A Stone in the Shoe / Laritza Diversent

I don’t intend to persuade anyone that Cuba is some kind of hell. Nor to change the mind of those who imagine that it’s a paradise. But it still bothers me to read in the national press that Washington is taking measures to tighten the embargo.

I’m not a politician, but every morning is filled with problems, with transport, with food, with medicines, etc. Everything is a problem and I don’t think that it is because of the US embargo, although it’s the perfect excuse.

After 50 years, the US measure became a matter of policy, and it is a political measure, not an economic one. In the currency collecting shops there are US products and Cuba also imports food from that country. Nevertheless, things are still bad because of the blockade, at least that is what we read daily in the national press.

On the other hand, the man in the street doesn’t notice the embargo despite the propaganda on the hoardings that reminds him that, in one week without a blockade, it would be possible to buy 11 railway engines. All this is immaterial when you are looking for something to eat, or trying to avoid political persecution, for a pound of coffee and two pounds of cheese.

There is a single truth; the embargo has not brought down the communist regime and its removal wouldn’t end all the social problems. The sad thing is that both governments treat it as war of attrition, and others have to pay the price.

U.S. contractor Alan Gross,expressed his desire to improve communication between Cuba and other countries, a gesture that is both valued and appreciated. But that is not enough when facing a sentence in Cuba. This is an outcome of the political dispute between Cuba and the United States.

If you want to know what I think, I am in favor of the elimination of the embargo or at least the more detrimental parts of it. I consider it to be an ineffective measure, though I recognize that the people whose properties were confiscated by the government deserve fair compensation.

It’s time to put forward ideas and to negotiate, if we are truly interested in the future of Cuba. This is the moment, and the opportunity. The popularity of the charismatic leader is very low, the socialist economy is bankrupt and they is no way to deal with the needs of society.

It just needs the “threat from outside ” to disappear for Cubans to act for themselves, not conditioned by hunger. Those who believe that a tightening of the blockade will bring us out on the streets beating cooking-pots are wrong. If it didn’t happen before, it certainly won’t now.

It’s true. Possibly, after a hypothetical elimination of the embargo, the government will continue to require travel permits to leave the island, will deport easterners from the capital back to their provinces, and will not allow us to invest in the economy on equal terms with foreigners.

Nor will it stop repressing anyone who opposes its policies. That is, there will no more freedoms. However, the information blockade might disappear, Cubans could have more contact with other countries and, above all, there would be no justification for those leaders who have spent 50 years blaming the blockade for their own failure.

It’s time to think, with our feet on the ground, and especially those who live across the sea, in democracy. It is wrong for them to play politics with our misery. The embargo is a stone in the shoe, for the transition.

Translated by: Jack Gibbard

September 18 2011