Tag Archives: Political System

THE CRIMINALIZATION OF OPPOSITION POLITICS IN CUBA

Against the Soviet Model

Sam Farber

SPECTRE JOURNAL, January 13, 2021; Original Article

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading: The Criminalization of Opposition Politics in Cuba

Sam Farber
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CUBAN GOVERNMENT CALLS OFF TALKS WITH ARTISTS

 Original Article, Havana Times, December 4, 2020

By Circles Robinson

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

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

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

The reasons for reneging on the agreements

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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AMAURY PACHECO FROM CUBA’S SAN ISIDRO MOVEMENT SPEAKS on the incredible day/night of November 27th at the Ministry of Culture in Havana.

Havana Times. December 8, 2020

Original Article

Amaury Pacheco a founding member of the San Isidro Movement

HAVANA TIMES – After the meeting between Vice-Minister of Culture, Fernando Rojas, and 30 representatives of hundreds of people present at the protest outside the Ministry of Culture – on November 27th – Amaury Pacheco, a founder of the San Isidro Movement (MSI), shares his experiences. He explains the meaning recent developments have had for the Movement, Cuban civil society and the future of these interrelationships.

HT: How did this process unfold? What came out of it?

Three vice-coordinators were at our houses under the siege of police patrol cars. Likewise, the people at the Movement’s central point – San Isidro and Damas Streets, in Old Havana.

We circulated information via different channels: Exchanging what was happening to everyone during this home arrest?

Things got heated when the MSI’s base was attacked [on the night of November 26]. Members of the military dressed up as doctors, wearing white coats. They broke into the space. Those present at the Base say that they were beaten. A set-up that nobody sees.

They were removed from the house under the suspicion of having COVID-19, when Carlos Manuel Alvarez, a journalist arrived on the scene, who said he came from the US.

The police withdrew from outside our homes when they went to attack our Base.

We found out that a group of Theater and Movie artists were planning to organize a peaceful protest outside the Ministry of Culture. Creating a powerful critical mass. Calling on people to come.

I said: “… they are coming together for Freedom of Expression, for what happened at San Isidro. Asking to enter a dialogue with the Ministry of Culture. I’m going!”

It was around 5 PM. Over 200 people were shouting in chorus. There was a joyful atmosphere, but there was also a lot of determination.

I was really happy to see this. We realized that what had happened in San Isidro awakened people in a way that was bigger than us.

Seeking connectedness and new spaces

The San Isidro Movement seeks Connectedness. For different spaces to open up. For people to connect with one another based on their personal experiences, techniques and peaceful means of social struggle.

We arrived and there was a list. It included Michel Matos, Aminta D’Cardenas, Claudia Genlui and Catherine Bisquet, who doesn’t belong to the Movement, but was one of the people holding a hunger strike at MSI’s base. I wasn’t included, but because I form part of the Movement, I was added in the end. This was agreed in a democratic way. I didn’t even take part.

I was surprised to see artists linked to state institutions, who don’t normally take part in these things, as it could have repercussions on them.

Some points were written down, from more general to more specific points. We talked about FreeDenis, one of MSI’s main demands, and everybody there agreed. It wasn’t MSI that brought this to the table. We joined and formed part of this Coalition.

#FreeDenis and then calling off the Hunger Strike, were our proposals for the dialogue: following protocol. Getting Luis Manuel Otero back home, his house [the MSI base] is shut off and taken over.

A wide variety of concerns and demands

There were representatives from the different arts and they all had their own struggle. Theater/Movie/Visual artists, were vindicating important agendas for independent spaces. They insisted on the need for structural change in artistic institutions.

Civil demands in general: freedom of speech, the right to dissent, to create freely, the end of state harassment, defamation and no more police violence, no more political hate, and so on.

MSI promotes cultural rights, freedoms, so the dialogue was in sync with our own objectives.

Yunior Garcia Aguilera, somebody with a lot of talent and charisma, managed to organize that conversation and laid the groundwork for the dialogue with the Ministry.

We were there since around 10 AM and we weren’t seen until 11 PM. The Minister never showed.

What happened inside the Ministry

The Delegation went in: 30 people talked to the Vice-Minister. They didn’t want to accept some people, but we really struggled and MSI got its foot in the door.

