What’s Cuba Got?

Alfredo Fernández

alfredo1HAVANA TIMES — I recall that, in 1998, I refused to sign up for what Cubans popularly refer to as the “bombo”, a lottery draw organized by the US Interests Section (USINT) in Havana to grant 20,000 Cubans permanent residence in the United States through a random selection process.

I also recall mocking those eminently cautious types who would go to the post office located on the ground floor of Havana’s FOCSA building to drop their application for the draw at the mail facility closest to USINT.

I was 22 years old and, in my naivety, I thought that Fidel Castro could not possibly remain in power for more than 10 years, at most. I could therefore not picture myself turning 32 in anything other than a prosperous Cuba where my civil rights were respected – I was convinced of this, believe it or not.

For years, I have been hounded by the same question: What’s Cuba got? I have to admit I have worn myself down trying to figure out what’s happened to Cubans.

I can see how people from other countries might come to think that Cuba is the alternative to the world’s evils. But, that we Cubans should know that the opposite is true and do nothing about it, that I simply cannot understand.

An Italian who supports the Cuban revolution angrily told me how, owing to the corrupt policies of his government, his parents received a retirement pension of a mere 400 euros a month. At the same time he thought it’s fair, however, that my parents should receive one of less than 10. In fact, none of my arguments in this connection seemed valid to him.

The island of Cuba seems enveloped by a strange energy field that makes foreigners see all abuses committed against Cubans as justified.

alfredo2When Cuban independence hero Jose Marti was organizing a military campaign against Spain, only Mexico showed him any support – all other countries in the region, including the United States, turned their backs on him.

Our lot today is not too different. To add insult to injury, at the recently held congress of Cuba’s Federation of University Students (FEU), the country’s “young” university students asked to be guided by the Party, that is, by an octogenarian and corrupt bureaucracy.

“I have another Cuba, the Cuba of my dreams,” said Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas, whose plight-filled life often placed him before a Cuba he could not comprehend.

I confess that, in the four months since I left Cuba, I haven’t felt I miss anything on the island. On the contrary, I feel as though I’ve awakened from a long, dark nightmare, put behind me an experience that, save for the literature, art work and music that I came in contact with, was horrific in every way.

The Federation of Cuban Journalists (UPEC) will soon hold its congress (July 13-14). I don’t have to be a fortune teller to know that nothing will come of this meeting. The congress will close after its participants have unanimously agreed to defend the revolution and the Party from the onslaughts of the international press and the work of domestic mercenaries, paid by imperialism to do so.

Something along these lines will be declared, mark my words.

Sometimes, when I ask myself what’s Cuba got, I find no better answer than something Reynaldo Arenas might have written: “Cuba is a persistent dream whose dinosaurs become visible to you if you manage to wake up.”

Alfredo Fernandez

Alfredo Fernandez: I didn't really leave Cuba, it's impossible to leave somewhere that you've never been. After gravitating for 37 years on that strange island, I managed to touch firm ground, but only to confirm that I hadn't reached anywhere. Perhaps I will never belong anywhere. Now I'm living in Ecuador, but please, don't believe me when I say where I am, better to find me in "the Cuba of my dreams.


17 thoughts on “What’s Cuba Got?

  • July 21, 2014 at 8:12 pm
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    Elisabeth, If you are still deciding on a religeon may I encourage faith in Jesus Christ. Allegence and faith is owed to him before America or Cuba. All this political mumbo jumbo will amount to a hill of beans in the end. God is the sovereign Ruler of the Universe and He manifested Himself in the Man Christ Jesus. Just give it some consideration. It’s so much more important to me to speak the truth of Him than winning a political debate.

    Have a great week!

  • January 5, 2014 at 3:20 pm
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    I won’t talk about the two times the police illegally entered my home a few years ago. Or the bomb threats on our home in the mid 1960s. I will talk about political prisoners.

    Black Panther Party, New Afrikan, and Black Liberation Army political prisoners were victims of the COINTELPRO operations in the 1960s-70s when the FBI sought to destroy the Black liberation movement. This U.S. government campaign resulted in at least 38 Black Panther Party members being killed and hundreds more imprisoned on frame-up charges. Chicago BPP leaders Fred Hampton and Mark Clark were murdered by the Chicago police on December 4, 1969 in one of these operations. The FBI used COINTELPRO to infiltrate and disrupt groups seeking basic change in society. Many Black liberation activists have been imprisoned as a result of these operations, dozens of them for over 30 years. These include Russell Maroon Shoats, who has spent 40 years in prison, 30 in SOLITARY CONFINEMENT.

  • July 10, 2013 at 12:00 pm
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    That “heartless and ignorant” Italian fan of Castro denied the responsibility of the Cuban government for the suffering the Cuban people endure, while blaming everything on the US. He sounded an awful lot like you, Ms. Faraone.

  • July 10, 2013 at 10:33 am
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    Again I must point out, you conflate the word “Cuban” with the dictatorship which rules the island. I am not anti-Cuban. I am anti-Castro dictatorship.

    I am pro-Cuban. The dictatorship is not Cuba.

  • July 10, 2013 at 10:27 am
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    Nobody in the US is required to applaud the military. Many people publicly criticize the military and risk nothing. Michael Moore has made millions by criticizing the US military. There are hundreds of Hollywood movies and TV shows which criticize the US military.

    Elizabeth, you own YouTube channel carries several videos critical of the US. Have you ever been arrested for it? Has your Youtube channel been erased? Have the police entered your home because you were crying about your hatred for America?

    Get real.

    Meanwhile, the Cuban police do enter the homes of these women to arrest them for the crime of crying,

    http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/cuba’s-‘ladies-white’-targeted-arbitrary-arrest-and-intimidation-2011-08-22

  • July 9, 2013 at 2:27 pm
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    As an anarchist , i am well aware of the totalitarian nature of the Cuban government, the PCC and Poder Popular’s corruption.

    Even with these deep faults, Cuba manages to take care of all its people better than any other capitalist country of similar economic possibilities and notably without the U.S. waging a 50 year war on it .

    Democracy is at the center of my thinking along with the anarchist belief in mutual aid as the natural state of humanity .

    Your use of the word “regime” indicates an anti-Cuban slant and I can only hope that your use of the word Communist ( capitalized) was intended to indicate the PCC and not small “c” communism.

  • July 9, 2013 at 8:38 am
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    Please name even one injustice ’caused’ by US policies. Just one…..

  • July 9, 2013 at 8:34 am
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    Is this a serious question? Of course, Americans can “cry” unmolested. Clearly you are not American. Do you work for the Cuban Ministry of Information? The freedom to openly disagree with my government and the people who run that government is a touchstone of American democracy. On the other hand, try walking down any street in Cuba with a sign that reads “Bajo Fidel”.

  • July 9, 2013 at 4:31 am
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    Can you cry in the US, or will the police enter your home when you cry? Are you not required, in the US, to applaud your military and their interventions, and do you risk unfair treatment when you don’t?

  • July 9, 2013 at 4:28 am
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    It is not fair for the writer to use the heartlessness and ignorance of an Italian tourist in Cuba to justify his position. Perhaps that is why the writer does not know serenity. I feel deep remorse when I witness the injustice Cubans struggle with every day of their lives – caused by US policies and by Cuban elitists within and outside of Cuba.

  • July 9, 2013 at 4:24 am
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    The actual reasons for the terror and economic warfare were explained clearly at the very outset: the goal was to cause “rising discomfort among hungry Cubans” so that they would overthrow the regime (Kennedy); to “bring about hunger, desperation, and overthrow of the government” (Eisenhower’s State Department). The threat of Cuba, as Kennedy’s Latin American advisor Arthur Schlesinger advised the incoming president, is that successful independent development there might stimulate others who suffer from similar problems to follow the same course, so that the system of US domination might unravel. The liberal Democratic administrations were outraged over Cuba’s “successful defiance” of US policies going back to the Monroe Doctrine, which was intended to ensure obedience to the US will in the hemisphere. To a substantial extent, US terror and economic warfare has achieved its actual goals, causing bitter suffering among Cubans, impeding economic development, and undermining moves towards more internal democracy. Exactly as intended.

  • July 8, 2013 at 11:14 am
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    You conflate “Cuba” with the Castro regime. They are not the same thing. Cuba will flourish with an open, free and democratic society.

    The Communist regime, however, will be finished.

  • July 8, 2013 at 11:11 am
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    An outstanding & well written column! It’s a pleasure to read the quotations from the great Cuban writer, Reinaldo Arenas, and I offer a few more of his gems:

    “I have always considered it despicable to grovel for your life as if life were a favor. If you cannot live the way you want, there is no point in living”

    “La diferencia entre el sistema comunista y el capitalista es que, aunque los dos nos den una patada en el culo, en el comunista te la dan y tienes que aplaudir, y en el capitalista te la dan y uno puede gritar.”

    “The difference between the communist and the capitalist system is that, although both give us a kick in the ass, in the communist you get it and you have to applaud, whereas under capitalism you can cry.”

    “Historically, Cuba had always escaped reality through satire and mockery. However, under Fidel Castro, a sense of humor was prohibited and with that the Cuban people lost one of their few chances of survival, the loss of laughter took from the people the deeper meaning of things. ”

    ? Reinaldo Arenas

  • July 8, 2013 at 9:03 am
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    Not surprisingly, you have it twisted. Your argument is that Cuba is a totalitarian regime lacking all but a whisper of democracy BECAUSE of the US embargo. The reality is quite the opposite.

  • July 8, 2013 at 7:09 am
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    Hello ???You perhaps may not have noticed but for the past 50 plus years , the government of the U.S. has been waging a terrorist, propaganda and economic war against the people of Cuba . The stated purpose of that war is to make life for all Cubans; men, women and children , so hard, so miserable that they would overthrow their revolution and restore capitalism .
    Your failure to acknowledge this overriding factor in the state of Cuban affairs and in the lives of every Cuban in your seeming farewell to Cuba is disappointing and is more reflective of the average ignorant U.S. citizen’s opinion of Cubaan reality than of someone who has lived his entire life experiencing the hardships of and understanding the reasons for the U.S. War on The People of Cuba.
    I cannot deny that all your complaints about the lack of democracy in Cuba are true and as an anarchist , I am in total agrrement on such matters but absent at least a mention of the necessity for some repression during an existential war with an implacable enemy your posting seems very one-sided .
    Cuba cannot have a wide-open society during war . To even attempt it would be suicidal for the revolution and any hope for eventual reform ONCE AND IF THE U.S. WAR IS ENDED.

  • July 8, 2013 at 6:37 am
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    Sadly, you’re right. However, one out of more than every six Cubans has left Cuba with more or less the same views as Alfredo. While your comment may be soothing to your pride and ego, it reflects a poor strategy for Cuba’s future. Cuba continues to lose it’s best and brightest doctors, engineers, athletes and artists and given the rising apathy among the youth in Cuba today, the exodus is getting worse. The more pragmatic approach to addressing the loss of human capital is to address the reasons why Cubans want to leave. Or, continue as you seem to wish, Cuba will not only say “good riddance” to emigrants like Alfredo but good riddance to a brighter future as well.

  • July 7, 2013 at 3:11 pm
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    Probably Cuba isn’t missing you much either.

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