The Cuban regime struggles to reconcile its ideological commitment with a populace that has few ties to the revolution. The likely consequence is enduring state repression.
In a nutshell
Cubans are increasingly removed from the revolution
Reforms are unlikely to come from anywhere but the military
Increasing state repression is most likely
six decades Cubans have lived under two ideological stipulations: that they owe
the revolution and its leaders total, undivided loyalty; and that they accept
socialism, not capitalism, as the reigning economic system, now and forever.
But today’s regime struggles to uphold these mandates. Though governed by a
Leninist elite, only 15 percent of Cubans experienced the enthusiasm of the
Revolution’s early days, times that are now a distant memory.
The erosion in the revolutionary spirit is evident in the estimated million and a half Cubans who have self-exiled, and the continued search for visas to the United States or Spain. Most fundamentally, it is clear in the repeated explosions of public protests, such as the “Maleconazo” protest of 1994, the November 2020 “sit down” of artists before the Ministry of Culture, and the recent, massive “Patria y Vida” demonstrations in several major cities. A social mobilization program for November 15 of this year was quashed by the repressive actions of military, police, and armed members of the Communist Party.
further evidence of this erosion is found in the posture of the majority of
intellectuals who reject Marxist economic organization and opt for opening the
society to private enterprise and international trade.
Cubans in the diaspora have been quick to identify the growing agitation for
reform as an inevitable social movement. Arguably, among the earliest observers
of this shift toward demands for greater freedom of economic activities is the dean of exiled economists, Carmelo
Mesa-Lago, who sees the reform process as “unstoppable” and predicts that if
the leadership tried to reverse it, “people will simply ignore them … [and] the
possibility of revolt will increase.” In a similar tone, veteran
researcher William LeoGrande predicts that “how Cuba’s
institutions adapt to this new reality will be the principal determinant
shaping the future of Cuban politics.”
then, to unravel in an intelligible way the probable future of this paradoxical
socialist system? Three scenarios are suggested, each with the degree of
probable occurrence indicated.
Resistance to reform
likely scenario is enduring and increasing state repression, as opportunistic
economic reforms move along at a snail’s pace.
time will these reforms be allowed to threaten the existing political establishment.
It took 10 years to implement the timid legalization of private occupations (cuentapropismo)
of February 2021; and, even then, the most profitable occupations, such as
doctors, lawyers and engineers were excluded.
ability of the dictatorship to overcome challenges to the system has been amply
this hesitancy, some experts maintain that there are at least five factors that
make it impossible to retain repressive policies: the domestic economic crisis;
the absence of any significant guarantees by a foreign geopolitical ally such
as the Soviet Union or Venezuela; the loss of the monopoly over social media;
what Fidel and Raul Castro repeatedly identified as the sclerotic
self-preservation of the bureaucratic class; and, contextualizing all the
above, the pressures exerted by two generations exhausted from decades of food
shortages and a lack of liberties.
And yet, all of that said, the ability of the dictatorship to overcome innumerable challenges to the system has not only been amply demonstrated, but stiffens the spine of these heavily invested in its survival. Of course, it also motivates those determined to reform the system.
outcome with a low probability over the short-to-medium term hinges on whether
the U.S. Congress modifies or abolishes the Helms-Burton Act, which governs
American relations with Cuba, and the Cuban government
changing its prohibition of investments from the Cuban diaspora. Should these
events take place (regardless of which comes first), there exists in the Cuban
community abroad a real nostalgia for their erstwhile country and arguably more
capital – through remittances and direct foreign investments – than could be
available from U.S. foreign aid or international lending agencies.
changes in the sugar sector are one prominent, potential outcome. The
traditional Cuban saying, “sin azucar no hay pais” – without sugar,
there is no country – describes one of the great ironies of the nation
divided between island and diaspora.
of the Fanjul family is illustrative. With their sugar holdings expropriated by
the Revolution, the Fanjuls invested what they managed to get out of Cuba in
Florida sugar. By 2019, the Fanjul Corporation was worth $8 billion and
produced 7 million tons of cane – six times what Cuba as a whole produced that
year. The senior Fanjul, Alfonso (“Alfy”), traveled to Cuba in 2012 and 2013
and, “with tears in his eyes,” visited his family’s colonial-era home. He
told the Washington Post
that “under special circumstances” he would be willing to invest in Cuba:
namely, Cuba would have to roll back many of its baked-in, anti-free trade and
private property laws and take a more positive attitude toward the Cuban
American community. Partly because of the opposition of powerful Cuban American
politicians, chances of either happening in the near or medium term at the
moment seem very slim.
scenario with very long odds but one that is not to be ignored would see the
rise of a modernizing Cuban military.
government is certainly conscious of the possibility. Most telling is their
reaction to the recent seminar held at the University of St. Louis campus in
Madrid where the role of the Cuban military was discussed. In a presentation to
the conference, former Spanish President Felipe Gonzalez described the role of
the Spanish armed forces in making possible the transition to democracy. Other
cases discussed were those of Peru, Venezuela, and Turkey. Among the Cubans
present were Yunior Garcia Aguilera, the main leader of the Archipelago
Movement, and veteran oppositionist Manuel Cuesta Morua.
