Category Archives: Blog

Reflections on Cuban Politics, 2021

By El Toque December 31,

HAVANA TIMES – After three months on the air, La Colada podcast sees this year out with the last episode of its first season. The podcast’s hosts, writer and journalist Jorge de Armas and political analyst Enrique Guzman Karell, went over some of the events that marked a turbulent 2021 in Cuba.

Over the course of approximately an hour, they discussed the protests on July 11th, November 15th, the difference between the San Isidro Movement and Archipielago, the figure of Miguel Diaz-Canel as the representative of a decaying system and Cuban women in the struggle for freedom and democracy on the island.

July 11th: Cries for freedom and the order for combat

July 11th is a date that will go down in Cuban history because of its dimensions. The flame that was lit with a mass protest in San Antonio de los Baños on the outskirts of Havana, and quickly spread like wildfire in dozens of other towns and cities across the country. Thousands of Cubans took to the streets to protest, a kind of domino effect on a people desperate for freedom and fed up of living in crisis.

What the Government had tried to prevent for 62 years, broke out that Sunday. Cubans of all ages demanded their rights loud and clear, and they displayed their explicit rejection of the Cuban government, whose repressive response reached its climax with President Miguel Diaz-Canel’s order for combat, calling upon the Cuban people to stand up to protestors.

“The order for combat has been given, revolutionaries take to the streets,” said Diaz Canel on national TV that day. “This is a fascist phrase, a phrase which encourages a genocide among Cubans to some extent, a civil war,” Jorge de Armas said.

“This order given by somebody with a clearly fascist character like Fidel Castro could have resulted far worse,” he warned.

According to the writer and journalist, Diaz-Canel symbolizes the Cuban government’s lack of a comprehensive approach to politics. Guzman Karell adds that this is also the expression of a system in decline that has already reached breaking point.

“It remains a sad fact that we have such a bleak, unenlightened figure at the head of a country in crisis on all fronts, nothing good can come of this,” he explains.

Moderators of La Colada recalled how Diaz-Canel later said he didn’t regret pitting the Cuban people against one another and how he lied when he said that there weren’t any disappeared or tortured persons after July 11th. Likewise when he said there aren’t any political prisoners in Cuba and that “people who aren’t with the Revolution are free to protest freely,” when NGOs have reported over 1300 arrests linked to the protest.

Five months after the protests, over 700 Cubans are still behind bars, including minors. Dozens of protestors have been subjected to summary hearings, charged with crimes such as public disorder, attempt, incitement and contempt.

San Isidro and Archipielago

The San Isidro Movement (MSI) was born in late 2018 as a direct response to the Government’s Decree-Law 349, a threat to freedom of artistic creation and speech in Cuba. It takes its name from the poor and marginalized Havana neighborhood where it is based, and gathers a group of artists and activists who advocate for civil rights and democracy on the island.

MSI started making lots of noise all over Cuba in November 2020, when a group of artists, activists and journalists entrenched themselves at their headquarters to demand the release of one of its members, anti-establishment rapper Denis Solis, who had been given a prison sentence during a summary hearing, and without a legal defense.

Many Cubans both in Cuba and abroad supported the hunger strike, and the Government launched a repulsive slander campaign in the media and stepped-up intimidation. Then its security agents dressed up as doctors to forcefully remove those who were part of the sit-in and arrested them. This led over 300 artists of all ages to gather outside the Ministry of Culture, on November 27th 2020, to demand an explanation and for them to respect rights of speech and freedom of artistic creation in Cuba.

MSI’s main leader, artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara, has been in police custody since July 11th. He has become one of the most emblematic faces of Cuba today and is one of the main threats to the Government, because of his close ties to marginalized groups over the years, and his power to mobilize people.

“The great threat San Isidro poses is the same as what the Cuban people pose. The November 27th protest wasn’t so much a threat. I believe the San Isidro Movement represents the majority of what Cuba is today, maybe not what it was 70 years ago, but Cuba today resembles San Isidro more than anything else,” De Armas weighs in.

In 2021, a citizen-led platform appeared in Cuba, driven by playwright Yunior Garcia Aguilera, one of the leaders of the November 27th protest. The project was called Archipielago and its main call was for a civic protest for change on November 15th to demand the release of political prisoners, among other things. The initiative was thwarted in the end by the Government and Garcia Aguilera went into exile in Spain soon after, which led to a break in the platform, and many of its members left the project.

Guzman Karell talked about those who define citizen-led platform Archipielago as a Leftist party, an idea that he doesn’t share “precisely because this symbology refers to a more classist, more university-educated, more white, more organized Cuba, which is far-removed from the Cuba we saw on July 11th in Cuban towns and neighborhoods.”

One of the things that upsets De Armas the most in regard to the dismantling process of Archipielago, isn’t the deception many of its members had – which he points out is valid – but rather the deception of those who believed and followed the project.

“There is a duty in hope and a tragedy in disenchantment, and this is what totalitarianism has always played with, the Cuban government with its people,” he explains.

He pointed out that the positive thing that came from 15N was the wave of solidarity it unleashed. Cuban artists coming forward, such as Leo Brouwer, Jose Maria Vitier, Chucho Valdes, and celebrities on the international public scene such as Ruben Blades and Mario Vargas Llosa.

Patria y Vida” phenomenon

In February 2021, Cuban artists Yotuel Romero, Alexander Delgado, Randy Malcom, Descemer Bueno, Maykel Osorbo and El Funk released the song “Patria y Vida”, which became an anthem for freedom in Cuba and the soundtrack for protests of Cubans around the world.

More than a song, “Patria y Vida” (Homeland and Life) became a social phenomenon and served as an impetus to amplify the Cuban people’s cries for freedom on different platforms.

The symbolic value that it has taken on also depends a lot on the social context it represents. De Armas points out that the most important thing about this is that a song like “Patria y Vida” has become a symbol of social needs.

The song won the Best Urban Song and Song of the Year categories at the Latin Grammy Awards that was recently held in Las Vegas. During the gala, Cuban artists performed an acoustic version of “Patria y Vida” and dedicated it to political prisoners, especially to Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara – who appears in the music video – and to Maykel “Osorbo” Castillo, one of its composers, who has been in a Cuban prison, since May.

“This has a special merit in my eyes, and the fact that the Grammy Awards ceremony and how controversial it could have been and what it sparked on social media, was all as important as the Latin World seeing Ruben Blades, Residente, and Mario Vargas Llosa talk about Cuba. I believe that “Patria y Vida” did in fact, to some extent, put the issue of Cuba on the table within this space of pop culture,” De Armas pointed out.

“The Patria y Vida phenomenon managed to unify Cuba’s cultural space, with both residents and its diaspora community,” he adds; an opinion that Guzman shares because “if a people embrace an artistic representation, this is the greatest achievement.”

The political analyst highlighted the fact that “Patria y Vida” as a song and phenomenon, also represents the Cuban people. Out of everything that has happened in recent years in Cuba, the San Isidro Movement is closely linked to what happened on July 11th, as well as Patria y Vida.

“This might seem trivial, but it’s no coincidence. It’s extremely significant that all of these young people are black. They are responding to a particular history and tradition,” he says.

Cuban women in the anti-establishment struggle

One of the most important issues that this last episode of La Colada paid special attention to was the role of Cuban women in the fight for change in Cuba. The struggle that the Ladies in White have been playing a role in for years, or with growing women’s representation in independent journalism and different platforms.

The podcast’s hosts made a special mention to Cuban activists Saily Gonzalez, Daniela Rojo, Camila Lobon, Anamely Ramos, Omara Ruiz Urquiola, Thais Mailen Franco, Katherine Bisquet and Tania Bruguera, whose names, complaints and work for freedom has marked this year.

