Tag Archives: Politics

The Venezuelan Dialogue From a Cuban Point of View

By Yoani Sanchez in the World Post

Posted: 04/14/2014 11:58 am EDT Updated: 04/14/2014 11:59 am EDT

 Original here: The Venezuelan Dialogue From a Cuban Point of View

The dialog between the Venezuelan opposition and Nicolas Maduro is in full swing. Its critics are many, its most visible loser: the Cuban government. For a system that for more than half a century has disqualified and reprimanded its dissidents, this discussion table must present a sad acknowledgement of its own inabilities.

Last Tuesday stunned Cuban viewers could watch a debate between the opposition forces in Venezuela and pro-government representatives. The controversial meeting was broadcast on TeleSur, which is characterized by its tendency to back the work of Chavism with its reporting. On this occasion, however, it was forced to also broadcast the concerns and arguments of the other side.

The requirement that cameras and microphones would be present at the discussion proved to be a magnificent political move by Maduro’s adversaries. In this way the audience is engaged in the dialog and it’s more difficult to publish distorted versions later. The participants on both sides were allowed ten minutes each, an exercise in synthesis that the Venezuelan president, clearly, couldn’t accomplish.

For disinformed Cubans, the first thing that jumped out at us was the high level of the arguments the opposition brought to the table. Figures, statistics and concrete examples expressed within a framework of respect. The next day the most commonly heard comment in the streets of Havana was the popular phrase, “They swept the floor with Maduro.” A clear reference to the crushing critiques of his rivals. The government supporters, however, were notably timid, fearful, and offered a discourse plagued with slogans.

There is no doubt, this discussion table has been a bitter pill to swallow for those who up until a few hours before were accusing their political opponents of being “fascists” and “enemies of the nation.” Venezuela will no longer be the same, although the negotiations end tomorrow and Nicolas Madura will once again take the microphone to hand out insults right and left. He acceded to a discussion and this marks a distance between the path followed by the Plaza of the Revolution and another that recently began for Miraflores.

0010886523Maduro and Caprilles

New Picture (2)President Maduro

biXxJ.St.84The Opposition, Caprilles in the middle

And in Cuba? Is this also possible?

While the broadcast of the Venezuelan dialogue was airing, many of us asked ourselves if something similar could occur in our political scenario. Although the official press presents these conversations as a sign of strength on the part of Chavism, it has also kept enough distance so that we won’t get illusions of possible Cuban versions.

It is less chimeric to imagine Raul Castro getting on a plane and escaping the country than to project him sitting at a table with those he dubs counterrevolutionaries. For more than five decades, both he and his brother have been dedicated to demonizing dissident voices, such that now they are prevented from accepting a conversation with their critics. The danger posed by the impossibility of negotiations is that it leaves only the path to an overthrow, with its consequent trail of chaos and violence.

However, not only do the Cuban regime’s principal figures show reluctance before any negotiating table. The better part of the Island’s opposition doesn’t want to hear it spoken of. Before this double rejection, the agenda of a chimeric meeting fails to take shape. The opposition parties haven’t yet come together on a project for the country that can be coherently defended in any negotiation and look like a viable alternative. We members of the emerging civil society have reasons to feel concerned. Are the politicians now operating illegally in the country prepared to sustain a debate and capable of convincing an audience? Could they represent us with dignity when the time comes?

The answer to this question will only be known once the opportunity arises. Until now the Cuban political dissidence has concentrated more on tearing down than on elaborating foundational strategies; the greater part of their energy has been directed to opposing the governing Party rather than on persuading their potential followers within the population. Given the limitations on disseminating their programs and the numerous material restrictions they suffer, these groups have not been able to carry their message to a significant number of Cubans. It is not entirely their responsibility, but they should be aware that these deficiencies hinder them.

If tomorrow the table for a dialog was set, it would be unlikely that we would hear a speech from the Cuban opposition as well articulated as that achieved by their Venezuelan colleagues. However, although negotiation isn’t a current possibility, no one should be exempted from preparing for it. Cuba needs for the people before those possible microphones to be those who best represent the interests of the nation, its worries, its dreams. They may speak for us, the citizens, but please, do so coherently, without verbal violence and with arguments that convince us.

d8b426fb7787a00c41d72006c4bec2013c0a2b4f - CopyYoani Sanchez

Posted in Blog | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Cuban dissidents say political arrests top 1,000 in February

Daniel Trotta, Reuters, March 4, 2014

(Reuters) – Politically motivated arrests in Cuba topped 1,000 for a third straight month in February as the result of wider public demonstrations against the one-party state, a leading human rights organization said on Monday.

The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation said arrests in the past three months have nearly doubled from the monthly averages of the previous two years.

The commission reported 1,051 arrests in February that it considered arbitrary and politically motivated, although all the people jailed were released, usually within a few hours. true

 

 

 

The February number was similar to the 1,052 reported in January and down from 1,123 in December.

Reuters could not independently verify the numbers, which the commission’s president, Elizardo Sanchez, said were based on first-hand reports from activists around the island. The commission excludes any arrest report that it cannot verify, Sanchez said.

