Cuba And The Parable Of The Elephant / 14ymedio, Pedro Armando Junco

The US president, Barack Obama, and his Cuban counterpart, Raul Castro, last March at the Palace of the Revolution in Havana. (White House)
The US president, Barack Obama, and his Cuban counterpart, Raul Castro, last March at the Palace of the Revolution in Havana. (White House)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Armando Junco, Havana, 17 September 2016 — The vagaries of fate are unpredictable. Who would have thought ,15 years ago, when food containers and all types of first world goods and gushing oil came from Venezuela to Cuba, that today the Cuban collaborators in that country would have to bring their own groceries?

The invested positions of both governments denote the great differences between the small concessions of the general president and the impenetrability

in which Nicolas Maduro wants to lock away Venezuela. Even Cuba’s relations with the United States are developing greater diplomacy today than the bitter vituperations of the Venezuelan executive. Is there a certain presumption from a friend in the early years of the current century? “Is communism starting in Venezuela now, but ending in Cuba?”

Cuba, at least, without renouncing its ideology, is taking steps to move forward. The importance of an aperture implied by the bilateral accords coming to fruition with the United States is huge, despite the silence of the official press; nor it is adequate to exclude the circumstantial coincidence in an era with a US president who is sufficiently tractable and is a facilitator of suitable arrangements. But are the limitations that still persist and hinder the emergence of civil society on the island objective and condemnable?

Given the recent pronouncement by the Minister of Culture, Abel Prieto, calling the economic empowerment of Cubans on the island a plot by the US government to destroy the Revolution, and another wisecracking friend who said, laughing, “Imagine a caricature of Raul, up to his waist in the economic swamp, with his left hand caressing the sorrowful faces of those clinging to the old centralized system and his right hand making signs to Uncle Sam behind his back to come to his aid.”

We have to keep in mind, above all, the limitations of freedoms and rights that Cubans have experienced since the sixties, their privations still exceeding those of the other socialist governments on the continent, no matter how tyrannical they seem. In the island there is no opposition party and no legitimate elections, The last two generations know nothing of freedom of the press, free labor unions, the right to strike, the ability to generate their own wealth, etc. Only in this way is it comprehensible that one nation has become accustomed for more than half a century of meekness, disinformation and the lack of its fundamental rights.

It is the parable of the circus elephant that from childhood was subject to having his foot tied to a stake in the circus. From the time he was young, no matter how much he pulled on the stake, he failed to pull it out and learned to live in chains. The years passed, the elephant became an adult, but he never tried to remove the small stake that would have been easy to pull out.

This is also the story of the Cuban people in the Revolution: they planted the state of fear and with it limited or eliminated their fundamental rights. They were prohibited from feeding themselves at their pleasure, leaving the island, acquiring wealth, saying what they thought, dissenting from what they considered unfair… And over time, like the chained elephant, they became accustomed to living subject to certain unjust laws and mandates, without answers, without reason, because one word and one man monopolized all power.

The man above any citizen, including his closest collaborators, above the law, above reason, above God. The word revolutionary, an absolute and obligatory qualifier, the golden key to open any kind of lock, and its lack, the most aberrant and degrading blemish on a human being. In that word was contained all the virtues of man, its absence contained the vices of the world.

But the descendants of the old elephant of the parable have discovered that the stake has deteriorated. The passage of time has eaten away its old wood, and by nature itself, it has been pulled out. The grandchildren of the elephant have looked up and discovered that beyond the circus enclosure there is a horizon to walk to, to feed themselves better, to create a herd. And the stake their grandfathers were subject to is fragile, anachronistic, useless. The wheel attached to the foot, but incapable of serving as a snare under any credible concept.

Times have changed. Everyone knows that the economic salvation of the country lies with the United States. Some resist as much as they can, juxtaposing conditions – elimination of the embargo, the Cuban Adjustment Act, the “enemy” broadcasts and the return of the Guantanamo Naval base.

This constantly echoes to the nation, although its well known that these grants are dependent on a greater opening on the Cuban side, are only discussed behind closed doors in the bilateral conversations between the two governments.

It is similar to the game of the stingy trader who until the last minute attempts to get one more crumb from the transaction. Ultimately, the only correct path is a major opening to investment and American tourism, for which they have to concede important political changes, necessarily.

But, when and how will they handle the recognition of the opposition, respect for the dissenting demonstrations, for the mass media and the economic empowerment of the people? This task belongs to the grandchildren of the decrepit elephant.