Reflections

The Cuban Government has no intention of engaging in a dialog or an opening.  This leaves the rest of us in a very tense situation that could last beyond the passing of Fidel Castro.  In the historic district of Havana, a ruling class formed after 1959.  They were much younger in those days and they didn’t have the weight upon them of having to make decisions.  Back then, they had access to political and economic information, and in their day, they wanted to construct a socialist society.  After the fall of the socialist camp, the ruling class was confronted with alarming similarities between the systemic defects of Eastern Europe and Cuba. What’s more, this ruling class has family and friends who support them to keep them updated on everything that is going on in the world; family and friends for whom, in many cases, the image of the Revolution is nothing more than something from a textbook and all they can do is repeat the tired ideological discourse.

Many children of the ruling class are well-educated professionals who have opted to emigrate, in search of better salaries and better professional opportunities.  The success of the majority of Cuban exiles abroad is one more difficult piece of evidence that confronts those who have stayed here in Cuba.

From deep in the hearts of the functionaries will come proposals of flexibility and openness – an attempt to regain their positions in the necessary reform administration.  But our economy is being strangled to death.  This Brezhnev-style paralysis should alarm the government economists.

The vast majority of people who live in any part of the world don’t care under what system they live, they only care how they live under that system.  Cuba is no exception.  What will it take for Cubans to get over the fear in their minds and want to try their luck in a market economy.  The experience of Eastern Europe tells us that the majority of people who live there are happier now than they were twenty years ago and, in spite of the difficulties, they don’t want to go back to the way it was.

The draconian measures that were taken here should have given the government a moment to deal with the disappearance of the socialist camp, but their loss of political power turned them into conservatives.  They took minor but essential stop-gap measures until the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, showed up.  With oil to consume and re-sell at a good price, the timid openings were paralyzed.  So here we are.

Since we have copied the Soviet system, we are beginning to see a new rich appear from the ranks of our functionaries.  There should be laws to prevent Cuba from becoming another Russia.  The argument justifying the thief who robs from another thief doesn’t work for me.

I am not interested in the project the government offers my country.  I want real participation of Cubans in their own destiny; I want my people to rid themselves of their fear; I want no one ever again to die crossing the Straits of Florida; I want the government of Cuba to be monitored by the people who elect it and I want the government to be subject to criticism by a free press.  I want to have a president who is elected by a direct and secret ballot; I want impartial technocrats who every 4 or 6 years deliver a budget surplus.

What’s good for all Cubans will be good for me.

I don’t use words unnecessarily, that is the reason for the title.

Translated by Hank

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Hunger as a Weapon

One of the few advantages of having a blog without Internet access is that I don’t feel influenced by what people write on other opinion sites.  I don’t generate news, I only comment on what I have, more or less: television, the neighborhood, myself. These days many people must be talking about Guillermo Fariñas in a world where even the official media mentions him. I have become very suspicious every time some institution or some figure uses extreme adjectives whether for or against. For me, the most important thing in the case of Fariñas is not whether he has a criminal record, here it is easy to accumulate common crimes if you are an active member of the opposition; as there are no political prisoners, they make the laws fit to apply the punishments.

Purely coincidentally, while I was looking for information in the book, “The Dissidents,” edited in 2003, I ran across photos of a hunger strike held by various dissidents among whom appeared Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who was identified by name.  Didn’t they say he was a common criminal making impossible demands?

Zapata and Fariñas share a trait: Will.  Categorizing people as mercenaries, people who are willing to sacrifice their lives for an idea, a slow and painful death, only denigrates those who characterize them as such.

Translated by Hank

From Yesterday to Today

Brian is a friend of my son, Rafael, who will complete high school this year.  He still does not know what he wants to study, maybe physical education or law.  But while Brian is deciding what to chose for his future, his parents are one step ahead of him, they are applying for Spanish citizenship for him on the basis if his being a grandson of an immigrant.  Brian doesn’t really understand what that might mean for his future, but his intuition is that it could make a difference when the time comes.

There are thousands of people chasing after documents related to their grandparents so they can obtain foreign citizenship, I doubt if such a thing happens in other places with the intensity that it occurs here in Cuba.  I don’t know if sociological institutions study this at all, but it used to be that in Spain, they valued having parents who were of native descent because in those days, it was Cuba that represented a destination for immigrants, a destination that today grateful grandchildren use to obtain Spanish passports.

This phenomenon has caused such repercussions that the core of the Party — a little late for sure — has shifted its analysis to those militants who have applied for the coveted citizenship.  The militancy has to determine if the causes are justified or not.  This has provided a place for familiar justifications.

This would be only an anecdote if it were not for one small detail.  For a Cuban citizen to accept possession of other citizenship, the government of Cuba could not require a ‘Letter of Invitation,’ a passport and permission to leave, which cost approximately 350 CUC per person.  It is interesting because the Cuban Constitution does not recognize dual citizenship.  They would also lose a valuable source of income from Cuban residents living abroad and citizens in their respective adoptive countries, who feel obligated to pay the Cuban consulates to renew their passports which they only use to travel back here.  The state will do anything not to lose a single penny.

In the meantime, Brian, unaware of these subtleties, philosophically commented to my son that it has only been a little more than a hundred years since the Mambises struggled not to be Spanish. And now.

Translated by: Hank

Another Country of Long Shadows

I have many friends who “walk in the shadows.”  In Cuba, walking on the sidewalk in the shade is a relief from the harsh sun almost year round.  But the long walk of my friends is metaphorical:  Because their children in foreign countries send them remittances and every once in a while invite them to visit; they earn CUCs by working for foreign firms; or they rent out rooms to foreigners. Those friends, we say, “walk in the shadows,” they don’t do the work of the common man.  Their lifestyle does not bother me, but I am alarmed by the shell they have molded, within which they do not care about everything that occurs in the country, as long as it doesn’t happen to them.

What’s more, they avoid reading the press or watching the news now that these things are the bearers of propaganda which “depresses them.”  Their palliatives range from renting Mexican soap operas to not missing a presentation of the famous all-female chamber orchestra, the Camerata Romeu.  That shell did not appear from nothing, disappointment turned them into cynics, and paranoia made them cautious.  Some have distanced themselves from me, even though they think as I do:  It is one thing to criticize in a private gathering and quite another to write and sign your name to it.  They call me crazy and irresponsible, they appeal to my teenage son.  Stay in the shadows my friends.

Translated by Hank