Tag Archives: Political System

‘THEY WANT TO MAKE AN EXAMPLE’: CUBA PROTESTERS HIT WITH SEVERE SENTENCES

Six months after demonstrations, courts have quietly started imposing harsh charges such as sedition

Ed Augustin in Havana

The Guardian, Last modified on Sat 15 Jan 2022 10.02 GMT

Original Article:  Cuban Protesters Sentenced

One Sunday last summer, 18-year-old Eloy Cardoso left his mother’s house on the outskirts of Havana to collect an Atari game console from a friend.  He’d stayed at home the previous day, while the largest anti-government demonstrations since the revolution had ripped through Cuba.

The authorities had managed to quell the protests in most of the country overnight, but not in La Güinera: unrest was still raging in the humble and normally calm neighbourhood, and Eloy walked out into a bloody brawl.  Shops were smashed and looted, party supporters wielded clubs, police wrestled with youths, and one man was shot dead. Amid the tumult, Cardoso began to throw stones at the police.

He was arrested a few days later, and at a closed trial earlier this week he was sentenced to seven years in prison.  The trial is one of scores currently playing out across the island, as, six months after the demonstrations, Cuban courts have quietly started imposing draconian sentences on the protesters who – sometimes peacefully, sometimes less so – flooded the streets last summer.

Though the state has a history of issuing stiff sentences to organised political dissidents, the punishments now being meted out are unusually severe.

“They want to make an example of him,” said Cardoso’s mother, Servillia Pedroso, 35, holding back tears.  Eloy Cardoso’s mother, Servillia Pedroso, left, and Migdalia Gutiérrez, whose son, Brunelvil, has been sentenced to 15 years.

Because her son is at college, police initially told her he would get a “second chance” charging him with “public disorder” and telling him he would get away with a fine.  But in October, the charge was upgraded to sedition: in other words, inciting others to rebel against state authority.

Since December, more 50 people in La Güinera have been sentenced for sedition, according to the civil society organisation Justicia 11J. Most are poor, young males.  Justicia 11J said more than 700 people were still being detained following July’s protests, with 158 of those accused of or already sentenced for sedition. Last week one man in the eastern province of Holguín was sentenced to 30 years.

Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International, said detainees have faced summary proceedings without guarantees of due process or a fair trial.  “Prosecutors have pushed for disproportionately long sentences against people who were arrested in the protests. In addition, many people stand accused of vague crimes that are inconsistent with international standards, such as ‘contempt’ which has been consistently used in Cuba to punish those who criticise the government,” she said.

“The state is trying to send the message that there are dire consequences to rebelling against the government,” said William LeoGrande, professor of government at American University in Washington.  “The fact that the government feels under and is under unprecedented threat – not just from increased US sanctions but from the pandemic and the global economic situation – makes it less willing to tolerate any type of dissidence.”

Trump-era sanctions contributed to the food and medicine shortages people were protesting against. The sanctions also slowed vaccine production, aggravating a Covid surge that was sweeping through the island at the time, and contributing to the fury. But many protesters also wanted freedom from Communist rule.

Economic complaints are a constant in La Güinera: it’s hard to afford shoes and medicine. A schoolbag costs 2,500 pesos – more than half a teacher’s monthly salary.

“I’m sure that if it wasn’t for the economy, none of this would have happened – but the economy never improves,” said Yusniel Hernández, 36, a teacher turned taxi driver, who said a dozen friends had been incarcerated for throwing stones and assaulting police officers.

Analysts say the government is using exemplary sentencing to snuff out any further protests because it is bracing for further economic hardship. As sanctions have hardened, a longstanding siege mentality among the leadership seems to have ossified in recent years. The fact that the Biden administration reversed its policy of normalisation with the island after July may be another contributing factor.

But the pain from the crackdown is palpable.  “None of these kids were activists, they don’t belong to any organisation,” said Migdalia Gutiérrez, 44, whose son, Brunelvil, 33, has been sentenced to 15 years.  If someone has nothing to do with politics, and you are accusing them of political stuff, then you are making them political prisoners,” she added.

Her nextdoor neighbour, María Luisa Fleitas Bravo, 58, lives in poverty. The roof of her kitchen, living room and second bedroom collapsed when Hurricane Irma struck in 2017. The state provided her with the breeze-blocks she needed to rebuild, but four years later the cement still hasn’t arrived.  Her rotting wood ceiling is covered with plastic sheets secured by clothes pegs, but it still leaks when it rains.   Her unemployed 33-year-old son, Rolando, was sentenced to 21 years for attacking a police officer during the protests (a charge he denies).

Pedroso has been running a small online campaign to free her son. But shortly after she and seven other local mothers made a video demanding justice , she received a visit from the police, who informed her that the video was being shared on Facebook for “counterrevolutionary” ends.

She has since been questioned by state security, and told that if she takes to the street to protest for her son’s release, she could be charged with public disorder.

Pedroso, a housewife, had applied for a job at Havana’s international airport, to work in immigration. The job was all but in the bag, she said, until she was asked about her son during a final check-up interview.  That was September. She hasn’t heard back since.

“Nobody who has a child accused of anything can work in the airport,” she said, before adding, with a touch of gallows humour: “In fact, yes: they can be accused of murder, but not of counterrevolution.”

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

WHY CUBANS PROTESTED ON JULY 11. Is this the beginning of the end of fear in Cuba?

Samuel Farber July 27, 2021

Original Article

he street demonstrations that broke out all over Cuba on July 11 are an unprecedented event in the more than 60 years since the triumph of the Cuban Revolution. But why now? This essay explores the historic, economic and political factors that help to clarify the causes of Cuba’s July 11, considers the role of the United States, and briefly reflects on Cuba’s future.

On Sunday, July 11, Cuba erupted in street protests. Unlike the major street protest that took place in 1994 and was limited to the Malecón, the long multi-lane Havana road facing the Gulf of Mexico, the July 11 outbreak of protest was national in scope. There were protests in many towns and cities, including Santiago de Cuba in the east, Trinidad in the center of the island, as well as Havana in the west. The growing access to social media in the island played an important role in the rapid spread of the protests; no wonder the government immediately suspended access to certain social media sites and brought all telephone calls from abroad to a halt. 

The street presence and participation of Black women and men was notable everywhere. This should not be surprising since Black Cubans are far less likely to receive hard currency remittances from abroad even though over 50% of the population receive some degree of financial support through that channel. These remittances have become the key to survival in Cuba, particularly in light of the ever-diminishing number of goods available in the peso-denominated subsidized ration book. Cuban Blacks have also been the victims of institutional racism in the growing tourist industry where ​“front line” visible jobs are mostly reserved for conventionally attractive white and light skinned women and men. 

The demonstrators did not endorse or support any political program or ideology, aside from the general demand for political freedom. The official Cuban press claims that the demonstrations were organized from abroad by right-wing Cubans. But none of the demands associated with the Cuban right-wing were echoed by the demonstrators, like the support for Trump often heard in South Florida and among some dissident circles in Cuba. And no one called for ​“humanitarian intervention” espoused by Plattistas (Platt Amendment, approved by Congress in 1901and abolished in 1934, gave the United States the right to militarily intervene in Cuba), such as biologist Ariel Ruiz Urquiola, himself a victim of government repression for his independent ecological activism. The demonstrators did speak about the scarcity of food, medicine and essential consumer items, repudiated President Díaz-Canel as singao—a phrase that in Cuba translates as ​“fucked” but means a wicked, evil person, and chanted patria y vida (fatherland and life). ​“Patria y Vida” is the title of a very popular and highly polished rap song by a group of Cuban Black rappers (available on YouTube.) I have seen and heard the song more than a dozen times to enjoy it as well as to search for its explicit and implied meanings including in its silences and ambiguities.

“Patria y Vida” counterposes itself to the old Cuban government slogan of ​“Patria o Muerte” (“Fatherland or Death”). While that slogan may have made sense in the 1960s when Cuba was faced with actual invasions, it borders on the obscene when voiced by second generation bureaucrats. It is certainly high time that the regime’s macho cult of violence and death be challenged, and this song does it very well.

