• The objective of this Blog is to facilitate access to research resources and analyses from all relevant and useful sources, mainly on the economy of Cuba. It includes analyses and observations of the author, Arch Ritter, as well as hyper-links, abstracts, summaries, and commentaries relating to other research works from academic, governmental, media, non-governmental organizations and international institutions.
    Commentary, critique and discussion on any of the postings is most welcome.
    This Blog on The Cuban Economy is dedicated to Cuba's Generation "A". Although inspired by Yoani Sánchez' original blog "Generation Y" this is not dedicated to those with names starting with the letter "A". Instead, it draws from Douglas Coupland's novel Generation A which begins with a quotation from Kurt Vonnegut at a University Commencement:
    "... I hereby declare you Generation A, as much as the beginning of a series of astounding triumphs and failures as Adam and Eve were so long ago."

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

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

The Economist, December 5, 2020

Original Article: The Art of Dissent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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DAY ZERO FOR CURRENCY REFORM SET AMID WEEKS OF UNREST

CUBA TO BEGIN LONG-DELAYED MONETARY OVERHAUL ON NEW YEAR’S DAY

Ricardo Herrero

Cuban Study Group, 14 December 2020

“Cuba said late on Thursday it would start its long-awaited monetary reform in January, eliminating its dual currency and labyrinthine multiple exchange rate system in a bid to improve business conditions in the crisis-stricken economy. In a televised address to the nation, President Miguel Diaz-Canel said the Cuban peso would be fixed at a single exchange rate of 24 per dollar [24 CUP : 1 USD].” (Reuters, December 10, 2020)

For more than three decades, two currencies have circulated in Cuba’s state-run economy: the peso (CUP) and the convertible peso (CUC), pegged to the dollar. These have been exchanged at various rates: 1 to 1 for state-owned businesses, 24 pesos for 1 CUC for the public and others for joint ventures, wages in island’s special development zone and transactions between farmers and hotels.” (Reuters, December 10, 2020)

“The government has said some companies will be given a year to get their books in order before ending subsidies, and it will continue to provide universal and free healthcare and education, some subsidized food and other social gratuities. Cuban economists estimate around 40% of state companies operate at a loss and though some will benefit from the monetary reform, such as those tied to the export sector, others will fail. Some Cubans complain that multiple currencies will still be in use on the island given the government has been opening stores over the past year that sell consumer goods for dollars and other internationally traded currencies, though only with a bank card. The government says this is a temporary measure needed to earn tradable currency to purchase more consumer goods amid dire scarcity as it is all but bankrupt.” (Reuters, December 10, 2020)

Government raises minimum wage to 2,100 pesos and sets pensions cap at 1,528 pesos. “Cuba published the new scale for wages, pensions and social assistance benefits, as part of the monetary ordering process announced last night and which will be in force as of next January 1, determining the economic future of the island. As of that date, the minimum wage rises to 2,100 pesos per month, by public provision since yesterday in the Gaceta Oficial Extraordinaria No. 69. The wage scale is divided into 32 complexity groups, determined by the number of hours worked and the category of who performs them…The wage scales start at 1,910 and 2,100 pesos, for those who work 40 and 44 hours a week, respectively, and rise to 9,510 pesos for those who add 44 hours a week.” (OnCuba News, December 11, 2020)

 

ECONOMISTS EXPECT SURGING INFLATION; WORRY ARTIFICIAL EXCHANGE RATE WILL DRIVE BLACK MARKET FOR FOREIGN CURRENCY

 

“Economists say the reform spells short-term pain for Cubans but is important in the long-term as varying exchange rates have effectively subsidized some sectors and distorted the way economy works. [They] expect triple-digit inflation, and government announcements in recent months suggest it does too. It has said the [new single exchange rate] will be accompanied by a five-fold increase in average state wages and pensions even as many state-controlled prices are increased or allowed to respond to demand. But the wage increase does not apply to around two million of the seven million-plus labor force in the private sector, informal sector or who simply do not work. (Reuters, December 10, 2020)

Carmelo Mesa Largo: “The immediate impact will be that inflation will be unleashed and the purchasing power of the population will drop in parallel.” Mesa Lago says that an exchange rate set at 24 pesos per dollar implies a 2,400% devaluation [for state-run businesses]…’it would be extremely difficult for the government to increase salaries by 2,400 percent in 2021 if the exchange rate is set at 24 pesos per dollar. The government will raise salaries, but by much less than that, like it did between 1989 and 2019, the salaries as well as the pensions will cover even less of the basic necessities,’ he added.” (Miami Herald, December 1, 2020)