The dialogue couldn’t be broadcast live, because our cellphones were taken. It became a secret space, but we have different versions of what happened from everybody who was there.

It was a frank, cutting, straight-to-the-point conversation. We told the Government everything that was on our minds, the need for Civil Society, a Constitution and how the Government needs to abide by it. About Decree-Laws 349 and 370, which have created an earthquake.

Decree-Law 349 criminalizes the dissemination and promotion of art. Decree-Law 370 criminalizes social media communication.

Our Movement knew this wasn’t the time to discuss certain issues, but it was an opportunity that had never existed up until now. That the State took upon themselves to open institutions to a dialogue with groups they call counter-revolutionaries, dissidents, but they are just independent in reality.

Letting them know we are not afraid

The Government played this card. They told International Opinion that “there is an ongoing dialogue with the MSI, but not directly.”

The way we shared and responded to the vice-minister was truly impressive. It reminded me of shoals of fish moving altogether at the same pace. There was an inner beating, regardless of our different demands.

A powerful will to tell them that we weren’t AFRAID. That the over 400 people outside weren’t afraid. The people with whom we had reached an agreement for this dialogue and with whom we would have to speak with afterwards.

This generation has shaken off its fear, just like we have to do what we do. It’s a great thing on a national level and proof that there is social discontent in Cuba.

The State isn’t controlling everything that happens, it’s just not true. There is social debilitation, though. We need political change, yes, a strategic change on how to build the nation.

Everything outside was said out loud. Everyone agreed with these demands.

We broke our fear. We looked at each other, acknowledged each other and spoke. That was the power there. We opened the door, so the Government had to sit down and talk under pressure. The people were determined, “We won’t leave until…”.

San Isidro had ignited the flame that connected many people.

Practing what we want for the country

There were many artists, but we were talking about citizenship, individual rights, social rights, human rights, not just cultural rights. Comprehensive issues, but key issues.

We practiced what we want for the country. It was a dangerous action, like the human body: muscles, mind, neurones, everything moving for a specific action. It’s what we practice in San Isidro, and it managed to awake citizens.

Being a person – an important part – practicising citizenship, reflects the other parts. They don’t work on their own. People are the most human thing that exists. Individuals with their own things, own way of doing things, getting places, moving forward with their lives. Citizens facing laws, how it orders them, their place in the current hierarchy, in society.

This point about citizenship and exercising democracy, of reaching a consensus, is very important. It is something that this generation truly has. If you are under the yoke of totalitarianism, a wisp of democracy can appear. We all came to an agreement. Coming up with agendas that we can all push together, and not via a hierarchy or dictatorial space.

There wasn’t a dialogue with MSI. We took part in something a lot larger, civil society speaking, saying: “…we want to take your points to the table because they are important, somebody is dying.”

Filmmaker Fernando Perez was an important witness

Fernando Perez, a well-respected filmmaker, was also at the table. He said that he wouldn’t speak, but watching everyone say their piece, he also decided to say a few words. This was important because it made the involvement of different generations clear. Every generation has its own social history in Cuba, with very specific characteristics.

The Vice-Minister said that they could find a solution for demands within the artistic and cultural sector, but there were other demands that needed to be talked over with other institutions, and he made a note of this. He said that everything depended on processes.

Connections were made for meetings, a platform for dialogue with some of the arts. General issues would be discussed at a later date, when they could be looked over with the Minister.

Press conferences would be held about what happened there because “… we owe it to the people outside.”

Many followers of the tense developments at San Isidro’s base, felt like the Movement had ended and this isn’t true.

Channels of domestic politics in Cuba are very slow. If you don’t have a position in the public space and spaces of pressure, there isn’t anything that allows you to sit down at the negotiations table.

The agreements made

The agreements we made by the time we left, included: A channel of dialogue with cultural institutions. Address the issue of Denis Solis Gonzalez and Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara “urgently”. Independent artists can meet without being harassed, among other points, such as the safeguard of going home that night without suffering police harassment.

The Government says: “We don’t work under pressure.” So we have to pressure them; they pressure us all the time. In the meeting, a young woman said: “We aren’t here to pressure you, we are here to give you a chance to enter a dialogue and change what’s happening.”

