Suspend Remittances and Telephone Top-ups to Cuba?

The “January Break” campaign promotes temporarily suspending the sending of remittances, topping-up of cellphone accounts, and travel to Cuba. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 9 December 2019 — In recent days this newspaper has offered its readers different points of view on the initiative to temporarily suspend the sending of remittances, packages, cellphone top-ups and trips to Cuba. The proposal, known as the January Stop, has generated an intense controversy where each party expresses its arguments with passion. In this Crossfire we present some of these reasons.

Those who support the initiative say that if the Government of Miguel Díaz-Canel is deprived of vital resources for the economy, then a system change can be promoted and a strong signal sent to the Plaza of the Revolution. The campaign’s detractors classify it as a failed strategy that would affect families more than the regime. For its part, the official media of the Island have not yet commented on the proposal.

However, in social networks and independent media, the debate has gained in intensity as the month of January approaches, when “the break” is scheduled to begin on shipments to the Island. Beyond the diatribes and insults, each side defends its positions.

For Yaxys Cires Dib, legal advisor for the Cuban Observatory of Human Rights, the exiles must be more involved in the situation in Cuba but “do it without affecting the families, who already have a very bad time thanks to the communist regime.” The lawyer recalls that “the majority of Cubans live in poverty and there are great difficulties, for example, in getting medicines.”

With another opinion, the independent journalist José Gabriel Barrenechea has shown his support for the initiative, although he adds that “more concrete and realistic objectives are sought for this strike from the sector of Cuban emigrés.” The writer also warns that by cutting “remittance shipments and cellphone recharges the regime is not going to fall,” but the campaign “may have other less ambitious, more presentable and more gradualist ambitions.”

Barrenechea enumerates “the request for the right to passive and active voting for emigrated citizens, with the Constitution amended so that the National Assembly reserves a proportional number of seats for that sector (…) or the requirement for the elimination of consular regulations on Cubans returning” to the country.

“The strike must aim to show that the emigration is a cohesive force with a capacity for unity of purpose, a force with whom the regime must sit down to talk, or on the contrary repudiate as in the worst years of separation,” add the columnist who lives in Villa Clara, Cuba.

For her part, activist and producer Liu Santiesteban wrote on her Facebook account that “no Cuban family is going to die from not receiving money for a month. In fact there are hundreds of thousands of families that do not receive a penny from anyone. They also have children and have no food, no roof and sleep outdoors in a portal or a collapsed building about to fall on their heads.”

To those who “believe that nothing will happen, that it will not affect the Cuban Communist Party and the highest powers,” Santiesteban replied that “the communist economy may collapse if we stop sending money for a month because they ultimately live off us.”

The emigrant Andrés Rodríguez-Ojea, who generated an intense debate with an opinion column published in this newspaper, believes that the most effective thing would be for the exiles to travel to Cuba to protest there. Because the current initiative does not entail “greater sacrifice than not going to the nearest Western Union office.”

Rodríguez-Ojea believes the idea that “eliminating remittances or other help to relatives in Cuba will cause a popular uprising” that leads to the fall of Castroism is absurd.

The popular opinion leader and presenter, Alexander Otaola, is one of the main promoters of the initiative from his program Hola Otaola. “We want to tell the Cuban Government that if we [the diaspora] are the second largest source of foreign currency in the country we have to be heard, taken into account,” he told the New Herald newspaper recently .

“Among those opinions that we want to be heard is the change in that archaic system. We want institutions to function transparently, without corruption, to lower the price of the passport [which costs more than $400 for those living in the US], and for them to open the country to the essential freedoms of the human being and that the repression ends,” he added.

There are three weeks left until “zero day” arrives and the debate barely seems to have begun.


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