Mamerto

Photo: Orlando Luis

A teacher without much character, I won’t mention her name, who worked in one of the ten elementary schools I attended when my father’s career — he worked as an industrial mechanic — moved our family like circus tumblers all over Cuba, came up with a strategy to maintain calm and discipline among her most restless students. The method was not, indeed, very educational, but it was indisputably effective: with an old broom handle as the backbone, she (or someone) had constructed a rough doll something like a scarecrow. The head was skillfully made with an old paper-mâché ball onto which had been painted a mouth and eyes with watercolors, while an exaggeratedly long protuberance served as the nose in that frowning face. The whole was crowned with an abundance of rope hair, disheveled enough to give the doll a ferocious mien.

This scarecrow, named Mamerto, “lived” in the second grade’s classroom closet and, at least at the beginning of the school year, a single reference to him was enough to subdue the naughtiest of students. The veiled threat was that Mamerto, a really bad guy, was uncomfortable in the narrow closet, so if you misbehaved the punishment would be to take him home to live in your house and to sleep in your bed with you. In those innocent days, when children believed in magic and Santa Claus, no one wanted to be near the terrible presence of Mamerto, much less to share a pillow with him when it came time to sleep. Mamerto had one more curse: obstinate children who earned his antipathy didn’t pass the grade. Yes, in the early sixties we took our studies more seriously, perhaps because subjects, and even entire years were repeated, even in elementary school.

The truth is no one had ever gotten a really good look at Mamerto. All that was required in the lively classroom was for the teacher to invoke his name aloud while opening a chink in the closet door just wide enough to let his tangled hair spill out; the result was a deadly silence in the room with all eyes wide in alarmed expectation. This shared fear was contagious, but also a little incredulous. Deep down, almost all the children sensed that Mamerto was a fraud, particularly the most boisterous and reckless of us, so the teacher was careful never to fully display the bogeyman and always made sure the closet was locked when she left the classroom.

For some of us, however, myself included, the saga of Mamerto had a certain adrenaline-laced charm and inspired a good dose of curiosity. So it was no surprise that one day some of the boldest of my classmates — children have the innate wisdom to join forces in their difficult campaigns — managed to open the closet and discover the true essence of the inanimate and defenseless Mamerto; from that time on, the unfortunate doll became the focus of the antics of the children. He soon appeared propped against some desk in the classroom, leaning against the blackboard, or stripped of his pants, setting off a general hilarity where before there had been fear. Finally the doll became a bore to everyone and was forgotten in his corner of the closet, until one day he disappeared for good. The teacher tried to substitute a cardboard dog and even a stuffed rooster, but in vain. If the whole classroom had vanquished the fear of Mamerto, nothing minor by comparison could take his place.

Somehow, in recent days, certain images appearing in the official press and on TV have called to mind that almost forgotten lesson of Mamerto.

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Miriam’s Blog: Sin Evasion / Without Evasion

The Gag Law

The Penal Code (CP) characterizes and punishes behavior that goes against the security of the state, the economy, public policy, etc. But in a different area of the law there is another criminal provision, which carries the same weight and promotes the same goals: Law No. 88, “Protection of National Independence and the Economy,” popularly known as “the Gag Law.”

But these laws differ in the way their rules are drafted. Law 88 is more confusing and imprecise, which makes it hard to interpret. For example, the Penal Code prohibits conduct that goes against the legal order: public disturbance, incitement to crime, etc. In each of these sections the legislature made clear the factual situation that describes the crime:

“Anyone who . . . yells out an alarm, or utters warnings of a common danger . . .” (Public Disorders, Section 200.1 CP); “A person who provokes squabbling and bickering . . .” (Public Disorders, Section 201.1 CP); “A person who . . . publicly incites another to commit a particular offense . . .” (Incitement to Commit a Crime, Section 202.1 CP).

The character of places where the criminal activity occurs is also explicit: . . . “in public places, shows, or large gatherings . . .” (Public Disorders, Article 200.1 CP); “. . . in establishments open to the public, public transport vehicles, social circles, shows, family or public celebrations, or other events or places where many people gather . . .” (Public Disorders, Section 201.1 CP).

Article 8 of Law No. 88 (Part 1) sanctions “everyone . . . who intentionally disturbs the public order . . .” and “everyone . . . who promotes, organizes, or encourages disturbances to the public order referred to in the previous section” (Part 2).

Article 8 says nothing about the nature of the places where the conduct alleged to be socially dangerous occurs. Nor does it describe the possible acts that must occur to be considered disturbing the public peace. The offense is not defined.

The authorities may consider any action to be a disturbance of public order. This creates a climate of insecurity for citizens subject to the rule.

From this analysis we can derive a lesson and discover one of the strategies of the Cuban political class: drafting laws based on undefined and highly abstract fact patterns makes the interpretation and application of the Gag Law severe and leads to arbitrariness, supposedly in the public interest.

Translated by: Tomás A.


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Laritza’s Blog: Laritza’s Laws and Cuban Legal Advisor

Everything Changes!

3-tablero-ifaMovement is a universal property: nature changes and society  changes. The difference is that changes in nature respond to  objective laws which operate with or without human involvement, while  history is made by men, allowing them to hasten or delay change, but not to stop it. The  need for social change manifests itself as a permanent dissatisfaction with  what has been achieved, which makes society a perfectible entity.

In Cuba,  the convergence of various factors – internal, external, historical, sociological  and cultural – at a specific time and geopolitical space, led to the prevailing immobility of the recent decades. But these same factors, together with new ones, have placed the limits of immobility on the agenda. A  reality that the authorities of the country, long entrenched in the  idea that Cuba has already changed, have acknowledged in their discourse – the  need to change whatever needs to be changed, or update the model, or both.

Attempts  to homogenize the pluralistic society, changing the citizenry en masse, ignoring  the vital role of rights and freedoms to determine what, when, and  how to do things, first led to stagnation, then to decline, and finally resulted in a  resounding failure with significant material and spiritual  damage.

Although  the infeasibility of the model has brought the economy to the point of collapse, the  system continues to cling to an ideology with no future, to the point that, to  paraphrase Lenin’s definition of a revolutionary situation, the coincidence in Cuba of: the exhaustion of the model; the stagnation of the nation;  public discontent; external pressures; and consensus for change, forms an objective picture showing that those underneath do not want, and those above are not able, to continue as before. In this context, while clinging to immobility and the politics of  confrontation, a series of events happened very early in 2010: the government denied entry to Cuba to a Member  of the European Parliament, the Socialist Luís Yáñez; the  political prisoner Orlando Zapata  Tamayo died following a  prolonged hunger strike; a similar strike was started by the dissident Guillermo  Fariñas; and there were various manifestations of repression against the  Ladies in White, which formed a new scenario at the very time when the  government announced the “update of the model.”

Behavioral  change was manifested in accepting and allowing previously unacceptable acts, such as: allowing Rosa Diez, leader of the Spanish Progressive and Democratic Union, what had earlier been forbidden to Luis Yáñez – to enter Cuba with a  tourist visa and meet with several dissidents; the Cuban foreign minister  meeting with the Troika of the European Union, where they raised the proposal of Cuba’s  willingness to continue dialogue despite the alleged “media campaign  against Cuba”; and the meeting of the Cuban head of state with authorities of the Catholic Church, where they addressed the issue of the  Ladies in White, Fariñas’s strike, and the release of prisoners.

But while this change in behavior does not mean that the political  will exists to democratize Cuba, there is an important practical result: the failure  of inaction, as the issue of the prisoners could be a prelude to other  urgent claims of society. I refer to rights  relating to freely leaving and returning to the country, free Internet  access, or freedom of expression, to name just three of the many needs of Cubans.

If the  government’s tactic consists only in releasing prisoners to change the external  appearance and to gain access to plans of cooperation and funding sources, it is on  the way to a new and resounding failure. To avoid  this it is important that, in the absence of an independent civil  society with the legal recognition to act within Cuba, the international community,  while encouraging the release of prisoners, should place on its agenda with Cuba  the need to ratify human rights pacts signed more than two years ago and put  the domestic legislation in line with those documents. It would be a  grave mistake to implement aid to the government without it demonstrating its readiness to go beyond the liberation of political prisoners, which  did not help either the government or Cuban society.

The desire to change must be demonstrated  with the implementation of human rights, based on the dignity of the person, and the acceptance  that, along with the government’s attempt to update the model, citizens  enjoy the right to propose alternative models, which implies renouncing the strategic interest of remaining in power forever. Citizen participation parallel to that of the State is a requirement of modernity. Cuba has changed  throughout its history and yet we are in a deep structural crisis, one  of the causes of which has been the weakness or absence of civil  society, that place of interaction and coexistence of diverse interests,  where their autonomy and independence from the state constitutes an  irreplaceable instrument for citizen participation.

The demonstration  of the ability to retain power cannot be extrapolated to progress in  the economy, which also indicates that it is insufficient to stop history. Everything  changes, and Cuba is changing.

Translated by: Tomás A.

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Dimas’s Blog

The Novel of So Many Lives

He received me on Monday in a quiet apartment in Mantilla from where he has written almost all his work. On a polished table he put cold water and strong coffee for both of us. He lit a cigarette whose smoke, luckily, chose as its victim the bust of Cervantes resting on a nearby sideboard. And began to answer my questions.

Maybe, I would never have decided to interview Leonardo Padura had I not read La Novela de mi Vida (The Novel of my Life). Up until that moment, the two pieces I already knew were enough to admire his clean prose and skillful police frameworks, but not much more.

So, I discovered this novel and found myself obligated to track down (just like investigator Mario Conde) where its author lived. For a character like Salinger there are some writers who, after reading their work, you just wish you could call them. Since I don’t have his telephone number, I decided to travel 498 miles from my native Bayamo to the Cuban capital, knock on his door and say: I need to interview you.

It so happens that The Novel of my Life should already be on the must-read list of every reader who thinks himself Cuban. Or one who lives or studies the historical truth inside this, our country, made up of water and sand. Because coming to find out the written novel of this immense and suffered man who was the poet Jose Maria Heredia is the best way to understand a country that, two centuries later, has not yet ceased to repeat similar tragedies in the lives of millions of other children.

With great precision, Leonardo Padura, a well experienced writer, wove two different stories that is one at the end. First: the one of the great poet of the Niagara, a man without real nationality that against all logic profoundly identified himself as Cuban (when he died, at 35 years of age, Jose Maria Heredia had lived in five different countries and only 6 of those years in Cuba), and he might have been the one to inaugurate the so-called Cuban tradition of suffering exile and dying defeated by nostalgia. Second: the one of a fictitious character known as Fernando Terry, who in the ’90’s returns from the exile (to visit for a few weeks) in search of a past from which he was never able to detach.

If you think the story of this contemporary Cuban — forced to migrate in the Mariel Boatlift due to the intolerance, the fear and the lies — as melancholic, you will be frightened by the first person tale that Heredia, revived by Padura, tells us about the time in his life when, mad by pain and frustration, as he himself called it, the novel of his life.

A life made up of love of poetry and the freedom of his oppressed country, of defense towards a Cubanness in the making that could not yet be defined, but it could be felt. A life thrown to the fiercest of exiles by the despot who governed at the time: Miguel Tacón, the tyrant of the day, who just like so many of them, gave himself the right to decide who lived inside the island, who died, and who should leave it. Cursed be the stubbornness of the dictators who manage their nations as if they were their own homes.

The same poet whose ode to Niagara today rests in a tombstone right in front of the waterfall, also inaugurated a habit that we have not been able to erase from this beautiful homeland in all these years: to suffer from the accusations and the betrayal of a false friend that would use the misfortunes of Heredia to climb towards success in a Cuba sick from corruption. The story takes his name: Domingo del Monte. But about this, we couldn’t care less.

The alarming thing to recognize is that, behind the ability of Leonardo Padura, the reader is warned of too much freshness, too much proximity to his own reality with this novel that, according to what the narrator tells us, is one of so many of our lives.

My interview lasted a little over an hour. The agile, well-argued responses from this Havana native writer, filled up a text of many pages which I proudly plan to include in a book that I am just now concluding.

Today, two weeks past that encounter with Leonardo Padura, after looking around in disbelief and remembering the ordeal of the exiled Heredia, I have not yet figured out how to detach myself from the question that the The Novel of Many Lives left me with as a harsh gift: Could it be that our beautiful island will forever condemn its children to escape from her in search of protection and a piece of happiness?

Translated by: Angelica B.

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Ernesto’s Blog: The Little Brother

Freedom of Expression in Cuban Legislation

Freedom of expression is internationally recognized in the Declaration of Human Rights (Article 19). These prerogatives include being safe from oppression due to expressing an opinion, conducting research and receiving and spreading information, regardless of borders, by any means.

Article 53 of the Cuban Constitution <em>gives citizens the right to freedom of speech and the press in accordance with the aims of the socialist society. </em>Under this provision, <em>material conditions for their exercise are given by the fact that the press, radio, television, movie theaters and other means of mass information belong to the state or society and could not, in any case, become private property, which assures their use exclusively for the use of the working people and for the benefit of society. </em>Lastly, it assures that <em>the law regulates the exercise of these freedoms.</em>

However, the constitutional protections of freedom of expression, despite the fact of being a judicial guarantee, is not sufficient to affirm that in Cuba it is exercised and enjoyed.

First:  the article being analyzed is technically and judicially deficient.  The legislator confused the right with the material guarantee necessary for its application.  A useless condition, given the nature and characteristics of this kind of freedom.  The same one devotes spaces that the state does not have to create, because they are innate to humans, in virtue of what only has to be respected and protected.

Second:  The fact that the means of social communication are in the control of the State does not constitute a guarantee of the application of this right.  In Cuba, the human prerogatives, acknowledged by the Constitution of the Republic, cannot be exercised against the existence and means of “The Socialist State.”  It means that its legal application is severely limited when rights cannot be curtailed. They solely admit these minimal limitations, only when regarding the function of public order.

Third: According to the Constitution of the Republic, freedom of speech and press should be developed through a law, which is the only way of applying and defending this right.  The National Assembly, the main organ of the State with legislative authority, consciously ignores the mandates expressed by this Magna Carta.  It still does not adopt a law that regulates this most important right in ordinary legislation.

Fourth: The National Assembly passed Law 88, “Of Protection of National and Economic Independence”, a normative penal device that impedes citizens from expressing and spreading their opinions in regards to political, social, and economic practices of the government.

This law, also known as “The Gag Law”, sanctions every person who seeks and provides information, accumulate, reproduces, and spreads materials that criticize the political system, and any person who collaborates with such ideas, via radio stations, TV stations, newspapers, magazines, or other means of foreign communication.

Translated by Raul G.

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Laritza’s Blog: Laritza’s Laws and Cuban Legal Advisor

Freedom of Expression in Cuban Legislation

Freedom of expression is internationally recognized in the Declaration of Human Rights (Article 19).  These prerogatives include being safe from oppression due to expressing an opinion, conducting research and receiving and spreading information, regardless of borders, by any means.

Article 53 of the Cuban Constitution gives citizens the right to freedom of speech and the press in accordance with the aims of the socialist society. Under this provision, material conditions for their exercise are given by the fact that the press, radio, television, movie theaters and other means of mass information belong to the state or society and could not, in any case, become private property, which assures their use exclusively for the use of the working people and for the benefit of society. Lastly, it assures that the law regulates the exercise of these freedoms.

However, the constitutional protections of freedom of expression, despite the fact of being a judicial guarantee, is not sufficient to affirm that in Cuba it is exercised and enjoyed.

First:  the article being analyzed is technically and judicially deficient.  The legislator confused the right with the material guarantee necessary for its application.  A useless condition, given the nature and characteristics of this kind of freedom.  The same one devotes spaces that the state does not have to create, because they are innate to humans, in virtue of what only has to be respected and protected.

