On July 16th, 1997, after having sent this document to the Communist
Party Central Committee and releasing it to the world, the four authors --
Vladimiro Roca, Félix Bonne, René Gómez y Marta Beatriz Roque-- were
arrested and sent to prison without the benefit of a trial, not even a
biased one. Up to the present day, Vladimiro Roca remains incarcerated.
THE HOMELAND BELONGS TO US ALL
Cuban Dissidence Task Group
Havana City, June 27, 1997
When you finish reading this document, you will be able to support us if
we can agree on this initial assertion:
Man cannot live from history, which is the same as living from stories.
There is a need for material goods and for satisfying his spirituality, as
well as to be able to look to the future with expectations. But there is
also a need for that openness that we all know as freedom.
The Cuban government ignores the word "opposition." Those of us who do
not share its political stance, or who just simply don't support it, are
considered enemies and any number of other scornful designations that it
chooses to proclaim. Thus, they have also sought to give a new meaning to
the word "Homeland" that is distortedly linked to Revolution, Socialism and
Nation. They attempt to ignore the fact that "Homeland," by definition, is
the country in which one is born.
All of this aside, our Task Group has examined the Project Document
prepared for the V Congress of the Cuban Communist Party, scheduled to be
submitted for approval during this event. Because it is impossible for us to
make public our viewpoints here [in Cuba] (given that the [Cuban] news media
is in the hands of the state), we have decided to set them down in the hope
that they will somehow be made known to Cubans inside and outside the
island. By this mean we seek to defend our right to express our opinion,
because we are convinced that THE HOMELAND BELONGS TO US ALL.
I - HISTORICAL INTERPRETATION
Of the 11,080 words that the document contains, grouped into 260
paragraphs, more than 80% are dedicated to interpreting history. They wish
to convince those that read the document that:
To try to strengthen these assertions, they invoke the name of [the
father of Cuban independence, Jose] Marti.
Thereby they persist in the old and absurd argument that the existence
of a single political party is based on Marti's ideas, as only one party was
founded by him. There is no known political leader that has created various
political parties simultaneously. Nevertheless, many distinguished freedom
fighters in their respective countries, once independence was achieved, have
respected the multi-party system of government. Washington, Mahatma Ghandi
and General DeGaulle were among them.
There is no reason to think that Marti, had he survived the War of
Independence, would not have done the same given his very positive views on
democracy. Point V of the Tenets of the Cuban Revolutionary Party (1892)
states: "It is not the goal of the Cuban Revolutionary Party to bring to
Cuba a victorious group that will consider the island as its prey and
dominion. It is, instead, to prepare, by as many efficacious means as
freedom in exile permits, the war which is to be fought for the honor and
welfare of all Cubans, and to deliver to the whole country a free homeland."
Following the war, no patriot argued for the need to have a single
party. On the contrary, many actively participated in politics with
different affiliations and all respected the multi-party system.
Even though they wish to portray the democratic republic as a series of
interrupted failures and treasons, they have to contend with the
socioeconomic achievements obtained between 1902 and 1958 which placed our
country among the three most advanced nations of Latin America. In some
areas, in fact, Cuba was ahead of even major Old World countries such as
Spain and Italy. This undeniable reality speaks volumes for the
industriousness of Cuban workers and the enterprising spirit of our
businessmen— especially as all these true accomplishments took place
following a major cataclysm (our glorious War of Independence) and in spite
of the terrible socioeconomic crisis of the 1930s. In addition, there are
the political successes, such as the revocation of the infamous Platt
Amendment in 1934 which the political propaganda does not mention, though
its imposition in 1901 is well-remembered.
This twisting of information is also present in the document. If the
pre-1959 statistics are consulted, it can be seen that the illiteracy rate
among the Cuban population at the time amounted to 16% and not 40% as
proclaimed. The statistics are also manipulated when it is stated that 7% of
the population voted in the elections at the turn of the century. This
implies that the remaining 93% included non-voting women (51%), children,
and the great number of foreigners that lived here, as is to be expected in
a country that had recently ceased to be a colony.
Regarding the application of due process in the trials held for members
of the Batista regime, Castroites have their own interpretation. But it must
not be forgotten that—as the document recognizes—those principally
implicated fled the country on January 1st, on which date the mass
executions commenced. Those that were shot by the firing squads were
arrested, accused, judged and executed in less than 24 hours. The rise to
power of the current government was sealed by a vicious settling of
accounts. The so-called "revolutionary trials" bore no relation whatsoever
to due process nor to a true right to a defense. A notorious example was the
trial of the pilots sentenced after having been absolved, an event which led
to the suicide of Captain Felix Pena.
Every year, by an ever-growing number of votes, the General Assembly of
the United Nations demands that the so-called [U.S.] "blockade" be ended.
This statement is true, but what goes unsaid is that, with the same
frequency, the Cuban government is sanctioned for its systematic violations
of human rights.
The October  "[Missile] Crisis" is mentioned, while omitting the
fact that the Cuban leadership urged Moscow to deliver the first strike
without waiting for the "Yankees" to take the initiative. This is
acknowledged by history. A nuclear attack against the United States would
have meant a terrible catastrophe for all humanity, but, undoubtedly, Cuba
would have been swept from the map. That solution to the crisis was offered
by the same party members that are now worried—according to them—that their
departure from power would mean the disappearance of Cuba as a nation.
But can we forget the autocratic way in which nuclear weapons and
foreign troops were brought into the country? The people learned of the
matter only after the problem arose.
As the document well states: "Everything began to change on July 26,
1953." We should not fail to mention that—in effect—on that date, for the
first time in many years, much Cuban blood was spilled. Up to that time, the
deaths in the political struggle which occurred under the Batista government
could be counted on the fingers of one hand. To find in Cuban history as
mournful and fratricidal a day as this, we would have to go back to decades
long past. Despite its being such a sad day, it has been made into a holiday
and celebrated as such. This, we suppose, meets with the disapproval of even
the fallen martyr's own relatives.
These are but a few examples of the way in which the Communists have
sought to INTERPRET HISTORY.
II - IN THE NAME OF UNITY
The party insists on unity but forgets that, for that unity to be valid
and real (and not a mere parody), it is necessary for a consensus freely
reached by the citizenry to emerge. The opposite would amount to a brutish
imposition that would be a unity in name only. We the members of the
opposition are here to show that in our country there is no consensus.
The text asserts that: "Only the unity of revolutionaries can lead to
the unity of the people." This argument, just like every other perspective
on this matter, suffers from what is known in logic as "circular reasoning,"
whereby that which is sought to be demonstrated is taken as a starting
The party, declaring itself the representative of the people, prepared
the document that warns the citizenry to participate in the meetings to
support it. The people, subjected to the pressures of totalitarian power,
attend [these meetings], and the fact is portrayed to the world as a
plebiscite on Cuban society. This is declared the most evident and
irrefutable proof that the party represents all of the people. It is
precisely the same premise that was used as a starting point. Although there
is talk of plebiscite, the people have felt what it is like to be trampled
upon. A latent popular will still exists, just as when General Arnaldo Ochoa
and his comrades were sentenced to execution by firing squad. Even though
the vast majority did not agree with this sentence, it was officially
declared as necessary and the opinions of the masses ignored.
If, as its leaders assert, the citizenry in general supports the
Communist Party, there is no reason not to hold internationally-supervised,
free elections, which would serve to silence all the detractors of the
In the name of unity, the Fist Party Congress considered it legitimate
to bestow upon itself constituent powers and approve the final version of
the 1976 Magna Carta. This includes Article 5, which proclaims the [Cuban
Communist] Party as "a guiding force superior to society and the state."
We are aware that there are historical precedents for this concept of
unity. The Cuban Communist Party, in imposing a single party system, places
itself in the unenviable company of Stalin, Mussolini, Hitler, Franco,
Trujillo, Pol Pot and Sadam Hussein, among others.
Having called the ranks to order on the matter of unity, the party saw
it fit to declare that "the Cuban people have decided to have a single
party." But, in the name of unity, under the concept of shared-guilt for
mistakes, we have seen many things that have left their mark on history for
having contributed to create chaos and instability in the country. It will
suffice to cite a few examples:
Likewise, in the name of unity, a sugar mill was given as a gift to
Nicaragua, an airport was built in Granada and, under the mantle of
so-called "Proletarian Internationalism," troops were sent off to kill and
die in different countries. To be sure, this was something that was never
done under what they call the "subjugated republic," whose various
governments refused to send troops to fight in either of the two world wars
or the Korean war. This despite the fact that the "Yankee imperialists" did
so. In this, our northern neighbor truly set itself apart from the Soviet
Union, which—not practicing what it preached—enabled and financed the
sending of Cuban troops to a whole series of countries.
The document, by the way, makes only a passing reference to these
"missions" so as to avoid having to explain just what was achieved through
that useless effort. Its only significance for the [Cuban] people was the
breakup of families, mourning, pain and exotic diseases, among other things.
Angola and Ethiopia—to cite only two such countries—exacted a high death
toll among our fellow Cubans. At present, over in those strange lands,
Angola seeks a national solution with the participation of UNITA and the
genocidal general Mengistu Haile-Marian, decorated here in Cuba with the
Order of Jose Marti, fled ignominiously from Ethiopia. In addition, when it
was considered convenient, unity was invoked to welcome our exiled brothers
as representatives of the "Cuban community overseas." This after families
had been keep apart and their mail hindered to avoid any kind of
Because of what it represented for the tattered finances of the country,
party members were told that they could welcome into their homes those same
people that had been reviled as "traitors" and "worms;" those that had had
to endure the egg-throwing and blows of the renowned "popular dignity
demonstrations." The latter subsequently gave rise to the Rapid Response
Brigades and the detestable "acts of repudiation."
In the name of unity, the "captive villages" were created, religious
people were persecuted, and churches were practically left without priests.
The document points out that: "The Congress approved the admission into the
party of revolutionaries with religious beliefs." This implies that they
take pride in a decision that bridles the shame of more than 30 years of
persecuting those who profess religious ideas. If we look back, all of this
came about, in good measure, due to opportunistic motives, as some members
had turned religious just to be let go from the party.
The unity to which the party refers is not about ideas, but about the
aim that the people rally around the party leadership.
For the rest, we cannot accept that a government which has dedicated
itself to dividing the country can speak IN THE NAME OF UNITY.
III - THE MAIN OBJECTIVE
The philosophy of the government is not to serve the people but to be
their dictator. It is not its main objective to guarantee the citizenry a
quality of life which has a minimum of decorum. Power, exercised through
totalitarian control, is the end that is being pursued with this political
ploy. No longer is anyone fooled by the much-touted call to social justice.
The wage rates combined with the stagnation of other economic factors makes
the situation of the populace more difficult each day. And the more they
deteriorate, the more the economic activities are politicized and
Something which is truly deserving of a triple-X rating in the meaning
assigned to what is termed the Socialist Civil Society. The document's
authors wish to ignore the fact that a civil society is made up of elements
outside the control of the state and therefor cannot be socialist or, what
amounts to the same thing, "sovietist."
IV - THE PLAN FOR SOLVING THE CRISIS
In a paragraph detailing some of the accomplishments of the government,
the following statement appears: "Our country became covered with highways
and roads, as well as with waterworks for productive uses. Milking machinery
and aerial spraying, previously unknown technologies in rural communities,
were put in place."
However, reality confronts us with the fact that there are no means of
transportation on the highways and roads, and that there is insufficient
water available to supply the major cities. In particular, there are heavily
populated neighborhoods in the city of Havana where there are serious
shortages of the precious liquid, and whole provinces—Santiago de Cuba being
the prime example—are experiencing irrigation problems.
The cattle population has declined. In 1955 it reached a per capita
level of 0.82 heads per inhabitant. Forty years later it was 0.38. The milk
that was distributed in the 1980s originated from trade with the former
German Democratic Republic. As there are practically no cows left to milk,
the automated milking machinery has turned into scrap heaps from lack of
care and maintenance. In the long term, far from serving to increase
agricultural food production, all of the methods that were indiscriminately
and inefficiently introduced have only hindered its development. The old
methods at least yielded reliable results and allowed the needs of the
population to be met.
Further on, the document asserts that more than three million hectares
were handed over to the Basic Units for Cooperative Production (BUCP). The
pretense here was to make it seem that this was an innovative production
method which would pull agriculture out of its presently critical situation.
However, more than three years have passed since their establishment and no
results can be seen. The government itself, through its official
spokespersons, has declared that only 7% of the BUCPs are even marginally
cost-effective. To this we can add that more than 60% of the state
organizations have been recently deemed unreliable. It has also been
recognized that the sugar mills are not grinding cane in a cost-effective
manner but that, as cane production cannot be curtailed, nothing can be done
Allusions are made, in speaking of the changes and the things
accomplished up to the time of the Special [Economic] Period, to how the
food production program could have been successfully developed. This implies
that at present this program is no longer viable. But no alternative is
presented; not even the slightest suggestion that could put an end to the
severe rationing that has lasted now 35 years—a world record.
After considering the ensuing paragraphs, one may also conclude that
there is also no plan for solving the country's economic and social crisis.
For Cuba to partake in the global economy without renouncing its
totalitarian ways, the challenge is more than difficult. The stagnation that
has characterized the Cuban government's policies continue to increase its
alienation from financial institutions, the assistance of multinational
consortiums such as the European Union, and even from the possibility of
entering into any bilateral agreements. The foreign financing situation is
dismal and it is not possible to continue to pay short-term loans with
interest rates of 17 or 18%. However, loans that offer at least low initial
rates are difficult to obtain.
What does the Communist Party offer the people? "We will have only that
which we are capable of creating," it tells them. More than a promise, it
seems a mournful threat about the proverbial inefficiency of the production
system and about the usual limitations which it imposes on the citizenry.
The list of problems is enormous. Nevertheless, only material problems are
addressed and no mention is made of the spiritual needs of our people, much
less about the lack of all sorts of freedoms. For the party, the concrete
tasks ahead are clear, but it does not identify for the populace the
solutions to the problems, the timetables involved, or the differing view
points. It is as if, suddenly, the future were synthesized into that one
slogan. Faced with our harsh reality, there is only room for the patriotic
and revolutionary code-of-conduct of working more and better.
That past that is portrayed as something so brilliant should not have
given rise to the present crisis, as all of those accomplishments and
conquests have been touted about since the 1960s. Accepting what the
communists allege, it can only mean that they have given nothing to the
people in the last 30 years. It is a case, then, of a regime anchored in the
past and which lives in the past—and quite a remote past at that.
V - CONCLUSIONS
When on January 28th the U.S. government published its Plan in Support
of a Transition [in Cuba], there was no alternative response by the Cuban
government regarding the responsibilities identified in the plan to support
a transition process. The document issued by the Communist Party is not such
an alternative because it offers nothing concrete to the Cuban people. The
following matters are still without explanation:
It is no secret that Cuba had the worst performance in the region during
the five-year period between '91 and '95, and that even though it is said
that an economic recovery occurred in 1996, the populace never experienced
it. Upon the termination of Soviet-block aid, the inefficiency of the system
increased and foreign commerce diminished.
There is no doubt that the socioeconomic policies need to be reformed
and redesigned so as to achieve better results. The use of the society and
the economy to exert controls has to cease.
Cuba needs a recovery based on high rates of sustainable growth to bring
itself back into the realm of intense international competition and dynamic
technological change. What the party has set forth is not this. It is merely
an attempt to maintain the status quo of obsolete totalitarianism; to entrap
us in social and economic backwardness amidst a dynamic and competitive
No one wishes a return to the negative aspects of the 1950s, as the
government argues. The realities of the world have change and those of our
country too. The transition toward democracy that we wish to achieve is
based on the fundamental principles of the 1940 Constitution, which
establishes social rights that have nothing to do with the influx of
neo-liberalism. The current situation whereby foreign companies hire their
workers through a state intermediary could be termed neo-totalitarian.
Through such an arrangement, the state exploits the workers without even
offering them stable employment.
The document does not offer the possibility of establishing a true
constitutional state, nor an independent and impartial legal system that
would protect the liberties and rights of the individual and the practice of
The government, given its current position, has no chance of stabilizing
the economy quickly and without a recession, and this is a necessary
pre-condition to effectively achieve an economic recovery and consolidation.
VI - RECOMMENDATIONS
The document states that economic liberalization is linked to the
creation of joint-ventures and other forms of business arrangements with
foreign companies. But this has not been enough, and is far less than what
is needed. What is needed is a process of true economic liberalization,
which would entail the democratization of the country. The Cuban community
overseas—amounting to a million and a half people—could undoubtedly
contribute to a sustained economic recovery. Currently, in fact, the
financial assistance that [the exiles] send to their relatives on the island
accounts for a substantial portion of the country's import-purchasing power.
This is demonstrated by the fact that the government has gone so far as to
as to impose taxes on the receipt of this money.
The Cubans on the island have demonstrated what they are capable of
accomplishing if given even a small degree of economic freedom. The
self-employed—whom the system has tried to drown because of what they
represent from a political perspective—manage to turn any small business
they undertake into models of efficiency. In this regard, the Revolution
stimulates the creativity of the masses in all fields of endeavor.
Innumerable innovations have been introduced to production and service
activities. If there is a true desire to stimulate the creativity of the
masses in all areas, then they must be allowed to enter the economic arena.
Cubans must be allowed to invest, just as foreigners are allowed to.
Moreover, to be consistent, this type of stimulus should be extended to the
It is said that the party demands each and everyone of its members to
think with his own head and to express himself freely within the bosom of
the party organizations. This means that there are 770,000 persons in the
country who are allowed to think and speak freely, while the rest of the
population—the ones without a party; the ones that constitute the
majority—have no opportunity to express themselves freely. They too need
You may find this a curious assertion: "Our electoral system is above
political games, fraud, and the buying-selling of votes." And is this not
what is to be expected? It would, after all, be truly mind-boggling for the
party to engage in and condone vices to benefit candidates that already
follow the party line. It is also stated that: "The party does not nominate,
reelect or impeach." Clearly, it has no need to do so. The entire leadership
of the mass organizations belongs to the party. It is enough that these
leaders participate in the whole-scale nomination process of the so-called
"Candidacy Commissions." Despite all this, people are compelled to go vote.
For something truly novel, they should allow the opposition to form part of
the electoral process itself; to be able to rally its own parties, nominate
its own candidates and engage in political campaigning—all under the
supervision of international observers.
The document does speak of a constitutional state. However, not one of
the traits that would characterize as such is discernible. There is no
respect for the law, as demonstrated by Decree 217, which violates
provisions of the Constitution and the General Housing Law. There is also
the case of the systematic disregard of the Law Governing Associations,
under which different independent organizations should—as they have
repeatedly requested— be made legal.
The state is not at the service of the citizens. Between them there is
not even an egalitarian relationship of reciprocal rights and obligations.
Instead, the citizen is at the service of the state.
The laws do not respect the rights inherent upon human beings, as
demonstrated by innumerable denunciations of the violations of these rights
as well as repeated sanctions against Cuba in the United Nations over this
The government should resolve problems such as the matter of the right
of Cubans to freely enter and leave the national territory and allowing the
United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights, and his team, into the
country. It must also be noted that there is no legal protection in the
country, as it has been shown that the laws, and even the Constitution, can
be modified overnight. Thus, if other ideologies besides that advocated by
the Communist Party were recognized, a Constituent Assembly should be
convened with the main goal of modifying the existing constitution. The
Constitution of 1940 could be used as a basis for the revisions, with the
subsequent aim of holding multi-party elections.
Measures such as this are what the Communist Party should propose to try
to avoid a spontaneous outbreak in the near future of incidents of social
It is impossible to continue leading the nation to its ruin without
expecting an uncontrolled awakening of the populace in search of a rightful
space within a civil society with democratic institutions. That which no one
desires could well occur, and thus it is better to discuss solutions now
than to plunge our homeland into mourning tomorrow.
Havana City, June 27, 1997
Felix Antonio Bonne Carcasses
Rene Gomez Manzano
Vladimiro Roca Antunez
Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello
Document distributed by Ruth Montaner of the Cuban Dissidence Task
Translated for CubaNet by Jose J. Valdes
U.S. and Cuba... Human
Rights in Cuba... The