Tag Archives: Politics

CUBA AFRONTA EL RETO DE REFORMAR LA REVOLUCIÓN SIN NEGAR SU ESPÍRITU

Una nueva generación de dirigentes se encuentra frente al dilema de cómo reestructurar la economía para hacer el socialismo sostenible en la isla5

Mauricio Vicent, La Habana 

EL PAÍS,  22 ABR 2021 – 19:04 EDT

Continuidad política y reformas económicas de calado, y más lo segundo que lo primero, he ahí donde se juega el futuro de la Cuba tras el VIII Congreso del Partido Comunista, que tuvo lugar el pasado fin de semana en La Habana. El encuentro unificó todo el poder político en el presidente cubano, Miguel Díaz-Canel, y en una nueva generación de líderes nacidos después del triunfo revolucionario. Su principal desafío será realizar una apertura económica e introducir transformaciones profundas, que necesariamente deben ampliar el marco del mercado y de la iniciativa privada, avanzando hacia un modelo mixto, para tratar de hacer sostenible el sistema heredado, sin negar su espíritu..

Es la primera vez que se alinean el Gobierno y las estructuras de la cúpula del partido, hasta ahora encabezado por la vieja guardia, en la figura de un civil que no luchó en la Sierra Maestra, Diaz-Canel, que ya ejercía la presidencia desde 2018. Hasta este jueves el Partido Comunista de Cuba (PCC) rendía cuentas a Raúl Castro y a los históricos, que ahora abandonan todos los cargos.

Sabido es que el modelo de partido único no va a cambiar, pero mantenerse en el inmovilismo y en las reformas rácanas sería el mejor modo de que la economía se vaya a pique, lo que equivale a decir todo el sistema, dado que la crisis y la situación por la que atraviesa la isla es de extrema gravedad. Los problemas estructurales acumulados y la ineficiencia de la empresa estatal, agravados por la epidemia y el recrudecimiento del embargo norteamericano, no se resuelven con parches, se admite en las altas instancias, y también que las reformas introducidas hasta ahora claramente han sido insuficientes para garantizar un mejor nivel de vida a los cubanos, principal reto de los nuevos dirigentes, que no cuentan con la legitimidad “histórica” sino que la valoración que se haga de ellos dependerán de lo que logren.

“El PCC necesita ampliar las zonas de legitimidad de su mandato con un desempeño económico que lo justifique o se le va a complicar la gobernabilidad”, opina el académico cubanoamericano Arturo López-Levy, señalando que “a mediano plazo, la economía es el primer renglón para medir sus capacidades”. Hay bastante consenso en este punto, y también en otro asunto que menciona López-Levy: “Se necesita orientar prioridades y recursos hacia la seguridad alimentaria, pues sin comida no hay país, por muchos hoteles que se construyan o reparen. Díaz-Canel ha enfatizado el discurso de la continuidad para asegurar la confiabilidad de los que lo han elegido, pero para resolver las demandas y quejas de una Cuba globalizada y signada por una crisis estructural, va a tener que prometer y hacer grandes cambios, tanto sustantivos como en la forma de gobernar”.

¿Qué lectura puede hacerse del VIII Congreso? ¿Defraudó las expectativas de los que esperaban una apuesta decidida por la apertura? ¿O era lo que podía esperarse de un cónclave cargado de simbolismo en el que lo que se escenificaba era la despedida de Raúl y la generación histórica? Hay diversas opiniones. En su informe central, Raúl Castro criticó el “egoísmo” de los que demandan el ejercicio privado de algunas profesiones y reclaman la importación comercial privada para establecer un sistema no estatal de comercio, advirtiendo que hay “límites” que no se pueden rebasar porque implicarían la destrucción del socialismo. La mención cayó como un jarro de agua fría en los sectores que defienden la apertura y en muchos emprendedores, aunque pasados los días, y tras el primer discurso de Díaz-Canel, algunos de los analistas consultados se inclinan a pensar que “la reforma va” y que cada vez será más profunda. Hasta donde se llegará, sea por propia voluntad o por necesidad, es la gran incógnita.

“El VIII Congreso del PCC no ha traído grandes sorpresas, pero tampoco ha significado un retroceso en lo que al sector privado se refiere”, asegura Oniel Díaz Castellanos, fundador de Auge, empresa consultora que brinda asesoramiento a decenas de emprendedores privados. Admite que “ciertas palabras en el Informe Central alarmaron a varios colegas”, entre los que se incluye, pero dice que “una mirada serena” a las intervenciones de Díaz-Canel así como a las resoluciones emanadas de la cita, confirman que “hay una combinación de voluntad política para abrir más espacios económicos, a la vez que se establecen límites que no se deberían pasar según la lógica del PCC”. Su conclusión: “en ninguno de los Congresos anteriores se ha hablado y escrito tanto” sobre el sector no estatal, de las pymes y la iniciativa privada, de lo que deduce que “no hay marcha atrás” en la reforma.

Es de la misma opinión el economista Omar Everleny, que apunta que “el Congreso tiene varias lecturas: podría parecer que no hay cambios ya que se critica a personas que quieren obtener más ingresos y se precisa que Raúl estará presente en la toma de las decisiones fundamentales; pero por otro lado, se ha apelado a hacer ingentes esfuerzos por salir de la crisis económica, de implementar en el corto plazo medidas para potenciar el trabajo, la necesidad de descentralizar decisiones, de utilizar las formas no estatales, de implementar las pequeñas empresas….”. El camino, cree, no es inmovilista sino “reformista, pues si no será complejo producir los resultados económicos que espera la nación”.

En la composición del nuevo Buró Político, destaca Everleny la entrada de dos figuras “con un corte empresarial”: Manuel Marrero, que hoy es primer ministro, “pero que fue presidente de la corporación turística Gaviota”, y Luis Alberto López-Callejas, que al frente de GAESA (el grupo empresarial del ejército) “controla el mayor por ciento de los negocios en divisas cubanos sean tiendas, hoteles, marinas, aviación, y la zona Especial de Mariel, y no es un político al estilo de los que se conocen, sino un hombre de negocios clásico”.

Rafael Hernández, director de la revista Temas y miembro del PCC, consideró fuera de la realidad a los que pensaron que el Congreso iba a “rifar” el sector estatal y que “ahora sí era el turno de la privatización”. “Naturalmente, esos augurios no tenían sustento”, opinó, aclarando que ninguna “las resoluciones aprobadas desandan lo avanzado durante el año y pico de pandemia respecto a la legitimidad y consolidación del sector privado”. “La Resolución sobre la Conceptualización del modelo reitera ‘reconocer y diversificar las diferentes formas de propiedad y gestión adecuadamente interrelacionadas”, asegura.

Diversos economistas han puesto énfasis en que tan relevante como el Congreso fue lo sucedido justo antes de su inauguración, cuando Díaz-Canel presidió un inédito encuentro con emprendedores privados y representantes de la empresa estatal, en el que se habló del necesario impulso a las pymes y el papel creciente que ocupará el sector no estatal. En otra reunión con el sector agrícola, en la que resulto cesado el ministro del ramo, se aprobaron un conjunto de medidas para incentivar a los productores privados y reactivar esta esfera de la economía, vital en estos momentos de crisis, y allí el presidente advirtió de que no había “tiempo para pensar en el largo plazo”.

Sobre los “límites” en la apertura al sector privado de los que habló Raúl Castro —pero que no especificó—, López-Levy considera que no es la cuestión más relevante. “Los límites y las líneas rojas irán moviéndose con la vida. Las reformas traerán más presión de otras reformas, y otro tipo de cambios llegarán por carambola”. Los más escépticos indican que otros intentos de reforma se frustraron en el pasado, cierto, aunque hoy la situación es distinta, el tiempo y el ritmo son ahora vitales, pues la crisis es gravísima y las urgencias son cada vez mayores. Habrá que ver los próximos movimientos de los encargados por los ‘históricos’ en asegurar la “continuidad” y hacer sostenible el socialismo cubano.

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

CUBA EMPHASISES CONTINUITY AS IT EXITS THE CASTRO ERA | FINANCIAL TIMES

The Castro era in Cuba came to a carefully choreographed end on Monday, as President Miguel Díaz-Canel was elected head of the ruling Communist party, replacing the retiring leader, 89-year-old.

Marc Frank

Financial Times, April 19, 2021

Original Article: Cuba Exits Castro Era

The Castro era in Cuba came to a carefully choreographed end on Monday, as President Miguel Díaz-Canel was elected head of the ruling Communist party, replacing the retiring leader, 89-year-old Raúl Castro.

The reshuffle in the top ranks also saw the departure from the politburo of the final survivors of the 1959 revolution that brought brothers Fidel and Raúl Castro to power. For those hoping for a significant shift in policy, however, there was little to cheer about.

The changes came at a four-day party congress held largely behind closed doors under the banner of “Unity and Continuity”. During the proceedings, many dissidents found their phone and internet service was cut, and they were not allowed to leave their homes, making it all but impossible to comment.

Among those promoted to the politburo was Brigadier-General Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Callejas, once married to Raúl’s daughter Deborah and head of the armed forces’ civilian holding company, GAISA, which controls important swaths of the economy such as tourism and the retail trade. Rodríguez López-Callejas is close to Díaz-Canel, who has referred to him as his economic adviser, according to two European diplomats. He is also a competent businessman, according to three foreign counterparts who have worked with him.

“He comes by early in the morning once a week to check on everything and tour the place,” said one manager at the Mariel Special Development Zone just outside Havana, requesting anonymity. He is already under sanctions imposed by the Trump administration.

