Tag Archives: Opposition

THE CRIMINALIZATION OF OPPOSITION POLITICS IN CUBA

Against the Soviet Model

Sam Farber

SPECTRE JOURNAL, January 13, 2021; Original Article

This is a translation of an article that appeared on December 28, 2020 in La Joven Cuba, a left-wing critical blog, one of the most important in Cuba. The article immediately created a stir in social media. The Cuban government has so far failed to entirely control the Internet, which remains the main outlet for critical political views in the island. –SF

There are anti-democratic states that not only repress political opposition, but also criminalize it – a very effective method to avoid the dissemination and discussion of political ideas that diverge from the ideology of the state. That was the case of the Soviet Union and continues to be the case in those regimes that adopted the principal structures of the Soviet model, such as China, Vietnam, and our own Cuba.

That is how, under the direction of the Cuban government, the members of the San Isidro Movement were recently arrested by the police on criminal charges for supposedly having violated “the health protocols of international travelers” adopted by the government to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. In reality, they were arrested for political reasons: for publicly protesting as a group against state repression of one of its members. This is a typical example of how the Cuban government faces its critics: replacing political language with administrative-police language.

Cuba was once part of the longstanding Latin American tradition that sets apart political conduct and avoids reducing it to common crime. That is why this tradition supports the right of political asylum as well as the differential treatment of political and common prisoners.

Batista’s dictatorship, for example, respected the political asylum that hundreds of Cubans opposed to the dictatorship claimed, in order to save their lives, by taking refuge in many of the Latin American embassies in Havana. He certainly violated that right on many occasions, as in the notorious case of the police assault on the Haitian Embassy that he ordered on October 29, 1956, where all his political opponents who had taken asylum there were murdered. The chief of the National Police, Rafael Salas Cañizares, one of the most notorious henchmen of the dictatorship, also died in that incident when one of the asylum seekers shot him to death with a gun he had in his possession.

In the case of Latin America, the most notable exception to the general practice of conceding political asylum was that of the Peruvian Victor Raúl Haya de la Torre, founder and leader of the APRA (Alianza Popular Revolucionaria Americana) who, in order to protect himself from the Peruvian government under the dictatorship of Manuel Odría, obtained asylum in the Colombian embassy at the beginning of 1949. Haya de la Torre remained in that embassy for five years until he finally obtained safe passage from the Peruvian government to leave the country for Mexico, although only after the International Court of Justice rejected Odría’s demand for Colombia to hand over the Peruvian opposition leader.

The revolutionary Cuban government abandoned the tradition of recognizing political asylum when it adopted the Soviet model at the beginning of the sixties. A clear example of that turn were the events that took place in the Peruvian Embassy in Havana in April of 1980, when under the orders of Fidel Castro, the government forces surrounding the periphery of the embassy blocked the entrance of the Cubans seeking asylum there. The only ones who were initially able to enter the embassy were the survivors of an armed clash that ensued with the government guards where several people were killed. The government eventually withdrew the guards from the embassy. It was then that approximately ten thousand Cubans were able to get in and ask asylum in order to leave the country, which they did, along with more than one hundred thousand other Cubans, between April and June of 1980.

Continue reading: The Criminalization of Opposition Politics in Cuba

Sam Farber
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PROTEST IN CUBA: SPREADING NONCONFORMITY IN THE AGE OF COVID AND SOCIAL MEDIA

Halifax ChronicleHerald, Dec 14 at 4:44 p.m.

YVON GRENIER

Original Article: Protest in Cuba

Something extraordinary is happening in Cuba these days — and I am not talking about the absence of Canadians on its beaches.

Hundreds of mostly young artists, independent journalists, and some academics, are raising their voices against censorship. Some of them even call the regime for what it is: a dictatorship.

Discontent has been brewing in the island for some time, especially among young Cubans. But the spark for this rapid escalation was a few arrests too many, as well as the wider availability of social media over the past two years.

First, there was the arrest and imprisonment of an irreverent rapper (Denis Solís) for “disrespecting authority.” Solís is a member of a loose and mostly artist-based collective named the San Isidro Movement. The “MSI” emerged in 2018, to protest against new restrictions on freedom of expression.

Then, Solís’ arrest, the video of which he made available on social media, prompted some of his friends to go on hunger strike in the MSI headquarters, demanding his release and calling peers to join them in protest. It was their turn to be detained, by police in civilian clothes, who illegally broke into their apartment for the alleged misconduct of violating the COVID-19 testing protocol. The websites they were using to call for action were blocked by the government — so much for the public health concern — but, apparently, too late: digital nonconformity was already spreading wide in the community.

Arbitrary arrests are common in Cuba: There were close to 2,000 cases in the first eight months of last year. But this time, a straw broke the camel’s back. On Nov. 27, up to 300 mostly young Cubans turned up in front of the ministry of culture, calling for the release of Solís, greater freedom of expression, and … dialogue with the minister of culture. Many more would have joined had the place not been blocked by security agents.

In a one-party communist state that criminalizes opposition, no collective and public protest of this magnitude was ever attempted or tolerated in Cuba since the revolution — with the possible exception of a repressed LGBTQ parade last year.

This appears to be a wide opposition movement. There are known dissidents (like “artivist” Tania Bruguera), and a few irreverent but institutional cultural figures, like film director Fernando Pérez and beloved actor Jorge Perugorría, who offered support. In between, one finds a whole ecosystem of potential dissidents, who are not (yet) advocating open confrontation with the so-called “revolutionary” (in fact conservative) government. Many of them are independent journalists and bloggers, like Carlos Manuel Alvarez (age 31), who publicly called for “conversation …  not just with a supporting actor like a minister,” but directly with President Díaz-Canel.

Unavoidably, protesters were cheered on by the usual suspects in the U.S. government; no less predictably, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel called the event an “imperialist reality show.” Official media called the protesters “mercenaries,” and even “terrorists”. Two white members of the almost all-white ruling class (Raúl Castro’s daughter, Mariela, and former Minister of Culture Abel Prieto) indulged in tropical Trumpism, smearing the mostly poor, brown and black crowd as “vulgar, tacky and miserable” (Mariela), and “marginals” and “criminals” (Prieto). Even an occasionally dissonant but mostly official bard of the regime like singer Silvio Rodríguez, whose songs were actually sung by the protesters, publicly said that the government was handling this very badly.

All of this may seem like a footnote compared to massive anti-dictatorial demonstrations and violent crackdowns in Venezuela and Nicaragua — or even anti-neoliberal demonstrations in democratic Chile and Peru. Cuba is a dictatorship, but not one that systematically tortures or opens fire on crowds. (This may change.) In addition to exporting its opposition (about 20 per cent of Cubans live abroad), the government secures compliance most effectively with neighborhood spy networks, public shaming (the infamous “acts of repudiation”) and incarceration. This toolkit has been in full display in the past two weeks.

Change in Cuba?

This may just be a moment, an important one, in the awakening of civil society. Cubans generally toe the line, and know what line not to cross. But the “little police” in each and every Cuban, as they often call this mechanism of self-control, is increasingly disrupted by other voices. Social media is a big factor here, so the Cuban government may crack it down more. But it would be a mistake. Young Cubans are already fed up, and crave change (or exile). If artists can connect with them more broadly, this moment may lead to something bigger.

Yvon Grenier is a professor, department of political science and resident fellow, Mulroney Institute of Government, St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish.

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THE ART OF DISSENT: The Movimiento San Isidro challenges Cuba’s regime

The government has responded with repression. But the dissidents’ movement sees signs of progress

The Economist, December 5, 2020

Original Article: The Art of Dissent

THE FRONT door of Damas 855, a ramshackle building in San Isidro, a poor neighbourhood of Havana, snapped like a wishbone when security agents charged through it on the evening of November 26th. The lock and chain tumbled to the ground. The agents, dressed in medical gowns, arrested 14 people (their pretext was that one of the residents had violated a covid-19 testing protocol). They had locked themselves in for eight days to protest against the arrest of Denis Solís, a young rapper who had been accused of disrespecting authority and sentenced to eight months in prison. A few of the Damas 855 denizens were on a hunger-and-thirst strike. Police cars took the detainees away. Facebook, YouTube and Instagram went down on most of the island for about an hour. Connections have been spotty since.

To defenders of Cuba’s 62-year-old revolution, the adherents of Movimiento San Isidro (MSI) are reprobates. On Twitter the country’s president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, called it an “imperial show to destroy our identity and subjugate us again”. A photo of President Donald Trump accompanied the tweet. State media echoed the message.

Some Cubans take a kinder view of the movement, which includes artists, scholars, journalists, rappers, poets and scientists who advocate freer expression and more democracy than the communist regime allows. Its leaders are Luis Manuel Otero, a performance artist, and Maykel “El Osorbo” Castillo, a musician who sewed his lips shut in prison in August. They gather in a part of Old Havana where the mainly black residents live in rickety housing in the shadows of luxury hotels. When a balcony collapsed in January, killing three girls, Mr Otero wore a hard hat for nine days to honour them. He has been arrested more than 20 times over the past two years. His hunger strike landed him in hospital.

The movement began in September 2018 in response to Decree 349, which proposed to restrict cultural activity that is not authorised by the culture ministry. After a protest that month outside Cuba’s legislature, the government suspended enforcement of the decree. That has not stopped it from silencing voices it doesn’t like.

MSI is not comparable to Belarus’s mass movement to overthrow a dictatorship. Cuba has no such movement, though pro-democracy activists were among the 1,800 people who have been arbitrarily arrested in the first eight months of 2020, according to Human Rights Watch. MSI has more in common with other recent home-grown protests that have wrung small concessions from the regime.

In August 2017 cuentapropistas (entrepreneurs) proposed reforms, such as the right to incorporate, to the labour ministry. Initially they were rebuffed. The government forced the cancellation of events meant to help budding entrepreneurs. When in 2018 it threatened to restrict each entrepreneur to one line of business, cuentapropistas, who run much of the economically vital tourist industry, said they would strike. The rules were eased.

A clash between the gamers who cobbled together SNet, a private intranet, and the communications ministry played out in a similar way, though the government yielded less. On an island with poor and expensive connectivity, the network was a way for gamers to play with one another, often games they had created. When the government restricted the use of such networks and threatened to confiscate the equipment in May 2019, SNet users were devastated. Several dozen gathered at the ministry to protest. Police cars quickly surrounded them. The government eventually decided that SNet and its hardware would be permitted, but under the supervision of the state-run youth computer clubs.