“If somebody has been at the forefront of this front against the government that oppresses society, for over 20 years, that’s Cuban women. With all clarity, with all strength. They were there before the Ladies in White, but especially with the Ladies in White. For they were able to firmly embrace a discourse, but the idea they proposed was also peace,” stressed Guzman Karell.

In early December, the independent magazine El El Estornudo published a feature article with five complaints of sexual abuse against folk singer Fernando Becquer. The article sparked a heated debate on social media and encouraged over twenty victims of the musician to come forward and tell similar stories.

As a result of the discussions that recent sex abuse allegations against Becquer have sparked, two key issues in Cuba society have returned to the table, in addition to the legal vulnerability of women on the island, which date back to Cuba being founded as an independent State: race and gender.

“Until we as a society understand this and all of the responsibility this implies, this country will never be free, even when we shake ourselves free of totalitarianism, if we don’t face these issues head-on, we will never be free and we will never live in a free and prosperous society,” Guzman says.

Regarding harassment, sex abuse and violence against women, De Armas pointed out that the problem is that there is no representation within the Cuban State to protect Cuban women from this harassment, abuse and rape. “It isn’t culture, it’s a lack of social interest.”

Despite growing numbers of cases of gender-based violence across the country, and in a country with a high percentage of female lawmakers and professionals, the legislative agenda passed up until 2028, still lacks a comprehensive law against gender-based violence.

“Power in Cuba continues to be disgustingly macho, and white,” Enrique Guzman points out. “It’s clear that this is a systemic problem because after you’ve managed to overcome a great deal of conflict, you go to the police to file a complaint, and they don’t listen to you, they don’t keep you in mind, they mock you, it’s terrible.”

“I believe that change in Cuba has to be female, otherwise change won’t come,” De Armas stressed.

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INFORME DE RENDICIÓN DE CUENTA DEL PRIMER MINISTRO DE LA REPÚBLICA DE CUBA A LA ASAMBLEA NACIONAL DEL PODER POPULAR

Diciembre de 2021

…………………………………

…………………………………

CONCLUSIONES

El Programa Nacional de Desarrollo Económico y Social
2030, los Lineamientos de la Política Económica y Social del
Partido y la Revolución, y la Estrategia de Desarrollo
Económico Social del país, constituyen las herramientas
fundamentales para la conducción de la economía y la
sociedad, y referentes claves para el diseño e
implementación de políticas y acciones nacionales y locales.
Entre ellos se establece una unidad indivisible, con
eslabones que se complementan, para una conducción más
integrada, articulada y sostenible del desarrollo.
Todos los lineamientos tienen algún grado de relación
(directa e indirecta) con los proyectos de los
macroprogramas. Muchos de ellos se ven reflejados en más
de un macroprograma, demostrando el carácter integrador y
multidimensional del sistema de trabajo del gobierno.
Al mismo tiempo, se identifican temáticas en los
lineamientos que son abordadas en varios proyectos, reflejo
de la importancia estratégica que revisten y la prioridad que
deben tener para alcanzar los objetivos propuestos en el
Programa Nacional de Desarrollo Económico y Social 2030.


El sistema de trabajo diseñado para su implementación a
través de macroprogramas, programas y proyectos
constituye el mecanismo de gobierno a emplear para la
implementación y evaluación de los lineamientos de la
Política Económica y Social del Partido y la Revolución para
el período 2021-2026 y las medidas contenidas en la
Estrategia de Desarrollo Económico Social.
Se refuerza la importancia del método empleado para la
conducción y evaluación del cumplimiento del Programa
Nacional de Desarrollo Económico y Social 2030, el que
supone una modificación significativa en la manera de
dirigir, organizar y gestionar el desarrollo de la economía y
la sociedad, lográndose un mayor rigor, integralidad e
intersectorialidad de acciones, desde la concepción del
proyecto, su implementación, evaluación, rendición de
cuenta y la participación y alianzas entre todos los actores.
Hasta aquí he abordado en apretada síntesis un resumen
de la rendición de cuenta de mi gestión como Primer
Ministro, consciente de que existen otros temas y
dificultades en las que también estamos trabajando;
tenemos identificadas las insuficiencias que nos
corresponde solucionar, con objetivos, metas e indicadores,
así como las prioridades antes mencionadas

Finalmente, quiero agradecer al General de Ejército Raúl
Castro Ruz, al Presidente de la República Miguel Díaz-
Canel Bermúdez, al Presidente de la Asamblea Nacional
Esteban Lazo Hernández, al Consejo de Ministros, a los
diputados, y al pueblo en general, la confianza y el apoyo
que nos brindan.  Es nuestro compromiso de seguir en el
combate, hasta la Victoria Siempre,

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CUBA SEES SLOW ECONOMIC RECOVERY AT 4% IN 2022 – OFFICIAL

By Marc Frank

Reuters, December 12, 2021

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

HAVANA, Dec 12 (Reuters) – A cash short and crippled Cuban economy will grow 4% next year as the Communist-run country struggles to recover from an economic crisis, according to a report by the prime minister posted over the weekend.

Prime Minister Manuel Marrero’s annual report said the economy began a slow recovery of around 2% this year after declining 10.9% in 2020 and stagnating for several years before that.

New U.S. sanctions on top of the decades-old trade embargo and the coronavirus pandemic cost the import-dependent nation at least $4 billion in revenues over the last two years, according to the government.

The shortfall led to a 40% decline in imports and has hobbled the government’s ability to provide Cubans with food, medicine, consumer goods and inputs for industry and agriculture. Cuba has defaulted on some payments to its creditors and suppliers.

The government’s decision to devalue the peso for the first time since Cuban leader Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution combined with increased dollarization of the economy have sparked triple-digit inflation estimated by local economists at around 500% this year.

The goal of 4% growth could indicate that Cuba will still see shortages of critical goods and have continued difficulty paying creditors, said a western businessman in Cuba with years of experience in the market.

The government is preparing measures to tame inflation and strengthen the peso, Marrero said. The peso is trading for around 70 to a dollar on the informal market versus the official rate of 24 pesos.

“A set of measures must be adopted with a view to stopping the inflationary spiral,” Marrero said in his report, without stating what they might be.

Marrero credited a vaccination campaign that has reached 80% of the country’s population for clearing the way for a nascent recovery next year.

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CUBAN SUGAR INDUSTRY RESTRUCTURES AS ANOTHER BLEAK HARVEST LOOMS

Marc Frank

Reuters. November 24, 2021

Original article: Bleak Sugar Harvest

Fidel Directing the Zafra of 1970

HAVANA, Nov 24 (Reuters) – Cuba has carried out a root and branch restructure of its sugar industry in a last-ditch attempt to keep mills from folding in the face of collapsing output.

In recent weeks, the government has made 56 sugar mills subsidiary companies of state sugar monopoly AZCUBA and incorporated local plantations into the new entities, allowing them to leverage recent reforms that include setting wages and cane prices and keeping control of 80% of their export earnings.

The Communist-run country produced just over 800,000 tonnes of raw sugar last season, its worst performance since 1908 and just 10% of a high of 8 million tonnes in 1989. Experts consulted by Reuters say 2022’s production could be even lower.

“The industry has more or less collapsed. The situation is worse this year than last and it will take time to bring it back,” a local sugar expert said, requesting anonymity as he was not authorized to talk with journalists.

The Caribbean island nation has suffered from both the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and tough new U.S. sanctions, reducing its hard currency earnings over the past two years by around 40%, shrinking the economy 13% and reducing resources available to mills and plantations.

Provincial media has been filled with stories of cane shortages, mill repairs behind schedule, and a lack of tires, batteries and fuel to harvest and transport cane.

Cuba’s economy long relied heavily on sugar exports, but output has plunged since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.