“Mesa-Lago said he believes the official figures underestimate the real level of inflation, reflected in the increasingly longer lines of people waiting to buy basic products, the empty shelves and the rising prices. ‘The prices in the open market, where the law of offer and demand rules, have soared in recent months. For example, a carton of 30 eggs cannot be found in state stores” except once per month with a ration card, Mesa-Lago said. ‘In the free market, you could find it years ago for 87 pesos. Now they cost 175 pesos. That means the price has doubled, and that’s happened with other food prices” (Miami Herald, December 1, 2020)

One solution to this dire scenario would be to expand the private sector and micro-enterprises, Mesa-Lago said. The number of employed rose by 102,520 in 2019, with 89 percent of them in the private sector. The government then [announced the elimination of] the list of allowed self-employed jobs in August, and in November, [Reuters] reported that thousands of small government-owned enterprises would be shifted to the private sector. ‘This is something that is positive, if it’s done quickly and without roadblocks,’ Mesa-Lago said. It is expected that with the change in the current exchange rate, many state enterprises will go bankrupt. The government, which already has failed to make some payments on its foreign debt, will allow some of these inefficient enterprises to disappear, officials have said. Economists said part of those enterprises’ employees might shift to the private sector.” (Miami Herald, December 1, 2020)

Mauricio de Miranda Parrondo: “The official exchange rate adopted by the government is, in the face of market conditions, an overvalued exchange rate and an error from the onset. An overvalued exchange rate means that the national currency is worth more than it should be and that affects the competitiveness of exports and makes imports cheaper, so this won’t solve the problems that led to the adoption of the measure of devaluation that, incidentally, should have been adopted many years ago. It is very difficult to determine what the appropriate level of the exchange rate should be, but economic theory suggests that it should be around the equilibrium conditions that allow establishing the relative prices that connect the national economy with the international economy. But the Cuban economy has many price distortions, due to the maintenance for a long time of a totally unreal official exchange rate, also due to the segmentation of the markets and consequently, due to the disconnection of the national economy with the international one. In the absence of this, it would have been advisable to adopt an exchange rate that was close to current market conditions, as happened when the CADECAs were created, after overcoming the very serious devaluation of the peso on the black market when the US dollar It came to be worth between 120 and 130 Cuban pesos in the early 1990s.

“With the current shortage of foreign exchange, and with the impossibility, on the part of the State, of offering US dollars at 24 Cuban pesos, the logical thing is that a parallel market appears in which the dollar is quoted at a higher value, and we continue in the same boat. Dollars will be channeled into the informal market rather than into the formal market channels. Under these conditions, a considerable differential between the official exchange rate and the black market exchange rate can be created, which will benefit the operators of the latter and will create new distortions.” (Mauricio de Miranda Parrondo blog, December 10, 2020)

Prices in private sector to be fixed?: Among multiple price controls expected in attempt to stave off inflation, perhaps the most worrisome according to economist Pedro Monreal is Sunday’s announcement that prices in private sector activity will not be allowed to increase more than threefold regardless of market needs.

 

 

 

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CUBAN GOVERNMENT CALLS OFF TALKS WITH ARTISTS

 Original Article, Havana Times, December 4, 2020

By Circles Robinson

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

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

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

The reasons for reneging on the agreements

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Havana Times. December 8, 2020

Original Article

Amaury Pacheco a founding member of the San Isidro Movement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seeking connectedness and new spaces

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

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

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

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

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

A wide variety of concerns and demands

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

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

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

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

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

What happened inside the Ministry

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

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

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

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

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

Letting them know we are not afraid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

San Isidro had ignited the flame that connected many people.

Practing what we want for the country

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

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

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

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

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

Filmmaker Fernando Perez was an important witness

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

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

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

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

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

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

The agreements made

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

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

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

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

Manipulation and back-tracking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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TANIA BRUGUERA DETAINED AMID PROTESTS OVER ARTISTIC FREEDOM IN CUBA

ARTnews

Alex Greenburger, December 5, 2020 2:21pm

Original Article

Against the backdrop of protests over artistic freedom in Cuba, artist Tania Bruguera, a celebrated figure whose work has frequently spoken out against her country’s government and its policies, was detained on Friday, according to a message posted on social media by her sister, Deborah Bruguera. On Saturday, the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires, which is currently hosting an exhibition of Bruguera’s work, said the artist had been released.