Like the cuentapropistas and the SNet gamers, MSI began in response to a threat to its members’ private pursuits. But it has more potential to grow. On the day after the Damas 855 raid nearly 300 people, many of them supporters of other movements, gathered outside the culture ministry, refusing to leave until the vice-minister, Fernando Rojas, agreed to meet them. Security forces and “rapid-response groups”, trained to shout communist slogans at sceptics, flooded the area. Agents in plain clothes snapped photos and took videos.

Mr Rojas met with 30-odd activists for nearly five hours on November 27th-28th and promised more dialogue. But the government then launched a media campaign against MSI. Police chased Mr Otero after his release from hospital.

Even so, the movement thinks it has made progress. The gathering outside the culture ministry is a sign of an emerging “collective unconformity”, says Carlos Manuel Álvarez, one of the Damas 855 detainees and a co-founder of El Estornudo (“The Sneeze”), an independent online magazine. He sees that as a direct threat to the culture of submission demanded by the regime. Its agreement to meet participants in such a large protest “was unprecedented”, says Camila Ramírez Lobón, a visual artist who joined the meeting with Mr Rojas. Artists who are both popular and acceptable to the regime, like Fernando Pérez, a film director, and Leoni Torres, a musician, have publicly backed MSI.

The internet, unreliable though it is, is making such movements harder to control. More than 60% of Cubans have access to a connection. That has led to “an explosion of civic activism” among groups advocating such causes as feminism, gay rights and animal rights, says José Jasán Nieves, editor of El Toque (“The Touch”), an independent online publication. Some were at the culture-ministry protest. If they joined forces more often, they might challenge the government more effectively.

Cuba’s ruling Communist Party, divided between hardliners who remember the revolution and younger officials who are slightly more liberal, is not about to yield. On December 1st the government released Silverio Portal Contreras, a prominent political prisoner (and supporter of Mr Trump, who has imposed sanctions on the Cuban regime). That is probably not a sign that the regime is growing tolerant of dissent. More likely, it was a way to allay anger about the San Isidro raid.

Most Cubans, who queue for hours for chicken or eggs, often to return home empty-handed, have little interest in the doings of agitators like those of MSI. Their suffering has got worse since the pandemic shut down tourism. But a vaccine, and perhaps a softening of American sanctions by the incoming Biden administration, might eventually ease shortages. More Cubans might then ask why they have so little freedom.

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CUBAN GOVERNMENT CALLS OFF TALKS WITH ARTISTS

 Original Article, Havana Times, December 4, 2020

By Circles Robinson

Cuban artists after the late-night encounter and initial accords for dialogue with the vice minister of culture Fernando Rojas early on November 27th. Photo: 14ymedio

HAVANA TIMES – The Ministry of Culture, announced today it would not honor its agreement for a dialogue with Cuban artists. The Communist Party currently carries out a massive media campaign to paint artists critical of government policy as “mercenaries”. They are also holding “seminars” at workplaces to reinforce the accusations.

The government had already backtracked in less than 24 hours on the other accords reached between the vice minister of Culture and hundreds of artists in the wee hours of November 27th. These included a truce in the harassment and criminalizing of independent artists and journalists, and police restrictions on their mobility.

The reasons for reneging on the agreements

The Ministry of Culture said today it would no longer meet with the artists. It alleged: “they have direct contacts and receive financing and logistical support from the US Government and its officials.”

Furthermore, the Ministry blames the artists for its backtracking on the dialogue for including participation of members of the San Isidro Movement (MSI).

It was that Movement, a week long hunger strike, and the nighttime State Security assault on their headquarters on November 26th, which led to a spontaneous day-night sit-in of hundreds of people from the Cuban cultural world the following day at the gates of the Ministry of Culture.

Late that night vice minister Fernando Rojas finally met with a delegation of 30 artists including some MSI members. To diffuse the tense moment, Rojas promised a dialogue for the coming week to discuss issues and concerns.

The Ministry statement published in the official press today justified their reneging on their promise. “The inclusion of persons who for a long time, have violated patriotic symbols, committed common crimes and made direct attacks on the Cuban Revolution under the guise of art, is what led to breaking off any possibility of dialogue.”

The Castro-Diaz Canel government maintains that any criticism of their policies, laws and leaders originates from the United States. According to them, no Cuban has a right to criticize a government that only acts to benefit the people. Furthermore, for decades they maintain that the US embargo is the cause of all their failed economic policies.

The policy of dealing with artists and writers dates back to 1961

The Ministry said its doors were open, “as always”, to those artists who are not committed to the enemies of the Cuban nation.

Back in 1961, Fidel Castro set what is still government cultural policy. He said that all cultural expression that supports the Revolution would be permitted.  In official lingo, the Revolution, Communist Party, leaders and the government are all one and the same.

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CUBAN GOVERNMENT RENEGES ON RIGHTS DIALOGUE WITH ARTISTS

By Sarah Marsh

Reuters, December 4, 2020.

Original Article: Reneges on Rights Dialogue

HAVANA (Reuters) – Cuba’s Communist government on Friday reneged on its promise to dialogue with artists calling for greater freedom of expression, saying it disagreed with their conditions for the meeting and would not negotiate with “enemies of the Revolution”.

The government had agreed to holding the talks last Friday when hundreds of Cubans staged a rare sit-in outside the culture ministry to protest a raid on the headquarters of dissident artist collective the San Isidro Movement, protest repression more broadly and call for greater freedoms.

