Cuba: The Two Blockades and the Awakening of the People

According to many of those who criticized Obama’s policy towards the island, he made concessions without getting the same reciprocity from the Cuban government. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, 3 May 2021 — Cuban government officials lament that the current president of the United States, Joe Biden, does not want to return to the open policy towards Cuba of former President Obama, in effect at a time when Biden was vice president. Cuban officials forget that it was they who closed the process of rapprochement between the two countries after the then retired Commander-in-Chief (Fidel Castro) published his critical reflection El Hermano Obama (Brother Obama) and that, in general, the Party “toughs”  stopped that process and reversed many of the changes in recent years.

Now this whining reminds me of the laments of the last sultan of Spain at the loss of Granada which earned him this deserved reproach from his mother: “You do well to cry like a woman what you failed to defend like a man!”

The question that should be asked, then, is why they were frightened when, according to many of those who criticized Obama’s policy, he made concessions without having the same reciprocity on the part of the Cuban government. Or could it be that the Commander and the Party toughs were more insightful than the toughs on the opposite shore in realizing that this policy of rapprochement was more dangerous for them than a policy of tensions?

The crux of the question was probably not whether or not the Cuban regime made the concessions, but the impact that approach could have on the population. The fact that Obama was able to speak without restriction before the entire Cuban people and the cheers and other euphoric reactions of the population towards him, possibly was an alarm bell for them. It seems that now, with the rope around their necks, they are reconsidering the matter.

But the chances that Biden will return to that policy of rapprochement in the immediate term seem nil, not only because of his statements that Cuba is not a matter of immediate interest for his foreign policy, but because it is very likely that he wants to win back the Florida voters who denied him their votes in the last elections if he wants to win a second term. He knows that the decisive weight in that defeat was Cubans and, although he managed to win the White House, Florida continues to be of vital importance. A policy change could only be made after the next presidential elections. But it is evident that the Cuban situation cannot wait four more years.

The hard-line opponents, therefore, clap their hands, because they, especially those in exile, always bet on the policy of the pressure cooker: tighten and tighten the embargo and reduce travel and remittances as much as possible, until the people, out of desperation, take to the streets.

It is not very decorous, by the way, to encourage calamities from afar so that others are the ones to launch themselves into the fire. The writer never advocated that policy, not only so that no one, from within, would tell him: “Come and go hungry yourself, suffer calamities, and then take to the streets,” but because it seemed an unwise strategy to me. The reasons are many and in another era I enumerated them. But in case you have forgotten them, I repeat now the most important ones:

1. Because the regime justifies the disastrous effects of its internal economic policy by blaming the external enemy. Still many of the fanatics and opportunists who continue to support the regime continue to use the rhetoric about “imperialism.” If the embargo imposed by the United States did not exist, the regime would be completely unmasked before all the people and before the world.

2. Because it achieves the solidarity of international public opinion by diverting attention from internal contradictions with the myth of the heroic island resisting the siege of a voracious empire. Year after year, at the United Nations, the United States is condemned almost unanimously, with very few exceptions, for maintaining the embargo against Cuba.

3. Because it justifies the internal repression of critics and dissidents by accusing them of being agents of the powerful external enemy and, therefore, traitors to the homeland. When in 1996 it was clearly seen that the Helms-Burton Act, which would strengthen the embargo, was going to be defeated in the United States Congress, the Cuban government decided to assassinate four peaceful opponents in exile by shooting down two civilian planes, and as a result the law was passed. Hence, many called it, ironically, the “Helms-Burton-Castro Law,” because with that excuse, it allowed the regime to openly muzzle all internal dissent, dissolve a legal institution with reformist projects such as the Center for American Studies (CEA ) and imprison 75 leaders of the dissent.

4. Because the people in Cuba, pressed solve their immediate economic problems such as, for example, a mother who has nothing to put on her children’s plates, do not have the time or mindset to think about holding demonstrations in the streets, but only to wear out their shoe leather looking for food.

5. Because a policy is required that, on the contrary, strengthens the victims by making them economically independent from the State, and prevents the latter from exercising economic coercion ever them, which is why it is preferable to facilitate travel and remittances. When Manuel Moreno Fraginals, author of El Ingenio, already in exile, was asked why the Cuban people, who had previously been so heroic, did not rebel against the dictatorship, he replied: “Because the middle class, the main protagonist of those struggles, was totally suppressed.”

However, the deep crisis facing the country has not really depended on what the Government of any other country has dictated, no matter how powerful it may be. The insubordination of the people in the streets is not due to an external blockade but to the Cuban leadership’s own internal policy stubbornly maintained despite so many setbacks, and above all, to an awakening of the collective conscience. Today they regret that the powerful neighbor to the North does not advance towards a process that ends the external blockade, but they themselves insist on continuing to maintain an internal blockade against their own people.

They could get the country out of this crisis by allowing farmers to sell freely to whom they wish at market prices, lowering the cost of self-employment licenses, as well as abusive taxes, allowing investments by Cubans from abroad as well as aid to their relatives in Cuba so that they can freely promote new small businesses, among other economic measures, and allow artists and intellectuals in the country to express themselves freely to contribute their ideas in the search for a solution that can only come from the consensus of the whole nation in all its diversity.

But they do not, simply because their current policy allows them to maintain absolute power and continue a life of privilege, turning their backs on the growing precariousness of the population, with a blindness only comparable to that of Queen Marie Antoinette of France shortly before the outbreak of the French Revolution, who responded when told that the people were starving: “Let them eat cake.”

But that absolute power has begun to break down, and they must be aware that they can also absolutely lose it if they do not realize in time that the true revolutionary process is not the one they stubbornly claim to be leading, a revolution that ended already more than half a century ago, but the one that is already beginning in the streets and neighborhoods of man Cuban cities.

The people have already woken up, they have stopped believing the lies with which they have been deceived for more than six decades and have become aware of their rights, and since no one governs without the consent of the governed, if they do not obey, the governor leaves the government.


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