Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Adrian Leiva Dies Meeting his Dream of Returning to Cuba

The circumstances regarding Leiva's death remain unclear, however, Miguel Saludes informed the world of Leiva's passing yesterday.

He died, tragically, attempting to return to Cuba, quite a noble endeavor in my view. It's difficult to come to terms with the fact that his return ended the way that it did. It's as if it ended before it should.

As I stated, it is unclear how he died. His sister says there was not even a scratch on his body. The others accompanying him are currently being detained in the political police station of La Habana, Villa Maristas.

The fact that they are alive and Leiva is not raises concerns about how exactly this came to be. I don't put it past the Cuban government to be responsible for this.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

My Apologies

I have been taking a break from the blogosphere due to the pace of my life, which seems to increase its speed monthly.

I think this will continue through the end of the year.

Should any of my commitments end before then, I will post more regularly.

Several important events in Cuba have been occurring and I have not posted about them, not because I am not still just as passionate about the subject as before, but because I simply have not had the opportunity.

Until next time,

Friday, September 25, 2009

Thoughts on “el Concierto de la Paz” and our Unfounded Optimism

After nearly a week of euphoria, I think it’s time the overly optimistic Cuban-American community put their feet back on the ground. For the past week, I’ve heard all sorts of claims about the value of the Juanes concert, how it will build hope amongst the Cuban youth, how it’s a sign the regime is changing, how it’s a sign the exile community is changing. I must respectfully disagree.

Hope derived from this concert is from the mistaken impression that Cuba’s youth will be motivated to pursue its freedom and the Cuban government will not be able to control it.

I’m not quite sure what concert people saw, but here’s the one I saw:
· The only performers given any leeway in what they said were foreigners, and even then, they were obviously limited in their freedom of speech.
· The two “questionable” (in the eyes of the Cuban government) Cuban artists that were allowed to perform, X Alfonso and Carlos Varela, were kept on the tightest of leashes (particularly Varela) and their combined performances lasted fewer than 30 minutes. Varela was chaperoned off stage by security as soon as both songs were over (as his performance was divided in two…God forbid the Cuban people see him on stage for longer than 7 minutes at a time.
· The final group performance of the concert allowed only the foreigners to keep microphones in their hands; the microphone stayed far away from Varela and Alfonso.
· So, again, we see that foreigners are given more rights than Cubans, even Cuban artists…it’s nothing new for Cuba, but perhaps we can point it out and not pretend like this was some major tumbling of walls.

So, my question is: How do the Cuban youth derive hope from this? It remains obvious to any Cuban who watched the concert that nothing had changed in Cuba or its government.

Yes, the exile community was mentioned for perhaps the first time in 50 years. But again, how does this encourage hope for freedom for Cubans? What occurred was a concert, nothing more, nothing less. The Cuban people were able to enjoy the performances of world-famous mega stars, all the while knowing that the following day would be the same as the previous.

I am heartened to see that the Cuban government did not politicize the concert the way that it could have, that it did not manipulate the statements of the artists that performed. I sincerely thought that they would and am glad they did not.

But the Cuban government persists in being a repressive, near-totalitarian dictatorship. Hundreds of “questionable” Cuban youth were told by state police that they could not attend the concert. This is not freedom. This is not a changing government.

The message was sent loud and clear to the Cuban people: if you’re a foreigner, you’re safe; if you’re Cuban, you will continue to be unable to speak your truth…just like Alfonso, just like Varela.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Cuba’s Youth: The New Opposition

ICCAS' latest Cuba Focus, by Dr. Andy Gomez:
Cuba’s Youth: The New Opposition

Since the start of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro and his government have transformed Cuba’s educational system into an indoctrinating tool to program Cuba’s youth to accept and promote Marxist ideology. Every student begins his school day by reciting in his school courtyard “Pioneros por el comunismo, seremos como el ‘Che’.” (“Pioneers for communism-we will be like ‘Che’”). However, the ideological ties of the youth are weak, to say the least; they have only a distorted version of what “El Che” actually represents. They also consider Fidel Castro to be a symbol of the past, not representative of their generation. There is a huge gap between the Cuban youth and the “Generation of the Revolution.” The older generation insists on remaining in the past and uses the revolution as an excuse to empower themselves and survive the rigors of everyday life in Cuba.
About 2.2 million out of 11.2 million Cubans on the island today were born after 1991. They have no real perspective of the true purpose of the Revolution and very little knowledge of Cuba’s long history and culture, since most of Cuba’s history books focus on 1959 and beyond. People that live under totalitarian regimes survive within a “culture of fear.” They have developed a set of values and attitudes that define their daily behavior in order to meet their own wants and needs which are not compatible with the restrictions imposed by the state; the Cuban people are no exception.

Since 2002, we at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami, have interviewed and surveyed hundreds of recently arrived Cubans, in addition to communicating regularly with Cuban youth groups on the island, in an effort to better understand their values and attitudes as a consequence of living in a totalitarian state. To better comprehend their patterns of psychological and social behavior, we used C.C. Hughes’ methodology (1993) which defines culture as (1) A socially transmitted system of ideas (2) that shapes and describes experiences, (3) gives names to surrounding realities, (4) is saved by members of a particular group, and (5) coordinates and determines behavior. We followed many of these individuals for a six month period and found that many began to adopt new values and attitudes that are expected in a free civil society.

Today, the values imposed by the totalitarian regime of the Castro brothers are being challenged by a new opposition—Cuba’s youth. To them the values of the Revolution are not relevant; they have started to contradict the purpose and principles of the current socialist system. Cuba’s youth are an opposition that wants “change,” even if that change is not fully defined. Most want their basic needs to be met such as better housing, more food, jobs, etc. They all want hope for the future, freedom and the right to pursue their own happiness.

Even though some of the youth have become apathetic or distrustful of politics, many do want to play a role in shaping Cuba’s future government. Yet, the space provided by the current government is very limited and controlled. Some of these youngsters have been expelled from universities or fired from their jobs simply for questioning the Cuban government’s policies and practices.

The biggest challenge for Cuba’s youth, and anyone else on the island, will be to figure out how to psychologically transform their values and attitudes in order to develop and sustain a democratic society in the future. We have learned many lessons from Central and Eastern European countries that have gone from a totalitarian regime to a more “democratic” system. Their outcomes have been mixed—it is not easy; it takes time, tolerance, compromise and a willingness to learn from the past to build a better future.

Finally, one last essential challenge will be how to keep the young in Cuba. Their patience is running out, understandably so. In interviews recently conducted with young people on the island, it’s clear that there is some hope that once Fidel Castro is dead, General Raul Castro could very well introduce new reforms; these reforms may be too late and deal mostly with the current economic crisis. In the eyes of Cuba’s youth, Raul Castro will try to preserve the failed ideology of the Revolution. For them, this is unacceptable. The Cuban youth’s demands go much beyond what Raul Castro is willing to give. The frustrations amongst Cuba’s youth remain deep and the reality of the everyday struggle for freedom persists. How much longer can the system survive?
*Dr. Andy S. Gomez is Associate Provost, University of Miami; Senior Fellow, Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies and Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution.He was assisted in this article by Vanessa Lopez, Research Associate at ICCAS, and Giselle Recarey-Delgado, UM student.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Weirdest Job Posting Ever...

I wonder if there's a shortage of people willing to do this?

Cuba seeks applicants for secret police

Havana, Aug 19 (EFE).- Cuba's national police are inviting applications for the force's OTOS secret operations unit, the official AIN news agency said Wednesday.

The process is open to men and women ages 18 to 40 who have high-school diplomas and suitable "political-ethical characteristics," AIN said, citing a police statement.

OTOS needs "motivated" individuals with a "taste for investigation, risk," who are capable of dealing with cases in which there are no obvious suspects, the police statement said.

Recruits will have the opportunity to earn a law degree while on active duty with the force, the national police said.

"OTOS works in the uncovering, prevention and solution of criminal and economic offenses through the use of the methods and means of secret operations work," the statement said.

Besides OTOS, the communist-ruled island has a State Security force that deals with perceived threats and challenges to Cuba's one-party political system. EFE

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Monday, August 3, 2009

Not Enough $$$ for a Party

With Fidel not completely out of the picture (read: dead) Raul cannot call a Party Congress...the problem: Fidel is officially the First Secretary, and one cannot hold a Party Congress without the First Secretary present (well, one could, but it just wouldn't be proper).

Raul called for this Congress in 2008, undoubtedly assuming Fidel would have died, thereby making his assension to First Secretary a defacto occurance. With Fidel alive, Raul most certainly feels that the internal politics would not allow him to strip the title from his brother.

So, to try to save face, Raul is blaming the bad economy for the Party's indefinite suspension...although, I can't quite see how one has anything to do with the other.

Cuba suspends plans for Communist Party congress
WILL WEISSERT, Associated Press Writer Will Weissert, Associated Press WriterHAVANA

Cuba on Friday suspended plans for a Communist Party congress and lowered its 2009 economic growth projection to 1.7 percent — nearly a full percentage point — as the island's economy struggles through a "very serious" crisis.

In a closed-door meeting of the Communist Party Central Committee, officials agreed to postpone indefinitely the first congress since 1997, which had been announced for the second half of this year.

The gathering was to chart Cuba's political future long after President Raul Castro and his brother Fidel are gone. Instead, top communists will try and pull their country back from the economic brink.

Cuba lowered its 2009 growth estimate from 2.5 percent to 1.7 percent, but even that figure is dubious given that it includes state spending on free health care and education, the food Cubans receive with monthly ration booklets and a broad range of other social services.

The revision downward was the second of its kind this year. As recently as December, central planners said they thought the Cuban economy would grow by 6 percent in 2009.

The country's economic problems began last summer, with three hurricanes that caused more than $10 billion in damage. The situation has worsened with the onset of the global financial crisis and subsequent recession.

The 78-year-old Raul Castro succeeded his brother as president more than 18 months ago, but it's the soon-to-be 83-year-old Fidel who remains head of the Communist Party.

Party congresses historically have been held every five years or so to renew leadership and set major policies, but the government has broken with that tradition over the past decade.

Information about the Central Committee meeting occupied the entire front page of the Communist Party daily Granma and a full page inside cited Raul Castro as reporting that "things are very serious and we are now analyzing them."

"The principal matter is the economy: what we have done and what we have to perfect and even eliminate as we are up against an imperative to make full accounts of what the country really has available, of what we have to live and for development," the newspaper said, citing the president.

It said authorities would postpone the sixth Party congress "until this crucial phase ... has been overcome," but did not say when that might be.

Waiting for his copy of Granma when it hit newsstands at 7 a.m., Raul Salgado, a 72-year-old retiree, said, "I want to know what's happening, or better yet, what's going to happen."

"I don't think it matters much to the people if there is a congress or not. What the people want here in Cuba is to know what the government is going to do to get out of such a terrible situation like the one in which we're living," Salgado said.

Cuba has begun a major push to conserve energy in an attempt to save some of the imported oil it uses to run power plants. State-run factories have been idled during peak hours, air conditioners have been stilled at government offices and some work hours shortened.

Granma made it clear more cutbacks were coming, but did not give details. Cuba's rubber-stamp parliament convenes Saturday for one of its two full sessions a year and could unveil new energy-saving plans then