Friday, February 29, 2008

Indigenous Movements in the Americas: From Demand for Recognition to Building Autonomies

My last post also dealt with the topic of the continental upsurge of the indigenous movement for self-determination and liberation from the yoke of centuries of capitalist oppression brought on by the European conquest.

This article not only has greater depth, but also has a more ambitious goal – to present and discuss many of the political and strategic issues under debate in the movement up and down our hemisphere.

While I do not fully share all of the positions advanced by the author, I have no doubt that this is a valuable contribution and addition to the arsenal of critical analysis of the movement and the challenges it faces.

Felipe Stuart

The article is taken from:

Francisco López Bárcenas

February 26, 2008

Translated from: Autonomías Indígenas en América: de la demanda de reconocimiento a su construcción
Translated by: Maria Roof
Americas Program, Center for International Policy (CIP)

"In the struggle for a freed Latin America, in opposition to the obedient voices of those who usurp its official representation, there arises now, with invincible power, the genuine voice of the people, a voice that rises from the depths of its tin and coal mines, from its factories and sugar mills, from its feudal lands, where obedient to usurpers of their official function, now rises with invincible power, the genuine voice of the masses of people, a voice that emerges from the bowels of coal and tin mines, from factories and sugarcane fields, from the feudalistic lands where rotos, cholos, gauchos, jíbaros, heirs of Zapata and Sandino, grip the weapons of their freedom."

—Havana Declaration, 1960

Latin America is living a time of autonomy movements, especially for indigenous autonomy. The demand became a central concern in national indigenous movements in the 1990s and intensified in the early 21st century.

Not that it didn't exist before. On the contrary, demands for autonomy have permeated struggles of resistance and emancipation by indigenous peoples since the conquest—Spanish in some cases, Portuguese in others—and the establishment of nation-states, since the rebellions against colonial power by Tupac Amaru, Tupac Katari, and Bartolina Sisa in the Andes and Jacinto Canek in Mayan lands; by Willka Pablo Zarate in Bolivia, and Tetabiate and Juan Banderas among the Yaquis in Mexico during the republican period [1800s]; Emiliano Zapata in Mexico and Manuel Quintín Lame in Colombia in the 20th century; and on into the 20th and 21st centuries with the Zapatista rebellion in Mayan areas.

These struggles have included among their most important demands the same utopian proposals that arise from peoples demanding full rights, territories, natural resources, self-defined organizational methods and political representation before state entities, exercise of internal justice based on their own law, conservation and evolution of their cultures, and elaboration and implementation of their own development plans.

This is not a small matter. From the beginning of the 21st century, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) warned that indigenous movements would be one of the main challenges to national governments over the following 15 years and that they would "increase, facilitated by transnational networks of indigenous rights activists and supported by well-funded international human rights and environmental groups. Tensions will intensify in the area from Mexico through the Amazon region ... ."1

More recently, United States Deputy Secretary of State, John Dimitri Negroponte, referring to victory by the indigenous Aymara Evo Morales Ayma in the Bolivian presidential elections, averred that subversive movements are misusing the benefits of democracy, which endangers the stability of nation-states throughout Latin America.

Indigenous movements and their struggle for autonomy are a concern for dominant economic and political groups because they are a part of other social movements in Latin America that are resisting neoliberal policies and their effects on people. They are also an integral part of the broad social sectors supporting alternative proposals that would help us resolve the crisis in which the world finds itself.
But in contrast to others, indigenous peoples movements and organizations are more radical and deeper in their framing of the issues, as is apparent in their choice of the means of struggle—mostly pacific, but when that is not possible, with the use of violence—and also because their demands require a profound transformation of national states and institutions that would practically lead us to a re-founding of nation-states in Latin America.

The reclamation by indigenous peoples of recognition of their autonomy has another component that gives pause to the hegemonic classes wielding power in Latin American states where movements occur. Movements arise precisely at a time when states begin to undergo a serious weakening, a product of the push by international economic forces to move them out of the public sphere and reduce them in practice to simple managers of capitalistic interests.

Paradoxically, these same classes scream to high heaven that states will fall apart if the indigenous peoples' demands are met—demands for reformation or re-founding of states to make them more functional for the multiculturalism of their populations. But the reality is quite different, because if a new state were established with indigenous peoples recognized as autonomous political subjects, surely it would be strengthened, and then free market economic forces would lose their hegemony in the crafting of anti-popular policies.

This argument has been used by those in power to design counterinsurgency policies against social movements and their allies, under the guise of defense of national sovereignty, as has happened in different ways. In some cases, for example, Bolivia and Mexico, the state directly confronted the indigenous movements, even mobilizing its military without respecting the constitution. In other places like Panama and Nicaragua, and to a certain extent in Ecuador, especially in the Andean region, the use of an "encircling strategy" has been adopted in order to recover lost spaces.
In these cases there is no violent confrontation, because political parties are used as a means of control, offering channels to power that become forms of control and disarticulation. Another strategy is isolation, used in Brazil and part of Ecuador, where an open field has been left for transnational companies exploiting natural resources to directly confront indigenous discontent, while the state acts as if nothing were happening.2

Let's be clear: indigenous peoples in Latin America struggle for autonomy because in the 21st century, they are still colonies. The 19th-century wars for independence ended foreign colonization—Spanish and Portuguese, but those who rose to power continued to view indigenous peoples as colonies. The hegemonic classes hid these colonies behind the mask of individual rights and juridical equality, proclaimed by that century's liberalism, and now, given proof of the falsity of that argument, they hide behind the discourse of conservative multiculturalism, apparent in legal reforms that recognize cultural differences in the population, although the state continues to act as if they did not exist.

Meanwhile, Latin American indigenous peoples suffered and continue to suffer from the power of internal colonialism. That is why indigenous movements, in contrast to other types of social movements, are struggles of resistance and emancipation. That is why their demands coalesce in the struggle for autonomy; that is why the concern among imperialist forces increases as the movements grow; that is why achievement of their demands implies the re-founding of national states.

500 Years of Resistance

In 1992, indigenous movements substantively revised their forms of political actions and their demands in the context of the continental campaign of 500 years of indigenous, black, and popular resistance, in which different indigenous movements on the American continent protested against government-supported celebrations of five centuries since the European invasion, or so-called "discovery."

First, indigenous movements ceased to be appendices to rural farmer movements, which had always put them last in their participation as well as their reclamations, and became political subjects themselves. Then, they denounced the internal colonialism exercised against them in the nation-states where they lived, revealed "indigenism" as a policy to mask their colonial situation, and demanded their right to self-determination as the peoples that they are.

Nicaragua is an exceptional case because, after the counterrevolution adopted ethnic discourse, it established regional autonomies in 1987 in order to deactivate the armed opposition, and this, over time, also effectively deactivated the indigenous movement. Except for this case, since 1992 indigenous movements are movements of resistance and emancipation: resistance in order to not cease to be peoples; emancipation in order to not continue being colonies. Ethnic reclamations were conjoined with class reclamations.

The axis of the indigenous movements' demands became the right to free determination expressed in autonomy.

Since 1966, the UN Pacts on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights recognized peoples' right to free determination and, as a result, to freely establish their political condition, as well as make decisions about their economic, social, and cultural development. The recognized right included the free administration of natural resources for their own benefit, without ignoring the necessity of international cooperation based on mutual benefit.

Indigenous movements demand not only rights for individuals but also for collectives, for the peoples they are part of. Their demand is not limited to making state institutions fulfill their functions but also change. They demand not lands but territories. They ask not that they be allowed to exploit the natural resources in their territories, but that they be granted ownership of them. They demand that justice be administered not only according to state law, but also in recognition of their right to administer justice themselves and in accordance with their own laws. They seek not development plans designed for them, but recognition of their right to direct their own development. They want their own cultures recognized and respected instead of only the dominant culture. Indigenous peoples do not want to continue as colonies, but rather, as peoples with full rights.

These reclamations by indigenous movements opened a new period in the history of indigenous rights, which first became visible when Latin American nation-states that had not already revised their political constitutions and internal legislation to incorporate recognition of indigenous peoples and guarantee their collective rights, did so. A legislative fever was unleashed, but legislation was passed so that the political class would not lose legitimacy, more than to recognize rights. In this way, except for a few places like Chile, almost all states revised their political constitutions to incorporate indigenous peoples and their rights.

Autonomous Tendencies

When indigenous peoples realized that their struggle for constitutional recognition of their rights had not produced the desired results, they focused their efforts on building de facto autonomies. Some movements that already had shifted in this direction grew more powerful, as others began the long path of making the shift. To accomplish this, they appealed to what they had: their cultures, histories of resistance, organic structures, relations with other social movements, and concrete realities in their countries.

On different levels during the 1990s, Latin American states noticed transformations in the indigenous movements that had struggled since the prior decade to reclaim their rights. Some movements transcended local struggles and broke national barriers, achieving more notoriety than others. Indigenous movements for autonomy were a social phenomenon seen in all of Latin America. Just when worker and rural farmer movements were weakening from Mesoamerica to Patagonia, indigenous movements were reactivating, much to the concern of neoliberals.

Community-based autonomies arose as a concrete expression of indigenous peoples' resistance to colonialism and their struggle for emancipation. Since the majority of indigenous peoples were politically de-structured, and communities were the concrete expression of their existence, when indigenous movements propelled the struggle for their self-determination as peoples, it was the communities that defended the right. To do this, they used their centuries-old experience in resistance, but also their self-generative experiences within the farm workers movement.

Entrenched in community structures, indigenous movements forcefully made themselves heard, and in many cases, states had no alternative other than yielding to their demands. The strongest proof of this is that most Latin American legislation on indigenous rights recognizes the juridical personhood of indigenous communities and enunciates some of the competencies states recognize in them, all the while requiring, as stated in the recognitions, their conformity to the framework of state law.

Another tendency among indigenous autonomies is the regional autonomy proposal. It arose in response to the need to surpass the community space of indigenous peoples and seek spaces not only larger than the community, but also beyond local state governments. Its first expression was in the autonomous regions in Nicaragua, introduced as a form of government in the 1987 Political Constitution of the State. Since this event, unprecedented in Latin America, it spread to other countries through intellectuals close to indigenous reclamations, to the extent that in some countries, such as Mexico and Chile,3 proposals were put forth for constitutional reforms and statutes of autonomy. In others, it remained one more tendency in the struggle for indigenous autonomy but without any concrete expression.

As on many other occasions, indigenous movements themselves resolved the "contradiction" between community proponents and regionalists. When the occasion presented itself, first they showed that the proposals were not contradictory, but rather, complementary. This has been very clear in Mexico with the Zapatista Caracoles communities, but also in the community police in the state of Guerrero.

The same is happening in the Cauca region of Colombia and in the Cochabamba Department in Bolivia. In all these cases it has been demonstrated that communities function as a foundation for building regional structure, which is the roof for autonomy, and they can combine effectively, because regional autonomy is not imposed from above, but occurs as a process that consolidates the communal autonomies that then decide the scope of the region.

Together with the community and regional tendencies there are other indigenous movements that do not demand autonomies but the re-founding of nation-states based on indigenous cultures. This is the tendency most apparent in the various movements in the Andean region of the continent, especially among the Aymara in Bolivia. Participants in these movements say they do not understand why, since their population is larger than the mestizos, they should adapt to the political will of minorities.

Many Latin American governments have coopted the indigenous movement's discourse, emptied it of meaning, and begun to speak of a "new relationship between the indigenous peoples and the government," and to elaborate "transversal policies" with the participation of all interested parties, when in reality they continue to posit the same old indigenist programs that indigenous peoples reject.

In order to legitimize their discourse and actions, they have incorporated into public administration a few indigenous leaders who had long worked for autonomy and now serve as a screen to depict as change what actually is continuity. Some countries have gone further by denaturing the autonomy demand and presenting it as a mechanism by which certain privileged sectors maintain their privileges. This is the case among the bourgeoisies in the departments of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, Guayaquil, Ecuador, and the state of Zilia in Venezuela.

If one assumes that autonomy is a concrete expression of the right to free determination, and that this is a right held by peoples, it cannot be forgotten that the titular subjects of indigenous rights are the indigenous peoples, not their communities, much less the organizations that they build to propel their struggle. This is why along with building autonomies, indigenous movements assume a commitment to their own reconstitution. At this particular juncture, given the fragmentation among the majority of indigenous peoples, communities are important to articulate their resistance struggles and building of autonomies, but movements do not renounce the utopia of reconstituting the indigenous peoples of which they are a part, so that the peoples can assume the holdership of rights. For this reason the defense of community rights is made at the same time as they establish relations with other communities and peoples in their countries and elsewhere, to support each other in their particular demands, but also hoist common demands.

An external problem to becoming political subjects encountered by indigenous peoples is that in the majority of cases, they are politically de-structured, affected by the politics of colonialism wielded through government entities in order to subject them to the interests of the class in power. A concrete example of such politics is that numerically larger indigenous peoples find themselves divided between various states or departments, and the smaller ones between different towns, municipalities, or mayoralties, depending on how states organize local governments.

Indigenous peoples know that in this situation the construction of autonomies can rarely be done from those spaces, because even if they were in control of local governments, their structure and functioning would follow state logic, limiting their faculties to those that are functional to state control; but in the worst of the cases it could turn out that, in the name of indigenous rights, power is handed over to the mestizo groups led by local cacique bosses, that would use it against indigenous peoples.

On the other hand, they know that indigenous communities composed of one people find themselves divided and in conflict for diverse reasons that run from land ownership, use of natural resources, and religious beliefs, to political preferences, among others. In other cases fictitious or invented problems are created by actors outside the communities.

To confront these problems interested indigenous peoples make efforts to identify the causes for division and conflict, locate those that originate in the communities' own problems, and seek solutions. At the same time, they try to determine problems created from the outside and seek ways to repulse them.

The struggle for the installation of autonomous indigenous governments represents an effort by indigenous peoples themselves to construct political regimes different from the current ones, where they and the communities that form them can organize their own governments, with specific faculties and competencies regarding their internal life.

With the decision to build autonomies, indigenous peoples seek to disperse power in order to achieve its direct exercise by the indigenous communities that demand it. It is a sort of decentralization that has nothing to do with that pushed by the government with the support of international institutions, which actually endeavors to enhance government control over society. The decentralization we are talking about, the one that indigenous peoples and communities advancing toward autonomy are showing us, includes the creation of paralegal forms to exercise power that are different from government entities, where communities can strengthen themselves and make their own decisions.

When indigenous peoples decide to build autonomies, they have made a decision that goes against state policies and forces those who choose that path to begin political processes to build networks of power capable of withstanding state attack, counter-powers that will allow them to establish themselves as a force with which governance must be negotiated, and alternative powers that will oblige the state to take them into account. This is why building autonomies cannot be a volunteerist act by "enlightened" leaders or an organization, no matter how indigenous it claims to be.

In any case, it requires the direct participation of indigenous communities in the processes toward autonomy. In other words, indigenous communities must become political subjects with capacity and desire to fight for their collective rights, must understand the social, economic, political, and cultural reality in which they are immersed, as well as the various factors that contribute to their subordination and those that can be used to transcend that situation in such a way that they can take a position on their actions.

With the struggle for autonomy indigenous peoples and communities transcend the folkloric, culturalist, and developmentalist visions that the state propagates, and many people still passively accept. Experience has taught them that it is not enough for some law to recognize their existence and a few rights not in conflict with neoliberal policies, or cultural contributions by indigenous peoples to the multicultural make-up of the country. Nor is it sufficient for governments to mark specific funds for development projects in indigenous regions, amounts that are always too small and are applied in activities and forms decided by the government, which rob the communities of any type of decision-making power and deny their autonomy.

Is it not by chance that the Zapatista rebellion in Mexico began in January 1994, when the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between that country, the United States, and Canada went into effect, or that most of the national demands by indigenous movements include the rescue of natural resources from control by transnational corporations, or that the struggles in Ecuador, Peru, and Chile include opposition to free trade agreements.

They also know that the struggle for autonomy cannot be a struggle by indigenous peoples alone. For this reason, they build relations of solidarity with other social sectors, supporting each other in their particular struggles, while at the same time pushing common demands.

Indigenous peoples, by appealing to their culture and identifying practices in order to mobilize in defense of their rights, are questioning vertical political forms even as they offer horizontal forms that work for them, because they have tested them over centuries of resistance to colonialism. These are practices that come into play precisely at a moment when traditional organizations of political parties, syndicates, or others that are class-based and representative, are entering into a crisis, and society no longer sees itself reflected in them.

These political practices are apparent in many ways, from the postmodern guerrilla, as the Zapatista Army of National Liberation has been labeled, that rose up in armed rebellion in 1994 in Mayan lands, brandishing arms more as a symbol of resistance than to make war, to the long marches by authorities among indigenous peoples in Colombia, the "uprisings" of Ecuadoran peoples, or the Aymara blockade of La Paz, Bolivia, and the Mapuche direct confrontation against forestry companies trying to steal their natural resources.

In these battles indigenous peoples, instead of turning to sophisticated political theories to prepare their discourses, recover historical memory to ground their demands and political practices, and this gives the new movements a distinctive and even symbolic touch. Indigenous peoples in Mexico recuperate the memory of Emiliano Zapata, the incorruptible general of the Army of the South during the revolution of 1910-17, whose principal demand was the restitution of native lands usurped by the large landowners. Colombians recuperate the program and deeds of Manuel Quintín Lame. Andeans in Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia make immediate the rebellions by Tupac Amaru, Tupac Katari, and Bartolina Sisa during colonization, and by Willka Pablo Zarate during the republican period. Local and national heroes are present again in the struggle to guide their armies, as if they had been resting, waiting for the best time to return to the fight.

Along with their historical memory, peoples turn their eye to what they already have so as to become stronger, and, tired of so much disillusionment with traditional political organizations, to recover their own, their own systems of responsibilities. This is why those who are unaware of their particular forms of organization affirm that they act anarchically, that it's not the right way, that they contribute to dispersion, and that it's a bad example for the unity of the oppressed, the exploited, and the excluded.

Final Reflections

Everything said here about indigenous autonomies and the shift from demanding constitutional reform to becoming a process of construction, has as background the search for the root cause of the problem that is the condition of internal colonialism in which indigenous peoples live in the states they are part of.
It is a situation that neither juridical equality of citizens prescribed by 19th-century liberalism, nor indigenist policies imposed by different Latin American states throughout the 20th century, were able to resolve, because they did not go to the heart of the problem which, as can be seen now, involves the recognition of indigenous peoples as collective subjects with rights, but also the re-founding of states to correct the historical anomalies of viewing themselves as monocultural in multicultural societies.

Where will the processes to build indigenous autonomies in Latin America lead us? That is a question that no one can answer, because even the social movements do not know. The actors in this drama draw their utopian horizon, but whether they can achieve it does not depend entirely on them but on different factors, most of which are outside their control. What we can be sure of is that the problem will not be solved in the situation in which states currently find themselves, and for that reason, struggles by indigenous peoples for their autonomy cannot retreat.
Neither the Zapatista guerrilla in Mexico, nor the indigenous self-governments in Colombia, nor the struggles by Andean and Mapuche peoples will find a full solution if the state is not re-founded. But it is also true that states cannot be re-founded without taking seriously their indigenous peoples. The challenge is dual, then: nation-states must be re-founded taking into account their indigenous peoples, and these must include in their utopias the type of state they need and fight for it. This is what indigenous autonomies and struggles to build them are about.

Therefore, we must celebrate that many indigenous peoples and communities have decided not to wait passively for changes to come from the outside and have enlisted in the construction of autonomous governments, unleashing processes where they test new forms of understanding rights, imagine other ways to exercise power, and create other types of citizenships.

No one knows how the processes will turn out, but it is certain that there is no going back to the past.

End Notes

Jim Cason and David Brooks, "Movimientos indígenas, principales retos para AL en el futuro: CIA," La Jornada (Mexico), Dec. 19, 2000, The complete English version of the report is posted at:

Leo Gabriel and Gilberto López y Rivas, ed., Autonomías indígenas en América Latina. Nuevas formas de convivencia política, Plaza y Valdez editores-Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana-Unidad Iztapalapa-Ludwig Boltzmann Institut, México, 2005, p. 19.

Javier Lavanchy, Conflicto y propuesta de autonomía mapuche, Santiago de Chile, Junio de 1999, Proyecto de documentación Ñuke Mapu,

Translated for the Americas Program by Maria Roof.

Francisco López Bárcenas is a Mixtec lawyer, specialist in indigenous rights, and analyst for the Americas Program ( He is author of Muerte sin fin: crónicas de represión en la Región Mixteca oaxaqueña [Endless Death: Chronicles of Repression in the Oaxacan Mixtec Region] and other books.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Trajectory of Indigenous Politics in Latin America

This article by Sujatha Fernandes offers a useful survey of recent developments in the continental indigenous movement.

It suffers, however, from some important gaps, most notably the absence of Guatemala from its picture. No mention is made of Nicaragua where the Miskitu indigenous party – YATAMA – governs the autonomous government in the North Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAN) and holds the mayoralty of the capital, Bilwi/Puerto Cabezas. YATAMA maintains a strategic electoral alliance with the Sandinista National Liberation Front at the national level and its most prominent leaders, Steadmon Fagoth and Brooklyn Rivera, hold seats in the National Assembly and important posts in the government administration.

Sujatha Fernandes does not discuss the political issues that have run through recent continental conferences of indigenous movements. One line of cleavage that has persisted is an ongoing debate between participation in struggles for power at the government level (in countries where indigenous people have great social and political weight such as Bolivia, Ecuador, and Guatemala) and concentration on struggles for autonomy and local control. At the most recent gatherings the “Evo” option of waging a struggle for power at the government level has gained ground under the strong influence of the MAS victory in Bolivia.

The discussion of this issue is directly connected to the question of defining allies on the broader left, alliances with left political parties, and relations with multiethnic movements such as the environmental movement. It is partly fueled by a more general debate about the locus of power – the ‘from below vs. the ‘from above’ strategies, a discussion that often takes the form of pitting ‘the local’ against ‘the national’ or ‘the international’ (clearly a discussion that has engulfed all oppositional movements, not just indigenous peoples). It also intertwines with discussion over what attitude to take to legal instruments and initiatives such as the global struggle to pass the UN Declaration of Human Rights that concluded victoriously last September. Some sectors dismissed this battle as a diversion, and consider the Declaration as no more than a piece of paper.

This general debate is far from concluded among indigenous leaders and militants, and its outcome depends in part on how the non-indigenous revolutionary left responds to the political, social, and cultural demands of native peoples.

One arena where indigenous and non-indigenous activists meet is the movement to defend Mother Earth from capitalist and imperialist depredation and destruction. In that struggle indigenous culture and cosmovision has a vital role. The movement as a whole can only prosper and gain ground if it learns from the naturalist and communistic traditions of indigenous people, and comes to understand that the main enemy of Mother Earth is the capitalist economic system. The struggle to end that system is a challenge held in common by all peoples. It can only be victorious if the social and cultural rights of the oppressed minorities are inscribed on the banners and in the programs of the majority of the world’s exploited and oppressed classes and peoples.

Felipe Stuart

The Trajectory of Indigenous Politics in Latin America
February 26, 2008 By Sujatha Fernandes

Sujatha Fernandes's ZSpace Page

On Monday January 28, Bishop Alejandro Goic announced that the Mapuche rights activist Patricia Troncoso was calling off a 111 day hunger strike in Chile. Troncoso, along with several other strikers, was demanding the release of Mapuche political prisoners, an end to military repression of indigenous groups, and retraction of charges of arson leveled by the Forestal Minoco company. The strike was accompanied with protests in the Chilean capital of Santiago and petitions.

In 2002, Troncoso and several Mapuche activists were accused of setting fire to 100 acres of pine plantations – charges they deny – and were sentenced to ten years in prison. They were tried in an unjust trial, where the administration of Ricardo Lagos drew on anti-terrorism legislation devised during the time of military ruler Augusto Pinochet. Further, Mapuche people claim the plantations as part of their ancestral lands, unrightfully occupied by the company. Forestry companies expanded their expropriation of indigenous lands during the Pinochet era, when many indigenous people were forced to relinquish their rights.

The recently elected administration of Michelle Bachelet offered certain concessions to Troncoso on Monday, including transfer of the Mapuche rights activists to a Education and Labor Centre penitentiary and a review of the controversial anti-terrorism legislation. Bachelet also appointed a presidential commissioner for indigenous affairs to begin a dialogue with indigenous groups and promote recognition of indigenous peoples. The case has brought national and international attention to the plight of the Mapuche people in Chile, a country often touted as a successful free market democracy with high growth rates, despite having one of the worst levels of social inequality in the region.

The strike has also highlighted the militarization of indigenous communities that has been accelerating in recent years across Latin America. Mapuche zones in the south of Chile have a heavy police presence and Mapuche people are subject to frequent police brutality, daily raids, and the use of firearms against unarmed members of their community. On January 2, a Mapuche youth was shot and killed by police when members of the Yupeco-Vilcun community staged an occupation of a farm.

There are similar reports from other parts of Latin America as well. The Zapatistas, a revolutionary indigenous group based in southeastern Mexico, have faced growing violence from paramilitary forces in the last six months. In Brazil, a law is currently under debate that would allow the state to intervene into indigenous communities to protect children from neglect and abuse. Like the Australian intervention into Aboriginal territories, where police and military personnel were sent into the Northern territory on the pretext of saving indigenous children, the actions are seen by local communities and human rights groups as being less concerned with the welfare of children, and more with efforts to occupy indigenous lands and eventually take over coveted property.

The stepped up efforts at containment and repression are linked to the growing mobilization of indigenous people across the region, that received a strong impetus with the armed uprising of the Zapatistas on January 1st, 1994. This followed on the trail of an Americas wide indigenous campaign to mark "500 Years of Resistance," that protested the official "Discovery of the New World" commemorations in 1992. In Ecuador during the 1990s, there were five large indigenous uprisings and several demonstrations in opposition to neoliberal reforms. In Bolivia, a coalition of indigenous, peasant and workers groups participated in water wars to protest the privatization of water and gas wars to demand the recovery of natural gas reserves from transnationals.

The 2005 election of Evo Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous president and a leader of the coca growers union, is an expression of these years of indigenous organizing. The rise of Morales and other left leaders across the region, along with their attempts at nationalizing gas reserves, rewriting the constitution, and giving land titles to indigenous communities, has highlighted the contradictions that exist, as wealthy landowners, transnationals, and creoles are unwilling to give up their entrenched power and control over ancestral lands.

In Venezuela, the 1999 constitution guaranteed indigenous communities the right to lands which they have traditionally and ancestrally occupied, and the 2001 Law of Demarcation generated a process of mapping of indigenous territories that would restore indigenous ownership of land once officially ratified. But the process of accessing those lands has been highly conflictual and indigenous people have suffered intimidation from private goon squads of landowners. The growing activism of indigenous groups in Venezuela has prompted a resurgence of racist stereotypes and caricatures in the media. One piece published in the supplement El Camaleón of the daily El Nacional in 2003 entitled "Founding of the bolivarian circles in the community of the Tabayara Indians," reported the visits of president Hugo Chávez to the imaginary Tabayara community. In one visit to the Cacique Konsoda, a parody of an indigenous chief, the chief supposedly speaks with the president for an hour and a half, but since the president does not speak indigenous languages he is unable to understand anything. The report concludes: "That is the problem with these indios, nobody understands anything they say." These racist constructions of indigenous people as ignorant and incomprehensible demonstrate the anxieties of a wealthy and middle class opposition sector, who are fearful of indigenous people reclaiming their rights.

Likewise, in Bolivia, where a new agrarian reform law was passed in 2006 to protect indigenous lands from being sold or bartered, indigenous leaders have been assaulted for defending their territories against intruders violating the laws. The IPS reported that public land in Ascensión, occupied by the Guarayo people in eastern Bolivia, was illegally sold by corrupt indigenous leaders of the Union of Guarayo Native People (COPNAG). Guarayo members of a disciplinary panel formed to indict the corrupt leaders were subject to threats on their life and attacks from private militias.

Under the agrarian reform law, the government has the power to redistribute unused land to indigenous communities, in return for compensation to private landowners. Under Morales, there has also been an attempt to reduce the concentration of land ownership among private interests. On December 8, the constituent assembly in Bolivia finally passed a draft constitution after seventeen months of partisan conflicts and delays, that limits the amount of land that can be held by any individual. The proposal will be voted on in a referendum in six months time.

But indigenous communities are understandably cautious about entering into coalitions with leftist leaders. Lucio Gutiérrez, a former army colonel who was lauded as part of a new wave of left leaders when he was elected president of Ecuador in 2003, has been blamed as responsible for the cooptation and demobilization of a vibrant indigenous movement in Ecuador. The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) was formed in 1986 and led many large demonstrations against multinational corporations. In 2003, CONAIE entered into a coalition with Gutiérrez, and found themselves betrayed by Gutiérrez, who signed a letter with the IMF to privatize natural resources, liberalize the labor market and undertake fiscal reforms, all contrary to the platform on which he was elected. In April 2005, Gutiérrez was forced to rescind power and flee the country amid massive demonstrations.

Recently, on January 10-12, indigenous groups in Ecuador came together at the Third Congress of Indigenous Nationalities and Peoples of Ecuador. Congress delegates vowed to fight for the recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples and the recognition of Ecuador as a plurinational state, and to oppose the extraction of natural resources. They called on the constituent assembly underway under the leadership of leftist leader Rafael Correa to include an agrarian reform law that would restore lands to indigenous communities. At the Congress, a new president, Marlon Santi, was elected to CONAIE. Santi was involved in the protests against the multinational oil company ARCO (Atlantic Richfield company) in the 1980s, and was a dissident during the Gutierrez administration.

In an interview with Patricio Zhinghri T., Santi said that proposals from the indigenous movement are not on the agenda of the Correa government, and there are concerns that it will not be represented in the constitutional reforms. He revealed a willingness to strategize and collaborate with the government, but emphasized that indigenous groups will continue to mobilize independently to put their concerns on the agenda.

These concerns are being echoed in other parts of Latin America as indigenous groups have sought to retain a sense of organizational independence under left wing governments. In March 2005 and January 2006, indigenous groups from the north-western state of Zulia in Venezuela organized protests against plans of the Chávez government to increase coal mining in their state. While expressing their support for the president, they also pointed to the water contamination and health risks for the mostly indigenous population of the region who depend on scarce water supplies.

The growing level of indigenous activism in recent months and years, which also included a historic Zapatista women's meeting and a Meeting of the Zapatistas with the People of the World from December 28 to January 1, 2008, has signaled the strength of indigenous movements within the revolutionary processes taking place across the region, and their unwillingness to be intimidated by the violence or threats of the powerful.

Sujatha Fernandes:

Monday, February 25, 2008

Former East German president Hans Modrow advises Cuba

The Brazilian daily Folha Sao Paulo reports that Hans Modrow, former president of ex-East Germany (GDR), is in Cuba to hold conversations with government officials about the process that led to the fall of the GDR and German re-unification on a capitalist basis. This information was provided to the Folha Sao Paulo by Mexico-based German political science specialist, Heinz Dieterich, in a telephone interview with journalist Fabiano Moisonnave (see ).

Medrow negotiated West German annexation of the GDR with former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, former US president George Bush, and the then French president François Mitterrand. Dieterich said that Fidel Castro personally invited him to Cuba to share his ideas. “This experience of a socialist leader from East Germany and a state leader who administered the transition is obviously worth gold,” Dieterich affirmed.

Dieterich said that he is “certain that he [Modrow] will argue with Cuban authorities that without popular participation, without reforms, historical socialism cannot survive today."

Modrov, now 80, was prime minister of East Germany from December 1989 to March 1990, in the period just after the fall of the Berlin Wall. From Cuba he gave an interview with the German daily Berliner Kurier. “It’s the same atmosphere here,” he said, “that we experienced in 1989.”

The German daily reported that Modrow had held conversations with Ricardo Alarcón and with former Economics minister, José Luis Rodríguez.

Modrow said he was asked about how he had coped with the 1989 tumult in his country. “I permitted freedom of travel, and carried out reforms in agriculture and small business activities. Exactly what is happening here now we already experienced, we already went through that,” he responded.

Dieterich told Folha’s Fabiano Moisonnave that Modrow had also advised Fidel to avoid centralization of the political system.

Fabiano Moisonnave asked Dieterich if the Cuban leadership fears the possibility of a sudden termination of Venezuelan support if Chávez is ousted in Venezuela. “Yes,” Dieterich replied. “Fidel himself expressed this fear prior to the December [Venezuelan] referendum. He said that, if for some reason Chávez had to stop governing Venezuela, very difficult times would come about for many peoples, including Cuba. Now, we can formulate it this way: Cuba adopts the Chinese development model or it bases itself on two strategic partners – Venezuela and China. The situation in Cuba is stable. Washington can’t do anything in Cuba. Hence, Washington has to cut one of the two arteries that are fomenting life and/or development in Cuba. China is too powerful, but if they manage to destabilize Chávez or weaken him, this would be a way to force Cuba into a new economic crisis for lack of energy. That’s why they’ll take that road. If they manage to strike a blow at Chávez this would have strong destabilizing repercussions in Cuba.”

Dieterich warned that “the problem in Venezuela is the November elections that could give the opposition a platform through election to state and municipal governments, etc.

"The opposition would use possible electoral victories to avoid waiting for the 2012 presidential elections to get rid of Chávez. That would destabilize the entire integrationist dynamic of Latin America. If Chávez falls, Evo will fall, it will put Rafael Correa in a difficult situation, Daniel Ortega will fall in Nicaragua. Venezuela and Cuba are fundamental elements of the system of Bolivarian integration in Latin America and any defeat in one of them would affect the possibilities for the independence and the grandeur of Brazil within a Latin American union…”

Dieterich argued that Brazil's national interests lie in support for Cuba, Venezuela, and Bolivia.

"Brazil and Cuba have mutual interests. Benito Juárez said some 150 years ago that Cuba was Latin America’s first line of defense. This is important for Lula’s project to convert Brazil into a world power. And that obviously doesn’t please Washington. To be a world power Brazil needs the backing of other Latin American countries – Venezuela, Ecuador, Argentina, etc. Cuba is important, first of all, because of its geostrategic and military position in the Caribbean. In order for Brazil to have a certain protection in that region it is essential that these progressive governments continue to exist – governments that concur with Latin American integration and Brazilian world power. That’s why it is in the national interests of Brazil to support Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia."

The original Portuguese-language interview is posted here below.

A Spanish-language translation can be found on the Rebelión site at

Felipe Stuart

21/02/2008 - 02h31

Ex-premiê alemão oriental ensina transição em Cuba

FABIANO MAISONNAVE da Folha S. Paulo, em Caracas

A convite pessoal de Fidel Castro, o último premiê da Alemanha Oriental, Hans Modrow, está nestes dias em Cuba para conversar com funcionários do regime sobre o processo que levou ao fim do comunismo e à reunificação de seu país.

A informação foi dada à Folha pelo cientista político alemão radicado no México Heinz Dieterich, em entrevista ontem. "Modrow se encontra neste momento em Cuba, nessas conversas confidenciais. Estou certo de que ele vai dizer que, sem a participação das pessoas, sem reformas, o socialismo histórico não pode sobreviver hoje em dia", diz um dos intelectuais de esquerda mais influentes dentro do debate sobre o "socialismo do século 21".

Prestes a completar 80 anos, Modrow foi o premiê entre dezembro de 1989 e março de 1990, no período logo após a queda do Muro de Berlim, que levou ao fim do sistema comunista no Leste e à unificação alemã. Em Cuba, conversou com um repórter do jornal alemão "Berliner Kurier": "É a mesma atmosfera que vivemos em 1989", afirmou.

A publicação alemã, que não informou sobre o convite pessoal de Fidel, relata que Modrow esteve com o presidente do Parlamento cubano, Ricardo Alarcón, e com o ministro da Economia, José Luis Rodríguez. "Os dois perguntaram: 'Como vocês fizeram em 1989?' Dê liberdade de viagem, permita reformas na agricultura e em pequenos comércios. Exatamente o que está passando agora nós já experimentamos, já vivenciamos", disse o ex-premiê comunista.

Para Dieterich, que conversou com Modrow na semana passada, o ex-premiê deverá aconselhar Fidel a evitar a centralização do sistema político.

Professor da Universidade Autônoma Metropolitana (UAM), na Cidade do México, Dieterich está radicado na América Latina desde os anos 1970 e tem influência em círculos de esquerda da região. Antes considerado próximo do presidente Hugo Chávez, tem feito duras críticas ao governo venezuelano. Leia trechos da entrevista, feita por telefone:
FOLHA - O que significa para o regime cubano o anúncio de Fidel Castro?

HEINZ DIETERICH - Foi uma decisão previsível que apenas formaliza uma situação de fato de 19 meses, em que o governo real era de Raúl Castro. Em segundo lugar, acredito que haverá uma maior abertura da economia em direção ao modelo chinês. Em terceiro lugar, haverá uma liberação no campo dos direitos civis. Por exemplo, a proibição de que cubanos se hospedem em hotéis para turistas e outras coisas desse tipo. No sistema político, acredito que o sistema atual será conservado nos próximos anos. As maiores mudanças serão por meio da economia, na qual se vai emular o sistema chinês.

FOLHA - E com relação à liberdade política?

DIETERICH - A leitura da liderança cubana sobre o colapso do socialismo na Europa é que a tentativa de transformar, ao mesmo tempo, os sistemas político e econômico, levou à derrocada desse sistema. Portanto, é muito mais razoável na leitura cubana seguir o modelo chinês: abrir a economia e posteriormente liberalizar também o sistema político.

Eu lhe dou uma informação exclusiva: o último presidente da Alemanha socialista, Hans Modrow, foi convidado pela direção cubana para discutir com eles durante dez dias suas experiências no colapso da Alemanha Oriental e da União Soviética, porque ele foi o presidente que negociou a anexação da Alemanha socialista à Ocidental com [o ex-líder soviético Mikhail] Gorbatchov, com o presidente [George] Bush pai e [o presidente francês, François] Miterrand. Então, essa experiência de um líder socialista da Alemanha Oriental e de um homem de Estado que administrou a transição vale ouro, obviamente. Ele foi convidado por uma carta pessoal de Fidel para compartilhar suas experiências em Cuba.

FOLHA - O que Modrow deve dizer aos cubanos?

DIETERICH - Eu lhe entrevistei há cinco semanas. Eu lhe perguntei sobre as causas do colapso da Alemanha Oriental. Ele disse que o problema principal foi a centralização do poder político, que impedia que qualquer reforma desde abaixo pudesse ser realizada. Houve outros aspectos, como a Guerra Fria, mas em termos endógenos, internos, a causa principal foi a extrema verticalização do sistema político.
Ele se encontra neste momento em Cuba, nestas conversas confidenciais. Estou seguro de que ele vai dizer isto: de que, sem a participação das pessoas, sem reformas, o socialismo histórico não pode sobreviver hoje em dia.

FOLHA - Muitos estimam que a Venezuela de Chávez atravessará um ano difícil, com eleições regionais e num cenário pós-derrota no referendo sobre a reforma constitucional. Há um temor em Cuba de que a ajuda venezuelana possa terminar abruptamente, como ocorreu no final da União Soviética?

DIETERICH - Sim, efetivamente. O próprio Fidel expressou esse temor antes do referendo de dezembro. Ele disse que, se por algum motivo, Chávez tem de deixar o governo na Venezuela, viriam tempos muito difíceis a muitos povos, entre os quais, Cuba. E agora, podemos formular assim: agora, Cuba adota o modelo de desenvolvimento chinês e se baseia em dois sócios estratégicos, Venezuela e China. A situação em Cuba é estável, e Washington não pode fazer nada em Cuba. Então, Washington tem de cortar uma dessas duas artérias que fomentam a vida e o crescimento de Cuba. A China é demasiado poderosa, mas, se conseguem desestabilizar Chávez ou debilitá-lo, isso seria uma via para fazer com que Cuba enfrente uma nova crise econômica por causa da energia. Por isso, optarão por essa via. Se conseguem golpear Chávez, isso terá repercussões desestabilizadoras fortes em Cuba.

FOLHA - Nesse cenário, onde está o Brasil?

DIETERICH - Há um interesse mútuo entre Brasil e Cuba. Benito Juárez dizia, há 150 anos, que Cuba era a primeira linha de defesa da América Latina. E isso vale para o projeto de Lula, que é converter o Brasil em potência mundial. E isso obviamente não agrada muito a Washington. Para ser potência mundial, o Brasil precisa do apoio dos demais países latino-americanos, Venezuela, Equador, Argentina etc. Cuba é importante, em primeiro lugar, por sua posição geoestratégica e militar no Caribe. Para que o Brasil tenha certa proteção nessa zona, é essencial que continuem existindo esses governos progressistas que coincidem essencialmente de integração latino-americana e de potência mundial brasileira. Por isso, é do interesse nacional do Brasil apoiar Cuba, Venezuela, Equador e Bolívia.

FOLHA - Cuba está se preparando, nessa transição, para um cenário sem a Venezuela?

DIETERICH - O problema na Venezuela são as eleições de novembro, que podem dar uma plataforma, por meio de governos estaduais, prefeituras etc, à oposição. E a oposição usaria eventuais triunfos eleitorais de novembro para não esperar a eleição presidencial de 2012 para tirar Chávez. Isso desestabilizaria toda a dinâmica integracionista latino-americana. Se Chávez cai, cairá Evo, colocará Rafael Correa [Equador] numa situação difícil, cairá Daniel Ortega, na Nicarágua. Venezuela e Cuba são elementos fundamentais no sistema de integração bolivariano da América Latina, e qualquer derrota de um deles afetaria as possibilidades de independência e de grandeza do Brasil dentro de uma união latino-americana.

FOLHA - Há uma afinidade entre Chávez e Raúl parecida à com Fidel?

DIETERICH - Eu conheço os dois personagens, Raúl e Hugo Chávez. Eu penso que há coincidências tanto em apreciações políticas, na necessidade bolivariana de integração, na necessidade de uma alternativa pós-capitalista como no temperamento humano. Na política, a química pessoal, a empatia tem um papel importante. E, conhecendo aos dois personagens, eu diria que os dois se relacionarão de uma maneira excelente no aspecto pessoal, e isso é positivo para a relação política.

FOLHA - Além de Raúl, quais serão os outros nomes importantes na política cubana?

DIETERICH - Evidentemente, o presidente será Raúl. Mas acredito que será fortalecido o papel do [vice-presidente] Carlos Lage, praticamente o operador do aparato estatal. É importante, obviamente, o jovem chanceler Felipe Pérez Roque. Ele foi secretário privado de Fidel e conseguiu romper o isolamento de Cuba. Um terceiro nome é o atual secretário pessoal, Carlos Valenciaga, mas com menos possibilidades. E, como agora, o peso do processo cubano estará no desenvolvimento da economia, é possível que o ministro da Economia, José Luis Rodríguez, em favor de uma maior incorporação de elementos chineses, adquira maior peso no gabinete.

This is a most perceptive interview conducted with the French Cuba solidarity leader Vicktor Dadaj by the English-language France 24 Top Story program moderated by Robert Parsons.

It is titled “More of the same in Cuba after Fidel?” and is a little over 7.5 minutes in duration.

Viktor Dadaj is the author of the books “Les Etats Unis: De Mal Empire” and "Cuba est une île." He moderates the Cuba Solidarity Project website.

Felipe Stuart

President Raul Castro's Feb. 24 National Assembly Speech

Key address by Comrade Raul Castro Ruz, President of the State Council and the Council of Ministers, at the closing session of the First Session of the 7th legislature of the National Assembly of People's Power.

Convention Center, Havana, February 24, 2008,
"50th Year of the Revolution."


As comrade Fidel alerted us in his fundamental Reflection of lastJanuary 14th, the people's mandate to this legislature is very clear: to continue strengthening the Revolution at a historical juncture which demands from us to be dialectic and creative.

The composition of the State Council, which has just been elected by this Assembly, raised much expectation both in Cuba and abroad. The most significant was clarified by comrade Fidel in his Message of February 18th. There is very little that I can add to what he said except to express to our people, on behalf of the Revolution's leadership, our appreciation for the innumerable expressions of serenity, maturity, self-assurance, and the combination of genuine sadness and revolutionary determination.

I take on the responsibility entrusted to me deeply convinced that, as I have often said, there is only one Commander in Chief of the Cuban Revolution.

Fidel is Fidel; we all know it very well. Fidel is irreplaceable and the people shall continue his work when he is no longer physically with us; although his ideas will always be with us, the same ideas that have made it possible to build the beacon of dignity and justice our country represents.

The Communist Party, a sure guarantee of the unity of the Cuban nation, is the sole worthy heir to our people's confidence in its leader. It is the top leading force of our State and society as provided in Article 5 of our Constitution approved by referendum by exactly 97.7% of the voters.

This conviction shall become especially significant when as a fact of life the generation that founded and forged the Revolution is no longer present.

Fortunately, it is not that moment we are living today. Fidel is here, as always, with a very clear mind and his capacity to analyze and foresee perfectly intact and strengthened now that he can dedicate to studying and analyzing the countless hours he previously used to tackle the daily problems.

Despite his steady recovery, his physical condition will not allow him those endless working sessions -- often separated by hardly a few hours of rest -- that characterized his work practically from the moment he started the revolutionary struggle, the same that grew in intensity through the long years of the Special Period when he did not take one single day off.

Comrade Fidel's decision, a new contribution enhancing his example, ensures as from now the continuity of the Revolution and is perfectly consistent with a life guided by Martí's precept that: "All the glory of the world fits in a kernel of corn."Likewise, his determination is unchangeable with regards to his decision to continue making his contribution to the revolutionary cause and to the most noble ideas and objectives of mankind, while he has the strength to do so.

Therefore, with the certainty that I am expressing the will of our people, I appeal to this Assembly, as the supreme body of the State power, to allow me to continue consulting with the maximum leader ofthe Revolution, comrade Fidel Castro Ruz, the decisions of special transcendence for the future of our nation, basically those associated to defense, foreign policy and the socioeconomic development of the country.

For this and for many other reasons, I shall rather often today quote some of the fundamental ideas and concepts expressed by him in his Reflections. I avail myself of this occasion to say that we should study them for they are educational and they show his capacity to look into the future. We should always bear in mind something that Raul Roa liked to say to those close to him: "Fidel hears the grass growing and sees what is happening around the corner."

Comrade Deputies:I am aware of my responsibility to the people as I take on the task entrusted to me. But I am also convinced that as it has been the case until today, I can count on the support of those holding positions of responsibility at various levels, and even more importantly, I can count on the support of my compatriots without which a society like ours could not succeed.

The Assembly, in full compliance with the view of the Party's Political Bureau, elected comrade José Ramón Machado Ventura as First Vice President of the State Council and later approved his appointment as First Vice President of the Council of Ministers. As I explained in my proposal to fill that position, it is convenient that under the present circumstances the same comrade takes on these two responsibilities in the State and Government, as it has been the case until now.

Considering his revolutionary life and convictions, his experience and knowledge, his qualification as a leader and a human being, there is no doubt that he meets the requirements to carry out these high duties.

Likewise, the assembly has agreed, in accordance with Article 75 of the Constitution, to analyze the composition of the Government in a future session later this same year. This is a timely decision, since we are not dealing only with appointments, but rather with decisions about which changes might be required in the system of institutions pertaining to the central administration of the State, and this needs more time.

During the first 15 years of the Revolution, the State structures inherited from capitalism were adjusted as we went along to undertake the tasks imposed by the radical economic, political and social changes.

The 1960's institutionalization process, however imperfect, enabled usto structure an articulate system corresponding to those circumstances. We were then able to put ourselves on a level with the socialist countries, in terms of both good and bad experiences.

Finally, in 1994, the most critical moment of the Special Period, considerable adjustments were made leading to the reduction and merging of institutions as well as to the redistribution of the tasks previously entrusted to some of them. However, these changes were undertaken with the rush imposed by the necessity to quickly adapt to a radically different, very hostile, and extremely dangerous scenario.

In the fourteen years that have passed since then, the national and international scene has noticeably changed. Today, a more compact and operational structure is required, with a lower number of institutions under the central administration of the State and a better distribution of their functions. This will enable us to reduce the enormous amount of meetings, coordination, permissions, conciliations, provisions, rules and regulations, etc., etc. It will also allow us to bring together some decisive economic activities which are presently disseminated through various entities, and to make a better use of our cadres.

In summary, our Government's work must be more efficient.

The Assembly has been renovated in a higher proportion than the previous legislature. The number of women deputies has grown over seven percent; they now make up almost half of the legislature, over43%.

There is also an increase from 23 to 36 in the number of those between 18 and 30 years of age, that is, the youngest, although we also have a higher number of deputies who are over sixty.

It is very significant that a higher number of deputies are directly linked to production and services, that is, workers, farmers and other laborers. The same applies to members of the armed institutions, sportsmen, artists, writers, journalists and other professionals who, together with the student leaders and the comrades working in the people's councils make up over fifty percent of the Assembly.

These data and the simple enumeration of the tasks discharged by everyone of you - from national cadres to retirees and religious leaders --allow us to say that those meeting here are a small-scale sample of the Cuban society.

This is a basic premise albeit it cannot by itself guarantee the fulfillment of the Parliament's mission. First and foremost an intelligent, organized, creative and strong performance is required from all members, particularly while working in the commissions wherethere is more time to focus on certain issues and to study them listening to a greater number of comrades.

In my visit last December to the Santiago de Cuba district that elected comrade Fidel a deputy, I said that the massive support enjoyed by the revolution demands from us that we question everything we do in order to improve on it.

I also said that if the people are firmly united behind a single party, this must be more democratic than any other, and so must be the entire society. This society, of course, can be improved, as any other human work, but it is undoubtedly full of justice and everybody in it has the opportunity to express their views and, better still, to work for the materialization of whatever we all agree.

There is no reason to fear discrepancies in a society such as ours, where its very nature precludes the existence of antagonistic contradictions, since the social classes that make it up are not antagonistic themselves.

The best solutions can come from a profound exchange of differing opinions, if such an exchange is guided by sensible purposes and the views are uttered with responsibility.

That's how the majority of Cubans have acted, from our best scientists, intellectuals, workers, farmers and students to the most humble housewife.

At different stages of the Revolution, including the present, when objectively assessing both the strategic issues and the difficulties of their everyday lives, they have all set an example of political maturity and awareness of realities. Meanwhile, they are increasingly convinced that the only source of wealth for the society rests with the productive work, above all when man and resources are efficiently employed.The international doomsayers forecasting the death of the Revolution tried to capitalize on the criticisms made during the study and discussion of the speech made on July 26th in Camagüey.

They overlooked the fact that it was debate and criticism within socialism. This was confirmed way over, a few months later, by the results of our electoral process which concluded last January 20th.

It is also true that some people are inclined to talk before being properly informed. They make demands without thinking whether they are talking rationally or irrationally. As a rule, they agree with those who claim rights without ever mentioning duties. As Fidel put it in his Reflections of January 16th: "...they expect miracles from our determined and dignified Revolution."

We do not deny their right to expression, provided they do it with respect for the law. In the face of such an expression we can neither be extremists nor naive. When the motivation is despair due to a personal problem or the lack of information, we should be patient and offer the necessary arguments.

But if anyone intends to put pressure motivated by their wishes to be in the limelight or by ambition, demagoguery, opportunism, simulation, arrogance or any other human weakness of a similar nature, we must face them resolutely, avoiding offense but calling a spade a spade.

We should never forget that the enemy never sleeps, that it is always willing to use our carelessness to do us harm, even if some are bent on ignoring it.

We shall not avoid listening to everyone's honest opinion, which is very useful and necessary simply because of the sometimes ridiculous noise made every time a citizen of our country says something that the very noise makers would pay no attention to if they heard it anywhere else on the planet.

We are aware that such messages are intended to mislead or at least to create confusion; but in case anyone has had the outlandish notion to scare us off with them, I shall say that the reason we are still here -- and we will continue to be here -- is that our people and its Revolution have always faced up, without fear or hesitation and with the truth, all sorts of aggressions by the greatest military and economic power in the world.

Many examples could be offered; suffice it to mention the incontrovertible dignity of our Five Heroes in their stance before every attempt at breaking their will during a decade of unjust incarceration.

I avail myself of the occasion to express my gratitude, on behalf of our people, for the countless expressions of solidarity, respect, affection, encouragement and legitimate concern over the leader of the Revolution conveyed by Heads of State and Government, political parties, non governmental organizations, outstanding intellectuals and ordinary people from every corner of the world after the publication of his Message last Tuesday. We shall never fail their confidence in us.

At the same time, we take due notice of the offensive and overtly interfering statements of the imperialists and some of their closest allies.

As could be expected, the State Department hastily announced the continuation of the blockade in accordance with the policy of the present Administration.

Others, with certain nuances, are bent on conditioning relations with Cuba to a "transition" process aimed at destroying the work of so manyy ears of struggle.

Little do they know our people, so proud of its full sovereignty and independence!

The Revolution is the work of free men and women and it has been permanently opened to debate; but it has never given an inch to pressures nor has it ever been influenced by them, whether big or small.

I shall only add that Fidel's Reflections, published on Friday, are a masterly response to all of them.

As for the difficulties the country faces domestically, the decision on their priorities and the pace of their solution will invariably be linked to the available resources and the deep, rational and collective analysis made by the corresponding Party, State or Government institutions. In those cases where it is deemed necessary, there will be a previous consultation with the people in the corresponding sector of society, or even with the entire people, if it were a very transcendental issue.

Some things need time for they should be thoroughly studied since a mistake brought about by improvisation, superficiality or haste could have substantial negative consequences. Good planning is most important for we cannot spend more than we have. Then we should organize things well, and work in an orderly and disciplined fashion; this is fundamental.

When discussing these issues we should always bear in mind Fidel's deep conviction, reiterated in his Message of February 18th, that "...the present problems of the Cuban society require more variables for each concrete problem than those contained in a chess game. We cannot ignore one single detail; this is not an easy path to take, if the intelligence of a human being in a revolutionary society is to prevail over instinct."

I insist on the importance of discipline. We must all be demanding and back up those who are. If it were necessary, we should help them improve their methods and support them resolutely before the collective.

You should understand that I am not talking of acting with extremism or of accepting abuse of authority or injustices; what I mean is that we should all do what corresponds in the strengthening of discipline and social order. If we don't do it our people stand to suffer the consequences.
It is true that there are objective limitations; we know them well and we suffer daily trying to solve them as soon as possible. We are aware of the enormous efforts required by the strengthening of the economy, which is an unavoidable premise to advance in any other area ofsociety, given the real war waged by the United States administrationagainst our country.

Their intention has not changed from the triumph of the Revolution, i.e. to make our people suffer as much as possible in order to force it to abandon its decision to be free. This is a reality that far from intimidating us should continue making us stronger. Instead of using it as an excuse for our mistakes, it should serve as encouragement to produce more and to offer better services, to make efforts to find the ways and means to remove any deterrent to the productive forces and to the exploitation of the significant potential offered by savings and by the correct organization of labor.

From the days of the independence wars until the present, our history teaches us that the greater the difficulties the greater the need for order, discipline and unity. The lack of cohesion as well as disorder and impunity have always been among the worst enemies of a fighting people.
I repeat that the country's priority will be to meet the basic needs of the population, both material and spiritual, based on the sustained strengthening of the national economy and its productive basis without which, I'll say it again, development would be impossible.

An example of this is the measures proposed to increase the agricultural and livestock production and to better their marketing, which have been analyzed in every province by a large representation of those in charge of implementing them, including the producers themselves.

Thus, we shall continue to act with regards to every issue of cardinal importance for the country.

We are examining, for instance, everything related to the timely implementation of comrade Fidel's ideas on "the progressive, gradual and prudent revaluation of the Cuban peso," exactly as he said it on March 2005. At the same time, we keep delving into the phenomenon ofthe double currency in the economy.

These are all very sensitive and complex issues when, as in our case, there is a firm willingness to protect and to steadily increase the incomes and savings of the population, particularly of those least favored.

To avoid traumatic effects or inconsistencies, any changes related to the currency shall be made with a comprehensive approach, mindful, among other things, of the wage system, the retail prices, the entitlements and the subsidies running in the millions presently required by numerous services and products distributed on an egalitarian basis, such as those provided by the ration card which under the present conditions of our economy become irrational and unsustainable.

It is our strategic objective today to advance in an articulate, sound and well-thought out manner until the wages recover their role and everyone's living standard corresponds directly with their legally earned incomes, that is, with the significance and quantity of their contribution to society.

As Fidel pointed out in his Reflection of January 16th: "...nor should we give away anything to those who could be producing and who don't produce, or who produce very little. Reward the merits of those who work with their hands or their minds."

We are simultaneously studying other issues following a priority, and the pace of progress will depend on their complexity and the resources available.

We have the basics to find the best possible solutions within our material possibilities and organizational capabilities, which shall continue to grow: an educated people, with a high political culture and firmly united under the principles summed up by comrade Fidel in his Reflections of January 24th, when he said: "For me, unity means sharing in the struggle, the risks, thesacrifices, the aims, ideas, concepts and strategies assumed after discussion and analysis. Unity means a common struggle against annexationists, quislings and corrupt individuals who have nothing incommon with a militant revolutionary," end of quote.

I insist on what I said here during the previous session of this Assembly:

"For the enormous possibilities of this unity to turn into tangible results, it is indispensable that all the institutions and organizations work with the necessary integration."

Institutionalization, --I repeat-- institutionalization is an important support of this decisive purpose and one of the pillars ofthe Revolution's invulnerability in the political field; therefore, we must work for its continued improvement. We should never believe that what we have done is perfect.

Our democracy is as participatory as few others are, but we should beaware that the functioning of the State and Government institutions is not yet as effective as our people rightfully demand. This is something we should all think about.

In December, I referred to the excess of prohibitions and regulations, and in the next few weeks we shall start removing the most simple of them. Many had had the purpose of preventing the emergence of new inequalities at a time of general shortages, even when that meant relinquishing certain incomes.

The suppression of other procedures, even if they might sound simple to some, will take more time for they require a more comprehensive study and changes of certain legal regulations, in addition to the fact that some of these are influenced by measures taken against our country by successive U.S administrations.

Changing subject, there is also the tendency to apply the same recipe everywhere. As a result of this -- and this is perhaps its worst consequence -- many believe that the solution of every problem demandsa national measure.

In many respects, local initiative can be effective and viable; this much has been proven with the direct distribution of milk, as I said last July 26th. This experience has already been extended to 64 municipalities from 13 provinces in the country; 40 of them are completely applying this system. We are also advancing in the remaining municipalities and in the dairy industry.

In addition to ensuring prompt and proper distribution of this essential product, which is the main objective, in the last few months of this past year said program allowed us to save more than 6 thousand tons of powder milk whose purchase would have cost in excess of 30 million USD, at the average price in the period of 5 thousand USD a ton.

Additionally, the hard currency expenses were reduced in 2.6 millions, including in this figure the cost of 600 thousand litters of fuel.

Other examples could be taken from the most diverse sectors; therefore, we must continue to think of similar solutions at all levels of the administration.

Comrades: On a day like this, in 1895, responding to a call from Martí, the Old and the New Generations resumed the struggle for the independence thwarted by the United States military intervention. Half a century later, we again managed to be united and to fight against the same enemy.

It was not by chance that this date was chosen, 50 years ago, for the first broadcasting by Radio Rebelde on the Sierra Maestra, nor that this was the date in 1976 when we proclaimed our Socialist Constitution.

On this 113th anniversary of the Necessary War, we are faced with many really difficult challenges. In order to face them, let's bear in mind what Fidel wrote in his Reflections published last December 10th, when he alerted us: "For every Cuban, Martí's frowning countenance and Maceo's withering look point to the arduous path of duty, not to a more comfortable life."

Thank you, very much.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Fidel y nosotros - Pensamientos apurados antes del 24 de Febrero

Este artículo es uno de los mejores de la pluma de Celia Hart. Ojala que salga pronto en otros idiomas.

Felipe Stuart

Pensamientos apurados antes del 24 de Febrero
Fidel y nosotros
por Celia Hart


El Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro no aceptará ser el presidente de los Consejos de Estado y Ministros. Así lo aclaró con gran precisión el 18 de febrero de este año.

Luego de estremecernos y llorar lo imprescindible, podemos analizar un poco más:

Primero: Hoy más que nunca los revolucionarios cubanos y del mundo debemos estar alertas y desentrañar las claves, no siempre explícitas de Fidel, el comunista que más tiempo ha estado en el poder en la historia de la humanidad y el que decide irse tan sólo porque el Tiempo, que al parecer puede más que Dios, le ha dado esa orientación política.
Fidel es además el mejor conspirador revolucionario y sigue asombrándonos con sus formas emprendedoras de asumir la guerra. Por tanto deberemos seguir descifrando sus mensajes y saber que seguimos en combate permanente.

Segundo: Ningún mortal viviente, por más méritos que acumule en la lucha revolucionaria, o por más capaz que sea en la administración pública, independiente de la edad, sexo, raza, nivel intelectual o cultura que ostente, logrará colocarse a la estatura de las botas de Fidel Castro. Lo genios morales y políticos no se fabrican en serie.

Mis votos de piedad por adelantado para quien tenga que sustituir a Fidel....Es tal cual que una partida de ajedrez sellada por José Raúl Capablanca tenga que continuarla cualquier otro ajedrecista; o que algún músico deba concluir el Réquiem de Mozart, un matemático demostrar teorema de Fermat... o tengamos que concluir los últimos capítulos del Quijote.

Ni siquiera Federico Engels pudo superar a Carlos Marx en El Capital. Sobre todo porque Capablanca, Mozart, Fermat Cervantes y Marx estarían observando.

Hay empresas tan sólo para ellos, nosotros podemos sólo continuarla en unidad y compromiso.

Mucho tendremos que apoyar a los encargados oficialmente de la descomunal tarea de mantener viva la revolución socialista de Cuba, sustituyendo aunque sea en un pedazo a Fidel...estando él vivo.

Al nuevo equipo que se elija, que esta vez puede ser cualquiera de los diputados restantes, pues el abismo lo marca tan sólo Fidel, deberemos darle nuestro apoyo. Inconcientemente todo lo que puedan hacer va estar sometido a la métrica de más exigente métrica del mundo.

La unidad crítica de los revolucionarios toma ahora un matiz de urgencia. Por fortuna Fidel es diputado y de seguro le ayudará a nuestra Asamblea Nacional a elegir a los más capaces.

Debemos, pues apoyar de manera especial a nuestros diputados y al nuevo Presidente, porque estarán sometidos a una gran tensión.
Dudo que haya habido otro Parlamento que deba asumir responsabilidades más serias.

Tercero: Fidel ha vivido lo suficiente para convertir la tecnología de la comunicación en arma de combate: De Lenin haber tenido un ordenador, habría hecho público su testamento político; habría dado sus últimas batallas con mayor eficacia;...y de seguro mucho nos hubiéramos ahorrado los comunistas entre falsificaciones y embustes. Hoy día el ciberespacio se está convirtiendo en un importante aliado en contra de los putrefactos medios oficiales de comunicación.

Trotsky habría fundado la IV Internacional, de contar con INTERNET, desde su mesa de Coyoacán y no hubiera permitido esta atomización incoherente y desgastada de los “trotskistas”.

El Che, hubiera tenido más recursos, de contar con este poderoso medio. Imaginen no más el Discurso de Argel masificado al día siguiente de ser pronunciado.

Fidel está empuñando el arma adecuada en el momento y tiempo adecuados.

Me contaba mi madre que Fidel siempre le gustaba el fusil más moderno y que aprendía rápido a usarlo. Él ha aprendido a usar la comunicación como el más moderno de los fusiles.

Entonces constituye un deber entre los revolucionarios que se publiquen íntegramente las palabras del Compañero- Comandante Fidel. No importa, como él señala, que sea en primera plana del GRANMA, pero que nadie ose censurarlo por problemas de espacio, pues estaría cometiendo crimen de lesa humanidad contra la revolución.

Cuarto: Fidel está tomando el camino del Che Guevara cuando dividiendo tareas revolucionarias con él, le dijo a este último en su carta de despedida:

“Hago formal renuncia de mis cargos en la Dirección del partido, de mi puesto de Ministro, de mi grado de Comandante, de mi condición de cubano. Nada legal me ata a Cuba, sólo lazos de otra clase, que no se pueden romper como los nombramientos.”

Fidel está haciendo lo mismo. Nada legal lo ata a la revolución sólo los lazos que no pueden romperse como los nombramientos.
Se retira a un sitio donde puede ser más útil, más provocador, más invencible.

Los medios de comunicación se han convertido en un campo de batalla y tener al Comandante en él se convierte en un lujo y un compromiso para los que por el momento tratamos de combatir “teclado en mano”.

Entonces ¡cuidado a los improvisados!, que Fidel está cambiando la escena de la batalla y que desde allí sin tener que cuidarse por el protocolo del gobierno, será mucho más mordaz para los enemigos, y más exigente con nosotros.

Su pluma será su fusil, y aunque no firmará nombramientos, ni recibirá (como jefe de estado) a ningún dudoso personaje, será mucho más importante la firma en sus reflexiones.

Quinto: Esto supone un reto a los editores de los medios alternativos y a los escritores que hemos usado este escenario para la lucha. Las editoras de los medios virtuales, deberán estar listas para asumir al escritor y periodista más rápido y capaz. Deben apoyarlo en la divulgación de sus mensajes, que hoy día se convierten en proyectiles imprescindibles de combate. Para los que hemos escogido estos medios como tinta y papel, saber que en el espacio electromagnético nos acompañará nada más y nada menos que...Fidel. Tendremos que ser consecuentes con ese honor.

Sexto: Fidel sigue (mientras no se realice el Congreso del Partido Comunista de Cuba) como Secretario General de los comunistas cubanos, los comunistas que estén en el partido y de los que no estemos, por una u otra razón, también... Ni están todos los comunistas dentro del PCC, ni todos los que estamos fuera no lo somos. Mi madre dijo una vez que para ser comunista no era necesario el carné de membresía. (Yeltsin tenía ese carné cuando destruyó lo que quedaba de la URSS)

Entonces Fidel sólo se queda con el cargo oficial de presidente de los comunistas de Cuba, y de los del mundo también.... Si es que salimos del ostracismo sectario, los imprecisos frentes populares, del reformismo barato y las ansias locales de poder....Pudiéramos pensar en organizarnos al fin, a cincuenta años de la revolución cubana en una asamblea revolucionaria y todavía pudiéramos contar con el camarada más experto , mas comprometido y necesario que existe.

Puede pasar que no tengamos la suficiente grandeza de ser contemporáneos de uno de los líderes más completos de la historia del hombre.

Una vez dije que lo que suceda con el gobierno en Cuba no era trascendente, lo trascendente será lo que suceda con la revolución y mientras Fidel respire seguirá siendo nuestro Comandante.... Nadie se atreverá a colocarse sus charreteras con la bandera del 26 de Julio...ese título, él lo sabe, no es transferible.

Séptimo: Habrá que redoblar las fuerzas para traer de vuelta a cinco camaradas imprescindibles para la batalla que tenemos por delante. Nuestros Cinco Héroes están demás tras las rejas y empiezan a convertirse en una necesidad objetiva para seguir la lucha. Nos son necesarios aquí, luchando y no en los carteles.

Octavo: Como en el espacio electromagnético es posible “borrar” a tiempo , antes de que las notas se conviertan en papel....a todos los revolucionarios que en sus sentidos mensajes escribieron la palabra RENUNCIA, que la borren de inmediato.

A los enemigos...nada que decirles, que pongan y digan lo que quieran...que Fidel aprendió a usar ya un arma de destrucción masiva contra la mentira, la injusticia y la enajenación.

Noveno: Sé que Suecia no otorgará a Fidel lo que se merece, aunque debiera si pretende ser consecuente con el testamento de Alfredo Nobel que reza: “el capital, invertido en valores seguros por mis testamentarios, constituirá un fondo cuyos intereses serán distribuidos cada año en forma de premios entre aquéllos que durante el año precedente hayan realizado el mayor beneficio a la humanidad”.

Aun así propongo a Fidel Castro para los siguientes lauros:
Premio Nobel de la Paz por exterminar el aparheit de la Madre África entre otras cosas, por ser el primer y más comprometido luchador por la ecología en el Planeta; porque gracias a su impronta varios países del mundo son hoy libres de analfabetismo y el método Yo sí puedo es uno de los mensajes de Paz más eficientes y concretos que existen. Porque siendo el mayor rebelde imaginable perfiló como ninguno la ética de la rebelión que se ha convertido en escuela. Por más que lo busquen no encontraran un torturado, un secuestrado, un humillado, bajo su consentimiento.

Premio Nobel de Economía, por haber mantenido esta isla a flote frente a los enemigos más adversos y frente a las peores traiciones, por ser el primer luchador contra la Deuda Externa de los países del Tercer Mundo... y por ser uno de los primeros en advertirnos que este despilfarro no nos conducirá a ningún lado; por explicar la tragedia de los biocombustibles como no lo ha hecho ningún economista.

Premio Nobel de Medicina por supuesto, al crear el sistema de salud que ostentamos los cubanos, donde día a día no tienen que morir niños y ancianos que deberían hacerlo en nombre del asesino orden mundial; por saber repartir ese sistema en el mundo con el más certero de los internacionalismos, porque todos los días de Dios un médico cubano salva una vida en los más distantes países del alguna manera motivados por Fidel.

Premio Nobel de Matemáticas por su manejo casi imposible de las cifras, porcentajes y medidas de manera inexplicablemente rápida y certera, por saber contar bien en nombre del bienestar del ser humano...
Premio Nobel de Física por ser él la comprobación viviente de la teoría Especial de la Relatividad de Einstein.... su velocidad, cercana a la velocidad de la luz (c= 300 000 Km. Por seg.) hará que el tiempo en que permanecerá a nuestro lado sea infinito. Por haber hecho un continente inmensurable a la pequeña isla de Cuba en virtud de la obra más noble, más eficiente, y más duradera desde que hace unos cuantos millones de años logramos desprendernos en posición bípeda del reino animal.

Premio Nobel de Literatura....Enmarquen los discursos de Fidel, entrevistas y reflexiones, edítenlas bien y no habrá ejemplo mayor de claridad en las letras, las ideas y la coherencia por más de cincuenta años consecutivos.

Décimo: Lo propongo también , aunque no existe el Premio Nobel del Amor...por hacer este esfuerzo último para que no caigamos de nuevo en el infrahumano sistema que avasalla el corazón convirtiéndolo en mercancía, allí donde nos quiere conducir sin piedad el capitalismo en su más depredadora versión... Por hacernos creer que la capacidad de pensar y de amar son motores viables en el hombre, frente a las “inevitables” leyes del mercado y por enseñarnos a no temerle al desaliento, a la injusticia y la soledad.

Incluso a enseñarnos, a poder vivir sin él.

Una vez más Compañero- Comandante... ¡ordene!

Cuba's new parliament meets today

Cuba’s new National Assembly or parliament has 614 deputies or MPs elected by universal suffrage.
Today they will be sworn in and will elect via direct and secret vote a president, vice/president, and secretary, and the Council of State – the organ of the National Assembly that acts in its name between sessions.

The Council of State is made up of a president who also serves as head of state and government, a first vice president and five other vice-presidents, a secretary, and 23 other members. It is collegial in character, and is invested by the country’s constitution with the supreme representation of the Cuban state (Article 89).

Some facts about the just elected Cuban National Assembly:

· 481 deputies [MPs] (78.34%) are university graduates, and 177 have completed pre university studies (20.68%).
· 390 MPs (63.52%) are newly elected, while 224 (36.48%) were members of the previous parliament or Sixth Legislative Assembly from 2003-2008.
· 374 MPs (60.91%) were born after the January 1, 1959 revolution, 134 PMs (21.82%) were children under ten at that time, and 106 (17.26%) are old enough to remember what the Batista dictatorship and Cuban capitalism meant in flesh and blood terms.
· The 265 women MPs comprise 43.16% of the parliament.
· There are 395 white MPs, 118 Blacks, and 101 Mestizos.

Below is Prensa Latina’s report (from which the above information was taken) on the new Parliament and also a brief AFP report (both in Spanish) which reminds readers that “whoever becomes president will have to assure a collegial government…”

They are taken from the invaluable website of Managua’s Radio La Primerisima found at

Felipe Stuart

Cuba lista para nueva etapa, sin Fidel de Presidente

La Habana, Cuba. Por Diony Sanabia Abadia
Aencia PL. febrero 23, 2008

Los 614 diputados a la Asamblea Nacional del Poder Popular de Cuba elegidos en las elecciones generales en la isla, tomarán el domingo posesión de sus cargos.

Los diputados elegirán en la sesión constitutiva del próximo domingo, con voto directo y secreto a su presidente, vicepresidente y secretario, y al Consejo de Estado, órgano de la Asamblea Nacional que la representa entre uno y otro período de sesiones.

Esta estructura la integran un presidente, quien es jefe de Estado y gobierno, un primer vicepresidente, cinco vicepresidentes, un secretario y 23 miembros más. Tiene carácter colegiado y, a los fines nacionales e internacionales, ostenta la suprema representación del Estado cubano, señala el artículo 89 de la Constitución.Además del presidente, también cabeza del gabinete de ministros, al primer vicepresidente, cinco vicepresidentes, un secretario y 23 miembros del Consejo de Estado.

Para seleccionar a quienes ostentarán estos cargos, los diputados tendrán en cuenta las propuestas presentadas por la Comisión de Candidaturas Nacional (CNC) en la cual están representadas organizaciones estudiantiles y de masas del país.

La presidenta de la CNC, Amarilys Pérez, confirmó recientemente el desarrollo de un amplio proceso de consultas entre los diputados y un pormenorizado análisis de los méritos de los nominados a desempeñar tan elevadas responsabilidades.

Entre las atribuciones de la Asamblea Nacional se encuentran discutir y aprobar los planes nacionales de desarrollo económico y social, y el presupuesto del Estado; y aprobar los principios del sistema de planificación y de dirección de la economía nacional.

También, acordar el sistema monetario y crediticio, y los lineamientos generales de la política exterior e interior; declarar el estado de guerra en caso de agresión militar y aprobar los tratados de paz; y establecer y modificar la división político–administrativa del país.En esa fecha, que coincide con el 113 aniversario del inicio de la guerra independentista de 1895 organizada por el Héroe Nacional cubano, José Martí, quedará constituida la Séptima Legislatura del Parlamento.

El nuevo mandato se prolongará hasta el año 2013 cuando haya transcurrido un período de cinco años de acuerdo con la Constitución de la República.Cifras ofrecidas por la Comisión Electoral Nacional señalan que 481 diputados (el 78,34 por ciento) son graduados universitarios y 127 (20,68) tienen vencida la enseñanza media superior.

Entre ellos sobresalen ingenieros de variadas ramas científicas, egresados de universidades pedagógicas, economistas, abogados, médicos e investigadores sociales.

Otros datos apuntan que 390 diputados (63,52) no ocuparon un escaño en la Sexta Legislatura del 2003 al 2008 que tuvo 609 miembros, de los cuales 224 (36,48) volvieron a ser elegidos.

Precisan además que 374 parlamentarios (60,91) nacieron después del triunfo de la Revolución el 1 de enero de 1959, fecha en la cual 134 (21,82) eran niños, pues no rebasaban los 10 años de edad y 106 (17,26) conocieron el capitalismo en Cuba.

La presencia femenina en la Asamblea Nacional alcanza el 43,16 por ciento, con 265 mujeres diputadas, y hay 395 blancos, 118 negros y 101 mestizos.

Según el artículo de 84 de la carta magna, los parlamentarios tienen el deber de desarrollar sus labores en beneficio de los intereses del pueblo, mantener contacto con sus electores, oír sus planteamientos, sugerencias y críticas, y explicarles la política del Estado.

¿Raúl Presidente?
(Agencia AFP)

Según lo esperado, el presidente interino, General Raúl Castro, de 76 años, será designado como presidente del Consejo de Estado –Ejecutivo–, luego de 19 meses de haber ejercido de forma provisional el mando que le transfirió su hermano el 31 de julio de 2006 por enfermedad.

Raúl Castro dejó claro que todo lo hará "dentro del socialismo" y que las soluciones serán "poco a poco".

El General comanda desde 1959 las Fuerzas Armadas, con enorme poder en sectores estratégicos de la economía y fuerte influencia en la estructura de gobierno.

Sin embargo, no se descartan sorpresas como podría ser la designación del vicepresidente Carlos Lage, de 56 años, dando paso formal a una nueva generación de dirigentes.

En un artículo publicado el viernes, primero tras el mensaje de renuncia, Fidel Castro admitió que su retiro marca "el fin de una etapa", pero descartó cambios en el sistema político."

Estoy de acuerdo, ¡cambio!, pero en Estados Unidos. Cuba cambió hace rato y seguirá su rumbo dialéctico", escribió al rechazar llamados a la transición política por parte de Washington, países europeos y la Organización de Estados Americanos (OEA), a la que tildó este sábado de "basurero".

Fidel dijo estar "enfrascado por hacer constar" su "voto unido (en bloque)" en la elección, un llamado a la unidad que se suma a anteriores hechos por otros altos dirigentes.

Pero cualquiera que sea presidente deberá afianzar un gobierno colegiado, en una etapa compleja que obliga a sustituir el liderazgo unipersonal de Fidel Castro y preparar la transición generacional.

La elección se realiza con expectativa en la población, además de por la definición del nuevo presidente, por cambios que prometió Raúl para aliviar los problemas económicos y sociales, y por sus críticas al "exceso de prohibiciones".

En una misa desde la ciudad de Santa Clara, el cardenal Tarcisio Bertone, de visita en Cuba, dijo a los cubanos: "Sepan afrontar los retos actuales apoyados en Jesús (...) En este mundo todo acaba. Lo único que jamás se agota es el amor de Dios".