Saturday, July 31, 2021

Jesus Arboleya: Frank Assessments, Future Options


Jesus Arboleya   August 2021  (Original Spanish follows)

What is being discussed in Cuba today?

As is probably the case in almost the whole world,  the central theme of popular debate  in Cuba is related to the health crisis generated by  the COVID-19 pandemic, its  terrible economic consequences and the social restrictions imposed by its treatment. Inthe case of Cuba, this situation, which is aggravated  by  the intensification of the UNITED STATES embargo, which has given rise to  a perverse combination, which has deprived the country of its  main sources of income and placed at its  limits  the solution of the consumption needs   of the population.

Of course, social discontent increases under these conditions and dissatisfaction with government management, justified or not, tends to  spread  in  people. It could be said that the complaint about  the  prevailing  situation  was the  main driver of the protest  demonstrations  that took place in various parts of the country on 11 and 12 July, although they also had the encouragement of counterrevolutionary forces, mostly established  abroad, which acted through social networks and other mechanisms of internal mobilization, often  to encourage the most violent expressions.

Although the actual volume and  social composition prevailing among  the demonstrators remains to be  specified,  about which there is much speculation, it could be said that this is a fairly heterogeneous group  of people,  mostly devoid of a political project to guide their participation in these events. However, we  should  highlight  the presence of dissident sectors, which have been  expressing  themselves for some time through various acts of civil disobedience, much promoted outside Cuba. Although minority, and also diverse in their composition and objectives, these sectors provided a certain political  characterization  to the event and a more exploitable  image in the eyes of international public opinion.

The phenomenon that occurred, quite unusual in the history of the Revolution, has had different readings. On the one hand, the apocalyptic ones, which once again predict the end of the Cuban revolutionary process and urge the US Government to act to speed it up, including through military aggression, under the pretext of humanitarian intervention. Around this logic are grouped the most aggressive counterrevolutionary forces,  advocating  chaos in the country, which have considerable external support, capable of establishing a media matrix that prevails in social networks and the large media.

So far, U.S. government policy seems to be determined by this current, given its supposed electoral impact on Florida. Millions of millionaires are destined to stimulate it, the sanctions against Cuba are increased and the  story of the Cuban-American extreme right is imposed in the official discourse of the country, as well as in the  US debate on the Cuban reality.

With this current there is no dialogue possible, so perhaps more important for the articulation of  a  national debate, are the people  who, whether or not they have participated in the demonstrations,  do not join the US plans,  but have been  critical, both of the government management, as well as of alleged excesses committed by the public force in the confrontation with the demonstrators, arbitrariness in the legal treatment of the detainees and the communicational conduct of the event by the government. The clarification of these problems, the search for solutions to differences and the establishment of clear rules to regulate this type of event for the future, is an important step to alleviate the tensions generated by the demonstrations.  

Also encouraged by the current situation, but long-standing in  the agenda of the national debate, the discussions related to the conception and functioning of Cuban socialism have gained more relevance.  Here they are framed from sectors very committed to the revolutionary process, whose main demand is to improve government management and that the reforms approved years ago by the party and the State be carried out, after  broad popular consultations, to others who more or less  oppose socialism or perceive it associated with Christian Democrat formulas, social democrats and liberals,  which they assume can be applied to sin Cuba.

The agenda of these groups or individuals is as diverse as it is sometimes imprecise in their plans and solutions. They focus more on criticism of what exists than  on specifying the proposals that may serve as an  alternative. It highlights issues such as the design of the socialist model, the democratization of its functioning, the role of the communist party, private property and commercial relations,  the application of the economic order, the problems of equity and poverty, discrimination in its various manifestations, emigration, ecology, animal care and many others, each with more or less amplified repercussions in Cuban society.

Despite the diversity of concerns and  opinions, these tendencies find a common place in the criticism of bureaucratism, corruption  and other vices associated with government management, things that the  official  discourse itself also rejects and combats, as well as in the confrontation with positions that they consider conservative and refractory to changes,  which they place in  certain  structures of the party and the State, as well as  in  intellectuals whom  they accuse of being dogmatic,  although these ors are not recognized in this definition.

The particularity of the Cuban case is that all these tendencies, whatever their ideological sign, are crossed by a constant that, whether they like it or not, defines them from the patriotic point of view, say the role of the United States in the life  of the nation.

Since the origins of the Cuban anti-colonial struggles, the issue of relations with the United States appears as a defining factor of  the  patriotic scale. The annexationist currents, which early seemed an alternative,on the understanding of  joining that country  on equal terms once independence was achieved,  were diluted or  quickly as a patriotic option, when it became clear that this was not the American plan. José Martí was  the one who best warned about the danger of U.S. pretensions  and set  as the main objective of the national struggles:  "to prevent in time with the independence of Cuba that the United States spread through the Antilles and fall, with that force more, on our lands of America. "

It was not possible and that "more force" inaugurated the neocolonial model in Cuba. Andthe anti-imperialism, as a basic condition for the independence and sovereignty of the country, then became the common factor of the patriotic struggles tos Cubans from the advent of the Republic to the present day. Ignoring this factor or placing it in the background limits the ability to understand the Cuban problem and  places people on swampy ground,  with the risk of  becoming functional to the objectives of US policy  against the island, although that is not their intention.

It is not enough to mention the US blockade "on the fly" in order to concentrate on domestic problems, which supposedly have a solution by ignoring the impact of US policy on them. If we do not understand the integrality of US policy, we cannot understand the Cuban dilemma or that of the rest of the world. We are in the presence of a global hegemonic system, which penetrates through all the pores of the social fabric and, as former President George W. Bush said, is with him or  against him. A truth that is more than evident in the case of Cuba, although that confrontation may have different degrees and nuances.

It is true that the fear of "giving weapons to the enemy" and the practice of  blaming  imperialism for all the difficulties, equally limits the comprehensive approach  to problems, has restricted democratic spaces and served as an excuse for dogmatism in many cases, but the solution is not reverse reductionism, but the promotion of  political culture and the dialogue that serves as its sustenance. The good news is that, both inside and outside the country, cubans   have the cultural  capital that requires this effort, a  knowledge that is installed in academic and intellectual spaces, even in popular wisdom, and that has also increased its presence on social networks. The issue is to know how to take advantage of it.


Jesús Arboleya. Progreso Semanal. Agosto 2021

¿Qué se discute en Cuba actualmente?

Como probablemente ocurre en casi todo el mundo, el tema central del debate popular en Cuba es lo relacionado con la crisis sanitaria generada por la pandemia de la COVID-19, sus terribles consecuencias económicas y las restricciones sociales que impone su tratamiento. En el caso cubano, esta situación que se ve agravada por el recrudecimiento del bloqueo norteamericano, lo que ha dado lugar a una combinación perversa, que ha privado al país de sus principales fuentes de ingreso y colocado en sus límites la solución de las necesidades de consumo de la población.

Como es lógico, el descontento social aumenta en estas condiciones y la insatisfacción con la gestión gubernamental, justificada o no, tiende a extenderse en las personas. Pudiera afirmarse que la queja ante la situación imperante fue el principal motor de las manifestaciones de protesta ocurridas en diversos puntos del país los días 11 y 12 del pasado mes de julio, aunque también contaron con el estímulo de fuerzas contrarrevolucionarias, en su mayoría establecidas en el exterior, que actuaron mediante las redes sociales y otros mecanismos de movilización interna, muchas veces para alentar las expresiones más violentas.

Aunque falta por precisar el volumen real y la composición social predominante entre los manifestantes, sobre lo cual existen muchas especulaciones, pudiera afirmarse que se trata de un grupo bastante heterogéneo de personas, en su mayoría desprovistas de un proyecto político que orientara su participación en estos eventos. No obstante, habría que destacar la presencia de sectores disidentes, que hace rato se vienen expresando mediante diversos actos de desobediencia civil, muy promocionados fuera de Cuba. Aunque minoritarios, y también diversos en su composición y objetivos, estos sectores aportaron cierta caracterización política al acontecimiento y una imagen más explotable de cara a la opinión pública internacional.