In a Facebook post, Deborah Bruguera said that her sister had been “kidnapped” by “people in civilian clothes” after attending a party held by artist Sandra Ceballos Obaya. In a follow-up message posted early Saturday morning, Deborah said that multiple officers questioned Bruguera about the push toward artistic freedom that has become a flashpoint in the country, in an attempt to identify the movement’s leaders.

Last week, on November 27, a group of 300 protests gathered outside the Cuban culture ministry in Havana to speak out against governmental control of the country’s artists. Officials met with 30 of the protesters—who are part of a group known as 27N—for several hours and agreed to strive for greater freedom for artists. Then, after the meeting, Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel decried the protests, calling them a “farce.” Bruguera was among those to criticize him, telling NBC, “At this point of crisis, an interlocutor with real decision-making power is needed.”

Already, those protests have led to arrests for others. Artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara took part in a hunger strike after the rapper Denis Solis was arrested. Alcantara, too, was later detained by Cuban officials. He was released, then placed under house arrested, according to the Art Newspaper.

Coco Fusco, a Cuban-American artist based in New York, also spoke out against the governmental scorn for the protesters, writing in a letter circulated via the platform E-Flux that those in the U.S. need to be paying attention. “Bruguera and [journalist Carlos Manuel] Alvarez are among the best-known Cubans outside the country and are being targeted precisely because they are known in the United States, precisely because they have been supported by the American institutions,” she wrote. “This is indeed an American problem as much as a Cuban one.”

In 2018, Cuba enacted Decree 349, which enables governmental officials to regulate the sale of artworks in the country and to keep artists from addressing various subjects, including the “use of patriotic symbols that contravene current legislation,” violence, and pornography. More recently, the San Isidro Movement, a decentralized push toward freedom that is being led by artistic figures and regular citizens alike, has become the subject of scrutiny from officials in Cuba.

Bruguera’s performance art and social practice work have been sharply critical of the amount of power Cuban politicians exercise for years. Among her most touted works is Untitled (Havana, 2000), a video installation that considered the exploitation of Cubans by Fidel Castro; when the work was shown at the Havana Biennial, it was partially censored. Because of her outspoken political gestures, Bruguera has pitted herself against Cuban officials, who have arrested her several times amid protests.

Tania Bruguera,

TANIA BRUGUERA, COCO FUSCO, MORE PEN OPEN LETTER REGARDING CUBAN DECREE THEY SAY LIMITS ARTISTS’ RIGHTS

ARTnews

 The Editors of ARTnews, August 14, 2018 5:10pm

Original Article

In an open letter posted to the activism website Avaaz, artists Tania Bruguera and Coco Fusco; Laritza Diversent, the director of human-rights organization Cubalex; curator Yanelys Nuñez Leyva; and writer Enrique Risco speak out against Decree 349, which the Cuban government issued in July to address “violations by individuals of the regulations regarding the provision of artistic services.” Their missive, which is addressed to Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, Cuba’s president as of this past April, claims that the decree will “restrict the creativity of the Cuban people and criminalize independently produced art,” and ultimately give way to “the impoverishment of Cuban culture.”

According to a report in the Miami Herald last month, Decree 349 affects artists of all kinds, including musicians, who can no longer be hired to perform in clubs or bars without the permission of the Ministry of Culture or certain agencies, and artists, who aren’t allowed to sell works without state permission. (Fines are imposed on artists who do.) Limitations have also been placed on works that feature “use of patriotic symbols that contravene current legislation,” violence, and pornography, among other forms of imagery.

In a phone conversation, Fusco said that the decree was enacted “without prior conversation with the artist community” in the country, and that it can be situated within a larger culture of governmental surveillance that is well-known to Cubans. “This is an ongoing problem in Cuba—that [artists] are afraid to speak up,” she told ARTnews. With the letter, she went on, she and her co-authors were hoping to start a “public discussion” about the decree.

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CUBAN GOVERNMENT RENEGES ON RIGHTS DIALOGUE WITH ARTISTS

By Sarah Marsh

Reuters, December 4, 2020.

Original Article: Reneges on Rights Dialogue

HAVANA (Reuters) – Cuba’s Communist government on Friday reneged on its promise to dialogue with artists calling for greater freedom of expression, saying it disagreed with their conditions for the meeting and would not negotiate with “enemies of the Revolution”.

The government had agreed to holding the talks last Friday when hundreds of Cubans staged a rare sit-in outside the culture ministry to protest a raid on the headquarters of dissident artist collective the San Isidro Movement, protest repression more broadly and call for greater freedoms.

While far from a mass mobilization, such rights protests are highly uncommon in the one-party state that is usually quick to crack down on public dissent. The protest illustrated a strengthening of civil society in recent years in part thanks to the rollout of mobile internet that has fostered greater flow of information and enabled people to mobilize more easily.

The sit-in was also unusual in that it brought together self-denominated “artivists” with mainstream artists like actor Jorge Perugorria and pop star Leoni Torres and less well known creatives who do not usually comment on politics, demonstrating a broad unease.

The group of 30 artists, activists and journalists that culture ministry officials agreed to meet with during the sit-in asked for them to be present at the official dialogue they had agreed this week.

But the culture ministry said on Friday it would “not meet with people who have direct contact and receive financing, logistical support and propagandistic backing from the U.S. government”.

The state, which has a monopoly of mass media, has this week waged an all-out rhetorical campaign against them, saying they like other dissidents are mercenaries backed by old Cold War foe the United States seeking to destabilize the one-party state.

State newspapers have denounced the “imperial reality show” and “San Isidro Farce” while evening broadcasts have attacked individual members and linked the crew to alleged calls on social media for terrorist acts.

Members of the crew say the government is trying to discredit them and split them from the rest of the artists. They say they have been prevented from leaving their homes by security forces this week, detained if they did and interrogated.

But the broader group that met with culture ministry officials on Nov. 27, and that now goes by the acronym 27N, issued a statement on Friday stating they were using only “pacific” means to call for their rights, did not respond to interests of foreign governments and aspired to “an inclusive and democratic society.”

A Reuters factcheck found that two social media posts showing shops set on fire and alleging these were terrorist acts committed this week actually took place in February 2020 and December 2008.

Cuba expert Ted Henken at Baruch College in New York said that ultimately what is up for debate is the country’s longstanding cultural policy, based on the famous words of revolutionary leader Fidel Castro to artists and thinkers in 1961 proclaiming “within the revolution, everything; against the revolution, nothing”.

“The government has always been able to separate marginalized activists and the ones that are blessed and controlled by the system,” he said. “It’s deeply significant that this separation was collapsed by this sit-in. This has a much broader base than previous protests”

 

 

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SUGERENCIA DE QUINCE PUNTOS PARA UNA NORMATIVA DE PYMES EN CUBA.

By Pedro Monreal in  elestadocomotal on November 25, 2020

Original Article: SUGERENCIA PARA UNA NORMATIVA DE PYMES EN CUBA

La legalización de las pequeñas y medianas empresas privadas (PYMES) es, por amplio margen, el “eslabón perdido” del programa oficial de cambios económicos en Cuba. Mencionada, pero no implementada ni siquiera a nivel de preparación de condiciones, al menos públicamente, y “empaquetada” de una manera confusa con algo a lo que se le denominan PYMES estatales, llama la atención la parsimonia con la que se aborda uno de los temas respecto a los que se dispone de mayor evidencia internacional acerca de su potencial efecto positivo en el empleo y en la productividad nacional.

He estimado que el establecimiento de PYMES en Cuba pudiera aumentar el Producto Interno Bruto (PIB) entre 1,5 y 1,7%. (1)

La dilación de la medida introduce un problema de secuencia en el programa económico oficial pues, al aplicarse ahora el llamado “ordenamiento” (una mezcla de hiper-devaluación, alza de precios y salarios, y eliminación de subsidios) se asume un riesgo inflacionario debido a la carencia de una capacidad de respuesta de oferta que pudiera haberse reducido si se hubiesen legalizado primero las PYMES.

Después del anuncio del “paquete económico” del verano, publiqué dos propuestas sobre medidas muy relacionadas. Primero, presenté en agosto una propuesta para el establecimiento de las PYMES, y luego, a principios de octubre, publiqué una propuesta para reformar el trabajo por cuenta propia (TCP) mediante la adopción de un esquema de trabajadores “autónomos”. (2)

A nivel de esos dos temas, el marco de referencia más amplio era la legalización de las PYMES. De hecho, la primera fase de la “travesía” hacia las PYMES consistía precisamente en el establecimiento de un marco normativo del trabajo “autónomo”.

El problema es que, aunque sobre la reforma del TCP se hablado oficialmente de tal manera que parecería ser una acción de mayor inmediatez en comparación con las PYMES, en realidad muy poco se ha hecho en la práctica. Considero que se presta gran atención a la transformación del TCP en sí mismo, sin que frecuentemente se conecte ese posible cambio con otras transformaciones futuras. (3)

Retomo ahora aquellas propuestas, pero con las modificaciones que considero que habría que priorizar en las circunstancias actuales.

¿Por qué retomo las propuestas, y por qué las retomo de manera modificada?

No parece realista asumir que se legalicen las PYMES en el plazo inmediato, pero no debería descartarse que un desbalance macroeconómico eventualmente derivado del “ordenamiento” pudiese tener el efecto de conducir a una modificación de las secuencias del resto del programa económico.

El establecimiento de las PYMES representa la mayor reserva de productividad a corto plazo y la fuente más expedita de creación de empleo neto del país. Es también la fórmula menos costosa -para las finanzas públicas- para lograr esos dos objetivos.

Tomo nota de los argumentos políticos que parecen obstaculizar la legalización de las PYMES, pero llamo la atención sobre los costos políticos de una eventual combinación de estancamiento con inflación debido a la falta de acción en un componente de la economía como las PYMES. (4)

Las PYMES pudieran aliviar eventuales tensiones sociales porque pudieran crear rápidamente empleos e ingresos, así como favorecen el incremento de la productividad, tanto directamente en las PYMES como al facilitar la reforma de la empresa estatal.

En mi modesta apreciación, lo que ha cambiado recientemente es la urgencia sobre la necesidad de disponer de un “plan B” porque considero que el “ordenamiento” contiene fisuras conceptuales y parece haber adoptado varios supuestos polémicos. He comentado anteriormente el tema del “ordenamiento”. (5)

Aclaraciones sobre una nueva normativa de PYMES.

Debido al tiempo que se ha perdido con la reforma del TCP, la propuesta revisada que se presenta a continuación ya no considera esa reforma del TCP como la primera fase de un proceso de establecimiento progresivo de las PYMES.

El enfoque ahora es diferente: se establecen las PYMES como un proceso sin fases en las que determinadas acciones que antes estaban separadas en el tiempo se realizarían ahora de manera simultánea.

Conviene recalcar que la propuesta se enfoca en el establecimiento de las PYMES, específicamente su legalización y puesta en operación. Es decir, posteriormente deberían adoptarse otras medidas adicionales respecto a las PYMES, especialmente en cuanto a las acciones para apoyarlas, pero lo urgente es ponerlas ahora en funcionamiento.

He expresado en un texto anterior que después de lograr la legalización de las PYMES habría que continuar desarrollando el marco normativo para apoyarlas estatalmente porque las PYMES son entidades relativamente frágiles que cumplen funciones importantes en términos de empleo nacional y de “conexión” del tejido económico. (6)

Es también importante aclarar que me limito a identificar los componentes de la normativa de PYMES, desde una perspectiva económica y por tanto no he considerado los componentes jurídicos, los cuales son muy importantes y obviamente habría que precisarlos con las contribuciones de juristas, para poder desarrollar una norma integral para las PYMES.

Aunque no tengo capacidad para pronunciarme sobre los detalles legales, asumo que el establecimiento de ese marco normativo no necesitaría una ley. Quizás sería suficiente un “Acuerdo” del Consejo de Ministros para implementar algo que ya está políticamente aprobado en el documento de la “Conceptualización”.  Se complementaría con resoluciones de los ministerios relevantes.

Quince puntos para una normativa de PYMES en Cuba

Desde el punto de vista de sus componentes económicos una normativa para el rápido establecimiento “de PYMES en Cuba debería incluir, al menos, los siguientes aspectos:

  1. DISPOSICIONES GENERALES
  1. Alcance de la regulación: Principios, contenidos y descripción general del procedimiento para el establecimiento de las microempresas y de las pequeñas y medianas empresas privadas y de las responsabilidades de los organismos, organizaciones e individuos involucrados en el proceso de su establecimiento.
  2.  Sujetos de aplicación:a) Empresas privadas que operan de conformidad con la ley y que cumplen los criterios para identificar las microempresas y las pequeñas y medianas empresas.
  1. b) Entidades estatales que participan en el proceso de establecimiento de las microempresas y de las pequeñas y medianas empresas.
  2. Interpretación de términos: Incluye definiciones de “microempresa” y de “pequeña y mediana empresa”, como categorías distintas. Se precisan otros términos como “eslabonamientos” y las diferentes figuras del “Código de comercio de Cuba” que fuesen relevantes (“registro mercantil”, “comerciantes particulares”, “sociedades”, etc.)
  3. Criterios para la identificación de las pequeñas y medianas empresas: son pequeñas y medianas empresas aquellas con un volumen anual de ventas comprendido en un rango desde 10 veces hasta 1000 veces el ingreso nacional per cápita. (7)

La categoría de pequeñas y medianas empresas (PYMES) no distingue entre las pequeñas y las medianas empresas. (8)

Las microempresas son aquellas con un volumen anual de ventas inferior a 10 veces el ingreso nacional per cápita. Las microempresas no se incluyen en la categoría de PYMES.

