Tag Archives: Protests

IT’S NOT JUST THE US EMBARGO

As much as the US embargo contributes to its problems, Cuba’s historic protests show that the government can’t ignore citizens’ legitimate demands

International Politics and Society, 23.08.2021 |

Carlos Alzugaray

Original Article: “Not Just the Us Embargo” 

After protests swept the whole country in July, the Cuban government has started taking measures to contain the fallout. While this response goes beyond the regime’s initial repression, it hasn’t yet entirely left that path. If the country’s leadership wants to survive this test, it has no choice but to respond to citizens’ legitimate demands.

Whether one may like it or not, the events of 11 July 2021 will have an effect on how Cubans themselves and their country. For most of the population, it was a sad day – and most people would rather not remember the sad days. But it cannot be ignored. At present, information about what actually happened is still patchy; it is difficult to navigate between fake news and the official versions of events.

What has been established is that, on Sunday 11July, there were widespread anti-government protests, some of which ended in violence – and this had never happened before in Cuba. As such, many observers and indeed the authorities themselves were surprised. The result was images of violence and a situation which had escalated out of control. Whatever the details, this is objectively damaging for the Cuban government: and even if, as looks unlikely, the situation settles back down, the reputational damage will last.

NOT A SURPRISE

Actually, the Cuban government shouldn’t have been surprised by the course of events – this being the same government that had for months been talking up the possibility of a ‘soft coup’ or a ‘colour revolution’ planned across the water by its arch-enemy, the US. Perhaps it was the surprise of something actually happening that led the government to clamp down so repressively, while pursuing the same endless propaganda communication strategy as ever despite its demonstrably diminishing returns.

It’s equally surprising that this unrest did not surface much earlier, considering the privations to which the Cuban population has long been subject and which have been further worsened by the pandemic.

Thanks to the social progress of the early years and Cuba’s international high profile, unrest in the country was staved off.

Now, the unrest is here – and its effect is palpable. Just three months after the Eighth Congress of the Communist Party and two years after establishing a new constitution, the new Cuban leadership finds itself in crisis. A crisis that, in many ways, evokes the situation in the socialist countries of eastern Europe just prior to their collapse.

CUBA’S EARLY ACHIEVEMENTS

There are, however, several differences. Cuba is a third-world country which, after years of neo-colonial suppression, liberated itself by means of a national revolution. As the result of an aggressive confrontation with Washington, this revolution became increasingly radical – and was initially successful, too, in its goal of halting the advance of US imperialism. The result was a socialist model that because of an alliance with the Soviet Union offered considerable advantages for at least the next three decades.

Thanks to the social progress of the early years and Cuba’s international high profile, unrest in the country was staved off. Essentially, the fact that the socialist regime not only survived a direct confrontation with the US but went on to become a unique actor on the world stage – not only during the Cold War, but beyond – conferred considerable credit on the government and allowed it freedom of manoeuvre in domestic issues.

These achievements and successes are without doubt the foundation of Cuban regime’s resilience and its people’s stoicism in the face of lasting and quite extraordinary difficulties. Yet while these difficulties certainly are caused by the US embargo, they are in no small part also the result of governmental inadequacy and poor policy. When it comes to the role of the country’s political opposition, the situation is similar. Certainly, some groups are being supported from the US with a view to subverting the Cuban regime.

THE DOMESTIC OPPOSITION

Yet during the unrest, the activists with US support were less visible than those of the country’s domestic Movimiento San Isidro and 27N groupings. Then again, there is no doubt about the fact that protests were encouraged on social media – to no small degree by political influencers who do not live in Cuba, but rather mainly in Miami, where militant anti-Castro activism remains an important local industry financed from a range of state and non-state sources. In Cuban national reality, social media has become a toxic element as millions of dollars are pumped into fake-news campaigns aiming to destabilise the regime.

Even if, however, the trigger came from outside, unrest would not have flared up if it had, inside Cuba, not found fertile ground prepared by numerous political mistakes on the part of the government. Here, a range of factors played a role: in the poorest urban areas, conditions had worsened considerably; overall, food supply had become increasingly erratic; and after a successful start in combating the pandemic, the situation in healthcare was becoming unstable.

The government reacted by proclaiming that ‘the embargo is the problem’ and talking down the protests as ‘interference from outside’ in an effort to cover up its own errors. What the regime has underestimated is the dissatisfaction that this mantra now provokes. Certainly, the sanctions upheld against Cuba by the US for almost 60 years now represent, to paraphrase US historian Peter Beinart, a kind of economic war against a country under siege. Beinart is right to criticise the embargo as a non-military act of war – and one which, given that the stated aim has always been regime change, has never had much prospect of success. And while Washington refutes Cuban accusations, it is a simple matter of fact that Joe Biden has maintained sanctions imposed by Donald Trump even as the pandemic has continued to rage.

Continuing to place all the blame on external factors without any real introspection in respect of home-grown issues would be a grave mistake.

Yes, for more than six months now, the Biden Administration has failed to make good on its manifesto promise and remains locked in the Trumpian version of Republican Party logic vis-à-vis Cuba policy – the illusion that ever more extreme sanctions will eventually succeed in dislodging the regime which came to power in 1959. So this much seems likely: sanctions against Cuba will remain in place for the next three years; Cubans will get even poorer; the Cuban government will continue to be bullied.