El fenómeno ocurrido, bastante inusual en la historia de la Revolución, ha tenido diversas lecturas. Por un lado, las apocalípticas, que otra vez pronostican el fin del proceso revolucionario cubano e instan al gobierno norteamericano a actuar para acelerarlo, incluso mediante agresiones militares, bajo la excusa de la intervención humanitaria. Alrededor de esta lógica se agrupan las fuerzas contrarrevolucionarias más agresivas, propugnadoras del caos en el país, las cuales cuentan con un considerable apoyo externo, capaz de establecer una matriz mediática que impera en las redes sociales y los grandes medios de información.

Hasta ahora, la política del gobierno de Estados Unidos parece estar determinada por esta corriente, dado su supuesto impacto electoral en la Florida. Fondos millonarios se destinan a estimularla, se incrementan las sanciones contra Cuba y el relato de la extrema derecha cubanoamericana se impone en el discurso oficial del país, así como en el debate estadounidense sobre la realidad cubana.

Con esta corriente no hay diálogo posible, por lo que quizás más importante para la articulación de un debate nacional, son las personas que, hayan o no participado en las manifestaciones, no se suman a los planes norteamericanos, pero han sido críticas, tanto de la gestión gubernamental, como de alegados excesos cometidos por la fuerza pública en el enfrentamiento a los manifestantes, arbitrariedades en el tratamiento legal de los detenidos y la conducción comunicacional del acontecimiento por parte del gobierno. El esclarecimiento de estos problemas, la búsqueda de soluciones a las diferencias y el establecimiento de normas claras que regulen este tipo de eventos de cara al futuro, constituye un paso importante para aliviar las tensiones generadas por las manifestaciones.

También alentadas por la actual coyuntura, pero de larga data en la agenda del debate nacional, han ganado más relevancia las discusiones referidas a la concepción y el funcionamiento del socialismo cubano. Aquí se encuadran desde sectores muy comprometidos con el proceso revolucionario, cuya principal exigencia es mejorar la gestión gubernamental y que se lleven a cabo las reformas hace años aprobadas por el partido y el Estado, después de amplias consultas populares, hasta otros que más o menos se oponen al socialismo o lo perciben asociado con fórmulas democratacristianas, socialdemócratas y liberales, que asumen pueden ser aplicadas en Cuba.

La agenda de estos grupos o personas es tan diversa como, a veces, imprecisa en sus planes y soluciones. Más se concentran en la crítica a lo existente, que en precisar las propuestas que puedan servirle como alternativa. Se destacan temas como el diseño del modelo socialista, la democratización de su funcionamiento, el papel del partido comunista, la propiedad privada y las relaciones mercantiles, la aplicación del ordenamiento económico, los problemas de la equidad y la pobreza, la discriminación en sus diversas manifestaciones, la emigración, la ecología, el cuidado de los animales y muchos otros, cada cual con repercusiones más o menos amplificadas en la sociedad cubana.

A pesar de la diversidad de preocupaciones y opiniones, estas tendencias encuentran un lugar común en la crítica al burocratismo, la corrupción y otros vicios asociados a la gestión gubernamental, cosas que el propio discurso oficial también rechaza y combate, así como en la confrontación con posiciones que consideran conservadoras y refractarias a los cambios, las que ubican en ciertas estructuras del partido y el Estado, así como en intelectuales a los que acusan de dogmáticos, aunque éstos no se reconozcan en esta definición.

La particularidad del caso cubano es que todas estas tendencias, cualquiera sea su signo ideológico, aparecen traspasadas por una constante que, quieran o no, las define desde el punto de vista patriótico, dígase el papel de Estados Unidos en la vida de la nación.

Desde los orígenes de las luchas anticoloniales cubanas, el tema de las relaciones con Estados Unidos aparece como un factor definitorio de la escala patriótica. Las corrientes anexionistas, que tempranamente parecieron una alternativa, en el entendido de unirse a ese país en condiciones de igualdad una vez alcanzada la independencia, se diluyó rápidamente como opción patriótica, cuando resultó evidente que ese no era el plan norteamericano. José Martí fue quien mejor alertó sobre el peligro de las pretensiones estadounidenses y fijó como objetivo principal de las luchas nacionales: “impedir a tiempo con la independencia de Cuba que se extiendan por las Antillas los Estados Unidos y caigan, con esa fuerza más, sobre nuestras tierras de América.”

No fue posible y esa “fuerza más” inauguró en Cuba el modelo neocolonial. El antimperialismo, como condición básica para la independencia y la soberanía del país, devino entonces el factor común de las luchas patrióticas cubanas desde el advenimiento de la República hasta nuestros días. Desconocer este factor o colocarlo en segundo orden, limita la capacidad de comprender la problemática cubana y sitúa a las personas en un terreno pantanoso, con riesgo de convertirse en funcionales a los objetivos de la política norteamericana contra la Isla, aunque esa no sea su intención.

No basta con mencionar “al vuelo” el bloqueo norteamericano, para concentrarse en problemas domésticos, que supuestamente tienen solución obviando el impacto de la política norteamericana sobre los mismos. Si no entendemos la integralidad de la política norteamericana, no podemos comprender el dilema cubano ni tampoco el del resto del mundo. Estamos en presencia de un sistema hegemónico mundial, que penetra por todos los poros del tejido social y, como dijo el expresidente George W. Bush, se está con él o en su contra. Una verdad más que evidente en el caso de Cuba, aunque esa confrontación pueda tener diversos grados y matices.

Es cierto que el temor a “darle armas al enemigo” y la práctica de culpar al imperialismo de todas las dificultades, igual limita el abordaje integral de los problemas, ha restringido los espacios democráticos y servido de excusa al dogmatismo en muchos casos, pero la solución no es el reduccionismo inverso, sino la promoción de la cultura política y el diálogo que le sirve de sustento. La buena noticia es que, tanto dentro como fuera del país, se cuenta entre los cubanos con el capital cultural que requiere este empeño, un conocimiento que está instalado en los espacios académicos e intelectuales, incluso en la sabiduría popular, y que también ha incrementado su presencia en las redes sociales. El asunto es saber aprovecharlo. 

A political x-ray for possible dialogue in Cuba

By Jesús Arboleya On Jul 28, 2021   Progresso Weekly


Protests that occurred on July 11 in Cuba have reinforced the idea of the need for a national dialogue in order to articulate a new consensus and expand existing democratic mechanisms. As it is difficult to specify an agenda and identify its possible actors, it is worth trying to discern the political currents existing in the country and their broader interests.

Since the triumph of the Revolution, Cuban political life has been so intense and all-encompassing that very few have been able to avoid placing themselves in one of the great conglomerates in dispute — those who support the socialist system and/or its adversaries. Let us analyze the balance of these forces and their possible disposition to the dialogue that is proposed.

Defeated initially on the Island, the hard core counterrevolutionaries settled abroad, especially in Miami. For the most extreme sectors of this group, dialogue is a bad word and there have been many disparagingly called “dialoguers (dialogueros)” who have been harassed, attacked and even killed, for defending this position. Beyond the fanaticism that characterizes these groups, there are objective factors that explain this behavior: those who adhere to a hostility encouraged, protected and very well remunerated by the U.S. government.

They are promoters of chaos and U.S. intervention in Cuba. Their ultimate goal is to return to the neocolonial regime that previously existed in the country. This is not a gratuitous accusation inspired by left-wing fundamentalisms; it is clearly expressed by the Helms-Burton law, a legal instrument that regulates relations between the United States and Cuba.

These forces have some supporters within the country, generally encouraged and dependent on the money they receive from abroad. In no way is this a secret. Boasting of their transparency, the U.S. government makes known the public funds allocated for subversion in Cuba — money that is received from its Miami intermediaries, extreme right groups who also profit from these funds.

