Cuba’s Civil Society Forum is a Joke

Dariela Aquique

The 7th Summit of the Americas
The 7th Summit of the Americas

HAVANA TIMES — When they announced on TV that a Cuban Civil Society Forum was being held in Havana and that panel discussions would take place at Casa de las Americas and Casa del ALBA, I couldn’t help but laugh. I immediately thought about the fuzzy contours of the term “civil society” and how it is subject to different approaches and conceptions.

Despite the abstract nature of the concept, from the beginning civil society has been understood as a group of individuals, sectors or actors united in their pursuit of certain ends. The civil society – State dichotomy stems from this.

Italian communist theoretician and philosopher Antonio Gramsci described civil society as the institutional complex where the ideological and political confrontation between social classes takes place. He conceived of the State or political society as a coercive instrument whose purpose is to dominate and control, on the basis of legality and repressive forces. The formula civil society versus the State is therefore applicable to nearly all modern societies.

The socialist system, and Cuba’s in particular, wants to sell us the image of a harmonic relationship between the State and civil society, a whole devoid of antagonism.

It does so on the eve of the 7th Summit of the Americas, to be held in Panama from April 10 to 11, which will not only see the participation of presidents and foreign ministers but also of civil society representatives from attending countries, and where Cuba will be present. The island’s government is already rehearsing for the occasion, such that those they choose to represent “Cuban civil society” know how to act during the gathering.

According to the government, the nearly 300 people who took part in the forum are the representatives of the more than 170 civil organizations in Cuba. Several issues were addressed, and Abel Prieto, advisor to Raul Castro, said:

“(…) the task of Cuban civil society at the upcoming Summit of the Americas is to break the stereotype that many harbor about Cuba, seeing it as a totalitarian State (…) Cuban representatives who attend the summit must be very well prepared, for they are going to find a heated atmosphere that is the result of years of slander, claims that the State controls everything in our country, that there is no space for any kind of civil society. The ridiculous idea of a monolithic, militarized, totalitarian society, colored by the worst Cold War rhetoric – that, without a doubt, is a caricature of our country. Social actors and the representatives of our organizations must refute that stereotyped image of Cuba (…)”

There is no need to mention who were excluded from the said gathering: many of the real, civil social actors in today’s Cuba, which the State labels unpatriotic mercenaries and many other sad things, only because they do not toe the official, ideological line.

At least in our country, the inherently subjective nature of the term condemns an important part of civil society to a life in the shadows, persecution, lawlessness and government-led reprisals.

This stems from the Cuban State’s refusal to recognize any opposing tendency and its control over all social, grassroots, scientific, technical, cultural, artistic, sports, friendship, solidarity and any other organizations or associations, even when these are euphemistically referred to as non-governmental. The only exception are religious institutions, which are nonetheless infiltrated by false church-goers who are government agents.

Cuban societies and organizations operate under an Associations Law (Law 54) and are recognized by Article 7 of the constitution. We already know how the National People’s Power Assembly (Parliament), the one-chamber legislature, actually operates.

It is clear that everything here is either more of the same or it gets excluded. Where democracy continues to be a dream, the Civil Society Forum in Cuba is a gathering that announces that we all think the same, and it seems like a joke to me.

63 thoughts on “Cuba’s Civil Society Forum is a Joke

  • Yes they are happy in general!!!!!!

  • when did you live in havana?

  • I lived in Havana.

  • So? There are lots of reasons the Cuban people have not revolted….yet. The least of those reasons is that Cuban people are happy.

  • Rememember Castro’s army includes the overwhelming majority of the Cuban people….

  • you need to visit Cuba… Cuba is progressing in that field…… You been watching to many youtube films of a small part of old Havana… Thats all you show….

  • Thanks to folk like me.

  • ……and what they “own” now is crumbling, falling down and not worth very much.

  • How does one “guarantee” such a thing? The correct answer is that because of the pressure valve release the wet foot/dry foot policy gives the Castros, they have been able to avoid an uprising. The most frustrated Cubans would rather risk becoming shark food in the Florida Straits than take to the streets empty-handed against Castros army.

  • Your statement doesn’t have any logic to it… If the Cuban government was a repressive government like you say… I guarantee the Cubans would rise up against it..The Overwhelming majority of Cubans are more educated and more politically conscience than they ever were….

  • At least 80% of Cuba was owned by USA and other foreign countries… Cuba did not belong to the Cubans in pre 1959…

  • Cuba has survived despite 50+ years of economic warfare against it and don’t forget 50= years of CIA assasination attempts, sabotage, terroism etc….

  • “The beggars are all in Miami….”. Cuba survives because of the nearly $4 billion in remittances from family members abroad, most of them in Miami. As one of those family members that supports an entire Cuban family, I am offended that you would refer to the exile community in Miami as beggars.

  • Wrong again Moses… Cubans today at least have the basics of Human rights that many Nations lack…. Healthcare, education, etc The Revolution has put Cuba on the Map… Never In Cuba’s history has she has the prestige among nations that she has had under the Cuban Revolution…. The beggars are all in Miami….

  • The answer to this severe income disparity is not to force all 10 to split the $250. Castro made everyone poor and turned Cuba into a beggar nation that can’t feed or cloth itself. Under Batista, things were bad for a lot of Cubans. Since 1959, the Castros have made most things worse.

  • Not true….. Let me explain to you… lets say 10 people live on an island and lets say the per capita income is $10000…. In the case of pre 1959 Cuba 1 out of 10 had the $9750 and the other 9 split $250.

  • Prior to 1959, Cuba was a desired destination for many European and especially Spanish emigrants. They boasted a standard of living among the highest in Latin America and higher than many European countries. Do your research. Cuba was very well established prior to the Castro revolution.

  • Cuban elections are a sham and voter turnout statistics are self-reported and not to be taken at face value. When Cubans don’t vote, they face recriminations from their CDR. Finally, Cubans DO NOT challenge their government all the time. STOP LYING.

  • When armed with Soviet or Chinese weaponry, Cubans have advanced the political agenda of the Castros. But, empty-handed, like African Americans during the Civil Rights movement, Cubans have shown far less “natural” will to fight for their rights.

  • See thats my point.. thats why your argument makes no sense…. The Cubans are natural fighters for justice….

  • Not true Cubans disagree all the time and they challenge their government all the time… but people mistake that for them being ant revolution….As a matter of fact Cubans in general are involved more with their government than Americans…. Thats why you get at best 50% voter turnout in American elections……. CUBA 1 USA 0

  • No thats a fact…. The revolution gave gave Cubans their identity… Before that Cuba was nothing more than a pseudo colony of the USA

  • Again, that’s what the Castros want you to believe. That Cuban history began in 1959. When all is said and done, the Castros and their failed revolution will be little more than a case study in how NOT to run a government.

  • That’s what the regime wants you to believe. While there are no doubt millions of Fidelistas, my grandfather -in-law to name one, we will probably never know how many Cubans do not support the regime. Guess why that is? Because there are no free and open elections, that’s why.

  • Do you know how many Castro agents are in Cuba? answer 11 million….

  • what a silly comment…. Its the Revolution that put Cuba on the map…..

  • Cuban soldiers have fought bravely in various populist skirmishes around the world. Cuban citizens under the oppression of the Castro regime, not so much.

  • These disturbances were captured on video. The regime’s “activists” were subsequently identified as Castro agents. This is hardly imagined scenarios.

  • see this is what I mean about the exiles… they can’t win an argument with facts so they imagine certain scenarios and come to believe them as true and then they argue on this premise… What a cheap trick…

  • Your argument has no logic behind it.. Cuba is a nation that has risk life and limb to free other nations yet you think they would not do the same if they were oppressed in their own country…

  • You have confused supporting the Castro revolution with the fear of opposing the regime. Cruel slavemasters during the time of American slavery believed that their slaves were happy because they were singing while they worked.

  • I do but I’m not fooled. The overwhelming majority of the Cuban people support the revolution and that its why it has lasted 50+ years despite aggression from the most powerful nation since the history of mankind….

  • Thank you for your comment to someone who is either a paid Cuban troll or a foreigner who has no relationship with real Cubans who live in Cuba.

  • Those Cubans who were disrupting the peaceful demonstrations were Cuban intelligence agents paid by the Castros to present a false message of Cuban unity. Do you read even what most of the Cuban writers to this blog are saying? Most Cubans are unhappy with the Castros.

  • A fact. The Castro regime controls all aspects of life in Cuba. Work, education housing, food …. all controlled by the regime and used in their totalitarian package to make their lives as hard as possible. While best known dissidents are in a way protected by their notoriety, most suffer.
    Even Paya once told the story how the regime harassed him by having his mother declared dead officially so she would lose access to food, pension, …
    Lots of children of dissidents are harassed at school or even denied education.

  • The Cuban people has no access to realm information. They suffer from the “Castro information blockade”. Thank God that that is now frequently broken via the “paquetes” and other news sources.

  • hahahahaah The Cubans liberated Angola, Namibia and fast forwarded the end of apartheid in South Africa. Even Mandela said so

  • You are lying again. Cubans are more knowledgable than Americans in general…. Cuban Revolution 50+years strong and still going…. You can have Miami….lol

  • You talk as if these so called dissidents are a force and they are not . All they have is US money backing them. Those Cubans that shouted these “clown dissidents” were conscience Cubans. they are the Cubans that represent the majority of the people in Cuba..

  • hahahahaha you lying They don’t even work and they njoy the benefits of the Revolution plus the pay they receive from their masters in Washington and Miami…

  • Cuban dissidents live worse than those that do not speak out in Cuba. lots are harassed, beaten, … Their families are victimized by the regime.

  • The Castros sent a group of Cubans to Panama to counterbalance the views that have been expressed by the the legitimate opposition to the Castro dictatorship. What are the Castros afraid of? Bad press?

  • The Castro lying propaganda you mindlessly redistribute is the only “sham” here. Cuba indeed can’t be defeated by the Castro lies. You just are frustrated the Castro information blockade is completely in tatters.

  • If you truly are informed then you are a shameless liar, but then the Castro propaganda is no “information”. You deluded, misled and uninformed.
    People that know Cuba know that what the international and independent press reports is 99% complete facts.
    Deal with it.

  • “Cruel Oppresion” hahahahaha these so called dissidents live better than most in Cuba……

  • The only sham that exists is in Miami. They can’t defeat Cuba with the truth so they make of lies……….

  • Those who are truly informed like myself have come to the conclusion that 99% of what is said or written about Cuba in the USA are either half truth or complete falsehoods!!!!!

  • You know what if you actually believe what you are saying through sincere belief and not as a mouth piece for anti Cuba propaganda, then I have to respect your right to those ideas even though I disagree with you wholeheartedly.

  • Yet those countries are thankful to Cuba today!!! I hope you get a chance to go to Cuba and visit the entire island not just old Havana and you will see you been lied too by the USA media all this time!!!!

  • Three former Cuban political prisoners — Egberto Ángel Escobedo Morales, Jorge Luís García Pérez “Antunez” and Iván Fernández Depestre were arrested Wednesday as they left the Panamanian embassy in Havana.

    Panama will host the Summit of the Americas next week and it seems these arrests have something to do with preventing the three dissidents from attending the Summit.

  • When Obama announced his change in Cuban policy in December, he endorsed the presence of Cuban civil society groups at the upcoming Summit of the Americas.

    If you want to know if Obama is seriously concerned about democracy and human rights in Cuba, it will be revealing to see how Obama responds to the attendance by the Castro regime’s puppet civil society groups and the exclusion of true independent Cuban civil society groups.

    If he denounces the exclusion of Las Damas de Blanco, the Lawton Foundation, or representatives from independent trade union organizations, then perhaps we can have faith in his intentions. But if he accepts the sham groups trotted out by Raul, then we will know the Cuban people are being sold out.

  • You have to be kidding. The only Paid Mercenaries were the one The Castros sent to Angola, El Salvador, Congo, Nicaragua, and they didn’t even got paid. The Castro did.

  • ….good answer! It’s always easy for the armchair Bolshovik. To short a system they don’t have to actually live.

  • I don’t know what Cuban people you are talking about. I am Cuban, live
    in Cuba and have great hopes that the voice of the Cuban opposition is
    heard and dictatorship ends. I am currently traveling, otherwise I would
    not be able to connect to the internet from Cuba. I have to hide my
    name in order to keep my job in Cuba and to avoid problems to my
    family. I don’t want to leave in fear anymore.
    Javier. you might
    like dictatorships, but there are many many Cubans who don’t, and one
    day my country will be free. I’m not a mercenary and I don’t receive
    money from anybody. Your way of taking and accusing without elements is
    proof of your dishonesty. .

  • I have to. It’s the truth.

  • Believe me, he does and so do I as do all that are truly informed about the reality of the Cuba of today. Blocking those that represent the opposition to the Castro dictatorship from traveling is a long running tactic of the Castros. The “carta blanca” (exit visum FYI) may no longer exist, but dissidents and educated people with “cash value” like doctors still can’t travel freely as their passports (the “carta azul”) can easily be flagged disallowing travel.

  • What is very clear, Javier, is that the “civil society forum” the Castro regime dreamed up is a sham.
    The Castro dictatorship is setting up a propaganda arm and claims it is representing civil society while they only represent the dictatorship.
    The author isn’t fooled and neither are informed readers.
    The civil organizations you refer to are no more than government controlled groups whose sole purpose is to repress dissent and to control the Cuban people.

  • The fact the Castro regime feels the need to exercise cruel repression against the opposition shows it knows that the people shares many of their ideas. If not it wouldn’t bother.
    The so-called “civil society organizations” you refer to (CDR, UJPC, …) are no more than fronts for the regime and are part of the “total control” system in Cuba. The represent the regime and nobody else. trade Unions in Cuba for example defend the state capitalist employer against the workers. That is why the regime fears the independent trade unions as they threaten it survival, both political and economic .

  • I don’t even think you actually believe what you are saying!!!

  • This is very clear!!!!! The so called “opposition” have no following in Cuba. They are nothing more than paid mercenaries. To say that they are the civil society in Cuba and that they represent the Cuban people is in itself a joke. Cuba has over 2000 civil society organizations that clearly represents the true aspirations of the people!!!!!!

  • Civil society is defined as “…the “aggregate of non-governmental organizations and institutions that manifest interests and will of citizens.”[1] Civil society includes the family and the private sphere, referred to as the “third sector” of society”

    As long as the Cuban dictatorship refuses to recognize and continues to undermine social and political organizations outside of the Communist party, there will be no true civil society.

    A perfect example of the Cuban dictatorships suppression of civil society is how the Castros quashed the Varela Project. A grass roots effort to codify respect of Cuban civil rights. ….we all know what happened there.

  • The Castros have taken the passports of those Cubans whom they fear the most. Included among them are Berta Soler, the leader of the Ladies in White and Antonio Rodiles, founder of Estado de Sats. The Cuban opposition leaders will be unable to attend the events in Panama in person but via Skype and by other technological means will still be able to deliver their message to the people who will hear them. The Castros fear of free speech will ultimately be their undoing.

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