But what does it mean to implicitly repudiate the year 1959, the first year of the successful revolution, as the song does? There was no Soviet style system in Cuba at the time and the year 1959 is not equivalent to the Castro brothers. Many people of a wide variety of political beliefs fought and died to bring about the revolution that overthrew the Batista dictatorship. The song does express many important democratic sentiments against the present Cuban dictatorship, but it is unfortunately silent about the desirable alternative, which leaves room for the worst right-wing, pro-Trump elements in South Florida to rally behind it as if it was theirs. 

True to form, President Díaz-Canel called on the ​“revolutionaries” to be ready for combat and go out and reclaim the streets away from the demonstrators. In fact, it was the uniformed police, Seguridad del Estado (the secret police), and Boinas Negras (black berets, the special forces) that responded with tear gas, beatings and hundreds of arrests, including several leftist critics of the government. According to a July 21 Reuters report, the authorities had confirmed that they had started the trials of the demonstrators accused of a variety of charges, but denied it according to another press report on July 25. These are summary trials without the benefit of defense counsel, a format generally used for minor violations in Cuba but which in this case involves the possibility of years in prison for those found guilty. 

Most of the demonstrations were angry but usually peaceful and only in a few instances did the demonstrators behave violently, as in the case of some looting and a police car that was overturned. This was in clear contrast with the violence frequently displayed by the forces of order. It is worth noting that in calling his followers to take to the streets to combat the demonstrators, Díaz-Canel invoked the more than 60-year-old notion that ​“the streets belong to the revolutionaries.” Just as the government has always proclaimed that ​“the universities belong to the revolutionaries” in order to expel students and professors that don’t toe the government’s line. One example is René Fidel González García, a law professor expelled from the University of Oriente. He is a strong critic of government policies, who, far from giving up on his revolutionary ideals, has reaffirmed them on numerous occasions.

But Why Now?

Cuba is in the middle of the most serious economic crisis since the 1990s, when, as a result of the collapse of the Soviet bloc, Cubans suffered innumerable and lengthy blackouts due to the severe shortage of oil, along with endemic malnutrition with its accompanying health problems.

The present economic crisis is due to the pandemic-related decline of tourism, combined with the government’s long term capital disinvestment and inability to maintain production, even at the lower levels of the last five years. Cuba’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product) fell by 11% in 2020 and only rose by 0.5% in 2019, the year before the pandemic broke out. The annual sugar crop that ended this spring did not even reach 1 million tons, which is below the 1.4 million average of recent years and very far below the 8 million tons in 1989. The recent government attempt to unify the various currencies circulating in Cuba — primarily the CUC, a proxy for the dollar, and the peso — has backfired resulting in serious inflation that was predicted among others by the prominent Cuban economist Carmelo Mesa-Lago. While the CUC is indeed disappearing, the Cuban economy has been virtually dollarized with the constant decline of the value of the peso. While the official exchange rate is 24 pesos to the dollar, the prevailing black market rate is 60 pesos to the dollar, and it is going to get worse due to the lack of tourist dollars. This turn to an ever more expensive dollar, may be somewhat restrained in light of the government’s recent shift to the euro as its preferred hard currency. 

Worst of all, is the generalized shortage of food, even for those who have divisas, the generic term for hard currencies. The agricultural reforms of the last years aimed at increasing domestic production have not worked because they are inadequate and insufficient, making it impossible for the private farmers and for the usufructuarios (farmers who lease land from the government for 20 year terms renewable for another 20 years) to feed the country. Thus, for example, the government arbitrarily gives bank credits to the farmers for some things but not for others, like for clearing the marabú, an invasive weed that is costly to remove, but an essential task if crops are to grow. Acopio, the state agency in charge of collecting the substantial proportion of the crop that farmers have to sell to the state at prices fixed by the government is notoriously inefficient and wasteful, because the Acopio trucks do not arrive in time to collect their share, or because of the systemic indifference and carelessness that pervade the processes of shipping and storage. This creates huge spoilage and waste that have reduced the quality and quantity of goods available to consumers. It is for reasons such as these that Cuba imports 70% of the food it consumes from various countries including the United States (an exemption to the blockade was carved out in 2001 for the unlimited export of food and medicines to Cuba but with the serious limitation that Cuba has to pay in cash before the goods are shipped to the island.)

The Cuban economist Pedro Monreal has called attention to the overwhelming millions of pesos that the government has dedicated to the construction of tourist hotels (mostly in joint ventures with foreign capital) that even before the pandemic were filled to well below their capacity, while agriculture is starved of government investments. This unilateral choice of priorities by the one-party state is an example of what results from profoundly undemocratic practices. This is not a ​“flaw” of the Cuban system any more than the relentless pursuit of profit is a ​“flaw” of American capitalism. Both bureaucracy and the absence of democracy in Cuba and the relentless pursuit of profit in the United States are not defects of but constitutive elements of both systems.

Similarly, oil has become increasingly scarce as Venezuelan oil shipments in exchange for Cuban medical services have declined. There is no doubt that Trump’s strengthening of the criminal blockade, which went beyond merely reversing Obama’s liberalization during his second period in the White House, has also gravely hurt the island, among other reasons because it has made it more difficult for the Cuban government to use banks abroad, whether American or not, to finance its operations. This is because the U.S. government will punish enterprises who do business with Cuba by blocking them from doing business with the United States. Until the events of July 11,the Biden administration had left almost all of Trump’s sanctions untouched. Since then, it has promised to allow for larger remittances and to provide staff for the American consulate in Havana. 

While the criminal blockade has been very real and seriously damaging, it has been relatively less important in creating economic havoc than what lies at the very heart of the Cuban economic system: the bureaucratic, inefficient and irrational control and management of the economy by the Cuban government. It is the Cuban government and its ​“left” allies in the Global North, not the Cuban people, who continue, as they have for decades, to blame only the blockade. 

At the same time, the working class in the urban and rural areas have neither economic incentives nor political incentives in the form of democratic control of their workplaces and society to invest themselves in their work, thus reducing the quantity and quality of production. 

Health Situation in Cuba 

After the Covid-19 pandemic broke out in the early spring of 2020, Cuba did relatively well during the first year of the pandemic in comparison with other countries in the region. But in the last few months the situation in Cuba, for what are still unclear reasons except for the entry of the Delta variant in the island, made a sharp turn for the worse, and in doing so seriously aggravated the economic and political problems of the country. Thus, as Jessica Domínguez Delgado noted in the Cuban blog El Toque (July 13), until April 12, a little more than a year after the beginning of the pandemic, 467 persons had died among the 87,385 cases that had been diagnosticated as having Covid-19. But only three months later, on July 12, the number of the deceased had reached 1,579 with 224, 914 diagnosed cases (2.5 times as many as in the much longer previous period).

The province of Matanzas and its capital city of the same name located 100 kilometers east of Havana became the epicenter of the pandemic’s sudden expansion in Cuba. According to the provincial governor, Matanzas province was 3,000 beds short of the number of patients that needed them. On July 6, a personal friend who lives in the city of Matanzas wrote to me about the dire health situation in the city with a lack of doctors, tests, and oxygen in the midst of collapsing hospitals. My friend wrote that the national government had shown itself incapable of controlling the situation until that very day when it finally formulated a plan of action for the city. The government did finally take a number of measures including sending a substantial number of additional medical personnel, although it is too early to tell at the time of this writing with what results.

Cuban scientists and research institutions deserve a lot of credit for the development of several anti-Covid vaccines. However, the government was responsible for the excessive and unnecessary delay in immunizing people on the island, made worse by its decision to neither procure donations of vaccines from abroad nor join the 190-nation strong COVAX (Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access) sponsored by several international organizations including the World Health Organization (WHO), an organization with which the Cuban government has good relations. Currently only 16% of the population has been fully vaccinated and 30% has received at least one dose of the vaccine.

The medical crisis in the province and capital city of Matanzas fits into a more general pattern of medical scarcity and abandonment as the Cuban government has accelerated its export of medical personnel abroad to strengthen what has been for some time its number one export. This is why the valuable family doctor program introduced in the 1980s has seriously deteriorated. While the Cuban government uses a sliding scale (including some pro bono work) in what it charges its foreign government clients, Cuban doctors get an average of 10 – 25% of what the foreign clients pay the Cuban government. Needless to add, Cuban medical personnel cannot organize independent unions to bargain with the government about the terms of their employment. Nevertheless, going abroad is a desired assignment for most Cuban doctors because they earn a significant amount of hard currency and can purchase foreign goods. However, if they fail to return to Cuba after their assignments are over, they are administratively (i.e., not judicially) punished with a forced exile of 8 years duration. 

The Political Context 

Earlier this year, the leadership old guard, who fought the Batista regime and are in their late eighties and early nineties, retired from their government positions to give way to the new leadership of Miguel Díaz-Canel (born in 1960) as president and Manuel Marrero Cruz (born in 1963) as prime minister. This new leadership is continuing Raúl Castro’s policy of economic and social liberalization without democratization. For example, in 2013 the government liberalized the regulations that controlled the movement of people to make it easier for most Cubans to travel abroad. However, at the same time, the government made it virtually impossible for many dissidents to leave the country, by for example delaying their departure so they could not make it on time to conferences held abroad, and by creating a list of some 200 ​“regulados” (people subject to regulatory rules) that are not allowed to leave the country at all. It is important to point out that as in the case of other measures adopted by the Cuban government mentioned earlier, these actions continue the policies of Fidel and Raúl Castro, in which political and administrative decisions are made outside of the regime’s own judicial system. The same applies to the hundreds of relatively brief detentions that the government of Raúl Castro carried out every year, especially to try to impede public demonstrations not controlled by the government (a police method that only works for previously planned political protests, unlike the ones that took place on July 11). 

The One-Party State

The one-party state continues to function as under Fidel and Raúl Castro’s rule. In reality, however, the Cuban Communist Party (PCC, its Spanish acronym) is not really a party — that would imply the existence of other parties. Neither is the PCC primarily an electoral party although it does firmly control from the top the periodic so-called elections that always result in the unanimous approval of the political course followed by the authorities.

Sometimes people disillusioned with the existing corrupt parties in Latin America and even in the United States itself, react with indifference if not approval to the Cuban one-party state because they perceive elections as reinforcing corrupt systems. Thus such people think that is better to have one honest political party that works than a corrupt multi-party system that doesn’t work. The problem with this type of thinking is that one-party bureaucratic systems do not work well at all, except perhaps to thoroughly repress any opposition. Moreover, corruption sooner or later works its way into the single party system as history has repeatedly shown. In the case of Cuba, Fidel Castro himself warned in a famous speech on November 17, 2005, that the revolution was in greater danger to perish because of endemic corruption than because of the actions of counterrevolutionaries.

The organizational monopoly of the PCC — explicitly sanctioned by the Cuban constitution — affects far more than elections. It extends its power in a highly authoritarian manner to control Cuban society through the so-called mass organizations that function as transmission belts for the decisions taken by the PCC’s Political Bureau. For example, the CTC, the official trade union, is the transmission belt that allows the Cuban state to maintain its monopoly of the organization of Cuban workers. Beyond enforcing the prohibition of strikes, the CTC is not an organization for the defense of working class interests as determined by the workers themselves. Rather, it was established to advance what the ruling PCC leadership determines are the workers’ best interests.

The same control mechanisms apply to other ​“mass organizations” such as the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC) and to other institutions such as editorial houses, universities and the rest of the educational system. The mass media (radio, television and newspapers) continue to be under the control of the government, guided in their coverage by the ​“orientations” of the Ideological Department of the Central Committee of the PCC. There are however, two important exceptions to the state’s control of media organs: one, is the internal publications of the Catholic Church. Nevertheless, the Cuban Catholic hierarchy is extremely cautious, and the circulation of its publications is in any case limited to its parishes and other Catholic institutions. A far more important exception is the Internet, which the government has yet been unable to place under its absolute control and remains as the principal vehicle for critical and dissident voices. It was precisely this less than full control of the Internet that made the nationwide politically explosive outbreaks of July 11 possible. 

Where is Cuba Going?

Without the benefit of Fidel Castro’s presence and the degree of legitimacy retained by the historic leadership, Díaz-Canel and the other new government leaders were politically hit hard by the events of July 11, even though they received the shameful support of most of the broad international Left. The fact that people no longer seem to be afraid may be the single largest threat for the government emerging from the events on July 11. In spite of that blow, the new leadership is on course to continue Raúl Castro’s orientation to develop a Cuban version of the Sino-Vietnamese model, which combine a high degree of political authoritarianism with concessions to private and especially foreign capital.

At the same time, the Cuban government leaders will continue to follow inconsistent and even contradictory economic reform policies for fear of losing control to Cuban private capital. The government recently authorized the creation of private PYMES (small and medium private enterprises), but it would not be at all surprising if many of the newly created PYMES end up in the hands of important state functionaries turned private capitalists. There is an important government stratum composed of business managers and technicians with ample experience in such sectors as tourism, particularly in the military. The most important among them is the 61-year-old Gen. Alberto Rodríguez López-Calleja, a former son-in-law of Raúl Castro, who is the director of GAESA, the huge military business conglomerate, which includes Gaviota, the principal tourist enterprise in the island. It is significant that he recently became a member of the Political Bureau of the PCC. 

Perhaps this younger generation of business military and civilian bureaucrats may try to overcome the rentier mentality that 30 years of ample Soviet assistance created among the Cuban leadership as witnessed the failure to modernize and diversify the sugar industry (as Brazil did) during those relatively prosperous years that ended in 1990. To be sure, the U.S. economic blockade contributed to the rentier mentality by encouraging a day-to-day economic survival attitude rather than of increasing the productivity of the Cuban economy to allow for a more prosperous future. 

Finally, what about the United States? Biden is unlikely to do much in his first term to change the United States’ imperialist policies towards Cuba that were significantly aggravated by Trump. Whether a possible second Democratic administration in Washington beginning in 2025 will do anything different remains an open question.

There is, however, a paradox underlying the U.S. government’s Cuba policy. While U.S. policy is not at present primarily driven by ruling class interests but, rather, by electoral considerations, particularly in the highly contested state of Florida, it is not for that reason necessarily less harsh or, what is more alarming, less durable. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, probably the most politically active business institution in the United States has advocated the resumption of normal business relations with Cuba for many years. Thomas J. Donohue, its long-time director who retired earlier this year, visited Cuba in numerous occasions and met with government leaders there. Big agribusiness concerns are also interested in doing business with Cuba as are agricultural and other business interests in the South, Southwest and Mountain States represented by both Republican and Democratic politicians. However, it is doubtful that they are inclined to expend a lot of political capital in achieving that goal.

This places a heavy extra burden on the U.S. Left to overcome the deadlock, which clearly favors the indefinite continuation of the blockade, through a new type of campaign that both zeroes in on the grave aggression and injustice committed against the Cuban people without at the same time becoming apologists for the political leadership of the Cuban state. 

Be that as it may, people on the Left in the United States have two key tasks. First, they should firmly oppose the criminal economic blockade of Cuba. Second, they should support the democratic rights of the Cuban people rather than an ossified police state, in the same way that they have supported the struggle for human rights, democracy, and radical social and economic change in Colombia and Chile in Latin America as well as Myanmar and Hong Kong in Asia.

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

LAS RAZONES DEL 11-J Y LAS OPCIONES POSIBLES.

julio 17, 2021

Autor: Mauricio de Miranda

Original Source: Las razones del 11-J y las opciones posibles.

En días pasados estallaron protestas sociales en diversas localidades de Cuba. Para los dirigentes cubanos y los medios oficiales de prensa que responden al gobierno cubano, se trata de “disturbios, desorden, causados por una operación comunicacional que se prepara desde hace tiempo”, propiciados por “mercenarios al servicio del imperialismo”. Sin embargo, más allá de una retórica que se basa en el no reconocimiento de la realidad política, económica y social que vive el país y en achacar la responsabilidad de las protestas, denominadas desórdenes -aunque los hubo como en todas las protestas-, a agentes al servicio de intereses extranjeros, Cuba enfrenta desde hace muchos años una crisis económica y social de graves proporciones que se ha transformado en una crisis política. Es imprescindible debatir acerca de las causas pero también abrir un debate sobre las alternativas y posibles soluciones, con el objeto de evitar que el país llegue a un callejón sin salida.

Las razones económicas.

La situación económica actual de Cuba es la más terrible desde el llamado Período Especial de los años noventa del pasado siglo. En 2020, el Producto Interior Bruto (PIB) cayó un 11,3% pero ya en 2019 se había producido una caída del 0,2% y el crecimiento promedio anual entre 2015 y 2019 fue de solo 1,7%, lo cual es insuficiente para asegurar una senda de desarrollo económico. El gobierno cubano ha insistido en responsabilizar al bloqueo estadounidense y a los efectos de la pandemia con la situación económica del país. El recrudecimiento de las sanciones económicas durante la administración de Trump y la aparición y ahora el empeoramiento de la pandemia han tenido efectos nocivos indudables en la economía cubana, sin embargo, no son los responsables de los graves problemas estructurales que ésta padece.

A lo largo de más de seis décadas se han ido acumulando serios problemas que dependen, principalmente, de los sucesivos errores de política económica cometidos por la dirección del país, que han conducido a un incremento de la vulnerabilidad externa de la economía cubana y han dificultado el desarrollo de la producción nacional, debido a la excesiva centralización de las decisiones económicas, a la incapacidad para generar suficientes estímulos al desarrollo productivo y a los frenos que se han impuesto al emprendimiento.

Las reformas económicas que se han realizado desde los años noventa han sido parciales e insuficientes, no han abordado los cambios estructurales de forma sistémica y no han apuntado a la promoción del emprendimiento empresarial. La mayor parte de las ramas de la industria nacional y varias de las más importantes producciones agropecuarias en 2019 tenían niveles inferiores a los de 1989. A partir de la crisis de los noventa el gobierno optó por el desarrollo del turismo. Fue una decisión parcialmente correcta pero lo que no debió ocurrir es que ese desarrollo obviara las necesidades del desarrollo industrial y agrícola del país.

La excesiva dependencia respecto al turismo es una causa estructural fundamental en la debacle actual de una economía que prácticamente carece de reservas y de alternativas productivas, con una industria azucarera que está produciendo a niveles de principios del siglo XX, con el resto de la industria prácticamente colapsada y con una agricultura afectada por una estructura de precios y excesivos controles que desestimulan el desarrollo de la producción de alimentos y de materias primas.

Con campañas políticas no se resuelven los problemas de la producción. El país está importando gran parte de los alimentos que podría producir y carece de las divisas necesarias para importarlos. Para colmo, se insiste en el control monopólico estatal del comercio exterior. Sigue sin dar los pasos necesarios para promover la legalización de pequeñas y medianas empresas privadas que promuevan el emprendimiento y canalicen el empleo superfluo que es una excesiva carga al presupuesto del Estado. Persisten en la planificación centralizada en condiciones de una inmensa escasez y no generan otras alternativas. En los años noventa el turismo fue una alternativa y a comienzos del siglo XXI, la exportación de servicios profesionales, principalmente a Venezuela, se convirtió en otra opción muy importante de ingresos en divisas. Estos junto a las remesas, aseguraron la subsistencia económica del país.

En la actualidad, el turismo está en niveles mínimos, las remesas afectadas por las limitaciones de sus fuentes debido a problemas económicos de los remitentes y al endurecimiento de las sanciones durante la era de Trump, mientras que los ingresos por exportaciones de servicios están afectados por su cierre en ciertos países pero sobre todo por la terrible crisis económica venezolana. Entonces, el gobierno no ha querido salirse del guión que ha determinado la política económica, ha actuado con muchísima lentitud y ha adoptado medidas económicas equivocadas.

Los errores más recientes de política económica.

A lo largo de estas décadas se han acumulado una serie de errores de política económica, pero en las condiciones actuales quisiera concentrarme en dos: 1) la llamada Tarea Ordenamiento y 2) la apertura de tiendas en monedas libremente convertibles (MLC) para la venta de productos que originalmente se describían como “suntuarios” pero que en realidad resultaron de primera necesidad, no solo para las condiciones de la vida moderna sino incluso para la subsistencia.

El llamado Ordenamiento monetario no fue tal. Desde hace tiempo muchos economistas hemos destacado la necesidad de abolir la dualidad monetaria por el desorden en los sistemas de costos, en el funcionamiento de las empresas y en el establecimiento de precios relativos respecto a la economía internacional. Adoptaron la unificación monetaria y cambiaria como un lineamiento del 6º Congreso del PCC en 2011 y finalmente en 2021 decidieron unificar los tipos de cambio a una tasa sobrevaluada, a la cual el Banco Central no puede asegurar la venta de la divisa extranjera, con lo que, inmediatamente, se desarrolló el mercado negro de divisas en el que el dólar se cotiza a varias veces por encima del valor oficial.

En lugar de establecer la soberanía del peso cubano como moneda nacional, crearon tiendas en MLC, re-dolarizando parcialmente la economía y vendiendo en ese mercado bienes a los cuales no tiene acceso la población que carece de remesas o de opciones de ingresos en divisas, generando un grave problema social debido a la marginación de un sector considerable de la población en la capacidad de adquirir dichos bienes.

La unificación cambiaria llegó acompañada de un incremento de salarios en el sector estatal y de pensiones en niveles claramente inferiores a los incrementos reales en los precios, producidos por una estampida inflacionaria, lo cual ha causado gran insatisfacción en una parte considerable de la ciudadanía que continúa sin asegurar sus necesidades básicas a partir de sus ingresos debidos al trabajo.

Los problemas sociales.

La insatisfacción creada por los errores de política económica y la persistencia de los mismos a veces ha podido canalizarse por los mecanismos controlados por el poder pero ni esas ni aquellas que ni siquiera han podido ser planteadas oficialmente sino que se expresan en redes sociales, han tenido una respuesta creíble más allá de achacar al bloqueo de todo cuanto no funciona. No se trata de anexionistas, ni de delincuentes, ni de agentes de alguna potencia extranjera. Se trata simplemente de ciudadanos cubanos que necesitan satisfacer aspiraciones en la única vida probada que tienen y que sienten que el gobierno del país no está siendo capaz de ofrecer las alternativas de solución necesarias.

La sociedad cubana de hoy es claramente diferente a la que decidió permanecer en el país tras el triunfo revolucionario. Existe un porcentaje creciente de jóvenes, que están a dos o tres generaciones de la que hizo la Revolución y que tiene esperanzas de vida, intereses, aspiraciones y proyecciones políticas y sociales propias y muy probablemente diferentes y a las que incluso la Constitución actual les priva del derecho a definir el tipo de Estado y de sociedad que prefiere. Y dentro de este grupo, existe una parte considerable de personas que viven en condiciones de subsistencia y no ve opciones de mejoramiento de las mismas.

En otras oportunidades, la emigración, incluso con cierto nivel de masividad, como ocurrió en los primeros años sesenta, en 1980 y en 1994, ha actuado como válvula de escape para solucionar las insatisfacciones individuales, pero también para reducir el factor de oposición social interna. En esta ocasión esta posibilidad está claramente muy limitada.

La emigración carece de derechos políticos, pero a ella se ha apelado, una y otra vez, para que haga valer sus derechos al envío de remesas familiares pero sin reconocerla socialmente como un factor importante para la solución de los problemas económicos del país y sin integrarla políticamente en un sistema democrático. La emigración es un factor decisivo en la solución de muchos de los problemas económicos del país y también debería ser un importante actor político a partir de su experiencia en otras realidades.

En la sociedad cubana existe una parte considerable que carece de opciones y de perspectivas, que vive en una situación de pobreza que no es reconocida públicamente por las autoridades cubanas. En consecuencia, gran parte de esa población salió a las calles como explosión de una situación de hastío. Sin embargo, hay que tener en cuenta que antes de eso ya se habían producido una serie de indicios de protesta pacífica en diversos sectores sociales, incluidos los artistas, reclamando espacios de diálogo que solo han encontrado la intolerancia y el rechazo como respuesta.

Los problemas políticos.

Todo este conjunto de cuestiones ha llevado a una crisis política de la cual estas protestas públicas han sido solo un primer momento, si consideramos su capacidad de difusión y su masividad. Sin embargo, existe una parte de la sociedad cubana inconforme con la situación del país que no se expresa por miedo a las consecuencias negativas que pueden sufrir debido a una cultura arraigada de exclusión de las opciones políticas diferentes a las defendidas desde las estructuras de poder. El gobierno cubano debería considerar esta realidad política y actuar en consecuencia si realmente quiere evitar que la fractura social y política en la sociedad cubana se profundice y supere el nivel de polarización que ya es gravísimo.

En 2019 se adoptó una nueva Constitución que establece en su artículo 1 que “Cuba es un Estado socialista de derecho y justicia social, democrático, independiente y soberano, organizado con todos y para el bien de todos como república unitaria e indivisible, fundada en el trabajo, la dignidad, el humanismo y la ética de sus ciudadanos para el disfrute de la libertad, la equidad, la igualdad, la solidaridad, el bienestar y la prosperidad individual y colectiva”. Sin embargo, existen ejemplos que demuestran que muchos de esos preceptos no reflejan la realidad política del país.

El artículo 5 de la carta magna le otorga al Partido Comunista de Cuba, la condición de “fuerza política superior de la sociedad y del Estado”, lo cual, en la práctica, coloca al Partido por encima de la sociedad. Esta realidad no tiene nada de democrática, toda vez que tampoco el Partido Comunista es una organización democrática en su vida interna.

En esa misma Constitución se garantizan el derecho a la vida, la integridad física y moral, la libertad, la justicia y la seguridad …. (artículo 46); el derecho a que se respete su intimidad personal y familiar … (artículo 48); a la inviolabilidad de su domicilio (artículo 49); a la inviolabilidad de la correspondencia y demás formas de comunicación (artículo 50); las personas no puede ser sometidas a desaparición forzada, torturas ni tratos o penas crueles inhumanas o degradantes (artículo 51); el Estado reconoce, respeta y garantiza a las personas la libertad de pensamiento, conciencia y expresión (artículo 54); se reconoce la libertad de prensa (artículo 55); los derechos de reunión, manifestación y asociación, con fines lícitos y pacíficos, se reconocen por el Estado siempre que se ejerzan con respeto al orden público y el acatamiento a las preceptivas establecidas en la ley (artículo 56); se reconocen a las personas los derechos derivados de la creación intelectual (artículo 62); los ciudadanos cubanos tienen derecho a participar en la conformación, ejercicio y control del poder del Estado, lo cual implica: estar inscriptos en el registro electoral, proponer y nominar candidatos, elegir y ser elegidos, participar en las elecciones, plebiscitos, referendos, consultas populares y otras formas de participación democrática, pronunciarse sobre la rendición de cuenta que le presentan los elegidos, ejercer la iniciativa legislativa y de reforma de la Constitución, desempeñar cargos públicos y estar informados de la gestión de los órganos y autoridades del Estado (artículo 80).

La mayor parte de estos artículos, relacionados con derechos humanos y políticos está sin reglamentar, pero al margen de esto, la propia Constitución contradice algunos de esos derechos. Por ejemplo, la libertad de elegir y ser elegidos, mediante el voto de los ciudadanos es restringida por el inciso “c” del artículo 205 que establece como excepción a “los que no cumplan el requisito de residencia en el país previstos en la ley”. Es decir, a los cubanos residentes en el exterior, que constituyen más de un 20% de la población actual del país y cuyas remesas han contribuido a la subsistencia del país, se les niega ese derecho elemental que está consagrado en la mayor parte de las constituciones de las repúblicas latinoamericanas. De igual forma, la iniciativa legislativa y la reforma de la Constitución, contenidas también en el artículo 80 son restringidas por el artículo 227 que trata sobre la iniciativa para promover reformas a la Constitución, porque la iniciativa de los ciudadanos debe ser “mediante petición dirigida a la Asamblea Nacional, firmada por un mínimo de 50.000 electores”, además de que la Constitución solo puede ser reformada por la Asamblea Nacional en una “votación nominal no menor a dos terceras partes del número total de sus integrantes”, es decir, que no permite que la Constitución sea reformada o elaborada por una Asamblea Constituyente, elegida libremente por la ciudadanía, tal y como ocurrió en 1940. Si la Asamblea Nacional es elegida con base a una lista única que responde a las orientaciones del Partido Comunista, es fácil intuir que sería imposible contar con ella para reformar una constitución hecha a la medida de los intereses de la dirigencia de dicho partido, que no necesariamente se corresponde con los intereses reales de parte de su membresía.

A diferencia de la mayor parte de los países latinoamericanos, los ciudadanos cubanos carecen del derecho a elegir, mediante sufragio universal y directo, entre varias alternativas, al Presidente y Vicepresidente de la República, a los diputados a la Asamblea Nacional, y a las autoridades de gobierno provinciales y municipales.

Las leyes cubanas posteriores a 1959 no han permitido el derecho a la huelga, ni a la formación de asociaciones sociales, profesionales o políticas que estén por fuera del control del poder político, con lo cual se conculcan los derechos proclamados en los artículos 54 y 56 de la Constitución.

Así, en las cuestiones relativas a los derechos políticos, la Constitución de 2019, al igual que la de 1976, retroceden respecto a la de 1940 que, dicho sea de paso, fue el resultado de una Asamblea Constituyente, elegida democráticamente, en la que también participaron delegados comunistas junto a otros del amplio espectro de fuerzas políticas que caracterizaba a la sociedad cubana de entonces.

La Constitución de 2019 fue aprobada en referendo nacional por una mayoría significativa de la población, pero en su proceso de discusión y debate, solo tuvo cabida la pedagogía del SI y en dicho referendo no se permitió votar a la población cubana residente en el exterior que aun ostenta un pasaporte cubano. Hasta en el régimen pinochetista en Chile se permitió la pedagogía del NO.

En los tiempos recientes han ocurrido varios episodios en los que autoridades cubanas han violado la Constitución aprobada por esa inmensa mayoría alcanzada entre aquellos que tuvieron la oportunidad de ejercer su derecho al voto. Se han producido detenciones de ciudadanos por el simple hecho de caminar por una calle portando un cartel que exige la libertad para alguna persona detenida; han sido detenidas personas por expresar su inconformidad y rechazo al sistema político; fuerzas de la policía han obligado, de forma ilegal, a ciudadanos que no están condenados judicialmente, a permanecer en sus casas en contra de su voluntad y cuando éstos se han negado alegando su derecho a la libre movilidad, han sido detenidos; no se han atendido solicitudes de hábeas corpus, a pesar de que esta figura jurídica está presente en la nueva Constitución y es un derecho universalmente reconocido en las sociedades civilizadas; se mantiene la práctica de expulsar de ciertos centros de trabajo a personas que expresan opiniones contrarias a las que se sostienen desde el poder político, incluso cuando en algunos casos esas opiniones ni siquiera han cuestionado la esencia del sistema político y social; se ha promovido y en otros casos, permitido situaciones de hostigamiento a personas identificadas como desafectas al gobierno del país; para solo mencionar algunos ejemplos de violaciones de la ley suprema de la República, generadas desde las estructuras de poder, que deberían ser sus garantes ante la sociedad.

Desde las estructuras de poder se ha dicho que las manifestaciones del 11-J han sido orquestadas desde el exterior. Es cierto y además público que algunos llamados “influencer” de ciertas redes sociales ha realizado llamados a la desobediencia civil y a la insurrección. Sin embargo, si fuera cierto que estas protestas fueron el resultado de estos llamados y de la labor de zapa del gobierno de los Estados Unidos, esto podría significar que el Partido Comunista carece del liderazgo y la influencia que en Cuba que se establece como precepto constitucional. Argumentar que las protestas fueron orquestadas desde el exterior es un insulto a la ciudadanía y a su derecho a expresar un descontento que antes no ha encontrado otras vías de canalización, debido a la soberbia, al autismo y al escaso espíritu autocrítico de muchos de los que ejercen responsabilidades de dirección en el país y que mantienen un discurso alejado de la realidad del país.

Las protestas sociales, a diferencia de lo que se sostiene desde el discurso oficial, fueron el resultado de la combinación de todos esos factores a los que se suma el hastío de muchos ciudadanos que no encuentran una salida esperanzadora a una situación de crisis que persiste en la sociedad cubana desde hace varias décadas pero que en las circunstancias actuales ha cobrado una gravedad extraordinaria.

En las protestas hubo saqueos y destrucción de propiedad pública y privada, que no fueron masivos. ¿En cuáles protestas no ocurren? Es lamentable y condenable. Sin embargo, vale la pena llamar la atención sobre cuales han sido los objetos de estos actos deplorables. En unos casos, fueron algunas tiendas en MLC, que son un símbolo evidente de la diferenciación social establecida en Cuba entre los que tienen acceso a ellas y los que no, por el solo hecho de no disponer de cuentas en una moneda que no se obtiene como resultado del trabajo sino que proviene de remesas desde el exterior. Se produjo el volcamiento y destrucción de algunos automóviles de la policía y de instituciones oficiales. También se produjeron enfrentamientos entre fuerzas antimotines y de policía, tanto uniformados como vestidos de civil y los ciudadanos que protestaban. Las imágenes de supuestos civiles, perfectamente organizados, transportados en vehículos públicos y armados de palos y bates de béisbol para golpear a quienes protestaban son una muestra del insulto que ese día se profirió contra el ideario de la Revolución Cubana. Y la orden fue proferida desde el más alto nivel de dirección del país. No es la primera vez que esto ocurre, sin embargo, si es la ocasión en la que alcanzó las mayores proporciones.

Las opciones.

A pesar de la profundidad de la fractura social y política del 11-J y del nivel de polarización que ha alcanzado la sociedad cubana, para bien del país, la política debería imponerse a la golpiza.

Me opongo a los llamados a una intervención militar extranjera que solo causaría sangre y dolor a las familias cubanas y también en las de quienes, eventualmente, pudieran intervenir. Y me opongo a la represión militar, policial y paramilitar ejercida por quienes tienen el deber de proteger la seguridad del pueblo y no mancillarlo. La vida y la dignidad deben ser preservadas.

Siento un profundo compromiso con la idea original que inspiró la Revolución Cubana, es decir, la democracia y la justicia social. La democracia nos ha sido confiscada y la justicia social se despedaza en cada medida que crea excluidos en nuestra Nación.

Una opción que parece imponerse en el discurso oficial es la de reprimir a quienes han sido identificados como participantes de las protestas y hacer caer sobre ellos el peso de cuestionables figuras jurídicas, y de paso, amedrentar a quienes pudieran protagonizar eventos similares en el futuro con medidas ejemplarizantes. Esta opción solo profundizará la fractura de la sociedad y solo postergaría una futura crisis política y social que podría tener gravísimas consecuencias.

Otra opción, que considero necesaria, sería liberar a todas las personas que han sido detenidas por las protestas y antes de las mismas, por expresar su desacuerdo con el gobierno o con el sistema político actualmente vigente. A fin de cuentas, ellos no realizaron un asalto armado a un cuartel del ejército. No hay que reprimir al descontento sino crear las condiciones para que el descontento pueda ser convertido en satisfacción y esperanza o que al menos ese descontento tenga vías legítimas de expresión, y ello pasa necesariamente por una reconfiguración pacífica de nuestro sistema político.

La Constitución actual no satisface las aspiraciones democráticas de todo el pueblo, precisamente porque excluye a una parte del mismo en el derecho a ejercer su soberanía por lo cual debe ser enmendada, aunque en mi opinión debería ser elaborada una nueva que garantice el establecimiento de un sistema democrático. Para esta enmienda, el elemento inicial debería ser la reforma de los artículos 205, 226 y 227.

En el 205 debería eliminarse la excepción en el derecho al voto de los ciudadanos cubanos residentes fuera del país. En el 226 debería permitirse que la Constitución sea reformada por una Asamblea Constituyente, elegida libremente por la ciudadanía, mediante sufragio universal, además de la actual facultad de la Asamblea Nacional. En el 227 debería modificarse el inciso f que le otorga iniciativa a la ciudadanía para la reforma constitucional solo como petición a la Asamblea Nacional, mediante la recolección de 50.000 firmas, y permitir que estas firmas puedan ser válidas para la convocatoria de una Asamblea Constituyente.

En tales circunstancias y para hacer valer el carácter democrático del Estado que define el artículo 1 de la Constitución, debería convocarse a una consulta nacional vinculante, en la que puedan participar todos los ciudadanos cubanos sin distinción de lugar de residencia e identificados con un pasaporte cubano válido vigente y en la que los electores puedan escoger una de dos alternativas que podrían ser: a) Desea Usted que la Constitución vigente se mantenga como está y que su posible reforma posterior solo sea una facultad de la Asamblea Nacional del Poder Popular; y b) Desea Usted que se convoque a una Asamblea Constituyente, elegida mediante sufragio universal directo y secreto con candidatos nominados o auto-nominados libremente, que elabore una nueva Constitución.

Lo verdaderamente revolucionario, lo verdaderamente progresista, no solo es la urgente necesidad de liberar las fuerzas productivas y el emprendimiento productivo que pueda iniciar la recuperación de la economía y encauzar el proceso de desarrollo, sino también resulta urgente la construcción de un nuevo consenso político, sobre la base del establecimiento de una sociedad verdaderamente democrática en la que tengan cabida las diferencias políticas y el imperio de la ley y de la justicia social.

mauriciodemiranda

La Habana, 1 de abril de 1958. Doctor en Economía Internacional y Desarrollo, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, España. Licenciado en Economía, Universidad de La Habana, Cuba. Profesor Titular del Departamento de Economía de la Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, Cali, Colombia. Ver todas las entradas de mauriciodemiranda

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

CUBA: POLITICAL RIGHTS AND CIVIL LIBERTIES

Freedom House

By Ted Henken, 2021

Overview

Cuba’s one-party communist state outlaws political pluralism, bans independent media, suppresses dissent, and severely restricts basic civil liberties. The government continues to dominate the economy despite recent reforms that permit some private-sector activity. The regime’s undemocratic character has not changed despite a generational transition in political leadership between 2018 and 2019 that included the introduction of a new constitution.

Key Developments in 2020

  • The government achieved some success in controlling the COVID-19 pandemic, reporting just 145 deaths to the World Health Organization by year’s end, but the global crisis took a heavy toll on the economy. In July, partly in response, the government announced that it would liberalize rules regulating the tiny private sector, including by allowing private businesses to trade more freely and obtain legal status as enterprises, eliminating the restrictive list of permitted occupations for self-employment, and expanding experiments with nonagricultural cooperatives.
  • The government at times cited the pandemic to justify crackdowns on dissident gatherings. In November, when members of the Movimiento San Isidro (MSI)—a collective of dissident artists—gathered and went on hunger strike to protest the arrest of rapper Denis Solís, police violently detained them on the pretext of controlling the spread of the coronavirus. This led to a sit-in by numerous artists and intellectuals at the Ministry of Culture. While the government initially agreed to negotiate with the group, protest participants later reported police harassment, intimidation, and charges of violating health restrictions.
  • During the year, the government continued to expand its list of so-called regulados, the more than 200 Cuban citizens who are not allowed to travel abroad due to their dissident political activities, human rights advocacy, or practice of independent journalism. The government also stepped up interrogations, threats, detentions, raids, and exorbitant fines targeting independent journalists and activists who publishing critical stories on foreign websites or social media.

Complete Article: CUBA: Political Rights and Civil Liberties[AR1] 


National Assembly Session, April 2018

 


 [AR1]

 


 [AR1]

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

New Book by Vegard Bye, CUBA, FROM FIDEL TO RAÚL AND BEYOND

I have just read Vegard Bye’s Cuba analysis – a bit late as it was published in mid-2020.  It is indeed an excellent analysis of Cuba’s current situation and prospects.  


This is one of the very best general analyses of the inter-relationships between Cuba’s economic conundrums and reforms, its socio-economic transformationsand the character and functioning of the political system.  Bye has drawn from his own experience in Cuba over a number of decades and from a careful and examination of the broad ranges of literature from within Cuba, from Cuban analysts outside Cuba, and from Cuban-American and international analysts. His chapters on the economic changes since the death of Fidel and their social implications is masterful.  Even better is his analysis of Cuba’s political system in Chapters 4, and 6 to 8.  

This volume is a tremendously valuable resource for a comprehension of Cuba’s current situation and its possible future.  

