By Armando Chaguaceda

Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES – Several friends sent me the column about Cuba written by Anthony DePalma for The New York Times. It touched a thousand nerves. It’s a moving article, with realities many of us have experienced. With human drama at its very heart. It’s almost a fable, with a moral and all: poor people, let’s take politics out of their sad Fate. Let’s give them a chance to survive!

Reading it made me remember painful experiences of my own family. My adoptive father passed away after receiving late medical assistance for his kidney failure. He died a “revolutionary”, but he had been neglected and disillusioned, even though he never admitted it. I found this out from his friends. Many people share his story. There are too many Limontas in this country.

After setting the human backdrop, there are several noteworthy ideas in the article.

It isn’t true that restrictions on independent work and the budding civil society on the island – from young journalists to community groups – came in response to Trump’s hostile actions. In fact, it happened after Obama’s visit to the country. It has been well-documented.

Many of us gave the thawing process a chance, although my optimism was clipped by experience.  The Cuban government put the brakes on foreign investors, private business owners and different activism initiatives. Let’s remember the raids against dissidents, during the days of Obama’s visit. The ideological bashing just about ended his speech at Havana’s Grand Theater.

On the other hand, the “I’m not a Communist, but I’m a patriot” overtone of the witness account that DePalma writes about, speaks to a great extent about that generation’s kind of “resigned self-conviction”. Our parents’.

They can’t be classified in ideological terms: they are just survivors, quite frankly. This is what you are when, after dedicating your entire life to the revolutionary  “process”, you eat every day thanks to the “enemy’s dollars” – which your children send you from far away – while you hold onto a loyalty forced by the person who oppresses and governs your life with fear, disappointment, pretense or (less and less) intolerance. Thanks, Fidel!

In Cuba, there are people who insist on being subjects: there are Marxists, Liberals, Catholics, people who advocate for the community and local development, the environment, the LGBT cause and independent journalism. They are valuable and brave people. There are quite a few, but they still aren’t enough. Many of us have left; many have left us.

Meanwhile, most of the population, especially the aged population, just live and don’t exercise their citizenship. Within this group – where the freedom of political choice has been hijacked by a disciplining power – there is a disjointed and incoherent thought, in regard to everyday life.

No return to the “engagement” of the Obama era, which was formulated as a series of unilateral concessions, will work. It won’t empower anyone living on the island. Especially not the key sectors that, in spite of this crisis, continue to produce, create and show themselves: the human reserves of a rotting society, that is still alive.

Do I mean to say that Trump’s actions have worked? No, because many of them have been reactive, incomplete and conceived for the politicking show at home, in Florida and the presidential election. What the hell does Marco Rubio know about Los Pocitos? Pretty much the same as Machado Ventura.

Trump’s actions won’t have a decisive impact on the elite or will do very little, affecting an unarmed population in the process. Other measures, which are potentially more consistent because they touch the elite’s investments and resources outside the country, have been unilateral, without the support of allies.

A more creative and wide-ranging policy is needed, with support from the international community and with a focus on Cuban society. This also requires a greater commitment from Europe and Latin America: they question US policy “ad nauseum”, but not the appeasement and collusion of its countries with an anti-democratic government. The case of doctors and votes about Human Rights at the UN, is an example. So, ladies and gentlemen, Donald Trump isn’t to blame – even though we would like to have another reason to loathe him.

Not even the incoherent siege by Trump’s administration, or the eventual Biden-style “reload” are appropriate focuses for “Cuba”, under the current system. Actions should be focused at the immediate need to contain a regime that is persistently damaging regional democracy – with Venezuela as a tragic example of its predatory work – and it also hurts its own defenseless population, who resist, languish and get out any way they can.

An agenda that deals with humanitarian issues, with greater (and better) multilateral pressure of democratic governments – counteracting the Cuban government’s actions and its global allies such as China and Russia – and backing concrete solidarity actions with the true emerging players on the island. An agenda so that Cuba can stop being an abnormal and exotic issue, that provokes passion, silence, ignorance and different kinds of collusion, in this world under lockdown.


Armando Chaguaceda

Armando Chaguaceda: My curriculum vitae presents me as a historian and political scientist. I'm from an unclassifiable generation who collected the achievements, frustrations and promises of the Cuban Revolution and now resists on the island or contributes through numerous websites, trying to remain human without dying in the attempt.

4 thoughts on “A Sunday Fable

  • A great analysis Stephen. One can only hope that the Castro system rots from within and that that resilience, steadfast determination and unparalleled joie de vivre you described, are released from the communist chains.

  • Very touching, insightful, realistic article written by Anthony DePalma in the New York Times and supplemented and reinforced by your lived experience.

    The Cuban Revolutionary experiment promised a world of benefits but has clearly demonstrated delivered nothing substantial to ordinary Cubans but misery, hopelessness, poverty and pain, both physical and psychological.

    Presently, those fortunate to be in the privileged positions within the Communist Party and/or the Cuban military enjoy the pleasures and perks which the Revolution had promised each and every Cuban. Equality is what the Revolution preached but in reality inequality is what manifested
    itself in a brutal way. The exact opposite of the initial intention. World history bears this fact out in numerous regions which wanted and experimented with a new visionary utopian society but in the end begot a society in total ruins.

    After many years of hope, many Cubans loyal to their country and some to the failed Revolution wanted desperately to believe their contributions were worthwhile and that a “better” Cuba was only a few short years in the making.

    However, true reality set in via unexplained food shortages in a rich resource land of plenty, impoverished health care for all but the privileged few from a medical system perceived worldwide as a model to be emulated, line ups for countless hours on end for simple basics like a bar of soap, youth educated with the highest standards and degrees standing on street corners – hopelessly unemployed, and on and on, all unforgivable tragedies which eat away at individual dignity, develops despair, and ends with capitulation. History repeats itself. Sad but true.

    What can be done? I only know that the human spirit can be extremely resilient, determined and steadfast in the face of oppression. Other societies having experienced prolonged hardships have rebounded with the help of encouraging friends. A hard road is ahead but the Cuban people have that resilience, steadfast determination and a joie de vivre unparalleled anywhere else.

  • Congratulations to Juan Suarez for his wonderful photograph which summarizes the consequences of the Marxist policies pursued by the Castro’s and so vigorously promoted by Dr, Ernesto Guevara de La Serna Lynch in all those trashy books which molder on the shelves of the State bookshops of airport terminals.
    What does communism offer to the young people shown? The answer is self-evident:

    NADA!

  • Great Honest Writing. Its Time Cubans Took it To A Vote: where There Future Will Take There Children

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