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I must be brief because I’m dedicating myself to “the tasks belonging to my sex” while Yoani undertakes her exemplary work as a citizen ambassador. What most caught my attention in the recent “elections” was Raul Castro repeating that Machado Ventura would not leave, nor would we have to wait another day to know the names of the members of the new Council of State. What I most admired was the popular indifference. As I noted in my Twitter account, there were no popular celebrations, people didn’t go out into the street to celebrate the reelection of their leader, the car horns didn’t make the slightest noise, and it didn’t occur to anyone to hang a Cuban flag from their balcony. If we compare this chilly reception with the demonstrations we saw in Ecuador at the reelection of Correa, or the symbolic welcome Chavez received in Venezuela, we have to conclude that those Revolutionary emotions, that overwhelming enthusiasm so bragged about, have died forever.
This will be not only be the last term of Raul Castro, but also the swan song for the already dying Cuban revolution.
25 February 2013
A dozen countries are included in this trip to accept academic invitations and attend social networking and media events. If, as has been said, Yoani was the thermometer to measure the scope of the new travel regulations, we have to accept that — despite its limitations — this is the most important reform implemented by Raul Castro in the political and social realm. A few hours earlier Rosa María Payá, daughter of the deceased opponent Oswaldo Payá, had headed for Europe and now other prominent personalities of civil society, such as Dagoberto Valdez, Berta Soler and Wilfredo Vallin, are arranging their visas.
Currently the travel restrictions are being maintained only against those who were imprisoned during the Black Spring of 2003 and who now “enjoy” the status of being on parole but have not been pardoned or reprieved, so by law they are considered to have outstanding convictions.
The presence abroad of those who are now crossing the national borders represents the exercise of popular diplomacy by citizen ambassadors. It breaks the monopoly of the Cuban authorities and its official sector, as the “tolerated inconvenient” spread a version of our reality.
18 February 2013
Alicia Barcena, executive secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), said in Havana that the new economic policies dictated by Raul Castro to make people pay taxes will open the way for there to be responsible citizens. What the Mexican Specialist did not say was that when citizens are given the responsibility to share the social costs through their taxes, they also must provide them legally backed rights to express themselves freely and to associate freely.
To be responsible for the economic costs of a social process about which you have no say, you can not change, can not be an “enviable” practice.
14 February 2013
For me 2013 has special connotations. I have a personal prophecy that I’ve only told my friends and that came into my head in a dream in the middle of a hangover, after the party for the arrival of the year 2000.
The dream in question was a conversation in which I was debating how comparable two dates were, one was the first of January 1959 and the other the 13th of April 2013. That’s all I could remember when I woke up and since then I have been waiting for this day.
So I leave it there. I promise not to kick myself if something happens on that day and I accept ahead of time all the jokes that will come my way when absolutely nothing happens.
31 December 2012
I know I’ve repeated this little joke too many times, but I stress the question. What is the prediction coming out of the polls in regards to the name of the next Cuban president?
17 December 2012
Listening yesterday to the General President in his discourse before the Cuban parliament, I got the impression that the so-called “process of reforms” will continue on its course without backtracking, but it will do so without the depth and speed required.
Raul Castro again complained about the existence of a mentality stuck in the methods of the past, something he had done in his speech before the 5th Plenum of the Central Committee as well as at the last extended meeting of the Council of Ministers.
It is surprising that a person who holds in his hands all the resources, all the legal power, and even the moral authority to change things, presents himself as a victim of phantasmagoric way of thinking that doesn’t allow him to move forward as needed.
An example of this situation is the slowness demonstrated in renewing the cadres. Last January, the 1st National Conference of the Cuban Communist Party, which was required to renew the Central Committee, declined to act and passed a kind of vote of confidence (and at the same time a mandate) for the Central Committee to renew itself by 20%. They have already held at least two full sessions since the Conference and nothing has been said about renewal.
In the days of Perestroika Mikhail Gorbachev and the ideologues on his team created the term “brake mechanism” to identify the recalcitrants who didn’t want to change anything. If the Island’s “go slow” faction continues to impede reforms, sooner or later Raul Castro will be forced to go over to the opposition, or to stage a Fujimori style Auto-Coup.
The unfinished business which, in my opinion, prevents any progress, is centered on the issue of Political Reforms. As long as they don’t deactivate the repressive character of the regime, as long as they don’t decriminalize political dissent, as long as they don’t allow and promote freedom of expression and freedom of association, Raul Castro will have to continue plowing with the old and tired oxen who just don’t understand the direction of the new furrows.
I know I am being extremely generous, or perhaps I’m just being sly to show that in this car even the most insignificant screw forms a part of the annoying brake mechanism.
14 December 2012
I had a friend who had a very short fuse. Alcibiades was a man with a bad temper and his family and the neighborhood learned the lesson that no one should contradict him. As a result, among other consequences, he was always the last to hear bad news and in his entire adult life he lacked a thermometer to measure the effects of his own actions. Obviously he died of a heart attack.
I remembered Alcibiades when people from civil society were arrested, having gone to the police station out of concern for their friends. An agent of State Security, whose name I couldn’t learn, warned me with authoritarian gestures that “they” were not going to tolerate any provocation. I’ve thought a lot about that warning.
We could wear ourselves out clarifying that this is not a provocation but very sensitive people and we end up concluding that the only way of not provoking them is to follow the old advice of the poet Heberto Padilla in his Instructions to Enter a New Society:
One step forward, and
two or three back:
but always applauding.
Every day more Cuban citizens refuse to follow these instructions. A sense of self-esteem is growing among us and turning us into individuals, far from a domineering “us.” This inevitably leads us to disobedience. “They” whom I can’t name as “the authorities” so as not to irritate the other sensitive people, sooner or later will have to face the reality that they are on the brink of ungovernability, because anger is not usually gradual nor does it build slowly but surely. The anger that originates in seeing our most elemental rights trampled jumps directly from meekness to rebellion.
As I am an optimist and an enemy of violence, I think we have to time to seek an understanding. To whom does it fall to take the next step? I think it’s precisely up to “them,” initiating a process of political reforms that need to start with the decriminalization of political dissent, the dissolution of the mechanisms of repression against those who think differently, and a clear message to all of society where it is proclaimed, once and for all, that a legitimate rule of law will be established in the Nation.
12 November 2012
Why must all solidarity by necessity pass through government channels?
Why don’t the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDRs) ask their members to bring support to the offices of each Zone?
Why doesn’t the Federation of Cuban Woman (FMC) ask the women affiliated with it to bring something to the organization’s Blocks?
Why don’t the Pioneer organizations invite the children to donate some school uniforms?
Why doesn’t the Association of the Combatants of the Revolution ask its members to offer to help the victims?
Are they waiting to receive orders from higher authorities or will their own hearts dictate their supportive conduct?
29 October 2012
Tomorrow, October 16, will mark 59 years since Fidel Castro was tried for Cause Number 37 related to the assault on the Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba. Some of his biographers say that at the trial he delivered his plea of self-defense known as “History Will Absolve Me,” others say that what he said was much shorter and less substantive and that it was later, in the serenity of the fecund prison that he wrote what his memory dictated. In the backyard of my house in Camaguey there should still be a copy of that first edition in a glass jar that my father — for fear of a search — buried in a site we could never find.
In that text, where his political platform is foreshadowed, we can appreciate the thought of a man of the center-left who mentions the theme of exploitation of the workers but does not announce the dictatorship of the proletariat, who denounces the excesses of the United Fruit Company but does not condemn imperialism by its name. Already in the decade of the ‘60s, conforming to the triumphalist spirit of the official media, the fulfillment of the Moncada program was proclaimed. Those days the author of the submission confessed that he was already, at the time, a Marxist-Leninist.
We were far from imagining that that anti-tyrannical young man would get his hands on, for a half century, absolute power over the fates of Cubans. No one should be judged twice for the same act, neither by the courts nor by history. On that occasion Fidel Castro was sentenced to 15 years in prison, of which he only served less than 20 months, because the bloody and ruthless dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, hearing the popular outcry, decreed an amnesty for political prisoners. It was an amnesty, not parole.
The history subsequently written not only absolved but congratulated the authors of the assault. I am speaking of the history books that my son studies in school and all the history books that have been allowed to be published in Cuba. With regards to what happened (let the reader choose the facts) no court had ever ruled.
Tomorrow will be another day.
15 October 2012
Information is, without a doubt, one of the primary necessities in the world, especially at this time, when one can find out almost instantaneously what is happening anywhere in the world. When nearly six million people are affected by a cut in the flow of electricity in the middle of the night, the first thing they need is an explanation, so as not to panic.
The “information black out” we suffered in Cuba from Ciego de Avila to Pinar del Rio, left us doubly in the dark, evidence of the enormous fragility of our society. To the extent that people learned of the enormous proportions of the phenomenon and faced with the growing absence of information, rumors ran riot. “What’s happening?” many asked and what a Cuban is left wondering, the first thing that occurs to them is to think that the government is falling, or that someone died and the bombardment is about to begin.
This is what we have come to. The secrecy, lack of transparency, that is the weapon of totalitarianism, can become a boomerang. Who knows if one fine day a blackout will be the sign that there is going to be more light.
10 September 2012