Thursday, November 25, 2021

Rafael Hernandez Essays from Cuba Post November 15


Antinomies and conflict in the Cuban political situation (I)

  by Rafael Hernandez

The so-called “March for Change” and its ups and downs have highlighted the spectrum of ideas in Cuba’s society today. That spectrum mirrors a civic consciousness of the common sense, with ranges and shades that are not so new.  As is typical in many other societies, the Cuban common sense personalises and sentimentalises political events, supporting them or criticizing them, agreeing or disagreeing, giving them labels, even when possibly not understanding them.

In the ranges of this spectrum we can find antinomies which leave a mark on the Cuban political situation. By discussing these antinomies I am not trying to show “what most Cubans believe,” but just intending to illustrate the complexities of our consensus.

That common sense is aware of the heavy burden the US blockade imposes on our life as a whole; and knows that the US has always sponsored the political opposition. But these truths tend to blur, especially when they are used constantly in official speeches as the explanation for almost everything.

The Cuban common sense highly supports all efforts to enforce law and order. But the very civic culture fostered by socialism makes people perceive violence as an abuse of power, even against those who break the law.

Cubans have always disapproved the usual practices of the political opposition and its ultimate goals, although they do not necessarily think that everything they say is false or disagree with everything they propose.

Even when Cuban citizens share the basic principles and goals of socialism, they may disagree with some of the methods and justifications on which the State bases its policies.

They know that security is key to the national interest. But when national security is used for dealing with political problems, they may not agree with its effectiveness.

These antinomies are nothing new. Some observers have mentioned these contradictions and some others. However, they don' t dissect the underlying problems that characterize the political situation. Their criticism thus remains within the same common sense box, particularly when they try to advise the government or the opposition "what they should do."

Instead of opinions and advises, the political implications of current and alternative policies should be considered, without losing the specific context of these problems, in the here and now. Doing so would help to gain clarity, and perhaps to foster a civic consciousness of good sense, as Antonio Gramsci would say.

By sketching out a map of our political situation, my sole intention is to facilitate analysis and fostering debate. I will focus on the three actors and their interaction, but also their own dynamic: the political opposition, the Cuban government policy and the US factor.

The opposition

The three main structural weaknesses of the opposition, over time, have been the feuds between groups; the lack of leaders with political experience and capacity; and its convergence with US hostility.

The armed organizations of the 1960s, especially the anti-communist dissidence within those who opposed the dictatorship, including the Catholic Youth (Juventud Católica), gathered tens of thousands of active militants, willing to follow its leaders and pay the cost of that struggle. That is not the case of the current organizations. Although the social networks and the media contribute to making them seem bigger than they are, the leadership capacity to mobilize active members and to drive coherent policies is much less effective.

Unlike the opposition in other countries, their leadership has not held positions of representation in large organizations, or in government functions. They lack a realistic notion about political problems and the exercise of power. Dissidents who were cadres of the State, the mass and political organizations, the Security or the Party apparatuses, do not stand out as opposition leaders, even less in the latest generations.

Leaving aside the opportunists and adventurers who join the opposition as a way of life, most of its leaders with some intellectual level and a real political conscience are academics, journalists, artists, writers, even former teachers of Marxism, who one day declared themselves activists for the anti-government cause. These are book-based political animals, who, in order to learn how to combat the system, organize 100-hour seminars on Hanna Arendt's works, and the like. In general, the organic intellectuals of the opposition, who view the "Party-State" as a single bloc, do not understand very much about politics, nor do they believe that it is worth wasting time seeking dialogue or negotiation.

Repeating as a mantra to justify their struggle the unpopularity and repressive nature of the system, the majority of that leadership convinces itself that the State is unable to regenerate consensus with its own resources. They do not realize that, in addition to the coercive force to deal with subversion, that State enjoys a political capital, which is not just ideological. It has political mechanisms to neutralize the opposition maneuvers, even when more creative and sophisticated.

One strategic error of the opposition has been to believe that the use of force, in any degree and form (including "non-violent"), triggers the ring of national security. That alarm-bell has counterproductive effects for their goal of breaking up consensus and legitimizing themselves as a viable option.

Taking advantage of a fragile economic situation and the weakening of the public consensus to wrestle with the government, to try to extract concessions, and capitalize on these concessions to swell their ranks, increase political polarization. That wrestling also contradicts their own call for dialogue, reconciliation, national unity, peace, etc., but above all it fuels a volatile situation. In this particular context, the government is much less likely to react with the same disposition for dialogue and conciliation as they would with other social, and even political, demands.

As we very well know, a situation of instability and its consequences would be more threatening than any economic crisis, not only for the system, but also for society and the national interest, beyond ideological differences.

Furthermore, even if Cuba is not risking a political crisis that really threatens the control of power, the impression that the situation may be getting out of hand is already risky enough. Indeed, the mere perception that the opposition can wrench concessions under pressure may be interpreted as an inability of the government to deal with the crisis at hand. We must remember that this opposition is preaching a dialogue that, under the pretense of peace and understanding, is demanding pluralism with the groups that have the least interest in dialogue, those in die-hard exile and their leading sponsors.

The evolution of the Cuban situation in recent years suggests that the promise of reconciliation is a beautiful idea, but that when it is taken to its limits, it is a voluntarist dream of reason. Calling for a national dialogue with no boundaries should be , at best, a utopian project. A viable and sustainable republic based on the coexistence of old and new opponents, with veteran communists and the new left, militants of the anti-communist youth and of reformed socialism, the American politicians Díaz-Balart and Marco Rubio and the representatives in the Cuban National Assembly, the electorate of Coral Gables and of Mantilla, is unlikely, however many Martí quotes are pronounced to invoke it.

At the end of the day, with that seven-headed interlocutor, the key pre-condition for negotiation is not met: trust in what the other side will do.

The political culture of this opposition is illustrated by what they understand as human rights. They assume that true freedom of expression is dictated by the American way. They believe that the right to demonstrate on the streets is the essence of political participation; that a plebiscite is the fullest expression of democracy; that preaching the autonomy of the judiciary is equivalent to "the separation of powers;" that democracy is equal to a party system such as those prevailing in the Western Hemisphere; that political freedom involves all types of organizations regardless of their ideology; or that artistic freedom without boundaries is the measure of a society’s civic culture.

Among the dissidents I have known (some very close), there are those who became fed up with the liturgies of real socialism, suffered the effects of sectarian or extremist policies, lost faith when the Berlin Wall collapsed, and went into retreat or exile. Some of them take socialism for what they have experienced since the Special Period, or they inspired by the rhetoric that saturates the Cuban press and television. They were no longer interested in changing things and decided to throw in the towel; or they never even tried. There are also those who deserve a place on the podium in a universal history of opportunism.

Could the case of Yunior García mean something different within the leadership of these groups? How do you explain that, in just a few months, he went from dissenter to dissident? Has he enjoyed a dialogue within the system conferred greater legitimacy on his public march? Did not coming from the organized opposition give Archipelago greater credibility? What do the meanderings of his project and its outcome reveal?

We would need more room than what we have here to discuss these questions. As does understanding the US factor in this landscape. Do their policies towards Cuba respond to their commitment to the opposition? To the promise made to "freedom fighters," from 1960 to 2021? Is it that the compass of the national security organs which have always guided the relationship with Cuba, has been skewed off-course by the Miami magnet? What mystery could explain that in their policy towards Cuba, a tail like this could wag a dog like that?

Finally, is it that Cuba’s policy towards the US, and its willingness to resume the normalization process, may now depend on how they perceive the threat regarding the opposition groups and their allies? What other lessons and experiences could inform that policy?

I would say that this is already a hefty load of problems for a first round.

Antinomies and Conflict in the Cuban Political Situation (II)

   by Rafael Hernandez

My grandmother, a first grade teacher in a public school in Cabaiguán, used to receive Bohemia magazine. I got used to reading it from back to front, starting with the graphic jokes. The only thing I skipped was the section where Jorge Mañach, Herminio Portell Vilá, and other prominent intellectuals wrote, because at my 10 years of age I did not understand nor was I interested in the topics they dealt with.

That intellectual journalism, which dealt with all topics, is not very frequent today among us. Every time someone tells me that the average reader or the average TV viewer does not understand or is not interested in those topics, that they are too complex or sensitive, or that they are not prepared for political analysis, I wonder if they are talking about an island and a world inhabited by 10-year-old children.

Analyzing the political situation is not the same as enunciating the Cuba that the very diverse Cubans imagine or would like. Although I also have one, I have limited myself here to commenting on the complexity of a consensus shared by those diverse Cubans, which does not consist of "almost unanimous support," but of a social base with contradictory common sense, tensions and disparities aggravated by the crisis, as would be normal anywhere. To confuse the scale of consensus with that of oxygen in the blood, such that a 97% support indicates a "healthy" state, and one of "barely 80% or 75%" indicates "critical," would be a joke anywhere.

From that mixed consensus that sustains the system right now, I try to examine the political situation, starting with three actors: the new political opposition, the new government, and the new US administration.

However new they may be, these actors and this conflict cannot be understood outside of history, without links to the past, to factors of power, structures, institutions, and without the interaction of opposing interests between two States, that of Cuba and that of the United States. However, it is essential to identify what these actors bring with them and differentiate them from their predecessors, their own problems, and especially, their particular context. To understand them with a sense of this historical moment, of the fundamental change of circumstance that characterizes it, instead of thinking of them as islands that repeat themselves, as a famous Caribbeanist would say. Without discerning those problems, in relation to the conflicts they face and to the current Cuban society, it is not possible to reason about the political field, beyond ideological antinomies -as common sense tends to do.

Criticizing some postulates of that common sense that circulate in the media and even in the intellectual discourse does not require getting philosophical or even having read Gramsci. It is enough to put them to the test.

As a sample button, here are the following. "This political system has no chance of change, because it is dominated by a Leninist scheme." "The Party-State is a block from top to bottom, immobile and immovable." "National reconciliation depends on the political will of the government to dialogue with the opposition." "The Catholic Church is a particularly gifted actor to mediate in that reconciliation." "We are living through black years for freedom of expression." "The dissidence of artists responds to the lack of freedom of the guild and the closure of cultural policies."  "Young people have deserted the camp of the Revolution, and want to go and live outside." "The disappointment of the poor and the blacks with socialism has turned them into the social base of the opposition and its new leadership."  Et cetera.

In the substratum of almost everyone is the question of democratic functioning and citizen participation. To address it, it would be necessary to consider not only the so-called mechanisms of direct democracy -street demonstration, plebiscite, etc.- or voting every five years, but above all, systematic participation in decision making, control of policies, channeling of public opinion, dialogue with the government. Is such participation possible without a more democratic system, including the Party itself?

A few days ago, in an open letter to the President of Cuba, a Spanish Jesuit reproached him for not recognizing the total failure of the Revolution and the system of dictatorship of the proletariat. Some have not noticed that in 2022 it will be 30 years since the reform of the Constitution which erased the concepts of dictatorship of the proletariat and vanguard of the working class. And that this current year marked three decades of the elimination of religious beliefs as contradictory to Marxist and Leninist ideology.

I wonder if anyone presumes that being a private businessman disqualifies to hold office or join the Party. And that publicly criticizing Party policies by any militant makes him commit a flagrant violation of democratic centralism.

All the concepts underlined above are in the decalogue of Leninism. To this list of heresies should be added others, considered incompatible with the ideology by the previous political education. For example, the end of the teaching of atheism in schools, the introduction of a constitutional article allowing families headed by same-sex couples, the dismantling of the system of compulsory work-study scholarships in secondary education, the freedom to reside abroad without losing one's citizenship rights, etc. Perhaps the current problems of the Party are not precisely those attributed to a certain Leninism.

On the contrary, some Bolshevik practices could inspire greater democracy in Cuba. For instance, the struggle of the rank and file militants, the soviets and the trade unions to control the bureaucracy; the legitimacy of discrepancies in their ranks, such as the Workers' Opposition; the application of a New Economic Policy (NEP) with market and mixed economy; the encouragement of systematic debate below and above; the possibility of exposing in Pravda the criteria of all the militants, not only of some.

To legitimize democratic changes in the Party, here and now, could consider what Raul Castro himself said almost ten years ago: "if we have sovereignly chosen the option of the single Party, what corresponds to us is to promote the greatest democracy in our society, starting by setting an example in the ranks of the Party." So the PCC is not above the reforms, nor is it only a leading subject in their implementation, but also the object of a policy that calls to "change everything that must be changed."

Although we know that politics is not contained in speeches, the struggle to turn those words into reality has today more support than ever. What, however, is the yardstick for measuring that democratization? Recognizing, dialoguing and negotiating with political organizations such as those that predominate in the Cuban opposition, on the Island and in exile? I think that a most suitable question, congruent with the very Constitution of the system, would be: is it desirable for a socialist system to make room for a "loyal opposition" (defined by its purpose of improving the system, not liquidating it)?

Interviewing seven years ago a group of subjects with institutional responsibilities, this same question produced dissimilar answers.1

A former president of the National Assembly supported "the "parliamentarization of society," the constant discussion, in factories and collectives, of problems and proposals to address them," not the "manipulation of dissent into more or less loyal 'oppositions.'"

An acting General Secretary of the UJC stated that "a dissent among revolutionaries is very necessary." "In Cuba we still don't know that [loyal] opposition, because people financed by a foreign government to overthrow the Revolution cannot be called anything but mercenaries." She added, "I don't believe either that we have reached the ideal democracy...I don't rule out any formula for more socialism."

A popular educator from a religious NGO opined, "It is necessary to make clear the points that do not enter into negotiation; that is, what to be loyal to...There is loyalty to the principles of social equity, personal and national dignity, sovereignty, socialization of power, of the economy and of happiness; loyalty to popular power exercised by the people. If the bet is on these [principles], loyalty to political forms becomes more flexible, since it would be to the government that enforces those principles."

An academic jurist defined it as "an opposition that complies with the law of all, that does not pretend, through intolerance, to demand tolerance to the State; that does not use flags of excluding and inhuman ideologies, that respects the public order and the rules that we have given ourselves in democracy, is loyal to the Rule of Law, and therefore itself is indispensable."

A delegate of the People's Power in Marianao responded, "We have to give possibilities to that kind of opposition; the one that does not agree with the things that are badly done, and that can propose how to solve them...If it is in good faith, opposing things that do not give results helps to improve the socialist system, which ultimately is the people...Sometimes we criticize those who speak the truths, and we consider that they have political problems, but those people what they want is to see results."

An acting president of a cultural institution considered it "an antinomy. Because the opposition is a real opposition if it shows a certain level of organization, if it constitutes an alternative to the established powers. A revolutionary who opposes" a particular policy "is not an opponent; he is just someone who disagrees."

The editor of a Catholic magazine said that "one should act to improve the established system by consensus and not to liquidate it...Those who possess other ideological preferences should accept it with humility, but without ceasing to contribute their criteria and projects, although subordinated to the realization of the interests of the people. Thus we could enjoy a socialism capable of integrating, even ideological diversity...An opposition would not be loyal order to achieve its political purposes,...allies itself with foreign powers,...that possesses organic links with national or foreign instances in charge of promoting subversion, that does not care for the sovereignty of the country nor for social concord."

In these interviews, not only is it possible to observe the difference in nuances within the institutions of the State and within civil society, but also, between their visions then and now, in some particular cases.

A dozen years ago, in an official Cuban media, I mentioned the question of loyal opposition: "Will Cuban socialism be able to admit in the future, together with a renewed democratic institutionality, a decentralized system, a non-state sector, also a loyal opposition, within the system itself? That is not a question for U.S. congressmen and Euro-parliamentarians, but for Cubans living their future on the Island."

Curiously, while the Catholic magazine Espacio Laical celebrated the concept some time later, to the point of convening an event in 2013 where it was debated, the editorialists of Cubaencuentro considered it a crude ploy, "a padlock," behind which peeked the hairy ear of officialdom disguised as "liberal loquacity," aimed at "refreshing" the totalitarian discourse.

They seemed to ignore that those who coined it, in the mid-nineteenth century, did not conceive it as a formula to "seize power" or change the British system, but to make it politically more effective and broaden its consensus. They did not seek precisely to "pander" to dissenters, but to incorporate them into the complex task of governing. This explains why the U.S. partycracy never assimilated it, given its two hundred years of staunch bipartisanship.

I have expanded on this point because it illustrates the gap of a national reconciliation that some dream of resolving in one leap. It also shows criteria within the Revolution, below and above, that support a realistic democratization. Reformulated seven years later, that question would be read today as follows: to what extent would a policy aimed at expanding consensus, integrating the loyal opposition into the political space, be congruent with the new style of government? And one could add: is it in the national interest that this loyal opposition within the system, in favor of a more democratic socialism, be an option for those who advocate change, instead of leaving them out, and that some would end up being dragged along by the anti-communist opposition?

I can guess a reader who is already asking: And what would the US do? It would take a third round to comment on that.


 1 "Making socialist politics: a symposium," interviewer Daniel Salas, Temas # 78, April-June, 2014.

Opposition Perspectives After November 15th


We Can Only Avoid a Blood Bath in Cuba if the World Stops Looking Away

14ymedio, Madrid, 18 November 2021 — “The Cuban problem is not called Yunior García, the Cuban problem is called dictatorship.” This is how forceful the playwright and opponent has been from Madrid, where he has held a press conference to relate the “terror” to which he has been subjected by the Cuban Government and which pushed him to leave the island.

“The revolution devoured their children and their grandchildren,” he denounced before recounting in a chronological way how he came to the opposition militancy.

García Aguilera has criticized the government from the left, calling it a “conservative caste” that exploits the workers and uses the wildest capitalism, building hotels in the harshest moments of the pandemic. “The regime became a Goliath that crushes the people, David,” he said at one point, turning on its head the image frequently used by the ruling party — David against Goliath — to refer to its relationship with the United States.

The creator of Archipiélago has compared the Cuban regime with the regime in Chile of Augusto Pinochet and has insisted that the leadership of power lives in a “bourgeois” way while he is a “true revolutionary.”

“It is a macho government that is cruel especially to women, like Carolina Barrero, and Yoani Sánchez, and has made life impossible for continue reading

a long time,” he also pointed out, advancing a metaphor that he used minutes later: “The regime has become an abusive husband who beats his wife. ”
“What exists in Cuba is fascism, what I have experienced in recent days cannot be called something else,” he stressed in reference to the threats and harassment of which he has been targeted. “How can anyone believe that this is on the left?”

The young man does not accept that they are trying to discredit him by calling him a “counterrevolutionary”: “I am a revolutionary because I want to change the dynamics of my country.”

The activist has recounted the harassment to which he was subjected in recent days, at which time, convinced that he would be arrested, he applied for a preemptive visa with which he tried to achieve some type of subsequent negotiation that would help him get out of prison. However, after November 15, when he had been isolated and incommunicado for hours, he was aware that the Government did not intend to arrest him.

“If they kill me they make me a symbol, if they take me to jail they make me a symbol,” he said. It was at that moment that he realized, he says, that the Government was planning to keep him away from society by keeping him locked up in his home, a situation that he could not bear. “They yelled insults at me and I felt like a Jew surrounded by Nazis.”

“If the only thing I have is my voice and they take it from me, then they have won,” said García, who stressed that a “living death” awaited him in Cuba. Illustratively, he has recounted the day he suffered an act of repudiation that included bird corpses on the fence of his house and has used the image as a metaphor. “If we stay in Cuba they will behead us like doves,” he said.

The opponent has repeatedly declared his intention to return after overcoming his anger at recent events. “I need to heal myself from that rage to start the fight again, and that will be when my life and that of my wife are not in danger.”

García Aguilera has repeated that he refuses to request asylum in Spain and has said that Cuba is his country and his mother and son are there, so it does not even cross his mind to stay in Madrid in the long term.

The playwright says: “I have a 90-day visa and during my stay I am going to connect with artists and focus on the movement of Cuban artists here.”

The founder of Archipiélago has revealed that on the 14th, despite having his phone cut off, he found a means of communication through which he got in touch with the cardinal of Havana, whom he asked to pray for him because he was afraid of having rage. “I needed to heal my anger to find my balance. I never wanted to stop being tolerant.”

In the same way, he has confessed to reading “painful things” about him once he was able to access the internet after landing in Spain, and apologizes to his colleagues from Achipiélago for not being able to bear more pressure. “I have to forgive myself for being human and apologize for not being made of stone or bronze,” he added.

García Aguilera has also rejected the US embargo, which he believes acts as an ally of the regime by providing it excuses, and has vindicated the use of dialogue with all political forces if the time comes.

The opponent, who has been moved by talking about his 10-year-old son, has begged the international press to look for the stories of anonymous Cubans who have not had the luck that he has had, being able to leave the island thanks to his visibility.

He has also referenced the names of José Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu), Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, visible head of the San Isidro Movement, Félix Navarro, of the group of 75, and Maykel Castillo Osorbo.

García Aguilera took the opportunity to close the press conference with a message calling on the international community to help. Thus, he opined that “it is inadmissible for Cuba to have a chair on the UN Human Rights Commission.”

At the same time he rejected, for the umpteenth time, an armed intervention. “A Cuba for all cannot be achieved through violence, but through dialogue. They believe that this fight is won through blows.”

“Let us not get angry,” he asked. “This cannot become a bloodbath. It is the only way we have to get out of this, because we cannot continue to be slaves. But we cannot achieve freedom at that price either,” he said. “A bloodbath can only be avoided if the world stops looking the other way.”


Archipielago Considers Reasons for Cuban Protests Valid and Extends Them to November 27

14ymedio, Madrid, 16 November 2021 — The image of Yunior García leaning out of the window of his apartment with a flower in his hand and dressed in white while a mob tries to block his view of the outside by lowering a Cuban flag over his window has become an icon of the civic struggle in Cuba. From Spain, the Cuban filmmaker Yimit Ramírez has made a poster that captures the essence of November 14, when State Security prevented the playwright from marching with a white rose, as he had announced he would.

As he explained to 14ymedio, Ramírez considers that the fact of “covering him with the flag is horrible… You can’t do that with the flag, but even less with people. These people are so outdated that they don’t even know their own horrors. It’s a very symbolic image. The flag as a prison.”

The Archipiélago platform considers that, despite the Cuban government’s attempts to prevent the Civic March for Change on November 15, “never have the Cuban people been more united in the fight for their rights” and so has called for the protests to be extended until November 27, one year since the sit-in of artists and intellectuals before the Ministry of Culture.

Between now and the 27th, the opposition group proposes a series of activities to make its message visible and asks people to continue wearing the color white and carrying a rose of the same tone, joining in on a cacerolazo (banging on pots and pans) at 9 o’clock every night, and spreading the message of what it is happening in the country among families and neighborhoods, particularly to those who do not have social networks.

In addition, they invite each sympathizer to bring a rose to a monument to a Cuban martyr whenever they deem it appropriate and safe, and documenting the act to spread it, since Archipiélago considers that there is still “a debt of honor to the Apostle* José Martí.”

The platform launched its proposal in a statement released after midnight in which it took stock of the previous day. In the text, they emphasize that the Government has criminalized and disrespected the right to freedom of expression, assembly and demonstration recognized by the Cuban Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; and, what is worse, setting “Cubans against Cubans.”

“The Cuban government has responded to our demands as a dictatorship does: extreme militarization of the streets, more than 100 activists besieged [in their homes], arbitrary arrests, forced disappearances, acts of repudiation, violence, threats, coercion and hate speech,” denounces the text, which warns that it will not accept this escalation of violence against peaceful citizens.

