Overthrowing the Castros with Twitter / Ivan Garcia

 Young Havanans with their cellphones. From Diario de las Américas.

Barack Obama and the State Department aren’t stupid. But on the issue of Cuba they act as if they were. Their cluelessness is monumental. They should check their sources of information.

The NSA team in charge of monitoring phone calls to and from Cuba, as well as emails and the preferences of the still small number of Internet users on the island seems to be on vacation.

A word to the US think tanks that come up with political strategies for Cuba: obsession disrupts insight.

Let’s analyze the points against having a couple of autocratic dinosaurs as neighbors. It’s true that Fidel Castro expropriated US business without paying a cent. He also seized the businesses of hundreds of Cubans who are now citizens of that country.

Castro has all the earmarks of a caudillo. Ninety miles from the United States, he blatantly allied with the Soviet empire and even placed nuclear arms in Cuba. He destablized governments in Latin America. He places himself on the chessboard of the Cold War, participating in various African wars.

As he was an annoying guy, they tried to kill him with a shot to the forehead or with a potent poison that was activated by using his pen. Out of bad luck of the lack of guts of his executioners, the plans failed.

For five decades, the bearded one continued to lash out against US imperialism. Then Hugo Chavez appeared on the scene along with the troupe of Evo Morales and Rafael Correa. On Central America the presidential chair was returned to the unpresentable Daniel Ortega. Kicking the anti-American can.

I can understand what it means to have an annoying neighbor. I live in a building where a woman starts screaming insults at 8:00 in the morning and other one usually plays reggaeton at full volume. But common sense says, move or learn to live with different people.

Cuba and the United States will always be there. Closer than they wanted. What to do?

An American politician can raise the alarm because there is no democracy, nor political freedoms, nor freedom of expression on the island. He knows that Cubans on the other side of the pond have three state newspapers that say the same thing and that dissidence is prohibited. They consider it a horror. And he candidly thinks, “Let’s help them. Teach them how to install a democracy.”

This is where the gringo philosophy of reversing the status quo comes into play. They are right in their dissections, but the solution fails them.

Cuba’s problems, which range from political exclusion,the absence of an autonomous civil society, the legal illiteracy of most citizens, lack of freedom of the press and political parties and the fact that opposition is illegal, are a matter that concerns only Cubans.

From inability, egos, and ridiculous strategies, the dissidence hasn’t been able to connect with ordinary Cubans. Eight out of every ten Cubans are against the government and its proven inefficiency. For now, their decision is to escape.

It’s not for lack of information that people aren’t taking to the streets. Cuba is now North Korea. Shortwave radios are sold here and thousands of people connect illegal cable antennas. It’s just they are more interested in seeing a  Miami Heats game or Yaser Puig playing for the Dodgers than following CNN news in Spanish.

At present, Cuba has two million cellphone users. They can send text messages. But not to denounce human rights abuses. They used to ask for money from their families in Miami, the latest iPhone, or that their relatives expedite immigration procedures so they can permanently leave the country.

The Internet on the island is the most expensive in the world. One hour costs 4.50 CUC (5 dollars), the same as two pounds of meat in the black market. I usually go to internet rooms twice a week and talk with many people.

The majority don’t want to read El País, El Mundo or El Nuevo Herald. Nor Granma nor Juventud Rebelde. They want to send emails and tweet, to their wave. Upload photos on Facebook, look for a partner or work abroad.

Are they fed up with politics? I suppose. Are they afraid of going to jail if they openly confront the regime? Of course. Are they masochists who do not want to live in a democratic society? Evidently so. But they have no vocation to be martyrs.

This political apathy among a great segment of the population, weary of the olive-green loony bin, is fertile ground for the proselytizing efforts of the opposition, which has not done its job,

People are there in the streets. Only dissidents prefer to gatherings among themselves, chatting with diplomats and, since 2013, traveling the world to lecture on the status quo in Cuba and get their photo taken with heavyweights like Obama, Biden or Pope Francisco.

For the gringos I have good news and bad news. The bad is that it is great foolishness to expect to topple the Castros with Twitter, call it Zunzuneo or whatever it’s called. The good news is that this type of totalitarian regimes has not worked anywhere in the world and they crumble by themselves. You have to have patience.

There is a popular refrain in Cuba that states the obvious: desires don’t make babies.

Iván García

7 April 2014