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Archive for December, 2010

José Antonio Quintana de la Cruz

The draft guidelines of economic and social policy that will be discussed by the sixth congress of the Communist Party have been circulated for public discussion.  Some believe that it contains nothing new, is not conducive to substantive change and is more of the same but tinged with tones that have been imposed by mass unemployment and the existing crisis, that they are short term rescue modifications.  It seems that seen from expectations based more on wishes than sober assessments of reality, this may be true. But it never occurred to me that the Communist Party would discuss at a conference the abolition of socialism and the transition to a capitalist market economy.

An objective analysis of the document reveals that it contains substantive developments. But it is necessary to define what is novel. For this editor all that appears in the project that did not exist or was not permitted in the model that this seeks to overcome or modify; or update, as the official discourse has it, is new.  According to this criterion, twenty percent of the guidelines contain new features that can induce changes in the operation or the quality of the system. The remaining eighty per cent proposes to rectify long standing shortcomings and imperfections.

It is clear that the document proposes a diversification and expansion of property relations, which in Marxist terms are relations of production. It recognizes the right of existence of small businesses in various sectors of the economy without employment limits. The figures of landlord, tenant and contractor appear. The area of action of the cooperatives of transport, trade and other sectors are extended, while freedoms and options are granted to those cooperatives which lack them, without which it would be a fiction.

The fact that individual proprietors and partners can compete, produce and sell, protected by law, that they can create companies to supply them and import what they need, together with a concession to receive bank credits, the fact that these private enterprises have business relationships with state enterprises and with the population, creates a market, embryonic and imperfect, but a market that will no longer be the suppressed variable of the economy, but a necessary and legally protected part of the economy.

This is new in Cuba. In my view, this social experiment, replaces the old debate between Von Mises and Oscar Lange about the possibility of a real and efficient economic calculation in a socialist economy. As is known, Lange believed that a regulated market subject to planning would make economic calculation possible under socialism. Von Mises asserted that this was impossible because socialism was a mistake.  China has brought experience to the theoretical debate. In this great Asian country there is a market socialism which performs efficient economic calculations and where the socialist character is more related to distribution forms designed by the party and state that by the ownership structure under which it occurs.

But the guidelines under discussion do not suggest a socialism of the market in Cuba, but a socialism with a market. This market, according to the project, will be a minority partner in social enterprise and shall be subordinate to planning which will remain the main form of movement of the economy and its relations of production. Planning which, incidentally, can stop being inefficient in the sense of failing to ensure proportionality and balance in the economy, sand must take care of not being totalitarian and authoritarian, but  flexible, coordinated, cooperative, and with reservations.

The challenge facing Cuban planning is great not only because it must reconcile the statistical survey methods and strategies of state scenarios with price signals emitted by the market, but because the freedoms, which is to say the degree of autonomy that the draft gives to state enterprises, should become actors and decision makers responsible for their success or failure. Under the project,  state enterprises will not able to impose a plan, or have their earnings taken over, nor may the state interfere in its administration directly. It is assumed that the party can not do that either.

State owned enterprises with sustained losses will be liquidated. This is also new. But we need to define how long is needed to define these losses as “sustained”.

Guideline number three, which prohibits the concentration of ownership without mentioning exceptions, contradicts number twenty nine, which authorizes the cooperatives, which in turn contradicts number twenty six.  Contradictions may be intentional, designed to promote discussion. I wish it were so!

The ban on ownership concentration may be aimed at preventing the formation of oligarchies, which in Russia was disastrous. Or it may be intended to protect free competition, promoting competition and its beneficial effects on prices and product quality as well as on creating jobs in a society where both are needed. If there is a motivation to interfere with the concentration of private production and thus the reproduction of capitalism according to the Leninist school, then this sector of the new economy would be condemned a prior to stagnation.

I think that if everything that the guidelines indicate or suggest is done, Cuba’s economy will be more robust and efficient. The problem is that Cubans are accustomed to agree marvelously, to make speeches with logical arguments, and then to make the thing, violating and mocking, openly, or veiled, that which was agreed to or discussed.  It is a corruption of custom to be serious and make commitments with responsibility, coupled with the widespread lack of social discipline that does not escape anyone.

In conclusion, the projected guidelines propose a model of a socialist planned economy with the presence of state enterprises, cooperatives and private enterprises, with a predominance of the former,  and in which a regulated market operates involving all types of economic agents allowed by law. You can like this model or not, but it is nothing more than more of the same. It unleashes forces that have been pent up until now.  It introduce variables of an unprecedented quality.  It employs measures of efficiency and control that can be viewed with ideological ill will. It creates opportunities for the exercise of managerial freedom and responsibility. And it has flaws and limitations for which its promoters have sought criticism. This is what I am doing: Trying to be constructive.

Translated by ricote

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We invite you to participate in this platform because we have the profound conviction that life is something sacred and should be an indispensable value in the Republic we desire.

We understand that respect for life as a supreme value is a moral principle that can be assumed by believers and non-believers. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in its Article 3, is energetic and affirms that “Every individual has the right to life”.

The abolition of the death penalty in Cuba, now, tomorrow, and forever can be our first commitment as a nation. A commitment that — assumed by Cubans on the island and those in exile — demands of the Cuban Government its immediate suppression and stimulates transition toward an authentic democracy.

Capital punishment remains in effect in the Cuban Penal Code. It is true that at present the regime maintains a de facto moratorium on the application of said sanction, but we all know that it’s due to tactical conveniences and not due to a questioning of the moral nature of the same. For this reason, it was sadly applied in 2003 after several years of not having been used. All Cubans, especially those condemned to death, know that the regime keeps this terrifying resource intact and that it can be applied at any moment.

In the free world the death penalty tends to disappear from legislation or has been overruled by moratoria that make its application a de facto impossibility. Besides defense of human life, there exist different reasons that have motivated these important advances.

The reality is that no judicial system can guarantee the absence of errors that can lead to the execution of an innocent person. It’s a fact that in recent times, thanks to DNA tests, many convicts have been freed, victims of errors or judicial omissions.

Another argument to consider is in the case of a murder, the punishment doesn’t serve as retribution for the crime committed, as it cannot repair the loss of a dear one with the execution of the murderer; on another count, how many times can we execute someone who has killed many? We have one life alone and one death alone.

Also arguable is the example of the death penalty, the crime rate is no lower in countries that apply it and the executions of Nazi leaders in Nuremberg haven’t dissuaded genocide, to cite recent cases alone, such as those of Slobodan Milosevic or Saddam Hussein.

On the other hand, the experience of many democratic countries demonstrates that, if adequate legislation is established and social and political pacts are observed that enable its systematic application, social peace can be guaranteed without the violent physical elimination of its enemies being necessary in a State of Law.

In Cuba’s case, the usual subordination of judicial to political power and the present deteriorating material, moral, and civic conditions make us doubt that Cuban justice, now and in the near-term future, will be able to guarantee due process to anyone condemned to death.

We share the conviction that Cuba’s future has an urgent need of justice and perhaps now is the time to ask ourselves if it is desirable that in this future, the application of the death penalty should continue in effect; if the justice we seek requires the spilling of other Cubans’ blood.

We do not believe that the death penalty serves as retribution for harm committed in our Motherland and, much less, that it contributes to guarantee a social peace that can be fully attained with the restoration of a State of Law and the citizen compromise with adequate legislation, and with social pacts that emanate from democracy.

To proclaim the necessity of the death penalty in Cuba’s future contributes to that our children and grandchildren, parents and siblings of those who might be judged shall be less disposed to accept a justice that might include capital punishment. Eliminating capital punishment from whichever Cuban penal code will bring safety in the process of the transition toward democracy, guaranteeing that said sanction shall not be used as revenge or as a method of eliminating one’s enemy.

We believe that those who wish for and manage change in Cuba — whatever be its level of compromise — would appreciate an agreement of this nature, especially those inside the regime who might wish to move in a direction toward authentic democracy.

This agreement for the abolition of the death penalty in Cuba shares some values that are defended by the chancelleries around the world, especially those of Europe, where the death penalty provokes great rejection; this citizen’s platform will plant an important moral and diplomatic challenge for those who govern in Havana.

Cuban society, for decades, has been doomed to depreciate life and render worship to death: “The Motherland or Death”, “Socialism or Death” have been the slogans par excellence. We have gained nothing on that road, let us allow life — not death — to be the cornerstone of our future.

We invite you to sign this proposal for the abolition of the death penalty in Cuba now, tomorrow, and always.

December 9 2010

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Press release

(Miami-Madrid-Warsaw, 10 December)- A group of Cubans celebrates the International Human Rights Day by launching a campaign to abolish the death penalty on the Island.

It is an initiative of the Christian Democrat Party of Cuba, based in Miami, which already has the support of the group Convivencia Cuba (Pinar del Río), of the Federation of Cuban Associations, the Cuban Human Rights Observeratory (Madrid), and the Cuban Workers Council. It has also received the backing of the former prisoners of  conscience José Luís García Paneque, Víctor Rolando Arroyo Carmona, Pedro Pablo Álvarez Ramos and Alejandro González Raga, all part of the “Cause of the 75″.

The campaign seeks to start a national debate on the need for the death penalty to be removed from the Cuban criminal code.

The organizers maintain that respect for life should be encouraged in Cuba and they call on all Cubans, both on the Island and in exile, to choose life, opposing the damage caused by so many decades of “Socialism or Death”. They believe the initiative is also in line with the challenge of making changes in Cuban society through justice and reconciliation, not by vengeance.

Cuban society has, for decades, been taught not to value life, but to pay homage to death: ‘The Fatherland or Death’, ‘Socialism or Death’ have been the most important slogans. We have gained nothing by following that path; let life, and not death, be the cornerstone of our future.” (Campaign message).

The opening text of the campaign reminds us that the death penalty still exists in Cuban criminal law. It acknowledges that the regime has, in practice, suspended the use of the death penalty in recent years, ‘but this is due to tactical convenience and not to doubts about the morality of it‘. And it recalls that the death penalty was applied in 2003 after several years in which it had not been used. ‘All Cubans, especially those condemned to death, know that the regime retains this terrifying power and that it may use it at any time‘.

Against this fact, they declare that the free and democratic world is more than ever aware that the death penalty must be abolished in all countries.

Any person or group who wishes to express support for the position of this organization can do so at the web page: www.nopenademuertecuba.com, where they will also find a box for suggesting other initiatives which could help in the campaign.

Contact details:
Marcelino Miyares
Phone: 001 3057783977
miyares@pdc-cuba.org

Translated by: Jack Gibbard

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