Adopting Other Terminology / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, 7 March 2015 — According to official pronouncements, conversations between the governments of Cuba and the United States are proceeding in a serious, respectful and substantive way regardless of the fact that each party is defending its own point of view.

But what is striking is the way representatives of the official media continue to use the worn-out terminology of the Cold War by repeatedly parroting terms like anti-imperialist, anti-annexationist, anti-colonialist and other anti’s from the voluminous repertory crafted by the international left.

While it is true that they do not have the freedom to alter their rhetoric and must wait for orders from above before doing so, it seems that should have already happened. It seems it pains them to be do something positive and forego using such inappropriate language.

These “sweet words” don’t fool anybody; they have fallen out of favor. Besides, they were never used in reference to Soviet imperialism, which oppressed Eastern Bloc countries by imposing its political system on them, nor to the so-called “fraternal republics” which made up the Soviet Union. Such sweet words have always carried deep ideological overtones and have only ever been used in reference to the “enemy” or, in other words, to western governments.

The current language should be one that focuses on peace, respect for diversity, dialogue, cooperation, coexistence, development, well-being and other related themes. The old, obsolete language should be cast aside if we aspire to live together in a civilized way.

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There Are Differences

Fernando Damaso, Havana,30 January 2015 — When considering the future development of the contacts between the Cuba and United States delegations who are brokering the reestablishment of diplomatic relations, profound differences between the two participating groups become evident.

While the North American delegation represents a democratic government, the Cuban one speaks for a totalitarian system. Thus, the requirements and points of view put forth by the Cuban negotiators are those of the government, rather than of the Cuban people.

Accustomed as they are to speaking with a single voice, the Cuban delegation makes use of the terms “sovereignty,” “independence,” “liberty” and “human rights,” warping these words to fit its own political and ideological interests, trying to force acceptance of their own narrow, dogmatic version, rather than that which is recognized internationally.

Thus, when referring to them, one speaks of something fictitious, for there is no true sovereignty, independence and liberty if every citizen is not sovereign, independent and free. This is nothing new: José Martí expressed this more than a century ago.

It is a farce to pretend that human rights are realized by sending personnel from healthcare and other professions to provide services in foreign countries, when it is a known fact that the majority of these services are paid-for by the recipient governments or by international organizations — and that the Cubans who provide these services are exploited like slave labor, with the Cuban government appropriating the majority percentage of the monies received. The ridiculousness of this claim is even more evident when one takes into account that it is precisely these professionals who do not have their citizen rights respected.

I could go into other questionable aspects of the Cuban regime, such as that the current Constitution was not the result of a constitutional congress in which all social actors participated, but rather was produced by a governmental commission created for this purpose, and (after the deed was done) presented for formal “approval”by the citizenry.

This in spite of the fact that the same Constitution, in Article 4, stipulates that “all power belongs to the working people, who exercise it by means of the Assemblies of Popular Power.”

But then, in utter contradiction to what is previously stated, Article 5 stipulates that “the Communist Party….is the leading authority of society and of the State….” and that the so-called “social” and “mass” bodies, known as non-governmental organizations, are in fact governmental organizations, established and directed by the Party and the Government, serving their purposes of control and political indoctrination.

But I think I have made my point with these three examples.

This whole totalitarian framework, constructed and reinforced during 56 years of absolute exercise of power, constitutes the main obstacle to the successful unfolding of the negotiations between the two countries. These talks will only truly move forward when this structure starts to be dismantled, both by the newly-emerging authorities themselves, convinced of the brake they represent, as well as — and primarily by — the pressure and demands of Cuban citizens.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

 

Posted in Fernando Damaso, Translator: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

The Law of the Funnel / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, Havana, 3 February 2015 — Following December 17, 2014, and the first working meeting between the United States and Cuba delegations to reestablish diplomatic relations and find solutions to other questions that affect both governments, the Cuban authorities have framed the event as a victory.