In central Sancti Spiritus province, for instance, some 45% of land that should be cultivated for sugar was fallow, provincial Communist Party newspaper Escambray reported last week.

A national Council of Ministers communique from a June 2021 meeting said a review of the industry was underway “to guarantee in the future the vitality of these activities, which have meant so much economically and in the history of Cuba.”

The harvest usually begins in November and runs into May, but this year the first mill will open on Dec. 5, with the bulk beginning to grind in late December into January.  Last year, 38 mills opened and this year there will be fewer, according to provincial media reports.

Key sugar-producing provinces Villa Clara and Las Tunas provinces estimate output of around 125,000 tonnes each, slightly more than last season, while Sancti Spiritus, Cienfuegos, Granma and Artemisa provinces expect smaller crops than the previous season. Other provinces have yet to publish their production targets.

Cuba consumes between 600,000 and 700,000 tonnes of sugar a year and has an agreement to sell China 400,000 tonnes annually.  It was unclear how much sugar Cuba exported this year and whether it imported any to meet local demand.

Like other industries, agriculture and cane cultivation face structural problems in the import-dependent command economy which the government is only just addressing. New reforms, including a steep devaluation of the local currency and decentralization of export earnings are aimed at once again boosting production.  At the same time, industry experts consulted by Reuters said there is no money to begin recovery to export, nor access to multilateral financing.

With the population fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, and tourism – the driver of the economy and foreign exchange – opening up, over time the situation may improve, the sugar expert said.

“But they will need to go further with reforms, attract foreign investment or divert money from other sectors like tourism,” he said.

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KAREL J. LEYVA AND MICHAEL WIGGIN ON CANADIAN POLICY TOWARDS CUBA

RESPONSE BY MICHAEL WIGGIN

November 22. 23021

The article by Karel J. Leyva was, to me, disturbing.  I think that it reflects the US government perspective of Cuba and not that of the many Canadians who spend time in and study Cuba and its history. Also, it does not recognize the progress of Cuba in the Caribbean and South American context where political turmoil is common and human rights abuses make those of Cuba seem minor.  Also, the US support for dictators and the overthrow of democratically elected governments that lean to the left has been the norm, but only Cuba has been able to withstand the unrelenting US subversion.

It is also important to recognize the history of Cuba.  Exploited first by the Spanish and then by the US who supported the likes of Batista and the US mob operations in Havana.  It must be recognized that much of Cuba was exploited by US owned sugar plantations that provided a few months of work each year, restricted the ability of farmers to use vacant land and provided no social services, hospitals or schools.  This resulted in oppressive conditions for many Cuban families and widespread illiteracy.  But much of this changed after the Revolution which heralded high rates of literacy, more social equality. access to education and to health care.  This has been followed by an enviable achievement in medical internationalism and support to other developing countries and the development of a pharmaceutical industry with many successes in tropical disease and COVID 19 vaccines.

All of this in the face of the US unrelenting blockade and covert support of dissidence.  I am not saying that Cuba is perfect.  There is much left to be done and Cubans are facing difficult times and much would be improved if the blockade were to be suspended.  And if covert support for dissidents stopped, then the government would have no excuses for repression of Cuban’s expressing their frustrations.  This is made worse by admitted erroneous reporting by the media..  Showing crowds of Cubans demonstrating in support of the Cuban government and then claiming them to be dissidents calling for the overthrow of the government is not constructive.

For outsiders, it is difficult to get access to fair media coverage and analysis.  There are articles such as that by Leyva, but there is information from people recently or currently in Cuba who say that the coverage often reports legitimate demonstrations complaining about the pandemic or the economy as calls for regime change – which they often are not.  If we want to help the people of Cuba, we need to focus on them and not political differences.  Like all of the western democracies, we have been working on democracy since the Magna Carta in 1215 and had many revolutions and demonstrations along the way.  Cuba has had 60 years.  Let’s give them some breathing space for orderly self determination.

For now, Canada should avoid the US bandwagon, respect the incredible progress of Cuba from the colonial era and use our influence to stop the US embargo/blockade and covert efforts at regime change.  Many Canadian visitors to Cuba and Canadian academics who specialize in Cuban issues share this view.

…..

Cuba-Canada Relations a Generation Ago: Margaret, Fidel and Pierre.

CUBA, LE CANADA ET LES DROITS DE LA PERSONNE

Le vent de changement qui souffle sur Cuba et la répression grandissante doivent forcer le Canada à repenser ses relations bilatérales avec La Havane.


 Original Article: Cuba, le Canada et les droits de la personne

par Karel J. Leyva,  11 novembre 2021

La nature dictatoriale du régime cubain a été reconnue à plusieurs reprises par des représentants du gouvernement canadien. En 2009, le ministre des Affaires étrangères Peter Kent a déclaré que Cuba est « une dictature, peu importe comment on la présente ». En 2016, Stéphane Dion, alors également ministre des Affaires étrangères, l’a reconnu lorsque la journaliste de Radio-Canada Emmanuelle Latraverse lui a demandé s’il trouvait approprié le ton employé par Justin Trudeau pour annoncer sa tristesse à la mort de Fidel Castro. La journaliste rappelait alors qu’il s’agissait d’un dictateur qui avait emprisonné des dizaines de milliers de Cubains et exécuté ses opposants. La même année, Justin Trudeau a fini par reconnaître que Castro était bel et bien un dictateur.

En 2018, le Canada est allé jusqu’à présenter au régime cubain une série de recommandations concernant les droits civils et politiques, dont celle de garantir que tout individu arrêté soit informé sans retard des raisons de son arrêt, qu’il ait accès à un avocat de son choix et qu’il ait droit dans des délais raisonnables à une audience publique où il est présumé innocent.

Lorsque le régime a brutalement réprimé les manifestations pacifiques de son peuple, le 11 juillet 2021, le gouvernement canadien a une fois de plus reconnu la nature dictatoriale du régime et ses violations des droits et libertés. Le ministre canadien des Affaires étrangères Marc Garneau a rencontré son homologue cubain pour lui faire part des profondes préoccupations du Canada concernant la violente répression des manifestations à Cuba, en particulier les détentions arbitraires et les mesures répressives contre les manifestants pacifiques, les journalistes et les militants.

Sans surprise, les recommandations canadiennes en matière de droits de la personne présentées à Cuba n’ont pas été prises en compte. Au contraire, comme le souligne le plus récent rapport d’Amnistie internationale, le gouvernement cubain continue de réprimer la dissidence sous toutes ses formes en emprisonnant des responsables politiques, des journalistes indépendants et des artistes, et en harcelant des poètes, des membres de la communauté LGBTQ et des universitaires.

Une attitude contradictoire

Ces prises de position du gouvernement canadien soutiennent la légitimité des revendications démocratiques du peuple cubain qui se traduisent, par exemple, par une augmentation soutenue du nombre de protestations politiques recensées par l’Observatorio Cubano de Conflictos. Mais, contrairement au traitement que le Canada réserve à d’autres dictatures, les dénonciations d’Ottawa n’ont aucune incidence sur ses relations bilatérales avec La Havane.

Contrairement au traitement que le Canada réserve à d’autres dictatures, les dénonciations d’Ottawa n’ont aucune incidence sur ses relations bilatérales avec La Havane.

En fait, non seulement le Canada accorde de l’aide financière directe au régime de La Havane, mais il a également harmonisé sa programmation de développement international avec certaines priorités définies par le gouvernement cubain. D’autres régimes autoritaires ne jouissent pas du même traitement. Par exemple, l’aide humanitaire que le Canada accorde à la Corée du Nord se transmet par le biais de partenaires multilatéraux, car le Canada n’apporte aucune contribution financière directe à ce régime. Des sanctions semblables ont été imposées au Nicaragua et au Venezuela afin d’envoyer un message clair en ce qui a trait aux droits de la personne.