Second:  The fact that the means of social communication are in the control of the State does not constitute a guarantee of the application of this right.  In Cuba, the human prerogatives, acknowledged by the Constitution of the Republic, cannot be exercised against the existence and means of “The Socialist State.”  It means that its legal application is severely limited when rights cannot be curtailed. They solely admit these minimal limitations, only when regarding the function of public order.

Third: According to the Constitution of the Republic, freedom of speech and press should be developed through a law, which is the only way of applying and defending this right.  The National Assembly, the main organ of the State with legislative authority, consciously ignores the mandates expressed by this Magna Carta.  It still does not adopt a law that regulates this most important right in ordinary legislation.

Fourth: The National Assembly passed Law 88, “Of Protection of National and Economic Independence”, a normative penal device that impedes citizens from expressing and spreading their opinions in regards to political, social, and economic practices of the government.

This law, also known as “The Gag Law”, sanctions every person who seeks and provides information, accumulate, reproduces, and spreads materials that criticize the political system, and any person who collaborates with such ideas, via radio stations, TV stations, newspapers, magazines, or other means of foreign communication.

Translated by Raul G.

For the Democracy of Cuba

Several days ago the digital site “Rebellion” published an article which bitterly attacked the public actions of a group of men and women in Eastern Cuba who are not incorporated into the country’s Communist system, nor retain ties with any government enterprise or organization.

It was referring to the Eastern Democratic Alliance. Among the names that the journalist offered to “prove his case,” I saw mine, accompanied like the others, with adjectives used by the Cuban regime against those of us who take our time without masks or restraints.

The journalist who wrote it (Percy Alvarado) has the freedom to do so. The members of the Alliance have the freedom through my blog of telling a bit of what they have accomplished over the past seven months in parts of eastern Cuba and Camaguey, Las Tunas, Holguin, Granma, Santiago de Cuba, and Guantanamo. Despite the arrests, beatings, restrictions on movement, and closed-circuit monitoring, they all lived to tell the tale.

Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina chairs the Democratic Alliance and spoke to me on their behalf.

Translated by: Tomás A.


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Luis Felipe’s Blog: Crossing the Barbed Wire.

Sad Highways


Photo: Claudio Fuentes Madan

Practical woman that I am, I thought I would take advantage of my trip to Santa Clara to buy, along the highway, products which, in the capital, are hard to get or very expensive. From when I was little I remember the peasants by the road side selling what they themselves had planted and grown, trading their wares directly with travelers.

The lack of vendors on foot for miles and miles, surprised me, as I know these farmers have a very precarious economy, and I had to believe that the police dedicate themselves to punishing those who sell what they grow with their own hands. From their wooden houses, with their government-registered cows, they could earn enough from the sale of a few pounds of cheese to feed their families for some days.

There are still some, maybe fewer than twenty, along the miles that separate Havana and Santa Clara. Fearful, when a car stops they approach with caution, because the National Revolutionary Police hunts them by posing as customers.

The boy who finally sold me some cheese couldn’t have been more than 25. I asked him what happens when the police catch them: he said they run as fast as they can, trying to save at least some of the goods, while the police chase them back into the woods.

“They chase you into the woods?”

It’s hard to take seriously the ridiculous image of a uniformed officer knocking a peasant down into the grass to seize twenty bananas. As the poor boy hadn’t come to hear a lecture from me, I simply paid him and left, but the idea was making my head spin. Are there not, according to Raul Castro, a million unproductive people in Cuba earning salaries? Why don’t they start by getting rid of the jobs of these predators on the family economy and allow the farmers to sell their products wherever they want?

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Claudia’s Blog: Octavo Cerco / English

A Short Story for Distant Granddaughters

A few months ago, a friend, who was going to travel abroad, surprised me by offering to take whatever I wanted to my granddaughters.  It was a unique opportunity, but he caught me at a time when I did not have any money. I then had to use my imagination. I began to go through my drawers where I keep my things in the hopes of fashioning something, given my available means, which would be lasting and above all, something that the girls would like.

It was then that I remembered the beautiful drawings that they send me and I decided, that based on the drawings, I would come up with a story, made up of patchwork squares that would later become a quilt. This would be accompanied by a story.