INFORMATION ON THE BOOK:

Title:               Cuba, From Fidel To Raul And Beyond

Format:           Paperback

Published:       August 14, 2020

Publisher:       Palgrave Macmillan

Language:       English

ISBN –             13:9783030218089

OVERVIEW FROM THE BACK COVER:

This book analyzes the economic reforms and political adjustments that took place in Cuba during the era of Raúl Castro’s leadership and its immediate aftermath, the first year of his successor, Miguel Díaz-Canel. Faced with economic challenges and a political crisis of legitimacy now that the Castro brothers are no longer in power, the Cuban Revolution finds itself at another critical juncture, confronted with the loss of Latin American allies and a more hostile and implacable US administration.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. Introduction
  2. Retreat of State as Economic Actor?
  3. Achieving the Required Surge in Investment and Growth?
  4. Political Implications of Socio-economic Changes
  5. T he Evolving International Arena: Fitting into a New Context
  6. More Pluralism or Continued Authoritarianism/
  7. Evolution of Party and State Relations
  8. Towards the End of Gerontocracy
  9. Into the Critical Juncture: Principal Dilemmas and Possible Scenarios

EDITORIAL REVIEWS

“The text that Vegard Bye presents to us summarizes the ideas and visions that he has been developing after years of observing closely the evolution of the Cuban social, political and economic model, especially during the reforms process led by Raul Castro since 2008. His proposals and analysis have the virtue of not falling into common places and stereotypes so usual in the Cuba subject. He found originality from his firsthand knowledge of the Cuban reality, seen from an international perspective and from the prism of modern concepts of political science.” (Pavel Vidal Alejandro, Professor of Economics at Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, Colombia)

“This is a timely book and a well-informed contribution to the ever-going debate about Cuba’s future. The author has accumulated decades of experience in assessing and living in the Cuban reality, and the book offers just that, a scholarly as much as a personal view of the events in the Island. Whether you share or not his opinions, this piece will greatly contribute to your knowledge about this fascinating country, in a way that is both enjoyable and useful.” (Ricardo Torres, Professor at the Center for the Study of the Cuban Economy, University of Havana, Cuba)

“Displaying an expertise gained through several decades of closely watching developments on the island, Bye delivered a very perceptive and informed analysis of the economic and political changes in the post-Fidel era, the outcomes of Raúl Castro’s reform and the political scenarios for the future. A most-needed assessment of Cuba’s contemporary realities from a political science perspective.” (Nora Gamez Torres, Cuban-American journalist covering Cuba and US-Cuban relations for Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald)

“A timely and thankfully heterodox volume that gives readers a front row seat and fresh and locally informed analysis of contemporary Cuban political economy. The book provides both a sober assessment of Raúl Castro’s 10 years of economic reforms (2008-2018) and an early analysis of the first year of Miguel Díaz-Canel’s―Raúl’s hand-picked successor―government. Its unique perspective derives equally from the author’s immersion in progressive projects of national renovation in Cuba and Nicaragua as a war correspondent, United Nations official, and representative of various Norwegian development agencies. Bye’s ongoing collaboration with various leading Cuban NGOs and civil society groups gives his book an insider’s insight and balance rare for a volume by a non-Cuban about such a controversial topic as Cuban politics.” (Ted A. Henken, Associate Professor of Sociology at Baruch College, City University of New York, USA)

“A study on Cuba focused on its most pressing issues. A must-read for any researcher―carefully researched and accessible to anyone interested in the past, present and future of the Cuban Revolution.” (Harold Cárdenas, co-founder of the Cuban blog La Jóven Cuba)

VEGARD BYE is a Norwegian political scientist, writer, consultant and ex-politician. He has represented the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Angola and Bolivia, written extensively on Latin America, and is a consultant specializing on human rights, democracy, conflict and post-conflict societies as well as solar energy. He served as a Substitute Representative (Vararepresentant) to the Norwegian Parliament for the Socialist Left Party from Oslo (1993-1997), meeting in the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs.  He is currently a Partner at Scanteam a.s., an Oslo-based consulting company focusing on international development and responsible business.

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

CUBA: LA POLÍTICA COMO CIENCIA Y COMO TABÚE

ARTICULO ORIGINAL

El autor, aborda la despolitización de la sociedad en Cuba a través de la consigna de la Revolución, a su vez, reafirma la necesidad de la crítica y de la discusión política, así como del conocimiento del sistema político.

Cuba es un país desbordado de política, y a la vez extrañamente apolítico.

​A pesar de toda la inflación de los símbolos políticos, no hay espacio para discusiones políticas genuinas, debates verdaderos, y análisis a fondo del proceso político. Escasean fuentes confiables de información y evaluación de las políticas públicas en la isla. La política está en todas partes, pero como tótem (¡La Revolución!) y tabúes, no como un proceso deliberativo en el sentido de Aristóteles o Hannah Arendt.

​A pesar de la aparente fertilidad de las ciencias sociales en Cuba, medida por el número de revistas académicas y institutos de investigación, lo que encontramos todavía en Cuba son ciencias sociales y humanidades desangradas, que sí hablan de problemas en la isla, pero nunca de poder. Eso solo lo puede hacer a fondo en el exilio y por cubanólogos de afuera, pero casi siempre con datos insuficientes. Por eso los estudios cubanos se basan demasiado sobre repertorios discursivos, dada los escasos datos cuantificable y la falta de transparencia institucional en la isla. Incluso las estadísticas económicas son, a menudo, poco confiables.

 Dentro de la Revolución, No Política

​En la conocidísima novela 1984 de Orwell, desbloqueada en la isla a partir la Feria del Libro de 2016, la Newspeak, o neolengua, “was designed not to extend but to diminish the range of thought, and this purpose was indirectly assisted by cutting the choice of words down to a minimum.”[2] De la misma manera, el gobierno cubano se ha esforzado para despolitizar la sociedad, “achicando” el lenguaje utilizado para hablar de política en el país, reduciéndolo a consignas (o mots d’ordre en el sentido de Bourdieu). La consigna mayor es la misma “Revolución”: origen y fin (mito) de la política; fuerza infinita, omnisciente y omnipresente; actor y proceso; persona, en el sentido de máscara (Grenier, 2020). ¿Quien es responsable de tal o cual decisión? En fin, la Revolución, es decir todo y nada.

Una temprana víctima del achicamiento del lenguaje fueron las ciencias sociales, en particular la ciencia política, eliminada como disciplina académica a principio de los años sesenta bajo la consigna: “La universidad para los revolucionarios” La sociología también fue abolida de 1980 a 1991. Un marxismo leninista de corte soviético (e.g. Konstantinov, Yajot, Makarov) pronto se convirtió en pensée unique en la isla. Con “las ideas de emancipación social de Marx, Engels y Lenin” (Constitución de la República), no hace falta ciencia política—disciplina burguesa por definición, ya que supone una autonomía de la esfera política, y que a la pregunta “quién obtiene qué, cuándo y cómo”, para citar la famosa definición de la política del politólogo Harold Lasswell, la respuesta no puede ser solamente la burguesía o el proletariado.

El economista y cubanólogo canadiense Arch Ritter destaca algunas de las implicaciones de esta situación. Para él, “una de las consecuencias de la ausencia de la disciplina de ciencia política en Cuba es que solo tenemos una vaga idea de cómo funciona realmente el gobierno cubano. ¿Quién en el Politbureau y el Comité Central del partido realmente toma decisiones? ¿Hasta qué punto y cómo las presiones de las organizaciones de masas afectan realmente a la toma de decisiones, o el flujo de influencia siempre es de arriba a abajo y no el inverso? ¿Qué papel desempeñan las grandes empresas conglomeradas que se encuentran en la economía del dólar internacionalizada y la economía del peso en el proceso de formulación de políticas? ¿La Asamblea Nacional es simplemente una concha vacía que, por unanimidad, aprueba cantidades prodigiosas de legislación en períodos de tiempo extremadamente cortos?” (Ritter, 2013). Enseguida pregunta retóricamente: “¿Por qué este análisis político está esencialmente prohibido en las universidades cubanas? Puedes adivinar la respuesta” (Ritter, 2013). Bueno, sí, podemos: tiene que ver con los tabúes acerca de “quién obtiene qué, cuándo y cómo”.[3] Como lo afirmó Masha Gessen con respecto a la sociología en la Rusia de Pútin: “An ideal totalitarian regime would find a way to obtain sociological data without the sociologists” (Gessen, 2016). No existe un régimen totalitario ideal, así que el plan B es tener científicos sociales, pero controlados.

 Fingir el Pensamiento Crítico

​Los estudiosos de las ciencias sociales e intelectuales en Cuba deben rechazar el dogmatismo y celebrar la crítica y los debates, como invariablemente lo hace el mismo liderazgo político[4]. Sin embargo, es sabido que de ninguna manera se puede cuestionar los dogmas oficiales sobre la infalibilidad del liderazgo histórico o la identificación de la dirección con la Revolución, así como la irrevocabilidad del sistema político comunista de partido único. En otras palabras, hay que fingir el pensamiento crítico.

​Ha sido aconsejable para los científicos sociales partir de un repertorio marxista leninista, como fundamento metodológico e ideológico de todas investigaciones, o al menos no confrontarlo con una perspectiva alternativa. Se ha podido explorar teorías no-marxistas (el posmodernismo fue popular durante los años 90), pero con cuidado, sin cuestionar el paradigma único. También se acogen con beneplácito las blandas descripciones de las estructuras jurídicas y los debates pseudo técnicos sobre las políticas públicas en revistas de ciencias sociales como Temas.

​Previsiblemente, los “debates” en Cuba cuentan con oradores ultra-cautelosos que en su mayoría están públicamente de acuerdo unos con otros, siendo toda la energía redirigida hacia las polémicas contra los enemigos oficialmente sancionados y los flagelos intemporales del gobierno: dogmatismo, burocratismo, corrupción, descontento juvenil, residuos pre-revolucionarios del sexismo y el racismo, y por supuesto, el imperialismo norteamericano, el “bloqueo” y el orden mundial capitalista. Todos se animan para “mejorar el socialismo” y la revolución. El liderazgo político rutinariamente desafía a los “intelectuales públicos” y periodistas a atreverse más, no menos: signo infalible de la presencia de la censura sistemática.

​En cualquiera de los “debates” de “Último Jueves”, por ejemplo, las soluciones a los problemas convergen hacia el ideal oficialista: más participación, más compromiso con La Revolución, y a mejorar un sistema político en construcción perpetua. Es significante que cuando unos se atreven a abordar el tema de “cómo funciona el sistema político en Cuba,” como fue excepcionalmente el caso de un “debate” de Último Jueves en febrero de 2016, no hubo ninguna discusión sobre “cómo funciona”, solamente comentarios generales sobre posibles mejoras, las cuales invariablemente pasan por una reafirmación de las aspiraciones oficiales. Cuanto menos se habla de poder, más se habla de ideales políticos universales (justicia, participación, igualdad).

 Pensée unique

​El marxismo de corte leninista permite una politización de la “ciencia” y conlleva un aura científica a la política (el “materialismo científico”). Ha sido una ideología conveniente para el gobierno cubano y para otros gobiernos comunistas por dos razones, ambos relevante para entender el marasmo de las ciencias sociales cubanas.

​En primer lugar, abrazar y estudiar sus textos canónicos adormece la curiosidad sobre los procesos de toma de decisiones reales bajo un tipo de régimen que fue solo un sueño durante la vida de Marx: el comunismo. Marx escribió ampliamente y a veces con perspicacia sobre las fallas estructurales de las sociedades capitalistas (y pre-capitalistas). Pero aparte de sus nebulosas referencias a la Comuna de París y las glosas sobre las estrategias revolucionarias en su “Crítica del Programa de Gotha”, el análisis de Marx del comunismo es más teleológico que político. En la Cuba de hoy, el marxismo leninista es un repertorio de códigos ideológicos y un arma que permite criticar los enemigos del gobierno.

​En segundo lugar, el marxismo (no tanto su versión leninista) puede usarse como una teoría o un paradigma en ciencias sociales, como ocurre en todo el mundo–hoy en día en las humanidades y estudios culturales más que en ciencias sociales y para nada en economía. Pero en sociedades abiertas, el marxismo compite con otras teorías e interpretaciones, lo que le da una vitalidad inexistente en países donde es una pensée unique como en Cuba. No es sorprendente que el marxismo no sea muy sofisticado en Cuba: la ausencia de crítica genuina, la cual pasa por la confrontación con otras perspectivas, es una sentencia de muerte para cualquier perspectiva científica o filosófica.

​Un tropo común utilizado por los porteros de las ciencias sociales oficiales es que el marxismo cubano es crítico y humanista, al revés del marxismo soviético “rígido” y “mecánico”, defendido (y definido) por nadie. Se puede criticar el “estalinismo”, entendido como desviación del modelo leninista original (oficializado en la misma constitución cubana), pero no la Constitución de Stalin de 1936, la cual es el modelo por la constitución cubana de 1976. En Cuba, el rechazo del “marxismo mecánico” es mecánico. Tiene que ver con posicionamiento político y burocrático, no con la práctica de la crítica, sin la cual ningunas ciencias sociales pueden florecer.

​Hay buenos cientistas sociales en Cuba, por la misma razón que hubo buenas pinturas erótica en la época medieval: porqué el talento y la imaginación siempre pueden manifestarse a pesar de los parámetros más estrechos.

 MSI, 27N, y Articulación Plebeya

​El espacio público se abrió inesperadamente con la irrupción del Movimiento San Isidro en septiembre de 2018 y la manifestación frente al ministerio de cultura el 27 de noviembre de 2020 (27N). Se trata de un movimiento de jóvenes artistas y periodistas independientes, con demandas bastante parecidas a la Glasnost (más espacio de expresión), pero con relámpagos de críticas metapolíticas que amenazan el régimen. Recordamos que el mundo del arte goza de una autonomía relativa y condicional impensable en la universidad. El arte de vanguardia, por definición disonante y elitista, es también una fuente importante de proyección internacional y de divisas por las arcas del estado (el embargo no se aplica a la venta de producción artística).

​No hubo, que yo sepa, apoyo significativo de la universidad al movimiento, salvo una larga petición, con más de quinientos nombres de “intelectuales cubanos,” titulada “Articulación Plebeya”.[5] Si no me equivoco, la grande mayoría de los firmantes viven en el extranjero, y el texto de la petición se limita a celebrar el bien común, la paz, el medio ambiente, el diálogo, la inclusión, y mucho más parecido, todo “dentro del marco de las leyes y la Constitución.” Aunque llama la atención el pasaje sobre el rechazo a “toda acción estatal violenta,” el tono más conciliador que el del MSI o 27N indica claramente la presencia de parámetro más estrechos en la academia que los que rigen el mundillo de las artes y de lo que podemos llamar la sociedad civil cubana.

 Conclusión

​Un país no puede sobrevivir sin historiadores, matemáticos, economistas, biólogos, etc. Aparentemente sí se puede subsistir sin genuinas ciencias políticas … pero ¿a qué precio? Y las ciencias sociales en general, ¿que pueden cumplir si el máximo de crítica posible es la revista “Temas”? ¿Y si Cuba Posible ya no es posible?

​Para funcionar bien y utilizar plenamente su capital humano, un sistema político necesita transparencia, información, examen crítico de las políticas públicas, sin miedo a la verdad. En Cuba se necesita mejores datos sobre cómo funciona realmente su sistema político, y análisis a fondo de los problemas y de sus posibles causas políticas, levantando el velo del secreto que cubre la mayoría de las transacciones políticas. ¿Es esto posible “dentro de la Revolución”?

Referencias

Grenier, Y. (2020). Cuban Studies and The Siren Song of La Revolución. Cuban Studies.

 Ritter, A. (2013). Political Science: When Will Cuban Universities Join the World?. The Cuban Economy. Recuperado de: https://thecubaneconomy.com/articles/2013/06/political-science-when-will-cuban-universities-join-the-world/

 Gessen, M. (2016). Sociology, According to Putin. The New York Times. Recuperado de: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/05/opinion/sociology-according-to-putin.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&version=Moth-Visible&moduleDetail=inside-nyt-region-3&module=inside-nyt-region&region=inside-nyt-region&WT.nav=inside-nyt-region

 [1] St. Francis Xavier University​

[2]. “Achicar” el lenguaje también es una característica de la distópia totalitaria en la obra maestra de Boualem Sansal, 2084, La fin du monde (Paris: Gallimard, 2015).

​[3]. Asimismo, Armando Chaguaceda afirma que “la ausencia de estudios a fondo y la falta de acceso público a temas clave como la composición de la élite política cubana y su circulación real y mecanismos de toma de decisiones mantienen casi toda la producción en el campo en un nivel superficial.” Armando Chaguaceda, “House of Cards and Political Science in Cuba,” Havana Times, 21 March 2014,

​[4] Ver el último capítulo de mi libro: Yvon Grenier, Culture and the Cuban State, Participation, Recognition, and Dissonance under Cmmunism (Lexington Books, 2017): chapter 6: “Faking Criticism.”

​[5] “Articulación plebeya: a propósito de los sucesos en el Ministerio de Cultura,” El Toque, 28 de noviembre, 2020.

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