THE CUBAN GOVERNMENT NEEDS A RETHINK

In view of this, Havana is currently trying to contain the fallout. Yet the regime needs to examine the political and social situation – and grasp that only economic policy focusing on efficiency and activating domestic productive capacity can get the country out of the current crisis. Continuing to place all the blame on external factors without any real introspection in respect of home-grown issues would be a grave mistake. The reforms the government has promised, especially in respect of food distribution, need to be enacted – fast.

The issue of how to deal with the figureheads of the protests adds another layer of complexity to the situation. The government cannot allow the impression to develop that, either at home or abroad, it is cracking down hard on peaceful demonstrations. Yet currently, there are rumours about summary justice and questionable court proceedings leading to sentences of ten to twelve months for people who, in many cases, do not seem to have been involved in any acts of violence. This comes for Cubans who have only recently had the important experience of debating and then approving a new constitution in which the importance of fair trials is underscored. Now more than ever, citizens are demanding nothing more – and nothing less – than that the police act within the law.

The Cuban government, too, needs to rethink how it works. As its population is increasingly deaf to the argument that the embargo is the root of all evil, it needs to make a serious attempt to overcome two key political-ideological obstacles in its way. Firstly, there is the outdated approach to socialism as a system primarily steered from central planning bureaus; this dogmatic dirigisme reduces the role of the market in distributing resources to a minimum – with all the attendant problems. Secondly, the regime needs to distance itself from an idea of socialism as an authoritarian model that can ignore or even criminalise those whose criticism is intended to make the country’s economy more efficient and its society more democratic, to see its 2019 constitution enacted and establish the rule of law.

A WHOLE NEW MOMENT FOR CUBA

Yet the regime’s reaction to the events of 11 July as communicated official media channels showed no signs of overcoming this tendency. Those who took part in the protests have been discredited and decried as criminal elements – overlooking the specific and legitimate demands made by many in a peaceful manner. This may come back to haunt the regime.

These demonstrations represent a wholly new development for Cuba and make clear just what difficulties the country’s society is facing.

Furthermore, official announcements have sought to justify the use of repressive violence – a message with which many Cubans who, while not directly involved, have observed (and been shocked by) events, strongly disagree. Internationally, Cuba’s image has taken a hit. There is still no clarity about the number of demonstrations or how they played out, how many took part, and how many participants have been placed under arrest. Meanwhile, intellectuals and artists have publicly denounced the regime’s repressive course, with many demanding the release of all peaceful protestors – including such figures as songwriter Silvio Rodríguez, who enjoys a great deal of respect among many in government.

The lack of genuine information is leaving space for disinformation to circulate around both external actors and the country’s population – disinformation spread with the aim of undermining the government. At the same time, Cuban citizens have broadly accepted the precept that peaceful protests are legitimate and should be protected under law. This is a precept with which the government, however, in clear contravention of the principal of a socialist country under the rule of law, does not agree. This is not sending the right message – neither on a domestic nor international level.

These demonstrations represent a wholly new development for Cuba and make clear just what difficulties the country’s society is facing. These difficulties have been further aggravated by a US embargo which continues to impoverish the Cuban population and exert pressure on the country’s government. The current situation represents a stress-test for the Cuban regime, which would do well to remember that, when faced with similar situations, like-minded politicians had more success when they decided to pursue a path of generosity and listen to citizens’ legitimate concerns rather than leaving demands to fall on deaf ears.

The Spanish version of this article appeared in Nueva Sociedad.

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CUBA’S LEADER, FACING GROWING CRITICISM, DOUBLES DOWN ON ORDER TO CRACK DOWN ON PROTESTERS

By Nora Gámez Torres

Miami Herald, August 26, 2021 06:55 PM \


Original Article

President Miguel Diaz-Canel

With the world watching as Cubans protested on the streets all over the island on July 11, Cuban leader Miguel Díaz-Canel took what some experts believe was a decision that will come back to haunt him: He gave a “combat order” to fellow revolutionaries to squash those calling for freedom and the “end of the dictatorship.”

In the aftermath of images of police repression and pro-government mobs hitting protesters with clubs going viral, there has been a rare wave of criticism from government insiders, state journalists, and prominent figures in the arts, pointing to a crisis of governance in the communist island that no other leader has faced in six decades.

Diaz-Canel recently told journalists working for state-sanctioned outlets that he doesn’t regret the order to crack down on anti-government demonstrators. But the fact that he felt the need to gather the journalists at a meeting Saturday to justify his decision is the latest example of a damage-control campaign to restore his dwindling popularity and political standing.

“I made a call to the people that day because it seemed to me that it was the right thing to do and that I do not regret or will not regret,” he said in a video of the meeting that was later edited and televised this week. “We had to defend against demonstrations that were not peaceful at all. And that is a false story that they have also put out there.”

But even in the controlled setting of the Palace of the Revolution, and among some of his more staunch defenders, he could not avoid criticism.

