Diaz-Canel Resumes His Visits to the ‘Potemkin Villages’ To Learn About Cuba’s Successes

Díaz-Canel visited a successful farmer and the Rafael Freyre School Sports Initiation School. (Cubadebate)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 30 June 2023 — Early this Thursday, Cubadebate announced the visit of Miguel Díaz-Canel to Guantánamo, one of the most forgotten provinces on the Island but one that has recently been on the tips of everyone’s tongues. First for the resounding protests against the Government — followed by the corresponding arrests — last May, in the municipality of Caimanera. In recent days, a UN report has urged the United States to close its prison on the naval base, where prisoners continue to suffer “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment,” something that the regime has not wasted in order to reclaim that territory.

“They are going to take Díaz-Canel where things are a little better, because we don’t have anything,” said a commentator on the news. It wasn’t hard to predict. The president visited a successful farmer and then the Rafael Freire School of School-Sports Initiation, which the official press describes – accepting its slow construction – as a place “with teaching buildings, dormitories, sports facilities and other essential infrastructures for its operation in perfect condition, beautiful and very well maintained.”

The space had everything, including a little house for the children of workers and athletes, although its capacity is not anything to rave about, since of the 20 places available, only six children have been able to be accommodated. “At the time of the President’s visit, they were taking a nap, so they walked into the cozy space almost on tiptoe and spoke very quietly,” explains Cubadebate.

From there, Díaz-Canel went to the Manuel Simón Tames Guerra Polytechnic Agricultural Institute, built thanks to international collaboration (the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the United Nations Development Program). There, the president also had time to speak about the importance of these schools, “inspired by Marti’s teaching and Fidel’s idea of combining study and work.”

He also spoke with Jorge Fernández, the farmer at his first stop in Lajas de El Salvador. At 32 years of age, the young man abandoned his dentistry career and “turned to the land,” where he now manages 445 acres under cultivation. Cubadebate praises the attitude of the producer, who had already met with Díaz-Canel on a previous visit to ask for more land, “certain that he could use it to support the demand for food in his municipality and the provincial capital and also contribute to lowering prices.”

It is left to the reader’s imagination to know why he left a prestigious university career in the second year, but it does explain how he obtained 297 acres of bananas and fulfilled his commitments, being able to incorporate his production into the ’family basket’ [in the rationing system] of the inhabitants of El Salvador for three months. Soon he will plant this fruit again – with seeds from Villa Clara – and plans to grow corn, soy and sweet potato. The leader asked him if the intermediaries paid him on time, if he had supplies and if he adequately remunerated his workers.

“You are still young and it is very important to continue learning,” Díaz-Canel urged the producer, who “promised him that he would think about it, but ’after I manage the farm, which is large and needs a lot of time and effort.’” And with this dialogue the president left, happy to have found a farmer who is doing well and who can serve as an example for him “to encourage others.”

The result of the visit went as planned. Also, hours before, another reader described what was going to happen without missing a beat: “It’s a shame that these visits are ’guided’ because visitors  don’t see the reality of ordinary Cubans. If visitors want to meet a farmer, they are taken to the best one who has all the resources to produce, who does not complain about anything.  Many times these farmers are even reinforced with inputs, like cattle from other properties, so that visitors see what the leaders want them to see. If they go to a community, they take them to the improved, painted one. If they go to a market, they supply it one or two days before and do not sell the products until the day of the visit. So there are plenty of examples to show that this type of visit is not a faithful indicator of the reality at the base, because our problems are the same as always and are increasing.”

The Prime Minister, Manuel Marrero, had a more cumbersome role on the Guantánamo tour. He visited the town of Cayamo, in the rebellious Caimanera, which suffers from drought, shortages and a housing supply with 40% of the homes in regular or bad condition. He also met a group of citizens who expressed their concerns and problems.

Marrero endured the barrage as if it were not his fault and asked that they look for help and “different solutions. The Government’s policies for that are approved,” he said. In addition, he asked the citizens for patience: “It will not be from one day to the next, but surely you have seen that agreements have been made with other countries that will give us new opportunities.”

From there, and after promising new homes thanks to the community’s brick-producing company – which allocates 24,000 units a month to subsidized construction – he went to the Frank País salt plant, where the workers told him about the problems of distributing the product. In the company there are 3,000 tons stopped due to lack of transport, and 700 more waiting to be  delivered.

According to the director, Darlyn Elisástegui Columbié, the poor state of the railroad has complicated the situation, but there are already several containers on their way to the provinces “most affected” by the lack of distribution.

“I am worried about the abandonment of the company. No dry salt is produced, and there is a lack of quality in the manual packaging process,” Marrero said after seeing the workers who deal with this phase. But at the end of his visit, the recipe was the same as always: “The blockade is going to continue, let’s unblock ourselves, let’s open ourselves. Let’s not look for so many explanations for the problems and find more solutions,” he exhorted.

It was another one of the readers’ prophecies fulfilled. “So far I don’t see that the advisory and directed government visits have yielded any results. It’s the same thing over and over again, and things are getting worse every day.”

Translated by Regina Anavy


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