Ivan Garcia, 9 April 2015 — After the Sunday hangover drinking beer with various friends, Jose Pablo reluctantly tends to his stall where he sells pirated CDs with Hollywood films and Mexican and Colombian narco-novelas. At his stand you can find 2015 Oscar winners and in a worn black backpack, a collection of national and foreign pornography.
Jose Pablo is a talkative type. But when you ask him what benefits the upcoming Summit of the Americas, to be held in Panama April 10-11, would bring, with a sneer he responds, “Nothing. All these summits, be they Latin American, or CELAC, are more of the same. Speeches full of promises that in the end resolve nothing. It’s all rhetoric. It is an unnecessary waste of money.
While the official press is increasing the news coverage of the Summit, where the island will be seated in a meeting where supposedly nations must have full democratic requisites to participate, among ordinary Havanans, exhausted by the daily grind to put food on the table, these events are no more than strange far-off echoes.
For Daniel, repairing an old Dodge from the ’40s in his slightly grubby overalls, the bottom line is to keep the car on the road so it will continue to generate money to support his family.
“Politics in Cuba suck, The government goes one way and the people go the other. We Cubans no longer have any faith in our leaders. But we don’t have the mechanisms to change things. Then people do the best they can. With a quart of rum or a trip to the beach. I don’t plan to watch the Summit on TV. I don’t have time to watch those crappy speeches,” he says smiling.
Even bullet-proof optimists like Raisa, an engineer who hoped after December 17 that Cuba would finally change and become a normal country, four months later and with no roadmap from General Raul Castro has returned to her routine.
Reading newspapers that disinform rather than inform and, in order to complement her salary, she sells fruit juices at her work. “Only the retired or people interested in politics watch these televised rants. Cuban politicians float in another dimension. They don’t have to wrack their brains thinking about what they’re going to cook and how to make the money last to the end of the month. They are a Cuban and Venezuelan caste of self-proclaimed socialists,” she says in a biting tone.
If you wander down Avenida Santa Catalina, twenty minutes from the center of Havana, where the start of spring has brought out the brilliant red and orange flowers of the flamboyant trees flanking the road, and chat with the small business owners in the doorways of their homes or the retirees who sit in the park killing time, the upcoming Summit is not a priority.
The presidential talks, the historic photo of Obama and Castro II shaking hands, or the verbal boxing ring that star in the social forum preceding the Summit, only interest political actors and their hangers-on, in the official and dissident sector
Although their coffers are in the red, the State will pay the expenses of more than a hundred activists camouflaged as “civil society” — a buzzword. With their slick narrative, they will try to dismantle the plans of the opponents present in Panama.
The dissidents who will be traveling have prepared parallel summits throughout the Island. Despite the triumphalist headlines of the regime’s media, that the 7th Summit will offer a stage to accuse the United States of past, present and future tragedies, it would take a lot to convince people like Jose Pablo that forums like the one in Panama can mark a before and after in the nation’s life.
“With Raul Diaz-Canel, Elizardo Sanchez or any of the others who will someday become president, the poor will remain poor. Cuba isn’t going to change. No matter who governs. The option is to get out of here. The farther the better,” says Jose Pablo.
The daily drams, after decades of lines, rationing and shortages, and the powerlessness of the powerless to change things, has led a majority of Cuban society into apathy.
The escape valve is a raft, a visa, or spending a few hours watching South Korean soap operas. The present is worrisome. The future is scary.