CUBA WIVES OF PRISONERSDamas de Blanco, in 2011

The Cuban government says the commission is illegal and counterrevolutionary, and normally does not respond to its monthly reports. It generally considers dissident groups to be in the pay of the United States as part of the 55 years of hostility between the two countries since Fidel Castro came to power in a 1959 revolution.

A Reuters request for government comment was not immediately answered on Monday.

The commission said the December number was the highest on record since March 2012, when Pope Benedict visited Cuba. It has been keeping records since 2010, and says the arrests rise when there are international events in Cuba, such as a summit of Latin American and Caribbean leaders in late January.

The numbers have stayed high largely because a growing number of citizens now publicly oppose the communist government, Sanchez said.

The report details each case by name, date and reason for the arrest, with many detentions coming before, during or after organizing meetings or public protests. Other dissenters were held on their way to or from church, the report said.

“There are more demonstrations of the people’s discontent,” Sanchez said in telephone interview from Spain, where he is meeting with human rights activists from Cuba and other countries.

Human rights groups say Cuba in recent years has avoided jailing dissidents for lengthy periods, instead choosing to detain them for several hours or days. As a result, estimates of the number of political prisoners are in the single digits, compared with numbers in the thousands decades ago. Amnesty International reported seven new prisoners of conscience in 2013, of whom three were released without charge.

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Time to hug a Cuban

Source:    http://www.economist.com/news/americas/21596532-rush-embrace-fading-outpost-communism-time-hug-cuban

A rush to embrace a fading outpost of communism

20140215_AMD000_0The Economist; Feb 15th 2014 |

HOW best to speed change in Cuba? The past few weeks have brought three different answers to that question, from the United States, the European Union and Latin America.

For more than 50 years the official American answer has been to try to asphyxiate Cuban communism through an economic embargo, and to encourage internal dissent. It was policy as tantrum, a counterproductive failure. Change is coming to Cuba—but from the top, not below. Since replacing his elder brother, Fidel, as Cuba’s president in 2008, Raúl Castro has unleashed economic reforms which, while officially aimed at “updating socialism”, are in practice introducing elements of capitalism. Some 450,000 Cubans work in a budding private sector of farmers, co-operatives and small firms.

Across the Florida Straits, the changes are causing long-monolithic support for the embargo to crumble. A poll taken in the United States for the Atlantic Council, a think-tank, published on February 11th found that 56% of respondents favoured normalising relations with Cuba. Days earlier Alfonso “Alfy” Fanjul, the patriarch of a pre-revolutionary sugar dynasty and long a pillar of anti-Castro Miami, told the Washington Post that he had made two trips to his homeland, talked to Cuban officials and would invest in Cuba “under the right circumstances”.

Barack Obama, who briefly shook Raúl’s hand at Nelson Mandela’s funeral in December, has lifted some restrictions on travel and remittances to the island. Many observers expect him to take further steps in that direction and to revoke Cuba’s anachronistic designation as a state sponsor of terrorism—once November’s mid-term elections are out of the way. But only the United States Congress can fully dismantle the embargo.

On February 10th the European Union, whose members maintain economic ties with Cuba, announced that it wants to start talks on a “political dialogue and co-operation agreement”. In practice many of its members have already sloughed off a “common position” adopted in 1996, a kind of embargo-lite that predicated closer links on promoting a transition to democracy. The EU was at pains to stress that this was not really a policy change, but it is.

One thing the EU will keep doing is to complain about the lack of human rights in Cuba. Latin America has already stopped bothering. Last month Raúl hosted a gathering of the Confederation of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), a body set up in 2011 explicitly to include Cuba and exclude the United States. In Havana the bloc’s leaders signed a declaration that stated that regional integration should “respect…the sovereign right of each of our peoples to choose its own form of political and economic organisation”.

Many Latin American leaders see being friendly to the Castros as a cost-free way of showing that they no longer take political direction from Washington, DC, let alone Miami. (A handful would like to go further and be like the Castros.) Yet their declaration was a cavalier disavowal of the democracy clauses inserted into many regional agreements over the past two decades. It smacked of double standards: so quick to condemn dictatorships of the right, today’s crop of centre-left leaders are happy to give the Castros a free pass.

Oddly this rush to hug a Cuban comes as reform shows signs of stalling. The pace of private-sector job creation has slowed. The government has shut down private cinemas; it has ejected several Western businessmen. A special economic zone at a new Brazilian-built port at Mariel has yet to attract foreign investors, because of the restrictions they still face. Many Cubans felt insulted when they were granted permission to buy new cars—at astronomical prices.

The aim of the reforms is to allow the private sector to create the wealth that the state can’t. But the Communist bureaucracy still resists the notion that this has to involve creating wealthy people. If Raúl were to die before the reforms have created a broad coalition of winners, there would be a risk of backsliding.

In fact, the key to speeding change in Cuba probably lies in Caracas. Thanks to an alliance forged by Fidel and Hugo Chávez, Venezuelan aid accounts for around 15% of Cuba’s GDP. Years of misrule have brought Venezuela to the verge of an economic implosion. It is the fear of losing Venezuelan petrodollars, as well as apprehension about the “biological factor” (as Cubans call the death of the elderly Castros), that drives the island’s halting process of change. For other powers the best way to help is through efforts that support Cuba’s budding capitalism without offering the Castros any political endorsement.

