The State is Obliged to Protect Before, During, and After a Natural Disaster / Cubalex

(Adalberto Roque / AFP)

14ymedio biggerCubalex, 1 February 2019 — Social media have revealed the many dangerous situations which have had to be coped with by the victims of the tornado which battered the Cuban capital on the night of 27 January 2019. People have suffered devastating consequences, including loss of life, of their means of subsistence, as well as damaged infrastructure and economic costs.

It is worrying that the Cuban government holds back or obstructs the provision of relief to the most needy when the international community provides humanitarian assistance. In view of this situation, we have decided to respond to this question:

Does the state have a duty to protect its citizens before, during, and after a natural disaster? continue reading

By virtue of current international law, states are the principal agencies with human rights duties and obligations. International law and common law impose three obligations: the duty to respect, the duty to protect, and the duty to obey.

The duty to protect consists in three responsibilities: (1) prevent, (2) react, and (3) rebuild.

These three obligations have equal application and force in relation to dealing with natural disasters. Complying with them is the minimum that citizens expect at the time of confronting a natural disaster. We have the right to be protected before, during, and after a natural disaster.

The duty to prevent in the context of natural disasters translates as the responsibility to alert people that a natural disaster is imminent. That of reacting is the obligation to recognise when it is not possible to deal efficiently with a disaster and, as a result, the obligation to request assistance from other states.

The intervention of other states is essential to enable a state to recover from a catastrophe. Additionally, even when such intervention has not been requested, other states may proceed in order to bring humanitarian aid without being held responsible for any violation of sovereignty of the state which has been affected, solely as and when the intervention is for this purpose only and not as a pretext for the introduction of armed forces into the affected state.

The fact that a state is lacking sufficient resources does not justify violations of human rights, as there is always the opportunity to make use of international relations with other states to combat a humanitarian crisis resulting from natural disasters.

Lastly, the duty to rebuild refers to the responsibility on the part of the state to ensure sustainable reconstruction and restoration.

Following the disaster, the state has the obligation to seek assistance from the United Nations and from other countries to enable short term and long term reconstruction plans; to assure that the areas affected are once again rendered habitable and safe for people.

In earlier times, when human rights were still considered to be an internal matter for each country, the intervention of other states and the international community was resisted.

Nowadays, this attitude has in large part been replaced by a responsibility, in which states are considered to be responsible for the wellbeing of their people. That is to say, the state has the responsibility to protect the population, especially in the face of natural disasters.

The UN Charter obliges its member states to “take measures jointly and separately, in cooperation with the organisation, for the accomplishment of the objectives set out in Art. 55”, which promotes respect for the human rights and fundamental liberties of all persons subject to its jurisdiction, without any form of discrimination.

First published in Cubalex.

 Translated by GH


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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

Independent Cuban artists say NO to Decree 349 / Ivan Garcia

Photo: Iván García

Iván García, 7 December 2018 — Luis Manuel Otero, an independent artist, the day before his 31st birthday, walks hand in hand with his wife  Yanelys Núñez, an art historian, aged 29, along a dark narrow street going to an art gallery in an old cinema which showed porn movies in the Chinese district in Havana.

For about twenty minutes they look at the exhibition and talked to various artists. Then they return to Yanelys’ home at Monte and Ángeles. The couple live in a jerry-built Soviet style building, put up to alleviate the acute housing problem in the capital. continue reading

In their fourth floor apartment, Luis Manuel Otero and Yanelys Núñez get the Diario Las Americas newspaper. Their main interest is discussing the demo being planned by 50 independent artists starting on Monday December 3rd opposite the head office of the Ministry of Culture in Second Street between 11th and 13th, Vedado.

The living/dining room is furnished with a sofa, two armchairs and a metal table. Up against the wall, is a bookcase which could collapse at any moment from the weight of all its books and documents. In a wooden multipurpose piece of furniture there is an old Chinese cathode ray tube tv.

At the side of the sofa is a little table with candles, photos and a glass of water with a metal cross. On the floor, a couple of bottles of moonshine. It is Yanelys’ mother’s altar. In Cuba, the Afro-Cuban religion protects people who are in danger or in need of good luck.

And the group of independent artists who are defying the government of President designate Miguel Díaz-Canel are going to need to have a lot of luck.

Forty-eight hours before the protest starts, Luis Manuel and Yanelys look calm, thinking about the procession. They don’t know what will happen Monday. Amaury Pacheco, Iris Ruiz, Michel Matos and Raz Sandino get together with Luis Manuel and Yanelys to analyse different possibilities.

“These people (the State Security) are unpredictable. They will lock us up, like El Sexto (graffiti artist), or keep us in the Vivac (prison in South Havana) until after the 7th. Anything can happen. They will obviously detain us. But we have no choice. If we accept Decree 349 we are signing our death warrant as artists. This legal monster is a bullet straight to my head. So, we are going to fight. I am a hero” indicates Amaury Pacheco, the oldest of the group and father of six children.

Decree 349 tried to tiptoe by. The same day that the autocrat Raúl Castro  anointed his successor,  Díaz-Canel’s first act as leader was to sign the retrograde law, which without any doubt threatens the autonomy of the artistic and intellectual sector in Cuba.

“Although it was signed on April 20th, it appeared in the Official Gazette on July 10th. Most of us independent artists didn’t appreciate the small print of the regulation. We were alerted to it by a call from a journalist on Radio Martí . When Luis Manuel was able to calmly read the decree, he understood that its intention was to eliminate artistic freedom. So we decided to organise a campaign against it using all the tools at our disposal, from social media to the independent overseas press on the island”, explains Yanelys, and adds:

“We always try to act within the law and act in a peaceful manner. On August 1st and 2nd we organised a public debate in the MAPI gallery (Museum of Politically Uncomfortable Art) where nearly 100 people turned up. Before that, on June 26th, we delivered a letter to the Sainz Brothers Association, the Ministry of Culture, UNEAC, and the Plastic Arts Council, denouncing the danger posed to artistic freedom by that decree. As we had no response from the official agencies, we decided to set off on the road of civil protest”.

On July 21st, opposite the Capitolio in Havana, by way of protest, Yanelys smeared her body with faeces. Various artists, including Luis Manuel Otero and Amaury Pacheco, were detained by the police.

This independent group, brought into being by Decree 349, is a caleidoscope of intellectuals, playwrights, theatrical artists, producers, writers, art critics, photographers, musicians and plastic artists, among others.

Yanelis emphasised that there were other usually less anti-establishment groups of artists in Cuba who had, in one way or another, joined in the condemnation of Decree 349. “José Ángel Toirac, National Plastic Arts Prizewinner, is one of the signatories to a letter condemning 349.