Despite all the efforts of the authorities, Archipiélago considers that the March was a success due to the solidarity received from 120 cities around the world and those who were able to go out into the streets within the Island or show their adherence to the mobilization with a minimal gesture. “We have surpassed ourselves as a nation and here is the resounding success of 15N”.

The objectives of the struggle that continues from today until the 27th continue to be the initial ones: the liberation of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, respect for the rights of expression, assembly and demonstration, the cessation of violence between Cubans for political reasons ,and the beginning of a dialogue that allows resolving differences through democratic and peaceful means.

In addition, the end of the statement opens a door so that the 27th is not the last day of activities. “If the Government does not give up its efforts to violate our rights, we will continue the civic struggle until Cuba is a State of Rights, a Republic ‘with all and for the good of all’.”

The platform notes that since the 16th, many people linked to the opposition are still unaccounted for, detained or besieged in their homes and sends its solidarity to all those affected.

For its part, the Cubalex Legal Information Center published this Tuesday a record in which it documents the arrests of at least 56 people in the context of civic days for change, of these 27 just on November 15, and they include 11 people reported in enforced disappearance.

Of the more than 50 people arrested, “11 were previously in detention for participating in the 11J [11 July] protests,” details Cubalex.

*Translator’s note: José Martí is considered a hero by Cubans on all sides of the divides, and is popularly called “the Apostle.”


Sunday, November 21, 2021

Webinar: Perspectives from Cuba of November 15 Protests and Consequences

Eyewitness accounts from Cuba of November 15th and beyond

Webinar  Friday, November 26, 4 p.m.  ET

Register here and share this link with friends and on social media

Ed Augustin, resident journalist, NY Times, The Nation, The Guardian

Rafael Hernandez, editor, Temas magazine

Rita McNiff, travel provider, Like a Cuban

William LeoGrande, American University

John McAuliff, Fund for Reconciliation and Development

Ed Augustin is a British journalist who has been based in Havana for 9 years. He writes for the Guardian,  The New York Times and The Nation magazine. He broadcasts for NBC News.

Rafael M. Hernandez (Havana,1948) is a political scientist, professor, researcher and Chief editor of Temas,a Cuban quarterly in the field of social sciences and the humanities; he is also a published poet, essayist and playwright.  He has authored books and essays on US-Cuba relations, Cuban civil society, migrations, international security, culture and history.  He has served as co-chair of the Cuba Section of the Latin American Studies Association and been a visiting professor at Harvard and Columbia Universities.

A New York native and first generation Irish American, Rita McNiff is the founder of Like A Cuban, a boutique agency that curates custom “like a local” experiences for visitors to Cuba. An avid traveler herself, Rita visited Cuba for the first time in 2015. During her stay, she drove the island with a friend, picking up hitchhikers along the way, sharing rum and coffee with locals and, as the days went by, completely falling in love with the island and its people. Six years later, Rita’s journey of exploring Cuba continues and her mission to share the stories of the real Cuba, the people’s Cuba, with visitors to the island gets stronger day by day.   Rita lives in Havana, with her daughter Tessa.     <>

William LeoGrande Associate Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, American UniversityProfessor of Government and a specialist in Latin American politics and U.S. foreign policy toward Latin America, Professor LeoGrande has been a frequent adviser to government and private sector agencies. He has written five books, including Our Own Backyard: The United States in Central America, 1977 – 1992. Most recently, he is coauthor of Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana. Previously, he served on the staffs of the Democratic Policy Committee of the United States Senate, and the Democratic Caucus Task Force on Central America of the United States House of Representatives. Professor LeoGrande has been a Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellow, and a Pew Faculty Fellow in International Affairs. His articles have appeared in various international and national journals, magazines and newspapers.  PhD, Syracuse University     

John McAuliff is the founder and director of the Fund for Reconciliation and Development.  He is committed to contribute to the full normalization of US relations with Cuba as he did with Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.  John has visited Cuba sixty-one times since 1971, all but the first visit from 1997.   His program focuses are expanding travel as well as educational and cultural exchange.  He collaborated with the Canadian-Greek Cuba Cruise and partners with Opera de la Calle and the magazine Temas.  A special interest is the role of Irish and Irish Americans in Cuban history and the Celtic links between the traditional music of Ireland and Cubans who immigrated from Asturia and Galicia.  <>


"The Latest Round of Protests in Cuba Are a Bust—for Now"
But US sanctions and Covid have kept the island in a vise only made worse by a dysfunctional economy and long overdue reforms.      by Ed Augustin, The Nation, November 18, 2021


 by Stephen Kimber & John Kirk COUNTERPUNCH, November 22, 2021

Opposition Perspective after November 15th (14ymedio)

Rafael Hernandez:  Essays Post November 15th

"Five years after his death, is Castro's revolution floundering?"

Friday, November 26, 2021

HAVANA, Cuba (AFP) — Five years after Fidel Castro's death the revolution he started in 1959 appears to be at an impasse, with Cuba's economy battered and an ever-larger part of its population clamoring for change.

"Tourists trickle in to Cuba following pandemic slumber"

By Gustavo Palencia   November 25, 2021  Reuters

Dear Colleague Letter initiated by Representative Jim McGovern to "Address Humanitarian Crisis, Restore Engagement with Cuba" will remain open until December 3d.

Jill Biden in Cuba (Camaguey and Havana)

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Summary of Trump/Biden Restrictions on Travel


From Office of Foreign Assets Control

695. What are the general travel authorizations in the Cuba program?

Travel-related transactions are permitted by general or specific licenses for certain travel related to the 12 categories of activities identified in § 515.560(a).  Those travel-related transactions permitted by general license, subject to specified criteria and conditions, include: family visits; official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations; journalistic activity; professional research; educational activities; religious activities; athletic competitions by amateur or semi-professional athletes or athletic teams; support for the Cuban people; humanitarian projects; activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes; exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials; and certain authorized export transactions. Each person relying on a certain general authorization must retain specific records related to the authorized travel transactions. See §§ 501.601 and 501.602 of Reporting, Procedures and Penalties Regulations for applicable recordkeeping and reporting requirements.

In accordance with NSPM-5, on November 9, 2017, OFAC added a prohibition to restrict certain direct financial transactions with entities and subentities identified on the State Department’s Cuba Restricted List. For a description of the scope of the prohibition on direct financial transactions and the restrictions and exceptions that apply, see 31 CFR § 515.209. In order to implement this prohibition, OFAC made a conforming change to § 515.421 and added corresponding language in the following general licenses: §§ 515.530, 515.534, 515.545, 515.560, 515.561, 515.564, 515.565, 515.566, 515.567, 515.572, 515.573, 515.574, 515.576, 515.577, 515.578, 515.581, 515.584, and 515.590. OFAC has not incorporated this prohibition into certain general licenses in accordance with the exceptions detailed in section 3(a)(iii) of NSPM-5. 

Also, on September 24, 2020, OFAC added a prohibition at § 515.210 of the CACR, which prohibits any person subject to U.S. jurisdiction from lodging, paying for lodging, or making any reservation for or on behalf of a third party to lodge, at any property that the Secretary of State has identified as a property in Cuba that is owned or controlled by the Cuban government; a prohibited official of the Government of Cuba, as defined in § 515.337; a prohibited member of the Cuban Communist Party, as defined in § 515.338; a close relative, as defined in § 515.339, of a prohibited official of the Government of Cuba, or a close relative of a prohibited member of the Cuban Communist Party, when the terms of the general or specific license expressly exclude such a transaction. In furtherance of this change, the State Department is creating a new list, the Cuba Prohibited Accommodations List, to publish the names, addresses, or other identifying details, as relevant, of properties identified as meeting such criteria. In order to implement this prohibition, OFAC made a conforming change to § 515.421 and added corresponding language in the following general licenses:  §§ 515.533, 515.545, 515.559, 515.560, 515.561, 515.563, 515.564, 515.565, 515.566, 515.567, 515.572, 515.574, 515.575, and 515.576.

