Political Marginalization and the Citizen / Dimas Castellano

Published in Curazao, issue 24

May 3, 2013

The marginality, an effect of exclusion, is a phenomenon that prevents or limits the enjoyment of certain rights. It manifests itself in all social relations, including politics. In these lines I circumscribe the case of Cuba, where the revolutionary process swept civic participation mechanisms and replaced by others, created and subservient to the state.

Citizens participate independently in matters of interest through civil society organizations of which it is part. Also involved electing representatives to positions in government; in this case there is the risk that the elected turn their back to their commitments to the voters, as repeatedly occurred during the Republic. Precisely this fact served as an argument to the insurrectional process that took power in 1959 with a commitment to restore the 1940 constitution and call elections immediately.

The elections are important for the people as long as they express the public opinion. But public opinion and electoral democracy are the foundation of the building. Then comes the building, meaning, the system of government as a hierarchical structure where power goes from the majority to a minority. So depending on decisions made by that minority whether or not they represent the best interests of their constituents, we face a democratic or undemocratic government, demonstrating that elections are necessary but not sufficient.

The seizure of power by the revolutionaries in 1959 provoked a violent break with the established system. It replaced the Constitution of 1940 and with it the institutional base. Then the revolution, which has become a source of law, swept away civil society and all the spaces that were instruments of civic participation. The country headed towards the totalitarianism that penetrated the entire social fabric, liquidated political pluralism and thus eradicated the concept of citizen. Seventeen years later, in 1976, a constitution was adopted that legalized the marginalization of the people in politics.

Since then, Cubans were limited to electing district delegates. Thereafter, where  the destiny of the nation is decided, the Candidacy Commissions created by the same power, decide the candidates for all positions in government, from the municipality to the National Assembly of People’s Power; meanwhile the people are reduced to confirming the propositions of said Committees. As an end result there exists a government that has been predetermined. This explains the excessively prolonged time leaders remain in positions of power, indicating the nonexistence of democracy and evidence that the elections, as a manifestation of popular sovereignty, are something that remains pending.

The Cuban case demonstrates that democracy — the best instrument of the people to exercise their freedoms — is fragile. Its strength depends on civic education, the rebuilding of civil society independent of the state and the reconversion of Cubans into citizens; it is the only way out of political marginalization.

Translated by Roots of Hope 

27 May 2013

What Being Translated Means to Me / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Translator’s note: We recently asked the bloggers to describe what it means to them to be translated into different languages. Their responses are being published on the Roots of Hope blog, and here. You, the reader, can join this effort by clicking HERE to TRANSLATE.

By Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

The word of independent Cuban bloggers is like a light that is true, but very fragile. Before the totalitarian power of the official media, every effort is small to boost this alternative current within today’s Cuba. To translate to other languages, to make accessible to other audiences of the world these independent looks into the Absolute State, is a gesture of solidarity of incalculable human and historic worth.

The volunteer translators can hardly feel the emotion that they provoke in each author with each one of the posts they help disseminate. Never have the critical voices within the island counted with such a citizen platform of world support. Never have we felt so accompanied in the midst of the most uncivil solitude(socialipsysm: what I like to call this sub-existential situation after half a century of a Revolution that is “irreversible” even by our Constitution).

We can only give you back our love vocalized in the most elementary of words: Thank you…Or even better, of course, because we already are even without knowing each other: Thank you, brothers…


La palabra de los bloggers independientes cubanos es como una luz verdadera, pero muy frágil. Ante el poder totalitario de los medios oficiales, todo esfuerzo es poco para potenciar esta corriente alternativa dentro de la Cuba de hoy. Traducir a otros idiomas, hacer accesible a otras audiencias del mundo estas miradas independientes al Estado Absoluto, es un gesto solidario de incalculable valor humano e histórico.

Los traductores voluntarios difícilmente puedan sentir la emoción que provocan en cada autor con cada uno de sus posts que ayudan a difundir. Nunca las voces críticas dentro de la Isla contaron con tal plataforma ciudadana de apoyo mundial. Nunca nos sentimos tan acompañados en medio de la más incivil soledad social (socialipsismo: me gusta llamar a esta situación sub-existencial tras medio siglo de Revolución “irreversible” hasta por nuestra Constitución).

Sólo podemos devolverles nuestro cariño vocalizado en la más elemental de las palabras: Gracias… O mejor, por supuesto, porque ya lo somos incluso sin conocernos: Gracias, hermanos…

What Being Translated Means to Me / Regina Coyula

Translator’s note: We recently asked the bloggers to describe what it means to them to be translated into different languages. Their responses are being published on the Roots of Hope blog, and here. You, the reader, can join this effort by clicking HERE to TRANSLATE.

Hello to all translators,

The voluntary translations of our blogs is an invaluable labor. This work allows the reality of our country to be seen from a more realistic point of view, different from the one official propaganda has offered. I hope it has helped many people form a more complete -and complex- idea of my country. Thank you so much for making me a part of this.

Saludos para los traductores,

Es una labor inestimable la traducción voluntaria de nuestras bitácoras, pues de esa manera la realidad de nuestro país puede verse desde un punto de vista diferente al que ha ofrecido la propaganda oficial. Espero que haya ayudado a muchas perdonas a formarse una idea más completa -y compleja- de mi país. Muchas gracias por el pedacito que me ha tocado.

Regina Coyula

Official Communication of the Rotilla Festival in Response to the Government Hijacking / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Havana, Cuba. July 20th, 2011

*Official Statement of the Directive Council of the Rotilla Festival
* Purpose: Denunciation of the Hijacking of Rotilla Festival

Rotilla Festival, founded in the year 1998, is the only event of its kind in Cuba.

It is brought together every year in the month of august, and during three consecutive days it promotes and exposes the great majority of the demonstrations of the Cuban artistic vanguard.

It is of a non-lucrative character, completely free and open to the public.
Originally it began as a movement promoting electronic music exclusively, since 2008 it incorporated in its artistic program musical bands of the most varied formats, but always under the principle of promoting the alternative within the arts.

In the same way, since its beginnings the festival has been administered INDEPENDENTLY by its founders, and practically without any collaboration of the Cuban authorities (state-government). That has been our policy and our position, we wanted to grow by ourselves, develop ourselves and generate an authentic movement aimed especially at the youth with their true expectations and demands very much in mind.

In our last edition (2010), already because of the artistic proposals, because of the national and international press coverage, because of its long trajectory and the renown it has acquired world-wide, the festival obtained a record attendance of 20,000 persons, thus placing itself as the longest running and most attended youth event in the island. The great quantity of film material gathered in all this time legitimizes this claim.

Today, in 2011, Rotilla Festival faces its greatest disgrace.

The Cuban Government, personified by vice-president Esteban Lazo, together with the Ministry of Culture, personified by vice minister Fernando Rojas, try to hijack the event from the hands of its organizers and founders, and produce it from government institutions, seizing and plagiarizing our name, our scheduled days and our convocation, distorting the very concept of the event, bringing to the “festival” bands that modify the format that we ourselves, the festival’s legitimate owners, had established. At the same time, the institutions questioned have offered the participating artists of this “event” monetary remuneration, in that way deteriorating the social relationship established historically (on a non lucrative basis) among the original organizers and the artists, thus securing the performance of the latter.

Traditionally there existed a dialogue with the authorities, where they pressured us so that a certain group did not perform, and in exchange they would cooperate to allow the festival to happen. Thus, was established a modus vivendi, of coexistence. It has never being easy informing an artist that he cannot perform because the Ministry of Culture rejects him; but that is the traditional folklore that we live in Cuba regarding art; everyone knows it. However, this time…the so-called institutions have gone too far.

They have informed us informally, by way of Noel Soca, government official who heads the Commission of Recreation and Culture in the new province of Mayabeque, that we no longer had any involvement in the subject, that the festival would be run by the Ministry of Culture and the Institute of Music on the designated days, as young people would attend anyway.

The board of directors of Festival Rotilla headed to the Ministry of Culture, knowing that a meeting was being carried out with the purpose and name “Rotilla”, in the offices of Fernando Rojas, vice minister of Culture. From this meeting we were politely expelled; we had not been invited.

Censorship (already traditional), is one thing, and something very different is the theft, plagiarism, and hijacking of a work that has reached such high levels of attention at even international levels, and that can count on the congratulations of thousands of young Cuban people who have attended for years.

The organizing team of Rotilla Festival wants to clearly and categorically assert, that in this year 2011, the Rotilla Festival is cancelled, due to the ethical violence that has been manifested by the highest authorities of Cuban culture.

We, organizers and authors of the Rotilla Festival, and I myself, its director and founder, DENOUNCE the theft, plagiarism, and hijacking that this attitude represents for all the young people of this earth that we today represent. We denounce the excessive and stubborn censorship that is being exerted against any cultural activity that DOES NOT originate in the so-called institutions. We denounce the harassment to which we are constantly being subjected. We denounce the surveillance and the subtle or direct threats to which we are subject daily.

“A country is not governed as one governs the barracks” Said Jose Marti to the general Maximo Gomez on the occasion of the small war. We believe a country should foster pluralist thought, its society should be the owner and true sovereign of its nation, and above all, owner of the good work constructed with the effort of many years and with its very own sweat.

The theft of one’s own work, conceived as a life project, is the most immoral and deplorable act that the government of a nation could be involved in. It violates all the principles of revolutionary ethics, whose concept is written in each corner of every neighborhood across the whole country.

We warn our leaders that this type of behavior attacks even the base of the social contract that is in place in Cuban society. They attack the principle of respect that a populace (nation) must have for their government. We believe this even contradicts some of the same points that have just been released by the Sixth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba, ignoring some of the principles that were set forth; leaving the children of Cuba wandering aimlessly without hope or direction.

To reconstruct the nation, it is evidently necessary that we all participate. And that participation can only be generated with the confidence and the respect between the government and its people. Such acts will plant in us, today’s youth, the distrust to build and create in our own land, because there is no guarantee that either our creations nor our investments in time, human resources, and material resources will be respected.

We made it clear to our institutional counterpart that we will initiate the corresponding legal proceedings against them, because this act not only violates all known ethical and moral concepts, but also a set of laws on copyright and ownership of intellectual property that, we expect, are still in force in the Cuban nation.

It is time that each of us demand the rights that correspond to us as citizens, and that these rights mark our relationship with institutions. It is time to bring order to the folly (stupidity) and arbitrariness.

We want to do our exercise in our land, invest and earn doing what we do, our personal businesses, our parties, and our festival. That right, which we demand, but do not have, is just and necessary.

The Rotilla Festival team invites anyone who identifies with or adheres to our cause to disseminate this speech by any means at their disposal. This way we can build, today, the solidarity of tomorrow.

We hope that this news is received with the same respect that we intended to print it. It is our intention to discuss reform, to grow and succeed, to build a nation for all where everyone has their own space to grow as confident and capable individuals.

Let there be no doubt that we will continue demanding the right to carry out our festival in the coming years, it is our legitimate right.


Translated by Roots of Hope