The appointment of the head of the military’s civilian companies will anger hardline Cuban exiles in the US and is unlikely to please the Biden administration, which has already signalled that it does not plan any overtures towards Havana in the near term.

As part of its tightening of restrictions on Cuba, the Trump administration placed sanctions on nearly all military-run companies on the island from hotels to financial services. The Biden administration has given no indication that it plans to lift these.

Monday’s appointment consolidates the power of Díaz-Canel, who has risen steadily through the ranks of Cuba’s bureaucracy with a reputation as a capable but cautious leader focused on economic reform. His Twitter account is peppered with the hashtag #SomosContinuidad (We are continuity).

Raúl Castro said upon stepping down at the weekend that “as long as I live, I will be ready with my feet in the stirrups to defend the motherland, the revolution and socialism with more force than ever”, a remark taken to indicate his continued involvement. Díaz-Canel confirmed this on Monday, saying his mentor “will be consulted about strategic decisions”.

Raúl Castro has been effectively running the country since his ailing brother Fidel handed power to him in 2006. Fidel Castro died in 2016.

One of the new leadership’s first orders of business will be to conduct a nationwide discussion of Raúl Castro’s last central committee report, in which he doubled down on existing foreign policy, the need for a single-party system and cautious market reforms to avoid “a restoration of capitalism and dependence on the United States”.

Nevertheless, many analysts believe the crisis that has led to widespread food shortages and long queues in shops for basic necessities will push forward economic reforms, particularly now that younger generations hold almost all positions.   “A new cohort of leaders will have a much freer hand to implement policies permitting a gradual turn to a more market-driven economy,” said Brian Latell, a former CIA Cuba analyst who followed the Castros for decades.

For example, Raúl Castro in the report castigated party members for their reticence to fully support the integration of small- and medium-sized private business into the national economy, while simultaneously drawing a red line over the extent of changes.

He said allowing private businesses to engage in foreign trade without going through the state was unacceptable.  “There are limits that we cannot exceed because the consequences . . . would lead to . . . the very destruction of socialism and therefore of national sovereignty and independence.”

Similar words were uttered before just about every reform undertaken over the past decade, signalling that serious resistance remains in the ranks.

The party congress spent a great deal of its time on the need to improve cadres and strengthen ideological work as the internet smashes its information monopoly at a time of crisis and destabilising monetary reforms. Opposition to the system was characterised as part of a US plot.

Bert Hoffmann, a Latin America expert at the German Institute of Global and Area Studies, said Cuba’s old guard might remain influential behind the scenes, particularly in the military. He added: “To weather the current crisis, further economic policy change will be imperative for Cuba.”

Brigadier-General Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Callejas

President Miguel Diaz-Canel

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

CUBA: WILL POLITICAL CHANGE FOLLOW ECONOMIC LIBERALISATION?

by Tom Arnold , March 28, 2021

In response to crippling economic stagnation, Cuba has passed regulations which hint at a turn towards a more market-driven economy. However, political control over key sectors including education and the media still lies heavily with the state. The most striking policy, which allows thousands of professions to run outside the remit of the state, will change the character of business within Cuba and may lead to increased innovation and interaction with international markets. Could Cuba’s economic liberalisation lead to further political freedoms?

Hints of Change

In 2020, the number of tourists visiting Cuba dropped by 80% and its economy accordingly shrank by 11%. Times are hard for Cubans, with queues growing outside grocery stores and businesses being forced to close. The economic downturn has been lurking for many years. In particular, Cuba has suffered from the Trump Administration’s sanctions, imposed to placate the Republican voter base by designating the Cuban government as a “sponsor of terrorism” from its support for Venezuela’s Maduro. 

In response to economic hardships and US sanctions, Cuba has indicated an intention to liberalise the economy. A strong signal of change to Castroist economic ideas are demonstrated by the Díaz-Canel government’s removal of the somewhat confusing dual currency system in January 1, 2021, previously established in 1994 after the loss of Soviet subsidies. This major change, which led to a surge in inflation and devaluation of the peso, had costly implications for Cubans by placing downward pressure on the purchasing power of salaries and pensions.

A Landmark Shift in Business Privatisation

The currency change is just one part in a series of major reforms. On 6th February, Labour Minister Marta Elena Feito Cabrera stated that the government would allow private participation in more than 2000 professions; a stark contrast to the previous limit of 127 professions. The expansion in private participation means that previously illegal enterprises can now function openly. 

It is hoped that this will unleash a wave of innovation in a wide range of sectors. This could work in tandem with recovery from the pandemic. For instance, there has been encouraging news regarding Cuba’s  own “Soberana 2” Covid-19 vaccine: The government believes that it can administer this vaccine to the whole of Cuba’s population by the end of the year and export the vaccine to Latin America as a source of income.