While far from a mass mobilization, such rights protests are highly uncommon in the one-party state that is usually quick to crack down on public dissent. The protest illustrated a strengthening of civil society in recent years in part thanks to the rollout of mobile internet that has fostered greater flow of information and enabled people to mobilize more easily.

The sit-in was also unusual in that it brought together self-denominated “artivists” with mainstream artists like actor Jorge Perugorria and pop star Leoni Torres and less well known creatives who do not usually comment on politics, demonstrating a broad unease.

The group of 30 artists, activists and journalists that culture ministry officials agreed to meet with during the sit-in asked for them to be present at the official dialogue they had agreed this week.

But the culture ministry said on Friday it would “not meet with people who have direct contact and receive financing, logistical support and propagandistic backing from the U.S. government”.

The state, which has a monopoly of mass media, has this week waged an all-out rhetorical campaign against them, saying they like other dissidents are mercenaries backed by old Cold War foe the United States seeking to destabilize the one-party state.

State newspapers have denounced the “imperial reality show” and “San Isidro Farce” while evening broadcasts have attacked individual members and linked the crew to alleged calls on social media for terrorist acts.

Members of the crew say the government is trying to discredit them and split them from the rest of the artists. They say they have been prevented from leaving their homes by security forces this week, detained if they did and interrogated.

But the broader group that met with culture ministry officials on Nov. 27, and that now goes by the acronym 27N, issued a statement on Friday stating they were using only “pacific” means to call for their rights, did not respond to interests of foreign governments and aspired to “an inclusive and democratic society.”

A Reuters factcheck found that two social media posts showing shops set on fire and alleging these were terrorist acts committed this week actually took place in February 2020 and December 2008.

Cuba expert Ted Henken at Baruch College in New York said that ultimately what is up for debate is the country’s longstanding cultural policy, based on the famous words of revolutionary leader Fidel Castro to artists and thinkers in 1961 proclaiming “within the revolution, everything; against the revolution, nothing”.

“The government has always been able to separate marginalized activists and the ones that are blessed and controlled by the system,” he said. “It’s deeply significant that this separation was collapsed by this sit-in. This has a much broader base than previous protests”

 

 

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SOS FOR SAN ISIDRO MOVEMENT HUNGER STRIKERS IN HAVANA

Havana Times, November 26, 2020

Original Article: SOS San Isidro Cuba

HAVANA TIMES – Numerous Cuban civil society organizations as well as regional and other international groups and individuals are calling for action to preserve the life of several hunger strikers of the San Isidro Movement in the Cuban capital.

The demands include the release of rapper Denis Solis from prison and an end to the flagrant human rights violations. The statement issued on Thursday morning also draws attention to the continuous repression and arbitrary movement restrictions on journalists and independent media.

Urgent Call to Preserve the Lives of the Hunger Strikers at the Headquarters of the San Isidro Movement

The undersigned – international and Cuban civil society organizations, members of Cuban independent media, activists, and Cuban citizens – condemn the harassment, police violence, human rights violations, and repressive acts perpetrated by Cuban authorities against artists, journalists, and independent civil society actors in response to peaceful demonstrations against the arrest and subsequent arbitrary conviction of the musician and member of Movimiento San Isidro (MSI), Denis Solís González.

We, therefore, urge Cuban authorities to act in accordance with their obligation to preserve the life and health, and safety of the 14 activists at the MSI headquarters since November 16, demanding the release of the musician Denis Solis González.

On November 9, 2020, Denis Solís González was brutally detained by agents of the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) in the Habana Vieja municipality, a few blocks from his home. Since then, there has been no communication with the musician, and attempts to gather information on his whereabouts through official channels were unsuccessful. According to international standards, Solís González has been forcibly disappeared.

Upon arrest, the acting agents failed to present a valid arrest warrant, inform Solis Gonzalez of his charges and instruct him on his rights as a defendant.

As detailed in the judicial order in response to the Habeas Corpus filed on November 10, he was sentenced in under 72 hours to eight  months of deprivation of liberty for the crime of “contempt” without receiving the most basic guarantees of due process. Additionally, on November 11, he was transferred to the maximum-security prison in Valle Grande.

Between November 10 and 18, there have been 34 arbitrary arrests of 20 individuals documented, alongside surveillance operations intended to prevent free movement and internet service blocks for artists, activists and journalists peacefully demonstrating for the release of Denis Solís. The various peaceful protests demanding the release of the musician have resulted in an escalation of violence.

Since November 16, approximately 14 activists, artists and journalists have congregated at the MSI headquarters, under siege from state security forces. At first, MSI was barred access. In response, they organized a poetic reading at the headquarters. Later, following the theft of their food, a few activists began a hunger strike. Finally, a substance that they suspect is hydrochloric acid, was thrown onto the door and roof of the headquarters, damaging their water supply.

It is important to highlight the information lockdown that has been implemented. Journalists and activists in solidarity with MSI have been prevented from leaving their homes for at least nine days. There have also been attacks on foreign press and arrests of independent journalists, who on November 22, sought to cover the demonstrations and/or meetings organized throughout the central parks of Havana.

Given the facts presented, the undersigned organizations urgently call upon the Cuban government to allow the International Red Cross entry so they can respond to the request for assistance MSI has issued over the past two days.

