The Guidelines that Failed / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Sixth Congress of the Cuban Communist Party
Sixth Congress of the Cuban Communist Party

14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 16 January 2015 — After so many years of demanding an end to the American blockade, the Cuban government discovered it is not prepared even for the first relaxations which its neighbor to the north has implemented with unprecedented agility. It turns out that the entire scaffolding erected by way of the 33 Guidelines agreed to at the Sixth Communist Party Congress is insufficient, if not crippling, before the prospects on the horizon.

Perhaps the most glaring inconsistency between the American apertures and the Cuban bureaucracy’s stubbornness, is with in regards to remittances for the development of private initiatives, including small farmers, which the United States will authorize without limitations.

From this side, putting this measure into practice could be interpreted as a violation of the regulations in the Foreign Investment Law, which restrict the entrance of money to operate businesses to legal entities, that is, State entities or those authorized by the State. Not to mention what it means to receive money for humanitarian projects or to support the Cuban people through the activities of human rights organizations.

Among the advantages that might have difficulty being fully implemented on the island because of ideological restrictions, is access to the Internet. A decade ago, the country viewed World Wide Web like science fiction, but now there is a generation that knows what it is and that realizes what they’re missing by not being connected.

The new general license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control facilitates the establishment of commercial telecommunications facilities and authorizes additional services related to communication via the Internet. As of that decision, it is no longer possible to blame the “criminal imperialist blockade” for the existing limitations and they will have to choose between accepting the free flow of information or displaying the unmasked repressive face of the prohibitions.

There is a working hypothesis in which they could produce a kind of recycling operation where the elements and the military structure, along with other spheres considered ’reliable,’ assume the role of “approved private entrepreneurs.” Then, through a network of relationships, the funds will go to the ruling elite. The failure of this idea is that there has to be someone on the other side willing to provide financing to an unknown party, and that seems highly unlikely.

The Cuban government has shown a special knack for generating euphemisms that mask reality. Instead of the term “unemployed” these people are called “available,” and private businesses are called “the non-state sector of the economy.”

But the full acceptance of private ownership of the means of production requires tremendous linguistic effort to find a new name. For the simple reason that private owners find a way to empower themselves and to grow, threatening the role of centralized socialist planning system as the principle engine of the national economy. The dinosaur state production mode, devoid of the injection of capital which the private sector could count on, could not compete.

The other risk factor for the Cuban government will be the influx of Americans in Cuba. Although the restrictions against tourist travel formally remain in place, the new permissions are so broad that they could lead to an uncontrollable avalanche. The appetite for communication, and for tipping, will be at its highest level. Private restaurants, B&Bs, street musicians and hookers of every kind will be in their element and surely it will be all the same to them whether they get dollars or convertible pesos.

In the face of each of these new measures, the dilemma is the same. Whether to make a vain attempt to maintain the rigid control now established, or to let everyone do as they wish and let prosperity become an individual goal and not a planned program. Anyone who knows the natural elusive escaped-slave nature of this people, know it will be very hard to put internal brakes on the tremendous impact that is coming.

Will we have to wait, perhaps, for the 7th Cuban Communist Party Congress, announced for 2016, for new and more flexible guidelines to put the country in sync with its new reality? Hopefully not.