A young journalist who works on Editorial de la Mujer, or Women’s Publishing, stood up and told him that political troubles call for “political solutions… not only, or not police actions.”

“President, you acknowledged that apologies should be given wherever an excess was committed,” said Lirians Gordillo. “We also need to tell those stories because nothing can harm this country more than an injustice or an excess that is not recognized out loud.”

A day after his controversial statement on July 11, Diaz-Canel appeared on television to walk back his words and strike a more conciliatory tone. But a month later, his “combat order” and the violent repression that followed, including hundreds of documented detentions and summary trials, are still causing him trouble.

Sweating despite the air conditioning at the Palace of the Revolution and stumbling over his words a couple of times, the leader acknowledged Saturday that there might have been “some excesses.” He said those cases would be investigated but denied that there are protesters who are “disappeared or have been tortured.”

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Cubalex, all human-rights organizations tracking the arrests, have documented cases of mistreatment and protesters whose whereabouts are still unknown.

“Díaz-Canel has lost all credibility,” said a source close to the Cuban government who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation. “That day he appeared on TV and said what he said, all hopes among the younger generations that he would be a reformer were destroyed in 20 minutes. And from then on, he has continued to screw up.”

Shortly after images of the violence spread on social media, prominent Cuban musicians and other members of the island’s artistic community, including Leo Brouwer, Adalberto Alvarez, Elito Reve and members of the legendary band Los Van Van, posted candid criticism on social media.

Brouwer said he never imagined that security forces would attack peaceful Cubans.

“Impossible to be silent,” said Alvarez. “The beatings and the images I see of the violence against a people that took to the streets to peacefully express what they feel hurt me.”

“The streets in Cuba belong to the Cubans. I can not do less than be by your side in difficult times,” he wrote on Facebook.

In a stunning rebuke of Díaz-Canel’s response to the crisis, a former Cuban ambassador who frequently defends the government’s views on foreign media said Cuban authorities could not ignore its citizens’ legitimate demands.

Carlos Alzugaray, a former ambassador to the European Union, wrote an opinion column criticizing the government’s “clampdown” on protesters “so repressively, while pursuing the same endless propaganda communication strategy as ever despite its demonstrably diminishing returns.”

While he repeated the government line that the U.S. embargo is the source of Cuba’s economic troubles, he added they were “in no small part also the result of governmental inadequacy and poor policy.” And, he added, the Cuban government was “proclaiming that ‘the embargo is the problem’ and talking down the protests as ‘interference from outside’ in an effort to cover up its own errors.”

The message, however, does not appear to be getting through at the top levels of the Cuban government.

Last week, the government published a draconian law to criminalize expressing dissenting opinions on the internet. Diaz-Canel seems to be on a personal crusade against social media, which he called a “colonial tool” that promotes hate.

The Cuban leader has not been treated kindly by his fellow Cubans on social media, where he is constantly derided, when not made the butt of jokes and memes. A vulgar insult repeated by thousands of people during the demonstrations has now become attached to his name on Google search.

After Raúl Castro picked him to succeed him in 2018, Diaz-Canel has faced one crisis after another. Widespread shortages and blackouts, and controversial decisions like selling food in U.S. dollars that the population does not earn, have made him an unpopular figure and the target of the demonstrators’ anger.

From the beginning, his position has been tenuous. As a non-Castro, he doesn’t have the credibility of the so called históricos, those who fought for the revolution in the 1950s in the Sierra Maestra mountains. But he still needs to cater to Communist Party hardliners. And he is expected to carry out long-delayed reforms like the currency unification that has angered ordinary Cubans even more.

“He might as well become a one-term president, since he was left all the ugly stuff to make the country survivable” in financial terms, said John Kavulich, the president of the US-Cuba Trade and Economic Council.

Still, Diaz-Canel was named the Party’s First Secretary in April this year, after Raul Castro’s official retirement, a powerful position he could have used to stop the repression of protesters “if he had the will,” the source close to the island’s government said.

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PROTESTS IN CUBA: THE BEGINNING OF A NEW REVOLUTION?

Interview with Silvia Pedraza

University of Michigan, Michigan Today

July 20, 2021.

Original Article: Protests in Cuba

Faculty Q&A

The protests calling for “Fatherland and Life” in Cuba have been met with military tanks and censorship by the Cuban government. U-M sociologist Silvia Pedraza says the protests are the result of a perfect storm that includes the coronavirus pandemic, the lack of a charismatic leader, the deep financial crisis unleashed by changes in the currency, and greater access to the internet in recent years.

Originally from Cuba, Pedraza seeks to understand the causes and consequences of immigration as a historical process that forms and transforms nations. A professor of sociology and American culture, she is the author of several books, including Political Disaffection in Cuba’s Revolution and Exodus (Cambridge University Press, 2007) and co-author of the forthcoming Revolutions in Cuba and Venezuela: One Hope, Two Realities (University of Florida Press, under contract).

Dr. Silvia Pedraza

What is “Patria y Vida” and why is it relevant to the protests?