That is how I came up with the idea of the story that I now transcribe below.

Grandmother with a big heart.

In a small country, long and green like a lizard, lives a grandmother that has a big heart because she constantly feeds it with pieces of love, from her other hearts, which are far away, very far away and dispersed, like the stars.

Since the distance is enormous and one can only get there by air she prays to God that he lend her a pair of angel’s wings, just so that her big heart can fly, fly, fly and finally arrive at the different countries where her other hearts are located.

As she passes by the castle where the Princess is, the Princess gives her a kiss on each cheek and invites her to follow the path until she finds herself on the beach with a Little Blue Whale who will take her on his back to the moon itself.

On the way, she makes a stop to pick flowers to fill an old wheelbarrow that she will take as a gift.  She will then be able to give out daisies, tulips and violets to her three granddaughters.

On her travels she runs into Mr. Radiant Sun and she gets closer to him in order to feel his heat. She is careful not to get too close so that she does not burn her brilliant wings so that she can continue to fly, fly, fly until she reaches her destination and is able to reunite with all of the hearts, to make her own heart bigger and stronger.

Once all are together, they will reunite under the shade of a large tree and from there, they will send messages of love to all the other countries, leaving room in the wide branches to hang more hearts.

Translated by: Amante de una Cuba Libre

Using the Criminal Law for Political Purposes

In principle, States enjoy sovereign power, which they are able to express through the actions of their government bodies and the enactment of laws. The latter are the suitable instrument for exercising their right to prescribe crimes and penalties (the right to punish). But it is disturbing how the Cuban government uses the coercive force of criminal law for political purposes.

Supposedly, the criminal law and the activity of the coercive state apparatus should protect society in general. Their purpose is to prevent and suppress acts that injure or endanger fundamental interests that affect the lives of human beings. For example, protecting property against theft, and human life against acts committed against one’s person, etc.

The precarious economic situation of the nation determines in part that conduct which qualifies legally as crimes, may be welcomed, supported and tolerated by society. For example, theft in the context of labor relations with the state. In other cases, socially accepted behaviors are penalized for political reasons. The sale of goods between individuals is prohibited by law. Economic activities are the exclusive province of the Socialist State.

There are also actions that are not prohibited by law, but which are suppressed by law enforcement. For example, having an official address in a province other than the capital, and staying in the capital without authorization, can result in being detained for illegally being in Havana.

Carrying on critical journalism independent of the official media is another example of prohibited conduct that does not represent a danger to society. Law 88 of February 16, 1999, “On the Protection of National Independence and the Economy,” popularly known as “the gag law,” punishes those who publish their opinions by any means – on radio and television stations, in newspapers, or in magazines or other foreign media.

It is clear that the repressive apparatus of the Cuban state has deviated from its fundamental objective and the principal reason for its existence. While Cuban society is sinking into decay, it uses the right to punish to suppress and persecute conduct perceived as undesirable by those who wield political power.

Laritza Diversent

Translated by Tomás A.

“Carné d’idá”


In the popular slang of my little planet, this is what we call the Identity Card (DNI).

This slang has been adopted by the police. Almost all the members who make up this repressive body have been imported from the eastern provinces; in general, people in the capital refuse to participate in this work. The police are almost always characterized by the low educational level and equally low stature, where normally it could be resolved with just one, well that’s one way to reduce the unemployment numbers.

Yesterday was one of those days when it took all morning, or all afternoon, to settle a little matter that really shouldn’t have taken more than hour, as they brag in the propaganda posters in these offices: Rectifying a mistake, even if it’s their fault, as for any other kind of issue, means you begin by standing in line. Soon a voice emerging from somewhere over there says, “Number three.” You go into a little office, where they ask you what you’ve come about, your name, et cetera, which they dump into a computer. Then they send you out again to wait, until they call your name. After a great deal of time has gone by, another voice from the back of beyond calls your name and takes you to another office where you are asked the same questions all over again. Then they take your old card, three photos, two stamps at 5 pesos each, and tell you to go down to the end of the hall and wait to be called. I was with my sister who is physically disabled, which no one seemed to notice despite its being completely obvious, since she can hardly walk on her own.