However, the new private business law does have many caveats: private enterprises lack certain resources and access to supply chains that state-owned enterprises possess. For instance, the government maintains control of all large industries and wholesale shops and monopolises 124 professions, thereby restricting options for obtaining supplies. In the short-term, the large restructuring of the economy will inevitably cause painful effects with bankruptcies and unemployment rising. Yet, in the long-term, opening up may yield positive benefits through increased opportunities for entrepreneurs. The sectors included within the 124 professions remaining under state remit (including law enforcement, defence, the media, education) suggest that Cuba is looking to follow the model of China or Vietnam through the introduction of capitalist economic policies with the maintenance of tight political control.

Could Improved Relations with the US Spur Political Change in Cuba?

One follow-on effect of Cuba’s economic liberalisation could be a strengthening of relations with the Biden administration. Indeed, the recent theme of economic policy changes would require more foreign investments and capital, for which improved relations with the US would be important.

Strengthened ties could have political liberalisation effects in Cuba. The Obama Administration’s relationship with Cuba was emblematic of this trend: Obama’s approach of normalising relations with Cuba, which was designed to “create economic opportunities for the Cuban people”, increased US influence in other spheres of Cuban society. Citizens began to criticise issues such as access to medical care, education, unemployment and domestic media sources while religious leaders and artists started to articulate positions contrary to the official narrative. This suggested that civil society was for the first time open to vocally opposing the political system, despite the government responding with detentions of some dissidents and censorship of blog posts . A similar phenomenon is possible if Havana’s new economic policies leads to a strengthening of economic ties with the Biden Administration.

Is a new Cuba Realistic?

Cuba is ripe for change. The push and pull of reform efforts in recent years suggest disputes between traditionalists and more progressive, youthful factions. In April, Raúl Castro will step down as leader of the Communist party which will see the end of the Castro name in Cuban politics for the first time in over 60 years. This has major symbolic significance: Fidel Castro established the political and economic systems that endure today, such as the characteristics of a one-party state with complete control of the media. Combined with the election of Biden, who will likely take a more lenient approach to Cuba in comparison to Trump, and an array of free market policies in the midst of an economic crisis, it seems a realistic possibility that Cuba could undergo major structural change in the coming years.

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

CONVOCATORIA AL VIII CONGRESO DEL PARTIDO COMUNISTA DE CUBA

CubaDebate, 2 diciembre 2020 

“El Congreso de la continuidad histórica de la Revolución Cubana”

Articulo Original: Convocatoria

Después de hacerse pública la decisión de efectuar el VIII Congreso del Partido en abril de 2021, un evento extraordinario marcó de forma crucial la vida de la nación. La pandemia de la COVID-19 puso a prueba la capacidad y la voluntad de la Revolución, y el temple de nuestro pueblo para enfrentar cualquier dificultad, por compleja que esta sea.

Una vez más se mostró ante el mundo la verdad de Cuba, sus valores, su probada vocación humanista, solidaria y de justicia social que, junto a la capacidad organizativa del país y el desarrollo científico alcanzado, nos ha permitido traducir en resultados visibles el compromiso con la vida y el bienestar de nuestros compatriotas y de otros pueblos, a pesar de la constante agresividad del Gobierno de Estados Unidos.

El capitalismo y sus defensores neoliberales demuestran no tener solución alguna ante problemas cardinales de la humanidad. Sus teorías del papel mínimo del Estado y la magnificación del mercado, solo reforzaron su incapacidad para salvar vidas.

Inmersos hoy los cubanos en la superación de los dísimiles obstáculos derivados de la pandemia, en particular los vinculados a nuestra economía, sumados a otros que ya venían gravitando sobre nosotros, el Comité Central del Partido Comunista de Cuba ratifica con esta convocatoria la decisión de desarrollar el VIII Congreso en la fecha prevista.

El Congreso centrará su atención en la evaluación y proyección de asuntos medulares para el presente y futuro de la nación, lo cual incluirá la actualización de la Conceptualización del Modelo Económico y Social Cubano de Desarrollo Socialista, los resultados alcanzados y la actualización de la implementación de los Lineamientos de la Política Económica y Social del Partido y la Revolución, así como los resultados económico-sociales obtenidos del VII Congreso a la fecha; analizará de igual forma el funcionamiento del Partido, su vinculación con las masas, la actividad ideológica y valorará la situación que presenta la política de cuadros en el Partido, la Unión de Jóvenes Comunistas, las Organizaciones de Masas y el Gobierno.

Será un escenario oportuno para la actualización de nuestra estrategia de resistencia y desarrollo. Significará un estímulo a la participación de militantes, revolucionarios y patriotas en las soluciones que se demandan para enfrentar la aguda crisis mundial que nos impacta y continuar las transformaciones que fortalezcan la economía nacional. Para lograrlo contamos con una vasta experiencia de lucha en la construcción del socialismo como única opción de desarrollo, y con el ejemplo imperecedero del Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro Ruz.

Digno heredero de la confianza depositada por el pueblo en su líder, nuestro Partido, único, martiano, fidelista, marxista y leninista, asume una alta responsabilidad en la preservación de la unidad, factor estratégico para la victoria.

En estos años el Gobierno de Estados Unidos ha acentuado su hostilidad contra Cuba, arreciando el genocida bloqueo económico, comercial y financiero, y la subversión político-ideológica. A ello se suman las consecuencias de la crisis económica mundial. Frente a estas dificultades, el pueblo ha respondido con firmeza, disciplina y conciencia, lo cual requiere traducirse aún más en aportes de eficiencia y superiores resultados en la economía. Ello implica nuevas formas de pensar y hacer para alcanzar la prosperidad, fruto de nuestro trabajo diario.

En este escenario, la implementación de los Lineamientos de la Política Económica y Social del Partido y la Revolución enfrenta amplios desafíos. Se afrontan problemas objetivos y subjetivos que influyen en el ritmo de aplicación de las políticas y medidas aprobadas.

La situación actual no puede convertirse en justificante que retarde los procesos; por el contrario, impone la necesidad de dar un impulso a la actualización de nuestro modelo económico y social para cumplir lo que hemos acordado y eliminar las trabas que aún persisten en el desarrollo de las fuerzas productivas y la eficiencia, asunto definido como problema estratégico principal por el General de Ejército Raúl Castro Ruz.

Urge incrementar la producción de alimentos en el país, empleando todas las reservas internas, que incluye, como en el resto de los sectores de la economía y la sociedad, la investigación, la innovación y el desarrollo tecnológico, además de la sistematización de los resultados.

Los vínculos entre el sector estatal y el no estatal de la economía han de seguir desarrollándose, como parte de la estrategia económica definida. La industria nacional deberá responder cada vez más a la demanda interna. Es imprescindible desterrar la inercia, la apatía y explotar con creatividad todas las potencialidades existentes, estimulando el aporte de todo el pueblo, sus ideas e iniciativas.

Debemos avanzar en la eficiencia de los procesos productivos y la calidad de los servicios, así como en el ahorro de los recursos, el incremento de las exportaciones, la sustitución de importaciones y la participación de la inversión extranjera directa. En ese empeño, la empresa estatal socialista está llamada a cumplir el papel principal que le corresponde en la economía nacional.

Nuestro objetivo es llegar al VIII Congreso con definiciones precisas y concretas, que fortalezcan y den continuidad al programa de gobierno emprendido, en cumplimiento de la Estrategia Económico-Social para el impulso de la economía y el enfrentamiento a la crisis mundial provocada por la COVID-19.

La prevención y enfrentamiento constantes a la corrupción, el delito, las indisciplinas sociales y otras manifestaciones negativas incompatibles con las esencias del socialismo que construimos, deberá ser una tarea de todos.

Para alcanzar este y otros objetivos, debemos continuar fortaleciendo el funcionamiento del Partido desde el núcleo hasta las instancias superiores, a partir de la ejemplaridad de quienes militan en sus filas. A la par, resulta imprescindible contar con cuadros que mantengan en todo momento una actitud revolucionaria frente a los problemas, desarrollen la capacidad de análisis en la búsqueda de soluciones, estimulen el diálogo franco y se caractericen por una ética intachable en su actuación cotidiana.

El Partido mantendrá una prioritaria atención a la Unión de Jóvenes Comunistas, sus cuadros, militantes y las nuevas generaciones, en cuya formación y educación en valores tiene una responsabilidad especial. Igualmente, apoyará a las organizaciones de masas y sociales, en sus misiones de integrar, movilizar y representar a nuestro pueblo, propiciando una participación superior de sus miembros en los procesos políticos y socio-económicos que deciden nuestro futuro como nación.

Hoy adquiere mayor importancia el trabajo político-ideológico para enfrentar los intentos de restauración capitalista y neoliberal. Las redes sociales e Internet se han convertido en un escenario permanente de confrontación ideológica, donde también deben prevalecer nuestros argumentos frente a las campañas enemigas.

Ante la guerra cultural y de símbolos que se nos hace, la defensa de la identidad nacional, y la cultura, así como el conocimiento de nuestra historia, reafirman nuestra soberanía e independencia.

El imperialismo estadounidense no ha podido cumplir su objetivo de destruir la Revolución Cubana. Insiste en provocar la inestabilidad en el país, legitimar la oposición mercenaria y fracturar la unidad de los cubanos, convertida en valladar infranqueable para garantizar la libertad, la justicia y la democracia socialista que no se negocian.

