Collateral Effects / Miriam Celaya

Photo taken from the Internet

The saga filling space on the news–note that I do not call it “information”–this season is the discovery of the mortal nature of that other Latin American caudillo, Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías, as a result of what constituted a surgical conspiracy led by his decrepit mentor, Fidel Castro.

The brief chapters offered by Cuban and foreign media–beyond the bad luck of the cancer running riot on humanity to which it turns out not even the anointed are immune–recall the schmaltzy tastes of our people and also explain the success, among us, of television soap operas. But when Cuban TV channels chained themselves, not once but twice in a matter of minutes, to broadcasting from Havana the messianic speech loaded with parables of a president not their own, it also evidenced how many and how strong are the commitments that have been woven between the ruling elites of Cuba and Venezuela. I don’t believe it necessary to comment with respect to that.

However, beyond the inevitable surprise that an excess of haughtiness always provokes in me, I have been meditating on the collateral effects that would ensue from an eventual disappearance of the Castros’ South American ally; not in the fundamental economics of the matter–which by itself would have a cataclysmic magnitude for the so vaunted as well as illusory regional socialist project of the XXI century–but on the seemingly minute human detail of the tens of thousands of Cubans who offer their services in Venezuela. And it is those Cubans who, despite the limitations of living in a foreign land, the low salaries they receive compared to their colleagues from other countries, and the pressures and controls exercised over them, have reaped material benefits they never before enjoyed in Cuba, and who have been able to substantially improve the living standards of their families as compared to their compatriots on the Island who have not worked as collaborators in the amazing programs and “missions” of the so-called ALBA.

The end of Chavismo would not necessarily mean, in absolute terms, the massive “desertion” of all those Cubans, but it could involve, on the one hand, a new breach of our emigrants who would opt to stay in the post-Chavez Venezuela, or perhaps choose to escape to other countries, rather than return home to the eternal cycle of poverty in Cuba; while, on the other hand, it would also mean the return to the country of an important nucleus of non-conformists who would choose to return to the family bosom but would bring a new conscience of the need for changes in Cuba, making many of them a potential source of social tensions. In fact, it is already possible to draw a line, not always very subtle, in the thinking of Cuban collaborators before and after their missionary experience.

In this sense, one has to conclude that the Cuban-Venezuelan adventure of Chavismo, more than a temporary economic advantage that breathes artificial life into the broken Cuban model, implicitly brings a high political cost which, sooner rather than later, will end up taking a toll on the Castro system. Of that I have no doubt.

8 July 2011