It was like saying: We are giving you a chance to renew your own foundations… because this is going to go ahead regardless. It’s going to be huge… and you won’t be able to stop it. You are rusty as a State. You don’t understand what is happening. New generations don’t understand these dated procedures.

The government will renege on this meeting, but it really has changed Cuban reality. We know that it is being replicated in Matanzas. It could even explode on a national level.

Manipulation and back-tracking

The Government has manipulated everything in its official account of events.

What happened in that room hasn’t had a historic precedent in these past 60 years.

San Isidro has its own list of proposals, which haven’t ended: Luis Manuel and Maykel Osorbo held a hunger strike. San Isidro has very clear strategies. Our reports are clear on our social media pages.

MSI has gained many followers with successful campaigns. Ever since Decree-Law 349 was announced, as well as all of the attacks against Luis Manuel have become successful campaigns, because of what we have done.

I’m grateful to these people – many young people – who said: ENOUGH! and chose to stand outside the Ministry. We know what happens to people who speak openly in Cuba’s public space. The street is the Communist Party’s private property. Public spaces are pretty much closed off.

Recent events have opened-up a space forever. Many other things can be pushed forward. It’s happening as we speak.

Note: *During this interview, we learned that Luis Manuel Alcantara was under arrest in a hospital. His location had been unknown.

Also read this followup article when days later the governernment backed out of future talks.

 

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SOS FOR SAN ISIDRO MOVEMENT HUNGER STRIKERS IN HAVANA

Havana Times, November 26, 2020

Original Article: SOS San Isidro Cuba

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SIGNED:

Regional Organizations

Alianza Regional por la Libre Expresión e Información

DemoAmlat

Red Latinoamericana y del Caribe para la Democracia (REDLAD)

Red Latinoamericana de Jóvenes por la Democracia (JuventudLAC)

IFEX-ALC

Voces del Sus

Cuban Civil Society Organizations

Alianza Cubana por la Inclusión

Alianza Democrática Pinareña Vueltabajo por Cuba.

Asociación Civil Crecer en Libertad

Asociación Jurídica Cubana

Asociación Cubana para la Divulgación del Islam

Asociación Sindical Independiente de Cuba

Asociación Pro Libertad de Prensa

Center for a Free Cuba

Centro de Estudios Convivencia

Centro PEN de Escritores Cubanos en el Exilio

Club de Escritores y Artistas de Cuba

Comité de Ciudadanos por la Integración Racial (CIR)

Colegio de Pedagogos Independientes de Cuba (CPIC)

Centro Estudios Liderazgo y Desarrollo

Comunidad Judía Bnei Anusim de Cuba

Confederación Obrera Nacional Independiente de Cuba (CONIC)

Cubalex

Cuba Independiente y Democrática (CID)

Damas de Blanco

Democuba

Directorio Democrático Cubano

Monitor Legislativo Cubano

Libertad Cuba Lab

Grupo Demongeles

Grupo Anima

Fundación para la Democracia Panamericana

Fundación Nacional Cubano Americana

La Maleza

Libertad Cuba Lab

Instituto de Activismo Hannah Arendt

Instituto Cubano por la Libertad de Expresión y Prensa – ICLEP

Instituto Patmos

Instituto La Rosa Blanca

Iglesia Misionera en Cuba

Movimiento Apostólico“Viento Recio”

Movimiento Ciudadano Reflexión y Reconciliación (MCRR)

Movimiento Opositores por una  Nueva República

Mesa de Diálogo de la Juventud Cubana

Mujeres Democristianas de Cuba

Observatorio Cubano de Derechos Humanos

Palabra Abierta

Proyecto Demócrata Cubano (PRODECU)

Partido Arco Progresista

Partido Autónomo Pinero

Partido Pedro Luis Boitel

Partido Demócrata Cristiano de Cuba

Plataforma Independiente para el Desarrollo Universitario

Puente a la Vista

Red Femenina de Cuba

Red de Líderes y Lideresas Comunitarios (RELLIC)

Somos +

Solidaridad Trabajadores de Cuba

Talento Cubano

Unión Patriótica de Cuba (UNPACU)

Mujer a Mujer

 PLUS: 

37 International Civil Society Organizations including PEN Internacional;

21 Independent Media

42 Cuban Activists and Citizens

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CUBAN POLICE RAID HQ OF DISSIDENT SAN ISIDRO MOVEMENT

BBC, 17 November 2020

BBC, 17 November 2020

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

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

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

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

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

The San Isidro Movement has gained international attention recently.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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THE NEW CUBAN EXECUTIVE BRANCH: CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGES IN THE POWER STRUCTURE

RAFAEL ROJAS

BRIEFINGS ON CUBA, NOVEMBER 2020

CasaCuba, the Cuban Research Institute (CRI), and the Kimberly Green Latin American and Caribbean Center (LACC) at Florida International University (FIU),

Original and Complete Article: The New Cuban Executive Branch

YouTube Presentation: The New Cuban Executive Branch

Introduction:

For a year now, a new scheme of executive power organization has been in place in Cuba. The issue has gone unnoticed in the increasingly less articulated debate on the Cuban situation. After four decades of the concentration of power in the person of Fidel Castro, the new Cuban Constitution approved in February 2019 has shifted to a division of functions among the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister of government, and the highest authority in the Communist Party. The current leaders of these bodies, Miguel Díaz-Canel, Manuel Marrero, and Raúl Castro, rather than a deconcentration of power, have projected a differentiation of responsibilities that acquires meaning through the recipients of their decisions and messages.

Although the wording of the articles of the Constitution that define these functions is not without contradictions and lends itself to more than one misunderstanding, it is possible to notice the difference in roles. As “chief” and “representative” of the State (art. 128), the President makes decisions involving national citizenship and the international community. On the other hand, the Prime Minister, as “chief” and “representative” of the Government (art. 142), is defined as “responsible to the National Assembly of the People’s Power and to the President of the Republic,” for his own management and that of the Council of Ministers.

The highest ideological and political authority residing in the Communist Party determines the difference in roles in Cuban presidentialism. Because the president must also assume maximum responsibility within the Party—at the next eighth congress, to be held in April 2021, Raúl Castro will cede the position of First Secretary to Miguel Díaz-Canel—, the responsibilities of both holders are divided into the spaces of the National Assembly and the Communist Party. The verticality of a single, non-hegemonic political organization is preserved through a pyramidal logic that compensates for the distribution of functions at the apex.

In the pages that follow I propose an approximation to some aspects of the discussion about the new format of the organization of executive power in Cuba. The most apparent peculiarity of this restructuring of presidential power on the island is the strengthening of the Communist Party as a maximum instance of national leadership. The risks of overlapping or reproduction of functions between the president and the prime minister are controlled by a merger between the figures of the head of state and the supreme leader of the Communist Party. This risk control ensures the preservation of the political command unit amid the administrative distribution of power.

………………….

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Conclusion:

I conclude by suggesting that the constitutional change that has taken place in Cuba gravitates towards a dispersion of the national executive power which, without some assimilation of parliamentary elements, the autonomization of civil society or, eventually, political pluralism, may be more conflicting than harmonious in a scenario, such as the one that will inevitably come, of a generational replacement of the country’s ruling class. Collegiate presidentialism such as that which aspires to be built in Cuba requires, for its own effectiveness, greater flexibility in the dimensions of political pluralism and electoral competence.
The move toward a presidential succession scheme, every two five-year periods, under a single Communist Party, as in China, seeks a permanent generational renewal in maximum leadership, which is secured with the sixty-year-old limit to be a presidential candidate in the first term. That would mean that in ten years most of the Cuban political class will be left out of the country’s top leadership. But as in China, generational renewal in executive power does not necessarily imply ideological and political easing or pluralization, given the immovable premises of the single Communist Party.

Given Cuba’s verticalist power structure, with a single Communist Party, which is supposed to be “the highest leading force of society,” and a vague distinction of roles between head of state (the President of the Republic) and head of government (the Prime Minister), a path to reform would be to truly strengthen the parliamentary elements of the system. In Article 128 the functions of the President are overreached, since he is given the power to “propose the election, appointment, suspension, revocation, or replacement” not only of the Prime Minister and the members of the Council of Ministers, but of the President of the People’s Supreme Court, the Prosecutor of the Republic, the Comptroller-General, and the authority of the Electoral Council.

Despite the sharing of executive functions, which would foster a collegial sense in presidential authority, the current constitutional regime engages in hyper-presidentialism, which subordinates legislative, judicial, and electoral powers to the head of state. An extension of the legislative powers of the National Assembly, in the process of division of powers, could help to better balance the Cuban political system. The increase in powers of the National Assembly would provide content for the representative government and the electoral process and would make it possible to compensate, at least in part, for the one-party system that limits political plurality on the island.

Rafael Rojas

Dr. Rafael Rojas is Professor of History at the Center for Historical Studies of the College of Mexico, where he also directs the journal Historia Mexicana. He is the author or editor of thirty books on the intellectual and political history of Cuba and Latin America, including Fighting over Fidel: The New York Intellectuals and the Cuban Revolution (2016) and Historia mínima de la Revolución Cubana (Minimal History of the Cuban Revolution, 2015). He is a member of the Mexican Academy of History since 2019 and was selected as one of the 100 most influential intellectuals in Ibero-America in 2014. He has been a visiting professor and scholar at Princeton, Yale, Columbia, and Texas-Austin. He is a frequent collaborator of the journal Letras Libres (Mexico) and the newspaper El País (Spain). He earned his B.A. in Philosophy at the University of Havana and his Ph.D. in History from the College of Mexico.

 

 

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FORO CUBANO: INDICADORES

COMPLETE DOCUMENT: Foro Cubano – Indicadores

Coordinador:  Pavel Vidal Alejandro

 

Foro Cubano – Indicadores

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ASCE (ASSOCIATION FOR THE STUDY OF THE CUBAN ECONOMY), A Selection of Papers from the 2018 Annual Conference

The complete set of papers is here:  ASCE Conference Proceedings for 2018.

A complete set of all the papers from the annual ASCE conferences can be found here:  ASCE Conference Proceedings

Cuba: Los Retos Económicos del Gobierno de Miguel Díaz-Canel Omar Everleny Pérez Villanueva PDF version
Cuba 2018: Entre la Continuidad y la Oportunidad Dagoberto Valdés Hernández PDF version
Cuban Peso Unification: Managed Rate and Monetary Analysis Luis R. Luis PDF version
La Agricultura en Cuba: Transformaciones, Resultados y Retos Armando Nova González PDF version
Principal Elements of Agricultural Reforms in Transition Economies: Implications For Cuba? Mario A. González-Corzo PDF version
Cuba’s Economic Liberalization and The Perils to Security and Legality Vidal Romero PDF version
Growth and Policy-Induced Distortions in The Cuban Economy: an Econometric Approach Ernesto Hernández-Catá PDF version
Comparing The Quality of Education in Pre- and Post-Revolutionary Cuba Using U.S. Labor Market Outcomes Luis Locay and John Devereux PDF version
The Global Economy and Cuba: Stasis and Hard Choices Larry Catá Backer PDF version
Five Keys to Presidential Change in Cuba Arturo López-Levy and Rolf Otto Niederstrasser PDF version
Cuba’s Political and Economic Arteriosclerosis – It Is Not Just The Castros Gary H. Maybarduk PDF version
Cuban Tourism Industry in The Eye of The Storm Emilio Morales PDF version
Experiencias de Cuentapropistas Ted A. Henken PDF version
Cuban Demography and Economic Consequences Humberto Barreto PDF version
     
“The Revenge of The Jealous Bureaucrat”: A Critical Analysis of Cuba’s New Rules For Cuentapropistas Ted A. Henken PDF version

 

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WHO WILL BE CUBA’S PRIME MINISTER? A GENERAL AND FORMER CASTRO SON-IN-LAW STANDS OUT

BY NORA GÁMEZ TORRES, Miami Herald

NOVEMBER 04, 2019 04:19 PM, UPDATED NOVEMBER 05, 2019 08:55 AM

Original Article: WHO WILL BE CUBA’S PRIME MINISTER?

Whether in New York, Mexico, or Russia, a face has become familiar in the most recent international trips Cuban leader Miguel Díaz-Canel has made: that of General Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Calleja.

