Rebellion in Cuba’s Writers and Artists Union

Esteban Morales has complained that he is being used as an example in support of a situation which he is manifestly against. (M. Bernabé)

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14ymedio, Havana, 31 October 2018 — The Cuban Writers and Artists Union (Uneac) is facing complaints from several of its members who have openly protested against the refusal of the organization to debate the constitutional reform project.

The most recent to join controversy, and the one who has most openly explained it, is doctor of economics Esteban Morales who, on Tuesday, made public a letter to the vice minister of culture, Fernando Rojas, to refute a tweet in which the minister celebrated the high participation of Uneac workers in one of the meetings.

Morales reproaches Rojas for using him as an example to justify opinions he does not share. In his letter, the intellectual explains that his Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) nucleus, the writers of the Uneac, demanded to debate the reform project as all workers have done, something that apparently was rejected by the leadership, and he considers it “a political error of incalculable magnitude” not to allow the participation of the entire Uneac.

On October 17, an assembly was finally held in which Uneac workers participated, as did Morales himself and other people from his nucleus. However, as of today there has not been the meeting that they expected where, in their opinion, it was necessary to invite the entire organization.

“In our communication it was clear that we were dissatisfied with the fact that Uneac does not discuss the Constitution Project, a fight in which we have continued and will continue, considering it a political error of incalculable magnitude.” How is it possible to even imagine that the intellectuals represented in Uneac can not discuss the Constitution Project? It seems an inconceivable madness, for not issuing a stronger opinion,” Morales claims.

Although his protest has been the most recent and forceful, it certainly has not been the first. Before him, the historian Gladys Marel García spoke through a letter that she addressed to Miguel Barnet, the president of the pro-government organization.

García directly accuses Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel and the leadership of the Cuban Communist Party of giving the order to Miguel Barnet not to summon the members of the Uneac. “Whoever made that decision has discriminated against us and violated the right of the colleagues of the Association of Writers,” denounces the intellectual.

Last Sunday, the writer and journalist Gisela Arandia Covarrubias also made public a letter to express her disagreement with the situation as it stands, and demanded her right to participate as a member of the entity in the debate. The intellectual argues that “as an NGO” the organization has the same right that has been enjoyed by other social groups, including “teachers, doctors, lawyers, farmers, workers, scientists, students, self-employed, churches and housewives.”

Arandia considers it “inconceivable” that millions of Cubans have found space to discuss the project while the members of the Uneac have not been summoned to that debate. “How is it possible that the NGO that brings together intellectuals and artists does not invite its membership to offer their reflections, to make use of that right as part of Cuban society?” she asks, adding that it is not “a favor or a privilege but the right of participation.”

Also this Tuesday the writer Rodolfo Alpízar expressed feeling “embarrassed by the Uneac” decision in his article The Intellectuals and the Constitutional Debate. In the article, he says the writers have “insistently demanded” their right to participate and he believes that someone “from above” decided for everyone and the leaders accepted it without defending “the citizen rights” of the members of the organization.

“Do we Cuban intellectuals have to wait for someone to guide us to be patriotic? Should we expect ‘top-down guidance’ to be de facto and de jure, and not merely repetition of slogans in the public square or in the media? Do you fear the expression of our ideas?” asks Alpízar.

The debates of the popular consultation on the project to revise the Constitution began on August 13 in neighborhoods, schools and workplaces, and are intended to conclude this coming November 15. Once the popular consultation ends, the proposals must be submitted to the National Constitutional Reform Commission responsible for the re-drafting of a new document and its presentation to the National Assembly, where it will be discussed again and submitted for approval.

The next and final step of the process will be the call for a national referendum on February 24, 2019 for the population to weigh in at the polls.


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