Current protests in Cuba are calling for “Patria y Vida” (Fatherland and Life), the title of a recent rap song by young, Afro-Cuban dissident artists, that has become the banner of the protest movement. The song was created by rappers both on the island and in Miami — Luis Manuel Otero-Alcántara, Maykel Osorbo and Yotuel, among others. It takes off from Fidel Castro’s motto of “Patria o Muerte” (Fatherland or Death), insisting that the Cuban government should provide its citizens with a decent life and liberty, as has been denied for over 60 years. This song is a continuation of the San Isidro movement that erupted last Nov. 27, 2020, when hundreds of artists and other mostly young people sat in front of the Ministry of Culture for days, demanding a real dialogue with the Cuban government and real participation in the country’s political life. President Miguel Díaz-Canel denied them both, calling the dissenters “mercenaries” and blaming the protests on the U.S. embargo. Now the protests of thousands of people in many cities across the full length of the island are being met with military tanks and repression as the government insists “the revolution” must be preserved.

What has led to the current protests in Cuba?

We are seeing a number of completely different factors that have come together, creating a perfect storm. One of these factors is certainly the continuation of the U.S. embargo, but that is an old ingredient Cubans have adjusted to, so it can’t be said to be the cause of what is happening right now.

In January 2021, Cuba underwent a drastic reform of its financial life as it did away with the old currency it imposed many years ago, the CUC, and returned to the old Cuban peso overnight. The result was a spiraling inflation of prices that left Cubans unable to buy food or medicine, when they were hungry and ill. In the last decade, the Cuban economy has declined steeply, contracting by -11% GDP growth last year. At present, Cuba imports food and exports little. The pillars of Cuba’s economy are international tourism, Venezuela’s oil, and remittances from the émigrés. Recently, all three have declined to the point where they no longer hold up the island’s economy.

Before, events where the people rebelled against the government happened in different parts of Havana, for example, but nobody else knew what had happened so it never triggered a collective response. Now, we see that knowledge of what others are doing is widely shared and it has triggered a collective response. As a result, the Cuban government cut off the internet for some days.

The new ability that Cubans found in the last three years or so to get onto the internet, to see how the rest of the world lives, and to communicate among themselves with ease (none of which was ever possible before), is quite an important ingredient. Before, events where the people rebelled against the government happened in different parts of Havana, for example, but nobody else knew what had happened so it never triggered a collective response. Now, we see that knowledge of what others are doing is widely shared and it has triggered a collective response. As a result, the Cuban government cut off the internet for some days.

Former President Trump also left in place some sanctions that have made a difference. For example, Trump did away with Western Union offices in Cuba. Now Cubans who live in poverty inside the island can no longer rely on the help from their family in Miami, throughout the United States, in Latin America, and Spain. Until just a few months ago, the family overseas sent money, clothing, medicines, and food. Now, Cubans whose lives are very precarious cannot rely on their family abroad to buoy them up.

The pandemic also has made a difference. The impact the coronavirus has had on society has been profound — not only in Cuba but also in the United States, India, and Brazil. Not only has it killed many people, but people can see the government’s lack of capacity to deal with a very serious problem. The problem has not gotten better but has gotten much worse to the detriment of everybody in the population. Thus, no one believes that the government can be counted on to really help them.

The Cuban people are tired of communism — so many beautiful promises, so little delivered. I honestly believe that we are possibly seeing the beginning of a revolution in Cuba, another revolution after 62 years.So all of these things have come together and there is a perfect storm going on in Cuba. It could end in a massive exodus, but I am not expecting it to. People are not saying, “I want to leave this country and get out of here and make a new life somewhere else.” What they are saying is,  “We want a different government. We want real democracy in this country. This is our nation. This is our fatherland. This is our motherland. Look at the signs people are holding up, saying: ‘Patria y Vida.’ Listen to what they are shouting: ‘Libertad (Freedom).’”

This could be the beginning of another Cuban revolution because it is not just about economics or just about the exodus. Now, it is about the political structure of the country. The problem is the government, which is not responsible to its citizens. The Cuban people are tired of communism — so many beautiful promises, so little delivered. I honestly believe that we are possibly seeing the beginning of a revolution in Cuba, another revolution after 62 years.

What other factors have influenced this wave of protests that we have seen in Cuba?

When the communist world collapsed in the early 1990s and something similar happened, when the economy contracted by -35% of GDP in three years and Cubans experienced great hunger, Fidel Castro, with his great skill and charisma and “lip service,” as they say in Cuba, called it “a special period” during a time of peace. People don’t want to experience this twice.

Donald Trump did away with Western Union offices in Cuba. Now Cubans who live in poverty inside the island can no longer rely on the help from their family in Miami, throughout the United States, in Latin America, and Spain. Until just a few months ago, the family overseas sent money, clothing, medicines, and food. Now, Cubans whose lives are very precarious cannot rely on their family abroad to buoy them up. Second, Fidel Castro, with his charisma and oratory skills, is not there. Raúl Castro is already very old and never had that charisma, though he did usher in some good reforms for the people. And Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel is not a leader who has reached the minds or hearts of the people, and I do not think he has much administrative capacity either because it is already seen that his response to the protests has been repression.

Social scientists often wish they could separate the impact of one variable from another in predicting a particular outcome, so we could say that this was due to the currency exchange or to Trump’s sanctions or to the coronavirus or to the dwindling help from Venezuela. But the reality is that it is due to all of this having come together, in a historically contingent manner.

What has been the contribution of the U.S. embargo to the crisis?

The embargo has been eased since 2000, when Congress voted to do so, given the tragedy of family separation that took place around the small boy, Elián González, the youngest balserito (rafter) to be rescued at sea. Since then, the U.S. is a major trading partner for Cuba. The United States sells cereals and grains to Cuba, from the Western states. It sells chickens from the Carolinas and turkeys from Michigan and some medicines.

Trump imposed very strong sanctions against Cuba. President Biden could have easily removed them, but he hasn’t. New Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that neither Cuba nor Venezuela was a priority for the administration. It is up to Congress to ease the embargo further, and I think they should, as it has not been able to topple the Cuban revolution but has, rather, been counterproductive. One can see Cuba’s president now blaming all that is happening on the embargo — as they have consistently done. That is what counterproductive means. The Cuban government is going to try to blame everything on the United States embargo, but it is no worse now than before. More serious is that Donald Trump destroyed the ability of the Cuban exile to help their family on the island, to keep them afloat.

Trump imposed very strong sanctions against Cuba. President Biden could have easily removed them, but he hasn’t. New Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that neither Cuba nor Venezuela was a priority for the administration. So if anything will result from these protests, it is that they may well make Cuba, and perhaps Venezuela, a priority for Biden. I hope so.

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

Samuel Farber July 27, 2021

Original Article

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But Why Now?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Health Situation in Cuba 

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

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

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

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

The Political Context 

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

The One-Party State

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

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

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

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

Where is Cuba Going?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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PROTESTAS EN CUBA, CAUSAS Y CONSECUENCIAS PARA UN DEBATE DESDE AMÉRICA LATINA

THE CLINIC, 21 de Julio, 2021

Original Article

Por Arturo López-Levy

*Arturo López-Levy es doctor en estudios internacionales por la Universidad de Denver, y master en relaciones internacionales y economía por las universidades de Columbia (NYC) y Carleton (Ottawa). Se especializa en Cuba, Latinoamérica y política estadounidense.

Para explicar las protestas en Cuba del domingo 11 de julio empecemos por lo que es conocido: la economía y la pandemia. Los manifestantes cubanos no son distintos de los de otros países latinoamericanos. Están asustado y hambrientos por la subida de los precios y carencias de alimentos. Están ansiosos y angustiados por la incertidumbre sobre cuándo terminará la pandemia. Lo sorprendente es que no se haya roto el cántaro después de tantos meses llevándolo a la fuente.

Las raíces

La isla ya venía renqueando por décadas con una crisis estructural del modelo estatista, remendado de vez en vez con algunas aperturas al mercado que en ausencia de una transición integral a una economía mixta orientada al mercado solo producían reanimaciones parciales. Esos cambios segmentados creaban islotes de mercado que demandaban más reformas que el gobierno cubano trataba con la lentitud del que tiene todo el tiempo del mundo. La reunificación monetaria y cambiaria, proclamada como necesaria desde finales de los años noventa, no ocurrió hasta 2020, en el peor momento, en medio de la pandemia.

Por otra parte, la pandemia no solo ha sembrado muertes, y destrucción económica, sino también el miedo y la incertidumbre en una población desesperada que no ve cuando la angustia de vivir en el límite termina. A pesar del conocimiento sobre su deterioro, la población cubana actuó confiada en la capacidad de su sistema de salud en tanto este contuvo el avance del virus y avanzaba en la experimentación para vacunas propias. El hechizo, sin embargo, se deshizo cuando en el último mes se dispararon los casos.

A pesar de un sistema de salud de cobertura universal y su relativo desempeño positivo, información a la población y liderazgo apegado a criterios científicos, la pandemia terminó por exponer con crudeza el mayor problema para el sector de bienestar social cubano: sin una economía que lo respalde ese sistema de salud estará siempre a merced de una crisis que agote sus recursos. Cuba es el único país latinoamericano capaz de producir dos vacunas propias. A la vez su campaña de vacunación ha tenido notables retrasos para implementarse por falta de fondos para comprar sus componentes y otros elementos relacionados. Paradójico.

Las protestas del domingo indican un hartazgo en el que concurre mucha insatisfacción con la arrogancia y gestión gubernamental. Pero ingenuo sería ignorar que el contexto de las sanciones ilegales, inmorales y contraproducentes de Washington contra Cuba han hecho el problema difícil de la pandemia, casi intratable. El lema de “la libertad” suena muy rítmico pero detrás de los que rompen vidrieras, vuelcan perseguidoras, y la emprenden a pedradas contra las autoridades hay mucho del “hambre, desesperación y desempleo” que pedía Lester D Mallory para poner a los cubanos de rodillas.

La pandemia y su impacto económico son los factores que determinan la coyuntura. Son la última gota. Pero en la raíz de las causas que originan la protesta hay factores estructurales que llenaron la copa para que se derramara. Entre esos factores, dos son fundamentales. Primero, el desajuste de una economía de comando nunca transformada a un nuevo paradigma de economía mixta de mercado, atrapada en un nefasto equilibrio de reforma parcial; y segundo, un sistema de sanciones por parte de Estados Unidos que representa un asedio de guerra económica, imposible de limitar al concepto de un mero embargo comercial.