They say it is a result of “almost half a century of heroic struggle and faithfulness to the principles of the Cuban people…thanks to the new era in which our region lives, and to the solid and brave demand from the governments and peoples of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).” Once again, the false triumphalism that has given us so many headaches makes an appearance.

What goes unmentioned is the courageous decision by the president of the United States and the measures which — without any concessions in return by the Cuban government — he is taking, despite criticism from both the Democratic and Republican sectors.

The Cuban authorities, knowing that they only have two years (the time left in office to the current North American president) to get something — instead of facilitating his gesture, complicate matters with absurd and out-of-context demands, mixing them with others that might be accepted. Thus, along with the end of the embargo, the green light for travel by American individuals, the granting of credit, the removal of Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, the procurement of equipment and technologies, and a trade relationship — all of which are fair requests and in keeping with good relations between neighboring countries — there is the return of the Guantánamo naval base, the ceasing of Radio and TV Martí broadcasts, compensation for the human and economic damages of the embargo, as well as not requiring anything from the Cuban government in return, which will be very difficult for an American administration to accept. It is a classic case of the “law of the funnel”: the wide part for me and the narrow for others.

These unrestrained demands make one think that the Cuban authorities are only interested in buying time, delaying the resolution of the dispute, without daring to leave the game, come what may. It is a matter of a sick addiction to power, believing themselves designated by the gods to exercise it eternally, without any regard for the Cuban people. After sinking the country and dragging it down to poverty, they still consider themselves its saviors and, worst of all, they try to make us citizens accept them as such.

 Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

 

Posted in Fernando Damaso, Translator: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Mutual Respect / Fernando Damaso

The reestablishment of diplomatic relations between the governments of Cuba and the United States has been well received by the majority of Cubans both within and outside the island. Although it represents only the first step in solving the dispute between the two governments, it provides the basis for achieving a normal coexistence between close neighbors, both geographically and historically.

During the process of resolving this dispute, it is hoped that steps will also be taken to resolve another dispute: that between Cubans and their government

As expected, there are those who do not agree with this first step, who reject it and will do everything possible to make it fail. These people are found within the governments of both countries, as well as among the internal and external opposition. Some have lived too long under this dispute, and it is too difficult for them to give up what has become a way of life.

I am referring to government figures, who have made careers for themselves taking advantage of the dispute, enjoying the perks, experiencing neither shortages, scarcities, nor the “Special Period,” and also some opponents who, although it has cost them a great deal of work, have benefited from it, through media attention, economic assistance, and the occasional trip abroad.

This is also happened with some Cuban-American politicians, Both Democrats and Republicans. It is a well-known reality and cannot be ignored.

Those of us who are committed to change and have as our main objective the well-being of Cuba and all Cubans, without any kinds of differences or exclusions, I call on to fight to overcome the obstacles that undoubtedly will appear, and to advance this process.

It is noteworthy that, in recent days, in the press and in the Government-supported blogosphere, there have appeared some articles which, instead of promoting understanding and good relations, try to fan the flames of discord, recalling difficult times in recent history, where the only culprit, with or without evidence, continues to be the American government, while Cuba continues to play the role of innocent victim: they appear to be stuck in the story of Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf

If we really want to have good relations with our neighbor, and so the language of the barricade and of the ignorant, used for so many years, should begin to vary: respect, to be effective, must be mutual.

18 January 2015

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New Year Desires / Fernando Damaso

For the five-year period 2011-2016, the Cuban authorities planned for a 5.1% growth in the economy. It was later reduced to 4.4%. However the average growth has been 2.7%, with this year, 2014, being the worst with a growth of only 1.3%. This has displaced 2009, when growth was 1.4%, as the year with the worst numbers since the beginning of the so-called updating of the economic model.

We now have more than 20 years of sustained economic stagnation, which demonstrates that despite all the efforts undertaken so far to overcome it, the model does not work. It has brought a great deterioration in social services, which can clearly be felt among citizens, regardless of the official propaganda that tries to convince them of the contrary.

There has been a demonstrated inability to recover the industrial indices and agricultural production, and in addition all of the infrastructure has suffered considerable deterioration. Real salaries today represent 35% of the level of 1989. All of this taken together has affected the government’s credibility.

Despite systematic declarations to the contrary, it is necessary to increase the speed of reforms and to reduce the number of experiments that are undertaken prior to transformations. The time lost worsens the economic situation of the citizens.

8 January 2015

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Different Disputes / Fernando Damaso

The initiation of changes in the historical dispute between the Cuban government and the different government administrations of the United States that has begun with the reestablishment of diplomatic relations, should address, as has been pointed out by both leaders, other issues that may not be so easy to resolve.

Despite this first step and the others to come influenced from within Cuba, this does not mean that the other important dispute will be solved: that between the Cuban government and its citizens.

This dispute has become more complex because for too many years power has been exercised by only two people, supported by their closest generational followers, who have committed multiple and costly political, economic and social errors, which were never addressed in time and which have affected the entire country, precipitating a too prolonged crisis, due to which they have lost credibility with the citizens.

For some time, despite the fact that the authorities do not want to recognize it and continue to bet on a national unity that we all know to be in form only, a great number of Cubans demand changes, not only economic but also political and social. They demonstrate it with their families, friends and even neighbors, although they still don’t dare to express it out loud.

Those who think that economic reforms will not generate demands for political reforms are mistaken. The Cuban nation needs to renew itself and catch up with the times. Will this be facilitated by the few living representatives of the historic generation in the time they have left to them, or will it be done by representatives of new generations, who still, perhaps, remain unknown to the majority of the people?

On officially letting go of the “external enemy,” the authorities will find it very difficult to continue to use it as a pretext to block the exercise of the individual rights of every citizen. They can continue talking about general rights, as they have done up until now, but they cannot ignore the others. Resolving the external dispute requires them to begin to resolve the internal one.

31 December 2014

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Hip-Hop in the Spotlight / Fernando Damaso

I love information / I need an airplane / I need information / I love information

 

Allegations continue in the Cuban official press about the subversion organized by USAID against the ruling regime in the country. Now it touches the hip-hop musical movement. I will not devote time to whether or not it is true or a fictional plot released by the Associated Press news agency, because I prefer the episodes of “Homeland.” I will address some unpublished questions which I consider more important and which constitute the genesis of the problem.

It is no secret that in the Cuban musical world there are groups and performers cheered on by the authorities who enjoy economic privileges and dissemination, those popularly called “officialistic.” These participated in a repudiation rally organized by the Pineapple Festival in Ciego de Avila, to offer just one example. They are abundant and we see and hear them in many Government political activities.

Currently they will be present on Christmas Eve, Christmas, or New Year’s, not to make these events any more agreeable, but to celebrate the 56th anniversary of the Triumph of the Revolution. I don’t remember that during the Republican Era musical groups and performers answered to the government or to political parties.

There are others who, while addressing the acute social problems that plague the country, are questioned by the authorities, enjoy no privileges, and have to fend for themselves to survive, primarily in “underground” spaces. They have emerged and do emerge, not because USAID creates them, but as a result of the absurd government policies maintained for 56 years, which have destroyed the lives of thousands of Cubans and the country, leaving young people with no hopes in their own land.

Protesting musical groups and performers have existed and do exist in every country, including the United States, and have not been created by USAID. They are respected and form part of the musical world of those with equal rights. To suggest that events in Serbia or Ukraine were promoted by USAID through groups of this type is not only a laughable, it shows a lack of respect for the intelligence of readers.

When will our authorities stop blaming the “enemy” for the problems they themselves created? When will they accept their fault?

Respect for differences and preferences refers not only to the sexual, but also to the political, religious, musical and many others. Until there is full freedom for all Cubans, there will be musical and other types of protesters. USAID is not to blame.

15 December 2014

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