former was later forcefully confined to his house before going into exile; the
latter incarcerated. Meanwhile, in a subsequent Cuban television program, a
“secret agent” called Leonardo revealed that he had been present at the
conference, which he described as “a training seminar on how to subvert the
percent of the Central Committee of the CCP’s Political Bureau belong to the
military. They are managing an estimated 75 percent of the economy. The
military, with its 35,000 members – and not the 800,000 members of the Communist
Party – is now the leadership institution in Cuba. (Bloomberg published a
revealing report on General Luis Alberto
Rodríguez, chairman of the largest business empire in Cuba, a conglomerate that
comprises at least 57 companies owned by the military.)
going to manage affairs if the command structures of the state are dismantled?
As is the
case in all modernizing militaries, they manage their holdings under a rigid
set of financial benchmarks – a decidedly capitalist administrative
mode. This veritable military-economic oligarchy fits a category, the
“modernizing oligarchy,” that is well known in the sociology of development as
defined by Edward Shils: political systems controlled by bureaucratic and/or
military officer cliques, in which democratic constitutions have been suspended
and where the modernizing impulse takes the form of concern for efficiency and
oligarchies,” says Mr. Shils, “are usually strongly motivated toward economic
development.” Samuel Huntington also notes that multiparty systems which
promote freedom and social mobility lose the concentration of power necessary for
undertaking reforms. “Since the prerequisite of reform is the consolidation of
power, first attention is given to the creation of an efficient, loyal,
rationalized, and centralized army: military power must be unified,” he writes.
a long shot, it cannot be disregarded that it might be the military that will
set the developmental priorities and enforce them in the initial stages of the
reforms most of Cuba seem to yearn for.
facing any prospective reformers is an enormous one, since all economic sectors
were placed under state control in 1976. In addition, key preconditions for a
modern capitalist economy – such as a proper legal system or tax code, and
capital markets – do not exist. The punitive U.S. embargo does more than just
cut them off from international lending agencies; it is one of the most
all-around onerous embargoes ever imposed by the American government.
this, who is going to manage affairs if the command structures of the state are
dismantled? In particular, who is going to limit the grabbing of major parts of
the privatized structures by criminal gangs – as occurred when the Soviet
system was dismantled? Scholars such as the Canadian military historian Hal
Klepak and the exiled Cuban sociologist Haroldo Dilla argue that only the
military can pull this off. Interestingly, Messrs. Klepak’s and Dilla’s
conclusions mirror those of two RAND scholars, who decades ago made a
recommendation that flew in the face of the “gambler’s fallacy” that has governed
Washington’s approach since the beginning of this conflict.
they argued, should be prepared to shift policy tracks or possibly recombine
different elements from two or more options. One of the options recommended was
to explore “informational exchanges and confidence-building measures” between
the American and Cuban armed forces. Their reasoning is based on sound
sociology: “Of all the state institutions, the military and security organs
remain most critical to the present and future survival of the regime.” And,
one might counterintuitively add, the only ones capable of reforming it.
The third scenario might indeed be a long shot, but the military is the only institution that, if the situation arises, has a chance to pull off reform of that calcified regime
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.
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.
the state has a history of issuing stiff sentences to organised political
dissidents, the punishments now being meted out are unusually severe.
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.
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
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.
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
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.”
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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
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
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.”
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.
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.
11th: Cries for freedom and the order for combat
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.
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.
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
order given by somebody with a clearly fascist character like Fidel Castro
could have resulted far worse,” he warned.
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.
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
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.
Isidro and Archipielago
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
a duty in hope and a tragedy in disenchantment, and this is what
totalitarianism has always played with, the Cuban government with its people,”
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.
y Vida” phenomenon
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
women in the anti-establishment struggle
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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
believe that change in Cuba has to be female, otherwise change won’t come,” De
November 15, the US media primed us for a repeat of the events of July 11 in
Cuba — only more massive and more dramatic.
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
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.
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 himself, without
telling any of his fellow dissidents, decamped to Spain.
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).
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.)
some Cubans were dissuaded from demonstrating by the large police and military
presence on the streets.
alone doesn’t explain the lack of outcome.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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,” 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
social movements are a sign of a rapidly changing Cuba
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.
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.
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.
Current Conditions Contributed to Displays of Dissent
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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).
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
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,
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
errores más recientes de política económica.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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:
From Fidel To Raul And Beyond
Published: August 14, 2020
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
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
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Retreat of State as Economic
Achieving the Required Surge in
Investment and Growth?
Political Implications of
T he Evolving International
Arena: Fitting into a New Context
More Pluralism or Continued
Evolution of Party and State
Towards the End of Gerontocracy
Into the Critical Juncture:
Principal Dilemmas and Possible Scenarios
“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)
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)
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)
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.