América Latina ante Cuba

Ninguna región del mundo ha sido golpeada por la epidemia de covid-19 como América Latina. Lo sucedido en Cuba tiene características propias pero ya no se trata de la excepción que fue. En términos económicos, quitando el factor estructural del bloqueo norteamericano por sesenta años, Cuba se parece cada vez más a un típico país caribeño y centroamericano con una dependencia notable del turismo y las remesas. En términos de desgaste, la protesta indica a la élite cubana que, pasada la fase carismática de los líderes fundadores, en especial Fidel Castro, la revolución es en lo esencial, una referencia histórica.

El espíritu de la revolución sigue presente en tanto el actual régimen político atribuye su origen al triunfo de 1959, y Cuba sigue siendo objeto de una política imperial norteamericana de cambio de régimen impuesto desde fuera. Fuera de esos dos espacios específicos, particularmente el segundo, todo el manto de excepcionalidad y las justificaciones para evadir los estándares democráticos y de derechos humanos se han agotado. El gobierno de Cuba está abocado, a riesgo incluso de provocar su colapso histórico, a emprender reformas sistémicas de su paradigma.

Se trata de construir un modelo de economía mixta viable en el cual se mantengan las conquistas de bienestar social con un estado regulador, redistribuidor y empresario. En lo político, eso implica un aterrizaje suave y escalonado en un modelo político mas pluralista donde al menos diferentes fuerzas que rechacen la política intervencionista estadounidense puedan dialogar y competir. Una cosa es rechazar que Estados Unidos tenga derecho a imponer a sus cubanos favoritos, otra es asumir ese rechazo como un respaldo a que el PCC nombre a los suyos con el dedo.

Es desde esa realidad, no desde simplismos unilaterales que niegan la agencia del pueblo cubano o el fardo estructural del bloqueo norteamericano que una política latinoamericana progresista puede y debe estructurarse. Las élites cubanas han estado trabajando desde un tiempo atrás (el VI congreso del PCC en 2011) en un modelo de transición más cercano a las experiencias china y vietnamita, de economía de mercado con partido único, que a cualquier precedente occidental. Tal paradigma en lo político rivaliza con los estándares de legitimidad política en la región latinoamericana, donde el derecho a la libre asociación, la expresión y la protesta pacífica van mucho más allá que una simple democracia intrapartidaria leninista.

De igual modo, el paradigma de democracia pluralista hace aguas cuando se pretende defender los derechos humanos desde dobles estándares o la ingenua ignorancia del rol de los factores internacionales y las asimetrías de poder.  Discutir sobre la democracia en Cuba sin mencionar la intromisión indebida de Estados Unidos en maridaje con la derecha anticomunista y la violación flagrante, sistemática y masiva de derechos humanos, que es el bloqueo, equivale a conversar sobre Hamlet sin mencionar al príncipe de Dinamarca. En Miami, los sectores de derecha pro-bloqueo defienden los derechos humanos martes y jueves, mientras el resto de la semana crean un ambiente descrito por Human Rights Watch en el informe “Dangerous Dialogue” como “desfavorable a la libertad de expresión”.  En terminos de transicion a un sistema politico cubano mas abierto, con actores de tan malas credenciales, es imprescindible un proceso pacifico, gradual y ordenado. Esos adjetivos son tan importantes como el proceso mismo.

No solo la izquierda radical, sino importantes componentes moderados de la diáspora cubana y alternativas democráticas dentro de la intelectualidad y la sociedad civil cubana han expresado decepción por segmentos de la comunidad de derechos humanos, como Amnistía Internacional, por su falta de trabajo sistemático en la denuncia del bloqueo norteamericano contra Cuba. Si un opositor de derecha, conectado a la política imperial de cambio de régimen, es detenido en Cuba, la directora Erika Guevara Rosas otorga un seguimiento permanente a su caso. Sus denuncias a la política imperial de bloqueo no lo catalogan como violación sistemática de derechos. Ocurren de vez en vez, y enfatizando que es una excusa del gobierno cubano que debe ser eliminada. ¿Por qué no protestaba cada vez que Trump implementó una nueva sanción que afectaba el derecho de salud, el de educación, y otros más, incluidos los de viaje, de cubanos y estadounidenses?

Las protestas contra el gobierno que salió de la revolución  representan un reto para la discusión del tema Cuba en América Latina que solo podrá madurar desde el entendimiento de su complejidad, sin simplismos ni falsas analogías. En primer lugar, Cuba vive un conflicto de soberanía con Estados Unidos, que marca estructuralmente su vida política y económica. Nadie que quiera contribuir a una solución constructiva de los temas cubanos, latinoamericana para problemas latinoamericanos, puede ignorar ese fardo. La OEA, por ejemplo, es un escenario minado a evitar pues ha sido un instrumento de la política de acoso y aislamiento. Se necesita una visión del siglo XXI, desde la autonomía latinoamericana ante los grandes poderes, incluyendo Estados Unidos, que admita la pluralidad de modelos de estado y desarrollo, sin imponer moldes neoliberales.       

