Cuba – either the revolution advances or it is pushed back

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By GILBERTO LOPES*

Cuban urgencies will not be resolved with the return of capitalism

"The United States will not lift the embargo." Unless "Cuba gives in or comes to the table to negotiate in good faith," said Andy Gómez, retired director of the Institute of Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami, in an interview with BBC London. “I haven't seen any economic embargo during all my years of study that brought down a government,” he added. “But the pressure that continues to be exerted on Cuba is the result we saw on Sunday, July 11th.

The block

“Any Cuban inside or outside the island knows that the US commercial and financial blockade or embargo, whatever you want to call it, is real and has become internationalized and intensified in recent years, and is also a very heavy burden for the Cuban economy (as would be for any other economy),” said Cuban writer Leonardo Padura, in an article published on July 16[I].

A measure that has been condemned for 29 years by almost all nations in the world. In the most unanimous vote in the history of the UN, it was condemned by 184 votes to two (USA and Israel), in the last General Assembly, but to which Washington did not give any importance.

The distinguished journalist of Cuban Television Cristina Escobar spoke about the blockade: “some people say that the blockade is an inconvenience, that the difficulties are ours, and nothing else. But it is not political rhetoric. The blockade prevents this country from acting on the international stage as a normal country, it prevents or makes any import of basic goods for life more expensive”. “Trump put in place another 243 measures, which eliminated other sources of income, not only for the government, but also for the driver who took passengers on cruise ships in Cienfuegos, or for the private restaurant, which saw its clientele disappear.”

And the current president, Joe Biden, has left all of that intact. Including a ban on sending remittances by Cubans abroad to their family members in Cuba. The United States has played like never before in Cuba, said Uruguayan journalist Fernando Ravsberg, who is married to a Cuban and has lived in the country for more than 30 years. After long experience with international media, and responsible for the portal "Letters from Cuba”, where it was possible to read some of the best journalism published on the island, he finally had his credentials suspended by the Cuban authorities. Some item bothered them. But he gives interviews these days. “Never before has the economic blockade been applied with such rigor,” he told Uruguayan radio station The Spectator 810.

Cuba loses tourism with the blockade and the pandemic. At the same time, Trump banned family remittances. This means the loss of two of the country's main sources of foreign exchange earnings, Ravsberg said. Now comes Biden and, given that Cuba's other source of income is the medical brigades, he puts Cuba on a human trafficking list and threatens to punish the countries that hire these medical services, accusing them of complicity in human trafficking. “The blockade,” added journalist Cristina Escobar, “is not the only cause of Cuba's problems, but it interferes with all possibilities for development. And its effects do not fall on the government; the consequences of the blockade and its privations fall on all of us”.

unconventional warfare

“What is happening in Cuba is very similar to what the unconventional warfare manuals describe. They are based on internal problems and use them to implement political agendas publicly paid for by a foreign government,” added Escobar.

Padura also spoke about this. “It seems very possible that everything that has happened in Cuba since Sunday, July 11, has been encouraged by a greater or lesser number of people who oppose the system, some of whom were even paid, with the intention of destabilizing the country. and provoke a situation of chaos and insecurity”. But that “does not in the least lessen the reason for the din we hear.” “A cry that is also the result of the despair of a society that is going through not only a long economic crisis and a specific health crisis, but also a crisis of confidence and a loss of expectations”.

Perhaps nothing is as important to Padura as the “crisis of confidence”. “The Cuban authorities should not respond to these protests with the Slogans usual," he says. “What is needed are the solutions that many citizens expect or demand, some demonstrating in the streets, others expressing opinions on social networks and expressing their disenchantment or dissatisfaction, many counting the few and devalued pesos they have in their impoverished pockets and many, many more, waiting in resigned silence in queues for several hours under the sun or under the rain”.

