Cuban Festival in Panama/ Fernando Damaso

The violent events in Panama, where the representatives of the Cuban regime shed their lamb skins and, ready for action, turned into a real pack of wolves, and launched insults and blows against Cubans who think differently, becoming a national shame.

The stars of this shameful spectacle were a mediocre writer, a frightened poet and a historian of Cantinflasian oratory, transformed into energetic state officials. Seeing figures of culture and intellect downgraded to simple “neighborhood bullies” (some lacking any demonstration of courage in their whole lives), was humiliating and laughable.

Who can believe what they asserted in their eloquent speeches? Having accepted, by conviction or cowardice, to put themselves in front of these “repudiation rallies” and engage in vandalism, they are reduced to what they are: simple puppets of the regime, those used according to short-term political needs, and then discarded. They aren’t the first and they won’t be last.

As a neighbor of mine with serious grammatical problems says: “It seems incredible that people ‘of such little talent and unprepared’ are such riffraff.”

About the other representatives of the government organizations present there, notable in their verbal and physical aggressions, there’s little that can be said: simply repeating the same things, forming part of the screaming rowdy government mob, the same that are mobilized for a “repudiation rally,” a beating, to vote in false elections and attend parades and rallies at the rhythm of the party.

Neither one nor the other are a part of the people of Varela, Del Monte, Luz y Caballero, Céspedes, Agramonte, Maceo, Gómez, Martí, Varona, Juan Gualberto, Villena, Echevarría and other worthy Cubans. It seems that shame and civility are missing in Cuba.

11 April 2015

Posted in Fernando Damaso

Dialogue or Monologue / Fernando Damaso

Our authorities have always been preoccupied with extolling the originality of anything coming out of Cuba. Our freedoms, socialism, democracy, human rights, political and economic system, electoral process, governmental bodies, political and grass-roots organizations, and everything else are unique and unlike anything comparable in the rest of the world. Furthermore, it is argued — with scant modesty — that they are the best and most perfect. What is striking is that this unhealthy addiction to being different applies only to the outside world. Differences within the country, among Cubans themselves, are not acceptable.

Dictating how things are to be done has become a daily and unhealthy practice over the years, especially when done by those have held and still hold absolute power. We have seen the imposition of a political, economic and social system, one-party rule, a socialist Constitution, basic laws, organizations and associations, educational, cultural, and moral standards, and many other things that should have involved consultation with citizens and should have been freely approved or rejected by them.

The disastrous results are plain to see. The country has regressed as never before in its  history, including even during the most critical times.

Even today, in spite of declarations to the contrary, we continue seeing efforts to dictate.

Wouldn’t it be more intelligent to have a dialogue and look for consensus?

When I suggest dialogue, I do not mean conversations between people who think alike, which is what we have now, but between those with differing opinions. The results would undoubtedly be better. An exchange of views in a respectful and constructive climate might yield wonderful solutions. Why not try it? We stand to lose nothing more than we have already lost from the now obsolete monologue.

1 April 2015

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The Problem Is Not the Packaging

Fernando Damaso, 23 March 2015 — Many years ago when I worked at an advertising agency named Marketing, Research and Public Relations, Inc., its head — Enrique Cuzco — would often say, “A bad product won’t sell no matter how good the advertising is.”

In an effort to get young people to actively participate in the current electoral process, the National Electoral Commission recently decided to give responsibilty for the entire public relations campaign to a group of young journalists, designers and artists, figuring they can speak a common generational language.

Cuzco’s words immediately came to mind.

If anyone thinks that by designing more colorful and attractive “packaging” he will better be able to sell a low-quality “product” such as the Cuban electoral process, he is wasting time and resources.

This can only be achieved when the process is changed, when it stops being a farce and becomes something serious, when citizens can nominate candidates they really think are better and not someone supported by the sole poltical party, and when they can vote directly for those who will occupy the most important government positions, including the presidency.

I hope the new election law now being written includes these provisions. The problem is not with the packaging; it is with the product inside.

Posted in Fernando Damaso

Intransigence at Any Cost / Fernando Damazo

Fernando Damaso, 16 March 2015 — When a phenomenon is analyzed, or a historical occurrence or any important matter, this analysis should be done objectively evaluating all its components, be they internal or external, without a priori positions, keeping in mind their positive or negative aspects.

Yesterday marked another anniversary of the events which occurred at Mangos de Baraguá on March 15, 1878.

The Baraguá Protest, mounted by General Antonio Maceo and other generals and officials of the Cuban Army of Independence [in the 19th Century against Spain], as a response to the Pact of Zanjón, has been included by history as a symbol of intransigence for Cubans. The virile gesture by Maceo and his comrades deserves the greatest respect — even though it did not correspond to the actual status of the struggle which, except for within the jurisdictions of Santiago de Cuba and Guantánamo, had waned, primarily because of the exhaustion of the Mambí forces, the internal divisions within the Army of Independence, and the rupture between it and the Cuban Government-in-Arms.

Besides, the Camagüey and Las Villas forces, as well as those of Bayamo, plus General Máximo Gómez and other important military leaders, had accepted the Pact and, since February, there were no longer an insurrectionist Executive Power nor Chamber. As a result of the Protest, General Vicente García remained at the helm of the district composed of Las Tunas and Holguín, while Maceo headed the zones of Santiago de Cuba and Guantánamo.

Once the hostilities were broken off on March 23, they failed and Antonio Maceo had to lay down arms and, with his family, depart for Jamaica on May 9 (55 days after Baraguá), aboard the gunboat Fernando el Católico [“Ferdinand the Catholic”], which the Spanish Chief General Arsenio Martínez Campos had placed at Maceo’s disposal. On May 28, 74 days after Baraguá, the veterans of that skirmish were laying down arms and acceptingthe Pact of Zanjón. Only Limbano Sánchez in Oriente, and the brigadier Ramón Leocadio Bonachea in the zones of Camagüey and Las Villas — the latter for 11 months — prolonged the resistance, but their efforts proved futile: the Ten Years’ War had ended.

These adverse results do not detract from the protesters of Baraguá, but the days and months that followed demonstrated that they had erred in their assessment of the situation and what needed to be done: they put their libertarian desires ahead of good judgement. In this matter, the perjoratively-named “zanjonerians” (so called for having accepted the Pact) — among them General Máximo Gómez and other important military leaders — proved to have had the greater capacity for analysis.

Unfortunately, this is not what is said and written when recalling Baraguá. Were it to be recognized, however, would perhaps help us to more intelligently confront the various situations we face today, in a complex and changing world. Intransigence at any cost, as history shows, is not always the best option. It behooves us to remember that “Neverland” only exists in children’s stories.

 Translated by Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Posted in Fernando Damaso

A Vote for a Good Appearance / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, 25 February 2015 — A journalist has written in a government daily about good appearance — not to demand it, but to question it. She focuses her question on advertisements by certain private businesses, which read: “In search of a young trabajadora [female worker] of good appearance.” (I will add that there also are ads which ask for “young trabajadores [male or non-gender-specific workers] of good appearance.”) In any event, the request is not as limited as the writer describes it, but let us get to the point.

Upon this weak foundation begins her argument regarding discrimination by gender, age, skin color, whether a certain type of figure is required, whether women are objectified for commercial purposes, etc. These are well-known claims, being repeated as they are in the government jargon.

Standards of beauty have always existed. They change with the times, but they do not disappear. Today, as yesterday, they exist, and it is valid to take them into account, especially when it comes to individuals who will be dealing directly with the public. Throughout too many years we have had to suffer male and female clerks and waiters in stores, restaurants, cafeterias and other services who lack a good appearance, who should never have been chosen for those positions.

A good appearance, although it includes primarily the physical aspect, is complemented by upbringing, good manners, correct speech, personal hygiene, and many other factors.

I consider it healthy for the owners of private businesses to first require a good appearance. After that, I am sure they will analyze a candidate’s overall suitability for the position, his/her professionalism, etc., and then, among those of good appearance, they will select the most capable applicants. The State should imitate these business owners.

