14ymedio, Claudia Collazo, Havana, 28 July 2016 — Compelling, cheerful, with an exuberant vocabulary and a good presence, Eduardo Mora was until recently one of the main presenters on “Good Morning,” Cuba’s morning news show. Even the most boring slogans gained grace from his personal style.
Just over a month ago, in the hallways of the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television (ICRT) everyone said, each in his own way, that he had defected, that he won’t return, that he stayed abroad. In May, Mora attended the Latin American Study Association (LASA) meeting in New York as a speaker, and at the end of the sessions asked his bosses in Information Systems to extend his absence for a few more weeks, but they refused. The presenter intended to take advantage of the trip to visit his brother in Miami and to give some talks so that he would be able to buy a house in Havana with the money raised. When he did not appear in Cuba by the required date, he was fired.
Now, his colleagues comment quietly that Mora “has passed to a better life.” This expression, recognized as a synonym for death, has now become, ironically, a form of comparing the life of a Cuban who stays with that of a Cuban who leaves.
Those who knew him at Cubavision International when he was chief of information there, recall his scathing comments away from the cameras and microphones. Nothing extraordinary. The same things that are said in any bread line or on a bus crammed with people. For example: “Marino Murillo and the other leaders know how to adjust the economy, but without affecting themselves, nor the kings’ children.”
The real question is not why did Eduardo Mora stay in Miami, but why do our talented young professionals decide to leave. It is not about something as trite as a brain drain, because almost no one will offer him millions. On the contrary, they assume they can have a better life there, working as waiters, than they can exercising their profession in Cuba. The explanation is found in the mere fact that their working abroad, at anything, gives them at least the opportunity to pay for a plate of food on the table and, in some cases, for the same for their families on the island.
What concerns us is not that he stayed because with what he earned here he could never buy a house in Havana, not even from the results of his hard work, which, at times involves working more than two contracts simultaneously. The alarming thing is the chaos unleashed when someone like Eduardo Mora emigrates or decides to explore new work opportunities, as if wanting a better life is a grave failing, an unpardonable betrayal.
Cubavision International has not yet named a new chief of information; right now it takes a great deal of effort for people – and for young people it’s even worse – to assume leadership positions. Meanwhile, the hallway comments multiply. There is a joke that says if there were a ramparts or a common border with any other country, there would be no one left on this side. “Let he who does not cross cast the first stone!” says a lady, passing on the joke.
The system is collapsing not because it is “a plaza under siege by a genocidal blockade,” but because a good part of its people have decided to launch themselves on the path to emigration. Perhaps because, as José Martí is claimed to have said, “when the people emigrate… leaders are superfluous.” Something everyone knows and mumbles behind the scenes.