Beyond the Flag / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, 16 August 2105 — After hearing and reading the speech by the US Secretary of State during the flag-raising ceremony on 14 August at the site of his embassy in Cuba, and the statements by him and the Cuban Foreign Minister at the subsequent press conference, I think it necessary to clarify some things.

The Secretary of State used, at all times, a conciliatory manner of speech, cautious and respectful, focusing on the present and the future, without forgetting the past, but without allowing it to dictate the course of events.

The Cuban Foreign Minister, on the other hand, repeated some of the absurd and already-routine demands, adding now a populist twist, with the objective of gaining supporters: “…we consider it necessary to make progress on the matter of compensations to the Cuban people, to Cuban citizens, for the human and economic damages….”

Could it be that the Cuban authorities are going to hand over some of these improbable compensations directly to Cubans? Or, as is their custom, will they keep all or the greater part of them, as happens with the doctors, athletes and other professionals who are rented out to other countries?

As if this were not enough, he did not have the slightest compunction in affirming that “Cuba feels very proud of its record of guaranteeing the full exercise of human rights — indivisible, interdependent, and universal; of civil liberties and political, economic, social and cultural rights, on an equal basis for every citizen.”

Does the Foreign Minister not know that in Cuba there are no political rights, no right to form labor unions, nor freedom of expression, nor the right to demonstrate publicly and, even less, the right to strike? Does he not know there is only one Party and only one ideology, and that all the rest is deemed illegal and is repressed?

Besides, he forgot to say that in Cuba there is police repression and racial discrimination. It would be good if he were to ask the citizens about this, those who have suffered it first-hand, and who still suffer it (which, of course, has never been a topic addressed by the official media); similarly, the citizens of color, constantly required to display their ID cards to the authorities and who, besides (not by choice), constitute the greater percentage of the Cuban prison population. It would help if he took a stroll through Centro Habana, Cerro, 10 de Octubre, and other municipalities, so that he could know reality.

As is now routine, he recalled how much Cuba does for humanity in health and education — without clarifying that those who do it are the governments of those countries, which pay the Cuban authorities for these services.

This is not primarily about some supposed humanitarian sentiment, but a commercial one, too: with a dearth of agricultural and other products for exportation, professionals are exported at below-market rates, in a sort of “slave labor,” wherein the Cuban authorities appropriate the greater percentage of the payment received. It should not be forgotten that this and the remittances sent to Cubans from their family and friends abroad are the authorities’ two principal sources of revenue.

In any case, despite the lies, omissions, distortions, obsolete slogans, and stale repetitions, there is no escaping reality: as a matter of survival, the Cuban authorities have need of relations with the government of the United States of America. This is, ultimately, one of the greatest guarantees of success for what has only just begun.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison