The Great Depression 2023 Threatens to be Repeated in 2024 in Cuba

This year, cases of homeless elderly became more visible in Cuba. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 1 January 2024 — There was no reason to think it would be better, after all 2023 had been preceded by disaster. The economic crisis had already given clear signs of having become chronic in Cuba, the mass exodus marked the bleeding of families escaping to anywhere, the official discourse maintained its commitment to continuity and, in prisons, around a thousand political prisoners served their sentences or awaited trial. Nothing indicated that this was going to be a good year, but hope always clings to the smallest signs.

After twelve months of experiments, failures and difficulties, this can only be defined as another time that we Cubans have spent in “limbo.” Neither the necessary economic reforms arrived, nor did the social protests against inflation and the rising cost of living took to the streets. While the regime approached Vladimir Putin’s Russia in its speech and gestures, it also did not stop winking at the US Administration of Joe Biden. A single egg began to cost more than 100 pesos on the streets of this Island, but micro, small and medium-sized businesses (MSMEs) filled their shelves with candy, beer and frozen chicken at prices unaffordable for the majority of the population.

The clamor of the protests of July 2021 faded away with the repression and the departure of a good part of the potential protesters from the country

The clamor of the protests of 11 July 2021 faded away with the repression and the departure from the country of a good part of those who might have been the potential protesters of the next outbreak. The universities were left with open arms waiting for many students, with good grades, who preferred to put aside their dreams of having a diploma, waiting for an internal change, or for a plane to take them out of here. Countless women postponed pregnancy waiting for “things to get better” and, among the exiles, there were many who, after a trip to the Island or a conversation with their relatives, postponed their schedule to return waiting for “a new scenario.”

Something similar happened to tourism. “We’d better go to the Dominican Republic,” “Cancun would be easier,” said thousands of travelers who planned vacations throughout this year. The financial collapse, the low quality standards in Cuban accommodation and the anxiety of being caught in a popular outbreak made many opt for other destinations. That did not discourage, however, the Cuban leaders, who continued building four or five star hotels and fracturing the profile of Havana with their defiant Tower K Hotel construction.

Agriculture also remained in no man’s land at this time. The state giant Acopio was not buried, nor did the producers comply with the agreed plans for the delivery of milk, meat and food. Anyone who could put in less effort did so. Anyone who could steal more resources from the State resorted to that quick and traditional way of filling their pockets. The Cuban peso was not even the reference currency. With the dollar running ahead, some 270 times faster, according to the informal exchange rate this December, the national currency could not withstand the barrage of its loss of value, the collapse of ATMs and the failed financial policy of the Central Bank.

Once the Covid-19 pandemic is over, it has not even helped the health authorities to remember that the Island has several of its own vaccines against the coronavirus – none validated by the World Health Organization – to justify the lack of basic medicines in the network of state pharmacies. There are millions of doses of Abdala to sell to other countries, but there is a lack of drugs for high blood pressure, diabetics and those who suffer from an infection for which they need antibiotics.

In that zone of “there is and there is not” Cuban legislation was also installed which, in addition to the steps taken by the new Family Code, continued to assist, undaunted and incapable, the wave of femicides that hit the Island. The cases of children abandoned by their families, who cannot support them, mothers who sleep on the streets with their children and chronically ill people who must resort to social networks to complete their pharmaceutical treatment became more visible.

No one won in 2023. Independent journalism lost, within Cuba, numerous voices that emigrated throughout these months

No one won in 2023. Independent journalism lost, within Cuba, numerous voices that emigrated throughout these months, while the official press desperately published its advertisements again and again to fill positions that few are interested in due to the low salaries and required ideological conditioning.

The most complete representation of this limbo are the “pre-migrants,” all those Cubans who have stopped their lives waiting to leave the Island. Nobody counts them among the numbers of the mass exodus but, while still inside the country, they act as if they no longer inhabit it. Many certainly do not even have the possibility of taking a plane, nor the resources to do so. But the day they decided that they no longer wanted to continue here, they also began a process of disengagement that turned them into beings from nowhere.

They are those who do not get married, do not accept a new job, do not commit to anyone, refuse to continue studying, do not watch official television, but do not have the freedom to choose their own news sources. They do not protest so as to avoid reprisals, and act with the opportunism they learned as children, so as not to jeopardize their visa, parole or political asylum case in another country. They are the children of the limbo that exists in Cuba. The most complete expression of 2023 that ended and threatens to extend into 2024.


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