It always turns out to be a much more pleasant experience to be helped by someone with a good appearance, be it a man or woman, than by someone who does not have it. Besides, we pay for it!

This preference, although it may appear so, is not a division between “inhumane capitalism” and “paternal socialism,” but rather between the beautiful and the formal.

Translated by Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Posted in Fernando Damaso, Translator: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Regarding the Massive Dumbing-Down / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, 20 February 2015 — It has lately become fashionable to speak and write about the need for combatting negative cultural trends that, as is to be expected, arrive from abroad, mostly from the “empire.” This practice has increased since December 17, 2014, when it was announced that diplomatic relations would be re-established with the “empire”… sorry, with the United States government.

Nobody with any sense can bet on the vulgarity, the bad taste, the alienation, the extremisms of all types, the violence, and other ills, but much care must be taken when deciding what is negative, and who determines this. Let us remember that for years this country prohibited foreign music, and to listen to it constituted a crime.

Victims of this absurd policy were Beatles fans, as well as any man who wore his hair long, wore jeans, or looked “peculiar” to the authorities. The UMAP was a crude reality that destroyed the lives of many Cubans, while back then this was said to be in defense of the culture and national identity. That is, to prohibit has never been a good policy, and it is less so now in a world so globalized and digitized as ours, wherein prohibitions are very difficult to apply.

Therefore there is a need to raise the quality and attractiveness of all things Cuban, to compete with what comes from abroad. This makes for a good policy —  if and only if the “compete” part is respected — and no move is made to impose shoddiness, as has been the case up to now, simply because something is “made in Cuba.”

Now, to achieve this requires freedom and resources, without which producers can make very little. Another necessity: leaving chauvinism aside. Our children are not the most educated on the plant (even if UNESCO says so), nor are our women the most beautiful, cultured, sensual, sensible and lucid, nor are the Cuban people the most politically aware, hard-working and brave. All of these statements are no more than clichés, imposed by 56 years of “massive ideological dumbing-down,” arriving actually not from abroad, but made in Cuba.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Posted in Fernando Damaso, Translator: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Are Interference and Solidarity the Same? / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, 11 March 2015 — The words “interference” and “solidarity” have been used interchangeability, according to the political-ideological interests of those who employ them. As a result, the United States practices interference in the internal issues of other countries, and Cuba practices solidarity, which is nothing more than interference under another name.

Just like the extinct Soviet Union did during the “Cold War”: its political interference in its “brother socialists countries” and, armed interference in Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan were acts of solidarity or, as it was called then, “proletarian internationalism.”

Cuba has practiced interference, disguised as solidarity, in Latin America and Africa, organizing guerrillas and training its members. In the latter it has also armed Angola and Ethiopia. Allende’s Chile, Nicaragua’s Sandinistas and Noriega’s Panama, were no strangers to Cuba. Today it continues to interfere politically in every way, principally in Venezuela. It repudiated the old “socialist brothers” of Eastern Europe for changing their systems, and today our principal “brothers” are Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua.

It is striking that the Venezuelan president repudiates American interference and accepts Cuban, in addition to being its predecessor and meddling in the internal matters of its neighbor countries, including the US. It is a difficult and questionable position to speak of sovereignty and independence, terms, of course, quite obsolete in the globalized world with integration of countries in different organizations: UNASUR, CELAC, ALBA, etc., to name just a few of the region.

I have the impression that, aside from the real interference of the United Stats, the patriotic hysteria is due to the difficult situation the country finds itself in, close to midterm elections, due to the ineptitude of its leaders in solving the country’s problems and achieving stability and development.

In these complex situations it’s recommended to look for a powerful external enemy whom they can blame for all ills, to distract citizens’ attention from those truly responsibility and crushing the opposition (the internal enemy). It’s a very old formula and has been applied with success in other countries and in Cuba with success, from whom the Venezuelan government receives recommendations for interference, excuse me: solidarity.

There is no doubt that both the United States and Cuba (in this case during the last fifty-six years) have accumulated a voluminous record of interference.

Posted in Fernando Damaso