  1. REGISTRO DE EMPRESAS
  2. Tipos de registro: Incluye dos registros simultáneos:
  3. Inscripción en el Registro Mercantil en alguna de las categorías que se habiliten al efecto.
  4. Inscripción en registros separados de microempresas o de PYMES, según corresponda (supervisados por el Ministerio de Economía y Planificación).
  5. Definición de las opciones de registro:
  6. Procedimiento “express” para las personas naturales que ya cuentan con una licencia de trabajo por cuenta propia (TCP) y que desean registrar su actividad como persona jurídica (empresario unipersonal o sociedad) en la misma “clase” de actividad compatible con la labor para la que se emitió la licencia de TCP. (9)
  7. Procedimiento “regular” para las personas naturales que no cuentan con una licencia de TCP o que teniendo la licencia TCP desean modificar la “clase” de actividad.

En el caso del registro “express” solamente se verifican los documentos actuales de la licencia TCP y se formaliza el registro doble (en Registro Mercantil y Registro de microempresas/PYMES) mediante una única declaración jurada.

Nota: los poseedores de licencias de TCP que no deseen registrar su actividad como microempresas o PYMES continuarían ejerciendo el TCP, cuya regulación no es objeto de esta normativa.

  1. Establecimiento de una ventanilla única: Funciona para el registro de las microempresas y PYMES en cada una de las dos opciones (“express” y “regular”) e incluye el registro simultáneo como sociedad mercantil y como PYME.

III. APOYO AL ESTABLECIMIENTO DE LAS MICROEMPRESAS Y DE LAS PEQUEÑAS Y MEDIANAS EMPRESAS

  1. Apoyo general a microempresas y PYMES:
  2. Asesoramiento y orientación de manera gratuita sobre expedientes y procedimientos para el establecimiento de empresas.
  3. Exención o reducción de los gastos por asistir a cursos de formación profesional financiados por el presupuesto.

9.Apoyo a microempresas:

  1. Exención del pago de la inscripción simultánea en el Registro Mercantil y en el Registro de Microempresas.
  2. Exención del pago del impuesto por la utilización de la fuerza de trabajo.
  3. Pago reducido de la contribución de la empresa a la seguridad social de los empleados durante los tres primeros años.
  4. Pago reducido del impuesto sobre la ganancia aplicado a las microempresas durante el primer año.
  5. Las microempresas podrán aplicar procedimientos administrativos y regímenes contables simples relacionados con los impuestos de conformidad con las normas fiscales y contables.
  6. Apoyo a PYMES establecidas a partir de licencias previas de TCP (procedimiento “express”):
  7. Exención del pago de la inscripción simultánea en el Registro Mercantil y en el Registro de Microempresas.
  8. Exención del pago del impuesto por la utilización de la fuerza de trabajo.
  9. Pago reducido del impuesto sobre la ganancia aplicado a las PYMES durante el primer año.
  10. Apoyo a PYMES establecidas mediante el procedimiento “regular”:
  11. Exención del pago de la inscripción simultánea en el Registro Mercantil y en el Registro de Microempresas.
  12. Exención del pago del impuesto por la utilización de la fuerza de trabajo.
  13. Apoyo a PYMES agro-alimentarias: Las pequeñas y medianas empresas con actividades que forman parte de cadenas de valor en el ámbito de la producción o la transformación de alimentos se beneficiarían de:
  14. Formación de los trabajadores –mediante financiamiento estatal- en tecnología y técnicas de producción, asesoramiento en normas y reglamentos técnicos, metrología y calidad para el desarrollo de productos y servicios orientados a eslabonamientos industriales y cadenas de valor.
  15. Proporcionar información actualizada y sin costo sobre la demanda y condiciones de encadenamientos.
  16. Apoyo estatal para el desarrollo de marcas y mercados en expansión para productos y servicios que tributan a cadenas de valor.
  17. Apoyo técnico del Estado a PYMES que participan en polos agro-alimentarios, en cuanto a la producción, inspección, evaluación y certificación de la calidad de sus productos y servicios.
  18. Subvenciones a los tipos de interés, a través de entidades de crédito, para los préstamos a PYMES que participen en polos agro-alimentarios.
  19. Apoyo a PYMES tecnológicas:
  20. Apoyo estatal en la aplicación y transferencia de tecnología, uso de equipos en establecimientos estatales, participación en esquemas de transferencia de resultados de investigación de universidades e instituciones de investigación, orientación sobre la experimentación y desarrollo de nuevos productos, servicios y modelos empresariales.
  21. Apoyo legal estatal en temas de propiedad intelectual.
  22.  Capacitación de trabajadores de las PYMES en la producción y desarrollo de productos, atracción de inversiones, asesoramiento en materia de propiedad intelectual, ejecución de los procedimientos para las normas y reglamentos técnicos, metrológicos y de calidad.
  23. Tarifas reducidas de comunicación y de acceso a internet.
  24. Apoyo estatal a la información, comunicación, promoción comercial, y conexión con redes de entidades innovadoras nacionales y extranjeras.
  25. Subvenciones a los tipos de interés, a través de entidades de crédito, para los préstamos a las PYMES innovadoras que participen en programas estatales de ciencia y técnica.