Image result for General Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Calleja.

General Luis Alberto Rodríguez Lopez-Calleja, head of the Grupo de Administración Empresarial S.A. (GAESA)

Introduced as “an economic adviser,” the enigmatic military figure was third in line to greet Russian President Vladimir Putin at a meeting last week, just behind the vice president of the Council of Ministers, Ricardo Cabrisas, who renegotiated the debt to Russia, and foreign minister Bruno Rodríguez.

López-Calleja also sat close to Díaz-Canel in a meeting with Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador in mid-October this year and accompanied him to his debut at the United Nations in September 2018.

Although the official Cuban media has been ambivalent, showing López-Calleja in photos but without publicly naming him as part of the official delegations, his growing international profile suggests that Raúl Castro’s former son-in-law could be among the favorites to fill the newly created position of prime minister.

While leaving much in place, the Cuban Constitution approved in February established a division at the top of the government and the appointment of a prime minister. Accordingly, Díaz-Canel changed his title from President of the Council of State and Ministers to President of the Republic at the beginning of October. The Cuban leader has three months to propose a prime minister, who will be in charge of the day-to-day running of the country.

“The election or designation of the prime minister is a decision in which the executive committee of the Political Bureau of the [Cuban Communist Party], the nerve center of the Cuban one-party system, will have the lead,” said Arturo López-Levy, assistant professor of international relations and comparative politics at Holy Names University in Oakland. Key figures of the generation of historical leaders, such as the first and second secretary of the Party, Raúl Castro and José Ramón Machado Ventura, as well as Castro’s successor in the presidency, Díaz-Canel, must approve the candidate, the analyst said.

López-Levy is López-Calleja’s cousin but declined to comment on their family relationship.

Although the president of the republic, Díaz-Canel, remains as head of state and “supreme” chief of the armed forces as established in the new Constitution, the prime minister will have great power as head of government and chief decision-maker in the administration of the country.

The new prime minister must manage the economic situation of the country, “particularly in the areas of food and energy security,” have the support of the Party and the Armed Forces high command, as well as knowledge of international affairs, especially relations with the U.S., Russia, and China, López-Levy said.

López-Calleja, a Castro relative with proven experience in administration and leadership over the military, as well as contact with business people and foreign leaders, stands out as the ideal candidate for the position.

He is the true czar of the Cuban economy, being at the head of the Grupo de Administración Empresarial S.A. (GAESA), a conglomerate of military companies estimated to control at least half of the Cuban economy. GAESA manages critical areas such as the remittance business, most of the tourism industry, the Special Development Zone in the Port of Mariel as well as the main stores and supermarkets, gas stations, import and export companies, shipping and construction companies, warehouses and an airline.

In emails obtained by the Miami Herald, managers at Odebrecht — the Brazilian construction company involved in a corruption scheme throughout Latin America that was in charge of the modernization of the Port of Mariel in Cuba — wrote that, though López-Calleja divorced one of Raúl Castro’s daughters, Deborah, he had the ear of the Cuban leader and exercised “strong leadership in the decisions made by the Cuban government. All our businesses in Cuba passed through their hands.”

GAESA is currently under U.S. sanctions. Some analysts suggest that the fact that the Trump administration did not include López-Calleja among Castro’s relatives hit with recent visa sanctions might indicate that the U.S. believes the general could play a key role during a transition on the island.

But internal movements in Cuba are difficult to predict, and López-Calleja is not the only one with prospects of becoming prime minister.

Foreign Minister Rodríguez has increased his international profile in recent years, capitalizing on his frequent harsh criticism of the U.S. government while negotiating a new diplomatic agreement with the European Union. He also served in the military and has spent years cultivating relations in the Party as a member of its Central Committee, to the point that he is seen as someone who represents the most conservative voice of the Party in the foreign ministry.

While Rodríguez and Tapia are currently members of parliament, López-Calleja must become a deputy in order to be nominated as prime minister, a requirement written in the new Constitution. Since the last parliamentary elections in March 2018, the Assembly has dropped 22 deputies and admitted 16 new ones who were not elected, through a mechanism that is not public.

The Party could also choose one of its own, for example, economist Jorge Luis Tapia, appointed a vice president of the Council of Ministers in September, after a decade leading the Party, first in the province of Ciego de Ávila and then in Camagüey.

Rodríguez, however, lacks experience in administration, and Tapia lacks international contacts.

Castro and the military could also keep López-Calleja as an influential figure who acts behind the scenes, especially for his valuable contacts with international business people.

“While he is a logical candidate given his success at managing GAESA, his business expertise may be more valuable there than as prime minister,” said William LeoGrande, a professor of government at American University and a specialist in U.S. relations with Cuba.

But the advance age of Castro, 88, and Machado, 89, leads López-Levy to think that whoever occupies the prime minister position will have real power during an imminent transition.

“In the transitions of post-revolutionary regimes, the titles acquire real power,” he said. In those circumstances, “people prefer to formalize their position.”

Arturo López-(Cajella)-Levy

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CUBA’S NEW CONSTITUTION EXPLAINED

By Geoff Thale and Teresa Garcia Castro

Washington Office on Latin America, (WOLA), February 26, 2019

Original Article: Cuba’s New Constitution

On February 24, Cubans went to the polls to vote on the ratification of a new constitution, one that makes significant changes to the country’s political, social, and economic order. This was the first time in 43 years that the Cuban people had the opportunity to express either support or opposition to a proposal that fundamentally restructures aspects of the Cuban economy and political system.

 Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz-Canel, left, Cuban First Vice President Salvador Valdes Mesa, center and Cuban Vice President Ramiro Valdez, right.

According to the Cuban electoral commission, voter turnout reached 84 percent (slightly higher than in Cuba’s last election cycle in April 2018), with 87 percent of the votes in favor. The size of the vote suggests that, whatever misgivings or frustrations Cubans had with the new Constitutional proposal, they saw it as a step in the right direction.

The new Cuban Constitution retains language that proclaims the Communist Party’s guiding role in Cuban society and socialism as being irreversible. At the same time, the document includes several major changes to Cuba’s traditional economic and political model.Additionally, the drafting process that yielded the final text that was approved in the February 24 referendum involved a citizen consultation process that was relatively inclusive and even resulted in changes to the final document, an important indication that the Cuban government’s gradual process of reform is continuing.   

Overall, there was real and relatively open debate leading up to the referendum on the Cuban Constitution.

Cuba’s current constitution was drafted and approved by referendum in 1976. Since then, the government’s vision for the country’s economy has changed significantly, especially in the past decade.  Reform guidelines announced in 2011, alongside a Communist Party document approved in 2016, make clear that Cuba is moving toward a mixed economy that includes both a private sector and state-run sector, a more significant role for foreign investment, and where the central planning role, though not eliminated, is diminished. A small private sector has already emerged in Cuba, and grown substantially in the last few years.

Overall, the past decade has seen Cuba’s Communist Party shift (at least in principle) toward a less heavy-handed approach to exercising influence over both Cuban society and the economy. In addition, expanded internet access has helped spread access to information and enabled greater and more open political debate.

In the face of these ongoing changes, the government launched a process to revise and update the 1976 Cuban Constitution. Some people had hoped that the final text would incorporate more radical changes in the Cuban model, and were disappointed. Indeed, some rumored changes did not appear in the final version that was voted on, while other proposed reforms appear to have been postponed to later debates about implementing legislation in the National Assembly.

Still, Cuba’s new constitution includes some noteworthy overhauls.The document does the following:

  • Recognizes private property and promotes foreign investment as fundamental to the development of the economy.
  • Limits the term of the president—who is selected by the National Assembly, as in parliamentary systems—to two consecutive five-year terms, and requires that the president be under sixty when s/he is elected. (This is a dramatic change from the era in which aging revolutionaries monopolized key government positions, and were repeatedly approved in their positions.)
  • Restores the pre-1976 position of Prime Minister, an official selected by the president who leads government ministries on a day-to-day basis.
  • Forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation.
  • Guarantees women’s sexual and reproductive rights and protects women from gender violence.
  • Establishes the presumption of innocence in criminal proceedings and the right to habeas corpus.
  • Strengthens the authority of local governments.
  • Allows holding dual citizenship.