Their activities in Cuba and abroad, usually violent and meant to provoke, resonate internationally due to the attention they receive via the large information consortiums and in social networks where media campaigns are articulated, and often designed using very sophisticated techniques for manipulating these media. Due to its nature and intentions, under these circumstances there are no real possibilities of dialogue, nor is it to be supposed that they would be willing to accept it, since it conspires against their own existence and privileges.

However, not all opponents of the socialist system are reluctant to establish a dialogue with the government and various sectors of Cuban civil society. For some, this responds to a strategy aimed at achieving a “regime change by other means,” as Obama’s move to establish relations with Cuba was defined. For others it simply reflects intentions for advancing their own interests — be they economic, cultural, ideological, existential, even humanitarian — without conditioning it to the overthrow of the Cuban government. This is not strange. Cuba maintains more or less harmonious relations with countless governments, institutions and people all over the world who oppose socialism.

No matter their intentions, this dialogue is convenient for Cuba because these positions are the majority within its emigration, and are based on their recognition of the State and the Cuban institutions with which they propose to negotiate with. This dialogue should attempt to satisfy matters of mutual interest while neutralizing the most aggressive options that influence policies towards Cuba of those in power in countries where they live, including that of the United States.

This tendency, which could be characterized as a peaceful opposition with a willingness to dialogue with the Cuban government and civil society, also has its proponents within Cuba, although there are no organizations that represent it. As can be inferred from the result of the 2019 constitutional referendum, it is composed of around 9 percent of the electorate, some 700,000 people, who voted against socialism, a figure that could increase if we add some abstentions and invalid votes. A significant minority position, which does not correspond to the matrix of propaganda against Cuba, that does not imply that it is fair to ignore their rights, nor is it intelligent to underestimate the importance of taking them into account for the construction of a national consensus.

Although often they can be freely expressed through the channels of the People’s Power, the open consultations that are usually carried out on various issues, through unions and other mechanisms of citizen participation, and either due to deficiencies or limitations in the functioning of these structures or as a result of the social compulsion that intolerance and misunderstanding of their positions can generate, the full satisfaction of these rights is often limited.

Given the difficulty of expressing themselves through official channels, it is common for them to manifest themselves through churches and fraternal organizations, with which the government maintains relationships, or through social networks. To increase dialogue with these sectors and expand the possibilities of their participation in multiple aspects of national life, it is enough to enforce what is established in the Constitution and that they receive maximum protection from the State and the rest of the country’s political institutions.

Paradoxically, it has become much more complex to establish the agendas and the composition of possible dialogues within the left-wing conglomerate that, from various philosophical and political approaches, declares itself in favor of socialism, although some may question the model applied in Cuba and the management of the government. Although practically all say they are willing to participate in a national dialogue, they often differ in the scope of the convening, the focus of attention and the priorities of the debate. Achieving conciliation of these positions is vital to articulate the unity of the country around the socialist project. As much as the argument has been degraded as a result of the abuse of slogans, the history of the Cuban nation bears witness to the importance of this unit for the defense of the sovereignty and independence of the country, the point of demarcation of political tendencies in Cuba.

The issues in dispute are many. They include the conceptualization of socialism and its application to the Cuban reality; the functioning of the government and the direction of the economy; the role of the market and private management; the mechanisms of democratic participation and popular control; the concept of citizenship and one’s rights; information and cultural policy; bureaucratism and dogmatism; social problems of diverse character; the role of the communist party and its methods of work; emigration and the nation’s bond with emigrants; as well as relations with the United States and the rest of the world.

These are very complex issues, traversed by fairly recent phenomena such as the collapse of the USSR and the European socialist camp, which had served as a model for the Cuban system; the tremendous economic crisis that this meant for the country, with its resulting inequalities, social problems and the deterioration of values ​​that greatly influenced citizen behavior; the increase in emigration as a result of discontent and lack of expectations, especially among young people; as well as the death of Fidel Castro, who was a unifying factor domestically and of influence internationally, especially on the left.

Add to all of this the resurgence of the U.S. blockade in the midst of a devastating pandemic, as well as the worsening of inherited structural problems which complicates even more solutions for the current circumstances. The strange thing is not that there have been protests of social discontent, but that the system has been able to survive despite these immense inconveniences.

Under these adverse conditions, new leadership in government, which has made its own mistakes, has had to function. Which does not exempt them from assuming the maximum responsibility of channeling possible dialogues, which in fact they have promised to stimulate and have tried to do so through various official announcements. The problem is that dialogue not only consists of establishing spaces to express opinions and debate on various topics, but also in the resolution of conflicts, through the confrontation of different ideas, sometimes supposedly antagonistic.

The Cuban government has not always had the flexibility and breadth that is required for this endeavor, in part because, in the case of Cuba, the real need to be on the defensive, with no gaps, is important. One consequence of U.S. harassment has been the objective limitation of the exercise of democracy in the country. With everything that must be recognized as a right and from that condition they must be treated when they occur within the parameters established by law, protesting in Cuba does not entail the same dangers to national security as in other countries. No one has thought of a humanitarian intervention in Colombia, for example, although those killed by the police in the demonstrations in recent months number in the dozens.

“The art of the Revolution has been its ability to turn enemies into friends.’ – Fidel Castro

Revolutionary intransigence demonstrated by the Revolution has been an essential component of the capacity to resist and forms part of the tradition of Cuba’s fight for independence and national sovereignty. A possible dialogue’s problem is when this intransigence is assumed through a misunderstood radicalism, which confuses principles with conjunctures and objectives with methods to achieve them. Any student of Cuban history will recognize that Fidel Castro, the most radical of Cuban revolutionaries, was a magician of dialectics. On one occasion I heard him say, and I quote him from memory: “The art of the Revolution has been its ability to turn enemies into friends.”

The most conflictive moments of the revolutionary process, and the cause of many of the worst political consequences, has been when, protected by a distorted ‘revolutionary radicalism,’ the most extreme tendencies prevailed. Many people felt alienated by a perverse logic which unfairly mistreated them until turning them into enemies, thus justifying the original abuse. Extremism, as Lenin, another radical revolutionary par excellence, warned, is a breeding ground for opportunism, and opportunism is a cancer that corrodes revolutionary processes. One only has to look at the Soviet debacle, a disaster that hatched within the system, to perceive the magnitude that these damages can attain.

Extremism obstructs dialogue when it entrenches itself in the indefensible and, in the name of defending the Revolution, disqualifies any type of criticism, as well as violates ethical principles of socialist political conduct where the end cannot justify the means. It would not matter much if it simply reflected another current of thought which struggles to defend its truth on an equal footing with other tendencies, but it can be very harmful when, as has happened on occasions, it assumes the representation of the official line of the party and the State, monopolizes public expressions and exercises the ability to repress its adversaries.

In this way, in recent years, attempts have been made to discredit, even punish, left-wing intellectuals, mostly young people who, rightly or wrongly, take critical positions regarding certain conceptions and government policies. Also, options for dialogue with non-socialist sectors have been frustrated which, regardless of great differences, have been willing to find common ground with sectors of the left. They have even tried to silence the critical voices of revolutionary militants through pressure or by limiting their access to the official media.

It is clear that any of these expressions can serve individuals with hidden counterrevolutionary intentions. Surely, there are departments within the CIA, right-wing organizations and so-called experts in many places trying to gain ground in Cuba. Be it a non-conforming left, or followers of other ideologies or, even, among the most extreme radicals, the issue is not to make things easier for them by making enemies of those who are not and who do not want to be. Once again, respect for the Constitution and the laws is the best protection against the penetration of the enemy and the main antidote to avoid committing excesses covered by this purpose.

Although it is not possible to speak of the existence of a properly institutionalized national dialogue, many dialogues exist in Cuba and are more widespread than many suppose. They take place within the communist party itself, particularly in the nuclei, whose symbiosis with the popular bases should be listened to and exploited more closely. They happen with great intensity and breadth in academic circles, either among students and teachers, or as a result of social research that, although increasingly taken into account for the design of public policies, are not disseminated until they become a source of popular culture. It occurs between intellectuals and artists within their own organizations; it has even been seen in the commissions of the National Assembly of People’s Power, although the result of the votes always reflects an exaggerated unanimity. It exists between emigrants and the government, as well as various sectors of civil society, not to mention the streets, declared a permanent forum for political debate in the country.