704. Can travelers still engage in “people-to-people travel” to Cuba on an individual basis or as a part of a group?

Generally, no. Effective June 5, 2019, there is no general license authorizing people-to-people educational activities in Cuba. The term “people-to-people travel” refers to an authorization that previously existed in the CACR, subject to conditions, for persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction to engage in certain educational exchanges in Cuba on an individual basis or under the auspices of an organization that is a person subject to U.S. jurisdiction and sponsors such exchanges to promote people-to-people contact.

On November 9, 2017, in accordance with NSPM-5, OFAC amended the general license for people-to-people educational activities in Cuba to remove the authorization for individual people-to-people educational travel. Effective June 5, 2019, in further accordance with the President’s foreign policy toward Cuba announced in April 2019, OFAC removed the authorization for group people-to-people educational travel in § 515.565(b). There is a grandfather clause in § 515.565(b) that authorizes certain group people-to-people educational travel that previously was authorized where the traveler had completed at least one travel-related transaction (such as purchasing a flight or reserving accommodation) prior to June 5, 2019. Also, and effective September 24, 2020, OFAC amended this general license to exclude from the authorization lodging, paying for lodging, or making any reservation for or on behalf of a third party to lodge, at any property in Cuba on the Cuba Prohibited Accommodations List to the extent prohibited by § 515.210. For a complete description of the scope of this prohibition, see 31 CFR § 515.210.

701. What constitutes generally authorized travel-related transactions for “professional research” in Cuba?

Section 515.564 (a)(1) of the CACR contains a general license that authorizes, subject to conditions, travel-related transactions and other transactions that are directly incident to professional research in Cuba. Among other things, this general license authorizes, subject to conditions, professional research in Cuba relating to a traveler’s profession, professional background, or area of expertise. In accordance with NSPM-5, OFAC amended this general license to exclude from the authorization direct financial transactions with entities and subentities identified on the State Department’s Cuba Restricted List.

Also, and effective September 24, 2020, OFAC amended this general license to exclude from the authorization lodging, paying for lodging, or making any reservation for or on behalf of a third party to lodge, at any property in Cuba on the Cuba Prohibited Accommodations List to the extent prohibited by § 515.210. For a complete description of the scope of this prohibition, see 31 CFR § 515.210. The traveler’s schedule of activities must not include free time or recreation in excess of that consistent with a full-time schedule of professional research. An entire group does not qualify for the general license merely because some members of the group qualify individually. For a complete description of what this general license authorizes and the restrictions that apply, see 31 CFR § 515.564. 

On September 24, 2020, OFAC eliminated the general license previously contained in §515.564(a)(2) for travel-related transactions and other transactions that are directly incident to attendance at, or organization of, professional meetings or conferences in Cuba. Persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction are no longer generally authorized to attend or organize professional meetings or conferences in Cuba pursuant to this section. OFAC amended § 515.564 to clarify that specific licenses may be issued on a case-by-case basis authorizing the travel-related transactions in § 515.560(c) and other transactions that are related to professional research in Cuba that do not qualify for the general license under 515.564(a) or professional meetings or conferences in Cuba that are not authorized under other travel-related authorizations and that relate to activities otherwise authorized pursuant to the CACR.

| U.S. Department of the Treasury

Full text of regulations 
SUBPART - Licenses, Authorizations, and Statements of Licensing Policy (

Thursday, November 11, 2021

An Interview with Yunior Garcia + Two Critical Comments

Computer translated from La Joven Cuba

Spanish original text

"We will never renounce the right to conquer our rights"

 November 10, 2021
Right (1)

Yunior García Aguilera is today, probably, the most guarded man in Cuba. State Security knows what time he gets up, what he has for breakfast, what he talks about with the people in his house, who he happens to meet on the street, how many people he talks with on the phone and what messages he exchanges.

If any of that can serve to mark you as a "mercenary," "stateless," "puppet of the Empire," or a student of any witchcraft or black magic course, then it will be used without the slightest qualm — if necessary, with a few touches of edition not always well achieved—, and expanded by the system of media that finances the public treasury and that are under strict control of the Communist Party of Cuba and its ideological Department.

However, State Security and other organizations created to "defend our democracy" have found it difficult to anticipate what Yunior thinks. For this reason, they did not initially understand the magnitude that an organization like Archipelago could - and still can - take and the call for a civic march that is already counting down. Fueled by the discontent that exploded on July 11, the initiative has gained thousands of followers inside and outside of Cuba.

The holguinero is the largest island of a plural platform —too much for the liking of some— and has become one of the most formidable opposition leaders of those who have stood up to the government in the last sixty years. You can be in communion or not with his ideas, think well or badly about his methods and links, but the truth is that the playwright has in his favor, in addition to a lot of daring, three scarce elements in the arid panorama of Cuban politicians: youth, charisma and intelligence.

Like anyone who opposes absolute power, various accusations have been leveled against him, some ridiculous and others well-founded and complex. However, people continue to gather around him who see him as an alternative to the hopelessness of a system whose resources seem less and less effective in generating consensus. Who really is Yunior García? What does it have to offer Cuba and its people? It is likely that we still have to wait a while to find out. For now, we will only have the answers to a few questions.  

I would like to start by talking about the material that was published a few days ago by the website The reasons for Cuba , in which there are two points that are probably the most debated: the course you attended on the role of the armed forces in societies in transition and the fragment of the video in which you see yourself entering a US diplomatic residence in Havana.

I met Laura Tedesco and Rut Diamint, the teachers who have been talked about so much, at a Jacuzzi performance , which was held at a Theater Festival here. When the play was over they came to greet me and we exchanged contacts. Some time later they invited me to this event in Buenos Aires, it was something academic at a university there and I accepted because I was interested in the title, which was Dialogue on Cuba ; I was attracted to those kinds of exchanges from civil society, and also because of the fact that there was no real compelling reason not to attend an event like that.

However, State Security saw me before and after that trip to Buenos Aires. In the interviews / interrogations they were not too concerned about my attendance at the event, in fact, I clarified to them that I had no intention of being a collaborator and they told me that they were not going to propose it to me, since they had plenty of collaborators there. What worried them was what I as an artist might say to the press. I made it clear to them that what I would declare anywhere was the same as what I had said here — the fifteen questions at the Holguín UNEAC meeting had already passed. So, I decided to go to the event.

Once there, I suggested that for the next edition they try to include a more heterogeneous group of civil society so that in their studies on the Island they would have a more accurate idea of ​​the plural thinking of Cubans with respect to reality. They accepted the idea and in the second edition a very varied group participated that included a doctor, as is well known, plastic artists, social media influencers , self-employed workers, students. I was as an artist.

I must emphasize that in both cases I carried out my travel procedures openly through the institutions to which I belong. I did the procedure with my institutional passport for the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba, after presenting all the documentation that takes such a trip.

In other words, did you go to those courses for which you are now accused with an institutional passport?

Exactly, as I told you, I carried out all the procedures through the UNEAC. Obviously, for State Security, none of this was a secret, beyond the fact that the doctor turned out to be an informant, as it was a public, open event, it was not a secret. Upon my return to Cuba I had no contact with anyone from the FAR, nor did I dedicate myself to anything that State Security now suggests. I did not even pass the Military Service, I have never fired a firearm, therefore, my knowledge about armed forces is quite limited.

These activities consisted of plural conversations by a heterogeneous group of Cubans about our reality and the role of the army in democratic societies. Nowhere was there a plan to penetrate the FAR, far from it, that's ridiculous.

It is striking that you have gone with an institutional passport and that State Security knew all about those events, and that, however, they now present them as a kind of coven.

Yes, it is curious. State Security knew everything perfectly because, as I already mentioned, I was questioned by them before and after the first trip. I lived in Holguín at the time, the first questioning was done in the AHS cafe, and the second in one of the UNEAC offices. Therefore, there was no secret or surprise in any of this.

On December 3 of last year, which was the first time that Security contacted me after November 27, the officer who would attend to me from that moment made it clear to me that these trips did not interest them, that they were aware that I was not a mercenary, but they were concerned that an artist would get involved with some of the people who were on 27-N.

