14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, 30 December 2022 — Yes. You heard it, and it couldn’t be worse. Díaz-Canel’s last speech to the Council of Ministers has been a return to communist, Marxist and Leninist orthodoxy that has surprised everyone. Obviously, it doesn’t benefit him. A leader must be able to understand the problems of society and offer viable solutions. And Cubans are not for these ideas.
Entertaining yourself with metaphors of what could have been and was not takes it further away from the people and makes it a marketing product at the service of the state press. Only in this way is it possible to understand the phrase of the speech highlighted by the State newspaper Granma that says, verbatim, “the really important thing is to join forces in the right direction, which is none other than the one that allows us to reverse the difficult economic situation that the country is going through, even in conditions of an intensified blockade.” The return of collectivism? What does “join forces” mean, if not that?
And then he adds that all this should serve to “strengthen the certainty around the revolution, to continue consolidating the idea that the construction of socialism is the only viable alternative for the prosperity and development of our nation.” Has Díaz-Canel forgotten that we live in 2022 and not in 1961? Has he not realized that he is not Fidel Castro? What are we playing at 63 years after accumulated failures? Honestly, with this type of speech it is not surprising that international investors flee Cuba and that in 2022, more than 225,000 Cubans have left the country for the United States to achieve a better future.
The passion and desire that Díaz-Canel wants Cubans to put into work, those who have lost all hope to live in a better and prosperous country, sound false, empty and repetitive. Cuban society is bored and tired. People turn their backs on their leaders when their priorities are not considered. They distrust him and know that the chosen path will not take the Cuban economy out of the vicious circle in which it finds itself.
There is no point in incorporating into the regime’s discourse that 2022 has been a hard year, or that the situation has been complex since the second half of 2019. That complexity, which is much more serious than Díaz-Canel says, has to do with tasks of his sole responsibility: reduction of Venezuela’s oil supplies, application of the Ordering Task* and productive paralysis in the face of galloping inflation. Do you want more?
And when it comes time to list the demands of the people, Díaz-Canel cites those that his advisors have written for him in the speech, which, unfortunately, have little or nothing to do with reality.
“Let the true reserves and potentialities that exist in society be unleashed; the productive forces unlocked; let there be more incentives and fewer obstacles and prohibitions that slow down development; the takeoff of the socialist state enterprise is necessary and urgent; agriculture must respond to food production; and we must give better attention to people in vulnerable situations.”
A boring litany that Díaz-Canel knows how to fix, adopting structural measures that profoundly transform the Cuban communist economy towards the market, property rights and free enterprise. If he doesn’t, it’s because he doesn’t want to. It’s that simple.
Alternatively, and since he is not going to do any of that, his agenda is the same as always. “The effective confrontation with crime, corruption and illegalities; going against bureaucracy; respecting the laws; everything that we approve in the national assembly must be followed; respect, order and decency should prevail; consensus and the participation of the people should be taken into account to decide; innovation must be invoked; and the democratic exercise of popular power should happen. Let everyone be aware; let young people not leave the country and stop participating in the revolution.” For the same reason, trying to achieve these objectives is impossible within the political, legal and economic framework of the communist regime. Experience shows it. Only a 180 degree change can be useful.
The communist orthodox message did not recognize the plural alternatives, when he said that “the only forces capable of facing and overcoming each of these challenges are the ones here,” referring to the members of the council of ministers and the communist secretariat and attendant mass organizations. It’s a blind confidence that the Party, that empty shell, can still do something other than surrender power and promote a political change towards democracy, freedom and pluralism in Cuba. This is what allows Díaz-Canel to cope with an unsustainable situation in which any other political leader would have resigned.
Therefore, from this moment on, Díaz-Canel’s speech approached the crudest and most up-to-date version of communist ideology, and a good example of this was the references to the country’s separation of powers. And he had the audacity to demand a role from the various elements within the existing chaos. The single party demanded that it not be “on the margins of society, that it act with awareness of the need that exists and be the most efficient catalyst in our transformation.” If so, he would never have given the go-ahead and demanded measures as harmful to Cuba as the Ordering Task*.
Also the government “which is the most challenged of all,” is demanded to innovate and create, when it is known that it is exhausted, lacks ideas, and that its measures, such as those relating to agriculture or sugar cane, do not give results. Its ministers surround themselves with failed experiences and failed indicators. No one resigns or goes home. Incredible.
As for the organs of People’s Power, in all its elements, he demanded that they “exceed their current limitations” of course without saying what they are; from legislators, he demanded that they fulfill their key role by passing laws drawn up by the regime; and that political and mass organizations force a participation of citizens, who have little or no interest.
Obligations for everyone, without any shame. Making it clear that in communist Cuba there is no separation of powers that is valid, and the rule of law is non-existent. And to gild the lily, Díaz-Canel listed the immediate tasks of his regime as the following 13:
1. Strengthening the defense of the country;
2. Reflecting deeply on the economic situation, deviations, errors, attitudes and solutions;
3. Producing food;
4. Obtaining foreign investment;
5. Following up on the commitments of the latest international tours;
6. Stabilizing the macroeconomic program;
7. Modernizing the banking system;
8. Collecting remittances;
9. Increasing tourism;
10. Confronting illegality and corruption and achieving an adequate environment of control;
11. Eliminating inflation and illegal enrichment, and controlling prices;
12. Fighting against speculators;
13. Encouraging the people’s participation in the search for solutions to the country’s problems.
A stimulating agenda, but one that gives the impression that, once again, it will remain just that: enumeration and enumeration and little fulfillment. It won’t help the regime in 2023. In reality, the communist state is unable to implement all those changes, and therein lies a good part of Cuba’s failure as a country.
Díaz-Canel had only one moment of lucidity when he said that “the responsibility is ours, one has to feel responsible for this, so that every minute we are thinking about how we are going to solve it,” insisting again that “it has to be the meaning of our lives to contribute to the revolutionary transformation of the country.” It is not often that the Cuban president assumes responsibilities. Hiding behind revolutionary communism, anything is possible.
The methodology presented for this enormous task leaves little room for practical solutions. His recipe gets boring: “to deeply study the problems, analyze their contradictions, make comparative analyses, work with the opinions of the population and experts to propose solutions,” and after that waste of time that postpones the essential decisions to get the country out of the current stagnation, comes the icing on the cake: “Everything we do, must be based on a Marxist, critical and anti-capitalist approach that is revolutionary and in service to the revolution.” Shut it down and let’s be on our way.
*Translator’s note: The “Ordering Task” is a collection of measures that include eliminating the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), leaving the Cuban peso as the only national currency, raising prices, raising salaries (but not as much as prices), opening stores that take payment only in hard currency, which must be in the form of specially issued pre-paid debit cards, and a broad range of other measures targeted to different elements of the Cuban economy.
Translated by Regina Anavy
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