Maggie Alarcón

Archive for the ‘Fidel Castro Ruz’ Category

Apuntes de un veterano Fidelista

In Asamblea Nacional/National Assembly, Cuba, Fidel Castro Ruz, Historia on August 5, 2016 at 2:49 pm

 

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Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada y Fidel Castro Ruz, Programa Universidad Popular, circa 1960- foto Liborio Noval.

Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada

El 10 de marzo de 1952, de un portazo, se cerró un capítulo de la historia de Cuba. Fulgencio Batista –quien dos décadas atrás implantó una férrea dictadura y liquidó al Gobierno Revolucionario de apenas cien días surgido en 1933 a la caída de Gerardo Machado- con un puñado de sus antiguos colaboradores se hizo otra vez del poder. El nuevo golpe de estado se llevó a cabo sin mayores tropiezos. Concluyó así la breve experiencia cubana con la “democracia representativa” la cual duró sólo los dos períodos del Partido Revolucionario Cubano (Auténtico), que había gobernado poco más de siete años.

El “autenticismo” se presentaba como heredero de la Revolución del 33 en la que sus principales dirigentes habían tenido una participación destacada pero no avanzó más allá del nacional-reformismo, creó algunas instituciones necesarias y dio muestras de una política exterior independiente en algunos temas importantes en la ONU y la OEA. Pero su obra de gobierno estuvo lastrada por la corrupción que invadió casi todas las ramas de la administración y su adhesión al macartismo que propició la división del movimiento sindical y popular y al asesinato de algunos de sus principales líderes.

La deshonestidad imperante provocó la escisión del autenticismo y el surgimiento del Partido del Pueblo Cubano (Ortodoxo) que levantó como principal bandera la consigna de “Vergüenza contra Dinero”. Entre sus fundadores estuvo un abogado recién graduado llamado Fidel Castro Ruz.

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Fidel Castro, Juana Vera, Victor Rabinowitz y el autor en la Habana

Las elecciones generales, previstas para junio de 1952, enfrentaban, según todas las encuestas, a dos candidaturas: la “ortodoxa” encabezada por un respetable profesor universitario y la gubernamental liderada por un “auténtico” cuya honestidad no era cuestionada. Un tercer candidato, Batista, respaldado por grupos reaccionarios, aparecía en un lejano último lugar y nadie le concedía la más mínima posibilidad de vencer en las urnas. Lo sabía en Cuba todo el mundo incluido Batista quien por eso impidió que el pueblo pudiera decidir.

El Golpe de Estado y sus secuelas inmediatas hirieron profundamente a la sociedad cubana. Batista recibió el apoyo inmediato de los grandes propietarios así como el de las fuerzas políticas conservadoras y la corrupta burocracia sindical. Los partidos políticos, tanto los agrupados alrededor del gobierno derrocado como sus oponentes, quedaron atrapados en la inacción y la incoherencia. El autenticismo y la ortodoxia se dividieron en tendencias contradictorias y de ellos surgieron nuevos partidos, algunos dispuestos a colaborar o transigir con el nuevo régimen. Ellos y todos los demás partidos se enzarzaron en polémicas interminables incapaces de articular un camino frente a la tiranía.

La resistencia encontró refugio en las Universidades. De ellas surgieron las primeras manifestaciones y actos de protesta. Entre los estudiantes crecía la conciencia de la necesidad de actuar y de hacerlo de otro modo empleando métodos diferentes a los de los políticos que habían fracasado estrepitosamente. Se hablaba entonces de la lucha armada pero nadie sabía cómo hacerla ni poseía los recursos para emprenderla. Hubo algunos intentos aislados mientras circulaban rumores acerca de planes dirigidos o vinculados al Presidente depuesto el 10 de marzo.

Para quienes aun cursábamos la enseñanza secundaria el asalto a los cuarteles militares de Santiago de Cuba (el Moncada) y Bayamo (Carlos Manuel de Céspedes), el 26 de julio de 1953, fue una sorpresa absoluta. Nada sabíamos de un acontecimiento que, sin embargo, marcaría para siempre nuestras vidas.

En las noticias brotó el nombre de alguien antes desconocido para nosotros: Fidel Castro.

Se ahondó la crisis política. La tiranía se volvió aun más agresiva. Ilegalizó al partido de los comunistas (PSP, Partido Socialista Popular) y clausuró sus publicaciones y aumentó la represión contra el movimiento estudiantil. Las acusaciones de Batista contra los comunistas buscaban las simpatías de Washington pero nada tenían que ver con la realidad. El PSP no sólo fue ajeno a aquellos sucesos sino que condenó la acción de los jóvenes revolucionarios como lo hicieron, casi sin excepción, los demás opositores a Batista.

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Compartiendo con los Independentistas Boricuas, Lolita Lebrón, Rafael Cancel Miranda, Irving Flores y Oscar Collazo, la Habana 1979.

Nuevamente correspondió al estudiantado reemplazar a los partidos incapaces de cumplir su función. La Federación Estudiantil Universitaria (FEU) se solidarizó con los asaltantes del Moncada y convocó a una campaña por su liberación que pronto adquirió una dimensión nacional y obligó a la dictadura a amnistiarlos en 1955.

Ese mismo año Fidel fundó el Movimiento 26 de Julio que, junto a los sobrevivientes de la acción inicial contó, sobre todo, con jóvenes que en los barrios y en los centros de estudio se identificaron con aquel gesto heroico frente a las diatribas y las críticas de tirios y troyanos. Sus filas se nutrían con muchachos, no pocos adolescentes, que insurgían en medio de la frustración, la inercia y la división, inspirados por una hazaña que había estremecido a la tiranía pero también a sus oponentes. Antonio López (Ñico) quien había dirigido el ataque al cuartel de Bayamo se encargó de organizar las Brigadas Juveniles del M-26-7 hasta que marchó a México para regresar con Fidel y morir combatiendo en la Sierra Maestra. Lo reemplazó en La Habana Gerardo Abreu (Fontán) un negro de origen muy humilde que no había concluido la enseñanza primaria pero supo adquirir por sí mismo una amplia formación cultural y una sensibilidad poética que causaba asombro entre los universitarios que tuvimos el privilegio de luchar bajo su jefatura. Tanto Ñico como Fontán, ambos procedentes de la Juventud Ortodoxa, conocían el marxismo, compartían los ideales socialistas y eran profundamente antimperialistas. Se empeñaron en crear una organización que incorporase masivamente a la nueva generación y lo lograron. A sus seguidores se les identificaba con una palabra: “fidelistas”.

La presencia de las Brigadas se hizo sentir rápidamente enviando su mensaje directamente al pueblo. Mientras la prensa y los políticos criticaban a Fidel y al Moncada, por todas partes, en cada rincón de la capital, en muros y paredes, empleando recursos muy modestos, sus miembros pintaron una consigna breve pero que todos entendían -M-26-7- o un nombre que otros querían silenciar: Fidel.

Frente al ambiente hostil que hacía imposible la lucha política abierta, Fidel se marchó a México con el fin de organizar el regreso para llevar a cabo la batalla que pondría fin a la tiranía. Lo proclamó abiertamente asumiendo un compromiso histórico –“en el 56 seremos libres o mártires”- y afrontando nuevamente a los cultores de la inacción y el desánimo. Y también sus burlas: un periódico gubernamental encabezaba su portada cada día con la cifra que marcaba los días transcurridos de 1956 sin que se hubiera cumplido la desafiante promesa.epa00601693-cuban-president-fidel-castro-r-and-cubas-national-assembly-fh10p0

Avanzaba noviembre y se intensificaba la propaganda contra los moncadistas. Las manifestaciones organizadas por la FEU y el recién creado Directorio Revolucionario alcanzaron su clímax y provocaron el cierre de la Universidad. El último día del mes, como acción de apoyo al desembarco, el M-26-7 llevó a cabo la insurrección en Santiago de Cuba. Dos días después arribaron a las costas orientales Fidel y sus compañeros en el yate Granma en lo que el Che describió como un “naufragio”. Dispersos y perseguidos por el Ejército un pequeño grupo logró finalmente reencontrarse en la Sierra Maestra. Una buena parte de los expedicionarios murieron combatiendo o fueron asesinados.

Entre ellos, según dieron cuenta las Agencias noticiosas norteamericanas, su principal líder. La muerte de Fidel fue reportada en primera plana por todos los medios informativos. La angustia y la incertidumbre se mantuvo hasta que, pasado un tiempo que parecía interminable, poco a poco, por los canales clandestinos, se fue conociendo la verdad.

Los últimos dos años de la dictadura fueron de crímenes y atropellos generalizados en las zonas urbanas mientras el foco guerrillero inicial crecía hasta transformarse en el Ejército Rebelde.

El “fidelismo” alcanzó masividad. En la noche del 8 no noviembre de 1957 se produjeron en La Habana cien explosiones simultáneamente cada una en un barrio diferente y distante del otro.  Eran petardos, artefactos más bien artesanales, que sólo produjeron ruido.  No hubo heridos y nadie fue detenido por la policía que se desplazaba frenética de un lado a otro.  Fue una demostración sonora de que el 26 estaba en todas partes y de la eficaz organización de sus brigadas juveniles.

El asesinato de Fontán, el 7 de febrero de 1958, desató una huelga general estudiantil, que se extendió hasta mayo, paralizó todos los centros de enseñanza, incluidos las universidades y academias privadas y provocó las renuncias de dos ministros batistianos de Educación.

Nunca antes se había producido en Cuba movimiento semejante, de tal amplitud y por tanto tiempo.  Durante tres meses fracasaron todos los intentos, violentos o “pacíficos”, para ponerle fin.  El paro estudiantil continuó incluso varias semanas después que el movimiento sufriese en La Habana su más dolorosa y sangrienta derrota.

Pero el fracaso del intento de huelga general obrera, el 9 de abril, fue un golpe muy severo que diezmó a la militancia urbana, desbarató casi por completo el aparato clandestino y permitió a la dictadura movilizar miles de soldados para lanzar contra la Sierra Maestra lo que imaginaba sería su ataque final. Otra vez todo dependía de Fidel y su liderazgo.

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Elian y Juan Miguel Gonzalez, celebracion por el 50 Aniversario del Asalto al Cuartel Moncada

La ofensiva batistiana fracasó completamente.  El Ejército Rebelde, consolidado en Oriente, envió dos columnas, dirigidas por el Che y Camilo Cienfuegos, que atravesaron la mitad de la isla y vencieron en numerosos combates en su región central.  Los rebeldes estaban próximos a liberar las ciudades de Santiago de Cuba y Santa Clara.  El último día de diciembre el dictador preparó su fuga y en estrecha coordinación con el Embajador norteamericano, dejó instalada en La Habana una Junta Militar que hubiera sido la continuidad de su régimen.  Para frustrar la maniobra, Fidel convocó a la huelga general.

El primer día del nuevo año, desde muy temprano el pueblo se hizo dueño de las calles en la capital.  Las brigadas juveniles, desprovistas casi completamente de armas, ocuparon todas las estaciones de la policía sin encontrar resistencia de una tropa desmoralizada y nerviosa.  Hubo que enfrentar, sin embargo, en otras partes de la ciudad, los disparos de grupos paramilitares del batistato.  La huelga continuó hasta el derrumbe total de la tiranía.  El 8 de enero Fidel entró triunfante en una ciudad que era ya, finalmente, “fidelista”.

La Revolución triunfante debería encarar obstáculos más poderosos y riesgos aun mayores durante más de medio siglo.  La agresión política, diplomática y propagandística, los ataques armados, la subversión y los sabotajes y el bloqueo económico que aun continúa y es el genocidio más prolongado de la historia.  Y también el derrumbe de la U.R.S.S. y la desaparición de aliados y socios comerciales y el aislamiento total de la Isla.  Ha sido un camino largo y tormentoso que el pueblo recorrió guiado por Fidel.

Cumple ahora noventa años el hombre que debió enfrentar más de seiscientos planes de atentados contra su vida y cuya muerte ha sido anunciada en incontables ocasiones por la propaganda imperialista.  Quizá algún día sus enemigos deberán admitir que nunca lo podrán matar.  Porque Fidel y su pueblo son uno y lo mismo.  Y ese pueblo, en gran medida gracias a él, es invencible. fidel-asamblea-05

 

Cuba, CELAC and the parallel Summit

In Cuba, Fidel Castro Ruz, Politics on January 31, 2014 at 10:52 am

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Margarita Alarcón Perea

All of Latin America and the Caribbean gathered in Havana this week for the second summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC),  CELAC is the new version of the OAS for the current leaders of the region.

The summit was to be a grandstand event  and  major for Cuba as the pro tempore president of the organization. Never before had Cuba been host to an affair of this magnitude. The CELAC gathering in Havana had on its wings the weight of being unprecedented, not just because of the number of states attending, thirty three in total, but because of its historical significance, all the leaders from Latin America and the Caribbean gathering together with a common goal in mind: unity.  Also attending were Jose Miguel Insulza Secretary General of the OAS, Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations and Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani,  Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).  A gathering never before seen in the hemisphere taking place in Havana, Cuba.

Days before the event, a number of so called dissident groups in Cuba stated to Efe  that they were planning on holding their own parallel meeting in protest of the event, or let’s say, to tell their side of the story regarding Cuba. Organized by a  foreign dissident organization:  Centre for Openness and Development of Latin America (CADAL),  the parallel event was hoping to unite leading members of the  Cuban opposition and independent  political activists.

The way I see it, if the situation in Cuba is such that dissident organizations feel the need to protest  I totally stand behind them in their right to do so. My only quibble is when these groups lay back and wait for someone from somewhere else  to land on the island in order to help  “coordinate dissent”, that part I don’t agree with. That part is called foreign intervention, or in a much less nicer term “being a mercenary” on the part of the Cuban dissent team.

Why don’t these guys organize properly? Or is it that they have no common agenda? We have heard that one representative of one group did meet with  President Sebastian Piñera of Chile;  and a member of another with the Ceremonial Head of the Costa Rican delegation Ingrid Picado. Two different  groups met independently with two different representatives from two very different countries, and in both cases, each one of the presidents is an “out-going” one, Piñera come March will cede the post to Michelle Bachelet and Costa Rica is in the middle of a presidential campaign. There´s not much to say about that other than stating the obvious, they were  given an audience by those who no longer make much of a difference. In through the outdoor, I call it.

Each group seems to have its own agenda and they pull on the rope of dissent from different directions. Nothing was heard from the other prominent dissidents save for allegations that they were being spied on (honestly not news), that their cel phones wouldn’t reach anyone; that the streets were covered with uniformed police and plain clothes officers patrolling and controlling the “dissidents”. Again, I must say, this is an attitude way too “full of themselves” for my taste. Given the level of assistance in Havana of prominent heads of state, why not have plain clothes officers and uniformed ones all over the place? Have any of these dissidents ever heard of what  NYC looks like during the UN General Assembly?

These dissident groups had the chance of a lifetime and they blew it. Or was it that the 20 million dollars  of tax payer money from USAID didn’t arrive in time for them to figure out a plan of action?

Meanwhile, not far from all the pomp and circumstance, the real parallel  summit was taking place. No dissidents, just one man alone in the sun room of his home, nonchalantly receiving heads of state. Chatting for hours with secretary generals and the leaders of Latin America on issues ranging from conflicts in Northern Africa and  how to find a solution to end hunger and poverty, or how to better forge the future of this continents present to simply reminiscing on days past and friends no longer present… the man holding the unique parallel summit was the 87 year old Fidel Castro, who unlike the dissidents in Cuba, has a perfect idea of what he wants and how to make it happen.

The outstanding debt

In Cuban 5, Fidel Castro Ruz, Politics on December 6, 2013 at 1:14 pm

 

“Fidel Castro would say that going to Africa to fight against apartheid and colonialism was a way of paying an outstanding debt.”
Hedelberto López Blanch, journalist and writer.

“The defeat of the racist army at Cuito Cuanavale has made it possible for me to be here today. What other country can point to a record of greater selflessness than Cuba has displayed in its relations with Africa? For the Cuban people internationalism is not merely a word but something that we have seen practiced to the benefit of large sections of humankind.”

Nelson Mandela

Margarita Alarcón Perea

I remember a song from way back with the lyrics Free Nelson Mandela. It was back in the 70´s and I was in school in the US, at UNIS (United Nations International School). UNIS had been a vision of Secretary General U Thant´s, he had wanted the sons and daughters of the members of the United Nations to also gather together and share their ideas, beliefs , hopes and dreams. With this he laid the ground work for the creation of a school that would gather people of all races and beliefs . A place where there was no white , no black; color was a rainbow and beliefs were taken in  and shared. We were a melting pot for future dreams.

One day I remember walking down the halls on my way to class and being stopped by a young man, older than I, probably in the 11th grade. He was a stocky good looking black kid with a very intense demeanour and  attitude. He looked at me, pointed his finger at my shirt and asked “Do you know what that means?!”. I was wearing a white t-shirt with the African continent on it in brown and the letters ANC across the map. I looked down, then back up at him and responded “African National Congress, why?”. He held his left fist up and said, “good!”.  I later learned he had escaped South Africa with his mother and two younger siblings, his father was in jail in South Africa accused of being a member of the ANC, a political party prohibited in Apartheid South Africa.

After my return from the US back home to Cuba I began to live the dread of the Cuban presence in Angola. My cousin was sent over as part of the internationalist movement to teach, others would go to war.  I grew to learn that more and more people I knew or was meeting would either have a loved one sent over or be one who had gone.  It was a complicated situation. For many Cubans this was not Cuba´s fight, so why be there? For others it was an issue of solidarity with the Angolan people and the people of Namibia and South Africa.  It was an issue of putting an end to a political system of colonialism and underdevelopment and the hideousness that was apartheid.  It was a huge step in fighting for  the freedom of peoples including the father of my schoolmate and Nelson Mandela.

Finally after years of struggle, the war was over. Angola was free, Namibia was to hold democratic elections, apartheid was over and Nelson Mandela was finally out of jail. In college I remember saying goodbye to two Namibian girls who were being educated in Cuba in my faculty at Havana University, they were going home to vote for the first time in their lives.

I remember the day Mandela came out of prison. I watched the parade on the streets on Cuban television and I cried. Never in my life had I thought I would be around to rejoice the end of horror and the birth of a new beginning.

For many Cubans who came back after the war, the term Veteran is either an homage or an insult. It is a difficult conversation to have with most. They either become silent or talk till they lose their breath, proving that war is hideous no matter the circumstances,  coming to terms with war is possibly one of the most difficult of all tasks.

This war was a necessary one. We are indebted to the African continent and continue to be. The fight against colonialism in that region, the need to put an end to an unfair and unjust system of government, the beauty in the eyes of children holding toys in their hands for the first time, smiles of hope, for that it was all worthwhile.

To all the combatants who made it back and to their families, to the families of those who didn’t. To those who were there fighting for something they may not have well understood at the time and might still not understand today, you are all members of an intricate part of history. You all made the lives of many people worth living and dying for.  Nelson Mandela died in freedom, and I for one  thank you.

Reasons for a celebration

In Cuba, Fidel Castro Ruz on August 13, 2013 at 2:56 pm

 

Margarita Alarcón Perea

 

There is a neighborhood on the outskirts of Havana in  the municipality of La Lisa, known as Coco Solo which roughly translates as “lonely coconut”. Please do not confuse it with the US Navy Submarine Base in Panama, although the coincidence is ghastly hilarious. Cuba’s Coco Solo is a working class neighborhood mostly inhabited by blacks, mulatos and that rare breed of “white” Cuban only acknowledged by those who fully understand that the island is no longer divisible by race, but yes, still, unfortunately by social and economic strata.

Still, last night Coco Solo was in festive mode. With few motives for celebration in a place where one still feels so much needs to be accomplished, a concert took place, with a small representation of current Cuban art: Adrian Berazain, young representative of the modern day Cuban Nueva Trova with a tinge of pop, Tony Ávila, an extraordinary musician full of grace and double entendre in his lyrics and lastly Laritza Bacallao a young mulato woman who sings pop and ballades in a very unique Cuban street style. Two films were projected in an open air impromptu street cinema, Strawberry and Chocolate for the adult crowd and HavanaStation for the kids.  Yesterday was International Youth Day, yet this was just a mere justification for the real motive that brought people out to take part in the attractions. The underlying motive was something else.

Aside from being habitually obscured by other more attractive parts of the city, Coco Solo is also a place where most things Cuban make sense. Its low lying buildings, streets in dire need of repair,  lack of sufficient ..well, lack of sufficient anything is more than evident.  Yet its inhabitants had something to celebrate. They took part in a massive social gathering, a community party, awaiting midnight, today, August 13th.

Today marks many things, the birthday of René Gonzalez Sewheret, one of the Cuban Five, the birthday of twin members of my extended US/Chicago family, and much more. Although none of these were the reasons that brought people out to celebrate last night. Ironically, what pulled many of them out from inside their homes was the chance to acknowledge the birthday of a man that dedicated his entire life to trying to make life better for his country, especially those living in places like Coco Solo. Whether one agrees with his motives or not, the reality, undeniably, is that today, although some beg to differ,  there is a man who is another year older, and has grown larger than life and will forever hold a place in the history of places like Coco Solo and the rest of the world.

Fidel Castro turns 87 today. He is no longer in power, he has grown old and weak., and while during his years as Statesman his birthday was never acknowledged, now it can be. The best part, though is that last night’s celebration took part precisely in the area where Fidel and his ideals were always most needed, semi urban quasi rural areas in Cuba that had been left unattended for so very long in the islands history. By sacrificing more wealth for the already wealthy, Fidel and his revolution began a process of trying to make life better if not at least, livable for those who had lived in dire straits for decades.

So maybe the upper crusts of Cuban society inside and out of the island won’t be celebrating today and didn’t celebrate last night, but for those less fortunate in history, for those who truly believe that a better world is possible, not only is the 26 the happiest day in history like the song says, but so is August 13th, because a man who not only changed history, but was also absolved by it, was born.

Moncada: Fidel and the Power of Faith

In Cuba, Cuban 5, Fidel Castro Ruz, History, Social Justice, US on July 31, 2013 at 12:00 pm

 

By Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada

On March 10, 1952, former dictator Fulgencio Batista seized power in Cuba again. This happened eighty days before the elections in which he would have received the least votes.  

With one blow, he overthrew the president, abolished the constitution, dissolved parliament, crushed unions, student and guild organizations, took control of the media, unleashed a brutal repression and set up a regime of corruption and plunder which C. Wright Mills characterized as “capitalism run by gangsters and the Mafia”. Washington gave Batista quick recognition and always supported him, until the tyrant and his henchmen escaped on January 1st, 1959. 

The 1952 coup d’état greatly shocked Cuban society. Beyond its political consequences, it cut deep into the national conscience. The overthrown president sought refuge in the Mexican Embassy, the political forces supporting him were paralysed; the forces in the opposition, including those of Marxist inspiration, were not able to defend legality nor organize resistance; they became entangled in endless debates on strategy and tactics with only one thing in common: inaction.   

Frustration and disbelief grew among the population. Their democratic aspirations were defeated once again.  All the political parties had lost credibility and public trust. Only among the young people and students was there still a spirit of rebellion, seeking their own path outside the failed structures. To steer that rebelliousness they needed and exceptional leader. They found it in Fidel Castro. 

Fidel chose a group of young people who looked to him as an example and prepared them for armed struggle. It was a group without a name or political affiliation. The action on July 26, 1953 was, in military terms, a double failure: the attempts to take by assault two main army garrisons in Eastern Cuba: Moncada in Santiago de Cuba and Carlos Manuel de Céspedes in Bayamo. In both, the assailants were defeated and most of them murdered after the battle.    

The 26th of July Movement (Movimiento 26 de Julio),  was born losing its first battles and under the almost unanimous attack of the political forces, the media and other institutions of Cuban society. But that day was, in true fact, a rebirth. It began a process of moral rescue which allowed the people to recover strength and start the long and difficult march to victory. The starting point was the recovery of trust. That day reached many, and gave impulse to the creation of a movement that would keep growing provided it could preserve faith.      

Compelled by popular pressure, Batista was forced, in 1955, to give amnesty to Fidel and his comrades in prison. Fidel travelled to Mexico and promised to return before the following year was over to conduct the final battle. Once again he was betting on popular trust. 

Meanwhile, the dictatorship launched a campaign to create distrust. This was supported by many sectors in the opposition which were against armed struggle. The pro-Batista media made fun of Fidel’s promise and kept publishing the countdown on their front pages. The arrival of the rebels took place on December 2, and it was another military catastrophe. The failure of the expedition made big headlines in the Cuban press and far beyond.   

The 82 men who arrived in the Granma yacht faced a far superior military force equipped, armed and trained by The United States. The twelve survivors scattered in the forest with no weapons or resources, managed to regroup in the Sierra Maestra. Months of disinformation and anguish followed. In the remote mountains, backed by their followers in the city, the guerilla contingent was formed step-by-step. In the cities, the clandestine fighters who supplied the guerrillas and resisted brutal repression also had to fight the permanent “peacekeeping” manoeuvres of the political opposition.  

Two years later, the movement had spread to the entire country and the dictatorship was defeated. This was five years, five months and five days after the foundational action. 

Those were hard and difficult years. But they brought freedom and happiness to a people emancipated forever. As expressed in the lyrics of a song that we have all been singing for many years now: “The 26 is the happiest day in history”. 

 

http://www.walterlippmann.com/docs3874.html

A CubaNews translation.

Edited by Walter Lippmann. 

Cross Cuba off the blacklist

In Alan Gross, Blockade, CAFE, Fidel Castro Ruz, History, Politics, US on March 13, 2013 at 11:45 am

The nation has long since changed the behavior that earned it a U.S. designation as a sponsor of terrorism.

Editorial in todays Los Angeles Times

Washington has for three decades kept Cuba on a list of countries that sponsor terrorism, even though it has long since changed the behavior that earned it that distinction. By all accounts, Cuba remains on the list — alongside Iran, Sudan and Syria — because it disagrees with the United States’ approach to fighting international terrorism, not because it supports terrorism. That’s hardly a sensible standard.

The State Department says it has no plans to remove Cuba from the list. But Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), who recently led a bipartisan congressional delegation to Havana, is urging President Obama to consider a range of policy changes toward Cuba, including delisting it, which would not require congressional approval. Designation as a state sponsor of terrorism carries heavy sanctions, including financial restrictions and a ban on defense

None of the reasons that landed Cuba on the list in 1982 still exist. A 2012 report by the State Department found that Havana no longer provides weapons or paramilitary training to Marxist rebels in Latin America or Africa. In fact, Cuba is currently hosting peace talks between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and President Juan Manuel Santos’ government. And Cuban officials condemned the 9.9/11 attacks on the United States.

Moreover, keeping Cuba on the list undermines Washington’s credibility in Latin America. During last year’s Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, presidents from the hemisphere expressed frustration that the U.S. remains frozen in its relations with Cuba, enforcing an embargo that dates to the Kennedy administration.

Cuba is not a model state. The government often fails to observe human rights. Its imprisonment of Alan Gross, a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development who was sentenced to a 15-year jail term in 2009 after bringing communications equipment into the country, has prompted repeated visits to the island by U.S. officials seeking to secure his release.

The list, however, is reserved not for human rights violators but for countries that export or support terrorism. Clinging to that designation when the evidence for it has passed fails to recognize Cuba’s progress and reinforces doubts about America’s willingness to play fair in the region.

Copyright © 2013, Los Angeles Times

The Post-Castro Era Is Today

In Asamblea Nacional/National Assembly, CAFE, Fidel Castro Ruz, Politics, US on January 31, 2013 at 2:17 pm

 

By Julia E. Sweig 

First published in Portuguese in Folha de Sao Paulo.

 

The post-Castro era in Cuba has arrived. But its main architect is Raul Castro. His reform agenda does not have the formulaic recitations of a political science textbook or the guidelines of an IMF structural adjustment program. No multiparty elections. No Starbucks, Walmart, or Burger King. Not much independent media. But little by little Cuba is undergoing a significant transformation in the basic expectations Cuban citizens have of the state, and vice versa. Lula’s visit this week may focus on Venezuela, but all around him Cuba is becoming a freer, more open, and yes, more democratic society.

Earlier this month, a new law took effect that eliminates restrictions on travel for almost everyone: Cubans no longer need pay exorbitant fees or await the “tarjeta blanca”—state permission—to travel. Now, they need only a visa, like the rest of the world. And if they want to live and work abroad, Cubans will no longer lose their property or residence status: a big step forward for freedom and human rights, and a potential economic boon as well.

Business and profit are no longer dirty words. Senior officials project that with new laws and regulations empowering small businesses, within five years fully 50 percent of the economy will be in private, non-state hands. Under the new rules, individuals and cooperatives can now hire employees, obtain bank financing, procure inputs from wholesale markets, and turn a profit. There are myriad problems for sure: but these are increasingly of a practical, not ideological nature, more about the need to build capacity and experience, whereas before the private sector was viewed as a necessary evil. Now this new space has legitimacy and legality.

A progressive tax system is also taking shape. This is not a mere technical adjustment. With the new decentralization, state and municipal government will raise and spend their budgets from tax revenue collected at the base, with the federal government paying a much reduced slate of costs—mainly education, health and defense. Cubans are used to getting everything for free. The notion that they will work, pay taxes, and receive health, education and a pension but not much more, represents a radical political shift.

Next month Raul Castro begins his second and very likely final five-year term as president of the Cuban republic. The slate of candidates represents a big demographic and political step forward. Some 67 percent of the candidates for 612 seats are completely new picks, and of these, more than 70 percent were born after 1959. Women comprise 49 percent of the candidates and Afro descendants 37 percent. Cuban voters will be asked to check yea or nay from this new list, so it’s not a direct competition. But if you want to understand where the successors to the post post-Castro era may come from, I’d look at this new group.

Cuba and Fidel Castro: Beyond his 86th Birthday.

In CAFE, CENESEX, Cuba, Cuba/US, Fidel Castro Ruz, LGBT, Miami/Cuba, Politics, US on August 15, 2012 at 2:20 pm
By Arturo Lopez-Levy 
Originally published in The Havana Note
Regardless of how long he lives, Fidel Castro has had an influential role in shaping the political discourse in Cuba. Fidel skillfully mixed Marxism and nationalism and made a revolution that changed the history not only of Cuba but also of the whole Western hemisphere. He was the most popular leader in a generation of Cubans, a political giant who reached world dimensions during the Cold War. As professor Jorge Dominguez from Harvard University said, If there  had been competitive elections in the early 1960’s, Castro could have won them all. He didn’t have the chance. In the most difficult moments of the Cold War, the United States, as the hegemonic power in the Americas, didn’t have tolerance for a nationalist leader who aspired to an independent neutralist course not to mention a socialist one, no matter how popular Castro was among his people.
On the other hand, Castro was not a misunderstood liberal democrat, but a realist politician with strong nationalist and socialist ideas ready to remain in power and implement his revolutionary program by democratic or undemocratic means.  He learned from the experience of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala and fought the Cuban Civil War of the 1960’s with every conceivable alliance and political weapon  available to him. Political opponents of Castro’s program were treated as enemies of the nation, they suffered financial and property losses, harassment and long prison sentences. Fidel created a new Communist party under his nationalist authoritarian leadership and remained in power for almost five decades. In 2006, he retired undefeated. No leader in Cuba could speak; bring enthusiasm to his followers, and plant fear in his enemies as Fidel Castro did. His charisma was no doubt an important source of the communist party’s legitimacy but he also attracted many Cubans due to his writings, ideas and speeches.
In analyzing how Cuba moved forward after the revolution a completely Fidel centered approach was always insufficient because it is impossible to trace how much of Fidel’s policies were the result of his own views and how much his campaigns were the result of influences by different interests within Cuba’s power structure. But when Fidel was committed to a policy, he was the minimal winning coalition. Politics at the strategic government level consisted of guessing what could help Fidel’s grand strategy. This limited the feedback on policy and the information flows of the system.
Fidel’s style hardly ever consisted of leading from behind. That is why the “Fidel in command” model truly ended when he fell ill in 2006.   Fidel is no longer the decisive force in the political survival of the PCC rule. In part by design and in part by default, the institutionalization of the party rule and the economic reforms proposed in the “Lineamientos Economicos y Sociales” (Social and Economic Guidelines) of the PCC imply a partial withdrawal of the communist state from social spaces and the economy. Fidel’s charisma and leadership style were cardinal obstacles for these two long overdue processes. The supreme leader of the revolution deployed a striking anti market bias all throughout his career.
Fidel was not only the main creator of institutions in post-revolutionary Cuba but also the charismatic leader who reduced their importance at his pleasure, sometimes unconsciously. In his statements, Fidel Castro  was a constant advocate for “democratic centralism” and “collective leadership”, not for cult of personality, but in practice, his charisma and political dominance prevented the institutionalization of a legal-rational bureaucratic rule. The government was wherever he was; its priorities were his priorities. The recently approved term limits were unthinkable under his aegis.
Now, there is a new situation. Raúl Castro’s commitment to economic reforms and institutionalization is opening venues for the discussion of new ideas within the power structure and the general political discourse. Propositions in favor of a gradual expansion of the role of the market in the economy, the diversification of the property structure, and the expansion of the role of law and rules in how government and the party work are openly discussed. This is not part of a transition to a multiparty democracy but embodies the relaxation of information controls; it improves the feedback mechanisms and the expression of pluralistic interests within the Cuban elites and society. Public discourse is breaking away from the homogenous path of previous times, not only in the publications of the Catholic Church or reform oriented magazines such as Temas, but also in the core publications of the system. Newspapers and radios on the provinces, and even Granma, the Communist party newspaper, are talking about the need for separating the party from the government, and economic changes.
One ideological factor that is emerging in post-Fidel Cuba is an increased emphasis in a nationalist narrative. During Fidel Castro’s leadership, particularly before 1989, the PCC promoted Marxist ideas, and a feeling of belonging to the international communist bloc. Internationalism, not nationalism, was the central ideological principle of Cuba’s foreign policy. Raúl Castro’s recent speech in Guantanamo on July 26 demonstrated how this feature is changing. The emphasis on the revolution as a solution to a history of national humiliation is becoming predominant and issues such as national unity, economic growth and public order are emerging more forcefully in the official discourse. The struggle against the U.S. embargo is becoming again the strongest unifying ideological factor in the elite and between the PCC and the population.
When Fidel’s health forced him to step down , the community of Cubans in Miami Florida reserved the Orange Bowl for the anticipated celebration of his death.  In other parts of the world, such as the Southern Cone of Africa where Cuban troops were key allies in the struggle against Apartheid, there was sorrow. What would happen in Cuba when Fidel Castro dies? A funeral.   Fidel Castro’s death will speed up the processes of economic reform and institutionalization but it is important not to exaggerate his current impact in Cuba’s policymaking. He is a retired head of State.
Fidel Castro is not Cuba. Rather than focusing on an 86 years old revolutionary patriarch, the international community, particularly the United States, should look at the general trends operating in Cuba’s politics and economy. A central question is whether Raul Castro’s economic reform can alter the political dynamics and the distribution of power not only in Cuba but on the Cuban American community and U.S. debate about the embargo.  Everything else being equal, a market oriented Cuban economy, with a vibrant non-state sector, would create a virtuous cycle of pressures to end the U.S. sanctions that would also strengthen the appetite for more economic opening in Cuba. It is also worth noting that the antipathy generated by Fidel among some segments of the American public and the Cuban American community is not transferable to any other leader, not even his brother Raúl.
That is the gift Fidel Castro has given all of us to contemplate on this, his 86th birthday.