Le cas de Cuba demeure une exception. L’intolérance du Canada face aux violations des droits civils et politiques dénote donc une attitude à géométrie variable.

Une situation qui se dégrade, malgré des pressions qui s’intensifient

La résolution du Parlement européen sur la situation des droits de l’homme et la situation politique à Cuba, adoptée en juin 2021, souligne que depuis l’entrée en vigueur, il y a quatre ans, de l’Accord de dialogue politique et de coopération avec Cuba, non seulement ce pays n’a accompli aucun progrès au regard des objectifs définis par l’accord, mais le régime cubain a intensifié la répression et les violations des droits de l’homme. La situation politique et économique s’est détériorée, provoquant une nouvelle vague d’actions de résistance pacifique violemment réprimées par le régime.

Un article d’Options politiques publié en 2006 soulignait que la politique d’engagement constructif du premier ministre Chrétien à l’égard de Cuba n’a favorisé ni la démocratisation ni l’amélioration de la situation des droits de la personne. De même, les politiques de négligence « relativement bénigne » des premiers ministres Martin et Harper n’ont pas eu d’effet sur Cuba non plus. Et le gouvernement actuel ne montre pas de volonté franche à faire progresser les droits et libertés des Cubains. Il serait donc temps que le Canada repense ses relations bilatérales avec le régime de La Havane. Le Canada doit trouver un équilibre entre la realpolitik et son engagement à promouvoir la démocratie et les droits de la personne. C’est le peuple cubain, et non le régime, qui « a besoin de plus de Canada ».

L’insoutenable ambivalence du Canada

On pourrait se demander quel serait l’impact réel de l’application de sanctions canadiennes sur un régime qui, depuis des décennies, a démontré une grande résilience face aux pressions internationales, notamment américaines. Au-delà du fait qu’en matière de droits de la personne, adopter une moralité politique à géométrie variable n’est pas une attitude éthiquement acceptable, le contexte politique actuel justifierait pleinement un changement de posture de la part du gouvernement du Canada. Voici cinq tendances récentes qui soutiennent cette affirmation.

Le contexte politique actuel justifierait pleinement un changement de posture de la part du gouvernement du Canada

Premièrement, bien que le gouvernement cubain ait toujours violé de manière systématique les droits de la personne, ces violations se sont aggravées considérablement au cours des dernières années. Depuis le rassemblement de plus de 300 artistes, intellectuels et journalistes devant le ministère de la Culture, le 27 novembre 2020, pour réclamer le droit à la liberté d’expression et la cessation de la répression, le nombre de détentions arbitraires n’a fait qu’augmenter. Selon les rapports de l’Observatoire cubain des droits de la personne, entre février et juin 2021, 2 906 actions répressives, y compris 734 détentions arbitraires, ont eu lieu à Cuba. L’ampleur de la répression s’est accrue après le 11 juillet, lorsque des centaines de milliers de Cubains ont marché pacifiquement pour réclamer la démocratie. Les manifestants ont été accueillis par des balles, des passages à tabac et des chiens lâchés sur eux. Par la suite, les agents de sécurité de l’État n’ont eu de cesse de se rendre au domicile de manifestants identifiés, de les détenir sans mandat d’arrêt, puis de les condamner lors de procès sommaires souvent menés sans avocat. Le rapport de Prisoners Defenders du 6 octobre 2021 souligne qu’un record historique de 525 prisonniers politiques au cours des 12 derniers mois vient d’être établi à Cuba. Ce document estime entre 5 000 et 8 000 le nombre d’arrestations arbitraires des suites de violences policières depuis le 11 juillet, parmi lesquelles certaines victimes ont dénoncé des tortures. Les personnes qui ont déjà été libérées l’ont été au prix d’amendes très élevées équivalant à plusieurs mois de salaires à Cuba. Selon un document produit par l’ONG Cubalex, certains font face à des peines de prison allant jusqu’à 27 ans. Un citoyen canadien de 19 ans a été emprisonné et est actuellement obligé d’effectuer des travaux forcés, malgré de graves problèmes de santé.

Deuxièmement, la nature même des violations a pris une nouvelle ampleur durant cette même période. Domiciles de militants assiégés, menaces, harcèlement, coupures d’Internet, amendes élevées, actes de répudiation et licenciements sont devenus la norme à Cuba. En outre, le récent décret-loi 35, qui renforce les contrôles sur la liberté d’expression dans les médias sociaux à Cuba, contrevient aux dispositions des articles 41, 46, 50 et 54 de la Constitution de la République de Cuba, tout en étant contraire aux traités internationaux ratifiés par le gouvernement de ce pays. De plus, les acteurs ciblés ne sont plus exclusivement des dissidents politiques. Ce sont des adolescentes menacées de viol par des agents de l’État, des journalistes contraints de se déshabiller devant des militaires dans une salle d’interrogatoire ou humiliés et agressés sexuellement, des grands maîtres des échecs en grève de la faim détenus arbitrairement, des médecins et des professeurs expulsés de leur emploi pour avoir fait la promotion du respect des droits fondamentaux, des poètes harcelés par la police à leur domicile, des jeunes de 14 à 17 ans détenus et des activistes forcés de rester dans leur maison durant des mois. Pour le Canada, il n’est désormais plus possible de croire l’argument traditionnel du gouvernement cubain selon lequel la contestation serait alimentée par des groupes radicaux basés à Miami.

Il n’est désormais plus possible de croire l’argument traditionnel du gouvernement cubain selon lequel la contestation serait alimentée par des groupes radicaux basés à Miami.

Troisièmement, il existe une conscience internationale croissante à l’égard de la dégradation du respect des droits de la personne à Cuba et une conviction morale que la situation qui en résulte est inacceptable. À la suite des sanctions de l’administration Biden envers des responsables des attaques contre les manifestants cubains, le Parlement européen a émis une résolution, le 16 septembre 2021, sur la répression gouvernementale visant les manifestations et les citoyens à Cuba. La naissance du mouvement 27N et la répression constante de ses membres ont donné une nouvelle visibilité à la fois nationale et internationale à la situation des droits de la personne à Cuba. Des publications sur ce mouvement dans la revue du Museum of Modern Art de New York en font foi, tout comme la nomination de l’artiste Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, leader du mouvement 27N emprisonné le 11 juillet, parmi les 100 personnalités les plus influentes de l’année selon le magazine Time. Les nombreuses manifestations contre la dictature organisées par des Cubains en exil aux quatre coins du monde ont également contribué à cette visibilité.

Quatrièmement, la communauté de Canadiens d’origine cubaine est devenue très active politiquement. Des dizaines de manifestations exigeant du gouvernement canadien des mesures concrètes contre la dictature cubaine ont déjà eu lieu au Canada. Des pétitions ont été présentées à la Chambre des communes demandant au gouvernement canadien de soutenir le peuple cubain face à la forte intensification de la répression. Des rencontres ont été organisées avec des sénateurs et des députés pour exiger que le Canada s’engage envers les droits de la personne et la démocratie à Cuba. Le gouvernement fédéral se trouve ainsi sous la pression des politiciens et de la société civile canadienne, qui lui demandent tous de mettre fin à sa complaisance à l’égard du régime de La Havane.

Enfin, la tendance à la hausse du nombre de protestations politiques à Cuba depuis 2020 s’est cristallisée dans l’explosion sociale survenue le 11 juillet dans plus de 60 endroits, événement sans précédent en 62 ans de dictature. Il serait faux de réduire les revendications de ce mouvement aux seuls enjeux économiques et sanitaires. Les vidéos qui circulent montrent le peuple cubain demandant liberté et démocratie. Pour seule réponse, le président cubain a ordonné aux « révolutionnaires » de réprimer et de battre les manifestants pacifiques.

