At a Turtle’s Pace

Focus on a fixed point and you’ll see that we are, in fact, advancing. Graphic humor from Santana

Everything moves clumsily, heavily. Even the sun seems to take longer than normal up there. The clock knows nothing of precision and the minute hand is stuck. Making an appointment with the exactitude of three-fifteen or twenty-to-eleven is the pure pedantry of those in a hurry. Time is dense, like guava jam with too much sugar.

“If you hurry your problems double,” the clerk warns the customer anxious to get home early. The man sweats, drums his fingers, while she cuts her really long fingernails before even hitting a key on the cash register. The line behind him also looks at him with scorn, “Another one who thinks he’s in a big hurry,” says an annoyed lady.

We live in a country where diligence has come to be interpreted as rudeness and being on time as a petulant quirk. An Island in slow motion, where you have to ask permission from one arm to move the other. A long crocodile that yawns and yawns as it lolls in the Caribbean waters.

Someone who manages to complete two activities in one day might feel fortunate. It’s common not to be able to find ways to do even one. There’s a hitch at every step, a sign that says, “Today we’re closed for fumigation,” “We don’t serve the public on Friday,” or Raul’s phrase, “Without hurry but without pause.” Delay, postpone, suspend, cancel… the verbs most conjugated when you face any procedure or paperwork.

The turtle’s pace is everywhere. From the bureaucratic offices and the bus stops to the recreation and service centers. But the big winner of the award for having “the blood of a turnip” is the government itself: Three years after the fiber optic cable was connected between Cuba and Venezuela it is still impossible to contract for a home Internet connection.

Two decades of the dual monetary system and they still haven’t published a schedule for the elimination of this economic schizophrenia. Fifty-four years of single-party government and there is no sign of a day when we will have the right to free association. Half a century of government blunders and mistakes and they haven’t even begun to hint at an apology.

At this rate, one day they’ll re-baptize the Island “Never Never Land,” a place where clocks and calendars are banned.

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41 thoughts on “At a Turtle’s Pace

  1. Venezuela:

    Lopez is an opportunistic politician. His Party basically stands on the periphery of the voting public. In other words, he does not have a mandate from the Population. He represent in the number of people that want to vote for him, the equivalent of the Liberal vote or even the Independent vote in the United States. Lopez basically wants to take responsibility for the latest Protests and basically he is a pretender of having the support of the electorate. He said that he does not negotiate with dictators, but, in essence he wants to be a de facto Right Wing Dictator, like we have seen all along in Latin America.

  2. 2014: How the World see Cuba
    Executive Summary
    In February 2008, Army General Raúl Castro (born 1931) became president of the Council of State and the Council of Ministers, formally replacing his brother, Fidel Castro. In April 2011, Raúl Castro became first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba, also replacing his brother Fidel. The transition from Fidel to Raúl Castro as head of state has happened within a general context of political stability. In February 2013, Raúl Castro confirmed that he would serve no longer than 2018 and designated 52-year-old Miguel Díaz-Canel as Cuba’s first vice president and as his expected successor.
    Acting President Castro began a gradual process of market-oriented reforms, which picked up some speed in fall 2010 with the publication of the Communist Party’s Lineamientos, a program for economic change within the context of the single-party communist political system, in which the state was envisioned as retaining ownership of most of the means of production. The Lineamientos were approved in general terms in spring 2011 at the Sixth Congress of the Cuban Communist Party, but the congress also curtailed the scope of change. For example, the party congress authorized less autonomy for the managers of state enterprises than the Lineamientos had proposed. Among the more important economic changes approved were the authorization of the private purchase and sale of houses, apartments and automobiles; the increased number of permissible economic activities for small businesses, officially called “self-employment” opportunities; the authorization of the right to till state-owned land; increased rights to purchase consumer durables (cell phones, computers, etc.); and in March 2013, the authorization of wholesale sales to the self-employed.
    The country faces steep challenges as it embarks on its economic transition, however. The median salary amounts to about $0.65 per day. Transactions make use of two currencies, one pegged to the dollar and the euro, with the other equal to about 24 pesos per dollar. The government announced plans in the fall 2010 to dismiss a half a million state employees in the course of six months; it failed to dismiss even a third that many. The death of President Hugo Chavez will require Cuba to recalibrate its relations with Venezuela. Key social policy changes already implemented include a lifting of the requirement to attend middle school in state boarding schools, a more tolerant attitude toward homosexuals spearheaded by Raúl Castro’s daughter Mariela, and in January 2013 the elimination of the exit permits that had been required in addition to a passport in order to travel. Even opposition blogger Yoani Sánchez was thus allowed to travel for the first time.
    Within the framework of a communist single-party system, Raúl Castro has revived political life. There have been national congresses of regime-sponsored mass organizations and at long last the Communist Party congress. Communist Party statutes had mandated that a party congress be held approximately every five to six years, yet there had been none between 1997 and 2011. Raúl Castro has also sought to infuse new life into the institutions of the political regime. Each of these national congresses requires the prior engagement of its attendees in a leadership renewal process and the discussion of action programs. While there has been a nearly complete replacement of the members of the Council of Ministers, the membership of
    the membership of the politically more important Communist Party Political Bureau has changed little. The 2011 Political Bureau is smaller than its 1997 predecessor, having shed members that were not closely trusted by Raúl Castro. Raúl Castro created a Political Bureau executive committee peopled by the vice presidents of the Council of State; their median birth year upon appointment was 1936. This reduced the likelihood of inter-institutional conflict, but also reduced the variety of voices that would directly be heard by the president, and effectively blocked younger leaders from the top echelons of the state and the party.
    In 2013, Cuba held its quinquennial election for the National Assembly; once again, the number of candidates equaled the number of seats, and only the Communist Party could campaign. However, the proportion of nonconforming votes (ballots that did not contain votes for all candidates, plus blank ballots and null votes) reached 24%, rising from 14% in 2008. The government has taken no notice of this outcome, which implies it is not the result of an embrace of political liberalization, but rather a lawful means of demonstrating opposition.
    Democratizing or liberalizing political changes remain few, but three deserve mention. One has been the increased frequency and openness of debate in regime-sponsored institutions. The second has been a public and reasonable dialogue with the Roman Catholic Cardinal Archbishop of Havana, which in 2010 led to the freeing of Cuba’s last political prisoners (although the frequency of arrests and temporary imprisonment has risen as a counterweight). A greater freedom of expression for archdiocesan and other magazines has also been allowed. The third measure, implemented in 2012, was the removal of the requirement that would-be travelers abroad secure an exit permit in addition to a Cuban passport.

  3. 2014: How the World see Venezuela
    An analysis of Venezuela’s association/assembly rights…Venezuela withdrew from the Jurisdiction of Human Rights
    The constitution guarantees association and assembly rights; there is also some degree of freedom to exercise them. But restrictions are severe, especially for organizations deemed government-unfriendly. PROVEA, a respected human rights watchdog, recorded about 4,500 demonstrations and protest actions in 2011, of which 130 were repressed by security agencies using excessive force, as well as firearms and toxic substances banned by the constitution, with about 350 persons injured and at least 10 persons subjected to unconstitutional trials in front of military courts (2012). The National Guard stands out for its use of excessive force, perhaps because in one of his television appearances President Chávez asked them to “welcome” student protests with salvoes of “gas, the good gas.”
    A CIVICUS study by the World Alliance for Citizen Participation found that 60 of about 100 Venezuelan associations interviewed reported that their rights had been illegitimately restricted. Their ability to apply to international forums in their own defense has been impaired by Venezuela’s withdrawal from the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Law on Political Sovereignty and National Self-Determination imposes restrictions on foreign funding of “political organizations,” and attacks against civil society activists are common. Other forms of harassment include bureaucratic hurdles to the registration of associations.
    The constitution guarantees freedom of expression, but the regime has established a legal framework (specifically the Law on Social Responsibility of Radio and Television) that allows it to censor and punish its critics under the pretense of safeguarding the public order. PROVEA, a human rights NGO, has identified 76 cases of violations of the freedom of expression attributed to the government, the National Guard or the tribunals in 2011, and 99 cases in 2012, extending to physical and verbal aggression against regime-critical journalists and media, as well as episodes of intimidation, censorship, administrative restrictions, judicial persecution, threats and harassment. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights provides in-depth information on these cases. Indeed, most freedom of expression cases taken by the commission to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights have involved Venezuela. Reporters Without Borders ranks Venezuela 117th of 179 countries in its 2013 freedom of expression index.
    An outstanding case in point is the $2.2 million fine – justified by alleging disturbance of the public order – imposed on Globovisión, the only regime-critical TV channel, for its coverage of the bloody El Rodeo prison riot in 2011. Globovisión also faces sanctions for broadcasting spots questioning the legitimacy of postponing President-elect Chávez’s inauguration beyond the day expressly set for this purpose in the constitution. In 2012, after reports on drinking-water contamination as a consequence of an oil spill had been published and broadcast, the government issued an injunction which obliged journalists to support reports on drinking water quality with detailed technical studies. Fearing reprisals, the media has been reluctant to conduct in-depth investigations on a number of topics, including Chávez’s health, prison violence and accidents in oil industry facilities. Government-critical media are systematically denied access to official events, agencies, ministries and the National Assembly.
    While the media system still produces a plurality of opinions, it is under continuous assault. The radio spectrum is dominated by state-owned stations. The print media market remains more pluralistic.

    Political Participation
    Elections are regularly conducted on the national, regional and municipal levels. Universal suffrage and the secrecy of the ballot are ensured. A host of parties with different platforms are able to run and the outcomes reflect the will of the electors.
    However, a closer look raises serious doubts about the free and fair character of election processes in Venezuela. While voter identification through fingerprint scanners installed at the entrance of the ballot stations cannot be related directly to the voter sequence at the voting machines, there is fear among voters, especially among public servants, that the government has the capability of discovering how they voted. Such objectively groundless fears are not eased by the fact that four of the five directors of the election authority are known Chávez supporters. Even so, a majority of Venezuelans trust the body.
    Election processes are well organized, from the voter, candidate and party registration procedures to the districting, polling, vote count, result verification and complaint resolution processes. The provision of about 13,000 polling stations ensures relatively easy access, and ballots are cast using voting machines whose printouts are folded
    and stuffed into ballot boxes, of which 50% are later manually recounted in the presence of party witnesses. The construction of districts favors rural populations.
    The unfairness of election processes is evidenced by the huge bias in media access and the government’s open and unlimited use of state financial, material and human resources for campaign purposes. The government runs a media empire that refuses altogether to present opposition voices. Furthermore, all public and private radio and TV channels are obliged by law to broadcast official speeches, especially those given by President Chávez, the so-called chains (cadenas). During the 90-day presidential election campaign in 2012 (July 1 to October 4), President Chávez used these cadenas for over 45 hours – that is, half an hour per day on average – on top of the 30-second spots to which candidates are entitled free of charge. During the last week of September, shortly before election day, the official TV channel VTV dedicated 18 hours of coverage to Chávez and just 30 minutes to rival Capriles. Paid publicity is limited to three minutes per day.
    There is no public funding of election campaigns in Venezuela. The presidential election of 2012 saw an opposition candidate facing the combined publicity power of state institutions and state-owned companies, with access to funds controlled directly by the presidency beyond parliamentary control.

    The constitution and legal framework provide comprehensive de jure protection of civil rights. In 2012, the country joined the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT). The National Assembly approved the Law to Sanction Crimes, Disappearances, Tortures and Other Violations of Human Rights for Political Reasons during the period 1958 – 1998, thereby suggesting that such violations ended when Chávez assumed the presidency. However the real picture is gloomy. Above all, the right to life is seriously impaired. The homicide rate climbed to 73 per 100,000 persons in 2012, and impunity continues to reign unchecked according to the Observatory of Violence, a human rights watchdog. PROVEA, another human rights NGO, noted 56 cases of torture in its 2011 report. In most cases, perpetrators are simply transferred to a different police authority. The interior minister has admitted that one in five crimes are committed by the police themselves. In 2012, eight deported Colombian citizens accused Venezuelan authorities of torturing them in order to make them admit they were members of the FARC guerrilla organization. Colombian forensic doctors confirmed their allegations.
    The weak and dependent judiciary fails to be a guarantor of human rights. In September 2012, the government announced Venezuela’s withdrawal from the American Convention on Human Rights, the region’s most important legal instrument for citizens seeking redress for human rights abuses.
    Civil rights

    Stability of Democratic Institutions
    The formally democratic institutions at the national level do not perform their functions effectively due to the de facto absence of any separation of powers. Counterproductive friction arises from the president’s unpredictable ad-hoc decision-making. Responsibility is diluted by the parallel structures of ministerial and “social mission” bureaucracies, which are further complicated by the oil company’s transversal multi-task competence. President Chávez’s obsession with centralization has stripped regional and local governments of significant competences and made them dependent on central government funding. Transfers provided to the growing number of community councils not elected through universal suffrage, which are

    Performance of democratic institute

    dependent on approval by central authorities, surpass the expenditure earmarked for local governments in the 2013 budget.
    The government party’s absolute majority in the National Assembly falls short of qualified majority thresholds. As a consequence, the parliament has not fully carried out nomination processes for Supreme Court justices, the Comptroller General and several directors of the National Electoral Council. A subservient judiciary is obviously at odds with the idea of democratic performance, as is a public administration based on loyalty to a leader rather than allegiance to transparent rules.
    Relevant political actors, as well as the public in general, accept democracy as the best form of government but are deeply divided when it comes to practical issues of living together and tolerating dissent. Their commitment to the constitution at the level of discourse becomes somewhat discretionary in the qualification of institutions, events or actions as legitimate or illegitimate. While President Chávez and his supporters openly pursue uncontested dominance and claim that their revolution is irreversible, both assertions of questionable compatibility with the constitution to say the least, opponents claim to stick to the pluralist principle enshrined in the constitution. Any discussion about the commitment of actors to representative democratic institutions seems pointless in Venezuela’s case.

    Commitment to democratic institutions

    5 | Political and Social Integration
    The party system mirrors the society’s political polarization. The Chavista Great Patriotic Pole is composed of a dozen organizations clearly dominated by the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV; this contributed over 85% of the PP’s vote in the 2012 regional elections); the opposition Democratic Unity Platform (MUD) is composed of about 30 groupings (of which five parties concentrated about 80% of the MUD votes in those elections). However the dichotomy is unstable, as there are frequent individual and collective defections on both sides.
    Both coalitions are movements rather than socially rooted parties. While the PSUV is a strictly conducted and disciplined organization with over 7 million registered activists, the MUD is a loosely coordinated alliance with no direct membership.
    Some parties maintain pockets of support centered around regional and local leaders with access to administrative resources, with their existence depending largely on the success of these leaders.
    Clientelist practices are common in both camps. Recruitment into the national, regional or local administrations depends largely on party affiliation. Voter volatility continues to be relatively low; the 2012 election results (presidential and regional) produced similar results, with a Chavista lead of 10 points over the opposition.
    Party system 4
    BTI 2014 | Venezuela 13
    The space in which interest articulation and mediation between society and the state can take place has narrowed sharply in recent years. In the government’s vision, social participation and interest organization must be inseparably linked to the Bolivarian revolution. Given that revolution and state are one, social interest articulation must take place under state auspices, and cannot reflect competing social concerns. President Chávez himself articulated this in his definition of civil society in one of his broadcast speeches: “What is civil society? I am civil society.” Ideologically aligned organizations are hence subservient to the state and cannot assume the role of mediators between society and the state. Dissenting interest groups are seen as enemies and are consequently harassed or even criminalized. In 2011, a group of more than 130 civil society organizations demanded the cessation of harassment and criminalization by the state, citing numerous specific cases of such practices. Obviously, dissident organizations have an extremely hard time trying to act as mediators between society and the state.
    Although there are interest groups that are not aligned with either blocs, the fact of their ostracism is of little help in the search for common ground or the establishment of platforms for dialogue between society and the state. The South Africa-based World Alliance for Citizen Participation/CIVICUS ranks Venezuela 27th out of 33 societies in their Civil Society Index (CSI). The 2012 NGO Law Monitor report notes a number of barriers to entry for interest groups (registry is mandatory, registries make processes difficult or even refuse registration); barriers to advocacy (cases of government retaliation and prosecution against group members) and barriers to international contact (direct government retaliation and threats against groups that work with foreign organizations).
    Summing up, the mediation capacity and impact of interest groups on policy is at best insignificant.
    Interest groups 4
    Rates of support for democracy as a form of government within Venezuela are still among Latin America’s highest, but dropped in 2011 (Latinobarómetro, from 84% to 77%). However, only 20% of Venezuelans are satisfied with their democracy in its present shape. Democracy is more strongly related to equality than to freedom. The high support for democracy can be explained at least in part as a consequence of a populist dynamic in which huge resource rents allow the translation of a state-centered, radical discourse into clientelistic distribution programs, suggesting that equality can be achieved within a short time frame by sacrificing only a small degree of freedom. Civic culture studies demonstrate strong correlations between support for authoritarian and delegative practices and support for Chávez. Overall support for democracy as measured by the Latinobarómetro surveys combines support for delegative democracy with support for representative democracy.
    Approval of democracy n/a
    Levels of interpersonal trust and civic engagement, the two components of social capital assessed here, are relatively low. Although available data vary substantially,
    Social capital
    the general judgment can be upheld. According to Lationobarómetro 2011, 25% of Venezuelans trust their fellow citizens, a level slightly above the Latin American average of 22%. CIVICUS, for its part, reports an interpersonal trust level of just 6.6% (2011). Less than one in five persons takes part in activities expressing civic engagement. London-based Legatum (2012 report) ranks Venezuela in the sixth decile regarding social capital, down from the fifth decile in 2010
    The continuing presence of poverty and inequality has defied the extraordinary increase in government spending in recent years, especially in the area of social policy. Over 9 million Venezuelans still live in poverty, and the country has made no headway in terms of equality, as the gap between its rank in the overall Human Development Index (HDI) and the inequality-adjusted HDI widened from -1 in 2010 to -16 in 2011. The poverty rate (using the poverty line defined in the National Statistical Institute’s INE data) dropped to 31.6% in 2011, down from 32.6% four years earlier, an improvement of one percentage point over four years. At this pace it is set to miss the Millennium Development Goal in poverty reduction of 19.9% by 2015 (half the 1990 rate of 39.8%). Income inequality has stagnated at a Gini coefficient of 0.39 (INE 2010, 2011), while the country’s HDI gender equality rank in 2011 is five slots below its overall HDI rank. The literacy rate is 95.2% (HDR), the female/male enrollment ratio 105% (INE), the gross enrollment ratio 103% (HDR) and female labor force participation rate 51% (INE). Poverty has not disappeared despite lavish government spending and missions explicitly designed to serve the poor better than established government agencies. Poverty still is as high as it was during the last oil boom in the 1970s, and inequality is still substantial, suggesting that they are at least in part structurally ingrained.

  4. I am reposting the post since some of the links didn’t work. Sorry for the inconvenience.

    This is Part 2 of ““Havana: The New Art of Making Ruins.”
    Link: http://babalublog.com/2014/01/14/babalu-exclusive-havana-the-new-art-of-making-ruins-part-2-of-6/#more-144230

    Bert Corzo write about the rundown tenement buildings and the housing crisis.


    Shanty town in the Marianao River margins. Photo 2013

    Due to the housing shortage, the number of shanty towns (llega y pon slums) and tenements (quarterias) have increased. This is widely recognised as the Castroit regime gravest social problem.

    Corzo write about the Barrio Residencial Obrero in Luyanó, and provide a link to a video.

    Here are some photos of the Barrio Obrero in Luyanó under construction in the 1`950s.


    Barrio Obrero Luyanó

  5. This is Part 2 of ““Havana: The New Art of Making Ruins.”
    Link: http://www.rafaellopezrangel.com/Reflexiones%20sobre%20la%20arquitectura%20y%20el% de

    Bert Corzo write about the rundown tenement buildings and the housing crisis.


    Shanty town in the Marianao River margins. Photo 2013

    Due to the housing shortage, the number of shanty towns (llega y pon slums) and (quarterias) have increased. This is widely recognised as the Castroit regime gravest social problem.

    Corzo write about the Barrio Residencial Obrero in Luyanó, and provide a link to a video.

    http://www.rafaellopezrangel.com/Reflexiones%20sobre%20la%20arquitectura%20y%20el% de
    Photo of four story Apartment Buildings in the Barrio Obrero in Luyanó

  6. You’re welcome, Nick. Glad you were insulted. Your Cuban dictator friends are doing much worse to innocent protesters in Venezuela and have been doing the same for decades to their victims in and outside of Cuba.

    Here’s another article — just for you.

    Pay special attention to the paragraph beginning with the following sentence: “The orders to kill are given by the communist regime in Cuba, the real power in Caracas and one long accustomed to murdering its adversaries.”

    Latin America’s Evildoers and Their Enablers
    By Otto J. Reich
    February 18, 2014

    “All that it takes for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke.

    Bassil Da Costa was a first-year student in one of Venezuela’s universities. Distressed about deteriorating freedoms in his country as a result of increasing abuses of power by the country’s ruler, Nicolás Maduro, Da Costa marched peacefully with fellow students on Feb. 12 in the capital of Caracas to protest those things that distress his generation: Venezuela’s obscene official corruption; unprecedented shortages of food and medicine in the country with the largest reserves of oil in the world; and the increasing lawlessness that has made the country the third most violent in the world.

    It was the first time that Bassil had ever demonstrated against any government. It would also be the last. He was killed by a bullet to the head fired by uniformed security forces sent to break up the peaceful march, one of two students killed that day alone.

    The videos and photos from Venezuela expose the government’s abuses: defenseless, unarmed, bloodstained young people in the streets under attack from military, police and government-organized gangs of thugs that shoot, savagely beat and arrest them.

    As in a George Orwell novel where day is night and black is white, Maduro responded to the bloodletting not by calling for the perpetrators to be brought to justice, but by persecuting the victims. He ordered the arrest — on charges of murder — of the young political leader that has led the peaceful marches, Leopoldo Lopez.

    Yet, as the images of corpses in the street, like Bassil Da Costa’s and his friend’s, circle the globe, in Latin America not one single elected government has raised its voice in protest. To its credit, the U.S. State Department has condemned the Maduro government’s assaults on its people.

    The orders to kill are given by the communist regime in Cuba, the real power in Caracas and one long accustomed to murdering its adversaries. The orders are obediently followed by Venezuelan officials, starting with the illegitimate “president” Maduro, whose election last year was widely challenged by observers but ratified by the government-controlled Supreme Court, which did not allow any impartial examination or recount.

    By all accounts, there are over 50,000 Cubans in Venezuela, including military, intelligence and civilian security officials. They oversee all important strategic communications, espionage and national security agencies. In turn, Venezuela’s gives Cuba 120,000 barrels of oil daily — worth about $5 billion a year — representing the island’s single largest source of income by far and equaling the Soviet subsidies to Castro during the Cold War. Cuba’s next two largest revenue sources are also foreign: tourism, and the renting of medical doctors abroad, a modern-day form of indentured servitude whereby the Cuban government keeps three quarters of the doctors’ earnings paid by third countries such as Brazil.

    The tragedy of the Second World War could have been avoided, wrote Winston Churchill, if the democratic governments of Europe had had the courage to stand up to Nazi aggression early. The deepening tragedy of Latin America can still be averted, but only if there is a reappearance of principle and courage in one or more of these oddly voiceless “leaders” of democracies.

    There are many lessons for the U.S. in what is happening today in Venezuela. One is that as much as other nations applaud freedom, democracy and human rights, there is still only one nation willing to defend those when they are truly in peril: the United States. We must never stop loudly siding with the oppressed.

    A second is that unless Latin American governments change their double standards of behavior toward dictatorships, the U.S. should pay little attention when a Latin American or Caribbean head of state pretends to speak on behalf of democracy, freedom, or the rule of law.

    These see-no-evil governments seldom speak out against massive violations of human rights or corruption by regimes of the left such as Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador, Argentina, Bolivia, or Nicaragua. Leftists are the only authoritarians in power in Latin America today, and weak-willed elected presidents and prime ministers who apparently don’t care what happens to freedom or decency right over their borders are enabling them. All right-wing dictatorships in the western hemisphere were gone by the end of the Reagan Administration, a fact seldom cited by U.S. “Latin Americanists.”

    Today evil is occurring in Venezuela and in Cuba itself, where peaceful dissidents are also being beaten and accosted in their homes, arrested on Orwellian charges, or allowed to die in jail from hunger strikes and from denial of water or medical attention, like Orlando Zapata Tamayo.

    Edmund Burke was prophetic: evil is triumphant in Latin America today — we hope only temporarily — because the men and women that were thought to be good have decided instead to collude with thugs, trying to buy time for their own survival, hoping that the aggressors will be satiated before they consume the appeasers. Churchill also said that an appeaser is one that feeds the crocodiles while hoping the animal will eat him last.

  7. REPORTERS WITHOUT BORDERS: Government restricts coverage of protests Published on Tuesday 18 February 2014.
    Discontent with the country’s economic problems and the high rate of violent crime are fueling the protests that erupted earlier this month. Protesters and human rights groups grievances include government control of the media. The political tension has also had an impact on journalists’ safety. Shots were deliberately fired at Karen Mendez, the correspondent of the Peruvian online newspaper El Comercio, while she was covering the protests and demonstrators threw stones at María Iginia Silva while she was editing a report on the protests for Globovisión. Journalists working for state media have not been spared. Jilfredo Alejandro Barradas, a photographer with the State Communication and Information Office, sustained a gunshot injury while covering the demonstrations on motorcycle.

    A group of protesters assaulted the VTV headquarters with Molotov cocktails and other explosives.

    Rafael Hernández of the magazine Exceso and the blogger Ángel Matute were arrested while covering the unrest on 12 February and remained in police custody for three days. When a judge released them on 15 February, he ordered them not to cover the demonstrations.

    The head of the National Telecommunication Commission (CONATEL) reacted to the scale of the protests by announcing on 11 February that “coverage of the violent events” was punishable under the Radio, TV and Electronic Media Social Responsibility Law (RESORTMEC), which bans content condoning violence or hatred.

    The authorities began carrying out this threat the next day when the protests turned violent, with three reported deaths and many gunshot injuries, both civilian and police. Venezuelan viewers suddenly found themselves deprived of access to NTN24, a Colombian TV news station that had been reporting the opposition’s demands.

    Even social networks, normally resistant to all forms of censorship, have been affected. Many people who use the national Internet Service Provider CANTV have reported that their access to photos has been blocked on Twitter, as confirmed by Twitter’s official spokesperson, Nu Wexler. He immediately suggested an alternative by SMS: “Users blocked in #Venezuela: Follow + receive notifications via SMS of any Twitter account. Send SEGUIR [usuario] to 89338.”

    “We condemns these arbitrary acts of censorship, which are being implemented outside of any established administrative or judicial procedures and which are all the more disturbing for coming against a backdrop of government harassment of local and international news providers,” said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire.

    “We join local free speech organizations in pointing out that control of news coverage will just exacerbate the current situation and fuel the extreme media polarization currently prevailing in Venezuela.”

    “We are also concerned by the threat economic asphyxiation of newspapers causes for pluralism.”

    Accused by the government of waging “war propaganda,” the Venezuelan media are also threatened by structural problems – the shortage of raw material, including newsprint.

    Many newspapers have been forced to print smaller or fewer issues or suspend printing altogether. The list of those affected gets longer by the day. Around 20 newspapers are currently in danger. Ironically, the authorities systematically harass media that mention the shortages.

    Under the protection policies adopted when Hugo Chávez was president, newspapers have to obtain dollars to import newsprint as Venezuela does not produce any of its own.

    The procedures for getting the foreign currency and the newsprint they need to operate have become increasingly complex. The requirement to apply to the government for dollars has given the authorities a say in the number of copies the newspapers print and distribute.

    The government has responded with conspiracy theory to accusations that it is deliberately starving the newspapers of newsprint. Ruling party legislator Julio Chávez has gone so far as to accuse the media of deliberately hoarding newsprint in order to put pressure on the government.

    According to the authorities, newsprint imports rose by more than 30 per cent in 2013 although Venezuelan newspapers kept on reducing the number of copies they print.

    Various factors make Venezuela one of the western hemisphere’s most worrying countries as regards freedom of information.

    They include the requirement for broadcast media to carry government speeches, called cadenas, the creation of a new intelligence agency with powers that threaten access to information, a restrictive legal framework, and the government’s systematic harassment of news media and journalists.

    As a result, Venezuela is ranked 116th out of 180 countries in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index.

  8. THE WORLD IS WATCHING WHAT IS HAPPENING IN VENEZUELA!
    HUMAN RIGHTS FOUNDATION: Venezuela: HRF Condemns Arrest of Opposition Leader Leopoldo López – Feb. 18, 2014
    NEW YORK —The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) condemns the arbitrary arrest of Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López on charges of “murder” and “terrorism” and calls on President Nicolás Maduro’s government to release him immediately. López was arrested in Caracas today while leading a peaceful demonstration to the Ministry of Interior, Justice and Peace. López is one of the main leaders of the Venezuelan opposition coalition Mesa de la Unidad. “López’s arrest under the labels of ‘Nazi,’ ‘fascist,’ ‘terrorist,’ and ‘murderer’ is offensive not just to members of the Venezuelan opposition, but to pro-democracy advocates all around the world, including many survivors of tyranny sitting on HRF’s board who have suffered under Nazism, fascism, and state terrorism,” said HRF chairman, Garry Kasparov. “His arrest is intended to intimidate anyone opposing Maduro’s regime and highlights the despotic nature of the current Venezuelan government,” concluded Kasparov. Recently, HRF rejected the arrest warrant issued against López and stressed the necessity for the current government of Venezuela to foster a peaceful transition to a political system that listens to the opposition, starting with opening to an honest and democratic dialogue with the other half of the country’s leadership.

    The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies. We believe that all human beings are entitled to freedom of self-determination, freedom from tyranny, the rights to speak freely, to associate with those of like mind, and to leave and enter their countries. Individuals in a free society must be accorded equal treatment and due process under law, and must have the opportunity to participate in the governments of their countries; HRF’s ideals likewise find expression in the conviction that all human beings have the right to be free from arbitrary detainment or exile and from interference and coercion in matters of conscience. HRF does not support nor condone violence. HRF’s International Council includes human rights advocates George Ayittey, Vladimir Bukovsky, Palden Gyatso, Garry Kasparov, Mutabar Tadjibaeva, Ramón J. Velásquez, Elie Wiesel, and Harry Wu.

  9. THE WORLD IS WATCHING WHAT IS HAPPENING IN VENEZUELA!
    HUMAN RIGHTS FOUNDATION: Venezuela: HRF Condemns Arrest of Opposition Leader Leopoldo López – Feb. 18, 2014
    NEW YORK —The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) condemns the arbitrary arrest of Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López on charges of “murder” and “terrorism” and calls on President Nicolás Maduro’s government to release him immediately. López was arrested in Caracas today while leading a peaceful demonstration to the Ministry of Interior, Justice and Peace. López is one of the main leaders of the Venezuelan opposition coalition Mesa de la Unidad.

    “López’s arrest under the labels of ‘Nazi,’ ‘fascist,’ ‘terrorist,’ and ‘murderer’ is offensive not just to members of the Venezuelan opposition, but to pro-democracy advocates all around the world, including many survivors of tyranny sitting on HRF’s board who have suffered under Nazism, fascism, and state terrorism,” said HRF chairman, Garry Kasparov. “His arrest is intended to intimidate anyone opposing Maduro’s regime and highlights the despotic nature of the current Venezuelan government,” concluded Kasparov.

    Recently, HRF rejected the arrest warrant issued against López and stressed the necessity for the current government of Venezuela to foster a peaceful transition to a political system that listens to the opposition, starting with opening to an honest and democratic dialogue with the other half of the country’s leadership.

    The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies. We believe that all human beings are entitled to freedom of self-determination, freedom from tyranny, the rights to speak freely, to associate with those of like mind, and to leave and enter their countries. Individuals in a free society must be accorded equal treatment and due process under law, and must have the opportunity to participate in the governments of their countries; HRF’s ideals likewise find expression in the conviction that all human beings have the right to be free from arbitrary detainment or exile and from interference and coercion in matters of conscience. HRF does not support nor condone violence. HRF’s International Council includes human rights advocates George Ayittey, Vladimir Bukovsky, Palden Gyatso, Garry Kasparov, Mutabar Tadjibaeva, Ramón J. Velásquez, Elie Wiesel, and Harry Wu.

    Contact: Jamie Hancock, (212) 246-8486

  10. THE WORLD IS WATCHING WHAT IS HAPPENING IN VENEZUELA!
    HUMAN RIGHTS FOUNDATION: Venezuela: HRF Condemns Arrest of Opposition Leader Leopoldo López – Feb. 18, 2014
    NEW YORK —The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) condemns the arbitrary arrest of Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López on charges of “murder” and “terrorism” and calls on President Nicolás Maduro’s government to release him immediately. López was arrested in Caracas today while leading a peaceful demonstration to the Ministry of Interior, Justice and Peace. López is one of the main leaders of the Venezuelan opposition coalition Mesa de la Unidad.

    “López’s arrest under the labels of ‘Nazi,’ ‘fascist,’ ‘terrorist,’ and ‘murderer’ is offensive not just to members of the Venezuelan opposition, but to pro-democracy advocates all around the world, including many survivors of tyranny sitting on HRF’s board who have suffered under Nazism, fascism, and state terrorism,” said HRF chairman, Garry Kasparov. “His arrest is intended to intimidate anyone opposing Maduro’s regime and highlights the despotic nature of the current Venezuelan government,” concluded Kasparov.

    Recently, HRF rejected the arrest warrant issued against López and stressed the necessity for the current government of Venezuela to foster a peaceful transition to a political system that listens to the opposition, starting with opening to an honest and democratic dialogue with the other half of the country’s leadership.

    The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies. We believe that all human beings are entitled to freedom of self-determination, freedom from tyranny, the rights to speak freely, to associate with those of like mind, and to leave and enter their countries. Individuals in a free society must be accorded equal treatment and due process under law, and must have the opportunity to participate in the governments of their countries; HRF’s ideals likewise find expression in the conviction that all human beings have the right to be free from arbitrary detainment or exile and from interference and coercion in matters of conscience. HRF does not support nor condone violence. HRF’s International Council includes human rights advocates George Ayittey, Vladimir Bukovsky, Palden Gyatso, Garry Kasparov, Mutabar Tadjibaeva, Ramón J. Velásquez, Elie Wiesel, and Harry Wu.

    Contact: Jamie Hancock, (212) 246-8486, jamie@thehrf.org

    http://humanrightsfoundation.org/news/venezuela-hrf-condemns-arrest-of-opposition-leader-leopoldo-lopez-00354

  11. BUT Omar Fundora!! DONT YOU KNOW THAT ANYONE THAT IS AGAINST THE MADURO “GOVERNMENT” IS WORKING FOR THE CIA! AND WHAT ABOUT ALL THOSE CUBAN ARMED FORCES IN VENEZUELA! ARE THEY THERE TO TEACH THE VENEZUELAN PEOPLE HOW TO DANCE SALSA??

    REPORTERS WITHOUT BORDERS: Government restricts coverage of protests Published on Tuesday 18 February 2014.

    Discontent with the country’s economic problems and the high rate of violent crime are fueling the protests that erupted earlier this month. Protesters and human rights groups grievances include government control of the media.

    The political tension has also had an impact on journalists’ safety. Shots were deliberately fired at Karen Mendez, the correspondent of the Peruvian online newspaper El Comercio, while she was covering the protests and demonstrators threw stones at María Iginia Silva while she was editing a report on the protests for Globovisión.

    Journalists working for state media have not been spared. Jilfredo Alejandro Barradas, a photographer with the State Communication and Information Office, sustained a gunshot injury while covering the demonstrations on motorcycle.

    A group of protesters assaulted the VTV headquarters with Molotov cocktails and other explosives.

    Rafael Hernández of the magazine Exceso and the blogger Ángel Matute were arrested while covering the unrest on 12 February and remained in police custody for three days. When a judge released them on 15 February, he ordered them not to cover the demonstrations.

    The head of the National Telecommunication Commission (CONATEL) reacted to the scale of the protests by announcing on 11 February that “coverage of the violent events” was punishable under the Radio, TV and Electronic Media Social Responsibility Law (RESORTMEC), which bans content condoning violence or hatred.

    The authorities began carrying out this threat the next day when the protests turned violent, with three reported deaths and many gunshot injuries, both civilian and police. Venezuelan viewers suddenly found themselves deprived of access to NTN24, a Colombian TV news station that had been reporting the opposition’s demands.

    “We condemns these arbitrary acts of censorship, which are being implemented outside of any established administrative or judicial procedures and which are all the more disturbing for coming against a backdrop of government harassment of local and international news providers,” said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire.

    “We join local free speech organizations in pointing out that control of news coverage will just exacerbate the current situation and fuel the extreme media polarization currently prevailing in Venezuela.”

    “We are also concerned by the threat economic asphyxiation of newspapers causes for pluralism.”

    Accused by the government of waging “war propaganda,” the Venezuelan media are also threatened by structural problems – the shortage of raw material, including newsprint.
    CLICK LINK FOR ENTIRE STATEMENT!
    https://en.rsf.org/venezuela-government-restricts-coverage-of-18-02-2014,45885.html

  12. REPORTERS WITHOUT BORDERS: Government restricts coverage of protests Published on Tuesday 18 February 2014.

    Discontent with the country’s economic problems and the high rate of violent crime are fueling the protests that erupted earlier this month. Protesters and human rights groups grievances include government control of the media.

    The political tension has also had an impact on journalists’ safety. Shots were deliberately fired at Karen Mendez, the correspondent of the Peruvian online newspaper El Comercio, while she was covering the protests and demonstrators threw stones at María Iginia Silva while she was editing a report on the protests for Globovisión.

    Journalists working for state media have not been spared. Jilfredo Alejandro Barradas, a photographer with the State Communication and Information Office, sustained a gunshot injury while covering the demonstrations on motorcycle.

    A group of protesters assaulted the VTV headquarters with Molotov cocktails and other explosives.

    Rafael Hernández of the magazine Exceso and the blogger Ángel Matute were arrested while covering the unrest on 12 February and remained in police custody for three days. When a judge released them on 15 February, he ordered them not to cover the demonstrations.

    The head of the National Telecommunication Commission (CONATEL) reacted to the scale of the protests by announcing on 11 February that “coverage of the violent events” was punishable under the Radio, TV and Electronic Media Social Responsibility Law (RESORTMEC), which bans content condoning violence or hatred.

    The authorities began carrying out this threat the next day when the protests turned violent, with three reported deaths and many gunshot injuries, both civilian and police. Venezuelan viewers suddenly found themselves deprived of access to NTN24, a Colombian TV news station that had been reporting the opposition’s demands.

    Even social networks, normally resistant to all forms of censorship, have been affected. Many people who use the national Internet Service Provider CANTV have reported that their access to photos has been blocked on Twitter, as confirmed by Twitter’s official spokesperson, Nu Wexler. He immediately suggested an alternative by SMS: “Users blocked in #Venezuela: Follow + receive notifications via SMS of any Twitter account. Send SEGUIR [usuario] to 89338.”

    “We condemns these arbitrary acts of censorship, which are being implemented outside of any established administrative or judicial procedures and which are all the more disturbing for coming against a backdrop of government harassment of local and international news providers,” said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire.

    “We join local free speech organizations in pointing out that control of news coverage will just exacerbate the current situation and fuel the extreme media polarization currently prevailing in Venezuela.”

    “We are also concerned by the threat economic asphyxiation of newspapers causes for pluralism.”

    Accused by the government of waging “war propaganda,” the Venezuelan media are also threatened by structural problems – the shortage of raw material, including newsprint.
    CLICK LINK FOR ENTIRE STATEMENT!
    https://en.rsf.org/venezuela-government-restricts-coverage-of-18-02-2014,45885.html

  13. Pingback: Who’d a-thunk it? Customer service is non-existent to horrible under communism in Cuba? | AEIdeas

  14. Humberto: I heard that Lopez is a descendant of Simon Bolivar. This may save him from harm. It is also my understanding that he is not as popular as the MUD candidate. He represents the extreme Right and not a Centrist as they claim he is in U.S. Media. We have pour Millions into regime change in Venezuela. If Maduro can prove that he is in our payroll he is in serious trouble. There is evidence with witnesses that he instigated protest marches and he has an arrest record already for contra-revolutionary activities. They also have witnesses that claim that the masked men that killed a couple of students were acting under his direction. Obviously, there was a great deal of chaos during the shootings, so this is all rumors. Lopez Political Party is fairly new in Venezuela and only has two candidates that have been elected to their equivalent of our Congress. He is taking a huge risk, I hope he is a gambling man

  15. Latin American Activism: Venezuela
    As the March 5th anniversary of Hugo Chávez’s death approaches, there is turmoil in
    Venezuela. Students have been protesting against the government in nation-wide
    demonstrations characterised by disorder and violence that have led to the death of three
    people. Initially organised to protest against economic shortages and insecurity, these
    demonstrations have been calling for ‘la salida’ – the exit of President Nicolás Maduro. They
    have been supported by sections of the opposition alliance, Mesa de la Unidad Democrática
    (MUD), led by Leopoldo López and Maria Corina Machado.
    For many commentators – and for the government itself – these events mark a rerun of earlier
    events, when the opposition pushed for the removal of Chávez through a failed coup in 2002, a
    private sector lock-out in 2002-3 and a recall referendum against Chávez in 2004. Maria
    Corina Machado, a signatory to the 2002 ‘Carmona Decree’ that temporarily dissolved the
    Chávez government, was a key protagonist of the recall referendum. Her ‘civil society’
    organisation, Súmate, received funding from the National Endowment for Democracy in
    Washington, where she was feted by President George Bush in May 2005.
    Lessons All Round
    The Chavistas learned a number of lessons from the events of 2002-2004: the importance of
    1 / 8
    Venezuela: The Real Significance of the Student Protests
    Written by Dr Julia Buxton
    Thursday, 20 February 2014 10:17
    consolidating grassroots support (hence, the launch of the social policy initiative, the Missions);
    the need to build regional solidarity (hence, the acceleration of regional integration initiatives
    such as the ALBA); the capacity of the private sector to paralyse economic activity (hence, the
    deepening of the state’s role in the economy); and the urgency of countering false reporting on
    the country (hence, the funding of community and public media and new regulatory codes for
    broadcasting). It was this period that was the catalyst for the transformation of an initially
    centrist Third Way project into Socialism of the Twenty First Century.
    The opposition similarly absorbed lessons, after anti-government unions, business associations
    and the local Roman Catholic Church failed to galvanise public opinion behind regime change
    in 2002. It adopted an electoral path as the balance of power swung to moderate factions, and
    radicals associated with unconstitutional tactics were pushed to the margins. This reaped
    dividends in national and regional elections after 2008 as the MUD focused on
    bread-and-butter voter concerns and wooed Chavistas alienated by the government’s statist
    lurch with soothing language of reconciliation and promises to improve, rather than remove, the
    benefits delivered by the Missions. At the same time, the protagonist role of the private sector
    media was gradually tempered by introduction of European-style broadcast regulations.
    US-based lobbies antagonistic toward the advance of Chávez’s socialism (and sympathetic to
    marginalised radicals) no longer saw these elements of ‘civil society’ as an effective
    oppositional vehicle and jettisoned them, deciding that a new tool for regime displacement had
    to be nurtured. Students in private sector universities became the new vanguard of
    ‘democracy promotion’.
    Rise of the Student Opposition
    2 / 8
    Venezuela: The Real Significance of the Student Protests
    Written by Dr Julia Buxton
    Thursday, 20 February 2014 10:17
    In 2008, the US-based Cato Institute awarded the US$500,000 Milton Friedman Prize for
    Advancing Liberty to student leader Yon Goicoechea for his role in mobilising protests against
    the suspension of private broadcaster RCTV’s licence. At the same time, a sizeable amount of
    the US$45 million in funding provided annually by US institutions to Venezuelan opposition
    groups was channelled to ‘youth outreach’ programmes.
    With financial support and media training, Venezuela’s student and opposition-aligned Juventud
    Activa Venezuela Unida
    (
    JAVU)
    became vociferous and mobilised, focusing after 2010 on the alleged censorship by the state of
    private sector broadcasters
    [1]
    and on government legislation intended to democratise the administration of the universities.
    The latter was portrayed as a threat to university autonomy and some public institutions, such
    as the Universidad Central de Venezuela, were driven into the opposition camp.
    [2]
    In 2011 JAVU activists staged a hunger strike in support of ‘political prisoners’[3] and
    demanded that the Organisation of American States should intervene. Protests in 2012 focused
    on underfunding in the higher education sector and in 2013 demonstrations were organised
    outside the Cuban Embassy, first to demand the return of Chávez from chemotherapy in
    Havana and then to challenge the result of the April presidential election.
    [4]
    Given this history of protest, why have the current protests gained such significance?
    3 / 8
    Venezuela: The Real Significance of the Student Protests
    Written by Dr Julia Buxton
    Thursday, 20 February 2014 10:17
    A Problematic Turn
    The current protests are important on two counts. First, they mark a coming together of the
    student movement and radical elements of the MUD. López and Machado have been
    organising with the student leadership,[5] in particular in relation to the February 12th
    demonstrations on Venezuela’s Day of the Youth, which commemorates the role of young
    people in the 1814 independence battle of la Victoria.
    Frustrated by the slow dividends of the electoral route, López and Machado are challenging the
    position of Henrique Capriles as MUD leader, even though he defeated them both in the MUD’s
    2012 primaries. As Capriles in recent weeks has nudged closer toward dialogue with President
    Maduro on the issue of public security, following January’s murder of former Miss Venezuela
    Monica Spear, the uncompromising López and Machado have sought to open a chasm
    between Capriles and grassroots anti-government sentiment.
    In turn, the student movement has embraced the ‘salida’ demand of López and Machado,
    threatening to stay on the streets until Maduro leaves office. This is against a backdrop of
    growing tension, with ongoing raids by security forces on private sector warehouse facilities,
    where food and goods are allegedly being hoarded to create artificial shortages, and with the
    interception of a recorded conversation between a former Venezuelan ambassador and a
    vice-admiral where plans for violence and ‘something similar to April 11th’ were being
    4 / 8
    Venezuela: The Real Significance of the Student Protests
    Written by Dr Julia Buxton
    Thursday, 20 February 2014 10:17
    discussed. [6]
    The second distinctive aspect relates to the role of social media. Although mobilisations and
    related violence have been on-going, with two student deaths in 2010, they have not received
    the same level of attention as the protests earlier this month. One indication of an orchestrated
    campaign has been the frenzied activity by opposition youth on Twitter, which seems to be
    substituting for the once vociferous but now calmer private sector media[7] that could
    traditionally be relied upon to galvanise international attention.
    Despite claims that social media ‘democratises’ the media, it is clear that in Venezuela it has
    had the opposite effect, exacerbating the trend towards disinformation and misrepresentation,
    with overseas media groups and bloggers reproducing – without verification – opposition
    claims and images of student injuries allegedly caused by police brutality and attacks by
    government supporters. In its reporting, the Guardian newspaper[8] cited tweets by opposition
    activists claiming pro-government gangs had been let loose on protestors. No evidence to
    substantiate this extremely serious allegation was provided. It also reported on the arrest of 30
    students on 12 th February,
    following serious disorder, including barricade building, tire burning and Molotov cocktail
    attacks, as if it were an egregious assault on human rights. The report was subsequently
    tweeted by Machado. By way of context, 153 students were arrested in the UK during the 2010
    protests against tuition fees.
    The images disseminated, for example, to a Green Movement activist in Iran and then
    circulated to her thousands of followers with the tag line ‘pray for Venezuela’s students’, and to
    other democracy movements around the world show Egyptian and not Venezuelan police
    beating demonstrators. This same image was carried by the Spanish newspaper ABC.[9]
    Photographs and video clips of Chilean, Argentinian and Bulgarian police suppressing
    demonstrators and carrying out arrests (in their home countries) have been circulated and
    published as of they were assaults in Venezuela,
    [10]
    and one widely reproduced image shows Venezuela’s Policia Metropolitana corralling student
    protestors. The Policia Metropolitana was disbanded in 2011. Twitter has additionally been
    used to harangue commentators, including this author, who checked the accounts of her
    abusive critics to find most had only been tweeting for a day and in that space of time had
    accumulated around 40,000 followers.
    [11]
    5 / 8
    Venezuela: The Real Significance of the Student Protests
    Written by Dr Julia Buxton
    Thursday, 20 February 2014 10:17
    Lessons Not Learned
    Capriles has been steering the opposition down the electoral path in recognition of the fact that
    ordinary voters are alienated by violent protest and disorder. It has been widely acknowledged
    that such a strategy will take time to produce results, but it allows the MUD to build an electoral
    base and credibility as a political alternative. This hard work will be undone by a return to
    unconstitutional activities. The students and MUD radicals offer no governance plan, with ‘salid
    a ’
    serving as a hash tag, not a strategy, according to one opposition blogger.
    Just as in 2002, radicals have forgotten that the people they must convince are Venezuelan
    voters, not international opinion. There can be no short cut to replacing a movement and
    government that is genuinely popular. Attempting to induce regime overthrow is unnecessary
    when the option of a recall referendum is available, and it is irresponsible when the outcome of
    violent change will only be a cycle of violent revenge. Finally, journalists have yet to learn that
    authoritative reporting requires fact-based accounts, not recycled and unchecked tweets from
    Twitter – a mechanism that can be used to promote delusion as well as democracy.
    Dr Julia Buxton is currrently Professor of Comparative Politics in the School of Public Policy,
    CEU, Budapest.

  16. Activism in Latin America: Venezuela

    As the March 5th anniversary of Hugo Chávez’s death approaches, there is turmoil in
    Venezuela. Students have been protesting against the government in nation-wide
    demonstrations characterised by disorder and violence that have led to the death of three
    people. Initially organised to protest against economic shortages and insecurity, these
    demonstrations have been calling for ‘la salida’ – the exit of President Nicolás Maduro. They
    have been supported by sections of the opposition alliance, Mesa de la Unidad Democrática
    (MUD), led by Leopoldo López and Maria Corina Machado.
    For many commentators – and for the government itself – these events mark a rerun of earlier
    events, when the opposition pushed for the removal of Chávez through a failed coup in 2002, a
    private sector lock-out in 2002-3 and a recall referendum against Chávez in 2004. Maria
    Corina Machado, a signatory to the 2002 ‘Carmona Decree’ that temporarily dissolved the
    Chávez government, was a key protagonist of the recall referendum. Her ‘civil society’
    organisation, Súmate, received funding from the National Endowment for Democracy in
    Washington, where she was feted by President George Bush in May 2005.
    Lessons All Round
    The Chavistas learned a number of lessons from the events of 2002-2004: the importance of
    consolidating grassroots support (hence, the launch of the social policy initiative, the Missions);
    the need to build regional solidarity (hence, the acceleration of regional integration initiatives
    such as the ALBA); the capacity of the private sector to paralyse economic activity (hence, the
    deepening of the state’s role in the economy); and the urgency of countering false reporting on
    the country (hence, the funding of community and public media and new regulatory codes for
    broadcasting). It was this period that was the catalyst for the transformation of an initially
    centrist Third Way project into Socialism of the Twenty First Century.
    The opposition similarly absorbed lessons, after anti-government unions, business associations
    and the local Roman Catholic Church failed to galvanise public opinion behind regime change
    in 2002. It adopted an electoral path as the balance of power swung to moderate factions, and
    radicals associated with unconstitutional tactics were pushed to the margins. This reaped
    dividends in national and regional elections after 2008 as the MUD focused on
    bread-and-butter voter concerns and wooed Chavistas alienated by the government’s statist
    lurch with soothing language of reconciliation and promises to improve, rather than remove, the
    benefits delivered by the Missions. At the same time, the protagonist role of the private sector
    media was gradually tempered by introduction of European-style broadcast regulations.
    US-based lobbies antagonistic toward the advance of Chávez’s socialism (and sympathetic to
    marginalised radicals) no longer saw these elements of ‘civil society’ as an effective
    oppositional vehicle and jettisoned them, deciding that a new tool for regime displacement had
    to be nurtured. Students in private sector universities became the new vanguard of
    ‘democracy promotion’.
    Rise of the Student Opposition
    In 2008, the US-based Cato Institute awarded the US$500,000 Milton Friedman Prize for
    Advancing Liberty to student leader Yon Goicoechea for his role in mobilising protests against
    the suspension of private broadcaster RCTV’s licence. At the same time, a sizeable amount of
    the US$45 million in funding provided annually by US institutions to Venezuelan opposition
    groups was channelled to ‘youth outreach’ programmes.
    With financial support and media training, Venezuela’s student and opposition-aligned Juventud
    Activa Venezuela Unida(JAVU) became vociferous and mobilised, focusing after 2010 on the alleged censorship by the state of private sector broadcasters and on government legislation intended to democratise the administration of the universities.
    The latter was portrayed as a threat to university autonomy and some public institutions, such
    as the Universidad Central de Venezuela, were driven into the opposition camp.
    In 2011 JAVU activists staged a hunger strike in support of ‘political prisoners and
    demanded that the Organisation of American States should intervene. Protests in 2012 focused
    on underfunding in the higher education sector and in 2013 demonstrations were organised
    outside the Cuban Embassy, first to demand the return of Chávez from chemotherapy in
    Havana and then to challenge the result of the April presidential election.
    Given this history of protest, why have the current protests gained such significance?
    A Problematic Turn
    The current protests are important on two counts. First, they mark a coming together of the
    student movement and radical elements of the MUD. López and Machado have been
    organising with the student leadership, in particular in relation to the February 12th
    demonstrations on Venezuela’s Day of the Youth, which commemorates the role of young
    people in the 1814 independence battle of la Victoria.
    Frustrated by the slow dividends of the electoral route, López and Machado are challenging the
    position of Henrique Capriles as MUD leader, even though he defeated them both in the MUD’s
    2012 primaries. As Capriles in recent weeks has nudged closer toward dialogue with President
    Maduro on the issue of public security, following January’s murder of former Miss Venezuela
    Monica Spear, the uncompromising López and Machado have sought to open a chasm
    between Capriles and grassroots anti-government sentiment.
    In turn, the student movement has embraced the ‘salida’ demand of López and Machado,
    threatening to stay on the streets until Maduro leaves office. This is against a backdrop of
    growing tension, with ongoing raids by security forces on private sector warehouse facilities,
    where food and goods are allegedly being hoarded to create artificial shortages, and with the
    interception of a recorded conversation between a former Venezuelan ambassador and a
    vice-admiral where plans for violence and ‘something similar to April 11th’ were being acused
    The second distinctive aspect relates to the role of social media. Although mobilisations and
    related violence have been on-going, with two student deaths in 2010, they have not received
    the same level of attention as the protests earlier this month. One indication of an orchestrated
    campaign has been the frenzied activity by opposition youth on Twitter, which seems to be
    substituting for the once vociferous but now calmer private sector media[7] that could
    traditionally be relied upon to galvanise international attention.
    Despite claims that social media ‘democratises’ the media, it is clear that in Venezuela it has
    had the opposite effect, exacerbating the trend towards disinformation and misrepresentation,
    with overseas media groups and bloggers reproducing – without verification – opposition
    claims and images of student injuries allegedly caused by police brutality and attacks by
    government supporters. In its reporting, the Guardian newspaper[8] cited tweets by opposition
    activists claiming pro-government gangs had been let loose on protestors. No evidence to
    substantiate this extremely serious allegation was provided. It also reported on the arrest of 30
    students on 12 th February,
    following serious disorder, including barricade building, tire burning and Molotov cocktail
    attacks, as if it were an egregious assault on human rights. The report was subsequently
    tweeted by Machado. By way of context, 153 students were arrested in the UK during the 2010
    protests against tuition fees.
    The images disseminated, for example, to a Green Movement activist in Iran and then
    circulated to her thousands of followers with the tag line ‘pray for Venezuela’s students’, and to
    other democracy movements around the world show Egyptian and not Venezuelan police
    beating demonstrators. This same image was carried by the Spanish newspaper ABC.[9]
    Photographs and video clips of Chilean, Argentinian and Bulgarian police suppressing
    demonstrators and carrying out arrests (in their home countries) have been circulated and
    published as of they were assaults in Venezuela,

    and one widely reproduced image shows Venezuela’s Policia Metropolitana corralling student
    protestors. The Policia Metropolitana was disbanded in 2011. Twitter has additionally been
    used to harangue commentators, including this author, who checked the accounts of her
    abusive critics to find most had only been tweeting for a day and in that space of time had
    accumulated around 40,000 followers.
    Capriles has been steering the opposition down the electoral path in recognition of the fact that
    ordinary voters are alienated by violent protest and disorder. It has been widely acknowledged
    that such a strategy will take time to produce results, but it allows the MUD to build an electoral
    base and credibility as a political alternative. This hard work will be undone by a return to
    unconstitutional activities. The students and MUD radicals offer no governance plan, with ‘salid
    a ’ serving as a hash tag, not a strategy, according to one opposition blogger.
    Just as in 2002, radicals have forgotten that the people they must convince are Venezuelan
    voters, not international opinion. There can be no short cut to replacing a movement and
    government that is genuinely popular. Attempting to induce regime overthrow is unnecessary
    when the option of a recall referendum is available, and it is irresponsible when the outcome of
    violent change will only be a cycle of violent revenge. Finally, journalists have yet to learn that
    authoritative reporting requires fact-based accounts, not recycled and unchecked tweets from
    Twitter – a mechanism that can be used to promote delusion as well as democracy.

  17. HI Nick! FROM YOUR FAV ! THE BBC!

    HMMM! SO Hugo Chavez HEADS A COUP AND HE IS HAILED A HERO? AND Leopoldo Lopez HEAD A PEACEFUL STUDENT PROTEST AND HE IS CALLED A “FASCISTS”?? HMM! DOUBLE STANDARD DONT YOU THINK Nick AND Omar Fundora!!

    BBC NEWS: Venezuelan opposition leader Lopez ‘to stay in custody’
    A Venezuelan court has ordered that detained opposition politician Leopoldo Lopez remain in custody pending further hearings, Mr Lopez’s lawyer said.

    Lawyer Bernardo Pulido tweeted that the court had “confirmed the detention order”.

    Mr Lopez, of the opposition Popular Will party, was arrested on Tuesday on charges of inciting violence following a wave of anti-government protests.

    It is not yet clear when the next hearing will take place.

    Mr Lopez’s wife Lilian Tintori also posted a message on Twitter calling on her husband’s supporters to “not give up”. “Change is in each one of us,” she wrote.

    Supporters of Mr Lopez had gathered at the Palace of Justice in Caracas, where the hearing had been expected to be held.

    But after several delays, it was moved to the Ramo Verde prison, where Mr Lopez has been held since he handed himself over to the authorities on Tuesday.
    “Someone is responsible for every violent act that happens in this country. One of them is in jail,” he said in an address on national television.

    “The others will get there one by one, in the same way, to the same cell. I have no doubt of that,” he warned.

    President Maduro has called the opposition politician a “murderer” and alleged he is being paid the the US Central Intelligence Agency to topple his government.

    The authorities point to Mr Lopez’s participation in street protests in 2002 which preceded a brief coup against then President Hugo Chavez, Mr Maduro’s predecessor in office and mentor, to back up their claims.

    CLICK LINK FOR ENTIRE ARTICLE!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-26263274

    Chávez began preparing for a military coup d’état,[76][79] known as Operation Zamora.[80] Initially planned for December, Chávez delayed the MBR-200 coup until the early twilight hours of 4 February 1992. On that date, five army units under Chávez’s command moved into urban Caracas with the mission of overwhelming key military and communications installations, including the Miraflores presidential palace, the defense ministry, La Carlota military airport and the Military Museum. Chávez’s immediate goal was to intercept and take custody of Pérez, who was returning to Miraflores from an overseas trip. Despite years of planning, the coup quickly encountered trouble. At the time of the coup, Chávez had the loyalty of less than 10% of Venezuela’s military forces,[81] and, because of numerous betrayals, defections, errors, and other unforeseen circumstances, Chávez and a small group of rebels found themselves hiding in the Military Museum, without any means of conveying orders to their network of spies and collaborators spread throughout Venezuela.[82] Furthermore, Chávez’s allies were unable to broadcast their prerecorded tapes on the national airwaves, during which Chávez planned to issue a general call for a mass civilian uprising against the Pérez government. Finally, Chávez’s forces were unable to capture Pérez, who managed to escape from them. Fourteen soldiers were killed, and fifty soldiers and some eighty civilians injured during the ensuing violence.[

  18. The changes to a “Socialist Model” in Venezuela has began…It is modest, it only will affect certain industries

    A Solid Foundation for Socialism of the 21st Century”: Venezuela’s Maduro Restructures Several Government Ministries and Institutions

    Mérida, 16th January 2014 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro has ordered a restructuring of public institutions related to the economy and consumer protection during a four hour speech to the nation.
    The shake-up came less than a week after Maduro reshuffled his cabinet, appointing new ministers in the areas of labour, industry, education, higher education, sport, youth and the chief of staff.
    During the annual state of the nation address delivered to the National Assembly (AN) yesterday, Maduro also warned he would use an “iron fist” to deliver harsher penalties for “sabotage and speculation”.
    “We fully understand what…it’s going to cost to make the Venezuelan economy fortified and sustainable in promoting jobs, diversification of our productive enterprises in providing value to our goods and in socialising the means of production,” Maduro stated during the address, which continued into the evening.
    This was his first state of the nation speech since being elected last April. His four hour talk was less than half the length of Chavez’s record 9.5 hour address two years ago.
    However, the president issued a defiant warning to his opponents, to not underestimate him.
    “For those that underestimate me from the left and the extreme right, I say that I’m a socialist and I know what I’m doing,” he stated.
    The president also defied predictions that he would devalue the bolivar currency, stating that the current fixed exchange rate will be kept in place for a “long time forward”.
    “Venezuela has sufficient resources to keep the foreign exchange [rate] at [Bs ] 6.30 to the dollar,” Maduro stated.
    “We will continue fighting [the currency blackmarket]…Sicad will fulfil its function,” he said, referring to the Complimentary System of Foreign Currency Acquirement (Sicad).
    Established last year, Sicad holds foreign currency auctions for individuals and businesses, selling dollars at a higher rate than the fixed exchange value.
    Sicad was originally intended to operate parallel to the Foreign Exchange Administration Commission (Cadivi), which used to be the main government body that regulated the distribution of foreign currency. However, yesterday Maduro announced that Cadivi will be merged with the recently announced National Centre of Exterior Commerce.
    He also named Commerce Minister Alejandro Fleming as the head of the new centre.
    The public banking ministry has also been folded into the finance ministry, which will now be headed by current Minister of Public Banking Rodolfo Marco.
    Marco replaces Nelson Merentes, who had been moved from the BCV in April. Merentes was widely viewed as more market-friendly than his predecessor. At the time, Merentes had been urged by Maduro to produce “achieve single digit inflation” within three years. Merentes will now resume his former position heading the BCV. Last year Venezuela’s annual inflation rate was around 56%.
    Maduro called on Marco to oversee the construction of “a new financial model that can allow for all these investments that we need, that will allow the expansion of a financial system at the service of the country”.
    Marco was imprisoned alongside Hugo Chavez due to his involvement in Chavez’s failed 1992 coup attempt. Like Merentes, Marco is widely viewed as a moderate figure.
    Along with heading the banking ministry, Marco has also previously managed the state-owned Banco de Venezuela.
    Indepabis and Sundecop Merge
    The Institute for the Defence of the People’s Access to Goods and Services (Indepabis) and the National Superintendency for Fair Costs and Prices (Sundecop) will also be merged into a single institution, to be headed by Minister for Women and Gender Equality Andreina Tarazon.
    Beneath Tarazon, former Sundecop head Karlin Granadillo has been charged with overseeing costs and earnings calculations sections, while General Luis Motta Dominguez will manage the institution’s fair price oversight mechanisms.
    Since being taken over by Eduardo Saman last June, Indepabis has undertaken a nationwide crackdown on price gouging and violations of price controls. Saman was appointed with a mandate to clean up Indepabis to after an alleged extortion ring was discovered operating within the institution. However, in July Saman had some of his authority revoked after he dismissed a number of Indepabis regional heads.
    Then in October, Saman survived an attack by three assailants armed with handguns and explosives, which he claimed was an attempted assassination.
    Police suspected at the time the incident was an attempted robbery.
    Saman’s official position following the merger has yet to be announced.
    Speculation
    Despite describing Venezuela’s economic growth in 2013 as “very successful”, Maduro stated that he intends to deepen reform to counter what he describes as an “economic war”.
    Venezuela’s economy grew by 1.4% in the first three quarters of 2013.
    However, Maduro stated that 99% of businesses inspected by authorities last year were inappropriately pricing goods, with “no economic explanation”.
    The next law Maduro says he intends to pass with his decree powers will cap businesses’ profit margins to 30%. The law will be drafted in the coming days, according to the president.
    Maduro was handed presidential decree powers under the Enabling Law by the AN last November.
    A statement released by the AN following the enacting of the Enabling Law said that Maduro had been empowered to pass legislation to “fight corruption, usury, money laundering and the economic war unleashed in recent times against the country by the national oligarchy”.
    “While the government makes a big effort to guarantee the quality of some services and the availability of products, the mafias speculate with other products and even medicines,” he stated.
    Maduro pledged to continue to use his decree powers to counter “both abuse and outrages” of the economy in 2014, and stated he would put price gougers “behind bars” with tougher penalties for “sabotage and speculation”.
    “With the economic war the bourgeoisie have shown a cruelty that is comparable only to the acts of 2002,” Maduro stated, referring to shortages of consumer goods ranging from milk to cooking oil and toilet paper.
    “How can you describe someone who hides formula milk for babies [from supermarket shelves]? We cannot create a new euphemism for that,” he stated.
    “That person must be described as a criminal,” Maduro said.
    Both scarcity and inflation levels spiked in 2013.
    “There won’t be any forgiveness to those who keep robbing the people…they’re speculating with food and medicine,” he said.
    Investment Plan
    Along with promising to chastise businesses that act inappropriately, Maduro also stated his government aims to coax foreign investors to Venezuela. According to Maduro, the government’s plan will focus on promoting investment in 11 key areas, including: petroleum, petrochemicals, construction, industry, agriculture, agriculture, manufacturing, tourism, textiles, mining and communication.
    “I call to all national and international entrepreneurs who are investing in Venezuela,” he said.
    Some incentives will be provided to investors, though Maduro didn’t go into details.
    He also stated Bs 25.5 billion would be invested in public works nationwide in the coming years.
    Media and Security
    In yet another announcement during the speech, Maduro called for a national review of the country’s media landscape. The president accused the private media of promoting “guns, drugs, violence and betrayal”.
    Minister for Communication and Information Delcy Rodríguez along with the board of the National Telecommunications Commission (Conatel) were ordered to undertake an official review, while the president also called for a public debate on the media and violence.
    “I think there needs to be an honest, open discussion, open debate,” he stated.
    Earlier this week the president slammed Venezuela’s media for turning former Miss Venezuela Monica Spear’s murder into a “show”.
    Maduro also stated he would strengthen his government’s anti-crime and anti-violence initiatives, including the Safe Homeland Plan.
    “I call upon young men to be able to challenge and demolish the culture of violence, drugs, individualism, hatred and greed,” he stated.
    He also urged all governors and mayors to back the Safe Homeland Plan, regardless of political affiliation.
    “We have to be building peace for communities, families; peace grounded in values of respect for life, coexistence, social peace based on a new culture that overcomes the negative values of the culture of death, greed, ambition and wealth that are given to us by the great national and international media,” Maduro said.
    “We’ll build a culture of work, overcome consumerism as social deviance and cast a solid foundation for socialism of the 21st Century,” he said.
    Maduro also devoted a portion of his speech to reflecting on last year.
    “2013 was a year of love, loyalty and victory over pain and difficulties. We turned grief into strength and life in joy,” Maduro stated.
    Referring to the April and December elections, Maduro stated that “democracy is only meaningful if it meets the needs of the people and not the accumulation of wealth”.
    The president pointed to the death of his predecessor Hugo Chavez as a low point in the year, but emphasised that the Bolivarian Revolution would continue nonetheless.
    “The enemies of Hugo Chavez were wrong, the great revolution did not vanish [when Chavez died],” he stated.

  19. LISTA DE PROTESTAS CONTRA LA VIOLENCIA EN VENEZUELA POR EL “GOBIERNO” ESTE FIN DE SEMANA! LIST OF PROTEST LOCATIONS AGAINST THE VIOLENCE IN VENEZUELA BY THE “GOVERNMENT” THIS WEEKEND. POR FAVOR DIFUNDIR! PLEASE SHARE!

    SABADO/SATURDAY
    Los Angeles, California: 12:00 p.m. Federal Building. 11000 Wilshire Blvd.

    Viernes:
    Houston, Texas: 7:30 p.m. Sugar Land Square, 15958 City Walk.
    San Diego, California: 5:00 p.m. en frente a la torre NBC en el 225 Broadway.
    Katy, Texas: de 7 p.m. a 9 p.m. en el Seven Lake High School.
    Naples, Florida: 5 p.m. Pine Ridge Rd y Airport Pulling Rd (Esquina de Target).
    Sábado:
    Los Angeles, California: 12:00 p.m. Federal Building. 11000 Wilshire Blvd.
    Lakeland, Florida: 1:30 p.m. Gold’s Gym Sur 3625 South Florida Ave.
    Houston, Texas: de 11:30 a.m. a 1:30 p.m. Cinco Ranch High School.
    Las Vegas, Nevada: 10 a.m. restaurante venezolano Viva Las Arepas, en Las Vegas Blvd. y Oakey.
    Boston, Massachusetts: 1:00 p.m. Copley Square.
    Atlanta, Georgia: de 11:30 a.m. a 1:30 p.m. Piedmont Park, Legacy Fountain.
    Filadelfia, Pennsylvania: 12 p.m. Love Park.
    Tallahassee, Florida: 2:00 p.m. en el Old Capitol.
    Charlotte, Carolina del Norte: 12 p.m. Freedom Park.
    St. Agustine, Florida: 10:30 a.m. San Marco Castle.
    Tulsa, Oklahoma: 2 p.m. Hunter Park.
    Denver, Colorado: 10 a.m. Denver Capitol.
    San Antonio, Texas: 11 a.m. en el Alamo.
    Miami, Florida: 2 p.m. JC Bermudez Park del Doral.
    Orlando, Florida: 12 p.m. Blue Jacket Park.
    Phoenix, Arizona: 12:00 p.m. Tempe Town Lake
    Portland, Oregon: 7:00 p.m. Pioneer Place.
    Tampa, Florida: 2:00 p.m. entre la N Dale Mabry y la W Columbus.
    West Palm Beach, Florida: 3 pm. In Doña Arepa
    Nashville, Tennessee: 11 a.m. en Riverfront.
    Austin, Texas: 4:00 p.m. en la Universidad UT Tower.
    Salt Lake City, Utah: 12:00 p.m. en el Utah State Capitol.
    Chicago, Illinois: 12 p.m. a 2:30 p.m. en plaza las Américas y luego Millenium Park de 3 p.m. a 4 p.m.
    Bakersfield, California: 1:00 p.m. en 1401-1499 Truxtun Avenue.
    Cleveland, Ohio: 2 p.m. Willard Park Downtown.
    New Orleans, Louisiana: 11:30 p.m. en el Jackson Square.
    Nueva Jersey: 2:00 p.m. Parque de West New York, Blvd East esquina de la calle 60th.
    Domingo:
    Manhattan, Nueva York: 2:00 p.m. a 3:00 p.m. Central Park, calle 59 con 6ta Avenida.
    Washington D.C.: 12:30 p.m. a 2:30 p.m. en EST 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW.
    Cincinnati, Ohio: 3 p.m. en Fountain Square.
    http://www.laopinion.com/venezolanos-eeuu-protestan-nicolas-maduro

  20. Venezuela:

    Maduro’s state of the nation address reaffirmed the government’s long term economic vision, one toward which only very limited progress has been made so far despite the great political and social changes achieved over the previous decade. That vision is to transform Venezuela’s capitalist economy, in which sectors of private capital only engage in speculative activity based on capturing money from oil sales, into a “socialist” model where state, private and collectively-owned enterprises play a productive role in an industrialised and diversified economy.

    Whether Venezuela moves in that direction this year and beyond will depend on many factors, including the success of government policies to encourage investment in productive agricultural and industrial activities. Meanwhile, immediate challenges will be whether new regulatory policies can combat currency distortions and price speculation, and whether the sporadic shortages which still affect consumers and the economy can be eliminated. Certainly, following the strong electoral victory last 8 December and the opposition’s greater acceptance of the Maduro administration’s legitimacy, the government will hope it now has the space to solve persisting economic difficulties and to implement its wider economic agenda.

  21. John Bibb:

    Regardless of whether it is Communism based on Marx and Engels or Societies based on Freedom or “Free Societies” dominated by Capitalism principles as it was conceived around mid 20th Century… the measure of success is how they resolve inequality in all its dimensions: discrimination, oppression, exploitation in all facets of a society: education, economic, social and government. The accepted indexes for Freedom as Humanity continues to learn will become more precise and expanded so that this metric can become a better tool of country governance. As far as material well being, it is constrain by scarcity and has little to do with how much democracy exists in the nation or political freedom for that matter. We all know Cuba has a bad mark in the area of democratic political organization, but, the economic reforms Raul proposed in 2011 are sound ( if he gets it done) for the financial situation of the island. The only way that these reforms could be expanded for better results would be for Cuba to have access to the IMF, World Bank and the American Import-Export Bank and tap into the American Financial industry directly for major projects. Expansion of tourism from the United States with access to major financing with similar arrangements now in existence between Latin America and China. China accepts commodities as partial payment on outstanding loans from countries that have a poor credit rating up to a -B. Cuba’s credit rating is very poor and would not qualify without help. The other option people like to suggest which is direct investments by foreigners ( including Cuban -Americans) have political risks even if Cuba was not a Communist State. Therefore, the “turtle pace” of Raul is very, very wise decision (communist or non -communist political system)

  22. ***
    HI OMAR FUNDORA–Thank you for the good information. I hope that the Cuban People will get their liberty and better economic blessings soon! I don’t think it is possible under a communist government.
    ***
    HOLA OMAR FUNDORA–Gracias por el buen informacion. Espero que la Gente Cubana recibira su libertad y mejor bendiciones economicas pronto! No creo que es possible con un gobierno communista.
    ***
    John Bibb
    ***

  23. Hank: I have the Federalist Papers …”the handbook for debate”…where would you like to begin:

    Federalist No. 1,
    as an introductory essay, can be interpreted mainly as an attempt to impress upon readers that opinions will always contain bias when it comes to important matters such as this. Hamilton writes:
    Happy will it be if our choice should be directed by a judicious estimate of our true interests,
    unperplexed and unbiased by considerations not connected with the public good. But this is a thing more ardently to be wished than seriously to be expected.
    The investigation of particular types of bias is quite sophisticated. Hamilton identifies not only those with a venomous bias, but also the plethora of people who, while their intentions are good, exhibit an unmistakable bias. In fact, he claims even those who believe themselves to be impartial often have hidden biases:
    It cannot be doubted that much of the opposition which has made its appearance, or may hereafter make its appearance, will spring from sources, blameless at least, if not respectable — the honest errors of minds led astray by preconceived jealousies and fears.

  24. Thanks Hank,
    Thanks for your latest cheap little attempt at insult.
    And I wish you the very best in fighting the fight for GOOD against EVIL.
    I congratulate on being so sure you can tell the two apart…..
    Even concerning places that you’ve never been to.
    This is a rare gift Hank.

  25. This series of articles “Havana: The New Art of Making Ruins” is an excellent example of Yoani’s article “At a Turtle’s Pace.” This German documentary by filmmakers Florian Borchmeyer and Matthias Hentschler, captures the final moments of these buildings before they collapse altogether. For fifty four years the Castroit regime has unable to solve the housing problem, and in the city of La Habana its deliberated neglect has been responsible for its decay and the loss of irreplaceable architectural heritage of historic structures.

    On each of the videos Bert Corzo make comments about the subjects, providing statistics and establishing comparison before and after the Castroit regime, demonstrating that it has been a failure of great proportion.

    These articles has been published in babalublog.com. This is the link for those who want to take a look at it, and comment about these series of articles.

    Part 1 of 6: http://babalublog.com/2014/01/07/babalu-exclusive-havana-the-new-art-of-making-ruins-part-1-of-6/#comments

  26. Neutral Observer,

    You are right.

    The Nazis staged a fake incursion into Germany to justify the invasion of Poland. And they got away with it, for a while.

    Now, today, Cuban-trained thugs on motorcycles are shooting at civilians in Venezuela and blaming the violence on the innocent victims. I think they will also get away with it, for a while.

    I am amazed and humbled by the bravery of Leopoldo Lopez.

  27. I read on these blogs a great deal of discussion about Freedom or insinuation that the country issues are due to lack of it, but, I wonder if what we assume Freedom is…is what it means to everyone visiting or blogging here…here are some accepted descriptions of Freedom and how to measure them:

    Economic freedom or economic liberty or right to economic liberty denotes the ability of members of a society to undertake economic direction and actions. This is a term used in economic and policy debates as well as a politicoeconomic philosophy. As with freedom generally, there are various definitions, but no universally accepted concept of economic freedom. One major approach to economic freedom comes from classical liberal and libertarian traditions emphasizing free markets, free trade and private property under free enterprise, while another extends the welfare economics study of individual choice, with greater economic freedom coming from a “larger” (in some technical sense) set of possible choices. Other conceptions of economic freedom include freedom from want and the freedom to engage in collective bargaining.

    The free market viewpoint defines economic liberty as the freedom to produce, trade and consume any goods and services acquired without the use of force, fraud or theft. This is embodied in the rule of law, property rights and freedom of contract, and characterized by external and internal openness of the markets, the protection of property rights and freedom of economic initiative. There are several indices of economic freedom that attempt to measure free market economic freedom. Empirical studies based on these rankings have found higher living standards, economic growth, income equality, less corruption and less political violence to be correlated with higher scores on the country rankings

    Rule of law

    Free market advocates argue both that the rule of law requires economic freedom, and that economic freedom requires the rule of law. Friedrich Hayek argued that the certainty of law contributed to the prosperity of the West more than any other single factor. Other important principles of the rule of law are the generality and equality of the law, which require that all legal rules apply equally to everybody. These principles can be seen as safeguards against severe restrictions on liberty, because they require that all laws equally apply to those with political and coercive power as well as those who are governed. Principles of the generality and equality of the law exclude special privileges and arbitrary application of law, that is laws favoring one group at the expense of other citizens. According to Friedrich Hayek, equality before the law is incompatible with any activity of the government aiming to achieve the material equality of different people. He asserts that a state’s attempt to place people in the same (or similar) material position leads to an unequal treatment of individuals and to a compulsory redistribution of income. A problem in “Free Societies” (I write it in quotes (“”) because there is no such thing in the World as a Free Society. Calling a society free is equivalent to spirituality in the context of religion) is that over time the laws of the land are skewed in favor of privilege leading to inequality, oppression, discrimination and exploitation.

    According to the free market view, a secure system of private property rights is an essential part of economic freedom. Such systems include two main rights: the right to control and benefit from property and the right to transfer property by voluntary means. These rights offer people the possibility of autonomy and self-determination according to their personal values and goals. Economist Milton Friedman sees property rights as “the most basic of human rights and an essential foundation for other human rights.”With property rights protected, people are free to choose the use of their property, earn on it, and transfer it to anyone else, as long as they do it on a voluntary basis and do not resort to force, fraud or theft. In such conditions most people can achieve much greater personal freedom and development than under a regime of government coercion. A secure system of property rights also reduces uncertainty and encourages investments, creating favorable conditions for an economy to be successful. Empirical evidence suggests that countries with strong property rights systems have economic growth rates almost twice as high as those of countries with weak property rights systems, and that a market system with significant private property rights is an essential condition for democracy. According to Hernando de Soto, much of the poverty in the Third World countries is caused by the lack of Western systems of laws and well-defined and universally recognized property rights. De Soto argues that because of the legal barriers poor people in those countries can not utilize their assets to produce more wealth.

    Pierre Proudhon, a socialist and anarchist thinker, argued that property is both theft and freedom. Many leftists dispute that private property means “economic freedom” and believe in a system where people can lay claim to things based on personal use

    Indices of economic freedom

    The annual surveys Economic Freedom of the World (EFW) and Index of Economic Freedom (IEF) are two indices which attempt to measure the degree of economic freedom in the world’s nations. The EFW index, originally developed by Gwartney, Lawson and Block at the Fraser Institute was likely the most used in empirical studies as of 2000.

    According to the creators of the indices, these rankings correlate strongly with higher average income per person, higher income of the poorest 10%, higher life expectancy, higher literacy, lower infant mortality, higher access to water sources and less corruption. The people living in the top one-fifth of countries enjoy an average income of $23,450 and a growth rate in the 1990s of 2.56 percent per year; in contrast, the bottom one-fifth in the rankings had an average income of just $2,556 and a -0.85 percent growth rate in the 1990s. The poorest 10 percent of the population have an average income of just $728 in the lowest ranked countries compared with over $7,000 in the highest ranked countries. The life expectancy of people living in the highest ranked nations is 20 years longer than for people in the lowest ranked countries.

    Erik Gartzke of the Fraser Institute estimates that countries with a high EFW are significantly less likely to be involved in wars, while his measure of democracy had little or no impact.

    The Economic Freedom of the World score for the entire world has grown considerably in recent decades. The average score has increased from 5.17 in 1985 to 6.4 in 2005. Of the nations in 1985, 95 nations increased their score, seven saw a decline, and six were unchanged. Using the 2008 Index of Economic Freedom methodology world economic freedom has increased 2.6 points since 1995.

    Members of the World Bank Group also use Index of Economic Freedom as the indicator of investment climate, because it covers more aspects relevant to the private sector in wide number of countries.

    The nature of economic freedom is often in dispute. Robert Lawson, the co-author of EFW, even acknowledges the potential shortcomings of freedom indices: “The purpose of the EFW index is to measure, no doubt imprecisely, the degree of economic freedom that exists.” He likens the recent attempts of economists to measure economic freedom to the initial attempts of economists to measure GDP: “They [macroeconomists] were scientists who sat down to design, as best they could with the tools at hand, a measure of the current economic activity of the nation. Economic activity exists and their job was to measure it. Likewise economic freedom exists. It is a thing. We can define and measure it.” Thus, it follows that some economists, socialists and anarchists contend that the existing indicators of economic freedom are too narrowly defined and should take into account a broader conception of economic freedoms.

    Critics of the indices (e.g. Thom Hartmann) also oppose the inclusion of business-related measures like corporate charters and intellectual property protection. John Miller in Dollars & Sense has stated that the indices are “a poor barometer of either freedom more broadly construed or of prosperity.” He argues that the high correlation between living standards and economic freedom as measured by IEF is the result of choices made in the construction of the index that guarantee this result. For example, the treatment of a large informal sector (common in poor countries) as an indicator of restrictive government policy, and the use of the change in the ratio of government spending to national income, rather than the level of this ratio. Hartmann argues that these choices cause the social democratic European countries to rank higher than countries where the government share of the economy is small but growing.

    President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a President of the United States who was the only President elected (4) times in U.S. history and one of the men I admired most as a leader said that there are (4) Freedoms that everyone in the World ought to enjoy. He articulated these goals during the State of the Union address in 1941:

    1.Freedom of speech
    2.Freedom of worship
    3.Freedom from want
    4.Freedom from fear

    The concept of the Four Freedoms became part of the personal mission undertaken by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt regarding her inspiration behind the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, General Assembly Resolution 217A. Indeed, these Four Freedoms were explicitly incorporated into the preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which reads, “Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed the highest aspiration of the common people,….”

    The toughest Freedom to achieve, in my opinion, is Freedom from Want…in a World of Scarcity and unsustainable Global Economic System we have almost half of the 7 Billion people in the World living in Poverty with an income of less than $2.50/day and no “light at the end of the tunnel” to resolve this problem. Inequality in the World is bad even in the Richest countries and over the next 25 years, Global Warming will make food more scarce then it is now for everyone. We need a more inclusive World to improve the chances that everyone get to enjoy the 4 Freedoms. Countries by themselves cannot hope to solve internal Freedom issues because we are all affected by the Zero Sum Principle equally.

  28. Yet another uninformed, intellectually lazy and dishonest post by our poor misguided contributor Nick.

    Nick: The brave Venezuelan pro-democracy activist who’s name you can’t seem to write or bother to look up as you cast your stupefied gaze into that computer screen a few inches in front of your face is Leopoldo Lopez. It’s an easy name to remember, Leopoldo Lopez.

    Maybe you have a problem with capitalist inventions like the computer, or search engines. Come to think of it, Nick, instead of posting here, why don’t you use carrier pigeons or smoke signals to spew your nonsense? Capitalists didn’t invent carrier pigeon communications or smoke signals, as far as I know, so those forms of communication would be a lot more intellectually honest on your part, don’t you think? Does it pain you to know that every time you use Google you are feeding the capitalist monster, Nick?

    Setting all of that aside, for your reading pleasure I’ve selected the following article especially for you.

    For Venezuelan Regime, the Party’s Over

    By Roger F. Noriega

    Tuesday, February 18, 2014

    With intensifying unrest and the Maduro regime fighting a losing battle for survival, it appears that Hugo Chávez’s ‘Bolivarian revolution’ will outlive him by about a year.

    Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro is fighting a losing battle to salvage his regime, and student demonstrations that will continue today are only one of his problems. As details of his government’s bankruptcy are made public, his political base will continue to splinter. And as he follows Cuban advice to use brute force against peaceful demonstrators, the nationalist military will find the growing violence intolerable. In short, Maduro’s condition is terminal.

    According to a source in Venezuela’s Central Bank, the country’s international reserves have dwindled to $21 billion — less than half the reserves of Colombia, an economy of the same size. Worse yet, $12 billion of Venezuela’s dwindling reserves is in the form of gold that is claimed by China as security for more than $30 billion in loans made in the last two years. Because Venezuela is not keeping up with oil deliveries to service that Chinese debt, the gold cannot be touched.

    Another $7.5 billion of the reserves is in the form of bonds issued by Argentina, Bolivia, Cuba, and Nicaragua, a source in the Central Bank told me. Apparently that amount used to be held in U.S. Treasury bonds, but the regime traded these for useless paper from some of the region’s most insolvent countries. These bonds cannot be liquidated for cash because they are worth less than their face value, making their sale illegal under Venezuelan law. Thus, what is left in the bank is less than a half-billion dollars, which would cover the cost of about two weeks worth of imports. So shortages of essential goods will worsen in the days ahead.

    After nearly two decades of mismanagement and corruption, oil production is faltering and over-subscribed — committed to domestic consumption and China, and international giveaways to Cuba, the leftist party in El Salvador, and the Caribbean. Sources say that Rafael Ramirez, the president of the Venezuelan state energy company PDVSA, will have to terminate these giveaways. He also will continue to shortchange China in order to generate revenue by maximizing oil sales to the United States. However, this scramble for cash is both inadequate and unsustainable in meeting Venezuela’s needs.

    So, history will record that a revolution dedicated to “Socialism of the 21st Century” disintegrated for lack of U.S. greenbacks.

    The images of ill-trained national guardsmen and civilian thugs shooting, beating, and detaining student protesters has further alienated the bulk of the Army officer corps from Maduro and his cadre of corrupt generals.

    Maduro’s second major crisis involves the loss of support within the country’s armed forces. Hugo Chávez commanded the respect or fear of uniformed services because he was a military veteran, and he cemented their loyalty by giving them lucrative posts and abetting their involvement in narcotrafficking and other corruption. Of course, some of the military — including respected retirees — steered clear of serious corruption but remained loyal to their commander-in-chief.

    That military pillar of the regime has been crumbling since Chávez’s death last March. Maduro has earned little respect within their ranks. Those who have rallied around him are men he has coopted with new assignments and the very corrupt narcomilitares — notably National Assembly president Diosdado Cabello — who are hoping to hold on to their illicit fortunes by preserving the criminal and unaccountable regime.

    A nationalist wing chafes at the heavy-handed role of the Cuban regime in Maduro’s administration. As one former Chávez confidante grumbled privately, “There is not a ‘chavista’ government in Venezuela today — it is a ‘Cuban’ government, instead.” The images of ill-trained national guardsmen and civilian thugs shooting, beating, and detaining student protesters has further alienated the bulk of the Army officer corps from Maduro and his cadre of corrupt generals. According to one leadership source, if Maduro were to order the Army to deploy heavy weapons and troops to quell protestors, it likely will be the last order of his unhappy tenure.

    If demonstrations and casualties continue to grow, Latin American leaders who had no interest in crossing the willful Chávez will not keep silent as Maduro’s faltering regime unleashes gangs who empty pistols into peaceful crowds. The United States issued a timid statement calling upon the despotic regime to respect human rights and freedom of expression. On Sunday, Maduro expelled three diplomats in a vain attempt to blame “the Empire” — meaning the United States — for his woes; but this tactic only served to draw international attention to intensifying unrest and a regime that is fighting a losing battle for survival.

    It appears that Hugo Chávez’s “Bolivarian revolution” will have outlived him by about a year — leaving behind a toxic mess. The international community can help the Venezuelan people by prosecuting Maduro and the narcomilitares for their crimes and returning their ill-gotten assets to support the reconstruction of a country that has been through hell and back.

  29. Nick,

    If I understand your point, you believe people being shot at by Maduro should be locked up and charged with murder and terrorism?

    The ones who survive being shot of course.

    I heard Leopoldo Lopez talk and all he has called for is peaceful opposition to a very dictatorial and violent government.

    It would be like charging Martin Luther King with murder and terrorism because some of his supporters were killed by murderers and terrorists.
    Or because some of his supporters turned to violence in retaliation.

    You know, when Hitler invaded Poland, he said it was because Poland invaded Germany. And there were plenty of people who believed him.

    The world keeps on ticking.

  30. Hey HUMBY!!!
    You wanna plant your flag next to the latest pro USA right-wing wannabe that’s your prerogative.
    You wanna bet your dollar on Mr Leopold-whatever-his name-is, then that’s up to you.
    You wanna live in an imaginary bubble world, then that’s fine and I wish you peace and happiness all the way.

    In the meantime,
    the real world just keeps on-a-ticking…………..

  31. AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: Venezuela: Trial of opposition leader an affront to justice and free assembly – 19 February 2014

    The charges brought against Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López smack of a politically motivated attempt to silence dissent in the country, said Amnesty International.

    “Venezuelan authorities must either present solid evidence to substantiate the charges against López or release him immediately and unconditionally,” said Guadalupe Marengo, Amnesty International Americas Programme Deputy Director.

    “These charges appear to be politically motivated because of his leadership in the recent anti-government protests. Currently, Amnesty International has not seen evidence to substantiate these charges. This is an affront to justice and free assembly.”

    It is understood that Leopoldo López, the leader of opposition party Voluntad Popular (Political Will), has been charged with homicide, grievous bodily harm and other crimes in relation to the deaths of three people in the last few days during mass demonstrations.

    President Maduro showed his commitment to human rights when he stated a few days ago that his government wouldn’t tolerate violence from his supporters and the security forces. He must now send a clear message that nobody is going to be detained for exercising their right to freedom of speech and assembly.

    In the absence of any evidence against Leopoldo López, Amnesty International is calling for his immediate release and for all charges to be dropped. Likewise, the deaths of last week must be fully investigated and those responsible be brought to justice.

    Background information

    Leopoldo López handed himself in to the National Guard (Guardia Nacional) on 18 February after a mass anti-government demonstration he organized.

    The arrest warrant issued against him on 13 February is for his alleged responsibility for violence that occurred during and after student demonstrations in the last two weeks.

    Amnesty International has not seen a copy of the arrest warrant, but press statements state that he has been charged with homicide and grievous bodily harm among others.

    According to the information received, Leopoldo López was due to appear before Judge Raleyns Tovar Guillén at a Court in Caracas at 10:00 local time (14:30 GMT). The judge has to make a decision on whether he will be held in detention, freed on bail or unconditionally released.

    http://amnesty.org/en/news/venezuela-trial-opposition-leader-affront-justice-and-free-assembly-2014-02-19

  32. Omar Fundora,

    Congratulations!

    You just set the record for longest post ever.

    If you live in Cuba, extra rations for you this week.

  33. John Bibb:
    The reality of Cuba….something for you to “chew on” ….be patient…is better then what you see in Ukraine, Mexico, Venezuela….nothing wrong with turtle pace if there is a finish line…
    Cuba stands at a crossroads.

    55 years after its revolution overthrowing the Batista dictatorship, its original generation of leadership has begun to pass away and the future of its “socialist” project remains uncertain. Will it experience capitalist “shock therapy” like the countries of the former Eastern bloc? Will it follow the state-capitalist road established in China and Vietnam? Will economic liberalization be accompanied, as some claim, by an expansion of political freedoms and tolerance for dissent? A socialist democracy may not be in the cards; if so, what does that mean for the nascent critical left on the island?

    Whatever the case, since Raúl Castro assumed power in 2006 promising reforms, Cuban politics has seen the slow emergence of new tendencies and debates. What we know about these currents is limited and few Cubans speak openly about their political preferences, but we can still sketch out the changing landscape of politics on the island.

    Castro’s political program has prompted the release of most long-term political prisoners, greater acknowledgment of and efforts to mitigate racial and gender discrimination, and the opening of some migration out of and into Cuba. The reforms share similar characteristics: the relaxation of administrative rules and concessions to popular demands without recognizing any citizen rights independent of the government’s discretion, and a significant degree of political and cultural liberalization. Yet there has been no concomitant democratization that would allow a challenge to the Cuban Communist Party’s monopoly on power.

    The focal point of Castro’s economic reforms is an attempt to revitalize the Cuban economy through the adoption of elements of the Sino-Vietnamese model — a state-capitalism that retains a monopoly of political power through a single party, which controls the strategic sectors of the economy, such as banking, while sharing the rest with a private sector both foreign and domestic. But unlike in China and Vietnam, Cuban economic liberalization has been obstructed at key turns — not at the grassroots, but by sectors of the bureaucracy afraid that the implementation of Chinese-style reforms could erode their power. This prospect has become a major topic of discussion in the island’s academic circles.

    Cuban social scientist Camila Piñeiro Harnecker, in particular, has discussed the influence of “statist” elements whom she describes as a group of “middle-level administrators and state functionaries who fear losing their jobs and the ability to benefit from the state through corruption.” They advocate for the improvement, as opposed to the elimination, of state socialism along these self-interested lines. Although Piñeiro Harnecker limits the scope of this resistance to mid-level bureaucrats and names no names, her analysis could also be extended to the functionaries higher in the bureaucratic food chain like hardliner José Ramón Machado Ventura, who was until recently Raúl Castro’s presumed successor.

    Besides fear about the march towards the Sino-Vietnamese model, little is known about the prevailing attitudes among other important sectors of the power structure and the population as a whole towards these reforms. The views of the managers and technicians administrating the island’s most important enterprises — including joint ventures with foreign capital — within and outside the military can’t be assessed.

    Like their peers in the collapsed Eastern Bloc, one might expect managers of state companies to be strong supporters of Raúl Castro’s reform program and advocates of a sharper turn to state capitalism. And some do indeed argument this, but there’s no concrete evidence that’s actually the case. The steps already taken have been relatively modest: allowing state companies to keep 50 percent of profits for recapitalization and the freedom to make decisions about minor investments and wage raises. These measures were enacted as part of a 2012 Communist Party program aimed at establishing enterprise autonomy, which promised (but by and large has not delivered) bigger changes like partially decentralizing prices and terminating poorly-performing state companies through liquidation, privatization, or conversion to cooperatives.

    Castro’s economic reforms have garnered institutional support from a group of economists working at the Centro de Estudios de la Economía Cubana (CEEC). Despite voicing concerns about his program’s limited scope, they have dubbed it a welcome step towards the establishment of a state-directed mixed economy. Most prominent of these advocates are Omar Everleny Pérez-Villanueva and Pavel Vidal Alejandro. For Piñeiro Harnecker, who also works at the CEEC but does not share its politics, this group, which she labels as “economicists,” advocates economic growth as the principal objective of socialism. The CEEC also hints, though not openly, at the advantage of private capitalist management.

    According to Piñeiro Harnecker, these “economicists” see autonomous enterprise guided by private interests as the most effective and efficient way to coordinate economic activities. Concerns regarding the consequences of privatizing the economy — that it would increase inequality, further marginalize the disadvantaged and speed environmental deterioration — should, in their view, be largely left for later. Measures can be taken to mitigate them, however, such as a tax system to regulate the income gap and the adoption of laws that protect customers, workers, and the environment — a stance reminiscent of Third Way social democrats in Europe.

    According to Piñeiro Harnecker, the “economicist” perspective is most fervently shared by the administrators of state enterprises, who look forward to reforms that drastically increase management autonomy as a step towards the final elimination of planning and the restoration of private ownership. It is not clear whether they have a direct nexus with the CEEC, but the CEEC “economicists” have had a role proliferating pro-market ideas in Cuba’s political-intellectual establishment. The prominence has put the group in a bureaucratic crossfire.

    The University of Havana’s rector singled out Omar Everleny Pérez-Villanueva as being too critical of the current Cuban economic system and subsequently prevented him from attending the meetings of the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) in Washington in 2013, which several of his like-minded CEEC colleagues were able to attend. Yet Pérez-Villanueva appears undeterred, continuing to act, along with CEEC associates, as economic advisor to Marino Murillo Jorge, the Minister of Planning and Economy. In June 2013, he appeared on Cuban television to lead a seminar on “The Economy and Enterprise Administration in Cuba.”

    ——————————————————————————–

    Up until a few years ago, it would have been inconceivable to think of the Catholic Church as a major player in Cuba’s political life. Throughout its history, the church maintained a relatively weak (by Latin American standards) presence on the island. Yet Castro’s government has granted the Church a number of concessions, allowing it to organize religious processions, establish a web presence, and to print bulletins, magazines, and numerous small parish and group publications. Moreover, Castro has permitted the Catholic Church to operate the Félix Varela Cultural Center since 2011. It has become one of the few public spaces in which critics of the government can express their opinions openly. The center serves in part to train the entrepreneurs of tomorrow’s Cuba, in conjunction with a Spanish Catholic university.

    While one may question what the Cuban government has gained from these concessions, it is clear that the Catholic Church has gained a great deal. The church is among the most efficiently managed organization on the island, second only to the military. Strategically and tactically conscious of how to pursue its goals, it aims to become a formidable moral force on the island, as a “neutral” arbiter standing above every conflicting social and political interest in Cuba.

    To that end, the Church is attempting to shape its identity as the long-time custodian of Cuban cultural traditions, emphasizing features of Cuban culture associated with popular Afro-Cuban religion, like the worship of the the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre, the Patron Saint of Cuba known as Ochún in the Yoruba tradition (while at the same time seeking to distance itself from that “pagan” cult). In donning its “custodian” clothes, it has worked hard to dodge such thorny historical and political issues as its militant support for Spanish rule, particularly during the last War of Independence, and its ties to right-wing opposition during the early years of the revolutionary government.

    The Cuban Catholic hierarchy would likely prefer a Cuban transition with an important political party tied to Catholic traditions, like the Christian Democratic parties that exist in Europe and Latin America. The Church knows, however, that a party of this kind, which already exists in exile, does not have popular roots on the island and would not be allowed to legally function in the Cuban version of the authoritarian Sino-Vietnamese model. It has thus opted to pursue more realistic goals, pushing for the implementation of a Catholic social agenda that advocates “reforms” limiting abortion and divorce, expanding its role in higher education and instituting religious education in public schools – a demand of the Cuban Catholic hierarchy since the days of the Cuban Republic in the first half of the 20th century.

    Following an ambiguous multi-track policy, the Church has, on one hand, been publishing Espacio Laical, the official publication of the Félix Varela Cultural Center since 2012. It has opened its doors to liberal, social-democratic, and nationalist views, as well as those of the new critical left and the CEEC economists. The magazine has occasionally clashed with the dissidents who reject a dialogue with the Cuban government and/or collaborate with the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, but nevertheless has sponsored and published the democratic proposals put forward by a variety of views grouped under the Laboratorio Casa Cuba.

    One of its editors, Lenier González Mederos, a lay spokesperson for the Church, has used the magazine to implicitly propose a political pact between the Church and the military. He describes the two institutions as likely to remain “unscathed” for the next 200 years, arguing that “the Armed Forces, together with the Catholic Church, has the patriotic and moral responsibility to watch for and facilitate the best of possible futures for Cuba.”

    While using Espacio Laical to project a liberal and social-democratic image, the Church has also been publishing Palabra Nueva, the official organ of the Archdiocese of Havana, to promote conservative views. Setting the political tone of the magazine, its editor, the Archdiocese’s official spokesperson Orlando Márquez, declared in his article “Sin miedo a la riqueza [Without Fear of Wealth]” that the emergence of an affluent stratum is a welcome symptom of prosperity on the island and rejecting the notion that there is anything problematic with burgeoning economic inequality. As part of its conservative agenda, Palabra Nueva has been promoting figures of the past, like the anti-left ABC political organization of Cuba in the thirties, and Carlos Castañeda, a well-known pro-Washington Cuban exile journalist and editor of newspapers in Puerto Rico and Miami. (The magazine has also rediscovered Walt Disney as a “genius in the service of children and universal culture.”)

    ——————————————————————————–

    What has happened to the left of Cuba’s political center? Since the economic crisis provoked by the collapse of the Soviet bloc, a liberal Communist tendency critical of various aspects of Cuban society but loyal to the regime has been developing among the elite academic circles on the island. This liberal Communist camp is best represented in Temas, which has become the most important social science and intellectual journal in Cuba with an audience encompassing intellectuals, academics, and artists. It often publishes factually rich and critical articles, but characteristically avoids even an indirect questioning of the one-party system, much less its principal leaders.

    Temas also sponsors a monthly discussion forum on a variety of topics, which for years was open to the public without any restrictions. Since October 29, 2009, however, when well-known dissident blogger Yoani Sánchez appeared in disguise at a panel discussion on the Internet and made controversial remarks from the floor, Temas has posted guards at its monthly panel discussions to prevent dissidents from attending.

    Rafael Hernández, Temas’ principal editor, is a shrewd academic and political operator with a keen sense for identifying the mood among Cuba’s populace. If he has identified popular discontent, he has been unafraid to publish a diluted version of that discontent — but always within the bounds of acceptable discourse set by the regime.

    One of the best examples of this is his open letter to young people planning to emigrate, where he acknowledges and even appears to side with many of their complaints, but somehow ends up with a sophisticated apology for the regime. On other occasions, especially when addressing foreign audiences, his liberal Communist stance has become a cover for what is fundamentally a straightforward defense of the Cuban regime. In an article published in La Jornada, the Mexican left-wing daily newspaper, he concocted a number of sophistries to justify the one-party state, the imprisonment of political dissidents, and the undemocratic institutions of “Popular Power.”

    As for the development of left-wing protest on the island, potential key figures include those critics who, like Rafael Hernández, are loyal to the system but are propelled by their own political integrity and rebellious spirit to voice fully their dissent in spite of the costs. Another such critic is Esteban Morales Domínguez, a black professor who used to frequently appear as the US expert in Mesa Redonda (Roundtable), the most important political program on Cuban television. In a 2010 article, Morales Domínguez sharply criticized the rising levels of corruption in the country, calling it a greater threat to the revolution than internal dissidence.

    Breaking taboos, he pointed at the circles of power at the center of that corruption and warned that the people in the government were strengthening their own positions to transfer state property into their own private hands as soon as the current regime falls — exactly as it happened in the Soviet Union. In response to his article, the authorities pulled Morales off the Mesa Redonda and suspended his membership in the Cuban Communist Party. He was later reintegrated to party membership but not to his previous rank as television commentator.

    Morales Domínguez has also written critically about racism on the island. Although he has not yet touched the political “third rail” of advocating the independent organization of black Cubans outside official state organizations, he has recently been raising “dangerous” questions like whether “institutional racism [has] truly disappeared” in the country and has directly questioned the regime’s attitude towards racism, stating that it “has disappeared only relatively, for our state institutions still do not offer us the results we would expect from them were they actually designed to combat racism.”

    Morales later denied that institutional racism still exists in Cuba but continued to insist that “a lack of political will and an excess of bureaucratic hurdles” prevented the government from doing as much at it should to mitigate racism. He has also challenged, albeit implicitly, the old official government line about racism being the legacy of Cuba’s capitalist and colonial pasts, arguing that “these phenomena aren’t entirely inherited from the past; they are also the result of flawed social systems that contribute to their reproduction. These flaws we continue to perpetuate stem, to a considerable extent, from the flawed mechanisms of different State institutions.”

    There are other critics who are loyal to the system but, like Morales Domínguez, have gotten into trouble with the authorities for their views. This includes the three academics at the University of Matanzas, located 65 miles east of Havana, behind the blog La Joven Cuba (LJC). The blog was established in 2010 with the purpose of “defending the Revolution,” but also to facilitate an “internal debate about its present and future.” Although it has strongly attacked dissident bloggers such as Yoani Sánchez, the blog provides a platform for its visitors (many of them Cuban exiles) to offer their own critiques in comments, and it has debated these assessments respectfully.

    This feature of the blog, along with its repeated criticisms of the official Marxism taught in Cuban schools and the party newspaper Granma, and the slow pace of the implementation of the resolutions adopted at the 2012 Party Conference, is likely the cause of the ten-month blocking of the site from July 2012 to April 2013, imposed by University of Matanzas administrators.

    ——————————————————————————–

    There is also a decidedly open left-wing critical current that has been developing in the island. Although they avoid the label of “dissidents” for fear of being associated with the free-market economics and allegiance to Washington that has characterized a good part of the moderate and hard right-wing dissident politics in Cuba, they have mounted an openly critical stance. This crosses the line drawn for Cuban authorities, who see any form of criticism of the regime as oppositional. These left-wing critics have thus been subjected to official harassment and the loss of benefits, such as the paid trips to conferences abroad that are permitted to those who may be critical but “respect” the system. Like all those left of Cuba’s center, they are mostly students, academics, artists, and intellectuals, but the faction has been especially active trying to reach people outside their own milieu and engage in popular causes.

    Most striking about this new critical left is the ideological consensus it has developed around the centrality of worker’s self-management, a notion with shallow roots in the Cuban political tradition. This focus is shared by groups with different origins that occasionally collaborate with each other to form a critical left-wing milieu. One of these organizations has coalesced around retired diplomat Pedro Campos Santos who, along with his associates who participated in the early years of the Cuban Revolution, is trying to marshal the traditions of classical Marxism to develop ideas for a participatory and democratic management.

    The most visible group of that left-critical milieu is the Red Observatorio Critico, made up mostly of young people whose politics are not based on a hard program but a loose ideological front that includes ecologists, anarchists and even left Catholics. The Observatorio has attempted to promote a wide variety of causes related to the environment and gay and women’s issues, which perhaps explains why members of the Observatorio have been specifically targeted by the authorities and occasionally arrested.

    Also active in this milieu is the Proyecto Arcoiris (Rainbow Project), which is dedicated to gay liberation and seeks to establish its independence from the official Centro Nacional de Educación Sexual (CENESEX) led by Mariela Castro Espín (a daughter of Raúl Castro) and the Observatorio de los Derechos LGTB, associated with moderate and conservative dissidents. Another independent group formed by Afro-Cuban critics of the system, the Cofradía de la Negritud, has collaborated with the Observatorio Crítico in activities intended to highlight the role of black Cubans in Cuban history. One such effort was to commemorate the massacre of the five Abakuás, members of an Afro-Cuban secret society, for having tried unsuccessfully to defend eight white medical students from being executed on November 27, 1871, for desecrating the tomb of a Spanish military officer.

    In spite of their efforts, Observatorio and other elements of the critical left have not yet been able to establish a deep relationship with any major social group, a difficulty shared also with right-wing dissidents. Official repression, the government’s stranglehold on the mass media, and highly limited Internet access explain why few Cubans are exposed to the critical thinking anywhere on the political spectrum.

    ——————————————————————————–

    An unfortunate byproduct of the emphasis on local self-management has been a relative lack of attention to the elephant in the room: the all-controlling, all-encompassing, undemocratic one-party state.

    Discussions of self-management have tended to ignore the necessity for planning at the national level and the fact that the CCP will inevitably dominate that planning unless its political monopoly is abolished. The Yugoslavian experience of the last century shows that authentic self-management at the local level can only function when there is economic planning that is national in scope, but does not neglect democratic workplace participation. Decisions concerning vital questions such as accumulation and consumption, wages, taxes, and social services affect the whole society and significantly limit what can be decided in each work center — new structures are needed to facilitate exchange between them.

    In the case of Observatorio Crítico, its lack of attention to the party and the state may be due to the growing influence of anarchism, a political ideology that predominated the Cuban labor movement in the late 19th and early 20th century but was virtually eliminated by the rise of the Communist-led unions in the 1920s. Some of today’s Cuban left-wing critics have begun to turn to anarchism — which, whatever its many flaws, has had an honorable political record on the island — as a past that validates their own politics.

    ——————————————————————————–

    Cuba’s ongoing process of moral decay and social breakdown, denounced even by Castro himself, is a reflection of a political and socioeconomic system to which many poor and working-class people — particularly the 40 percent of the population which does not receive remittances from abroad — see no alternative to emigration or law-breaking.

    With the passing of the historic generation of revolutionary leaders in the next five to ten years, a new political landscape will emerge where oppositional political action may resurface. Some could argue that since socialism of a democratic and revolutionary orientation is not likely to be on the immediate agenda, there is no point to put forward such a perspective. But it is this political vision advocating for the democratic self-management of Cuban society that can shape a compelling resistance for what is likely to come. Through cultivating solidarity with those most vulnerable and calling for class, racial, and gender equality, a future movement can build a united front against old and emerging oppressors.

    In that vision lies hope for the people of Cuba and the broader region.

  34. ***
    HI OMAR FUNDORA–3 delusional comments! How many more years will be necessary for Castro’s communist revolution to “succeed”? And to provide the excellent lives he and Raul promised to the enslaved Cuban People in in their island prison long ago? Another century? If they don’t swim to Key West, Florida first! Where they will find freedom. They will never find it in Castro’s communist Cuban paradise.
    ***
    HOLA OMAR FUNDORA–3 commentarios ilusionales! Cuantos anos mas necesitara por la revolucion communista de Castro a “sucedar”? Y a proveer las excellentes vidas que prometio a la Gente Cubana esclavado en su isla carcelero hace muchos anos? Otro siglo? Si no nadan a Cayo Oeste, Florida antes! Donde van a encontrar la libertad. Nunca van a encontrarlo en el paraiso communista de Castro.
    ***
    John Bibb
    ***

  35. words from three revolutionaries that inspire people to take action…the future of Cuba lies in an inclusive sovereign democratic society

    Our task is to enlarge democracy within the revolutionary process as much as possible…. to assure channels for the expression of the popular will —Ernesto Che Guevara

    Revolution is having a sense of the historical moment; it is changing everything that must be changed; it is full equality and liberty; it is to be treated and treating others as human beings; it is emancipating ourselves by ourselves and through our own efforts; it is defying powerful dominant forces within and outside the national and social milieu; it is defending the values in which we believe at the cost of any sacrifice; it is modesty, disinterest, altruism, solidarity and heroism; it is to struggle with audacity, intelligence and realism; it is to never lie nor violate ethical principles; it is the deep conviction that there exists no force in the world capable of crushing the force of truth and ideas. Revolution is unity, independence; it is to struggle for our dreams of justice for Cuba and for the world, which is the basis of our patriotism, our socialism and our internationalism. — Fidel Castro, May 1, 2000

    The economic battle constitutes today, more than ever, the principal task and the key ideological work of the cadres, because on this depends the sustainability and preservation of our social system. — General Raul Castro, closing speech to the 9th Congress of the Union of Young Communists, April 4, 2010

  36. With the passing of the historic generation of revolutionary leaders in the next five to ten years, a new political landscape will emerge where oppositional political action may resurface. Some could argue that since socialism of a democratic and revolutionary orientation is not likely to be on the immediate agenda, there is no point to put forward such a perspective. But it is this political vision advocating for the democratic self-management of Cuban society that can shape a compelling resistance for what is likely to come. Through cultivating solidarity with those most vulnerable and calling for class, racial, and gender equality, a future movement can build a united front against old and emerging oppressors.

    In that vision lies hope for the people of Cuba and the broader region.

  37. leading Cuban social scientists express their frustration at the slow pace of economic reform, even as they recognize that the magnitude of Cuba’s accumulated problems demands skillful surgery. Pavel Vidal Alejandro expertly unravels the distortions caused by the dual currency system and calls for a gradual transition to a single, devalued Cuban peso. Armando Nova González and Anicia García Alvarez document Cuba’s disastrous agricultural sector and recommend strengthening property rights and creating market incentives to stimulate farm output. Drawing on opinion surveys, one of the book’s editors, Espina Prieto, brilliantly smashes the myth that Cuba is a frozen-in-time society, revealing dynamic social mobility and changing values. Mindful that Cuba is a small island economy, Pérez Villanueva and Pedro Monreal González suggest realistic ways for the country to take better advantage of foreign investment and international value chains. As a whole, Cuba must replace its stagnant economic management with a more modern regime built around a smarter state, refined regulation, and targeted social welfare programs.

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