2021 in Cuba, Goodbye to the Revolutionary Mask

Many lost patience to invest, prosper, and chart their dreams in Cuba. A quarter of a century lost for true change. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 31 December 2020 – Cuba is going through a very difficult time. What is problematic this December lies not only in the economic crisis expressed in an 11% fall in the gross domestic product, nor is it entirely due to the confinement and pain imposed by the pandemic. The year 2020 says goodbye in dark hues for the Island, particularly in the uncertainty, the inability of its 11 million inhabitants to make plans for their near and medium term future.

In the face of this description, some will respond that there have been worse moments in our recent history. However, in the so-called Special Period of the 1990s — when the cutting off of the Soviet subsidy was followed by long blackouts, cuts in transport and food shortages — there were reserves of change that gave hope to the reformists and nurtured citizens’ dreams. In the midst of the collapse, there was a feeling that some political decisions taken in high places could unblock the productive forces and bring material relief to the people. There were even those who fantasized about a popular revolt that would finally bury, once and for all, the authoritarian model.

Although the only insurrection that occurred was that of thousands of desperate Cubans who tried to escape from the island during the day of the popular uprising known as the Maleconazo, those who bet on the long-awaited economic easing were not wrong. When the situation reached rock bottom, some of these transformations were a bitter pill that the ruling party had to accept: the dollarization of trade, the permission for agricultural markets to exist outside the ration system, the authorization to exercise private work, and the opening to foreign investment. For the first time in a long time, onions were once again seen on the market stands, private taxis filled the streets, and in restaurants run by the self-employed, known as paladares, some lost recipes from the national cuisine were recovered.

Now, unlike then, the capacity of Castroism to transform itself without breaking completely is very limited, almost nil. The system reaches 62 years of existence fossilized in its political core, lacking ideological magnetism to attract new followers and having wasted its wealth of reforms in half-done modifications, lukewarm transformations and steps that once looked forward but had to be turned back. In the time that separates both crises, the one caused by the collapse of the socialist camp in Eastern Europe and the current one, many lost the patience to invest, prosper and chart their dreams in Cuba. A quarter of a century lost for true change.

Today, up against the ropes, the authorities have proposed a package of measures to try to re-float the country in 2021, but so far the announced decisions are oriented more to the loss of subsidies and the cutting of budgets than to the deployment of formulas that promote entrepreneurship, trim nationalization and remove partisan politics from central decision-making. Because to do any of those things would seriously endanger the continuity of Castroism, although not doing them is also anticipating the date for its funeral.

Reactionary and immobile, fearful of news and distrustful of everything that has not come out of the laboratories of the Communist Party, all that remains of the current Cuban model is to repress. For the coming year it will finally set aside its mask of revolution and social justice to show itself as it is: a twentieth century dictatorship that geopolitics, chance and fear have allowed to get this far. Without results, all it has left to show is its teeth, and that further complicates any prognosis.


This text was originally published  in Deutsche Welle for Latin America.


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