Néanmoins, malgré la peur que cette période de terreur a générée au sein des familles cubaines, de nouveaux mouvements sociaux et des alliances sont en train de se créer dans la société civile du pays. De nouvelles marches pacifiques sont prévues, comme celle qui est organisée pour le 15 novembre prochain par le groupe de la société civile cubaine Archipiélago – une nouvelle plateforme de représentation citoyenne – et le Conseil pour la transition démocratique à Cuba.

Le gouvernement a répondu en convoquant à plusieurs reprises les signataires devant les autorités et en les menaçant d’emprisonnement. Il a également eu recours à la diffamation publique, à des coupures de téléphone et d’Internet, et à l’intimidation. La maison du leader d’Archipiélago a été vandalisée avec des pigeons décapités, de la terre et du sang. Les rues commencent déjà à se militariser et le gouvernement arme des groupes au moyen de fusils automatiques et de bâtons. Les images qui circulent donnent froid dans le dos et beaucoup craignent que la journée ne se solde par des violences et des emprisonnements. Dans le but de soutenir la marche, la société civile transnationale cubaine a organisé des manifestations dans 80 villes à travers le monde, dont Montréal, Ottawa, Toronto et Calgary.

Le Canada devrait accompagner le peuple cubain dans sa quête de liberté au lieu de se contenter de soutenir, comme il le fait, le « processus de modernisation de l’économie » amorcé par le régime ou de lui fournir une aide financière dont le peuple ne bénéficie pas, mais qui semble plutôt servir à acheter des équipements antiémeutes modernes jamais vus auparavant à Cuba. Pourquoi un gouvernement qui, l’an dernier, en pleine crise sanitaire et économique, a importé d’Espagne pour plus d’un million d’euros de matériel militaire aurait-il besoin de l’aide financière du Canada ?

Un aveu de complicité

Refuser de sanctionner les responsables de ces violations des droits de la personne constitue un aveu de complicité avec un régime en pleine décadence qui n’a aucune légitimité politique et qui est même condamné sur la scène internationale pour esclavage moderne. Non seulement une telle abstention minerait l’image du Canada en tant que l’un des principaux défenseurs des droits de la personne dans le monde, mais il mettrait le pays sur la sellette par rapport au traitement à la carte qu’il réserve à différentes dictatures. Le Canada a signé avec les États-Unis et le Parlement européen une déclaration commune appelant à un processus de négociation global dans le but de restaurer les institutions au Venezuela, d’y organiser des élections crédibles et de revoir les sanctions en fonction des progrès réalisés dans ce pays. Comment, alors, expliquer qu’il n’envisage même pas de repenser ses relations avec le régime de La Havane, qui non seulement commet lui aussi des violations flagrantes de droits et des libertés, mais qui est considéré comme un acteur crucial de la crise vénézuélienne ?

Fort de sa réputation de défenseur des droits et libertés partout dans le monde, le Canada pourrait jouer un rôle décisif en joignant sa voix au nombre grandissant de celles qui soutiennent une transition démocratique à Cuba.

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PROTEST IN CUBA: WHY IT FAILED

COUNTERPUNCH, November 22, 2021

Stephen Kimber – John Kirk

Original Article: Protest in Cuba: Why It Failed

The news was…. There was no news.

On November 15, the US media primed us for a repeat of the events of July 11 in Cuba — only more massive and more dramatic.

In July, tens of thousands of Cubans took to the streets to express their frustrations with their government and, more generally, the state of their country and its economy.

In the lead-up to this month’s announced protests, Archipiélago — a broad umbrella of dissident groups led by well-known dramatist Yunior García — boasted a Facebook group of 37,000 members. It publicly identified rallying points around the island where demonstrations would begin that day at 3 pm.

But nothing much happened. Organizers asked Cubans to take to the streets to demand radical changes in the government, but only a handful responded. They invited Cubans to bang pots later that night to show the world their frustration. Even fewer did. Despite predictions of violence and vandalism in the streets, CBS Miami reported only 11 people arrested, with another 50 barricaded in their homes by government agents and supporters. By the next day, García himselfwithout telling any of his fellow dissidents, decamped to Spain.

What went wrong?

The media knew — or claimed to: “By suppressing protest, Cuba’s government displays its fear of the people” (Washington Post); “Cuban government quashes planned march by protestors” (NBC News); “Cuba Crushes Dissent Ahead of Protest” (New York Times).

The media was not totally wrong. The Cuban government does have a long history of repressing dissent, which it claims is largely fomented by the US, and which it considers an existential threat. (Those claims aren’t wrong either, though their implications rarely get explored in the media.)

Certainly, some Cubans were dissuaded from demonstrating by the large police and military presence on the streets.

But that alone doesn’t explain the lack of outcome.

What did the US media, which generally parrots Washington’s malign interpretation of anything that happens in Cuba, miss in its myopia?  Plenty. Start with some significant events that actually did happen in Cuba on November 15.

On that day, for example, the country’s critically important, pandemic-ravaged tourism industry reopened to fully vaccinated international visitors after 18 brutal months of COVID-19 shutdown. In the first week, international flights to Cuba were scheduled to increase from 67 a week to over 400.

That became possible because Cuba has brought COVID under some level of control again, thanks in part to a massive Cuba-wide vaccination program using vaccines developed in its own labs. Cuban vaccination rates are among the highest in the world. And the number of COVID cases has decreased from a daily average of 10,000 in the summer to 243 the day of the planned protest.

Not coincidentally, November 15 also marked the much-delayed return to in-classroom learning for 700,000 Cuban children, a major return-to-normal milestone that helped buoy spirits. So too did a series of free concerts and art exhibits to celebrate the upcoming 502nd anniversary of the founding of Havana.

Beyond those markers, there were other pragmatic reasons for Cubans to feel more hopeful as protest day dawned.  Venezuela, the major supplier of oil to the island, increased its supplies from 40,000 barrels per day in August to 66,000 in November. Power has become more stable, with fewer blackouts, and the cooler weather has helped ease pressure on the grid.

It is also fair to note that the Cuban government — caught napping in July — learned lessons too. But not — as the US media would have it — simply how to intimidate and control its citizens.

Cuba’s leaders acknowledged many of the frustrations that led to the July protests were legitimate and set about making changes, particularly for women and young people, and those in marginalized zones in larger cities. There are 62 projects in Havana alone as job creation, infrastructure development, housing repair, all became priorities.

The government launched additional economic reforms too, offering greater freedom for self-employment, access to hard currency credits for the private sector and opportunities to collaborate with foreign investment partners. Over 16,000 self-employment projects have since been registered, 416 requests to establish small and medium-sized enterprises approved.

At the same time, the Cuban government launched a massive media campaign to make the case to Cubans and the world — rightly again — that much of what ails the Cuban economy is still the result of the ongoing, never-ending US embargo and US-financed efforts encouraging right-wing regime change of the sort promoted by Miami-centred dissident groups like Archipiélago.

None of this is to suggest Cubans are suddenly universally satisfied with their government or with the pace of change. But it does indicate Cuba’s November “normal” appealed more to Cubans than Yunior Garcia’s call to the barricades.

And that should make us all question what we read and see in the media. Cuba is far more complex, its citizens’ views far more nuanced, than the simplistic media caricature suggests.

Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez:

“It is clear that what I called a failed operation — a political communication operation organized and financed by the United States government with millionaire funds and the use of internal agents — was an absolute failure,” Rodríguez said in an interview with The Associated Press.

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CUBA BUSINESS REPORT: ELECTRICITY GENERATION STRATEGY.