No solo la izquierda radical, sino importantes componentes moderados de la diáspora cubana y alternativas democráticas dentro de la intelectualidad y la sociedad civil cubana han expresado decepción por segmentos de la comunidad de derechos humanos, como Amnistía Internacional, por su falta de trabajo sistemático en la denuncia del bloqueo norteamericano contra Cuba.

En lugar de reeditar los conflictos de guerra fría, esa visión de pluralismo ideológico pondría en el centro de la acción una perspectiva respetuosa de la soberanía cubana, pero concebida de un modo moderno, más allá de la mera defensa de la no intervención. Cuba vive en una región donde la protesta de todos los estados no ha sido capaz de hacer a Estados Unidos entrar en razones sobre la ilegalidad del asedio contra la isla. Exigir una elección pluripartidista en Cuba ignorando las sanciones equivalentes a una guerra económica, donde se violan consideraciones de derecho humanitario, es otorgar a la derecha cubana una ventaja que nunca ha merecido. Como los Borbones franceses, los que se plegaron a la invasión de Bahía de Cochinos, asesinaron a Orlando Letelier, y han construido un enclave autoritario en las narices de la primera enmienda de la constitución norteamericana, no olvidan ni aprenden nada.

A su vez, América Latina es una región que ha cambiado, donde traficar con excepciones al modelo de la Declaración Universal de Derechos Humanos es inaceptable.  Claro que hay pluralidad de implementación y argumentos de emergencia sobre las que los estados erigen desviaciones más o menos justificadas. Pero el paradigma de un sistema unipartidista leninista que castigue la protesta pacífica por rivalizar con el supuesto rol dirigente del partido comunista es incompatible con la premisa central de que la soberanía está en el pueblo, la nación, no en partido alguno. Una cosa es argumentar que, en condiciones específicas de emergencia, decretadas acorde al modelo de la Declaración Universal, algunos derechos pueden postergarse. Otra, e inaceptable, es el  pretexto de una “democracia” unipartidista que no puede ser tal sin libertad de asociación. Partido, recordemos, viene de parte.

Arturo López-Levy

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TRUDEAU’S CUBA CONTORTIONS PAINFUL TO WATCH

Yvon GrenierJJuly 19, 2021

“While the nationwide popular protests of July 11-12 in Cuba prompted governments around the world to take clear stands on this unprecedented event, the Trudeau government was hesitant,” writes Yvon Grenier. – Reuters

Original Article: Trudeau’s Cuba Contortions

YVON GRENIER • Guest Opinion

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

That was an interesting week in Canada-Cuba relations! While the nationwide popular protests of July 11-12 in Cuba prompted governments around the world to take clear stands on this unprecedented event, Ottawa was clumsy and hesitant.

As of July 19, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had made two short comments, and only when pressed by journalists to speak about Havana’s repression of those protests.

On July 13, Trudeau gave a dry run to a neutral statement: “Canada has always stood in friendship with the Cuban people,” and added: “We have always called for greater freedoms and more defence of human rights in Cuba. We will continue to be there to support Cubans in their desire for greater peace, greater stability and greater voice in how things are going.” 

Couldn’t that comment be applied to almost any country — even democratic and stable ones?

This hesitancy to point the finger at the Cuban regime was not a surprise from this prime minister. He got into trouble for his strange tribute to Fidel Castro in 2016, saying, for instance, that Castro’s “supporters and detractors recognized his tremendous dedication and love for the Cuban people.” No, his detractors will never recognize that. 

That was only days after a gushing speech he delivered at the University of Havana, in which he said, astonishingly, that amicable relations with communist Cuba was “one of the ways we reassure ourselves that we are our own country.” Canada’s national identity must be pathetically weak indeed.

Back to the present. On July 15, as the Cuban dictatorship’s repression could not be denied, came Trudeau’s second statement — again prompted by a pesky journalist (Got to love them!): “We’re deeply concerned by the violent crackdown on protests by the Cuban regime. We condemn the arrests and repression by authorities of peaceful demonstration.” 

He added: “We stand, as we always will, with the people of Cuba who want and deserve democracy, freedom and respect.”

He did not shift the blame to the U.S. embargo, as the NDP and other voices from the left did, in chorus with countries like Iran and Russia. (The NDP statement also mentions the party’s “support for the fundamental rights of freedom of expression and assembly.”)

Meanwhile, Global Affairs Canada went on automatic pilot. On July 13, according to the CBC, a spokesperson described how they were “closely monitoring the situation in Cuba,” and dusted off some boilerplate statements on how “all parties” should “exercise restraint” and “engage in peaceful and inclusive dialogue.” 

Those normally apply to violent conflicts with two or more armed groups, not to a violent government crackdown of peaceful protests. Global Affairs reiterated that “Canada supports the right of freedom of expression and assembly.” But again, absurdly, it called “on all parties to uphold this fundamental right.” 

During that week, Global Affairs made public statements on Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau’s meetings with both the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, both of whom had already made clear and forceful statements on the situation in Cuba. Global Affairs mentions discussions on many countries: Haiti, Afghanistan, Belarus, Venezuela, Nicaragua, others. But not Cuba, even though it was most probably discussed.

