Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 19 July 2020 — Anyone unfamiliar with the endless capacity for pretence and cynicism on the part of the Castro dictatorship, could perhaps see in the recent words of the latest occupant of the Finca Biran (Fidel Castro’s birthplace) a sincere call for reform. When Diaz-Canel, in an admirable fit of sincerity, accepts publicly that “we can’t keep doing the same thing with the economy, because we won’t get the results we need …”, he is only confirming something which, for decades, most of Cuban society has been saying, until it is blue in the face.
Everyone sees the urgency, from the militant communist who disagrees while stuck in his trench, to the most enraged and in-your-face member of the opposition; from the functional illiterate vegetating each day away in the bread line, to the most sophisticated economist: from the most eminent pensioner to the most important director struggling with creative firewalls and the totally obvious inherent uselessness of socialist government commerce; you can be completely sure they all agree, except for the antiquated ninety-year-old losers still clinging to the brakes of the train.
Although they argue about the causes of the disaster — the US embargo or the domestic blockade — the perception is becoming ever clearer and ever more common that Cuba has to make a sharp and profound U-turn in how it runs the economy, because the present situation is unsustainable and, if we don’t make serious, substantial and definitive changes, we are going to sink, into what will be, with every minute which passes, an ever more abject total ruin.
Obviously, if we in Cuba carry on doing what we are doing we will get what’s coming to us. That’s a principle as old as man, and the dust-covered geniuses of the Central Committee have done nothing to change that. Fidel Castro knew perfectly well, and so today does the timid Raul Castro, and also — why not? — the administrator Diaz-Canel, that the Soviet economic model was never suited to our idiosyncrasies, and that it never worked, nor ever will. It doesn’t work in the sense of serving the wellbeing of the Cuban people, but, in the sense of maintaining the most hermetic control possible, without caring about the social, economic or moral consequences, it has worked perfectly. It’s just a question of your point of view.
It doesn’t work and it will not work, because of its very nature, and the people in power in Havana know it, and so do all the senior directors of the Cuban establishment, all the oldies who are still fucking us around, and all the generals whether retired or still at their posts. Six decades of failure and ruin should be sufficient to convince even the most relentless defender of the regime, if it were not for the human calamity that is their fanaticism.
The situation now is, in several ways, more complicated and desperate than in the most critical moment of the ’90’s. In the middle of an authority vacuum — as Diaz-Canel has no charisma and up to now has given no indication of any character in the face of the “oldies” — and with Venezuela in the dumps, China and Russia as strategic allies, but tired of the fraudulent Creoles, and the well-deserved reputation of the people in the Plaza de la Robolucion for stuffing and ripping off half the people.
A little while ago the Cuban government went into default on its payments, in spite of the fact that hardly five years previously they were pardoned billions of dollars by the Paris Club, by Russia, and other creditor countries, tempted by Obama’s opening up, which made La Antilla [a tourist resort in Holguin province] fashionable for a few months. Just the bad debts from the Soviet era alone totalled 35 billion dollars! of which, let’s remember, 90% was forgiven while the remaining 10% was invested in Cuba. But not even this stroke of good luck could rescue Castroism from ruin, and now, with the window of opportunity closed, it’s too late. The world has got the point, and now the swindlers of Havana will not get any serious finance or proper investment of capital or credit of any kind, not for all the snails in Guanabacoa [there was a plague of these things in 2019].
Although for its enthusiastic supporters, the Neo-Castrismo would always have the same answer, which is proof against all tests: demagogy. This infallible weapon, always employed by Fidel Castro, has shown its value so many times, and could be used this time as well. Because talk of austerity is worth nothing if it is not practised by all, and by the Castroites more than anybody. And news announcements of change are worth nothing if not supported by a body of law guaranteeing the rights of those hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs both inside and outside Cuba who are only waiting for the opportunity which has always been denied them, and who for decades have been denied their working autonomy, and whose confidence in the authorities and their political credibility has been destroyed.
And high-sounding announcements are worthless if they are not supported by unambiguous demonstrations that enable everybody to believe that this time no upstart opportunist leader, political police, or prejudiced judge will have the power to ruin a producer, or a business for political reasons or with exercise of arbitrary power of any kind, and in the knowledge that they may be helped by a fair body of law and with the help of impartial trials, will not end up behind bars.
Calls to raise productivity are worth nothing while there are still laws which enable the Attorney General, conspiring with the dreadful DTI [the Technical Department of Investigation, a repressive government intelligence organisation], to knock on the door of a farmer, who labours every day on an interest offered by the state to show him a 10 cm document listing every infraction he has been obliged to commit because that is the absurd situation — and then confiscate the shirt off his back; at the same time as the State Collection Company continues to abandon crops rotting in the fields, and continues to lock people up for decades for butchering a cow — an absurdity only explainable when you understand its obvious potential for extortion to recruit informants in the service of the State Security.
And the repeated invitations to foreign investors count for nothing if they continue to exclude Cubans in exile who genuinely want to invest in the country where they were born, or their parents were born. Its incredible that these doors remain shut which could let so much capital be injected into the Cuban nation, just for reasons of political exclusion.
It is also pointless raising salaries without increased productivity, which devalues the currency and shoots up inflation – first law of economics – nor trying out this variant of dollarisation which has now been proposed, in the middle of these amazing shortages. Cuba needs to reemerge without any delays, which will never happen without an energetic and sincere opening up of our economy to this hope which has been betrayed a thousand times.
But, up there I said change …? OMG! Because there will always be someone who insists in discovering similarities between necessary and inevitable change, and total chaos or zombie apocalypse, because, without doubt, if any word has always given rise to distrust and allergic suspicion on the part of the obsolete psychos of the dictatorship, it has been precisely this one. Change!! The antithesis of centralised statism, that endemic disease, behind which Fidel and Raul Castro, with perfect historic geometry, took shelter, just like, up to now, Diaz-Canel ingenuously today rediscovering the cold shower.
This fatal Cuban mania for going to extremes and avoiding the good sense of the centre ground, perhaps prevents us from understanding that when something stops being the socialism of the barracks, it doesn’t necessarily mean going for untamed neoliberal capitalism, and that there are halfway houses which can also guarantee conditions more conducive to a non-parasitic, sustained and autonomous increase in productivity, while at the same time preserving social guarantees and without in any way compromising national sovereignty.
Although we have been deceived so many times that we we cannot tolerate any more lies. Never in Cuban history, before Castro, has there ever been such misgovernment of my people, with so many abuses over such a long period of time, perpetrating such an appalling betrayal and showing such strong contempt for my people.
It is now up to Diaz-Canel to show, if he can, and if he wants to, to free himself from the strict dogmatism of the ultra-conservatives, which no-one has been able to do, and opt for the freeing-up of the productive forces ready to save this country and permit a hoped-for opening which, as is obvious, will never be complete if it does not go hand-in-hand with profound political reforms.
It is in his hands to put right the immense damage they have caused; any other strategy would be skating over the same shit and cheap words. Only time will tell if he has the courage to do it, or if he will be judged by history as just one more coward.
Translated by GH