Most people in the cultural sector are against this regulation, because with this legal instrument the state can limit and censure any artistic work. Independent artists are pretty well put out of business. I have to point out that we have received the inestimable support of lawyers inside and outside the country, especially from Laritza Diversent, an exiled dissident Cuban lawyer in the United States”

If finally on December 7th they implement Decree 349, self-taught musicians of the calibre of Benny Moré, Compay Segundo and  Polo Montañez would not have a look in.

Luis Manuel Otero recognises the danger posed by the regulation: “All the world knows we live in a dictatorship. I”m not under any illusion. We are fighting a state which has all the resources it needs to shut us up. But our group is determined to confront these and other injustices”.

The special services are trying by whatever way possible to force free artists into obedience. Iris Ruiz comments that “MININT officials who run children’s services went to my office to get signatures from neighbours to take my children from me. Nobody signed. The Security also put pressure on other artists via their families. They are trying to demotivate and divide us”.

Amaury Pacheco says that “right now a rapper known in the arts world as Maikel el Osorbo is locked up, and they are trying to accuse him of a common crime. The kid had sewn up his mouth in protest against state abuse and Decree 349. We are not supermen. We just want to live and create a  free society”.

Cuban independent artists know that all sorts of things can happen in the coming days. Nothing positive. But fear also has its limit.

Translated by GH

One Single History / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Dámaso, 14 January 2019: Cuba’s history runs from 1492 to the present day, and men and women have contributed to it, for good or ill, throughout this period.

Because of that, I have never understood why they talk and write about science, art and sport, to name but three examples, as being pre-January 1st 1959, and post that date. This absurd and unnatural division, motivated purely by political considerations, splits up our national history into little compartments. As if the earlier people have nothing to do with present day people, and vice versa. continue reading

This phenomenon is most deeply rooted in sport and music, maybe because of their widespread appeal. So, in the first one, there are baseball players from before and after, and also boxers, volleyball players, swimmers, athletes, chess players, etc., as if all of them weren’t Cubans. The baseball players Orestes Miñoso, Conrado Marrero, Adrián Zabala and Willy Miranda are just as Cuban as José Antonio Huelga, Braudilio Vinent, Armando Capiró or Agustín Marquetti, to name but a few. Also Orlando “Duke” Hernández, José Ariel Contreras, Kendry Morales, Yasiel Puig and Aroldis Chapman as much as Alfredo Despaigne, Yurisbel Gracial, Frederich Cepeda and  Yordanis Samón. And, in the boxing ring, Kid Chocolate, Kid Gavilán and Puppy García as much as Teófilo Stevenson, Roberto Balado or Félix Savón.

If we look at music, we have a right old mongrel stew, composed of Brindis de Salas, García Caturla, Ernesto Lecuona, Gonzalo Roig, Rita Montaner, Martha Pérez, Esther Borja, Rosita Fornés, Meme Solís, Miriam Ramos, Pablo Milanés, Benny Moré, Pacho Alonso, Silvio Rodríguez, Beatriz Márquez, Maggie Carlés, Celia Cruz, Olga Guillot, Willy Chirino, David Calzado, Juan Formell, and others.

All of them play their part in forming the national identity, never mind where they come from, or their political and ideological points of view or belief, and nobody has the right or the power to deny them that.

Cuban history is one and indivisible.

Translated by GH

National Identity / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Dámaso, 21 November 2018 — The theme of national identity, along with that of sovereignty and independence, form the favourite triad of the official idiotology.  Everyone talks about that.

National identity is not an ideological abstraction, but a historical reality, which comes loaded with its baggage of events and personalities from the colonial era up to the present day, without artificial black holes or spaces edited out for political convenience. continue reading

It is made up of the good, the bad, and the ordinary. Intelligent people and stupid people. People who get things done, and those who don’t. Pimps, prostitutes, thieves, liars, and decent people, of either sex. Also, people with different political, ideological, economic, social, sexual opinions, sportsmen and artists.  This mixture of different people makes up the national identity.

No-one has done more to attack the national identity than the regime founded in January 1959, dislocating the national, provincial and municipal structures, with absurd changes and transformations to economic, political and social levels.

Now, our towns and villages aren’t anything like the way they used to be, with only little bits surviving which have been saved by municipal and provincial historians. Popular traditions have been lost or adulterated, all the economic and commercial structures have been taken apart, along with their well-known factories, businesses and establishments. Most of them disappearing, or given new names without meaning or popular support.

The streets and avenues have not escaped the ideological cruelty, losing their familiar historic names in favour of less  important ones, or those indicative of cheap political messing about. Nor have the arts or sport escaped, with renowned figures, who form a legitimate part of the national identity in their own right, wiped out. The same thing has happened to education and health centres.

A time traveller from the 19th century or the first half of the 20th, would find themselves completely lost in today’s Cuba, with almost no discernible references to the past or to those who constructed it or graced it with their presence.

Everything has been replaced with stuff done in the last sixty years. A monster born of chaotic thinkers and worse doers, elevated into decision-makers, ruling by economic and political power, in the name of an obsolete ideology and a failed system, which has destroyed the country, converting it into a sad residue of what it used to be.

Translated by GH

With the Detention of Maiquel El Osorboa€, Do We Have Legal Certainty in Cuba? / Cubalex

Cubalex, 29 September 2018 — The District Attorney’s office in Havana Vieja is trying to revoke the decision taken 3 months ago by the police to fine the rapper Maiquel Castillo 1000 pesos. The rapper was violently arrested last 22nd June. They accused him of threatening the authorities when he filmed a house search in Cristo Park.

The law enforcement authorities have kept Maiquel Castillo, also known as “Maiquel El Osorbo”, locked up since 25th September 2018, to get back at him for joining the campaign against Decree 349. His case is evidence of the lack of legal certainty in Cuba.

The criminal law authorises the police to interpret it and apply it as if they were judges, in the nearly 27% of offences they deal with. These officers, instead of remitting the cases to a tribunal, judge them and apply fines. continue reading

What we do know is, if he accepts the imposition of a fine, he would be acknowledging his guilt (destroying his own presumption of innocence). The police do not take the trouble to declare that they “will refer the matter to the competent authorities (…)” only when the “offender requests it or does not pay the fine”.

Receipt for payment of a 1,000 peso fine.

Returning to the case of “Maiquel El Osorbo”, who paid the fine the same day that it was imposed, the law says “if the offender pays the fine (…) within 10 working days of its imposition, the matter will be considered as closed, and will not be recorded as an offence.”

Most people accept the fine, “doing an 8.3”, as it is commonly known, to get the matter finished with. The truth is that there is no difference between a judgement by a  policeman (who has hardly made it to the ninth grade) and a judge (law graduate), who is subject to all sorts of influence by State Security and the Ministry of the Interior. Anyway we all know how we will end up if we take it into our head to get the better of a policeman, and that nothing will come of it.

So we have to ask whether the tribunals and district attorneys should adhere to a decision taken by a policeman to impose a fine? And as and when they may be satisfied, whether this decision should have the same value as a definitive judicial sentence?

Or whether, on the contrary, can a policeman, district attorney or tribunal be at liberty to change their opinion, regarding a decision already taken, to revoke it, and consider an act to lack “social danger because of  its limited consequences and the social condition of the author of the act”?

For the crime of assault, there is an expected prison term of from one to three years. In such a case, the police should require the approval of the district attorney, as set out in the criminal code. Can the attorney’s office go against its own decisions?

Can a citizen have confidence that the observation of and respect for legal procedures will be maintained in every case, in accordance with the legal framework of the country? And, what happens if you are not of that view?

Translated by GH

Prior Censorship, Decree 349 and the Constitutional Project of the Cuban Communist Party / Cubalex

Cubalex, 11 September 2018 — Decree 349/2018 sets up a system of prior censorship of cultural and artistic activities and other forms of expression, violating the freedom to carry out creative activities and the right to develop the human personality. It also offends against freedom of thought, belief and religion: and the right to hold opinion, to associate and to peaceful assembly.

In the Constitutional Project of the Cuban Communist Party, there is recognised, among other things, in relation to all citizens (although not all persons) the right to education, to culture, and its comprehensive development. Every person has the right to participate in the cultural and artistic life of the country. Men and women have equal cultural rights and obligations. Citizens should protect the natural resources and the cultural and historical heritage of the country. continue reading

The state recognises that the forms of artistic expression and artistic creation are free, but affirms categorically that its content must respect the values of a socialist Cuban society. This statement is a tacit recognition that prior censorship will be employed to supervise the content of the forms of artistic expression and artistic creation.

According to the Committee of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, in its General Observation 21: The right of every person to participate in cultural life (Article 15 paragraph 1(a)), and also the other rights established in the International Agreement on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, imposes on the states three types or levels of obligation:

a) the obligation to respect;

b) the obligation to protect, and

c) the obligation to comply.

The obligation to respect requires the Cuban state to refrain from interfering, directly or indirectly, in the enjoyment of the right to participate in cultural life, which includes the creation, individually, or in association with others, or in a community or group, which implies that the state should abolish censorship of cultural activities imposed on the arts and other forms of expression. In other words, it is necessary to repeal Decree 349 and provide a constitutional project which may be supported by all of us.

(1) Art. 43 of the draft Constitutional bill

(2) Art. 45 section 1) of Article 91 of the draft Constitutional bill

(3) Section h) of the draft Constitutional bill

Translated by GH

Habeas Corpus Proposed in the Constitutional Reform is Ineffective / Cubalex

Habeas Corpus will be elevated to constitutional status

Cubalex, Laritza Diversent — Article 50 of the constitution, as proposed to the National Assembly by the Cuban Communist Party, will recognise Habeas Corpus. This guarantee against illegal arrest was the subject of parliamentary debate. The Deputy for Baracoa in Guantanamo province, Tamayo Mendez, made reference to this precept.

“Any person who is deprived of his liberty,” he read. “Here we are affirming that it was foreseen that someone may be illegally penalised,” he added. “No, not penalised, but illegally deprived of their liberty,” he was corrected by Deputy Jose Luis Toledo Santander, member of the constitutional editing commission. continue reading

“What is being addressed here is the protection of the right of an individual who is deprived of their liberty to due process as established by law. This process exists in the Law of Legal Procedures,” explained Toledo Santander.

Due process” for Habeas Corpus and the authorities’ practices

In effect, Habeas Corpus is regulated in domestic law, but offers no protection against arbitrary detention, nor against enforced disappearance.

For example, one of the “processes established by law” is that of denying Habeas Corpus, if, during the arrest, a “sentence of or order for a limited period of imprisonment” was decreed. Every year, the Cuban state and its agents undertake thousands of arbitrary detentions as a punishment for exercising freedom of expression, meeting and association. 

Additionally, it requires that “the place where the person is held be identified, as well as the official or his agent or the functionary who is holding him.” The government agents employ pseudonyms, wear plain clothes and do not identify themselves. As far as human rights defenders are concerned, they do not complete any detention paperwork, to isolate them and make it impossible to identify their location, opening the door to their enforced disappearance.

The tribunals limit themselves to verifying that the required procedural criminal documentation exists, and reject pleas for habeas corpus, without requiring the police officials to produce the person who has been detained and to explain when and why he was detained. It is unlikely they would agree to an applications for oral hearing.

Awarding constitutional status to a guarantee which does not comply with international standards does not constitute any advance in human rights, and is obviously ineffective. Laritza Diversent

Translated by GH

Decree #349 is "Against the Interests of Artists" / Cubalex

Cubalex, 23 August 2018 — According to Pedro Edgar Rizo Pena, in an article entitled “Demythologising Decree 349,” what the “activists against 349″ have not troubled themselves to analyse (perhaps due to lack of legal understanding, or not co-operating in reading and interpreting it) is that the decree promulgates the basis for the legal provisions which regulate self employment  in the country… that is to say, this fact destroys the argument that the decree acts against the interests of artists and their creative expression.”

I completely disagree with what the writer says. Decree 349, in its first “Insofar as,” indicates that it updates Decree No.226 (but in the Final Disposicion it revokes it) where this section expressly recognises its application to breaches of regulations and provisions currently in force relating to provision of artistic services in public spaces or premises, in labour matters and in regard to cultural, artistic and literary policy. It does not mention self-employment, and nor does Decree 349 expressly refer to it. continue reading

Nor does it refer to the Labour Code, as did its predecessor, by way of Law No. 49/83, which was repealed by Law No. 116/2014 (the current Labour Code), which authorises the Ministry of Culture (Article 76) to establish the procedure and the entities authorised to evaluate the eligibility and professionalism necessary to carry out artistic work, as well as the form of remuneration for artists.

It does act against the interests of artists and their artistic work

If Decree 349 does not act against the interests of the artist, what is the meaning of the offence mentioned in Section e) of Part 1 of Article 2. I quote: “In the offering of artistic services, there are contraventions … the person who performs artistic services in the absence of authorisation to carry out artistic work in an artistic position or occupation.”

Subsequent to the entering into force of the new Labour Code, the Ministry of Culture (MINCULT) promulgated Resolution No. 45, of 16th June, 2014, “Regulations for the evaluation system for workers in artistic fields.” This established an Artistic Technical Council or evaluation tribunal, whiich assesses the quality of work, qualitative development of the ability and skill of the individual or collective, and awards or withdraws the professional designation of artists (be they graduates of artistic teaching, general teaching, or amateurs) for artistic festivals, genres and specialities, and artistic responsibilities.

The Ministry of Culture and the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television authorise institutions to make and market artistic productions and services. Only these entities are authorised to establish employment regulations with artists and groups of artists, according to professional performance. They have to apply for permission when they wish to contract an artist who has no evaluation for a particular performance or piece of work. It is forbidden to enter into employment relations with artists lacking an evaluation, who are not graduates of the artistic teaching system (they can be reevaluated after a year). An artistic group which loses its evaluation is dissolved.

There is no legal relationship with the self-employment regulations

Finally, Decree 349 broadens its coverage from “public places or institutions” to “public places or institutions which are or are not state-controlled.” The unhindered discretion and legal uncertainty is increased when the government does not define what is meant by “public places or institutions which are or are not state-controlled.”

It also widens the range of those to whom it may be applied. Decree No. 226 was limited to those individuals performing on behalf of a state, private, or mixed entity. Self employed persons (in the non-state sector) were not included because they are not entrepreneurs and therefore there is no legal reason for the state to consider them as entities (see the constitutional project glossary of terms).

Those individuals are authorised to undertake an economic activity, which, in the majority of cases, they undertake in their own houses. Clearly they carry out alterations to these business properties (hairdresser, bakery, restaurant, etc.) but legally they remain private residences. The state does not classify them as businesses or see the value of the property in that way.  There is no justification for considering the place where they work on a self-employed basis to be one of the “public places or institutions which are or are not state-controlled,” let alone as “businesses.”

First published in Cubalex

Translated by GH

Without Guarantees of Due Process, Detentions Always Appear Unjust / Cubalex

Cubalex, Laritza Diversent, 3 August 2018 — The constitutional reform will recognise Habeas Corpus, as it is applied in domestic law. An obviously ineffective procedure. It does not provide protection against arbitrary detention or enforced disappearance. Nor does it comply with international standards in terms of due process.

“No-one who is imprisoned considers that it is in order,” was  José Luis Toledo Santander’s cynical comment. “Everyone detained by the police considers himself innocent and to have been unfairly detained,” adds the deputy and member of the editing commission of the constitutional text. “That implies,” he concludes, “that every person detained by the police would be able to seek a writ of Habeas Corpus.”

Abuse of power and excess of discretional authority

The agents of police and security (Ministry of the Interior) have minimal training and excessive authority. After being recruited and a 6-month course, they are ready to exercise power and enjoy the impunity guaranteed by their uniform and their licence. continue reading

Whether on the orders of a superior, personal dislike, or a battle for territorial control — it’s all the same. No-one who has a business escapes the payment of tribute to the authorities. The evidence presented and declarations to a tribunal, whether true or not, carry more weight than the law itself.

In such circumstances, it is logical that everyone detained by the police considers himself unfairly detained. That’s the logic in a country where guarantees of due process do not exist.

Do you know that the police can interpret and apply, acting as judges, 27% of the offences in the Penal Code?

Without remission of the case to a tribunal, they are authorised to judge it, and apply a fine. When they exercise this power, they do not inform the detainees that, in the event of their accepting it, they are recognising their guilt (loss of the presumption of innocence) and abandoning the right to be judged by a tribunal.

Absence of independent, impartial tribunals

Do you know that the Committee against Enforced Disappearance (an office of the United Nations) is concerned that the subordination of the tribunals to the National Assembly and the Council of State affects the independance of the judiciary?

Yes, judges are subject to all types of political influence. Both of these state organs are charged with appointing, promoting, suspending, and dismissing them. A judge can be dismissed from a tribunal, for not being willing to join the Cuban Communist Party, which subjects them to conflicts of interest and intimidation.

Total absence of the right to defence and therefore the presumption of innocence

Did you know that the national tribunals only accept legal service contracts issued by the Collective Law Firms (Legal practices supervised by the Ministry of Justice)?

Yes, in practice they are obliged to contract defence lawyers from an organisation which is unique in the country and ideologically committed to the political group holding power in the country. This situation affects the right to freely select your lawyer.

Nor are the ONBC lawyers are not independent. They are subject to interference, pressure and undue influence from the authorities who intervene in the penal process, which prevents them from performing dilligently and fearlessly, acting against the interests of their clients.

First published in Cubalex

Translated by GH

In Debate: Replies to Doubts About Decree 348/2018 / Cubalex, Laritza Diversent

Together we can. No to Decree 349. A law that makes art a crime..

What are “artistic services?”

Cubalex, 2 August 2018 — Artistic services are those offered by government organisations authorised to contract artistic workers. Artistic services may be requested from these entities. As I understand it, they are like agencies which employ artists or groups of artists. An individual or a business contracts the service, and pays the organisatioon. Then, the agency pays the artist. (Resolution 44/2014 “Regulations governing work arrangements for those whose work is of an artistic nature.”)

Is this terminology only used for people who are paid for their work as artists, or is it for all artists who show up in a place, if it is an independent place, like ours, where they aren’t paid to turn up?

According to Resolution 54/2014 “Regulations governing artistic work evaluation”, AN ARTIST is a person who interprets or carries out one or several works in accordance with each appearance and speciality. continue reading

To work professionally in each artistic field, a work evaluation is essential, apart from those exceptions established by the employment legislation in force for this sector (Article 11)

The artistic evaluation is confirmed by way of the issuing of the appropriate Evaluation Certificate, and is independently authorised for each speciality or each artistic position on an individual basis for each artist, and for groups of more than one artist, without prejudice to the individual pay guarantee (Article 10)

The regulation imposed by Decree 349/2018: One may not work as an artist, or carry out artistic activities without government authorisation

In accordance with Decree 349/2018, only state-authorised artists can offer artistic services, on an individual basis or on behalf of a group, and payment for work carried out is only permitted for such people.

Only people with authorisation to carry out artistic work in an artistic  position or occupation can offer artistic services, on condition that they have a signed “established contract”, with a state institution which is authorised to contract artists and to approve their offer of artistic services.

If an artist provides his services without the authority of an employing organisation which contracts with him, then an offence is committed and he will be fined. Additionally, any instruments, equipment, accessories or other goods may be seized, the performance or relevant screening immediately cancelled, any authorisation to perform independently may be cancelled, and the employing organisation may apply disciplinary measures.

Do you know where the Cuban cultural policy may be found?

The Cuban cultural policy should be all the regulations imposed by the Ministry of Culture, a government entity of the Central Government Administration of the Republic of Cuba, charged with the direction, guidance, control and execution, within its operational ambit, of the cultural policy of the state and Cuban government, in order to guarantee the defence, preservation and enrichment of the cultural heritage of the Cuban nation. The Mincult (Ministry of Culture) has a website where the cultural policy is explained. Laritza Diversent, Executive Director of Cubalex

First published in Cubalex.

Translated by GH

More About the Constitution / Fernando Dámaso

Arlequín. Héctor Catá.

Fernando Damaso, 12 July 2018 — The 1940 Constitution, considered one of the most democratic, advanced and well-balanced constitutions in the world, was prepared by important and well-known representatives of Cuban society, politics and economics, selected by way of free and honest elections, to form the Constituent Assembly, in order that each party could publicly set out its constitutional programme.

It ended up with seventy-seven selected delegates (42 opposition and 35 government), including statesmen, intellectuals, lawyers, polemicists, parliamentarians, experts in international law, workers’ leaders, and political leaders, representing all ideological and political perspectives, from the most radical to the most conservative. Although some historians say there were eighty-one, I am going on the figures provided by Dr. Carlos Marquez Sterling, which I consider the more accurate. In the end it was signed by seventy-one delegates. continue reading

All the debates were public and transmitted on the radio, with the press giving its opinions and debating the issues, putting things before the public and creating an atmosphere of patriotic fervour and real popular participation and discussion.

What is happening now, as in 1976, and its subsequent reforms, ends up as a totalitarian reform, with a project put together by a chosen group of Party and government officials, whom the people don’t know and, most of them having no public reputation apart from representing the different current national ideologies and politics. The process is run by the ancient Party and government directors, like an updating for the present day economic situation, without touching the policies, which are dogmatically maintained, with the objective of holding onto power for as long as possible.

They consider that a Constitutional Assembly is unnecessary because the National Assembly of Peoples’ Power has within its functions that of drawing up or reforming the Constitution. It is well-known that this doesn’t serve present-day Cuban society, but only the monopoly Party, to which it is completely subservient.

The public don’t know what is being debated either, as discussion is held behind closed doors, with only skimpy information provided later by the official press. Everyone knows that the so-called popular participation, opinions and suggestions, are swamped by a massive formal exercise, so that most people have no idea what the Constitution stands for, and, even less, its legal complications, having to just get on with accepting without question whatever is proposed, as has been the custom for the last sixty years.

It seems to have been forgotten that constitutions are not academic documents or bureaucratic formulas, but wide-ranging social pacts, which are routed in vigorous controversy, and in which consensus may be found. It is by way of such processes that constitutions are validated and acquire their relevance.

The current process, which excludes any democratic debate or participation by all Cuban social points of view, makes for a second rate constitution, incapable of achieving the importance of the 1940 version.

Photo: Arlequín. Héctor Catá.

Translated by GH

Free Iliana Hernandez! / Angel Santiesteban


Iliana Hernandez

Ángel Santiesteban, 14 July 2018 — Iliana Hernandez screams from her punishment cell. This sister sleeps in jail without having committed any crime, apart from, in the regime’s eyes, thinking differently. She knows about sacrifice. Of having left a free country to confront the government. In Spain, where she is a citizen, she would have no problem getting by comfortably.

Nevertheless, here, we have her fighting for our universal human rights. We should express our gratitude to her by thinking spiritual thoughts. It’s our only way to be with her where the dictatorship has her locked up in darkness. I phoned her house at night and her mother could hardly speak for crying. I told her she should feel proud; but how can you tell a mother to feel proud that her daughter is locked up. It’s asking too much. Free Iliana Hernandez!

Translated by GH

Juan Juan ‘AL MEDIO’ Interview with Yadira Escobar / Juan Juan Almeida

Following is a translation of the first 40 minutes of the above video. Many many thanks to’s longtime collaborator ‘GH’ for this yeoperson’s effort!

Juan Juan Almeida (JJ)

Very good evening. How are you doing? Canada orders that the families of Canadian diplomats who have moved to Cuba must return to their country. But the Cuban government, and the official press, is concentrating on the reception of General Raul Castro in Lima, Peru at the American summit.  And they are also concentrating on an interesting meeting which – and I am reading this –  which is known as the Meeting of the Democratic International Committee of Women which will take place in Pyongyang.

And, to be honest, I see very few connections between the North Korean Republic and the word “democracy”. We will talk about that, and many other things, with the person we have invited today, who is a young Cuban American lady, who, just by mentioning her name, will arouse emotions in all the social media.  This is Juan Juan Medio, and we will start in just a minute. continue reading

As I started saying, Canada is withdrawing  the families of its diplomatic personnel from Havana for security reasons and rumours have it that they are doing it because of all the commentaries about the supposed sonic attacks and because they are worried about the symptoms being suffered, or that have been suffered,  by ten of  their officials in Cuba. For that reason they are withdrawing part … well, not part … but the families of their officials  in Cuba.

And it’s strange really because – in my opinion, obviously – we have heard a lot about those sonic attacks which took place in Havana, but really, as far as I am concerned, after reading everything, or nearly everything, they have published in the official and unofficial media, I still find it hard to believe the whole story, or at least the story we have been told. Why? Well, because, I think we could have believed it completely in Fidel Castro’s time. Fidel Castro was a man who was reckless and daring.

So, I think that Cuba, at that time, was capable  of doing that, and a lot more. But Raul Castro is a different person. Raul Castro, Alejandro Castro, and all that group of people who is now in charge of the country …   I feel are very much cowards and I would find it difficult to believe that they could authorise or carry out those sorts of actions.  Not just against Canadian diplomats … we know the commercial interests that exist between Cuba and Canada … they are very very important – one of Cuba’s principal commercial partners.

Also, I very much doubt that there was this kind of action against North American diplomats as they say has happened  … I personally find it difficult to believe … and really I don’t have all the information … not all the information. But I continue to think that at least the story, as it is, shows an absence of evidence. There are far more questions than answers.

We will be talking about this, and many other matters here with today’s guest, who am delighted  to invite to join me here now, and introduce her properly, as God would expect, and as she deserves.

Yadira Escobar (YE)



Welcome. How are you?


Very well


A great pleasure to be with you and first of all of course to ask how you are … apart from the obvious, that you are a very beautiful woman … obviously very well. But, the rhetorical question … how are you?


A pleasure to meet you in person. Very happy to be here with the Diario de las Americas … and let’s see …


Your first time here?


Yes, yes …


The first thing I would like to know … I have seen many of your videos in the social networks … they are practically viral … and I’d like to know … is it a performance, a personality you have which you are trying to put over, or are you … or were you …the person we have seen in the social media. What difference is there between you and the person in the social media?


Well, the difference is not what I make. The only difference is between what I am and what some malicious people describe. The difference is that you publish your creative material… not the image that some malicious people .. in the networks people maliciously … there is in Miami  an attempt to destroy some peoples’ reputations and they in fact put obstacles in your path.


(Laughs) Obstacles in your path! The first time I saw you in the social media was in a video which was … if my memory serves me correctly … dressed like Flash, with a gun in your hand falling behind some trees, or something like that.




And shooting at a teddy bear. And later I saw you in another video, similar to that, dressed as a soldier in olive green with a military helmet. And that was a big contrast with your appearance in another, when you were speaking out against arms. This confuses me a bit when I try to define you as a person.


Let’s put in a … whatever you like …whatever compartment you fancy …


I am not wanting to compartmentalise anyone. But I’d like to know are you in favour of armed struggle, or against armed struggle … because at first you spoke well as a soldier … how do you position yourself?


I am against violence. What happens is that we are used to the social networks and propaganda and violence  in popular culture. I am saying that the emotion is so strong about putting an end to all the violence that exists in this planet. And I condemn any form, any manifestation of violence. So I say to you that to put an end to violence you have to have strength. Because, to be quite honest, smoking marihuana on the beach, a hippy with a flower, will not end violence.


Well, in a sense it will …


It’s a fantasy in your imagination. You have to take a position in your community in favour of good, in favour of peace, in favour of love, of beautiful things … which are very scarce …  you know, to interrupt you,  … the video of the helmet is not a uniform …  it was with a Guess brand shirt … the men love me in olive green …my brother says the shirt is a man’s shirt.


It looks very good on you


Thank you  The video I made which, sincerely, deals with the effort we need to make to promote peace.


So its nothing of the olive green or the intention  to show the symbolism that many people would assume … you see it in Havana


… and on safari in Africa …


But anyway …  when did you leave Cuba?


I was 6. In ’94. And I would have arrived in Miami before ’94, if a certain official – Montero – had not kept my family for four years … and do you know what was the worst thing? The official Montero offered my father a proposal. Pay me and I will give you the white card (which permits you to leave Cuba).




And do you know what was the most tragic part of the story? My father didn’t pay him … it could have been a trap.




My father didn’t pay but in the end we left Cuba …  the worst part of this story of an example of corruption and abuse of power is that this official went himself to the United States – I don’t know whether he is in New York, or Tampa, or wherever, but he is living in the US. The people who do the most damage … I tell you … the worst is not to be a communist … but to be a repentant communist. It’s a disaster … with their uniforms, they say they will do what they want. They have their privileges. They get their social security cheque when they have never contributed anything to society.


It’s an interesting question. You went back to Cuba after you left?


After 15 years  … you go, after a while you go back … a political refugee … when we left Cuba we left with pain in our souls … that my last night there in ’94 …


How do you remember your departure from Cuba?


Traumatic. Traumatic. I also think it was a miracle because we were country folk from Camagüey against Havana, in the Special Period. You go in the middle of the night with your suitcases. We got in the bus …a magic thing. That night, we slept by the Havana airport entrance on the floor in the night until early morning, because we could not risk missing the flight


You did it, or you would have nothing … there was just one flight.


I woke up, I saw we were outside, I saw people were coming , I cried. I said look at El Moro (famous castle on the route to Havana) – it will be the last thing you will see in Cuba.


Because you went on the highway to get to the airport. Just asking, because El Moro is a little way from the airport.


Yes. When we were in the plane, I looked through the window I said, I can’t look.  I was saying goodbye to my grandparents. So, when we got here, in 2000, when I said we had gone, I heard stories  … the kid came from Havana and went back again. What?! Went back?! How did I go back again? Are you mad? mad?! A communist!


Yeah, right – everyone who goes back is a communist! You had every right to go back. Its your country. Your country didn’t support or welcome you but we are Cubans, and we can return.


It’s a fight. How can you continue with the fight? How will the country improve?


Quite right – it’s a struggle. You know what caught my attention when you said it, and now I think of it some more …  When you said you were a country girl from Camagüey. When I met him in the lift and I asked you father back there which part of Cuba are you from? He didn’t look like a country person from Camagüey. More like someone from Paris. But you say “we are from Camagüey” …


Look …he is very proud that he is a country person.


But not a rural person from Camaguay.


No, of course, I am not just a country girl from Camagüey, I am from La Avenida  de los Martires (a relatively nice address),  but I am in constant contact. Like things produced on the farm, cheese, milk, all kinds of products, so I am continually in contact with the farmland.


Now, finally, have you returned to Cuba?


Few times. After 15 years of exile, Fidel goes, Raul comes. One of my grandparents had died, the other not in good health …


In 2006 …


It was in 2008. After 15 years, without any fantasy of a plan for going back. In 2008, the was no Fidel Castro. My father had problems. But it is better to reunite with your family than be trapped in fear. My grandfather died in the end … and we couldn’t go there every three years … and we went in 2008. I was pleased. We had left a Cuba which no longer existed In 2013 we could see the difference. in 2008 we went to a little place deep in the heart of Cuba. And we got there in a rented car.


When you went back to Cuba … from my point of view, there are many different Cubas. There are many Cubas.


Yes, that’s true


There are many Cubas. The Cuba that many intellectuals visualise or try to see or talk about. There is another Cuba  that the tourists see. There is another Cuba that the opposition and the dissidents see. Another that we see. That the musicians see. There are many Cubas for different people to see. There are many positions from which to view our country.  But which is the Cuba which you see, or have seen, when you go?


The Cuba I have seen … the first time I  visited it in 2008 after 15 years of seeing the Yuma (meaning the United States) with the perfumes, the colours, the plastic  … because the US has a beautiful attractive  face …  when I  went in 2008 the first thing that hit me was … I know that making comparisons with other countries in the world  isn’t right …  it has its ecosystem, its work, it has vaccines, the people don’t fall dead in the street.


They are still poor, but in good health.


Yes. They are poor and they are still poor  … Yes they survive but what impressed me was seeing this poverty …  and I cried, I  was crying … I am obsessed with the theme of Cuba because I  love it.  In the night I met a friend of mine in Havana. I took a photo of a farm in Cuba and it got to my heart. A little indistinct photo of my palm trees. It touched my heart. I tell you … the most precious thing that we have is our island, with all its problems   … what we have to do is improve it.


The palms that I love. But i sometimes think that you are idealising a bit. This image of Cuba  … when I left Cuba, I did something illegal. What I did first, I went in a bus from the province of Granma. I was looking at all the Cuban countryside … the pines, the palm trees, and I was moved by nostalgia … I knew i would not return. I looked at the palms with lots of nostalgia thinking i will never again return, will never again see the palms, and when I arrived here I saw there are more palms here than in Cuba and they are more beautiful too.


More beautiful? More beautiful than in Cuba?!


Yes when you go to a hotel like the Breakers in Palm Beach … the palms are beautiful


But they are foreign palms … come on!


If there were not many things, but one thing which, with certain changes you would leave as it is, what is that?


To preserve … I like security … I like that my grandparents can walk in the street without having to worry and walk normally. Cuba is a third world country. I can’t say that Cuba is a safe country for my grandparents … I would like more security. Cuban security is in danger


You think that Cuba is that insecure?


You can’t compare …


Compare with what?


No, without making comparisons … you can’t compare today’s Cuba with yesterday’s in terms of security. Because now with a bigger dose of capitalism, and a greater inequality, people can’t walk with iPhones, with … there is a privileged class in Cuba and a class …


There always was.


Yes, but … more exhibitionist.


Well one thing about Raul Castro is that he allowed the doors to open.


And he wants more.


Of course. Everyone wants more.


They want more. They are trying to create a type of underworld in which … I don’t want to defend it, but … I want the day to arrive that the marginalisation caused by lack of education, with no chance to escape, comes to an end. I think that the most vital thing is that every Cuban has at least one chance in their life … to move forward. That the poor person gets a chance to go to university or he will remain there, stuck in the mud.


The press,  or many people in the social networks, make a big thing out of the violence in Cuba. But really I don’t know about that many cases of violence in Cuba. And the press in Cuba  report many cases of violence. But really there are only a  few.


There are few but these few cases may be a signal of something which is coming. You have to think not just of the country you come to but  where are you going with that. I am not going to watch the culture of the barrios with the “what nice chicks” and all that. And that is why i am against arms, because the worst would be to introduce arms into Cuba. Now the gangs, the kids, inoffensive because they only have little knives  … that they should be armed, go around armed like the ones in Mexico.


No no I don’t think that will happen. First because they don’t have arms. The police do … but put arms in the hands of the people … from the retired military people or could be some stores that they have robbed … and they end up in the hands of people who shouldn’t have them. But I don’t see many arms in Cuba … or much violence. But lately more arms to do with drugs which could to lead to more violence.


Something that i would definitely take away is the limitation … this prison without bars … the inability of the civil society to form groups. Because  there are people who don’t want to form political groups, like for example a group that was mentioned to me to protect animal rights and have nothing to do with the state … but it is on the margins of illegality


There are groups …


Yes there are some which have no connection with the state, but, once again, they are not protected by the law because it is prohibited. I think that should be permitted because the civil society each time gets more legal spaces to express itself vigorously.


Definitely. I think that if something would change … radical …it is the law, the constitution. The Law of Civil Association permits prisons … the Law on Investment, Business Law … all that  … all … to change the constitution. I think, in my opinion. But do you think that, Yadira, with your knowledge and the experience you have now,  if it would be useful, or if you would like to participate in politics in Cuba, in a position in the government?


Well, one thing is the future, because, right now that isn’t possible.


No, no, but hypothetically … in a future Cuba …


I don’t  know … I am not resident of Cuba …


Well suppose you went back …


Obviously i would like to participate in a future Cuba. In politics, because I think that …  I was not brought up in the United States …  in a Cuban community … here you are seen as communist exiles … they say yes, I fled Cuba, … syndicalists, marxists reds, … but I am in Calle Ocho with them … and therefore I say that I don”t want to break the laws of etiquette … but it seems to me that i could help, because I am a nationalist, a centrist nationalist, who brings at least a little inspiration to raise Cuban dignity, a bit. I think i could help. we will have to wait and see if they open a space for people like me who have this interest.


And you would like that?


Yes, I certainly would.


In everything we have seen of you … that has been demonstrated … as a dissident, or member of the opposition … how to you see the possibilities of representing a particular group of Cubans? What do you think is the possibility of leading a group … something political?


Right. I don’t know if you should call them dissidents. I mean, if I have a complaint the people say that it’s a dissident … but the people who have most impressed me … I have said … are not from the government, with no connection with the government … you are a Cuban, 100% clean … you defend your honesty … but you know, they are not exactly well known. They aren’t  people … I shouldn’t say their names, because they have not taken me into their confidence. They are young people. They have their complaints, their criticisms, but have not lost their sense of Cubanism and they say to you I want this for Cuba … more or less what they want, their nationalism, not to break the social order, in order to start over again from zero.  Life is short, take what is theirs, working to a certain extent, and improve it. To improve things as best they can, to improve the economy, it wont be the best politics in the world, the economy is broke.


But, but, but …


But they are all similar, Juan,


What I see personally … me … me… in my opinion … I don’t see in any of them … again, I repeat , in my opinion, I have not seen a project which produces anything. The housewife working in her house who says “ok i will do that but what is in it for me?


Yes. suspicious of an imaginary collective which comes up with a deluge of complaints with no platform at all. You know why they have no platform? Because they have no proposals.


I don’t know them …


I would say what they are proposing … they criticise the embargo …  but their discussion is not about the embargo, it is …. I have heard this since I was a child and it is something in Miami and doesn’t produce any result … except to annoy them over there. However much we have here and however much we want change in Cuba …  and we love Cuba … there are 11 million people who can collectively go up the mountains. The people aren’t stupid. They are you and me. They are normal people. If Cubans want to change the way things are, they will do it.


Would you like to take charge of the people?


I am not the Trump of Hialeah … I don’t want to inherit from Fidel Castro and nor to I like Donald Trump,  and I want … to serve you, the people. To be a representative. You are sovereign … all of you, the 11 millions, really have the power … they remain neutral re: their agendas.


The platform of Rosa Maria Paya who talks about a plebiscite … that there should be a plebiscite … I don’t see how they could implement that. But, the intention seems very laudable and  it seems she speaks well and that Cubans could decide for themselves …


Look, regarding La Paya and her father, these kind of people are trying to get signatures … to become an opposition accepted by the state. But the reality is they always have to make their proposals … their reasonable demands, and definitely annoying other opposition groups. But I don’t think Miami would vote for Paya and her people. I don’t think that people in Miami would be allowed to vote, because they always have to put their proposal and reasonable demands. Want to put the opposition to one side. The most irrational event would be a plebiscite. Because …


They can legitimise them there, but i think that a good option would be that I could say I do not agree that they are legalised and I have the possibility or option to vote against you and say I don’t want to go there . That seems to me probable . If you want for your own reasons to gather signatures to get into Cuban politics  …ok, but I don’t want to get into that because unfortunately there is nowhere in the world where politics is carried out in the street. Yes, proselytising, but politics happens in parliament and you have to get in there to speak up there in the name of a particular group in the community. In my personal opinion I don’t like the word “help”. The cuban exiles need representatives in the Cuban parliament … and why not?


Obviously. the Cuban parliament should have space for those who don’t agree. In any parliament there needs to be a dissident voice. But, to get into Cuban politics and to do things which affect 11 million people  … to have a lot of power  … to get into the assembly, to get into government …


you could get in …


… no I can’t get in …


you were modelling in front of the Capitolio … very beautiful, very beautiful …


Yes, that has to do with returning to my previous image …


Going out of the Convention Centre, which is ugly, going to the Plaza de la Revolucion to the seat of the Assembly, which is also hideous,  and going to the Capitolio which is a beautiful building …


Yes yes yes, but for those people …


you could have the palms as well


Ha ha yes wearing a palm brooch  … for this opposition to get into the assembly I think there has to be a minimum requirement … with finance from another power …


For me personally, I don’t like it very much.