These changes, and others, will have to be implemented through legislation and regulation. That process is likely to be both gradual and complicated. However, the changes in the new Cuban Constitution are undeniably significant, both reflecting and advancing the process of economic reform, strengthening citizen protections, and making the political process more transparent. While not as transformative as some had hoped, they should not be dismissed as meaningless or cosmetic.

 

THE CONSTITUTIONAL PROCESS

The process by which the new constitution and referendum came about is also noteworthy, given the degree of citizen participation involved and the government’s response to some of the feedback it received.

Constitutional reform had been under discussion since 2013, but it wasn’t until June 2018 that a drafting commission (made up of senior government and Communist Party officials, the heads of several Cuban National Assembly committees, and academic and technical advisors) began to work on this issue seriously. The government, the National Assembly, and the Communist Party all engaged in ongoing internal debates about the draft constitution, reflecting a larger national conversation among political elites about the pace and depth of political and economic reform in Cuba

Despite Cuba’s image as a state that has suppressed religious freedom, prevented organized political campaigns, and been unwilling to listen to citizens’ views, the government responded.

The first draft of the constitution was approved by the National Assembly in July 2018. For a subsequent three-month period, Cubans were invited to suggest changes to the proposed draft. According to official numbers, more than 8 million people participated in nearly 112,000 debates in workplaces, schools, and community centers, and suggested a large number of proposed modifications to the constitution draft.

This participatory process was also significant in that, for the first time, Cuban expats were allowed to submit proposed changes to the constitution draft. However, other than diplomats, Cubans abroad were not allowed to vote in the referendum unless they returned to the island to cast their ballots.

Overall, the consultation process constituted a significant exercise in citizen participation. While officials were not required to make changes based on citizen feedback, there were some cases in which they did.

The most well-known example of this was the same-sex marriage provision: a draft of the constitution originally included language that defined marriage as a consensual union between two people, without specifying genders. This attracted significant pushback from evangelical churches and some sectors of the Cuban Catholic Church, who organized a campaign to get the provision withdrawn. Many Cubans supported this campaign and made their objections known by disseminating posters, stickers, and t-shirts, threatening to vote “no” in a constitutional referendum. Around 179,000 people signed a petition, backed by evangelical churches, calling on the government to withdraw the provision.

The new constitution and the constitutional drafting process mark important steps forward in the economy, the political system, and the decision-making process in Cuba…

Despite Cuba’s image as a state that has suppressed religious freedom, prevented organized political campaigns, and been unwilling to listen to citizens’ views, the government responded. The commission in charge of processing citizen feedback eventually withdrew the proposed language. The just-approved constitution now contains no language on marriage; the issue will likely be revisited in a debate over the Cuban Family Code sometimes in the next two years.

Meanwhile, the government launched a campaign to encourage “yes” votes with posters, advertising, and the use of social media. On the other hand, opposition forces also painted “no” signs, printed up T-shirts, and staged Twitter protests. While there were reports that some proponents of the “no” vote were harassed, overall, there was real and relatively open debate leading up to the referendum on the Cuban Constitution.

 

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT

Overall, the new constitution and the constitutional drafting process mark important steps forward in the economy, the political system, and the decision-making process in Cuba, and should be understood as signs of change in the thinking of the political leadership and in the population as a whole.

Indeed, the referendum comes at a complicated moment for Cuba. Economic growth has stalled in the past year, and is projected to be no more than1.5 percent in 2019. Austerity measures initiated in 2016 will continue this year, including cuts in energy and fuel to state companies and reduced imports of consumer goods. The government will struggle to maintain its investment in the social safety net, including free healthcare, education and other services

Meanwhile, the Trump administration is threatening additional economic sanctions on the island, which could make foreign investment riskier. These sanctions will damage Cuba’s already fragile economy, and hurt everyday Cubans. In addition, they are likely to discourage the process of economic reforms and will have a negative impact on the growing private sector. A more constructive approach, and one that would encourage rather than discourage internal reform, would be to return to normalizing U.S.-Cuban relations. Ultimately, recognizing that important if gradual changes are underway in Cuba—as the new constitution illustrates— is in the interests of both the Cuban people and the United States.

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