There, in the final waiting room, we stayed nearly four hours. Each time I approached an employee to explain the physical condition of my sister, they told me her card still had not arrived. It was as if to get from the little office at the entrance to the last room of the building, the paperwork had to make an inter-provincial journey on the back of a turtle.

Finally, after checking the new card, and correcting the accent which was missing from her last name, they had taken my poor sister’s ten osteoarthritic fingerprints twice, which is twenty prints as if to say, AY! We left there at noon, happy, despite the ordeal, to have had issued a new and correct carné di dá.

Fidel Castro Counterattacks

The bearded Castro is a loose cannon. He always has been. His behavior is unpredictable. Foreseeing his next move on the political chessboard is unimaginable even for people with the abilities of Nostradamus.

But something on the Cuban scene smells like it’s burning. There is a sort of forced cohabitation. Two-headed power. His brother, General Raul Castro, governs, but Fidel does everything possible to distract his management.

Castro I resists retirement. The only word is “Comrade Fidel.” In fact and law he remains the Only Commander. The glorious old man with delusions of being father of his country. The guy who sees more than anyone else. The world-class statesman.

A Caribbean soothsayer who equally predicts the path of a hurricane, the decline of U.S. imperialism, or his proverbial ability to foretell slaughters.

Now his laser points to a nuclear war between Iran and the Western nations. He is watching for it. Castro is a textbook narcissist. His gloomy reflections on the Middle East conflict interests no one in Cuba.

Ordinary people are focused on other things. On their own struggle. Trying to get two decent meals a day. And getting money however they can to buy clothes and shoes for their children and to repair their house.

Castro reappeared just at the moment everyone had forgotten him. For the first time since 2006 he hit the streets. The strategy was to overshadow the real news: the release of 52 political prisoners. He returned to fray at the same time that news was announced.

Then, when seven prisoners of conscience were flying towards Madrid, the old guerrilla came to the fore in a television interview, chatting and predicting misfortune in his new role of necromancer.

In local circles the emergence of Castro I is being called a desperate gesture of leadership. And it is evidence of tensions and disagreements with his brother Raul.

The signs are not new. The rebellious and unrestrained language of Fidel has placed the government of Castro II in more of a problem. He is like the senile grandfather that the family tries to give the best care, but at the first opportunity manages to put them through a public embarrassment with his incoherent behavior.

I have no doubt of the respect that Raul feels for the historical figure of Fidel. The General tries to manage the island in his image. But when he wants to disconnect from the policies of his predecessor, the ghost of Fidel appears.

Now the Single Commander counts for little in the real politics of Cuba. Or anything. His brother had the foresight to fire two dozen ministers, officials and secretaries of the party in different provinces. He replaced them with leaders who had his full confidence.

Unlike Fidel, Raul is known to have much lower political talent. But he is a team player and appreciates his unconditional friends. Fidel only had interests. He was above everything. Raúl bases his government on the spirit of clan.

There is a key point that causes friction between the two brothers. In essence, both have the mentality of a dictator and Olympic contempt for democracy and the rule of law.

The brothers born on a farm in Biran, Holguin, like and want power. The means that each of them use to keep it is what raises concern in Castro I.

Fidel is convinced that his younger brother is inept, that without his help he would never succeed in the arena of political subtleties. And Raul intends to show the contrary.

It is time to let him govern. For Fidel to rest in a clinic and be devoted to writing about the topics of his choice or a memoir. But the One is reluctant to go out of style.

He does not want the authoritarian power with which he ruled for 47 years (1959-2006) to go to waste. The old Castro no longer has the support of the armored divisions and the salute of the generals.

But he mastered the art of words and knew how to manipulate the media. It is an uncomfortable burden. Especially at this time, when the General savored his political triumph with the release of 52 political prisoners. A couple of things can result.

As has often happened, the younger brother bows his head and let’s his idol take the reins of power. The General has already adapted and apparently feels comfortable as second fiddle.

