The Successive Deaths of the Cuban Revolution

Fidel Castro’s ashes make their way across Cuba to the cemetery where they were interred.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 2 January 2018 — The official media are celebrating, right now, a new anniversary of what they insist on calling the Cuban Revolution. The festivities around the 1st of January, when Fidel Castro marked a turning point in the nation’s history, show all the traces of a routine that has exhausted itself with an excessive prolongation in time, and the process of a growing loss of popular support.

Even the name of the phenomenon that began in 1959 is a matter of deep discussion, having been stripped of any character of change, transformation or impulse of renewal. The Revolution has died countless times over these almost six decades, and has received another shovelful of dirt every time it disappointed, betrayed or disenchanted those who supported it in its infancy.

At the beginning, when it was presented as a liberating act that overthrew the brief dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, that political and social upheaval aroused popular enthusiasm. The balconies were filled with flags as — with cries of “Freedom! Freedom!” — Cubans welcomed the opportunity for change.

In the first hours of that first of January of 1959 the only opponents seemed to be the former tyrant’s torturers and the vampire embezzlers who used public funds for their own benefit. The crowds took to the streets to celebrate a new dawn for the country, with the majority never imagining that the long night of authoritarianism had begun.

In a short time, the dicontented of a new nature appeared. On the list of nonconformists were those who suspected that this was “communism” disguised as a libertarian process, along with those who did not approve of the excesses of the summary trials and executions, and those who waited for a commitment to guarantee democratic elections that never came.

That first wave of the disappointed also included those who saw in galloping atheism a threat to the exercise of their religious beliefs.

From that moment on, there were different sides, moments of definition in which each person could continue to support at all costs what Fidel Castro proclaimed, or maintain the reserve that allowed them to get off the train when things did not go along the expected path.

For some, the station they disembarked from was October 1962 with the irresponsible decision to turn the island into a missile launch ramp with nuclear weapons; for others the disappointment came a year later when the second law of Agrarian Reform, decreeing that the existence of the “rural bourgeoisie” was “incompatible with the interests and aims of the Socialist Revolution,” seized even small farms and forced the farmers into state-run cooperatives.

In March 1968, the Revolutionary Offensive confiscated all remaining businesses, right down to the fried food stalls, and in August of that same year, coinciding with the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, dissidents appeared in Cuba who, although still feeling “revolutionary,” were not willing to accept every kind of act on behalf of the Government.

Then came the failure of the 1970 sugar harvest that brought the national economy to the brink of a debacle; followed by the Sovietization that was consolidated five years later and that set the island orbiting around the designs of the Kremlin; then the delirious decision to participate in distant African wars; and the repudiation rallies of 1980 when the exodus known as the Mariel Boatlift took place. After a five-year period of a relative bonanza, the collapse of socialism in Eastern Europe sounded like the coup de grace for a dying process.

The firing squad execution of General Arnaldo Ochoa and several senior military officers was a severe blow for many who had insisted on seeing the setbacks of the process as errors committed by bureaucratic officials or ministers who did not know how to interpret the designs of the Commander in Chief. In the Ochoa case, the highest power showed itself with an impiety that disappointed more than one.

Others, who had retained their faith in the process until then, ended up getting off the wagon of the Revolution when they were gripped by the deprivations of the so-called Special Period or watched a relative leave during the Rafter Crisis. Many more slammed the door definitively with the Black Spring of 2003 that sent dozens of opponents and independent journalists to prison for long sentences.

Later, came apathy and fatigue. The Revolution again received “deadly blows” but this time from the hand of weariness and the exhaustion of its discourse. The rise to power of Raul Castro, through dynastic succession, meant the consolidation of the immobility of the system, and was reflected in his lack of courage to carry out the changes needed by the nation and the fear that had been installed among the ruling elite.

“This,” as millions of Cubans now call it, who refuse to use another more glorious term, is (simply) the control that a group of octogenarians seeks to impose as a perpetual inheritance on new generations. A system without a future that no longer has any vestige of that liberating cause.

The country, the nation, the Island, the fatherland no longer support an obligatory synonymity with “the Revolution.” Sixty years seems too long.


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