In 2016, when a Canadian journalist asked Trudeau point-blank if the regime built by Fidel Castro was a dictatorship, he responded (after a pregnant pause) “yes.” A hint of reason over passion; or at least, over a very Canadian naiveté, afforded by decades of unthinking “engagement” with a repressive regime. Recent developments forced the Trudeau government to turn off the automatic pilot and really think about how Cubans are ruled.

 In all likelihood, Canada will “continue to be there to support Cubans” if and when they undertake a transition to democracy. There might be some muddling through getting to that point, but the arc of Trudeau’s aggiornamento on Cuba now seems to point in the direction of reason governing a more mature policy toward this beautiful country moving forward. It just took a crisis to get out of the comfort zone.

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THE MASK SLIPS: THE CAUSES OF CUBA’S UPRISING LIE AT HOME

Joe Biden should scrap Donald Trump’s policies and lift the embargo

The Economist, July 15th 2021

Original Article: THE CAUSES OF CUBA’S UPRISING

Thousands of protesters thronged the streets on July 11th. Some stoned the police and looted posh shops. Such outbursts are unprecedented in Cuba since the communists secured their hold on power in the 1960s. “Freedom!” and “Down with the dictatorship!” they chanted, and “Patria y Vida!” (Fatherland and Life), quoting an underground reggaeton song that mocks Fidel Castro’s tired slogan of “Fatherland or Death”.

All this poses an extraordinary challenge to the dull bureaucrats who rule Cuba, after the death of Fidel and the retirement of his younger brother, Raúl, earlier this year. The regime has responded with repression. “Revolutionaries, to the streets,” urged Miguel Díaz-Canel, the president who this year took the helm of the Communist Party, unleashing troops, police and loyalist mobs wielding baseball bats. At least one person was killed. Scores have been detained and the government has sporadically cut access to the internet.

Repression may work in Cuba, as it has elsewhere. But something there has snapped. The tacit contract that kept social peace for six decades is broken. Many Cubans used to put up with a police state because it guaranteed their basic needs, and those with initiative found a way to leave. Now Cubans are fed up. When Mr Díaz-Canel blames the protests on “American imperialism”, all he shows is how out of touch he is. The protesters are young, mainly black and dismiss the Castros’ revolution of 1959 against an American-backed tyrant as ancient history.

They have plenty to complain about. The pandemic has shut off foreign tourism, aggravating the economy’s lack of hard currency. Raúl Castro launched economic reforms, but they were timid and slow, permitting only minuscule private businesses. It was left to Mr Díaz-Canel to take the most momentous step, by ordering a big devaluation in January. Without measures to allow more private investment and growth, that has merely triggered inflation. As its sanctions-hit oil industry collapses, Venezuela, Cuba’s chief foreign patron over the past 15 years, has curbed its cut-price oil shipments, prompting power cuts during the heat of summer. Chronic shortages of food and medicine have become acute. Despite Cuba’s prowess at public health and its development of its own vaccine, the government has failed to contain the pandemic. The sick are dying, abandoned at home or on hospital floors.

Two other factors explain the outburst. One is the change of leadership. The Castros commanded respect even among the many Cubans who abhorred them. Mr Díaz-Canel, without a shred of charisma, does not. And the internet and social media, allowed only in the past few years, have broken the regime’s monopoly of information, connecting younger Cubans to each other and the world. They have empowered a cultural protest movement of artists and musicians. Its message, in the unanswerable lyrics of “Patria y Vida”, is “Your time’s up, the silence is broken…we’re not scared, the deception is over.”

Mr Díaz-Canel faces a choice: to turn Cuba into Belarus with sunshine, or to assuage discontent by allowing more private enterprise and greater cultural freedom. That could weaken the army and the Communist Party, but it would eventually salvage some of the revolution’s original social gains.

Curiously, many Republicans in the United States echo Mr Díaz-Canel’s description of America’s role in the protests. President Donald Trump tightened the economic embargo against Cuba, barring American tourists, curbing remittances and slapping sanctions on state firms, largely reversing Barack Obama’s opening to the island. Like Cuba’s president, Republicans argue that the unrest proves the embargo is working at last.

Not so. True, the embargo has made life harder for the Cuban government. But its restrictions mainly hurt Americans. The regime can still buy American food and medicine and trade with the world. The causes of Cuba’s social explosion lie at home.

Open the windows

Joe Biden should draw the obvious conclusion. So far he has left Mr Trump’s Cuba policy intact, so as not to annoy hawkish Cuban-Americans. Instead he should return to Mr Obama’s approach. The big threat to a closed regime is engagement with the world, especially the United States. Mr Biden should lift the embargo and deprive the regime of an excuse for its own failures. 

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LAS RAZONES DEL 11-J Y LAS OPCIONES POSIBLES.

julio 17, 2021

Autor: Mauricio de Miranda

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

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

Las razones económicas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Los errores más recientes de política económica.

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

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

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

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

Los problemas sociales.

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

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

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

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

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

Los problemas políticos.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Las opciones.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

mauriciodemiranda

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

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