CUBA’S STRATEGY FOR ELECTRICITY GENERATION

Complete Article: Electricity Generation Strategy

TURKEY’S KARPOWERSHIP JOINS THE FLEET IN CUBA

Turkey sends electricity barges to Cuba. An interesting component of Cuba’s energy infrastructure.

Complete Article: Karpowership

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NOVEMBER 15: FEAR OF REPRESSION FOILS THE MARCH

WOLA, Washington Office on Latin America

by Isabella Oliver and Mariakarla Nodarse Venancio

Original Article: Fear of Repression Foils the March

Unlike the events on July 11—when thousands of Cubans took to the streets and largely spontaneous demonstrations spread rapidly across the nation—the demonstrations scheduled for Monday, November 15 did not take the Cuban government by surprise. Members of the civic group Archipiélago, the main organizers behind this demonstration, had notified authorities back in October of their intention to march on on this date to call for the release of political prisoners and protesters still detained after the July 11 protests, and to advocate for the respect of the rights of all Cubans and the resolution of differences through democratic and peaceful means. The government was prepared and for weeks, they harassed, intimidated and smeared the organizers of the march. On Monday, “acts of repudiation,”[1] heavy surveillance by state security agents, and cripplingly policed streets made sure streets in Havana—and the six other provinces where the new set of demonstrations were to take place—remained empty. Fear and the physical impossibility to leave their homes are the main reasons for the low turn-out of Cubans on November 15.

Men hang Cuban flags over the windows of opposition activist Yunior Garcia Aguilera’s home in an attempt to stop him from communicating with the outside, as he holds a flower from a window, in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, Nov. 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Ramon Epinosa)

The proposed demonstrations came after the events of this summer, when Cuban authorities sought to contain the largely peaceful demonstrations that occured on July 11, using tear gas and excessive use of force, which resulted in the death of one demonstrator, Diubis Laurencio Tejada, and the arbitrary detention of several hundreds of people—many of which remain deprived of their liberty in violation of their right to due process under the Cuban constitution and international law.

While the Cuban government has the right to protect itself against foreign interference—and the concerns about U.S. involvement with opposition groups are understandable—it should not infringe on the human rights of its citizens. The human rights enshrined in the Cuban constitution are universal, and need to be guaranteed to all, regardless of  political preferences. Article 56 of the Cuban constitution grants its citizens the right to demonstrate, but the government deemed the November 15 march illegal, alleging that it was attempting to undermine the socialist order and that the organizers had financial ties to the U.S. However, just as the Cuban government allows and encourages pro-government demonstrations, it should respect the freedom of expression and the right of assembly of those who disagree with it.

State media have focused their coverage on the country’s reopening to tourism and the return of elementary students to school after months, which also occurred on November 15. In the case of the protests, it has once again been social networks, independent journalists, and foreign correspondents who offer information about what is happening on the island to those attempting to be heard.

On November 15 itself, images showed largely empty streets, except for police and military vehicles. Some of the organizers complained their homes were surrounded by state security agents, police officers in plain clothes, and government supporters chanting slogans and insults so they couldn’t go out. Others said they were warned by police that they would be arrested for contempt if they forced their way onto the streets. According to the New York Times, at least 40 people were arrested, although the Archipiélago group claims this number is closer to over 100.

Between Sunday, November 14 and Tuesday, November 16, Yunior Garcia Aguilera, the best-known member of Archipiélago, was prevented from leaving his apartment, as he had planned to stage a solo march through Havana that day carrying a white rose, as a sign of peaceful demonstration. Security forces and government supporters surrounded his house, and his phone and internet services were interrupted. He was seen waving a white rose from an apartment window while displaying a sign reading “My house is blocked,” when government supporters hung a giant Cuban flag from the roof of the building covering his windows to keep him from communicating with anyone outside. The flags were still there Monday and a guard stood at the door, while the phones of García and other coordinators of Archipiélago group remained without service. After no known communication from him since early Tuesday, Garcia Aguilera announced on Wednesday that he had arrived in Spain with his wife, in circumstances that remain unclear.

Growing social movements are a sign of a rapidly changing Cuba

In November 2020, a coalition of about 300 people made up of artists and industry workers (which later became known as 27N) met in front of the Ministry of Culture to request a dialogue with the highest authorities after state forces stormed the headquarters of the Movimiento San Isidro (MSI) in Old Havana on November 26. During this raid, authorities evicted those who had declared a hunger strike, with some refusing even liquids, in protest of the detention and the judicial process against one of its members (rapper Denis Solís). In January 2021, after the government had shown no interest in engaging in dialogue with civil society, a number of the participants of the 27N gathered in front of the Ministry of Culture only to continue to face the authorities’ unwillingness to listen. In April, people once again gathered in Calle Obispo to protest in a show of support for the leader of MSI, Luis Manuel Otero Alcanta, after authorities forcibly interrupted his hunger strike to take him to the hospital.

The civic march for change, and more broadly the Archipiélago group, inserts itself in a rapidly changing Cuba. During the past year, groups like MSI and 27N have seen increasing support among the youth, whom have been finding spaces both online and in public spheres to call for an end to violence as a response to artistic expression that is not aligned with the Cuban Communist Party (PCC), to demand respect for fundamental rights, and an end to political repression.

Although the July 11 protests were not the first expression of political disagreement to have happened in the past year, they were definitely the first of such scale, and they marked a before and after in the realm of public dissent with the status quo in Cuba. It was no longer only artists and intellectuals, but the broader citizenry protesting as thousands of Cubans took to the streets. The demonstrations were a manifestation of both economic and social grievances that are deeply intertwined. Protesters were seen asking for food and medicine, deeper economic reforms that would improve Cubans’ daily lives, and more freedom and political change.

How Current Conditions Contributed to Displays of Dissent

The island, which had kept the COVID-19 pandemic under control in 2020, saw infections skyrocket this summer, with daily COVID-19 cases tripling in the course of a few weeks and deaths spiking to record highs, which pushed health centers to the point of collapse. On top of that, Cubans are currently facing serious shortages of basic goods and medicine. In addition to that, a series of economic reforms introduced by the Cuban government this year (such as currency reunification, which most observers agree were necessary) have not only created additional harsh impacts in the short-term, but were implemented at a particularly difficult time. These factors have triggered inflation and increased the frustration of the Cuban people. One of the main sources of discomfort is the dollarization of the economy and the difficulty to access food and basic necessities— a process that had been marketed since the end of 2019 in foreign currencies—which have placed a larger sector of the population in a very precarious economic situation and amplified already existing inequalities. The return of long power blackouts, that take Cuba back to the 1990s and the so-called special period, add to Cubans’ irritation and uncertainty. When procuring food and basic goods becomes the number one concern for a family, it shifts from being an economic crisis to being a social crisis.

The Biden-Harris administration has voiced support for the Cuban people’s right to protest and has condemned the ongoing repression, yet it continues to downplay the role of U.S. sanctions in fueling Cuba’s humanitarian crisis by not acknowledging that sanctions contribute to the severe and undue suffering of the Cuban people. Supporting human rights in Cuba and empowering the Cuban people also means removing the barriers that exacerbate the economic, health and social crisis. Restrictions on remittances, including caps on the amount and measures that have made it impossible to wire remittances from the U.S. to families in Cuba, have limited the purchasing power of many, banking regulations have made third country purchases more difficult, and onerous rules governing medical sales have had an especially devastating impact during the pandemic.

While the Cuban government managed to avoid mass protests with a wave of repression and heavy security presence that discouraged the participation of the ordinary citizens that powered the summer demonstrations, the desire of young Cubans to be heard has not disappeared. On Tuesday, Archipiélago issued a statement celebrating the bravery of all those that protested in one way or another, and extending the Civic “March” for Change until November 27—a date which is no coincidence—calling for the release of political prisoners; respect for the rights of all Cubans to assembly, demonstration, and association; the end of acts of repudiation and all violence among Cubans for political reasons; and the beginning of a transparent process for the resolution of differences through democratic and peaceful means.

Cuban authorities should refrain from violence and repression, and immediately release those detained unfairly. In order to move forward, it is important for the Cuban government to recognize the need for a peaceful dialogue that includes the plurality of voices we are currently seeing among Cuban citizens, including artists, journalists and civil society actors among others in order to truly allow freedom of expression. For its part, the Biden-Harris administration has a responsibility to take concrete and swift actions that will alleviate the humanitarian and economic crisis beginning with the removal of specific licenses required to send medical supplies, restrictions on sending family and donative remittances, and restrictions on travel.

[1] Acts of repudiation (actos de repudio) is a term Cuban authorities use to refer to acts of violence and/or humiliation towards critics of the government.

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HOW TO DEMOCRATIZE CUBA

Will the November 15 protests in Cuba provide a democratic opening?

Samuel Farber
IN THESE TIMES, November 12, 2021

Original Article: How to Democratize Cuba

The demonstrations of July 11 were the first great autonomous and democratic movement of Black and poor Cubans since 1959. The demonstrators did not chant any of the slogans of the U.S.-based Cuban Right.

While it is true that the Cuban rap ​“Patria y Vida” (Life and Fatherland) that inspired many July 11 marchers is not clear about the alternatives it proposed to the social and political system that rules the island, it cannot be said, as some have pretended, that its political content is right-wing. 

In response to the July 11 demonstrations, the Cuban government decided to prosecute the great majority of the hundreds of demonstrators arrested on that day. As is its wont, the government has refused to provide the number of arrested demonstrators, the charges against them, and the sentences that were imposed on them. It seems that some of them were subject to summary trials without the right to a defense lawyer, and got sentences of up to one year in prison. However, for those that the government considered to be the protest leaders, the prosecution demanded much longer sentences. That is why, for example, in the case of 17 Cubans who were arrested in San Antonio de los Baños, a town near Havana where the protests began, the prosecutors demanded sentences of up to 12 years in prison.

At the same time, the government increased its social assistance in numerous poor neighborhoods of the capital and other cities in the island, which indicates that even if it has not publicly admitted it, it is worried about the popular discontent expressed on July 11, and it is attempting with those social services at least to calm the people hardest hit by the economic crisis, and to diminish the growing alienation and anger with the regime of large popular sectors.

At the same time, the political leadership has tried to discredit the popular protest, taking advantage of its absolute control of the press, radio and television to broadcast images of the demonstrators who got involved in violent incidents, deliberately ignoring that the great majority demonstrated in a peaceful manner. The official mass media similarly ignored the violence, that under the leadership’s orders, the so-called ​“black berets” and other repressive organs, like State Security, carried out against people who were exercising their right to demonstrate peacefully.

The profound economic crisis – exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic and by Trump’s imperialist measures that Biden has almost entirely kept in place – especially affected the Black and poor Cubans who went out into the streets on July 11. That crisis is not about to disappear with the official reopening of foreign winter tourism on November 15 

Besides, the government no longer counts with the degree of legitimacy that Fidel and Raúl Castro, together with the rest of the ​“historic” generation, enjoyed when they ruled the country. People like Miguel Díaz-Canel, the new president of the Republic and First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba Central Committee, and Manuel Marrero Cruz, the Prime Minister, belong to the systems’ second bureaucratic generation, whose political prestige and legitimacy does not compare with that of the historic leaders. It is not idle speculation to wonder how many of the July 11 demonstrators would have insulted Raúl Castro and even less Fidel Castro with the epithet singao (fucker or fucked) that they yelled at President Díaz-Canel. 

I am among those who think that the national demonstrations of July 11, may very well be a watershed in the contemporary history of Cuba. But this depends on how the Cuban people respond to the call by the citizen virtual platform Archipiélago to organize demonstrations throughout the island on November 15. We will then see if the demonstrations of July 11 sowed the seeds of tomorrow’s fruits, or if unfortunately July 11 was only an isolated outbreak of rebellion and discontent. 

The call to demonstrate on November 15 could not happen in a more opportune moment than this. After the great explosion of July 11 – and the manner in which the government responded — it was politically logical that the next step would be to pressure the government to recognize, de facto, if not de jure, the right of the people to freely demonstrate in the streets.

It was also to be expected, that the government would proceed, as it effectively did, to deny the permit for the demonstration, arguing that ​“the promoters and their public postures, as well as their ties with subversive organizations or agencies associated with the U.S. government have the manifest intention to promote a change of Cuba’s political system,” and citing the Constitution of 2019 that defines the socialist system that rules Cuba as ​“irrevocable.” In other words, the present Cuban rulers have the constitutional right to maintain and control the ruling system in the island per saecula saeculorum (forever and ever). 

This is the constitution that was adopted under a one-party system that monopolizes the access to television, press and radio, and did not allow other opinion currents and parties to participate in the process of writing the new constitution in 2019. The control of the one-party system was such, that the citizens who participated in the discussions sponsored by the government in different places to voice their suggestions about the project, did not even have the right, even less the opportunity, to organize and coordinate their suggestions with those of other people in other meeting places; nor were they able to promote directly their suggestions (without the filters and censorship by the PCC) to the Cuban public through the mass media, a classic symptom of the deliberate political atomization maintained and promoted by the one-party system. 

It is impossible to predict how and to what degree the government’s prohibition is going to affect the reach and dimensions of the protests projected for November 15. To plan small protests, as has already been proposed with the purpose of appeasing the all powerful Cuban state, would be perceived by the regime as a victory (achieved through its abuse of power). 

The international press would also see it that way, whose importance in these situations must be taken seriously, including its impact on the Cuban government as well as on the opposition. Such a victory would be proclaimed by the Cuban government as a defeat for the legacy of July 11. And it would embolden it to at least maintain the political status quo without conceding anything. 

But it also must be taken into account the drastic measures that the regime will take to prevent people from joining the march, something they could not do on July 11 because of the unforeseen nature of the protests. Cuba’s Attorney General has already publicly warned that it will take very harsh measures to punish those who go out in the street to challenge the regime on November 15. Face with such a reality, it is very possible that many people will decide to stay home and not demonstrate. And that same government will no doubt weaken the possibilities of the movement by arresting, hundreds and hundreds of Cubans before the day in which the demonstration is scheduled to take place, as it has done on other occasions,

It is difficult to prepare for the repression that is likely to occur. But should the Cuban people confront the state in a massive protest – people must be prepared to take advantage of that display of power to present and promote democratic demands. A massive protest on November 15 could lead a surprised and fearful government to adopt a hard repressive line, which is very likely, or to open new possibilities for the autonomous organization of new political forces in the island. 

This latter possibility would require a strategic and tactical reevaluation of the proposals and political attitudes of the new critical left in Cuba, keeping in mind that it might possibly occur in the context of a triangular conflict among this new left, the government and U.S.-based Cuban Right. Such proposals, that should have been put forward a long time ago, would become, with this opening, truly indispensable. 

First on the list would be the abolition of the single party state, that has been justified by the government in a great number of occasions and with the most diverse arguments for so long. Among these is the appeal to José Martí’s (Cuba’s principal Founding Father) idea of political unity. At the end of the Nineteenth Century, Martí called on all the factions and groups that supported Cuban independence to unite under the banner of the Cuban Revolutionary Party to more effectively combat Spanish colonialism. When Martí made this call for unity for the independence cause, he was trying to overcome the petty jealousies and authoritarian tendencies of the insurgent military leaders and unify the military campaign against Spain under civilian control. The unity that he called for with respect to war, had nothing to do with the party system that he, together with other independence leaders conceived for the new Cuban independent republic, and even less for the constitutional establishment of a one-party state that would exclude or declare other parties illegal.