We also demand that the Cuban government declare the criminal proceedings against Denis Solis González void and proceed with his immediate release. We hope they respond to the call for dialogue from members of Movimiento San Isidro in order to protect the lives of the activists.

We also demand that the government allow citizens to exercise their right to peacefully protest and that the harassment and digital interference against those who participate in or carry out journalistic coverage of these events cease. It is indefensible, that the Cuban State, recently elected to occupy a place on the United Nations Human Rights Council, should engage in this type of systematic infraction of human rights in flagrant violation of all relevant international agreements and standards.

We also demand that the High Commissioner of the United Nations, Michelle Bachelet, condemn the multiple human rights violations perpetrated by agents of the Cuban State against the people engaging in legitimate protest at the Movimiento San Isidro headquarters.

We call on embassies, the European Union, and the special procedures of the United Nations and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, to firmly communicate to the Cuban State their condemnation and concern regarding these events, and urge it to assume its obligations to guarantee and protect human rights, especially as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

SIGNED:

Regional Organizations

Alianza Regional por la Libre Expresión e Información

DemoAmlat

Red Latinoamericana y del Caribe para la Democracia (REDLAD)

Red Latinoamericana de Jóvenes por la Democracia (JuventudLAC)

IFEX-ALC

Voces del Sus

Cuban Civil Society Organizations

Alianza Cubana por la Inclusión

Alianza Democrática Pinareña Vueltabajo por Cuba.

Asociación Civil Crecer en Libertad

Asociación Jurídica Cubana

Asociación Cubana para la Divulgación del Islam

Asociación Sindical Independiente de Cuba

Asociación Pro Libertad de Prensa

Center for a Free Cuba

Centro de Estudios Convivencia

Centro PEN de Escritores Cubanos en el Exilio

Club de Escritores y Artistas de Cuba

Comité de Ciudadanos por la Integración Racial (CIR)

Colegio de Pedagogos Independientes de Cuba (CPIC)

Centro Estudios Liderazgo y Desarrollo

Comunidad Judía Bnei Anusim de Cuba

Confederación Obrera Nacional Independiente de Cuba (CONIC)

Cubalex

Cuba Independiente y Democrática (CID)

Damas de Blanco

Democuba

Directorio Democrático Cubano

Monitor Legislativo Cubano

Libertad Cuba Lab

Grupo Demongeles

Grupo Anima

Fundación para la Democracia Panamericana

Fundación Nacional Cubano Americana

La Maleza

Libertad Cuba Lab

Instituto de Activismo Hannah Arendt

Instituto Cubano por la Libertad de Expresión y Prensa – ICLEP

Instituto Patmos

Instituto La Rosa Blanca

Iglesia Misionera en Cuba

Movimiento Apostólico“Viento Recio”

Movimiento Ciudadano Reflexión y Reconciliación (MCRR)

Movimiento Opositores por una  Nueva República

Mesa de Diálogo de la Juventud Cubana

Mujeres Democristianas de Cuba

Observatorio Cubano de Derechos Humanos

Palabra Abierta

Proyecto Demócrata Cubano (PRODECU)

Partido Arco Progresista

Partido Autónomo Pinero

Partido Pedro Luis Boitel

Partido Demócrata Cristiano de Cuba

Plataforma Independiente para el Desarrollo Universitario

Puente a la Vista

Red Femenina de Cuba

Red de Líderes y Lideresas Comunitarios (RELLIC)

Somos +

Solidaridad Trabajadores de Cuba

Talento Cubano

Unión Patriótica de Cuba (UNPACU)

Mujer a Mujer

 PLUS: 

37 International Civil Society Organizations including PEN Internacional;

21 Independent Media

42 Cuban Activists and Citizens

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CUBAN POLICE RAID HQ OF DISSIDENT SAN ISIDRO MOVEMENT

BBC, 17 November 2020

BBC, 17 November 2020

Original Article: Cuban police raid HQ of dissident San Isidro Movement

A Cuban dissident group says police have raided its HQ in the capital, Havana, detaining members on hunger strike over the jailing of a rapper.

The San Isidro Movement said some people were beaten, and social media was temporarily shut down to stop images of the raid being shared online.

Rapper Denis Solis was sentenced after a row with a police officer.

Cuban authorities said the raid was carried out over a health violation related to coronavirus.

The San Isidro Movement has gained international attention recently.

Founded in 2018, many of its members are artists, musicians, journalists and academics who oppose what they call oppressive measures by Cuba’s communist government.

The movement told BBC Mundo that its HQ – an apartment in the capital – was raided on Thursday night. About an hour after midnight local time (05:00 GMT Friday), the group said three of the 14 people detained were out of contact. Six members have been on hunger strike.

The group is demanding the release of Solis, who was sentenced to eight months in jail for contempt after a verbal altercation with a police officer.

In a statement, Cuban authorities said they carried out the San Isidro raid because a journalist, Carlos Manuel Álvarez, had broken security protocols related to the spread of coronavirus, and was taking part in protests at the building.

“This action took place in full compliance with the law and without violating the citizen rights of any of those involved,” the statement read.

The San Isidro group called it an “absurd” pretext.

The movement has often stirred controversy by mixing art with political activism. As a symbol of civil disobedience, one its members, Maykel Castillo, sewed up his mouth after being summoned by police for questioning.

Human rights NGOs and the US state department have called for Denis Solis to be released, and for the government to engage in dialogue with the San Isidro Movement.

