Cuba’s All-So-Kind Economy Czar

Erasmo Calzadilla

Marino Murillo, a Vice-President and top official of the Cuban economy.

HAVANA TIMES — Marino Murillo, the so-called “reforms Czar”, has always struck me as a contemptuous person. The arrogance with which he speaks before those who allegedly represent the people, the self-confidence with which he addresses the thorny issues no one before him has been able to solve, and his body language, place him somewhere between a domineering public official and a neighborhood butcher.

These elements of body language, together with the concrete content of his pronouncements, make it seem as though Murillo does not appear before parliament to account for his actions but to threaten and scold the public, inform them at best.

I did however notice a certain change in his demeanor in his most recent public appearances: a distant melancholy in his eyes, an almost unnoticeable stammering, there where there was once resolve, less vigorous hand movements…

There were subtle signs of fatigue and doubt, signs that less sensitive spirits may not have noticed. The fact is that, in these appearances, his spiels did not make my blood boil.

Today, however, he once again set me off.

After referring to the re-establishment of a single currency monetary system and other labor-related provisions that would be implemented in the coming new stage of the reform process, the Czar said:

“These tasks are all the more complex because of the commitment towards the people we have. In other parts of the world, these things can be done much more easily.”

The phrases that Murillo often lets out reveal the real state of Cuba’s power relations and the way in which the governing class interprets the social contract.

In the Czar’s worldview, Cuba’s political stage is set up as follows:

On the one side, we have the people, not the real people but the people presupposed by the Party Guidelines: an innocent people, as helpless as a small child that tells the leaders its problems so that they can solve them.

On the other side of the equation we have the leaders: a group of know-it-all technocrats and responsible patriarchs who know what to do to solve the said problems, provided people work hard and remain disciplined.

If the technocrats wanted (this is the best part) they could solve social problems through unpopular measures, as their super-evil counterparts do in the rest of the world, but their commitment towards the people prevents them from going so far.

Ultimately, I am grateful for such unsubtle politicians, for politicians who think like foremen and bare themselves and call a spade a spade from time to time. I am confident such insolent remarks will someday end up angering Cubans and awakening their civic pride, their dormant dignity and their political awareness. If it happened to me, why can’t it happen to others?

19 thoughts on “Cuba’s All-So-Kind Economy Czar

  • I take your point that life in other countries is worse, sat lest in some measures, than in Cuba. Certainly, life in Honduras lately is terrible, with the highest murder rate in the world.

    But the larger point of your argument is weak. Does the harshness of life in Honduras make life in Cuba any better? Does it absolve the Cuban government for their responsibility for their crimes, corruption and failed policies?

    Or are you trying to draw a false dichotomy; that the only choice for Cuba is to continue the Castro dictatorship or go the way of Honduras?

    Is it not equally possible to argue Cuba could be like Canada, prosperous and democratic, if only the Cuban people could secure their full rights and freedoms?

  • It’s good to know it is available. Perhaps some of the articles make it onto flash drives for wider distribution.

  • Dan, democracy and freedom are no guarantee for prosperity. I take your point that Guatemala is in many ways worse off than Cuba and is presumably a democracy. Here is where you fail to understand why the focus is on Cuba: Democracy is an end unto itself. That is to say that even a prosperous yet totalitarian country is still worth “saving” even while there exists poor but free and democratic countries nearby. Don’t take my word for it. Just ask a majority of the people who escaped eastern bloc Soviet regimes only to live humble lives in democratic countries. These people will say that despite the struggles in their new lives, they would not trade it for the repression and lack of freedom in their former lives. I simply do not agree with you when you somehow justify in your mind the harassment, arrest and beatings of the Ladies in White in Cuba by suggesting that Guatemalan women don’t even have white clothes.

  • My point, which should be obvious, is that life is in many respects much worse in countries just hundreds of miles away from Cuba. Countries which never suffered a blocade and which had all the “benefits” of a close relationship to the US. Yet there is no immense propaganda machine, of which HT forms a part, to highlight and portray everything and anything negative that occurs in those countries and to blame it all on the chosen political – economic system as is done here. If you acknowledge that conditions elsewhere in the hemisphere are much worse than in Cuba, and you profess a humanitarian motive for all your time spent bashing Cuba, while apologizing for or ignoring the problems elsewhere, you are either disingenuous, a ridged ideologue, or a paid contractor.

  • If enough Guatemalans in the US pool their political resources to cause a member of Congress to introduce and pass a bill to that effect, they too would enjoy a preferred immigration status. What is your point? This is HT and the issue here is the feckless economic policies in Cuba.

  • “How bad is it” ? I can tell you. Nothing compared to the misery that thousands of Central American children are risking their lives to flee. Unfortunately for them, there is no Guatemalan Adjustment Act, even though in 1966, when the CAA was enacted, the government of Guatemala was slaughtering thousands of Indians a year, w/ US complicity.

  • If, as you say, the families of the top government officials enjoy lavish lifestyles, why would she go ? Maybe she was dying to vote in a presidential election.

  • Just tell your family to tune into Radio Marti. Basically the same thing as HT.

  • HT has never been blocked in Cuba but people are aware that visiting it at some workplaces can cause them problems.

  • Havana Times exists only online. I don’t know if it is accessible in Cuba or if the government censors block it.

    Mr Robinson, perhaps you could clarify?

  • Senor Murillo is an economist by profession and in consequence has a difficult position. As an economist the dire state of Cuba’s agriculture cannot escape his notice, but wiful blindness is built into his character and that of virtually every one of the better educated and intelligent members of the Castro Ruz political heirarchy. To relate reality rather than myth, is for such people to risk the wrath of Raul Castro Ruz and subsequent dismissal. They prefer to keep their cosy positions.

  • That was the cover story. If it were really so why didn’t she apply for a visa and migrate the normal way. The way my wife did it. She went through Mexico. Then she said she did it for “love”.

  • wishfull thinking on your part will not make it happen.if I remember correctly mr marillos daughter defected for love.People will do strange things for love,right Moses.

  • Where can my family in Cuba get this newspaper? They live in Cruces, Cienfuegos. Can anybody tell me what the closet place is to where they can go to get it?

  • It is curious you mention a Republican economist, when the Castro’s most sympathetic friends in the US congress are all Democrats. If the Raulists succeed in selling out the Cuban people in the direction they are heading, it will be US Democrats who help them along.

  • That’s funny unwelcome truth, when I have listened and watched Murillo speak I get the feeling I am watching a slick Republican economist who is heading the selling out of the Cuban working class and professionals to well-placed Cubans and foreign capital. Thank you Mr. Calzadilla for bringing this contradiction to the readers attention.

  • Murillo is the modern-day ‘engine room chief for the Titanic’. He is a smart man and is fully aware that no matter how he fiddles with the controls, the ship is doomed. It is telling that his daughter is among the many thousands of twenty-something Cubans who have escaped to Miami in the last few years. In her case, she was in Mexico for a “conference” and crossed the border to the US declaring political asylum. If his own daughter sees no future in Cuba…..

  • Mr Calzadilla, your piece is a little gem of unselfconscious conceit and hypocrisy, a self-refutation so complete it comes across as parodic comedy.

    First you indulged in vulgar abuse of this politician, abuse you justified
    not by his actual expressed views but by a fatuous caricature that you
    made up yourself and arbitrarily imputed to him.

    Then you superciliously scolded the Cuban people for a supposed lack of dignity, civic pride and political awareness … i.e. for not seeing things your way.

    Then to cap it all you predicted self-importantly that the “dormant” Cuban people will one day “awaken” to the exalted “political awareness” you laughably imagine yourself to possess.

    And all this straight after introducing yourself as bitterly opposed to abusiveness, arrogance and those who think they know it all.

    You really should graduate from criticism to self-criticism and “dedicate a few angry words” to yourself for ostentatiously displaying the very vices you purport to decry.

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