We’re at the Summit! / Eliecer Avila

Outside the government press, how Cubans experience the CELAC Summit.

As often happens with more or less important events that take place in Cuba, all of the radio, TV and written press is focused for days on the preparations undertaken to guarantee the success of the 2nd CELAC Summit.

According to the images shown, it’s clear that there have been important investments in preparing locations, the purchase of equipment and all the paraphernalia demanded by the protocols for the occasion.

Meanwhile, on the streets, the corners of the neighborhoods, and inside their homes, just about every Cuban speaks of nothing but CELAC. Which is logical. No one sees in this merely political instrument any kind of practical benefit for daily life.

Similar news coverage filled the screens and the presses didn’t do much to convey to us the daily sessions of the of the World Festival of Youth and Students in Quito-2013. The event left the country with tens of thousands of dollars spent and zero real gain in any area of daily interest.

Now, the press, or the government, announces with special emphasis another meeting where integrationist and anti-imperialist — or more to the point, anti-American — speeches will be delivered, leaving another million dollar bill for Cuba and nothing concrete for Cubans.

If we calculate how many kilometers of highway could be built, or how many buildings could be repaired, or how many buses could be bought with what is spent on the interminable list of international events that the government sponsors every year, and we can imagine how much we might advance of the State’s priority wasn’t, exclusively, politics.

However, interventions, at least rhetorically, have their attractions. They will speak of “brother countries and peoples,” but in practice none of our “brothers” will stop asking us for visas, letters of invitation and exceptional guarantees that make it ever more difficult to complete the paperwork to be able to visit them.

We are very special brothers, however, Venezuelans and Cubans. The rulers just say we share 99% of our genetics, but at the level of the people — with the exception of those who join official missions and travel to the country for this work — we carry ourselves like the most distant strangers. Anyone would think that a decade earlier with the fervor around bilateral relations, today we would have something that seems like a treaty of free movement of citizens, by which a Cuban family could decide to spend a week traveling in any Venezuelan state or vice versa.

This could be extended to Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina or Brazil. In fact, among the South American countries there are mechanisms that favor mobility, employment, trade, regional tourism, communications, etc… But Cuba, or rather the people of Cuba, continue to be isolated and absent in these concrete and palpable realities; although from within our oyster, we are surrounded by a sea of “defensive” barriers, and we continue to pretend to be the most normal country in the world.

Outside of summits and rare brotherhoods, the issues that in reality concern us beat more strongly than ever; issues that the national press, concerned about official communications, not speaking or doing it in an imperceptible way: the grotesque mockery represented by the issue of car sales, the state crusade against the sel-employed, the ever more

The list is long, but the patience of a people who accept a government with a political agenda totally divorced from the their most pressing needs and aspirations seems even longer.

Diario de Cuba, 27 January 2014, Eliécer Ávila