IV DISPOSICIONES PARA LA APLICACIÓN

  1. Enmiendas y suplementos a leyes y normas vigentes: Se identifican las normas legales vigentes que se verían modificadas por la adopción de la presente norma.

15 Entrada en efecto: Definición de la fecha de comienzo de aplicación de la nueva norma para las microempresas y PYMES privadas.

Resumiendo,

La tardanza con la legalización de las PYMES privadas ha representado un error en la secuencia de las transformaciones económicas que necesita Cuba. No debería descartarse que el llamado “ordenamiento” produjese desequilibrios macroeconómicos, especialmente de tipo inflacionario, que hicieran necesario fomentar una capacidad de respuesta rápida de oferta mediante el establecimiento de PYMES privadas, lo que a la vez podría crear condiciones favorables para otras medidas, principalmente la reforma de la empresa estatal. Anticiparse a ese eventual escenario implicaría disponer de un “plan B” para la legalización expedita de las PYMES privadas en Cuba.

Notas

1 “El establecimiento de PYMES en Cuba pudiera aumentar el Producto Interno Bruto entre 1,5 y 1,7% ”, El Estado como tal, 28 de abril de 2020 https://elestadocomotal.com/2020/04/28/el-establecimiento-de-pymes-en-cuba-pudiera-aumentar-el-producto-interno-bruto-entre-15-y-17/

2 “Travesía en tres fases hacia las PYMES en Cuba: una propuesta para “destrabar” fuerzas productivas”, El Estado como tal, 19 de agosto de 2020 https://elestadocomotal.com/2020/08/19/travesia-en-tres-fases-hacia-las-pymes-en-cuba-una-propuesta-para-destrabar-fuerzas-productivas/ , y “Hacia un esquema de “autónomos”: propuesta para reformar el trabajo por cuenta propia en Cuba”, El Estado como tal, 5 de octubre de 2020 https://elestadocomotal.com/2020/10/05/hacia-un-esquema-de-autonomos-propuesta-para-reformar-el-trabajo-por-cuenta-propia-en-cuba/

3 “Travesía en tres fases hacia las PYMES en Cuba: una propuesta para “destrabar” fuerzas productivas”. Op. Cit.

4 “Las PYMES y la reforma del modelo cubano: ayúdame que yo te ayudaré”, El Estado como tal, 23 de julio de 2020 https://elestadocomotal.com/2020/07/23/las-pymes-y-la-reforma-del-modelo-cubano-ayudame-que-yo-te-ayudare/

5 “Ordenamiento, salarios y precios en Cuba: notas sobre el riesgo de inflación”, El Estado como tal, 5 de octubre de 2020, 17 de noviembre de 2020 https://elestadocomotal.com/2020/11/17/ordenamiento-salarios-y-precios-en-cuba-notas-sobre-el-riesgo-de-inflacion/

6 “Travesía en tres fases hacia las PYMES en Cuba: una propuesta para “destrabar” fuerzas productivas”. Op. Cit.

7 En el caso de Cuba, tomando el PIB per cápita de aproximadamente 8900 CUP anuales (370 USD aplicando una tasa de 24:1), las PYMES serían entidades con ventas anuales en el rango de 3700 a 371000 USD.

