Ivan Garcia, 21 February 2018 — Political honesty is worth its weight in gold. That is why history values those words of Winston Churchill, probably the most influential British and European statesman, when on May 13, 1940, in his first speech as Prime Minister before the House of Commons, he uttered a phrase which was attributed to the Theodore Roosevelt during his time as Undersecretary of the Navy: “I have nothing more to offer than blood, toil, tears and sweat.”
The United Kingdom was being threatened by the overwhelming Nazi war machine. Poland, Belgium, Holland and France barely waged a fight against the armored cars and German fighters. Churchill did not act with evasiveness. Sacrifice and bravery was the only recipe for victory, finally achieved with Allied support five years later, on May 9, 1945.
To speak frankly, seems the easiest, but many politicians opt for subterfuge. It happens in Cuba. The revolution of Fidel Castro came to power with a high percentage of popular support. Social justice, democracy and greater economic development were his promises. But the bearded guerrilla lied. In six decades, the regime he founded has not been able to build a modern and productive country.
Two months after Raul Castro handpicked a successor, taking Castroism to a new dimension, the incoming president who will be voted in by the monotonous national parliament, does not have a credible project for the nation on the table.
The people on the street are not interested or motivated by the presidential transfer. It is not commented on at street corners. One candidate is not privileged over another. There is no confidence in the next government.
Can the new political bureaucracy offer options that excite Cubans? José Manuel, a former high school teacher who now makes a living making wicker chairs, does “not believe that the new government brings anything good. This is not a surprise. The press reiterates it every day. What comes is a succession, but there won’t be a leader with last name Castro. That is, it will continue with the ’update of the economic model’ until 2030, with the slogan of a prosperous and sustainable country and the discourse of ’without haste, but without pauses’.”
On weekends, the port area adjacent to the neighborhoods of old Havana receives a large number of people. Sheila, a mother of two children and a private hairdresser, usually visits La Maestranza, so that her children “can play on the park equipment and get distracted for a while.” The sun burns. The breeze that comes from the bay is a litle refreshing in the heat of February. Sitting on a concrete bench while watching the children at a distance, Sheila says she feels pessimistic about Cuba’s future.
“The ideal is to emigrate and try your luck elsewhere. It can go well or badly, but I do not think it will be worse than in Cuba. I do not have that option, I do not have family in la yuma (USA). I have to deal with it here. I do not care about the president they choose. What will they solve? Will they repair the houses in Jesús María, Belén or Colón? Will wages rise? Will the prices of food go down?” she asks. She shakes her head: “No. We will continue with the usual hardships.”
Most Cubans do not have a favorite candidate. Vladimir, along with some friends, in a currency bar next to the Paseo del Prado, watched the Champions League match on TV between the merengues of Cristiano Ronaldo and the PSG of Neymar. Exciting football, don’t even think about asking him about the future president.
After the victory of Real Madrid and after drinking a couple of cans of Cristal beer, Vladimir says: “What is coming is a fraud. Everything is set, brother. They (the rulers) are like the Corleone, a mafia. They are not going to give up power like that. It will have to be taken away and I do not believe that in the population there are the balls to shoot up the street and change things “.
Rita, a retired teacher, believes that they should choose a woman. “Men have not known how to solve problems.” Which woman?, I ask. “I do not know, many candidates come out on television. I do not like Mercedes (Lopez Acea), the first secretary of the party in the capital, she’s barely feminine. And Mariela, Raúl’s daughter, would be in the same. One could try with Inés María (Chapman) the one who directs hydraulic resources. My son, who works at Aguas de La Habana, says she has done a good job. I sympathize with that one who is diplomatic (she is referring to Josefina Vidal), that if she was able to sit down and and face off with the Americans, she could run the country well. I do not think that Diaz-Canel has the stature, there is something about him I do not like, I see him as tight, a little hard to get along with.”
A pedicab driver, a native of Santiago de Cuba, thinks that Lázaro Expósito, first secretary of the party in Santiago since 2009, could be an excellent president. “He is a man who speaks straight, is not corrupt and ordinary people follow him. Maybe already in his position he’s tied hand and foot by the military and can’t do much, but the guy has guts.”
At this stage of the game, most Cubans are not interested in the candidate who will govern them in the next five years. Even clueless citizens wonder if “the people will elect the president.” Misinformation, combined with apathy, is brutal.
But whoever is elected, the national and international sitaution will force him him to behave like a statesman. Venezuela, the unconditional ally, is a car that’s lost its brakes. Obtaining economic credits from Russia in exchange for using the island as a puppet or allowing concessions in the military field would be a dangerous game. Debt with China, the same. And in the White House, Donald Trump, bent on his project to make America great again, does not have in his agenda to negotiate a new deal with Cuba, unless the new Cuban government takes a 180 degree political turn.
What options does the next regime have? Three possible scenarios can be glimpsed.
First, keep playing at gatopardismo (change something so as to not change anything), that is, change appearances, but basically not change anything, leave everything the same or almost the same as it was.
Second, bet on the market economy, in the style of China and Vietnam, without fear of a segment of the population getting rich; abolish the obstacles that prevent the emigrants from investing in their homeland and negotiate a new project for the nation with the exile.
Third, continue with the same delirium, and institutionalize the crazy experiments of Fidel Castro. Keep the discourse short and to the point, full of vitriolic poison about ’Yankee imperialism’ and Western capitalism.
Whatever the path predesigned by the neo-Castro, the first trial by fire would be to speak honestly to the Cubans. As Churchill did to the British in the spring of 1940.
Otherwise, to get out of the olive green disaster will take blood, toil, tears and sweat.