The Cuban government alleges that he and the movement are funded by Washington and are being used to subvert the state. The San Isidro Movement has denied these allegations.

These protests, although unrelated, come amid severe economic strain in Cuba over the global coronavirus pandemic.

See also: SOS FOR SAN ISIDRO MOVEMENT HUNGER STRIKERS IN HAVANA

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LATIN AMERICA LEADERS URGE SUMMIT PARTICIPANTS TO REJECT CUBA’S NEXT HANDPICKED RULER

BY NORA GÁMEZ TORRES

Miami Herals, April 11, 2018 06:05 PM

Original Article: Latin America Leaders Urge Summit Participants To Reject Cuba’s Next Handpicked Ruler

LIMA, PERU

Former Latin American presidents on Wednesday urged participants in the upcoming VIII Summit of the Americas to reject the new Cuban government scheduled to take power next week.

The former leaders of Costa Rica, Miguel Ángel Rodríguez, and of Bolivia, Jorge Quiroga, issued the statement on behalf of the 37 former heads of state and government that are part of the Democratic Initiative in Spain and the Americas.  They urged summit participants to “reject the presidential elections called by the dictatorship” and “refuse to recognize as legitimate the newly elected members of the National Assembly, the Council of State and its president because they do not represent the will of the people.”

The declaration, read from the halls of the Peruvian congress, also demands an end to the Cuban government’s repression of opponents and the release of political prisoners.

The former government leaders also endorsed a proposal for a binding plebiscite on whether Cubans want “free, just and pluralistic elections” pushed by the Cubadecide coalition headed by Cuban opposition activist Rosa María Payá.  Latin American leaders who will meet at the Summit of the Americas on Friday and Saturday “have a commitment to democratic stability in the region,” Payá said. “It is time for democracies in the Americas to pay their historical debt to the Cuban people.”

Several Cuban opposition activists, including Ladies in White leader Berta Soler, as well as Guillermo Fariñas, Antonio Rodiles and Jorge Luis García “Antúnez,” also urged Latin American governments earlier this week to repudiate “the Castro dictatorship and its dynastic succession.”

They also demanded the release of political prisoners and official recognition of the Cuban opposition as legitimate political players, and asked for more economic and political sanctions against the Cuban government. Quiroga and former Colombian President Andres Pastrana traveled to Havana last month to receive the Oswaldo Payá Liberty and Life prize, but were turned away by authorities at the airport. The prize was organized by the Latin American Network of Youths for Democracy, headed by Rosa Maria Payá, daughter of the late opposition activist.

Cuban activist Rosa María Payá with the former president of Costa Rica, Miguel Ángel Rodríguez, in Lima, Peru

The selection of a new Cuban ruler when the island’s National Assembly meets April 19 is nothing but a “dynastic succession … a change of tyrants in a dictatorial system,” Quiroga told el Nuevo Herald. “How can an election be democratic with 605 candidates for 605 seats and a single party?”
Cuban leader Raúl Castro is expected to be replaced next week as head of state and government by First Vice President Miguel Díaz-Canel, although he is also expected to remain head of the Communist Party.
The former Bolivian president added that Peru’s invitation to Castro to attend the summit was “incoherent” because Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s invitation was withdrawn.
“My only complaint to those who decided to exclude Maduro from the upcoming summit is that a narco-tyrant, who has been in power for 18 years and wants another six, is excluded because he’s about to turn Venezuela into a new Cuba, while those who have destroyed democracy in Cuba for 60 years are welcome.”
Before the news conference, Rodríguez, Quiroga and Payá met with the president of the Peruvian congress, Luis Fernando Galarreta Velarde.

“The Venezuelan problem has a starting place that many people at times forget, and that starting place is Cuba, Galarreta said. There’s a risk for the region “if we continue to avoid looking directly at the situation in those countries.”
Asked whether Peru would refuse to recognize the new Cuban government, Galarreta said that the country’s foreign policy was handled by the foreign ministry, not the legislature, but added that Congress would forward the former Latin American president’s petition to the executive branch.

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New Book: CULTURE AND THE CUBAN STATE: PARTICIPATION, RECOGNITION, AND DISSONANCE UNDER COMMUNISM

YVON GRENIER

Culture and the Cuban State examines the politics of culture in communist Cuba. It focuses on cultural policy, censorship, and the political participation of artists, writers and academics such as Tania Bruguera, Jesús Díaz, Rafael Hernández, Kcho, Reynier Leyva Novo, Leonardo Padura, and José Toirac. The cultural field is important for the reproduction of the regime in place, given its pretense and ambition to be eternally “revolutionary” and to lead a genuine “cultural revolution”. Cultural actors must be mobilized and handled with care, given their presumed disposition to speak their mind and to cherish their autonomy.

This book argues that cultural actors also seek recognition by the main (for a long time the only) sponsor and patron of the art in Cuba: the “curator state”. The “curator state” is also a “gatekeeper state,” arbitrarily and selectively opening and closing the space for public expression and for access to foreign currencies and the global market. The time when everything was either mandatory or forbidden is over in Cuba. The regime seems to have learned from egregious mistakes that led to a massive exodus of artists, writers and academics. In a country where things change so everything could stay the same, the controlled opening in the cultural field, playing on the actors’ ambition and fear, illuminates a broader phenomenon: the evolving rules of the political game in the longest standing dictatorship of the hemisphere.

