Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
The President spent much of the time he had to speak (because we spoke more) explaining what it means to lead a country that is blockaded and attacked by the media. At the same time, he reaffirmed what has always been the maxim of this Revolution, to move forward in spite of the blockade, not to stop in front of it.
As it happened to me when I had the opportunity to exchange views with Deputy Minister Johana Odriozola, I realized that managing the economy in the midst of a war like the one we are living through, without applying a neo-liberal adjustment package, requires tremendous effort and inventiveness, and is extremely complex.
Johana told us: “It is as if they wake up every day and say, how are these people still breathing? And wherever they find a vent, they plug it up”. The President confirmed this when he told us that we have just received important help with oxygen, which is so badly needed, “but I won’t say where it comes from, because if I do, they block it”.
Faced with this, I contrasted how easy it is to sit down to write with the aim of discrediting, sometimes even from other latitudes, without any real difficulty, prescriptions of what the President, or this minister or this organization or the other should do. It requires a tremendous dose of arrogance. It is good to give an opinion, but a little humility would be good for all of us as long as we do not cease in the exercise of criticism.
I noticed the commendable work done by so many people on a daily basis to move this country forward, in silence, women leading the industry, the police, science, agriculture, the National Program for the Advancement of Women. I realize the sterility of so many discussions in social networks that are exhausted in who is right about one issue or another, while so many work hard in all fields, including the social sciences, with much work and less words and vanity.
There is a very strong struggle in Cuba between the oppression and hopelessness produced by so many years of toil due to economic shortages and the desire to move forward with all the fairness that the Revolution has meant. This is a dramatic expression of the class struggle. It is the resistance to the violence of imperialism, concretized in advancing over the economic terrorism that is done to us. And, in short, as Ileana Macías says, “In my neighborhood, if there is food, nobody cares about anything else”.
Cuban women have emancipated ourselves tremendously. However, the tears there, of some of them, denounce that this equality has cost us to go head-on against a patriarchy that we have not yet managed to banish completely. We women have been the most important pillar of the Revolution because not only did we advance towards every trench in the vanguard, but also because we did so without ceasing to support the houses of all in the rearguard.
Those were the words cried by the one who coordinates an important working commission of the FMC in defense of women’s equity. The National Program for the Advancement of Women is perhaps one of the most advanced public policies proposed by any state in the world in this field.
In Cuba, any woman, regardless of age, profession, income level, skin color, feels entitled to speak to her President without any protocol whatsoever. To tell him what she thinks and feels without any filter. That is rare in a world like the one we live in, where most presidents come to power to represent the interests of untouchable elites.
There I did not see one more candidate in a clientelist play to capture votes. I saw a man seriously concerned about capturing the ideas and feelings of all, to fully assume his responsibility to the country, with a collective leadership style. For those who are so concerned about dialogue and democracy, the system is in very good health in that sense, although it also has important challenges ahead.
Popular wisdom sees: it knows how to differentiate between what is fair and what is not, because dignity and life are at stake. Ileana went from La Güinera to there, not to be right or to say the last word, she went to speak for her neighborhood and to ask for it. That is the wise thing to do and that is what she said. We are facing a leadership style of a vocation to listen and serve a collective project, a style inherited from Fidel’s school and unprecedented in today’s world.
This exercise of dialogue with various sectors of the population, of the highest leadership of a country, in fact, its President and also First Secretary of the PCC, speaks of a feature of Cuban socialism that has much to show the world in terms of democracy.
Let us bear witness to this, because the hegemonic media will not tell it. It is clear that I am not avoiding in this recognition the awareness of all the democracy that is still missing. We need to be in spaces like this so that the mirage of the fracture of consensus and the disintegration of the social fabric that we imagine in our rhetoric does not prevent us from seeing reality.
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
Cuban women will always be at the side of the Revolution, in defense of the principles and rights conquered for more than six decades. This was emphasized by Teresa Amarelle Boué, member of the Political Bureau and secretary-general of the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC), an organization that, with that conviction, as part of its essence, will reach its 61st anniversary.
In the midst of the media misrepresentation campaign against Cuba, she referred to Granma that fighting it is among the Federation’s priorities: “We are an organization that has legal authority, a non-governmental organization, but that does not mean that we are against the Government or the leadership of the Revolution, because it was the Revolution that dignified Cuban women and that is what we defend.
“We defend the Revolution because we want that in Cuba women have the right to employment, that there are schools, free education and that our women can be more than 62% of university graduates,” she said.
In another moment of her statements, during a meeting held with the press, she highlighted the importance of the National Program for the Advancement of Women. “Women have to know what the Program proposes; this work we are doing in the communities, the laundromats we are increasing, the strategy itself on violence, which should come out in the next few days with a legal norm; the work we are doing in the Women and Family Guidance Houses.
“We must start in the communities a workshop on gender violence, and we are also working on training the Police and legal personnel on everything that has to do with women’s rights so that they are in a position to exercise a better role in this regard.”
She said that next August 23 the FMC will reach its 61st anniversary with the motivations left by the 8th Party Congress. She pointed out that they will organize dialogues among women in each of the municipalities, and the Fidel and the Revolution of Women workshops, on the occasion of the 95th birthday of the Commander in Chief, always respecting the epidemiological norms.
Among the actions to be carried out in the coming days are a process of deep community intervention to stimulate citizen participation in the communities, as well as volunteer work, special matinees and recognitions to artists, founders and outstanding women in the fight against the pandemic.
The tribute to Vilma Espín Guillois will take place on August 23 at the Second Front, in the mausoleum where her remains rest. The commemorative day will also include the presentation of the Mariana Grajales and Ana Betancourt orders, the August 23 distinction and the 60th Anniversary stamp.
By Mailenys Oliva Ferrales and Eduardo Palomares Calderón
August 23, 2020
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
United by the Sierra Maestra mountain range and the waters of the Cauto River, in the struggles marked by Mariana Grajales, Canducha “la Abanderada”, and more recently by Celia Sánchez and Vilma Espín, the women of Santiago and Granma are now united in this beautiful story woven by the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC), in the 60 years they observed this August 23.
It was to Vilma Espín Guillois, a brave and sensitive woman from Santiago, that Commander-in-Chief Fidel Castro Ruz entrusted the creation and strengthening of the organization destined to work for full gender equality in the new society. This is why the FMC women of her territory made a firm commitment this time to dedicate the Vanguard flag and the national act for the date.
“For all the FMC women of the country it has been a year of intense work -considers Elena Castillo Rodríguez, secretary-general of the FMC in Santiago de Cuba-, first because we started it under the incentive of such an important anniversary, and then because the appearance of the pandemic changed the life of all Cubans and, of course, it imposed the reorientation of our work.
“Based on the Party’s motto in the territory: “With the effort of all, we will win!”, we did the same intensity of work from the Guantanamo border of Yerba de Guinea to the Granmense of Baire, and that allowed us to declare all the municipalities (9) as Vanguards, and to seal that result at the level of the country.
Based on the solid tradition that has kept it in the vanguard in recent years, Granma was very close, achieving vanguard status in ten of its 13 municipalities. It wa, a challenge that, according to the Secretary General, María Elena Hechavarría Carralero, was focused on strengthening its grassroots structures and community action.
“We are one of the links that the enemy imagines with weaknesses to try to distort the reality of the Island, but, considered by Fidel as well as by Raúl and Díaz-Canel, as bastions in each project undertaken, we have taken all the spaces to demonstrate that women are an essential force in the sovereignty of the Nation”.
THE VITAL HEARTBEAT OF SOCIETY
For most of the 412,500 FMCers in Santiago and the 325,000 in Granma, one of the most important, humane and beautiful activities of recent times has been the challenge taken on from the COVID-19 pandemic, because not only was it to make thousands of nasobucos, but they also provided the fabric and thread, and then went to donate them in the neighborhoods, squares and workplaces.
In both territories, they also went voluntarily to the health control points, to the sanitation and hygienization of public areas, to the house-to-house investigation and, without thinking twice, not a few young people took the step to contribute in what was necessary in the red zone of hospitals and centers of isolation of suspects.
Perhaps there is something more emotional,” says Castillo Rodriguez, “than seeing a girl with a pharmacy card or a warehouse notebook buying medicine and food products for a vulnerable person, or for the members of the Federation who took care of the old man who lives alone and brought him the same food prepared for the family.
Our women have grown up during the confrontation with COVID-19,” says Hechavarría Carralero, “because they did not wait to be called, they began to spontaneously deploy initiatives and we generalized and brought them together so that their impact would be greater, and all this has had the moral recognition that contributes to new efforts.
Within this complex situation, both leaders agreed that the scourge of gender violence that has wounded the world so much, has not been an embarrassing problem for their respective territories, since the Women’s and Family Orientation Centers work preventively, and a differentiated work has been done in dysfunctional nuclei.
Through specialists, talks have taken place aimed at promoting family unity and curbing the tendency to burden women with domestic tasks. At the same time, through dozens of training programs, the FMC has held training courses in socially useful activities for women and men who are not working.
In this way, including in recent days, some of the so-called “choleras” received job offers in the state sector or on their own account, ranging from pharmacy and commerce clerks, technical services, gastronomy, barbers and other trades that reintegrate them with dignity.
IN FRONT OF THE FURROW
According to Castillo Rodríguez, “Hot spots” in her province are the fronts for food production that women share today. This is not because of the complexity of the work, but because of its importance. In addition to facing the pandemic, they moved to gardens and patios to plant short-cycle crops and medicinal plants, which are already bearing fruit.
A lot has been said about the initiative of the food production areas in Santiago,” he explains, “and those structures are already in all the municipalities, where, if in the agricultural ones there is parity between men and women, in the industrial ones the majority of the women are making bread, cookies, candies, preserves and dozens of assorted products.
Currently, the strategy concluded in the Second Front and that goes through the Third Front, is sealing each municipality with the patios incorporated into urban agriculture, and the creation of agreements for pigs, sheep and poultry, attended purely by women or jointly with the family, which provides them with meat, food, grains and vegetables.
The women of Granma also contribute to these forms of agri-food production, their presence in the mobilizations called for, and the empowerment achieved in the labor area, where they make up 67% of the technical force, and assume key management positions, from the base up to all levels.
VALIDITY OF VILMA
Although the Commander-in-Chief considered the full incorporation of women as a Revolution within the Revolution, among the greatest teachings bequeathed by Vilma Espín is the defense of rights and the work she has conquered. This is why Santiagueras and Granmenses are now equally focused on confronting social indiscipline.
Her actions in the face of coleros, resellers and hoarders range from preventive work with people characterized by that anti-social behavior in the community, which has made it possible to detect soluble dysfunctional problems and the incorporation of 12 cases to work in Santiago de Cuba, to the support to order in the lines [in from of] commercial establishments.
Elena Castillo and María Elena Hechavaría emphasize the enthusiasm with which the FMCers have received the respective recognitions as vanguard and outstanding women. There is in a 60th anniversary celebrated in all the municipalities, in centers such as hospitals and of textile clothing, with high presence of women, and of course in the base.
In a special way, the Vilma Espín Memorial, located in the house where she lived and matured as a revolutionary, by turning it into a meeting point and even a staff for young clandestine fighters, once again hosted the Vilma en la memoria workshop, with the presentation of 28 research papers from the provinces of Granma and Santiago de Cuba, on the extraordinary woman.
Coinciding with the date and in view of the impossibility, due to the COVID-19, of the desired mass mobilization, a representation of the municipality of Segundo Frente paid homage to the eternal President of the FMC, Vilma Espín Guillois, in the name of Cuban woman, and before the rock monument that in the mausoleum to the heroes and martyrs of the II Eastern Front receives its ashes.