It sounds small town. It seems it doesn’t transcend other cultures which have been very nationalist … Hitler for example … in Germany at that time …




No, I am not comparing Cuba with that … there is no way that I could disrespect the Jews like that … impossible …


There would be no genocide like that


No, no, … I am not into comparing Fidel Castro with Hitler – nothing like that.  But i think that nationalism stays, remains, very provincial … and we are more than that … we are in a global world … we are not just Cubans – although they have robbed us of that many times … but also Caribbean people, Latin Americans ..lots of things … 39:37:13

Translated by GH

Cubans Air Their Views on Miguel Diaz-Canel / Ivan Garcia

Miguel Díaz-Canel (white shirt and raised arm) and his wife Lis Cuesta, surrounded by State Security agents, go to vote at their electoral college in Santa Clara, on Sunday, March 11, 2018. Taken from USA Weekly.

Ivan Garcia, 20 April 2018 — Summer 1993. When night fell in Falcón, a little place next to the Central Highway, crossed by the Sagua la Chica and Jagüeyes rivers, people were sitting by their front doors, telling stories, and drinking home-made rum distilled with cow-shit.

Those were the difficult years of the “Special Period“, and in Falcón, like in the rest of the country, with officially-decreed twelve-hour-long power cuts which turned Cuba into a dark and silent island, people killed time like that, trying to make the summer heat more bearable. continue reading

Miguel Mario Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, the great-grandson of an Asturian, Ramón Díaz-Canel, who emigrated to Cuba in the mid-nineteenth century looking for a better life, was born in Falcón, in Placetas, Villa Clara, some 320 km east of Havana.

Falcón is an idyllic spot, where you can hear the cocks crowing in the distance. Most of its 6,000 inhabitants raise cattle, pick tobacco, and grow fruit, root plants and vegetables. The main celebrations are the parades, which go through the Sagüeros y Jagüeyeros river neighbourhoods. The Falconers, including Díaz-Canel, still remember the floods of 18th and 19th August, 2008, when many people had to run for a nearby hill, because of the fierce rains of the tropical storm Fay. There were no fatalities or injuries, but important material possessions were lost.

Antonio, who is retired and a native of the area, tells us that “some years back, Díaz-Canel was slim, wore his hair long and liked American music. His family and he were, and are, good citizens. Before he was elected First Secretary of the Party — a kind of mayor — in Villa Clara, he held an important post in the Communist Youth Union. But the man came home in the blackout and played guitar for his CDR bodyguard or talked about sports, to anyone.

He was well thought of in the nine years he administered Villa Clara, a province with 13 councils and just over 8,000 inhabitants. Elpidio, a resident in La Esperanza, Ranchuelo, Villa Clara, remembers that, “The fellow went about all over the city on his Chinese bicycle, and, in spite of the shortages, he was always worrying about the people there. A programme started on the local radio called High Tension and listeners could phone in and report their complaints. He was the first Cuban politician to authorise a night centre with performances for homosexuals and transvestites”.

In 2003, he was promoted to First Party Secretary in Holguín province, 800 km northeast of Havana. Daniel, a Holguinero, now living in the capital, recalls that “In Holguín, Díaz-Canel was not as spontaneous as he was in Villa Clara. He stopped smiling, and put on weight, like the other party leaders and government functionaries. He talked in bureaucratic jargon”.

In Holguín he met his present wife, Lis Cuesta Peraza. He did something not all that common in the macho behaviour of the Communist bureaucrats: instead of having her as a lover, he divorced the mother of his two children and married Cuesta, a professor in the Instituto Superior Pedagógico José de la Luz y Caballero. “Hopefully she will become the First Lady. That would give her prestige, because presidents don’t look so good if they are alone, like single people or widowers. Better to be accompanied by a lady, especially if she is well-prepared, like her”,  says Mercedes, a retired teacher.

In 2009, Díaz-Canel was appointed Minister of Higher Education, a post he held until 2012. At that time he used to wear a typical white guayabera the uniform of the Chinese creoles [there has been a substantial Chinese population in Cuba since the mid 19th century]. “In those three years as a Minister, I don’t recall Díaz-Canel doing anything out of the ordinary. On the contrary, he continued plodding along on the same old socialist treadmill, quoting stuff from Fidel, and repeating the refrain that the University is Only for the Revolutionaries”, says Sergio, an engineer.

The olive green autocracy, an insane system of personality cult, never showed any sign of providing good quality politicians. Fidel governed. The rest of them applauded and followed orders. In July 2006, Fidel had a gastrointestinal perforation and, in a historial arbitrary act, appointed as his successor his brother Raul, a natural-born conspirator with dictatorial obsession, but who, out of habit, worked on a team and listened to other points of view.

According to the gossip merchants, Castro II likes people who are like him. Whether it was because of his appearance, or his CV, what we do know is that, when he took over from his brother, he had already looked carefully at Díaz-Canel, a guy who had some forty-year-old women sighing over him.

In 2012, when he appointed him as Vice President of the Consejo de Estado, Raúl put him on the ladder to the presidency. Six years have passed, but Díaz-Canel still looks a bit nervous in public.

“He behaves as if he is still living in Falcón”, says Antonio, a retired chap. “Sometimes he looks ill-at-ease, or acts like a fool”, says Yadira, a university student. “His behaviour is contradictory. I remember he was the first leader to show up with a tablet at a party meeting”, adds Victor, another student. In the opinion of Rogelio, a private taxi driver, “One day Canel talks like a liberal, and the next day like a dictator”.

One good thing people in Havana do know is that, thanks to Díaz-Canel, ICRT transmits live the games between Real Madrid and Barcelona. “The man is a Barcelonista to his dying breath. People like that get high blood pressure when Barcelona loses. I think that when he finds his feet as President, they will put out live transmissions of the NBA and the Big Leagues. He loves sportS”, says a state TV producer.

The Puerto Rican journalist, Benjamin Morales, from El Nuevo Dia, wrote last April 17th: “Guaracabulla, in Placetas, has a ceiba tree there marking what is said to be the centre of the island, and, from this week, it could also be said to mark the centre of Cuban leadership, when Miguel Díaz Canel, its most famous son, becomes the first president not called Castro Ruz and who also was not a guerilla”.

After seeking opinions on the street — which did not include those of Antúnez, a well-known opposition figure in Placetas — Morales continued: “The people are  overcome with enthusiasm, but don’t let themselves get too carried away, because they understand that change is good, but only when it doesn’t affect people’s well-being”.

For most people in Havana, who spend all their time trying to put food on the table for their families and to survive the shortages of Caribbean socialism, the much-proclaimed presidential succession has not fulfilled their expectations.

“It’s more of the same. Seems like more Castroism, by another name, setting us up with “Canelism”. I don’t expect much from him. If he manages to sort out the disaster that Cuba has become, they’ll have to put up a statue to him”, says Diana, a bank employee.

Miguel Díaz-Canel could just as easily turn into an Adolfo Suárez (Spain’s first democratically elected prime minister after the Franco dictatorship) as become another Nicholas Maduro (current president of Venezuela). We’ll have to wait and see.


Translated by GH