The other is that Raul Castro wants to leave a legacy to the country and a consolidated power in the future for his immediate circle. And these are the upstarts in local politics who really hate the unpredictable output of Fidel Castro.

Although they only say it quietly. For now.

Iván García

Photo: European Pressphoto Agency.

The Hopelessness of the Commander and Human Rights

Upon mentioning the death of the Portuguese writer Jose Saramago, the newspaper Juventud Rebelde (Rebellious Youth) published, on Saturday June 19, fragments of the interview carried out by Saramago with Rosa Miriam Elizalde (2003) when the writer ignored the repressive Castro wave against the peaceful opposition within the island.

The excerpt concludes with the advice of the novelist for the parties of the left, at the request of the interviewer, who asked to be referred to with terms such as Human Rights, the Left, and Freedom.

“I’d tell the left-wing parties that everything that could be proposed for the people is contained in a bourgeois document known as The Declaration of Human Rights, approved in 1948 in New York. Don’t get tangled up with any other programs. Everything is written there. Do it. Abide by it”.

At the edge of the honesty of Saramago and of the current journalistic impunity of the interviewer, the suggestion of the old narrator remained. In Cuba, however, the government continues violating the most elemental rights of the people, and considers members of the peaceful opposition as agents of the enemy, which justifies persecution and political apartheid.

The author of Up from the Ground, The Stone Raft, and Blindness, considered himself a “libertarian communist” and believed in the ideals of the left, whose tenacious propaganda steals the dreams and hopes of humans, which enslaves people in the name of freedom. If Saramago would have lived under the dictatorship of the proletariat, perhaps then he would have understood the horrors of a socialist utopia, far from promoting and applying civic liberties.

Saramago, like many other left-wing intellectuals clinging to the umbilical cord of the Cuban dictatorship, did not understand that the ends touch.  If the Castro regime survived the collapse of the Soviet Union it was, precisely, because it eliminated freedom of expression, press, and association, in addition to penalizing any contrary opinions, abolishing rights to property, and creating a state system that controlled and subordinated the individual.

Since the rulers of Cuba are more leftist than Jose Saramago, until now it has not even occurred to them to heed the suggestions of the Nobel prize winner in Literature.  If they, by chance, ever read the articles of the Declaration of Human Rights, they’d have the alternative of tossing it to one side and damning the writer.  Taking them into account is equivalent to renouncing power and changing the social model to one that is less revolutionary and more in accordance with human nature.

Either way, the suggestion is worth it.  How do you create a better world if you don’t respect the achievements reached and pre-established by society?

Translated by Raul G.

Judicial Power in Cuba

In Cuba, the power to administer justice belongs to the People’s Courts. The Supreme People’s Court (TSP), under Article 121 of the Constitution of the Republic, is the highest judicial authority and its decisions are final. But it is not recognized as the highest organ of “the People’s Power.”

Not having the status as the highest organ of the State means that the TSP does not have sole and exclusive jurisdiction to administer justice. It means that another state body may exercise those functions. For example, the general and compulsory interpretation of current laws is the prerogative of the State Council (Paragraph Ch of Article 75 of the Constitution of the Republic).

The defense of the Supreme Law is a function of the National Assembly. The parliament decides the constitutionality of the laws that it issues, the legal decrees, decrees and other general provisions (Paragraph C, Section 75 of the Constitution of the Republic). They also revoke judicial decisions that contradict the Constitution (Paragraphs Ch, R, and S of Article 75).

The Council of State has this same authority (Subsection O of Article 90) regarding the decisions of lower bodies. They can even suspend the decisions of the Council of Ministers and those of the local assemblies, when they do not comply with the constitution or laws.

Consequences:

  • The legal system does not have a Court of Constitutional guarantees or of Constitutional jurisdiction;
  • The judicial bodies cannot rule on constitutionality or unconstitutionality, to control and guide the actions of the government and the legislature;
  • Judicial power is void in Cuba, and with it the rule of law. Higher state bodies are immune and unaccountable for the excesses of government.

Laritza Diversent

Translated by: Tomás A.