14ymedio, Havana, 1 January 2022 — Cubans have said goodbye to one of the most difficult years in their memory, to enter, this Saturday ,into a period full of many uncertainties. Hundreds of political prisoners, the economy bottoming out, a massive exodus in process, and a pandemic that has not yet ended complete a gloomy outlook for the Island. With these variables, the scenario is unprecedented and any exercise of prediction is useless.
Twelve months ago, on another January 1 in 2021, no one could calculate that the Cuban streets were going to fill with a river of people demanding freedom. July 11 (11J)was the largest and most extensive popular demonstration that has occurred in the history of Cuba. Neither the mambises in their independence struggles, nor the students in their confrontation against Gerardo Machado nor Fidel Castro in the Sierra Maestra had a similar number of followers.
However, the spontaneity and horizontality of the 11J, which was its greatest virtue because it prevented it from being aborted or beheaded in its first hours, was also its greatest weakness. Lacking a script and leaders, the protesters of that day were cornered by the police forces, they did not manage to reach the nerve centers of power and they did not summon the military and police to join them.
However, the regime went into “panic mode” and responded in the only wat Castroism has known how to do in its more than six decades of clinging to power: with repression, trying to rewrite the narrative of what happened and shielding the streets of the entire country with uniformed men. Any illusion that mass protest would force the regime to open up economically or politically has been dissolving as the months go by.
Instead of preparing a program of flexibilities, decreeing an amnesty for political prisoners and launching a program to unlock the productive forces, the Communist Party has preferred to entrench itself. Miguel Díaz-Canel has become one of the most unpopular rulers in national history, some even place him in the first place of the bad ones.
Can an economically exhausted regime, forced to be in a permanent state of emergency to avoid another uprising and devoid of any political mystique, survive for long? The answer varies depending on the degree of consideration for its people that each group in power has. In the case of the Cuban leaders, it has become clear that nothing stops them in their clear obsession with maintaining power.
That stubbornness and lack of grandeur are a combination that does not herald a peaceful end to a system that in 63 years has destroyed the nation, generated a bloated diaspora, lobotomized millions of students through school indoctrination programs, and sunk the economy to unbearable levels. They are not going to let go of the helm of the national ship to make things better, that is the message that they have sent with force in the last months.
But the current model has no future. Even if they manage to prolong its life artificially, it is doomed. The possibility of a sponsorship, in the style of the Soviet Union or Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela, is not on the horizon. The loss of young professionals that will accelerate in the coming months will further undercapitalize the labor force in an aging country and Díaz-Canel will not be able to reverse the animosity that people have towards him with his clumsy rhetoric.
Will this be the first day of the last year of Castroism? Many wonder in the streets and houses of this Island. It is possible, but right now we cannot know.
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