Author

Yvon Grenier is professor of political science at St. Francis Xavier University.

Table of Contents:

Preface
Acknowledgments
List of Acronyms
Chapter 1: Revolution and Cultural Will
Chapter 2: Don’t Cross This Line
Chapter 3: Jesus Diaz, the Unintentional Deviationist
Chapter 4: The Curator State
Chapter 5: How to Write From Mantilla, Of the Small Heresies of Leonardo Padura
Chapter 6: Faking Criticism
Conclusion
Bibliography

Reviews

Yvon Grenier, a sharp-eyed observer of culture and politics in Latin America, provides an illuminating analysis of the complex relations between Cuba’s intellectuals and the Castro regime. Exceeding the revolutionary rhetoric which has impressed much of the research on Cuba in the past, Grenier looks seriously and rigorously into the state’s cultural policy over time, showing how changes in that policy from repression to liberalization and back have not altered the fundamental position of Cuba’s artists, writers and political scientists, a position marked by fear, censorship, self-censorship, and the need to perform intellectual acrobatics. A must-read for anyone concerned with the fate of creative imagination and critical thinking in authoritarian states.
Michael Keren, University of Calgary

Everywhere in the world intellectuals, writers, and academics are a different breed who seek participation and recognition from their public and peers as well as their state. In his analysis of Cuba’s cultural policy during the Cuban revolution, Yvon Grenier carefully shows that in a communist state that quest is particularly difficult and dangerous. In Cuba, a line was drawn early on between those who work within the revolutionary parameters and gain acceptance, though at times managing to be quite critical (dissonance) and those who work outside of it, meeting rejection and ostracism (dissidence). Yet, through his analysis of the hardships, vicissitudes, and circumstances of the lives of important Cuban intellectuals (such as Jesús Díaz, Tania Bruguera, and Leonardo Padura), Grenier further shows that where the line lies can be rather unclear, leading to some crossing it unwittingly while others place their stories in another century and another place to avoid it. Grenier shows that the political control of the cultural life in a one party state like Cuba results not only in censorship but also in self-censorship. For everyone who cares about the quality of intellectual life in Cuba and elsewhere, this is a book not to be missed.
Silvia Pedraza, University of Michigan

This book is a path-breaking work that convincingly turns the conventional wisdom about the ‘cultural policy’ of the Cuban Revolution on its head. Most compelling and original is the author’s nimble analysis that distinguishes between a set of unwritten but untouchable “primary parameters” and another set of “secondary” and contextually permeable parameters that such cultural actors must constantly negotiate in order to avoid being dealt “out of the game” of Cuban culture as played on the island under the Revolution. The strongest contribution of the book is to change the focus on cultural freedom in Cuba from one that focuses exclusively on the state to one that focuses equally on the ways Cuban writers, artists, and intellectuals negotiate with the state, in search not only of greater creative freedom but also (and ironically) state recognition and promotion.
Ted A. Henken, Baruch College

 

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CUBA’S CRITICAL JUNCTURE: MAIN CHALLENGES

Vegard Bye. Senior Research Fellow Centre for Development and the Environment, University of Oslo. vegard.bye@sum.uio.no

Complete Article: CUBA’S CRITICAL JUNCTURE

Abstract

Cuba is rapidly approaching a critical juncture, where a complete and generational change of leadership is unavoidable (between 2018 and 2021). The country and its Revolution is up against some unavoidable and complicated choices in the coming four years. With the rapidly approaching end of the Castro era, without any clear new leadership structure in sight, and with an apparently unsolvable economic crisis and rapidly shrinking confidence in the political power bloc particularly among the younger generations, a deep legitimacy crisis is looming. What are the principal challenges ahead, and how can and will they be solved?

  1. Introduction

Cuba is rapidly approaching a critical juncture, as a complete and generational change of leadership seems inevitable between now and 2021. The country and its revolution will be facing a series of complex, unavoidable choices in the next four years. With the end of the ‘Castro era’ and no clear new leadership structure in sight, combined with an apparently unsolvable economic crisis and rapidly shrinking confidence in the political power bloc, particularly among the younger generations,1 a deep legitimacy crisis is looming.

This study analyses some of the main challenges represented by the new international setting particularly concerning relations with the USA and the change from Barack Obama (2008–2016 to Donald J. Trump (2016) in the White House. These issues include how the economic crisis is undermining the welfare state that was once the pride of the Cuban Revolution, and the political challenges that may ensue; and how the monolithic character of the Cuban power structure is being put to the test by the increasing differentiation of interests between the early winners and the early losers of the economic reforms. The study also indicates some of the dilemmas of post-totalitarian political transformation identified in the theoretical literature, and relates these to other similar processes. Finally, we present some paradigm choices facing the next generation of leaders, and then discuss how a game of power, hegemony and legitimacy may unfold in post-Castro Cuba. While the most likely outcome still seems to be the continuation of some type of authoritarian and neo-patrimonial system, it is also possible to imagine some key post-Castro decisions that could take the country in a more pluralistic and participatory direction – although President Trump’s return to confrontationalism is making that even less likely. The harsh choice may be between re-building legitimacy and reverting to a much more repressive system.

Discussing political structures and their possible transformation is highly complicated regarding a system as opaque as that of Cuba, where there is no academic or media tradition of open analysis of power structures or ready access to reliable data. Such discussion may become quite speculative, as it is virtually impossible to underpin crucial observations about power relations with firm quantitative data – turning the choice of methodology towards qualitative analysis. Still, we believe it is worth putting together the available theoretical and empirical elements that may give indications about the future direction of a country that has played such a significant role in world politics and political/ideological discussions – a role quite out of proportion to its small size. Cuba offers a laboratory for the analysis of transformative politics.

……………………………….

  1. Conclusions

As yet, fairly authoritarian scenarios appear to be the likely outcomes of the transformation process. However, there remains the question of how absolute is the power that Cuba’s formal power bloc continues to exercise – and whether other options may emerge, against the odds, as the post-Castro generation prepares to take over the reins. Recently revealed remarks by First Vice President Miguel Díaz-Canel, the most likely presidential candidate in February 2018, leave few expectations for a prompt break with the past.15

The information monopoly has been definitely broken in Cuba – although the information hegemony may still be in place (Hoffmann 2016). Young people, also party loyalists, encounter no problems in seeking alternative information and views about the outside world as well their own country, including about the root causes of the economic failure. This will have consequences for how the next generation of leaders will need to communicate with the populace, and take public opinion into account, if they want to build a new capital of legitimacy. Moreover, the Party’s social hegemony appears to be slipping away, particularly among younger Cubans who hardly care about what happens at a Party Congress or in other formal decision-making bodies. This may even mean an actual loss of absolute political power – how relevant, then, will the three documents of principle discussed at the 7th Party Congress and ‘supported’ by the mid-2017 session of the National Assembly will be for the future of Cuba?

On the other hand, there seem to be no indications of counter-hegemonic forces developing, within or outside of party and state structures. Still, we should remain aware to the possibility that the looming ‘crisis of legitimacy’ in Cuba might become a ‘crisis of hegemony’ or of ‘authority’ (see Gramsci 1999Anderson 1976). It is no simple matter to apply such concepts, originally developed for analysing social and class forces in early industrial Europe, to the transformation process of a post-totalitarian system or an authoritarian socialist system searching for alternatives. However, the alternative Gramscian concepts of a passive revolution vs. the creation of a counter-hegemonic bloc may still be relevant. In the former, the bourgeoisie (or nomenclature in the Cuban case) would allow certain demands by looking beyond its economic-political interests and allowing the forms of hegemony to change (typically in the way the Nordic model was conceived in the 1930s). This would imply that the Cuban power elite might have to look for a similar adaptation of its hegemonic bloc in order to meet the emerging legitimacy crisis, particularly after 2018. The alternative might well be a deep organic crisis, tempting new social forces to set about building a counter-hegemonic historical bloc, leading to what Gramsci called ‘creating the new’ (which in Cuba would be some kind of post-socialism), rather than ‘restoring the old’ through a passive revolution.

One possible source of challenge to the existing hegemony of the Cuban political system would come from civil society, perhaps feeding on the growing self-confidence felt by private entrepreneurs as their critical economic role becomes more visible and recognised by the regime. ‘What is threatening to authoritarian regimes’, noted Przeworksi (1991: 54–55), ‘is not the breakdown of legitimacy but the organisation of counter-hegemony: collective projects for an alternative future. Only when collective alternatives are available does political choice become available to isolated citizens.’ Thus, according to Przeworski and building on the Gramsci concept of hegemony, the emergence of civil society organisations in itself becomes a relevant force for regime transformation only in a situation of falling legitimacy, if civil society organisations manage to organise a ‘counter-hegemonic bloc’. This has not yet happened in Cuba, nor is there any sign that it is about to happen. That being said, however, serious problems of legitimacy at a critical juncture may result in a new situation.

Moreover, no negotiation scenario is yet on the table in Cuba. Linz and Stepan (1996), Przeworski (1991) and Saxonberg (2013) all introduce the issue of negotiations at specific points during post-totalitarian transformation. Przeworski sees the issue of alliance building between groups willing to negotiate on the part of the regime and civil society as decisive for the outcome of any negotiation: ‘visible splits in the power bloc indicate to the civil society that political space may have been opened for autonomous organization. Hence, popular mobilization and splits in the regime may feed on each other’ (1991: 57).

Cuba has not yet arrived there: power-bloc splits are not evident, nor is there anything like a counterpart with which to negotiate. For that to happen, the combination of regime crisis –perhaps with the prospects of serious repression – and the emergence of a counter-hegemonic alternative would be required. It can only be speculated whether and under what circumstances such a situation might emerge.

Scenario forecasting in Cuba is a highly risky business. Here we make an attempt, identifying three basic scenarios that will gradually emerge with greater clarity as decisions and circumstances unfold in the time ahead:

  1. A neo-patrimonial system, whether ‘socialist’ as in China and Vietnam, or an ‘oligarchic’ variety as in Russia or Angola;16
  2. A transnational neo-authoritarian system: neoliberal capitalism based on massive US and other foreign direct investments, with the full dismantling of the current state and power structure (Cuba as a mini-Florida);
  3. Transformation to a mixed economy with a more pluralist and participatory polity, and the reconstruction of a welfare state: a negotiated process towards some kind of social democratic system.

As shown in Figure 1, we hold that a series of strategic decisions by the post-Castro generation of leaders in favour of more market-oriented economy is what might take Cuba in a less authoritarian direction, while simultaneously helping to rebuild the welfare state.

Vegard Bye

 

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