Tag Archives: Cuba

Interview with a Cuban University Student, 2018

Lauren (a Michigan university student studying at the University of Havana): What is the biggest problem that Cuba has?

S: Economy. Economic development. But with it there is another thing, the mentality. We have to change the mentality.

L: Of what?

S: Of the people. It has already changed, a little. But it is necessary to change it more. And it is not a question of changing it for good or changing it for the worse. It is not a value judgment. Simply, the way of being has to change. Doing what we are doing now, we will not solve all the problems we have and those that come before us.

One thing that Cuba needs in the change of mentality, is that it needs to be more free, the people need to be more open to the unknown. We need dialogue, in Cuba there is a lack of dialogue. We lack… literally the word is dialogue. Dialogue involves listening and speaking, but speaking without overshadowing what the others say, and in Cuba that is missing. In order to move forward, we need dialogue. To listen to ourselves, and little by little, rebuild us. And in the economy too, change is needed, strong, decisive and fast. Especially fast. We need change, but we can’t delay it and it has to be fast, because if it’s not we will lose the strength in our system and fall into a bourgeois revolution, just like what happened to the USSR.  People will think that the system is broken beyond repair, and search for a new one,

which would lead to the complete reintegration of the capitalist system.  In Cuba, that would be a disaster in my opinion. A neoliberal restoration would be a disaster. Because by context and situation in Cuba, it is not what would be best. For me, the road is socialism. But a real socialism. A socialism consistent with Marx, with Marxism. And not with Marxism-Leninism, not with the Marx and with the Lenin that Stalin created, which was what we assumed. The problem is this, that we call ourselves Marxists, but we stay in academic Marxism. In the street people do not speak from Marx. It’s not that people do not talk about Marxism, it’s that people do not speak from Marx. People do not understand phenomena from Marx or from Marxism. They understand from the bourgeoisie theory. How are we going to be Marxists, if our population mostly understands things from the bourgeoisie theory? It is because we have not known enough to reach people with Marxism so that they understand things. That’s why you don’t have to look for another system, what you have to do is readjust what you have. But readjust it well. They are strong changes, radical changes, but they are going to help us have a better country to develop.

L: What do you think the world can learn from Cuba?

S: Solidarity. To share. The Martian (referring to Jose Martí) humanism that we have. It is a thing that is exportable. In fact, we do export it, we send doctors instead of soldiers, we send teachers to help eliminate illiteracy, we send human capital, teachers, doctors, athletes. We help people, and we share what we have.  The main thing is the solidarity of Cuba, and the kindness and sincerity with which we act before situations. When we speak we do it sincerely, from the heart, without looking the benefit, economic or otherwise. When we act, we do it selflessly. Without looking for the political gain, how to get better standing before a situation. We are not Machiavellian, we are humanists, thanks to Martí and many others who formed the nationality and the Cuban race and what it means to be Cuban. Even our diplomacy is humanistic.

: What is one thing that you are fighting for?

S: To change the forms, the conception, the focus of politics. To revolutionize the mentality, changing it and readjusting it to the current times, to the current generations. To change Cuban politics, regenerate it, give it a rebirth, that’s why I fight.


November 17, 2018

Adventures from Lo

Lauren, college student Michigan

Recent Politics in Cuba and Venezuela


An influence on Zapatista revolutionary psychology, Cuban socialism under Fidel Castro and Che Guevara aimed to create a “new man” like Che who puts the group good over individual good in contrast to capitalist countries. Che said, “I am not me anymore, at least I am not the same me as I was before” the revolution.[i] Che was influenced by the Soviet concept of the selfless and physically strong new man and woman, discussed by Leo Trotsky. Che cut sugar cane on his day off from government work and died attempting to bring revolution to Bolivia in 1967. After Che died, students pledged before starting class, “We will be like Che.” Fidel was age 32 when he took over Cuba in 1959, commenting the next year, “Young people are the purest product of the Revolution.”

In high school, Fidel was called “El Loco,” the crazy one and told classmates he wanted fame and glory.[ii] After the 1959 revolution, tens of thousands of students were sent to the countryside to teach illiterate peasants and urban students continued do work-study programs in the countryside.[iii] The revolution wanted to give access to culture to all the people, enabling them to be creative, with art centers and music houses around the island where I enjoyed dancing salsa. The Communist Party ran the National Council of Culture and expected artists to avoid counter-revolutionary subjects in favor of socialist realism. All children are encouraged to join the Pioneer clubs, modeled after the Russian Young Pioneers. When I visited Cuban schools good students were rewarded with helping others, such as cleaning up after lunch. The childcare center put the kids in large playpens so they could learn to cooperate as a group.

With the introduction of tourism and private enterprise under Raul Castro who took over from his brother in 2008, the new man is described as, “The hombre novisimo demonstrates humility in all matters, is self-sacrificing and has an appreciation for hard work and also for culture.”[iv] Free university education is provided to all who qualify (about 155,000 students in 2013). The outcome is Cuba ranks high, along with Argentina and Chile, on the UN Human Development Index, famous for its excellent education and health systems. It has the highest test scores in Latin America and best rates for school attendance. The Cuban Federation of University Students represents them in the oldest youth organization in Cuba. Youth are also represented in the Young Communist League of Cuba. Cuba sends its doctors to disadvantaged areas in Africa and throughout Latin America, including Brazil’s rural areas and about 20,000 doctors help staff clinics in Venezuela. I met Cuban youths in an airport in Guatemala excited to do service in the countryside there. Cuba sent over 250 doctors to work with Ebola patients in West Africa during the epidemic. Health care is available for all in neighborhood clinics where the doctor probably lives upstairs and is paid very little. Green medicine and green agriculture developed in Cuba to compensate for the US blockade providing an “agro-ecological” model for other countries.

When I was in Cuba around 15 years ago when Fidel was still in charge, people made the silent gesture of stroking a beard to refer to him, afraid to speak out against him. When I was in the USSR, there was a similar caution about criticizing leaders but the difference is Cubans feel free to enjoy life, dancing and singing and laughing. People lived simply; my son traded a T-shirt with a Cuban boy who only owned a few shirts and food revolves around bland rice and black beans and a few vegetables, with some fish and chicken. A family in Havana told me they have very little in the way of material possessions compared to the US, but they’re happy with family and friends, dancing and going to the beach. In the informal economy, they rented a very unadorned apartment building to us and asked us not to call attention to ourselves.

, or if it fails” in the new hybrid economy with more private enterprise.[v]

The Raul Castro government told official media to conduct a “battle against secretiveness;” for example, a new TV show interviews people about real issues such as housing problems or food prices. Raul is described as a pragmatist in comparison to Fidel’s revolutionary idealism, so Cubans to say life is changing. Now people are speaking more frankly in online discussions, although most people don’t have access to the Internet and cyber cafes charge $4.50 an hour for national connections when the average monthly wage is about $20. The first free public Internet service offered Wi-Fi in a Havana cultural center in March 2015. An IT graduate student reported, “What we have now is hope for a new path. We don’t know what’s coming, but it better be good.”[vi] However, a young computer scientist, Eliécer Ávila blogged in 2014,


I grew up listening to my teachers saying that our society was building the man of the future, a different one, one that would have no defects, no malice, none of the vices “inherited from capitalism.” Those of us who over the years strived to bring ourselves closer to something that is a good New Man, today find we are aliens maladapted to this society.[vii]


Cubans now seem more concerned with making money than ideals, similar to the Russians and Chinese. Food is still rationed and many Cubans—including professionals, work second jobs to earn “the extra” because they can’t live on a government salary although health care and education are free. I asked a taxi driver if he was an engineer because he looked like one. He said yes, but he made much more money driving a cab as professionals like himself and doctors earn very little. A flourishing black market exists; the police stopped an unlicensed taxi driver as he dropped us off and police stopped a young black man and asked to see his papers when he approached my son to try and sell him marijuana.

Cuban youth are also blamed for being self-centered. A Somos Jovenes magazine article on Cuban youth by Cuban Javier Gomez Lastra faulted them for being apathetic, materialistic, lazy, and lacking motivation.[viii] He called for an emphasis on what national hero Jose Marti taught: “Being educated is the only way to be free.” The author blamed youth focus on “salsa, greenbacks, and beer,” a slogan from a soap opera on the “lack of accurate guidance” by parents and the lack of jobs for youth. Gomez Lastra noted that young people get frustrated due to “repetitive promises of a bright future, in contradiction to what they live from day to day.” The economic struggles of the 70s were called the gray or black years and the crisis of the early 90s caused by the end of support by the USSR was referred to as “the struggle,” which led to a falling away from revolutionary ideals. Thus, “many Cubans learned to live for the moment” and develop illegal strategies to make money. Psychologist Elaine Morales Chuco blamed the reduction of state educational and recreation centers and the decline of the old model of study-work-pay on “the move of many young people to the socio-cultural world of the street.” She added, “Thus, many Cubans learned to live for the moment, the uncertainty and with very little chance to develop solid life projects.”

Young people vent frustration through rap music and on Internet blogs although there’s no mobile Internet service and not much WiFi access. The Internet is slowly facilitating expression of the youth voice. Young university professors write a blog called La Joven Cuba (Young Cuba) that got thousands of hits a day. It stated, “We promise to continue making this a platform where we can not only talk about the changes occurring in Cuba, but also where readers can participate with good manners in building a better island.”[ix] The school administration blocked access to the site in April 2012 but a year latter important government leaders asked them to restore access. A sign of more openness, the first gay pride event was organized in June 2012. In the early days of the revolution, Fidel said gays couldn’t be true revolutionaries because they represented bourgeois decadence. Some gays were locked up in labor camps in the 1960s, described in Improper Conduct, a 1984 documentary.

The Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy has a blog and organizes demonstrations, such as against police arrests of young people. However, the government arrested 761 dissidents in November 2013 and several journalists were detained for several days so the process of opening up is slow. The next year Lenier Gonzales, age 33, and Roberto Veiga, 49, published a journal to freely discuss Cuba’s future, part of a “Cuba Possible” project.

Eliécer Ávila, a computer scientist and blogger, age 29, started a political movement call Somos+ (We are More) in 2014.[x] In a “letter to young people” he asked them to get involved in “the reconstruction of the country,” rather than complaining or leaving the country. US officials report that more than 50,000 Cubans move to the US each year. Tens of thousands of professionals, artists and athletes emigrate in a brain drain. Ávila wants to overcome isolation and enable people to express themselves on a platform without fear, hoping to mobilize a vanguard. His goals include a democratic parliament and free access to the Internet.

Some express the youth theme of courage, as when a young Cuban man told an American reporter writing about changes in his country, “I’m not afraid of anybody!”[xi] A woman artist reported that the younger generation dream about their future in Cuba and don’t want to leave and they’re more accepting of homosexuality.[xii] However, she worries about growing inequality with a new class of wealthy people who lack taste. Summer 2016 saw announcements the country would have to cut fuel consumption by nearly a third and reduce state imports, partly because of weakness in Venezuela’s economy and oil supplier. The question is will youth trained in socialist values keep them or be seduced by emerging capitalism? When Raul retires in 2018 how will Cuban socialism change with younger leaders?



Socialist Hugo Chávez was elected president in honest elections in 1998, intent on creating a social revolution called the “Bolivarian process” with five-year Socialist Plans. His goal was to create “competition socialism” in Venezuela. Chávez succeeded in cutting poverty in half, although his government was charged with cronyism and corrupt practices and the 180% inflation rate was the highest in the world by 2016. He succeeded in building the economy by controlling the oil industry, using the revenues to cut poverty in half, increase access to free health care with the Barrio Adentro clinics program founded in 2003, and increase school enrollment. He was opposed by rich people who were supported by the US, who failed in an attempted overthrow of Chávez in 2002. Even after his death people still refer to him as their comandante and chant “We’re all Chávez.” His government developed a democratic food sovereignty system, banning GMO seeds and Monsanto corn and international gatherings were hosted in the “ecosocialist” village of Monte Carmelo.[xiii] One of the Guardians of Seeds explained, “I used to live by earning money. Money puts your mind to sleep. True liberty is in the land, protecting nature.” A law passed in 2015 promotes ecological organic farming and independence from international food markets. A Popular Council helps government decide on food policy.

The UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean praised Venezuela for its commitment in 2014 to end extreme poverty by 2019 (down from 21% in 1998 to 5% in 2014), building 1,500 service centers with 24-hour medical clinics and nutrition information.[xiv] The government built more than a million homes for the poor from 2011 to 2015, lending money to neighborhood assemblies that provided the labor. Chávez was democratically elected five times, initiated local councils, and doubled spending on education and health.[xv] He led his country to be the most income equitable in Latin America by 2012 with free health care, subsidized fuel, and computers for students.

Chávez funded thousands of communal councils and worker-run cooperatives and hundreds of communes after the failure of the attempted coup in 2002. The self-help projects to combat poverty are called missions. They provide education, health care and economic development such as teaching new skills in the production of chocolate. Military reservists help with the community projects. Tens of millions of people, the majority being female, have joined in these efforts to create a new world.[xvi] Youths have access to the Hip Hop Revolucion movement, founded in 2003, providing after-school music programs.[xvii] “Hip-hop and the political struggle are inextricably linked,” in that young people have the “chance to play a tangible part in building the better future they want to grow up in.”

The government reported in 2015 that poverty rate dropped from 21% of families when Chavez was elected in 1998 to 4.5%, but after his death in 2013, the economy fell apart.[xviii] A slogan was, “With Chávez everything, without Chávez, nothing.” But a university student and leader of the Communist Party of Venezuelan youth, Jairo Calderon said the idea was a joke, because one person doesn’t make a revolution.[xix] He added, “Our job is to make sure the people don’t get demoralized.” Another young leader, Carmen Camacho said her goal is to “fill ourselves with knowledge so that we can transform the human being, the collective, and our communities,” similar to Cuban goals to create a new human.

The economy suffered after the death of charismatic leader Chávez, with high inflation and reliance on oil exports. President Nicolás Maduro, a former bus driver and union leader, imposed new austerity measures in the form of tax increases. The struggling economy is hurt by the falling price of oil, US sanctions, and one of the world’s highest inflation rates, requiring cutting government spending by 20%. The inflation rate grew to 70% and basic staples and medicine are scarce. A Venezuelan activist told me Maduro lacks Chávez’ ability to create stories to motivate people, leaving the country in crisis. Venezuela and Thailand both saw large protests led by right-wing demonstrators in 2014, resulting in deaths and injuries in clashes with security forces. Both groups accused the government of corruption.

Large demonstrations of thousands of youth and others occurred in Caracas in 2013 to 2014, protesting the inflation rate of 57%, high homicide rate, lack of freedom, and shortage of basic goods like toilet paper, oil and flour. Shoppers have to wait in line for long hours to get in subsidized markets in poor neighborhoods. The country has the world’s largest oil reserves and one of the highest rates of violent crimes, highlighted by the January 2014 murder of a popular actress and former Miss Venezuela and her husband in front of their daughter.

Demonstrations began on February 4, 2014, on a campus in San Cristóbal to protest the sexual assault of a female student. Police repressed the protest and detained some of the students. The next day protests spread to other campuses in support of the detainees. Those protests were also repressed and some of the students jailed, increasing the size of protests around the country. Hundreds the protesters were detained and some reported they suffered torture and sexual assault. A student (age 22) who voted for Maduro said, “We need a new political ideology. When Chávez died, Chavismo died with him.” Juan Requesens, a student leader, called on the Catholic Church to mediate the conflict. BBC reported that Caracas was like a war zone, not functioning as a city, with shortages of food and medicine. Maduro sent fighter jets to fly over the city. (See videos about the protests.[xx])

A mass opposition rally on February 12 (National Youth Day) in 18 cities called for the release of all detainees. Three deaths during the protests garnered global media attention, followed by 40 more deaths by June and almost a thousand injuries.[xxi] A demonstrator, 19, said police shot at his leg from close range. Police used the usual pepper spray, water cannons and tear gas. Protests were especially large in interior cities that lack public services. Protests in Caracas were largely centered in middle-class neighborhoods led by college students, rather than the slums where the socialist government has provided social services for the last 15 years. On the poor west side of Caracas daily life carried on as usual. One of the slum dwellers, age 26, said, “I’m a Chavista but things are going badly. Maduro is doing things badly. But I don’t support the violence of the opposition either. They are full of hate.”[xxii] A slum dweller, 24, who opposed Maduro carried a sign saying, “I’m not bourgeois, before all I’m Venezuelan and I’m in the opposition.” Maduro asked a crowd, “Do you want neoliberal capitalism to return? Do you want to continue the Bolivarian Revolution?,” as shown on an Al Jazeera documentary of the protests.[xxiii]

