Patria de Martí Artículos y Ensayos
CAN AN authoritarian regime convert to democracy by itself? The historical record isn’t encouraging. In the absence of a popular uprising, it is rare for tyrants to voluntarily retire. The military junta of Burma has promised to relinquish some power to an elected government, but it has not yet delivered. China’s party-state shows no inclination to try. Russia’s strongman is reversing what incipient democracy existed.
This goes to the core of why President Obama’s opening to Cuba seems to be failing to live up to its declared goals. When the end to a half-century of hostility was announced in December 2014, the proclaimed U.S. purpose was to “unleash the potential of 11 million Cubans,” to “engage and empower the Cuban people,” and to “empower the nascent Cuban private sector,” among other things.
The administration continued to offer this rationale for its latest moves. New regulations that took effect Jan. 27 from the Commerce and Treasury departments further lifted restrictions on financing of exports to Cuba and relaxed limits on shipping products to the island. Most importantly, the rules will allow banks to finance exports to Cuba on credit, with the exception of agricultural commodities covered by the still-existing trade embargo, rather than requiring cash as before, or burdensome routing through third countries.
Yet there is scant evidence so far of a sea change in Cuba — perhaps because Mr. Obama continues to offer the Castro regime unilateral concessions requiring nothing in return. Since the United States has placed no human rights conditions on the opening, the Castro regime continues to systematically engage in arbitrary detention of dissidents and others who speak up for democracy. In fact, detentions have spiked in recent months. The state continues to monopolize radio, television and newspapers.
The administration has defined one of its goals as opening Cuba to the Internet, but the nation still suffers from some of the lowest connectivity rates in the world. The regime established a few dozen Wifi spots but charges people $2 an hour to use them; the average salary is $20 a month. The state retains a chokehold on the economy, including tourism; the benefits of a 50 percent increase in U.S. visitors are being garnered by Raúl Castro’s son-in-law, the industry’s boss. .Meanwhile, Cuba’s purchases of U.S. goods have fallen by a double-digit percentage.
The hoped-for explosion in individual enterprise has not materialized either. On the contrary: The number of licensed self-employed workers has been dropping. If there are commercial deals as a result of the latest U.S. measures, it is Cuban state organizations that will benefit; only they are allowed to engage in foreign trade.
What’s most evident over the past year is that the Castro brothers are effectively preventing real change and reform even as they reap the rewards of Mr. Obama’s opening. The president’s only response has been more unilateral concessions, along with talk of a visit to the island before he leaves office. Autocrats everywhere must be watching with envy the Castros’ good fortune.
Terminó en el lugar 193 entre 210 países y territorios en el informe mundial 2016 sobre la situación de los derechos políticos y las libertades civiles.
Cuba se clasificó en el lugar 193 entre 210 países y territorios en cuanto a las libertades de que disfrutan sus ciudadanos de acuerdo con el informe sobre Libertad en el Mundo 2016 publicado este miércoles por la organización Freedom House, y que se refiere al año anterior.
La entidad fundada por Eleanor Roosevelt otorgó sólo 15 puntos de 100 posibles a la Mayor de las Antillas al aplicarle 10 indicadores de derechos políticos y 15 de libertades civiles, lo que la equipara con Etiopía dentro del grupo zaguero de 50 naciones no libres
El informe anual mide los derechos políticos a partir del proceso electoral, la participación y el pluralismo políticos y el funcionamiento del gobierno, mientras que las libertades civiles se evalúan considerando las libertades de expresión y creencia, los derechos de asociación y organización, el imperio de la ley y la autonomía personal y los derechos individuales.
En otra calificación inversa donde 7 representa el menor grado de libertad y 1 el mayor, los derechos políticos en Cuba recibieron un 7 y las libertades civiles 6, para una media de 6.5.
Cuba, el único país no libre del hemisferio
Los pocos avances de Cuba hacia reformas democráticas, a pesar de la reanudación de las relaciones con Estados Unidos constituyeron uno de tres puntos resaltados en las Américas por los autores del reporte, junto con la pérdida de terreno del populismo y casos de corrupción en altas esferas.
El resumen sobre la región dice sobre Cuba, el único país no libre del hemisferio, que “hubo una modesta ampliación de los derechos de los creyentes y los propietarios de negocios privados, y más cubanos ejercieron su nueva capacidad de viajar al extranjero. Pero el sistema político permaneció cerrado para todos salvo los leales al Partido Comunista, y la libertad de expresión se mantuvo altamente restringida. Tampoco fueron especialmente promisorias las perspectivas de cambios significativos en el futuro inmediato”.
Agrega que “las negociaciones entre Washington y La Habana se concentraron en eliminar otras barreras al levantamiento del embargo comercial estadounidense".
Con sus apenas 15 puntos, Cuba se codeó con países de Africa y zonas de conflicto, mientras que en orden ascendente el país del hemisferio occidental más cercano fue Venezuela con 35 puntos, seguida de Haití con 41 y Honduras con 45.
Las naciones y territorios con mejor calificación en el área fueron Canadá (99) y Uruguay y Barbados (98 cada una). Les siguieron Bahamas con 92, Puerto Rico con 91 y Costa Rica y Estados Unidos con 90.
Rolando Cartaya (La Habana, 1952) Graduado de Periodismo, Universidad de La Habana 1976. Ha trabajado en la página cultural de Juventud Rebelde, la agencia UPI, el servicio Worldnet y como editor de las revistas “Newsweek”, “Discover” y “Motor Trend” en español. Ha traducido más de 20 libros para la editorial cristiana Thomas Nelson, Inc. Con Radio Martí desde 1989, ha sido editor, redactor, reportero, y director y guionista del programa “Sin Censores ni Censura”. Actualmente trabaja en martinoticias.com. Fue vicepresidente en la isla del Comité Cubano Pro Derechos Humanos.
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - El senador Robert Menéndez (D-NJ) emitió hoy las siguientes declaraciones sobre el último anuncio de la administración Obama para levantar las restricciones permitiendo la financiación de exportaciones de comercio estadounidenses a Cuba.
"Las acciones de hoy por la Administración son una violación de la ley - la voluntad del Congreso, las personas que nos eligieron, y una traición a esos valientes cubanos que han levantado sus voces en apoyo a la libertad, sólo para ser silenciados por un régimen al que ahora ayudamos. En pocas palabras, el exportar a Cuba significa exportar al régimen y a sus empresas estatales exclusivamente controladas por la familia Castro; algo que no hará nada para empoderar al pueblo cubano. "Por otra parte, la ley de los Estados Unidos dice que cualquier Administración tiene la discreción para endurecer sanciones, pero no tiene la autoridad para relajarlas, algo que los reportes de prensa indican está haciendo esta Administración por tercera vez desde que anunció un nuevo enfoque con el régimen cubano. "Fue la falta de oportunidades - no un cambio de opinión - el que había desacelerado el aventurerismo regional de Castro y su apoyo a aquellos que representan una amenaza para nuestros intereses nacionales. Fue la falta de recursos la que causaba que el régimen aflojara su control. Y, serán éstas y cualquier líneas de vida estadounidense que el régimen utilizará para revertir ese curso, consolidar la dictadura y socavar los valores por los que tanto hemos luchado. En su totalidad, el alivio de sanciones que hemos visto en el último año no solo envía un mensaje al pueblo al que una vez apoyamos. Proporciona a sus opresores los recursos que necesitan para reforzar su control".
José Antonio Font – December 17, 1947 – December 15, 2015
Some remarkable men have recently left this world in a rather unexpected and bitingly unfavorable way. One of these men was my father. Nepotism aside, he was incontestably an extraordinary man, not only receiving countless, emeritus tributes and honors for what can most easily be described as various entrepreneurial accomplishments, but for an arduous career to advance freedom in the economies and societies of the Western hemisphere.
As a student of American University’s School of International Service and Diplomacy, it is interesting to note that he was once granted a “full ride” through his PhD but reluctantly declined mid-way, never finding the time to oblige; he was at once consumed by his leadership role in founding the Ibero-American Chamber of Commerce in Greater Washington D.C. and later the National Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, feeling the need to address more critical issues of the time. Both institutions still thrive today. They, and tiny-colossal projects like establishing what was once the Washington World Gallery of Art in Georgetown and its adjacent hot-spot, Café de Artistas in the late ‘70s, early ‘80s were to lead him down a fairly different path.
Brilliant, sensitive and strong, he was something of a peaceful warrior, invariably fighting bullies, championing the underdog of the moment, and continuously lending a hand to the less fortunate, the worthy and the helpless. You may be entertained to know that in Cuba, as a ten-year-old Judo master, my father appeared on a highly popular live television show, ultimately demonstrating how even a small boy could fend for himself against tyrannous men. This entailed levelling ten adult males in their attempt to encircle and attack him. I have the black and white photo to prove it.
Story has it that as a precocious, little boy he would often confront a band of aggressors at school given to behaviors he deemed deplorable. Namely, unscrupulous kids taking pleasure in throwing stones (more often than not, at birds and other guiltless creatures). From a young age, he was irrefutably profound with a deep respect for life and all living things, becoming an impossibly ethical man of many deeply rooted principles.
A product of a grand experiment in freedom, his parents left Cuba with the advent of that totalitarian, military regime we all know and love so much. [Ahem] Bearing witness to his family’s destruction and the catastrophic demise of all they had worked so hard to build had more than its traumatic effect on him; it determined the rest of his painstaking life. This is what forged a martyr. This is what made a freedom fighter. And with a gracious appreciation for his new found home (the great country in which most of us here live today) was born a resolute proponent and activist of free enterprise and real representative democracy. His last endeavor was the Alianza Democrática, focused on power through knowledge, so that people may never fall prey to demagogues and tyrants.
Anyone who knew the man knows that he was not one to concern himself with the trivial ins-and-outs of pop culture, or even pretend to indulge in such frivolity. Forget fluff; the more weighty, the more complicated or challenging the subject, the more it agreed with him. By him, his ventures were always ambitious, never insurmountable - just seemingly impossible, to most. The man was bent on building lasting institutions on causes and purpose. (The biography of John Adams was one of his favorites.)
It is safe to say that my father, Jose Antonio Font will forever be remembered by most as a social and human-rights activist, a leader, a trailblazer, and well, a builder, bold and unafraid to push boundaries and rethink the world. (I will remember him as my dad.) He could, and often did inspire people with a dollar and a dream or a problem to solve. He was a man interested in philosophy, obsessed with justice, and ultimately consumed by politics.
Funny enough (almost tragically), the shamelessly weathered, virtually disintegrating, moth-chewed T-shirt which he just happened to be wearing when he passed away did its best to dress his blessed heart with the eroded phrase: “Freedom Is Not Free”. His shirt, a token of philanthropic appreciation featuring the worn-out slogan that finally served to describe the very ideal that arguably cost him his entire life.
Now, more than ever, it is evident by his case that freedom is not free, at all. And that that the freedom for which he fought so hard to bring to others came at a tremendous sacrifice – to his health, to his pocket, to his time, to his family and paradoxically enough, to his personal ability to find rest in his living years.
His mission to help liberate Cuba, fight for the oppressed and rid the world of despotic characters became an exhausting quest. It is this force of unremitting will, through his slender eyes on the freedom prize, and his ethics to prestigious form that shall forever resonate by his soul, so admirably.
December 17th marked his 68th birthday, and we should have celebrated it with him. That was the plan; instead it is with deep sadness that we respectfully mourn the loss of his life, just two days prior; a week before Christmas.
My father and I, well, we were fairly close, close enough for me to have wrestled with his lifeless body in order to give him his final bath. And, I was thorough, in the same way he taught me to bathe myself when I was barely standing. This time, I was the one washing him. And, let me tell you something, not only had this once physically and mentally strong man been radically rendered utterly like a child; he was now very suddenly dead.
Yet somehow, I can’t tell you why, the son-of-a-gun looked better than ever – svelte as he never was, with newborn tears from the corners of his eyes, and totally at peace with his faithful God. Not a care-worn wrinkle in his otherwise typically furrowed brow…his last utterance having something to do with his mother, or mine, or well, the loving woman who gradually and eventually became a mother to us both.
Many will attest that it was difficult to resist the earthy and sensuous qualities in my father’s makeup, and countless aimed to be involved with him as fully as possible, and for as much time as possible. Many who wanted to meet him, never had the pleasure, even. Probably one of the few men left to refuse money for politics, he was someone rather indifferent to the material, firmly bound to ideas, individuals, structures and organizations, even if these things inhibited or held up his individual development or growth. This became particularly evident when circumstances dictated that it was time to move on; his martyrdom prevailed, albeit to little or no avail.
One might say the fate of his romantic theories flat-out lied to him. One might say those idealistic theories proposed with tremendous personal stakes and international reputation ultimately betrayed him…betrayed him with harsh reality…with injustice…with crushing disappointment. I know, for a fact, he felt jipped…cheated. I believe that this is when his personal political convictions for a higher purpose became his pious convictions for a higher power, improvising with the sub-standard to find the exquisite, or a pristine point of light.
The universe, not ready to yield all of its secrets, reveals the following to me. The extraordinary values that set the man apart are the very things that will forever keep us together – what humanity can do so well in a world where humanity is capable of quite the contrary…great achievements of pure good in a world of such scattered impurity.
This is the way that I will, and that you may, pay sincere respect to my father for all the good he so selflessly put into our world obscured by smudges of treachery and strife. Not to mention, a world wherein he never reached his PhD, never saw a free Cuba, never met his grandchildren, and never took his wife to Italy. It is in this world that I ask you to capture my father’s undying glimmer of idealism, and run with it; take what became something of his mantra in eternal optimism as he would say, “We’re almost there.” and show him that you know the way. Or, just follow him. I’m sure at this point, he has finally asked for directions and even knows the scenic route.
Because, although I cannot adequately explain how lost he may have felt about his shortcomings before leaving us, I can very clearly list out his virtues. And to me, that is not only admirable and inspiring, that is a shining beacon and my guiding light.
If you’re listening, Papi, I’d like to thank you. Thank you for teaching me all that you did, and giving me all the love you had to give. I love you very much.