8 Hay especialistas que recomiendan establecer una categoría de PYMES que considere exclusivamente las pequeñas y medianas empresas (sin establecer diferencias entre ambas), y que permita diferenciarlas de las micro empresas y de las grandes empresas. Es un criterio que se apoya en la observación empírica de que en la práctica las microempresas raramente se convierten en pequeñas y medianas empresas, por lo que se trata de dos niveles de escala complementarias, pero con poca dinámica de transformación entre esas dos agrupaciones de entidades. Por otra parte, se considera que a nivel de las pequeñas y medianas empresas existe una marcada intención de transitar hacia una escala mayor y que, aunque las probabilidades de materialización no son altas para muchas de esas empresas, es un fenómeno observable. Ver, Tom Gibson, “Defining SMEs: A Less Imperfect Way of Defining Small and Medium Enterprises in Developing Countries”, Brookings Global Economy and Development, September 2008.

9 Se refiere a la “clase”, identificada por cuatro dígitos en el Clasificador Nacional de Actividades Económicas (CNAE).

  
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SOS FOR SAN ISIDRO MOVEMENT HUNGER STRIKERS IN HAVANA

Havana Times, November 26, 2020

Original Article: SOS San Isidro Cuba

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SIGNED:

Regional Organizations

Alianza Regional por la Libre Expresión e Información

DemoAmlat

Red Latinoamericana y del Caribe para la Democracia (REDLAD)

Red Latinoamericana de Jóvenes por la Democracia (JuventudLAC)

IFEX-ALC

Voces del Sus

Cuban Civil Society Organizations

Alianza Cubana por la Inclusión

Alianza Democrática Pinareña Vueltabajo por Cuba.

Asociación Civil Crecer en Libertad

Asociación Jurídica Cubana

Asociación Cubana para la Divulgación del Islam

Asociación Sindical Independiente de Cuba

Asociación Pro Libertad de Prensa

Center for a Free Cuba

Centro de Estudios Convivencia

Centro PEN de Escritores Cubanos en el Exilio

Club de Escritores y Artistas de Cuba

Comité de Ciudadanos por la Integración Racial (CIR)

Colegio de Pedagogos Independientes de Cuba (CPIC)

Centro Estudios Liderazgo y Desarrollo

Comunidad Judía Bnei Anusim de Cuba

Confederación Obrera Nacional Independiente de Cuba (CONIC)

Cubalex

Cuba Independiente y Democrática (CID)

Damas de Blanco

Democuba

Directorio Democrático Cubano

Monitor Legislativo Cubano

Libertad Cuba Lab

Grupo Demongeles

Grupo Anima

Fundación para la Democracia Panamericana

Fundación Nacional Cubano Americana

La Maleza

Libertad Cuba Lab

Instituto de Activismo Hannah Arendt

Instituto Cubano por la Libertad de Expresión y Prensa – ICLEP

Instituto Patmos

Instituto La Rosa Blanca

Iglesia Misionera en Cuba

Movimiento Apostólico“Viento Recio”

Movimiento Ciudadano Reflexión y Reconciliación (MCRR)

Movimiento Opositores por una  Nueva República

Mesa de Diálogo de la Juventud Cubana

Mujeres Democristianas de Cuba

Observatorio Cubano de Derechos Humanos

Palabra Abierta

Proyecto Demócrata Cubano (PRODECU)

Partido Arco Progresista

Partido Autónomo Pinero

Partido Pedro Luis Boitel

Partido Demócrata Cristiano de Cuba

Plataforma Independiente para el Desarrollo Universitario

Puente a la Vista

Red Femenina de Cuba

Red de Líderes y Lideresas Comunitarios (RELLIC)

Somos +

Solidaridad Trabajadores de Cuba

Talento Cubano

Unión Patriótica de Cuba (UNPACU)

Mujer a Mujer

 PLUS: 

37 International Civil Society Organizations including PEN Internacional;

21 Independent Media

42 Cuban Activists and Citizens

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CUBAN POLICE RAID HQ OF DISSIDENT SAN ISIDRO MOVEMENT

BBC, 17 November 2020

BBC, 17 November 2020

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

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

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

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

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

The San Isidro Movement has gained international attention recently.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RAFAEL ROJAS

BRIEFINGS ON CUBA, NOVEMBER 2020

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

Original and Complete Article: The New Cuban Executive Branch

YouTube Presentation: The New Cuban Executive Branch

Introduction:

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

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

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

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

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Conclusion:

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

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

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

Rafael Rojas

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

 

 

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