Cuba Belongs to All Cubans / Iván García

Taken from Cartas desde Cuba

Ivan Garcia, 7 November 2017 — A fat man with a tenor voice and a bag hanging across his chest, as he passes through the inner streets of the Lawton neighborhood, announcing that he buys empty perfume jars and plastic soft drink bottles.

Two santiagueros fleeing poverty and lack of opportunities in their province, announce that they repair mattresses. And a lady shouts from her balcony to a neighbor that ground meat just arrived at the butcher’s shop.

Before noon, Lawton, in the south of Havana, is a combination of soot, broken streets, people selling anything, while reggaeton blasts in the background. Small gatherings assemble on the corners or anywhere.

In the doorway of a warehouse five people talk about the performance of Yuli Gurriel and Yasiel Puig in the World Series. Then, they discuss the new travel and immigration measures announced in Washington by Cuba’s grizzly Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla that will begin to be implemented on 1 January 2018.

It is rare that in Cuba a family does not have relatives on the other side of the pond. Mildred, a mother of three children with brothers living in Miami, thinks about the new migratory reforms: “Personally, these changes do not benefit me, because my brothers were doctors and when they were on a mission in Venezuela, they abandoned their posts. They have to comply with a punishment of eight years during which they cannot enter Cuba. The government should understand that Cuba belongs to all Cubans and not only to those that suit them.”

Julio is the father of a young baseball talent who jumped the fence in pursuit of his dream of playing in the big leagues and who now earns a seven figure salary and helps his family out of perpetual poverty. Julio thinks along the same lines.

“With the players who leave the team during international events, it’s the same. They can not enter Cuba until the government pleases. Now they make concessions to counteract the harsh economic situation of the country. Trump is a half crazy guy and nothing can be expected from him. Venezuela can no longer send the same amount of oil and the state urgently needs the dollars from those it once called worms,” says Julio.

When you talk to ordinary citizens, the general opinion is that the government has to completely tear down the wall that has been dividing Cubans for so long.

“Cuba needs them more, than it does us. The current system is drifting. We must renew the public infrastructure and rebuild many things. We need capital, people prepared in the latest in science, technology, productive management, business and banking. The most talented in different spheres of knowledge, sports, art and culture flew from the green caiman. What’s left is small change, the bottom of the closet. We are an aging nation,” says Onelio, an economist.

But Castro’s autocracy continues with its Cold War command strategy and the mentality of the Cold War. It is their natural state. Selling themselves as a victim harassed by the United States government.

And contradictorily, the solution is to negotiate with the supposed enemy. The regime has been engaged in a battle, sometimes real, almost always exaggerated, with the different administrations in the White House, from 1959 to the present.

In his eagerness to make a mark for himself in the international scene, at the stroke of exporting guerrilla wars, armies of white coats and legions of soldiers to the African continent, Fidel Castro hijacked the aspirations of the Cuban people.

The diaspora and the people who survive in Cuba were, and are, hostages of typical policies of imperial nations and centers of world power, not of a small and backward country.

Twenty-six years have passed since the fall of communism in the USSR and even the Caribbean dictatorship does not decide to take the only foreseeable and reasonable step: to compromise with Cubans inside and outside the country.

It is the only way out in view of the national conflict. All that’s needed is a public apology and sitting down to negotiate. But the dialogue must be with everyone, not only with those who accept their ideology.

We must leave behind the old grudges. The future of Cuba involves engaging the entire diaspora (and not only those living in the United States) and Cubans on the island in the reconstruction of a modern, tolerant and functional society.

Of course, the regime will have to make concessions. Freedom of expression, democracy and free elections. The black list of compatriots, who by phallic or despotic decree, cannot travel to their homeland, should be annulled.

Carlos Alberto Montaner has every right in the world to present his books in Havana or to hold a conference in Guanabacoa. As long as they pay fair wages, not the poverty wages they give to Haitian sugarcane growers in La Romana, Dominican Republic, the Fanjul brothers could build sugar mills in the land where they were born.

Diario de Las Américas and El Nuevo Herald should have the option of placing correspondents in Havana: a good part of their readers are Cubans settled in Florida.

It is enough to milk the emigrants making them pay for their Cuban passports and to renew them at a golden price. No Cuban should have to ask permission to enter his home.

I did not understand the cheers and applause of a sector of exile when Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez launched the new travel and immigration proposal. The government is not doing anyone any favors. It is an internationally accepted right that citizens of a country can travel and return to the place where they were born, whenever they wish.

There is no better example of nationalism and sovereignty than to involve each and every  Cuban in the future of their country. We can still do this.