Ratificamos una vez más la importancia estratégica de mantener la defensa y seguridad nacional del país como asunto de máxima prioridad.

Compatriotas:

En el 64 Aniversario del Desembarco del Granma, fecha que trasciende por mostrarnos el valor del sacrificio, la confianza en el triunfo de las ideas que hace suyas el pueblo y la voluntad de vencer, ratificamos que este será el Congreso de la Continuidad, expresado en el tránsito paulatino y ordenado de las principales responsabilidades del país a las nuevas generaciones, con la certeza de que la Revolución no se circunscribe a quienes la llevaron al triunfo aquel glorioso Primero de Enero, sino a la voluntad y el compromiso de quienes la han hecho suya en todos estos años y los que continuarán la obra.

El VIII Congreso del Partido, que realizaremos del 16 al 19 de abril de 2021, será de todo el pueblo. Como en Girón, 60 años después, frente al imperio que nunca logrará doblegarnos, y ante dificultades presentes y futuras por poderosas que sean, una vez más proclamaremos ante el mundo nuestra convicción irreductible de Victoria.

Comité Central del Partido Comunista de Cuba

See the source image
Primer Congreso
Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

ONE HUNDRED YEAR OF THE RUSSIAN NEP – LESSONS FOR CUBA

By: Samuel Farber, April 3, 2021

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Author’s Note – This article originally appeared in Spanish in La Joven Cuba (Young Cuba), one of the most important critical blogs in the island, where the Internet remains the principal vehicle for critical opinion because the government has not yet succeeded in controlling it. The article elicited some strong reactions including that of a former government minister who called it a provocation.

The New Economic Policy (NEP) introduced by the revolutionary government in 1921 was in fact an attempt to reduce the widespread discontent among the Russian people with measures designed to increase production and popular access to consumer goods. Even though the Civil War (1918-1920) caused great hardship among the rural and urban populations, it was the politics of War Communism, introduced by the Bolshevik government during that period, that significantly worsened the situation. This led to a profound alienation among those who had been the pillars of the October Revolution in 1917: the industrial workers, and the peasantry that constituted 80 percent of the population.

In the countryside, the urban detachments, organized to confiscate from the peasantry their agricultural surplus to feed the cities, ended up also confiscating part of the already modest peasant diet in addition to the grain needed to sow the next crop. The situation worsened when under the same policy the government, based on an assumed class stratification in the countryside that had no basis in reality, created the poor peasant committees (kombedy) to reinforce the functions of the urban detachments. Given the arbitrary informal and formal methods that characterized the operations of the kombedy, these ended up being a source of corruption and abuse, frequently at the hands of criminal elements active in them, who ended up appropriating for their own use the grain and other kinds of goods they arbitrarily confiscated from the peasantry.

Moreover, during the fall of 1920, symptoms of famine began to appear in the Volga region. The situation became worse in 1921 after a severe drought ruined the crops, which also affected the southern Urals. Leon Trotsky had proposed in February 1920, to substitute the arbitrary confiscations of War Communism with a tax in kind paid by the peasantry as an incentive to have them grow more surplus grain. However, the party leadership rejected his proposal at that time.

The politics of War Communism was also applied to the urban and industrial economy through its total nationalization, although without the democratic control by the workers and the soviets, which the government abolished when the civil war began and replaced with the exclusive control from above by state administrators. Meantime, the workers were subjected to a regime of militarized compulsory labor. For the majority of the Communist leaders, including Lenin, the centralized and nationalized economy represented a great advance towards socialism. That is why for Lenin, the NEP was a significant step back. Apparently, in his conception of socialism, total nationalization played a more important role than the democratic control of production from below.

The elimination of workplace democracy was only one aspect of the more general clampdown on soviet democracy that the Bolshevik government launched in response to the bloody and destructive civil war. Based on the objective circumstances created by the war, and on the urgent need to resolve the problems they were facing, like economic and political sabotage, the Bolshevik leadership not only eliminated multiparty soviets of workers and peasants, but also union democracy and independence, and introduced very serious restrictions of   other political freedoms established at the beginning of the revolution.

CONTINUE READING

***************************

***************************

The Situation in Cuba

Since the decade of the nineties, and especially since Raúl Castro assumed the maximum leadership of the country in 2006–formally in 2008 – economic reform has been one of the  central concerns of  the government. The logic of that economic reform points to the Sino-Vietnamese model–which combines an anti-democratic one-party state with a state capitalist system in the economy–and not to the compulsory collectivization of agriculture and the five-year plans brutally imposed on the USSR by Stalinist totalitarianism after the NEP. The Cuban government’s decision to authorize the creation of the PYMES (small and medium private enterprises), a decision frequently promised but not yet implemented, would constitute a very important step towards the establishment of state capitalism in the island. This state capitalism will very probably be headed by the current powerful political, and especially military, leaders who would become private capitalists.

Until now, the Cuban government has not specified the size that would define the small and especially the mid-size enterprises under the PYMES concept. But we know that several Latin American countries (like Chile and Costa Rica) have defined the size in terms of the number of workers. Chile, for example, defines the micro enterprises as those with less than 9 workers, the small-size with 10 to 25 workers, the medium-size with 25 to 200 workers, and the big size with more than 200 workers. Should Cuba adopt similar criteria, its mid-size enterprises would end up as capitalist firms ran by their corresponding administrative hierarchies. If that happens, it is certain that the official unions will end up “organizing” the workers in those medium size enterprises and, as in the case of Chinese state capitalism, do nothing to defend them from the new private owners.

Regarding political reform, there has been much less talk and nothing of great importance has been done. As in the case of the Russian NEP, the social and economic liberalization in Cuba has not been accompanied by political democratization but, instead, by the intensification of the regime’s political control over the island. Even when the government has adopted liberalizing measures in the economy, like the new rules increasing the number of work activities permitted in the self-employed sector, it continues to ban private activities such as the publication of books that could be used to develop criticism or opposition to the regime. This is how the government has consolidated its control over the major means of communication –radio, television, newspapers and magazines – although it has only partially accomplished that with the Internet.

The government is also using its own socially liberalizing measures to reinforce its political control. For example, at the same time that it liberalized the rules to travel abroad, it developed a list of “regulated” people who are forbidden to travel outside of the island based on arbitrary administrative decisions, without even allowing for the right of appeal to the judicial system it controls. Similar administrative practices lacking in means for judicial review control have been applied to other areas such as the missions organized to provide services abroad. Thus, the Cuban doctors who have decided not to return to the island once their service abroad has concluded, have been victims of administrative sanctions – eight years of compulsory exile – without any possibility of lodging a judicial appeal.

Still pending is the implementation of the arbitrary rules and the censorship of artistic activities of Decree 349, that allows the state to grant licenses and censor the activities of self-employed artists. The implementation of the decree has been postponed due to the numerous and strong protests that it provoked. All of these administrative practices highlight the fact that the much discussed rule of law proclaimed by the Constitution is but a lie. Let us not forget that the Soviet constitution that Stalin introduced in 1936 was very democratic … on the paper it was written. Even so, Cubans in the island should appeal to their constitutionally defined rights to support their protests and claims against the Cuban state whenever it is legally and politically opportune.

At the beginning of the Cuban revolutionary government there was a variety of political voices heard within the revolutionary camp. But that disappeared in the process of forming the united party of the revolution that established the basis for what Raúl Castro later called the “monolithic unity” of the party and country. That is the party and state model that emulates, along with China and Vietnam, the Stalinist system that was consolidated in the USSR at the end of the twenties, consecrating the “unanimity” dictated from above by the maximum leaders, and the so-called “democratic centralism”, which in reality is a bureaucratic centralism.

The Cuban Communist Party (CCP) is a single party that does not allow the internal organization of tendencies or factions, and that extends its control over the whole society through its transmission belts with the so-called mass organizations (trade unions, women’s organization), institutions such as the universities, as well as with the mass media that follow the “orientations” they receive from the Department of Ideology of the Central Committee of the CCP. These are the ways in which the one-party state controls, not necessarily everything, but everything it considers important.

The ideological defenders of the Cuban regime insist in its autochthonous origins independent from Soviet Communism. It is true that Fidel Castro’s political origin is different, for example, from that of Raúl Castro, who was originally a member of the Socialist Youth associated with the PSP (Partido Socialista Popular), the party of the pro-Moscow orthodox Communists. But  Fidel Castro developed his “caudillo” conceptions since very early on, perhaps as a reaction to the disorder and chaos he encountered in the Cayo Confites expedition in which he participated against the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic in 1947, and with the so-called Bogotazo in Colombia in 1948.

In 1954, in a letter he wrote to his then good friend Luis Conte Aguero, Fidel Castro proclaimed three principles as necessary for the integration of a true civic movement: ideology, discipline and especially the power of the leadership. He also insisted in the necessity for a powerful and implacable propaganda and organizational apparatus to destroy the people involved in the creation of tendencies, splits and cliques or who rise against the movement. This was the ideological basis of the “elective affinity” (to paraphrase Goethe) that Fidel Castro showed later on for Soviet Communism.

So, what can we do? The recent demonstration of hundreds of Cubans in front of the Ministry of Culture to protest the abuses against the members of the San Isidro Movement and to advocate for artistic and civil liberties, marked a milestone in the history of the Cuban Revolution. There is plenty of room to reproduce this type of peaceful protest in the streets against police racism, against the tolerance of domestic violence, against the growing social inequality and against the absence of a politically transparent democracy open to all, without the privileges sanctioned by the Constitution for the CCP. At present, this seems to be the road to struggle for the democratization of Cuba from below, from the inside of society itself, and not from above or from the outside.

