Cuba: To Believe or Not to Believe, That is the Question / Iván García

The question is not if you believe in Afrocuban religion or in Catholicism, if not in the Revolution and its leaders. In Cuba, you never know if the last thing they say is what they are really going to do. They’ve carried on more than 50 years talking, but in practice there are not many tangible results. Or they have been limited.

As has happened in agriculture, livestock, fishing, the sugar industry, transport, among other sectors of the economy. Or in health, education, sport and culture. To mention one example, who remembers the ten basic cultural institutions, that great project of the 1980s?

“The Revolution has lived by the force of slogans, pamphlets and speeches. In a word, improvising. So the latest statements of Raul and Fidel slip by some people. Their credibility has fallen a lot, above all among the poorest Cubans, for those who watch one year pass and start the next one the same or worse off,” says Ernesto, 46.

You already know. Man doesn’t live by politics and propaganda alone. And when it is hard to eat, clothe yourself, fix the house, catch a bus, know the news, that abroad they can make headlines, but ordinary Cubans are rarely interested.

“One is very cujíao (chastened). And it’s a joke that at this point they tell you, ‘now we are going to construct socialism.” We’ve had 52 years with more of the same,” says Mario, 65 and retired.

Also lacking are individual liberties. The Internet is not for everyone and if you want to travel to another country you need a government permit. Realities that few Cubans mention, unless they are dissidents.

“What matters to me is if Fidel is going to continue at the head of the Party. I’m not moved by his too-late regrets. He and his brother spend too much time making mistakes. And they still try to make you continue applauding them,” opines Alberto, 18 and a student.

Things may be about to change on the island. But if people only read and hear promises, and don’t see facts, they’ll continue not to believe. Trying to resolve their own and their family’s problems. And the nation? Good luck.

The Castro government could use a vote of confidence. But they would find it difficult among ordinary citizens. Where they are assured of getting it is among the more than one million Party members and the members of the armed forces and the ministry of the interior.

A power sufficient to carry forward the envisaged economic reforms. Believe in them or not.

November 21 2010