Posted in Blog | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Publication of the Papers from the 2013 Conference of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy

 

The proceedings of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy’s 23rd Annual Meeting entitled  “Reforming Cuba?” (August 1–3, 2013) is now available. The presentations have now been published by ASCE  at http://www.ascecuba.org/.

The presentations are listed below and linked to their sources in the ASCE Web Site.

ASCE_logo_220

 Preface

Panorama de las reformas económico-sociales y sus efectos en Cuba, Carmelo Mesa-Lago

Crítica a las reformas socioeconómicas raulistas, 2006–2013, Rolando H. Castañeda

Nuevo tratamiento jurídico-penal a empresarios extranjeros: ¿parte de las reformas en Cuba?, René Gómez Manzano

Reformas en Cuba: ¿La última utopía?, Emilio Morales

Potentials and Pitfalls of Cuba’s Move Toward Non-Agricultural Cooperatives, Archibald R. M. Ritter

Possible Political Transformations in Cuba in the Light of Some Theoretical and Empirically Comparative Elements, Vegard Bye

Las reformas en Cuba: qué sigue, qué cambia, qué falta, Armando Chaguaceda and Marie Laure Geoffray

Cuba: ¿Hacia dónde van las “reformas”?, María C. Werlau

Resumen de las recomendaciones del panel sobre las medidas que debe adoptar Cuba para promover el crecimiento económico y nuevas oportunidades, Lorenzo L. Pérez

Immigration and Economics: Lessons for Policy, George J. Borjas

The Problem of Labor and the Construction of Socialism in Cuba: On Contradictions in the Reform of Cuba’s Regulations for Private Labor Cooperatives, Larry Catá Backer

Possible Electoral Systems in a Democratic Cuba, Daniel Buigas

The Legal Relations Between the U.S. and Cuba, Antonio R. Zamora

Cambios en la política migratoria del Gobierno cubano: ¿Nuevas reformas?, Laritza Diversent

The Venezuela Risks for PetroCaribe and Alba Countries, Gabriel Di Bella, Rafael Romeu and Andy Wolfe

Venezuela 2013: Situación y perspectivas socioeconómicas, ajustes insuficientes, Rolando H. Castañeda

Cuba: The Impact of Venezuela, Domingo Amuchástegui

Should the U.S. Lift the Cuban Embargo? Yes; It Already Has; and It Depends!, Roger R. Betancourt

Cuba External Debt and Finance in the Context of Limited Reforms, Luis R. Luis

Cuba, the Soviet Union, and Venezuela: A Tale of Dependence and Shock, Ernesto Hernández-Catá

Competitive Solidarity and the Political Economy of Invento, Roberto I. Armengol

The Fist of Lázaro is the Fist of His Generation: Lázaro Saavedra and New Cuban Art as Dissidence, Emily Snyder

La bipolaridad de la industria de la música cubana: La concepción del bien común y el aprovechamiento del mercado global, Jesse Friedman

Biohydrogen as an Alternative Energy Source for Cuba, Melissa Barona, Margarita Giraldo and Seth Marini

Cuba’s Prospects for a Military Oligarchy, Daniel I. Pedreira

Revolutions and their Aftermaths: Part One — Argentina’s Perón and Venezuela’s Chávez, Gary H. Maybarduk

Cuba’s Economic Policies: Growth, Development or Subsistence?, Jorge A. Sanguinetty

Cuba and Venezuela: Revolution and Reform, Silvia Pedraza and Carlos A. Romero Mercado

Mercado inmobiliario en Cuba: Una apertura a medias, Emilio Morales and Joseph Scarpaci

Estonia’s Post-Soviet Agricultural Reforms: Lessons for Cuba, Mario A. González-Corzo

Cuba Today: Walking New Roads? Roberto Veiga González

From Collision to Covenant: Challenges Faced by Cuba’s Future Leaders, Lenier González Mederos

Proyecto “DLíderes”, José Luis Leyva Cruz

Notes for the Cuban Transition, Antonio Rodiles and Alexis Jardines

Economistas y politólogos, blogueros y sociólogos: ¿Y quién habla de recursos naturales? Yociel Marrero Báez

Cambio cultural y actualización económica en Cuba: internet como espacio contencioso, Soren Triff

From Nada to Nauta: Internet Access and Cyber-Activism in A Changing Cuba, Ted A. Henken and Sjamme van de Voort

Technology Domestication, Cultural Public Sphere, and Popular Music in Contemporary Cuba, Nora Gámez Torres

Internet and Society in Cuba, Emily Parker

Poverty and the Effects on Aversive Social Control, Enrique S. Pumar

Cuba’s Long Tradition of Health Care Policies: Implications for Cuba and Other Nations, Rodolfo J. Stusser

A Century of Cuban Demographic Interactions and What They May Portend for the Future, Sergio Díaz-Briquets

The Rebirth of the Cuban Paladar: Is the Third Time the Charm? Ted A. Henken

Trabajo por cuenta propia en Cuba hoy: trabas y oportunidades, Karina Gálvez Chiú

Remesas de conocimiento, Juan Antonio Blanco

Diaspora Tourism: Performance and Impact of Nonresident Nationals on Cuba’s Tourism Sector, María Dolores Espino

The Path Taken by the Pharmaceutical Association of Cuba in Exile, Juan Luis Aguiar Muxella and Luis Ernesto Mejer Sarrá

Appendix A: About the Authors

logo

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Changing Slogans of Cuba’s Leadership

pedro_campos1December 17, 2013 |  “Down with Capital, Long Live Capital!” Pedro Campos HAVANA TIMES

Those in Cuba who once bet on the complete expropriation and nationalization of foreign capital today beseech foreign capital to come in their aid, offering investors every imaginable guarantee. The Cuban State economy is in crisis, but not as a result of the imperialist blockade or the collapse of the Soviet Union, as the defenders of “State socialism” often say. The main reasons for the crisis must be looked for in more than fifty years of nearly-absolute state control, in the extreme centralization of decisions regarding how and how much of the billions of rubles received as subsidies from the former Soviet Union and the billions of Cuban pesos and hard currency produced by the working class were spent over this period of time, in the all-encompassing intervention of the State in the economy through domestic and foreign trade monopolies. It is to be found, also, in the State’s almost complete control over the means of production, in the nationalization of international capital, the capital of Cuba’s high and petite bourgeoisie, of free, individual and family workers – recall the “revolutionary offensive” of 1968 – of cooperatives and worker associations. The low salaries of workers, the maintenance of wage labor for the State, the financial imbalances generated by high spending in gigantic State institutions – such as the Armed Forces, State Security, the Party’s political and grassroots apparatuses, propaganda networks entirely subordinated to the State / Party / government, the country’s unwieldy foreign service – and international campaigns aimed at securing support for the government are some of the other causes behind the crisis. All of this could be summed up as the catastrophic result of that series of aberrant, archaic and dogmatic conceptions that Stalinism developed under the banner of Marxism-Leninism. According to the Stalinist logic, a political and military elite is to determine and regulate a society’s laws, economy, way of life and just about everything else in the name of the communist Party, the revolution, socialism and the working class – so-called “real socialism”, whose only real characteristics have been the absence of democracy and the refusal to socialize political and economic power. I have insisted on this elsewhere: unless the economic, political and social failure of this false socialism is acknowledged, the mistakes made will never truly be rectified. Those who defend this unjust system and now unscrupulously try to “update” it mistakenly identify the Cuban revolution with the Cuban government/State/Party that has made and continues to make every absurd mistake, “validating” the claims of right-wingers worldwide regarding the “unviability of socialism” (perhaps the best help global capitalism could hope for). Today, Cuba’s State economy can no longer rely on massive subsidies from the Soviet Union, Venezuela is experiencing a serious economic crisis and cannot continue to provide the aid Chavez offered the island. Likewise, the governments of powerful allies such as Russia, China and Brazil only offer credits that must be repaid. The bureaucratic apparatus of Cuba’s government/Party/State has refused to consider the truly socialist option: it has refused to share the country’s economic power with the people, with Cubans at home and abroad, with the workers. It has refused to allow workers to participate in the administration, management and revenue-collection of State companies and to grant full freedom to the self-employed and cooperatives, instead subjecting these to regulations, experiments and all manner of toing-and-froing. Naturally, workers identify less and less with a State that only caters to the interests of an elitist, bureaucratic caste which continues to determine the country’s laws, investments, estates and the lives of people. Faced with this complex situation, torn apart by its own contradictions and flip-flopping, the Cuban government/State/Party has now decided to contract legal matrimony with international capital, in order to be able to continue exploiting Cuban workers with its aid. The ironies of history! The “revolutionary leadership”, thirsty for foreign capital, today assures us it will not nationalize foreign investments made at El Mariel, the immense commercial project dependent on the end of the US blockade / embargo. The same government that blamed international capital – and US capital in particular – of all the world’s evils, that once boasted of having nationalized (placed under State control, to be more accurate) all foreign properties, today swears blind that it will respect international capital and begs, beseeches its powerful northern neighbor to lift the restrictions that prevent US millionaires from showering Cuba with dollars. They are not concerned about the risk that big, transnational companies – particularly US companies – will take possession of the resources and wealth of the “Pearl of the Antilles”, the “Key to the Gulf”, the “World’s Cruise Ship”, offering foreign investors the sweat of Cuban laborers on a silver platter, in order to share with them the surplus value they can squeeze out of workers together. This is typical of the annexationist stance that Cuba’s new Right – which has taken power in “socialist” Cuba – cannot conceal. We are dealing with the same people whose slogan once was “down with Capital”, those who today yell: “long live Capital!” The traditional Cuban Right based in the United States does not conceal its intentions of restoring capitalism on the island. The new Right offers us a pig in a poke, painting itself a “socialist” red while acquiescing to Yankee capital, allegedly excluding the old, “imperialist” capitalists (no, the new ones are “anti-imperialists”), so that the nouveaux riches and bureau-bourgeoisie, allied to and financially dependent on international capital, can survive the inevitable collapse. This comes as no surprise. Many of us in Cuba’s democratic and socialist left have been saying for many years that the bureaucratic State has only two options: coming to an agreement with the Cuban workers and people or with foreign capital. The second alternative has been the one chosen in all places where “State socialism” was essayed, where the powerful, authoritarian elite re-converted back to capitalism and became a new type of bourgeoisie. We are not against foreign investment. The question is who these investments benefit and what type of economy they are to serve, whether they are aimed at overcoming the economic and financial problems of the bureau-bourgeoisie and Cuba’s new Right or at developing the mid-sized and small companies and cooperatives of a socialist economy. During a fund-raising campaign in Miami, President Barack Obama assured Cuban dissidents he would not negotiate with the Cuban government in what is left of his term in office, while speaking of the need to change the United States’ long-standing foreign policy towards Cuba. The Democrats are already scrambling to secure votes from the Cuban and Hispanic communities, in view of the fact that there is a good chance the Republicans will put forth a Cuban-born senator as presidential candidate in the coming elections. If that were to happen and the Republicans won… Many concerns, questions and disagreements must exist in the high echelons of Cuba’s leadership. What did the US president mean? If there are to be no negotiations, the blockade will not be lifted and American investments will not come. What will they do with the Mariel project, its three million containers and their debt to Brazil? What steps could be taken to ensure the inflow of US capital, without putting their political power at risk? If this US president doesn’t lift the blockade, is that possibility to be discarded by Cuba’s current leaders? If the Republicans were to win the coming elections and a man of Cuban origin were to take office, what would they do? Now, has anyone in Cuba’s distinguished government of generals asked the Cuban people what they want? With every new development, what becomes clearer and clearer is that Cuba needs to democratize society, allow all Cubans to freely express our thoughts and to peacefully and democratically fight for their realization, allow for freedom of expression and association, the free and democratic election of all public officials and full access to the Internet. This process of democratization would allow all Cubans of good will to take part in the building of a democratic future of peace, justice and harmony, with everyone and for everyone’s benefit, regardless of their political views, religion, skin color or sexual orientation. Let’s hope open debate and the interests of the people prevail over the petty interests of extremists. Socialism in defense of life.