The lesson of the Russian NEP is that economic liberalization does not necessarily signify the democratization of a country, and that it may be accompanied by the elimination of democracy. In Cuba there has been economic and social liberalization but without any advance on the democratic front.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

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

CUBAN ANTI-COMMUNIST ANTHEM FEATURING GENTE DE ZONA GOES VIRAL, SPARKS STATE FURY

Reuters, February 20, 2021.

By Sarah Marsh, Rodrigo Gutierrez

Original Article: Anthem Featuring “Gente de Zona” Sparks State Fury

HAVANA (Reuters) – A group of Miami-based Cuban musicians including reggaeton duo Gente de Zona launched an impassioned anti-Communist anthem this week that has gone viral, sparking a furious state response.

Gente de Zona, Yotuel of hip-hop band Orishas fame and singer-songwriter Descemer Bueno collaborated on the song with two rappers in Cuba, Maykel Osorbo and El Funky, who are part of a dissident artists’ collective that sparked an unusual protest against repression outside the culture ministry last November.

“Homeland and Life” repurposes the old slogan “Patria o Muerte” (“Homeland or Death”) emblazoned on walls across the Caribbean country ever since Fidel Castro’s 1959 leftist revolution and expresses frustration with being required to make sacrifices in the name of ideology for 62 years.

The lyrics refer to ideological intolerance, the partial dollarization of the economy, food shortages and the exodus of young Cubans who see no future on the island. The government blames its economic woes largely on crippling U.S. sanctions.

The video here featuring the five artists – all Black men – has racked up 1 million views on YouTube in three days, sparking lively discussions on social media, while many in Cuba – where internet service is costly – are sharing it on USB sticks.

“No more lies, my people calls for freedom, no more doctrines” sings Alexander Delgado, one half of GdZ, chanting “It’s over” in the refrain.

The Miami-based artists had until recently managed the tightrope of achieving capitalist success abroad without breaking with the Communist-run island. GdZ even called for applause for Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel at a Havana concert in 2018 although that sparked calls for a boycott from some in the exile community.

BACKLASH

Cuban state media and officials including the president have launched a barrage of attacks, Twitter hashtags and memes on “Homeland and Life,” branding it unpatriotic and without artistic merit. They say the artists behind it are opportunistically trying to placate their Miami public.

“It makes fun of one of the slogans held aloft by our people in the face of continuous U.S. aggressions,” said Havana-based TV anchor Froilan Arencibia.

Ana Dopico, the Cuban-born director of the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics at New York University, said the rejection of that revolutionary cry was unprecedented in recent Cuban popular music.

“It shocks us all out of the depressing menace of death that comes with our understanding of nation,” she said.

The song reflects a surge in overt anti-Cuban-government sentiment among more contemporary generations of Cuban migrants, said Michael Bustamante, an assistant professor of Latin American history at Florida International University.

But it has also resonated with people on the island, especially youths who have become increasingly vocal about their frustrations since the advent of mobile internet two years ago, with some emblazoning their Facebook Profile photos with the banner “Homeland and Life.”

“I follow Fidel’s ideals but lately things have been happening that I don’t really agree with,” said Havana resident Loraine Martinez, who enjoyed the song.

This is not the first time that the songs of Cuban musicians on the island and abroad have become stand-ins for political causes, said Bustamante. But the Cuban government’s response was unusually forceful, he said, reflecting its anxiety and what he called “misplaced priorities.”

“If they are worried about popular frustration, the way to fix that is to focus on bread-and-butter reforms, not this kind of reflexive ideological performativity,” he said.

Yotuel, Patria y Vida
Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

THE CRIMINALIZATION OF OPPOSITION POLITICS IN CUBA

Against the Soviet Model

Sam Farber

SPECTRE JOURNAL, January 13, 2021; Original Article

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading: The Criminalization of Opposition Politics in Cuba

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

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

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

The Economist, December 5, 2020

Original Article: The Art of Dissent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CUBAN GOVERNMENT CALLS OFF TALKS WITH ARTISTS

 Original Article, Havana Times, December 4, 2020

By Circles Robinson

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

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

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

The reasons for reneging on the agreements

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Havana Times. December 8, 2020

Original Article

Amaury Pacheco a founding member of the San Isidro Movement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seeking connectedness and new spaces

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

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

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

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

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

A wide variety of concerns and demands

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

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

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

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

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

What happened inside the Ministry

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

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

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

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

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

Letting them know we are not afraid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

San Isidro had ignited the flame that connected many people.

Practing what we want for the country

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

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

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

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

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

Filmmaker Fernando Perez was an important witness

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

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

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

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

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

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

The agreements made

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

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

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

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

Manipulation and back-tracking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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