Monday, August 20, 2007

Opposition petition drive

Last week there was an interesting AP report about a petition drive by a Cuban women’s group. The petition calls on Cuba’s legislature to debate a law to allow the Cuban peso to be used everywhere in Cuba. This proposal would force the acceptance of Cuban pesos in stores that today accept hard currency (the “peso convertible”) only. That step wouldn’t solve the problem of the Cuban peso’s low purchasing power when exchanged for hard currency, but the political point is that it is wrong that Cubans are paid in one currency, and need another to acquire some goods that are basic necessities.

The group told reporters in a Havana apartment that their petition drive is more than half complete (they have 6,000 of the required 10,000 signatures) and is plagued by government harassment; they say that government agents seize signature sheets.

The group’s press conference was announced to reporters in Cuba by the Cuban American National Foundation in Miami, according to AP. I looked at the registration information for the group’s website and found that it was registered by a man in Miami Springs, Florida.

Regardless, what’s interesting about this effort is that it is focused on a discrete and very salient political issue among Cubans, it is an attempt to work within the current system to achieve change, and it gives average Cubans an opportunity to take action. In that sense, unlike other kinds of dissident activity such as human rights monitoring, news reporting, and ideological criticism of the Cuban government, this effort constitutes a more political opposition, in that it engages citizens concretely in grass roots political action.

Activist Belinda Salas commented on the prospects for change under Raul Castro; “The possibilities with the number two are more probable,” she told AP.

1 comment:

leftside said...

Sounds like a basis for an interesting discussion, though at first thought it perhaps seems to defeat the very purpose of having "hard currency" stores. But I wish them luck.

At least that was my sentiment until I clicked on the link and immediately saw mentions of a tribute to Brothers to the Resuce, releasing "political prisoners," an "independent library" and other Miami fingerprints. So I did of quick bit of googlng and found that FLAMUR was started by a Mrs. Magaedilia Hidalgo" - who is from Las Tunas but now lives in Miami. She was an "independent journalist" for the US Government funded Cuba Free Press association and also ran an independent library out of her home. The video of a FLAMUR meeting, begins with thanking Freedom House - another US Govt funded anti-Cuba org. There are other links to a Polish "Solidarity with Cuba" group, who just met with US "Transition Coordinatory" Caleb McCarry... alltogether not the best company for a group trying something like this. Why is it always the same story?

One might also wonder why a "rural" group would be concerned about shopping at hard currency stores since they are mostly in urban areas?