Hallucinations? / Miriam Celaya #Cuba

Pierrot and Harlequin. Work by Paul Cezanne

Apparently, two weeks of home confinement, a prisoner of TV, have left me somewhat dopey. Flat out in bed, in a forced rest and without Internet access — except through some merciful friends who texted me with information not reported here, and another one who brought me a recap of news articles he downloaded from the web — I resigned myself to follow televised excerpts of the Seventh Legislature of the National Assembly and news of the schedules. In addition, I listened patiently to all the “reports” of each of the ministers, and I even stoically put up with the General’s euphoric speech in his eternal boring and nasal manner. It’s all in vain, it turns out I don’t understand a thing. The worst part is that Cuban TV seems to cause hallucinations.

I don’t understand, for example, why the “complete” repair of a stretch of 24 km of rail — which has a total of 800 km — conducted throughout the year 2012, is considered an achievement. If one adds the additional fact that the plan for 2013 is to “complete” 40 km of this important pathway (suggesting that only 16 km will be repaired in the coming year), is it not also a plan to go in reverse?

Another issue is that, if almost all parameters projected for 2012 have failed, such as agricultural production, housing construction, production of construction materials, the export plan (with an alarming increase imports of food and other goods), etc. If, in addition, the eastern region was hit by a vicious hurricane that caused huge losses to the economy and the already inadequate and deteriorating housing stock, if an important coffee crop and other crops were lost, among other items, and the few sugar mills we still have, which should have started producing sugar this harvest have been unable to do so… I wonder how it is that the economy has registered a growth in GDP of a respectable 3.1% and what indicators the General took into account to declare that, in the year about to end, “the favorable growth trend was preserved”; that we have been able to maintain a positive correlation between the growth in median income and productivity, which contributes to the internal financial stability” and that Cuba moves ahead in a “gradual reduction of its external debt, on the basis of strict compliance with its financial commitments”? I am so very confused!

I must confess that in the midst of fragments of this and that official trite speech which I have been listening to these past few days, unsurprisingly, I fell asleep. Let my reading friends have consideration for the real torture my brain, already sluggish because of the flu, underwent. The truth is that, though much of it was about economics, I never heard anyone speak of numbers, nor did I find out for sure what the total budget for 2013 was, though it was approved unanimously, as always, by our seasoned representatives. Small omissions that make me suspect that perhaps they too were suffering, like me, from a bad case of the flu and that’s the reason they were somewhat obtuse.

Closing this post, the stellar news this Sunday, December 16th, just released a report that has increased my confusion: Fidel Castro Ruz has been nominated for deputy of the National Assembly. How do you like that? In other words, the zombie politics includes reintroducing the Decrepit in Chief in life, symbolically, I would imagine, through the superior organ of the “people’s power”. Or maybe such a great farce is only one of those morbid pre-mortem tributes which are the fashion in Cuba in which old age seems to be the greatest merit of the honoree. I wouldn’t be surprised if they invent the post of “Absent Deputy”… just saying. Nothing new: in some ways it reminds me about the case of that other dictator, Augusto Pinochet, who achieved his last fantasies of retaining some political power through his appointment as Senator for Life. Latin-American dictatorial histories have a curious recurrence.

But we must not be too surprised. In short, judging by the inefficiency of the system, dusting off the sacred mummy could very well be part of Raul’s strategy for the “renovation” he has undertaken in this kingdom of the dead.

By Miriam Celaya

Translated by Norma Whiting

December 17 2012