 

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Yoani Sánchez al 17 ª Conferencia Anual Fórum 2000 del 15 a 17 de septiembre de 2013 en Praga,

Yoani Sanchez Presentation to Forum 2000 in Prague, September 2013

Buenas noches:

Hace ya más de una década cayó en mis manos por primera vez el libro de Vaclav Havel “El poder de los sin poder”. Venía forrado con una página del periódico oficial de mi país, del diario del Partido Comunista de Cuba. Forrar los libros era una de las tantas formas en que escondíamos de la vista de informantes y policías políticos los textos incómodos y prohibidos por el gobierno. De esa manera habíamos estado leyendo en el clandestinaje las historias de lo sucedido con la caída del muro de Berlín, del fin de la Unión Soviética, la transformación checa y todos los otros sucesos de Europa del Este. Sabíamos de todas esas transiciones, algunas más traumáticas, otras más exitosas y muchos soñábamos con que la transición llegaría pronto a nuestra Isla en el Caribe, sometida por más de cinco décadas a un totalitarismo. Pero las transiciones más que añorarlas, hay que construirlas. Los procesos de cambio no llegan solos, los ciudadanos tienen que provocarlos.

Hoy estoy aquí, justo en la ciudad donde nació Vaclav Havel ese hombre que resume como pocos el espíritu de la transición. Estoy además frente a muchas personas que han impulsado, fomentado y personificado el deseo de cambio de sus respectivas sociedades. Porque la búsqueda de horizontes de mayor libertad, es un componente esencial de la naturaleza humana. Por eso se vuelve tan retorcidos y anti naturales esos regímenes que intentan perpetuarse sobre sus pueblos, inmovilizarlos, quitarles el deseo de soñar con que el futuro deberá ser mejor.

En la época que le correspondió a Vaclav Havel, a Lech Walesa y a tantos otros disidentes de los regímenes comunistas, fueron efectivos los métodos de la lucha pacífica, sindical, hasta la creación artística se puso en función del cambio. Ahora ha venido en nuestro auxilio también la tecnología. Cada vez que utilizo un teléfono móvil para denunciar un arresto o escribo en mi blog sobre la difícil situación de tantas familias cubanas, pienso cómo habrían ayudado estos artilugios de teclas y pantallas a los activistas de décadas anteriores. Cuán lejos hubieran podido llegar sus voces y proyectos de haber contado con las redes sociales y todo el ciberespacio que se abre hoy ante nuestros ojos. La WEB 2.0 ha sido, sin dudas, un impulso para ese espíritu de transición que habita en el interior de todos nosotros.

Hoy está aquí por primera vez en el Forum 2000 una pequeña representación de activistas cubanos. Después de décadas de encierro insular en que el régimen de nuestro país impedía a muchos disidentes, periodistas independientes y bloggers alternativos viajar al extranjero, hemos logrado la pequeña victoria de que nos abran el cerrojo de las fronteras nacionales. Es una victoria limitada, incompleta, porque todavía faltan muchas otras. La libertad de asociación, el respeto a la libre opinión, la capacidad de elegir por nosotros mismos a quienes nos representen, el fin de esos actos de odio llamados mítines de repudio que aún persisten en las calles cubanas contra los que piensan diferente a la ideología en el poder. Sin embargo, muchos sentimos que Cuba está en transición. Una transición que está ocurriendo de la manera más irreversible y aleccionadora: desde el interior del individuo, en la conciencia de un pueblo.

