A European friend who recently visited Havana asked me what my greatest wish for this year 2012 was. Of course, she expected me to express to her the same old litany: the end of the dictatorship, democracy, peace, freedom, etc. The wishes that tens of thousands of Cubans have made each New Year’s and that, despite all the sorrows, have yet to come true. Maybe the propitiatory spirits, those that presumably participate or influence human aspirations need to perceive something more than the resolve in those who make the wishes… a signal indicating a little more vigor to make dreams achievable, something that can fulfill that old saying: “Help yourself, and God will help you.”
So I simply said to my friend that, for 2012, I wish to see Cuba full of angry people, for it is on that day that we will be closer to such longed for rights and democracy. I’m not referring to childish protests of indignation on any corner or line, in different tones of voice and willing to be silent when some guy who looks like a political cop stares us down; for State transportation problems, or for the increasing reduction of so-called “subsidies” the national method, distributor of the parameters of poverty. Neither do I speak of the more or less biased comments about “how bad this is getting”. For at least 20 years I have been listening to the phrase “what’s so good about this is how bad it’s getting”, or “never is the night as dark as before dawn”, and in all that time, there hasn’t been the slightest improvement or light. What’s more, everything around us is sure to be getting worse and darker, so it is obvious that a change is needed, but not on the part of an autocracy that clings to power and naturally resists change. What is needed is a change of attitude among Cubans.
My greatest desire for this 2012 is, therefore, that ordinary Cubans, those who in all the speeches are grouped under the generic term “the people” decide, once and for all, to make their outrage public and evident. We could, for example, protest in the streets, or in front of government headquarters, to demand an end to the dual currency, since wages are paid in one currency and most products are marketed in another. By the way, it would also be relevant to demand that wages dignify the job, be a source of well-being and not the object of a joke printed on paper money. We could demand the repeal of the retrograde exit permits and all limits on emigration that keep us prisoners, slaves of the Island-plantation. We could reclaim the sacred right to information, the right for the flow of ideas, to participate in making decisions about our destiny, to choose what kind of education we give our children. We could make demands, in short, about how and by whom we wish our country to be governed.
If you think that such claims exceed the heights of indignation of some, perhaps we could start by protesting the unstoppable rise of food prices, or stand up to the abuse of most public officials, or publicly denounce corruption, which ends up striking the needy the hardest. We could just ask to have the CDR’s disbanded, (those that are still members of the CDR’s [cederistas]) or stop attending accountability meetings and the utmost caricature of democracy: the constituency “elections”. Because — beyond the protests taking place in the First World which the official media have the nerve to disclose here — and if there is one thing we don’t have a shortage of in Cuba it’s a reason to be outraged.
So I modified my wishes for this year, believing that, for democracy to finally emerge, we Cubans need to stop looking outward and upward, waiting for solutions from the solidarity of others, from the Cuban government, or from God, and assume our share, through responsibility and law. Recent statements by the President-General — on the occasion of his counterpart’s farewell, the Iranian dictator visiting Cuba, to our shame — that the Communist Party’s National Conference, to be held on January 28th, will be just the organizing of the inner life of that (political?) organization, presumably to comply with the guidelines of the past VI Congress, lends the coup de grace to the aspirations of large sectors that still had moderate expectations for a public debate about the decisions of the government, including some Catholic Church sites that have been voicing for an “inclusive and transparent” dialogue between the government and the Cuban people. It will be interesting, given the circumstances, to follow those sites’ editorials to find out what new proposal they make us.
So, what I want for 2012 is this: indignant people. Thousands and thousands of Cubans angry about over half a century’s worth of fraud, outraged, if only to salvage the spoils of our national shame that still remain after decades of dictatorship.
Work originally published in Penúltimos Days (http://www.penultimosdias.com) on January 13rd, 2012
Translated by: Norma Whiting