Protesters set up street barricades called guarimbas and made firebombs and bonfires. They gathered rocks to use against national guardsmen, militias on motorcycles (Maduro calls them colectivos), and police. Neighbors brought food and water to the protesters, similar to Egypt and Turkey. When a 19-year-old student was asked by BBC what her parents thought about her activism, she said they worried about the danger but “I do it for them.” Rebels strung barbed wire across some narrow streets to halt security force motorcycles. Some wore a glove on one hand to throw back tear gas canisters. Masked protesters started fires and damaged buildings, while others wore white to symbolize peace. Some Caracas residents banged pots and pans to protest the economic crunch and urge Madero to resign although there’s no doubt he was fairly elected. In March three air force generals were arrested on charges of plotting a coup.

Maduro threatened to sanction radio stations and newspapers that covered the protest. Rebels used Twitter to communicate news but protests lacked coordination, despite the fact that 14 million out of the total population of nearly 30 million own smart phones. The international hacker group Anonymous searched government websites. The former indigenous president of Peru, Alejandro Toledo, pointed out that being elected democratically is not enough; democratic governance is needed including freedom of expression. He faulted Maduro for being controlled by the armed forces and silencing freedom of expression. Toledo and three other presidents signed a declaration on March 4, 2014, to express their alarm over violence by security forces and militias, and restrictions on the media.[xxiv] Between March and June 2014, 43 were killed and over 100 wounded. During the demonstrations, 43 people were killed, mostly government supporters.[xxv]

Maduro invited student protest leaders to talk, promising to listen “with respect and affection.” He blamed the US-backed “fascist, spoiled, rich kids” and a virus-like “parasitic bourgeoisie” including opposition leader Leopoldo López, age 42. López has a Harvard University Master’s degree in economics, calling his campaign “la salida,” the exit.[xxvi] López said, “Let’s fight. I will be doing so” for Maduro’s resignation. In a country with of the highest rates of Twitter use in the world, in an information war he tweeted to Maduro, “Don’t you have the guts to arrest me? Or are you waiting for orders from Havana?” Rumors spread that López and another opposition leader, María Corina Machado (age 46), were planning a coup; they were called firebrand leaders of the anti-democratic faction of the oligarchic elite.[xxvii] Others blamed the right-wing opposition coalition for organizing the demonstrations and accused them of paying demonstrators to take part. Rachael Boothroyd Rojas wrote that the demonstrators weren’t student protests or youth-led, as portrayed in the media, but were used by the opposition.[xxviii]

López was put in a military prison for a 14-year term where he made a YouTube video that went viral. His appeals are postponed. (He and other young leaders in Italy and Greece look like they could be handsome brothers dressed informally in white dress shirts without ties.) From prison he wrote to the New York Times charging that the Maduro government is a repressive, undemocratic, corrupt, and inept elite leading the worst-performing economy in the region with the highest inflation rate in the world.[xxix] He advocated that the opposition unite in the Democratic Unity Roundtable, release the 76 political prisoners including himself, and work for the removal of bans on opposition leaders running for office. Maduro responded to some of these charges in his own New York Times article stating that the Obama administration spends at least $5 million annually to help the opposition movement.

López’ wife, Lilian Tintori, took over as his spokesperson, saying, “We’re very disciplined and peaceful.” Protests continued, with talks put on hold In May 2014, after the government arrested more than 200 student protesters who camped for weeks outside the UN offices and in three plazas in the capital. A 28-year-old lab assistant observed, “They know that the revolution is over, and they’re scared.” Another political rival, the mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma, was arrested in February 2015. He was charged with plotting with the CIA to overthrow the government and his ally Maria Corina Machado was charged with plotting to assassinate Maduro.

Because universities are free, Venezuela has over 2.6 million university students. Progressive author Dario Azzellini reported in 2014 that most of them were not involved in street protests, and they were less than a third of arrested demonstrators.[xxx] He believes that protest leaders are drug traffickers, paramilitaries and private military contractors. The wealthy opposition is afraid of the new world being built by working class people. He implied that the US is behind the protests in an effort to destabilize the government, including another coup attempt by the right-wing opposition supported by the US government in February 2015. Palestinians agreed, demonstrating in support of Venezuela because of the “terrible threats that the government and people of Venezuela have received from the US government . . . The only threat to humanity is the government of the United States and its allies . . .and the people of Gaza are showing their love today in the streets, in their support for Venezuela,” stated Hamas member Abu Zuhri.[xxxi]

Three US officials were accused of organizing students to protest and exiled from the country. Professor Julia Buxton reported that a large amount of the $45 million in annual US funding to opposition groups went to “youth outreach” programs such as Juventud Activa Venezuela Unida (JAVU) mobilized after 2010.”[xxxii] The 2014 student movement joined with López and Machado in the Salida/ (exit) campaign in “frenzied” Twitter activity using photos of police violence from other countries as if they were in Venezuela. Former US Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger said on Fox News that the way to undermine Chavez was to use the weapon of “anything we can do to make their economy more difficult for them” without getting in direct conflict.[xxxiii] Maduro blamed the US for leading an “economic war” on his country and trying to stage coups. He tweeted, “the aggression of power form the United States is total and on a daily basis.”[xxxiv] Maduro shouted at a rally, “Yankee, go home!” He called protesters Chuckies, a character in a US horror film—Western film references are used in interesting ways, similar to Putin comparing Russian demonstrators to monster Orcs.

Students in Caracas duplicated the tent cities established in Egypt’s Tahrir Square until the National Guard arrested 243 of them in April 2014, triggering a new wave of demonstrations, roadblocks and neighbors banging pots and pans. Julio Cesar Rivas, 29, a leader at a plaza camp in Chacao said, “The government is trying to drive the students toward violence with the torture and raids. But we’re intelligent and we have patience. The fight doesn’t have to be violent, but we’re not going to hide. We’ll stay in the streets.”[xxxv] The protests resulted in the deaths of more than 40 people during the several months of demonstrations. The president of the National Assembly, Maduro supporter Diosdado Cabello said in December 2014 that the government allowed the demonstrations to continue for several months until the people got tired of the chaos.[xxxvi] The opposition Democratic Unity Table took control of the National Assembly in 2015 with 56% of the vote, despite the fact that up to 60% of the budget that goes to social programs that reduced extreme poverty from 11% in 1998 to 5% in 2015.[xxxvii]

Due to runaway inflation, scarcity of goods, power outages due to the effect of drought on hydroelectric power production, and the low price of oil exports, the right won in 2015 legislative elections. Due to shortages of basics, food deliveries required armed guards and soldiers guarded bakeries and food riots occur around the country in 2016. Maduro declared martial law, blamed the US, saying, “The economic war has triumphed.”[xxxviii] He added, “We have lost a battle today but now is when the fight for socialism begins.” The government declared an economic emergency caused by foreigners, saying the US was creating another Operation Condor that opposed progressive governments in the 1970s and 80s accused of killing or disappearing around 50,000 people. (Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa agreed, stating that the right wing was making up for a decade out of power.[xxxix]) Maduro’s Venezuela assumed the presidency of the 120 nation Non Aligned Movement in 2016, part of its leadership in international issues such as UN reform and anti-imperialism.

Maduro’s government had to ration electricity and water in a time of drought, shut schools on Fridays and many government offices are only open two half-days a week. The military delivered food and supplies to prevent fighting over scarce food. An article by Luis Britto Garcia suggested how to renew the government’s popularity and Gabriel Heland explained the reasons for the economic crisis, while the new minister of Economy, Luis Salas vowed to continue the previous 17 years of social programs.[xl] Hetland concluded socialism is not the problem as the private sector increased it’s share of economic activity to 71% in 2011 and elections are free and fair so Venezuela is not a dictatorship. The problem is a combination of government financial errors as in managing the currency, corruption, dependence on oil sales when prices are dropping, and opposition from the US that kept the country from getting foreign financing along with violent opposition in Venezuela




[i] Gonzalo Gernandez, “The New Man in Cuba,” Intrepid Media, July 30, 2013.


[ii] “Fidel Castro, American Experience,” PBS, 2005.


[iii] Irina Pino, “Countryside Boarding Schools in Cuba,” Havana Times, February 26, 2014.


[iv] Denise Blum. Cuban Youth and Revolutionary Values. University of Texas Press, 2011.

[v] Damien Cave, “Cuba’s Reward for the Dutiful: Gated Housing,” New York Times, February 11, 2014.

[vi] Damien Cave, “The Revolution Fidel Castro Began Evolves Under His Brother,” New York Times, December 18, 2014.

[vii] “Translating Cuba: English Translations of Cuban Bloggers,” July 23, 2014.


[viii] Javier Gómez Lastra, Somos Jovenes Magazine,
March 13, 2015.



[ix] http://jovencuba.com/


[x] http://somosmascuba.com/


[xi] Many young people she met debated about whether to stay or try to leave. Cynthia Gorney, “Cuba’s New Now,” National Geographic, November 2012.


[xii] Cyd Bernstein, Cuba Through Her Eyes, Open Democracy.Net, July 20, 2015.


[xiii] Nick Dearden, “Venezuela’s food Revolution Has Fought Off Big Agribusiness and Promoted Agroecology,” Common Dreams, January 11, 2016.


Quincy Saul, “Return to the Source: Guardians of Seeds Fight Monsanto and Win,” Popular Resistance, October 15, 2016.


[xiv] “UN Development Body Praises Venezuela for Poverty Reduction,” TelesSUR, March 27, 2015.


[xv] Gabiel Hetland, “The Truth About Chavez,” Carib Flame, September 2, 2015.


[xvi] Renee Kasinsky, “’Otro Mundo Es Possble,’ Women Power of the VI Caracas World Social Forum and the Bolivarian Revolution,” Journal of international Women’s Studies, Vol. 8, No. 3, April 2007.


[xvii] “London Latinos Premiere Venezula ‘Hip Hop Revolucion” Film, TeleSUR, November 6, 2015.


[xviii] Ryan Mallett-Outtrim, “Extreme Poverty in Venezuela Drops to 4.5%,” TeleSUR, July 28, 2015.


[xix] Tamara Pearson, “Venezuela: Activists Speak,” Latin America Bureau, January 28, 2013.


[xx] http://globalvoicesonline.org/specialcoverage/protests-in-venezuela/

[xxi] “Venezuela Protests Death Toll Hits 43,” Banla News, June 22, 2014.


[xxii] William Neuman, “Slum Dwellers in Caracas Ask, What Protests,” New York Times, February 28, 2014.

[xxiii] “Venezuela Divided,” Al Jazeera TV, June 27, 2014.


[xxiv] http://brazilportal.wordpress.com/2014/03/05/presidents-arias-cardoso-lagos-and-toledo-joint-statement-on-developments-in-venezuela/

[xxv] “The Refusal of the Political Opposition in Venezuela to Agree To Recognize the Results,” TeleSur, November 24, 2015.


[xxvi] Jeffrey Tayler, “What the Heck is Going on in Venezuela?,” Bloomberg Businessweek, February 18, 2014.


[xxvii] Jerome Roos, “Venezuela: It’s the Opposition that’s Anti-Democratic,” ROAR Magazine, February 21, 2014.


[xxviii] Rachael Boothroyd Rojas, “From 2014 Violent Barricades to Venezuelan Assembly Right-Wing,” TeleSUR, February 12, 2016.


[xxix] Leopoldo Lopez, “Even in Jail, I will Fight for a Free Venezuela,” New York Times, September 25, 2015.

[xxx] Dario Azzellini, “Venezuela: Where the Wealthy Stir Violence While the Poor Build a New Sociey,” Venezuelanalyis.com, April 28, 2014.


[xxxi] “Palestinians Rally in Solidarity with Venezuela,” TelSUR, March 21, 2015.


[xxxii] Julia Buxton, “Venezuela: The Real Significance of the Student Protests,” Latin American Bureau, February 20, 2014.


[xxxiii] Slavoj Zizek, “A Brief Clarification about Populism,” TelSUR, April 25, 2015.


[xxxiv] Simon Romero Girish Gupta, “Amid a Slump, a Crackdown for Venezuela,” New York Times, February 22, 2015.

[xxxv] Corina Pons and Nathan Crooks, “Venezuela National Guard Raids Caracas Student Protest Camps,” Bloomberg Businessweek, May 8, 2014.


[xxxvi] Diosdado Cabelo, “Hectoring Venezuela on Human Rights,” New York Times, December 17, 2014.

[xxxvii] Tim Anderson, “Despite Its Crises, Venezuela Assumes Another Key international Role,” TeleSur, September 15, 2016.


[xxxviii] Nadia Prupis, ”After Party Loss Venezuela’s Maduro Vows to Continue ‘Socialist Revolution,” Common Dreams, December 7, 2015.


[xxxix] “Maduro Warns of New US-Backed ‘Plan Condor’ Against Left Governments,” TeleSUR, March 19, 2016.


[xl] Luis Britto Garcia, “Ten Proposals for Chavismo in the Face of Our Defeat,” Venezuelanalyze.com, December 17, 2015.


Gabriel Hetland, “Why Is Venezuela in Crisis?,” The Nation, August 17, 2016.


Cubans Aim to Create A New Consciousness

Cuba’s socialism is a sharp contrast to US capitalism. When I traveled there on an educational tour with my son, the only ads we saw were political ones, like posters of Che Guevara. Blogger Yoani Sanchez relates how the Castro government aimed to create a new person, non-competitve, thinking about the good of the proletariat, as in Russia and China during their earlier periods of efforts to apply Marxist-Leninist ideals, and Scandinavia today. She blogged,


For Cubans of my generation, longing for success was a terrible ideological deviation—not only longing to stand out personally, but professionally and economically. We were raised to be humble, and if we received any kind of recognition, we were taught to emphasize that we could not have achieved it without the help of our comrades. . . . Competitiveness was punished with accusations very difficult to expunge from our dossiers, accusations such as “self-sufficient” or “immodest.” Success must be—or seen to be—shared, the fruit of everyone’s labors under the wise direction of the Party. . . . We hid material possessions to show that we were all children of a self-sacrificing proletariat, and that we detested the bourgeoisie.[i]


Without the ads’ emphasis on model’s touched up bodies, women were comfortable with their bodies, ample women showing off their curves in spandex pants. We rented a very simple apartment from a family in Havana. They told us that Americans have a lot more possessions than they do (my son traded T-shirts with a Cuban boy and saw that he only owned a couple of shirts), but they take time to enjoy family, dancing, music, and the beach. Every town we went to had a Music House supported by the government with wonderful salsa dancers—my dance lessons paid off. The negative side is the lack of freedom of speech with political prisoners in jail and limits on entrepreneurship. We saw our unlicensed taxi driver get questioned by the police for his illegal business. The police also asked for the residency papers of a young man with dreadlocks who came up to talk to my son to try to sell him marijuana.

Few Cubans have access to the Internet. Yoani Sanchez is the best known opposition blogger. In May 2014 she launched an independent news outlet with other journalists, which was quickly hacked by authorities directing Cubans to a page criticizing her. She blogged, “How can a citizen protect himself from a State that has the police, the courts, the Rapid Response Brigades, the mass media. . . .?” She compiled her blogs in Havana Real: One Woman Fights to Tell the Truth about Cuba Today (2011).[ii] Most Cubans can’t afford the $4.50 an hour charge to use Internet at a café. Viewers outside of Cuba can read the blogs: Sanchez has more than 600,000 Twitter followers. Journalist and blogger Sandra Abd’Allah-Alvarez Ramirez is a black feminist who reported, “There are voices of feminist women, but not a feminist movement.” As elsewhere, “There is a lot of ignorance around the word ‘feminism’… Even women who defend women’s rights… tend to say “I am not a feminist’ nor would they talk about a movement.”[iii] She attended a concert where a young rapper criticized female subordination but later said, “It’s not like I’m a feminist.”

[i] Yoani Sanchez. Havana Real: One Woman Fights to Tell the Truth About Cuba Today. Melville House, 2009

[ii] English language blog: http://generacionyen.wordpress.com/

The news page with other journalists: http://www.14ymedio.com/

[iii] Carolina Drake, “On Social Media, Cubans Speak Up for Feminism and Racial Justice,” Bitch Media, April 8, 2014.