Archive for 19 mayo 2011

Recent News From Cuba

mayo 19, 2011

Raúl Castro, President of the Council of State and Ministers, was confirmed as the First Secretary of the Central Committee during the 6th Cuban Communist Party Congress on April 2011. These areCuba’s two top positions that were held by his brother Fidel for over fifty years, until being relinquished as a result of the elder leader’s illness. 

Raúl Castro made this pronouncement, among others, in a two-hour speech during this reunion. His words included the following: 

“We are convinced that the mission ahead of us in this and other issues related to the updating of the Economic Model (to improve the living conditions of the Cuban people) is full of complexities and interrelations that, one way or another, touch on every aspect of society as a whole. For that reason, we are aware that it is not something that can be solved overnight, or even in 12 months, and that it will take at least five years to implement with the necessary comprehensiveness and harmony.”[1] 

This means that better economic conditions for the Cuban people are intended to take place at the end of the next five-year period (quinquenio in Spanish,) or “tomorrow.”

 The top government officials and the top nomenclature layers are not in a rush. Government officials, part of the inner circle, live and will continue living in luxury; the top nomenclature layers live and will continue living as upper middle class. The majority of the Cuban people live and will continue living in misery, knowing that the new promised “tomorrow” will not likely happen, as many other promised “tomorrows” have not happened in the last ten “quinquenios.” 

In another pronouncement Raúl Castro said: “… we have reached the conclusion that it is advisable to recommend limiting tenure in fundamental political and state positions to a maximum of two five-year terms.”1 

It seems that this guideline is for others in the future. The Castros have been in power for fifty two years. Applying the two five-year terms, Raúl Castro’s intention is to extend his tenure to more than sixty years, when Raúl will be approaching the age of ninety, if he doesn’t pass away sooner. 

Prior to this congress, practically all the political prisoners had been granted conditional freedom, with the majority of them accepting deportation toSpain, accompanied by their families. This effort was the direct result of negotiations facilitated by the Catholic Church hierarchy, in collaboration with the Spanish government. 

Freedom of speech, freedom of association and many other human rights are still denied to the majority of the Cuban people. Those that dare to speak out their minds or try to gather with other dissenters are called “mercenaries” (in service to theUnited States.) Some are attacked by government sponsored mobs, as in the past, while being subjected to verbal insults, bullying and physical beatings in many cases. Recently, dissenters have been detained by Castro’s police for two to three days. So far, they have not been brought into the courts by authorities, where they would be charged with imaginary offenses, as oftentimes has happened in the past.

A few days ago a dissident, Juan Wilfredo Soto García, died in a hospital in Santa Clara city, his hometown. The official line from the Castro dictatorship is that Soto died from pancreatitis. 

Friends and dissidents close to Soto García have denounced that his death came after he was beaten by Castro’s policemen after his arrest by plaincloth government agents. 

“Santa Clara dissident Guillermo Fariñas said he had spoken with about 15 people who claimed to have seen at least one policeman beat a handcuffed Soto with a rubber truncheon Thursday morning at the downtown Vidal Park. 

Soto was talking with friends during a regular morning gathering at the park, not protesting, when a policeman approached only him, asked for his ID documents and ordered him to leave. Soto argued, the policeman cuffed him and then beat him, according to Fariñas. 

A police officer passing by in a patrol car then told the others that he knew Soto suffered from various ailments and ordered that he be driven to theArnaldoMilianCastroHospital, where he was treated and released. 

Fariñas added.Lleonart, a pastor in the town ofTaguayabon, 20 miles from the centralCubacity ofSanta Clara, told El Nuevo Herald that he was inSanta ClaraThursday morning when he spotted Soto, a friend and fellow Baptist who lived inSanta Clara. The dissident was going home from the hospital aboard a “bicitaxi” – a pedal-powered three-wheeler – and stopped to ask the pastor to notify his friends that police had beaten him at theVidalPark, the pastor noted. 

“Just now they beat me savagely in the park,’’ the pastor quoted Soto as saying. “They handcuffed me and beat me with truncheons on the back.” There are other witnesses, ready to testify not to what they saw but ready to risk their own lives to ensure that justice prevails in Soto’s death. Fariñas said there are numerous dissidents ready to go on hunger strike if by July 26 the dictatorship does not properly investigate what happened to Soto.”[2] 

[1] Source: Granma International, electronic news media controlled by the Cuban government. granma.cuba/English

2 Source: Uncommon Sense blog by Marc Masferrer.

Gonzalo Fernández is author of “Cuba’s Primer.” He is a coauthor of “The Handbook of Financing Growth,” second edition, Jonh Wiley and Sons, Inc. 2009