Without Gasoline and With Faded Popular Support, the Cuban Regime Is Left Without Its May Day

Until a few days ago it seemed that the authoritarian choreography of May Day was going to happen, despite the deep crisis we are experiencing. (14ymedio/Archive)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Havana, 25 April 2023 — Perhaps the demand began at a bus stop when someone compared the lack of buses with the line of buses that would be seen on May 1st. Then the demand jumped to the patient who waited for hours for an ambulance but in the hospital he heard the call to fill the Plaza de la Revolución in Havana on Workers’ Day. Then he infected that retiree who spent half his pension on a taxi to deal with getting some paperwork notarized. The chorus became almost unanimous: “How are they going to have a parade if there isn’t even gasoline for the hearses!”

Showing that there is the convening power and political muscle to transport thousands of people is one thing, but materializing this multitudinous horde implies complex logistics: the little revolutionary enthusiasm that remains among Cuban workers must be stirred up, along with the fuel necessary to carry them to the main squares of each province and to deploy a propaganda apparatus that brings everyone from camera operators to announcers to those places, all of them thirsty for water, snacks, minutes on their mobile phones and some other perks.

Until a few days ago it seemed that this authoritarian choreography was going to happen, despite the deep crisis we are experiencing. An event that on this Island has nothing to do with the proletarian date intended for demand and protest, because here, decades ago, it was tamed and transmuted into an act of support for a regime led by leaders of the Communist Party who have never sweated in a industry, never counted the centavos to make ends meet, and don’t know the bitter taste that a devalued currency and galloping inflation leaves on the plate.

They were going, as so many times in the past, to spend what little we have lefton a day of self-promotion, in this nation where universities cancel their face-to-face classes, people avoid making plans that involve traveling to another municipality, and fights break out and come to blows in families for the few liters of diesel that the grandfather has saved in a drum. This was going to be another year, like the so many others for us who live under the delusional imprint of Fidel Castro, in which the photo from the rostrum was more important than the day after when patients urgently needed to be transported, the deceased were waiting to be cremated, and their children were waiting to get to school.

Why then, was the pragmatic decision imposed to cancel the great parade and break it up into smaller acts? The hydrocarbon crisis does not seem to be the only cause for this decision. The old panic of a parade without the hundreds of thousands they managed to summon-coerce in the past may be among the reasons. Falsifying the results of an electoral process requires the complicity of hundreds of officials, but to show a crowd where there is none, more than artificial intelligence is needed. Any photographic or propaganda trick can be quickly contrasted and dismantled in these times.

It was not only the lack of oil that caused the suspension of the parade in Havana. With this change of scenery and by lowering the importance of the commemoration by several degrees, the Cuban regime is making it clear that it has already turned the page on showing itself supported by the people, respected by the workers and applauded for its advances in social justice.

Crude dictatorships do not even need the multitudinous hordes. They do not have to be charismatic, or silver-tongued, or possess mythical profiles. Miguel Díaz-Canel’s second term began just a few days ago, but he has already defined his fundamental lines: to survive at any cost clinging to power even if, along the way, he loses the few collectivist garments he had left.

Castroism no longer needs to smile for the cameras behind that sculpture of a José Martí who appears so sad that it makes you want not to look. We are in times of absolute imposition and terror. Why do they need a parade?


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