Look how much history has changed from then until now: at that time those trips were not important and the Minister of Culture invited me, that same day, to the supposed dialogue that was going to take place on December 4 at the Ministry of Culture - activity to which I refused to participate for reasons that I have already explained.

That being the case, I imagine you were surprised to see all this.

It didn't surprise me because they had already started using it on social media. The anonymous profile Karlito Marx, who has been attacking me since 27-N, has referred to these trips continuously. Professors Laura and Rut even wrote to La Jiribilla after articles on the matter appeared , said medium refused to publish them and El Toque took the text from them.

The other element of the material in The Reasons for Cuba that I wanted us to talk about is the video clip in which you are seen entering a US diplomatic residence in Havana.

Fabiola López, the journalist from Telesur , asked me about that when I left the Municipal Government of Old Havana and I commented that, indeed, I had had a meeting with the United States ambassador. I told him that the topic of our conversation had been the embargo, because all of us who attended the meeting are against it and we explained to Mr. Timothy Zúñiga-Brown what we believe about the sanctions, which affect the Cuban family, the entrepreneurs and the people in general.

Right (2)

Timothy Zúñiga-Brown

That meeting, whose purpose was to talk about issues related to the podcast and internet access in Cuba, was long before the Archipelago was born , I don't remember the exact date. The person who received us at the ambassador's residence was Alexander Augustine Marceil, the official who appears in the material of The reasons for Cuba. For me he was just another official, I didn't know him, obviously I didn't know anything about his background.

The conversation revolved around the problems caused by the embargo. When they asked me if I had any particular request, I said that it would be interesting to be able to go to the United States Congress to talk about those sanctions that directly affect the Cuban family. Nothing was said about the Archipelago , or about the march, those projects did not exist. The first person I told about Archipelago was Silvio Rodríguez in the meeting we had.

After the Archipelago was formed and the march was announced - which is what has brought us all the avalanche of attacks - we made the decision not to establish contact with any foreign government through diplomatic headquarters. The United States ambassador even called me to invite me to a meeting and I politely declined, to avoid manipulation and because our desire is to do everything in an absolutely sovereign manner.

After that meeting you had at the diplomatic residence, were you summoned by State Security or were they not aware of it?

No, I was not cited. In fact, the agent who takes care of my case mentioned it in one of the interrogations they made me, and I told him that that meeting had not been a secret at all, it is not something they had against me. I even challenged him to inquire with Mr. Zúñiga-Brown about the reason for the meeting and what I had raised there.

Did more people attend that meeting or was only you invited?

Yes, there were more people invited, but it does not seem correct to reveal their identities without their authorization.

You were telling me a while ago about the invitation that the Minister of Culture made you to the "dialogue" after 27-N. After the birth of the Archipelago and the beginning of your political activism in a more marked way, have you had contact with someone from the government or institutions, beyond those that occurred with State Security?

Actually, the Security for quite some time, since before all the attacks began, they did not question me or quote me. In this last phase they have closed any contact, something of which I am glad because it is not a pleasant experience or one that can benefit me as a person, quite the opposite.

Right (3)

Yunior García in front of the Ministry of Culture on November 27, 2020 (Photo: elTOQUE)

Those who have contacted me have been the people from the place where I work, the National Council of Performing Arts, whose vice president, together with the president of the Havana Theater Center, called me to tell me two things: one, that they do not support what we do from the Archipelago - it is clear to me because personally I have received attacks from the institution's Facebook page -; and two, that my theater group would not close, that I would concentrate on continuing to present projects to continue working.

How surreal that

Yes, it is very contradictory.

I know that there have been bad experiences in the past with attempts to enter into dialogue with the government - this post-27-N you just mentioned is one of them. Despite these failures, would you be willing to dialogue with the government if they invited you, the Archipelago and other actors of Cuban civil society?

Unlike those who repeat that phrase that we often see on social networks and that does not have much historical basis: "there is no dialogue with dictatorships"; I do believe that dialogue has often helped countries in the transition to democracy in a civic and peaceful way. Therefore, I consider that it is a key element in the immediate future of Cuba for the solution of the conflict that we are experiencing.

In that sense, I answer that I would accept a dialogue that would be truly transformative, that is, a process with neutral observers, with guarantors, and in which agreements are really reached that solve the conflict that we are experiencing, that arrives at a solution truly democratic.

What agreements could those be?

A dialogue for a plebiscite, to achieve the freedom of political prisoners, for a concrete transformation of our reality. With such a process, I would agree, even if they did not invite me, even if they considered me an invalid interlocutor - and the attacks show that I came to the top of their black list - even if it was without me, I would agree. I believe that many dialogues are necessary to resolve the conflicts in Cuba.

You have talked a lot about the need to build fraternity among Cubans and to transcend stereotypes and pigeonholes that have separated us before. However, there is a part of the Cubans in exile and also some from within the island who do not necessarily speak of annexation, but of a relationship of tutelage or subordination of Cuba to the United States. It is an ancient dilemma between us. What position do you take as a political activist towards these Cubans?

First of all, the opinion that Cuba would function better if it were closer to the United States is not only of the exiles or of certain groups, but it is the opinion of the Cuban government. That's why he's doing everything he can to re-establish relationships and start doing business in every way imaginable. Of course, Cuba would do better if it had normal relations with the United States.

As for subordination, the answer, of course, is that there should be none. Cuba must have the best possible relations with all countries, including the United States, which is our neighbor. The premise in these relationships must be respect for national sovereignty, but that is a sovereignty that must reside in citizens and not in a political party, whatever the sign.

Right (4)

On July 11, Yunior García and other citizens demonstrated in front of the building of the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television, in Vedado, Havana. (Photo: Ernesto Mastrascusa / EFE)

However, I can understand the positions of a part of the Cuban community settled in the United States and that has suffered too much. Many of them have dual citizenship and a double sense of belonging, for the land in which they were born and for the land that welcomed them. This is one of the issues that should be addressed with emphasis on the national dialogue that we lack, the relationship with exile and the way to reconcile some positions with our wishes for sovereignty.

However, I believe that never before has Cuba been so dependent on the United States as it is now, especially from the discursive point of view. In all the speeches of Cuban leaders, at any level, the United States is present as a key element. That country is the cause of all our ills; therefore, it is also the solution to all our problems, if we follow the same logic of the government.

The embargo has been used excessively as an international political tool to obtain diplomatic victories. Sometimes it seems to one that the embargo is something that they do not want to give up, because it constitutes an important political tool for the regime.

For all these reasons, the issue of relations with the United States is one of the most complex things on our foreign political scene. We must have normal relations with them, based on mutual respect and principles of non-interference, but also non-belligerence. We must bury that Cold War heritage that some, on both sides, insist on keeping alive. Of course, when we build a truly independent and democratic nation, we will have to work hard towards the best possible relationship with our exile and with the entire international community.

What they still insist on calling Revolution is nothing more than an exclusive dogma. They use the socialist ideology only to perpetuate themselves in power through the single party, but in practice, they care little about progress or social justice. They are a caste that hijacked the sovereignty of a country and is not willing to share power with anyone, just that.

At least Díaz-Canel and very recently José Luis Toledo Santander, president of the Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs of the National Assembly, dared to say it : "in Cuba there is no separation of powers." I don't know how certain analysts who call themselves democrats interpret that statement, but for many inside Cuba it was already very clear for a long time: there is no democracy, there is no rule of law and there is not even a Republic. It is a tyranny of a book, without any reasonable doubt.

In order to build a new social pact, it is necessary to completely depart from these exclusive schemes. Every citizen, regardless of their ideology, is part of this complex equation that is Cuba, beyond propaganda. If we persist in ignoring or eliminating elements of that equation, we will never have a Nation, but rather ideological fiefdoms faced to the point of exhaustion. From both ends they inoculate us with a trench thought. In the corners of the ring NO to dialogue is shouted and combat is stimulated. Each vertex arrogates to itself the divine faculty of imposing on us with whom to speak and with whom not. I do not accept those rules of the game.

Archipelago is not a political party pigeonholed in a political color, it is a pluralist platform. We want to promote, from the point of view of civility, a broad debate that does not exclude anyone. We are not looking for alliances, but encounters. Nor do we establish pacts, because the social pact that we intend will have to be built between all of us. Any program that persists in exclusion would be more of the same. And it would not be worth so much effort to, once again, replace one dictatorship with another. We have been in this history for seventy years.

The campaign against the march, but especially against you, gets worse as the days go by, what do you consider to be its influence on the people, both in supporters and opponents?

His supporters do not need to persuade them too much. Fundamentalism is immune to logic, argument, and reality. Their strategies focus on that part of the population that is beyond their total control. To do this, they resort to the murder of reputation, and in that campaign there are no moral limits. I know worse attacks will come as your anxiety and despair increase. On the other hand, dividing has been his favorite tactic.

They are already giving talks in the neighborhoods, with photos of me even, saying all kinds of atrocities. They will also do this with the youth when classes start. They have approached other members of the Archipelago to sow suspicion between one another. It was the same as they did with 27-N. They insist on calling us mercenaries, even though they can't prove a single penny to us. They insist on relating to the United States government, even though they are certain that such a relationship does not exist. They are ardent defenders of Goebbels' premise: a lie repeated a thousand times becomes the truth.

His strategy, on the other hand, with more radical sectors of the opposition, is to generate suspicion. For that they divulge implausible conspiracy theories that, despite that, always find someone who welcomes them.

What do you think will happen next November 15?

I can assure you that we will never renounce the right to conquer our rights. We will do all we can civically so that our right to demonstrate is respected. However, and in this I want to be very emphatic, we repudiate any type of violence, so we will avoid confrontation.

The march that we have called is precisely against political violence, that is why we want to generate a civic and peaceful demonstration, without confrontations between Cubans. We don't want neighbors to jump on their neighbors. To do this, we have thought of a marching liturgy that seeks to promote that civic spirit.

Right (5)

However, we are not responsible for what happens that day. The Cuban State is responsible for public order and is the one who must ensure that there is no violence from anywhere that day. The police must ensure the safety of all Cubans, without exception, both the protesters and those who sympathize with the regime. That is your responsibility.

We are aware of the risks we run: the State can infiltrate violent people to blame us for the acts they commit, it can release common prisoners in days close to the march - it is already doing so - it can use multiple resources to distort our march.

Archipelago is responsible for the call it has made and we, personally, take responsibility for our individual conduct during the demonstration. The rest is the absolute responsibility of the authorities.

I can go to prison, but fortunately the Archipelago does not depend on a single person-island. And Cuba will learn not to depend on caudillos or messiahs to make postponed dreams come true.

What would be the most urgent changes for you?

There are many Cubans with concrete proposals and solutions. This national debate is urgent. And then we will have to be able to take our conflicts to the polls. The solution for Cuba should no longer depend on the proposal presented by a single group. Deep debate and consensus are needed, a collective construction of a democratic Republic with a solid rule of law and true social justice is needed.

The most urgent change is in language and in thought. They gave us a false feeling for a long time: this is not fixed or destroyed by anyone. That sadly popular thought is a gag imposed by power. It is a Gordian knot that we must cut, as Alexander did.

I know your full attention must be on the 15-N march, but I imagine you have thought about what comes next. How does Archipelago plan to channel its proposals? Do you think this pressure works?

There are no changes without social pressure. Shaking a country is our activism, not only for the regime to react, but also for society as a whole to remove the laziness, fears, fear, immobility that many times has marked Cubans. We must understand that we have to fight for our rights and participate in the life of the country, without hypocrisy or simulations. And I think that to a large extent important things have been achieved, this has been a great shock to the nation.

We know that our lives will be very difficult from now on, all this marks a before and after and nothing will ever be normal again. But we are willing to continue assuming a civic and peaceful path to motivate changes. After the march, initiatives will continue to emerge that seek popular sovereignty to take sides in political affairs and end in the fact that the will of the people is expressed through the ballot box. We will have to reach a referendum, a plebiscite, a transparent and reliable mechanism that allows Cubans to express their will, and not a group that imposes its views on others.

It cannot happen to us what other times in the history of Cuba, that one faction replaces the other in power and in the end what happens is a change of dictatorships, but a democratic and Marti society is not built. All civic paths that do not include violence are valid to get to that point.

The power has not shown signs of maturity. He has reacted in panic to his own people, with violent threats and repression. The only thing that matters to power is to preserve itself absolutely. It is not enough to "reform" what suffers from serious structural problems. The changes that Cuba needs cannot mean a return to the past either. We must finish bringing Cuba to the present and make it move towards the future.

On what bases would your political proposals be based, as the leader of a group, beyond the immediate ones that have already been formulated? What elements of the current system would you keep?

I have criticized many times what I call the Krim 218 Syndrome, and that makes us perceive the reality of Cuba in black and white. There are always nuances. And there are, of course, many things that should be maintained and improved. But without dictatorship or single thought, without exclusion or discrimination of any kind. Matters such as health and education must be guaranteed universal access. We must combat social injustice and prevent the gap between one and the other from becoming unbridgeable. We must eliminate poverty and assist those most in need.

But for that, it is necessary to generate wealth, eliminate all absurd obstacles to entrepreneurship, truly liberate the productive forces, stop being obstinate that the State manages what, obviously, it does not know how to manage. The conditions will have to be built so that people participate effectively in the solutions and not just limit themselves to throwing their complaints in empty sacks.

It is false that national independence has been achieved. Sovereignty will have to be taken away from the caste that has kidnapped it, and finally handed over to the citizens.

In your work as a playwright, Martí is a regular presence. Who are your references as a political activist?

I have many references, from Mandela to Martin Luther King. But Martí continues and will continue to be my main guide. And it is not a Martí of quotes taken out of context or stone busts. I have deeply studied his work. I have written a script for a movie about a living Martí, here and now. To write it I needed to immerse myself in his life and in all his texts and it was there that I came to understand him for the first time. If Martí were alive, those who seriously know his work know perfectly which side he would be on.

Right (6)

Martin Luther King Jr.

At what point did your political spark awaken? Was there a specific event that served as a trigger?

Like many young Cubans, I was a member of the UJC in my years at the National School of Art. I was also a delegate to the X Congress of the FEEM in 2002. At that time I was already a rebel with ideas for change. But 2003 was the year that was a shock to me. The black spring and the unjust shooting of three young men was perhaps the trigger. I left the military in the UJC and since then I began a process of delving into a history of Cuba that I did not know. Vitral and Encuentro magazines became part of my library. Reinaldo Arenas, Lezama, Cabrera Infante and others began to influence my way of seeing reality.

Nobody changes because someone comes to tell them that they are wrong. It is an internal process in which each person is forming their own truth. It changed me to discover that what they called "mistakes of the past" were still realities of the present. It cannot be changed so that everything remains the same. The word change is, unequivocally, a revolution that begins inside your head and then you can no longer prevent it from expressing itself and prompting you to do what you consider to be urgent, necessary and useful.

Politically, how would you define yourself?

Today's world, although polarizations seem to multiply, is pathologically ambidextrous. Left and right are often confused. "Communist" China is today the country that pollutes the planet the most and plans to become the next empire. The Cuban tyranny perhaps exploits its proletarians more than anyone else in the world. Nothing is irrevocable in a universe where dialectics prevail. I am a pluralist, a nonconformist, a creator. I resist putting false labels on myself.

You have talked about the risks of political activism in Cuba and how much their lives will change from now on. Some speculate that many of you after 15-N will go to prison and then be exiled, as has happened in recent times. Are you ready to go to prison?

If I'm honest, no. I was not fully prepared for everything that has happened to us. I try every day to fight my anger, that anger that is generated by powerlessness; I try to find lucidity, good sense. For these things I think that one is never prepared, but this is the path we chose and dignity is the most important thing. Dignity is sometimes the only thing left, the last hold that you can hold onto as if it were a log in a troubled river, you don't know where it is going to take you but it is what keeps you afloat.

That is why what comes I will assume with the greatest possible dignity, without renouncing my principles, my ideas, without falling into rage and, above all, without becoming the same as what I am critical. I will always try not to become what I now criticize.

Something that drives me is the shows of support when I go anywhere and meet real people, not manufactured people who respond to very specific interests, but people who have nothing to lose. That restores my faith.

Every day I wonder if all this is worth it. There are people who believe not. In Jacuzzi , one of my works, a character has a monologue in which he is asked: "Who are you going to die for?" He begins to make a description of what he understands Cuban society to be and, according to that character, it would not be worth taking risks for that part of society. But when you go out into the street and people give you a hug as a sign of solidarity, even if they don't fully agree with your ideas, that restores my faith.

We are not doing this out of heroism, or to go down in history, or to be in the books, or to have a street named after you, or because in the middle of a park they make you a bronze statue; We are doing this because we cannot help it, we know what we have to do. It is like a voice that tells you: "Don't do it to be thanked, do it because you know you have to."

Along the way you have become a leader for many and I believe that in the same way that we are not prepared to suffer reprisals like the ones you have suffered, it is not common to be prepared to be a leader that people take as a reference, whom people seek to listen or read to breathe calmly after an attack.

I do not know if he is the leader that people expect or need, because I have many shortcomings since I am trained as an artist, not as a politician. But all those shortcomings, those gaps — which I will have to fill at some point with readings and experiences — make me remain human. It is like a cross that must be carried, but you are not carrying someone else's cross. You carry your own cross and the responsibility is with yourself, not only for what people expect of you, but also for what you expect of yourself.

There were many comments to this interview, largely favorable.  All can be read here 

Following are two of the more substantive criticisms.


November 10, 2021 - 2:18 PM

There is something that I cannot understand. If Yunior really wants his act to be peaceful because he does not take a clear position on the issue, and a clear position is not to say that I distance myself or I cannot take responsibility for what happens in the protest, because then, why do you ask to do something that you cannot control, and on the contrary it can be used by others to cause chaos and violence. It is not peaceful who shouts from the rooftops that he is, but he who uses his intelligence not to exercise violence and also to prevent third parties from using it as a mere pretext to exercise it.
But also, it is not beautiful or ethical, that being you the public face of the call, you say that you cannot answer for what happens, that is, if someone goes there to protest and shouts and offends or vandalizes and attacks, it is not your fault, if that happens, you leave and if someone gets hurt it's not your fault. Typical of a captain spider, and brave I do not see anything. I would consider you brave if I saw you insist and look for formulas where you express your protest without any risk to anyone, for example, I am going to protest for the parking lot of the Pan-American stadium, there I take my cameras and everything I want so that the networks see me , but I zero out the risk of third parties, violence, etc.
But no, that's not what you want, you want to go out and heat the street, whatever happens, like a spoiled child, who is looking for a couple of spankings from his father or mother. I'm just not sure who is that mom and that dad, the one who is telling you, no j ... more and behave well, or the one who is telling you, take the match, gasoline and go play at school.
If your protest is not supported by any power and you are not going to allow it to be used by any country other than ours, then why don't you say so? Why do you allow the United States to get involved in the matter, and officially, even that threatens to make our game and life more difficult for all of us.
I would like to believe that you are sincere and your words are real, but when I see that, knowingly or not, you allow yourself to be used to create unrest in people and the possibility of violent actions, when you allow yourself to be used so that other countries use you as a pretext to make life more difficult than it is. He tells me to believe you.
I am sure that there are many things that we can agree on, but what we are not going to understand is that due to the action of a spoiled child, or due to immaturity, violence and chaos take over my country, and risk my family's life and well-being. I'm sorry friend, but if I have to decide, I decide for peace, and if you have the right to protest, I have the right to defend the peace and tranquility of my house and the safety and life of my family, and I will to defend with life if necessary.
The thousands of problems that we have, we are going to solve them, and we are going to hit it hard, but without chaos, without violence and much less with the Americans wanting to decide what we have to do. If you really are Martiano, as you preach, you will know that Martí never wanted the Americans involved in our affairs.
Let everyone assume their responsibility in life and in history


November 11, 2021 - 5:13 PM

It is not possible to have influences from Martí only in the part that suits us, Martí was first of all anti-imperialist and every true Martian must first of all be anti-imperialist and the related complexes and contexts that this means, without being dogmatic and square and recognizing, as he knew do, that there is a Cuban community abroad, which is useful and necessary if it is added to the noble cause of the independence, sovereignty and future of the Homeland and the rational hatred of those who attack it.
In his beautiful words, he calls for the fight without a defined political program, it is to follow him blindly and then if he achieves his goal and does not fulfill any of the expectations, another and another endless revolt would be born and we end up like Libya and others, but each one follow what you want or believe in what you want to believe ... yet another who knows nothing about economics, history or geopolitics to direct the future of our country ... how many of the Archipelago are economists, there must be, but no one says how they will solve the country's problems and above all how to do it without having to give in to return the nationalized properties, especially the lands and other juicy and valuable properties, which would be the only way to receive the Yankee approval to be able to receive the credits for reconstruction, imports and electricity green to Yankee investments,And if they do, how are they going to relocate millions of Cubans who live and own these properties seized / nationalized in the past today ... no one answers that question, but also how are they going to negotiate with the traditional parties of pre-59 in Cuba and still others are living in Florida and that if the new provisional or transitional government does not allow them to participate in the future "democracy" then they would not give their approval either and everything would be the same or worse and until you let them enter to share the cake nothing would happen and so we have to believe that in this political rearrangement, the future for Cuba would be better, the truth is I do not believe it and I return to the old saying better known "bad" than "good" to know,at least this one tries to defend part of our dreams and holds the flags high and gave us a place in this world.
Yunior says that the Archipelago is a diverse group, where everyone can be, can participate and be part of those who blindly defend the Revolution and its government of continuity, without excluding and attacking them, it would be a good experiment to see how diverse and open they can be ... no human group is to face criteria, people meet by nature with like-minded people and from whom they need or benefit but never with diametrically opposed people, it is another lie repeated by Yunior and it is an unnatural position repeated as a beautiful speech by him, by Archipelago and a supposed future;Assuming that in Cuba there are no communists or leftists, only fidelistas and that these are a little more than 50% of the total in a process of change to capitalism in Cuba, it would be necessary to reduce or intimidate them so that they reject Yunior, therefore, a change would be needed violent and perhaps in your naivety you do not know that the superior plan must be this so in that chaos to be able to eliminate (kill) as many annoying as possible (revolutionaries or representative communists, influencers, or recognized) then I must support a movement that asks that Deny my parents, tell them that they are ignorant and cowardly fools that their ideas are wrong, no friends, I am what my parents did to me,and I am proud of every wrong or wrong step that they took because they showed me and taught me not to give up and they made me grow and it was not perfect like anything in this life but I will never deny their teachings even if I continue to fight for a just, coherent and necessary change for a better Cuba but in a future that continues to include and respect them because they are there, they live, they exist and they also have a voice and like them many others and what democracy they speak of if a minority wants to impose the criteria on another, or they think they are right , that will never be different, it will always be either you follow me or face the consequences.they exist and they also have a voice and like them many others and what democracy they talk about if a minority wants to impose the criteria on another, or thinks they are right, that will never be different, it will always be either you follow me or pay attention to the consequences.they exist and they also have a voice and like them many others and what democracy they talk about if a minority wants to impose the criteria on another, or thinks they are right, that will never be different, it will always be either you follow me or pay attention to the consequences.
Yunior have some reasons, in your words, in criticism, longings and challenges but they are badly channeled or badly carried out and especially in the supposed plurality you have made pacts with the devil that you should never have done because they delegitimize everything good and positive that could be ...


Arnold August, a Canadian solidarity activist and academic, has published a conspiratorial thesis about the forces behind November 15th available here  "Inside Cuban dissidents’ November 15 plot: Unpacking the Archipiélago Facebook Group"