Gaviota and the Chinese Bases: Distracting Attention From the Serious Economic Situation? No, Thanks

Cuba’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Bruno Rodríguez. (Screen capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, 13 June 2023 — The Castro regime has been quick to deny two pieces of information circulating in the media and on social networks. This is unusual. The hierarchy that directs the country rarely finds reasons to lower itself to the level of media confrontation, since it exercises absolute control over the state press, propaganda and manipulation. But this time, that hegemonic position has not helped at all.

We refer to the accusation by the Secretary of State of the United States about the presence of a Chinese espionage base in Cuba, which was immediately dismissed by Minister of Foreign Affairs Bruno Rodríguez, and also to the announcement made by Gaviota that rumors that Cuban citizens are not allowed to enter the group’s hotel facilities are unfounded.

The two issues, of different relevance, have forced the regime to enter into the “battle of information,” one of the axes of the discourse of the leaders that, apparently, has come to stay. This gives an idea of the level of precariousness, wear and tear and lack of contact with reality of those who hold political power in Cuba at the moment. Does anyone really believe that Fidel Castro would have engaged in a discussion at this level? In the time of the old dictator, it is most likely that none of this would have been really known, because at that time censorship worked 100% and with it the fear of being discovered. The screws have been loosened; there is erosion and a lack of criteria – the ingredients for the end of a political cycle that is already, in some way, happening.

Bruno Rodríguez, in an undiplomatic and strident tone, attacked his Yankee counterpart Blinken, saying that Blinken’s statement was “a falsehood,” and he added that Cuba is not a threat to the United States or any country. Castrista diplomacy had proven that efforts to improve its international image, by bringing to Havana the leader of Colombia, Gustavo Petro, to seal, for the umpteenth time, peace with the guerrillas, have collapsed with the controversy of the Chinese espionage base.

It’s not usual, among foreign ministers and career diplomats, that Bruno Rodríguez would use such contemptuous words, but the positions of the regime against the United States are known, and whenever they can, they attack mercilessly. Havana also said that the statements of the Secretary of State “lack support,” indicating that the issue of the embargo/blockade was going to appear immediately.

And it did. Rodríguez said that “it is a pretext to maintain the economic blockade against Cuba and the measures of maximum pressure that have reinforced it in recent years. They are the subject of growing international rejection as well as in the United States, including the demand to remove Cuba from the arbitrary list of States Sponsors of Terrorism.” Under such conditions, wouldn’t it have been easier to convene a press conference to offer all the available information and confirm that there is no base or any project to build one?

No. For the diplomacy of the regime, the Chinese base or anything else, no matter how innocent, is used to emphasize that Cuba is not a threat to the United States, or to any country. Well then, let them prove it.

It is not enough to say that “the United States applies a policy that daily threatens and punishes the Cuban population as a whole. The United States has imposed and has dozens of military bases in our region, and also maintains, against the will of the Cuban people, a military base in the territory it illegally occupies in the province of Guantánamo.” In a way, with this argument, the Cuban communist minister approves of a Chinese base against the United States, which someone could interpret as a serious recklessness of Rodríguez, a leap forward in the conflict between the two countries that can have a very problematic end.

The issue of the Chinese base in Cuba spread to the media on June 8, when The Wall Street Journal reported that between China and Cuba there was allegedly an agreement on military matters for the installation of an espionage base. At that time, the Cuban regime came forward and described these statements as false and unfounded, and the person in charge of doing so was the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carlos Fernández de Cossío, who said that “slanders of this type have often been fabricated by United States officials, apparently familiar with intelligence information.”

China joined the denial when Wang Wenbin, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, asked Washington to ” stop interfering in the internal affairs” of the Island and accused the administration of spreading false information. Wang Wenbin went further and accused the United States of “spreading rumors and slander,” a common tactic that “is the country’s trademark, deliberately interfering in the internal affairs of other countries.”

Later, the spokesman of the National Security Council in Washington, John Kirby, also questioned the report released by The Wall Street Journal, and said that it didn’t reflect  reality. Then Secretary of State Blinken came out with his statement that there are sufficient indications of the existence of the Chinese base in Cuba.

The Cuban communists must be amused with all the back and forth, and it’s strange that their allies, Venezuela and Nicaragua, have not entered the dance. They will, of course.

The other news that has provoked official denial is the one that began with rumors and circulated on social media, confirming that the Gaviota Business Group had decided to prohibit the entry of Cubans to their hotels. The news was supported by a Gaviota corporate statement signed by a high-level official.

Gaviota denied the rumors, and in a syrupy statement on it’s website defended “healthy and quality recreation as a right for all customers and a premise for this group.” It stressed that all its customers, regardless of nationality, have the right to enjoy the services and facilities… We are committed to providing an inclusive and enriching tourist experience for all our guests, without exception.”

Finally, the statement pointed out that “at Gaviota we work to ensure that our guests have a unique experience and our facilities offer a wide variety of services and activities designed to meet the needs and preferences of each client.”

Gaviota’s statement did not have the same media pull as Rodríguez’s statements about the Chinese base. They are not issues of the same depth, but the two are united by a common denominator, which the regime pursues to impose its explanations.

In essence, let there be talk of anything, no matter how absurd, except the economic situation. It is no longer just that statistical data are not published on the ONEI website to evaluate the situation, it is that they try by all means to divert attention, launching issues that engage Tyre and Trojans in a debate that distances us from the serious economic situation in which Cubans live and the lack of effective solutions to get out of the vicious circle caused by the Ordering Task.*

In this blog we are not going to do it, because we are clear about the objective: Cubans must know that another economic and political system is possible, and that they have it closer than ever. This bickering say very little about who is at the head of the nation.

*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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