Elections and the ‘Blockade’ / 14ymedio, Pedro Armando Junco

The "Roundtable" program where Cuban journalists lash out against the United States. (Cuban TV)
The “Roundtable” program where Cuban journalists lash out against the United States. (Cuban TV)

14ymedio, Pedro Armando Junco, Camaguey, 6 November 2016 — I met a man who, when his wife left him, carried on endlessly about the contempt he felt for her, constantly berating her, although he couldn’t stop talking about her: she was a prostitute, a liar, a thief and all sorts of other despicable things that came from his mouth. Such was the hatred he felt for this person that, a little while later, he reconciled with her.

Something similar has happened with the official Cuban press in recent weeks. The campaign has developed as never before against the United States “blockade” (as the Cuban government insists on calling the embargo), and the detailed attention to the upcoming US elections takes us back to the sixties with its bitter rancor. Primetime Cuban Television News spends about 25 minutes out of every 30 on these two topics. It is a paroxysm of unnerving propaganda.

The US government’s abstention on the vote to condemn the embargo in the United Nations General Assembly surprised everyone, at a time when Barack Obama was being presented as no longer a “good president.” The respect and admiration with which he was referred to during his visit to Cuba had collapsed, since some official interpreted his peaceful intentions as a new formula for destroying the Cuban Revolution.

Measure after measure taken by Obama – many of them officially recognized as positive – have been useless in developing a good understanding between the two systems. There is always a “but” to give a discordant note and suggest “the black intentions of imperialism to destroy our fair, equitable and progressive system.”

It is true that the world is against the embargo. What is not explained to the Cuban people is that on questions of international politics, things work this way: there are basic principles of international order that obliges governments, not at all sympathetic to our system, to challenge the financial embargo against Cuba.

Nor is it explained to the ordinary Cuban that the fateful embargo is a law. And in that country not even presidents can abolish laws at the stroke of a pen. In totalitarian regimes, yes they can, because as Machiavelli said, the Prince is above the law. In the United States the legislation that established the embargo was strengthened by the Helms-Burton Act in March of 1996, when President Bill Clinton signed it due to the downing of the two civilian Brothers to the Rescue planes: a crime very similar, although on a smaller scale, to the downing of the Barbados plane, Flight 455.

The embargo and the Cuban Adjustment Act will continue to patiently absorb the Cuban nation toward an annexation as reviled in the same measure as, in the minds of the young people on the island, the dream grows of flying to other lands where they can develop fully and reach a standard of living superior to the one this country offers them. A government that clings to stagnation not only ceases to be revolutionary, but is going backwards in time, because global development of all the nations of the world is a marathon race; and when a nation comes to a halt, for whatever reason, it goes to the back of the line: see North Korea.

Nor do they explain to the Cuban people the causes of the embargo and the requirements that might lead to its abolishment. Perhaps that is why there is such a reluctance to provide unlimited internet in homes and why a decree is being developed to allow the prosecution of independent journalists.

The other issue obsessed about in Cuban TV’s broadcasts on international news, is the election in the United States. The Roundtable show is exclusively devoted to this subject. Reinaldo Taladrid and Randy Alonso paint with a broad brush, discrediting both the main candidates. Clinton has a private server and Trump fondled a girl in an elevator in one of his multimillion dollar buildings and has mocked the female gender like one of the most depraved chauvinists. Yes, politics is dirty. But that is the result of freedom of the press! It is better to know even the wart on the left foot of the person who leads us, than to believe in a crystal urn like the most illustrious of the saints.

Randy and Taladrid even presented a red and blue map on the Roundtable program. The central states in red tend toward Trump; those on the east and west coasts are certain for Clinton. There is no lack of criticism for the system of electoral votes. What is not said is that the system has been respected in the United State Constitution because it was created by the founding fathers, and on only three occasions – two of them in the 19th century – has it not coincided with the popular vote. Nor is it said that a president, no matter how good and effective he or she is, only has the right to be reelected one time, for a maximum of eight years at the head of the government.

But the question that arises is this: Why such a close following of US politics when in Cuba there aren’t even presidential candidates, there are no direct elections, there are no journalists digging into the private lives of the leaders – a very important question when evaluating their moral and human values?

Why waste hours of radio and TV time if we are convinced that, whether Trump wins or Clinton wins, the neighbor to the north will continue the “blockade,” the Cuban Adjustment Act, the Guantanamo Naval Base, the Radio and TV Marti broadcasts, and many more measures as long as Cuba doesn’t respect the right to dissent, to create opposition parties and free trade unions, to have direct presidential elections and, above all, the individual economic empowerment of its citizenry?

A lot of paper and ink has been spent on this side projecting the caged country of 2030. This Cuban megaproject that predicts so many beautiful dreams, perhaps lacks, among others, two basic aspects impossible to evaluate: what percentage of the population living on the island will be under sixty, and how many young Cubans will have crossed the Florida Straits by 2030?

I am afraid, because I am not an annexationist*, that what could happen to us could be what happened to the man at the beginning of this article. Time will have the last word.

*Translator’s note: An “annexationist” in this context, is someone who wants Cuba to become a part of the United States – a charge frequently lodged by the government against its opponents.