Mercenaries and annexationists

Fernando Pérez, a prominent Cuban filmmaker, joined the demands made by a group of artists to the Ministry of Culture on November 27th. It called for a “new language”, which “requires freedom of expression, inclusion, the right to dissent and the active participation of a plural and diverse civil society”. Time passed and the doors remained closed,” he says. “When, on July 11, many of these young artists and filmmakers (I know them, I know what they think and I share their rebellious attitude) peacefully placed themselves before the ICRT [Cuban Institute of Radio and Television] to demand, once again, their right to be heard, this act is for me the symbol of the current temperature of many sectors in Cuba: NO more exclusion, NO more immobility, NO more repression of those who think differently”, he added.

Pérez expressed his opinion in an article published on the portal OnCuba[ii]. Katia del Llano, an economist who worked for ten years as economic adviser to the president of the National Assembly, a member of the 26th of July Movement who holds the clandestine combatant medal, also wrote there. She was active in the party for more than 50 years, and left two years ago, by her own decision, informs the portal. “There is a food shortage in Cuba, which has worsened in the last months of 2019, and since the beginning of this year it has reached unsuspected levels,” he said. “The monetary rearrangement, necessary but inopportune, further complicated the economic panorama, without realizing the announced benefits of such a measure. The increase in the prices of goods and services, by the State and the private sector, far surpassed that of wages and pensions. The almost total disappearance of tourism caused a drop in the income of thousands of people who depended on this activity, directly or indirectly”. And, of course, he added, "the recrudescence of the blockade, which is the cause of most of our past and present ills, but which also served, in many cases, as justification". “The opening of stores in Freely Convertible Currency (MLC), initially announced only for high-quality appliances”, later extended its offer “to basic necessities, increasing the differences between those who can buy in these stores and those who can only buy in even more understocked stores, which sell in national currency”. “The difficulties faced by the majority of the Cuban population cannot be ignored,” said del Llano. While many are due to the lockdown, many others are “because of shortcomings, wrong decisions and resistance to bold but necessary transformations on the part of those leading, and above all a lack of hope for the future”.

Again, the reference to “lack of hope”. As a solution, del Llano proposes “analyzing these facts in a self-critical way, convincing people that their difficulties are known and adopting measures to improve the situation, especially in relation to food production, which a true transformation of agricultural production would bring about, and the often-heralded opening of self-employment to encourage creativity”.

In his opinion, “the recent interventions by the president and some ministers show a lack of understanding of the meaning of the recent demonstrations”. Ravsberg also referred to the slowness with which the Cuban government implements certain innovations, approved by the party or state organizations themselves. “The Cuban government is moving with terrible slowness in implementing the reforms it has proposed,” he said. It takes years. “Currency unification took ten years. The opening of small and medium-sized companies was approved three years ago and still no one can open a company. This aggravates the whole situation, it does not release the productive forces for people to start earning their own living”.

“There are those who want to refound us as a capitalist country”, said Cristina Escobar. “They think that then prosperity will be hanging from the trees and we will be a colony with a galloping economy.” But, in her opinion, “what needs to change in Cuba are our urgencies, which will not be resolved with the return of capitalism”.

But if what happened on July 11th showed anything, it is that either the revolution advances or it is pushed back. True, the setting does not make it clear where. The party's current challenge is to respond to discontent, or run the risk of realizing the objectives defined by the retired director of the Institute of Cuban and Cuban American Studies at the University of Miami: the result of the pressure that Washington continues to exert on Cuba is what we have seen on Sunday, July 11th.

*Gilberto Lopes is a journalist, PhD in Society and Cultural Studies from the Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR). author of Political crisis of the modern world (Uruk).

Translation: Fernando Lima das Neves.

Notes


[I]  The article can be consulted here: https://jovencuba.com/alarido/amp/?fbclid=IwAR2ugJA-pHzTv7tOdix4neQfL7WvJ6ooyp1EJPMn4OMuGY8pJaz2FHUCWYg .

[ii]  The article can be consulted here: https://oncubanews.com/cuba/tres-intelectuales-opinan-sobre-cuba/?fbclid=IwAR35x2uwAv2wtwevFdrrkzXFnBJUli3sacG47LxJpJzfnQUiEXMyClMlYoA.

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