The Venezuelan Dialogue, From a Cuban Point of View

The dialog between the Venezuelan opposition and Nicolas Maduro is in full swing. Its critics are many, its most visible loser: the Cuban government. For a system that for more than half a century has disqualified and reprimanded its dissidents, this discussion table must present a sad acknowledgement of its own inabilities.

Last Tuesday stunned Cuban viewers could watch a debate between the opposition forces in Venezuela and pro-government representatives. The controversial meeting was broadcast on TeleSur, which is characterized by its tendency to back the work of Chavism with its reporting. On this occasion, however, it was forced to also broadcast the concerns and arguments of the other side.

The requirement that cameras and microphones would be present at the discussion proved to be a magnificent political move by Maduro’s adversaries. In this way the audience is engaged in the dialog and it’s more difficult to publish distorted versions later. The participants on both sides were allowed ten minutes each, an exercise in synthesis that the Venezuelan president, clearly, couldn’t accomplish.

For disinformed Cubans, the first thing that jumped out at us was the high level of the arguments the opposition brought to the table. Figures, statistics and concrete examples expressed within a framework of respect. The next day the most commonly heard comment in the streets of Havana was the popular phrase, “They swept the floor with Maduro.” A clear reference to the crushing critiques of his rivals. The government supporters, however, were notably timid, fearful, and offered a discourse plagued with slogans.

There is no doubt, this discussion table has been a bitter pill to swallow for those who up until a few hours before were accusing their political opponents of being “fascists” and “enemies of the nation.” Venezuela will no longer be the same, although the negotiations end tomorrow and Nicolas Madura will once again take the microphone to hand out insults right and left. He acceded to a discussion and this marks a distance between the path followed by the Plaza of the Revolution and another that recently began for Miraflores.

And in Cuba? Is this also possible?

While the broadcast of the Venezuelan dialogue was airing, many of us asked ourselves if something similar could occur in our political scenario. Although the official press presents these conversations as a sign of strength on the part of Chavism, it has also kept enough distance so that we won’t get illusions of possible Cuban versions.

It is less chimeric to imagine Raul Castro getting on a plane and escaping the country than to project him sitting at a table with those he dubs counterrevolutionaries. For more than five decades, both he and his brother have been dedicated to demonizing dissident voices, such that now they are prevented from accepting a conversation with their critics. The danger posed by the impossibility of negotiations is that it leaves only the path to an overthrow, with its consequent trail of chaos and violence.

However, not only do the Cuban regime’s principal figures show reluctance before any negotiating table. The better part of the Island’s opposition doesn’t want to hear it spoken of. Before this double rejection, the agenda of a chimeric meeting fails to take shape. The opposition parties haven’t yet come together on a project for the country that can be coherently defended in any negotiation and look like a viable alternative. We members of the emerging civil society have reasons to feel concerned. Are the politicians now operating illegally in the country prepared to sustain a debate and capable of convincing an audience? Could they represent us with dignity when the time comes?

The answer to this question will only be known once the opportunity arises. Until now the Cuban political dissidence has concentrated more on tearing down than on elaborating foundational strategies; the greater part of their energy has been directed to opposing the governing Party rather than on persuading their potential followers within the population. Given the limitations on disseminating their programs and the numerous material restrictions they suffer, these groups have not been able to carry their message to a significant number of Cubans. It is not entirely their responsibility, but they should be aware that these deficiencies hinder them.

If tomorrow the table for a dialog was set, it would be unlikely that we would hear a speech from the Cuban opposition as well articulated as that achieved by their Venezuelan colleagues. However, although negotiation isn’t a current possibility, no one should be exempted from preparing for it. Cuba needs for the people before those possible microphones to be those who best represent the interests of the nation, its worries, its dreams. They may speak for us, the citizens, but please, do so coherently, without verbal violence and with arguments that convince us.

46 thoughts on “The Venezuelan Dialogue, From a Cuban Point of View


    The American Library Association, specifically the Office of Intellectual Freedom, has since 1990 maintained a list of books that have at some point in history been banned or censored in the United States (though none of the titles below are banned today).[1]

  2. Omar,

    I have not checked out all the titles you listed, because I don’t have times to check out all your lies.

    But you last post is another example of the extent totalitarian minds go to twist the truth.

    The Grapes of Wrath was never banned in the USA. A few county libraries refused to carry it.

    But it was not banned in those counties. Anyone could have bought it and carried it around openly and read it in public, as I’m sure they did.

    Some Americans burned Elvis records and some stations refused to play him, but Elvis was never “banned” in the USA.

    When a book is banned in Cuba, it means it is illegal to sell it or carry it anywhere in the country.

    It means if you get caught with it in your possession, you could be fired from your job. Years ago you could be jailed, or even shot, depending what the banned material was.

    You won’t find a critical book of Castro at any bookstore or library in Cuba.

  3. Hank: Cuba is not the only country that engage in book censorship….good old U.S.A. does it too:

    The American Library Association, specifically the Office of Intellectual Freedom, has since 1990 maintained a list of books that have at some point in history been banned or censored in the United States (though none of the titles below are banned today).[1]
    The Canterbury Tales[2]
    The Decameron[2]
    Fanny Hill[4]
    The Federal Mafia[5]
    The Grapes of Wrath[6]
    Homo Sapiens, withdrawn from sale by the publisher after being labeled obscene.[7]
    Lady Chatterley’s Lover[8]
    The Meritorious Price of Our Redemption[9]
    Moll Flanders[10]
    My Life and Loves[11]
    Naked Lunch[12]
    Operation Dark Heart[13]
    Tropic of Cancer[14]
    Uncle Tom’s Cabin[16]
    United States – Vietnam Relations: 1945–1967[17]


    REPORTERS WITHOUT BORDERS CUBA: Journalist held for past ten days, charged with “terrorism” – Thursday 17 April 2014.

    Reporters Without Borders condemns independent journalist Juliet Michelena Díaz’s detention since 7 April, three days before the publication of a by-lined report she wrote for the Miami-based independent news platform Cubanet about a case of ordinary police violence she had witnessed in Havana.
    Michelena, who was arrested in a heavy-handed police operation, is a member of the Cuban Network of Community Journalists (RCCC), an organization that defends freedom of information. The police often break up its meetings and arrest participants, but the arrests are usually of short duration.

    The charges against Michelena have changed since her arrest. Initially accused of “threatening a neighbour,” she is now charged with “terrorism.” Despite the absence of any evidence, the nature of the charge prevents a quick release, which is otherwise often the case with arbitrary arrests in Cuba.

    “We urge the authorities to free Michelena without delay and drop all charges against her,” said Lucie Morillon, head of research at Reporters Without Borders. “The decision to bring a more serious charge indicates a desire to silence her and put a stop to all her critical reporting. Police violence is nonetheless far from being a subject that Cubans can easily forget.”

    Independent journalists are subject to constant judicial harassment in Cuba. Arbitrary arrests are used to undermine their ability to work and to restrict the flow of information.

    Michelena was already arrested on 26 March, when she was released after a few hours. Police officers attacked the independent journalist Dania Virgen García on 12 April, as she was dropping her nephew off at school. Two state TV journalists who began to film the attack were also immediately arrested. The three women were released that evening.

    Reporters Without Borders wrote to French foreign minister Laurent Fabius ahead of his visit to Havana on 10 April asking him to raise the issue of arrests of journalists. RWB believes that an improvement in economic relations between Cuba and European Union countries should not be at the expense of Cuba’s journalists.

    Three other journalists and bloggers are currently detained in Cuba. They are Yoenni de Jesús Guerra García, who was arrested last October and was given a seven-year jail term in March; Angel Santiesteban-Prats, who has been held for more than a year; and José Antonio Torres, a reporter for the official newspaper Granma who was given a 14-year sentence in July 2012.

    Cuba is ranked 170th out of 180 countries in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index – the lowest position of any country in the Americas.,46165.html


    MIAMI HERALD:Condom shortage hits Cuba By Juan O. Tamayo

    First, potatoes disappeared from Cuban markets. They are back, but police are struggling to keep throngs of frantic buyers in check. And now there are shortages of beer and condoms, with some shops charging up to $1.30 for each prophylactic.

    Havana blogger Miriam Celaya wrote that a woman friend had joked that if in the 1990s she had to buy condoms instead of hard-to-find balloons for her son’s birthday party, today she might have to buy him balloons so he can practice safe sex.

    Cuban ruler Raúl Castro has repeatedly declared that the island is moving, slowly but steadily, away from its highly inefficient Soviet economic model and toward a more-productive system that mixes socialism with small doses of private enterprise.

    Yet Cubans are complaining almost daily about shortages, sometimes in one province and not in another, sometimes in some stores and not others, and sometimes about one item and not another — for instance, no galvanized roofing sheets but lots of nails.

    Havana author Polina Martínez Shvietsova wrote that the shortage of condoms in state-run pharmacies started about 15 days ago, although shops that cater mostly to foreigners still sell the prophylactics at $1.30 each — a day’s wage for the average Cuban.

    “In the great majority of pharmacies in the [Havana] municipality of Playa, there’s a shortage,” she wrote. “In the municipality of Plaza, in the pharmacy at 23rd and 24th Streets, the salespeople said, ‘We have none, and we don’t know when they will arrive.’ . . .

    “Nevertheless, all of the pharmacies that have no condoms do have signs recommending safe sex,” Martinez wrote in her report published in Cubanet, a Miami-based website for independent journalists.

    The Communist Party’s newspaper in the province of Villa Clara, Vanguardia, tried to explain the reasons for the condom shortage in an April 3 report, and all but drowned in a sea of unanswered questions and typically complex acronyms for government agencies.

    CECMED, a state agency that tests medicines and medical items, ruled in 2012 that the “Moment” condoms bought from China had the wrong expiration date and ordered that they be repackaged showing they are good until 2014, according to the newspaper.

    But ENSUME, the state-run wholesaler that supplies EMCOMED, which in turn supplies condoms to state pharmacies, restaurants and camping grounds, simply has not been able to repackage them quickly enough, Vanguardia added.

    ENSUME director Juan Carlos Gonzalez said his enterprise has more than one million condoms in its warehouses, the newspaper reported. But its workers can repackage only 1,440 strips of three per day, and the province alone requires about 5,000 per day.



    BBC NEWS: Venezuela rejects amnesty for jailed protest leaders

    The Venezuelan government has dismissed calls by the opposition for an amnesty for jailed protest leaders. Government and opposition representatives met for a second time on Tuesday to try to put an end to two months of anti-government protests. Following the meeting, Ramon Aveledo of the opposition MUD coalition said his proposal for an amnesty law had been rejected. More than 40 people have died in recent protest-related violence. ‘Slow progress’ Hundreds of people have been detained since the protests began in early February. The majority have since been released but a number of high-profile opposition politicians are still in detention. Among those still in jail are Popular Will party leader Leopoldo Lopez, who has been charged with inciting violence, and the mayors of the cities of San Cristobal and San Diego, Daniel Ceballos and Enzo Scarano. Mr Aveledo said the opposition would now “seek other ways” to address the problem of “political prisoners”
    Vice-President Jorge Arreaza said progress had been made in the four-hour-long talks. He said both sides had agreed to respect the constitution and condemned any use of violence. The vice-president said the parties had decided to widen a truth commission investigating allegations of excessive use of force by both the security forces and protesters. Mr Aveledo welcomed the move, saying the commission would now have “wider representation, with personalities of national life, known personalities that are trustworthy to everyone”. Spreading discontent Forty-one people, including members of the National Guard and demonstrators, have been killed in incidents linked to the protests.

  7. Neutral Observer,


    You know this as well as I do.

    The castro dictatorship defines 21st century extremism. For the castros, it is all about power and staying in power for decades.

    Whatever it takes.

    In the case of the castros during their 55 year crime spree, that has meant outright murder, assassination, torture, imprisonment, intimidation and the creation of a police state to control and subjugate the people of Cuba.

    I love Nick’s latest post attacking poets.

    Nick, the defender of all that is right and good and balance, is now attacking poets!

    That is extraordinary and has opened up a whole host of new issues to explore with unfortunate Nick.

    Nick’s insanity fits well with the insanity that is the castro dictatorship.

  8. YOUTUBE: S.O.S VENEZUELA: INCREDIBLE! Here’s how the GNB (Venezuelan Police) ar pointing weapons against civilians in their homes. A Venezuelan denounced through social networks that GNB is using weapons of war against their homes, when they protest peacefully. The user ensures that this video shows evidence of what we are living with in Venezuela! The Nicolar Maduro “government” is using weapons of war against unarmed citizens.
    ¡INCREÍBLE! Así es como la GNB apunta armas de guerra contra civiles en sus residencias. Un venezolano denunció a través de redes sociales que la GNB apunta con armas de guerra hacia sus residencias, cuando protestan pacíficamente. El usuario asegura que en este video se evidencia “lo que se vive en Vzla“, y que son usadas “armas de guerra contra ciudadanos desarmados“.

  9. Here’s a very partial listing of the international human rights records of the two octogenarians running Cuba:

    Not surprising, except to the tin foil crowd, is that Cuba supported right-wing Argentine generals as they murdered leftists.

    After all, Castro also purged Cuba of all leftists who criticized him in any way.

    He then called the leftists who had fought against Batista “right-wing Bastianos”, a slogan repeated to this day by some of our tin foil posters.

    The bizarre world of extremist politics, only lunatics and ignoramuses allowed in.

  10. Simba, My Dear Old Chap,
    Nick Sez;
    If ‘having nothing worthwhile to say’ were to be established as an art form to compare with…
    lets say…
    …then you would be right up there with the likes of Emerson, Longfellow, E.A. Poe and Whitman.

  11. Hi HUMBY!!
    Still working yourself into a copy and paste frenzy trying desperately to convince your small audience with your bizarre conspiracy theories that the regional oil giant, Venezuela, is being run by two octogenarians from the east of lil old Cuba.
    You may convince yourself and one or two other lame-brains that log on here…
    But C’mon dear old HUMBY!
    Get into the real world fella….

  12. EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT VIDEO: Exchange of views on the situation in Venezuela by Maria Corina Machado, Member of the their Parliament & Director of Colombia’s NTN24 News Claudia Gurisatti. Those two beautiful women are an ARMY by themselves!! SORRY, SPANISH ONLY! TILL I CAN FIND AN ENGLISH VERSION! PLEASE SHARE, SHARE, SHARE!

  13. Simba Sez: Nick most everyone who reads these comments realize you have nothing worthwhile to say, but must you prove it on a daily basis? Not really becoming to you old chap.

  14. The right wind Christian fundamentalist, Angel Carromero, is the latest in the armada of empty vessels in which Hank feels the need to deposit the fools-gold bullion of his warped inheritance.

  15. Hank accuses Omar of ‘nonsensical stream-of-consciousness posts’.
    This would be like Yul Brynner saying that Jesus Christ is a baldy-head.

    YOUTUBE: S.O.S. VENEZUELA – Repression in Venezuela (ENGLISH)- Represión en Venezuela (Versión inglés). Ayúdanos a difundir y que el mundo entero conozca como la dictadura en Venezuela viola los derechos humanos

  17. Omar,

    If I were to travel to Havana tomorrow, could I walk in to a book store and find a copy of Angel Carromero’s book

    “Muerte Bajo Sospecha – Toda La Verdad Sobre El Caso”

    As you well know, this is a book written by the person who was driving the car in which Oswaldo Paya was last seen alive.

    Carromero says that the car he was driving was rammed from behind by Cuban government agents. Paya died shortly thereafter.

    I have a copy of the book. Could I also get a copy of the book in Havana were I to visit that place tomorrow?

    Is the book available in Cuba for people to read?

  18. Omar,

    Debunking your nonsensical stream-of-consciousness posts is a full time job.

    You say “Cubans have a voice in Cuba, but, not the voice of dissent…”

    Why is that, Omar? Why can’t Cubans disagree with their government without being assassinated, imprisoned or arrested? Why can’t Cubans dissent? Why?

    You say “there is no Freedom in the World for anybody…”

    Do you really believe that?

    I walk down the street every day in perfect freedom.

    Millions of people travel from continent to continent, in perfect freedom.

    People write books that are not censored and people read those books, in perfect freedom.

    Countries have free elections and decide who they want their elected officials to be, in perfect freedom.

    None of that exists in Cuba, does it Omar. You know the answer.


    I’ll tell you the answer, which you already know. It is because Cuba is ruled by a totalitarian dictatorship which brooks no dissent and tolerates no divergent opinion.


    FOX NEWS LATINO: Cuba makes Good Friday an official holiday
    Cuba has now made Good Friday an official national holiday after restoring that Catholic feast as an “exceptional” measure when Pope Benedict XVI visited the island in 2012.

    The new Labor Code, passed by the National Assembly in December, established Good Friday as a holiday “every year,” Communist Party daily Granma said Tuesday.

    Since the new regulation will take effect in June, the Labor and Social Security Ministry issued a special ruilng to make this Friday a day off work.

    The first Good Friday that Cuba celebrated in decades was on April 6, 2012, following a request made by Benedict XVI to President Raul Castro during his March 26-28 visit to the island.

    In 2013, the government maintained the holiday but without mentioning that the reason for it was to celebrate Good Friday.

    Benedict’s request brought continuity to what was started by his predecessor, John Paul II, on the visit he made to Cuba in 1998, when he persuaded Fidel Castro to make Christmas a holiday again.

    Separately, the Cuban Catholic Church announced that national state television will broadcast Wednesday a depiction of the Passion that took place in the Havana Cathedral.

    Last year, state television aired live the Good Friday service officiated by Cardinal Jaime Ortega in Havana Cathedral.

    After the victory of Fidel Castro’s Revolution en 1959, relations between the Cuban regime and the Catholic Church were marked by tension over the expulsion of priests and the suppression of religious celebrations.

    The historic visit of Juan Pablo II in 1998 began a new phase of detente, but it was during the presidency of Raul Castro – Fidel’s younger brother – when relations visibly improved.

    In 2010, Gen. Castro opened an unprecedented dialogue with the Catholic hierarchy that led to a process of freeing political prisoners.

    In Cuba, Holy Week coincides this year with a school holiday commemorating Fidel Castro’s defeat of the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion. EFE

  20. HumbertoCapiro: you are right …:) :) ….even bankers have a funny side to them….:)

  21. Omar Fundora!! YOU GOT TO LOVE THIS LINE FROM YOUR TOILET PAPER POST DEAR!! IT “CRACKS ME UP”!!! JE JE JE! “…these emergency measures will be enough to paper over the cracks in Venezuela’s price controls”

  22. these emergency measures will be enough to paper over the cracks in Venezuela’s price controls.


    BUSINESSWEEK/BLOOMBERG: Brink’s Tumbles After Venezuela Devaluation Spurs Writedown (4) – by Katia Porzecanski

    BEST QUOTE: “These companies that are booking fictional profits are going to actually start generating losses,” Yaron Reuven, president of Reuven Capital Investments LP, said in an interview. “Those bolivars are useless.”

    Brink’s Co. plunged (BCO:US) the most in two years after saying it will write down the value of its Venezuelan assets, showing how last month’s 88 percent currency devaluation is squeezing companies with cash in the country.

    Brink’s move may foreshadow similar steps by DirecTV and MercadoLibre Inc., companies that have enough money in Venezuela that switching to the 50 bolivars-per-dollar exchange rate will damp earnings, according to Jonathan Rosenthal, the co-founder of hedge fund Newfoundland Capital Management. He says his fund has been shorting shares of DirecTV and Brink’s, which tumbled 11 percent to $25.34 today in New York.

    “Now it will be clear as day to their bankers that this business doesn’t generate nearly the same amount of cash as they thought,” Rosenthal, whose fund is based in the Cayman Islands, said in an e-mailed response to questions.

    The situation is a “much, much worse scenario than what the company’s portraying,” Reuven said in a telephone interview from New York. “It’s almost become the equivalent of subprime mortgages. You really didn’t know what they were worth until it was already too late.”


    Price Control in Venezuela is having the same effect on businesses there as cheap labor and reduction or inaction of raising tariffs by the U.S. had on manufacturers of consumer products in the U.S. during the exodus of manufacturing that started when we embraced the Service Economy during the Ronald Regan Administration. Americans employed in the manufacturing sector lost their jobs is bunches and had to take jobs in the retail industry, people that work in this industry cannot pay their bills without government programs still today in the U.S…so there you have it ….a Rich Capitalistic Democratic Republic Nation and a New Socialist Democracy causing hard times for their citizens for trying to do the right thing. The U.S., believing in international trade without tariffs or selective tariff system removed a large % of the population from the Middle Class and made them poor by reducing their income with their actions. Venezuela trying to help the poor pushes the Middle Class who are self-employed to sale their goods to foreigners because they can make more money for themselves, leaving their compatriots going hungry so they can live in unsustainable abundance…the problem in both countries is the Rich and their addiction to abundance and more and more….

    BoAML lays the blame for the crisis on the country’s price controls – the country’s “Superintendency of Just Prices” judges the highest fair price of a single roll at 4.48 Venezuelan bolivars, or $0.06 at the unofficial market rate.

    However, across the border in Colombia, BoAML says that a cheap roll of toilet paper costs nearly ten times as much, at about $0.54, suggesting that toilet roll supplies are finding their way out of the country as illicit exports.

    Bank of America’s Francisco Rodriguez spells it out: “These big price differences create severe distortions in economic incentives that generate and exacerbate scarcity of imported goods, particularly in those cases where price controls are strictly enforced.”

    He adds that the government believes 30-40 per cent of food imports are smuggled into the neighbouring country for similar reasons, since the mark-up that can be made from price-controlled goods is so large.

    While the government has tried to ration basic items like toiletries, so far it doesn’t look like these emergency measures will be enough to paper over the cracks in Venezuela’s price controls.

    BBC NEWS VIDEO STORY: Searching for internet access in Communist Cuba. – The BBC’s Sarah Rainsford reports from Havana on Cuba’s life “offline” in the 21st Century. Cuba’s Communist government has always maintained tight control over information. All media on the island are state-controlled and access to the internet is restricted. Only a privileged few are allowed online at home and there is little public wifi and no web access on telephones.But there are signs that could be changing with the opening of new, public access internet centres, mobile email, and promises of more to come soon. Many Cubans are impatient for that moment.

    FINANCIAL TIMES OPINION: Cuba fed a president’s fears and took over Venezuela – by Moisés Naím

    The enormous influence that Cuba has gained in Venezuela is one of the most underreported geopolitical developments of recent times. It is also one of the most improbable. Venezuela is nine times bigger than Cuba, three times more populous, and its economy four times larger. The country boasts the world’s largest oil reserves. Yet critical functions of the Venezuelan state are either overseen or directly controlled by Cuban officials.

    Venezuela receives Cuban health workers, sports trainers, bureaucrats, security personnel, militias and paramilitary groups. “We have over 30,000 members of Cuba’s Committees for the Defence of the Revolution in Venezuela,” boasted Juan José Rabilero, then head of the CDR, in 2007. The number is likely to have increased further since then.

    A growing proportion of Venezuela’s imports are channelled through Cuban companies. Recently, Maria Corina Machado, an opposition leader, revealed the existence of a large warehouse of recently expired medicines imported through a Cuban intermediary – drugs allegedly purchased on the international market at a deep discount and resold at full price to the government.

    The relationship goes beyond subsidies and advantageous business opportunities for Cuban agencies. Cuban officers control Venezuela’s public notaries and civil registries. Cubans oversee the computer systems of the presidency, ministries, social programmes, police and security services as well as the national oil company, according to Cristina Marcano, a journalist who has reported extensively on Cuba’s influence in Venezuela.

    Then there is military co-operation. The minister of defence of a Latin American country told me: “During a meeting with high-ranking Venezuelan officers we reached several agreements on co-operation and other matters. Then three advisers with a distinctive Cuban accent joined the meeting and proceeded to change all we had agreed. The Venezuelan generals were clearly embarrassed but didn’t say a word . . . Clearly, the Cubans run the show.”


  27. Agreed Hank,

    True totalitarians, the Castros. Once you got that absolute monarchy in place, it is hard to let go and share.

    They will share their factories and profits with IKEA, but sharing political power with the Cuban people is not possible for the Castros.

    A free election in Cuba would be absolutely humiliating to both the Castros and the Armchair Socialists who support them.

    It would also be the end of Castro’s military support for Maduro, FARC, and dozens of other criminal empires.

  28. Omar writes:

    “there is no Freedom in the World for anybody…”

    I thought you were free to write whatever you want on this blog, Omar?

    You and Castro must be the winners, the Cuban people the losers.

  29. Hank: Cubans have a voice in Cuba, but, not the voice of dissent….no matter where in the World you live, there will always be People that support governance and People who want to change it. As long as scarcity is part of living, there will always be dissent….we live in a World of winners and losers naturally and Man invented his economic systems copying nature’s system of winners and losers…not very smart at all…as long as Man thinks that the grass is greener just over the horizon…they want to go there …politically, economically or environmentally…there is no Freedom in the World for anybody…we have to live by the laws of nature and the laws of Man….

  30. neutral observer: do you like to scan through it….then don’t complain…have some milk and cookies…. :) :)

  31. I really like this latest post of Yoani’s.

    Her point is there is no dialog in Cuba between the authoritarians who rule that place and the subjugated masses who have no voice. That’s because totalitarians don’t recognize other points of view.

    Against the backdrop of whatever semblance of dialog is going on in Venezuela, the message I get from Yoani’s post is Cubans get it. They see the difference between Cuba and every other place on Earth where dialog exists between those who rule and those who are governed.

    I think what Yoani is also saying is that it is time for the Cuban dissidence to put differences aside and come together.

    The time for that important unity is approaching.

  32. HAVANA (Reuters) – Cuba’s slow, cautious reforms to revive its state-run economy suddenly burst into life at businesses like Karabali, a Havana nightclub owned by a 21-member cooperative.

    The communist government began leasing Karabali to its employees just six months ago and now the once sleepy club is regularly packed with more than 100 customers from midnight until dawn despite competition from dozens of private and state-run night spots in the city.

    Out on bustling 23rd Street in the Vedado district, bright multicolored lights beckon a young, almost entirely Cuban crowd into Karabali to see live music on weekends.

    Even on Wednesdays, when only recorded music plays, the place is jumping as hip-swiveling patrons dance on stage to rumba.

    A feeling of ownership has replaced the apathy that afflicts many state enterprises, and the cooperative’s members are optimistic. There is a buzz about the place, their salaries have been tripled, and they get a cut of the profits.

    “We have more of a sense that this belongs to us,” said Heydell Alom, who has spent 11 of his 38 years tending bar at the club. “Here no one steals. This place belongs to everyone. We earn depending on what we can accomplish without any problems from the government.”

    Cuban authorities are turning more and more state businesses into cooperatives and providing incentives for small private companies to do the same. Some 450 have been created over the past year, and there are plans for thousands more.

    The initiative is one of the market-oriented reforms ordered by President Raul Castro since he took over from his ailing brother Fidel in 2008.

    While Raul Castro says his reforms are about strengthening Cuban socialism, they have led to the emergence of thousands of private businesses since 2010, ranging from restaurants to electronics repair shops to mom and pop retail outlets.

    Less well known and less common are the cooperatives but they are part of a political balancing act for the government, which needs to move hundreds of thousands of workers off the state payroll but also wants to slow the rise of capitalism.

    In many ways it prefers cooperatives, where each worker has a stake in the business, to private businesses where owners make profits based on the work of their employees.

    As is typical with Cuban reforms, the push to establish more cooperatives has started as an experiment that will be expanded if it is deemed to be successful.

    Its supporters see it as a way of allowing free enterprise, like other communist governments have done, while limiting an inevitable surge of income disparities.

    “The model is different from China and Vietnam,” said a Cuban economist who specializes in cooperatives. “We have the advantage of learning from their experience.”

    No other county has tried to convert state companies into cooperatives on such a large scale, said the economist, who requested anonymity due to a ban on speaking to journalists without permission.

    The cooperatives include restaurants, cafes, wholesale and retail produce markets, construction firms, manufacturers of clothing and furniture, bus companies and car washes, recycling operations, body shops, computing and accounting services, beauty salons, night clubs and even dealers of exotic birds.

    They operate independently of state entities and businesses and set prices according to the market in most cases.

    Some have thrived. Others have yet to grasp what it means to compete in the marketplace.


    The Divina Pastora restaurant enjoys prime real estate beneath the historic Moro Castle, a tourist attraction with a spectacular view of the capital across Havana Bay.

    Though the place fills up at lunchtime with busloads of tourists visiting the castle, evenings are another matter. On one recent Saturday night, it was nearly empty despite perfect weather.

    No one from the cooperative had suggested a plan to attract a dinner or late night crowd in order to improve profits, according to one member, a young woman waiting tables.

    The restaurant is a former state enterprise that closed last year and reopened as a cooperative, yet the new staff was never given a chance to select its leader

    “How can we elect the administrator when he was the one who hired us?” said the woman, who declined to give her name and didn’t seem to know if he was also new or the only remaining staff member of the place from when it was run by the state.

    Karabali, which lies across Havana Bay, is a clear success.

    The club is in a prime location on a strip where thousands of young people go out to have fun from evening to dawn, strolling 23rd Street from the famous Copelia ice cream parlor and former Hilton hotel down to the seaside drive.

    The 21 cooperative members plan to remodel Karabali, starting with the cafeteria, which was left in shambles by the state.

    “After finishing the cafeteria we plan to invest our money to make other improvements,” said Alom, the bartender.

    Each member of the cooperative earns 750 pesos ($31) a month, three times the 250 pesos they received when it was state-run. They also divide up the profits every three months.

    “We are free from the regulations of state businesses,” said the cooperative’s accountant, Ariel Rodriguez. “We all feel this place is ours. No extraterrestrial tells us what is good and bad, when and how to pay wages, what artist we can hire or who will do our repairs and remodeling.”


    Most of the cooperatives visited by Reuters fell between the extremes of the Divina Pastora and Karabali.

    The Bella Bella 2 de Belleza Cooperative, once a well known state-run beauty parlor in Vedado, has been reborn as a cooperative and competes with private businesses by appealing to a less affluent clientele.

    “We have set prices higher than when we were a state company, but less than prices on the street (at private businesses),” said hair stylist Sandra Menendez, who now makes 7,000 pesos ($292) per month as a cooperative member, compared with 400 pesos ($17) plus tips when she worked for the state.

    But others at the 27-member cooperative grumbled about a domineering former administrator turned president, or about their pay.

    “We have some benefits, but my salary is more or less the same as when this wasn’t a cooperative,” said Danisley Napoles, a manicurist whose job is less specialized than that of a stylist and brings in less revenue.

    The law governing cooperatives allows for an unlimited number of members and the use of contracted employees on a three-month basis. Members elect their officers and also participate in decisions ranging from pay scales to investment.

    “Cooperatives have priority over small private businesses because they are a more social form of production and distribution,” Marino Murillo, who heads the Communist Party’s commission to revamp the Soviet-style economy, told the National Assembly in December.

    Murillo said they paid less taxes and had some access to the state’s wholesale system while private businesses have to buy their supplies at retail markets and outlets.

    Still, it is the government that makes the decision on whether a state business is turned into a cooperative and the existing employees are given no say. They either accept it or are laid off.

    That top-heavy approach, a lack of adequate training and Cuba’s poor business environment all weigh on cooperatives and their success or failure depend largely on how well prepared their leaders and members are.

    A state television program called the Culture of Cooperatives runs on Sundays, focusing on their history, the law and management. The Cuban economist said the show is a good start to giving cooperatives training but that the government needs to do more to help them succeed rather than rush to create them without proper support.

    “They should put on the brakes a bit, move slowly and put more emphasis on quality over quantity,” he said. “And most of all, improve training.”


    LOS ANGELES MAGAZINE: Escape from Cuba: Yasiel Puig’s Untold Journey to the Dodgers – The shocking saga of Major League Baseball’s most controversial playe. – by Jesse Katz.

    In a no-tell motel on Isla Mujeres, eight miles off the coast of Cancún, Yasiel Puig’s escape had come to a halt. Confined to a corner room at the end of a shabby horseshoe-shaped courtyard, he could only wait and hope, for his value to be appraised, his freedom to be bought. There was nothing personal about it, no loved one vowing to pay any price, only the calculus of a crude business. What was this gladiator-size man, with the Popeye forearms and the XXL chest, actually worth—to the people bankrolling his defection from Cuba, to the smugglers now holding him in Mexico, to the agents and scouts who would determine the U.S. market for his talents, to the baseball team that might ultimately write the check?

    For close to a year Puig had been trying to force an answer, to extract himself from Fidel Castro’s state-run sports machine, which paid him $17 a month, and sneak across the tropics to a mythical north, where even benchwarmers lived like kings. Two, three, four times, maybe more, he had risked everything and fled, only to be detained by the Cuban authorities or intercepted by the U.S. Coast Guard—each failure making the next attempt more urgent. Finally, in June 2012, the 21-year-old outfielder left his home in Cienfuegos, on Cuba’s southern shore, and set off by car for the northern province of Matanzas, just 90 miles from Florida. He was traveling with three companions: a boxer, a pinup girl, and a Santeria priest, the latter of whom blessed their expedition with a splash of rum and a sprinkle of chicken blood.

    They were met at the water’s edge by a cigarette boat, long and narrow and fast, which instead of racing straight to Miami took them west and then south, following a 350-mile arc to the Yucatán Peninsula. Under Major League Baseball’s byzantine rules and the U.S. Treasury Department’s outdated restrictions, the only way for a Cuban ballplayer to become a free agent—and score a fat contract—is to first establish residency in a third country. That detour is a fiction, winked at from all sides, and one that gives traffickers command over the middle crossing. The five men piloting Puig’s vessel, mostly Cuban Americans, belonged to a smuggling ring whose interests ranged from human cargo to bootleg yachts to bricks of cocaine. At least two were fugitives—one, on the run from a federal indictment in Miami, was alleged to have extorted Cubans traveling this very route. They were all in the pocket of Los Zetas, the murderous Mexican drug cartel, which charged the smugglers a “right of passage” to use Isla Mujeres as a base.


    April 2014
    Credit Risk Rating: 9
    Bias: Stable
    Slowly but surely the economy has been grinding to a halt because of the dearth of hard currency that has drastically curtailed imports in a country that has to purchase abroad about 70% of the goods it consumes. Inflation, largely fueled by currency devaluation, is running at 56%, currently the fastest in the world. Shortages of basic foodstuffs, medicines and spare parts already abound and no pressure from the regime on importers, wholesalers and retailers (including seizure and nationalization) has been able to change this.


    Business associations estimate that Venezuelan companies currently owe overseas suppliers about USD 14 billion, but have been unable to pay them as the government has reduced the amount of dollars on offer to protect its dwindling hard-currency reserves. The main prob-lem, of course, is that Chavismo has spectacularly mismanaged the country’s oil wealth. Official international monetary reserves have dwindled to around USD 20 billion, yet the country has debt principal payments of USD 4.5 billion falling due this year and as much as USD 13 billion in interest. Issuing international bonds to plug holes is becoming increasing-ly difficult for Venezuela as investors, understandably, are beginning to wonder where in the pecking order bondholders will wind up if the government decides to reprioritize im-ports over debt.


    The country’s worst civil unrest in a decade has already killed at least 20 people, including supporters of both sides and members of the security forces since early last month. The violence of some of the protests has alienated moderates in the ranks of the opposition and, since it shows no sign of toppling President Nicolas Maduro, it has led to deepening divi-sions within the opposition Democratic Unity (MUD) alliance. It would be wrong to con-clude from this, however, that the conflict is nearing its end. There are signs of fracture also within the ranks of government supporters, where the official line of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela is still that the opposition is trying to mount a “fascist coup,” but others are willing to admit that the economic crisis is behind the protests and the authorities ought to cease their repression.


    The government is about to start operating the new Sicad 2 exchange market, but with the rules still unclear it is questionable whether FX availability will improve a great deal. Sicad 2 essentially is not a foreign exchange market, but again a complicated auction-like system in which those seeking to purchase hard currency may or may not get what they want in each case. As far as one knows now, individuals and companies will be allowed to buy and sell foreign exchange daily in cash or bonds through banks and brokerages, and the Central Bank as well as the state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA (Petroven, or PdVSA) can sell bonds and dollars in Sicad 2. The government, assertedly, will offer “significant” foreign currency to the market and there is to be no preset band or rate, so that market forc-es will play some role in establishing the FX rate. Still, since the authorities will maintain the 6.3 bolivars per dollar rate and the 11.8 one for the other two FX platforms, dollar availability will be limited, with PdVSA, which earns 95% of Venezuela’s foreign curren-cy, being the key supplier. The Central Bank “may intervene to avoid or counteract the im-pact of erratic fluctuations.” Transactions are to be completed within 48 hours of a deal.


    Pres. Maduro has obtained from parliament decree powers allowing him to create laws on his own, without legislative approval.



    The US Eximbank remains officially off cover, whether the customer is a private company
    or a government entity. Except for PdVSA, though, the Bank can still consider financing
    arrangements that eliminate or externalize country risks. Also, coverage under the WCGP
    may be available for a transaction that is supported by an irrevocable L/C issued by a bank
    and/or due from a buyer located in a country where Exim is open without restrictions for
    short-term transactions. The private insurance market has limited capacity except for

    The time to get paid via the Cadivi route can now run up to a year. Some exporters to Venezuela
    require warranty deposits offshore prior to shipment. Firms in Venezuela depend
    heavily on imported materials or parts, and they often cannot get the needed dollars at the
    official exchange rate. Foreign companies operating in Venezuela are subject to particular
    scrutiny, which should be one of the considerations in establishing terms for Venezuelan
    customers. Meanwhile, a key question continues to be whether a customer has sufficient
    access to Cadivi and/or Sicad dollars, and if not, whether the company can afford to pay
    black-market rates for hard currency.

    General Condition: Poor

    Exporters Using L/C: 73.2%, with 85.5% of business

    Trends In Credit Terms: More liberal: 0.0%; Less liberal: 14.7%; No change, 85.3%
    Average DSO 96 Days

    Collection Experience Past Four Months Risk Perception Past Four Months
    Commercial Government Commercial Government

    Payment Made Buyers Buyers Risk Seen As Transactions Transactions
    Prompt 3.2% 1.4% Minimal 3.3% 2.2%
    In 10-30 days 5.7% 4.4% Low 4.2% 3.7%
    In 31-60 days 21.4% 19.3% Moderate 15.5% 13.4%
    In 61-90 days 22.2% 21.7% High 43.6% 39.8%
    Over 90 days 47.5% 53.2% Extremely High 33.4% 40.9%


    THE DAILY BEAST: Venezuela’s Agony: Weak President, Strong Generals, Riots and Cocaine Barely a year after the death of the charismatic, problematic President Hugo Chávez, his successor, Nicolás Maduro, is flailing and the military is gaining

    In fact, the Venezuelan military—omnipresent but largely faceless as it makes collective decisions behind closed doors—is becoming the most powerful force in a country where the civilian government of Nicolás Maduro is continuing to lose its grip. Whether the military is corrupt as an institution, or simply has corrupt officers among others who are cleaner, the rise of the generals could present new problems for the United States on issues ranging from cocaine trafficking to oil markets. And what’s certain inside Venezuela is that militarization is helping to destroy the fragile remnants of the country’s democracy.

    Venezuela is in dire straits. It closed 2013 with 56 per cent inflation, and this year began with a massive devaluation of its currency. In a country that is one of the world’s great oil producers, subsidized foods which are vital to the poor are disappearing from the shelves, with only four of ten items likely to be available at any given time outside of Caracas. Lines at markets are long and the waits seemingly interminable. Since February, riots have broken out sporadically with 41 deaths so far. Opposition leaders have been thrown in jail. And murder has become, almost, a way of life. Venezuela has the second highest homicide rate in the world, after Honduras, according to the latest United Nations statistics.

    Where popular fervor ends, force begins and President Maduro has relied consistently on coercion. In July, to shore up support from the armed forces, he promoted 200 generals-—an all-time record. The local newspaper El Nacional calculated that Maduro assigned 368 members of the military to public office during his first nine months as president. The ministries of water and air transport, of the economy, foodstuffs, industry, electric energy, defense (of course), and the so-called “home affairs, justice and peace” ministry— all are military. Eleven out of 23 governors wear uniforms as well and even the president of the national airline, Conviasa, is a brigadier general.

    So far, Maduro’s falling popularity only means the triumph of militarization.

    The foundations certainly have been well laid. They date back to 1992, when young Lt. Col. Hugo Chávez staged a failed coup d’état in the name of national salvation. Later in the decade he and his allies, formally barred from service, mounted a concerted left-wing populist campaign that swept them to power in 1999. As president, Chávez installed some 1,200 soldiers in public office. Then, in 2007, he created the Milicias Bolivarianas, where as many as 800,000 civilians receive uneven military training and, in many cases, weapons. Official rhetoric implies that every Venezuelan is a potential soldier in what’s hailed as “civil-military union,” a motto repeated at every recent government rally.

    In practice, men in uniform have become a constant presence in markets and supermarkets where people spend three, sometimes even six hours trying to get subsidized products like milk or corn flour. The whole distribution chain is supervised by the military through organizations that decide where food goes and where it does not.


  36. U.S. plans a hands-off approach to civil unrest in Venezuela. It will leave it to Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro to stabilize the economy, racked by high inflation and a lack of credit for many small and midsize businesses. Washington believes that violent protests in the streets will be a sufficient motivator for Maduro to relax controls on the economy set by his predecessor, Hugo Chávez. Freeing up credit will take the pressure off businesses, making it possible for them to stock more food and other needed consumer goods, helping to alleviate tensions.


    REUTERS: Venezuela’s opposition demands inflation data

    CARACAS – Venezuela’s opposition has accused the government of delaying publication of March inflation data for political reasons, saying the annual rate has reached an alarming 60 percent.

    The Central Bank is supposed to publish the closely watched consumer price index in the first 10 days of the month, but delays sometimes occur.

    Venezuela has the highest inflation in the Americas, with the opposition saying that is evidence of the failure of socialism and President Nicolas Maduro blaming his opponents for sabotage, hoarding and economic “war” against him.

    “The Central Bank directors are violating their own norms .. it is unacceptable,” the opposition Democratic Unity coalition said in a statement at the weekend, demanding the immediate publication of March inflation and scarcity data.

    “Great damage is done to the nation when monetary authorities hide statistical information.”

    Opposition leader Henrique Capriles, who in the past has given accurate inflation figures before the bank citing sources of his in government, said via Twitter that March inflation was more than 4.0 percent.

    “That’s more than one year (inflation) for various Latin American nations!” he said. The scarcity index, which measures shortages of goods, had hit a new high, Capriles added.



    BBC NEWS: Venezuelan Globovision journalist Nairobi Pinto freed – 14 April 2014

    Venezuelan TV journalist Nairobi Pinto has been released, eight days after she was kidnapped.

    Ms Pinto, the assignment editor of the private news network Globovision, was freed in the city of Cua, near the Venezuelan capital, Caracas.

    She had been seized by gunmen outside her home in Caracas.

    Kidnappings, especially for ransom, are common in Venezuela, and a number of diplomats, businessmen and athletes have been abducted in recent years.

    While the majority of those kidnapped for ransom are released soon after being taken, some victims have been killed or died from injuries sustained during their ordeal.

    “The journalist Nairobi Pinto is already with us, alive and well,” a police chief, Douglas Rico, wrote on Twitter.
    String of abductions

    Hours later, she appeared and briefly spoke at a news conference in the Venezuelan capital.

    “They (the captors) treated me well. They never touched me, never mistreated me. I ate all three meals,” she said, sitting next to Venezuelan Interior Minister Rodriguez Torres.

    For his part, he said he believed she was released thanks to a large police operation of “almost 3,000 officers” to try to find her.

    “We think that the police pressure played an important role (in her liberation),” he said.


    Vatican City, 11 April 2014 (VIS) – On the occasion of the initiation of the “Dialogue for Peace” between the government and opposition groups in Venezuela, in which the Holy See has been invited as a mediator, the Holy Father has sent a message to President Nicolas Maduro Moros, members of government, representatives of the Democratic Unity Roundtable and the chancellors of UNASUR, to express his wish that “unity always prevail over conflict”: The message was read yesterday during the inaugural session of the event by Archbishop Aldo Giordano, apostolic nuncio to Venezuela. The full text is reproduced below:

    “Firstly, I would like to thank you for your invitation to the Holy See to participate in the process of dialogue and peace for your beloved country. To each one of you I wish first o all to assure my prayers that the meeting and the process you are undertaking may bear the desired fruit of national reconciliation and peace, gifts we invoke from God for the entire Venezuelan population.

    “I am aware of the disquiet and suffering experienced by many people and, while I express my concerns over what is happening, I renew my affection for all Venezuelans and in particular for the victims of the violence and their families. I am deeply convinced that violence can never lead to the peace and well-being of a country, since it always generates violence alone. On the contrary, through dialogue you are able to rediscover the common shared foundation that will lead you to overcome the current moment of conflict and polarisation, which so deeply wounds Venezuela, to find forms of collaboration. Respect for and acknowledgement of the differences that exist between the Parties will promote the common good. All of you, indeed, share the love for your countries and for your people, as well as serious concerns linked to the economic crisis, violence and criminality. You all have at heart the future of your children and the wish for peace that distinguishes Venezuelans. You all have in common your faith in God and the will to defend the dignity of the human person.

    It is precisely this that you have in common and which presses you to undertake the dialogue that begins today, at the base of which there must be an authentic culture of encounter, that is aware that unity always prevails over conflict. I encourage you, therefore, not to stop at this current situation of conflict, but rather to be open with each other in order to become authentic peacemakers. At the heart of every sincere dialogue there is, above all, acknowledgement and respect for the other. Above all there is the ‘heroism’ of forgiveness and mercy, which frees us from resentment and hatred, and opens a truly new path. It will be a long and difficult road that will require patience and courage, but it is the only one that can lead to peace and justice. For the good of all your people and for the future of your children, I ask you to find this courage.

    “With these sentiments I accompany the dear Venezuelan nation, and to each one of you I impart a heartfelt apostolic blessing, invoking the Lord’s help”.


    YOUTUBE: VICE News continues its coverage from Caracas, where students took to the streets once again to protest President Nicolas Maduro’s government and pay tribute to those killed in earlier protests. VICE News interviewed a leader of the student movement as well as the mayor of Caracas. The rally ended in more clashes — protesters threw rocks and improvised explosives, and police responded with tear gas and gun shots.

  41. EXCELLENT COVERAGE OF THE VENEZUELAN CONFLICT BY VICE NEWS is an international news channel created by and for a connected generation. Our documentaries and original news series bring you an unvarnished look at some of the most important events of our time, and shine a light on underreported stories around the globe. Unorthodox and at times irreverent, we get to the heart of the matter and call it like we see it.

    YOUTUBE VICE NEWS: VENEZUELA – Over the past six weeks in Venezuela, a coalition of political groups opposed to the President, Nicolas Maduro, and students angry over dramatic crime rates have taken to the streets in mass demonstrations. 13 people have died since the protests began and the Chavista government is deeply critical of the wave of demonstrations, accusing them of being a right-wing grab for power organized by bourgeois students and supported by the same political figures who attempted a coup over Hugo Chavez in 2002. Yesterday, Lilian Tintori, the wife of recently jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, lead a march to the headquarters of the National Guard.


    HAVANA TIMES — US film director Oliver Stone is surprised at the “verbal violence” on social networks prompted by his support of the Chavez government and has compared the Venezuelan opposition to “the right-wing Cuban exiles in southern Florida.”

    Stone, a confessed admirer of Venezuela’s political process, had announced that his 52-minute documentary Mi amigo Hugo (“My Friend Hugo”) was to air on the Venezuelan news channel Telesur this past Wednesday, as a tribute to the memory of former president Hugo Chavez, who passed away on March 5, 2013.

    The film gathers testimonies on the late Venezuelan president from relatives, friends, intellectuals and political leaders. It was shown on Argentinean public television simultaneously.

    “At least I had the guts to go down there and see it with my own eyes. Now I may not have seen everything, but I have a feeling that many of you who are writing to me are an embittered exile class, similar to the right-wing Florida Cuban exiles who’ve helped keep the US in a dungeon of ignorance rather than allowing oxygen to flow between two countries with differing points of view,” wrote Stone on his Facebook page.

    Vile and Ugly Comments

    “In all the social media I’ve been involved with over the years on film issues, history, and discussions of other counties—such as Japan, China, Russia, NATO, Afghanistan, Iraq, etc.—I have never seen such verbal violence,” the filmmaker declared.

    The 67-year-old Stone went further in his defense of the Venezuelan regime:

    “You can’t you imagine the US can be involved in organizing violent protests against the government? Do you not realize that Maduro won the municipal elections in December by more than 10%? (You say “fixed elections” after every election since 2000, but there is no honorable evidence),” the film director asked.

    Crazed Tea Party Republicans

    Further on, Stone compared his critics to US Tea Party extremists:

    “You act like a bunch of crazed U.S. Tea Party Republicans in your comments. Remember the ‘Brooks Brothers riot’ in Miami during the 2000 election debacle? You don’t read anything that’s different from what you think. You write to me calling me all kinds of horrible names. You don’t entertain any opposing ideas.”

    Stone told his detractors that “invective is not reason” and invited them to see his film.

    “That will, I’m sure, incentivize some of you to write me even more debased and horrible stuff. But some of you might watch the film at least. And keep your arguments and your tirades non-violent, non-threatening, and non-absolutist. Let’s elevate the debate. I Would much appreciate it. Thank you.”

    Stone is also the director of Comandante (2003), a controversial portrait of Fidel Castro which gathers 30 hours of interviews with the Cuban leaders shot between 2002 and 2003.

    – See more at:


    The voice of the courts

    And what of the jury? How have common citizens received this dialogue between government and opposition? Whether or not we are bothered by the fact, something exists that instantly amplifies our rivaling group thought, and that something we call Twitter.

    The street, the corner, the bar, the queue, the bus, and the shared taxi are popular courts of justice, where people debate topics of international and domestic interest. But the first vomitus, the first reaction, the first thermometer of political temperatures is always thrown into that virtual network. Andres Velasquez says something ridiculous, Ramos Allup tells a bad or brilliant joke, Boboza gives a yawn-worthy speech, Maduro lets slip another fumbling phrase, and half a minute later there are already 50 comments on the matter. In three minutes it’s not 50 but 500 comments, and in ten minutes the network is boiling in multifarious arguments and the swishing of arrows, images and judgments that are bitter, ingenious, sensational, or irresponsible.

    One is tempted to say: “The tweeters don’t count as public opinion because they’re just freaks who spend the whole day staring at their computer or phone.” But no, a tweeter is not a kind of alien, or anything more than an average citizen who has opinions and expresses them through the tools that the internet offers.

    So then that citizen, who simulates the feelings of many who don’t have twitter, that sudden author of instant reflection and commentary, last night released their first verdict: the government is the voice of the chavista project, and the MUD is just trying to capitalize on the violence of others. They are taking what isn’t theirs; some idiot kids went out to destroy, later some mercenaries went out to kill (which took the place of the guarimbas), and the MUD wants to reap the dividends by martyring some and protecting others.

    That’s not a chavista analysis: it’s what your average-ranking escuálido [opposition supporter] thinks of those big men who went to dialogue with the government they want to overthrow.

    The case of Henrique Capriles

    I mentioned above that all the MUD speakers referred to the economic issues, and “explained” how that was the origin of the protests. All except Capriles; his explanation consisted of an attempt to fool the listeners into thinking the country is unsettled because he isn’t president. His statements were just short of saying, “Everything started when they stole my elections, and I told you I was going to get you Nicolás!”

    Once again, the most defeated and isolated man in the meeting was this imbecile in whose honor a monument should be erected to the most out-of-place argument: everyone in attendance at Miraflores was there because they recognize there is a government and president. Everyone except him, who insists on the thesis that the government is illegitimate and stole his victory in the last elections.

    I don’t have any option but to paraphrase Chavez himself (the same verbal vice of the government)… “muchacho pa bobo” [ya dumb fool.]

    Where is this going

    The dialogue between the government and the opposition stimulated the circulation of this important piece of news: in Venezuela there are two bands, or opposite poles, who hate each other but are capable of arguing in the open ring within view of everyone…or also in private. As Aveledo sweetly proposed; “We will televise some meetings and keep others behind closed doors.” The Adecos [the dominant party in the pre-Chavez era] are the kings of closed-door negotiation and shady agreements, but in the end, all politics are required to do the same.

    So I believe that there will be at least two results of these conversations; the public result, consistent in that everyone, including fickle international public opinion, will now realize that the bitter Venezuelan disputes reveal nothing but the vigor of a Caribbean democracy, which is always ardent and sometimes childish. And the result “within the shadows,” which most likely will include a promise to not let the differences and designs lead to the spiraling of violence or the destruction of the adversary.

    Back to the beginning. Could it be that the MUD is in a position to stop the violence? Didn’t we agree that the financiers and inciters of the violence are others and elsewhere?

    Wait for comment from Miami to verify that last bit, and carry with you that doubt.

  44. The situation in Cuba is different then Venezuela. In Venezuela the M.U.D. Party has being around for a while. Venezuela has always being a multi-party nation were Cuba, for the last 55 years has only a one Party system. The Chavistas have being in control for a very long time. This was achieved with the Democratic vote. In Cuba, in 1959, the Communist take over was achieved with a revolutionary movement that depose the government of Fulgencio Batista. The Venezuelan 6 years plan to convert Venezuela into a Socialist Democratic Republic will have to be modified to allow a private sector to exist along with the nationalized industries to address the inefficiencies that an economy of economic substitutes can create. The economic problems in Venezuela of inflation, shortages and currency exchange are not all created by Maduro’s 6 year plan, these problems frequent Latin America. Argentina is also facing inflation, currency and high prices issues…Venezuela Socialist Model has to allow for a multi-party system….maybe like France instead of a one Party system like Cuba. In France, the Socialist Democratic Party is in control and there has not being a revolution over it…they have their plan, if it work, they get re-elected, if not the more Right Wing Party will get elected….the bottom line dissidents in Cuba are not like a political party of opposition in Venezuela….is like comparing apples to oranges….

  45. The road to a free society is often bumpy and both Cuba and Venezuela are likely to see many twists and turns before they get there.  But at least recent developments in both countries give reason for hope that they have both started this journey.

    Svend Hartmann

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