June 15 — Today, because God willed it (for I do not believe in coincidences) I was on chat and encountered an old friend from university days. I couldn’t believe it. My first thought was, “In what country are you living?” Much to my surprise, I saw that he was connecting from Holguín. Filled with emotion, he told me, “Alex, what a delight to hear from you.” We were on chat for almost half an hour. We caught up on mutual friends, work, family, and, finally, we touched upon the inevitable topic: CUBA. When I asked him how goes the homeland, his enthusiasm waned. I felt the sigh in his words when he told me, “It’s going, same as always.” continue reading

I persisted and asked, “Same as always?” Then I said, “But, Friend, Cuba was never the same as always. Explain this to me better, please.”

A bit nervous, he told me, “You know…Alex, this is going badly. Every day it’s worse, and nobody does anything.”

Here was my great opportunity. I was able to explain that yes, something was being done — a lot, in fact — and that he could be part of this great history. I told him about SOMOS+ and of its grand project for Cuba. I reminded him of those days when, with windows shut and thanks to a flash drive, we would watch videos of what was happening in Cuba. It was while watching some of these videos that we got to know young Eliécer Ávila.

My friend immediately remembered all this. Then I told him, “My Dear Friend, this is the moment to do for Cuba: I invite you to join us.”

With sadness, he replied, “Alex, I want to, but I can’t.” I continued talking to him for almost another half hour. He viewed some of our videos, conferences, etc. Then, with that complicit smile of his that I know so well, he told me, “This is the bomb, Brother. If this government some day were to dare broadcast some of these documentaries, films or conferences, this system would be up s#@t’s creek.”

A moment later, he said, “You know what, f#@%k it. I can, I want to, and besides I desire to do it. From now, on I’m going to tell all of Cuba that SOMOS+ exists and that, besides, today is its 2nd birthday. Alex, you have filled me with hope.”

I told him, “No, Dude. What’s happened is that SOMOS+ radiates hope from the first moment you come in contact with it.”

Translated by Alicia Barraqué Ellison

We All March (#Todosmarchamos) for No Violence (#NOviolencia) in Cuba (#Cuba). Stop the Violence! (#stopviolence) / Somos+

Note: The text below is a transcript of the video

Somos+, 12 July 2015 — Violence (#violencia) is the fear of others’ ideas, and the lack of faith in one’s own. All the force of reason fits in a word, in arguments. That will always be the weapon of our movement.

Some think that a punch is worth a thousand words. They believe they can impose themselves by force and get away with it. They think they can silence their critics, putting the truth behind bars. To those who are willing to suffocate thought with bloodshed, we say: No to violence! No to violence! No to violence!

Why not publicly debate your critics? That is the most noble, fair, and transparent action. Why not leave it to the majority to judge the strength and fairness of arguments and ideas? That is truly revolutionary. In contrast, beating and abusing those who are physically weaker is the most disgraceful option; there is no justice in beatings. We invite those who have stained their fists with Cuban blood to come to understand the love we feel for our country. To be embraced by our desires for a Cuba prosperous, peaceful, and with freedom of expression. Where no one gets beaten to silence their arguments.

We (#Somos+) are those who want to rebuild our country in love and not violence. No to social violence! No to political violence! No to violence! (#noalaviolenciavideo).

Freedom of Expression in Cuba / Somos+, Eliecer Avila

Eliécer Ávila, 6 July 2015 — With horror and profound indignation I learned what they did to Antonio Rodiles yesterday.

The bloodlust of these characters is no different from what motivated the torturers of the 1950s, those who do not defend the freedom of their people, but brag about ganging up to beat down a citizen whose only weapon is his mind.

Is that being Revolutionaries? Is that being the New Man? God deliver our children from lowering themselves to such extremes. . .

What will they do when the people rise up en masse in the streets? Will they be capable of striking women, children and the elderly? Yet they are already committing these atrocities on an individual, but recurring, basis.

The cowardice of the thugs who attacked Antonio is noteworthy, but even more noteworthy is the passivity of those who observe without reacting to the abuse and the pain suffered by others.

I don’t agree with Antonio Rodiles on various topics, which we have both made clear, but that doesn’t keep me from feeling the same disgust toward his batterers, and suffering that same disgrace to dignity and to life, as if it they had done it to me.

Stay strong Antonio!

How To Make Things Work in Cuba? / Somos+, Kaned Garrido

Somos+, Kaned Garrido, 1 July 2015 — Before we talk about why things in Cuba do not work, we should first ask the following question: What should we do to to make things work? How can we achieve a higher standard of living for the average Cuban, one with reasonable prices and a fair wage?

We do not believe it is possible to do away with most of the Cuban bureaucracy. Red tape is necessary to preserve the regime, but it is an obstacle in people’s lives. So far, the best generator of wealth has been the free market. In capitalist countries there are many discussions about whether to impose or remove restrictions on the market. In U.S. election campaigns, Democratic and Republican candidates debate whether to expand it or intervene in it, but everyone agrees that a free market must serve as the foundation. continue reading

This is what history has shown us.

The market allows people and businesses to make their own decisions based on what they want and what they are able to produce. People buy what they need and businesses produce only what makes sense.

Although they enjoy a more efficient system than the socialism, capitalist countries do not have it all figured out. They still face challenges. Advertising shapes people’s decisions and irresponsible consumption leads people into debt.

There are what are known as “market failures,” such as when governments grant multi-national corporations special benefits or when some people have more rights than others. Inequality of opportunity is also a social failure.

These are problems that capitalism still confronts. However, the solution is not to ignore the basic rules of the market but rather to guarantee that the judicial system is fair and that there are advancement opportunities for the disadvantaged.

The first thing the free market needs is respect for its liberal traditions in order to make sure it does not produce inequalities. English-speaking democracies have historically shown an intense interest in preventing the rise of monopolies and in limiting the power of multi-national corporations.

A free market does not mean business has carte blanche; it means balancing opportunities in the game of economics. Every business that enters the marketplace must be able to do so on a level playing field, one which allows for competition, which leads to lower prices and benefits for the consumer.

This is why it is important to free producers from crushing tax burdens. When self-employed Cuban workers are subjected to such such levies, it limits any competitive advantage that might have led to lower prices. Current tax laws are like a virus overwhelming the body’s immune system.

But the most interesting thing is that lower taxes could generate more income for the state. If entrepreneurs were allowed to set up shop and to grow, they could contribute more to government coffers. The growth of private businesses and self-employment could end up providing more funds for education and health.

Social failures are remedied by providing a wealth of opportunities such as access to education, employment and development subsidies. A free market allows for the elimination of unnecessary bureaucracy, something Cuba’s socialist leaders have never been able to pull off. Instead, we conduct business “on the side” and worry about “getting caught” for things that are legal in most countries. Commerce and entrepreneurship are basic and beneficial assets for any country.

Salaries should be enough for people to be able to buy more and better quality products in stores, and to not have to continue relying on a ration book and and low quality soap. But let us always remember that the best guarantee for resolving problems is democracy. Whenever there is freedom of expression, there is the possibility for discussion and overcoming difficulties.