Perhaps the main obstacle to the potential of these scattered dialogues to contribute to the national consensus lies in the limitations of the press and other official media to disseminate their results and integrate them into the political work of the nation. For years the government itself has criticized the deficiencies of the press to reflect the situation in the country and meet the information needs of the population. But this criticism has been focused more on pointing out the results, than analyzing their causes. The most negative consequence has been the loss of credibility of public bodies and their defenselessness in the face of the distortions that are often generated through social networks or other strange media.

This contrasts with the quality of our journalists and other information professionals, many with a high vocation for social service, trained in good schools, and aware of the most innovative techniques of the trade. They are not even problems in essence attributable to the directors of the organizations and officials who direct these activities, since their replacement would suffice to overcome the mess. It is a much deeper problem related to the conception of the role of the press in the construction of socialist hegemony and the norms for its operation, an old unsolved problem of the socialist system. Add to this a huge gap when facing the scenario created by the new information technologies. The solution, then, requires a thorough review of state and party policies, as well as their conceptions regarding the press and its democratic demands.

The phrase, “It’s the economy, stupid,” was Bill Clinton’s campaign theme in 1992 and was considered so descriptive of the situation that some say it was decisive in his victory. The same logic applies to the current Cuban reality. No dialogue will be able to solve the impact of this objective reality in the daily life of Cubans, but violence will achieve even less. Dialogue is a way to find solutions, especially by taking advantage of the enormous human capital the country has developed, and produce the welfare that comes with social harmony and contributes to popular political culture. Therein lies its importance.




The perfect storm

By Jesús Arboleya Last updated Jul 28, 2021


Many feel that protests that occurred in Cuba on July 11 constitute the announced death of the Revolution. Although truly shocking and damaging to the image of a country that prides itself on citizen tranquility, it is not rare for the revolutionary process to have been able to overcome major confrontations.

In the early years these confrontations were expressed in the armed struggle against terrorism, rebel gangs and invasions organized by the CIA. But even after overcoming this stage in the domestic scene — more or less violent social upheavals did not end — the common factor has been the participation and encouragement of the United States government and the external counterrevolution.

What occurs at the moment does not substantially change this pattern. It is difficult to qualify as ‘spontaneous’ demonstrations that occurred in unison throughout the country. They’ve been in the planning for months and have the financing, at least indirectly, of the hundreds of millions of dollars publicly allocated by the United States for the “promotion of democracy” in Cuba.

We are in the presence of a new U.S. aggression and this constitutes the central element of the analysis, although the majority of the protesters have not received instructions from the White House and their objectives do not even correspond to the pretensions of that country in Cuba. In reality, one of the great tragedies of this type of event is that many of its participants do not even act with full awareness of what they want, although generally they do know what they do not want, nor are they able to calculate the consequences of their actions. This is the difference between revolution and chaos.

It also would be simplistic to say that these types of conflicts only respond to a “malevolent imperialist plan,” since they are a reflection of the economic, social and political problems that the country traverses. Many times they are the result of the United States’ own aggressions, especially the blockade, but also as a consequence of errors and inadequacies in the construction of socialism in Cuba, and the inevitable political struggles that a process of this nature generates.

That said, it is worth analyzing the particularities of the current protests, an expression of the perfect storm that the country is experiencing. The most important is that the political subject has changed — both of society as a whole, and of the government that should govern its destinies — without the cohesive factor that the figure of Fidel Castro represented.

Continuity’ can be a valid slogan when referring to the objectives of the revolutionary process, but inoperative when it comes to conducting it. The country’s own leadership has insisted on the need for institutions and political cadres to change the “mentality” and ways of operating. That leadership has also tried it in many ways. But the main criticism of its management has been the inability to generate these changes at the speed and depth required, even to carry out many of the reforms that it has designed and that enjoy a positive national consensus.

Another peculiarity has been the level of violence applied by the forces of order in certain places — without justifying attacks against the police or the vandalism of the protesters. Although there have been moments of great confrontations, the government has always been careful to establish limits to the repressive actions of the police, knowing its political consequences.

Without reaching the scale that is unfortunately quite common in other countries, we have experienced scenes of violence and police abuse which do not correspond to the traditions and practices of the Revolution. It is true that the demonstrations were not always peaceful and orderly. Just as videos demonstrate police excesses, there is plenty of evidence of the violence and vandalism in various demonstrations which justify the determined action of the police. The problem is that although repression in Cuba may be minimal compared to other countries, a single case is enough to transgress the ethics of the revolutionaries and damages the image of the country, with what this entails for the national security itself. It is also bad policy.

This violence also takes place at a time when the process of approval of a new Constitution is being consolidated, which had the support, granted by secret ballot, of more than 80 percent of the voters. Violating the postulates of this Constitution constitutes a crime for either party and there are no reasons to do so, since it affects the consensus that underpins the strategic project of the nation.

Another peculiarity is the difficulties of the revolutionary forces to confront the subversive actions channeled through social networks. This is a new scenario for Cuba, at a disadvantage in the face of enemies who have all the money and experience in the use of these instruments of social communication — whether it be to sell a pair of shoes, destabilize a country or elect a president. For sure, the profiles of the majority of Cubans already rest on servers ready to be classified and dozens of operators are in charge of manipulating them. Nobody summoned me to the July 11 demonstrations, but thousands of people, more willing than me, surely received the message.

However, beyond the problems of the use of new technologies, there is the problem of the content of the information that is distributed and the methods used to guarantee the effectiveness of the message and its credibility. The shortcomings of the press, with no solutions in sight, have been the object of constant criticism from the country’s leaders. A good part of the human capital of the intelligentsia is wasted in the media and the result of social research continues to have very limited diffusion, which affects the accuracy and depth of the analyses that are transmitted to the population. The debate from different positions, present in other settings, even in the queues outside grocery stores, is a rare animal in the Cuban press.

Many of the social problems that lack adequate attention, and which President Díaz Canel himself has pointed out among the causes of the events that occurred — namely poverty, marginalization, racism and other social differences — have been studied for years by Cuban academic centers. And the results that warn about these phenomena and their treatment have not always been duly taken into account.

Although there is a lack of research to confirm this data, Díaz Canel also defined the fundamental components that he considers were present in the demonstrations and identified three large groups: the annexationists, who act bent on the interests of the United States; people with criminal attitudes; as well as a large presence of young people. The former are easily identifiable by their political ties and attitudes, the second group by their conduct, but the last respond to a much broader and more complex definition, related to much bigger problems in the life of the country.

Although the economic blockade has not been able to overthrow the regime, as its proponents have hoped for, it has been a determining obstacle to the economic advancement of the country, as well as serving as a constant political wear and tear, conditioned to create overwhelming deficiencies for the common citizen.

The Cuban miracle has been to survive under these conditions, but to resist eternally does not satisfy the life expectancy of ordinary people, especially young people. Such a level of dissatisfaction explains the volume of emigration that exists, as well as the expressions of dissatisfaction that are observed in various settings. The cause is economic, but its consequences are political and as such must be addressed.

The resurgence of the blockade, to the point of economic suffocation as a result of Donald Trump’s policies, has been compounded by the devastating humanitarian, social and economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is no coincidence that the demonstrations were called for at the worst moment of the pandemic, when the country faces record levels of infections and deaths, a situation that should improve in the coming months as a result of the application of Cuban vaccines.

Nor is it a coincidence that they occurred at a time when the Biden administration seemed ready to announce the much-studied policy toward Cuba. Since taking over as president, the Cuban-American extreme right has been articulating provocations and media campaigns to prevent the sanctions established by Donald Trump from being reversed. It seems that Biden is cornered by these pressures and that policy towards Cuba will not have significant changes in the coming months.