En esa transición habrán influido muchos de ustedes. Muchos de ustedes que han llegado primero a la libertad y han comprobado que no es el final del camino, sino que la libertad trae nuevos problemas, nuevas responsabilidades, nuevos retos. Ustedes que en sus respectivos países mantuvieron vivo el aliento del cambio, incluso poniendo en riesgo sus nombres y sus vidas.

Como el espíritu de la transición contenido en aquel libro de Vaclav Havel, forrado –para enmascararlo- con las páginas del periódico oficial más inmovilista y reaccionario que puedan imaginar. Como aquel libro, la transición puede prohibirse, censurarse, ser decretada casi una mala palabra, postergarse y satanizarse… pero siempre llegará.

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

“From Collision to Covenant: Challenges Faced by Cuba’s Future Leaders”

Lenier Gonzalez of Espacio Laical has written an insightful and challenging analysis of Cuba’s political future. It has been reproduced as a special study “From the Island # 19) by the Cuban Studies Group. it is available here in English: Lenier Gonzalez, From Collision to Covenant: Challenges Faced by Cuba’s Future Leaders.

A Spanish language version is here: Lenier Gonzalez:  De la colision al pacto,desafios del relevo politico en Cuba.

Lenier Gonzalez Mederos

Posted in Blog | Tagged , | Leave a comment

“Political Science”: When Will Cuban Universities Join the World?

By Arch Ritter

 In 1993, the Faculty of Economics at the University of Havana decided that it had to incorporate mainstream economics into its curriculum because “Soviet” or “central planning” style economics had virtually disappeared following the break-up of the Soviet Union and the Soviet Bloc. After some discussions with the International Development Research Center (IDRC) in Ottawa, a Masters in Economics Program commenced operation at the University of Havana principally for young Cuban professors of Economics plus others. The program was financed by IDRC and then the Canadian International Development Agency and had the support of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. It included Canadian and Latin American Professors with senior Cuban professors acting as counterparts.

The program ran from 1994 to 2000, and helped to “jump-start” the introduction of conventional economics into Cuban Universities. It contributed to the changing climate of opinion that has resulted in the new approach to economic policy adopted by President Raul Castro.  I am happy to say that it was my Economics Department here at Carleton University that offered its MA in collaboration with the University of Havana. A description of this Master’s Program in Economics offered at the University of Havana from 1994 to 2000 can be found here.

In contrast, the teaching of Political Science – or “Government” to use the Harvard label – in Cuban Universities appears to be virtually non-existent or else locked in a Soviet-era time-warp at this time. As far as I can determine from perusing the web sites of Cuban Universities, little has changed in this regard since about 1990.

During the 1960’s and early 1970’s, the University of Havana’s School of Political Sciences  (Escuela de Ciencias Políticas) was active at the Faculty of Humanities (Facultad de Humanidades)  This School was created in 1961 after the triumph of the Revolution as part of the University Reform (Reforma Universitaria). But during the decade of 1970 to 1980 the School was closed. Some of its activities were then assumed by the recently created “Ñico López” Party School (Escuela del Partido “Ñico López”), affiliated with the Cuban Communist Party, outside the University campus and with no relation to the University. The main purpose of the “Ñico López  Party School was and still is the formation of Party cadres.

Universidad de la Habana

One outstanding research center affiliated with the Communist Party namely the Centro de Estudios sobre sobre América (CEA) apparently got out of control and was effectively terminated. (See Haroldo Dilla’s commentary on the death of CEA in Cubaencuentro¿Qué pasó con el Centro de Estudios sobre América?)

In 2013, one searches in vain for Departments of “Political Science” in Cuba. There are or have been University and Party Centers for the study of international relations such as the Instituto Superior de Relaciones Internacionales ((ISRI) and the  Centro de Estudios Hemisféricos y Sobre Estados Unidos(CEHSEU, formerly CESEU). But there seems to be a total absence of what one might identify as Political Science or “Government” in any part of the Universities. The closest the University of Havana seems to come to political science appears to be in the Filosofía Marxista Leninista program of the faculty of Ciencias Sociales y Humanísticas. This program seems to be totally removed from an objective analysis of how political systems actually operate in Cuba or anywhere else.  Not surprisingly, this program has a clear ideological orientation, as suggested by the first suggested type of employment for its graduates cited below, (though I suspect that the graduates would be increasingly unemployable with the exception of a handful of future professors teaching the same stuff):

El filósofo tiene además una actuación especial en el trabajo político e ideológico, en tanto puede mostrar cauces metodológicos: holísticos, dialécticos, heurísticos, hermenéuticos, etc., desde perspectivas epistemológicas amplias, dialécticas y transformadoras, que permiten para acceder con profundidad a los dominios de la ciencia, al arte y a la vida cotidiana. Igualmente su actuación contribuye a develar nuevos horizontes epistemológicos, axiológicos y comunicativos, en la medida que, con sentido cultural, dialéctico, complejo y sistémico somete a crítica los momentos débiles de la racionalidad moderna y muestra la esencia de los nuevos paradigmas contemporáneos desde un enfoque marxista creador. En fin, su modo de actuación leninista creadora.”

Where are courses on Cuba’s actual political system, comparative politics, political theory, political philosophy, local politics and political sociology, not to mention the innumerable more specialized topics that one commonly finds in the course program of a Political Science department? (See Harvard’s extensive offerings here.)  

Universidad de Oriente, Santiago de Cuba

In the mid-1990s two Cuban professors, Miriam Gras and Gloria Leon of the University of Havana attempted to set up a network of researchers in Comparative Politics. For their efforts – and also for speaking out on political issues – they were fired from the University.

There are of course talented and widely recognized intellectuals both within and outside the universities who analyze US-Cuban relations and some aspects of international relations. But it is difficult to identify professors from Cuba’s universities who are courageous enough to “push the envelope” and to analyze Cuba’s political system seriously, directly and openly, or to adopt mainstream or conventional political science approaches in their work. The serious analyses of Cuba’s own political system and its functioning are the work mainly of off-shore analysts, either recent émigrés such as Haroldo Dilla Alfonso, Cuban-Americans such as Jorge Dominguez and Marifeli Perez-Stable and many others, or non-Cubans such as Vegard Bye of Norway – also among many others. To find critical analysis of Cuban politics within Cuba, one has to go to independent publications such as Espacio Laical linked to the Catholic Church in Havana and a couple of blogs such as SinEvasion, by Miriam Celaya.

Why is such political analysis essentially off-limits in Cuban universities? You can guess the answer.

One consequence of the absence of the discipline of Political Science in Cuba is that we have only a vague idea of how Cuba’s government actually functions. Who within the Politbureau and Central Committee of the party actually makes decisions? To what extent and how do pressures from the mass organizations actually affect decision-making, or is the flow of influence always from top to bottom rather than the reverse? What role do the large conglomerate enterprises that straddle the internationalized dollar economy and the peso economy play in the process of policy-formulation? Is the National Assembly simply an empty shell that unanimously passes prodigious amounts of legislation in exceedingly short periods of time – as appears to be the case?  One is left with a feeling that the real political system is one of black boxes within black boxes linked in various ways by invisible wires and tubes.

One hopes that Cuba’s universities soon will establish formal Departments of Political Science and that the academic staff will undertake real scientific analysis of Cuba’s political system.  

University of Havana, Faculty of Law in the background

University of Havana circa 1955

Posted in Blog, Featured | Tagged , | Leave a comment

THE POLITICS OF CUBAN TRANSFORMATION—WHAT SPACE FOR AUTHORITARIAN WITHDRAWAL?

An excellent exploration of Cuba’s possible political furures was presented by Norwegian Political Scientist Vegard Bye at the 2012 ASCE Conference and has just been made available in the ASCE Conference  Proceedings for 2012. Excerpts from the Introduction are presented below. The full study, well worth a close reading, is here: WHAT SPACE FOR AUTHORITARIAN WITHDRAWAL?

By Vegard Bye

Cuba is in the process of undergoing significant— perhaps fundamental—economic reforms. Although the pace is not always very fast, and the direction is more characterized by zigzagging that by a straight line, there is little doubt that the state-dominated economy is about to give way to more non-state actors. In theory and ideology, the official line confirmed at the 2011 Party Congress is still that “plan”  and not “market” is the guiding principle. But in practice, plans drawn up by the state bureaucracy play a rapidly diminishing role in the “really existing  economy.” State bureaucrats, however, seem to be practicing considerable “civil disobedience” by dragging their feet in the implementation of reforms approved by the party leadership, as Raúl Castro himself

So far, the discussion of reforms in Cuba has almost exclusively focused on economic aspects. The VI Party Congress in April 2011 was exclusively dedicated to economic reform, or “updating [actualización] of the economic model,” which is the politically correct but not very adequate expression. The Party Congress, and the comprehensive debate within Cuban society leading up to it, led to quite significantly rising expectations about economic prospects in Cuba, both for the country as a whole and for individuals and families, although the confidence in the present  leadership’s capacity to solve Cuba’s deep problems seems to be rapidly falling.

………

This article is part of a research project with the objective of making an on-going assessment of the dynamics between economic and political transformations in Cuba by comparing these to theoretical and empirical literature on other transition experiences: democratic transitions in Latin America as well as Southern and Eastern Europe, the on-going struggle between democratic and authoritarian trends in the former USSR (and even some newly democratized Eastern European countries), and the authoritarian market transition taking place in China and Vietnam.

 The general hypothesis is that the economic reforms in Cuba are slowly moving the country from a totalitarian to a post-totalitarian society (referring to a typology developed by Linz & Stepan2), with potential for the emergence of an increasing although limited democratic space, but alternatively for the emergence of  a post-Castro authoritarian political-economic elite not least linked to the Armed Forces. Three alternative scenarios are developed to reflect these options. It is believed that the study of two transition processes (agricultural reform and the emerging entrepreneurship), understood within Cuba’s international context and with an additional view to the impact of a future oil economy, will offer a good indication as to which of these three scenarios will have more prominence in Cuba’s political development.

  Vegard Bye is a Norwegian political scientist, Associate Research Fellow at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, and Partner in the consulting company Scanteam. His work record includes senior positions with the UN and Norad (Norway’s Development Cooperation Agency), long experience as reporter and part-time university lecturer and thesis supervisor. He has written various books on Latin American topics, and has followed Cuba since working there with the UN in the late 1970s.

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Cubans on the Island and Cubans Around the World: We Are All Just Cubans, Period

Yoani Sanchez

[Text read in an event at the Freedom Tower, Miami, Florida, 1 April 2013]

Years ago, when I left Cuba for the first time, I was in a train leaving from the city of Berlin heading north. A Berlin already reunified but preserving fragments of the ugly scar, that wall that had divided a nation. In the compartment of that train, while thinking about my father and grandfather — both engineers — who would have given anything to ride on this marvel of cars and a locomotive, I struck up a conversation with the young man sitting directly across from me.

After the first exchange of greetings, of mistreating the German language with “Guten Tag” and clarifying that “Ich spreche ein bisschen Deutsch,” the man immediately asked me where I came from. So I replied with “Ich komme aus Kuba.”

As always happens after the phrase saying you come from the largest of the Antilles, the interlocutor tries to show how much he knows about our country. “Ah…. Cuba, yes, Varadero, rum, salsa music.” I even ran into a couple of cases where the only reference they seemed to have for our nation was the album “BuenaVista Social Club,” which in those years was rising in popularity on the charts.

But that young man on the Berlin train surprised me. Unlike others, he didn’t answer me with a tourist or music stereotype, he went much further. His question was, “You’re from Cuba? From the Cuba of Fidel or from the Cuba of Miami?”

My face turned red, I forgot all of the little German I knew, and I answered him in my best Central Havana Spanish. “Chico, I’m from the Cuba of José Martí.” That ended our brief conversation. But for the rest of the trip, and the rest of my life, that conversation stayed in my mind. I’ve asked myself many times what led that Berliner and so many other people in the world to see Cubans inside and outside the Island as two separate worlds, two irreconcilable worlds.

The answer to that question also runs through part of the work of my blog, Generation Y. How was it that they divided our nation? How was it that a government, a party, a man in power, claimed the right to decide who should claim our nationality and who should not?

The answers to these questions you know much better than I. You who have lived the pain of exile. You who, more often than not, left with only what you were wearing. You who said goodbye to families, many of whom you never saw again. You who have tried to preserve Cuba, one Cuba, indivisible, complete, in your minds and in your hearts.

But I’m still wondering, what happened? How did it happen that being defined as Cuban came to be something only granted based on ideology? Believe me, when you are born and raised with only one version of history, a mutilated and convenient version of history, you cannot answer that question.

Luckily, it’s possible to wake up from the indoctrination. It’s enough that one question every day, like corrosive acid, gets inside our heads. It’s enough to not settle for what they told us. Indoctrination is incompatible with doubt, brainwashing ends at the exact point when our brain starts to question the phrases it has heard. The process of awakening is slow, like an estrangement, as if suddenly the seams of reality begin to show.

That’s how everything started in my case. I was a run-of-the-mill Little Pioneer, you all know about that. Every day at my elementary school morning assembly I repeated that slogan, “Pioneers for Communism, we will be like Che.” Innumerable times I ran to a shelter with a gas mask under my arm, while my teachers assured me we were about to be attacked. I believed it. A child always believes what adults say.

But there were some things that didn’t fit. Every process of looking for the truth has its trigger, a single moment when a piece doesn’t fit, when something is not logical. And this absence of logic was outside of school, in my neighborhood and in my home. I couldn’t understand why, if those who left in the Mariel Boatlift were “enemies of the State,” my friends were so happy when one of those exiled relatives sent them food or clothing.

Why were those neighbors, who had been seen off by an act of repudiation in the Cayo Hueso tenement where I was born, the ones who supported the elderly mother who had been left behind? The elderly mother who gave a part of those packages to the same people who had thrown eggs and insults at her children. I didn’t understand it. And from this incomprehension, as painful as every birth, was born the person I am today.

So when that Berliner who had never been to Cuba tried to divide my nation, I jumped like a cat and stood up to him. And because of that, here I am today standing before you trying to make sure that no one, ever again, can divide us between one type of Cuban or another. We are going to need each other for a future Cuba and we need each other in the present Cuba. Without you our country would be incomplete, as if someone had amputated its limbs. We cannot allow them to continue to divide us.

Just like we are fighting to live in a country where we have the rights of free expression, free association, and so many others that have taken from us; we have to do everything — the possible and the impossible — so that you can recover the rights they have also taken from you. There is no you and us… there is only “us.” We will not allow them to continue separating us.

I am here because I don’t believe the history they told me. With so many other Cubans who grew up under a single official “truth,” we have woken up. We need to rebuild our nation. We can’t do it alone. Those present here — as you know well — have helped so many families on the Island put food on the table for their children. You have made your way in societies where you had to start from nothing. You have carried Cuba with you and you have cared for her. Help us to unify her, to tear down this wall that, unlike the one in Berlin, is not made of concrete or bricks, but of lies, silence, bad intentions.

In this Cuban so many of us dream of there will be no need to clarify what kind of Cuban we are. We will be just plain Cubans. Cubans, period. Cubans.Freedom Tower, Miami, Florida

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment