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A Real Openness in Cuba Calls For A Rectification

With the rise of General Raúl Castro to power in 2006, relieving his ailing brother Fidel, many thought that a new era was opening for Cuba. No one could tell whether this period would be better or worse from the previous one, although since the triumph of the Castroist revolution Raúl, the former minister of the Armed Forces, and second in the reins of power in the country, was regarded as radical due to his ruthlessness in punishing dissent in the early years of the current dictatorship.

To put an end to the initial uncertainty, the man that was hand-picked by Dictator Fidel Castro without explanation or accountability to the front of the state showed himself as a jocular fellow of short speeches. He repeatedly said that his elder brother was irreplaceable and that he had no intention to imitate him.

In 2009, a year after the establishment of the new Council of State, this old fogey Caribbean Robespierre —then 78 years old— showed his repressive essence by removing from a blows young figures from the vanguard of the nomenklatura that might darken and threaten his perfect design of power transition, considering their visibility and charisma. Amongst those defenestrated were Vice-president Carlos Lage and Chancellor Felipe Pérez-Roque. From the top of power, it was alleged that these two officials had shown disloyal attitudes and nonconformities with the new government’s management, in addition to the “terrible sacrilege” of mocking the Comandante (Fidel Castro) in private. The message sent this way was clear and precise: those who dare to disagree in our ranks will end up guillotined.

Having put the “family farm” in order, Raúl Castro turned to carry out minor reforms, such as the Law of Foreign Investment and the extension of activities allowed to Cuban citizens to work on their own. This last bill was intended to alleviate the dismissal of more than 500 thousand workers throughout the country. This process of reforms was given the pompous name of “Guidelines for Updating the Economic and Social Model.”

Several commercial lobbies from several nations enlisted to make investments in Cuba, which in their eyes offered a virgin market of 11 million people. This “new context” did not produce any improvement in the economic and labour rights of citizens, in spite of its high international resonance.

The culmination of this false process of political openness has been the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with the United States. Nevertheless, despite the clear symbolism of the exchange of ambassadors with Cuba’s “historic enemy”, the only real change was that Cubans understood that the fundamental reason of the economic crisis in our country was not the American embargo but the lack of our freedom and liberties.

Ten years of Raulist management have resulted in a very low minimum wage of 9 USD per month, the most expensive food in the whole region, a very deteriorated health and education infrastructure with increasingly scarce staff, an aggravated migratory crisis, as well as a controlled Internet access for the extortionate fee of 2 USD per hour (1440 USD/month) and without possibility of connecting to mobile phones or home. The emerging small-entrepreneur sector, suffocated by an unfair tax policy, has begun to demand improvement in the public protests. The regime has responded to these demands with its customary repression. The foreign investors complain that the government of Havana denies them business opportunities.

As for civil and political rights, peaceful opponents are being the victims of a repressive wave. Arbitrary arrests and detentions are up to a Cold War dictatorship. The Raúl Castro regime imprisoned hundreds of political activists around the country. At least 50 political prisoners, the UNPACU activists, have been arrested. The UNPACU is country’s the most prominent opposition group.
When this article was completed two of these political prisoners, Geordanis Muñoz and Rulisán Ramírez, were brutally beaten up by their gaolers, the prison guards.

Political analysts differ in their predictions of the beginning of a transition to democracy. Some see it in the change of attitude of the people and others in that of the rulers. The truth is that there is no hint of the latter in the “Greatest Antille”, that is Cuba.


Today the Cuban nation is yearning for freedom and its people demand it in the street demonstrations every day.

If a pro-democracy transition has been initiated in Cuba, it is because decent people like Elizardo Sánchez, Oswaldo Payá, José Daniel Ferrer, Guillermo Fariñas, Dagoberto Valdés, Yoani Sánchez, Berta Soler and many others —with the support of noble Cubans from the Diaspora— have been showing the way at a very high personal cost.

Today, the Cuban nation is yearning for freedom and its people demand it in the street demonstrations every day. It is certain that freedom will be won sooner or later. Any support offered in the most awkward moments will be highly appreciated by the Cuban people. Therefore, we urge the governments and institutions that visit our homeland and are indifferent towards independent civil society to rectify their position, because the Communist regime is doomed to failure and the future are people.

Carlos Amel Oliva is youth leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU)

This article is part of the campaign “My Weekly Denunciation against Castro’s Dictatorship” launched by the UNPACU and the Forum for a United America to raise awareness on the situation of Cuban people worldwide.

In solidarity with Cuban freedom fighters

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