Another justification frequently argued by the regime is based on what Raúl Castro called the ​“monolithic unity” of the Cuban people that the PCC pretends to represent. A conceit that was irrefutably exposed by the diversity of the July 11 demonstrations. Even less serious are the government’s May Day proclamations, when it declares that the PCC is the only party that can and should represent the Cuban working class. 

The one-party system is the principal obstacle to the democratization of the country, a qualitatively different process from the liberalization that the regime has implemented to a certain degree, as for example, when in 2013 it considerably increased the number of Cubans who could travel abroad. While it liberalized travel out of the country, it did not establish traveling abroad as a right for all Cubans in the island, but as a privilege discretionarily conferred by the government, as it is shown by the situation of Cubans who have been ​“regulated,” and are not permitted to travel abroad and return to their country. 

It is for reasons such as this, that politically conscious Cubans who are concerned with the arbitrariness that has typified the system of the current ruling class of Communist Party officials, have insisted for a long time in the necessity to establish what has already been sanctioned even by the 2019 Constitution: a country governed by the rule of law that functions according to laws and not based on the discretion of those who rule.

This is a fundamental demand in the struggle against arbitrariness, privileges and the abuse of power. However, it is an impossible political goal under the dominant one-party state in Cuba, where the political will of the PCC, transmitted through its ​“orientations” is above even of the laws and institutions of the system itself. 

Those who consider that the abolition of the one-party state is too radical a demand, but who want to still participate in a movement to democratize the country, could push for demands that advance the struggle along the same road and educate the people, making more transparent the enormous power of the PCC. Thus, for example, they could argue that while the PCC is the only party allowed to legally exist, it should represent the full social and political diversity in the country, which at present it clearly does not. 

The argument in favor of the inclusion of diversity in the party, would lead to the demand that the PCC break with the tradition that they wrongly refer to as ​“democratic centralism,” which in reality is a bureaucratic centralism: decisions taken from above, in contrast with those based on a free discussion and free vote. To achieve this would also facilitate the right to form, whenever a number of members find it to be necessary, party factions and platforms (for party conventions) inside the party itself. 

It could also be demanded that the PCC transforms itself into a purely electoral party, restricting itself to propose its candidates for the elections of public officials. Such a change would bring to an end the ​“orientation” functions of the PCC, through which it controls and directs, as the single party in government, all economic, political, social and educational activities. Although this change would not by itself bring about greater democracy, it would at least bring about pluralism among power holders, with each elected Communist acting on his or her own, which would effectively fragment the bureaucratic monopoly of the single party. 

In reality, these last two proposals differ more in degree than in substance from the first proposal, since they would all be a serious blow to the one-party system and would create spaces to organize more effectively the opposition to the regime, and especially to continue to insist and struggle for the total abolition of the one party system with the objective of creating the political basis for a socialist democracy.

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CUBA BRACES FOR UNREST AS PLAYWRIGHT TURNED ACTIVIST RALLIES PROTESTERS

The Communist party has banned the planned string of pro-democracy marches, saying they are an overthrow attempt

The Guardian, November 10, 2021

Original Article: Cuba braces for unrest

The Cuban playwright Yunior García has shot to fame over the past year, but not because of his art. The 39-year old has become the face of Archipelago, a largely online opposition group which is planning a string of pro-democracy marches across the island on Monday.

The Communist party has banned the protests – which coincide with the reopening of the country after 20 months of coronavirus lockdowns – arguing that they are a US-backed attempt to overthrow the government.

García and other organisers say the protest is simply to demand basic rights for all Cubans. Over syrupy black coffee and strong cigarettes in the living room of his Havana home, García said he hoped to channel the “peaceful rebelliousness” that he believes all Cubans have inside them.

“I believe in a diverse country and I think we have to completely do away with the one-party system which limits too many individual rights,” he said.

Such talk is anathema to Cuba’s rulers who are already struggling to contain a simmering social crisis which earlier this year triggered the largest anti-government protests for decades.

Supercharged US sanctions, the coronavirus pandemic, a surge in social media use and a younger generation hungry for change have left the Communist party reeling.The Biden administration has continued with Trump’s “maximum pressure” policy, which since 2017 has hammered the island with more than 200 sanctions aimed at choking hard currency inflows.

The result has been an economic crisis that rivals the so-called Special Period, after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

“The Special Period was a piece of cake compared to this,” said Umberto Molina, 71, waiting in line outside a pharmacy. “There was medicine and you didn’t have these never-ending queues.”

In July, mounting frustrations exploded on to the streets in an unprecedented rash of protests – and a hardening of positions. Cuban special forces beat demonstrators and hundreds were imprisoned. Washington responded by imposing new sanctions.

“When the Cuban government feels more threatened by the US, its tolerance for internal dissidence goes down,” said William LeoGrande, professor of government at American University in Washington DC. “All governments, when they feel under attack, become less tolerant of internal opposition,” he added, pointing to the US Patriot Act following 9/11.

This week, the foreign minister, Bruno Rodríguez, vowed that the protests would not go ahead. “We will not allow it,” he said. “We will use our laws, our constitution and the strictest adherence to the principles of our socialist state of law and social justice.”

On Thursday, García, said that he would march in silence and holding a white rose on Sunday, but it was not clear if this amounted to a scaling back of Monday’s protests.

“We are not willing to have a single drop of blood spilled, on either side of this conflict,” García said in a Facebook post.

In his interview, García, 39, said he was well aware of the risks he was facing.

“History is full of people who have gone to prison for struggling for their rights,” García said, offering José Martí, the 19th-century Cuban intellectual and independence fighter, as an example.

Like Martí, García says he opposes “foreign interference” in Cuban affairs. But while Martí saw the US as a “monster” to be kept at bay, García takes a different tack.  After he met with the head of the US embassy in Havana and a former US army captain, the Communist party released video of the encounter, and labelled García a “political operative”.

García said he discussed censorship on the island and the US embargo (which he opposes), but he denied taking advice. Nobody in Archipelago, he said, takes so much as “a cent” from foreign governments.Tolerance of dissent on the island, which increased under Obama years, is nosediving. Activists say more than 600 are still in prison.

A gamut of strategies have been employed to prevent Archipelago activists from organising: García’s mobile phone line has been cut, two coordinators have been fired from their state jobs, and activists’ families have been interrogated by state security.

That the protests are scheduled for the very day that Cuba is supposed to go back to normal after a long lockdown, with tourists returning and schools opening, has only heightened the stakes.

The government has planned a “National Defence Day” for later next week, and menacing photos have emerged of government supporters wielding batons in preparation.

“There is a quite properly widespread desire … that Cuba should move steadily and quickly, and as soon as possible, towards a true democratic system, and that the rights of peaceful protest and full freedom of expression be finally and properly respected by the state,” said Hal Klepak, professor emeritus of history and strategy at the Royal Military College of Canada.

“However, it is simply unrealistic and contrary to all logic, to think that the Cuban state, besieged, attacked and under quite savage economic warfare conducted by the greatest power in the history of the world … can allow such rights to flourish.

“As San Ignacio de Loyola, echoing the same conclusion as Machiavelli in such circumstances, said: ‘In a besieged city, all dissent is treason.’”

Such realism is little solace for young activists yearning for the democracy.

Daniela Rojo, a single mother with two young children , said she was raised to “speak softly and avoid problems”. But after being jailed for 27 days following the July’s protest, she said she was determined to march on Monday for her children’s sake.

“I want them to grow up in a country where they can express themselves freely,” she said.

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