The only thing that depends on the Cubans is Cuba itself. May the crisis, the mother of great transformations, in a climate of dialogue and peace, allow us to evaluate everything that must be evaluated and change everything that must be changed. The future of a Revolution depends on it, a Revolution where many Cubans have poured their life, heart and soul into.


Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Humanitarian Letter to President Biden

 President Joseph R. Biden

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington, DC 20500

July 28, 2021

Dear President Biden:

While there has been much attention paid to the unprecedented social protests that erupted in

Cuba in the last weeks, there has been far less attention paid to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in

Cuba that was one of the drivers of the protests.

As news reports and studies have made clear, Cuba is currently facing severe shortages of basic

medicines, syringes for vaccination, food, and other vital materials as they battle COVID-19.

These shortages are causing needless suffering and deaths.

We are writing to urge you to put saving Cuban lives ahead of all other priorities by

suspending U.S. regulations that endanger the lives of Cuban people by preventing

humanitarian aid from reaching Cuba.

In making this request, we do not wish to minimize the political significance of either the

protests themselves nor of this moment for Cubans and Cuban-Americans.

However, we believe that at this moment of acute global danger, U.S. policy towards Cuba

should be governed by one overriding principle, irrespective of political considerations: that we

should do everything possible to ensure the health and well-being of the Cuban people by

removing all obstacles to the flow of vital medical aid and food.

While Cuba’s economic crisis has been caused by numerous factors, U.S. sanctions are clearly

contributing to the worsening humanitarian situation the island is facing, and your administration

should take the necessary steps to alleviate the suffering of the Cuban people.

Specifically, we urge you to:

1) Lift all restrictions and caps of family and donative remittances that could help Cubans

purchase food and medicine on the island;

2) Remove the requirement for specific licenses to send medical supplies to Cuba and the

“end-use verification” requirement for humanitarian imports, both of which vastly increase the

red tape in sending aid to the island from the U.S., and which discourage both donors and sellers;


3) Lift all restrictions on banking and financial transactions related to humanitarian aid as well as

restrictions on the percentage of U.S.-made material used in foreign- produced medical supplies

that inhibit the purchase or distribution of humanitarian aid internationally.

We hope your administration can act on this request urgently.

Yours truly,

Caribbean Agroecology Institute

Center for an Urban Future

Center for Democracy in the Americas

Christopher Reynolds Foundation

Cuba Educational Travel

CubaOne Foundation

Environmental Defense Fund

Foundation for a Civil Society

Friends of Havana eV

Fund for Reconciliation and Development

Global Health Partners

Havana Preservation Initiative



Ocean Doctor

Project Por Amor

The Marti Project

The Nature of Cities


Academics and policy experts signing in an individual capacity:

Anthony M. Tung (New School)*

Belmont Freeman (Architect)*

Ben Rodriguez-Cubeñas (Rockefeller Brothers Fund)*

Carlos Fernandez-Aballi (Entrepreneur)*

Carlos Pomares (Essex County Board of Commissioners)*

Carlos Rodriguez (Pratt Institute)*

Claudia Castillo (Pratt Institute)*

David Burney (Pratt Institute)*

Debra Andreades (Urban Planner)*

Esther da Costa Meyer (Princeton University)*

Gabriel Vignoli (New School)*

Jill Hamberg (Pratt Institute)*

John Kirk (Dalhousie University)*

Katrin Hansing (Baruch College, City University New York)*

Michael Cohen (New School)*

Peter Orris (University of Illinois, School of Public Health)*

Ron Shiffman (Pratt Institute)*

Rosa Lowinger (Conservator) *

*Institutions and affiliations included for identification purposes only

Domingo Amuchastegui: Analysis of November 15 and July 11

November 15: Who lost and who won?

By Domingo Amuchastegui


The war challenge launched by the opposition organization Archipiélago (name with tourist connotations and nothing mobilizing) with a view to precipitating the collapse of the Cuban government four months ago and actively seconded by other opposition groups in Cuba, but mainly by the Cuban exiles in Miami and their active lobby in Washington, as well as by the European Union (EU),  it culminated in a resounding failure. Despite the overwhelming evidence, Yunior García, manager of the Archipelago, promised from Havana a march "alone" and cried out – after not risking to go out on the street – and then claimed to have obtained a "resounding victory." Yunior insisted that the marches would continue, without waiting for any programming. Four days later, Yunior appears in Spain in the company of his wife. Undoubtedly, an outcome nothing heroic ...

Bewilderment has spread in the ranks of the Archipelago; the mourners cry, consistent explanations are missing, and only "la repression" is blamed. Already most of the managing members of the San Isidro movement have chosen to continue the struggle from Miami, subordinating themselves to the leaders and payrolls of the so-called "historical exile." This trend now clearly suggests a "satelization" of this opposition group known as the Archipelago with respect to the Miami of that exile and the politics of Washington, whether that of Trump or Biden, and with it his political suicide. It will be very difficult for them to recover the advertising heyday that preceded November 15 and much more to recover their possible internal implantation.

They do not quite understand that the struggle for power involves taking all the risks and deploying the necessary audacity. The "balloon" of November 14 and 15, deflated completely. And now they seek safe haven under the protection of the United States and there is no shortage of the many who cry out for the intervention of the powerful power. Continuing to articulate its options, ties and dependence with Miami and Washington will lead to new failures; they will be doomed to lose their credibility and mobilizing capacity among many sectors of the population.

The balance indicates that the "paid opposition" of the last three decades barely poked its head in these months and was annulled, this time by the most original movements known as San Isidro and Archipelago. These set up a second opposition with more possibilities at first, but frustrated today by the results of November 15. But, there is still a third side of opposition that continues to manifest itself actively in the field of ideas and proposals through blogs and some publications, by old revolutionary "heretics" and young people who approach them today attracted by their initiatives. This can contribute to influencing in the short term to promote the processes of change that are brewing internally. It is a critical opposition "within the Revolution," a phrase I use to differentiate it from the two mentioned above.

 For its part, the Party-State government has gloated to claim a total triumph that the evidence seems to confirm. In this case , unlike On July 11 – there were no demonstrations of any kind, street clashes or visible police violence. Of course, its mechanisms of intimidation (both media and police and its supporters) did become visible, showing its effectiveness. Archipelago and Yunior chose not to challenge them and their calls to demonstrate fell on deaf ears. Those who promised to reissue a July 11 and achieve an easy triumph, were "left with the desire."

In other words, these currents of opposition and their powerful external underpinnings may be within their perfect rights to seek the overthrow of the established power. But, to the same extent, the Party-State government has the right to fight for the preservation of its power and its hegemony today quite battered. Imagining another scenario or scenario is a matter of demagogues or naïve.

As far as the Party-State government is concerned, there should be no doubt: today it still enjoys significant support among its supporters. Do you set up a majority? Undoubtedly, but decreasing. The electoral processes of the last 10 years showed a growth of negative votes and a sustained rise in abstention levels. And if July 11 more than confirmed such a decreasing trend, November 15 seems to show an apparent recovery of such support, which may induce in the Cuban leadership a kind of triumphalist conviction that may, eventually, lead it to reaffirm that they are in absolute control of the situation and its most important tendencies. This would be a gross mistake because the internal and external dimensions of the crisis facing the country may, spontaneously, lead to another July 11 or a worse result and that would not be the result of any internal opposition, but of the insurmountable accumulation of negative factors by that leadership.

Instead of an unfounded triumphalism, the Cuban leadership today has to reflect in depth on its crisis and in the two years that separate it from its next electoral exercise (2023) what directions and priorities to put into practice. If you limit themselves to the usual conventional exercise by dint of dedazos (51%) and with unique candidates, they will most likely have to do "magic" to sort the numbers in their favor and risk new and older July 11. The  most  urgent priorities   point  in  the  following  directions:

1.     Complete a comprehensive redesign of the entire system, saving what deserves to be saved. Put an end to the schemes and supposed foundations that the Party embodies the State and the nation, the exercise of an absolutism-monopolist and verticalist that are today proven to be inappropriate. We live in the twenty-first century not the 60s of the last century.

2.     Explore the possibilities of an inclusive national dialogue in order to add and not subtract. Culminate this dialogue in the formation of recognized alternative political expressions, from "heretics" to indigenous opponents, in no way tied to the Miami-Washington axis. Adopt substantial modifications at the constitutional level that enshrine such changes. Coexist with a National Assembly where different and even oppositional options are heard and debased; win in the debate of ideas and projects through secret ballots.

3.     Seek a substantial and sustained flow of foreign investment, seeking its reincorporation into the World Bank/International Monetary Fund.

4.     Validate its hegemony with a supreme democratic exercise: broader international oversight of the 2023 elections. If one is convinced that the majority of the people are with you, then this exercise of supervision is in no way harmful to our sovereignty. And if they lose, they will lose legally, hand over the government, pass to the opposition, and fight for a successful return to government.

(original version)

15 de Noviembre: ¿Quiénes perdieron y quiénes ganaron?

Por Domingo Amuchastegui


El desafío de guerra lanzado por la organización opositora Archipiélago (nombre con connotaciones turísticas y nada movilizador) con miras a precipitar el colapso del gobierno cubano hace cuatro meses y activamente secundado por otros grupos opositores en Cuba, pero principalmente por los exiliados cubanos en Miami y su activo lobby en Washington, asi como por la Unión Europea (UE), culminó en un sonado fracaso. Pese a la abrumadora evidencia, Yunior García, gestor de Archipiélago, prometía desde La Habana una marcha “en solitario” y clamaba -tras no arriesgarse a salir a la calle- para luego afirmar haber obtenido una “victoria rotunda.” Yunior insistía en que las marchas continuarían, sin esperar programación alguna. Cuatro dias más tarde, Yunior aparece por España en compañía de su esposa. Sin dudas, un desenlace nada heroíco…

El desconcierto ha cundido en las filas de Archipiélago; lloran las plañideras, faltan las explicaciones consistentes y sólo se culpa a “la repression”. Ya la mayoría de los miembros gestores del movimiento San Isidro ha optado por continuar la lucha desde Miami, subordinándose a los dirigentes y nóminas del llamado “exilio histórico.” Esta tendencia sugiere claramente ahora una “satelización” de esta agrupación opositora conocida como Archipiélago con respecto al Miami de dicho exilio y la política de Washington, sea la de Trump o la de Biden, y con ello su suicidio político. Muchísimo les costará recuperar el apogeo publicitario que precedieron al 15 de Noviembre y muchísimo más remontar su posible implantación interna.

No acaban de entender que la lucha por el poder supone asumir todos los riesgos y desplegar la audacia necesaria. El “globo” del 14 y 15 de Noviembre, se desinfló por completo. Y ahora buscan refugio seguro al amparo de EEUU y no faltan dentro de estos los muchos que a gritos piden la intervención de la poderosa potencia. Seguir articulando sus opciones, nexos y dependencia con Miami y Washington, conducirá a nuevos fracasos; estarán condenados a perder su credibilidad y capacidad movilizativa entre muchos sectores de la población.

El balance indica que la “oposición pagada” de las últimas tres décadas apenas asomó la cabeza en estos meses y quedó anulada, esta vez por los movimientos  más originales conocidos como San Isidro y Archipiélago. Estos configuraron una segunda oposición con más posibilidades al principio, pero frustradas hoy por los resultados del 15 de Noviembre. Pero, todavía existe una tercera vertiente de oposición que sigue manifestándose activamente en el terreno de las ideas y las propuestas mediante blogs y algunas publicaciones, por viejos revolucionarios “herejes” y gente joven que se les acerca atraídos hoy por sus iniciativas. Esto puede contribuir a influir en el corto plazo a impulsar a los procesos de cambio que se gestan en lo interno. Es una oposición crítica “dentro de la Revolución,” frase que utilizo para diferenciarla de las dos antes mencionadas.

 Por su lado, el gobierno Partido-Estado se ha regodeado en reclamar un triunfo total que la evidencia parece confirmar. En este caso -a diferencia del 11 de Julio- no se registraron manifestaciones de tipo alguno, choques callejeros o violencia policial visible. Eso sí, sus mecanismos de intimidación (tanto mediáticos como policiales y de sus partidarios) sí se hicieron visibles, mostrando su eficacia. Archipiélago y Yunior optaron por no desafiarlos y sus llamados a manifestarse cayeron en oídos sordos. Los que prometían reeditar un 11 de Julio y alcanzar un triunfo fácil, se “quedaron con las ganas.”

En otras palabras, esas corrientes de oposición y sus poderoso sustentos externos pueden estar en su perfecto derecho de procurar el derrocamiento del poder establecido. Pero, en esa misma medida tiene el gobierno del Partido-Estado el derecho a batirse por la conservación de su poder y de su hegemonía hoy bastante maltrecha. Imaginar otro panorama o escenario es cosa de demagogos o ingenuos.

En lo que respecta al gobierno del Partido-Estado no deben albergarse dudas: hoy todavía goza de un respaldo significativo entre sus partidarios. ¿Configuran una mayoría? Sin dudas, pero decreciente. Los procesos electorales de los últimos 10 años mostraron un crecimiento de votos negativos y un ascenso sostenido de los niveles de abstención. Y si el 11 de Julio confirmó con creces semejante tendencia decreciente, el 15 de Noviembre parece mostrar una aparente recuperación de semejante respaldo, lo que puede inducir en la dirigencia cubana una suerte de convicción triunfalista que puede, eventualmente, llevarla a reafirmar que están en control absoluto de la situación y sus tendencias más importantes. Esto sería un craso error pues las dimensiones internas y externas de la crisis que enfrenta el país pueden, espontáneamente, desembocar en otro 11 de Julio o un resultado peor y que no sería resultado de ninguna oposición interna, sino de la acumulación insuperable de factores negativos por parte de esa dirigencia.

En lugar de un infundado triunfalismo, tiene la dirigencia cubana hoy que reflexionar en profundidad sobre su crisis y en los dos años que la separan de su próximo ejercicio electoral  (2023) qué rumbos y prioridades poner en práctica. Si se limita al ejercicio convencional de siempre a fuerza de dedazos (51%) y con candidatos únicos, lo más probable es que tengan que hacer “magia” para ordenar los números en su favor y arriesgar nuevos y mayores 11 de Julio. Las prioridades más urgentes apuntan en las siguientes direcciones:

1.     Completar un rediseño integral de la totalidad del sistema, salvando lo que merezca ser salvado. Poner fin a los esquemas y supuestos fundamentos de que el Partido encarna el Estado y la nación, el ejercicio de un absolutismo-monopolista y verticalista que son hoy probadamente improcedentes. Vivimos en el siglo XXI no los 60s del siglo pasado.

2.     Explorar las posibilidades de un diálogo nacional incluyente a fin de sumar y no restar. Culminar este diálogo en la formación de expresiones políticas alternativas reconocidas, desde “herejes” hasta opositores autóctonos, en nada atados al eje Miami-Washington. Adoptar modificaciones sustanciales en el plano constitucional que consagren semejantes cambios. Convivir con una Asamblea Nacional donde se escuchen y debatan opciones distintas y hasta opositoras; ganar en el debate de ideas y proyectos mediante las votaciones secretas.

3.     Procurar un flujo sustantancial y sostenido de inversión extranjera, procurando su reincorporación al Banco Mundial/Fondo Monetario Internacional.

4.     Validar su hegemonía con un ejercicio democrático supremo: la supervisión internacional más amplia de las elecciones del 2023. Si se está convencido de que la mayoría del pueblo está contigo, entonces este ejercicio de supervisión no es en modo alguno lesivo a nuestra soberanía. Y si pierden, perderán legalmente, entregarán el gobierno, pasarán a la oposición y lucharán por un regreso exitoso al gobierno.


"We change or we sink"

written by Domingo Amuchastegui  26 July 2021

 published by La Joven Cuba

"We change or we sink," a sentence that heralded profound transformations, was uttered by Raul  more than a decade ago. A little later,  Fidel Castro said when referring to socialism: «This does not serve us or us...». Such statements — in addition to being indisputable truths — seemed to promise significant changes. false. Quite the opposite has happened.

Today we are looking at a reality that painfully hints at a marked setback. July 11 and subsequent incidents mark the sinking of the old model on which he wanted to perpetuate an exhausted experience.

Let's examine some key points:

1. I do not give credit to the United States; to Cuban Miami; to the paid opposition (as I have always characterized it) that has been trying for more than six decades to blow up the country like a pressure cooker (a thesis advocated since 1960); nor to the criminals who always accompany such social outbursts, of being the managers and inspirers of 7/11/21.

In particular, let us stop blaming all our ills on the empire. From Washington to Calle 8, and to the wage earners  on the island; they were all taken by surprise by the events of that day, as also happened with the Cuban rulers. Obviously, hostile factors immediately try to capitalize on what happened through their media scaffolding.

2. I support the view that what happened is typically a spontaneous social explosion of considerable extent, encompassing numerous provinces and cities and involving thousands of people. It shows a social composition where areas and neighborhoods of recognized poverty are distinguished and in which blacks and young people stand out, pillars of the revolution in past decades.

There has been no lack of expressions of a kind of neo-annexationism, with many symbols of the United States flying, while in the streets of Miami, time and again, intervention by Washington was called for, which is the absolute sum of all solutions.

3. On the other hand, both parties claim a monopoly of the term people. Big mistake. Large segments of village are located on both sides. There are thousands of Cubans protesting and thousands still on the side of the government; a scenario reminiscent of "masses against masses". Such polarization stems from the current situation of hardship, extreme shortages, total lack of incentives (both material and socio-cultural), dollarization (beyond what is usual in the Cuban context) and, in particular, the reaction to the effects of the so-called "Ordering".

I attach particular importance to the latter. For thirty years it was said and repeated that the Cuban leadership would never apply a "shock therapy", but, in practice, the "Ordering" resulted precisely in a monumental "shock therapy" that left the vast majority of the population in a situation in which prices and wages became antagonistic categories, fueled by hyperinflation.

4. Computerization and social networks introduced an unprecedented multiplier and sudden dynamic, which was attempted to be silenced by the state's cyber monopolies. This was a futile act of political cowardice.

Who benefits from shutting down the Internet and other services? The Cuban government? Certainly not. It benefits opponents and discredits the one who does.

5. The essential responsibility for all this lies in the institutionalized resistance to any significant change, with a comprehensive approach and that supposes a comprehensive redesign of the proven inoperative model that has rested on a set of absolutist-ist dogmas such as Party-State, Party of the Cuban Nation, totally inadequate and overcome after sixty-two years of the revolutionary triumph.

The urgency of such changes became apparent in 1980 with the Mariel episode. Nothing was done, it was a case of dismissing everyone as 'scum', and the rigidity of the system was reinforced. The so-called Rectification of Errors of 1986 gave rise to hopes of change, but without providing anything effective. In 1991, prior to the Fourth Party Congress, a wave of proposals for radical changes arose at the time of the discussion of the Call to the Fourth Congress.

The response of the Party leadership was one of total rejection and severe recriminations and warnings. Once again, this leadership liquidated any possibility of change, including the expansion of the process of Economic Improvement promoted by them and that was advocated by the FAR since the early eighties.          

6. With the collapse of real socialism  and the Soviet Union (1989-1991), the ideal juncture arose to promote a comprehensive remodeling; however, nothing was done, but the absolutist mechanisms, the buckling, were deepened. The adoption of some patches, here or there, achieved little in the already urgent need for profound transformations.

The argument that 'if we loosen up, the situation gets out of hand', prevailed again and again. Meanwhile, the corruption and enrichment of many leaders, their children and grandchildren — including accounts and trips abroad — and, with it, a marked erosion of the moral authority that must distinguish any leader, became increasingly visible — becoming a popular talk.

7. Cuban leaders began to live with their backs to reality, refusing to perceive that the eras and values had changed, that the younger generations were no longer the enthusiastic revolutionaries of the sixties or the  obedient militants  of other decades; that sixty years do not pass for pleasure and that the mechanisms of communication and interconnection from one generation to another are fundamentally modified. For these leaders, time inside the country seemed to have stopped.

8. At the height of the SIXTH Party Congress, winds of change seemed to blow, but without culminating in anything real. The Seventh Congress would result in the suppression of such possibilities and a strong countercurrent to some of the measures or patches Once again the reverse was imposed. 

9. Then came the VIII Congress (April 2021) without building broad debates and preliminary consensus, despite the fact that the levels of poverty and deprivation reached unsuspected levels and of an almost impossible to imagine severity, worsened by Trump's economic war and the pandemic. The VIII Congress could represent the milestone or turn towards a path of profound transformations. But it wasn't.

This was the last possibility that could perhaps have calmed tensions and encouraged remodeling. And all this is what leads directly to the social explosion of 11 July, its aftermath and subsequent and renewed tensions, questions and unknowns.

10. In what directions are such tensions, questions and unknowns projected? The first and most urgent thing to define is: is the government collapsing? Categorically not... For now. But its internal and international image, its prestige and legitimacy have been seriously eroded; it won't be the same again even remotely; the stigma of July 11 will be indelible.

11. It will be their willingness and ability to comprehensively redesign the system that will say the last word. An aggravating factor to take into account and that limits in the extreme any design of changes is that the Cuban government faces a remarkable situation of bankruptcy, indebted in extreme in all latitudes (Paris Club, China and Russia), is a pariah in international financial relations.

This situation worsens after 11 July, because in the eyes of potential investors and tourists, a situation like this is not at all attractive. In such a context, it is only possible to undertake a comprehensive redesign at home and with a view to foreign investment and Cuba's reintegration into the international financial institutions, if it is necessary to ensure capital and technology flows in the medium term.

12. In the short term, we will have to work wonders  in the field of agricultural policy; full and easy access for SMEs to all activities, their financial support without fiscal suffocation; substantial reduction of the state monopoly and many others that have repeatedly been suggested and advised by Cuban economists. These are not  patches like those adopted these days (zero restrictions on Cuban travelers bringing goods for family and small businesses, term payments and others) that seem to be taken from an antique shop and that were urgent since the eighties.

13. And if, together with these hypothetical changes, there were to be a miracle of some improvement in relations with the United States —which seems difficult with Biden because his administration seeks at any cost the collapse of the Cuban government in order to win Florida for his Party— and an equal improvement in the pandemic, then things would improve, but never in the short term. It is not even foreseeable in a near time to reach five million tourists or a flow of 600 thousand Cubans as visitors.

14. The short term will be the one that decides, and it will do so on the forgotten premise that: "We change or we sink."

«Cambiamos o nos hundimos»

escrito por Domingo Amuchastegui 26 julio 2021
(Foto: EFE)
«Cambiamos o nos hundimos», sentencia que anunciaba profundas transformaciones, fue pronunciada por Raúl hace más de una década. Un poco después, Fidel Castro sentenciaba al referirse al socialismo: «Esto no nos sirve ni a nosotros…». Semejantes afirmaciones —además de ser verdades indiscutibles— parecían prometer cambios significativos. Falso. Ha ocurrido todo lo contrario.
Hoy nos asomamos a una realidad que insinúa, dolorosamente, un señalado revés. El 11 de julio e incidentes posteriores marcan el hundimiento del viejo modelo sobre el cual quiso perpetuarse una experiencia agotada.

Examinemos algunos puntos clave:

1. No le concedo el mérito a EE.UU.; al Miami cubano; a la oposición pagada (como siempre la he caracterizado) que lleva más de seis décadas tratando de hacer reventar el país cual olla de presión (tesis propugnada desde 1960); y tampoco a los delincuentes que siempre acompañan semejantes estallidos sociales, de ser los gestores e inspiradores del 11/7/21.

En especial, dejemos de echarle la culpa de todos nuestros males al imperio. Desde Washington hasta la Calle 8, y a los asalariados en la Isla; a todos los tomó por sorpresa los hechos de ese día, como también ocurrió con los gobernantes cubanos. Obviamente, los factores hostiles de inmediato tratan de capitalizar lo ocurrido por medio de su andamiaje mediático.

2. Sustento el criterio de que lo ocurrido es, típicamente, una explosión social espontánea de considerable extensión, que abarcó numerosas provincias y ciudades e involucró a miles de personas. Se aprecia en ella una composición social donde se distinguen zonas y barrios de reconocida pobreza y en la que sobresalen negros y jóvenes, pilares de la revolución en décadas pasadas.
No han faltado expresiones de una  suerte de neo-anexionismo, al enarbolar no pocos símbolos de EE.UU., en tanto que en las calles de Miami se pedía, una y otra vez, la intervención por parte de Washington, cual suma absoluta de todas las soluciones.
3. Por otro lado, ambas partes reclaman el monopolio del término pueblo. Gran error. Amplios segmentos de pueblo se hallan a ambos lados. Hay miles de cubanos protestando y miles todavía del lado del gobierno; un escenario que recuerda aquello de «masas contra masas». Una tal polarización se  deriva de la actual situación de penurias, escaseces extremas, falta total de alicientes (tanto materiales como socio-culturales), la dolarización (más allá de lo habitual en el contexto cubano) y, en particular, la reacción frente a los efectos del llamado «Ordenamiento».

 A esto último le concedo especial importancia. Durante treinta años se dijo y repitió que la dirigencia cubana nunca aplicaría una «terapia de choque», pero, en la práctica, el «Ordenamiento» se tradujo precisamente en una monumental «terapia de choque» que dejó a la inmensa mayoría de la población en una situación en que precios y salarios devenían categorías antagónicas, alimentada por una hiperinflación.

4. La informatización y las redes sociales introdujeron una dinámica multiplicadora y súbita sin precedentes, que se trató de silenciar por parte de los monopolios cibernéticos del Estado. Esto fue un acto inútil y de cobardía política.

¿A quién beneficia el cierre de Internet y otros servicios? ¿Al gobierno cubano? Ciertamente no. Beneficia a los oponentes y desacredita al que lo hace.

5. La responsabilidad esencial de todo esto descansa en la resistencia institucionalizada a cualquier cambio significativo, con enfoque abarcador y que suponga un rediseño integral del modelo probadamente inoperante que ha descansado en un conjunto de dogmas absolutistas-estatistas como Partido-Estado, Partido de la Nación Cubana, totalmente inadecuados y superados tras sesenta y dos años del triunfo revolucionario.
La urgencia de semejantes cambios se hizo patente en 1980 con el episodio del Mariel. Nada se hizo, se trató de descalificar a todos como «escoria», y la rigidez del sistema se reforzó. La llamada Rectificación de Errores de 1986 originó esperanzas de cambio, pero sin aportar nada efectivo. En 1991, previo al IV Congreso del Partido, se suscitó una ola de propuestas de cambios radicales en el momento de la discusión del Llamamiento al IV Congreso.
La respuesta de la dirección del Partido fue de rechazo total y severas recriminaciones y advertencias. Una vez más, esta dirigencia liquidaba toda posibilidad de cambio, incluyendo la expansión del proceso de Perfeccionamiento Económico por ellos promovido y que era propugnado por las FAR desde inicios de los ochenta.          
6. Con el desplome del socialismo real y de la Unión Soviética (1989-1991), se presentó la coyuntura idónea para impulsar una remodelación abarcadora; sin embargo, no se hizo cosa alguna, sino que se profundizaron los mecanismos absolutistas, el abroquelamiento. La adopción de algunos parches, aquí o allá, poco lograban en la ya urgente necesidad de transformaciones profundas.
El argumento de que «si aflojamos, la situación se nos va de las manos», prevalecía una y otra vez. Mientras, se hacían cada vez más visibles —deviniendo comidilla popular— la corrupción y enriquecimiento de muchos dirigentes, sus hijos y nietos —incluyendo cuentas y viajes al extranjero— y, con ello, un desgaste acentuado de la autoridad moral que debe distinguir a cualquier dirigente.
7. Los dirigentes cubanos empezaron a vivir de espaldas a la realidad, rehusando percibir que las épocas y valores habían cambiado, que las generaciones más jóvenes ya no eran los entusiastas revolucionarios de los sesenta ni los obedientes militantes de otras décadas; que sesenta años no transitan por gusto y que los mecanismos de comunicación e interconexión de una generación a otra se modifican raigalmente. Para estos dirigentes, el tiempo al interior del país parecía haberse detenido.
8. A la altura del VI Congreso del Partido parecieron soplar vientos de cambios, pero sin culminar en nada real. El VII Congreso se traduciría en la supresión de tales posibilidades y una fuerte contracorriente a algunas de las medidas o parches Una vez más se imponía la marcha atrás.
9. Llegó entonces el VIII Congreso (abril del 2021) sin que se construyeran amplios debates y consensos preliminares, a pesar de que los niveles de pobreza y carencias alcanzaban niveles insospechados y de una gravedad casi imposible de imaginar, empeorados por la guerra económica de Trump y la pandemia. El VIII Congreso pudo representar el hito o viraje hacia una ruta de transformaciones profundas. Pero no fue así.
El presidente Miguel Díaz Canel en su discurso durante el VIII Congreso del Partido (Foto: Estudios Revolución)
Fue esta la última posibilidad que hubiera podido tal vez apaciguar las tensiones y alentar la remodelación. Y todo esto es lo que conduce directamente al estallido social del 11 de julio, sus secuelas y ulteriores y renovadas tensiones, interrogantes e incógnitas.
10. ¿En qué direcciones se proyectan tales tensiones, interrogantes e incógnitas? Lo primero y más urgente a definir es: ¿colapsa el gobierno? Categóricamente no… por ahora. Pero su imagen interna e internacional, su prestigio y legitimidad se han visto seriamente erosionados; no volverá a ser lo mismo ni remotamente; el estigma del 11 de julio será imborrable.
11. Serán su disposición y capacidad para rediseñar integralmente el sistema las que digan la última palabra. Un factor agravante a tomar en cuenta y que limita en extremo cualquier diseño de cambios es que el gobierno cubano enfrenta una situación notable de bancarrota, endeudado en extremo en todas las latitudes (Club de París, China y Rusia), es un paria en las relaciones financieras internacionales.
Dicha situación se agrava tras el 11 de julio, pues a los ojos de potenciales inversionistas y turistas, una situación como esa no es nada atrayente. En un contexto tal, únicamente cabe acometer el rediseño integral en el orden interno y de cara a la inversión extranjera y a la reinserción de Cuba en las instituciones financieras internacionales, si es que se desea asegurar flujos de capital y tecnologías a mediano plazo.
12. A corto plazo habrá que hacer maravillas en materia de política agraria; de pleno y fácil acceso de las MPYMES a todas las actividades, su respaldo financiero sin asfixias fiscales; sustancial reducción del monopolio estatal y muchas otras que, repetidamente, han sugerido y aconsejado economistas cubanos. No se trata de parchecitos como los adoptados en estos días (cero restricciones a los viajeros cubanos que traen mercancías para familiares y pequeños negocios, pagos a plazo y otros) que parecen sacados de una tienda de antigüedades y que eran urgentes desde los ochenta.
13. Y si unido a esos hipotéticos cambios, se produjera el milagro de alguna mejoría de relaciones con EE.UU. —que parece difícil con Biden pues su administración busca a cualquier costo el colapso del gobierno cubano con el fin de ganar la Florida para su Partido— y una igual mejoría de la pandemia, entonces mejorarían las cosas, pero nunca a corto plazo. No es ni siquiera previsible en un tiempo cercano llegar a los cinco millones de turistas ni tampoco a un flujo de 600 mil cubanos como visitantes.
14. El corto plazo será el que decida, y lo hará sobre la olvidada premisa de que: «Cambiamos o nos hundimos».